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Five things I took from the scrimmage Monday night at Sun Life Stadium:
1. I’m just about sold on Olivier Vernon. The leap he has taken from his first to second season is noticeable to everyone around him. Cameron Wake called him the most improved player on the team and that’s right on the mark. Vernon had a sack and a forced fumble in the scrimmage, but what you really see is a huge upside. Small for a defensive end, Vernon makes up for that with a quick first step that will be hard for massive tackles to stay with.
2. The stock keeps rising for two guys named Dion: First, there is No. 1 pick Dion Jordan who is now healthy and being included in more and more packages, including some on special teams. On Jordan’s first play on defense in the scrimmage, he put a quick move on left tackle Jonathan Martin and was credited with a sack; he also had another QB pressure.
The other Dion is rookie tight end Dion Sims, who keeps looking better and better. He had a nice catch in the scrimmage and looked at ease running pass patterns. I can envision Sims and Dustin Keller offering an interesting set of skills in the two tight end offense.
3. Ryan Tannehill? Looked very much in control. Threw three touchdown passes. Completed all but four of his passes. Did not unleash anything long and that may have to do with Mike Wallace sitting this one out. It’s truthfully hard to gauge much against your own teammates, but Tannehill continues to show improvement in almost every facet of his game. The preseason games will tell us a lot more.
4. Who else impressed me? (keeping in mind it was only a scrimmage): Rookie running back Mike Gillislee (despite a fumble) showed some nice moves an is faster than I thought he was, free agent linebacker Phillip Wheeler did well on pass defense, young receiver Marvin McNutt continues to make a legit run at a roster spot, safety Kelcie McCray took a pick to the house and rookie cornerback Will Davis had a nice diving interception on the final play of the scrimmage.
5. It isn’t often I include a thought about the crowd, but this was as impressive a turnout as I have ever seen for an intra-squad scrimmage in late July. The announced crowd was 22,876. Really says plenty about the mindset of Dolphins fans heading into this season.
Other observations after a full week of practice and with the preseason opener against Dallas now just a few precious days away:
• If tight end Keller has dropped a pass in training camp, I haven’t seen it. Watching him every day at practice you quickly gain a respect and admiration.
• On the down side, you’ve got to feel for young wide receiver Armon Binns who reportedly tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee Sunday at practice and, will all likelihood, be lost for the season. Binns was battling Rishard Matthews for the fourth receiver spot and now Matthews is missing time with an injury as well. One of the deepest areas of the team is suddenly a concern. Someone like McNutt or maybe undrafted Chad Bumphis now have an opportunity to make the team. There is also a possibility the Dolphins will look elsewhere for receiver depth.
• If you haven’t been out to training camp yet, it’s a treat watching how many things are going on at the same time. This is Joe Philbin’s way. Get the most out of every second. Give his players as many repetitions as possible. Sometimes I feel like I’m at a tennis match, my head going side to side to keep up with everything going on.
• The Dolphins have spent a lot of time already on their red zone offense, an undeniable deficiency a season ago. I expect them to be vastly improved in that area for no other reason than the options are more talented and more diverse. Like everything else, though, it always starts with Tannehill.
• This year’s Dolphins are as fast a collective group of players as I can remember. We’re not only talking about Wallace. We’re talking about the tight ends, the defensive backs, the running backs, even the linebackers. Philbin says he notices that speed when he dissects every practice on tape. Bottom Line: It could be a huge difference-maker for this team.
• Where are my concerns at this early juncture? I want to see the starting offensive line solidified and working together. Still too many questions there. I want to see a running back emerge from the pack. I want to see how the linebackers mesh. And, with the injuries, there is a depth concern now at receiver.
• Cameron Wake has matured into one of the best talkers on the team. He seems so at ease with a leadership position on the team and so sure of his abilities. It is possible, as scary as this may be, that we still haven’t seen the best of Wake.
• Little wonder why Brian Hartline has embraced Wallace’s presence on the team. Barring something unforeseen, Hartline has seen the last of double coverage and will, in all probability, be going up against the third or fourth cornerback most of the time. That, in most games, should put Hartline at a huge advantage.
• And finally, this very telling quote from Coach Joe Philbin: “If you ask me why we were 7-9 last year, I would say minus-10 (turnover/takeaway ratio). That’s the starting point of everything.”[poll id=”324″]
Check back Wednesday at 6 a.m. as A.C. in the A.M. starts tackling questions from the fans.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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