Thursday’s open practice was the last glimpse that fans and media will get to see of the Miami Dolphins this season during a practice session as the open part of Dolphins training camp at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility came to a close. The team spent an extended period of time inside the bubble today to get out of the South Florida heat with Saturday’s contest only two days away. It was padded practice, but only up to the middle portion of the workout, as the team eventually switched to shells. As we’ve gone through these 15 practices, several storylines have began and ended, and here are my top three observations from camp.
1. Less Of A Question Mark
All the talk of the offseason and coming into camp was how to fix the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line. There are certainly still issues that are unresolved, but for the most part, this group has proven itself to be more resilient and we should be more optimistic about its outlook. On the left side of the offensive line, Branden Albert and Daryn Colledge have done an outstanding job setting the tempo and tone for the entire group. The Pro Bowl and longtime NFL veteran have enough talent and toughness to provide great leadership, and more importantly, better protection for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
At the center spot, that question is currently been answered by a former Dolphins back around in Miami for his second time. Samson Satele provides experience and is holding down the position until starting Mike Pouncey returns from the Physically Unable To Perform list. My gut tells me that clock is moving rapidly, as Pouncey has looked to be improving greatly and is in better shape than some might think. Pouncey has publicly said that he hopes to not be on PUP at the start of the regular season, and I’m hoping for the same, though that decision is up to coach Joe Philbin and general manager Dennis Hickey.
On the right side, it looks to be all orange, and by that I mean a true Volunteer effort. Former University of Tennessee linemen Dallas Thomas and Ja’Wuan James look to be the pair to hold down the right side of the offensive line. Thomas will be pushed by Shelley Smith and rookie Billy Turner, but he has taken the majority of the first team reps next to his former college teammate at training camp. At tackle, James is the outright starter, and will not be challenged, and this rookie must provide consistency and stability for this group to continue to improve.
2. Change Is Good
There was some that felt like the Miami Dolphins offense became a little stagnant, and didn’t have the capability of providing enough explosive plays to put points on the board. I was of the belief that better execution would’ve helped the cause last season. But now that I’ve seen the new offense in the offseason and at training camp, I believe Ryan Tannehill and company have a vehicle that should lead them into the end zone with more frequency than in prior years. The amount of movement and the pressure of identifying formations for defenses should be a problem. The way quarterback Ryan Tannehill has grasped this system, Dolphins fans should be in store for not only explosive plays through the air, but a more consistent ground game.
The players have not only seemed to embrace this offense, but have the opportunity to thrive in it as long as Tannehill can continue to make good decisions, anticipate his throws to spots on the field and can locate the football consistently.
3. A Good Mix
When you watch NFL games, good defenses have multiple playmakers. No one ever asks if they’re a rookie or a nine year veteran, they all seem to get the same enjoyment or excitement out of a sack, or a tackle for a loss, or a big time interception. The blend of newcomers like defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas, all bring an edge to the Miami Dolphins defense. Whether it’s energy like Mitchell, or feistyness like Finnegan, or toughness like Delmas, all three contribute to the core that is already on this side of the football. Players like Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, and Koa Misi will all benefit from what some of the newcomers are adding to the temperament of this defense. When you take an overall look at this side of the football, I feel the players on this roster have a chance to be a top 5 unit in the NFL if they continue to progress like they have been over the next three weeks leading up to the opening game against New England.
News & Notes
- The following players missed practice today: DT A.J. Francis (knee), DT Micajah Reynolds (knee), Tevin Mims (undisclosed), TE Gator Hoskins (hamstring), Daniel Thomas (hamstring), Mike Gillislee (hamstring), Charles Clay (knee), Mike Pouncey (hip), Jason Fox (chest)
- By the amount of reps quarterback Matt Moore today at practice, I would look for him to play the bulk of the second and third quarters in Saturday night’s game against Tampa Bay.
- At wide receiver, look for starters Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline to be back in game action for the first time in 2014.
- Running back Knowshon Moreno looks great in practice and is likely ready for game action on a limited basis, though it remains to be seen if they’ll hold him out one more week.
- Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of linebackers Jason Trusnik and Jordan Tripp in Saturday’s contest spelling linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Ellerbe was limited at points in practices, and this is the time to give him a break if needed.
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.