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Of all the things I noticed during the Dolphins three-day minicamp that concluded last Thursday, perhaps what stood out most were a group of young players entering their second season. They are the Draft Class of 2013. And now, after many of them struggled to produce as rookies, it’s almost as if a massive light switch has been turned on.
Suddenly, they seem to get it.
“As a group, we have a chip on our shoulders,” said cornerback Will Davis. “We’re definitely ready to prove ourselves.”
Go down the list of the first five picks and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
• Defensive end Dion Jordan is now a healthy well-chiseled 250-pounds and has been practicing with a clear, defined purpose. His mind is as sure as his body. “Last year I was trying to play through some things,” he said. “This year I’m ready to show what I’m about. I never doubted my talent.” He’ll play a lot this season.
• Cornerback Jamar Taylor has been working with the first-team defense in minicamp after missing most of the 2013 season with an assortment of injuries. He is a different player. Confident. Aggressive. Poised to prove he was worth a second-round pick. You could see it in each minicamp practice.
• Guard Dallas Thomas was basically a non-contributor last season in an area that could have certainly used some help. This year, although early, he is lining up at starting left guard. “This is the best I’ve felt since college,” he says. “I really understand what’s going on.” And he’s showing it on the field.
• Cornerback Will Davis, similar to Taylor, seemed lost a good part of his rookie season. Now he is playing with a level of aggression and intensity that is being noticed by his coaches and teammates. I expect, like Taylor, for Davis to see significant playing time this season.
• Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was primarily a special teams player as a rookie, a pretty good one at that. But now he has a total feel for the defense. When Joe Philbin was asked Thursday which players caught his eye during the offseason workouts, Jenkins was one of the names he mentioned. That says plenty right there.
And I haven’t even mentioned tight end Dion Sims, running back Mike Gillislee, kicker Caleb Sturgis and safety Don Jones, all of whom contributed last season in varying degrees. What should we expect from them this year?
This jump in productivity from first year to second year players is something I’ve seen over and over through the years. That’s why when people asked me a year ago to evaluate the 2013 draft, I always responded: “Wait until next year and I’ll have a better gauge.”
Well, next year is here and indeed we are already finding out a lot more.
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