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The first free agent the Dolphins signed this past offseason, and perhaps the most important, says he has no regrets, no second thoughts. Branden Albert has, at least through training camp, been everything the Dolphins hoped he would be. A strong, powerful left tackle. The anchor of the offensive line. A leader to set an example for the young players around him.
The Dolphins moved swiftly to sign Albert. They did not hesitate paying him the kind of money a first-rate left tackle dictated on the open market. And now, as each week passes, they are seeing further evidence that their money was well spent.
“This was the best training camp of my career,” Albert says. “I’m out here every day mentally and physically. I was a little hesitant the first few days because there was so much to learn. But now it is full go for me. I’m 100 percent a Miami Dolphin. I’m so happy to be here.”
Albert is just one of several veteran free agents signed by the Dolphins this past offseason. It is too early to form any conclusions about this group as a whole. That will have to wait until we see how they produce when the games count for real. But I believe Albert is a given and my first impressions of the other free agents tell me that Dennis Hickey has gotten off to an excellent start as general manager of this team.
Any conversation about this free agent group has to start with Albert. But, even as important as he is, the others have a real chance to be productive players. Let’s go down the list, in no particular order, of the veteran free agent signings before training camp began and you’ll see what I mean.
• Safety Louis Delmas: Has been the starting safety since the first time he stepped on the practice field and gives this defense a legitimate big play threat in the secondary. I’ve spent time with Delmas. I understand what he’s about. I’ve seen his enthusiasm first hand. My gut feeling is that Delmas is going to have an excellent season.
• Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: The Dolphins are getting from Mitchell exactly what they hoped they would. A strong, tough-minded player who will rotate with Jared Odrick and Randy Starks in the middle of the defensive line. While I’m still not sure whether Mitchell will be as productive as Paul Soliai, I am certain that he will be a consistently good player and, in some games, a difference-maker.
• Cornerback Cortland Finnegan: He arrived with question marks because of injury and consistency problems over the past few seasons. But, with the exception of a few days off to attend a family funeral, Finnegan has been a factor in every practice. He has value at both the cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes in the base defense and as a nickel back in passing situations. You watch him on the practice field and you see the type of plays that, only a few years ago, made him one of the top corners in the league.
• Running back Knowshon Moreno: At this point you have to give Moreno an incomplete because of the time he missed recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery. But now that he is close to 100 percent again, we are beginning to see the attributes that guided the Dolphins in his direction. His pass receiving. His blocking ability. The moves he makes to avoid tacklers. If he can stay healthy, I expect Moreno to touch the ball 12-15 times a game.
• Offensive guard Daryn Colledge: Signed late in the offseason after Mike Pouncey went down with an injury, Colledge gives this offensive line smarts and experience. He is the likely starter next to Albert on the left side and, while there are bigger, stronger and more talented players, Colledge is consistently good and makes few glaring mistakes.
• Offensive guard Shelley Smith: The fifth-year player spent some time early on at center and since then has been playing exclusively at guard. He worked with the starters this week at right guard and probably will play a lot this season.
The other three veteran free agents signed by the Dolphins during the offseason are offensive lineman Jason Fox and wide receivers Damian Williams and Kevin Cone. Fox has been hurt recently, but is now back at practice to make a final push for a roster spot. Williams and Cone are in the mix for one of the last receiver spots and both have had some impressive moments.
(On Friday, AC in the AM takes a look at Saturday’s home preseason game against Dallas.)
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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