With training camp opening up on Friday morning, all eyes will be on the players from this point of the summer until the last snap of the fall. It’s an opportunity to build upon what was assembled in the offseason and carry it through training camp and the preseason to opening day against the New England Patriots. Although there are multiple storylines that will be bantered about through these practices, here’s what I consider to be the most intriguing storylines entering camp.
1. Evolution of The Offense
- Arguably one of the most important acquisitions this offseason was Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor. He plans to implement an offense that will put a lot more points on the board in 2014. This can only happen if quarterback Ryan Tannehill can grasp the concepts of this up-tempo, multiple formation heavy offensive scheme. It will be important for Tannehill to be able to progress and grow after being in the previous offensive system for the past six years. This new offense will allow Ryan to get rid of the football faster and with more efficiency. That should reflect well on an offensive line that will have five new starters when the season opens up. Also, the new scheme will allow the athletic ability of Tannehill to apply more pressure on the perimeter of the defense, either by running the football or moving the pocket to throw. Now facing a new challenge, the Dolphins’ signal caller will look to build upon the base he has established this offseason and take the next step in his natural development of eventually becoming an elite quarterback.
2. A New Offensive Front
- This position has always been the focus for improvement because of the departure of multiple starters from last season’s unit. Upgrades have been made this offseason by bringing in Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and drafting first-round selection Ja’Wuan James to solidify the edges of the offensive line. Albert and James should give the Dolphins offensive line more athletic ability and more mobility. This should provide help when running the football and in pass protection. This strategy looks great on paper but now is altered because of the reported injury to the center position in Mike Pouncey. With question marks on the return date of the Pro Bowl center, the middle of the offensive line is where the focus now shifts. It’ll be up to one of the interior lineman such as Nate Garner, Sam Brenner, and even guard Shelley Smith to fill that role until Pouncey’s return. Also, this unit will need young players like 2nd year guard Dallas Thomas and rookie lineman Billy Turner to make a significant contribution. Veteran offensive lineman Daryn Colledge was a late addition to the roster, and it will be interesting to see where he lines up and the repetitions he gets as camp moves along.
3. Misi’s Move To The Middle
- I might be in the minority, but I have little to no reservations about Koa Misi being able to handle the middle of the Miami Dolphins defense. I say this because this move allows others on the linebacking unit, like Dannell Ellerbe, to play his more natural position at outside linebacker. It’s nothing new for Misi to have a position change, because he’s been doing it through his college and NFL careers. Originally a pass rusher on the defensive line, Misi’s built his body to fit the position he’s needed in, and his instincts for finding the football shouldn’t be suppressed by this switch to the middle. Another attribute that will assist in Misi’s progression is his attention to detail and his run fits should be more disciplined than what this defense looked like last year.
4. Competition At Wide Receiver
- The top two receivers on this team are Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, which is not up for debate. However, the competition for playing time starts behind both of them, as it’s a logjam of talent in the slot. Brandon Gibson thrived in that role last year until he was injured midway through the year. It looks like he’ll be ready to go at the start training camp. Second-round draft choice Jarvis Landry comes as advertised, as a pass catching machine who can use his body to separate away from defenders. His ability to catch in traffic adds to his overall abilities either down the seam, or in the red zone. To go along with Gibson and Landry, 3rd year receiver Rishard Matthews has taken the necessary steps to become an intricate part of this unit. He can fill in at the slot or the outside if need be. Coming off of an offseason injury, Armon Binns had a solid offseason, and looks like he’s ready to compete for the final spot at wide receiver. This will be a position at camp to look at the numbers, as Miami’s new offense may warrant one more receiver on the active roster in the past two seasons. A guy like Binns could fill that spot, or players like Damian Williams, 6th round pick Matt Hazel, or the 6’5 target Stephen Williams.
5. Cortland On The Corner
- I was surprised initially when the Dolphins acquired veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan this offseason. But after watching the way the former Pro Bowl selection fits into Kevin Coyle‘s system and attacked the offseason, most or all of my doubts have disappeared. Finnegan looks to be in great shape, and more importantly, is moving around the secondary similar to the way we witnessed on many Sundays during his time with the Tennessee Titans a few years ago. The combination of Finnegan and Brent Grimes on the edge will be one of an attacking style, one towards the football, and one separating the football from the receiver. Finnegan also provides veteran experience to help bring along talented younger players such as Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. After not really making any impact last season, these two should look more comfortable, and both are healthy going into the camp, which was not the case last year. Rookie defensive back Walt Aikens might not challenge for a lot of playing time on the corner, but don’t be surprised to see him play a large role on special teams, and possibly look at a shift to the safety position.
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