It was an early start on day one of Dolphins Training Camp as the team began practicing at 8 a.m. Friday morning at the Doctor’s Hospital Training Facility. Today’s practice was the first step in trying to build upon the work that this team put in this offseason. Hopefully the work will reap the rewards that come from it at the start of the season.
The early start didn’t deter the fans coming out to cheer on their team,and they weren’t the only ones watching intently from the stands today. Owner Stephen Ross and team CEO Tom Garfinkel were on hand to view the Dolphins’ first practice, as well as meet with the media. But of course all the focus is on the football being played on the field, and there were several encouraging things that stood out to me today.
Here’s a few observations from today’s training camp practice:
1. The Five Up Front
It’s no secret that the Miami Dolphins are rebuilding and retooling the entire offensive line from a year ago, and that’s a good thing. We got our first glimpse at the starting five today, and the biggest change comes at the center position. Free agent acquisition Shelley Smith opened camp starting at the center position, with fellow new lineman Daryn Colledge running with the first team at left guard. Maybe the biggest surprise of that scenario is having a young player in Dallas Thomas line up at the right guard position next to first-round draft choice Ja’Wuan James. One thing is for certain, Pro Bowl selection Branden Albert will solidify the left tackle position. It’s important for him to hit the ground running with this group because he will take on a big leadership role for the Dolphins in 2014.
What I saw today was what I expected, with multiple issues with the center-quarterback exchange. I’m sure that will be corrected in the upcoming practices. This is probably a fluid situation as center Sam Brenner will probably get a long look to see if he’s capable of pushing for playing time not only at practice but also at the preseason games. You don’t get a clear indication till the padded practices start, and I’m sure Head Coach Joe Philbin is waiting to evaluate these positions as training camp rolls on.
2. In Hot Pursuit
First of all, I’m a big fan of the change at the middle linebacker position because I believe Koa Misi is one of the most underrated defensive players on that side of the football. The move to the middle should illuminate Misi’s qualities and athleticism, and should strengthen this entire unit. Outside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should benefit from being from the middle to the outside because of his speed and his ability to play in space. Ellerbe’s natural instincts and qualities are more in-tune with being an outside linebacker, and he’ll have the opportunity to make more game-changing plays from that position. This should also put the spotlight on the other outside linebacker position, which will push Philip Wheeler to improve and play more consistently, and hopefully that allows this group as a whole to thrive.
3. Getting It Done
Some of the other players that set the tone and caught my attention today were veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive end Cameron Wake. Finnegan was able to get his hands on the football on multiple occasions, and moved with skill and anticipation. Simply put, Cameron Wake was Cameron Wake on day one of training camp. His first step explosiveness was seen on numerous occasions rushing off the edge during the 1-0n-1 portion of practice. Overall, the defense looks to be faster and more aggressive, not only in the secondary, but by utilizing pressures from multiple positions, including linebacker. I believe that nickel back Jimmy Wilson is poised to take the next step in his evolution as a player, and his tenacity and aggressiveness should represent overall tone for this team going forward on defense.
Some News & Notes
- It was nice to see quarterback Ryan Tannehill connect on a deep ball to Mike Wallace that got Dolfans out of their seats.
- Wide receivers Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry and Armon Binns had nice days catching the football.
- The offense not only used traditional screen passes, but also spread the field with receiver screens.
- There was a change of pace to practice today, as the entire team departed the practice field for one practice period and went into the bubble to cool down from the heat.
- The team also utilized music during practice today, instead of traditional crowd noise during team drills, which I’m sure the fans of all ages appreciated.
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