After months of preparation, the Dolphins finally hit the field for the first time on Tuesday in Davie. Veterans and rookies alike took part in the first Organized Team Activity. It was first of ten OTAs to be held this off-season, but already we got to witness several changes that will impact what the team will look like in 2014. With a new offensive scheme and a couple of coaching additions, this is a good time for the coaches to teach technique and philosophy.
Here are some of my observations from OTA #1:
1. Misi In The Middle - The most notable change on the defensive side of the football was the fact that Koa Misi worked exclusively at the middle linebacker position today. This rumor started earlier on in the offseason. Now it seems to be a possible reality for the Dolphins defense. The move inside with Misi allows Dannell Ellerbe to play his more natural position of outside linebacker, which he thrived at with the Baltimore Ravens in the beginning of his career. It looks like Philip Wheeler gets first crack at the other linebacker spot, but he could be pushed by second year backer Jelani Jenkins. Another notable change was that on the second unit, Jason Trusnik moved inside as well, and took all of the second team reps at MLB.
2. Starting Five - It’s no surprise to see Pro Bowl offensive tackle Branden Albert and this year’s first-round draft pick Ja’Wuan James bookending the Dolphins starting offensive line. But, it was a bit surprising for me to see second-year offensive lineman Dallas Thomas lining up with the first-team offense at the left guard position, along with free agent signing Shelley Smith at the opposite guard. The two guard positions will probably give multiple players the opportunity to showcase their abilities as we lead into training camp in July, so don’t be surprised to see the Dolphins trying different combinations. In the middle of it all, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will be given much more responsibility with calls along the line of scrimmage in the new offense.
3. On The Mend - Three Dolphins wide receivers finished last season on the shelf. Today all three found their way onto the practice field. Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson worked both in drills and individually off to the side during practice, while third-year wideout Armon Binns looked to be a full participant today. This is an encouraging sign. I’m sure the workload will slowly increase for Hartline and Gibson as this OTA period moves into June. It’s especially encouraging for Binns because unlike Hartline and Gibson, he has a little bit more to prove. His full participation gives him a greater opportunity to jump off the page on film.
4. JT And Jordan - When Dion Jordan was selected by the Dolphins in 2013 with the third overall pick, many immediately jumped to the comparison of Dolphins legend Jason Taylor. Both have similar body types and skill sets. Today on the field, we got to see them side by side. Taylor served as a volunteer guest coach during practice. There’s probably no better person for Jordan to emulate and shadow than JT, as the knowledge and wisdom that he will be able to provide to the 2nd year player is invaluable. When I asked Jordan what it was like to have Taylor there for the opening practice, he couldn’t smile wide enough at the prospect of Taylor helping to coach him.
5. Presence on the Edge - We know Brent Grimes will be one side of the Dolphins defense, but there’s an open spot on the other side of the field for the other cornerback position. But it may not be vacant for long if veteran defensive back Cortland Finnegan has anything to say about it. The former Pro Bowler looked healthy and energized during all phases of the two hour workout, and even made a nice play on the ball for an interception during team drills at the end of practice. 2nd year players Jamar Taylor and Will Davis can only strengthen this position, as it looks like Finnegan’s experience and his ability to stay on the field puts him in a better position to get the starting nod over the youngsters as of now.
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