A group of 66 NFL hopefuls hit the field officially on Friday for the first time as part of the Dolphins’ Rookie Mini-Camp. Most of the attention skewed towards the higher profile rookies, namely OT Ja’Wuan James, WR Jarvis Landry and OL Billy Turner. The big name picks aren’t the only ones who could potentially make an impact and showcase their skills during their first exposure to an NFL-style practice. After all the talk and conjecture about how these rookies will perform on the field, this was the first opportunity to see how they move and take coaching from classroom and translate it onto the practice field.
Here are my five takeaways from observing Rookie Minicamp practice:
1. A New Look - We’ve talked a lot about how new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor might take portions of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense when he made his way down to Miami. We caught a possible quick glimpse at that on Friday. The quarterbacks in minicamp were running passing stretch plays, which places the decision making squarely on the quarterback. It creates pressure on the outside of the defense to stay home and play in their lanes. It makes the defense have a much smaller margin of error when defending the edge, as QBs find players open on the flat.
2. Different Stances – One of the most glaring differences that I noticed while the offense was working out was the stances of the quarterbacks. Instead of the usual drop back motion, the QBs were using a staggered step drop back with their left foot back. They backpedaled out of center immediately, creating more space and better vision looking to their non-throwing shoulder side. This motion is rarely used as much now as it was back in the day in the league, with Dan Fouts being the most notable signal caller to ever use it. For this to become effective, quarterbacks must learn to post up on their plant foot and keep their pad level even to the ground so the ball doesn’t sail high on them. It will be interesting to see whether this carries over into OTAs, and we see the incumbant quarterbacks, especially starter Ryan Tannehill, start to do this motion as well.
3. Going One-on-One – All of the Dolphins draft picks worked for multiple periods on an individual basis with their position coaches, getting invaluable one-on-one time. While the draft picks got one-on-one time, the undrafted free agents and tryout participants ran 11 vs. 11 team drills. Getting to learn from the coaches individually can help create a great foundation and relationship between players and coaches. It will be instrumental in their development before they start practicing with the veterans.
4. Learning Curve - The linebacker position battle will be one of the most fascinating ones in training camp. Rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Tripp will certainly be part of that conversation. The question will be though is which position will he play. Will it be strong or weak side linebacker, or even middle linebacker? Now it’s only one day, but Tripp was working at the middle linebacker position, and could potentially serve as a deputy to whoever plays the middle spot, whether it is last year’s starter Dannell Ellerbe, or potentially outside linebacker Koa Misi, who has been speculated to slide inside.
5. Numbers Game – When it’s all said and done, many of the players from this three day mini-camp won’t be wearing a Dolphins uniform during the first OTAs next week. There were 66 total players on the field today. There were the Dolphins’ eight draft picks from this year’s draft, 21 undrafted free agents, 36 tryout players, and one former Canadian Football League player in OL Michael Ola. It’s rare that tryout players usurp any undrafted free agents for a roster spot at OTAs, but don’t be shocked if one or even two snatch a spot away from one of the UDFAs.
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