The offseason program is officially over and all eyes are looking towards training camp. I now have a chance to reflect on the progress of the Dolphins’ 2014 draft class. I wasn’t sure what to expect with three players coming from the SEC and the rest coming from the FCS, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the overall talent of this group. They have seemed to set the bar higher than expected going into training camp and this year’s preseason games.
Here are my impressions of the Dolphins 2014 rookie class so far:
Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee:
Throughout OTAs and minicamp, it’s readily apparent that James possesses the athleticism and maturity that will allow him to start at the right tackle position this season. What impresses me the most is that the spotlight hasn’t been too bright for him, and the one good thing about an offensive lineman is that he doesn’t stand out for the wrong reasons. He’s been able to hold his own in terms of technique, foot speed, and hand placement so far through the offseason program and hopefully that translates when defenders like Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are in full gear come training camp. His athletic ability is a complete upgrade to where the Dolphins were a season ago at the right tackle position.
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU:
After a handful of practices that I’ve witnessed, it looks like Landry was a major steal for the Dolphins in the second round. His consistency in route running, dependability, and cleanly catching the football separates Landry from some of the other young wide receivers that I’ve seen. The knock on Jarvis was the lack of foot speed due to a bad 40 time at the combine, but that has not been apparent when he’s really playing the game of football. He continually gets separation because of his precise routes, and when he is in a crowd, knows how to position his body between the defender and the football. His wide catch radius and ability to catch in traffic will be very helpful to quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Billy Turner, OL, North Dakota State:
It’s much tougher to evaluate the guard position because of the traffic in the trenches, when all 22 players are just in helmets and shorts. But it looks like Turner will have a chance to compete at the left guard position with Dallas Thomas. If toughness is Turner’s strong suit, it will be a lot more evident when training camp opens up, and we get to see him practice in full pads and start the process of moving defensive lineman off of their spots.
Walt Aikens, DB, Liberty:
I’m very anxious to see what type of role defensive back Aikens plays for the Miami Dolphins in 2014. Not only has he shown the ability to learn and grow in a limited amount of practices, but at 6’2, 210lbs, he gives this coaching staff position flexibility between the cornerback and safety positions. If he matures fast enough as a defensive back, that could open up the door for Aikens to play a starting role in special teams as a gunner as well.
Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana:
If there’s one player that seems to exudes confidence and the ability to have fun at his craft, it looks to be the young linebacker from Montana in Tripp. Tripp’s role will not be limited to one position, but possibly learning multiple spots and the linebacker position. He seems to have the talent and communication skills to play in the middle, but also, the instincts needed to play the outside spot. It also doesn’t hurt that his motor never stops, which is a characteristic you need to have a low round draft choice.
Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia:
The young tight end has been held out of some of the practices that we were able to watch, but when on the field, seemed to not have a problem adjusting to the multiple sets and mental pressure applied by the Dolphins offensive scheme. He seems to receive the football with ease, but may be a step or two behind Charles Clay, and half a step behind others. Lynch has an uphill battle because of the overall numbers at tight end, but he’ll have to make the most of his limited opportunities when training camp and the preseason games begin.
Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina:
Like Lynch, when Hazel’s number is called, he seems to be able to rise to the occasion and do his job. He looks very fluid in running his routes, and speed and agility are definitely not an issue. The wide receiver position looks to be one of the strengths of the Dolphins, and the total numbers in that group will make it difficult for Hazel to gain opportunities. So during training camp and preseason, he’ll have to make plays that separate him from others that are lacking experience.
Terrence Fede, DL, Marist:
I like everything I’ve seen out of the Marist defensive lineman. I wouldn’t have known Fede if he came up to me a month ago and tackled me, but he definitely has my attention now. What I like the most about Fede, is that he fits what Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and Earl Mitchell have in common. They’re very athletic and seem to find the football. The only knock on him is his lack of experience, and the rise in class coming from FCS to the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a name we more about as he grows as a player.
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