Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
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“so far, so good” for the Dolphins, through almost two weeks of two-a-days and a
scrimmage. Still, with the regular season opener just about a month away, areas
of concern remain.
the coaches, it’s at the point where their players need to be put through a live
preseason game in order to be able to take the next evaluative step. For the
players, they are sick of the two-a-days and are ready for some fresh meat.
Their opportunity will come next Monday, when the Dolphins face the
Jacksonville Jaguars at LandShark Stadium (7:30pm ET, Local TV – WFOR).
here are my impressions of what we’ve seen thus far in camp.
- A solid
stable of receivers with a mix of strengths. I’m thinking offensive boss
Dan Henning will draw up situational packages with different skill groupings
to generate better mismatches. I do expect the Dolphins to keep six
receivers, with Ted Ginn, Jr. locked in at split end. At flanker, it’s a VERY
tough call right now between Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo. Both men have
starting experience, though I give a slight edge to Bess at this time as Camarillo might not
be 100% yet. This decision could come down to the final preseason game.
- A strong overall
corps of linebackers, among the best in the NFL, some with very credible
defensive end ability. The number of different looks that Paul Pasqualoni
will be able to employ, and the different talents he can mix into those
looks, will challenge the preparation abilities of opposing staffs.
Because of the quality depth, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Dolphins
rotate guys in and out to keep legs fresh as the season rolls on.
the best group the Dolphins have had in over a decade. They have a high quality
starter in Chad Pennington, an intelligent, hyper-accurate guy who knows
how to win. Don Shula recently compared him to Bob Griese, high praise
indeed. Back-up Chad Henne continues to demonstrate why the Dolphins see
him as their future, though he still has a ways to go before he’s really ready for full time duty.
Rookie Pat White, raw but talented, might eventually force a paradigm
change in how we view starting quarterbacks in the NFL (that is, two starters…one for the
conventional offense, one for an alternative system, like the Wildcat). When
was the last time you felt this good about the quarterback position
overall? It might be 1997, when they had Dan Marino, Bernie Kosar, and
- A glut of
high quality running backs; Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and the ever
improving Patrick Cobbs are among the best corps of run-catch halfbacks in
the league. FB Lousaka Polite looks to be a load once again. Would the
Dolphins listen to a trade offer from a team in desperate need of help? I
stability at offensive tackle, the best they’ve had since the mid-90s with
Richmond Webb and Ron Heller. Jake Long looks stronger and bigger, but
without any apparent loss of mobility; I could watch him and Jason Taylor
dance all day and not get bored. Vernon Carey, once a bit of a question
mark, now shows signs that he could be ready to take his game to the next
level; expect him to get more national recognition as the Dolphins win
more. Andrew Gardner might be this year’s rookie surprise; we’ll learn
more about him in the preseason games.
Allen and Yeremiah Bell are tough to beat. Allen, in the prime of his
career, seems determined to earn the title of “shutdown corner”; not much
is getting past this guy in drills. SS Bell, perhaps the best overall
defensive back over the past three seasons, could be ready to garner Pro
teams continue to appear unsettled as Tony Sparano and John Bonamego are
still trying to identify the best group of players to man the coverage
teams. K Dan Carpenter has been missing field goals far too often in camp,
and is still inconsistent with his kickoffs (distance and direction). He
hasn’t been bad by any means, but needs to step it up. To that end, the
Dolphins decided to bring in some competition in Connor Barth. As usual, special
teams will get a lot of scrutiny in the upcoming preseason games.
- Overall the
secondary still looks vulnerable, giving up too many big plays in
practice. The weakside CB position continues to be wide open. Rookie Sean
Smith, showing off excellent ball skills, is slightly ahead of fellow
rookie Vontae Davis at this point and is getting more time with the first
teamers. Smith has also leap-frogged veteran Eric Green, a free agent
pick-up. Starting free safety Gibril Wilson has looked beatable at times
in downfield coverage. Did the Dolphins make a mistake in not re-signing
Renaldo Hill? Could rookie Chris Clemons supplant Wilson at some point this season?
- With the
exception of NT Jason Ferguson, the Dolphins won’t be able to get a better
handle on the defensive line until after the first preseason game. They do
appear to be deeper this year at defensive tackle, where back-ups Paul
Soliai, Lionel Dotson, and Louis Ellis have done some good work. While Kendall
Langford seems entrenched at left end, right end is still a question mark.
With the aforementioned quality depth and flexibility at OLB, it’s
possible that the Dolphins may keep as few as seven defensive linemen.
- As RG Donald
Thomas gets healthy, it seems inevitable that he will re-claim the
starting job he lost last year when he suffered a season ending foot
injury. It’s not that Shawn Murphy has been bad, but he hasn’t yet
demonstrated the promise that Thomas has. Said Sparano, “I think (Thomas)
is progressing well. He's progressing faster than I thought just from the
injury itself. (Thomas) has a lot of work we have to get done with him. He
does bring some physical tools out there though. He had a rep in practice
yesterday that from a physical standpoint I haven't seen in a while."