5 Miami Dolphins Players Who Will Surprise During Training Camp
The Miami Dolphins have gotten quite used to players surprising them in training camp.
Last year, it was Charles Clay and Olivier Vernon that exploded onto the scene with impressive training camps before eventually parlaying that into huge seasons.
Surprising a fanbase all comes down to its current expectations of you—both good and bad.
After his performance in 2013, nobody would be surprised if Clay caught five touchdowns this year, but if Michael Egnew did it, it would come as a shocker.
On the flip side, Philip Wheeler surprised everyone with such a horrendous season in 2013 that any positive play from him this year would do the same.
With that said, let's take a look at five Dolphins players that will surprise in training camp this season.
The forgotten man in the Dolphins secondary, Will Davis is often overlooked with most of the attention going to newcomer Cortland Finnegan and 2013 second-round pick Jamar Taylor.
It's understandable, as the third-round pick struggled to get consistent playing time in his rookie season thanks to being hobbled by a toe injury for much of the year.
The injury caused Davis to be inactive for 10 games and play just 65 snaps all season.
It's also the reason that most people are simply expecting him to fall in line as the No. 4 cornerback, even though he has the potential to do much more than that this year.
Last season, Davis starred during training camp and appeared destined to win the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Brent Grimes before injuries hit.
According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, the cornerback out of Utah State was proving to be a ball hawk thanks to his great leaping ability and soft hands.
Davis is a very fluid athlete that is capable of changing direction well and is very skilled at tracking the ball in the air.
Now that he's healthy, don't be surprised to see Davis shine once again during training camp and possibly make a move up the depth chart thanks to his great playmaking ability.
By now, everyone knows how atrocious the Dolphins offensive line was last season.
The team lost two starters midway through the season and was constantly shuffling the lineup around throughout the year, hoping to find one rotation that would work. And if the 58 sacks they allowed is any indication, nothing did.
When considering this, it's baffling to think that third-round pick Dallas Thomas couldn't even get on the field despite being healthy most of the year. Thomas played in just two snaps all year and was active in just six games.
The main problem with Thomas last year was that he started off too far behind to eventually catch up.
Thomas was dealing with a shoulder injury that sidelined him throughout the first part of training camp, and when he eventually returned, the coaches tried to force him in at offensive tackle instead of playing him at guard where he seemed to fit in much better.
By the time they realized their mistake, the season was all but lost for Thomas.
This year has already gotten off on a better note as Thomas worked with the first team at left guard during OTAs and appears to have the leg up on Billy Turner heading into training camp.
Because of this, it won't be much of a surprise to most people when Thomas wins the starting job.
However, what will be surprising is the dominance he shows once the pads come on as the athletic Thomas will thrive as the starting left guard in Miami's zone-blocking scheme.
It won't take long before fans become comfortable with the idea of Thomas as the permanent starter.
When the Dolphins signed Louis Delmas to start free agency, most people viewed him as a player that can bring a toughness and leadership to the position.
When it happened, I praised the signing, believing that the former Detroit Lion was a clear upgrade over Chris Clemons.
While I still believe that, Delmas is also the type of player that can surprise in a much more negative way.
Last year was the first time in his five-year career that he played a full 16-game season.
Prior to 2013, Delmas missed a combined 13 games in the previous two years thanks to a partially torn MCL in 2011 which then caused him to have surgery prior to the 2012 season after being bothered by constant tendinitis.
While most have high expectations of Delmas, it's tough to rely on a player that has had so many problems with injuries.
At the same time, he's also starting over a player that I believe is much better in Jimmy Wilson.
So while Delmas was clearly brought in to start, any type of injury over training camp may be enough of an opportunity for Wilson to take hold of the starting job and never let it go.
Take a look back at Wheeler's 2013 season, and you will see a lot of bad.
Wheeler ranked dead last among 35 outside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and was graded worse in every category from where he was in 2012.
He missed the fourth-most tackles in the league among outside linebackers and was rated as the second-worst against the run.
He was also terrible in coverage, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.3 percent of passes thrown at him for three touchdowns and a 108.7 QB rating.
After that type of season, it's clear that expectations cannot be much lower for Wheeler in 2014.
However, there was one aspect of his game that did shine through last year: pass rushing.
As atrocious as Wheeler's 2013 season was, he still excelled in rushing the passer, ranking behind only Von Miller among 4-3 outside linebackers with 23 hurries, despite rushing the passer on just 12 percent of his snaps. He registered pressure on opposing quarterbacks once every 4.5 pass plays, which was the best on the team, via PFF.
Provided the coaches use him properly as a rotational pass-rusher, it will be very easy for Wheeler to surprise during training camp because he will be playing to his strengths while masking his many weaknesses.
Much like Wheeler, most fans have already given up on 2012 third-round pick Egnew.
Over the last two seasons, Egnew has totaled just seven catches while being on the active roster for 17 total games.
After drafting tight end Arthur Lynch in the fifth round this year, most fans expect Egnew's time in Miami to come to an end.
However, there is ultimately hope for the third-year player thanks to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
Playing under Mike Sherman, Egnew was a square peg that was constantly being forced into a round hole.
He was a receiving tight end being forced to block, and he constantly failed. In turn, he saw the bench.
Instead of forcing Egnew to overcome his weaknesses, expect Lazor to play him to his strengths—as a freakishly big and athletic receiving threat.
There's little doubt that a 6'5", 262-pound tight end that runs a 4.62 40-yard dash, via NFL.com, has all the potential and the measurables needed to excel if used properly in Lazor's offense.
So while everyone else has given up on Egnew, I'm expecting him to not only win a spot on the roster but become a major weapon for Ryan Tannehill throughout the season.