Breaking Down Miami Dolphins' 5 Biggest Training Camp Projects
We're only 11 days away from the start of Miami Dolphins training camp, and today we talk about one of the more fun aspects: the projects.
These are players who have the raw talent to play in the NFL but need to work out some of the kinks in their games.
There are also projects who have to adjust to learning a new position, in addition to learning how to play at an NFL level.
These players are the ultimate wild cards of any roster. Find a stud, and you have a cost-efficient way of filling in a hole on the team for years to come, thus eliminating the need to spend lavishly in free agency on that player or use a high draft pick.
Here's a look at five Dolphins projects for this training camp, while explaining why each player is a project and what can be done to complete his game.
Tight End Michael Egnew
The project of all projects this year is Micheal Egnew.
That's because he can no longer be considered a project: If he performs this season, he's a success. If not, he's one of former general manager Jeff Ireland's worst draft busts (which is saying something).
Egnew didn't have to be a project, as he was selected with the intention of him lining up as a "joker" tight end, using his athleticism to become a target in the passing game.
Former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman had other ideas, as he wanted Egnew to be Mark Chmura—a fine idea in the 1990s, but outdated in this decade.
Because of this, Egnew was forced to block, which was never his strength. His issues blocking led to him not getting playing time.
There's a new boss on the offensive side of the ball in Bill Lazor, and Lazor thus far has used Egnew the way he was intended to be used: primarily as a pass-catcher.
Egnew's blocking has improved and should help him out in the long run. The challenge now is to show he can fit in the new offense, one that would've been better for him to have been drafted into two years ago.
Defensive End Terrence Fede
When the Dolphins used their seventh-round pick on defensive end Terrence Fede, the general consensus was to ask "who?" in response to the selection of the former Marist Red Fox.
Since then, Fede has made a name for himself during rookie camp and OTAs, and with Dion Jordan being suspended for the first four games of the season, Fede has the opportunity to play himself into the defensive end rotation.
Scouts Inc. had this to say about Fede prior to the draft (h/t James Walker of ESPN.com):
At 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, Fede has the frame and strength to hold up against the run. He was a productive pass-rusher at Marist and shows some bend rushing off the edge. He now needs to show he can adjust to the speed at the NFL level, but he's worth taking a chance on this late in this draft.
Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel suggested Fede as a Dion Jordan replacement in Miami's speed package, saying:
And rookie Terrence Fede also has the athleticism to drop back into coverage and stick with a tight end or a tailback. We witnessed Fede pulled down an impressive, leaping interception of a Matt Moore pass during OTAs last month. That was actually the first time I noticed the 2014 seventh-round pick, who looked like a tailback on the respectable interception return, weaving in and out of traffic.
To go along with Fede's raw talent, he has perhaps the best defensive line coach in the NFL in Kacy Rodgers.
I didn't see Fede as a player who would make an impact in 2014, but thus far, he has emerged as a potential surprise.
Left Guard Dallas Thomas
Our next two projects both play the same position and will be fighting for the starting job at left guard.
First up: Dallas Thomas, a second-year player who, despite Miami's struggles at offensive line, barely saw the field in 2013.
Thomas was drafted in the third round out of Tennessee where he was a teammate of 2014 first-round pick Ja'Wuan Jones. While in Knoxville, Thomas played at both tackle and guard, and he was selected as a second-team All-SEC player.
In his first year in Miami, Thomas was relegated to the bench, appearing in only five games. The reason for his struggles in his first year are partially due to Miami attempting to learn the tackle position, as well as his surgically repaired shoulder, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Thus far, Thomas has taken the majority of snaps at left guard alongside Branden Albert and is slotted as the starter at the position on the Miami Dolphins' depth chart.
Left Guard Billy Turner
The second project at left guard is a project in every sense of the word.
Billy Turner is a third-round pick out of North Dakota State. He was one of my favorite players in the draft; however, I saw him more as a tackle based off of his game film and performance during the Senior Bowl.
I did see the versatility in Turner that would give Miami the idea to try him out at guard (through Turner's athleticism and strength), but before he can be as effective at the position as he was at tackle, he needs some experience.
Turner only played tackle at NDSU, starting at right tackle his freshman year before moving over to the left in his sophomore season. His first reps at guard are coming right now, with Miami's second-team offense.
Because of this, he likely won't get very much playing time barring an injury. He is a potential successor to Albert. However, for the time being, the Dolphins see Turner's future as a guard.
Koa Misi at Middle Linebacker
Nothing about Koa Misi screams project at first look.
He's a 2010 second-round pick entering his fifth season in Miami, which is the second season of a five-year, $17.63 million deal that guarantees him $8.45 million. His numbers certainly don't scream project either. In four seasons, he has played in 57 games, racking up 133 tackles, 11 sacks and two forced fumbles.
The project part comes from his new position: middle linebacker.
Misi has been an outside linebacker throughout his career in Miami and was a defensive end while at Utah. Converting a player from defensive end to outside linebacker is seen quite often (and in some cases would be highly recommended, especially with one certain Dolphin), but seeing a second position change is rare.
Why do the Dolphins want to move Misi to the middle? To shake up a linebacker group that showed itself to be the weakest spot on the defense.
At middle linebacker, Misi serves as the leader of the defense, getting the unit lined up and receiving the play calls from the sidelines. This was a role that Dannell Ellerbe (a 3-4 inside linebacker before signing with Miami) at times had issues with, which is why he's moving back outside.
The Dolphins seem to have confidence in Misi, with head coach Joe Philbin telling ESPN.com's James Walker:
We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I've been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he's done a nice job.
Misi has improved in every season he's played as a Dolphin, showing more maturity each year. The move to middle linebacker looks like the next step in his evolution.