Miami Dolphins' Training Camp To-Do List
It's a week worthy of celebration, at least mild celebration, as the Miami Dolphins begin training camp this Friday.
With training camp opening up, there's a lot that the team must do between now and Week 1, but how does that list look?
Today we're going to look at the Dolphins' to-do list, explain how they can accomplish the mission in training camp and talk about the impact of not being able to fulfill the list.
Let's dive into the Dolphins' list of things to do during training camp.
Find a Starting Cornerback to Pair with Brent Grimes
The secondary of the Miami Dolphins was one of the team's strengths in 2013, forcing turnovers and locking down wide receivers.
Cornerback Brent Grimes was the main reason for that, but he also had help from Dimitri Patterson (when Patterson was healthy) and Nolan Carroll.
Both Patterson and Carroll are gone, and now the Dolphins need a second starting cornerback and have a battle on their hands.
Cortland Finnegan has the most experience out of the potential Dolphins corners; however, it appears that his better days are behind him. He does provide the toughness and intelligence that the Dolphins want in their corners, but his skills appear to be eroding.
Jamar Taylor is the other candidate, and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in skill. Taylor was highly regarded coming out of Boise State, but injuries last season (which aren't helped out by a kidney ailment that prevents him from taking any anti-inflammatory drugs) kept him off the field.
The dark-horse candidate is Will Davis, a third-round pick from 2013, who showed some flashes in training camp last season. Davis appears to be a boom-or-bust player on the field, though, as he'll either make a big play or give up one.
Get the Linebackers in Gear
A defense is only as strong as its weakest link, and based off of that logic, the Dolphins have a weak defense.
That logic comes from the fact that the Dolphins are strong up front, strong in the back but soft in the middle. In 2013, the Dolphins linebackers were among the worst in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus' metrics (subscription required). Dannell Ellerbe was one of the worst middle linebackers in the NFL, and Philip Wheeler was one of the worst outside linebackers in the league.
Then there was Koa Misi, who was the best of the bunch on the Dolphins and actually graded well.
The Dolphins are moving Misi to the middle, or at least trying it out. They've liked what they've seen so far, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, and we will likely see more of it in training camp, with Misi winning the middle linebacker job for the regular season.
If the Dolphins go in another direction at the position, they could always call upon fifth-round draft pick Jordan Tripp, who took some snaps at the position during OTAs.
Create Cohesion Along the New Offensive Line
This is going to be tough to do and likely won't be truly finished until three-quarters of the season is over.
Miami starts off 2014 with a brand-new offensive line. Every position on the line in Week 1 will be different from last season.
This means that the line will have to become cohesive in training camp and in the preseason, and it won't be as easy as sliding in a new teammate.
According to Ourlads.com, the depth chart currently has Branden Albert starting at left tackle, with second-year player Dallas Thomas playing next him at left guard. Miami's center is listed as Mike Pouncey, but he won't be available until at least Week 6 this season due to hip surgery he underwent last month. Sam Brenner and Tyler Larsen are listed as his backups.
The line is rounded out by Shelley Smith (acquired via free agency from St. Louis this offseason) and rookie Ja'Wuan James on the right side.
Plenty of moving parts here, especially at center, where there will be a battle to replace Pouncey at the beginning of the season (Nate Garner is another candidate).
Gaining cohesion will be difficult but attainable, and it should be one of the top goals of training camp.
Get Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace on the Same Page
How sad is it that such a video exists?
Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace had a lot of problems with their timing last season, and this season the goal should be to fix it.
This is the one deficit with the offense that's not related to coaching, which we will deal with in the next slide. This is an issue that only Tannehill and Wallace can fix.
If you look at the video, you'll see that even though the Dolphins offensive line was horrible, in most of these plays Tannehill had a clean pocket. Despite that, this video shows plenty of overthrows and underthrows, which in many games actually swung the momentum of the offense.
This isn't just a Tannehill problem, though, as Wallace will have to work on going up and getting passes. It's never been a strength of his, but he could at least make the attempt.
This training camp, Tannehill needs to know that Wallace can (and will) be a reliable receiver for him, while Wallace needs to know that Tannehill will deliver the ball to him. The only way for that to happen is to be successful in practice.
Time for the both of them to get to work.
Implement a New Offense
As if getting cohesion along an offensive line and forming a connection between the quarterback and star wide receiver wasn't enough, the Dolphins are also trying to implement a new offense.
Seen in this picture is Bill Lazor, Miami's new offensive coordinator who's trying to bring the offense back to 2014. Last season, Miami's offense seemed stuck in 1994 with a dash of 1984, which is a lot like a radio station that advertises the best of the '70s, '80s, '90s and today, only the playlist heavily features Amy Grant, Michael Bolton and plays "We Built This City" and "Seasons In The Sun" on the hour, every hour.
Lazor's offense will include such features as moving Wallace around (he was always in the same place last season) and involve using Michael Egnew as a joker tight end (which was the original intent of drafting him), among other ideas.
The offense comes from Philadelphia, where Lazor, the quarterbacks coach, helped Nick Foles put together one of the best seasons by any quarterback and also saw an offense that produced the leading rusher in the league.
If successful in Miami, the Dolphins should be a playoff team, but like I've said about everything else, for it to be effective, the work has to begin now.
Let's see what they will do, and let's enjoy the upcoming training camp.