Miami Dolphins: 5 Young Players Ready to Have a Breakout Season in 2011
The lockout still engulfs the NFL world as summer quickly approaches.
Normally teams would be gathering themselves for various mini camps and training camps in preparation for what is a grueling season to come.
For the Miami Dolphins, developing their youth into Pro Bowl talent is a task that head coach Tony Sparano and company want to see come to fruition. Unfortunately, at the moment their hands are tied due to the struggle between the players and the owners.
For a Dolphins squad that is trying to compete with the AFC East-defending champions New England Patriots and New York Jets for dominance atop the division, the youth of Miami's offense and defense will need to have a breakout year.
Here is a list of players to keep an eye out for the upcoming season.
The Miami Dolphins addressed many offensive needs in the draft this year, none bigger than the offensive line.
By drafting Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey in the first-round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Miami looks to go with an offensive line that features Pouncey, Jake Long, Vernon Carey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry, last year's third-round selection in the draft.
What Miami would like from Jerry is the complete opposite of what they got from him in the 2010 season. Jerry was plagued by injuries and illnesses most of the season, even throughout training camp, leading him to be ill prepared for when the time actually came to step onto the field.
It seems fitting though with a full offseason of tutelage from veterans like Long and Carey, that Jerry could be poised to be dominant at the guard position which could pave the way to the offense being immensely more successful than it was in its 2010 efforts.
Jerry, who excelled as an offensive tackle at Mississippi, seems poised to take the reigns permanently as a guard for the Dolphins and could be a key cog to an offensive line that looks to brand itself as one of the best in the NFL.
Figuring out what Miami will do at the running back position may be harder than guessing the winning lotto numbers at this point.
With swirling uncertainly around Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and whether or not they will return to Miami next season, Tony Sparano and the Miami Dolphins are certainly searching for answers at the position.
Lex Hilliard has been one of Sparano's favorites since he was drafted in 2008 in the sixth-round but has yet to make his mark on the field besides in the special teams game.
Hilliard was more than consistent at Montana, totaling 4,106 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns on a 5.0 yard per carry average.
With newcomers Charles Clay and Daniel Thomas being drafted a month ago, Hilliard could get more reps at the running back position as a third-down back or help maintain a strong combination of running backs in hopes to replace the seemingly departed Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.
It doesn't seem as if Miami will go after any big-name safeties on the free agent market, so the inexperienced Chris Clemons is about to have a major spotlight on him.
Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have seemingly platooned the cornerback position and gotten better at it each of their two seasons with the Dolphins, so the pressure now lays on the safeties.
Clemons had a reasonable 2010 season, faring better than the man he replaced Gibril Wilson. He only managed one interception, but he was a solid tackler and didn't get beat deep that often, so the job is his to lose.
Clemons has what it takes to be a dominant safety for Miami as he displayed in his college years at Clemson.
Clemons won't have double digit interceptions ever in his career but his ability to wrap up oncoming ball carriers and break up passes in the air is exactly what Miami is looking to get from their young budding safety.
Injuries derailed Jared Odrick's rookie season as Miami's 2010 first-round pick suffered a broken fibula in the season opening game against Buffalo.
Not only was Miami's defensive their strong point last year, they were one of the best in the NFL in all categories.
Plug in Odrick, and the sky is the limit for the former Nittany Lion who is braced for a breakout season as a defensive end, one of the few defensive positions Miami saw little progress in from 2009 to 2010.
Having almost an entire season off to heal and work with defensive studs like Paul Soliai, Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake make Odrick poised to have a breakout season in 2011 and solidify the Dolphins defense in attempt to reclaim the AFC East for the first time since 2008.
I realize that Cameron Wake had a breakout season in 2010, but he has yet to put his name on the map in the NFL landscape.
Having put together 14 sacks and forcing three fumbles, Wake seems poised to have an even greater 2011 campaign with another season under Mike Nolan and adding better talent to the defensive end position just by getting Jared Odrick back on the field.
Last season, Wake had just begun to learn how to be effective in the running game and he excelled at that with only a few months of practice in a new system.
Mike Nolan has a record of developing and maintaining great talent on the defensive front, most recently Elvis Dumervil of the Denver Broncos sustained 17 sacks in 2009, Nolan's only season with the Broncos.
Cameron Wake is headed for what could be a Miami Dolphin recording breaking season should he stay healthy, and the defense continues to progress.