The Good And Bad Of Training Camp
by Neal Driscoll
I have been hiding under a rock for the last couple of weeks and haven’t really had the time to work on a column but found time on my five hour flight so I wanted to look at the good and the bad of training camp for the Miami Dolphins. A lot of people view the pre-season as a waste of time but I must say I enjoy it a great deal because I truly enjoy watching players battle for roster spots, unheard of players shocking the world, and of course to see the development of the players that were drafted. Let’s look at some of the happenings at camp..
*Matt Roth’s mysterious injury is one that truly baffles me. Roth was a solid but unspectacular player for us but did seem to be coming into his own. This is a contract year from Roth and I don’t think that anyone besides Matt Roth knew that he wasn’t ready for camp. It is a major disappoint as the Dolphins were looking into locking up Roth for the long haul but know that is a serious doubt as Head Coach Tony Sparano feels lied to. Roth is a good player and really excels against the run which is something our starting outside linebackers (Joey Porter and Jason Taylor) tend to struggles with. It will be interesting to see how this situation turns out but I wouldn’t feel confident depending on Matt Roth this season.
*Eric Green was a veteran Cornerback brought in to start opposite of Will Allen and replace Andre Goodman but his time in Miami was short lived. He was the worst Corner on our roster in terms of coverage ability that I saw when I attended training camp and that seemed to carry over. The Dolphins released him and than like the turd he is he ran his mouth about the organization. Well I got news for you Mr. Green, you are a 49er now and if you think the grass is greener in San Francisco than your are sadly mistaken.
*Pat White is the ultimate wrinkle in our wild-cat and eventually will be a great player for us giving us that “Slash” type player who could really turn our wild-cat offense into something scary with the added ability to pass out of the formation but Pat White certainly needs some work. He is a rookie and in no way am I saying he was a bust or even that he was a reach with the 44th pick in the NFL draft but I wouldn’t expect too much immediately. David Lee, the Quarterbacks Coach, worked on changing Pat White’s throwing mechanics which takes some getting used to and Pat has been anxious making his throws a little off the mark. I feel that our front office doesn’t want to show White off too much as they want to hit the league by surprise but it is important that White spends the time to learn the pro-game so he can excel for us.
*Phillip Merling was our 2nd Round Pick in the 2008 Draft and played solid in his rookie campaign and has looked solid in camp but the problem is that Merling shouldn’t look just solid as this guy has off the charts ability. He flashed the play making ability in Week 17 against the Jets when he intercepted a Bret Favre screen pass and took it to the house; I want to see more of that and more pressure. I think Merling will turn the corner and giving players such as Randy Starks reps in front of him might give him that push he needs.
*Chris Williams was exciting to watch in the first pre-season game with his return ability and we saw a glimpse of that same excitement in the beginning of the 2nd pre-season game but a muffed punt and broken hand sealed Williams’ fate. The Dolphins released Chris Williams this week and the team is still searching for that Kick Returner.
*Ernest Wilford was signed in 2008 as a free agent receiver who was supposed to bring a red-zone threat to Miami but that never came to form. The team experimented moving him into a Tight End but he couldn’t block a lick and he was just inconsistent. When he caught a 33 yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne everyone thought he was in but I never bought it. It’s a numbers game and he just didn’t make the numbers as a Wide Receiver or a Tight End.
*The return of Jason Taylor to Miami was more than a publicity stunt as Taylor is currently starting and has been really getting to the Quarterback. He recorded 2 sacks in the Miami Dolphins inter-squad scrimmage and seems to be back where he belongs in Miami. I think Taylor is poised for a solid season that could end with him getting double-digit sacks.
*The development of Ted Ginn Jr. is something that is very important for this team. If we are going to be a major contender we are going to need Ginn to step up his game and become a major receiving threat. Ginn looks poised for a huge season in 2009 and at times has looked dominant. His route running has improved and he is playing with a much higher level of confidence. He was truly impressive in the first pre-season game against Jacksonville and was the MVP of the game in my opinion.
*Lex Hilliard has been running the ball hard and made the coaching staff take notice. Hilliard was considered a long shot to make the team but he has made the most of his opportunities and seems like a lock to make the team.
*The Dolphins offered contract extension to Channing Crowder, Yeremiah Bell, and Vernon Carey which seems to be a collection of great moves as all three are starter and playing at a high level.
*Donald Thomas might be the most important player on our team. When he is in the game big runs occur and opposing players are on their backs. Thomas is unbelievably strong and plays with that nasty attitude that this line needs. Our offensive line with Thomas and Smiley returning healthy and the addition of Jake Grove is miles ahead of where they were at this point last season. Jake Long is developing into one of the Elite Left Tackle’s in this league.
*The most encouraging thing for me has been Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano’s eye for evaluating and drafting talent. The days of Eddie Moore, Jamar Fletcher, and John Beck seem to be long behind us. Their first draft class landed us Jake Long with the first pick in the 2008 draft who made the Pro-Bowl as a rookie; Round 2 saw us grab Phillip Merling who is an important component to our defensive line rotation and Chad Henne is clearly our Quarterback of the future. Henne has looked to be in full control of the playbook and the huddle and seems to be poised to learn from Chad Pennington for another season and take over for the 2010 season. This draft class also saw us land Kendall Langford who is starting at Left Defensive End, Shawn Murphy who provides serious depth to our interior offensive line, Lex Hilliard whose strong play is forcing the coaching staff to keep him on the roster, and Donald Thomas whose importance I emphasized earlier on. Lionel Dotson also looks like he will be fighting for playing time this season. This years’ draft class seems poised to be another gem with the unbelievable Corner combination of Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, the ultimate X-Factor in Pat White, two very promising receivers who have been pleasant surprises in camp and are really pushing for playing time in Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline, and good depth players in Chris Clemons and Andrew Gardner. Not to forget that last year they selected gold when they signed Dan Carpenter and Davone Bess as undrafted free agents. They have added quality free agents over the last couple of years in Randy Starks, Justin Smiley, Chad Pennington, Jason Taylor, Gibril Wilson, and Jake Grove to name a few.
The good certainly outweighs the bad and the one thing that really excites me is the balance of young and upcoming stars such as Jake Long, Ronnie Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., Sean Smith, Davone Bess, and Chad Henne with the crop of veteran stars such as Chad Pennington, Jason Taylor, Joey Porter, Vernon Carey, and Ricky Williams. This team is really talented and I think those who thought last year was a fluke is going to be in for a big surprise when the Dolphins are post-season bound again. Tomorrow is the only pre-season game that truly matters as the starters should play a good deal and we will see more of the guys who are going to be on the team rather those fighting to live another day. I could have added the health of Chad Pennington and the impressiveness of Ronnie Brown but those are a given and we all know that those two are the best players on this team for now. With all that said we are on Prime Time tonight and I cannot wait. What I am looking for tonight…
*The starters will see much more playing time and I think we should easily handle the Buccaneers in the first half.
*Which receiver will step up to start opposite of Ted Ginn Jr.? Greg Camarillo? Davone Bess? Patrick Turner? Brain Hartline?
*Can Cameron Wake be that pass rushing star we are all hoping?
Let’s see………..GO DOLPHINS!
Neal Driscoll is a columnist for FinHeaven.com and goes by the username RealDriscoll on the forums. He is an avid fan and brings a real fans perspective to you through his commentary. Send him a PM and let him know what you think of his article.