Before we head into the weekend (which some fools are claiming will be the final one as May 21 is supposed to be the end of the world) I want to give you my personal list of Dolphins players I believe should be on everyone's list of breakout players for the 2011 season.
...Whenever that 2011 season gets underway.
Breakout players are defined as players who have yet to show their signature talent. They are young players who have much potential but little in the way of stellar production to show for that potential. Cameron Wake had a breakout season in 2010.
The next Cameron Wake for the Dolphins?
1. Guard John Jerry: He was a starter much of last season but struggled finding his niche and then keeping it because he battled a sickness and that kept him from perfecting his technique and he wasn't strong enough and he probably needed a lesson in being a professional. Enough of that. It's the second season. The hope is he's working to get stronger as prescribed by the club's strength and conditioning coaches and he is going to get every opportunity to be a starter -- with every opportunity being defined as he's a starter Day 1 of training camp and then it's up to him to keep the job.
2. Cornerback Vontae Davis: Next season will be his third as a starter. It's time to live up to the grand potential he showed as a rookie. Davis is easily the most physical of all Miami corners. He works hard to get his body right. He works at the art of playing CB. But last season he had only one interception to show for his trouble. He had four interceptions as a rookie. You might claim he wasn't picked on nearly as much as he was as a rookie and that is correct. But he was beaten for at least four TD passes. That's not the ratio of interceptions-to-TDs anyone expects from a star CB. And make no mistake, Davis has the potential to be a star. It's time for him to reach that potential.
3. Free safety Reshad Jones: This kid is a ball magnet. He always seems to be around the football. The football always seems to be around him. It stands to reason the Dolphins, who want more game-changing plays in their defensive backfield, will give such a player an opportunity to win a starting job. If Jones continues to show that ball magnet ability, it would then make sense he bursts out of his role as a special teams player and situational player.
4. Wide receiver Marlon Moore: You cannot coach speed. Moore has it. He showed that potential with that 57-yard TD catch against Oakland last year. Coaches saw that and their eyes popped out. Unfortunately, Moore wasn't ready for more work. The following week he dropped a couple of passes and his chance for more playing time diminished. But a young wide receiver typically makes the biggest leap in ability between his first and second year. Moore is getting ready for that second year. A caveat: Most NFL wide receivers get plenty of work in that offseason between their roookie and second seasons. Moore isn't getting that with the Dolphins due to the lockout.
5. Defensive end Phillip Merling: Coaches were hoping for big things from Merling at this time last year. He was seemingly starting to figure out how to be a professional. Then he blew out his Achilles' tendon jogging on his own a month before training camp. He had to wait until the final five games to work himself off the Non-football Injury list. It wasn't a total loss, but it wasn't what everyone expected, either. Merling gets another chance at it this year -- hopefully while completely healthy. A big hint whether he'll be primed for a big year is how well Merling practices when training camp opens. He is known for at times not being a great worker in practice.
HONORABLE MENTIONS -- Koa Misi, Jared Odrick: Misi collected 4.5 sacks as a rookie mostly on sheer desire and refusal to quit. He was playing the SOLB for the first time in his career. He was playing in the NFL for the first time. He was probably a little undersized in that he needed to improve his upper body strength. As for technique ... what technique? The assignment this offseason and training camp is to address all those. We'll see the results.
Odrick was an instant starter at RDE. That says something about the kid. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they were not able to see the fruits of his potential. After a solid training camp, Odrick broke his leg in the season-opener. Four weeks later, he sustained an injury to the other leg that forced him out the remainder of the season. He gets a new start in 2011. The club has high hopes for him. So do I.
Check back Monday for more Dolphins information and analysis. Also, please follow me on twitter. Finally, I guarantee you the world will not end on Saturday. I have a Most Highly placed Source.