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2 posts from July 21, 2013

July 21, 2013

Dolphins camp Day One in the books

The first Dolphins training camp practice of 2013 has come and gone. Here are the highlights:

Rookie first round pick Dion Jordan was in attendance after signing his contract Saturday, but did not practice today. He spent most of the morning on the sideline doing calisthenics. He is on the Non-Football Injury list, according to coach Joe Philbin.

That means Jordan, who had shoulder surgery in February, cannot practice for now. Philbin declined to elaborate as to Jordan's status but one thing is clear, the rookie isn't going to hurry his return.

"Right now I've got to take care of my body first," he said. For any athlete, when this is your job and this is what your whole motivation is, it’s frustrating not being out there and watching the guys go. But I understand my health is the main concern right now. So that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Frankly, it is five months since his surgery. I don't see this is a major issue at the moment. If we're sitting in the same spot in three weeks, then we have an issue.

On a much more positive front, cornerback Brent Grimes looked great in practice today. Truly. He moved with ease following a season in which he missed all but the first game because of a torn Achilles. Grimes and Richard Marshall, who also missed much of last year because of a bad back that required surgery, were the first-team cornerbacks and got the better of the receivers today.

The most clear sign that Grimes is back is he wasn't even wearing ankle tape to stabilize the repaired area. "I never do, I don't like it," he said. ""No reason to."

While the starting DBs looked good, the same cannot be said of the first-team passing game. The first play of practice on the field before an announced crowd of 2,700?

Ryan Tannehill threw a nine route to Mike Wallace down the right sideline. It was overthrown. It didn't get much better from there.

"It wasn't our cleanest day," Tannehill said afterward. "We definitely have some rust we have to knock off."

Tannehill found Brian Hartline on multiple occasions and that shows his familiarity with the veteran. But none of those were deep connections. Tannehill's throws across the middle were much more crisp. He connected with Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson on seam and in-cuts several times.

But the most productive receiver of the day?

Marvin McNutt, a first-year player out of Iowa. The kid caught five passes.

The much anticipated training camp debut of Jonathan Martin at left tackle was uneventful. He was not beaten on any pass-rushes by Olivier Vernon, who worked with the starting defense at right end.

The same cannot be said of first-year left tackle Jeff Adams. Although quarterbacks aren't being hit (or touched, really) it was clear Adams gave up at least two sacks had this been game action. He had a tough day.

The beneficiary of Adams' struggle was Vernon. He collected both sacks.

Second-team center Josh Samuda also was inconsistent today, with the most obvious sign of that coming when he short-hopped a shotgun snap to quarterback Matt Moore.

Speaking of offensive line, right tackle is not an issure right now. Tyson Clabo, wearing No. 77, looks like a good, solid, professional. He's just ... good. Nice technique. Nice tempo. He knows what he's doing for the most part.

As to the much talked about kicking competition. Dan Carpenter took all the kicks today. He connected on all of them. He was 10-for-10, with the longest from 49 yards out. Caleb Sturgis did not kick today.

The starting units today:

Defense -- DL was Olivier Vernon, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Cameron Wake up front. Jared Odrick spent much of his time inside at DT and also shared snaps with Starks with the first team. At LB Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe in the middle and Phillip Wheeler. Grimes and Marshall were at CB. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons were at safety.

Offense -- OL was Martin at LT, Richie Incognito at LG, C Mike Pouncey, RG John Jerry and RT Clabo. WRs were Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline in two-wide and Brandon Gibson added to the three-wide. Tight end was Dustin Keller and obviously Tannehill at QB.

By the way, I think I figured out why the Dolphins didn't show greater interest in Vonta Leach for the start of this camp: Tight ends worked as lead backs quite a few times today. It was interesting to see Dustin Keller and Charles Clay in that role.

[UPDATE: At tight end it was Charles Clay and Dion Sims behind Keller today. Michael Egnew was on the far field working with the third and fourth-team offense. So much for him having a great offseason. A rookie has already passed him, apparently.]

Due to the collective bargaining agreement, there are no real two-a-days anymore. The second practice of the day is a walkthru and, unlike last year, the Dolphins have closed those to the media. So this is it.

The Dolphins will practice at 8 a.m. Monday. I will tweet in real time until the club shuts down electronic coverage. You can follow me on twitter for those real-time updates. 

Training camp opens and we're off and running

We're baaaack!

My vacation is over -- although I've been posting on here for a few days despite not getting paid for it. And the Dolphins' vacation is over, with players reporting to camp Saturday and participating in their first training camp practice beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.

First, let me share my column in The Miami Herald today: It outlines how local Dolphins fans reacted to the offseason spending spree, high draft selection of Dion Jordan, and bigtime hopes that Ryan Tannehill with caution and guarded optimism.

I can say that because I share with you the evidence that proves that caution and also tell you how some things have to go just right for the Dolphins to have the kind of season Miami fans have been wanting for a decade.

It might happen. Might not.

We don't know.

This I know:

The Dolphins today are the second-best team in the AFC East with a chance to be the best if things go their way.

The Jets?

The coach is already on the hot seat. The quarterback is still a turnover machine. The receiver corps has questions. The defense isn't the dominant unit it was four years ago and indeed is lessened by the trade of Darrelle Revis.

The Bills?

They have a rookie NFL head coach in Doug Marrone. (At least he led Syracuse to great things and many championships at the college level. Oh wait, he didn't). Their most likely starting quarterback is Kevin Kolb, who washed out in Arizona after being traded from Philadelphia. Of course, the Bills got better by losing their best offensive lineman Andy Levitre, right? Oh wait. At least their wide receiver corps is really solid after Stevie Johnson, right? Oh wait.

Yeah, the Jets feel like a team at the end of a journey that got off course and unless Rex Ryan is carrying a magic compass, he might be gone after this season. And the Bills, well, they're just starting their journey -- again.

So the AFC East feels like the Patriots and Dolphins. And for now, we should view it in that order because (cliche' alert) to be the best you have to beat the best. And the Dolphins have not beaten the Patriots in a while. Indeed, the last time the teams met in last season's finale, the Patriots won by 28 points.

But ...

Anyone paying attention must admit the Patriots seem lessened. Wide receiver Wes Welker has gone to Denver (in free agency). Tight end Aaron Hernandez has gone to jail (for murder). Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard went to jail (for assaulting a cop) and then was arrested again soon after he got out (on suspicion of DUI).

The Patriots lost or have jettisoned four of their top five pass catchers from the 2012 club. And the fifth of those -- tight end Rob Gronkowski -- added a couple of more surgeries to his growing collection of proceedures during the offseason.

Tom Brady will also be 36 in two weeks.

So to say the Patriots are looking great is probably not wise.

None of that means the Dolphins will win the AFC East, mind you. I am not predicting that. No one has seen even one practice so how can anyone say this is a title team or even a winning team.

But it is fair to say the Dolphins had the best offseason in the AFC East.

They didn't have anyone arrested that we know of.

They didn't lose any appreciable talent outside of Jake Long.

They didn't fire their coach.

They didn't trade their best defensive player.

They did spend a lot of money and trade up in the draft to address significant and obvious needs.

That is a great way to turbocharge the chase for the AFC East title while the rest of the pack is losing spark plugs or seemingly running low on gas.

[BLOG NOTE: I will update this space after practice and interviews around 11 a.m. If you want instant play-by-play and analysis of practice, follow me on twitter because I'll be updating in real time.]