The Dolphins are done with training camp, per se, because next week they begin operating on a regular-season schedule. And as this is the end of two-a-days (well, one practice and a walk-thru), coach Joe Philbin was asked to name players he believes have elevated their game since the start of camp.
"A lot of the guys, some of the first-year guys that we've had going into year two have improved," Philbin said. "Mike Egnew has improved an awful lot. He's a guy we're excited about. Olivier Vernon has taken a step forward. Jonathan Martin, Lamar Miller. A lot of those young players that we have, Josh Kaddu is another that last year at this time was feeling his way through, has made a lot of progress. I think the first or second-year guys have done a nice job."
It's encouraging that Egnew has gone from being totally lost to competing for a roster spot and actually having a chance to win one based on performance. (Last year, he was on the roster based on draft status). Although he is still a second-team player, Egnew might sneak in as a back-of-the roster guy because offensive coordinator Mike Sherman loves having the flexibility of having a jillion tight ends.
Today, I would say Dustin Keller, Charles Clay, and rookie Dion Sims are definitely on the team. All three have had good to very good camps. Egnew's status will hinge on whether the Dolphins consider Clay a fullback and keep him as that -- opening a tight end job -- or perhaps if the team sees him as more valuable than a fifth wide receiver.
As an aside, notice that list of names Philbin mentioned includes just about every second-year player except quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It's probably just an omission. But it bears mention just in case it is not an omission because Sherman this offseason predicted Tannehill would be the "most improved" quarterback in the entire NFL.
And the head coach doesn't include him as one of the most improved players on the team?
This is not a controversy or major issue. Just an observation.
Here's another observation that might give a peak into the kind of player Philbin wants on his team. In discussing the decision to go with Caleb Sturgis as the team's kicker over Dan Carpenter, Philbin mentioned this:
"I liked his demeanor the other night," the coach said of Sturgis. "He was very professional about things. Wasn't jumping up and down. He did his job and did it well. He was very serious about what he was doing."
Sturgis connected on a 58-yard field goal, which does not happen every day. And Philbin appreciated that the rookie didn't think he'd done something extraordinary. The coach appreciated that the rookie was businesslike.
That's what Philbin wants in players. Businesslike. Not too high. Not too low. Consistent. Basically he wants players that are, well, like him.
Nope, Philbin won't be doing a fist pump after a field goal any time soon. It's just not him. And he likes that Sturgis didn't, either.
Along those lines, defensive end Olivier Vernon, who has pretty much won a starting defensive end job, didn't exactly throw a party once he learned the path is cleared for him to be the starter.
"No, I haven't celebrated, man," Vernon said. "I feel like anyone on this defensive line can start so it's just competition. Still, I don't try to think about it like that, man."
Even when he was told Philbin mentioned him among the most improved players in camp, Vernon seemed unmoved.
"All that means to me, man, is keep going harder," he said. "I don't try to focus what other people say about me. I just try to be the same person every day."
The Dolphins signed six-year veteran defensive end Antwan Applewhite today. He's a classic 4-3 defensive end that helps guard against the possibility rookie Dion Jordan won't be fully ready to play once the season begins.
"We brought him in here, he had a good workout and we wanted to see what he could do," Philbin said.
Applewhite's first day is obviously the last day of training camp so he's behind, but he doesn't seem to worried that's going to be an issue.
"It's not my first go-around. I've done it before," he said. "Two years ago I got to Carolina in like week 5. I was in San Fran two weeks into training camp before that. So, I'm pretty used to that. I'm going on my seventh year so I know pretty much how teams schedule and stuff goes. It's just learning all the new verbiage and putting it in my head how I can understand it."