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Dolphins expecting more from two pieces of 2011 draft class

The first of a couple of Dolphins posts today:

 

If it takes two to three years to fairly analyze a draft, then a referendum is soon coming on the Dolphins’ 2011 class, which has produced only one current Dolphins starter: center Mike Pouncey.

But the Dolphins firmly believe two others from that class -- Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay --- can develop into key, consistent cogs in their offense this season.

Coach Joe Philbin has been complimentary of Thomas, whose first two seasons were marked by injury, inconsistency and a 2012 preseason admonishment from Philbin, which was aired on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he’s excited about pairing Clay with starting tight end Dustin Keller, because the Dolphins can run any of their formations with that tandem.

Expectations differed somewhat for both after that draft --- the Dolphins traded up to draft Thomas 62nd, while Clay was a sixth round pick and stands as a success story of sorts by simply surviving so far.

But their careers have had somewhat similar arcs – flashes of promise and exasperating mistakes, as well as knee injuries and surgeries that sidelined each for the final two games of 2012.

Last season, no NFL running back with as few carries as Thomas fumbled as much (three times in 91 attempts). Meanwhile, no NFL tight end targeted as few times as Clay dropped as many passes (five, compared with 18 receptions, in 27 targets).

The stakes ratchet up for both this season. Though Lamar Miller remains the favorite to start, Thomas continues to receive some of the first-team reps, and Sherman said the running back competition is “pretty close.” Thomas expects one to be “1A, one 1B.”

Thomas’ best NFL games remain the first two of his career – an 18 carry, 107 yard eruption against Houston (the second-most yards by a Dolphins running back in his first game, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 115) and a 23 carry, 95 yard outburst the following week against Oakland.

He hasn’t matched those yardage totals in any of his 23 games since and overall has averaged an underwhelming 3.5 yards per carry, which he calls unacceptable, after averaging 5.2 in his two seasons at Kansas State.

Last season, only four running backs with as many carries averaged less per carry than Thomas’ 3.6: Alex Green, LaRod Stephens Howling, Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings. In his career, he has converted well under half of third and fourth down runs with one or two yards needed.

He missed games because of a hamstring in 2011, a concussion last October and last December’s knee injury to his meniscus.

“It feels like I had injuries all the time, and I had never gotten hurt before,” he said.

Thomas trained in Arizona with a group of players, including Terrell Suggs and Tim Tebow this past spring, because “I wanted to get my legs back stronger [after knee surgery]. I’ve been very inconsistent. This is the year I’ve got to put everything together.”

Early signs are encouraging. Thomas had eight- and nine-yard runs to help fuel the Dolphins’ first-quarter touchdown drive in Jacksonville and was impressive in Monday's practice, with two forceful runs in red zone drills and a nifty catch along the sidelines.

"I like what he’s doing this camp,” Philbin said. “I’m very happy with the way he’s practicing. He’s running the ball hard. He’s been doing a good job in pass protection.”

After last season’s fumble issues, he has only one fumble in camp and none in either game. He added six pounds, to 236, and “I feel quicker and faster. I am a better back than I was the first two years.”

He’s also a more responsible one. Last August, HBO cameras showed Philbin scolding Thomas for being late for a flight, not abiding by the dress code and reporting 15 minutes late to weightlifting.

“This kind of stuff can’t happen,” Philbin told Thomas a year ago. “You got to take responsibility for your own career. I’m getting a little queasy about you.”

But Thomas has matured. “He’s going about his business in a very professional manner,” Philbin said Monday.

As for Clay, he has been working at both fullback and tight end and “really has stepped it up,” Sherman said.

The Clay/Keller tandem intrigues the Dolphins because both have a knack for finding seams in the middle of the defense.

“We talk all the time about the weapon we can be together,” Clay said. “I want to say we can be the top tight end duo in the league. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him.”

Keller said Clay’s value is not only his positional versatility, but also that “he does everything well. He can block well. If you put a safety or linebacker on him, you can take advantage of that matchup.”

As for the rest of that 2011 draft beyond Pouncey, Thomas and Clay, a second-rounder was dealt as part the Brandon Marshall trade; Clyde Gates (picked 111th) and Frank Kearse (231st) are long gone; and Jimmy Wilson (235th) is the Dolphins’ No. 3 safety. 

Comments

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Seth

Daniel Thomas is an okay backup running back. He should be nothing more. Unfortunately, Lamar Miller is not much better. Dolphins need an upgrade for next season.

Ireland is a Ninny

What a pathetic draft class.

Another feather in the cap of Jeff Ireland, the worst GM in the NFL.

Daniel Thomas is a joke. Unable to be a backup.

IRELAND TRADED UP FOR HIM. WHAT A TURD.

Reality Bites

So another pathetic draft for Ireland and the Fins, just like the 5 or 6 prior. Now did he do better in 2012 and 2013? That is what you need to ask.

4 **** CHRIS LAMMONS

THAT'S 1 - NEW S. F.L.A. GATOR ...

[]_[] Stay TuNED Later Tonight ...

RICH GETTING RICHER ... More 4 **** - 5***** To Come ...

The Florida Gators appear poised to add three top recruits Monday, as wide receiver Ermon Lane and defensive backs Chris Lammons and Quincy Wilson announce their college choices. The highly-touted trio, all based out of the Sunshine State, have coordinated their announcements, and Florida is the odds-on favorite to land at least two of them.

Lane is arguably the nation's top high school wide receiver. The 6'3, 193-lb. wideout from Homestead received a five-star rating from 24/7 Sports and a consensus spot among the nation's top four receiver prospects. While Lane holds offers from Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, Florida State, and LSU, recruiting experts have speculated for some time that they were all chasing the Gators. It has been months since any recruiting analyst at 24/7 Sports has predicted a program othe than Florida as his eventual landing place.

Wilson is a defensive back caught between positions and rankings. While Rivals and ESPN project him as a four-star prospect, Scout and 24/7 are not as high. And while some analysts (including Rivals) believe the 6'2 Wilson can play cornerback at the next level, others are convinced he is destined to play safety. Wilson holds offers from 50 programs, including most of the SEC. However, much like Lane, the consensus has settled on Florida as the destination for the Ft. Lauderdale-based defensive back.

The biggest question mark headed into monday may be Chris Lammons, the 5'9, 170-lb. cornerback/athlete out of Ft. Lauderdale's Plantation High. Lammons is a consensus four-star recruit, and widely considered one of the top 35 cornerback prospects in the nation. Much like Lane and Wilson, he has been widely expected to choose Florida from a crowded offer sheet. However, just days before his scheduled announcement, consensus has turned against the Gators and toward South Carolina. The Gators already have commitments from 2014 cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson, both players with similar build, speed, and skill sets to those of Lammons.

Florida has 13 commits in its 2014 class entering Monday. If everything goes as planned for the Gators, it could well be a class of 16 by the end of the day.

.

[]_[] enjoy HALF []_[]r 2014 Class that was offered by ZERO Top-20 Programs... The GATORS WILL have 15 commits after tonight and NOT ONE was not offered by MULTIPLE Top-20 Teams... That's why []_[] are []_[] and the BEST are the BEST ... Just wait til Feb. when []_[]r better commits DECOMMIT , while the GATORS and TOP-Programs clean-up...

[]_[]r Tombstone should read... "HIGH n ALIVE In Spring n Summer... DEAD n B[]_[]RIED In Fall n Winter...

sickandtired

another pathetic draft by our teflon GM. if Ross doesnt care, why should I....

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