Weekend Roundup: Mini-Camp Thoughts

Well the final mini-camp has come and gone.  The Dolphins now have a couple of OTA practices left this week and then they hit the road for some vacation before training camp opens in July. 

So for today's "Weekend Roundup," I figured I could just talk a little bit about what the media reported from these 5 mini-camp practices.

QB TALK
Here's all I'll say about the quarterbacks: It's impossible to really know who had a good day and who had a bad one.  These camp reports are very subjective - meaning there's no real way to compare the performances of the 3 quarterbacks.  Opinions and bias can easily influence writers to report that "quarterback X" had a good day while "quarterback Y" struggled. 

For example, it might be reported that John Beck threw a great pass to Davone Bess.  Considering Bess's place on the depth chart, the reporter might say that John was working with the 3rd team.  But that doesn't necessarily mean John was working against the 3rd team defense.  In fact, Tony Sparano even said that they are mixing and matching QBs with offensive teams and defensive opponents.  So Josh McCown might make a good throw to Ted Ginn.  But Ginn could be covered by a 2nd or 3rd team corner.  These camp reports fail to really tell us fans what string defense these QBs are playing against.  And, to me, that's far more important than what team offense the QB is working with. 

Another example if this would be when writers tell us "QB X" fumbled the QB/center exchange.  It's seeming like all 3 quarterbacks are having trouble, at times, holding onto the exchange from center.  But the report fails to inform you that the QB who fumbled was working with the 3rd team center.  And after all, most exchange miscues are a result of poor execution by the center - not the quarterback.

The bottom line here, though, is that we aren't really going to know much about quarterback play until we get into preseason games.  I was talking to somebody who is very knowledgeable this weekend and he made a great point.  He said that it's not that important if a player looks great in practice.  What's more of an issue, and should be focused on, is when a player isn't playing well in practice.  After all, if you can't perform in practice, how in the world can you be expected to perform in a real game.  I think this is especially true of the QB situation.  So while I'd be shocked if Chad Henne, barring any injuries, started a game this season, I think there is a QB competition in Miami that will play on well into August between John Beck and Josh McCown.  And I believe that both QBs will be better off for it.

MOST IMPRESSIVE
While I talk about how it's hard to trust these camp reports from the different media outlets in South Florida, there were a couple of players who most (if not all) can agree really shined in this recently completed mini-camp.

The first is Ricky Williams.  Ricky is more and more beginning to look like the Ricky of old - and that's a truly great thing for this team. 

Omar Kelly writes of Ricky:

He's running hard, and fast. I see 1,000 yards in his future. Ricky's back!

And Armando Salguero adds this:

Looks cut, quick and strong. He is the best player on the team right now. It says something when Parcells gives the player a fist-pound after a play, which he did Saturday.

Here's that "fist-pound" incident Armando was talking about:

Ricky Williams, meanwhile, was showing a quickness and spurt through the hole I don't remember him having in his extremely limited practice time last season. He blurred through one opening and juked a DB, causing Parcells to meet Williams on the sideline with a fist-pound.

While it's difficult to really judge the performance of a running back in these "minimal contact" camps, it's great to hear that Ricky's quickness and agility looks to be impressing.  And getting Bill Parcells to notice him certainly is a big deal.  If Williams can be even just 80% of the running back he used to be back in his first 2 seasons in Miami, then he's bound for one hell of a season splitting carries with Ronnie Brown.

The other player that seemed to really shine at camp according to multiple sources was Yeremiah Bell.  Coming off of a torn Achilles', Bell was thought to be a question mark entering camp.  But now it's becoming more and more apparent that Bell is healthy and will be a clear-cut starter at safety.

Salguero writes of Bell:

I kidded with him that he looks like Dan Marino out there because he's wearing two ankle braces and two knee braces. He laughed but Sparano called him the "a good quarterback out there," meaning that is the role Bell plays on D. I don't believe he blew an assignment all weekend long.

And Omar Kelly adds:

Didn't see one play made on him in five practices. If he stays healthy he's a lock for the starting spot. However, I'm extremely troubled that his left leg is about twice the size of the right.

Even Tony Sparano was signing Bell's praises. 

Bell was a big-time playmaker for this defense once he was inserted into the starting lineup back in 2006.  And 2007 was supposed to be the year where he really broke out.  But that unfortunate injury quickly put an end to those plans.  I think the thing about Bell, though, is that people don't realize how important he is to that defense.  Sparano calls him the "quarterback" of the defense, which is saying a lot.  He knows not only where he's supposed to be but also where the rest of the secondary has to be. 

Hopefully Bell can stay healthy this year because he's a major difference-maker for this defense.

The other player that seemed to be involved in a lot of defensive plays was Will Allen.  Allen was undoubtedly the best corner on the team in 2007 and he's proving that he might be able to take that next step up in 2008.  Various reports talked about how Allen was making plays on the ball and even intercepting some passes (especially in the redzone drills).  Perhaps most impressive, though, is how well Allen reportedly covered the bigger Ernest Wilford. 

Hopefully Allen's "off the field" issue won't come back to bite him in the ass.  And if it doesn't, I think Allen will really impress some people in '08 and prove that he can be a true #1 cornerback.

TALKING JAKE LONG
While it's impossible to judge the performance of offensive lineman in these kinds of camps because of the lack of contact, our prized #1 overall pick, Jake Long, has at least been impressing his teammates with his physical tools and work ethic.

His fellow bookend, Vernon Carey, had this to say:

"Aw, man. Jake Long is a hard worker. He listens to the coaches. He listens to me. He’s always trying to get better. He’s one of those guys, he’ll can come out here one day and do it bad and then the next day he picks it up right quick. I’m like, ‘Wow. I wish I had it like that.’ He’s a guy who can pick up things real good. That’s what you need at this level."

Justin Smiley, who was moved over to left guard (in between Long and Samson Satele) for most of this weekend's camp, added the following about Jake:

"Even though we were in shorts, you can tell he's a special player. He's going to be a perennial Pro Bowler."

"Look at him, he weighs 320 and he has abs."

These are great things to hear, but until he gets to go full contact against guys like Jason Taylor, Joey Porter, and Charlie Anderson, we aren't really going to know much about how he handles the speed of the NFL.  That's the only concern I have about Jake.  I'm 100% convinced he's going to be a terrific run blocker.  If he can learn to handle the speed of the NFL's elite pass-rushers, then Long is destined to be a star.  But for now, knowing how hard he works, I'm satisfied.  Let's just hope all this hard work, paired with his god-given talent, results in what Smiley said: a perennial Pro Bowler.

If you've read it this far, then kudos to you!  That's all for now, as I probably rambled on too much already.  But there was a lot to talk about. 

Feel free to discuss anything you'd like (something I touched on or something I didn't) in the comments below...

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