Let me preface this by saying it's very early here in the offseason - with organized team activities just gettung underway. While reading too much into individual performances this early is a bad idea, I think there are still some things you can take from these early OTA sessions that at least merit some discussion. So I figured I'd take some time to highlight what stuck out to me from all of the OTA reports on Tuesday.
THE BATTLE AT CORNERBACK
One of the things you can take from OTAs is how the coaching staff currently views the depth chart as we enter some actual on-field work. At cornerback, Will Allen and Eric Green worked as the first team corners. Rookies Vontae Davis and Sean Smith worked with the second team defense. Former first round pick Jason Allen was working with the third team - and you can't help but wonder how long it will be until Jason is given his pink slip and we can all just accept the fact that he is, without question, a bust. Listen - I'd love for it to "click" for Jason and see him become at least a contributor in nickel or dime packages. But I just don't think it's going to happen.
One of the reasons why I'm not counting Jason Allen playing his way onto the field is because of Miami's two rookie corners. Both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have reportedly been borderline "stalkers" of incumbent starter Will Allen - a player that seems to be much more appreciated by players and coaches than by fans. Allen has years of starting experience under his belt, has played at a high level during his NFL tenure, and can surely teach our young corners a thing or two. So it's great to hear that our young guys are making it a point to learn from Will.
In fact, Vontae himself said that he plans on looking up to Will like he's a father and learning all he can from Allen:
"He's teaching me the ins and outs and he's very smart. He knows the game. He's been in the league [nine] years, so that speaks louder than words."
"I plan on looking up to him like a father, a role model. Everything I can get from him I will. Every step that Will makes I'm right there. I know he's there to help me. He's going to protect me and help me get better.''
If I had to guess, I'd say Eric Green's hold on a starting spot is tenuous at best.
CAM WAKE WORKING WAY DOWN ON THE DEPTH CHART
A lot of Dolphin fans seem concerned that Cameron Wake is currently running with the third (or fourth - depending on who you ask) team defense right now. But this goes right along with how this coaching staff does business. They don't hand you anything based on potential - you must prove yourself on the field. There was no reason to think that Wake would be any higher on Miami's depth chart at this point. He's still learning a new position, after all.
You also have to consider who he is playing behind. It's unlikely at this point that Wake is seen as a strongside outside linebacker - which means he's behind Joey Porter and Jason Taylor on the weakside in terms of his depth chart status in the base 3-4 defense. But I think Wake's role isn't going to be so much out of the base defense as it will be as a situational pass rusher in nickel and dime situations. So let's not overreact right now and wait to see how this coaching staff plans on using Wake in game situations.
RICKY WILLIAMS AND HIS FUTURE
One of the developments from Tuesday came after practice when the players were meeting with the media. Ricky Williams came out and said that he likely only plans on playing for two more seasons - meaning he'd retire following the 2010 season. Writes Barry Jackson:
Although Williams has changed his mind before, he said Tuesday he feels strongly he will play only two more seasons, then concentrate on finishing the 60 credits he needs for a premed degree, with an eye toward a second career in osteopathic medicine.
But don't take this to mean that Williams isn't enjoying himself playing football. It seems as if he just doesn't want to be one of those guys who hangs around the game too long. He also has clear plans for his career after football. But with that said, he is still loving his current career. Said Ricky:
"This is the happiest I've been playing football in a while. Ronnie Brown has a lot to do with it. . . . So does Bill [ Parcells]. Bill and I are happy to be with each other -- he likes the way I work, that I'm a student of the game. He likes my story. I found a place where I fit, a place I feel proud to call home.''
Is it possible to dislike Williams? He just seems to mature now and sincerely happy with his life. We're all well aware that things weren't always this way for Ricky. But it really is a great thing to see him this way - at peace with his life after all of his past issues. And hearing about his relationship with Ronnie just tells you how much those two like each other and respect each other.
With all that said, I really think 2009 will be the test for Ronnie Brown. Williams isn't going to be around much longer and it's now time to see if Brown, fully recovered from his 2007 ACL tear, can be that reliable running back that many think he can be. I hope to see Ronnie's role in the offense increase - even if that means Ricky's role will decrease. And I get the impression that Ricky certainly wouldn't mind, seeing as how well he and Ronnie get along.
One interesting note about how the Dolphins might use Williams - courtesy of the Palm Beach Post - is that Ricky actually lined up in the slot with the first team offense to open up OTAs on Tuesday. Just one more thing to keep an eye on when the pads go on and the hitting begins in two months.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT HENNE
As if anybody could forget about Chad Henne - but still, let's talk about our future quarterback. It's hard to judge a quarterback on how he does in shorts - and even how he does in the preseason, though we'll all make assumptions when the games begin in August. At this point in the offseason, though, I like to hear what his coach and his teammates are saying. And here is some of what was said about Henne on Tuesday, courtesy of the Miami Herald:
"What not many people get to see is his confidence, his unbelievable presence in the huddle,'' guard Justin Smiley said Tuesday of Henne. "He acts like he's been there. The sky's the limit. He has the makings of a great quarterback. All the tools to be great. And I think he will be.''
''The change in his body -- he is completely, physically much stronger,'' said the head coach, crediting QBs coach David Lee with tuning Henne's mechanics. "The ball's coming out at a different pace now. And his decision-making process is better.''
When asked about his relationship with Chad Pennington, Chad Henne said, "'It's been tremendous. I'm right by his side all the time.''
So what does Henne plan to do in camp this season, even though he's all but guaranteed to be a backup in 2009?
''Right now I will try to compete for the starting job. I feel fully confident about my ability to play. I'm humble, but I really feel like I have the ability to lead this team to championships and hopefully Super Bowls.''