Dolphins Training Camp: Week one evaluation

Well I'm back from my trip to Massachusetts.  And after one day off, the Dolphins will begin their second week of training camp on Monday.  But even though Sunday was an off day for the players, you better believe the coaching staff was hard at work reviewing the first week and making some decisions on how to possibly shuffle the depth chart for the second week of camp.  Remember, it's not just about how the player moved up on the depth chart performs against better competition.  It's just as important to see how the demoted player responds to being moved down.

So I wanted to take a look back at the first week of camp and play a game of "hot or not."  But first, I did have some observations on Saturday's "stand-up scrimmage" in front of over 3,000 fans in Davie.

SCRIMMAGE NOTES
I'm sure you have all read the reports that the South Florida media has provided about the 90+ play scrimmage.  IF you haven't, I'd suggest checking out this terrific article that features play-by-play of the event, this post featuring some observations on the scrimmage, and this summary of the estimated numbers in the passing game.

Quickly, here are some of my random thoughts on the scrimmage:

  • I don't want to go overboard about Jason Taylor.  But two sacks and a QB hurry is rather impressive.  And one of those sacks was against Miami's starting line.  Matt Roth better be worried about his job right now.  I don't think JT has won the starting job yet, but after one week, Taylor is probably the favorite.
  • So Chad Pennington wasn't exactly efficient.  That doesn't worry me one bit.  It has only been a week - it's early.  Don't panic - and, for the love of all that's still good, don't start with the tired Pennington/Henne debate.  When the time is right, the switch will be made.  And the time isn't right.
  • I think Anthony Fasano and John Nalbone traded identities for the scrimmage.  Nalbone made three or four catches - including a touchdown - while Fasano dropped two passes.  But seriously, I'm not worried about Anthony at all.  And it's good to see Nalbone perform well - hopefully giving the rookie out of Monmouth some momentum heading into week two.
  • The only sack that the first-team offensive line allowed was to Jason Taylor.  Not a bad performance by that unit.
  • Sean Smith makes plays, folks.  Don't be surprised if his performance on Saturday elevates him above Vontae Davis, who was beaten by fellow rookie Brian Hartline for a long touchdown pass.
  • When I saw Jason Allen's name in one of the reports, I got excited thinking it was going to be for a positive play he made.  Instead it was about how he got beat by Anthony Armstrong in which Allen "never played the ball."  Not good.
  • Either Will Allen and Eric Green had damn good days or Ted Ginn drank his "invisible juice."  Ginn was one of only two receivers to not record a reception.  The other was rookie Patrick Turner - who was reportedly having a great first week of camp.  What gives?
  • Ronnie Brown split out wide as a receiver - get used to seeing that this year.
  • Nine penalites?  That's not going to fly with this staff.

"HOT" & "NOT"
It's time for a new weekly preseason feature.  Why?  Because the coaches, in some fashion, likely did this very thing on Sunday as they made key decisions involving who will work with what unit to start the second week of camp on Monday.

Hot: Jason Taylor - It was reported early that Jason didn't look comfortable yet as a true strongside linebacker in Miami's 3-4.  But things changed as the week went on.  He's gotten more comfortable and, more importantly, looks as enthusiastic as ever despite his age.  There were a number of questions about Taylor's skills entering camp.  But it doesn't seem like his skills have diminished much right now.  How he holds up as camp - and the season - wears on, though, remains a critical aspect of Miami's potential 2009 success.

Not: Matt Roth - He is yet to take part in practice following a very odd few days to begin training camp.  Was he "ill"?  Is his groin bothering him?  Whatever it is, if Roth doesn't get back on the field, he's going to lose his starting job.  It's that simple.

Hot: Jake Long - It's rare to include an offensive linemen on a list of "hot" players after one week of training camp.  But Long's value to this offense cannot be understated.  And it's hard for us fans to know how dominant Jake has been in practice when you don't get to actually watch.  But what stands out is how quiet Joey Porter has been so far.  Jake is the main reason for that.  Omar Kelly, the best Dolphins' beat reporter, also vouches for Jake.  Speaking about Jason Taylor, Kelly wrote, "Right now, outside of left tackle Jake Long, Taylor's the most dominant player on the practice field."

Not: Jason Allen - Jason has had a rough first week.  He's made some decent plays.  But as a cornerback, you can't afford to get beat consistently.  Right now, Allen is doing just that.  Every day it seems like we're reading about Allen getting beat for a long pass.  On Saturday, it was Anthony Armstrong - a bubble player - beating Jason deep.  He also had issues earlier this week lining up in the right position.  But Jason has been in this defensive system for just as long as anyone else has been (two offseasons) and he's still yet to prove he belongs on this roster.

Hot: Patrick Turner & Brian Hartline - The two rookie receivers have been pleasant surprises during the first week of camp.  Turner, despite not having a catch in Saturday's scrimmage, has consistently made plays each and every day in practice.  The beat reporters have been raving about him.  His teammates have been raving about him.  And it's going to be interesting to see how he performs in the preseason.  Meanwhile, Hartline really stepped up his game towards the end of last week - making big play after big play.  In the scrimmage, Hartline victimized Vontae Davis on the first play of the 2nd team offense's series on an out and up route for 40+ yards.  Tony Sparano has praised both rookies for their performances this week.  But they can't let down in week two.

Not: Anthony Armstrong - After a strong offseason showing, Armstrong has failed to consistently make plays working with the third team offense.  Even with his one big play in the scrimmage - a 45+ yard reception from Pat White, beating Jason Allen - his week one performance hasn't been enough to create any kind of separation from Brandon London for that 6th receiver spot - if the Dolphins even keep that many.  He's going to have to stand out in the preseason to impress these coaches if he wants to make the 53-man roster.

Hot: Cameron Wake - After a slow start, Wake has really caught fire.  He's exerting his physical prowess and getting to the quarterback.  He stood out late in the week during the 2-minute drills - sacking Chad Henne on back-to-back plays.  But een before that, Wake was getting pressure on the quarterback with some consistency.  Then on Saturday, Cameron picked up a sack and numerous QB pressures.  And make no mistake about it, Wake's performance this offseason could impact Jason Taylor's role.  It was originally thought that Jason would see limited action to keep him fresh.  But if Wake could step in and spell either Taylor or Joey Porter regularly, the coaching staff would probably have fewer reservations with giving Taylor the starting job and increasing his expected workload.

Not: Pat White - Though White wasn't as bad as he was during OTAs and offseason minicamps, he's still not playing as well as we all hoped.  His accuracy remains wildly inconsistent and he still doesn't look comfortable taking snaps from under center (which was to be expected coming from a spread offense at WVU).  But as he gets more comfortable with the offense - and as the coaches get more comfortable with him - I'm confident they'll find ways to use White, putting him in situations that will play to his strengths.

Hot: Sean Smith - Smith is a prime candidate to be one of the "promoted" when practice begins this week.  He put together a very good opening week of camp, showing a firm grasp of the defense, solid technique, and excellent athleticism.  And the kid's a playmaker at corner.  He made the only interception of the scrimmage, picking off a pass in the endzone.  While Eric Green hasn't played poorly, it might be in Miami's best interest to challenge this confident rookie.

Not: Ernest Wilford - His conversion to tight end is going to take time.  But he is yet to flash in practice and hasn't really shown that he's a good blocker.  Sure, he was a solid blocker as a receiver in Jacksonville, blocking smaller corners.  But reports from camp indicate he hasn't shown he can block defensive ends or linebackers - someting a TE/H-back has to do.

UP NEXT
The Dolphins kick off their second week of camp with - what else - a double.  The first practice is scheduled for 9 am; the second for 5 pm.

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