The Dolphins are now over a full week into training camp - including their 70 play scrimmage that was held on Saturday at the team's facility in Davie. Needless to say, it's still way too early to make a lot of determinations about this football team. Still, though, it's definitely not too early to develop some impressions about what has transpired already.
Below are just some of my early impressions on the past week.
Henne's probably going to be just fine
It's a fact that quarterback is the most important position on any football team. It's also a fact that quarterbacks probably get too much attention. At the risk of doing just that and giving the position too much attention, the biggest thing I feel like I have learned from the first week of camp is that we aren't going to learn much about Chad Henne's development until the bullets are live.
There were headlines made twice last week regarding Henne. Last Thursday, Henne had a rough practice. But he bounced back with a strong showing on Friday - proving once again that Henne is worthy of his nickname: The Robot. He never gets too down and seems to always bounce back strong.
It'll be interesting to see if Henne again shows that kind of resiliency this week after a disappointing showing during Saturday's scrimmage. It's not that he was bad. But he wasn't nearly as sharp as we'd all like - the whole offense wasn't for that matter.
But Henne isn't having a bad camp, either, despite what some in the media might want you to believe. Head coach Tony Sparano told the media on Saturday that Henne was completing 75 to 76 percent of his passes in camp heading into Saturday - with only two interceptions. He added that Henne has had "a couple of outstanding days during the course of the week."
We're not really going to know if Henne has progressed as much as we all hope until he gets out on the field for an actual game. Until then, though, don't let the media mislead you. There's no reason to worry or panic about Henne yet. So let's all relax.
Nolan making an impact
We've only gotten a few glimpses of how Mike Nolan's defense will differ from the schemes we saw run by the Dolphins under Paul Pasqualoni the past two years, but it's already obvious that this unit will be an aggressive unit that wants to attack from many places.
We saw during Saturday's scrimmage a defense that was less about reacting to the offense and instead forced the offense to react to them. The end result was six sacks in just over 70 plays run - with sacks coming from defensive linemen, a safety, and a cornerback.
But the scrimmage wasn't the first time we saw the differences in defensive philosophies between Pasqualoni and Nolan. All last week during practice we saw pressure come from the outside linebackers, inside linebackers, both safety positions, and numerous cornerbacks. On the flip side, there were times when Karlos Dansby would drop 20 to 30 yards back into coverage.
That's the kind of versatile and attacking defense we have to look forward to in 2010 under Mike Nolan.
- You have to be impressed with everything Brandon Marshall has done since camp started. He's been dominant in about half of the practices. And he's been good in the rest - except for Saturday's scrimmage that is. But you have to be impressed with what Marshall said after the scrimmage, talking about how he was "disappointed in the way I let my teammates down today." At least we know Brandon cares.
- One of the corners Marshall has been victimizing in camp, Sean Smith, bounced back with a solid performance at the scrimmage on Saturday. Henne went right after Smith on the first play of the scrimmage, going deep for Marshall. But despite a pass dropped exactly where it needed to be, Smith broke up the play, setting the tone for the rest of the day. Smith was matched up with Brandon for most of the day and was a large part of the reason why Brandon had just two receptions. I expect this performance to be the spring board to a much better camp from here on out. So all of the "sky is falling" Dolphin fans who were quick to write off Smith will be able to go back into hiding very soon.
- The corners played well all day on Saturday (numerous reports claim there were a number of plays in which there were no receivers open anywhere on the field) and I think this unit is going to be one to surprise around the league. Nolan Carroll has been the revelation of camp so far. The rookie has been making plays all over the field and has shown outstanding speed and quickness. He's going to make an impact this year, I believe, and eventually take over as the slot corner thanks to his quickness.
- It's not time to worry about the offensive line. After all, Jake Long has looked as dominant as ever - with the exception of Cameron Wake getting by him a few times. But the interior line remains in flux and it's getting late quick. I would love to see a clear starting unit defined by the third preseason game so that the unit can have time to gel before the regular season. Jake Grove was held out of the scrimmage due to a bruised leg, giving Joe Berger a chance to make a push for the starting job. But I didn't read enough to make me believe he took full advantage. Once Grove gets over this minor injury, it's time for him to take hold of the job. Truth be told, I'm surprised it has taken this long.
- As for the guard position, rookie John Jerry had a rough scrimmage but has worked as the starting right guard every single practice of camp. But I'm not ready to proclaim him the front-runner to start. I think they are just trying to get him as many reps as possible. Richie Incognito got work as the starting left guard in the scrimmage, which is where he was practicing late last week - with Donald Thomas demoted to second team. I believe that this is going to be a three horse race for two starting jobs - with Incognito and Thomas likely winning out eventually.
- Charles Grant has had a quiet camp. But he made headlines on Saturday when he racked up three sacks. The veteran still has enough in the tank to play as a situational player. If he stays healthy, he'll likely end up on the team.
- Brian Hartline has worked all camp as the other starting receiver playing opposite Marshall and that won't change anytime soon. Greg Camarillo is nursing a groin injury and Hartline had a 3 catch performance on Saturday, making a highlight touchdown reception by getting both feet down on a nice fade in the corner of the endzone from Henne. He's going to go into the regular season as the number two receiver. Bank on it.
There are a lot of "Chicken Little" Dolphin fans out there who are running around paranoid after a poor offensive showing on Saturday. But Tony Sparano probably said it best:
"I don’t really judge a whole lot from the 55-60 plays that we ran out here today. I have to go by the 700 plays that we’ve run to date."
Also keep in mind that it's early. The offense will not be that ineffective this time next month when the Dolphins are preparing for Buffalo. This entire camp has featured a nice blend of give and take between the offense and defense - just how it should be.
So let's not worry. Let's sit back and let the coaches and players on this team do their job. There are too many leaders that are a part of this organization to let one poor scrimmage create so much trepidation.