Get your sunglasses out, your sunscreen out, and especially those cold water bottles out, because one of the most exciting events from the entire NFL spectacle is among us…training camp. In reality, it’s not among us; it’s about two months away, but I’m sure most of you are as eager as I am for this thrilling two-week adventure to begin. As most of you know, the way I made myself known on this illustrious site was by writing daily training camp reports, including: Play-by-play from every drill, which player had the best & worst day, a few pictures, and a couple of frowned upon videos ;)
Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s simple really. The training camp reports will be back again this year. Once again you guys will get an "inside" view at camp instead of having to read daily tweets by Omar Kelly talking about how Sean Smith is doing a fantabulicious job on the field. Now that OTA’s have officially begun, we can finally talk about what we expect to see once the end of July rolls around. Here’s a break down of what exactly is expected to occur on the offensive front at this year’s camp.
Before draft: "If the Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill, he will be a developmental project. There is no way he starts in 2012"
Draft: "With the 8th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill…"
Post Draft: "It will be an upset if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t start in 2012."
It’s amazing how the media can change its mind on a firm stance by the snap of a finger. The truth is we don’t know what’s going to happen with the Quarterback situation this year. All we know is that we have two veteran QB’s who are week 1 ready and one young rookie who’s trying to learn the trade.
Matt Moore: Coming in and starting against the Jets on a Monday Night, Matt Moore was not expected to do anything special, in fact, nobody wanted for him to do anything special, because they wanted Andrew Luck. However, even though he came in late, Moore managed to make something out of nothing for himself. He showed the league that he can play by putting up big numbers in a short amount of time (16 TD’s, 2,500 yds, 87.1 QBR) Unfortunately for him those numbers won’t assure him a starting role on the team, let alone a spot on the team if the two QB’s under him manage to perform better than him in training camp and pre-season.
Just a couple days ago owner Steven Ross came out and said he guesses that Matt Moore will be the starter coming into the season. Personally, I don’t understand what all the hoopla is about. Let’s make it easy for some of the more dumbfounded reporters out there. The Dolphins have three quarterbacks, two of which are new and one of which just won the MVP from the team. Steven Ross is GUESSING that the man that won the MVP will start over the two new guys. If anything, saying these comments will light a fire under both Tannehill and Garrard, and make it one of the most interesting Quarterback battles this team has seen. I fully expect Moore to come out red-hot through and through training camp, because ultimately, it’s his job to lose.
David Garrard: Not Manning, not Flynn, not Smith, but... Garrard. Most fans saw this signing as another excuse to bash on Jeff Ireland and the rest of the FO. For a second, I thought that way too, although it might have been caused by my melancholy attitude after seeing Peyton in a Broncos uniform. With Garrard, we get a pro-bowl quarterback, a savvy veteran, and a player that has spent most of his life playing in a West Coast Offense. Over his career Garrard has thrown 89 touchdowns, 54 interceptions, and over 16,000 yards. He is a player that can be trusted on and off the field, and would not be a bad choice to have as our number 1 (Only for this year).
NOTE: The one thing that might have Philbin place Garrard over Moore at the start of the season is Garrard’s practice ability compared to Moore’s. Matt Moore has a tendency to lack starter-quality on the practice field. In last year’s training camp battle against Henne, Matt Moore played how a backup should. Henne outshined Moore in every way possible, and it’s something that might be considered come early August.
Ryan Tannehill: "The Savior," "Boy Wonder," "The Man with the Hot Wife," these are some of the many nicknames that have been endowed to Ryan Tannehill since his arrival to South Beach. There is more than a handful of fans that want Tannehill to start right away, however, what they don’t understand is the fact that Ryan Tannehill was drafted as a project. He has all the tools to excel on this team, and the fact that he already knows almost all of the playbook is astonishing. Unfortunately we will have to wait, maybe not an entire season, but a good amount of it before we see Tannehill take the field. Is there a chance that Tanne takes the field against Houston come week 1? Sure, but he will have to beat out two worthy veterans who aren’t going to let some kid jump ahead of them. I think it will all come down to his Tanne-will to succeed…nothing?…ok I’ll sit down.
Some say quarterback, some say running back, and some even say wide receiver will be the most intense and tightknit competition. Those people might all be wrong. The battle between Lyndon Murtha and Jonathan Martin for the right tackle position has the potential of being the most intriguing campaign of all.
Lyndon Murtha: Lyndon Murtha was on stride for a ridiculously good training camp last season. Although he had the occasional dumb holding penalty during a couple of pre-season games, he kept proving to his teammates and coaches that he belonged in the starting rotation. Unfortunately for Murtha he had a devastating toe injury, which cost him the whole season. Coming into this season, there seemed to be no question on who the new Right Tackle was going to be, however the drafting of Jonathan Martin in the second round has now made that job tenfold harder to earn than before. Although many fans believe that it will be Martin that ultimately earns the starting role, Murtha thinks otherwise, "When it comes down to positions on the field you can't say, 'I'm going to be playing this position or that position.' I came into the league wanting to be a starting-caliber player. I believe it's my time. I've worked my butt off, and I want to be the starting tackle for the Dolphins."
Jonathan Martin: Coming into April it was already assured that Jonathan Martin was the 3rd best Tackle in the draft. Some had him going late in the 1st and some had him going early in the 1st, but not many people had him going in the mid second, let alone to the Dolphins. Miami made a "bold move" drafting yet another offensive linemen, but a guy like Martin will truly solidify the entire line (supposing the RG situation is properly fixed). Martin is known as the guy that protected the blind side of Andrew Luck, number 1 overall pick and two-time Heisman finalist, for his entire career. That is certainly something that makes coaches double take. The one thing that might have Murtha above Martin at this point is the experience in the NFL and the experience at Right Tackle, because the last time Martin played RT, he was still in high school. This battle will certainly be entertaining, and I will have you guys in the loop every step of the way (Unless Hard Knocks gets there first).
There seems to be about a thousand wide receivers on this Dolphins roster right now. The funny thing is that almost all of them are in the same league (ability wise). Last year, the main wide receiver battle was between Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace, both of which exceeded & made the team. This year is another story. Both Wallace & Moore will have to compete yet again for a spot, however the competition has drastically increased since last year. Let’s take a look:
Number 1 and Number 2: As I mentioned back in my West Coast Offense post in January, the WCO usually has about 5 eligible receivers on all passing plays, and all of them are utilized in their own way. There really is no number 1 receiver; it all depends on the play. Now if Brandon Marshall was still on the team, then this would be a different story, but as of now, the Dolphins are filled with a bunch of number 3 quality guys & slot receivers, all of which can do their own damage on the field. For the sake of arguing, it is assumed that Brian Hartline will be the team’s "number 1" receiver or X-Receiver, even though he’s only scored 6 touchdowns in three NFL seasons. Hartline has great quickness and hands for those common yet affective slant routes that we always see coming out the WCO. Davone Bess will likely come in as the number two receiver, although he’s better suited for the slot, but Philbin will likely have a plan for him. I see both Bess and Hartline succeeding in this offense, all due to their hands, quick feet, and ability to make plays.
Number 3 and Number 4: This is where it gets tricky. Miami has about four receivers that are eligible for either the number 3 or number 4 roles on the team. Legedu Naanee seems to be the front-runner as of now, based on his performances so far in OTA’s. However, those performances can be taken with a grain of salt, because we all know how awful a year Naanee had last season. The next wide receiver on deck is Clyde Gates. Gates was expected to come out flying as the team’s new speedy receiver. Unfortunately, Gates only caught TWO PASSES all season and had a less than mediocre outing returning kick offs. Hopefully Philbin can coach this kid up into being an electric specimen on the field, and not just a Willy Mays-Hays kind of a player.
Marlon Moore & Roberto Wallace: For the past two years these two players have been involved in the same sentence in almost every written and broadcasted story. You can’t say Wallace without saying Moore, and rightly so. Both players were signed as undrafted free agents back in 2010, and they’ve been on the same boat since. Wallace is a Brandon Marshall prototype, minus the craziness and freakish talent, while Moore is more of the quick, electrifying receiver. Last year these two participated in one of the more thrilling training camp battles. They both excelled at practice and in the pre-season games, which is why former coach Tony Sparano decided to keep them both. After Moore and Wallace made their excellent contributions on special teams, their seasons were cut short due to injuries. Both Moore and Wallace look to make yet another impact at this year’s camp, however more quality receivers have been added to the mix. I’d like to finally see these guys earn what they’ve practiced so hard for, but it seems to be that it might be one or the other this time around.
The New Guys: Miami finished off its draft in style by drafting two offensive playmakers in BJ Cunningham and Rishard Mathews. Cunningham is very savvy off the ball when getting into his route, using his core strength to swat away hands and lean on corners. He has very quick feet and can get corners off balance in-route, and can burst and then snap routes off quickly, gaining separation. He has size for the position and is a very polished, well-rounded receiver. Most scouts had him going in the third round. As for Mathews, he can catch the contested ball but he is quite slow and un-athletic, something that might get him cut. The other new guys came in undrafted: Jeff Fuller and Derek Moye. Fuller left Texas A&M as the most productive wide receiver in school history. Standing in at 6’4" 215 lbs. Fuller has the size and strength to be a prototypical number 1 receiver, and his relationship with Ryan Tannehill made him even more attractive to the Dolphins. Like Fuller, Derek Moye also stands in as a big receiver. He is a deep threat and a red zone target however he struggles getting off the line and I believe he will get cut.
We all know Reggie Bush will be the starting running back once the season starts. That is without question. The real question lies within the next three spots.
Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller: Many believe that Daniel Thomas will bounce back from his dismal rookie season and be the team’s number 2 back. However, I think otherwise. I don’t see anything special about Thomas. He has ok speed, he doesn’t burst through defenders, and he’s quite injury prone. The tandem that I’d like to see in the backfield is one with Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller, arguably the fastest running back combo in the game (would be). Miller has track speed and his quickness off the snap & in tight spaces is remarkable. Both Thomas and Miller will compete for this spot, and like Matt Moore, this is Daniel Thomas’ job to lose.
Number 4 Spot: This spot will come down to Steve Slaton vs. Jerome Messam vs. Jonas Gray. Recently, Joe Philbin called Slaton a "good fit" in the Dolphins’ new zone-blocking scheme after his signing in March, and right now he’s in the lead for the position. Jerome Messam, a bruising, hard-hitting running back from the CFL looked to be that power running back that can get those short yardage situations, however if Daniel Thomas can prove to being that short yardage back, then Messam might be stamped as expendable. If Messam is able to come back from his meniscus injury, than expect him to make an impact at training camp. The last running back Jonas Gray. Gray was an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame. He is a talented raw prospect and can surprise his coaches if given the right opportunity.
OTHER OFFENSIVE BATTLES:
Right Guard: The main competitors for this spot right now are John Jerry and Artis Hicks. If Jerry can finally get himself in shape, then there’s a likely chance he’ll get the job; especially after the surprisingly good couple of games he had last season. I am still not quite convinced the Dolphins are ready to give John Jerry such a big responsibility, and perhaps they wait and sign a quality veteran later on in the off-season.