For this week's installment of "Three Up and Three Down," I wanted to take a look at the newcomers to Miami - both free agents who were signed and players who were drafted - and talk about which three I'm most optimistic about and which three I'm least optimistic about. And please keep in mind that one of the things I considered when making this list is the investment (either in terms of money or draft status) made in each player.
THREE NEWCOMERS I'M MOST OPTIMISTIC ABOUT
1. Sean Smith, CB - If you've been reading this site all offseason, then you know that there wasn't one player I liked more in the NFL Draft than Sean Smith. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I heard his name called and he became a Miami Dolphin. And so far through OTAs and minicamps, Smith hasn't disappointed. He's impressed everyone who has watched him play down in Davie. Omar Kelly, who is the best Dolphins' beat writer in terms of thinking like a scout and knowing what scouts look at when analyzing a player, says that Smith blend of size, speed, and athleticism is something he's never seen before. In fact, Omar's exact quote from his recent Q&A was, "In all my years of covering football on the college and professional level (which is about 12 factoring in the two seasons I covered basketball) I've NEVER seen it." That says a lot about what Smith could become was he develops. He's still raw, though. Remember - Smith has only played cornerback for about two full seasons in college. Before that, he played on the offensive side of the ball. But he has the physical skills to become an ELITE cornerback.
2. Jake Grove, C - Yes, I know I was one of the ones who questioned the Dolphins' decision to sign Grove to a big contract - 5 years, $29.5 million to be exact. But it was his injury history that really bothered me. However, he has reportedly looked like a beast in the weight room. He's much, much stronger than Samson Satele and will bring that nasty streak that every great offensive lineman must play with. I've also heard that Grove looks VERY quick getting off the snap - which is essential for centers and was, at times, a little bit of an issue for Satele. The left side of the line, meaning Jake Long, Justin Smiley, and Grove at center, has a chance to be a dominant run-blocking line.
3. Patrick Turner, WR - The selection of Turner drew some criticism from "draft experts" like Mel Kiper. But all indications from offseason OTAs and minicamps are that Turner could be exactly what the Dolphins needed and were hoping to get - a big receiver with exceptional hands. Turner's hands have been described by some who have watched him work down in Davie as "vacuum cleaner hands" - meaning he catches everything that's near him. And at 6'5, it's easier for the quarterback to get the ball to him because he's the biggest target at receiver the Dolphins have had in a long time. He's also shown good route-running ability, something that was in question because of his immense size. He gets in and out of his breaks smoothly, according to most camp reports. And if that is the case, that should make up for his lack of speed and he could become the big possession receiver that this team has lacked - especially in the redzone.
THREE NEWCOMERS I'M LEAST OPTIMISTIC ABOUT
1. Eric Green - Coming over from Arizona as a free agent, you'll probably remember that I was less than thrilled about his 2 year, $6 million deal. So far, my fears have come to fruition. Every time I checked out an OTA or minicamp report, I couldn't make it through the entire thing without reading about another one of our receivers beating Green down the field for a long touchdown. And we aren't talking about Ted Ginn or Greg Camarillo here. Even Anthony Armstrong - a player with no NFL regular season experience and who is, at best, a fringe receiver right now - was beating Green deep for touchdowns. I know Armstrong has great speed and all, but a player who is fighting just to make the roster should not consistently be beating a veteran cornerback in practice day in and day out. I'll reserve total judgment on Green until the pads come on and we see him in real game situations. But I'm not holding my breath here.
2. Brian Hartline - Listen - it's not that I'm saying Hartline isn't a good receiver or won't develop into a good receiver. I just don't see a role for him in Miami's offense, that's all. To me, his play reminds me of a more physical Greg Camarillo - which isn't bad at all. It's just that we already have Greg Camarillo. And Hartline's name just didn't come up enough in those early practice reports this offseason for me to be overly excited about him. Now Hartline is also reportedly an excellent special teams player. But it's just hard for me to get pumped on spending a fourth round draft pick on a gunner and possible kick returner. Here's to hoping he proves me wrong.
3. Cameron Wake - You can probably blame all those CFL fans for Wake being on this list. I think they over-hyped Wake because of his amazing play in two seasons against inferior opponents. But Wake just has not looked impressive so far in practice. However, he is reportedly a complete monster in the weight room. So we should all cut Wake some slack until we see what he can do once the pads come on and contact is allowed. Perhaps he'll begin to stand out then. But for now, his lone highlight this offseason on the football field has been outrunning everybody on the kick coverage unit - an impressive feat for a linebacker but not a good enough reason for me to become overly optimistic about his future in Miami. And Wake's 4 year deal only included $1 million in guaranteed money - meaning he isn't necessarily a lock to make the final 53-man roster. Without a doubt, Wake will be heavily involved in that tight competition at outside linebacker once training camp begins.