As you can see from the countdown located in the left sidebar of the front page, we've reached single digits in the countdown to the opening of training camp for the Miami Dolphins. We're less than a week away. In fact, this time next week, we will have real practice reports to discuss. Can I get an "amen" to that?
Of course, this means that the local papers are firing up their Dolphins coverage after a few very slow news weeks. So let's get to some of what was written or discussed this past weekend. Also, our own preparation for camp will continue this week with more "training camp primers." So be sure to check back a lot this week to discuss some more hot topics as camp nears.
THE COMPETITION FOR ROSTER SPOTS WILL HEAT UP
In Barry Jackson's latest "sports buzz" article, he discusses some of the "chatter" about the more competitive roster battles that we'll be focusing on for the next month or so. Some of the highlights are below:
One official close to the Dolphins front office said Wake has been ordinary, and is no cinch to make the roster. Don't misunderstand: The Dolphins still have hopes Wake -- a highly skilled athlete -- can be good, but he must show it in camp.
One Dolphins person warned not to underestimate Walden's value as a core special-teams player. If Miami keeps nine linebackers, that would leave room, hypothetically, for Wake, Walden and Anderson. Otherwise, one of those three probably would not make the team.
Cameron Wake has been severely hyped up by numerous Dolphin fans. And in less than a week, the pads will go on and Wake will have to prove himself to this coaching staff. Despite how many Dolphin fans feel, Wake is far from a lock to make the roster. And what very well could keep his roster spot safe will be Wake's contributions on special teams. The South Florida media raved about Wake's ability to beat down defensive backs in kick coverage during non-contact OTAs and minicamps. If Wake can show that he's as impressive when the hitting goes live, he should have a good shot at making the roster as a special teamer/developmental pass rusher. But again - it's far from a lock.
Erik Walden's special teams contributios cannot be understated here, too. The coverage units instantly improved once Walden was signed by the Dolphins. Hopefully he'll also find a roster spot on the team's 53-man roster.
I'll have much more on the linebacker position battles this week in another "training camp primer" that should help spark some debate/discussion on how the unit will shape up in camp.
General manager Jeff Ireland said he expects McDaniel to make ``a nice splash,'' and former Jaguars teammate Fred Taylor (now with New England) raved about McDaniel, saying he was shocked Jacksonville gave him up for so little (a seventh-rounder). But word is he was inconsistent in the offseason program as he adjusted to Miami's 3-4 defense.
We talked last week about the defensive line. What's interesting is to hear how highly thought of Tony McDaniel was within the Jaguar organization. He's got the ideal size to become a very good 3-4 defensive end (and occassional nose tackle if necessary). But we'll have to wait to see how McDaniel continues to adapt to the 3-4 after spending his career in Jacksonville's 4-3 defense.
Receiver: The Dolphins generally kept five last year, and often had only four active for games. Sparano said Miami might keep six, but a case could be made for keeping a ninth linebacker instead. If a sixth receiver is kept, that opens a roster spot for speedy Anthony Armstrong (an offseason hit) or incumbent Brandon London.
Here Jackson highlights a key point we touched on last week. The number of players kept at several positions will depend on and affect how other positions shape up. We know that this regime seems to value linebackers and doesn't necessarily believe in keeping a ton of receivers. After Greg Camarillo's season-ending injury last year, the Dolphins usually only kept three receivers active on gameday. So it could be a reach to expect the Dolphins to carry six receivers on their 53-man roster. In my opinion, the receiver battle is going to be one of the most important - if not the most important - to monitor in camp and the preseason.
OMAR KELLY PROVIDES SOME MORE INSIGHT INTO MIAMI'S LOCKER ROOM
Last week, Joey Porter gave the NFL Total Access cameras a tour inside the Dolphins' facility in Davie, Florida. That video is right here if you missed it. But Omar Kelly provides some more "locker room info" that Porter didn't discuss on camera.
There are some bits of information Porter left out, like the fact he WAS the only player inside the locker room who has two lockers. His second locker usually holds his mail and Reebok gear. It's decorated with a doctored picture of him shirtless with a gut wearing Pittsburgh gear Some fan (or hater) sent it to him and he uses it as motivation (he loves negative motivation).
If you thought professional athletes don't use these kinds of external factors as motivation, you're wrong. Just like how the Dolphins seemed to thrive last year when they continually got disrespected in the media, Porter uses negative "fan mail" to stoke his interior fire some more - which is awesome, by the way. Any way "Peezy" can get more fired up is fine by me. I just hope, for that "fan's" sake that he didn't include a return address on the envelope. I can just imagine Porter knocking on that guy's door, holding the doctored photo - and the guy just absolutely crapping himself.
Right where Porter found Chad Pennington, the quarterbacks film room (every position has a film room), is Pennington's usual spot. I have yet to meet a player who watches more film at the team facility. Most players take it home because the team now provides breakdowns on CD they can study at home.
Also, Pennington will RARELY ever caught on film without a hat. He's got the worst head of hair in the locker room, and it's usually funny to watch him battle with it after his shower. He must run a brush or comb through it 50 to 60 times before he's satisfied. Then he puts on a hat.
Somebody needs to tell CP that it doesn't matter at all what the hell his hair looks like after a game - as long as he wins, of course.
Oh - and by the way - if you wonder why I remain firmly in the "CP as my starter" corner while a number of you want Chad Henne to be handed the job, the first paragraph above is among my top reasons. And you just know that Pennington's preparation habits have got to be rubbing off on Henne - which is just another reason why I want to thank Brett Favre and the NY Jets.
DAYS WINDING DOWN TO GET REMAINING ROOKIES SIGNED
Players must report to camp on Saturday - with the first practice scheduled for Sunday. And the Dolphins still have three unsigned rookies - including first-round pick Vontae Davis. Pat White and Chris Clemons are the other two.
But only four first-round picks in the entire league are signed. One of them is Alex Mack - the 21st pick in the draft. Davis was the 25th. Also signed was the final pick in round one - Ziggy Hood. Mack and Hood both signed 5 year deals worth $11.3 million. The difference between the two is the guaranteed money. Mack is getting $2.8 million more in guarantees. That should help set a baseline for discussions between the Dolphins and Vontae Davis. I expect Davis to get signed just before camp opens. Don't worry about a holdout.
Because Pat White is a quarterback, his deal could be the toughest. Last year, Chad Henne - a second-round QB - missed one training camp practice while his deal was completed. That highlights how it's tough to get a QB signed no matter what round they were drafted in. But the player drafted just before White, DE Everette Brown, just signed his deal. That should help provide the grounds to an eventual deal between White and the Dolphins. Hopefully it's before camp starts.
As for Chris Clemons, only four 5th round picks remain unsigned. Unfortunately, two of them surround Clemons in the round. Punter Thomas Morstead - picked right in front of Clemons - and safety Michael Hamlin - picked right after Clemons - are yet to come to terms. Another interesting nugget is that Clemons and Hamlin were the starting safety tandem at Clemson. What does that have to do with getting Chris signed? Probably nothing - I don't know. But you can't help but wonder what is taking so long to get this 5th round pick signed.
-David Martin's agent has told the Herald that Martin is "healthy and ready to go" after recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery. Good news for sure.
-Vonnie Holliday's agent tells the Palm Beach Post that Holliday could eventually return to Miami as camp progresses. If injuries to Miami's defensive line occur - or if the young guys under-perform, Holliday is just a phone call away. Not a bad insurance policy, if you ask me.
-The Dolphins have modified their training camp schedule just a bit. Now camp will open with just one practice, scheduled for 2 pm, on Sunday.
-Ethan Skolnick wrote more about the disrespect that the defending division champs are getting this year - focusing on Las Vegas' low over/under for Dolphins' wins. Just more fuel for the fire, my friends.