The Miami Dolphins held the first day of their final 2012 minicamp yesterday, and all eyes appeared to be on one newcomer in particular. Former New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocino was making his Dolphins debut (well, his debut in front of the media, he did practice a couple of times with the team during last week's OTA), and everyone was looking to see if he still had "it."
And, based on one day of pad-less practice in June, the reviews have been favorable. Ochocinco, who after practice again stated that he plans to return to being Chad Johnson this year, although the Dolphin shave only commented that he is Ochocinco on their roster, has been fast, according to players, coaches, and the media.
"Quickness is not something you can put easily explain," the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly wrote yesterday. "Chad Ochocinco moves faster than most of the Dolphins receivers and cornerbacks. At least he did on Day 1."
Kelly also stated that two plays during the practice actually made him "say a bad word (an F-word, and that's the ultimate honor when I'm watching practice)," both of which featured Ochocinco. The first play was a 15-yard slant rout that Ochocinco caught, and turned up field with speed.
The other play was a back-shoulder pass, beating cornerback Sean Smith, who had played off Ochocinco before the snap, respecting the six-time Pro Bowl receiver's speed. But, based on Smith's tweet from last week about Ochocinco, he should have expected to get beat:
Lol oh yea F what ya heard, 85 (@ochocinco) still got it....— Sean Smith (@SeanSMITH24) June 12, 2012
Of course, like Kelly points out, this is the first day of a minicamp - it does not really mean much in the big scheme of things; however, can you argue that Ochocinco looking good is a bad thing?
The Dolphins players seem to think it is a good thing. "It's been good," quarterback Matt Moore said about Ochocinco. "He's come in, he's done his work, he's trying to learn and it's been business as usual. He's fast, that's for sure. He's quick and he's just got that attacking mentality you love in a wide receiver. He's got a lot of good things and hopefully we can use those things in the future."
"I think Chad is trying to prove to everybody that he's still Chad," added quarterback David Garrard about the newest receiving target. "The things that I've seen on the field running his routes, he's very quick in and out of his breaks. That's usually the No. 1 decline for a wide receiver. I don't see that. And I definitely don't see that with the hands.
"Especially when Chad feels he's open on every play. Even when it's the punt team, he's open. It's been great. He will remind you whoever he's got on him it doesn't matter, he's open."
During his time in New England, the biggest knock on Ochocinco was his inability to learn the playbook and run the precise routes quarterback Tom Brady expected. In Miami, that apparently won't be an issue. According to Garrard, the receivers and quarterback can adjust routes whenever they feel the need.
Ochocinco seems ready to build the level of comfort with his quarterback that he never had with Brady. "I'm developing Brokeback Moutnain chemistry with the players," Ochocinco explained as he walked off the practice field today. "I'm just having fun. It feels good too, to have a fresh start.I'm gonna do whatever I can not only to improve my game, but to help this organization get back to where they want to be."
Despite his effort to build chemistry, fellow wideout Roberto Wallace seems to want more from Ochocinco. Wallace described Ochocinco as "kind of shy" right now.
The man who once declared himself a Hall of Fame member of Class 20??, was asked if he thought he would be the Dolphins' number one receiver. He answered, "I was never good in math. I'm not good with numbers."
Of course, Ochocinco may have been the main attraction yesterday, but he was not the only noteworthy player out there. Garrard caused his own speculation by taking the first team snaps during the practice, the second straight "media-open" practice in which he was the main man under center.
However, Garrard stressed that he and Moore are splitting the snaps evenly, and the press just happens to be there on the days he's working with the first team. Head coach Joe Philbin's statements after last week's OTA practice seemed to agree with that during his post practice comments:
"We want to give each quarterback the chance to work with each different group so we are being totally fair and getting guys the chance to work with different receivers, getting the quarterbacks the chance work with different offensive linemen and against different competition from a defensive standpoint. So we will to the best we can, we will look at the practice schedule next week and some this week and see if we can get guys to kind of cross train so to speak."
Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continued to work primarily with the third string offense, though the team did seem to pair him with Ochocinco for a good portion of the practice, and his struggles continued. Not surprisingly, Tannehill, who was drafted with the eighth overall pick despite many experts having concerns over his readiness to start, has held on to the ball too long several times in practices, both during yesterday's minicamp and in previous OTAs. Like most rookie quarterbacks, Tannehill seems to be struggling with the speed of an actual NFL defense, although Kelly did make another point as to why Tannehill may be struggling (after mentioning the speed of the game):
"Maybe it is the caliber of receivers he's working with (bad routes from receivers doesn't allow you to throw the ball)?"
It could be a valid point. So, if and when Tannehill does get to move up to the first team snaps in practice, it will be interesting to watch how he performs. Does he get the ball to the receivers when they are open, or does he hold the ball and let Cameron Wake get him for a sack?
The only player not not taking part in yesterday's mandatory minicamp was receiver Brian Hartline. Hartline has missed most of the offseason due to an unknown injury. Kelly has previously mentioned on Twitter that it's a personal, and understandable, reason for him to be sidelined, but rumors have been swirling that it's a calf injury. All the team would say today was that Hartline was excused because of a medical issue that was "recently addressed."
But, obviously the story of the day was Ochocinco, who is returning to his hometown of Miami and playing for his childhood team Dolphins. When asked about being in Miami during his walking media availability yesterday, Ochocinco explained:
"It's been a childhood dream of mine growing up watching the Marks brothers, watching Dan (Marino), some of those guys. It's awesome. You would think throughout the years; since 1988 I've always played Madden, and I've always used the Dolphins no matter where I was or where I was playing.
"To be able to wear the teal and orange, it's a pretty good feeling. But for me, it's about getting back to the basics, going back to where it all started. Not as far as playing at home in Miami, but as far as the game goes and getting back to who we're all used to seeing and how I became what I am. I think I kind of lost that. I'm looking to go back to Chad Johnson, and just make it live again.
"That's about it. I don't have much else to say. If any of you guys have any other questions. I pretty much covered everything there is to talk about.
"I love you. Enjoy the show."
Hopefully we all will, Chad. Hopefully we all will.