Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium was my first opportunity to get a look at the 2014 Miami Dolphins. After digesting what I saw for over 24 hours, here are my top performers from Saturday.
QB Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill's performance in Saturday's scrimmage was extremely efficient and promising. The Tannehill-lead first team offense looked very crisp and moved the ball well. Tannehill's passes were on-point, he was accurate on roll-outs and threw a perfect deep ball to Rishard Matthews (though the pass was dropped by Matthews, who I was disappointed with due to the volume of drops he suffered).
However, Tannehill faced the second team defense for nearly the entire scrimmage, and the absence of Matt Moore due to a sore shoulder allotted a Tannehill-ran offense to outshine the units ran by Pat Devlin and Seth Lobato by a wide margin.
With that being said, Tannehill's command of the offense was obvious and encouraging, even without his top three targets (Mike Wallace was out with a sore hamstring, Charles Clay suffered a leg injury on the first series of the scrimmage and Brian Hartline seemed to have the day off).
Tannehill anticipated throws and delivered passes accurately, both the passes with zip and loft. Tannehill's development is going smoothly and continuously, which leads me to believe that there is no reason that this QB who has been constantly getting better since he entered the league in 2012 cannot take the next step and lead this team to the promised land in 2014 (besides, of course, injuries).
DE Terrence Fede
Terrence Fede was a big surprise to me. Fede looked very big, very quick and much more powerful than I anticipated heading into my first look at the 2014 Dolphins. Fede looked extremely athletic and flashed ability that will make him tough to stash on the practice squad.
Fede started one of the highlights of the practice with a hit on running back Damien Williams that jarred the ball loose. Linebacker Jordan Tripp's ensuing hit knocked the ball out completely and led to Tripp's impressive touchdown scamper following the recovery.
Fede had one would-be sack in the scrimmage in which he absolutely blew past the second-team right tackle to get to the QB as he finished his drop.
Fede was a beast all day and showed why he was a great investment in the seventh round. Fede has potential to be a very good pass rusher in the league, and being molded by one of the best defensive line coaches, Kacy Rodgers, will definitely help Fede in his pursuit of a roster spot and playing time in 2014.
Unfortunately for Fede, Rodgers has also been molding Derrick Shelby, Fede's main competition, into a very good defensive end. Fede faces an uphill battle to unseat Shelby, but continued production will force the coaches hands to choose between the two, risk putting Fede on the practice squad (where he is subject to poachers) or keep an extra defensive end on the 53-man roster.
DE Dion Jordan
Dion Jordan was a headache all day for second-team left tackle Jason Fox. Jordan consistently put pressure on the quarterback and would have littered the stat sheet with sacks had the scrimmage been an actual game.
Anything Jordan does is a bit of a tease at this point, as we won't get to see it on display until the fifth game of the season due to Jordan's suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.
However, Jordan's ability and performance in practice cannot be ignored and has many excited about what's to come for the 2013 NFL Draft's third overall pick when he eventually does make it onto the field.
I can tell you this from what I witnessed on Saturday; Jordan will be a handful to deal with for offensive tackles and will be a huge (no pun intended) asset for the Dolphins when he returns to the field.
First Team Offensive Line
The success of the first team line, composed of Branden Albert at LT, Daryn Colledge at LG, Nate Garner at C, Dallas Thomas at RG and Ja'Wuan James at RT, was key for the overall crispness of both Tannehill and the offense as a whole. The line opened up holes for starting running back Lamar Miller and kept defenders out of the backfield when Tannehill was throwing.
It can't be ignored that this group was against the second team defense for most of the day, and when they did go against the first team defense for the first time the offense sputtered.
Other than that, the only negative for this group was a batted pass in the early portion of practice. This unit must be more consistent overall, but Saturday was a big step in the right direction and provided me with hope that the line wouldn't be such a hindrance on the season as it was last season.
RB Lamar Miller
Lamar Miller displayed the ability that many thought he would present in 2013 when Miller was deemed as the successor to the departing Reggie Bush. Miller averaged six yards per carry and provided a highlight on his very first run.
Miller evaded a would-be tackler who had the jump on him in the backfield with a ridiculous juke move, then burst through a hole to meet safety Walt Aikens at the second level, who he also eluded. The play ended up being a 14-yard gain.
Miller had very few runs of this length over the entire 2013 season, and rarely showed the elusiveness that he displayed on this run alone, so the progress that Miller showed was very encouraging.
Miller also had a touchdown reception when he was wide open on a flat route out of the backfield. Linebacker Jonathan Freeny failed to get out to cover Miller in time and the RB trotted into the endzone.
Passes to the running backs are a staple of Bill Lazor's offense, and catching the ball is a weakness of Miller. In order to secure the starting job when Knowshon Moreno returns to the team, Miller must prove he can catch the ball consistently and naturally, so his two catches for 27 yards were very important.
WR Jarvis Landry - Jarvis Landry had two receptions for 40 yards in Saturday's scrimmage, including an impressive touchdown catch-and-run. The play started with a ball that was rolled to the feet of Pat Devlin (the only bad snap of the day). The timing was thrown off by the bad snap, and Devlin threw the ball well behind Landry, who was running a slant route. Landry adjusted to snatch the ball, then proceeded to elude multiple defenders on his way to the endzone.
The play showed exactly what Landry can bring to this team; great hands and big play ability. The reason Landry is only an honorable mention is due to a drop he suffered when he was wide open 15 yards downfield. Landry misjudged the velocity on the ball which caused him to mistimed his jump, which led to the uncharacteristic drop.
LB Jordan Tripp - Jordan Tripp showed the big-play ability he can bring to the Dolphins' linebacking corps. Tripp helped caused the fumble of RB Damien Williams, recovered the ball and ran it for a touchdown (something he was known for doing in his days at Montana).
RB Damien Williams - Williams, who I was very eager to see, ran hard all day. Williams ran with power and determination, yet was elusive in the open field. Williams also displayed good vision throughout the day to pick good holes for positive gains. The reason Williams is only an honorable mention is because of his aforementioned fumble.