The first week of the Miami Dolphins’ 2021 training camp is in the books, with the team having held four practices, including the first public practice with fans in attendance since 2019. The offseason is officially over and we have on-field reports, observations, and thoughts now, rather than speculation, rumors, and wild guesses about what the Dolphins will do. Of course, it is only four days of practices in July, with the team still working installations and moving players into new positions to see how they perform.
That said, there are enough observations to build our first stock watch for the season. Whose stock is rising? Whose stock took an early hit this year?
Stock up: Albert Wilson, wide receiver - The star of the early portion of training camp is Wilson, who has looked fast in his return from injuries in 2019 and a coronavirus opt-out in 2020. Every day, he and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have connected on deep passes and they seem to be immediately on the same page. Wilson seems to be playing himself from a probably roster player this year to a roster lock in the early days of this year’s training camp.
Stock down: Injuries - The Dolphins are seeing the injury bug bite them early this year. Will Fuller, Xavien Howard, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jaelan Phillips, Elandon Roberts, and Preston Williams have all missed at least some practice time, while D.J. Flucker is on injured reserve already. Some of the players are still rehabbing from injuries last year, while others have tweaked something already. It is early in training camp, so the team is likely being overly cautious when it comes to a player not feeling 100 percent, but it is concerning that so many starters or key contributors are already sidelined.
Stock up: Michael Deiter, center - Again, it is very early in training camp and the team is experimenting with lineups, but the fact that Deiter is starting at center clearly indicates his stock is rising. Head coach Brian Flores said of the center position, “I think there’s a nice little competition there with (Michael) Deiter and (Matt) Skura and Cam (Tom). I think they’re all really doing a good job. (They’re) working hard, good communication, understand what we’re doing schematically, can get us in the right protection, understand where we need to go as far as Mike (linebacker) points in the run game.” He want on to stress that the team is not yet practicing in pads, which is a key component of evaluating offensive line play, but Deiter appears to have the early lead in the position battle.
(Also of note is rookie Liam Eichenberg is seeing time as the first team left guard, not at right tackle where it was expected he would play. Jesse Davis started at right tackle, while rookie Larnel Coleman is seeing time there as well.)
Stock down: The Xavien Howard contract situation - Howard is clearly a dominate player in the NFL and one of, if not the, best cornerbacks in the league. His contract has become an issue however, and there is no clear and easy way to solve this. The Dolphins are looking at the presidency it could set to have to renegotiate a long-term contract (a) just two years after it was signed and (b) with four years remaining on the deal. Howard is looking at his First-Team All-Pro selection, leading the league in interceptions since 2018 and in 2020 with the first double-digit total since 2007 and tied for the team’s single season record, all while not being the highest-paid cornerback on his own team. Howard has requested a trade, though the Dolphins do not seem to be in a rush to fulfill that request. Both sides have said they want to see this work out in a way that keeps Howard in Miami, but it is a mess right now.
Stock up: Jevon Holland, safety - The rookie is not yet a starting safety, where veterans Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty are manning the top spots early, but it may not be long before the team has to make a change. Holland looks fast, he is flashing all across the field, and he is communicating to keep the defense in the right position. Holland has been impressive so far.
Stock down: Noah Igbinoghene, cornerback - It could be reading to much into small things early in camp, but Igbinoghene seems to be getting buried on the depth chart right now. He started camp fielding kickoffs with Jakeem Grant and Jaylen Waddle, but has been replaced by Lynn Bowden, Jr., in those reps in more recent practices. Nik Needham is working as the starting cornerback replacing Xavien Howard, not Igbinoghene. Maybe the Dolphins see him more as a nickel cornerback or are just trying to see who else can step up, but early on, it feels like Igbinoghene is not as high on the depth chart as expected.
Honorable Mention: Wide receivers Robert Foster and Jakeem Grant have both had strong starts to camp this year, with both showing they could fight their way to a roster spot come September. They are playing well, making catches, and taking advantage of the injuries to other receivers to showcase what they can provide.