Stop No. 8 – Davie, Florida; Dolphins Camp
Miles Travelled to Date: 14,062
Dolphins’ camp starts early, to avoid the worst of the South Florida heat, so the only way to make it in time for the 8 am start was to take the Tuesday “red-eye” out of San Francisco. This meant that on our arrival in Miami, even a taxi driver who knew less about the local geography than Peter King, and who insisted on ignoring even the most basic of instructions, couldn’t sabotage our punctuality. We arrived at the Dolphins year-round facility in Davie with time in hand to meet friendly media czar Harvey Greene for a chat before proceedings began in temperatures that still ran into the mid 90’s, despite the hour.
1) Competition Closed
If I was the Dolphins I’d call the quarterback competition now. On the basis of this practice (and the local reporters tell me he was ahead anyway) it’s not even close between my winner, David Garrard and Matt Moore. At the moment both players are alternating repetitions or series with the starters, and with this being Garrard’s first year in Miami, that’s not helpful given the disparity in performance.
While Moore threw behind his targets on slants, forced throws into coverage deep and was intercepted on multiple occasions, Garrard looked commanding and grew in stature as the practice went on; finishing with a picture perfect deep throw down the right sideline to Roberto Wallace for a touchdown despite good coverage. Overall he was precise, moved about confidently in and out of the pocket and threw with both velocity and touch. He did make a few forced throws which were knocked down by the Dolphins defense (that did as good a job of underneath coverage as I’ve seen outside of the 49ers) but these were the exceptions and none looked in imminent danger of being intercepted.
As for first-rounder Ryan Tannehill, he was playing with and against the seconds for the majority of the time and it’s obvious that Miami has no plans, beyond education, for him this year. He looked solid (and in my opinion better than Moore) but I was informed this was often the case until he gets put in against the firsts, and then things usually went downhill quickly.
2) Changes for Wake
As most people know, the Dolphins will be moving to a 4-3 defense this year with Cameron Wake putting his hand down and playing defensive end full-time. However, if people think that he plays a lot with his hand down anyways, and this isn’t significant, they’d be wrong.
Last year, Wake rushed almost exclusively from the left side of the line — about 87.5 % of the time. When I talked to him after practice, while he didn’t exactly give me any percentages, he did indicate he’d be used more in targeting the weaknesses of opponents and so be moved from side to side more frequently. He also said that while previously, at linebacker, he’s been the outside guy on nearly every play, now he’ll often have the SAM outside him and he’ll be dealing with inside traffic far more frequently. In preparation for this he’s worked diligently in the offseason to bulk up. The result? He’s added 10 lbs of muscle and looked in superb condition.
I expect the upshot may be less overall pressure for him, but that his presence will open up more opportunities for others behind him. Look for lots of blitzes from Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and more production from Koa Misi as a result. Keep an eye on where Wake lines up too, as it’ll be one of the most interesting defensive indicators of the coming year.
3) Receiving Options
As potential starter Brian Hartline, and last year’s 4th rounder Clyde Gates worked off to the side due to injuries, the rest of the receiving core showed their wares with varying degrees of competence. Chad Johnson did nothing wrong, but he didn’t show much either. As is often the case, he saved his best work for the press conference when he told his audience that if this didn’t work out, and he still had to support his family, he’d look to porn films. When questioned about his plans for a day off, he said he wasn’t sure, but whatever he chose to do, he’d be open.
Far more important from the Dolphins standpoint were the displays of Roberto Wallace (with two big-time grabs), Davone Bess (who’s been the receiving star of camp to date) and Legedu Naanee (before a minor injury put him on the sidelines).
Much less pleasing was the performance of Charles Clay who the Dolphins are looking to in 12 personnel as their receiving tight end. He dropped three passes that I saw, two of which were of the ridiculously easy variety.
- Jake Long is fully healthy according to the Dolphins and Cameron Wake, who told me how much he enjoyed going against him in practice each day.
- While the Dolphins may have picked up Eric Steinbach and penciled him in as a potential starter at RG, Artis Hicks is currently fulfilling that role. Steinbach is running with the seconds and regular PFF readers may remember that in 2010 we weren’t fans; he earned a -12.0 rating before missing all of 2011 with a back injury.
- Safety is the key training camp battle. I asked three people who they thought would start and each had a different starting combination. It’s obvious the Dolphins are similarly open. It was almost impossible to tell from the combinations that were used who was favored.
Remaining stops on this first leg of the Camp Tour:
Buccaneers (Tampa Bay)
Falcons (Flowery Branch)
If you’ve got questions for Neil to take along to any of his upcoming camp visits, follow him on Twitter (@PFF_Neil) and let him know.