Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/17/12

Dolphins training camp preview


1. Settle the quarterback conundrum. The Dolphins have been stuck in a quarterback abyss ever since Dan Marino retired in 1999. While there are some decent arms on the roster, there is no guarantee relief comes in 2012.

David Garrard, a 34-year-old veteran, appears to be the front-runner based on his seamless fit into the west coast offense. But incumbent starter Matt Moore showed promise last season, and is younger. And Ryan Tannehill represents the future of the franchise, but considering he's only had 19 college starts at Texas A&M, it is likely that the Dolphins' first-round pick will need time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

Whichever veteran does end up starting the season opener will need to produce wins to keep Miami from investing playing time in Tannehill late in the season.

2. Get comfortable with the new systems. The Dolphins have spent all offseason breaking in a new coaching staff, and trying to effectively and efficiently change the offensive and defensive schemes, and the team's approach.

New coach Joe Philbin is implementing a west coast offense similar to the one he orchestrated in Green Bay, and the Dolphins intend on pushing the pace.

From a defensive standpoint, the Dolphins are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base, and new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle intends on creating more confusion by changing up how he utilizes the Dolphins' safeties and linebackers. The Dolphins intend on featuring a defense with more interchangeable parts, and one that ideally keeps offenses on their toes.

The Dolphins have had a forceful defensive front for the past two years, holding opponents to a 3.6 yards-per-carry average in 2010, and 3.7 yards-per-carry in 2011. But Coyle intends to provide more pass rushing pressure with the goal of producing more than the 41 quarterback sacks the team generated last season.


Reshad Jones has a long standing reputation as an aggressive, instinctive safety from his days at the University of Georgia. He's flashed from time to time in his first two seasons with the Dolphins, but in 2011 he lost more battles than he won when gambling. Jones started 14 games in his first two seasons, contributing 88 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions, which is decent. But it appears spending a full season as a starter, and the instruction Miami's new coaches have provided has helped this 2010 fifth-round pick take his game to the next level.


John Jerry doesn't fit the athletic mold the Dolphins want for its zone blocking offensive line. Jerry, a 2010 third-round pick who lost his starting spot last year, is at least 25 pounds heavier than his desired weight (320), and his lackluster practices during the team's offseason program allowed Artis Hicks to replace him as the front-runner to serve as Miami's starting right guard. If Jerry doesn't get his act and weight together, he might not even make the 53-man roster. Last year, Jerry's draft status saved him when it came time for the Dolphins to make cuts. This year Jerry likely won't be afforded the same luxury because these coaches weren't involved in drafting him.


Ochocinco glad to go back to his roots

--After his least productive season in the NFL, Chad Ochocinco showed up, and showed out for his new team during the opening of the Miami Dolphins' minicamp.

The six-time Pro Bowl receiver certainly didn't appear to be 34 years old when he made a number of acrobatic catches, and showed off his quickness on run-after-the-catch plays during Tuesday's practice.

During Wednesday's practice, Ochocinco dove to the ground to catch a ball on his back, and caught a 17-yard pass to get the Dolphins' offense to the 5-yard line.

Ochocinco's goal this season is to resurrect his career.

"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," Ochocinco said. "I think I kind of lost that. I'm looking to go back to Chad Johnson, and just make it live again."

Ochocinco's first exposure to his teammates clearly left a favorable impression.

"I know Chad pretty well, and it's good having him here. Obviously we can use a guy of his caliber and use his wisdom; he's been around the game for a long time," running back Reggie Bush said. "Losing a guy like Brandon Marshall was tough, but bringing a guy like Chad in here, it gives our receiver position a lot of knowledge and wisdom and veteran leadership that they can probably use at this time."

--The Dolphins promoted director of player personnel Brian Gaine to assistant general manager. In the offseason, Gaine had interest from the Rams for their general manager position.

Said Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, "This is a very deserving promotion for Brian. He earned this position by not only his continued and unquestioned trust, loyalty and commitment to the Miami Dolphins organization, but by his continued efforts each and every day to strive for perfection. His attention to detail and professionalism has ultimately paid dividends to his growth and development and he will continue to be a very valuable member of the organization."

Gaine enters his 15th year in the NFL and fifth with the Dolphins, joining the team on January 15, 2008. He served his first three seasons (2008-10) with Miami as the assistant director of player personnel and was promoted to director of player personnel on April 21, 2011.

--Artis Hicks continues his run as the starting right guard for the second straight week, leapfrogging John Jerry, who has a weight issue and doesn't fit the athletic mold of offensive linemen the Dolphins are seeking.

But the 10-year veteran isn't getting too excited about the possibility of becoming a starter for the Dolphins.

"I've been through this before," said Hicks, who has started 71 of 118 NFL games. "You want to come out and be perfect to prove yourself year after year. It's never perfect, and that's the hardest part. You want to not have any screw-ups. But it's a work in progress."

Hicks was paired with rookie Jonathan Martin, who appears to be struggling against Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick in his stint as the starting right tackle.

--The Dolphins have officially joined the iPad movement.

New coach Joe Philbin had the playbook put on the Apple tablets and all 90 players on the training camp roster has been issued one that the team will regularly update, and use on a daily basis.

The Dolphins are among a handful of teams, which includes the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers, using iPads as teaching tools.

"We went from a playbook that's about five inches thick to an iPad. It's definitely a transition, exciting," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said about the tablet, which was given to the players last week. "It's a tool we can use, makes it a lot more (handier) to carry around and study."

According to the players, the iPad version of the playbook is also easier to navigate considering it turns like a book, and has a glossary.

Philbin acknowledged he's not too technologically savvy, but transitioning the playbook to an iPad is ideal for this generation of NFL players.

"I still got my notebook and pencil, and a big thick three-ring binder," Philbin said. "For the players it is so much easier for them.

"It's tougher for an old coach, but the guys are flipping through that stuff and pushing buttons," Philbin added. "Teaching wise it was the best thing to do."

But the team-issued iPad does come with restrictions. Tannehill said there's a "long list of things we aren't supposed to do."

On that list of don'ts are: don't lose it, carry it to all meetings, don't download anything, and players were informed their activity on the team-issued iPads could be tracked.

All iPad violators are subjected to a $10,000 fine.

But Philbin isn't too concerned about his players playing games, music or surfing the web during team meetings.

"If our guys are sitting in meetings and playing a bunch of music or going on ProFootballTalk.com we're not going to be very good," Philbin said. "We're going to find guys who love football, love their job, and want to be good. If we have to police that type of stuff it is going to be tough to win games."

--Linebacker Josh Kaddu, the Dolphins fifth-round pick from Oregon, attended his first practice since rookie minicamp because of his school's quarters system. Also in attendance for the first time was offensive tackle Dustin Waldron.

Kaddu is being used as an outside linebacker and special teams contributor. Waldron, who played as an offensive tackle at Portland State, is being used inside as a guard.

The Dolphins also moved another undrafted rookie offensive lineman. Josh Samuda, who was signed as a guard, is now playing center.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This offense is perfect for guys like me because it gives us a chance to use our speed and kind of wear down the defense and have them chase us around all day. So I definitely think it's good for guys in my position and the other skill guys. -- RB Reggie Bush on the Dolphins' west coast offense.


Jonathan Martin's performance in his second week of OTAs is a little concerning.

The Dolphins' second-round pick is struggling to anchor on running plays, and his area is being compromised by speed rushers.

In fairness to Martin, this is the first time since high school he's playing right tackle considering he's been a left tackle at Stanford for the past three years. But Martin clearly needs time to get use to the new spot.

Cameron Wake, the Dolphins' Pro Bowl pass rusher, has been borderline abusive to the rookie. But coach Joe Philbin made it clear the offensive lineman, who missed all but one week of OTAs because of Stanford's quarter system, needs the beating to get better.

"That's great stuff," Philbin said. "Coach (Jim) Turner can sit in a meeting room and talk about how you pass set and I can tell you to time up your punch and that it's a six-inch punch and act real smart, but until you get out there and do it, it's a different animal going up against that type of athlete. It's great experience for him."

Good thing for Miami, Lydon Murtha isn't chopped liver, and remains in the mix to serve as the starting right tackle.


--CB Richard Marshall, who was sidelined by leg injury for two weeks, participated in all of Miami's minicamp.

--CB Vontae Davis, who has been sidelined by an undisclosed injury during the OTA sessions, participated in minicamp.

--WR Brian Hartline, who has sat out most of the team's OTA practices, missed minicamp because of a medical issue. But it was not related to a leg injury.

--CB Nolan Carroll sat out the last day of minicamp because of an undisclosed leg issue.

--RB Jonas Gray continues to be sidelined by an ACL injury he suffered in November.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- David Garrard. Backups -- Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill, Pat Devlin.

Garrard's experience level gives him the edge over Moore, whose inconsistent practices have been a problem throughout his six-year NFL career. Garrard makes quicker decisions, and his short to intermediate accuracy is superior to Moore, who has a knack for producing big plays. This isn't Garrard's first time in a west coast offense, which might explain why he's performing better at this point. But there are concerns about his durability and limited upside. Moore could possibly close ground on him during training camp by proving he's a gamer. Tannehill, the team's first-round pick, represents the future at the position. But it is likely he'll sit, watch, learn and develop the same way Jake Locker did in Tennessee last season. However, if he shines during the exhibition season, closing the obvious gap on Garrard and Moore, don't be surprised if his status is elevated. Devlin's limited experience, and subpar arm strength makes him a practice-squad option.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Reggie Bush. Backups -- Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Steve Slaton, Marcus Thigpen, Jerome Messam, Jonas Gray.

Bush, who rushed for 1,086 yards and scored seven touchdowns in the 15 games he played last season, is a better fit in this west coast offense. His ability to catch passes out the backfield should make him one of the Dolphins' top targets. But he's 27 and entering the final year of his contract, so don't expect the Dolphins to use him as the offense's workhorse. There are plenty of young, talented tailbacks on the roster. The Dolphins envision Thomas as the team's third-down back because of his hands, and ability as a blocker. Last year Thomas started out strong, but fizzled at the end, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. The coaches believe participating in a full NFL offseason program should help Thomas, a 2011 second-round pick, regain the powerful rushing style he had at Kansas State. Miller's addition gives the Dolphins another tailback with sub 4.4 speed. He'll be sprinkled in, handling some of those scatback plays designed for Bush. The rookie's addition also puts Slaton's status on the team in question. He'll need to produce during the exhibition season to stay ahead of Thigpen, Messam and Gray, who are all practice-squad options.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Anthony Fasano. Backups -- Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman, Jeron Mastrud, Les Brown.

Fasano has made the most of his limited opportunities in his four seasons with the Dolphins, where he's contributed 136 catches for 1,772 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. However, he's never caught more than 40 passes in a season during his seven-year career. It is likely he'll remain Miami's in-line blocking tight end while Clay is used as the H-back, flex option. Clay, who contributed 16 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns last season, has the ability to create separation from linebackers. But this former Tulsa fullback is rough around the edges when it comes to blocking, and reading defensive coverages. If coached up properly the Dolphins expect Clay's productivity to double in the west coast offense. Egnew, a third-round pick, could also get into the mix, but he's got a lot to learn about the traditional tight end role considering he was primarily a route runner at Missouri. Mastrud and Yeatman must earn their keep on special teams, and Brown, a former college basketball player, is viewed as a long-term option that might warrant an investment on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Brian Hartline, Chad Ochocinco, Davone Bess. Backups -- Legedu Naanee, Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, Clyde Gates, Julius Pruitt, Jeff Fuller, B.J. Cunningham, Rishard Matthews, Chris Hogan.

The Dolphins did not make a big splash in free agency, or during the draft to replace Brandon Marshall, who was traded to Chicago for two third-round picks. What Miami did was sign Ochocinco after New England released him late this summer, add Legedu Naanee to a one-year contract for the minimum, draft two receivers in the later rounds, sign a CFL standout, and one undrafted free agent. It is anyone's guess which five or six receivers will make the roster, or if the Dolphins have enough talent at receiver to make the west coast offense work. The Dolphins do plan to utilize a receiver by committee approach; leaning on every wideout's strengths. Bess, who caught a career-low 51 passes for 537 yards and three touchdowns last season, will continue his role as Miami's slot receiver. The Dolphins believe Hartline, who averaged 15.7 yards per catch, can shoulder a heavier load than what he carried as the Dolphins' No. 3 receiver the past two seasons. Ochocinco's play during the offseason program proved he's still got some quickness left, but can he learn the offense, and re-establish himself as one of the NFL's premier receivers? Naanee's size and physicality should allow him to push for a starting spot. His route-running specifically impressed Miami's coaches. Everyone else is fighting for a roster spot or practice-squad spot, with Wallace, Moore and Gates the front-runner to remain on the team.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks, RT Jonathan Martin. Backups -- T Lydon Murtha, G Nate Garner, G John Jerry, C Ryan Cook, G Ray Feinga, T Will Barker, T Andrew McDonald, T Dustin Waldron, G Derek Dennis, C Josh Samuda.

This is the sixth straight season the Dolphins' offensive line is a work in progress. The entire right side is being rebuilt, and Miami's searching for capable guards and tackles who can fortify a unit that features Long, a Pro Bowler, and Pouncey, a center taken in the first round of the 2011 draft. The Dolphins are searching for offensive linemen who excel in the team's new zone blocking scheme, which doesn't necessarily fit Incognito's skill set. Hicks, a 10-year veteran who has started 71 games, unseated Jerry as the front-runner to man the right guard spot. Martin, the team's second-round pick, has more status than Murtha. But considering he played left tackle his entire college career at Stanford, the transition to the right side has been rough on the rookie. He'll likely be given the entire exhibition season to gain footing at the right tackle spot.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Cameron Wake, NT Paul Soliai, DT Randy Starks, DE Jared Odrick. Backups -- DE Olivier Vernon, DT Tony McDaniel, DE Jamaal Westerman, DT Kheeston Randall, NT Isaako Aautui, DT Ryan Baker, DE Derrick Shelby, DT Chas Alecxih, DE Jarrell Root.

The Dolphins' biggest move in free agency was retaining Soliai, who will anchor Miami's defense as it turns toward becoming more of a 4-3 defense. Soliai has started 26 of 32 games the past two seasons, totaling 66 tackles, four pass deflections and two sacks in that span. But Soliai's game isn't about stats. It's about clogging up the front line, and occupying two blockers. Last year, Soliai helped the defense finish third in the NFL against the run. Starks moves inside, returning to the position he played early in his career as a Titan, allowing Odrick to become a regular starter. That foursome gives the Dolphins a starting defensive line that averages 303 pounds. Vernon, a former Hurricanes standout the Dolphins selected in the third round, will serve as the team's pass-rushing specialist, coming on the field during obvious passing downs. Paired with Wake, that duo should help the defense generate more sacks than the 41 last year's team managed.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Kevin Burnett, ILB Karlos Dansby, SLB Koa Misi. Backups -- OLB Josh Kaddu, OLB Gary Guyton, OLB Jason Trusnik, ILB Austin Spitler, ILB Shelly Lyons, OLB Jonathan Freeny, OLB Cameron Collins.

Dansby and Burnett are the team's top returning tacklers. Both contributed 100 or more tackles last season as the inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Their roles will change slightly in the 4-3 scheme, but both have the instincts and versatility to handle the challenge. Koa Misi, a 2010 second-round pick, hasn't lived up to expectations so far, but the 4-3 scheme is a better fit for the versatile linebacker, who was miscast as a pass rusher by the previous regime. Misi will need to produce to prevent Kaddu, a rookie, or Guyton, a starter in New England the Dolphins added as a free agent, from leapfrogging him on the depth chart. Spitler and Trusnik need to flash some upside to extend their South Florida stay, and everyone else is realistically battling for practice-squad spots unless they consistently flash during camp, or the exhibition season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Vontae Davis, CB Sean Smith, FS Chris Clemons, SS Reshad Jones. Backups -- CB Richard Marshall, CB Nolan Carroll, SS Jimmy Wilson, FS Tyrone Culver, SS Tyrell Johnson, CB Quinten Lawrence, SS Anderson Russell, CB Vincent Agnew, CB Marcus Brown, CB Trenton Hughes, FS Kelcie McCray, CB Kevyn Scott.

Davis and Smith are entering their fourth season as starters and the Dolphins hope to see significant growth from these two young and talented cornerbacks. Davis' combination of speed and power, and Smith's blend of length and speed make them a promising duo. Marshall's expected to serve as the nickel cornerback and should help Miami's cornerback trio play more physical. Marshall, who was added during free agency, played half his season at safety for the Cardinals last year. Jones has locked up one of the safety spots, and the Dolphins envision him replacing Yeremiah Bell as the secondary's top playmaker. But the coaches are struggling to find him a suitable partner. Clemons, a starter in 2010, will be pushed by Culver and Wilson for the other safety spot. The Dolphins are looking for a safety with the coverage skills to man center field and handle a receiver one-on-one, and the communication skills to keep the defensive backs on the same page.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, LS John Denney.

Carpenter returns after he finished seventh in the NFL with 29 field goals in 2011, including 11-of-12 made from 40-49 yards. He was 14th in accuracy, converting 85 percent of his field-goal attempts, finishing the season 4-for-4 including a 58-yarder in a 19-17 win over the New York Jets. Fields will handle Miami's punts for the sixth straight season. Last year he averaged 48.8 yards per punt with 32 of those inside the 20-yard line. Bess, who averaged 11.9 yards per punt return, will likely handle the role again unless Bush unseats him, or one of the newcomers proves he's a return specialist worthy of the job. Miller should push Gates for the role as Miami's primary kickoff returner.

PLAYERS: Dan MarinoDavid GarrardMatt MooreRyan TannehillReshad JonesJohn JerryArtis HicksChad OchocincoReggie BushJeff IrelandJonathan MartinCameron WakeJared OdrickJosh KadduDustin WaldronJosh SamudaLydon MurthaRichard MarshallVontae DavisBrian HartlineNolan CarrollJonas GrayPat DevlinDaniel ThomasLamar MillerSteve SlatonMarcus ThigpenJerome MessamAnthony FasanoCharles ClayMichael EgnewWill YeatmanJeron MastrudLes BrownDavone BessLegedu NaaneeRoberto WallaceMarlon MooreJulius PruittJeff FullerB.J. CunninghamRishard MatthewsChris HoganJake LongRichie IncognitoMike PounceyNate GarnerRyan CookRay FeingaWill BarkerAndrew McDonaldDerek DennisPaul SoliaiRandy StarksOlivier VernonTony McDanielJamaal WestermanKheeston RandallRyan BakerDerrick ShelbyChas AlecxihJarrell RootKevin BurnettKarlos DansbyKoa MisiGary GuytonJason TrusnikAustin SpitlerShelly LyonsJonathan FreenyCameron CollinsSean SmithChris ClemonsJimmy WilsonTyrone CulverTyrell JohnsonQuinten LawrenceAnderson RussellVincent AgnewMarcus BrownTrenton HughesKelcie McCrayKevyn ScottYeremiah BellDan CarpenterBrandon FieldsJohn Denney
TEAMS: Miami DolphinsCincinnati BengalsNew York JetsGreen Bay PackersStanford CardinalPortland State VikingsMiami HurricanesKansas State Wildcats

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