MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins concluded their 2013 training camp on Thursday. Much of the focus has been on Miami’s rookie class, which came in with hype but also had some early injuries.
How well have the Dolphins' rookies done so far? Let’s examine.
Dion Jordan, DE, first round
Walker's update: Miami's No. 3 overall pick has been somewhat of an enigma. Jordan had shoulder surgery in February that kept him off the field until several days into training camp. Jordan flashed a lot during a short time in camp and the preseason. He showed much of the athleticism and explosiveness that made Jordan Miami’s top pick. But the shoulder remains an issue and the team shut him down again this week. The missed time most likely makes Jordan a backup defensive end to start the regular season behind Olivier Vernon, who had a strong camp. Right now Jordan’s focus must be on getting healthy and developing a role as a third-down pass-rusher.
Jamar Taylor, CB, second round
Walker's update: Miami's second-round pick is another player who's had health issues this offseason. Taylor's injury was previously reported as a sports hernia. But according to a source, the rookie corner has been working to overcome three separate ailments: a double-hernia injury, an abductor muscle tear and most recently a strained groin. Taylor is improving and recently returned to practice, but the source said the corner is playing at about "70 percent." That's contributed to Taylor's slow start. It's going to take time for the rookie to get back to full health and make up for the lost time.
Will Davis, CB, third round
Walker's update: So far Davis has been the pleasant surprise of Miami’s 2013 rookie class. Perhaps no player from the first day of training camp to now has improved as much as Miami's third-round pick. Davis was getting beat fairly consistently three weeks ago when camp began. But the light has turned on for Davis the past couple of weeks and he's making plays. Davis has been a ball hawk and made at least a half-dozen interceptions in practice. He also recorded a leaping interception in the second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Davis is currently the fourth corner in Miami’s defense, but he is a fast-riser.
Dallas Thomas, OL, third round
Walker's update: Thomas had a rough first training camp. He battled everyday against Miami’s defensive line, which is probably the deepest and most talented area of the team. Thomas also has been moved around to various positions the past few weeks. The Dolphins’ coaching staff already had Thomas at right guard, left tackle and right tackle in training camp. Yes, this is the time to experiment. But you also don’t want to confuse a rookie early in his career and have him lose confidence. Thomas looked decent at guard early. He even made a brief appearance with the first team due to injuries. But the Dolphins need more help at offensive tackle and have since used Thomas on both sides. Thomas has been struggling ever since. Eventually, Miami must pick a position for Thomas. I think his best position is guard.
Jelani Jenkins, LB, fourth round
Walker's update: Jenkins is a raw project with good athleticism. But he didn't make an impact in camp. Jenkins can move, especially sideline to sideline, and he brings the most value on special teams. The Dolphins don’t have much depth at linebacker behind the starters, and general manager Jeff Ireland doesn’t like to cut rookie draft picks. So look for Jenkins to make the team.
Dion Sims, TE, fourth round
Walker's update: Sims is another pleasant surprise. He came to Miami with the reputation as a blocking tight end with good size. But Sims runs better than advertised and is showing good ball skills. Barring injury, Sims is almost a lock to make Miami’s 53-man roster. Sims already is the best blocking tight end Miami has, and he’s made more plays catching the ball than expected. Other bubble tight ends such as Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller haven’t been as consistent.
Mike Gillislee, RB, fifth round
Walker's update: Gillislee has been steady but not spectacular. He’s not a home run hitter. But Gillislee is at his best between the tackles, has good vision and falls forward more often than not. Lamar Miller is the projected starter. But Daniel Thomas has been pushed by Gillislee and Jonas Gray for the No. 2 role. It’s very possible that Miami could keep four tailbacks. Gillislee's spot most likely is safe considering his draft status.
Caleb Sturgis, K, fifth round
Walker's update: As expected, Sturgis won Miami’s kicking job. Sturgis’ strong leg and low salary ($405,000 in 2013) made for an easy choice in Miami over high-paid veteran Dan Carpenter. What the Dolphins don’t know is if Sturgis can make clutch field goals in big spots as a rookie. But that was the same issue last year for Carpenter, who was due to make $2.68 million this season. The Dolphins spent a lot of money this offseason on other positions, and it simply made sense to shave more than $2 million at kicker. Caleb seems to have a good, even-keeled mentality to handle the position.
Don Jones, S, seventh round
Walker's update: As Miami's seventh-round pick, Jones came to Miami as a long shot. He’s had a quiet camp and that certainly doesn't help his case. The Dolphins lack depth at safety and are searching for impact players on special teams. But so far Jones has not made an impression. Time is running out.