Thursday, July 25, 2013
Miami Dolphins Stock Watch
By James Walker
The Miami Dolphins remain the only AFC East team to hit the field for training camp. With Miami taking a day off to recharge, let's update our "Stock Watch" from the team's first week of camp.
Keep in mind, it's very early. The first week of camp is just a sample in the wide scope of an entire season. The Dolphins have five preseason games this year and things will change.
But here is how I view things after the first week of training camp:
1. Dolphins offensive line: Miami's starting offensive line has been inconsistent, and the second team has been worse -- not the kind of start this much-maligned group wanted. The Dolphins are struggling this week with picking up blitzes and creating big running lanes for the tailbacks. Center Mike Pouncey is in tremendous shape and has moved very well. But there are questions about the rest of the unit. I've heard the refrain that Miami’s front seven is very talented, which is true. But Miami isn’t the only talented seven in the NFL. The Dolphins' O-line must get it together and step it up.
2. Caleb Sturgis, kicker: The Dolphins have high hopes for Sturgis, a fifth-round pick in April's draft. Sturgis is expected to compete with incumbent veteran Dan Carpenter, but the rookie has been a disappointment so far. He’s missed at least three field goals over the first four days of practice. What's more telling is that Sturgis isn't getting nearly the number of repetitions as Carpenter, who has been more accurate. Miami’s official stance is that the best player will win the job. However, money could play a factor. Sturgis is due to make just $405,000 in the first year of his rookie contract; Carpenter will make $2.68 million if he makes the team. The Dolphins could save more than $2 million and valuable cap room by going younger at the position. But Sturgis’ early inconsistency is making this a tough decision.
3. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: Please do not overreact, Dolphins fans. As I mentioned, it’s only the first week of camp. But Tannehill has looked a bit erratic in the first four days. Tannehill’s worst practice was Tuesday, when he threw pick-sixes to safety Chris Clemons and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, respectively. One issue is that pass protection hasn’t been good. Tannehill often looks rushed in the pocket when Miami’s defensive front seven is bringing the heat. This week has been a reminder that Tannehill is still a young quarterback, with only 16 NFL starts. There are going to be some growing pains, and it’s better to have them in camp than the regular season.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon, a third-round draft pick in 2012, is making waves at Dolphins camp.
1. Olivier Vernon, defensive end: Vernon got a golden opportunity this offseason and he’s running with it. With Jared Odrick moving virtually full-time to defensive tackle and rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan recovering from shoulder surgery, Vernon has been Miami’s starting defensive end all offseason. Vernon appears to be getting better and better each week. He had a very strong first week of camp, including two sacks Tuesday of Tannehill. Vernon has a tall task to hold off Jordan for the starting job in Week 1 -- but is doing a good job of it so far. He looks poised to have a solid Year 2 in Miami either way.
2. Matt Moore, quarterback: Again, Dolphins fans should not panic or make this a quarterback controversy. But for what it’s worth, Moore has been the best quarterback in Miami's first week of training camp. Moore has been mostly steady and playing like a veteran. He hasn’t made a lot of turnovers and took advantage of big plays when they presented themselves. Moore is already showing in training camp why he is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
3. Brent Grimes, cornerback: If you include organized team activities and minicamp, a case can be made that no player has been as consistent as Grimes. He practices very well and rarely has a bad day. Grimes stays around the football and has been a stern challenge for new Dolphins No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace. Both players are having good battles and making each other better. Health permitting, Grimes still has the makings of a No. 1 cornerback. He could turn out to be a very good signing.