AFC East: Dion Sims

Jamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis AP Photo, Getty ImagesJamar Taylor, Dion Jordan and Will Davis made a minimal impact as rookies.
Most of the attention over the next three weeks will be focused on the 2014 NFL draft, as each team tries to shape its present and future by identifying the right college players to fill needs.

But for the Miami Dolphins, success or failure this season will depend more on the development of the 2013 draft class. Few teams got less production from their rookies last year than Miami. Only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks had fewer snaps from first-year players -- and those teams, which competed in Super Bowl XLVIII, were stacked with established veterans.

The Dolphins, who faltered down the stretch and finished 8-8, did not have that luxury.

It's time for Miami's second-year players to come of age during an important time for many within the organization. Head coach Joe Philbin is entering an important third year after going 15-17 his first two seasons, and there could be a lot of change next year if the Dolphins aren't successful.

Most of Miami's top picks -- including defensive end Dion Jordan, offensive lineman Dallas Thomas and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis -- basically had red-shirt seasons in 2013, thanks to injuries, inconsistency and lack of confidence from the coaching staff. That lack of production was one reason why the Dolphins failed to get to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

"They got less than anybody in the league out of their draft class, and they had high picks. That's a huge issue," ESPN.com NFL scout Matt Williamson said. "But if that group, the corners and especially Jordan, can play up to what Miami thought they were and what most people thought they were, the Dolphins could rebound."

"We have a lot of hope for the draft class from last year," Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings in late March. "A lot of them have been back early, working. You want to see development throughout the course of an individual player's career, but I think all of you guys would agree you usually see a significant jump between Year 1 and Year 2. These are guys we thought highly of a year ago when we drafted them.

"They had some injury issues that kind of curtailed their development in Year 1. So I'm excited about working with them, developing them and seeing them progress here this season."

The 2013 draft class was one point of contention last year between Miami's coaching staff and the front office. Philbin didn't feel his rookies were ready to take on larger roles. Jeff Ireland, then the Dolphins' general manager, believed in the talent of his draft picks and felt they were not being used properly. Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, was perhaps the biggest example.

Due to offseason shoulder surgery, Jordan missed time in training camp and the preseason. He never found his footing in the regular season and he fell behind veteran defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby.

Williamson described Jordan as "a ridiculous athlete." He has immense potential but spent most of the season as the third or fourth defensive end and on special teams. He was involved in 321 snaps and had a disappointing 26 tackles and two sacks.

There have also been offseason trade rumors involving Jordan, which Philbin has denied. Miami's head coach expects Jordan to have a larger role in 2014.

"We feel like with a full offseason, with more time devoted to his fundamentals, he will have a better grasp of the position he's playing," Philbin said. "We do want to do a better job with the numbers, rotating him in. ... We want to get him more snaps on first and second down. "

The Dolphins also are counting on young corners Taylor and Davis, who were drafted in the second and third round, respectively. Both had injury setbacks last season and played a combined 104 snaps.

Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes will occupy one starting job, and Taylor and Davis will compete with veteran free-agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan for the other spot. Finnegan, a former Pro Bowl corner, is the favorite to start due to experience. But Philbin is not going in with any preconceived notions.

"I want to see the best player, whoever can help us win football games," Philbin explained. "Whoever performs the best should be the starting corner."

Miami got most of its rookie production last year from unlikely sources. Fifth-round kicker Caleb Sturgis proved to be the Dolphins' best rookie acquisition last season. He beat out longtime Miami kicker Dan Carpenter in training camp and led the Dolphins with 111 points.

The Dolphins also had decent production from undrafted rookie guard Sam Brenner, who made four starts and played 274 snaps. Brenner stepped up following the suspension of guard Richie Incognito in Miami's high-profile bullying scandal.

Brenner's production highlighted the fact that Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick, was too green to step in and be productive. Thomas was rotated between guard and tackle in training camp and never got comfortable in either position. Thomas must find a home at this season in order to provide quality depth.

In fact, it will be vital for Miami's entire 2013 draft class to find roles and contribute next season. The Dolphins used nine draft picks last year, and most have yet to make an impact.

"The Dolphins have a young quarterback [Ryan Tannehill], so they need to build a real core for the long term," Williamson said. "They need last year's draft and this upcoming come to build around Tannehill. They don't need to live for today. A strong core is more important than winning it all this year, although that philosophy can get you fired in Miami if you're 6-10."

Midseason Report: Miami Dolphins

November, 6, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins (4-4) enter the midpoint of their season as a .500 team. There have been plenty of ups and downs in the first eight games.

Here is a look back at Miami’s first-half grades:

QB Watch: Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill

September, 25, 2013
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A weekly analysis of the Miami Dolphins' quarterback play.

Tannehill
Rewind: Miami second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved to 3-0 as a starter this season and 10-9 overall with a 27-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Tannehill’s numbers were not overly impressive. He threw for 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. However, Tannehill showed growth as a young quarterback, outdueling Atlanta Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter and producing a late comeback. Tannehill was masterful on Miami’s final touchdown drive, completing 9-of-12 passes and throwing the go-ahead touchdown to rookie tight end Dion Sims.

Fast-forward: The quarterback matchups only get tougher for Tannehill. After producing back-to-back wins over Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Ryan of the Falcons, Tannehill must now square off against Drew Brees in New Orleans. Brees is off to another good start for the high powered Saints (3-0). It will be up to Tannehill to keep pace with Brees, a tall task. Tannehill has beaten some good quarterbacks early in his career, but potentially outdueling Brees would be the biggest to date.

Protection issues: The Dolphins have allowed 14 sacks in the first three games, including five against Atlanta. At times, the running backs didn’t pick up blitzes, and at other times, the pocket collapsed. Tannehill also has a penchant for holding the ball too long. All of this needs to improve if Tannehill is going to stay healthy and upright for 16 regular-season games. Tannehill showed up on the injury report last week for the first time with a right shoulder injury. It’s not serious, but it is a warning to the offense that it must protect its franchise quarterback.

Prediction: The Dolphins began the year with five tough games, and this was the one I pointed to as the most difficult. The circumstances and matchups in this game simply do not favor Tannehill and Miami. The Saints are a heavy blitzing team, and picking up blitzes is a weakness for the Dolphins' offense. Tannehill has an even-keeled personality, so I do not expect him to be overwhelmed or intimidated by the bright lights of playing on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in his NFL career. However, I expect the Saints to make things tough for Tannehill in this game.

Thoughts on GM Jeff Ireland's extension

September, 23, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins extended general manager Jeff Ireland’s contract through at least 2014, a source told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald on Monday. The move happened in the offseason, according to the report.

Here are some thoughts on the extension:
  • The timing of the news is interesting. This is as good a time as any to get word out on the extension. Ireland has been an unpopular figure in Miami for years, but his image is coming around after a 3-0 start. If this move was announced when it happened, that likely would have garnered a bad reaction from Dolphins fans.
  • The extension shows how much confidence owner Stephen Ross has in Ireland. The Dolphins were 7-9 last year, and Ross still made the move. Ross also opened his wallet this offseason to allow Ireland to spend more than $200 million in contracts this offseason. The two have a good relationship that involves trust on both sides.
  • Miami’s fast start all but ends any talk of Ireland on the hot seat. The team is winning and Ireland's moves this offseason are panning out. Free agents such as receiver Mike Wallace, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Brent Grimes are all major contributors to the Dolphins staying undefeated. Draft picks such as defensive end Dion Jordan, tight end Dion Sims, kicker Caleb Sturgis and cornerback Don Jones are also making plays early.

Locker Room Buzz: Miami Dolphins

September, 22, 2013
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MIAMI -- Observed in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Wake
Ice bath: There were ice chips all over the Dolphins' emblem in the center of Miami's locker room. I asked around and several Dolphins players told me they gave head coach Joe Philbin an ice bath following his locker-room speech and the team's 3-0 start.

Mixed emotions for Wake: Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake had mixed emotions in the locker room. He told me he was happy for the win but disappointed "beyond words" that he couldn’t finish the game after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter and help the defense. I asked Wake about the injury, and he responded, “I will be alright.” Wake is expected to have further tests this week.

Happy rookie: Dolphins rookie tight end Dion Sims was all smiles after his first career reception was a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Sims said he’s keeping the football as a keepsake. He still seemed in awe that he got the opportunity to win the game after getting just one pass thrown his way. Sims made it count.
The Miami Dolphins will face the Cleveland Browns in their regular-season opener on Sunday. Here is a preview of players you may not see based on this week’s practices:

QB Pat Devlin, CB Will Davis, CB Jamar Taylor: All three players are ruled out on Miami’s final injury report. They missed every practice this week.

RB Mike Gillislee: Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will get a majority of the carries. Miami needs a fullback (Tyler Clutts) on the active roster for certain formations as well. Gillislee could be the odd man out.

TE Michael Egnew: He brings no value on special teams and is a backup behind Charles Clay. Egnew’s lack of blocking also puts him behind rookie tight end Dion Sims.

OT Will Yeatman: Miami has nine offensive lineman, and Yeatman could get the short end of the stick on game day.

LB Josh Kaddu: He’s a backup linebacker, and fellow backups Jason Trusnik and Jelani Jenkins play special teams.

DB Don Jones: The Dolphins are thin at defensive back, but Jones is on the back end of the depth chart.
MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins completed their fifth and final preseason game Thursday night with a 24-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints. This game was played mostly by backups on both sides.

Earlier this week, I mapped out three things to watch from Miami’s perspective. Here is a recap of how the team fared in those areas:

1. Players on the bubble: Much of Miami’s roster is set. But this was a big game for those toward the back end. The biggest bubble player was third-string quarterback Pat Devlin. He showed some good and some bad with 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Dolphins must decide if it’s worth keeping three signal-callers or use that extra spot on another position. Bubble players with better showings Thursday were defensive lineman Vaughn Martin (four tackles, a half-sack) and safety Kelcie McCray (four tackles). Both might have done enough to claim two of Miami’s final roster spots.

2. Progression of tight ends: Miami is still in search of its best option at tight end after losing starter Dustin Keller (knee) for the season. Projected starter Charles Clay was inactive. But Dion Sims stepped up, grabbing four balls for 36 yards and a touchdown. Second-year tight end Michael Engew also got a lot of playing time but didn’t produce, to the tune of one reception for 5 yards. Sims is raw, but he has a good chance to contribute if he gains experience.

3. No injuries: Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin played it as safe as possible in this one. He sat every starter with the exception of right guard John Jerry, who needed the work. As a result, Miami walked out of the fifth preseason game with no significant injuries to its starting lineup. Barring any setbacks next week in practice, the Dolphins should enter their Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns in good health.

Observation deck: Dolphins-Saints

August, 29, 2013
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MIAMI -- Rapid reaction from the Miami Dolphins' 24-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints at Sun Life Stadium in Thursday's preseason finale:

What it means: This game didn’t mean anything for key players. That is why Miami head coach Joe Philbin decided to sit quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a majority of Miami’s starters. It was mostly about preventing injuries, and the Dolphins accomplished that goal. Miami will enter the regular season mostly in good health.

Devlin showcase: Third-string quarterback Pat Devlin entered on the roster bubble, and got the start against New Orleans in what was essentially a showcase game. Devlin showed some good and some bad. He finished 22-of-38 passing for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Dolphins will debate ahead of Saturday's deadline whether to keep Devlin on the 53-man roster.

Bubble performers: It was a good day for several Dolphins on the bubble. Two who particularly helped their standing were defensive lineman Vaughn Martin and safety Kelcie McCray. Martin recorded four tackles and was credited with a half-sack, while McCray had four tackles and stayed around the football. Receiver Marvin McNutt also had four receptions for 99 yards -- which included a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter -- to most likely solidify a roster spot.

Tight-end development: Miami is still in search of a player to replace injured tight end Dustin Keller, who is out for the year with a knee injury. Rookie Dion Sims took a step in the right direction with four receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown. Charles Clay, who rested Thursday, is the most experienced backup tight end and the leader in the clubhouse. But Sims might be the most complete option with his blocking and catching. The rookie may also have the highest ceiling. Sims just needs to work on his consistency.

Cuts are coming: Miami must trim its roster to 53 players by Saturday evening. The Dolphins have 25 players to cut, and there will be several tough decisions to make the end of the roster.

What’s next: Now the real fun begins. The Dolphins will prepare over the next 10 days for their regular-season opener on Sept. 8 at the Cleveland Browns. It was a long preseason for the Dolphins. They were one of two teams to have five exhibition games. Miami hopes the extra work paid off.

What to Watch: Saints-Dolphins

August, 29, 2013
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MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins will play their fifth and final preseason game Thursday against the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Here are three things to watch for the Dolphins:

1. Players on the bubble: Miami must make 25 roster cuts by Saturday evening to get down to the 53-man limit. Several key players to watch are defensive tackle A.J. Francis, third-string quarterback Pat Devlin and receivers Marvin McNutt and Chad Bumphis. Look for the bottom portion of the roster to get plenty of playing time. Shameless plug alert: I will do my roster projection Friday after the final preseason game.

2. Progression of tight ends: It was not a strong outing for Miami’s tight ends following the season-ending knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. The Dolphins got just three catches and 34 yards from the position. New starter Charles Clay had just one reception for five yards -- though he was targeted six times by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This will be an important game for Miami’s tight ends to get reps in preparation for the regular season, even if Tannehill isn’t on the field. Let's see what more Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and Dion Sims can do.

3. No injuries: To be blunt, there isn’t much for teams to gain in this final preseason game. The most important thing for the Dolphins is to exit without significant injuries. The real games start in about 10 days, when the Dolphins travel to face the Cleveland Browns. Miami head coach Joe Philbin has been coy about playing time for his starters. Some may play briefly, while others might not play at all. This is a game for backups and fringe players.
DAVIE, Fla. – It was not a stellar showing for the tight ends of the Miami Dolphins last weekend. Following the season-ending knee injury to Dustin Keller, Miami got just three receptions for 34 yards in a 17-16 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New Miami starter Charles Clay caught just one pass for five yards. He was targeted by Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times, and the two couldn’t get on the same page. At least two attempted connections resulted in tipped balls that nearly turned into turnovers.

"It’s never a thing you want to put on film, having a game like that," Clay admitted this week. "But at the end of the day, it happened. I just have to come out here and work hard and do all that I can to prevent it from happening again."

Clay knows improvement is needed. The next step in his development starts Thursday in Miami’s preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints.

Clay is the most versatile and experienced tight end for the Dolphins. That is why he’s getting the first shot to replace Keller. Other tight ends such as Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and rookie Dion Sims don't have the same level of experience or trust of the coaching staff. Clay, Egnew and Sims are all recent draft picks of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.

Miami initially used Clay as an H-back/fullback in training camp. But those plans were altered once Keller went down. Clay is being used more at tight end, and it's taking time to re-adjust to that role.

“It’s wherever they [Miami’s coaches] need me,” Clay said. “If they need someone to play tight end, I feel I can do that. If they someone to help out in the slot or at fullback, I feel I can do that. Whatever the game is that week, I feel like I can help.”

It’s unlikely any of Miami’s tight ends will match the production Keller would have provided this season. But the Dolphins must hope the group as a whole can be productive enough to keep the passing offense moving in a good direction.
MIAMI – There was a collective gasp among Miami Dolphins fans when starting tight end Dustin Keller was lost for the season with a major knee injury. There is nothing but youth and inexperience left at the position, and Miami needs one of its remaining tight ends to come of age quickly.

Miami’s 17-16 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first opportunity for the Dolphins’ tight ends to showcase their skills. The initial results were not impressive.

Miami’s tight ends combined for three receptions for 34 yards Saturday. New starter Charles Clay had just one catch for five yards -- though he was targeted six times by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Rookie backup Dion Sims had one reception for 18 yards, and Kyle Miller had one reception for 11 yards. Second-year tight end Michael Egnew did not catch a pass.

Minus Keller, Miami’s tight-end group remains a major work in progress -- and the regular season is right around the corner. This group needs to come of age -- fast.

“Obviously Dustin was a huge part of our offense, but we have to adjust,” Clay said after the game Saturday. “If my number is called, I have to go in and make a play. We can’t hang our head over what happened in the past. We just have to come in, step in and get the job done.”

Clay had issues getting open against Tampa Bay. Tannehill even forced a few throws into good coverage in an attempt to get Clay involved.

Keller and Tannehill had a strong rapport in their limited playing time together. Keller was projected to be a major upgrade over last season's starting tight end, Anthony Fasano.

It's only one game so far without Keller, and Tannehill remains optimistic.

“I think I have good chemistry between Clay and I; tonight we just weren’t on,” Tannehill said. “But if you look up last year and in training camp, I think we have a good connection. He’s going to step up and play well for us this year.”

If the Dolphins continue to try to fix this issue in-house, young tight ends like Clay, Sims or Michael Engew must emerge sooner than later. It will be a big two weeks of preparation for this group before their Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns.

What to Watch: Bucs-Dolphins

August, 24, 2013
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MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins will play their fourth preseason game Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This will be the first home game for Miami, which is 1-2 in the preseason.

Here are three things I'm watching in this exhibition game for the Dolphins:

1. Who emerges at tight end? The Dolphins were counting on veteran free-agent pickup Dustin Keller to provide leadership and production at tight end this year. But Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend against Houston, which leaves Miami scrambling. Currently the Dolphins do not have a clear, in-house solution to replace him. Young tight ends Dion Sims, Michael Egnew and Charles Clay were all recent draft picks with limited starting experience. The Dolphins haven’t traded or signed a veteran replacement yet. They want to see if one of their young tight ends can step up and earn the trust of the coaching staff.

2. Lamar Miller's workload: Miller, Miami's projected starting tailback, has just nine carries in three preseason games. Miller has an injury history and the Dolphins are being very cautious. But is Miami too cautious? Miller is a first-year starter and has just 51 NFL carries in his rookie season in 2012. That number is expected to quadruple. Yet, the Dolphins’ coaching staff hasn’t allowed Miller to get in rhythm in the preseason. We’ve already seen a fumble and a key drop from Miller in limited playing time. Perhaps that changes in this “dress rehearsal” game. Miller needs more work to sharpen his skills for the regular season and this is probably the final chance to do it.

3. John Jerry's progress: The Dolphins lack depth on the offensive line, and that was proven early in training camp when Jerry injured his knee. Miami’s projected starting guard is expected to make his preseason debut Saturday against the Buccaneers. Jerry spent most of camp rehabbing but has practiced all week with the first team. Jerry must knock off the rust and get ready for the regular season. This “dress rehearsal” is a good opportunity for Jerry to get his first in-game reps for the 2013 season.
MIAMI -- The biggest news with the Miami Dolphins this week was the season-ending knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. Let’s check the mailbag and see what’s on the minds of Dolphins fans this week.

@KyleBazin via Twitter writes: What do you feel the Dustin Keller injury does to the team?

James Walker: More than anything, it impacts Miami’s scheme and quarterback Ryan Tannehill the most, Kyle Bazin. Keller is a quality tight end who was going to make plenty of plays. Health permitting, I think Keller could have caught 50 receptions this year. Miami will not get that kind of production from the position with Keller out. The Dolphins would be lucky if backups Charles Clay, Michael Egnew and Dion Sims can combine for 50 receptions. But I think the more likely scenario is slot receiver Brandon Gibson picks up his production and gets more passes thrown his way over the middle.




AdamBrewgy via Twitter writes: Does the Dustin Keller injury increase Jorvorskie Lane's chances at making the 53 man roster?

Walker: Yes, AB, it does. In my initial 53-man projection I only kept Clay as Miami's H-back/fullback. But Clay is now the in-house favorite at tight end to replace Keller. That means Lane or Evan Rodriguez should make the final roster as a fullback. However, I lean towards Rodriguez because of his athleticism and versatility.




Chris Albanese from Valley Stream, NY, writes: If the New England Patriots cut Tim Tebow, would the Dolphins take a flyer on him to solve their TE problems short-term?

Walker: I guess there had to be one in the bunch, Chris. The Dolphins and 30 other teams had a chance to sign Tebow and passed. The Patriots took a flier on him and Tebow is fighting for a roster spot there. If Tebow is cut, the Dolphins will not look to pick him up as quarterback or a tight end.




Blickza via Twitter writes: What is your view on Phins' depth at linebacker?

Walker: Not good, Blickza. No one has stood out in training camp or the preseason behind the starters. That is a position I’m closely watching this weekend in Miami’s fourth preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jason Trusnik and Austin Spitler are the early favorites because they are veterans and bring value on special teams. I also think Jelani Jenkins has a good chance to make the 53-man roster because he’s a rookie fourth-round pick. But none of those backup linebacker positions are set in stone.




Peter Corsaro from Louisville, KY, writes: Are you aware there are four teams in the AFC East?

Walker: Sure I'm aware of that, Peter. If you haven’t noticed, ESPN.com is in the process of expanding coverage to all 32 teams this season. We already have a new Buffalo Bills reporter, Mike Rodak, who was formally introduced in the AFC East blog three weeks ago. Mike Reiss is in New England, Rich Cimini is in New York and I’m in Miami. Together we have the whole AFC East covered. ESPN.com is adding more writers to make sure fans like yourself get the most comprehensive and in-depth NFL coverage.
The Miami Dolphins suffered a major loss with starting tight end Dustin Keller out for the year with a right knee injury. Keller's knee took a gruesome hit Saturday night as he went down on a reception against the Houston Texans. His leg hyperextended, and Keller needed to be carted off the field.

With Keller done for the year, let’s examine what is next for the Dolphins at tight end.
  • Dion Sims: Miami’s fourth-round pick has been a pleasant surprise in training camp. Sims joined the Dolphins with the reputation as a big, blocking tight end. But Sims has showed more athleticism and catching ability than originally advertised. He is already Miami’s best blocking tight end, so he was going to get playing time regardless. The Dolphins may need him more than originally thought.
  • Charles Clay: The versatile H-back has played both tight end and fullback in Miami’s offense. But Clay is not particularly special at either position, especially as a full-time player. The Dolphins have been using Clay as a fullback more this year in training camp and the preseason. But that may have to change. He could revert to playing mostly tight end if needed.
  • Michael Egnew: The Dolphins have waited more than a year for the light to go on for Egnew, who is a 2012 third-round pick. This is a golden opportunity for him to prove his worth under dire circumstances. Egnew has a lot of natural ability as a pass-catcher. He's big and can run well. However, Egnew's inconsistency and struggles with blocking have kept him off the field. Egnew must continue to work to gain the trust of Miami’s coaching staff. He should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in the coming weeks.
The Dolphins also could look to free agency, but at this point, it's slim pickings at tight end. Their best chance for now is to develop the players they have in-house and try to get them ready for the regular season.
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.

[+] EnlargeDion Jordan
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyInjuries have slowed No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan thus far.
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.

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