The Miami Dolphins completed their 2014 training camp on Thursday. The feeling of getting through the grind of hot, physical practices never gets old for players, whether they're a rookie or a 10-year veteran.
ESPN.com’s Dolphins page attended all 15 training camp practices for Miami this summer. Here are five things we learned about the Dolphins:
1. Bill Lazor is a good addition
Analysis: I really like Lazor’s approach on offense. It is refreshing to see the route combinations, fast tempo, quick decisions and pre-snap motions all put in to confuse a defense. A lot of what Miami’s offense is doing just makes sense. That hasn’t always been the case in the past two years under former Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It remains to be seen if Miami’s personnel can handle all the things Lazor aims to accomplish. Lazor is pushing his players -- and particularly quarterback Ryan Tannehill -- hard in training camp. At some point, Lazor will have to scale back once he figures out the mental and physical capacity of his players. But after seeing this offense up close almost on a daily basis, the concepts are solid.
2. Linebacker experiment doesn’t look promising
Analysis: The Dolphins’ defense was 24th against the run last season. Much of the blame went towards the linebackers, which couldn’t stop the run and also struggled against play-action passes defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. With the Dolphins tied into high-priced, multi-year contracts, they were stuck with the trio of Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe as their 2014 starters. The only solution was to rearrange the positions. Miami’s coaches moved Misi to middle linebacker and Ellerbe to outside linebacker in hopes of getting better play from both linebackers. This experiment hasn’t looked good. The tackling remains suspect and neither linebacker is great in coverage. The Dolphins are hoping another year in the system will result in significant improvement from this trio. There are still three preseason games remaining. But I didn’t see tangible evidence of improvement in training camp.
3. Jimmy Wilson is ready to start
Analysis: The Dolphins received bad news with the four-game suspension of starting safety Reshad Jones for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. But Miami groomed backup safety Jimmy Wilson three years for this moment. Wilson, a former seventh-round pick, has been solid from Day 1 this offseason. He has consistently made plays as the backup safety and nickel cornerback. This week that continued when Wilson was promoted to a starter in training camp. It does not appear the drop off from Jones to Wilson will be large. It will be up to Wilson to take advantage of the opportunity. So far that has been the case.
4. The Dolphins have too many receivers
Analysis: If I’m an opposing team with a need at wide receiver, I would closely watch Miami’s upcoming roster cuts. Multiple receivers have flashed in training camp, and the team could be six or seven deep at the position. I anticipate the Dolphins will cut a receiver (or two) who can make a 53-man roster elsewhere. A player such as Armon Binns, for example, could very well become expendable in Miami but a productive backup elsewhere. In addition, the Dolphins could have solid receivers who don’t see the field. Rishard Matthews and/or Damian Williams could be the final two receivers on Miami’s 53-man roster but won’t get playing time without injuries. The Dolphins should consider trading one of their low-level receivers to see if they can help depth at another position that isn’t deep.
5. Dolphins have cornerback depth
Analysis: It remains to be seen whether veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan, 30, can stay healthy for 16 games. But the Dolphins must feel good about their depth with the emergence of second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. The 2013 second- and third-round picks, respectively, are coming into their own this summer. Both Taylor and Davis stayed around the football and made plays in training camp. It has to provide the coaching staff comfort.