Miami Dolphins: Cameron Wake

The Miami Dolphins have several question marks heading into the 2014 season. Fortunately for them, the defensive line is not one of them.

Vernon
Vernon
Miami has steadily built a strong collection of talent on the defensive line the past few years, via the draft and free agency. The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s deepest groups of defensive ends with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, valuable backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miami also has a strong rotation of defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell.

The Dolphins must rely on this deep group for production as well as leadership this season.

“All of us defensive linemen talked to each other, and we pretty much know what we have to do, especially when it comes to game-time situations,” Vernon said recently. “When it comes down to it, the D-line is the heart and soul of the defense. If we’re not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart. So that’s one thing we’re trying to focus on now going into the season.”

Vernon was Miami’s biggest breakout star last season. The 2012 third-round pick made a significant jump in Year 2 from a rookie backup to leading the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He followed up by having a strong offseason and looks primed for another solid year.

Wake, Starks and Odrick have been consistent producers for Miami. Mitchell signed a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason after the Dolphins lost Paul Soliai in free agency. The defensive line, on paper, should be one of Miami’s strengths.

“I would say just wait for the pads to come on,” Vernon explained. “I know what kind of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. I’m not the type of person [that] I don’t want to show what we have. I think all of us on the D-line will show what we have.”

Miami’s defense faces a new challenge this year in training camp. The Dolphins are implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami aims to use an up-tempo style with a lot of motion and formations to confuse and dictate to the defense. The Dolphins’ defense will see plenty of these elements in training camp, which starts on Friday.

“They’re doing a lot of things I’ve never seen before,” Vernon said. “They’re moving fast. [Quarterback Ryan] Tannehill is taking control and he’s showing his leadership ability, and a lot of guys are impressive.”

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Examining the Miami Dolphins’ roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


The only question here is whether Devlin can hold off undrafted rookie Brock Jensen for the No. 3 quarterback job. Neither quarterback stood out in the offseason, but Devlin has the slight edge because of experience.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

The Dolphins would like to have someone step up and challenge Thomas. Undrafted rookie Damien Williams from Oklahoma could be a sleeper to watch. But it's too premature to put Williams on the 53-man roster over the veteran Thomas before the pads come on.

RECEIVERS (6)

This is a deep group with a lot of competition. Williams will be pushed for the final spot by Armon Binns and rookie Matt Hazel, who is practice-squad-eligible.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses some two-tight-end sets. So there might be room for a fourth player such as Dion Sims. But we are sticking with three for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Pouncey’s hip injury puts a major dent in this much-maligned group to start the season. Miami will have five new starters in Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

This is the strongest area of the team. The Dolphins can come at opponents in waves in the trenches.

LINEBACKERS (7)

This group must improve its play from 2013. The Misi experiment at middle linebacker is particularly important to watch.

CORNERBACKS (6)

This is a solid mix of youth and experience. As long as second-year players Taylor and Davis come of age and Finnegan stays healthy, the depth will be improved from a year ago.

SAFETIES (4)

This group is all about position flexibility. All four players must be able to play back in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This trio will remain the same for the second straight year.
DAVIE, Fla. -- To a man, there is still doubt within the Miami Dolphins' locker room that the high-profile scandal involving former offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito was a result of poor leadership. The NFL's investigation detailed in the Ted Wells report only furthered that national view of the team.

That has put leadership as one of the top items that will help make the Dolphins successful in 2014. The roster has talent. But last year's scandal and late-season collapse cost Miami a playoff berth.

According to Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, lack of leadership isn't an issue.

"Obviously, it's unfortunate what happened [last season] and we're not going to dive too deep into that," Wake said. "But, as a whole, you look around this team [and] there are guys that may be vocal or guys that maybe do it by example. We have leaders all over the place."

Wake is part of a defensive line that must provide leadership on and off the field. In addition to Wake, arguably the team's best player, Miami's defensive line also has 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, dynamic second-year player Dion Jordan and veteran defensive tackles Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Earl Mitchell.

On paper, defensive line is the deepest area of the team and will be expected to set the tone on a weekly basis.

"When it comes down to it, the D-line's the heart and soul of the defense and, if we're not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart," Vernon said. "That's just one thing we're trying to focus on now and make sure it goes into the season."

Many in South Florida and around the country will be monitoring the Dolphins' locker-room leadership this upcoming season. It will still take the team coming together and leadership if Miami wants to end its five-season playoff drought.

"I was never of the impression that [leadership] was lacking. But, just like I don't feel like my strength is lacking or my conditioning is lacking, I'm going to work on that as well," Wake said. "Working on leadership, making it a more prominent part of our organization, I don't see anything wrong with that."
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Friday from around the Web:
  • Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today writes the Dolphins need quarterback Ryan Tannehill to develop in order to take the next step.
Morning take: Tannehill is 15-17 entering his third year and that’s not good enough. Tannehill must lead Miami to the playoffs this season.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post reports history is on Tannehill's side.
Morning take: Many quarterbacks and players in general make a jump in their third season. Tannehill is capable of doing the same.
  • Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel writes Dolphins backup defensive end Derrick Shelby has benefited from working out with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake.
Morning take: Wake’s workouts are well revered in Miami. He takes his fitness serious and now other teammates are feeding off it.
  • Zach Dean of the Dolphins team site takes a look at the journey of rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
Morning take: James is a long-time starter at Tennessee who is expected to start in Week 1. He hopes his playing experience helps right away.
Earlier this week we posed an interesting question to Miami Dolphins fans: Who is currently the face of the franchise?

The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and are seeking an identity. Part of that is having an identifiable franchise player to count on week in and week out.

According to more than 50 percent of Dolphins fans, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the face of Miami’s franchise. Tannehill is entering his third season and is just 15-17 as a starter. This could be a make-or-break year for Tannehill to make the playoffs in Miami. Rarely do quarterbacks get four years to prove they are a franchise quarterback. Still, Dolphins fans remain confident in Tannehill’s potential.

In second place was Miami Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, who received more than 30 percent of the vote. Wake has been a defensive leader for the past several years and the Dolphins’ most consistent player.

No other person received much consideration. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and center Mike Pouncey received less than 10 percent of the vote combined. Thanks to all who participated in our SportsNation poll.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins shook things up on the final day of mandatory minicamp. Instead of a typical practice, head coach Joe Philbin staged a full-scale scrimmage between the aqua team led by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the white team led by No. 2 quarterback Matt Moore.

In the end Moore's white team won, 16-13, in a game that came down to the final play. Players were happy to get a taste of their first "game" situations of the 2014 season.

"It's exciting to be in this type of atmosphere," Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry said after the scrimmage. "We've been talking a lot about bringing that intensity to the field, and I think the guys came with it today in practice. Hopefully, it carries on when we return."

The Dolphins will take about a month off before returning to the field for training camp.

Here are some additional notes from Thursday's scrimmage:

  • [+] EnlargeOlivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill
    AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeOlivier Vernon was one of the stars of Friday's scrimmage, notching 2.5 sacks.
    The most lopsided battle was Miami's defensive line against its offensive line. The Dolphins' defensive line on both teams put on a dominant performance, which unofficially included eight total sacks. Olivier Vernon led the Dolphins with 2.5 sacks, including a pair against Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. "He's real, real good," Albert said after the scrimmage. "I didn't even know who he was until I got here. He's a good football player. He made some good plays. That's part of the game. He got better since I got here."
  • Dolphins rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James also struggled against Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake. The veteran defensive end showed an array of moves. Wake got a half sack against James and nearly got another sack that caused James to get a holding penalty. "His experienced level, his technical stuff, his hands, everything is good," James said of Wake. "You can't make many mistakes and I have to learn from it."
  • Tannehill had a decent outing for the aqua team. He threw his team's only touchdown pass with a beautiful 19-yard strike to receiver Armon Binns. Tannehill also made several connections to Landry and tight end Charles Clay that moved the chains. The primary reason his white team stalled was due to poor pass protection, which was a common theme from last season. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season.
  • Speaking of Landry, he looked more impressive in a game situation Thursday. Landry isn't the biggest or fastest receiver. But he has strong hands and runs good routes. Landry got open on several occasions and made some nice catches over the middle for first downs. He could be a "gamer" type of player -- one who doesn't wow you in practice but knows how to play well in real games.
  • Veteran players who sat out of Thursday's scrimmage included defensive lineman Jared Odrick, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, linebacker Koa Misi and running back Knowshon Moreno.
  • Former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor continues to assist the team's coaching staff and work with Miami's young defensive linemen. According to Philbin, Taylor is always welcome to help but the Dolphins haven't finalized anything in terms of a full-time position. From the sound of it, Taylor could have a choice to join the team in some capacity as long as he's willing to put in the long hours.
  • Now that the offseason program is over, Philbin was asked to list several players who stood out. Philbin cited guard Dallas Thomas, receiver Rishard Matthews and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.
The Miami Dolphins have had several issues during their five-year playoff drought. But one of the biggest had been lack of leadership from top to bottom.

In the past, it was Dan Marino or Jason Taylor or Zach Thomas. Regardless of the era, there were certain players who developed leadership roles within the locker room and fans could readily identify with.

SportsNation

Who is the current face of the Dolphins' franchise?

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    58%
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    3%
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    34%
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    1%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,465)

That brings me to our latest poll question: Who is the current face of the Dolphins' franchise?

There are several candidates to choose from, starting at quarterback with Ryan Tannehill. He has a 15-17 record as a starter and enters a crucial year to prove he's the long-term solution. Only recently has he become more of a vocal leader.

Head coach Joe Philbin is another candidate. Like Tannehill, he also is 15-17 and enters the year on the hot seat after a pair of non-winning seasons. Is Philbin the current face of Miami's franchise, despite his status?

What about Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake? He has been the Dolphins' best player for a few years and takes care of business on the field. Wake is not a huge vocal leader in the locker room.

Finally, you have Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. He's one of the top centers in the NFL but had his share of off-the-field questions last year. Pouncey says his leadership isn't questioned among his teammates.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on the current face of the Dolphins franchise. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins completed Day 2 of mandatory minicamp on Wednesday. ESPN.com's Dolphins page was there to take in all the action.

Here are some notes and observations:
  • Wallace
    Wallace
    The offense had a bounce-back performance after a shaky outing on Tuesday. There were more explosive plays and less sloppiness. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a pair of nice touchdowns, to receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Michael Egnew, and backup quarterback Matt Moore connected on a deep throw to receiver Brian Hartline. Overall, it was about even between the offense and defense. Tannehill also threw two interceptions, to safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Cameron Wake. Neither side was dominant.
  • Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey returned Wednesday after sitting out the first day of minicamp. The offensive line performed much better with Pouncey in the lineup. Here is more good news for the Dolphins: They had perfect attendance for the second straight day. The Dolphins have no contract issues of note this year.
  • Linebacker Jelani Jenkins got an extended look with the starting defense. He is part of Miami’s 2013 draft class that is trying to make a jump in Year 2. The Dolphins held starting linebacker Koa Misi out of team drills. Starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan also sat out of team drills for the second day in a row.
  • With Finnegan out, second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis split first-team reps. Taylor is making the most of his reps so far with a solid minicamp. He intercepted Tannehill on Tuesday.
  • It’s only June, but second-year kicker Caleb Sturgis was perfect today on field goal attempts, including one from more than 50 yards. Sturgis has a strong leg but is aiming to improve his consistency in Year 2.
  • Backup offensive tackle Jason Fox is getting a look on the left and right side. As of June, it appears he’s the first offensive tackle coming off the bench in case there is an injury. Fox began the offseason competing with first-round pick Ja'Wuan James. But that has since stopped as Fox has played mostly as a backup to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert.
  • Miami will have an interesting competition this summer at kick returner. Wednesday’s returners were receivers Damian Williams, Matt Hazel, Rantavious Wooten and incumbent Marcus Thigpen.
The results are in from Miami Dolphins fans.

Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Dolphins page asked which player is most likely to be the team’s breakout candidate. There were several good choices, such as running back Lamar Miller, linebacker Koa Misi and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.

But the clear-cut choice from Miami fans was second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. In a landslide, the former No. 3 overall pick received about 68 percent of the vote. Jordan only recorded 26 tackles and two sacks last season.

Jordan packed on about 17 pounds of muscle compared to last spring and is aiming to develop into an all-around player. He will begin the year as a backup behind Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake and 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon.

Still, Jordan has a chance to make a sizable impact. Rushing the quarterback is paramount in the NFL and that is the biggest skill Jordan brings to the table. If Jordan is better against the run, he could put up solid numbers in 2014.
DAVIE, Fla. -- One of the Miami Dolphins creating the most buzz during organized team activities is defensive end Dion Jordan. The 2013 No. 3 overall pick played sparingly last season but still has a lot of potential to develop into a star player for Miami.

Joseph
Jordan
Jordan showed up to Dolphins camp noticeably bigger this spring. Jordan hit the weight room hard this offseason and bulked up to 265 pounds, which is about 17 pounds heavier than last year around this time. Jordan is turning a lot of heads with his increased strength while still maintaining his athleticism.

Here was Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's thoughts on his second-year defensive end:
"Oh yeah, but we have a different Dion (Jordan) as well. The thing was last year, we came very close in the preseason to have to make a decision whether or not we were going to basically redshirt Dion or know that we were going to get limited snaps from him. All of the talk in the offseason that centered around, ‘Well, he wasn’t utilized, he didn’t do that.’ Well, honestly, we knew going into the year that he had not had the offseason, that he was coming off of an injury and would it be in the best interest of our team to have him, even for limited snaps, we made that decision. Certainly, Dion wished he had a bigger rookie season and so do we, but we have great expectations for Dion Jordan coming into this year. You cannot have enough great pass-rushers and, we feel that with Dion at full speed, we have a prime-time player that’s going to explode this year.”

It is interesting to think Miami almost put Jordan on injured reserve last year following offseason shoulder surgery. Jordan didn’t get healthy until during the season, and by that point he was already behind in the rotation. It also didn’t help Jordan that starting defensive end Olivier Vernon emerged and led the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. Jordan finished with two sacks and 26 tackles off the bench. But backup experience for Jordan is better than no experience.

This year it will be up to Coyle and Miami’s coaching staff to find a way to get Jordan more reps. Cameron Wake and Vernon are the starters. But Jordan is putting in the work to become a better all-around player and needs more snaps to make an impact.
The Miami Dolphins are in Phase 3 of their offseason program. In two months training camp will begin as the team embarks on a very important year for many within the organization.

Over the past week, ESPN.com’s Dolphins page took a look at key members of the team and provided over/under totals for each player. Here were the poll results:

1. QB Ryan Tannehill

Over/under: 4,100 passing yards

Community vote: Over

Analysis: I was surprised how overwhelming the vote was. More than 80 percent of Dolphins fans voted for the “over.” Tannehill set career highs with 3,913 yards last season. A 4,100-yard passing season would be considered a success for the third-year quarterback and could go a long way to prove he’s the long-term solution. Tannehill’s biggest challenge this offseason is learning a new offense. He had an uneven practice earlier this week, although it’s way too early to be concerned.

2. RB Knowshon Moreno

Over/under: 900 rushing yards

Community vote: Over

Analysis: Moreno is coming off his first 1,000-yard rushing season with the Denver Broncos, and Dolphins fans feel he can challenge for another 1,000 yards. The “over” got about two-thirds of the vote. Miami felt the need to get a more complete running back and signed Moreno to a one-year “show me” contract. Critics believe Moreno got most of his rushing yards due to playing with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Moreno will not get the same wide-open rushing lanes playing with Tannehill. Moreno still has something to prove in Miami.

3. WR Mike Wallace

Over/under: 1,100 receiving yards

Community vote: Over

Analysis: Wallace recorded 930 receiving yards last season but missed on several opportunities for deep plays with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Dolphins fans are very confident Wallace will have a better second season in Miami. In a landslide, the “over” got approximately 77 percent of the vote for 1,100 yards. That would be a good season for Wallace in Miami, especially in a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

4. DE Olivier Vernon

Over/under: 10 sacks

Community vote: Over

Analysis: This was the closest vote in this group. Fewer than 60 percent of Dolphins fans voted for the “over.” Vernon is coming off a career year in 2013 when he recorded 11.5 sacks, which led the Dolphins. But Vernon could be pushed for playing time this year by 2013 No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan. Vernon is a more complete player at the moment, but Jordan has a higher ceiling. Still, Vernon has a chance to produce double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.

5. DE Cameron Wake

Over/under: 10.5 sacks

Community vote: Over

Analysis: Wake dealt with a nagging knee injury last season and finished with 8.5 sacks. But an overwhelming amount of Dolphins fans believe Wake is in for a huge, bounce-back season statistically. About 88 percent of Miami fans voted “over” for 10.5 sacks. Wake is one of the Dolphins’ best players and is consistent when healthy. He will also mentor younger pass-rushers Jordan and Vernon.
SportsNation

Will Dolphins DE Cameron Wake go over or under 10.5 sacks?

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    87%
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    13%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,978)

We continue to look at key Miami Dolphins players who must perform in 2014. Next, we take a look at Miami’s Pro Bowl defensive end.

Will Cameron Wake go over or under 10.5 sacks this season? Wake dealt with some injuries last year but still finished with 8.5 sacks. His performance was enough to make his third Pro Bowl.

Wake must stay healthy in 2014 in order to reach double-digits sacks again. He had 15 sacks during a career year in 2012. Wake most likely would have reached double digits for the second straight year if a knee injury did not hamper him early in the season. The Dolphins need Wake to provide a consistent pass-rush.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote over or under 10.5 sacks for Wake. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL
DAVIE, Fla. -- One of the first things that got the Miami media buzzing this week at the start of Miami Dolphins organized team activities was the noticeable transformation of second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. With bigger arms, broader shoulders and overall thickness to his upper body, it was clear Miami’s 2013 first-round draft pick spent a lot of offseason time in the weight room.

Jordan, for the first time in his career, now looks like a full-fledged NFL defensive end. According to Jordan, he is up to 265 pounds, which is 17 pounds more than he weighed a year ago coming out of the NFL draft.

Bigger is definitely better in Jordan's case.

“I needed it. I was too light to be out there trying to go against some of those offensive tackles,” Jordan said of his rookie year. “For me, it wasn’t mainly the weight, it was about getting stronger. I’m still young. I’m sure the weight is going to come. But in this league, it’s a grown man's league. So I have to make sure I’m strong enough.”

Jordan entered Miami with high expectations after being selected No. 3 overall a year ago. But he was limited to being a backup defensive end and special-teams player as a rookie.

The Dolphins' coaching staff was concerned about Jordan's strength last season to hold the point of attack against the run. He played primarily on third downs and obvious passing situations. Jordan finished his rookie season with just two sacks and 26 tackles.

Jordan believes his increased strength will help him become more of an every-down player. He is currently behind two quality veterans on the depth chart in Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake and 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon. Therefore, Jordan must make the most of his opportunities.

Jordan flashed his ability this week in practice when he easily beat Miami backup left tackle Nate Garner for a would-be sack on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Jordan hopes for more plays like that in the regular season, as the added bulk should lead to an increase in playing time.

“It's easier, as far as me being able to finish a play,” Jordan said of the added strength.

The Dolphins could certainly use more big plays from Jordan in 2014. Miami was 21st in overall defense last season and needs more playmakers to step forward.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes new Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton must change the play -- and culture -- of his group.
Morning take: Miami's offensive line had a disastrous year on and off the field in 2013. It will be Benton's job to make sure that does not happen again.
  • Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reports former Dolphins scout Nate Sullivan is threatening to sue the team for his recent dismissal.
Morning take: Sullivan was fired in May after working 17 seasons with the Dolphins. The potential lawsuit claims his working arrangement to live remotely in order tend to his ailing wife was the reason.
  • Steve Gorten of the Sun Sentinel writes new Dolphins tailback Knowshon Moreno will help quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Morning take: Moreno is coming off his first 1,000-yard season with the Denver Broncos. But where Moreno could really provide an upgrade for Tannehill is with blitz pickups and catching passes out of the backfield.
Morning take: Wake garnered a lot of respect around the NFL for his play. It is also commendable that Wake went undrafted, played in the CFL and worked his way to become a Pro Bowler.
ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues its series on the 2014 draft class. Next up, we take a look at Dolphins seventh-round pick Terrence Fede, who will look to join a deep group of defensive ends in Miami.

Here is a scouting report on Fede from Scouts Inc.:
"At 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, Fede has the frame and strength to hold up against the run. He was a productive pass-rusher at Marist and shows some bend rushing off the edge. He now needs to show he can adjust to the speed at the NFL level, but he's worth taking a chance on this late in this draft."

Fede was the fifth small-school rookie taken in this year’s NFL draft. He will have a major uphill battle to win a job on Miami’s 53-man roster. The Dolphins are already four deep at defensive end with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan and backup Derrick Shelby.

But here is some good news for Fede: Seventh-round picks have made the Dolphins out of training camp in the past two years. Wide receiver Rishard Matthews (2012) and defensive back Don Jones (2013) both earned their way on Miami’s roster despite their lowly draft status.

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