Miami Dolphins: Cortland Finnegan

Training camp is a time for optimism around the NFL. Every team believes it has a legitimate shot at the playoffs -- and some teams even believe they are Super Bowl bound.

SportsNation

What is Miami's biggest reason for optimism?

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    61%
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    28%
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    7%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,139)

The Miami Dolphins, coming off an 8-8 season, have reason to believe they can end their five-year playoff drought. But what is the biggest reason for optimism?

Is it first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor? The Dolphins hired Lazor to jumpstart Miami’s 27th-ranked offense from a year ago. Lazor is speeding up the tempo and adding new concepts to Miami’s offense. The Dolphins only averaged 19.8 points per game last season.

What about starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill? He is 15-17 as a starter but has shown flashes throughout the past two seasons. Many quarterbacks make the leap in their third season. Will Tannehill do the same?

Finally, could it be Miami's offseason additions? The Dolphins signed free-agent left tackle Branden Albert, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Cortland Finnegan, in addition to draft picks such as right tackle Ja’Waun James and receiver Jarvis Landry. Will these pieces get the Dolphins over the hump?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on Miami’s biggest reason for optimism. You can share your thoughts below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.

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.
Training camp is just around the corner for the Miami Dolphins. Later this summer there will be plenty of interesting position battles to watch throughout the roster.

This week ESPN.com’s Dolphins page takes a look at several key competitions. On Wednesday, we examine the cornerback position.

Position battle: Cornerback

Competitors: Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis

Analysis: This three-way battle will be one of the most exciting positions to watch in training camp. Finnegan, Taylor and Davis vary in playing style and experience. This trio will battle for the opportunity to start opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes in Miami. All three players received first-team reps throughout the offseason. Each corner also made plays at different times. The final decision at cornerback probably won’t be made until late in camp and the preseason. Finnegan, Taylor and Davis are all capable of winning this competition. But barring injury, I expect Finnegan’s vast experience to carry him through and make him the Week 1 starter.

Walker's pick: Finnegan
DAVIE, Fla. -- New Miami Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan stayed on the field for more than 20 minutes after the conclusion of a June practice. While other players were seeking refuge from the sweltering South Florida heat, Finnegan gave a lively tutorial to second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis on the nuances of press coverage.

"We're all trying to get better," Finnegan said afterward. "You're only as good as our second string and third string, and those guys are one play away from being in the game. So any time we can get them up to speed on everybody's level, I think it builds for a better football team."

In many ways, Finnegan can relate to Taylor and Davis. Finnegan, 30, says he feels like a young player trying to prove himself all over again. He has reached a crossroads in his career where he must show the Dolphins and the rest of the NFL that he still has good football ahead of him.

[+] EnlargeCortland Finnegan
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsMiami's coach appreciates the way Cortland Finnegan has interacted with the team's young players.
It wasn't long ago that Finnegan was viewed as one of the best and most physical cornerbacks in the league. After six years with the Tennessee Titans, he signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 -- and things gradually went downhill from there. The Rams released him after his injury-plagued 2013 season.

The Dolphins showed faith in Finnegan by signing him to a two-year, $11 million contract. The early reports from Miami coaches have been positive that Finnegan could be due for a bounce-back season.

"I love the way, first and foremost, that he's fit into the chemistry of the defense," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin explained. "He's a very passionate player. He's a guy that comes to work every single day with purpose. He practices hard every day. He spends a lot of time with our younger guys.

"He's got experience, he's got a history of production in this league. But now, at the stage of his career, it's also about kind of showing a great example for younger players to follow. That's another part I really liked, and I think he's caught on to the system well."

When Finnegan was at his best, he was an agitator. He was scrappy, got under opponents' skin and never backed down. (Simply search YouTube for his battles with Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson). Finnegan, who played in the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season, was the type of player you loved to have on your team but hated to play against.

Somewhere along the way, things changed for Finnegan. NFL fines and penalties began to add up, and Finnegan altered his game. He acknowledged this offseason that some opponents felt he was a "jerk" on the football field and that it might be time to embrace that part of his game again -- but within reason.

"I play with an edge, and I've learned to control that throughout the years if you've looked with the fines going down," Finnegan explained earlier this offseason. "At the same time, I want to bring that same tenacity and spunk and everything that I had, that maybe I was missing. I know a lot of people say maybe there was something missing -- maybe that's what it was.

"You always want to play within the confines of the game, but at the same time you have to be you. You don't want to hurt the team, but also you want to play with the same edge that got you where you're at."

Injuries also were an issue for Finnegan last season in St. Louis, as hamstring and eye problems kept him out of nine games. Even the Dolphins this offseason managed Finnegan's reps in an effort to keep him fresh for the regular season. Finnegan did not participate in Miami's minicamp or team scrimmage.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Matt Williamson isn't convinced Finnegan will regain the form he showed in Tennessee.

"I think he has really declined since his Titans days," Williamson said. "But he's tough, smart and should provide great leadership to young Dolphins corners. He's best in the slot now."

The Dolphins, however, hope to strike gold again at cornerback.

A year ago, Miami signed Brent Grimes to a team-friendly, one-year contract. Grimes had suffered a torn Achilles tendon the previous season as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, and the Dolphins were unsure how quickly he could bounce back -- but he had arguably the best year of his career and made his second Pro Bowl. Miami, in turn, signed Grimes to a four-year, $32 million extension this offseason.

Finnegan has an opportunity to take the same path in Miami. Although he and Grimes are the same age, Finnegan has sought out advice from his new teammate.

"[I'm] just trying to see what he can tell me, as far as some things to work on," Finnegan said. "I think just jelling that way has been big for us. We're going to feed off of one another because he's a Pro Bowl player and I definitely want to get to his level again."
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins officially put a bow on their 2014 offseason last week following the conclusion of mandatory minicamp. Miami had three consecutive days of spirited practices and ESPN.com's Dolphins blog was there to take in all the action.

Here are five things we learned about the Dolphins in minicamp:

1. Tannehill, offense shows growth

[+] EnlargeOlivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeAfter struggling on Day 1 of minicamp, Ryan Tannehill and the offense made strides.
Thoughts: To put it bluntly, the first day of minicamp was a disaster for Miami's offense and third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins gave up four sacks, threw three interceptions and was sloppy overall in team drills. Even the mild-mannered Tannehill became frustrated and yelled at his receivers. It appeared the defense would dominate the offense during this three-day camp. Miami's defense mostly has been together for three seasons, while the offense is in transition under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. But Tannehill and the offense showed growth in Day 2 and Day 3 with more even performances. Lazor's group must continue to make strides in training camp in order to not become the weak link of the team to start the regular season.

2. Hope for second-year players

Thoughts: It is well documented that the Dolphins got very little from their rookie class last season. Miami had the third fewest snaps from rookie players in 2013, and many in South Florida had written off players from that class as draft busts in the making. But as the offseason progressed and peaked at minicamp, second-year players such as guard Dallas Thomas, defensive end Dion Jordan and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis made more and more plays in practice, proving that there is hope for Miami's much-maligned 2013 draft class. Miami's second-year players could play a key role in whether the Dolphins make the jump this year from an average team to a team with playoff potential. All the aforementioned players had a productive offseason.

3. Offensive line still a work in progress

Thoughts: The Dolphins' two offensive lines in the white-and-aqua scrimmage allowed seven sacks. That stat was reminiscent of last season, when Miami's offensive line allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks in 16 games. The Dolphins invested a lot of money and resources into this group with the expectation that the pass protection with be much better. Miami paid $47 million for Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. The Dolphins also spent a first-round draft pick on rookie right tackle Ja'Waun James and signed guard Shelley Smith in free agency. With four new starters, Miami's offensive line must get on the same page in training camp.

4. Dolphins in relative good shape

Thoughts: This is the time of year when freak injuries happen in the NFL. Around the league there have been several injuries during the offseason program. The Dolphins are fortunate to not be one of those teams to suffer anything catastrophic. Miami did a good job with maintenance of veteran players such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive tackle Jared Odrick, wide receiver Brandon Gibson and linebacker Koa Misi. The only player to keep an eye on in the next month is running back Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins kept him out of minicamp and has been mum on his injury, but Profootballtalk.com reports Moreno has an ailing knee. Moreno is competing for a starting job at running back with Lamar Miller and must be healthy in order to win the job.

5. Receiver position toughest to gauge

Thoughts: Miami's coaching staff will have a tough time in training camp narrowing the roster down to six receivers. The Dolphins currently have a deep group of 13 receivers led by starters Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. But it's the various receivers behind them that will make it a tough decision. The Dolphins had various production from receivers at different times in minicamp and organized team activities. Players such as Gibson, rookie Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams, Armon Binns and Matt Hazel all had their moments. Miami will be looking for the most consistent receivers to step forward in training camp. The three-way competition at the slot position between Gibson, Landry and Matthews is particularly intriguing. It's been close the entire offseason.
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.
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.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins took the field for the first of three practices during mandatory minicamp. It was a high-energy first session in what serves as a preview to training camp.

Here are seven observations from Tuesday's practice:
  • It was a strong day for the Dolphins' defense. Miami's defense was disruptive all practice and, by my count, recorded three interceptions and at least four would-be sacks. (The defense is not allowed to hit quarterbacks in practice.) The Dolphins' defense has been together for three seasons and has been well ahead of the offense on days practice was open to the media. “There's going to be days where one side of the ball has the upper hand,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It looked like the back end and the linebackers, we were doing some good things from a coverage standpoint.”
  • Miami receiver Brandon Gibson continues to make progress from last year's season-ending patella tendon tear. Gibson participated in team drills for the first time this offseason. He still doesn't look 100 percent but is moving around relatively well. At this point Gibson looks well on pace to be ready by Week 1.
  • Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor had arguably his best practice of the offseason. Taylor, who got reps on the first team, recorded a sideline interception off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Taylor also showed some athleticism by blowing up a running play. Taylor was injured must of last year but is making strong strides this offseason.
  • The Dolphins' coaching staff is putting several veterans on the maintenance program during minicamp. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and cornerback Cortland Finnegan sat out team drills Tuesday. It is unknown if that will change during the week.
  • After a plan to renovate Sun Life Stadium was passed by the Miami-Dade County Commission in a 7-4 vote, Philbin credited owner Stephen Ross. “Most important to me is it shows the commitment our owner, Stephen Ross, has to making this a world-class organization,” Philbin said.
  • Miami rookie defensive end Terrence Fede had the play of the day. Fede, who is 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, dropped in coverage and made a leaping interception off Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore. Fede then advanced the ball about 10 yards as his defensive teammates celebrated.
  • Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan continues to flash in practice. He had another would-be sack on Tannehill coming off the corner. Jordan put on about 17 pounds of muscle since last year and looks ready to make a second-year jump after an ineffective rookie year.

Miami will continue its three-day minicamp on Wednesday morning.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The 2014 organized team activities (OTAs) are coming to a conclusion this week for the Miami Dolphins. There will be mandatory minicamp next week. Then, the Dolphins will take more than a month off before training camp.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page has attended every OTA open to the media. Here are some takeaways from the past three weeks:
  • Thomas
    The surprise player from spring practices has been second-year offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. The former third-round pick didn’t contribute anything during his rookie season. Not much was expected of Thomas, especially after the Dolphins drafted a similar player in 2014 third-round pick Billy Turner. But Thomas showed up for offseason workouts in good shape and is flashing good athleticism. He’s done enough to earn the inside track on the starting left guard position next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Thomas’ next task is to hold off Turner when the pads come on in training camp and the preseason.
  • Speaking of Turner, early impressions are he still has a lot to learn. Turner played left tackle last season at North Dakota State and is still working on improving leverage. From what I’ve seen, Turner still stands a little high at times and looks like a left tackle playing guard. Turner also needs to work on his punch. These are things that should improve with experience. But Turner is running out of time if he wants to be a Week 1 starter.
  • Thigpen
    The more practices that go by, the more I think Dolphins return specialist Marcus Thigpen won’t make the 53-man roster. Thigpen has been Miami’s primary kick returner the past two seasons. But with rule changes and less emphasis on kick returns, Thigpen’s value has decreased and he doesn’t offer much in other areas. The Dolphins have moved Thigpen from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but Thigpen isn’t making plays. If Miami can find a decent alternative to return kicks this preseason, Thigpen could be on the outs. Other possibilities include receivers Damian Williams and rookie Jarvis Landry.
  • Bill Lazor’s new offense is getting rave reviews in Miami. Many of the concepts the Dolphins’ first-year offensive coordinator is implementing make sense and are an improvement over last season’s offense under Mike Sherman. But one thing I noticed that could be risky is the amount of pressure Lazor’s scheme puts on the offensive line. There are a multitude of passing plays that involves four and five options. More eligible receivers mean less protection for the quarterback. Lazor is relying on his quarterback to make quick reads and get rid of the football, which is an area Ryan Tannehill must improve.
  • Finnegan
    Cortland Finnegan is starting to establish his role on the defense. He currently has the inside track to start at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. But Finnegan also is getting a look inside as the nickel cornerback on obvious passing downs. Finnegan is a physical cornerback, and the Dolphins believe those traits can help get the defense off the field on third down. Other possibilities for the nickel corner include versatile defensive backs Jimmy Wilson and Michael Thomas.

The Dolphins will wrap up their offseason program with mandatory minicamp June 17-19.

Hope and Concern: Cornerback

June, 12, 2014
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Training camps are less than two months away. In the meantime, we examine key questions with the team heading into an important season.

Next we take a look at the Miami Dolphins' cornerback position, which lost some veteran players to free agency.

Biggest reason for hope: Brent Grimes

Grimes had one of the best years of any cornerback in the NFL last year. By midseason opponents stopped throwing his way and attacked other corners, such as former Dolphins Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson. Grimes could have doubled his interceptions if he got more opportunities. Miami has one half of the field solidified, which can go a long way. The Dolphins also have the flexibility of putting their Pro Bowl cornerback on an opponent’s best receiver. It's a good luxury to have, regardless of what is going on at the other cornerback spots.

Biggest reasons for concern: Injuries and inexperience

The No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback spots are wide open. Aging veteran Cortland Finnegan is competing with second-year players Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. There are injury concerns with Finnegan, who struggled the past two seasons, and inexperience concerns with Taylor and Davis. Both young cornerbacks combined for just 104 snaps last season. The Dolphins believe Finnegan can revert to form. He signed a one-year contract this offseason and will be motivated to earn long-term security. Finnegan is the early leader to start. Taylor and Davis are both trying to make the second-year jump. The Dolphins need at least one of these young corners to provide depth to start or play in sub packages.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Tuesday from around the Web:
  • John Congemi of the Dolphins team site writes quarterback Ryan Tannehill must get the ball to the perimeter quickly and with accuracy.
Morning take: Bill Lazor's offense is fast and up-tempo. Tannehill must be the tone-setter for the entire group.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes second-year guard Dallas Thomas wants to make the most of his opportunities.
Morning take: Thomas did virtually nothing last year for the Dolphins but appears to be an improved player this offseason. He could be the Week 1 starter at left guard.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes the Dolphins’ running back competition is wide open.
Morning take: Incumbent starter Lamar Miller is the leader in the clubhouse. But the Dolphins signed Moreno because he's the more complete tailback. Can Moreno make up ground by September?
Morning take: If veterans such as Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas stay healthy, and youngsters like Jamar Taylor and Will Davis contribute, Miami could be on to something.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins second-year cornerback Jamar Taylor looks quicker and more explosive than he did a year ago. For the first time in his NFL career, he enters offseason workouts 100 percent healthy.

The Dolphins drafted Taylor in the second round last year despite a pre-draft kidney ailment and subsequent sports hernia that kept him out for most of the offseason. Taylor spent the regular season fighting off injuries and trying to earn playing time. He finished with just 40 snaps on defense.

[+] EnlargeJamar Taylor
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsJamar Taylor is looking to bounce back from an injury-marred rookie season.
But Taylor enters his second year with the Dolphins a more confident player. Taylor has a chance to earn a role on the defense and is out to prove he can live up to his pre-draft billing.

“It's getting there. He's definitely coming back out,” Taylor said recently during organized team activities (OTAs). “That person ya'll seen talk a lot, it's getting there. But I got to learn. I got to crawl before I can walk. I'm out here trying to pick these older guys' brain.”

Taylor is surrounded by veterans in the secondary such as safety Louis Delmas and cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan happens to be Taylor's biggest competition for a starting job this summer. The Dolphins are having a three-way battle between Taylor, Finnegan and Will Davis for the right to start at cornerback opposite Grimes.

If Taylor can win a starting job -- or even the nickel cornerback role -- it will be a sizable turnaround from last season.

“I think it's more motivation for myself. I have high expectations of myself,” Taylor said. “I can't really worry about what everyone else thinks, as long as I get the respect of my teammates, my coaches and myself.”

Last year wasn't just a poor start for Taylor. The entire 2013 Dolphins draft class had little production. Miami had the third-fewest snaps (1,126) by a rookie class in the NFL last year. Only the AFC champion Denver Broncos (1,066 snaps) and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (1,111 snaps) had less production from their rookies.

The Dolphins are hoping players such as Taylor, Davis, defensive end Dion Jordan and guard Dallas Thomas all can make the jump in Year 2 and find significant roles on the team this season.

“I think it was a learning experience for all of us,” Taylor said. “We all came here on our high horse and we got humbled real quick. I think we got to keep working. I expect all of us to do good, keep learning, play fast and compete.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins hit the practice field this week for their first full-squad practice open to the media.

There have been several stories written about the team from organized team activities, but I didn’t hit on everything. Here are some leftover notes from OTAs that caught my eye:
  • One of the big surprises to start OTAs was Dallas Thomas starting at left guard. Thomas was a non-factor in his rookie year. Miami tried him at guard and offensive tackle and Thomas failed to find a niche at either position. But the Dolphins’ coaching staff is showing early confidence in Thomas by making him the early leader to start next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Miami rookie third-round pick Billy Turner will compete with Thomas.
  • I like what new Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is doing with Mike Wallace. Lazor is moving Wallace in different spots in an effort to get him more opportunities. Lazor is a protégé of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, and they coached a similar receiver last year in DeSean Jackson. Former Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman didn’t properly use Wallace and the offense became stale and predictable.
  • Cornerback could be a position of depth this year. Brent Grimes is Brent Grimes, and Cortland Finnegan picked off quarterback Ryan Tannehill this week. Second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis also moved well and appear to be healthy. Finnegan, Taylor and Davis should have a healthy competition that will only make the trio better.
  • The Dolphins are not fully committed to using rookie receiver Jarvis Landry in the slot – at least not yet. Miami’s second-round pick was working in the slot and outside this week. Landry’s skills fit best in the slot, where he will compete with Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson. He has good hands, toughness and doesn’t have elite speed. Landry also is a candidate to field punts.
  • It appears Miami plans to use Nate Garner primarily as the backup left tackle. Miami is streamlining Garner’s workload mostly to back up Albert. Garner is Miami’s most versatile lineman with the ability to play all five positions. However, he wasn't particularly great at either position. Garner allowed a sack to Dolphins second-year defensive end Dion Jordan.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins second-year cornerback Jamar Taylor was all smiles this week during the opening of organized team activities. For the first time in his NFL career, he is 100 percent healthy and happy.

Taylor
Taylor, a 2013 second-round pick, had a nightmarish rookie season. A pre-draft kidney ailment and subsequent sports hernia set Taylor back from the start. He missed a majority of the offseason program and training camp. From there, Taylor spent the rest of the season playing catch up and ended up with just 40 total snaps. Taylor admitted to the Idaho Statesman that he even thought about walking away from football.

Fast forward to Tuesday where Taylor was in high spirits and candid with reporters. Taylor had a solid practice where he moved around well and appears to have his injuries behind him.

"I'm blessed -- that's the only word to describe it," Taylor explained. "When you're at your low, the only way to go is up. So it was humbling, it was very humbling.

"Coming out, you do so much in college and you see that this is the real deal. You're one-step behind and you can't be one-step behind. This is like an all-star team."

Taylor is competing with veteran Cortland Finnegan and fellow second-year player Will Davis for a starting job. Finnegan is getting the initial chance to start with first-team reps because of his experience. Taylor or Davis currently are playing in sub packages.

Miami did not get much from its rookie class last year. The Dolphins were ranked 30th in the NFL in rookie snaps with 1,126. Only the AFC champion Denver Broncos (1,066) and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (1,111) had fewer snaps.

First-round pick Dion Jordan, Taylor and third-round picks Davis and Dallas Thomas are all expected to compete for roles and provide depth this year. Any production in 2014 from this group would be an upgrade over last season.

"I think it was a learning experience for all of us," Taylor said of Miami's 2013 draft class. "We all came here on our high horse and we got humbled real quick. I think we got to keep working. I expect all of us to do good, keep learning, play fast and compete."
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor was all over the place during the team’s start of organized team activities Tuesday.

There were a few dropped passes, poor timing and some badly thrown balls by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Dolphins veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan took advantage on one play to pick off Tannehill towards the end of practice to cap off a shaky day for the offense.

The practice essentially looked like a defense that has been in the same system for three seasons facing an offense still learning the playbook for the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is learning a new scheme as he enters a pivotal season in his development.
“Just walking off the field -- I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of the video yet -- but I think some of the basic things that need to get corrected,” a candid Lazor said. “Number one would be communication offensively. If we are not all on the same page, we’ve got a very low chance of being successful. Some of the times you saw some mistakes where we saw mistakes, we weren’t together.”

Similar to the offense, it also was a shaky start to OTAs for Tannehill. He enters a huge season -- the third-year quarterback must prove he is the long-term solution. Tannehill, a former first-round pick, is 15-17 in two non-playoff seasons.

But here is the wildcard: Tannehill is learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career. Will it be a smooth transition or will Tannehill have a steep learning curve? No one knows for sure.

Tannehill had run the same offensive system under former Dolphins offensive coordinator and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman since college. Sherman recruited Tannehill out of the high school and tailored the offense at the college and pro levels around Tannehill's abilities. That helped Tannehill become a starter right away during his rookie year in Miami. He has gone on to make 32 consecutive starts for the Dolphins.

But Lazor was hired to take Tannehill's game to the next level. Lazor comes to Miami with his own ideas of how to run an offense. Some early and noticeable differences are the multiple formations, up-tempo style and many quick-hitting plays.

Lazor coached with the Philadelphia Eagles last season under Chip Kelly and is bringing many of those principles to Miami. It will be up to Tannehill to make a quick adjustment for Miami’s offense to take flight.

“There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight,” Tannehill said. “It’s going to take some time, not just for me but for all of our guys. The receivers are running routes that they haven’t run before doing adjustments that we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be a learning curve, but that’s what this time is for.”

It’s too early to be concerned about one questionable practice from Tannehill. There certainly will be some growing pains, especially in the spring. But Tannehill must start to show more consistency in Miami’s new offense.

The Dolphins cannot afford a slow start offensively in what is a very important year for many in the organization. Miami will have three tough tests right off the bat against the New England Patriots (Week 1), Buffalo Bills (Week 2) and Kansas City Chiefs (Week 3). The Patriots and Chiefs are playoff teams from last season, and Buffalo swept Miami last season.

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