Here are 10 observations from the first two weeks of Miami Dolphins training camp:
1. Linebackers were the most interesting unit in the Dolphins’ first depth chart. Melvin Ingram is listed as an outside starter on Andrew Van Ginkel. It does not matter because both will play. The point here is that they like Ingram just as much, although the more important point is whether the August Ingram will be the same as the December and January Ingram. He is 33 years old and has a history of injuries. He’s had stoppages at two top-tier franchises, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, the past two seasons and hasn’t stuck. But if the Dolphins are closing in on the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, they’ve found someone valuable. We’re still in the message-sending part of an NFL, so we don’t know if the message from the Dolphins is that they love Ingram that much or want to push Van Ginkel. Maybe both?
2. A few things about the Dolphins tampering penalties for recruiting Tom Brady back in the days from New England and Sean Payton from New Orleans:
A. Did New England owner Robert Kraft push the NFL to penalize the Dolphins, as a league source suggests? It’s unclear how much of an influence his voice had on the proceedings, but you can understand Kraft’s anger upon realizing Dolphins-in-waiting owner Bruce Beale signed Brady in his senior year from the Patriots in 2019. Still, for a tampering of historic significance, according to the NFL commissioner, being penalized with a first-round pick in 2024 and a third-round pick next year isn’t a staggering penalty. Why? Because every team traffics. The league has had to deal with a flood of cases. Of course, none seem to do it as overtly as the Dolphins in this instance.
B. The league source also offered what he says is a ‘league-wide belief’: ‘The fact that Don Yee was Brady’s agent and Payton says he told their story on tampering provided they don’t suffer any penalties or even reprimands from the league. That’s the other half of this story. How do you handle if a contracted player argues with a team? Is it allowed?
3. A month away from the 9/11 home opener at Hard Rock Stadium, let’s take a look at what the New England offense looks like with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge in some undefined roles to lead it. Take this from longtime Patriots reporter Greg Bedard:
“Hands down the worst attacking start in camp,” he tweeted from Monday’s practice before listing the plays: False start 77, Stuff Incomplete, Stuff at handoff, Sack Flat 1yd would have been exploded if he was live, Incomplete, Sack on a waggle 1 yard pass exploded by Wilson, Stuff 5 yard flat for Meyers.
And ESPN’s Mike Reiss: “A thought after watching the Patriots offense look effective at 7-on-7 but notably struggle in several 11-on-11s: It might be time to give (legendary Patriots offensive line coach ) Dante Scarnecchia a call for an independent assessment.
Here’s the counter-read to this: The Patriots’ defense has to be great?
4. If the Dolphins even get anything in a trade for Preston Williams, general manager Chris Grier is the first leader of the manager of the year. Is there really a market for a player who went undrafted, played in half the games in three years due to injury, and had a catch for seven yards in 2021? The Dolphins made him compete for a job for the first time since his rookie training camp. The results speak. So, yeah, listing him as a second team is either to bolster his (cough) business value or…
5. It’s a statement of how thin this Dolphins receiving body is. Remember when general manager Jeff Ireland said on HBO Hard Knocks that he had “four, five and six” in his receiving squad but needed to find “ones, twos and threes?” This is the reverse problem. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the No. 1 receivers. Cedric Wilson is No. 3 and it looks like rookie Eric Ezukanma is No. 4 in training camp. Undrafted rookie Braylon Sanders looks like a player you want to develop into the practice squad. But then? What about Lynn Bowden Jr., River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield? A team usually has a wide receiver for special teams and that could be Cracraft. Recall that there have been no receivers yet, so they are usually overrated in summer training.
6. The high-end talent and good camp work of this list is evident and commendable. The depth of this roster is the concern – just as it is on many teams. The healthiest team often wins. It’s not just the offensive line and receivers where the Dolphins need to look for help. Look at the cornerback. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are as good a unit as any team. Nik Needham is a solid third cornerback. But after that? Noah Igbinoghene is listed as the fourth cornerback and he was unable to enter the field his first two years. Has he progressed so much? The saying in football is that you can never have enough attacking tackles and cornerbacks. The Dolphins need to be on the lookout for cornerbacks, just like many teams.
7. The three players the Dolphins can’t lose this season: Hill, cornerback Xavien Howard and left tackle Terron Armstead. Hill is the most dynamic player on the team, maybe in the league. Howard is not only a game-changer, but frees up the defense to do a lot of things. Armstead is the anchor on an offensive line. It’s not just their talent, however. Again, it’s depth. Look at the line. There are three questionable players in new positions: center Connor Williams, right tackle Austin Jackson and left guard Liam Eichenberg.
8. That said, remember when the Dolphins constantly juggled players across the offensive line throughout last training camp? Eichenberg started at right tackle, moved to guard, then had time at left tackle. His head must have been spinning. This coaching staff made decisions about where to place players and let players sink or swim in those positions all summer. We’ll see how it goes in combined training with Tampa Bay and preseason. But it gives them the best chance of succeeding.
A. Speaking of the Patriots camp, DeVante Parker is listed as a second-team receiver. That can’t be the reason they traded him, but Parker was among the worst receivers to be parted in the last three years. His only big year came when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw jump balls at him. He can get them. The question is do you want a one-turn receiver like this.
B. Which team will sign former Cleveland center JC Tretter?
C. Tackle Mekhi Becton suffering from a knee injury that knocked him out last season is just about the worst news the New York Jets could have in August.
10. A reminder: The fun part of summer is that young players take developmental steps. That’s why hope and optimism are blooming in almost every team right now. Mike McDaniel has done a great job of changing the feeling around this team to one of hope and optimism. But with the combined training in Tampa and the preseason, we’ll start to get a better sense of the milestones some players have gone through.