Can I find little nuggets of hope in Dolphins training camp?
Prognosticators (including myself, I will admit), don't see the 2012 Miami Dolphins doing much of anything this season. There's good reason for that—this team is rebuilding even though they themselves refuse to admit it.
But rebuilds can be fun when you know that the team will be better in the future; a feeling that I see myself with this team. It starts in training camp, where many players have managed to set themselves up for this season and beyond.
But what players have impressed the most up in Davie in the first week of training camp? Who should you have your eyes on come August 10th? What players will upset you if you see them cut on Hard Knocks?
Here's a look at five players who have impressed many at Dolphins training camp after their first week.
We start off with the No. 1 contender for the Dolphins starting quarterback slot in 2012.
David Garrard has been on target. Despite a very lackluster receiving corps, Garrard has put his receivers in position to make the necessary plays while in practice. One man he has impressed has been Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who had Garrard placed above a very prominent free agent Miami wound up missing out on:
...traveling partner Neil Hornsby made a list of the top quarterback performances we'd seen on our (so far) eight-camp trip. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were at the top of his list; I agreed. After that, he had Carson Palmer, and then Peyton Manning. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought Garrard should be no lower than four -- ahead of Manning. He was terrific consistently through practice, hitting a bomb to promising free agent Roberto Wallace down the right side, throwing well on the run across his body, and, in general, looking extremely comfortable in a West Coast offense, which is new for him. "This guy's got something to him,'' said Philbin. "I like what I've seen." I'm told he's looked the best overall in Miami's camp work.
When Peter King has you ranked ahead of Peyton Manning and just below Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers, that could be a really good sign.
Statements made by the Dolphins coaching staff have given us the feeling that Garrard would be the starter after training camp, but King's assessment plus the fact that Garrard has taken the majority of first-team snaps have all but confirmed it.
Once we see Garrard back in game action, this will truly be confirmed.
Lamar Miller was officially cleared to practice with pads on Sunday, but since then he has impressed his Miami Dolphins teammates with his speed.
Center Mike Pouncey has already called Miller "the most exciting player to watch" because of his ability to find open running lanes. Cornerback Sean Smith opined that Miller "has great vision for a running back. Every day he (breaks) at least one (good run).”
Those who watched the rookie while he starred at the University of Miami aren't surprised by the praise he's received. However, his role in the Dolphins' new West Coast Offense will allow him to showcase that speed not only at running back, but also catching passes out of the backfield.
It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Miller lining up at wide receiver from time to time too, since Miami is perhaps their deepest at the running back position with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas also sharing carries.
However, many—including myself and Sun-Sentinel Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly—believe that Miller is destined for bigger things for the Dolphins beyond 2012.
"Lamar Miller is the future if he stays healthy," tweeted Kelly. Words that many Dolphins fans hope is the truth.
Since his days at "The U", the hair of Olivier Vernon has always gotten people talking.
While that's no different this training camp (according to Randy Starks' interview with Marc Hochman and Jonathan Zaslow on 790theticket.com, the hair is a part of the Dolphins' hazing ritual), his play on the field has gotten the veterans talking the most.
One player who Vernon has frustrated the most has been Jake Long. While Vernon getting past Long has at times almost caused the two to fight, Long had this to say about the rookie, "I have a lot respect for how he's playing. We go hard against each other. I think we're making each other better."
Long's new teammate along the offensive line Artis Hicks has also been impressed with Vernon, stating:
"Now that I'm here and I see what these guys really can do, man I'm glad I'm playing with them. (Vernon's) nice, man. This guy can move. And him with Cameron Wake opposite each other, they're gonna put a lot of pressure on the outside pocket. And when that quarterback goes to step up, guess what. You've got (Randy) Starks and big Paul (Soliai) in the middle pushing backwards, so that pocket's gonna collapse on a lot of quarterbacks this year."
At times, Vernon's talent was tough to see with the Hurricanes. However, it's coming out to the veterans and coaching staff this training camp. As Vernon continues to improve, Miami's already tough front seven will only get tougher, which will be bad news for quarterbacks around the NFL.
One look at the Dolphins receiving corps and other than Chad Ochocinco, you don't see much.
Davone Bess is a fine option as your third or fourth wide receiver, but not a No. 2 guy.
Brian Hartline seems to be hurt all the time now a days as he is nursing a calf injury after an offseason that included an emergency appendectomy (to go along with other injuries he's sustained throughout his still relatively short career).
Everyone else seems to be just fighting for a roster spot; but one man who might already have one sewn up is Roberto Wallace.
Wallace has already seemed to have earned the trust of David Garrard, who said, "Roberto is going to be a pretty good receiver in this league. When he puts it all together, he can be a big talent."
Joe Philbin would add about Wallace and Julius Pruitt prior to training camp:
“You like their body types. They’ve caught the ball very well. You watch them run around the field, they’re the first guys in their drills and they’re hustling.
“I love their attitude. I think they have good skill. I think they run well. I think they have good hands. I think those two guys definitely have a future and I’m excited to see what they’re going to do during training camp.”
The question about Wallace hasn't been when he puts it all together, but if he'll ever get the chance.
With such a shallow receiving corps as well as his play in training camp, 2012 looks to be the year he gets that chance.
I've bashed Ryan Tannehill a lot since the end of the 2011 NFL season (when he wasn't even a Dolphin yet).
After comparing the young man to the cutest looking girl at a club at 4 a.m., I then criticized his holdout as a "bad sign" for his future. While the commenters seemed to think that the holdout was all on the Dolphins side and saw Tannehill as the next Aaron Rodgers, I saw the holdout as an advertisement of his lack of confidence and compared him to such lofty names as JaMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart.
Then Tannehill signed and took the field last Sunday, seemingly on a quest to prove me wrong. Let me tell you, I'm trying to keep my guard up and not get hurt by this kid the way I did with Henne, Beck and Feely in years past. It's not working, this kid's got the goods.
His command of the offense has been outstanding. Does it help that he has his former college head coach as offensive coordinator? Yes, but that doesn't always translate in the NFL.
(When Steve Spurrier took over the Washington Redskins in 2002, two of his quarterbacks were his own former Florida quarterbacks—Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise apparently weren't available.)
The players have also raved about Tannehill's accuracy and velocity.
So far, I can't say a bad thing about the Ryan Tannehill-era except for the fact that if all goes well for the Dolphins this year, it won't officially start until 2013 at the earliest.
Just know that right now, my mind is starting to change on him, I am willing to eat crow. Just forgive me for being cautious, for it was only two years ago that I thought Chad Henne would eventually lead us to the Super Bowl. I just don't want to get burned again.
Monday, I'll have a full write up on Tannehill and his progress this training camp.