Miami Dolphins: What to Take Away from Hard Knocks Series
HBO's Hard Knocks has concluded after five episodes following around the Miami Dolphins through training camp and preseason.
The Dolphins provided more entertainment than a lot of people expected, with some unsuspecting personalities and new unknown story lines revealed. For Dolphins' fans, it was a great inside look at a new coaching regime and start of a new era in Miami.
Here are my observations and conclusions from the series as a whole.
Joe Philbin Is a No-Nonsense Coach
Philbin got his first big-time exposure on the show, and overall, I was impressed with him. To come in and take over the reigns of a struggling team, knowing that your every move is being filmed during your first training camp, is a tough task for anyone.
But Philbin showed that he knows how to run a practice, lead his staff, and interact with players. Whether or not he proves to be an apt game manager is yet to be seen though.
Throughout the episodes, it was obvious that Philbin will not put up with any players who are do not fall in line. He cut Chad Johnson and traded away Vontae Davis, two players that were disruptive and not producing up to their potential.
Philbin came down on players for being late to meetings, encouraged players who were slacking at practice, and reprimanded his team at halftime when they weren't playing well. He is working to mold a locker room and organization his way, which should help the whole team in the long run.
Miami Is Jake Long's Team
While Philbin is working to mold his locker room, I am certain of one thing: this is Jake Long's team. Over the course of Hard Knocks, it was obvious that Long is the unquestioned leader of the Dolphins.
Every time he spoke, the players around him listened. His speeches to the team before and after practice were indicative of his rank. He played his butt off even during preseason games, and came to his teammates defense when needed.
He is the left tackle, the glue of the offensive line, and the protector of the quarterback. He's the biggest player on the team literally and figuratively, and it's easy to be proud and happy about that as a Dolphin fan.
The Defense Is a Bigger Question Mark Than Anticipated
Last year, the Dolphins' defense enjoyed a pretty successful season. But now gone from that defense are Vontae Davis, Jason Taylor, and Yeremiah Bell, and it may be making a somewhat substantial impact.
Part of the reason for the question marks is the fact that Hard Knocks didn't really show the defense all that often, which is something I have wondered about already.
But in the preseason, the defense didn't look all that impressive, and fans didn't really get to see that much of how the defense was improving and what new coordinator Kevin Coyle was working on. The pass rush should be solid, led by Cameron Wake, but the secondary is pretty shaky.
Sean Smith is a good cornerback, but Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll are average at best. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons are pretty solid safeties, but aren't going to scare opposing quarterbacks by any means.
I would have loved to see more of Jimmy Wilson and how he is progressing in the secondary, and I would have also liked more features on the starting defensive line. Jared Odrick, Paul Soliai, and Tony McDaniel all have a lot to prove this year, and it would have been nice to see how they were preparing.
Davone Bess Is the Only Hope
Miami's receiving and tight end corps is really, really bad. No way around it, they're about as bad as it gets for the NFL. Davone Bess would be, at very best, a #2 receiver on maybe five NFL teams.
The other receivers are Brian Hartline, Marlon Moore, Legedu Naanee, Rishard Matthews, and waiver pickup Anthony Armstrong. None of them would be a #3 receiver on any NFL team, and probably none besides Hartline would even be a #4.
Naanee looked horrendous in preseason, Hartline has battled injuries, and Matthews is a seventh-round pick. On the final episode of Hard Knocks, we saw that Moore made the team mostly because of his special-teams ability.
Even though Bess wasn't really featured at all during the series, it showed some great plays he made during preseason games, plays that will need to be made even more during the regular season.
Throughout the series, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and tight ends coach Dan Campbell were constantly getting on the tight ends, particularly Michael Egnew and Charles Clay. They will both have to step up if Miami's passing game is going to be even average.
Jeff Ireland Deserves More Credit
Ireland often takes a beating in the media and by fans in general, but he actually impressed me on Hard Knocks. He's a real football guy, and seems to do things the right way. Even though there have been a few questionable decisions, it's impossible to get it right every time.
Throughout and even before the series, I was encouraged by Ireland's judgement. Drafting Tannehill seems to be the right decision. Second-round pick Jonathan Martin will start at right tackle. Seventh-round picks Rishard Matthews and Kheeston Randall both looked great at camp and made the 53-man roster.
Cutting Chad Johnson was another good decision. The off-field distraction wasn't worth the on-field production, and releasing him was a smart move.
I also thought trading Vontae Davis for a second-round pick was a great deal. Ireland got rid of a talented but lazy player who never reached potential, and got a pick almost certain to be in the 33-40 overall range.
Quarterbacks May Be Better Than Expected
Pat Devlin came on in the last episode to show that he has some potential. Philbin sure liked him, and the kid looked good against Dallas. With that in mind, the Dolphins cut David Garrard, who was hurt in the middle of camp.
Matt Moore, though he struggled in the Cowboys game, is still a leader on the team and is capable of playing well.
And finally, Ryan Tannehill seems to have things figured out pretty well. He looks poised on the field, can make all the throws, and is athletic enough to be a real threat.
Even with the cameras on and all the off-field pressure that comes with being a first-round pick living in Miami, he looked humble and composed throughout. Tannehill really looks like a player that Miami can build around.
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