The 5 Biggest Takeaways from Miami Dolphins Rookie Minicamp
I hope everyone enjoyed their Mother's Day, a day when most of the NFL had their rookie mini camps. The Miami Dolphins on the other hand didn't have it last weekend, as their rookie mini camp was the weekend before.
I guess this means I'm pretty late in terms of writing this piece; however, there were still some storylines throughout Dolphins' rookie mini camp that are worth looking over, especially considering the high expectations that were hoisted upon Miami's 2013 draft picks.
So let's take a look back in time by about a week as we take a look at the five biggest takeaways from the Dolphins' rookie mini camp.
Dion Jordan Is a Christmas Gift Yet to Be Unwrapped
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
The picture above was the extent of Dion Jordan's work at rookie camp.
Jordan primarily participated in team drills, however the shoulder surgery he underwent in February still kept him out of some team drills (per James Walker of ESPN.com).
So what do we know about Jordan? Practically the same thing we knew about him prior to the draft, unlike the other rookies save for Dallas Thomas, who all participated in each drill and scrimmage.
But Jordan did look physically impressive, comparable to Jason Taylor according to the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly.
It will be interesting to see Jordan as we go through training camp and the preseason, as that is the estimated time table we should expect Jordan to be ready by.
Also of note, according to the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, Jordan will play defensive end once healthy during training camp, as Salguero stated:
Dion Jordan will be a defensive end. If he is one of the team's best two complete ends, he'll start and play three downs. If he's more a pass-rusher early on while he learns the game, he'll play mostly on passing downs until he figures out his assignments and holding the edge of the defense on run plays and so forth.
Well then, that should answer the question, even though that would be a major waste if that's all Jordan, with his talent and athleticism, play:
Hopefully the Dolphins move him around. Hopefully the Dolphins let him stand up if he's more comfortable doing that than rushing from a three-point or four-point stance. But, ultimately, rushing the passer is the thing.
I hope so too, Mando, and so do Dolphins fans everywhere. Not just because of Jordan's talents, but because of the abundance of talent on the defensive line.
Miami's Rookies Will Improve the Secondary
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
One training camp battle that will be closely monitored is in the secondary.
It's pretty much assured that if healthy, Miami's top two cornerbacks will be veterans Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall. Well, I wouldn't bet on that just yet with the way that rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis performed during minicamp.
Taylor seemed like a great fit for Miami's scheme while at Boise State, so seeing him perform well at rookie camp wasn't a surprise for anyone, especially not Taylor, who cited a familiarity with the schemes when he spoke to The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, telling him:
“Most of it is similar, just different terminology you’ve got to get used to," Taylor said. "But most of the plays are kind of similar.”
Miami's other rookie corner Will Davis was looked at as a reach when Miami chose him in the third round. However at rookie camp, he also looked good, as Salguero had stated later on in his article:
"Third round pick Will Davis looked every bit as natural and like he belonged. He had an interception. Good first day."
Overall the two new corners impressed people enough that The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson quoted a source that told him that "they appeared more polished than Vontae Davis and Sean Smith in their first minicamps."
Davis will likely start off as a nickel back this season, but Taylor does have the potential to beat out Marshall for the second starting cornerback spot.
Then there's the little rookie safety that seems to have impressed the most, Michigan's Jordan Kovacs.
Despite his diminutive size (5'10", 205 pounds), Kovacs impressed with his hitting and by gaining an interception, so he will definitely deserve your attention during training camp this summer.
Dan Carpenter Must Be on His Game to Keep His Job
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
A lot was written about fifth-round pick Caleb Sturgis during Dolphins' rookie mini camp—well, a lot more than what's usually written about a rookie kicker.
Both Omar Kelly and Armando Salguero raved about Sturgis' kicking abilities, with Kelly noting a 50-yard field goal Sturgis hit with at least eight yards to spare.
That's great in mini camp, but it's different in a game situation, and even Sturgis knows who he's up against for the job, per ESPN.com's James Walker:
"It's a great opportunity, but I know Dan is one of the best kickers in the NFL," Sturgis said. "Nothing is given in this league. I just want to help the team any way I can."
With his struggles last year, Dolphins fans tend to forget that Carpenter is considered one of the best kickers in the NFL. What makes him expendable isn't so much his struggles, but rather his paycheck.
If Sturgis is at least equal in performance to Carpenter, he'll likely be Miami's kicker this season. From the looks of his minicamp performance, it looks like he's already on his way towards that.
Mike Gillislee Impressed
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
We've already discussed Sturgis, but he's far from Miami's most impressive Gator making the migration south from Gainesville.
That would be running back Mike Gillislee, who impressed coaches and reporters during Miami's mini camp.
Yes, running back Mike Gillislee was good in his first practice of rookie camp. He ran with authority. He hit the crease hard. No shuffling of his feet. No chopping. I like that. Will that translate to anything once hitting starts? No idea. But good start.
Well one thing that could translate to is Gillislee taking over as Miami's second running back, pulling ahead of Daniel Thomas.
[Gillislee's] first day of rookie camp made me proud considering Gillislee got to the second level on a couple inside runs. His vision for finding lanes reminds me a lot of Frank Gore, who I covered at UM.
Finding lanes is quite important in Miami's offense, considering the problems that Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, and even Reggie Bush had with that.
The rookie who showed the most flashes Friday was running back Mike Gillislee. The former University of Florida product and fifth-round pick made several nice runs in team drills. It's difficult to evaluate running backs when there's no contact. But Gillislee comes to Miami after a strong senior season and has a chance to compete in a group that includes projected starter Lamar Miller and backup Daniel Thomas.
Seeing Gillislee take the backup job from Daniel Thomas? Very possible, almost to the point of me calling it an inevitability. I doubt Gillislee will take Miller's role as starter, though.
Gillislee is apparently the most impressive Dolphins from rookie mini camp then right?
Well, no, one player seemed to shine a lot more.
Miami Seems to Have Their Tight End in Dion Sims
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
"Sims, though, fills a crucial role as the Dolphins’ blocking tight end. When the Dolphins lost Anthony Fasano to the Chiefs, they didn’t just lose their leading touchdown receiver from 2012 – they also lost one of their best blockers in the run game. The Dolphins signed Keller as a potential upgrade over Fasano as a pass catcher, but he’s a clear downgrade as a blocker. And none of the other tight ends on the roster are there for their blocking skills, either – Charles Clay, Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller.
When the Dolphins use two-tight end sets – which they did about 1/3rd of the time last year – Sims will be counted on to play at a high level right away."
So how did the linchpin perform in his first rookie camp?
Let's start with the fact that since the end of his senior season at Michigan State, Sims cut down from his playing weight of 280 pounds to a slimmer 264. Already looking physically impressive with the Spartans (and making him one of the best blocking tight ends in the country), a leaner Sims looked meaner, while also looking more agile in pass catching.
The blocking is still there despite his weight loss, though, mainly due to the fact that Sims' technique is still good, according to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin (per Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel): "He looks like a tight end. One thing I liked fundamentally is his bend."
The athletic tight end is the Dolphin most likely to get the most snaps come the beginning of the season, and he has already impressed the coaches with his play.
If he's the linchpin of this draft it will be a mighty good one for the Dolphins and Jeff Ireland.