Miami Dolphins: The 3 Most Encouraging Signs from Training Camp so Far
As the first week of the Miami Dolphins' training camp gets close to its end, we've already seen a handful of things from the 2013 squad. Some of those things have been promising; some haven't.
Indeed, let's address those troubling issues first. No, Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace don't appear to have truly solidified their rapport yet. Yes, the offensive line has been the victim of the superior defensive line. No, Dion Jordan hasn't seen much action at all yet. No, Lamar Miller hasn't been electric yet.
And while you may worry about all of these happenings, especially as that familiar feeling of early disappointment creeps back into your mind, remember this: There is absolutely no reason to panic.
These issues are to be expected during the first week of training camp with a team comprised of so many new faces. Tannehill and Wallace will find that magic chemical reaction soon enough. The offensive line will toughen. Jordan will get his reps. Miller will have time to shine. These guys haven been in pads for two days. Real football is still distant on the horizon. Take a deep breath.
With that out of the way, we can focus on the good things we've seen. Pressing forward, here are the three most encouraging signs from Miami's training camp so far.
Brent Grimes Looks Like the Pro Bowler He Used to Be
In addition to handing out one of the offseason's largest contracts to Mike Wallace, the Dolphins may also be responsible for landing the biggest steal of the offseason in corner Brent Grimes.
The former Pro Bowler was one of the best corners in the league despite his size prior to tearing his Achilles tendon. He was out of football last year and as a result, found himself without a team. The Dolphins gave Grimes a one-year deal as a way to test the veteran's recovery abilities.
So far, Grimes appears as though he's never torn anything, never mind his Achilles tendon. He caught Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero's attention on the first day of camp as he moved fluidly and with ease. He wasn't even wearing tape to stabilize the area.
"I never do, I don't like it. No reason to," the corner said.
Oh, and remember the issues Tannehill and Wallace have experienced? Bear in mind that Grimes has been responsible for Wallace in coverage thus far, and the two have done nothing short of battle every play. A corner of Grimes' caliber is going to make it difficult for any quarterback-and-receiver duo to connect, especially one that is still trying to establish a baseline.
I guess you could say Tannehill is learning very quickly not to throw to Grimes' side of the field. If the corner continues to improve, Miami's opponents will probably do the same.
The Dolphins may have gotten a steal with a one-year deal for Grimes, but make no mistake about it—if he performs at high level, general manager Jeff Ireland would be crazy not to sign him to a long-term deal and make him the cornerstone of the secondary.
The Development of Olivier Vernon
Olivier Vernon was presented with a golden opportunity this offseason to boost his presence along Miami's defensive line. If the first week of camp is anything to go by, Vernon is making the most of that opportunity.
The second-year defensive end kicked off camp as the starter opposite of Cameron Wake, with last year's starter Jared Odrick moving back inside to his natural position. Vernon has earned praise from head coach Joe Philbin for his quickness off the ball and his ability to get around linemen.
On day two of camp, Vernon went up against fellow second-year player Jonathan Martin. Martin got the best of Vernon early on, but Vernon responded with a devastating inside move that left Martin stunned.
So how did Vernon become one of camp's earliest surprises in just five months' time? Being taken under the wing of Cameron Wake certainly didn't hurt. The experienced vet gave the youngster some tips on how to improve his game, and Vernon clearly listened.
It's clear the second-year end is trying to prove something this year. With high-profile rookie Dion Jordan receiving a lot of attention for how he can boost Miami's pass rush in 2013, don't forget about Vernon.
In fact, he may make it impossible to forget about him.
Dustin Keller Becoming a Safety Valve for Tannehill
As far as players who catch passes go, Mike Wallace is without question Miami's most important big-name addition. But perhaps the one who people should really be paying attention to is the guy lining up next to the offensive tackles.
Dustin Keller, like Brent Grimes, was signed to a one-year deal to prove his injury troubles from last season were just temporary. Also like Grimes, Keller has shown so far that he has recovered just fine.
Keller and Tannehill seem to have already developed the kind of rapport that's still budding between the quarterback and Wallace. On the first day in pads, Keller was one of Tannehill's leading targets. That carried over to the Dolphins' second day as well, when the tight end was the team's most active receiver.
Keller's veteran status is shining through, as he is consistently getting open and providing Tannehill (and even backup Matt Moore) with a big target. This kind of weapon is invaluable for a young quarterback.
Wallace might be the home run threat Miami so desperately needed, but Keller provides another type of threat Miami hasn't had in a while. With Keller, the Dolphins have a viable way to attack the seams and exploit opponents' linebackers.
That's exactly why the Dolphins brought Keller on, so it's nice to see he's coming along so soon.