The Miami Dolphins began training camp amid ballyhoo and excitement over the team that hasn't been seen in years.
The Dolphins have this hope and hype thanks to an exciting offseason spending spree and one of the better drafts the organization has had in the last decade, along with turmoil throughout the rest of the AFC East that could wind up shaking the balance of the division.
Add in a quarterback entering his second season after a promising rookie campaign as well as a defense that already looks to be one of the best in the league, and you have the recipe for a team on the rise, with only one stated goal: playoffs or bust.
Lets take a look at some of the images and stories from the first nine days of practice at Miami Dolphins training camp.
The Dolphins reported that the first day of training camp saw more than 2,500 people in attendance, and based off of some of the other pictures I've seen from other practices, the turnout each day has been pretty good.
The Dolphins are hoping that the increased buzz from the team's offseason will lead to an increase in attendance, which has been a struggle for the team since Stephen Ross' purchase in 2009.
The training camp attendance as well as the turnout for Miami's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on July 29th (which will be covered later in the slideshow) hope to be a harbinger of good things to come at the gate.
Only during training camp will you see something like this: a center attempting to block a cornerback.
However, in this one-on-one drill, that's exactly what you see, as Jamar Taylor's job here is to get past Mike Pouncey. This is usually a tall order for some of the best nose tackles in the NFL, so to ask a cornerback to do this almost borders on cruel and unusual.
Both players face their own training camp questions. For Taylor the question is whether or not he earns the starting job as Miami's CB2 alongside Brent Grimes, and for Pouncey, the question is whether or not he will make the Pro Bowl in 2013 (and then there's the question he won't answer about some hat he wore).
Both players in the long run hope to be part of Miami's foundation. Pouncey is already a huge part of that, but for Taylor there's a lot more to go.
Here's Mike Pouncey with right guard John Jerry. Now get ready as we attempt to keep up with the game of musical chairs on Miami's offensive line.
*Takes a deep breath.*
So thanks to Jake Long leaving, Jonathan Martin moves from right tackle to left tackle, the position he played in college. He played some left tackle last year, however he didn't do too well at either position and was very inconsistent. We will talk about him later in the slideshow though as we're just getting started with this game of musical chairs (originally reported by Miami Herald).
Tyson Clabo was signed to play right tackle, and so far through camp he's been pretty good. However, the real fun starts next to him at right guard, a position normally played by John Jerry. However Jerry is out with a knee injury that's expected to keep him out for the next two to four weeks, meaning Lance Louis would come in as the right guard. Unfortunately, Louis is struggling with a knee injury of his own that he suffered last season.
This has caused the Dolphins to experiment by putting Richie Incognito at right guard and Dallas Thomas at left guard. Then they also tried inserting Josh Samuda at center, moving Richie Incognito back to left guard, then placing Mike Pouncey at right guard.
All of this movement leads to the most steady part of the offensive line being one of the players with the most pressure on him this season.
There's a lot of reasons for Jonathan Martin to sweat.
One might say it's because he now has the responsibility of protecting Ryan Tannehill's blind side, that if he messes up badly the Dolphins' season goes down the drain, that he does have rather big shoes to fill replacing Jake Long.
The main reason Martin is sweating in this picture though is rather simple: he's a large man playing in the heat and humidity of South Florida in July.
You would be sweating too in this weather, regardless of the pressure surrounding you (yes, I know he's inside the bubble in this picture, but they do practice outside too).
Between Martin and the Dolphins' musical chairs offensive line, a lot of people are sweating in fear that it can undo the team's offseason.
But one must remember who the much-maligned Dolphins offensive line has to face during camp every day.
Oh hey look, this should make any offensive line sweat: Cameron Wake.
To his left is Koa Misi, Miami's starting weak side linebacker. They comprise 2/7s of a fearsome starting front seven with plenty of depth to spare.
When you consider that Miami's front seven sent two players to the Pro Bowl last season, then added even more speed and depth with free agent linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, as well as first round-pick Dion Jordan, that's a lot for any offensive line to take on.
The Dolphins offensive line will be better off in the long run for competing against this front, which will be even better thanks to a huge battle taking place for the left defensive end position.
My own eyes had to do a double take at the Dolphins' scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Monday Night, for Dion Jordan seemed to be all over the field.
He should've recorded at least three sacks, but they seemed to let those passes go due to the red jerseys worn by the quarterbacks.
However it should be noted that Jordan is the athletic freak of nature I thought he would be, getting past Jonathan Martin using sheer athleticism alone.
Jordan's athleticism isn't what Martin will see for the majority of the year, where players will likely attempt to overpower him. So that's no reason to fear Martin at left tackle.
It's a reason for opposing quarterbacks to fear Dion Jordan coming from their blind side, while Cameron Wake is coming from the opposite side.
Dolphins' fifth-round pick Caleb Sturgis has missed some time with a groin injury, which has allowed Dan Carpenter to shine, per Miami Herald.
Then came the scrimmage on Monday Night. Here's what I saw: a blocked extra point and two missed 49-yard field goals.
Remember, due to the difference in salaries, all Sturgis has to do is match Carpenter in terms of production. Carpenter has to make that difficult.
From what we saw on Monday Night, he's not making it too difficult.
Here's a look at Reshad Jones and some of the members of the Dolphins' secondary taking a short breather in between plays during the Dolphins' Monday Night scrimmage.
Jones (and his fellow safety Chris Clemons) leads what looked like one of the most questionable positions on the team heading into training camp. However, so far, the Dolphins' secondary has performed well with some timely pass breakups and forced turnovers.
This group so far looks like the most improved group on the team through one week of training camp compared to last season, when they were a question mark for all 16 games.
This is not what any Dolphins fan wants to see right now.
Here's Brian Hartline being treated for what appears to be a left calf injury suffered while warming up for the scrimmage (per The Palm Beach Post).
It doesn't appear to be too serious, and we should see Hartline back on the field within a week or two. Keep in mind, Hartline missed most of training camp last year with a bevy of maladies from appendicitis to another calf injury, yet still emerged as Miami's top receiver of 2012, forming the best chemistry with Ryan Tannehill.
However, you still would rather not see Hartline hurt, because Miami has depth issues at wide receiver.
Meet Marvin McNutt (pictured above), who will be competing along with Chad Bumphis, Jasper Collins, Jeff Fuller, Bryan Tyms, and whoever the Dolphins decide to bring in for an audition for the fourth wide receiver slot.
This slot seemed like it was in the bag, however two major injuries occurred during week one of training camp.
First there was Rishard Matthew's injury, which is undisclosed (per The Palm Beach Post) and has forced him to miss practice.
A known injury however is the torn ACL of Armon Binns, who showed potential at the end of last season after Miami picked him up off of the waiver wire from Cincinnati, and at times outperformed high priced free agent Brandon Gibson during OTAs.
This has opened up two wide receiver positions for Miami, and the battle will be fierce. It's likely the Dolphins will reach out to some remaining free agents, however in house they do have players with potential, and McNutt is one of those players, and had a great scrimmage on Monday Night.
Here's Mike Wallace dressed for the scrimmage on Monday Night.
A scrimmage he didn't participate in, I should mention, for reasons that the Dolphins only disclosed as "rest".
But don't worry about him or his connection to Ryan Tannehill, despite what some writers might want you to think (such as The Sun-Sentinel, and don't think I don't know what he's trying to subliminally do by using the strike-through formatting on the word "excuses", I use that trick too).
The Dolphins have mainly run red-zone plays in practice, and during the scrimmage rarely attempted a pass over 20 yards. This is where Wallace will excel with Miami.
Comparing him to Brandon Marshall (like in the article) is unfair because they are different types of receivers. Wallace, being more of a speed guy, is likely to preserve some of that speed for real game situations.
So let's hold off on the judgement, please?
Here's a view of the Dolphins warming up for their scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium from my vantage point in Section 134.
You will notice the receivers front and center, including Mike Wallace (who did not participate in the rest of the practice), as well as tight end Dion Sims to his left (your right, he's wearing #80).
Here's a look at the Dolphins' 7-on-7 drills from our section, with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.
The secondary and the defense seemed to get the better of the offense in these drills, however with Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace not participating, we mainly saw the fringe receivers in this drill.
That doesn't excuse Tannehill, who didn't look too sharp here.
Here's an interesting, yet unofficial stat thanks to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post: Ryan Tannehill has gone five practices without an interception.
Last season you might recall Tannehill going for games at a time without throwing an interception, so this shouldn't surprise most of you.
This consistency continued at the scrimmage, where Tannehill had unofficially gone 8-for-11 for 72 yards and three touchdowns. Here's video I captured of one of those touchdowns to Charles Clay, and here's video of another touchdown pass he threw to Daniel Thomas. (per my Instagram account, thomasgalicia).
(What about the Dustin Keller TD pass you ask? Well, I was too busy tweeting about Brandon Gibson's dropped pass that would've been a touchdown from before.)
Will Tannehill continue this consistency throughout training camp and into the regular season? I'd bet on it.
We started with a slide from the fans, and we will end with that, here's a look at the reported 22,000+ who came out to Sun Life Stadium Monday for the scrimmage.
The fans had fun. I had fun talking to a few of them about the direction of the team, and the main feeling seems to be one of optimism.
But even the most ardent Dolphins fans felt that this team was a work in progress, which is exactly how one would describe every team in the NFL at this point during training camp.
The journey is a long one, and we're only at the beginning.
But hope has been renewed among Dolphins fans, something they haven't felt in what seems like a long time.
Be sure to listen to Thomas on Dolphins Central Radio. New episodes released every Wednesday.