The weekend is almost upon us, and with that comes the last, and biggest OTA's of the off-season. The Miami Dolphins today actually hosted an OTA, but it was not open to the public. The upcoming ones this weekend will be covered, and they will be open to all media. But before these OTA's begin, we have a couple of loose ends that we need to tie up so we have a better idea of what will be going on in those OTA's that start tomorrow at 10:30 bright and early.
First is the recent comments by general manager Jeff Ireland. In the same interview that featured Ireland saying that he wanted Crowder to stop the media battle with New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, Ireland commented on some of the contracts that he is trying to nail down, and the cap space that the Dolphins have left for the rookies contracts.
As some fans thought earlier in the off-season that the Dolphins had about $12-13 million in spending money before the rookie signings, I have some news for you, we do not. Ireland opened up a little bit on the subject in the interview. "No," he said when asked if the Dolphins had a lot of cap room. "There's a lot of different things that go into the cap, but we don't have a whole lot of room. That's something we don't really talk about. There's a little bit of strategy involved there."
Well, good job at keeping that under wraps Jeff. If any of you had some thoughts at signing some of those "acorns" as Ireland calls them, I guess you can forget about it. If we do not have a whole lot of cap room to begin with, I do not see how we could find the room to go out and sign or trade for someone such as Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters. Plus, with the fact that we signed three high profile rookies in Vontae Davis, Pat White, and Sean Smith, it might just take all of Ireland's brainpower to keep the Dolphins under the cap.
Ireland also says that the Dolphins are not really that close to signing any of their rookies or their free-agents to be, and that "We’re so far apart on pretty much all of them. Some of them we haven’t even contacted yet." Well, we will let you get to it then Jeff, just take your time and make sure you do not screw us financially like Nick Saban did, or even Randy Mueller for that matter.
On to the rookies, and what they have to accomplish during this set of OTA's. When talking to a source, I asked who he thought will make the biggets impact this season based on what he saw so far this off-season, he responded with Sean Smith, and Pat White. When asked why, he said, because Smith will match up better with the more physical receivers in the conference, and and that White is more versatile than just about any player on the team. On Smith, that is a pretty good prediction. He is probably the best chance that we have besides Will Allen at defending the taller receivers, and evening the field a little bit if you will.
Also, Davone Bess got into all of the hype when commenting on the rookie pair of receivers Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline and what is expected from them. "I would say their will. They want to be good. I sat with them at lunch the other day and they were saying, 'Once we get the mental point of it, we can play ball.' That’s coming from two rookies, knowing they have to get the mental part first. A lot of rookies come in thinking they can just go off ability and just play. They’re way beyond that. They want to get the playbook down before they go off and start thinking they can just make plays. It’s good. They’re learning."
We have not heard much about the rooks, but when we have, it has been nothing but praise for the two. So far we have heard that Turner has been the most promising rookie so far in the OTA's and that Hartline cannot wait to get into the mix, and "crack heads." These guys were not to be thought of as instant impact guys when they were drafted, and most fans hated the picks because we already had Ernest Wilford and Greg Camarillo, who have the exact same playing styles as the two rookies.
While on the topic of Ernest Wilford, we might as well discuss what the coaching staff has been doing with him in the past OTA's. Dan Henning has been trying to move Wilford around as much as possible, and tried him at tight end, and the H-Back. When they tried this in the in-team scrimmages, it supposedly caused mass confusion, and gave the defense headaches. Despite all of the hype, and the sudden discovered heartbeat from Wilford, he has been predicted by many to be cut by the end of training camp. With the hype surrounding Turner so far, it will likely be inevitable, but who's to say that he will be missed? With the selection of Turner in the draft, there is no reason to think that he will be missed, and that we will get more plays out of Turner. Even if he moves positions to tight end, there is no way that he will beat out the guys that have been playing that same position for their whole college, and pro careers.
On to the other draft pick, Pat White. He was reportedly seen throwing the ball around without his gloves. Head coach Tony Sparano told White this: “I just told him, ‘Hey, if you get the opportunity, go out there and throw it around with no gloves on. Let’s see what happens,’” Sparano said. Well, White had nothing to lose, as he has looked every bit of the rookie that he is. So far this off-season, White has been sailing passes all over the place, and has been physically overmatched. It will take time for White to fully become the quarterback that the Dolphins staff wants him to be. We have to face that difficult truth, but in the mean time, he will cause opposing defensive head coaches to stay up late at night to gameplan around him never the less. While he is doing that, he will undoubtedly improve his passing skills.
Also, some people have been questioning White's weight issues. Well according to a source, the Dolphins are not concerned about it at all. White is in the weight program, so he will most likely add 3-5 pounds before the season.
Here is a feel-good story for you too. Erik Walden, remember him? He was the guy that basically revamped our special teams to strike fear into opposing returners eyes. So far this year he has drawn high praise from just about everybody. Jason Taylor had this to say about him. "When you're playing the end you've got to be athletic and play with power and leverage, and I think he has that."
The praise did not stop there. Taylor's fellow teammate, Joey Porter also had a few words about Walden. "Walden's real good off the corner, just like a natural athlete," . Jake Long, who faces Walden every day in practice is also impressed with Walden and what he has to offer to the team. "He's a fast-twitch, slippery guy so it's tough to block him," Long said. "I grabbed [his dreadlocks] a couple of times to slow him down."
This kind of praise will help boost Walden's confidence, and Ireland had this to say when asked about him on a radio call. "Walden's looked good," Ireland told WQAM-560. "We're looking for core special-teams players from that group and I think you'll see a very dynamic position at outside linebacker with all those guys."
With all of this high praise from his teammates and front office, he had to get a couple of words in there too. When asked on the system, and how easy it was to come in last year and help out the special teams unit like he did, Walden said this. "The system is similar to the one they ran in Dallas so that helps me," Walden said. "I take a little bit from playing behind Pro Bowlers and add it to my arsenal. I'm a combination of all of them. I got the speed [of Taylor] and I could be crazy [like Porter]. I just adapt to my surroundings.
Also, Walden added some thought into what he does to keep motivated and how he treats football in his life. "You can't control all the decisions that are going to be made, so you control your effort, your work ethic, your discipline and just come out here, work hard and whatever happens, happens. Also he added, "Coaches told me just to go out, have fun and play ball. That's basically what I do and try to make a name for myself."
How can you not root for this guy. With the help of him and Patrick Cobbs, our special teams should be one of the better units in the league. Walden is also a linebacker, and do not forget that. He may like playing special teams, but that does not mean that his goal is not to start for the Miami Dolphins. No, he wants that too bad to just hand away to Porter and Taylor. He will challenge them every step of the way, and that is what the Trifecta loves in their players.
The Dolphins have a lot of work cut out for them, but one thing that they will not have to look for for the rest of the off-season is talent. They are loaded in that category at just about every position. One thing is for sure, this team may not open eyes in the wins column this year, but they will work hard to retain the AFC East Champions title that they carry around with them every day.