Miami Dolphins Training Camp Week 3 Stock Report
Just shy of three weeks of Miami Dolphins training camp have come and gone, and now we're starting to get a better idea of the team in terms of whose stock is up and whose stock is down.
In their first test of somewhat competitive football last Friday night, the Dolphins' first-team offense looked impressive, while the rest of the team showed that there is plenty of room for improvement.
For some players, that room is a half bathroom in a mini-McMansion; for others, it's an airplane hangar specifically designed for an Airbus A380.
Overall, the Dolphins know that there is still plenty of work to be done, and with three more weeks of training camp (and three more preseason games), there will be plenty of time to do it.
Here's a look at the players and their stock as it stands during the Dolphins' third week of training camp.
Stock Up: Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon Moreno's career as a Dolphin got off to a rocky start.
He showed up to OTAs a bit out of shape and was bothered by a nagging knee injury that required him to undergo surgery back in June.
Moreno started off training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, and it looked like he would have a hard time competing for the starting job at running back.
What a difference a week makes. Moreno was taken off the PUP list late last week, and according to James Walker of ESPN.com, he has "showed progress and flashes of the player he was in Denver."
Walker also reported that Moreno spoke to the media after practice, with Moreno saying:
I'm definitely comfortable. I know what I'm doing out there and, if I have any questions, I can ask the quarterback. I can ask whoever. But I feel really good.
When discussing the run, per Fialkov, Moreno said:
Doesn't mean nothing. I've been getting reps with the second and third team. I'm just trying to get as much reps as possible just to see different defenses.
I still got to get into that football shape. I feel really good out there cutting and doing the things I have to do.
When asked about Moreno's health, head coach Joe Philbin would add: "he's definitely making progress.''
Stock Down: Daniel Thomas
As one running back's stock climbed up in Moreno's, it was inevitable that another's would fall.
Daniel Thomas' stock is the one that seems to be falling the most.
Thomas' job became one that was on the line the second the Dolphins brought in Moreno, as he excelled at what Thomas was supposed to be able to do: perform as a third-down running back who could help in pass protection.
It had looked like Thomas would get an upper hand due to Moreno's injury, but unfortunately for Thomas, just as Moreno is getting healthy, Thomas is hurt due to a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss practice, per Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, as well as Miami's first preseason game against Atlanta.
What's also not helping Thomas is the competition from Mike Gillislee, whom Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald has reported as being "more active" during training camp, whereas Thomas has been "solid, not spectacular."
Thomas appears to be back on the roster bubble, even though Miami has injury issues at running back. However, with the signing of Cameron Marshall, as reported by Salguero, and the return to practice of Damien Williams, the unit is slowly getting healthier, which could leave Thomas in the dust.
Stock Up: Jimmy Wilson
One wishes there could be better circumstances that have led to this point—the point where Jimmy Wilson is poised to start at safety for the Dolphins in Week 1.
These circumstances would be the four-game suspension of Reshad Jones for using a performance-enhancing drug, per Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
However, it's not like Wilson has been nothing more than a body in camp. He's been very good thus far to begin with.
The Dolphins have a lot of confidence in Wilson, with defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle telling Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
Jimmy has grown tremendously in the three years that we’ve been together. He’s probably one of the best communicators on the team. He has been able to direct the players on the field very, very well, as good as anybody we’ve had back there.
“When he’s been in big situations, he’s come up big for us. We kind of nicknamed him ‘Red Zone Jimmy’ because, down in the red area of the field, if you go back over the last couple of years, he’s constantly making plays that have impacted games.
Stock Down: Dannell Ellerbe
Here's part one in this slideshow which shows that Miami's linebackers could put the team in a heap of trouble.
The Dolphins linebackers were horrifically bad on Friday night against Atlanta, to the point of almost total embarrassment. Dannell Ellerbe is just as guilty as anyone for these issues.
Pro Football Focus graded Ellerbe's short preseason performance (subscription required) at minus-0.6 in 13 snaps, as Ellerbe did produce four tackles but only one real stop.
What we saw on the field was even worse, which was only compounded by Ellerbe's move from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker during the offseason.
Sadly, this isn't the first time we'll talk about a Dolphins linebacker in this slideshow. The hope is that this slideshow is the last time we will negatively speak about Miami's horrific play at linebacker.
Stock Up: Ja'Wuan James
It's still fairly early in Ja'Wuan James' career to start making assumptions; however, while he wasn't impressive on Friday night, I liked what I saw out of the rookie in his first real taste of NFL action.
I'll get the bad out of the way first, as James was not very good in run blocking on Friday (a theme throughout the Dolphins offensive line), grading out on Pro Football Focus (subscription required) at minus-1.8 in that department.
One could say that the Dolphins didn't prioritize run blocking this season and could give some blame to the running backs themselves for the poor performance too. In pass blocking, Pro Football Focus points out that James was perfect, as he graded out at 1.0 and kept a "clean sheet," which had been a priority for the team so far this offseason.
The verdict: James' stock has gone up, as his run-blocking abilities should get better as the preseason moves on. ESPN.com's Walker notes that James "graded out well for his first outing," which Walker graded himself with his own system.
Stock Down: Philip Wheeler
We now return to the Dolphins' woes at linebacker, a position shaping up to be Miami's weakest this season.
From the looks of it, we might be talking 2013-offensive-line-level weak, and unless improvements are made quickly by the linebackers themselves, they could wind up being as costly for the Dolphins.
Philip Wheeler is the man we're looking at in this slide, as he managed to make the least out of his 14 snaps in Friday's game against Atlanta.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Wheeler at minus-2.0. In a preseason game. Where he only took 14 snaps. That type of lack of productivity seems to be the stuff of myth, not something you'd expect from an NFL starting linebacker.
In pass coverage, Wheeler graded out at minus-0.4. He was even worse against the pass, where he graded out at minus-0.9.
Both he and Ellerbe were outperformed by Jason Trusnik and rookie Jordan Tripp, who both came in at 2.4, per Pro Football Focus.
I want to tell you this will get better, but this tweet from the Sun Sentinel's Kelly doesn't provide much optimism:
Koa Misi is an adequate NFL starter. He's not a star. He's just reliable, which is why he's head & shoulder better than everyone else.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 12, 2014
Adequate should never mean "head and shoulders better than everyone else." It might be time to grade linebacker win shares by calling them "Wins Above Philip Wheeler" or WAPW.
Stock Up: Jarvis Landry
It's not officially a Dolphins preseason/training camp piece until Jarvis Landry gets praised.
The wide receiver didn't make a big impact in his first preseason game with the Dolphins, only being targeted twice and catching one pass—a screen pass where he was tackled immediately.
Landry will continue to grow, as indicated by his impressive training camp performance.
It looks like Landry has another weapon that could help the Dolphins, though, one that will make the comparisons to O.J. McDuffie even more inevitable: punt returns.
Landry came in to return a punt against the Falcons on Friday night, and here was the result: a 48-yard effort on which he showed everything you wanted to see in a return man.
Landry was evasive, was able to break tackles, and was both fast and quick. Had he not run out of room along the sidelines, he likely would have taken it to the house.
It was just another play to talk about in the growing legend of Landry in 2014.
Stock Down: Matt Moore
It's unfortunate for the Dolphins that quarterback Matt Moore is now nursing a shoulder injury.
Not because Moore was primed to compete for the starting job (that belongs to Ryan Tannehill unless a major injury befalls him), but because the Dolphins will have difficulty in gauging one of their deepest positions this preseason (as we saw on Friday with the Seth Lobato experience).
What can't help Moore is the fact that the Dolphins brought in veteran Brady Quinn on Monday, per Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
Quinn won't just be a camp body who can throw to the receivers—he could also find himself competing with Moore for the No. 2 quarterback spot this season.
That's a scary proposition for Moore, who will make $5.5 million this season, per Spotrac.com, in the final year of his contract. Releasing him frees up $4 million, which could effectively pay for Moreno this year, and if Quinn performs well as a backup, that could be all the motivation needed for the Dolphins to pull the trigger on Moore's release.
Stock Up: Mike Pouncey
Since training camp began, the reports on center Mike Pouncey had been ambiguous.
There were fears that Pouncey might miss more time than the original three months indicated—fears that weren't exactly calmed by the signing of Samson Satele.
It didn't look very good, but then we saw news reports like this one from ESPN.com's Walker where Pouncey claimed that he felt he was ahead of schedule.
The Sun Sentinel's Kelly would then tweet this out on August 4:
Dolphins center Mike Pouncey told me he's already running. Being cleared medically for week one is still his goal.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) August 4, 2014
It sounded nice—just a tad optimistic—but then I got to see Pouncey with my own eyes (and a camera phone with an active Instagram account).
As you can see in the picture I've linked to, there was Pouncey doing some resistance training, mainly working on his hips.
These were not the actions of a man who, just a month prior, was undergoing hip surgery, nor did his gait seem to be affected as he walked off the field.
These were the actions (and his walk was one) of a 25-year old man with the swagger to return to the field.
It will take Pouncey a while to truly get into game shape, which from the looks of it he's not quite ready for. But based off what I saw, based off what Pouncey has told the press, and based off Kelly's observation of Pouncey, I don't think we will be waiting as long for him as any of us originally thought.
That's a major reason to be optimistic, as we saw against Atlanta how well Miami's first-team offensive line was able to play.
Now just imagine that line with a Pro Bowl center.