Setting Realistic Training Camp Expectations for Each Miami Dolphins Rookie

Andrew Tornetta@AndrewTornettaCorrespondent IIJuly 3, 2014

Setting Realistic Training Camp Expectations for Each Miami Dolphins Rookie

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    NFL training camp is a time when expectations are typically sky-high for incoming rookies, and the Miami Dolphins are no different.

    From the top two picks, Ja'Wuan James and Jarvis Landry, down to undrafted free agents Anthony Johnson and Harold "Gator" Hoskins, fans have high hopes for nearly everyone.

    However, it's important not to set expectations too high for rookies, because quite often they fail to live up to them.

    Instead, let's take a look at each rookie and set realistic expectations and goals for him to achieve during training camp.

Ja'Wuan James

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    While many people were surprised that the Dolphins selected Ja'Wuan James with the No. 19 pick, there's no doubt that he is an ideal fit with the team.

    At 6’6” and 311 pounds with 35-inch arms, he should make a smooth transition into Miami’s zone-blocking scheme and is expected to start at right tackle from day one.

    Unlike most of the other options that were available, the former Tennessee Volunteer doesn't even have to make the adjustment of switching over from the left side, as he played all 49 games of his college career at right tackle.

    Combine that with his impressive combination of quickness, awareness, technique and hustle, and James should make an immediate impact and be a solid contributor all season long.

    Training Camp Expectation: Solidify the right side of the offensive line

Jarvis Landry

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When it comes to Jarvis Landry, I have already made the bold prediction that the rookie will lead the Dolphins in receptions in 2014.

    While he has the ability to do that in his first year, that's a bit of a lofty goal for the purposes of this article.

    Instead, we can focus on his position on the depth chart and, more importantly, his battle with Brandon Gibson for the No. 3 wide receiver spot. 

    All reports out of OTAs say that Landry has impressed early on.

    According to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, the rookie has picked up on the offense quickly and is getting plenty of looks both on the outside and in the slot.

    Ryan Tannehill has said that Landry has some of the strongest hands he's ever seen. Cornerback Brent Grimes has also gone on record to praise the rookie, saying that he has a knack for making difficult catches, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

    Meanwhile, Gibson missed the majority of OTAs and just recently was able to get back on the field to participate in practice, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    Gibson is eight months into rehabbing the torn patella tendon he suffered last season and is still not 100 percent.

    This gives Landry the clear advantage early on to win the job. If the rookie is as good as everyone says he is, then he should have no problem holding on to it. 

    Training Camp Expectation: Win the No. 3 receiver job 

Billy Turner

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    Many people, including me, assumed that when Billy Turner was drafted in the third round he would quickly claim one of the starting offensive guard positions, with Shelley Smith taking the other.

    However, that hasn't been the case, according to Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Dallas Thomas received all the first-team reps at left guard during OTAs and appears to be the leading candidate to start heading into training camp.

    Even with the injury to Mike Pouncey, it doesn't seem that Turner is going to be inserted into the starting lineup on draft status alone.

    With that said, it's possible for the 6'5", 315-pounder to go out and win a starting spot with a good showing in training camp.

    It's not yet known what the Dolphins will do to replace Pouncey on the offensive line, but there's no doubt that if Turner can impress in training camp, he will force the coaches to put him somewhere in the starting lineup.

    Training Camp Expectation: Win a starting role

Walt Aikens

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    At first glance, setting a training-camp goal of making the roster for a fourth-round pick may seem a bit too easy.

    But when looking at each top draft pick that the Dolphins made, Walt Aikens may have the toughest road to earning immediate playing time.

    As it stands right now, he is clearly behind Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis on the depth chart.

    If the rookie gives a bad showing during training camp, the team may opt to send him to the practice squad and go with Jimmy Wilson as the fifth cornerback. 

    So instead of focusing on any lofty goals of making a big move up the depth chart, Aikens should simply learn the playbook, show his skills and prove that he can be counted on to provide valuable depth in the secondary this season.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the active roster

Arthur Lynch

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The drafting of Arthur Lynch in the fifth round shows that the Dolphins aren't content with the players they currently have slotted after Charles Clay on the depth chart at tight end.

    Michael Egnew, a 2012 third-round pick, and Dion Sims, a 2013 fourth-round pick, will both be competing with Lynch for likely two roster spots.

    Egnew is seemingly the wild card here, as he has just seven career catches and is a relatively horrendous blocker.

    However, at 6'5" and 262 pounds and running a 4.62 40-yard dash, he has all the potential and measurables needed to turn into a major weapon if used properly in Bill Lazor's offense.

    With that said, it's still unlikely that Egnew becomes the full-time No. 2 tight end due to his inability to block.

    That leaves Lynch with the inside track to win the job. He's a much better all-around blocker than Sims and would be a great complement to Charles Clay.

    Training Camp Expectation: Win the No. 2 tight end job

Jordan Tripp

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    One of the most intriguing selections the Dolphins made in the draft was selecting Jordan Tripp in the fifth round.

    It's no secret that the play of the linebackers was the Achilles' heel of the defense last season, and Tripp is a versatile player who can line up on both the outside and inside. 

    However, with Koa Misi likely moving over to middle linebacker, Tripp will be competing for playing time on the weak side with Philip Wheeler and Jelani Jenkins. 

    Coming from Montana, there is going to be a big learning curve for Tripp as he tries to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

    A bad training camp could result in him having a redshirt year off the active roster or even potentially being put on the practice squad.

    However, a good training camp will not only get him on the active roster but should earn him regular playing time.

    I have been high on Tripp since the moment the Dolphins drafted him, but for now, the expectations should be held in check until we see what he can do in pads.

    Training Camp Expectation: Earn a spot in the rotation

Matt Hazel

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    In the case of Matt Hazel, simply making the roster may even be too lofty of a goal.

    That isn't to knock his skill, as the 6'1", 198-pound Hazel is a sure-handed weapon who has the potential to develop into a reliable possession receiver.

    The problem is that he's seemingly fighting for one roster spot with three other players.

    It seems to be a given that Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews will all be on the opening-day roster.

    That leaves Hazel, Armon Binns, Stephen Williams and Damian Williams all fighting it out for the sixth and final spot. 

    With that said, it's possible that Hazel can quickly learn the playbook and develop into a versatile weapon who would fit in well in Lazor's offense.

    If he can do that, then he may ultimately win the battle and sneak onto the active roster after all.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the roster

Terrence Fede

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Unlike Hazel, who has an outside chance of making the active roster, there just seems to be no room for Terrence Fede on the depth chart.

    At 6’4” and 276 pounds, he is an athletically gifted player who is still in need of plenty of development.

    In case you haven't looked at the defensive line recently, there aren't many developmental players on it.

    The Dolphins boast one of the best defensive lines in all of football and have very little use for such a raw player.

    Fede simply needs to work on his technique, develop over training camp and show enough for the team to put him on the practice squad to start the season.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the practice squad

Anthony Johnson

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    Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    I'm sure you are wondering why the expectation for Fede is to make the practice squad, while undrafted rookie Anthony Johnson's expectation is to make it onto the 53-man roster. 

    The reason for that is simpleJohnson is a much better player.

    Most experts projected Johnson as a first-round pick entering his 2013 season at LSU. However, his struggles as a junior dropped him to a second- or third-round projection.

    From that point, his draft stock took a nosedive, as questions arose about his dedication, and a failed drug test at the NFL combine ended up dropping him out of the draft completely, via Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.

    That doesn't change the fact that at 6’2” and 308 pounds, Johnson has immense talent and, unlike Fede, can contribute right away.

    As long as Johnson has his head straight and doesn't trip up during training camp, there's no doubt that he will be a difficult player to cut, even with all the depth on the defensive line.

    Ultimately, I believe the Dolphins will choose to go with the upside of Johnson over others like Isaako Aaitui and A.J. Francis.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the roster

Harold 'Gator' Hoskins

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    As previously mentioned, the Dolphins seem to have three players—Lynch, Sims and Egnew—battling for the final two roster spots at tight end, and in all likelihood, that isn't going to change.

    While it's possible that Harold "Gator" Hoskins dazzles throughout training camp and earns a spot on the roster as a versatile H-back, that would be a pretty lofty expectation for the undrafted rookie.  

    With that said, the 6'2", 263-pound Hoskins has shown throughout his collegiate career to have a knack for finding the end zone. 

    He led the nation in touchdowns among tight ends in each of his last two seasons at Marshall, recording 10 in 2012 and 15 in 2013.

    That type of red-zone prowess will likely earn him a spot on the practice squad, where he can develop into a more reliable weapon.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the practice squad

Orleans Darkwa

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    The problem for Orleans Darkwa is that his ability to make the roster has less to do with him and more to do with the injury to Knowshon Moreno.

    Coming off arthroscopic knee surgery that is expected to sideline him another month, Moreno's ability to heal and get back on the field will go a long way in determining the opportunity Darkwa gets.

    The 6'0", 210-pound rookie has also battled injuries for much of his collegiate career but appeared healthy at his pro day, where he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, via Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.

    If Moreno can recover quickly, then it's likely the Dolphins stick Darkwa on the practice squad and go with Lamar Miller, Mike Gillislee and Marcus Thigpen to round out the depth chart at running back.

    However, if Moreno has any setbacks, then Darkwa will get his opportunity to put his strong running style on full display in training camp. He may ultimately sneak on the active roster as a fifth running back for insurance.

    Training Camp Expectation: Make the roster