Just a little over a month until training camp starts, but OTAs have provided some storylines worth discussing.
The Dolphins get IPads, the defense has a lot of changes, Ochocino doing much more good than bad, the 2011 Draft class has more bad than good, and we’ll look at the Top 10 AFC East “Prospects”.
Ochocinco Has Made An Impact, Some Bad, Mostly Good
All of this Chad Ochocino insight I’ll talk about and i’ll rely to you has come from the fantastic job the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentential have done covering the OTAs thus far. I don’t have the access, but they’ve included some fun yet very insightful tidbits about how the team is forming.
First off, they discussed how Chad Ochocinco admitted to the Dolphins that he struggled to learn the Patriots playbook. That’s the bad news. But it’s not surprising. The scheme in Cincinnati was reportedly fairly basic, while the Patriots pride of versatility and no-huddle as their offensive theory didn’t fit the “give me the route then give me the ball” offense Ochocinco has been used to. Not saying that the new offense will be an easy one to learn (and he’s behind), but with everyone learning together, they’ll be far less adjusting and more growing-into.
Maybe the most important aspect he’s brought is his veteran, fiery attitude. As I pointed out in my initial Ochocinco Signing article . He realizes he’s on his last leg and is bringing out the best in the younger cornerbacks, most notably Sean Smith. Whether he can beat them one on one is less of a question mark about him and moreso a testament to the respect these players have in going against him each day. That’s something younger, less vocal and experienced can’t offer.
And finally, he’s shown up in shape, ready to learn and develop while also being okay to the attention he’s receiving in preliminary Hard Knocks work. If Ochocinco can be in shape and hasn’t lost a “step”, can adjust to the playbook, AND takes the pressure of the cameras away from the youth, then I’m okay with him being mediocre this year. A veteran not expected to start like him can do just as much good as a role model and practice guy, even if he isn’t working directly on helping improving his teammates.
2011 Draft Class Producing Mixed Results
I’ll be one of the first to stand up for GM Jeff Ireland as an evaluator. He’s been a respected league scout in the NFL for a long time, has learned under Bill Parcells, and has an underrated track record. In 2009 and 2010, he’s found a current starter in both first late first round picks, a current adeuqate starter in the 2nd round, and an impact starter in the 4th and 5th rounds.
Vontae Davis, Jared Odrick, Sean Smith, Koi Misi, Reshad Jones, and Brian Hartline are all important pieces for the Dolphins this year now in their 3rd/4th year.
However, the 2011 class is very much in a state of flux as they enter year two. First round center Mike Pouncey has developed nicely as a staple on the inside. He’ll need to continue to develop, but could become among the top at his position in the NFL. And in the sixth round, Charles Clay has a very high ceiling in Joe Philbin’s new offense. He could be an under-rated breakout player for this team.
However, as a team rebuilding, the Dolphins needed to continiously hit on impact players to catch-up to the high powered Patriots and free-spending Jets. Second rounder Daniel Thomas has flashed starter ability, but hasn’t displayed consistent physicality. The team recently drafted Lamar Miller and have Reggie Bush as the starter. If he can’t continue to improve, he could be a 2nd rounder on the 3rd team in situational duty.
And then there’s the ultimate quandary of Edmund “Clyde” Gates. First off, I wasn’t a fan at all pre-draft. Thought he was too raw, didn’t show signs of being able to develop to the speed of the game. A basketball athlete without the reaction/vision to be an NFL receiver. Now, he’s struggling with all of that now, but it seems Jeff Ireland may be reluctant to give up after just one year.
That generally would be fine. However, the Dolphins have two set starters (Brian Hartline and Davone Bess), two adequate free agents (Chad Ochocinco and Legadu Naanee), two 2012 draft picks (BJ Cunningham and Rishard Matthews), and two past roster guys (Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace). Do they have room for a 2nd year player still far too raw to get meaningful playing time?
After those four, 7th rounder Frank Kearse seems like a fringe guy who may just make it to keep depth, but he’s far from comfortably making the squad. And Jimmy Wilson was a steal on draft day, falling because of questions about his background. He’s developed into a nice utility defensive back with upside still left.
Top 10 AFC East “Prospects”
Over at www.OptimumScouting.com, I posted an article in our series “NFL Youth Movements” where we rank the top non-rookies under 26 years old for each conference. I did the AFC East division, and here were my personal rankings.
1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
2. Nate Solder, OT, New England
3. Marcel Dareus, DT, Buffalo
4. Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo
5. Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England
6. Mark Sanchez, QB, New York
7. Mike Pouncey, OC, Miami
8. CJ Spiller, RB, Buffalo
9. Vontae Davis, CB, Miami
10. Jarius Byrd, S, Buffalo
Dolphins in Honorable Mention:
Daniel Thomas, RB
Charles Clay, FB/TE
Sean Smith, CB