The Miami Dolphins are well into week two of training camp, preparing for Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium, and this would be an ideal time to assess where the team is from a progress standpoint.
I went into Dolphins camp concerned about the following issues:
1. Is Ryan Tannehill adjusting to the speed of the NFL game?
Tannehill is doing MUCH better than his OTA and minicamp showing. He's progressing everyday. I'm still noticing too many sacks and interceptions, which would get an offense killed in real games, and he's still tentative when it comes to throwing the ball in the middle of the field. But each day progress gets made.
If that trend continues there's a chance he could catch Matt Moore, moving ahead of last year's incumbent starter, who has erratic practices. But David Garrard is just WAY too polished for the rookie to leapfrog the nine-year veteran on the depth chart before the regular season.
Games haven't been played yet, but I project the depth chart will look like this in a month: Garrard, Tannehill and then Moore.
2. Do the Dolphins have pass rushers not named Cameron Wake?
Olivier Vernon and Jamaal Westerman have been challenging to block most days. Vernon has a raw athleticism that you can't teach, and he's got natural pass rush ability. Westerman has been the biggest surprise of camp for yours truly.
Pair those two with Jared Odrick, who is playing like a first rounder, and the Dolphins should be able to produce more than last year's 41 sacks IF the secondary can cover.
3. Will the receivers make plays for the offense?
Davone Bess consistently proves he's one of the NFL's best slot receivers every day at practice. To quote Chad Johnson, he's "still fast as [s#$*!]."
Legedu Naanee is the big physical receiver who can run the slants the west coast offense has a steady diet of.
I haven't seen Naanee have an issue with his hands, which is his reputation. I'm still monitoring his play, but he's been as steady as it gets.
All the Dolphins need to do is take this receiver play we've seen the first two weeks of camp into the games and they should be fine.
Those three are a solid trio, and that doesn't even include Brian Hartline, a two-year starter, who is sidelined by a calf injury right now.
It would also be ideal for two youngsters to step up and separate themselves. Roberto Wallace is having consistency problems, but has the most talent. Jeff Fuller flashes from time to time, and B.J. Cunninigham is getting better. But Julius Pruitt and Marlon Moore are steady. This will be an interesting battle.
4. Will Miami fortify the right side of the offensive line?
The right side of the offensive line looks fine so far. At a minimum it is better than last year's unit, which featured a turnstile at right tackle in Marc Colombo. Jonathan Martin isn't struggling with Cameron Wake anymore, and Artis Hick occasionally makes second level block. It will be a better indicator on how the unit plays against opponents, but overall this line appears to be improved. Having a quarterback like Garrard, who doesn't hang onto the ball, will also help cut down sacks.
How Eric Steinbach fits into this mix is a question I haven't had answered yet.
5. Will the secondary tighten up and communicate?
I'm not seeing many breakdowns, but they do still exist.
Reshad Jones and Nolan Carroll have stepped their games up. Jones looks like he's finally got it, and Carroll appears to be past his sophomore slump. But I haven't seen anyone else take things to the next level. I'm still waiting for a leader to step forward and it hasn't happened.
Games will be a better indicator because they won't know the offense's audibles and check calls, like they do with Miami's offense.
Chris Clemons is the front-runner to serve as the starting safety paired with Jones. I'm a bit troubled the only safeties making game changing plays are Jones and Anderson Russell. Maybe Russell, who pulled down two interceptions on Thursday, needs to get a call-up to the starting unit?
G.G.G.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times