The Dolphins’ offseason training program is officially in the books as mandatory minicamp wrapped up yesterday in Davie.
Before we begin prepping for training camp and the start of the 2013 season, let’s take one more look back at the team’s offseason work.
It’s time to evaluate whose stock is up and whose is down following OTA’s and minicamp.
Brent Grimes, CB: Grimes has clearly been the Dolphins’ most impressive free-agent acquisition in shorts. There was concern whether or not the former Falcon would be able to return to Pro Bowl caliber form after tearing his Achilles last season.
He seems to have answered those questions so far, frequently making plays on the football in practice and preventing receiver Mike Wallace from much production.
Grimes has one of the starting jobs at corner locked down. The Dolphins just need another quality starter to emerge for the secondary to be much improved in 2013.
Olivier Vernon, DE: The second-year defensive end appears poised for a much bigger role this season. After having a minimal impact as a rookie, Vernon has spent all offseason working as the starter opposite Cameron Wake.
Randy Starks’ absence then late arrival pushed former defensive end Jared Odrick inside to tackle, freeing up the right end spot. If Vernon can hold off promising first-round pick Dion Jordan and Odrick stays put on the interior, that starting spot could remain his come Week 1.
He’s added bulk this offseason to complement his freakish athletic ability. Fine-tuning his pass-rushing moves would help continue his ascension.
Jared Odrick, DT/DE: Like Vernon, Odrick has been a beneficiary of Randy Starks sitting out OTAs. Odrick moved inside to defensive tackle to fill Starks’ void and remained there upon his return.
While Odrick is far from a liability at defensive end, he’s limited as a pass rusher. His skill set can be utilized more effectively on the interior.
Starks is being paid a hefty $8.45 million this season to play under the franchise tag, though. Add Paul Soliai into the mix and the Dolphins are crowded at tackle. Which is great. But a very good player could be out of a starting job if Odrick’s switch proves permanent.
Armon Binns, WR: Dolphins’ wide receiver Armon Binns has been one of the biggest surprises during offseason workouts. Once thought to be battling for nothing more than a spot on the 53-man roster, Binns has been taking some of newcomer Brandon Gibson’s reps in the slot.
At 6’3”, Binns is one of the Dolphins’ tallest pass catchers and could develop into a big target over the middle and in the red zone for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But training camp and the preseason will still be crucial for Binns. A disappearing act would negate the impact he’s made in OTAs and minicamp.
Michael Egnew, TE: The biggest disappointment of the Dolphins’ 2012 draft, Egnew appeared in over his head as a rookie. Nobody was giving him much of a shot to make the team this summer.
But Egnew has apparently been working extremely hard this offseason to get stronger. Tougher as well, practicing MMA with a personal trainer.
Those efforts have been rewarded with practice time on the first team. Egnew didn’t make many plays in minicamp but he turned some heads during OTAs. Better blocking in the trenches when the pads come on would help Egnew validate his improved stock.
Randy Starks, DT: It’s probably too early to speculate whether or not Starks’ staring position is really in jeopardy. It’s unclear if the Dolphins gave Starks second-team reps at minicamp this week to send him a message for missing OTAs or to simply work him back into the rotation slowly.
But Jared Odrick has impressed in his place. If either Dion Jordan or Olivier Vernon looks ready to start as an every-down defensive end, keeping Odrick put on the inside, we may officially have a battle brewing at tackle.
Regardless of who starts, though, the Dolphins will have a deep interior rotation. Odrick, Starks, and Soliai will all see plenty of snaps in 2013.
Jamar Taylor, CB: The rookie second-round pick was drafted by the Dolphins to be a starter at corner. But his chances of starting in his first season appear less likely after OTAs and minicamp.
Taylor has missed all full-squad offseason practices after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Important reps for a rookie attempting to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and earn the trust of the coaching staff.
Taylor will have plenty to catch up on when training camp arrives.
Jorvorskie Lane, FB: Last year’s starting fullback Jorvorskie Lane has a tough road ahead to retain that role. Whether it was recently signing Evan Rodriguez or showing interest in free-agent fullback Vonta Leach, the Dolphins clearly want to upgrade at the position.
Lane was only average in 2012 and needs to prove that he can be a better lead blocker if he wants to keep his job and roster spot.
Charles Clay, TE/FB: Charles Clay stood to benefit with Dustin Keller being sidelined with an undisclosed injury this week. But several drops during Wednesday’s practice could have Clay in Coach Philbin’s doghouse.
Clay’s roster spot doesn’t appear as probable as it used to be. An improved Michael Egnew to go along with rookie Dion Sims and even second-year tight end Kyle Miller, give the Dolphins depth at the position.
And at fullback, newcomer Evan Rodriguez has the versatility to play in the backfield or at tight end. Clay is in need of a strong camp and preseason.
Ryan Tannehill/Mike Wallace connection: It’s probably much ado about nothing. Things like this usually take some time and it’s still very, very early. But reports of quarterback Ryan Tannehill connecting with free-agent prize Mike Wallace have been few and far in between this offseason.
Wallace has faced the Dolphins’ best corner Brent Grimes in practice and clearly Tannehill is still more comfortable with the weapons he had a year ago. But I expected Wallace to have more of an impact.