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Miami Dolphins: 5 Players to Watch as Pads Come On

Will Michael Egnew continue to impress when hitting is permitted?

Is it really football season if nobody is getting hit?

The Miami Dolphins have already conducted two training camp practices, but it’s only been glorified touch football up until this point. That all changes tomorrow, though, when the team is expected to strap on the pads for the first time of the season.

The truth is, it’s possible to evaluate the passing game when players are in shorts and helmets. You don’t need to hit anybody to find out if receivers can get open and if quarterbacks can pick apart coverages.

But the running game and play in the trenches are entirely different stories.

It’s difficult to get a gauge on how the running backs, run blocking, defensive line and linebackers are progressing without live contact. That’s why tomorrow’s full-pad workout will increase in significance for many players on the team.

Here are five Dolphins, in no particular order, to keep an eye on:

John Jerry, right guard

Jerry reported to camp at a light (well, for his standards) 335 pounds. We won’t begin to know if he’s ready to cement his starting spot until tomorrow morning, though.

Lance Louis, who was brought in to compete with Jerry at right guard, is still looking to find his legs after returning from a torn ACL. Jerry has a golden opportunity to erase any doubt in his ability to remain a starter.

Olivier Vernon, defensive end

Perhaps camp’s biggest surprise–if anyone is such after only two practices–is second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon. Jared Odrick, who started at defensive end a year ago, has been working exclusively at defensive tackle.

If the first two workouts are any indication, it looks like Vernon has been deemed Odrick’s replacement opposite Cameron Wake. And the former Miami Hurricane has filled in admirably so far.

On camp’s opening day, Vernon produced two would-be sacks. Today, he reportedly abused starting left tackle Jonathan Martin during one-on-one drills.

But can Vernon set the edge against the run? We may begin to find out tomorrow morning.

Jonathan Martin, left tackle

Speaking of the player Vernon got the best of earlier today, Jonathan Martin will be thrust into the spotlight starting with tomorrow’s practice. Outside of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, perhaps no other Dolphin is facing more pressure this season than Martin.

After a rough rookie year, Martin is moving to the offensive line’s most important position. He’s being trusted to protect the blind side of Tannehill–a potential franchise quarterback. Is Martin ready for that kind of responsibility?

He reported to camp at an extra 15 pounds, which is good in his case. Martin lacked ideal strength as a rookie and was overpowered on several occasions, most notably here. Will he be a stronger, more physical tackle this season? Tomorrow could begin to provide some answers.

Michael Egnew, tight end

Last year’s third-round pick Michael Egnew had a dreadful training camp and preseason a year ago. But he bounced back with a solid offseason of OTAs, making several plays in the passing game. He made a few nice catches during this morning’s practice as well.

But the biggest knock on Egnew last season was a lack of toughness. He was dominated in the trenches at times and shied away from making blocks downfield.

As good as Egnew has looked in shorts, it’s what he does when the pads come on that will ultimately decide if he makes the team and if he can become a contributor.

Mike Gillislee, running back

The Dolphins won’t tackle to the ground, but we’ll see defenders hit and wrap up, meaning we should get a better feel for how the running game is coming along.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will also be monitored heavily, but we’ve seen them perform before. Who we haven’t seen is fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee.

He’s considered an all-around back who can pick up tough yards between the tackles and can elude defenders in the open field.

But is he ready to challenge for a significant workload in his rookie season? More specifically, is he ready to pass Daniel Thomas on the depth chart to become the Dolphins’ number two option behind Lamar Miller? We may get a glimpse in the morning.


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