The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Jeff Darlington visits the Miami Dolphins.
Where is NFL Media?
Only 10 minutes from their freshly renovated stadium, the Dolphins are training with freshly renovated expectations. The roster has undergone a nice makeover this offseason, but it's also good to see some older faces around camp. Dan Marino, hired as a special adviser to the team one year ago, has been at just about every practice to date.
1) On the day Ndamukong Suh signed his monster deal with the Dolphins, the hulking defensive tackle went out to dinner with an interesting and appropriate person: Cameron Wake. Talk about getting off on the right foot. This partnership might actually be football's version of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade joining forces on the Heat. Suh and Wake are getting along great -- and that's bad news for opposing teams. The Dolphins' defensive front, which already was stocked with talent -- don't forget about underrated 24-year-old Olivier Vernon -- should be one of the absolute best units in team history, now that Suh is a part of the group. Both Suh and Wake look spectacular in training camp so far. Expect Miami to field one of the league's most productive pass-rushing units in 2015 and beyond.
2) It is possible Miami's offensive guards are simply looking less than ideal because they're practicing against guys like Suh. Maybe they'll start to improve as they gain comfort and experience. Or maybe it's time for the Dolphins to seriously consider the possibility they'll need to overpay free agent Evan Mathis to join the team. That's the current ordeal facing this team. Vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum has been seen talking to Mathis' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, extensively at the team's practices, which should at least allow Dolphins fans to feel comfortable that a dialogue exists. Right now, sources with other teams say Mathis is asking for way too much money. So if that price comes down at all -- or if Miami's guards continue to struggle -- watch for Tannenbaum and general manager Dennis Hickey to pony up. After all of the good moves this team has made this offseason, nobody wants it to go to waste because of one fixable position.
3) Last season, Dolphins wide receivers became rather vocal about their displeasure with the way each was being utilized. So rather than try to manage that situation, the personnel folks did something else: They revamped the entire unit. Aside from second-year budding star Jarvis Landry and 2012 draft pick Rishard Matthews, the guys likely to claim roster spots this year are all new: Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills and rookie DeVante Parker. The good news? Quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like he's on the same page with the guys early in camp, especially Landry. The bad news? Parker has been hindered by a foot injury that could sideline him until the start of the regular season. But Tannehill says he saw enough potential out of Parker in minicamps that he doesn't think it will take long for the first-round draft pick to make an impact once he's back on the field.
Jordan Cameron, TE: The Dolphins picked up Cameron in free agency, and the athletic tight end seems poised to return to his Pro Bowl form. That'd be absolutely huge, especially since the team lost tight end Charles Clay to the AFC East rival Bills this offseason. If Cameron can help provide a much-needed threat in the red zone, it literally could be the difference between Miami finishing 8-8 and potentially making a playoff run.
C.J. Mosley, DT: As if the Dolphins' defensive front wasn't stacked enough, the team added some icing on top when it picked up Mosley late in free agency. Why is Mosley a key addition? Aside from his skill set, Mosley was teammates and close friends with Suh in Detroit over the last two seasons. The idea of having a player familiar with Suh's approach should be one more asset on a squad that has so much potential. The Dolphinsranked 24th in run defense last season, but there's little question that players like Suh and Mosley will absolutely help bolster that mark.
"There will be plenty of quarterbacks to go around."
After failing to make the playoffs or post a winning campaign during his first three years in Miami, head coach Joe Philbin obviously enters this season on the hot seat. There's no question about it. But rather than acting nervous in the face of immense pressure, Philbin seems to be taking a different approach: He's opening up.
During a team meeting on the day veterans reported to camp, Philbin deliberately talked about his personal life, trying to help his players form a better understanding of who he is. This is a good move for a coach who has struggled to create much of a connection with his players to this point -- especially since so many of his former players in Green Bay still say what a tremendous person Philbin continues to be to them. Few in South Florida have seen that side of Philbin in his role as a head coach, so maybe this new transparency will help build some important camaraderie during a critical year.