So the Miami Dolphins are soon wrapping up the official voluntary off-season team activities for June. The involuntary portion will start in late July before training camp. So there is a lot to talk about and thankfully no major injuries to report. As always there was little practice in pads because of the NFL restrictions on voluntary workouts. So it is impossible to judge the tackling and that is definitely an area the Dolphins need improvement on. With that, it is also difficult to judge the defense. So please excuse me if I am unable to provide any on field evidence to why a player is winning their respected position battle. So let take a look at a few battles.
2nd Starting CB
We already know that Byron Maxwell will be the primary corner on defense this year and the man Miami looks upon to shut down opposing team’s number 1 WR. What we do not know is who will line up opposite on sides of him. The candidates are rookie, Xavien Howard, Tony Lippet, Michael Thomas, or Bobby McCain. Now McCain in actually looked at as the starting nickel on the defense which is an optional position dependent on the play sets. Thomas is primarily vying for the free safety spot (another battle for another time). So it is really between Lippet and Howard. Now I have no clue where they stand on the field against each other, but I do know that Lippet has improved leaps and bounds from last year as a transition WR/C duo. He has learned to play the position better and his length and physical attributes really help him in this battle. Howard is the 2nd round pick for the Phins from this previous draft. He is also a big corner out of Baylor with impressive physicality. His ability to learn the 4-3 defense and adapt to it on an NFL level will be his hurdle to gain the starting spot. I know that he can play and his man coverage is excellent. Zone reads and tackling inside the box are the areas in both players game that must improve. Both players have had snaps at corner and both have been burned but Lippet has made some nice plays. Still it is hard to judge. However until the preseason games roll around I am going to give it to Tony Lippet.
Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills, those are your starters for the wide out corp in 2016. Barring any injury you will mainly see those guys. So what about the backups or alternates. Well surprise, remember that back in April Miami shocked many by drafting 2 wide receivers in the draft. Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant. Grant has mainly been working in the return game on special teams and man is he a speedy bullet. He has some major Darren Sproles potential. Carroo is battling Matt Hazel, Tyler Murphy, AJ Cruz and possibly Thomas Duarte? Duarte is of the WR/TE combo in college. I could see the Phins cutting more wides to keep more TE that they like Jake Stoneburner or Gabe Huges. Because they already have 2 TE that are locked up in Cameron and Sims. They never keep more than 3…but back to the receivers, Carro is an impressive physical wide with good hands and solid athleticism. He is not a burner or incredibly talented like Parker but he does mold Landry’s game a lot. So I can see him over taking 2 year Dolphin, Matt Hazel. It will be tough to let go of Hazel becuase he never really got a chance to shine and he obviously has potential, but this is a new regime. With Carroo and Grant locked up that means 5 wides and no more will be kept unless needed in special teams. Carroo is my winner for the #4 WR spot.
RDT or opposite DT of Suh
This is a two man race and it will be a good one. We have two underachievers from last year, sophmore Jordan Phillips vs veteran Earl Mitchell. Both were expected to feed off of the doubles that Ndamukong Suh recieved and put up nice number while stuffing the run. That did not happen, not even close. Instead they were both trampled on and failed miserably. I am sorry, it may seem harsh but they had one job and none of them could do it right. Phillips was a rookie so I guess I couldn’t expect much from him, though he was a 2nd rounder (watch out Xavien Howard). Mitchell though, he is a veteran who played okay in his first year with the Dolphins so why he under performed is beyond me. So both have acknowledged that they are vying for the starting spot and claim they have made improvements. I have not seen that because practice is not physical without pads and the lines depend on that, besides getting to the QB which has not been done by them. At the end of the day the player that will start alongside Suh will be Phillips because he has impressed me more with his talk on his new techniques and improved drive. He also seems to get along better with Suh and that helps. Mitchell will make a solid backup and….3rd down tackle. The winner of the 2nd DT spot is Jordan Phillips.
There is always more discuss and I will give a top 5 camp performers list soon along. Also expect a story on Reshad Jones contract situation and the impact it will have on the defense. Thanks for reading and follow me on twitter for more updates.