Throughout this season, Dolphins fans Vinny Ginardi and super-guest blogger Patrick Dillon will discuss each episode of the HBO series Hard Knocks. The two will exchange their thoughts on each episode and the ins and outs of the 2012 Miami Dolphins. They are hoping this will not be the most entertaining part of the season.
Vinny Ginardi: Overall this felt like the most encouraging episode that we’ve seen thus far.
While we saw how the Dolphins struggled in the first half of the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, we saw how much better they played in the second half. But the preseason game aside, it was a few other instances that had me most excited going forward.
We finally saw more from Reggie Bush this week. In every sense, Bush appears to the model football player and teammate. In this episode, we saw him put in extra hard work, encourage others, and act as a team leader by calling a captain’s meeting with coach Philbin after some players vocally disagreed with the release of Chad Johnson. Coming off of a career year, it says a lot about Bush’s competitiveness that he is dedicated to having an even better season.
Even though it wasn’t a huge focus of the episode, it was great to see that Vontae Davis is back to playing at the level we’ve seen from him these past few years instead of the out-of-breath, gasping-for-water player that we saw in the very first episode. If Davis and Sean Smith play up to their potential, Miami could have one of the best secondaries in the league.
And of course, naming Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback is (hopefully) a great sign of things to come in Miami. I had my worries about Tannehill when Miami selected him in this year’s draft, but he has impressed in camp and in his two preseason games. The future starts now in Miami.
Pat Dillon: We have learned a lot about the structure of the Dolphins team from this episode.
Obviously, the biggest thing Dolphins fans will take away from this episode is Ryan Tannehill becoming the starter. I was like Vinny with thinking that when the Dolphins drafted Tannehill 8th overall that he should sit on the bench and that Matt Moore should start. But after all the practices and game situations, Tannehill is the top dog with Moore riding the pine, once again in his career. Tannehill was by no means the obvious choice like an Andrew Luck or RGIII, but Moore never proved to be the obvious choice either. With that being said, when you consider between the two, Tannehill was going to get his shot regardless, so why not now? The Dolphins are not in a position to compete this year for a Super Bowl (as much as this pains me to say) and Tannehill will only improve with live game reps. As Richie Incognito so eloquently phrased it to Ryan at the end of the show when he found out he was the starter, “Don’t f&%$ this up”, because Matt Moore will be waiting for another shot.
We also got to see other aspects of the offense taking shape. Last week, the audience was introduced to Jim Turner, the offensive line coach. This week, we saw more of Jim, but we got to see his work with some of the linemen, especially the linemen that are competing for starting positions on the right side of the offensive line, which was one of the more concerning areas of the team coming into training camp and the preseason. First we meet Jonathan Martin, the right tackle from Stanford that was drafted in the second round of this year’s draft. The Dolphins coaching staff is very high on him and he has been thrust into the starting lineup. In both practice and the preseason game versus the Carolina Panthers, he had his struggles but you can see why the Dolphins selected him in the 2nd round. It will be very interesting to see if he continues to improve and remain the starting right tackle. On the other end of the spectrum, John Jerry is a right guard that was a starting right guard during the Sparano era, but he has struggled with both his play and weight during the Philbin era. Turner worked Jerry so hard during one of the practices that he started to throw up right there on the field. (note to Hard Knocks: I don’t need to see that anymore. Thanks) Later in the episode, Turner was very impressed with his play against the Panthers, so hopefully he can turn around Jerry’s career and bolster the right side along with Martin.
The most troubling position battle currently on the squad is the receiver battle. Besides the fact that the talent is “lacking” (which is a nice way of putting it), there are currently twelve receivers competing for at most six receiver positions on the team. Besides the two locks, which in my opinion are Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee, who do you think is going to step up and become the other 3-4 receivers on this team, Vinny?
VG: Great question, Pat.
I agree that Bess and Naanee should be considered locks to make the team because of their experience in past NFL seasons, and even though we haven’t see much (or anything) from him in Hard Knocks because of a leg injury, I think that Brian Hartline will make the team too. Even though he had some trouble early in camp, we’ve seen a lot of good things from Roberto Wallace, and since he has the physical tools to become big time receiver, I would be shocked if he didn’t make the squad. So to me, there are two more open spots. Rookie Rishard Matthews needs to be considered after a solid performance in the last preseason game, while it’s also easy to root for Chris Hogan because he’s always open. Clyde Gates is another name that has a good chance to make the squad given his speed.
Tight end is another question mark. We haven’t seen much from Anthony Fasano in the show, but I’d have to expect that he is the team’s number one. That being said, he’s a below-league average tight end, so I’m hoping one of the younger guys steps up sometime soon. As much as it pains me to say, Les Brown doesn’t have the physicality to be huge success at the position (because of his attitude and competitiveness, I still want him to make the team). So that leaves Charles Clay and Michael Egnew, who have each had their upds and downs in camp. It seems like if Egnew puts it all together, he can be a top receiving tight end. I sure hope so at least, because Miami drafted him in the third round.
What have you seen from the tight ends so far Pat, and what are you looking forward to most next week?
PD: The tight ends have been under the spotlight during the Hard Knocks season, especially the two youngsters Clay and Egnew. Anthony Fasano will be the starter and this is nothing to get excited about. In 2011, he was 29th in catches by a TE, 23rd in receiving yards by a TE, and had 5 TDs. You can expect the same sort of season from him this season, but hopefully Clay and Egnew, who are much more athletic than Fasano and aren’t on the team to run block, can be security blankets for Tannehill and make contributions to the team this season. Dan Campbell, a former NFL TE and current TE coach for the Fins, has been very hard on the TEs, especially Egnew. Egnew didn’t block on a play for after Lamar Miller caught a pass versus the Panthers, and Campbell let Egnew have it. It was a positive sign when Egnew made a great block the next opportunity he had. It shows that he is a mentally tough kid and takes critizism well. The Dolphins are looking for him to become the next athletic TE in this league, and hopefully he shows the organization that they made a great choice in the 2012 draft,