The final day of camp for the Miami Dolphins that was available to the public is now in the books, and there were some things to be seen in the final practice the Dolphins had against the Carolina Panthers.
First and foremost, there was thankfully no injuries that could be considered major like last practice, where the Dolphins lost safety Louis Delmas and the Panthers lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, both for the season.
Questions were asked regarding the quality of the field, which made the Wofford College officials a little salty. Luckily, there was nothing to note this time.
Getting a different look helped put a lot of things into perspective, and it got me top open my eyes about some things that I didn't see coming. What did I see? Well, why don't I show you?
Dallas Thomas just might be good enough to hold his own
I reported something similar after the last practice, but it wasn't quite as specific. Before I was merely speaking in general as the offensive line was doing better than I'd expected against a line that wasn't the best of the best. But now I'm speaking specifically of Dallas Thomas, who has recently forced me to eat major crow.
When training camp began nearly a month ago, Dallas Thomas was once again doing what I'd been familiar with him doing. Falling on his face, failing miserably, on the road to proving me right regarding his overall lack of talent and he was wasting everyone's time by being on the roster.
Now, Thomas has shut me up.
Jamil Douglas was on the fast track to winning the job from Dallas Thomas, but after a slight fall off from Douglas, Thomas has made a sudden push to show that he can hold down the left guard position.
Against the Bears defense - which is a 3-4 front - Thomas was able to hold his own and did some pretty good run blocking. And the line as a whole offered Tannehill good pass protection despite Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee coming at him. Thomas is part of that line, and there wasn't a moment where I said, "Well, there he is again."
I understand no one wants to hear this, in a way it actually pains me to admit it because I'd been one of Thomas' biggest critics ever since he showed up in Miami. I was thoroughly convinced Thomas would never be anything other than a mediocre backup. My confidence in that statement has since been shaken. Let's see if he continues to shake it.
Ryan Tannehill still has a few growing pains to go through
Today's practice wasn't the best for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he had a few issues with his accuracy and his touch passes against the Panthers defense. Now before you jump down my throat, let me just give a small disclaimer: this is not a segment meant to bash Tannehill. In fact, it's quite the contrary.
This is probably one of the few practices Tannehill has had where he looked less than sharp. He did happen to throw an interception today to Carolina's Kurt Coleman when he threw a bit too high for Kenny Stills, but even then it wasn't the worst thing you would ever see.
It seemed that the focus for Tannehill today was stuff that he's been needing to practice for quite some time: Back shoulder throws into the endzone, deep balls, all things that could be considered weaknesses of his. So naturally, his overall performance of the day would suffer since he's doing things he actually needs to practice.
It's amazing isn't it? All we've been saying all of camp is that Tannehill has been incredible all camp, consistently showing dramatic improvement, worthy of his new contract...and yet there's still so much for Tannehill to learn. We should be excited Dolphins fans, our young quarterback has been trending upwards every year of his career, and now going into his fourth year, he's still doing so. Will his ceiling ever be reached? Who knows?
From here on out it's going to get even more intense
This was the last camp I'll be able to go to guys. But these past several weeks have shown me a lot about what this Miami Dolphins team will be able to accomplish in 2015. I've seen the struggles and sometimes even successes of the offensive line, I've seen what the defensive line can do against an opposing team, I've seen Tannehill at his best and at his new worst (which isn't bad by the way).
I've been proven right, and I've been proven wrong. I've seen certain players step up, I've seen certain players take a severe step back. But one thing that I can safely say is this: this is the best Dolphins team that has taken the field in quite some time.
There are weak points to be sure: the offensive line is still a question mark, and the linebackers have their own set of issues. But to counter that, the wide receiving corps fits the offense better than I've ever seen it before, the running backs are loaded with talent and some of it is still waiting to be developed. The defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, and of course our young franchise quarterback is showing every sign that he's ready to take yet another step forward.
Safety Walt Aikens has shown he can potentially take over Louis Delmas' role at free safety, Dallas Thomas is showing signs that the team's patience in him will pay off, and defensive end Terrence Fede is starting to step into his role as Olivier Vernon's backup. I could go on forever but I think I've said enough.
The Dolphins have put together a team that fits what they want to do, they've drafted the young talent necessary to succeed and have begun to develop them nicely. You may insist that head coach Joe Philbin isn't a leader, but he and his coaching staff have developed their young players, despite the possibility that they've been misused in some cases.
The offense has shown it can function well even with an offensive line that might not be firing on all cylinders, and so far all evaluations have been made without the inclusion of left tackle Branden Albert, so there's still a strong possibility they'll be better once he returns. This Dolphins team is poised for a playoff run, and it's all because the team finally seems to fit like a puzzle, as any team should.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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