Practicing with drills and walkthroughs is fine and all, they have their place in preparing for the regular season. They can help players get back into football shape, it can develop young players and help them get their techniques down through sheer repetition.
But there's no real substitute for honest-to-goodness football action to really give players a reminder of just how fast the game can move once things get serious.
For the Dolphins, they got to experience the closest thing to real football Friday night when the team headed out to Florida International University and did an intra-squad scrimmage game in front of a crowd of over 16,000 Dolphins fans.
At first it seemed like storms in the area were going to shut down the game for everyone, and the scrimmage would have to be called off. But the storms eventually cleared out and the game went on, albeit a little later than expected. So what did I see from this game? Sit down and let me tell you about it.
Ndamukong Suh will earn every penny of his contract
The Dolphins made Suh the highest-paid defensive player in all of football history this past offseason, and there were some Dolphins fans who were originally against the signing of the All-Pro defensive tackle, citing the likes of Albert Haynesworth, who when paid suddenly became lazy and ineffective.
Let me tell you something friends. We will not have that problem - nor will we ever even suspect that problem - with Ndamukong Suh.
From the moment the scrimmage started, Suh began dominating the offensive line like they weren't even in his way. His biggest play of the night was when he chased down running back Lamar Miller in the backfield for a 12-yard loss after simply shoving guard Billy Turner out of his way like it wasn't even a challenge.
That's because it wasn't.
All camp long, Suh has been creating chaos on the field to the point where it's hard to even notice anyone else. Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon got into the backfield a few times as well, but Suh was constantly there pushing, giving us all a small sample of what was to come for opposing offenses.
I say small sample because it was a small sample. Suh suggested last night that truthfully, we ain't seen nothin' yet.
“There are things I know I didn’t do well last year even though I may have had an All-Pro or Pro Bowl year,” Suh said. “Once you feel you don’t have growth in your game, then it is probably time to retire because you have done all of you can do in the game. But I am far from that position right now.”
The idea of Suh still having a long way to go in his game is frightening even to me, but for opposing offenses, it's downright terrifying. Be prepared Dolphins fans, Suh is out for blood (not literally, relax).
Bobby McCain showing he can be contribute right away
When the young cornerback out of Memphis was drafted in the fifth-round of this season's NFL draft, very few people expected him to make as much of an impression as he already has. Similarly to how cornerback Will Davis made a good first impression, McCain is showing a tendency to always be around the ball and make plays.
And as of right now, signs indicate that McCain's skills might be able to translate into games.
The rookie cornerback is being groomed by the coaching staff to eventually become the team's nickel corner and play in the slot, and last night's scrimmage showed that he is more than capable of eventually reaching that point. He intercepted an errant Tannehill pass in the back corner of the endzone and broke up a couple of passes as well.
“I saw the play coming, I saw the split, I saw the leverage — things coaches have been teaching me all camp,” McCain said. “I just reacted on the ball and made the play.”
Making plays is exactly what McCain has been doing, as he's been making plays all throughout training camp as well. He has an innate knack for picking off quarterback Josh Freeman, and I somehow find myself looking for McCain whenever Freeman is on the field.
“When they drafted me they told me to just come in, do what you’re supposed to do and make some plays, make some plays that come to you,” McCain said. “I’m just making sure things go accordingly, I compete day in and day out and do whatever you’re supposed to do make this team.”
The current projected nickel corner is veteran corner Brice McCain, and he will count for $3.5 million against the cap in 2016, a year in which the salary cap for the Dolphins will be very difficult to work around. If Bobby McCain continues to develop at such a rapid pace, it can be speculated that Brice could be moved on from.
Jordan Cameron will be the redzone threat that's been missing
The Dolphins were the top team in getting into the redzone in 2014, but they were 21st when it came to actually scoring touchdowns in the redzone. To remedy that situation, the Dolphins signed Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron to try and give quarterback Ryan Tannehill a bigger target to throw to. In last night's scrimmage, Cameron showed he could do what he came to do.
While he hasn't exactly been spectacular in training camp, his most effective moments have come in the redzone. Cameron continued that trend when he caught a floater of a pass that he caught in the endzone against linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, and then another touchdown in the back of the endzone on a line drive also from Tannehill.
Scoring touchdowns within the 20-yard line was one of the biggest shortcomings of the team last year, and you can come up with all sorts of excuses as to why it happened. Lack of a power running back, small targets with smaller catch radii, or penalties and turnovers that ruined their chances before they got a real opportunity to score.
With Cameron on the team, it appears that at least one problem will be remedied in 2015.
Jamil Douglas continuing to make a good impression at left guard
Dolphins fans have been waiting, pleading, threatening, even begging for the the team to go and use the last of their available cap space to sign Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis to whatever deal he demands in order to ensure that the offensive line is solidified for at least the 2015 season, regardless of the ramifications that would cause for future seasons.
But if we're going to discuss the left guard spot, we can't ignore the fact that rookie Jamil Douglas has been doing surprisingly well against the first-team defense despite Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert not flanking his left side.
In my honest opinion, Douglas is currently the best guard the Dolphins have, and his run blocking made a few holes for the running backs in last night's scrimmage. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell did not have an easy time getting past Douglas, of course when Suh is pushing through center Mike Pouncey and right guard Billy Turner, that doesn't make that big a difference.
Mathis hasn't played right guard since 2008, and Douglas has been getting all but a few reps in one recent practice at left guard, as that is where the Dolphins project him to ultimately play. If Mathis is signed, not only will it be an expensive move, but it will also be a very temporary band-aid that would likely stunt Douglas' growth somewhat as he'd likely be moved to right guard to make room for Mathis.
Douglas has shown he has the skill, he just needs to become more consistent with it. Once that happens, the team should finally have a serviceable offensive line that will be able to protect Ryan Tannehill and give the quarterback time to make plays we've all been waiting for. We shall see what happens as camp continues.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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