With the departure of many veteran players this past offseason (for better or worse), the younger members of the Miami Dolphins squad are going to be expected to step up and make an impact right from the start.
Players like cornerback Jamar Taylor and linebacker Chris McCain are two players that the organization is counting on to step up now that Cortland Finnegan and Philip Wheeler have departed, just as right tackle Ja'Wuan James was needed to immediately step in and hold down the right side of the offensive line last season.
The 2015 draft class for the Dolphins will have to make that same jump for the Dolphins to succeed, particularly players like wide receiver DeVante Parker and guard Jamil Douglas. But when forcing rookies to contribute in a big way immediately, there's always the question regarding how well they'll do, and head coach Joe Philbin recently addressed that.
“I think everybody is different." Philbin said. "You have to do it on a case by case basis, but certainly Ja’Wuan was a guy that when we studied and analyzed him, he’s a good athlete, smart, played a lot of football in a very demanding conference. It’s hard to make a blanket statement, but certainly the guys are getting very well coached in college.”
Using James as an example is quite fitting, as the offensive line is still in flux with the unknowns of players like Billy Turner who was drafted last season in the third-round, and Jamil Douglas, who was drafted in the fourth-round of this past draft.
Douglas in particular has many people wondering how well he'll adjust, as the alternative at present is either current starter Dallas Thomas, who has failed quite definitively each time he has been given the starting job, or average-at-best veteran players like Jeff Linkenbach or Jacques McClendon. When asked about Douglas's potential, Philbin praised the young lineman, but also gave reason to be cautious when making evaluations at this point in time.
“I feel very good about Jamil. The thing about these camps, it’s not a contact camp so it’s a little bit, I’ve been around them enough to understand. There are certain things you can evaluate in offensive linemen in OTA’s and certain things that you’re going to have to wait until training camp." Philbin said. "But from what I saw, first impressions of Jamil have been excellent and sometimes you can ask the veteran linemen, maybe not specifically, but you can watch their reaction and a coach taught me a long time ago, players know players."
If Douglas can indeed step in and make an impact right away and wrest the starting job away from Dallas Thomas, the Dolphins have hope that the offensive line will at long last be enough to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright and allow him to continue his development.
"You watch some of the veteran guys and how they see them and how they treat them and what they expect of them gives me a lot of hope that things are going to be good for Jamil."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater