The Miami Dolphins will enter the 2015 season with a lot of their salary cap tied to veteran players such as Ndamukong Suh, Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey, Brent Grimes and others. However, the true success of their season won't solely be dependent on the contribution of those veterans. Instead, Miami will have to rely on the young players to take the next step, which is exactly what head coach Joe Philbin hopes will happen. One player that has been getting a lot of attention based off his exciting rookie campaign is wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
“One thing is obviously take a little better care of the football in the return game; if in fact that is what’s going to happen," Philbin said. "We’ve talked about that. And consistency. He’s been a guy that brings a lot of passion to the game. He’s out here and I think he’s had a very good offseason. So I just think it’s a matter of consistency. I think we’ve utilized him in a little bit more formationally, we’ve moved him around so that should expand his game a little bit and give the defense a little more. Maybe not as much as a beat on where he’s going to be every snap so I think that will help him too.”
Another young player who is receiving lots of offseason attention and praise is linebacker Chris McCain. Many are expecting him to make a big jump from year one to year two and perhaps even be with the starting unit when the season opens in September against the Washington Redskins.
“With a young player, you’re looking for progress. You’re looking for maybe a better understanding of the assignments and responsibilities within the defense, which should enable you to have better play speed. The big thing we’ve been talking to him about is play speed. And as a young player, with all those guys, is consistency and development. But that’s one thing that I think we’ve stressed to him," Philbin said. "We’re giving him exposure a lot. He’s been playing and getting a lot of normal down and distance snaps, playing linebacker. He’s gotten some linebacker snaps in third down and he’s gotten some DPR snaps. So we want to exposure him, especially this time of the year. We don’t want to, for whatever reason, if an injury occurs or if he’s gotten pushed to some other spot, we don’t want it to be Chinese to him. So we’re kind of throwing a lot at him, and we’re going to refine his roles based on how well he competes, how well he shows himself and those type of things.”
Arthur Lynch, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, is certainly fighting for his spot on the roster due to the number of tight ends Miami currently has. Additionally, they recently put in a waiver claim for tight end Tim Wright, but were beat by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and numerous other teams in the race to get him. However, Philbin stayed positive when asked about his progress thus far.
“It’s been good to have him. We really didn’t get a great exposure to him last year. And I’m sure it’s frustrating for him not to be able to get out there in practice. But I think both offensively he’s catching on to the system better and special teams he’s done a good job as well.”
Perhaps though, one of the biggest questions is the running back situation behind Lamar Miller. While he is the clear-cut number one back, there isn't anyone who has firmly cemented themselves as the number two back. However, Philbin says he has seen some flashes out of the young players, especially LaMichael James.
“I don’t know about step ahead because of the no pads, but I think LaMichael James has kind of flashed a little bit. Again, we didn’t have a lot of time to evaluate him, to see him in practice situations and take him through our offensive installation and how we might be able to utilize him. He’s looked good and it was good to have Mike Gillislee back. I thought he had some good days out here as well. Damien Williams has been moving around athletically. So I think it’s a good group. I think it’s going to be competitive. Jay (Ajayi’s) done a good job, Lamar. Lamar’s trying to sweat off a couple of pounds with his baseball manager on him underneath (joking).”
We'll see how the progress of these players translates to the field once the pads come on and they start going full speed but so far, all signs are encouraging that they are on the right track of development.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs
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