The Miami Dolphins not only have a lot of young players who are looking to make the leap from year one to year two, but also have a lot of undrafted free agents who are doing everything they can to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster when the season opens. So far, some have stood out and have caught the attention of the coaching staffs’ eye. One player that has turned many heads is linebacker Chris McCain, an undrafted free agent entering his second year in the NFL. However, Philbin cautioned that while McCain is doing a great job thus far, he needs to keep improving to secure a starting position when it’s time to hit the field for the 2015 season in Week One.
"We've gotten looks at a lot of different combinations at linebacker and so I think we're going to find out a lot more during training camp and during the preseason. We're not in any rush. Chris is doing a very good job. I like his attitude that he's brought to the field. There's a lot of football in between now and September 13th."
When it came time to talk about this year’s crop of undrafted free agents, especially at the linebacker position, Philbin said they are working hard but still have a lot of work to do.
"I mean it's a good group. The linebacker group kind of in particular you think of a lot because we got a lot of them and then they're all good. They're all guys that look instinctive and they come out on the practice field. They work really hard and according to Duff (Mark Duffner) and Kevin (Coyle) they caught on to the system well. So I like the way they're improving on a daily basis. I think special teams, for a linebacker, especially a young one and maybe you throw in an undrafted one, it's going to be important and I think Riz (Darren Rizzi) likes, Marwan (Maalouf) like what they see out of that group. So I think that's one group that's probably caught our eye."
Wide Receiver Tommy Streeter is another player who has been in the NFL for a few years but is still looking to make his presence known and stick around on a team for more than a few months. Philbin said that he has good potential and needs to keep doing what he’s doing.
"We love his body type, number one. He's got great length and he picks things up real fast. His play speed was good today. He's competitive on throws down the field. He's a bright, energetic guy. (We're) really excited about having him on the ball club right now."
Streeter isn't the only wide receiver who is making noise. With first round pick DeVante Parker sidelined for the next two months or so, other players in that unit have been taking advantage of the opportunity.
"I think Greg (Jennings) has had a good camp. I think he's caught on to the offense really well. Matt Hazel's made a couple of plays and certainly I think he's improved dramatically over a year ago. He's a young guy. I mean Rishard (Matthews) has been productive catching the football as well. Mike Preston's a young guy that has really shown in a couple of weeks, last week I believe one day when we really emphasized two-minute, I think he made three, four plays in row. So I think we've had some good production out of those guys."
A player who has developed nicely over the past several years is defensive end Olivier Vernon. He is entering a contract year and if he continues to improve, he will demand a lot of money on the open market during the 2016 offseason. Philbin said he can’t wait to see what Vernon brings to the field this year.
"First and foremost, for himself, that they are sky high and again not everything can be measured in sacks in football. And so the thing that I think that's underrated about him is he plays with a lot of effort, a lot energy. He does a nice job in the running game as well and I'm excited about him. He's worked hard. He's in very, very good condition and so I'm excited about what he's going to be able to accomplish this year."
Development will be key for the Dolphins this season if they want a realistic chance at the playoffs. Additionally, it’s important in future years since a lot of their cap will be tied up to several players so they will need the cheap contracts that come with the young players. Philbin and his staff have done a good job of developing players over the past three years and will need to continue to do so if they want to keep their jobs.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs