Written by Matthew Cannata | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
There are several young players on the Miami Dolphins that are preparing every week and are just waiting for the opportunity to contribute on game day. Some of those include offensive guard Billy Turner, safety Walt Aikens and linebacker Jordan Tripp. Although some have played more than others, none have been thrusted into a full-time role but Joe Philbin says that they are all developing at a pace that he feels comfortable with and would have confidence in all of them if they were called upon to play a substantial amount of time in a game.
“I think potentially, if needed, they can all contribute. I don’t know if I can sit here and say, ‘This guy this week is going to be in there sooner as opposed to anybody else. They are all doing well. As you know and as you’ve mentioned, with special teams guys, it’s a little bit easier to get your feet wet than it is as an offensive linemen. I think you either are kind of in or you’re not.”.
One player who many fans have been anxious to see is offensive guard and third round pick Billy Turner. The reason, for him not seeing the field, according to some inside the Dolphins organization, is because his technique is not at the level that the coaches want here in the NFL. Turner was known to be a mauler in college but has been working to refine his technique here in Miami. Philbin says that he's been getting better every day.
“He’s got a handle. I think John (Benton) and Jack (Bicknell Jr.) have done a great job giving him exposure to multiple positions, which I think is good at this stage of the game. I’ve seen a lot of development in the pass rush drills, watching him out here today. He’s getting better, he’s getting better. I like where he’s going.”
Dion Jordan, who was in a similar situation last year, has been working hard since coming back from his suspension to prove that he belongs in the NFL and can be that dominant force that the Dolphins thought he could be when they traded up and drafted him number three overall in the 2013 draft.
“Again, in football, everything is day-to-day," Philbin said. "I like the progress he is making in a lot of areas and, like anybody else, there is room for development just like with other guys on our team. I like what he’s doing so far. He’s been diligent. I think his preparation has been good. I think his work on the practice field has been good. I think his interaction with the staff and the players, yeah I like it.”
Sometimes though, Philbin admitted that there just isn't enough time to get these guys in the game, even on a limited basis and in certain situations. That all comes down to snap counts, the amount of time either side of the team is on the field and other variable factors that change week to week.
"I think we have a targeted number [of snap counts] as we enter a game. I think if you play the averages, let’s say the (defensive) line, let’s just draw 65 plays possibly. You may start out, ‘(Cameron) Wake is getting 45 (snaps).’ I’m throwing out arbitrary numbers. ‘(Derrick) Shelby is getting 25 (snaps). Some games you end up with 80 plays in the game. If you are playing defense, those numbers go up and adjust, some guy’s hot and the other guy is not so hot. Sometimes you only play 50 (snaps). We’ve had games where we’ve played play 51 snaps on defense, so it’s not an exact science by any stretch, but we try to give it some thought, use common sense, see if we can get guys who earned the right to play in the game and try to get them in.”
Philbin has never been one to rush young players on the field if they aren't ready and we are seeing that here. However, we need to trust the coaching staff's decisions on playing time and how much these guys see the playing field. After all, they are the ones with them every day throughout the vast majority of the day and know what one can handle and what one can't handle.