Ladies and gentlemen, fellow fans of that football franchise residing in South Florida.

Football is back. And, less importantly, so am I. 

It’s been a while – true either of me writing an article or of being able to say that football is back underway. The Dolphins had a quiet draft thanks mainly to the Tyreek Hill trade and, let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot to glean from OTA’s and minicamp. The free agency period was undoubtedly busy – the Hill trade, Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Cedrick Wilson Jr., etc. – but there’s a certain glow to training camp that’s hard to top in the offseason. The players are all back, the media availabilities are plentiful, and there’s much to learn about the team.

As for myself, I’m back to waiting around for a few months before the next phase of navy flight school begins. So how else would I spend my time if not hunched over a keyboard writing about our beloved Miami Dolphins? This is our year, as the saying has perpetually but hollowly been since Marino retired. But with new head coach Mike McDaniel around and some buzz hanging around the team, perhaps there really is something in the air leading up to this 2022 season. But enough about me or this offseason – you’re here to get the scoop on training camp. Let’s get to it:

Training Camp Outline

  • Key Dates: Training camp practices began Wednesday, July 27th, and will run through the final preseason game on August 27th. Roster cutdown dates will be on August 16th (90 to 85 players), August 23rd (85 to 80), and August 30th, the big one (80 to 53). Barring turnover at the bottom of the roster and casualties from other teams being added, that 53-man roster is largely what the team will carry into the season opener in early September. 
  • Preseason games
    • August 13th: At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (joint practices in Tampa held on the 10th and 11th)
    • August 20th: Home against the Las Vegas Raiders
    • August 27th: Home against the Philadelphia Eagles (joint practices in Miami held on the 24th and 25th)
  • Practice breakdown: Straight from NFL.com, full pads won’t come on until day seven of practice at the earliest. Through day three, no contact is authorized, but days four and five allow teams to practice in shells (helmets and light pads). Day six is a mandatory off day. For the uninitiated, practices each day consist primarily of meetings, strength training, drills, and scrimmages. Ask any player, and they’ll tell you that training camp is a grind – especially in the South Florida heat and humidity. One last thing to note is the relatively new preseason schedule, with each team only having three games per the league’s collective bargaining agreement. 

Quick Hits

  • Most Important position battles: 
    • As you might expect, the offense is where most of the battles will be, considering the turnover on that side of the ball. Here, the first place to look is at the right tackle position. A week one starting O-line of Terron Armstead, Liam Eichenberg, Connor Williams, Rob Hunt, and Austin Jackson running left to right could be solid but has one glaring question mark: Austin Jackson. He could benefit from a new system that should take advantage of his athleticism and movement skills, but he’s been a trainwreck since getting drafted in 2020. Look for him to either step up or be replaced, with Liam Eichenberg being in a similar, but not as severe, position at left guard. Struggles between those two could spell a shuffle across most of the line. 
    • The battle for backup cornerback snaps: Miami’s top CBs are set in stone with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Beyond that, the room has a lot of young talent coming up. Since sticking as an undrafted free agent, Nik Needham has become a capable cover man. Still, one would like to think that former first-round pick Noah Igbonoghene will turn his athleticism into production sooner rather than later. Needham has a secure hold on the number three job for now, but there are more snaps to be claimed by Igbonoghene or UDFA last year, Trill Williams. 
    • The numbers game at wide receiver: Especially with Mohammad Sanu now in the fray, not all of Miami’s wideouts will survive final cutdowns. Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Cedrick Wilson make up a concrete top three – and rookie Erik Ezukanma figures to be safe as a draft pick from just months ago  – but the last few spots at the position will be hotly contested. Six receivers is a likely expectation, so the likes of Sanu, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr., Trent Sherfield, and a few under-the-radar names figure to be battling for the final two spots.

Evan’s Two Cents

Who’s old enough to remember last training camp when the offense was embarrassing the defense with constant deep balls and Albert Wilson was lighting the world on fire day in and day out? I do! So, surely, those things must have carried over to the regular season, right?

If you had eyeballs and a heart strong – abused? – enough heart to endure the first eight games of last season; you know neither of those became a reality when the bullets were live. The deep ball went extinct about four snaps into the season when everyone realized the offensive line couldn’t be trusted to block any longer than it took for viewers at home to say, “that was fast,” and Albert Wilson isn’t even on the team anymore. 

Given those examples from just last year, my point is this: Be encouraged by growth and electricity in the offseason program but don’t base your expectations on practices alone. Heck, be careful of the preseason games, too. Miami won its first two in 2007 and then lost every game but one (God bless you, Greg Camarillo) during the regular season.

So enjoy it, but take it with a grain of salt. The most revealing instances will be the joint practices and the preseason games, to a point. 

And when I say look for growth, those examples will be all around you. This franchise still carries a substantial number of young, ascending players on its roster – all at different skill levels to this point. Jaylen Waddle, Jevon Holland, Jaelan Phillips, Nik Needham, Christian Wilkins, Liam Eichenberg, Lynn Bowden, Hunter Long, and so on should all demonstrate flashes as training camp goes. Not all of it will translate to the regular season, but any signs of growth should be welcomed. 

There’s a lot to look forward to this year. And with things just getting started again, the fun is just beginning.

 

(Thanks for reading! For more content this season — and for articles going back spanning the last few — give me a follow on Twitter @EvanMorris72)