Saturday, July 20, 2013

Five tasks Dolphins must complete at camp


The Miami Dolphins are the first team in AFC East to begin training camp, as their rookies reported Saturday.

Here are five tasks the Dolphins must complete by the end of summer activities:

Get all the unfamiliar names on same page. The Dolphins brought in a number of big-name free agents this offseason, most of which are expected to be starters or major contributors. To make room on the depth chart, many of the team's locker room leaders were cut, traded or not re-signed. It'll be a challenge to integrate all of the newcomers while maintaining a cohesive team atmosphere, both on and off the field. A new, vocal leadership core will need to emerge from the current group of players to help this team realize it's potential.

Find contributors among rookie class. In addition to the free agent additions, the Dolphins brought in nine draft picks, most of whom are considered unpolished and will primarily serve as back-fill on the depth chart as rookies. Some, however, play positions that remain roster needs for Miami. Rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis will vie for roles in the nickel and dime packages, tight end Dion Sims looks like the best replacement for the departed Anthony Fasano's blocking skills, and athletic No. 3 overall pick linebacker Dion Jordan's potential and role will be defined as camp progresses.

Decide if Jonathan Martin is the solution at left tackle. Martin's usually terrible, occasionally mediocre tackle play as a rookie last season further hampered Miami's fledgling offense. Only two NFL tackles allowed more quarterback pressure in 2012 than the former second-round pick, according to Pro Football Focus. After his first full offseason with the team, Martin will need to demonstrate that he's the franchise tackle he was projected to be coming out of Stanford.

Assess Jared Odrick's ability as a starting defensive tackle. Both of Miami's incumbent starting defensive tackles, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, are scheduled to become free agents after this season. It's likely that at least one of them does not return next year, if not both. The Dolphins would be well served to find out if Odrick can adequately replace one of the former Pro Bowlers as a starting defensive tackle, a crucial position in Miami's defensive front.

Set up Ryan Tannehill to succeed. It's no secret that the Dolphins' near future almost entirely depends on Tannehill's ascension into top quarterback status. The young signal-caller has a better supporting cast this season in terms of talent, but it'll take a united improvement in play-calling, offensive line play and team chemistry to make his growing expectations a reality.

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