Training camp always brings about excitement and hope for surprises. Every year, it seems that there are breakout candidates, sometimes even before putting pads on in practice. Often times, those training camp stars don’t pan out. Let’s take a look at three Dolphins candidates this year set to overperform and three set to underperform compared to expectations.
Expected Overachievers for Dolphins
The Dolphins’ fourth round pick Kalen Ballage is set to open the season as a third option in the backfield. Let’s make two things clear: 1) The Dolphins, for whatever reason, don’t seem to want to give the ball to Kenyan Drake 20 times a game. (Hint: They should). 2) Frank Gore, no matter how amazing he looks in camp, is 35 years old. Moreover, he has averaged 3.7 yards per carry for the last 3 years.
This means Ballage, at some points, will have a chance to either carry the football or make catches out of the backfield. He was a touchdown machine in college, and his size may lend him to get some short yardage carries. He will need to work on his blocking and will need to wow the coaches if he’s taking away snaps from a healthy Drake and Gore. As the season goes on, though, I think Ballage could see up to 20 percent of the snaps at RB.
I guess I really should have posted this last week before the hoopla surrounding Torry McTyer began. I would have looked like a genius then.
Nobody has really seen him in game action much, having played for UNLV and going undrafted last year. The Dolphins certainly don’t have a set starting CB opposite Xavien Howard. They have rotated McTyer in with the starting unit in almost half of their practices so far. They have to be cautious with Tony Lippett who is coming off a season ending injury.
Therefore McTyer is going to get his shot. He’s been tasked with defending anyone from Jakeem Grant to Danny Amendola and held his own so far. He’s one of the guys who will get the most playing time in the four preseason games, if only because this is one of the few true position battles the Dolphins have this camp. I think he definitely makes the team, and I think he’s in a true three-man corner rotation with Cordrea Tankersley and Lippett.
I think this one might be a bit of a surprise to some. Daniel Kilgore is a solid NFL center. He was especially good in the run game last season. For whatever reason, his pass blocking improved dramatically when Jimmy Garroppolo became the starter in SF last season. Kilgore did not allow a single sack or hit on the QB in the last 5 weeks, in which the Niners went 5-0.
To me, a starting offensive line of Tunsil, Sitton, Kilgore, Davis, James is good enough to keep Ryan Tannehill on his feet, and should definitely be good enough to spring some big runs every game.
Kilgore has played in 74 NFL games, and will be a key to the Dolphins success this year.
Expected Underachievers for Dolphins
I like Jakeem Grant — I really do. However, why are we going berserk over a guy who has 13 catches in 2 NFL seasons? Because he’s really fast and we always root for the little guy? There are four WR entrenched over him on the depth chart. Barring injury there is nearly no chance he jumps Parker, Stills, Wilson or Amendola for consistent snaps.
Add in the fact all three of the Dolphins running backs have pass catching ability, and rookie TE Mike Gesicki, we hope, will be a major factor in the red zone. Where in the world do people see Grant getting targets? You could make a case he’s going to get the sixth or seventh most targets on the team! Maybe he can be used in a hybrid role that includes some carries. Mind you, he had exactly three carries last year. Pump the brakes on Grant.
Same story with Isaiah Ford, who by all accounts was having a great camp. Not only has he missed the last week with a shoulder injury, but he’s even below Grant on the pecking order. Could he recover from the injury and beat out Leonte Carroo for a roster spot? Yes. Instead Ford will likely have to be a special teams contributor. The Dolphins would have to suffer two WR injuries to see Ford running significant routes in games.
This one was tough for me to include. There’s a few things in play here, however. The Dolphins are deep at DL. It’s probably the only position on the team where a good player might not even make the active roster.
Robert Quinn is still 28, but he’s missed 16 games the last 3 seasons. A third of his career sacks came in one monster 2013 season. The Dolphins would love if Charles Harris played much more than he did last season. They have four defensive tackles worthy of playing time, which would cut into situations where Quinn could move inside.
I know William Hayes is hurt now (hamstring, reported today), but if he comes back healthy, he’s going to play in most running situations. Hayes, Quinn, Harris, Wake, Spence, Phillips, Godcheaux, Taylor, Branch — 9 worthy rotating linemen. I just don’t see anyone with monster numbers. Naturally some are going to be aggravated about a lack of snaps. Put me down for Quinn as the underachiever here.
Overall I debated a couple of others for each category. I’m not entirely sold on Laremy Tunsil just yet, and I hope he’s going to overachieve relative to last year when he was just “okay”. Also, I really think not enough people are talking about Raekwon McMillan. If he’s 100% healthy, I think he’ll overachieve and solidify the defense. Focusing on individual players progress may be more exciting this preseason with very few true positional battles.
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