The first week of training camp is in the books, and the Mike McDaniel era of the Miami Dolphins franchise began about as smoothly as it could have possibly gone.
The offense showcased itself against a vanilla-look defense in Saturday’s practice, which was open to the public, and that’s exactly what the fans needed to see to inject some hope into this season.
Here are some more takeaways from the Dolphins’ first week of training camp:
Tyreek Hill has rare, game-changing speed
I’ve never seen anyone with Hill’s combination of speed and quickness in all my years. He’s the fastest player on a football field I’ve ever seen — and it isn’t even close. That explains why he’s been a Pro Bowler every year he’s been in the league (six), and indicates that his $30 million-a-year contract, and the treasure chest of draft picks Miami gave Kansas City to get him was well worth it because there isn’t a player in the NFL who can shut him down for 50 snaps a game. At some point Hill’s going to be 30 yards downfield wide-open a couple of plays a game.
Tailback is Miami’s deepest position
Miami’s backfield is so deep because of the offseason additions that brought Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel there’s a chance Myles Gaskin, the starter for the past two years, might not make this 53-man regular-season roster. We’ll know more when the pads come on, and Miami begins their joint practices, but the Dolphins have a talented stable of backs who each bring something different to the table. Collectively, they might deliver a top-10 rushing attack if the rebuilt offensive line can do their part.
Tua Tagovailoa can throw the deep ball
Tagovailoa doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but there’s just enough juice in it for the third-year starter to throw the football 40 to 50-yards downfield with accuracy. With the type of speed Miami has at receiver the threat of the deep ball has the potential to open the field for everyone on an every-down basis.
Mike McDaniel’s offensive is creative
I’m a huge fan of the West Coast, play-action based offense McDaniel has grown up in, and helped run at everyone of his NFL stops. Watching some of these installs, and the creativity he’s showcased early with movement and shifts, has me encouraged that Miami might actually be a top-15 unit when it comes to offensive production.
Jaylen Waddle is running better routes
One of the most head-scratching decisions from 2021 was turning Waddle into a slot receiver. While that shift helped him set a rookie record for receptions in a season, it negates his speed. He’s working more as a flanker these days, and is running more routes downfield. It’s clear that this offense is better suited for his skill set, and therefore his yards-per-catch average should rise.
Depth at cornerback is concerning
Nik Needham, Noah Igbinoghene, and Trill Williams don’t have the speed to cover Hill or Waddle. Few players in the NFL do, but it is not a good sign that they are losing so many reps on a daily basis. What happens to Miami’s secondary if Xavien Howard or Byron Jones are forced to miss games this season? Who is the backup nickel cornerback if the Dolphins are forced to play Needham on the boundary? The Dolphins need to address the troublesome depth at cornerback before the season starts.
Struggling linemen settling in
With Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson settling into their new spots at left guard and right tackle, the Dolphins offensive line is seemingly taking shape. But it’s hard to evaluate that unit without pads, which comes on Tuesday for the first time. The joint practices against Kacy Rodgers’ Tampa Bay defensive line next week will tell us even more.
Tight ends have had a quiet start to camp
This could be an overreaction because Miami could have used the first week of camp to work on specific stuff, but the tight end position has been invisible. Outside of a handful of catches per day, Mike Gesicki and company haven’t done much. Maybe the defense has done a good job from a coverage standpoint. And maybe things change when the Dolphins begin working on red-zone and goal-line plays. But this is definitely something to monitor moving forward.
Tackle depth is concerning
Either Jaelan Phillips is going to be a beast in his second season, or the Dolphins need to find some better reserve tackles. With Terron Armstead on a veteran rest program that has his practice reps limited, the former UM standout has been beating up on Greg Little and Larnel Coleman regularly. At this point, if Armstead is forced to sit out a game or two Miami will likely be forced to move another starter to left tackle.
Veteran rest program is a wise approach
McDaniel comes from a tree of coaches that give respect to veteran players, ensuring they preserve their bodies for games. That’s why Howard, Emmanuel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts and others, who aren’t coming off an injury, regularly have their snap counts limited during daily practices. And it’s why the players recovering injuries like Armstead, Mostert and Melvin Ingram are practicing every other day. The goal is to have them healthy for the season, when it counts.