Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins Episode One Recap
By: Thomas Galicia
Episode one of the new season of Hard Knocks started with a bang.
Dolphins fans were likely hoping that Jeff Ireland would get the Drew Barrymore in Scream treatment–
That we’d see the embattled general manager fired in the first five minutes.
While no Dolphins fan expected that, plenty hoped for it. Alas, it started with the release of undrafted free agent guard Derek Dennis, who was cut before the first practice could begin. Despite his release though he would still be an improvement over John Jerry, but that will likely be a story to tell next week when Hard Knocks focuses on Miami’s offensive line.
For this week the main storylines were about the averted Tannehill contract quagmire, the three-way quarterback battle and of course the expected star of the show Chad Johnson-Ochocinco doing Chad Johnson-Ochocinco things.
The Tannehill contract segment was our introduction to Jeff Ireland. I’d never call myself an Ireland booster, but he felt he was right for attempting to sign Tannehill to the deal he wanted to sign him to. While he could’ve been correct, it was obscured by is outright unlikeability.
Ireland’s not unlikeable because he’s a bad guy, but rather because he does tend to carry himself with the same Parcells-type arrogance that we’ve grown to loathe so much.
However this doesn’t trump the fact that any Dolphins fan could see through how unauthentic this storyline really was. Contract guru Dawn Aponte had stated that “Ryan will not be a Miami Dolphin this year, based on our positions, and he’ll go back into the draft”, which smacked of a scripted line fed to her by a producer (even the delivery seemed rehearsed). This of course flew in the face of what the media was speculating (that Tannehill would report by the first Monday of camp) as well as what actually happened (Tannehill signing his deal and reporting to camp that Sunday).
Even the way Ireland stated that it was “driving him nuts” seemed more like a scripted reply to another scripted statement than a true feeling of desperation and exasperation. You would think Ireland would look more nervous if he really felt that the first round draft pick that will make or break his career with the Dolphins could possibly not even report to camp.
While Ireland and his crew in upper management seemed a bit stiff, Coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins coaching staff seemed loose and confident. Philbin—still dealing with the loss of his son last January—came off as a likeable yet authoritative leader while speaking to the rest of the coaching staff and their families at a dinner prior to the start of camp. The Sun-Sentinel’s Heat beat writer Ira Winderman even compared him to Heat head coach Erik Spolestra in a tweet during the show, and the comparison turned out to be a good one. Much like Spolestra it seemed like even through adversity, Philbin could keep it together. I already loved the hiring when it was made in January, and seeing Philbin on the show only confirmed my beliefs that Miami made the correct choice.
Already it seems like Vontae Davis’ conditioning is becoming a problem (much like last year), but it seems that this coaching staff is at least trying to figure out how to deal with it. Upon watching the show you got the impression that Coach Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are more than willing to go with cornerback Richard Marshall as their starter ahead of Davis just to make a point. Davis is a talented cornerback and makes a big difference for the Dolphins when he’s on the field, but his conditioning (and laziness) could derail not only his career but the Dolphins defense as a whole.
As for the quarterback battle, it was clear that Garrard was in control, which hasn’t been a surprise to anyone that’s followed the team thus far in training camp. But one gets the feeling that Tannehill will be a major contender for the starting job. He has the best arm, the best technique and has the right frame of mind of the quarterbacks in camp, which was seen during Saturday’s scrimmage and only amplified during this episode.
(He also has Lauren Tannehill which already makes him a winner no matter what happens from here on out.)
The best part of Hard Knocks though is seeing these players behind the scenes. Already I’m tempted to challenge both Chad Ochocinco and Reggie Bush in FIFA. Sure both players might be faster than me and more skilled in real life American Football, but when it comes to video game futbol, I think I could hold my own against them.
Also interesting but at the same time infuriating is the fact that we somehow got a Tebow reference in thanks to an argument between former Tebow teammate and Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and a massage therapist. Sadly unlike the Tannehill contract talks on camera, this did seem authentic. I really could go a few more years without hearing the name Tebow again, but hey, I also wanted Marino to win a Super Bowl ring and couldn’t get that.
Another interesting part of the show was Jared Odrick committing the cardinal sin of touching the QB (in this case Matt Moore) during padded practice. This wasn’t interesting because Odrick touched Moore (again, it was an accident), but how Jake Long, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey responded to this. I couldn’t imagine those three having the same response to it last season, but that’s not an indictment on former Dolphin Chad Henne nor is it me implying the respect they have for Moore (which they do have even though it is doubtful Moore will be a Miami Dolphin by the end of training camp if Garrard continues to play well and Tannehill continues to show improvement). It’s indicative of the leadership and cohesion the line is willing to show, something that’s been lacking in recent years and the reason why it’s been one of the weakest lines in the NFL despite having perhaps the best left side of any offensive line.
Then there’s Chad. His quotes, well, couldn’t possibly be printed here. However he was what you expected based off of his Emmy-caliber performance from Hard Knocks 2009. Did I want to hear that he didn’t have sex last season? No not really, nor did I want to hear the details of how he and his reality show star wife Evelyn Lozado met. But then again, I’m more of an old school football guy, I’m sure that’s interesting to someone.
Chad’s bravado however looked like a great sign to me. I’m not expecting him to go back to the abilities of the 2003-2008 Chad Johnson/Ochocinco that wowed the crowds, but I do expect him to be productive. Sure he sounds delusional when he states that "Last year, I took a year off to give everybody else a chance to catch up,” and he did come off a bit boorish while dropping f-bombs left and right during a press conference. But a loose Chad can be a good Chad.
This also did help with Coach Philbin’s perception. It seems he will put up with Chad’s antics to a certain degree, but if Coach did state that if Chad doesn't fall in line, "It could absolutely [put him in jeopardy of losing his spot]. Absolutely."
Philbin added: "We all have an obligation, we all have a responsibility, he needs to either fall in line or not, it's pretty simple."
I don’t see this being a problem going forward. Chad wants a chance to show that he can still play in the NFL, while the Dolphins want him to be their number one receiver this year. Philbin can keep Chad in line while still letting him be himself, which is a good thing to have.
Overall this episode sets the tone for the upcoming season. This is definitely a team in transition from one era to the next. Jeff Ireland represents the old days of Dolphins arrogance and coldness that came to personify the team starting with the Nick Saban era up through the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano-era, while Philbin represents what seems to be Stephen Ross’ desires for the Dolphins to be fan-friendly, open and entertaining team. As those two different personalities of the organization continue to attempt to work together, the series should only get better.
Thomas Galicia is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @thomasgalicia