As the start of training camp approaches here are the top 5 story lines for the Dolphins…
5. Kicker. Oh yes you are reading that correctly, there is a lot of attention on the kicking position as camp opens. The incumbent Dan Carpenter is coming off of a disappointing season. Yes his field goal percentage wasn't terrible as he made 22 of 27 field goals, but he missed a number of crucial kicks during the year highlighted by a week 2 disaster against the Jets. He could have some steep competition this year after the drafting of kicker Calib Sturgis in the 5th round. A Lou Groza award finalist in 2013, Sturgis was consistently one of the nation’s best kickers during his time at Florida. As this kicking battles goes on during camp remember one thing, teams don’t usually take kickers in the 5th round who they don’t think will make the team, which could be bad news for Carpenter.
4. The Secondary. It is easy to say that the Dolphins front seven could be one of the best in football. They have one of the best pass rusher in Cameron Wake, interior lineman Paul Soliai & Randy Starks are two of the best run stuffers in the game, and adding young linebackers Phillip Wheeler & Danell Ellerbee could only make the front seven stronger. The question mark comes in the secondary, which was the obvious Achilles’ heel of the defense last year. Starting corner Sean Smith left for Kansas City after lets face it a disappointing 4 years in South Florida. Former pro bowl corner Brent Grimes, who spent all of last season on IR, replaces him. If Grimes can return to that pro bowl level and Richard Marshall can be the physical corner that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle hopes he can be, there should be an improvement in the back end of the defense.
3. Offensive Tackle. This off-season saw the departure of left tackle and the offensive line anchor Jake Long. The man who now has the responsibility of protecting Ryan Tannehill’s backside is second year tackle Jonathan Martin. Last season Martin struggled on the right side of the line but once he was moved over to the left side for an injured Long, his play improved dramatically. Now heading into 2014, Martin is the slotted to be the opening day starter at left tackle, and the team hopes he can continue his improved play at the position. Former Falcon tackle Tyson Clabo will be a solid addition to the line as he takes over for Martin on the right side. If these two do not play at a high level, this could spell disaster for Tannehill and the offense.
2. Running back. While the Dolphins made some of the biggest splashes in free agency they did say good-bye to starting running back Reggie Bush, who after two straight 900 plus yard seasons was considered expendable by Joe Philbin. As Bush is now in Detroit the Dolphins running back position seems to be a bit of a mystery. Second year back Lamar Miller looks to be the favorite to land the starting role. There has been a lot of high praise for Miller this off-season including 49ers running back Frank Gore, who after working out with Miller said that he believes Miller is the fastest running back to come out of the University of Miami, even faster then him. One aspect that Miller needed to improve on was his pass protection skills and all reports have stated that he has gone out and done so. One interesting back to watch is rookie Mike Gillislee. During his time at Florida he added a dynamic slasher element to the Gators offense. With that type of skill set he could be a valuable asset to the Dolphins as a 3rd down back.1. Quarterback. This has been talked about all off-season and it’s no different here, Ryan Tannehill must continue to improve. He has taken control of this offense during the off-season and now he needs to be a leader for the whole team. He needs to continue on this path so that when you think of the Dolphins the first player that comes to mind is him. He now has the offensive weapons that he was lacking last year and he has played in this offense for 5 years now. If Tannehill can use training camp to continue to develop a rapport with his new receivers and learn how to dissect NFL defenses, then 2014 is off to a good start.