Early Camp Observations

The Dolphins enjoyed their first off day of training camp Thursday after practicing the last four days. While it's infinitely too early to start drawing conclusions from what we've seen so far — and that includes calling wide receiver Mike Wallace a disappointment — we definitely have been left with some early impressions.

-- We'll start at the most important position, that being quarterback. Ryan Tannehill absolutely, positively needs to have a big year for the Dolphins to think about making the playoffs in 2013, but his play in practice so far has been only so-so. He has made his share of really nice throws, some showing off his strong arm, others showing tremendous touch. On the flip side, his accuracy hasn't been what we'd love to see. There have been a few completions where he's thrown behind the receiver, plays that would get broken up with tight coverage.

-- The truth is, early on in camp, none of the quarterbacks has distinguished himself. Not that there's a lot of suspense in terms of a position battle here because, barring a shocking development, Tannehill will be the starter, Matt Moore will be the backup and Pat Devlin will be the No. 3.

-- At running back, Lamar Miller continues to draw raves and he clearly looks like he's ready to have a big year. Thing is, the big concern with him has been and will continue to be whether he can taken the pounding that comes with being a starting running back.

-- Daniel Thomas, who we featured in a story Wednesday, also appears to be running with a lot of decisiveness.

-- Still on running backs, don't be surprised if Marcus Thigpen gets some carries this season after being almost strictly a kick returner in 2012.

-- Jorvorskie Lane became a marked man after the Dolphins claimed H-back Evan Rodriguez off waivers and then talked to free agent Vonta Leach, but Lane appears to have gotten off to a decent start in camp. Let's also be clear about this, it's debatable how much the Dolphins will use a fullback this season.

-- At wide receiver, here's the deal with Wallace: No, he hasn't caught any long passes in team drills, the one exception being a pass of 25 yards or so after there was a breakdown in coverage. Yes, he has dropped a pass here and there. But we're not even a week into camp and he's still the fastest offensive player on the team.

-- Among the wide receivers, the only thing up in the air is who will land roster spots behind Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, and at this stage it looks as though Armon Binns is a heavy favorite to be one of them. Not only does he have the great size, he has caught everything in sight so far.

-- Second-year player Rishard Matthews was considered another favorite to land a roster spot, but waiver claim Marvin McNutt is making a push. He's another receiver with good size and the ability to get open.

-- While Wallace isn't off to what could be called a great start, fellow free agent pick-up Dustin Keller has looked very impressive. He just looks very smooth catching the ball and also has shown no sign of whatever ailment kept him sidelined during the June minicamp.

-- Among the young tight ends battling for roster spots behind Keller, rookie fourth-round pick Dion Sims looks like a keeper and 2012 disappointment Michael Egnew mixes good plays and bad plays. Kyle Miller hasn't been able to stand out yet, but I very much liked the way he caught the ball this spring.

-- The Dolphins having had only two practices in pads, it's premature to make any judgments about the offensive line. But let me just say that guard John Jerry looks a lot more fit than he did at this time last year, and Tyson Clabo is one tall individual.

-- On the defensive line, it's been very interesting to see free agent pick-up Vaughn Martin get some snaps at defensive end, while Jared Odrick has done nothing yet but play defensive tackle. Odrick, by the way, has looked very impressive.

-- Center Mike Pouncey said Wednesday the two new linebackers, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, are faster than what the Dolphins had last year and there's no doubt he's right. Ellerbe, in particular, has looked very sharp.

-- In the secondary, two guys have stood out so far in camp: Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson. Grimes looks like he's completely recovered from the torn Achilles tendon he sustained in the 2012 opener and he has blanketed receivers so far in camp. The same goes for Patterson, who just might be able to push Richard Marshall for the starting cornerback job opposite Grimes.

-- Finally, we'll end with the kickers and the battle between veteran Dan Carpenter and rookie fifth-round pick Caleb Sturgis. The feeling from this end always has been that Sturgis needs to stumble badly for Carpenter to have a chance to keep his job because Sturgis is much cheaper and also cost a draft pick. Well, Sturgis has stumbled at the start of camp, including two misses in three attempts on last-second attempts in Wednesday's work in the bubble. It looks to me as though the ball comes off Sturgis' foot with a lot more explosion than it does with Carpenter's, but the rookie wasn't terribly consistent on his field goal attempts in the spring and that trend has continued.

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