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Biggest addition? Greatest concern? A look at Dolphins offseason superlatives – Boston Herald


Camp is out for summer on Friday.

The Miami Dolphins have wrapped the offseason training program and won’t return to the facility until late July when training camp begins.

Until then players are on their own to run routes, study the playbook and stay in shape.

Here’s look at Omar Kelly’s superlatives of the Dolphins’ summer, analyzing what the media was allowed to see as the team prepares for the Sept. 11 season opener against the New England Patriots.

Top performer: Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins

Wilkins, who had a breakout season last year in producing career highs in tackles (89), sacks (4.5), quarterback hits (13) and pass deflections (four), was forceful every practice he participated in. Maybe that’s an indicator that Miami’s offensive line might still require some overhauling, but it could also be that this 2018 first-round pick has finally figured out the finer points of his position and the Dolphins scheme.

Biggest addition: Receiver Tyreek Hill

I’ve covered some fast, electric players during my career covering Florida State, the University of Miami and the Dolphins, but I’ve never seen anyone move as quickly as Hill, a six-time Pro Bowl pick. Miami wisely traded away a treasure chest of draft picks to acquire Hill from Kansas City this offseason. It’s clear that Hill is a threat to score any time he touches the football, a playmaker that demands a double-team.

Most improved player: Pass rusher Jaelan Phillips

Phillips, a former University of Miami standout, had a productive season last year, setting a rookie record for sacks (8.5). But let’s be honest, most of that production came in the second half of the season, when the NFL game started to slow down for him. This summer he’s gotten leaner and stronger, and he’s moving with the fluidity needed to become a pass-rushing demon. Let’s just hope he doesn’t suffer an injury that leads to a setback when training camp arrives.

Most impressive rookie: Tailback ZaQuandre White

White, an undrafted rookie from South Carolina, has produced a respectable run every practice the media has attended. While it’s usually against third-teamers, that’s exactly how Myles Gaskin performed back in 2020, when the former seventh-round pick stole the starting tailback job from a Pro Bowl pick (Jordan Howard) and a player (Matt Breida) the Dolphins traded for that offseason. If the player Mike McDaniel has nicknamed “Dr. White” keeps it up, he’ll easily make it onto the 53-man roster.

Area of concern: Miami’s linebacker unit

I’ve always felt there’s something missing from this Dolphins unit, which needs to be versatile considering they are the linchpin that keeps Miami’s hybrid defense multiple. There isn’t one player who can do everything well. It’s a unit filled with specialist, which could telegraph Josh Boyer’s calls. In fairness to the Dolphins, they’ve added Melvin Ingram and Porter Gustin the past few weeks, and Jerome Baker has sparingly practiced. The hope is that Channing Tindall, the Dolphins’ fourth-round pick, grows up fast.

Area of strength: Miami’s tailbacks

Between Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Myles Gaskin, the Dolphins have four tailbacks who could start games for half the league. And each of them brings something different to the table, which should allow the Dolphins to lean heavily on the rushing attack if the offensive line can create running lanes. And that doesn’t account for the upsides that Salvon Ahmed and White bring.

Biggest surprise: Offensive lineman Connor Williams

Williams appears to be setting in as the Dolphins’ starting center, which is a bit surprising because he’s started 51 games as an offensive guard with the Cowboys before signing a two-year deal worth $14 million with the Dolphins this past offseason. Miami’s coaches asked Williams to give center a try because it would open the door for Liam Eichenberg to remain a starter at guard, and so far the experiment hasn’t been a disaster. We’ll see if Michael Deiter will eventually challenge him to regain his starting center spot when training camp arrives.

Pushing for playing time: Linebacker Duke Riley

Riley finished the 2021 season strong, which convinced the Dolphins to re-sign him with a one-year deal that could be worth $3 million. During the OTA and minicamp practices the media has watched, the six-year veteran, who has started 27 games during his career, has developed into a playmaker and a field general. It would be interesting to see if he could carve out a role as Miami’s nickel and dime package linebackers when training camp rolls around.

Needs the most work: Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene

It seems as if Igbinoghene has become the cornerback most of the quarterbacks pick on for the second straight camp. That’s a bad sign for this 2020 first-round pick, who is firmly positioned behind a healthy Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham on the Dolphins’ cornerback depth chart. At this point, Igbinoghene needs to be careful he doesn’t lose his roster spot to Trill Williams, Quincy Wilson or Elijah Campbell.

Biggest Mystery: Miami’s offensive line

The Dolphins have invested plenty of money and resources into the players on this offensive line. Now it’s on offensive coordinator Frank Smith (a former O-line coach) and offensive coordinator Matt Applebaum to make this troublesome unit respectable. That likely doesn’t happen unless Miami has a healthy Terron Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowl pick the Dolphins signed to a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the hopes that he’d fix Miami’s most troublesome unit the past two seasons. Armstead has missed all of the offseason program rehabbing a knee injury that forced him to miss the final four games of the 2021 season.



Kason Sage
the authorKason Sage