New Season, New Hope

Sitting on my couch on a sweltering Tuesday evening in July, I find myself flipping channels trying to pass the time. In the incessant search for mindless entertainment, I find myself settling on NFL Network. On this night, they were replaying old episodes of HBO’s series “Hard Knocks” featuring the Miami Dolphins.

Captivated by the excitement, I became enthralled watching repeats of OchoCinco, 7-eleven, and rookie head coach Joe Philbin. I sat and watched Jeff Ireland tell player after player that they were getting cut, and watched Vontae Davis ask if he could call his grandma.

Then I realized – Its football season!

The Dolphins began training camp a week ago, in preparation for this Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. The preseason opener marks the official kickoff to the 2013 season, and the buzz is rampant in South Florida media.

Gone from the headlines are veteran names like Reggie Bush, Jake Long, and Karlos Dansby – the unfortunate “leadership council” appointed by Philbin. Regardless, new faces have brought optimism to Dolphins camp for the first time in a long time.

The defensive side of the ball seems to have solidified nicely with a potentially menacing front-seven that might have Tom Brady looking for supplemental health insurance. The Dolphins added edge-rusher Dion Jordan, who many have compared to Jason Taylor. With Cameron Wake across from Jordan, this could end up making the Dolphins’ defense a thing of quarterbacks’ nightmares. Meanwhile, Reshad Jones continues to blossom into one of the league’s premier safeties, and Ireland added 2 rookie corners and veteran Brent Grimes to play alongside Richard Marshall to fill Sean Smith’s roster spot. Include the additions of Jelani Jenkins, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler at linebacker and the defense appears to be shaping up nicely.

The offense, though, was the Dolphins’ weak link last season. The Dolphins ranked 27th in the NFL in points scored last season, only averaging 18 points per game. They were 30th in the league in passing touchdowns with only 13 all year. This is the area where the Dolphins sorely need improvement. And giving Ryan Tannehill a field-stretching weapon like Mike Wallace might just do the trick. With the Dolphins leading TD receiver, Anthony Fasano, now wearing a Chiefs’ uniform, Coach Philbin looks to former Jets’ TE Dustin Keller along with Wallace and Brian Hartline to get the ball into the end zone. The running game is also a question-mark going into the season, with Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, and rookie Mike Gillislee expected to shoulder the load on the ground. The Dolphins sorely need second-year tackle Jonathan Martin to evolve and show that he can replace Jake Long, with ex-Falcon Tyson Clabo taking his former spot on the right end.

In all, the Dolphins have positioned themselves to be successful in 2013. Will Ryan Tannehill grow into the QB we all hope we saw at the end of last season? Or will he get bitten by the sophomore slump? Will Dion Jordan stay healthy enough to make an impact on the defensive line? Will any of the rookie corners evolve into anything of value? When approaching training camp, it’s important to remember that these are only practices. Have faith in the guys that are paid to make the right decisions, and before you know it, you’ll be rooting for your team in the playoffs!

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