The 2012 season was a banner year for the top half of the Miami Dolphins' rookie class.
First-round pick Ryan Tannehill played all 16 games at quarterback, and second-round pick Jonathan Martin started at left and right tackle. Defensive end and third-round pick Olivier Vernon registered 3.5 sacks off the bench and was a terror on special teams, while fourth-rounder Lamar Miller led Miami with 4.9 yards per carry.
The only exception was third-round pick Michael Egnew. He came to Miami last year with lofty college credentials where he was a prolific tight end at Missouri. Egnew also has good size (6-foot-5) and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds at the NFL combine. The measurables are there.
However, Egnew was extremely raw and didn't show much of anything last year in training camp or practices during the season to earn playing time. He was active for only two games last year when Charles Clay got injured and didn't catch any passes.
It's early, but Egnew looks like an improved player in Year 2 during organized team activities. Egnew had perhaps his best practice of the offseason on Monday, catching three touchdown passes in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills.
Egnew still has a long way to go. But if he continues his development, Egnew could eventually become an added weapon and a big target for Miami behind starting tight end Dustin Keller.
“I’ve just been getting better every practice,” Egnew said Monday. “I like the guys we got this year and we’re all getting better. I just went over fundamentals [in the offseason] like everyone else. I wanted to make sure I got stronger, faster and quicker.”
Egnew credits some of his early improvement to training in mixed martial arts this offseason. Now, Egnew is working to earn the trust of Miami's coaching staff after a redshirt 2012 season.
On Monday I asked Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin about Egnew's development and making more plays in practice this year.
“I see the same things you do, and it makes me feel more confident about his ability,” Philbin responded. “He’s starting to understand his role in the offense better, and maybe we know a little more about him, too, so we can put him in a position to make those type of plays. It’s been encouraging.”
I’ve learned years ago to never write off a player after his first season. The NFL is a very tough league, and sometimes it takes a two or three years for the light to turn on. Maybe things will eventually turn around for Egnew in Year 2. The Dolphins are certainly seeing some early signs in OTAs.
“You kind of learn how the NFL works,” Egnew explained. “You learn the speed of the game. You have to get used to it and have to go real fast.”