DAVIE, Fla. -- The most improved players thus far in Miami Dolphins training camp isn’t who you would expect. It is not quarterback Ryan Tannehill or tailback Lamar Miller or even last-year's first-round pick, Ja'Wuan James.
Miami’s most improved player after one week has been 2014 seventh-round pick Terrence Fede.
The little-known defensive end from Marist has been a terror on the second-team defense and is holding his own with limited reps against the starters thus far in training camp. A year ago Fede was a raw prospect with limited football experience. But his natural athleticism helped Fede make the 53-man roster last year, when he showed a few flashes.
This year the game is slowing down for Fede and he is consistently making plays on the second-team defense. Fede has the potential to provide quality reps behind Dolphins starting defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon this season.
“I feel like I understand the game a lot better this year,” Fede said Wednesday. “Coming in last year, the playbook at Marist wasn't as complex as it is here. So that took a little bit getting adjusted to. But this year, I know where I’m going. I’m know where I have to be aligned. I also have veterans like [Ndamukong] Suh, Cam [Wake], OV [Vernon], [Derrick] Shelby and Earl [Mitchell] helping me, giving me techniques and what to do. It’s just making it a lot smoother this year.”
Last year’s highlight for Fede was a blocked punt against the Minnesota Vikings. He also played some special teams and limited time on defense as a rookie and finished with 10 tackles and one sack.
Opportunity knocked for Fede this offseason when former Dolphins first-round pick and defensive end Dion Jordan was hit with a year-long suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. That presented more reps for Fede with the second team and he's taken advantage.
This year it appears Fede's role is increasing. He is lining up mostly at right defensive end behind Vernon. But Fede also has played inside on sub packages and even drops in coverage during the first week of training camp.
“He’s just a lot more confident I think in everything that he’s doing,” Philbin said of Fede. “I think the adjustment that he had to make coming from what I used to call 1-AA football to the NFL is significant. He handled it well then too, but I just think he’s stronger, he’s more confident in the scheme, in the system that we’re running and the techniques that we’re using. I think he’s just well ahead of where he was.”
Fede’s development in Year 2 could be another piece to Miami’s puzzle in what should be a strong defensive line. Suh and Wake are the Pro Bowlers and leaders. But young, versatile pieces like Fede have the potential to provide the necessary depth that it takes to succeed over a 16-game season.
“If you’re a defensive lineman, it’s better for you to be versatile,” Fede said. “If they need me at the 3-[technique], I’m ready to go in at the three. If they need me at the six, nine, whatever it is, I’m ready to go in there and cause havoc with the other guys.”