The Miami Dolphins open training camp on July 25 at their training facility in Davie, Florida. Here’s a closer look at the Dolphins’ camp:
Top storyline: Will the Dolphins’ attempt at a culture change work? Coach Adam Gase was frustrated with his team’s performance in a 24-16 road loss to the Buffalo Bills last December. It erased gains toward the playoffs Miami had made after beating the New England Patriots six days earlier. That, along with some salary-cap factors, led to some high-profile departures this offseason. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry was traded to the Cleveland Browns, and both defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and center Mike Pouncey were released. Miami’s hope seems to be addition by subtraction, setting the stage for new voices to take over in the locker room.
QB depth chart: Ryan Tannehill, David Fales, Brock Osweiler, Bryce Petty. With Tannehill returning from his season-ending knee injury and looking to return to the form he showed in 2016, when he set a career high in passer rating, there is little intrigue about the starting job in Miami. The question is at backup quarterback, where according to the Palm Beach Post. Fales led the second-team offense in the spring and seems to have a leg up on the two newcomers, Osweiler and Petty, this summer.
Bubble watch: WR Leonte Carroo. The Dolphins' third-round pick in 2016 was limited to seven catches for 69 yards last season despite playing in 14 games. He has a chance to earn a role in a jumbled Dolphins wide receiver group without Landry. But Carroo must also contend with free-agent acquisitions Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. With DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills also in line for playing time and 2017 seventh-round pick Isaiah Ford catching eyes this spring after missing last season with an injury, Carroo must make an impression this August.
This rookie could start: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Boston Globe reported in May that owner Stephen Ross was not initially on board with the team’s selection of Fitzpatrick at No. 11, but now that Fitzpatrick is in the fold, he has the talent and background from Alabama to contribute immediately in the NFL. He might not start immediately over Reshad Jones or T.J. McDonald at safety, but the Dolphins are likely to find him a role as a third safety or simply as a fifth defensive back. In the modern NFL, defenses are in sub packages the majority of the game, and that is essentially a starting job. Fitzpatrick led the team in interceptions this spring, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
What about the 2017 draft class? The Dolphins had relatively little production from the top of their draft class last season. Defensive end Charles Harris, their first-round pick, started two games, played 47 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with two sacks. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan suffered a torn ACL and missed the entire season. There looks to be a clear path for McMillan to contribute this season after the release of Lawrence Timmons, who played in three-quarters of the defensive snaps in 2017. Harris will have to compete for playing time after Miami acquired defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams in a trade this offseason. Eyes should be as much on Harris and McMillan this training camp as they are on the 2018 draft class.
Frank Gore returns to Miami: Fans in South Florida will have their first chance to watch Gore practice for his hometown team this summer as he returns to the region more than 13 years after his final game at the University of Miami. Gore, 35, is the NFL’s oldest running back and ranks fifth all time in both rushing attempts (3,226) and rushing yards (14,026). If Gore starts three or more games this season, he will pass Walter Payton (184 starts) for the second-most all time among running backs behind Emmitt Smith (219). There is little question about whether Gore will one day be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but there is a question about his role in a backfield that also includes Kenyan Drake and 2018 fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage. How carries are distributed between the three backs to start the season could be decided in training camp.