DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins got back to work on Wednesday as the team held its latest training camp practice session.
Much of the focus throughout camp has been on the Dolphins offense under new coordinator Bill Lazor and the progress of the offensive line after its porous season a year ago.
There is so much attention being paid to the offense that the defense has been left to fly under the radar a bit as it’s considered by many as the strength of the team.
The Dolphins have several new additions on that side of the ball, headlined by safety Louis Delmas, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and lineman Earl Mitchell.
Finnegan is looking to regain his Pro-Bowl form after injuries limited his production last season in St. Louis. The eight-year veteran has a reputation of being over-aggressive at times which leads some to speculate that it’s affected his teammates in a negative way over the years.
That has been far from the case since he arrived in Miami. Finnegan has been working hard and focusing on improving his game more than anything, though he has spent a lot of time working with the Dolphins young cornerbacks and safeties, taking on a role as bit of a mentor.
Finnegan’s play so far as a Dolphin has seen him become the favorite to line up opposite Brent Grimes as the teams two starting corners. It’s still very early in camp though, and head coach Joe Philbin isn’t ready to call anyone a starter just yet.
“Yeah, well, we haven’t really named anybody [as a starter],” Philbin said on Wednesday. “I mean one of the things that I talk to the team about at the start of every camp, at the start of every off-season, is one of the expectations they should have of me is that we’re going to play the best players.
“So we’ll just kind of let the competition sort itself out.”
The area of the Dolphins defense that is in need of the most improvement after last season is the linebackers.
The 2013 offseason saw Miami spend a pretty penny on a pair of linebackers in Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Both struggled throughout the season, with Ellerbe having a hard time adjusting to playing middle linebacker for the first time in his career and Wheeler just not adapting well to Miami’s defensive scheme.
While the Dolphins decided to keep the same unit intact for the upcoming season, changes were made in an attempt to shore up a very important part of the defense. Ellerbe swapped positions with Koa Misi, sliding back to the outside where he’s played his entire career.
Misi has never played as an inside linebacker but his intelligence and athleticism have coaches optimistic that he will thrive in the new role.
Wheeler came out of last season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after his performance was sub-par by his own standards. He spent the offseason working hard and came to camp in great shape, ready to put his first season with the Dolphins in his rearview mirror.
The work that Wheeler has put in hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coach.
“I think Philip Wheeler is really improved over the course [of the offseason leading up to camp],” said Philbin. “He had a very good offseason program. Been solid here so far in training camp.”