During the volatile summer weather pattern in South Florida, people are constantly looking at the radar on their computers and phones.
For Dolphins fans, it’s more of a matter of who might fly under the radar as the team approaches their 2014 training camp with a new offensive coordinator and a re-tooled offensive line.
Here are four players who may not get much notoriety for various reasons, but could be ready to make a major impact this upcoming season.
1. Charles Clay, TE
During the first two years of his NFL career, Clay spent most of his time quietly plying his trade at the full back spot, catching the ball here and there out of the backfield, and as a reserve tight end behind Anthony Fasano. He totaled just 44 catches for 445 yards in those seasons, but with Fasano’s departure in 2013, Clay stepped into the starting TE role and thrived, hauling in 69 balls for 759 yards and a team-best six touchdowns. Sure, he vanished at times, as tight ends tend to do on occasion, but Clay managed four games of 80 yards or more, with three of those coming in Week 10 or later. If teams were adjusting to Clay, he wasn’t letting that stop him racking up fantasy points. Now heading into his fourth season in a new offense that should suit his decent quickness and ability to find holes in the defense, Clay has the potential to enter the upper echelon of tight ends, perhaps becoming the first Dolphin at that position to ever go over 800 receiving yards and perhaps improve on his TD total from 2013.
2. Derrick Shelby, DE
Shelby, an undrafted free agent entering his third year with Miami, played mostly special teams in his rookie season before moving up the depth chart last year to see some time on the speed rush unit, tallying 2 1/2 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. With fellow youngster Dion Jordan suspended for the first four games of the season, Shelby will have the opportunity to see more of the field to begin 2014 and to show that his offseason workouts with fellow defensive end Cameron Wake have made a difference. Also, the presence of seventh-round draft pick Terrence Fede, who impressed in OTAs and mini camp, breathing down his neck should give Shelby enough pressure to stave off any thoughts of taking his foot off the gas. Shelby, who was named first-team All-Pac 12 as a senior in college, has the ability to make an early impact this season, especially in the opening two divisional games against the Patriots and Bills. Having multiple fresh pass rushers coming in off the bench to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks for 60 minutes would be a dream for Joe Philbin.
3. Jamar Taylor, DB
Taylor’s rookie season of 2013 was limited to nine games and just three tackles due to injuries. However, the former second-round pick is completely healthy coming into 2014, and the departures of Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson have opened up a chance for Taylor to really compete for the No. 2 cornerback job behind Brent Grimes. Philbin was full of praise for Taylor’s work in OTAs and mini camp, which is promising news, as cornerback is one of the positions that can be analyzed a little more than others during offseason work, as footwork, scheme and coverage skills can be looked at in detail without a need for contact. Taylor will be pushed by veteran Cortland Finnegan, who was brought in as a free agent and will be looked upon to teach Taylor a thing or two, no matter who ends up on the starting eleven. If Taylor continues to develop and Finnegan doesn’t show any improvement from his awful 2013 campaign, then look for Taylor to be ready to take that next step and shine in the secondary.
4. Koa Misi, LB
Misi has been a starting outside linebacker for the majority of his four seasons with the Dolphins, but this year he’ll move inside as management tries to solve some of the issues the team had at that position last year. Misi has never played the position in his football career, which is a little concerning, but the 27-year-old has the natural instincts for finding the ball carrier, grasp of fundamental skills and tackling ability to play the spot. Leadership is also a requirement of the MLB, and Misi should have the ability to handle that no problem, as he was a captain during his college days. And don’t worry about his play-making skills: Misi forced six fumbles during his final two seasons at Utah. The big question is if he’s going to find ways to shrug off the attention he’ll now get from centers and guards in the running game. Training camp will be a big test in that regard.