Andy Cohen: This Weekend – A Time For Dreams

Posted May 3, 2012

There will be a Mandich on the Dolphins practice field this weekend. His name is Nick and he’s a tight end from tiny South Connecticut State. He is the youngest of Jim Mandich’s sons and the fact that the Dolphins are giving him a shot is both meaningful and classy.


Meaningful for Mandich to have a chance – even a longshot’s chance – to try out for the team that his father loved so much, first as a player then as a broadcaster. Somewhere in heaven, you just know Jim Mandich will be looking down upon his son this weekend, feeling that joy that only a proud father could know.

Classy because the Dolphins did the right thing in inviting Nick Mandich to rookie camp. Mandich earned his opportunity with his ability on the football field, but this invitation goes beyond Xs and Os. Who cares about 40 times and vertical leaps and modest college stats when it comes to something like this? The Dolphins know how important Jim Mandich was to this franchise and being able to give his son this opportunity is something they will never regret.

In what is often a cold-hearted business, it is so nice and refreshing to see a dose of sentiment come into play. I know I’ll be rooting for Nick Mandich this weekend. Won’t you?

Mandich will be one of many interesting stories at rookie camp, which runs Friday through Sunday. Certainly the draft choices will take center stage, and rightfully so.

But often lost in the excitement of another draft class is another class of undrafted rookies, of which Mandich is one. Don’t dismiss them as a bunch of bodies that will be long gone by the time September rolls around. True, most of them will be gone. But a few will stick around and some may turn out to be legitimate surprises.

The best evidence of this is wide receiver Davone Bess. A few years ago he showed up for rookie camp with no fanfare and a dream that wouldn’t die. Who knew that he would grow into one of the league’s best slot receivers? Bess was supposed to be too small to make it in the NFL. Trouble is, they had no way of measuring heart and, between some excellent ball skills and a determination to prove everyone wrong, Bess became an important part of this franchise.

I’ve covered this team since 1980. Just about every year, a player comes along from this group. Some contribute in a small way. Others make a significant impact. Remember running back Bernie Parmalee back in 1992? Bottom Line: The Dolphins would be remiss not to evaluate these players with the same scrutiny they evaluate their draft choices.

General Manager Jeff Ireland takes this part of the process very seriously and that’s a positive sign. The Dolphins did their homework on every one of these undrafted rookies and there is a reason each one of them will be on the practice field this weekend.

Will it be the inside linebacker from Oregon State? The running back from Notre Dame? The safety from Purdue? Or will it be one of the small school players like the offensive tackle from Mankato State? You want a hometown story? University of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is getting a tryout with this group.

Some of these players will be released long before training camp. But a bunch of them will stay through the summer, holding on to the same dream that many thought was so far-fetched for someone like Davone Bess.


A few other observations with the draft in the rearview mirror and the job of this new coaching staff only just beginning:

• I like the way Coach Joe Philbin handles himself in press conferences. He looks you in the eye, he does his best to answer the exact question you ask and he’ll you tell straight up if he doesn’t know. At times, you notice a dry of sense of humor, which is also a nice change of pace.

• The Dolphins will have some intriguing options to instill some life in the kick return game, an area that could certainly use some help. Two of the draft choices, in particular, offer reason for optimism. Fourth-round pick Lamar Miller had some outstanding kick returns as a Miami Hurricane and nobody is going to catch him from behind. Seventh-round pick Rashard Matthews was an excellent punt returner at Nevada, and returned two for touchdowns.

• One of the first impressions I’ve had of quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to do with his high-level of maturity. This is a young man who knows what he wants and seems determined to get it. He is confident, not cocky. There is also a calmness about him that hopefully will transfer to the football field.

• I am glad Jeff Ireland quickly refuted a media report that suggested Jake Long might be on the trading block because the Dolphins drafted another left tackle in Stanford’s Jonathan Martin. How absurd. Long will be a crucial part of any success this team enjoys for years to come. He is among the top two or three left tackles in the league. You don’t dispose of a valuable commodity like that. Martin will be switched to the right side and with Long and center Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins now have as good a nucleus as they’ve had on the offensive line.

• With the drafting of Lamar Miller, there is no deeper area of the team than running back. All sorts of interesting options exist. But none of this will diminish the importance of Reggie Bush. I look for Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman to utilize Bush in ways that we have not seen. Bush is a unique talent. His abilities scream for creativity. I’m anxious to see what Philbin and Sherman come up with.

Finally, hard to believe only a little more than four months before the season opener. Can’t come soon enough.
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