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NOTEBOOK: 2013 Draft Class Working To Take The Next Step

Posted Aug 1, 2014

The Dolphins had nine picks in the 2013 draft, and all of them ended up making the 53-man roster.

As he does every day the Dolphins go onto the field at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, cornerback Jamar Taylor followed up practice Friday by doing some extra individual work with veteran Cortland Finnegan and defensive assistant Jeff Burris.

A while later, after all his teammates were done with their work, Dion Jordan was at the far end of the field getting some one-on-one instruction from assistant defensive line coach Charlie Bullen.

The top two Dolphins picks from the 2013 draft clearly are doing everything in their power to become difference-makers this season. That goes for the rest of their draft class, a group that wasn’t satisfied with their rookie production.

“Last year we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Taylor said. “They drafted us for a reason. We all don’t think we’re any type of busts. We all got guys who can do it, whether it’s for special teams or on defense or on offense. We know we’re going to try to get in there and try to contribute to this team and make some plays so we can try make a playoff run or whatever run we can week in and week out.”

The Dolphins had nine picks in the 2013 draft, and all of them ended up making the 53-man roster. Kicker Caleb Sturgis and defensive back Don Jones both made the NFL All-Rookie team, Jones for his work on special teams.

But, due in no small part to injuries, the impact from the draft class was minimal.

The media criticism that came as a result has served as great motivation for Jordan, Taylor, Sturgis, Jones, and the rest of the class: Dallas Thomas, Will Davis, Dion Sims, Mike Gillislee and Jelani Jenkins.

“Oh yeah, most definitely because I’m a part of that and all of us are prideful in a sense, so we definitely don’t want to be considered a negative to the team in the sense of someone who didn’t help,” Davis said. “But we didn’t. The fact that we almost went to the playoffs and kind of without our 2013 draft class, it shows that if we could have stayed healthy, doing our thing, we probably at least could have made that race into the playoffs.”

Through the first week of training camp, it’s clear the players from the draft class of 2013 have made significant progress from this time last year.

Some of it is due to the natural progression and the added experience, but a lot of it goes back to the injury factor. Remember that Jordan (shoulder), Taylor (sports hernia) and Thomas (shoulder) underwent surgery last offseason, and so they were playing catch-up from the start.

“This is really like my first camp,” Taylor said. “I was going through injuries last year, but from a mental aspect it’s easier because you know what to expect. You know you’re going to be in meetings for a long time. You know practice is going to be long and hard. You know you’re going to mess up on plays because you’re mentally tired sometimes, but you know that you’ve got to get better. I think it makes it a little easier just knowing what to expect. After being with the coaches for two years, you know how they coach and you know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from you and just what to do to get you going.”

The Class of 2013 did have its moments last season, with the two plays that stand out being Jordan’s hit on Joe Flacco that forced an interception returned for a touchdown by safety Reshad Jones and Sims’ game-winning touchdown catch in the home opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

The nine 2013 draft picks — and the Dolphins — are hoping for a lot more this season, and the early returns in camp have been encouraging.

Taylor has gotten reps with the first-team defense; Thomas has gotten reps with the first-team offense at both guard and tackle; and Sims is in line to get a lot of playing time behind starting tight end Charles Clay.

And Jordan should become a factor once he’s done serving his four-game suspension at the start of the regular season. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle praised Jordan this week for his work ethic and what he did Friday morning only reinforced that.

“He’s been great,” Coyle said. “Dion has done nothing but come to work every day. He’s a lunch pail kind of guy as it is. There is no prima donna in Dion Jordan. From the time he came here a year ago he was out here jumping on the scout team before he was even asked to do it. He works, that whole (defensive line) group, I think Kacy (Rodgers) and Charlie do a phenomenal job. Those guys, they just get to practice and roll their sleeves up and go. Dion has been great in that respect.

“He’s anxious to continue to develop. He knows he’s got a lot of work. He’s been getting a lot of work here. We’ll continue to try to get a lot of play in the preseason games knowing that we’re going to miss him for a bit, but we envision his role is going to being extensive when he comes back and we know he’s going to be a great player for us.”

Jordan said on the first day of camp he was going to approach practice as if nothing had happened, and that’s just what he’s done. He’ll just have to wait a little longer than the rest of the draft classmates to start contributing.

Jordan will still have plenty of time to make a major impact, and that’s just what he plans on doing. The same goes for the other eight 2013 picks.

“If you go by numbers or whatever it was, snaps, I think if we’re not the worst, then definitely at the bottom in the sense of the 2013 draft class production and stuff like that,” Davis said. “We all take it upon ourselves. We need to take pride in the fact that we need to come out, we need to be part of this team as far as making plays and whatnot, just being a difference. I know we had a lot of injuries, but this is our chance to kind of show ourselves, who we really are.”

As Taylor put it in the spring: “I feel like (last season) was a learning experience for all of us. We all came here on our high horse and got humbled real quick. But we’ve got to keep working. I expect us all to do good, continue to learn, come out here and play fast and compete. We’ll see when the season comes. But compared to everybody else, they can do it, we can do it. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dolphins drafted the right players last year.”

SET FOR SCRIMMAGE

The Dolphins will ramp up practice Saturday when they hold an intrasquad scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium at 9:30 a.m.

Head Coach Joe Philbin described the scrimmage as “controlled” in that the team will work on certain specific situations, namely the red zone and two-minute drills, regardless of what happens. The scrimmage also will serve as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the preseason opener Friday at Atlanta.

“There’s a number of different things we’re looking for tomorrow,” Philbin said. “Number one is to create as much of a game-like situation as we can prior to flying to Atlanta to play the Falcons. We want to see how guys respond. We want to get our coaches in the press box and on the field, similar to how they’re going to be Friday. We don’t have a lot of time for sideline adjustments tomorrow, but we want to get a look at that. We want to get the guys comfortable with how we’re going to get out of the locker room and warm up for a game.

“There’s a lot of things we want to cover so when we go to Atlanta on Friday night, the rookies aren’t all nerved up and we have some guys that haven’t been with us, so we want to show them how we want to do things.”

BACK IN FAMILIAR SPOT

Raymond Webber took part in his first practice with the Dolphins after being signed Thursday, and adding to his delight was the fact he was back at his old position.

A wide receiver at Arkanas, Webber was moved to tight end for his recent three-month stint with the Green Bay Packers. He’s back to wide receiver with the Dolphins.

“I love it,” Webber said. “I’ve missed wide receiver so much. All that weight I was around with, it wasn’t as tough, but it was a big adjustment. I just love wide receiver because my physicality, I’ve got that tight end type physicality and at receiver it just stands out.”

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Webber has been on quite a journey since leaving Arkansas, spending time in four different leagues — the Arena Football League, the UFL and the CFL.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s very humbling and it just makes you resilient.”

INJURY UPDATE

Quarterback Matt Moore (shoulder), wide receiver Matt Hazel (concussion) and linebacker Tariq Edwards (knee) all are expected to miss a few practices because of various ailments.

On the flip side, both center Sam Brenner and wide receiver Damian Williams did some work at practice Friday after missing some time.

THIS AND THAT

Several veteran players were given a break and kept out of most drills Friday, among them Branden Albert, Daryn Colledge, Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Cameron Wake and Louis Delmas. ... Two well-known national media members attended practice Friday: Peter King from the Monday Morning Quarterback website (mmqb.com) and Charlie Casserly from the NFL Network. ... The musical selection for warmups was “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses.
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