Sonshine, Sleepers and Lollipops
by son of a son of a shula
Sleepers, to me, are the guys on the roster who don’t have expectations to either start at a position, make the team or make meaningful contributions. With such a young team the Dolphins have many candidates to consider as sleepers. I have cut my list down to my top 3 and I will explain how they make the roster, what they’ll be asked to do, how they will respond and the impact they will have. Sleepers don’t have to be rookies, they don’t have to be guys we haven’t heard of because I know this group here knows the entire 90 man roster. I based my 3 sleepers more on what I believe their impact will be, I picked three players that play with a certain attitude and desire while also being excellent team mates.
There are several guys who are ready, or should be ready, to blossom as they enter this season so let me get a few names out of the way that I considered but felt as if they had expectations already put on them:
Billy Turner – we hardly saw him last season but as a third round pick and the starter all through the offseason the expectation for Turner is to win the RG spot and to play well.
Jamar Taylor – Has battled through injuries but all indications are that he is healthy and the expectation for him despite the amount of competition in camp is to win the starting CB spot opposite Grimes.
DeVante Parker – clearly a top 15 draft choice isn’t a sleeper and we all have expectations of seeing Parker entering end zones frequently.
Jordan Phillips- The expectation for this big man is to occupy blockers as part of the Dline rotation. At this point he would be considered the next man off the bench to give Suh and Mitchell rest.
Ced Thompson- is a bit of a sleeper but didn’t make it because he will face a tough battle to get playing time at a crowded position behind all veteran players. Perhaps next year he’ll have a more significant impact. The expectation for him would be to make the team and play Special teams and grow.
Jay Ajayi – by no means is he a sleeper, the expectation is that he’ll make the team and be an instant part of the Offense.
Tony Lippett – was close to making it but with limited experience playing on Defense I felt he may struggle some this year and perhaps be a more solid contributor next year although he does display a lot of the qualities I see in my sleepers.
Bobby McCain -faces a tough battle for a roster spot and subsequently playing time with guys like Zack Bowman and Brice McCain and the large group at Safety.
Walt Aiken – Could do a lot of good stuff this year but we all felt that he should take the next step going into this year and although he is similar to my sleepers I feel we have expectations for him already.
There are many more to consider and they may very well be the sleeper of the year but I have made my list after weeding out the players I felt had expectations on them. I also didn’t consider fringe players for this. A bubble player who takes a roster spot is a different story that what I’m after now. I’m looking players who will impact the team with great play, a winng attitude and a spark to ignite the Dolphins to a playoff run.
My Sleepers –
Michael Thomas – Who is Jimmy Wilson? Does Thomas take a starting spot?
Anthony Johnson – In a crowded position with high priced vets and highly drafted rookies how will Johnson make noise?
Jamil Douglas – I can’t help but think this athletic freak will put pads on simply TAKE a job on the offensive line.
Alright, maybe you do have expectations for these players but to me these are three guys that will earn spots in very tough positional battles in camp. While Johnson won’t be a starter he could be a huge spark on the D-line that was turned over from a year ago. Douglas and Thomas both stand a chance of winning a starting job outright despite veterans in front of them.
We’ve seen a spark from Thomas before. He did it almost immediately after becoming a Dolphin by picking off a Tom Brady pass late to seal a victory but injuries have stood in the way of Thomas fully asserting himself. Coming in healthy to camp Thomas has sites on being the starter beside Rashad Jones while Louis Delmas battles to return from an ACL injury suffered late last season. Thomas will certainly be the next guy off the bench making us forget all of the terrible angles Jimmy Wilson took. Thomas is a hard hitter, an intense player and a team first guy.
Anthony Johnson earned a spot on last year’s Dline earning valuable playing time in the rotation with Starks, Mitchell and Odrick. However his season was cut short when he went on IR mid season unable to finish his freshman season in the pros. Now Johnson has to vie for playing time behind a guy named Suh and newly drafted second rounder named Jordan Phillips. Guess what? Johnson will do it, hell we might even see him play some DE in certain situations. Johnson is an athletic big man who gets excellent penetration from his inside position. I see him as a valuable member of this playoff defense as the season progresses. Johnson is a hard hitter, an intense player and a team first guy.
Jamil Douglas. Just watch the tape. The bodies hit the flo’. Yeah he’s a 4th rounder, yeah we have vets in front of him, yeah Philbin has kept two prior 3rd round Oline picks as essentially redshirts the first year. So what. Sometimes you just happen to hit on the right guy. My feeling is purely that a feeling but I think Douglas settles for nothing less than a starting spot. Douglas has great athleticism to play in ZBS, tremendous power for an inside player and swag. He has the quiet do as I do kind of swag – not in your face, he just looks like controlled rage to me. He brings the attitude that dovetails with the traits we see with Turner and of course James. Suddenly the Dolphins pound the ball down your throat. Douglas is a hard hitter, an intense player and a team first guy.
My sleepers are guys you all know and we have discussed but for various reasons they will go beyond whatever expectations we may already have for them. These guys along with the solid vet core will spark this 2015 Dolphins team to new heights.
* No Lollipops were harmed in the making of this post.