There’s an appropriate quality to the jersey numbers selected for rookie camp by the Dolphins’ 2012 draft picks from the University of Miami.
Running back Lamar Miller wears No. 44 on his jersey, double the No. 22 worn by Reggie Bush.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon wears jersey No. 50, 0.5 off of half of No. 99, retired Dolphin Jason Taylor’s number.
What Bush and Taylor share is what the Dolphins want from Miller and Vernon: a propensity for obvious, pivotal, huge plays.
“They have some natural snaps and some natural pop in their bodies, some natural quickness or twitch, whatever word you want to use to describe their movement,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “I think they have that acceleration, that quickness off the football.”
When coaches talk about “fast-twitch” players, they’re not talking about guys who move the chains. They’re talking about guys who move the scoreboard.
Miller certainly looks like that when he is hitting the edge or sprinting downfield in practice. Of course, there’s the caveat: it’s shorts in spring. Nobody has run a play at NFL speed or taken an NFL hit. Remember Lorenzo Booker, 2007 third-round pick out of Florida State? He looked like Reggie Bush in the spring, yet might as well have been a rose bush come the autumn.
Expect Miller to be used everywhere the Dolphins can find a place to get him the ball in space, including punt returns.
“Lamar is a very fluid player,” Philbin said. “I think he has multiple skills, I don’t think that he is just a runner, I think he is a guy that can catch the football, and [we will] move him around.”
Said Bush of Miller: “He seems like he’s eager to get out there and learn. He’s listened to some of the guys, he’s getting the plays down pretty well at a fast rate. He’s obviously a smart kid.”
Smart enough to know the first improvement he needed to make in his game was to be “more physical in my pass protection, just knowing where I’m supposed to be at all times. Not making little mistakes, holding onto the ball, catching the ball.”
With a new offense that takes small, quick bites at the pace of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, two full tiers of skill position players easily could see significant playing time.
“No huddle. Up-tempo, fast-paced offense,” Bush said. “That means our conditioning will have to be high. We’ll run a lot of plays in real games. That’s something we’ve got to prepare for.”
As for Vernon, “[Olivier], we liked his physical toughness coming out, we liked his energy, we liked his motor that he played with, and he is a young guy that we think is going to get better,” Philbin said.
Vernon’s rawness isn’t as much physical as mental.
“I’ve got to learn football,” Vernon said. “I’m still in the learning process. I don’t know that much about football. I’m still fresh and new at it.
“I started playing football when I got to high school,” he explained. “And all I was playing was defensive end. So when I got over here, learning formations and personnel [groupings] like that, I never had to learn that before. Now, it’s getting a little easier.”