Finally, the wait is over: HBO’s Hard Knocks is back, this time with an all-access pass to Miami Dolphins training camp. Last year, the Emmy winner was on hiatus (due to the lingering NFL lockout), so our most recent memories consist of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s profanity-laced speeches and Antonio Cromartie’s failed attempt to correctly name all of his nine children. This offseason, the Dolphins underwent a coaching overhaul, hiring Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as their new head coach (as well as bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators). So, as the tides begin to change in Miami, here are the three players and storylines certain to grab our attention this summer.
Chad Johnson, WR
Coming off a season with the Patriots that seemed more like a disappearing act, Johnson — yes, it’s back to Johnson — has already declared 2012 will be a “monster year.” At 34, the Miami-native has vowed to resurrect the same outspoken personality last seen in Cincinnati: “When my mouth is running, it forces me to perform,” Johnson recently told the Miami Herald. The always-entertaining wide receiver is certain to be a camera magnet and, lucky for us, it already sounds like he’s shed that infamous New England straight jacket.
Reggie Bush, RB
Last year, a Kardashian-free Bush had a breakout first season in Miami, eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the first time in his six-year career. Back in May, Bush set his sights on a new goal: “I want the rushing title,” he confidently told WSVN-TV. Surely Coach Philbin loves that confidence, but Dolphins fans should tread lightly. After all, Bush has a history of injury problems — two left knee strains led to surgery in 2008, and a broken right leg kept him on the sidelines in 2010. Plus, he’ll be forced to share the ball this season with Daniel Thomas, who rushed for nearly 600 yards as a rookie last year. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see if Bush can make the final push towards superstardom.
Ryan Tannehill, QB
The No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft is widely regarded as Miami’s quarterback of the future. Tannehill’s versatility and athleticism allowed him to excel as a wide receiver at Texas A&M before taking over as the signal caller during his redshirt junior season. And while his metamorphosis into a professional quarterback is ongoing, the experience and understanding he has of the receiver position puts him in a unique situation: A strong camp from Tannehill, combined with frequent struggles from veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard, could force Philbin’s hand. If that’s the case, Miami fans may get a look at their future earlier than originally anticipated. —Dan Brennan. Photograph by Joel Auerbach / Getty Images