Friday, November 28, 2008

Dolphins Lose WR Greg Camarillo For Season

In a season without many significant injuries, the Miami Dolphins were dealt their biggest blow yet as wide receiver Greg Camarillo suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New England Patriots in Week 12.

Background

Originally a walk-on at Stanford in 2000, Camarillo was a three-time Academic All-Pac-10 selection. He finished his four-year college career with just 46 receptions for 613 yards.

After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Camarillo signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent on May 16, 2005. He caught six passes for 78 yards in his first preseason but was waived and spent his entire rookie season on the team's practice squad.

Camarillo made the Chargers' active roster in 2006 and was played in four games, recording three tackles. The Chargers waived Camarillo during final cuts following the 2007 preseason.

The Dolphins claimed Camarillo off waivers on Sept. 3, 2007, reuniting him with then-Dolphins head coach and former Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

In his first year with the Dolphins, Camarillo caught eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard touchdown grab against the Baltimore Ravens in overtime for Miami's lone win of the 2007 season.

Facing another battle to make the team with a new head coach in 2008, Camarillo proved to be one of the team's hardest workers and its most consistent receiver. He caught six passes for 58 yards in the preseason and eventually earned one of the team's starting wideout jobs.

Teaming with second-year receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., Camarillo was quarterback Chad Pennington's favorite target through much of the 2008 season. He caught 11 passes for 111 yards (both career highs) in a win over the Denver Broncos.

After catching his second touchdown of the season early in Week 12 against the New England Patriots, Camarillo suffered torn ligaments in his left knee as he attempted to tackle Brandon Meriweather after a fourth-quarter interception. The torn ACL and MCL landed Camarillo on season-ending injured reserve the following day.

The injury came the week after the team rewarded Camarillo with a three-year contract extension worth just under $6 million that would keep the receiver in Miami through 2011. Camarillo ended his season leading the Dolphins in receptions (55) and receiving yards (613) with two touchdowns.

Analysis

For the second straight season, the Dolphins have lost a key offensive player who was trying to make a tackle against the New England Patriots. As you may recall, running back Ronnie Brown suffered a similar fate against the Patriots last year.

I was initially skeptical about Camarillo's upside prior to the season but was quite pleased with his effort and work ethic in camp. He has his physical limitations, but Camarillo is a good route-runner with reliable hands, making for an ideal slot receiver.

The timetable for Camarillo's return will be a question mark until he begins rehabbing and camp gets closer. The team will likely look for another starting wide receiver in the offseason, although I expect they would have done this anyway as Camarillo is more suited for a No. 3 role.

The loss of Camarillo is significant for the Dolphins because of how thin they are at the receiver position. I'm a big Ginn supporter and he's starting to flash some ability, but he can't do it alone and other guys will have to step up to fill the void left by Camarillo.

Undrafted rookie Davone Bess will step into the starting lineup and could thrive in that role. A polished receiver with great production in college at Hawaii, Bess is coming off career-highs in receptions (5) and yards (87) against the Patriots. He's not on Camarillo's level yet, but he is potentially more talented and should be up to the task.

The injury also opens the door for Brandon London, primarily a special-teamer, to get more looks on offense. London had a near-touchdown against Denver and has good size, but head coach Tony Sparano has been somewhat disappointed with his inconsistency in practice.

Finally, look for free agent bust Ernest Wilford to finally see the field. This will be a big month for Wilford, who has a long way to go to prove to the organization that he's worth keeping and shouldn't be cap casualty in the coming offseason. Wilford has great size and good hands but has struggled to get separation from defensive backs in the past.

Because the Dolphins have yet to fill Camarillo's roster spot and their next game is less than two days away, it's looking more and more likely the Dolphins will promote a receiver from the practice squad. That player will almost assuredly be Anthony Armstrong, a former AFL speedster who has been on the practice squad all season after being waived just prior to the opener. More recent addition Todd Lowber has had much less time in the offense and is probably farther from being able to contribute at this point.

Meanwhile, former Dolphins third-round pick Derek Hagan has had some workouts for NFL teams since being let go by Miami earlier this month but remains a free agent. He too is an option to be brought back, though it likely won't be this week and I'm not sure the team has much interest in him.