The Dolphins had to move their scheduled outdoor practice inside the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble this morning as threatening skies opened up and delivered a couple of kneeknocker thunderclaps early during drills.
The fans who came to watch their team work missed a doozy of a practice, featuring some good receiver play.
Let me get this off my chest right now: I have been first in line hoping, praying, lobbying for an upgrade at the wide receiver position with a dazzling, accomplished, proven veteran. That didn't happen this offseason, but I'm starting to believe the team just might be alright without one.
Today I watched excellent work from Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn and even the two rookies -- Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline, who has now put together three consecutive solid practices.
The most impressive play to me was a sideline grab by Ted Ginn that he caught with the DB draped over him, bobbled, re-caught as he was going down, and still was able to get both feet inbounds for a 12-yard gain.
Bess had a similar sideline grab, only his was one-handed and the cornerback was not providing as tight a coverage.
Hartline had at least three long TD grabs on varous routes. He caught a 40-yard TD from Chad Henne up the seam when he cleverly pushed off on Joey Thomas, creating good separation for the score. By the way, these practices include officials and there was no flag on Hartline. Hartline also caught a 40-yard pass from Pat White for a TD in the same 7 on 7 drills. Hartline also had a nice comeback pattern catch against Sean Smith in the one on one drills between DBs and WRs.
Fellow rookie Turner caught a 30-yard pass down the left sideline from Chad Pennington that victimized Eric Green in coverage. He also had a TD catch over Will Allen in the one on one drills, effectively giving him long scores over both Miami starting corners this practice.
"He has better quickness than I initially thought," coach Tony Sparano said of Turner. "At the top of routes he can drop his weight and that [helps make cuts on routes]. And the past couple of days when the defensive backs have tried to beat him up a little bit with press coverage, he's been able to play physical out there against the press technique."
Sparano talked about how he and GM Jeff Ireland went on a road trip prior to the draft to scout players at various colleges. They went to Ohio State and were obviously impressed with Hartline. "He's a brilliant kid," Sparano gushed. "He really is."
The Dolphins worked on their two-minute drill to finish the practice and the results of this drill is testament as to why Chad Pennington is the starter and Chad Henne his backup.
Pennington steadily matriculated the ball down the field with three consecutive sideline completions, a 19-yard completion to Camarillo up the sideline and a 14-yard completion to Ginn. Jason Taylor batted one pass, preventing what would have been a nice gain to wide open tight end Anthony Fasano. The first team offense got a 41 yard field goal with 1 second remaining.
The second-team offense, guided by Henne, didn't fare as well against the second-team defense. Incompletion on first down when Cobbs dropped the pass I referred to earlier. Incompletion on second down. Incompletion on third down. There was no fourth-down play.
Third team, guided by White, saw a short completion to Hilliard on first down, an incompletion on second down and an incompletion on third down. Sparano said there will be more two-minute work in the afternoon drills.
As I tweeted earlier today, SirVincent Rogers is gone from the team. Sparano said he left the team. A source tells me he made his exit during a practice, walking off the field before the work was over. Fullback Chris Brown has also been waived. He's been replaced by fullback Matt Quillen.
Jason Ferguson, Channing Crowder and Matt Roth missed practice.
Joe Berger took a majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense at RG. But Donald Thomas got first and second-team reps at RG during the team running period -- in other words, the 11 on 11 run plays. It was the most work he's gotten in a team period in one practice since training camp began.
There were three blown coverages on defense that I counted. Tearrius George was responsible for one of those. Another one, which left Patrick Cobbs all alone in the flat with an entire open field ahead of him was covered up when Cobbs dropped the pass.
It wasn't all offense today. Gibril Wilson popped Lex Hilliard on a pass in the flat, causing him to juggle a pass from Pat White. As Hilliard juggled, Wilson grabbed the loose ball for an interception.
Chris Clemons had a nice pass defensed (PD) against Anthony Armstrong, knocking away what seemed like a certain 35-yard completion in one on ones. Smith, Jason Allen and Will Allen also got PDs in the one on ones.
One of the secrets of figuring out which bubble players will make it onto the 53-man roster is watching the special teams. If a bubble guy is lining up with the first-team punt, field goal, kick return and kickoff, he's more likely than not going to make the team.
Here are some bubble players I saw today working with the starters on teams, suggesting they are in Miami's plans for the moment: Erik Walden, Charlie Anderson, Jason Allen, Cameron Wake, Courtney Bryan.
None of these players has a secure spot on the roster. But all are currently figuring prominently on Miami's special teams. So, it stands to reason, if they excel at their special teams assignments, if they don't do anything to lose their current starting special teams status, they likely will be on the team.
Tony Sparano will conduct his press conference in the next few minutes. Will update you with the latest when he's done.