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2 posts from July 23, 2013

July 23, 2013

Some highlights and observations from Tuesday's practice

I promised you some practice highlights from Tuesday's first day of work in pads and here it is:

First, the actual contact work was light.

I sat with former Dolphins defensive end Kim Bokamper during practice and we both looked at our watches and noticed there had been no real hitting a full 90 minutes into the practice. Bokamper said in his day there would have already been a goal-line drill and some live team period done.

Coach Joe Philbin said he's going to bring the contact along slowly. Some Tuesday. More Wednesday. Team is off Thursday. Then a bit more Friday on, leading up to a scrimmage next week.

The Dolphins have completed a ton of passes to WR Mike Wallace so far, but most have been on out patterns along the sideline and slants. Ryan Tannehill did connect with Wallace on a 25-yard throw down the middle of the field early today. The reason for the connection?

Broken coverage.

Wallace was by himself, which should never happen on defense.

I will say that cornerback Brent Grimes has been excellent so far. He's faced Wallace one-on-one on several occasions and is battling on every pass. He had a beautiful PD today when he basically ripped the ball from Wallace's grasp as the two fought for it.

Good news, bad news

I'm particularly interested in the fates of Michael Egnew and Jorvorskie Lane this camp. I'm interested to see the team's plans for two players that made the team as rookies and had moments but are under pressure this year and might not make the team.

Today, for the first time, the Dolphins put Lane into his familiar lead blocker role at fullback with the first team offense. Miami has been mostly in one-back sets and using the TE as a lead blocker the first few days.

The news on Egnew has been encouraging if you trust that him doing something (anything, really) is more than he did last year. He caught a few passes Monday. On Tuesday, he caught a nice pass down the seam from Matt Moore delivered and just as I was thinking, 'That's the reason he's here and needs to do more of that,' he got stripped of the ball.


De'Andre Presley stipped the ball as he took Egnew to the ground. The interesting thing to me is that once the ball was out and defenders picked up the ball and started charging back up field with the turnover, Egnew remained on the ground.

He didn't immediately get back up and try to get the ball back with a strip from behind. Perhaps I'm making too much of this but every athlete is going to lose sometime. But if he's going to lose and accept it, instead of reacting by getting up and trying to change the play back to his favor, he's got no chance.

Remember Don Beebe in the Super Bowl? He ran down a Dallas defensive tackle and turned what seemed like a certain Dallas defensive touchdown off a turnover into a fumble for Buffalo and a touchback.

Beebe refused to be defeated on that play. He didn't give up despite being in a tough situation.

By the way, how many times have you seen a QB throw an interception but then make the touchdown saving tackle on that very play? Sometimes it doesn't matter, but sometimes that tackle becomes a big deal when the defense refuses to let the other team score.

Egnew should learn not to accept that once he fumbles the play is over and he remains on the ground. That's the time to get up and chase the ballcarrier to try to cause a fumble for your team.

Speaking of tight ends, Charles Clay is being more productive this camp than in previous camps. He had a very nice catch down the seam against Phillip Wheeler today. The new LB had close coverage but Ryan Tannehill fit the ball in a tight space and Clay caught it.

The Dolphins need that from Clay in actual games because 18 catches last season just isn't productive enough.

The kicking competition:

It was Dan Carpenter's day to do all the kicking. Carpenter connected on kicks from 50 and 52 yards inside the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) and from 49 yards on the practice field. Carpenter has been hot so far in camp, not missing even once, but that streak ended when he failed from 54 yards out.

By the way, it is an interesting dynamic this competition between Carpenter and rookie Caleb Sturgis because it obviously also involves long snapper John Denney and punter Brandon Fields.

Fields, Denney, and Carpenter have been together since 2008 and have developed a friendship. They hang together in practice. They have lockered together. They're like the Three Amigos.

Now comes Sturgis, a rookie, trying to beat out Carpenter and break up the trio because, well, that's his assignment.

Well, it was interesting to watch today as Denney, Carpenter and Fields standing together on the sideline -- as they usually do -- while Sturgis was by himself on the sideline and obviously not a part of that group of specialists.

I'm not saying the veterans aren't being professional or are giving the rookie the cold shoulder. I'm just saying sometimes human nature is very apparent.

[NOTE: Follow me on twitter for real-time updates during practice.]

Dolphins Tuesday practice: In pads for first time

The Dolphins brought out the football gear today as there was some, but not a lot, of contact for the first time this training camp.

Contact or no, this much is clear:

The Dolphins defense -- a unit with two new starting cornerbacks, two new starting linebackers and a new starting defensive end -- is way, way, way further along than the offense. Indeed, defensive tackle Jared Odrick said the defense's goal is to lead the NFL in sacks and be a Top 5 defense and the way they looked today, one shouldn't doubt that is attainable.

On the other hand, the offense ...


Not good.

Put it this way, the first play of the first team drill in front of the fans who came to watch practice was supposed to be a run left but quarterback Ryan Tannehill tripped over an offensive lineman's feet and fell down.

It wasn't a good day for Tannehill. He threw an interception to Chris Clemons in team drills. And he threw an interception to Dannell Ellerbe in seven-on-seven work. He seemed to be holding the ball a bit. Yes, he completed a beautiful pass to Charles Clay down the seam despite good coverage by Phillip Wheeler. And yes, he did have a 30-yard completion to Mike Wallace on a broken coverage by the secondary.

But otherwise, Matt Moore was the superior quarterback today. Moore, by the way, also threw an interception -- which Jimmy Wilson collected.

"I told the team I thought for our first day in pads we had a very productive practice," coach Joe Philbin said. "Obviously, we have stopping the run on defense. We had a good team run period. I was glad to see we had some takeaways there on defense."

Understand that bad news on offense is good news on defense. So when the Dolphins worked inside blitzes from linebackers Ellerbe and Wheeler that would have collected multiple sacks on Tannehill and Moore, Philbin viewed it as both good ... and somewhat distressing.

"It's good we got in there," Philbin said. "Conversely, you don't like to see two guys running free up in the A-gap."

You don't like to see the offensive line not getting in synch. And that was the case today. Jonathan Martin continues to lose the battle against Olivier Vernon. The interior offensive line did mostly manage a stalemate against Paul Soliai and Randy Starks and Jared Odrick.

But stalemates are not great for the offense but very good for the defense.

When Tannehill connected today it was mostly to backs out of the backfield or tight end Dustin Keller or receiver Brandon Gibson short across the middle. I predict either Keller or Gibson will lead the team in receptions this year. It makes sense. Both are vets. Both make themselves available to the QB. Their patterns are easy ones to complete.

The best news out of today's practice is that rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan is on track to be full go in practice perhaps Wednesday but almost certainly the weekend after the players get Thursday off.

Jordan, recovering from shoulder surgery, was in pads like everyone else today. He didn't participate in any major contact work. He didn't participate in team drills or live contact. But he is clearly progressing and concerns his injury will linger are unfounded. 

"We're teaching him the system, getting him acclimated to the schemes, concepts, teaching of that and then the fundamentals," Philbin said.

Philbin diminished the importance of the time Jordan missed during the offseason and the first couple of days of training camp. (I wonder if veterans who would love to miss minicamps would point the coach to his own words).

"He sat in the classroom. he's watched all the practice film and the correction. Obviously there has to be a point in time when he's got to do it for himself and feel it for himself and make a couple of mistakes and learn from them and move forward as a player." 

Jordan said he's not worried about the shoulder injury.

"I'm trying to put it beind me, no sling or anything," he said. "The next step is getting out there and doing more live drills."

The step after Jordan is fully immersed is starting a competition with second-year veteran Olivier Vernon. Right now, Vernon is killing it. He has easly gotten the better of Martin at least once in each practice on pass-rushes. He is, in my opinion, much better than the player I saw last year. 

Jordan is going to have to work very hard to take snaps away from Vernon.

"He's getting off on the snap count very, very well," Philbin said of Vernon. "He's got good leverage. I was down at the one-on-ones and he showed a nice spin move. He's doing some good things. He really is."

While Vernon is progressing, Jordan is obviously going through all the usual rookie issues. One of those is dealing with Paul Soliai, who had his annual hairdressing of the rookies Monday night. All of them along the defensive line are now wearing terrible color as part of their hairstyle.Dionjordan

"It's part of being a rookie. But I told him I'm a good vet," Soliai said of his conversation with Jordan. "I'm not going to have him do it the whole preseason. He's just got to wear it for two weeks starting today. I told him after that you can do whatever you want to do."

[NOTE: Come back in a bit for more practice highlights.]