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Coaches digest the scrimmage buffet

The Dolphins coaching staff will meet today and go through Monday's night's scrimmage to see which players took steps forward and which stumbled as they prepare for three more days of practice starting Wednesday before they head to Canton, Ohio this weekend for the Hall of Fame game.

One of the issues the staff must manage is the wide receiver situation.

Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace were held out of the scrimmage. Hartline seemed to tweak a lower leg muscle, possibly a calf, in the warmups and drills prior to the scrimmage. Wallace was held out for an undetermined issue, although signs point to him also nursing some sort of minor injury. (Remember, the Dolphins do not comment on injuries and coach Joe Philbin didn't even address the media after the scrimmage. He addressed the crowd after many of them had already walked out. And he gave the media relations department two quotes about the scrimmage, neither of which addressed Wallace's absence. This, by the way, is not typical of NFL teams. Head coachess speak after practices and scrimmages and preseason games and regular season games and playoff games and Super Bowls. Win or lose).

At any rate, Philbin is expected to explain the Wallace absence Wednesday in some fashion because he is also not available to the media today -- a day off for the team.

It's really a shame about Wallace. No, I'm not too worried about the player's injury if that is what kept him out. Again, if he's injured it's minor. I'm sad for the franchise that is trying to increase a lagging season-ticket base and a growing disconnect from local fans. Last night the club had 22,876 interested fans in the stands -- more than the Patriots had at Gillette Stadium for a practice on the same night. All of those fans are potential season-ticket customers. I'm certain they all expected to see Ryan Tannehill (3 TD passes), Dion Jordan (one sack and one pressure), Cameron Wake and Mike Wallace.

And Wallace was only there to roam the sideline in his uniform but out of action. Shame.

That's not anyone's fault. It's just tough luck for the organization.

As to the rest of the wide receiver corps: Even as the team engages in talks about adding a body -- Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie are on the radar among others -- there will no doubt be a longer look at undrafted free agent acquisition Chad Bumphis.

Bumphis had two catches for 41 yards on Monday night. One of those was a 28-yard catch and run down the right sideline that showed both burst and field awareness. Bumphis has been mired on third and fourth teams so far in camp. If the scrimmage performance doesn't earn him more reps and perhaps some with the second team, it certainly puts him on the radar pior to the HOF game.

Bumphis wasn't the only back-of-the-roster type who caught the eyes of coaches:

AJ Francis, another undrafted rookie, was very active. He collected a sack. He batted a pass at the line of scrimmage. The Maryland kid showed up.

Will Davis, who frankly had struggled during practices, came through with a huge interception in the end zone during a goal line situation. (By the way, the Dolphins scored one of the TDs in goal line on  a pass and another run TD was questionable whether the runner got in although it was awarded. What's the point? I don't know).

The Dolphins are putting a huge emphasis on turnovers this season. Joe Philbin wants to be plus-16 this year as a starting point. The club was minus-10 last year. That means more turnovers for the defense. It's a great way to get in good graces.

And on offense a turnover is a good way to make a place in the doghouse.

Today, safety Kelcie McCray, Davis, defensive end Olivier Vernon, and Francis are in good graces. Mcray returned his interception of a Matt Moore pass 50 yards for a TD. Vernon had a sack and caused a fumble that Randy Starks recovered. Francis batted a pass that offered another interception opportunity. And, of course, Davis not only saved a touchdown but got the ball back with his interception.

By the way, this turnover emphasis is real. Consider what defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said:

“We constantly look for better ways of teaching, from little things like we’ve got footballs hanging from the walls in every defensive meeting room that they have to go in, when they walk in and out of the meeting rooms, they’re stripping and punching, just reminders," he said.

" We’ve shown them tape from around the league of teams that cause the most fumbles, how they were caused, what situations we may have had an opportunity to strip the ball and we didn’t.  We’ve talked about sacks, sack fumbles, we got a lot of sacks, but we didn’t get a lot of sack fumbles.  We like to believe there were opportunities at times last year to get a fumble as well as a sack, so we’ve showed them players throughout the league who have done that consistently and it’s an awareness factor. 

"So we’ve looked at the teams that create the most fumbles last year, it was New England, Chicago, and Cincinnati, we’ve studied every one of those fumbles, we’ve showed them those things on tape, and hopefully it will start to translate onto our play."

Conversely, losing turnovers is a no-no. So who's in the doghouse today?

Mike Gillislee was good against second- and third-team competition running the ball. He rushed for 21 yards on six carries. But he had a fumble that he lost. And he dropped a pass that would have gone for a first down.

Quarterbacks Moore and Pat Devlin also made key mistakes that turned otherwise mediocre nights into a problem. Neither threw a TD pass. Neither looked exceedingly comfortable. Both threw interceptions that cost his team TDs. Devlin's interception obviously was in the end zone. And Moore's interception was returned for a TD. Moore also had a fumble so two turnovers for him. Yuck.

Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, played a lot better than he's been practicing. He threw three touchdowns without and interception and that was without his two top wide receivers available. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 72 yards. His throw to Dustin Keller for a TD was a thing of beauty in that it was placed where only the TE could catch it for the score.

You know that mantra Philbin has about everyone is fighting for a job and there are no starters? It's doesn't apply at QB.

 

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