I think I've figured it out. It took me a couple of practices and talking to a couple of people, but it is clear to me why the Dolphins applied the stiff-arm to fullback Vonta Leach late last week.
It's just that the Dolphins are going to use a one-back look with four pass-catchers (three receivers and a tight end) or an I-formation look with the tight end as the lead blocker look going forward. And none of that leaves a lot of room for a fullback on the roster.
It makes sense, really.
When you consider the Dolphins have three starting-caliber and high priced receivers in Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson on the team, it makes sense to get them on the field as much as possible. When you consider Dustin Keller is an experienced and solid tight end and the Dolphins are heavily invested in the position with Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Kyle Miller and Michael Egnew, it makes sense to have an extra roster spot not occupied by a fullback and instead used on an extra tight end.
Voila, mystery solved.
So at the end of this camp, it is possible the Dolphins can keep either an extra tight end, or perhaps use the spot elsewhere such as cornerback or linebacker or receiver, and not feel the pinch of being lessened because the fullback spot has become marginalized, anyway.
I remind you the Dolphins still have two fullbacks on the roster: Jorvorskie Lane and Evan Rodriguez. But neither has gotten even one snap with the first or second-team offense in two days of camp that I've noticed. Both are in a deserate fight to merely make the team. I don't like their chances.
Now, I know at least a couple of you scoffed when you read Michael Egnew's name among the tight ends the Dolphins have invested in. Obviously, he was a disappointment last year. But today he had a relatively good day.
He caught a handful of passes (four actually) and that included a grab from Matt Moore between two defenders in tight coverage on a seam route that stretched 17 yards. It almost brought a tear to my eyes to witness. Almost.
Some other practice highlights:
Big men go one-on-one
I love the one-on-one pass rush drills when offensive and defensive lineman match wits, girth and physical attributes. Todays highlights?
Second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is working with the starting unit and doing well in my opinion, schooled new left tackle Jonathan Martin on an inside move. Martin allowed his feet to get tangled. It was ugly.
Not surprisingly, veteran Randy Starks abused rookie Brian Thomas, a free agent out of Texas A&M, and he didn't even look like he was going full speed.
The Dolphins have an interesting situation working at defensive tackle. Jared Odrick has been impressive at the position which he's been playing exclusively so far in camp -- no defensive end work -- and so it could be Soliai and Starks on early downs and then Starks and Odrick on passing downs. Obviously, whichever player doesn't start will get plenty of playing time in rotation.
It's also possible Odrick might still be used at defensive end but, as I said, he hasn't worked at end yet in camp.
Devlin works with 2s
QB Pat Devlin got some second-team snaps today. Matt Moore worked some with the third-stringers. It was interesting perhaps only to me because I recall that Devlin has a reputation for being among coach Joe Philbin's favorite players.
I'm not saying Devlin is challenging Moore for the backup role. Moore's experienced, his ability to enter a game and win it (against the Jets last year) and his salary preclude such a sudden shift to Devlin. But it was interesting to see. Moore, by the way, had a good day of practice and was probably the best QB on the field today.
Yes, it is available
The read option is in the playbook. All I'm saying on that.
Although Lamar Miller is the presumed starting running back, I was told today to assume nothing about that. Yes, Miller is getting the first-team snaps. But Daniel Thomas is also getting some of those. And as a club source told me, the team believes Thomas is ready for a big season if he can stay healthy. Yes, big if, I know. Just sharing what I'm told.
My column in today's newspaper examined the need for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace to get in synch so that Miami's popgun offense of a year ago might show more explosiveness. Check the column to see what the players said about their work on Day One.
Today, I hate to report, we're still looking for the long TD bomb from the QB to the deep threat receiver. Has yet to happen. Tannehill and Wallace did connect on three sideline out routes. There was even a slant pass completed. But the bomb?
Today was Caleb Sturgis day as the Dolphins apparently are alternating kicking days between he and Dan Carpenter. Today, Sturgis got only three attempts. He made two but missed on a 47-yarder.
[NOTE: The Dolphins do not allow updates to the blog during the major parts of practice thus I update on a real-time basis on twitter. So if you're looking for the latest on what is happening at practice, follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero].