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2 posts from August 21, 2013

August 21, 2013

Wednesday afternoon practice report and other stuff

The ripple effects of yesterday's cutting of cornerback Richard Marshall could be seen in practice today.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson took first-team snaps, although coach Joe Philbin said with a straight face he has not yet won the starting job. On nickel and dime situations, Patterson moved inside to the slot cornerback spot while Nolan Carroll took over on the boundary.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the club has other options in those situations. He mentioned Jimmy Wilson, who took 500 snaps many in the nickel and dime packages last year, and rookie Will Davis.

"There's a variety of options we have," Coyle said, "it's just a matter of how it all unfolds. Sometimes in the nickel you deploy different personnel depending on the personnel the other team has. You might use a bigger guy in certain situations on first and second down and go with a cover guy on third down."

Coyle met with the defensive backs Wednesday and implored them to make their cases for playing time now because the time for coaches to plan for the season-opener is decreasing by the day.

"We've got some veteran players that we talked to this morning and I told everybody we've got veteran players that have got to step up and play their best football. And the young players have got to realize this isn't college football where you're going to sit and watch for a while. If you're going to play, you need to show it and demonstrate it right now."

One player you'll notice was not mentioned was second-round pick Jamar Taylor. He's not in the plans right now because he missed several weeks of practice, recovering from hernia surgery. But he might be in the plans later in the season.

"He hasn't had enough snaps for us to totally evaluate what his role might be as we begin. But certainly we believe as he develops and gets more experience and more reps, we believe he'll be able to contribute for us this year."

As to practice, Dion Jordan continues to miss practice. Although Coyle believes Jordan "is making strides with his rehab," it is all but certain he will not play Saturday against Tampa Bay. That will be Jordan's second missed game in a row.

Coyle has remained optimistic that Jordan will be ready for the season-opener although I am starting to hear whispers to the contrary.

"Um, I don't have doubt," Coyle said. "I hope if he stays on target with what we're hearing and what we're seeing, he'll be ready to help us coming opening day."

On a couple of special teams notes:

Everyone knows Marcus Thigpen was a fine punt and kick returner last year. He had a touchdown returning kickoffs and a touchdown returning a punt.

But special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi today left open the door on not having Thigpen take all the punt return duties this year. Last year Thigpen returned 26 punts while Davone Bess had four returns.

I think he'll be our kick returner," Rizzi said. "Punt return-wise I think we'll do like we did last year, a little bit of a committee but if we played a game today he'd have a majority of them."

By the way, with the cutting of kicker Dan Carpenter last week, the Dolphins are using punter Brandon Fields as the kicker for onside kicks. "For now," Joe Philbin said.

 Yesterday, the Dolphins offense had 11 turnovers in practice. It was different today. There were only three interceptions and just one fumble.

Reshad Jones and Lee Robison had interceptions of Ryan Tannehill. Pat Devlin was intercepted by Dimitri Paterson. And Mike Wallace was stripped of the ball in 7 on 7 drills.

By the way, Wallace seemed faster than usual today. He caught six passes, including a 60-yarder along the sideline and his stride seemed smooth and effortless. Something has seemingly happened in the last week because, after early struggles in camp, he and Tannehill are seemingly on the same page.

Michael Egnew is also putting together good practice after good practice for the first time. He was solid again today. It didn't look like it a month ago, but he is definitely making this team now.

A look at the running game with Miller, Thomas

I've been saying for several weeks the Dolphins have not decided on a starting running back. Yesterday, Joe Philbin said it. And in my column for The Herald's print editions, I detailed how it is that perhaps Daniel Thomas is now ahead of Lamar Miller for the starting job, and how it is Miller hasn't snatched the opportunity that was presented to him.

Mike Sherman, Miami's offensive coordinator, believes if the regular-season started tomorrow, the Dolphins would basically have a platoon system because neither Miller nor Thomas has earned extra carries. 

"I think Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are competing neck and neck," Sherman said. "They both have their strengths. I think their competition has brought out the best of them on most occasions. I'm anxious to see how we play this season. Obviously, I think, if we were playing tomorrow, both guys would get plenty of snaps in the ball game."

So why is this running back competition so important in a pass-first, quarterback driven league?

Well, for the Dolphins, it's important because they want balance in the offense. It's important because the offensive line needs protection from rushers just teeing off, and it's important to help quarterback Ryan Tannehill do his job.

“It’s huge," Tannehill said. "It is a passing league but if you can run the football effectively, it takes so much pressure off a quarterback and an offense in general. If teams know you’re going to throw every down, they can throw their rush at you. They can tee off on our tackles and it kind of limits the deceptiveness of anything you can do. So it’s really important for us. And we’ve done a good job of it so far."

Really? They've done a good job?

I know both Miller and Thomas are averaging 4.1 yards per carry this preseason. But a couple of years ago, Reggie Bush averaged 5.0 yards per carry and last year he was at 4.3 yards per carry and the Dolphins still finished 7-9.

Miami needs to do better than 4.1 yards per carry which is just .1 yards above the traditional league average.

 “It could be better, just like the passing game could be better," Tannehill admitted. "But that’s something we’re practicing for. We’re going into preseason week three. It’s not going to be perfect right now. We’re working on it. It will continue to be better.”