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3 posts from July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

A look at the Dolphins first '14 padded practice

Today was the Dolphins first day in pads in 2014. The Dolphins will have only 11 of these practices before the start of the regular season. The rest will be in shells, or just helmets or walkthru work. So this is a big deal.

This is how and when a football team is most likely to come together -- playing and practicing the closest thing to football that is not a scrimmage or preseason game.

And today was interesting.

It was actually a pretty solid day for the running game. Despite the worries of a totally brand new offensive line and the fact the Dolphins have a solid defensive line, the run game moved the football.

No, there wasn't full speed tackling but one could see if the offensive line was actually moving the defense off the ball or not. One could see whether and where cutback lanes developed.

In that regard, it was a nice day for Lamar Miller. He had one run that would have been a 60-yard touchdown run in a real game situation. It was a stretch play to the right that boasted a lane through which Miller simply thundered into and through.

Nice work.

The desire to get the ball deep to Mike Wallace is still mostly that ... a desire. Quarterback Matt Moore tried a couple of times in team drills. Both times he overthrew the open receiver.

Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill did connect on a 20-yard gain to Wallace on a route coming diagonally across the field.

Some other highlights today:

Cameron Wake continues his streak of practice days with a sack against rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James. The streak, expected when a Pro Bowl player faces a rookie for the first time, is at three practices. The Dolphins have practiced three days.

“I love it because I’m a competitor," James said of his matchup against Wake. "He’s a great player and he’s going to get me better, as long as I keep going as hard as I can against him, these constant reps we have, it’s going to get me ready for what I’m going to see in the season."

James said Wake is a good teammate. After practice the vet who schools the rookie on the field explains why the lesson was so hard.

“After practice he’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got your hands up here, you need to do this here.’ Or I’ll ask him something," James said. "But he does a good job of schooling me, trying to teach me the right thing, but when it’s in between the lines we’re going at it." 

Dion Jordan had a fine interception. He leaped into the passing lane and snagged a Tannehill throw and returned it for what would have been a TD.

The Dolphins worked the blitz several times today. I saw four blitzes. I saw no sacks out of those but there were two incomplete passes, one short completion and one no throw by the QB.

Dannell Ellerbe, who took over at MLB after Koa Misi left practice with some medical issue, was very active today. He blitzed multiple times. He blew up one running play by Miller behind the line of scrimmage.

Daniel Thomas had a 13-yard run  in one team drill. But had a handful of other runs and none went more than four yards. He tripped once for a three-yard loss.

The read option was again a staple of practice. Both Tannehill and Moore had plays in which they kept the ball.

Mike Gillislee had a 12-yard gain against the second team defense while working with the starters. He had a handful of other team drill carries before he left the field.

The Dolphins are getting a lot of mileage from throws in the flat. And after two days of watching the team throw end-arounds in the mix, today there was a reverse.

One thing that I noticed as I watch Ryan Tannehill throw today: The focus this year is to have him better decisions in that he goes to the right place but also goes there quickly. I am not seeing the quickly party.

My concern is that it will be difficult for him to make a quick decision, particularly early, as he gets comfortable in a new offense. Think about it. Tannehill was in Mike Sherman's offensive for five years. He knew it better than anyone.

This offense is about six months old to him.

So how do you expect the QB to make quicker decisions when the offense is newer?

“It’s a good question," coach Joe Philbin said. "One of the things I think Bill (Lazor) and Kevin (Coyle) have done a great job of is, for example, we have certain pass concepts. So what happens is Bill scripts everything. They don’t script together, but we noticed on two or three of our different pass concepts after the spring, we had only seen them against let’s say quarter’s coverage. What the quarterback needs to see is he needs to see a pass concept versus man-to-man coverage, three-deep zones, quarters, cloud coverage.

"So there is a little bit and there is some trick to it. So Bill and Kevin have gotten together really before camp started and really done a good job of working together and Bill saying to Kevin, ‘Hey Kevin, this is the same play. I’m running play four in period 12. Can you give me one high man? Can you give me a fire zone so that we can expose the quarterback?’ Not that the concepts are totally brand new. There is a lot of carryover in the pass game. It’s a valid point. It’s helpful to speed up the decision-making process if they get reps against a multitude of coverages."

The Dolphins obviously hope it works because, as I share in my column today, the team is hoping for more and better things out of Mike Wallace this year.  And Wallace can't have a better year unless Tannehill gets him the football.

Misi, Gillislee leave Miami Dolphins practice early

Middle linebacker Koa Misi and running back Mike Gillislee left today's first padded practice early with apparent medical issues.

The Dolphins do not disclose injuries unless the players are out for multiple days. Misi left the field after removing his cleats and having his foot/ankle area looked at. Gillislee left the field and seemed to be suffering from some sort of heat related issues.

Misi is expected to be the starting linebacker but after he went out the Dolphins moved Dannell Ellerbe, the starter last year, back to the middle linebacker job.

More information as it becomes available.

More injury management news:

Receiver Brandon Gibson participated in the first half of today's practice but once contact got more aggressive he was ordered to stop working. He stayed on the field after removing his pads and helmet and watched.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said last week the team expected to manage Gibson's return to practices and contact. Gibson, who practiced the first two unpadded practices this training camp, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon -- an injury that forced him to miss nine 2013 games.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan also seemed to be limited in today's practice. He was dressed out and participated in all individual drills. But he skipped many of the team drills.

Jamar Taylor took the team-drill snaps with the first-team defense.

Free agent guard Davonte Wallace missed all of practice with an unknown issue.

The Dolphins practiced in pads for the first time. They will do so 11 times this training camp, the next time coming Tuesday after getting Monday off.

Wallace eager, willing to do more: And may have to

The Dolphins hope to unleash Mike Wallace this year. A one trick pony, by his own admission, in the offense last season, I tell you in my column today some of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's plans for Wallace in 2014.

Wallace also explains for me how the pressure of performing up to his $60 million contract last season messed with his head and how he's addressing that this year:

“You just got to keep a level head," he said. "You’re going to have expectations on you but as a player I just got to keep my head. You can’t worry about anything but the focus and the grind every single day on the field. You can’t worry about the off-field stuff – about this person, that person. You just got to focus, man. I feel like I take that with me everyday and I learned that. That was a great learning experience for me my first year and I think you’ll see a big difference from Year One to Year Two here."

Wallace isn't expected to be just a nine-route runner this year. And he's excited about the possibilities that will bring. He said his goal is to be a first-team All-Pro this season.

And he's apparently ready to take that do-more theme to extremes.

Even special teams extremes.

 That's right, Wallace said he's willing to help on special teams in 2014.

“I don’t want to run down on kickoff team," Wallace said. "But if I can return a little bit, I’ll do that.”

 Wallace would like the Dolphins to pick and choose certain key moments or games and let him have a chance to make a big play on special teams.

"I feel I could bring a spark to the team if I get back there on special occasions," he said. "Not every play but every once in a while I feel I could make a spark. I could take one or two to the house.”