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2 posts from July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014

Benton honest in discussing tough task

The Dolphins offensive line is a handful of practices into what must be a painful, arduous and fast process of growing up.

New from tackle to tackle for the start of the regular season, this unit doesn't just have to find the right five players but then get those players to come together and work with one heartbeat.

"Call it gel, call it what you will," Benton said Tuesday. "We have to quickly evaluate who's going to be playing where ... exactly ... and how much. And get them together as much as possible because there really is something to the gel thing, communication and one guy knowing what the other guy's is going to do. That's going to be vital for us."

The problem with that?

The Dolphins don't really know who their starting five are just yet. Yes, left tackle Branden Albert is a given. But that's it, really.

Daryn Colledge may be the best left guard on the roster ... or he might not.

Shelley Smith might be best suited to start at center ... or perhaps he goes to left guard.

Dallas Thomas is starting at right guard now but he's in competition with Billy Turner.

And rookie Ja'Wuan James seems the most likely right tackle. But he has yet to take a snap in anger so let's not go crazy.

The point is the Dolphins coaching staff has to let this competition play out. But time is short.

"I think it's a little early but by the end of this week, definitely through the first preseason game, we got cut down some of the competition," Benton said. "Heading into the second one we've got to be down to one or two. And then after that it's got to be we've got to be ready to play opening week."

According to that timetable, the Dolphins have three more weeks to get competitions sorted out before the starting unit faces the Dallas Cowboys in the Aug. 23 preseason game.

One position where the Dolphins seem unsure is the center position. That's the curveball in that everyone in the organization expected to add four new offensive line starters for this camp. But five?

No. No one.

Then starting center Mike Pouncey injured his hip and had surgery that will cost him anywhere from 4-7 games.

So Smith, who was signed as a left guard, is at center. He's never played center in an NFL game.

Is Benton clear whether Smith will be able to play well?

"It's unclear in the sense that there's a lot unclear until we get to that first game," Benton said. "I think we'll know a lot after that first preseason game. I'm optimistic. To say confident is probably a little stretch."

Benton is unable to predict the future. But his level of expectation -- that which he's aiming for -- does not change.

"We're going to fully expect to be quality," he said of his line. "Striving to be the best in the league. That doesn't change whatever the situation is. I feel we've got the talent. it's how fast we come together, how hard we work."

The Dolphins open the season against a Bill Belichick defense. The second game of the season is against Buffalo, which matches that team's strength (the front seven) against the Dolphins line. That a tough assignment the first two games out of the gate. 

Has Benton ever seen a team gel that fast?

"Sure, sure," he said. "I've been around and I've come out thinking we're inexperienced and we've come out hot and faded away as the season goes on. There's just so many factors it's impossible to tell. Obviously, is that an issue? Yes, it is an issue. We've got to get together quickly. Will it be 100 percent refined? No, but we're going to have a heck of a game plan for what we do and they're going to understand it. That's how we've got to approach it week to week and, really, day to day at this point."

Ryan Tannehill throws 1 TD in practice

The Dolphins worked on red zone offense and defense today and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw one touchdown during the 165 minute practice in team drills (11 versus 11).

The Miami quarterback's lone scoring pass in 11 on 11 work came on his last throw of the day when he found Brian Hartline in the end zone for a 4-yard score.

For the day, Tannehill completed eight of 14 passes.

The breakdown in team drills today:

Team period

First down quick slant completion to Mike Wallace. Tannehill 1-1.

Third down pass in the flat to Charles Clay. Tannehill 2-2.

Final down screen pass to Clay. Pump right, throw left. Gain of 6 for first down. Tannehill 3-3.

Inside 20

Completion to Lamar Miller streaming out of the backfield. Tannehill 4-4.

Incompletion on play action throw to Damian Williams who was doubled. Tannehill 4-5.

Incompletion on rollout. Ball thrown with no one in area. Tannehill 4-6.

Inside 10

Incompletion out of shotgun on attempt to running back Damien Williams. Tannehill 4-7.

Incompletion while trying to evade blitz. Tannehill 4-8.

Incompletion to right side -- no receiver in the area. Tannehill 4-9.

Incompletion on throw to WR Damian Williams at corner of the end zone. Tannehill 4-10.

Incompletion out the middle back of the end zone on pass intended for Damian Williams. Tannehill 4-11.

Team drill from the 30.

Completion to Damian Williams down left sideline for 20 yards. Tannehill 5-11.

Completion (called back due to penalty) to Rishard Matthews for six yards. Tannehill 5-11.

Completion to Dion Sims in seam for eight yards. Tannehill 6-12.

Inside 10 yard line

Completion to Brian Hartline for 6 yards. Tannehill 7-13.

TD completion to Brian Hartline for 4 yards. Tannehill 8-14.

To be fair, Mike Wallace sat out most of the second part of practice. He said afterward he had soreness in a muscle that he didn't identify and was told to take it easy. Nothing major.

But on a day in which most of the team snaps (against a full defense) come from the red zone, I think it would be fair to expect more scores. Second-team quarterback Matt Moore, by comparison, threw four TDs.

That's not to say Matt Moore should be pushing Ryan Tannehill for a starting job. And Moore is generally competing against the No. 2 defense.

Just saying today was not the most productive day for the red zone offense. Tannehill started well and finished well. He was not too productive during the middle portion of the practice.

By the way, backup center Sam Brenner left practice midway through with some unpecified injury. He was carted off. Nate Garner took over second-team center duties.