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2 posts from July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013

Tuesday 5 p.m. update: Fins signing Pruitt; News, views from Monday night's Dolphins scrimmage

5 p.m. update: As we first reported on Twitter earlier today (@flasportsbuzz), a source said the Dolphins are signing receiver Julius Pruitt, who appeared in nine games for them in 2011 and was cut by Miami in training camp last season.

Pruitt worked out for them today, along with Laurent Robinson, Austin Collie and two others who haven't played in an NFL game. Pat Devlin threw them passes. 

The Dolphins like Pruitt's speed and he's very good on special teams, which is critical in light of several special teams breakdowns in Monday's scrimmage.

He has not caught a pass in an NFL regular season game but caught seven passes for 61 yards in last year's preseason. The Dolphins always have been intrigued by his skill set, but he has never managed to stick. 

The Dolphins lost Armon Binns to a season-ending ACL injury over the weekend, and Rishard Matthews (knee) is expected to be out at least a few more weeks.


Quick hits from Monday night’s Dolphins scrimmage:

### Despite playing without three of his top four receivers (Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and out-for-the-year Armon Binns, Ryan Tannehill had a solid night: 9 for 13, 75 yards, 3 touchdowns. He has now gone five practices-or-scrimmages in a row without an interception. Very encouraging.

The touchdowns covered 24 yards to Charles Clay (a crossing pattern against Jason Trusnik in which Clay eluded Jimmy Wilson), a 14-yarder to Dustin Keller (Keller dived into the end zone) and a nine-yarder to Daniel Thomas.

### Dion Jordan got extensive work in the second half and generated pressure on at least two passing plays, including a sack when he badly beat Will Yeatman. But Jonathan Martin stymied Jordan on several other plays, with Jordan unable to turn the corner against the second-year tackle.

### Matt Moore’s night? Pretty pedestrian. He finished 5 for 10 for 46 yards an interception, which was returned 50 yards by Kelcie McCray for a touchdown. McCray, who missed all of last season with an injury, has a firm grasp on the No. 4 safety job.

Meantime, Pat Devlin finished 10 for 19 for 85 yards and an interception.

### Dimitri Patterson opened as the first-team corner opposite Brent Grimes – a position Patterson has fully earned with an excellent camp -- with Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll holding down the second-team corner duties. But Marshall continues to get a lot of first team work. And Carroll made a splendid play breaking up a pass from Tannehill to Brandon Gibson.

Meanwhile, rookie corner Will Davis continued his knack for making plays, including an interception of Devlin in the end zone on the final play of the scrimmage. That was the second day in a row with an interception for the Utah State alum. And Davis has at least five pass breakups in camp.

### Josh Samuda opened with the first team at left guard, with Richie Incognito at right guard. But if John Jerry needs a few weeks to recover from his knee injury, I would still make Lance Louis the favorite to win the open guard job – IF he fully recovers from last November’s knee injury. That’s a big IF.

Louis, at his best, is one of the top five linemen on this team. But at less than 100 percent, he’s not. He has practiced sparingly in camp.

### Kevin Coyle had to have been thrilled by this play: Olivier Vernon sacked and stripped Matt Moore, and Jared Odrick recovered. Odrick had another good night, generating heat on Tannehill on another play.

### Mike Gillislee scampered 17 yards with a screen pass and displayed good burst on several runs, closing with 21 yards on six carries. But a fumble tarnished his night.

### The running game, overall, wasn’t spectacular – largely a tribute to Miami’s stout defensive front. Lamar Miller had 12 yards on five carries and Daniel Thomas 15 yards on four attempts. Jonas Gray ran four times for 13 yards.

### Keep an eye on former CFL linebacker Les Robinson. He continues to flash, including a terrific stop on Gillislee.

### The Dolphins defense is still flummoxing the offense with safety blitzes. Reshad Jones and Keelan Johnson each had sacks.

### Other defensive notables: Philip Wheeler dropped a potential interception but had a solid night in pass coverage…. Koa Misi had a sack.

### Dan Carpenter, competing with injured Caleb Sturgis for the kicker’s job, had mixed results. He hit field goals from 32, 44 and 50 yards but also missed two from 49 yards and had a PAT blocked by Kheeston Randall.

Carpenter entered the scrimmage 16 for 20 on field goals during training camp.

### Besides Carpenter’s misses, a Brandon Fields punt likely would have been blocked up the middle had the play continued. And there were several breakdowns in special teams coverage that resulted in two long returns, by Thipgen and De’Andre Presley. What’s more, Thigpen fumbled another punt, which the defense recovered. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi can’t be pleased.

### Several young defensive linemen continued to make a pitch for roster spots. Randall, as we noted, blocked an extra point. A.J. Francis, an undrafted rookie from Maryland, had a sack and deflected a pass.

Chris Burnette, an undrafted rookie from Old Dominion, recovered a Gillislee fumble that was forced by defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo, an undrafted rookie from Fresno State.

### Of the young receivers bidding for roster spots, Chad Bumphis (2 for 41) and Marvin McNutt (3 for 23) had the best nights. McNutt held onto a pass over the middle despite being leveled by Wheeler. Brian Tyms had two catches for 12 yards but also a drop. Kenny Stafford caught one pass for seven yards and Jeff Fuller was shut out, with Moore overthrowing him on one play.

### As for the tight ends, Dustin Keller had two catches for 18 yards (including the touchdown), Dion Sims 1 for 6 and Michael Egnew 1 for 11. But Egnew couldn’t haul in what would have been a difficult touchdown catch. Tight end/H-back Charles Clay had the one reception that went for a touchdown.

### Hartline was in pads before the game, seemingly prepared to play, but tweaked something and removed his pads. The Dolphins wouldn’t comment on his status. Nor would they explain Wallace's absence.

### The crowd of 22,876 was the largest for a Dolphins scrimmage in many years and easily topped the audience of 7000 for last year’s scrimmage, which was held on a Saturday morning.


Monday Dolphins chatter: Coyle address defense; audition booked; Philbin's thoughts

With their depth depleted by injuries to arguably their fourth and fifth best receivers, the Dolphins on Tuesday will audition former Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson and potentially others.

The Dolphins pursued Robinson in March 2012 after a breakout season for the Cowboys in which he caught 54 passes, including 11 touchdowns. But the 6-2 Robinson suffered a concussion last season and was limited to seven games and 24 receptions. Teams want to make sure he’s healthy.

Robinson, 28, worked out for the Jets, Patriots and Lions in the past few weeks. He lives in Miami and would love to join the Dolphins, a source said.

Austin Collie also is believed to be on Miami's radar. Collie suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game last year and has had three concussions in his career.

Other free agent receivers still available include Randy Moss (highly unlikely), Chad Johnson (even more unlikely), Brandon Lloyd, Early Doucett, Donald Jones, Donald Driver, Brandon Stokley, Deion Branch and Ruvel Martin. Former Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo also is looking for work.

"We’re always looking to improve, whether from within or without,” coach Joe Philbin said when asked about receiver. “We’re not afraid to do whatever we have to do to improve at any position.”

The Dolphins are looking for receiver help after losing Armon Binns for the season because of a knee injury and Rishard Matthews for at least several weeks because of an injury. Before their injuries, Binns and Matthews had been the favorites for the fourth and fifth receiver jobs behind Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson.

Meanwhile, Philbin said Monday he wants to take a longer look at the young receivers competing for spots, including Marvin McNutt, Brian Tyms and Jeff Fuller. “Those three guys  -- we like the size of those guys,” Philbin said. “They have good length and speed and playmaking ability.

Philbin said undrafted rookie Chad Bumphis “has really come along a little bit. He’s a crafty receiver. Has found a way to get open. Has caught the ball better. Junior Collins has similar skills – is quick, goods hands. It’s a good crop of young guys we have to get further evaluation on.”


Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, permitted to speak to reporters on Monday for the first time during training camp, said he is emphasizing creating more turnovers “as hard as I’ve ever done in all my years of coaching.”

Coyle has been showed his players tapes of the fumbles forced last season by the Patriots, Bears and Bengals -- three of the best in the league at that. He also said players are encouraged to strip and punch footballs hanging from the walls in their defensive meeting rooms.

“Hopefully it will start to translate to our play,” Coyle said.

Coyle addressed other issues:

### He said Dion Jordan is working exclusively at defensive end “in the early stages of camp.” But the Dolphins see the possibility of using him some at linebacker eventually.

“He has a lot of position versatility,” Coyle said. “I see him a lot like Olivier Vernon in the sense there will be times we can use him in a lot of different spots. He’s very athletic, can cover, can certainly rush the passer, which is his strength. We’ve got to get him stronger and his shoulder comes back around from the injury.”

### Coyle said Vernon “has improved tremendously” and is “playing very consistently. We feel he is going to make a much stronger contribution to the defense.”

### On the decision to replace linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler: “We’ll determine if we were right as we go down the road. But what we’ve seen in practice is two guys that are very explosive, play physical, play an aggressive style of game.  

“They’re both very good blitzers, which is something we felt going into the offseason we had to improve, to get our linebackers more productive in the blitz, because we do utilize them quite a bit.”

But Coyle said Ellerbe and Wheeler “are going to be difference makers for us. [But] there’s a level of consistency in both of their play we’re not at yet.”

### He said a big emphasis has been “to eliminate the deep balls, the plus 20 yard passes” and defensive players are making far fewer mental errors than a year ago at this time.


### Philbin, on why he likes Lamar Miller: “He has good instincts as a runner. Has very, very good athletic ability. Has good speed. He can pass protect. It took him a little while to get the responsibilities down, the blitz adjustments down. At the end of the year, he was very sound in his pass protection. He has good hands, can catch the football.”

### Philbin said: “If you asked me, Joe, why were 7-9 last year? I would say minus 10.” That was the team’s turnover differential.


### Dan Carpenter enters Monday’s scrimmage 16 of 20 in field goals during training camp. “I’ve seen the same guy he’s been,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said.  “His approach has been outstanding.”

Meanwhile, rookie Caleb Sturgis, Carpenter’s competition, remains sidelined with a groin injury after making three of his first six field goals. Asked about Sturgis’ performance, Rizzi said: “Caleb has a very strong leg. Every kicker has got to continue to be accurate… It’s a matter of performing in the games.”

Rizzi said he will “give my honest opinion” when Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland ask his opinion on the kicker battle.

### Rizzi said the Dolphins are still evaluating whether to have Marcus Thigpen handle all punt returns or have him again share those responsibilities. Last season, Davone Bess – who was traded to Cleveland – handled punts close to Miami’s end zone.

Rizzi mentioned Brian Hartline, Brent Grimes and Brandon Gibson among players who could share punt return duties with Thigpen. But using Grimes in that role would seem risky.

Rizzi said Thigpen, who handles nearly all of the kickoffs, “had a great year” but left some plays “on the field” and can still improve in decision making.

By the way, Rizzi loves how Dion Jordan has embraced his role on special teams and hopes he can emerge as a force blocking field goals.

### Quotable: “I want to thank everyone for all the prayers and support. I’ll bounce back from this stronger than before! God bless.” --- Receiver Armon Binns on Monday, a day after he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee, which will sideline him for the season.

### Please check my blog and Armando's Dolphins blog later for some thoughts from tonight's 7 p.m. scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium. And follow us all on Twitter -- @flasportsbuzz, @ArmandoSalguero and @AdamHBeasley.