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2 posts from August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013

Twenty Dolphins tidbits from Monday and more

Please see the last post for a feature on two players from a 2011 Dolphins draft that hasn't been as successful yet as Miami would have hoped.

Meanwhile... Here are 20 Dolphins notes from Monday:

### A starting battle at defensive end between Olivier Vernon and rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan likely will develop at some point.

But it hasn’t yet, and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Monday that Jordan hasn’t logged enough practice snaps to realistically compete for a starting job “at this point.”

What’s more, Jordan is now sidelined because of an issue relating to the shoulder that was surgically repaired in February, according to a league source. The situation is not considered serious, but Jordan has been held out of practice the past two days.

“He hasn’t gotten the reps that would be necessary to start at this point,” Coyle said. “But we still have three weeks of training camp. So it’s a little premature to determine exactly what his status would be as we begin the season.”

Jordan played just seven snaps Friday against Jacksonville, a week after he played only on third downs against Dallas. Asked when he might receive work on first and second downs, Coyle said:

“We’re obviously taking some precaution with Dion, not wanting to overload him at this point. We’ve got a plan in place that we think will get him ready to participate at the level we feel best at to complete the season [from a shoulder standpoint].

“We would like to see as much of him as we can but we will be careful as we proceed. He’s working his tail off. The other night, he had one of the most explosive hits in the game. When they came out in the Wildcat, he was in the backfield making a great, athletic play.”

### Three days after Ryan Tannehill did not even throw a pass to Mike Wallace in their first preseason game together, both offered cautionary words to those eager to see them connect early and often on deep balls.

“It’s not going to be five touchdowns a game,” Tannehill said, noting the two connected on a deep touchdown throw in 7-on-7 drills Monday. “That’s what everyone kind of seems to be hinting at. He’s going to get open short, deep and crossers. It’s going to happen. There’s no need to panic, no need to push to try to force him the ball. We’re coming along nicely.”

Wallace said: “I want to make [deep catches] just as much as anybody. It’s not just about deep balls. You have to work on other things. Shorter routes. It’s not as easy as people think.”

After studying tape of the Jacksonville game, Tannehill second-guessed only one decision not to throw to Wallace. He completed a pass to Brandon Gibson on that play but said he could have connected with Wallace “if I had stayed in the pocket a little bit, kept my eyes downfield.”

### Tannehill has been flushed from the pocket several times and said that has an impact on his ability to spot receivers downfield.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Anything downfield is going to take a little bit of time to develop. If you’re having to move around quickly,… you’re not going to be keep your eyes downfield and get the ball downfield. That’s one thing we were working on this week.”

### Nate Garner was the first-team right guard, with Josh Samuda spending his second day in a row exclusively at center after starting at right guard in the first two preseason games.

Lance Louis, who had knee surgery last November, worked with the second team at right guard and said he is “working toward” making his preseason debut Saturday at Houston but stopped short of saying it’s definite.

### Defensive tackle Randy Starks, who hasn’t practiced in 10 days because of a knee injury, did rehabilitation work inside the practice bubble and was seen limping. Tight end Kyle Miller (ankle) also remains sidelined.

### Evan Rodriguez replaced Jorvorskie Lane as the first-team fullback.

### Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson continue to alternate first-team snaps at the starting cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes, with Nolan Carroll and Will Davis working on the second team.

### Rookie second-round cornerback Jamar Taylor, who has been slowed by soreness from his sports hernia surgery, will be given an increased workload and hopes to play Saturday at Houston.

“The good news is he’s been in the classroom, has a sense of the scheme,” Philbin said. “But [practice] is a better teacher than the classroom. You try to get him as many reps as you possibly can.”

### Kicker Dan Carpenter, who seems unlikely to beat out rookie Caleb Sturgis, was short on a 54-yard field goal --- three days after Sturgis boomed a 58-yarder in the Jacksonville game. Carpenter made his two other field goal attempts Monday, including one from 50 yards and one inside 40.

PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS

### Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who played very well in the Jacksonville game, intercepted a Matt Moore pass in the end zone.

### Moore rallied late in practice, hitting a 40-yard strike to Kenny Stafford, then a 14-yarder to Michael Egnew, followed by a two-yard pass to Mike Gilislee for a touchdown.

### Tannehill delivered a gorgeous 50-plus yard throw to Mike Wallace in 7 on 7 drills.

### During 7-on-7 drills, Pat Devlin threw a touchdown to Rishard Matthews, who has looked good since returning Sunday from a two-week absence due to a knee injury.

ALSO NOTABLE

### Philbin, asked what his offense is doing well: “We don’t have a lot of mental errors. The work ethic has been good. The leadership has been good…. We clearly have to execute better.”

### Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said  Tannehill has been sharp mentally, and Philbin cited an example: “First play of both games, he redirected the blocking schemes effectively. It’s not like he was out there, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening?’”

### Tannehill and Dustin Keller have developed strong chemistry, and Tannehill said the fact “he stretches the field is exciting for me. You have a big target who can use his body and separate from linebackers and safeties and catches the ball well. He’s a great route runner.”

### Cornerback Will Davis, who had an interception against Jacksonville, “is doing a great job,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He has very good hands, is very natural catching the ball. He has a tendency of getting himself in the right spot and making a good, quick decision. [Monday] he got his hands on a number of balls.”

Davis had five interceptions and 22 pass deflections at Utah State last season.

### Coyle said the team generally likes to keep five or six cornerbacks and “there’s more depth than we’ve had. We need players to step up and separate themselves from the rest of the group.”

### Philbin said he told offensive tackle Will Yeatman, a former tight end, that his performance against Jacksonville “was the best I’ve seen [from him]. You look like a football player!”

QUOTABLE

“A little surprised maybe, but I know he has a lot of friends there.”

    --- Tannehill, who played at Texas A&M, on his reaction to reports that Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was kicked out of a Texas fraternity party this offseason.

The NCAA reportedly is investigating Manziel for receiving money for signing autographs, and Tannehill said: “They’ll get to the bottom of it… Hopefully, we’ll see him on the field this year.”

### FYI: The team has two more training camp practices open to fans and media -- at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday.     

### Please see the last post for a look at why Miami believes Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay are ready to emerge.       

Dolphins expecting more from two pieces of 2011 draft class

The first of a couple of Dolphins posts today:

 

If it takes two to three years to fairly analyze a draft, then a referendum is soon coming on the Dolphins’ 2011 class, which has produced only one current Dolphins starter: center Mike Pouncey.

But the Dolphins firmly believe two others from that class -- Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay --- can develop into key, consistent cogs in their offense this season.

Coach Joe Philbin has been complimentary of Thomas, whose first two seasons were marked by injury, inconsistency and a 2012 preseason admonishment from Philbin, which was aired on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he’s excited about pairing Clay with starting tight end Dustin Keller, because the Dolphins can run any of their formations with that tandem.

Expectations differed somewhat for both after that draft --- the Dolphins traded up to draft Thomas 62nd, while Clay was a sixth round pick and stands as a success story of sorts by simply surviving so far.

But their careers have had somewhat similar arcs – flashes of promise and exasperating mistakes, as well as knee injuries and surgeries that sidelined each for the final two games of 2012.

Last season, no NFL running back with as few carries as Thomas fumbled as much (three times in 91 attempts). Meanwhile, no NFL tight end targeted as few times as Clay dropped as many passes (five, compared with 18 receptions, in 27 targets).

The stakes ratchet up for both this season. Though Lamar Miller remains the favorite to start, Thomas continues to receive some of the first-team reps, and Sherman said the running back competition is “pretty close.” Thomas expects one to be “1A, one 1B.”

Thomas’ best NFL games remain the first two of his career – an 18 carry, 107 yard eruption against Houston (the second-most yards by a Dolphins running back in his first game, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 115) and a 23 carry, 95 yard outburst the following week against Oakland.

He hasn’t matched those yardage totals in any of his 23 games since and overall has averaged an underwhelming 3.5 yards per carry, which he calls unacceptable, after averaging 5.2 in his two seasons at Kansas State.

Last season, only four running backs with as many carries averaged less per carry than Thomas’ 3.6: Alex Green, LaRod Stephens Howling, Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings. In his career, he has converted well under half of third and fourth down runs with one or two yards needed.

He missed games because of a hamstring in 2011, a concussion last October and last December’s knee injury to his meniscus.

“It feels like I had injuries all the time, and I had never gotten hurt before,” he said.

Thomas trained in Arizona with a group of players, including Terrell Suggs and Tim Tebow this past spring, because “I wanted to get my legs back stronger [after knee surgery]. I’ve been very inconsistent. This is the year I’ve got to put everything together.”

Early signs are encouraging. Thomas had eight- and nine-yard runs to help fuel the Dolphins’ first-quarter touchdown drive in Jacksonville and was impressive in Monday's practice, with two forceful runs in red zone drills and a nifty catch along the sidelines.

"I like what he’s doing this camp,” Philbin said. “I’m very happy with the way he’s practicing. He’s running the ball hard. He’s been doing a good job in pass protection.”

After last season’s fumble issues, he has only one fumble in camp and none in either game. He added six pounds, to 236, and “I feel quicker and faster. I am a better back than I was the first two years.”

He’s also a more responsible one. Last August, HBO cameras showed Philbin scolding Thomas for being late for a flight, not abiding by the dress code and reporting 15 minutes late to weightlifting.

“This kind of stuff can’t happen,” Philbin told Thomas a year ago. “You got to take responsibility for your own career. I’m getting a little queasy about you.”

But Thomas has matured. “He’s going about his business in a very professional manner,” Philbin said Monday.

As for Clay, he has been working at both fullback and tight end and “really has stepped it up,” Sherman said.

The Clay/Keller tandem intrigues the Dolphins because both have a knack for finding seams in the middle of the defense.

“We talk all the time about the weapon we can be together,” Clay said. “I want to say we can be the top tight end duo in the league. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him.”

Keller said Clay’s value is not only his positional versatility, but also that “he does everything well. He can block well. If you put a safety or linebacker on him, you can take advantage of that matchup.”

As for the rest of that 2011 draft beyond Pouncey, Thomas and Clay, a second-rounder was dealt as part the Brandon Marshall trade; Clyde Gates (picked 111th) and Frank Kearse (231st) are long gone; and Jimmy Wilson (235th) is the Dolphins’ No. 3 safety.