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Monday Dolphins update: Soliai; Tannehill rises up rankings; coordinators address issues

Some Dolphins notes from Monday:

### Off Sunday's knee injury, Paul Soliai’s availability for Sunday is in question; the Dolphins aren’t sure yet whether he will be able to play. It will depend largely on how he recovers this week.

But the injury is not believed to be season-threatening.

“We’re not certain how Paul’s condition will be as the week goes on,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said, adding he would prepare his unit for the scenario of him playing or not playing.

If Soliai misses a week or two, Randy Starks would resume starting alongside Jared Odrick. But Soliai hasn't given up hope of playing Sunday against Atlanta.

### Ryan Tannehill, who ranked in the bottom third or quarter of the league in most offensive categories last season, now ranks in the upper half in most. He’s 10th in completion percentage, 12th in yards, ninth in average gain per completion, 14th in quarterback rating and sixth-best in interceptions.

The big difference? "Ryan's play speed is a little bit better," Joe Philbin said. "We talked a lot about a thousand reps he has in the bank. He's a very good student of the game. He's sees things on the field a hair quicker."

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's take on Tannehill? “Having gone through an NFL season and an [offseason program] as a starter, he has grown in to the position, has tremendous confidence. He shows me great composure when he’s on the field.”

### The Dolphins’ vision of having an offense that could strike quickly materialized on the first drive Sunday, when Miami needed just 2:19 to go 58 yards in six plays, punctuated by Mike Wallace’s 18-yard catch and run on a screen.

“That screen was set up for Mike if we had the right look. If we didn’t, it would have gone to the other side,” Sherman said. “It’s predicated on what the defense is giving us.”

Ball distribution in the passing game, Sherman said, is “predicated on coverage, techniques, tendencies and sometimes who’s going again who.”

### Defensively, the Dolphins believed Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler would make a greater impact than Karlos Dansby (now with Arizona) and Kevin Burnett (Oakland), and Sunday’s game offered some evidence, with Wheeler’s sack ending the Colts’ final drive. Ellerbe had 14 tackles in the game, Wheeler 12.

“Their play speed has been good, blitzing has been good,” Philbin said. “They’re aggressive. They’re off to good starts.”

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said “between the two of them, Dannell had 16 hits and Philip might have 13 or 14. They fly around, play with great energy. We have to keep on limiting the mistakes. They play at a very high tempo. We’re really pleased with them.”

### Let’s be clear: Though everybody knows improvement is needed, there is some satisfaction internally about the blueprint coming together so effectively and so quickly.  “It looks good right now,” Wheeler said. “It’s a great confidence builder. We feel like we can beat anybody.”   

### Rookie first-round draft pick Dion Jordan played just seven of the Dolphins’ 73 snaps on defense against Indianapolis on Sunday, but defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he is “going to try to get Dion more involved.”

Jordan rushed the quarterback on five of those snaps and dropped into coverage on two of them.

On a 3rd and 11 early in the fourth quarter, Jordan squandered a chance for a sack when he tried to push Andrew Luck to the ground instead of tackling him. Luck scrambled for a first down.

“I thought Dion thought he threw it, so he pulled up,” Coyle said. “Luck jerked the ball as Dion was approaching him.”

The lesson there?

“Finish the play!” Coyle said.

### Coaches are delighted with the progress of Charles Clay, whose 163 receiving yards through two weeks ranked 21st in the league – and fourth among players who don’t play wide receiver -- entering Monday night’s Steelers-Bengals game.

“He’s playing faster,” Philbin said. “His play speed is better. He’s a smart player. He obviously has things to work on.”

The first carry of Clay’s career was a one-yard touchdown Sunday, and “hopefully we’ll employ him a little more” as a runner, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said.

Clay averaged 5.1 yards on 179 carries at Tulsa. He said his one thought before the rushing attempt Sunday was simply: “Just hold onto the ball.”

Besides being pleased with his work as a receiver, Sherman said: “This last game, we challenged him to be a better blocker. And he really contributed. On the first pass to Mike Wallace, they blitzed us, he made a huge block for us.”

Sherman praised Clay for that play during Monday’s film session.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, coming into his own, doing things without hesitation,” Sherman said. “In the past maybe he wasn’t 100 percent sure of what he was doing.”

Clay played 53 of the Dolphins’ 66 offensive snaps, while Dion Sims’ snaps more than doubled, to 35, and Michael Egnew’s were reduced to nine. That was a function of the Dolphins using more of the package that features Sims, Sherman said, adding not to read anything more into that.

### Philbin said Nolan Carroll, starting in place of injured Dimitri Patterson, “did a good job. Jimmy Wilson did as well with an expanded role.”

Patterson said Monday that he hopes to play Sunday against Atlanta, but “groins are tricky.”

### Sunday marked only the sixth time, and first since 1998, that the Dolphins had no penalties in a game.

### Though the Dolphins’ defense improved after halftime, “we weren’t drawing up new stuff in the sand,” Philbin said. “We got refocused. It’s a credit to our defensive staff. We did a better job of eliminating penetrations.”

And though Miami relinquished 448 yards in its 24-20 win, “defense is more about points than yards,” Philbin said.

### Right tackle Tyson Clabo were charged with allowing two sacks, and Mike Pouncey one, according to Pro Football Focus. Clabo has now allowed three this season.

 Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas each allowed a sack. Thomas had 36 snaps, Miller 30. As pass-blockers, Thomas and Miller have “improved [but] it still has a ways to go” and is not where it needs to be, Sherman said.

### The Dolphins closed with 101 yards on 27 carries and Sherman said: “I should have rushed it more than I did. I thought the linemen really came off the ball. We had a very simple package. Maybe the simplicity enhanced their ability to execute the plan.”

### Wheeler praised Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, but said unlike Andrew Luck, “I don’t think Ryan has that ability” to escape pressure as effectively.

### With Tony Gonzalez awaiting this week, Coyle said of the Dolphins’ difficulty defending tight ends: “It’s not just us. These tight ends are darn good athletes. They’re mismatch athletes in terms of coverage. We just happen to be facing some really good ones. We have to do a better job against them. The tight end position has become such a key focal point.”

 

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