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July 25, 2014

Twenty notes, quotes, tidbits and observations from first day of Dolphins training camp

### If the Dolphins open the season with the same starting offensive line that took the field for the first day of practice on Friday, they will be using a center (Shelley Smith) who has never played a single snap at that position in an NFL game, a left guard (Daryn Colledge) that wasn’t even on the team a month ago and a right guard (Dallas Thomas) who played three offensive snaps last season.

That group, bookmarked by new tackles Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James, gave up many of the at least half-dozen sacks relinquished by the offensive line on Friday. Cameron Wake beat James at least twice for sacks. Randy Starks, Wake and Jason Trusnik collected sacks during a four-play sequence late in practice.

“Today wasn’t the practice we wanted to have,” Ryan Tannehill said. “Balls on the ground and sacks.”

Joe Philbin said “we had the ball on the ground way too much” and that stemmed from at least three poor center-to-quarterback snaps, two involving Smith and Tannehill.  

Smith, who expected to be the starting right guard, instead has been shifted to center in the absence of Mike Pouncey, who is expected to miss potentially seven games after hip surgery.

Smith took snaps at center during the offseason program but his center experience during games is limited to a few snaps at Colorado State and in high school. He never has started a game at center at any level.

Smith said he wasn’t informed of the position switch until Thursday but wasn’t surprised.

He said “we don’t know yet” whether his move to center will continue until Pouncey’s return, but that’s Miami’s preference if Smith proves he can handle it.

“It will be a new challenge for me,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to it. The biggest adjustment, especially in this offense, is getting guys in the right position to be successful. Guys are ready to step up and fill in until [Pouncey] is back or if he’s not back, fill in the whole year.” (Nobody expects Pouncey to miss the season, but I found it curious that Smith said that.)

Philbin opted for Smith as the starting center instead of Sam Brenner, who took second-team snaps there.

### With Smith shifting to center, the Dolphins inserted Colledge at left guard, the position he has played primarily in his career. The Dolphins passed on Colledge during the first phase of free agency but signed him in late June after Pouncey’s injury.

“I’ve taken 9000 reps at left guard and 500 reps at probably every other position,” said Colledge, who has started 124 of 128 NFL games, including every game for Arizona last season. “But I will swing over if that’s what’s needed.

“The guys behind me are actually ahead of me in the system and physically. I haven’t played football since [late December]. I have some rust to knock off. Hopefully, my vet savviness will eventually catch back up.”

### Thomas played left guard during the entire offseason program but shifted to right guard partly because Colledge is more at ease on the left side.

Thomas said he’s comfortable on both sides because he practiced on both sides last year. But moving to the right requires “rethinking everything. It’s different. Footwork is different. I have way more work to do.”

### Colledge said having five new offensive line starters “almost never happens. You don’t always need a bunch of Pro Bowlers. You need five guys that can line up every week.”

Albert, who was beaten by Olivier Vernon for a sack, said Tannehill is “going to get hit. It’s part of the game. But not 58 times.” The Dolphins, as many of you know, allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season.

### A few highlights from Stephen Ross’ media briefing: It was interesting that the first player he mentioned was rookie receiver Jarvis Landry, declaring that Landry “is going to bring a lot of excitement to this team.” You can be sure Ross has heard that sentiment from his football people… Ross said the Dolphins have made a “major improvement” at offensive coordinator with Bill Lazor…

He wouldn’t go as far as to say that the Dolphins need to make the playoffs for Joe Philbin to keep his job... The canopy which will cover the stands at Sun Life Stadium will be in place for the 2016 season… Is there a chance to reclaim the market with LeBron James off to Cleveland? “Miami wants to support a winner,” he said. “Football is the No. 1 sport in this country and the area.” (Adam Beasley will have more from Ross in his story to be posted later.)

### While refusing to offer details, Dion Jordan expressed remorse for his four game regular-season NFL suspension that resulted from testing positive for an undisclosed banned stimulant.

“It sucks,” he said.

Jordan, who received substantial practice time Friday and will be permitted to play in preseason games, said he learned “you have to be accountable. The older you get, the more people depend on you. If nobody can depend on you, you’re… worth nothing. I’ve got to grow up and take it as a lesson. I made a decision that jeopardized myself and the team.”

### Besides Pouncey, Knowshon Moreno and Derrick Shelby --- who both had arthroscopic knee surgery this summer --- also sat out practice, with Pouncey and Moreno placed on the physically unable to perform list. The Dolphins expect Moreno and Shelby to be ready for the start of the season.

### Tannehill, who completed only 6 of 36 passes of 20-plus yards to Mike Wallace last season, completed one of two of those throws to Wallace on Friday. He under-threw Wallace once (Will Davis had tight coverage) but Wallace beat Jamar Taylor on a long strike in 7-on-7 drills.

Overall, Tannehill was 1 for 3 on deep balls, with Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones offering tight coverage on a slightly overthrown bomb to Damian Williams.

“There were times last year when I could have made plays on the ball--jumped over a couple guys,” Wallace said. “That’s my main thing: coming back to the ball. Knowing that not every ball is going to come far. Some are going to drop short. When the ball is not perfect I’ve got to make plays on it.”

### Wallace, on his state of mind: “I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been. I feel really comfortable. I know everything about the team. Last year, I felt kind of like a rookie in a new environment. I love the environment, love the coaches. I think the guys are a lot more comfortable understanding their roles, the whole team in general. Coach [Bill] Lazor coming in with some energy for us, a big shot of energy, a nice variety of plays. He brings a different type of excitement to the table. I love coach [Mike] Sherman but coach Lazor is a different type of guy so I’m excited about it.”

He also said: “I need to be more of a complete receiver instead of a one-dimensional guy.”

On pundits predicting the Dolphins won’t do much this year, Wallace said: “I don’t listen to that stuff. I don’t care. I know what we have on our team. They sleep on us. We’re going to wake their ass up.”

### Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Earl Mitchell alternated with the first team at defensive tackle. Starks and Mitchell were on the field for the start of team drills, for what that’s worth.

### Cortland Finnegan lined up with the starters opposite Brent Grimes at cornerback and made two nifty breakups of Tannehill passes to Wallace. Jamar Taylor and Will Davis were the second-team cornerbacks, with Jalil Brown and Walt Aikens the third-team corners.

### Talk about inauspicious starts: On the first play of team drills, Tannehill was forced to call timeout. That was immediately followed by a botched snap.

### What did we see from Lazor’s offense today? Among other things: Bubble screens, quick passes, a read option play, Tannehill throwing on the move (some by design, some by necessity), spread formations, multiple sets (including one with tight ends Dion Sims and Michael Egnew both lined up as receivers), considerable use of tight ends in the passing game, play-action fakes and several passes to running backs (Lamar Miller made a particularly nice catch on one of them).

“Spreading the field is going to be a big key,” Tannehill said. “The offense is pure timing and throwing to spots.”

### Ugh! moments of the day, beyond the offensive line play: Michael Egnew dropping an easy pass, all alone in the flat, and Gerald Ford dropping another one. But Egnew, running with the second team, also made a nice catch later.

### Best play of the day? A phenomenal diving catch from rookie receiver Matt Hazel, a play covering 45 yards.

### Dannell Ellerbe, the team’s third-highest-paid defensive player in terms of annual salary, left the field in nickel situations, with Koa Misi and Philip Wheeler remaining on the field.

### Here was the backup offensive line, from left to right: Nate Garner (not the ideal backup left tackle choice), Billy Turner, Brenner, David Arkin and Jason Fox.

### A.J. Francis and undrafted rookie Anthony Johnson were the fourth and fifth defensive tackles and are front-runners for those roster spots. Teammates like Johnson’s upside.

### Asked if he addressed rookie hazing with his players, which at least one rookie complained about privately last season, Philbin said he “talked more about respect for one another” and “being focused on football.” Dennis Hickey declined to say whether rookie hazing would be banned.

### UM assistant coaches Art Kehoe and Hurlie Brown were on the field, guests of the Dolphins.

### If you missed it, please see the last post for Heat notes from Thursday. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz