Please see below for a Heat schedule note from Wednesday.
Meanwhile, here are 15 items to chew on from Wednesday’s Dolphins practice:
### The Dolphins shook up their first-team offensive line, which is once again the team’s most worrisome position, during Wednesday’s practice after two more botched snaps from center Shelley Smith, giving him four over the past two days.
During the second half of team drills, Nate Garner replaced Smith with the first team at center, while rookie third-round pick Billy Turner replaced Dallas Thomas with the starters at right guard.
Meanwhile, Thomas got some work at right tackle, a position he played at times in practice last season.
Branden Albert is set at left tackle, while Daryn Colledge (left guard) and Ja’Wuan James (right tackle) are likely starters.
But the two other positions have proven problematic in light of Mike Pouncey’s hip surgery, which will force him to miss a chunk of the season.
Smith, who has never played center in an NFL game, has mishandled at least six snaps in five training camp practices. He lost his spot with the first team Wednesday after a low snap resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Isaaka Aaitui.
Smith said he wasn’t surprised he was replaced by Garner, who started two games at center last season and 19 games at various positions in his five seasons. But if the Dolphins determine Smith isn’t the answer at center, Smith would seem the logical starter at right guard.
### The Dolphins’ depth at center remains limited. Sam Brenner, who filled in for Pouncey at center during a practice in late June, missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. The Dolphins hope he can return in a few days.
### Free agent Samson Satele, who auditioned for the Dolphins on June 30, remains on Miami’s radar and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Dolphins go back to him if the center situation worsens. But the Dolphins are still looking at internal options.
### Coach Joe Philbin said in March that it was important to determine Thomas’ best position and leave him there. That still hasn’t happened. Thomas already has played three positions in the past two months: both guard spots and now tackle.
“We’ll see if he looks that much more comfortable [at tackle],” Philbin said. “I doubt that will be the case but it could be. I told the staff I want to see some guys in some different spots.”
### Besides Brenner, Pouncey and Knowshon Moreno, Mike Wallace (hamstring injury) also missed practice.
### Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Wednesday he wants improvement in the return game and also more consistency from second-year kicker Caleb Sturgis.
Rookie receiver Jarvis Landry and former Titans receiver Damian Williams are incumbent Marcus Thigpen’s top challengers for the punt and kickoff return jobs. A few rookies, besides Landry, are also in the mix, including former Oklahoma running back Damien Williams, who's battling for the kickoff return job.
“We put a depth chart up. Is [Thigpen] number one? Yes, because he has the most experience,” Rizzi said. “We will have other guys do it. We have a lot of options, a lot of competition. We have some insurance policies like Brent Grimes. There are probably more options on the roster for that job than we’ve we have had.”
In his second year as the Dolphins’ primary returner, Thigpen slipped to 19th in punt returns last season (7.8 average) and 18th in kickoff returns (22.5).
“We’ve got to get better in the return game as a whole. All 11 guys, not just the returner,” Rizzi said. “There were a lot of situations where our blocking could have been better. We got to get back to where we were in 2012, when we were top five in both categories.”
The Dolphins are eager to see Landry return punts and kickoffs in preseason games. “Obviously, the guy has good hands,” Rizzi said. “He has good judgment, very good athletic ability. The second step is can he do it with people around him, [with] gunners in his face?
“The question of whether he can do it in game time is going to be the biggest thing. He’s going to have some opportunities for sure [in preseason games]. He didn’t do it a lot in college [at LSU]. They had Odell Beckham doing it.”
### As for Sturgis, the Dolphins decided not to bring in another kicker to compete with him even though his 76.5 percent accuracy on field goals (26 of 34) ranked 29th of 32 kickers, ahead of only Houston’s Randy Bullock, New Orleans’ Garrett Hartley and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski.
“He’s got to get more consistent,” Rizzi said. “He had that lapse in the middle of the year where he had a 1 for 5 spell. A kicker can’t be on a roller coaster ride. You go out there for one play and you’ve got to get it done. Bottom line.”
Though there isn’t another kicker on the roster, “the specialist world is a little different from everywhere else,” Rizzi said. “You don’t necessarily need a guy in camp to feel pressure. There is always competition. It may not be in the building. [But] I have a lot of confidence in Caleb Sturgis.”
Sturgis was 8 for 10 from 40 to 49 yards but just 3 for 7 on field goals of 50 yards or longer.
### The offense was sloppy during Wednesday’s practice, with far too many drops on catchable throws. Brian Hartline dropped two after he beat Jamar Taylor and scored on a 70-yard passing play from Ryan Tannehill. Even Jarvis Landry had his first drop of training camp. Armon Binns, Stephen Williams and Gator Hoskins were among others with drops.
Tannehill continued to mix the good with the bad. His TD strike to Hartline was perfectly thrown. He ran for 25 yards on a read option and his accuracy on intermediate routes in the middle of the field has been pretty good.
But he also threw an interception to Cortland Finnegan to end teams drills and threw an interception to Jamar Taylor when he underthrew Hartline on another bomb.
On another play, Tannehill waited too long to throw deep to Kevin Cone, thus allowing Taylor and Walt Aikens to successfully defend the play. Also, defensive linemen Jared Odrick and Cam Wake knocked down two of his passes Wednesday.
Give the Dolphins’ defensive backfield credit; they’ve made a lot of plays in this camp. And Tannehill hasn’t been awful. But we’re still waiting for the day that Tannehill is super impressive, without any poor decisions. It hasn’t happened yet through five days.
### The Dolphins want to continue making use of Dion Jordan on special teams when his four-game regular season suspension ends.
“Dion played 300 plays on special teams,” Rizzi said. “He was exceptional on the return team as a blocker.”
### Philbin, asked why he believes his run defense is better this year than last year, when the Dolphins were 24th in that category: “We’re getting more guys to the football. I’m excited about our defense. They look good so far. Randy Starks, I told the team I think he’s practicing better than I’ve seen him practice.
“Our front has a chance to be pretty good. The changes we made at linebacker. Louis Delmas plays fast. Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler – I like what they’re doing. Philip has really improved. Dannell, the benefit of being the mike, has quickened his transition to outside linebacker.”
### Speaking of defense… A couple of quick thoughts from defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle today: “We’ve got very good speed on defense…. I’m extremely pleased with how Koa Misi has progressed taking on the challenge of becoming the Mike backer in the defense. There’s very few guys I’ve ever been around that have worked as hard as he has to get ready….
"This is the deepest group I think we’ve had in all the positions, guys that as you go down the list have proven that they are capable of competing in the NFL… I think our young corners are really starting to come along.” Yes, lots of happy talk. But the defense has been sharp through five days. Adam Beasley will have more on the defense in a story to be posted later.
### Cam Wake was among several Dolphins who were wearing a T-shirt with slogans that were selected by the players. Among them: “I am a warrior and member of an unbeatable team… I will always place the team first… I will never quit. I am a professional…. I am a Miami Dolphin.”
Philbin said the idea was hatched during his meetings with players. “The great teams I’ve been around, the players take control of them,” Philbin said. “The best thing to do is to give them some ownership. They did a good job, gave some consideration to it.”
The T-shirt is not being sold to the public.
### Rookie fifth-round pick Walt Aikens, who started his career as a safety at Illinois and finished it as a cornerback at Liberty, has been playing both positions.
“You look at him and say, ‘Hmm.’ He kind of looks like a safety,’” Philbin said. “He’s going to continue to get work at both spots.”
### Philbin, on his running backs: “Lamar Miller – I like everything he’s done. Daniel Thomas – he’s had a solid camp so far.”
### Undrafted California rookie linebacker Chris McCain has made a mark so far, including an interception of a ball that Pat Devlin tried to throw away.
“Chris McCain has impressed with his athleticism,” linebackers coach Mark Duffner said. He’s got good quickness, pretty good awareness. He’s going to give us a lot of value with the versatility he presents.”
### Among others who impressed us Wednesday: Former Oklahoma running back Williams (has shown more recently than Mike Gillislee), Dion Sims (nice lunging catch from Tannehill); Dion Jordan (knocked down a pass from Matt Moore); and Taylor, who recovered from getting beat to make at least three very good plays on the ball, including the pick on Tannehill’s second deep-ball attempt.
No, the Heat won’t be showcased to the nation to the extent they were when LeBron James played here. But the networks aren’t going to ignore them either.
TNT wants to televise a Heat game during the first week of the season, and according to a league official, the tentative schedule includes a Washington-at-Heat game on Thursday, Oct. 30 on TNT --- two days after the season opens.
The person said there’s still a chance that game and other early-season games could change, so keep that in mind. But Turner wants to show the Heat early in the season. As we reported yesterday, Cleveland-Miami is also listed as a Christmas ABC game on a tentative league schedule.
The Heat-Wizards game, if it isn’t changed by the league, could be Miami’s first or second game. There’s a chance Miami could open on the road the night before, but that’s undetermined.
### The Lakers worked out Michael Beasley today in Los Angeles, according to ESPN. The Heat has been non-committal with the free agent forward.
### The Marlins are aggressively pursuing a starting pitcher in a trade before Thursday night's trade deadline, and Fox said the Marlins might acquire Boston's John Lackey. But Herald colleague Clark Spencer reports there is no chance of that happening.
Brad Hand and Jacob Turner have pitched well in the fourth and fifth slots in the past couple weeks but the Marlins want a proven arm in their bid to earn a playoff spot.