Wednesday Dolphins minicamp nuggets: Rise of Dallas Thomas, lineup moves, Moore doubted his return; Welker/Reggie Wayne role
The notion of beleaguered Dallas Thomas starting ahead of Dolphins rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil at left guard this season seems difficult, if not impossible, to fathom. But Thomas has lined up ahead of Tunsil at left guard to open team drills in the first two days of the team’s mandatory mini-camp, and coach Adam Gase said no player will simply be handed a position.
“You’ve got to earn your spot,” Gase said when asked if Tunsil will be a starter. “I don’t think you’ve seen anyone get plugged in and anointed anything. Everybody’s battling. That’s what we want. We want guys to earn their spots. If you’re a veteran player, a lot of guys respect that because they know it’s not going to be handed to anybody.
“Guys know, I’m going to battle for the five spots in the offensive line. Same on defense. I know [cornerback] Tony Lippett isn’t going to be like, ‘Yeah, you take it’ [with second-round rookie Xavien Howard]. I hope not. I hope he battles this thing all the way out. If he’s the starter, great. We’ll be happy. Then I just know we got three really good players there at corner.”
Gase downplayed the importance of who’s playing with the first team, noting that he doesn’t ask offensive line coach Chris Foerster “who do you have starting today…. We are just going to keep working on different groups. We will keep running guys in there.”
Thomas has given up a lot of sacks and pressures in 36 games over three seasons, including 25 starts. Pro Football Focus rated him 80th of 81 qualifying guards last season.
He was beaten by Earl Mitchell in Wednesday’s practice, forcing a Ryan Tannehill incompletion. But Thomas said Foerster has “been real positive with me, telling me I’m doing a good job.”
Thomas also has been getting work at right guard, where Billy Turner has received many of the first-team snaps.
Thomas believes he will be more stout because “I gained a little bit of weight but more muscle than anything. I wanted to be stronger. So far, I did what I said I’m going to do.”
• Rookie running back Kenyan Drake limped to the locker-room after pulling up in a punt blocking drill. Drake grabbed the back of his right leg with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
He had a slew of injuries when playing at Alabama, including a dislocated ankle, a cracked rib, a sprained ankle, a concussion, a quad contusion, and a broken right arm.
• Matt Moore admitted Wednesday that at one point, he doubted he would return to the Dolphins as their backup quarterback. Before re-engaging his agent in serious contract talks, the Dolphins brought in Brandon Weeden for a visit and booked a visit with Luke McCown, who canceled to re-sign with the Saints.
Meanwhile, Moore visited the Dallas Cowboys. Then Miami summoned Moore for a visit early in free agency.
“There was some doubt,” he said. “It was kind of weird. I came in [to Dolphins offices] for a free agent visit, which I thought was odd. I came in and met the coaches, the new people here. That was the day I signed. A part of me thought I wouldn’t be back.”
Gase said offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree both advocated Moore’s return.
“Clyde kept coming back to it and so did Bo as far as there are not a lot of guys that can come into that role and can come into the game,” Gase said. “I think he has a winning record and I don’t know how many backup quarterbacks you can say that.”
Moore has a 13-12 record in 25 career starts: 6-6 with Miami and 7-6 with Carolina.
“He has done a great job,” Gase said. “A guy I was with in Denver, Mike McCoy, coached him in Carolina and I always had heard great things about him. We knew what kind of guy he was getting and the fact when you’ve got a guy that supports you like Matt does to Ryan, that’s valuable. Him and Ryan are really close.”
• Receiver DeVante Parker returned to team drills after missing two weeks with an undisclosed injury.
“We’ve really been missing him,” said Tannehill, who connected with Parker for a 20-plus yard competition against Xavien Howard. “He’s such a talented player and we want to develop him further. He really makes us more dynamic on offense.”
• Former University of Miami and Indianapolis Colts star receiver Reggie Wayne attended practice and spoke to the receivers.
His message? “Stay on the little details,” receiver Leonte Carroo said. “Make every practice count. He said the practices were harder than the games because he grinded every day and exhausted himself. He said he could leave the game happy knowing he put everything on the field.”
Former Dolphins/Patriots/Broncos receiver Wes Welker, who has made several appearances at practice, also has been helping the receivers, Carroo said.
“Wes Welker talks to us every single day,” Carroo said. “Even in practice, he helps us. As a receiver, it’s great to have two legends like that talking to you. It makes you feel better as a receiver just knowing you can go to the sidelines and those guys who ran this type of offense can help you and talk to you.”
Asked about whether Welker might join the staff, Gase said: “When he wants to come around, he’s welcome. Whether it goes any further than that, it’s a day by day thing with Wes. He knows I’ll always have his back in whatever he wants to do. And we’ll be here to kind of help him grow with whatever he ends up doing.”
• Carroo said Jarvis Landry asked him to participate in workouts with him during most of the five weeks between this week’s minicamp and the start of training camp.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith, Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown are among others who have participated in those workouts.
“When he offered that to me, I wasn’t going to turn that down,” Carroo said. “This is my job now. I’m going to stay down here and work with one of the best receivers in the NFL.”
• With Reshad Jones returning, defensive ends Mario Williams and Jason Jones were the only players not in attendance at the mandatory minicamp. Both were excused absences for personal reasons… Linebacker Neville Hewitt and receiver AJ Cruz worked on the side because of injuries.
• A day after Andrew Franks nailed all seven field-goal attempts (including a 59-yarder), his competition, undrafted Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, made 4 of 7, missing from 41, 49 and 59…. Former UM receiver Rashawn Scott made at least three catches in 11 on 11 drills… When Reshad Jones entered team drills, he replaced Isa Abdul Quddus, not Michael Thomas.
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