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Dolphins Tuesday practice: In pads for first time

The Dolphins brought out the football gear today as there was some, but not a lot, of contact for the first time this training camp.

Contact or no, this much is clear:

The Dolphins defense -- a unit with two new starting cornerbacks, two new starting linebackers and a new starting defensive end -- is way, way, way further along than the offense. Indeed, defensive tackle Jared Odrick said the defense's goal is to lead the NFL in sacks and be a Top 5 defense and the way they looked today, one shouldn't doubt that is attainable.

On the other hand, the offense ...


Not good.

Put it this way, the first play of the first team drill in front of the fans who came to watch practice was supposed to be a run left but quarterback Ryan Tannehill tripped over an offensive lineman's feet and fell down.

It wasn't a good day for Tannehill. He threw an interception to Chris Clemons in team drills. And he threw an interception to Dannell Ellerbe in seven-on-seven work. He seemed to be holding the ball a bit. Yes, he completed a beautiful pass to Charles Clay down the seam despite good coverage by Phillip Wheeler. And yes, he did have a 30-yard completion to Mike Wallace on a broken coverage by the secondary.

But otherwise, Matt Moore was the superior quarterback today. Moore, by the way, also threw an interception -- which Jimmy Wilson collected.

"I told the team I thought for our first day in pads we had a very productive practice," coach Joe Philbin said. "Obviously, we have stopping the run on defense. We had a good team run period. I was glad to see we had some takeaways there on defense."

Understand that bad news on offense is good news on defense. So when the Dolphins worked inside blitzes from linebackers Ellerbe and Wheeler that would have collected multiple sacks on Tannehill and Moore, Philbin viewed it as both good ... and somewhat distressing.

"It's good we got in there," Philbin said. "Conversely, you don't like to see two guys running free up in the A-gap."

You don't like to see the offensive line not getting in synch. And that was the case today. Jonathan Martin continues to lose the battle against Olivier Vernon. The interior offensive line did mostly manage a stalemate against Paul Soliai and Randy Starks and Jared Odrick.

But stalemates are not great for the offense but very good for the defense.

When Tannehill connected today it was mostly to backs out of the backfield or tight end Dustin Keller or receiver Brandon Gibson short across the middle. I predict either Keller or Gibson will lead the team in receptions this year. It makes sense. Both are vets. Both make themselves available to the QB. Their patterns are easy ones to complete.

The best news out of today's practice is that rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan is on track to be full go in practice perhaps Wednesday but almost certainly the weekend after the players get Thursday off.

Jordan, recovering from shoulder surgery, was in pads like everyone else today. He didn't participate in any major contact work. He didn't participate in team drills or live contact. But he is clearly progressing and concerns his injury will linger are unfounded. 

"We're teaching him the system, getting him acclimated to the schemes, concepts, teaching of that and then the fundamentals," Philbin said.

Philbin diminished the importance of the time Jordan missed during the offseason and the first couple of days of training camp. (I wonder if veterans who would love to miss minicamps would point the coach to his own words).

"He sat in the classroom. he's watched all the practice film and the correction. Obviously there has to be a point in time when he's got to do it for himself and feel it for himself and make a couple of mistakes and learn from them and move forward as a player." 

Jordan said he's not worried about the shoulder injury.

"I'm trying to put it beind me, no sling or anything," he said. "The next step is getting out there and doing more live drills."

The step after Jordan is fully immersed is starting a competition with second-year veteran Olivier Vernon. Right now, Vernon is killing it. He has easly gotten the better of Martin at least once in each practice on pass-rushes. He is, in my opinion, much better than the player I saw last year. 

Jordan is going to have to work very hard to take snaps away from Vernon.

"He's getting off on the snap count very, very well," Philbin said of Vernon. "He's got good leverage. I was down at the one-on-ones and he showed a nice spin move. He's doing some good things. He really is."

While Vernon is progressing, Jordan is obviously going through all the usual rookie issues. One of those is dealing with Paul Soliai, who had his annual hairdressing of the rookies Monday night. All of them along the defensive line are now wearing terrible color as part of their hairstyle.Dionjordan

"It's part of being a rookie. But I told him I'm a good vet," Soliai said of his conversation with Jordan. "I'm not going to have him do it the whole preseason. He's just got to wear it for two weeks starting today. I told him after that you can do whatever you want to do."

[NOTE: Come back in a bit for more practice highlights.]