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Dolphins practice Monday: Chekwa on way back; TEs not good enough; the roster breakdown at DL; OL decision week away

Another practice day done, another day closer to the Miami Dolphins' second preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys Friday evening. Here's what's happening:

Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who has been out with a leg strain since Aug. 5, is a couple of days away from being ready to come back, per a source. He will not play in Friday's game at Dallas but expects to return to practice next week when the Dolphins resume drills following their second preseason game.

It's important for Chekwa to get back because he was doing well before the injury and there is definitely a roster opportunity for him on this team. But he can't make the team while he's rehabbing.

That's the news.

The Dolphins made offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph available to the media today.

I asked Christensen about the tight ends. I told him I don't see a lot of production out of that group in general and Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims in particular. I don't see a lot of great things happening. So I asked Christensen if I'm missing it?

"No. I don't think so," Christensen answered. "We had a couple of shots in the game. We dropped a ball that should have been a 20-yard-plus play. They're like everyone. They're learning. Probably of every position, the tight end position is the most learning because they have to know the protection, they have to know the run game and they have to know the pass game.

"I think they will be the last ones where the speed shows that I'm talking about shows up and becomes natural because we stick them at so many positions. They're out wide, they're in the slot, they're attached, they're part of the run unit. They're in the backfield as a protector.

"I don't think you've missed it, but we need some big plays out of that room. We know that. That's where your matchups are on third down. They've got to win and we have to have good stuff for them. Hopefully we'll get there. We're not there yet."

That is disappointing because the Dolphins haven't looked great in practice in the red zone. And who catches touchdowns in the red zone?

Tight ends!!!

Yet, I don't often see that in practice. Not a criticism. Just what it is so far and Christensen agrees. The thing is it's not just about producing in the passing game for these tight ends. On Friday against the Giants, Jordan was supposed to chip New York DE Olivier Vernon before going out into the pattern on a pass play near the goal line. He blew it.

Instead of chipping from the outside, he took an inside route to Vernon and by doing so cut off tackle Branden Albert from his assignment. To the naked eye, it seemed as if Albert simply could not keep up with Vernon as the defensive end chased Ryan Tannehill in the end zone.

In truth, it was the tight end not doing a good job on his assignment and keeping the left tackle from doing a good job, too.

"We should have taken the outside edge and run him inside into the tackle," Christensen said. "Some of those details weren't sharp enough and that's why you go three-and-out. You're not on your mess, you go three-and-out in this league." 

 Christensen understands there is building crankiness (mine) about the offensive line situation. The team is continuing to mix and match lines at the guard spot where there is a competition and uncertainty. I offered my solution to that uncertainty in my column today. And the solution did see work in drills.

But are the Dolphins close to picking their starting offensive line?

"Probably not yet," Christensen said. "I think these next two weeks, everything should speed up. The installs will slow down, play should speed up. We should play better, we have to protect our quarterback better, we have to run it better, throw and catch it better. We have to do everything better.

"These next two weeks, if we don't see some big improvement then we'll get a little bit nervous. But we should see some big improvement these next two weeks."

Christensen said he doesn't have a sense in his mind who the starting guards will be and, indeed, he's "trying to make sure that I don't."

Obviously that is to make sure everyone gets a fair evaluation, which coach Adam Gase has guaranteed his players and is delivering.

" I think we do have to at the end of this game start thinking about it because the third game is when we're trying to play the starters a good chunk," Christensen said. "The fourth week is kind of a wash and who knows how coach Gase will play then so coming out of this game we have to start funneling the thing down and getting a starting lineup and giving them a chance to play together."

On defense Vance Joseph said this Friday's game will mark the debut of the defensive veterans the team sat last week at New York.

"Probably, we're not sure yet, Joseph said. "I think they'll play a series or two. It's time."

That means Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, Jason Jones, Ndamukong Suh, Reshad Jones and Byron Maxwell should get playing time against the Cowboys.

The defensive end and defensive tackle spot will be interesting when the Dolphins trim their roster to 53. Joseph said the numbers the team is looking at for the end spot is five players. The team is looking at four tackles, he said.

"Right now we've got three or four guys that we have penciled in," Joseph said of the ends. "That fifth spot is going to be up for grabs. It's going to be a tough decision even inside for the four inside players."

This is how that breaks down...

Defensive ends: Cameron Wake, Jason Jones, Mario Williams and probably Andre Branch are penciled in on the team. That's four. The fifth spot right now is between Chris McCain (who is better as a pass rusher), and Terrence Fede (who is better against the run). Dion Jordan (who is better at rehabbing) is not in the mix. 

Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso missed a tackle on a touchdown run against the Giants. Despite that, Joseph is clearly a Kiko guy.

"He's done fine," Joseph said. "Obviously the missed tackle, I didn't like. We had a bunch of missed tackles Friday. That's expected, it's preseason. That should get rectified pretty soon. He's done fine. He's a really bright inside backer that's played well for us."

The Dolphins view Tony Lippett as a three-year project. And yet, there he is still in the starting lineup, mostly because Xavien Howard and Chris Culliver are not yet healthy. Joseph sees improvement in the second-year former college wide receiver.

"I thought Lippett played well in the game," Joseph said. "He had one play where it was a plus-plus split. He gave up a slant route inside. It was a plus-five split. So I get it. He didn't see the split. That stuff we can fix and coach. But I'm excited about Lippett. We seen improvement from the first day. You watch him today, he had three or four PBUs. He's getting better every day."

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