WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Because the Dolphins need to trust the development of their draft picks, and because big money simply cannot be thrown at every position, Miami began its offseason practices Tuesday with four young, largely unproven veterans thrust into starting roles.
A look at where the four of them stand:
### Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. Turner, who played just 17 offensive snaps as a rookie, took the first-team snaps at right guard and Thomas handled most of the first-team work at left guard on Tuesday, with rookie fourth-round pick Jamil Douglas also getting some first team snaps in relief of Thomas.
“They’re obviously both very talented; they deserve first crack at that spot,” offensive line coach John Benton said of Turner and Thomas. “But it’s very clear to both of them that nothing is set. They’re all in competition.”
Turner, selected 67th overall out of North Dakota State in 2014, “is a very physical, explosive type player,” Benton said. “Something he has improved a lot on but still has a ways to go is his overall demeanor and playing with balance and under control.”
Benton said Turner also must use “his hands a little better.”
Turner, who was a tackle at North Dakota State, said he hasn’t played right guard in a game.
“I'm excited, after last year, being hurt, being out most of the year and not really getting a shot right away,” he said. “Halfway into the season, it's kind of hard to throw someone in when the season is almost already over. I've been working hard. We'll see if the hard work pays off.”
As for the much-maligned Thomas, Benton said he believes it will help having Thomas work at just one position, instead of alternating between guard and tackle, as he did in the past.
Benton said Thomas, drafted 77th overall in 2013, is “so much better” from… “this point last year to this point this year. It’s a world of difference… His skills are more refined.”
Here’s one positive about Thomas playing guard: Though he yielded seven sacks in 333 snaps at tackle last season, he didn’t give up any in 362 snaps at guard, according to Pro Football Focus.
Can Douglas realistically challenge either of them (more likely Thomas) for a starting guard job?
“I don’t know,” Benton said. “We’re going to find out. He’ll have every opportunity in that mix with [Thomas] and Billy.”
But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said his “first impressions of Jamil have been excellent.”
Joe Philbin cautioned that it's difficult to judge line play in OTAs, when players aren't wearing pads. So the starting guards likely won't be solidified until preseason. And it's still possible a veteran could be added if the right one shakes free.
Of those doubting the team’s guards, Turner said: “Anytime there are question marks, you want to prove people wrong. But everyone we've got on the o-line is confident in what we have.”
### Jamar Taylor. The third-year cornerback from Boise State, who has three career starts, took the first-team snaps opposite Brent Grimes on Tuesday and is the clear front-runner for that spot.
Coaches and the front office liked how Taylor played when he filled in for now retired Cortland Finnegan last season against Buffalo and Denver before Taylor sustained a shoulder injury.
During those games, “I liked the way he went out and competed, first and foremost,” Joe Philbin said Tuesday. “From a technical standpoint, fundamentally there were some really good shots of him doing things exactly the way we’ve been coaching in a variety of different coverages.”
### Chris McCain. As an undrafted rookie last year, McCain showed flashes, including a sack, in just 46 defensive snaps. The Dolphins on Tuesday used him as ex-Fin Philip Wheeler’s replacement as the first-team strong-side (SAM) linebacker, a position McCain played some at the University of California.
“I feel very comfortable at the SAM position; coaches see I’m a lot more comfortable and put their trust in me,” he said. “I’m progressing really well. I’m long and lanky and pretty physical. I give it my all every play. I believe they can tell I’ve been trying to get the starting job.”
McCain, who said he also received “a little bit” of work at defensive end on Tuesday, has “talent, length, the right mind set,” general manager Dennis Hickey said. “We’re excited about the future with him.”
DOLPHINS OTA CHATTER
### Encouraging to see more excellent work Tuesday from DeVante Parker, who made several impressive catches against Grimes and others.
“He was great; you see tough catches with defenders on his back, in traffic,” Ryan Tannehill said.
### Branden Albert (knee surgery) and Don Jones (shoulder surgery) were sidelined Tuesday, but safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Will Davis, both off major knee injuries, were able to participate in much of practice.
Benton said Albert “promises me” he will be ready for the opener. Said Benton: “It looks promising [for Albert to be ready Week 1]. To say confident is probably a little bit of a stretch.”
### Of his offensive line, Benton admitted: “You wish you were a hair more stable.”
### Receiver Rishard Matthews, who skipped recent offseason sessions, declined to discuss his trade request (indications are that he still wants one), but said: “I’m here to show them that I want to be on the field competing to help this team win."
Is he getting a fair shake? “I’m not worried about that,” he said. "I'm here to show them I need to be on the field to help them win."
Philbin said “it was great to have him” back.
### Jordan Phillips and Anthony Johnson worked as the second-team defensive tackles, behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell.
### UM doesn’t yet know whether a joint stadium project with David Beckham will materialize, but the Hurricanes were pleased with how the meetings with Beckham’s group went last week and intend to continue discussions.
There’s still a lot UM doesn’t know, including how much it will be asked to contribute financially (UM is open-minded) and if Beckham’s group can meet all of its requirements (including a stadium with at least 40,000 seats).
UM, which is interested in a stadium only near Marlins Park, hasn’t asked Stephen Ross if he would hypothetically be willing to negotiate a buyout of its lease with Sun Life Stadium (which has 17 years left) and will not broach the issue until the university has a stronger sense about whether a joint stadium with Beckham is likely to happen.
### The Heat began summoning draft prospects to Miami for workouts this week, and we hear Tuesday’s batch included Arizona small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (a potential mid-to-late first rounder; 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds last season but shot just 6 for 29 on threes); UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (a potential late first-rounder who averaged 17.8 points and shot 38.3 percent on threes in his one college season); Tennessee Tech 6-10 center Charles Jackson (13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds) and 6-11 center Mouhammadou Jaiteh (who averaged 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds playing professionally in France).
None are projected for the range of Miami's pick at No. 10. Jackson, who ranked eighth in college basketball with 18 double-doubles last season, is a potential second round pick. Hollis-Jefferson (an excellent defender but suspect shooter) and Vaughn (who impressed at an L.A. workout last week) are projected by many to be drafted much sooner than the Heat's pick at No. 40.
Jaiteh, who has an NBA body and long wingspan, is projected to go anywhere from late in the first round to somewhere in the second.
The Heat plans to bring in a bunch of prospects for workouts before the June 25 draft but like the Miami Dolphins, the Heat isn't announcing who's visiting.
### After Tuesday’s Marlins coaching shakeup, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez also remains at risk if the pitching doesn’t improve, though Dan Jennings likes him… Brett Butler’s re-assignment from third base to outfield and base-running coach wasn’t a rash decision. According to a team official, former manager Mike Redmond also was unhappy with Butler...
Marlins management thought Redmond wasn't aggressive enough with in-game decisions. Now Jennings, with hit-and-run calls, is being too aggressive in the eyes of some players.