Today was the first of 10 remaining Dolphins availabilities before training camp, with six of them featuring open practices and four of them (including today's) not open to reporters.
Adam Beasley has a story on the home page posted now about Branden Albert, and I'll have something more in this space later, so check back around 10. In the meantime, a few other notes from the four players made available to us today:
• There are very few positions on the Dolphins without an obvious front-runner to start. But the defensive tackle spot opposite Ndamukong Suh is one of them, with Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips battling.
“It’s a competition,” Mitchell said Tuesday after an offseason practice that was closed to reporters. “Whenever there’s a competition, you want to win. You never want to look at it like that [as not caring about starting]. That’s the worst thing you can do. Whatever I can do to push him, whatever he can do to push me, we’re both welcoming that atmosphere. Jordan is definitely working hard. He wants to step up and do his part.”
According to Pro Football Focus, both Mitchell and Phillips struggled against the run last season on a team that allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the league. Mitchell declined to discuss the past on Tuesday, consistent with every player on the team who has been asked about last season.
But he said he’s encouraged partly because of the hiring of Jim Washburn as a senior defensive assistant and pass-rush specialist. He was a longtime respected NFL defensive line coach with the Titans, Eagles and Lions.
“I want to commend coach Washburn, especially,” Mitchell said. “He’s teaching us so much. That is going to be big for us, key for us, learning everything early on.”
New coordinator Vance Joseph’s wide nine defensive scheme should help, Mitchell said, because “it turns everything back, especially in the run game. It takes the read away from the inside guys. You don’t have to read down the line of scrimmage. You can just attack and not necessarily worrying about losing contain on the outside. When you have guys on the outside, it turns everything back on the inside. It makes it easier to attack…. Coach Vance is pretty adamant about having this attack style defense.”
• The Dolphins expect Cam Wake to be back for the start of training camp and Mitchell said even watching him now, nobody would know he had a ruptured Achilles’ last October. But Wake hasn’t resumed doing team drills.
• Cornerback Byron Maxwell is enjoying his practice matchups with DeVante Parker.
“He’s a great player,” Maxwell said. “Not only him — Kenny Stills and you’ve got Jarvis Landry. Those three guys, they could be very special as a core. But me and Parker have been having good battles. He’s a strong kid. He can go up and get the ball, too.”
• Maxwell likes what he has seen from rookie cornerback Xavien Howard: “He was born to be a corner. He’s just athletic. It’s a natural gift. You can see in his hips and the way he moves.”
• With Dion Jordan set to apply for reinstatement from NFL suspension on Wednesday, Mitchell said teammates are prepared to welcome him back. “There’s no hard feelings,” he said.
• Adam Gase isn’t the only coach trash-talking with defensive players. Mitchell says wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson also does it. “It makes the atmosphere better,” Mitchell said.
• Left tackle Branden Albert on Jay Ajayi, who’s expected to replace Lamar Miller as the starting running back: "I think he's going to hit the holes. That's his thing. We're going to open up the holes for him and he's going to hit it. I'm not worried about him tiptoeing through the hole.
“He's going to put his head down, find the hole and he's going to get through there. We need someone else to step up in the running game too.”
Brad Nessler, whose contract was not renewed by ESPN, was hired by CBS today to succeed Verne Lundquist, 75, on SEC football games beginning in 2017.
In 2016, Nessler will call three SEC games on days CBS has double-headers. He also will call the Sun Bowl, select college basketball games and possibly some NFL games this season on weeks with lots of AFC games.
Lundquist, in his 53rd year in television, will remain at CBS beyond 2016, calling regular-season college basketball, the NCAA Tournament and golf, including the Masters and the PGA Championship.
“Being a part of the SEC on CBS since 2000 has been the most significant assignment I’ve been given in my more than five decades in this business,” Lundquist said. “Now, it’s time to step back and take in the aroma of those tulips, those roses, and those daffodils that friends have been telling me about for years. In 2017, I’ll happily step aside from college football and welcome Brad to the booth. I’ve known Brad for more than 30 years and have always admired his work ethic and his on-air presence. He shares the same passion for college football that I do. The SEC on CBS is in great hands. Brad and [his former ABC partner, Gary Danielson] will form a great partnership in the years ahead.”
Though ESPN had high regard for Nessler's work, it was not interested in continuing to pay him a high salary, according to a network source. He will be replaced by Joe Tessitore on ESPN Saturday night games.
"Verne has been a friend for over 30 years and someone I've always looked up to in this business,” said Nessler. “I'm not replacing him as it would be impossible to replace Verne. I am truly honored to carry on where he leaves off and work to maintain the standard of excellence he has set calling the SEC on CBS. I am excited to rejoin the CBS Sports team this season and look forward to working alongside Gary again in 2017.”
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus summarized the move thusly: “Verne has set the standard for college football broadcasting. Together with Gary Danielson he has played a key role in making the SEC on CBS the highest-rated college football package in America. After an incredible 17 years, he will be handing the reigns off to Brad, who in his own right is highly acclaimed and respected as one of the premier play-by-play broadcasters in the business. I am very pleased that Verne will still have a prominent role in our college basketball and major championship golf coverage. We are fortunate to have one more football season to appreciate Verne’s one-of-a-kind storytelling as we pave the way for a seamless and smooth transition to Brad.”
• The Marlins activated Mike Dunn from the disabled list, meaning they are no longer the only team in baseball without a lefty in the pen. Edwin Jackson was designated for assignment. The Marlins had high hopes of salvaging Jackson's career, but he had a 5.89 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.
• Reliever Bryan Morris will have back surgery, our Andre Fernandez reports tonight from Marlins Park. There's a chance he could be back in September. It's another blow to the Marlins bullpen, which lost Carter Capps in March to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Check back tonight for more.