Some developments at Dolphins headquarters Tuesday, on the day the Dolphins were awarded the 2020 Super Bowl in a vote of NFL owners in Atlanta:
• Tony Lippett can appreciate the nuances of the position he’s assigned to defend more than most anybody else in the NFL. Less than two years removed from catching 11 touchdowns and being named an All-Big 10 receiver at Michigan State, Lippett has positioned himself for a significant role at cornerback, a spot where the Dolphins need their young players to mature in a hurry.
Rookie second-round pick Xavien Howard looms as the front-runner to start opposite Byron Maxwell, but Lippett could emerge as the starter if he outplays Howard over the next three months.
Lippett said he stopped thinking of himself as a receiver on the day Miami picked him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and immediately informed him he would be a cornerback, a position he hadn’t played since his freshman season in college.
“I like where I’m at,” he said Tuesday, following an offseason practice that was closed to the media. “I’m more comfortable than last year. I became a smarter corner. Every day I’m trying to become this big corner, use my strengths.”
At 6-3, Lippett offers the height and length that fits the prototype of new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. He says he’s getting more comfortable playing the press style that Joseph prefers.
“He harps on it every day, as far as press,” Lippett said. “He loves it. He teaches it. He’s always in the DB meeting room. That’s what he wants to do and that’s what all of us are trying to do every day, to get better at that.”
Lippett said he has studied other tall corners --- such as Sean Smith, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner – and believes his size “is an advantage. You still have to do what the smaller corners do, be good with your eyes.”
The biggest challenge in the move to corner, he said, is “being patient.”
For example? “Sometimes when you lunge, you can get swept right on by and then receiver can be on top of you real quick,” he said. “I try to have patience and not lunge, be technique sound.”
Having played receiver “helps me on the field as far as splits and separation, and knowing how a receiver tries to create leverage against a corner. It happens so quick.”
Any downside to having been a receiver?
“Sometimes, when the ball is in the air, when he breaks, I turn around and look sometimes,” said Lippett, who had fewer than 10 passes thrown in his coverage area last season, in limited playing time. “When I was a receiver, that’s probably what I did. I try to decrease the habit of doing that.”
Tuesday’s OTA practice was not open to the media, and Adam Gase did not speak to reporters, but three other players did:
• Ja’Wuan James said he is fully recovered from the left big toe injury that sidelined him the final nine games last season.
“Tough process, that was first time being hurt in my career,” he said. “I’m excited after missing last year. This all feels new and fresh to me and I’m happy to be here.”
Even though Laremy Tunsil was a tackle at Mississippi and projects long term as an NFL tackle, James insisted he was excited when Miami drafted Tunsil.
James said he will remain at right tackle. Tunsil is slated to play left guard barring an injury to James or left tackle Branden Albert.
“He’s a strong kid, good kid,” James said of Tunsil. “He’s asking me questions, [Albert questions] trying to really learn. Laremy reaches out to me. He’s a guy that wants to learn. I respect that about him, really think he can help us.”
James said while he was sidelined, “I used [the time] to make myself mentally stronger. I was watching extra film, doing a lot of stuff that I could,… anything I could do to get better.”
• Jarvis Landry's reaction to being named the NFL’s 98th best player in an NFL.com vote of players?
“Honored and disappointed. Disappointed because any guy that wasn’t No. 1 believes he should be No. 1. If not, I don’t want to play with them. I don’t want him around me.”
Landry likes coach Adam Gase because he’s “a great teacher. Great attention to detail guy. When he gets up here and gives his presentations, he’s very precise. He will usually marry a clip up with the picture. We will get film before and allows us to be, for visual learners like myself, to be more precise in what he’s looking for.”
And he likes Gase’s offense, because “the beauty about this offense is it puts guys in different positions to create mismatches. Everything about the league is about mismatches, finding those matchups. This offense allows guys like myself, guys like DeVante Parker, Jay Ajayi, the tight ends, gives the quarterbacks opportunities to pick his matchups and pick the winning guy. His offense will allow us to have a better quick game, to keep the quarterback upright. We spread teams out. I think we’ll be able to run the ball pretty well and also pass the ball."
Landry said he’s fine regardless of whether he has a role on kickoff and punt returns: “That’s totally up to the coaches. Right now, we’re focused on bringing guys like Jakeem Grant and Kenyan Drake up and seeing what they can do early.”
• New defensive end Jason Jones said he also considered overtures from Dallas and Pittsburgh but picked Miami “because I just felt comfortable. My gut feeling is what I went with.”
He visited the Dolphins twice, each of the past two months. He agreed to terms four days after the May 12 deadline affecting compensatory draft picks, but insisted he did not have a silent deal with the Dolphins in the weeks leading up to that day.
Ndamukong Suh, his friend and former Lions teammate, sat in on Jones’ interview session today, playfully filming it on his phone, but Jones said Suh did not try to persuade him to sign with Miami.
Jones, primarily a defensive end, can also play tackle and “I think they are going to use my skill sets to wherever Vance wants to use me at. I’m a defensive end. I’ve moved inside at times.”
• The Dolphins signed third-round receiver Leonte Carroo and seventh-round tight end Thomas Duarte, leaving third-round running back Kenyan Drake as the team's only unsigned rookie draft pick.
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