Lots of Dolphins talk after a Wednesday OTA that was closed to the media:
The Dolphins’ predicament at receiver includes some measure of clarity at the top of the depth chart and unresolved issues at the bottom, with a former Hurricane, an erstwhile quarterback, a 5-7 jitterbug nicknamed Mighty Mouse and a vegan all competing for jobs.
What’s clear is that barring injuries, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should be Miami’s top three receivers, with Rishard Matthews having moved on to the Tennessee Titans. Third-round pick Leonte Carroo also will assuredly be on the team.
Less clear is whether Miami keeps five or six receivers and whether Carroo can emerge as a reliable No. 4 receiver as a rookie.
“We have a bunch of guys that are very fast, very strong, very big,” Carroo said Wednesday. “What separates us is our catching ability. We have a lot of receivers with really great hands. We hold each other accountable.”
Carrroo should earn receiver snaps as a rookie if he plays like he did at Rutgers, where he caught 122 passes in his career, including 29 touchdowns, for an impressive 19.5 yard average, with only three career drops.
“He’s a strong, physical guy that's going to be a weapon for us,” Ryan Tannehill said. “He's going to be able to have some run-after-catch, be physical with the corners and be physical down the field.”
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has been counseling Carroo about how to come out of his breaks more quickly. “He wants us to break old habits we may have, a lot of habits we have ingrained,” Carroo said.
But Carroo said it helps that he played in a pro style offense at Rutgers and knows “how to focus on defenses and run your route based on what they do.”
Meanwhile, the Dolphins' other rookie receiver draft pick, sixth-rounder Jakeem Grant, has found seams in the defense and made some plays in offseason practices, but the Dolphins are trying to refine his route running.
“I know a lot of defensive guys have made comments about how quick and how fast [the 5-foot-7 Grant] is,” coach Adam Gase said, making clear he won’t be calling Grant “Mighty Mouse,” the nickname given to him by teammates.
“It's almost like we have to [slow] him down a little bit, because ... when we do some routes versus air, he can get a little bit out of control," Gase added. "It's learning how to run certain routes at the right tempo. It's almost like the illusion you're running full speed, but you're not really, and you're under control and you can stop on a dime. That's where we need to get him."
Don’t discount Griff Whalen, who caught 45 passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns over three seasons with the Colts and earned the trust of Clyde Christensen, the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator and former Colts assistant. If Whalen excels in training camp, and Grant seizes one of the return jobs, the Dolphins could keep six receivers.
“I was always, especially the first couple of years, kind of that bubble guy,” Whalen said. “I could have been gone any day. I was mostly a slot guy in Indy but after my first two years, it was almost an even 50-50 of outside snaps and inside snaps.”
Whalen has followed a plant-based diet for two years, because “I’m looking for anything I can do to give myself an advantage."
His typical meals? "Breakfast is oatmeal, fruit and whatever else I want to throw into it. And then lunch and dinner, a rice and bean kind of dish is pretty typical. Lots of veggies. A salad. I make a lot of smoothies because I can just throw greens and fruit and stuff in there. But rice and beans or lentils, stuff like that is pretty common for me."
Does he crave any foods after two years of a vegan lifestyle? "I really don't, which surprises me,” he said. “I grew up eating sugar, cereal, candy, ice cream, you name it. They think it has to do with the microbes that are in your intestine and gut that those actually send signals to your brain, which is kind of crazy. So after you go several weeks or a month without eating something, you kind of change that microbe make-up in your body so you don't get the cravings you used to get the same way, if you can get past that point."
On rare occasions, he will splurge with a pastry. “I already found right up the street here on University Drive, there's a vegan bakery that's got some pretty good stuff,” he said. “I don't generally do dessert with a bunch of meals so that would be something I would do.”
The Dolphins have liked Matt Hazel enough to keep him around for two years (2014 on the practice squad, 2015 on the active roster), but his playing time has been limited (five games, no receptions). Hazel has a chance to stick if there are injuries at the position or if he outplays Whalen and/or Grant in preseason.
Among roster long shots at receiver: A.J. Cruz, a former Arena League player who played for Gase in training camp with the Bears last season; Tyler Murphy, who played seven games at quarterback for the Florida Gators and 13 for Boston College; Temple undrafted rookie Brandon Shippen; and former UM receiver Rashawn Scott, who caught 52 passes for 695 yards and five touchdowns for the Hurricanes last season.
Scott, 6-2, said Thursday he picked the Dolphins over post-draft offers from eight other teams partly because he felt a connection with general manager Chris Grier. Scott has been working on his route running with former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, who operates a local training facility. He said one of his strengths is that he’s “always going to high point the ball.”
Scott said he has made some catches in OTAs, including a reception from Matt Moore in the back of the end zone. The UM family is close, and Scott keeps in contact with UM quarterback Brad Kaaya, former receivers coach Kevin Beard and former teammate Herb Waters, who is trying to make the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. Scott also reached out to Detroit Lions tight ends coach and former UM coach Al Golden after the draft.
Center Mike Pouncey has noticed a change in Ryan Tannehill, and it’s a significant one in Tannehill’s attempt to continue to develop as a leader.
“He’s always been a leader on this team, but this year I feel like he’s bringing more to the table, more than he ever has before as far as pushing guys and getting guys ready to go,” Pouncey said.
“I’m just glad he’s our quarterback. He’s a guy that busts his butt everyday. He’s the first one in the building, last one out and that’s something you have to appreciate at that position…. We think he’s going to be really good.”
Tannehill, entering his fifth season, has more freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage than ever before, and Pouncey said “this is what he’s been waiting for his whole career, to go up there and be the guy that kind of calls the show.”
The Dolphins have spoken in past years about playing at a faster tempo, but Pouncey said this year it’s really going to happen.
“In past seasons, we tried to run up-tempo but we’d huddle first,” Pouncey said. “And it’s kind of hard to go in huddle, rush to the line and be up tempo. I think us being on the line of scrimmage the whole time and pushing the pace like that is going to get the ball snapped a lot faster.
“With the tempo that we want to have, obviously our offensive line has to be in really good shape. But to our advantage when we go up there sometimes we’re going to snap it fast; sometimes we’re not. And that gives us the advantage on the offensive line. That means the defense is going to play on their toes, ready to jump off the ball. So we should get a lot of offside penalties from the defense and keep the chain moving.”
• Pouncey on rookie Laremy Tunsil: “His feet are really good. We think he was the best player in this year’s draft. We’re lucky to have a guy like that. We’re excited to see what he can do. Obviously everybody looks good without pads on but we’re sure he’s going to come in and do what we expect him to do.”
• Pouncey said the playbook is “simpler” under Adam Gase. “A lot of our players are going to be doing the same thing — it’s different plays but we’re doing a lot of the same stuff when the play’s called.”
• Linebacker Kiko Alonso declined to say whether he has spoken with Dolphins defensive end and former Oregon teammate Dion Jordan, who has applied for reinstatement from NFL suspension.
“That guy is a freak athlete, so he can help any defense,” Alonso said of Jordan. “He has rare athleticism.”
• Alonso said he feels great after knee injuries that cost him his 2014 season and sidelined him five games last season. He said he learned “patience” over the past two years. “I like how I feel, I feel really good. I like where I’m at.”
• Defensive tackle Chris Jones, who started 23 games and had nine sacks for New England in 2013 and 2014, said he’s over the calf and ankle injuries that sidelined him all of last season. The Dolphins claimed him off waivers on April 18 after the Patriots released him.
“It was a huge relief to get picked up here,” he said. “I am fortunate the team gave me a chance.”
Jones, who said he can also play defensive end, was drafted by Houston in the sixth round out of Bowling Green in 2013, at a time when Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was on the Texans coaching staff. But the Texans cut him four month later.
After a brief stint in Tampa, his career briefly blossomed in New England.
“I have a lot of respect for that staff,” he said of the Patriots.
Jones, 25, could emerge as the No. 4 defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips and Earl Mitchell.
He said Suh “dominates every day” in practice and Phillips “is a great athlete, brings a lot physically.”
Please click here for a look at where the Dolphins' stand with their flirtation with Arian Foster, plus more Dolphins, UM and Marlins news.