9 a.m. Monday Dolphins news: The Ifo Ekpre-Olomu experiment ended at Dolphins camp this morning when they waived a player once considered a potential first-round talent before a devastating knee injury.
According to NFL Network, Olomu tore his other ACL in practice when his cleat got stuck in the turf in the Dolphins indoor facility.
In his place, Miami signed veteran corner Al Louis Jean, who played nine games for the Bears in 2014 and wasn't on an active roster last season.
Louis Jean, 6-1, spent a week on the Washington Redskins' practice squad during the 2015 postseason and then was signed to the Redskins' roster following the season before being waived on May 2, 2016. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent with the Bears on June 2, 2014.
Ekpre-Olomu slid to the 7th round of the 2015 draft because of a devastating knee injury sustained before Oregon's bowl game. He spent last season on injured reserve with Cleveland, then was waived this spring.
The Dolphins snagged him off waivers and he practiced last week but never fully regained his speed after the knee injury -- which was evident when he was beaten easily by Rashawn Scott on one play last week.
Ekpre-Olomu and defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said last week that they were encouraged by his progress.
And then he sustained a second major knee injury over the weekend.
In the depth chart released by the Dolphins two hours before Ekpre-Olomu was cut, he was listed on the third-team at one corner spot behind Byron Maxwell and Bobby McCain and ahead of Rashaan Melvin.
With Xavien Howard not yet practicing after knee surgery, Tony Lippett was listed first team at the other cornerback spot, ahead of Chimdi Chekwa, Jordan Lucas, Lafayette Pitts and Brandon Harris.
• Chekwa missed practice today with a thigh injury. DeVante Parker (hamstring), Kenyan Drake (hamstring) and Earl Mitchell (calf) also remain out.... Mario Williams and Cam Wake were given a rest day.
• One other news item: The Orange Bowl will announce today that FSU will play Manhattan, and the Gators will play UNC-Charlotte, in its annual basketball classic at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
You know when UM has a chance to return to past greatness? When it starts procuring and then developing the types of game-changing defensive linemen that were hallmarks of the glory years (Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, Warren Sapp).
“I am not knocking any current player but I know the great Hurricane teams had a dominant defensive line,” ESPN analyst and Canes great Jonathan Vilma said.
But this is encouraging: Though there’s no clear-cut first-rounder on UM’s defensive line, the Hurricanes have substantial talent there and a position coach, Craig Kuligowski, who might finally be able to extract more from them than his predecessors did.
Remember that UM finished 107th among 128 FBS schools in run defense last season (allowing 210.5 yards per game), 96th in tackles for loss and 63rd in sacks --- which is unquestionably underachieving for a line with a handful of four- and five-star players.
Kuligowski is determined to change that.
“He's giving us better technique with our hands, coaching us better," defensive tackle Richard McIntosh said.
Kuligowski coached 10 All-conference linemen at Missouri over the past six seasons and helped develop four first-rounders since 2009: Ziggy Hood, Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson and Shane Ray.
“There’s no better [d-line coach] in America,” Richt said.
What’s more, Missouri was No. 2 in tackles for loss last season.
“All these kids want to play in the NFL and be developed to play in the NFL,” Kuligowski said. “I am fortunate enough to have a track record. I will develop you. I’ve done it to these huge list of guys. All you need to do is buy in.”
Besides improved teaching, the defensive line also should benefit from a change in approach – a move from a 3-4 to a 4-3; a more attacking style; less read and react, and less two gap (which requires defensive linemen to line head up against an offensive lineman and assume responsibility for the gaps on either side.).
Al-Quadin Muhammad said the new approach “will be beneficial to everyone.” And he said he appreciates that Kuligowski “takes time to coach each individual.”
McIntosh put it this way: “You're not out there second guessing. Once you see something, you're going. A lot more thinking, a lot more assignments, in the old system.”
McIntosh said he sometimes forgets and finds “myself standing at the line” – something the former staff asked of defensive tackles at times. The new style is the opposite, calling for the tackles to attack.
Kendrick Norton said he’s no longer confused because of the change in coaching staffs.
Kuligowski is pushing hard to get more from Chad Thomas, the only remaining five-star player on UM’s roster. Thomas was more highly-regarded than Joey Bosa coming out of a South Florida high school.
But in his first two seasons, Bosa (now with the San Diego Chargers) had 21 sacks and 35 tackles for loss at Ohio State, while Thomas had one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in far less playing time.
“I expect a lot more from myself,” Thomas said this summer, adding that he expects to start opposite Muhammad. “I’ve made a couple plays but I’ve got to make a lot more. I love the defense. Makes me feel like I’m in high school again.”
Thomas has dropped from 16 to 11 percent body fat “and that helps tremendously. I’m coming off faster, using my power.”
He said Kuligowski “worked with me on my technical game, paying attention to the small things that make a big difference. I’m working on my [pass] rush moves and being relentless. Every time I touch the field I'm a better player. I can use more of my instincts, getting off the ball more [quickly in this defense].
“My mind probably wanders off sometimes; you get tired, your technique falls [off] a little bit. Coach Kul doesn’t want that to happen to me.”
Kuligowski said Thomas can be “very special. Chad has got a high ceiling. Hopefully between me and him, we'll get him there. Being great at the little things in terms of technique, being precise, having a great get-off, which is what I work on with all these guys.
“Hopefully, by the time the season comes around, he'll be better at it and we'll see some real results from him. He's got to get better; no question about it.”
Former UM player Tyriq McCord said former defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio used Thomas some in the interior, but “my understanding is they will use Chad strictly outside like in high school.”
And there’s plenty of talent around him.
Among defensive ends, Muhammad, who is coming off a five-sack season, was the No. 49 player and No. 3 weakside defensive end in the 2013 class. He expects to thrive in a defense that relies more on instincts.
“He’s going to have double-digit sacks this year,” McCord predicts. But AQM remains at risk of suspension amid a luxury car rental investigation.
Emerging Trent Harris rejected a scholarship offer from Alabama and four-star Demetrius Jackson, the No. 17 strong side defensive end in 2015, came on in the spring.
“Demetrius Jackson has done a good job,” Kuligowski said. “He has some really good talents as a pass-rusher. Al-Quadin Muhammad has kind of started to take that leadership role a little bit. His motor is better than it was. He doesn't stop. He's aggressive. All good pass rushers have a fantastic motor, and his is getting better and better.”
There’s no five-star stud at defensive tackle, but there is talent: Norton, rated by ESPN as the 168th best player in the 2015 class; McIntosh, who has thrived since moving from defensive end (a smart move by Kuligowski), Anthony Moten (rated by Rivals as the 110th best player in the 2014 class), Gerald Willis (the UF transfer who was Rivals’ No. 83 overall prospect in 2014) and former three-star prospect Courtel Jenkins.
McIntosh and Norton began camp with the starters.
Meanwhile, Willis has dropped his body fat from 30 to 20 percent and said he’s in the best shape of his life.
“As a group, not one guy as a standout,” Kuligowski said earlier this offseason. “Maybe by the end of the year we'll know if there's one standout guy. We plan on using all their talents. They've been pretty close. One guy does this better, one guy does that better. I don't think one guy has been a Superman.”
Yes, this defensive line needs another Sapp-like talent. But there’s enough talent that this group should be much better than it was under the previous staff.
And Kuligowski appears to the man to push them to reach their potential.
“Coach Kool’s message to the team is just, ‘Get to the ball and get to the quarterback,’” Willis said. “It’s happiness to my ears.”
• For UM recruiting news and lot more Hurricanes tidbits from this weekend, please click here.
• Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert, not complacent after a Pro Bowl season and knowing he will fighting for his job every year beginning next year, said he lost 25 pounds this offseason and it has helped his “knees and joints” feel lighter.
How driven was he?
“I created my own gym in my garage, bought a Stairmaster and Elliptical. I hopped on the Stairmaster 45 minutes after every workout in the morning and at night.”
Albert appreciated that Adam Gase called him, after the Dolphins drafted Laremy Tunsil, to tell him he would stay at left tackle. “It was a great sign of respect,” Albert said. “I still strive to be the best tackle in football. I still believe I can. I am the left tackle on this team and when it’s time for me to go, it’s time for me to go.”
• Though the knee surgery was a setback, Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum told ESPN Radio West Palm that Dion Jordan has returned with a “terrific attitude and we’re looking forward to having him back on the field.”
But the Dolphins must decide whether he starts the regular season on NFI, which would sideline him six games.
They especially value him on special teams: “He excelled in that area; he was a force,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Friday.
• While raving about Byron Maxwell, defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo noted before Saturday’s scrimmage that he hasn’t been beaten on a deep ball in drills since April.
• Defensive tackle Chris Jones, the former Patriots starter who missed last season because of an injury, has made an impression in his push for a roster spot.
"The guy flies around," Gase said. "The way he comes off the ball, whether he's just basically striking a guard or having to penetrate a gap, the guy is 100 percent effort all the time. His ability to run sideline-to-sideline is pretty impressive for a guy that's in the interior defensive line."
• Though the Marlins haven’t made an offer to impending free agent Martin Prado, a team source expects they will make one after the season (instead of automatically moving Derek Dietrich to third) because of how well Prado has hit (.323, third in National League), how much he’s valued as a respected voice in their clubhouse and because Don Mattingly loves him.
Mattingly said he doesn’t need a third baseman with power (Prado has five homers) because “I want teams that can hit. Put the ball in play.”
• Loser in the Heat’s Dion Waiters signing? Wayne Ellington, who potentially goes from Miami’s starting shooting guard to No. 5 guard behind Waiters, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson.
Minutes could open if Chris Bosh isn’t cleared to play, which would possibly mean Justise Winslow playing more at power forward and perhaps Ellington or Richardson at small forward. (Pat Riley has said a decision on Bosh's status won't be made until later in the summer.)
But Ellington must play better defense; he allowed players to shoot 47.1 percent against him (by comparison, Dragic was at 40.3) – much worse than those players shot overall (43.3).
• Dragic, incidentally, is heeding Pat Riley’s orders to come back in better shape. He has been working out hard with the Slovenian national team and on his own, according to an associate.... Here's a proven scorer who we're told would welcome a trade to the Heat, though it seems unlikely at this point.
• For comprehensive Olympic TV listings detailing exactly what event is on what channel today and for the next week, please click here.