On a day before the pads start popping down the road at Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Dolphins took to the practice field at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility, continuing to work on red zone efficiency on both sides of the football. As usual there was a heavy emphasis on special teams play. Today’s workout was lighter in terms of contact, but heavier in terms of grinding out the basic fundamentals of the game. There was still plenty of football to evaluate, and I liked seeing some of the younger players continue to push towards making this football team.
Here are my observations from the Dolphins’ seventh practice of training camp:
1. Red Zone Movement
The focus over the last couple of days has been in the plus territory, primarily focusing on red zone execution. It seems in this offense that no matter what portion of the field you’re on, there’s going to be multiple formations and a lot of motion that defenses will have to deal with. Today was no exception. It seemed like the emphasis was in the flat areas of the field and the corners in the back of the end zone. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill seemed to have a good feel for getting the ball out quickly, and he seemed to have a handle on locating the football away from pressure. There were two examples of this today, once early in practice, and one in the last period of the day.
He first found wide receiver Marcus Thigpen on a fade route to the wide side of the field, and later found undrafted rookie tight end Gator Hoskins on a beautifully timed short corner fade route. When most teams attack the edge of the defense in the red zone, they usually rely on side to go up and get the football. But it seems like the Dolphins attack will be more of gaining leverage and using tight formations to either rub the defender off, or gain the advantage with motion.
2. Who Will Emerge?
The offensive line still seems to be the biggest question mark on this football team, but I feel that the picture still hasn’t come into focus in the middle of the line. There’s no doubt about who’s going to line up at left tackle, left guard, and the right tackle position. Branden Albert will be on the blind side, Daryn Colledge will play next to him, and Ja’Wuan James anchor the right side of the line.
Saturday’s scrimmage hopefully will be the day that someone will emerge as the frontrunner at both center and right guard. Nate Garner, Sam Brenner, and Shelley Smith have each taken reps at center, but none has taken control of the position yet. At right guard, Dallas Thomas is still in the middle of an even competition with Smith, and rookie Billy Turner. For me, whoever can handle the simple mechanics of the center quarterback exchange in shotgun, while also holding their own against one of league’s top defensive line units will have the chance to start in the team’s first preseason game.
3. Draftees Catching My Eye
It should be a pleasant surprise for this coaching staff that a number of young players are doing more than getting the occasion notice out on the practice field. Young players on both sides of the football have demonstrated to me at least that they are going to compete for backup roles and some definitely will see a majority of their action on special teams. It’s obvious that first round draft choice Ja’Wuan James is going to start at right tackle, and second rounder Jarvis Landry will play a role in the Dolphins pass offense.
But there’s a couple other guys that have stood out to me for all the right reasons. 4th round selection Walt Aikens has shown the flexibility to move from the cornerback position to safety, and he’s displaying a more natural feel for that position. Fifth round pick Jordan Tripp seems to have a nose for the football and he values every single rep he can get. Then, 7th round draft choice Terrence Fede while raw, looks to have all the intangibles and skills to influence a crowded position in regards to the defensive line.
News & Notes
- A number players sat out practice today with various ailments: QB Matt Moore (shoulder), WR Matt Hazel (concussion), LB Tariq Edwards (knee). My assumption is that they will be out for several practices and not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium.
- Some of the players that made their way back onto the practice field included WR Damian Williams, DT Anthony Johnson, and C Sam Brenner.
- Multiple veteran players on both sides of the football were held out of most if not all of the pre-scrimmage workout today including offensive lineman Branden Albert and Daryn Colledge. Others like Cameron Wake, Randy Starks, Brian Hartline, Brent Grimes, Louis Delmas, and Cortland Finnegan were rested for parts of practice.
- Once again, Mike Wallace, Mike Pouncey, and Knowshon Moreno worked off to the side during practice. Moreno and Pouncey remain on PUP, but I’m surprised on how limber and athletic Pouncey’s football movements are.
- Don’t be surprised if some of the veterans start tomorrow’s practice at Sun Life Stadium going through their individual workouts, but have limited exposure to the actual scrimmage action.
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