As the Miami Dolphins hit the practice field Tuesday morning, it was a day of firsts for this team as they were allowed to wear full pads. It definitely added a physical presence to the offensive and defensive line play, and the morning humidity made it a mental struggle as well. Also, it was the first time that the fans in attendance had the opportunity to witness the third overall selection in April’s draft Dion Jordan participate on the field.
The rookie defensive end came off of the non-football injury list much earlier then expected and now will be able to accelerate his learning curve at the position. Here are some of my takeaways for today’s practice:
1) Forcing Turnovers – One of the themes for this defensive unit going into to this year is getting more takeaways and game changing plays. Not only does it affect the score of a game, but also it can be the difference sometimes between winning an extra game or two overall. Today was a good start in that direction as the defense forced three interceptions (Chris Clemons, Dannell Ellerbe and Jimmy Wilson) and you could just see the excitement and relief from the body language they displayed. Also, cornerback De’Andre Presley attacked the ball, stripping it away from tight end Michael Egnew and presenting a scoop and score opportunity. This was a good day for the defense and I’m sure that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will use this as a start point to continue the theme of getting to the football and taking it away.
2) Pass-Catching Tight Ends – Most positions are very crowded at the beginning of training camp with 90 players signed, and one of the more interesting battles is at the tight end position. From what I observed today, Dustin Keller and Charles Clay have a leg up on this entire group because of their pass-catching abilities. Keller and Clay give this unit flexibility and a down-the-seam threat for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to exploit. Multiple quarterbacks were able to find these two players down the field behind the underneath coverage for big plays. You need different body types at this position and rookie Dion Sims and Kyle Miller give you bigger targets that can use there size to their advantage. Michael Egnew has shown some improvement, but in my opinion, will have to have a Herculean effort this preseason to find himself on the active roster.
3) Speed And Athleticism At Linebacker – One of the biggest moves in the offseason was at linebacker, releasing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett for Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler. It was somewhat of a surprise to me at the time, but now I can see why it had to be done. The speed and overall athletic ability that Ellerbe and Wheeler possess fits what this defense was lacking a season ago. Both players can rush the passer with authority and have the range to be effective in pass coverage. Today’s practice proved to me that the addition of these players makes this unit more versatile and much tougher to scheme against.
Some Quick Hits:
– It was a Dan Carpenter kicking day on Tuesday and he was solid starting out inside the bubble, going two-for-two from 48 and 52 yards out. Carpenter also kicked three times outdoors, making kicks from 44 and 50 yards, and missing one from 54.
– Starting practice inside the bubble, quarterback Ryan Tannehill found his new weapon wide receiver Mike Wallace on a deep crossing route for a big play down the field. It was nice to see and hopefully a signs of things to come.
– The front seven on defense should again be one of the strengths of this team, using its depth to stay fresh without losing their effectiveness. One example of that depth was defensive lineman Vaughn Martin having a solid workout and getting his hands on the football deflecting a couple of passes at the line of scrimmage
– Rookie corner back Jamar Taylor was held out of practice for unspecified reasons today. Taylor had offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia injury but looked healthy at the beginning of camp.
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