The Miami Dolphins hit the field for their third week of offseason training activities despite battling the elements once again in a very different way. Last week, it was a potent rainstorm. Today, mother nature brought ash and smoke into the air because of a blazing wildfire in the Everglades. However, that didn’t stop the team from getting in quality work as the days wind down before minicamp next week.
Here’s a couple things I noticed from today’s Offseason Training Activity:
1. Experiment Becomes Reality: It looks natural now to see linebacker Koa Misi in the middle of the Miami Dolphins defense. Although the pads aren’t on yet, all indications are that Misi is here to stay in the middle and he already looks comfortable doing it. This will allow the Dolphins defense to use the athleticism and coverage skills of Dannell Ellerbe, where his instincts will match up with his natural alignment.
Another position that mirrors the linebacker positional change is that of the starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes. Former Pro Bowl veteran corner Cortland Finnegan looked to be the man to fill that spot when he was signed, and so far are indications point to him fulfilling that role. Finnegan looks healthy, energized, and eager with his fresh start in Miami, and I believe the energy that Grimes and Louis Delmas bring to the secondary could be contagious to Finnegan.
2. Quick Hitch: One of the nuances of Bill Lazor‘s offense is that the quarterback must be able not only to make quick decisions with the football, but also to catch and deal with a snap quickly in the shotgun formation. This offense relies on the signal caller to be able to catch the shotgun snap and get the football out to the perimeter with accuracy and quickness. This is going to be a learned skill, because it’s not the most natural thing to do for a quarterback that was brought up in this system. This technique is primarily used on the bubble screens or when the running backs are involved in the passing game horizontally behind the line of scrimmage. This pass really stretches the defense from sideline to sideline if executed correctly. And by all indications, this group of quarterbacks headlined by Ryan Tannehill are handling the assignment very well.
3. Swiss Army Knife: Coaches in this league like to say that the more you can do, the more valuable you are to the team. This has become noticeable along the offensive line, particularly at the backup tackles positions today. Last week, Nate Garner, who can play every single position along the offensive line, primarily lined up at the backup left tackle position behind Branden Albert. This week, Garner was on the side backing up rookie Ja’Wuan James, while James’s backup last week, free agent acquisition Jason Fox, manned the left side of the line with the #2s. This might be an experiment for Fox, but may allow him to show to this staff that he also has position flexibility like Garner.
4. Red Zone Emphasis: It’s no secret that to be an effective offensive unit in the NFL, that you have to average at least 24 points a game (the league median was 24.4 ppg last season). The Miami Dolphins were not close to that, as they only averaged 19.6 points per game, good for 26th overall. That number has to go up for the team to be successful, and it starts with red zone execution. Today in practice, we saw a lot of movement, especially with the quarterback on the perimeter, throwing on the run. There was also a high emphasis on flat routes, fade routes, and crossing routes. Those types of patterns can get the defense on their heels and turned around, as well as make them cover the entirety of the field instead one quarter of it. The team also had a blitz pickup period inside the red zone, and if the Dolphins become proficient at attacking the pressure, it will lead to some easy points.
5. A Gold Star: Once again, the Dolphins had full attendance at what are considered voluntary workouts. That’s been the theme for the entirety of OTAs for Miami, though some players are still working on the side individually to recuperate from past injuries. Brandon Gibson worked with the team for a short time today, then continued working on his catching skills and conditioning individually. Jared Odrick worked off to the side with an undisclosed ailment, but it doesn’t look to be anything serious. Other than that, the team was at full participation. Also, there were a pair of former Dolphins in attendance once again. This time it was wide receiver Mark Duper, and former running back Keith Byars. Duper spoke to the team after practice, and received a round of applause from the players and coaches.
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