NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - INSIDE SLANT
The Miami Dolphins conducted the first 30 minutes of Monday's two-hour OTA (Organized Team Activities) under hazy, smoky conditions because of a nearby wildfire.
"It felt a little weird at first," said Pro-Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, who suffers from asthma, "but as it went on we got used to it."
Coach Joe Philbin seemed pleased with the session.
"I thought we had a good practice," he said. "We did goal line. We put that in, (and did) two-point plays, and did another little red-zone installation. As I said to the team, we're basically just about ready to play a game. At the end of the week we'll simulate an overtime. I'm real pleased with the progress we're seeing on the field."
The defense appeared to be slightly ahead of the offense as they got their hands on lots of passes in the red-zone session. Safety/nickel back Jimmy Wilson broke up one pass intended for wide receiver Mike Wallace in the end zone.
But a few plays later, quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a strike to Wallace, who beat strong safety Reshad Jones for a touchdown.
The defense also saw success when it utilized a few blitz packages with defensive end Cam Wake beating rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James for a sack on one play.
One thing that remains a bit of a stunner is running back Knowshon Moreno, the free-agent signee from Denver who amassed more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage last season. Moreno was working largely with the third- and fourth-team offense when the Dolphins split up and worked on two fields. The first- and second-team offense was on one end of the field, and the others, including Moreno, were the other end of the field.
That means running back Lamar Miller, last year's starter who rushed for 709 yards, remains the starter. Well, that's the way it seems.
"We don't really have starters right now," coach Joe Philbin said.
Philbin added it's insignificant who runs with the first team right now.
"Those other guys have jumped in there and gotten first-team reps," he said of running backs Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee. "It doesn't really matter what end of the field they're on to me, what field they're on when we go two fields."
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick (unknown ailment) remains sidelined and wide receiver Brandon Gibson (recovering from knee surgery) remains very limited.
The Dolphins have their three-day mini-camp next week.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - NOTES, QUOTES
--Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, apparently poised for any attacks on his defense, said the bottom line for his unit is keeping the opponent out of the end zone.
"We've been very good at that over a two-year period," he said. "We finished seventh in 2012, eighth in 2013 (in points allowed). There's only four teams in the league that have been in the top eight -- San Francisco, Seattle, Cincinnati and us. We've been third in the AFC for two consecutive years in scoring defense.
"The bottom line is keeping people out of the end zone, giving yourself an opportunity to win ... When it's all said and done, if we keep people from scoring points, we feel that that's the job of the defense and really that's what it is. We've been doing a good job of that."
Regardless, the Dolphins are sticking with their experiment of switching strong-side Koa Misi to middle linebacker, and middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to strong-side linebacker in an effort to improve the run defense.
--Running back Marcus Thigpen is lining up at slot receiver in an interesting experiment. Coach Joe Philbin hinted there might not be room for Thigpen at running back.
"I think you guys with your astute football observation, you'll probably notice we haven't been in a lot of two-back formations," Philbin said. "We're just taking a look at getting the best players opportunities to get their hands on the football and utilize the people that we have in the most opportune fashion we can. It's really no more complicated than that."
Actually, it is. Running back is crowded among Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee and others. The Dolphins might only keep four running backs.
At wide receiver, there's starters Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson along with Rishard Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Armon Binns and others. The Dolphins might only keep five receivers.
Thigpen also serves as the kickoff and punt returner, but there's a chance Landry gets a look at those jobs.
--Free safety Louis Delmas, the projected starter, didn't practice every day with Detroit last season because of his aching knees. But Delmas said that hasn't been a problem so far.
"I'm great," he said. "I haven't missed a day of training, haven't missed a day of practice. I'm feeling good right now, the best I've felt my last four years of football. So I'm very excited about this year."
Delmas said one thing has been the key to prolonging his career.
"Rest," he said. "That's something my first couple of years I didn't take pride in is resting. After the season, I always started immediately with workouts. I think, as the years started going on, I started earning more miles on these legs, I needed to rest a little more. The coaching staff and the trainers are doing a great job of managing me. I'm comfortable right now."
--Here's the starting offense after this week's OTAs: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Lamar Miller, WR Mike Wallace, WR Brian Hartline, WR Brandon Gibson, TE Charles Clay, LT Branden Albert, LG Dallas Thomas, C Mike Pouncey, RG Shelley Smith, RT Ja'Wuan James.
It's unclear whether Miller would actually start ahead of RB Knowshon Moreno, who appears a bit heavy, but Miller has been taking more snaps with the first team.
--Here's the starting defense after this week's OTAs: LDE Cam Wake, DT Randy Starks, DT Earl Mitchell, RDE Olivier Vernon, MLB Koa Misi, SLB Dannell Ellerbe, WLB Philip Wheeler, LCB Brent Grimes, RCB Cortland Finnegan, FS Louis Delmas, SS Reshad Jones.
Mitchell is the starter because DT Jared Odrick is sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
NFL Team Report - Miami Dolphins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Dolphins' picks:
Round 1/19 -- Ja'Wuan James, RT, 6-6, 311, Tennessee
--The Dolphins needed a right tackle and James, a long-armed, athletic player, seems to fit the criteria for the Dolphins' zone blocking scheme. James will be expected to start immediately. He started 49 consecutive games at Tennessee, which suggests he's durable. The Dolphins had the option of trading down and still getting James later in the first round but they said he was the best player on their draft board, not just the best right tackle on their draft board.
Round 2/63 -- Jarvis Landry, WR, 5-11, 205, Louisiana State
--Landry is regarded as a go-get-it receiver -- he said he's played the slot as well as outside position so he should get on the field plenty. Landry isn't a speedy receiver but he's tough with good hands.
Round 3/67 -- Billy Turner, T/G, 6-5, 315, North Dakota State
--The Dolphins might have reached here. Turner, a two-time All-America, played tackle in college but he'll likely move inside to play guard and contend for a starting job. They traded up to get Turner because they had a conviction about him.
Round 4/125 -- Walt Aikens, CB, 6-1, 205, Liberty
--Aikens is regarded as a physical player who isn't afraid of contact. A three-time All-Big South player, Aikens had three interceptions and 62 tackles last season. He'll compete for playing time with CBs Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis
Round 5/155 -- Arthur Lynch, TE, 6-5, 258, Georgia
--Lynch is regarded as more of a blocking TE than a receiver, and the Dolphins seemed to need a pass-catching TE. Lynch (30 receptions, 459 yards, five touchdowns last season) said his receiving skills have improved. The Dolphins have TE Charles Clay as the receiver. Lynch will likely compete with blocking TEs Dion Sims and Michael Egnew for playing time.
Round 5/171 -- Jordan Tripp, LB, 6-3, 234, Montana
--Tripp said he can play inside or outside, which is good because the Dolphins could use his flexibility. Tripp totaled 100 tackles and three interceptions last season. The linebackers were viewed as the weak link in the run defense so it's a bit of a mystery why the Dolphins waited so long to draft one.
Round 6/190 -- Matt Hazel, WR, 6-1, 198, Coastal Carolina
--Hazel had 70 receptions for 990 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He'll seemingly have a hard time getting immediate playing time from scrimmage because this is one of the deepest areas of the team.
Round 7/234 -- Terrence Fede, DE, 6-4, 267, Marist (NY) College
--Fede is a bit of an unknown, but the Dolphins think the two-time All-America and three-time All-Pioneer Football league selection has a chance to make it. Fede had a school-record 13 sacks last season and a career-record 30.5 career sacks.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--T Tyson Clabo (not tendered as UFA).
--LG Richie Incognito (not tendered as UFA).
--TE Dustin Keller (not tendered as UFA).
--LT Bryant McKinnie (not tendered as UFA).
--WR Marlon Moore (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Austin Spitler (not tendered as UFA).
--G Danny Watkins (not tendered as RFA).
--OT Will Yeatman (not tendered as RFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--CB Walt Aikens (4/125); 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Arthur Lynch (5/155): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Jordan Tripp (5/171): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Matt Hazel (6/190): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Terrence Fede (7/234): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Armon Binns: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Jonathan Freeny: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Brent Grimes: Potential UFA; $32.025M/4 yrs, $6M SB/$16.95M guaranteed.
--DT Randy Starks: UFA; $10M/2 yrs.
--T Branden Albert: UFA Chiefs; $46M/5 yrs, $8.5M SB/$25M guaranteed.
--WR Kevin Cone: Not tendered as ERFA by Falcons; terms unknown.
--S Louis Delmas: FA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Cortland Finnegan: FA Rams; $11M/2 yrs.
--T Jason Fox: UFA Lions; $795/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--CB Anthony Gaitor: FA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--DT Earl Mitchell: UFA Texans; $16M/4 yrs, $9M guaranteed.
--RB Knowshon Moreno: UFA Broncos; $2M/1 yr, $500,000 SB/$1.25M guaranteed.
--G Shelley Smith: UFA Rams; $5.5M/2yrs, $500,000 SB/$1.5M guaranteed.
--WR Damian Williams: UFA Titans; $800,000/1 yr.
--WR Stephen Williams: FA Jaguars; terms unknown.
--CB Nolan Carroll: UFA Eagles; $5.2M/2 yrs.
--S Chris Clemons: UFA Texans; $2.7M/2 yrs, $450,000 SB.
--G John Jerry: UFA Giants; $770,000/1 yr, $25,000 guaranteed.
--T Jonathan Martin (traded 49ers).
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--CB Dimitri Patterson (released).
--DT Paul Soliai: UFA Falcons; $33M/5 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--CB R.J. Stanford: Not tendered as RFA/Bengals; terms unknown.