Quick Slant: Recapping Days 6 & 7 of Miami Dolphins Training Camp
Here are our notes and observations from Thursday’s and Friday’s Miami Dolphins practices:
Injuries & a Cautious Approach:
- Jay Ajayi practiced with the Dolphins for a full pads session on Friday morning after missing time earlier in the week. However, DeVante Parker remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso joined DeVante Parker in the sideline club on Friday as they also worked through injuries.
- The Dolphins have been generous with rest days so far in camp, with Branden Albert sitting out on Friday.
- The Dolphins’ philosophy going forward is clearly one founded upon caution. The team is holding out players to make sure smaller injuries do not linger or have a chance to flare up during the regular season.
- The Dolphins are also rotating players in as to make sure their health is placed ahead of any other priorities.
- Ryan Tannehill’s performance for the first half of Friday’s practice was one he will hope to forget. Without any coverage, he misfired on four consecutive deep throws to receivers. However, Tannehill rebounded when 1-on-1 CB vs. WR drills began, completing three straight beautiful passes of 35+ yards. Moral of the story? There isn’t one. It’s training camp.
- Brandon Doughty’s accuracy appears to be his greatest asset. While he lacks raw arm strength, his ball placement and ability to deliver accordingly have been on display in recent practices. Friday’s practice was the first time he was able to clearly separate himself from Dysert.
Running Back Rotation & Versatility:
- On Friday, the Dolphins had their full stable of running backs on the field for the first time in camp Jay Ajayi ran with the starters, as did Arian Foster. The two split reps as Kenyan Drake handled 2nd and 3rd team duties with Damien Williams.
- While we won’t be able to tell until he faces live tacklers, Arian Foster appears to be the Dolphins’ best back early in camp.
- Kenyan Drake and Arian Foster have both done work with the wide receivers in pass catching drills. Not only are they refining this ability, but they are also putting it to use frequently in their 11-on-11 work. The team has used both running backs frequently as receivers out. They have even thrown Ajayi in the mix outside of the numbers.
- Damien Williams is working on special teams for kickoff returns, which will most likely be his best way to guarantee a roster spot. However, this effort got off to a rocky start as he muffed a kickoff during Friday’s practice.
- In Thursday’s practice, the Dolphins displayed the Wide-9 in a very clear fashion. How did the offense respond? By audibling into a run and gashing them. The Wide-9 is usually only called when the opponent is forced to pass, meaning they can’t exploit the obvious increase in defensive gap size.
- The defensive line was one of the only high points in Friday’s practice. They victimized the offense, with three would-be sacks of Ryan Tannehill in one drive.
- Friday’s practice gave a very bad look to the defensive backs. While we obviously shouldn’t draw any extreme conclusions from a few practices, it is somewhat concerning to see completions being made at such a staggering rate. Not only is the offense completing passes, but they’re also drawing defensive pass interference calls frequently.
- The defensive backs appear to be sticking close in coverage but struggling to close the deal. Essentially they will be in the right position but cannot locate the ball, disrupt the pass, or finish the play.
- Chimdi Chekwa started over Tony Lippett on Friday. It’s up for interpretation whether this says more about Lippett and the rest of the corners or about Chekwa and his potential.
- Schematically it appears that the defense is implementing single-high safety sets with a high number of shifts. This allows safeties (ex: run-stopping enthusiast Reshad Jones) to come down into the box while another safety shifts up to play over the top. Miami’s safeties have been working on this, often finding success. Midway through Friday’s practice, Reshad Jones appeared to approach the line of scrimmage to move back up with Walt Aikens coming down into the box and blitzing for a would-be sack.
- It is incredibly difficult to evaluate linebackers in training camp, as they really can’t tackle with full force. However, coverage is an interesting way to look at the position’s standing. On Friday, with Kiko Alonso out, the Dolphins often employed a two-linebacker system in which a safety would come down and become a third run stopper or blitzer.
- On Thursday, Kiko Alonso shadowed running backs for most of practice. This will be an important responsibility of his going forward in the modern NFL, which features an array of ways to get backs involved in the passing game.
- James Michael Johnson rotated in at inside linebacker with Kiko Alonso out on Friday. He could be higher on the depth chart than most fans believed.
- Thursday: One of the biggest gripes with the Dolphins in years past has been an inability to exploit mismatches. On Thursday, the offense countered a Wide-9 set with a run play that would have been a substantial gain. See an opportunity and take it.
- Friday: Tannehill’s string of deep passes took the cake. His three throws downfield were all placed perfectly and eased fans’ minds after a rough start to the day on deep passes. His better throws actually came with cornerbacks in coverage.
- Wes Welker was with the Dolphins again on Thursday, coaching the wide receivers. He has been a frequent presence in Davie for this year’s camp.
- Leonte Carroo has been working with the starters in DeVante Parker’s absence. He is the No. 3 option when DVP is sidelined.
- The team clearly feels no need to commit to a true starting lineup this early in camp. The offensive line, defensive line (specifically right end), and running back positions have all seen frequent changes and switches. The staff can be expected to make more concrete decisions as to who is pulling ahead in starting-races after some preseason action.
- The Dolphins will be scrimmaging on Saturday night, with the “game” starting at 6:00pm following a 5:00pm practice (which one could expect to resemble a walk-through).
- The Dolphins played Iggy Azalea during Thursday’s practice. 1-15 confirmed.