How the Miami Dolphins compare to New England Patriots, at the moment

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady #12 in action against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

There are free agents to be signed and players to be drafted. And yes, the Miami Dolphins say publicly they need to focus on what they’re doing and how they’re growing as an organization, not the Patriots. Or Bills. Or Jets.

OK. Really, or Patriots.

But how can you ignore a franchise that wins year after year and seems to add players of note, without giving up much, year after year?

The Patriots have already added Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, Dwayne Allen, Kona Ealey and Rex Burkhead and re-signed Dont’a Hightower, Duron Harmon and Alan Branch this off-season, moving draft choices and spending money, well, right after another Super Bowl win.

But the Dolphins are moving in the right direction, too. Will there come a moment (after Tom Brady’s retirement?) where Miami passes New England? Who knows. But here’s a look at how each team’s top talent ranks according to Pro Football Focus, at one moment in time, a few days into 2017 Free Agency.

These edges were determined by using the best average at each position among players expected to contribute significantly (at the moment). Any tie went to the team with the highest-ranked player.

Based solely on these Pro Football Focus ranking averages these are the positions each team has an edge in:

New England (6) — Quarterback, Offensive Line, Tight End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety

Miami (3) — Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive Line

Based solely on these Pro Football Focus rankings, here are the Top 10 (star-caliber) players for each team:

New England (5) — Tom Brady (1), Rob Gronkowski (2), Marcus Cannon (3), Devin McCourty (4), Malcolm Butler (7).

Miami (5) — Jay Ajayi (3), Ndamukong Suh (4), Reshad Jones (6), Jarvis Landry (9), , Cameron Wake (10).

POSITIONAL RANKINGS

QUARTERBACK (Edge: New England)

New England — Tom Brady (1)

Miami — Ryan Tannehill (15)

RUNNING BACK (Edge: Miami)

New England — James White (29)

Miami — Jay Ajayi (3)

WIDE RECEIVER (Edge: Miami)

New England — Julian Edelman (21); Brandin Cooks (28); Chris Hogan (63); Danny Amendola (65)

Miami — Jarvis Landry (9); DeVante Parker (26); Kenny Stills (53)

OFFENSIVE LINE (Edge: New England)

New England — Marcus Cannon (3); Shaq Mason (15); Nate Solder (19); David Andrews (22); Joe Thuney (46);

Miami — Ja’Wuan James (32); Laremy Tunsil (41); Ted Larsen (44); Mike Pouncey (UR);  Kraig Urbik (UR)

TIGHT END (Edge: New England)

New England — Rob Gronkowski (2); Dwayne Allen (41)

Miami — Anthony Fasano (15); Julius Thomas (28)

DEFENSIVE LINE (Edge: Miami)

New England — Alan Branch (25); Malcom Brown (31); Trey Flowers (31); Lawrence Guy (38); Shea McClellin (67); Kony Ealy (78); Rob Ninkovich (86)

Miami —Ndamukong Suh (4); Cameron Wake (10); William Hayes (17); Jordan Phillips (56); Andre Branch (70); Terrence Fede (UR)

LINEBACKER (Edge: New England)

New England — Dont’a Hightower (12); Kyle Van Noy (53); Elandon Roberts (54); Jonathan Freeny (UR)

Miami — Kiko Alonso (48); Lawrence Timmons (70); Neville Hewitt (75); Koa Misi (UR)

CORNERBACK (Edge: New England)

New England — Malcolm Butler (7, RFA); Eric Rowe (57); Stephon Gilmore (61); Justin Coleman (UR)

Miami —Byron Maxwell (11); Bobby McCain (68); Tony Lippett (75); Xavien Howard (78)

SAFETY (Edge: New England)

New England — Devin McCourty (4); Duron Harmon (54); Patrick Chung (82)

Miami — Reshad Jones (6); Michael Thomas (83); Nate Allen (UR)

Before blasting an NFL contract as ‘ridiculous!’ consider Isa Abdul-Quddus

Miami Dolphins DE Andre Branch: ‘This contract was for my mother’

Miami Dolphins DE William Hayes brings ‘lunch pail to work’

Lawrence Timmons isn’t sure which Miami Dolphins LB position he’ll play

 

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Fantasy Fish: Brave new world for Dolphins, defense against Browns

[cmg_cinesport url=”http://cinesport.palmbeachpost.com/embed/palm-beach-nfl-miami-dolphins/browns-at-dolphins-preview/”%5D

[I’m man enough to admit that last week’s fantasy guidance — to get Arian Foster in your lineup against the Patriots — proved to be a total bust. But who could have guessed he’d go down early with a groin injury (and cede all of the subsequent carries to Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and sadly Miami’s current leading rusher, Ryan Tannehill)?

Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Well, anyone who’s watched the now 30-year-old Foster miss significant time in two of the last three seasons. That’s who.

And who could have guessed that the Patriots would get so far out in front that Tannehill would spend the entire second half bombing the Fins offense up and down the field, passing and scoring nearly at will, and ending up with a massive 389 yards and two touchdowns?

Well, anyone who’s seen the Dolphins play — and lose badly, by a combined score of 132-37 — in New England during Tannehill’s first four NFL seasons. That’s who. In fact, Sunday was the third straight game in New England in which Tannehill has topped the 300-yard mark.

But we’re moving on.]

Sunday is the Dolphins’ home opener under new coach Adam Gase at the new and improved Hard Rock Stadium. And it’s time to turn over a new leaf.

I’m forcing myself to relearn two unfamiliar words when it comes to the Dolphins and fantasy football looking ahead to the Browns in Week 3. They are two words I don’t use often in my life, either professionally or outside of the sports arena. Those words? “Positivity” and “confidence.”

Yes, the Dolphins are 0-2 in the standings, already two games behind the AFC East-leading Patriots. But the Browns are winless as well, they’re already on their third starting quarterback in three games — completely untested rookie Cody Kessler — and promising young WR Corey Coleman broke his hand in practice on Wednesday and is questionable for the game Sunday.

Let’s do away with any pretense: The Dolphins should win this game.

But what does that mean for your fantasy team?

Tannehill is a pretty solid play this week against Cleveland’s 21st-ranked pass defense. Yahoo has him as the consensus No. 13 QB this week, far higher than in Weeks 1 and 2, and the expectation is that, while he’s unlikely to light the world on fire, it’s not unfair to expect 250-plus yards and a couple of touchdowns. Tannehill carved up the Patriots in the second half last week, and that has set a fairly high bar for what fans — both fantasy and non — will expect of him going forward.

The running back situation is significantly more convoluted. If Foster misses the game as expected, some combination of Jay Ajayi (31st this week in Yahoo’s RB rankings, Kenyan Drake (No. 46), Damien Williams and/or Isaiah Pead will get the carries. And despite the fact that the Browns’ run defense is mediocre (17th in the league), none of these backs are likely to post yardage numbers vastly superior to the others. Of the four, Drake, the rookie out of Alabama, might be the best bet, despite the fact that Ajayi will likely get the early carries. Like the others, Drake has shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but he hasn’t fumbled the ball (cough, cough, Ajayi) and did manage a score against New England, so he could get some more chances in the Red Zone. Long story short, steer clear of the Dolphins’ running backs if you can, but if you want to take a flier, I love the Drake.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on July 30, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and the Dolphins defense are a surprisingly good fantasy play against the Browns in Week 3. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Among the Dolphins receivers, Jarvis Landry (Yahoo’s No. 15 WR) is, as usual, your safest bet. And DeVante Parker (No. 28) and Kenny Stills (No. 76) aren’t terrible plays either.

Even Jordan Cameron, who snagged five balls last week for 49 yards and a score, cracked Yahoo’s top 25 tight ends this week.

But we won’t stop there. Even Miami’s defense deserves a mench going into this game. Despite allowing 31 points to the Patriots, the Browns are a vastly different beast, particularly with Kessler under center. Yahoo has the Dolphins D as the fourth best in the league this week, and they make for a sneaky one-week pickup: they were added over 26,000 times on Thursday, yet are still owned in only 37 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of press).

I gaze ahead to Sunday against the Browns, and everything looks like sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs for the Dolphins — despite the scattered thunderstorms on the forecast. It’s a brave new world, one that should see Gase earn his first win as head coach and one that could see a couple of Dolphins emerge as legitimate contributors on the fantasy landscape.

Good news for Arian Foster, Jelani Jenkins; Bad news for DeVante Parker

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, center, is stopped after short gain by Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (53) and defensive back Byron Maxwell (41) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, center, is stopped after short gain by Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins and defensive back Byron Maxwell. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

DAVIE — Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase said linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) is on a “good track” to play in the season-opener at Seattle. Jenkins was seen running at the start of Dolphins practice Monday.

Gase said wide receiver DeVante Parker has actually had injuries to both hamstrings and he did not dispute the notion that Parker may not play this week. Gase has not decided who Miami’s third receiver would be.

“It’s tough,” Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Monday. “You’d like to have the guy on the field. He’s a heck of a talent.”

One option would be to move Jarvis Landry outside and utilize Jakeem Grant in the slot. Another option would be to use Dion Sims as a frequent in-line blocker and split tight end Jordan Cameron as a receiver.

Of Parker, Gase said: “We keep working with him. I know he’s trying to make steps to do things better outside the football field.”

Even newly-signed Justin Hunter could be a consideration, if the decision were made to go with the veteran over rookie Leonte Carroo.

Gase said center Mike Pouncey is still week-to-week. Pouncey was seen riding a exercise bike and does not appear close to returning. Anthony Steen would make his first career start at Seattle.

Gase said Pouncey is still in the “evaluation” and “rehab” stage.

The Dolphins released their depth chart before Gase’s availability and the most jarring change was the promotion of Arian Foster to starter, ahead of Jay Ajayi. Gase said the decision was based on Foster’s experience, knowlege of the offense. And consistency.

“He had a really good camp,” Gase said of Foster. “He did everything we asked him to do.”

Rookie left guard Laremy Tunsil and rookie cornerback Xavien Howard are also slated to start the opener.

“Mentally, he knows exactly what’s going on,” Gase said of Howard.

Veteran Jermon Bushrod, who has played at tackle throughout his long career, will start at right guard.

Miami Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry: We ‘definitely won’t’ shy away from Richard Sherman

Miami Dolphins: 7 things we wonder in week 1

Miami Dolphins Kenny Stills and Earl Mitchell practice; Parker, Pouncey, Jenkins out

Are you on Facebook? Want constant Dolphins insider news sent to your Facebook page? Just like our Dolphins Facebook page

Anthony Steen and 6 other surprising likely NFL starters in Week 1

Miami Dolphins center Anthony Steen (65) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on August 25, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins center Anthony Steen (65) at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on August 25, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Whether they’re rookies adapting quickly to the NFL, veterans finally getting a shot or backups stepping in for injured teammates, there are surprises on NFL teams’ depth charts every preseason. And 2016 is no different.

As the regular season approaches, here are seven of the most unexpected likely starters looking ahead to Week 1:

Anthony Steen, C, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins will likely have an unfamiliar face at center for their opener against the Seahawks, as Anthony Steen seems poised to start in place of the injured Mike Pouncey. Steen made his first ever start at the center position during Miami’s third preseason game. Despite one fumbled exchange, Steen drew praise from head coach Adam Gase, who liked his aggressiveness and physicality. Though it may only be temporary, an NFL player brand new to a position starting in place of a perennial Pro Bowler certainly qualifies as unexpected.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

“Jerry’s World” may just turn into “Dak’s Universe” if Prescott’s impressive preseason play carries over into the regular season. Initially it appeared that the terrific exhibition performance of the rookie out of Mississippi State would simply serve as a showcase of his future potential, as the fourth-round pick was expected to play backup to long-tenured Cowboys QB Tony Romo. Now, after Romo’s back injury that will leave him sidelined for an extended period of time, Prescott will get an early shot at leading “America’s Team.”

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) plays during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) plays during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

To the most ardent football fans, David Johnson’s starting role is no surprise. The 24-year-old had a stellar rookie season in 2015, amassing 581 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 125 carries. Johnson’s meteoric rise out of Northern Iowa means that many around the country are still unfamiliar with his work, but his distinction as a top fantasy running back option suggests people are starting to take notice.

Andy Lee, P, Carolina Panthers

To be clear, it’s no surprise that 12-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee will have a starting job in the NFL this fall. What is surprising is the team for which he’ll be punting. On Monday, the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers swapped punters (and draft picks) in a slightly unusual trade, with Lee headed to Carolina and Kasey Redfern going to Cleveland. Lee has the sixth-highest gross punting average in NFL history, and will fill a major hole on the Panthers’ special-teams unit.

C.J. Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Last season, Tyler Eifert was selected to and played in the Pro Bowl. During the game, he suffered an ankle injury that required offseason surgery that will force him to miss several weeks early in the season, leaving the starting job — at the time — for backup Tyler Kroft. But Kroft suffered a knee sprain during training camp, and while he is aiming to return for the Bengals’ opener, it’s possible he won’t be ready in time. If that’s the case, C.J. Uzomah will likely step in as the starter. Uzomah is entering his second year in the league, though he made just one catch for four yards in 2015.

Florida Atlantic University defensive back D'Joun Smith, (21), returns an interception for the second touchdown of the first quarter against the University of Tulsa Sept. 13, 2014 at Howard Schnellenberger Field in Boca Raton. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)
Florida Atlantic University defensive back D’Joun Smith, (21), returns an interception for the second touchdown of the first quarter against the University of Tulsa Sept. 13, 2014 at Howard Schnellenberger Field in Boca Raton. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

D’Joun Smith, CB, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ cornerback corps has been ravaged by injuries this offseason, so much so that head coach Chuck Pagano referred to the team’s situation as “scary.” Indianapolis has lost former Dolphin Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson and south Florida native Darius Butler to injuries. Before the injuries, it seemed that former FAU corner D’Joun Smith would be cut from the Colts. But now there is an opportunity for him to play significant time — or even start. Smith’s availability and ability will hinge on his health.

Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver Broncos

When the Broncos acquired Mark Sanchez this offseason, it was assumed that he would take over the starting quarterback role in Denver following the retirement of Peyton Manning. Instead, Sanchez lost that distinction to former seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemian out of Northwestern, who outplayed Sanchez during the preseason. Siemian appeared in only one game for the Broncos last season and he did not throw a pass, rushing once for a one-yard loss.

Billy Turner hustling to get up to speed on Dolphins’ offensive line

 

DAVIE – Life on the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line is still coming pretty fast for Billy Turner, even after starting a total of 15 games in his two years with the team.

In the second preseason game, a 41-14 loss at Dallas, the former third-round draft pick from North Dakota State let a rookie defensive end from an even smaller school get around him for a big play. Shaneil Jenkins from 4,000-student Shepherd

Billy Turner #77 of the Miami Dolphins during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Billy Turner #77 of the Miami Dolphins. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

University in West Virginia sacked Dolphins quarterback Brandon Doughty and caused a fumble that led to a Dallas field goal just before halftime.

Turner and Jermon Bushrod remain in competition, however, for the starting right guard spot and Turner is listed with the No. 1’s for the Falcons game.

With center Mike Pouncey out for Thursday’s third preseason game vs. Atlanta in Orlando and rookie Laremy Tunsil still settling in at left guard, it’s important for somebody to find a rhythm at the position and give coach Adam Gase confidence that he can rev up his playcalling on the hurry-up attack, no matter who is on the field.

“There’s no time to talk about the previous play in no-huddle,” Turner said. “You’re really just trying to figure out the next play. You don’t get time to review anything until you get to the sidelines.

“I think it gives us an advantage, though. You get gassed at some times but when you’re in an offense like that, you always want to keep the tempo up because you know that regardless of how tired you are, they’re going to be 10 times worse on the other side of the ball.”

Miami Dolphins: 3 things to look for at practice Tuesday

Miami Dolphins defensive back Byron Maxwell (41) is unable to stop Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant (88) from catching a pass for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Miami Dolphins defensive back Byron Maxwell (41) is unable to stop Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (88) from catching a pass for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The Dolphins will practice Tuesday afternoon in a session closed to the public, before flying to Orlando Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Here are three things to look for at practice Tuesday:

  1. Brandon Doughty (for the record, it’s DOW-tee, not DOUGH-tee, so let’s get it right) and Zac Dysert. With Matt Moore sidelined with a concussion, Doughty and Dysert have been taking plenty of practice reps this week and they’ll get a big opportunity Thursday night in Orlando, against Atlanta. Doughty wasn’t thrilled with how Friday’s game at Dallas went and he told me “I have to be a better football player.” But Doughty has done some things really well at camp. And this week, Dysert, the Miami (OH) product in his second season, has thrown some eye-opening passes, too. Look for Ryan Tannehill to play the first half and then perhaps not again until the opener at Seattle.
  2. Byron Maxwell. Look, he’s the top corner. The number one corner. The cover corner. The press corner. The experienced corner. You get it. And he’ll probably see his share of Julio Jones on Thursday, one week after taking a dose of Dez Bryant, who won a few battles. I caught up with Maxwell this week and when he wasn’t raving about what a remarkable person he believes Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to be, Maxwell spoke of relishing the challenge of facing top receivers. “Julio will move around,” Maxwell said. “He’s proven. He’s a superstar. And his talent is the best in the league. So you know, I’ve got to bring my best.”
  3.  Kiko and Koa. The K-K Boys. Or something like that. I noticed the two linebackers (Kiko Alonso and Koa Misi) chatting on the practice field today and I wondered if the topic was tackling technique or coverage of tight ends. Miami’s linebackers haven’t really been noticeable the last two weeks, aside from a few missed tackles and some poor coverage. The Dolphins need their linebackers to play faster, more physical and well, to win more plays – in practice and in games. 

    Miami Dolphins QB Brandon Doughty: “I have to be a better football player.”

     

     

     New starter Anthony Steen thought Miami Dolphins were joking about trying center

Miami Dolphins DE Chris McCain ‘interviewing for 31 other teams’

Miami Dolphins DE Chris McCain ‘interviewing for 31 other teams’

Chris McCain blocks a Patriots punt in his first snap as a Dolphin in 2014. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Chris McCain blocks a Patriots punt in his first snap as a Dolphin in 2014. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Chris McCain looks around the locker room and knows the score. If there’s such a thing as having too much talent at defensive end in this pass-happy league, the Dolphins have that problem.

And so call it pessimistic, optimistic or realistic, but McCain knows that by the time the regular season rolls around, some pretty good defensive ends he currently calls teammates won’t be wearing Dolphins colors.

“People’s jobs are on the line,” McCain said. “We’ve got to put a resume out there. Everybody can’t make this squad. This is just a resume’ right now and we just need to put some good stuff on tape.”

ISAIAH PEAD KEEPS ON TRUCKIN’ AS DOLPHINS’ TOP RUSHER IN PRESEASON

NEW STARTER ANTHONY STEEN THOUGHT DOLPHINS WERE JOKING ABOUT CENTER

That’s what McCain said after the Giants game in Week 1 of the preseason. Following the Cowboys game in which he played only 12 snaps on defense but 18 on special teams and didn’t record a tackle (he has a slight injury), McCain wouldn’t estimate what his chances were of sticking around for a third season.

“Honestly, I have no clue,” he said. “I mean, the competition is great, of course. We have some really good ends. But where I fit, no clue.”

Any feedback from coaches?

“Nope.”

Stand by the “resume’” comment?

“Got to. I know I’m one of a few people I guess on the line who doesn’t have a set spot, so I’m interviewing for 31 other teams. So I’ll find a home somewhere at some point.”

Would he prefer it’s in South Florida?

“It’s in God’s hands, honestly. I mean, yeah, I would love to be here. I’ve been here the last three years. I don’t want to get up and move anywhere, but let God do his work, man.”

The Dolphins have Cameron Wake and Mario Williams as the starting ends, but Andre Branch and Jason Jones are right behind them and figure to see extended time. There’s also Terrence Fede, Jordan Williams, Cleyon Laing and Cedric Reed. Oh, and don’t forget Dion Jordan, who’s coming off a year’s suspension and not on the active roster. Doesn’t that make this the most crowded position on the team?

“It’s crowded but it’s a lot of talent. I’m pretty sure it’s hard for the coaches to decide also.”

Isaiah Pead keeps on truckin’ as Miami Dolphins’ top preseason rusher

RB Isaiah Pead takes a handoff from Brandon Doughty. (AP Photo)
RB Isaiah Pead takes a handoff from Brandon Doughty. (AP Photo)

 

Isaiah Pead is leading the Dolphins in rushing this preseason and is responsible for more big plays than anyone else on the roster.

So when someone says his odds of winning a job are increasing, it makes sense.

Not much else about his story does. Especially the part about how this virtual unknown has become one of the most intriguing prospects this preseason, a summer underdog story come to life.

Until now, Pead had spent so much time off the field, while being injured or unemployed, that he wondered if he should launch the trucking business he’d been considering.

“Semis or dump trucks, things like that,” he said.

Things like that aren’t supposed to be on the minds of guys drafted in the second round just four years ago, so Pead kept plugging away with his workouts, hoping someone would give him a look.

In fact, somewhere around 10 teams did, he said. And after his audition with the Dolphins, Pead called his agent.

“I think I blew this one,” he said.

“I think this was one of my lesser workouts. I had dropped a couple of balls, stumbled a few times out of my cuts. It was bad.”

Coach Adam Gase didn’t think so. For one, the Dolphins had done research on Pead ahead of time. Plus, “It wasn’t as bad as what he’s making it out to be,” Gase said. “ … He did well enough to say, ‘Hey, let’s give this guy a shot’ and he’s made the most of it.”

Pead, 26, is leading the Dolphins in rushing with 14 carries for 98 yards, a 7.0 average, and has a 30-yard reception in a strong bid for a spot on the 53-man roster.

The Dolphins will keep Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster, who are competing for the starting role. Third-round pick Kenyan Drake’s hamstring problem could land him on short-term injured reserve, leaving Pead to compete with veterans Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas for perhaps one roster spot.

Pead’s 45-yard run against the Dallas Cowboys is the fourth-longest run in the NFL this preseason. He still has a hard time accepting he didn’t score.

“Should have,” he said. “I haven’t really seen the end zone and got swept from behind before, so that was kind of new.”

Pead was the Ohio state 400-meter champion in high school and finished as Eastmoor Academy’s leading rusher, bumping from the record book a back named Archie Griffin, who went on to win the Heisman twice. His success belied the fact that when he was 3, he was crossing the street when hit by a car. He once described it as, “Got hit, kind of flew, and hit another car. My mom said (the car) was going about 25-30 miles an hour and hit the brakes as it was hitting me.”

The car might have come out of it worse than Pead. The paramedics didn’t even see a need to take him to the hospital. He didn’t cry much, if at all.

Pead ran for  3,288 yards at the University of Cincinnati before going 50th overall to the St. Louis Rams, who had Steven Jackson at the time and later Todd Gurley.

Pead’s time with the Rams was marked by inactivity, a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and a 2014 season missed after tearing his ACL in preseason. He was briefly with the Steelers last season but did not appear in a game.

“I had my knucklehead years in the past at one point, but you grow up,” he said. “You learn from it and that’s life.”

He’s also philosophical about landing a free-agent contract with the Dolphins in March.

“I can give it to you in two words: blessing in disguise,” Pead said, a slip of the tongue that solicited laughter from locker neighbor MarQueis Gray.

“Sorry, MarQueis,” Pead said. “Blessing in disguise though. If it wasn’t for the trials and tribulations I went through, none of this would be happening, really. I would probably be back at home looking for a job.”

With only half the preseason games played, Pead isn’t assuming anything. He can’t. Although he saw spot duty with the starters against Dallas, much of his yardage has come against the Giants’ and Cowboys’ reserves. There’s more to be learned, including how much Pead can offer on special teams, both on the return and coverage units. He called that “a foreign language” since he’d never played on special teams before arriving in Davie.

“I don’t think he’s changed much from the first day he’s gotten here and compared to what we saw the other night,” Gase said. “It just seems like every time he touches the ball, something good happens for us.”


Dolphins’ longest plays of preseason

Player                           Gain

WR Kenny Stills            55-yard reception

WR Matt Hazel              51-yard reception

RB Isaiah Pead             45-yard run

RB Isaiah Pead             30-yard reception

RB Isaiah Pead             26-yard run

A little protective, aren’t we? Miami Dolphins’ OL keeps Ryan Tannehill clean

Dolphins guard Laremy Tunsil made his first NFL start against the Cowboys. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dolphins guard Laremy Tunsil made his first NFL start against the Cowboys. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Pass protection for Ryan Tannehill has been an issue for so long that when the subject was brought up to left tackle Branden Albert, he immediately went into protection mode himself.

“What’s the problem?” Albert said.

There wasn’t any, which was why Albert was asked his assessment of a preseason game in which Tannehill was sacked just once.

In truth, Albert knew the point of the question was to gauge progress, not bash inadequacies, but decided to have a little fun playing grizzly bear with the media.

“OK,” he finally said, relenting. “I mean, we did better. “Everybody’s going to get better. He did a good job throwing the ball. We did a decent job protecting. It wasn’t perfect. But it was better. Everybody played a part into it.”

And this time, “everybody” included first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, who played left guard in his first start as a pro. Jermon Bushrod made his first start as a Dolphin, at right guard. They joined tackles Ja’Wuan James and Albert and center Mike Pouncey in what could be the Dolphins’ preferred quintet this season, once Pouncey’s hip injury heals.

“We actually got in a rhythm,” James said.

That’s saying something considering Bushrod is adjusting after being a left tackle his nine prior NFL seasons.

SECOND-ROUND PICK XAVIEN HOWARD WON’T FACE FALCONS

“I’m all in,” Bushrod said of the move. “It’s just about getting those reps, getting as many reps as I can. … It’s not going to be the easiest thing. It’s going to be a learning process.”

The line helped the Dolphins’ starters drive 75 yards twice against Dallas, both times ending in touchdown receptions by Kenny Stills.

“Once we get our rhythm — and you saw a little bit of it versus Dallas — that’s when it’s a good feeling we can keep rolling,” Tunsil said.

The only “problem,” as Albert might say, was run-blocking. The Dolphins finished with 120 rushing yards and a 4.1 average, but that was skewed by a 45-yard run by Isaiah Pead against Dallas’ backups. Aside from Pead’s run, the Dolphins managed just 2.7 yards on 28 carries.

“Everything is in the works right now,” James said. “We’re continuing to work and continuing to learn these new techniques. It’s different aiming points in the run game, also in the pass.”

Miami’s top two backs, Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster, combined for a 1.8 average against the Cowboys.

“We have to just get in rhythm with us, the backs, timing, everything,” James said. “It’s a whole new system. When we’re finally out there, we can actually cut guys and get guys on the ground now, so there’s a lot of different things going on, but I think it’s going to get better.”

The Dolphins are 1-1 after the 41-14 rout by Dallas, but Albert isn’t sweating it.

“Some teams go 4-0 in the preseason, then 2-and-whatever in the regular (season),” Albert said. “So I don’t know what you could tell when everybody starts flying and everybody’s playing for four quarters. And health. A lot of things play into it by the time the season starts.”

Miami Dolphins’ second-round pick Xavien Howard won’t face Falcons

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard stand on the field during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Friday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard stand on the field during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Friday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Dolphins have little choice but to count heavily on second-round pick Xavien Howard to help shore up their secondary, but the question of how much the rookie can contribute early this season won’t be answered Thursday night against Atlanta.

Howard, coming off a knee injury that has sidelined him all training camp, said Sunday that he won’t make his preseason debut against the Falcons, but rather the Sept. 1 preseason finale against Tennessee.

“I don’t call it a setback,” he said.

In fact, Howard said with just the Titans game to break the ice on his NFL career, he’ll be good to go in the regular-season opener at Seattle.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “Without a doubt.”

Howard, who played at Baylor, dressed for the Dallas game last week even though he was held out. He said he benefited with “a lot of mental reps and just seeing what the other guys are going and just learning from them.”

The Dolphins hope so, because he had been expected to offer second-year man Tony Lippett a stiff challenge to start opposite Byron Maxwell at cornerback.

“My leg is better,” he said. “It’s just going to improve when I come out there.”