Renewed DE Charles Harris ready to shine for Miami Dolphins

Charles Harris feels ready to max out his second season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Charles Harris feels like a new man heading into his second season with the Dolphins, and it’s clear just by looking at his face that something is different.

After being selected No. 22 in last year’s draft, the transition to the NFL left Harris dazed at times. He had gone from being one of the biggest defensive stars in the SEC to a backup for the Dolphins, he wasn’t getting many sacks, he was unprepared for the financial windfall, work sometimes felt like drudgery and he was struggling to adapt to life on his own in a new environment.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact impact all of those factors had on Harris, but he was often downcast in the locker room after practice. He kept to himself mostly as he fought his way through what he now describes as “a dark place.” An offseason of prayer and reflection led to a renewed enthusiasm for Harris, and the change in his demeanor seems to have more to do with his personal life than anything football-related.

“Now I’m cool,” he said. “I understand that everything that happened the way it was, it was for the better of me and my family and everything like that. I understand that everything I do on the field and off the field affects everybody around me.

“I’ve got me a community down here being in Florida, being away from home, and that was a big thing. Now I have a community, I’ve got friends, I have everything I need to get to the top.”

Harris played all 16 games last season, but started just twice because he was behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch. He played 47.5 percent of the defensive snaps and posted two sacks.

While no defensive end goes into the season targeting two sacks as an ambitious goal, he was satisfied with how he played. So were the Dolphins, who have several next-level statistics that indicate he was a strong presence as a pass rusher despite not racking up sacks.

There was still a constant feeling of confusion, and that often led him to treat football like merely a job. “I was just checking boxes every day; I came in, punched in, punched out,” he said. A lot of jobs are like that, but the NFL isn’t one of them. It takes a deeper commitment, especially for someone like Harris who aspires to be an elite defensive end, and his offseason soul-searching prompted a different approach to football.

“I feel like I just got better mentally, spiritually and things like that,” said Harris, who is a Christian. “Being able to take care of my family, get stuff done off the field and understanding grace and stuff like that. I’m better mentally. (That) is going to transition everything else.”

As for the direct effect that had on him football-wise, Harris said it motivated him to use his abilities to honor God: “This year it’s like I love it. I love it because I understand what it means to work. This is my work and use it as my worship.”

There’s an increased comfort level that comes experience, too. Not that he ever had trouble learning the playbook as a rookie, but he’s got a better handle on every aspect of the job now compared to a year ago.

“It’s less of a burden, for real,” he said. “It’s just free. Just playing free.”

With his mind in a better place on and off the field, Harris is heading into an amorphous opportunity this season.

The Dolphins are set on Wake and new trade acquisition Robert Quinn as their starting defensive ends, but the coaches have said multiple times the second wave of Branch and Harris will get ample snaps. The goal is spread playing time more evenly now that the team believes it has four starting-caliber defensive ends, plus veteran William Hayes and anyone else who emerges during the preseason.

That’s part of why Harris was undeterred by the team trading for Quinn, rather than simply let him battle Branch for a starting job. As accomplished as Wake and Quinn are — they’ve combined for seven Pro Bowl selections and 154.5 career sacks — Harris believes he’ll get enough chances if he shows he deserves them.

“Light is always going to shine,” he said. “I feel like you can’t contain nobody. You can’t keep anybody off the field. It’s the coaches that make sure … the best players are out there. That’s something they handle. I’m going to take it every single day and work as hard as I can, and we’ll see on game day.”

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

Miami Dolphins’ Isaiah Ford holds first post-injury press conference

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford during organized team activities at training camp in Davie. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Isaiah Ford has added a bit of weight and strength and he knows a lot more about the Dolphins’ offense than he did at this time last year. But having recovered from a torn meniscus in his knee, Ford is still confident in his abilities.

“I think I’m  a competitor, first and foremost,” Ford said Wednesday. “I want to win at everything that I do. And I think that starts with my mindset on how I approach everything. I’m a versatile player. I can play inside and out. I can make those contested catches. And I’m a technician. That’s something that I pride myself on, is being really good in and out of my breaks. And running really good routes and things like that.”

Ford has shined at times this spring, one year after Miami made him a seventh-round selection from Virginia Tech. Ford’s path to the Dolphins’ roster is through versatility and consistent production.

“I’ve spent a bunch of time inside,” Ford said. “A bunch of time outside as well. Just being ready for wherever they decide to put me. I’m comfortable playing both, which is good… I think in the slot you have a little more freedom. A little more wiggle room in terms of your releases.”

Ford was injured running a routine slant last summer, against Tony Lippett. Rehabilitating his knee alongside Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan was a rewarding and competitive experience.

“That helped us push through the dark days,” Ford said. “Where we didn’t really feel like rehabbing or we were down on ourselves. And to have Ryan there as a leader to kind of help us push through was really huge for both of us.”

Ford said the three of them would see who could bike the farthest in 10 minutes while hooked up to a blood flow restrictor.

“Then our trainer stopped it because he got a little scared,” Ford said. “Whoever was up next had to beat it. I think Raekwon was the last to go so he had the record. So nobody else got to go.”

Ford said he appreciates the game more now and realizes how much he missed it. He has a better understanding of the terminology of the offense and what coaches are expecting. He says he’s confident.

“Just be available whenever my number is called,” Ford said. “My job is to compete. To execute. To know my job. To know where I’m supposed to be. And where I’m supposed to be, be there.”

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Dolphins coach Adam Gase: 2017 draft class exemplifies what team needs

Davon Godchaux was a bright spot in last year’s rookie class. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins went defense-heavy in last year’s NFL Draft coming off a season in which they struggled to stop anybody. Next month’s draft figures to be the opposite scenario.

Nonetheless, the 2017 draft class showed good cohesion between coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier. Grier’s primary responsibility in Miami’s power structure is to oversee the draft, and he was the director of college scouting for the team from 2007 through ’15 before becoming general manager.

The Dolphins found instant contributors in first-round pick Charles Harris at defensive end and fifth-round defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley took over a starting job about a month into the season, and sixth-round defensive tackle Vincent Taylor got steady playing time off the bench.

Miami also picked up linebacker Chase Allen, who started the season opener and played all 16 games, and punter Matt Haack.

“I thought they did a good job,” Gase said of his 2017 rookies. “It felt like we had a lot of guys play. I thought our college free agents—We had so many guys either make it at the beginning or ended up being on the roster toward the end of the year. And our draft picks, the ones that ended up staying healthy… did a really good job. They were a good example of how we want to do it going forward.”

The Dolphins believe they landed a starter in linebacker Raekwon McMillan as well. They took him in the second round and had him on track to start before he tore his ACL in the first preseason game.

Seventh-round wide receiver Isaiah Ford missed the whole year due to injury, though he is expected back this season. Offensive guard Isaac Asiata was deemed far from ready to play at the NFL level and did not appear until the season finale, but he’s determined to be part of the offensive line rotation this year.

In the upcoming draft, most of the holes Miami needs fill are on offense. The team needs a quarterback to play behind Ryan Tannehill, a tight end, at least one offensive lineman, a slot receiver and possibly another running back. Those needs would change, of course, if the Dolphins are able to address some of them in free agency.

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

What Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Thursday in California

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is trying to focus on football. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Here is some of what Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Thursday in Oxnard, California:

• One extra week of practice isn’t going to hurt Jay Cutler or his teammates.

• Cutler’s experience with no-huddle really helps what they can do.

• Jay Ajayi has had some knee soreness for a while. Not a big issue.

• Rey Maualuga injured his hamstring at the end of the last week of practice. It did not sound encouraging to this reporter.

• Lawrence Timmons, Reshad Jones and Kenny Stills among the players that have emerged in a leadership role.

 

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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pledges $1 million to hurricane relief

What’s next for Miami Dolphins after Hurricane Irma?

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What’s next for Miami Dolphins after Hurricane Irma?

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Leonte Carroo (88) drops a pass during Miami Dolphins minicamp at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida on June 14, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Owner Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins asked the NFL if it could move the Oct. 1 London game against the New Orleans Saints to Miami, but the league said no, according to a league source.

The Dolphins’ season-opener this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was pushed back to Nov. 19 with Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida. And now, in a worst-case scenario, Miami could be on the road without a return to South Florida for three straight weeks.

Miami left South Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma and took players, coaches, staff and their families to Oxnard, Calif., where the team will meet on Tuesday and practice Wednesday.

The Dolphins hope to return to South Florida to practice in advance of their game at the New York Jets on Sept. 24. The Dolphins have arranged a contingency plan — practicing in West Virginia — if it is not possible to return to South Florida after the game, a source confirmed.

Miami is also assessing any damage at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and the team’s practice facility in Davie, a source confirmed. There was tornado activity in the vicinity of the stadium, and so a proper assessment must take place.

The Dolphins are scheduled to play at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Carson, Calif., followed by the Jets and the Saints in London, a brutal stretch. Miami is not scheduled to play again at Hard Rock Stadium until Oct. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.

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Why the Miami Dolphins added new kicker Cody Parkey

Cody Parkey was a Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

DAVIE — The Miami Dolphins made a change at kicker and punter and coach Adam Gase explained it was less about needing to make a change and more about the players they’ve added.

Miami added kicker Cody Parkey of Jupiter, releasing Andrew Franks.

“It’s more in that general direction of there was a guy out there that we liked and we decided to make a change,” Gase said of Parkey.

The Dolphins had not brought in a kicker to compete with Franks this off-season.

Parker was a Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, setting a franchise scoring record and NFL rookie scoring record with 150 points.

That season, Parkey converted 17 consecutive field goals, the second-longest streak in team history.

Last season, playing for the Cleveland Browns, Parkey missed five field goals between 40 and 49 yards, which is a big part of the reason why he was beaten out in camp.

In a loss at Miami last season, Parkey missed three field goals for the Browns, including what would have been a game-winner from 46 yards on the final play of regulation.

Asked about that game, Gase said: “I’m good. I didn’t even count that game. I’ve seen him. He’s been around for a minute. So there’s a lot of trust there.”

The Dolphins also let go veteran punter Matt Darr in favor of rookie Matt Haack.

“It wasn’t as easy as some people make it sound,” Gase said. “Matt did, I mean, he competed and he improved and those two guys battled. And at the end of the day that’s the decision we decided to make. We feel that we have something special there. And the fact that he’s left-footed. It works out. It’s tough for returners. I know my time every time we played a left footed punter it was always non-stop conversation by the special teams coaches.”

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Miami Dolphins: Who got what jersey numbers?

Rey Maualuga got his #58. And he didn’t have to pay for it. (Getty Images)

Here are some jersey numbers of interest on Miami’s first 53-man roster:

1 Cody Parkey, Kicker

16 Matt Haack, Punter

27 Maurice Smith, Safety

33 Torry McTyer, Cornerback

53 Justin March-Lillard, Linebacker

58 Rey Maualuga, Linebacker

Miami Dolphins practice squad includes Brandon Doughty, De’Veon Smith

Miami Dolphins add kicker Cody Parkey of Jupiter; cut Andrew Franks

Drew Morgan signs with Miami Dolphins practice squad

Alex Boone would be interested in playing for Miami Dolphins

Who made the Miami Dolphins’ roster? Instant Reaction

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 Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.

Miami Dolphins practice squad includes Brandon Doughty, De’Veon Smith

Quarterback Brandon Doughty is back as Miami’s third quarterback. (AP Photo)

The Miami Dolphins signed eight players for their practice squad on Sunday, including quarterback Brandon Doughty and running back De’Veon Smith.

Doughty, a Davie native and draft choice out of Western Kentucky last season, was inactive for the first game of last season then spent the rest of the year on the practice squad.

Smith, a 5-feet-11, 228 pounds, was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan this offseason.

Smith started 49 games at Michigan with 495 carries for 2,235 yards and 22 touchdowns.

The Dolphins added tight end Thomas Duarte, a former draft choice from UCLA and defensive back Jordan Lucas, a former draft choice from Penn State.

Earlier today, the Daily Dolphin reported Arkansas wide receiver Drew Morgan would be a member of the practice squad.

The Dolphins also added offensive tackle Sean Hickey, wide receiver Malcolm Lewis and defensive lineman Cameron Malveaux.

Miami has two spots remaining on the practice squad.

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 Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.

Drew Morgan signs with Miami Dolphins practice squad

Drew Morgan is keeping his talents in South Florida. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

The Miami Dolphins added wide receiver Drew Morgan to their practice squad on Sunday.

Morgan was the star of Miami’s organized team activities and impressed early in camp. Morgan slowed down in the preseason, however and failed to make the initial 53-man roster.

Morgan showed to be slippery and sure-handed in many open Dolphins practices.

According to a league source, after Morgan cleared waivers, at least three NFL teams inquired about his services. But Morgan has enjoyed his time in South Florida.

Morgan, 6-feet, 193 pounds, played in 49 games at Arkansas with 138 catches for 1,763 yards and 14 touchdowns.

In the preseason, Morgan had four catches for 52 yards.

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 Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.

For a few Miami Dolphins, the preseason finale was significant

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Tre Roberson breaks up a pass intended for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant on Thursday night. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minneapolis — There was this moment after the third Miami Dolphins preseason game when I asked Mike Pouncey if I could safely assume he would not be playing in the fourth and final preseason game.

The look on Pouncey’s face was priceless.

Even if he didn’t have an injury concern, Pouncey explained, he doesn’t play in the fourth and final preseason game.

And sure enough, most all of the Dolphins’ projected veteran starters were on the sideline at the picturesque U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday night.

Kenny Stills and Jay Ajayi and DeVante Parker — you name it.

All in sweat pants and sneakers.

All 11 of the men listed on the game’s flip card as Miami’s first-team offense sat this one out.

Kiko Alonso and Xavien Howard — you name it.

All in sweat pants and sneakers.

Nine of the 11 men listed on the game’s flip card as Miami’s first-team defense sat this one out.

It could be argued veteran corner Byron Maxwell could have used a few reps on this night, perhaps to help re-build his confidence. But it may have caused an issue if coach Adam Gase had asked Maxwell to play a few snaps.

So he sat this one out.

Remember last year when Ajayi was not thrilled to be playing in the preseason finale. And then he fumbled. And then he was benched for the opener. And then he was left off the team plane.

There is a certain invisible badge awarded to players who are held out of the preseason finale.

The message is clear — we cannot afford to have you hurt.

Even linebacker Mike Hull, who made the roster as a special teams dynamo last season, and yet is projected as a possible starter on opening day against Tampa Bay, was held out.

And so it was telling that two of the players who did play on Thursday night were:

• Jordan Phillips, defensive tackle, 2nd round draft choice in 2015.

• Kenyan Drake, running back, 3rd round draft choice in 2016.

The message to these two players was clear — you have the talent to make a positive impact.

But we need you to make an impact more consistently.

Drake showed in the preseason, and showed again Thursday night (1 touchdown, 8 carries for 27 yards in the first half) that he has explosiveness and shiftiness and should be a dangerous weapon for Gase.

Phillips has reacted well to a demotion to second team early in the preseason. Teammates say he’s working harder. The Dolphins have tried every strategy known to coaches to motivate the big man.

Starting the preseason finale when Suh and Wake and Andre Branch were all held out, should provide a crystal-clear message to the big man.

Play big. Play better.

On the first play of Thursday’s game, Phillips threw a running back to the ground.

Late in the second quarter, Phillips was spotted on the sideline, actively engaged in a conversation with teammates and coaches. Phillips was paying attention.

It was hard not to pay attention to tiny Jakeem Grant, who was the start of Miami’s preseason finale, of course.

Grant wanted to play and play he did.

Grant had 4 catches for 141 yards and a 65-yard touchdown.

All in the first half.

And he drew a pass interference. And he drew a holding.

I have seen Grant struggle catching the ball consistently in practice.

I have seen Grant make remarkable progress.

Credit Gase for realizing Grant’s greatest attribute is as a deep threat on the outside of the field. Again on Thursday, Grant was running past defensive backs and making plays a man that small shouldn’t, near a sideline time and time again.

Grant proved he belongs on the squad, either as a fourth or fifth receiver.

And there were others who made the most of their moment, too.

Left guard Jesse Davis seemed to hold up well in his call to start.

Perhaps Davis will start the opener, too.

Safety Maurice Smith showed he likely deserves a spot on Miami’s roster.

And, at worst, similarly undrafted rookie defensive back Torry McTyer showed he belongs on an NFL practice squad.

Think the fourth preseason game meant something to undrafted linebacker Chase Allen?

Allen, who may or not make the cut on Saturday, led the team with seven first-half tackles.

Linebacker Deon Lacey, who may or may not make the cut on Saturday, had four first-half tackles.

The NFL’s preseason is too long, all agree.

The fourth preseason game is mostly meaningless, all agree.

Well, perhaps all except the likes of Jakeem Grant, Jesse Davis, Maurice Smith, Torry McTyer and Chase Allen, all of whom may have helped themselves in this glorified scrimmage.

The NFL season kicks off for real in nine days.

Hallelujah!

And yes, Mike Pouncey will be in Miami’s huddle.

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The Daily Dolphin Live: Join the Conversation

Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.