PHILADELPHIA — Asked to name a few undrafted rookies who have stood out to him, Miami Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum chose three players who have excelled in training camp and the preseason.
Tannenbaum named these players during his appearance on the local CBS broadcast Thursday night:
• Defensive back Maurice Smith (6-feet, 195 pounds)
Background: Smith was a one-year starter and captain at Georgia and played 40 games at Alabama before he transferred. Smith can play safety and cornerback. Through two preseason games, Smith had six tackles and a quarterback hurry. Smith is listed as a fourth-string safety, but he could be a part of Miami’s future.
• Defensive back Torry McTyer (6-feet, 195 pounds)
Background: McTyer was a two-year starter at UNLV where he played cornerback and was also a standout kickoff returner. McTyer’s father is Tim McTyer, former Eagle and Brown. In the first two preseason games, McTyer had two tackles and led the team with four kickoff returns for an average of 16.5 yards. McTyer is listed as a fifth-string cornerback but he could certainly be a practice squad candidate, if he does not make the 53-man roster.
• Punter Matt Haack (6-feet-1, 185 pounds)
Background: His name is pronounced “Hawk” and he was a four-year standout at Arizona State. Through two preseason games, Haack averaged more yards per punt (44.0) and net yards (39.8) than starter Matt Darr, although Darr placed four of his eight punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Haack is a left-footed punter, which can create a challenging spin for opposing returners.
DAVIE — Davon Godchaux was a fifth-round draft choice this season, and Jordan Phillips is a former first-rounder, but it is clear that none of that matters at the moment to the Miami Dolphins.
Because there was Godchaux, running first team, alongside Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake and Andre Branch on Friday afternoon.
And Phillips wasn’t. And this wasn’t the first time the rookie took reps ahead of Phillips, the mercurial lineman who can look like Tarzan at times, and not at all like Tarzan, at times, too.
“Never sleep,” Godchaux said of his approach. “Never sleep. I do go to sleep at night. But I can’t ever sleep on the field. I have to get better. Just because I’m in the starting lineup right now, don’t take that for granted. You know, go out and go out each and every day and get better.”
The Dolphins cautioned that Phillips is doing just fine. Not to read too much into Phillips. Not to read so much into Godchaux. Not to read too much into any of it.
“What we’re trying to do with some of the young guys, especially, is get them in against the top competition,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “It’s not a reflection on Jordan. He’s had a solid camp and done what we asked him to do. It’s really us trying to move guys around and see them against top level competition and get a better evaluation. Godchaux’s had a good camp. He has flashed a little bit.”
Burke really wanted to make sure it was known Phillips wasn’t being punished.
“With Jordan, as always, it’s been consistency,” Burke said. “He’s had maybe one rough day of camp so far. One day he jumped offsides a couple of times. Other than that, he’s been consistent. That’s what we’ve been preaching to him. I know he stood up in front of you guys in the off-season and said the same thing. That was our charge to him when we came up: ‘Listen, it can’t be a part-time, it can’t be a flash play, it’s got to be a level of consistency. And he’s done that, he honestly has.'”
That said, Godchaux is making a positive impression.
“He’s doing a good job,” defensive line coach Terrell Williams said. “For a rookie, he’s strong, physical, he’s doing what you want a defensive tackle to do… In my mind on first and second down his number one job is to be physical with those guards and knock them back. We give them one responsibility. Knocks the guards back. Whether it’s run or pass. So if you’re thinking pass rush, as a defensive tackle on first and second down, then it’s a problem. So he kind of gets it. He comes from a good system of LSU.”
Godchaux said it’s been a blessing to work closely with Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Andre Branch, “guys I’ve watched on TV.”
Midway through training camp, he’s starting to feel like he belongs.
“I know once I get going I can’t be stopped,” Godchauxs said. “Whether that’s one on one blocking or double-teaming, once I get off the ball, the sky is the limit.”
DAVIE — The offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins had no reason to believe quarterback Ryan Tannehill would crumple to the ground after a scramble to the sideline with an apparent knee injury on Thursday.
As far as Christensen has been concerned, the knee had been a non-factor in training camp.
Ryan has looked 100 percent to me, he really has,” Christensen said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s been 100 percent, I believe.”
Christensen had a good view of the play as Tannehill went to the ground awkwardly after a practice dash.
“I just saw him buckle and go down,” Christensen said. “I saw it from a distance. I didn’t see any details. There was no-contact on the play.”
Christensen said he didn’t feel the air come out of practice, but it seemed that way to fans and observers.
“I think more probably the defense just got after the offense,” Christensen said. “I thought maybe for just a little bit. But again, the reaction has to be that that is this game. We faced it last year for a while. So as a coach you just kick into your coaching mode and go on to the next thing.”
Christensen, of course, hoped it wasn’t serious.
“Initial reaction is just ‘Hey, next man up’ and you’ve got to keep guys going,” Christensen said. “You can’t let the air go out of practice. That’s football and it’s going to happen somewhere in this season. So part of it is getting the right reaction, ‘Hey back in the huddle.’ The game doesn’t stop and u go on to the next play and we go. My personal reaction was ‘Boy, I sure hope it isn’t serious.’”
Christensen wasn’t ready to talk about the readiness of backup Matt Moore.
“You guys know how I feel about him,” Christensen said. “I love Matt Moore. But I sure don’t want to move on until we find out what the heck’s going on (with injury), but yeah, there’s a reason we have Matt Moore in here. We hope he never has to play and if he does he’ll be ready.”
DAVIE—The Dolphins were thrilled that defensive end Charles Harris lasted long enough in the NFL Draft for them to land him at No. 22, and what they’ve seen so far as confirmed their scouting assessment.
Harris has looked good during Organized Team Activities so far and has shown a great first step in the two open practices. While this is a watered-down version of what Miami will do during training camp—there’s no contact and the majority of the calls have been pass plays where defensive ends know they can race to the quarterback—it’s a promising first step. Continue reading “Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick Charles Harris starts strong in OTAs”
DAVIE — Two days before the Miami Dolphins were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a January playoff game, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh celebrated his 30th birthday.
Suh is a five-time Pro Bowler but he’s never won a playoff game.
And so as he approaches his eighth NFL season, Suh has taken an introspective approach to this point in his career, and this point in his life.
“For me personally, I’m definitely sick and tired of making it to the playoffs and not going further,” Suh said Tuesday, as Miami opened offseason training activity. “I think everybody feels that way.”
Suh said he hopes he stays healthy enough to play many more seasons.
But he understands that he’s no longer a youngster. In fact, Suh thought long and hard after hearing rookie defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor have tried to model themselves after him.
“I think, honestly, it’s flattering, and it says that I’m old. I’m 30 now, so it plays a little piece into it,” Suh said. “I think the more they say, they watched my play and then coming up from high school and then in college or whatnot … I’m without question embracing that…. I feel like any place in time, they’re going to be a part of this team, so [I want to] affect [them] in a positive way.”
Suh will continue to try to find ways to affect the game from the defensive tackle position, when he’s more often than not double-teamed. Interestingly, Suh suggested he’s discussed with his coaches altering his approach on some plays.
Last season, Suh played some defensive end and was effective when doing it. He said assistant defensive line coach Andre Carter has already approached him with some ideas.
“It’s going to let me be that much more sharp, finding that much more creative ways to be successful,” Suh said. “(Carter) noticed something in my game which I definitely know that I’m more of a brute strength type of pass rusher. I still have the ability to be very quick and have opportunities to have, for lack of a better word, a finesse type of game. It’s being able to mix and match those and have them come together. It’s great to have a guy like Andre who can point those things out to me, but it’s something I did in my self-scout.”
Miami’s defense has struggled against the run the past two seasons and Suh takes responsibility.
“I put a lot of it on myself in regards to your question about the run defense,” Suh said. “I’m supposed to be the anchor. I plan to be the anchor and continue to be that way.”
Suh believes the promotion of linebackers coach Matt Burke to defensive coordinator will be a smooth one. Suh and Burke are familiar with each other from both Miami and Detroit.
“This will be my sixth year with (Burke),” Suh said. “Four years in Detroit and obviously last year. I think there is going to be consistency there. So I think it will be easier for guys to understand where they need to be. And where they need to fit. The techniques need to become obviously a lot more sound. And then execution.”
Suh admitted that there was inadequate communication between all three levels of the defense last season. And he specifically noted how the addition of linebacker Lawrence Timmons should help.
“A linebacker has to bark out calls, get people lined up in different things of that nature,” Suh said. We didn’t always have the best communication between all three positions in the front, the linebackers and the DB’s, so I think he’ll add to that particular piece.”
Suh said Miami’s culture is evolving to the point where 10 wins and a playoff appearance are not satisfying enough.
“I think everybody feels that way,” Suh said. “Having a good conversation with (coach Adam Gase), with my time away and my time here, it’s a good feeling. It feels like guys weren’t satisfied with where we were at. It’s exciting, from my vantage point, to see hunger still. That was not OK the way we finished, especially the last two games of our season.”
The Miami Dolphins begin organized team practice activity on Tuesday at the team’s practice facility in Davie.
While no live contact is permitted, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
Miami’s OTA dates are May 23-25, May 30-June 1 and June 5-June 8.
The Dolphins will also have a mandatory minicamp from June 13-15.
So with no contact, what exactly can coaches and players get out of these practices?
• The Dolphins can gauge the physical conditioning of older veterans
• The Dolphins can see which second-year players seem ready to make a quantum leap
• The Dolphins can begin to assess the readiness of rookies to contribute early in the season
Here’s a look at 5 position groups we’ll be watching (OTAs are not open to the public but some sessions are open to the media) in the coming weeks:
Quarterback — We haven’t seen Ryan Tannehill operating Miami’s huddle since December 11, when a knee injury against at home against Arizona ended his season. According to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, “I don’t see (Tannehill) favoring it at all. He looks like the same guy.” Coach Adam Gase has said many times he does not expect Tannehill’s mobility to be limited, despite the plan to wear a knee brace. “He moves around fine,” Gase said. “He’s got a good edge that I like to him right now.” Gase said that Tannehill is pushing himself. It should be fascinating to see just how well Tannehill is really moving around and how comfortable he seems in Year 2 in Miami’s offense. A possible battle for third-string quarterback between Brandon Doughty and David Fales could be interesting to watch develop.
Linebacker — The Dolphins plan to cross-train players like Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons and rookie Raekwon McMillan at multiple positions. It would seem Timmons would take most of the early reps at inside linebacker with McMillan taking some, as it should be his eventual position. Miami already knows Alonso can play inside linebacker if needed. How does Koa Misi look in his return from a serious neck injury? How fast does Timmons look, at the age of 30? How fast does McMillan pick up what he has described as a defense more complex than the one he played in at Ohio State? How does McMillan look in pass coverage? Miami’s linebacking corps was a weakness last season. Could it become a strength?
Wide receiver — Does Jarvis Landry show any signs of annoyance if a contract negotiation drags on? Probably not. Landry is emotional but has to believe after seeing teammates get paid that he will, too. Will Kenny Stills bring the same intense focus and commitment to preparation after getting paid? No reason to believe he won’t. Will Leonte Carroo take a step forward to show why he was a third-round draft choice last season. This is a key moment in Carroo’s fledgling career. Will Jakeem Grant take a step forward in ball security? We know he’s explosive. And perhaps most importantly, does DeVante Parker show real proof that he is ready to emerge as a healthy, dynamic, consistent star? Parker believes he’s one of the best receivers in the league. Perhaps this offseason he shows he’s really ready to fulfill that prophecy.
Cornerback — All eyes will be on starting cornerback Xavien Howard, who missed two stints of his rookie season with a knee injury. Is Howard ready to become an upper-echelon starter? Could Howard see some reps at slot corner in case rookie Cordrea Tankersley is too good to keep out of the lineup? Will Bobby McCain or Tony Lippett struggle to the extent that their roster spot becomes jeopardized? Will Byron Maxwell show that he can provide tighter overall coverage than he did last season? Especially on crossing routes, Maxwell and Lippett must show they can stick closer to opposing wide receivers. Miami wants corners to play physical and tough, and in general there must be tighter coverage this season.
Running back — What a great chance to see if Jay Ajayi really is a much better receiver, as advertised by Christensen. What a great chance to see if Kenyan Drake is ready to become one of the best change-of-pace backs in the NFL. He needs more touches in 2017 and should see them. Will undrafted rookie De’Veon Smith make a gigantic impression this offseason and perhaps push for a roster spot? Without hitting in these OTAs, it’s really hard to judge trench play. But it will be interesting to look at the guard/center combinations Miami uses. With Mike Pouncey presumably out of OTAs, one would think Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen will get long looks there over the next month.
So you get off the couch and throw something at the television. And call your Mom. And call your best friend.
And the next day, perhaps, you start do something about it.
These hypothetical scenarios happened hundreds of times for current NFL players during free agency and the draft. Every team wants to create competition. Every team wants to draft a player who can eventually succeed an older, more expensive player who’s contract has expired — or, who they can cut.
NFL players don’t have guaranteed contracts. They don’t have guaranteed jobs. And, to be fair, this fact, while hotly debated in society, does create a scenario where most NFL players are generally highly motivated to stay in shape and train, practice and play hard.
All this is to lead to a point about the Miami Dolphins. It could be said that every player is under some type of pressure. But especially in light of the players Miami signed in free agency and added in the draft (though not exclusively based on those additions) here’s a look at 10 Miami Dolphins that frankly, should be feeling some extra pressure this offseason:
Koa Misi, linebacker — Misi took a reduction in pay, which helps ease some of the burden. But, technically, he could still be cut if he doesn’t show his value as an occasional pass rusher capable of stepping into the lineup if rookie Raekwon McMillan isn’t ready or Kiko Alonso or free-agent addition Lawrence Timmons have an issue. Misi (neck) needs to show he can stay healthy and is still capable of providing valuable depth to an improved linebacking corps.
Byron Maxwell, cornerback — Most forecasters project Maxwell as a starter this season and a salary cap casualty prior to next season, when he can be cut with $30 million left with no dead cap hit. But Maxwell has stiff competition from a reasonably deep cornerback group, including rookie Cordrea Tankersley. Maxwell made improvements over the course of last season, but finished the year injured. His performance will always be judged in comparison to his salary (he’d be the fourth highest-paid Dolphin in 2017).
Leonte Carroo, wide receiver — It’s going to be tough for Carroo to show all he can do while he’s stuck as the Dolphins’ fourth receiver. But Carroo must show in camp and the preseason that he can be a Miami starter, particularly if DeVante Parker or Kenny Stills were to be injured. Carroo will try to master the position of outside receiver. At times last season he was overwhelmed by trying to learn too many different positions. It’s too early to write off last year’s third rounder, but… there is pressure.
Jakeem Grant, wide receiver/returner — The Dolphins didn’t really draft or sign a player known as a dynamic return man. But let’s be honest, Jarvis Landry and Kenyan Drake can do it. And if Grant doesn’t clean up his ball security, say, midway through the preseason, there’s always a veteran or two available off the street.
Bobby McCain, cornerback — It would not be stunning if McCain lost his job as starting slot cornerback. There needs to be an improvement in overall consistency. It’s even possible Xavien Howard could move to the inside. Another corner who could be fighting for his NFL future is Tony Lippett. Do not be shocked if at the end of the preseason, McCain or Lippett is gone.
Jordan Phillips, defensive tackle — The Dolphins brought Dontari Poe in for a free-agent visit, but he signed with the Falcons. Then Miami drafted defensive tackles Davon Godcheaux and Vincent Taylor in the fifth and sixth rounds. How much does Phillips care if he’s ever recognized as reaching his vast potential? This is the year we all find out.
Cameron Wake, defensive end — It could be said that Wake has nothing to prove. He is a Dolphins icon. It is remarkable what he can still do at the age of 35. But Wake can continue to carry a chip on his shoulder, because some will always doubt how much he has left and how long he can possibly hold off youngsters like first-rounder Charles Harris.
Jermon Bushrod, guard — The Dolphins are adamant that Bushrod wasn’t as bad as Pro Football Focus suggested last season. The belief was Bushrod is as good as any of the free agent guards that were available in his price range. Bushrod is a warrior who plays through pain and he’s a respected leader. Miami is hoping he can do it for one more year. And that he’ll be improved in his second season at guard.
Ted Larsen, guard — Yes, Larsen just got here. But so did rookie guard Isaac Asiata, who is a nice, affable guy off the field and a a nasty mauler on the field. Asiata slipped to the fifth-round but he has the talent and toughness to beat out Larsen (or Bushrod) in camp or the preseason. Coach Adam Gase is not afraid to play a rookie if either of these former Bears doesn’t seem up to the task.
Ja’Wuan James, offensive tackle — The Dolphins picked up James’ fifth-year option because they clearly believe that after this season (his fourth) it could look like a bargain. But consider that fifth-year options are only guaranteed for injury and technically if James has a terrible 2017, he could still be cut before the 2018 season. James has the physical tools to be an above-average tackle but he needs to improve on some inconsistencies he exhibited in 2016.
DAVIE — Miami Dolphins rookie defensive end Charles Harris said Tuesday he’s not worried about practicing next week, even if he has yet to sign his contract.
“I don’t care at all,” Harris said. “Contract, no contract, I’m still going hard. It’s one thing the coaches will tell you. It’s not going to make any difference how I play. I’m still going 100 percent. I’m still first one in, last one out.”
Harris spoke prior to a Dolphins rookie event in which the players hosted Special Olympics athletes from Broward and Miami-Dade counties to promote physical fitness in the South Florida community.
The Dolphins rookies played flag-football games and refereed games with Special Olympics athletes in grades 6-12.
The first Dolphins organized team activity is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 23. The Dolphins have announced six of the team’s seven rookies have signed their contract.
An unsigned player can participate if they sign a letter of protection guaranteeing their contract.
Harris said veterans Cameron Wake and Andre Branch have already been offering some help.
“They’ve talked to me about technique,” Harris said. “Preaching technique. Getting the basics down and fundamentals of the defense. Also understanding the ‘why.’ It’s one thing to do something, it’s another thing to understand why you’re doing it. So getting the ‘why’ behind everything and getting a feel for the whole system.”
Harris said he was happy to give back to the community he’s just joined.
“It’s a great opportunity to get our minds off football,” Harris said. “We’ve been in the film room, been in the weight room with the vets. It’s always great to have a moment just to breathe. Even just to give back. Giving back keeps us energized and keeps us moving forward.”