Newsflash! Here’s where you can now find our latest Miami Dolphins content

Coach Adam Gase and quarterback Ryan Tannehill are enthused about the Palm Beach Post’s plan for Miami Dolphins content. They know where to click. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

It’s not that we don’t love this space, it’s just, we’ve found something that better suits our needs.

And, we think, yours too.

This is important, so please pay attention:

Bookmark the following page as your new destination for the latest and best Palm Beach Post Miami Dolphins content:

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/sports/dolphins/

Thanks for allowing us to serve you in the 2018 season and beyond.

-Palm Beach Post Sports

 

 

 

 

Miami Dolphins rookie LB Mike McCray, a favorite of Stephen Ross, retires before training camp

McCray ended his NFL career before it really got going. (Getty Images)

It’s always surprising to see a young player retire from football, but the recent decision by Dolphins rookie Mike McCray was especially unusual considering he was headed into training camp with a realistic chance of making the roster at linebacker.

McCray, a 23-year-old who shined at Michigan before joining the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent, went through all the rigors of the offseason before opting to step away Tuesday.

“I am so much more than just (an) athlete,” McCray wrote on Twitter to announce his move. “For some time now, I have been playing the game of football for the wrong reasons and during this time I sacrificed my happiness and well-being. I want to encourage those reading this to do what feels good on the inside and not what looks good on the outside.”

He added that he intends to stay involved with football despite no longer being a player. The Dolphins placed him on the Reserve/Retired List and signed undrafted rookie linebacker Frank Ginda to fill his spot.

McCray was a favorite of owner Stephen Ross, a fellow Michigan man, and looked good in his first few months with Miami. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke praised him and fellow undrafted linebacker Cayson Collins late in Organized Team Activities, and the team has been looking for depth at the position.

McCray had 79 tackles, including 16 for negative yardage in his senior season, and was named to the honorable mention list for the all-Big Ten team. He felt teams underestimated him leading up to the draft and said in May he was bent on proving them wrong.

“Everybody that wasn’t drafted probably feels the same way, but right now I’m just coming in and trying to help the team win,” he said. “That’s my biggest goal right now.

“I bring a good football IQ. I work hard and play hard every play, no matter if we’re winning or losing. I just want to help the team win. I’m a good leader as well.”

The Dolphins are going forward with Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan as projected starting linebackers, with another 3-4 spots open for competition. Veterans Stephone Anthony, Mike Hull, Chase Allen and others will battle with draft picks Jerome Baker (third round) and Quentin Poling (seventh).

[Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake philosophizes on what it takes to be elite]

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase is more confident than ever that he’s got a winning roster]

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

Jason Taylor, Sam Madison bullish on Dolphins’ chances with Ryan Tannehill at QB

Former Dolphin Jason Taylor speaks at Pierson Park in Wellington, Florida on July 17, 2018. The Western Communities Football League is hosting the WCFL Tackle Football Showcase July 17th – 19th at the WCFL Football Fields in Pierson Park, Wellington. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

WELLINGTON – Make sure not to count former Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison among those who think the Miami Dolphins would be wise to part ways with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“Ryan’s always been on the same page with Coach Gase since he’s been here,” said Madison, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins from 1997-2005. “No matter what offensive coordinator (he has), Ryan Tannehill has picked up the offense faster than everybody else. Now, it seems and should be that everyone is on the same page because they’ve been in the system a couple years.”

Tannehill, who turns 30 on July 27, missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Tannehill led the Dolphins to an 8-5 record in 13 games two seasons ago, completing a career-high 67.1 percent of his passes for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

[RELATED: ‘Everything moves smoother’ as Ryan Tannehill again takes command of Miami Dolphins]

The Dolphins have yet to win a playoff game in Tannehill’s tenure, however, and some fans continue to call for a change at the quarterback position.

Dolphins Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor, whose retirement in Jan. 2012 predated Tannehill’s drafting by three months, also expressed optimism in what the former Texas A&M star can do this season.

“If you can keep him healthy, we’re one year removed from being a playoff team,” Taylor said. “I think they’re in good shape and the next month (will tell) a big story. If you can get out of training camp into September in one piece, you’re set.”

Former Dolphin Jason Taylor (center) watches at Pierson Park in Wellington, Florida on July 17, 2018. The Western Communities Football League is hosting the WCFL Tackle Football Showcase July 17th – 19th at the WCFL Football Fields in Pierson Park, Wellington. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Taylor and Madison, now coaches at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, are serving as guest coaches this week at the Western Communities Football Tackle Football Showcase at Wellington’s Pierson Park.

[RELATED: Former Dolphins Taylor, Madison stress safety at youth football camp]

Whatever Tannehill does this season will be without two of his biggest weapons from 2016, as running back Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia last October and the Dolphins sent Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry to Cleveland in March. Landry posted a career-high 112 catches and nine touchdowns last season without Tannehill, but he failed to crack the 1,000-yard mark.

Miami signed former New England Patriots wideout Danny Amendola and Chiefs receiver Albert Wilson this offseason. Former Miami Hurricanes running back Frank Gore also signed with the team and will partner with Kenyan Drake for a 1-2 punch in the backfield.

“Yes, we added a couple new pieces, but they can learn on the fly,” Madison said. “As long as the major key points to this football team are in place, ready to go, and everyone can play extremely fast, you’ll see some playmaking ability out there.”

Miami Dolphins: What they’re now worth is eye-opening

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross after win over the Texans at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 25, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Miami Dolphins are the 25th-most valuable sports franchise in the world, according to Forbes.

The Dolphins are worth $2.575 billion, which outranks some other notable franchises such as the Green Bay Packers (2.55), Boston Celtics (2.5), Manchester City (2.474), Arsenal (2.238) and the New York Mets (2.1).

As Forbes notes, the NFL is king in the world of sports.

Thirty-seven percent of Americans picked football as their favorite sport to watch in the latest Gallup Poll, Forbes reports. Basketball, baseball and soccer trail at 11, 9 and 7 percent.

NFL teams each earn $255 million in shared television rights. The most valuable franchises in the world are the: Dallas Cowboys (4.84 billion), Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, New York Yankees, New England Patriots, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Giants and Golden State Warriors.

The NFL lands 29 teams among the 50 most valuable sports franchises for the second straight year, according to Forbes.

Owner Stephen Ross reportedly completed his purchase of 95 percent of the Dolphins for $1 billion in 2009. The year before, Ross bought 50 percent of the franchise, Dolphin Stadium and surrounding land for $550 million.

Ross has spent more than $550 million to turn Hard Rock Stadium into a world-class facility, which also improves the value of the franchise.

Roller coaster ride for Miami Dolphins G Jesse Davis reaches highest point yet

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

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

 

 

 

 

It’s Cordrea Tankersley’s job to lose — but what if Tony Lippett gets healthy for Miami Dolphins?

Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley deflects a pass away from Atlanta’s Austin Hooper, which resulted in a Reshad Jones interception to seal a win for Miami. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

CB Cordrea Tankersley

Height, weight: 6-1, 200

College: Clemson

Age: 24

Experience: Second NFL season, both with Dolphins

Acquired: Third-round pick in 2017

Contract: In second year of four-year, $3.2 million rookie contract

Pro Football Focus rank: 93rd out of 121

In 2017

Stats: Started 11 games; had 31 tackles and seven passes defensed

Notable moments: Broke up a Matt Ryan pass that Reshad Jones intercepted with 47 seconds left to clinch a comeback win in Atlanta. … Had six tackles and two passes defensed vs. Bucs.

Straight talk: Tankersley says he’s not looking over his shoulder. The Dolphins don’t want him to.

Tankersley said he considered it a “no-brainer” that “it’s my job to lose” — before coach Adam Gase said he wanted Tankersley to look at it that way.

It’s entirely possible that it will become more of a competition if and when Tony Lippett, the 2016 starter, rebounds after tearing his Achilles during the 2017 preseason. More on Lippett in a moment.

First, Tankersley. He never had time to catch his breath when making the leap from a big-time college program to the NFL, which is a luxury you’d prefer with cornerbacks.

Gase gave a lukewarm review of what he saw last season: “It’s hard to say. I think he got better. I think there were times where he wishes he could go back and do some things different. But that’s the rookie year.”

Now, it’s Year 2.

“My next step is to become one of the best corners in the league,” Tankersley said.

Prospects for 2018

Xavien Howard has the other cornerback spot nailed down. The wild card is Lippett, the converted receiver who started 13 games in 2016 and had four interceptions.

Lippett clearly had a way to go health-wise in the spring. Gase said the approach was to get Lippett “feeling as 100 percent as he possibly can for training camp.”

Lippett wasn’t necessarily pointing toward getting his starting job back. It was too early for that.

“Right now I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Lippett said. “Just getting better. Knocking off the rust.”

Lippett has gotten advice from ex-Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who overcame the same injury and made the Pro Bowl.

***

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

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

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Dolphins receiver Jakeem Grant breaks a tackle by inside linebacker Reggie Ragland of the Chiefs en route to a 65-yard touchdown in December. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

WR Jakeem Grant

Height, weight: 5-7, 169

College: Texas Tech

Age: 25

Experience: Entering third season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Drafted by Dolphins in sixth round in 2016

Contract: Due to earn $665,095 in 2018, with contract to expire after 2019 season

Pro Football Focus rank: Unranked

In 2017

Stats: Returned 25 punts for 7.6 average; returned 31 kickoffs for 22.8 average; caught 13 passes for 203 yards (15.6 average) and two TDs

Notable moments: Recorded first career reception vs. Jets in September. … Had two good days vs. the Patriots, averaging 24.3 yards on kickoff returns in first meeting, then scoring his first career TD on a 25-yard catch in the rematch. … Caught four passes for 107 yards and a TD at K.C.

Straight talk: After a rookie season in which Grant didn’t catch a pass, it was tempting to wonder if the blazing speed he possesses was just a tease — if he was more suited to running on a track than a football field. Doubly so because of his size. 

And then something special happened just before halftime at Kansas City. Grant caught a screen pass from Jay Cutler. Grant was quickly surrounded by three Chiefs, which actually was the least of his concerns. Bearing down on the smallest Dolphin from 2 yards away was a fourth defender, safety Ron Parker, who’s 6-feet and 206. No problem. Grant lowered his shoulder and ran through Parker. Only after having showed off power we didn’t know he had, Grant then accelerated into high gear, cruising the final 40 yards for a 65-yard score.

“Didn’t think I was going to run him over, but I ended up doing it,” Grant said. “When he fell off, it was easy running.”

Keep in mind that also in December, Grant went up over former Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, who’s 5-11, for his 25-yard TD.

“I just made a great play,” said Grant, who’s never short on confidence. “I used my ability, which people don’t know, being a short guy, I can jump. I can dunk a basketball.”

Bottom line: “I’m just a big guy stuck in a little guy’s body.”

Prospects for 2018

It would be crazy to say everything from here on will be easy for Grant. It’s premature to say he has arrived in this league. But it’s not jumping the gun to say now that Jarvis Landry is gone and the receiving corps is being reconfigured, Grant will have more opportunities than ever to show what a little seasoning can do.

“Jakeem got some opportunities this year and made the most of them,” coach Adam Gase said. “We had high expectations going in, especially after training camp, that we felt like there was going to be a little bit of a jump there.”

Interestingly, Gase said Grant “lost a little juice” around midseason after getting “beat up” on returns, which makes his late-season performances even more meaningful.

With Landry in Cleveland and Kenyan Drake the starting running back, Grant will be heavily relied upon as a return man, but he wants to make one thing clear:

“I’m a receiver before I’m a return specialist,” he said.

***

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

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

 

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

DeVante Parker has yet to live up to his draft slot. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

WR DeVante Parker

Height, weight: 6-3, 216

College: Louisville

Age: 25

Experience: Fourth NFL season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: First-round pick in 2015

Contract: In fourth year of rookie contract, due to earn $3.4 million. Dolphins have picked up his fifth-year option.

Pro Football Focus rank: 53rd out of 116

In 2017

Stats: Started 12 of 13 games played; had 57 receptions for 670 yards (11.8 average) and one TD

Notable moments: Caught eight passes for 76 yards and only TD of the season at the Jets. … Caught six passes for 89 yards at Bills.

Straight talk: “It was not where I wanted to be. It’s as simple as that.”

That was Parker’s summation of his first three NFL seasons, blunt talk that matches what fans are thinking.

Had Parker been a third-round pick, his career totals of 139 catches, 1,909 yards and eight touchdowns would be viewed in an entirely different light. (Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, a third-rounder, has 1,816 yards and nine TDs.) Parker’s problems are that he carries the burden of being a 14th overall pick who has started only half of his team’s games, has only three 100-yard performances, has never scored more than one touchdown in a game and has never topped 750 yards in a season.

As the Dolphins once again are hoping this year will be the year for Parker, it’s worth pointing out that as they attempted to upgrade their receiving corps in 2015, having just parted with Mike Wallace, they actually did about as well as they could in the draft.

Six receivers were taken in the first round that year. Amari Cooper clearly was the best of them — he has been to two Pro Bowls, has 2,903 yards and 18 TDs — but he was snatched by the Raiders with the fourth overall pick.

Parker has been the best of the rest. Consider:

Kevin White, Bears (No. 7 overall): Limited to five career games because of injuries. Chicago declined to pick up his fifth-year option.

Parker (No. 14): 139 receptions, 1,909 yards, eight TDs.

Nelson Agholor, Eagles (No. 20): Close to Parker with 121 catches, 1,416 yards, 11 TDs.

Breshad Perriman, Ravens (No. 26): 43 catches, 576 yards, three TDs.

Phillip Dorsett, Colts/currently with Patriots (No. 29): 63 catches, 947 yards, three TDs.

Will this year be the “gigantic” year the Dolphins expected of Parker last year? Nobody is buying that until they see it. For now, it’s hard to tell if there are signs of change. Fellow receiver Jakeem Grant said Parker’s preparation this offseason is “way different” than last year.

“I think he definitely wants to go out there and prove to people he’s better than what people think he is. He’s not just a guy that continually gets hurt or whatever. … He’s going to be great. Without doubt, he’s going to be one of the top receivers in this league.”

For the most part, though, the Dolphins have attempted to tone down such rhetoric, with receivers coach Ben Johnson saying rather than making “these giant claims,” he’s taking the “one day at a time” approach.

When Parker was asked if he changed anything to cut back on nagging injuries, he curiously replied, “Right now I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing that’s been working.”

Has it been working? You decide. As for the Dolphins in 2018 …

“I don’t think there is any question what anybody feels he can do,” coach Adam Gase said. “I don’t even think it’s a potential thing. I think it’s a health thing.”

Prospects for 2018

The Dolphins protected themselves by picking up the fifth-year option on Parker’s contract. It’s worth $9.5 million but if Parker flops, Miami has the option of cutting him.

“To me, it’s been a different guy this offseason,” Johnson said. “He understands the urgency and how important this year is.”

It’s possible new life will be breathed into Parker’s career with the changing dynamics of the receiving corps. QB Ryan Tannehill is back. Jarvis Landry is not. In short, it’s highly unlikely any receiver on this team will have triple-digit catches like Landry did.

Instead, look for the Dolphins to spread the ball around among Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and rookie TE Mike Gesicki. Then, it’ll become a matter of how much Parker makes himself available to make the big plays the Dolphins have long expected of him.

***

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

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

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Laremy Tunsil ‘played like a rookie’ in his first season at left tackle, one Dolphins coach said. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

OT Laremy Tunsil

Height, weight: 6-5, 318

College: Ole Miss

Age: Will be 24 this season

Experience: Third season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: First-round pick in 2016

Contract: In third year of his four-year, $12.4 million rookie deal

Pro Football Focus rank: 47th out of 81

In 2017

Stats: Started 15 games

Straight talk: Long after last season ended, coach Adam Gase was still counting up all the curveballs thrown the Dolphins’ way.

You can include Tunsil’s first season at left tackle among them.

The Dolphins thought they had a steal when Tunsil fell to them in the 2016 draft, and if they thought they could just plug him in at his natural position, left tackle, after a rookie season at guard, both the team and the player learned that wasn’t the case.

L.T. the LT still has some growing to do.

“There’s probably a lot of us sitting here that thought it would be an easy transition for him,” Gase said.

One of them isn’t Tunsil.

“I never assumed it was going to be easy,” Tunsil said. “Playing left tackle at the highest level of football, I never thought it would be easy.”

It wasn’t until the offseason workouts were ending that Tunsil truly opened up on his performance in 2017.

“It was a bad taste — a horrible taste,” he said. ” … I knew I could have been better. Now I’m here, a new season, a new person. Let’s get it.”

As last season wore on, Gase said he saw “a different side” of Tunsil, one in which he developed a better sense of professionalism. Tunsil knew things had to change to cut down on sacks allowed and penalties, including avoidable pre-snap infractions.

“At times I think he would tell you that he’s felt like a rookie and he’s played like a rookie,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said in December.

Tunsil didn’t offer a dissenting opinion. Asked what he took from his 2017 performance, he said, “It was a bad taste — a horrible taste.”

Even in the memorable Monday night win over the Patriots, things weren’t as they needed to be. Gase described Tunsil’s inconsistent play as “four good, one bad,” which won’t cut it going against elite pass rushers.

Despite an affable personality, there were stretches last year in which Tunsil kept to himself, declining interview requests in what could be seen as a sign of frustration. One exception was in early December, when he was asked how he could better deal with speed off the edge.

“Continue to get better with my practice habits and just work,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Prospects for 2018

The Dolphins remain optimistic Tunsil will be the player they expected him to be when he was drafted, so there’s a good chance he’ll be Miami’s left tackle for years to come. Improvement must come immediately, because he’ll be the main bodyguard for Ryan Tannehill and Tannehill’s surgically repaired knee.

One positive development this offseason was the acquisition of former Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton from the Bears and Packers, who should give Tunsil a Branden Albert-like veteran who can offer advice and support.

“That was something that I brought up myself,” Sitton said, referring to when he was negotiating to sign with the Dolphins. “I’ve always been that type of player, to give my knowledge or whatever to anybody that is younger than me, and especially going into Year 11 now, I’ve learned a lot, a lot thing. I think it’s your duty as an older guy to bring those young guys along with you.”

Tunsil says he’s ready to go.

“A new season, a new person,” he said. “Let’s get it.”

***

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

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

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

DT Jordan Phillips

Height, weight: 6-6, 341

College: Oklahoma

Age: Will turn 26 early this season

Experience: Fourth NFL season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Drafted in second round in 2015

Contract: Due to earn $1.3 million in final year of rookie contract; unrestricted free agent after this season

Pro Football Focus rank: 74th out of 122

In 2017

Stats: Started 11 of 13 games played; had 16 tackles, two sacks and three passes defensed

Notable moments: Had two tackles, one sack and one pass defensed vs. Broncos

Straight talk: Phillips says he wants to be a great player.

He says he wants to be elite.

Let’s look at the numbers and see if they’re trending in that direction, shall we?

We’ll begin by looking at the three interior linemen on the AFC Pro Bowl roster last year. Because if you want to be elite, you should compare yourself to them.

Geno Atkins of the Bengals had 46 tackles and nine sacks.

Jurrell Casey of the Titans had 41 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble.

Malik Jackson of the Jaguars had 40 tackles, eight sacks, three passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Reminder from above: Phillips had 16 tackles (a career low), two sacks and three passes defensed.

“I felt like I accomplished what I was trying to do,” Phillips said. “I had a better year, still wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but showed improvement and that’s all you can ask for.”

Is it, really?

Maybe that average of 1.2 tackles per game seems low. Actually, for Phillips, it’s exactly that: average. In 44 career games, he has made 58 tackles, or 1.3 per game. He has never forced nor recovered a fumble. He has never made more than four tackles in a game.

This, while playing next to Ndamukong Suh, who allegedly was attracting the attention of offensive coordinators.

While we’re on the subject of numbers, let’s go back one year. Curiously, coach Adam Gase didn’t want to get into the subject of Phillips’ weight at the time, but Phillips did. He said he was trying to get down to 320 pounds after playing the 2017 season at 336.

His weight last spring: 335.

Phillips’ weight this spring: 341. (Perhaps the Dolphins decided that dropping weight wasn’t in his best interest. Perhaps they didn’t.)

At least last offseason, Phillips admitted he’d shown a “hot and cold motor” to that point. He recognized the need to be consistent. Coaches seemed to figure out which buttons to push with him and often pointed to his physical gifts and the gut feeling he was turning the corner. Gase said Phillips can be unblockable at times.

Such optimism wasn’t unfounded. Last season, Phillips had two good performances against the Patriots and one against the Broncos. He had an 8-yard sack of Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick that should have given the Dolphins a safety (the NFL later admitted the officials goofed).

But you know the rest. Too often, Phillips hasn’t been as visible and has displayed a curious attitude, such as saying “go ask the coaches” why he was relegated to backup duty last preseason, as if he were clueless and powerless about it. This offseason, when asked if he expected to see more snaps now that Suh is gone, he said, “I couldn’t tell you,” Phillips said.  “I mean if that’s the message you guys got, then roll with it, I guess.”

Prospects for 2018

There are reasons to think there’s a good chance Phillips will start alongside Davon Godchaux at defensive tackle. A contract year is one. The flashes he showed late last season are others.

But Phillips will have to earn it, and if coaches sense his motor is running cold, they have options. Akeem Spence saw ample first-team duty in the spring. He started 11 games for the Lions last season. And he had better numbers: 39 tackles, three and one forced fumble.

This will be a position to watch this preseason.

***

Photos: Live from Miami Dolphins OTAs in Davie

Don’t be so fast to typecast Miami Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant as only a track guy in cleats

Will changing dynamics of Miami Dolphins receivers be a jolt for DeVante Parker’s career?

Miami Dolphins’ fortunes revolve around Ryan Tannehill’s knee, putting heat on ‘new person’ Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips wants to be elite. How close is he?

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

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

Miami Dolphins’ T.J. McDonald could benefit from ‘stress-free’ training camp

Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald celebrates after a stop on Dion Lewis of the Patriots. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

S T.J. McDonald

Height, weight: 6-2, 223

College: USC

Age: 27

Experience: Sixth season, second with Dolphins

Acquired: As unrestricted free agent in March 2017

Contract: Received a four-year, $24.1 million contract last season

Pro Football Focus rank: 59th out of 120

In 2017

Stats: 8 games played, 45 tackles, one interception

Notable moments: Made nine tackles in Dolphins debut, vs. Carolina in November. … Intercepted Trevor Siemian on first possession of Denver game. … Made seven tackles in home victory over New England.

Straight talk: Even though he made an instant impact when inserted into the lineup midway through last season, T.J. McDonald walked away in January thinking about what could have been.

“Not being able to help my team in the first eight weeks definitely was hard — the hardest part of the year for me,” said McDonald, who served an eight-game NFL suspension stemming from a DUI arrest. “Then coming back, being in a new scheme, hopping in the middle of something — it was just a little different.”

He wondered what it would have been like if he had a full season next to Reshad Jones, another hard-hitting safety who’s a Pro Bowl talent. He was already looking forward to the 2018 season, when he could “hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Matt Burke said he’d consider using McDonald more often in a hybrid safety/linebacker role. The wrinkle, Burke pointed out, is if you slide McDonald into the box, someone has to be back there filling the spot he vacated.

Then, two things happened that further muddied the picture.

First, the Dolphins drafted Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round, fueling speculation he could be that someone filling the vacant spot and triggering a move of McDonald to linebacker.

Finally, when coach Adam Gase was asked about all this, he flat-out said, “T.J. is playing safety. If we have to make adjustments somewhere. … He’s not moving to linebacker. He’s going to be a safety and then we’re going to figure out a way to get our best 11 players on the field.”

So a year ago, the Dolphins and McDonald were in getting-to-know-you mode and today, there’s still an element of that. What’s clear is that Jones, McDonald and Fitzpatrick are among the 11 best defensive players, so one option is a three-safety formation, which also would eliminate guesswork as to who will be the third linebacker next to Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan.

“There may be some three-safety packages where they’re all on the field together,” Burke said. “There may be times where T.J. and Reshad are a better grouping for us or Minkah and Reshad are a better grouping for us or something else. I don’t know. I think our challenge, again, as a coaching staff, is to get the best feel for how to utilize those guys best — what each of their strengths are — so when we get into a game-plan situation, ‘Hey, this guy is better at doing this,’ or, ‘We can put all these guys and maybe use this guy this way,’ or that sort of thing.”

McDonald contributed in 2017 but measured his words in assessing his play.

“Eh,” he said. “My first game back, that was the most comfortable I was, just because I was playing off of adrenaline and so excited to come back.”

But McDonald, who made nine tackles in that game against the Panthers, hedged when asked if he felt uncomfortable as the season wore on.

“I was playing more stress-free” early, he said.

Prospects for 2018

Since the Dolphins have two divisional games in the first month of the season, they might be exceptionally vanilla in August to avoid tipping their hand, but a storyline to watch in camp will be how this three-headed safety rotation plays out.

McDonald said he arrived at Dolphins camp feeling he had to prove himself and had only eight games in which to do it. After the season, he said he was looking forward to starting fresh.

“Just having a clear head,” he said.

***

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