Miami Dolphins coordinator on Kalen Ballage: ‘You draw them up like that’

Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — We’ll see what happens when the pads go on and the players are tackling and hitting and — blocking.

We’ll see how rookie running back Kalen Ballage looks when the real NFL stuff starts. But man, Ballage looks good in that number 33 aqua and orange jersey this spring.

“The obvious thing is what you guys see,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Wednesday. “When he walks through the door, you draw them up like that. He’s big, he’s good in protection, can catch the ball, can be a matchup issue in the passing game.”

Ballage will always be linked to former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, because he was drafted out of Arizona State with the pick acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for the former Pro Bowler.

But Ballage is taller, heavier and faster. The dude looks the part.

Again, though, Ajayi was a physical, relentless beast on game day. And we don’t yet know how Ballage will react to NFL Sundays.

“Where he needs to grow is the NFL game and nickel protections and learning that stuff, because that’s obviously the biggest transition in the NFL is going in there and you’ve got odd defenses and you’ve got spinners and floaters and trap blitzes and all of those things,” Loggains said. “He’s got to master that stuff. The more exposure that he gets, the better he’s going to get at it.”

Ballage has opened some eyes at open practices because of his impressive size combined with smooth glide. It would be a good bet he was first offensive player off the bus in high school and college. Ballage slipped to the fourth round of the last NFL Draft, but it wasn’t because of a lack of physical ability.

So why did he slip?

“(General manager) Chris Grier could answer that better than I can,” Loggains said. “I liked him and was really fired up when we drafted him.”

The Dolphins have a nice running back tandem of flashy Kenyan Drake and warhorse Frank Gore. But with Ajayi and Damien Williams traded and unsigned, there is an outstanding opportunity for Ballage to enter the season as Miami’s third back.

Drake would tell Ballage to be more ready as a rookie than he was. Because you never know when you’ll be tapped.

“You want guys and you really like a guy that can play on all three downs,” Loggains said. “You don’t want to be limited by smaller stature guys that you’ve got to take out on third down or a guy that … (Kenyan) Drake is a guy that can play all three downs. I think Kalen fits that vision as well. He can catch the football. He can be a weapon out of the backfield; but he’s also big enough in pass pro.”

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New Dolphins DE Robert Quinn bending minds with flexibility

Robert Quinn celebrates a sack for the L.A. Rams. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

DAVIE — Robert Quinn is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and he’s strong and he’s fast and yet his most valuable asset is one coaches and players at Miami Dolphins camp have been having a hard time wrapping their minds around.

How Quinn bends.

Defensive ends like Quinn are taught to fire off the ball as quickly as they can, aim toward an outside edge and then at precisely the right moment, stick a foot in the ground and pivot toward the helpless quarterback, crushing and rendering him lifeless.

You can’t just be fast. You can’t just be strong. You have to know how to contort your body. And contort Quinn does.

“He’s a unique athlete,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “He bends probably as good as anybody I’ve ever been around. It’s weird to watch sometimes, to be honest with you. He comes off the corner and sometimes you think he’s actually rushing too high and gets past the quarterback, then he just turns his foot and plants it and bends it. His knee is about two feet off the ground and he can really hug it.  It’s pretty fun.”

In a recent news conference, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill brought it up, without even being asked.

“It’s incredible how he bends the corner and his hips are two feet off the ground, but he’s running full speed around the corner,” Tannehill said.

Recent first round draft choice Charles Harris, a defensive end, seemed to speak with reverence, and a tinge of jealousy, about how Quinn is able to control and direct his body.

“Rob, seeing him practice and seeing him going through cornering drills and stuff, it’s just like ‘Dang, how do you do it?’” Harris said. “It’s also motivating. For me, I look at it as I had the most bend on the team. Seeing him going through all of that is like, I’ve got to get my stuff together.”

Quinn dominated the NFL from 2012-2014, with 10.5, 19 and 10.5 sacks. But battling injuries, he took a step back the following two seasons and then recorded 8.5 last year, but never fully grew comfortable with a transition to linebacker.

Quinn is back at defensive end in Miami, and being asked to do one thing really well.

“Get on your aiming point, key the ball and go as fast as you can go as hard as you can go,” defensive line coach Kris Kocurek said.

Miami players are openly raving about how they’re going to attack more this season. Last season, there was so much emphasis on gap integrity and slowing the opposing run with proper reads.

The Dolphins feel to be their best on defense, they’ll need to unleash Quinn, Cam Wake, Harris and Andre Branch.

There hasn’t been any tackling at Dolphins practices yet, of course. But it’s hard to miss Quinn’s speed, athleticism and ridiculous bendability. Is it any wonder he’s been dubbed “Gumby” in the past?

“Flexibility,” Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor said. He’s very flexible. Just the way I see him bend the corner and how low he gets, and just getting around all of those tackles, he’s a very special player. He’s very flexible.”

Burke, who has seen a lot of special pass rushers in his NFL career, has actually been taken aback by watching Quinn practice.

“He’s another guy that doesn’t really say much,” Burke said. “He just kind of comes out to work. He’s got a smile on his face. But just from an athletic standpoint, to me, he has a rare bend ability. That’s his trait and it’s almost disarming to watch at times, the way he can corner.”

Miami Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley: ‘It’s my job to lose’

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Minkah Fitzpatrick on how Nick Saban, Adam Gase compare

Miami Dolphins’ Charles Harris modeling game after Robert Quinn

Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki has ‘flashed’

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Miami Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley: ‘It’s my job to lose’

Miami Dolphins’ Cordrea Tankersley deflects the ball from Atlanta Falcons’ Austin Hooper last season. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

DAVIE — At the NFL owner’s meetings in March, Dolphins coach Adam Gase outlined the approach he wanted cornerback Cordrea Tankersley to take into this season.

“We’d love to see him come in really with the mindset of that’s his spot and he’s not going anywhere and really be aggressive as far as not let anybody take that spot that he’s had,” Gase said.

Tankersley said Wednesday that Gase addressed that directly with him.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Tankersley said. “I kind of had the idea myself that it’s my job to lose kind of a deal. He definitely let me know that. And it’s just extra motivation.”

Tankersley started 11 games as a rookie, picking up 24 tackles and 7 passes defended.

What’s the next step in his game?

“My next step is to become one of the best corners in the league,” Tankersley said. “I’m still learning from the guys on the team. Just stepping up and being more aggressive. I feel like I can be more aggressive in my second year. Take what I learned last year. Step it up a notch.”

Tankersley said the biggest adjustment he had to make as a rookie was to the speed of the league. Tankersley was very good on short passes. He played a physical style. And he was an excellent tackler.

To reach the next level, he’ll need to continue to work on his his footwork, ball recognition and downfield plays. Tony Lippett, who is returning from an Achilles injury, is more vulnerable underneath but excellent on balls deep in the air.

“It’s hard to say,” Gase said of Tankersley. “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.”

The Dolphins expect Xavien Howard to emerge as a legitimate number one, shutdown corner this season. But one area of concern is definitely the level of play they can expect opposite Howard.

There is not a lot of depth at cornerback. And Miami needs Tankersley to grow quickly.

“I feel like we have competition all over the field,” Tankersley said.

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What Miami Dolphins OC Dowell Loggains said Wednesday

Dolphins listening to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Here is some of what Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Wednesday:

• It’s a great problem to have with four wide receivers, knowing all might not start. Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson are quarterback friendly. It could be a matchup situation.

• Everything in this league is earned, including rookie tight ends moving up the depth chart. They are finding out what Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe can do.

• The Bears graded DeVante Parker really high. Loggains thinks he has really good work ethic. He’s spent a lot of time in the building. He is a professional. He is trying to get better. We tell him, ‘keep stacking good days.’

• I see eye to eye with Jakeem Grant. But he is explosive. He’s flashed. He is an excellent returner. There is big time playmaker potential. We keep expanding his route tree. Short in stature but he does not play short.

• Kalen Ballage will need to block to play on Sundays. Ballage looks the part. Ballage is big and strong and fast. And can catch.

• Jesse Davis has made the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. He is doing better with his hands.

• Laremy Tunsil vs. Robert Quinn is a joy to watch. Quinn will expose you if you don’t come ready to practice.

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Miami Dolphins’ Charles Harris modeling game after Robert Quinn

Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris celebrates. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Miami Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes tried to introduce his teammate Charles Harris to former teammate Robert Quinn last season, when they were all in Los Angeles.

“(Hayes) was telling me ‘That is somebody you need to model your game after,” Harris said Tuesday. “You need to talk to (him).'”

The meeting at Quinn’s house didn’t happen. But less than a year later, Quinn was traded to the Dolphins.

“I’ve got somebody to learn after,” Harris said. “(Quinn’s) a big-time great player, great guy… So far he’s been a great guy to go to for any questions. He’s a really low key humble guy and he just does his job. He’s a great mentor.”

Earlier Tuesday, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was asked about Harris and folded a remark about Quinn into the conversation.

“(Harris is) moving well,” Tannehill said. “I think our rushers, we have some really good rushers. You see Rob Quinn coming around the edge and it’s incredible how he bends the corner and his hips are two feet off the ground, but he’s running full speed around the corner. You can point it out with Charles (Harris)’ speed. Cam (Wake) and his presence that he has out there on the outside. We have a deep group of rushers. Will Hayes is going to come in and play strong. I’m really excited about our d-line group and how they come off the ball, especially on the outside with the pass rush.”

On paper, Miami should have one of the best group of pass rushers in the NFL. But sacks don’t happen on paper. Harris had only two sacks as a first-round rookie. And though he won’t disclose specific goals, he has lofty ones.

“You’re going to see them,” he said.

Harris did say he feels like a much different player than he was one year ago.

“The guy here today, I know who I am,” Harris said. “There are a lot of voids coming out of college that go into being a real adult. There are a lot of voids and a lot of things you have to do to find yourself. There are a lot of things you have to go through. I feel like this past year, I went through all of those and I know who I am and I know who I want to be. I feel like once you find that security and once you find the anchor in something, can’t nothing else waiver you. I feel like my mindset, my spiritual side, my emotions, just everything is just at a point that I’ve never been in my life.”

Harris talked about how Miami has so many defensive linemen they have “Alpha,” “Bravo” and “Charlie” packages. Even in practice, the competition is fierce.

Quinn, as Tannehill noted, has incredible bend on his end rushes.

“’Rob,’ (Quinn) seeing him practice and seeing him going through cornering drills and stuff, it’s just like ‘Dang, how do you do it?’” Harris said. “It’s also motivating. For me, I look at it as I had the most bend on the team. Seeing him going through all of that is like, I’ve got to get my stuff together. He shows that it’s possible.”

Quinn added that veteran Wake challenged an unnamed rookie in a pop-up drill on Tuesday.

“He just had to show him who he was,” Quinn said. “It’s motivating to see your old head just come out and be like, let me take this little guy out.”

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Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki has ‘flashed’

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki must learn quickly. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins drafted Mike Gesicki in the second round because of his incredible athleticism.

It’s something quarterback Ryan Tannehill is excited about already.

 “He’s flashed a couple of times,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “I think it was last week, he made a great one-handed catch down the sideline on a deep pass. He’s young; he’s learning. He’s going to take his bumps along the way, but he works really hard. He’s locked in and trying to get better each and every day, and that’s what we want. He has all of the talent and the athletic ability and once he catches up to knowing what we’re doing, he’s going to be a big weapon for us.”

Gesicki can make acrobatic plays. He can split the seam. He can be a threat in the red zone.

But sometimes Tannehill will need Gesicki to run a very precise short route in which he turns around and Tannehill has already released the ball. There is a trust factor that must develop between veteran and rookie.

On an excellent video feature recently produced by the Miami Dolphins social media team, a wired Tannehill literally runs the route for Gesicki, verbalizing exactly what he needs the rookie to do.

“Sell the takeoff,” Tannehill is telling Gesicki, as he demonstrates the route. “Once you get to eight, step in the ground. The ball should be in the air.”

After they run the play successfully, Tannehill tells Gesicki: “Good work. Keep doing it. You’re getting better each and every day. Have your notes on what you want to hit. Come out here and work on it. That’s what this time of year is for, to get better. A little bit better, each and every day. Keep it up.”

Replies Gesicki: “All right, boss. Appreciate you.”

Tannehill was, of course, a very successful wide receiver and quarterback at Texas A&M.

“I was nowhere near the route-runner that any of these guys are, so I can’t say that I can do it any better; but I have been in their shoes so to speak of feeling how a practice is, feeling how the heat affects you through a practice and can kind of relate a little bit,” Tannehill said. “As far as coaching guys up on what I’m expecting in routes, I think when you get in the first year of an offense, it’s a little tougher because you’re learning the offense yourself. You’re trying to understand what the coach wants, how you see it and how that blends together. As you move to Year 2 and Year 3, you can really take ownership of it and say ‘Okay, this is what I want. I need you to be right here at this time.’”

Rookies like Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Kalen Ballage will be leaning heavily on Tannehill. Production from the tight end position would be a nice help. Due to injuries and failure to live up expectations, tight ends Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas did not provide much of a threat for Tannehill over the past two seasons.

“Guys are going to have to come in and play well,” Tannehill said. “Like I said, accountability is huge – being in the right spot at the right time. We brought in some young guys who are really athletic. We have MarQueis Gray, who has done a good job for us. A.J. Derby is athletic on the outside. It’s really up in the air right now who’s going to come out of that group and really lead the group; but we have some veteran guys, we have some young guys. We’re expecting somebody to really step up and make big plays with us.”

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Nobody is rushing Miami Dolphins CB Tony Lippett, or making any predictions

Miami Dolphins DB Tony Lippett is working his way back. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Tony Lippett it out there, running around with his teammates for the first time since tearing an Achilles tendon in a Miami Dolphins practice last August.

But it is clear this isn’t going to be an easy process. And it is clear there is no rush to get Lippett back into any competition to start with cornerback Cordrea Tankersley.

“I think he just needs to keep working on getting himself just feeling as 100 percent as he possibly can for training camp,” Miami coach Adam Gase said Tuesday. “Right now, I’m not so much worried about if (Lippett) gets beat or something physically wasn’t perfect for him. I want him to really stress himself and kind of get the kinks out.”

Lippett, asked about what he would consider his ideal role for 2018, did not say starter.

“Right now I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Lippe said. “Just getting better. Knocking off the rust. And trying my best to get to 100 percent when we get back to camp. I’m just grinding. Going out there and competing.”

As much as modern medicine has advanced, an Achilles injury is a very challenging one to return from, especially for a cornerback. But Lippett has been encouraged by conversations with former Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who bounced back from the same injury.

“The last thing to come around?” Lippett said of Grimes’ advice. “Probably just the long speed.”

Lippett, a former receiver, has always had the advantage of speed and athleticism. Yet he was hurt leaping on a simple play in practice. And while he say’s he’s “really close” to 100 percent and “definitely on track to be the same player I always was,” it’s going to take time.

And that’s why nobody is counting on Lippett as a starter. But Miami really does need him to recover in order to provide much-needed cornerback depth. Lippett started 13 games in 2016, had 4 interceptions, and made as much improvement as any Miami defensive player that season.

“It was really watching film and knowing your opponent,” Lippett sasid. “Knowing the game plan. Getting better one day at time. Working on technique in practice. Knowing what the team is trying to do to you. Knowing how to execute the game plan on Sunday.”

Gase is downplaying any talk of timelines or competing to start.

“It’s been since last July or August since he really rolled out there,” Gase said. “I think sometimes you worry about putting out bad tape. And we know what he’s dealing with. We know what he’s recovering from. And we just need him to stress himself as much as possible. So when we hit training camp he feels as right as he can.”

Lippett said he’s over the “Why me?” phase of injury recovery. He’s experiencing some Achilles soreness, if not pain.

“It’s just getting used to doing this again,” Lippett said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about my body. I just try to put one foot forward every day. Just keep grinding and getting better every day.”

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Adam Gase: Ryan Tannehill thought ‘Don’t waste the draft pick’ on QB (via MMQB)

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill listens to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains at training camp in Davie. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Ryan Tannehill knew every time the Dolphins were visiting with a quarterback draft prospect, in Davie or in their town, because coach Adam Gase kept him aware of every visit.

According to Albert Breer of MMQB, Tannehill had a clear perspective on the possibility.

“I really think his thought was—don’t waste the draft pick,” Gase said, according to Breer. “He focused on work and bringing the same intensity he does every day. He’s very competitive. He’s not going to bat an eye at any of those things. He just keeps going. If there’s some kind of internal thing going on, you’re not going to know. He’s not going to show his cards. So I never worried about it.”

Gase wasn’t worried about Tannehill’s approach. But should the Dolphins be worried about not drafting a quarterback?

Not only did Miami not land a top quarterback in the first round — Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen were all selected before they chose Minkah Fitzpatrick — but they didn’t take a quarterback at all.

The idea of selecting a quarterback was never just about replacing Tannehill. It was also about creating legitimate competition at the position, to push Tannehill (Gase would say he does not need pushing) and also to add depth.

As of now, unproven David Fales and underachieving Brock Osweiler are Miami’s backups. That’s not idea;. Of course, Miami’s entire season rides on Tannehill staying healthy for the first season since 2015 anyhow.

“Just being around him, this being my third year [as head coach], the guy competes as hard as anyone I’ve been around, especially at that position. And it’s a good feeling as a coach when we’ve got him back out there,” Gase told MMQB.

Everyone is happy Tannehill is back. Probably even Kristin Cavallari.

Gase spoke more about culture in his conversation with MMQB, praising Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, Robert Quinn and Frank Gore for competitiveness, conditioning, motor and grit. Those are all good things.

If defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami’s first-round pick, is a candidate for defensive rookie of the year, well, yeah, that won’t have been a wasted draft pick. And it will look even better, of course, if Ryan Tannehill stays healthy.

Then Tannehill and the Dolphins will have been completely right.

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5 Players to watch at Miami Dolphins mandatory mini-camp this week

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki can be a weapon. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Miami Dolphins have had outstanding participation at voluntary organized team activities this spring, unlike a certain team up north. But hey, the Dolphins have plenty of ground to make up.

For three days this week, all players are actually required by an NFL and NFLPA agreement to show up and work. And so they’ll do just that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in Davie.

According to the agreed-upon rules, players and coaches can work together for up to 10 hours each day, instead of six. The teams can even be on the field up to 3.5 hours each day. So a lot of work can get done.

Who are us media types watching closely at the open practices?

  1. Ryan Tannehill — Coaches say Tannehill’s mobility is already up to par and he’s converting a plethora of unscheduled plays. Has Tannehill really picked up where he left off when he was playing great ball at the end of 2016? Is Tannehill now making decisions so quickly at the line of scrimmage that the Dolphins are finally ready to go at warp-speed pace? How quickly is Tannehill getting on the same page with so many new teammates?
  2. Mike Gesicki — He is a rookie. He is a rookie. He is a rookie. Tell yourself that now and in the summer and early in the 2018 season, because it’s important to remember. There will be mistakes. There will be busts. Probably a key drop or two. This will not mean that Gesicki does not have a great future. It will mean he is a rookie. But it would be a lot of fun to see flashes of explosiveness and athleticism from the second-rounder in this week’s minicamp.
  3. Raekwon McMillan — Coaches say McMillan has been building back the confidence he had soon after arriving as a rookie. McMillan is fully cleared from his knee injury. He comes across as extremely mature and composed. McMillan believes he has a responsibility to be a leader on the field, despite his inexperience. And that he can do so by knowing exactly where he and every other player on the defense is supposed to be.
  4. Minkah Fitzpatrick — It was revealed recently that Fitzpatrick has already nabbed at least two picks this spring. And that’s what the Dolphins need. Turnovers. Game-changing plays. Coaches want Fitzpatrick to focus on adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. And they want him to realize he just needs to do his assignment, not worry about everybody else’s. How much does Fitzpatrick line up alongside Reshad Jones? How much does Fitzpatrick line up in the slot, with Bobby McCain moved to outside corner?
  5. DeVante Parker — Dolphins coaches say few if any players have spent more time in the building than Parker since last season ended. He’s been focused on managing his health as well as studying film. The national and local expectations for Parker have been lowered based on disappointing 2016 and 2017 seasons, which is a good position for him to be in. I did notice Parker running extra routes with Tannehill at a recent practice. How much does Tannehill’s return help Parker?

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How new defensive backs coaches plan to fix Miami Dolphins woes

New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson catches a touchdown as Miami Dolphins defensive back Cordrea Tankersley gives chase. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Only four NFL teams were worse against opposing passers than the Miami Dolphins last season.

Too often, defensive backs were left speaking about their failures to execute, and more disturbingly, their failures to communicate.

It cost long-time defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo his job, part of a broad off-season coaching staff shakeup by coach Adam Gase. First-year defensive backs coach Tony Oden and assistant defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill have been hired to fix the problems.

And so far, their players are impressed.

“They’re both from (the Lions),” defensive back Bobby McCain said. “They’re both really good coaches. ‘Coach O (Oden) is a good coach and Coach Hill  is a good coach. They’re both proven. I know Coach Oden has a Super Bowl ring (with the Saints). Speaking of personality, don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re all not here to be friends. We’re a family and we’re here to do a job; but as a family.”

Players say Oden and Hill are going to hold them accountable, but are also stressing interpersonal connections.

“(Oden’s) going to tell you, ‘You’re doing this wrong,’ but you know it’s out of love,” McCain said. “And if you’re doing it right, he’s going to tell you you’re doing it right and it’s out of love.., He wants to tell you the truth and we’re going to get it done. If we do something out there that’s wrong, we’ll correct it when we get in the room. Boom. Done. That way the guy behind you doesn’t do the same thing.”

Too often last season, Dolphins defensive backs were exposed doing the wrong thing. Players say the new coaches are aware and are addressing it.

“Communication,” safety T.J. McDonald said. “Communication is a big thing. I think there were some instances last year where we lacked some communication. That’s the biggest emphasis that (Oden) brings. That’s what we’re doing right now, making sure that we all communicate, we’re all on the same page, we’re all making sure that we get into a contract with each other on the field through verbal communication, hand signs, whatever it is. He definitely does a good job of stressing that. I think it’ll definitely pay off, especially big plays.”

The Dolphins were 24th in the NFL in opponent completion percentage. Too often, opponents were completing passes with great ease. Players say they believe they’ll be playing tighter coverage.

Oden believes in the talent in the defensive backs room. And really, there’s no reason this group shouldn’t be much, much better.

“Compete and get better,” Oden said. “Every day, all of these guys, we talk about every day is an interview. We can get better tomorrow or today, and keep the arrow pointing up. That’s on each person to keep working hard and let the chips fall where they may.”

Oden knows the Dolphins must find a way to allow fewer completions. But also create more turnovers. The Dolphins had only nine interceptions last season, 28th in the NFL. Miami forced only 15 total turnovers, 29th in the NFL.

“The things we talk about are if you line up behind people doesn’t mean we have to be behind them,” Oden said. “We can lead them by our actions and it all starts in the meeting room, being accountable, knowing what we need to do on defense, communicating how we need to communicate, anticipating how we need to anticipate and if we do those things, everything else will fall in line.”

Jones is a Pro Bowler. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a first-rounder. Howard is a second-rounder. Cordrea Tankersley and McDonald are third-rounders. McCain just became the NFL’s highest-paid nickel corner.

Miami needs, and should receive, better production from its secondary than it has been getting.

“We just agreed to come in there and we’ve just got to finish,” Howard said. “We’ve got to finish strong and study stuff that we had put on film and stuff last year, that again, people have seen. (Oden’s) really just telling us (to) finish and try to make plays out there.”

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