An interested observer who knows a thing or two about defensive fronts gives a thumbs-up to Vance Joseph’s wide-nine scheme — but points out it’s not the first time the Dolphins have used it.
“It’s great for guys like Cam (Wake) and Mario Williams,” former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. “It’s been around for a long time. We did it for years down here with (former coordinator) Jim Bates. And when I first came in, I used to get yelled at for getting too wide.”
Taylor spoke during his 12th annual “Cool Gear for the School Year” event, run by his foundation to benefit 60 children from Miami-Dade and Broward counties Monday night at the Davie Old Navy Store.
The Dolphins are banking heavily on a defensive front featuring Wake and Williams as ends lined up wide, the theory being it will give them better angles to rush the passer. The interior of the line will be anchored by Ndamukong Suh.
“It’s not an every-down thing,” Taylor said. “They’ll mix it up, but I know this whole storyline of this wide-nine thing — it’s about the horses you have. And they have some good players.”
Taylor wouldn’t say. He hedged it by saying the Dolphins could finish anywhere from 12-4 to 4-12 and downplayed preseason predictions in general.
“I see people on TV today, on ESPN, changing their college football predictions because of one thing,” he said.
But isn’t Taylor a TV guy?
“I don’t make predictions,” he said. “I used to make plays. Now I can even make plays, so I don’t know what good I am anymore.”
Taylor helped call Dolphins games on radio in the preseason and said longterm, he’d like to get back into network TV coverage of the NFL.
“You think making an NFL roster is tough? It’s tough in the TV world,” he said. “There’s only so many jobs and if something comes up, I’d have interest in doing it. But right now I’m focused on coaching my kid’s football.”
Taylor has become head coach of the Davie Broncos 13-under team and joked that he’s glad he doesn’t have to coach someone like him.
“I was a pain int he butt,” Taylor joked. “These kids are great. You see these young kids and the innocence behind them. Football at its core, at its purest level. When you’re teaching them from the ground up, it’s a lot of fun.”
Taylor said he changed the training out of safety concerns, practicing only three days a week, hitting for only 30 minutes and avoiding “any of the drills I came up on,” calling it the “smart” way to go about it.
“There are some youth leagues where kids are hitting more than professionals and I just think that’s ridiculous,” Taylor said.
The Jason Taylor Foundation has assisted more than 700 kids through the 12 years of the Cool Gear program in conjunction with Old Navy, dishing out more than $200,000 in gear. Each child was paired with a celebrity to make selections from the store, which was closed to the general public at the time. Past and present Dolphins participating included Nat Moore, Mike Pouncey, Michael Thomas, Dion Jordan, Joe Rose, Wake and John Denney.
Taylor said he gets satisfaction out of seeing smiles on kids’ faces — but also knowing there’s an element of selflessness involved.
“They each get 300 bucks to tear the place up and get whatever they want,” Taylor said. “Most of the kids get stuff for themselves for the school year and we have some kids that buy for siblings or for parents. It’s a great thing to see. You give a kid 300 bucks and they use it on somebody else as well, paying it forward, I think is an amazing thing.”
Dolphins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey wouldn’t give a timetable for his return, but was wearing a broad smile and said “I feel good” Monday night during an appearance at a community event sponsored by the Jason Taylor Foundation.
Pouncey has been out since suffering a hip injury in the second preseason game, against Dallas, and did not practice Monday.
“I can’t answer that question,” Pouncey told The Post when asked when he might be back. “I’ll tell you I feel good. We have a plan in place. It’s ultimately up to Coach Gase when I’ll be playing.”
Pouncey has missed eight games over the past three seasons while dealing with various injuries and surgeries but said he’s staying optimistic despite the latest setback.
“It hasn’t really been frustrating,” he said. “I’ve had injuries before and I know how to deal with them, so it’s fine.”
Assuming Pouncey cannot play in Sunday’s opener at Seattle, the position would fall to Anthony Steen, who would be making his first NFL start in the league’s noisiest stadium.
“He’s a good football player,” Pouncey said. “We’re going to be cheering him on. If he’s in there playing, he’s going to do good.”
The Dolphins released their first regular-season depth chart Monday. The first-string offensive line is, from left to right, Branden Albert, rookie Laremy Tunsil, Pouncey, Jermon Bushrod and Ja’Wuan James.
“I like what we’ve got up front,” Pouncey said.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked only once in preseason.
“That means the offensive line is doing a good thing,” Pouncey said. “It’s good. Ryan’s been doing great all year. He’s going to be an exceptional football player for a long time for us.”
Pouncey was one of dozens of past and present Dolphins assisting Taylor at his 12th annual “Cool Gear for the School Year” program in which 60 children from Miami-Dade and Broward counties were each given $300 to shop for school clothes at Old Navy. Following a party at the Davie location of Old Navy, each player teamed up with a child to go shopping.
Since the program’s inception, the Jason Taylor Foundation has provided more than $200,000 in clothing for more than 700 children in need.
“I support Jason Taylor for everything,” Pouncey said. “I’m excited to be a part of it. Jason’s done so much for this community. He’s always been good to me. He’s a great football player and anytime he has an event, we’re always willing to do it.”
It will be 287 days since Cameron Wake last played a real NFL game. Maybe Wake hasn’t done the calculations. Maybe he doesn’t need to.
“It’s been a long road,” Wake said Monday, reflecting on his recovery after tearing his Achilles last October in New England. “I try to put it in the back of my head but it’s reality. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually played a real game.”
Wake was injured chasing Tom Brady and underwent surgery shortly thereafter.
“I’ve run through that last play a thousand times in my mind and I feel like I’ve gotten over it,” Wake said. “I’ve got to move forward.”
Wake showed up at the Dolphins’ 50th anniversary gala in December in a walking cast and promptly put to rest questions over whether he’d retire, saying he’d work toward an eighth season with the team despite turning 34.
Although Wake was listed as a starter at defensive end on the team’s first regular-season depth chart Monday, the Dolphins plan to limit his snaps to maximize his effectiveness as a pass rusher. Wake, who has been named to four Pro Bowls, saw spot duty this preseason.
“Was it necessary? Maybe not,” Wake said of his preseason game action. Practices, he said, are so competitive. “To actually give it a test, give it a go, it wasn’t so much uncertainty but getting that rust off and getting after it and getting a hit on a quarterback. Just kind of getting back to riding a bike again.”
Earlier Monday, Mario Williams, the other starting end, said it’s up to the line to set the tone for the defense. Asked for his reaction, Wake jokingly looked around the locker room.
“What about everybody else?” Wake said. “Hey, Mario: I guess we’re the only guys playing this week.”
A voice shot back: “HUH??”
Wake continued: “It’s not just us two. I think everybody, from the first guy to the last guy, no matter who it is, I feel like this is a time we need to turn the corner. Obviously I’ve been here a long time. There have been a lot of things going on. A lot of offseasons. But beginning the season is a clean slate for everybody and we’re starting new.
“The Dolphins franchise has been on top for a long time and I feel like we need to get it back there.”
Good luck trying to come up with a way things could have turned out any better for Dolphins defensive end Julius Warmsley.
Not only did he survive a tense Saturday — wondering if he was going from longshot to member of the 53-man roster — but he’s now looking at making his NFL debut in, of all places, Seattle.
As Warmsley was trying to break into the league as a member of the Seahawks’ practice squad, one person constantly telling him he had NFL talent (despite going undrafted) was former University of Miami linebacker Dan Morgan, who at the time was in Seattle’s scouting department.
So after Warmsley made Miami’s roster, he tweeted a shout-out to thank Morgan, who now is the Seahawks’ director of pro personnel.
“He’s always been an advocate for me over there, so I just wanted to say thank you to him because I felt like he always saw something in me and he kept me around,” Warmsley said Monday.
“Me and him would communicate but he was always sending encouraging notes or saying, ‘Hey, don’t worry. Everything will be fine. You’ll be good.’ It was stuff like that, things like that. And then he was a big advocate for me with them, so I was just very thankful for them. The whole coaching staff there was great and they all liked me, but I just felt like he was an integral part of that.”
Warmsley said he spent Saturday tagging along with his brother, who was golfing, while feeling “a little anxious.” At one point, around the 4 p.m. roster deadline, he had a lump in his throat when his phone rang.
“It was a 954 number and I was like, ‘Oh, crap,’ ” Warmsley said.
Despite stiff competition for a job on the defensive line, Dolphins coaches decided to use a slot for Warmsley on the strength of three preseason sacks, which led the team.
“I made flash plays and the coaching staff liked me and they enjoyed what I did,” Warmsley said. “So I think it’s just a culmination of those things kind of working together. And of course God put a little sprinkle in there.”
So now it’s off to Seattle again.
“It’s going to be a very fun atmosphere and it’s going to be nice to actually — well, God wiling — just be on the field and be able to play and be in a sense feel a part of the team,” Warmsley said. “So it’s cool.”
Seattle’s Richard Sherman has long been considered one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, and we all know what he does to receivers he doesn’t respect, but Jarvis Landry said the Dolphins won’t back down from that challenge in Sunday’s opener.
“He’s definitely a premier corner in this league,” Landry said. “He’s definitely a guy that we respect but that we definitely are not going to shy away from. Just having the opportunity to compete against a guy like that is something that I know this offense and this receiver corps looks forward to.”
Sherman, a three-time All-Pro, famously called San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree “a sorry receiver” after the 2014 NFC title game.
Landry is coming off a Pro Bowl season and could draw extra attention from Sherman if fellow receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) can’t go. And even when Sherman isn’t on Landry, the Seahawks’ secondary includes Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Jeremy Lane.
“We’re excited about the challenge, excited about the matchup,” Landry said.
The Seahawks have long contended that to play against them at home is to line up against 12 men because of their loud stadium. Landry said the “craziest environments” he has played in have been in college, for LSU, but doesn’t doubt Seattle will be raucous.
“Just hearing from guys who’ve played there, it kind of feels like a college atmosphere,” Landry said. “I tend to thrive in those venues.”
Landry is coming off a season in which he was named the team’s co-MVP (along with safety Reshad Jones) after catching 110 passes for 1,157 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll attempt to produce an encore with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has benefited from new coach Adam Gase.
Landry said he is enjoying seeing the way that “he’s accepted the coaching from Coach Gase to be a leader out there and not be a robot. Just got to go out there and have fun.”
Well, it’s not always fun for Tannehill.
“He’s demanding a lot of us and he’s counting on us,” Landry said. “He makes sure we’re in our playbook. He makes sure we’re in the right spots when we need to be there and that we’re making the plays when he throws the ball. He demands that of us and he gets on us if we don’t. I don’t expect anything less from our quarterback.”
The Dolphins made a swap of wide receivers Sunday, claiming Justin Hunter off waivers from the Tennessee Titans and releasing veteran Griff Whalen.
Hunter, another big receiver at 6-foot-4 and 203 pounds, was a second-round draft pick (34th overall) by Tennessee in 2013 who failed to live up to expectations but apparently showed enough potential in the eyes of Dolphins receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who coached Hunter with the Titans.
Hunter, 25, had 18 receptions for 34 yards and four TDs as a rookie, then had 28 receptions (of 67 targets) for 498 yards and three TDs while starting eight games in 2014. But he regressed last season, starting only five times and finishing with 22 receptions, 264 yards and one TD. His average reception has gone down each season, from 19.7 to 17.8 to 12.0.
In addition, the Dolphins announced their practice squad, consisting of players who had been let go by Miami over the weekend.
The practice squad consists of linebacker James Burgess, guard Jamil Douglas, tight end Thomas Duarte, safety A.J. Hendy, offensive tackle Ulrick John, defensive end Cleyon Laing, cornerback Lafayette Pitts, defensive end Jordan Williams and receiver Rashawn Scott, formerly of the University of Miami.
Among notable moves reported Sunday, ex-Dolphins receiver Matt Hazel joined the Bills’ practice squad, safety Shamiel Gary signed with the Vikings’ practice squad and QB Zac Dysert is joining the Cardinals’ practice squad.
Quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Davie kid who confounded coaches by going through the wrong progressions but often seeming to come up with the right results, came up with the best result yet Saturday.
He made the Dolphins’ 53-man roster as the cuts were made before the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline.
Of course, as the Dolphins comb the waiver wire, more moves are likely to come over the next several days, but for now, the Dolphins plan to enter the season with starter Ryan Tannehill, backup Matt Moore and Doughty, the seventh-round pick from Western Kentucky who showed coaches enough that they couldn’t risk waiving him before recalling him onto the practice squad.
Doughty completed 20-of-28 passes for 185 yards and an 89.1 passer rating in the preseason. Zac Dysert, who was waived, was 20-of-31 for 202 yards and an 80.3 rating.
Here’s the official list of Dolphins moves:
3:30 P.M. UPDATE: SAINTS PARTING WITH CHRIS McCAIN
Former Dolphins defensive end Chris McCain is not going to make the Saints.
The Saints had acquired McCain from the Dolphins for a conditional pick Monday.
Apparently the Dolphins will not receive any compensation now.
3:25 P.M. UPDATE: 49ERS CUT KELVIN TAYLOR
Kelvin Taylor, the former Glades Day and Gators running back drafted in the sixth round by the 49ers, has been waived, according to ESPN.
Taylor, son of ex-Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, had 12,121 yards and 191 touchdowns for Glades Day.
2:50 P.M. UPDATE: WOULD DOLPHINS CONSIDER EX-PACKERS G SITTON?
Green Bay is moving on from guard Josh Sitton.
He’s a 30-year-old Jacksonville native who played at Central Florida and has had a distinguished career, including being named second-team All-Pro by The Associated Press the past three seasons. He’s scheduled to make $5.9 million this season.
His availability might make the Dolphins re-evaluate how satisfied they are at guard. First-round pick Laremy Tunsil should open the season as the starting left guard.
Jermon Bushrod could be the starter on the right side, which is where perhaps Sitton comes in? Sitton spent his first five seasons at right guard but has played the past three on the left, including some duty at left tackle.
2:25 P.M. UPDATE: SEVENTH-ROUNDER DUARTE CUT
Thomas Duarte, a tight end taken in the seventh round, is being released.
So is cornerback Lafayette Pitts, according to The Miami Herald.
Despite a summer for Dolphins tight ends marred by dropped passes, Duarte caught just three passes for 27 yards and one touchdown in the preseason.
1:30 P.M. UPDATE: FORMER FOURTH-ROUNDER JAMIL DOUGLAS RELEASED
Offensive lineman Jamil Douglas, the Dolphins fourth-round pick last season out of Arizona State, has been cut.
Douglas, 24, started six of 16 games for the Dolphins as a rookie last year, primarily at guard, but was pressed into duty at center following an injury to Mike Pouncey.
It didn’t go well, most memorably when he snapped the ball prematurely on a fourth-down play that sealed a loss to the Colts. Douglas was nearly inconsolable following that game, although some of the blame belongs to coaches who failed to account for the need to prepare a backup center on the team.
The release of Douglas calls into question the Dolphins’ 2015 draft, the final one under general manager Dennis Hickey. First-rounder DeVante Parker has shown receiving skills but has suffered a constant stream of injuries that appears to be frustrating coaches.
Second-rounder Jordan Phillips, a defensive tackle, challenged Earl Mitchell for a starting role.
But the Dolphins have received little from four fifth-rounders. Cornerback Bobby McCain has shown flashes but has been inconsistent. Running back Jay Ajayi opened camp as the favorite to be the featured back but averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. And safety Cedric Thompson was cut last year. The Dolphins still hope to develop cornerback Tony Lippett, a converted receiver.
1:25 P.M. UPDATE: THOMAS GONE, TYLER GRAY CONE
Running back Daniel Thomas, who led the Dolphins in rushing this preseason, failed to make the roster, as did linebacker Tyler Gray.
Thomas, 28, had 32 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown this preseason, but his 3.3 average didn’t help his case.
Assuming the Dolphins keep four running backs once again, Thomas faced an uphill climb. The roster includes Arian Foster (the presumed starter), Jay Ajayi and third-round pick Kenyan Drake. The could leave little room for Damien Williams and Isaiah Pead as well.
Gray had five tackles in preseason.
1:15 P.M. UPDATE: LAING GONE
Defensive end Cleyon Laing has been released.
The Dolphins hoped Laing could in part conjure memories of their success story with Cameron Wake — CFL sack master becomes NFL terror — but Laing had a quiet summer. He was credited with just one sack and had nine tackles.
The Post also confirms that Deandre Coleman was cut.
1 P.M. UPDATE: TAKING STOCK SO FAR
The Dolphins reportedly have parted with the following players:
CB Chimdi Chekwa
DT Deandre Coleman
S Shamiel Gary
DT Chris Jones
TE Dominique Jones
CB Rashaan Melvin
OT Sam Young
(This should leave them 15 over the limit)
12:55 P.M. UPDATE: GARY GONE
Safety Shamiel Gary, the Dolphins’ second-leading tackler in preseason with 16, is being released.
Gary’s highlight of the preseason was a big hit against Atlanta that caused a fumble.
The Miami Herald is reporting that defensive tackle Deandre Coleman also is being released.
12:45 P.M. UPDATE: MORE CUTS REVEALED
In a move that could signify the Dolphins are retaining defensive lineman Julius Warmsley, the team has released defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Also let go were cornerback Rashaan Melvin and tight end Dominique Jones.
12:30 P.M. UPDATE: CHEKWA RELEASED
Multiple reports say the Dolphins have parted with cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who started four of the 32 games played for the Raiders the past four years. He had 44 tackles but no interceptions with Oakland.
Chekwa, 28, had played at Ohio State.
He suffered a thigh injury that caused him to miss significant time in training camp. He appeared only in the preseason finale against the Titans, failing to make a tackle or appear on the stat sheet.
Young, an tackle, entered the league in 2010 with Dallas but also had stops in Buffalo and Jacksonville. His most extensive action came in 2012, when he played 12 games for the Bills, starting four, and last season with the Jaguars, when he played all 16 games and started three.
NOON UPDATE FROM AROUND THE NFL: SPIELMAN DEALS AGAIN
The Vikings’ deal for quarterback Sam Bradford might bring back memories for Dolphins fans.
The deal was pulled off by Rick Spielman, who seems to enjoy sending the Eagles draft picks for quarterbacks who haven’t shown they’re worth it.
In 2004 while overseeing the Dolphins’ roster, Spielman sent a second-rounder to Philly for A.J. Feeley, who went 3-5 in his only season in Miami with 11 TDs, 15 INTs and a putrid 61.7 rating.
Of course, some saw that coming, since Feeley’s body of work to that point consisted of seven games played for the Eagles, eight TDs and six INTs. The Eagles used the pick on receiver Reggie Brown, who didn’t really pan out, by the way.
After losing Teddy Bridgewater to a bad knee injury last week, Spielman swore the Vikings wouldn’t be held hostage for a QB, but still sent a No. 1 and a conditional No. 4 (it could go higher) for the mediocre Bradford, who can’t seem to stay healthy.
“People think we’re desperate,” Spielman said earlier in the week.
Wonder how “people” ever got that idea?
10 a.m. UPDATE: HOW THE DOLPHINS BEGAN THEIR DAY
To get you ready for the Dolphins’ moves, here’s a list of where they stand entering the day and an outline of the decisions that must be made under first-year coach Adam Gase and his staff. Keep in mind that even at the end of the day, it won’t be the “final” roster because teams often pick up cast-offs from other teams.
To help give you a framework, the number of players kept at each position last year is noted in parentheses.
Julius Warmsley plans on spending Saturday with friends and relatives, getting a rare chance to relax following a taxing training camp. But how relaxed he can be is another question, since Saturday is the dreaded cut-down day in the NFL, the day he’ll finally learn whether he has earned a spot on the 53-man roster.
So, he was asked, what happens if his phone rings and the call is from the 954 area code?
“I’m probably going to run and not … ,” Warmsley joked. “Just playing. I’ll answer it. The NFL is a business, so I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities I do have.”
Warmsley is a defensive end from Tulane who has been on a couple of NFL practice squads. Today, if he wanted, he could drive himself crazy analyzing his chances.
PRO: He led the Dolphins with three sacks this preseason.
CON: He’s an 6-foot-2, 276-pound end. The Dolphins have plenty of ends.
PRO: He also had three quarterback hurries, six tackles and a forced fumble.
CON: He played 41 snaps in the finale against Tennessee — 69 percent of the defensive plays — but didn’t turn up on the stat sheet.
PRO:Did we mention those three sacks, and that no other Dolphin had more than one?
CON:Preseason sacks are a mediocre indicator of what’s to come. Remember Tristan Okpalaugo? Didn’t think so. He led the Dolphins in 2014 with three preseason sacks. He was a former CFL sack king (sound familiar?). He didn’t make the roster, although he’s with the Cardinals now. Last preseason’s co-leaders with two were Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon (makes sense) but also Chris McCain (now departed).
Reflecting on his body of work, Warmsley says, “I feel good about it.” For good reason. He was nowhere at the start of camp, a faceless No. 73 amid a mass of nearly a hundred guys.
“I think I most definitely got myself noticed,” he said. “Hopefully that, I guess, facilitates in the 53-man roster — hopefully here. If not here, then one of the other 31 teams in the NFL.”
Warmsley, 26, said he has no idea what coaches are thinking, other than that they say, “I’m doing well, which is always a positive sign.”
He’s philosophical on the road traveled thus far.
“It’s always a blessing to make it past the first cuts at all,” he said. “I mean, there are 11 other guys that didn’t make it this far. And there are hundreds of other guys from other teams that didn’t make it this far.”
You’ve seen it hundreds of times, but have you ever wondered why kickers squeeze balls before kicking off? And whether it has any effect whatsoever on what happens next?
A few of us media hacks were handling footballs outside the Dolphins’ locker room Tuesday and, recognizing how hard they felt, had serious doubts that any amount of squeezing by a human could make those things malleable.
So I put the squeeze on kicker Andrew Franks for some real, hard-hitting answers (you thankfully won’t find anywhere else).
“If you can get it more round, it’s easier to travel in the air aerodynamically,” Franks patiently said. “A sphere is going to travel easier. It’s more aerodynamic versus a more oblong ball.”
If it sounds like Franks knows what he’s talking about, remember that this guy attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, a Division III school whose nickname — the Engineers — tells you all you need to know.
“You’re not doing much, but it’s enough,” Franks said. “At that point you’re looking for maybe an extra yard or two. So whatever we can get is an edge.”
Can you prove it works?
“Theoretically? I don’t know. I wouldn’t go that far.”
Franks picked up the habit probably the same way every other kicker in the league did.
“You grow up watching guys do it, it’s like, ‘All right, well, they’re doing it. They know something that I obviously don’t know.’ ”
What about the balls feeling rock hard?
“You’re also in Florida,” Franks said. “Higher temperature, more pressure. So in here (the air-conditioned locker room), it’s going to be solid. It’s going to be the correct pressure. Go outside for like 10 minutes, it’s going to be a lot higher pressure because of the weather.”
Kinda sounds like they study PSI at RPI.
Kinda sounds like Franks is supporting the Bill Belichick/Mona Lisa Vito Theory of Relativity.
Adam Gase brings with him an offensive system that combines elements of his various stops in the NFL, but one constant: Over the past few years, he always had a tight end to count on.
Whether it was the Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas in Denver or a two-headed attack in Chicago, Gase has moved players around like chess pieces, always managing to find mismatches that benefited tight ends.
The struggles the Dolphins have had in incorporating tight ends in their passing game this preseason have been on display for all to see and dissect ad nauseam. What hasn’t been in the public’s sights: how Gase has focused on getting more out of Jordan Cameron as a receiving tight end.
“I’m starting to get a good feel for what he likes,” Gase said Tuesday. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with him over the last couple of weeks as far as, ‘What do we need to do different that I can get you a little bit in a rhythm?’ I feel like we’re kind of starting to hit some of those things.”
It’s not all on Cameron. Together with No. 2 tight end Dion Sims, they have managed just six receptions for 34 yards this preseason, with drops earning more attention than catches.
“I think they’ll be a little more impactful than what they’ve been,” Gase said.
They need to have an impact, both in the passing game and with their blocking.
“We definitely need both roles from our tight ends,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “There’s going to be a lot of situations where they’re going to be pass blocking and run blocking, and then we’re going to be putting them all the way on the outside and trying to create a mismatch out there. They have to be a full player — a complete player — and be able to run routes, not just tight end routes, not just corners and flats. They have to be able to run receiver routes as well.”
Starting in 2012, when Gase was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach and Peyton Manning arrived, the tight end has played an integral role in his attack. Sometimes it was by committee (Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen in 2012), sometimes it was a one-man gang (Thomas), but most often they’ve ranked among team leaders both in number of receptions and receiving yards.
Cameron, who had 917 receiving yards in a Pro Bowl season for Cleveland in 2013, said from talking with Gase, he’s confident he will be the complete tight end the Dolphins need in 2016.
“I’ve had plenty of conversations with him and I’m on the right track,” said Cameron, who made a noteworthy catch in practice Sunday that led to teammates mobbing him.
Cameron finds irony in the current climate. In last week’s victory over Atlanta, it was Cameron’s block that was critical to springing Arian Foster for a 2-yard touchdown run.
“That’s my job, too,” Cameron said. “It gets overlooked when I’m kind of labeled as a pass-catching tight end — my blocking sometimes gets overlooked and so that play for me was a huge play.”
When basketball players get in a funk with their shooting touch, they often snap out of it via dogged defensive play. With Cameron, his blocking could be a path toward ending his case of the drops.
“I would say so,” Cameron said. “It’s a good play. Obviously if you can do something good on the field, whether it be a block or a catch or whatever, it’s a positive play and it’s the start of something and you’ve got to keep rolling off that.”
The Dolphins did. Sims added a crunching block on a 2-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams against Atlanta. Those two blocks didn’t go unnoticed by coaches.
“I know we always look right at, ‘Well, Jordan had a drop,’ ” Gase said. “Everybody just wants to come down on that but no one takes a look at the fact that he did a really good job in pass protection. He really did a good job as far as chipping out and making the tackle’s life easy. And then the run game, we score that touchdown because he did a great job knocking his guy basically off the path to get to Arian. Then Arian gave him an opportunity to get a clean cut. So we’re seeing what we want to see out of our tight ends and it starts with willingness. That’s the hardest thing sometimes out of a tight end (is) to understand positioning, angles and then the willingness to go in there and dig a guy out.”
The tight ends have had been plenty to learn this summer. Cameron and Sims have been adjusting to Gase’s system, which requires them to alternately line up tight, in the slot or far wide to help Tannehill decipher potential mismatches in man coverage. The more comfortable they get with their assignments, the theory goes, the less likely they are to lose concentration that leads to drops.
In the meantime, they directly contributed to two touchdowns against the Falcons and helped Tannehill get sacked a total of only once in the past two games.
“The last six years I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with blocking,” said Cameron, who was held to 386 receiving yards last season. “When I got in the league it was very foreign to me but now I feel comfortable doing both. I’m confident in both. Even in the pass protection game as well.”
It no doubt helps that teammates such as Tannehill reinforce that confidence.
“You can’t dwell on it,” Tannehill said of a dropped ball. “ … He’s going to make a lot of plays for us. He has to keep his head up, keep working, and he’ll make it next time.”