NFL national anthem policy: Adam Gase doesn’t envision suspensions

Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas wait in the tunnel during the anthem before an October 2017 game. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — As the NFL’s national anthem policy remains uncertain, Dolphins coach Adam Gase can’t foresee any player missing games as a punishment for violating whatever rule the league implements.

Gase, whose team came under fire recently when a report indicated it might suspend players who kneel or demonstrate during the anthem, said today that outcome seems unrealistic.

[RELATED: Exclusive photos from opening day of Dolphins training camp]

“If anybody knew actual rules in the NFL, good luck suspending somebody,” he said. “It takes about 5,000 things before anybody can get suspended by a club.”

He added, “I’m just telling you, other incidents that have happened in the past, it’s harder to suspend guys than what anybody realizes.”

Protests during the anthem have been an issue since 2016, Gase’s first year as head coach of the Dolphins. Since then, the team’s response has been all over the place. There was a stretch last season in which players were required to stay in the locker room if they weren’t going to stand, but that policy was pulled back.

It’s been a similarly turbulent ride for the NFL, which believed it finally solved the problem by laying down rules in March that required players to stand or stay off the field. It put that policy on hold after the NFLPA filed a grievance this month, and the league and players union agreed to continue trying to find a solution that suits both sides.

That takes the issue out of Gase’s hands for the moment. He doesn’t have to answer questions about a policy that currently isn’t in place.

“I just kinda wait and see what we’re told by the NFL and NFLPA, what’s going on as far as their conversations go,” he said. “I wait until we actually start games. It seems like things change a lot.”

The Dolphins have two key players who have demonstrated in the past. Wide receiver Kenny Stills kneeled during the anthem the last two seasons, and new defensive end Robert Quinn raised a first last year while with the Rams.

Neither player has indicated their plans for the upcoming season, but both spoke today in favor of players having the freedom to express themselves.

[Five Miami Dolphins problems Adam Gase needs to solve in training camp]

[With a chance to make Dolphins roster, rookie LB Mike McCray retires before training camp]

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

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

What Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said Thursday (training camp)

Adam Gase is launching his third season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins opened training camp with a two-hour practice in the sweltering heat, and they’re moving toward the upcoming season confident that they can upend their underdog perception.

The best news for Miami is that every player reported on time and was healthy enough for the first practice, though the team is working without pads the first two days of camp.

[RELATED: Exclusive photos from opening day of Dolphins training camp]

Here are coach Adam Gase’s updates after Day 1:

— The Dolphins remain upbeat about Ryan Tannehill’s recovery from the knee injury that wiped out his 2017 season, but there’s still some concern about eventually shifting into live contact situations. The team also wants to work with him on his sliding technique as a preventative measure.

— Gase declined to get into the national anthem policy debate, but couldn’t envision a player actually being suspended.

— Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola looks “exactly like the guy we played against last year,” Gase said.

— The team will begin using shoulder pads at practice Saturday and be in full pads Sunday or Monday. That’s especially important when it comes to the rookies. Gase wants to see if they play like they did in college.

— It was in the low 90s for this morning’s work, and Gase thought it was possibly the hottest practice he’s had since he got here.

[Five Miami Dolphins problems Adam Gase needs to solve in training camp]

[With a chance to make Dolphins roster, rookie LB Mike McCray retires before training camp]

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

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

Miami Dolphins’ new cast of skill players starts strong in training camp

Ryan Tannehill is back as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Adam Gase believes the Dolphins have an ideal mix of skill players in the passing game this year and the right quarterbacks to make the most of that group. After about four months of formal and informal workouts together, that element of the offense looked sharp on the first day of training camp.

[RELATED: Exclusive photos from opening day of Dolphins training camp]

The passing attack starts with Ryan Tannehill’s return, and regardless of whether he can get back to the way he played in 2016, he’ll automatically be an upgrade over Jay Cutler. Tannehill has tested his surgically repaired left knee as much as possible, saying he took it beyond what was necessary to be cleared for football, and practiced most of the offseason without a brace on it.

He was in a brace this morning and is certain to wear one on game days. Now that Miami is in camp, he has no choice but to get himself reacclimated to playing with it even as the team works without pads the first two days.

His most proven weapon is Kenny Stills, who continues improve as he hits what should be the prime of his career. At 26, he’s already a six-year veteran and put up 100 catches, 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

The rest of the crew is somewhat unknown, though Gase’s confidence runs counter to the outside perception. He sees a dynamic, multi-faceted playmaker in new acquisition Albert Wilson and a technician with plenty left in the tank in former Patriot Danny Amendola. Tannehill hit Amendola over the middle a few times in 11-on-11 work.

They’re still hopeful that DeVante Parker will finally find his breakthrough, but they’re not depending on it as much as they did last year. It’s almost thought of as a bonus if he’s able to give them more than he did in 2017.

The three starting receivers at this point figure to be Stills, Parker and Amendola, plus the Dolphins have second-round pick Mike Gesicki at tight end.

Then there’s Kenyan Drake, who has a chance to be the most productive offensive player. Everything is lining up for him to have a big year, and Gase is enthusiastic about settling in with exactly his type of running back. Drake shined when he got the chance late last year, but has yet to do it over an extended period. He showed his speed — he’s faster than Jay Ajayi, though not as much of a bruiser — on several outside runs and short passes today.

Behind Tannehill, the Dolphins gave Brock Osweiler and David Fales snaps with the second team, though it still seems Fales is at least a slight favorite to win the backup job. Osweiler threw an interception early in those drills on a ball that bounced out of Jakeem Grant’s hands.

Gase declined to name either player as the leader for the job at the end of Organized Team Activities last month, but his comments going back to January have indicated a strong belief in Fales. New York Jets castoff Bryce Petty is also in camp.

[Five Miami Dolphins problems Adam Gase needs to solve in training camp]

[With a chance to make Dolphins roster, rookie LB Mike McCray retires before training camp]

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

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

Five problems the Miami Dolphins need to solve in training camp

Kenyan Drake needs to be a Pro Bowl-caliber running back this season. (Getty Images)

As much as Dolphins coach Adam Gase loves his roster, he’s repeatedly painted it as a work in progress. There’s still plenty to figure out personnel-wise, and that process kicks into high gear when training camp opens Thursday morning.

As Gase approaches the start of a critical third season with Miami, here are five problems he has to solve over the next few weeks:

1. They need a backup quarterback.
It’s fine for the Dolphins to be optimistic about Ryan Tannehill’s knee, and there appears to be good cause for that, but they know better than to assume he’ll make it through all 16 games. They actually came out and said that in January, which made it perplexing that they did not secure a proven backup in the offseason. Gase says he’s supremely confidence in David Fales and/or Brock Osweiler as the backup — he seems to favor Fales — but both of them come with question marks.

2. Their linebacker corps must improve.
As a former linebackers coach, defensive coordinator Matt Burke must have been exasperated by how underwhelming the Dolphins were at that position last year. They’ve got a good start with Raekwon McMillan in the middle and Kiko Alonso on the outside, assuming they stay healthy, but there’s no certainty beyond those two. Stephone Anthony’s had an up-and-down career, Mike Hull and Chase Allen haven’t proven themselves as NFL starters, and it might take a while for draft picks Jerome Baker and Quentin Poling to materialize into contributors.

3. Kenyan Drake has to establish himself as a top weapon.
The Dolphins’ collection of skill players has a lot of good talent, but is there a great one among them? Drake’s speed and versatility, combined with Gase’s inventiveness, gives him a chance to stand out. When he took over as pretty much the only healthy running back available late last season, he closed the year with a league-best 444 yards (4.9 per carry) over the final five games. He also caught 17 passes for 150 yards during that span. But the jump from there to becoming a premier weapon is a big one, and it’ll take more than just physical ability.

4. There’s a big vacancy at kicker.
Kicker and punter are positions that fans (and teams, for that matter) sometimes take for granted, and that could hurt the Dolphins this season. They regret losing Cody Parkey in free agency and now move forward with seventh-rounder Jason Sanders competing against undrafted local product Greg Joseph. Neither seems to have an edge after their first three months in the organization, so training camp decide it.

5. Defensive end has to be an absolute strength.
The Dolphins’ salary cap ledger makes one thing undeniably clear: They value pass rushers above all else. It’s fine to spend big at that position, but they have to get results there. Robert Quinn and Andre Branch are the two biggest salary cap hits on the roster this year, combining for $21.4 million, and Cameron Wake is fifth at $9.6 million. Those three are eating up about 17 percent of Miami’s total spending, according to Spotrac. With a first line of Quinn and Wake followed by a second wave of Branch and Charles Harris, Miami needs to be in the top 10 in sacks this year.

[With a chance to make Dolphins roster, rookie LB Mike McCray retires before training camp]

[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]

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

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.

Miami Dolphins DE Cameron Wake explains what it takes to be elite

Cameron Wake knows as well as anyone what it takes to enjoy a long NFL career. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Cameron Wake is used to being asked the same questions about how he has stunningly maintained his physique at age 36 and given the Dolphins two straight double-digit sack seasons this late in his career.

He gets it everywhere. Young players in Miami’s locker room want to know how they can get there. He’s the most recognizable Dolphins player in public. The media is always curious.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

But the one question he’s tired of is when people want to know whether he ever takes a cheat day. Not only is that an indulgence he doesn’t take part in, he’s past the point of even wanting it.

“It’s a lifestyle,” he said this week. “I’ve decided many years ago that this is going to be my life if I want to be successful. To me, every week off that I’m taking is a week that some other guy is not, or a week that I’m stepping back or a sack that I’m going to miss or a play that I’m not going to get. It all comes down to what it’s worth.

“If I told a rookie, ‘Listen, if you never drink a drink of alcohol throughout your entire career, you’ll have 15 more sacks for the years you’re playing. Is that worth it to you?’ Some guys say yes; some guys say no. ‘Never have fried food for your 10 years and you’ll make X more money.’ Some guys say yes, some guys say no.

“To me, even if it’s one sack, one play, it’s worth it. Because 10 years from now when I’m not playing, I can have all the cheeseburgers, all the beaches, all the everything, because I put the time in now to put myself in a position that I can have all those things. But if you try to do it the other way around, you won’t be in that position to even enjoy the stuff that you’re working towards… It’s 24/7. It’s just a lifestyle. It’s my life and it won’t change until I stop playing.”

Wake talked extensively this week after his final day of Organized Team Activities, and it was the first time he had spoken with the media since December.

A lot has changed around him since then, most notably the departure of Ndamukong Suh and the arrival of Robert Quinn, but Wake’s the same. He’s still incredibly fit, still set on being one of the league’s most feared pass rushers and looks poised for another big year.

Two seasons ago, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, Wake was shifted into a reduced role of coming in exclusively on passing downs. He quickly proved he was capable of much more, and coach Adam Gase restored him to full-time work. That paid off with 11.5 sacks, then Wake followed with another 10.5 last year.

There’s no reason to expect a drop off this season.

“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt,” Wake said. “As you get closer and closer to tapping out that battle with Father Time, I think you have to do whatever you can as far as the wisdom of the game. You maybe can’t physically work as hard, but you can definitely work smarter.

“There are more things I know now that I didn’t know when I was 25 years old, when I was out there running around with whatever God gave me. To be able to be as physically able as possible at 36, and still have that wisdom to put those two things together, I think you can still be successful. With a little bit of sacrifice, if it’s worth it, then I think the fruits of your labor will come to bear.”

That approach has served him well over his 10-year NFL career. Wake is a five-time Pro Bowl selection (all-pro in 2012) despite going undrafted and not making it into the league until he was 27. He is second in Dolphins history with 92 career sacks and could crack the NFL’s top 30 all-time by the end of this year.

If that’s somehow not convincing enough, consider that the upcoming season will push his career earnings to nearly $53 million.

As Wake alluded, a big part of the equation is preserving what he has left physically as much as he can. That’s why he’s so careful about what he eats and how he lives year-round.

He was asked specifically whether he calculates in the offseason whether one beer today might cost him a sack during the season, for example, and while he said beer isn’t a draw for him, he used it to illustrate his point.

“I said in 2005 that I’m not going to have beer, because it will make the days that come where it’s third-and-10 and (the opponent is) hurting or he’s tired or he didn’t recover — I know I have a step ahead of him no matter what it is. It could be one millisecond,” Wake said. “Even if it’s 10 years (of clean diet) for that one millisecond, that’s worth it for me… Beer is not going to change. Beer is going to taste the same in 10 years as it tastes tomorrow, yesterday. And that sack won’t. That opportunity won’t be there 10 years from now. So, I can get it now. I’ll have the beer later.”

He added, “Take it from me that whatever is pulling you on the outside of football — I don’t care if it’s the South Florida sun, fishing, golfing, girls, party — whatever that thing is, sacrifice now and put everything you can into this game, and it’ll reward you tenfold. A lot of guys who listen, you’ll hear their name someday. Some guys you won’t.”

Wake embraces the chance to share that wisdom with other players, particularly rookies like Charles Harris was last year, and he’s given this talk many times.

“This is not exclusive to me or to football or to anything — What is it worth to you?” Wake said. “Is one more sack worth five years of a clean diet? Some people are like, ‘That’s crazy. I love cheeseburgers.’ Some people would say, ‘Yes, I’ll do anything I can to have one more sack.’

“Like I said before, cheeseburgers aren’t going anywhere. Video games, women, partying — All of that stuff will be there, trust me. But you’re only going to have one Monday Night Football game. You’ll never get it again.

“I’ve had guys — veterans, rookies, people who work 9 to 5 — all come to me like, ‘You’re crazy.’ But I’ve also have people who’ve said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do whatever I can to make myself better.’ It’s a universal thing for anybody. What is it worth to you? Are you willing to pay the cost? Some are. Some aren’t.”

Wake had a unique answer when asked what motivates him to stay so disciplined. “Freedom is my ultimate goal,” he said. For him, the reward for everything he’s sacrificing while he’s in the NFL is the luxury of doing whatever he wants when he’s done.

Wake intends to walk away from this — not anytime soon, it seems — in position to live however he pleases. That will make it all worth it.

“Probably no different than most of the guys in here, whether it’s the newspaper business or football, you want to have freedom,” he said. “I want to say in 10 years I will be able to do whatever I want. If it’s skiing all year round in the Swiss Alps, I sacrificed so that I could do that. Or if it’s teaching boys and girls how to pass rush, I can make that choice.

“But like I said earlier, if I’ve been drinking beers for the last 10 years, I might have to go do something for the next 40 years. I couldn’t go skiing and drink beer all day and sit on the beach, whatever it may be. To me, freedom is happiness and that’s what my direction is.”

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

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

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

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

Kenny Stills and the Dolphins’ offense are looking to snap back from a low-scoring 2017 season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Dolphins coach Adam Gase emerged from free agency defiant amid widespread criticism of the team’s offseason and claimed he had a winning roster.

Miami had just finished unloading Mike Pouncey, Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry, as well as their massive salaries, and didn’t make any flashy signings to replace them. Still, particularly on offense, this group of personnel was closest to what Gase envisioned when he took the job in January 2016.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

He’s had a while, including the last four weeks of offseason practices, to reevaluate whether he was right about that and he’s now more confident than ever. Watching Ryan Tannehill work behind a remodeled offensive line with several new skill players confirmed for Gase that his offense is on track for a big comeback this season.

“I think so,” he said. “I see a lot of the guys doing things the way we need them done. I like the way that we’re handling the mental game of it as well. Things are moving fast. We’re reacting very quickly.

“Really, it’s going to come down to how we handle training camp when it starts to get hot (and) the preseason games. You’re always going to have an injury. Who’s going to step up and fill those voids? We’ve still got a long ways to go. The season is a long ways away. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and we’ll just keep grinding.”

Tannehill is the biggest difference, taking command and making plays that were simply beyond the capacity of Jay Cutler and Matt Moore. Nothing makes Gase more confident than that.

While those outside the building have always had doubts about Tannehill, who has yet to produce an above-average season since being picked No. 8 overall in 2012, Gase has been unwavering in his belief that this is a winning quarterback.

He immediately bought into Tannehill’s ability as a dual-threat playmaker and thought all he needed was to be emboldened by a coach who pushed him into being more of a leader. He appears to have adopted some of Gase’s personality, and his past year and a half on the sideline made him fully fluent in Gase’s system as well.

Watching him operate that offense over the last four weeks heightened Gase’s optimism about the upcoming season.

“He’s gotten better,” he said of Tannehill. “We’ve been working (on) a lot of pocket movement things and getting him comfortable in that aspect. It doesn’t seem like he’s really changed much as far as worrying about bodies around him. He’s out there playing. He’s throwing the ball well. You can tell he’s spent a lot of time with these skill guys in the offseason.”

Almost everyone Tannehill will be throwing to is new to him. Among the main pass-catchers, only receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker were playing a significant role in the offense when Tannehill went down in 2016.

He worked frequently with Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, A.J. Derby and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki in player-run passing sessions this offseason.

“I feel right now that we legitimately have two groups of receivers that can play at a high level for us,” Tannehill said. “So if we want to sub somebody out and keep fresh legs in there, or if someone goes down, I don’t feel like there’s really going to be much of a drop off.”

Amendola and Wilson were both as good in Organized Team Activities as Gase anticipated, and Gesicki was a breath of fresh air at a position that’s hurt Miami for a long time. That said, there’s no certainty they’ll be able to perform like that against live defenses.

Is Wilson prepared to be used all over the field? Is Amendola going to be another overpriced, past-his-prime signing like Julius Thomas, Lawrence Timmons and Mario Williams? Are there ever any certainties when it comes to rookies?

Kenyan Drake has to prove himself as a versatile, every-down running back, something hasn’t done as a collegian or pro. Even if Drake thrives in that role, the Dolphins still need something out of 35-year-old Frank Gore or fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage (preferably both of them).

On the o-line, San Francisco castoff Daniel Kilgore takes over for Pouncey, Jesse Davis is a new starter at right guard and Laremy Tunsil looks to rebound from a frustrating season in which he was beaten or blocked the wrong man too many times.

And that’s just the offense.

With more than a month between now and training camp, and another month-plus until the season begins, Gase isn’t fretting over any of those things. For now, he likes what he sees.

“We’re gelling pretty good,” he said. “They like to practice against each other, they like playing together. You can tell there’s a lot of energy out there. I think that’s really one of the things that’s going to be improvement for us. We kind of lost that a little bit last year. This year we’re looking like we’re headed in the right direction.”

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

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

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

Dolphins coach Adam Gase high on QB David Fales, but remains undecided

David Fales still has quite a fight ahead of him to win the backup quarterback job. (AP)

DAVIE — The way everything has lined up for quarterback David Fales this offseason, it’ll be a surprise if anyone else claims the Dolphins’ backup quarterback job.

It’s a pivotal career opportunity for Fales after bouncing around the last four years. Miami coach Adam Gase is adamant that he’s going to pick from among Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty rather than call a free agent veteran like he did with Jay Cutler a year ago.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

Part of the reason he’s been so confident about moving forward with this group is what he’s seen from Fales over the past several months.

“I think after that last game, I was feeling good,” Gase said Thursday, referring to Fales’ passable performance in the season finale against Buffalo.

When he brought in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who coached Fales in Chicago, he confirmed what Gase thought. Fales looked like a much more polished quarterback than he’d been earlier in his career and appeared ready to be Ryan Tannehill’s backup.

Gase was encouraged enough by what he’d seen and what Loggains thought that he didn’t think it was necessary for the Dolphins to make any bold moves with quarterbacks in the recent free agency period.

“We felt like (keeping Fales) was a good first step for us and really we wanted to see how everything played out, because between free agency and the draft, you just never know how things are going to shake out,” Gase said. “By adding Brock and then Bryce, I think it’s been a good competition.

“That’s really what we’re going to be doing going into training camp. We’re just going to let those guys compete and see who wins out.”

As solid as Fales was last year and as well he’s performed in offseason practices, Gase isn’t installing him as the backup after the end of Organized Team Activities. He plans to keep the position battle open well into August.

“Right now I don’t even want to go in that direction yet because I don’t have a great answer for it,” Gase said. “I want to see guys play in preseason games. I want to see kind of how training camp goes. That’s a lot of time there and there’s a lot of football to be played. I want those guys all competing. I’m hoping those guys all have the same mentality that they’re the guy to beat.”

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

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

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

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake saw ‘missed opportunities’ for sacks in 2017

Cameron Wake isn’t fixated on sack statistics, but he knows the Dolphins’ numbers should be better. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — One of the Dolphins’ biggest problems last season was that they were in the top 10 in defensive line spending and the bottom 10 in sacks.

That’s not Cameron Wake’s fault. He had another double-digit year (his third straight healthy season doing so) with 10.5, but the rest of the team had just 19.5. Only five teams had fewer than Miami’s 30 sacks last season (25.5 from the defensive line), and that’s part of why opposing quarterbacks lit up the Dolphins on a weekly basis.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

“There were a lot of missed opportunities sometimes,” Wake said this week. “I’m not a sack counter. I think you guys know that about me. I honestly couldn’t even tell you where we ranked. I know as a defense and as a team, we didn’t get to where we should’ve.”

The Dolphins were counting mainly on the starting duo of Wake and Branch, which combined for 17 sacks the year before, as well as a significant contribution from first-round pick Charles Harris.

Branch, fresh off signing a three-year, $24 million contract, had three sacks in the first four games before injuries derailed his season. He was hurt most of the year and finished with 4.5 in 14 games.

Harris had a lot of close calls in the backfield, but managed just two sacks.

“If you look at the guys we had and our expectations, we weren’t there,” Wake said. “If we were to have success as a team… I just want to get everybody on the same page as far as winning the game on Sunday and us reaching our potential.

“Obviously potential to be at the top of the sack numbers should be there, but I think that comes with all of the other pieces of the puzzle, whether it’s stopping the run, third-down numbers, some things offenses are going to do or not do. All of that ties into what you get to do as far as getting to the quarterback.”

Miami’s disappointing defensive line play led to major changes this offseason. The team cut Suh, absorbing the biggest dead salary cap hit in league history, and traded for former all-pro defensive end Robert Quinn. The plan this year is to balance snaps at defensive end among a first unit of Wake and Quinn and a second unit of Branch and Harris.

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

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

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

Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki rips through offseason practices

Gesicki (86) is the highest-drafted Dolphins tight end since 1974. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins’ top two picks in this year’s NFL Draft appear to be as good as everyone thought they were. That’s great when it comes to safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it’s essential with tight end Mike Gesicki.

Gesicki, the second-rounder from Penn State, is immediately on the spot to earn the starting job and add something to the offense that Miami’s been missing for years. Tight end has been a hugely problematic position for this team, which hasn’t had a good one since Charles Clay in 2014.

At 6-foot-6, 249 pounds with exceptional athleticism, Gesicki could be the trend-breaker. He’s got great speed for the position and presents a big target in the red zone with his leaping ability. The main question has been whether he can handle everything thrown at him mentally at this level and master the playbook, and he seems to be progressing well in that department.

“He’s had some really good days,” coach Adam Gase said at the end of Organized Team Activities. “(Wednesday) was a good example where we had a two-minute drill and we had some things in the red zone where he was able to take advantage of a couple matchups that he had.

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“He’s aggressive to the ball and he can make plays. He’s a big man that can run and has really good hands. It’s been fun to watch him kind of develop and trying to learn this offense. He puts a lot of time into it. He’s trying to be one of those guys that can play fast.”
Gase added that Gesicki’s “been good” with the mental side of the game as well. He’s been putting in extra study time with fellow rookie tight end Durham Smythe in their hotel room. The players take turn calling out plays for the other one to draw up on a whiteboard.

Gesicki isn’t much of a blocker and he’s working on that, but the Dolphins didn’t draft him to block. He caught 105 balls for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final two college seasons, and that’s what they’re looking for out of him.

In the last three seasons, no Miami tight end has caught more than 41 passes and the position has been a glaring void in the offense. Julius Thomas’ season of that many catches, 388 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 was better than the Dolphins got out of Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims before him.

It’s not totally surprising given how little emphasis the organization has put on tight ends in the draft. Prior to this year, the Dolphins hadn’t selected one in the first three rounds since Michael Egnew in 2012. Gesicki is the third-highest picked tight end in franchise history.

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