DT Davon Godchaux sold Dolphins on himself in NFL Combine interview

Davon Godchaux was a great selection with the 178th pick. (AP)

DAVIE—There were good reasons why many NFL scouting departments were hesitant about LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The Dolphins shared some of those reservations as they evaluated the possibility of drafting him.

There was an arrest for a complicated domestic incident last year that resulted in him being briefly kicked off his college team (charges were dropped, and he was reinstated), he made what many thought was an odd decision to leave school after his junior season and, quite frankly, he’s got a goofy personality.

But any skepticism the Dolphins had about whether he was serious about football vanished quickly when they sat down with him at the NFL Combine. General manager Chris Grier, coach Adam Gase and defensive line coach Terrell Williams were instantly convinced that Godchaux was the type of player they coveted.

It’s the only Combine interview Gase can recall in detail.

“I remember being shocked,” Gase said. “We were showing him tape and we weren’t even hitting play yet and he says, ‘Here’s what happened.’ He’d go through everything. ‘I screwed up here. I should’ve been (doing this)’

“I just remember Terrell saying, ‘How do you know what play this is?’ He was like. ‘This is all I do.’ I just remember being floored by that because he was so football—That’s all it was. That’s all he was about.”

That proved to be an accurate glimpse, and the Dolphins set their minds on pulling off a draft steal. As they saw him slide into the fifth round, they began to feel like they were the one of the few who knew what he was. They felt confident enough about being able to get him that they bypassed him with their first fifth-round pick, No. 164 overall, and jumped on him with the 178th selection.

Going into Sunday’s game against Denver, it’s clear he was the best value of anyone they chose. He might even be their best rookie, period, regardless of draft slot.

“I think it’s just the consistency that he’s had and the fact that he always does everything you ask and he does it right,” Gase said. “There’s not many guys that can challenge him with the energy he plays with. Every down he’s on the field, he gives you everything he has.”

Godchaux immediately jumped ahead of third-year defensive tackle Jordan Phillips on the depth chart, and they battled throughout training camp. Both have played well alongside Ndamukong Suh when healthy this season.

Godchaux has played all 11 games, including five starts, and been on the field for 52.5 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps. He played slightly more than Phillips the last two weeks.

He is tied with Suh for most tackles on the defensive line with 31 and he’s got a forced fumble and a pass breakup to go with it. Pro Football Focus ranks him the No. 73 defensive tackle in the league this season.

“Godchaux is probably one of the best on the team at holding double teams,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “He’s just a squared off safe. He’s like an old-school safe. He just holds in there and hangs and doesn’t get moved.

Beyond the way he’s played, the staff has been impressed by how he prepares. He’s taken after Suh’s no-nonsense approach and seems to have learned how to carry himself as a pro. It helps that he’s also in the same corner of the locker room as Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and William Hayes.

“He’s been exactly what you want a guy to be, especially for a young guy,” said Gase, who sent Godchaux out as one of the game captains against New England last week.

“I know Suh spends a lot of time with him. It started in the spring. I just think that’s kind of how he is built. (Suh) has just kind of got that natural leadership about him to where those young guys all kind of follow him.”

Following Suh around is never a bad plan, and that’s a strong starting point for Godchaux as he blossoms into a long-term piece for Miami.

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase takes a big risk with his running backs]

[Broncos, Dolphins have deep roots in each other’s sidelines]

[A conversation with The Jupiter Juggernaut]

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

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips says he’ll return vs. Falcons

Jordan Phillips will return this week, he said. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins’ defensive line, which has been very good so far, will get a boost Sunday with the return of Jordan Phillips.

Phillips has been out since hurting his ankle in the season opener, but said today he feels like himself again and made it clear that he’ll be playing against the Falcons.

“I’ve felt good,” he said. “I felt like I got over the hump this week. I’m in a good place. Strength is good. I’m good.”

Phillips beat out rookie Davon Godchaux for the starting job at the end of the preseason, but Godchaux took over after the injury. The Dolphins have not said which player will start alongside Ndamukong Suh.

Depending on how confident the Dolphins are in Phillips’ health, that could mean rookie Vincent Taylor will be inactive.

Phillips felt good enough to play last week, but still wasn’t 100 percent healthy. He’s back to full strength now and thinks his conditioning is where it needs to be after an extra week working at it.

“Yeah, it sucked not being back out there for sure,” he said. “But I couldn’t do anything about it. It’s gonna heal when it heals.”

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

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

Miami Dolphins’ once-frightful run defense now plays with ‘no fear,’ Ndamukong Suh says

Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints tackled by Kiko Alonso of the Dolphins as Lawrence Timmons (94) and Andre Branch (50) look on. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

DAVIE — The Tennessee Titans have two of the top 25 rushers in the NFL, not to mention the possibility of a quarterback who can take off running at any time.

“Put no fear in my heart,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Wednesday.

Suh can say that. Now. Whether he would have or could have said that last year is debatable. Teams were too busy running over and through the Dolphins for anyone to do any talking.

Even though three games is a tiny sample size, the contrast is startling.

This year: No. 5 against the run, 77.7 yards allowed per game.

Last year: No. 30 against the run, 140.4 yards allowed.

“We know last year, that wasn’t us, no matter if people made excuses about it being our first year together,” defensive end Andre Branch said. “At the end of the day, run defense is man against man and for us to stop the run, it just shows that everyone has pretty much owned up to their mistakes and everybody’s just doing their job.”

In a struggle of man against man, it’s not hard to imagine the feeling when, say, Buffalo is rushing for 272 yards against you, which happened in December. Or when every team in the second half of the season is rushing for at least 100 yards. Or when you’re giving up a team-record 2,247 rushing yards for the season.

“It’s tough when you check the stats, when you see a team has X amount of rushing yards,” Branch said. “It is frustrating because you practice your tail off and then you don’t get the results that you want.”

One sign that stopping the run has been a point of emphasis came from tackle Davon Godchaux as he discussed the Titans.

“We’ve got a big challenge,” Godchaux said. “Last year they rushed all over the Dolphins.”

Godchaux knew that even though a year ago, he was playing for LSU. But he was right. Last season, the Titans rushed for 235 yards in a 30-17 victory that dropped Miami to 1-4. The Dolphins managed to turn things around and make the playoffs even though teams continued to run all over them.

But it was clear something had to change.

“Guys just getting to the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said. “We’re fitting up. Guys are getting in their gaps and being where they need to be.”

Adding Godchaux has made a difference. So has the arrival of end William Hayes. And, now, linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

“Fury, fire and big hits,” Suh said of Timmons. “He’s a guy that obviously comes downhill. I love him and enjoy him playing behind me. I look forward to him continuing to progress in our defense and play off us as defensive linemen up front.”

One could argue that the run defense’s numbers are better because the pass defense ranks 27th, meaning teams haven’t had to run so much. But even when teams have tried to run, they haven’t gotten far, averaging 3.07 yards per carry compared to 4.8 last season. And that’s taking into account that one of their opponents was the Jets, who are seventh in the NFL in rushing.

Still, the Dolphins are 1-2. Getting support from the offense Sunday would be nice, because shutting out the Titans doesn’t seem realistic. Tennessee brings DeMarco Murray, the 17th-leading rusher with 215 yards (and a 5.1 average), and Derrick Henry, 25th with 178 yards (4.6).

“Both of them hit the holes hard,” Hayes said. “Murray might be a little bit more agile but they both get that ball and try to get yards after contact. They look for contact. It’s not like they shy away from it.”

Besides Murray and Henry, quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was limited in practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury, has rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think they’re a physical team but at the end of the day, put no fear in my heart,” Suh said. “I know as well as any other guy on my team and looking at those guys and their eyes, nobody is scared of them being physical or whatever. We embrace the challenge. We look forward to it. Like I said, I think you can see it in my face.”

[Mike Pouncey says team is full of fury after two losses]

[Adam Gase: Jay Cutler isn’t 25 anymore]

[Dolphins’ offensive line isn’t giving Jay Ajayi much room to breathe]

[Yell for Matt Moore all you want. Adam Gase can’t hear you]

[Kenny Stills, on Vegas tragedy: Enough talk. It’s time to find solutions]

[CB Torry McTyer’s girlfriend works at Mandalay Bay, barricaded herself]

 

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

Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips shows team-first outlook on ankle injury

Jordan Phillips is taking a selfless approach to his ankle injury. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The ankle injury Jordan Phillips suffered in the Dolphins’ season opener seemed to have the worst possible timing. Not that there’s ever a convenient time to get hurt, but he was really trending upwardly at the time.

He fought back to reclaim his starting job from rookie Davon Godchaux with a strong close to the preseason and was playing well in that game, a 19-17 win over the Chargers, then spent the next two weeks on the sideline because of the injury.

That allowed Godchaux and fellow rookie Vincent Taylor to get some valuable snaps, and that’s the most important aspect of the injury to Phillips.

“If anything, it made our room stronger,” he said. “It made the young guys get a little bit more experience and it’s put us in a better place.

“It’s not about me. That’s the way I’m looking at it. If we’re better as a group now because I was gone, then it served its purpose. When I get back, I can help the room out like we’ve been doing.”

Phillips missed the Jets and Saints games and remains in question for Miami’s home opener against Tennessee on Sunday. He was a full participant in today’s practice, which is a good sign that he’ll return soon.

Phillips declined to say whether he was close last week and described it as a day-to-day injury. He’s still not back to full strength.

While he’s been out, he’s been very attentive to Godchaux and Taylor. Phillips thinks of himself as essentially an extra defensive line coach.

“I’m just a third pair of eyes between (Terrell Williams) and (Andre Carter), just trying to help out,” he said. “Godchaux and Vince come to me if they think they didn’t see something right or just want to have a question about something, they can feel comfortable enough to come talk to me about it. That’s what I try to do for them.”

[Adam Gase’s wake-up call to Jay Cutler: You’re not 25 anymore]

[A complicated cornerback situation with Byron Maxwell, Cordrea Tankersley and Xavien Howard]

[Column: Dolphins coach Adam Gase sounds lost as offense sputters]

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

Six Miami Dolphins rookies describe game ‘I’m going to remember the rest of my life’

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws under pressure by defensive end Charles Harris of the Dolphins. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

DAVIE — For six members of the Dolphins, last weekend wasn’t just a dramatic opening start to the season, but a start to their NFL careers.

Six rookies shook off jitters and helped the Dolphins defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 19-17. Maybe a year or 10 from now, it’ll be forgotten by many fans. But not these six men.

“It’s a game I’m going to remember the rest of my life,” punter Matt Haack said. “So to be able to look back and say I won my first NFL game with a great group of guys like this, it’s something special.”

How special? Here are their stories.

LB Chase Allen: Starting was ‘kind of a shock’

As if your first NFL game weren’t enough of a nerve-racking experience for a rookie, imagine getting word at the last minute that you’re starting.

“Finding out the night before is always kind of a shock,” Allen said. “But I felt ready.”

Chase Allen

Turns out coach-speak isn’t always just a cliche.

“They told me all week that if anything happens, I’m going in, so to be ready, so I felt prepared,” Allen said.

Chances are “if anything happens” usually doesn’t mean “in case the guy in front of you goes AWOL,” but that’s exactly what happened with Lawrence Timmons.

Not only did Allen start, but he was in on three tackles, including the first play of the game. Talk about a welcome to the NFL moment …

“We brought some pressure and I was untouched and got a TFL (tackle for loss) in the backfield with Kiko (Alonso),” Allen said. “That was like, ‘All right, I knew I could play at this level.’ ”

P Matt Haack: Keeping mouth shut a veteran move 

Who says rookies aren’t smart?

Haack had an underappreciated role in the win. Keeping his mouth shut was half the job.

Dolphins punter Matt Haack. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Haack was the holder when Cody Parkey nailed that 54-yard field goal that beat the Chargers. What was the communication like before and after the kick?

“I try to stay away,” Haack said. “I would assume that he trusts me that I’m going to get it down and everything. I mainly talked with (holder) John (Denney). We warmed up on the sideline together. In a situation like that you kind of let the kicker be.”

Haack’s job is to get the ball down as quickly as possible for Parkey to get a good, long look at the placement.

“You kind of have to go out and treat it like every other kick, but you’re always going to have that in the back of your mind, ‘This is the game-winner,’ ” Haack said.

Haack averaged 43.3 yards on three punts, starting his career with a 53-yarder but following with a 19-yarder.

“It was very uncharacteristic of an NFL guy,” he said. “No one was more frustrated or upset than I was at it.”

Haack said while trying to drive the ball farther, he caught it with the side of his foot and swung across it, “But coach Gase told me not to worry about it, stay aggressive.”

S Maurice Smith: ‘I’m a real NFL player’

Smith hopes many more memories are still to come, but last Sunday seemed about as good as it gets.

Smith is the type of rookie who takes pleasures in the simplest of things. Such as?

Maurice Smith

“The fact that I got to represent everything I worked for,” he said. “I think the fact that we came out of the tunnel and I was just looking up and seeing all those fans out there and actually being able to say I’m a real NFL player. It’s a blessing. That was the best feeling.”

Well, maybe not The Best. Because in the closing seconds, the Chargers missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt, making Smith a winner.

“I knew once I looked at it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s a miss. It’s wide.’ Once it didn’t go in, it felt like we won the Super Bowl. But it’s just the first game.”

 

DE Charles Harris: Welcome to the … damn!

This isn’t in college anymore.

Harris, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, was reminded of that after his pass-rush attempt.

Charles Harris. (AP)

“I was kind of like, ‘Damn,’ ” he said.

OK, so maybe that puts Harris in the same category as 100 percent of the other rookies. Next, he had to figure out what just happened.

“I went to the sideline and looked at the little pictures of the play,” said Harris, who played 27 snaps and made a tackle. “It was, ‘OK, this is why they have these resources. This is why they have these coaches on the sideline, to help us out, to teach us. This isn’t like college where you can go in and you have a game plan. You have to mix it up mid-game.’

“I think that’s probably the biggest ‘welcome to the NFL,’ that you were switching up what you had been studying all week because you’ve seen something different. Being able to adjust on the fly.”

DT Davon Godchaux: View from trenches quite intense

Godchaux knew playing in the NFL was intense, but his indoctrination was under the most intense conditions you can get.

Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

“When we did goal line, it was pretty rough down there, you know,” Godchaux said. “Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Coach T (DL coach Terrell Williams) always talks about you never want to end up in the back of the end zone. You always want to be across the line.

“But it got real down in that moment.”

The Chargers scored, which reinforced what coaches had been saying.

“You’re usually not seeing guys come off that low (in normal situations),” said Godchaux, who played a rookie-high 32 snaps and made two tackles. “So as a defensive lineman you have to come off first, get them in their charge so they can’t knock you back.”

Godchaux already knows what he’ll tell his kids years from now about last Sunday.

“Your dad played in the NFL and it was pretty good. My first game, we won.”

DT Vincent Taylor: ‘Kind of shed a little tear’ during anthem

At last, a rookie who’ll admit it.

“At the national anthem, I kind of shed a little tear,” Taylor said.

Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor.

In that moment, Taylor was reflecting on the road traveled to reach the point football players dream of.

“Just knowing everything I’d been through, my journey, going through Katrina and me playing in an NFL game — that was emotional,” he said.

He endured three days without power after Katrina and now was making his NFL debut on the heels of Hurricane Irma. Taylor said fellow defensive tackle Jordan Phillips saw how worked up he was and “told me to make the best of it, take advantage of it.”

Taylor was inserted in a goal-line situation and made a tackle on one of his first pro plays.

“It’s only the beginning,” he said. “I’ve got a long way to go.”

Dolphins turn Lawrence Timmons matter over to Mike Tannenbaum

When will Miami Dolphins linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) be ready?

Jay Cutler says Adam Gase has ‘an aggressive nature at heart.’

Miami Dolphins’ Stephone Anthony: I carry a chip on my shoulder

Bring Your Own Guts! 4 Clemson Tigers on Miami Dolphins defense

Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: Don’t blame Laremy Tunsil, blame me!

What Adam Gase said Wednesday before Miami Dolphins practice

[RELATED: Photos from the Dolphins’ Week 2 matchup against the Chargers]

 

Dolphins’ Week 1 depth chart gave some hints on starting jobs

It’s time for Jordan Phillips to step up. (Getty Images)

Before everything got turned sideways by Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins were moving toward their season opener against Tampa Bay with their lineup mostly set.

While coach Adam Gase maintained some spots would stay up for grabs throughout the week, the Miami’s initial depth chart gave some indication of what the team is thinking as it prepares for this week’s game at Los Angeles.

Gase said last week he intended to go with a starting offensive line of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Anthony Steen, center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Steen had been competing with Jesse Davis after the Dolphins lost Ted Larsen and Kraig Urbik to injuries.

Larsen is out with a torn biceps and is eligible to come off Injured Reserve for the Week 9 game against the Raiders.

At defensive tackle, next to Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins have been watching Jordan Phillips compete with fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux. Godchaux seemed to have the upper hand most of the preseason, but Phillips was listed as the starter last week.

Gase also intends to let cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Alterraun Verner continue battling, though Maxwell is the incumbent starter and was listed in the lineup for the Tampa Bay game. Xavien Howard is locked in at the other corner spot.

At linebacker, the Dolphins had Mike Hull in with Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons. Newcomer Rey Maualuga was listed as Hull’s backup, but one consideration with Maualuga is that he’s now had an extra week to get himself in playing shape and possibly overtake Hull.

Any questions left at those spots will be settled over the next three days, when the team resumes practice in Oxnard, Calif. after a week off. Players were expected to report Monday, and there will be a team meeting today.

[Hard Rock Stadium, Dolphins’ practice facility intact after Hurricane Irma]

[Byron Maxwell, Alterraun Verner still battling for starting cornerback job]

[Jupiter’s Cody Parkey living the dream with the Miami Dolphins]

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

Grading the Miami Dolphins thus far: Are players ready for prime time?

Dolphins receiver Jakeem Grant hauls in a long touchdown pass in front of Minnesota Vikings defensive back Sam Brown (31) and strong safety Jayron Kearse (27) in the preseason finale. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Until now, the games were just for practice and, by extension, so were the grades we handed out after each Dolphins exhibition. August was just an exercise in getting ready for September, which has arrived. Mercifully.

Next weekend, the Tampa Bay Bucs visit to start the regular season. Are the Dolphins ready? Let’s take stock of what we know so far:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler has justified Adam Gase’s faith in him this preseason. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

On the strength of eight passes, people are feeling comfortable at a position in which the starter is out for the year and his replacement is a talking head from the Fox broadcast booth. Kind of startling to put it that way, but when Ryan Tannehill wrecked his knee, Adam Gase knew he had to call Jay Cutler, who did an immediate mic drop for $10 million. Eight completions later, Gase deemed Cutler ready to go — no need to risk him in the preseason finale. Gase was right. Cutler has command of the system, a nifty 111.9 passer rating and was in such a rush to get here, he neglected to pack that ever-present frown. His rocket arm? Yeah, that made it through security. Put it together with the skillset of this receiving corps, Cutler could/should top his previous best season, in Chicago under a QB coach named Gase.

Grade: B

Running backs

Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams, Storm Johnson and De’Veon Smith all had more carries this preseason than Jay Ajayi. Everyone OK with that? Thought so. After 1,272 yards last year, Ajayi doesn’t have to prove anything. Even with a mere 11 carries, Ajayi had runs of 26 and 19 yards. He averaged 4.6 per. When does the countdown start for his next 200-yard game?

Grade: B

Receivers

Only a lunatic would toss out a strange stat in Dolphins history to suggest it could happen again. I’m not that loony, but I will say that Mark Duper had zero catches as a rookie and 1,003 yards in Year 2, after he learned how to get in a football stance (no joke). Fat chance Jakeem Grant is Duper 2.0, but he is the team’s most-improved player. It’s further evidence that track stars need time to develop. Look beyond his ridiculous 28.8 average and his frightening breakaway speed. Instead focus on plays such as his 12-yard catch against the Falcons and how he bounced off two defenders on his 69-yard TD against the Eagles. Grant, one of the smallest Dolphins ever, showed grit we never suspected he had. What happens when Gase plants Grant wide on one side and Kenny Stills on the other? Not to mention, a couple of guys named DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry in a four-wide set?

Grade: A

Mike Pouncey. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Offensive line

The line couldn’t stick together last season and will have trouble doing so in 2017. Mike Pouncey played 14 snaps in preseason, which was more than expected. Elsewhere, guard Ted Larsen tore a biceps and should miss about half the season. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James endured ups and downs. The ideal starting five may not have taken a single snap together yet. The Dolphins allowed five sacks and averaged just 3.0 yards per rush, fair indications of the line’s performance.

Grade: C-minus

Defensive line

Fifth-rounder Davon Godchaux should win the only job available, starting at tackle next to Ndamukong Suh. All that means is Godchaux gets the glory of taking the first snap on Sundays. It doesn’t mean Jordan Phillips is off the hook, because their snap counts may be equal. Godchaux hasn’t been perfect but has been more consistent than Phillips, who swore he was going to shed his reputation of taking plays off. Phillips turned in a good performance against the Eagles, but that was only after getting a kick in the behind from coaches. “Go ask the coaches,” a petulant Phillips repeated to reporters during his downward trend. First-round pick Charles Harris, an end, took 99 snaps in preseason to Phillips’ 84 and Godchaux’s 83. But  Godchaux had seven total tackles compared to two apiece by Phillips and Harris, who quieted after a strong start.

Grade: C

Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan, shortly before a knee injury wiped out his rookie season. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Linebackers

Lawrence Timmons’ interception against the Eagles stood out on a unit that did little else to excite. Check that. There was a buzz early over second-rounder Raekwon McMillan, but that lasted about a minute into the preseason opener when he blew out a knee and was lost for the year. We’ll see how much Timmons has left. Mike Hull figures to step in for McMillan, but given how often the Dolphins go with only two linebackers, improving the 30th-ranked run defense falls into the laps of Timmons and Kiko Alonso.

Grade: C-minus

Defensive backs

T.J. McDonald. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

Reshad Jones is back. Cordrea Tankersley doesn’t look like a rookie. Xavien Howard is healthy. Newcomers Alterraun Verner and Torry McTyer can make plays. Sounds great? Not so fast, my friend. First, there’s the loss of Tony Lippett (Achilles). Plus the half-season suspension of T.J. McDonald, who justified a sudden four-year contract. And now, the funk Byron Maxwell has plunged into. Coordinator Matt Burke better hope Maxwell rebounds as he did in 2016. (Random question: What might be going through Landry’s mind as the Dolphins have forked over $34 million to McDonald and Cutler in recent weeks?)

Grade: C-minus

Special teams

It was a Matt-for-Matt swap at punter, with Matt Haack winning the job over dependable Matt Darr. Even though he’s not actually a lefty, Haack punts left-footed. Statistically, not much separated the two, but coaches may have been swayed by the lefty situation, which can throw off punt returners and lead to muffs. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins handle return duties and whether they risk Landry and even Grant.

Grade: C

[Jakeem Grant proves he’s a real threat in the Dolphins’ offense]

[Five takeaways from the Dolphins-Vikings game, which was telling for some of Miami’s key players]

[The warm, goofy side of Ndamukong Suh]

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

LIVE EVENT!

The Daily Dolphin Live: Join the Conversation

Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamper on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips back in mix for starting job

Jordan Phillips got the message after being benched in favor of a rookie. (AP)

DAVIE—After recently floundering behind a fifth-round pick on the Dolphins’ depth chart, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has reemerged as a starting candidate over the past week.

It’s been an odd offseason coming off a year in which he was benched and publicly criticized for inconsistency. Phillips continued battling with his weight, but vowed during Organized Team Activities that he was turning things around.

Now, despite Miami starting rookie Davon Godchaux over him the first three preseason games, Phillips is getting a fairly equal share of the first-team reps and believes this has been a great lead-up to the season. According to him, there “was never a question in my mind” that he had a chance to claim a starting job.

“I feel like this is my best preseason, training camp, everything,” he said. “I’ve been sticking to the grind.”

As far as what’s turned things around for him lately, he added, “I’m just playing harder, honestly. Everything’s just coming together. Everything’s a lot slower.”

Phillips was listed at 336 pounds last season, when he started 11 games, then climbed to 347 before reporting for offseason training. He said he got that down to 335 in late May and now he’s at 328.

He accomplished some of that by eating better, and it’s hard not to lose weight given the conditions in which the Dolphins practice.

It’s clear he’s been motivated by Godchaux’s rise, too, and fellow defensive lineman William Hayes noticed Phillips got the message when he saw Godchaux taking his job.

“I think it was good,” Hayes said. “I feel it made him compete a little harder and he had to earn his spot back. And that’s what this league is about. Every day it’s a prove-yourself business. And since then he’s been coming out, he’s a totally different football player. He’s working a lot harder and he’s just grinding. And I can appreciate that.”

[One big reason to tune into Dolphins-Vikings on Thursday]

[Third downs are still a killer for the Miami Dolphins]

[The warm, goofy side of Ndamukong Suh]

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

LIVE EVENT!

The Daily Dolphin Live: Join the Conversation

Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamper on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.


 

Is Miami Dolphins’ defensive line really better than last year?

Andre Branch says this is the best d-line with which he’s played. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE—Andre Branch contends that the current version of the Dolphins’ defensive line is the best on which he’s played. It’s even better than last year’s.

Side note: It better be. Miami is paying a league-high $45.2 million to that unit.

“I think last year—I mean, no one knew who I was,” Branch said. “We had talented players that had played at high levels, but at the same time, they were a little bit older. For us, just having that youth in our room is going to be great.”

Branch was an unknown four modest seasons in Jacksonville before coming up with 5.5 sacks, 49 tackles and two forced fumbles last season. That earned him a three-year, $24 million deal in March.

Even though the Dolphins returned the same starting four, counting Jordan Phillips, there’s good reason to believe Branch’s assessment is correct. Branch and Cameron Wake were not full-time starters last season, and Wake is a year healthier after tearing his Achilles in 2015.

Suh, who just turned 30, continues to dominate and command double and triple teams.

On top of that core, the Dolphins traded for noted run stopper William Hayes and added three draft picks on the line: first-round defensive end Charles Harris, and fifth-round defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Godchaux is currently ahead of Phillips as the starter next to Suh.

“The younger players are extremely talented and we have the perfect veteran guys in our room,” Branch said. “It’s great. Everyone is everyone’s brother. We talk each and every day after we leave here. That’s the good thing. You never want to let your brother down.”

[Against Eagles, Jay Cutler shows he’s exactly the QB the Dolphins need]

[Five takeaways from Dolphins-Eagles]

[Grading the Dolphins in their loss to Philadelphia]

[Dolphins-Eagles photo gallery]

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

Dolphins’ Ndamukong Suh rips into Davon Godchaux, and that’s working well

Davon Godchaux has gone from fifth-round pick to probable starter. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

PHILADELPHIA—Not many people would enjoy being chewed out by Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a 6-foot-4 giant with a perfect scowl, but rookie Davon Godchaux seems to like it.

Godchaux is on track to be one of Miami’s opening day starters, and Suh’s tutelage is a big reason behind his rise. Suh reached out to him shortly after the team took him in the fifth round this year and has been a valuable mentor. Sometimes his advice comes gently, sometimes not.

“He just wants me to be a guy who plays like him and plays fast,” Godchaux said after this morning’s practice. “He dominates every play. That’s how I want to be.”

Even when his advice comes harshly?

“I just learn from him,” he said. “Anything he tells me, I listen. He’s been to the Pro Bowl a lot of times, he’s been all-pro. Just learning from a guy like that, you can’t go wrong listening to him no matter how he talks to you. I’m following his lead.”

Godchaux picked a good guy to follow, and it’s going well.

While he didn’t come into training camp thinking he’d have a shot at the starting job, he quickly surpassed Jordan Phillips. Phillips started 11 games last year and there were signs that he was straightening out some of his inconsistencies, but that hasn’t proven to be the case.
Adam Gase stopped short of declaring Godchaux the opening day starter and left open the possibility of Phillips reclaiming his spot, but acknowledged he’s had more “good days” than Phillips to this point.

Godchaux was looking simply to string together solid practices and continue improving, and that’s taken him farther than he expected.

“I never looked at it as coming in to start,” he said. “That wasn’t really on my mind, but just to come in and learn my plays and play fast and each and every day keep learning.”

[Fact or fiction: Which Dolphins offseason assertions have proven true?]

[Why Jay Cutler & Jay Ajayi could be a perfect match for Miami Dolphins]

[Five things to know about new Miami Dolphin LB Rey Maualuga]

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