‘It affects me’: Miami Dolphins’ Walt Aikens knows solutions with police aren’t so simple

Dolphins safety Walt Aikens, national spokesperson for the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities League, poses with PAL participants at the team training facility in Davie on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

DAVIE — The more people want to boil down the anthem flap in the NFL to patriotism — are the players respectful of this country or not? — the more we see this issue is not, and probably never will be, so simple.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dolphins safety Walt Aikens walked into the team auditorium at the training facility to meet with the media. But he wasn’t alone. He was with a group of kids and Jeff Hood, CEO of the National PAL (Police Athletics/Activities League).

Aikens is not one of the kneelers. His connection to the larger issue can be traced to growing up in Charlotte, N.C., where he was a hotshot basketball player in PAL who also took a liking to football. Of course now we know which path life took Aikens, which is why PAL saw an opportunity to involve an NFL player in its program and Aikens saw an opportunity to give back. He accepted an invitation to become an official spokesperson for the organization.

“It was the best way to give back, me going back to these local communities and showing these kids that no matter where you are or where you’re from, you can always make it and there’s a positive way out of every situation,” Aikens said.

In a lot of ways, it’s the kind of story you can’t get enough of. But — going back to the original point — it’s also not so simple.

PAL’s stated goal is to bridge gaps between kids, police and communities. Anyone paying even the slightest attention knows how important, and how tenuous, that bridge looks today.

Which is why Walt Aikens, official spokesperson, has a bigger task on his hands than just encouraging kids to try real hard in school and in sports. Asked if kids today hit him with tough questions at a time when his peers are protesting social injustice, Aikens first said, “No, they’re kids.”

But he then went on to give you the impression kids are learning hard lessons younger and younger these days.

“And if they do know about it, I’m pretty open with my situation,” Aikens said, referring to a brush with the law in his younger days that could have been a trend if he let it. More on that in a minute, but first, it’s important to see the police through Aikens’ eyes. 

“Up until more recently, I’ve had a pretty good viewpoint of police,” Aikens said. “I’ve never been in any situation where it was just wrongfully an outburst, or something that was drastically crazy. My viewpoint was always good. Back in Charlotte, we have a nice group of police officers that a lot of them were my friends’ parents, so we grew up in that environment where I know his dad is a cop, but at the end of the day, that’s my friend’s pops. So, we always had a good relationship.”

Fully recognizing what he’d just said also raised a question, Aikens continued.

“When I said up until recently, I still don’t have a bad viewpoint. But we’ve seen what’s been going on in the media with police and people going on, beatings and all that stuff right now. It affects me. It affects me because I have police friends.”

Aikens cited the case of Brentley Vinson, a white officer in Charlotte who shot and killed an African-American man but was cleared by a prosecutor who provided evidence to rebut assertions that the deceased man had not been armed.

“He went to my college,” Aikens said of Vinson. “I know he’s a good dude and I know that he was doing what he needed to do in the line of duty. But it was kind of hard having mixed emotions coming from patrons and then coming from the police officers. It’s kind of hard when you have friends or family involved in that, but my viewpoint is still the same until otherwise.

“There are a lot of things you have to watch out for nowadays, especially being a young, black male in today’s society. It’s kind of tough. But at the same time, I just try to keep my nose clean, do what I need to do and get out of the way.”

The one time Aikens strayed from the straight and narrow involved a laptop he bought from a teammate. Aikens said he didn’t realize it was stolen, but regardless, the misdemeanor charge was enough for Illinois to dismiss him from the team, so he transferred to Liberty. Today, he uses that as a teaching tool when he talks to kids.

“I would just tell them we all make mistakes,” Aikens said. “I made a mistake my first ever time getting in trouble and it was my last. (I) didn’t make it a habit. Even me, I was in a nice, two-parent home and I made mistakes. I was young. I was a kid, but that didn’t describe my life. I didn’t let that define who I was as a person.

“So, when that happened, I just kept it moving. My pops told me when I initially got in trouble, he said, ‘What’s done is done.’ We’ve got to learn from it and move on. And I feel like that was the most impactful thing that you could say to me, because he wasn’t mad, he wasn’t yelling. He said, ‘I’m not mad or nothing. I’m more upset,’ and that really hit home like if you’re mad you can get over it, but if you’re upset, I felt like I let him down. I let my parents down. I just kept it moving. Like I said, I was hurt by it. I ultimately made the best out of my situation and I tell these kids that they can do the same in whatever situation they come from.”

What Adam Gase said Tuesday

LIVE Miami Dolphins Practice Report from Tuesday’s OTA 8

Could Stephone Anthony be under-radar answer for Miami Dolphins?

New Dolphins DE Robert Quinn bending minds with flexibility

Miami Dolphins’ Charles Harris modeling game after Robert Quinn

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

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Ready, draw! Nightly pop quizzes help Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki learn plays

Dolphins rookie tight end Mike Gesicki during organized team activities. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — If anyone is searching for that missing white board at the Dolphins’ training facility, the mystery can now be solved. Tight end Mike Gesicki made off with it after receiving permission that sounds only marginally convincing.

Tight ends coach Shane Day had suggested Gesicki get a white board so he and his hotel roommate, Durham Smythe, could review plays at night during the offseason training program. Rather than head to Target, Gesicki noticed there was a white board in the tight ends room.

“Hey, coach, can I have it?” Gesicki asked.

“I’m not using it,” Day said.

“So I grabbed it and brought it home,” Gesicki said.

While it’s entirely possible there’s also an Xbox in their room, the tight ends spend a chunk of most nights playing a little game on the white board.

“Calling it out quick and you draw it up,” Gesicki said of the Dolphins’ plays. “We’re just trying to simulate the huddle and simulate knowing everything on the fly and not just your job, but knowing everybody’s job.”

While that can only be a plus, the Dolphins would love for Gesicki to be able to do his job. He’s 6-feet-6 and 252 pounds. He caught 14 touchdown passes his final two seasons at Penn State. Put them together and it gives the Dolphins hope for a receiving threat at tight end they’ve lacked for ages, with the brief exception of Charles Clay.

“When the ball comes my way, it’s my job to make the play, whether it’s one-handed, two-handed, low, high or whatever it is,” Gesicki said.

Gesicki’s downfield ability hasn’t been on display often in practices open to the media, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill mentioned a one-handed catch from a closed workout.

“Honestly, I’m not worried about the production on field right now,” Gesicki said. “I’m not worried, ‘Man, I only had one catch yesterday. I didn’t score a touchdown today.’ Or anything like that because we’re sitting here and it’s June.

“We don’t have a game for another three months. What I’m most concerned about right now is just showing the coaches, showing the quarterbacks, the guys around me, my teammates, and trying to earn their respect that this kid knows what he’s doing, he knows his job, he knows his role, his assignment and I want him on the field. I want him to make a play for us.”

The white board helps make sense of the blur that often comes in the morning, when coaches dish out new concepts to absorb.

“You’re getting it 20 minutes once you come in,” Gesicki said. “You look through it and then you go out there. There’s a lot going on.”

But by the end of the week, players will scatter. OTAs and minicamps will be over. The players will be off until training camp.

Vacation? Hardly.

“There’s zero unwinding going on,” Gesicki said of his summer plans. “I promise you that. My foot is on the gas from now until February.”

[Rookies get a sample of the South Florida heat]

[Which undrafted rookies have impressed Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke so far?]

[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.

Former first-round pick Stephone Anthony: ‘I have to become starter’ for Dolphins

Stephone Anthony is trying to get his career back on track. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Stephone Anthony was a first-round pick just three years ago and he’s only 25, but there’s a sense that he’s already running out of time.

The NFL is turbulent, and things change quickly. Anthony was one of the most promising rookies in the league for the Saints, then found himself shipped to the Dolphins for a fifth-round pick last year and is fighting for a job this offseason. He’s battling a rookie, among others, for one of Miami’s starting linebacker spots and he knows it’s a critical point in his career.

“Before I can do anything else,” Anthony said, “I have to become a starter.”

That’s a key step toward righting his career, and he’s in a good position to do it.

While Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan can be marked down as certain starters, the rest of the Dolphins’ linebacker corps is wide open. Third-round pick Jerome Baker is likely to be in the mix, as well as undrafted scrappers Cayson Collins and Mike McCray and returning players Mike Hull and Chase Allen.

Anthony said he’s been taking snaps with the first- and second-team defense during Organized Team Activities.

He’s slightly leaner than last year, checking in at 6-foot-3 and somewhere between 235 and 240 pounds (as opposed to 245), but the most important thing is he’s far more familiar the Dolphins’ scheme than when he arrived.

Miami needed a linebacker when Lawrence Timmons deserted the team early last season and found an eager trading partner in the Saints, who had lost interest in Anthony when he wasn’t producing in their new defensive scheme. After opening with 112 tackles, two defensive scores and an all-rookie selection, he started three games in 2016 and was inactive last year while New Orleans looked to deal him.

Anthony played eight games off the bench for the Dolphins and totaled 15 tackles, plus some special teams work. He showed promise at times, but not nearly enough for the organization to exercise a 2019 option on him last month that would have paid him around $9 million.

General manager Chris Grier and vice president Mike Tannenbaum didn’t explain that decision to Anthony, but they didn’t need to.

“It was kind of what I expected,” he said. “I needed more snaps and there’s a lot that goes into it. But that’s not my job to worry about. My job is going to be to put my best foot forward.”

He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next spring, which heightens the importance of the upcoming season. A good year will put him in position for a long-term deal with Miami or somewhere else. Otherwise, he’ll probably be looking at single-year, prove-it contracts until he shows he’s worth more than that.

One factor working in his favor this season is stability. Having done his best to catch up on the Dolphins’ defense last year, he’s now had a full nine months with the team. He’s been around for all of OTAs and minicamp, plus he’ll work through training camp and the preseason. He had none of those benefits last year.

“The biggest difference is the amount of time I have and the time I’ve spent trying to learn the system and getting myself comfortable with it,” Anthony said.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke sees that as the only barrier to Anthony being a significant contributor. He said last week, “It’s always difficult to come in the middle of the season, come from a different scheme and pick things up… But he works really hard. He works really, really hard.”

Everything’s more routine for Anthony now, including his living situation. He took up residence in a local hotel for almost a month after being traded to the Dolphins last season, but now he’s settled. That makes life easier.

It helps to have perspective, too. Going from first-round pick to castoff and now trying to climb his way back to the top hasn’t been fun, but he’s learned throughout that journey.

“I think it’s just growth, honestly,” Anthony said. “I think it’s just being in the league, going into my fourth year, understanding the game, how this game is played from the college game and just honing in and packing that information in.”

[Which undrafted rookies have impressed Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke so far?]

[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.

Stability gives Dolphins TE A.J. Derby chance to win starting job

A.J. Derby is undaunted by the Dolphins drafting two rookie tight ends. (AP)

DAVIE — It is a widespread assumption that second-round pick Mike Gesicki will be the Dolphins’ starting tight end this season. He comes in with a higher pedigree than anyone else Miami has at the position, making him the most intriguing player in a room made up mostly of journeymen.

But A.J. Derby isn’t conceding anything.

After three-plus years bouncing around, Derby has gotten some stability since coming to the Dolphins on a waiver claim last November. Before the draft, when Miami took Gesicki and fourth-rounder Durham Smythe, coach Adam Gase talked about him as a candidate to start this year.

It’s a much different situation for Derby than last season, when he arrived in the middle of a game week from Denver and had little time to learn everything before the season ended a month later. Now, after spending the whole offseason in South Florida and buried in Gase’s playbook, he’s got a better chance to prove himself.

“Last year I was learning week by week the plays that were installed,” he said after practice today. “It didn’t get the full install in camp, but now I get to learn the ins and outs of the offense, so that’s awesome.”

As for the team drafting two players at his position, Derby added, “I don’t pay attention to the draft. They have their own reasoning for everything they’re doing. I don’t really look at. I’m just looking forward. I’m not worried about that.”

He has a significant edge over the rookies at this point because of his familiarity with the offense and the work he put in with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Derby said he hit the field for many offseason throwing sessions, which has already helped him play better in Organized Team Activities.

Derby is a 6-foot-5, 255-pound pass-catcher who, at his best, has been a viable threat. He closed out the 2016 season in Denver with 16 catches for 160 yards over the final five games. He was solid in the first half of last season, too, going for 19 catches, 224 yards and two touchdowns in nine games while playing with some of the worst quarterbacks in the league.

Those numbers aren’t amazing, but the Dolphins would gladly settle for adequate production out of that position at this point.

Derby’s run with the Broncos ended with an unspecified injury, which prompted them to waive him. When he arrived in Davie, he said he was healthy and cleared to practice. He’s not sure why he wasn’t able to stick in New England or Denver, but he’s optimistic about what he can do for the Dolphins this year after a full offseason with the team.

“Being with Coach Gase is exciting,” Derby said. “He’s done a lot of great things with tight ends in his past. That’s why as a room we’re really excited and working so hard. We want to be there for the offense and make as many plays as we can.”

[Which undrafted rookies have impressed Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke so far?]

[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.

David Fales looks like leader for Dolphins’ backup quarterback job

David Fales has years of credibility with Adam Gase. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — When Dolphins coach Adam Gase insisted last month that he won’t be making any calls to veteran free agent quarterbacks if Ryan Tannehill gets hurt again, it might have been difficult to understand why he was so resolute about going forward with the backups already on the roster.

First there’s David Fales, a 27-year-old who’s been on three teams and played in three games since being drafted in the sixth round out of San Jose State in 2014.

Then there’s Brock Osweiler. The same age as Fales, he’s on his fourth team and barely has more career touchdowns (31) than interceptions (27).

If all else fails, there’s Bryce Petty. He was a disaster with the Jets and seems highly unlikely to make the Dolphins’ roster.

So which of those three gives Gase so much confidence? The way he’s talked this offseason, it appears to be Fales.

“He just keeps getting better,” Gase said of him Tuesday, three weeks into the team’s offseason practices. “He’s making a lot of plays. I think he’s utilizing the guys he’s working with and I think getting to go with Albert (Wilson), Jakeem (Grant) and Isaiah (Ford) and Drew (Morgan), they’ve all been in this offense now – expect for Albert – for two or three years, so guys know what to do.

“He doesn’t have to worry about telling anybody what to do or dealing with any rookies at wide receiver. You’re able to just do you job. I think he’s doing a good job of finding the open guy and completing passes.”

Fales was with the Dolphins last offseason, too, and never had much chance at making the final cut. Miami was prepared to go into the year with Tannehill and Matt Moore as the only quarterbacks on the roster, and when Tannehill blew out his knee, Gase was content with Cutler and Moore.

He kept in touch with Fales, though. He worked out in California hoping someone would call, but went unsigned. When Cutler suffered broken ribs last October, Gase brought Fales back as the No. 2 behind Moore.

Miami kept him the rest of the season as a contingency because of Cutler’s age and Moore being battered by injuries. He played mop-up minutes against the Broncos in early December and took over for Cutler in the first quarter of a meaningless season finale against the Bills.

Gase would dispute labeling that game meaningless, actually. From his standpoint, Buffalo certainly wasn’t treating the game that way, so whatever Fales accomplished in that afternoon was worthwhile to him.

His line: 29 for 42, 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 83.9.

There’s nothing amazing about that, but it’s certainly above the line of what’s expected from a backup quarterback.

“It was definitely encouraging,” said Bo Hardegree, his position coach. “He did some things that you don’t get to see in practice with pocket presence. I wasn’t surprised at some things that he did, making some plays with his legs. He does a really good job of getting the ball out fast because he is a very smart person.

“It’s good for Adam Gase to be able to call plays knowing, again, that he’s not going to put us in a losing situation. He’s going to get the ball out of his hands and we’re going to stay on schedule – first down, second down, first down, second down. That’s what we try to do.”

The question on Fales, then, is why has he been a journeyman if he’s got such a promising makeup? He spent his first two years on Chicago’s bench (Gase was his offensive coordinator there in 2015), then had a brief stop with the Ravens before coming back to the Bears in 2016.

What’s held him back?

“Overthinking,” Gase said.

It was a puzzling answer considering how often Gase credits Fales’ intelligence and ability to make prudent decisions in pressure-packed situations that would rush other quarterbacks into mistakes.

Thinking is good, but thinking too much can be costly. The balance is so delicate that it’s the difference between being an NFL starter and bouncing from team to team as Fales has.

“He can process a lot in his brain, and (we’re) just making sure that he just sticks with what we’re doing and don’t go too far outside the box,” Gase said. “Sometimes he’ll take a couple of extra steps that those other guys aren’t ready for. Sometimes he just (needs to) run the play and execute it.”

If Fales can find the sweet spot Gase is describing, it sounds like it’s his job to lose.

[Kenny Stills is exactly what the NFL needs, so why is it alienating him?]

[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.

Top 10 Miami Dolphins to watch at OTA’s

Raekwon McMillan as a leader in his first season? Sure, why not. (AP)

The Miami Dolphins open organized team activities on Tuesday in Davie.

There will be landmarks for key players returning from injury as well as rookies making their full-squad, on-field debuts.

These OTA’s are all about establishing rhythm, timing and chemistry. Coach Adam Gase likes this collection of players. National expectations are down, because of the deletion of a small handful of Pro Bowlers.

[RELATED: What to expect when Miami Dolphins start spring practices Tuesday]

But Gase has made it clear he’s comfortable on the sideline, on Sundays, with this roster.

Here are the players I’m most interesting in watching. The media is invited to Wednesday’s practice, so that’s the first time we’ll be able to report on exactly how these guys look:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB — All eyes on 17, once again. And with good reason. Miami’s entire season rides on Tannehill’s right shoulder and his left knee. No pressure. Tannehill can be much better in 2018 than you think.
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB — Where does the rookie line up most? At deep center field safety? At nickel corner, lined up against classmate Mike Gesicki? Does he adapt as fast to the NFL as he did the SEC?
  3. Raekwon McMillan, LB — I haven’t met a person who’s spent time with McMillan who doesn’t rave about his leadership abilities. After a one-year delay, McMillan’s recovery from a knee injury is essential.
  4. Mike Gesicki, TE — Can he be a monster immediately? How much time will it take? Will he show his skills along the sidelines and in the red zone? Gesicki has a glorious opportunity to seize.
  5. Jerome Baker, LB — If Baker shows he can hang with tight ends and running backs in coverage, he’s going to get a chance to contribute in packages, immediately. If Baker’s as fast as they say, no reason he can’t blitz, too.
  6. Robert Quinn, DE — Hard to gauge line play without contact, but we’ll get a glimpse at Quinn’s speed. How quick does he look compared to Cam Wake, who is eight years his senior, and Charles Harris, who is five years his junior?
  7. Albert Wilson, WR — We sort of know who Danny Amendola is, and what he brings. But who is Albert Wilson and what does he bring? With more opportunities than he had in Kansas City, the flashy Wilson may quickly emerge as a fan favorite.
  8. Brock Osweiler, QB — What if he’s not trash? What if Adam Gase can tweak a few things? What if Gase can help Osweiler restore his confidence? What if he’s a capable NFL backup? We’ll see.
  9. DeVante Parker, WR — He’s going to make circus catches. I’m going to tweet about it. And y’all are going to hate on me and DeVante. That’s OK. I’m ready for it. If he’s great, Miami’s offense can be — well, much better.
  10. Tony Lippett, CB — Achilles. Achilles. Achilles. So hard to come back from. Especially when you consider what a corner is asked to do. This isn’t about straight-line speed, but cutting. Miami needs corner depth and could really use a healthy Lippett.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke has been given what he’s asked for

Why the Miami Dolphins might really, really be serious about no-huddle, uptempo this time

Miami Dolphins rookies break down all they’ve learned about defensive scheme

Miami Dolphins’ Minkah Fitzpatrick: Goal is ‘legendary player in the NFL’

Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: I don’t need another quarterback!

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2018 NFL Draft: Which prospects are the Dolphins considering? A whole lot of ’em

Preview of the 2018 NFL Draft Theater, which is being built on the field of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

The Palm Beach Post — along with any other sports media outfit worth its salt — isn’t shy about publishing mock drafts leading up to the actual NFL Draft, which begins with the first round Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. Our Jason Lieser and Joe Schad alone have published six between them (Lieser 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0; Schad 1.0 | 2.0) since February.

The fact of the matter, though? We don’t know who the Dolphins are going to pick. None of the experts do.

Heck, the Dolphins don’t even know who they’re going to pick. It will depend on variables like the players selected by the teams drafting earlier, positions of need and the value they’re likely to get at the No. 11 slot.

So what do we do? We cover our bases. We write about lots of the interesting players the Dolphins could and should be considering.

Below you’ll find a ridiculous number of profiles we’ve written over the last few months. Maybe we’ve even written on the guy the Fins will draft in the first round.


Stud QB prospect Josh Allen: ‘I would definitely welcome’ backing up Ryan Tannehill in ’18

5 Reasons why Baker Mayfield fits with Miami Dolphins

UCLA’s Josh Rosen has talent, but personality draws questions

Lamar Jackson proclaims: ‘I’m strictly quarterback!’

Dolphins might turn attention to Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph

Is Luke Falk the most realistic Miami Dolphins QB option?

Is Kyle Lauletta the Dolphins’ answer at quarterback?

Marshall QB Chase Litton a late-round option for Dolphins

QB Mason Rudolph intriguing Miami Dolphins fit

Is Mike White the right QB choice for Miami Dolphins?

Running backs:

Is RB Derrius Guice the perfect Kenyan Drake complement?

Miami Hurricanes RB Mark Walton shows toughness, health

Wide receivers:

Christian Kirk could be Dolphins’ next Jarvis Landry

WR Tre’Quan Smith of UCF and Delray Beach improves stock

Tight ends:

Could Dallas Goedert solve Miami Dolphins’ tight end woes?

South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst among top tight ends

Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki talks with Dolphins

Can Mark Andrews be Miami Dolphins’ TE answer in 3rd round?

Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli meets with Miami Dolphins

Miami Hurricanes TE Chris Herndon has big upside

TE Ian Thomas’ purpose was formed by difficult childhood

Offensive linemen:

Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey too big for Dolphins to ignore

Miami Hurricanes OL Kc McDermott fighting to get picked

Oregon tackle Tyrell Crosby gets Dolphins’ attention

UTEP guard Will Hernandez makes sense for Dolphins

Defensive linemen:

Could Miami Dolphins draft massive defensive tackle Vita Vea?

‘Canes DL Chad Thomas improving his draft stock


Is dynamic, game-changing LB Roquan Smith right for Miami Dolphins?

Why Miami Dolphins should consider LB Tremaine Edmunds

Miami Dolphins LB targets other than Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin earns shot on merit, not admiration

Dolphins need a linebacker like Leighton Vander Esch

Does South Carolina State LB Darius Leonard fit Dolphins?

Miami Dolphins meet with USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu

Defensive backs:

Mel Kiper selects a safety for Miami Dolphins in three-round mock

Miami Dolphins players react to rampant roster revisions

Mike Pouncey has said his Miami goodbyes. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

AVENTURA — Bobby McCain was thinking about how Ndamukong Suh is gone now, and as McCain is a defensive back, he was looking at it from the perspective of a Los Angeles Rams defensive back.

The combination of Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald at defensive tackle should be — lethal.

“Suh’s a great player,” McCain said Friday. “If you’re a DB for the Rams right now, you’re really excited with those two up front. With him not coming back, we’ve got guys that are going to fill his shoes, such as (Davon) Godchaux and Jordan Phillips and VT (Vince Taylor), guys that are young. It’s big shoes to fill, but we can get it done.”

Last October, the Dolphins dumped Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. Since the season ended, Miami has traded Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and released Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Suh.

“I mean it’s out of my control, you know?” Godchaux said Friday. “I’m just here to do my job. Next man up. Be consistent. Can’t anybody replace Ndamukong Suh because he was his own player. I can’t feel like anybody can replace anybody because each player is their own player. So I’m just going to do my job and be consistent.”

It was a bit jarring to many players in the locker room when Ajayi was jettisoned last season. Miami had come off a 10-6 playoff season, and at the time, had a winning record. It seemed as if players who spoke Friday at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge Celebrity Golf Tournament were less shocked at the roster overhaul, because of the 6-10 season.

That doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s tough,” Dolphins offensive tackle Sam Young said of Pouncey’s departure. “He’s a tremendous player. I got to know him over the last couple of years and unfortunately it’s part of the business and I know he’s going to do great things. I’m happy for him to start a new chapter and I hope he does the best with it.”

Added Miami offensive lineman Jesse Davis: “At first I was kind of bummed out, but good for (Pouncey). Everybody deserves to get as much money as they can in this sport, I believe. That’s where he found it, that way. And our management thought differently, and so more power to everybody.”

Players like Kenyan Drake learn quickly how things can change.

“It’s a business,” Drake said. “It’s rare that you’re going to the same team for two, three, four, five years in a row. But I feel like (coach Adam) Gase has a plan. He’s brought the guys in and let the guys he’s let go for a reason. And I feel like now it’s just kind of the people that are in the position to step up. It’s their opportunity to do that.”

Young was asked if he agrees a culture change was needed.

“That’s a question for someone other than me but I know whenever there’s opportunities for guys to step up, guys will,” Young said. “And I think that you look at the guys that have been brought in and the guys that are in the locker room and guys will rise to the occasion, across the board, really.”

Miami is leaning on free agent acquisitions such as wide receiver Danny Amendola, guard Josh Sitton and Frank Gore to provide veteran leadership from the perspective of players who have often won.

Former Miami Dolphins Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey

But with the club reporting to Davie on Monday, how long will it take for all these new players to gel?

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Young said. “It could be a day, it could be not until training camp. You never know. But I think you’ve got to start somewhere and that starts on Monday, getting in the room, watching film, getting everyone on the same page. Not only that but we’re working out together. We’re doing all these small things to build trust, build a rapport and I think if you do things the right way it’ll happen sooner rather than later.”

Miami moved on from some popular, well-paid, successful players, because they did not feel they were not the right nucleus to lead the organization to a Super Bowl.

So what do the players left behind need to do?

“I guess everybody needs to buy in to what coach is telling us and do your job, focus on what to do and not what everybody else does,” said Davis, the lineman. “That’s how we need to go about everything, just do your own job and don’t worry about somebody else does or what moves they’re making. Don’t worry about upper management. Just focus on your thing.”

Drake said he and his teammates must strive to gain confidence with steadiness in 2018.

“I feel like once coaches have that trust in you and teammates and fans, it’s hard for you to be replaceable,” Drake said. “Everybody has a duty. Everybody has talent. But to be able to do it on a consistent basis. And to not only go out there and say it but also do it.”

Miami Dolphins’ humble giant Jesse Davis says he was ‘not very good’ in ’17

Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake reacts to Frank Gore signing

Why Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake has added weight

2018 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper selects a safety for Miami Dolphins in three-round mock

2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Rounds 1-3 Todd McShay Picks

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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser | Version 3.0

The Dolphins want Baker Mayfield. Will they get lucky? (Getty Images)

The Dolphins are in the home stretch of their NFL Draft preparation, which includes preparing for every possible scenario. They make all the hypothetical decisions they might face in advance, which coach Adam Gase says turns the actual draft into an easy process.

“It’s such a less controversial thing than everybody else tries to make it out to be,” he said last year. “When you’re like three picks away, you throw five names up on the board and it figures out itself… It’s not as hard as everybody makes it out on draft day. It’s really kind of easy. If anybody makes it out to be more than that, they’re full of (it).”

That’s what happened when the Dolphins lucked into Laremy Tunsil at No. 13 in 2016. Could something like that occur again this year with one of the top four quarterbacks sliding to them at 11th overall? It’s unlikely, but Miami will be ready if it breaks that way.

Here’s the latest projection of how the first round will unfold:

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal
The Browns have maintained that they might wait all the way until draft night to announce their intentions, but it’s straightforward: They need a quarterback, and Darnold is the best this year.

2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen is considered a little bit of a project, but his upside is too great to ignore.

3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The closer it gets to the draft, the more it seems like the Jets will play it safe by picking Rosen over Baker Mayfield.

4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Defensive end Bradley Chubb will be a temptation here, but the Browns need an offensive spark more than they need another pass rusher.

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Like the Dolphins, Denver has been linked to Mayfield throughout the last three months and won’t be able to skip past him here.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
If this ends up happening, it’s probably what the Colts would have done anyway if they’d stayed at No. 3.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Buccaneers would love to land Barkley, but he won’t last this long. They need help at cornerback and safety, and Fitzpatrick could play either spot.

8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
New Bears coach Matt Nagy will be eager to put some weapons around Mitchell Trubisky, and Ridley is the best receiver in this year’s class.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

The 49ers need help up front to protect $137 million quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, so Nelson makes sense as an immediate starter.

10. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James has been one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft over the last month, and the Raiders will jump on him here.

11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Miami needs another starting linebacker this year and a long-term answer at the position. Smith and Raekwon McMillan could be a tremendous duo going forward.

12. Buffalo Bills: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Left tackle is a must for the Bills this year and it’s too important of a position for them to wait and see who’s left at No. 15.

13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Redskins would be happy to get Smith here, too, but it’s doubtful the Dolphins would skip past him.

14. Green Bay Packers: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller is a smart pick here to help Green Bay’s offensive line and should be a mainstay for the Packers.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Cardinals have all kinds of holes and quarterback is the biggest one, but this is too early to reach for anyone outside the top four prospects.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Defensive tackle isn’t one of Baltimore’s biggest needs this year, but Vea is too talented to pass up this late. This is a case of taking the best player available.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Chargers are putting together an incredible defensive line, and Payne would be a great addition to it.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
Defensive end is one of the highest-valued positions in the NFL right now, and Davenport is excellent.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk won’t have to travel far if he lands with the Cowboys, who can bolster their receiving corps by picking up a player who can play inside or outside.

20. Detroit Lions: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The experts remain divided on whether Hurst or Dallas Goedert is the best tight end in this year’s class, but the Lions will happy to land either of them.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Bengals better shore up their defense, and Jackson has the potential to be a lockdown corner in the NFL.

22. Buffalo Bills: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
Sutton had more than 2,300 yards over the last two years and presents a big threat at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.

23. New England Patriots: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Williams could patch a hole at guard if needed before eventually growing into a starting tackle, or the Patriots could play him at tackle right away.

24. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso
The Panthers aren’t far from being a contender in the NFC would do themselves a big favor by building up their offensive line.

25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Defensive end is a need for the Titans, and Hubbard had seven sacks for the Buckeyes as a junior last season.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Goedert would instantly be the favorite to win the starting job in Atlanta and would add an important element to the offense for Matt Ryan.

27. New Orleans Saints: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner would land in a perfect spot to learn behind Drew Brees and play in one of the NFL’s strongest offenses.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender this year, and Hughes can be a special teamer until it’s time for him to take over a starting job.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
It works out nicely for the Jaguars that they need a tight end and there’s a really good one available here.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
It’s never a bad thing to be loaded at cornerback. Alexander is a good choice for Minnesota at the end of the first round.

31.  New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Unless the Patriots are in love with Mason Rudolph, they can probably wait on picking a quarterback until they pick at No. 43 overall. Rudolph might even still be there.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Reid, S, Stanford

The Eagles need to be thinking about value more than anything else here. They need a player who could grow into a star or become a treasured trade asset.

[Insane 2017 Miami Dolphins season made Adam Gase a smarter coach]

[Will Dolphins’ passing game have better ball distribution this year?]

[Are the Dolphins going to turn Ryan Tannehill loose as a runner after two knee issues?]

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Dolphins coach Adam Gase learns hard lessons from crazy 2017 season

The Dolphins’ 2017 season was exhausting for pretty much everyone involved. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

ORLANDO—It turns out there is no chapter in the instruction manual for coaching an NFL team that explains how to handle a hurricane turning your season upside down before it even starts.

There’s no section on proper procedure for moving past an assistant coach getting fired for sending a video of himself doing cocaine to a Las Vegas entertainer.

And what’s the protocol for those times when a starting linebacker disappears the night before a game and the team is on edge as it fears the absolute worst?

If he has time during what’s left of this offseason, maybe Adam Gase can write some helpful additions to that handbook now that he’s survived coaching the 2017 Miami Dolphins. The insanity of that season was such that losing the starting quarterback and middle linebacker to preseason knee injuries barely register.

“I think we had a lot of,” he said, stopping to think of the right way to put it.

“There were a lot of little,” he said before starting over again.

This isn’t such an easy thing to explain.

Gase avoided these kinds of questions during the season because he didn’t want to set a tone of excuse making in his locker room. He’s more willing to discuss it now, but it’s still difficult to be totally open without scapegoating certain players.

“There were some big things and some little things that came up last year,” Gase said. “A lot of us had to deal with a lot of adversity. I think it was a learning lesson for a lot of us.

“There were some tough spots to get put in, but I thought some guys did well. Some guys didn’t handle it as well. We probably learned a lot about a lot of guys. It was one of those things that at the time you’re going through it, it’s not really a fun thing to do, but it’s a great learning experience moving forward.”

With that backdrop, it’s easy to understand why a Dolphins official said last week one of the team’s goals in 2018 is to “hopefully just have a normal season.” It’s also understandable that Gase keeps harping on the maturity and dependability he thinks Miami added to its locker room this offseason.

Whether that’s really the chief cause for some of the Dolphins’ moves and whether it translates to anything meaningful on the field is unclear, but it’s a reasonably safe bet Gase will have fewer headaches this year.

Jarvis Landry, who had two very noticeable eruptions late in the season, was traded to Cleveland. Unfortunately for the Dolphins and their quarterbacks, he took his 1,000 yards per season with him. They replaced Landry with a hungry 25-year-old bent on proving himself (Albert Wilson) and a two-time Super Bowl champion (Danny Amendola).

Mike Pouncey’s hips required a choppy practice schedule that seemed disruptive to the offensive line as a whole, and Miami cut him in favor of trading for San Francisco’s Daniel Kilgore. Any frustrations with Pouncey were worth it considering how well he played, but Gase won’t miss the routine that kept him off the practice field so often.

Another annoyance, Jay Ajayi, was already cleared out five months ago in a deal that appears to have worked out fine for everyone involved. Ajayi won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, and Gase swapped out a noncompatible personality with a running back he’s been grooming since drafting him in Kenyan Drake.

Drake’s a player whose professionalism has teetered during his two years with the Dolphins, and the team felt Ajayi was influencing him the wrong way. Ajayi almost certainly would dispute that.

Gase has declined to specify which players gave him trouble last year, but it was an unnecessary stress considering everything else that was working against him. Collectively, the team couldn’t live up to all the rallying cries—one of them was, “Anywhere. Anytime.”—they printed on t-shirts.

“You wish you could say it didn’t have any impact,” he said “I think a lot of guys would say—Just talking to them after the season, some guys got distracted by it, by certain things… I think everybody was a little bit different, but I think we kind of fell apart to that a little bit.”

Bringing in Jay Cutler for Tannehill required wide-ranging adjustments from the offensive players.

The o-line had to be reshuffled multiple times and surely suffered from what happened with coach Chris Foerster.

Think about this: Rey Maualuga being arrested at a bar in Miami just an hour before a Saturday morning walk-through looks fairly pedestrian next to what Lawrence Timmons did.

Hurricane Irma wiped out the season opener and set the team up to begin the year with a three-week run through Los Angeles, New York and London. It also eliminated the bye week, forcing Gase to give up practice days at various points in the season to get his players rest.

On the field, the offense got off to a miserable start under Cutler, and even after the Dolphins leveled themselves out at, they endured a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season.

Despite that, Miami managed to put itself on the fringe of the playoff race in December by routing the Broncos and stunning New England in a memorable Monday Night Football game. There was some satisfaction for Gase in that modest resurgence.

“I mean, it was either adapt or die,” he said. “You had no choice. That’s the way I saw it.

“You had to figure out a way to deal with the situation and still get ready for the game, work to get our coaching staff ready and make sure our coaching staff was getting our players ready. It was interesting. It was interesting to go through a lot of the things last year that we went through.”

Of course, the Dolphins saw very little, if any, of that adversity coming this time last year, so any thought now that they’re positioned for a stable, stress-free 2018 season is overly optimistic.

There are no guarantees on Tannehill’s health or that he’s going to be anything better than league-average even if he does hold up well. They brought in winners and serious veterans this spring, but Timmons was regarded as both of those for 10 years right up until the moment he went AWOL. There’s no certainty that this newfound philosophy of this year’s whole being greater than the sum of last year’s parts will be successful.

And after what he went through last year, Gase wouldn’t be foolish enough to count on everything going according to plan. He’ll probably never think that way again.

“Expect anything,” he said. “You just never know what it could be.”

[Dolphins coach Adam Gase says offseason moves are a net positive]

[Ryan Tannehill will be back for the Dolphins in time for OTAs]

[What exactly is Mike Tannenbaum’s building plan for the Miami Dolphins?]

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