DAVIE — The Dolphins held their first fully padded practice of training camp this morning, but it didn’t go completely as planned.
About a half-hour into their work, the team was forced to shift into the practice bubble because of lightning in the area. It was still a productive day, however, with by far the most contact the Dolphins have had this month.
Here are some updates from coach Adam Gase after practice:
— Gase was frustrated that the team had to move practice indoors because “the more time we spend outside, the better.” It also limited the amount of live contact the Dolphins had today because they prefer not to do that on turf.
— Second-year receiver Isaiah Ford has been working in the slot and progressing well after missing all of last season with an injury.
— Miami’s defensive line has been overwhelming in the first week of training camp. Gase said, “those guys just bring it,” and they’ve been causing problems for the offensive line. Gase is really impressed with new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
— Gase has enjoyed watching slot receiver Danny Amendola and slot corner Bobby McCain go at it so far. He said those two are making each other better every day and there’s been no dropoff in their intensity.
— Gase reiterated that he doesn’t see newcomer Albert Wilson as a slot receiver. He can play slot, but Gase thinks of him firstly as an outside player because of his speed.
— Regarding his recent appearances in the wide receiver drills, Gase said, “Every once in a while I just try to get involved somewhere. It’s fun for me.”
DAVIE — The Dolphins are step closer to being ready for the upcoming season after putting on shoulder pads for this morning’s training camp practice.
There were minimal injury issues, which continues a good run for Miami. Backup offensive lineman Jake Brendel remains out with a calf injury, and receiver Isaiah Ford was out after sustaining an unspecified injury Friday.
Here are some post-practice updates from coach Adam Gase:
— Cornerback Torry McTyer worked with the first-team defense today, which is part of a slight shift in Gase’s thinking about the depth chart. He wants position coaches to bump guys up quickly when they show they deserve it, rather than “wait around” and make them continue to work for it over multiple practices.
— Rookie running back Kalen Ballage is off to a good start. “We’re trying to get him as many reps as we can so he can see as many things as possible,” Gase said. “We’re trying to get him to a point where he can play as fast as possible.” Gase said his grasp of the offense has been solid so far.
— Ryan Tannehill needs to work on his sliding technique. He’s used to sliding on his surgically repaired left knee, which the Dolphins don’t want. Gase said it would be problematic for him to land on the brace if he was trying to get down.
— The redesigned offensive line struggled somewhat today. “We have work to do,” Gase said.
— On the o-line, the team is scaling back left guard Josh Sitton’s workload to about four of every six plays, leaving an opening for Ted Larsen to get first-string reps.
— Linebacker Chase Allen has had two interceptions in camp. Regarding his chances at a starting job, Gase said he’s trying to keep the linebacker units together so they can build continuity. They’re sticking with Raekwon McMillan, Kiko Alonso and Stephone Anthony for now.
DAVIE — Charles Harris feels like a new man heading into his second season with the Dolphins, and it’s clear just by looking at his face that something is different.
After being selected No. 22 in last year’s draft, the transition to the NFL left Harris dazed at times. He had gone from being one of the biggest defensive stars in the SEC to a backup for the Dolphins, he wasn’t getting many sacks, he was unprepared for the financial windfall, work sometimes felt like drudgery and he was struggling to adapt to life on his own in a new environment.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact impact all of those factors had on Harris, but he was often downcast in the locker room after practice. He kept to himself mostly as he fought his way through what he now describes as “a dark place.” An offseason of prayer and reflection led to a renewed enthusiasm for Harris, and the change in his demeanor seems to have more to do with his personal life than anything football-related.
“Now I’m cool,” he said. “I understand that everything that happened the way it was, it was for the better of me and my family and everything like that. I understand that everything I do on the field and off the field affects everybody around me.
“I’ve got me a community down here being in Florida, being away from home, and that was a big thing. Now I have a community, I’ve got friends, I have everything I need to get to the top.”
Harris played all 16 games last season, but started just twice because he was behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch. He played 47.5 percent of the defensive snaps and posted two sacks.
While no defensive end goes into the season targeting two sacks as an ambitious goal, he was satisfied with how he played. So were the Dolphins, who have several next-level statistics that indicate he was a strong presence as a pass rusher despite not racking up sacks.
There was still a constant feeling of confusion, and that often led him to treat football like merely a job. “I was just checking boxes every day; I came in, punched in, punched out,” he said. A lot of jobs are like that, but the NFL isn’t one of them. It takes a deeper commitment, especially for someone like Harris who aspires to be an elite defensive end, and his offseason soul-searching prompted a different approach to football.
“I feel like I just got better mentally, spiritually and things like that,” said Harris, who is a Christian. “Being able to take care of my family, get stuff done off the field and understanding grace and stuff like that. I’m better mentally. (That) is going to transition everything else.”
As for the direct effect that had on him football-wise, Harris said it motivated him to use his abilities to honor God: “This year it’s like I love it. I love it because I understand what it means to work. This is my work and use it as my worship.”
There’s an increased comfort level that comes experience, too. Not that he ever had trouble learning the playbook as a rookie, but he’s got a better handle on every aspect of the job now compared to a year ago.
“It’s less of a burden, for real,” he said. “It’s just free. Just playing free.”
With his mind in a better place on and off the field, Harris is heading into an amorphous opportunity this season.
The Dolphins are set on Wake and new trade acquisition Robert Quinn as their starting defensive ends, but the coaches have said multiple times the second wave of Branch and Harris will get ample snaps. The goal is spread playing time more evenly now that the team believes it has four starting-caliber defensive ends, plus veteran William Hayes and anyone else who emerges during the preseason.
That’s part of why Harris was undeterred by the team trading for Quinn, rather than simply let him battle Branch for a starting job. As accomplished as Wake and Quinn are — they’ve combined for seven Pro Bowl selections and 154.5 career sacks — Harris believes he’ll get enough chances if he shows he deserves them.
“Light is always going to shine,” he said. “I feel like you can’t contain nobody. You can’t keep anybody off the field. It’s the coaches that make sure … the best players are out there. That’s something they handle. I’m going to take it every single day and work as hard as I can, and we’ll see on game day.”
There’s been very little questioning of Jordan Phillips’ talent, but his actual performance has been up and down since the Dolphins drafted him in the second round in 2015. They expected more from a player selected No. 52 overall, but it’s been difficult to predict what he’ll give them throughout his career.
Phillips has been open about some of his struggles at times, vowing to change, and it appears as though he’s going into this season ready to back that up. He’s in shape as the Dolphins begin training camp and he’s got his biggest opportunity yet now that Ndamukong Suh is gone.
“So far, through two days, he’s done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said. “When you’re a bigger guy like he is, the way that we’re running the football, it’s one thing to do it in the spring, but now that the temperature is slightly up, when you’re a big guy like that and you’re running as much as he is, it’s fatiguing but he’s doing a good job of embracing it because it’s gonna help him get in really good shape.
He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, but those weights aren’t updated regularly and he looked slimmer than usual when he arrived for training camp this week.
The Dolphins felt good about where Phillips was near the end of the preseason last year, battling back up the depth chart after falling behind fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux.
Health was an issue, however, and Phillips missed three games after getting hurt in the season opener. He ended up starting 11 games and posted 16 tackles, including two sacks. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 71 defensive tackle in the league.
Phillips did not reach a deal for an extension this offseason and will likely hit unrestricted free agency in the spring. He’ll play for about $1.4 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract.
He appears to be healthy again going into this season, which is spurring optimism within the Dolphins. They’ve been working Phillips and newcomer Akeem Spence as the starting defensive tackles the last two days, with Godchaux pushing for a spot as well.
“Athletically, he does some things that you just don’t see many people be able to do,” Gase said. “For a guy that size, the way he moves — his athleticism is really off the charts.”
DAVIE — It’s another rough morning for practice as the Dolphins hit the field for Day 2 of training camp. Adam Gase called Thursday’s session possibly the hottest he’s endured since taking the job, and today figures to be just as bad with the temperature already in the mid-80s at 8:30 a.m.
The best thing Miami has going for it in this year’s camp is that the roster starts fully healthy and fully in attendance. There were no absences on the first day, and the team remains mostly intact for today’s practice as well. The only player sitting is backup offensive lineman Jake Brendel, who has a minor calf injury.
This is the second and final practice with no pads. The Dolphins will go to upper-body pads Saturday and be in full gear Sunday or Monday. Here are some notes from today’s work:
— Ryan Tannehill started 11-on-11 drills with some sharp short- and mid-range throws to Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola. Amendola has been a favorite target of his dating back to Organized Team Activities.
— Brock Osweiler, David Fales and Bryce Petty each took snaps with the second unit. Fales had a nice completion to Isaiah Ford in the middle of the field. Rookie linebacker Quentin Poling picked off Petty.
— The first-string offense had a significant snafu on its second possession with a botched snap between Daniel Kilgore and Tannehill.
— Osweiler hit Francis Owusu on a deep ball down the left side for about 40 yards.
— Osweiler connected on another long pass to Isaiah Ford, but Ford was hurt on the play and left practice with a trainer.
— After a strong day Thursday, Fales threw an interception near the end of this morning’s practice.
— Frank Gore, 35, showed he still has very good speed on a few plays, including a long run late in practice.
— Charles Harris beat Laremy Tunsil for what likely would’ve been a sack.
— It’s non-contact and no pads, but Tannehill looked good on a scramble of 10-15 yards to the left during 11-on-11 work.
— Jordan Phillips and Akeem Spence opened up as the starting defensive tackles, with Davon Godchaux playing second-string.
— The Dolphins have 11 receivers on the roster and will carry five or six active when they cut from 90 to 53 at the end of the preseason. The certainties are Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson. Beyond that, they have seven players (including returnees Jakeem Grant, Leonte Carroo, Rashawn Scott and Ford) vying for one or two spots.
DAVIE — The Dolphins have brought in a handful of longtime veterans over the past two years who proved to be way too far past their prime. Mario Williams was a useless signing in 2016, Arian Foster wasn’t much better, and last year’s additions of Julius Thomas and Lawrence Timmons were duds.
None of those players signed with another team after leaving Miami.
The Dolphins signed two players who certainly fall into the older demographic in slot receiver Danny Amendola and running back Frank Gore. The upcoming season will be Amendola’s 10th and Gore’s 14th. Both are coming off of productive 2017 seasons, but Gore is 35, and Amendola turns 33 in November.
They looked good during Organized Team Activities and minicamp, and the Dolphins have penciled both in for significant roles this season. Amendola is expected to be the starting slot receiver, and Gore will likely work behind Kenyan Drake.
After several months of workouts and offseason practices, as well as today’s training camp opener, coach Adam Gase is confident these additions won’t be reminiscent of Miami’s recent veteran busts.
“In the spring, you know where a guy really is in his career,” Gase said after practice. “Right now, Danny looks like the same guy that we played against (in New England). For us, any of our older players, they don’t look any different than what we thought we were getting when we brought them here.
“Frank is the one guy that every time I watch him, you just shake your head when you see him make some of these cuts and the acceleration through the hole. The guy is ageless.”
Gore is a total anomaly at running back, where few players remain highly productive once they reach 30. He rushed for 2,953 yards with the Colts over the last three seasons, including 961 in 2017. Amendola bounced back from a quiet 2016 season with 61 catches for 659 yards and two touchdowns last year.
DAVIE — Journeyman quarterback David Fales has gone into every season believing he had a chance to make a team’s roster, but he’s never been as well set up for it as he is now.
This is his third year with Dolphins coach Adam Gase and he’s been part of the team without much interruption since early in 2017. Unlike last year, when Matt Moore was clearly entrenched as Miami’s backup quarterback, the job is completely open.
“Throughout my five years, it’s definitely the best situation I’ve been in going into an offseason and training camp,” Fales said. “I’m just excited to get more of an opportunity in practice. That’s the big difference going into this one: more opportunity for me.”
Fales and Brock Osweiler worked with the second and third teams during today’s opening practice. Gase will almost certainly choose one of them as the No. 2 quarterback after saying firmly he wouldn’t be putting out any calls to veteran free agents like he did with Jay Cutler a year ago.
Bryce Petty is also in camp, but is clearly behind Osweiler and Fales. Gase hasn’t declared a clear leader for the job, but his comments throughout the last seven months have hinted toward Fales being the favorite.
The Dolphins cut him at the end of last preseason in favor of going with Cutler, Moore and practice squad signee Brandon Doughty. Fales was not eligible for the practice squad.
Miami brought him back in October when Cutler went down with broken ribs, and he remained on the roster the rest of the season as the second- or third-string quarterback. While Gase typically prefers to keep two quarterbacks on the active roster, he said in March he is considering carrying three this year.
Fales appeared in two games for the Dolphins last year and got extended playing time in the finale against Buffalo. He completed 29 of 43 passes for 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
At 28, not only have many of the external factors lined up for him to finally get his big break as an NFL backup, he’s also in excellent shape.
“I’ve been doing Pilates,” he said. “I’m stronger. I think it’s my third year in the offense. I played a significant amount in a game last year, so that’s confidence. Everything’s kinda coming together. Pilates is huge. Game-changer. It gave me core strength, mobility in my hips and shoulders. That’s been a big change for me this year.”
“It’s my third year in basically the same system from Chicago to last year to here, and you get more familiar with the receivers. For the most part, we’ve got a lot of the same guys. It’s familiarity all around and being able to play fast.”
DAVIE — The simplest and most ideal solution Kenny Stills is offering amid the NFL’s national anthem policy debate is to get rid of it altogether.
The league and the NFLPA are discussing revisions to the rules the owners enacted in March, and the mandate for players to stand or stay out of sight is on hold for now. The two Dolphins players who have demonstrated in the past, Stills and defensive end Robert Quinn, are waiting for that resolution until they decide how they’ll handle the anthem this season.
“I’ll just say one thing: It’s called freedom of speech,” Quinn said when asked what should happen. “Simple as that. It’s freedom of speech.”
Stills agreed, saying, “Obviously I’d like to see there be no policy at all, and the guys have a choice to go out there and do what they want to, and we can support each other and the decisions we want to make.”
This was the first time Quinn and Stills have spoken to the media since the Dolphins drew national attention last week when an Associated Press report indicated they submitted documents listing suspension as a possible penalty to for violating the anthem rules.
The team later said it hasn’t made a decision on the policy yet, and the NFL and the union are continuing to discuss a potential resolution. Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he’s waiting until something comes down from the league, but can’t envision a player being suspended over the national anthem.
The impasse didn’t stop Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from declaring that his players will be required to stand for the anthem and won’t have the option of remaining out of sight.
“I wouldn’t expect anything different,” Stills said of Jones.
Quinn and Stills said there hasn’t been much dialogue with management about the issue and their attention is centered on preparing for the upcoming season. The Dolphins opened training camp today and play their first preseason game Aug. 9 at home against Tampa Bay.
Stills has worked frequently with owner Stephen Ross in social justice efforts and appears to have had a good relationship with him during his four years playing for the Dolphins. He hasn’t spoken much with Ross about the national anthem issue since last season.
Quinn, who came in on a trade with the Rams this offseason, said he’s never discussed it with Ross.
“No one brought it up,” Quinn said. “Until we have a discussion, that’s just where it is right now. If the topic comes up, then it comes up. But right now, I’ll hold my opinion to myself and try to do my best to make this football team better.”
While Stills kneeled the last two seasons, Quinn raised a fist during the anthem last year. The NFL’s no-kneeling policy did not specifically address an action like Quinn’s, though it could be covered under the requirement to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”