Thursday featured two practices in South Florida that reportedly were drastically different. The theme of the morning practice was offense - headlined by the receivers making plays in the passing game. The evening practice saw the defense step up its game and stifle the offense.
RECEIVING CORE MAKING PLAYS
It seemed like most Dolphin fans were hoping the Dolphins spent their first-round pick on a wide receiver. Even the media hammered away at the "Dolphins need a play-maker" mantra that was being tossed around following the '08 season. Then when the Dolphins didn't draft a receiver until day two of the draft, they got criticized some more - with experts saying they drafted both Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline too early.
However, the Dolphins suddenly have a potentially dangerous group of receivers - and a young core, too.
The morning practice was headlined by receivers making plays and the 1st team offense getting into field goal range during their 2-minute drill against the 1st team defense.
Ted Ginn made what was the play of the day when he caught a pass along the sideline with a defender draped all over him, bobbling the ball at first, and then gathering it in as he fell to the ground with both feet in bounds. Davone Bess also made a sideline catch - but with one hand.
Brian Hartline, one of the two critized rookies, made three long touchdown receptions in the morning. That now makes three good days for Hartline in a row. It'll be interesting to see if this continues when camp enters its second week.
Meanwhile, Patrick Turner, the other critized rookies, caught two long passes - including a touchdown reception with Will Allen in coverage. Turner's performance in both the morning and afternoon prompted Omar Kelly, who has been slow to "anoint" Turner, to write:
Turner's starting to dominate one-on-ones daily to the point he's making plays on Mr. Lock down, Will Allen. Some of them are extremely acrobatic, which indicates that he's got tremendous body control...For the third straight day Turner turned in a few nice catches. He's silky with his route running, and has clutch hands. His body control allows him to tight rope the sideline, and bring in catches in the back of the end zone.
THE TWO-MINUTE DRILL
To close each practice, the Dolphins ran their 2-minute drill - pairing the 1st team offense with the 1st team defense and so on. Each time, Chad Pennington led his team down the field and into field goal range. In the morning, Pennington marched the team down the field with completions to Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn highlighting the drive. And if not for Jason Taylor batting down a pass that was intended for a wide open Anthony Fasano, the offense might have found the endzone. As it stood, they settled for a field goal.
In the afternoon, Pennington again led his unit down the field into field goal range. The drive stalled, though, when Lionel Dotson applied pressure on Pennington and forced him to throw the ball away on a 3rd down.
On the other hand, Chad Henne wasn't able to lead his 2nd team unit down the field against the 2nd team defense. Showing the difference between Pennington and Henne, the 2nd year QB was 0 for 3 in the morning session - stalling the drive before it ever started. In the afternoon, Henne's drive stalled after taking two consecutive sacks.
DEFENSE WINS AFTERNOON PRACTICE
Though there weren't any big turnovers created, it was the defense owning the second practice of the day. The Miami Herald reports:
The Dolphins defense was active and effective in Thursday's afternoon practice. No, there weren't any great fumble strips or amazing diving interceptions. It was just stay in your gaps, mind your coverage type of stuff.
And so the offense got in the end zone a grand total of once during the two-minute (actually 1:44) and going in from the 20 work. That TD by the third-team offense against the third team defense was a Pat White 20 yard run on a bootleg. White continues to impress me, but only out of shotgun formation, which is apparently the only time he feels comfortable.
So who was the star of the day defensively? Omar Kelly's report would lead you to believe it was former CFL star Cameron Wake. Writes Omar:
Since the pads have come on Wake has been the only player (including Joey Porter) who is consistently applying pressure. With that said, please do remember that Porter is going against Jake Long, a Pro Bowler, and Wake is going against Nate Garner and Andrew Gardner. But pressure is pressure.
During the final session of Thursday's afternoon practice Wake killed Chad Henne's drive by tallying two straight would-be sacks during the team's 2-minute drill. He rose to the occasion when his second-team defense needed him the most. That's exactly what the Dolphins need to see.
That's the kind of impact Dolphin fans were hoping for from the former CFL defensive player of the year. The Dolphins need pass-rushing help opposite Joey Porter and it seems like Wake and Jason Taylor are just what the doctor ordered.
But the coverage from the secondary was also very good in the afternoon. The Herald reports that the "sack buzzer" - which goes off when the play has taken too long - was the "MVP of this practice." And when even the efficient Chad Pennington can't find an open receiver, the coverage must have been damn good.
-Tony Sparano confirmed that the Dolphins are working with Pat White to figure out what he does best - and will use a "Pat White package." From all of the reports I've read, it seems like the shotgun formation is where White is most comfortable - which makes sense coming from a spread offense at West Virginia. Can you say "Wild-Pat"?
-Two scares today for the Dolphins. The first was in the morning when Sean Smith collided with Anthony Armstrong, seemingly hurting his knee. But it was probably just a bruise. Smith was back at practice in the afternoon. The other scare was from Ronnie Brown during the pm session. Brown sat down on the field and spoke with a trainer for a moment. But he only needed to get his ankle rewrapped and was fine - practicing the rest of the session.
-Channing Crowder sat out of the morning session as a precaution to rest his knee, but was back in the afternoon. Jason Ferguson was given the full day off - with Paul Soliai working as the 1st team NT.
-Tony McDaniel again spent the day as the starting defensive end while Phillip Merling was with the second unit.
-Joe Berger worked as the starting RG in the morning, but Shawn Murphy was back with the first-team in the afternoon.
The Dolphins only have one practice tomorrow - scheduled for 2 pm. Saturday will then feature two sessions. The first, at 10 am, is closed to the public. But the highlight of the weekend comes at 2 pm - when the Dolphins will hold a scrimmage that will be open to the public.