The Miami Dolphins held their final training camp practice on Wednesday, with a walk though scheduled for Thursday morning, and the second preseason game on Friday, before officially breaking camp.
Wednesday's practice was the hottest of training camp, and it showed in the players' performances. Reggie Bush missed an easy touchdown catch, letting the ball slip right through his arms. It upset the newly acquired running back to the point that he remained after practice working on catches. The former Saint, who has often been seen remaining after practice working on his game, caught pass after pass for over half an hour following practice.
But, Bush was not the only one with difficulties on Wednesday. The center position could not keep a handle on the ball, with starter Mike Pouncey flubbing one snap, while backups Joe Berger and Nate Garner botched another four. Head Coach Tony Sparano was asked about the centers' problems after practice, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's transcript of Sparano's media visit:
"Well, we had a new guy in there today. We worked out Nate Garner inside a little bit today, you know, and then, I think one of them came with Pouncey. Some of it has to do with the guys are soaking wet, you know. They're soaking wet, and the ball gets a little slick, and the quarterback's hands are a little bit slick in there, but the other thing is just some of the newness. You know, we put Nate in there today a little bit, took a look at joe at guard at time, and those guys haven't worked together in the second group. Some shotgun deals that we haven't asked them to do yet. But, it will get better..."
The Dolphins spent extra time on the practice field yesterday, working on some of the things that Sparano wants to see in Friday's preseason game.
"Yeah, [it was] a little bit longer today. We had some things we wanted to get accomplished," he said. "Kind of a few more game like situations, you know, went a little bit longer rep wise with some of the starters. So, we did something in sets of eights today out there, which we need to go here to get ready for the games."
Coach Sparano was then asked, if the extra work on game things meant the team was gameplanning for the Panthers game, something they did not do for the Falcons game last week.
"We watched a little bit of tape with the guys last night - just very little tape," he replied. "Actually, I gave them last evening's walkthrough off and we met a little longer and watched a bot of tape that way. Tomorrow, we'll spend a little bit more time on them. We spent about eight plays today on them, out here in that different period."
The Dolphins' running game also gained some ground on Wednesday. Rookie running back Daniel Thomas showed some explosion on Wednesday. Although he has had a very up-and-down training camp, including the first preseason game, Thomaas continues to progress in the Miami backfield.
Sparano did say after the game that he expects to use both Thomas and Bush in Friday's game:
"We are going to use [Bush]. We are going to use him some. Get him some time in there. Again, I've got to give five backs a look right here, so we're going to play Reggie, play Daniel, early in this game, and then, you know, see how we fall with the rest of it. I don't have a time table, couldn't give you an exact number right now, and not going to give the players an exact number either."
Finally, as camp closes shop and the Dolphins look to solidfy their offensive line, Sparano was asked after practice about the role of Lydon Murtha. Murtha, who has held the left tackle role while All-Pro tackle Jake Long is listed on the physically unable to perform list, has been solid in that role all training camp, leading to speculation that he might replace Marc Colombo at the right tackle position when Long gets backk.
Sparano seems to have the same idea:
"Well, my vision for [Lydon], when we do get Jake back here, you know, it's going to be to get him in the mix here. You know, with probably more on the right side, certainly, than the left side. You know, Lydon has to be ready to do everything, you know. In other words, at the game, he's got to be ready to go in and play guard, he's got to be ready to go in and play both tackles.
"In the past, we haven't beem able to get him in left tackle as mush as we like, so it's been a good thing for him. Playing left, against [Jason Taylor] everyday and doing some of those things, I think it's been really productive for him. You know, you're not guessing on whether or not you have a left tackle.
"God forbid something happens here, but this guy can go in the game and play for you. I know he can play right, and the guard thing he played last year, so he can do a lof of jobs."
Overall, Wednesday's practice was another solid day for the team. The defense continues to show its strength, but the offense seemed to make an effort to rebound after a poor week. The first team passing game seemed to find a rhythm, and the running game found its first foothold. With training camp ending, and public practices complete, the fact that the Dolphins were showing progress, especially on the offensive side of the ball, should make all of us, as fans, feel better than we did two weeks ago.