The Miami Dolphins completed their seventh training camp practice today, the last workout before the team's annual Sun Life Stadium scrimmage. The practice was a little sloppy overall, though the day was more about taking it easy, giving some players a day off, and reducing the reps for others.
The team gave several key veterans, including defensive end Cameron Wake, cornerback Brent Grimes, and left tackle Branden Albert most of the day off, with them not conducting team or individual drills.
The second string players took advantage of the players that were not participating, stepping up into their positions and performing fairly well. Receiver Rishard Matthews continued to shine, including several difficult receptions, as well as being a favorite target of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the team's red zone work on the day. His performances over the first week of training camp have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff either.
"Rishard Matthews," head coach Joe Philbin responded when asked after practice if any of the reserve players are standing out in camp thus far. He's having a good camp without a doubt."
Matthews is looking to stake a claim to a roster spot during training camp. The Dolphins are deep at the receiver position, with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson,and Jarvis Landry all fairly well assured of their spots on the 53-man regular season roster.
Third string quarterback Pat Devlin moved up the depth chart today, due to a shoulder injury to primary backup Matt Moore, and, like Matthews, looked to take advantage. He appeared to have a grasp on the team's new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and he was crisp with his passes.
Moore is expected to miss "several" practices with the injury to his throwing shoulder, which should give the Dolphins a better look at Devlin, who the team hopes can move into the second string position permanently after this season, when Moore's contract expires.
Behind Devlin, newcomer Seth Lobato, who signed with the team this week, worked with the third team offense.
Perhaps the best news of the practice was not the young players who stepped up, but the number of snaps that hit the ground. For the first time, that number was zero, with all three potential centers, Nate Garner, Shelley Smith, and David Arkin, successfully putting the ball in the quarterback's hands. The Dolphins are still trying to find the right combination along the offensive line this year, replacing all five opening day starters from last year, with the center position being the most difficult to fill thus far.
Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is currently rehabbing from hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. He is expected to miss the first month - and possibly more - of the season.
The team also welcomed back center Sam Brenner, who has been out the past few days with an ankle injury. He could work his way into the fight for the starting center position as well.
Smith, Brenner, and Garner could also be in the mix for the starting right guard position, which has been held for most of the offseason training program and training camp by second-year player Dallas Thomas. Rookie Billy Thomas is also in the mix for the position, and spent the past couple of practices working into the rotation.
This week is typically the time of training camp when teams do experiment a little more than they will the rest of the summer. Next weeks, Miami will begin focusing on their first preseason game, a Friday night contest at the Atlanta Falcons on August 8, making this the time to mix up the offensive line and make sure the five best players are slotted on the line.
Tomorrow morning, the Dolphins will hold their annual scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium, starting at 9:30am.