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Dolphins minicamp day one features Adam Gase working to change attitudes

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The Miami Dolphins have been stuck in mediocrity for a decade. New head coach Adam Gase has his work cut out for him in turning around a once proud franchise.

Miami Dolphins

"I went over and talked a little smack to the defense and let them know how many times were were going to throw over their heads." That is how the Miami Dolphins opened their first minicamp, and it was not a player making that statement. New head coach Adam Gase immediately showed a persona the Dolphins have not had in recent years. After a decade of mediocrity and a four year stretch of not showing any emotion, the franchise needs someone who is willing to "talk a little smack" and get the team excited - even if it was just an April voluntary minicamp.

The Dolphins, as a team with a new head coach this season, is authorized one voluntary veteran minicamp this offseason, in addition to the team's mandatory veteran minicamp in June. They will also hold Organized Team Activities (OTAs) between then end of this minicamp and the start of the mandatory camp. "I think it gets a lot of the anxiety out," Gase said of the additional minicamp. "For our players, they understand how we want to do things. The tempo is what we're really trying to make sure we do a good job of, just in between periods and where we're going, what we want to do. If you can get that done before you hit OTAs, it just makes OTAs a lot smoother."

One small thing that could make a difference as the Dolphins get ready for the 2016 season was Gase's use of a walkie-talkie throughout the practice. Gase, who will call the offensive plays for Miami this season, was asked about using it, and to whom he was speaking during the workout. He explained that it was linked to the quarterbacks, "We like to start kind of that game-type mentality; and, for the quarterbacks, getting used to hearing my voice. I mean that's just something - the way that I call plays and the way that they can hear it and kind of understand - that I probably talk too much. And I'll give them tips and things about what to look for. So it's just getting used to hearing me on the other end."

It might be a small thing, but it is an important thing that can be established now, so it is not an issue in training camp and the preseason - or even into the regular season.

Not everything was perfect for Miami on the first practice under their new head coach. Linebacker Koa Misi was ill and unable to practice, while defensive end Mario Williams had a family situation arise and he missed the workout as well. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh skipped the voluntary practice session, choosing to continue his normal offseason schedule of working out at a Nike facility in Oregon. And, safety Reshad Jones began a holdout as he looks for a contract extension.

It's voluntary," Gase said after practice about Jones, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time last year, skipping the practice. "Every day I'm coming in this thing and when guys show up, we're going to help them and we're going to help them get better. But right now it's a voluntary camp. It's a voluntary program, so guys can come and go as they please." Jones reportedly has no plans to attend any voluntary workouts and will skip the mandatory minicamp as well if he does not have a new contract before then.

Safety Michael Thomas filled in for Jones with the starting lineup on Tuesday, according to a report from the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley. Thomas started next to Jones last year, where new addition Isa Abdul-Quiddus will now play. Thomas had been looking forward to a potential move back to cornerback in 2016, hoping to fight for the nickel corner position, but could be looked to fill in for Jones if the holdout turns out to be a lengthy one.

Another defensive starter was limited in practice, but it was a great sign that he was at least practicing. Defensive end Cameron Wake, who tore his Achilles tendon mid-way through the 2015 season, was on the field throughout the day, but worked with trainers during the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

"That's awesome," free agent addition, defensive end Andre Branch told the media after practice about Wake being on the field. Branch took the first-team snaps in place of Wake during the team drills. "He's definitely a vet in this league. He's been playing at a high level for a very long time and he just shows by example. He leads by example. He's the type of player that you follow."

"We're day to day," Gase said of Wake's prognosis. "He's just going to keep grinding and figure out every day we come in and we see what he can do and if he's sore and where he's at for that particular day. He's working close with the trainers and the sports science group to make sure that we get him as close to 100 percent (as possible). The big goal for me is that I just want him ready to go for training camp. The offseason - this is a great time to make sure that he is as close to 100 percent heading into training camp as possible."

The practice gave Gase his first chance to see the team in person after an offseason of working on film study. "It's a completely different ball game," Gase said of actually seeing the team instead of relying on the film. "When you get out on the field, you start seeing things and ... you might not actually see it on a game tape. I wasn't here last year for practice. So I mean you see a guy rep after rep, then practice after practice, and you get a really good feel for what that guy can do and what he can't do. This is like the first opportunity to see a few things where I might not have seen in a game situation. So this is a great opportunity for our coaching staff to really get into that evaluation stage to figure out what guys can and can't do."

One player stood out to Gase on day one, running back Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins did not use Ajayi much during his rookie season, having initially placed him on the Injured Reserve, Designate for Return List, then in a weekly disappearing run game. Miami has been searching for a veteran running back to replace Lamar Miller, who left the team for the Houston Texans in free agency this year, and could be in the market for a running back in the NFL Draft later this week as well. Ajayi, however, is doing everything he can to prove that the second-year runner can be the workhorse back for Miami this year. "When I watched him coming out of college and then now I see him in person," Gase explained of Ajayi, "I guess I never realized how shifty he was, and today was a great example. Just seeing him stick his foot in the ground and change direction, you didn't see him do that a lot in college. Just being able to see him move around, it was very impressive for me to see him in person. The way he cut in some of the run game schemes ... I mean I'm really excited to see what we can do going forward."

The Dolphins return to the practice field on Tuesday, looking to continue building the new offensive and defensive systems the team will use in 2016. And, they may again look to talk a little smack and throw over the defense's heads. On Tuesday, at least one throw over the top was made, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill finding second-year receiver DeVante Parker in stride on a 40-yard pass before Parker ran the ball to the endzone.

It was one play, in April, without contact, but football is at least starting to come back, and a deep pass like that can get fans hopeful that the Miami offense will finally start to click.