The Miami Dolphins are heading into their third of three weeks of Organized Team Activities. These practices are without full contact, and without pads, but they are a chance to the players to get on the field, get back to football activities, and, in the case of the Dolphins, really start putting into effect the new offense and defense the team will use under a brand new coaching staff.
Miami hired head coach Adam Gase this offseason, replacing Joe Philbin and interim head coach Dan Campbell with the former Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator. Gase comes to Miami with the reputation as a "quarterback whisperer," someone who will maximize the potential of fifth year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He will, however, have an impact on all of the offense, and it is an impact that led to Miami keeping some players this year, even if they had to take a pay cut in order to stay.
“It’s one of those things," veteran tight end Jordan Cameron said of agreeing to a new contract this offseason. Cameron's new contract lowered his salary from $7.5 to $6 million, while moving more money into guaranteed dollars, bringing that total to $5 million for the season. "It doesn’t feel good but at the same time I didn’t do much to deserve...Last year, if you want to talk about last year here’s what I’ll say about it. I didn’t do much to deserve a raise. I’ll tell you that much. For me, this year, having a year with Adam Gase and knowing what he’s done with tight ends, I’m looking forward to it. I have a lot of work to do so I’m not going to say I’m going to be this guy (or) I’m going to be this player. I’m just going to do my job today and I’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”
Cameron continued, discussing what swayed him to agree to take the pay cut. “I got a lot of phone calls regarding Coach Gase and his ability to maximize guys and their potential and get everything out of them. One of my good friends is (TE) Julius Thomas, who played for him (in Denver). He called me immediately and said you have to play for this guy. It was one of those...it was kind of like a no brainer. I’ve had a lot of conversations about him and what he can do. It was kind of the things I heard about Coach Gase and I think I made the right decision.”
In two seasons with Gase as his offensive coordinator in Denver, Thomas recorded 108 receptions for 1,277 yards with 24 touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl both years. He was fifth in the league in 2013 with 12 receiving touchdowns and fourth in 2014 with the other 12 touchdowns.
“(Gase is) a fresh face in the building and his energy and he’s young and he’s very vibrant and he gets players – which helps for us," Cameron continued. "He has so much confidence in his ability to call plays and set up an offense and that’s kind of contagious and I think (our) guys feed off that. When he’s calling a play, you just feel like, I don’t know, you can’t really describe it. He’s definitely a player’s coach and he gets it. He knows how to communicate to us and he’s very black and white, which is good. It’s been awesome so far. We’re in the beginning stages and we have a lot of work to do but I think we’ve definitely gotten off on the right foot.
"We’re stressing right now our tempo, our speed of this offense. Playing in this heat has to be a positive factor for us. We’re the ones conditioning in this every day and it’s one of those things that we have to use it to (our) advantage. The other teams don’t have the ability to train in this heat and it’s no joke. I think it’s one of those things that, if we’re in shape and we work on this tempo that he stresses so much, it will be definitely a thing for us that will help us in the future.”
Cameron also took a look at how will fit into Gase's offense, "He does a good job of putting [tight ends] in spots to succeed. There are a lot of times you want to get coverage indicators and you put a tight end out wide and you see who’s guarding you. If it is a linebacker, you know it’s man to man. Stuff like that. So he does a good job of putting guys in positions to win and finding the mismatches.”
The conversation then turned to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will be a major storyline this year. Tannehill has been the most sacked quarterback in the four years since he was drafted, the second most hit quarterback in that span. The Dolphins are looking to fix the offensive line this year, starting with the addition of first-round draft-pick Laremy Tunsil, as well as looking for the players around Tannehill, including wide receivers Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and rookies Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant, running backs Jay Ajayi and rookie Kenyan Drake, and tight ends Cameron and Dion Sims, to upgrade an offense that clearly struggled to score points last year.
“It’s always a work in progress," Cameron said of establishing chemistry with Tannehill. "We get better every day. It’s one of those things (where) you have a new offense so we’re learning the timing of the routes. He’s learning the timing of the routes. That’s why these OTAs and these minicamps are so important. We have to go full speed and maximize each day and Coach Gase keeps talking about emptying the tank and I think we’ve doing that. I think this offense has been driving and grinding the last two weeks.
"There is a lot going on with this offense, especially being (in this) scheme. There’s a lot so each route is different. Each route changes with an adjustment with the defense with the way the defensive end is playing. There are just little timing things that you can only work on full speed. You can’t do it in a walk-through. It’s not going to be the same. These things – the fact that we have these practices and we had a minicamp to start – are huge to just to get the foundation of the timing down. It’s like you said. The patience on a route is different than this route so we have to get the timing (down). And each player is different and each player has different footsteps so it’s a lot to work on.”
Cameron was asked who has more responsibility for the chemistry and the timing between a quarterback and a receiver. “It’s definitely both of us. I mean if his timing’s on and mine is off, it looks bad on him but it’s my fault. It’s one of those things we both have to be on the same page and it’s just all about going full speed and maximizing and I keep saying (it), emptying the tank. That’s what we have to work on so we can do it during the week and it’s not going to be weird or strange on Sundays because we’ve been doing it the whole year.”
Cameron also commented on trying to see any differences in Tannehill's play from last year as he gets comfortable with the new offense, “I think it’s too premature to say that. You could tell he’s more vocal, I would say. His abilities, he has so much ability. He can run the ball. He can throw the ball. He can do a lot and he’s very smart. All of those things are very positive and he’s kind of stepping into that role and understanding how powerful he can be. I think he’s going to do some special things. Like we all do, we have a lot of work to do. He’s willing to put the work in so that’s what you want to see out of your starting quarterback.”
The Dolphins will hold four days of Organized Team Activities this week, the final four days of the OTA period. They will also host a mandatory veteran minicamp - the only mandatory event of the offseason - from June 14-16, before taking a month off. Miami's first preseason game will be played August 12 at the New York Giants. Based on that preseason game, and under NFL rules allowing training camp to start 15 days before that first game, the team could open training camp on July 28.