The Miami Dolphins are headed into their second week of Organized Team Activities, starting today and running through Thursday. These are the first on-field practices where the team can line-up 11-on-11 of the year, although they are all without pads and live hitting. These three days will be numbers four through six of the ten allotted days the team has for OTAs, with next week’s four-day span finishing off OTAs before the team’s veteran minicamp the following week.
The media will only be able to attend Wednesday’s OTA workout this week, though there will be player availability after Tuesday and Thursday practices.
Before we move to this week’s OTAs, a quick review of some of the storylines from last week’s workouts:
1. Ryan Tannehill’s knee
For obvious reasons, this will be a story throughout the offseason, training camp, the preseason, and into the regular season. Tannehill severely sprained the ACL and MCL in his left knee late in the season last year, missing playing time for the first time in his career. The injury did not require surgery, but it is still a concern as the team moves forward this offseason and into training camp in July.
Last week, we wrote that Tannehill looked comfortable in the limited time the media could see him workout, but there also is not hitting or a live pass rush coming against him yet. The defense has been told that they cannot get too close to Miami’s starting quarterback, in part so he has a chance to get comfortable with the knee brace he is now wearing. (Tannehill has been in the brace since January and says it is more comfortable and allows more movement than the brace he wore in college, but it still will likely take some time - and eventually a live rush and some hits - for everything to truly be 100 percent.)
Most of the reports out of the first week of OTAs indicate Tannehill looked good and that he is moving well. There were some reports that he might have been a step slow, but it was also the first time the media has seen him since December, and it was the first week of real practices.
2. Leonte Carroo
There was a lot of speculation last week that Carroo could be in danger of losing his place on the roster, just a year after Miami traded up in the Draft to grab him. It all stemmed from one line in a Barry Jackson post for the Miami Herald. The exact line from Jackson is “Leonte Carroo is the front-runner for the No. 4 receiver job based on draft pedigree, but it is not absolutely certain that he will make the team.”
After one practice, it is hard to imagine anything the media saw would constitute cutting Carroo. That said, Jackson is not saying anything that is not true - the Dolphins are deep at receiver and, other than Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills, there is no certainty any of the remaining players on the roster will be there when the 53-man roster is created. Apparently, a lot of people were high on Drew Morgan during the one media-watched practice, and that led to part of the speculation that Carroo’s roster spot is in danger - but one practice for an undrafted free agent seems a little overkill on speculation that Carroo will be cut.
3. Laremy Tunsil (and Isaac Asiata)
There were reports that Tunsil looked great as a left tackle, moving well and playing like it is his natural position (which of course it is). He was described as dancing outside, using a great first step to make sure he was in position.
Asiata, Miami’s fifth-round pick this year, was reportedly struggling in pass-blocking. Of course, both of those observations come with no pads or hitting. Every year, the offensive line speculation ramps up during OTAs and minicamp, then we get a better picture of the actual status once the pads come on. Tunsil probably is going to be great out at left tackle, where he was widely considered the best prospect for the position in 2016 and Asiata may need some time to develop, thus why he was a fifth-round pick, but neither observation should be considered a definite as of yet. Wait until July and August before celebrating or panicking.
4. Xavien Howard
While the offensive line may be difficult to read without pads, the cornerback position is a little easier. Sure, pads will impact movement and reach, but if a cornerback looks fluid, fast, and ready to be a true cover cornerback in OTAs, he is probably pretty close to that once the pads come on. Howard looked like that last week. He was able to stay in the hip pocket for both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, which could be a great sign for the Dolphins. Again, it is one practice, so celebrating right now may be a little premature.
5. Lawrence Timmons’ flexibility
Timmons, who signed as a free agent this offseason, was reportedly playing all over the linebacker position groups throughout the day. The team is still trying to figure out where to play each of their linebackers - with Timmons, Kiko Alonso, and rookie Raekwon McMillan likely starters - and what the best combination is for this year. That said, reports seem to think the Dolphins could look to use Timmons across all three linebacker positions, playing him inside and outside throughout games in order to create mismatches.
Week 2 Storylines
As the second set of OTAs begins, here are some of the story lines to watch for this week:
1. Injuries. It is really way too early to be worried about injuries, and the Dolphins are going to be overly cautious with players right now to make sure they are healthy for training camp and the season. That said, the Dolphins have center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod, and right tackle Ja’Wuan James all dealing with various issues and it would be nice to have the starting offensive line working together - even if the team is still working on who the starting left guard will be. Pouncey, who probably has the most severe injury right now (other than maybe Tannehill, though that does appear to be behind the quarterback), was working on the side and riding a bike during practice, but he was walking without crutches after having multiple procedures on his hip in the past year.
2. Julius Thomas and Ryan Tannehill. Say what you will about timing, chemistry, familiarity, or whatever, the first week of practices showed what a difference playing time together can mean for a duo. Tannehill and the receivers all seemed to be on the same page early in the offseason, while Thomas, for whom Miami traded this offseason, and Tannehill struggled to get on the same page. The Dolphins will be looking for Thomas to have the same impact on the offense he had when he played for the Denver Broncos - with Miami head coach Adam Gase as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator - but the first week looked like two players still trying to get used to each other.
3. Charles Harris. It was a quiet week reporting wise for the Dolphins’ first-round pick, largely because people were focusing on Tannehill’s knee. This week, expect more reports on the Dolphins’ rookie defensive end - and expect them to be positive. Early indications - where there were some (like from the Miami Herald’s Greg Cote) that indicated Harris “is off to a great start.” The Dolphins are expecting Harris to become something special, even if he is relegated to the second string coming into the start of the season, working behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch. This week, however, expect there to be a lot of talk about Harris - even if it is without pads.
4. Jakeem Grant. Carroo received the focus last week, so we will assume Grant is in line for the scrutiny this week. Kenyan Drake was returning some punts last week, which should be the domain of Grant who worked in tandem with Landry last year. The Dolphins have said they expect Grant to have a more expanded offensive role this year, which should not be difficult given his 2016 stat line of no receptions and one rush. There were reports that the team is looking to line him up outside as well as in the slot, so there is at least some searching for mismatches. If Carroo is not a certainty to be on the roster come September, Grant should have the same question marks - so this week, expect some observations about him.
5. Defensive backs. Howard received some coverage last week, but there was not a lot of other coverage of the defensive backs for the Dolphins. There were one-line updates across the entire field, with Reshad Jones’ return mentioned, Walt Aikens playing in coverage, Tony Lippett and rookie Cordrea Tankersley each recording an interception return for a touchdown, and quick looks at the two new safeties, Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald. More will probably come about the position group as OTAs, minicamp, and, eventually, training camp continue.