The Miami Dolphins held their first practice of their 2017 training camp yesterday, and it seemed to be a strong day for the offense. Entering their second year in head coach Adam Gase’s offensive system, the Dolphins are looking to take the next step forward and move from learning the system to mastering it. On Thursday, it appeared they really were starting to make that leap.
“It’s not our first go around,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said after the practice. “We spent a year in the offense last year and got to bring back almost all of our key pieces. Like you said, there’s a lot of continuity there with the guys that we have. We’re able to build on what we did last year, build on what we did in the offseason, and we’re not so much learning the overall concepts, we’re trying to work on the details and master plays. When you get to do that, that’s when you become really good.”
One play during the practice may exemplify exactly how the offense is evolving. The team was working on a two-point conversion when wide receiver Kenny Stills adjusted his route, screening the defender who was trailing wide receiver DeVante Parker. Tannehill recognized what Stills was doing and fired a pass to Parker for the conversion. After practice, Tannehill discussed that evolution, and that play. “When it’s not your first time running the concept, the first couple times you’re just trying to get the overall concept down and make sure everyone is lining up in the right spot and they’re finishing in the right spot,” he explained. “Once you have guys doing that, then you can work on understanding the plays. What’s the goal of the play? If one guy adjusts his route a little bit, shields off a defender. I think Kenny did a great job down in the red zone on a two-point play. (He) shielded off the defender just for a half second (and) allowed me to make the throw to DeVante for the conversion. Once you get to that step, that next step, in development as an offense, that’s when you see more plays being made, because guys have an overall understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
One of the keys to the offense’s development this year may be Parker and if he is ready to become the wide receiver Miami thought they would be adding to the roster when they selected him in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The offseason training program seemed to indicate that Parker has positioned himself to be a better professional and a better player as he enter his third year. Tannehill addressed Parker’s development, saying, “I think throughout this year, I’ve probably seen more gain from DeVante than either of the (first) two years combined. That’s exciting for us to see him coming into his own, getting his confidence up, being explosive, being physical and healthy. I think that’s what it comes down to ultimately is that he’s healthy for the first time in a long time. That’s great for us and hopefully we’ll keep him that way and keep progressing.”
Tannehill also addressed his own play, and where he can continue to develop entering his sixth season in the league, telling the media, “There’s a lot I want to improve in my game. Constantly working on footwork and timing, accuracy, and it all starts with the feet. Being able to get the ball out, playing fast and understanding where the ball is supposed to go. Being the second year in the offense, it’s much easier for me to have that understanding of where the ball is supposed to go and be able to move through my progressions quicker and get the ball out on time.”
When asked what he sees as a “good year” for himself, Tannehill responded, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me on individual stats. I want to win games, put us in the playoffs and win the division, be in the Super Bowl. That’s our goal. That’s what we set out each and every year to do is to win games, make the playoffs first, win the division and be in the Super Bowl. It’s tough to say what exactly is success; but for me, that’s my goal right now is to put this team in position to win and win a lot of games and compete for a championship.”
The Dolphins will need Tannehill, and the rest of the offense, to show that Stills’ adjustment for Parker’s two-point conversion was not an isolated or rare event. Instead, that level of play from the receivers, the quarterback, the running backs, the tight ends, and even the offensive linemen has to become the norm. If Thursday’s practice is any indication, they are at least on the right track to moving from learning to mastering.