The daily grind of training camp is kicking into high gear for the Dolphins with the first game of the exhibition season beginning to peak on the horizon. There is now only one week standing in the way between the Dolphins and their first contest since January.
Of course, it’s only the preseason and Sparano said himself that he’s “Lot more concerned about the Patriots than I am about next Friday’s preseason opener.”
Regardless, meaningless football is still football. And while these practice reports are feeding our Dolphins’ fix to some degree, it’s about time to get our first glimpse of the 2011 Miami Dolphins in an actual game setting.
At any rate, we still had some noteworthy action on the field in Davie today. Let’s jump right in.
Dolphins cut Brandstater, sign Kevin O’Connell
Jeff Ireland’s chance to potentially upgrade the starting quarterback position has come and gone. This will be Chad Henne’s team and his final stand in 2011. I would have to see Henne completely embarrass himself this preseason and/or Matt Moore light it up in order to buy into this as an actual competition.
That doesn’t mean Ireland can’t still improve the depth at the position, though. Six practices was all the look Miami needed to decide Tom Brandstater likely wouldn’t push for the number three spot, so they went out and nabbed some potential competition for Pat Devlin in Kevin O’Connel. O’Connel, a third-round pick in 2008, was Matt Cassel’s backup in New England when Tom Brady tore his ACL in 2008, was third string with the Jets in 2009, and missed the entire 2010 season with a torn labrum.
Brandon Marshall, Will Allen sit out
Whenever you hear that a high-profile player like Brandon Marshall is on the sidelines instead of on the field with his teammates, fans understandably hold their breath. But rest assured Dolfans, Marshall, along with cornerback Will Allen who also sat out, are just fine.
Tony Sparano reportedly held them out to keep their reps down. It’s a new age in football. Coaches are becoming more and more concerned about keeping players fresh, even this early in training camp.
Yeremiah Bell was dressed, but it appeared Sparano was taking it easy with him as well. Tyrone Culver worked in Bell’s place on the first-team defense at strong safety.
Clyde Gates beginning to shine
The Dolphins’ fourth-round selection, Clyde Gates, was fairly quiet initially, but has been coming on strong the past few workouts. He reportedly gets separation easily in one-on-one drills and has the quickness speed that excels at this level, not the long-strider speed (a la Ted Ginn) that takes longer to get going.
By all accounts, Gates had a fine practice this afternoon, and even prompted Brian Biggane to tweet “Clyde Gates putting on a show out there today.”
It’s still exceedingly early to get carried away with speculation, but you have to wonder if Gates continues to shine and carries his playmaking ability over to preseason games, could he potentially push Brian Hartline for the number two spot?
I think this coaching staff is high on Hartline and he’s undoubtedly a solid receiver, but if Gates can prove to open up the offense and is able to emerge as Henne’s deep threat, he’ll put up a fight at least.
The good news for both receivers is that Brian Daboll likes to utilize four-receiver sets more than most offensive coordinators in this league. Gates will get his opportunities.
Offensive line update
Stop me if this sounds familiar: the shuffling continues. Okay, so Sparano didn’t make his O-line play musical chairs today, but he keeps tweaking things on a daily basis. John Jerry lined up with the starters today at left guard.
Meanwhile, Ray Feinga, who has been a first-team guard and tackle so far in camp, missed his third straight workout with an undisclosed injury.
For those pulling for Lydon Murtha to land the starting right tackle job, Omar Kelly was fond of his day, tweeting “Just watched Lydon Murtha pancake Jason Taylor. He's pushing guys around today.”
Another solid day for Henne
Maybe Dolphin fans should boo Chad Henne more often. He’s been practicing well ever since. Henne had himself his third straight sharp workout, reportedly going 4-6 in 7-on-7’s with two first-down competitions.
Obviously, Henne could be dominant every day in practice, but until he shows up consistently every Sunday, he’s still going to be the piece holding this team back. My head tells me if things haven’t clicked for Henne after two seasons as the starter, they probably never will, but my gut tells me he’s in for his breakout campaign.
Sources: Ken LaVicka, Omar Kelly, Brian Biggane