PHOENIX -- The Dolphins will be a very young team in 2013, and one way to evaluate that youth and give it some experience is to play more games. So the Dolphins agreed to face the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game.
The Dolphins will now play five preseason games instead of the usual four.
“I think the thought process is this: We’ve got 11 draft picks, so we don’t have a very old roster to start with and we’re adding 11 draft picks, so I think that’s going to give us an opportunity to get a good evaluation of those [players],” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “One more game exposure where coaches are on the sideline, not in their ear and they can go out and play and compete so that we can find out a little more about them.”
The game is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio. It’s the fourth time the Dolphins will appear in the nationally televised event. They lost each of the three previous appearances (1978, 2001 and 2005). The Cowboys have been invited for the fifth time.
Two honorees with Dolphins ties will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the night before: Bill Parcells and Cris Carter.
Parcells, 71, is entering as a coach. He won Super Bowls with the Giants in 1986 and 1990, led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1996 and directed the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in 1998.
He was the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations from 2008 through 2010, a controversial stretch in which he oversaw the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history before quitting before his contract had expired.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame and to be part of the festivities that surround that event will be great for the organization,” Philbin said. “We’re playing a team with great history and tradition, like ours, in the Dallas Cowboys. It should be fun.”
By playing in the preseason opener, the Dolphins will be allowed to open training camp early, and will likely have a fifth preseason game.
Must get greedy
The Dolphins are trying to revamp a pretty good defense that finished No. 7 in scoring defense for one reason: Too few turnovers.
The club got only 16 turnovers last season and that led to the ouster of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Sean Smith, who struggled to hold on to interceptions.
“The biggest thing we said we’ve got to find a way to take the ball away,” Philbin said. “After watching all of the cutups, 1,000 or so plays on defense, we can’t survive with 16 takeaways.”
Need for speed
Tight end Michael Egnew was unable to get on the field much for the Dolphins in 2012 despite being a third-round draft pick. He struggled to remember plays. He didn’t play physical.
And this from Philbin:
“There were flashes where he made some of those types of plays, you know, [twisting] his body and getting down the middle of the field,” the coach said. “I think his play speed, if I had to say one thing, it would be his play speed. Get that up. If his play speed is faster, then it’s going to help him in all [his game].
“Get off the ball quicker, get a better release off the line of scrimmage, get down field quicker. Just speed it up.”
The Dolphins have added several players but they are not done at any position. What free agency has done, however, is give the team the ability to continue adding talent throughout the roster without letting one position, perhaps outside of cornerback, seem a need position going to the draft.
“I don’t know that we’re complete at any position. I think hopefully what’s happened with some of the free agency moves is it gives [general manager] Jeff [ Ireland] more latitude to just go find good football players,” Philbin said. “I don’t know that we’re locked and loaded anywhere. That’s not a bad thing.
“I don’t know that many of the other 15 [AFC coaches] that are in the room [Tuesday] are locked and loaded at a ton of spots. We’ve got to add good players at every position.”
Bess has spot
Philbin echoed the sentiments of Ireland by saying receiver Davone Bess still has a place on the Dolphins’ roster going to training camp even though the team re-signed Brian Hartline and added Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson this offseason.
“Absolutely. Yeah,” he said. “As you guys know, I envision us bringing 10 or 12 guys to training camp. We’re going to get a lot of reps as we see and we’re going to let guys go out there and compete and earn spots and take it from there.”
A day after Jake Long split for St. Louis, Nate Garner, his backup last season, signed a contract that will keep him in Miami, the team announced.
Garner, 28, has appeared in 48 games in his career, starting 13. He is a solid reserve, able to play multiple spots on the offensive line. Garner started at right tackle the final month of the 2012 season after Long went down with a torn triceps and played well for the most part.
“I think we definitely can [be better than last year],” Garner said. “Jake is going to be missed sorely. I think we’ll recover, move on down the road and get better as a unit.”
Defensive tackle Randy Starks signed his franchise tender Tuesday, meaning he will earn $8.3 million in 2013 barring his signing a long-term deal. … Third-string quarterback Pat Devlin signed his exclusive rights tender as well. … Philbin said he believes running back Jonas Gray, rehabilitating following knee reconstruction last year, is now fully healthy. … Philbin said it was “just a coincidence” that three of the players (Dansby, Long and Reggie Bush) on last year’s so-called leadership council — the players’ line to the coach — are now gone from the team.
Miami Herald sportswriter Adam Beasley contributed to this report.