Dolphins notebook

Miami Dolphins weigh options with punt returners

 

bjackson@miamiherald.com

Marcus Thigpen likely again will handle at least some of the punt returns, but the Dolphins are looking at a half dozen others to possibly share those duties. Brian Hartline, Lamar Miller, Nolan Carroll, Brandon Gibson, Brent Grimes and long-shot receiver Jasper Collins have all taken turns. It would be risky to use Grimes, the Dolphins’ best cornerback, in that role.

Whereas Thigpen handles all the kickoff returns, the Dolphins had him share punt returns last season with Davone Bess, who was traded to Cleveland in April. Bess handled the punts that were backed up near the Dolphins’ goal line, and 18 of Bess’ 22 return opportunities were fair catches.

Thipgen averaged 12.2 yards on 26 punt returns and 27.4 yards on 38 kickoff returns.

Plays of the day

• Quarterback Matt Moore threw a beautiful deep ball to receiver Rishard Matthews, who beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson for a 70-yard scoring play.

• Linebacker Alonzo Highsmith stripped Moore and recovered a fumble. And defensive tackle Kheeston Randall knocked down a pass from Moore.

• Tight end Michael Egnew made a terrific catch in traffic.

• Receiver Marvin McNutt followed his outstanding day Sunday with a lackluster one Monday, including a drop and fumble.

Notable

•  Olivier Vernon took the first-team snaps at defensive end, opposite Cameron Wake, for the second consecutive day. Randy Starks replaced Jared Odrick — alongside Paul Soliai — as first-team defensive tackles, but Odrick rotated in and got plenty of work.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of different combinations,” coach Joe Philbin said of the defensive line. “Odrick, we’ll get him outside some as well to get him looks there.”

Vaughn Martin, who played primarily defensive tackle in San Diego’s 3-4 defense, has been playing defensive end in the Dolphins’ 4-3 but also will play some tackle. “The more jobs [players] can master, the more valuable they become to us,” Philbin said.

• In a change of pace, No. 3 quarterback Pat Devlin received the snaps with the second-team offensive players, with Moore working with the third- and fourth-teamers. Devlin handled the assignment competently, doing his best work on rollouts.

• The Dolphins run two 11-on-11 drills simultaneously, and Philbin has spent more of his time watching the third- and fourth-team players practice than the first- and second-teamers, because he wants to familiarize himself with the players toward the bottom of the roster, many of them rookies.

• The Dolphins are using their cornerbacks in a different ways. On Sunday, Dimitri Patterson covered the slot receiver, and Richard Marshall played one of the outside receivers. On Monday, they flipped that assignment. But Marshall remains with the first team, along with Grimes.

• Monday’s practice attendance was 1,220 — down from the 2,700 who attended Sunday.

• Dolphins players said they expect to practice in pads for the first time Tuesday.

Quotable

“We’ll be a more complete zone-blocking team. [And] we’ll be a better pass protecting team.”

Guard Richie Incognito, on the Dolphins’ offensive line, despite losing his buddy Jake Long to St. Louis.

PRACTICE DATES AND TIMES

8 a.m.

Tuesday 8 a.m.

Wednesday 8 a.m.

Thursday Off

Friday 8 a.m.

Saturday 8 a.m.

(season-ticket holders only)

Sunday 8 a.m.

(Fin Club members only)

Note: The Dolphins spend the first 30-plus minutes of practice inside their practice bubble, which is closed to the public. All practices this week will be held at the team’s Davie facility.

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