After Thursday’s practice, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin joked about his decision to give guard David Arkin second-team center snaps.
“Rolling the dice,” Philbin said.
Given the opportunity, Arkin promptly sent a shotgun snap over quarterback Matt Moore’s head. Rookie center Tyler Larsen and guard Nate Garner also had issues snapping when their turn came up on the lineman carousel as starter Mike Pouncey continued his rehab on the other field after undergoing hip surgery in June.
Shelley Smith has also seen time at center while getting first-team reps at right guard.
“It’s something that just takes practice or work just like everything else,” Smith said of snapping. “We are all working really hard at it just getting it consistent. It just takes a little practice and takes a little time, and we are getting there. We are working in the right direction.”
The offensive linemen had a strong practice otherwise, but the center-quarterback exchange remains an issue with one practice left before Saturday’s scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium. Five practices stand between the Dolphins and their first preseason game next Friday in Atlanta.
“Everybody thinks we’re losing the battle every day in practice,” left tackle Branden Albert said. “I think we’re working hard playing against a good defense – a very good defense. I don’t know what people expect right now. We are working hard every day and competing and that’s all you can expect right now.”
Center Sam Brenner missed Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury and is reportedly doubtful for Saturday’s scrimmage, though he should be back soon after.
Receiver Mike Wallace, who also spent Thursday’s practice on the sideline with a hamstring injury, will be out at least until next week as well.
Damian Williams was not in pads Thursday, either, and fellow receiver Matt Hazel left practice midway through. After practice, the Dolphins appeared to be working out two free agent receivers.
Thursday’s practice was open only to media and Dolphins staff.
In Bill Lazor’s motion-heavy offense, tight ends spend time in the backfield, in the slot, and out wide in addition to lining up as an extra offensive lineman.
It’s a lot to learn, especially for a young group in which Charles Clay – who is entering his fourth season – is the most experienced player.
“Whether it be fullback, tight end, receiver, we do all of those in this offense,” Michael Egnew said. “That’s the most difficult thing, making sure you know everything to be versatile.”
But Egnew added that he has seen improvement.
“We’ll eventually have it all down definitely by the time we play the first game,” he said.
Thursday, the tight ends were active in the passing game. Clay, Egnew, Kyle Miller and even recently signed Brett Brackett caught passes. Afterward, Philbin singled out Dion Sims as impressing him during passing drills.
“Dion Sims has made more plays in the passing games in these first five or six days than I remember him making last year,” Philbin said. “He’s off to a quick start in that area.”
Then there are rookies Arthur Lynch, a fifth-round pick, and Harold “Gator” Hoskins, whom Philbin praised earlier this week.
Tuesday, Philbin said he would be open to keeping up to five tight ends if they prove their worth, and Hoskins said Thursday he hopes the versatility he is displaying filling the various roles of a tight end and special teams player can earn him a spot.
This and That
• Thursday saw some of the biggest hits yet, with linebacker Koa Misi popping Stephen Williams after the receiver caught a pass over the middle, and linebacker Chris McCain laying into Hazel.
• Rookie linebacker Tariq Edwards was among those who didn’t practice. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson left practice and returned later without pads.
• Though Jimmy Wilson is listed as a safety, he appears to be Philbin’s favorite as the nickel corner as well, with Jamar Taylor coming on when the defense goes with six defensive backs.
• Thursday’s practice, the sixth of training camp, was one of the shortest – and Philbin said he designed it to be less intense than other days.