If teams truly play how they practice, the Miami Dolphins’ two-minute drill should be vastly improved this fall.
In the final offensive series of a long, hot spring Thursday, Ryan Tannehill was Joe Cool.
The second-year quarterback led his side on an intrasquad scrimmage-winning drive, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt and a two-point conversion to Brian Hartline. The drive covered 50 yards in the final 1:37.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better ourselves if we planned it that way,” Joe Philbin said later. “I thought it was an excellent practice for the last mandatory minicamp [session].”
Added an ebullient Tannehill: “That was fun.”
Of course this mock game was in shorts and helmets, and the score was jerry-rigged to give Tannehill’s side — which included Lamar Miller, Hartline and Charles Clay — a chance to win at the end.
Nonetheless, Tannehill did something he couldn’t once his rookie year — direct his team on a game-winning touchdown drive in the waning moments. The Dolphins lost five games with such a scenario in 2012.
“We all know sometimes the last practice of the offseason program is a semi-pulling-teeth exercise,” Philbin said. “I thought the guys responded and competed well.”
A few highlights:
• Clay had a great bounce-back performance a day after struggling with drops. He caught everything thrown his way, including a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill.
• Lineman Austin Spitler blocked Brandon Fields’ punt in the end zone on the game’s opening drive.
• Defensive end Derrick Shelby was a dynamo, recording three sacks.
• Cornerback Nolan Carroll returned an interception for a touchdown off Matt Moore and saved a punt from going in the end zone on the coverage team.
• Caleb Sturgis won the day in the kicking battle. He drilled a 58-yard field goal and had several touchbacks. Dan Carpenter missed from 51.
• And former CFL player linebacker Lee Robinson intercepted Aaron Corp, and undrafted rookie defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu finished off an impressive week with several pressures.
“I think if you look how much we improved from OTA One to the minicamp, it wasn’t always pretty, but I think we grew as a team, as an offense, every time,” Tannehill said.
And more importantly, they did so with their health mostly intact. The only injury of note this week was an undisclosed — but apparently not very serious — issue affecting Dustin Keller.
The tight end sat out nearly all of minicamp, but didn’t seemed overly concerned about it affecting him long-term.
After team meetings Thursday — during which Philbin reminded his players to stay out of trouble — the Dolphins scattered. Some went home, others went on vacation, while several plan on staying local to prepare for the season.
Tannehill will take some time away from football, but then organize an off-site throwing session with teammates the week before camp begins.
“I think the amount we put in, the level we’re at, just comparing to last year, is strides past,” Hartline said. “But there’s still work to do. You don’t want to dumb it down, I’m honestly really happy where we’re at.”
Added Tannehill: “I think we’re confident, but we’re hungry.”
• Dick Stockton, who has been the Dolphins’ TV voice on preseason broadcasts in recent years, said he gave up the assignment this year because he will be busy in August working Fox baseball assignments and doing practice games breaking in a new Fox NFL partner. That partner might end up being Ronde Barber.
Jesse Agler, who hosts the Dolphins’ weekday radio show on WINZ 940, will replace Stockton as the play-by-play voice on preseason telecasts, alongside analysts Bob Griese and Nat Moore.
Stockton said the Dolphins have left the door open for his possible return in 2014.
The Dolphins’ radio team — Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Griese — returns intact.
• Fullback Vonta Leach had a “great” visit with the Dolphins on Wednesday, but might visit another team or two before deciding where to sign, according to a league source.
• Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado will host Mike Wallace at City Hall on Friday “to talk sports and [about] getting involved in his new home.”
• Joe Hastings and Tracy Robertson are in. Courtney Gardner and Ina Liaina are out.
Hastings, a wide receiver, and Robertson, a defensive tackle, both showed enough during tryouts this week to earn contract offers from the Dolphins — which they signed. Gardner and Liaina, meanwhile, learned they’re not in the team’s plans, and were consequently cut Thursday.
Hastings, who played at Washburn College in Kansas, spent time on the 49ers’ practice squad and active roster in 2011 but was out of football in 2012. Robertson is a first-year player out of Baylor.