The Dolphins wrapped up their nine-week spring training Thursday just like they did last year — with a controlled, noncontact scrimmage.
A short recap: Some of the players might have changed, but the broad themes — at least on the surface — have not.
Pass protection is still problematic (quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked three times; the offense allowed eight on the day). Olivier Vernon remains a force (recording 2.5 sacks, including at least two on new left tackle Branden Albert). The Dolphins still have trouble running the ball (the longest rush was 8 yards).
And the Ryan Tannehill-Mike Wallace connection needs work. They couldn’t connect once on four attempts, including one misfire when Wallace was open for a touchdown.
Granted, it was an absurdly small sample size. Tannehill was only on the field for six possessions. And there have been plenty of times this spring when the offense won the day.
The final day of minicamp, however, was not one of them.
“At first glance, it looked like we got pretty good pressure on the quarterback,” coach Joe Philbin deadpanned to reporters.
From the back of the room, Cam Wake piped up: “Yeah, I think so too.”
“I would say we should wait until the pads come on,” countered Vernon. “I know what type of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. Personally, I want to show what we have.”
On Thursday, they gave a tantalizing sneak peek. The line, meanwhile, proved that a change in personnel won’t necessarily mean a change in productivity. The only starter back from the group that allowed a team-record 58 sacks last year is center Mike Pouncey.
The Dolphins spent life-changing money on Albert and a first-round pick on Ja’Wuan James. They will be expected to play better once full-contact drills begin in training camp.
Said Albert: “I think we’re where we need to be right now. I think we’ve still got some work to do, but we’re getting there.”
Said James: “I feel like we’re a work in progress.”
The same could be said for Tannehill and Wallace. Their inability to consistently connect deep last year probably kept the Dolphins out of the playoffs (and cost general manager Jeff Ireland his job).
In fairness, they have improved in that area. Wallace said of the six times Tannehill has thrown deep to him this spring, they’ve connected on roughly four of them. Philbin mentioned they hit on an inside post route that was one of the better the team has seen “in my time here.”
Thursday’s miscues weren’t on deep routes. They were on short and intermediate stuff, which wasn’t a problem last year. One throw to Wallace was tipped at the line. Another had no chance in double coverage. A third was on target, but Wallace simply dropped it.
And as for the potential touchdown, in which Wallace was alone by several yards?
“He just kind of misfired a little bit,” Wallace said. “We were on the same page. It was a timing throw, and some things happened with the defense. It kind of threw off the timing a little bit.”
Tannehill did finishthe scrimmage 18 of 27 for 191 yards and a touchdown — a pretty 17-yard strike to Armon Binns.
“Certainly, you don’t want to go home, send the players out of the building and have multiple guys that you don’t know what their future looks like,” Philbin said.