The Dolphins gave Jimmy Wilson some work with the starters Monday, alongside Louis Delmas, as they prepare to play without safety Reshad Jones for the first four games of the season.
Jones can practice and play in preseason games but will miss the first four games of the regular season after testing positive for an undisclosed performance-enhancing substance.
Wilson is expected to move over from nickel cornerback and fill in for Jones at safety. Meanwhile, Jamar Taylor, Michael Thomas and Will Davis all have received work at nickel cornerback over the past two days.
Another option would be moving Cortland Finnegan to the slot in nickel packages and playing Taylor or Will Davis on the outside, opposite Brent Grimes.
Thomas and rookie Walt Aikens, who has impressed the staff, have been taking snaps as the second-team safeties.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle believes Wilson is well-equipped to fill in for Jones.
“Jimmy has grown tremendously in the three years that we’ve been together,” Coyle said. “He’s probably one of the best communicators on the team. He has been able to direct the players on the field very, very well, as good as anybody we’ve had back there.
“When he’s been in big situations, he’s come up big for us. We kind of nicknamed him ‘Red Zone Jimmy’ because, down in the red area of the field, if you go back over the last couple of years, he’s constantly making plays that have impacted games.”
As for the nickel job, Coyle said that decision largely would be based on performance in games.
“We’re going to try to make sure that early in these games we get a lot of looks at some different combinations,” said Coyle, who noted that Finnegan has been “an outstanding nickel throughout his career.”
After missing a bunch of tackles on Atlanta’s opening touchdown drive Friday night, the Dolphins have spent considerable time working on their tackling the past two days, including a drill Monday in which linebackers tried to corral running backs and tight ends when they lined up 10 yards apart.
“This week is still a very, very important fundamental training camp week,” Coyle said. “Hopefully … [the tackling] will improve dramatically.”• Coyle said even though the plan is to stick with Koa Misi at middle linebacker, “We are working different combinations in the event that we don’t feel comfortable with it.”
• Coyle said linebacker Philip Wheeler “at times can be his own worst enemy when he plays out of control. He gives such great effort, but he, at times, overreacts to things. We’ve just got to slow him down, let the game slow down for him some, and I think he’s going to be fine. He was a little anxious in the opening game.”
• The Dolphins failed to register a sack in the opener, and Coyle said: “I think we can get more out of [ Dion Jordan] in the pass rush.”
Left tackle Jason Fox (chest), running back Mike Gillislee (hamstring) and long-shot defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds (knee) will be out indefinitely, though Fox’s injury isn’t thought to be serious.
Running back Daniel Thomas remained sidelined with a hamstring injury sustained a week ago, and tight end Charles Clay was wearing a knee brace Monday and also remains out indefinitely.
Defensive tackle A.J. Francis (knee) and tight end Harold Hoskins (hamstring) also remain out, and linebacker Chris McCain was limited with a leg injury.
But running back Damien Williams returned to practice, three days after being carted off with a leg injury Friday in Atlanta.• Because of injuries at running back, the Dolphins signed former Arizona State tailback Cameron Marshall, who had been released by the Dolphins twice in the past year, and cut quarterback Brock Jensen.
Running back Knowshon Moreno participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since returning from June knee surgery and seemed to have good burst. “He looked better [Monday],” Philbin said. “He’s definitely making progress.”
Moreno said he still has to “get into that football shape” and wasn’t sure when he would play in a preseason game.• Receiver Brandon Gibson, returning from last October’s knee injury, is starting to “remind us more of the player we saw on film last year,” Philbin said. … Philbin said tight end Dion Sims “is looking more like an NFL player.”