Strong offseason puts Miami Dolphins lineman Dallas Thomas in driver’s seat to start

08/12/2014 5:25 PM

08/13/2014 7:30 PM

The biggest surprise of Dolphins training camp so far?

Any conversation would probably begin with Dallas Thomas.

Despite the Dolphins’ deficiencies on their offensive line last year, Thomas was entrusted with just three offensive snaps all season.

But Thomas, to this point, has held off free agent acquisition Shelley Smith and rookie third-round pick Billy Turner for the starting job at right guard, though coach Joe Philbin cautioned it’s still an ongoing competition.

“Really explosive, real athletic,” left tackle Branden Albert said of Thomas. “He’s got a lot of tools I don’t have. He’s going to be a hell of a player.”

Thomas, selected in the third round in 2013, said Tuesday, “It hurt that I had my chance in training camp last year but blew it.”

That made him determined to add muscle and reduce his body fat this offseason, which he achieved by hiring a nutritionist and refining his diet.

“He has performed pretty well,” Philbin said. “He got better. You could tell when you watched the tape last year that he was developing. Obviously, fans didn’t get to see that on Sundays.

“Then he had a very good offseason program. He was one of the guys that was here voluntarily in February and March, working with our strength and conditioning guys.”

The Dolphins believe Thomas can play tackle if needed, but for now, they’re having him focus on guard.

Thomas is comfortable playing alongside rookie first-round pick Ja’Wuan James, his former teammate at the University of Tennessee. Philbin said James played “pretty well his first game,” but “I wasn’t crazy about his start.”

JORDAN’S ROLE

The Dolphins remain resistant to making Dion Jordan a linebacker, even though he’s likely not going to be on the field much on first down as long as he remains primarily a defensive end.

“There is only X amount of time that you have on the practice field, and you have to decide how you want to spend his time,” Philbin said. “One of the things we’ve wanted him to practice on a continual basis is pass rush. So if we’re going to give him an opportunity to compete as a linebacker, you’re taking him out of that element. … in his practice time.”

• Defensive coordinator Kevin 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.”
• Cornerback Will Davis continued his strong training camp by intercepting a poorly thrown pass from Brady Quinn. “I feel so much more technically sound,” Davis said.

Jamar Taylor, competing with Davis for playing time, was beaten by Rishard Matthews for a touchdown on a Ryan Tannehill pass on the final play of practice. But Taylor also had a sack on a blitz.

• Rookie receiver Jarvis Landry got some first-team snaps instead of Brandon Gibson.
• The Dolphins signed former Illinois tight end Evan Wilson, who spent five weeks with the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted, and released receiver Raymond Webber.
• Sidelined for the Dolphins on Tuesday: running backs Daniel Thomas — who has begun running — and Mike Gillislee (both with hamstring injuries); offensive tackle Jason Fox (chest); defensive tackle A.J. Francis (knee); tight ends Charles Clay (knee) and Harold Hoskins (hamstring); and defensive end Micajah Reynolds (knee).

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