The Dolphins’ lineup plans for Thursday’s preseason opener at Chicago came into focus during Tuesday’s practice, when the team installed its game plan. And a few things became clear:
▪ The race between Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas for the left guard job is a toss-up. Thomas began the day with the starters but Douglas also received substantial first-team work.
The quality of their performance during camp has been “close,” coach Joe Philbin said. “I thought Jamil, for a rookie, the other night, handled himself pretty well.”
For the first time during training camp, Thomas also received some work at left tackle, behind Jason Fox, but that was done merely to prepare the team for an emergency situation. Jeff Linkenbach also got work as the backup left tackle.
Billy Turner logged most of the first-team snaps at right guard, and though Jacques McClendon got some snaps with the starters for a third consecutive day, the Dolphins want to take an extended look at Turner to see how he does against NFL starters other than Ndamukong Suh, who has gotten the better of Turner in training camp.
Turner has “done some good things,” Philbin said. “We want to see some consistency from him in both phases. But he’s certainly improving, without a doubt.”
▪ Jamar Taylor lined up as the first-team boundary cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, suggesting he will start Thursday. Brice McCain, the first-team nickel cornerback who is also battling Taylor on the boundary, left practice with a groin issue but the Dolphins do not believe it’s serious. Rookie Bobby McCain then replaced him as the first-team slot corner.
▪ With Koa Misi still recovering from a calf injury, Jelani Jenkins, Kelvin Sheppard and Chris McCain were the first-team linebackers.
But Jordan Tripp joined Sheppard and Jenkins at times, and Tripp was being used with the starters in the nickel package. Tripp will get a long look on Thursday. Spencer Paysinger, Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt were the second-team linebackers when Tripp worked with the first team.
▪ With DeVante Parker (foot) and Kenny Stills (calf) still sidelined, Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews were the first-team receivers.
▪ Though safety Louis Delmas is fully cleared after last November’s ACL surgery, the Dolphins don’t want to overwork him and Walt Aikens continued to receive some of Delmas’ first-team snaps on Tuesday.
▪ Jay Ajayi, on the fourth team at running back on Miami’s first depth chart, remained out with a hamstring injury. Expect plenty of carries for Damien Williams and LaMichael James (who are battling to be Lamar Miller’s backup) and Mike Gillislee.
▪ Philbin suggested both kickers, Caleb Sturgis and Andrew Franks, would get a chance on Thursday. … James continues to get work as a returner behind Landry.
Left tackle Branden Albert, recovering from last year’s knee injury, continues to increase his workload and said participation in full 11 on 11 team drills “is going to be sooner than later. I don’t have an exact date.”
Albert was noncommittal about whether he will be able to play in the preseason and said he’s still in the process of “strengthening” his knee. But he said, “I’m not hurting. I’m not swelling up.”
▪ Matthews and Taylor scuffled after a play and punches were exchanged.
“It was just a little jawing going back and forth, a little shoving and pushing,” Taylor said. “Definitely ready to play somebody else. I know Rishard is, too. We’ve been kind of going at it for the past couple of weeks. That’s still my guy.”
▪ Because defensive tackle Jordan Phillips caught a punt at the end of practice, the players were excused from their afternoon walk-through. Philbin randomly selected Phillips for the stunt.
▪ Tripp was pleased to get some alone time with Zach Thomas on Tuesday because he is a big admirer of the former Dolphins great. “It was fantastic — I picked his brain,” Tripp said.
▪ Terrence Fede had yet another sack Tuesday. He has at least one impact play every day.