The Dolphins slogged through another uninspiring offensive practice Monday, but there was reason for optimism.
And his name is DeVante Parker.
Parker missed his fifth consecutive practice Monday with a pesky hamstring injury, but he’s made strides in recent days, and the Dolphins are optimistic he will be back soon.
They certainly need him.
Practicing for the first time since it got shut out and shut down in Miami’s intrasquad scrimmage, the Dolphins offense again struggled.
The offensive line couldn’t contain Ndamukong Suh and his friends. Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi dropped passes. And there were a handful of communication breakdowns between Ryan Tannehill and his receivers.
The defense, meanwhile, continued to be almost impenetrable.
“These last couple of days, we’ve been getting the best of them, but they’ve had their times, they’ve had their days,” said safety Michael Thomas.
Just not in a while.
Saturday’s scrimmage was as one-sided as it gets; the Dolphins’ offense managed one first down in eight drives and the starters couldn’t even move the ball against the second string.
Adam Gase went home ticked off Saturday. He came to work Monday determined to fix what he saw on film.
“It was like somebody screwed something up every play, and it was always a different guy,” Gase said. “You can't just point to one thing. Looking back to it, there were some play-calls there that didn't put our guys in the best position. It's a good thing that something like that happens, because for me, as a play-caller, it lets me go back and reevaluate what I'm doing too, because I'm not putting my guys in the best position possible.”
Gase still has another month to tinker, and he anticipates using every bit of it. He wants to get through the preseason games -- beginning with Friday’s road affair against the Giants -- before making any major decisions on what the Dolphins do well, and what they don’t.
“It's a different environment,” Gase said of exhibition games. “It's not practice. If something bad happens out here, it's easier. Some guys will just shrug it off. 'It's just practice.' Out there in the game, there's consequences.”
Those consequences could mean jobs lost.
Priority No. 1 for Gase has to be fixing an offensive line that hasn’t been great this camp.
On paper, the line should be excellent, what with four former first-rounders on roster, including rookie Laremy Tunsil.
But Tunsil remains behind Dallas Thomas at left guard, both on the unofficial depth chart and on the practice field. But nobody’s playing particularly well at this point; Branden Albert didn’t hesitate to point the figure at himself.
“I feel like I'm off a little bit,” Albert acknowledged.
But it’s way too early to panic, the Pro Bowl left tackle insists. Mike Pouncey, the unit’s most vocal leader, apparently agrees.
The evidence: Pouncey has yet to metaphorically stick a foot in the backside of his teammates, Albert said.
“I don't know why everybody's getting their panties in a bunch,” Albert told reporters Monday. “We'll see when the time is right.”
Albert continued: “We're one week into training camp. The defense is doing good. I don't think we're doing that bad. We're still trying to grasp everything. Everything ain't going to be perfect. Everybody wants to get on the offensive line, but we'll get it down.”
The problem, Albert said, is that the offense still needs to find its identity and the line needs time to gel. Complicating that: the Dolphins still don’t know who their best five linemen are.
Said Gase: “We're at a starting point, and as we go through the preseason ... I think you'll be able to tell what we're trying to lean on. We think we're going to be good at a certain thing, and if it doesn't work out for us, OK, where do we go from there?”
Parker needs to be part of that identity, particularly in the red zone. Health willing, he will have a chance to be soon.