The Miami Dolphins held an OTA practice this morning and some players spoke with the media afterward. Here are some of my thoughts:
The Dolphins are working on the field and everyone has on their helmets. The veterans have their helmets but the rookies have been given helmets without team logos.
Yup, like Friday Night Lights.
“I think that’s just our way of saying you have to earn those logos,” said head coach Adam Gase. “It’s something that ... kicking around some ideas of doing things a little different than last year and felt like that was one of the things we came up with that a few of us thought was a good idea and see how it kind of goes.”
I tweeted about this over two hour sago -- you should follow me on Twitter for real time updates -- and the reaction was bigger for this topic than anything else I tweeted. I guess it’s because this is a divisive topic.
So some folks think this is puerile. They see this as a cheap way of trying to motivate players.
Others want to build Adam Gase a statue outside Hard Rock Stadium because he’s trying things to milk every ounce of production out of his players.
Look, you know I’m not a big fan of T-shirts with sayings or mottos on them. The New England Patriots don’t use that stuff to win Super Bowls. The 1972 Miami Dolphins didn’t use T-shirts to go undefeated.
But on this one, I give the Dolphins the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe a rookie is moved to earn the logo. Maybe that helps him. He is, after all, a 21- or 22-year-old so it’s not like we’re trying to cause Plato to consider the meaning of life here.
Anything that works on these kids is fine with me. Let them practice well enough to earn the logo.
Dumb T-shirts? That’s another matter.
The most interesting competition of these OTAs for me is watching 2017 first round pick Charles Harris versus 2016 first round pick Laremy Tunsil.
You have to understand these two players, who play two of the most important positions on the team, are supposed to be the cornerstone of the team into the next decade. These two guys, going after each other every day, have to be great for the Dolphins to be great in the years ahead.
And for that to happen, the work they are getting now is very important.
Yes, I realize there are no pads and these are not live drills. But both these young players need this work against outstanding and hungry competition to be ready for training camp and beyond.
Going against each other accomplishes that.
And let me say one thing right now: Harris does everything in high gear.
It’s clear he gets after it every single snap he gets. I haven’t seen him play one game or even in one live practice and already one can tell he is off the charts on effort.
So who is getting the better of this matchup?
Today it seemed to be Harris.
He delivered on spin move that left Tunsil grasping for air where the defensive end had been only a second before.
Tunsil did handle a speed rush fairly easily but also jumped offsides once, perhaps because he was trying to get a jump on Harris.
“It’s tough with no pads and there’s so much passing going on right now. It’s good to see,” Gase said of the matchup. “There’s a few things we look for and [defensive line coach Terrell Williams] and [defensive coordinator Matt Burke] have a good idea how they want to use their guys.
“We’re moving him around a little bit and trying to find some packages to see how far we can take those exotic defenses. We don’t want to put too much on one guy’s plate. We just want him to keep working on the little details of what the coaching staff is asking him to do and find ways to get better.”
Harris, by the way, is already too good for Miami’s backup offensive tackles -- at least in a setting with no pads on. He was matched up against first-year tackle Jesse Davis on a series and had what would have been two sacks in four snaps.
Anyone who reads this space with any regularity knows I make a big deal about tight ends because, well, they are a mismatch nightmare against most defenses. They catch touchdowns in the red zone.
That’s why the New England Patriots collect tight ends as if they were rare stamps.
Well, I continue to be encouraged by what I’ve seen of Julius Thomas.
He is a big man who punishes defenses when he’s out in space. The Dolphins have multiple ways of getting Thomas out there and ran some of those today. And Thomas catches the ball with ease -- no double catches -- turns and runs, picking up speed as he goes.
It’s like watching a locomotive.
And it’s impressive because it is the synching of talent with scheme.
Gase’s offense has ways of getting the tight end open. Thomas makes the most of the opportunity. And, by the way, the Dolphins intend to use Thomas in the red zone this year. Jacksonville did not last year.
One more thing: Thomas will require some balls go to him that last year would have gone to a receiver. But today receiver Jarvis Landry talked extensively how having Thomas in the game will prevent teams from double-teaming him as often.
I asked Landry how many times Landry saw double coverage the past couple of years. He said it depended on where he lined up but estimated he’d been doubled on about half the pass plays the Dolphins run.
If Thomas becomes the threat he was the last time he played in Gase’s system in Denver, Landry won’t be seeing as much double coverage in 2017.
The most impressive play of today’s OTA session was a diving interception in the back of the end zone by safety T.J. McDonald.
McDonald, who is suspended eight games for violating the league’s substances of abuse policy, is likely not going to be working with starters come training camp but he is clearly a starter-quality player.
The dynamic for getting him integrated in the defense once his suspension ends in November will be interesting because by then Reshad Jones and Nate Allen should have about as much chemistry between them as any team would need to succeed and breaking that up will be a tough thing to do.
On the other hand, if McDonald is clearly better than Allen in practices in training camp and during the preseason, he will obviously deserve consideration down the road.
Either way, the addition gives the Dolphins a high-caliber safety waiting to step in late in the year if required. Deciding how to handle it will be a good problem for coaches to have.
Allen also had an interception today, reminding folks he is no slouch, either.
The defense dominated the offense in today’s practice.
“They took it to the offense today,” Gase said.
Not worried. Defense is supposed to be ahead of the offense now and it might stay that way probably through August.
If this is happening consistently in September, then it’s time to worry.
Koa Misi and Mike Pouncey did not practice Wednesday.
Gase said when you see them running around on the side, then that will signal they’re close to joining practices.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero