It’s far too early to form any conclusions after five days of Dolphins training camp; competition for jobs will continue for many weeks. But a few issues are gaining a bit more clarity:
• Linebacker: Rookie Raekwon McMillan was the first-team middle linebacker for the fourth consecutive day, and it’s evident this is his job to lose.
“We tell anybody in there, whoever's calling the plays, we're going to follow your lead because you're the mike [linebacker],” defensive end Andre Branch said. “If you say this, that's exactly what we're going to do. He's been doing a great job at that.”
During the six weeks in June and July that NFL players are off, McMillan spent an hour a day studying the playbook. That work has paid off.
“When I first came in the spring, my head was spinning, not making the right calls,” McMillan said. “I’ve got coach in my ear. I've got the head phone in my ear. Now, it's slowing down to me. I've got a full understanding. It’s a blessing to be where I’m at.”
McMillan said “one thing I've learned is you earn respect by going out and doing it every day. You can't just come in, just because I'm a second-round draft pick, expect people to respect me. Once I got more reps in with them, I started earning some of their trust. I'm sure I haven't fully earned everybody's trust.”
McMillan said he was talking to former Ohio State teammates on Sunday night and “I was like, ‘Man, every snap is like playing the best team in your conference on game day. I can only imagine how it will be in the game.”
Adam Gase likes what he has seen with regard to McMillan barking out calls. “He's not afraid to talk,” Gase said. “He's respectful. He knows how to handle himself.”
Though Mike Hull has received some first-team snaps, Hull, Neville Hewitt and Deon Lacey have been the primary second-team linebackers.
• Backup receiver jobs: Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant are expected to be on the team, and two players anticipated to be strong contenders for a potential sixth receiver job - Rashawn Scott and Isaiah Ford - remain sidelined indefinitely, with Scott’s foot in a walking boot and Ford getting a second evaluation on an injured knee.
That means more opportunities for six others – Drew Morgan, Malcolm Lewis, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Mitch Matthews, Francis Owusu and new addition Jordan Westerkamp. Morgan has shown the most of that group, going back to May, and spent some time with the first team on Monday, catching a touchdown in red zone drills.
• Offensive line: Ted Larsen has been with the first team at left guard through camp and barring something unexpected, he is positioned to be the starter there opposite right guard Jermon Bushrod.
Rookie Isaac Asiata continues to get second-team work at guard, with Jake Brendel and Anthony Steen also options there. With Mike Pouncey not participating in team drills, Kraig Urbik is clearly the backup center but the Dolphins also have cycled in Steen and Brendel with the first team.
• Backup defensive tackles: Nick Williams and rookie Davon Godchaux have been the primary tackles on the second-team, behind starters Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips.
If Williams, Godchaux, Julius Warmsley, Vincent Taylor and Lawrence Okoye don’t impress in the coming weeks, the Dolphins likely will seek a veteran No. 3 tackle from outside.
• Defensive backfield: Xavien Howard has received the majority of first-team snaps at cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell, with Tony Lippett also getting some work. Rookie Cordrea Tankersley has spent a lot of time on the second team, but on Monday, the Dolphins also gave some second-team work to UNLV undrafted rookie Torry Mctyer, who had two interceptions early in camp.
With Bobby McCain held out of team drills with a knee injury, Michael Thomas worked ahead of Alterraun Verner as the first-team nickel back on Monday.
And with Reshad Jones remaining out with a calf injury, Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald have been paired as starters at safety.
ALBERT PICK LOST
Because left tackle Branden Albert retired on Monday, the Dolphins said they no longer will receive the 2018 seventh-round pick acquired when they shipped Albert to Jacksonville in the spring.
In his retirement announcement, Albert thanked Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, former coach Joe Philbin and ex-general manager Dennis Hickey.
“My respect level for him is extremely high,” Gase said of Albert.
• Rookie defensive end Charles Harris continues to impress.
“He’s a special player, very explosive,” defensive end William Hayes said. “The thing I like most is every day he works on his craft. He’s very coachable.”
Said Branch: “Charles has a flashes where you say, OK, you can be a dominant player in this league. Charles is going to play and he’s going to play a lot.”