Monday at Dolphins camp was more demolition derby than practice.
No fewer than three skirmishes broke out, the most egregious being a dust-up whose low-light was defensive tackle Gabe Wright leveling a blindside cheap shot on Kenyan Drake.
Nobody was hurt, but the antics did not sit well with defensive coordinator Matt Burke.
“We’ve got to get good work in,” Burke said. “It’s got to be within the context of doing what we’re asking them to do and executing the scheme too. Just coming out here and being a jackass and running around, that doesn’t help us.”
And let’s be frank: The Dolphins needs the work.
The starting defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and surrendered 87 yards and 6.2 per play in the first quarter.
When asked what had him most upset, Burke replied: “How long you got?”
“I was just disappointed that, sort of, everything that we’ve been working on — not from a schematic standpoint,” Burke said. “We don’t game-plan for that game that much. We really keep our calls simple and basic. ‘Let’s line up and go play fast.’ ...
“We didn’t execute that part of it,” he added. “That was the most disappointing. The energy. Knocking guys back. That attitude. We’ve been practicing like that. To not take what we’ve done on the practice field and put it on the game field, was extremely disappointing to me. Extremely. We can coach technique, we can coach scheme, we can game-plan better for a scheme we’re going to see, but to not come out and line up and run and hit and play with some passion and aggression and those sort of thing, that was the most disappointing to me.”
That disappointment has led to lineup changes.
Jerome Baker has, at least for now, supplanted Stephone Anthony as Miami’s starting strong-side linebacker and is on track to start Friday against the Panthers.
And Bobby McCain is now a full-time corner, lining up on the boundary instead of the nickel. Rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick, who in Burke’s view was one of the few bright spots from Thursday night, has taken over McCain’s duties in the slot.
This tells us that, despite getting plenty of chances to win the job, Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer and Tony Lippett have not been good enough to do so. The Dolphins are so concerned about the position, they brought in free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland for a visit, but he left without a deal and one is not imminent.
Time to figure all of this out is starting to run out.
Coaches usually prefer to have their lineups set by the third preseason game — which is on the not-so-distant horizon (Aug. 25). If the Dolphins are going to meet that deadline, they better get their game together quick.
“I don’t think we’re close to anything right now, to be honest with you,” Burke said. “Again, we’ll keep rolling groups and keep rolling positions until – it’s really up to them – someone grabs a hold of it and says, ‘This is my spot and I’m not letting it go. And I’m showing you day-in and day-out consistently that I’m going to perform at the level you guys want us to perform at.’ Then I’ll say, ‘OK, that’s is your job and let’s go.’ Until that happens, we’re going to keep mixing and matching and find out who can handle that adversity and handle those adjustments.’”
Burke is one of the Dolphins’ most engaging coaches, but during his weekly media availability Monday, he could not hide his frustration.
“I was disappointed in Thursday night,” Burke said. “And I thought yesterday we had pretty solid practice but today was real sloppy. We can’t play like that. We can’t be up and down. We can’t have one good day, one bad day. It just doesn’t cut it in this league. It’s been a little frustrating the last week. I hope we can right the ship and have a clean rest of the week and go show what we’re going to do on Friday night.”
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