Miami Dolphins

Inside the Dolphins’ impressive goal-line stand — and why it’s a great sign for 2019

Dolphins “funky rookie” Christian Wilkins needs to buy the snacks for the veteran players, and he is cheap

Miami Dolphins "funky rookie" defensive end Christian Wilkins needs to buy the snacks for the veteran players, and he is cheap and upset after spending $100, July 26, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins "funky rookie" defensive end Christian Wilkins needs to buy the snacks for the veteran players, and he is cheap and upset after spending $100, July 26, 2019.

Vincent Taylor is ready to go. More than ready.

The Dolphins defensive tackle had waited nine months for this precise moment.

Saturday brought the Miami Dolphins’ first, full-speed, full-contact drill of the year.

Pads came on. The heat turned up.

“S--- changes,” Dolphins safety Bobby McCain said. “Pads go on, s--- changes. You can quote me on that one. It’s real.”

And for Taylor, his first live action since sustaining a season-ending foot injury last October.

Excited? You bet.

But also still aware enough of the rules to make sure, one last time, that he had the green light.

So just before the goal-line drill that wrapped up Saturday’s blistering training camp practice, he had a quick on-field chat with his coach Brian Flores.

“I just asked him, ‘Are we full speed? I’m ready,’ ” Taylor later explained. “He told us before practice we were full speed. I was just making sure because I don’t want to come off on nobody and get in trouble.”

Yup, Flores said. Go for it.

Did Taylor ever. He blew up the Dolphins’ offensive line and put quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on his butt, helping the defense keep the offense out of the end zone.

“That’s when you’ve got to put on your big-boy pants,” Taylor said. “I love goal line. I feel like it’s good for an offense and defense to go out there and compete. One thing I like about Coach Flo is, he makes it live but makes sure we’re taking care of each other.”

Added linebacker Raekwon McMillan: “Defense, we bought the intensity today on goal line. That’s how you finish off practice. Ain’t nothing else to it. Just got to finish.”

That kind of effort might be the Dolphins’ best chance of having a season that surprises and surpasses all expectations.

Flores wants a smart, physical, disciplined and hard-working football team.

He also needs a team that plays great situational football. The Patriots have done that for nearly two decades, keying their six Super Bowl titles.

“You’ve got to finish,” Flores told his defense before that goal-line stand, according to McMillan. “You’ve got to go in with a different mentality on goal line. You have to hold them to three [points]. That’s a four-point play.”

Most impressively: The defense gave maximum effort two hours into a scorching South Florida practice.

“We’re mentally built like that as a team,” McMillan said. “That’s what it’s about. Every day, we talk about it. So it’s nothing to come out here and do it.”

Granted, there’s a reason NFL rules forbid full-contact drills until the third day of training camp and allows the teams just 14 padded practices during the regular season: They’re dangerous.

Risk of injuries, including concussions, goes up with the physicality.

That’s why Flores preached safety and caution before practice began.

“We don’t want any big collisions,” Flores said. “We don’t want anybody hurt or injured. We tell everyone to keep their heads up. Good tackling form, good blocking. That’s what the last two days have been about. Body position, hand placement, head position are things we really need to put the emphasis on. Player safety first.

“If we see someone ducking their head in practice, we’re going to take them out of the drill or take out the practice or take them out of the game if we have to,” Flores added.

The morning ended, fortunately for the Dolphins, without any apparent major injuries.

The Dolphins, at least on the first day of hitting, were smart and safe.

We’ll see if that continues, as, in the words of McCain s--- continues to change.

“It just tells you the potential that we’ve got,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s on the same page. Coach [Patrick Graham] and all the defensive coaches, Coach Flo, they’re all doing a great job, and it’s just the beginning for us as a defense.”

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