The Dolphins have great depth at defensive end. And the rest of the league knows it.
End-needy teams are watching the Dolphins’ preseason with great interest, hoping to poach (or perhaps even trade for) the best of those that Miami can’t keep its 53-man roster, a source tells the Miami Herald.
Monday was a snapshot why.
The Dolphins’ defensive front manhandled Miami’s offensive line in the team’s first padded practice Monday, regularly blowing up running plays and constantly harassing Ryan Tannehill.
Chris McCain had two sacks Monday. Ndamukong Suh had another. Mario Williams would have had one too, if Ja’Wuan James didn’t hold him. All told, the Dolphins would had planted Dolphins quarterbacks at least seven times, according to an unofficial count.
Even Adam Gase, who is usually an advocate for his offense, had to acknowledge that the defensive line’s physicality was on display for all to see.
“It felt like we weren’t able to hold on the ball for very long, I know that,” Gase added.
Dolphins on Monday took their shots both before the whistle, and after.
McCain, who is firmly on the roster bubble, picked the first fight of camp. He slapped Laremy Tunsil in the face mask after the two grappled for a bit. Tunsil then returned the favor.
“It was mutual, I believe,” joked McCain, who has admittedly displayed a lack of maturity in the past. “I still think I’m a hothead but I think I’m a hothead now for the right reasons.”
Tunsil and McCain made nice later in practice. Tunsil, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, said the fracas was simply a matter of “competition.”
Gase wants to see more of that competition — which means the offensive line needs to fight back.
The Dolphins’ first-year coach said fights “never really bothered” him, although acknowledged he’d prefer players not to throw punches.
So long as he keeps his emotions in check, McCain might prove himself indispensable to the Dolphins — either as a contributor or a trade piece.
Joe Philbin never really bought into McCain, so his opportunities have been limited the last two years. But he has thrived in Vance Joseph’s wide-9 defense through four days of training camp, and his coaches have noticed.
“I see a guy getting off the ball with great speed,” Gase said of McCain. “He’s turning the edge quickly. Every time we see to be in any kind of drill, whether third down or two-minute situation, he’s around the quarterback a lot.”
McCain needs to do a lot of different things to get and stay on the field. Williams, Cameron Wake, Jason Jones and Andre Branch are all ahead of him on the depth chart, and the Dolphins still don’t know what they have in Dion Jordan, who’s out for at least two weeks with a knee injury.
“The more chaos you cause on defense, the more interesting you are to us,” Gase added.
Monday was pure chaos. Team drills were one-sided, and not in the offense’s favor. But that’s to be expected this early in camp. The Dolphins’ offensive line is in flux, with the coaching staff doing as much evaluating as installing. Mike Pouncey hopes the starting offensive line will be set by next week’s preseason opener, but that seems ambitious.
They just have too many unanswered at guard.
On Monday, Tunsil and Dallas Thomas rotated at left guard with the first team, and at times each had the unenviable task of stopping Suh in full pads.
“Suh's a man now,” Tunsil said. “He's a man. ... He's one of the best in the game. So, if you continue to go against him, you're going to be one of the best also.”
Gase said the Dolphins want to see Tunsil do “as much as possible;” he’s rotated at both guard and tackle throughout the first four days.
Gase continued: “The way those guys come off the ball, you’re getting a quick lesson in what the NFL is really about.”