The Dolphins bolstered their injury-wracked secondary by signing veteran corner Chris Culliver late Tuesday.
Culliver is a talented, established defender who was still available this late in camp because of injury red flags. He tore up his knee last Thanksgiving, prompting the Redskins to waive him just one year into a four-year, $32 million contract.
Culliver has seven interceptions in four NFL seasons, the first three of which he spent with the 49ers.
If healthy, Culliver will compete for playing time in a secondary currently without rookie Xavien Howard and Chimdi Checkwa.
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Adam H. Beasley
The Receiving End
Among the similarities between the Dolphins’ offense during this training camp and the unit they fielded last season: lots of sacks relinquished and an extreme reliance on receiver Jarvis Landry in the passing game.
Landry last season was targeted on 167 passes — sixth-most in the league and ahead of star receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green.
The next Dolphin on the list?
Tight end Jordan Cameron, who was 91st with 70 targets.
And that trend has continued in training camp, with Landry targeted on the clear majority of balls that quarterback Ryan Tannehill throws to his receivers and tight ends.
During a camp when the offense has struggled and receiver DeVante Parker missed time with a hamstring injury, many of the limited number of successful passing plays have gone to Landry.
Landry’s high productivity vaulted him into the list of NFL.com’s top 100 players this off-season, as voted by his peers. (Landry was 98th.)
But in his two seasons, the Dolphins are 0-5 when he has 90 or more receiving yards.
They’re 0-3 when he catches 10 or more passes, losing those games by 41 points combined last season to the Bills, Jets and Giants. There obviously will be more opportunity to catch passes when a team is playing catchup, as Miami was in those games.
Against the Giants last December, Tannehill threw 18 passes to Landry (who caught 11 for 99) and just 20 combined to every other receiver and tight end. Miami went scoreless in the final 24 minutes of that 31-24 loss, with Tannehill missing Landry on a deep throw.
While Landry is highly productive, his longest passing play last season was 50 yards and he had four touchdowns.
Consider that Landry ranked 13th in the NFL in receiving yards at 1,157 last season, but his 10.5 average per catch was lowest among all players who ranked in the top 40 in receiving yardage.
Coach Adam Gase wants to spread the ball around more.
“One day, I tried to script every play to where he wasn’t in the progression and somehow the ball went to him,” Gase said. “The guy is like a magnet. I’ve never seen anything like it. He does his job right, and the coverage seems to take Ryan there a lot of times.
“I’d be more concerned if it was like, ‘Why are you forcing this throw?’ He’s in the right place, right time.”
But what if other teams take Landry away?
“Then the ball goes somewhere else,” Gase said. “We’re still working on certain things. The more we can get the tight ends involved and the backs involved, the ball will start getting spread out. It will get to the point where we get to the games where it will equal out.”
When Dion Sims caught a pass from Tannehill on the Dolphins’ one touchdown drive Tuesday (against mostly defensive backups), it marked one of a very modest number of successful throws to tight ends Sims or Jordan Cameron during camp.
“We can grow that spot as far as what we’re doing,” Gase said today. “We have pulled back how much we’re doing with those guys. We really loaded them up in the spring. We’ve cut it back a little bit. We’ll grow it as we go.”
▪ While Parker returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him for a week, seven players remained out: running back Kenyan Drake (hamstring), cornerbacks Xavien Howard (knee) and Chimdi Chekwa (thigh), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf), linebacker Zach Vigil (back), and defensive ends Farrington Huguenin (ankle) and Dion Jordan (knee). Jordan, incidentally, has been cleared by the NFL to return to practice once he’s healthy,.
Tight end MarQueis Gray, who had been third on the initial depth chart at tight end, was carted off with a leg injury.
▪ Cornerback Byron Maxwell, on the fact Dolphins defensive backs have picked off very few passes during training camp: “They’re not throwing aggressive passes. That’s what it is. Give us some chances, and you’ll see.”