The Dolphins held off making Laremy Tunsil a starter from the outset of camp, but the rookie first-round draft pick appears closer than ever to becoming one.
On Tuesday, Tunsil received his most first-team work at left guard in any of the team’s 14 practices to date. Dallas Thomas, who started the preseason opener, received just a few first-team reps at left guard. And Tunsil performed well in his extended look.
“I like what he’s doing,” coach Adam Gase said of Tunsil. “I like the fact he’s giving everything he has and trying to make sure mentally he’s on the same page because there are two other guys counting on him.”
The Dolphins haven’t wanted to rush Tunsil because “this is a league where confidence does matter,” Gase said. “I’ve seen rookies before, you throw him in and be like, well, he’s got to play. And two years later, everyone is calling for his head. We’re going through the process we need to go through.”
The Dolphins still must make a decision at right guard, where Billy Turner opened with the starters Tuesday, as usual, but Thomas and Jermon Bushrod also received some first-team work.
Branden Albert was given the day off Tuesday, but the Dolphins split first team left tackle reps between Ulrick John and Sam Young instead of moving Tunsil to tackle – something they had done earlier in camp. That suggested a desire to have Tunsil focus on guard.
Barring a change of heart, Gase said he plans for running back Arian Foster to make his preseason debut Friday at Dallas.
Gase considered resting several of his first-team defensive linemen, but they wanted the challenge of competing against a Cowboys offensive line considered among the best in football.
“And they took the decision out of my hand and said, ‘we’re going’,” Gase said. “That’s exciting for me to hear.”
▪ Odd sight Tuesday: Receivers coach and former NFL standout Shawn Jefferson dressed in shoulder pads and a helmet and using a protective shield to go after his receivers in a contact drill. Gase said “Shawn was trying to emphasize the tempo they need to go to dig a guy out that’s a low safety.”
His receivers were amused. “He had been talking about it for so long,” Matt Hazel said. “So he was like, man, we’re going to see if you’re ready for it or whatever. He brought the thump today, so you had to get your mind right.”
▪ Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said this week he’s pleased with the young corners’ growth.
“I'm excited about the group,” he said. “They are all big guys that can run, outside of Bobby (McCain) and Brandon Harris. It's what we are looking for as far as corners."
With Xavien Howard not yet cleared for practice after offseason knee surgery, Tony Lippett continues to get most of the first team work opposite Maxwell. He broke up three passes during Monday’s practice.
“I thought Lippett played well [Friday against the Giants],” Joseph said. “He had one play… he gave up a slant route inside, which he can't do….. That's stuff we can fix and coach. I'm excited about Lippett. He's obviously improved since the first day.”
Joseph said he also was “really impressed” with McCain, who started on the boundary in Maxwell’s absence Friday and is competing with Michael Thomas to be the first-team nickel corner. McCain’s interception was “a great play in the slot.”
Joseph said Harris “has played more ball than most of our guys in the back end, besides [safety Reshad Jones]. So I'm not surprised he's very solid in the slot."
▪ Even though linebacker Kiko Alonso missed a tackle on a touchdown run Friday, Joseph said: “He's done fine.”