Dolphins rookie linebacker Raekow McMillan on his role in defense
Another day and another linebacker combo was working with the Miami Dolphins first-team defense Friday.
The early morning practice on the second day of training camp marked the first time rookie Raekwon McMillan joined the starting unit. That unit consisted of McMillan in the middle and Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons on the outside.
The first day of camp, Mike Hull worked with the starting unit at middle linebacker.
The Dolphins have promised to experiment with all their linebackers at different positions so the actual positioning of the players is subject to change.
But with McMillan joining the starting unit, that put on the field what seems to be the most likely set of starting linebackers the Dolphins will use this season. The rookie was obviously pleased he was working with the starters.
“Yes, it’s definitely a goal of mine, but it’s a long-term goal,” McMillan said. “What I have to focus on is getting better tomorrow and focusing on what I did wrong today so I can get bater tomorrow.”
McMillan, by the way, was making some of the defensive calls while Kiko Alonso was also doing some of that as well.
“He’s a good communicator,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’ll have some mistakes but that’s to be expected at first.”
With McMillan on the field and the rest of the starting defense having a good day, it was mostly all about the defense during this practice.
The offense didn’t move the ball all that well. Quarterbacks didn’t have much time to throw as Cameron Wake and Andre Branch got up field very well. There were very small running lanes for running back Jay Ajayi.
The Dolphins defensive line got the better of the offensive line for the most part -- both with the first-team and backup units. Not even a gadget play the offensive coaches threw into the practice worked very well.
One of the issues the Dolphins coaches are monitoring is the improvement (assuming there is some) of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. As you know, the last couple of seasons Phillips has been a hit-and-miss player -- doing his job on some plays while disappearing on others.
The Dolphins want more consistency.
“He’s done a good job with his pursuit,” Gase said of Phillips. “In the run game, every once in a while he’ll make a really good play.”
One defensive player that didn’t have a good day was rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley. He left the field a third of the way through the practice with what Gase described as being “overheated” and “dehydrated.”
The coach said Tankersley is expected to be fine.
Despite the dominance of the defense in this practice, Gase continues to say the Dolphins are very pleased with their left tackle situation despite having traded Branden Albert to Jacksonville.
Laremy Tunsil is the new starting left tackle and everyone seems thrilled about that.
“He’s big man, very athletic, great with his hands,” Gase said. “He just has a very good feel. It’s hard to get around him. It’s hard to get inside him.”
The Dolphins will have upper pads Saturday but won’t be in full pads until next week, per Gase.
This is really necessary because that will allow offensive linemen to get more hands on defensive linemen and actually give Ajayi some running lanes and better practice repetitions.
Tight end Anthony Fasano, who was excused from practice for personal reasons Thursday, reported to practice Friday. He caught one pass in team periods.
Interestingly, I haven’t seen Julius Thomas really show out yet. The team did red zone drills on Thursday and it was the wide receivers that did most of the damage with the first-team offense.
Thomas, who had 24 touchdowns while playing in a Gase offense in Denver, is expected to be a major red zone threat in Miami. But not so far in practices.
It is early, however.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero