Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins defense looks different (not in a good way) against offense it doesn’t know

PHILADELPHIA -- The past two days of dual practices with the Philadelphia Eagles did not include scores kept or games won or lost. It was good work for the Miami Dolphins because over a two-day span they (and we) got to see how close to ready their units are for the start of the regular season.

And while I’d tell you the offense isn’t quite there yet, it did enjoy success against the Eagles. I told you Monday the offense had its good moments and bad moments but coach Adam Gase promised his unit would be ready for the start of the season.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke has made no such promise, I guess in part because he hasn’t spoken to the media recently. NFL teams typically allow their coordinators to speak only once a week and Burke will talk when the regular season draws closer. (I’ll relay a story about that relative to Eagles DC Jim Schwartz in the coming days).

Anyway, if Burke could speak publicly he’d have some explaining to do because the past two days the Dolphins defense was at times atrocious.

Not everything was bad.

Cameron Wake was outstanding. He competed hard. He won most of his one-on-ones against Eagles’ tackles. He had at least two contested sacks. He had another sack on an unblocked run at Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, which obviously is a bad look for the Eagles.

Wake, 35, showed up and practiced as if he was 25. So how does he keep it going like that at his age?

“Nothing dramatic,” Wake said. “I feel like every year I’ve been increasing ... I’m probably stronger now than I was in 2009. Does that helps offset some of the lost explosiveness I had when I was 27 versus now? Maybe it evens itself back out. I don’t know. I try to improve every day, I lift and I try to work with a heavier weight. If I’m running two miles day after day, I feel I have to lower my time.

“I compete with myself day in and day out and find a way to improve. Maybe that offsets Father Time’s grasp on me to some degree.”

I found it very interesting that the most impressive players on the Dolphins defensive line the past two days were also the oldest players. So the oldest guys were taking these competitive practices in extreme heat very seriously.

Williams Hayes, 32, showed how outstanding he is, particularly as an edge run defender. He simply has the outside edge of his side of the field on lock down most of the time. Interestingly, he’s also shown a bit more pass rush ability than I believe the Dolphins were expecting from him, certainly more than his statistics suggest he’s going to bring.

Hayes, in his tenth season, has 34.5 career sacks.

Ndamukong Suh, 30, also was a beast in one-on-ones against the Philadelphia guards. And as he wasn’t always double-teamed in these practices, he made the Eagles pay seemingly every time he wasn’t.

Wentz said the Eagles game-planned against the Dolphins to get ready to play the third preseason game for both teams Thursday night. Well, any game plan that does not include a double-team on Suh every down is a bad game plan.

I also told you yesterday how impressive T.J. McDonald looked. So refer back if you need to get caught up.

But there were trouble signs as well.

Plenty of them.

I saw a lot -- way, too many -- Eagles receivers running by themselves open in the Dolphins secondary and even coming out of the backfield. One of the biggest gains of the day Tuesday was Wentz passing to running back Wendell Smallwood on a wheel route. Smallwood ran for 50-plus yards before safety Reshad Jones came from all the way over on the other side of the field to tap him.

I saw Wentz throw consecutive red zone touchdowns Tuesday where I never could determine who was responsible for covering the receiver because, well, no defender was near enough the receiver to suggest it was his man.

So either somebody busted the coverage or the Dolphins zone has major holes.

Alterraun Verner had an interception but also gave up completions. Rookie Cordrea Tankersley was burned multiple times in seven-on-seven drills and then by Marcus Johnson in the team (11 on 11) period.

Dolphins backup safety Maurice Smith did make a nice play on a receiver bubble screen, side-stepping blockers and almost beating the receiver to the pass. And Mike Hull, playing nickel with the second unit, did tip away another pass.

But, again, it was the open receivers running around as if rejoicing busted Dolphins coverage that stood out because it happened at least a handful of times the past two days.

And, indeed, when you add Monday’s work by the defense, in which cornerback Byron Maxwell got beat for two touchdowns that I saw and possibly more, it paints a picture of a defense that needs a lot of tuning.

The Dolphins defense has been good in camp but I’m starting to think part of that is because the unit simply knows the offense it’s facing day after day. The past two days against an unfamiliar offense was a different story.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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