Welcome to Reshad Jones day.
The fourth day of this Miami Dolphins training camp was a clinic in what the team’s Pro Bowl safety is able to do.
Veteran Frank Gore, the NFL’s leading active rusher and fifth all-time, took an inside handoff early in practice and Jones, seemingly out of nowhere, hit the running back so hard as to cause a fumble that a defensive teammate recovered.
Later in another team period (full offense versus defense), Ryan Tannehill lofted a deep pass to the right third of the field and Jones, playing in the middle of the field, covered some 20 yards while the ball was in flight and snatched the football for an interception.
It was Tannehill’s first interception of this training camp.
“I’m back,” Jones said of his playmaking ways. “I’m just warming up. It’s about that time, four days into camp and I’m feeling good. I feel better than I’ve ever felt. Hats off to my trainer. I put the work in during the offseason and I’m ready to go.”
Interestingly, Jones got his interception while playing the deep middle of the field, a spot he didn’t play often the last few years. He says he’s been working a bit more often there during this camp.
“Probably a little bit,” Jones said. “I was kind of stationary last year but they got me doing a little bit more now. It’s Year 9 for me and that’s what’s expected. I’m here to do whatever I need to do, be wherever I need to be for this team to win football games.
“I’m a ballhawk at safety. Wherever the ball is, you’ll see me around. But being in the middle of the field and being able to make those kind of breaks [on the ball] and make those game-changing plays for the team, I think is huge.”
I’ve never understood the thinking of turning Jones into a strong safety stuck along the line of scrimmage -- other than, obviously, he needed to cover for other players’ run defense deficiencies -- at the expense of having him patrol the middle of the field.
Jones playing free safety suggests more interceptions to me. I like the idea of Jones being free to be all over. I hope we see that more this season.
The Miami Dolphins have a budding problem at wide receiver.
And that’s a really good thing.
The problem, you see, is going to be deciding what five or possibly six receivers the team keeps by the time it makes its cuts to 53 players. Last year the team came out of camp with five receivers.
“That whole back end, there’s a ton of competition,” receivers coach Ben Johnson said. “I could not tell you four practices in who’s going to separate themselves in terms of back end of the roster (and) practice squad spots.
“Everybody is in play. As you know, (Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator) Darren Rizzi is going to have a huge say, special teams-wise, in who ends up staying on the roster this year. “
We know Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker, and Albert Wilson are going to be on the team. Beyond that?
Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, Drew Morgan, Rashawn Scott, Francis Owusu and Malcolm Lewis are fighting for one or possibly two jobs -- depending on how the Dolphins construct their roster.
Every one of those back-end receivers can make the case he belongs. And some are making the case the first week of training camp.
Saturday was a fine day for Carroo, who caught multiple passes. Isaiah Ford, who injured his shoulder the first day of drills, stood out on Sunday. He caught a touchdown pass in a red zone drill that showed off both his route-running and ability to catch with his hands.
“For him, we’ve just got to see him in games,” Johnson said. “He missed all of preseason last year, so the games will tell us the tale of how good Isaiah can be for us this year.”
Ford, by the way, is extremely intelligent and knows all of the receiver assignments.
Jakeem Grant has put together highlight plays on consecutive days -- Saturday’s a diving catch over 6-3 cornerback Tony Lippett, Sunday another acrobatic catch in the end zone against Torry McTyer.
“I was telling coach [Gase], we have a jump ball to DeVante [Parker] and I was like, ‘I want a jump ball too. Don’t shy away from me because I’m short,’ “ Grant said. “He was like, ‘Hey man, I’m not.’ I’m just saying I don’t know if that was just like a fluke or something like that.
“So I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll show you.’ So the only thing I was thinking in my mind was like, ‘I’ve got to show coach Gase.’ So immediately after I scored, I ran over there, I celebrated with my teammates and ran over there to coach Gase and I was like, ‘I told you.’ “
(Grant also has the added value that he can return punts).
Owusu is interesting in that he’s 6-3 and 223 pounds, which is a body type the Dolphins value from receivers. Morgan had a fine camp last season and has been solid this one, plus he is working on punt returns.
Rashawn Scott earned the coaching staff’s trust and began playing ahead of Carroo two years ago and is a good special teams player.
Tight end A.J. Derby missed practice Sunday with a foot injury. And that opened the door for rookie Mike Gesicki and even third-year veteran Thomas Duarte to get some first-team tight end snaps.
Rookies Gesicki and Durham Smythe didn’t get many snaps with starters the first three days of camp but Gesicki not only got the chance Sunday but also factored in the work, catching multiple touchdown passes in red zone drills.
“They’re doing good. They’re right on progress,” tight ends coach Shane Day said of the two rookies. “They’re working hard. I think all of the work they’ve done in the spring I see coming to fruition right now in practice, so it’s good. They’re still putting in a lot of work. There’s still more plays coming, there’s still more practices; but they’re handling it very well.”
Day said the Dolphins have thrown perhaps 80 percent of the playbook at their players so far. So how often are the younger ones carrying out their assignments correctly?
“A very high percentage,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with their knowledge of the offense. There’s been very few mistakes across the board by all of the tight ends, including the rookies.”
Duarte, it must be said, may have a hard time making the team after not factoring to any great degree his first two NFL seasons. But he was very good in practice Sunday, catching a couple of touchdown passes.