The Dolphins this offseason painted a wall adjacent to their outdoor practice fields with a giant, aqua “TNT” on it.
And TNT is short for Takes No Talent.
And evil Mando could quickly conjure a few jokes about the 2019 Dolphins and their talent. But we’re not going to do that here. Good Mando is going to prevail here.
So I’ll tell you the wall is meant to remind the 91 Miami players on the roster that some things take no talent to get right.
Competing every play takes no talent.
Knowing the rules takes no talent.
Lining up correctly takes no talent.
Getting the quarterback-center exchange right takes no talent.
Avoiding pre-snap penalties takes no talent.
Avoiding substitution errors takes no talent.
You get it.
This Dolphins coaching staff wants a smart, efficient team that pays attention to details and doesn’t beat itself — a welcome focus if these Dolphins can get it right.
To remind and perhaps condition players about how getting the easy things right is important, coaches have players who blow the TNT rules (get it?) run from the field where they commit the mistake to the wall before running the next play.
But as this is the offseason and only the first of three weeks of organized team activities, there are still rough patches that force players to make that run to the wall.
Quarterback Josh Rosen and his centers flubbed their exchange a couple times so they had to run to the wall. The entire defense ran when the unit didn’t have 11 men on the field.
So, yes, the Dolphins are unsurprisingly a work in progress in May. Which, by the way, is no biggie.
And then there are the things that require talent, acumen and ability ...
Those are arguably more important, and the Dolphins have important work to do in that area:
The Dolphins’ offensive line, for example, needs a lot of work. A lot.
On the right side the Dolphins are conducting a right tackle competition between third-year player Zach Sterup and veteran Jordan Mills. Mills has started 82 of 87 NFL games so he’s considered the favorite to win the job eventually.
But not yet.
So Sterup on Tuesday was given the same repetitions he got before Mills arrived. And there was obvious pressure on Miami quarterbacks from the right side.
Rosen threw one completion with three defenders in his face. The quarterback actually seemed to disappear behind a wall defenders as he threw the pass.
This is a practice where the orders are not to hit the quarterback. And still the defensive pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rosen forced them to dodge and dance in the pocket.
Rosen, by the way, was the second-best quarterback on the team Tuesday. Yes, this is an OTA practice, and it will mean very little in the grand scheme. But those extenuating circumstances don’t erase the fact Rosen threw an interception where Fitzpatrick did not.
Fitzpatrick, who took repetitions with the first-team offense, was more accurate while Rosen had a couple of throws that were either underthrown or sailed off the mark.
“I’m here because this was an opportunity to play, to compete,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a job that was open. I know nothing is ever going to be handed to me. I enjoy it. I enjoy being out here. I enjoy days like this.”
The Dolphins insist the competition between Fitzpatrick and Rosen will be fair and have no strings attached despite the team’s multiple draft-pick investment on Rosen. I asked Fitzpatrick if he’s confident the competition will be fair and not rigged in any way.
“I mean, I think, again, I’m going to do my best to show them the best version of me and see how it shakes out,” Fitzpatrick answered.
Perhaps Rosen’s best throw of the day fell incomplete through no fault of his own. Under considerable pressure (again) Rosen heaved a deep pass to DeVante Parker, who was racing down the left sideline, running stride-for-stride with a defender.
Rosen’s ball was perfectly placed and landed in Parker’s hands.
And Parker didn’t make the catch.
Rosen is playing catchup in the early stages of this competition, and it has nothing to do with his ability to run the offense — although that’s also an area he needs to make up some ground.
“My head’s spinning,” he admitted.
Unlike the other quarterbacks who were in town for months, Rosen has faced logistical issues that he has had to address.
“I kind of underestimated from the outside looking in the logistical issues like having to move and finding a new place,” Rosen said. “I’m walking into the receiver room thinking it’s the bathroom. So there’s kind of a lot of little things that go into it.
“But when you step onto the field you have to let all that go and play football.”
One of the Dolphins big concerns this offseason is finding a starting cornerback opposite newly minted $76 million cornerback Xavien Howard. And if Tuesday’s snapshot can be believed, Eric Rowe, who signed a one-year deal for $3.5 million after leaving New England, has the inside track on the job.
Rowe said he took the first-team snaps with the defense opposite Howard and that makes sense because Rowe is very familiar with the Miami defense which he says is very similar to the New England defense.
“Everything is really similar,” Rowe said. “The way [cornerbacks] coach [Josh] Boyer wants the defense to be played. How [head coach Brian Flores] wants the defense to be run. Everything is really similar. There’s nothing new to me.
“For me, I already know the terms. Now I need to better myself.”
That self improvement is important now. Even if it’s not on the TNT wall.