Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ Burke likes how McMillan has played with starters, addresses personnel issues

Matt Burke, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator, speaks to the media at the Dolphins Training Facility in Davie on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Matt Burke, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator, speaks to the media at the Dolphins Training Facility in Davie on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Friday that rookie second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan has capably handled middle linebacker duties with the first team but cautioned not to read anything into another rookie, fifth-round defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, getting first-team snaps ahead of Jordan Phillips the past two days.

Of the decision to play McMillan at middle linebacker and move Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons to the outside, Burke said: “With Kiko and with Lawrence having played both spots, inside and out in their careers, there’s a comfort level with those guys. There’s always caution with the rookie, trying to make sure he’s comfortable in doing what he’s doing. We wanted a little bit to settle him in one spot.

“Raekwon’s done a good job [with] what we want him to do in terms of taking charge of the huddle, leading the group. That position has to make a lot of calls. We’re trying to get him work with that first group and against better competition and see how he responds and he’s been good so far.”

Though Godchaux worked ahead of Phillips with the starters to open practice on Thursday and Friday, Burke said: “If you see us moving guys around, it’s us trying to evaluate other players. It’s not punishment for [Phillips]. What we’re trying to do with some of the young guys is get them in against top competition.

“It’s not a reflection on Jordan. He’s had a solid camp and done what we’ve asked him to do. With Jordan, as always, it’s been consistency. I’d say he had maybe one rough day in camp so far. One day he jumped offsides a couple times. But other than that, he’s been consistent. I know he stood up in front of [reporters] and said, ‘I have to be better play in and play out.’

“That was basically our charge to him when he came back: ‘Listen, it can’t be part time. It can’t be a flash play. It’s got to be a level of consistency we’re working with.’ And he’s done that. He honestly has. He had one kind of rough practice. He’s been doing good; he honestly has.”

As for Godchaux, “he has had a good camp,” Burke said. “He’s flashed a little bit.”

Defensive line coach Terrell Williams said Godchaux hasn’t overtaken Phillips but called it an “open competition” and said of Godchaux: “He’s strong, physical, doing what you want a defensive tackle to do. A defensive tackle in first and second down, your No. 1 job is be physical with those guards and knock them back. We give them one responsibility. If you are thinking pass rush as a defensive tackle first and second down, that’s a problem. He gets it. He comes from a good system at LSU. We’re excited to have him.”

Burke addressed other issues:

• Has Alterraun Verner done enough to challenge Bobby McCain at nickel corner? “He’s had a good camp,” Burke said. “I wouldn’t say that. Bobby has had a great camp.”

• He said he’s comfortable with depth at linebacker. “Neville Hewitt has had a really, really good camp. We feel good about Mike Hull. We feel we’re pretty good with about five deep.”

• On how much Xavien Howard has improved: “A lot. A lot. I’m going to turn the pressure up on X a little bit. He’s had an outstanding camp. It’s hard, he’s a rookie last year, had the issues and that plays with people a lot psychologically and physically. He’s had a very, very, very, very good camp. We’re putting a lot of expectations on him to continue that trend.

“He’s physical, he’s putting his hands on guys. His technique has been impeccable.”

• On rookie defensive tackle Vincent Taylor: “Vincent made a huge jump from where he left off in the spring to where he is today. I’m very happy with his progress. He’s worked a lot with his footwork. That was one of his issues coming out. Tough kid. He’s got some explosiveness.”

• Burke said: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cam Wake and Ndamukong Suh are having the two best camps of anybody on this entire field.”

• On safety Nate Allen: “He’s been great, as advertised. Smart veteran, competitive, always in the right place. I laugh, because everyone sees TJ McDonald making a lot of flash plays, but Nate is kind of making real consistent plays. He doesn’t necessarily make all the flash plays. He’s got his hands on some balls, which has been nice. He is a steadying, calming influence which is exactly what we wanted out of him.”

• On his summer vacation to Uganda: “We got to hike with gorillas. We’re in the forest, spend two days hiking up the mountain. It’s hard to describe the sensation of seeing these giant beasts approach you. First time it happened and they walk within feet of you, it’s hard to describe. It’s majestic.”

The lowlight? “28 hours of flights, and Adam [Gase’s] texts asking where I am.”

▪ The Dolphins signed Kwayde Miller, an undrafted rookie offensive tackle out of San Diego State, and activated offensive tackle Avery Young from the non-football injury list.

Here’s our latest post this morning on where the Ryan Tannehill situation stands, including comments from Adam Gase... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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