Barry Jackson

Dolphins pass on giving vote of confidence to starting defensive backfield; Dolphins notes

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke and DE Cameron Wake before the Miami Dolphins scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, August 5, 2017.
Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke and DE Cameron Wake before the Miami Dolphins scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, August 5, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of notes from visits Thursday with defensive coordinator Matt Burke and coach Adam Gase and special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi:

• I gave Burke every opportunity on Thursday to give a vote of confidence to his starting defensive backfield, and he passed on that.

Asked if the three starters with Reshad Jones (Byron Maxwell, Xavien Howard and Nate Allen) have shown enough to continue in those starting roles Sunday, he said:

“Maybe. Nothing is set in stone. Adam [Gase’s] history has proved that here. We are mixing guys around a little bit.”

OK, let’s try this another way: Matt, have you given any thought to personnel changes in the defensive backfield?

“We give serious thought every week to personnel lineups,” said Burke, who is not nearly as forthcoming as previous defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. “After every game,… always have those conversations.”

But Burke made clear more is needed from his defensive backs.

“One of more disappointing stats – we are close to giving up 80 percent completions,” he said. “Part of that is being more physical with the receivers and being in tighter coverage. Get one step closer – they probably hate me because I keep saying that. One more step for [Maxwell] might be getting his hands a little tighter.”

Burke said Howard was draped over the receiver on two completions that he allowed last week.

Look – the Dolphins need to keep playing Howard. Even though he has given up 12 completions in 15 targets, he’s the Dolphins’ cornerback with the most upside.

With Maxwell and Allen, the issue is lack of options behind them.

At cornerback, the options behind Maxwell are veteran Alterraun Verner and rookies Cordrea Tankersley and Torry McTyer, who have both been inactive both games.

Verner has had one pass thrown against him and it was caught for 69 yards, though Burke blamed himself. “I put Verner in a tough spot on that long touchdown; I made a bad call.”

At safety, the options behind Allen are Michael Thomas and rookie Mo Smith. T.J. McDonald doesn’t get back from suspension until game nine.

Thomas played in the fourth quarter Sunday when Allen left with an injury. Adam Gase has said Allen could have continued playing but the Dolphins were being cautious.

• I asked Burke if Smith, Tankersley or McTyer have made any impression in practice to suggest they might be ready to play. He didn’t single out one but said “I believe all three of those if called upon will be ready to go. Those two young corners are competitive dudes.”

He said he called Mo Smith to the front of the room last week and quizzed him on defensive coverages. He answered all five correctly.

Smith is playing exclusively safety now after cross-training at cornerback during the summer.

• Gase said he expects Jay Ajayi (knee) to play Sunday at New Orleans.

• Burke said Lawrence Timmons, off suspension, has been fully engaged this week.

“He’s been good,” Burke said. “He has been positive. Has a good energy. Anytime something gets taken away from you, he’s grateful to be back. He has been excellent. His energy has been great. It’s great to have him around. He can run, hit – do everything – he’s an important part of our defense.

“He’s a physical presence – he will help us out. He’s a really good player that we were counting on to play a lot of football for us. He is one of better tackling players.”

• On Rey Maualuga, who missed the first two games with a hamstring issue, Burke said: “He’s progressing; he is getting close.”

• Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said of rookie punter Matt Haack: “I’d like him to be a little bit more consistent.” Of Cody Parkey’s missed extra point, Rizzi said: “I am concerned. [But] he hit a good ball.”

He said Jakeem Grant, who fumbled a punt, needs to “finish” the play.

Here’s my Thursday afternoon post with new stuff on Miami’s ailing offense, including Gase making an interesting revelation, a coach making clear more is needed from his tight ends and Gase discussing the Kenyan Drake/Jakeem Grant role on offense and whether it could expand.

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