Barry Jackson

Here's how the Dolphins plan to handle competition for their open cornerback job

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley  (30) deflects the ball from Atlanta Falcons’ Austin Hooper (81), which resulted in a Reshad Jones interception, to seal a win against Atlanta last October. Tankersley is battling to remain a starter.
Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (30) deflects the ball from Atlanta Falcons’ Austin Hooper (81), which resulted in a Reshad Jones interception, to seal a win against Atlanta last October. Tankersley is battling to remain a starter. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday in which the team canceled the final day of its mandatory three-day minicamp as a reward to the players:

Adam Gase said he wants Cordrea Tankersley to approach the open cornerback job like it’s his. But it’s certainly not his yet.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said this week that the team plans to give about equal reps to Tankersley, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain in the competition to start at one boundary cornerback job opposite Xavien Howard.

Tankersley, a third-round pick out of Clemson 14 months ago, started 11 games last season and the results were mixed. He played competently at times but also allowed a 119.8 passer rating in his coverage area, highest on the team, compared with 77.3 for McCain.

His signature play: breaking up a pass that resulted in a Reshad Jones interception to seal the Dolphins' win in Atlanta.

“He got better,” Gase said. “There were times he wishes he could go back and do some things different. But that’s a rookie year.”

At the NFL owners meetings in March, Gase said: “We would love to see him come back with a mind-set of that’s his spot and he’s not going anywhere. And really be aggressive as far as not let anyone take that spot that he’s had.”

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke comments on safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during press conference after practice at Dolphin training facility.

Tankersley said Gase delivered that same message to him privately.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Tankersley said. “I kind of had the idea myself: ‘It’s my job to lose’ kind of ordeal. He definitely let me know that, and it’s just extra motivation.”

Tankersley, 6-1, said he’s trying to model his game after Howard, who is also 6-1.

What did he learn from last season?

“The biggest thing is the speed of the game — adjusting to the speed of the game and try not to get star-struck,” Tankersley said. “I feel like I need to be more aggressive. This is my second year, so I’ll definitely take what I learned last year and step it up a notch. My next step is just to become one of the best corners in the league.”

The Miami Dolphins draft heads into the third day where the Dolphins are searching for a defensive tackle, running back, quarterback and kicker.

It’s possible that A.J. Derby or MarQueis Gray could emerge as the opening day starting tight end if either rookie Mike Gesicki or Durham Smythe does not seize the job in August.

But the Dolphins say Derby must improve one key area of his game.

“One thing that we definitely have to work with A.J. is his blocking and running off the football and doing those things at a higher level,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “In the passing game, he’s been good so far. … As a former quarterback at Arkansas, he’s got football IQ. He’s got awareness in zones. He understands how coverages are going to play out.”

As for the rookie tight ends, “we’re expanding both their roles and figuring out what they do well,” Loggains said.

Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi speaks to the media after practice at Dolphin training facility.

Meanwhile, tight end Thomas Duarte — who caught a 65-yard touchdown pass on Tuesday — missed practice Wednesday with a mild AC joint sprain in a shoulder. But no surgery is needed and he should be fine for camp, per a source.

When the Dolphins open games with three receivers instead of two (with one tight end and one running back), a difficult decision looms regarding who to start alongside DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.

A case could be made for Danny Amendola, who started four, seven, four and eight games in his four seasons in New England. (That’s 23 starts since 2014.)

A case also could be made for Albert Wilson, who started two, 12, five and seven games in his four seasons in Kansas City. (That’s 26 starts since 2014).

So how will that decision be made?

“I completely understand the question, and it’s a great problem to have as a coach when we are deep at a position like we are there,” said Loggains, while acknowledging that decision is far away. “I’ve been really, really impressed with Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. Their work ethic, they’re both very professional and very quarterback-friendly. The quarterbacks have a high trust level in both of them.

“We’ll watch the tape, we’ll game plan, we’ll figure out who’s the best matchups that week. It could be we’re in 13 personnel to start the game or whatever, and both of those guys will get plenty of time.”

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility on June 5, 2018.

Rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, on the difference between playing for Alabama coach Nick Saban and Gase:

"They’re both very passionate coaches. They’re both really hands-on. The only difference is Coach Saban yells a little bit more. But that’s about it. Coach Gase is a great coach. He’s a real energetic coach. All of the players love playing for him. I love playing for him and I’m happy that he’s my head coach.”

The Dolphins have high regard for Alabama’s program — because of Saban, the constant winning and the fact players are prepared for the NFL. Gase has a relationship with Saban; they worked together when Saban was coach at Michigan State.

“If you utilize all of your resources at Alabama, you’re definitely going to be prepared,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whether it’s the coaches, the physical training staff or just whatever. If you put 110 percent effort into it, you’re going to be prepared. Just the scheme, it’s almost the same exact thing. There’s small little differences that you’ve got to learn, but the scheme’s almost the same exact thing as Alabama. I’d just say the scheme and overall, I think we were prepared really well at Alabama.”

The Dolphins say they won’t remove starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan from special teams simply because he sustained a season-ending knee injury on special teams on the first snap of Miami’s first preseason game last year.

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi acknowledged it’s “the 10,000-pound elephant in the back room because he got hurt last year. I get it. His first play in the NFL, he ran down a punt and got injured. Rookie linebackers play on special teams. It doesn’t matter if they’re drafted, undrafted, first round, second round, 10th round, 90th round. Rookie linebackers and defensive backs and running backs and receivers, they play special teams.

“We’re going to coach everybody the same. Listen, it was a really unfortunate thing that happened to him last year. To his credit, he’s jumped right back in. He’s doing our drills. He’s doing everything. … Everybody is going to have some type of role on special teams. We’re not going to start making decisions based on injury history. You’re not going to have anybody left on the field.”

Beyond a bunch of items noted in my story from Wednesday night, a few other things that stood out from the two minicamp practices: Isaiah Ford, Miami’s seventh-round pick in 2016, caught a touchdown pass from Bryce Petty and continues to flash in his return from last August’s season-ending knee injury… Malcolm Lewis adjusted to an underthrown pass from Petty and made a nice catch for a 30-yard gain. Lewis, Rashawn Scott, Ford and Leonte Carroo will try to make a case for Miami to keep six receivers on its 53-man roster….

T.J. McDonald, who has done some good things this month, stopped Kenyan Drake for a loss on a running play, in addition to dislodging a ball from Amendola to create an interception for Jones… William Hayes beat Ja’Wuan James for a sack on Ryan Tannehill. Hayes has had a strong offseason program… Wilson dropped two passes on Wednesday but also had a nifty run after catch… Former UCF undrafted rookie Jamiyus Pittman generated good quarterback pressure, and rookie sixth-round cornerback Cornell Armstrong had a nice play in coverage on an incomplete pass from Brock Osweiler to Scott…. Linebacker Terence Garvin, who started three games for Seattle last season, had a sack on Petty.

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