It’s easier for offensive skill position players to look good in unpadded practices, but with that caveat, several of the Dolphins first- and second-year offensive weapons have flashed, either Tuesday or earlier in this offseason program.
Among the positive signs:
▪ Though he had one drop Tuesday, receiver Isaiah Ford made a couple of nice catches and has impressed the staff all offseason. The seventh-round pick of Virginia Tech lost all of his rookie season in 2017 after an August knee injury, but he and Malcolm Lewis have been the best of the group competing for a possible sixth receiver spot, if the Dolphins keep that many.
“Ford has done a good job, made a lot of catches,” coach Adam Gase said. “We felt good about him last training camp. He was starting to break through. He worked hard to come back, been very productive this spring.”
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Leonte Carroo, another contender for a possible sixth receiver spot, has been sidelined after knee surgery but is expected back for training camp.
▪ Rookie second-round tight end Mike Gesicki caught four passes during Tuesday’s 11 on 11 work, including one that was tipped by Minkah Fitzpatrick and a couple of others against decent coverage.
“Mike has had some good days where he’s getting opportunities,” Gase said. “When he gets moving down the field, it’s impressive to see because the speed increases very quickly.”
▪ Rookie fourth-round tight end Durham Smythe made a difficult catch, supporting the Dolphins’ contention that some evaluators have underestimated him as a receiver.
“They’re getting to the point where they are not making the same mistake twice,” Gase said of Gesicki and Smythe. “Those two guys spent a lot of time to make sure on paper they know what’s going on.”
▪ Kalen Ballage, the rookie fourth-round running back, continues to display an impressive second gear, both as a runner and after catching passes.
“He’s progressing quickly,” Gase said. “It’s a lot on your plate as a rookie running back.”
With the expectation that Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore will play a lot, has Ballage thought about needing to make a compelling case for coaches to give him offensive snaps as a third running back this season?
“Yeah, I feel like I’ve always been a playmaker,” he said. “I definitely want to be a guy that stands out … I’m not a guy that makes a lot of mental errors.”
Asked jokingly if he has gotten Gore’s autograph, Ballage cracked: “I don’t need to. I got his number.”
He said he’s picking Gore’s brain “on everything. Frank is 14 years in the league but he studies running backs younger than him, older than him and so [do] I.”
Ballage said he has studied tape of NFL running backs Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson because “we have the same body type. They catch the ball well out of the backfield. They have lived up to the hype. That’s what I’m trying to get.”
THIS AND THAT
Guard Josh Sitton was the only starter absent from Tuesday’s voluntary session, for reasons Gase declined to explain. But his absence wasn’t because of injury or any legal issue.
Besides Carroo, tight end Thomas Duarte (shoulder) and defensive back Jordan Lucas (foot) also remain out.
▪ Ryan Tannehill’s 70-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola on Tuesday, beating Xavien Howard, was the most impressive passing play in the five practices open to reporters in recent weeks.
▪ Though Gesicki dined with Tannehill on his pre-draft visit to the Dolphins, Gase said there was no attempt made for Tannehill to meet with all offensive draft prospects who visited team headquarters. “Coincidence,” Gase said the Gesicki/Tannehill lunch.
▪ Raekwon McMillan’s assistance to fellow ex-Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker extends beyond the field. McMillan is allowing Baker to use his car on weekends after Baker’s father wrecked Baker’s car in February.
▪ Walt Aikens said he has been moved back to safety after a stint at cornerback. But the Dolphins have told him he should be “on alert” if he’s needed at cornerback.
He played only 13 defensive snaps last season but got a two-year, $2.7 million contract because of his special teams work: “Watching his film last year, that was special stuff he was doing,” Gase said. Aikens was named national spokesperson for the Police Athletic League.