Barry Jackson

Here’s why the Miami Dolphins are once again encouraged about Laremy Tunsil

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (67) in action against the Buffalo Bills during a game last December. The Dolphins are hoping Tunsil will improve playing alongside four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton.
Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (67) in action against the Buffalo Bills during a game last December. The Dolphins are hoping Tunsil will improve playing alongside four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. AP

When Josh Sitton signed with the Dolphins in March, his assignment involved more than merely than giving the Dolphins high-quality left guard play.

There was also the understanding that he needed to take Laremy Tunsil under his wing, to help mold him after the rookie’s uneven first season at left tackle. The teammates have been spending a lot of time together, not only in a group but also one-on-one.

“I knew coming it that that was going to be my role to help mentor him a little bit and teach him things about the game that I learned over 11 years,” Sitton said. “There are things you pick up over the years early on in your career. You kind of have tunnel vision. I think I can bring a lot of the stuff off the field, how to watch film differently, what to look for, things like that, that as a young player you don’t pick up as fast.”

Tunsil has been receptive.

“Me and Sitton have a good relationship; he helps me a lot. Sitton has been to many Pro Bowls [four], he’s been to the Super Bowl, so Sitton is always out there helping me. It’s always good working with a vet like that. He’s a country boy and I love it.”

Coach Adam Gase also likes what he has seen, noting “communication has been really good between those two; they do a good job of talking about before practice, after a play. Those guys are working well together.”

That Sitton mentorship, combined with Tunsil’s better play in the second half of 2017, explain why Miami remains hopeful Tunsil will become a high-end left tackle.

Tunsil didn’t play as well as expected in his first year at left tackle (he allowed five sacks and his run blocking was rated 73rd among 78 qualifying tackles by Pro Football Focus). Gase said his performance improved appreciably in the second half of the season.

Miami Dolphins tackle Laremy Tunsil confident O-Line with help running game after coach Adam Gase said he wants to run the ball more this season.

“It was like two different seasons,” Gase said. “We went through that first part, he wasn’t happy with his performance. Made adjustments with some of his routine, what he did off the field,” including how he watched tape.

Tunsil, who changed his jersey number from 67 to 78 — his old number at Mississippi — knows he must reduce penalties; he had 12 last season, third among all NFL offensive linemen, and has had several pre-snap penalties during summer practices, going back to May.

“I just want to be great,” he said. “That’s it. I want to be great.”

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility in Davie.

The Dolphins’ 137 penalties last season were second-most in the league, ahead of only Seattle.

“That’s embarrassing,” Gase said Wednesday. “That can’t be part of our storyline anymore,” noting that in camp, “a couple days, it’s beyond frustrating” with penalties. There have been post-practice consequences for those penalties, including running.

THIS AND THAT

Some at practice held their breath when Ryan Tannehill went down hard on his back — center Daniel Kilgore fell on him — after throwing an interception to Kiko Alonso. Tannehill remained down on the field for several seconds but was fine.

Gase had seen him go down a couple times since knee surgery last August, so the Dolphins aren’t overly worried about his lower body taking a hit.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill talks about the fights between the receivers and defensive backs in today's practice. He likes the energy but he doesn't want it to be a distraction.

Tannehill’s interception, which was returned for a touchdown, was just his second pick of training camp.

Tight end A.J. Derby, who opened camp as the co-starting tight end with MarQueis Gray, missed his third consecutive practice with a foot injury and hasn’t been visible at practice. But Gase said he does not believe the injury will create a longterm absence.

Gray and Mike Gesicki continue to take a lot of the first-team snaps.

Also, right tackle Ja’Wuan James was held out with a muscle strain and center Jake Brendel (calf) missed his fifth consecutive practice. Receiver Isaiah Ford was held out with a shoulder injury.

Cordrea Tankersley took first-team cornerback snaps for the third time in six practices, compared with two for Torry McTyer and one for Tony Lippett.

Andre Branch, who moved from starter to backup with the acquisition of Robert Quinn, didn’t want to discuss that but believes he will be much improved because he has overcome a knee injury that troubled him last season.

Branch went from 49 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 16 games in 2016 to 23 and 4.5 sacks in 14 games in 2017.

“I played half the season hurt,” Branch said. “It feels good to be back to 100 percent. Watching the film and know it wasn’t you on the film. Just bending and being able to push up on my knee wasn’t there but I did everything I could for my team.”

Defensive end depth is a strength, with Cam Wake, Quinn, Branch, Charles Harris and William Hayes. “Last year, I had to push through things, [but this year], I probably would have been, ‘I’ll sit this one out.’ We have five dogs and some young guys coming along.”

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