After a week of watching Dolphins practices from the field and spending considerable time around coaches, longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan emerged with a couple of convictions:
He believes this team is going to be “great,” eventually. And he believes rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will be exceptional.
“Just the way Adam [Gase] has this whole team working together, you can feel it’s great team chemistry,” Ryan said during a conversation with The Miami Herald after practice on Tuesday. “It’s been great to be around it for a week.
“I’m looking forward to this team. I think it’s going to be a great team. Adam does things right. They’re young and just coming together. They got the right coaches and right GM with Mike Tannenbaum. They got everything in place to be great. It may take a while but it’s going to be fun to watch them assemble it and see how they compete.”
Ryan — who spent 12 years as a defensive coordinator with Oakland, Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans — likes what he’s seen from cornerback Xavien Howard and believes the defensive line will thrive because of depth and the hiring of longtime NFL defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
“He’s a special coach; they’ve got talent and he’s going to use that talent to the best of his ability,” Ryan said.
Kiko Alonso made an impression on Ryan this past week. “Alonso is a special athlete playing linebacker --- tough, competitive.”
He believes the group of safeties (led by Reshad Jones, T.J. Donald and Fitzpatrick) will be a strength.
“I’ve seen Fitzpatrick the last couple of days and he looks like he’s going to be an extraordinary player,” Ryan said. “Big, physical kid, really athletic. Especially in Matt [Burke’s] system, he’s going to be great.”
Ryan, who has been out of the league since he and his brother, Rex Ryan, were fired by the Bills late in 2016, received an invitation to attend camp from Dolphins consultant Joe Vitt and said there was no discussion of him joining the staff. He’s doing work in San Diego for Bay City Marine, a boating company, and working for Fox Radio and Sky Sports.
“I look forward to the game Thursday and then heading back to the docks in San Diego,” he said. “Just wanted to get out of the house and be around people. That’s what I do best, be around people.”
THIS AND THAT
Cornerback Tony Lippett left practice with an apparent right foot injury but returned to the sideline later and appeared to be walking without much distress. Tests are being done. “When I saw him on the field, he looked irritated,” Gase said.
Lippett has opened with the first team only one day in camp. Cordrea Tankersley, who started team drills on Wednesday opposite Howard, continues to alternate first-team reps with Torry McTyer.
▪ Defensive end William Hayes (hamstring) and center Jake Brendel (calf) missed practice. Hayes was walking without any limp.
▪ Gase said former Bears running back Jeremy Langford was signed because “we felt we needed another body at the position, more depth there for preseason games. He’s healthy and familiar with terminology” from his time with Gase in Chicago.
▪ Brock Osweiler threw an interception to McDonald, giving Osweiler a team-leading six interceptions in training camp. McDonald continues to open first-team drills ahead of Fitzpatrick.
▪ A day after undrafted FAU rookie Greg Joseph hit a 61-yard field goal, seventh-round pick Jason Sanders connected from 59 on a day he went 6 for 7 on field goals, including a miss from 33 yards. Sanders has missed five field goals between 30 and 40 yards in camp but been very good from long range.
▪ Among practice highlights Tuesday: Tight end Mike Gesicki rising to catch a touchdown over Fitzpatrick — who had good coverage — on a throw from Osweiler during one-on-one drills.
“The highest point I get is the highest point of the field,” he said. “No one else is going to be able to get it.”
But Gesicki again allowed a blitzer (Fitzpatrick) to get past him for a sack of Ryan Tannehill. “I’m going to make my weakness my strength,” Gesicki vowed.
Gase said “we want to get him in games” before determining whether Gesicki should be asked to do much blitz pickup.
▪ Kenyan Drake opened with the starting running backs, as if often the case, but Gase gave some first-team work to rookie Kalen Ballage for the purpose of giving him experience with more established players.
“When he gets in there with the ones, it’s a quicker tempo than with David [Fales] and Brock,” Gase said. “They will slow it down a little bit.”
▪ The NFL and players union haven’t yet crafted a national anthem policy and Gase – when asked if he will instruct his players to stand for the anthem – said: “I am not instructing anybody on anything…. I’m coaching football, not dealing with that.”