Barry Jackson

Here’s the Dolphins’ thinking at defensive tackle with a prominent free agent available

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (96) yells after tackling Tennessee receiver Rishard Mathews (18) in a game last October. Taylor has played well during training camp.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (96) yells after tackling Tennessee receiver Rishard Mathews (18) in a game last October. Taylor has played well during training camp. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins topics a week into camp:

Defensive tackle remains something of a concern amid the March release of Ndamukong Suh, but Miami has decided — at least for now — to stick with this group and not pursue free agent Johnathan Hankins.

According to a source, the Dolphins - in their internal evaluation — did not see Hankins as an ideal scheme fit. Also, Hankins would be costly, and Miami has just $14.2 million in cap space with the hope of carrying over most of that money to next offseason.

Hankins had 44 tackles and two sacks in 15 starts for the Colts in 2017, a year after producing 28 tackles and three sacks in 16 starts for the Giants. The Colts released him after changing defensive schemes.

The Dolphins haven’t ruled out adding another defensive tackle if they believe a need arises. But for now, they believe they’re good enough with Akeem Spence and Jordan Phillips likely starting and second-year players Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor playing substantial snaps off the bench.

What’s more, the Dolphins also plan to give William Hayes some work at defensive tackle. We’ve seen one lineup in camp with Cam Wake and Robert Quinn at defensive end and Hayes and defensive end Charles Harris inside at tackle.

The Dolphins traded for Spence from Detroit partly because of a strong endorsement from Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who held that same position for the Lions last season. Spence hasn’t disappointed them so far.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about cornerback Tony Lippett's return after a season ending injury last season, August 1, 2018.

Also, Taylor has had an impressive camp, stopping a handful of runs for a minimal gain, no gain or a loss — including one more on Wednesday.

“It looks like he’s able to play faster; he’s able to attack more,” coach Adam Gase said. “Seeing him pursue the ball, he is really taking in how Kris coaches. You love the effort that he gives day in and day out. He’s making plays, he’s getting in the backfield, he’s disrupting the run game.”

Xavien Howard continues to have an exceptional camp, blanketing receivers in coverage. On Wednesday, he broke up a pass to Kenny Stills that could have gone for a touchdown.

Here’s what I like about Howard: Instead of studying tape of the handful of games in which he was excellent last season — including the Patriots Monday night game and the Denver game — he instead spent his offseason “watching the games I thought I did bad in. I learned from stuff I didn’t do well.”

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso wears the least amount of clothes possible during practice to battle the extreme heat.

Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick ultimately could end up being the Dolphins’ best players in coverage at some point. Fitzpatrick did good work breaking up a David Fales pass to Jakeem Grant in the end zone on Wednesday.

It’s increasingly difficult to envision Leonte Carroo or Rashawn Scott — two receivers who have spent time on the 53-man roster — making the team.

But Carroo could still stick if he’s exceptional in preseason games and if Isaiah Ford (who was sidelined Wednesday by a shoulder injury) has health issues or plays much worse in games than he has in practice.

By keeping one less offensive lineman or only three running backs, Miami easily could accommodate keeping six receivers. Ford would be the front-runner for the hypothetical sixth job entering preseason — if he’s healthy.

We’ve repeatedly been told the culture inside the Dolphins’ locker-room is better, with players taking a team-first instead of a me-first approach.

But special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi articulated the change in stronger terms than anyone else has done on the record this summer, telling WQAM-560, that in general, that “if you have a cancer or two in the locker-room, they can tear things apart. You want your guys to hang out and be around each other because that trickles down to the field. If people don’t think that’s the truth, they’re wrong.

“Sometimes that’s addition by subtraction. I really like additions we’ve made. I think some of the subtractions we’ve made have been additions. Sometimes you get rid of some people and all of a sudden, that brings people together.”

Gase’s comment that Albert Wilson is better suited outside than in the slot shouldn’t be of great concern, because when Danny Amendola needs a breather — or if he’s injured — keep in mind that Stills has been exceptional in the slot, something the Dolphins have quietly conveyed in recent days.

Stills caught a league-leading 11 touchdown passes from the slot combined over the past two seasons, per Pro Football Focus.

The good news on seventh-round kicker Jason Sanders: He has been perfect from long range in practice, hitting from 51 and 52 yards.

The bad news: All of his misses (in 21 attempts) have come between 30 and 40 yards, which was an issue at New Mexico.

Sanders was 7 for 10 in his college career from 30 to 39 yards but 4 for 5 from 50 yards or more.

FAU undrafted free agent Greg Joseph was 6 for 7 on Monday after missing three field goals on the second day of camp.

Here’s my piece with more Dolphins news from Wednesday, including why the team believes Laremy Tunsil will be better this season.

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