Lots of takeaways and chatter after watching every Dolphins practice for two weeks:
▪ This Dolphins offense, in the past five years, has finished 26th, 11th, 27th, 17th and 28th in scoring and there’s no indication that this group has a single elite player, though there are gifted playmakers, from Kenyan Drake to Kenny Stills to crafty Danny Amendola and DeVante Parker.
But if you ask who’s particularly equipped on this offense either to surprise defenses, or to create new mismatches that be exploited, two names have emerged in two weeks: Mike Gesicki and Albert Wilson.
It’s not only that Gesicki might be Miami’s most talented receiving tight end in years. Expect for the Dolphins to line him up in various spots and deploy him in various packages, to catch defenses off guard. He has the skill set to line up outside at receiver if Miami chooses.
“If you are a safety or linebacker in space with him, that’s tough duty,” NFL Net’s Mike Mayock said.
Fox’s Charles Davis said Gesicki “plays above the rim on the football field.” And when’s the last time you could say that about a high-round Dolphins draft pick?
“I mean the guy has a 40-inch vertical; not too many guys can jump like that,” tight end MarQueis Gray said.
While Jakeem Grant’s electrifying speed should help in doses, Wilson provides the other best opportunity for creativity because of his versatility combined with speed. When Adam Gase met with Wilson in March, Gase presented a plan of how he would be used.
That plan, Wilson said, included playing him all over the field — on the boundary, in the slot, even at running back. And keep in mind that several gimmicky, creative plays involving Wilson (we cannot specify them because NFL teams understandably don’t like reporters to do that) have netted substantial gains in practice.
Wilson carried the ball 10 times in four years for Kansas City, gaining 82 yards with a 55-yard TD run.
Gase’s presentation so excited Wilson that Wilson said he bypassed potential starting roles in Chicago, Baltimore and Buffalo.
“Coach Gase showed me the game plan and all the things he could do with me, and there was no question [he would sign here],” Wilson said. “Here, I get the opportunity to do everything - play outside, inside, run the ball a little bit. To line up everywhere and play multiple positions and be able to be with a young energized great offensive mind.”
Why is this important? Because the Dolphins — and how long have we been saying this? — need more explosive plays and dynamic playmakers. These two newcomers offer interesting possibilities.
▪ When top Dolphins executives and Gase discussed how to address backup quarterback this offseason, Gase told them he would be fine with David Fales in that role, believing he had shown enough improvement — including arm strength — to warrant a No. 2 job.
Brock Osweiler eventually was added, more at the behest of the front office than coaching staff, with Gase revealing he was the last one to come around on that, with no slight intended toward Osweiler.
Let’s be clear: Though Osweiler was better for a three-day stretch last week, Fales has been the better of the two through two weeks. Fales doesn’t throw many interceptions — two compared with Osweiler’s six — and there’s less streakiness with Fales.
Osweiler is capable of some really impressive throws but we’ve seen too many errant ones. Fales is steadier, even though we haven’t seen as many deep ball completions from him as we did in May and June practices.
▪ Seemingly every year, an undrafted surprise player surfaces, from Davone Bess to Dan Carpenter to Chase Allen last year.
This year, you need to squint harder to find one beyond second-year defensive backs Torry McTyer and Mo Smith. Both have made a move in this camp, particularly McTyer, who is at least even with Cordrea Tankersley in the battle to start.
Here are a few newer undrafted players to keep an eye on who have flashed these two weeks: Jalen Davis (risen to No. 2 slot corner, ahead of draft pick Cornell Armstrong, and had 61.2 passer rating against in his coverage area at Utah State last year); Taveze Calhoun, the former Mississippi State corner who was released Labor Day weekend by the Bears and Colts the past two years and has two interceptions and a forced fumble in camp, and kicker Greg Joseph (a legitimate challenger to Jason Sanders).
Running back Brandon Radcliff impressed the staff during Saturday’s scrimmage, but not enough to dissuade Miami from signing veteran Jeremy Langford on Monday.
Rookie defensive tackles Anthony Moten and Jamiyus Pittman have had their moments and linebacker Cayson Collins blew up Sinorise Perry on Tuesday, a hit that angered several offensive players. Jonathan Woodard, in his second year from Central Arkansas, has made some plays, including a sack Tuesday.
▪ It’s notable that Jordan Phillips, the veteran whose uneven play most frustrated defensive coaches earlier in his career, was the only veteran to lose his starting job (to Davon Godchaux) after starting the first week of camp. To his credit, Phillips had several outstanding run stops and at least one sack since being moved to the second team last Thursday.
But Godchaux has played well (including a sack Tuesday) since moving into a starting role alongside Akeem Spence, who has been a starter throughout camp.
▪ More defensive stuff: One player who looks so much better than last year: Andre Branch, thanks partly to his knee healing and partly to the fact he’s mostly rushing against backups. He had two more sacks Tuesday…. Linebacker Terence Garvin, who started three games for Seattle last season, has had a good camp, including an interception, pass deflections and some decent plays against the run...
Starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan has flashed a bit – he snuffed out a read-option run by Ryan Tannehill last week – but games will be telling with him… Same with rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, who had a few nice plays earlier in camp but has been quiet recently... Allen remains behind Stephone Anthony, despite a strong early start to camp....
Xavien Howard has been the best player in camp - I won’t be surprised if he, Cam Wake and Reshad Jones are the Dolphins’ best defensive players this year - but neither McTyer nor Tankersley has seized the other starting cornerback position. Neither McTyer nor Tankersley has been awful, but neither has left you convinced he’s the answer....
The fact Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t playing more often with the first group is more of a reflection of T.J. McDonald’s good work this camp than anything about Fitzpatrick, though Fitzpatrick made more highlight plays in May/June practices. McDonald intercepted Osweiler in the end zone Tuesday....
Vincent Taylor has stuffed a run or batted a pass or done something disruptive in virtually every practice.
▪ More offensive stuff: Parker still too often tries to make contested catches with one hand, which can exasperate Dolphins people. He used two hands on one contested TD last week, delighting the staff… Gray, a skilled blocker and decent receiver, appears the ideal tight end to pair with Gesicki, at least until Durham Smythe develops. “Physically, he’s very strong,” Gase said of Gray. “He can move very well. He’s able to play two different positions for us, which there’s a lot of value there.”….
Ryan Tannehill has looked a lot like he has in past regular seasons: generally (but not always) accurate when given time. His mobility has looked fine. His runs have been productive. But pre-snap penalties and offensive line breakdowns remain problematic....
The Dolphins believe Isaac Asiata has improved and could possibly become a serviceable backup… Rookie Kalen Ballage has been stopped for short gains, no gains or losses on more than a handful of rushing attempts but has belied suggestions by draftniks that he’s not physical enough by dragging Allen with him for a few yards after a carry on Monday....
Kenyan Drake continues to show a knack for making something out of nothing, and Tannehill is spot on regarding Frank Gore’s ability to push through tiny creases.... Thomas Duarte continues to get open on short and intermediate routes but he faces an uphill climb in a six-way battle at tight end.
Here are my Dolphins news items from Tuesday, including Rob Ryan’s thoughts after spending a week with the Dolphins.
Here’s my six-pack of UM notes from Tuesday.