Miami Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki says practicing against Pro Bowlers Wake and Jones prepared him for his first NFL season.
A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday night:
▪ In reshaping their roster, the Dolphins wanted players who were attentive to detail, studied, helped teammates develop and weren’t me-first.
“Whatever we were hoping for, we got more,” coach Adam Gase said, on WQAM, about a group of new players led by Frank Gore, Danny Amendola and Josh Sitton.
But at least two other factors, beyond on-field traits and physical talent, also weighed into offseason decisions:
1) The Dolphins were determined to bring in mature, grounded, intelligent rookies who didn’t need babysitters, essentially.
While this was not something the team prioritized, their research was so extensive that Dolphins officials were even aware that 71 percent of their rookies come from two-parent families, compared with a 69 percent national average (according to the 2016 Census). Children raised by two parents tend to be more successful, according to studies done over the years, though the Dolphins are not at all opposed to signing players from single parent homes.
The Dolphins love that Minkah Fitzpatrick and Mike Gesicki – their top two drafts picks – are more polished and self-aware than many rookies, with study habits reflecting a maturity beyond their years. They already “get it,” already know what it means to be a professional.
“This group of young guys, it’s a different class to me,’’ Gase said. “These guys come in with a different kind of maturity almost. Their football IQ is higher than probably a lot of the groups that I’ve been around in the past. [General Manager Chris Grier] did a great job putting this draft class together to where these guys, they’re getting thrown in there and they’re executing, they’re doing things well and they’re being impactful. They’re bringing great energy to the group too … These guys don’t feel like rookies to me.”
One example: Third-round pick Jerome Baker said he studied a different aspect of playing linebacker every day in camp – footwork one day, deciphering plays another, so as not to clutter his mind. On the last day of practice in preseason, Gesicki was on the field, catching passes, longer than any player on the team. Fitzpatrick’s study habits – he was in the film room hours before Alabama played Tennessee - are legendary.
2) The Dolphins also wanted players who didn’t relent during adversity, something that was emphasized internally even more so after what they witnessed in a couple of games last year.
One team source mentioned that the Dolphins thought some players stopped playing at full effort in the second half of the embarrassing 45-21 Monday night loss in Carolina. That stuck with the Dolphins’ administration and factored into personnel decisions this off-season.
On the other hand, the Dolphins took notice that Reshad Jones gave full effort to make up a lot of ground and make a tackle while the Dolphins were being beaten handily late in a December loss to Kansas City. That play stuck with the coaching staff and is one of many reasons why Jones didn’t accompany the other big names who were shown the door this offseason.
▪ For those wondering why the Dolphins would cut Sam Young one day and sign him the next - or sign Travis Swanson and cut him the next - there are valid reasons behind them.
Among them: In order to make room for the two players claimed off waivers Sunday (Luke Falk and Tanner McEvoy), the Dolphins needed to clear roster spots by 4 p.m. Sunday. Miami did that by quietly releasing John Denney and Young.
They then made room to quickly re-sign Denney by placing Mike Hull on injured reserve and created one open roster spot by placing Jake Brendel on injured reserve.
So why didn’t the Dolphins simply place Hull and Brendel on injured reserve at 3:30 p.m. Sunday to make room for Falk and McEvoy? Because players must be placed on injured reserve after 4 p.m. Sunday in order to be eligible to return after eight games this season. And the Dolphins want to keep alive that possibility for both, who should be ready physically by that eight-game mark in late October.
Young was then re-signed Monday, with the team cutting Maurice Smith to make room. Smith cleared waivers Tuesday and look for him to end up on Miami’s practice squad.
And finally, why did Miami sign Swanson only to release him a day later?
The Dolphins had prioritized signing running back/special teams ace Brandon Bolden, but the Dolphins hadn’t gotten a commitment on Monday from Bolden and wanted to fill their open roster spot. Once Bolden decided to sign with the Dolphins - instead of New England and any other suitors - the Dolphins had to create a roster spot by cutting Swanson.
As for Falk, the Dolphins like his skill set and thought favorably of him during his pre-draft visit and want to give him a look.
Now you can certainly question the Dolphins for keeping a league-high four quarterbacks because it’s unorthodox. But there were sound behind-the-scenes reasons for the flurry of moves that might have appeared willy-nilly the past two days.
▪ Though the Dolphins need Bolden more for his exceptional special teams work than what he can provide at running back, keep in mind that he has a solid 4.2 rushing average on 216 career rushing attempts. His 5.2 average last season tied for seventh best among running backs with at least 10 carries (he had 13). And he has 47 catches for 373 yards in his career.
▪ Three players the Dolphins wanted to acquire or keep last weekend but didn’t get: They made a waiver claim on linebacker Tanner Vallejo, a sixth-round pick who played his rookie season for Buffalo last year but was awarded to Cleveland (which had a higher waiver claim pick than Miami); offensive tackle Eric Smith (was cut by the Dolphins and he opted to join the Patriots’ practice squad instead of Miami’s) and running back Buddy Howell (Miami wanted him on its practice squad after cutting him but the Houston Texans claimed him).
▪ Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s trust in Akeem Spence, going back to their Detroit years, clearly is going a long way, because Vincent Taylor hasn’t received any first team snaps (according to Taylor) even though he has made the most impact plays of all of the defensive tackles. Taylor said he is OK with that.
“Everyone wants to start, but coach Kris will rotate us like crazy,” Taylor said. “We’re all going to play about the same. I’m just happy to be here.”
▪ One Dolphin who quietly helped himself a lot this offseason: MarQueis Gray, who stands to get a lot of work in two tight end sets with Mike Gesicki.
“In our exit meeting last year, coach [Gase] told me he should have used me more,” Gray said. “I feel good how far I’ve come.”
Here’s my Tuesday look at defensive ends who have played opposite Cam Wake and why the Dolphins believe Robert Quinn will be really good here.
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