Barry Jackson

What the Dolphins have noticed about Raekwon McMillan. And what Luck told Xavien Howard

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:

At times, it looks like middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan has been a step slow this season. But the problem, defensive coordinator Matt Burke said, is actually the opposite.

“Sometimes, he’s too fast in a reactionary sense,” Burke said Thursday. “He reacts to things too quick and gets himself out of position. I’ve talked to him about slowing down.

“He overreacts [at times] to play action. He sees a run and runs 100 miles per hour and [the runner] cuts back and he overruns things.”

So Burke and linebackers coach Frank Bush have tried to get McMillan to “slow down in his head and give him half a step in diagnosing,” Burke said.

Burke said McMillan “was proud the other day” when he saw Lamar Miller outrun Titans defenders for a touchdown because “he caught him in [the open field] in our game. He was proud of himself for that.”

McMillan, who missed his rookie season with a knee injury, has had mixed results in his first season as a starter. Pro Football Focus rates him 40th among 82 linebackers.

“He’s a rookie; I treat him as such,” Burke said. “Some of the things he hasn’t seen as he is building a data base of plays . As he builds that experience, he’s getting better and better. His production has gone up from a tackle standpoint in the last month or so. I don’t think his physical ability is going to hold him back from doing what we ask him to do.”

McMillan has 65 tackles – 15 combined in the past two games – and two forced fumbles.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had a light-hearted exchange after the Colts win Sunday, a game in which Howard has two terrific interceptions late in the second quarter.

“He said, ‘Man, where you get your hands?’ I started laughing,” Howard said.

“He said [something] about my ball skills, said I didn’t even see you, how did you get the ball? I said I made a play on it.”

Howard, who has an NFL-high nine interceptions in his past 16 games, has tried to incorporate parts of former star cornerbacks Darrelle Revis’ and Champ Bailey’s games into his.

“I played receiver most of my life,” he said. “I always had good hands. Playing DB, I feel that’s one of my strong suits. I’ve got some nice hands. I ended up moving to cornerback in college. I played both ways in high school and quarterback.”

Who’s idea was it to move him to corner? “It was my high school coach because I wasn’t getting offers at quarterback.”

As long as we’re on the topic of Dolphins second-round picks (Howard, McMillan), it’s a bit disappointing that Mike Gesicki has only 18 receptions for 156 yards.

“There are things we put in the game plan, like the fade against Tennessee; the quarterback didn’t execute it well; he didn’t execute it as well,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Sometimes, plays are called for him and we haven’t [used a lot of them] lately. Sometimes it’s based on coverage. We need to do a better job of getting him the ball.”

Said Gase: “We are seeing a lot of good stuff on his releases, a lot of good stuff in practice. He has to carry it over to the game and execute the way he does out here.”

Of his fumble last week, Gase said: “He knows that’s one of those things that can’t happen.”

Incidentally, Gase said AJ Derby wasn’t active last week because he’s not 100 percent and the other three tight ends are healthy – Gesicki, Nick O’Leary and Durham Smythe.

“I like all four of those guys,” Gase said. “That’s a tough decision. You want to figure out how do I get them all [active on the 46-man game day roster].”

The Dolphins are 29th in sacks with 18 but Gase and Burke didn’t want to express disappointment in that on Thursday, even though it clear is disappointing considering the money Miami has invested at defensive end.

“One of the most underrated injuries for us has been Will Hayes, having such an effective interior pass rusher,” Burke said. “Cam Wake gets chipped every play. [Defensive line coach] Kris Kocurek gets more frustrated about that than I do. Production has gone up; production has started to show a little bit.”

Gase said the pass rush has been fine. “That’s why we have all these interceptions,” Gase insisted. “Quarterbacks are rushing their throws and they’re picking balls off. We’ve had the opportunity for more sacks. That pass rush forces quarterbacks to panic a bit.”

Quick stuff: What did receivers coach Ben Johnson tell Leonte Carroo after his 74-yard touchdown Sunday? “He said run the route with more speed,” Caroo said… Loggains, asked what’s the top NFL-ready skill of recently promoted receiver Isaiah Ford, said: “He’s crafty. An aware guy. He’s intelligent. That’s his biggest asset. He’s always in the right spot. He’s an impressive kid that way.”… Loggains said guard Isaac Asiata, who’s being developed on the 53-man roster, is better at run blocking than pass blocking.

Here’s my Thursday piece examining whether the evidence supports Jordan Phillips’ claim that players’ careers take off when they leave the Dolphins.

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