Minkah Fitzpatrick said in December that he hoped the Dolphins would tell him by February what position he would be playing this year.
It’s mid-April, and Fitzpatrick still doesn’t have an answer on that and no idea when the Dolphins will give him that clarity.
But Fitzpatrick said he’s OK with that, because he knows the new coaches are familiarizing themselves with the talent. He also said he doesn’t have a preference between cornerback and safety.
The decision of where to play Fitzpatrick is still muddled considering general manager Chris Grier said Wednesday that he expects safety Reshad Jones to be on the team this season and that Jones - who is skipping voluntary minicamp - has not asked to be traded.
“This is second day we’re working with these coaches on the field,” said Fitzpatrick, who began his rookie season playing slot corner, then moved to boundary corner while also getting work at safety. “They don’t even know us as players. They only have film on us. They haven’t put their hands on us for real. Nobody has any idea what we’re playing, what we’re doing, what defense we’re running.”
With Jones out, Fitzpatrick has been working exclusively at safety through the first two days of the three-day camp. He said the Dolphins haven’t told him if he will get cornerback snaps in May and June practices.
According to a source with direct knowledge, the Dolphins have conveyed to Fitzpatrick’s camp that they prefer him at safety longterm but weren’t sure what position he will play this year.
If Jones is on the team as Grier predicts, Fitzpatrick likely would be the second-best boundary cornerback on the roster behind Xavien Howard. Bobby McCain appears best suited to play slot cornerback, though nothing is set. Besides Jones, T.J. McDonald is Miami’s other veteran starting safety.
Fitzpatrick said in December that one reason he wanted clarity on his position by February was to know what weight to play at. “I lost 10 pounds playing cornerback because I moved faster, chasing guys around,” he said in December. “If I’m playing safety, maybe 8 to 10 pounds more [is better] so I have a little extra thud.”
He said Wednesday that he’s handling the uncertainty by staying at the 204 pounds he finished last season. “I’m sitting in the middle, just in case I’ve got to lose weight or gain weight,” he said.
But Fitzpatrick sees positives in cross-training at multiple positions.
“The type of defense we’re projected to run, you have to be versatile,” he said. “You got to move around. I don’t think anyone in the secondary will be sitting in one spot. You could be in one spot in one game and in the next week, be in a different spot. No matter who you are, you have to move around, you have to cover guys in the slot, cover guys outside.
“It adds value to myself, to play different spots on the field. It adds value to me. It may be extremely tough and hard and taxing, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s worth it because you make more plays.”
He said when he asked which Patriots defensive backs he should watch, he was told “to watch all of them. All of them moved around. There was no guy who just sat in the box or just moved around.”
Fitzpatrick cited one significant adjustment with this coaching staff: “The basics and fundamentals of what they want are different. It’s like my rookie year all over again, just going back learning the basics and fundamentals.”
Fitzpatrick said coach Brian Flores is “all business, serious, which is a good thing, because that’s how you win games. Pay attention to detail. That’s what we discussed in our meeting today.”
DeVante Parker was pleased that the Dolphins retained him, saying “they have confidence in me again, have trust in me, have faith in me to sign me back again. I just love the atmosphere, the fans, and everyone here. I’m just glad I was able to be here again.”
Parker, who said he’s fully healthy, calls this “a fresh start. New coaches, just another opportunity for me.”
▪ Charles Harris, who was a defensive end his first two seasons, said he’s now “doing everything” – including standing up as a linebacker and even participating in some defensive back drills this week. He said coaches haven’t told him how they plan to use him. Grier said Harris is dealing with a wrist injury.
▪ Jesse Davis said he has spent the first two days of the minicamp at the right guard spot he played last year, but the Dolphins haven’t told him if he will be at guard or right tackle this season. (The Dolphins are expected to add a right tackle during or after the draft.)
Davis said he’s more comfortable at guard than tackle “because the whole year I worked at guard. I’m still playing tackle on my own.”