Ten observations from watching Dolphins practice Tuesday, the only day that OTA sessions were open to reporters this week:
▪ The quarterback play, while hardly extraordinary, is better than what we saw during the offseason at times last year — including a flurry of mindless interceptions from Brock Osweiler, who’s now unemployed.
One player, who did not want to speak publicly, said Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the best of the quarterbacks so far but that Josh Rosen also has played well.
Fitzpatrick was far from perfect Tuesday — he threw two interceptions and had several passes defended in tight red zone drills. But his over-the-shoulder throw to Kenny Stills for a 70-yard TD was a work of art — reminiscent of the work he did with DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans during his hot start for Tampa last season.
Fitzpatrick also showed nice touch on a back-shoulder throw to Durham Smythe for a touchdown.
Rosen continues to do some of his best work in the middle of the field. Rosen, who had some of the league’s best red-zone numbers for Arizona last season, threw several TDs in red zone drills Tuesday but also threw his only interception down the middle to Northwestern rookie Montre Hartage, who did excellent work in the Big 10 and has a real chance to stick (on the 53 or practice squad).
It was the second pick Rosen has thrown (total) in the two practices open to reporters.
You will see snapshots from Rosen that reinforce why he was a top-10 pick: a laser to Preston Williams in the back of the end zone; a perfect spiral to Mike Gesicki for a touchdown down the middle; and another well-thrown ball to Brice Butler for a touchdown down the middle of the field.
▪ Jake Rudock doesn’t have the strongest of arms, but he has been decent, with TD throws Tuesday to Mark Walton and Isaiah Ford. He will need to be more that decent to convince Miami to keep three quarterbacks this season.
▪ Really like the ball skills of cornerback Cornell Armstrong, the former 2018 sixth-round pick who made at least three impressive breakups on red zone drills. In 2017 at Southern Mississippi, he allowed just 17 of 46 passes thrown against him to be caught, with a 52.5 passer rating in his coverage area. And he impressed the Dolphins in limited chances last season. He’s fast, solid on special teams and can play on the boundary or slot. There’s clearly something to work with there, and the Dolphins love his speed.
▪ Eric Rowe was beaten a few times Tuesday, by Smythe and Ford. Even if Minkah Fitzpatrick is used all over the field instead of merely at one position, I wouldn’t hand the No. 2 cornerback job to Rowe just yet.
He would be the favorite if Fitzpatrick isn’t a full-time corner, but there are some younger players on the roster who deserve a fair shake, with Armstrong and Jomal Wiltz especially impressive. And safety Maurice Smith was very good Tuesday, with several pass breakups.
▪ DeVante Parker’s ineffectiveness in the red zone frustrated the past coaching staff to no end, but Parker was excellent in red zone drills Tuesday, catching multiple passes. Perhaps he will benefit from new coaches — and a new quarterback. It’s clear this new staff, including congenial wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell, is trying to use positive reinforcement with Parker, who seems to respond well to that approach.
▪ The Dolphins are not permitting reporters to reveal how players are specifically being used in OTAs. Violators will have their press passes revoked and will be required to sit in a small dark room, for days, watching a continuous loop of Ryan Tannehill’s sacks over the past seven years.
But… The Dolphins’ deployment of one member of their defensive backfield from last season (hint: not Minkah Fitzpatrick) has been very creative and eye-opening. (Sorry we aren’t allowed to tell you more.) Not sure a team with such little experienced front-seven talent can be very good defensively, but the “trickeration” (to borrow ESPN college host Rece Davis’ term) and disguising can only help. These defensive coaches know what they’re doing.
▪ Like how Ford worked his away open in traffic to grab two touchdown passes in red zone drills. Ford keeps teasing us during summer practices, but you would like to see it translate to games (preseason, at the very least).
Butler is the favorite for the No. 5 receiver job, but Ford and impressive rookie Williams could easily challenge him for that or win a sixth job. And do not discount Stanford rookie Trenton Irwin, who has very sure hands and special teams value. The Dolphins are monitoring Williams’ maturity level, which will be one key to his success.
▪ Davon Godchaux must improve his pass rushing to maximize his potential as a 3-4 end and he said he has been working on it. Pro Football Focus ranked him in the lower tier of pass-rushing defensive tackles last season. He has one NFL sack in 31 games. But more will be needed when he plays end.
“I’m very comfortable [as a 3-4 end],” he said.
As far as working on his pass rush skills, he said defensive line coach Marion Hobby “is doing a great job, hitting the big bags each and every day [that are used in individual pass rush work] and emphasizing the small techniques. At the end of the day, what makes the good-to-great pass rushers are little small things.”
▪ Don’t assume third-round pick Michael Deiter will simply be given the left guard job. Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty really likes guard Chris Reed, whom he coached in Jacksonville, and Reed will be given every chance to win or lose the job after making eight starts during three seasons with the Jaguars (but just one last year).
Asked if Deiter can come in and immediately make an impact, center Daniel Kilgore said he’s talented but… “He’s still a rookie. Any rookie is a big question mark, I don’t care if you [are picked] first overall or the third round.”
Former Texans guard Kyle Fuller could also become a factor in the left guard competition.
▪ Quick stuff: Christian Wilkins isn’t being eased in by any means. He’s getting lots of work early in team drills, and I would be stunned if he’s not used a ton, initially, at end and tackle…. Gesicki seems to be making more plays in OTAs than a year ago, when his head was swimming… No, the $76 million contract hasn’t taken the edge off Xavien Howard in hum-drum May OTA practices. He has continued to blanket receivers in coverage.