Dolphins linebacker Nate Orchard : “I can rush the passer. I just need an opportunity and I think it’s here with the Dolphins.”
Dolphins notes and observations with one day left in the offseason program:
▪ Because the Dolphins went shopping mostly in the bargain bin of free agency, expectations for these veteran player signings were modest. And so far, the results have been mixed (with the caveat that nothing in May and June practices should be overstated).
On the negative side, former Bills starter Jordan Mills has disappointed to the point where he lost his first-team right tackle position after a week, replaced by guard Jesse Davis the past two days. Nate Orchard abused Mills for two sacks on Tuesday.
Though it appears the Dolphins would love for Eric Rowe to win the cornerback job opposite Xavien Howard, he’s has been beaten on deep and intermediate routes a bunch of times in practices open to the media. On Wednesday, he was toasted on a 60-plus yard TD pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to DeVante Parker.
Rowe on Wednesday was beaten on multiple 10 to 20 yard completions and tipped a pass that was caught by Trenton Irwin for a long TD, though Rowe can’t be blamed for that particular play. And Rowe has made some good plays in coverage in sessions open to the media.
Bottom line: If Rowe isn’t better in August, the Dolphins will need to play Minkah Fitzpatrick full time at boundary cornerback, which they seem reluctant to do, unless one of the other first- or second-year corners proves worthy of starting.
As for the other veteran free agent pickups... Tight end Dwyane Allen has been sidelined for several weeks, but the Dolphins know what they’re getting there -- a good leader and skilled blocker.
On the positive side, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been very good, and edge rusher Nate Orchard – cut by four teams in the past 10 months – has shown the skills that prompted Cleveland to draft him in the second round four years ago, after an 18.5-sack senior season at Utah. Orchard (five sacks in 38 NFL games) has displayed good speed and polished moves as a pass rusher.
Mark Walton might be Miami’s best receiver out of the backfield, and tight end Clive Walford has made several catches.
And finally, there’s Tank Carradine, who has 5.5 sacks in 45 NFL games (44 of those for San Francisco). He’s going to get a lot of work at defensive end on this team, and he’s made several plays in practices open to reporters.
▪ Carradine, a former second-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, played just one game in the league last year (for Oakland) before being cut Oct. 6. What happened?
“I was starting and me and the defensive coordinator kind of got into a disagreement about stuff and he decided to not let me play because I didn’t agree with what they were trying to do. I didn’t think it was fair. After that disagreement, they told me to go sit and see how things go. I asked for a release, said ‘I’m not about to sit, I’m getting older and I earned the right to play.’ I asked them to release me.”
The Raiders GM who granted that request, Reggie McKenzie, now is a senior personnel executive for Miami.
“He knows it wasn’t fair; I don’t know if it was his call or not,” Carradine said.
Carradine, down to his lowest weight since college (260), said this system – which uses him in multiple ways – “fits me really good. I am grateful they gave me this opportunity to redeem my career.”
▪ Based on how he’s being used, it looks like the Dolphins think very highly of former Iowa State and Patriots practice squad corner Jomal Wiltz, who has flashed throughout May and June practices.
▪ Young corners Jalen Davis, Monte Hartage and Cornell Armstrong have all had some very good moments.
▪ DeVante Parker has been the best player in camp the past five weeks. He caught two more touchdowns Wednesday. Besides the TD against Rowe, he also beat Wiltz and Bobby McCain for another long bomb from Fitzpatrick. If he played like this in games consistently, he would be a Pro Bowler.
▪ Kalen Ballage has had trouble at times, as a receiver out of the backfield. That bears monitoring... Stanford rookie Trenton Irwin has put together two solid days, with TD catches each day... Pittsburgh undrafted rookie Dewayne Hendrix had a sack Wednesday; the Dolphins hope Hendrix or Georgia’s Jonathan Ledbetter -- the other undrafted rookie defensive end -- can emerge.... Charles Harris still can’t do team drills because of a wrist injury.
▪ Preston Williams continues to mix great catches with some missteps, including a false start on Tuesday and an easy drop of a TD pass on Wednesday. He’s got size (6-4) and decent speed but must be more consistent. But the talent and playmaking ability offer reason for hope.
▪ Brian Flores told tight end Mike Gesicki on Wednesday that ”one drop is one too many, one penalty is one too many. I’m hard on Mike because I see a lot of potential in him.”
Here’s my other Wednesday Dolphins piece with news on an undrafted rookie impressing Flores, and other things.