Dolphins linebacker Nate Orchard : “I can rush the passer. I just need an opportunity and I think it’s here with the Dolphins.”
Here’s the cold reality about where the Dolphins stand with their collection of defensive ends and edge rushers:
Of the six edge players on the Dolphins who were in NFL training camps last year, those six were released by NFL teams a combined eight times over the past nine months. Conversely, those six combined for only two sacks last season (one by Charles Harris and one by Jonathan Woodard).
So that’s eight releases, two sacks since Sept. 1. That’s less than ideal.
The latest newcomer to the roster: Nate Orchard, a former second-round pick of the Browns who had 18.5 sacks as senior at Utah but has five sacks in 38 NFL games. Orchard, signed by the Dolphins last week, has been cut by four teams — Cleveland, Buffalo, Kansas City and Seattle — since Sept. 1.
So why hasn’t it worked out for him?
“That’s a question I ask myself every day,” he said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “The places I’ve been have always come down to a numbers situation. You can’t let that deter from what you do.”
Of being cut four times in the past eight months, he said: “It’s the nature of the business. The NFL is a tough league. My confidence is still sky high. I got a great support system in my wife, kids and family. Don’t ever let anyone drag you down.”
What does he do well?
“I can rush the passer,” he said. “I just need an opportunity.”
The Dolphins have listed Orchard as a linebacker, though most of his NFL snaps have come at defensive end.
“He’s an athletic player; got some size and length,” coach Brian Flores said. “He did fairly decent in the workout [last Wednesday]. We’ll put him in positions to help our team. Maybe some linebacker, maybe some d-end.”
Third-year end/linebacker Charles Harris, the veteran edge player who has been with the Dolphin the longest, remains unable to participate in team drills because of a wrist injury that requires a heavy club on his hand.
With Harris out, the Dolphins have been taking a long look at Tyrone Holmes, a former Alliance of American Football standout who had one sack in 14 career games for Cleveland and was waived by the Chiefs Sept. 1.
Other ends and edge players on the roster: Tank Carradine (cut by Oakland Oct. 6 last year and out of the league since), Woodard, former AAF standout Jayrone Elliott (cut by the Saints Sept. 1) and several rookies, including linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.
One way the Dolphins can compensate for the modest talent at defensive end: By playing tackles Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux at end when Miami uses a 3-4 defense.
Another way to compensate: by tricking opposing offenses.
“They put guys in position here to be successful — coming from every angle, you don’t know who’s coming,” Orchard said. “[Defensive coordinator Patrick] Graham is doing a good job of disguising that.”
As a member of the Cleveland Browns, Orchard became one of the stars on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last August, in part because of his wife Maegen Webber’s football cookies; she was offered $1,000 for the recipe.
People in public have “approached me about the cookies,” Orchard said. “They haven’t approached me about me but they say we’ve seen your wife and we’ve heard about her cookies. I might have to bring the cookies to Miami.”
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan remains sidelined with what appears to be a minor leg injury; he was rehabbing after practice but will be back soon, Flores said. Flores said tight end Dwayne Allen remains sidelined with “a little something,” but declined to elaborate.
Also out: running back Kalen Ballage (was walking around without any clear limitation Tuesday), receiver Albert Wilson (still working back from last year’s hip injury), cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (October knee surgery) and linebacker Chase Allen (foot injury last season).
Safety Reshad Jones remains away from the team, practicing on his own, for reasons his agent has declined to explain.
Receiver Jakeem Grant, back from December’s lower leg injury, said he doesn’t have any pain but “stiffness getting warmed up.”
▪ Flores said he intends to use Minkah Fitzpatrick at cornerback, safety and linebacker.
▪ Grant said Flores has “always harped on we’re going to be the most conditioned team in the league.” Toward that end, the players run between drills during OTA practices.
“He got on me one time: ‘Jakeem, what are you doing? Are you walking?’ I’m like ‘no sir, no sir, I’m not walking.’ I also look back at him and make sure he’s not walking. That gives him a little chuckle.”
Whichever unit — offense or defense — loses a drill often is instructed to do pushups.
▪ Interceptions in Tuesday’s practice: cornerbacks Jomal Wiltz and Chris Lammons off Ryan Fitzpatrick and Northwestern rookie cornerback Montre Hartage off Josh Rosen.