Barry Jackson

What the Dolphins got with their 4 newest players and where position battles stand

Dolphins coach Flores on first day of training camp, “Nothing more important than practice”

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores says on the first day of training camp, "Nothing more important than practice", July 25, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores says on the first day of training camp, "Nothing more important than practice", July 25, 2019.

We had all the Dolphins lineup news and information about Albert Wilson’s return in this piece earlier today.

Some other Dolphins notes and nuggets after Day 1 of training camp:

Not surprisingly, none of the four players added in the past week got first-team work or even much, if any, second-team work.

But here’s what to know about the newest quartet of Dolphins and where things stand with backup spots at their positions:

▪ Offensive tackle Will Holden: Signed on Sunday, the 2017 fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt will compete with Zach Sterup, among others, for a third and potentially fourth tackle job behind Laremy Tunsil and Jordan Mills.

The sense here is the Dolphins would be comfortable with Mills starting at right tackle (presuming he doesn’t implode in preseason) and leaving Jesse Davis at right guard instead of moving him to tackle. That’s the way Miami lined up Thursday.

And that would leave Sterup, Holden, former AAF player Jaryd Jones-Smith and rookies Isaiah Prince and Aaron Monteiro battling for one or two backup tackle jobs. It would be surprising if the Dolphins release Prince after drafting him in the sixth round out of Ohio State in April.

Jones-Smith and Sterup got second team tackle work on Thursday.

But Holden has the most NFL starting experience of the five; he started five games for Arizona in 2017 but initially lasted only a year there. The Cardinals waived him on Labor Day weekend in 2018, and he spent several weeks on the Colts and Saints practice squads before being released by both teams.

With its line depleted by injury, Arizona re-signed him on Nov. 29 last season, and he started two games. But the Cardinals released him July 20, and Miami signed him the next day.

During those four games (and two starts) with Arizona last season, Holden allowed two sacks of Josh Rosen and six hurries. He permitted two sacks and seven hurries in 197 pass blocking opportunities in 2017.

So four sacks allowed in seven NFL starts? That’s not encouraging, but the Dolphins believe he’s worth a look-see.

Here was NFL.com’s evaluation of Holden entering the 2017 draft:

“Three-year starter with experience at both tackle positions, Holden’s lack of speed to the edge ... makes a career at the left tackle spot unlikely. He has good power as a drive blocker and should be a natural fit on the right side. Offensive line coaches will fret over his short arms, but he’s a tough guy.”

▪ Cornerback Tyler Patmon: The 5-10 veteran has appeared in 49 NFL games and started four — including two for the Jaguars last season — over a five-year career.

In 2017, he allowed all three passes thrown against him to be caught, for 19 yards, in a backup role with the Jaguars. Last season, he permitted 13 of 18 passes to be caught for 131 yards.

So the recent body of work hasn’t been great. But his experience gives him a chance to earn a fifth cornerback job as a backup slot behind Minkah Fitzpatrick. His special teams work will be just as important as his coverage skills in camp.

▪ Cornerback David Rivers: The undrafted player out from Youngstown State, who appeared in three games for Tampa Bay over the past two seasons with no tangible stats, joins a crowded competition for a backup boundary job.

Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said about the Hialeah American High product entering the 2017 draft: “Rivers’ length is a plus and he’s a pretty smooth athlete, but his lack of ball production and physicality could be a turn-off to some teams.”

At 6-2, he has the size the Dolphins like on the boundary. But he got no defensive snaps with Tampa Bay last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

And he’s an underdog in this race. Xavien Howard, Fitzpatrick and (very likely) Eric Rowe will be three of the corners on the 53-man roster.

Rivers and Patmon are competing with Jomal Wiltz, Jalen Davis, Cornell Armstrong, Torry McTyer, Nik Needham and Montre Hartage for two other jobs, with Wiltz appearing the slight leader in that race entering Thursday.

Cordrea Tankersley continues to recover from a serious knee injury and might not be ready for the start of the season.

Bobby McCain, who will be on the team, has moved to safety, though the Dolphins still list him as a cornerback. And Fitzpatrick - a cornerback/safety working primarily in the slot corner role for now - obviously will be on the team as well.

▪ Receiver Saeed Blacknall: He has size (6-3), pretty good speed and athleticism but the production was somewhat lacking at Penn State, with 50 receptions in four seasons, including 48 games but just 15 starts.

On the plus side, he averaged 19.7 yards on those receptions, with seven touchdowns — including a 70-yard TD reception against Wisconsin in the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game.

Signed as an undrafted free agent 14 months ago, Blacknall had a 45-yard touchdown in the Raiders’ fourth preseason game last year, was waived, signed to the practice squad, and then spent five days on the active roster last November before returning to Oakland’s practice squad. Oakland waived him last week and Miami signed him a day later.

He joins a crowded competition for a fifth and possible sixth receiver jobs (with Allen Hurns, Brice Butler, undrafted rookies Preston Williams and Trenton Irwin, plus AAF alum Reece Horn and Dolphins veteran Isaiah Ford). Hurns is a heavy favorite for the fifth job after agreeing to terms with Miami on Friday morning.

Williams had a nice catch Thursday, but another ball went off his hands. Butler had a couple of good catches and he would be on the team if I’m making the decision. Horn and Irwin both caught short touchdown passes from Rosen in red-zone drills.

Ford, who worked out with Kenny Stills at 6:30 in the morning this offseason, caught a TD pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in red-zone drills and said he has added six pounds of muscle in hopes of improving his strength.

A FEW OTHER OBSERVATIONS

▪ Terrill Hanks, the undrafted rookie who was highly productive at New Mexico State, forced a Jake Rudock hurry and incomplete pass with a strong pass rush. The Dolphins like what they’ve seen from Hanks, a Miami LaSalle High alum.

▪ Tight end Mike Gesicki had a nice one-handed catch over Bobby McCain in the end zone. Matching McCain against tall tight ends obviously isn’t the best matchup for Miami defensively. But another pass bounced off Gesicki’s hands Thursday.

▪ Nick O’Leary had a couple of nice catches, and the battle for the third and fourth roster spots at tight end — among O’Leary, Durham Smythe and Clive Walford — should be interesting.

▪ Jakeem Grant, Kenyan Drake and Irwin returned punts.

Here are a bunch of my Dolphins notes from Thursday.

Here’s what I’m hearing on the UM offense entering Friday’s start of practice.

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