Barry Jackson

Dolphins coaches offer insight on decisions involving Wilkins, McCain and others

Dolphins defensive line coach impressed with Fins 1st round draft pick in camp

Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Marion Hobby is impressed with Fins 1st round draft pick, Christian Wilkins in camp, August 1, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Marion Hobby is impressed with Fins 1st round draft pick, Christian Wilkins in camp, August 1, 2019.

Dolphins defensive position coaches spoke to reporters for the first time during training camp Thursday, and several bits of insight were shared. Among them:

Why have the Dolphins have played rookie first-round defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on the first team (alongside Davon Godchaux) all seven days of training camp?

“He came in as a rookie in great shape in the early minicamp and OTAs,” defensive line coach Marion Hobby said. “He definitely pushed himself to get in that role. The work habits he puts in, he’s doing a great job.”

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said: “He definitely flashes out there but still has stuff to improve upon. But really happy with where he is right now, knowing that we’ve got a long road ahead of us. Really looking forward to [his growth].”

Safeties coach Tony Oden, on why Bobby McCain was moved to safety and how he’s doing: “He’s smart, he’s physical, has good athleticism. He’s doing well; he’s learning it. But who’s to say he will be there all the time?”

But is Oden concerned about the 5-11 McCain being matched up with 6-6 tight ends? “It’s a concern any time you have a tight end 6-6, whether him or anyone else. We have other things we can do. I’m not concerned about Bobby and his height, size. He plays big [and] fast. He knows how to position himself if he finds himself in a position like that.”

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's coaching style, "I'm transparent, fat and loud", August 1, 2019.

Oden said Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald “have done a good job handling” not getting all the first-team snaps. “No concern. They know how we rotate.” McCain has opened as the starting free safety every day of camp. Jones appears to have worked with the starters less than McDonald.

Hobby, on the particular skill that Charles Harris has that makes Miami believe he can become a contributor: “His natural quickness. He’s got good length on him. He’s got a good knack for finding the ball and getting after the quarterback.”

Linebackers coach Rob Leonard on why linebacker Jerome Baker was entrusted with play-calling on defense: “We wanted to see if he could communicate when we got here, and he’s done a good job with that. He’s starting to believe all the things we first saw when we got here in himself. His personality is starting to show as we’re building a team essentially. He’s in a key spot. He has all the physical tools, can cover, can blitz, can run, he’s physical.” Baker has had an excellent camp; he had another sack Thursday.

Leonard, on why former CFL linebacker Sam Eguavoen has worked with the first team in nickel packages: “Sam has done everything and more that we’ve asked him to do. We’re going to put the 11 best on the field, and right now Sam is playing at a high level, so he’s getting more reps. He’s been physical, communicated, using the fundamentals we talked about all spring.”

What the Miami Dolphins defensive coaches want to see at Saturday's scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium, August 1, 2019.

But Leonard insisted there’s no dissatisfaction with Raekwon McMillan, who left Thursday’s practice under his own power with an undisclosed injury and has been sharing first-team work with Eguavoen. McMillan “has done everything that’s been asked,” Leonard said. “In the spring, he missed some time and with that there’s going to be a learning curve.”

Hobby said defensive tackle Vincent Taylor “is learning a different technique. We’re asking him to change things he’s done in the past, with his stance. I like his natural strength. He’s better live than in a drill. You say ‘live’ and he shows up. Vincent has been his whole life a penetrator, hitting gaps. Now we’re asking him to play through offensive linemen and knock people back.”

The staff loves what it has seen from Tank Carradine, who continues to get the majority of first-team defensive end work opposite Harris. “Tank is a natural leader, not just a great player,” Hobby said. “He’s vocal in there, very conscientious about what he’s doing.”

Miami is intrigued by its rookie linebackers — Maryland’s Tre’ Watson and New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks. “Both those guys are here because they’re [productive] football players first, not height, weight, speed,” Leonard said.

Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said punter Matt Haack must continue to improve, but there won’t be another punter brought in as competition following the release of former FIU punter Stone Wilson on Wednesday. Jason Sanders is the only kicker in camp.

Oden, one of two position coaches retained by coach Brian Flores from Adam Gase’s Dolphins staff, was asked if players must be smarter in this system than under coordinators he has coached under: “I would say to a degree, yes, because you have to be able to play multiple positions.”

THIS AND THAT

With Eric Rowe missing team drills Thursday, undrafted UTEP rookie Nik Needham played as the first-team boundary corner, opposite Xavien Howard, and played well, including an interception of a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass that bounced off Preston Williams’ hands.

For the third consecutive day since the offensive line coaching change, rookie Michael Deiter lined up as the first-team left guard. And undrafted Mississippi State rookie Shaq Calhoun was the first-team right guard for the second day in a row. Zach Sterup got some first-team left tackle work to give Laremy Tunsil a breather.

Besides McMillan — who left very early Thursday — linebacker Kiko Alonso, offensive lineman Jordan Mills, running back Kalen Ballage, wide receiver Jakeem Grant and linebacker Chase Allen also missed practice with injuries. Grant has a mild hamstring strain. Tight end Dwyane Allen, working his way back from a lower body injury, was on an exercise bicycle.

McDonald knocked down a pass to tight end Mike Gesicki in the end zone and continues to have a good camp... Developmental player Durval Queiroz Neto, who will be the 11th player on the usual 10-man practice squad, was moved from nose tackle to offensive guard.

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