Dolphins coach Flores is not fond of egos, ‘it’s a team sport’
If you exclude Rex Hadnot’s 3 1/2 years as a Dolphins starter, Miami hasn’t found a single long-term starting offensive lineman after the second round of the draft process this entire century. That’s pretty staggering.
Third-round pick Michael Deiter and undrafted rookie Shaq Calhoun are the latest hoping to change that. Both rookie guards remained with the first team for the fifth consecutive practice Tuesday and appear poised to start Miami’s preseason opener Thursday against Atlanta at Hard Rock Stadium.
The insertion of those two rookie guards into the lineup — moves made after Dave DeGuglielmo became offensive line coach — also has resulted in Jesse Davis moving from right guard to right tackle.
For the entire 21st century so far, the Dolphins have failed to find quality long-term starters after the second round of the draft — a list of disappointments that includes Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, John Jerry, Shawn Murphy, Shawn Draper, Brandon Winey, Tim Provost, Donald Thomas, Tony Pape, Anthony Alabi, Drew Mormino, Joe Toledo, Andrew Gardner, Jamil Douglas and Isaac Asiata, among others.
The Dolphins smartly signed Davis 20 months after he went undrafted and after Seattle and the Jets waived him.
Deiter represents the best hope to change that.
Asked about the feedback he has received from DeGuglielmo after eight practices with the starters, Deiter said: “That I need to get better. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, which is good. He’s right. I’m getting better for sure. The biggest thing is mastering the offense, getting as comfortable as I can mentally so I can come out here and cut it loose without thinking.
“That’s when I’ll be able to play my best. I’m doing all right, but there’s still so much more I need to get better at. I’m still just a rookie.”
How significant has that first-team work been the past week?
“It’s been huge,” said Deiter, whose run blocking is his strength after being part of a power running game at Wisconsin. “It’s either grow and get better or you’re not going to stay there. The guys around you who have all that experience, LT [left tackle Laremy Tunsil] and [center] Dan [Kilgore], if there’s anything I’m confused about, I go right to them and they get me right. Having those guys next to me helps a ton.”
As for Calhoun, he’s a “strong guy,” Davis said. “He’s explosive, stays low.”
Davis said this lineup featuring two guards requires more communication from the other linemen.
Deiter and Calhoun have been quizzing each other. “We’ll be walking down the hallway and I’ll throw a code word at him out of nowhere, just like eating dinner and I’ll be like, ‘What is it?’ ” Deiter said. “Got to think fast. It’s a joke almost, but you can think through stuff, and it’s helped a lot.”
Meanwhile, coach Brian Flores said a decision hasn’t been made on whether Davis will play tackle or guard this season. But it’s clear the Dolphins are investing a lot of time in the Davis right tackle experiment.
“I like the challenge,” Davis said. “I felt comfortable in that [tackle] role in 2017. I’m excited.”
Flores said Davis is “a guy we like, embodies a lot of things we’re looking for from an offensive lineman. He’s tough, physical, smart. These last two weeks have been good for him. We feel comfortable he can play both spots. He’ll be part of the [starting] five for sure.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Linebackers Raekwon McMillan missed practice, and Kiko Alonso didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills because of undisclosed injuries. Even before their injuries, Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen were the starting linebackers in the nickel package, roles they have retained all of camp, with Baker in line to play most every down this season.
Asked what kind of role Alonso can expect this season, Flores said: “Kiko has been a very productive player, a very good player. He has dealt with some minor injuries. He’s run with a lot of different groups. He fits in a lot of those packages. His history says he can be productive. ... and he finds the ball.”
▪ Also missing practice besides McMillan: safety Reshad Jones, cornerback Eric Rowe, receiver Jakeem Grant, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, offensive tackle Zach Sterup, defensive end Jonathan Woodard and linebacker Chase Allen.
▪ With Rowe sidelined, undrafted UTEP rookie Nik Needham spent a second consecutive day as the starting boundary cornerback opposite Xavien Howard. Needham dropped a potential interception from Ryan Fitzpatrick.
▪ Tight end Mike Gesicki, who has had an uneven camp, was very good Tuesday, catching multiple passes, including at least one touchdown. Meanwhile, tight end Dwyane Allen, who has been limited because of a knee injury, received his first 11-on-11 work in camp. ... Rookie receiver Trenton Irwin caught a 12-yard TD pass from Josh Rosen. ... With Grant injured, Kenyan Drake and Isaiah Ford fielded kickoffs. ... Tank Carradine had a sack and Nate Orchard had a strong goal-line tackle.
▪ Jill Ellis, the departing coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team that won the World Cup last month, attended practice and spoke to all the players on the field afterward, with an emphasis on how preparation can result in great team success. “It was an honor,” said Ellis, identifying herself as an NFL and Dolphins fan.