Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator talks about competition for jobs
Dolphins coach Brian Flores, pushed for clarification about the status of veterans Kiko Alonso and Dwayne Allen, was non-committal on Sunday about two accomplished veterans who have battled injuries this summer.
Alonso hadn’t participated in practice for more than three weeks with an injury that Flores declined to disclose. But he returned Sunday, at least on a limited basis.
If he is on the team, his playing time could be reduced because of the emergence of Sam Eguavoen - who was starting in nickel packages even when Alonso and Raekwon McMillan were healthy - and the development of Jerome Baker.
Asked if Alonso is still a fit for a role on this team, Flores said: “Guys who make plays are a fit, period. He’s a guy who’s made a lot of plays in this league. Is he a fit? You have to be healthy to be a fit. I have a lot of respect for Kiko. He’s been in every meeting. Once we get him out there, we’ll get a clearer picture..”
A team source has stopped short of saying Alonso definitely will be on the team. The Dolphins would have substantial salary cap and cash savings if they can trade him. If they cannot find a taker in a trade, they would save $4 million in cash by cutting him but would have no cap savings until 2020.
But it also wouldn’t be surprising if Miami keeps Alonso, who remains highly productive; he had 125 tackles, three forced fumbles and three interceptions last season.
Asked about Alonso and others who have missed time with injuries this month, Flores said: “There’s always a sense of urgency to get guys on the field, get them looked at…. Hopefully we see them sooner than later because we do need to get them evaluated. We are getting down to the time where we have to make moves on the roster. Their experience, things they’ve done in the past, plays into that as well. We’ve got some good players there. Hopefully we’ll get them out there and get a look at it.”
Dolphins linebackers have missed substantial time with injuries this month. Chase Allen, McMillan and Andrew Van Ginkel have all been out, and that remained the case Sunday. Linebacker Quinten Poling also missed practice.
As for Dwayne Allen, many presumed he would be the front-runner to start at tight end when the Dolphins signed him in March after he spent the past two years with New England. But he missed most of the OTA practices and start of camp with a knee issue and has played a combined 14 snaps in his two preseason games. He missed practice Sunday for undisclosed reasons.
Asked if Allen is on the team or still competing to make the team, Flores said: “I love Dwyane, I do. But Dwayne knows I’m all about competition. He’s worked really hard to get back. He’s played well in spurts, had a couple tough plays the other night. It’s a good room [of tight ends]. No assumptions. We have to be productive. We have to keep the most productive players.”
Five veteran tight ends are competing for three or four jobs - Nick O’Leary, Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Allen and Clive Walford. It would be shocking if O’Leary and Gesicki aren’t on the team. Rookie Chris Myarick also is competing. Walford also missed practice Sunday.
▪ Besides the four linebackers and two tight ends, others missing practice Sunday included running back Kenyan Drake (foot), safety TJ McDonald (missed the past week), defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and safety Bobby McCain, who sustained a shoulder injury Thursday against Jacksonville.
Receivers DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson and safety Walt Aikens all returned to practice.
THIS AND THAT
Flores said the Dolphins will move ahead with the offensive line starters they’ve used throughout camp - Laremy Tunsil and Jesse Davis at tackle, Daniel Kilgore at center and rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun at guard.
“They are young players; they saw some different looks from Jacksonville, saw different looks from Tampa,” Flores said of Deiter and Calhoun. “Every time they step on the field it’s good for young players. Looking forward to seeing them this week. If they focus on fundamentals and technique, they will be OK.”
Flores said Davis’ move to tackle “has gone well” though he appeared to struggle with Jacksonville’s Josh Allen on Thursday.
▪ Flores, asked his thoughts about Eric Rowe and the cornerback position beyond Xavien Howard: “I thought Eric Rowe played well. There were some things we didn’t like. I think he’s had a productive camp. I thought Jomal Wiltz has played well. X [Howard] has played well. Torry McTyer made a few plays as well.”
▪ Flores, on the thinking behind Grant’s four-year, $24 million contract extension: “Jakeem has value as kick returner, punt returner and ability to make big plays in those areas is very important. As a receiver, he can be dynamic. He’s elusive, strong for a little guy. Football is very important to him. Congratulations to him. It’s well deserved. We’re happy to have him.”
▪ Flores said “this will be a big week” for Nate Orchard, who has four sacks in preseason, but didn’t specify why. “He’s been productive in preseason games, out there every day. Gotten better in lot of areas, especially in the run game. still has a long way to go. We’ll see.”
Here’s my exclusive on what the Dolphins told Reshad Jones about his status.