A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:
▪ Another day, another surprise cut by the Dolphins.
A day after dismissing one of their better young defensive linemen (Vince Taylor), the pass rush-deprived Dolphins released their best pass rusher in preseason, Nate Orchard, according to a source.
The Dolphins claimed former St. Thomas Aquinas High linebacker James Crawford off waivers from Green Bay. Undrafted out of Illinois, he appeared in 16 games as a rookie for the Packers last season and had nine tackles.
Miami has now added 13 players since Thursday - nearly one third of the 53-man roster. Most of those players were cut by other teams in recent days.
Orchard had four sacks in preseason and was positioned to start at defensive end opposite Charles Harris.
With the release of Tank Carradine and Orchard, the Dolphins have jettisoned two former second round picks and two summer projects who drew praise from coaches all summer.
Defensive line coach Marion Hobby praised Orchard at length on Tuesday morning.
“That’s kind of been the most surprising – ‘You will stick it in there. You are a little stronger. You’ve got some natural power to you,’” Hobby said he told Orchard. That was the biggest thing, just watching him on tape. You can see from day one that he can run, that he can do some good stuff. I think he’s been doing a good job of taking coaching and sometimes you have to keep him focused.”
Miami’s defensive ends are now Harris (three sacks in 27 NFL games), undrafted rookie Jonathan Ledbetter and former Giants player Avery Moss, who was claimed off waivers Sunday. Moss started two games for the Giants in 2017 and was on their practice squad last year.
Also, rookie first-round pick Christian Wilkins, a defensive tackle, can play defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
▪ Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea has found one area where the Dolphins are potentially better than others:
“I think that one of the things that’s exciting about this offense is that we do have a lot of guys that we want to get the ball to. I don’t know if all offenses can say that – that there’s a list of skill players that we have that we really want to try to get the ball in their hands, so that’s very exciting.”
O’Shea, debuting as a play-caller after 10 years as the Patriots receivers coach, has called plays only once before, when Bill Belichick entrusted him with those duties in a fourth preseason game.
O’Shea has sought input from three former offensive coordinators who work for the Dolphins (Jim Caldwell, George Godsey and Karl Dorrell) and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
▪ Feedback on the four undrafted rookie who made the 53-man roster:
Guard Shaq Calhoun: Offensive line coach Dave DeGugliemo said: “He’s doing a good job... He has plenty of deficiencies, plenty of things to work on and we just have to keep working on them.”
Receiver Preston Williams: Receivers coach Karl Dorrell said: “We think he has been a bright spot. As he learned our system, had a great preseason camp and you know you saw the first game he played really well. Even though he didn’t have any catches against Jacksonville, he was going against their best people and he was still getting open, so that was exciting to see. So, I think he has tremendous potential to blossom into a really good player for us so we are excited about that.”
Defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter: Defensive line coach Marion Hobby said: “He’s kind of what you’re looking for. He showed that he can play some at end. He showed that he can go inside and do some things. He can rush in there. He’s smart, he’s tough, aggressive. Knock on wood, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him just dead tired. I think he came in in great shape. His work habits kind of caught everybody’s eye and his versatility. He has a good chance to be a good football player.”
Running back Patrick Laird: Running backs coach Eric Studesville said: “He ran the ball tougher than I probably thought he was going to coming out of college. He is incredibly intelligent. He works hard at this. He has picked up our system. He is a fun kid to coach – a very bubbly personality, very confident kid. I think he has got a long way to go in terms of understanding his complete skillset, but I think he is a guy that will be a really good player in this league in time. He proved that over the course of the spring and got better and better.”
▪ The Dolphins like what they’ve seen in rookie fullback Chandler Cox.
“The one thing that we have seen from Chandler so far this fall is that he is aggressive in attacking and he hasn’t turned anything down yet [as far as contact],” Studesville said. “We are asking him to do some different things from the fullback spot that he did at Auburn, but he is embracing that. The one thing that if they don’t bite when they’re pups, they are not going to bite – and he will at least go attack guys and be physical and that is a bonus for him and for us.”
▪ Rookie linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel is the only Dolphins player who began the week unable to practice because of injury.
But before he was injured, the rookie showed “toughness, versatility,” linebackers coach Rob Leonard said. “He’s football savvy. He knows how to not be blocked. He knows how to play on the edge and play to his skillset. That was impressive early on and I’m pretty excited to get him back.”
▪ Quick stuff: Hobby said Wilkins “is right on track” and he’s made a conscience effort to play with lower pads, and play more physical….Of the decision to replace long snapper John Denney with Taybor Pepper, special teams coach Danny Crossman said: “(It was) a good year to do it (because) there are some good young players out there.”
Here’s my Tuesday Dolphins piece with a lot more notes, including this staff deciding this week to reverse a decision by former coach Adam Gase.