Two days after the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, Dolphins teammates bemoaned his departure Wednesday, and Miami experimented with an ace special teams player and a developmental prospect at the safety position that Fitzpatrick played on Sunday.
With Reshad Jones still unable to practice because of an ankle injury, first team snaps opposite Bobby McCain were shared on Wednesday between Steven Parker - a former Oklahoma player who spent last year on the Rams practice squad - and Walt Aikens, Miami’s special teams captain.
Asked if Jones will be the starter opposite McCain when Jones is healthy, coach Brian Flores said: “Reshad has played a lot of football over the course of his career. He’s dealing with a couple things. When he gets back, we expect him out there along with Walt and Parker. It’s a good group. We’re happy with that group.”
Jones missed the Patriots game and Flores declined to say whether he would be ready for Sunday’s game in Dallas.
“He’s closing in, so I expect to see him soon,” Flores said.
To fill Fitzpatrick’s roster spot, Miami added a fifth safety on Thursday, signing Doug Middleton, an undrafted third-year player from Appalachian State who has appeared in 11 games for the Jets over two seasons and started four last season.
The trade of Fitzpatrick means Jomal Wiltz could end up taking most of the slot cornerback snaps.
Meanwhile, Dolphins players - aware Fitzpatrick had requested a trade - reacted with a mix of emotion over Miami trading him to Pittsburgh.
“It sucks, it sucks,” McCain said. “Minkah’s a friend of mine, a brother of ours. It’s football. It’s the business.”
“It’s tough,” Aikens said.
Left tackle Jesse Davis said of another veteran being traded: “I feel like it’s kind of the norm now. It’s not any of my concerns.”
He said Flores gave “no lift up speeches or anything like that. I don’t think anybody needs it because this is our job. He tells us how it is and let’s get better today. I think we did that today.”
During a team meeting Wednesday, Flores announced the trade and wished Fitzpatrick well but did not explain why the move was made.
Cornerback Xavien Howard said the Fitzpatrick trade “was frustrating at first but we’ve got to move on.Great guy. I wish the best for him. Wherever he is at he’s going to play good.”
Howard, incidentally, declined to discuss his longterm outlook for the franchise, but two sources with direct knowledge said he hasn’t asked for a trade and intends to stick it out. He remains appreciative of Miami’s five-year, $75 million contract extension that he signed in May.
“It’s a business,” he said. “Teams change each year. We’re working on improvement each year.”
He said the amusing GIF he tweeted after the Fitzpatrick trade - featuring actor Will Smith looking around an empty room - was meant as good humor. “I thought it was funny; got to get a laugh out of it,” he said.
Howard, incidentally, said he would love to be able to shadow Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper in Sunday’s game but isn’t sure if the staff will have him do that.
“I consider myself one of the top cornerbacks; I want to go against the best receiver on the team,” he said.
The NFL wire listed the two mid-round picks that Miami received in the Fitzpatrick trade as conditional, even though the picks definitely will be conveyed. Here’s why:
The Dolphins will receive the best of the fifth-rounder that the Steelers own in 2020 and the best of the sixth rounder that the Steelers own in 2021.
The Steelers own Jacksonville’s and their own 2020 fifth-rounder, and possess their own and Tampa’s sixth-rounder in 2021.
Miami also gets Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2020 draft, while Pittsburgh gets a fourth-rounder in 2020 and a seventh-rounder in 2021,
▪ Besides Jones’ absence from practice, receiver Albert Wilson (hip/calf)also remained sidelined.
▪ Flores suggested he is not going to give up on Kalen Ballage because of his low per carry average (0.6; nine carries, five yards), but said he told Ballage and Kenyan Drake that he will ride the hot hand in games.
“Kalen had a really good camp,” Flores said. “I like Kalen a lot. I like Drake a lot. We’re going to try to get both guys in the game and if we get a hot hand, we’ll stay with that.”
▪ Flores said Danny Isidora will remain the starting right guard, even though Evan Boehm replaced him for 10 plays against New England. Boehm had “practiced well, so we wanted to give him an opportunity to play a little bit in a game,” Flores said.
Here are details on the former president of the NFL players union calling Miami’s dismantling “morally reprehensible.”