Football Is Back In The Air At First OTA

Posted May 27, 2014

A total of 89 players are at first OTA practice, which comes on the heels of the three-day rookie minicamp last weekend.

The Miami Dolphins took another important step Tuesday in their preparation for the 2014 regular season.

The team held its first of 10 OTA sessions as the Dolphins began what is otherwise known as Phase Three of the offseason conditioning program.

While the Dolphins have been at work since April 21, the start of OTAs represents a higher level of work because seven-on-seven and team drills are now allowed.

“I know I was excited to start today just because I’m on a new team and learning new things in a new environment,” said Pro Bowl offensive tackle Branden Albert, who was signed as a free agent in March. “I had to get used to certain things at the beginning, how we do things around here. But it’s an adjustment. My head was spinning around a little bit, but the more I come out here, the more I start learning the ways around here, the more I can fit in.”

A total of 89 players were at practice, which came on the heels of the three-day rookie minicamp last weekend. Included in the group were the three players signed Monday after they took part in the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis — offensive linemen Michael Philipp and Samuel Longo, and defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds.

The only player on the 90-man roster missing from practice was running back Marcus Thigpen.

Head Coach Joe Philbin declared himself satisfied with what he saw from his team.

“Our players are to be commended,” Philbin said. “I think they’re in good physical condition. I thought our energy, our effort on the field was very good today.”

All players who ended last season on injured reserve were on hand, including wide receiver Brandon Gibson.

“We’re looking for progress on a daily basis with Brandon,” Philbin said. “He’s been very diligent in his preparation for the offseason. He spent a lot of time here. The training staff, the medical staff have done an excellent job with him. ... We’ll take it one day at a time. His dedication has been exceptional. He’s a bright, bright guy. He’s picking things up well. I think he’s off to a good start.”

The start of OTAs represented a chance for first-round pick Ja’Wuan James and the rest of the Dolphins rookies to get a small taste of going up against veteran players.

Like Albert, James said this was a day he had been looking forward to.

“We’ve been doing a lot of different drills out here with the vets previously, just not versus each other,” James explained. “Now we’re putting it all together going against the defense, so it definitely feels good. And I feel good out there.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for since football ended last year for me, to see what the NFL was like, to see the speed of the game, the strength of the game, everything like that. It was a great first day. A lot of things we can work on and a lot of things I’m going to work on for tomorrow.”

Among the plays in team drills or seven-on-seven situations that stood out was a nice catch by tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi across the middle when he reached high to snatch the ball. Then in the final period, wide receiver Armon Binns — another player returning from a season-ending injury — came down with a perfectly deep pass from quarterback Matt Moore down the left sideline.

Also noteworthy was the alignment at linebacker, where Koa Misi was playing in the middle and Dannell Ellerbe was lined up outside, a role reversal from last season.

“We’re kind of looking at it,” Philbin said. “We went through a thorough evaluation in the offseason, watched a lot of tape. This is a lineup for today that we wanted to take a look at. It’s not written in stone. We’ll have to see how everybody, the pieces, fit together. But we certainly feel like he’s a guy that’s capable and so we want to provide that opportunity.”

After the practice ended, a group of defensive backs stayed on the field to do some work. Not far from them, Mike Wallace caught balls from the Jugs machine and was the last player to leave the field.

All in all, it was a productive day for Dolphins players and coaches.

“Got to get all the cobwebs out,” said defensive end Olivier Vernon. “It’s been a while since we’ve been out here in the heat. It’s a great start for today.”
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