In the opener against the Atlanta Falcons, the rookie offensive tackle played 30 snaps, which tied him for most among Dolphins offensive linemen.
The following weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he played 48 snaps, which was the most scrimmage snaps of any Dolphins player and 15 more than any other offensive lineman.
It was more of the same last Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboy when he played 52 snaps, again the most snaps from scrimmage of any player on the Dolphins roster.
The way the first-round pick from the University of Tennessee sees it, the more the better.
“That’s what I do; I’m here to play football,” James said. “That’s what I love to do, and I was able to get reps to get better.
“Getting to learn from my mistakes out there, getting a lot more reps on film live, just playing football, playing in these stadiums, playing against other opponents, it’s been fun.”
James has been lining up with the first-team offensive line from the time practices began in the spring, so the Dolphins coaches have been making sure he’s as ready as possible when the regular season opens Sept. 7 against the New England Patriots.
“We felt like he needed some work and needed some repetitions,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “I think, by and large, we’ve kind of accomplished that and we’re happy that he’s gotten the reps that he has. We’ve seen steady improvement over the three games.”
In addition to starting at right tackle the first three preseason games, James even got some snaps at left tackle against Dallas after
James also has lined up at left tackle at times during practice and Philbin said Tuesday that James would be an option at that spot in the event something happened to Albert.
For the time being, though, James is the man at right tackle. And the good news for the Dolphins is he keeps showing signs of improvement.
“I think he’s learning how to work,” Albert said. “I think every day he’s trying to get better. He’s doing a good job listening, listening with his eyes and his ears. I think he’s working hard.”
Albert, the prized free agent acquisition who came over in the spring after earning a Pro Bowl invitation last season while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, has served as a mentor for James.
Oftentimes, he can be seen chatting with James at practice.
“He’s the future for this offensive line,” Albert said. “He needs to learn how to be a leader, learn how to be a great player and he’s been doing a good job trying to be that.”
For his part, James says all the game repetitions, combined with all the practice snaps, have done nothing but make him a better player than he was when he first joined the Dolphins as the 19th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
“Oh, I feel (I’ve improved) tons since then, especially working with Coach (John) Benton and other guys with some of the techniques,” James said. “Learning all his new technique. First learning it, trying to do it, it was fuzzy at first; now I’ve sharpened it up and I’m trying to carry over to games. Just trying to get better.”
In terms of what he’s learned during his first NFL preseason, James said nothing really stood out, but did add: “You’ve just got to bring your A game every snap in the NFL.”
Given that starters often are kept out of the final preseason game, it’s safe to assume James won’t get as many snaps against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night as he did against Tampa Bay or Dallas, and the possibility does exist that he might not play at all.
In keeping with the way he’s been throughout camp, James sounded Tuesday like someone hoping to see some action in two nights.
“I love playing football,” James said. “I’m looking forward to this game coming up and the first game against the Patriots when they really start to count and on from there.”