With the NFL draft moved back to May in 2014, the Dolphins’ annual rookie minicamp is taking place a few weeks later usual. What hasn’t changed is what the three-day session is all about.
A total of 66 players, including all eight draft picks and the Dolphins’ 21 rookie free agent signings, were out at practice Friday on a typically hot and sunny late May afternoon looking to impress the Miami coaching staff and continue their indoctrination into NFL life.
For all rookies under contract, the process began a little less than two weeks ago after the conclusion of the draft with work in the offseason conditioning program.
“It’s a very exciting time,” General Manager Dennis Hickey said after practice. “With moving the draft back, it’s kind of changed our timetable in that our rookies have been able to be integrated with our veterans over the last two weeks and have actually had eight practices with us. It’s kind of altered rookie minicamp a little bit, but we feel like we got some really good work in today.
“We’ve been really happy with our draft picks and our signed free agents leading up to this. They’re working hard, they’re in the weight room, they’re hitting the practice field and getting integrated with our veterans into our system. It’s been a really positive the last couple of weeks.”
Along with the 29 new rookies under contract, the minicamp also featured former CFL offensive lineman
“This is an opportunity for them to showcase their skills for our coaching staff, for our scouting staff on our field, executing our offense,” said Hickey, who spoke in the absence of Head Coach Joe Philbin, who had to attend to a family situation. “It’s a great opportunity for us just to evaluate a lot more players.
“The first thing (for the tryout players) is taking what’s being taught by our coaches in the classroom and translating to the field, playing fast, making plays, being coachable out here. Those are the things, showing up and demonstrating a skill set that can translate to the next level. It’s a great opportunity for those guys. I know they worked really hard out here today and we look forward to the rest of this weekend with those guys.”
Offering hope for the tryout players is the fact the Dolphins signed two such players after their veteran minicamp last June: wide receiver Joe Hastings and defensive tackle Tracy Robertson.
Among the tryout players this weekend is Jon Wolf, who played running back, wide receiver and quarterback at Minnesota State Mankato. He attended a tryout last weekend as well, that one with the Minnesota Vikings, who used him as a wide receiver. The Dolphins used him at quarterback on Friday.
Another tryout player is linebacker Tosan Eyetsemitan from Penn University.
“I’m excited to be out here,” he said. “Nothing is guaranteed. I’m really appreciating getting a chance to meet all the guys and help any way I can.”
Ja’Wuan James, the Dolphins’ first-round pick from the University of Tennessee, said he took it upon himself to try to be a leader and help out the tryout players as much as he could.
But James also wanted to make sure he continued working on what he’s been taught by offensive line coach John Benton.
“Just working on the new technique we learned and trying to sharpen that up,” James said. “Coach Benton has taught us a lot of different techniques, changing up stances, changing the first step, things like that. So I wanted to show him that I could do that, and just work on it.”
The practice Friday gave media members their first opportunity to see James and the other Dolphins 2014 draft picks on the field, and second-round choice
On the first play of a seven-on-seven drill, the wide receiver from LSU made an impressive leaping catch to come down with a pass from quarterback
Landry said the minicamp was about continuing his football education, adding that his sole focus is what’s right in front instead of what could lie ahead in the fall when the regular season begins.
“Right now it’s just learning the system as best as I can and making plays, being out here and competing,” Landry said. “Right now I’m just focused on this camp. Every practice, every day just trying to get better with my teammates. When the times comes up for the depth chart, I’ll leave that up to the head coach and his staff to make that decision.”
For fifth-round pick
“The coaches believed in when I was drafted and I was very blessed to have that happen,” said the linebacker from Montana. “Now it’s upon me to go out there and take it on my shoulders and use the resources that have been given to me so I can go out there and the team can rely on me and do whatever I’m asked to do to the fullest of my potential.”