AC in the AM: Practice Matchups Worth Focusing On

Posted Jun 15, 2017

Five key matchups to take a look at.

They are the show within the show. Man against Man. Pride against Pride. It unfolds every day on the practice field, certainly more so in training camp when the pads are on and the hitting begins.

But, to some extent, we have seen it this week in minicamp as well. I’m talking about two players who bring it on every down, going face to face, over and over again, fighting so hard for an edge, searching for respect from one another.

I’m not referring to every matchup, just some special matchups where the skill level is exceptionally high and the level of competition is usually off the charts.

It is these matchups that often tell us so much about progress, matchups that are often worth the trip to training camp. But be sure to bring your high-powered binoculars. You want to check it out close-up.

Here are a few of those matchups that I’m most interested in.

• Wide receiver DeVante Parker against cornerback Xavien Howard: Youth against youth. Promise against promise. Parker has shown plenty of signs this offseason that he can be the receiver the Dolphins had hoped for when they selected him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Howard is coming off an injury-plagued season and is now healthy and confident. He is big for a cornerback just as Parker is big for a receiver. It figures to get pretty heated.

• Wide receiver Jarvis Landry against nickel back Bobby McCain: Quickness attacking quickness. These players are built relatively the same and share the same competitive spirit. McCain is trying to prove he deserves to be the team’s No. 1 nickel back. Landry is trying to prove he is the best slot receiver in the league. What better way to prepare McCain than by going up against Landry?

• Rookie defensive end Charles Harris against left tackle Laremy Tunsil: This is more of a sneak preview for training camp since Tunsil is missing minicamp with a minor injury. I’m also aware Tunsil will be going up against Cam Wake at times as well, and I’d certainly recommend a careful look at that, but the marquee matchup day in and day out could be the last two No. 1 picks going at it. “That thing will be a bloody matchup,” said offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. He wasn’t talking literally, but you get the idea.

• Safety Reshad Jones against tight end Julius Thomas: I’m not sure how often they will be matched against one another, but you know that Jones considers himself one of the best safeties in the league and Thomas looks at himself the same way among tight ends. This is a heavyweight matchup in many ways. They are both fiercely competitive and both had their 2016 seasons derailed by injuries. If Thomas can get the better of Jones, what safety can’t he get the better of?

Ndamukong Suh against, well, everybody: The matchup I really want to see on a regular basis is Suh against center Mike Pouncey. But Pouncey is taking things slowly this offseason, recovering from a hip injury, so Suh will be going up against the likes of Anthony Steen, Kraig Urbik, Ted Larsen, Jermon Bushrod and rookie Issac Asiata. Can there be a better indicator of progress, or how much work is still needed, then matching skills with man/mountain Suh? What makes Suh special is that he never takes a play off, not even in practice. That makes for some interesting and very intense one-on-one matchups.

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