Another phase of the offseason program began on Tuesday: a three-day minicamp. The biggest difference between minicamp and OTAS, which conclude next week, is that minicamp is mandatory and OTAs are optional. My opinions and insights, though, are always optional. Here's a 12-pack to consider.
• The edge on the first day of minicamp went to the defense, which is usually the case this time of year. Part of this, according to Coach Adam Gase, is because "we put in a lot of stuff" on offense for this practice. Ryan Tannehill suggested that the stifling heat might have had something to do it with it as well, saying, "It may have caught up to us a little bit." In fact, if the first year players were wondering what the weather is like in training camp, they received an accurate introduction in Tuesday's practice. After two hours, I was still waiting to feel the first wisp of wind.
• Meanwhile for Tannehill, minicamp was a continuation of what we have seen in OTAs and all of it is encouraging. His movement? His accuracy? His grasp for the offense? Each very impressive. He just looks so confident out there in everything he does. After sitting out all of last season, he even admitted Tuesday: "I appreciate being on the field maybe more than I have in the past." Next test: Doing it in all in full gear once training camp starts.
• Really like the decision to extend Bobby McCain's contract. As you may have read in my column on McCain last week, it is clear he has taken his game to yet another level and has become an important part of this team moving forward. The contract only validates that.
• The Dolphins are playing it smart with wide receiver DeVante Parker. No more bold predictions like "he's going to have a monster year." Instead it's one day at a time, one practice at a time. Injuries have clearly slowed Parker's career progress. The numbers have been OK, but not worthy of a No. 1 pick. The idea this season is to take the pressure off Parker, let him take small steps and allow him to progress under the radar of high expectations. This is Parker's fourth season. He doesn't need to be constantly reminded that it's time to produce big numbers. "Just keep stacking good days on top of each other," said wide receivers coach Ben Johnson.
• No. 1 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick will make big plays for this defense. And I'm talking about this year, probably right from the start. This is a highly unusual rookie, evident almost every day on the practice field. He just has a knack of finding himself in the right position. You can't necessarily teach that. The intriguing part, considering all of Fitzpatrick's skills, is to find out how he can best help this defense. Right now, he's learning strong safety, weak safety and nickel back. "Every day," he says, "I'm moving a little bit faster."
• Which of the other draft choices have stood out? Two, in particular, have caught my attention: tight end Mike Gesicki and running back Kalen Ballage. Gesicki made an absolutely gorgeous one-handed catch last week, sprinting down the sideline and clearly showing top-tier athleticism. Ballage has been consistently good and had a nice touchdown catch, to go with a nifty move, in Tuesday's practice.
• At this precise moment, the deepest area of the team may very well be defensive end where at least five players figure to get plenty of playing time. "Run them in, run them out, there isn't a drop-off," said former No. 1 pick Charles Harris.
The Dolphins take to the field for the first day of Minicamp.
• Perhaps the most impressive of those defensive ends early on has been veteran Robert Quinn, acquired from the Rams a few months ago. One of Quinn's biggest admirers is actually Tannehill. "It's incredible how he bends his body to turn the corner," Tannehill said. "His hips are so low to the ground, he's very impressive." Quinn on one side, Cam Wake on the other. Hmmm.
• Got to focus my binoculars at least once a practice on veteran guard Josh Sitton. At 6-3, 320-pounds with legs like tree trunks and that long hair and menacing beard, he is just an imposing figure who with the physicality he brings may just represent the piece this offensive line has been missing.
• Another player to keep a close eye on is third-year receiver Jakeem Grant. He is now doing everything with a lot more certainty, including catching passes, and makes a big play in just about every practice. We saw late last year how the Dolphins turned to Grant more in this offense. I believe we're going to see a continuation of that this season.
• Speaking of Grant, I can't remember the last time the Dolphins had this many players who can flat out fly. Between Grant, running back Kenyan Drake and wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills, the Dolphins could field an impressive relay team. I'll settle, though, for some long touchdowns.
• We'll never include veteran receiver Danny Amendola in that speed division, but it's his intensity and work ethic that, at least early on, has been his calling card. Intensity? We saw him angrily toss his helmet against a fence after getting stripped of the ball in OTAs. Work ethic? I watched him off to the side of the field recently, catching about 50 balls while lying on his back. Yes, lying on his back. You think that's easy to do? "He's a perfectionist," Gase said of Amendola. Can't have too many of those.