We are now closer to the end of training camp than we are the start of it. Day 1 was three weeks ago and three weeks from now the Dolphins will begin preparations for the New England Patriots and Week 1 of the NFL season.
Today's practice focused heavily on situational football, particularly two-minute periods. The offense had a long way to go, without a lot of time to execute, and the defense presented one of its hallmark traits – the ability to close games. We'll cover that and all the events from Day 13 in another installment of the 2022 training camp notebook.
To find the press conferences of Mike McDaniel, Chase Edmonds, Liam Eichenberg, Trent Sherfield and more check out the team YouTube channel. For more analysis on today's practice, download the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield – available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Here are the takeaways from the Day 12 of training camp 2022:
1. Defense closes it out
The Miami defense has established a reputation over the last two years. They take the ball away, put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, limit third-down conversions and close out games. The latter aspect of that equation was on display Tuesday at the Baptist Health Training Complex.
The offense faced multiple situations that game-theory analysts would call low percentage. On one such period, the offense started at their own 35-yard-line with 19 seconds left. Both Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater brought the team within range for field goal tries but Jason Sanders barely missed both attempts from 60-plus yards.
The other two situations were also won by the defense.
Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, Elijah Hamilton, Quincy Wilson and Nik Needham all secured interceptions within these periods. Needham had his sights on another, but dropped the pass, which prompted the fourth-year pro to stay late on the JUGS machine.
"When you practice two-minute (drills) in practice as opposed to games, there are certain balls and certain tight windows that a quarterback might not throw in a game, but you want to get that feel, you want to see what you can get away with," running back Chase Edmond said. "I'm not going to give them all the credit this week. (laughter) But they did a great job of closing it out, for sure."
Noah Igbinoghene had the only interception outside of those two-minute drills, a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
2. Offense scores early
Before the takeaways – and on a warm day with no cloud coverage in sight – it was raining touchdowns. Mike Gesicki found the end zone twice, including a fastball that the tight end high-pointed and secured from Tagovailoa.
It was one of a handful of impressive throws from Tagovailoa. A pump fake cleared a defender in the second window to free River Cracraft for a big gain. Later, he dropped one in the bucket to Cedrick Wilson Jr. up the sideline for at least 20 yards, then followed that with a 25-yard laser to Tyreek Hill between two defenders.
The biggest touchdown maker of all is the subject of our next topic.
3. Sherfield and Sanu
"The defense got the best of us today," wide receiver Trent Sherfield said. "They came out and executed their plays well and we had some trouble executing our plays. It's iron sharpens iron. Tomorrow we'll come out and try to get them again. It's very important that some days the defense wins and there are days where the offense wins. It's a constant battle. That way when we get out there on Sundays we can feed off each other."
Donning the orange jersey, Sherfield found the end zone three times in the opening red zone period and again in the final portion of practice.
Catching the football is obviously a critical skill for a wide receiver, but Sherfield and fellow veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. know how to make up ground in the margins. Both have contributed considerably on special teams in their careers and have lengthy highlight reels consisting solely of downfield blocks.
Two times today, the Miami offense won the edge for big gains. On both plays it was Sanu or Sherfield springing the big play with a crucial block.
4. Individuals drills carrying over into team period
Coming out here I'm going against some of the best defensive linemen in football OL Liam Eichenberg on facing the Dolphins front each day in practice
The second-year offensive lineman detailed for us the benefits of seeing the Dolphins front every day in practice. Still, nobody gasses up the Miami pass rush like Defensive Line Coach Austin Clark. At one point, he celebrated a beautifully executed pass rush drill by Emmanuel Ogbah in the same way you or I might enjoy a 75-yard Tyreek Hill touchdown reception.
Coach Clark showed the same exuberance when the defensive line worked on getting their hands up at the line of scrimmage – drills that helped produce a league-leading 91 passes defensed a season ago (12 belonging to Ogbah, more than any other defensive lineman). He was particularly pleased with Christian Wilkins for rejecting a handful of these passes.
So, when Wilkins elevated to bat down the first pass of the team period, we can only imagine that Coach Clark was elated.
Check out photos from training camp practice on Aug. 16.
5. Play like you practice
Earlier this week, Head Coach Mike McDaniel touched on his nerves, or lack thereof, for his first NFL game as a head coach.
"If you put yourself in the right mindset each and every day at practice," he said, "practice should be like a game in theory."
Tuesday, the aforementioned Eichenberg offered his thoughts on that very idea:
"I come out here every day looking to improve," Eichenberg said. "Every single day it's like you're playing a game. I look at it from that standpoint and I just try to improve and take what I'm doing in individual to team."