Two days of practice are in the books at the breathtaking new Baptist Health Training Complex. We're going to look at five topics and takeaways from the past two days as the Dolphins prepare for the 2021 season. Here, you can find analysis as well as comments from coaches and players as the hard work is under way.
For further analysis, download the Drive Time podcast with Travis Wingfield – available daily wherever you get your podcasts.
1. Reps, Reps, and More Reps
The Dolphins spend plenty of time drilling the fundamentals in individual drills before converting those lessons into the team periods. Those 11-on-11 periods are happening at a rapid pace this season as both practice fields at the new complex are utilized simultaneously. Head Coach Brian Flores detailed the thinking behind the decision to ramp up the pace.
"We can't give everyone the same amount of reps and opportunities to showcase what they can do, but we felt like this format would allow us to see everyone," Flores said. "Again, we just end up watching a lot of film and the onus goes on us as coaches to stay here a little bit and get the film watched. I think we'll be able to mix and match a little bit so a group you saw yesterday, I'm sure we called it the ones against the ones but we can easily flip those and go twos against ones and see guys against different competition to really get a feel for who is doing what."
More work is a welcomed thing inside these walls. As coach famously said before, there's joy in hard work.
2. Welcome Back, Wilson
Two days, two long touchdowns for Albert Wilson – and possibly a third. The first two: passes launched downfield by Tua Tagovailoa. More on that in a moment while the third would require a simulation with live tackling to produce a result.
On the deep shots, Wilson got on top of the defense and hauled in what would've been 60-plus-yard touchdowns (one in tight coverage, one all alone). The questionable score was a swing route that left Tagovailoa's hand early in the play, putting Wilson all alone up the sideline. He finished the rep running all the way to paydirt, but the defenders might have had something to say about that with live tackling.
Wilson electrified fans at Hard Rock Stadium in his first year with the club before a hip injury cut that 2018 season short. At the time of the injury, Wilson led the NFL in yards-after-catch. He returned in 2019 and finished out that campaign with a similar impact in December before opting out in 2020. Wilson discussed where he's at both mentally and physically in his fourth year and third season with Miami.
"Night and day. I feel great right now, just my whole body including the hip," Wilson said. "I feel like there's nothing I can't do out there so it's exciting just going into the season truly healthy and just knowing you can do anything you want."
3. The Tua Touch
It's been raining long balls through two days at Dolphins camp. Jacoby Brissett hit Isaiah Ford down the middle for a tough, contested catch on Thursday, joining Tagovailoa in the aerial assault.
Tagovailoa added a third deep ball (the two aforementioned shots to Wilson) to running back Salvon Ahmed on a wheel route Thursday for a big-gainer and potential touchdown.
The Dolphins pushed the ball downfield with exciting returns so far. The touch on the throws creates the opportunity for receivers to adjust in-flight as they accelerate, throttle down and adjust to the position of the defense.
"I would say I am confident with my deep throws," Tagovailoa said. "Really, it's just getting everything down with the guys. Finding where guys are going to be, knowing how guys run certain routes, knowing their depth. Really that's what we are trying to find out right now within these first couple days and brush up on those things."
4. Rookies Provide Early Returns
The sixth pick of the 2021 NFL Draft caught a lot of footballs on Thursday, as both a receiver and as a returner. Two of those catches – one on offense, one in the kicking game – showcased Jaylen Waddle's strong hands and concentration as he slid to the turf and secured the football on both occasions. The rookie is absorbing the knowledge in Miami's receivers room.
"I think all of my receivers, I'm the youngest in there," Waddle said. "All the receivers help me but two that stand out are Mack Hollins and Albert Wilson. Mack has helped me. He's actually waiting on me to go get on the JUGS. He's helped me with keeping my body healthy and always quizzes me on what we got, installs and things like that. Albert helped me just on the field giving me points and tips."
Waddle made a number of plays on Thursday including catching the ball away from his frame and creating significant separation on a variety of routes – perhaps none more impressive than the cushion he created on a 15-yard comeback that Tagovailoa drilled between the 1 and 7 on his jersey from the far hash.
Fellow first-round pick, Jaelan Phillips, found the backfield on his pass rush a few times Thursday. Like Waddle, Phillips is leaning on the veterans for guidance.
"You're definitely always trying to perfect what you have in the arsenal; but obviously trying to learn new things," Phillips said. "I've been talking to the older guys a lot, trying to trail Emmanuel Ogbah and really just getting as much advice and just watching as much as I can because I know how good they are. I'm definitely trying to improve all aspects of my game."
Jevon Holland has been impossible to miss -- he's everywhere through two days. Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander preaches communication and relays that message with a fiery passion. Holland usually provides an animated reaction post-play and is constantly flashing hand signals to direct traffic.
Hunter Long is catching his fair share of passes. On one rep in particular, he attacked the leverage of the defender to create a couple yards of separation on a quick, five-yard pass from Brissett, showcasing some veteran-like nuance as a route runner.
Liam Eichenberg is showing his prowess as a quick study. He can be seen seeking tutelage from some of Miami's veteran linemen (Jesse Davis in particular) between periods and is already showing gradual improvement. Gerrid Doaks sprung a lengthy run in Tuesday's practice to round out the rookie class' early production.
5. Defensive Tackles Doing Their Thing
Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis all finished in the top 20 of Pro Football Focus' interior defensive line grades in the second half of the 2020 season. Then, Miami added the ever-consistent and ever-professional Adam Butler to the group. His impact, according to Sieler, is already a tangible one.
"Adam is a very veteran guy, a very smart guy," Sieler said. "Watches a lot of tape, knows what he's doing, knows what he's talking about; so it's a great addition to work with him and learn and feed off each other."
Thursday showed the position's strength and depth. Wilkins and Davis got into the backfield while Butler and Sieler did too. Wilkins' work ethic has been among the most commendable things. He was the last one to leave the practice field Wednesday after running extra sprints. Then on Thursday, he was first on the field.
The effort play of the day went to Wilkins too. After walking his man into the backfield, Wilkins disengaged to pursuit the quarterback. Brissett recognized this, threw the ball over Wilkins' head and the big defensive tackle turned and retraced the play at full speed.
For more analysis on Dolphins training camp, check out Drive Time with Travis Wingfield – your daily dose of Miami Dolphins football, available wherever you get your podcasts.