Monday's practice was a treat for the fans in attendance as the pads went on and the Dolphins exchanged offensive and defensive wins in an 11-on-11 heavy practice. Here are the highlights:
Practice 5 July 31, 2023
Rookie cornerback Cam Smith has made quite an impression early in camp. His pass breakup count climbs each day, as the second-round selection got his hands on two more passes Monday, nearly intercepting one.
That clip shows Smith's athleticism to run under the route and get his hands on the ball with full extension. Earlier, Smith was camped out in a zone, keyed the eyes of the quarterback and drove downhill on a pass to an intended target coming his way. Smith flowed downhill prior to the quarterback cutting it loose, putting himself in position for a pick. An unofficial count, Smith has at least five breakups during the team period of five practices this July.
Another newcomer, this of the veteran variety, is making quite a splash at Dolphins camp. Linebacker David Long Jr. is making his presence known in the middle of the defense by finding lanes to the running back and shutting down runs. Last season, defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler combined for 102 run stops (PFF). Long had 56 of his own from the LB position, and the triumvirate show out each day limiting the interior run game.
Long was on-point today getting into the backfield and celebrating his frequent run stuffs. Teammate Jerome Baker is taking notice.
We’re kind of super similar. He’s fast, I’m fast. He’s strong, I’m strong. We kind of just feed off each other. When I’m feeling sluggish, he’s up and ready. When he’s feeling sluggish, I got his back. It’s one of those things we kind of mesh real well. Dolphins LB Jerome Baker on new teammate David Long Jr.
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We've heard all offseason the value of continuity in the offense. A big part of getting the band back together for a second go-round, perfecting the timing. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in rhythm and on-time frequently Monday finding big plays both through air yards and setting runners up after the catch.
One of those run-after-catch recipients was wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. His balance and acceleration show up when he runs a route coming back to the quarterback. Ezukanma's ability to get to top speed quickly when starting from a stationary position stands out.
Tight end Elijah Higgins had one of his best days, including a 50-50 ball that he high-pointed over the coverage. Also demonstrated on that rep was Higgins' athleticism, as he pirouetted to snatch the ball and then hit the ground running for more yardage.
The pads coming on typically means one-on-one offensive line vs. defensive line drills. Watching intently and keeping a tally, offensive lineman Robert Hunt locked it down in that drill. Even still, it's not Hunt's favorite portion of practice.
"It's a lot harder for offensive linemen to win right there in that setting, o-line versus d-line," Hunt said. "But if you can win in that, you can win throughout the game and throughout the practice."