Game week arrived Monday.
After a week and a half of training camp practices, the Dolphins have their first game on the horizon with the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m excited,” safety Bobby McCain said. “It’s the first preseason game, first game coming up. Everybody should be excited. Football season is back. Not even just to be tested just to be out there on the field with your brothers and your teammates, it’s fun. I’m excited.”
For McCain and his teammates, the preseason games represent an opportunity to go up against different players for the first time in 2019.
“We’re just coming out every day and just getting better and just trying to execute what the coaches want,” defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. “It’s getting closer to the games, so guys are getting tired of (hitting) one another. It’s about that time. I just can’t wait to get to the season to start playing.”
With the first game three days away, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said the practice Monday had a little different feel.
“Today, Coach (Brian Flores) challenged us to play faster,” Fitzpatrick said. “He put us in shells, so he wanted to see us just move around and play fast, play quick, get in and out of the huddle, lining up fast and stuff like that. I think we did a pretty good job doing that. The execution could have been better, but I think it was a faster pace, faster energy, faster getting in and out of the huddle just to prepare us for Thursday.”
Making the calls
Chad O’Shea and Patrick Graham will be calling plays for the first time for the Dolphins in the preseason opener, though this won’t be their first time doing it even though they’re both first-time coordinators.
Both of them got the chance to do it during their time as assistant coaches with the New England Patriots.
Still, Head Coach Brian Flores is looking forward to seeing how O’Shea and Graham handle the play-calling duties on offense and defense, respectively.
“I think it’s exciting for both guys,” he said. “I remember being in that role just a year ago. There’s some excitement. There’s this feeling that you want to do everything right, make the perfect call on everything, but the game’s not played that way. It just doesn’t work out that way normally. I’m excited to see both guys perform on Thursday night. I have a lot of confidence in both — well really, all three coordinators and the entire coaching staff, or else they wouldn’t be in that role. Both are smart. Both are creative, and I’m excited to see both of them Thursday night.”
Shortly after the first depth chart of the 2019 season was released in conjunction with the upcoming preseason opener, and it showed Ryan Fitzpatrick on the first team followed by Josh Rosen and Jake Rudock, Flores was asked how he would assess the quarterback competition.
“I would say that both guys are doing well,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick and Rosen. “I like some of the things that Ryan did. I like some of the things that Josh did. I think this is a good quarterback competition. I’ll stick by what I said last week … This is a quarterback competition. That’s what I’ve said all along. This is going to be an ongoing process. The preseason games will tell us a lot, practice will tell us a lot, and we’ll just keep going. I think both guys are working. I think all three guys are working and the best man will win.”
Depth chart check
Though the depth chart is fluid and shouldn’t be considered a realistic predictor of the opening-day starting lineup, it always draws a lot of attention.
Among the interesting parts of that first Dolphins depth was the first-team running back being listed as Kenyan Drake OR Kalen Ballage; the first-team tight end being Mike Gesicki OR Nick O’Leary OR Durham Smythe; Jesse Davis being listed as the first-team right guard even though he’s spent the past week working at right tackle; first-round pick Christian Wilkins joining Davon Godchaux as the two first-team defensive tackles; and Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain being listed as the first-team safeties ahead of Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. McDonald.
Flores touched on the whole idea of the depth chart when he was asked about the safety position in particular.
“We’ll get the best 11 guys out there – trust me on that – one way or another,” Flores said. “You mentioned Minkah, T.J., it could be Akeem Spence, it could be – there are a few other guys there. If you practice well and you play well in the games, we’ll find a role for you, and the best 11 will play – offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. That’s kind of how we’re going to operate. That’s one grouping. I’ve got 12 of them. (laughter) We’ll get the right guys out there.”
The Dolphins had visitors again at practice Monday, this time members of Dade Christian School in Miami, and two teams from the Miami Xtreme Youth Football League — the North Miami Beach Sundevils and the South Miami Grey Ghosts.
As will be the case with every team invited this summer, the players and coaches received a tour of the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, listened to a character development talk, watched practice and met with current coaches and players on the field, and had lunch.
After practice, the Miami Xtreme teams scrimmage inside the practice bubble.