Tomorrow is a day off for the players. Of course, in the NFL, no day passes without some task to be fulfilled; but a physical rest is just what the doctor ordered – especially after the tone of Wednesday's practice.
Players were chirping.
Pads were popping.
Any Dolphins player or coach made available to the media has communicated the importance of urgency during this truncated ramp up to the regular season. That urgency was apparent with the tempo of Wednesday's practice.
The day started as any other; plenty of fundamental and technique training with a swift pace between periods. Players filter through a variety of drills to help hone their craft and shape a larger range of versatility for every player.
Emmanuel Ogbah is a new edge presence for the defensive staff to create multiple fronts and blitz packages to help apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Lining up all over the defensive line last year for the Chiefs, Ogbah says his versatility is being fully utilized on this Dolphins defense.
"(I'm doing) a lot of studying because I'm playing multiple roles in this defense and I'm just excited to be here, to be honest," Ogbah said.
Toughness and effort tenets on display
Tough. Smart. The game is important to them.
By now, you're aware of the type of player Brian Flores wants under his watch as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. One player Flores knew would embody the first of the aforementioned core tenets – toughness – is Elandon Roberts, who played under Flores as a position coach in New England.
Roberts is mean. He's vocal. The pre-draft scouting report from NFL.com's Lance Zierlein said Roberts is among the best leaders he'd ever been around. His toughness and team-first mentality were on display last year when he selflessly accepted a role as a fullback and contributed as an offensive player for the first time in his four-year career.
Back on the other side of the ball and in the middle of the Miami defense, Roberts brought the same 'over-my-dead-body' temperament to the third day of Dolphins practice.
The three biggest hits of the day – from this neutral observer's perspective – came courtesy of No. 44. Yesterday, Roberts talked about the physical nature of his game.
"You know, the physicality of practice is going to be up because that's a part of the game," Roberts said. "We're out there being physical; but at the same time, we're taking care of one another, having fun and within that fun, doing our job."
While Roberts led the charge for a demanding practice, the entire defense showcased the desired effort Flores and his staff love to see.
The play concludes and the whistle sounds, but that's not the end of the rep for this Miami defense. After the runner goes to the ground or is tagged off (a simulated tackle in practice), the members of the defense would sprint to the football.
This approach jives with Eric Rowe's comments on Tuesday about the defense charting takeaways on a cumulative a leaderboard. Rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene talked about the point board on Wednesday.
"It's a very good way to inspire all of us just to get better and to push ourselves in practice, especially the point system – awards that come out of it," Igbinoghene said. "It just pushes all of us and makes it a competition, and we all love competition here. It just makes us better. To pit whatever it is – picks, pass breakups, running to the ball, stuff like that – I feel like it just makes all of us do what we need to do in practice."
Competition is king
The rookie corner referenced the level of competition this Dolphins team endures every day – iron sharpening iron. For Igbinoghene, he knows all about premier talent and elevated levels of competition. During his time at Auburn, the wide receiver convert faced some of the country's best collegiate receivers and players that would go on to become first-round draft picks.
Now with the Dolphins, Igbinoghene credits facing the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Justin Jefferson in college – as well as DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and this Dolphins receiving corps in practice every day – for his acceleration in the learning process of a new position (Igbinoghene was a receiver until his junior year at Auburn).
"I really feel like that's how I learned – going against receivers like that," Igbinoghene said. "Getting a feel of how receivers like that – Preston and DeVante and Jakeem (Grant) and all of those guys – they're highly-touted receivers as well and so me being used to going against receivers every single week in the SEC. It's still something I'm still working because it's the game – the speed of the game is different. Just offenses are smarter and stuff like that, and so it's just something I've got to get used to, and I'm doing that every single day."
One of the most productive Dolphins receivers down the stretch last season, as well as in the early going in camp in terms of catching passes in the team periods, Isaiah Ford knows there are no shortcuts to success. Post-practice, the South Florida media asked Ford about his evergreen presence getting extra work on the JUGS machine or with the quarterbacks.
"I think that's something that was kind of instilled in me when I was younger, just growing up and watching my parents work extremely hard, working multiple jobs – my mom and my father," Ford said. "I think it started at a young age and just kind of carried throughout my entire playing career, whatever sport that was. If you want success, you're going to have to put in work and put in extra work at times, too."
Ford also talked about what he's seen from the first-round rookie cornerback in Igbinoghene.
"(Igbinoghene's) going out there and he's competing," For said. "You can tell he's a really competitive guy. If he gets beat, he's going to come back and try the next play. He's not going to get down on himself or anything, which at that position, you have to have confidence in yourself. I think that the more reps he gets, he'll continue to get better."
Some of the best battles in camp so far have come from the receiver vs. defensive back matchups. Ford says competition is the driving force in Josh Grizzard's wide receivers room.
"Our room has a ton of competitiveness, a ton of talent, and it's just my job to go in each day and continue to work to get a little better each day and kind of just do whatever I can to be an outlet," Ford said. "Whether it's the younger guys bouncing ideas or things that I'm seeing that they may not be seeing or everything, just to make our group complete as a whole."
The main event matchup
On the receiving end of Roberts' big plays was running back Matt Breida. To no fault of his own, he ran into a buzz saw early on in the team period.
But the new Dolphins running back wouldn't go quietly into the night. Breida showed off his game-breaking speed on an outside run when he was able to beat the linebackers to the edge for a big gain.
Breida is the two-time reigning title holder of the fastest recorded time in the NFL. In 2019, Breida's top speed of 23.3 miles per hour on an 83-yard touchdown run against Cleveland was tops in the league, giving him a repeat title after he earned that distinction in 2018 with a 22.09 miles per hour jaunt on a 33-yard run against Tampa Bay.
Roberts is one of the NFL's soundest tacklers. He only missed two tackle attempts a year ago and has just 18 missed tackles over a four-year career. That's good for a 92 percent successful tackle rate.
Contested catches have been a theme at Dolphins camp through three days.
We start with Mike Gesicki. The do-it-all tight end flexed out for a matchup with new safety Clayton Fejedelem. With great coverage and a rush that was closing in, Ryan Fitzpatrick gave his man a chance to make a play on the ball and Gesicki paid it off. On a 9-route (a straight line towards the goal line), Gesicki used his size and leaping advantage to high-point the football and reel it in for a 30-something-yard gain.
DeVante Parker has made a career out of pulling down 50-50 balls. He was at it again on Monday and Tuesday; but on Wednesday, it was Preston Williams' turn.
Williams ran a corner route (running downfield and then angling towards the corner of the end zone). Igbinoghene had tight coverage but Williams was able to come down with the football for a huge gain – at least 40 yards.
Jordan Howard springs a big run just about every day and Wednesday was no exception. Once again, the new Dolphins back showed patience at the line and gave Austin Jackson and Ereck Flowers an extra fraction of a second to clear a big lane off the left side and Howard hit it with authority. He went untouched into second level of the defense.
Christian Wilkins created a near-turnover when he blew through the line and got his hands on a football. Wilkins won with quickness and tipped the ball straight up, but the defense couldn't squeeze the interception.
Attendance and injuries
Vince Biegel was placed on injured reserve. Sam Eguavoen has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Malcolm Perry stands out when it comes to agility drills. The Navy coaching staff talked about his exceptional movement ability and unrivaled instincts when they joined the Drive Time podcast two months ago, and those traits were on display Wednesday with the Dolphins rookie.
The Miami backs feature impressive athleticism. Going through individual drills catching intentionally poorly located passes from the coaches, Patrick Laird, Breida and Myles Gaskin were showing off their leaping and contortionist abilities.
Fullback Chandler Cox is everywhere. And no matter where he is, he's always looking to punch somebody in the mouth.
Robert Hunt had a day. He was moving people off the football and scored a pass-blocking win on Ogbah in a one-on-one situation during the team period.
Curtis Weaver had a would-be sack in the team period. Weaver's crafty arsenal of rush moves set the record for all-time career sacks in the Mountain West Conference and he used a swipe to free himself from a block to get home on the quarterback.
Jesse Davis had a tall order when he had to seal the edge on the lengthy, consistent run-defending Kyle Van Noy. Davis got outside, got the seal and created a big lane for Breida.
Nik Needham brought down Mack Hollins with an impressive open-field tackle. We haven't covered Needham much through three days, but that's because he's not seeing many targets – always a good thing for a cornerback.
Kavon Frazier closed down on a run play for a tackle for loss in the team period. He has an impressive combination of athleticism and size and uses it to make plays around the line of scrimmage.
The players are off Thursday, but we'll hear from the Dolphins offensive assistants at 11 A.M. tomorrow morning.