"His pride and joy is defense. You know the physicality of practice is going to be up because that's a part of the game."
That was Elandon Roberts talking about the Brian Flores and the physicality of Dolphins training camp last week.
Roberts is in his first year with Miami, but it's not his first time playing with Flores. For the former defensive coordinator -- and coach of many-a-defensive position rooms -- Flores' bread and butter is on that defensive side of the ball, as Roberts said.
That much was evident on Tuesday when a call went in favor of the defense, much to the chagrin of the offense. For the first time this August, NFL officials took the field in Davie for the beginning of their own acclimation period in anticipation of the 2020 season.
Myles Gaskin sprinted for the pylon in the front corner of the end zone on a two-point conversion play. The running back won the race tucking the ball inside the proverbial orange finish line and the offensive sideline erupted. That was until the official in charge of the decision ruled Gaskin out at the 1-yard-line. Flores, who happened to be grazing the sideline with the offense, shot a thumbs up to the referee in question with a wry smile stretching from ear-to-ear.
Put your hands in the air
In 2020, the Dolphins defense is taking on the vision of what Flores and Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer covet on that side of the ball:
Versatility, smart, tough players, length, and guys who prioritize football.
New defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah embodies the Dolphins core tenets.
"He's just been a pleasure to work with," Dolphins Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby said of Ogbah. "Just visiting with him early, just evaluating him off tape, asking other coaches about him, his work ethic, his smarts and all that, he's proven to be exactly what they said. He's very conscientious. He likes the game. He's got a good football IQ. He's smart."
Ogbah's 35.5-inch arms measure in the 94th percentile of NFL pass rushers. Those vine-line limbs played a major role in Tuesday's practice, and might've been a topic of discussion for the offensive linemen.
With roughly three sacks (difficult to credit sacks when the quarterbacks are wearing red), two more plays impacted by pressure, and three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, Ogbah was a game-wrecker in Tuesday's practice.
On one rep, after some lineup changes, the tackle going up against Ogbah returned to his o-line compadres on the sideline to recap the series, as is often the case. The group began simulating pass sets against rush moves with their hands as the point of emphasis. We can't be certain the exact details of the conversation, but it looked as though Ogbah's devastatingly heavy hands were atop the meeting's agenda.
Fellow free agent signing at defensive end, Shaq Lawson, is also privy of Ogbah's heavy hands.
Lawson and Ogbah work together on their hand placement in-between team periods. Tuesday, each time Ogbah made a play, Lawson was quick to follow suit.
With at least one sack, and potentially an additional hit on the quarterback, Lawson filled up the stat sheet opposite Ogbah. The former Buffalo Bill also had two passes batted down, drew a hold on a running play in red zone work, and destroyed a screen pass before it ever got started.
It was a pass-batting party on Tuesday, and though Lawson and Ogbah were the hosts, others got involved. Andrew Van Ginkel had a pair of his own, including one that deflected straight into the air and back into his arms on the football's descent.
Miami's early returns in the defensive end free agency market are hitting big dividends on the practice field. The same is true on the offensive line with offseason addition Ereck Flowers. Flowers talked about size, length, and the importance of the two in his Monday media availability.
"I have decent length and arms, as far as getting on guys faster. I think that kind of plays a little bit more into my strengths," Flowers said. "Good players go before practice and stay after practice, and they put in countless reps to get any type of production."
Self-reflection and a positive mindset
Quarterback Josh Rosen met with the media with a refreshed, positive frame of mind, and discussed where he's at both mentally and physically.
"I like competing, but I think a lot of it is there is just a lot to learn and I think you kind of have to treasure the moments that you're with a 16-year vet with (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and a coordinator like Chan (Gailey) who's been around the game for a long time," Rosen said. "All I can control is my development, and I think that's going in a good direction. I'm enjoying it more than I ever have actually."
Coach Flores agrees with Rosen's self-evaluation.
"Of all the quarterbacks, he's probably got the biggest arm," Flores said. "He's made some incredible throws. Consistency – I would say we need to always be more consistent at every position, specifically the quarterback. There's a lot of competition there from (Fitzpatrick) to Tua (Tagovailoa) to Josh. But he's a talented player. He's been competing."
Rosen's frame-of-mind has produced a better overall level of comfort for him in Year 2 with Miami. His experience last season produced something of an epiphany for the former UCLA quarterback entering his third season as a professional.
"I feel positive because I've noticed I'm a lot more comfortable behind center this year than I was last year," Rosen said. "And I'm walking up to the line of scrimmage with a plan, and I've learned a lot."
"I've put a lot of work in this offseason, and after I got benched the last time (against the Washington Football Team), I sort of did kind like a big mirror reality check and just wanted to completely turn inwards and see what I could do better," Rosen said. "I kind of flicked myself in the head, like, 'you're literally in the room with one of the best minds to ever do it, and that's 'Fitz.'' So I basically just sat there and tried to swallow up as much as I could from him and I took that sort of process into the offseason."
The main event matchup
We've covered the offense and the defense, and for today's premier matchup, we're going to talk kicking game. The prominent fixtures on special teams work tirelessly. After running through their position drills, each member of Danny Crossman's unit will gather during the special teams portion of practice to cover kicks and fine-tune their techniques.
Clayton Fejedelem came over from Cincinnati this offseason as a free agent. On Tuesday, he was executing blocks on punt return much to the delight of Crossman, who was giving constant praise to the man who recently finished second in the NFL in special teams tackles (2018).
Fejedelem showed an innate ability to find leverage and proper angles so as to impact the gunners without drawing a flag from the officials.
We start this segment with the same player that concluded the last one with running back Myles Gaskin. At the end of the first team period, Gaskin surged through a hole into the second level of the defense, slipped an arm tackle and was off to the races. He finished the run in the end zone with an 80-yard scamper to the protest of no one.
Mack Hollins also made an impact on offense after contributing on special teams. Hollins elevated for a 50-50 ball off the hand of Ryan Fitzpatrick with cornerback Nik Needham in tight coverage. Hollins went up with one hand and pulled down the catch despite near-perfect position by the defensive back. The play gained approximately 20 yards on third-and-long.
Andrew Van Ginkel secured the lone interception of the day, as previously mentioned, and Bobby McCain came free for a would-be sack from his safety position. Rookie Dolphins safety Brandon Jones got into the Miami backfield for a would-be tackle for loss of his own – now a common theme at practice.
Jones times up his pre-snap movement towards the line of scrimmage – whether he's blitzing or playing the run – in a way that gets him free runs into the backfield.
Attendance, injuries and roster updates
Kyle Van Noy returned to practice after leaving Monday's session early. Kavon Frazier was back to work and Trent Harris was back on the field after re-signing with the Dolphins on Tuesday.
Preston Williams did not practice; Brian Flores previously said Williams would have built-in days off through camp as he returns from an ACL injury he suffered in November. This was only the second of seven practices Williams missed.
Patrick Laird and Jakeem Grant did not practice on Tuesday and Xavien Howard was back doing more conditioning work in gym shorts and a t-shirt.
Curtis Weaver was claimed by the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday after being waived/injured by Miami on Monday.
Jason Strowbridge was involved frequently during the team period. He forced a throwaway by Tua Tagovailoa after coming off a block as a pass rusher, and had another stop in the running game setting a strong edge.
Davon Godchaux had an early pass rush win as he blew into the offensive backfield with a quick first step and powerful move working inside. He's put together a good run of practices the last several days.
Kamu Grugier-Hill showcased some of the coverage skills that have produced results (83.9 passer rating against in his career) on Tuesday. He quickly gets to his spot, diagnoses the routes of the offense and closes with a quick trigger to the football.
Next time out
We are back tomorrow for the eighth practice of the Dolphins' camp.