Top News: Two Rookies Work With First-Team Defense

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The Dolphins defense had a different look at practice, and rookies Jerome Baker and Minkah Fitzpatrick both worked with the first-team defense.

Baker lined up alongside Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan at linebacker with the first-team defense, while Fitzpatrick worked as the first-team nickel corner.

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Fitzpatrick downplayed the significance of the events, pointing out the Dolphins have been looking at different players with different groupings throughout training camp.

"I don't know if it was too much of a promotion," Fitzpatrick said. "I've been rotating in and out with the 1's. We're just trying different guys at different spots to try and get the best guys on the field. Not too much has changed from last week. Like I said, we're just trying different things."

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Baker didn't start in the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, but came in very early to replace Kiko Alonso and was one of the bright spots for the Dolphins defense.

In fact, Head Coach Adam Gase singled out his performance among the things that stood out for him on defense.

"He made plays," Gase said. "That's all we're looking for guys to do is to get lined up, be in the right spots, find the ball and make plays. That's it."

Baker, for his part, said his focus was on looking ahead.

"It was very exciting," he said about practice Sunday. "Today was just a day to switch it up and go with the 1's, but I'm really just focused on getting better every day. It's a blessing just to be out here."

McCain on the outside: Another change on defense had nickel corner Bobby McCain starting on the boundary opposite Xavien Howard. McCain said it was just a matter of giving players looks at different spots and trying to take advantage of the flexibility of some of the secondary members. "We have guys that can play a lot of spots — myself included, Minkah, Reshad (Jones), T.J. (McDonald), Xavien," McCain said. "Everybody can play everywhere and that's what they … They want us to learn everything at the end of the day. I'm cool with that. I can play all three spots — safety, nickel, corner. Wherever I need to plug and play, I can do it." McCain is one of four players who have worked with the first team opposite Howard, along with Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer and Tony Lippett. Gase said McCain's ability to play outside just gives the team one more option. "Really, it's about getting our best 11 on the field," Gase said. "If that's (McCain starting outside) what it is, that's what it is. We're just going to keep competing. I think that's something that Bobby, he's the one guy that's able to do that. He can give those receivers fits because he's aggressive at the line of scrimmage. He can run with them and he can get his hands on the ball. He's very aware of concepts, which gives him an advantage over a lot of corners."

Gesicki blocks out critics: Rookie second-round pick Mike Gesicki's blocking reminds a focal point among media members, but the tight end from Penn State keeps making strides. He has progressed in practice and did a solid job against Tampa Bay against veteran defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Not that Gesicki wants to make a big deal about it. "That's the expectation," Gesicki said. "It's not like, 'Oh my god, Mike blocked somebody!' I know that that's what everybody thinks, but that's not what it is. (laughter) When I'm out there, that's the expectation. I'm not going to turn around and let somebody run free. That's my job, and whether I'm catching a fade or blocking a defensive end, that's my job and I'm going to do it to the best of my ability." Gase said he likes what he's seen from Gesicki in that department. "I'm always killing him on it anyways, just a reminder of what everybody thought," Gase said. "The thing that I really appreciate about Mike is he wants to do it. He wants to get better at blocking and he doesn't want to be a receiver. I see him go out there and he tries to do it and he'll get crushed a couple times, but you don't see him shy away from it the next time. I've seen tight ends in the past that when that happens, they don't want any part of it because they don't want to be embarrassed. He just lines right back up and does it again. So, we'll keep getting better in that area. I like that he's embracing it, and he wants to be able to be left on the field. He doesn't want to get taken out and everybody says what (you guys) think, (which is) when he goes onto the field it's pass. (laughter)"

Injury update: The Dolphins still don't know the extent of the knee injury sustained by Mike Hull in the preseason opener Thursday, but Gase said the third-year linebacker would be out "a little bit." Hull was among five players to sit out practice Sunday. Another was wide receiver Kenny Stills, though Gase said the team was just being extra careful to make sure his ankle injury didn't linger or have a setback. Also sitting out Sunday where defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (shoulder), defensive end William Hayes (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jake Brendel (calf).

Practice report: The Dolphins practiced in shoulder pads Sunday. … Cornerback Tony Lippett was back at practice after sitting out the preseason opener against Tampa Bay because of a lower leg injury he sustained last week. … Wide receiver Isaiah Ford did not wear the red (non-contact jersey) at practice for the first time in a week. … Defensive end Charles Harris got to Ryan Tannehill for what would have been a sack in team drills. … Brock Osweiler had a nice scramble in team drills. … Rookie seventh-round pick Jason Sanders handled the kicking duties Sunday. He was 8-for-8 on field goal attempts, including two from 61 yards. … Cornerback Xavien Howard had a nice pass breakup against DeVante Parker near the sideline. … Running back Frank Gore had a nice run up the middle and followed that with a tough catch on a swing pass near the sideline. … Defensive end Cameron Malveaux batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. … Safety Trae Elston had a nice interception when he stepped in front of intended receiver Francis Osuwu near the sideline down the field. … Cameron Wake had a would-be sack in team drills. … Vincent Taylor broke through the line of scrimmage to meet running back Senorise Perry in the backfield on a running play.

Special guests: The crowd at practice Sunday included three special groups — members of the Football Unites Captains Program, military veterans, and season-ticket holders. The Football Unites Captains Program, a diversity and inclusion initiative that will bring 80 to 100 middle school students from various backgrounds together once a month for a day of learning about tolerance, acceptance and leadership, was unveiled Sunday. Dolphins players and alumni will join these students to share their stories, perspectives and experiences. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) will assist with programming and program evaluation. Veteran attended practice as the Dolphins had a Military Appreciation Day. " Today is awesome," said Richard Bryan, outreach coordinator for the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. "Whether you want to believe it or not, a lot of these veterans look at these players and these coaches as their hero. They look up to them. This gives them that opportunity to maybe let their guard down. Maybe some of these guys and gals are not in a good way or are struggling with whatever. This opportunity here presents for them to come down, let their guard down, enjoy the game of football, maybe even get to meet a player or get up close. … They're not always comfortable talking to just anyone, but here, whether they're talking to another veteran or if they get the opportunity to talk to a player, it really allows them to drop their guard and just relax and enjoy."

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