It was hot, it was muggy, and near the tail end of practice a storm came over the horizon and turned the whole sky an ugly and dark shade of gray. But the Dolphins pressed on and practiced anyway, finishing up just before the storm could reach the practice field.
Once again the Dolphins reverted back to shorts and shells, foregoing the pads until tomorrow most likely, which means any offensive line evaluations were half-hearted at best. Nevertheless, it was something and every bit of practice they can get helps.
There was also the first “official” camp fracas, which according to Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post, ranks higher than a skirmish but lower than a brouhaha. Whatever you call it, it broke out between offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James and defensive lineman Kendall Montgomery after James knocked Montgomery to the ground in two straight drills. Must’ve been heat exhaustion.
So without further ado, here are the three things that stood out to me the most during today’s camp.
LaMichael James seems to have taken over as the main KR/PR
When training camp first opened up, the main returners going back for punts and the like were wide receiver Jarvis Landry, running back LaMichael James…and cornerback Brent Grimes. Pay no attention to Grimes, he just gets bored and needs something to do when the corners aren’t busy.
Since then, there have been several rotations to see if there might be a surprise player emerging for that role, similarly to how Jarvis Landry eventually took the role from Marcus Thigpen last season. But between wide receivers Christion Jones and Damarr Aultmann, or cornerback Bobby McCain who was an excellent returner in college, no one has come close.
The only one who has shown off his potential to be an upgrade has been LaMichael James, and it appears the Dolphins today took steps in the direction of giving the role to James full time as Landry was kept out of the majority of the returning drills, with only Aultmann rotating with James throughout the day.
James has been a huge surprise this training camp, showing off his ability as a weapon in the backfield and as a returner. The only thing at present keeping him from stealing the backup running back position from Damien Williams is his inability to block, which Williams is much better at. James fits in this offense and as a returner is much better overall than Landry, at this point, I can definitely see him making this roster, assuming his play translates to the games.
Dolphins rotating everyone in at guard except the kitchen sink
I understand the need to try out every possibility, I really do. I’ve always said that competition is incredibly important and I’ve had the mentality of “may the best man win.” My issue, however, is that the team seems unwilling to let the best men remain in front even after they’ve shown every sign of being much better than their competition.
In the case of Jamil Douglas, anyone who’s been watching camp closely so far will tell you that he’s been the best guard for the Dolphins all this time, and if you ask me, it isn’t even close. Douglas – with time – will easily take over the left guard position and show everyone that he has what it takes.
Yet the Dolphins still feel this insatiable need to start days off with Dallas Thomas as the default left guard. I always thought if a player showed he performed better, he should get first dibs against the top competition. Am I wrong? Is there something that I and everyone else not on the Dolphins staff is missing? I don’t know anymore.
The real change now has happened at right guard, where Billy Turner is still getting significant time with the first team, but now instead of going up against Jeff Linkenbach, he’s dealing with Jacques McClendon while Linkenbach moves over to be the backup left tackle. McClendon hasn’t been much better but it seems like the Dolphins are determined to try out every single possibility, including Sam Brenner, who also got some time with the first team in a recent practice.
If I were the coaching staff, I would stick Jamil Douglas and Billy Turner in with the first team and make them stick. Let them get beat on by the best during every play. It’ll make times when they go up against easier competition, well, easier. Turner looks good when not against Suh, why can’t we give him the benefit of the doubt?
Branden Albert still taking steps towards getting back to the field
When practice starts, all the different units go out and scatter across the two fields to work on individual drills to start things off in order to warm up. I reported about a week ago that Branden Albert was back to doing individual drills when the team got into pads, and then he took a short break.
But today, during the starting individual drills, I grabbed my new pair of binoculars (must stronger than my old ones) and got a great look of Albert doing drills on the far end of the field. He was still wearing his brace, but he was moving much better than I'd ever seen him so far, which indicates to me at least that as slow as it may be going, Albert is getting better, and that should be very encouraging.
Now in a few days, the Dolphins will start their first preseason game, and naturally Albert will be kept out of it. But we'll finally get a good look at what his backup Jason Fox can do when he's not going against his own teammates who know his strengths and weaknesses firsthand. What happens to the offensive line in the coming weeks may very well depend on that game, so we will watch very closely.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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