The Miami Dolphins will begin their OTAs from this upcoming Tuesday, which means the 2017 season is one very important step closer to getting started once again, and after last season's trip to the playoffs, head coach Adam Gase intends to use OTAs as a means to see what the team's status is.
"Just starting off to see how good a shape we're in, I feel like we're in a good spot, that phase two is a good three weeks worth of work." Gase said on Friday at the Fins Weekend golf tournament. "Feel like guys are in good shape but now the anxiety level's gonna go up a little bit because now the offense and defense practice against each other, special teams, we'll see kinda how bodies respond and how fast we can play and how much we've actually learned from last year to this year."
There were a lot of growing pains at the beginning of the season, but after Week 5, the Dolphins pulled everything together and found a way to win six games straight, and ultimately finished the regular season with a 10-6 record, even without quarterback Ryan Tannehill who was injured for the last three weeks of the year.
That success was a direct result of some great development on the part of some of the team's young players, including 2016 rookies Laremy Tunsil, Kenyan Drake and Xavien Howard, who all contributed during their time on the field.
Tunsil in particular was able to impress the coaches, moving from his natural position at left tackle to guard and doing a good job at a position he'd never played before.
Now, there's a new class of rookies that needs work in practice on the field after Gase used the team's rookie camp as a classroom experience rather than letting them get on the field, and he's looking forward to seeing what they can do in Miami uniforms along with the other players.
"I'll be excited when Tuesday gets here, I've really enjoyed watching our guys work the last five weeks, be interesting to see our rookies out there, see how they kinda fit in, just seeing our guys develop, it's been a neat experience from year one to year two."
Most people don't see OTAs as very important due to the fact that teams can't put pads on their players and let them hit each other like in training camp, and so anything that comes out of OTAs usually gets waved off as irrelevant.
Adam Gase contends that viewpoint.
"I think every time we get out there is important, we only get so many practices, we have thirteen total practices if you count the mini-camp, and then all of a sudden we're into training camp." he said. "So everything we do is important, every rep's important, we need to have a major focus on correcting our mistakes and not making them again, and that's kinda what got us a little bit last year. Hopefully our guys keep to what we've been doing so far and find ways to get better."
The closer the season gets, the more the anxiety will inevitably rise. Expectations will be high after the 2016 playoff berth, and if the players don't meet Gase's expectations, it's already known what is likely to happen to them. The first thing they need to do is impress without pads, so there's no room to relax and assume that OTAs have no weight.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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