By: Jason Sarney
Training camp at the brand-new Baptist Health training complex is nearly a week in, and we are on the cusp of putting the pads on where real football will be played and evaluated. Up until this point there has been a lot of positivity throughout the early going at Miami Dolphins training camp at their gorgeous, state of the art facility.
Over the weekend a number of tidbits were picked up and it was outstanding to see PhinManiacs like Brandon Liguori and Hussam Patel get into the action and deliver some outstanding Tweets while at open practice.
Both young reporters had some outstanding eyewitness accounts of some eye-opening moments during the public practice. On the strength of those reports, as well as my own digging, there are a number of newsworthy tidbits from the last few days.
Xavien Howard Update:
Mainly, the Xavien Howard contract situation is still very much fluid, however in the last 24 to 48 hours there seems to be a number of details and reasons why I believe the two parties are a lot closer than they were last week to a reconciliation. Not only did Brian Flores open this morning's press conference using the phrase “right direction” in terms of the trajectory of the Howard, “renegotiation of the extension,” there was some info that fell into my lap.
First off, the phrase “renegotiation of the extension,” I admit is a phrase I have not been able to get out of my head for about a month. Secondly, news surfaced that there was a nice support system in Xavien's corner on Saturday at practice, so it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel...potentially.
Michael Dieter Could Steal Center Job:
Third year offensive lineman Michael Dieter, has been playing very well thus far in camp. Former Baltimore Raven Matt Skura was signed to a one-year deal this off-season after Ted Karras left following his lone season in South Florida.
While at the time of the Skura signing, it seemed he could be penciled in at the center spot, however it is to my knowledge and prediction that Dieter is well on his way to earning the starting center role should he continue this early 2021 path.
Fellow lineman Robert Hunt sung his praises after practice on Monday. “Mike is a good guy. He’s a leader. He’s a damn good football player. Physical. Smart. Right now, the center in our offense is a vocal point, a main center piece for us and I think he’s doing a fantastic job. I think he’s doing well.”
Nik Needham Continues to Develop and Impress:
Of course as previously mentioned, the Xavien Howard situation has the Dolphins planning certain contingencies and with him on the sideline nursing an ankle injury, it has been Nik Needham and not Noah Igbinoghene that has been taking his reps. Logically, this tells us all that for whatever reason should Howard not be a Dolphin or should he be a Dolphin and miss time, it would be Needham that is taking that job responsibility, as opposed to his slot duties from last season. And let me remind everyone once again that his natural role is an outside boundary cornerback so last year he adjusted quite admirably to that slot position.
Needham truly is a student of the game, and a incredibly hard worker in the off-season and in-season. He spoke to media following today's practice. “You can never be good enough, so he just says keep grinding. Just work on my speed. You can never be fast enough. Always say that. So I’ve been working on that and just taking the mental jump from Year 2 to Year 3, just like Year 1 to Year 2, to really take that Year 3 jump and just focus on that. I’ve just been locking in, watching a lot of film.”
Albert Wilson is Back and Better Than Ever:
It should come to no surprise should anybody be following training camp regularly, that Albert Wilson has been stealing the show. This is not a shock here as there have been signs in the early going that Wilson is ready to reintroduce himself, following opting out in 2020 due to COVID-19 and him protecting himself and his family since there was a newborn baby in the equation.
Nobody should fault Wilson for taking the healthy option, and limiting risk for him and his family. He has been playing well enough to essentially shut anybody up who didn't understand his decision to not play last year. Wilson is looking to be an outstanding slot threat and potential mentor. That being to Jaylen Waddle, where there is seemingly a terrific connection between second year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and his former Alabama teammate.
Both Wilson and Waddle could be outstanding targets for Tua and utilized a number of ways, such as pre-snap motions, outside of the hash-mark routes, insides routes, as well as the loveable Jet Sweep or drop-pass, Mahomes-Hill Style.
It is to be noted that the South Florida media has been quite impressed as a whole with the Dolphins offense and this is without any type of significant presence from COVID-listed and PUP-listed Preston Williams. Will Fuller and Mike Gesicki have also been missing in action lately, so this offense could get really good once they get really healthy.
It has been great to hear and see a battle between fringe players Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden and even guys like Robert Foster, Mack Hollins and UDFA from 2020 Kirk Merritt. Hollins is safe no matter how he plays at WR, since he is Miami's top special teams gunner, and you can place Foster in that coverage category as well.
I cant see both Grant and Bowden on this roster, in my opinion.
Jason Sanders is as accurate as the calendar. That's all here.
Lastly – Michael Palardy is a potential upgrade from Matt Haack, and I type this with love and appreciation and respect for the former Miami punter. Palardy has been putting on punting displays that would make Pat McAfee weep.
Pads come on tomorrow, and pretty soon, the roster will be trimmed. It’s time to hit