By: Jason Sarney
Day 3 of padded practice in Miami saw another media session with a trio of Dolphins that all hold an individual distinction in introduction. A 4th season NFL veteran, a rookie, and a free agent acquisition all took time to discuss training camp activity with South Florida reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
Leading off the presser was massive free agent signing, literally and figuratively, in Emmanuel Ogbah. At 6’4’’ 269 lbs. the ex-Kansas City Chief and 32nd overall draft pick in 2016 by the Cleveland Browns, Ogbah is a physical presence who may not even need to record a statistic on the sheet to make his presence felt for this Miami pass-rush.
In terms of his role and working with coaches, he said, "It's going well. We got good coaches helping me out. I’m just doing my best, lots of studying.” He adds, “I'm playing a lot of different roles on defense.”
Setting the edge is of paramount importance, and Ogbah is a guy who can do that as well as get to the quarterback, as his 5.5 sacks in 10 games last season for the Super Champions proved. Ogbah hasn’t played in a full 16 games since his rookie season, so a hopeful full year going lead to him as a favorite for team sack leader. A stat that would have been his to own if he was a Dolphin last season. If he were in Miami in 2019, he would have beaten former Dolphin Taco Charlton by a half sack for that distinction.
Ogbah’s job is the generate sacks, whether it is him landing on the quarterback or not. His presence can open gaps for linebackers, and create easier paths for an inside pass rush, which is something the Dolphins sorely need.
Next up was rookie cornerback and first round draft pick, Noah Igbinoghene out of Auburn. The son of a pair of Olympians is an athletic marvel, and could see action early and often this season as a boundary corner or slot corner, especially since veteran Xavien Howard is starting the season on the PUP list and in danger to miss Week 1 against New England.
Igbinoghene realizes as a rookie he is far from a shoo-in, and competition exists for that number 3 or even number 2 cornerback opposite newly acquired lock-down corner, Byron Jones, if Howard is inactive. That competition is Igbinoghene versus last year’s undrafted rookie upstart and rising-star, Nik Needham.
It will be a fun training camp to watch this battle, as a new defensive backs coach in Gerald Alexander brings more youthful exuberance to this secondary, one in which could contend as a top-5 in the NFL. Igbinoghene also is a return-man if experience from Auburn is any guide, so that is another area to see if the rookie sees reps.
Igbinoghene tells the media about what he expected in his first training camp. "I really didn't expect anything. I'm just doing whatever the coaches tell me to do. I'm just here for the ride," the rookie said.
Igbinoghene did mention a trio of veterans who have helped his transition to the pros and cites Byron Jones, Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe. As a collective group, there is a secondary "point board" which Igbinoghene welcomes. "We all love competition here, it makes us better," he said.
Wednesday's practice had a one-on-one competition with him and 2nd year receiver Preston Williams, where the rookie was bested. His frustration was evident, which Igbinoghene described that it goes with his competitiveness."I am a fiery guy...I am a competitor at heart," he said.
That competitiveness was groomed in college, facing pro-ready talent in SEC receivers and now working with DeVante Parker and Williams. "That's how I learned, going up against receivers like that." Igbinoghene just started playing corner a few years ago.
So far, so good.
Closing out the session was popular training camp spotlighted veteran wide-receiver, Isaiah Ford. Ford is entering was a 7th round Miami draft pick in 2017. His rookie year saw a practice squad assignment and in his second NFL season he saw a lone regular season target.
After a few trips up and down to the main 53-man roster, it wasn’t until Week 4 last season when Ford made his first NFL reception against the Chargers. Ford was not heard from again much until December, when he broke out and had a solid four games to close the season.
Those four games saw Ford gain 235 yards on 22 receptions. He is still awaiting his first NFL touchdown, but if finding some chemistry with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last season is any indication, Ford could be seeing pay-dirt in 2020.
Ford was asked about him being seen putting in post-practice time with the jugs machine and he said, "I think that was something that was instilled in me when I was younger." He went on to mention that both of his parents worked multiple jobs while he grew up, which he contributes his work ethic to.
A bubble player to make this team a month ago, the opting out of veterans Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have given Ford an opportunity not only to make the roster, but be a viable and consistent target of Fitzpatrick or any other quarterback for that matter. The current, likely starter in Fitzpatrick, has stated that he has a comfort level with Ford and his familiarity with their timing. The battle for the number three wide receiver is open for business, and Ford seems to be ready for the patronage.
"We have a room full of competitive guys , so I think that was something stated before they opted out, and even now." "Our room has a ton of talent and a ton of competitiveness."
He added that he certainly learned through his last few years in Miami and said, "I think it's helped a ton. Being able to take those mental reps from the guys I've learned from in the past..." He cites learning from guys like Kenny [Stills] and Albert Wilson.
Ford talks about Chan Gailey's offensive scheme. "I think the unique thing about coach Gailey is that he allows us freedom in the routes that we are running. "Being creative and having the freedom to paint your own picture."
Despite the football work, Covid-19 is a looming factor and Ford said, "the more you get into a routine of doing things, it becomes a new normal." He mentioned that he hasn't had any trouble in that regard thus far in adjusting, and said, "I just take it one day at a time, this entire process. You can only control what you can control...I know its cliche, but it's the truth."
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