Dolphins Defense Continues Challenging The Offense
DAVIE (CBSMiami) – With every new day of practice comes new positives to build on and negatives to work on. The Miami Dolphins are growing more and more accustomed to that theme as the team continues to make headway with the new offense.
With so much fresh information to process and retain from new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s playbook, there is always a reasonable margin for error.
The closer the team gets to the regular season, the more that margin will shrink. Things should become somewhat easier now that Miami has finished putting its offense in place.
“[Today’s practice] really wraps up our installation phase,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said on Tuesday. “We have nine installs, we’ve had nine installation practices and a scrimmage. So starting later this afternoon, we’re going to turn our attention to Atlanta and preparing our team to play a game.”
That game will be the first of the 2014 preseason and the farthest that the Dolphins have to travel during their exhibition schedule. Miami’s other road game is in Tampa against the Buccaneers.
Tuesday’s practice was the second straight tough one for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He threw three interceptions on Monday and followed that up with another three on Tuesday.
Overall there has been a lot to be encouraged about when discussing Tannehill’s grasp and execution of Lazor’s new offense. Still, struggles are to be expected and the third-year quarterback didn’t shy away from the topic following practice.
“A couple of [the interceptions] were trying throws against coverages that we haven’t done and we just want to take a look at them in practice. One earlier today, Cortland [Finnegan] makes a good play. We were not really moving fast on offense and we’ve got to be moving full speed as soon as practice starts. I brain-farted on the one in seven-on-seven.
“It’s a combination of a bunch of stuff. Some throws we’re just trying to make in practice to see if it’s something we want to move on with during the season.”
The interception by Finnegan was on the first play of practice, his first of three on the day. That gives him six picks in the last five practices and seven total so far during training camp.
The Dolphins signed Finnegan during the offseason hoping that he could bounce back from an injury plagued 2013 and regain the top-level form that he’s had throughout his eight-year career.
He appears to have the right mindset of working hard and focusing on improving every day. When asked about his three-interception practice, the opportunity to pat himself on the back wasn’t something he seemed interested in taking.
“We’re out here working, out here competing,” said Finnegan. “Coach is calling good things. It’s a chance to get better. Sometimes [the] offense has our number and sometimes vice-versa. The biggest thing out here is we’re competing in the heat and that’s a good thing for our team.”
The defense has been consistently good all through camp and looks to once again be a major strength of the team. Finnegan and fellow free-agent signing Louis Delmas join a secondary that had a successful 2013 campaign despite several key players being limited by injury.
Miami was tied for 10th in the NFL last season with 18 interceptions.
Former Dolphin Dimitri Patterson, who signed with the New York Jets in the offseason, tied for the team lead with four interceptions despite only playing in six games.
Along with Patterson, Miami also lost Chris Clemons (one interception) and Nolan Carroll (three interceptions) to free agency. The three of them accounted for almost half of the team’s interception total from last season.
Miami is hoping that between Finnegan, Delmas and second-year corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, the production that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle got from his unit a season ago can be surpassed in 2014.
“They’ve been doing a good job getting their hands on the ball,” said Philbin. “Again, we don’t try to overcomplicate matters. I mean if you get your hand on the football, we want to be able to catch it and secure and I think overall we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
It’s hard to disagree with Philbin as the defense has certainly stepped up and consistently forced turnovers during training camp. Now the question is whether that production can carry over from practices and scrimmages to real games against NFL opponents.
Their first test comes on Friday in Atlanta.
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