DAVIE (CBSMiami) – School is in session for the newest crop of Miami Dolphins. The 2015 rookie class hit the field hoping to leave a good first impression on the Dolphins coaching staff.
“This weekend is about the rookie minicamp and getting the opportunity for our seven drafted players, our signed, undrafted free agents and over 30 tryouts,” said Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey. “It’s a great opportunity for us as scouts, for us as coaches, to get guys into our building and to continue to evaluate them and to get to play with some of our new toys that we were excited to draft.”
The shiniest new toy is first-round draft pick wide receiver DeVante Parker. And even though he wasn’t under the microscope day one, head coach Joe Philbin liked what he saw.
“Without totally focusing on him today, I thought he looked good, did some good things. I like the way he’s coming in and out of his breaks during the routes during the routes on air segments,” said Philbin. I think it’s a good start for him today and we’ll see how things go.”
The organization and fans are expecting big things out of Parker who now headlines a revamped wideout crew. The rookie will carry a big offensive burden heading into the season, but that doesn’t seem to faze the young man.
“I don’t think there is any pressure. I just have to come out and play, like I’ve been doing. That’s really the whole big thing about it,” Parker told the media.
Parker didn’t drop a single pass in practice, so nerves clearly didn’t affect him day one.
But Parker was just one of 49 other rookies that hit the practice field.
Another important piece is running back Jay Ajayi.
“He’s a big guy. I like the size number one, I like his production on tape number two. He’s very enthusiastic. He seems very eager out here,” said Philbin.
Following the draft, Ajayi addressed his eagerness to get started with the Dolphins, who he says are fortunate to have taken a chance on him.
The Boise State Bronco projected to be a second-round pick, but knee concerns pushed away several suitors and he plummeted to the fifth round. And while other teams were scared, the Dolphins saw value.
“We were very excited he was still there in the fifth round. What he brings, he brings the ability play all three downs, he’s a power back but yet still has elusiveness, runs strong, great kid. He’s really pumped to be here and we’re excited to get him on the field and watch him work today,” said Hickey.
Ajayi demonstrated on the practice field he is ready to do what it takes and Philbin seems willing to let him loose.
“His ability to adjust fast and decisively, potentially adjust his blocking assignment based on the center’s call, the quarterback’s call, all of those things will be things that we’re going to expose him to in our offseason program and training camp,” said Philbin.
However, in order for Parker and Ajayi to shine, they need an offensive line that can give quarterback Ryan Tannehill time to pass or lanes for the running backs to cut through. That’s where rookie offensive lineman Jamil Douglas comes in.
Douglas provides versatility on the line, something Hickey took note of when selecting the former Arizona State sun Devil.
“I thought today he seemed to get off to a good start, he’s a guy that played a couple of different positions at Arizona State, we think that’s a good thing. A lot of guys have made that transition from tackle to guard in the National Football League. So far he’s off to a good start,” said Hickey.
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Tony Lippett is a very special piece.
Lippett entered the draft as a wide receiver but will play corner for the Fins. His pure athleticism is what drew Hickey to push for picking the versatile player.
“Obviously things stand out, he’s 6’2, he’s got length, he’s got ball skills, he’s a fluid athlete. I’m sure he’d be good on the basketball court, he’s that type of athlete, offense, defense. We were encouraged by what we saw on tape, followed up when we worked him out as a corner. All of those things played into it. He’s a quality receiver too, but we’re really intrigued by what he can do for us as a corner,” said Hickey.
It was an easy sell to coach Philbin, even over other players whose natural position was defensive back.
“Well, as you can imagine, we studied a vast majority of corners coming out in the draft. We looked at all of the attributes, the physical, the test numbers, the vertical, the film, the combine workouts, the pro day workouts. At the end of the day, we just thought this guy has potential,” said Philbin.
While the other picks were being praised, second-round pick defensive tackle Jordan Phillips didn’t garner as much enthusiasm.
“Not unlike any other player that’s either been in the National Football League for a long time or just starting on their journey, he needs some work, he has some things he has to do better,” said Philbin. “He’s a guy that’s got to learn the system, learn the fundamentals, produce when he’s given opportunities to in preseason games. He’ll dictate more than me once we get a look at it.”
One glaring issue coming out the draft was the void of linebackers selected. Miami made up for that on Friday, picking up four undrafted free agent linebackers.
“I like the group that we brought in. They seem to be guys that are real serious, they’re football guys, they’ve been productive players in college. That’s the one thing, they made tackles, I want say Zach Vigil was one of the leading tacklers in the NCAA, if I’m not mistaken. Mike Hull had a lot of production. Jeff Luc’s a productive guy. Neville Hewitt was running around really nice today. I think it’s a good group. It’s early to tell, but I like the way they did things today,” said Philbin.
In the end, Ced Thompson summed up best what minicamp was like, “It’s the first day of school, it’s kind of similar. We’re out here running around instead of doing class work. Although it is like class work since we’re learning new plays and stuff.”