DAVIE (CBSMiami) – Week 1 of the NFL regular season is getting closer and closer by the day.
Several Miami Dolphins players are trying to make their case as to why they deserve to stick around past Saturday at 4 p.m. when teams must finalize their respective 53-man rosters.
Those players will get one last chance to prove their worth on Thursday night when the Dolphins play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final preseason game for both teams.
Tuesday marked the last full practice for Miami before the game and the players were in full pads under the hot South Florida sun.
While some of the key Dolphins starters are getting healthier there were still a few guys who sat out due to injury or illness.
Jason Fox (concussion), Don Jones (sick), Mike Gillislee (quad), Anthony Johnson (foot) and Jamar Taylor (quad) did not participate on Tuesday. Their status for Thursday’s preseason game is unknown, but Fox will have to pass concussion tests before he is allowed to play and Taylor will likely be held back so he can be ready for the season opener against Washington on September 13th.
On the flip side, left tackle Branden Albert participated in practice again and it looks like he’ll be ready when the season begins. He said after practice that his knee feels fine but his conditioning has to get better.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker, who Miami selected in the first round of this year’s draft, also participated in practice for the second straight day. The coaching staff is hopeful that he’ll be good to go for Week 1 but it’s still too early to tell.
The big news of the day was that the Dolphins announced the release of veteran punter Brandon Fields, which means that Miami’s new punter is undrafted rookie Matt Darr.
Darr, who played college ball for the University of Tennessee, has impressed in the preseason, punting seven times for a 50.3-yard average with a long of 58 yards. He averaged 42.2 yards as a college senior last season.
“He’s a punter. That’s his job description,” said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. “That’s what we are going to ask him to do and, at the end of the day, we felt that he was going to be the best option at punter in 2015. Really, it’s not that much more complicated than that.”
Fields was selected by the Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and has a career average of 46.8 yards, the fourth-highest in NFL history.
Last season Fields averaged 46.3 yards but his net average of 38.6 ranked 25th in the league. He had a cap hit of $2.5 million this season.
Darr admitted that he was just as surprised as everyone else when he was informed that he was Miami’s new punter.
“I was fighting every day. I came in today [and] had no idea. It was supposed to be another work day and that’s really been my mentality the whole time,” said Darr. “I’ve just been keeping my head down and trying to do my best personally, apart from Brandon [Fields]. Brandon’s had a heck of a camp as well. He’s a really good punter and I’ve personally learned from him, just being able to watch him and be on the same team as him for the past few months. All the respect for Brandon.”
On the Dolphins offensive line, rookie fourth round pick Jamil Douglas worked as the first team right guard for the second day in a row. He’s replaced Billy Turner, who has been working with the second team.
Though the move speaks volumes about how the coaching staff feels about Douglas and Turner, neither player has been told if they will be a starter or backup.
“We haven’t made any decisions as who is starting at the guard positions,” said Philbin. “[Douglas] played well the other night when he played. You saw he made some plays in space. He played pretty decisively as a young guy. He seems to have picked up the system well. He’s done some good things.”
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