DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins put pads on for day five of training camp- a day that featured live hitting for the first time in 2017.
Contact had been minimal-to-none over the first four days, but on Monday, head coach Adam Gase felt it important to start putting his players into game-type situations.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, probably since last spring,” said Gase. “I think a lot of it had to do with just we made a lot of missed tackles last year. It probably took us a while to really get going in the run game and pass protection, kind of that sense of urgency to have.”
It’s easy to see where that sense of urgency came from. The Dolphins’ defense ranked 30th out of 32 NFL teams in stopping the run last season. Poor tackling had a lot to do with it.
While players tend to embrace the idea of contact in practice, it can come at a price. Dolphins star running back Jay Ajayi left Monday’s scrimmage with a head injury on a big hit from safety TJ McDonald. He’s being evaluated for concussion.
Gase was asked about walking the fine line between allowing tackling, while also protecting his players from injury.
“You’re not going to win either way,” noted Gase. “If we don’t go live, (reporters) write that we don’t work on tackling. If we do go live and somebody gets hurt, then you say we shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to be wrong either way. We feel like that’s best for our football team. We needed to go live and tackle and it’s football.”
Ajayi, a Cinderella story of 2016, ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,272 rushing yards a season ago. After leaving the field on Monday, backups Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake picked up the slack.
Kenyan Drake enters his second year as a pro. The former Alabama Crimson Tide standout saw limited carries last season (33 for 179 yards) but expects to be a bigger part of the offense in 2017.
Drake’s passion was apparent during Monday’s scrimmage, as he got into a brief scuffle with an unidentified defensive player.
“Sometimes you got to get in (and) get down and dirty,” said Drake. It’s football. It’s a contact sport. You can’t avoid contact at all times. You try to keep in on the practice field – keep it off the game field – because you get flagged 15 yards in a game. The competitive juices kind of get flowing once everybody goes to the ground, so it happens every now and then.”
Meanwhile, Drake expressed his satisfaction with Miami’s first day of full contact football.
“It was very reassuring. It was good to be back out there – full pads, full speed, full go.”
As for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, his recovering left knee (ACL, MCL sprains) has held up fine so far.
Over the past year-plus under Adam Gase, Tannehill has been encouraged to blossom into a more vocal leader. During Monday’s practice, Tannehill was seen delivering a fiery message to a group of about three dozen teammates.
“I think any time you get comfortable with a system you’re in, you gain confidence, to where you can take those type of roles,” Adam Gase explained. “It’s harder when you’re trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do. I think he felt like there was a moment in practice where he needed to say something. You don’t have to constantly be saying things. A lot of times your actions are what’s going to count.”
The Dolphins will enjoy a day off from practice on Tuesday. They’ll resume camp in Davie on Wednesday morning at 8:45 AM.