DAVIE, Fla. -- The new-look Miami Dolphins held their first practice of organized team activities on Tuesday. The AFC East blog was there to take in all the action.
Here are some notes and observations:
One very good sign for Miami is new cornerback Brent Grimes looked solid in practice. Grimes showed flashes of why he made the Pro Bowl two years ago by staying around the football and batting down several passes. Coming off season-ending Achilles surgery, Grimes looked healthy and fluid. He worked with the first-team defense most of the day along with veteran cornerback Richard Marshall, who is also coming off a back injury. “It looks like they’ve been moving well,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of his two corners. “They feel good physically and I’m excited about watching the tape and getting to look at it.” Philbin also described the cornerback competition as “real wide open.”
Two additional players who I thought had a good practice today were tight end Dustin Keller and backup receiver Armon Binns. Keller, a free-agent pickup from the Jets, got open several times in team drills and had good separation over the middle. Binns made several nice catches, including one play where Binns ran past Grimes for a deep touchdown pass.
Dolphins second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill also was sharp on Tuesday. He had several big throws to Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace and also made routine plays underneath. It’s early, but I’m seeing a difference in the command of the offense and the speed of Tannehill’s progressions. He knows where to go with the football. At least two times in team drills, Tannehill’s reads weren’t open and he quickly threw the ball away. Last year he may have thrown an interception in that scenario. Keller was impressed with Tannehill’s first practice. “You would think a guy who used to play wide receiver, the best thing he does is run the ball,” Keller said. “But he puts the ball right on the money and he’s a good decision-maker, as well.”
Dolphins starting left tackle Jonathan Martin is noticeably bigger. His arms are better defined and his shoulders are broader than last season. It's clear that Martin has been attacking the weight room. Strength was one of his biggest weaknesses last year. Martin was pushed around too often and needs to do a better job holding the point of attack while protecting Tannehill's blind side.
As expected, Dolphins starting safety Reshad Jones showed up for practice. He initially considered not showing because he’s in the final year of his rookie contract and wants a long-term extension. Jones said he’s keeping the focus on football and plans to attend OTAs for the remainder of the week. Miami defensive tackle Randy Starks was a no-show, displeased after getting a franchise tag instead of a multi-year contract.
With Starks out, the Dolphins moved Jared Odrick from defensive end to defensive tackle on the first team. Olivier Vernon worked with the first team at defensive end. All of this is subject to change on Starks' return. Miami first-round pick Dion Jordan will also push Odrick for the starting job at defensive end. “This is a time to experiment,” Philbin said of Odrick. “It’s a time to look at guys in different spots and different groups.”
In a bit of a surprise, Hartline is getting a look at punt returner this spring. The job is vacant after last year’s punt returners -- Davone Bess and Reggie Bush -- are no longer with Miami. Hartline never returned a punt in four seasons in the NFL and will be competing with Marcus Thigpen. “Possibly, but in what situations, I couldn’t tell you,” Hartline said of potentially returning kicks. “But they [coaching staff] made a point to tell me to go and catch punts every day.”