By ANDY KENT
DAVIE — The Miami Dolphins put on full pads for the first time Sunday at training camp and that still didn’t help out the offensive line.
Even though the added gear should have slowed down Miami’s speedy defensive front, that group continued to find an edge both in passing and running situations. As a result, Miami’s quarterbacks had to get rid of the ball quicker or, in some cases, take a sack.
Not good news considering Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times last year.
Coach Joe Philbin is being patient early with a brand-new starting five that includes a rookie at right tackle in first-round draft pick Ja’Wuan James. But veteran left tackle Branden Albert, a Pro Bowler last year, had his own struggles.
“We’ve got a pretty damn good defensive line, one of the best I’ve seen across the board,” Albert said. “It’s a good battle every day and we’re going to get better on both sides of the ball. That felt good because that’s real football and this is going to be a day-by-day, meeting-by-meeting, walk through-by-through and practice-by-practice. Each and every segment we spend together we have to get better.”
Albert had his hands full with last year’s sack leader, Olivier Vernon, and last year’s first-round pick, Dion Jordan, during team drills. Jordan managed to get his long arms up just in time to pick off Tannehill at the line of scrimmage and take it to the end zone.
Over on the other side, three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake continued to test James, using his quick first step to get around him on some plays and then crossing him up with an inside move the other times. For the 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle, these are lessons he doesn’t mind learning now before the season begins.
“I love it because I’m a competitor. He’s a great player and he’s going to get me better,” said James, who was reunited with his college teammate, right guard Dallas Thomas, on that side of the line. “As long as I keep going as hard as I can against him, these constant reps we’ve got, it’s going to get me ready for what I’m going to see this season. This is the best situation for me.”
Philbin had a clear vision of what he was looking for out of what was the first of an expected 11 full pads practices during training camp.
“We talked to the team in general about playing with leverage,” he said.”This is the first time they’ve had pads on in a long time so we talked to them about getting their eyes on their aiming point and playing with a low pad level. That was really the number one thing that we stressed, and the second thing was playing with their elbows and their hands inside the framework.”