from Chris Perkins at the Sun Sentinel
The Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant, used almost exclusively as a slot/inside receiver last year, played on the inside and the outside during the recently-concluded organized team activities. Safety Michael Thomas was used at nickel/slot defensive back, and Kraig Urbik played center and guard.
The Dolphins frequently cross-train players during practice. That’s part of their philosophy under coach Adam Gase. It raises a player’s value and helps develop quality depth in a sport in which versatility is a must.
Expect the cross-training to continue during this week’s three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday at the team’s training facility in Davie.
Minicamp has expanded work limits over OTAs. Afternoon or nighttime walkthroughs are permitted and teams get longer meeting times.
The extra time allows the Dolphins to evaluate things further before they take their six-week break and start training camp at the end of July.
“In OTAs sometimes, it’s tough,” Gase said last week. “Your window is so small. Those meeting times … they go by quick. You want to watch every little thing and teach all the stuff that we have. You’re constantly playing catch up.
“The minicamp allows you to really take that deep dive and help your players as much as possible.”
Many forms experimentation, aside from cross-training, will continue during minicamp.
Rookie defensive end Charles Harris, the first-round pick from Missouri, and veteran defensive end William Hayes, will be used inside and outside so the Dolphins can take looks at different pass-rushing packages.
At middle linebacker, the Dolphins will continue to rotate among Lawrence Timmons, Kiko Alonso and Mike Hull.
In each area — cross-training, using players in different packages, and rotating starters — the Dolphins think they’re way ahead of where they were at this time last year.
And there’s no rush to make final decisions.
“As we get close to the season you hope the roles would crystallize a little bit and we get a better idea of how we want to use those guys,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said last week.
Gase said moving Harris, who has displayed a good first step, to the inside in certain packages is intended to best utilize his pass-rushing skills. It also allows the Dolphins to see how many pass rushers they can put on the field at the same time. But it’s being done with caution.
“We don’t want to put too much on one guy’s plate,” Gase said. “We just want him to just continue working on the little details of what the coaching staff is asking him to do and find ways to get better.”
Many of the Dolphins’ major contributors are not being cross-trained like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end Cameron Wake, and running back Jay Ajayi.
But experimentation is ongoing.
Among the positions where multiple options are being explored:
Punt returner — Running back Kenyan Drake has been working on returning punts to provide depth and perhaps battle Grant for the Number One Job.
Cornerback — Safety Walt Aikens is getting a look at corner to best determine his position and see if he could provide help in a pinch
Offensive line — Urbik, Anthony Steen, Jake Brendel and Ted Larsen have all worked at guard and center while rookie Isaac Asiata has worked at right guard and left guard
Linebacker — Alonso is playing in the middle and outside, and Timmons said he’s comfortable playing either
Alonso, who has started at both middle and outside linebacker during his NFL career seems to like what the Dolphins are doing with their experimentation.
“I think right now we’re just all doing everything,” said Alonso, who recorded 115 tackles last season as a middle linebacker.
“I don’t think we’re making any decisions yet. It’s just wherever they put us.”