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Miami Dolphins caution with Laremy Tunsil's NFL transition

By The Sports Xchange
Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil holds his jersey after being selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil holds his jersey after being selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

DAVIE, Fla. -- Rookie Laremy Tunsil, the No. 13 pick of the NFL draft who is expected to start at left guard for the Miami Dolphins, still isn't consistently practicing with the first team.

And considering Tunsil is projected to replace Dallas Thomas, one of the NFL's lowest-rated starters last season, everyone wants to know why Tunsil isn't practicing with the starters more often.

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"Right now, for him, it's mental," coach Adam Gase said. "We've just got to keep bringing him along."

Tunsil said playing with his hand in the dirt is a transition.

"I'm used to my hand always up at Ole Miss, coming from a tempo team," he said. "But like I told everybody else, I'm going to get into the meeting room (and) I'm going to adjust to the position."

Tunsil, who had a shoving match with defensive end Chris McCain during Monday's practice, said the pressure of being a first-round pick isn't affecting him. He said he's taking things day by day.

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"That's it," he said, "practice by practice, one day at a time. That's it. Don't rush."

But clearly Tunsil needs time to make the transition from left tackle to left guard.

"A lot of things are much faster at the guard position," Tunsil said. "You've got your hand down and they (the defense) are close to you. I'm going to get into the meeting room and I'm going to rep it every day so it'll be fine."

Gase seemed to suggest Tunsil gets a bit confused by the looks he gets from the veteran defensive linemen.

"Obviously when you go against veteran players -- the defensive line -- those guys do a great job of setting things up," Gase said.

"So when you haven't seen certain things, they start picking on you when you're a guy with little experience. They start playing these little games with you where you start playing pick games and you don't see it coming and all of a sudden you get blindsided by somebody," Gase added. "And then you kind of put your, whoever it is, the tackle or guard, (they) have problems because you don't know what's going on."

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It would be almost unthinkable for Tunsil not to have the starting left guard job by the Sept. 11 season opener at Seattle.

Gase is showing patience and understanding.

"When you're getting to go against our defensive line, whether it be the first team or their second team, I mean, the way those guys come off the ball, you're getting a quick lesson on what the NFL's really about," he said.

Tunsil has admitted as much.

Ask him about facing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

"Suh's a man, now," Tunsil said with a laugh. "He's a man. That's a good person to go against. He's one of the best in the game so if you continue to go against him, you're going to be one of the best in the game also."

The Dolphins hope that's the case.

NOTES: RB Damien Williams is set to come off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Tuesday. Williams served as the third-down back and kick returner last season. It's essential he's healthy for training camp because the backfield is crowded among RBs Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Isaiah Pead. ... Ajayi (knee), expected to battle Foster for the starting job, is day-to-day after he sustained a bone bruise to his left knee Sunday. Ajayi fell to the fifth round in the 2015 draft amid reports that his right knee had no cartilage, which would likely mean a short career. Ajayi hasn't worn a brace on his right knee since joining the Dolphins and didn't have any issues last season. He started the season on IR/Designated to Return because of a rib injury and finished with 49 carries for 187 yards and one TD. ... Foster was activated from the PUP list Sunday and participated in limited drills Monday. Foster, recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury, might have a light workload through training camp and preseason. Gase said the priority is having Foster healthy for the regular season. ... CB Bobby McCain, expected to start at the nickel (slot) position, was activated from the physically unable to perform PUP list Monday and wasn't limited in any way. McCain, the 2015 fifth-round pick from Memphis, said legs cramps was the reason he was on the PUP list. S Michael Thomas continues to start at nickel even with McCain's return. ... DE Dion Jordan, who got his conditional NFL reinstatement Friday, surprised the team with news that he had arthroscopic knee surgery recently. The Dolphins weren't allowed to have contact with Jordan since his one-year suspension in April 2015. Gase said Jordan, the No. 3 pick of the 2013 draft, could be sidelined for all of training camp. Jordan, suspended for one year for repeated violations of the league's drug policy, can't practice until he receives NFL clearance that his clinical support system is in place. After that, he must meet with the league again to get approval to play in the Sept. 11 opener at Seattle. Listed at 275 pounds, Jordan appears bigger in the chest, biceps and forearms. He'll have a tough battle making the 53-man roster among DEs Cam Wake, Mario Williams, Chris McCain, Jason Jones, Andre Branch and Terrence Fede. ... CB Byron Maxwell, the starter in the right side, has been good early in camp, especially defending WR Kenny Stills, who he faces often in 1-on-1 drills. Maxwell has been seen breaking up a well-thrown pass in the end zone, stripping a wide receiver after a reception and playing solid veteran defense to shut down receivers. ... RG Jermon Bushrod, the free agent from Chicago who is making the transition from left tackle, hasn't yet overtaken Billy Turner for the starting job, and that's a bit surprising. Bushrod has never played guard in the NFL, but Turner didn't have a good season last year so it was expected Bushrod would slide right into the starting job. ... WR-PR Jakeem Grant, the sixth-round pick from Texas Tech with good quickness and speed, has been impressive in one-on-one drills. But Grant, who is 5-foot-6, still needs work on his route-running, according to Gase. Still, there's a good chance Grant gets the first shot at punt return duties and makes the 53-man roster that way. ... LB Koa Misi has been impressive so far in camp against the run and in his limited pass defense duties. Misi, a solid starter throughout his six-year career, needs to make more tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage to be a difference-maker, however. ... DE Williams has been good throughout the early days of training camp, making plays against the pass and run. Williams, a 4-3 DE, had double-digit sacks totals for Buffalo from 2012-14, but dropped to 5.0 sacks last season in an ill-fitting 3-4 scheme. ... CB Tony Lippett, the expected starter on the left side, is still struggling to get acclimated to his position. Lippett, the 2015 fifth-round pick from Michigan State who was primarily a wide receiver in college, has had lots of trouble handling WRs Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. ... TE Dion Sims, valued for his blocking skills, hasn't been called upon much as a receiver under Gase, and that aspect of his game has hardly been mentioned. Interestingly, improving Sims' hands was always a vocal priority under the previous coaching staffs. ... RB Isaiah Pead was a bit of a surprise as the first-teamer Tuesday, a day after Foster was cleared to practice. Gase said Pead, a 2012 second-round pick by St. Louis who has 19 career carries for 78 yards, "has done everything we have asked him to do. We've just got to keep him on that same track." ... CB Brandon Harris, Houston's 2012 second-round pick, is getting a shot at the Dolphins' nickel (slot) position. Harris, who attended the University of Miami and missed last season with Tennessee due to a knee injury, is behind CB Bobby McCain and S Michael Thomas, and likely battling rookie Jordan Lucas, the sixth-round pick from Penn State. ... DT Jordan Phillips, the 2015 second-round pick from Oklahoma, hasn't yet overtaken veteran Earl Mitchell. Phillips was up and down last season and hasn't yet asserted himself in training camp.

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