Miami Dolphins run defense still an unknown after minicamp

By The Sports Xchange  |  June 16, 2017 at 9:57 PM
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DAVIE, Fla. -- After all these weeks of weightlifting, drills, and 11-on-11s during OTAs (organized team activities) and mini-camp, the Miami Dolphins are no closer to knowing whether their run defense is improved than they were the day after their season ended.

That's the way it goes when there are no pads and no contact.

So the Dolphins don't know how to feel about the unit that finished 30th in the NFL at 140.4 yards per game.

"We won't really know until we get pads on and we actually start playing some preseason games and the regular season," coach Adam Gase said. "You try to look at it the best you can as far as run fits and running to the football and just that consistency that you're looking for in the defense. Everything looks good when we're in non-pads right now.

"We just need to carry our techniques and our fits to training camp, and then when we get in a game, we just need to take the next step and do it in games."

Overall, Gase considered the offseason a success. Health is one reason. For the most part, the Dolphins are as healthy leaving the offseason program as they were entering.

But Gase also likes his players' learning retention.

"It feels like we're not talking about the same things over and over," he said. "I feel like when we correct something guys listen."

And key contributors such as quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Jay Ajayi, wide receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Xavien Howard were mentioned by coaches and teammates as being among the standouts of the offseason program.

But the run defense was a major priority both in the draft and offseason workouts.

Regarding the run defense, Miami still has defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips up front. Phillips vowed to be better than a year ago, which would help greatly. They also drafted defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.

Among defensive ends Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and Charles Harris, Miami thinks it is better at setting the edge and tackling.

The linebacker should also be better at the starting positions and backups. Among candidates to start are Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, rookie Raekwon McMillan, Mike Hull and Koa Misi, who hasn't participated in offseason work due while recovering from a neck injury.

Miami hopes its run defense is improved, but it won't know for sure for a while.

"I think it's tough to determine that when you don't have pads on," Suh said. "I think the most important thing is guys are definitely in the right place where they need to be, but I think it'll be very key for us to get a gauge of that when we get pads on and obviously when we get into preseason games."

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