AFC East: Reshad Jones

The Miami Dolphins completed their 2014 training camp on Thursday. The feeling of getting through the grind of hot, physical practices never gets old for players, whether they're a rookie or a 10-year veteran.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page attended all 15 training camp practices for Miami this summer. Here are five things we learned about the Dolphins:

1. Bill Lazor is a good addition

Analysis: I really like Lazor’s approach on offense. It is refreshing to see the route combinations, fast tempo, quick decisions and pre-snap motions all put in to confuse a defense. A lot of what Miami’s offense is doing just makes sense. That hasn’t always been the case in the past two years under former Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It remains to be seen if Miami’s personnel can handle all the things Lazor aims to accomplish. Lazor is pushing his players -- and particularly quarterback Ryan Tannehill -- hard in training camp. At some point, Lazor will have to scale back once he figures out the mental and physical capacity of his players. But after seeing this offense up close almost on a daily basis, the concepts are solid.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Bill Lazor
AP Photo/Alan DiazBill Lazor has been pushing Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense hard.
2. Linebacker experiment doesn’t look promising

Analysis: The Dolphins’ defense was 24th against the run last season. Much of the blame went towards the linebackers, which couldn’t stop the run and also struggled against play-action passes defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. With the Dolphins tied into high-priced, multi-year contracts, they were stuck with the trio of Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe as their 2014 starters. The only solution was to rearrange the positions. Miami’s coaches moved Misi to middle linebacker and Ellerbe to outside linebacker in hopes of getting better play from both linebackers. This experiment hasn’t looked good. The tackling remains suspect and neither linebacker is great in coverage. The Dolphins are hoping another year in the system will result in significant improvement from this trio. There are still three preseason games remaining. But I didn’t see tangible evidence of improvement in training camp.

3. Jimmy Wilson is ready to start

Analysis: The Dolphins received bad news with the four-game suspension of starting safety Reshad Jones for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. But Miami groomed backup safety Jimmy Wilson three years for this moment. Wilson, a former seventh-round pick, has been solid from Day 1 this offseason. He has consistently made plays as the backup safety and nickel cornerback. This week that continued when Wilson was promoted to a starter in training camp. It does not appear the drop off from Jones to Wilson will be large. It will be up to Wilson to take advantage of the opportunity. So far that has been the case.

4. The Dolphins have too many receivers

Analysis: If I’m an opposing team with a need at wide receiver, I would closely watch Miami’s upcoming roster cuts. Multiple receivers have flashed in training camp, and the team could be six or seven deep at the position. I anticipate the Dolphins will cut a receiver (or two) who can make a 53-man roster elsewhere. A player such as Armon Binns, for example, could very well become expendable in Miami but a productive backup elsewhere. In addition, the Dolphins could have solid receivers who don’t see the field. Rishard Matthews and/or Damian Williams could be the final two receivers on Miami’s 53-man roster but won’t get playing time without injuries. The Dolphins should consider trading one of their low-level receivers to see if they can help depth at another position that isn’t deep.

5. Dolphins have cornerback depth

Analysis: It remains to be seen whether veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan, 30, can stay healthy for 16 games. But the Dolphins must feel good about their depth with the emergence of second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. The 2012 second- and third-round picks, respectively, are coming into their own this summer. Both Taylor and Davis stayed around the football and made plays in training camp. It has to provide the coaching staff comfort.

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
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DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • Dolphins starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan returned to practice after missing the past two days. Finnegan hinted on social media that he had a death in the family. However, Finnegan did not want to get into specifics on Tuesday. On the field, Finnegan was back on the first team and also played in the slot on the nickel defense. The Dolphins rotated cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis on the outside once Finnegan moved inside.
  • Miami is making a concerted effort to get new quarterback Brady Quinn acclimated to the offense. Dolphins quarterbacks coach Zach Taylor and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor spent plenty of time in practice giving Quinn personal instruction. The Dolphins signed Quinn on Monday to compete with Matt Moore for the No. 2 quarterback job. Depending on how Quinn develops, he could make his Dolphins debut Saturday in the second preseason game.
  • The play of the day goes to Dolphins safety Reshad Jones. He was demoted to the second team this week after violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. But Jones isn’t going in the tank. He made an impressive, diving interception against Moore in team drills. Jones won't be available for the first four games of the regular season. Jimmy Wilson was promoted to the first team.
  • Miami’s defense did well with blitz packages in team drills. The Dolphins got sacks by cornerbacks Finnegan and Taylor on nickel blitzes, and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake also beat rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James off the edge to cause a fumble by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s pass protection looked solid in the preseason opener last week against the Atlanta Falcons. But the Dolphins’ offense struggled at times protecting the quarterback on Tuesday.
  • After three consecutive practices, the Dolphins will have their first day off this week on Wednesday. Miami will return to the field on Thursday in preparation for its second preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Players never know when opportunity will knock in the NFL. For Miami Dolphins backup safety Jimmy Wilson, his big chance happened this weekend after a four-game suspension to starter Reshad Jones.

Wilson got first-team reps in training camp for the first time on Sunday. Jones was handed a four-game suspension on Friday after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, which potentially thrusts Wilson into the starting lineup.

Although the Dolphins haven't made a firm decision, Wilson is the most likely candidate to start in Weeks 1-4 for Miami. He has been the first safety off the bench and the team's nickel cornerback all offseason.

“He’s had a lot of training there,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Wilson. “He's gotten a lot of reps at that position over a long period of time. Our defense system has been in place now going on three years. I think he knows the defense very well.”

Wilson, a former seventh-round pick, said he's not sure what this will mean for his role as Miami's nickel corner. It's an important job. But it most likely will be handed over to someone else while Wilson works on being a full-time starting safety. Other candidates for the nickel spot include cornerback Jamar Taylor and backup safety Michael Thomas.

The Dolphins’ first-team defense was inconsistent in Friday’s 16-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Wilson was among those players who left some opportunities on the field. Miami is making it a point this week to focus on fundamentals defensively.

“We got a lot missed tackles last week,” Wilson admitted. “We just plan on making sure that we get guys down, use our technique and be better tacklers.”

The Dolphins’ defense is expected to be the strength of the team even with the suspensions of Jones and defensive end Dion Jordan. Players like Wilson must step up to keep Miami’s defense intact to start the regular season.
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By now, Miami Dolphins fans should be well-versed in unexpected losses.

Six weeks ago, the Dolphins and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey opted for major hip surgery that will keep Pouncey out for at least the first month of the regular season. Two weeks later, the NFL tagged 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan with a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

So when the news came down Friday that starting safety Reshad Jones also will miss the first four games of the regular season, Miami fans had to ask, “What else can happen?” Jones was suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, as well. He was second on the Dolphins last year with 107 tackles and his absence leaves a hole in the secondary.

“I was very disappointed when we found out about Reshad's suspension," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said in a statement. "When we talked to him, Reshad pledged to learn from this situation.”

Jones' loss, combined with the two others, presents ominous signs for the Dolphins in 2014.

Miami is capable of overcoming the loss of Jordan or Pouncey or Jones as individual cases. But can the Dolphins overcome the accumulation of all three simultaneously? Miami, which has the league’s 12th-toughest strength of schedule, will face the New England Patriots, at the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders in London without these three key players.

Starting fast will be key for Miami. The Dolphins, like most teams, have adopted the “next man up” philosophy. Backup safety Jimmy Wilson will get an opportunity to replace Jones, Samson Satele will fill in for Pouncey, and backup Derrick Shelby will get some of Jordan's reps and have an even bigger role off the bench.

Miami's depth certainly will be tested right away in September. How the Dolphins handle the first month of their season without Jones, Jordan and Pouncey will play a sizable role in their overall success.

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
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DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill had perhaps his worst practice of training camp Monday. Tannehill threw three interceptions in team drills, including two returned for touchdowns by cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Will Davis. Tannehill’s third interception was to safety Reshad Jones. Tannehill’s day was erratic, and it comes following a good performance Saturday during the Dolphins’ annual scrimmage. To his credit, Tannehill didn’t play with many of his key wide receivers and worked with a new center in Samson Satele.
  • The “Player of the Day” was Davis, who was all over the field. Davis had the pick-6 off Tannehill and at least three pass-breakups in team drills. The second-year cornerback has a penchant for making plays and is now working on his consistency. "I just had aggressive opportunities to make plays, and I made them," Davis said. "It was one of those days where I came in, made a play early, which fills you up, and then you’re reacting right [to the ball]."
  • Miami’s injury list continues to grow. Today I wrote about ailments affecting tight end Charles Clay (knee), backup quarterback Pat Devlin (hamstring) and kicker Caleb Sturgis (groin). During practice the Dolphins suffered additional injuries to defensive end Olivier Vernon, tight end Michael Egnew and offensive lineman Nate Garner. The Dolphins had several full-padded practices in the past week, and the injuries are adding up.
  • The Dolphins continued to mix and match on the offensive line. Satele and Sam Brenner rotated with the starters at center. Shelley Smith took snaps with the first team and second team at guard. Miami is still using a lot of combinations on the offense line and eventually must settle on a starting five to begin developing continuity.
  • The Dolphins will take the field again at 8 a.m. Tuesday for their 10th practice of training camp. Miami continues to prepare for its first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said he will determine playing time for the offense and defense after practice on Wednesday.

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Examining the Miami Dolphins’ roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)


The only question here is whether Devlin can hold off undrafted rookie Brock Jensen for the No. 3 quarterback job. Neither quarterback stood out in the offseason, but Devlin has the slight edge because of experience.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

The Dolphins would like to have someone step up and challenge Thomas. Undrafted rookie Damien Williams from Oklahoma could be a sleeper to watch. But it's too premature to put Williams on the 53-man roster over the veteran Thomas before the pads come on.

RECEIVERS (6)

This is a deep group with a lot of competition. Williams will be pushed for the final spot by Armon Binns and rookie Matt Hazel, who is practice-squad-eligible.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses some two-tight-end sets. So there might be room for a fourth player such as Dion Sims. But we are sticking with three for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Pouncey’s hip injury puts a major dent in this much-maligned group to start the season. Miami will have five new starters in Week 1.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

This is the strongest area of the team. The Dolphins can come at opponents in waves in the trenches.

LINEBACKERS (7)

This group must improve its play from 2013. The Misi experiment at middle linebacker is particularly important to watch.

CORNERBACKS (6)

This is a solid mix of youth and experience. As long as second-year players Taylor and Davis come of age and Finnegan stays healthy, the depth will be improved from a year ago.

SAFETIES (4)

This group is all about position flexibility. All four players must be able to play back in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This trio will remain the same for the second straight year.

The Miami Dolphins have more than $30 million in salary cap space and are expected to be major players in free agency for the second year in a row. Offensive line is an obvious area of need, but what about the safety position?

Should the Dolphins take the plunge with free-agent safety Jairus Byrd?

The former three-time Pro Bowler is one of the best players on the market and won’t come cheap. A source informed ESPN.com's Dolphins page Monday that Byrd is seeking a contract in the range of $9 million per season. That number would make him the second highest-paid safety in the NFL behind Eric Berry, who has a six-year, $60 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The NFL Network reported over the weekend that Miami and the St. Louis Rams are among the teams expressing interest in Byrd. He is a dynamic playmaker who has 22 career interceptions with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd also had plenty of success against the Dolphins in the AFC East.

Signing Byrd would fill a need in Miami’s secondary and take away a top defensive player from a division rival. That is a win-win for the Dolphins. However, Miami has been on a spending spree since last year. The Dolphins recently shelled out $29.3 million contract for safety Reshad Jones last season and a $32 million contract for Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes last week. Adding Byrd could allocate $100 million or more into Miami’s starting secondary, which is a significant investment.

The Dolphins have other well-defined needs such as offensive tackle, guard and defensive tackle. These are not sexy positions, but they must be addressed if Miami wants to improve on last year's 8-8 record.

Potentially signing Byrd would make a huge splash for the Dolphins. But it does not come without financial risks.

Most expensive Dolphins in 2014

January, 13, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins are searching for a new general manager after parting ways with Jeff Ireland last week. One of the biggest jobs for Miami’s new GM will be analyzing the roster.

Despite a spending spree last year in free agency, Miami goes into the 2014 offseason in solid shape with the salary cap. The fact the Dolphins have more than 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents has a lot to do with it.

At right is a chart of the 10 most expensive salary-cap charges for the Dolphins in 2014.

The new Dolphins GM certainly has some decisions to make with their 10 most expensive players. For example, two players on this list are coming off season-ending injuries. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and receiver Brandon Gibson (knee) ended the 2013 season on injured reserve.

Noticeably missing from this list is Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He is the 12th most expensive player on the roster with a cap charge of $3.455 million next season. That is peanuts for a starting NFL quarterback. Tannehill is entering the third year of his rookie contract.

W2W4: Chargers at Dolphins

November, 16, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins will host the San Diego Chargers Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS) in an important game for both teams.

Here are three things to watch from Miami's perspective:

Must-win situation: The Dolphins, despite losing five of their last six games, still believe they can make a run for the playoffs in the second half of the season. Both clubs have identical 4-5 records, and the loser of this game essentially will be eliminated from postseason contention in the AFC. The winner will be back at .500 with six games remaining.

Grounded attack: Miami rushed for a franchise-low 2 yards in last week's defeat to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dolphins must improve and have more balance on offense Sunday against the Chargers. Miami has a patchwork offensive line already down two starters due to Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy. Starting center Mike Pouncey also is questionable for the game with an unspecified illness, and the Dolphins lost backup offensive tackle Will Yeatman on Wednesday with a significant knee injury.

Slowing Rivers: Miami's 16th-ranked pass defense has a major test on its hands with San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback is putting up outstanding numbers. San Diego has the fourth-rated passing attack and a variety of weapons. Miami's secondary has been hit and miss this season. But this group must step up for the Dolphins to prevail. Players such as cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Reshad Jones have to make big plays defending the pass.

Dolphins camp notes: Sturgis emerges

August, 15, 2013
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins held their final practice of their 2013 training camp on Thursday. The team will get ready to travel to Houston to face the Texans in their third preseason game.

Here are some notes and observations from Thursday's session, which took place inside the bubble due to rain:
  • For the first time in five years, the Dolphins had a new kicker take over the position. Rookie Caleb Sturgis was the only kicker in practice after beating out veteran Dan Carpenter, who was cut Wednesday evening. Sturgis didn't do much in practice Thursday, but he’s officially Miami’s kicker for the 2013 season. The rookie was matter-of-fact after winning the kicking competition. “It’s not much of a different feel,” Sturgis said after practice. “It’s the same mindset when I got out there every day.”
  • Miami didn’t have to release Carpenter for another two or three weeks. But according to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, the timing was right to make a decision. Sturgis will get more reps/kicks to end the preseason and Carpenter has more time to find a job. “We just felt this was the right opportunity to do it for both parties, really,” Philbin said. “Caleb Sturgis is going to need time and practice to prepare for game-like situations. The more game-like situations he can get in, the better. That was certainly a part of it.”
  • To fill Miami’s open roster spot left by Carpenter, the team signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite. He’s a six-year veteran who played with the San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers. Defensive end is one of the deepest areas of the Dolphins. But Applewhite is happy for the opportunity. “I’m just trying to bring a little bit of experience and any knowledge that I have about the game to the team,” Applewhite said.
  • Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill had another solid practice to wrap up a good week. However, Miami’s backup quarterbacks struggled. Matt Moore (one interception) and Aaron Corp (two interceptions) both turned over the ball Thursday. Rookie cornerback Will Davis intercepted a tipped pass from Moore, and Corp struggled mightily with picks to linebacker Philip Wheeler and safety Reshad Jones.
  • On the injury front, defensive linemen Dion Jordan (shoulder) and Randy Starks (knee) both sat out of practice. Jordan dressed for warm-ups and continued his rehab assignment while the Dolphins practiced team drills. Neither player practiced all week and they appear to be long shots to play in Saturday's game against Houston.
  • Josh Samuda continues to play with the starters at right guard, which has been a closely watched position during camp. Nate Garner missed practice this week with a reported shoulder injury and John Jerry (knee) only participated in individual drills. This game against Houston is a good chance for Samuda to prove himself after struggling last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • This will be a very important game for Miami's bubble players. The Dolphins are starting to fill roles and this third preseason game is a good gauge for where a lot of players stand. Special teams will be particularly important. This will be the best way for fringe players to make the roster.

The Dolphins will be traveling Friday and will take the field against Houston Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.
The Miami Dolphins continued their trend of handing out big contract extensions this week. Miami signed starting safety Reshad Jones to a four-year, $30 million extension. Jones now is under contract through the 2017 season.

Miami spent more than $200 million in total contracts this offseason. However, Jones initially was not one of those players the team rewarded. After some early tension, which included Jones considering a holdout, general manager Jeff Ireland stayed true to his word and eventually took care of Jones.

“We’ve been working on this since OTAs [organized team activities],” Jones explained Tuesday. “They said they would get it done, and like I said they went out and got it done. So that’s a thanks to [owner] Stephen Ross, Jeff Ireland, Coach [Joe] Philbin and this whole organization for making this possible.”

Now that Jones is financially secure, he can fully turn his attention to football. Jones had a career year in 2012 when he recorded 94 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and a sack. He was one of Miami’s few playmakers on defense last season.

This year Jones, 25, is thinking big. He’s already one of the top young safeties in the NFL. But Jones’ goal this year is to be mentioned among the very best at his position.

“The sky is the limit,” Jones said Tuesday. “I think I went out last year and demonstrated that I’m one of the elite safeties in this game. I just want to be consistent, continue to keep doing what I’m doing and be a leader on this team.”

The Dolphins could certainly use another big year from Jones. For the first time in years, Miami enters the season with a lot of preseason hype and playoff expectations.

Jones came to Miami as a fifth-round pick in 2010. But he quickly established himself with the Dolphins and became a full-time starter one year later. Once Jones was put in the starting lineup, it was clear that he was a keeper.

It’s rare that a fifth-round pick becomes one of the highest-paid players at his position after just three seasons. But Jones proved himself on the field and the Dolphins are showing confidence that his stellar play will continue.

“It feels even better, knowing that I had to work for it,” Jones said of his road to the big extension. “When you have to work for whatever it is, I think it’s more rewarding. So it feels good knowing that I went out, proved myself and I earned it, it wasn’t just given to me.”
Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland hasn't been afraid to write large checks this offseason. On Monday he made one final huge investment by signing safety Reshad Jones to a four-year, $30 million extension, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Dolphins promised they would eventually take care of Jones. He's been one of Miami's best young players for the past couple of years. However, the Dolphins first took care of in-house players like receiver Brian Hartline and safety Chris Clemons, as well as a variety of outside free agents that totaled more than $200 million.

Miami stuck to its word by making Jones one of the NFL's highest-paid safeties Monday. He has an annual average of nearly $8 million per season.

The Dolphins expressed confidence in Jones, and now he must prove he's one of the league's top safeties. For the past several years, Jones often talked about being a top playmaker like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. Now, he must play like one.

Jones has been a good safety the past few seasons. But "good" is no longer enough. Jones must be elite and he must do be so this season. Miami can't win consistently if its pass defense remains in the bottom of the league.

The Dolphins are in need of both leaders and playmakers in what could be an exciting year for Miami. Jones has the potential to be both for the team.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each AFC East team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have talent and major questions in the secondary. In regards to talent, Buffalo has an excellent young pair in cornerback Stephon Gilmore, 22, and Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, 26. This duo could lay the foundation for Buffalo’s secondary for years to come. However, Byrd is unhappy about his one-year franchise tag, and his long-term future with the team is up in the air. The Bills have the cap space to work out an extension, and this should be their highest priority. Otherwise, Buffalo could be looking at a training camp holdout. The other safety and corner positions are wide open. Buffalo is trying out former cornerback Aaron Williams at safety this offseason in an effort to jump-start his career. Da'Norris Searcy and rookie Duke Williams also are potential options. Leodis McKelvin, Crezdon Butler and others have been competing at corner opposite Gilmore.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins were 27th against the pass last season and needed to make changes. Miami was aggressive in free agency and the draft this year, making a big signing at corner in former Pro Bowler Brent Grimes and spending second- and third-round picks on corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, respectively. Grimes has easily been the most impressive corner in organized team activities and minicamp. He is 100 percent again following last year’s season-ending Achilles injury. Taylor and Davis both have a lot to learn, but the Dolphins hope at least one rookie is up to speed and ready to contribute by the start of the regular season. Veteran cornerback Richard Marshall is starting with Grimes. The safety positions are the same with Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons. Jones, in particular, has the potential to be one of the better safeties in the AFC.

New England Patriots: The Patriots finished 29th against the pass last season and must make major strides. New England made a wise decision to re-sign No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib, a good midseason acquisition in 2012, to a one-year contract. Former 2012 seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard overcame legal issues and should improve in Year 2, and I like the physical addition of veteran safety Adrian Wilson in free agency. He will combine with converted cornerback Devin McCourty, who is now at safety on a full-time basis. It’s hard to imagine New England’s secondary playing worse than it has the past two years. The Patriots returned most of their secondary from last year and hope continuity leads to improvement.

New York Jets: Despite the loss of star Darrelle Revis, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, there is not much to be concerned about at cornerback for the Jets. New York still has veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who made the Pro Bowl last year, and there is depth with first-round picks Kyle Wilson (2010) and Dee Milliner (2013). Wilson may start early, but both young corners will play a key role on defense, especially in sub packages. New York’s major question in the secondary is at safety. The Jets could not afford to keep 2012 Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, who signed a multiyear contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, the Jets signed his cheaper, less talented brother -- Dawan Landry -- as a replacement. The other starting position at safety is wide open, with players such as Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush vying for playing time. Look for Jets head coach and defensive whiz Rex Ryan to find clever ways to cover up New York’s deficiencies at safety this year.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins wrapped up their first of three practices at mandatory minicamp Tuesday. The AFC East blog was live at Miami’s practice facility to take in all the action.

Here is a recap:
  • The big story Tuesday was the return of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks, who held out of all of Miami’s voluntary activities due to getting the franchise tag. Starks signed his tag for $8.5 million. Therefore, he was required to show up or risk a fine. Starks didn’t take part in any team work, and it appears Miami will bring him along slowly. Starks didn’t discuss his contract situation, but he did discuss missing OTAs. “It was kind of lonely at first,” Starks said. “It was something to get used to. But I kept in contact with some of my teammates and felt like I was still here a little bit."
  • It was a good day for Miami starting receiver Brian Hartline, who made a series of nice catches in team drills and 7-on-7 drills. Hartline made two deep, sideline catches from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and also made the routine plays over the middle. Hartline recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2012 and could be poised for another good year in 2013.
  • It was also a good day for interceptions on defense. There were four picks by my count in team drills by Miami defenders. Dolphins starting safety Reshad Jones, linebacker Philip Wheeler, safety Chris Clemons and cornerback Don Jones all recorded interceptions. The Dolphins are focusing on creating more turnovers this offseason, and it was a good day for the defense in that regard.
  • As far as attendance, everyone was present with the exception of rookie No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan, who has a quarters academic system at the University of Oregon and cannot attend. Jordan also is recovering from shoulder surgery and will not join the team for practice until training camp. Fellow rookie second-round pick Jamar Taylor (sports hernia) worked on the side and didn’t practice. Starting tight end Dustin Keller also sat out of team drills on Tuesday, and backup tight end Michael Egnew got plenty of first-team reps.
  • Dolphins receiver and free-agent pickup Brandon Gibson is looking more comfortable this week in the slot. He seemed a step hesitant earlier this offseason but looked more fluid running and catching inside on Tuesday. Gibson did not play much in the slot during his time with the St. Louis Rams. But Miami needs Gibson inside after trading Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns this offseason.
  • Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman offered high praise for Tannehill, who is entering Year 2 as Miami's starting quarterback. According to Sherman, the growth in Tannehill is apparent. "He's doing more as far as what he sees," Sherman said. "He's doing things better than he did a year ago."
  • A player who had a surprisingly good practice was undrafted rookie wide receiver Brian Tyms. He flashed several times Tuesday with some tough catches and displayed good size and athleticism. Miami is stacked at wide receiver, so Tyms could be a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But Tyms could be a developmental possibility for the practice squad if he keeps making plays in practice.
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.”

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