- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- The 2014 organized team activities (OTAs) are coming to a conclusion this week for the Miami Dolphins. There will be mandatory minicamp next week. Then, the Dolphins will take more than a month off before training camp.
ESPN.com’s Dolphins page has attended every OTA open to the media. Here are some takeaways from the past three weeks:
The surprise player from spring practices has been second-year offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. The former third-round pick didn’t contribute anything during his rookie season. Not much was expected of Thomas, especially after the Dolphins drafted a similar player in 2014 third-round pick Billy Turner. But Thomas showed up for offseason workouts in good shape and is flashing good athleticism. He’s done enough to earn the inside track on the starting left guard position next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Thomas’ next task is to hold off Turner when the pads come on in training camp and the preseason.
Speaking of Turner, early impressions are he still has a lot to learn. Turner played left tackle last season at North Dakota State and is still working on improving leverage. From what I’ve seen, Turner still stands a little high at times and looks like a left tackle playing guard. Turner also needs to work on his punch. These are things that should improve with experience. But Turner is running out of time if he wants to be a Week 1 starter.
The more practices that go by, the more I think Dolphins return specialist Marcus Thigpen won’t make the 53-man roster. Thigpen has been Miami’s primary kick returner the past two seasons. But with rule changes and less emphasis on kick returns, Thigpen’s value has decreased and he doesn’t offer much in other areas. The Dolphins have moved Thigpen from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but Thigpen isn’t making plays. If Miami can find a decent alternative to return kicks this preseason, Thigpen could be on the outs. Other possibilities include receivers Damian Williams and rookie Jarvis Landry.
Bill Lazor’s new offense is getting rave reviews in Miami. Many of the concepts the Dolphins’ first-year offensive coordinator is implementing make sense and are an improvement over last season’s offense under Mike Sherman. But one thing I noticed that could be risky is the amount of pressure Lazor’s scheme puts on the offensive line. There are a multitude of passing plays that involves four and five options. More eligible receivers mean less protection for the quarterback. Lazor is relying on his quarterback to make quick reads and get rid of the football, which is an area Ryan Tannehill must improve.
Cortland Finnegan is starting to establish his role on the defense. He currently has the inside track to start at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. But Finnegan also is getting a look inside as the nickel cornerback on obvious passing downs. Finnegan is a physical cornerback, and the Dolphins believe those traits can help get the defense off the field on third down. Other possibilities for the nickel corner include versatile defensive backs Jimmy Wilson and Michael Thomas.
The Dolphins will wrap up their offseason program with mandatory minicamp June 17-19.