NFL Nation: Matt Moore

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins took the field for the first of three practices during mandatory minicamp. It was a high-energy first session in what serves as a preview to training camp.

Here are seven observations from Tuesday's practice:
  • It was a strong day for the Dolphins' defense. Miami's defense was disruptive all practice and, by my count, recorded three interceptions and at least four would-be sacks. (The defense is not allowed to hit quarterbacks in practice.) The Dolphins' defense has been together for three seasons and has been well ahead of the offense on days practice was open to the media. “There's going to be days where one side of the ball has the upper hand,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It looked like the back end and the linebackers, we were doing some good things from a coverage standpoint.”
  • Miami receiver Brandon Gibson continues to make progress from last year's season-ending patella tendon tear. Gibson participated in team drills for the first time this offseason. He still doesn't look 100 percent but is moving around relatively well. At this point Gibson looks well on pace to be ready by Week 1.
  • Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor had arguably his best practice of the offseason. Taylor, who got reps on the first team, recorded a sideline interception off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Taylor also showed some athleticism by blowing up a running play. Taylor was injured must of last year but is making strong strides this offseason.
  • The Dolphins' coaching staff is putting several veterans on the maintenance program during minicamp. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and cornerback Cortland Finnegan sat out team drills Tuesday. It is unknown if that will change during the week.
  • After a plan to renovate Sun Life Stadium was passed by the Miami-Dade County Commission in a 7-4 vote, Philbin credited owner Stephen Ross. “Most important to me is it shows the commitment our owner, Stephen Ross, has to making this a world-class organization,” Philbin said.
  • Miami rookie defensive end Terrence Fede had the play of the day. Fede, who is 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, dropped in coverage and made a leaping interception off Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore. Fede then advanced the ball about 10 yards as his defensive teammates celebrated.
  • Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan continues to flash in practice. He had another would-be sack on Tannehill coming off the corner. Jordan put on about 17 pounds of muscle since last year and looks ready to make a second-year jump after an ineffective rookie year.

Miami will continue its three-day minicamp on Wednesday morning.
CBS Sports national NFL reporter Jason La Canfora wrote a column on the Miami Dolphins Friday with several interesting nuggets. But perhaps the most intriguing note comes at the quarterback position.

La Canfora reports Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin told general manager candidates during interviews that Tannehill could be on a shorter leash in 2014. A source indicated Philbin wants to have more competition at quarterback to push Tannehill, and Philbin won’t be afraid to make a change next season if needed.

Both Philbin and Tannehill are 15-17 in Miami and enter a crucial Year 3 together. Here is what La Canfora wrote about the situation.
Philbin's job is riding on Tannehill progressing. I wouldn't doubt a little more pressure from highly paid back–up Matt Moore ($4M salary; $5.5M in cap) in 2014, with Philbin professing his belief in Moore to several of the GM candidates and demanding more from Tannehill.

"He definitely wants to push Tannehill more," said one source who has spoken to Philbin about the quarterbacks, "and if he doesn't see improvement he said he might go to Moore at some point. He definitely has a lot of faith in Moore, and they're paying him a lot of money."

If the report is accurate, I think it’s bad news for Tannehill and the Dolphins to have discussions about a shorter leash in February. Moore clearly is not the long-term solution in Miami, and benching Tannehill would only be a panic move. Tannehill is the best quarterback option the Dolphins have and has the higher ceiling.

It’s still too early to say whether Tannehill is the answer in Miami. But the organization must be 100-percent behind Tannehill this season in order to provide him the best chance to succeed.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are putting the finishing touches on their preparation for the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Miami had a walkthrough practice in shorts before the team travels to Cleveland this weekend.

Here are some notes from Friday's practice:
  • The only absence was third-string quarterback Pat Devlin, who has an ankle injury. Devlin hasn’t practiced all week, and it appears the Dolphins are comfortable going into Sunday's game with two quarterbacks. Miami starter Ryan Tannehill and backup Matt Moore got a lot of reps in practice this week without a third player available.
  • Miami also is expected to be without rookie cornerbacks Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin). Both players rehabbed and worked with trainers in the portion of practice open to the media. Neither Davis nor Taylor practiced all week. So it’s safe to assume they won’t be available for Sunday’s game. Miami will release its final injury report with the official status designations Friday evening.
  • It’s interesting to see the amount of starters and key contributors Miami has working on special teams. Starting tight end Charles Clay, cornerback Brent Grimes, No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan and starting safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons are all working on various special teams. We won't know for sure which starters will play in the third phase until Sunday. But it’s clear Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is taking special teams very serious, even if it's an additional injury risk involved with key players.
  • Dolphins starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week, but it’s not serious. Patterson hasn’t missed a practice and participated in team drills in Friday's portion of practice open to the media. The difference was Patterson wore a protective sleeve in Friday’s walkthrough.

W2W4: Five things for Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys meet the Houston Texans in the preseason for the first time since 2010 at AT&T Stadium. Intrastate pride might be on the line for the fans of both teams, but little else.

With 75 players on the roster, some jobs remain but most are filled. Here’s what we’ll be looking at tonight:

Job fair: With 18 roster moves to make by Saturday’s cut-down date, most of the decisions have likely been made. There are perhaps two open spots with as many as eight guys looking to fit the square peg. Would the Cowboys carry five tight ends? How about six receivers? Nine defensive linemen?

Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, tight end Andre Smith, wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, cornerback Micah Pellerin, tackle DeMetress Bell, guard David Arkin and guard Kevin Kowalski can make their cases tonight. Linebacker Brandon Magee (concussion), safeties Eric Frampton (calf), Danny McCray (hamstring) and Matt Johnson (foot) will have to watch and sweat out the final decisions.

Tanney time: Maybe Kyle Orton opens the game, but the Cowboys will give Alex Tanney most of the work.

With needs at other positions and injury questions going into the opener, Tanney is looking more like a practice-squad fit than a 53-man roster fit. If he plays lights out, he could change the equation or at the very least get another team to keep him on the 53-man roster the way Matt Moore did a few years ago.

Check out the Texans: Last year the Cowboys closed the preseason against Miami and traded for veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook a few days later based on what they saw in that game.

With the Cowboys moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year, check out the Texans’ offensive linemen. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack spent five years with the Texans (2007-11) and will have a good idea of what would be a good fit with the Cowboys.

As unsettled as the Cowboys are with their starting offensive line they’re more unsettled with the backups. A case could be made they don’t have a ninth or 10th guy (if they choose to reach double digits) on their current roster to fill out the line.

Earning practice squad jobs: Tanney has been talked about, but there will be seven other spots to fill. The Cowboys like to keep receivers and defensive backs on the practice squad because of the amount of running in practice, so guys like Danny Coale, Tim Benford and Pellerin bear watching.

And the line play will have candidates to, like defensive end Jerome Long and offensive tackle Darrion Weems. Linebacker could be another spot of interest with Cameron Lawrence and Taylor Reed.

The digital board: Chris Jones hit it last week with a punt against Cincinnati and the Bengals returned the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown, continuing a preseason-long issue of special teams’ miscues. Jones is unlikely to hit it again, but watching it to see the clock tick down will be more important because it brings us closer to the start of the regular season.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins continued their preparation for Saturday’s “dress rehearsal” preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Here are some notes from Wednesday’s practice:

  • Charles Clay continues to get first-team reps at tight end with former starter Dustin Keller (knee) out for the season. Clay was expected to play more of an H-back for the Dolphins this season until Keller went down. Now, Clay has to focus on the tight-end position. He has 34 career receptions in three seasons. Clay caught a nice touchdown pass down the seam from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 11-on-11 drills on Wednesday, and made several other nice catches.
  • Tannehill overall had an inconsistent day. He threw two interceptions, to rookie cornerback Will Davis and backup linebacker Lee Robinson, in team drills. But Tannehill also made several nice completions to receiver Mike Wallace, Clay and others. Tannehill had perhaps his best week of practice this summer leading into the Houston Texans game, and his performance showed on the field. The first two practices this week haven’t been as good.
  • Defensive backs react to Tuesday’s cut of veteran cornerback Richard Marshall. He was competing for a starting job with Dimitri Patterson, but Patterson won the job and made Marshall expendable. Marshall could have provided depth, but his approximate $4 million salary this season was too high to be a backup. “It’s a business,” Patterson explained. “Good players are let go for whatever reason all the time. Decisions are made and that’s it. We’re only players at the end of the day.”
  • Patterson also had a solid day working with the first team. He had two interception Wednesday in team drills -- one off backup quarterback Matt Moore and another off Pat Devlin. Patterson also played inside on the nickel defense, with Nolan Carroll moving outside in sub packages.
  • No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan (shoulder) dressed Wednesday, but continues to sit out of practice. Although game status won’t be determined until later in the week, Jordan appears unlikely to play Saturday against the Buccaneers. Jordan’s shoulder has kept him sidelined for the past week or so. But Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the team is ready to use Jordan despite a lack of practice time. “There’s always going to be a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C as you approach the season,” Coyle said. “We have a plan in place to utilize Dion provided that he’s up and ready to go. I think he’s making strides with his rehab.”
  • Projected starting guard John Jerry continues to work his way back from knee surgery. He worked with the first team on Wednesday and, health permitting, appears to be the favorite to start at right guard. Jerry was injured in the first week of training camp and didn’t get much work in. He didn’t look fluid in Wednesday’s practice, and still has a ways to go. The goal is for Jerry to round himself back into form in time for Miami’s Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns.
  • Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis was 2-for-3 on field goals Wednesday. His only miss was from 47 yards. Sturgis is Miami’s official kicker this season after the team released veteran Dan Carpenter.
  • Head coach Joe Philbin said the team is “absolutely” game-planning this week. This is the dress-rehearsal preseason game for Miami. Tampa Bay also is a regular-season opponent for the Dolphins in Week 10. So, much of the intel the Dolphins get from this game -- and vice versa – will be used later in the season.

The Dolphins will return to the practice field again on Thursday.

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

August, 19, 2013
MIAMI -- Three preseason games are in the books for the Miami Dolphins.

Let's take a look at whose stock is rising and falling for Miami:


1. Dolphins’ tight-end depth: This weekend, Miami lost starting tight end Dustin Keller for the year with a knee injury. This is a big blow for the Dolphins, who were counting on Keller to stay healthy, produce and provide veteran leadership. Now Miami is scrambling to find answers with young players. The Dolphins have four young tight ends on the roster: Dion Sims, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and H-back Charles Clay. This will be a good test of Miami’s depth. Sims, Egnew and Clay were all recent draft picks of the past three years by Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland. If Ireland got it right, at least one of these in-house tight ends should be able to step up and play a bigger role.

2. Dolphins backup O-line: If you thought Miami’s starters struggled at times, the Dolphins’ backup offensive line was worse. Players like offensive tackles Will Yeatman and Dallas Thomas did not do enough to inspire confidence from Miami’s coaching staff. Second-string quarterback Matt Moore (four sacks) was being thrown around in the second half. The Dolphins need some of these backups to step up and earn roster spots. Injuries happen every year on the offensive line, and someone needs to gain the confidence of the coaching staff. That hasn’t been the case so far in three preseason games.

3. Will Davis, cornerback: Miami’s third-round pick has been one of the surprise players of training camp. Davis has made a lot of big plays, but he struggled in his third preseason game against the Texans. Davis was beat on a double-move during a 38-yard touchdown catch by Houston Texans receiver Lestar Jean. Davis also played loose on coverage on a few other plays. Davis has made a lot of interceptions in practice and has a pick in the preseason. But he needs to work on being more consistent.


[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesDolphins fans finally got to see Mike Wallace, the team's prized free agent this offseason, catch some balls in Miami's preseason game against Houston.
1. Mike Wallace, receiver: Miami fans were prematurely getting antsy because Wallace hadn’t caught a pass in the preseason. But Wallace exploded in the first quarter of Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans with three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on one drive. Wallace showed a full array of skills against the Texans. He caught a short, intermediate and deep pass on the drive. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Wallace began a good week in practice and it carried over into the game. Dolphins fans can relax now that they saw the combo’s potential in the preseason.

2. Daniel Thomas, running back: With Lamar Miller the probable starter, the No. 2 tailback position was close between Thomas, rookie Mike Gillislee and Jonas Gray. But Thomas did a good job to separate himself with a strong performance against Houston. Thomas rushed for 25 yards on four carries and caught a 27-yard shovel pass. Health permitting, Thomas is now the clear favorite to be the first tailback off the bench to spell Miller. Thomas has been inconsistent and had issues with fumbling and injuries the past two seasons. But coaches have been raving about Thomas in Year 3, and he’s showing signs greater consistency.

3. A.J. Francis, defensive tackle: Miami’s defensive line is easily the deepest area of the team. The second- and third-string defensive linemen have been stout throughout training camp and the preseason. This week Francis, a third-stringer, had a good performance in limited playing time. Francis finished with two tackles, a tackle for loss, a quarterback pressure and a tipped pass. Francis was disruptive and showed good strength and movement down the line of scrimmage. It’s going to be very hard to make the Dolphins as a defensive lineman, but he made a good case Saturday night.

The Miami Dolphins completed their third preseason game of the season with a 24-17 loss to the Houston Texans. Miami fell to 1-2 on the preseason.

Here are several observations for Miami:
  • The Dolphins' passing game finally woke up in the preseason thanks to new No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace. He caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and all of it came on the third drive. Wallace showed the full range of playmaking by catching a 16-yard pass for a first down, a 33-yard catch over the top and a 9-yard touchdown reception by finding a hole in the zone. Dolphins fans were prematurely antsy about Tannehill not connecting with Wallace up to this point. The pair had a good week of practice, and it showed in the game.
  • Tannehill also had his best game of the preseason. Tannehill was 10-of-15 passing for 141 yards and the touchdown pass to Wallace. It’s also worth noting that two of Tannehill’s five incompletions were drops by running back Lamar Miller and Brian Hartline. Overall, Tannehill was poised and made a nice range of throws against a tough Houston defense. Perhaps this performance will provide some momentum for Tannehill in the rest of the preseason.
  • The worse news of the night for Miami was the potential knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. He made a second-quarter reception and took a shot directly on his right knee as he was coming down. Keller's leg hyper-extended and he clutched his knee in pain. Keller was later carted off the field and couldn’t put weight on his right leg, which are not good signs. Keller's injury appears to be significant, and the Dolphins most likely will have to rely on young tight ends like Dion Sims and Michael Egnew for a while.
  • Miami’s offense played well overall, but it was a rough night for Dolphins right guard Josh Samuda. He had another opportunity to prove that he can play with the starters and struggled mightily against Houston’s talented defensive line. Samuda was beat easily by Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith twice on big plays. Smith registered a sack and a tackle for loss on Miller in the first half. Samuda also was abused by Texans star J.J. Watt on a third-down screen pass. Samuda did not step up to the high-level competition Saturday night, which is telling. Miami’s best option at guard would be a healthy John Jerry.
  • New Dolphins corner Brent Grimes made his presence felt. Grimes has been one of the most consistent players in Miami’s training camp, and he got his first interception with an athletic play to pick off Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. Grimes read the route by Texans rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and broke on the ball as it was released. Grimes jumped in front of Hopkins to take the ball away, which is a play you didn’t see often from Miami’s defense last year.
  • Dolphins rookie corner Will Davis has made some headlines lately for his play. But Davis was beat for a touchdown on fourth down when Houston receiver Lestar Jean made a double move. Davis also was beat for a 16-yard reception in the first half in man-to-man coverage. It was a good learning experience for Davis.
  • Miami’s backup offensive line is not very good – and second-string quarterback Matt Moore found that out the hard way. Moore played the entire second half and was pressured throughout. He was sacked four times in two quarters of work and pressured several more times. The Dolphins are looking offensive linemen to provide depth. No one beyond the starters stood out Saturday.

Miami has two preseason games remaining. The Dolphins will be off Sunday and then prepare for their fourth preseason game at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dolphins camp notes: Sturgis emerges

August, 15, 2013
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.

Observation deck: Dolphins-Jaguars

August, 10, 2013
Any chance to tighten a hold on the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback job disappeared on Blaine Gabbert with a miserable stat line against Miami.

Five completions in 10 attempts for 19 yards isn’t going to make anyone feel like Gabbert rose to the occasion or staked a claim in a 27-3 preseason loss at EverBank Field.

That’s 1.9 yards per attempt and 3.8 yards per completion. The Jaguars averaged 4.8 yards a carry when they ran the ball.

For comparison, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill also completed five passes. His were good for 75 yards.

All the disclaimers for the Jaguars’ passer in one paragraph: Gabbert was without the team’s top two receivers, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, and its top two running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Forsett. He got sacked early when Cameron Wake beat rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel. He suffered as a result of a drop by rookie receiver Ace Sanders and the lack of a play on a pass to Mike Brown that was probably catchable. On an early third-and-12 the Jaguars ran a screen pass with no chance of extending a drive. The interception he threw hit fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou in the hands and he failed to pull it in.

Even with all that context, a starting NFL quarterback needs to make more of his chance than Gabbert did. Chad Henne was far better: 8-for-11 for 87 yards for a 95.6 passer rating compared to Gabbert’s 16.7.

Henne deserves the start in the second preseason game.

A few other thoughts:
  • Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks was active, with a sack on the second play from scrimmage and at least one more disruptive play. Working from the left end spot, Tyson Alualu also had one very nice early pressure.
  • Dustin Keller pulled in the game’s first score, a 22-yard TD from Tannehill. Safety Chris Prosinski was all over the tight end but didn’t have the awareness to find the ball so it didn’t matter.
  • Sanders’ second punt return went for 22 yards and showed some nice shake.
  • Denard Robinson had one very nice change-of-direction play that went for a 7-yard gain, but in his first game action as a running back the production was poor as he averaged 3.6 yards. He got smashed in the backfield on a Wildcat keeper midway through the second quarter. The story of the run game was Jordan Todman, who turned six carries into 45 yards and seemed to get into his top gear pretty quickly.
  • Rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz took advantage of a somewhat off-target throw from Matt Moore to confidently collect an interception.
  • Jaguars quarterbacks combined to complete six passes that were good for 2 yards or fewer: two 2-yard passes, two 1-yard passes, one pass for no gain and one completion that resulted in a 3-yard loss.

CANTON, Ohio -- The Dallas Cowboys opened their preseason with a 24-20 win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game thanks to a stingy defense and a solid running game, which was something they did not really have last season.

The Cowboys have now won their preseason opener four straight years. What does that mean? Not much, since they have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

What it means: With a new playcaller on offense in Bill Callahan and a new defense led by Monte Kiffin, getting off to a good start is a positive. The only starters that played were tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, center Travis Frederick and linebacker Justin Durant. Free and Smith played a series. Frederick moved over to guard in the second quarter and for some of the third. Durant played a handful of series. While it’s still a question, the Cowboys found some answers for depth in guys like George Selvie, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.

DeVonte Holloman with a pick-six: The rookie linebacker had the most athletic play of the night when he reached back to snag a Matt Moore throw intended for Chad Bumphis. Holloman was able to compose himself and then sprint 75 yards for the touchdown, slamming Moore to the turf with a facemask. Last season, the Cowboys forced turnovers at an alarmingly infrequent rate, which led to Rob Ryan’s firing and Kiffin’s arrival. On the first series, Nick Hayden came up with a fumble recovery that set up Tanner’s touchdown run. In the second half, the defense forced two fourth-down stops.

There’s a running game: One of the biggest complaints about Jason Garrett was his willingness to abandon the run. Callahan’s background as an offensive coordinator has many believing the Cowboys will have more balance. In the first half, the Cowboys’ three runners -- Tanner, Randle and Lance Dunbar -- averaged more than five yards per carry. In the second half, Randle did a nice job of picking up yards on his own. The Dolphins weren’t playing many of their regulars, but the fact that the Cowboys ran it 17 times for 97 yards in the first two quarters was a good sign. Last season, the Cowboys had four games in which they had fewer than 17 carries. Even undrafted rookie Kendial Lawrence got into the act with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:57 to play in the game.

Injury concerns: Safety Matt Johnson was off to a good start by starting the game, but he was hurt tracking down Bumphis on a 45-yard catch and run. He suffered a left ankle sprain and did not return. Defensive end Ben Bass hurt his left knee and did not return to the game but appeared to be fine on the sideline. He did not go to the locker room for X-rays, and he did not receive extra attention from the athletic training staff. Tanner hurt his left arm in the first quarter but was able to return to the game.

What’s next: The Cowboys play at Oakland on Friday in preseason game No. 2, and the starters will see some playing time against the Raiders.
DAVIE, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins returned to the practice field Wednesday after taking a day off Tuesday.

Here are some notes and observations from Miami's session:
  • It was a banner practice for No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan. The rookie defensive end was a terror against Miami's starting offensive line. Jordan registered two sacks while matched up against starting left tackle Jonathan Martin. Jordan also looked good in one-on-one drills. Jordan is very fluid and athletic in his movements and showed flashes of why Miami made him its top pick in April's draft.
  • The Dolphins held out starting receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace. Hartline worked on the side after it appeared he strained his calf during Monday's scrimmage. Wallace dressed and did some individual work but no team drills. Offensive lineman Brian Thomas also suffered an apparent leg injury during practice and was brought into the locker room.
  • Another player who stepped up Wednesday is wide receiver Marvin McNutt. Getting a look with the first team with Hartline out and Wallace limited, McNutt made several nice catches from Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and has a good shot to make the team. Armon Binns is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which opens up another roster spot for a backup receiver.
  • The Dolphins rotated Josh Samuda and Nate Garner at right guard with the starters. Miami has been experimenting with several combinations since starting guard John Jerry got injured. Mike Pouncey remained at center for the entire practice, which is a smart move. Miami experimented with moving Pouncey to guard last week.
  • The play of the day goes to starting linebacker Philip Wheeler. Cornerback Brent Grimes deflected a pass by quarterback Matt Moore that Wheeler was able to catch for a pick-six. Wheeler also had a solid scrimmage with the Dolphins on Monday.
  • Backup running back Marcus Thigpen is getting a look at receiver and had some ups and downs Wednesday. He dropped a pass down the seam early in practice, but also made a nice catch on the outside for a first down. Thigpen is the team’s primary kick returner and is trying to find a role somewhere on offense.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins continued their 2013 training camp with Day 2 of practices.

Here are several notes and observations from Monday's session:
  • It was a good day to watch the battles in the trenches between Dolphins starting left tackle Jonathan Martin and rising defensive end Olivier Vernon. Both are part of Miami’s 2012 draft class and looking to fill big roles on the team this season. Martin got the best of Vernon first with a pancake block during a nice run by tailback Lamar Miller. A few minutes later, Vernon used a swift inside move to run past Martin in pass-rushing drills. This kind of exchange will make both young players better.
  • A player I’m really looking forward to seeing in camp is rookie second-round pick Jamar Taylor. Miami was 27th against the pass last season and would like Taylor, a cornerback from Boise State, to make an immediate impact in the secondary. However, Taylor has been bothered all offseason by a sports hernia injury. He’s in practice for the first time but was limited on Monday and sat out team drills. Taylor needs to get healthy fast if he wants to earn a role on the team by Week 1.
  • The stars of Monday’s practice were quarterback Matt Moore and tight end Dustin Keller. Moore ran the second team very well and had a good day throwing the ball. He had the best two passes of the day with a pair long completions for touchdowns to receivers Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stafford. Keller also had a nice day getting open and caught several passes over the middle. Keller and starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill are quickly developing a rapport on the field.
  • Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis struggled with his field goal attempts Monday. He was 1-for-2 at the end of practice, which isn't good enough when competing with veteran Dan Carpenter, who made 10 in a row on Sunday. Sturgis remains the favorite because the rookie makes a fraction of what Carpenter will make this season. Perhaps it was just rookie jitters. But Sturgis cannot be too inconsistent in practice and the preseason if he wants to make the team.
  • Miami is still searching to find its punt returners after the departures of Davone Bess and Reggie Bush in free agency. The Dolphins had five players field punts on Monday: Miller, cornerback Brent Grimes and receivers Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Jasper Collins. The Dolphins will continue their training camp Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The new-look Miami Dolphins held another practice this week that was open to the media. The AFC East blog was live in attendance to catch all of the action.

Here are some notes and observations from Wednesday's practice:
  • It was a dominant day for the defense. Miami’s defense came out on top across the board on the first- and second-team during drills. The biggest play of the day came during 11-on-11 practice when outside linebacker Koa Misi recorded a pick-six off starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Just a couple plays earlier, Miami linebacker Philip Wheeler nearly picked off Tannehill. Backup quarterback Matt Moore also threw an interception to safety Kelcie McCray in the two-minute drill. "It looked like the defense had the upper hand. ... I saw Ryan before I came down as I stepped off the elevator and he said, ‘Well, it wasn’t one of our better days,'" coach Joe Philbin said.
  • Last week it was receiver Armon Binns. This week, the star receiver was Rishard Matthews. The 2012 seventh-round draft pick had three touchdowns in team drills, including two nice catches in the red zone. Matthews is trying to make a crowded roster at wide receiver. He caught just 11 passes for 151 yards last season but made a good impression on Wednesday.
  • Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes said his Achilles feels fine and he doesn’t have any mental hurdles with his return. Grimes’ season ended early last year due to injury, and he’s returning to the field for the first time during OTAs. Miami is counting on Grimes to stay healthy and be the team’s No. 1 corner. “I’m doing well and building strength every day,” Grimes said. “I’m getting stronger and I got plenty of time before the start of the season.”
  • The notable absences from practice Wednesday were defensive tackle Randy Starks (contract) and No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace (undisclosed). Starks is upset over the franchise tag, and Philbin did not explain why Wallace wasn’t present when asked.
  • Projected starting running back Lamar Miller believes he’s ready to handle the load. Miller shined last year with just 51 carries and led the Dolphins with 4.9 yards per carry. But injuries and durability have been concerns for Miller dating back to college. Being Miami’s starting running back could require 200 carries or more. “I think I can be that [type of player],” Miller said. “It’s all about being in better condition and just staying healthy and treating your body well."
  • Former Dolphins and New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was in attendance. Pennington played three seasons in Miami and was the last quarterback to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs (2008). Philbin said it was good to have another voice stop by and work with the quarterback group.
  • Receiver Brandon Gibson remains a work in progress playing in the slot. He mostly played outside at receiver with the St. Louis Rams, but the Dolphins need him inside following the departure of Davone Bess. Gibson is projected to be the No. 3 receiver with Wallace and Brian Hartline on the outside. “He’s a good player,” Tannehill said of Gibson. “I think he’s still learning, still adjusting to all the nuances of the offense. It’s one thing to sit in a meeting room and learn it on paper. But all the adjustments and hot throws and stuff that you pick up over time we’re still getting adjusted to.”
This time last year, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was considered a project and an afterthought.

Few inside or outside the Dolphins’ organization expected Tannehill to be ready to start in Week 1 of 2012. Tannehill only had 20 career starts in college after spending much of his time at wide receiver. Tannehill also had the challenge of beating out veteran quarterbacks Matt Moore and David Garrard in training camp while learning the speed of the NFL game.

But all of that is in the past one year later. Tannehill did win Miami’s starting job in Week 1 and adjusted to the NFL's speed. He started all 16 games and led Miami to an unexpected 7-9 record. Now, Tannehil begins the 2013 offseason workouts as the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback.

“Last year at this time my head was spinning. I was just trying to figure out how things worked,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “I didn’t really know how the day went, how the offseason went, how practices went. So being in it a year, I am completely comfortable. Now I can go out and focus on all the little things that go into the game.”

Tannehill was in total command of Miami's offense during this week’s start of organized team activities. The Tuesday portion was open to the media, and Tannehill made several long completions to receivers Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Armon Binns. Tannehill also made the routine throws underneath to tight end Dustin Keller and others. The second-year quarterback was quick with his reads and knew where to go with the football.

It was clear that Tannehill put in the offseason work. If Tannehill can make significant strides in Year 2, that could put the Dolphins in position to make a playoff push this year.

“I guess one way to describe him is he’s a gym rat. He loves football; he’s been here an awful lot,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin explained. “He's been working out with the guys on their own, nothing orchestrated by us, well before the offseason program began. Those are all good indicators that somebody wants to be good. That’s kind of step one.

“If you don’t have players that want to be great, it’s hard for them to keep climbing and keep accelerating their development. That’s point number one that we’re excited about.”
Jeff Ireland Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesAfter four losing seasons Jeff Ireland may finally have the Dolphins poised for a resurgent year.
Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland has a lot to feel good about. He’s in the process of completing arguably the most successful free-agent period in team history, and there is a significant buzz in South Florida regarding its pro football team again.

Optimism is running high with the Dolphins, and Ireland is leading the charge. He has 11 draft picks at his disposal, which is tied for the third most in the NFL. Miami also is a popular sleeper pick by some, including the AFC East blog, to push for a playoff spot next season.

As surprising as it may seem, the once-embattled Ireland's stock clearly is on the rise. But his job is only half complete. In order for the Dolphins to make a complete turnaround in 2013, Ireland cannot botch the upcoming draft.

“Obviously, we like the progress,” Ireland said during his pre-draft news conference this week. “We felt like we’ve made some progress. There’s been a lot of work that went into it obviously. I’ve got a lot of people to thank.”

Things were not so rosy for Ireland one year ago. After three straight losing seasons from 2009-2011, Ireland became the second biggest villain in South Florida sports, after Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

Last year, Dolphins fans picketed outside the team’s training facility to send a message. The “Fire-land” movement was prevalent heading into the 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesMike Wallace was just one of the many free agents Miami signed in the offseason.
But Ireland quieted critics by nailing last year’s draft. He landed a potential franchise quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) in the first round, a starting offensive tackle (Jonathan Martin) in the second round, a pass-rusher off the bench (Olivier Vernon) in the third round and an eventual starting tailback (Lamar Miller) in the fourth round. That set the foundation for last year’s 7-9 campaign. It was Miami's fourth straight losing season, but the team finally appeared to be going in the right direction.

This is a make-or-break year for Ireland, and the general manager is doing all he can to ensure the Dolphins take the next step in 2013. That partially explains why Ireland spared no expense to land top free agents on the open market, such as receiver Mike Wallace, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, tight end Dustin Keller and cornerback Brent Grimes. Miami’s win-now approach to free agency not only reflects the team's attitude, but also Ireland's sense of job security.

Part of the turnaround is linked to the decision to hire head coach Joe Philbin. Many believed Ireland should have been fired with former coach Tony Sparano last year. However, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross trusted Ireland to find the right head coach.

The first year of Philbin and Ireland teaming up together went smoothly. The two are much more on the same page than Ireland and Sparano were.

“One of the things I liked about Joe in the interview process was that he and I see players pretty much the same,” Ireland said. “Schematically is where maybe it’s changed. Character and makeup, those things, we see very much eye-to-eye on. I’m probably a little bit more of a risk-taker than maybe Joe, but we certainly see eye-to-eye.

“We want guys that are highly competitive. We want guys that have a specific combination of intangible ingredients that form a desired football personality. That’s absolutely what we’re trying to look for.”

Ireland signed off on approximately $200 million worth of contracts to land free agents and keep in-house players such as defensive tackle Randy Starks, receiver Brian Hartline and backup quarterback Matt Moore. It’s rare for NFL teams to have immense cap room and so many draft picks in the same year. Ireland was afforded that luxury, and this offseason will be the most important of his career. What he does now will set the tone for the franchise for many years.

Free agency strengthened Miami’s roster to the point where Ireland doesn't need all 11 of his draft picks. Miami has five picks in the first three rounds, which could be valuable as trade chips with other teams.

“I’ve got enough ammunition to get to the first pick if I wanted to,” Ireland explained. “But I don’t see myself doing that personally. I don’t know. It depends on what’s there and we haven’t gone through the process of [figuring that out] and talking to other teams at this point and seeing where we would go up or back. Right now, we’re trying to get the board right and we’re kind of grinding through the process.”

Free agency is pretty much in the books, and the Dolphins certainly did well in that phase of the offseason. If Ireland finishes strong with a quality draft in two weeks, Miami will be poised to contend in the AFC East.

As optimism rises for the Dolphins, so does the perception of Ireland in South Florida. Who would have thought the general manager many Dolphins fans recently wanted fired would spearhead the team's resurgence just one year later?