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The long break has arrived. The three-day minicamp ended on a hot, steamy Thursday, the Dolphins finishing things off with about a 90-minute practice that left Coach Adam Gase feeling good about everything that has transpired over the past several months.
The biggest difference between now and a year ago? “It feels like we’re not talking about the same things over and over again,” Gase said.
Now it’s about doing the right things over these next five or six weeks. “They need to get away from it for a little, but don’t go too far,” Gase said. “Get their bodies right and stay with the regimen. We need to start fast in training camp.”
Some parting thoughts with offseason workouts now complete:
• One of the main goals this offseason has been improving the run defense, ranked near the bottom of the league last season. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a little longer to properly gauge the progress in that area. “We won’t know until the pads go on and the preseason games start,” said Gase. My take is that there will be significant improvement, largely because new veterans, defensive end William Hayes and linebacker Lawrence Timmons, along with the return to good health of safety Reshad Jones. Those three factors alone could make a noticeable difference.
• Interesting to listen to the players talk about their schedules through the rest of June and much of July. You don’t hear about long vacations. You hear about exercise programs and diets and doing everything humanly possible to stay in peak shape. Ndamukong Suh called it “five strenuous weeks.” Guess the old days when players sat on the beach for a month are long over.
• As I’ve said many times, there is so much to like about Gase. You can put being honest with himself and his players near the top of the list. Although he alluded to it last year after it happened, Gase once again spoke openly this week of his mistake in not playing defensive end Cam Wake enough early last season. “I thought we were being smart,” Gase said. “It backfired on us. What we should have done is let him (Wake) play.” You just don’t find many coaches who say things like. It’s clear that Gase’s accountability has resonated with his players. “That,” Wake said, “is why we love him.”
• Speaking of Wake, he spoke to the media for the first time this offseason on Thursday and the biggest smile came when I asked him about No. 1 pick Charles Harris, a fellow defensive end. “Really like him a lot,” Wake said. “Great kid. Great mindset. Doing so many of the right things.” And then Wake was asked if Harris’ explosive first step rushing the passer reminds him of anyone (like himself). “We’ll have to see about that,” Wake said. “But he does have a lot of talent.”
• Of all the undrafted rookies trying to make this team, receiver Drew Morgan continues to be as impressive as any. “He put himself on the map,” Gase said. And really that’s what these offseason workouts are all about for these young players.
• There are plenty I could list, but here are the five players, in no particular order, who showed me the most during offseason workouts: Wide receiver DeVante Parker, running back Jay Ajayi, defensive end Charles Harris, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Reshad Jones. Imagine if all of them have big seasons.
• Liked the two-word response when guard/center Anthony Steen was asked if any part of his body felt good at the conclusion of last season. “Not really,” he said.
• You can clearly hear the optimism when Gase talks about center Mike Pouncey and his journey to return to 100 percent healthy. “He’s on a really, really good track now,” Gase said. Pouncey did not take part in any of the on-the-field drills this offseason and no decision has been made regarding the start of training camp. “We need him to heal and be there for the duration,” Gase said. The no-rush approach is prudent, especially for a player so important in the big scheme of things.
• And finally, there was a great scene at the end of practice Thursday. Undrafted rookie cornerback Maurice Smith has half the Carol City football team huddled around him. “Be grateful,” Smith tells them. “Be humble.” The expression on the faces of these high school players was priceless. “It takes a lot of work to just get here,” Smith said. And you could tell, with all those eyes wide open, that the message was getting across.