How Connor Williams’ transition is going for Dolphins. And Raekwon Davis makes major change

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·4 min read
David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
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The lineman in the middle of the Dolphins’ offense has a new position.

The lineman in the middle of the Dolphins’ defense has a new body.

The upshot, during the first five days of Dolphins training camp, has been a highly competitive interior battle between center and former Cowboys guard Connor Williams and slimmed-down defensive tackle Raekwon Davis.

Who’s ahead of the other will be easier to gauge when pads come on for the first time in camp Tuesday.

Williams — a left guard in Dallas — has made a generally smooth transition to center. Though he hasn’t made any egregiously bad snaps that have sailed over the quarterback’s head, more than a handful of his snaps haven’t been in a perfect spot, either, which seems to have disrupted the rhythm of a few running plays.

But the Dolphins seem to believe the snapping will become more consistent as he logs more work at the position. At the very least, he’s competent snapping, and his blocking — albeit without pads — has been fine.

“It’s definitely progressed, and it becomes second hand when you’re not even thinking about it,” Williams said when asked to assess how he’s snapping the ball.

He said the snaps that haven’t been precisely where he wants them to be are the byproduct of being “in the heat of the moment, having to adjust the defensive calls and they get off a little bit.”

Two weeks after he signed in free agency, the Dolphins informed Williams they would use him at center, at least in the offseason program. He has remained there in training camp, largely because he has the skill set to thrive in the position in Miami’s wide zone scheme.

And that decision also allows the Dolphins to give Liam Eichenberg a greater opportunity to get playing time.

“Connor Williams is fast,” Davis said. “He’s a great center, has been good ever since he’s been here.”

Williams indicated he hasn’t had any negative feelings about the position switch. “I love it. I think it’s been a good transition.”

As for Davis, the third-year pro said he’s close to his lightest weight since his sophomore season at Alabama.

Davis wouldn’t reveal how much weight and body fat he shed, but defensive line coach Austin Clark quantified it as “a great margin” of both, “especially from OTAs. That’s all the credit to him and his strength staff. He showed up in very good shape. Physically, the way he’s shown up in camp is the best he’s been in three years. We’ve got to get the techniques right and continue to work but that alone has given him a good chance.”

Davis — who is listed at 6-7 and 335 pounds — said he shed the weight by eating healthier and doing more cardio work.

He said he feels like a weight vest has been removed from his body. “I feel loose and really good,” he said.

The weight loss hasn’t affected his strength because “I’m a naturally strong guy. I’m a powerful guy. God gave me that tool.”

THIS AND THAT

The Dolphins have opened up the outside linebacker competition; Andrew Van Ginkel is being pushed by Melvin Ingram. Jaelan Phillips — working toward becoming more of an every-down player — and Van Ginkel have had good camps, and Darius Hodge has flashed.

“Whoever’s the best will play and whoever can help us win on Sunday,” outside linebackers coach Tyrone McKenzie said.

Last season, Pro Football Focus rated Brandon Jones among the best pass rushers at his position, but his coverage grade was one of the lowest.

An excellent blitzer, Jones had five sacks but allowed a 114.2 passer rating in his coverage area, with 22 completions in 25 targets for 305 yards, or 13.6 per catch. But he did have an interception and allowed only one TD.

New safeties coach Steve Gregory, who replaced Gerald Alexander, said Monday he has worked with Jones on coverage.

“There are definitely elements of his game we’re trying to get better, from coverage to the deep part of the field,” Gregory said. “... We want [everyone] to be as versatile a player as possible so you’re not pigeonholed into only being a one-trick pony. The more versatile we are, the more chess pieces can fit in different places, it makes it harder on the offense.

“He’s athletic, he’s fast, he’s smart. There’s no reason why he can’t do all the different things a DB needs to do on a down in, down out basis. Be able to cover guys, be able to cover tight ends, play the deep part of the field, be able to blitz, play zone coverage, all of those things should encompass what he has the ability to do from a tool set standpoint.”