MIAMI GARDENS — Quick. Name the Miami Dolphins’ starting left guard in their last playoff game.
His name is Lester Cotton.
Cotton was signed to the Dolphins’ practice squad late last regular season after he was waived by the Las Vegas Raiders. As Miami dealt with multiple injuries on the offensive line ahead of the postseason game at the Buffalo Bills, he made enough of an impression in three and a half weeks around the coaching staff that he went straight from the practice squad to starting.
Now, Cotton’s trying to give himself a chance to make the initial 53-man regular-season roster and maybe even earn the one position on the line that seems to be up for grabs.
“Coming in last year last two weeks (of the regular season) and playing in the playoff game was fun,” Cotton said after the Dolphins’ Monday practice before hitting the road for Houston for joint sessions with the Texans. “I didn’t really know the offense yet, so actually having camp and going through it, I’m learning plays. So I’m playing a little bit faster, moving around a little bit quicker.”
He tries not to think about whether he’s got a leg up or not and just does what he needs to do each play.
“Right now, everybody’s just competing,” said Cotton, who was undrafted in 2019. “I don’t focus on winning the spot. I just focus on trying to win my box each and every day. Dominate my box and not worry about anything else.”
He said Friday’s preseason opener, where he started at right guard while Eichenberg got the first action at left guard “felt good.”
“I had some good plays,” he added. “The offense put together a few good drives. We couldn’t quite get it in, but we were able to show some good things on film for coaches to (teach) us off of.”
There were a lot smaller stakes than the last game action he saw, on the road in a loss to Buffalo that eliminated the Dolphins in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
“It was crazy. It was exciting. It was fun,” Cotton recalled. “I got a chance to talk to (Terron Armstead, Robert Hunt and Connor Williams) and they kind of brought me together and told me that they got me. We just made sure we communicated.”
In that game, Armstead and Williams were at their usual left tackle and center spots, respectively, Cotton played left guard for the injured Eichenberg. Hunt, normally the right guard, kicked out to right tackle where Austin Jackson and Brandon Shell were sidelined, and Robert Jones, another guard in the mix this preseason, started at Hunt’s spot.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to come down to the last day of the 53,” Cotton said of the competition.
Cotton, an Alabama grad, also had a playful jab at Wynn, who went to Georgia.
“Ask him how many natties (national championships) we got,” Cotton said.
The witty remark may not go over as well anymore with the Bulldogs now two-time defending college football champions.
Offensive lines need continuity among the starting five, but the Dolphins aren’t necessarily getting that with Armstead sitting out a large part of training camp while he recovers from offseason knee surgery, and a rotation at left guard mainly between Eichenberg and Wynn.
However, the center, Williams, said that’s not stopping the unit from coming together.
“We’re a pretty solid group,” Williams said. “We’re one beating heart so whoever’s in. It’s kind of nice because as you know in 17 weeks, you’re never going to have the same starting lineup. So just being able to work together and everybody working in unison is nice.”
Keep an eye on the rook
Running back Chris Brooks, the undrafted rookie from BYU by way of California, has made a few strong runs recently, including a 95-yard touchdown run to finish an indoor practice.
Brooks (6 foot 1, 223 pounds), who rushed for 817 yards, six touchdowns and 6.3 yards per carry in his lone season at BYU, ended the Atlanta game on Friday with five carries for 24 yards (4.8 yards per carry).
“I try to do my best to just run hard, run tough, like every single run is my last,” Brooks said.
It’s a tough road to the 53-man roster for Brooks because he’s behind veterans Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin on the depth chart as well as rookie De’Von Achane, the third-round pick.
But there could be room on the practice squad for Brooks. He’ll likely get a chance to earn such a post again this week in joint practices against Houston and Saturday’s game.
Tua raises money for Maui
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s foundation announced Monday afternoon it has raised $58,746 from 422 contributors for victims of the Maui wildfires.
Tagovailoa, a Hawaii native, donated $20,000 himself with a message: “Sending love and prayers from Miami to Lahaina. #MauiStrong”
Donations can be made at justgiving.com/page/TuaforHawaii.