Dolphins open OTAs with two strong sessions

The Miami Dolphins are on the field and football action is back… sort of. The pads aren’t on yet, and not all players are present in the early days of Organized Team Activities. The Dolphins will have a few more scattered OTAs before a mandatory minicamp from June 6-8.

Until then, some veterans like Tyreek Hill, Connor Williams, Zach Sieler and Terron Armstead, to name a few, haven’t been on the field on Monday or Tuesday, but these are voluntary workouts. Sure, it’s nice to see closer to the full team, but there’s no worry whatsoever when it comes to attendance here.

Before we get into what can be said from the on-field action, which was opened to the media for the first time on Tuesday, news hit early on a player’s expansion of his role. Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who was re-signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, got a call from new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a week or so before OTAs and was approached with the idea of adding the inside area of linebacking to his game.

As confirmed by head coach Mike McDaniel on Tuesday, the move is in addition to his current job and not in place of.

“Position flexibility allows you to have an extra human available on game day,” McDaniel said about the concept to add to Van Ginkel’s plate. “It’s advantageous for us, and tough on opponents.”

As for the consensus of McDaniel’s assistants, the move is welcomed.

“The entire defensive staff thought he’s at the position he can handle that,” he stated.

The flexibility that Van Ginkel can bring to both the outside and inside linebacker groups would allow a rotation on the outside with fellow pass-rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips. On the interior, Van Ginkel could give breaks here and there to either Jerome Baker and/or new free agent David Long Jr.

Duke Riley will also help spell Long and Baker on the inside, but with the outside and inside ability, the goal will be to keep Van Ginkel on the field a whole lot more than last season. Unbelievably, at times, Van Ginkel’s 2022 seasonal usage was limited to just 29% of the year’s defensive snaps, which was a far cry from 2021’s 71%.

This plan should keep him more at that 70%-plus range, which would make him a key member of this linebacking group and could open up the potential Van Ginkel has shown in his role-playing thus far in Miami. It’s also to be noted, that Van Ginkel was the Dolphins’ leader in special team tackles last year with 12.

On the offensive side of things, penciled-in right tackle Austin Jackson showed up looking to be in phenomenal shape. How that translates on the field remains to be seen until pads come on in the summer, as well as hitting some opponents other than teammates.

Until then we can only go off history, which has been a lackluster start to his career since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Without the fifth year of his rookie deal picked up by Miami, this is a contract season for Jackson, and should he impress and improve, he could add to his time with the team or simply make himself marketable as a 2024 free agent.

However, a spike in production and ability is far from a certainty, and general manager Chris Grier has hedged his right tackle bet slightly, with some scrap-heap free agent signings of more former first-round picks in Cedric Ogbuehi and Isaiah Wynn, who could be said to be under-achievers so far in the NFL as well.

The Dolphins also drafted Michigan tackle Ryan Hayes, who could even work at guard, and still have undrafted rookie free agent tackle James Tunstall, who could all provide a little competition in camp for Jackson.

With other tackles fighting for spots like Robert Jones, Kion Smith, Kendall Lamm and Geron Christian, at least entering the process, Jackson is seemingly locked-in to work. Like the Van Ginkel experiment, the conclusion remains to be seen, but at the very least, positive encouragement and momentum on both fronts are good ways to start 2023’s offseason.

What has been seen the last two days, has been the blazing speed of rookie running back De’Von Achane. A third-round pick in this April’s draft, and one that was much to the immediate delight of McDaniel upon his selection, Achane could factor heavily in total yardage for the Dolphins right away.

With his speed and shiftiness, Achane will be utilized as a runner, receiver and return man, making him a candidate to potentially challenge a rookie record. That belongs to Ted Ginn Jr, who holds the Dolphins’ seasonal all-purpose yardage record for a rookie (2,086).

In 2007, Ginn returned kicks and punts for 1,663 yards and added 420 receiving yards and three rushing yards. With Achane’s speed and versatility, it’s becoming more likely with each OTA rep that he could challenge this record. The overall total yardage record for Miami is currently held by Ricky Williams, who recorded 2,216 yards in his epic 2002 season.

Achane turned heads and impressed the media Tuesday. As beat writer Omar Kelly reported, the rookie made a great sideline catch which was placed beautifully by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just out of the reach of a linebacker. That’s music to the ears of Dolphins fans.

Another worthy bullet point was the on-field attendance of defensive backs Nik Needham and Brandon Jones. Injured in consecutive weeks last season, the pair were seen doing some light jogging, but each is progressing well with their individual rehabs and could even avoid significant missed time, if any.

The Dolphins aren’t working on-field for OTA’s today, as they’ll resume Thursday, the 25th.


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Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire