Kelly: 10 early impressions from Dolphins’ OTA work | Opinion

It was one of those uh-oh moments where a defender knows he’s in trouble.

De’Von Achane leaked out the backfield and was running a route down the sideline as if he were a Miami Dolphins receiver, and veteran safety Jordan Poyer, a newcomer to the team but a graybeard in the NFL, noticed none of Miami’s linebackers picked up the speedy tailback and began sprinted as fast as he could to prevent a defensive disaster.

Unfortunately for Poyer, it was too late because the quarterback had already thrown the football, and Achane brought the catch in for a 20-yard gain, which provided one of the few jaw-dropping highlights of the practice session the media attended earlier this week.

Here are the to 10 takeaways, things we learned about the Dolphins from that session.

1. Poyer must prove he hasn’t lost a step: The NFL typically begins to toss 30-year-old veterans into the trash bin like they are a carton of expired milk, so a 33-year-old Poyer will spend this season in Miami pushing his expiration date. The accomplished 11-year veteran got beat a couple times during the practice session the media watched, and while one of the players who victimized him [Achane] is recognized as one of the NFL’s fastest playmakers, there’s very little doubt that Poyer’s range, and 1-on-1 coverage ability will be tested this season until the former Buffalo Bills starter proves he hasn’t lost a step.

2. Dolphins seem one safety short: Even though nickel cornerback Nik Needham is being cross-trained to play safety, there is some concern about Miami’s depth and talent level at safety behind Jevon Holland and Poyer, the two starters. Elijah Campbell, who is also a cornerback-to-safety convert, is the only other veteran safety on Miami’s training camp roster at this time. The Dolphins also have Patrick McMorris, the team’s 2024 sixth-round pick, and two undrafted rookies (Jordan Colbert and Mark Perry) playing that position. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins add a veteran safety later this summer, or during training camp because this position is one injury away from becoming a problem area.

3. Backup center might be an issue: Aaron Brewer sat out the OTA period the media attended and worked on the side with trainers. That’s typically an indicator that he’s nursing an injury and the team needs to proceed with caution. At the moment, this isn’t too concerning. Miami made it through last year’s offseason program without Connor Williams taking a single snap because he was holding out for a new contract. But if Liam Eichenberg is forced to handle a large percentage of Miami’s center snaps this summer, how will he get a proper evaluation at offensive guard, the spot Eichenberg hopes to start at in 2024? If Andrew Meyer and Ireland Brown aren’t legitimate options to fill in at center then Miami needs to add a veteran center before training camp arrives.

4. Tight end will be one of the more competitive groups: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill and Tanner Conner, the holdover tight ends from last season, saw Miami add two veterans in Jonnu Smith and Jody Fortson Jr. during free agency, and it seemingly lit a fire under the holdovers. All three made impressive catches during the practice session the media watched, and it was as if Smythe, Hill and Conner were battling to ensure the will continue to have prominent roles in Miami’s offense, if not a job.

5. Someone must step up behind Miami’s top three receivers: With Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Odell Beckham Jr. sitting out Tuesday’s practice, the receivers had a relatively quiet session for quarterbacks Mike White and Skylar Thompson. Hopefully that won’t be the case consistently because quiet camps could cost veterans such as Erik Ezukanma, Braxton Berrios, River Cracraft, Anthony Schwartz and Braylon Sanders their roster spot. Playmakers can’t live on potential forever, and none of these five have a valid excuse to not be productive because they aren’t facing elite cornerbacks daily, and they all should know the offense well. Either start making plays, or start packing.

6. Jaelan Phillips’ noticeable limp is troublesome: The limp Miami’s fourth-year pass rusher unintentionally showcased forces everyone who saw it to calm down on the talk that Phillips might be healthy for the start of the regular season. While there’s plenty of time between now and Sept. 8, the Dolphins need to think long-term with Phillips. Miami needs the former University of Miami standout to get himself right, not back as soon as possible. Which is why I suspect he might begin training camp on the PUP list.

7. South Florida’s heat and humidity is no joke: This is an important lesson that every rookie and newcomer must receive, and they usually learn it the hard way, like when rookie tailback Jaylen Wright supposedly threw up on the field during Tuesday’s OTA practice. Heat stroke, dehydration and sun poisoning are real issues in South Florida, and the newcomers need to educate themselves on how to overcome the elements because it could become life or death later this month when the temperature potentially rises.

8. Dolphins need healthy edge rushers: It’s a long shot that Phillips (Achilles tendon), Bradley Chubb (ACL) and Cameron Goode (patella) are healthy enough to be on the field for the start of the regular season, and this week we learned that Chop Robinson, the Dolphins’ 2024 first-round pick, is seemingly nursing an undisclosed injury. The Dolphins seem one 3-4 end, or edge rusher light based on who was absent (Shaquil Barrett), and who was working their injured rehab assignment.

9. Teair Tart’s conditioning could be problematic: While Tart might be the most accomplished of all the veteran defensive tackles the Dolphins signed this offseason, what we saw during this week’s OTA worked hints that he’s in the worst condition. At the end of Tuesday’s practice the Dolphins defensive linemen did sprints to each sideline and Tart was generally 20 yards behind the pack. We can excuse his struggles if they were related to an injury, but at this point let’s hope Tart trailing the pack isn’t the norm.

10. Orange is new en vogue color: For the past two offseasons and training camp ciacg Mike McDaniel has awarded orange jerseys to the top performing players from the previous day’s practice. The jersey, and the playlist the player gains control of for a day, is his way of rewarding players who personify what the team’s looking for, and hopes to build the franchise on. This camp it seems after if the orange outfits have begun to incorporate the coaching staff. When David Long Jr. was the orange jersey player on Monday, the entire linebacker coaching staff were orange gear. When Kader Kohou was the top performer on Tuesday everyone who coached the secondary was in orange attire.