The Dolphins removed projected starting left guard Ereck Flowers from the COVID-19 list on Saturday, after being sidelined for nearly two weeks. Flowers was placed on the COVID list on Aug. 2.
But cornerback Xavien Howard remained on the COVID list for a fifth day in a row.
Meanwhile, Miami also placed defensive tackle Brandin Bryant on the COVID list. Bryant, a former FAU player, signed with Miami last week after appearing in four games for Cleveland last season. Players on the COVID list either tested positive for the virus or were in close contact with someone who tested positive.
And for the third time in recent months, the Dolphins added a rookie defensive back from Auburn. Jeremiah Dinson, a safety claimed off waivers from Detroit on Saturday, was a three-year starter at Auburn, playing in 48 games and finished with 214 tackles and four interceptions. Dinson attended American Senior High in Miami.
The Dolphins drafted cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in the first round out of Auburn and claimed former Auburn cornerback Javaris Davis off waivers from Kansas City on July 28 but waived him Aug. 6.
It’s not surprising Miami has gravitated to Auburn players this summer. Coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer got the Auburn defensive draft prospects in a room on Auburn’s campus on March 5, installed the team’s defense and then quizzed them on it.
Also notable Saturday: The Dolphins are expected to release safety Adrian Colbert, according to a source. He started five games late last season after being poached from Seattle’s practice squad and signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract this past spring.
Dinson will join the competition for a backup safety job behind Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe. Rookie third-rounder Brandon Jones assuredly will be on the team and veterans Kavon Frazier and Clayton Fejedelem are among others competing for a backup job at safety.
Colbert will be the second rotation safety on the 2019 defense to be released, following the waiving of Steven Parker earlier this week.
COLLEGE ASSISTANTS ADDED
The Miami Dolphins defense will have at least four new defensive players who were on college football fields last season. They also will have three new defensive coaches who fall into that category.
Coach Brian Flores made the unusual move of plucking three assistant coaches directly from the college ranks: new defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander, new linebackers coach Anthony Campanile and new outside linebackers coach Austin Clark.
Alexander, a former Detriot Lions second-round pick who appeared in 44 NFL games as a safety (including two as a Dolphin in 2011), previously interned for the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his full-time coaching experience has been limited entirely to college programs, most recently as California’s defensive backs coach.
Alexander, 36, was introduced to Flores last summer by former NFL receiver Tiquan Underwood, who was Miami’s offensive quality control coach last season and is now the receivers coach at Rutgers. Alexander attended Dolphins practices in training camp and took his observations back to Cal last season.
“When the opportunity came [to coach here], I was grateful,” he said.
Alexander essentially takes the job of two people: former safeties coach Tony Oden (who was not retained) and Josh Boyer, who was promoted from cornerbacks coach to defensive coordinator when Patrick Graham left to take the coordinator job with the New York Giants.
Campanile, 37, has no NFL experience; he was linebackers coach at Michigan last season and previously coached at Rutgers and then Boston College, where he got to know Flores, a BC alum who was, of course, working for the Patriots. Campanile replaces Rob Leonard, who was shifted from linebackers coach to assistant defensive line coach.
“It means the world to me,” Campanile said of going from Michigan to an NFL staff. “The opportunity to coach for coach Flores was something I was excited about. It’s a storied franchise. To coach at this place and coach these players is a fantastic opportunity so far. I’ve loved every minute of it.
“I hit the ground running here like everybody. [Defensive coordinator Josh] Boyer did a great job explaining everything in the system. There was a lot of stuff I came in and had a pretty good feel for... It was a pretty good transition and went seamlessly for me.”
Clark, 30, was defensive line coach at Illinois the past two seasons after spending two seasons on the defensive staff at Southern California. He was a defensive tackle on Tampa Plante’s state high school championship team in 2008 and went on to play at Cal-Berkeley. Like Campanile, he has no NFL coaching experience.
Clark said he and Flores had such mutual acquaintances -- including former Philadelphia Eagles, LSU and Auburn defensive line coach Pete Jenkins - and he was pleased when Flores called him in January.
Campanile said there’s at least one advantage the Dolphins’ 2019 college football assistants enjoy: There will be no preseason games this season due to COVID-19, which is always the case in college.
“That might be an advantage for us; guys like myself as a coach, that’s what you know,” he said.
Flores hired one coach directly from the high-school ranks: New assistant defensive backs coach Curt Kuntz, who spent the past seven years as head coach at Struthers High School in Ohio.
Flores said in January that he doesn’t believe NFL coaching experience is necessary to be an effective coach at this level.
“I think there’s a lot of guys who know how to teach,” Flores said. “I think the staff has to do a good job from a communication standpoint. The guys that we brought in, they’re good communicators.”
With Oden’s departure, running backs coach Eric Studesville is the only assistant who is coaching the same position group for Flores as he did here under Adam Gase, who was fired after the 2018 season.
Josh Grizzard, an offensive quality control coach under Gase, is now Flores’ receivers coach with the departure of Karl Dorell to Colorado this past spring. And Dave Puloka remains the strength and conditioning coach, as he was under Gase.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman confirmed new slot receiver Chester Rogers and rookie first-round cornerback Noah Igbinoghene will be among those challenging Jakeem Grant for return jobs.
“We’ve got a couple of guys that have both done it in the professional ranks, we have guys that have done it in the college ranks and then we’ve got some guys that we’re trying to train,” Crossman said. “It’s amazing how many guys want to show you their high school highlight tape and show you how good they were. They all think they can do it. But we’ve got a good group working.”
Rogers, who spent his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with Miami last Sunday, has a 9.2 career average on 60 punt returns, with no touchdowns, and just an 8.4 average on five kickoff returns.
Igbinoghene has an impressive 27.3 average on 44 career kickoff returns at Auburn, including two touchdowns.
Grant has been one of the NFL’s better returners in recent years. He has a 9.2 average and two touchdowns on 64 career punt returns and a 25.1 average and two touchdowns on 81 career kickoff returns.
▪ The Dolphins opted not to re-sign special teams leader Walt Aikens (who remains unsigned), but Crossman said new safeties Kavon Frazier and Clayton Fejedelem and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill are “similar guys. They have veteran leadership, have made plays, have made big plays in several different phases.”
▪ Clark spoke of how “really, really excited” the organization was to add linebacker Kyle Van Noy in free agency from New England: “He’s going to be a great addition to our defense and he’s a great fit to what we do. One of his great abilities is he’s got a lot of multiplicity to his game.”
▪ Alexander is eager to see rookie defensive backs Igbinoghene and safety Brandon Jones when full-pad practices begin on Monday. “They have great athleticism, great tools,” he said. “You knew they were guys who had football character we were looking for.”
▪ Crossman offered an interesting observation on working for Flores for a year: “To watch how he handled the good, the bad, the ugly throughout the season, he was the same guy….For me personally and I think for the rest of the team, to know where ‘Flo’ stands on what he’s going to demand, what he’s going to need and if you’re not on board with that, it’s going to be a long day. But if you are on board with that, it’s going to be a fun rebuild for where we’re trying to get to.”
Here’s my Saturday piece on the Dolphins’ revamped defensive line, with good insight from defensive line coach Marion Hobby.