DAVIE, Fla. — The most obvious difference between NFL organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp is the former are voluntary, the latter is mandatory.
Other differences were evident on Tuesday, when the Miami Dolphins began their three-day minicamp at Nova Southeastern University.
“Longer practices that are a little more competitive, a little more intense,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “You see how guys respond to the heat, respond to the long practices. Being in Miami, it’s not an easy practice situation where it’s 75 and you can go out there and run all day.
“We’re pushing the tempo, we’re challenging the offense and seeing how guys are handling it.”
The upcoming season will be Tannehill’s second leading the Dolphins offense, which in 2013 will sport a new starting running back to replace Reggie Bush, a revamped receiving unit and a new starting left tackle in Jonathan Martin.
The Dolphins hope the offense looks different in another way.
“Hopefully, the fact that we’re getting into the end zone a hell of a lot more than we did a year ago,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “Obviously, that was something that held us back from being the type of team that Coach (Joe) Philbin wants us to be. We need to score more points.”
With the offensive players having been schooled on adjustments and changes during the offseason, Philbin is using minicamp to step on the accelerator.
“This minicamp is really playing faster, more decisively,” Philbin said. “I think the guys have absorbed the information and the teaching from the coaches pretty well.”
The microscope will be on Tannehill entering training camp as he tries to develop into the franchise quarterback the team and its fans desire.
So far, Philbin likes his QB’s progression.
“At the line of scrimmage, there’s a lot of pictures we’ve seen of him doing a better job,” Philbin said, “whether it’s moving a back from one side to the other, whether it’s audible-ing from a run to a pass or a run from one side of the line of scrimmage to the other.
“There’s been a lot, multiple pictures of him mastering the offense, moving the pieces around to get us into a good situation or a good play.”
“I think (he’s got) more recognition of defenses even more so than what we’re doing on offense,” Sherman said. “We threw the book at him last year in hopes we’d get to a point like where we are right now. Now he’s just focusing not so much on the offense, but on the defense.”
Tannehill has said his “head was spinning” a year ago as a rookie trying to adapt.
“He was coming into an NFL camp not the starter and having a lot of growth, getting caught up to the speed of the game,” Sherman said. “And remember the minicamps we had last year with him he improved each minicamp but the speed of the game is what really got him.”
Receiver Mike Wallace, this year’s biggest free-agent catch, said training camp will be the true test to see how far Tannehill and the offense have improved.
“It takes more than OTAs, obviously, because we’ve never played together before,” Wallace said. “It’s easy when you’re out there in shorts and a shirt, nobody’s on you, no defenders anything like that. It’s easy to run routes and be on good timing.
“I think throughout training camp we’ll be fine. Every day we make strides.”
Defensive tackle Randy Starks returned after missing OTAs because he was unhappy after being slapped with the team’s franchise tag.
“I felt real good, I missed these guys, I’m just happy to be here and get the season started.”
Starks said missing OTAs was “a little lonely at first,” but he stayed in contact with some of his teammates.
“My teammates are my brothers; I’m ready to grind with these guys,” he said.
Unsigned first-round draft pick defensive end Dion Jordan remained absent due to his school, Oregon, being on the quarter system instead of the semesters.