DAVIE, Fla. — For the second time in as many weeks, the Miami Dolphiins defensive line looked as imposing on the field as they do on paper during organized team activities Monday on their practice field located at Nova Southeastern University.
Unfortunately, it comes at a cost to the shaky offensive line and an inconsistent Ryan Tannehill, who struggled to get on the same page with his new-look receiver corps.
Time and time again, a frustrated Tannehill threw several red zone passes to various targets with little success. Many of his passes were overthrown, even when he wasn’t being rushed by the unending onslaught from an impressive-looking defensive line now augmented by newcomer Ndamukong Suh.
Though Tannehill had a career season with improved offensive numbers across the board to lead a Dolphins offense that finished 11th in the league in points with an average of 24.3 points per game, they only converted 51.5 percent of their red zone opportunities to place 21st in the NFL. Clearly, an emphasis on that facet of their offense was necessary this early into preparations for the upcoming regular season.
"Today I think you probably noticed we spent a lot of time in the red zone today," said Philbin. "It’s an area that we, as we watched our cut ups from 2014 it’s an area we’ve really got to improve upon. You know offensively we got down there a bunch but we’ve got to score more touchdowns and defensively we kind of finished in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency down there.
"So that’s one area that we, today we did just a third down red zone period, all third down plays. Probably something we haven’t done the first couple of years so just want to make an emphasis of it and a point of so I thought we had a lot of good work today."
Reserve quarterbacks Matt Moore and Josh Freeman only had marginally better performances working in shifts during 11-on-11 play. Tannehill fittingly ended the day’s work limping off the field after stepping on a teammate’s foot, but the injury didn’t appear to be serious.
The good news was that rookie cornerback Tony Lippett was able to capitalize on the offense’s shaky performance with three interceptions as he continues to adapt to the position after playing mostly wide receiver in his four seasons with the Michigan State Spartans.
"As you guys know he doesn’t have a ton of position experience there in games but he seems to be a guy that’s learned the system pretty well," said Philbin of Lippett. "Every rep that he gets is extremely valuable at this stage of his development. So it was good to see him. I caught a couple of them."
KICKER CALEB STURGIS INJURES QUAD
Though it was business as usual during the two-hour session, coach Joe Philbin announced afterwards that starting kicker Caleb Sturgis had a quadriceps injury and would miss the remainder of the OTA sessions as well as June’s minicamp.
Having already missed time last year with a strained groin during training camp and in the preseason, Sturgis’ injury concerns, as well as his game day performances, place his future with the team in doubt. He is coming off a mediocre season in which he finished 28th in the NFL with a 78.4 percent field goal accuracy after going 29-37, which is actually an improvement over his rookie season in 2013 when he converted 26-of-34 field goals (76.5 percent). Additionally, two of his field goals were blocked last season.
Sturgis, a 2013 fifth round pick for the Dolphins out of Florida, replaced veteran kicker Dan Carpenter as a rookie but is now in clear danger of losing his spot on the roster if he continues to be injury prone. Though he has not missed a regular season game in his two years with the Dolphins, Sturgis’ absence could pave the way for unheralded rookie kicker Andrew Franks out of Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to make the team instead. Franks took over for Sturgis, who was not present, for Monday’s practice session and missed a pair of field goals but otherwise looked up to the task for the time being.
As for when Sturgis is scheduled to return, Philbin indicated he could be healthy by spring.
"We’ll see how things go," he said. "Day to day we’ll take it. But he’s not going to be kicking this OTAs."