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Thursday Dolphins Mailbag: Waddle, O-Line, Arm Strength, and More

What makes for a successful week of practice at camp? How concerning are Connor Williams' shotgun snaps? Could Erik Ezukanma become the No. 3 receiver? Those and more questions from Miami Dolphins fans

From Miami Dolphins Québec (@Dolphins_Quebec):

After two padded practices, what does the running game looks like? Did you see some FB work? And last question, am I wrong if I believe Cethan Carter performs well? Another one: How have the special units looked in camp? Especially Jason Sanders?

Salut MDQ, multiple questions, so rapid-fire answers. The running game looks like it’s going to be interesting with some of those wide runs and also seeing some nice cut-back ability by some of the backs. The fullback will be very visible in the Dolphins offense. Yes, I think Cethan Carter absolutely has a role on this team, both on special teams and on offense as an extra tight end or H-back. Finally, special teams are always tough to gauge in practice because they don’t run plays all the way through. As for Jason Sanders, he’s kicking the ball well, but I couldn’t tell you how he’s done on field goals because our angle makes it impossible to tell without a doubt whether the kick was good and there have been no officials at camp yet.

From Dixon Tam (@DixonTam):

Bob Baumhower is one of my all-time favorite players. How was he able to be such a dominating player at nose tackle while weighing less than 270 pounds? And if you had to choose between him or Tim Bowens, who would it be and why?

Hey Dixon, good questions as usual. Couple of reasons on the Baumhower question, the first being that players weren’t quite as big in the late 1970s-early 1980s. The second is he was very strong and he also was a great technician who played with great leverage. As for choosing between him and Tim Bowens, man, that’s a tough call because Bowens was just a wall in the middle of that defensive line. I think you could ask Zach Thomas just how good Bowens was and he’d gladly tell you. I think that even though Baumhower was more acclaimed, I’d give an ever-so-slight edge to Bowens here.

From Mark Rodriguez (@MarkRodSTL):

How much longer is it going to take Connor Williams to get the shotgun snap corrected?

Hey Mark, that is an excellent question and one that I would think would be concerning to the Dolphins. Now, let me point out that not one of the bad snaps has gone completely over the head of the quarterback, but there have been too many where either Tua or Teddy have had to reach up to grab the ball and that affects the timing of whatever play is called. So my answer is it better be soon or the Dolphins are going to have to start thinking about finding a new center and moving Williams back to guard.

From WaddleStanAcct (@johnscianni):

Is EZ E looking like a WR3 with the way he has been performing in camp?

Hey John, your question would have been farfetched heading into camp, but Ezukanma has been that impressive in camp so far that it’s no longer a crazy notion. In fact, he’s been clearly more visible than Cedrick Wilson Jr. Let’s put it this way, if things keep going the way they have, EZ E will force the Dolphins to give him a good amount of snaps on offense as a rookie.

From The Naked Isaiah (@jefflintz):

As you have duly noted, lofted bombs aren't necessarily the greatest indication of arm strength. Do you see any indication of added zip on a 20 and out route, which would be the better indicator on improved arm strength?

Hey Jeff, here’s what I’ll say say on the topic. First off, I think I see maybe a hair more zip on non-bombs, but nothing really startling or major. And it's still not going to be an easy throw for Tua. His most impressive passes in camp, the ones that have shown the most zip, invariably have come between the numbers.

From Chris Bustin (@ChrisBustin13):

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Hey, Alain. Let’s analyze the fact that the Dolphins have only one first-round pick next year. I’d rather have Jaylen Waddle and that 1st than have Ja'Marr Chase with no 2023 first-round pick. Do I sound crazy? What are your thoughts? Thanks!

Hey Chris, I wrote about this several months back and if we are to do the totality of the Dolphins’ movement in the first round of 2021, having Waddle and the 49ers’ 2023 first-round pick does look better than having Ja’Marr Chase, though this is dependent on Waddle improving on his 9.8-yard average from his rookie season. I still will maintain I would have preferred staying put at 12 after the initial trade with the 49ers that would have given the Dolphins an extra No. 1 in 2022.

From Enabledswing (@enabledswing):

How has McDaniel looked out there compared to previous HCs? Does he have command of the team? How are they responding to him? Does he seem like he has things running smoothly and getting things done?

Hey there, yes, McDaniel absolutely looks like he has command of the team and they are responding to him, and the operation runs smoothly and efficiently at practice, without question. All that said, I wish I could tell you this is very different than most training camps or most first-year head coaches, but it’s not. The real differences might start showing up as early as the joint practices next week, but they also might not show up until the start of the regular season.

From John Kerns (@yitwail):

Alain, keeping in mind Armstead hasn’t played much, has the offensive line as a whole exceeded your expectations in any way? And more generally, have any players surprised you pleasantly? Thanks.

Hey John, have to start with the fact that there have been only two padded practices, which is when the offensive line can start really becoming noticeable. Having said that, I’d say the offensive line has been a mixed bag with some good and some bad. As for any players surprising me, nobody has stood out so far.

From Eli Tilen (@elijts);

Do you consider this to have been a successful first week of training camp? What milestones are you hoping to see into week 2?

Hey Eli, I would consider this a successful first week of training camp because no front-line player sustained a significant injury. And that always will be the first priority, understanding that every training camp involves a process of learning. Now, Week 2 brings much different expectations because of the joint practices with the Buccaneers, and that’s where I want to see the Dolphins hold their own and win at least half the reps in team drills. If memory serves, the Dolphins were able to do that in both joint practices against the Bears and Falcons last year, but Tampa Bay is a much better test than either of those teams were last summer. And in 2017, the Dolphins were coming off a playoff appearance but they looked overmatched in joint practices against the Eagles, and that season Miami missed the playoffs and Philly ended up winning the Super Bowl.

From Ryan Wittcop (@rwittcop):

How have the rookie receivers looked? I feel like they are constantly being mentioned on big plays …

Hey Ryan, well, there are two rookie receivers on the roster and those are Erik Ezukanma and Braylon Sanders, and both of them have been really impressive in training camp. Ezukanma obviously will be making the team as a fourth-round pick, but Sanders is making a strong case for a roster spot also early on, as we chronicled in a earlier story.

From RickyD (@RDominguezMIA):

Based on what you have seen in camp. Your prediction for the opening-day starting OL?

I can’t tell you based on what I have seen in camp, but a good guess at this time would be Terron Armstead at LT, Liam Eichenberg at LG, Connor Williams at C, Robert Hunt at RG and Austin Jackson at RT. We’ll get a much better feel for it next week when the Dolphins have to produce a depth chart for their preseason opener against Tampa Bay.