Top 3 performers from Dolphins-Buccaneers training camp - Day 1
The last time the Miami Dolphins held a joint training camp practice, it was 2017 and Adam Gase was entering his second year as head coach. Miami had built a fairly strong relationship with the Philadelphia Eagles, and they decided they would hold a practice together. The time before that, Joe Philbin was in charge. The Dolphins traveled to North Carolina to practice with Ron Rivera and the Panthers. That joint practice time was far less productive, and ended in season-ending injuries.
Fortunately, no such downsides occurred as Brian Flores and Bruce Arians came together for a joint practice on Tuesday morning. Both teams clearly benefited from going against other opponents, leading to greater evaluation opportunities. While plenty happened, and all amidst Jadeveon Clowney trade rumors, there are still some players who stood out more than others. Here are the top three from the first joint practice.
Kalen Ballage, RB
While running back Kenyan Drake limped off the field on Tuesday, Kalen Ballage flourished taking his snaps. The offensive line didn't make many holes for him to run through, but when they did, he ran through them like a bat out of hell. Ballage rushed down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown scamper (yes, they were tackling), then caught a quick pass from Rosen and sped past defenders for a touchdown reception.
Granted, Ballage dropped a few passes. For someone whose claim to fame is catching passes out of the backfield, Ballage is having trouble with that so far in 2019's training camp. Nevertheless, two big plays like the ones he had Tuesday are impossible to ignore. If the offensive line can't make holes for him to run through, then it's good he at least hits home runs when they do.
Preston Williams, WR
This shouldn't come as a surprise anymore. Preston Williams is clearly turning out to be one of Miami's best wide receivers. Tuesday, Williams caught several tough passes and roasted a few defensive backs during one-on-one drills. Poor De'Vante Harris had no idea what hit him.
All of these amazing plays, and really the question to ask is this: why did Preston Williams go undrafted? That's a question better answered by Five Reasons' own Chris Kouffman, but the fact remains that Williams continues to be an incredible diamond in the rough for the Dolphins. Of course, now everyone knows about him. It will be interesting to see what he does as his level of competition continues to rise.
Xavien Howard, CB
While Howard had his moments of struggle against WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, he quickly came back to form, intercepting two passes from Jameis Winston on Tuesday. The second one, he even threw in a little insult to the injury, running it in for a touchdown and pointing to the offense on his way. Disrespectful? Perhaps. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable for the winning side. It's training camp, let them play.
Many Buccaneers fans were quick to dismiss Howard after he lost matchups against Evans and Godwin. But the moment Jameis Winston started testing him, that's when things went sour for Tampa Bay. There is no cornerback in the history of the NFL that is flawless, even Deion Sanders made mistakes in his career. But going after a corner of Howard's caliber will never fail to leave QBs with regret. His development has been remarkable, and the Dolphins were wise to extend him when they did.