Practice report Day 7: Dolphins shuffle starting secondary but ’20 first-rounder not in mix

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The Miami Dolphins secondary is a work in progress. We all know that.

The club cut Bobby McCain, who started at free safety last year, in the offseason. All Pro cornerback Xavien Howard wants to be traded and is not practicing because of an ankle injury. And the team is trying to lock down spots at both safety and cornerback.

So stuff is in flux.

And we saw that during Wednesday’s practice on multiple fronts.

Jason McCourty, who had been working as a starting free safety the first six days of practices, moved to boundary cornerback this day. He worked with the starters in a spot that would otherwise belong to Howard were he not traded or injured.

So that opened up the free safety starting job and second-round pick Jevon Holland took that spot. And he did well generally, including an interception of starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

Nik Needham, who had been getting practice repetitions at boundary cornerback, moved to starting slot cornerback.

What are we leaving out?

Well, 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene, who started some last year when Byron Jones was injured, continues to practice with the backups.

The big leap the Dolphins are expecting from all their second-year players has apparently not yet manifested for Igbinoghene.

And here’s the thing: Igbinoghene doesn’t seem on the verge of a breakthrough.

Because some plays he’s fine. And some plays he gives up big plays.

That was him trying to run down Allen Hurns on a 60-yard throw from Jacoby Brissett. And that doesn’t mean it was exclusively Igbinoghene’s coverage. But it was in his area. In 7 on 7s, receiver Isaiah Ford beat Igbinoghene for what would have been a 50-yard pass from Brissett.

This practice actually ended with Igbinoghene giving up a completion at the 3 yard line in red zone drills. And he was flagged on the play for an apparent defensive holding.

So what’s the point?

One would expect a player working toward great improvement so he’s the undoubted backup in case starters go down to be playing well against his fellow reserves. But that isn’t Igbinoghene consistently.

About the McCourty and Howard possibility:

The Dolphins have spoken to teams that have called about Howard, according to a source. It is unknown what Miami would want in any deal and it is unknown if any talks have even reached discussing trade terms.

But that means there is at least a small chance the Dolphins move on from Howard, who has requested a trade.

And that would mean they need a replacement.

McCourty, who was signed as something of a hybrid player to play both cornerback and safety, played mostly cornerback for the Patriots last season. He started 11 of 16 games and had only three passes defensed without an interception.

Holland, meanwhile, seems on track to eventually win a starting job in Miami’s deep secondary. Yes, this is only practice and it’s early in camp.

But he’s usually around the football and active.

Some practice play-by-play

Some of you have asked for an actual description of some plays in practice. Here is some of that.

Seven on Seven:

Tua Tagovailoa completes pass along left sideline to Jakeem Grant, who beats Byron Jones.

Tagovailoa completes pass to Durham Smythe in middle of the field after tight end beats Eric Rowe.

Tagovailoa puts a ball in Jaylen Waddle’s hands in the end zone but the first-round pick drops the touchdown.

Waddle, it should be noted, caught a 40-yard pass from Tagovailoa later in practice when he beat Nik Needham.

Grant beats Needham one-on-one in second-team 7 on 7 drills.

The nicest pass of the day?

Tagovailoa bootlegs left and throws 24 yards on a line to a sliding Hunter Long, who makes the catch between two defenders. The crowd approved.

Running backs catching the ball

I’m not sure if Dolphins running backs are suddenly amazing catching the football out of the backfield or the coverage is lacking but the group definitely did some good work Wednesday.

Myles Gaskin beat Benardrick McKinney deep along the right sideline during 7 on 7. Gaskin has done this multiple times against McKinney since training camp opened.

Patrick Laird also had a long catch along the sideline after coming out of the backfield.

Offensive line update

While the offensive line had not changed since Saturday, there was a new right tackle with the starting unit midway through Wednesday’s drills.

Rookie Larnel Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick, took over for Jesse Davis as the starting right tackle.

Coleman had been working with the second- and third-team offensive lines until Wednesday.

It’s unclear if the move was to give Coleman a new challenge, or to give Davis a respite, or a combination of the two.

Davis watched from just behind the offensive huddle as the starters worked so that does not suggest he was seriously injured in any way that would make the switch necessary.

This and that

Linebacker Brennan Scarlett, a solid NFL player, had something of a monster day competing against the third-team offense, as he rushed the passer and would have collected multiple sacks had this been a live game ... Jaelan Phillips, Xavien Howard, Mike Gesicki, Cethan Carter, Adam Shaheen and Will Fuller continue to be out .... DeVante Parker, nursing a hamstring injury, returned to practice ... Kicker Jason Sanders, an All Pro last season, had not missed a field goal attempt until Wednesday when he hit the upright on one of his attempts.

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