MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — The Miami Dolphins got a firsthand chance to compare what is and what could have been during Wednesday’s joint camp practice with the Atlanta Falcons. And it was hard to say one reality was definitively better than the other.
Eric Rowe welcomes Kyle Pitts’ versatility at Falcons-Dolphins joint practice
By trading down from No. 3 to No. 6 in the first round, the Dolphins surrendered the unchallenged right to take Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. The Atlanta Falcons, who stayed put at No. 4, gladly accepted the gift and selected Pitts over quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
Still, the Dolphins love what they have in Jaylen Waddle, the player they ultimately selected at 6. Wednesday gave observers their first side-by-side comparison of the players who will forever be linked.
Waddle did what he’s done all camp — create separation with his speed and shiftiness and lay out for impressive catches.
Notes from Rowe’s media availability
And on the adjacent field, Pitts was the star. He consistently found gaps in the Dolphins’ talented defense and made himself an appealing target to Matt Ryan.
“It was a good work day,” said Dolphins safety Eric Rowe, who was matched up against Pitts in coverage several times Wednesday. “It’s good to see … a tight end who moves like a receiver. I feel like that’s good for me to see. A lot of tight ends, they are evolving into that in the league and it’s great for me to get work against one of them.”
Rowe added, “Going in, the only thing I knew is he was a high draft pick and that he was like a receiver. After today, it showed what people had been saying. He’s got good movement. Obviously he’s still learning, but he’s a good player. … You can see the potential. The way he moves. I know he’s still just a rookie. But you can see when someone has talent.”
Credit Rowe, who had a couple of tough games last year against the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the Raiders’ Darren Waller, for hanging tough. Rowe had the Dolphins’ defensive play of the day when he ripped a would-be touchdown from Pitts’ grasp.
“Got a hand in, ripped his arm down,” Rowe summarized. “It’s kind of what we’re taught when we’re not looking for the ball, try to time it up before the PI.”
Christian Blake emerging as WR3 for Falcons?
The arrow is the whole way up on Falcons wide receiver Christian Blake, who was marvelous Wednesday. He made several catches against Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, the NFL’s second-highest-paid cornerback tandem.
Blake, to our eyes, is at worst the Falcons’ No. 3 wide receiver behind Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.
It was quite the homecoming for Blake, the South Florida native who went to high school just 20 minutes up the road from the Dolphins’ Miami Gardens training facility. With Julio Jones gone, the Falcons need to direct his targets somewhere.
Blake should get his fair share. Journeyman Tajae Sharpe has impressed in camp as well.
Question marks surround Miami’s offensive line
The Miami Dolphins were so concerned about their offensive line they surrendered a seventh-round pick Tuesday on a lotto ticket in tackle Greg Little, a draft bust for the Carolina Panthers. A day later, Little not only was in uniform but got second-team reps at left tackle.
That speaks to the team’s uncertainty at that position. Austin Jackson, the team’s starting left tackle, struggled against the Bears in Miami’s preseason opener. And at right tackle, the coaches believe do-everything lineman Jesse Davis is a better option than rookie Liam Eichenberg, a second-round pick who is now the Dolphins’ first-team left guard.
Michael Deiter seems to have seized the center job over Matt Skura, while Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt are battling it out at right guard. The Dolphins have a lot of high draft picks on their offensive line. They just don’t have a lot of high performance.
Smith and Flores get acclimated with one another ahead of Week 2 preseason game
Arthur Smith and Brian Flores are in the NFL’s young coaches club, but they really didn’t have a great familiarity with one another before this year.
“I wanted to work with these guys,” said Smith, the Falcons’ first-year coach. “It’s one of the better staffs and programs. I have a ton of respect from afar. I don’t know these guys well — Flo and [Dolphins defensive coordinator] Josh Boyer. But obviously [Dean Pees has] got a lot of history with them. Got to know them, going against them coaching. You like to get the work in with programs you respect.”
“You didn’t see a lot of BS out there. Good work. We try to be pretty easy. We’re the guest. Flo gave me the schedule. Said, ‘Are you good with it?’ I said, ‘We’re great with it.’ I said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ He said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ And we did it. Didn’t try to micromanage anything. Appreciate those guys for setting it up.”
The heat index in South Florida was nearly 100 degrees at breakfast time Tuesday. And it was well past that when practice wrapped up around lunch. Not surprisingly, the Falcons had some cramping issues. Josh Andrews, who’s vying for Atlanta’s starting left guard position, left practice with cramps and did not return.