The Miami Dolphins are conducting their final OTA of the spring Friday but before that practice coach Brian Flores sounded a hopeful not about the attendance at next week’s veteran minicamp:
“I expect to see everyone at the mandatory minicamp,” Flores said.
Flores said he’s been “happy” with attendance at the voluntary OTA sessions.
One player who until now had not joined those sessions is Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard. Howard, who led the NFL in interceptions a year ago, has requested a salary increase from the current contract that runs three more seasons beyond 2021.
Howard missed Friday’s OTA session with the team as he has all the others this offseason. His attendance at the mandatory minicamp would be a good sign that the negotiations between the player’s agent David Canter and the Dolphins is on a positive footing.
The minicamp next week, which runs Tuesday through Thursday next week, is not voluntary for players. They can be fined upwards of $93,000 per the collective bargaining agreement if they fail to attend.
It’s possible some players will attend but not necessarily practice due to injury or other issues. The team is also able to excuse certain players but there’s no word if Howard falls into either category.
Noah Igbinoghene is moving
The training wheels are off for second-year cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in 2021.
Last year, during his rookie season, the Dolphins used the first-round pick almost exclusively on the outside.
“That in itself in this league is not easy,” Flores said. “You stick him in one position, let him learn the fundamentals, the techniques, feel the speed, feel the quickness of the receivers. Go through the combinations that happen in different coverages.
But this year will be different.
“This year we feel he’s ready to move and at least take some [repetitions] inside,” Flores said. “Versatility is important to our team. We’re going to move guys around, not just Noah but really everyone in that corner room, the secondary, really across the board.”
The slot or nickel cornerback job is different than outside in that there is more blitzing, there is more required on run defense and obviously, the sideline is not available as an help to defend receivers because they can run either inside or outside off the line of scrimmage.
“It’s tough playing the nickel,” Flores said. “It’s not easy. There’s a lot going on.”
Igbinoghene will be competing with 2020 incumbent Nik Needham, unrestricted free agent signee Justin Coleman and Jamal Perry.
Robert Hunt position update
The Dolphins are planning to use Robert Hunt at right guard after he started at right tackle most of 2020.
But plans can change.
It’s up to Hunt.
“Where he lands, guard or tackle, it’s going to be up to him,” Flores said.
Flores called Hunt “a good young player” who “improved over the course of the season last year.”
But Flores isn’t going overboard.
“I think he has a chance to be a solid offensive lineman,” the coach added. “Whether that’s guard, that’s tackle, whether that’s the right side or the left side, that’s hard to say. We’re going to play our best five, our top five guys.
“I think he has an opportunity to be one of those five.”
The decision on where Hunt will start practicing for the 2021 season — guard or tackle — will be obvious the first practice of training camp in late July.
Dolphins to ‘empower’ team leaders
Flores spoke about the team’s looming leadership questions following the departure of a handful of team captains from last year’s team.
“We have good leadership on the team,” Flores said. “That’s something you constantly try to develop each year, especially with younger players. I think we’ve got some veteran players who will provide us leadership as well.”
Flores said an NFL team “needs” good leadership and the coaching staff can try to “empower them and grow in those areas.”
This and that: Flores was asked Friday about the Dolphins vaccination rate but declined to get into specifics on numbers or details. “At the end of the day each player, each coach, each person within the organization makes their own decision and we’re comfortable with that,” he said .... Flores called Durval Quieroz Neto, from Brazil, one of the club’s “hardest working players.”