MIAMI — One of the themes this summer for the Miami Dolphins is seizing opportunities.
It’s part of the reason first-year coach Mike McDaniel has held practices shorter than the allotted two hours. It’s about making the reps count.
“That’s what the team needs to be the team we all want it to be,” he said. “Which is that people recognize each and every replay as an opportunity, and you use it to your best advantage.”
With starting cornerback Byron Jones still on the physically unable to perform list entering Week 4 of camp, the Dolphins have been looking for a successor at cornerback to Xavien Howard. Competing for the job all summer were former first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene, signed free agent Keion Crossen and former undrafted free agent Trill Williams, until Williams tore the ACL in his left knee on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving Miami tied. thinner in the corner.
Igbinoghene has been given the biggest opportunity to fill in for Jones at short notice, but despite praise from teammates and coaches, he has struggled in practice and in Saturday’s game. It’s not easy covering Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but Igbinoghene was targeted on purpose during the team’s joint practices with Tampa Bay last week and was the closest receiver on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Jaelon Darden.
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McDaniel took responsibility for the play where Igbinoghene appeared to play outside influence on Darden and left him too much room, saying he hadn’t properly prepared his players for that situation. However, he described the play as a learning experience for the third-year corner.
“It’s something that if it happens again, it would be more critical,” McDaniel said. “I talked to Noah during the game and he can loosen up, play what he sees and not be so conservative. It was definitely a learning moment.”
Igbinoghene, an Auburn product who was a wide receiver in college before turning cornerback, has yet to find his place in the NFL during his first two seasons, and at this rate, the Dolphins won’t be picking up their fifth-year option when the moment arrives in May 2023.
“You’re not going to be able to stop everything,” said Igbinoghene, who is trying not to let the impact of mistakes linger. “You’re not going to be able to beat everyone every time. Everyone gets paid in this league. They’re all professional athletes and they all play in the NFL.”
“I just have to do my job the best way I know how, and if I do that, I know how dominant I can be. I’m just putting in the work and I can’t wait just to show it off.”
Miami placed Williams on injured reserve Monday, and while Crossen broke up a pass during Saturday’s game and has played well in practice, the team opted to add cornerback depth with Mackensie Alexander.
Alexander was used primarily at cornerback last season with the Bengals, but McDaniel said Miami sees him versatile enough to play any cornerback position and challenge for a spot on the team’s final 53-man roster.
As for Jones’ return, McDaniel said the Dolphins are “very hopeful” that he will be ready for the season opener against the Patriots. He still hasn’t practiced since he had surgery on his left Achilles tendon in March, though a source told ESPN at the time that he was expected to be ready for training camp. McDaniel said Jones is “exactly where we thought he would be right now” and is beginning to incorporate some change-of-direction drills into his rehab.
McDaniel didn’t put a timeline on how long Jones will need before he’s ready to play, but said the eight-year veteran’s experience shortens his acceleration period.
Meanwhile, a starter has yet to emerge, and it’s a major concern for a team that can’t afford to start the season on a holeshot for the second year in a row after starting 1-7 in 2021.