Mike McDaniel walked up to Erik Ezukanma before his first practice as a Miami Dolphins player and began to tease the rookie.
The Dolphins’ coach was seemingly attempted to cut the tension, ease the nervous energy the team’s fourth-round pick had percolating by bringing up his body fat, and telling the former Texas Tech receiver he needed to get it down.
“I’m at four percent,” said Ezukanma, who caught 138 passes for 2,165 yards and scored 17 touchdowns during his four seasons with the Red Raiders. “He was cracking a joke on me. We had a little laugh.”
Before taking to the field on Friday during the first on-field session of Dolphins rookie minicamp, all the newcomers — the four draftees, the 14 undrafted rookie free agents, and camp tryout players — were measured, weighed, examined, tested, and basically over-analyzed to determine exactly what each player is working with.
So, what are these newbies bringing to the team?
The correct answer to that question about this handful of youngsters, who will likely get off to a slow start in the NFL because of how deep Miami’s roster appears to be, is inexperience.
And with that comes a side of mistakes, and growing pains like what Jevon Holland, Jaelan Phillips, Jaylen Waddle and the rest of last year’s rookies experienced before picking up their productivity in the second half of the 2021 season.
That’s why it’s not safe to expect any of these rookies to play significant roles in 2022.
Former Kansas State standout Skylar Thompson might spend his rookie season on the practice squad unless he balls out in the preseason and becomes a developmental quarterback the Dolphins can’t expose to the waiver wire.
Unless Channing Tindall is a football savant, don’t be surprised if the former Georgia linebacker Miami selected with the 102 pick in the 2022 NFL draft spends his rookie season struggling to learn Miami’s complicated hybrid defense.
The odds of Tindall, who was a tad smaller than I expected despite being listed at 6 feet 2, 230 pounds, unseating Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts for one of the starting inside linebacker spots are slim. Baker has led the team in tackles for three years, and Roberts, a two-time team captain, is coming off a career year, one where he wasn’t a full year into the rehab of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee until December.
So in an ideal world Tindall, who was a role player on the Georgia team that won the national championship last fall, become a package-based player. Maybe he’ll push Duke Riley for the role he held last season as a pass-coverage specialist.
“College was fast-paced, but it’s even faster here,” Tindall said following Friday’s practice. “That’s probably the biggest thing I took from today.”
Cameron Goode, the California pass rusher the Dolphins selected in the seventh round, facing a similar uphill climb. Unless this 6-foot-3, 232-pounder becomes an edge-rushing demon during training camp and the exhibition season he’ll likely need to carve out a contributing role on special teams.
That might not seem like a lot, but it would be more than what last year’s seventh-round picks — tailback Gerrid Doaks and offensive tackle Larnel Coleman — did for the Dolphins. Miami stashed Coleman on the injury report last season, and Doaks spent the entire season on Miami’s practice squad despite the Dolphins’ desperate need for tailback help at midseason.
After Friday’s session Goode commented on how “surreal” it was to be on an NFL roster.
That’s why his 5:45 a.m. alarm didn’t bother him even though Goode was up till around midnight studying his newly issued playbook, and watching film on the team-issued iPad.
“My mind was racing,” Goode explaining why he couldn’t sleep.
“When I woke up this morning I was telling myself there is no place on earth I’d rather be,” said Goode, who registered 172 tackles, and 20.5 sacks in the 37 college games. “I was tired, but I couldn’t be mad.”
After all, he’s living his dream, a dream so many other college football players have, but don’t get a chance to make a reality. Even if it is as a role player, or roster long shot.