DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins took the practice field on Monday for the first time since their preseason win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.
The team was in shorts and didn't appear to be having a full-speed practice as they began preparing for the all-important third preseason game coming up this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys.
Here are some of the highlights from Monday's practice:
Tight end Charles Clay returned to practice after missing the past two weeks with a knee injury. He wore a sleeve on his right knee and participated in both team and individual drills.
"It was great to have him [practicing today]," said head coach Joe Philbin. "He's one of the harder working guys on the football team and he sets a great example on the practice field and in meeting rooms, off the field as well. He's an important part of the team. He's a respected player on the team. So it was good to see him out here."
It's too early to tell if he will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Cowboys but don't be surprised to see head coach Joe Philbin take the cautious road with Clay and hold him out until the regular season begins. That's a decision that Clay completely understands as he just wants to be ready for Week 1 against New England.
"You don't want to go back too soon and have any setback," said Clay. "At the same time, I'm doing as much as I can do to strengthen and just make sure I'm good going into the season. You always want to get some kind of live reps but at this time, health is the most important thing. I'm not rushing anything. I'm just coming out here trying to get better."
Also returning to practice was running back Daniel Thomas who has also missed the past couple weeks with a hamstring injury. Thomas has a lot of ground to make up as the Dolphins have been getting production from undrafted rookie Damien Williams. Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno are locks to make the final 53-man roster so Thomas will need to give coaches a good reason to keep him around after a couple of disappointing seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Speaking of Moreno, he continues to look good during practice and barring any unforeseen setbacks should be in the lineup when the Dolphins play the Cowboys on Saturday. Seeing what Moreno can do behind the starting offensive line in a game situation is something that would be nice for coaches to see before the regular season begins.
Several Dolphins missed practice and are expected to miss a few practices. The list of injured players include impressive rookie Terrence Fede (knee), running back Mike Gillislee (hamstring), kicker Caleb Sturgis (groin), center Sam Brenner (shoulder), defensive tackle A.J. Francis (knee), cornerback Jalil Brown (thigh), and running back/wide receiver/kick returner Marcus Thigpen (thigh).
There was a major change on the Dolphins offensive line on Monday. Dallas Thomas had been the starting right guard throughout training camp but after struggling mightily during Miami's preseason win over Tampa Bay was demoted to the second team. Free-agent signing Shelley Smith took Thomas' place as the starting right guard.
"We don't have a first-team right guard right now," said Philbin. "It's going to be an open competition. I don't know who's going to start the game against Dallas. I'm not sure who's going to start that position at left guard either. We're going to have a good week of practice and we're going to make a decision and determine who that's going to be. We don't have clarity at those two positions yet and it's up to [the players] to keep playing, keep practicing and keep playing."
Smith had briefly played with the starting offensive line during the offseason but lost his job when the Dolphins signed Daryn Colledge, who has looked good as the starting left guard and will likely keep that role into the regular season.
"I feel like I've had good opportunities where I've been at," said Smith. "The coaches have all been fair and try to let the best player for the job win. I've felt like I've had good opportunities. The competition just makes you a better player, so I look forward to it."
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver Mike Wallace had several nice connections during Monday's practice, which included a very nice one-handed catch by Wallace along the sideline.
There was no change in the Dolphins starting linebackers on Monday despite the strong play of youngsters Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain. It appears that the coaching staff is going to stick with high-priced starters Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi and Philip Wheeler for at least the immediate future.
The play of the day came towards the end of practice and was courtesy of Brent Grimes. He made a spectacular leaping interception of a Ryan Tannehill deep ball intended for Ryan Spadola.
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