Miami Dolphins Transcripts – November 1 – Head Coach Brian Flores, LB Duke Riley, WR Jaylen Waddle, T Liam Eichenberg and CB Nik Needham

CB Nik Needham

(Obviously you’ve been down this road before with the seven-game losing streak. There’s the stay the course mantra, which we’ve heard week after week, but how do you get this thing headed in the right direction?) – “At this point I know, like you said, I’m tired of hearing that but that’s all we can tell each other to do. We went out there and competed hard with that team. That’s a real good team on that side. I feel like everybody saw like a couple more plays and things would turn around in that game and we could win. But yeah, we got to just stick together and just keep working and working and hoping and knowing that it’s about to pay off sooner than later.”

(It’s a lot of room to work with the slot receiver but how difficult was that matchup last Sunday?) – “I played him pretty well in the first half going into the third quarter. He kind of got hot a little bit. I gave him too much space on one play on third down. I should have just trusted my technique rather than backing up, so I kind of feel like I just gave him that one. I think we were battling hard. It wasn’t just domination. That’s a good receiver but we got some good DBs, so we just need to go out there and execute. It don’t matter who it is.”

(What’s it been like playing with S Jevon Holland? He’s played every snap at safety the last couple weeks. What have you seen from him?) – “You can definitely see the growth in Jevon. He’s becoming a more vocal leader trying to keep guys, really getting on guys, taking that role. Even though he’s young, we listen to him and we know he’ll go out there and execute. He wants to win just like us. It doesn’t really matter how old he is now, he’s out there starting like you said. He’s one of the leaders of the defense back there because he sees everything and has to make the calls. I think he’s been playing well. For a rookie I mean yeah, that’s all you can do. Just keep growing week by week and learning new stuff and new situations that you learn in the league.”

LB Duke Riley

(I imagine it’s not easy to play as many snaps as you did yesterday after not playing for weeks, even though obviously you’re in great condition. Was there a little bit of an adjustment to doing that yesterday and how did it go? It seemed like you were around the ball a lot.) – “I’m always prepared, regardless of if it’s 100 snaps or it’s five. I feel like I do a good job with my conditioning. I always make sure that I am ready. I stay ready so I don’t have to get ready, that’s kind of like a saying that I use.”

(What’s it been like to have this special teams reputation and try to work your way out of it?) – “I was in Philadelphia and I went there as a special teams guy and worked my way in to being a guy who was involved in the defense. I kind of knew what to expect coming into this role. I knew I was going to come and be the same guy every day. I was just controlling what I can control and letting the coaches do their job and put me in the best position regardless of if it’s special teams or on defense.”

(I wanted to ask you about the run defense. You guys seemed to be making progress the past couple of weeks. What do you attribute that to in terms of the execution of the run defense excluding the one run from Bills QB Josh Allen?) – “The way we practice. I think we practice at it and we have a good understanding of where guys are going to fit in on the defense. With timing, you build trust and you know guys are going to be where they’re supposed to be at. I think that’s what’s happening and being better and stuff like that.”

T Liam Eichenberg

(You always give us such substantive and thoughtful answers, which we appreciate. I know you mentioned several days before you moved to left tackle that when I asked if you’d be better at left or right long termed, you said ‘right’ at that point. Now that you’ve played left tackle for a month, as you did at college, how would you answer that question now? Do you feel like your future would be better at NFL left tackle or do you still think right is the better spot for you?) – “It’s wherever the team wants me. Obviously I bounced around a bunch, played a bunch of different positions, but I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’m focusing on this week and hopefully I’m at left tackle this week. I‘m just taking it week by week, day by day. Just trying to improve, trying to help this team get better and win.”

(Has your play at left tackle met your own expectations?) – “No, I think I can play a lot better. I think that it goes to my fundamentals and technique, and moving a lot more efficient in regards to pass pro and run game.”

(How difficult has this season been? I’m assuming you didn’t have a seven-game losing streak at Notre Dame and what are the challenges to getting prepared each week?) – “I would say for me it’s one week at a time, one game at a time. I don’t look to the future. I just try to take it day-by-day, work to get better, work to improve. I go out there every single day at practice trying to work on my technique and my fundamentals to improve and become the best player I possibly can. Obviously this season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, but there is still time to turn it around. It’s one game at a time and we’re attacking it every single day. I think guys believe too. That’s the biggest point.”

(What about the NFL have you learned that maybe caught you by surprise?) – “I would say that at the most important moment, you need your fundamentals and technique to be at it’s best. In college you can kind of get away with certain things, but in the NFL, you have to be at your best every single play.”

(In terms of studying on tape the plays where maybe you’ve been beaten for a sack or a pressure, has there been a theme of whether you’ve been beaten by power moves, spin moves elusiveness? Obviously this didn’t happen to you much at all at Notre Dame. No sacks the last two-and-a-half years. What’s been the theme to what has beaten you to this point that you want to correct?) – “I think it’s a handful of everything, I guess you could say. My hands being in the wrong spots, my feet not being underneath me. It’s just kind of a mixture of everything. It’s not one specific thing. At practice, you’ve got to review the film, break down what you need to focus on and work on that every single day.”

(Head Coach Brian Flores said today that he thinks that guard is G/T Austin’s Jackson best position. Where are you in terms of chemistry on the left side. Obviously it can’t be totally where you want it because you’ve been together less than a month at those two positions. Where is it now in terms of the growth of that chemistry with you two?) – “Austin is a great player and a great guy as well. I think the biggest thing for us that’s improved since we first started playing next to each other is communication. On my part, communicating to him and then him communicating to me, and then the other guys on the offensive line. I think he’s done a great job with that and then also it’s awesome playing next to him. He plays hard, he plays physical and he cares about this team and this offensive line. It’s been great”

(Are you personally excited about what the duo of you and him can do, because it’s obvious from Head Coach Brian Flores’ comments that you guys are going to get a extended look at those two spots?) – “Yeah, I’m excited. I want to help this team win. So wherever they need me and wherever they need Austinhe is the same way. It just comes to us doing our job.”

WR Jaylen Waddle

(Have plays been called for you, just deep routes, deep vertical throws like we saw you and QB Tua Tagovailoa connect with at Alabama, that just haven’t happened because the play was changed because of the defense, pass protection issues? Have there been a number of those types of plays called that just simply did not happen because of change of plays?) – “We got a little bit of everything in our playbook. Them type of plays, we don’t try to force them and go in the game saying we are going to have to do this. It’s kind of like if it happens, they are going to happen. We aren’t going to try to force them to be there.”

(Are you eager or antsy to complete those types of deep throws? Obviously we see Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill do it all the time. We know you’re capable of it. Are you eager for the first one – a 70-yard deep ball for a touchdown?) – “I wouldn’t say eager. I‘m just eager to go out there and play, do my job, do it at a high level and try to help us win, honestly.”

(There were a lot of plays on offensive snaps where guys were being redirected, you included. What was going on there in terms of people being able to know their assignments and maybe the communication?) – “Yeah, I just think honestly just our communication has got to get better. It’s something that we are going to work on throughout the week. I just think we just got to get better with communication and it all starts with practice, to be honest.”

(You talking pre-snap communication or is that a knowing the plays thing?) – “All of it. All of it helps. Pre-snap, post-snap, coming back to the huddle faster. All of that will help honestly.”

(I know it’s kind of old news but just to clarify on the play that everyone was talking about, the ball that hit TE Mike Gesicki. It appeared as though he was trying to relay a message to you as far as where to line up. Did you misunderstand something as far as where you should be lined up on that particular play?) – “The communication was just all messed up from the jump.”

(You had a significant amount of targets yesterday and not that many receptions. Does it surprise you how much teams are paying attention to you? Obviously you played in an offense that was pretty good but you had a lot of talent around you.) – “Yeah, kind of because we got a lot of great players just around here. If it makes my job harder, it makes someone’s job easier then I’m all for it.”

Head Coach Brian Flores

(I know you’re tired of the topic and you’ve said QB Tua Tagovailoa is our quarterback. But with that being said, I just have one simple question. You know what’s going on talking to General Manager Chris Grier and Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross. The question is this: is there any possibility that you guys will acquire a starting-caliber quarterback within the next 26 hours before the trade deadline tomorrow?) – “I understand the question. I basically answer it every day the same way. Tua (Tagovailoa) is our quarterback. Any conversations that I have with Chris, I have with Steve, I will keep them internal and it will remain that way.”

(One unrelated thing. Several readers reached out to writers yesterday it appeared as though you were calling the defensive plays and not Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer based on the papers you had in your hands. Were you calling the defensive signals yesterday or was Josh?) – “No. Josh called the game.”

(With the deadline coming up in a day, you’re obviously focused on the next game trying to end this losing streak. But do you talk to the team telling them to avoid it or is it just something that is natural within a locker room? How do they deal or how do you tell them to deal with the next 24 hours?) – “Really, today’s conversation was about the game yesterday and really the focus was there. Corrections from the game yesterday, obviously mistakes we made, things we did well, things we can build on. We didn’t really get into any deadlines or anything like that. My job is to be focused on the guys in our room and that’s the approach I take.”

(I wanted to ask you about the offense’s passing game. You guys attempt more passes than everybody but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and you’re second to last in yards per attempt. Is this a byproduct of the situations you are in in terms of you guys trailing so often or do you view yourself as a pass-first team?) – “You always want balance. That’s something that we’ve talked about. We haven’t been able to create the balance that we want for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly, something we put an emphasis on, something we talk about. Some of the games, score has dictated some of that. As we’ve talked about, you always want balance. I thought there were some instances, especially early, where we got some positive runs and we just weren’t able to sustain it or stay with it is probably a better term. It’s definitely something that we talked about as a staff today. It’s something that we’ve talked about in recent – really every week and we need to do a better job of that in the second half of this season.”

(You mentioned after the game that you kind of just sat there for a while. I’m curious how you thought and compartmentalized the last seven games, losing and not going the way you want it to go?) – “It’s disappointing. Our guys work hard. Our coaches work hard. I think about the people around the building. I think about our fan base. I want to do better for all of those people. I know the team does. Those are the thoughts that go through my mind and I just think about what I can do to get us over the hump, turn the tide. Is it a scheduling thing? Is it play calling? Do we have to switch a guy’s position? What do we got to do? That’s kind of where my thoughts are. But yeah, disappointing. But at the same time, I’m motivated to get back out there and make the improvements, make the corrections and turn it around.”

(I know you’re a one day at a time guy. Do you allow yourself to ever think big picture, look backwards on what’s going on this year or the first two-and-a-half years of your tenure and try to use any of that to move forward?) – “Yeah, I try to look back and reflect on some other experiences that are similar. But every year is so different, every team is so different. The players are different, the year is different, the time and everything is so different. To reflect on maybe an instance where there was this type of adversity, you think back on it but you think about some of the people I was around and those people, those players, some of them are different, some of them are the same and then you just try to think about the group you have now and what’s the best way to motivate the group we have now to turn the tide.”

(Can you confirm whether WR Preston Williams and S Sheldrick Redwine will be back at practice this week?) – “Yeah, they’ll be at practice on Wednesday.”

(You mentioned that you pull from some of the adversity that you guys faced, you faced particularly previously. Are you going back to the 2019 season or are you going back to maybe Boston College and your Patriots tenure?) – “I think adversity comes in a lot of different ways. It’s not necessarily just football. As you know, I could be pulling from a lot of things that I’ve dealt with personally. That’s normally what I do. From a football standpoint, obviously yes, probably the 2019 season. But as far as just getting knocked down and picking yourself back up, there’s definitely been some other instances that we all pull from when we’re dealing with adversity. This isn’t as hard as this, I picked myself up from this situation, that situation. I know the players have dealt with that. I know each one of you has dealt with that in some form or fashion. I don’t think it’s just a specific season.”

(I wanted to ask, you guys keep talking about the tide needs to start rolling from a positive standpoint and cleaning up a lot of mistakes. How close do you feel that you guys are based on your last performance?) – “I think we did some good things yesterday. It’s a good team. I thought we played them tough. I thought we played hard for 60 minutes. I thought there were certainly some missed opportunities on our part to score some points that we would have liked to have later in the game obviously. There were some opportunities to make some plays and we didn’t make them. From that standpoint, I do see some things we can build on. But every week is different. Every opponent is different, every week is different. So we have to start over this week with our preparation for Houston and try to have a good week.”

(How puzzling or perplexing has it been that there hasn’t been more of a pass rush? I know you’ve had pressures, but they haven’t been converted into high sack numbers or obviously as many turnovers as last year. It seems puzzling, just because DL Adam Butler is a four sack a year guy consistently in New England and hasn’t had one here. LB Jaelan Phillips we know the pass rusher he was at Miami. DE Emmanuel Ogbah we know his record. Is it puzzling to you that you haven’t seen bigger sack numbers overall as a defense?) – “I think we’ve had this conversation on the sacks versus the pressures versus the effect on the quarterback. Yesterday we had some of an effect on the quarterback. I thought Josh Allen did a good job of scrambling around and getting the ball off. There were some instances where we were on him and didn’t get him down, but there was an effect on the quarterback. There have been some other games where we haven’t had as much of an effect on the quarterback. We’ve got to do a better job. I think that’s always at the top of the priority list as far as how do we affect the offense. We want to affect the quarterback or really more so the offense and the passing game. We want to affect the quarterback. It’s always a point of emphasis. We need to do a better job there. I thought yesterday (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) did a nice job of calling some pressures and getting Allen off the spot in some instances. He didn’t get him all the way down for sacks but created some quicker throws that in some instances benefited us.”

(WR Will Fuller and C/G Michael Deiter, any update to whether they’ll be able to practice this week?) – “Those guys are still week to week. We won’t see them this week.”

(If I can ask you about the offensive line development, we’ve asked you a few times throughout the year about that. But when you are evaluating some of the young guys and where they are in this season, are you happy? What would describe how you feel about G/T Austin Jackson, G/T Robert Hunt and some of these first or second year guys who you’ve had to play a lot?) – “I think they’ve played well in spurts. They haven’t played so well in some other situations and I think that’s kind of the development of a young player. I think Austin at guard, I think that’s been a good transition for him. I think that’s the right spot for him. The same thing with Rob Hunt. It’s a young group. The experience of playing with crowd noise yesterday, with that type of crowd noise and silent cadence, is something that was definitely a learning experience for them yesterday. I think we could’ve been better as far as our execution on some of those things. But overall, I think they are all improving. I think they all are making progress. I’m looking forward to watching them improve more as the season progresses.”

(I want to ask you about a sequence late in the game. You were out of timeouts and the outcome was pretty much decided. Buffalo, whether than I guess the traditional thing to do there is kneel down, they scored instead and went for two. Did that catch you eye? Did it get the attention of the players that they chose to go that route?) – “No. Their job is to score and our job is to stop them. Regardless of score, regardless of time in the game, that’s my approach. Our job is to go out there and stop them.”

(You’ve said several time that QB Tua Tagovailoa is your quarterback. If that’s the case, why can’t you rule out acquiring another starter?) – “I think when I say Tua is the quarterback, I’m not sure what more I can say. That’s kind of the way I’ve handled this and approached this the last few weeks.”

(For record-keeping purposes, I was remiss without asking you if S Sheldrick Redwine, was that also a disciplinary issue that he wasn’t on the trip?) – “Yes.”      

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