Miami Dolphins Transcripts – October 12 – Head Coach Brian Flores, CB Xavien Howard, CB Byron Jones and TE Mike Gesicki

Monday, October 12, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores

(This would have been a better question for me to ask you at the owners’ breakfast in March in Palm Beach, should we have had it, or maybe even General Manager Chris Grier, so forgive me. It’s sort of a big picture thing. It became clear that even though this was a rebuilding project, you guys wanted to win in Year 2, just based on personnel decisions you made this offseason – bringing in CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, etc. How important was it for you all to at least be a playoff contender this year, even though it’s still fairly early in your program?) – “I guess part of that question may lead someone to believe that we didn’t want to win in Year 1, which wasn’t the case obviously. Look, every time we step on the field, we’re looking to win. That’s how we prepare. That’s how we try to compete, every time we step out there. I don’t get into looking into the future about what we want to do or what we want this to look like. We take it really day to day, one game at a time, with the idea that every week we’re looking to win a football game. I just don’t want to get that confused with the wording of that question. That’s myself, that’s Chris (Grier), that’s ownership, that’s everybody. We’re always looking to make moves with the idea of winning.”

(When a team has a big lead and there’s a lot of time left, it can be a challenge striking a balance between staying aggressive and playing conservatively, which leads me to ask you what was the thought process on the fake punt yesterday?) – “I think in all games, you want to be aggressive. You’re right; there’s kind of a balance you’re looking for. But I don’t think you just want to sit on the ball early in the third quarter. You want to be aggressive. We got the look we wanted and we ran it, and we were successful. It’s not often you get the look you want offensively, defensively or in the kicking game. If you get it and you practice it and you’re ready to go on it, you run the play. I think Danny did a great job – Danny Crossman, our special teams coordinator, did a great job of drawing up a fake for that specific situation. It came up in the game. We ran it, we got it and we were successful. I think it was a big play in the game for us. We went down and scored. I think it was a big play in the game.”

(Earlier today, we were talking about DT Christian Wilkins handing you the football. CB Byron Jones mentioned that he’s pretty sure he saw you smile even through your mask. I wanted to give you equal time to either confirm or rebut that.) – “Any time we get a turnover, I’m excited. We were able to turn the ball over yesterday, so if you can see the smile through my mask then good for those guys. Any time we score, any time we make a big play, a big stop defensively – which we had some yesterday; any time we kick a field goal – which Jason (Sanders) did a great job of yesterday; or make a play in the kicking game – we had a nice kickoff where we stopped them inside the 15-yard line; you can pretty much assume I’m smiling through my mask. So yeah, Byron or Christian’s assessment of that is probably right. I don’t know if they saw that, but if they think they did, it’s probably a good assumption, I would say, in those situations.”

(I guess a couple of personnel questions if I could. One, what went into the decision to not having RB Jordan Howard active on Sunday? And then the second one, we saw CB Noah Igbinoghene have a decrease in snaps this week when CB Byron Jones returned. Is he strictly a boundary corner at this point or do you see him still in the nickel conversation?) – “As for as Jordan, this is a decision we make throughout the course of the week based on game plan, based on kicking game, based on just overall numbers. We felt like that was the best – look, we’ve got to make people inactive. Jordan is competitive. He’s done a good job. Those aren’t easy decision, but we just felt like that was the best move for us in this particular game with this particular game plan. As far as Noah, obviously we got Byron back. Noah’s play time decreased a little bit; but I would say we still have a lot of confidence in Noah. He’s the first guy in on the perimeter. We talk about nickel and things of that nature, he’s not really a nickel per se. He’s really a perimeter corner, which makes him the next guy in for either ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) or Byron (Jones), with Nik in there – Nik and Jamal Perry really in there – as the actual nickel position. I think oftentimes, people may misinterpret that as Nik is playing over Noah, but they’re really two different positions. I just wanted to make that clear to everyone. We have a lot of confidence in Noah. Obviously we wouldn’t have put him out there if we didn’t. Look, he’s a young player and he’s still ascending. Based on game plan, he may play more next week. We’ll just see how this goes.”

(I wanted to ask about the offensive line. I saw that you started G/T Robert Hunt and moved G/T Jesse Davis over to left tackle. What went into that decision and how did you think the offensive line performed as a whole?) – “I thought as a whole, they played well. I thought the pass protection against a good front was good. I thought the run game, we really got it going in the second half. I thought they played well overall. Robert Hunt, this being his first significant playing time, I thought he showed himself well. The moment wasn’t too big for him. He and Solomon (Kindley) they did a good job over on the right side. It just felt like that was the best five we could put out there, with Jesse and Ereck (Flowers) on the left, Ted (Karras) obviously at center, and the two young guys on the right side. I thought they played well. It’s always good to see a young player get in there and get his first few snaps in the National Football League. I would say Robert was out there against a very, very good player in Arik Armstead for much of the day, and I thought it wasn’t too big for him. Look, we’ve just got to continue to improve. I think (Offensive Line Coach) Steve Marshall has done a really good job with that group, guys playing different positions, but continuing to play with some consistency, some toughness. They all bring leadership and energy, I’d say that. There’s a lot of energy from that group.”

(Two other guys I wanted to ask you about, two young players: DE Tyshun Render, what the thinking was in not only elevating him but giving him playing time yesterday on defense. And also, what’s the thinking with you and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey on WR Lynn Bowden Jr.? Do you just want to slowly incorporate him more as it seems?) – “Well Render, I think he’s performed well in training camp and done a good job in practice. With Shaq (Lawson) being down, we needed another end; but we also needed someone with Durham (Smythe) being down, a bigger body from a kicking game standpoint. There’s a lot of things that go into our decisions that you would think normally it’s just defense and just one side of the ball, but an injury to somebody on the complete other side of the ball could affect the kicking game. We kind of needed some bigger bodies to fill in some backup roles from that standpoint, and that’s why we went with Render. As far Lynn, I really let Chan handle the offensive side of the ball. Obviously I have a little bit of input, but he’s got a great offensive mind. As far as how he’s going to incorporate Lynn, I know you guys saw the Wildcat. He’s still working as a receiver. He’s still fairly new here. I don’t know if we’re six weeks into this with him being here? He’s still learning the offense. He’s still learning the nuances of the techniques of the receiver position. He was playing a lot of running back over there in Vegas. This is a work in progress. We’ll just take it one day at a time with him. But Chan has done a good job as far as developing players in the past and even now with the young group we’ve got on the o-line, at the receiver position, at the running back position. He’s done a good job and we’ve just got to continue to improve and get better.”

(I wanted to ask you about two other players. One, if you have over the past few days, gotten anymore clarity on Austin Jackson’s injury and how long it might take, and secondly, if there was any thoughts given in those last couple of minutes when you had that big lead to possibly getting a few snaps for QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – “Austin, he’s on IR and the minimal amount of games there is three. Again, he’s working hard. He’s doing everything he can to get better and get out there as quickly as possible. You guys know I don’t like to put timetables on anything; but when you put somebody on the IR, you know it’s at least three games, so it’s somewhat significant. Without putting a timetable on Austin, all I can say is he’s working hard to get back out there and we won’t have him out at practice for at least another couple of weeks. That will be the earliest. If it takes longer, than it takes longer. In regards to the question about putting Tua in for a series at the end of the game, it’s not something that I’m really thinking about, I don’t know what we really get out of that, in my opinion. If he gets a couple of snaps in a game, I’m not sure – we’re running the ball the whole time. If we want to give it to him and let him hand the ball off, I guess maybe that will make some people happy but I just don’t see any real point in that. That’s just my opinion. Looks he’s the backup. I think every week we see quarterbacks go down in this league. It’s unfortunate. You never want to see it. I feel terrible for Dak Prescott, seeing that injury, so thoughts and prayers to him. I believe he had surgery today. Thoughts and prayers to him. He’s a great player. A lot of respect for him. You saw some guys go down. The Washington quarterback – Kyle Allen – got hit in the head, and then Alex Smith went in. So you see this go on throughout the league. Tua is our No. 2. He can go in at any moment in the game and he’ll be ready to go when it’s time. He’ll be ready to go when his number is called, I should say.”

(You guys invested a lot of money in that cornerback position with CB Xavien Howard last year, and then CB Byron Jones this year. It seemed like them two together, they played their first game together more than half the game. They played really well. Is that the potential you guys see as what they can do for your defense?) – “I think the entire defense played well. It’s never just one guy, it’s never just two guys. I think it’s a team game. I think (Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer) called a good game. I think the d-line played well. I thought we had a good rush. We mixed the coverages – the man, the zone, the blitzes. They covered well. It was a total team effort. They are a big part of it; but guys like (Andrew) Van Ginkel and (Zach) Sieler and (Jerome) Baker, they played well also – Elandon Roberts. Again, it was a team effort. We’re going to need team efforts really the rest of the way, especially this week. Let’s call it – not a new opponent, but an opponent we didn’t know we were going to get until yesterday afternoon or yesterday morning. We’ve got to do a great job form a preparation standpoint. As coaches, get that information to the players as soon as we can, and then try to play a total team game against the New York Jets next Sunday – offense, defense and special teams.”

TE Mike Gesicki

(When you guys started the rebuilding process last year, obviously when General Manager Chris Grier made all the changes and Head Coach Brian Flores. Did you wonder in the back of your head how long will it take for us to be a playoff contender again? Had you worked about that and do you feel like you guys are now after your play yesterday?) – “Honestly, when you’re going through anything, you just kind of focus day by day. Last year when we had guys coming in and out and all of that kind of stuff and there were changes, you don’t focus on that. You leave that to the guys upstairs and you trust in what they are doing for this organization. I think you just take it day by day, like I said. I think that’s what we are doing now. We’re just going to continue to focus on getting better today, coming in here lifting, running, making some corrections, and looking forward to this upcoming week against the Jets.”

(It’s not every day that you wake up as an NFL player and you find out the teams upcoming on your schedule are no longer upcoming on your schedule. I wonder how you took that, and what is your level of confidence in the protocols right now? Is it as high as it may have been a week or two ago?) – “I think that the NFL is doing everything and anything to keep the players safe and keep the games to be able to continue to be played. There were protocols set at the beginning of the season and we’re still abiding by those. When things change and all of that kind of stuff and your bye week gets moved and opponents get changed, it’s not like we can go anywhere anyways. We’re here, so it doesn’t matter who we play next week or the week after that. It could change again by the time we come in here on Wednesday because we haven’t started up yet. It is what it is.”

(We talked to you about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick before, but can you describe how unique he is as a quarterback and as a guy?) – “He’s the greatest teammate I’ve played with. He’s always having fun. Just the things that he does on the field, the energy that he brings, and the confidence that he gives out to everybody else, it’s contagious. I think playing with him – the thing that makes him special is that he makes the guys around him better players. If I could play with him for the next 15 years, I would do it. He’s the man. I love playing with him and he’s helped me out a ton, so I’ll always be appreciative of him.”

(I wanted to ask you about the very end of the game when DT Christian Wilkins recovered the fumble and he came sprinting over to the sideline and handed the football to Head Coach Brian Flores. It was a whole team celebration around coach there. I just wanted to get your take on what it is about Coach Flores that makes guys love playing for him so much?) – “When you see ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) during the game, normally he’s yelling at a ref or he’s mad or he’s trying to keep a straight face on. So when Christian – he has that positive personality and he makes a play at the end of the game and wraps things up and hands it to ‘Flo.’ Now everybody wants to see him do something funny and act like he’s enjoying this thing. Everybody is trusting ‘Coach Flo.’ They rally around him. We believe in what he’s coaching us each and every day, and the message he’s getting across. You’ve got to buy into the head coaching. I think that’s what everybody in this locker room has done. We’ve just got to continue to stack good days and continue to get better.”

(Does the preparation itself – you’re going from preparing for the Broncos to preparing for the Jets – does that change at all?) – “Not really, just because we didn’t get into it yet. I’m sure the coaches did, so it kind of stinks for them; but for us, we didn’t really get into it yet. We were just kind of locked and loaded on the 49ers. Then you hear a couple of hours before kickoff that next week we’re playing the Jets and not the Broncos. Really, it is what it is. It’s really no big deal. Now we’re moving onto the Jets and getting ready to play them; but like I said, it’s not like changing a bye week or changing an opponent or anything – because we’re here. You can’t go anywhere. It’s not like a normal bye week, ‘Oh, I’m going to fly here, or do this or do that.’ We’re here. We can’t go anywhere. It doesn’t matter if they change next week’s opponent or move our bye week again. We’re here for the long haul.”

(That 70 yard TD, is that the longest play you’ve had in your career? And what do you think looking back at it today?) – “You said 70-yard TD. (laughter) It was fun. It was cool. I kind of knew I was getting the ball before the play because when we came out of the huddle, ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) said ‘Hey, Mike come on.’ Whenever he says my name, I’m like it doesn’t matter if I have 10 guys around me, he’s going to throw it up to me. I just tried to run my best route and he put it just over – I don’t know if it was the ‘backer or the corner, whoever was dropping tried to get their hand on it. I just caught it and tried to go. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. It was cool. It was fun to get out there and make a play down the field like that. Normally you would kind of see me go up and try to high-point a ball and catch it and end up getting hit and all of that kind of stuff. That was really the first time I had the opportunity to catch and run with it, so it was cool.”

(You talked about the beard game a couple of weeks ago. I see you’ve got some stubble coming in there and a victory in your back pocket. If you win on next Sunday, you have a bye week after that. Are you prepared to go three or four weeks without shaving that thing?) – “I think that the superstition of the facial hair is gone unfortunately. I think that there was an opportunity there for the goatee to stick around and that’s gone. Halle, my fiancé, is happy about it. We’re probably going to have to keep that in the rearview mirror and that’s pretty much it for the superstition. I think I’m going to stay away from them, honestly, just so I can stick with my best look here moving forward.”

CB Xavien Howard

(Nobody has more interceptions since December of 2017 than you. You really look like you’re back to that very, very high level pre-injury a couple years ago. Do you feel like you’re back? How good do you feel you’re playing at the moment?) – “I feel great about just being back. With my play, I’m just focused on getting better each week, week in and week out, and really just focused on whatever I’m weak at my position – what I lacked at last year.”

(I think this is the first game that you and CB Byron Jones both played more than 50 percent of the snaps. Did you guys feel, I guess, the play off each other this game? And how does it feel?) – “It feels great having Byron (Jones) back. He helps out a lot on the defense. Just me and him on the corners outside, we’re just competing and really just trying to be the best out there right now.”

(Just a couple of hours before the game started yesterday, it was announced that you guys were going to play the Jets instead of the Broncos. Does that change how you prepare for the week?) – “No, no. It doesn’t matter who we play. The next game is always an important game, so we’ve just got to focus on the Jets now. It doesn’t matter what team’s next. We’ve just got focus on the game plan.”

(I know back in 2018, you made a lot of your name for being the interception leader in the league. Now you’ve got three so far this year. Is that something you’re gunning for again this year?) – “It’s always just be around the ball and find the ball, so whatever happens at the end of the year on how many picks I get, I’m just focused on as a whole, as a team, and really just winning games.”

(We finally saw yesterday, I think, the secondary as they envisioned it obviously with CB Byron Jones back, with you, S Bobby McCain and S Eric Rowe at safety. We saw CB Nik Needham play well at slot. What do you like about this group you have right now with two safeties with good ball skills – and you and Byron together?) – “I feel great about the group that they put on the back end. All of us, we just want to get better and just grind it out.”

(I know you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourselves, but I’m wondering what the flight was like coming back from California and if the vibe in the locker room right now is maybe as high as it’s been all season?) – “I was asleep the whole flight back, so I don’t know how it was. (laughter)”

CB Byron Jones

(I guess I’ll start with the obvious question of how good it felt to be back in the lineup and how do you feel the day after?) – “It was exciting to be back with the team. It’s something that you work very hard to do once you get injured, but body felt great. Mind was great. I thought we played a hell of a game yesterday, so it was fun to be a part of that.”

(This is obviously the second year of a major rebuild. When you signed here did you want any sort of – I don’t want to say “assurances” – but any sort of feedback from Head Coach Brian Flores or General Manager Chris Grier that this team was ready to win? Had you felt they were ready to win?) – “For me, that was the exciting part about signing here, was being part of a team that’s up and coming, being a part of the foundation of a team that’s going to be successful in the future. I spoke to ‘Coach Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores). I spoke to the GM and ‘Coach Josh’ (Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer) and their direction for the team, their philosophies, I thought was going to be perfect for a young team. You can’t guarantee anything, but I feel good about the guys we have in our locker room and the coaches that we have on our staff.”

(Beating the defending NFC champions at their place by 26 points, what can that do for the confidence of a team that’s got a lot of young players still?) – “It just – for them, it kind of validates the hard work we’ve been doing; but understand that it is truly a week-to-week basis in terms of success in the National Football League. So yeah, we celebrate this one, no question; but it’s understanding just how good you have to be on a weekly basis in order to show up every single game or you will get embarrassed. So for us, it’s good to validate some of the work that we’ve been doing throughout training camp and throughout the week and not really seeing results we wanted to see, so it was nice to get a win like that; but now it’s onto the Jets.”

(I wanted to ask you about the moment of DT Christian Wilkins giving Head Coach Brian Flores the game ball. Did you witness that? Were you looking for perhaps Flores to crack a smile in the heat of the moment or what?) – “I can tell he was smiling underneath his mask. I don’t know why Christian (Wilkins) did that. Christian’s a fool, so he’s going to find a way to have fun with the game. (laughter) It was funny to see. It was cool to see, especially to cap the win off in that manner. ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) was definitely smiling. Don’t let him fool you.”

(I think this is the first game that both you and CB Xavien Howard were playing more than 50 percent of the snaps together. Were you able to see what you guys can do as a duo yet? Like was that a sign of what you guys can do?) – “Yeah, it’s cool to be out there with one of the best. That dude always finds a way to get the ball. He has a very natural instinct to get the ball, but it’s nice to have all your guys out there, all your guys ready up and at ‘em. Just communication and just understanding how we play and getting some insight from him and what’s happening on the left side of the field and I’m telling him stuff that’s happening on the right side of the field. It was fun. It was definitely fun.”

(Because everyone was healthy yesterday, it was really the first time we got clarity and a look at what this defensive backfield could be with Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe at safety, Nik Needham in the slot – what do you like about those players and how this defensive could look if this is the group moving forward?) – “I think the coolest part about our secondary is our versatility. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. I think Bobby’s leadership is one of the best I’ve been around in terms of his ability to communicate and really just be the same person every single day and be in the right spot. So it’s cool to have all of us on deck. Nik (Needham) and Jamal (Perry) – they come in and do very important jobs for us. They hold it down, so to have everyone on deck, that’s exciting and the future is bright; but again, you’ve got to keep working week-by-week, day-by-day.”

(Have you had a chance to look at the film yet?) – “Yes. I actually saw it on the airplane.”

(Okay so based on what you saw on the film, what were you seeing that the defense was doing specifically be it on the back end or actually on the front end as well because I don’t have to tell you – you got some good pressure on the quarterback, too?) – “Yeah, that’s exciting to see, especially as a DB. Just the amount of pressure that we’re getting on the quarterback and how uncomfortable we’re making it for him. Guys were setting edges. We were doing a good job stopping the run against a really good run team with a bunch of good running backs, so it’s the culmination of everything – the combination of everything together – that makes a special performance. And obviously guys on the back end, they covered and we got some takeaways, too, so that was big for us. It’s really one of those games where everybody’s doing the right thing and kind of the ball bounces our way. We made a lot of good plays, too.”

(I think you held, I guess, both of their quarterbacks together 128 passing yards. When you hear that number, does that kind of show what you guys can be as a defensive backfield?) – “Truthfully, that’s something that can be attributed to the entire defense. I can’t explain how important having good pressure on a good quarterback is to the secondary. When you make the quarterback feel uncomfortable back there, he overthrows balls. He underthrows it. That’s when plays start to really develop; but on the back end, we have to give the front guys some time in order to get to the quarterback. So we really work in tandem and that’s the beautiful part about a defense, is it really works together. But our rush has been really good the past couple of weeks and it definitely showed yesterday, and the result of that is we get turnovers on the back end.”

(You talked about the versatility of the defensive backfield there a little bit and I wanted to ask you about S Eric Rowe and the job he’s done guarding tight ends and playing that safety position. I was curious – you’ve been here for five weeks and obviously training camp now, as well – what is it about this coaching staff and Head Coach Brian Flores that really gets guys to be kind of that selfless type of player and take on new roles and new positions like that?) – “I think they do a good job of finding those types of players through recruiting, free agency. I think that’s very important; but also guys understanding their versatility and how to use it best. The coaching staff does everything they can to put guys in the right position to be successful, and I think that’s a big component as to why you see guys having success at certain positions against different opponents. It’s getting the right guys and having a coaching staff that understands matchups and putting guys in the right position to succeed.”

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