Miami Dolphins Transcripts – October 19 – Head Coach Brian Flores, LB Sam Eguavoen, TE Durham Smythe and C Ted Karras

Head Coach Brian Flores

(There was a lot of work to do here when you arrived and so .500 has been a while and coming. What does a .500 record say to you in the context of what you’re trying to accomplish here?) – “I thought we played well yesterday, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. There are a lot of things we could have improved on, that we can improve on. A lot of things we need to get better. That’s really where my focus is. I’m just trying to get this team better today, better than it was yesterday. We’ve got a long season ahead of us. I’m not really worried about the past. I’m really just trying to focus on today and making the corrections from yesterday’s game, and hopefully playing better in the future.”

(I wanted to see if you had any preliminary updates on the guys who left with injuries? Are there any that you know for sure will be fine? Are there any that for sure might be a minute?) – “They are all still going through the evaluation process, getting treatment and the requisite tests that they need. So no, I don’t have an update. The good thing is we have a couple of weeks here before our next game. We’re still kind of doing tests. It’s the day after, so we have a lot of guys that are nicked up, bruised up. Most of them feel ok I would say, but we still have a couple of days before we make the determination on whether or not a guy can or can’t play.”

(I don’t know if you saw QB Ryan Fitzpatrick light me up on his media yesterday after the game, but I wanted to ask you with QB Tua Tagovailoa coming in, was it important for you guys or was there anything in the background that made it important for him to play in a home game or appear before the bye week?) – “It was just a situation to get him in and get him some snaps. We thought it was good for him, just like any young player, to get in there and get a feel for what it’s like to play in a National Football League game. That was really it.”

(I wanted to ask you about DE Emmanuel Ogbah and the impact he’s had on your defensive line. He leads the team now in sacks with five. I just wanted to get your take on what he’s brought to your pass rush and run defense in general?) – “I think Ogbah has done a good job. He’s played multiple positons, he’s smart, he’s tough. I think for a lot of people, the sacks are the big stat for a lot of people but I think he’s doing a good job in the run game, setting the edge, tackling. When he has to deal with a double-team block, he deals with it and has no problem taking on a double and freeing up another guy. Those are the plays that aren’t flash plays, but they are important plays for any team. Everyone’s got them at every position. I think the flash stats like the sacks and interceptions and those things, they are just such a small percentage of the actual plays. Those are good plays – they are big plays – but they are such a small percentage. It’s the other plays where he’s done a good job, a really good job. We’ve got a lot of guys who are like that, so I’ve been pleased with him.”

(The third-down defense has been as good as any team around. What, in your experience, separates just an average third-down group from a very good third-down defense?) – “I think there is a lot that goes into it – the communication, the execution. At the end of the day, talent obviously; but communication and overall execution. Offensively, you’re getting their best stuff in those situations, so your communication better be good. And then consistency. It’s one thing to do it for one game, but it’s hard with the athletes in this league, the coordinators, the creative minds offensively, it’s hard to do that. You have to do a good job across the board. It can’t be one-dimensional, it can’t be all of this or all of that. We try to, but it’s hard. It is. It’s hard to consistently get off the field in those situations, because they are good players, and they execute well. You have to first get yourself into those situations, which is hard in itself – stopping the run and defending the pass game on early downs and finishing the drive. It’s not easy. But you’ve got to practice and prepare, and put your best effort out there.”

(You all have done, as a team, obviously a very good job with COVID to this point during the regular season. TE Durham Smythe mentioned today that when players on the team go out, they never go out more than three as a group. Is that specifically something you’ve encouraged? Have you told players not to go to restaurants or bars on the road when you all are on road trips? Like anything beyond wearing a mask that you’ve suggested to them or put in as a rule?) – “I think everyone’s got to be smart. We’ve said this right from the onset here – distancing, masks, not being in large groups. I think those are things we harp on, especially during a bye week when we’re not going to be in the facility every day and they’re not going to be on their normal routine. We just have to be smart as a team – our players, coaches, everybody who has any involvement with the team. I think they all understand that. I think they’re trying to be smart. I think the league – the three people or something – that came down from the league. It wasn’t anything I implemented. We’re trying to follow the rules as dictated by the protocols of the league; but my role on this is just to continue to remind these guys and have them not get complacent on how quickly this can spread, and that’s what we try to do as a staff.”

(As well as you guys have been playing these past few weeks, is this bye week coming at a good week for you per se, or would you rather keep playing since you guys have been playing so well? Or is it just a great time to recharge the battery as you guys move forward going onto the season?) – “We’re just going to – it’s on the schedule. We just play the schedule how it’s kind of given to us. It’s always good to get some time to recharge. As a staff, we’ll evaluate really every aspect of what we’re doing here from schedules to personnel to scheme – what we’re doing from a scheme standpoint offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. What are we doing well, what are we not doing well? Do we need to play somebody more or less? Things that could potentially help our team. That’s kind of what we’ll use this week as, as well as taking some time to rest and get away from football and recharge and see our families and things like that as well. Look, if they put a game on the schedule, I’m always ready to go; but if they give us a bye week then I’ll take the bye week and try to improve our team as best – we’ll try to improve our team as best we can.”

(What are the things that you are most excited about from what you’ve seen from your defense?) – “I think the communication’s been a lot better. I think they just situationally, we understand third down, two-minute, red zone – not that they didn’t understand it, but as far as how important playing well in those situations are. I think they like playing together. They have fun. They have fun playing and they celebrate each other – the good plays; they pick each other up when there’s not-so-good plays and we’re just kind of growing as a team. That’s really in all phases. Not just defense. It’s offense and special teams and defense.”

(I wanted to ask you about the thinking of a couple of the inactives – LB Kyle Van Noy obviously was questionable. I guess he didn’t quite make it. And with RB Jordan Howard it’s been two weeks now that at least from our understanding he’s been a healthy scratch. What is the thinking behind that and how is he handling what seems to be a demotion?) – “Jordan (Howard) is a competitor, so he’s a competitive guy who wants to be out there. That’s why he’s here and I understand that. We’ve got to make decisions and they’re hard decisions. We can only have 48 guys active on Sunday, and a lot goes into it offensively, defensively, kicking game. We just try to make the decisions that are best for our team. Each guy who is made inactive, I know they all want to be out there. If they didn’t, then there’s something wrong. It’s a tough part of this, but we need everyone on this team. Everyone is important. I’ve been in many years where someone who was inactive becomes active later in the year and plays well, so that’s just kind of how it goes. So everyone’s got to be ready. Jordan will be ready. He’s always ready. Every week is a little bit different, so we’ll see what the game plan is for the Rams and we’ll make our decisions once that time draws near.”

C Ted Karras

(You all have handled COVID really well since the season started. Besides wearing masks, can you please tell me one or two other things that you all are doing as a team or as individuals that are helping?) – “I think everyone just going home or just here to the facility. We reported July 28th and I haven’t been anywhere other than my house or the facility. I think a lot of guys are taking that responsibility pretty seriously, and so far so good in the regular season. Knock on wood, we’ve got to keep doing our routine.”

(I want to ask you the level of confidence from the players after the big win against the 49ers, and the Jets?) – “Anytime you can string two wins together, any wins together in the NFL, it’s going to breed confidence. It definitely feels good going into a bye week here, getting back to even. We’ve got to keep working our hardest, keep coming in every day to improve. I know we are going to have a lot of improvement to do this week, and then some rest, and then we have a big game coming up here in two weeks.”

(Statistically sack wise, you’re in the top half of the league. What has gone so well with your pass protection this year?) – “I think a lot of credit goes to (Offensive Line Coach Steve) Marshall and Coach Gailey (Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey) scheming it up, Ryan (Fitzpatrick) getting us in the right calls and then coming down to individual technique and winning one-on-ones. We’re fortunate we work hard to win our one-on-ones, and we’re doing a good job of it across the board. We’ve got to keep it going.”

(TE Durham Smythe was talking about how eventually the mindset shifts from hoping to win to expect to win. Where are you in that process?) – “I think that we’re close to expecting to win. Every game has been close. Now, we’ve strung a couple of games together, and learning how to do that as a team, and learning what it takes to prepare and putting yourself in the right positon to go out there 60 minutes on a Sunday. We’re getting that. A lot of work still to do after this bye – a 10-game stretch to see what we’re about. It’s really exciting. It’s going to be a fun stretch to finish the season.”

(A lot of people didn’t know much about RB Myles Gaskin going into the season, he’s obviously been pretty productive for you guys. What have you learned about him as a running back from blocking for him?) – “He’s a great player, and it’s a pleasure to block for him. He hits the hole fast and makes the right read all the time, and finds the hole. Our job is to open it up and his job is to find it, and he’s doing a great job. We’re rushing the ball pretty effectively. Obviously you always want more out of rushing production on a Monday; but after a win, it feels pretty good. He’s a great player, a great teammate and I’m excited to see what he does for the rest of the season.”

(I want to piggyback off that comment about RB Myles Gaskin because after the game yesterday, he talked about the way you guys hold him accountable, and there is a relationship on this team to not be afraid to speak up about when a guy can do more. I’m wondering how that relationship develops between a team and between you guys and Myles Gaskin specifically?) – “I think everyone just wants to do everything right, which is a good sign for our team. Sometimes an RB will leave a read out, or sometimes you’ll let your guy come through and maybe it wasn’t your best block. Everyone is striving to do the right thing. We’re trending in the right direction, working really hard. We are holding each other accountable and it’s a lot of fun to play on a team like that with a lot of big playmakers and a lot of talent.”

(I’m wondering how the vision that was laid out for you, what this Dolphins team might look like and what the organization is like, how was that vision that was laid out for you when you were deciding where to go, how close is that to reality right now?) – ‘I think we’re playing tough, smart physical football, stringing wins together. We still have a lot of work to do, a lot of improvement, and we’re working hard every day. That’s the kind of team I want to be on is a team that wants to improve and work hard, and get better individually, which will help the team as a whole. This is a big week for us. It’s going to nice to get some rest, get some guys back and we’re going into a stretch to determine our fate this year.”

(What is it about Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall that you think has been a good fit with the three rookies in particular? Is he a good teacher, is he a yeller? What about Coach Marshall has helped the three rookies?) – “He has a lot of experience in this league and has a great rapport with all of us. He is a very good teacher, and this is a fun system to play in as an o-lineman, and to learn how to play in the National Football League. I think that he’s doing a great job of not only developing these three rookies, but helping me out, and Jesse Davis and Ereck Flowers and all of us get better at our craft. We have a great room. Coach Marshall and ‘Coach Lem’ (Lemuel Jeanpierre) are doing a great job of putting us in the right positions to be successful.”

(A normal year, how would you spend the bye? Would you go to the Bahamas? And how are you spending the bye this year?) – “Well, there are a lot of options down here. I was looking forward to that; but how am I spending it this year? I’m just going to get COVID tested and I’ve got a lot of chores to do at home. I’m pressure washing the whole exterior, so I’m looking forward to it.”

(Is that a bye weekend or just a weekend without a game?) – “Well, I just put so much stuff off. It’s nice to get caught up at home. That is a bye weekend to me. It’s not a vacation. This year we have to come in and get tested every day, so we might as well get up, get going and get some stuff done to have peace of mind for the second half of the year.”

(You can’t leave without answering one QB Tua Tagovailoa question, so I’ll try to be creative. How did his approach to the game and approach to that play – rolling out to the side there in the end zone as opposed to just handing it off – how does that align with any confidence that you’ve seen this young man gain over the last seven weeks?) – “Well, he went out there two-for-two with a big third-down conversion to seal the game for us. That was pretty fun. Coming in, there was like a minute left, and it’s the highest pressure snaps in the game. With Tua coming in, you want to do a good job protecting him. I think we had a good pocket for him and he stuck it in there for a completion. It was awesome. I’m really happy for him. He’s a great teammate. I’m really looking forward to – as all Dolphins nation is – looking forward to see what he can continue to do in the future. It was a good start though, two for two.”

TE Durham Smythe

(How jealous is TE Mike Gesicki that you and TE Adam Shaheen are taking all the catches and touchdowns away from him at this time?) – “(laughter) That’s hilarious. The funny thing is, is I think he (Mike Gesicki) gets more excited – which is hard to do – he gets more excited when we score, I think, than when he does. And when you see him in the end zone when he scores, he gets pretty damn excited, so that says something about him. He’s always providing the energy and that stuff; but I don’t think it’s jealousy, I think it’s excitement.”

(A couple of things. One, are you keeping the football or doing anything with it from the touchdown and two, I know TE Mike Gesicki mentioned in August that he and you really worked to improve on what people thought were – I don’t want to use the word “shortcoming” but maybe not the best part of your game. You’ve always been a capable receiver, but people did not always see that skill, so what did you do to improve in that area?) – “First of all, we’re keeping – all the tight ends are keeping all the balls that we score and we’re putting them actually up on the wall in our tight end room just kind of as a reminder of what’s happened. And two, yes, that’s something that we – like I said a couple months ago – that’s something we both focused on in the offseason because obviously I think me and Mike (Gesicki) and even Adam (Shaheen) – all three of us have natural talents that come a little bit more natural to us in certain parts of the game. And over the last year, especially this offseason, me and Mike kind of took a step back like I said previously and tried to work on that other part of the game to be more multiple, to be more complete players. I think that’s something that we’ll continue to work on through the year and hopefully we’ll continue to improve.”

(You guys are hot, obviously winners of three of four and all three wins were in pretty convincing fashion; but is there a sense at least on offense that there’s maybe still a little meat left on the bone?) – “Absolutely. Yeah. Obviously I think in this game, you can never get complacent even if you put up 50 points in a game. There’s never going to be a perfect game. When you come in on a Monday, obviously it’s always better when you win the game, but there’s always plays left out there to be made. I think specifically yesterday, I think there’s a lot – like you said – a lot of meat left on the bone out there. I think we had several opportunities where we could have gotten Myles (Gaskin) over 100 yards. We missed a play here and there in the air. So absolutely, I think there’s a lot more that we can improve on not just in one aspect of the offense, but I think really across the board.”

(I think the way QB Ryan Fitzpatrick supports publicly QB Tua Tagovailoa, sort of sets the tone for everyone, including the players of course. How Tua performed – not just handing off but actually rolling in the end zone and completing a pass – what is your reaction to that?) – “I think obviously Ryan (Fitzpatrick) is the one that you see publicly cheering and things like that which is awesome to see, but I think really across the board, this franchise has done a great job of bringing in – I think Ryan said it yesterday or maybe the day before – but really the right type of people. I think it’s rare that you see so much support really across the board. So like I said, you see Ryan publicly supporting Tua. Tua is great with him, but I think it goes to every position. If you look in our room, we’re all supporting each other – the o-line, the defensive side of the ball; and that’s something I think is rare at least through my three years in the league so far. You don’t see it every year with so much consistency across all of these positions groups. I think we’ve done a great job bringing in the right guys that’ll definitely support each other. Obviously it’s cool to see Tua get out there and succeed in his first couple snaps.”

(Not to bring up unpleasant topics, but one year ago tomorrow, this team was 0-6. How far have you come in this year?) – “I think we’ve come a long way. I hate to kind of be repetitive here, but I think a lot of it comes back to just the guys that we’ve brought in in this locker room that have really had a very direct focus on the mission, which is turning this team around and becoming a consistent winner here. Obviously we’ve been hot the last few weeks, but this is something that you have to continue to focus on kind of consistently through the season, because even when you’re hot, this is the NFL. Every week you can lose. So I think we’ve done a good job thus far in terms of trying to turn the tide coming from, like you said, last year at this point in the season; but it’s just something that we’ll have to continue to work on through the year.”

(How would you describe the level of confidence on the team after the two big wins against the 49ers and the Jets?) – “I think it’s really high. I think guys are starting to realize that they can count on each other, and something that we’ve talked about is shifting the overall mindset of the team from hoping to win to expecting to win. I think that’s something that as we continue over these next few weeks, and hopefully we build that confidence like we have been the last few weeks, that that mindset will be kind of cemented across the board. I think that’s really what takes teams to the next level, is when there’s an expectation to win instead of just going in and hoping to win.”

(Is there a little bit of you guys maybe, with the schedule change and stuff, that this bye maybe came at a bad time or a wrong time for you guys with you guys kind of rolling and kind of picking up the last two games?) – “I don’t necessarily think so. Obviously in a very unique year, everyone is on their toes across the league. But I don’t think this will slow us down. Going into a bye, I always kind of enjoy it. Besides having a little time to get healthy and things like that, I always enjoy a bye because this is the time of year where you can kind of take a step back, do some self-scouting on the offense as a whole, and you as an individual. I’ve always thought that coming out of a bye, I’ve been more successful and I think a lot of guys think that same way, just because there’s some self-reflection. So honestly, I think it comes at a good time. We’ve won a few games here. Obviously there’s a lot more – like I mentioned earlier – that we can build on. I think we can improve across the board and hopefully we can take this week to kind of accelerate that.”

(As a group, you guys have done really well with COVID obviously in the last month. Does Head Coach Brian Flores have a specific rule saying, “I don’t want you going out to sports bars, restaurants…” If not, have players sort of agreed among themselves “we’re going to do that sparingly?”) – “Obviously there are protocols that are ever-changing from the league itself, and we all follow those obviously as league rules. But I think this team is – we’ve talked it about several times – it’s just about being professional. Especially in a season like this, as you’ve seen kind of across the league, teams get hit by things here and there. It can really affect not only practice time and things like that, but it can kind of affect who’s actually playing in a game and obviously that affects the outcome. So I think it’s just about being professional. We’ve talked about it. Off the field, we try to limit it to three guys or less kind of together at one time. I think most of the time it’s actually just guys on the team, so we’re kind of just keeping it in-house with things like that, and hopefully we’ll continue to be professional and do a good job in that aspect.”

LB Sam Eguavoen

(I know late last season you were used more as a pass rusher. Where have you been working in practice? What sort of ways have they looked to use you this season?) – “Just anywhere. I move around – inside, outside, pass rushing. I’m just ready for whenever my number is called and just do what I’ve got to do to help the defense.”

(You were obviously part of the rebuild last year and there were some tough times to start the season. Not just the spirit of the team but the execution of the team, how much is different this year than last year?) – “I just feel like it’s a culture change. We still have a lot of guys from the team last year and then they brought in some more guys this year. It’s just been a culture change. ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) is still hard on us but he took it back on us a little bit. We still work hard. I feel like we’re the hardest working team in the NFL. I feel like now we’re working a little bit smarter. Guys are buying in. We don’t dread coming in on Wednesdays like we kind of did last year. We’re just growing better as a team.”

(I wanted to ask you about third-down defense. I don’t know if you know this statistic, but the Dolphins are now No. 1 in the whole NFL in third-down defense – best third-down defense. What do you think are some of the things that lead to a team being statistically good on third down?) – “I think it’s just energy, just finding that energy on third down knowing if we get a stop, we’re getting off this field. We have a great returner in Jakeem Grant. We get opportunities for punt returns. I think the way we work throughout the week, the way the coaches break it down for us, we watch a lot of film and we study really hard on third down. We call it the money down. It’s time to get money. That’s winning football. If you let the offense convert on third down, their chances of scoring go way up. So that’s our mindset that we’ve just got to find – new juice when it comes down to third down. Whether it’s third-and-1 to third-and-30, we’ve got to find a way to get off that field.”

(I wanted to ask you about the work of the defensive line in front of you guys. You guys running plenty of rushes behind those guys. I’m just curious of how their work of clogging up blocks makes your guys’ job easier at that second level.) – “They work hard. Watching them just in training camp, the way they use their hands and control blockers, it’s crazy. Our linebackers coach, there’s times in training camp where we’ll be done watching film and he’ll just pull up like d-line film, the way they’re hitting the bags, the way they’re hitting the sleds and everything like that. It’s really a work of art of how much they truly emphasize things like that. It’s just easy to just work off of them because we know they’re going to do the same thing every single time. They play with good technique. We know when we get plays like – when Christian (Wilkins) got that sack, there’s just little things I’m learning from them and we all can just help each other out.”

(I’d like to ask you a little bit more about something you said a little bit earlier in the conversation. You were talking about the difference between working hard and working smarter. What would be some examples of working smarter?) – “Working smarter is – I think it’s more like playing with anticipation. Like the coaches give us tip sheets and the film and everything like that. I feel like we’re just buying into it more so now once we see all of the hard work and studying that we did throughout the week, once we go out there on the practice field, you’re like ‘oh, I remember this play.’ It’s just a little bit more relief on you rather than you just always reacting to everything. It’s more like you can anticipate things. I know it’s a 90 percent chance that this play may happen so now I can play with a little bit more anticipation. I think that’s really the difference between this year and last year. ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) is taking care of us. Sometimes he’ll throw us a bone and we won’t have to wear shoulder pads during practice, and little things like that. It’s working smarter.”

(How would you describe the level of confidence on the team coming off two really convincing victories?) – “It’s just any given Sunday, really. We’ve got confidence going into every football game and I’m pretty sure even the Jets have confidence going into every football game. It’s the NFL. If you weren’t the best of the best, you wouldn’t be here. We take it one game at a time. I don’t see the record. We’re numb to the wins; we’re numb to the losses. That’s the only way you can – that’s what good football teams do. Every week is a new week. I can’t dwell on a loss and I can’t be riding my high horse 10 weeks after. ‘Oh, I made a sack in Week 2 and I’m still riding my high horse on that sack.’ I’ve just got to keep pushing it and see what we can do this week and see what we can do next week.”

(From a mental standpoint, how tough was it not to play a lot of defensive snaps the first few weeks? Is it tough to stay as engaged in terms of the preparation? Or is that easy for you when you’re not playing a lot?) – “It’s tough just going into a game. You prepare so much for this team and you’re like, ‘this week might be my time.’ I would get on there and it doesn’t happen. But I don’t regret the hard work I put in throughout the week. I could still be on the streets working at Foot Locker or doing something else. Why not use my time studying an opponent? Even though I know I’m not going to get on the field, what else should I be doing? With COVID going on, I’m not going to be riding on boats and just spending my game checks. I might as well study up this film so when I do get that opportunity like I did last night, I’m ready for it.”

(There was a report that LB Kamu Grugier-Hill had a pretty nasty finger injury. Did you see it and what does it say about him that after breaking a finger and casting it up, he came back on the field?) – “No, I actually didn’t see his finger. I was so locked into the game that I didn’t know anything that was going on, because I was just like – just happy for my opportunity. He’s a tough dude. He’ll be all right. Clearly he went back into the game. That shows what type of character he has. I didn’t really see what was going on with him after the game. I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine though.”

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