Miami Dolphins Transcripts – October 20 – Coordinators and Offensive Position Coaches

Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall

(Could you assess how G/T Robert Hunt’s first two games please at right tackle and moving forward, do you see him as a tackle in his NFL career even though he obviously has some guard ability as well?) – “Rob (Hunt) has really done well his first two games. Like I said, as we talked earlier with Austin (Jackson) and Solomon (Kindley), every game is a new challenge, a new adventure and there’s a lot of stuff that he’s got to go through. He’s learned a lot in two ball games. I’m pleased where he’s at. The guy’s a worker. He’s learning to be a pro and take every play. Guys coming from college, they play 80 plays; but every play is a highly, highly competitive play and I’m really proud of where he is and hopefully he can continue to grow as he keeps moving. And to answer your question, he’s a tackle or guard. He can play either one.”

(I want to ask and I keep asking and I know this is a process for you guys; have you established a run game identity and how do you get there?) – “You need to ask (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) that. He’s kind of the coordinator. My whole focus is getting those offensive linemen, getting those guys – especially in this scenario with we’re two months into the season and getting those guys ready. All that establishing a run and pass and all that stuff, that’s the coordinator’s and the head coach’s deal. I’m really focused on, ‘hey, Rob Hunt, did you step with the right foot?’ or A.J. (Austin Jackson) or Ereck Flowers or whoever it may be getting those things done. So that’s kind of my whole focus this year is doing that part.”

(That’s a pretty good prelude to my question because we did have Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey on earlier and he talked about C Ted Karras being kind of the guy that drives the show up front in pass pro communication. I’m curious to get your take on how that communication and those conversations and I guess meetings, go every week with you and Ted Karras and the offensive staff to help get the pass protection shored up for the game that week?) – “Ted’s been schooled well in his previous employment and Ted has a great understanding of what defenses are trying to do and where the safeties are located and where the pressure points are and things like that, and every week, Ted is a consummate pro. He does run the ship up there, so to speak, as Chan (Gailey) mentioned and him and ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) get together and we have our meetings. Here’s what we think is going to happen, but ‘Fitz’ – he’s seen it all – there’s nothing ‘Fitz’ hasn’t seen and Ted’s getting to that point in his career where he can help me and help us staff-wise help, ‘okay, I see this guy doing this’ or ‘this thing happened and I see this safety rocking’ or ‘I hear this call.’ So yeah, Ted has been a great asset to all those guys up front and he does drive the ship not only in the pass game, but in the run game as far as helping where that is. So yeah, Ted deserves a lot of credit. He’s a worker and he’s a true pro. That’s what a pro center does, and he certainly fits that mold.”

(I know it’s probably still early, but I couldn’t help but notice with Rob Hunt playing real well that you’re going to have Austin Jackson coming back at some point later on in the year. Have you thought about what that means for your rotation?) – “Yeah, I want to get Austin back and get working with him again. But again, that’s the trainers. They are going to come to me at some point and say that Austin is free to go full speed, 100 percent. We’ll make that decision, we’ll decide when we get to that point. I’m going to coach the guys I’ve got in front of me. Austin right now is getting rehab and trying to get back as fast as he can. When that happens, we’ll make that call.”

(We were talking about the left tackle spot and we haven’t noticed G/T Jesse Davis a whole lot these last two games, which is actually good news when you’re talking about an O-lineman how would you assess his transition from right to left tackle?) – “Yes. Jesse, he’s worked a little over there prior to a couple of weeks ago when Austin went down. I’ll tell you, the first game (against the 49ers), I thought he was a little shaky in sets. He did a nice job; but I thought this week he was much more comfortable. I thought he did some really good things in the game. I thought he played well. The Jets are a really good front rush team, they can rush the passer. They are good up front. I thought Jesse really had a good day. Fundamentally with his sets and things like that, he got a lot more comfortable than he was the week before. I see that moving forward as we start preparing for the Rams and down the road. I say the same thing about Jesse that I say about Ted (Karras) and Ereck (Flowers) – the veteran guys we have, I’m real fortunate. They are consummate pros. They are team-first guys and I love the heck out of Jesse and have for a long time. He’s a very valuable member of our football team.”

Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville

(I wanted to ask you about RB Jordan Howard and with RB Salvon Ahmed, what’s the skillset there that excites you guys enough to put him on the 53-man roster 10 days ago? And with Jordan, have you seen him be dispirited or down? Or has he handled this with a good attitude being inactive for a couple weeks?) – “I think starting with Jordan (Howard), he’s been unbelievable with this and I told him that yesterday. How he’s handled this has been first class as a professional. He’s come in and gone to work every day, which is what it’s all about. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we approach them and he’s really done a great job with that. It’s a very difficult situation for him because he’s a prideful person. He wants to be out there. He wants to be contributing and right now, that’s not the situation, but everything he’s done has been fantastic and been on the plus side. I give him a lot of credit because it’s a difficult thing to do. As far as Salvon’s gone, I think he came in, he’s done a great job. He’s a smart young man. He’s intensely competitive. He wants to be good. He’s got a great work ethic. I think you see him flash and do some things in the run game. I thought last week he did a really good job of giving them the defensive picture of some of those Frank (Gore) looks and things that Frank was going to give them. He catches the ball well. I don’t have a great feel yet for his physical side of things, and that may be kind of trial by fire, but that’s okay because I think it’s going to be in him and I think he will compete at a high level. But he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and to this point, really, really happy with having him in our room.”

(RB Myles Gaskin is a tough dude for being kind of on the small side. How do you think the team might benefit from having a bigger back available for short-yardage situations? Obviously RB Jordan Howard would probably be the bigger back.) – “I think it depends as much on the kind of plays that we’re asking that back to perform as it does on what the physical composition is of the back. I think Myles (Gaskin) gives us a really good, productive person in there. He’s done a nice job. Everything we’ve asked him to do. And we’re talking about third-and-1. I know that we can emphasize that, but there’s a whole lot more first- and second-down plays than there are third-and-1s in the game, and he’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do on all those plays. So I think we have great trust in him and what he’s doing for us right now.”

(As a follow-up to you just mentioned RB Myles Gaskin. As his direct position coach, what’s been the best part about seeing his success that he’s having this year? We talked about it earlier in the season, but just what’s been the best part about seeing him succeed?) – “His humility in how he’s approaching the success that he’s having a little bit. I think with every day, he gets stronger. He gets better as a player in what he’s doing; but you don’t see him change. He hasn’t changed since he walked in here last year. He’s a study person. He’s intensely competitive. He wants to be good. He’s highly focused and he’s going to give you everything he has, and I don’t think any of that has changed. I think to see him having some success now and not change fundamentally who he is and what he’s about and his character, I think is a strong message on who he is. And that’s why you cheer for a young guy like this and hope that things just get better and better for him.”

(Another question about RB Myles Gaskin. I’m looking now and it looks like maybe two dozen running backs selected in the 2019 draft. He was the very last one taken. Can you just take us back through the thinking at that time when he was on the board, when you thought that it might be an option and what in the pre-draft process drew you to him?) – “As far as the draft process, that’s the personnel department. (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and those guys makes those decisions. My job is to coach the guys they put in the room, and we found a fantastic young man. You see that when we interviewed him at the Combine. You liked him – his personality, his intensity, his focus in that short time we had together. But being around him, I just liked how he was, how he carried himself, what his demeanor – I think we’re seeing the same exact thing every day when he walks in this building. So you love being around him.”

(I know as a coach, you pride yourself on development. Just noticing RB Myles Gaskin play, it seems like he’s developed a lot, particularly in the passing game. How have you seen maybe his growth in pass protection and as a receiver, and how has that helped him become more of a complete back?) – “I think you answered the question right there. He’s become more of a complete back, which gives you confidence to put him in the game and in those situations. But again, I go back to who this kid is and what he’s done. I say ‘kid.’ That’s not a fair way to say it – to this young man. He worked his tail off in the offseason and you saw a difference when he came back here. He had clearly worked on catching the ball in the offseason when he was away from here. We saw that demonstrated when he came back. You saw he gained a little bit of weight, a little big of size, a little bit of strength. I think you saw that when he came back here. He’s always had vision. He’s always had great feet. He’s always had balance, at least in the time that I’ve been around him, so those things just continued and all I think he’s done is he’s added to his book of things that he can do and what he can show. So when he’s gotten the opportunity, he’s been able to maximize those opportunities. That’s really what it’s about for every guy. That’s in our room and I think in every room in this building, that’s the message that you want to send. When your opportunity comes up, are you prepared for it? And he continues to maximize his opportunities.”

Quarterbacks Coach Robby Brown

(Even though it was only five snaps, did anything stand out to you about what you saw from QB Tua Tagovailoa against the Jets on Sunday?) – “Not really. Like you said, it was five snaps. It’s not that you can’t evaluate those five snaps. We obviously do. I thought the communication was good. The coach-to-quarterback communication was good. I thought his demeanor was good, which that’s all stuff that we expected to be good. I thought it was a positive experience, but I don’t want to over-evaluate five snaps. I did think it was positive.”

(Obviously you guys felt good enough about QB Tua Tagovailoa’s health to make him the backup going into the year, but did seeing him actually play give you any extra confidence that yeah, we’re sure this guy is ready physically to do it?) – “Like I said earlier on the physical part, that’s not my area of expertise; but I think any time – look, this is the highest level – so I think any time a guy gets into an NFL football game, it’s a big deal. Whether he’s had an injury, whether he has not, whether it’s Tua, whether it’s any kind of rookie – first-rounder, seventh-rounder, free agent – I think it’s a big deal when they get into a game. So I do think it’s a big deal that he got in, but as far as a medical perspective, I wouldn’t know. I’m glad to see him get out there.”

(What do you think is the next step in the development of QB Tua Tagovailoa and what does he have to do to take that step?) – “I think the next step really is just the bye week and then the next day that he comes in, in terms of getting prepped for L.A. (Rams). The bye week will be a focus on what the rest of the team is focusing on – getting better. His focus will be learning and then he’ll come in on Monday and do the same thing he did last week – start with personnel like ‘Coach Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) always does and I think really it’s just taking that next step of what do you got to do next? What’s right in front of you and not trying to focus too far out into the future and then when your number gets called again, you try to be as ready as possible. I think if you go too far out, then you get blinded by all the stuff. So I think the very next step is to come in on Wednesday and try to have a good practice. I know that sounds coaching cliché, but that’s just what he has to do, and that’s what we all have to do as coaches. That’s what every guy on this football team has to do, really.”

(I wanted to ask you about the bye week and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. A lot of the other coaches have said that it’s a good time to evaluate yourself, kind of self-scout. What does a 16-year veteran have to gain from the bye week and what does it look like for him getting ready for a game two weeks out?) – “I think – and no different from a rookie, but very different rookie – you have 16 years of experience to build upon and look at, ‘hey, here’s what I did good, here’s what I’m not doing so good. Why am I not doing this good? Why am I doing this really well?’ And he’s really good at that. I know earlier in training camp I said most quarterbacks in the NFL are highly competitive people and if they go 99-for-100, they’re worried about the one. I think you try to focus on the good things you did and understand why you did it well and then figure out how you can improve in certain areas of your game; but there’s a reason he’s been around for 16 years and that’s because he evaluates everything and what he’s doing well, what he’s not doing well and that kind of thing. So I think he’ll do that and that’s how all the players should be, but a 16-year vet probably is more seasoned at doing that.”

(Kind of continuing with that bye thought, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick does a lot of things well. He’s won games for you last year and this year, but the picks kind of stand out. What about the interceptions – some, obviously his arm’s been hit – but what have you told him about the picks?) – “Well, and I think that’s part of being a 16-year vet. When he comes off the field, he doesn’t say ‘what happened?’ That doesn’t happen with him. He knows exactly what happened. He knows where the coverage was and how it affected the play, that kind of thing. So from a coaching standpoint, we’ll look at, hey, how can we help him whether this particular route got us and they were in this coverage and it fooled us or whatever it may be. Whatever the circumstances were behind the bad play, whether it’s a protection or whatever we can do as a coaching staff to help; he comes over and we talk about the play, but he really never – he knows what happened when bad plays happen and when good plays happen. That’s the good thing about him is he can tell you, ‘hey, let’s go back to this, this is working and here’s why’ and that kind of stuff. So it’s just a continuous conversation between the quarterbacks on the field, the coordinator, the run game guys, the o-line. And that’s the great thing about him is he’s communicating constantly with coaches, players, everybody involved in the plan.”

(You probably didn’t see it, but I don’t know if you heard that after the game QB Tua Tagovailoa went back to the field and talked to his parents, tried to soak up the moment. I guess for you to have seen him behind the scenes and maybe the work he’s done, what do you think that means that a guy is sort of appreciating the moment that kind of led up to his first snaps?) – “I think for anybody involved in this game – you guys – it’s a privilege to get to do these things. You guys cover a game you love or a sport you love. I’m incredibly fortunate to get to coach and do something I love every day, so I think it’s really neat that he was soaking that up and we’ve all been there where you get that first chance. I think it’s easy to get caught up in ‘first-rounder, whatever.’ But like I said before, it doesn’t matter who it is – first-rounder, seventh-rounder, free-agent guy – it’s a big deal when you get to play at the highest level, and he did get to do that. I think it’s just a tribute to him as a person that he understood that.”

Tight Ends Coach George Godsey

(At the beginning of the season, I think all Dolphins fans knew who TE Mike Gesicki was; but what can you say about the progression of the other two guys? There was a clip that came out from the Dolphins yesterday following one of the touchdowns and Mike came rushing down the field. He was just so happy for TE Durham Smythe. What have the other two brought to the table and how was it to see the three getting along like that?) – “Durham has been a big part of our club for the last two years that I’ve been here, just in the run game and from a leadership standpoint in that room. All blocking and little catching the rock, but when he was able to catch the rock for a touchdown, I think it excited that room because we know how much he means to both the -line as far as being a part of them and then the run game, being the physical player, in the tight end room. Then Adam (Shaheen) has had some success in this league, kind of like what I’ve talked about in training camp. This guy has caught touchdowns before. He just hit a point in his career where maybe he ran through a couple of injuries; but obviously he’s showed up here in the past couple of weeks, and he’s doing a good job too in the run game. We’re a pretty tight-knit group in that room, and it’s good to see each other succeed.”

(I don’t have a tight ends question. I’m writing on RB Myles Gaskin today, but I wanted to get your thoughts on when you first noticed – obviously he’s been around for a couple of years now, but he’s popped more this season. Does that happen when you’re a position coach of a different positon and there’s a guy that emerges, is it obvious to you too just from watching practice?) – “Yeah, he’s really improved every day since he’s been here. It’s hard as a rookie just because the background that you come from isn’t pro football. It’s college football, and it’s a different game being played. Sure it’s the same ball, but there are a lot of different things about college and pro football. To absorb and continue to improve, that’s the challenge of a first-year moving into a second-year player. He’s always showing up in practice as far as the show team. I think that’s really where it starts if you’re not getting reps on the field. He’s good to watch, he’s good to have on our team and I know all of our guys are really complimentary of him.”

Wide Receivers Coach Josh Grizzard

(I wanted to ask you about the Preston Williams touchdown reception in that game. It looked like the cornerback drove into outside leverage and he crossed back across his face. I wanted to get your take on how you approach that play when you have to get inside, and the cornerback is playing inside of you?) – “Yeah, Preston did a good job on that play. He kind of took some things we talked about over the past couple of weeks, techniques that the defender uses and how we can try to setup some things, not only that we’ve done in the past but the way that they play it in order to take advantage of a look. Kudos to him because he ran a hell of a route, and being on the same page as ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick), it’s good to see that practice execution becoming game reality. Nice play. Nice celebration too.”

(You’ve got a couple of guys who may not be fulltime natural receivers in Lynn Bowden Jr. and Malcolm Perry that you guys are trying to bring into that room. I wanted to ask you, how do you go about trying to teach them some of the nuances of  the game that maybe other guys may have a little more comfort with but you’re trying to teach to them and get them ready to play whenever their number is called?) – “It really comes from the reps, on those guys taking them. They can look at it as possible from somebody else doing it or things we’ve done over the last couple of years; but to physically do the reps themselves and feel the spacing on things, then they file that away for the next time they need to run it. Now with all of that said, based on practices, they also need to have an element of seeing someone else do it, and try to learn from what they did well or poorly in order to when they do it, they can try to eliminate a mistake or run it like they ran it, so we can have a successful play.”

(I wanted to ask you about N.Y. Jets Head Coach Adam Gase. Obviously he gave you your start in the NFL a few years back. He’s going through a tough time. Did you say anything to him after the game, and what are your thoughts on what he’s going through right now?) – “Yeah, I’ll be forever appreciative to Adam for bringing me here and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. It’s always – you want to see success from guys that you know and are friends with. Of course within the division, anytime we play – whether it’s the Jets, Bills, New England – anybody, we’re trying to win the game. After the game, unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to talk to him or really any of the guys that I’m friends with on that staff; but it kind of is what it is in the National Football League. Like I said, after the game, it happened so quick that guys kind of go to their locker rooms. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.”

(I was going to ask you what slot receivers, if any, have you given RB/WR Malcolm Perry or WR Lynn Bowden Jr. to study on tape? Any cut ups of anybody and who would they be?) – “I haven’t given them anybody really. It’s all stuff off of what we do and our things from the offseason – not the offseason, because we didn’t have that, but through camp. We make cut ups of concepts that we did this correctly, we did this poorly. It’s all about really us. We don’t look at anybody else as much as, it’s just so focused in a year where we didn’t get OTAs and all of that, that it’s all got to be about the Dolphins and not really anybody else.”

Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman

(Last week, or it seems like every week, we always ask you about WR Jakeem Grant, so what did that mean for himself and you and just the unit as a whole to have a pretty electric performance this past week?) – “I think number one, it was good for him. I think number two, it was good for the team because it really helped us with the field position; but like I said, games are – you’d like to have that every week, but there’s so much that goes into having those opportunities. When you talk about what’s the field position, the down-and-distance and you talk about all those things, and that’s even before you get to the ball if you’re getting an opportunity based on the ball. But it was good for Jakeem, it was good for the group and most importantly, it was good for the team helping us get field position to help win the football game.”

(We asked K Jason Sanders I guess about this last week, but he hasn’t missed a kick yet. As a special teams coach, how do you go about that? Is that sort of you don’t want to talk about it to jinx him or how do you kind of go about the idea of perfection? Obviously you guys push for that.) – “To your point, no, it’s not like you’ve got a no-hitter or something going. Every kick is a new kick. So in practice, in the game, things that – we don’t talk about them whether they’re in practice or the game, whether he’s made, we don’t want to talk about if the last kick was a miss. It’s always the same communication – talking about the rhythm and the footwork and the mental space of where we want to be, and then you just let the kick go and see what happens. But again, just like we’ve talked about basically every week, he’s in a good place right now working hard, and hopefully we continue that.”

(You guys rank first in kickoff coverage, kickoff yards and return yards against. What has been the secret to your success? Has it been a couple players that you might want to mention that played particularly well? Have you done things scheme-wise that maybe teams weren’t ready for? What’s been the key?) – “I think it’s a combination of all those things. I think everything starts with the kick, what we’ve done with some different situations, what we’ve tried to do with how and where we’re kicking the football. But then it comes down to players making plays. We all know and you guys have seen it over your careers, whether it’s a good call or a bad call, players can make the difference. They can make a bad call good and they make a good call really good. So all those aspects right now are working; but again, it’s a long season. We’ve got a long way to go.”

(Now that you’re at the bye week and you can reflect a little bit, what names come to mind if I ask you who have been your best coverage guys on punt and kickoff coverage? I don’t want to go merely on tackles because I’m sure there’s more to it than that, obviously.) – “I think when you look at the last couple weeks, I think our gunners have done a nice job. I think Jamal Perry and Mack Hollins have done a nice job getting down the field, which in the National Football League, if your gunners aren’t down the field disrupting things at minimum, you’re going to have a hard time. And then I think the inside guys have done a nice job with both protection and coverage. Getting Clayton (Fejedelem) at the personal protector has been nice. Kavon (Frazier) has done a nice job whether he’s played inside or outside. Sam (Eguavoen), Calvin (Munson), Andrew Van Ginkel – they’re all doing a nice job. Then you’ve got the guys, a lot of those guys – Kamu (Grugier-Hill) – that are playing on both phases. So we feel good about the core group. We’ve just got to keep working and detail a lot more things. We’ve got a long way to go.”

(P Matt Haack on Sunday didn’t have any booming punts, but the Jets did not return a single one of them, so how would you assess how he did in that game and so far this season?) – “I think Matt’s done a nice job. I think again, some of the situations that come up in games,  what you’re able to do and what you want to do, sometimes the numbers in terms of your gross – is it a net, is it inside the 20s – each game is a little bit different. How the game evolved and really the situations and where we were punting the ball and what we were trying to get done on Sunday, I thought he had a very nice game.”

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer

(When you and Head Coach Brian Flores and General Manager Chris Grier were talking about defensive free agents – who was available last February, early March – what intrigued you when DE Emmanuel Ogbah’s name came up? What had you been familiar with from looking at him when you were in New England, etc.? And what intrigued you about his skillset and has he performed even beyond your expectations?) – “I think with all of the guys that we bring in, it starts with they’re fiercely competitive. They have a skillset on the field that we covet. He can do a lot of things. He’s very multiple and I think the other thing is he’s a hard worker. I think with a lot of things that we ask him to do, we can be multiple with that. He’s been able to do that and he’s shown constant improvement week after week. And I know a lot of people, they look at kind of – call it ‘flash stats,’ but there’s a lot of things that he does for us defensively that opens up things for other people, and he does a good job of setting the edge and we can move him around. He’s a good worker, good kid. He’s a joy to be around, and we’re hoping that continues to improve, that we can do more things with him.”

(Do you think that last defensive performance was one that Bill Arnsparger would have appreciated and if so, why?) – “(laughter) I think so because we were multiple, and I know Bill likes good defense. That’s a credit to our players. Those guys were out there. They were playing. I was able to go back and watch it this morning again because you’re always looking for little things here and there, and I think the thing that Bill probably would have been most impressed with is the way we were getting all 11 guys to the football. They were flying around and the communication was at a high level, so hopefully that sat – I would imagine it sat good in his eyes. I’m not sure on that, but hopefully we can continue to build on that.”

(I enjoyed watching the third-down packages – the blitzes. There was one time where you brought eight guys and the offensive linemen, it looked like their eyes were about to pop out of their heads because they realized that they didn’t have enough people to block. And then other times, you dropped two or three back into coverage. I’m curious, can you kind of help me understand how you decide when to blitz and how many to bring, especially in those third down situations?) – “I think it’s like all situations. You would like to have the ability to be multiple and I think everything starts with us on a down-in, down-out basis – not exclusive to third down – but you’re always trying to put pressure on the quarterback. You’re trying to put pressure on the offensive line to make them execute and hopefully in turn, that puts pressure on the offensive coordinator, so I think if you just line up in the same thing, the same fronts, the same coverages; it makes it fairly easy for the offense. There’s a lot of good players on offense. There’s a lot of good coordinators in this league, and if you make it easy on them, they’re going to hurt you. The hard part of doing that is we have different personnel packages, we have different groupings; and everyone needs to be on the same page as far as a communication standpoint for that to all operate at a high level, which we’ve been working very hard to get that turning in the right direction. Obviously we’ve done some good things and there’s some things that you go back and look at the film and I think our guys see that and say, ‘hey, this could be a little bit better here. This could be a little bit better there.’ And that’s really kind of how it all starts for us. It’s really a communication thing and we’re really trying to put pressure on the offensive line, the quarterback; and in turn hopefully that puts a little bit of pressure on the coordinator. But like I said, there’s a lot of good offensive linemen in this league, here’s a lot of good skill players in this league and there’s really a lot of good offensive coordinators that make it tough on us.”

(I was wondering, obviously this is your first career shutout as an NFL defensive coordinator. Were there any phone calls, notes, texts that kind of meant something to you? Did you get a game ball? Was there anything in the last couple of days that’s really stood out?) – “A former mentor of mine – Dean Pees – who he’s been a coordinator in this league for a long time and he’s had numerous shutouts; he reached out to me, so that meant a lot there. There’s a lot of other guys that they reached out and stuff; but again, I’ve been around football like I told you guys earlier since I could walk. And really a shutout – for a defense, we always kind of strive for that – but it’s really a team thing. The offense doesn’t put you in a bad situation or where you’re on a short field and then obviously in the kicking game, (Special Teams Coordinator) Danny (Crossman) – those guys – I mean we had great field position all day. So it’s really a team thing. At the end of the day, I’m happy we won and I’m happy for our guys and I’m happy for the guys that have success out there playing. It was nice to get some texts and stuff like that; but at the end of the day, you’re just trying to win the game and like I said, a shutout is really a team thing. The offense does a good job. They don’t put you on short fields and the kicking game, those guys usually put you in good field position, so it’s definitely a team thing.”

(Just piggybacking off that shutout deal, I was curious, is it like baseball where you have a no-hitter? At some point, do you start to think about? I saw they kicked a field goal one time. Were you hoping they don’t make it because that zero is something that seems so rare? Obviously this is the first one of any team this season?) – “It’s human nature that you – obviously on defense, you go into every week and you go, ‘hey, we don’t want to give them anything,’ and like I said, there’s a lot of good offenses in this league. There’s a lot of good skill players. If you make one mistake with the skill players that we face week-in and week-out, they can put you in scoring position in a hurry; but yeah, I would say as the game goes and you’re in the flow of the game and you kind of look up and go, ‘well okay, we’ve got a chance here.’ And again like I said, I think it was important to our players – not just our defensive players – I think our offensive players. I think ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) has done a great job building a culture that our guys are genuinely happy for each other. There’s no more play defensively that was evident of that than when Brandon Jones got that tackle for a loss for us on third-and-2. You could see the excitement with everybody, and they were all happy for him and it was a big play for us defensively. So, I think that’s really a credit to ‘Flo’ and (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and the culture that we have. When offensive guys are excited that defensively you’re getting a shutout; that’s a pretty good sign.”

(CB Xavien Howard is kind of looking like the guy he was in 2018 when he made the Pro Bowl with the way he’s playing right now. After what was a little bit of a down year before, he wound up on IR last year. Is it strictly a matter of him being back to where he was physically or is there more at play here that you’re seeing?) – “I think whether it’s Xavien (Howard) or any of our guys – and I know you guys probably get tired of me saying the same thing over and over again, and I’m sorry for being boring – but really what you’re trying to do is get the best out of Xavien week in and week out. We’re constantly striving for him to be the best version of himself. I think he has a great skillset and he’s got a good instinct for the ball, and hopefully we can continue to improve him from week to week. That’s kind of the idea and the goal and what we’re shooting for.”

(I wanted to get back to the issue of sacks for a minute. Last year at this time, the Miami Dolphins had seven. Right now you have 17. I’m wondering what you attribute that to and when was the last time you saw a 28-yard sack?) – “I think again it goes back to – any time that you can get pressure on a quarterback, you’re trying to do that. Again like I said, our goal from a structure standpoint is we’re trying to put pressure on the offensive line. We’re trying to put pressure on the quarterback. For those sacks that come to fruition, sometimes it’s an individual effort. Sometimes it’s a scheme thing. I think the communication that’s improved from week to week for us, I think has helped us. And again, sometimes it’s just a good individual effort. So a 28-yard sack – they don’t come around very often. I know that. That was a big play for us in the game. To be honest with you, as a coach, you go back and you look at the ones that you left out on the field. I know we had a good amount of pressure and we had a couple sacks here and there; but I think there’s a couple things if we fine-tune, there’s a couple that we left out there, too. Again, it’s always improvement. Whether we’re sitting here after a shutout or we’re sitting here after a poor defensive performance, the process for us in the same. That’s kind of how we’ll approach this week. We’ll look at how we can get better and things that we can do to increase the pressure on offenses and hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of those opportunities when we get them in the game.”

(You were talking about culture and Head Coach Brian Flores also mentioned that yesterday – the chemistry on defense, guys enjoying playing with each other, enjoying each other’s success and lifting each other up when things are not going well. I’m sure you’ve been involved with defenses where that wasn’t the case. I’m just wondering how elusive is that kind of thing to create and how do you go about creating it?) – “I think obviously Coach Flores’ background and my background are very similar, and I would say that the teams that we’ve been on that have been good have all had that good chemistry. I think what you do is, it starts with guys that are fiercely competitive. They’re selfless guys. They put the team first and when you get a group of guys that can do that – and I know I’ve said this before and obviously this isn’t my quote – it’s been said time and time again, ‘it’s amazing what you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit for it.’ I think when players buy into that, when coaches buy into that, you have the opportunity to become better than what you could be. And I think when you’ve got a group of guys working together and everybody’s on the same page, you start to see just genuine care and obviously we all spend more time in the building than we do with our own families during the season. One, that’s a credit to our families that they can handle that; and two, you just build a strong bond. When you’ve got the right type of guys that do that that genuinely care about one another, you have a tendency to play a little bit better because you really care about the guy that’s next to you or you really care about the guy that’s out there on offense or you really care about the guy that’s out there in the kicking game. Like I said, I think Chris (Grier) and ‘Flo’ have done a great job of bringing those type of guys in the building.”

Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey

(This being a bye week, it’s obviously about improvement, and I’m wondering what you would say is the next step in the development of QB Tua Tagovailoa? What does he need to improve on, and knowing you, I think you might be tempted to say everything; but could you please be specific?) – “It’s hard to be specific. He’s been thrown into a very difficult situation in that he didn’t have any preseason, he didn’t have really an offseason, so I’m going to say everything. But really, just an overall understanding of what we’re trying to get done. I think he has a basic understanding of it, but you don’t get the specifics if you don’t get out there. The specifics of things, and feeling the speed of the game and all of that kind of stuff is hard. Hopefully as time goes on, we can continue to have him develop and see how quickly he can get ready to play, whenever that might be.”

(You’ve talked a lot about the good problem to have: too many weapons, too many mouths to feed on the offensive side of the football. I just wanted to get your take six weeks in and how you feel you’ve done trying to get the ball to all of those guys, and how you can maybe do better going forward?) – “Like you said, the good thing is we have some good players that we can get the ball to. The other good thing about that is now they can’t focus on one guy. They know we have several options out there and they we’re not afraid to throw it to any of them, and they can all be productive. So that’s a good thing. Do I wish we could get the ball more to each one of them? Probably so. Is there a better way to get it done? That’s what we’re trying to evaluate right now. We’re trying to evaluate what we need to do better in order to be a more successful and more consistent offense.”

(I wanted to ask you about three backup receivers. We saw WR Jakeem Grant get a few more snaps than WR Isaiah Ford for what might have been the first time. What goes back and forth in your mind regarding which of those two you utilize more on a specific day? And also on WR Lynn Bowden Jr., how is he at this point as a route runner, early in his development as a receiver?) – “I’ll answer the Lynn Bowden one first. He has some natural route-running ability. He has some natural athletic talent. He’s just still in the process of learning everything, the nuances of playing at this level. It’s not the athletic talent. It’s just learning the nuances of being able to compete. Then we have different packages that we use on different weeks. We try to utilize guys in ways that we think are going to be successful for our football team. The number of plays doesn’t affect me as much as the amount of production we’re getting out of each grouping, whatever that grouping might be.”

(I couldn’t help but notice that the first play that QB Tua Tagovailoa ran was a rollout to his left. It looked similar to the play where he got injured at Alabama. I want to know if that was purposeful just to show that he could do it or if it just was happenstance?) – “Don’t give me that much credit. He had just been throwing the ball really well on the move the whole time. I was trying to – they brought the corner off the edge, which was a total shock. I thought I would just give him an easy bootleg throw to complete coming off of his own goal line. It ended up being a lot harder than it was supposed to be.”

(I wanted to go back to your first answer about QB Tua Tagovailoa and his ability to keep evolving and improving. Is there a certain amount of playing time that he might need this year that you would like to see him get this year in order to reach that level and keep improving?) – “No. I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms at all. I think what we’re thinking about is how much can we get him to continue to improve, get him the reps that he gets in practice and get him whatever snaps we can possibly get him. That’s all we are thinking about at this point. Coach (Flores) hasn’t talked to me about a percentage. He hasn’t.”

(I’m going to read you a good stat and a bad stat and I want to get your thoughts on both. You’re just one of four teams who has yet to lose a fumble, but only three teams have thrown more interceptions.) – “Yeah. The first one is a very good stat. The second one is a very bad stat. (laughter) I think we do a good job with ball security. I think (Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville does a good job of talking about that and we make it a point every week. ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) makes some great plays and he throws the ball sometimes in a spot that is tough. A couple of interceptions, his arm gets hit, the receiver falls down – it’s going to happen. You just try to limit those kind of things as much as you possibly can. He made a lot of great decisions though, that’s for sure.”

(I wanted to ask you about the offensive line and the chemistry that they are trying to develop. Where would you say that it is right now coming off of last week’s performance, and what areas do you think needs improvement?) – “We probably have to do a better job communicating on our inside run game. That’s, if I had to pick a thing, I think that would be the one thing I would choose. I think our pass pro communication has been very good thus far. I think the coaches and Ted Karras runs that show up there and gets everybody headed in the right direction. Those two rookies on the right side, they’ve got a lot of learning to do and now they are relying on each other, and that’s a big challenge. But they’ve done pretty good these past two games. The challenges will continue to get bigger as we go on, but I like how our guys are responding right now. It will be tougher every week because we’re going to start getting everybody’s best shot.”

(I know QB Tua Tagavailoa only played like four or five snaps, but were you able to garner anything from his performance that gives you anything positive or negative to help him grow from?) – “Oh gosh, yes. You go out there and you look at it, and he got it under duress, and made an accurate throw. Then he sat in the pocket on third down and made a throw for a first down. Those are positives. Those are real positives. For a guy that hadn’t played a snap, those are real positive.”

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