Miami Dolphins Transcripts – October 26 – Head Coach Brian Flores, WR Preston Williams, TE Mike Gesicki and DE Shaq Lawson

Head Coach Brian Flores

(I’m going to be the one non-Tua question again just like last Thursday. At defensive tackle do you have any more of a sense whether you’ll have DT Raekwon Davis available this week and since General Manager Chris Grier is not really available to us, just give us what your thoughts were on if you have enough moving forward at that position with DT Zach Sieler, DT Christian Wilkins obviously at end and tackle, DT Benito Jones and DT Raekwon Davis?) – “Raekwon (Davis) is working just like all the other guys who are a little banged up from last week. He’s working to get back, doing everything we can. I know we had a lot of guys in over the weekend getting treatment, rehab. So he’s doing everything he can to get back as well as that other group of players. We feel good about our depth on the d-line. We also have some on the practice squad; but sometimes you’ve got to play with a short hand. If that’s the case, then we’ll do our best, but I think guys are trying to get out there as soon as they can.”

(I wanted to ask you about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. There was a lot of chatter about the trade deadline and potentially his name coming up among some teams that need quarterback help. A, have you been contacted by anyone and B, can you say definitively that you’re not going to trade Ryan Fitzpatrick next week?) – “Again, those questions really go to (General Manager) Chris (Grier). They should go to Chris. My focus is on the Rams and getting ready for the Rams, getting our players – this team – ready to play the Rams. It’s a good opponent. They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re talented. They play tonight so we’ll be watching that and again, that’s really a Chris question. He’s the one who handles all the calls from different teams. My focus is on this team, this week and getting our guys ready to play.”

(What are realistic expectations to have for QB Tua Tagovailoa in his first start?) – “I think he’s just got to do a good job of preparing throughout the week. I don’t like to put expectations on anyone. I think we just need to go out there, really – not even go out there – but have a good day today, have good meetings, have a good walkthrough, have a good practice, put together a good week and just try to play a good football game come Sunday afternoon against a good opponent. It’s a team effort. Again, it won’t be just Tua, but he’s going to have to do his part as far as communication, getting us lined up, making good decisions. We’re saying specific to Tua, but this is anyone who steps on the field. We need them to do a good job with our communication and to play with good fundamentals, technique and we need them to execute. We’re asking of him what we would ask anyone that steps on the field. But again, he’s young. But yeah, we expect him to go out there, play with good fundamentals, technique and execute.”

(Coming with another non-Tua question. I wanted to check on your edge players – LB Kyle Van Noy and LB Andrew Van Ginkel. Is Van Ginkel out of the concussion protocol and with Van Noy, was that more of a precautionary thing or you felt like he couldn’t play last game?) – “Just talking about (Kyle) Van Noy – there’s only 16 games – so ‘precautionary,’ I don’t know if that’s the word I would use. He couldn’t go. We just felt like that was the best decision for him and he’s doing everything he can to get back out there. ‘Ginkel’ (Andrew Van Ginkel) is not quite out of the protocol yet, but getting closer, it looks like. He’s doing everything he can, but not officially out of the protocol yet. He was in all weekend trying to do everything to get back.”

(Conventional thinking at least says that the bye week is an advantageous time to change quarterbacks if you’re going to do so. So with that in mind, what was QB Tua Tagovailoa possibly able to accomplish with the bye that may not have happened had you had a game? How did he capitalize on his time?) – “He, along with all the players, I think it’s a time to rest, it’s a time to self-reflect on the first six weeks of the season. I think he had a – again, we only had the one practice, so as far as getting out there and practicing, that was limited. I’m not really sure what else – what you’re asking me there. You can kind of re-ask that if you’re looking for more there.”

(I was just trying to find out if there were other ways – anything hidden that we may not think of – where he might have been able to capitalize on the time and get better prepared or just mentally prepared and focused on the idea that he’s No. 1 now.) – “I think that’s probably more of a question for Tua (Tagovailoa), but just mentally getting in the right frame of mind of being the guy, being the starter and look, his preparation’s always been good, so I don’t really see that changing all that much. As far as kind of going through his progressions – weekly progression – (Quarterbacks Coach) Robby (Brown) and (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) have done a good job as far as teaching him what that progression should be like as a starter. I could see it being ramped up a little bit because obviously knowing that he’s going to be out there, but he’s prepared that way really throughout the season and we’ve tried to talk to him to prepare that way. So maybe it just gives him a little bit more time to prepare that way for an opponent, which is probably a good thing; but yeah, I don’t really have much more insight than that.”

(I know you’re not worried about outside narratives. But I’m curious how after the change, have you at all talked to the team to make sure there aren’t any unanswered questions in the locker room with why you made the decision, and why as a staff you made the decision to go with Tua Tagavailoa? And what was said, if anything?) – “I mentioned that I was going to talk to the team last week. At the end of the day, we make decisions that we feel are best for the team. That’s what we said to the team, and that’s where we left it.”

(Communication is a big staple of your program. I wanted to ask you if there is anything specific you could tell us about S Bobby McCain that makes him a good communicator both on the field, but also with the guys in the locker room. Would you say it’s fair to say he’s the quarterback of the defense?) – “Yeah, I’d say it’s fair to say he’s the quarterback of the defense. He’s a good communicator. I think a lot of that is tied to the relationships he has with other players on the team. His willingness – I would say his production on the field and his overall wanting to communicate and make sure we’re all on the same page, I think he’s taken that role on and been successful in it. You need someone to kind of remind guys to watch this or watch that. If it’s third down, watch the sticks. I think we all kind of need reminders, and he’s taken on that role and really embraced it I would say.”

(We heard from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and he was obviously emotional, discussing the move and how he thought of it. Obviously you guys have been playing really well with ‘Fitz.’ How do you prevent there from being any division or anything involving that if QB Tua Tagovailo doesn’t play well coming in initially?) – “We go out there, we prepare, we practice. I think the guys rally around each other. I think they support one another. To think there would be division because a guy doesn’t play well, I don’t think we have that on this team. I don’t think we have that one this team. I think when guys make mistakes, this team rallies around each other and pick each other up. To say there will be division, I don’t see that. It hasn’t been that way, and I don’t foresee that. We will coach it the way we’ve always coached it. We’ll pick each other up, we’ll rally around each other, we’ll bring energy to the team. I think to even bring that type of energy or speak about it, I think it’s unfortunate that anyone would go that route. But obviously that’s out there and people are thinking about it. I don’t see that on this team.”

(QB Tua Tagavailoa mentioned in his press conference last week that he would meet with you every Tuesday and go over film. I’m assuming that’s practice film, or would that be a game film situation? Can you just walk us through what those meeting would be like with him?) – “It’s game film, it’s practice film, it’s situations. He’s a young player. He’s got a lot to learn. He tries to be a sponge. I think everyone can see that – players, coaches, this team. I think it’s – he wants to learn, and he wants to see it from all different aspects. I give him a defensive aspect, he gets it from (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) obviously from the offensive side of the ball. He asks defensive players things that they saw. That’s just the type of kid he is, and it’s a good thing. He tries to learn as much as he can, and I think as a teacher, and as a coach, I think that’s what you are looking for. I try to watch as many different things as possible; but obviously you don’t want to overload the kid. I know he’s getting a lot of information from a lot of different places. Our meetings are more, I would say, me giving him the defensive perspective, and I think as an offensive player, if you understand the thought process from the other side of the ball, it can make you a better player. I know that’s the case defensively, when you think of how they are trying to attack us offensively. That’s what those conversations are like.”

TE Mike Gesicki

(I’m sure there is a lot of excitement about the new quarterback, but you’ve been very open about how much QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has meant to you. Have do you balance those two things, the excitement about QB Tua Tagavailoa and recognizing everything that Ryan has done for you?) – “Yeah, absolutely. I think you hit it right there on the head. First and foremost, I’m super excited for Tua. I think he’s done a great job dating all the way back to college, doing his rehab, getting healthy, and being put into a position to be where he is right now, where he’s the starting quarterback for our football team. He’s practiced hard. He’s had a great work ethic. He’s done all the right things preparing for this moment. I’m super excited for him and can’t wait to get out there and get to work with him at full speed practice and all of that kind of stuff. Then obviously like you said with ‘Fitz’, he’s one of my best friends on the team and I’ve been very open about how I feel about him as a teammate, and a guy and a leader for us and all of that kind of stuff. I think the biggest thing with ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is he loves football. He loves being out there. I think he gave it everything he had from the second he was here from last year, with everybody out there saying that we weren’t supposed to win a game, and we go out there and give the Dolphins fans something to be excited about coming into this year – winning five games of our last nine last year and all of that kind of stuff. Then this year, you see him 10 yards down the field blocking on running plays, and having fun and enjoying himself and doing his little celebration every time he throws a big touchdown. Even in training camp, 30 minutes after he finds out his mother passed away, the first thing he is thinking about is obviously his family and all of that kind of stuff, and then he straps on his helmet and shoulder pads and laces up his cleats and goes out to practice. Just all of things makes him the person he is and the leader he is and all of that kind of stuff. I’ll forever be indebted to ‘Fitz’ and all of that kind of stuff because he believed in me when not too many people did. Just a thank you to him, and all of that kind of stuff. Now, I’m really excited for this next chapter with Tua getting out there. I know everybody is excited, both in this locker room and outside this locker room, our fans, everybody. It’s a new week. We came off a fresh bye week and we’re ready to get rolling.”

(This is your third season, and I think this is probably the best position this team has been in to make a playoff run in a minute, maybe the entire time you’ve been here. Oftentimes when teams are in that position, they don’t make a quarterback change, particularly if the quarterback is playing well. How do you process this season versus building for the future, and QB Tua Tagavailoa needs reps to be ready for 2021 and beyond. Do you feel like the playoffs are still something you can achieve with a rookie quarterback?) – “I think – if you guys know anything about ‘Coach Flo’ (Brian Flores) and the way that he coaches us and prepares us each and every week, we’re sitting here in mid to late October and if you think anybody in here is thinking about the playoffs or a playoff push, or anything other than coming back in here after a bye week and focusing on our opponent this week – preparation and getting some timing down and all of that kind of stuff – that’s really what our main focus is. I think for our fans, I’m sure they are excited and all of that kind of stuff, and I think they should be. I think that it is an exciting time; but as a professional and as a team that we’re starting to come together, we all trust in ‘Coach Flo’ and the guys upstairs making decisions. Honestly, I’m just excited to get back to work after a good bye week.”

(First round draft picks at quarterback come in and sometimes they hit it off with their teammates and sometimes they don’t. QB Tua Tagavailoa clearly has, and I’m wondering what you can say about how he’s gone about that? Is it just his personality or some of the things he’s done? And how would the dynamics of this would be different with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick going to the bench if he was not as popular as he was?) – “Tua has done a phenomenal job with just being a guy in the locker room. Everybody has fun when they are around him. He’s a funny guy. He’s a good time to be around. Then when he’s out on the field, he has that – where he can flip a switch and make it serious, but also still have fun with it. I think that’s something that I look forward to getting out there on the field with him and seeing him in the huddle and making a big play because you know it’s eventually coming, and how he reacts to that. I think it’s exciting to be a part of that chapter, that next phase. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of kind of earning everybody’s respect in the locker room; then obviously, everybody’s respect outside of the locker room, upstairs giving him this opportunity. He’s earned it and I’m excited for him.”

(Just listening to you talk about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and what he’s done for the franchise, and obviously you guys want to win. It makes me wonder if QB Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t come out there and play as well as ‘Fitz,’ what is that going to mean for the locker room and how you guys handle that?) – “Our locker room is tight, and like I said, we all believe in one another and believe in Coach Flores and (General Manager) Chris Grier and (Managing General Partner/Chairman of the Board) Mr. (Stephen) Ross, and everybody that’s upstairs making decisions. I think that we all have confidence in Tua to go out and make plays. It’s not going to be like one series here or one series there and everybody is throwing in the towel. That’s not how it is. We’re all excited, and honestly, I think there is a lot of trust and a lot of belief in the players that are being put in position on the field on Sundays. Like I said, I’m excited for Tua and his opportunity, and I think that he’s going to do everything in his power to be prepared and be put in a position to be successful.”

(Every quarterback has his strengths and weaknesses, so I’m wondering, how do you see the offense changing with QB Tua Tagavailoa as opposed to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and how does it affect you and your role as a tight end?) – “I’m not really sure, honestly. I don’t know how the game plan is or is not going to change. What I will say is that Tua has, I think he has every throw in the book. I think he’s got the intelligence to make all of the reads and he’s got the legs to be able to escape pressure and make plays with his feet. I don’t really know if you’re going to take any plays out or if he’s going to do something that ‘Fitz’ wasn’t doing. I don’t think that’s what it comes down to. I think it just comes down to our coaching staff and what they’ve done this season to put guys in position to be successful. I think that’s going to be a common trend here moving forward.”

(Obviously you’ve had such a great chemistry with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick throughout the last two seasons and you may not have had as much time practicing catching from QB Tua Tagavailoa. How do you guys go about creating chemistry on the field at practice this week?) – “It’s not like he just got named the starter and now I’m about to catch my first ball from him. This has been dating all the way back to when we first got out there in late July, just working on some timing and seeing how he’s going to place the ball, this, that and the other thing. And also, the thing that a lot of us do is I’ve been taking scout team reps all year. Whenever he’s in there, I’ve been in there running routes on the scout team and being the opposing team’s tight end for a couple of plays here and there and all of that kind of stuff. I’ve run full speed routes with him and it’s something – we made the change and I don’t really think there is going to be a beat off here or there. I think it’s just going out there and making the most of your opportunities, just like I’ve been saying this whole entire year.”

DE Shaq Lawson

(I wanted to ask you about your teammate, DE Emmanuel Ogbah. Having both of you guys one on one side and one on the other, what have been your observations about how he’s doing?) – “Emmanuel is a beast. He’s been going crazy these last six or seven games we’ve played. He’s been a dominant force. Having him on the other side, hopefully that starts opening me up now, seeing he’s been balling like that and things like that. That guy has been incredible. It’s been a pleasure to work with him. We both came into the league the same year, so we kind of had a relationship before we got here and knew each other; but man, that guy has just been balling. It’s incredible how he’s been playing.”

(Obviously last week before the bye, the team made a quarterback change. I wanted to get your view on maybe how that was perceived in the locker room and were you surprised when Head Coach Brian Flores went to QB Tua Tagovailoa?) – “You know how this game works. It’s a business. It’s a business thing so whatever happened upstairs, I guess the coaches made the right decisions for the football team. For Tua, getting an opportunity to start, that kid is incredible. I’m looking forward to going out there and playing with him on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot of him in practice and how athletic he is, how incredible of a player he is. To get to see it on Sunday this week, it’s going to be incredible. He’s going to lead this team in the right way.”

(I wanted to continue with that line of questioning. I believe you were in Buffalo when they made the move to QB Josh Allen, is that right?) – “Oh, yeah. I was up there. It was the same situation with how they did with Josh.”

(How was that handled and maybe what advice do you give QB Tua Tagovailoa from what you saw with QB Josh Allen?) – “You know those guys, they don’t draft a quarterback in the first round for no reason. Those guys are the future of the program. Tua, advice for being a leader, I’m just going to tell guys to continue to work hard and continue to get better, and we’re going to follow your lead. Just embrace every moment of it. As a guy that’s been seeing him, he’s been doing it every day. He’s a guy that always has a smile on his face, a great kid. He always wants to talk to vets and things like that and wants to learn new things. That guy’s learned a lot and likes to learn too.”

(Having been in the AFC East your entire career and seen the Patriots dominate it the way they have, what are you thinking when you see them struggling the way they are and at 2-4 right now?) – “Shoot, everyone knew coming in that this division is up for grabs. It’s open to anybody. My focus is not worrying about the Patriots. My focus is on the Miami Dolphins and how we can win and get better as a team. I can’t focus on the Patriots. I’m not in that organization.”

(As a defensive lineman, I’m wondering if you’re going into a game and the opposing team has a rookie quarterback starting for the first time, what’s your mindset? How does that affect you? What are you looking to do maybe that you might do against a veteran QB?) – “All QBs, you want to affect them. You want to either affect them by hitting them, getting your hands up, putting pressure in their face, sending blitzes and things like that. I think you use the same method as any quarterback. Any quarterback that doesn’t get pressure or has all of the time in the day, they’re going to have a great day – a seven-on-seven type day. We just approach the same method as a rookie quarterback to a veteran quarterback, any quarterback that you play.”

(You talked about just being impressed with QB Tua Tagovailoa in practice. We haven’t gotten a chance to see him since camp. Can you take us maybe through what you have seen from him, his improvement and what it looks like for you on the other side when you’re defending him?) – “It’s dangerous. Normally I’m in the back side behind the quarterback, usually the right side; but he’s a left-handed quarterback and you don’t get that a lot in the league. That’s why I think he’s so dangerous and he’s athletic. His IQ for the game – you wouldn’t think he’s a rookie if you watch him in practice. He looks like he’s been around the game a long time.”

WR Preston Williams

(What was your reaction to the news about QB Tua Tagovailoa’s promotion?) – “I thought it was pretty cool – Tua getting his first start this week against the Rams. I’m excited for him. I’m ready to see what he’s going to do, just like everybody else.”

(Before last week when they announced the change, the first six weeks of the season QB Ryan Fitzpatrick obviously got the vast majority of reps in practice. How much did QB Tua Tagovailoa work with the ones? Have you had a chance to work with him really since training camp or has he been running mostly the scout team?) – “I got a couple plays with him every now and then. The plays he did get with me, he looked real good, so I’m excited for Tua.”

(Obviously you and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good connection when y’all were playing together. How do you transition and how does the flow of the team still stay high where you were with “Fitz,” even though you got a new quarterback now?) – “We just try to do the same thing every week and just execute no matter who’s in – make plays. Whether it’s ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) or Tua, we’re all going to just do our assignment and make plays.”

(Everyone’s heard a lot about how QB Tua Tagovailoa’s a good kid. He’s humble, he’s respectful, he’s got leadership qualities; but we’re not allowed to watch practice since the season started. That’s closed to the media. So can you just kind of fill us in on what you think his on-field traits are? What does he do best on the field? What are his football strengths?) – “Obviously throwing. Making plays. Everything you want in a quarterback. Y’all have seen his tape. It speaks for itself. Like I said, we’re excited that Tua is making his start, just like everybody else. I’m excited to see him in his first game action against the Rams.”

(For a long time up in New England for example, they always went with left-footed punters because they thought it threw the return men off with the rotation of the ball. So I’m wondering when you have a left-handed quarterback, how does that rotation of the ball affect you? What is it like catching a pass from QB Tua Tagovailoa as opposed to catching a pass from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick?) – “It’s not really different. Catching a football is catching a football, no matter how it comes, how it turns over. If it’s a left-footed punter, you’ve still got to make the same type of punt. You practice for that type of stuff. So just the reps in practice will help us catch a left-handed thrower. I’m a lefty myself; we run a couple trick plays in practice. I throw it to some guys, so they’re probably used to seeing it a couple times.”

(Obviously you guys got the Rams this week. They’ve got a couple big playmakers on the defensive side of the ball with DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey. For you and Ramsey – you might probably face him – what do you see in him as a corner and how does it change your game when you’re going up against a guy like him who has a lot of respect around the league?) – “I know (Jalen) Ramsey’s a good player. The Rams are a good team. They’re going to come ready to play. We’re going to come ready to play. You’ve got to be – a big-name DB in there like that, you usually just try to play your game. We’re going to take some shots at him, I believe, so we’re going to see.”

(About the left-handed thing, aside from the spin of the ball there’s a coach – Steve Mariucci, he had Steve Young and he was a lefty – and I was watching a video where he was talking about when Steve Young goes in a game what’s different. And I didn’t know this but he said that in the 49ers playbook, they actually had to flip the plays so strong would become weak and weak would become strong. Do you guys literally have to flip your playbook?) – “No. Tua can throw going left just as good as he can throw going right. That’s why he’s here. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

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