Miami Dolphins Transcripts – September 14 – Coordinators

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer

(I wanted to ask you about the fumble production you guys got in the game and particularly the defensive backs. Three of the four forced fumbles came from defensive backs. I was just wondering if there was a coaching point or something you could tell us about how Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander and Cornerbacks Coach Charles Burks kind of get those guys coached up to get so many balls on the turf?) – “Well, I would say it’s one of those things that we work with all of our guys as a group. We start practice every day with the tackling/turnover circuit. The unique thing about that is all of our coaches coach all of our players. As we go through the circuit, which I’m sure you guys have seen out at practice, it could be a number of guys that are coaching different techniques. Obviously it’s something that we believe in very strongly. Our players believe in it. They work at it tremendously hard. We were able to see some production from that on Sunday.”

(I wanted to ask – obviously the Patriots started the game with a 35-yard run. Not how you wanted to start, and they had some success running the ball. When you look at the film, what stood out to you in terms of some of the success they had on the ground?) – “I would say the thing with the New England game is obviously we can coach it better. We can put the players in better spots. We could do better at our fundamentals and techniques. There were some good things out there and then there were some things that we need to improve. I would say the most important thing is that we’ve kind of turned the page on that game and we’ve moved our focus to Buffalo. It was good to get a win but one win isn’t going to get you anything in this league.”

(I wanted to ask you about LB Jaelan Phillips. He was in on only 22 plays the other day and I know he was limited throughout training camp. Given that he came into the draft recognized as such an outstanding pass rusher, was there thought given toward letting him focus on that to start his NFL career, and then gradually working the coverage skills, just to kind of let him show his skills right off the bat?) – “I think with all players, you expose them to a variety of different things and then ideally what you’d like to do is you’d like to utilize their talents to what they do best within the scheme or the structure of what we’re trying to do, given our game plan. Again, I thought Jaelan did some good things out there. I thought there were some things, like all of us, that we can improve. We’ve kind of put all of that stuff behind us and we’re full steam on Buffalo.”

(Speaking of Buffalo, from what you took away from that Steelers game, what was it that Pittsburgh did so well to stifle a Buffalo offense that was second in the NFL last year in passing yards and total yards and scoring?) – “I think one thing to take into consideration when you’re looking at Buffalo is they’re very much a game plan oriented offense. One week they could look different from the next. They’re going to attack what they perceive to be your weaknesses. In a given week, their game plans can look different and varied. Obviously they’re a very talented group. They’re very well coached. Brian Daboll is one of the best coordinators in the league. I would expect that we’ll see some different stuff than they showed in the Pittsburgh game. Obviously Pittsburgh, those guys defensively, they played well, they tackled well and they made plays when they needed to. But again, I would say each game with Buffalo is a very unique thing in and of itself.”

(I know we don’t like to look into the past too much but in the season finale game against Buffalo, it kind of stands out because you guys didn’t look like that at all last season. What were the lessons that you took that game that maybe you carried over to the offseason in terms of things that you needed to improve on? And how has that game sort of altered your approach?) – “I’d say this is 21 years of coaching for me and not all of them have gone exactly the way that you want them to go. I think your approach and the things that we believe in – fundamentals, techniques, taking it one play at a time – I don’t think that changes. I don’t think one game changes that. Obviously in some games, things go your way; in some games, they don’t. I think our approach is put the players in the best position to succeed and work hard to make sure that we’re doing that; and really focus on our fundamentals and our techniques, playing one good play at a time and doing it for 60 minutes because wins are very hard to come by in this league and we’re going to have to be at our best for an entire game. That’s kind of – the approach doesn’t really change. Hopefully that answers your question.”

(I think looking at Buffalo’s team, you can’t really look around QB Josh Allen and his ability to kind of be a dual-threat. I’m curious, teaching point wise, how do you try to teach your guys to defend both his legs and arm?) – “I think we’ve got to play good assignment football. Guys that are assigned to play the pass need to play the pass. The guys that are assigned to play the run or the quarterback scramble, they need to be able to play that. Obviously he does a good job when he’s running the ball and he does do a good job when he’s on the move of looking downfield and making plays there. He’s got guys that get open when he extends plays. It’s very challenging. I would say I go back to Brian Daboll and he puts them in very good schemes to make it very difficult to defend.”

(A philosophy question: the QB spy, some teams use it more depending on the style of quarterback and whatnot. What’s your thought on that style and when you decide to use it and when you don’t?) – “I think there’s a time and a place for everything. The game has been around for a long time. I think we’ve kind of seen it all and things go full cycle and I think you just pick out what you feel is best for the group that you have against the group that you’re going against. Without kind of saying too much on that, I think it really comes down to personnel, what they do, what we have and what we can do. I think there’s a number of different options that you have on that. Honestly, it really goes back to you’re just trying to put your players in the best position to succeed.”

(I know you guys had five cornerbacks active against the Patriots and obviously CB Noah Igbinoghene was a healthy scratch. I know you would say you’re probably just putting the best guys out there, but what does Noah need to show you in practice or wherever it may be for you to be comfortable having him active on game days and on the field?) – “Well, there are a lot of things that go into the decisions of who is active on game day. It’s not just the defense. There’s a kicking game element involved. Then obviously that’s ‘Flo’s (Brian Flores) job (from a) roster management (perspective) to let us know who we have available. I think Noah is working hard to get better. He had a good week of practice last week. Whether you guys see guys out on the field or not, the thing is always the same for us, we’re always trying to get players to be the best versions of themselves. Some weeks, players will be highlighted. They may have bigger roles than what they have in the following week, because we could be a little bit different week to week. He’s working hard. We’re happy with that and hopefully it continues and when guys get their opportunities, hopefully they’ll make the most of them.”   

(Your thoughts on how DT John Jenkins held up playing more snaps with DT Raekwon Davis going down?) – “Like all of us, I think there were some good things out there and I think there were some things we could get a little bit better at. I thought John went in and did a good job. He’s a solid veteran for us. He gives us good leadership. I thought he played physical. I thought all of our guys played physical and they played hard. I think it’s my job to make sure we’re doing a better job of putting these guys in better situations so they can have success out there because I think all of those guys, they played hard and did a good job.”

(Considering QB Josh Allen’s success against man coverage last season, how critical will it be for you Sunday to throw different looks at him? More than just man coverage, but to mix in zone. I guess a follow up from that, is he the kind of guy that it doesn’t really matter how many different looks you throw at him, he’s just going to make a play? He’s just going to make plays throughout the game?) – “I think Josh Allen is a very good quarterback in this league. I think their offensive staff has done a great job with him. You can see his progression over the years and I would say Josh Allen plays the quarterback position as good as anybody. He does a really good job for them. He can read defenses. He makes good decisions. He’s got a strong arm. He can make all of the throws. I think what you try to do is what we try to do every week. You try to put pressure on the offensive line. You try to put pressure on the quarterback and obviously you don’t want to sit in the same thing over and over again because that will make it a little easy for him; but you also want to put your players in a good position to succeed. I think there is a variety of things that people have tried to do to him. He’s seen it all. He’s seen it all over the last handful of years and he’s obviously done a great job with that. We’ve got a big challenge in front of us this week.”

(Have you watched the tape of the season finale, the Buffalo game, at all since the week after it happened, over the last eight months? Will you and your players watch any of that this week?) – “Yeah, I’ve seen it several times. I’ve watched it quite a bit. You try to take as much as you can from each film that you watch. I think that’s just part of preparation. You like to study players, schemes, calls, all of those things that go into it as we’re game-planning and prepping this week. It’s definitely something that we look at.”

(Following up on a previous question, they scored 56 on your defense, which I’m sure you’re not used to at all. If you could change one thing for this upcoming game from that last go-around against Buffalo, what would that be?) – “That’s a good question. If I could change one thing – I just hope that I’m going to work a little bit harder, a little bit better, put the guys in better positions. You can play the what-if game all you want. You just try to study things and do what we believe in and try to put a sound game plan that the players can execute, and then really just take it one play at a time. I don’t know – living in the past, one way or the other, I’ve been a part of championship teams, I’ve been a part of losses. At the end of the day, none of those mean anything this Sunday. What means something is our preparation, our work going into the week to put ourselves in the best position to succeed.”

Co-Offensive Coordinator/TE Coach George Godsey

(I wanted to ask you a QB Tua Tagovailoa related question. In your view, where is he in his ability to go through his progressions, and if the first option isn’t the right option, where is he in his ability to look off that player and go to option two, option three, even if he’s under duress?) – “I think that’s the position and it’s a very complicated equation. He’s growing each day. There’s a lot of different defenses we see and a lot of different personnel groupings and ways to strategically align that. When you combine our play with the amount of defenses that are possible, there are a lot of variables. We try to give him as many looks as possible; but ultimately when we get to game day, there is probably a new look we’re going to have to discern and make quick decisions. We harp on that with him, and he knows that. It’s a matter of being decisive. We try to give him as many looks of that in practice and move forward from there.”

(I wanted to ask you about the scoring on opening drives of halves. What made you guys so successful coming out of the first half and the second half with a touchdown scoring drive, and what changes when it goes from that first drive? Are there adjustments in play that changes things going forward?) – “The first drive, our players really executed. We had a third down where we were on the ball and executed that to continue the drive. We had a big play on a run and when we got the ball in the red area, we punched it in. It was well executed by the players and obviously Tua (Tagovailoa) leads that group. He did a good job of getting us in the right plays there. And then New England made a couple adjustments that kept us from moving the ball on another drive. I think there are a lot of factors in that. Both sides were playing this game behind the game. They did a good job adjusting and then it took us a little bit to get adjusted from there. We scored right before half and then in the second half, we made some adjustments there that we were able to score on the first drive there. It was a little bit of back and forth and that’s how we feel every NFL game is. There are good coaches, there are good players and it’s difficult out there at times.”

(I have a question for you regarding just vertical passes in general, in particular the 36-yard pass from QB Tua Tagovailoa to WR Jaylen Waddle. He came back on a back-shoulder type of throw and it looked like he had a step on top of the defender. I was curious what the rules or the teaching points are on that particular type of look where you get the step and they try to make an adjustment for back shoulder or to go vertical over the top. How do he and Jaylen communicate what to do on that particular look?) – “That really comes from practice quite a bit. In that look, (Devin) McCourty was tilted over to where (Mike) Gesicki was on the single receiver side. That put the three receivers in a one-on-one situation where the longer it travels, the more accurate we’ve got to be because the ball hangs up in the air for everybody to see what angle it’s coming down. Jaylen did a good job of adjusting to it. It was a big play. It was a play that got us eventually for some points. It changed the field position and it was a tough throw. It was an inside fade is really what we call it. It was good to see that ball get connected.”

(Overall, what was your impression of the performance of the offensive line. You guys had a mixed bag of running the ball but I know in that first possession, you were able to get RB Myles Gaskin open on a third-down run running out of the pistol. As opposed to running out of the shotgun, how do you think that benefits your offense and particularly the offensive line?) – “Just overall with the offensive line, we were able to run the ball at times. It’s hard when you’re looking at an average and you take three knees at the end of the game. That average can kind of get a little skewed. Those guys know there are some opportunities there for some bigger plays. In the pass protection, that’s a good pass rush front. That group will cause some problems during the year for sure. For our situation at line, being able to handle some changes there during the week, and be effective and give us enough time to distribute the ball, we think that group needs to continue to improve but it was a good first outing. As far as the pistol is concerned, it’s another alignment that we look at. Some teams look at it as a back in the back field, other teams still look at it as a (shot)gun. For us, it’s just another formation. Our guys have done a good job of ball-handling to make sure we can execute that when we need to call that. On that particular play, it was well blocked for us to get the 15-yard run.”

(I wanted to ask you about G/T Jesse Davis and how important his maturity and leadership is for this young line. The second part of that question is are you a buyer into the theory that the right tackle is the most important lineman for a left-handed quarterback?) – “First off, you hit it on the head with Jesse as far as leadership and maturity. Keeping that group flat-lined is what we say – not too high, not too low. They pretty much carry the offense because they have to be able to get a body on a body in the run game and then protect for the quarterback. Jesse has a lot of experience in the division. He has a good wealth of knowledge to provide to a lot of those younger guys; but also at other positions because he’s communicating with the tight end too. He’s a big piece of our unit and we’re happy to have him and thankful we got him. We think that both of those tackles are very important – both left and right. There are so many things that kind of go on with the scheme with play action and RPOs, point of attack runs, backside runs, that Jesse’s a big piece, Austin (Jackson) is a big piece, Liam (Eichenberg) is a big piece. From outside in, a lot of times that’s where the pocket gets crushed. If we can be firm on the outside, obviously we’ve got to be firm on the inside for the quarterback. That can provide us with a little bit more windows to see left and right on the edge or on the perimeter.”

(We saw it a little bit with WR Jaylen Waddle this past week. Obviously you guys get WR Will Fuller back this week. What impact do you anticipate his speed and the combo of his and Jaylen’s speed will have for the offense?) – “Will has been a high performer in his career. We’re excited to get him back. For Will, I know he’s excited. He’s been itching at the bit. He had a little bit of a setback with an injury, but now he’s back out there – with the suspension too. It’ll be good to see him out there in practice and fitting him in. That group, we’ve got a lot of weapons. Moving them around, getting them open versus certain matchups, and really the catch and run element especially with Will is a factor with his speed. They’ve got to do their job in the run game, but when they’re called on in the passing game to get open, they are an important piece for creating those big plays and putting points on the board.”

(You had some success early with up-tempo, especially in that first drive. Did you get to it as much as you ideally wanted to? And how much does time of possession factor how much you go up-tempo? When it was as lopsided as it was in the second half, are you reluctant to go up-tempo in a close game with that gap in time of possession against you?) – “You pretty much hit on all of the questions that go through our head as we’re going through that. There are some situations where we will go up-tempo, whether it’s a positive or negative play. The three-and-outs are some of the things we talk to the group about, about eliminating those. If we can eliminate those three three-and-outs – there are some self-inflicting plays and then there are also some things we’ve got to do from a coaching staff to get them in a better position. We really want to keep moving those chains and when we can get into third-and-manageable, convert those. The more opportunities we have on normal downs, the more opportunities we have to use or not use the tempo.”

(Looking ahead a little bit to Buffalo, I don’t know how deep you’ve gotten into their film or into Sunday’s game, but was there anything you saw from this defense that strikes you as different from what you’ve seen from them in years past?) – “It’s a fast defense. They make a lot of plays. They tackle you when they need to make the one-on-one tackle. Every throw seems to be contested. They do a good job with their scheme of changing in and out of certain coverages so they are not predictable. They had a hell of a year last year and they held Pittsburgh to limited yards in the first half. This is the same defense that’s been as productive as it’s been in past years. We have a big challenge. We have a big challenge up front. The linebackers obviously have played a lot of football. They play every down. Then their DBs have a wealth of experience and a lot of people know every one of those DBs, regardless of what team they cheer for. There is a reason why they are a good defense. They play hard for 60 minutes and we’ve got our work cut out for us. From our perspective, I wouldn’t say we’re just getting ready to know them because they are in our conference, so we do have some familiarity. But early in the week is a very important part to setting the game plan for Sunday.”

(How you utilized the three running backs, did you like the carries/touch distribution? Would you have wanted to get RB Myles Gaskin more carries after he had five on the opening drive and only four the rest of the way and was averaging over five per attempt?) – “It goes back to (a previous question) about holding onto the ball a little bit more and having more time of possession to where we get the opportunities. We feel like that group, we have a lot of depth at the running back position, the tight end position and at the receiver position. There is only one ball out there. We know that. There is a point where we want to make sure that those guys all get their opportunities. At the end of the game, there was some good running by Malcolm (Brown). Early in the game, like you said about Myles, we had some critical runs there and plays from Salvon (Ahmed). That group knows it’s by committee. The same thing with the tight ends and the receivers. There is no ego in that room, which as a coach, we love that about those guys. We love coaching them. They know that when their number is called on, that their job is to perform and that group continues to do that regardless of which one of those guys are getting the ball.”

(This is the first time we’ve got to see the fullness of your guys’ new offense. What stood out to you about the operation process and the final result of what we saw?) – “From an operation standpoint, it was pretty clean from our perspective. We were playing on the road. That environment is not an easy environment. We saw a lot of teams here in this first week where maybe it wasn’t as clean with let’s just say line of scrimmage penalties, delay of games, in and out of the huddle, having to call timeouts. That part of it, Tua (Tagovailoa) did an excellent job of getting us from coach to quarterback, to huddle, to the line of scrimmage. Then we know we left some plays out there. It’s the first week, thankfully. We’ve got some room to improve and that’s the way we want to look at it. We want to improve each week. We’ve got to eliminate the turnover and be 100 percent ball security. We know we can do some better things in the run game and in the pass game. Fortunately we get another opportunity here coming up and again it’s against a very formidable opponent. We need to be correcting the mistakes now and making sure by Sunday that those fires are put out.”                    

Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman

(Obviously you can never go wrong with WR Jakeem Grant as your returner because he’s done a great job with it over many years; but I was wondering was that a clear-cut decision for you or did WR Jaylen Waddle’s presence on the team make it a difficult decision where it could have gone either way?) – “We’re just looking for the best players. The more guys you can have that can do multiple things, you’re going to be happy. We have multiple guys who we feel very confident in the return game. Obviously Jakeem has had an outstanding career so far and we think he has a lot more to give. We think we’ve got a couple of young guys who also have a chance to be really outstanding.”

(I wanted to ask you about the good old term hidden yardage. I know we had the one chipped kickoff that you pinned them deep on. Just overall, how did you feel you guys performed in winning the hidden yardage battle?) – “As you guys know, we did some good things but we can always be a lot better. I thought we missed a couple of opportunities for some better players to even help more in that field position battle. Overall, I thought the guys played hard. We’ll hopefully build on that this week.”

(Obviously you have a lot of returning players on your coverage team, but among new guys that you had for the first time in coverage, who comes to mind as a couple who stood out with their coverage work on Sunday?) – “I think some of the guys that have played in other places and have some experience from around the league, who we had evaluated as guys that could help like (Brennan) Scarlett and players like that; they came in and did what we expected them to do. Duke Riley and the guys that have some experience performed at a level that we had anticipated they would. Those expectations are based on past experiences.”

(Just your thoughts on P Michael Palardy’s punts on Sunday. And the one that ended up going into the end zone, I think I saw WR Mack Hollins kind of signal to him like “my bad.” Should he have gotten that one?) – “It’s hard to say. You’d like to say you make all of those plays; but you give their club and their returner some credit for doing a good job with what he did on the particular play to try to get Mack to hesitate. But yes, in those situations, those are plays again where we need to find a way to make those plays to help ourselves in the field position battle.”

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