Miami Dolphins Transcripts – September 28 – Head Coach Brian Flores, WR Jakeem Grant, DT Zach Sieler and T Austin Jackson

Monday, September 28, 2020

WR Jakeem Grant

(I wanted to take it back to the end-around call. When Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey and QB ‘Fitz’ Ryan Fitzpatrick – when you hear that number is being called, do you get excited? And obviously that is something I don’t think we’ve seen in the first three weeks. Just knowing that if they call that, you’re able to use your speed and agility to pick up almost 30 yards on that play?) – “Yeah, there was a sense of rush going through my body because I knew that the ball was coming to me, and the only thing I had to do was use my ability to make a play for the team, and that’s exactly what I did.”

(I was going to ask you something very similar to that. If you can describe the opportunity you get when you have an end-around like that, it seems you can really use your speed in the open field, maybe that much more than a typical reception? How do you feel?) – “To be honest, I really wasn’t running at full speed. I was just doing enough to get around the edge and as soon I saw the players overplay it, I was instantly looking for a cutback. I know coach always talks about this is a one-yard game. Every inch, every yard counts. I was just like ‘I’m not going out of bounds. I’m going to try my best to get into the end zone.’ That’s what I want to do. I didn’t end up getting in there, but I got us down to the goal line, so that was great.”

(Last year you were a part of the team and it took eight games and nine weeks for you guys to get your first win, and you were able to get one last week in Jacksonville. What can a win so early in the season really do for you guys going forward?) – “I would say it was a big motivation to the team. I always think of it as blood in the water as a shark. As soon as you smell that blood in the water from miles and miles away, all you want to do is go find, go hunt and go eat. I think that’s what it is for the team. We got that first win, that blood in the water and we smell it from a mile away. Now we’re just chasing down and trying to figure out what’s dying in the water and what prey we’re going to eat.”

(We asked you about the end-around. I wanted to get your thoughts on the reception you had. I’m curious to hear what that route is called. It looked like some kind of wheel or stop comeback route. What did you see on that play because it looked like you motioned over to where they really didn’t have anybody over there besides the one corner. Does your speed in that situation make you kind of w of a threat on that comeback? Also, the ability to get up after the catch on a player who is a rookie who didn’t touch you down. Just talk us through that play.) – “It’s an out and up, stop or whatever you want to call it. I knew that a lot of DBs – any time that I’m going on any type of vertical route, they’re basically going to haul ass and try to stay over the top of me. I just made it look like I was running as fast as I could and I just put on the breaks. The dude kept running for about probably three yards and I made the diving catch. I definitely couldn’t see the ball coming out of the break because of the lights. Then I was like ‘okay, there it is,’ so I dove for it. When he didn’t touch me and I fell on the ground, I was like – I didn’t feel him touch me so I got up. He probably thought – on film, when I watched it, he thought I dropped the ball. He started clapping like ‘yeah, he didn’t catch it.’ So I just got up and ran because I didn’t feel him touch me. I was like this can’t be right, he didn’t want to touch me. So I got up and ran for a couple more yards.”

(I want to get your thoughts on the season WR DeVante Parker is having. He’s obviously played through some pain with that hamstring injury and he’s shown up in a big way for this team. Have you seen a jump from him from even last year to this year?) – “Yeah. I just think that he’s going to continue to progress from last year. Yes, he’s been battling some things; but I feel like he’s one of the leaders in our receiver room and he’s going to continue to show guys that he’s unmatched and that he can go out there and have a big game at any moment.”

(I feel like WR DeVante Parker might owe you a check for that cartoon. Are you the inspiration for the other character in that?) – “He told me he was making a cartoon and it was based off of me and his relationship. No check. I don’t need it; but I appreciate him for just doing something based off of our friendship and our brotherhood.”

(I wanted to change the conversation to special teams and you as a returner. How do you feel like you’ve progressed this season? We were talking to Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman and he was saying that it’s tough for kick returners because a lot of them end up as touchbacks. How would you assess the few that you’ve been able to have this season?) – “I only got one kickoff return this season, which I took it out on my own. Yeah, a lot of teams have been kicking it over my head and not really giving me a chance. I understand. I get it. Definitely I’d say on the punt return note, I’m doing good at tracking the ball and setting up the team with good field position; but I still have a lot of room to go and I could do a lot of corrections and a lot of good things getting vertical a lot faster and setting the team up with good field position.”

(You said you understand why kickers are doing what they are doing. Do you want to send a message to them? Do you want to challenge them to give you a shot?) – “I’m always taunting them. Every kickoff return you probably see me back there. I’m always waving my hand and telling them to kick it to me. A lot of guys always run down and say ‘come on man, bring it out of the end zone.’ I’m like you’re kicking it nine (yards) deep. There’s only 10 yards in the end zone and you’re kicking it nine deep, there is no way I’m bringing it out. If you give me a chance, I’ll bring it out. Like I always tell them, if you kick it to me then you’ll see what happens.”

(You and TE Mike Gesicki are operating with a completely different set of tools. How do you rate him as a receiver? What’s your impression in the way he’s developed?) – “Oh man, Gesicki is an absolute beast. I never think of him as a tight end. I always tell him he’s an attached receiver.  He’s been balling out of control. His route running and the way he can beat man coverage has been extraordinary. I just think his game is going to continue to elevate. He had a career high, not this week, but the week before. I just think that he’s hungry. He smells blood in the water and he’s ready to eat.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

DT Zach Sieler

(I wanted to ask you about your good play the other day; but first I wanted to ask you about something that’s even more interesting. I noticed that you are the founder of Clay Gully Outfitters, Central Florida’s premier hunting facility for hogs and gators. I’ve seen some crazy photos. How do you catch an alligator?) – “(laughter) It’s a big process. We have guys that have hunted for 20-plus years now. They’ve got over 35 years of experience together, so we kind of met up – I’ve been hunting down here for a long, long time. (I have) family in the Central Florida area my whole life, so with that we kind of, between my first and second year, started this outfitters business and it’s been good for us. It’s a huge passion of mine, yeah.”

(So obviously you hunted the quarterback last week in the fourth quarter I think it was. How does hunting animals compare to hunting quarterbacks?) – “(laughter) I guess you get just as much of a thrill, I guess. It’s an experience for sure.”

(I kind of just wanted to ask a follow-up on the last question on the pass rush and hunting the quarterback. It felt like this past game was kind of the most complete performance in that regard and just how would you – looking at the tape – assess how the group did as a whole?) – “I think we definitely made a focus on it. We want to work to get to him and keep fresh guys in there and play the hot hand and really work as a whole, as a unit. You can’t just have a one-man show, so I think that was our real focus on the game coming in last week.”

(Just a quick follow-up, what kind of challenge does Seahawks QB Russell Wilson present this week?) – “Obviously he’s a great quarterback. It’s a great team and we’ve kind of got to take the same mindset where we play as a unit, know our passing lanes and try to get back to him without him running around too much.”

(Can I ask you what’s it like to be a young player – you came in and your first game here you had a tremendous amount of success. Then it’s kind of been weaned in terms how much you’ve played. What’s it like to be trying to earn playing time and trust with this coaching staff?) – “I went through this in college. I was a walk-on at a Division II (school). So my whole career – my whole life – has been kind of earn the trust and get those snaps. So for me, it’s just another day. I’m going to do my job every day, play to my full effort all the time and just when the opportunity comes, make the most of it.”

(My question kind of piggy backs off of the previous one. You didn’t get that many snaps in the first two games, so I wanted to ask you how difficult was it to not play that much those first two games and did you know coming into the game against Jacksonville that you would get a lot more playing time?) – “Obviously everyone wants to play – you want to play as many snaps as you can – but it’s going to be what’s best for the team. And this last game, same game plan we’ve had. We changed some things, whatever; but really it came down to just in the second half was just playing the hot hand and playing the players that were playing well kind of thing.”

(I noticed that they had you on the field with five minutes left. I don’t think the game was technically over at that point when you and DE Emmanuel Ogbah got together for the sack, if I remember correctly. With all those first-rounders in the room – the Lawsons, the Ogbahs, the Wilkinses – guys who have a different journey and a different path; did you think to yourself, “man, I’m on the field here in a critical spot in the game?” Was that something you processed?) – “My mindset since the beginning – since Day 1 playing football – has been I’m going to play my game, do what I can do and give full effort every single play. So I don’t like to look at ‘oh this guy or this guy’ kind of thing. I just do what I can control.”

(I wanted to talk about just you guys’ just collective team pass rush work. It seems like a lot of the effectiveness you guys get comes out of running games and you guys up front creating opportunities for second-level players and rushers. I’m just curious how that mindset works when it comes to like, “I’m going to the one that creates an opportunity for this player.” Is that something you see collectively throughout the course of the defensive room?) – “Oh, absolutely. We celebrate that kind of stuff. We want to be able to create opportunities for other players. It’s not what I did; it’s a team. Team. We just – we were able to set something up for him or like with ‘X’s’ (Xavien Howard) pick in the end. Stuff like that. We thoroughly enjoy watching everyone else succeed as well.”

(I’m back following up on the first question because you got me interested in hunting and alligator chasing. If my first time – maybe I don’t shoot rifles well – what do you recommend to somebody who wants to go catch something wild?) – “We do everything. It really depends on what you’re feeling. We’ve gotten multiple players out there coming to hunt with us. A lot of them have never shot a gun before. We really take you hands-on, show you how to shoot, all that kind of stuff. Our guys make sure of that. If you’re looking for a real thrill, alligators are pretty intense. It’s season right now, so we actually just killed two 10-footers and almost an 11-footer, one of them, this morning. So it’s a good time.”

(So I’ve got some gators out in my lake here in Parkland. I live right next to the Everglades. There’s a lot of gators next to the Everglades over here, but I know you have some up in Central Florida, too. If you were to bring two teammates with you to my house here in Parkland to snag some gators out of the lake who would you choose?) – “You know, a lot of guys ask me – they want to come out and they want to come and they want to try it. I know Kavon Frazier’s been interested. Byron Jones. I’m trying to get Christian (Wilkins) and (Davon) Godchaux out there, too. Honestly I love just taking whoever can because some guys have never been able to experience that kind of stuff and I love to bring them into that world a little bit.”

(Who are some of the players that have you already gone out there with? We see there’s a picture of S Minkah Fitzpatrick with a big smile holding a gator. Was he scared? Was he scared or was the smile a little fake there? But also who are some people that you’ve brought out there with you already?) – “Michael Deiter came out for some turkey and hogs. Minkah Fitzpatrick – he actually is good friends with my girlfriend who is at Alabama at well, so she kind of coerced him into coming out. He was able to come on out and do that. He had an absolute blast. Michael Pierce – I’ve had him come down. We did some hogs with him. And it’s been thrilling. It’s fun seeing those guys get out there and seeing them do stuff they not usually have done. It’s nice.”

(So what’s the most frightened you’ve ever been around an animal? Any close calls or any time that your hands got sweaty from anything?) – “That’s definitely, if you’re going out at night with the hogs and you can’t see anything and all you can hear is just stuff all around you, or when we brought in a the 14-foot alligator. That’s been kind of thrilling to say the least.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

T Austin Jackson

(I’m going to throw it back here a little bit to the USC days. How did Coach Drevno help you develop during your time there and prepare you for your first NFL camp? You’ve done pretty well from what we’ve seen these first few weeks.) – “Yeah, Coach Drevno helped me a lot. Coming from Michigan and also coming from coaching in the league previously before that, he had a lot of fundamentals down of what it takes to be an NFL offensive lineman. Luckily he was able to pass some of that knowledge on to me. He definitely helped me a lot while I was at USC.”

(There was one rep that I really liked where you kind of slapped a guy down to the ground. Do you remember the one I was talking about? I don’t know what it was called – a chop or a slap. But what did that feel like to do and what’s the technique involved in that action?) – “It’s a secret. Nah, I’m just kidding. (laughter) It’s just like a technique that offensive linemen use because oftentimes, defensive linemen can get kind of leaning all of their weight on you; so it’s just kind of a leverage battle. If you see they’re out of leverage, it’s easy to swipe them down.”

(I wanted to do another callback; I’m curious, whose pregame ice cream is better – the Miami Dolphins or the USC Trojans?) – “I’ve gotta go with the USC Trojan. I’ve got to. The ice cream bar was undefeated. I’m just calling it how it is.”

(What are some guys like G/T Jesse Davis and G Ereck Flowers, how are these leaders kind of helping you as you go game-by-game, kind of just stacking on your performances from the first three games? How have they helped you with advice or little tidbits here and there?) – “They help me with a lot of advice, whether it’s situationally – situations during the game or what we need to get done or what to look out for, just because they’ve been playing in the league for such a good amount of time and they just have a lot of knowledge on them. It just kind of falls off and they help me in a lot of areas.”

(Earlier today we spoke to a guy named DT Zach Sieler – one of the defensive linemen – and we had a long conversation about how he owns this ranch in Central Florida where people hunt alligators, turkeys, hogs, and he’s trying to find some teammates to go with him to catch alligators and things like this. What’s your level of interest?) – “(laughter) It’s not my cup of tea but I’ll go look at some alligators. I don’t know about hunting them. Yeah, not my cup of tea. (laughter)”

(What’s it like when you see QB Ryan Fitzpatrick out there diving head first and scrambling and giving it his all? We asked a few teammates this question but what does it mean to see your quarterback do that?) – “First and foremost, that’s your quarterback. I’m always running down after him just to make sure he doesn’t get any other hits. It just goes to show the type of guy he is. He’s a leader, he’s strong, he loves the game and he loves to play ball. He’s not scared of anything. It’s kind of fun to play with a guy like that. It’s real fun. Real important too.”

(What’s the biggest area of growth you think you’ve made from your time at USC to where you are right now?) – “The biggest growth I’ve seen, I probably would say just being consistent. In college football, you’ve got school, you’ve got class but making it your job and your everyday thing, I think there’s just a lot more things that I was able to become more consistent with and become better at more often. I think that was a big thing for me coming into the league was to be able to do the right thing over and over again like hundreds of times. I think that’s probably my biggest jump.”

(I just wanted to follow up on that. I looked at your film at USC and there was some consistency issues but I wanted to ask you how much did the bone marrow transplant that you gave to your sister, do you feel like that impacted your performance last season?) – “It definitely took away from most of my offseason. Yeah, a procedure like that takes away from your personal game. I wouldn’t blame my performance on that though; but if you take a month of training (away) from anything you’re supposed to do, there’s going to be stuff you missed.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

Head Coach Brian Flores

(First of all, great hat. Love that hat.) – “Congrats to Derek Jeter, Mike Hill, Don Mattingly. It’s a great accomplishment by those guys. Same thing for the Heat. Great accomplishment. They played well last night. So congrats to both organizations – the Miami Heat and the Miami Marlins. Happy for them and supportive.”

(I wanted to ask you about CB Byron Jones. Did you get a chance to get him doing rehab over the weekend and how does he look?) – “Byron’s working extremely hard to try to get back as soon as he can. It’s very important to him, so he’s in here, he’s working (and) he’s making a lot of improvement. We’ll see how this goes this week.”

(I wanted to ask you your thoughts on what you saw not just yesterday but the first three weeks out of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson?) – “This is a spectacular player. This guy is tough to defend. He makes really good decisions. He can extend plays. He’s accurate with the football. He pretty much knows what you’re in from a coverage standpoint because he’s seen a lot of exotic defenses. He’s one of the best players in the league, if not the best, so this will be an extremely challenging game for us. It’s not just him. They’ve got receivers. They’ve got backs. They’ve got good o-line. They’ve got tight ends. They play really good defense. They play well in the kicking game. They’re well-coached. They’ve played together for a long time. This will be a tough challenge for us, so we’ve got to have a good week of preparation. We’ve got to play well.”

(I guess we ask this every week, but the offensive line and just your thoughts overall on how they’ve performed and then also if I could specifically hone in on T Austin Jackson. It seems like he’s really held it together these first three weeks.) – “I think they’re coming together. They work hard to all get on the same page. I think individually, they’re a hard-working group; but collectively as a unit, they understand that communication is important, that playing as a unit is very important. I think (Offensive Line Coach) Steve (Marshall) has done a really good job of just staying on top of them about the fundamentals, the techniques, working with one another. They spend a lot of time together. That’s what you need. There is still a lot of improvement to make. It hasn’t been all perfect, but I think as a group, we’ve got leadership from the more veteran guys – Jesse (Davis), Ted Karras, Ereck (Flowers) – and then our young players – Robert Hunt, Austin Jackson and Solomon (Kindley) – they’re just following their lead, which I feel like we talk about that every week. But if we just continue to do that, I think we have a chance to get better and improve. Specific to Austin (Jackson) – I know you asked about him – I think being a rookie, there’s things that he’s learning every time he goes out there. Every different situation, whether it’s third down, in a five-man protection, whether it’s goal line and how different that snap is than a normal snap in the field, how big, strong – and this isn’t specific to Austin, but all those rookies – how big, strong, fast the defensive linemen in this league are. I think he’s getting acclimated to that, but every week it’s a different challenge and this week, it’s certainly a big challenge against this group that we’re going to see and this team that we’re going to see. But I think if we just continue to try to improve every day, hopefully we continue to get better.”

(How would you describe TE Mike Gesicki’s development in the time that you’ve been here and what do you see as far as untapped potential for him and the way you might use him?) – “I think Mike’s definitely – we’ve seen a lot of improvement from him since I’ve been here and really since his rookie year. I think that’s just time spent in the league – understanding different defenses, understanding different leverages of defenders, understanding coverages. He’s got an obviously good rapport with ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and you’re starting to see some of his – he’s talented. And when you put all of it together, you can see kind of the talent show up on game day. He’s still got a long way to go as far as there’s things in his game that he can improve on – top of the route, releases, things of that nature, blocking; but he’s definitely made a lot of improvement. He’s made plays for us this season so far, but there’s still a lot. He’s left a few plays out there also and I think the tight end room with Durham (Smythe) and Adam (Shaheen), it’s a good group. They work well together. They complement each other well. Chandler Cox also at fullback, tight end. They complement each other well and they’re making some improvements; but again, consistency is the big thing in this league and that’s what we need. I think you build consistency through practice and walkthroughs and continuing to work the way that they’ve worked to have the little bit of success they’ve had so far. Again, as an overall team, we’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got a great challenge this week against a really good team. We’re going to have to really prepare and play well to give ourselves a chance to win.”

(What are some of the things that first-year Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer and some of the new defensive coaches need to do to reach their full potential as a staff? Obviously we’re very early in the season.)  – “I think it’s similar to what we’re looking for within the team – getting games under our belt, the communication in game, the communication in practice, the communication postgame – all those things, we’re working through. I think we’ve got a good young staff, and I’m excited about each one of these guys, whether it’s obviously Josh (Boyer), (Anthony) Campanile and Gerald Alexander and Austin Clark and (Marion) Hobby. It’s a good group. They work well together and hopefully we grow over the course of the season like you want your team to grow over the course of the season – offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. I’m happy with those guys and hopefully we just continue to get better and improve as a unit, because that’s what we’re asking the players to do.”

(Defensively, what do you tell your players about Seattle QB Russell Wilson’s scramble ability and how to try to contain him as much as you can when he’s out there on the field?) – “Well, he’s a great player. We’re going to have to do everything at a high level to limit this offense so from a communication standpoint, from a tackling standpoint, from a pass rush standpoint, we have to play very well to keep this offense limited and contained. I think they’re going to make some plays. They’ve got a good quarterback and they’ve got good players, so they’re going to make a few plays. We just need to try to keep – we’ve got to continue to try to have good communication, have good technique and fundamentals, tackle well, defend the deep part of the field, get a good rush and play well. It’s a good offense. It’s a good team led by Russell Wilson, led by Pete Carroll. It will definitely be a big challenge.”

(I wanted to ask you about consistency on the roster. Obviously last year it seemed like you had a lot of challenges as a head coach with so many changes on the roster. This year, how comforting must it be to have that stability that you are enjoying right now?) – “It’s always good to be working with a group of guys consistently so you can build some continuity. I think the guys work extremely hard. They try to build that continuity, that camaraderie. But this league, things happen within the league and one week is different from the other. Right now as we sit, we haven’t made a lot of moves. That could very easily change next week. Hopefully you didn’t just jinx us. (laughter) But yeah, you want to build continuity and consistency. I think the easiest way to do that is to have the same guys kind of doing the same thing, seeing the same – or having communication with the same guys – so that eventually you get to the point where you pretty much know what the guy next to you is going to say; and eventually you get to the point where you don’t have to say anything. That takes time, obviously. It’s time on the job with the same guys, so hopefully we can continue working with the same players in the same positions. But again, this league, as we’ve seen, things change on rosters week to week. We’ve got to be able to adjust and be flexible also.”

(How do you feel that S Bobby McCain’s adjustment to safety – I know this is his second year playing the position – is going and how important is he to helping the communication back there in the defense?) – “I think Bobby is a very important part to our defense. I think safety, linebacker – but specifically safety – you are the quarterback of the defense. A lot of what he does is getting guys lined up pre-snap so that we can have a good, let’s call it post-snap, play. I think he’s done a good job of that. I think in some instances, we’ve been aligned correctly, we’ve been in the right places, but we either haven’t made the play or had a bad post-snap read. I think Bobby, he’s played well so far this year. His leadership and his communication, I think he’s tackled well so far, so I think he’s played well. We need him to continue to play well and we need other guys to kind of play the way that he’s been playing. His leadership definitely shows up on our team and I’ve been very pleased with him.”

(Last season it took eight weeks for you guys to get your first win. This season, it was three weeks in. What can that do for your psyche as a coach, your assistants and your players to have a win under their belts this early in the season?) – “It’s always good to win. No one likes losing. Obviously winning builds confidence. The guys have worked extremely hard so it’s always nice to get a win so all that hard work, it’s for a reason; but it’s for a reason whether you win or lose. I think guys need to understand that. There’s a maturity that comes with – there’s a maturity that you have to have to understand that. The way you work and the way you prepare, eventually you’ll see results from it. That’s kind of the message that we as a staff try to give to the players. I think they take it to heart and they understand it. I think we’ve seen improvement over the first three weeks and hopefully we continue to improve. Again, hopefully we’re a better team down the road or a week from now or two weeks from now or 10 weeks from now than we are right now. That’s always the message; but yes, winning builds confidence and it just reinforces a lot of the things that we’re already saying as coaches – that if you tackle well, you block well, you defeat blocks, you break tackles, you hit explosive plays, you limit explosive plays, you play well in the kicking game and kick coverage, you block on kickoff return and punt return and we can create first downs in that area as well – when you talk about it and then you watch it happen in a game, it just reinforces a lot of the things you’re saying and it builds confidence. It’s always good to win. Again, we’ve got a tough, tough challenge this week against a very good team, so we’re going to have to really play well and really prepare well to give ourselves a chance.”

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