Clyde Christensen – May 6, 2017 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen

(If you could start off with the offensive line. Obviously, moving G/T Laremy Tunsil out to left tackle, the confidence level of Laremy being really good at that spot right away and your comfort level at what you have at guard – obviously, G/T Jermon Bushrod, C/G Ted Larsen, and bringing in G Isaac Asiata?) – “The confidence level is extremely high that (Laremy Tunsil) can excel at tackle. It’s his natural position. I think it’ll be a much quicker learn for him than last year at this time. Now he has the benefit of going back to his natural position – his most experienced position – and whatever you learned inside, which does teach you some skills you can’t learn outside, where guys are a little tighter on you in the run blocking and bigger guys, etc. So, I think all those combined will put Laremy way ahead. It gives us a lot of confidence in him and I think he’ll have a lot of confidence going into the thing. It doesn’t make it an easy position or an easy job. It still is a tough job out there and you still catch the best pass rusher and you’re still on the edge and all those things. But I do think his comfort level going into it will be really good, really high. At guard, I think we really wanted to get some depth in there. We don’t want to necessarily do it by committee, but we want to have enough bodies in there, like last year, that you have to fill in and be able to do some different things. We talked last year at this thing that we needed the versatility that … Last year we had even ‘Bush’ (Jermon Bushrod) who could play left tackle in a pinch. (He) has played a lot of football in the NFL at left tackle. I think this will give us some flexibility. Now we have a bunch of guys who can swing inside and play center. We added Larsen who’s one of those guys who can swing inside for short periods of time and give us some center help, if we need it, and compete at the guard position. I feel good. I think we’ve got some good, solid players in there. I think the competition will be high, which always makes people better, and we’ll come out of the thing with, I think, a good, deep inside bunch, which will be great. I can’t stress enough that (with) the good teams, you have competition. That’s the deal. The more competition, the hungrier … All those things add to some intensity to practice being better, to all those things. I think we’ll have a ton of competition in there for that backup center, the starting guard, playing time – all the above in there.”

(What do you want to see from WR DeVante Parker in the offseason and what does he need to do to take that next step?) – “The great thing is we’re seeing what we were hoping to see, and that’s A) a healthy DeVante Parker – he is running probably better than I’ve seen him run since I’ve been here – and a hungry DeVante Parker. I think he has been around a lot more than last year. He is practicing hard. He’s queued in on this thing – zeroed in I guess is our word this year – zeroed in. So, we are seeing what we wanted to see out of him. We need him to be a big play, No. 1 receiver. That’s what he has the potential to be. That’s what he has to be, and to play at a high level week after week after week after week in a consistent manner. It’s not easy to do, but he has the skills to do it, which not many guys do have. Now he’s applying himself. He has always worked, but he struggled with that hamstring. He has gotten himself healthy. I really think that maybe lifestyle – for lack of a better term – but just his routine is better. Sometimes those young guys, as they come into this thing, it takes them a while to fall into the routine of what it takes to put your body in position, in shape, sleep – all the above – eating, practicing, all those things to be able to make it through a 16-game season, especially for a receiver, where you just are running so much. There’s so much running involved in the thing. I think probably all those things have gotten better for him. I think they’ll all combine to him having a great year this year. I really think he’ll have a great, big year – a gigantic year for us. That would be huge. That takes a ton of pressure … It helps with everything. It helps with the quarterback position. It helps with your running game. It helps everything. If you can get some chunks of yardage and you get a big-play guy who can jump over, it helps with some jumps balls, 50-50 balls and all of a sudden you come down with a few of those. Those are important chunks. It’s hard to go 4 yards and a cloud of dust.”

(The organization made a priority of re-signing its own free agents. From your perspective, bringing WR Kenny Stills back into the fold, how important was that?) – “Huge statement. I think it’s a huge statement. It helps in the locker room, and it’s a way to build something really, really solid. I think it’s the way to build something solid is to draft well, take care of your own, bring them up, have your guys, have them in your system, where you’re not always bringing in mercenaries and contractual guys who have to come in and maybe don’t have a tie to us or don’t know the system and all those things. I think it’s a huge statement by the organization. I think it’s a huge statement for Kenny. I think anyone who was here last year – we talked about this at length – but in my first year here, I don’t think I came in the building last offseason and I didn’t see the guy here. I didn’t know him, and I didn’t know anything about him much, but the one thing I do know is I saw him here. He’s working and he was involved and he was committed to having a good year. For that to get rewarded I think sends a great message trickling through the (organization of), ‘Work. Work, and things happen good. Things happen good and you play good football – the Miami Dolphins will take care of you.’ I think the message is multifaceted as far as how he worked and how people saw him work. I think he had probably the best year of his career. I’m not positive about that, but I think it was, so I do think that. And I do think that … I’ve always believed that the No. 1 thing you have to do is evaluate your own. There’s a young guy who can run, he’s our kind of guy, he’s our kind of player – take care of him and keep him around. That’s huge. That’s key.”

(If TE Julius Thomas is healthy, what can he add?) – “He has added before 10, 12 touchdowns (in Denver), which is huge. If you just oversimplify and say, ‘What can he add?’ In Denver, he added 10 or 12 touchdowns. That’s a gigantic addition. I went out to dinner with him when he came in for his visit, and the guy is a professional. He’s going to add way more than touchdowns – way, way more than touchdowns. I hope he adds those touchdowns, but the guy is a pro. He knows (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase. He knows the system. He came up through the ranks. He has a great story. You guys will hear it when you talk to him, but (he is) a guy that hadn’t played a ton of football and (was) learning how to be a pro, learning how to practice, learning how detailed this thing is and figuring it out. So, his story and what he’ll bring to that locker room I think is really good. He’s a pleasant guy. He’s a pro. He asks the right questions. He stays with it until he knows the answer. He’s going to come in, in the evening if he has questions. He’s going to do whatever it takes to find a way to play good football. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we need throughout the thing – a detailed, professional guy.”

(What makes you certain you’re going to get the TE Julius Thomas that played in Denver as opposed to the one that played in Jacksonville?) – “There’s no guarantee on any of them. It’s on film. I’ve seen it. Hearing Peyton (Manning) talk about him and what he meant to the offense. (Head Coach Adam) Gase knows him inside out. Gase knows exactly what he’s getting and knows how to use him. (Gase) used him extremely well out there in Denver. I have great confidence that we will get that. It’s not a speculation. There’s some – as you like to say – empirical data. There’s data we can see, see him do it (and) see the things we need him to do. That always is encouraging.”

(As far as QB Ryan Tannehill coming back from the knee injury, Head Coach Adam Gase said he’s confident that he’s right on track. What do you need to see – what will you need to see – in camp?) – “Same thing, it has been what we have seen. Being out there, I don’t see him favoring it at all. He looks like the same guy. It hasn’t even been an issue. No one has talked about it. I’m sure there’s a little bit of ice that I haven’t seen after a good day’s work and stuff. But when you look on the field, I see a guy working just like he did last year, moving like he did last year. So, it’s not even, ‘What would you like to see?’ It’s kind of what are we seeing, and that’s a healthy Ryan Tannehill, which is great, and it’s miraculous news for what we all thought initially and what it ended up turning out to be. It’s terrific and I think it’s testimony to how he keeps himself and how he has trained himself. All of a sudden, those are the kind of guys who heal fast and catch a break on stuff like this, because they have been diligent throughout their years. Everything I’ve seen has been a nonfactor. It has been a nonfactor.  We haven’t had to watch his reps. We haven’t had to watch his work. He just does what he always does. That’s probably the best news of them all.”

(What did Peyton Manning say about TE Julius Thomas?) – “That he figured it out. His figure-it-out factor was high. That’s what you look for. There’s a guy who came in and probably didn’t know a whole bunch about football, or played very little. His experience was very minimal, and then (he) came in and figured it out and then worked. (Manning) talked a lot about (Thomas asking), ‘Would you stay out and help me with this? Take me through this. Would you watch a little tape with me? Would you explain what you want on this?’ And he still does the same thing. I’ll see him in (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase’s office and his questions are right. His questions and his process are right, which as a coach, (is what) you’re looking for. He said the same thing. I would speak of Peyton as almost coach-ish, especially at that point in his career. He goes to people (and asks), ‘How do we want to do this? How do I do this? Is this exactly what you want, or is it different?’ Those are the right questions to be asking. He has been terrific in the short time he has been here, and it doesn’t take long to see he enjoys football, he likes football, which is the other attribute we’ve been looking for, and guys that enjoy being in the building. He’s a pleasant guy. He has a good demeanor. He has got a smile on his face when he comes to work. That’s good stuff. A lot of times when you go get a free agent – a high-profile free agent – you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s a reach, and all you can go on is second hand. This one, we had the advantage of Coach Gase (and) people knew him, and he has been exactly that. Coach Gase has been clear that’s what he wants. He wants guys that enjoy football, enjoy the process, who enjoy working, who want to be great, and he certainly has been that in the time I’ve seen him.”

(How do you feel about your backup receivers?) – “We just haven’t seen them yet. We haven’t seen a bunch of them yet, but I think the same thing. We’ve got a room of guys and I think they’re going to all keep improving and I think that room has a chance to be really good and really deep. But we’ve got a ways to go. We’ve done it at times. We’ve done it for short periods of time but we’ve got to get that room playing at a high level day-in and day-out for 20-weeks-plus hopefully. So your question was on the backup guys? I think (Leonte) Carroo … I think all of those young guys; I think those young guys … I’ve always believed that the biggest jump is from your first to second year because you’re doing it full time. You don’t have to worry about anything else, you know what’s expected, your body has been through one 16 (game) –. in our case 21 game – season. So you know how to train it better. All of those things lend to … it’s probably the highest percentage increase in improvement that you can make. And then it will start shrinking down and then by your 15th year, you’re trying to make two or three percent improvement. But I really think that this can be a great year for our young receivers and these guys who we got in here now will be … hopefully we’ll find a guy or two out of there also. But the (Leonte) Carroos and those other guys, we’ll see a big jump. I think we’ll see a huge improvement. You see it already. You see it in practice. You see it in their technique. You see it in their understanding. That first year is hard. That first year is hard on everybody, but especially a rookie, because the veterans last year were just trying to learn it themselves. They didn’t know it. So anytime you have that, that’s what makes that first year so darn hard, that you don’t have someone who has done it and you just fall in line (and) just do what they do. Everyone was trying to learn it themselves last year. Now there’s a little bit of a baseline for it. They understand it and I think that those guys will make a big jump. And we need them to. We need them to. The fourth and the fifth receiver are playing positions. Right? The chances – the odds are – that the fourth player is going to have to play some big snaps before the season is over. Hopefully everyone stays healthy and they never get on the field, but the percentages say that the fourth receiver has to play some huge snaps and some critical snaps in the season. So it’s important we have a guy there.”

(So RB Jay Ajayi is your bell cow runner. What do you have? I mean what’s Plan B if in the season takes a toll?) – “I really think that room can be the deepest room of them all. With Damien (Williams) and Kenyan (Drake) and then now we’ve got the young guys in here. We have two young guys who were here at the end of last year on our practice squad (Storm Johnson and Senorise Perry). We brought in the Michigan running back (De’Veon Smith). So I think that can be a really, really deep room and I think they can relieve each other at times. Jay (Ajayi) is working hard to be a three-down back. His receiving skills are 200 percent better than a year ago today but you still … To be able to put in Damien (William) and Kenyan (Drake) and get big plays out of them and not have a big drop off … And they can play all downs. They can run the ball inside. They can run the ball outside. They can be a nickel receiver or a sub-receiver for us. They can split out, which they did last year, and they can give you big plays. That’s huge. So I think that can really be one of our deepest position groups of them all. I like our two young guys from the practice squad. I like the guy from Michigan a lot. He’s a little bit of a grinder and a big body in there. So I think that bunch can be really good, and then Jay (Ajayi), I think, falls in the same category of it’s by far his best year he’s ever had; now he’s got a ton of confidence. He knows how he’s going to have to train his body, right? He went through that – what it feels like to wake on Monday morning – and I think he’s in 50 percent better shape today then he was a year ago. I mean I just think that there’s something about just understanding, and then also I think there’s something about tasting success. I always used to tease him about those 200-yard games and then all of a sudden everyone’s trying to tattoo you. They’re a blessing and a curse. But when you do taste that thing a little bit, and feel some success and taste some success, it kind of makes you even hungrier for more, and to play at that level. So I think you’ll see him make a big jump. I think he’ll be a better football player. Sometimes it doesn’t translate into numbers. You can be better and it doesn’t necessarily … This game’s funny. It doesn’t always translate into numbers, but you still can be a better football player. And I think there’s no question in my mind that Jay Ajayi will be a better football player than he was last year.”

(You guys put up good rushing numbers – yards per attempt, yards per game – but there only six games last year where you ran for over 100 yards. What played into that?) – “I think the thing … In this offseason when we did, when we dissected the whole season, the whole thing came back to a lack of number of snaps. You could take any stat and if you multiplied it out, we were okay. We just didn’t get enough snaps. We made big plays per snap, (it) was good number. Our rushes were a good number. Even our passing efficiency was a good number. We broke down on third down, which cut down (on our snaps). And now all of a sudden I think we had the lowest number of snaps in the league, or very close to the lowest number of snaps in the league, and so our biggest thing was staying on the field, eliminate some of those penalties and minus plays and stay on the field, and then we’ll see some natural improvement just from year one to two. But the biggest thing for us was just snaps. A lot of time we’d go ‘We actually did this better than it felt like. We just didn’t get enough of them.’ We made big plays. Add 200 more snaps in the season and multiply those numbers out, and now you’ve got a decent offense or an offense that we’re looking to be. But when you’re under 1,000 snaps, there are not enough snaps. There are not enough balls to go around. There are not enough carries. There’s not enough anything. And then also just the toll it takes on a defense. If you’re wearing someone down, making your big plays when they’re tired, banging Jay Ajayi at them after 75 snaps, that’s a lot better than I think the first four games where we were kind of in the 52-snap range. So you’re playing fresh defenses, so all of that kind of plays into each other. But the answer to your question is to just get more snaps. Get more snaps. Get towards the top of the league in snaps, which we should be, because we play up-tempo at times and there’s no reason, with the talent we have, we shouldn’t be a good third-down team and be able to stay on the field and get those snaps. But that was the biggest thing. There were very few things that were just deficient proportionately to the snaps. They were actually better than we thought. It was surprising. We came out of every study and just said ‘Okay, just get more snaps and that will multiply out into being a pretty darn good number.’”

(Last year there were 19 offensive snaps for WR Jakeem Grant. What is your and Head Coach Adam Gase’s vision for him as an offensive player long term? Is it being a gimmick player that you can give the ball to a dozen times a game or would you like, and do you think it’s realistic, that you could see more and develop him into a slot receiver that can be counted on?) – “I think both. I think he is going to be a gimmick guy. Gimmick is kind of a demeaning word but he’s so darn explosive. I think he should be a highlight film. His big plays per snap ought to be a huge number. We’re always looking for ways to get him on the field. Some of it we’ll learn how to use him better. Some of it he’ll become a better player and a more mature player and understand the offense better. We’re going to play him a little bit more outside. Just because he’s a little guy doesn’t mean you have to be a slot guy. Sometimes outside you can throw him a hitch out there and he can turn it into a 50-yard play. So we are looking for ways for him to be an every down player more. I don’t know that he becomes a starter, but just to be able to stick him in for chunks of time and leave him. It’s really, really hard in this league to slip a guy in there and run a reverse. It sounds good but it’s hard to do practically, and so it’s important for him to be an every down guy and for us to be able to put him in, and if we do have injuries, that he could play chunks. There’s no reason he can’t, right? He’s a good football player. He’s an extremely good technique kid. He has good hands. He runs good routes. He has to learn the offense better and I think he’ll do that, but look to see him maybe a little bit more outside and mix it in. We can stick him out there away from trips and get some one on ones out there. He’s a scary guy one or one. So we’re experimenting with some new things. Or different things, not new. But just some different places for him just to find a little niche for him to get a bigger role. We see him having … I think we all see him having a little bit of a bigger role and getting more out of him than we did last year. He has a unique set, a unique skillset (and) a unique way of doing things that he brings to the thing that has … And some of them are really hard traits to find, as far his speed and his big play (ability), his confidence, his swagger, thinking he can score on every single play. Every time he touches the ball he thinks he can score. The other thing he has, he has to fix his protecting the ball. He has to become that also. I think the same thing as I’ve been kind of … The theme of this thing, I just think that second year through, all of a sudden you get it. You figure it out a little bit. And I think that will be the case with him. He’ll figure out a little bit. We’ll figure it out a little bit more and then I think you’ll see him play some bigger chunks and more snaps. He’s always going to be a little bit of a specialist but there’s no reason he can’t play some series and go for a series. There’s nothing that he can’t do. He’s a physical guy. He’s maybe the strongest guy on our team pound for pound. He’s not afraid, as you saw. There’s no reason he can’t play a bunch of snaps.”

Matt Burke – May 6, 2017 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke

(Could you give specific reasons about why you think you guys will be better against the run? Be it DE William Hayes, be it LB Lawrence Timmons. Just go over reasons that have led you to have at least hopefully some measure of confidence that you’ll stop the run better.) – “Well, statistically we can’t get much worse, right? So hopefully there’s going to be a little bit of an upgrade there. I just feel good about all the moves we’ve made this year. I think at every level of defense, if you look towards the end of the season – even the back end with Reshad (Jones) being out, who is obviously one of our better tacklers from the safety positon; even Kiko (Alonso) being hurt, he had a hard time with the hand and stuff like that. I think we’ve added players at all three levels of the defense that’ll all help us in the run game.”

(As the draft is unfolding…) – “It was a good weekend, huh? (laughter)”

(Did you feel like it was Christmas in April as one defensive player is drafted after another?) – “No. (laughter) It’s funny. Going into the draft, everyone – at least from our perspective – thought it was a defensive sort of heavy draft. I was having a conversation with (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannebaum) and he’s like, ‘Oh, this is going to be your worst nightmare if this happens or these guys fall.’ And I literally looked at him and I said, ‘Mike, let’s take the best player available.’ I really do (think that). I think (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and Mike and the scouts, they do a great job. I mean it worked out well for me, so I wasn’t complaining; but we evaluated everybody honestly and set the board just how we thought they fit for the team as a whole. But yes, it was fun. When I kept getting called in there every round, every round they kept calling … (interrupted by someone’s phone ringing) I planned that so I could stop answering the question. (laughter)”

(What do you like most about DE Charles Harris?) – “A lot of things. We thought he was one of the more polished pass rushers in the draft. We liked his make-up, his intelligence; he’s a really bright kid. I know (General Manager) Chris (Grier) has told the whole story about sort of cancelling his visit. After we met him in Indy, we just felt really good about the package as a whole. So as a player, he’s explosive. He’s one of the more twitchy edge players, we felt, in the draft. So we’re excited to utilize his skillset there. We, again, didn’t really think he was going to be available to us where we picked him, so we were pretty happy.”

(After the DE Charles Harris pick, General Manager Chris Grier said, ‘We are going to tweak the defense to help Wide 9 players be good run defenders.’ Some folks say Harris isn’t that big, he’s not a natural edge setter and all those sorts of things. What can you share about this possible tweak?) – “Yes. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a tweak per se, but one of the advantages of the Wide 9 is that our edge players – our defensive ends in particular – don’t have to play in seven-technique squared up in the C gap. It’s one of the hardest things for even a guy like Cam (Wake), ‘undersized defensive end,’ to have to play in a square stance and play head up and taking on offensive tackles. We don’t ask our edge players or defensive ends to do that. So for us, it’s more just the philosophy or the scheme and we allow our ends to play in space more than having to play really in tighter quarters, so we think that we can utilize the skillset of that type of athlete there. So I’m not sure it’s going to be tweaked necessarily like a lot different from what we’ve done, but the way we ask our ends to play is different than a traditionally sort of Over 4-3, square defense.”

(So you don’t think that that has contributed to some of the run-stopping problems that you guys have had, especially with how much that compromises the linebackers?) – “I don’t. I’ve been in this scheme since probably about 2007 with the Tennessee Titans, when I first got in the league, and I’ve been in part of … Probably half of the years I’ve been in the league, I’ve been in the top five run defensive teams. I have to look up the stats on that, but I’ve never had a problem stopping the run doing it. People are always easy to point to that as the nine-technique and say that’s why we didn’t stop the run. I think we had issues at every level of defense that we have to address, tackling probably being one of the foremost ones; but I don’t think that the scheme is specific to having run problems.”

(Can you talk about what this opportunity personally means to you and how ready you are for this?) – “I wasn’t ready for this press conference. (laughter) Yes, it’s exciting. Obviously, as a coach in the profession and sort of personal goals for rising up through the ranks, I mean I feel like I’ve put a lot of work in. It’s crazy this is about my 14th year in the league coming up. It seems like a lot. So I’m excited. I’m thankful to (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) and to the organization for giving me the opportunity and for having the confidence in me to take this next step. So we’re just ready to go back to work. All I know is to work hard and try to figure out the answers to the problems.”

(What are the strengths of this defense right now?) – “I think we have a lot of depth relative to where we’ve been. Again, I think (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike (Tannenbaum) did a great job leading up to the draft, filling some sort of holes or just bringing in some extra guys for competition. I like that we’ve been in the system, the majority of the guys have been in the system and the confidence level, just the guys coming back – we’ve had the vets here for three weeks now I guess it’s been. Just seeing their confidence sort of in the scheme in what they’re doing and what they’re being asked and sort of that comfort level, I think is just naturally going to help them grow in the scheme. And I think just to me, its confidence and the attitude as they come back. I just really enjoyed seeing the guys be back in the building. You just can feel it. I know (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) has talked a little bit about feeling that swagger and sort of … You just feel the guys, their comfort level is so much different. They know what to expect from us and what we’re asking from them. Again, the pieces that we’ve added, I think the guys are ready to take the next step.”

(Is LB Raekwon McMillan going to start his professional career practicing at outside linebacker?) – “I don’t know yet. We’ll see. I know I’ve mentioned this before. Personally, I believe, and I think the organization believes, it’s important to have multi-talented players. Everyone talks about what New England does with tight ends and running backs that are receivers and all sort of things. So I think defensively, one of our philosophies is the same. It’s having guys that are interchangeable, that can play multiple positions, that can matchup in different areas week to week. So we’re taking all those guys. I know the question has been asked about Kiko (Alonso) and Lawrence (Timmons) and now Raekwon (McMillan). We need, and you guys saw what happened to our linebacker depth last year. We had a plan going into Week 1 and Koa (Misi) by Week 3 is not playing and Jelani (Jenkins) is in and out and all this stuff. So our plan for all of those guys is to literally cross train them and to try to get the most and find out what the best fit is. And honestly, it may be week to week. I don’t know. It may be this week Raekwon fits better for us in this position and Lawrence is out here. Or maybe there’s a better option to match Kiko up with somebody that we feel good about. I know you guys feel like we’re probably being vague about things, but in honesty, we want to get the best matchups and have the ability to move guys around. And also, if an injury happens, that we can slide a guy in and it’s not a big loss or it throws everything off when all of a sudden one guy gets a high-ankle sprain and has to miss a couple of weeks. Raekwon has been in the building for about 48 hours now, maybe a little bit less even. He’s a bright kid. He’s kind of everything we thought he was in terms of personality and make up, so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for him to sort of get into it and learn what we’re asking him to do.”

(Do you not think that there’s value to having three inside linebacker types on the field together? Playing together as a unit?) – “What do you mean inside linebacker types?”

(LB Kiko Alonso, LB Lawrence Timmons and LB Raekwon McMillan, they all pretty much have most of their experience at inside linebacker. Can it work?) – “Yes. I mean I think it’s again – I talked to the organization about this too – I mean I don’t … I look at them as linebackers. I mean, honestly, I don’t look at, let’s say Kiko. I don’t look at him and say he’s an inside linebacker or he’s an outside linebacker. For the way we play our defense, we play with three off the ball guys. Again, like week to week, there’s different challenges of ‘the Sam (linebacker) is going to match up with this guy one time’ or ‘the inside linebacker is going to be asked to do this.’ So I don’t see … I know everyone’s on to Raekwon. Earlier it was about Kiko. ‘Where are we going to play Kiko?’ Kiko is a good football player and we’re going to utilize his skillset. The same thing (Head Coach) Adam (Gase)’s always talked about, we’re going to put our players in the best position to be successful and to help us win. So I don’t look at any of them specifically as inside linebackers or outside linebackers. I think they all have diverse skill sets and we’re going to utilize them week to week the best way possible to help us win.”

(You have more left, right linebackers versus strong, weak side?) – “I’ve done both. Again, we haven’t really … Again, Lawrence (Timmons) and even say Raekwon (McMillan), they’re fairly new to the organization and to really get to know what their actual strengths are and being around them. So in the past, I’ve done that. Probably one of the better years when I was in Detroit, we had DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant were outside linebackers and (Stephen) Tulloch was in the middle, and they just played right and left. If the tight end came out to this side and you were the ‘Sam,’ if the tight end came out to that side, you were the ‘Will.’ So I’ve done that. I’ve flipped. I’ve done stuff where you put one guy behind the three-technique all of the time to protect him. There are a lot of ways to deploy your linebackers and utilize them and I’ve literally done all of them in my career. So again, it’s a matter for us of going through the process and finding out, at the end of the day, this is the best way that Raekwon (McMillan), Kiko (Alonso), Lawrence (Timmons), Mike Hull, Neville (Hewitt) – all these guys that have played for us – are going to be successful and what’s going to help us win. And again, that may be different week to week. I don’t know. The challenges are varied every week. That’s a unique position. To me, you guys look at the way the tight ends have gone in this league – and running backs to some extent – there are different types of tight ends. There are different types of running backs. I think your safeties and linebackers have to be sort of the same (and) have the same varied interests or same varied skillsets to be able to matchup with those guys. And tat may be different week to week.”

(Yesterday, DE Charles Harris said he’s just going to follow DE Cameron Wake around.) – “Yes, that’s not bad.”

(It’s one thing to hear instruction and soak everything coming from coaches. How much does it further a player to get maybe that same instruction from a fellow player? And the words and actions coming from him?) – “Yes, you guys have been around Cam (Wake). He’s the ultimate professional. He does everything right, off the field, on the field. So to say someone’s going to try to model his career after what that kid’s done, that’s great. It helps. It obviously helps. Again, part of what (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) has tried to build in the locker room, with the culture that we put in here and the leaders and the guys sort of taking charge, it always helps. They can only listen to me so long; but if I’m trying to make a point and then Cam comes up and makes the same point to Charles (Harris), then that’s obviously very helpful to the coaching staff.”

(Are the differences between you and former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph more subtle or will it be very obvious to the fans both in philosophy, practice, game day, and what is your general defensive philosophy?) – “(It will) probably (be) subtle to everybody. Vance (Joseph) and I worked together. We’re very close. Obviously you guys know we worked together for three years and took a lot from each other, I think. I’ve mentioned other guys in my past with Jim Schwartz and Jeff Fisher and those guys that I’ve worked for. So my philosophy is sort of culled from all of those guys. But Vance and I, when we came here last year, we had been together for the two years prior and we put a lot kind of in together and took some of the stuff I had from my past and stuff he had from his past. So I don’t think there will be a massively noticeable change. I’m trying to streamline some things a little bit to just kind of get good at what we do and let the guys play fast from there. But schematically, it’ll be pretty similar.”

(If you decide that going to week to week with the linebackers and how they line up and so forth is the way to go, what is that going to require the players to be able to do as opposed to ‘I’m here and I’m here for 17 weeks and I know I’m here.’) – “Well, that’s part of the evaluation process. Like I said, I mentioned earlier, if you played right and left for example, that outside linebacker has to learn ‘Sam,’ has to learn ‘Will.’ You don’t know what the offensive formation is going to dictate to you. There is some extra learning to that. Part of our challenge with all of these guys – again, I enjoy it; I think it’s a great asset to have – but part of our challenge is going to be if that’s possible, or what the best situation is. Again, it may not be. We may say the best thing for us is to play this guy here, this guy here and this guy here, and let’s roll and go play, and that’ll be the best. Or we may say, ‘You know what? I don’t like this guy here. I’m going to flip him and put him here.’ And we may determine that next week. We may determine that in September. We may determine that in Week 10. ‘Let’s just roll with this’ You never know what’s going to happen in a season. Obviously again, last year we had to move a lot of parts around. So I think you just have to keep that in your back pocket.”

(You mentioned that tackling was one, I’m sure injuries is another. So aside from that, why was the defense 30th in the NFL last year against the run?) – “Besides from poor tackling and injuries? There’s just a lot of stuff. That’s part of it. I always tell the players this:  There is never … You give up a 30-yard run, let’s say, in a game. It’s never one person or even one sort of spot. A d-lineman doesn’t hold an edge and a linebacker misses fit and then a safety misses a tackle. It’s complex. We played some good running backs last year. We played some good running offenses. Sometimes, schematically, we dictated that we needed to really pay attention to the passing game more. It’s just week to week. It’s varied. No one obviously wants to not have a good run defense. It’s not something you go into a game saying. But it’s hard to really pinpoint. We’re addressing a lot of issues, I think.”

(A couple things on defensive tackle. One is, at what point now is the diminishing return as far as snaps for DT Jordan Phillips where you and former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph last year saw a clear drop off if he went past that snap total. What’s the number you’d like it to get to? And also, No. 3 defensive tackle options. I know DE Terrence Fede has played inside some. Could he be a full time defensive tackle? If you could go over options for No. 3 defensive tackle besides the two rookies you just drafted.) – “I mean it’s the same for all of them. We rarely have a hard pitch count for guys, like a set number like ‘he can’t play more than this,’ unless he’s dealing with an injury or something like that. Jordan (Phillips) had, like everyone’s been saying, he has been inconsistent. He’s had some flashes. He’s a very talented player. We just need to be more consistent from that spot. I’m not sure if there is like a pitch count associated with that or a play number. As for the rest of it, I mean really all of the spots are up for grabs. We obviously are bringing two young guys in (Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor) at the tackle position. We have Nick Williams. We signed some futures guys form last year. So it’s obviously a spot that there is some open competition for and we’re just going to let it play out.”

(And with DE Terrence Fede, can he play more at defensive tackle or is he big enough?) – “Probably not. He’s been a little bit more of an edge player for us. So I think that’s probably where we’ll keep him. (We’ll) let him keep playing out there.”

(How do you know you’re getting improvement from the defensive tackle group considering…) – “Today? I don’t. I don’t know. How do you know? (laughter)”

(How would you judge the defensive tackles’ improvement?) – “Again, that’s just part of the film study. I mean, listen, we’ve got 88 guys on the roster? Eighty nine guys on the roster? That’s what we’ve got right now. This is our group. To me, it’s on us (now). It’s our job as coaches to get that positon better. Again, whether it’s schematically putting them in the right calls and putting them in the right things or coaching those guys up on better technique or motivation to get Jordan Phillips better or whoever it is. (We have to) get these young guys up to speed. I don’t think there’s a measuring stick today of if we got better.  I mean we feel good about the pieces we’ve added to that room, but that’s always an ongoing process.”

(What did you identify on tape in the free agent process that you like in the safeties you signed? S Nate Allen and S T.J McDonald.) – “Yes. They’re both veteran guys. Nate has played for a long time in the league. I have a lot of friends that are out there on the staff that coached out in Oakland with him. We got really good feedback on, again, the type of character he is, the type of person he is. I think he kind of fits a little bit of our mindset of a little bit of a multidimensional safety. T.J. was kind of a bonus for us the way things kind of played out with him. He’s obviously a big – I don’t if you guys have seen him around the building – he’s a big, big man. So he’s a physical player. And again, we felt good about bringing them in. We visited with them, spent some time with them. Who’s the person (they are)? (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Coach) Frank Bush was out on staff with him last year and spoke well of him. So for us to be able to add two kind of veteran safeties that have some game experience was a great asset for us I think moving forward.”

Darren Rizzi – May 6, 2017 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

(The thinking to this point of not bringing in another kicker … Are you leaving open the possibility that you might? Do you think it’s unlikely? Is it a show of confidence in K Andrew Franks?) – “We obviously evaluated a bunch of guys in the offseason. Certainly it’s obvious that we didn’t draft one. The specialist position is a really unique one because you’re always kind of competing against the rest of the field, regardless if we have two kickers or if there are two kickers somewhere else or whatever. We felt very comfortable. I thought Andrew (Franks) started off the year very strong last year. I thought he might have hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the year, but he really finished strong. We really were happy with the way he finished the season. He obviously made two field goals in the playoff game in really, really tough conditions. Heck, their kicker missed a PAT in that game. Obviously (Franks) made the 55-yarder against Buffalo and the game winner. So we’re really, really happy with the way he finished the year and really are just looking (for him) to pick up from where he left off. That position, as we all know, is a miss or make proposition. Your success is going to be evaluated on a daily basis and we know the kickers that are out there throughout the league, the teams that have two guys in, the guys that are on the street. We spent the whole offseason evaluating not only the free agent guys – the street free agents – but also the entire draft class. It was a unique year because three kickers got drafted – three guys we evaluated, as well. We’ll see how it goes, but my confidence in Andrew right now at this point is high based on how he finished last year.”

(Among the draftees, who do you have your eye on for special teams and how does that work as far as you figuring out what units that they can play?) – “I’ve got my eye on everybody, for sure, in the entire rookie class, regardless of where they were drafted. I think that’s one great thing about (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase is he sat in front of the rookies the other day and made it perfectly clear that regardless of where you were drafted or where you’re from – all that stuff, how you got here at this point – doesn’t matter. We’re going to evaluate everybody and see what the best role is for them on the team. The way we evaluate guys, it’s interesting because you look at their college film and there are some guys that haven’t played special teams in a couple of years. There are some guys that haven’t played special teams at all. There are some guys that played right on through. So you have to kind of take each guy on an individual basis and see what their skillset is. With that said, I kind of really like where we are. A special teams coach is always going to be happy with a defensive-heavy draft because usually that’s a pretty good sign for the special teams. But right now, from our first pick on down, I think there are going to be guys that can add value to the special teams in the coverage units (and) in the rush units. I really like the skillset of some of the guys. (Cordrea) Tankersley has played some special teams before. Obviously I have a great relationship with Greg Schiano, the defensive coordinator at Ohio State. I worked for Greg for six years. He speaks the world of (Raekwon) McMillan, just his skillset and what his value can be. We had some conversations about him as well. We’ve been friends for a long time. But there are a bunch of guys in that group – not only the drafted guys, but the undrafted guys – that I really feel at this point can … I’m really excited to get out there. I think there are going to be, looking throughout our roster right now, you look at the 90-man roster and I really like where we are in terms of position battles setting up for training camp and kind of where we are with the ‘bottom of the roster.’ I think there’s going to be some really, really good battles because I was really pleased with a lot of the rookies last year and how they finished the season, and now you look at some of the guys we brought in. I’m very excited. As a special teams coach, I’m really, really excited to get out there and start working with these guys.”

(Your sixth-round pick, DT Vincent Taylor, I believe blocked four kicks last year from the defensive line position. He held up his hand at the press conference yesterday to show everybody how big it was. Did you watch the tape of those blocked kicks and what did it show you? What is he capable of doing on this level?) – “It’s always great to get guys that have done it before because, like I said, there are a lot of times that you have guys that don’t play on those units (in college). So Vincent (Taylor) blocked four kicks – I think it was last year –field goals. He’s a guy that gives tremendous effort on that unit. He’s a guy that we’re certainly going to look at and he’s going to get a ton of work in the preseason doing that. Ironically enough, we also have an undrafted guy, Praise (Martin-Oguike) – I’m not even going to attempt his last name – from Temple. He blocked a bunch of kicks at Temple, as well. We’ve got some guys. The undrafted linebacker, (Chase) Allen, he blocked up some kicks. I think he blocked four kicks in his career. You guys know that’s something we take very, very seriously around here – the field goal block or the punt block stuff. We’ve made a bunch of plays here the last few years in those phases, so to get guys that have done that, not only Vincent (Taylor), but a bunch of guys that have done that … That’s something we look at when we’re evaluating these guys – the drafted guys and the free agents – we’re always looking at their special teams value. That’s always going to be something, especially from a rookie. As you guys know that have covered this team for a while, the more help you can get from that class, usually the better we’re going to be in that phase and the better we are in that phase, this phase, the better we’re going to be as a team. If you guys look at last season and how many games – this special teams play here or there – came down to … You can go through every game – four or five games – there was really a big play that could have swung the game either way and did swing the game either way. Those blocked kicks can be huge, as we all know.”

(I know you guys love WR Jarvis Landry as the punt returner.) – “We? (laughter) I don’t know about the ‘we’ but I (do). No, I’m just kidding. (laughter) I’m totally joking. We do love him. I’m just busting chops.”

(But the reason why everyone else may not be so enthusiastic with WR Jarvis Landry returning punts is because he’s a big part of the offense.) – “And I totally get that. You look at Jarvis as a whole and how valuable he is to the team, certainly. Listen, we’re going to go in this preseason no different than any other with him being a possibility in those phases. Last year he obviously didn’t return any kicks, it was just punts. We did a lot of situational things in terms of … He was back there a lot of times where the percentage of actually getting a return wasn’t very much. So there were a lot of going-in punts that we call them – plus-50 punts, whatever you want to call them – where the percentage of actually getting a return is going to be very low. But for decision-making, fair catches, knowing when and not to field a ball – we had a rookie obviously with Jakeem (Grant) that hadn’t done that a lot. So hopefully this year is a whole new year. We’ll kind of evaluate that again. Jarvis is certainly part of the mix. But he is a very valuable guy. You guys know every time this comes up, I always use the Antonio Brown comparison. You look at the playoff game and Antonio Brown is back there against us fielding punts. It’s the same type of situation. Some would argue that he’s the best receiver in the league. It all depends on … It’s an individual situation. He’s going to be back there. He’s definitely part of the equation again. Listen, as a special teams coach, I love having (Landry). He wants to do it. He loves doing it. He’s passionate about it and he’s a great weapon to have.”

(Since the season ended, I’m trying to think if there was a player who was added via free agency or the draft who has punt or kickoff return experience.) – “Return experience, there are some of the rookies that have had some experience along the way. No extensive … there are no guys that have extensive (experience); but there are guys that have done it. But there’s nobody that has an extensive, long history.”

(How will you know if WR Jakeem Grant, who is trying hard to improve – I know he was out in Texas with P Matt Darr – how and when will you know if he’s better at it now?) – “With the way the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) is now with the rules, I haven’t worked with Jakeem since the season has been over. So I know all of the stuff that you know about how hard he has worked in the offseason. Here’s a guy that flew his punter down to Texas to make sure he got some extra work in. That’s pretty impressive, so that tells you how serious he is about it. Listen, usually, as a coach, you look for the biggest improvement from a player from year one to two in any phase, in anything that they’re doing – any position player, anybody. So I’m looking for a major improvement – we all are – in that phase. He knows the corrections he has to make. It’s great that he’s recognized that and he’s working on it. I’ll see when we get out there for the OTAs – for OTA No. 1 – really where he is and how much he has improved, and we’ll take it from there. He’s obviously … The one thing you can’t deny is what he did with the ball in his hands when he did have the ball. We just have to make sure his ball security is a lot better, his decision making is better. Those are things that certainly have to improve. He knows that; we know that. But you can’t deny when he had in the ball in his hands, what he did. I think people forget that he returned another one for a touchdown that got called back for a questionable penalty. He actually had – in the Seattle game – another long return that got called back for a penalty. So his average – his numbers – were a little bit skewed. But I’m really, really proud of him and really happy about his work ethic here in this offseason, because you can tell that he’s taking this thing seriously.”

(This year you brought in a long snapper, which I can’t recall the last time you did that. What was the thinking behind that?) – “Well, John (Denney) is older than me. (laughter) Not quite. He has as many kids though. (laughter) Combination-wise, I think we have 10 kids together. That’s a little nutty. So we’re always talking kid stories. But look, John is getting up there in age. We did bring one in a little bit last year for training camp. We had a second guy. So the thought process is No. 1: The guy that we brought in, Winston Chapman, is a guy we evaluated last year, and were looking to bring into camp last season; but he had an ACL injury in his senior year at Mississippi State. We really liked his skillset. So he’s been out for a year and now he’s fully healthy. So No. 1, he’s a very solid snapper. That’s No. 1. No. 2: Certainly with where John is in his career, I still feel very strongly about him. The one thing about John – I joke around about his age all the time – he’s in tremendous physical condition for a guy at his age. I don’t know if there’s a guy that has a better work ethic than John. He’s a guy, I think he’s probably in the building more than I was in the offseason. He’s always here, always working on his body, always working on his skill. The thought process there is No. 1: We felt like we got a really solid snapper for competition; and No. 2: We just thought it would be a good deal with where John is in his career.”

(From a coaching perspective, how valuable was that postseason experience to you and how motivating was it?) – “Yes, extremely motivating for me, individually. I thought it’s a great deal to get a taste of the postseason. Obviously you guys know I’m going on my ninth season here, and it was great – just a phenomenal experience. I felt like it’s really going to … You look at the roster – and I was showing the rookies in our first meeting – at how many returning players we have back, and how many young players we have back. The point to them was, especially the undrafted guys and those guys, (is) you have to really battle your butt off here because these guys aren’t going to be looking to give up their roster spot. You go back and look at Pittsburgh and who we took the field with in that game and how many young players we have out there, it’s a great thing because now coming back, those guys all have a taste. We had a young team on the field that day and I think it’s a valuable experience for the coaches and the players.”

(Do you realize that you have now been part of three coaching staffs and you’re the second most powerful coach here?) – “Powerful is a strong word (laughter). Powerful, I don’t know about that. Yes, it’s been a very, very unique ride. If you told me that when I first got here that I would be here going into my ninth season, I probably wouldn’t have taken that bet; but it’s been phenomenal. I love this organization. I think I said the same thing last year, I’m just as excited now as I’ve ever been to be a part of the Miami Dolphins. If you count the interim coaches, by the way, it’s five. But we won’t go there. (laughter) Listen, I really love where we are right now. I think from the top down, this organization has really come a really long way in the time that I’ve been here. I think starting with (Owner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross, he’s just … I think it really goes unnoticed sometimes about how much he does for our organization. I was telling the rookies yesterday how many resources we have and how much resources he puts into this organization. Really, there’s nothing that they don’t have at their disposal when you look at everything we have from sports science, to nutrition, to the off the field stuff. That really goes back to Mr. Ross and his commitment to this organization. I love where we are with (Head Coach Adam) Gase. We have a great relationship and I really like the direction of this organization right now. I’m really, really excited.”

(What’s the key to survival?) – “For me? You know what, all kidding aside – you guys know I like to joke around – I’m very, very passionate about what I do. I think that probably comes out sometimes. I really enjoy what I do. I’m very, very passionate about this game. I’m very passionate about this organization. I think that is probably seen by most. I’d like to think that I have a good work ethic, and sometimes we’re good at what we do and sometimes we’re not. I think that sometimes we’re better than most. We’re better the majority of the time than we are on the flip side. I just think that I put my head down, I grind, I work and get these guys ready to play. I think that’s probably, maybe, been seen by my bosses.”

(You’ve mentioned a lot of the guys you brought in don’t have a lot of return experience. WR Malcolm Lewis had some and WR Drew Morgan returned a few last year. Do you expect, fully expect, WR Jakeem Grant will be your returner next season?) – “I’m not going to say that. It would be a disservice to everybody. I think I probably say the same company line every year, the 90 guys we bring in, everyone is going to get an opportunity. Jakeem certainly has the experience behind him from last year. I’m looking to get him a lot more. I’m not going to sit here and say that today … If we went out and played a game today, he would be; but let’s see where we are. We don’t play for a long time. Let’s see where some of these guys are. I’m excited – just like I mentioned earlier – I’m excited because I know Jakeem has worked at it so much. He was disappointed how last year went. Jakeem was disappointed. He did not believe in his mind that, that was really the Jakeem Grant that he wants everybody to see. He’s determined to make a major jump in his game. I’m excited to kind of get him out there. I’m excited to see him.”

(Out of left field, do you know off the top of your head how many teams has a holder that is a backup quarterback like they used to do back in the day and when you use the punter, does that decrease the success of a successful fake?) – “I like that question. I don’t think it’s out of left field at all. It’s a great special teams questions. There’s not … It’s very, very uncommon these days for the quarterback to hold. Now there have been some teams here in the last couple of years … The Saints did it for years because their punter wasn’t a great holder. But he’s become their holder, kind of over the years. So they had a bunch of different guys. There are some other teams that had some holding problems. Last year, the Chargers had a problem. They had a rookie punter, so they brought their quarterback in. If you look at it, the majority of the teams are going to use the punter. Why? It’s because all the time is spent – that the specialist spend together. Your quarterbacks are obviously going to be working on other things, so to have your punter as a holder is certainly a good thing. Is it a good thing to have a punter that is a good athlete – I think that’s where you were going – that can throw and run and all of that? Absolutely. When you do play a team that has a quarterback in as a holder, you’re certainly going to alert your block team, your defense and all of that, because there’s a possibility of some other fake stuff that comes up. But on occasion there are punters you know that aren’t going to be great fake threats, if you will, as holders. I’m going to give a little shout out to our punters because we brought a second punter (Matt Haack) in here as well and Matt Darr was a … I don’t know if everybody knows this but Matt Darr won the state championship in the shotput in California, and the discus (throw). So he’s a guy that’s actually an athlete. And the new guy we brought in, Matt Haack, is really a guy that I was impressed with. He was a three-sport athlete (and) was an all-state wide receiver in Iowa. He’s a lefty punter, which is also a unique thing as well. He really had some impressive showcases when I got the chance to watch him at his different events, so I’m excited to get him out there, as well.”

(A left-footed punter puts different spin on it right?) – “Yes, and usually, believe it or not, we actually have a JUGS machine that spins the ball both ways. So we have a JUGS machine that spins the ball with a right-footed punt and you can flip it and make it a left. So if we’re playing the Patriots, for example, they have a left footed punter. All week we’re working on the different rotation. Now we have two live – The Two Live Crew. (laughter) We’ve got a right footer and left footer in camp, which is great for our returners. Which is also great because now you’re not catching it off the machine, you’re catching it off a live foot, which obviously is a little more realistic. But (I’m) looking forward to it.”

Isaiah Ford – May 6, 2017 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Wide Receiver Isaiah Ford

(What’s been the most eye-opening thing right now? I know you’ve only been here for 48 hours or whatever but your first impressions and the most eye opening thing?) – “I’ve been really excited with the whole process. Really, this whole thing is more so an orientation for us. So it’s kind of just coming in and learning how they operate here and just fitting in and being open to everything.”

(What areas do you feel you can help this team?) – “Whatever the coaching staff decides that they want me to play. I’m coming in here to compete and work as hard as I can, and try to help this team win games any way that I can.”

(What is the best advice that you’ve gotten so far from other receivers or other veterans on the team, if you’ve had the chance to speak with them?) – “I actually haven’t gotten a chance to speak with them yet.”

(What do you consider to be your strengths and what do you think you need to work on the most?) – “I think that one of the strengths of my game is my route running. That’s something that I take a lot of pride in, paying attention to the little details, especially in this game. Getting open is a gift. If that’s something that you can do, then you can play for a long time. That and just making a play. When the plays present themselves, I’ve always been kind of dependable and reliable in that sense.”

(What do you think of the parts of the offense that you’ve seen so far? Is it anywhere close to what was being run at Virginia Tech?) – “My freshman and sophomore year, we had more of a pro-style system. So it’s kind of closer to the system we ran my freshman and sophomore year; but not close to the one we ran last year, no.”

(What were your initial impressions of Head Coach Adam Gase and his personality and his style?) – “I liked him. I liked it a lot. When the first meeting that we had, he came in and he told us it doesn’t matter if you were drafted first round, seventh round or undrafted, we’re going to play the best players. And if you do your job, if you’re accountable and we can rely on you, then you’ll play.”

(Do you have any special teams experience?) – “I don’t. In high school, I returned punts. In college, my freshman year, I was going to return punts but we had a pretty good returner as well. So I always backed up the punt returners. I never got anything in college, but I’ve always been open to it.”

(Was there any thought in your mind that at that point in the draft where you went that you were thinking ‘Maybe I should be undrafted and make my own decisions as to where I go?’) – “No, not at all. To be drafted, no matter when you were drafted, it’s a blessing. That’s something that every little kid dreams of, having that moment when your phone rings. To think about going undrafted – or saying no to a phone call or anything like that – never came into my mind because I always felt like all I needed was an opportunity to get my foot in the door, and then I knew I was going to work my tail off.”

(How would you describe your game? Is it comparable to any of the current players, current receivers that we have on the Dolphins roster?) – “I don’t want to compare myself to anyone. I think I have a unique game in my own. I’ve always tried to implement and pick parts of things that I like in other people’s game. But I think I have my own game, I guess.”

(One of our anchors is a Hokie so he watched every down. He says you were a steal in the seventh round. He expects big things from you. What do you expect?) – “I expect to come in, to compete and to work as hard as I can. My work ethic is something that I’ve always taken a lot of pride in because I think that’s something that can’t be graded, like a 40-yard dash or a vertical, something like that. You can’t judge work ethic. You can’t judge heart, as well. So those are the two things I pride myself in and that’s what I want to give this organization.”

(Have you played against CB Cordrea Tankersley?) – “I did actually. We played them. He was to the field the majority of the game and in college, I played on the boundary the majority of the game. But I went against him a couple of plays.”

(How did it go? Do you remember anything significant about that?) – “Nothing significant. I had a couple catches. He had a pass deflection as well, so I remember that.”

Cordrea Tankersley – May 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley

(We know it’s very early in the process, but how has your experience with the Dolphins and Head Coach Adam Gase been so far?) – “I’m enjoying it. We just got here, so we’re still learning a lot of things; but I’m just loving this atmosphere, loving this facility. I’m just happy to be here finally.”

(How do you think you would best be utilized with the Dolphins? Is it mostly man-to-man? Things like that? What would play best to your abilities?) – “Whatever the coaches ask. Like I said, coming from Clemson, I played a lot of man, but whatever the coaches want me to do, that’s what I’m willing to do. Obviously, we probably do a lot of different things and stuff, but I’m willing to adjust to.”

(What jersey number did you get?) – “I have No. 30 right now.”

(What number do you like?) – “I want something in the 20s, but if I have to take 30, that’s what it is. (laughter)”

(What do you feel like your strengths are? What do you think you bring to the table and what do you want to improve on?) – “Of course, I consider myself as a man corner, a hard-nosed corner; but I think I can adjust well to playing off in zone and stuff like that. Of course, there is a lot of technique-stuff I would love to clean up. That’s why I’m here. We’ve got the coaches that can help me improve on that.”

(Did you get a chance to meet CB Byron Maxwell yet or talk to him at all?) – “I talked to Byron my first day here – yesterday. We talked for a little bit. He’s just happy for me to get here. (I am) ready to learn after him and ready to compete with those guys.”

(Did he thank you for the 2017 Clemson College Football Playoff National Championship?) – “Of course! (laughter) He asked did I bring the ring. When I came on my top 30 (visit), he saw it. He acted like he had never seen it before when I got here yesterday. (laughter)”

(What was it about your experience at Clemson – making two championship games, winning one – that taught you about the process of being a winner and what it takes to win a championship?) – “(I think) hard work (and) just always being prepared, not taking (any) game for granted (and) going out and competing every week. I think we found each other after we lost that game against Pittsburgh and everybody was wondering how we were going to respond that next week. I think it’s a lot (about) how our team responded every week in and out. We came and competed and won a national championship.”

(What have been your first impressions of Head Coach Adam Gase?) – “I love Coach Gase. (He has) a lot of energy. He wants the best for his players, obviously, from watching him and being around him. Obviously he’s a young coach, but he brings a lot of energy to the staff.”

Vincent Taylor – May 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, May 5, 2017

Defensive Tackle Vincent Taylor

(What do you hope to accomplish during these three days?) – “Really, just to come in here (and) get familiar with the new system. Last night, I was going over the playbook and talking with my parents, letting them know that it’s new. It’s new, but once I get familiar with everything, I think I’ll be pretty comfortable with it.”

(The experience of walking into an NFL facility. Can you talk about that and what it meant to you? Was it a lot better than walking into Oklahoma State the first time?) – “This level of play is way different from college. Me coming from high school to college, I was first amazed walking into a college locker room than I was high school. And that’s kind of how it is right now walking into an NFL locker room rather than walking into a college locker room. It’s different; it’s strictly business. I’m just looking forward to coming in here and learning.”

(Your experiences with Head Coach Adam Gase so far – what sticks out about him to you?) – “Just the way he is as a coach. Me being here for two days, he’s very straightforward with us. I like the two rules that he has. It’s pretty simple, an easy thing to follow. Just do the right thing and be on time, and I think you’ll be pretty fine.”

(Tell me about going to San Antonio. You and I went to the same high school. I went like 40 years earlier than you. [laughter] I lived in Valley Ford. My parents are still there.) – “Do you still know the school song?” (laughter) I don’t really want to sing it, but I know it.”

(Tell me about moving after Hurricane Katrina and being uprooted. I know a whole bunch of people did. Was it a traumatic experience? Tell me about that.) – “It was a nightmare for me being a 10-year old boy seeing dead bodies, seeing everything that I had, get lost. At (that) time, me and my family, we’d just bought new furniture. My mom worked at the DoubleTree Hotel, so me, my dad and my brother, we always heard of a hurricane coming to New Orleans, but we never took it seriously. When Katrina came, we thought we’d ride it out, and we wound up getting a bad end of it. Being stuck in New Orleans without no food and power and now I’m here today, so it’s just a blessing every day I wake up and go to sleep and pray and thank God for where I’m at today, because me going through all that at a young age, it was hard for me.”

(You seem to have vivid memories of it even though you were 10 years old, correct?) – “Right.”

(Do you still think about that to this day and that’s why you’re so grateful?) – “I’m very grateful. One thing most people don’t know (is) I got the Louisiana map tatted on me with the date that Hurricane Katrina hit. It’s something that’s always going to be with me every day.”

(I spoke to Oklahoma State Defensive Line Coach Joe Bob Clements. I don’t know anybody else named Joe Bob. He said you have really strong hands. Tell me about that. How big are they? How do you use them? What do you try to do with your hands?) – “At the Combine, they measured my hands at 10½ (inches). (I) blocked five field goals (and) my hands played a huge part in that. I think my hands are pretty big. I’m coming in here and looking forward to finding ways to get them stronger.”

(Five blocked field goals?) – “Yes, sir.”

(Did you jump or did you just put your hand up?) – “Both. Some of them … Looking at film, (on) one of them I jumped and two of them I was able to get my hand on them. So, it turned out for the best.”

(Do you know anyone who has bigger hands?) – “I’m pretty sure me. I haven’t met (Ndamukong) Suh yet, but I’m pretty sure his hands would be probably bigger than mine (laughter).”

(Both you and DT Davon Godchaux talked about wanting to pattern yourselves in games after DT Ndamukong Suh. Have you gotten to talk about play like Suh, but you’re not Suh yet?) – “I haven’t. One thing I can say is I could never try to be like him. I can only be the best Vincent Taylor that I can be. But I’ll try to get some things from him and learn from him to try to make my game better.”

(When was DT Ndamukong Suh first on your radar?) – “I would probably say really when he was at Nebraska. When I was transferring from high school into the college level, looking at how he was training and how he went back to Nebraska for his senior year and what he was doing to get ready for the Combine, that’s when I went on YouTube and looked him up, and that’s when he became one of my favorite players.”

(You mentioned the blocked field goals. What’s your vertical? What’s that like?) – “At the Combine, they got me for 28½ (inches), so that’s my vertical.”

(Did they talk about playing you at receiver at all?) – “I’m hoping they can play me anywhere. Really, I’m just trying to find a way to contribute to the team any way I can.”

(DE Charles Harris talked earlier about how he’s going to try to be like a little brother around DE Cam Wake and shadow him around. Are you looking at trying to do that with DT Ndamukong Suh – be a sponge and learn what you can?) – “I am. Like I mentioned, I’m looking forward to trying to take some things from his game to add to my game. Not just from Suh, but also from Jordan (Phillips). Him coming from the Big 12, I’m familiar with who he is. I’m looking to learn from both of those guys.”

(Did you play some offense in high school?) – “In high school my freshman year, on freshman team you have to play both sides of the ball. So, I did play a little offense.”

(What did you play?) – “Offensive tackle. That’s it.”

Raekwon McMillan – May 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, May 5, 2017

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan

(Good thing you didn’t get drafted by a team with blue.) – “No, I wouldn’t have been wearing much of it. (laughter) No, I’m just playing.”

(Now that you’ve had a little time, can you go back to when you were picked? When we were on the phone with you, it was very emotional. Can you set that scene for us a little bit?) – “Yes, I was actually in my house, getting madder and madder about each pick that went by. As a competitor, you think you’re the best. So in my mind, I’m the best linebacker in the nation, coming out of college, in my mind. I was just in my room. My family was in the living room area in my apartment and I was in my room by myself just trying not to pay attention to the draft and just waiting on my phone and see what happens. I actually missed the first call by the Dolphins and my heart dropped because I thought I had just missed my chance to get drafted. (laughter) But they called me right back and it was a tremendous blessing. My mom walked into the room while I was getting drafted. Like you said, I was very emotional because I’ve been playing football all my life and all of my dreams came true, or are coming true. I have the opportunity to fulfill the rest of my dreams out in the NFL with the Dolphins.”

(How did you possibly miss the call that you’ve been waiting on for two days?) – “I was texting my little brother Richard LeCounte III, who plays for the University of Georgia. He had texted me prior and said, No. 54 to the Dolphins. He had texted me about two hours prior and predicted that I would go No. 54 to the Dolphins. And I was texting him like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.’ I was mid-text and then the call popped up on my phone and I hit the red button on accident. (laughter)”

(So you didn’t miss the call, you hung up on them?) – “Yes, I kind of hung up on them. (laughter)”

(When your brother texted you No. 54 to the Dolphins, was that well received by you or were you angry that he was saying that late?) – “Yes, because it was Thursday when he was saying No. 54 to the Dolphins. I was like ‘Aw man, hopefully it is a little bit higher than that,’ But it would be a blessing if I got chosen by the Dolphins.”

(This team was No. 30 in the league last year in run defense. Can you talk about what you bring to the table in that area?) – “Yes, like everyone around here is talking about, wherever coach needs me to play, I’ll go out there at the linebacker position and do my job. They brought in some vets, (Lawrence) Timmons from the Steelers, Kiko (Alonso) and some of the other guys here. It’s a team effort. It’s not just one guy going out there and trying to make a big difference. It’s us all out there playing together and putting up a team effort to stop the run.”

(You talked about how mad you were getting as the picks kept going by. How much of a chip are you coming in with to prove that you should have gone higher?) – “Yes. Every day I think about why I should’ve been the No. 1 linebacker taken in the draft. I can’t do much talking about it. It’s about me going out on the field and showing you all what’s up.”

(Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer talks about how you are one of the favorite players he has ever coached. Have you heard that before, and what did you do at Ohio State, in your opinion, to give him that impression?) – “I was kind of a team leader out there. My freshman year, I kind of sat back a little bit because it wasn’t my place, it wasn’t my time. But my sophomore year, going into my sophomore year, I wasn’t a team captain but I was the leader of the defense. My junior year, I was a captain of the program. Everything that Ohio State stands for, you can see through me. As I walked around campus on and off the field, I presented myself to show good representation for The Ohio State University.”

(DE Charles Harris said that he’s going to pretty much follow DE Cam Wake everywhere that he goes. That’s the guy he’s going to try to emulate. Is there anyone on this team that you’re going to look at and say ‘I’m going to watch what that guy does?’) – “Not any one player, but there are guys that I’ll deal with more than others. I’ll have to deal with the linebackers more than others. I’m not saying anybody in particular because I can learn from everybody. I can learn from somebody who came in with me. Sometimes you have to sit back and watch to learn. That’s what I’m doing right now, sitting back and observing and finding my position to where I can help this organization out.”

(You’re regarded as a very good tackler. What makes you so effective, so efficient?)  – “It’s something that we practiced a lot at Ohio State. We practiced a different tackling style – the eyes through the thigh, wrap and roll, sweep the ankles tackle technique. We went over it every day in practice. Even though we weren’t allowed to have a bunch of contact, we always finished in football position, in tackling position. It helped us and it showed out there on the field, rarely missing tackles.”

(Tackling, is that more technique or more desire?) – “I’d say it’s a little bit of both. First, you have to get there. If you don’t have any desire or effort to get there, then you’re not going to make any tackles. So yes, you have to have some desire to get to the football, see ball, get ball, have some instincts. Then when you get there, you have to finish.”

(Is it true or is it an internet rumor that you were named after Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan?) – “No, that’s true. That’s true.”

(Did you ever get a back story on that, on why?) – “My mom just liked the name, I guess. He’s tweeted me. We’ve tweeted back and forth every now and then. He DM’d (direct messaged) me when I declared for the draft. That’s as far as the relationship goes.”

(Your early impressions of Head Coach Adam Gase?) – “Charismatic. Real cool. (He) really cares about this organization. (He’s) passionate about winning and he’s going to lead this organization in the right direction.”

Davon Godchaux – May 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Friday, May 5, 2017

Defensive Tackle Davon Godchaux

(What would be your ideal role here with the Dolphins that would play to your skills? Run stopper or three-down player? What do you think?) – “Basically, just kind of like whatever position they want me to play. Whatever role they want me to play, I’m going to play it. I’m going to play it to the best of my abilities.”

(What are your best assets as a football player?) – “I feel like a run stopper and a pass rusher. I could do both. Like I said, whatever role they need me to play, I’m willing to play whatever to contribute to the team.”

(What have been your first impressions of Head Coach Adam Gase and his personality, his style?) – “Very cool, very laid back. (He doesn’t) have too many rules but the rules that he does have, he expects you to abide by them. So that’s what I like about Coach Gase.”

(Did you ever go against T Laremy Tunsil in college?) – “Not really go against him but we played against him. (It was) more like a defensive end was going against him. I was playing kind of a three-technique against them, but he’s a very athletic, strong guy.”

(Have you interacted with any of the veterans here at all by phone or by running into them? Have you gotten any kind of sense from them about what this is like?) – “Yes, I talked to Ndamukong Suh after the draft. I talked to Ryan Tannehill. Somebody told me that Jarvis Landry was looking for me, but I talked to Suh and Tannehill after the draft.”

(What did DT Ndamukong Suh convey to you?) – “Basically just be ready to come in, play, do your role and learn – shut your mouth up and learn.”

(What about C/G Anthony Steen? Did you get the best of him when it was Alabama-LSU?) – “No comment on that one. (laughter)”

(So it’s obvious that DT Ndamukong Suh would reach out to you but the quarterback of the team, was that a little surprising to you?) – “No, because that’s his job. He’s a leader. He’s a leader. He leads all of the guys. Everybody (follows) after the quarterback, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”

(Did DT Ndamukong Suh text you or call you?) – “He texted me and told me to call him and I gave him a phone call. We chatted on the phone for a little bit.”

(Was it friendly?) – “Yes, it was very friendly. I was surprised. (laughter)”

(LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda, I texted with him and he said that you bought into the style of play as it relates to run technique and fundamentals. Can you tell me about how you evolved as a player during your college career?) – “First of all, Coach Dave Aranda is a great guy. He’s probably the best defensive coordinator I played with in college football, just his scheme and everything he did. A lot of people didn’t see all of the stuff that I did but I freed up Duke Riley and Kendall Beckwith a lot to make a lot of plays with their abilities, just the run scheme, getting off the ball (and) being a pass rusher in a 3-4 defense. It was a lot of reading and then attacking, but it was a 3-4 defense in Coach Aranda’s defense. I did a lot of great things.”

(Is it unusual coming here and not getting on the field, just being in a classroom….) – “That’s the job now. (We’re) just learning the playbook and getting around the coaches, learning the strength and conditioning, just learning all of that. It’s your job now. Either do it or go home.”

(Have you thought about or have you and DT Vincent Taylor talked about … It’s a unique opportunity you have here. You’re both third-day picks and yet you’re going to a team that doesn’t have a ton of defensive tackle depth. Have you and Vincent talked about that? Have you thought about it? How exciting is that?) – “I haven’t thought about it but everybody’s going to compete. I’m here to compete with everybody, just to play with my teammates and get the best of out of each and every one.”

(Leading up to your interactions with the Dolphins before the draft, you had an off-field incident last year. How thoroughly or how deep did they go with you trying to investigate that?) – “I’m pretty sure everybody went deep because you’re investing millions of dollars into a player. So I’m pretty sure everybody went deep and had to find out the details; but that’s the past. I’m past that situation. I’m just ready to move on and be a Miami Dolphin.”

(Have you signed yet?) – “No, sir.”

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