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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.”

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