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Dowell Loggains – May 12, 2018 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains

(Opening Statement) – “I’m excited to be here. Obviously I feel good about being in the situation I am with (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase and the offensive staff, with what we got going. I’m really excited to get rookies in here and be around these guys. We don’t do a whole lot on the field, but getting them set up for next week when they start entering practice with the vets and you get to see how bright these guys are and how excited they are about football. We’re early in the offseason program. We’ll go into the Week 5 starting next week. It’s been really good to get these guys out here and see guys like Ryan Tannehill and Kenny Stills lead. The throwing sessions … You don’t get to do a whole lot. We’ve only got to get on the field two or three times. It’s been impressive to watch Ryan really throw the football and the command he has of the offense. The 2016 season, he had such a good year. For me, the first thing I did was turn on the OTAs and the training camp right before he got hurt and got to watch how much improvement and how much jump he had taken in Year 2, and it was unfortunate that he got hurt because obviously the offense was affected by it. I’m really excited about some of the additions we’ve made to the roster and how we’re going to use these guys. We’re really early in the process of trying to figure out how we’re going to use each one of these guys, and find out their strengths and weaknesses and go through that process. So any questions you have, I’m open.”

(Have you fixed everything yet?) – “We’re in the process of it. (laughter)”

(What are the specific areas that you think you could most help Head Coach Adam Gase on game day and leading up to game day?) – “Just the process of game day and getting through game day and going through the game-planning process. We’re really familiar with each other. And with the staff. Adam and I have worked together, (Offensive Line Coach Jeremiah) Washburn and I have worked together. We brought in a great addition at running back coach with Eric (Studesville). (Quarterbacks Coach) Bo Hardegree and I have worked together. (I just want to) help clean up and get to game day with some of those things and obviously helping the quarterbacks room as much as I can.”

(How important is it that you have Head Coach Adam Gase’s total trust? Because he has told us that you have that? How important is that in this ongoing relationship?) – “I think it’s really important for everyone that walks in this building. Really, you live by the philosophy of I walk in and give advice when asked and outside of that, I’m fulfilling the vision of the head coach and I hope that everyone on our staff and everyone in our building is doing that.”

(When you were talking about QB Ryan Tannehill, can you teach us a little bit about what you saw? You said you were sitting there watching OTA tapes and comparing that against game tapes from the previous season.) – “Yes. You guys know in Year 2, a lot of players take huge jumps, especially in the same offense. Ryan’s had to go through a lot of different systems. He’s a really intelligent guy. He works his tail off. The one thing that I didn’t know about Ryan until I got here is how much he loves football. He throws the ball really well. I was excited to see that. You see the tape and you’re like, ‘Hey, this guy can sling it around a little bit.’ He’s done a really good job of overcoming that stuff. You just see the growth in the offense from Year 1 to Year 2, especially in OTAs and training camp, that second year going into it before he got hurt … Just his command at the line of scrimmage and his ability to fulfill (Head Coach) Adam (Gase’s) vision with the offense and getting in and out of good and bad plays. You start taking command because you have confidence. The first year, you’re learning the system. The second year you’re going in and you’re making the ‘Mike’ (middle linebacker) points and you’re controlling the line of scrimmage and checking and signaling and doing all of those things. Some of those things in the offense in 2017 didn’t get going that way we would have liked to get going that way because when you lose your quarterback, you lose a huge part of your offense.”

(The past few years has not been the offense that Head Coach Adam Gase wants to run. If things were working this year, what does it look like? What is this offense supposed to do?) – “We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what each guys does well. I think that’s when you go back and you look at Chicago and you look at Denver, the one thing that I’ve always been impressed about with Adam is his ability to get guys in position to be successful and by doing what they do well. He takes a lot of pride at that and he works really hard at that and  hespends a lot of time at night studying not just the game, but studying individual players to know that Albert Wilson does this well, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, they all do … This is their skillset and then building around number one the quarterback, number two the offensive line and then the skill guys and getting those guys in position. Obviously we want to run an up-tempo, no-huddle offense.  That’s what Adam has done in the past and that’s where our vision is and we’re trying to get going that way.”

(Personnel wise, they ran a lot of 11 at times. Do you see that continuing? Obviously you have the personnel to go four-wide if you want?) – “Yes, we do. We’re deep at wide receiver. It goes back to the statement of we want to do whatever our guys are good at. Obviously, going into it, before the draft, I was like, ‘We’re going to be an 11 team. We’re going to be a 10 personnel team. We have really good wide receivers, we’ve got depth and great competition.’ Now, all of a sudden you come out of the draft, or as the draft is going on and we’re a best-available-team but all of a sudden a position need … We were able to take two guys that happen to meet up with a position need and how the board fell. Now that gives us the flexibility to be in 13 personnel and 22 personnel and 12 personnel and do those things that creates multiple personnel groupings that makes it hard to defend you.”

(When you talk about up-tempo, no-huddle, they’ve tried that here before and for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked. Are there two or three keys as far as recognition or quarterback being able to communicate to the other players or the receiver’s knowledge?) – “It’s really the quarterback and the play caller getting on the same page that way, and then the quarterback being able to communicate everything at a very fast pace to the wide receivers, the tight ends, the running backs and the offensive line.”

(Can you talk about what this opportunity means to you personally?) – “I’m just excited to be here. When you walk into the building, I didn’t really know much about the Dolphins outside of Dan Marino and the history they had and competing against them a couple of times. But when you walk into the building, (General Manager) Chris Grier, (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Mike Tannenbaum and (Head Coach) Adam Gase, the support staff that they have from the equipment room to the video guys, the video room, everything is top notch. Everything they do, you can see with (Owner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross, it starts there. He wants to win. And you feel that when you walk into the building. Then you get to come and work with a guy that you’ve worked with and have a common belief with. I believe in his philosophy and how he’s trying to do things. That creates a connection automatically when you believe in something and you can coach it and everything you do, you believe in what you coach. I think that’s a big part of why things are good fits for some people and some people it’s not, because I believe in what we’re doing here.”

(You’re very familiar with G Josh Sitton. What kind of difference can he make with on the offensive line?) – “He’s a really good player. You guys will get to meet him. He’s really surly. He speaks his mind. You guys will have a lot of fun with him. He’s really intelligent. You drop a really smart player into that room, with a young room and it’s a talented group of starters, and all of a sudden guys like Ja’Wuan (James) and Laremy (Tunsil) can really lean on him and his veteran experiences. He’s bright. He’s really, really intelligent. Put him with Daniel Kilgore and the interior offensive line has gotten a lot better. You guys know this. I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t, but being able to protect from the inside out, that’s something (Had Coach Adam) Gase really wanted to do and get better at, and give Ryan (Tannehill) the ability to climb the pocket and do those things. That’s what Josh does really well. He’s really good at outside zone, he’s a really good pass protector and just the intelligence. He’s not a vocal leader. He’s a lead-by-example guy and there’s certain things, like the way he finishes in drills and stuff. We’re early in the process, two weeks in, but you start to see some of these younger guys watch him. He doesn’t talk a lot but they start to mimic what he does and how he finishes. Those are the type of leaders (we want), like Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. What they’ve really brought … They’re not vocal guys. You don’t hear them a lot, but all of a sudden you see Drew Morgan trying to copy something Danny did or DeVante (Parker) watching something Albert did or what Danny did. I think he’s a lead-by-example guy that’s really intelligent and really good at those two things we mentioned.”

(When you watched tape on some of the skill players that you have, that you brought back and some of the free agents. Was there anybody that just struck you immediately like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they have this guy. I can do some things with this?’) – “All of them. (DeVante) Parker, (Kenny) Stills, Jakeem (Grant). Those guys … When I walked in, that was the thing … I probably could have answered better, but the thing that got me exited was the skill guys. All of a sudden you’ve got two tackles and all of a sudden you’ve got these skill guys that can run. They all have different traits and different qualities. I think they’re a fast group that, as their knowledge of the offense grows, and going back to no huddle, they’ll play faster. Knowledge builds confidence, confidence allows you to play fast, but the thing that showed up was speed.”

(You mentioned the willingness or wanting to go no huddle. How important is position flexibility, guys who can do multiple things?) – “(It’s) huge. Every spot on the offense, defense is very important. Running the offense that we run, you have to be intelligent. You have to be able to play multiple positons. Sometimes we’re flipping the receivers from left to right and sometimes they’re moving with formation. All of a sudden when a concept is called, DeVante (Parker) has to know, ‘Hey, sometimes I’m going to be the Z and (Kenny) Stills is going to be the X.’ You’ve got Jakeem (Grant) and Albert (Wilson) and all of these other guys that are competing for spots. You have to be able to move around. That’s when you throw these two new tight ends into the group with a group we had and all of a sudden you have position flexibility to do a lot of different things and do things that are different and appear different to the defense, but they’re the same concepts to us. We’re just moving pieces around.”

(Obviously, QB Ryan Tannehill’s knee was the storyline of the season last year. When you watch the OTAs, did you watch how he moved and have you compared to just the casual throwing out here and is there something you could share with us about how the knee looks?) – “I didn’t pay too much to that. Unfortunately I’m a coach and not a doctor. I trust our medical staff here, they’ll tell us everything we need to know about that with (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase. We’re in the process of putting together a good plan for him coming up with OTAs. What I’ve been able to see from him is that he’s a good thrower that can make all of the throws. He can attack you 53 1/3 (yards across the field) and push the ball down the field the way we need him to do. There’s not a throw he can’t make and we’re just in the process of cleaning up the communication things. There’s some fundamental stuff that we’re working hard on. As far as throwing, I haven’t seen any limitations in anything.”

(You said you’re already completely sold on him?) – “On Ryan Tannehill? Absolutely, absolutely. I’m really fired up to work with him.”

(The two tight ends you drafted. What jumped out on tape to you about them? And considering that you guys want to run an up-tempo style and no-huddle, will they be able to make an immediate impact?) – “I hope so. Any time you draft people, you expect them to come in and make an impact early on. The one thing that stuck out obviously with Mike (Gesicki) was his athleticism and his ability to be flexed out and do things that (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) has done in his past with the tight ends flexed out. The thing with Durham (Smythe) was he’s a really intelligent guy that can play and block at the point of attack and stuff. I think that both of them are really good players on their own, but I think together, in the rotation of tight ends, they complement each other very well.”

(How do you feel about your red zone possibilities? It seems like TE Mike Gesicki would be a valuable weapon and WR Danny Amendola perhaps?) – “Yes, you said it. There’s a leading question with what we expect in the red area with Mike, because he does have the ability to play above the rim. I’m sure you guys have all seen the YouTube dunk video. If that doesn’t get you excited about the red area then something’s wrong. We do like the option to be able to have him down there and obviously Danny has done it at a very high level in the red area – in Super Bowls and in big games. (We are excited) not only about what he’s going to bring down there, but what he’s bringing to the offense and to the team in the wide receiver room.”

(When it comes to RB Kalen Ballage, what gets you excited about him and wanting to work with him. It looks like he also may have some positon flexibility.) – “He does. When he walks through the door, that’s what they’re supposed to look like. He’s big, he’s put together and he’s a really smart kid. We’re excited about trying to tap him out and make sure his head is hitting the ceiling. He’s got size, he’s got height, weight, speed. Doing those things, we’ve got to figure out what he does well and find out quickly with that stuff because he does have good hands. He can move around and do different things. He’s got the size to sit in there on third down and be in pass protection that way. He’s a guy that shouldn’t have a lot of limitations and limitations, we’ve got to figure out those quick and we’ll put him in spots to be successful.”

(Is he a running back or an H-back?) – “He’s a running back because of his size and sped and the ability to catch the ball, he can play all three downs. But you guys know this, on third down, you’ve got to be able to protect – to sit in there and block linebackers and do those things and release and catch the ball. He’s got all of those traits.”

(With WR DeVante Parker, other than health, what’s one thing you’ve seen that has limited him, that has held him back a little bit?) – “Just obviously injuries. Just being able to get out there and be consistent through his career here. The one thing that’s really impressive about DeVante is for a long-cut guy, he can get in and out of breaks. That’s been really impressive to watch on the field. To run those comebacks and be able to drop his hips, a lot of long-cut guys struggle with that. DeVante has the ability to do that. I had the advantage of seeing some of the OTAs and training camp cut-ups that we go through and the first cut-up I turned on was Day 1 of training camp and he’s playing above the rim and catching a red-area touchdown. We’ve got to make sure that we max out his potential because it’s there. We’ve got to get it out of him and I think familiarity with the offense, being in it for another year and playing with Ryan (Tannehill) consistently and just his (fourth) year, that the light comes on and he’s the player we expect him to be.”

(Do you see anything specifically though besides health? Do you see anything on the field where this is one of the main things you want to work on with him?) – “Just consistency. Just the fundamentals here and there, that he hadn’t gotten to really master because he’s been limited. It’s been impressive to see him fight through some of the stuff that he’s overcome – being banged up, being hurt and doing those things. Once he gets healthy and plays consistent with Ryan (Tannehill), I think that his production will go up and be the player we think he can be.”

(Head Coach Adam Gase said that RB Kenyan Drake is a guy that has breakout potential this year. What have you seen with him so far?) – “On the tape, the same thing (Gase sees). When we were going through the draft and if you had three Kenyan Drakes, you’d be really excited because he’s a guy that can play all three downs. I’ve been sitting through some of the special teams meetings and you don’t realize how good he is on special teams, as well. He’s a complete football player. He can play on first and second downs, run outside and inside. On third down, he’s big enough to protect and catch the football. We’re really excited about that room and with the addition of Frank Gore, the rookie (Kalen Ballage) and the things that these guys can do, we should have good competition.”

(RB Buddy Howell is another running back. What do you see out of his game and how he will fit in the offense?) – “It’s been early, so we haven’t been able to see a lot outside of what he did in college; but I’m excited about him. I’m excited to get him on the field during OTAs and it’s going to be interesting to how we drop these guys into the competition. For running backs, it becomes a little bit more difficult because they flash in OTAs and you go off of their college tape but until you really put pads on and see these guys, it’s limiting that way. We’ll get them up to speed as quick as we can and see how he fits in the competition.”

(Was coaching something that you’ve always wanted to do? What was the genesis of that? As a player, did you look to that, or how did you get involved?) – “Since a very young age, I knew I wanted to coach. Every decision I made, where I went to school … I was a high school quarterback at Abilene Cooper in West Texas. Then when I got done with that, I decided I wanted to walk on with Arkansas because I knew I wanted to coach. I had a couple of smaller school offers; but I knew I wanted to coach. I thought I wanted to coach at the collegiate level, so I decided to walk on at Arkansas and ended up playing in 50 games and earning a scholarship and doing some of those things. I went there because I knew the connections that I would make there – it was where I always wanted to go – but the connections I made there would help transition me into coaching and is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been really fortunate and around a lot of really good people at an early age. I’m excited about coaching for the Miami Dolphins.”

Matt Burke – May 12, 2018 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke

(Can you please talk about the challenge of replacing DT Ndamukong Suh and how you guys plan to do it? And if you wouldn’t mind just going over briefly the top four guys you have there, each of them – DT Jordan Phillips, DT Davon Godchaux, DT Vincent Taylor and DT Akeem Spence now.) – “Is that your top four guys? (laughter)”

(Well I guess DE William Hayes, obviously if he plays tackle. Is there someone I’m missing?) – “I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously, I have a long history with (Ndamukong) Suh. He’s a good player and (an) organization has to make decisions on certain things. It’s always hard to move on from guys and obviously, on the field and guys you have relationships with; but that’s part of the business, so we’re prepared to do that. I’m excited about that room. We’ve got some young players in there with Jordan (Phillips) and Davon (Godchaux) that we’re expecting to make leaps from. Bringing in Akeem (Spence) was a nice piece for us. We feel, especially with his history with (Defensive Line Coach) Kris (Kocurek) … I’ve worked with Kris for a long time. I feel pretty strongly about his influence in that room and what he’s going to bring to the table. Really, it’s going to be an open competition. We’re looking to get … In an ideal world, we’d play four tackles and rotate them through. The way we want to play and the style that we want to play, we want to keep them fresh and roll those guys. We’re asking guys to play full speed and chase the ball and attack and do those things. It’s hard to do that if you’re asking them to play 80 snaps or 60 snaps or whatever it is. So ideally, we’ll have four guys that we’ll feel comfortable rolling through there and all getting equal reps. Whoever earns the starting spots, earns the starting spots; but our two backup tackles are going to play football for us. Vincent (Taylor) played some football for us last year. Gabe Wright got in at the end of the year. We’ve got some guys we’ve added to the mix and like I said, it’ll be a good competition. Again, it’s early. It’s four weeks or whatever it’s been; but it’s been a good work ethic. Again, Kris has done a good job of kind of connecting with those guys and getting things started. I’m looking forward to that room. I think it’s going to be a surprise for people.”

(Has that been the catch-22 with DT Ndamukong Suh, that he was such a high-volume player and he was on the field so much you really couldn’t have a four-man rotation?) – “It’s obviously a valuable piece to have – a guy that can perform at a high level and take those reps, that’s rare. I don’t know if I would phrase it that way, but obviously those are snaps that we have to replace and we think we have a pretty good plan moving forward to do that.”

(With S Minkah Fitzpatrick’s versatility, are you tempted to use him in a lot of different ways or would you rather him focus on one spot?) – “I think that’s going to be up to him and how much he absorbs and takes on. Again, it’s been 48 hours or whatever it is. In the limited interaction I’ve had with him, he’s shown the ability to be sort of a big-picture thinker and he understands football and he’s a student of the game from that sense. So, I think he, again, my initial impression is that he’s got the ability to absorb a lot; but we’ll have to see how that goes. We’re just kind of starting him out. It’s going to be up to him how much he can take on and how good we feel about expanding his role into certain things. Once we get everybody together – it’s just the rookies this weekend – so once we get the whole squad and that whole room together and sort of how we’re utilizing those players, I’m hopeful we can do some different things with him.”

(On linebacker, if you can talk about LB Jerome Baker’s skillset, and also there’s clearly a job open in your starting group. If you could throw out people you envision being in the mix for that.) – “You know I’m going to name every linebacker in the room right now? (laughter)”

(I know you could easily say that, but I think logic would suggest … You know you have guys that play more than others – LB Stephone Anthony and LB Chase Allen. Just you vision for the spot alongside LB Kiko Alonso and LB Raekwon McMillan, presuming Raekwon returns to health.) – “Man, you answer a lot of your own questions. (laughter) Okay, sure. I’ll try to remember all of the questions you asked. (laughter) There’s a multi-part there. (laughter) Jerome … Obviously, the skillset for Jerome Baker, as an athlete, we like his speed. That was obviously the first thing that stood out. He ran well in Indy, but even talking to a lot of guys up at Ohio State, they even felt like he’s even faster than what he tested at in some things. Put him in the category of some of those guys that’ve come through there in terms of the (Darron) Lees and the (Ryan) Shaziers and those type of athletes. That was obviously a strong point for us in terms of a starting point for a skillset. We want to add speed to that room and he was one of the faster linebackers in the draft and we felt good about getting him where we did. Again, in terms of a starter … What’s the date? May something? All of those guys have had … The guys that were here last year, all of them played for us. Chase (Allen) started for us. ‘Steph’ (Stephone Anthony) started for us. Mike Hull started for us. Obviously getting Raekwon back and getting back in that mix, we feel good about where he is. Again, I think it’s a pretty open spot right now. We don’t have, per se, a returning starter. Obviously, Kiko (Alonso) in one spot and we’re hopefully projecting Raekwon. We feel good about putting him inside and letting him play ball there. I think we’ve just added a lot of pieces to that room and I think there’s going to be a lot of … Again, hopefully some cross-training and some mixing and matching a little bit and it may again … This may come down to putting it on myself and the coaching staff in terms of there may be packages that Jerome fits in better than ‘Steph’ or Chase or whatnot. We’ve got some different body types and some versatile players in there that may end up shaking out. Again, looking ahead, it’s sort of package to package or week to week and things like that. All of those guys are going to get a shot to work through that and we’ll go from there.”

(The offensive guys have been talking so much about QB Ryan Tannehill’s return over and over and over. You guys, it’s not exactly the same position, but you get your middle linebacker back. And in this case, we don’t actually know that much about LB Raekwon McMillan because we haven’t seen him play. You do, because you’ve seen him on the field.) – “Not as much as I’ve wanted to.”

(How big of an acquisition is this essentially for you guys, that you’re brining in a starting middle linebacker?) – “If it works out the way we think it can and hope it does, that’s a huge acquisition for us. We obviously had high expectations last year for him coming out of the draft as a second-round pick. It was tough, obviously. Not just everything that went down, but we kind of … (Linebackers Coach) Frank (Bush) and I had gone back and watched – getting ready for some of the stuff – we went back and watched some of the offseason last year and watched some of his snaps. He was really getting to that point where he was about to make that move. We really felt like we went through training camp and we wanted to make him earn it. Some of those guys and Mike Hull had been here and had been getting some time and had played ball for us. We really felt like he was just starting to take that step when we got him going before he got injured. We had high hopes for him last year. Nothing he’s done since then has discouraged that. He’s been really in-tune, been really sharp. He’s got all the leadership skills and things that we look for, especially at that position. He’s worked his ass off to get better. He’s rehabbed. He’s in here every day. He hasn’t shown any limitations so far, which has been encouraging. Hopefully he’s a big piece for us. I’m encouraged by him and I’m excited to see him get some work.”

(I know that it’s May and…) – “Disclaimers already out there. (laughter)”

(Can you explain the vision of S T.J. McDonald, S Reshad Jones and S Minkah Fitzpatrick – three safeties. How does that play? How does that work?) – “Did you say it was May? (laughter) Listen, it’s always good to have different weapons for me. Again, I know I mentioned this last year, but the way offenses are going, even when you look at some of the guys that we drafted on offense at the tight end spot and running back spot and those sort of things. We’re going to put this best 11 players on the field – maybe play to play, week to week, game to game – in terms of our matchups. I have a little bit more comfort level now with how to utilize those guys. Again, we’re going to let those guys compete in terms of safeties; but again, I look at it a little bit like the linebackers now. There may be some three-safety packages where they’re all on the field together. There may be times where T.J. and Reshad are a better grouping for us or Minkah and Reshad are a better grouping for us or something else. I don’t know. I think our challenge, again, as a coaching staff, is to get the best feel for how to utilize those guys best – what each of their strengths are – so when we get into a game plan situation, ‘Hey, this guys is better at doing this,’ or, ‘We can put all these guys and maybe use this guy this way,’ or that sort of thing. Again, it’s early. Again, just through our scouting process with Minkah and how we felt about his versatility and his ability to do a lot of different things on the field at a fairly high level, so that’s another piece we’ve added in the room and we’re just going to let it play out. I would just, again, I’m anticipating – if I’m going to be honest with you – I’m anticipating having different packages where there’s going to be different groupings on the field at different times, whether it’s all three of them or different groupings of two of them at a time or  whatnot. That’s going to play out as we go through. I’m anticipating having to control that a little bit – whether it’s in the linebacker room or the safety, DB room, however you want to call those guys – having multiple packages were we’re going to have the ability. I think is a good thing. We’ll have to manage it, but it’s a good thing that we’ll have the ability to put different people on the field in terms of how the offense is dictating what we need to stop.”

(When you have three safeties on the field, what are some of the things that you can do, some of the options available to you that you wouldn’t normally have?) – “To me, it’s all about matchups. So if we feel that those body types or those players, whether its Minkah (Fitzpatrick), T.J. (McDonald), Reshad (Jones) at our safety spot are better matchups, whether it’s on tight ends or backs or whether it’s having a bigger body as a nickel on … Say it’s a first down and Minkah has absorbed a nickel spot better, then maybe we can use him as a first-down nickel, for example. Or maybe Jerome Baker has a role in that sense or whatever it may be. We played a little bit around with that last year against New England. We played some three-safety packages. They’re such a tight end heavy team and things like that. I just think the more players you get, again, that are multi-dimensional and have different skillsets, the more you can play around with how you’re utilizing them on the field on defense. It’s hard to say right now. It’s going to be week to week. We’re going to see how it plays out in the next, whatever we have here, six weeks of the offseason program and going into training camp. We’re going to try to get all of those guys caught up to speed and in multiple spots and have the versatility to do a lot of different things, hopefully.”

(DE Robert Quinn, was this a guy that you kind of got on the table for when they were discussing a trade and is his best football still ahead of him?) – “Yes, yes, yes, yes. When (General Manager) Chris (Grier) called me … I don’t remember what the timeframe of it was, but Chris kind of reached out and was like, ‘Hey,’ or maybe it was (Head Coach) Adam (Gase). One of them or both of them kind of reached out and was like, ‘Hey.’ He’s like, ‘Take a look at Robert Quinn and let me know,’ when the possibility was starting to be discussed. I thought he was joking. Literally he called and I was like, ‘Yeas, I’m good. Absolutely, 100 percent. I’m on board.’ He was like, ‘No, seriously. Watch him and just make sure.’ Kris (Kocurek) and I sat down and probably watched about five or six games. I called back and said, ‘Hey, my answer is still the same. One-hundred percent, yes.’ He’s a guy who, honestly, even going back to when he came out of the draft, we were really high on him when I was in Detroit. We thought he was a really good scheme fit for what we were trying to do. I think he’s … He’s a rare … He has a rare ability to bend. It’s kind of freaky to watch sometimes, even just going through drill work. He’s one of the most loosest, kind of bendy, athletes I’ve ever seen and I’ve ever been around at the end position. He battled through a few injuries the last couple years but it wasn’t … It was two or three years ago or whatever when he had 19 sacks or something in a season. He’s got that kind of ability, and he’s been great. He’s been a good worker. He doesn’t say much. He’s kind of a quiet guy. He just comes to work every day with a smile on his face and gets after it. I think he feels comfortable being in, hopefully, a scheme that fits his skillset; but I’m really excited to see what he can do for us. I think that positon is going to be an area of strength for us.”

(Your pass defense has added a lot of weapons in the past couple of years among DE Charles Harris, DE Robert Quinn, CB Cordrea Tankersley, S Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. McDonald. How much different should it look this year? Are you expecting just an all out game-changing attacking unit?) – “You put me on the spot. Yes, I have high expectations. I do every year. Obviously, we’ve been fortunate the last couple drafts and offseason to add some pieces. Chris Grier and those guys have done a good job in trying to get … I’m like the broken record in terms of me always wanting more, more, more and ‘Give me this,’ and ‘I don’t have this,’ and all of that. They’ve done a good job of providing some of those weapons and pieces. Again, right or wrong, I have high expectations every season. But the more that we develop these guys and the more we kind of get the pieces that we think fit our scheme … I don’t know if you can put it on one guy like all of a sudden Minkah is going to be the end-all, be-all and change everything or Robert Quinn is the X-factor. But the more of those guys that we keep adding to the puzzle and the more we can get them comfortable playing the techniques we want to play and doing the things we want to do, obviously the better we should play. We have high expectations in the defensive room, on this staff, for this unit, and I expect that we’ll perform better. If not, I’m sure I’ll hear it from you guys.”

(Going up against Head Coach Adam Gase’s offense every day for the last two years in practice, he doesn’t seem able to run the up-tempo offense he wants to – the hurry up, the no huddle. Why has he been handcuffed by that situation? Do you envision he’s got the opportunity to do that this year?) – “You guys get to talk to him too don’t you? I don’t want to speak for Adam. Again, I’ll say this, just again, in terms of some of what we’ve been talking about here. As a play caller, I think the best coaches, your job is to take what you have in hand and utilize it to the best of your ability and put the players that you have in the best position to succeed and to make plays, whether to score points or to stop points from being scored or whatnot. I think Adam has just been conscientious of, ‘Okay, these are the pieces that I have at my disposal,’ and trying to put … I think if you look at Adam’s history, one of the things I really respect about him if you go back to … (He) had success with Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning to Jay Cutler in Chicago (and) all of these things here. I think that’s just what he’s done. So I’m not sure if he has used those words about feeling handcuffed. I think he’s just said, ‘Okay, this is kind of what we have at our disposal and these are some of the best ways to utilize the skill players or the pieces I have.’ I’m sure, just like myself, you always have sort of the perfect vision. I’d love four top line d-tackles and four top line d-ends that we can roll through and three linebackers that can play every spot and 10 safeties. That’s your ideal; but then you get to the season, you say, ‘Okay, this is what I have to work with. What’s the best way to put these 11 guys on the field for this game or this play or this season and have success?’ I think that’s just what Adam and the offensive staff have done the last couple of years and said, ‘Okay, here’s what we’re working with and how do we utilize it to the best of our advantage?’ I think this year is going to be the same. I’m assuming he feels the same way that I do in that we’ve added some new pieces through the draft and the offseason program the last year or two, and he’s going to look at the weapons he has now and what he has at quarterback and getting Ryan (Tannehill) back and those sort of things and say, ‘Alright, you know what? I think we can do this.’”

Cornell Armstrong – May 12, 2018 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 12, 2018

CB Cornell Armstrong

(How have things been going in the short time you’ve been here?) – “It’s been pretty good. I’m just adjusting, getting into the playbook and just trying to learn the terminology that goes on here. We actually ran the same defense, so I’m just getting used to the terminology.”

(How fast are you?) – “I’m pretty fast. It runs in my family. With the great training that I did over the offseason, leading up to Pro Day, I got faster. I can run.”

(It runs in the family? What do you mean? Can you talk about that?) – “My uncle, Eric Booth, was actually once the fastest guy in Mississippi at a time growing up. He went to Southern Miss, where I went to college at, and actually holds the (record for) return yards there.”

(How much, if at all, do you know about CB Patrick Surtain?) – “I don’t know much about him. I know he went to Southern Miss and I know he came here and was a great DB. He actually hit me up on Twitter when I got drafted. I’m trying to get into contact with him just to meet up with him and just to get to know him a little bit.”

(How would you describe yourself as a player?) – “Just competitive (and) hard-working. Like I said, I like to go out there and compete and try to win every battle. Even though you just can’t win them all, I’ve just got that mindset that I can.”

(Have you raced your uncle?) – “No, I haven’t raced him before. (laughter) No, I haven’t. Hopefully I could beat him. (laughter)”

(You’re coming into maybe the most talent-rich area of the team in the secondary. Have you looked at things and figured out where you will fit in? There’s a lot of returning corners and things like … Have you looked at a depth chart? Or have you gotten that far?) – “I mean I looked at the depth chart, but I’m just here to embrace my role and do whatever the team needs me to do. I’ll play anything. I’m just here to embrace my role and be my best.”

(Part of that role early on might be special teams. I’m sure you’ve probably been told that.) – “I’m pretty sure it’s like that for every rookie. Every rookie knows that you’ve got to get in there and get on special teams. Like I said, I’m just here to do whatever they need me to do. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

(Have you played special teams before?) – “Yes, sir. I have.”

(What did you do on special teams?) – “Freshman year I played all of them – kickoff return at 160 (pounds) on the front line in my first college game against Mississippi State. (laughter) Ever since then I’ve been progressing and getting better on special teams, so I’m pretty good at it.”

(Can you tell us a little bit about yourself off the field? What are your passions, your interests?) – “I just like to get better as a person. I’m a man of faith. All of the time I’m in in the Bible; I’m in the Word. I like to hang with my friends and enhance my game anyway that I can.”

(Where you’re from, just your high school – Mississippi has a strong tradition in the NFL – but did anybody else attend that school as well?) – “You’re talking about Bassfield High School?”

(Yes. Is there any other football players that made it to the NFL from your high school, from your area?) – “Yes, sir. We had Wilbur Myers and Jeffrey Posey. Also, we have a few guys that graduated with me that are free agents somewhere else.”

(But you’re the first draft pick from that high school. Can you talk about how big that was for you?) – “Words can’t even explain. It’s such a blessing. I just want to give a shout out to God for that. Just for being the first person that ever really (did that), it’s a lot of motivation.”

(Have you been back to the high school recently?) – “I haven’t.”

(At Southern Miss, you had experience playing on the boundary and in the slot, as well?) – “We played field and boundary.”

(Do you feel like that’s something that you’d be able to do, coming in here to Miami, to be able to play both if necessary?) – “Yes, I believe so. I’ve been working inside and out, working nickel and slot. I’m not saying here because we haven’t started OTAs yet, but during my training I was making sure I could be versatile for the team.”

(You compared yourself to CB Brent Grimes, I believe. Why?) – “(He’s) just a feisty guy. He loves to compete. I watched his film and I like the way he plays. He goes and gets it.”

Durham Smythe – May 12, 2018 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 12, 2018

TE Durham Smythe

(What are your thoughts on being selected in the draft where there was a fellow tight end also selected?) – “It was awesome, first and foremost, just getting the call, regardless of the situation. I was fortunate enough to be part of a great organization, so I was excited about that. I’ve played with Mike (Gesicki) before. I knew him through the whole pre-draft process. We were teammates at the Senior Bowl, so we got to know each other a little bit. We played actually in a couple of two-tight end sets together during the game and practice. He’s a guy I’ve played with before, gotten to know and overall, I was just really excited about it.”

(Did you ever have any conversation during that week of what if the two of you wind up on the same team or something to that effect?) – “Not too serious. It’s always cool getting to know guys in that process because then you kind of do have that relationship where if it were to happen, I’d have a friend or a guy that I know on the team. We didn’t have any serious talks about it; but it is pretty cool.”

(For somebody who hasn’t seen you play, can you describe your game?) – “Yes, sure. Throughout my four years at Notre Dame, I tried to be a guy who was what we called a complete tight end. We went through a few offenses in my time at Notre Dame. A couple of them were spread it out and a little bit more pass-happy, so I was in the slot a lot those years. These last two years, specifically this last year, we ran the ball a lot. We had an offensive change. It was more of a pro style this last year, so this last year I was more at the point of attack a lot. We had the best offensive line in college football, so that helped. So I’ve done a lot of roles throughout my time in college. Ultimately, I’ve just tried to combine all of those to where I can be, what we used to call, a complete tight end.”

(Who is a comparison for you, player-wise, in the NFL?) – “Well, being from Notre Dame and having that film readily available to me from past years, two guys that I watched a lot were … One, actually I told (Tight Ends) Coach (Shane) Day at the Combine, a guy that I watched a lot was Anthony Fasano. Specifically his time at Notre Dame. Obviously I would watch some of his stuff in the pros but at Notre Dame, he was a guy who wasn’t just a big receiver. He was a guy who would grind it out, in-line; but then he could split out. He could run on a deep corner or something like that. So (he was) a guy who could do a little bit of everything. Then another one was Kyle Rudolph, because he’s kind of the same way – a big guy who can play in-line but at the same time can run deep overs and things like that. He doesn’t really have to be a guy who can be taken off the field.”

(How has Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly helped you during your time at Notre Dame and how has your time at Notre Dame prepared you to be where you are right now?) – “First and foremost, Notre Dame is a special place. It’s a place that forces you to grow up pretty quickly, and I think that’s something that early on, aside from any individual, is what the university provided for me. I came in and really quickly you have to learn time management, whether it’s academics, athletics, media obligations and things like that. In that regard, I think it can be compared a little bit to the professional level. Obviously there’s no academics at this level; but time-management skills and things of that nature. Coach Kelly did a great job throughout my five years there of surrounding himself with people who could develop players. I had a couple of offensive coordinators throughout my time, a couple of position coaches, and they all developed (me). So I was happy about that. I would do the same thing over again. I would go back there because of how much was provided for me.”

(What does it take to be a good in-line tight end?) – “First and foremost, it’s the willingness to be in there, to grind it out and be able to compete with these defensive ends at this level that are 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 and freakish athletes off the edge. We have a couple here with the Dolphins. First and foremost, it’s willingness. Then from there, it’s technique. You kind of just build from there – strength and things of that nature. It all starts with a willingness to be able to do it.”

(You didn’t have many catches last year but a lot of them were for – I think it was six out of 15 – were for 20 yards or more. What do you think accounted for that?) – “I think a little of that was attributed to our offense. We based our offensive scheme around running the ball and grinding it out. When you run the ball and there’s eight people in the box, every now and then someone can slip behind the defense and really, really extend plays. That’s something that we focused on as a tight end group was being a group there that could provide explosive plays to our offense. Whether it’s catching a ball and running after the catch, things of that nature, or breaking a tackle, that’s definitely something that we focused on.”

(Do you think despite the limited number of catches you had in college, you still were able to showcase your pass-catching abilities?) – “I think so, to a degree. Like I said, I had different roles throughout my time. I think when I had the opportunity, I tried to make the most of it. Ultimately, through this whole pre-draft process and stuff, that’s something that questions were asked about that I tried to put those questions to rest through the Senior Bowl and the Combine and things like that.”

(Can you talk about your journey to get here a little bit? When you were five years old, were you dreaming about playing in the NFL? Is this culmination for you? Just talk about the steps that led you to where you are today.) – “Well, I grew up in a small town in central Texas. Football was everything growing up. My dad played at Baylor. That was 30 minutes down the road, so my weekends went Fridays everyone goes to high school games, Saturdays we’d all go to the Baylor game and Sundays obviously we’re watching on TV. I kind of grew up around the sport for as long as I can remember. That was always the ultimate goal. I grew up a big Notre Dame fan. First and foremost, it was my goal to go play there, succeed there and then obviously get to this level. It’s something that I grew up around my entire life and something that I’ve always seen myself doing for as long as I possibly can.”

(What’s one thing about you that would surprise us? Like one story would be you saved a family of cats from a burning building. Something like that.) – “(laughter) I don’t know if I have anything that could live up to that. One thing I use a lot when I’m asked a question like that is I’m a great ping-pong player. I like to tell people that football is the second best sport for me behind ping-pong. I guess that’s something that’s kind of fun.”

(Is there a ping-pong table in the player’s lounge here?) – “Actually, I haven’t been in it yet. There is? I’ll get on that when I get in there.”

(I’ll ask you this only because we’re in Miami but your recollection of the Notre Dame-Miami game?) – “I’ll start that with my junior year we played them, and we beat them at home. (laughter) So that was good. Yes, coming down here, what an experience it was, honestly. Obviously it wasn’t a good outcome in any sense of the word; but an incredible atmosphere. We kind of expected a loud atmosphere but nothing close to what it was. That was one of the loudest stadiums I’ve played in in my five years. We had people throwing stuff at the buses driving up. Actually our window was shattered and we had to get a new bus. It was pretty crazy stuff. I enjoyed playing in the stadium. It was an awesome stadium. Like I said, the atmosphere was great. Obviously the outcome was terrible, but I did love playing in that stadium.”

(What was it about Notre Dame that attracted you as a kid considering your dad played at Baylor?) – “Both of my parents really, as I grew up, harped on finding a place that had great academics that could go with a good football program. As a kid, I knew that Notre Dame was a great school. Obviously with our NBC deal, they were playing (on national TV) every Saturday. I watched that growing up. I kind of became a little obsessed with the golden helmet, Golden Dome, thing early on. It kind of just carried from there.”

(Did it take a little while for your parents to accept you’re not going to Baylor and you’re going to Notre Dame?) – “I think my dad was easier about that whole thing. He kind of recognized early on that I had aspirations to go to a Notre Dame or something like that, that was far from home. I think it took my mom a little bit more time, a little bit more convincing. I was actually originally committed to Texas, so that was 30 minutes down the road. I ended up changing that and going to Notre Dame and I think it took a little bit of time for her distance-wise. Ultimately, it turned out pretty well.”

(And you had to sell them on this idea?) – “I wouldn’t necessarily call it selling them, because like I said, they – from a young age – really harped on the whole academic/athletic combination. They knew that was one of the best places in the country to do that. It was more of just going 1,000 miles across the country from my mom; but other than that, it was great.”

(What was your major?) – “So I majored in sociology and minored in business economics.”

(And you graduated this past year?) – “I graduated in May 2017. So this last year I was actually a non-degree-seeking graduate student and I knocked out four or five graduate-level classes that could eventually translate to a master’s degree.”

(Your first name isn’t a nod to Duke University, is it?) – “It is not. It’s a family name – my grandmother’s maiden name.”

Darren Rizzi – May 12, 2018 Download PDF version

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

(What helped develop the confidence you developed in K Jason Sanders despite the bottom line number of 25-for-35 career field goals?) – “We could talk about that for a long time. There are so many different ways to go with that. I think the first thing is when I go in and evaluate, when we look at the kicker position, the number one thing you’re looking at is the kicker, the talent, the ability and all of those things. I could talk for a long time about the statistical part of it. A lot of people don’t want to hear this but really, when you look at a college placekicker, one of the last things I look at is field goal percentage; and there’s a reason for that. The reason for that is because a lot of times in college, the operations are … It’s completely different than the NFL. I can sit here for hours and talk about the guys and give you examples. Stephen Gostkowski for the Patriots was a 76-percent field-goal kicker in college. Matt Bryant for the Falcons was a 72-percent field-goal kicker in college. Mason Crosby (was a) 74-percent kicker in college. Phil Dawson was a 74-percent kicker in college. Robbie Gould was a 63-percent kicker in college. Between those five guys, they have over 70 years of NFL experience. The point is the field goal percentage probably gets looked at a little bit too much; but in this day in age of fantasy football and numbers and everything, I get it. That’s really … Jason Sanders probably kicked the laces 20 times between PATs and field goals in college. That’s obviously not … Now, down here with Snowflake and all of the movies and all of that, kicking the laces is … (laughter) It seems to be a good term for down here. Laces out Marino, so we have to throw that one in, right? (laughter) But no, all kidding aside, his operation wasn’t great. I know he’s not going to stand here in front of you and tell you guys that. He’s going to put the blame on him; but his operation wasn’t great. I was really impressed with the talent, the person, and obviously we felt strong enough to draft him at that point. Even the other kicker that got drafted in the fifth round – (Daniel Carlson) – his numbers in college were … His senior year, he was below 80 percent. You can see I did a little bit of homework on that, by the way.”

(The touchback numbers for K Jason Sanders, how big of a factor was that in the thinking of this should be the guy we target?) – “Again, I didn’t really look at the touchback numbers. I know that he had great numbers. I looked at more of what I felt he could do on kickoff. It’s not just the distance and the length; but obviously the hang time, the location and the things we want to do. I just think he’s a very well-rounded kicker. He’s just a guy that didn’t get a lot of opportunity in college. He’s a guy that only had 35 field-goal attempts because his head coach went for it a lot of times in the red zone. Bob Davie is an aggressive coach. They didn’t kick a lot of field goals. I think he had more long field goals than short field goals, because it seemed like every time they were close, they went for it. He obviously did a really good job on his PATs and his kickoffs. I feel like if he was a guy that was in a Power 5 conference, he would have been much more of a household name, if you will. He might have been a little bit higher up the draft board; but it worked out great for us.”

(The last two young kickers that you’ve been drawn to and brought in here, both have the common theme – K Andrew Franks and K Jason Sanders – of strong legs. To you, is that paramount in looking for a field-goal kicker? Is leg number one on your list, as far as strength and distance field goals?) – “I don’t know if it’s number one but it’s certainly up there. I’m not going to say it’s number one; but obviously you want a guy who … I call it an NFL leg. You want a guy that’s got an NFL-type leg and is able to do a lot of different things and have the ability to give you a lot of different things and have great range. That certainly helps. It’s probably easier to take a guy with great leg strength and get him a little bit more in tune or fixed or technique-wise on field goals than it is to go the other way. It’s much harder. You can’t teach leg strength. You can teach a guy technique. You can teach a guy to get better certainly at accuracy and things like that. You can’t teach (leg) strength. It’s like a baseball comparison. You’re not going to teach a singles hitter to be a home run hitter, more or less, to give you a baseball analogy; but you can certainly teach a home-run hitter to make more contact and things like that. The power and the strength and those things were certainly … I’ve heard the things about the altitude. Certainly, he’s not going to pick his school by the altitude. Certainly it was beneficial at some point but he played plenty of games that weren’t in high altitude and did very well. Again, there are a lot of comparisons that I can continue to give you.”

(How do you judge mental toughness when you look at a young kicker?) – “It’s hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do. If I had to give any knock on Jason Sanders coming out, it probably would be that he just didn’t get enough opportunities. I would have liked to see him get more opportunities and to be put in the fire, if you will, a little bit more. It would have been a little bit nicer to see; but again, that wasn’t on him. Mental toughness is a really, really hard thing to judge. I really like his demeanor. I like his background. I’ve obviously spent some time with him. He comes from a military family. He’s got two brothers that are serving right now. His dad served in the Air Force. He’s got two brothers who are serving in the Air Force right now. I kind of really liked … He’s the youngest of four kids. For a guy having five kids, I kind of know what that young guy is like. He’s a little bit of a competitive guy. My little spit-fire 11-year-old, he’s a competitive son of a gun. All kidding aside, I really liked his makeup, his background. It’s tough, at the end of the day, to figure it out; but the thing I like about him is his mentality. He’s one of those guys that’s always right (in the middle). I really like that in a specialist. A lot like Matt Haack, he never gets too excited, too high or too low. I kind of like that. Again, everything remains to be seen. How he performs is going to be the bottom line. We all know that. The other guy, who we haven’t really talked about is Greg Joseph, the free agent we took from Florida Atlantic. He’s another guy with a really big leg. He’s got a really good kickoff leg. He has to work and fine-tune some stuff with the field goal; but he’s another guy that when you guys see him kick, you’ll be very, very impressed with his leg strength.”

(The organization decided not to bring in another punter. What did P Matt Haack do last year to give you confidence that he didn’t need the competition?) – “I just think Matt’s best football is ahead of him. The one thing you’ve got to remember with rookie kickers and punters is when they come in, if they make a team and go all the way through, they end up punting or kicking for 18 months in a row. ‘What do you mean?’ Well, they just finished their college season, then they train for the NFL the entire time and get right into the NFL season, and the NFL season is a long year. So Matt Haack was on an 18-month punting streak, if you will, so he hit a little bit of a wall at the end of the year. But he’s got tremendous upside. I really feel like his best football is ahead of him. (He has a) really high ceiling. He’s a very talented guy. I really like where he’s at. I only think he’s going to get better, so I didn’t feel at this point … I felt like he needed the reps in camp and really didn’t feel like we needed to split time with him and anybody.”

(Regarding kickoffs, I think you were consulted about changes that should be made. What do you think of the changes that are on the table or have been reported on the table and what do you think should happen with kickoffs in the immediate future?) – “So to give you a little background, I was part of a committee that went up to New York and was part of the discussions about … I was on the kickoff committee. I really felt like it was a really productive and positive experience and a productive and positive meeting. Myself and eight other special teams coaches from around the league got invited to go up. What we had done is a couple of weeks leading up to the meeting, we kind of got together and looked at the kickoff play as a whole. We all know the NFL is trying to make this play a safer play. At the same time, we want to keep the play competitive. We want to keep it exciting. We want to keep the fans tuned in. We don’t want to make a ton of wholesale changes. The bottom line was making the play safer. I felt like we got together, came up with a collaborative effort and went in with a proposal. A lot of the things we proposed have now gotten approved or are getting approved by the competition committee, or moving forward to the owners and going to get brought to the owners next week. Some of the changes are going to be on the kickoff, from the kickoff side. Some of the proposal is taking away the 5-yard running start down to a 1-yard start and kind of limiting the kickoff team’s formations, if you will – limiting those to 5×5 and the motions and shifts and things like that are probably going to be a thing of the past. Then the kickoff return team, really bringing more players up to the front part of the group – what we’re calling the setup zone now. (We want to have) eight guys up within 15 yards of the restraining line. What we tried to do was really look at the plays that had unnecessary collisions and things that were happening, the more dangerous types of things. That’s what we’re trying to take out of the game. We really feel, moving forward, that we’re making this a safer play; but at the same time, keeping it very competitive. A lot of injuries were happening on the back end and the NFL did a great job of presenting some statistics and analytics on that. So we’re trying to eliminate the back-end wedge, the wedge that’s in front of the ball carrier. A lot of the injuries were taking place at that point of attack spot. Then also, in the first 15 yards, it’s going to be more or less a free running zone for the kickoff team, where you can’t go and attack and chip. Again, all of this stuff has to get approved still. It’s not done yet; but it is up for a vote at the owners’ meetings and I really feel like, moving forward, it’s going to be a really positive thing for everybody. Number one, the players, from a safety standpoint; and then number two, I think the fans are really going to enjoy the play because I think there are a lot of new nuances to the play that can really add some competitive things that are going to be pretty cool.”

(It seems like in general, just anecdotally, every time I hear people talk about making safety-related changes, among the players and coaches, a lot of times there’s this natural backlash to it. You seem genuinely concerned and interested and passionate about improving the safety.) – “Yes. Number one, I think if you talk to any fans in and around the game and everybody loves … The kickoff has been a part of the game since it started. I think there were some false narratives out there about getting rid of the play and all of that stuff. That’s not really what this was all about. This was about making the play safer and taking some unnecessary collisions and hits out of the game. There were some injuries that were happening on touchbacks, for example. (There were) some unnecessary things that were happening and injuries. Is it ever going to be 100 percent? That’s unrealistic; but I think the steps that were taken were to make this play a lot safer for the players and keep it exciting and competitive for the fans. Yes, I am passionate about it. There were some rules that I think were – the things that we’re moving forward with and trying to implement – that are really going to help the players out. I’ve talked to our players about it. They’ve really been receptive to what we’re talking about. We’ll see what gets passed and what doesn’t, but I really feel like, moving forward, this is going to be a really good thing.

(Do any of the changes open the door for more explosive plays?) – “Yes. It’s going to be really interesting to see how it plays out because the kickoff team only have a 1-yard start, they’re obviously not going to be as far down the field. So what I don’t think you’re going to see, if the rules do get passed – again, this is all an if – I don’t think you’re going to see as many high, short kicks anymore, because I think the advantage of doing that is to get your kickoff team down and pin the team inside the 25 (yard line). Well, now your kickoff team is not going to be as far down the field. So I think you’re going to see a few more deeper kicks from a percentage standpoint, and now your returner pulling the ball out of the end zone maybe a little bit more than we’ve seen the last couple of years because the kickoff team is not as far down the field. The way the play is going to set up, it’s going to look a little bit more like a punt return. Those bigger players aren’t going to be out there – your big d-lineman and o-lineman that you see in the back end and the wedges. The day of the wedge-busters, that’s a thing of the past. We all grew up in football and you always had the wedge-busters in high school and college. That’s really where the injuries were happening, quite frankly. So it’s going to be a little bit more of a speed game. It’s going to look more like a punt return in terms of personnel, the guys that are out there, and it’s going to look more like it because you’ll have the eight guys up and they’re going to be getting on blocks a little bit quicker. It’s going to be more one-on-ones and less double teams and traps and all of that kind of stuff. So some of those unnecessary collisions that were happening … It’ll be more of a wide-open play. I do think it’s interesting. I think there’s enough things you can do from a scheme standpoint to still make it competitive and exciting, but it’s going to be a much more wide-open play.”

(So more DBs, more running backs and fewer lineman?) – “Absolutely. Fewer defensive ends. Defensive lineman and offensive lineman, I don’t think you’re going to see because if you have eight guys up and only three back, the majority of the people that are going to run this are going to have guys that can handle the ball in the back end. Or else that guy is going to end up getting the ball kicked to him a bunch of times. So you’re going to see much more skill players. Offensively (it will be) running backs, receivers and tight ends; and then like you said, DBs and skilled linebackers, faster-type players (on defense). It does make you actually start to think about your personnel a little bit too, and how that’s going to shape up your roster. I’ve talked about that with our front office here and with (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase about how this rule change could potentially change some of the … maybe the last couple of decisions with your 53 (man roster).”

(How does it play into a guy like WR Jakeem Grant, with his speed?) – “Listen, I’ve talked to Jakeem about the new rules. I know he’s excited about it. A guy like Jakeem could potentially – again we’ll see where it goes, it’s all potential because right now this all remains to be seen if the rule is going to get passed – but if it does, I think a guy like Jakeem could certainly benefit from the rule. It being a more wide-open play, I know he’s excited about it for sure.”

(Is there any fear that the kickoff would go away altogether at some point or no?) – “I don’t think so. The conversations that I’ve been a part of and the committee that I’m on, it’s about improvement and player safety. We’re making some changes now and I think that you could continue to make … You just look at the play and continue to see where these things are happening and take some things out of the game.”

(In WR Jarvis Landry, obviously you lost a guy that had 89 career punt returns here and 12 last year. Who replaces him as an option along with WR Jakeem Grant as a punt returner?) – “We’ve added a couple of guys onto the roster that have had return experience. Obviously we all know (Danny) Amendola did it with New England. Albert Wilson is a guy that did it in Kansas City. He just got buried behind a couple of really good returners; but he’s got returner experience. Obviously he had De’Anthony Thomas and Tyreek Hill in front of him; but he’s a guy that’s done it before. Then Kalen Ballage was a kick returner at Arizona State. He’s a big body that can run really well. He had some really productive kick returns. We’ve kind of added a couple of pieces there, as well.”

(So you would be open to WR Danny Amendola and WR Albert Wilson maybe getting some opportunities as punt returners?) – “Oh, yes. We’re definitely going to look at all of them here in the preseason. You know how we’ve done it. You just kind of look at everybody and see what the best … At the end of the day, when we get to September, kind of feel what our best competitive advantage is moving forward; but all of those guys will be part of the equation, for sure.”

Jason Sanders – May 11, 2018 Download PDF version

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kicker Jason Sanders

(You’re the kicker that was drafted. K Cody Parkey left. Do you feel that the job is yours to lose or how do you approach this opportunity?) – “It’s an open competition, I believe. It all comes down to who comes out there and makes their kicks, who kicks farthest, and at the end of the day, who’s the most accurate. For me, it’s just a day-by-day process. I can’t look at the next day. I’ve just got to focus on the first day.”

(How much of a badge of honor is it that you were one of only two kickers taken in the draft?) – “It feels pretty good. It’s definitely a confidence booster of what the Miami Dolphins think of me. With that, I feel like I bring a lot of confidence into coming here. You always want to play for a team that really wants you. I feel pretty good coming in here for the first day.”

(A lot of humidity in New Mexico?) – “No. (laughter)”

(What was your impression getting off the plane?) – “Well I’m originally from Orange County, California, so it’s not a cold place either. It’s hot. The only thing different here (is) you get the humidity. With that, it’s just the only difference. Everywhere you go it’s going to be hot.”

(What can you recall about how good you were – how accurate you were – on the day Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi worked you out in Albuquerque?) – “Personally, I didn’t think I did great. I did good. I showed a lot of good things; but I still missed one or two kicks that I think could’ve easily been makes. I did good, not great.”

(Obviously your percentage excellent career-wise 50 and over. You’d probably say it could be better in general, “My field goal percentage accuracy in general.” Has Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi told you anything specifically yet, mechanically, that he thinks he can fix or improve to maybe boost that percentage?) – “Not yet. Like I said, it’s my second day. (laughter) We’re just getting into it right now. I’m sure eventually it’ll all come down; it’ll all come together. But right now, it’s just the second day we’re here.”

(And Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi essentially told you what on draft day after they picked you?) – “He’s excited. They all said they’re excited to have me in, and I was excited, too.”

(Can you give us some insight into the strength of your leg?) – “I feel like I have one of the strongest legs coming out of the draft. I’ve got one of the strongest legs. People say it’s the altitude in New Mexico, ‘You’ve got altitude,’ but we go to Texas A&M at sea level, Tulsa, New Jersey and I was still kicking touchbacks. The altitude wasn’t the issue.”

(Was it rare that kicks were returned against you, kickoffs were returned against you?) – “I think there was a total of 22 maybe my last two years that were returned.”

(Out of how many?) – “100-something.”

(132) – (laughter)

(And what’s the longest kick in that altitude you’ve been able to make whether it’s in practice or…?) – “Practice? 70 (yards). A live scrimmage, 60 (yards). And then in a game, 53 (yards).”

(Kickoffs are not necessarily something that people focus on when they’re looking at kickers. How much pride did you take in the fact that you had such a high touchback percentage?) – “I think the touchback percentage gets you in the door. I think if they see the leg strength, they know he’s going to have it. They always say you can teach somebody to kick it straight, but you can’t teach someone to kick it out of the end zone.”

(How do you explain 25 out of 35 on field goals? I know you didn’t have a ton of attempts, but the percentage kind of jumps out.) – “You can look at a factor of things. I don’t want to blame anybody but myself. There’s a lot of kicks that I wanted back, but there’s a lot of things that go into it. You’ve got the snap, the hold, wind and just different factors that all play into things. But a majority of my kicks were all on me and there’s nothing to say about that.”

(What do you make of the debate over whether kickoffs should be part of football? I’d suspect you’d say you’re in favor of keeping it in the game.) – “Yes, of course. I would love to keep it. (laughter)”

(Do you often think back to the idea that you basically wound up kicking in high school because your brother had kicked for the team and the coach wanted to take a look at you because you played soccer and how crazy that’s led to where you are now?) – “Yes, I think a couple months ago I think I was pretty shocked of how everything fell in together. To see where I am now, I think it’s pretty crazy to think about. My freshman year of high school, I didn’t even want to play football. I got forced into it. I told my parents, I said, ‘The coach wants me to play and I said no.’ And then they were like, ‘You should give it a shot.’ And then I gave it a shot and then we went from there. I think the whole process of how I got to this position is pretty crazy to think about.”

(What ultimately convinced you to go ahead…?) – “I think my brother. My brother was a big kicker for the high school. He found success. I was a big soccer guy growing up, so I didn’t really want to do the change. I saw how successful he could be so I kind of gave it a shot and didn’t really get serious until junior year.”

Jerome Baker – May 11, 2018 Download PDF version

Friday, May 11, 2018

LB Jerome Baker

(We’ve heard obviously some good things about your coverage skills and saw it in a major program. Do you feel that you’re short-changed at all, in terms of maybe some people thinking … well that’s what you’re good at; but is your feeling that I can be a first or second-down run thumper if I need to be? Does that short-change you, known to be good in coverage?) – “That’s just one of my strengths. I have a lot of strengths and a lot of things I can get better at. It’s all good to me. I’m just going to go out there and perform every down.”

(How are you as a run stopper, do you think?) – “I’m good, but there’s always room for improvement, that’s for sure.”

(Do you think people make too much about your size, especially in the draft process?) – “It’s been like that my whole life. I’m cool with it. I just know when the time is on the line, the game is on the line, I can make the play.”

(Even in high school people were talking about your size?) – “Yes. I’m used to it.”

(What were they saying?) – “The same thing they say now, I’m too small; but I can play ball, that’s for sure.”

(It seems like all of your best games in college were against Michigan, Oklahoma, the really big-name opponents. What was it about those games that brought out the best in you?) – “I don’t know about you guys, but I was taught that the best players shine in the biggest games. I just try to do my best and it just so happens that the big games is where I perform my best.”

(If anyone ever doubted your ability as a three down back, what games would you tell them to turn on to prove otherwise?) – “Just watch me every game. I just go out there and do what I do. That’s pretty much it for me. There is a lot of talking and all of that; but when it’s time to play, that’s what I do. Just play.”

(Have you seen LB Raekwon McMillan yet?) – “Yes, I said what’s up to him. He made fun of me a few times.”

(What’s it been like to kind of reunite with LB Raekwon McMillan?) – “It’s cool to see a familiar face. There’s a lot of new faces so it was cool to see him.”

(What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to get out of … Let’s start small, this weekend?) – “Learn as much as I can. Learn the building, learn the playbook, learn faces. That’s all I’m looking forward to this weekend. Just learning.”

(When you saw the playbook for the first time, or the tablet or whatever, you thought what?) – “You better get to work. That’s it. It was cool just to see a different playbook. I’ve been around Ohio State for a while, so to see a different one was fun. And you’ve got that different energy of I’m willing to learn, I’m ready to learn. It’s definitely fun.”

(Wouldn’t you have matched up directly with TE Mike Gesicki quit a bit?) – “Yes.”

(How many of the games during your time there were you specifically matched up with him and what can you tell us? What do you remember from those matchups?) – “I can’t remember the exact times, how many; but he’s a great player. That’s all there is to that. He’s a great player and he’s definitely going to compete.”

(What was difficult about him? What were the challenges and how do you feel they went, overall, you and him battling head to head?) – “He’s big. He can definitely go get the ball and all of that. His routes are good; but I look at the team aspect. He got me one year and I got him the last. This league is what have you done for me lately, and we got the win (last year).”

(It’s obviously a challenge for linebackers to keep up with fleet-footed running backs. What made you effective doing that?) – “Learning tendencies, pretty much just staying in the playbook and film work. Physical skills are going to catch up to it. That’s what makes me effective.”

(After the draft, or after you were selected, GM Chris Grier mentioned just how fast you were and then he mentioned your time at the combine. He said, ‘I don’t know what he ate that day, I don’t know what happened but normally he’s way faster than this.’ What happened at the combine and maybe why the time wasn’t what you might have expected?) – “I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. I just know when it’s time to play, I’m fast. There’s a difference between clock speed and game speed. I didn’t get the time I wanted, but on film and on tape, all of that, I run fast.”

(What was the time that you wanted?) – “At the Combine I wanted to break the record. It was a 4.41 or something like that. I didn’t get it, but it’s all good.’

(What did it mean to you to be an Ohio State linebacker? You guys have a storied history and was there pressure and how did you deal with that pressure, if it existed? – “Not pressure. It’s a standard. Our linebackers are known to be great linebackers, so I just wanted to uphold that standard. Now the real task is here. I’m definitely excited.”

(Has Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke told you where you’re going to start at? Will you do only weak side or does he want you to learn multiple spots?) – “No. Just learn the defense. That’s what I’m getting started to do.”

(When you say people have always overlooked you because of your size all the way back to high school, is it something that you hear about on the field? Is it something that opposing players will trash talk you about during games?) – “No. If you ask anybody that plays against me, they don’t mention my size at all. It’s hard looking from the outside in. On the field, I do my job. That’s all I can do.”

(Was there ever a coach or anything, even back to high school, that told you you’re too small to play this position or that or do whatever it is that you wanted to do?) – “It’s been the same. Guys say it but once I actually play against you, you really don’t even notice how small or big I am. It’s all good.”

(A lot of people talk about, for linebackers, how important it is to stack and shed lineman; but there’s different ways to get around that. You don’t always have to meet a guy head on. What have been varying techniques that you have used to maybe beat a guy to a spot?) – “Different places … I was asked to do a lot of different things at Ohio State. So when people say ‘You weren’t big on shedding,’ a lot of times I was asked to do a lot of different things that weren’t usual, just because of my speed. People don’t know that inside … You have to be in the room to know that. That was a little secret. I guess you could say that. I can do it all. That’s pretty much all I can do.”

(So it’s not about whether you can do it, it’s what you were asked to do?) – “Right. I’m one of those guys that whatever you ask me to do, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

(When you talk to LB Raekwon McMillan, what did he tell you was the toughest part about making that transition from the college game to the NFL?) – “He just said take one day at a time, learn one install at a time and just have fun. He said I got to this point because I can play football, so that’s all you have to do is focus on that.”

(Has there been any part of this experience that was surreal to you, like when you walked in the building or when you sat down with somebody or a particular player you might have seen around the facility? Anything where you were just like “Wow, this is really happening?”) – “As soon as I got off the plane I looked around and I was like, ‘Alright, this is warm. I’m not used to that this time of the year. I’m away from home.’ That’s when it finally hit me is when I got off that plane. (I knew) it was time to get to work.”

(This is warm to you?) – “This is warm. It’s freezing up where I’m from. (laughter)”

(This isn’t warm. This is kind of mild actually.) – “Well, it’s great weather to me. That’s for sure. (laughter)”

(Who were the leaders of the Ohio State defense?) – “We had so many great leaders. Different rooms had different leaders. That’s what made it unique. Me and (Chris) Worley pretty much led the linebackers. The d-line, there were so many of those guys from Sam (Hubbard), Tyquan (Lewis) … I’m not going to name them because then they’re going to see it, so I’m just going to say the d-line was awesome. The safeties, we had ‘E-Smith’ (Erick Smith), Damon Webb. The corners – Denzel (Ward). There were so many guys that we did that four units coming together as one.”

(So did you have any problems stepping up at a time of adversity, when things were not going great, like on the field? Were you one of the guys…) – “Yes. I don’t say I’m a vocal leader and I don’t say I’m a leader that’s quiet and doesn’t say anything. I’m kind of in between. I see how things are going and I step into that role of what I have to do. I can’t say I’m one or the other. I’m more of a mix of in between.”

(What NFL player would you say you model your game after?) – “I was a big fan of (Ryan) Shazier. That was the one player … I saw him my junior year (of high school). I was getting recruited by Ohio State and he played Indiana. It was freezing cold and he had like 20-something tackles. That’s when I became a big fan of Shazier.”

(Were you watching when LB Ryan Shazier got injured?) – “I wasn’t watching that game but I’ve seen the clip. It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. He’s definitely going to come back strong.”

(Did you see LB Ryan Shazier at the draft?) – “When he walked out? I saw him at the draft, yes.”

(What did you think about that?) – “It just shows how strong (Ryan Shazier) is. He’s never going to quit. I talked to him a little bit at the spring game. He’s just one of those guys. He’s never going to quit, that’s for sure.”

(What did you say to LB Ryan Shazier?) – “I don’t really remember. (laughter) I was just so excited to see him. It was pretty cool to see one of the guys you look up to. It was all good.”

(What about LB Ryan Shazier’s game do you think you do as well or close to him?) – “His speed. Just his attack mindset. Pretty much everything. When he came out of college, they were saying the same thing that he was too small. He just performed every Sunday. That’s what I try to do.”

Mike Gesicki – May 11, 2018 Download PDF version

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tight End Mike Gesicki

(Pronunciation on the last name?) – “guh-sick-EE.”

(guh-sick-EE?) – “Yes, guh-sick-EE.”

(Your goal as a rookie? You probably read or heard there are expectations you would come in and start. Is that where your mindset is?) – “No. I think ultimately coming in here, my first and foremost only goal that I have today right now is to continue to dive into that playbook and continue to feel more comfortable with my job, my assignment, my role on each and every play. There’s a lot of stuff going on in that playbook and I’m at my best when I can play fast and play confident. I just have to continue to feel comfortable in that. In terms of goals and expectations, I do hold myself to a very high standard and I expect a lot out of myself; but I’m not going to come out and say where I want myself on the depth chart or this and that because there are a lot of talented guys in that room and a lot of guys with some experience in this league. So whether I can learn from them, whether we can learn from each other, grow as a group, grow as a complete room, that’s what I’m excited about.”

(When you’re labeled as an athletic tight end, do you like that? Do you think that pigeon-holes you? It seems like a good title.) – “I think that especially with the way the game of football is going, I think that athletic tight ends are kind of an important piece to the puzzle; but ultimately, you have to be able to do everything. You have to be able to run block. You have to be able to pass block. You have to be able to run the deeper routes, the shorter routes, just everything. When you’re a tight end, you’re involved in every aspect of the game. I can’t just go in there and be a big receiver. I’ve got to be able to go in on running downs and all of that kind of stuff. It is something I would say that label, the athletic tight end, I think it fits me; but I will continue to work to be a complete tight end. It’s something that I’m going to continue to work on.”

(You took some knocks in the pre-draft process for the blocking. Did you hear that criticism? Did it anger you? Did it inspire you?) – “I’ve been criticized my entire career, so it’s nothing new. It’s not something that (is) a new aspect to my game. I’ve dealt with adversity in my career before. I’ve handled criticism, all that kind of stuff; but ultimately, I try to block it out. If you hear it, that’s it with it. I’m not really going to pay too much attention to it just because the only thing that’s really important to me is the Miami Dolphins organization, (Tight Ends) Coach (Shane) Day, (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase, those kind of guys and their criticism on me and their coaching on me, because those are the guys I’m trying to impress.”

(But you constantly hear it?) – “Absolutely.”

(It has to bother you.) – “Bother? I think that’s just natural. If somebody says something about you, you’re not going to be happy about it, but I try to just … It is what it is. That’s what people want to say; but at the end of the day, everybody is going to have their opinion and all of that kind of stuff. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I need to continue to improve in the run game, blocking and all of that kind of stuff. If you guys know anything about me and who I am, I’m extremely competitive. I work my tail off each and every day, so I’m going to get to where I need to be.”

(Coming from up north, you’re not really in the worst of it yet down here, but what do you know about the climate down here and what training camp is going to be like?) – “It’s going to be hot. Down in southern Florida, it’s definitely going to get a little warm, a little humid and all of that kind of stuff; but I’ve dealt with the humidity and all of that kind of stuff. I know it’s not exactly the same, but I’m from New Jersey right by the beach. You kind of deal with a little bit of that, but obviously not to this extent. It’s just part of the game. Once you get acclimated to it, you get used to it.”

(Is that something they harp on with you guys this weekend?) – “Absolutely.”

(Just so you know what you’re getting into?) – “Yes. They’re talking about nutrition and hydration and all of that kind of stuff to prepare you to be ready for that.”

(Without thinking of the blocking aspect at all, what on the football field do you do really well, that you love doing, that you enjoy and what is it that you struggle with?) – “I think my best attribute would by high-pointing the ball, going making contested catches, scoring touchdowns in the red zone, that kind of stuff, and making big plays. That’s definitely one of the reasons why I was picked where I was. Just some other things I need to work on (is) just the minor details of route running, the minor details of your first step coming out of breaks and all of that kind of stuff. I’m nowhere near to where I need to be, but I’m going to get there whether it’s this year or next year with these coaches and the time and the effort they put into everybody on this team. It’s great.”

(Why didn’t you end up playing basketball?) – “Basketball was a sport that I played my entire life and then when I started getting into football in middle school and high school and all that kind of stuff, I started seeing my potential with football and where the game of football could take me. Now I’m standing here a tight end for the Miami Dolphins, so it’s kind of been a dream come true in that aspect of it. I didn’t see my career path taking me to the NBA in basketball.”

(At what age – at what point – did you say, “Okay, I need to put most of my effort and energy into football?”) – “I didn’t put all of my effort and energy into football until I got to college. I was always … I was playing football in the fall; I was playing basketball in the winter time, volleyball in the spring time and then obviously lifting, running and all of that kind of stuff in between. That’s why I say I haven’t really scratched the surface of the player that I can become. I’ve really played tight end now. I played receiver in high school. I’ve played tight end now for three and a half years at Penn State. There is definitely a lot of steps I can take forward and continue to get better. That’s what I’m really excited about.”

(Did you get offers for basketball?) – “Yes, I had a couple offers. More like Patriot League schools – Bucknell, Colgate, Lehigh, schools like that, that I visited for basketball – and then obviously you take the visits for football and you go to Penn State and you see 110,000 people in the stands and you’re like, ‘Alright, I’m playing football.’ (laughter)”

(What can you tell us about matching up directly with LB Jerome Baker over the last couple years?) – “Obviously, Ohio State was a big game for us each and every year. He was kind of the leader of their defense. There were situations where me and him were matched up together and all of that kind of stuff. He’s a great player. He’s really athletic. He uses his speed to his advantage. Obviously, it’s gotten him to where he is today.”

(LB Jerome Baker says everyone always tells him he’s too small. I’m guessing you’re not one of the guys that…) – “Absolutely not. People are going to say whatever they’re going to say. He’s a great example of blocking that out and getting to where he is today without listening to that.”

(Watching NFL games on TV the last few years, is there anyone you watch where you think, “I would like to be like him. I could be like him?”) – “Those guys set a really high standard and I’m not comparing myself to any of those guys just because I have a lot of work to do; but a guy that I have watched a lot is – two guys – Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham. Two guys that … I think Jimmy Graham with the basketball background, all of that kind of stuff and being a big threat in the red zon,e and Travis Kelce being extremely athletic. They use him in a bunch of different scenarios and situations. Those guys obviously have been extremely talented and extremely successful the past couple years. Those are guys that I’m shooting for.”

(I don’t know anything at all about competitive volleyball, but you were really good, right?) – “Yes, I was alright. (laughter)”

(Do you feel like if you would’ve followed that track that you’d be at the highest level at that sport? Is that something that you could’ve done do you think?) – “Knowing me and knowing my work ethic and all that kind of stuff, I think if I put all my effort into it, why not? My volleyball team in high school, we went to the state finals four years in a row, won it my junior and senior year. I was the New Jersey state player of the year; but I don’t know how much that goes into the whole perspective.”

(Better money in football.) – “A little bit. (laughter)”

(The dunks on Twitter, when was that shot?) – “Like right then when I posted it. I think it was in January or February. I think it was in February.”

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