Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores Updates the South Florida Media on Training Camp News and Covid-19 Protocols
By: Jason Sarney
A year ago, today, it was business as usual across the NFL as training camps across the country were in full stride and the only issues were things like roster cuts, cap space and player health. Well, that last element takes on an entirely new meaning in the year of Coronavirus.
In these unprecedented times, the 2020 NFL season and its training camp period has seen a remarkable and challenging hurdle, in what we as a people are facing together. The pandemic has placed all aspects of life on hold in some way, shape or form, and with the impact this disease can have on families, you have to sympathize with players who are choosing to “opt-out,” of this season on some other teams across the NFL.
On Wednesday morning, Miami Dolphins head coach, Brian Flores, addressed the South Florida media to discuss all topics from football to fighting this pandemic and using the proper protocols to handling this situation as best he and the team can.
While football professionals and fans would no doubt prefer to focus on roster moves, transactions and depth charts, unfortunately most of the conversation was with Covid-19 at the center of it all.
Coach Flores said, “with Covid, I think we try to create an environment that is as safe as possible.” He went on to credit Miami head trainer, Kyle Johnston, saying the protocols in the locker room and training room have been great.
“There has been a lot of changes at the facility. We have a new locker room. We have in-between the lockers."
Flores went on to state that he was communicating to his player that making good decisions and being responsible is key to limit the spread of this virus. Flores went on to add that it would be important for players to make sacrifices in the building and out of the building.
Flores realizes that the pandemic limits games and opportunity for players to compete, but he tells them to not worry about that aspect of this unusual year.
Flores says, “these are unprecedented circumstances”
In true leadership form, he said emphatically, “there is no point dwelling on lack of games or practices, we have to make the most of opportunity."
Specifically, on undrafted free agents, Flores said with inspiration in his tone, "every rep is going to be important. Every walk-tru rep, every practice rep."
On the football health front, it was recently announced that cornerback Xavien Howard would be placed on the PUP list to open training camp. Coach Flores updated the media on Howard’s status.
"X is on PUP." Flores added, “he will be back as soon as he can. I can’t put a timetable on that." He then said, “we are going to try to get him out there as soon as he can."
On a positive note, when asked if any players or coaches have opted out for 2020, he said, as of 10 minutes prior to the media session, no opt outs.
In terms of on field news, which is a relative term these days, Coach Flores talks about his young quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, and his health and practice status.
Flores stated that Tua is, “ready to go and you will see him out there.”
Yet, if this translates into competition, Flores kept a solid poker face, but was evident nothing is a guarantee one way or the other, and work will need to be done regardless.
When asked about the quarterback competition directly, Flores said, “you always want competition in training camp…every position is an open competition. Obviously, some players are further ahead than others, we all understand that.”
He then added regarding Tua and his development, "It’s a one day at a time approach.”
Overall, a health and Covid-19 protocol focused media session proved that even amidst this unfortunate hand we have all been dealt, Coach Flores is communicating his message the right way.
He is telling his staff and players to make the necessary sacrifices in and out of the building and to do their part to limit, and ultimately end the spread of this virus.
After-all, if anyone can emphasize this next statement strong enough, it is Miami’s wise beyond his years head coach, the undisputed leader of this team, Brian Flores….
“There is nothing more important than the health of the team”
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman
By: Jason Sarney
Five months after the Kansas City Chiefs were crowned NFL Champions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, and following the most unique off-season in football history, the 2020 season is inches away from officially beginning...sort of.
While protocols and player safety issues have been the early issues around NFL Training Camps over the weekend, the league seems to be working on the fly in terms of creating the most health-conscious and safety oriented environment, this of course due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
What happens in the next month or so is still very much a work in progress, as there still is not a definitive number of pre-season games, if any, set in stone for August.
With literally days and in some cases hours until certain players report to camp, there is a palpable feeling of uneasiness and nervousness. With the hope being that the NFL and the players association come to agreements on the safety of the players and their families first, the game we crave is hopefully weeks away from true action and even less time away from actual real life sports.
With that hope, a universal word of extreme importance these days, we will take a look at what should be discussed this week; that being the 5 Questions Heading into Miami Dolphins Training Camp.
Who will make up the Miami offensive line? What positions? How fast can it be fixed?
In 2019, the Miami Dolphins rotational bunch of offensive linemen, collectively allowed a league worst 58 sacks, tied with Carolina. They also allowed the most quarterback hits in the NFL with 154 and the Dolphins were tied with the Jets for last in yards per rush at 3.3. Needless to say a change, or several, must be made.
The line could be completely overhauled, as three rookies were selected in Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley to join free agents Erick Flowers and Ted Karras. Veterans Jesse Davis and Michael Deiter will have their work cut out for them to earn a spot on that 5-man line, and both could be worked at multiple positions.
What to watch for is the tutelage from Karras to Deiter, as the Wisconsin second year potential future center can learn a massive amount from the veteran free agent signing from New England. Karras is a one-year contracted player, and someone who has a coaches/mentor-ship mindset to help young players progress.
What will the Miami loaded secondary look like?
Perhaps the toughest, intriguing, and most exciting question of the training camp process, the Miami defensive backfield is closing in on becoming a stellar group league-wide. With incumbent lock-down specialist Xavien Howard becoming a pair with Byron Jones thanks to the former Cowboy inking a Miami free agent deal, this is a super-team of cornerbacks reminiscent to the Dolphins Dynamic Duo of Sam Madison and Pat Surtain of the late 1990’s early 2000’s.
Second year undrafted free agent, and lock-down cover man in his own right, Nik Needham, will look to build on a 12-game rookie season that had him collect 54 tackles, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack that Sam Darnold is still recovering from.
Rookie corner Noah Igbinoghene out of Auburn was a 1st round selection for the Dolphins in April and another true lock-down minded defensive back who can thrive with the coaching of Head Coach Brian Flores. Miami has talent at the cornerback position beyond these four, and it will be interesting to see what happens to a veteran or two in danger of not being a part of the 53-man roster.
Who will be the next great safety for Miami?
Brian Flores loves the “slash.” Meaning, he loves players that are defensive ends SLASH outside linebackers. A cornerback SLASH safety. The point is at the moment, the middle of the defensive backfield is a question-mark. No more Reshad Jones, a traded Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback converts like Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain.
The Dolphins added depth, competition and potential starters in Texas rookie Brandon Jones and free agent safety/special teamer, Clayton Fejedelem. This is another group that flexibility of “true position” will be key for the overall success of the unit.
Is there another conversion going on we all don’t know about yet?
What will the line-backing Corp. look like, and will there be a veteran in trouble?
A noticeable pattern this off-season was the addition of a certain type of player. Simply put – “Flores Guys.” This is evident with three former Flores disciples from New England in the same position group all signing with Miami this past off-season.
Kyle Van Noy, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Elandon Roberts are all now Miami Dolphins and all share rings with former Patriots defensive mastermind, Flores. This trio joins a pair of young linebackers fighting for reps in Andrew Van Ginkel and breakout from 2019, Vince Biegel. Throw in a pair of veteran Buckeyes in Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan, and suddenly, Miami has a defensive full of depth and training camp battles at all levels.
How good can Mike Gesicki be?
Exactly a year ago to the week, the 2019 Dolphins Training Camp was the inaugural Flores Camp. A new TNT wall to run to on mental mistakes was touched early by 2nd year tight end, Mike Gesicki on Day 1. Following that trip the to "Take No Talent" disciplinary device, I can’t recall the former Penn State alum making an error from that point on.
Prior to his mini-breakout season, mainly towards the second-half of 2019, Gesicki was a student of the game, and soaking up information and technique from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as well as former and then Dolphins safety, Reshad Jones. Following team drills, already hours into practice, in the sweltering heat, a drenched Gesicki worked on countless reps of endzone corner fade routes with Fitzpatrick dropping dimes over his shoulder, while Jones helped with technique to break off the line of scrimmage when split wide, against a defensive back.
This was a microcosm of what Gesicki is…a student of the game. He is going to continue to get better, work on his fundamentals and improve his faults. Finishing the season with a huge final month and a half, Gesicki is a tight end who could very well progress to be a poor-man’s Travis Kelce in year three or next year in season four. He is athletically gifted and faster than most tight-ends and has the hands and leaping ability to becoming a staple in the Miami offense, especially in the redzone and near the goal-line.
He finished with 51 receptions, 570 yards and five touchdowns last season with and those scores all came in the last six weeks of the season, so there is heavy momentum heading into 2020. That includes last season’s season-ending, game-winning touchdown reception that send the Patriots out of home-field playoff contention.
Back to the Kansas City correlation.
While new Miami offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, has not been known to feature the tight end, historically, he has arguably had just one tight end in his career that had enough athleticism and skill to be featured, that being Kansas City Chief Tony Gonzalez back in 2008.
Is Gesicki the next Tony G? Likely not, however, 70% of that production could mean a top-10 producing tight end in Miami, a position the Dolphins are sorely looking for a bona fide star.
Yes - there is one more pesky quarterback question...but that's a conversation for another day and article.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman
Listen to Jason's Miami Dolphins PodCast - The Deep Dive - Part of Fin Addicts Network - @Fin_Addicts - Every Tuesday!
By: Tom Shannon
Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew rates the 32 NFL running backs. He has new Dolphins running back Jordan Howard at number 30:
“Howard is in this spot for several reasons. He is several years removed from a 1,000-yard rushing season and is in a new scheme on a rebuilding team. He's also recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him out for the final six games of last season and will be sharing the backfield with Matt Breida.”
Thirtieth seems to me to be a bit low for Howard. There’s every reason to believe that the shoulder will be fully healed. And the fact that he’s sharing snaps with Breida isn’t as relevant as the reason he’s sharing them.
It’s very easy to underestimate Howard. Even though he’s reputed to be a power back he really doesn’t look that big on the field. He’s not fast and he’s not flashy.
That makes him fit in just fine with the Dolphins, who have what appears to be a very vanilla roster.
"I just liked the opportunity it presented," Howard told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about joining the Dolphins. "I felt like we're turning things around down here, I just wanted to be a part of that. I was part of a turnaround in Chicago, so I embrace those type of things."
Howard was with the Bears for three seasons including 2018 when the team went from worst to first. He knows firsthand that sometimes coaching, hard work and the culture in the locker room can mean more than the talent on paper. As an individual, he embodies that on every level.
Howard has a reputation for not being able to catch a pass which isn’t true. He can and does catch passes. The problem is that he’s not the kind of back that is going to do a lot with the ball once it’s in his hands. That’s the reason he’s paired with Breida, who is more elusive in space as a third down back.
But Breida won’t be as good as Howard when there are yards on the field that you really need to run the ball to get. That is Howard's expertise where he uses his vision and hard running style that get him through. You’ll watch him approach a line of scrimmage that appears to be clogged with bodies. You blink and he’s suddenly through untouched. That make him perfect as a runner in an outside zone blocking scheme.
Howard is a slashing, one cut straight line runner who will find a crack is a defense that you never knew was there. Sometimes it’s like magic. But it’s not. It’s real talent. Just not the kind of talent that is always apparent.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @bearingthenews
By: Jason Sarney
Breaking down the crowded and talented Miami cornerback group, this episode will focus on 2nd year UDFA, Nik Needham.
Needham played in 12 games and was the only undrafted cornerback in NFL history to record 50+ tackles, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble in his rookie year.
Needham finished his rookie season as a starting corner and had a pair of interceptions and 11 passed defended on the season.
He is a sure tackler who finishes the play, and an absolute ball hawk.
The competition and drive to earn snaps will only help the UTEP record holder in passes defended, as the sophomore Dolphin plays with passion, purpose and pride, with a little bit of a chip on those shoulder pads.
The Miami Dolphins have a terrific problem, with potential four lock-down cornerbacks on their roster in Needham, Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and rookie Noah Igbinoghene.
A group of mini-islands in South Florida that I like to call, The Florida Keys.
Make no mistake, Nik Needham is a big part of this team’s future.
You can follow Jason on Twitter at @OrangeAquaman
By: Brandon Liguori
Training camp is expected to open in late July, with the Miami Dolphins likely to carry four quarterbacks on the active roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, entering his 16th year as a professional, Tua Tagovailoa, Miami’s first-round selection this past April, Jake Rudock, who has yet to attempt a pass as a Dolphin and Josh Rosen, acquired during the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft from the Arizona Cardinals.
A former UCLA product, Rosen’s NFL career has been a disaster thus far. As a rookie, Rosen served as Sam Bradford’s backup, but after opening the season winless through three games, Bradford was benched. In 13 starts, Rosen finished a head-scratching 3-10 and completed just 55.2 percent of his passes. Rosen threw three more interceptions than touchdowns and Arizona’s 3-13 mark was the worst in the league.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was brought in after spending his entire six-year collegiate coaching career at Texas Tech, shipped Rosen out in exchange for Kyler Murray, whom the Cardinals selected first overall in 2019. After a back-and-forth competition heading into the 2019 campaign, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores handed the offensive keys to Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick’s group, in the opening two games, was outscored 102-10 vs. Baltimore and New England, thus resulting in an immediate switch at the quarterback position.
Rosen’s debut as a starter came in Week 3 against a dangerous Dallas Cowboys squad in Dallas. Dropping a 31-6 decision, Rosen completed 18 of 39 throws for 200 yards, failing to find the endzone. One week later, a home contest vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, Flores elected to give Rosen a second opportunity to prove his quarterback capabilities to the organization and Rosen delivered a solid first-half performance, tossing a 34-yard touchdown strike to DeVante Parker to give the Dolphins their first lead under Flores. Rosen’s second half was a different story, nonetheless, and the Dolphins’ 30-10 defeat kept the team winless heading into the bye week. Flores stayed with Rosen against the winless Washington Redskins, a game in which both squads were building for the future.
Rosen did not take advantage, throwing two ugly interceptions and was replaced by Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, who rallied the Dolphins from a 14-point deficit. In three starts as a Dolphin, Rosen threw four more interceptions than touchdowns, leaving his future in Miami on thin ice. Tagovailoa and the Dolphins agreed to a four-year, $30,275,438 contract this past May, including a $19,578,500 signing bonus, putting a large amount of money and trust on Tagovailoa.
Originally, Rosen signed a four-year, $17,597,756 contract with the Cardinals. Rosen is set to make $750,000 this upcoming season and 920,000 in 2021, but the Dolphins should begin finding a new home for Rosen if Tagovailoa thrives with the organization, as Fitzpatrick’s career is pretty much complete. On the current active depth chart, Rosen sits third behind both Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa, ultimately telling the story.
Brian Flores is entering his second season and there are questions in regards to how well Miami’s free agent defensive acquisitions will perform, whether Byron Jones and Xavien Howard can become lock-down cornerbacks, if Mike Gesicki, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant and Parker will succeed in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system, if Tua Tagovailoa will suit up and take a meaningful snap under center, etc. However, does Josh Rosen have a long-term future with the Dolphins? Maybe Tua Tagovailoa’s understudy once Fitzpatrick calls it quits? Only time will tell.
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonRLiguori