By: Jason Sarney
Organized team activities continued with the Miami Dolphins this week and a pair of NFL veterans took some time on Friday afternoon to meet with Miami media. Following a morning talk with Coach Brian Flores and press, Jerome Baker and William Fuller updated the group on OTAs.
In the morning session, coach Flores had a chance to talk some shop and discussed nuances of inside slot corner play versus outside on the boundary when discussing the development of 2nd-year player Noah Igbinoghene. Flores mentioned other corners who have excelled in the slot role and their development, leading with a third-year undrafted player who is not even a pure inside corner.
"Obviously speed and quickness and the ability to tackle," Flores said to describe attributes needed at this position. Flores then added, "Nik Needham is growing in that role.” He then mentioned free agent Justin Coleman and Jamal Perry as well. Perhaps an early depth chart at the slot area?
He also discussed the progress of Robert Hunt, playing guard or tackle. Regarding the NFL sophomore Flores said, "he has a chance to be a solid offensive lineman, whether that's guard, that's tackle, that's the left side, that's the right side." Flores then said that they will play "the best 5," on that line.
Before Coach Flores headed back to practice, he was asked about Jerome Baker, and Flores praised his linebacker leader saying, "love Jerome, made a lot of improvements, really in all areas.” Flores did not end there saying, “he's a team guy, that's the thing I like the most about him…we're excited to have him."
(We will get a link to the hat soon....)
Baker who was drafted by the Dolphins in 2018 in the 3rd round from Ohio State University, is in the final year of his rookie contract. No time was wasted when Jerome sat down, as the first question was less a question as much as it was a request. Baker was asked to “blink twice” if there had been any talks of an extension and following a laugh it became extremely obvious where the linebacker stands in the contractual sense.
“Oh yea, I want to play here for the rest of my career. I love it here. I love the fans here. I love everything." He expressed his joy playing with his teammates and focused on football and not the financials. “The contract stuff is the contract stuff. I really don't care for it right now,” he said. “I just missed being out here with all the guys."
He once again had an opportunity to talk long-term plans, and simply said, "I love this team, I love being out here...I just love being on this team."
I think the proper people got the memo…
Baker has been a leader on the field for Miami since his rookie season and one of the few remaining Dolphins from a previous regime that will remain nameless. In his three years, Baker has racked up 317 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 10 Passes defended, 4 forced fumbles and a score on one of those picks. He also has 20 QB hits to his credit and his consistent blitzing ability helps the entire unit.
Baker, a candidate to be a captain, explains what makes him a leader saying, “for me, ever since I was young, it's been the same. You lead by example." As a leader of a potential top-end defense again in 2021 following last year’s emergence, Baker made it clear saying, "ultimately what I want for this defense is to be one of the best in the league."
Baker could very well be someone the Dolphins could entertain extending in-season, as several players have a status for next year that could be classified as, “up in the air.”
Speaking of air…
Fuller, who like another Miami Gardens addition in Formula-1 racing, has blazing speed and a terrific opportunity to market in South Florida. Fuller is a hard-working, silent-leader type of a guy, who has Philadelphia and Notre Dame upbringing. That tells anyone two things. Smart and though. In no certain order.
These were words I choose prior to hearing Coach Flores use the identical ones in his earlier presser as he said, "He's smart, he's tough, he's talented.” Flores added, "team first guy." The knock with Fuller is not anything to do with skill or being a good teammate rather the inability to stay in the field a full season. In his five NFL seasons, he has not logged 16 games, and he will not play in all 17 games this season due to finishing up a suspension, and missed Week 1.
Regardless of this, Fuller is massively productive when on the field, and one of the best deep-route runners in the game. Last season, he had a 16.6 yards per reception mark, and scored 8 touchdowns on 53 catches and 879 yards in just 11 games. Adding Fuller as a flanker in addition to rookie Jaylen Waddle, paired with outside threats DeVante Parker and Preston Williams creates a nightmare for opposing defenses. Let alone adding to a slot presence with tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver Lynn Bowden, Jr.
To give a small example on the value of Fuller to a QB, in the last three seasons, his average QB rating when thrown to, was 122.3 for that passer. Last season in those 8 games he helped the passer earn a 134.2 rating when targeting him. This is certainly a stat to make 2nd-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa smile.
When asked why choosing Miami, Fuller said, "this was my first free agency. I wanted to go to a team that wanted me, and the Dolphins showed the most interest." He added, "It's been easy to be here." Coach Flores is clearly happy to have him saying, "as an overall talent, you know, obviously very good speed, but good hands, good after the catch. Good route runner. Smart. Could play multiple positions."
That Formula-1 type speed is all over the track, er, field it seems. When asked about playing with rookie speedster Jaylen Waddle, Fuller gave an appropriate “Dolphin Answer.” "You can't teach speed and we do have that on this team, not just me and Waddle." Fuller added, "we are going to do what the coaches ask of us, and we are going to make stuff happen."
Sure some answers were cliché to the recent pressers, but another phrase was uttered yet again, which is appropriate for this team and many players on it…
“Day by Day."