With the 2014 season winding down for the Miami Dolphins, Joe Philbin took some time to reflect on the progress that some of his players have made so far this season. While many have called for the younger guys to play the last two weeks so they can see live game action, Philbin said that the team is not in any type of evaluation mode and will play to win the game on Sunday.
Philbin started things off on the offensive line, pointing to Jason Fox and calling him tough, versatile, smart and competitive. Fox is important because he will likely be the starting right tackle on Sunday in place of the injured Dallas Thomas. In regards to rookie third round pick Billy Turner, he said that he has seen a lot of good things from him and has continued to work despite not seeing game action in the regular season.
“He’s really progressed well. He’s done a good job. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s done an excellent job in the weight room from a strength and conditioning aspect. He’s in the building a lot putting in extra time, and it’s paid off. He’s getting better. I was just down there today watching the one-on-ones, and he’s improving without a doubt.”
One player who was expected to contribute a big way but has been derailed at various points by injuries is Jamar Taylor. Philbin says that he too has progressed well. Some had questioned the decision not to play him last weekend with the secondary thin in a must-win game but Philbin said it came to down to a coaching decision.
“It was a coaching decision. We brought 46 guys to the game that we felt gave us the best chance to win, and we played the guys in the game based on the situation, based on a lot of variety of factors, that we thought would help us win the game, so that’s what we did.”
Mike Wallace, who has made some spectacular catches like the one at the end of the first half against the New England Patriots, has also had some lapses as he has dropped some easy passes. With that said, Philbin couldn’t be more proud of the effort he puts in at practice each day.
“He’s over there (motions toward Wallace catching passes after practice on the JUGS machine). From my chair, the biggest thing is he’s working. He’s working at his profession every single day when he comes into the building. He’s always early. He’s always attentive in the meetings, and he’s giving effort. In the best sense, as coaches, you feel like that gives players a chance to have more success on the field on a Sunday. I like the way he is approaching things.”
Caleb Sturgis, who has been a target of criticism this season, has made progress according to Philbin. He admitted that he expects to see every kick made but understands that’s also not the reality either. Lamar Miller, who has shown that he can handle being the number one running back on a team, has been more decisive and according to Philbin, has touched the ball over 150 times this season.
“I think he’s used those reps, that experience in the system, in the scheme to his benefit. I just think he’s made better decisions running with the ball. It’s not always perfect like the quarterback is not ever perfect every single time in decision-making, but (Miller) does a good job and I think he’s done a better job (with) less shuffling, less dancing, more running.”
With the individual assessments out of the way, how does Philbin compare this team to last year’s and does he think they have more talent? He wasn’t biting on that question.
“This isn’t really the time to compare and contrast different seasons. Right now, we are looking to play our best game of the year. I just told the team three minutes ago that we have to play a 60-minute football game. That’s what this week is all about. At some point in time, there will be a time and a place to reflect back, compare, contrast, look and say this is better, worse, whatever it may be. Certainly that needs to be done, but all in due time.”
While Philbin can think what he wants about players and the team, the only person whose thought process really matters in ten days is owner Stephen Ross, who will be making the decision whether to part ways with Joe Philbin or to keep him and hope for a turnaround in 2015.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs