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Former Coaches Reflect On New Dolphins

Posted Mar 19, 2013

AFC East, West and North lose talent thanks to Miami’s signings.

PHOENIX – Based on which closets the Miami Dolphins raided last week in free agency, it would be fair to assume that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was the most put off. That was not the case today.

Ryan had more words of praise for his former tight end, Dustin Keller, than Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin for his former wide receiver, Mike Wallace, during the AFC coaches breakfast this morning. Now to be fair, Tomlin has a method to his approach that he has never shied away since taking the Pittsburgh job in 2007 and that’s to keep the focus on his current players and not look back so his take on Wallace as a player was limited.

“Obviously, Mike is a quality guy,” Tomlin said. “He’s a guy that’s capable of taking the top off of the coverage.”

From there he shifted his thoughts to the impact Wallace’s departure had on the Steelers and in keeping with his track record he wanted to make it a point that they will and always have been able to move on.

“Free agency is what it is, it’s part of our business and it was implemented for a reason,” said Tomlin, who has taken Pittsburgh to two Super Bowls in his six seasons and won in 2008. “He’s (Wallace) taken advantage of that and I wish him nothing but the best. Obviously, our charge is to move forward and to move forward with the ingredients that we have. A number of years ago there were questions whether we were capable of doing that with the departure of Santonio Holmes and a guy like Mike Wallace, who was an unknown at that time, stepped in and delivered. So I’m sure there’ll be another unknown type of a guy that steps in and delivers for us in their own way.”

Meanwhile, Ryan tried to find a balance between losing his best pass-catching tight end and favorite target of quarterback Mark Sanchez with giving an honest assessment of a player he was fond of and placed a lot of responsibility on over the years.

“Dustin did a great for us. I appreciate everything he did for us,” Ryan said. “He’s a weapon. He’s got receiver skills in a tight end body, so obviously there’s a huge matchup problem when Dustin’s out there. Unfortunately, last year he only was healthy for about seven games I think but when he’s healthy he’s certainly a huge factor in the passing game specifically.”

Out of necessity, Ryan had to pay close attention to the moves the Dolphins and General Manager Jeff Ireland made last week because they are in the same division. The teams split the season series in 2012, with the Jets winning at Sun Life Stadium in overtime, 23-20, in Week 3 and then Miami evening it up in Week 8 with a 30-9 rout at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

So Ryan came away with quite the impression of the players Ireland added to that roster – while also being relieved at one Ireland lost.

“There’s no question they’ve added a lot of talent to their team,” he said. “I’m kind of happy to see Jake Long leave to be honest with you because that was one heck of a football player. But they’ve added a lot of talent to their team.”

Offense wasn’t the only side of the ball where the Dolphins added talent, as they were able to grab linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler away from the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Both of their former coaches were sad to see them leave but gave ringing endorsements to what they will mean for Miami.

“Dannell, I think he’s really become a real pro in the last couple of years,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who won last year’s Super Bowl with Ellerbe as a major contributor. “He’s fast, explosive, he’s very physical at the point of attack and he can cover. He started off playing in our dime package as a dime backer so he played a defensive back’s role. He’s just a complete linebacker and he’s a good guy.”

For Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, he and the Raiders tried to soften the blow of losing Wheeler by signing former Dolphins linebacker Kevin Burnett. Still, seeing a 100-plus-tackle guy leave to another team in the conference is never easy, but Allen gave a glimpse of what Miami and its fans should come to expect this season out of Wheeler.

“Well, I think the thing that you’re going to get out of Philip Wheeler, you’re going to get a guy that loves football,” Allen said. “You’re going to get a guy that is going to work extremely hard, he’s going to play the game the right way, he’s going to play every play with everything he’s got and that’s one of the things that we really appreciated about having Philip Wheeler. I think the world of him and I think he’ll be a good player for the Miami Dolphins.”

Three of these four coaches will have to face their former players in 2013 as Miami will host Baltimore and travel to Pittsburgh while of course facing the Jets twice. Those will be interesting reunions.
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