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Philbin Settling Into His Offensive Comfort Zone

Posted Mar 27, 2012

PALM BEACH – Offense is the side of the ball new Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin is the most comfortable on, so his first lengthy sit-down with the media played right into his hands.

Philbin took his seat early this morning at The Breakers Hotel for the AFC coaches breakfast and answered nothing but offensive questions for the first 34 minutes of his hour-long session. He is two months into his first head coaching job and certainly had to feel like he was in his wheelhouse.

Not only was Philbin asked about specific players currently on his roster, but as he got into what his scheme will be in concert with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and how he views each position, more clarity was brought to light.

“Part of the philosophy of the offense is to have balance,” said Philbin when asked whether or not he has to have a number one receiver. “We want our quarterbacks to typically have what we call progression reads, where they’re not necessarily isolated on one specific individual. With that being said, we’re going to play to our hot hand and we’re certainly going to strive to create mismatches and take advantage of the guys we do have.”

To that end, Philbin’s next answer had to be music to the ears of Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore. Too often these days receivers are pigeon holed into being labeled a slot receiver, an outside speed threat or a possession receiver and Philbin debunked that approach this morning.

In his more than three decades of coaching, Philbin has learned and then mastered every nuance of the offense in different capacities. He has done his time as offensive coordinator as well as wide receivers coach, even working under Sherman in Green Bay initially, so his philosophy when it comes to utilizing receivers is a refreshing one.

“I don’t envision us being locked into Bess is always going to play in the slot or Hartline is always going to play outside,” Philbin said. “I think you want to create a little bit more work for the defense in terms of, ‘Okay, how are we going to match this up when Hartline started outside but he motioned inside,’ and vice versa. We may line up our tight ends as our widest receiver and our little guys inside, so I think you’ve got to have some flexibility formation size. I don’t want us to be locked into a small player inside and a bigger guy outside every single snap.”

Individually, Philbin likes the speed and vertical presence second-year receiver Clyde Gates brings to the offense based on the little bit of film he has seen. He also was impressed with Hartline’s body control, specifically near the sideline, and the diversity he as at tight end with a guy in Anthony Fasano capable of making clutch catches over the middle, second-year “hybrid” tight end/fullback Charles Clay and the skill set he brings and prototypical in-line blockers Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman.

If there was one resounding theme to come out of Philbin’s detailed breakdown of his offense it was that everyone is going to be involved in the passing game. As critical as the running game is to providing balance, the running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers will need to be able to block and catch the ball in addition to their primary duties.

“We’re looking to develop a good, all-around receiving corps, guys that fundamentally catch the ball well and are precise and disciplined route runners,” said Philbin, who ran one of the most efficient passing offenses in the league with the Packers.

“Really the other thing you’re looking for is people that can win against man coverage because you’re going to see a lot of man coverage and press coverage. When push comes to shove football is still a one-on-one game and whether it’s out on the perimeter with a receiver against a DB or an offensive lineman blocking a premiere pass rusher, we’ve got to find some guys who can win those matchups on a consistent basis.”

Even though he won’t get to see his players in action until early May and has only been able to make evaluations off of film, Philbin confirmed that the right side of the offensive line must be addressed. He claimed the right guard spot as open and right tackle as being competitive among the likes of Lydon Murtha, Nate Garner, Ryan Cook and perhaps even John Jerry.

Jerry played both right guard and right tackle last season and Philbin professed that he’d like to find a home for him at one of those spots. The left side of the line is in better shape with center Mike Pouncey coming off of a stellar rookie campaign and veterans Richie Incognito and Jake Long solid to his left.

“I really like his athleticism and I loved his competitiveness,” Philbin said of Pouncey. “I thought he played the game on his feet real well. One of the things we always evaluate in a lineman is can they sustain a block, can they finish a block and can they play the game up on their feet without ending up on the ground too much. So we thought he had a very, very good rookie year and again, that’s a critical position in our offense. He’s going to have a lot of responsibility in terms of the blocking schemes.”

Finally, the most important responsibility Pouncey will have is snapping the ball to whoever ends up being the starting quarterback. Right now veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard will be competing for that honor, with second-year quarterback Pat Devlin slated to get some decent reps in mini-camps, OTAs and training camps.

According to Philbin, both Moore and Garrard definitely possess some of the qualities he looks for in a quarterback. What he likes to see is leadership, the ability to manage the game and decision making as far as the intangibles and being an accurate passer with good velocity and pocket awareness from the physical perspective.

“(Matt’s) not necessarily a by-the-book quarterback but he was very productive and I thought he managed the games relatively well,” Philbin said. “I think he has good arm strength and he kind of has a knack and that ability to move the team. (Garrard) in 2010 had very good productivity and I think he throws a real catchable ball. He can spin it pretty good and when he came in to visit he moved well, threw the ball wall and has good velocity on the ball. I think fundamentally he’s got nice mechanics and I like his personality and the way he handles himself.”

Now Philbin can continue to work with General Manager Jeff Ireland and adding the requisite pieces on offense to surround those quarterbacks with in 2012.

YES, PHILBIN ALSO KNOWS DEFENSE: Being as he is the head coach, Philbin isn’t totally blind to what happens on the other side of the ball. He was more than happy to field questions about the defense, his coaching style, preparing for the draft and his AFC East opponents:

Philbin on Miami’s pass rush: “That’s an area that we’re still looking to add to certainly at some point in time. We’d love to find another guy that can add some real presence, especially on third down and nickel situations. Some of these guys we’ll have to get some development out if. We were hoping Jared Odrick really could keep coming on and progressing. Obviously, he got hurt the first year and has made progress but now you’re in year three you’d like to see a player really step up and emerge.

“I think most guys focus on the outside guys but more and more as we’ve seen in defenses I think in the last four or five years, and the Giants have done a great job of it in the years we’ve played them in the past, it doesn’t always have to be a defensive end. You’ve got to be able to move your guys around and create a little pre-snap confusion and get some post-snap movement as well. If you look at the Bengals’ sub package, it’s been creative in the past and multiple in the past and I think we’ve got to identify and add to that mix from a personnel standpoint but then I think we’ve got to have some creativity from a schematic standpoint as well.”

Philbin on CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith: “We’ve got two corners that from a measurables and size and speed standpoint we’re really excited about. Vontae Davis is a very physical guy who plays hard and is a good tackler. They’ve showed spurts where they’ve played extremely well on tape and this season what we’re hoping is we get more consistent overall performance week in and week out, series in and series out, knowing that those guys are out there on an island at times. They’re not going to make every single play and there is going to be completions against those guys. That’s what happens, but there has been some excellent football by both of those guys on tape and we’re looking as a whole to develop them a little more consistently.”

Philbin on his coaching style: “A couple of things that I think are important to know number one is that it’s a privilege for me to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. So when I meet the team for the first time I’m going to remind these guys of the great tradition and history that this franchise has and the great obligation they have as a member of the Miami Dolphins to represent this organization the right way both on and off the field. That’s number one.

“But beyond that, what I’m going to bring to the Dolphins as an organization football wise on Sundays, I think they’re going to see a sound football team, one that plays with good fundamentals, good discipline and high effort. They’re going to see a smart football team, a team that’s going to understand the situations in the ballgame and respond and execute, whether it’s a two-minute offense, last play of the half, third-down offense or execution versus pressure. You’re going to see a team that’s tough physically and mentally and a team that plays the game the right way.

Philbin on if he can be fiery: “I think the number one rule in coaching is you have to be yourself and you can’t be somebody you’re not. I’ve always told our coaches and I’ve always operated under this premise, you’re a teacher and you’re job is to teach the players what they need to know to do their job. … There are two situations I think where you really jump down a player’s neck and number one is if they’re not giving maximum effort. Number two is if they keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. Then you’ve got a problem and then you should do whatever you have to do. I’ve shouted a profanity in my day but I’m not impressed by people who shout profanities. I’m not saying I’m never going to do it but the loudest yeller doesn’t necessarily impress me.

“What really matters is on Monday when you watch the film, does the team do what you say they’re going to do and how you do that really doesn’t matter to me. I’m very, very passionate and this profession is very important to me. I’ve been doing it for 28 years, this is going to be my 29th, and I’m very passionate about what I do. It’s important to me that we do a great job here in Miami and I know we’re going to. … I hope the fans will judge me by the way the team plays on Sunday.”

Philbin on impact of free agency on draft preparation: As a personnel staff Jeff and his guys and our coaches as well, we watched the 2011 season and we kind of came up with I guess you can call it a wish list so to speak for both sides of the football side in areas we would like to see us add to the competitive mix on the football team. So we did that and we were thorough in that phase and some of those needs, you can’t necessarily fix everything in free agency, nor do you want to.

“I don’t envision us being deeply, deeply involved. I think when you’re doing things the right way you’re developing your own guys, you’re re-signing your own guys so just the business model of the NFL, that’s going to prohibit you from being overactive in free agency. Now we’re hopefully going to take the best players available based on our film evaluation when the draft comes around.”

Philbin on facing Tom Brady and the Patriots twice a year: “Well that’s why I hired (defensive coordinator) Kevin Coyle. Obviously, they’re a high-powered offense and they’ve done an excellent job over the years of consistently moving the ball and scored a ton of points. They do a great job taking care of the football, too. They don’t turn the ball over a lot so that’s another thing they do extremely well. So it’s safe to say to slow them down you’re going to have to find a way to hopefully disrupt their timing and rhythm and that’s easier said than done. Whether it’s by blitzing, whether it’s by dropping eight guys or by a combination thereof, you have to disrupt their timing and rhythm. And you better tackle them.”

Philbin on if his team will go up for Hard Knocks: “No, I’m built for radio, not for TV so I don’t see that happening.”

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