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Possibilities Abound For Philbin With Replenished Roster

Posted Mar 19, 2013

Dolphins Head Coach is looking forward to Year 2 of his regime.

PHOENIX – Twelve months ago down at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin was still getting acclimated to his new position. This morning at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, he talked about getting acclimated to a replenished roster.

First order of business for the soft-spoken Philbin was to get a healthy breakfast into his system and fuel up on some coffee for the one-hour sit down with the media. Knowing full well where the questioning was going to begin, he decided to start his session a little earlier and dove right in with the big moves made by General Manager Jeff Ireland.

Three of the five outside free agents Ireland brought onboard are offensive players, starting with speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace. He also added wide receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller to the fold, with the two defensive players both linebacker – Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Combined with the re-signings of wide receiver Brian Hartline, quarterback Matt Moore, safety Chris Clemons and offensive lineman Nate Garner, there’s plenty for Philbin to be excited about.

“We like all of these guys,” said Philbin, who went 7-9 in his first season with the Dolphins. “Each one of them I think has his own unique skill set that he can bring to the ballclub. Obviously, Mike got a lot of attention early out the gate but I like the guys we added. If you look on the offensive side of the ball, Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller and Mike Wallace, all three of those guys give us obviously some extra tools to work with.

“And then defensively, Philip Wheeler was a guy we had targeted a year ago. We liked him in free agency a year ago and things for whatever reason didn’t work out and then we were able to get him back. Dannell Ellerbe was another player that we liked but we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get that done so it was good. Sometimes you forget the Matt Moore re-signing was big for us and Brian Hartline and those types of things so I think it’s a good start.”

Identifying this as a good start was a key point that Philbin wanted to drive home because there is still more time left in free agency to address other needs either through signings or trades. Then the NFL Draft next month should be a boon for Miami as Ireland is now armed with a total of 11 picks after picking up two compensatory picks yesterday.

When he was on the coaching staff in Green Bay with the Packers, Philbin saw a lot get accomplished through the draft with that organization. They weren’t really big players in free agency and after taking quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first round last year with the eighth overall pick, Philbin is having fun thinking of all of the possibilities that exist in this year’s draft.

“Ideally, we’d add 11 excellent football players to the roster and create even a more competitive atmosphere than what we have right now. That’s certainly what we’re looking to do,” Philbin said. “We all know that the draft and free agency for that matter are not necessarily exact sciences, but I’d rather have 11 than five. So yeah, I’m excited about it. It’s going to give us an opportunity to find 11 guys that fit the system and character that we’re looking for on this football team.”

As much change that lies ahead for Philbin between now and the start of mini-camps and OTAs in May, he’s had a lot of time to review the 2012 season both from a self-evaluation standpoint and an evaluation of the personnel he has returning to the roster. He was quick to point out that there really isn’t much of a grace period for the returning players and the newcomers to mesh but there is a plan to get Tannehill some extra repetitions with Wallace, Keller and Gibson to help that along.

Meanwhile, his expectations for Tannehill, running back Lamar Miller, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and the other members of last year’s rookie class are high. He sees in Martin a strong, athletic, smart and hard working player more than capable of manning either tackle position and in Miller he sees an explosive back with a high ceiling. Of course Tannehill will have the biggest microscope on him.

“We’re looking for improvement from him, there’s no question about it,” said Philbin, taking into consideration the new weapons around his quarterback. “Part of it’s the decision making that we think is so important, part of it’s accuracy and part of it’s playmaking ability at critical times over the course of a game. So while we think he made some really nice strides in his first year there’s still a long way to go and he’s well aware of that. He’s been in the facility a lot already just working at his trade because the guy’s a worker, so we’re excited about the future for growth with him as well.”

Tannehill’s athleticism coming out of Texas A&M was just one appealing trait that led to the Dolphins targeting him in the first round, but more importantly to Philbin it was the fact that he looked to be a good football player. He played wide receiver and has a good understanding of the entire offense, which is important to the head coach and his staff.

When Philbin talked about all of the individuals that were brought up over the hour, whether it is on offense or defense, he kept going back to that description as a football player as being a key characteristic. That’s what he liked about Gibson, Keller, Wallace, Ellerbe and Wheeler as well as Hartline, Miller, Martin, safety Chris Clemons and second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon. He has a very clear vision of what he wants in a player that will take up one of his roster spots.

“I want a guy that when he shuts the door on his car and he walks into the building he’s excited about being there and feels good about being a Miami Dolphin,” Philbin said. “I think it’s important for all of our guys to feel that. I want guys that want to make an impact on and of the field. I want good human beings and guys that want to get better, guys that want to improve and guys that want to have some fun. I’m 51 years old and I don’t have all the answers, so I want to keep getting better and improving and be a better coach. I want guys that feel the same way.”

So far it sounds like that message got through to the new free agents and the returning players because they echoed those feeling in their remarks after signing with the team. Philbin’s acclimation project seems to be taking flight.

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