The 2020 season – and preceding offseason – is one of change for the NFL and the Miami Dolphins. After a busy draft and free agency period, Chris Grier and Brian Flores have been active on the waiver wire in constant search of improving the roster.
Among those changes, the acquisition of cornerback Byron Jones. Flores met with the media on Monday to discuss Jones' fit in Miami, among a variety of topics.
"He's a smart player. He's a tough player," Flores said. "I think he can tackle, he's got good cover skills, he's got length, he's got some leadership qualities. He's a talented player and we're happy to have him. Obviously there are some improvements he can make to his game like all players and like all coaches.
Over the last two seasons, Jones has been stingy in the catches and yards-allowed departments. In matchups with some of the game's best receivers since 2018 (Michael Thomas twice, Stefon Diggs, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, John Brown, Alshon Jeffery, Robert Woods and Brandon Cooks) Jones didn't allowed more than two catches or 23 yards to anyone on that list, according to Pro Football Focus.
Jones enters a defense with a new defensive backs coach in Gerald Alexander. Alexander is replacing Josh Boyer, who was promoted to the defensive coordinator position. Flores was asked about the early evaluation of Boyer, who has worked on the same staff as Flores since his 2006 arrival in New England.
"He is a very good teacher defensively," Flores said. "He's tough, he's smart, he works extremely hard, and I think he has good rapport with the players. I'm very excited to see him lead the defense. I'm excited for Josh and I think he's going to do a good job with this opportunity."
Boyer worked his way through the ranks beginning as an assistant coach at King's College (Pa.) in 2000. This is the second time in his career he will serve as a defensive coordinator. Last year, in addition to coaching the defensive backs, Boyer was the passing game coordinator.
Another change on the Miami staff comes by way of new offensive line coach Steve Marshall. With 40 years of experience, Flores touched on Marshall's ability to teach, but also a familiarity with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey as reasons why he hired him.
"When we went with Chan, I thought that it was important to go with someone who was familiar with that style of play," Flores said. "That played a role in hiring Steve. He's a good coach. He's a very good teacher of o-line play. He and I – I had a good feeling and a good vibe when we had our interview process. He works well with Chan, he works well with the offensive staff, he's a good coach, he's a tough coach, he asks a lot of his players. So far it's been good."
That style of play has churned out consistently good run games at each of Gailey's last three stops in the NFL. In 2008, as the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, Kansas City averaged 115 rushing yards per game. During a three-year span as the head coach in Buffalo, the Bills averaged 107.5, 120.6, and 138.6 rushing yards per game under Gailey. Finally, most recently with the Jets, those offenses averaged 116.8 and 112.6 rushing yards per game with Gailey calling plays.
With a day-by-day approach, and a focus on controlling what's within grasp of each individual, it should come as no surprise that Flores doesn't believe in carrying over momentum from the previous season.
"I don't think any (momentum carries over), to be honest with you," Flores said. "I think 2019 is in the past and every year is a little bit different. This year is no different from that standpoint. The things that happened a year ago – good or bad – we're just kind of focused on getting better each and every day. Last year is last year. I'm not really worried about anything that happened a year ago."
With each new season is a new opportunity. A new crop of players, coaches, and a different approach for how to maximize the talent that currently occupies Dolphins headquarters in Davie. Flores discussed the adaptability and flexibility to change the approach each year, and how that plays out in varying training camp scripts and practices.
"I think every year, it's different," Flores said. "To set a script in one year and think that you're just going to copy and paste it into the next year, that's – because of different players, different coaches, just different things that you're doing as a team. I think on a daily basis, you've got to be able to change, adapt and be flexible the same way you're going to want your team to be able to adapt and be flexible within the game; so yeah, they change. The scripts change. The daily practice schedules change and obviously this year, everything is a little bit different, so anyone who's setting a specific training camp schedule or practice, this year is definitely different, so we're all going to have to adapt."