The Dolphins will take another step in their preparations when they hold joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, and Head Coach Brian Flores is looking forward to watching his team work in Tampa.
The joint practices will take place Tuesday and Wednesday before the Dolphins face the Buccaneers in their second preseason game Friday at Raymond James Stadium.
“Going to Tampa and practicing against this team, a talented team, with guys from all over the place, it will be a great opportunity to play and practice against high-level competition, guys we don’t know,” Flores said during a conference call Saturday morning. “Training camp can become a bit monotonous a little bit, seeing the same guys every day. Get a feel for what they're doing offensively, defensively and in the kicking game.”
This will mark the third time in five years the Dolphins have practiced with another in training camp. They traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to work with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 and went to Pennsylvania the following year to practice with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Flores said he’s had conversations with Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, and two have agreed on the structure of the practices, though adjustments will be made if necessary.
“They’ll look similar to what we’ve done in training camp thus far, except that they’ll be against another team,” Flores said. “Obviously there’ll be a lot more players on the field. You may see split fields where we’re running a couple drills with offense-defense on one field and offense-defense on another field. The kicking game, obviously, we’ll try to work that on one field and then some of the team periods will be on two fields as well. There’ll be a lot of moving parts to these practices.”
Evaluating the quarterbacks
Flores addressed the quarterback position in his conference call, saying it remained a competition.
Asked whether Josh Rosen might get practice reps with the first-team offense after his performance against Atlanta in the preseason opener, Flores shared his philosophy on evaluating quarterbacks — and every player on the roster.
“In anything you’re doing, all you can control is what you control,” he said. “If you do a great job with your reps, whether they be first team, second team, third team, hopefully you move and get some reps with some other guys. We've moved guys around in training camp, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. So whether you’re first team or second team, I want to see how guys respond and work their techniques and fundamentals, wherever you’re at.
“I think the best players will play. Then we're always going to have a group of guys who won't be starters come in. They're called backups but they've got a vital role on the team. In a lot of ways, I think you kind of diminish their role when you call them that. I've never been a proponent of that. That may be new to some people. But again, you have to make the most out of your opportunities, wherever they lie. It's what way in life. It's why I don't spend that much time thinking about first team, second team. I want to see guys being productive, period. If you are productive I'm taking notice of that.”
Flores pushed back against the notion that he needed to see Rosen, who played the second and third quarters against Atlanta and passed for 191 yards, play with the first-team offense or against the first-team defense to get a fair evaluation.
“I think it’s so early in training and we’ve played one game,” Flores said. “We’ll have an opportunity to play him whenever we want to. I think there may be an opportunity where he plays with some of those guys who we call first-teamers. Again, Josh, he’s got to take care of the things he can control and do a good job with the reps he has. That’s the case for every guy. That’s kind of how I feel about it. As a staff, we’ll have make that decision when we feel like anyone is ready to move up or down. That’ll be our decision as a staff and we’ll do what we feel is best for the Miami Dolphins.”
The good and the bad
Flores now has had the chance to review the game tape and been able to better evaluate what happened in the game against Atlanta.
One thing he said was worse than he thought immediately after the game was the overall tackling of the defense and special teams. On the flip side, he was pleased with how the little things were executed on offense.
“Something that I thought was better? I thought our operation, in and out of the huddle,” Flores said. “If you watch the tape, you see Atlanta kind of have trouble kind of getting lined up from time to time. We were in out of huddle pretty quickly. I liked the operation from that standpoint. You can catch people off guard and off balance that way. I think that gives us an advance. I think that was something that was good."
The Dolphins ended up being penalized eight times against Atlanta, although only two of the those were pre-snap infractions — an encroachment violation against cornerback Jomal Wiltz and a false start by rookie guard Michael Deiter.
All about consistency
Wide receiver Preston Williams got a lot of praise after his performance against the Atlanta Falcons when he had 97 receiving yards on four catches, two of which were highlight-worthy.
Flores praised the rookie free agent from Colorado State on Saturday, but also reiterated his position that consistency is what ultimately separates players in the NFL.
"I think Preston is doing a very good job,” Flores said. “Starting in the kicking game, we had him in there on punt return. He played tough, he played physical. He blocked in the run game. That's something we talk a lot about here. I think he wanted to make his presence felt from a receiving standpoint, but really in all phases.
“He needs to continue in that. Again, one good game doesn't make you a superstar. This league really is about consistency. He's got to continue to string good practices together and hopefully good games. I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves with Preston. He's got a long way to go."
Rookie cornerback Nik Needham led the Dolphins in snaps against Atlanta with 65, including nine on special teams. Needham started at cornerback opposite Xavien Howard. … Needham played the most snap on defense with 56, following by LB Tre’ Watson and DB Montre Hartage with 50. … Rookie LB Andrew Van Ginkel and LB Sam Eguavoen tied for the lead in special teams snaps with 14 each. … Linemen Will Holden and Chris Reed each had a team-high 53 offensive snaps, followed by Rosen with 43.