Tomorrow marks the end of the road for hundreds of players across the NFL. Cut-down day, the toughest part of the job for all involved in the football operation, is here. In less than 24 hours, the 2020 Miami Dolphins roster will look significantly different even before waiver claims and trades with other clubs. We'll cover the day's action on MiamiDolphins.com
Flores' approach to cut-down day
Name an NFL job and the odds are Brian Flores worked it in some capacity. Before he took his place in the big chair in Miami, Flores was the Turk in New England (with multiple job titles in between).
The Turk is football's version of the grim reaper. He is the one who turns anxiety into reality by fetching those whose departures are imminent, bringing the player to the office of the general manager and/or head coach.
Once there, the dialog begins regarding the decision. Flores told the media today how he approaches those conversations.
"I do tell them that when one door closes, normally another one opens up," Flores said. "I try to be supportive and give them some good feedback that could help them in their next endeavor. In a lot of cases, there's opportunity to bring guys back to the practice squad. If that's the case, we'll let them know that; but we just try to be respectful and supportive and honest."
Last year, Miami added Evan Boehm, Danny Isadora and Vince Biegel via early September trades. Saturday marks the busiest transactional day in the NFL aside from maybe post-draft with free agent signings. The flurry activity occurs both on the waiver wire and incoming calls from the other 31 franchises. Everyone is shopping to fill out the proverbial pantry of players from other rosters.
Friday, Flores briefly addressed the chaotic nature of the weekend.
"There's a lot of names that are floating around and we're fielding calls on a handful of players – or at least Chris (Grier) is -- and I think every team is doing the same thing," Flores said.
Once the roster is trimmed to down 53, a 20-hour window must pass before the recent cuts become eligible to return to the practice squad.
This year, like pretty much everything else about the National Football League, practice squad restrictions have changed. Previously, teams were allowed to sign 10 players. The AFC East teams had one exemption from counting against the limit provided that 11th player is part of the International Pathway Program. Miami exercised that option on Durval Queiroz Neto last year and he is eligible for an exemption once more in 2020.
Now, teams are afforded 16 practice squad spots and retain the right to block four players from being signed away by other clubs after Tuesday at 4 p.m. of each week. In year's past, any team could sign a player off any practice squad at any time under the condition that the player is elevated to their active roster.
Another new addition to the roster rules in 2020 is that teams may keep up to six players with unlimited service time on the practice squad.
Flores acknowledged the change in approach with the 16-man practice squad, using it as a supplementary roster that requires balance from a positional standpoint.
"The additional practice squad players – we've had a lot of conversations about who we would want on that and that's almost its own kind of roster itself," Flores said. "How many linemen, how many corners, how many receivers?
Preparing for Cam Newton and the Patriots
Reports from New England indicate Cam Newton will be under center next Sunday when the Dolphins kickoff the 2020 season in New England. Flores discussed Miami's plan for the former MVP and if the reports change the week's approach.
"I think we all had an inkling that that was going to be the case, so we were preparing for all three quarterbacks and we'll still do that," Flores said. You've always got to prepare for the backup and you have to know who the third quarterback is if there is one – the same at all positions. We know that and it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, it'll be a challenge against that team."
Emmanuel Ogbah squared off against Newton one time in his career, a 26-20 victory in 2018 for Ogbah's Cleveland Browns. Now with Miami, Ogbah discussed the opportunity to see Newton again in nine days.
"It's going to be a dogfight. He's a former MVP," Ogbah said. "They've got a good quarterback and we've just got to be ready. It depends on what Coach Boyer (Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer) has in mind for us as far as game plan. We're going to be ready to go."
The most valuable thing in football…the football
Cliches are cliches because of genuine truth from which they materialize. Casual or diehard, every fan has heard multiple diatribes during a football broadcast about the importance of turnovers and takeaways.
With slight variations from year-to-year, predicting the outcome of the game can almost always go back to the turnover battle. Protecting the ball for a full 60 minutes comes with a win probability of just under 75 percent. One turnover equates to better than a coin flip (57 percent) chance of victory, and two giveaways drops win probability down to a smidge over 40 percent
A team committing three turnovers has less than a 20 percent chance at victory and any more than that results in nearly certain defeat.
The story of Dolphins camp on defense has been a point system that rewards players for getting their hands on the football. Points are not exclusively claimed by interceptions or fumbles. Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander instituted a competition that teaches players to pursue the ball all the time. Pass breakups, scooping the football off the turf after incompletions, it's all about facilitating a takeaway-centric mindset.
"The more turnovers, the better chance of a victory," Flores said. "My message to our staff was any way we can create more urgency, more energy, more competition and maybe a competitive points system; if that's what does it and puts more emphasis on trying to create turnovers and it works, then I'm all for it. As far as the state of where we're at, I'll let 'GA' (Alexander) handle that."
Safety Eric Rowe snatched an interception in the scrimmage last Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. Friday, he was asked to update the media on the leaderboard and if anyone was able to seize the throne from incumbent pole sitter, Bobby McCain.
"Bobby (McCain) had a couple of picks. I had a couple of picks," Rowe said. "Shoot, the corners – I remember they had a nice number of pass breakups and that kind of got them ahead. You've got to ask me the next time I'm up because this afternoon we're going to have the final total."
Austin Jackson screams for ice cream, consistency
Dolphins rookie offensive tackle Austin Jackson responded to a question about any pre-game or night-before rituals he intends to continue during his pro career. Treatment and collecting his team ice cream were the two priorities for the 21-year-old pro.
That answer set off a chain reaction of ice cream takes and questions from the South Florida media (my submission: Chocolate Devotion from Cold Stone Creamery). Jackson agrees with the chocolate infatuation.
"I stay away from strawberry. Strawberry and cookies and cream," Jackson said. "I keep it real, real simple – just a little bit of chocolate, little bit of vanilla, little bit of fudge and maybe some Oreos on top. Just real simple."
How much ice cream would it take to feed an entire offensive line room? Jackson shot high assuming three gallons would do the trick. Ereck Flowers and Solomon Kindley rank one and two at 343 and 339 pounds respectively for the team lead on the scales. Jackson talked about the value of having Flowers massive frame and knowledge of the game alongside him on the line.
"He's entering his sixth-year so he has a lot more knowledge about how things go," Flowers said. "He's just real helpful and he's definitely somebody I look up to on the o-line – we look up to. So just getting to work with him and pick his brain about stuff. It's really helpful."
In between discussing his favorite frozen treats, Jackson provided some insight on his biggest area of focus during his rookie-year training camp.
"The biggest thing for me was just picking up the playbook in training camp making sure my technique is specific – consistently specific – to whatever scheme I'm trying to do," Jackson said. "Just doing what I need to do consistently over and over and over again to the point where it's muscle memory."
Who better to ask about the growth of all these young Miami Dolphins players than the veterans that see them every day in practice? Rowe and Ogbah were asked about a few of the rookies and positional groups in their Friday media availability, just as Austin Jackson was asked to relay what his eyes tell him regarding quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Rowe on QB Tua Tagovailoa: "He has an arm. He can put zip on the ball. I've noticed through camp that he's gotten his better with his eyes. At safety, we just kind of read the quarterback and beforehand, he was kind of staring down at routes but he's gotten a lot better with his eyes and from what I can tell, his progression. Obviously he's only going to keep getting better. What makes him hard to defend is kind of tough to answer."
Ogbah on QB Tua Tagovailoa: "You still have to watch out for he could scramble on you. He's pretty fast, too. He's pretty mobile, so you have to watch that. He has a nice deep ball too. He throws the ball really well so you've just got to do your best to stay contained and keep him in the pocket or he might get out."
Rowe on defensive backs: "'X' looks like he's getting back to form. So it's great to have him back – another experienced corner back there. With the slot position, honestly, I don't know. It's competitive. Obviously I'm not the one setting the depth chart but from what I've seen, it's been pretty competitive."