Hard work and the fruits of their labor
Tuesday is the player's day off, but that doesn't prohibit guys from getting extra work. My daily routine has me hoofing it back and forth between the offices in the facility and the podcast/television studio on the back of campus here in Davie. On that twice, sometimes three-times daily trek, I pass by the practice field from a distance.
Every Tuesday I see players on the field getting extra work. Today I saw Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki; two players who play the same position, fulfill very different roles, and are both excelling in what the team asks of them to do at that tight end position.
Gesicki hauled in a leaping touchdown reception Thursday night in Jacksonville, his second of the season. Dating back to Week 12 of 2019, Gesicki has visited paydirt seven times – tied for the most in the National Football League.
Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey talked about the emergence of the third-year tight end and how the offense is cognizant of creating opportunities for the 6-6 target with a penchant for elevation.
"You want to create situations where he has creases in zones when it's zone defense, and then you want to get him in a position where he can win one-on-ones because most of the time he is going to line up against a strong safety or a linebacker," Gailey said. "So you're trying to create as many positions or places for him to line up and execute the things he does best."
The progression into his third year is the type of progress the team loves to see, especially as a second-round pick. The Dolphins drafted Smythe in the fourth round of that same 2018 NFL Draft. This season, in 50 pass blocking reps, Smythe has allowed only one quarterback hurry – that's it, according to Pro Football Focus.
Earlier this month, Tight Ends Coach George Godsey complimented Smythe for the leadership and dirty work that Smythe executes for this team.
"I really think Durham's a leader in that room," Godsey said. "He does a good job of communicating when he's right and when he's wrong, but explaining exactly what he saw so as a group we can get better."
Going back to the well
The Dolphins double-dipped at another position in this past draft. In fact, it was a triple-dip with Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley along the offensive line. Gailey spoke Tuesday about the performances of the two starters and getting Hunt acclimated to the speed of the NFL game.
"Those two (Jackson and Kindley) have played pretty well thus far," Gailey said. "They need to continue to improve, which they can. They do have the ability to become a very good player before it's over with."
"(Robert Hunt is) a good athlete. He's a strong player, a very strong man," Gailey said. "He's got some more learning to do, which they all do; but he especially has some more learning to do. To learn the speed of the game, we're trying to work him in at goal line and get him some snaps and get him some plays, so that he knows better the speed of the game and what it's going to take to play there."
Gailey finished up with his thoughts on what the team accomplished Thursday, aside from putting a W in the win column.
"The players got a better sense of confidence of what we're capable of," Gailey said. "If we go execute and do the little things we're capable of putting points on the board and going down there three straight times."
I'm the captain now
Bobby McCain is no stranger being called upon as the team captain. In his second year donning the 'C' patch, which denotes his leadership role on the team, McCain is also in Year 2 of a new position. Tuesday, the coaches talked about his performance Thursday night as well as what he means to this defense.
"We ask Bobby to do a number of things," Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer said. "His leadership, he's a good communicator. He gets us aligned pre-snap. His reads and breaks based on what we ask him to do have been good. He's been playing really good football."
Miami's Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander gets a front row seat to McCain's leadership and impact on the younger players every day. A former defensive back himself, Alexander appreciates the way McCain conducts himself.
"One thing about that position and that responsibility, a lot of the great things Bobby does for us at free safety isn't represented on the stat sheet," Alexander said. "Communicating, making sure all 10 guys understand what they're doing. Being a leader, playing with the passion that he needs to play to help generate the energy his teammates need to play with. I think he's done a great job with that so far."
The third phase
Football Outsiders ranks the Dolphins special teams' unit No. 2 in the NFL behind Sunday's opponent, the Seattle Seahawks. Tuesday, Danny Crossman discussed the traits that makes the Seattle specialists tops in the league – according to Football Outsiders – and how special teams are a reflection of the overall program.
"Special teams is a small fraction of the team and who they are," Crossman said. "(The Seahawks) play fast, physical and aggressive. Any time you talk about playing well on special teams you talk about your specialists (kicker, punt, long snapper, return players). They have a nice nucleus of young and veteran core players."
How about his own group? Crossman highlighted a pair of linebackers that he's been especially impressed with so far on the special teams units.
"Sam (Eguavoen) has done a nice job… Andrew Van Ginkel has shown up," Crossman said. "We have to be more consistent in everything we do, and that's going to come with time."
Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile credits Van Ginkel's dedication to the craft and work habits for getting himself into a position to make an impact on game days.
"He's a worker bee. He's always trying to do extra," Campanile said. "He's up in this facility as much as he can be. He has length, toughness, pride and I think those things are essential for any football player."
The Dolphins will face arguably the NFL's two best quarterbacks this season at Hard Rock Stadium. Patrick Mahomes and the defending champions roll into town in December and the NFL's highest-rated passer (139.0) in Russell Wilson will attempt to dazzle in the South Florida sunshine in five days.
Miami's defensive staff broke down Wilson and the targets he has at his disposal ahead of the challenging matchup coming this weekend.
"(Wilson) presents an immense challenge and he seems to be getting better each year," Boyer said. "He's played at a high level for a long time. He's very good at extending plays, reading the defense, making all the throws and he's got a good cast around him."
Campanile says it will take all 11 to get Wilson and the Seahawks offense – which is averaging 37 points per game, second in the NFL – off track.
"That's a team effort," Campanile said. "He extends plays and makes plays down the field with his arm and keeps things alive with his feet."
Seeing D.K. Metcalf in college has Alexander more than privy to the NFL's leader in yards per reception (24.8) with a minimum of 10 pass targets.
"This isn't anything that surprises me. I saw D.K. at Ole Miss when I was at Cal," Alexander said. "We have to be aware of him and not just his vertical threat. There's a lot of things that go into the way we defend them because Tyler Lockett is dangerous, too. You have to have awareness of where he is. They utilize his vertical skill set and put him everywhere. He can stretch a defense."
The Seahawks' ability to stretch the defense is backed by the numbers. Wilson's 149.3 passer rating on balls that travel 20-or-more yards is second among all NFL quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
Metcalf's 220 yards on such passes (five receptions on seven targets) leads all NFL receivers. Lockett has caught one of two deep pass attempts this season for 43 yards, but he was 11th in the NFL in 2019 with 379 receiving yards on deep throws.
Practice resumes tomorrow. We'll have you covered on everything this week from coaches and player media availability, injury reports, the game preview and the Fins Flashback Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield as he and former tight end Anthony Fasano discuss the 2012 sprinkler game.