Roster house keeping
The elite few that rise to the professional ranks in the game of football usually get there through a disciplined, regimented mindset. Time management is key in any industry, but on the gridiron, preparation can be the half-step difference that changes the outcome of a game. The Dolphins will hit the practice field Tuesday to begin laying the ground work for the first task of the 2020 season – a trip to New England for a divisional test on the road.
Over the weekend, we learned who would don the aqua and orange in pursuit of starting the season 1-0. The Dolphins made 23 cuts, one trade, and have now rounded out a 17-man practice squad.
The Saturday trade with the Las Vegas Raiders made it two deals inside of seven days between the two clubs. Miami sent the 2021 fourth-round pick that was acquired for linebacker Raekwon McMillan back to Las Vegas in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2020 third-round selection Lynn Bowden Jr.
"We did a lot of work on (Bowden Jr.) pre-draft and when the trade was an option here, we did a lot more work, so we're excited about having him join our team," Flores said of the Bowden acquisition.
Click here to view a breakdown of the 53-man roster.
Click here to view the 17-man practice squad of the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins did not claim any waived players from the other 31 clubs. Of the 17 practice squad members, only three were not previously with Miami (wide receiver Antonio Callaway, defensive end Nick Coe and safety Brian Cole). Cornerback Javaris Davis was added to the practice squad after a workout with the Dolphins last week – Davis was with Miami for a stint during training camp in August.
Oh captain, my captain
Toughness, versatility, competitiveness and genuine passion for the game are tenets of the Brian Flores program here in Miami.
Monday, Flores announced the eight captains voted on by the players for the 2020 season.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
G/T Jesse Davis
C Ted Karras
LB Kyle Van Noy
LB Elandon Roberts
S Bobby McCain
S Kavon Frazier
S Clayton Fejedelem
Flores discussed his captains Monday including a note on Kyle Van Noy. Flores says the familiarity between the two acts as a conduit from coaches to players with regards to behavior and expectations; and those interactions are not exclusive to Van Noy.
"Kyle's history with me and history with the defense has been helpful," Flores said. "I think I would say in a lot of ways because he and I have been together so long, it's good for other guys to hear that I haven't changed. I coach guys hard. I'm demanding. I'm still that way and I'm going to be that way, so I think for a lot of guys when Kyle says, 'yep, he's losing it, but he'll get back here. Give him five minutes.' (laughter) I think that part of it's been good."
Flores continued that thought regarding another new linebacker in Elandon Roberts, but also incumbents Bobby McCain, Davon Godchaux and Jerome Baker.
"Whether that's Kyle or Elandon and I would say some of these – the guys that were here a year ago – they understand that, too," Flores said. "Not that I lose it all the time, but I am passionate about coaching, passionate about getting guys better and it's something that – I love coaching. It's great to have Kyle. It's great to have Kyle and really a lot of the guys defensively – Bobby McCain, (Davon) Godchaux, 'Bake' (Jerome Baker) – so I'm excited about that group. We've got to put together a good week to play against a really good football team and I think we'll do that."
Passion is a great starting point, but in the end, the result trumps all. Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was asked which aspect of calling plays he take the most joy and fulfillment from.
The answer: scoring more points than the other guys.
"You're in the business because you like to win. Everybody says they want to compete; but no, you want to win," Gailey said. "It may be winning a series, it may be winning a half, but ultimately you're about winning the game. The biggest thing is to go win the game. I like winning. That's what I enjoy about play calling is winning. I don't think I have all of the answers, but hopefully I have enough to help us win."
Following Fitzpatrick into the mists of Avalon
Guiding Gailey's offense in the pursuit of winning football will be second-year Dolphins starter and 16-year pro Ryan Fitzpatrick. After re-entering the lineup and leading Miami to two fourth quarter touchdowns in Week 6 last season, Fitzpatrick threw for the third-most yards and second-most passing first downs in the NFL (from Weeks 6-17).
Gailey says that production, as well as his training camp performance, earned Fitzpatrick the right to captain the trek up north into New England.
"I think last year's play and this year's preparation and play played a lot into the decision," Gailey said. "His leadership is unbelievable. His understanding of the game is right up there with the best. He understands not only what we're trying to do, but he understands what the defense is trying to do, and that gives any quarterback a leg up when they can do that,"
Flores expanded on the decision to start last year's team MVP for the opener.
"In a year like this with limited – no OTAs, no minicamp – limited training camp or modified training camp, we just felt like that was the best decision for the team," Flores explained. "He's done a good job through the course of training camp and he'll be out there."
The Dolphins finished the 2019 season in much different form compared to how it began. Winners of three of the final five and five of the final nine, the exponential growth throughout the course of the season was tangible in virtually every statistical category.
Flores and Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer have previously discussed the nature of the defense.
"It's not a Flores defense or a Boyer defense," Boyer said last month. "It's going to be a Miami Dolphins defense."
An integral aspect of playing good defense is making the opposing quarterback uncomfortable with pressure. The Dolphins addressed the pass rush with ferocity in the offseason via both the draft and free agency. Like many aspects of this team, Boyer says versatility and the variable ways to generate pressure are paramount.
"I think pressure, it comes in a variety of forms," Boyer explained. "Some of it will be individual effort. Some of it will be team-oriented – scheme-oriented – but we'll take it any way we can get it. I think sometimes you can do that by disguises, alignments and sometimes you can do it by matchups."
The two coaches whose work-relationship spans all the way back to 2006 collaborate together – along with the positional assistants – to find ways to play better football today than what the tape showed yesterday. Boyer discussed the importance of self-scouting early in the season and the expectation to play your best football when the weather gets cooler.
"We don't look to be playing our best football in September," Boyer said. "Week to week, we're looking for improvement. So I think that there's going to be a little bit of we'll see, but our focus is on getting ready to go this week and go up there and get a win."
Depth chart? We don't need no stinkin' depth chart
Monday marked the release of the Dolphins first depth chart of the 2020 season. As football has evolved over the years, so too has the way we view lineups, offensive and defensive packages and individual playing time.
The term "starter" doesn't mean what it once did. A.J. Duhe did an episode of the Drive Time podcast this summer stating bluntly, "if you weren't starting, you weren't playing a whole lot."
One example of playing time over starts comes via Dolphins linebacker Sam Eguavoen. The first-year Fin started six games (38 percent) in 2019 but played 620 defensive snaps (55 percent).
Flores talked about the now vapid definition of a starter in the NFL in the year 2020.
"That initial depth chart, I wouldn't put too much into that," Flores said. "There are so many groupings. Are we talking about 12-personnel, 11-personnel, 20-personnel, 10-personnel, big nickel, little nickel, dime; so I'm not into the whole starters, back-ups. I think in football, you've got 11 guys on the field, a lot of different groupings. Every rep counts. Every snap counts, so I don't really put too much into (who starts).
And just like that, we've got football. Six days away, Dolphins fans. We're going to have you covered on all things Dolphins-Patriots this week on MiamiDolphins.com, the podcast network and all the major socials. We'll finish on this note from special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.
"Even after having played preseason games, there's always that ramping up of the regular season compared to the preseason," Crossman said. "Now you just add to it that we didn't even have those preseason games; but I think we've done a good job in how we've structured practice and how we've worked. I like the way we've worked. I like the plan we've had. We'll have a good week of practice hopefully and see what we have on Sunday."