Two of the NFL's most storied franchises will renew a rivalry that, once upon a time, pit the two most recognizable faces (Dan Marino and Joe Montana) in the National Football League against one another on the biggest stage.
Today, we heard from the Miami quarterback, Brian Flores and a few more Dolphins players as preparations for the trip out west are underway.
Balance in the Building
The professions of coaching and quarterbacking feature a lot of crossover. Although in different terms, both serve as the proverbial face of the franchise. The coach is the leader, the one who provides an example for everyone to follow. But his message only carries so far without a conduit to relay the expectations throughout the locker room.
That job usually falls on the quarterback.
The Dolphins have two quarterbacks on the active roster, both of which have been lauded for their personalities and galvanizing auras. The behavior of those in leadership positions can trickle down to the rest of the building.
Flores is often referred to as showing up as the same guy, day after day. Regardless if the team won big, lost badly or anything in between, he carries a baseline demeanor. The same is true of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"I focus on the every day, and that's it. I really do, and I put everything I can into each game," Fitzpatrick said. "You try to forget the last game if it's a good one or a bad one, and work on the next one. I just try to be very myopic and go about my business that way."
Feeding the Playmakers
Fitzpatrick completed passes to 11 different players in Sunday's 31-23 loss to Seattle. The Miami quarterback says the distribution of the football, and the entire operation of the offense, is dictated by situations.
"Sometimes when it's man coverage across the board and you've got five one-on-ones, then sometimes you're forced to make those decisions," Fitzpatrick said. "Where is my best matchup?
"Sometimes it's dictated by who is covering our guy and a lot of times it's dictated by the particular route that we have our guys on and if we like them or not, and if they've shown in the past that they can win on that route. Sometimes it is, when it's a bigger zone game, then it is going through your reads and guys being in the right spots and making some run after the catch."
DeVante Parker caught 10 passes in the game – a career-high. Fitzpatrick mentioned Parker, without hesitation, as a guy that's always going to command the football. That doesn't mean the offense runs exclusively through No. 11; Fitzpatrick talked about the problem of having so many options, and why it's a good problem to have.
"I think the confidence that I have in our group is high," Fitzpatrick said. "There are guys like Preston (Williams), he hasn't started off this year the same numbers-wise as he did last year, and some of that is definitely on me and looking to get him more involved.
"DeVante (Parker) is always going to be a guy we're going to try to get the ball. Jakeem (Grant) has shown some really nice things for us. Matt (Breida). (Mike) Gesicki had a great game, and is a guy that I need to continue to get the ball to. It's a good problem that we have. We've got guys that aren't getting enough touches. That means we have a lot of playmakers and I'll continue to try to do my best to spread it around."
Don't Take the Cheese
The average use of pre-snap motion or shifting in the NFL is just a hair under half the time – 49 percent. For Miami's Week 5 opponent, and defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, pre-snap motion is as important as oxygen – they lead the NFL with 75.7 percent shifting pre-snap.
Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker talked about the challenges of staying disciplined against all the movement and potential false step creators.
"It's about understanding your defense," Baker said. "Depending on where you're at on the call it might be your job to leverage the motion or it might not affect you at all. Just understanding what your role is. Throughout the week, you want to watch film and make the calls so that Sunday, it's easier. Every play, look forward to motion and expect it so it's not a surprise."
When the Dolphins kick off Sunday for the first time ever at Levi's Stadium, a familiar face will graze the sideline opposite Miami's. Kris Kocurek coached the Dolphins defensive line for one year in 2018. Wednesday, Jesse Davis talked about the aggressive, one-gap style of play he's instituted in San Francisco and the challenges that presents for the Dolphins up front.
"He's a fiery guy, hooting and hollering and everything," Davis said. "We're going to expect this defensive line to have a lot of energy and passion. It's up to us to do our job right, keep Fitzpatrick clean and get our running backs moving forward."
Davis talked this offseason about taking on a more prominent leadership role. Part of that study included reading books, particularly with a military theme. One of the themes of that style of leadership is setting the example with your actions.
Wednesday, Davis talked about the quiet but commanding leadership of players like himself and guard Ereck Flowers.
"Ereck stays in his lane, Davis said. "He goes to work every day and leads by example. He's always on time and there if somebody asks for help. I'm the same way, I don't try to 'rah, rah' everyone around me but if something needs to be said, we'll say it."
Wednesday Injury Report
The Dolphins listed nine players on the Wednesday report:
Full participation: safeties Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) and Kavon Frazier (shoulder), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee)
Limited participation: cornerback Byron Jones (groin/Achilles), guard Solomon Kindley (foot), wide receiver DeVante Parker (ankle)
Did not participate: defensive end Shaq Lawson (shoulder/illness), tight end Durham Smythe (knee), tackle Austin Jackson (foot)
The 49ers listed 11 players on their Wednesday injury report:
Limited participation: quarterback Jimmy Garappolo (ankle), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (quadricep), running back Raheem Mostert (knee), cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring), and wide receivers Trent Taylor (ankle) and Dante Pettis (knee)
Did not practice: defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (biceps), safety Jimmie Ward (wrist) and cornerbacks K'Wuan Williams (knee/hip), Dontae Johnson (groin) and Emmanuel Moseley (concussion)