The first win of the season is always a great feeling, but another test awaits on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks come to town. One of the biggest challenges presented by the 3-0 visitors from the west is star quarterback Russell Wilson, who brings his NFL-best 139.0 QB rating to South Florida for the highly anticipated showdown.
Brian Flores talked Monday about the challenges the athletic quarterback – who also leads the NFL in deep passing efficiency (courtesy of Pro Football Focus) – will present to the Dolphins on Sunday.
"This is a spectacular player," Flores said. "This guy is tough to defend. He makes really good decisions. He can extend plays. He's accurate with the football. He pretty much knows what you're in from a coverage standpoint because he's seen a lot of exotic defenses. He's one of the best players in the league, if not the best."
Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler talked Monday about the challenges of defending a quarterback of Wilson's caliber.
"Obviously he's a great quarterback," Sieler said. "It's a great team and we've kind of got to take the same mindset where we play as a unit, know our passing lanes and try to get back to him without him running around too much."
Playing as a unit is a hallmark of this Dolphins defense, and entire team, under Flores. Echoing the philosophy of his head coach, Sieler talked about the importance of selflessness and how this team thrives on each other's successes, particularly in last week's win at Jacksonville.
"We celebrate that kind of stuff," Sieler said. "We want to be able to create opportunities for other players. It's not what I did; it's a team. We just – we were able to set something up for him or like with 'X's' (Xavien Howard) pick at the end. Stuff like that. We thoroughly enjoy watching everyone else succeed as well."
Sieler – who played 31 snaps Sunday compared to 20 reps in the first two games combined – picked up his first two quarterback pressures and a half-sack on the young season. Hunting quarterbacks is his occupation, but he moonlights in another field with ties to the pursuit of prey.
Florida is known for its extravagant wildlife and that pairs nicely with the 6-foot-6 defensive tackle's passion project – Clay Gully Outfitters, Central Florida's premier hunting facility for hogs and gators.
"We have guys that have hunted for 20-plus years now. They've got over 35 years of experience together, so we kind of met up – I've been hunting down here for a long, long time," Sieler said. (I have) family in the Central Florida area my whole life, so we started this outfitters business and it's been good for us. It's a huge passion of mine."
Coming from Southern California in college, and the Arizona desert before that, Dolphins rookie left tackle Austin Jackson will probably skip any hunting excursion invitations from Sieler.
"It's not my cup of tea but I'll go look at some alligators. I don't know about hunting them though," Jackson said with a laugh. Yeah, not my cup of tea."
Through his first three career games, Jackson is pitching a goose egg in the sacks allowed department. In fact, he's only allowed his man to touch quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick one time, per PFF. Part of his process includes using the defense's leverage against them and chopping their initial punch.
"It's just like a technique that offensive linemen use because oftentimes, defensive linemen can get kind of leaning all of their weight on you; so it's just kind of a leverage battle," Jackson said. "If you see they're out of leverage, it's easy to swipe them down."
Jackson's development is far from finished. The staple of the program being built in Miami focuses on daily improvement; attacking each day with the mindset of getting better than the day prior. Brian Flores talked about his 21-year-old left tackle on Monday.
"I think being a rookie, there's things that he's learning every time he goes out there," Flores said. "Every different situation, whether it's third down, in a five-man protection, whether it's goal line and how different that snap is than a normal snap in the field, how big, strong, fast the defensive linemen in this league are. I think he's getting acclimated to that."
Jackson offered up his thoughts on his growth, development and transition into the league.
"The biggest growth I've seen, I probably would say just being consistent," Jackson said. "In college football, you've got school, you've got class but making it your job and your everyday thing, I think there's just a lot more things that I was able to become more consistent with and become better at more often. I think that was a big thing for me coming into the league was to be able to do the right thing over and over again like hundreds of times. I think that's probably my biggest jump."