Among the handful of Flores-ism's that have come to be over the last three years, perhaps none is more prevalent than the process of player development. The majority of Miami's most-productive players over the last half-decade saw their upward trajectory take off somewhere between Year 2 or 3 in the NFL.
Draft picks like Xavien Howard and Mike Gesicki began significantly impacting the box score in their second years as professionals. Christian Wilkins' trajectory has been a bit more steady, but he's enjoying a true breakout campaign in his third season. Myles Gaskin went from special teams contributor in his rookie year to full-time back by Year 2. Even free agent acquisitions like Emmanuel Ogbah and Eric Rowe experienced career years upon arriving in South Florida.
"I think it's case by case," Brian Flores said. "I think some players, it clicks for them a little bit sooner. Some players it takes a little bit longer. Some players have success early and then for whatever reason start to tail off. Some people don't have success and then for whatever reason, the light bulb goes off…I think our young guys all work hard and all give great effort. They are all working towards being the kinds of professionals they need to be to have success in this league."
Nobody's development process is the same, but the collection of players ultimately arriving at the desired destination could paint an optimistic picture for a young football team with so many players currently mid-way through their first or second season. Players like rookie safety Jevon Holland and his second-year position mate, Brandon Jones.
No rookie safety has more pass breakups than Holland. Of his 490 snaps played, 454 have come from the deep safety position. Despite covering that much space, Holland has missed just eight percent of his tackle opportunities and has surrendered just 24 yards after the catch -- seventh-fewest among safeties (min. 10 pass targets).
"Jevon has done a nice job," Flores said. "We think he's talented. Experience and play time, I think he's earned it and that's why he's out there."
Jones has been deployed in a different fashion -- 142 snaps in the box, 64 at free safety, 55 on the line of scrimmage, 30 in the slot and 10 more at wide corner.
The result: A league-leading nine QB pressures from the safety position including two sacks (also tied for the NFL lead among safeties).
Dolphins Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander credited Jones' play-speed and instincts for the success he's had as a rusher.
"Anytime somebody as a blizter plays with great speed, I think speed wins in pressure whether it's in the run game with pressure or in the pass game as a blizter," he said. "So, (Brandon's) ability to have that first step, and play very fast and make quick decisions out there on the field allows him to be very disruptive and effective."
Over the last handful of weeks, the tandem is seeing more playing time including increased variety.
"We know that those guys have history in their career of being playmakers at and around the line of scrimmage," Alexander said. "That's what we're trying to develop. For those guys and their athleticism and versatility, I think we want to be able to get those guys to a point where we're able to do a lot of different things with those guys because of their individual skillsets, which allows us to be a little more versatile defensively."
Pairing Promising Youngsters with Elite Veterans
Byron Jones limited Buffalo receivers to 26 receiving yards Sunday with just four completions on seven targets, including a pass breakup -- his sixth of the season.
"I think Byron is playing at an elite level," Cornerbacks Coach Charles Burks said. "A lot of what Byron does doesn't necessarily show up from splash plays. But from play-to-play consistency, on and off the field, making tackles, getting lined up, getting people around him lined up, he has done a phenomenal job. I think he's covering at an elite level, he's playing zone at an elite level. He's doing a lot of really good things for the past few weeks."
On and off the field -- an imperative excerpt from Burks' detailed response. Jones' on-field production pairs wonderfully with the impression he makes on the aforementioned green safeties.
"(Byron) puts in the work, this is a guy that works diligently," Burks said. "He's the same person every day he walks in the building, so what you see on the field is a reflection of his preparation."
Burks also praised Jones' ability to learn a new scheme and adjust his play style to match what's asked of the Dolphins cornerbacks in this current system -- a system that produced a double-digit interception season for Xavien Howard a season ago (the first time that happened in the NFL in over a decade, Antonio Cromartie in 2007).
"The way we play cornerback here is a little bit different than other teams where we emphasize the ball production and everything like that," Burks said. "We're just fortunate to have two guys (Jones and Howard) who can play at elite level. Whether (Jones) has picks or doesn't have picks, I'm pleased with what he's doing right now and where he's at, we just have to keep working to make sure we stay where we're at."
The Dolphins held the Bills to 249 passing yards in Sunday's loss, the lowest opposing output since Week 4 against the Colts (210 yards). If Miami can continue that positive trend, it will go a long way to turning the season around and stacking up some victories, starting Sunday against the Texans.