Flores' admiration for the Miami Heat
In an alternate universe where Brian Flores gravitated towards the hardwood over the gridiron, which aspects of the game would be his non-negotiables?
Getting back in transition, perhaps? Maybe crashing the boards on offense and blocking out on defense?
To continue the trope, we know one thing for sure – he understands the importance of free throws.
Flores offered some thoughts on the Heat taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals over top-seeded Milwaukie.
"I thought the game was fantastic last night. It came down to the wire," Flore said. "A lot of great situational basketball at the end and it came down to free throws. Obviously I'm a fan of 'Coach Spo' (Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra) and that team and the way they play. They're tough. They're physical. They grind things out. They play smart basketball. I'm a fan and hopefully we can kind of learn from a lot of things they do and emulate a lot of the success that they've had over there."
Heat, humidity and big bodies
Rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene exhibits some of those traits Flores admires in the operation of the crosstown Heat. Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn praised his – at the time – future first-round pupil for the confidence and edge of the young man.
"He's one of the defensive leaders," Malzahn said of Igbinoghene in a piece on the Athletic last summer. "He has a presence about him. And [he played] with a whole lot more confidence this spring. He plays with an edge and that carries over for a lot of people."
Igbinoghene was asked Thursday about the challenges the Dolphins receiving corps presents to their cornerback counterparts, eliciting a response you might hear on the basketball court.
"Speed, physicality, size. We've got craftiness," Igbinoghene said. "We have every receiver for any category you want, and so I can't wait to see what they do this year."
The rookie's face lit up with a smile and a laugh when he mentioned the size. There have been some epic battles between the rookie corner and DeVante Parker (6-3), Preston Williams (6-5), Mack Hollins (6-4); not to mention Mike Gesicki (6-6), Durham Smythe (6-6) and Adam Shaheen (6-7) at the tight position.
Jordan Howard is six-foot even. He's not considered tall or short by running back standards, but the 232 pounds he shows on the scales forces defenders to make business decisions – particularly late in games under the South Florida sunshine.
Howard talked about how his style and the weather in Miami pair together, including a note from the last time he played at Hard Rock Stadium as a visitor (Howard was injured last year as a member of the Eagles and did not play in the Week 13 game in Miami, but did play here in 2018 as a member of the Bears).
"I usually train down here; but just practicing down here in this heat is a lot different," Howard said. "But, it's definitely going to be an advantage for us. I played down here two or three years ago and my team, we were dead. I know the advantage it is playing down here in this heat. Just practicing (here), we're going to be in shape."
Bring on the games
In a little over a week, the Dolphins will board the team charter to New England. Flores talked about the schedule leading up to game day and when the team will officially begin game preparation.
"We've started some preparation on (New England), trying to get familiar with their personnel," Flores said. They've got some new players, but at the same time, we're going to use today and work on some things that we may not have seen from our offense, our defense today, over the course of training camp – not necessarily New England, but just different looks that we haven't seen offensively, defensively."
Flores continued the thought about seeing something besides their own schematics.
"Really in training camp you work against – whatever your defense does, that's what you're going to see offensively," Flores said. "Whatever your offense does, that's what you're going to see defensively. Whatever you do in the kicking game, that's what you see. But some other teams are a little bit different and there are some other concepts that we need to see more of. So that's what we're working on today and then we'll get into the game plan a little later in the week probably."
August is a time for learning in this league, especially for the newcomers. For tight end Adam Shaheen, his arrival was greeted with plenty of new information, but he feels comfortable with where he is in familiarity with the system.
"I think I probably would've felt a little more behind if everybody here had kind of had their regular OTAs and actually had practiced together and built those connections," Shaheen said. "I think being traded two days or whatever it ended up being before training camp, obviously I had to rush to learn and I'm still learning; but as far as actual on-field time, this is the first time for most guys that they were on the field together as a new team."
One week away from the league's kickoff game in Kansas City means we are only 10 days away from teeing it up in New England. As the team narrows its focus on Week 1, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the growth of the team and the roster in Year 2 under Flores.
The NFL average for plays per game in 2019 was a shade under 64 per team. Extrapolating that figure over a 16-game season results in 1,024 plays – call it 1,000 for round number's sake. Using 700 snaps (70 percent) as a barometer for a full-time player, that figure accounts for starter-level snaps.
The 2019 Dolphins had 10 players exceed 700 snaps – five on either side (offense, defense).
This offseason, Miami added 4 veteran players (Kyle Van Noy, Byron Jones, Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers) who exceeded 700 snaps a year ago.
Of Miami's 11 rookies drafted, seven exceeded the 700 snap landmark.
Baller at heart
One of those rookies is the aforementioned Igbinoghene. The former Auburn cornerback features the traits Flores and General Manager Chris Grier prefer in spades; perhaps above all, the willingness to help the team in any way possible.
"I'm comfortable playing anywhere. I'm a baller at heart, so I feel like I can play anything on the field," Igbinoghene said. "Whether that's offense, defense, special teams; I feel like I can do anything, so I'm comfortable doing anything."
Shaheen echoed the thoughts of the rookie cornerback.
"Really the biggest thing for me is always stay healthy," Shaheen said. "If I can stay healthy, then I can do I think whatever they ask from me. I think that's the attitude is whatever role that I can earn and carve out for myself is something that I'll be happy with."
Howard concluded the thought by evaluating the running back room and the utilization of each player.