Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.
(Do you have any plan for how much you'll play QB Tua Tagovailoa and the starters in the preseason opener?) – "Plans? (laughter) I was very serious when I said that there's – I think it's important not to get ahead of yourself. You talk about being deliberate and present every day at practice, so every practice I try not to get ahead of myself. I will say that based off of the last couple practices, I'm encouraged about the idea of not playing him. But again, that remains to be seen from what happens today and again, that has nothing to do with bottom-line results offensively. It's more how prepared he is at practice; I just want to continue to build off what he's building on. All those things, there's certain players that I feel pretty confident might not play, but I do not get ahead of myself. I did talk to the team this morning about it and as far as they're concerned, everybody is expected to be prepared to play, but there'll certainly be players that don't, which today will have a good impact on."
(What is your goal to get out of the preseason? Obviously you get a lot of value from this and you will against the Eagles as well, but the preseason game itself, what do you want out of it?) – "The preseason to me – and this might blow your mind – I look at it to prepare for the regular season. It's an extension of practice to a degree. There are elements of it that feel a little game-like, but really you're just trying to make sure that you're your best self before the regular season begins. So whatever that takes to get there, I think that's something that's important for the head coach to ultimately decide, but to utilize all of his resources and all the information there to see how to best do that as it relates to preseason games."
(With QB Tua Tagovailoa, how do you balance the obvious injury risk versus this specific potential benefit, which is communicating to your quarterback from a sideline in a stadium during a game environment? There seems to be some potential benefit to that.) – "Exactly, so you're weighing that and it's not an exact science so that's why it's important to let all the information progress before you make an ultimate bottom-line decision. There is value in it, but every time that you don't have a red jersey on, you have the ability to get tackled. That's risk. There's a lot of risk in the game of football, but you also have to weigh that upon what's the best thing for regular season (Week) 1 and it's a constant battle that you just have to take your time and make the best decision hoping that it's the right decision."
(Have you decided that you would at some point in the preseason like to see QB Tua Tagovailoa do at least a few series or quarters, something?) – "Yeah, I would be surprised if he didn't. That being said, I honestly try to take it day by day and not get ahead of myself because if you start thinking that way, then you can start creating reasons to fit what your agenda is. I understand the value of doing both things. There's tremendous value in preserving and going through that rep, but that's why I don't spend time that far out. It's in the immediate. But yeah, I'd be surprised if we didn't get some of that done before the regular season starts."
(What did you see from your team after the first day in joint practices?) – "I was pumped about how they went about it. Like I kind of articulated before, there's adjustments that have to be made by techniques of the opposing players on both sides of the ball. What I saw were people that were prepared for that which means that them and their coaches have isolated, watched and digested from a position-specific element that, okay, we can do that. I also was pumped how they played for each other, I thought. There was some really good work and one of my favorite parts about it is that there's no score kept, so guys can really pay attention to the bottom line. Sometimes ironically – we get paid to win and you're trying to win every game, but lost in the black and white win and loss, are the opportunities to get better. In joint practices, that doesn't occur. It's just straight in front of you. So then that's what makes Day 2 so exciting for me, is to see how they handle those adjustments. That is such an evaluation and I know that good teams that I've been on, the collection of players make the necessary adjustments and that's really what we're working on for the whole season."
(I wanted to ask you a couple quick questions about your football team. One is about the offensive line. It seems like it's been an issue for this team going back many years, several coaching staffs. How do you feel about where your offensive line is right now?) – "You know, I've heard that. I haven't witnessed it. I know a standard with which I've historically thought things should go. When you're playing good defensive players, it doesn't always go the way it should. I think like I've said before, that doesn't surprise me. It may surprise other people, but that's probably why I wasn't as concerned as everyone else before we got to this point in the offseason. There's some guys that are really – they're being coached well and they're passionately going about their business trying to make footing in the league at their position, so it didn't surprise me. I was pleased with it, but again, there are several plays that, man, if we had performed with our proper technique, X, Y or Z might have happened. So now it's just a great opportunity to watch guys take what they had from yesterday and apply it moving forward and hopefully see improvement as well as new ways to get better throughout the practice."
(A bigger picture question about the defense. On offense, you guys have a lot of change, a new coaching staff and a new offense. How important is it to have that continuity on defense and trying to build off what they did last year?) – "That is a competitive advantage when you're afforded that ability. It really is. It's a great thing. You don't always get it. But players are playing a game and especially on defense, you're reacting. So the faster that you can process your assignments, the faster you can react and more comfortable (you are). You can play more aggressive and the better defense you can play. That is the ideal and I think for our defensive unit, it's good to be going over calculus and not algebra."
(I wanted to ask you about OL Connor Williams and the transition that he's making to center. In your career, how many guys have you transitioned to center? I know you've had some guys who've played that position and there's some guys who have made that transition in your many stops. What's the biggest challenge in making hat transition? And why do you feel that's the right route for this team?) – "Well, I do know the hurdles. You can boil it down to the simplest form. So you have to block these guys that are trying to murder your quarterback, and you have a ball between your legs and you have to snap it – that is different. That's something that you just don't half-heartedly pursue. It takes a particular type of person as well as athlete for you to have a shot is what I've learned. It was obvious from the first week that I knew him that Connor Williams had the type of disposition that it would take. You have to be obsessed. You have to be confident but hard on yourself, and it's a process that's daily that – to his credit, all that I think I've heard you guys talk about are maybe some high snaps, which means all the other snaps are pretty solid. That's not something that I lose sight of. If you have one thing to fix, it's a lot better than if you have 14 things to fix. It is not something that every player can necessarily execute, so I wouldn't necessarily put that on all sorts of people. It is a tremendous challenge but one that we thought, and I feel very good about, that Connor would be up for."
(With the understanding that we don't have all of the information about what you're trying to accomplish every day, I'm just curious, TE Mike Gesicki's targets seem to be less now than in year's past. Is that a function of your scheme? Is what you're trying to accomplish?) – "It's compounding. The tight end position in particular in our offense, we try not to force any behavior. We try to exploit the defense where they're most vulnerable. You can go down the stat line of George Kittle if you wanted, where he'll have, I think, the game before and after, one that he set a record for like the most – he was like five yards away from setting the game record for a tight end of receiving yards in the first half against the Broncos, and then the next week, I think he might have had two catches or whatever. There's a – it's something that we've talked to the tight ends about it at length, it comes in waves. There have been practices where he's got seven or eight – he had more targets maybe Practice 7 – it was (Practice) 7 or (Practice) 8 – than Tyreek (Hill) had. It's just one of those things that you try in the game of football, especially when you are a pass receiver at any position, to really focus on what you can control. You can't control the defenses. You can't control the progression. You can't control the pass rush. There are a lot of times where he's No. 1 in the progression and maybe the right guard or something whiffs on the three-technique. So it's not something really to look into, it's more executing your job. I think the tight ends as a whole, and Mike (Gesicki) in general, is confident that when the defense is vulnerable, we'll find a way to exploit that with his pass skills. But right now, we're just football players trying to be football players."
(If I may just add, when you brought in WR Tyreek Hill, you brought in WR Cedrick Wilson Jr. Obviously, they're going to get targets – they're big-time weapons. Did you have to have a talk with TE Mike Gesicki saying, "Hey, your role might be different?") – "We discussed it. I didn't have to have a talk. It's more big picture, what do you really want? Really, if you're trying to be on a really good offense in general, it is – there are probably good playmakers, so the ball is going to be distributed. The most efficient offenses that I've found have pretty equitable ball distribution, because that's what really – defenses, if they lock in on something, they get paid too, but that gives them vulnerability somewhere else. So understanding that everyone's success helps build more success for people. The more that Tyreek (Hill) and Jaylen (Waddle) and the running backs and other receivers do well, the more favorable the matchups are for the tight ends and vice versa."
(Have you been field level or coaches box for most of your career? Now that you're obviously going to be calling it from the field, who is your primary eye in the sky?) – "It was probably evenly distributed. The beginning of my career, I majored being in the box. Then from I want to say 2012 or 2013 to 2017, I was on the field. Then I went back to the box. So I'm used to both and understand the values of both. One of the things that is important for an efficient quality gameday process is that you have other people to lean on. There's going to be, I think it's four or five offensive coaches upstairs with each of them having a given expertise that they're focused on. On the headset, you're probably going to hear – (Offensive Coordinators) Frank Smith will probably talk to me the most, but we'll be resourcing everyone for tangible, equitable information on a down-in, down-out basis."
(I know that you are hoping CB Byron Jones will come back, but right now you have CB Xavien Howard as really the veteran leader in a room of a lot of inexperienced young guys. How have you seen 'X' really go about being a leader? Because he said he feels like it's on him to set the tone for that room and the entire defense?) – "I had never met 'X' (Xavien Howard) before I got this job. We had played against him once or twice, but it didn't take me long being here to understand what he means to the rest of the players. There's something to be said about when you do something at an elite level, you get notoriety from it. And then you continue to do it, people don't really do that justice where they don't have the option to show up and (say), 'Maybe I don't feel like being good today.' So I think he possesses that. I think one of the interesting things is I think he plays off Tyreek (Hill) as well. Two great competitors that are prideful, that know that every day, they can't afford to be, 'Oh, I'm just not on,' because of the consequences and ramifications for the rest of the team and what we count on them to do on a day-in, day-out basis."