Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
(Could you please give us an update on CB Byron Jones? Do you still expect him back for the start of the regular season?) – "The processes remain the same with regard to very hopeful. The entire time we've all known, including Byron, that things have to hit on all cylinders without having a setback for that to be the case. Nothing has changed in that regard. We still – he's still in that part of the timeline where it is unknown. As of now, he hasn't had any setbacks, so still extremely hopeful. I believe in the player and the human being, so we hold the same optimism as we did before for him coming back to Week 1. Ready to adjust if need be."
(What kind of football activities is CB Byron Jones doing now?) – "There's change of direction, there's rehab, there's – that's an area of the medical development, coming back from an injury that I don't pretend to be an exact scientist on. It's a progression-based deal that you're trying not to have any setbacks as you proceed. He's moving around. He's exactly where we thought he would be at this point with some change of direction stuff being incorporated on a daily, but in terms of football drills, whether he's peddling or running or moving side to side, he's just moving. He's not playing with other people around him right now, so I'll let you know when that comes about."
(How long do you have to see personally of him going out there and working out before you put him out there on the field?) – "That's a case-by-case basis because you're going with unknowns, right? So like how much does someone that has one accrued season that maybe has played his position four, six, eight or 10 games – that's different than Byron who's excelled at the position for extended periods of time. So he does have to do it before the game, (but) it's case-by-case to me. That's how I look at everything. You kind of have to use your brain with that, but I wouldn't put him on the field for the first time during a game. But the exact timeline for him is a little shorter being all of his production at the NFL level, all the stuff that I know exactly what he should look like. I know what he looks like when he's playing his full speed game, so it'll be easier for me to kind of make that decision because of my familiarity watching him for an extended period of time at every team he's played on."
(Does the staff view CB Mackensie Alexander primarily as a slot who could allow CB Nik Needham to go outside if needed? Or will CB Mackensie Alexander be an outside player?) – "So you try to – initially, you know what a guy has played. There is a portion of the process, especially with a player like that, where you want them to earn their ability within your exact scheme. So the versatility of inside and outside I think is nice for us. Everybody knows where he's had his production from, but I try not to say – every defensive scheme has their specific techniques. Sometimes, like for instance, we just played a team, Tampa Bay, where if you watched one-on-ones or whatever, they're man-to-man coverage. They don't necessarily re-route as much as our guys do. The reason why I say that is I'll never be 100 percent committed to, 'OK, this guy is only this,' always leaving the options open fully knowing that he has experience. We watch tape, too, but we would rather, especially with that particular player, let him earn his keep. I wouldn't want to say, 'Hey, you can't do something.' We were just going for the best player, inside or outside, available and let the chips fall with that in his hands."
(But did you feel like there was a need for an inside guy?) – "Really I felt like there was just a need for a competitive NFL defensive back. I'm not particularly worried about inside or outside. We like Nik Needham's versatility. Luckily, we have a group of athletic, diverse players on the backend that can really – that versatility is a huge strength. So to me, the only way – we were afforded an opportunity. It's hard to get competition that has a chance to make the team in the middle of camp. So when you have a good player out there that you work out, that has already been on your radar before you had any injuries, I wasn't really concerned with, 'Hey, we're light on inside players,' or 'We're light on outside.' I just wanted someone that would legitimately have a chance to compete for a roster spot, which I think he does."
(One more corner question, if I may. With CB Noah Igbinoghene, one thing that you've been impressed by and one thing he still needs to work on?) – "I've been impressed by his internal fortitude. OK, this is – it's not lost on me at all the pressures that come in the National Football League, especially when you're an athlete of his skillset. So he's done an outstanding job. You have to have a short memory at the cornerback position. He's really had some maturation and growth this year, from the stories that I heard coming in, where he's moving onto the next play and competing and not letting himself get down on himself. Where he needs to improve, I would say, is kind of what I was alluding to when I talked to him during the game, is I don't want him to ever lose his aggressiveness and feel like he's playing not to get beat. I want him to always compete, have no memory in that regard and just be kind of cutthroat with the game of football, to just trust all of his training. So in times I think he's being a hair passive, I'll jump on that and be like, 'Hey, that's not you. This is not where you're at in your development,' which I think he agreed, which again is why he's taken some steps forward as a professional."
(Do you have a coach that may have talked to CB Noah Igbinoghene about the transition of wide receiver to corner and his head, where it's at in that sense to develop the instincts of a corner?) – "I think they're just – I wouldn't say I had a coach directly responsible for that. I think all coaches are responsible to know where their players are coming from, including the head coach but every coach that touches those players to best reach them and to know where they're coming from, you have to know their experiences. So that can be used as a negative or a positive that you're a position switch. Obviously, I think that you should present it and get him to understand that it is a positive, that you know what it feels like to be a receiver. So how does your play and your technique, how does that invite X, Y or Z from the receiver when you're playing them? It can be used as a strength as opposed to, 'OK, well I'm new to the position.' Well, you're actually – you have an edge on other people, because you most recently played that position that you're covering. So I think all the coaches, I put a huge emphasis on knowing their players and where they're coming from in order to reach them. So that's a prerequisite with all of the defensive coaches from the top down."
(Is this week set up so that QB Tua Tagovailoa will prepare to start?) – "This week is set up to not know what I'm going to do. (laughter) No, it is – I get where you're coming from, you're just trying to get an idea, so I'm sensitive to that fact. But it is not coach-speak at all. It is direct. I really truly believe in the process and taking in all pieces of information to do what's best for the team. What I do expect is I expect there to be some players that didn't play in this last game to play in this game coming forward. When I see exactly where we're at – and it doesn't necessarily mean if he has a good week of practice then I'm good, it's more of where the whole offense is at, what he needs on the field, but also other players that have to play, does that necessitate him playing? To do it the right way, in my opinion, there are so many compounding variables that I would hesitate to say, 'Yes, he is,' or 'No, he's not,' because I haven't made totally that decision. I have a best guess. But again, I let the stuff on the field and what's best for the Miami Dolphins lead the charge. So about the same timeline as it was last week, I'll know this week if he's going to play or not."
(Do you have a best guess as to what's going to happen?) – "I mean, I'm not in the game of guess. And c'mon, you guys are too veteran. The second I guess something, now you are tipping the scales one direction because you'll definitely hold me accountable for said guess. (laughter) So, I won't tip the scales on that, so to speak, and I appreciate your guys' patience with me in that regard and your trust that I mean what I say."
(So, your dress rehearsal will be next week then?) – "(laughter) You know what, as soon as I know, you guys will know. But again, I would be doing a disservice to just arbitrarily say, well typically I've always played the starting quarterback in game one. But I didn't think it was appropriate in this particular situation that necessitated him to have that risk and all the other different variables. Ironically, I think you guys would hope as vested Miami Dolphins enthusiasts that I put that off and taken all the variables to really make the best decision that is hopefully the right decision."
(What are your thoughts on T Larnel Coleman's play? And just at training camp, he's had a lot of …) – "He's a really cool, cool player. Like everybody on the offensive line, it is 'What's the last play you watched?' He's had some growth and there have been some areas where it's been like, 'Hey man, you need to emphasize this or we need more here.' I've seen him as having a very good camp and I see him having the ability to continue the process and have an even better camp, but it's been far from perfect, which is kind of the case for most if not all players. I was pumped with him getting out there and what he did during the game. We've explained to him what he can do to improve and that's what this is all for. The biggest thing with players in the National Football League is that you have to go and adjust and get better because the bottom line is the best teams are their best at the end of the season, which means you have to, as a player, continue to develop and get better from coaching and that's what is awesome about the pre-season, is that you get those opportunities to see without educated guessing, to see firsthand, 'Is his game going to be better next week?' We'll see."
(Mike, could you explain what happened with TE Adam Shaheen? The trade was made, reverted and then IR?) – "That is a classic example of the process of the National Football League just being spot on. That's the reason why it exists. He was practicing with nothing holding him back. We 100 percent thought he was 100 percent healthy. Such is the nature of veteran players, you occur nicks along the way and that's why you have a physical before things can be finalized and the whole trade processed. We were as surprised as I know Adam was, and that was something we definitely didn't anticipate. But once we got that information, we had to digest it – all of us, including Adam – and once we got back and he got some more opinions, he has decided to get surgery, which puts him on IR and out for the season, which we are in 100 percent support of. But it is a classic example of 'Why do they have this physical and why are trades not finalized pending that physical?' I think it was an example of the process or reinforcing the process of why the procedures are as such. It definitely wasn't anticipated. It was a nice little curveball."
(You spoke a couple days ago about the fact that you're committed to stopping the run, putting eight in the box a lot of times. Obviously QB Skylar Thompson is a rookie, but you have QB Tua Tagovailoa in those situations. Is he at a point in this offense where he is empowered to make checks? Overall, can you go through how checks and audibles are incorporated into this offense?) – "We have a little bit of both elements in the offense. You have the ability to go from run play to pass play. There are a lot of times that there's two plays called, and you have parameters for the quarterback to adjust the play call. It's not a holistic, 'alright, everything's up'. It's not a Peyton Manning situation where you're just audibling. That's not really how we've ever played offense. But you have parameters and then there's a lot of parameters where we'll go run to run or pass to pass. It all depends on the different things that the defense presents and how you problem solve. Sometimes it's not bad to run the ball versus an eight-man box. There's a lot of defensive structures that presents an eight-man box but it's the illusion of where they're playing pass first. In the particular instance that was the Tampa Bay game, that was eight-man box that was run first. In those types of situations, we weren't really going into the game thinking they were going to commit that way, so then that's kind of play-call driven, like I was calling more passes than runs. It was like, 'Wow this is intense, they're overcommitted.' I think it speaks to all the players that were on the field, as well as Skylar, that I felt without hesitation that I could put them in that situation and that we wouldn't have penalties or a ton of negative plays and we were going to be able to stay on schedule calling pass plays.
(With the check-with-me system, from what I understood, it could be from one pass to another and not pass to run?)– "It's all of them. So, we have pass to pass plays that you can check with me. You have run to pass plays, you have pass to run plays or you have run to run plays."
(So, if you send a pass to pass play to a quarterback, he can never audible that into a run?) – "I mean he could, in theory. That would be cool because then I could take a break on the sidelines. (laughter) I try not to just like pass my job off completely. But shoot, at some point in time – it's all about empowering the players and if they were ever thinking that way, I wouldn't refrain and be like 'I haven't done this.' It's just in my experience, I've found that it's a lot easier for players to not have have the whole playbook at their hands like coaches do. But I guess I would never say never either."