Read the transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022.
(We got the news about CB Mackensie Alexander going on IR. If you could just update us please on where you stand at corner. Are CB Nik Needham and DB Keion Crossen good to go this week? Are you guys looking for more veteran help with Mackensie now out?) – "Yeah, it's been a long time since I first or after the game – and you know, there's some medical undertakings that go in that process and so that was unfortunate. Really unfortunate for him, specifically, because you just feel like you just got him and he was doing some good work out there, so that was unfortunate. As far as Nik, he's good to go. And then Keion is day to day just really, really trying to be proactive and not stress a guy that's been really, really getting better, and doing good things. So as it stands right now, we are a week away from the final roster cuts around the league. Right now all that means is there's some guys that have been getting opportunities that will continue to get some good opportunities. I feel pretty good about all the development that we've had at that position. And, you know, it's kind of twofold. I've got the whole coaching staff really just focused on these guys taking advantage of their opportunities and making sure that they continue to progress and correct, which is the nuts and bolts of how you're successful in this league. While you know Chris (Grier) and his staff are kind of preparing for who's going to be out there in a week, so that we can make the best decisions for the 53 for the Miami Dolphins. This is the nature of NFL football and I would be a lot more concerned if I didn't really like the guys that are on our roster that really did some good stuff on Saturday."
(QB Tua Tagovailoa when he was asked about the run game after the Raiders game, he mentioned that a lot of the plays were very basic. Things like that. Do you expect that to continue this week in joint practices leading up to the season finale or do you plan on switching it up?) – "No, I would – again, like I told you I'm pretty well-versed in preseason football. And no, I look at it more like okay, what are we going against? How are they playing? And what should we do? Are things in the run game a product of three or four guys and how they're operating? Or is it one player on each play? More than anything really this preseason, we haven't got stuff going because it's been one or two guys off, which I'm more concerned about the players, whether they learn from that are not. Joint practices generally you're a little more comfortable doing not the one-on-one version of your run game, pass game, defense. But I wouldn't see myself – again I look at a collection of things. I want stuff to be better from that Raiders game and I want I want us to run the ball well, but at the same time, I think our players are pretty confident and the coaching staff I know is, that we're going to be fine moving forward. We just have to get better from stuff. That's what I'm concerned about. So my philosophy's not going to change. That's something that's par for the course in preseason sometimes. Depending on what the other team is trying to work on and do and what they're concerned about, sometimes you have awesome – I think I've had 180-yard running games in seasons that you haven't finished high in rushing yards and vice versa. So it's just kind of par for the course."
(Getting back to the cornerback position. Because things are so basic in preseason, when you're evaluating guys, you want the guys that it comes easy to the basic stuff, right? You can work with the guy that does the basic stuff, right?) – "Right. And you're also doing on both sides of the ball, you're really trying to be basic for that sense because you want to see how they can perform without schematic help necessarily. Offensively and defensively, you call games different because you are trying to – there's a portion of it that you're really trying to not just hold back the stuff that you're going to do in the regular season, but you're also trying to put people in positions to prove themselves. We had a ton of man coverage in this past game, a ton of it for that reason, so that we could evaluate people at all positions. And that's a very important thing. Now, we might show up at games and do the same thing. You know, who knows, but the purpose of doing it was just for the reason you're talking about, because we're trying to evaluate and see how people can do the fundamentals and technique that we talk about at length each and every day."
(Do you find it easier to evaluate, analyze players in those specific situations you could put them in joint practices, as opposed to the big game format of preseason? And also, what are you looking forward to most in the final preseason game?) – "Yeah, the joint practices are easier because there's a good majority that you can dictate the terms. You make sure you get a certain amount of plays, you can dictate how much run versus pass. Those things are kind of controlled, whereas in a game you can't control whether or not you have multiple possessions in the first quarter, and you can't really determine whether or not – people call games off of the momentum of it. So, you end up adjusting to what's being called or trying to dictate the terms of what you call so it's a lot easier there. And joint practices really, that is my favorite part of the preseason, in general, is when you do get those opportunities to practice against other people. It's such a great opportunity for both sides of the ball to defend against and to run your offense against different techniques, coverages, alignments, assignments, all that stuff. That is what you have to do to be successful in the NFL season, is adjust. So it is really fun. It breaks stuff up. We've been doing this – I feel like I've been meeting you guys in this room for couple months now. Maybe it's been one, but training camp does get monotonous to guys, and so it's a great way to really break stuff up and make sure you keep that competitive nature. Going through the process and before you start preparing for your Week 1 opponent."
(What did you guys think of Devonta Smith and/or Jalen Hurts when you kind of assessed them in your previous stop?) – "Yeah, both players were both very good players that I think that when we were evaluating him, we knew him as 'Slim Reaper.' That dude is awesome. I really respect his game, how he goes about his business. I've always had an intrigue with guys that can be on the slimmer side and play the game physically. He's a cool player. And Jalen (Hurts), yeah, I've seen him coming out, know his path. I think he wasn't a first-round draft pick and that bothered him. And he did the best thing that you can do as a player and that's prove other teams wrong. I think he's really developing in his pass game, like he's always been able to throw real well, but as far as the timing and how he competes in that way. And then they do a great job featuring him in the run game as well. So both players – were very, very interested in when they came out. We just specifically, the 'Slim Reaper,' we knew we weren't going to have an opportunity to draft him, but we thought it'd be cool if we could."
(I know you have to be true to your process before…) – "Oh, the process. It's always about the process…"
(Have you already made a decision on this week based on playing all the starters this past week?) – "No, I mean what I say with that. I have feelings that it's impossible for you not to be like, 'alright, well, I would anticipate X, Y or Z,' but they are just feelings. I truly let each practice play itself out. And then where are individual players, and what does that trickle-down have to do with other players. So I would tell you my feeling, but I feel like that'd be irresponsible and weird, if I just came up here and told you my feelings all the time. (laughter) So we're going let stuff play out a little bit and then address each and every player for what they need. And there's also a lot of things that go on. There's a lot of decisions to be made. We have a good amount of depth at a lot of positions. We have NFL players really scratching and clawing to make the roster so I do not want that decided anywhere but the field. So those guys have to get themselves in there, too. So a lot to do, a lot of exciting stuff for Miami Gardens this week, with the Philadelphia Eagles for every single player on the roster, because this is where everything comes to comes to fruition and you get to find out who your group of men are that you're going to war with for the upcoming season."
(So what are your feelings? If you were to not play most of your starters this week, you would be going into the regular season without seeing, "a dress rehearsal" for most guys, like for QB Tua Tagovailoa playing with WR Tyreek Hill and so forth. Would you be comfortable with that based on how they've looked in practice?) – "Yeah, I mean in theory, I could go – I really like where we've developed on both sides of the ball. In theory, you could – I think what you guys are seeing across the league is a bunch of organizations and coaching staffs and head coaches trying to adjust to three preseason games. Because there's way more variance in the protocol. It was like clockwork when it was four preseason games, but it's not just that it's only three, it's that there's two weeks until the regular season begins. So those compounding variables make it kind of tricky. I believe the Super Bowl champions last year didn't play anybody the entire preseason. I know Matthew Stafford didn't, but then, philosophically, it kind of gears everything towards my belief anyway, which is it is case by case and I don't like absolutes. I think there's a lot of people in that same boat because there is not an exact formula. You're trying to get guys to play together and you want those opportunities. Well, some guys, that's not as big a deal for because they're vested veterans that have done it, that have 100 games under their belts or whatever. Then you're also trying to weigh the risk that everyone undertakes every time they're on the football field. It's really a maddening, non-perfect formula. But I feel very, I'm happy and I feel like I'm very lucky to be able to have that burden of decision on my plate, so that's something that I don't take lightly trying to figure out the best formula for the final product. But to do that, for me, I have to just let the process play out and ignore my feelings, which I don't think you're that interested in because right now I'm hungry. (laughter) Is that worth writing? Well, I am hungry, maybe I'll explore more feelings moving forward."
(How hopeful are you that when FB Alec Ingold is able to play in games, that he will have a positive impact in the run game? In what ways can he help?) – "The fullback position in general, is something that I believe does assist a lot of other players, not just his assignment, but how offensive linemen are able to execute their stuff. So I firmly believe in that. I guess – you know what, I'm just, I'm feeling in a great mood. My feeling is that Alec (Ingold) will get some time here Saturday, for that very reason. Boom, there we go. (laughter) But it is an asset that not just – that position in particular, ultimately affects really all the positions with how to do their job when you're schematically setting up a play. So it'll be exciting to see him get some joint work without a red jersey which is, by the way, one of the more confusing things – fullbacks and red jerseys (laughter) – but nothing we haven't been able to handle. It's just another obstacle we've had to climb this this offseason. But yeah, I think it will be cool to have him out on the field this week and hopefully everything goes well so that we can see a little bit of him on the game.
(We saw TE Hunter long get some pretty good run in the game on Saturday, how would you kind of measure his progress since you've been here?) – "Hunter Long had a very good week of practice in particular. He started off really, really good in OTAs and then I think if you even asked him himself, there was a little bit of time where he just kind of was out there and he wasn't making that many plays in the run and pass game. And specifically, his position coach Jon Embree, had a heart-to-heart with him about a week ago just checking on him, and he really turned it up. So those are the things that I really, really look for, as a coach when you're looking at players, is how do they handle any sort of adversity. So that being a light adversity, he had his best week of practice last week, and I thought he played very, very good in the game. One of the reasons that you call in the redzone, you go for it on fourth-and-7, is not because that's your philosophy in the preseason, or just your philosophy in football. I was excited for a fourth-and-7 play to be called because I wanted to see what players would do what in a big moment. Alright, it's fourth-and-7. Do they all of a sudden make stuff up and go rogue? Or do you see their best version of whatever route they're running on the field and Hunter was in on that play, and he ran one of my favorite routes on the concept we ran that he's ever run. That told me a lot. That was cool to see. And I'm excited for him joint practices to build upon specifically his last week of work, which I thought was outstanding."