Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on August 24, 2023.
(DT Zach Sieler we saw leave eventually yesterday with a leg issue. We didn't see WR Tyreek Hill practice. Are they okay? And who's going to play quarterback in Saturday's game?) – "So (Zach) Sieler, I think if you were really locked and noticing, which I know you were, he was going back and forth throughout team drills. It's because he was dealing with something that was nagging him that it didn't hurt him to continue, but that was painful. So it's not anything serious; however, for his individual experience, pain is not always awesome. So he'll be day-to-day, but nothing to worry about. Tyreek (Hill) was one of those classic coach-to-player protection things that had to do with where we were in training camp, really what he did the day before. He really took it upon himself to dictate the terms of the energy and he did that going full tilt. I think he had the highest sprint yardage and was the fastest player that day and so I really liked where he was at, didn't want him to take a step back so that's kind of my role in that. So you should see him today and if I've seen enough of him today, you'll see him stop playing football at some point or he might play the whole practice. I'm just connected with each individual for that reason."
(On the quarterbacks in Jacksonville, is QB Mike White even able to play?) – "So Mike White is still in the protocol and I'm no genie. I don't have a crystal ball, but I feel like it would be promising for him to clear protocol, but regardless, you're not going to see him on Saturday."
(And so QB James Blackman, will he play on Saturday and do you have an appreciation for someone in his situation where he's got the opportunity to put something on film, undrafted rookie, called back?) – "I would say I'm expecting him to get some snaps. I like preseason games for a multitude of reasons. They are cumbersome in terms of it's an extension of the season, but what an opportunity for a guy that deserves it. All he's done is really put his best foot forward and that's a tough job sometimes when your literal job is to learn and not as much through action as – you don't get into playing football so that you can go to meetings. And sometimes that's his role. Sometimes the most burn he gets in practice is one-on-ones. Sometimes he takes some team reps. All of that, I think him and his teammates really have a strong appreciation of the earned right that it's one of the reasons I appreciate the preseason; guys get opportunities to do something they've really worked at their craft or they've really worked on and committed to for their lives. So I'm fired up for him and I think his teammates are, too. He's a guy that does things the right way and is always prepared for his opportunities regardless of how many there are."
(There have been multiple reports that the Dolphins have made a trade offer to the Colts for Jonathan Taylor? Are those reports accurate?) – "Here's the thing with reports. First of all, I think my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter just Tweeted a report. Credence to that, I think as far as that goes, it seems like…"
(What did her report say?) – "That every player in the National Football League is coming to the Dolphins, because I feel like that's kind of on-trend. So whatever that is. Me, I've said this before. I'm not going to speak about other players. And then how many times do I have to explain like, Chris Grier's job is to work. He works at it a lot and keeps me abreast when the real, generally, when things are real. I don't have questions about them. There's been kind of a consistent pattern where we've talked about all sorts of players, so reports, whatever. That kind of seems like the noise that is around the business, however, let's just say I would be doing a terrible job as a head coach – I've got 90 players that that collection of players, this will be last practice that they have together in its entirety. That's a journey that starts for players being in shape and whatever, but as a team, April 17 – this is the 45th time that we've had something on the field together and this is the last one and I'm very much just concerned about all those guys and anything less, if I'm worried about whatever hasn't come to my desk yet, I think that's an opportunity cost that I'm not willing to pay for all those players and I'm excited to go coach today. It's a big practice for a lot of guys and something that we see as an opportunity to get better, not worse, and there's only one direction. It's either A or B, better or worse. Hopefully my daughter stops Tweeting."
(The follow-up I have is trend-wise in the National Football League, teams have gone away from valuing the running back. It seems like this organization deeply values the running back position. Can you talk about that philosophy?) – "Let's just go simple math. It's a very physical game. There's let's say in an average season with 17 games now, let's say you have 1,200 plays on each side of the ball and how many of those plays are the running backs touching it? It's a valuable position that you have to have depth at and I think it's one of the reasons – think of it this way. You've gone to practices and you've seen two games and pick a day, pick a game and you've seen a running back make plays. A running back. Which means there are different ones every time, which speaks to the competition that we have in that room and that's why I've always valued the position. It's a big portion of your touches and you understand that in that process, you have to have a good solid group really for the team and for your offense for the whole year. I got my feet wet really in NFL game planning in the run game so it's near and dear to my heart."
(It's been a while since we've seen the orange jersey. Do you think it will make an appearance today?) – "I think it may today. I think it might be a large orange jersey for a big human being whose name is Raekwon Davis."
(How do you think his camp has been this year so far?) – "I made a big point in the team meeting today and showed a clip of individual (drills) from yesterday. We were talking as coaches and it kind of triggered my mind, a rep of the same drill back in the last OTA's, so 2022 OTA's. It kind of represents one of the main focuses and appreciations of being a coach in this great game, and something that you really hope to see everyone go through, which was a complete and utter transformation in mind and body. His attention to detail, he's in the best shape of his life by far and you can see it with his play. He's adding different tools to his game and he's always had a lot of love from the locker room. You can feel that as a coach and you can feel his teammates really appreciate where he's at, what he's done to control what he can control. The Miami Dolphins are better for it so that's a big and deserving jersey."
(You told us about the playing status of QB Mike White and QB James Blackman so I have to ask what are the plans for whether QB Tua Tagovailoa plays or not on Saturday?) – "By and large, things always fluctuate depending on variables that are both with play and personnel around players. My plan has been, in the back of my mind, the starting point was more than a series, less than a half for all the starters. That is dependent on today's practice and overall you're just trying to prepare guys for the regular season. I had in the back of my mind, if all things were even, Tua would play on Saturday, but that's something that I'll revisit with the coaches after we've completed this practice and kind of solidify that. But he's been prepared to all week. I told him that after the last game. He's prepared as though he is playing and we'll revisit that after today's practice."
(Did Jacksonville's strategy affect that, with Head Coach Doug Pederson saying he might play his starters into the second quarter?) – "No, unless Jacksonville's box scores during the season affect our box scores, which I don't think we can borrow points or subtract points. No, it doesn't really. I think an important part of this job is to adjust to your particular team and do what your team needs. I'm sure that Doug Pederson isn't that concerned with whether we are or aren't playing our starters. And I think that's something independently you just do what's right for each individual unit, which is what we'll do."
(Yesterday, QB Tua Tagovailoa came to his own defense in regards to being criticized about his physique. I wanted to know if you have any comment on that. You see him every day, you see the work he puts in.) – "I was starting to get annoyed, I was hoping for the opportunity to talk about, if I understand your question correctly, how Tua's offseason has been. I can say hard facts that I've seen with my own eyes. And its top five on the team in terms of, we've had a lot of guys really stepped their game up. If you want to talk about somebody that's committed to doing what he's doing for the right reasons, he was already invested before this year, but then taking a bunch of things that have happened, he really put an onus on controlling what he can control. So you want to talk about every metric that (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Puloka and his strength staff really track, which is pretty much everything to the degree of blinks, every metric of strength that is measured, he's shattered his previous highs. And in some instances, he's almost twice as strong with things and that's been a daily commitment that he hasn't wavered from. He's taken his nutrition to another level. He's taken his commitment to what he's trying to do and really thought outside the box and really, really worked at it, so I couldn't be happier with the work that he's put in and what I've factually viewed from my own eyes. Basically, you're happy for guys as a coach when you can see in the present that down the road, they're going to have no regrets, meaning the results are what the results are, but you know that without any shade of gray that you've put your best foot forward, and he really he really has. And I think his teammates would agree. We are getting the absolute best version of Tua that's existed."
(I wanted to ask you about the composition of the 53-man roster. When you're in those meetings, hammering that stuff out, Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio said that it's easy to do the 1-40. It's the 8 to 13 open spots left that are pretty much the challenge. What goes into your mind and factor when you're putting that back end of the roster versus practice squad?) – "Well, it's an ironic situation, to tell you the truth, because good problems to have are that much more complex. And the better your competition and your roster depth is, especially with the people that we've assembled, and the coaching staff and the front office, we don't take it lightly and the competition is real. So you have to factor in a ton of things that really get challenging. From my experience, just in the NFL, this is one of the most high intense, competitive across the board situations that I can remember. So in times like that, when there is a plethora of talent and you have minimal distinction between certain guys, like what Vic's alluding to you, you really have to let the whole process play out. You have to fight your urge to try to, in your mind, figure out who those people are – the competition from, how we rank them from really 40 to 90, it's a real cool representation of what you want the competition to be like on your roster. However, it makes it that much more difficult. So you have to factor in a ton of things. And a position's gain is another position's loss. And that balancing act makes it incredibly difficult. We have multiple position groups where you could go heavy on this team. So what position groups are those? Which individuals are those? The only thing you can do is allow everyone to get their full opportunity. Communicate actively, but let all the information layout because in the game of football, who knows what can happen today? Which is why it's so exciting that you guys are going to be at practice. It's the last one. And we're hoping for it to be good one."
(Bigger picture question. When you come from a running background the way that you did to speedy receivers like you did, how did you go about meshing together your personnel and scheme? And a year later, do you view that differently?) – "I think from my vantage point, our vantage point here, it's up to coaches to adapt to their players on that given team. And I think it's important to be versatile. Thankfully, I've had that rep across my career with multiple (stops). It's one of the positives about only lasting places for like three years and then get booted out is you get a lot of reps at different players and your job is to put forth the best offense you can. I think we'll always adapt to our personnel and really what defenses are doing. So I think that will forever change. I think it's hilarious when people talk about the Dolphins offense as one stagnant entity that will always be evolving, depending on all these different variables. I think there's things that we did pretty well last year, and there's things that we didn't do as well as we'd like. So we've tried to focus on getting better at those things while maintaining the things that we're good at. Then you're just trying to attack defenses where they're vulnerable. They kind of have a hand in that by the hand they play. And so you have to be able to take advantage of their overplay to one particular phase or the other. So I'll always be changing what our offense is. I'll tell you tomorrow. (laughter)"