Read the full transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference following Day 9 of Training Camp on August 5, 2023.
(I think at the end, we saw QB Tua Tagovailoa have a talk with the offense. So what were your thoughts on the offensive execution today?) – "I mean, I thought it was absolutely perfect. No, see, here's the thing in the journey of like, especially when you're trying to be a good team, offense has its days, defense has its days. What you want is a team that takes advantage of any inch that the other side gives you. We've had those ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball. Today, it seemed, without watching the tape, it was clearly advantage defense. But that's not really how we look at like, 'okay, they won.' No, it's what and why and how we can progress. I felt that was one of the cool things. I was pretty locked in with Tua during the day, and I could feel that he could feel that guys were a little too geeked up. Sometimes you can get over-competitive and then you jump offsides. Then then you start pressing and stop thinking about your technique and you end up focusing on trying to make a play. Then the inverse happens. So, I know he could feel it. There were some guys that weren't their normal selves. That happens at practice every day. I think the journey is just beginning for the team and that's the way both sides of the ball have to look at it. There will be plays too that the defense will learn from, but overall, it's a very productive day when people really put themselves out there and are able to learn from it. Sometimes those are hard lessons."
(You guys got pulled off the field for lightning there for a little bit. I know you're big on opportunities, and adversity is an opportunity. How'd you kind of take that moment to get the guys off the field and bring them back on. Just what was that like?) – "Reps. Apparently, you guys would know more than I would, but that happens from time to time here. Last year was an exception to the rule, I believe. We even have a coach on staff that it's happened to in a Super Bowl, where you have to go inside and then restart. So the biggest fear that I had, I didn't want the defense, was starting to feel some momentum, and I didn't want them to all of a sudden have a lull. That's what I was looking for. And then I wanted the offense to kind of get their stuff together and try to sustain some stuff. It happened a little bit and then self-inflicted wounds. So these are all things, the lightning is no exception – you're just happy to get stuff out of the way because you don't want these lessons to be learned when the score is final and the box score is real."
(What would you say DT Christian Wilkins means to this team. We saw him with the orange jersey. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio had high praise for him. In your eyes, what does he mean to his team?) – "Christian is, since I've been here, he's been one way. I truly believe in that way, he embodies what I expect for our team, each individual to be, on a day-to-day basis for you to have success. So how do you categorize that? That's an important part of the team. I promise you this. If Christian Wilkins came out to practice and was like, ehh (shrugs shoulders), we'd have problems. So as teammates, you end up depending on each other for certain things that you know you can count on. Energy, strain, relentlessness, these are all things that if you're trying to be a good team, you want to embody."
(How do you take Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio's comments and how you read his personality? Yesterday, he was saying that we got to one safety, but we're looking for two and three and we need more defensive line depth. I mean, when I look at the safeties on the defensive line, I see something a little different. But with Fangio, is he overly harsh or brutally honest?) – "No these are all things – when we were fortunate enough to hire Vic, I didn't enter into the marriage, like, 'oh, there's another guy exactly like me.' These are things that I think help the football team and when Vic is saying that, he's not saying anything negative. He's being bottom line, that you have to earn jobs, which I agree with. He's been in the NFL for a long time. And guys respect each and everything he's done. I mean, his track record is proven and guys understand that it's a bottom line business. He'll say what is fact to him, that no one's won it yet. And that's okay. That means that there's competition. A lot of teams need depth and he's stating the fact. How do I feel about it? I feel like he's Vic Fangio, exactly who I'd hoped he'd be. I was hoping he wouldn't come here trying to impersonate me because that'd be terrible. We want Vic Fangio, not older, wiser, Mike McDaniel."
(Coach, are there any past experiences or lessons that you've learned from previous joint practice sessions that you intend to use for this upcoming week?) – "Absolutely. It's something that is very, very beneficial. It's very finite. You have generally two opportunities. Last year against Philly we only had one, but you generally have two opportunities, and guys are sick of going against each other. What you don't want to do is show up without an edge. Both sides of the ball will have their wins. Invariably, the Dolphins defense versus Atlanta's offense and the Dolphins offense versus Atlanta's defense. One side's going to feel the first day that they won the day. And generally the second day, things even out because you watch the tape, and you're like, 'oh, no, not again.' It's one of those things. So I think all those lessons, I'll try to pass it along. But the main part is that we're there to work together, to orchestrate a high-octane football practice. And it's a great chance for a lot of guys to compete against people that have different skill sets, sizes, and statures. As well, as some young guys, you get to play in front of another organization. So, we have 90, we have 53-plus 16. There's math there and you don't know who it's going to be, you don't know what, but those opportunities are premier really for a guy's career. I know in my career, I'll share with them that there's been several times that we've ended up signing players that we've gone against in joint practices. Those types of things are invaluable."
(The format, is there anything out of the ordinary you planned for those two days?) – "No, there's typically you're working with another coaching staff, so you have be mindful of their progression, how they approach things and how manyreps they do, and you just have a working relationship. (Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Arthur) Smith is a great guy who kind of tai lors his practices similar to ours. So besides the back handspring competition, no there's nothing different."
(CB Cam Smith slipped on the concrete beyond the end zone yesterday. We saw a little bit of him out there today. Safe to say he's ok?) – "I was aware of the slip on the concrete. That didn't have a factor – he's just going through what rookie a lot of rookies go through. Really, when you think about it, it's very unique to their experience, especially if you're a first, second, or third-round draft pick. You spend an entire offseason training to run sprints and test times. None of that is playing football. And then you go someplace where everyone else has been training accordingly, you're trying to learn all this stuff, you have a different lifestyle change, and all the things that come with that. So it's very typical for guys to be working through stuff as they're really modifying the body and mind to what the NFL life is."
(With RB De'Von Achane, is it the same thing?) – "Yeah, he's a day-to-day situation that we don't have any concerns for a lot of time, which is good because as a rookie running back, you have to run the ball, you have to run routes and you have to know protections. And that's a lot. So fortunately, he shouldn't be out for too long."
(You mentioned earlier about you hiring Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, and how understood how he has a different personality than you. What's been the value, as you put your first staff together and retooled it, of maybe not adding like-minded guys, or people that see the game differently than you?) – "It's been huge. You kind of find out in trial by fire certain things that can be advantageous. You can project as much as you want, but you don't know how things are going to exactly play out until you're in it. I think having the opportunity to get some well-seasoned, experienced (coaches) and guys that really have a true passion for coaching – that's the one thing I did identify, that I knew that we had a large amount of young talent that had never been there before. So those types of things were monumental for me, and just knowing my own strengths and weaknesses, how to balance myself out so that each Dolphins' player can get what I think they truly deserve."
(The young defensive tackles seemed to make some plays today. Did you see some reserve options emerging?) – "Yeah, I think it's funny how some guys progress. That's why I have such a hard time, and you guys get so frustrated with (me), like where is this guy at? It's because I've seen too many things play out with different timing. So, you have an opportunity, and maybe a certain thing clicks. All of a sudden you find a niche in your game – ok, I'm a three technique for instance, and wow. When I shoot the gap and get skinny, guys really struggle, and it could just be one play. And what happens after that play? Is that a part of you game, or is that a flash in the pan? All of these things are super interesting, and you can't figure them truly out until you have a competitive situation that you try to create. Practice is the first step, a scrimmage is the next step, you got to go against other players, and then you're in a preseason game. These are human beings that are affected by minor things, and they are putting their best foot forward. You really have to wait and judge the full complexity of the situation to look at all of the opportunities. Otherwise, you're pretty vulnerable to being flat out wrong. I try my best not to do that, the best I can."
(WR Erik Ezukanma has missed some time and he's a guy who needs some reps, when talking to Wide Receivers Coach Wes Welker. Do you have to caution him against coming back too soon? How do you handle that situation?) – "We're extremely fortunate to have a training staff like (Head Athletic Trainer) Kyle Johnson and all the support staff, (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) Dave Puloka and these guys. I think the No. 1 formula when dealing with professional athletes is you have to have a relationship with them and you have to know who you're dealing with and you have to know where their head is at. Erik is hungry. We all know that, so I'm very confident that our training staff will protect him against himself. He knows that he needs to be out there and he's been chomping at the bit for a long time, but great things typically don't happen fast. So he really, really wants to be a contributor on this football team in a great way. That's ok. It can be frustrating. It's just important that he maximizes his opportunities once he is able to get back on the field."
(With CB Noah Igbinoghene, do you see him finally coming along? And if I could get a two-for-one, how about CB Eli Apple?) – "Oh, vet move! (laughter) Again, that's why – don't underestimate the journey that is going from system to system in a defense. Specifically, you guys all know that we played a ton of man coverage and now we play a ton of really everything. So that process and being able to identify eligibles – this defense does require a good understanding of what everyone is doing to be great. He's continued to progress and make more plays. He had one of my favorite cloud reps that he's had all camp and really since he's been here. He got his hands on a turnover. These are things that you like to see and you like to watch what players do with it. How does that confidence materialize moving forward? Is he thirsty enough to say, 'I want more,' or do you get comfortable? That's why I like the preseason, I like the players' journey and I like to watch them develop, trying to really fulfill their dreams."