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Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores joins Joe Rose to talk Tua Tagovailoa, offseason program, rookies, and mock drafts

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins enter phase two of the offseason training program, with the team allowed to get on the field and conduct individual player instruction and drills, “perfect play” drills, drills and plays conducted with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players, with each group permitted to align eleven or fewer players across from eleven or fewer players. Players on one side of the ball may execute a play, but players on the opposite side of the ball may not initiate contact with, or attempt to impede the progress of, players who are running the play. All such drills must be conducted at an acceptable walkthrough pace (i.e. Pro Bowl practice).

This phase is only one week long before the team moves into phase three, where Organized Team Activities and minicamps begin. During phase three, no live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

Prior to the start of phase two on Monday, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores joined The Joe Rose Show with Zach Krantz on 560 The Joe in Miami.

The conversation started with a look at the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers, both of whom are in the playoffs for their respective leagues. Asked if he would be attending any of the games for either club, Flores replied, “You may see me at a couple of these games. I’m really excited about these Panthers. You know, it was a great game last night. Tough loss. Exciting game though. I was on the edge of my seat. But, I am looking forward to catching a couple of games, both the Panthers and the Heat.”

The conversation then turned to the Dolphins and their preparations for 2021. The obviously place for every Dolphins conversation right now is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and Flores gave plenty of thoughts on what the coaches want to see from their second-year quarterback.

“Tua is obviously an important piece and I don’t mind talking about him,” Flores stated. “You know, he’s working hard this offseason, like all our guys have. He knows where he needs to improve. We spent a lot of time talk to him about those areas. Like we have with all the rookies, and everyone on the team. We talked about the year one to year two jump, and it’s a real thing. I think he’s more comfortable with just his surroundings. More comfortable being in a huddle, giving a cadence, going through his communication. Things like that, the little things no one really talks about. He’s said this. He feels much more comfortable doing those things. And, I think, having a year under his belt will really help him. But, what we will really like is just him finding time to get with his receivers, get with the center, go through his cadence, go through his communication, go through his reads. They are doing a lot of that on their own. We haven’t seen him yet. Today’s the first day of phase two, where we will actually get a chunk of the guys and see them. We are looking forward to working with him, but just my conversations with him, it sounds like things are going in the right direction.”

This offseason, the NFL Players Association has made a strong push to have players skip the voluntary portions of the offseason training program. Using statistics from last year that showed fewer injuries after a purely virtual offseason, the NFLPA is trying to show the league that the offseason program is unnecessary ahead of future Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Of course, there have already been issues with that, including former Dolphins tackle Ja’Wuan James, who was released from the Denver Broncos, losing millions in guaranteed money when he was injured working out away from the team’s facilities.

The Dolphins players, through the NFLPA, released a statement back in April that they “stand in solidarity” with the teams that were choosing to skip the workouts, but the players did not say they were opting-out as a complete unit. That leads to the question of who from the Dolphins will be at the team facilities today? “I mean, it’s like every team, this part of the year is voluntary,” Flores told Rose and Krantz. “As far as who is going to be here, we won’t know until we get out here. I know we will have some guys here, and as a coaching staff we are excited to work with the guys who are here and we will coach them and try to improve and get better on their fundamentals, their technique, their understanding of the scheme. We will work with the guys we have. I’ve been in contact with all of our players, and I know some of them are here, but we won’t know until we get out there today.”

The Dolphins held their rookie minicamp over the weekend, allowing them to get their newly drafted players, as well as undrafted free agents and a few younger players who were with the squad last year, into the facility and onto the practice field. Asked about the process of bringing in the younger players and how they fit into the the team, Flores answered, “It’s great. Any time you can add talent to the roster, we are excited about that, excited about that as a coaching staff, excited about that as an organization. But, we have to get these guys coached up. It kind of shifts quickly from excitement to we have to teach these guys how to be professionals. How to study the playbook, how we practice, and the things that we are looking for as the Miami Dolphins. Guys who are smart, who are tough, who love to play and are team first. Just try to get that into their heads and into their fabric as quickly as possible. And then, the rookies will be here today with the veteran players. They have a lot to learn. They have to learn all their teammates names. They have to learn the playbook. They have to get acclimated to the heat down here. They have a long way to go. But, it is a hard working group of rookies and we are excited to get going with them.”

The Dolphins used the second of their two 2021 NFL Draft first-round picks to add University of Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips. Flores discussed his initial impression of Phillips from the rookie minicamp work, staying, “On the field, he’s obviously a talented guy. He’s fast. He’s got some quickness. And, he did a good job as far as taking what we taught him in meetings, to the walkthrough, then onto the practice field. I though he got off to a good start. I thought all the rookies got off to a good start over a couple days. We didn’t inundate them with information. We just wanted to get them out there and just get the basic fundamentals and technique taught. I thought Jaelan did a good job with those.”

The conversation also turned to rookie Liam Eichenberg, for whom the Dolphins traded up in the second to acquire. “We tell anyone who steps into the building that your role on this team is going to be what you make it,” Flores said of the former Notre Dame offensive tackle. “That’s probably one of the first things we said to the rookies. Versatility is big in this league. There’s only 48 active roster spots. If you can play multiple positions, if you can do it physically, mentally, that will only help you. And, Liam’s got the ability to do that. He’s played a lot of left tackle, will play some right, could play some guard. But that’s the case of all the rookies, and really anyone on the team. The more you can do, the more we are able to do from a scheme standpoint, and it helps us from a depth standpoint. That’s kind of part of our opening conversation with anyone who steps in the building, and that’s true of the rookies.”

Since they were on the topic of the offensive line, Rose and Krantz asked Flores about how early he would like to see the starting five offensive lineman start working as a unit. Flores replied, “I think in a perfect world, as early as possible, but I think we also have to given a opportunity for guys to compete for jobs. And we are going to do that. We have a good group of guys. Some who are veterans, some who are younger players. Guys who have experience, guys who don’t have as much experience. There will be competition. I think that’s what brings out the best in any individual in any field. And, once the results of that competition reveal themselves, we will make a decision. And from that point on, that group, because you are right you need a cohesion, a camaraderie amongst the offensive line. It’s really got to be a unit, not just a bunch of individuals. You need that on the offensive line, so as quickly as you can get it, the five guys, in a perfect world, that’s how it works. But football is not a perfect world. Once we feel comfortable with those top five, we will work that group, but you always have to have the next guy ready to go. Inevitably if something happens, somebody’s shoe falls off, you need a sub, that guy is ready to go and play well.”

One of the biggest points of discussion for Dolphins fans this offseason, especially heading into the Draft, was on the running backs and Miami’s presumed desire to add one of the top rushing prospects. The did not land a player like Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or Javonte Williams, but they did add Gerrid Doaks late int he selection process. “We like the guys in [the running backs] room,” Flores said. “That’s a hard working group. We are confident in them. We are excited about adding Doaks to that room. But, Myles Gaskin, Malcolm [Brown], [Salvon] Ahmed, Patrick Laird has been a guy who has done a good job in the kicking game and been a reliable player, [Jordan] Scarlett who we just brought on. We like the group. We are excited about working with the group. Eric has done a nice job, obviously, with the backs over the years, and I have a lot of confidence in him, from that standpoint, as well as just the offense overall. We have to put the work in, it doesn’t just happen. One of the things we preach to the players is, we are not going to just roll out of bed and play good football. We have to come in, put the work in as a team, build that cohesiveness, try to improve and get better every day in practice.”

This offseason also saw Miami add former New England Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty. Flores spoke of the importance of adding a player like McCourty to the roster, explaining, “The first thing I think of with Jason is leadership. He’s a veteran played, he’s played a long time in this league with different organizations. From a leadership standpoint, his professionalism, his intelligence, I think that will help us. As far as where he will play, that is another thing we like, his versatility. He’s played corner, he’s played safety, he’s played nickel, he’s played in the kicking game, so, like everyone else, his role will be what he makes it. There’s opportunity for him to play in a variety of spots. We’ve just got to see how it all falls. That’s a good group as well. Guys we feel good about, with Eric Rowe, Brandon Jones, Fedej [Clayton Fejedelem], obviously we drafted [Jevon] Holland. We feel good about the competition in that room.”

The Dolphins also were aggressive with adding speed and weaponry to the offense. In free agency, they signed receiver Will Fuller V from the Houston Texans, then used the sixth-overall selection in the Draft to add Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, reuniting him with his college quarterback in Tagovailoa. Adding those two to a group that also includes receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins should have an offense that creates mismatches all across the field. Asked, as a defensive-minded coach how he would scheme to stop what should be a dangerous offense, Flores laughed as he replied, “I agree with you, but I would say, I am a football coach, not a defensive guy. I’m 30-30-30, offense, defense, and special teams. No favorites here.”

He then turned to looking at the offense itself, continuing, “Specific to Waddle, Fuller, DeVante, I think they are all good players. But, like I said earlier, you don’t just roll out of bed and create explosive plays. We have to put the work in. Get some time in with the quarterbacks. Get time in with one another. Because, it is the entire unit. It doesn’t just happen. It’s the o-line, the running backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterbacks, the decision making. There’s 11 guys. It’s not just you get one guy and that’s going to be the reason why a bunch of stuff happens. My experience is, it has never happened that way on offense, defense, or special teams. As a group, we feel good about that group, but at the same time, there’s a lot of work we have to put in. A lot of chemistry that has to be built, is probably the best way to put it. What I will say is, in my conversations, they are all eager to put that work in. They are all hard working guys. Football is important to each one of the players, and when I say that I mean everyone on the offense, we just need to put the work in and develop them all. That will give us the best chance. It’s hard to win in this league, and we have to get everyone moving in the right direction if we want to put our best football out there.”

To close his 20 minutes on the show, Flores was asked about how much he and the organization see the mock drafts and rumors that lead up to the Draft. “Do we follow it? I think it is in your face so much there’s no way to not follow it. If any of us see anything Dolphins, we look at it,” Miami’s head coach said. “But, [general manager] Chris Grier and his staff, they do a phenomenal job from a scouting standpoint. We kind of pinpointed the types of guys we are looking for, the types of guys we want to work with, the types of guys we think will help our team. And that’s kind of where we put the most of our stock, in the work our scouts are doing, that our coaches are doing, our conversations with the players individually. Try not to worry about everything else going on. We are lucky to work in a league with so much popularity, people love watching it, fired up about the Draft, fired up about phase two, we have great fans. I was able to include my kids in the Draft, so they will love the Draft forever. It’s fun, it’s great to be part of a league and a game that people love so much. I love the game I know you guys do to, and I just feel lucky to be a part of it to be honest with you. We will just continue to try to work with the players and have a really good season.”

If you would like to listen to the interview, check it out here: