On Monday afternoon, Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin joined The Finsiders for a discussion on his team’s current state and progress as they prepare for the season opener in Cleveland.
Philbin is entering his second season with Miami, and he’s excited about where his group stands after a busy offseason and training camp.
“I thought we got outstanding effort from our players, number one,” Philbin said. “And our staff, I thought we accomplished the things we set out to do.”
Philbin has reiterated time and time again how high he is on his coordinators. Now in their second year together, the coach believes they have a better understanding of not only their players, but also themselves as coaches as well.
“We know ourselves a little bit better,” Philbin said. “I’d say last year at this point and time, we obviously wanted to prepare for third down, we wanted to prepare for the redzone and the goal line, but I think we tailored things a little bit more to our personnel.”
Philbin said this time around, game management has been a huge focus of the coaching staff.
“We know what we need more work on and less work on, and I think that’s been reflected in the practice schedules,” Philbin said. “And then having experienced veteran coordinators, you get excellent input for them as your putting together the whole preseason and offseason plan.”
That plan continues to come to fruition each day, as new pieces like Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and others adjust to their new homes in Miami. Part of the process is also, however, making tough choices come cut time as the Dolphins did this past weekend.
“We had a great group of guys to work with, no question,” Philbin said. “Most of us gathered together around April 15th, and then we had the draft class and some additional college free agents who joined us. But these guys put in a lot of work, made a lot of sacrifices, a lot of time and energy and effort into making this ball club. Unfortunately, we’re not able to keep all these guys. There were some tough choices and we obviously wish those guys well.”
On the other hand, Philbin and his staff’s plan will lean heavily on the development of younger talents like Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller, both of whom are entering their second seasons at the professional level.
“I think with those guys, it’s an important year for those guys,” Philbin said. “Ryan and Jonathan Martin have over a thousand snaps from last year, yet there’s still a big wave of increase, we think, in production, technique and fundamentals that they can make this season. That draft class is an important part of our future and I think they’re making good progress.”
Philbin also pointed to Michael Egnew, Olivier Vernon and Josh Kaddu as other members of that class who have made strides heading into this year.
A point of concern for Dolphins fans has been that of tight end. After losing offseason acquisition Dustin Keller for the year, many wondered how Miami’s offense would cope with the loss.
Philbin, though, sees bright spots in each of the Dolphins’ remaining tight ends.
“It’s a good group,” Philbin said. “They all have a little bit different skill set, a little bit different dimensions physically. Charles [Clay] is now in his third year, he’s very, very versatile. He can do a lot of different things for us. We can put him in a lot of different places formationally. He’s bright and intelligent.
“We think Dion Sims has made a real nice adjustment so far to pro football as a rookie. He’s got that ideal size. Probably in the old days, if you saw him walk through the door, you’d say this guy looks like a tight end. He’s done well.”
“And Mike Egnew has made an awful lot of progress from year one to year two, so we’re anxious to see what he can contribute.”
Another area that garnered attention upon the revelation of the Dolphins’ final 53-man roster was that of wide receiver. There may only be four official receivers listed on Miami’s roster, but Philbin says he’s comfortable with the group.
“I like the group that we have,” Philbin said. Those guys have worked awful hard. Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews—it’s a very competitive group. I think they all have a little bit of different skill to them that they can bring so we’re not throwing the same guy out there every single time. We think they’re all capable, so we’re excited about seeing what they can do on Sunday.”
The good news for the Dolphins is that regardless of how the offense ends up, the defense appears to be approaching elite levels. With the offseason additions of Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Brent Grimes, Miami’s defensive unit looks to be playing both faster and stronger.
But don’t expect to see any radical changes right off the bat for Miami in Cleveland, as defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle molds his new pieces into their comfort zones within his scheme.
“I think our play speed has been good,” Philbin said. “Part of that is the way that Kevin [Coyle] and the staff have taught these guys in a good progression of teaching and installing the defense, number one. That’s the biggest thing we have to do Sunday in Cleveland, defensively—we’re going to err on the side of doing less as opposed to more. Get our guys to play fast with confidence, zero confusion or hesitation and go out and play the game. It’s still football. It’s a road game. There’s noise—all that stuff, but it’s still football. You got to get off blocks, you got to tackle people and you got to play within the scheme.”
And finally, Philbin touched on the point of third down—a facet of the game where the Dolphins struggled significantly last season. However, according to Philbin, the secret to improving on the pivotal down is simple.
“There’s no mystery on any down and distance in football,” Philbin said. “It takes execution. It takes 11 guys knowing the play call first and foremost.”
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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.