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Joe Philbin discusses Dolphins' moves

Out in Phoenix, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had an extensive chat with reporters about the Dolphins' offseason.

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is out in Phoenix for the NFL meetings and had an extensive chat with reporters about the Dolphins' offseason on Tuesday. 

Here's a transcript of some of what he had to say:

(On how excited he is about the free agent acquisitions) – “Yeah, first of all, it takes a lot to get to that stage. There’s a lot of work to get to, that is involved in evaluating literally hundreds of free agents that become available. You’re never really sure how it’s all going to shake out because there’s teams have rights obviously to players for a certain period of time. So it’s kind of a fun process. It’s an exciting process. It’s a fluid process. Things change literally by the minute. I think his staff (Jeff Ireland) did a very good job of evaluating guys as did our coaching staff contributing to that. It was a joint effort by a lot of people and we’re excited about the guys we have.

(On if there was any particular move that he’s really excited about) – “We liked all these guys. Each one of them has his own unique skill set that he can bring to the ball club. Obviously, Mike (Wallace) got a lot of attention. He was early out the gate, but I like the guys we added. Again, I think if you look on the offensive side of the ball, I think Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller, Mike Wallace, all those three guys give us obviously some extra tools to work with. Then, defensively, Philip Wheeler was a guy we targeted a year ago. We liked him in free agency a year ago. Things for whatever reason didn’t work out and we were able to get him back. Dannell Ellerbe is another player that we like. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get that done, but it was good. I think what happens is sometimes you forget the Matt Moore re-signing was big for us (and) Brian Hartline and those type of things. I think it’s a good start. Certainly, not over, but a good start.

(On how much input he’s had the offseason regarding signing free agents and the Draft) – “Yeah, it’s a collaborative effort. Jeff and I work closely together. His staff does a great job with their film evaluations. Our coaching staff, I think if you ask Jeff, has worked their tails off in regard to both the free agent evaluations and they’re into the college draft process as well. So it’s a cumulative effort. Certainly, I’m not the money. I don’t discuss contracts and offer him this much or that much. That’s not my area of expertise. They certainly kind of take control, but I think we both kind of decide that we like this player, we think he can help us, he can contribute to our success and let’s go after him. And then, certainly, I’m kind of out of it next.” 

(On if he’s a little more involved in the personnel on the roster as opposed to last year when it was his first year) – “I’ve had more time. Let’s put it that way, absolutely. In the first year, you’re putting together a staff. You’re putting your calendar together, time frames, all those things. Obviously, we have a much better handle on that at this point. I would say definitely more of my time has been devoted to personnel.”

(On Bush, Karlos Dansby and Jake Long being gone and if it is a coincidence that they all were on the leadership council and if he’s worried who will lead now) – “Well, you’re always worried about team chemistry and leadership, and that’s a process that continually has to evolve with your football team. Certainly, you’re always concerned about the leadership and the direction of your football team. We think we have some excellent leaders on the football team still and that’s part of our job is cultivating that, kind of that atmosphere – giving guys, entitling players and empowering players to lead the football team and give direction. While I certainly acknowledge those guys were all very good, there was no plan from a leadership council standpoint, I think it’s just kind of a coincidence that it happened like that.”

(On having 11 selections in the Draft and how much more can be done to upgrade the team) – “Ideally, we’d add 11 excellent football players to the roster and create an even more competitive atmosphere than we have right now. That’s certainly what we’re looking to do. We all know the draft and free agency for that matter are not necessarily exact sciences, but I’d rather have 11 (draft picks) than five. So I’m excited about it. It’s going to give us an opportunity to find 11 guys that fit the system and character that we’re looking for on this football team.”

(On what Jonathan Martin has to do to become a good NFL left tackle) – “Consistency I would say would be the number one thing that you’re looking for out of your left tackle. I always use the saying, especially in pass protection that tackles block ends in the National Football League, so you’ve got to get to the point  in your career where you’re able to block defensive ends and not just 11 out of the 16 defensive ends, and that’s not always easy. Not that you can’t help guys and scheme guys and double team guys and chip guys. There’s nine million things you can do as a coach to help players and you certainly need to, you can’t do the same thing all the time, but, we’d like to say at the end of the day, you have to be able to block a defensive end if you’re an offensive tackle in the National Football League in our system. The ability to do that consistently well is the mark of outstanding offensive tackles and that’s something (important).”

(On if he would be comfortable with Martin starting at left tackle) – “If he’s the best one that we have, absolutely. We’ll see. As you guys are well aware, there’s a lot of time between now and September. There’s a lot of variables. A lot of things could happen. But if he earns the spot, I would be comfortable with it, sure.”

(On if he’s going to give Martin the opportunity to win the left tackle spot) – “I’m not sure about that. There’s still a lot of things we can do to this the roster. The roster’s going to be different when we even start practicing. I think we’re going on the field May 21st or 22nd, so it’s hard to say right now.” 

(On if Martin can play on either side) – “I think he’s demonstrated an ability on film in the National Football League that he has a chance to play either side.”

(On if Martin is strong enough to play regardless of where he plays) – “I think he’s strong enough, but, our hope too is that, because of his age, there’s still room for further growth and development. I think he’s demonstrated, there’s enough film clips of him doing it right, doing it well, doing it consistently that you think he has enough strength. That being said, you’d still like to see him get stronger. He’s a 22-23 year old kid. You hope there’s an upside there from a strength side. 

(On if Martin has the desire to get stronger) – “He’s a hard worker, yeah. I don’t know how he is around guys, (but) he’s very quiet, but he’s very hard working. On the football field, it’s all business. He’s working at his trade.”

(On the expectations of Ryan Tannehill given the free agent signings) – “We’re looking for improvement from him. There’s no question about it. Part of it’s the decision making that we think is so important. Part of it’s accuracy. Part of it’s play making ability at critical times in the course of a game. We’re looking for him to, while we think he made some really nice strides in his first year, there’s still a long way to go and he’s well-aware of that. He’s been in the facility a lot already working. He’s working at his trade. The guy’s a worker. So yeah we’re excited about the future for growth with him as well.”

(On if there’s a grace period for Tannehill to find a rapport with the new players) – “Well, hopefully we’ll get some of that accomplished in the offseason and training camp. As you know, the way we kind of do the multiple reps, hopefully we’re getting him some extra reps. But there’s not a lot of time. There’s not a lot of grace time unfortunately.”

(On the receiving corps overall) – “Number one, it was great to re-sign Brian Hartline. You want the players that play well for you to be rewarded. Here’s a guy that had the best year of his career and (we’re) excited about him. Glad that he was able to, we were able to come to terms with him. So I’m excited about having him. Again, Mike Wallace we felt brought a kind of a dimension to our offense that we really didn’t have necessarily. Brandon Gibson was a guy we watched early, all of us, (wide receivers coach) Kenny (O’Keefe) and (assistant wide receivers) Phil McGeoghan, (offensive coordinator), Mike (Sherman), myself, Jeff (Ireland), we just thought he was a football player. We just thought he was a good football player. We’re not at the stage where we’ve got too much of anything. We want to, we felt like we had an opportunity to add him, so we did.”

(On if Davone Bess still has a role on the team after the wide receiver signings) – “Absolutely. Yeah. As you guys know, I envision us bringing 10 or 12 guys to training camp. We’re going to get a lot of reps as we see and we’re going to let guys go out there and compete and earn spots and take it from there.”

(On if the tight end position is complete) – “We’re going to keep looking. I don’t know that we’re complete at any position. I think hopefully what’s happened with some of the free agency moves is it gives Jeff more latitude to just go find good football players. We’re as interested in adding, again, that term, it’s a vague term, but good football players to the roster at a variety of positions. I don’t know that we’re locked and loaded anywhere. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t know that many of the other 15 guys that are in the room today are locked and loaded at a ton of spots. We’ve got to add good players at every position.”

(On the different expectations for Lamar Miller this year) - “Well, obviously there’s, it’s a less crowded room today as we speak, so hopefully he’ll see the opportunity that’s out there in front of him and take advantage of it. Certainly, (he) impressed us with his running skill. He can catch the football. He’s got some explosiveness to him. We’ll see how he does in the offseason program and in training camp.”

(On where he wants to see Miller improve) – “I think it’s more the consistency element. The last game of the year against the Patriots, there’s a good picture of him in blitz pickup, a real nice picture of him picking up, I want to say it was (Jerod) Mayo I believe if I’m not mistaken or (Brandon) Spikes. I can’t remember exactly. When you’re a running back and you’re going to throw the ball and you’re involved in protection, you’ve got to display the ability to pick up a blitzing linebacker even though it might be a mismatch from a size standpoint. I think he can do that. He’s got to able to do that consistently. Catching the football – he’s a pretty instinctive guy with the ball in his hands and I think he has good hands. It’s just being that disciplined in the running game to stay on his course, stay at the right landmark and then be decisive with the ball in his hand. It will be fun to see where he’s at.”

(On the defense and how things are shaping up, particularly with cornerback) – “I think our front seven hopefully is going to be good again. I think it’s a good group. We like what we’re going to see there. We’re really happy that we re-signed Chris Clemons as well. Again, Chris is a guy that played 1,100 plays, he might have played more plays than anybody on our football team a year ago and the guy’s tough. He keeps his mouth (shut). He just comes to work. He’s physical. He’s a good football player. I’m really delighted he’s back. Kelcie McCray’s a guy that we were excited about. In a limited role that we saw him, he’s going to have a chance to get to work again. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to have a good nucleus with a good defense. The biggest thing we said we’ve got to find a way to take the ball away. After watching all of the cutups, 1,000 or so plays on defense, we can’t survive with 16 takeaways.”

(On if he can tell when a guy is going to be a good quarterback and if he can see that in Tannehill) – “I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback, yeah, I do. I think he’s, you watch, and a lot of it’s sometimes it’s right now a lot of it’s… You only have 1100 plays or a 1000 plays, but you’ve got a lot more on the practice tape (and) you can see him making vertical throws. You can see him making out-breaking route throws. You can see him making in-breaking route throws. You can see him move around. He’s athletic and he’s smart, so there’s no really warning signs right now to me that would say he shouldn’t develop into an excellent football player. I would also tell you that I remember at the University of Iowa on the sidelines playing some sophomore kid from Miami of Ohio and I’m watching this guy throw the ball and I’m like this guy’s pretty good and I don’t know anything about him. I didn’t know his name, didn’t know who the hell he was, but he ran around one time, had a 50-yard scramble and I was sitting there coaching our line and this guy ran an out route and I saw the ball zinging at my head and I’m like, ‘This guy can throw the ball.’ Sometimes, experts, like yourself can tell that (joking).”

(On if he can envision using more four wide receiver sets this year) – “I wouldn’t rule anything out, but four wides is, you just limit yourself a little bit with balance. Maybe on third down maybe a little bit if everybody in the part knows we’re going to pass the ball anyway. I wouldn’t rule it out, certainly could. We didn’t do much of that at all this year actually.”

(On if 340 pounds is a reasonable goal for Jerry’s weight) – “I would hope so.”

(On how important it was to get Randy Starks back for chemistry in the front seven) – “Randy’s certainly one of the guys that the other guys look up to on the football team. Again, he’s tough. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s tough. He plays hard. He’s been a productive player in the league for a long time now. Again, you get good, tough, hard-nosed football players, you want to keep them around as long as you can.”

(On how bringing back Matt Moore helps Tannehill) – “It’s a really good room. Number one, Matt’s a good football player. Number two, Matt’s an excellent teammate. I think it’s an excellent situation for both parties. We’re excited that Matt’s back. He adds a lot. The ability for us to know that you have two quarterbacks that have played games and have won games in the NFL, that’s (big). I don’t know that every single football team has that.”

(On the vision of changing the defense to becoming more physical) – “Well, the big thing that we talked about in the offseason when we watched the film, from a coaching perspective, we looked at us statistically of the profile of our defense statistically and we watched our cutups. There were a couple things that we were most concerned about and that is our inability to generate takeaways on defense and we had too many explosive passes. Some of the thing is, as I said, we identified (Philip) Wheeler a year ago. He had visited a year ago and things didn’t, for a variety of reasons, he went to Oakland. As we evaluated this year’s pool, we felt like these two players that we acquired at the linebacker position might be able to make a couple more impactful plays. That wasn’t an indictment on Kevin (Burnett) and Karlos. They did a very good job for us. (They are) true professionals and I was delighted that they were on the team. It was just one of those things we felt like these are two players that we wanted to add to the ball club. That’s really the frame work of all of the, as we looked at, after a thorough evaluation of what we did on defense. We did some, I think, to finish seventh in the league in scoring defense when you don’t have a very, let’s face it, when you don’t have a super productive offense and you don’t get takeaways, that (shows) they did some good things in that regard.”

(On if he feels like blitzing is the answer for producing more takeaways) – “That’s one way. I think it’s one way. I think it’s one way and I think if you can get those one-on-one matchups that a blitz creates and not necessarily just the blitzer, it might not always be the blitzer that gets the sack or the tipped pass or force the quarterback into a bad decision. It might be the other guy that gets the one-on-one that gets you freed up when you do blitz. But I’d like us to be a better blitz team. We have, I think, just an excellent pressure package. I think it’s multiple. We had some good productivity out of it, but I think we can do better.”

(On if blitzing forces you to play more zone) – “In simple terms, if you’re going to overload blitz, you’re usually playing zones. If you’re bringing one guy or possible two guys, it doesn’t necessarily force you to play zone. As you know, we’re never going to do, we’re not always just going to be an overload blitz team. We’re not always just going to be a man-to-man blitz team. We want to present a couple different scenarios so the offense doesn’t know exactly which one we’re doing.”

(On the expectations for fans this year given the free agent signings) – “Again, I think hopefully our fans are counting on us to make decisions that give our football team the best chance to win and that’s the backdrop that I think all these decisions were made under. I want our fans to expect this to be a good football team.”

(On what separates the Dolphins from the Patriots) – “They won five more games than we did I guess. They’ve obviously have achieved an awful lot over the last decade-plus. The biggest difference probably is they’re turnover margin. I think for years and years they’ve done a very good job of that and last year we didn’t. I think we were minus-10. What did we end up? Minus-10 on the turnover margin? When you’re scoring 19 points a game and you’re a minus-10 turnover margin, that’s not a good formula for being a winning football team. I would say the one biggest difference between us and them in my one year and what they did last year is the turnover margin.”

(On how much of that is Tom Brady) – “I think it’s everything. You have to credit their whole team. They do a good job on defense taking the ball away and they do a good job on offense protecting the ball. So I think you have to credit it all. I don’t know that it’s just one player or one thing. If you had to ask me what’s the most impressive thing from my seat as a coach of what they’ve done over the years is the best thing I think they’ve done.”

(On whether forcing turnovers comes through coaching and how the Patriots have been so successful at it) – “Well the proof is in the pudding. I can sit here and tell you that I coached it and drilled it every single day, but the numbers don’t reflect that. I think you have to credit Coach (Bill) Belichick and the players and their whole staff. I’m guessing, I don’t know how they practice and I’m really not that concerned about it, but they must emphasize it and get it done because it shows up consistently in their profile. You have to give them credit for that.”

(On whether he was involved in trying to keep Jake Long) – “We like Jake. Jake was a good football player on the field, he was a good member of the community in South Florida. He really represented the organization well in both areas during his five years. We wish we could have had him back, but as you guys know in free agency, players make decisions for a variety of reasons, and he decided that St. Louis was the best place for him and his family. We wish him well.”

(On whether he knew when he took the job that the team was going to be in this position for free agency and the draft) – “Not necessarily. I mean some of the decisions we made last year were I think, number one I think Jeff (Ireland) and Dawn Aponte do a great job of managing the roster and managing the finances of the club. Certainly that’s not my area of expertise. As you guys are well aware, you are kind of scrambling your first year. You are trying to put together a staff, you’re putting together how you are going to practice and how you are going to meet and all those thing, and so free agency last year and based on the cap situation we had, we did some things but we weren’t very, very active. I don’t know that we are going to be this active every single year either, but we try to make good decisions, sound decisions and it just happened to be we had the resources and we liked certain players. Just because you have the resources doesn’t mean you should spend money to spend money. These players that we brought here we like.”

(On how quickly into the process did he start envisioning how he was going to use Mike Wallace in his offense) – “We studied and we did a lot of homework. We charted very catch he's made for the last couple of years. We charted every drop he has made for the last couple of years. We’ve got it on a picture and we know where all the little dots are; inside the numbers, outside the numbers, this deep, that deep. So, when you are a receiver in the National Football League you kind of charged with a couple of simple jobs. Number one: get open. Number two: catch the ball. Number three: to block on a running play. So we are going to use him and we expect him to get open, we expect him to catch the ball and hopefully make a couple guys miss after.  Beyond that, you know that’s what a receiver does in the National Football League. I don’t think our style of offensive football is… we’re not going to have him run a go route every single play. You have to be able to do more.”

(On people assuming that Mike Wallace is only a deep threat) – “I’m not sure people studied the film and saw where all his catches were on the chart. Some people may have wrote that down, but I think if you look at his catch chart, that might not be quite as accurate as everybody thinks.”

(On what it’s like going from Green Bay, who is historically conservative in free agency, to this season with all the spending) – “It’s different. I don’t think or I don’t remember when I was a coordinator every having a free agent on offense. So that part of it will be different. Again, I wasn’t maybe as deeply involved in those discussions as I am today either, so I don’t know that we were ever in that position. I think everybody would say that probably most guys, you draft, develop and sign you own guys and you usually don’t have a big void or a lot of money laying around because you are using your money to keep your own guys. So, I think this was kind of a unique set of circumstances this year. But again, I feel good about the type of individuals that we added as well as the type of football players they are.”

(On how much better of a coach he thinks he will be in his second year) – “I don’t know this to be totally factual but my gut tells me… we lost one coach who got promoted to be a special teams coordinator with the Eagles on our staff. I think Green Bay didn’t lose anybody, but beyond Green Bay and Baltimore and maybe San Francisco because of the Super Bowl, I’ve got to believe that we are in the top 15-20% of the staffs in continuity. So I think that is going to pay us both, for myself and our players and staff, I think we’ll be better. We need to be. I hope to do some things better. We went through an exhaustive offseason evaluation. I asked every player when they came in for the exit interviews to give me one thing that you think we should do better. The door is shut and I don’t really care what you tell me. So they were a couple good ideas. Some we probably won’t use, but I’m definitely going to hope to do a better job.”

(On why Michael Egnew wasn’t a contributor last season) – “We just didn’t feel like… you know you have to earn opportunities. We just didn’t quite see it on the practice field enough to feel like he was ready to make a meaningful contribution or give him a big chunk of the game plan. We didn’t see enough from him in special teams where we could validate, ‘okay even if he doesn’t have a big role here maybe he can have a big role there.’ So we just didn’t see enough on the tape to warrant an active spot most of the season.”

(On what he needs to see from Egnew this year) – “A lot of it with the young guys is consistency. There were flashes where he made some of those types of plays, you know torqueing his body and getting down the middle of the field. I think his play speed, if I had to say one thing, it would be his play speed. Get that up. If his play speed is faster, then it’s going to help him in all (his game). Get off the ball quicker, get a better release off the line of scrimmage, get down field quicker. Just speed it up.”

(On the dynamic between him and Mike Sherman) – “It’s been great. As you guys know, Mike’s probably the hardest working coach that I’ve been around in 30 years in the profession. He pours his heart and soul into everything he does as you guys well remember, so that hasn’t changed about him number one. Number two, I think it has allowed him to be… you know he has a great rapport with the players and now that he's not necessarily the head coach and the GM he’s able to relate to those guys really, really well. The other thing he’s got is a phenomenal sense of humor, which I think with all of the responsibilities that he had at that time it didn’t really come out. So, hopefully if you ask him he is enjoying it. He is a great resource as well. I can just go into his office and shut the door (and ask), ‘do you think we should cut 10 minutes off practice here? It seems like the team is a little tired. What do you think?’ And he’ll say, ‘yeah .’ Or he’ll come to me and shut the door and say maybe I should give the staff an hour off or let them out of the building, so it’s a good give and take.”

(On what he learned about himself as a coach last season) – “One of the things I want to do a better job of is… I’ve got a great assistant. Jay Kaiser does a lot of things for me, but I want to be a little more involved in the whole football part of it. I think you’re managing so many different things for the first time and you’re taking road trips for the first time going through that thing, and you are so worried about just the overall operation that you don’t kind of let the other guys do their thing. So I want to get a little more involved in the teaching and the coaching. That’s one of the reasons you get into coaching is you want to teach and you want to coach. I don’t like stepping on people’s toes. I never liked that when I was position coach or coordinator. I didn’t want guys messing around with my guys, but I’ve got to do a better job getting more involved with that part of it.”

(On his vision for the offensive line) – “Sound football. Good, fundamental, tough guys. Smart, work together as a unit well, stays on their feet, athletic. As opposed to other teams I would probably value athleticism more than just sheer power, strength and size. Obviously you can’t get pushed back and knocked back, but smart guys that can stay on their feet and come off the ball with some quickness. But it’s more than the individual. You can kind of see it on tape. You can see those five guys that operate and function together. Individually they may not be outstanding, but they work well together as a group.”

(On his hopes for Daniel Thomas) – “For his sake and ours, I hope he stays healthy. It’s hard for players to really make the type of development you’d like them to make if they are not able to stay healthy. Again, coaches value practice time, so if you’re not making progress and you’re injured, then you’re kind of slipping back. Then you’re coming back and you’re getting over the hump but you get hurt again, it makes it tough. So my first hope is that he stays healthy. My next hope for him is that he plays with more consistency. I know I’ve been using that word a lot today, but if you look at him, we’ve got to eliminate the fumbling, he had one or two mental errors at critical times and I’m not saying he’s the only player that had a mental error, but he just needs to do some things; display that consistency, stay healthy and kind of keep that gradual climb upward.”

(On what he thinks about the read option in terms of how to stop it and maybe implementing it) – “Well I think you’ve seen we’ve used some of it already. Certainly we think our quarterback is athletic enough and smart enough to do that number one. Number two, I think it’s no different from any other play in football that to stop it, it takes good discipline, fundamentals, tackling. I mean there’s no magic to it. On paper it’s a good play, but a lot of plays are good on paper from an offensive standpoint. So defensively to stop it, you need good gap control, you need guys to have good pursuit, you’ve got have somebody forcing. You know we lost force on Kaepernick’s one big run. Most of the time we shut that play down big time, just like Kaepernick’s scrambling ability. He didn’t scramble against us because we had great discipline in our pass rush, we kept compressing the pocket and the guy had nowhere to go. I think we sacked him what, four times in that game, and we stuffed the run game really well except for (that one play). Again, we lost force and contain on the ball. You lose contain on the ball, and the guy went 50 yards to ice the game on us. But I think it is good football. We have it in our offense, but it’s not the magical play people think it is. There’s no magic to it. You have to execute the play from an offensive perspective, and certainly if you play good sound defense and you have a force player and an inside out player with good pursuit and you don’t have guys on the ground, you can stop it.”

(On whether the team was trying to address creating and stopping mismatches in their player acquisitions this offseason) – “Well we knew we have to be more explosive as an offense. We identified that as something that needs to get done to improve our 19 points per game, or 18.9, whatever it is. This is part of it. I think it will help us, but that will remain to be seen. But we wanted to add some explosiveness to the offense and the more good players you add, and hopefully the more they can contribute, the balance you can present to the defense with more than one option to go to, I think it is a benefit.”

(On the traits that Brandon Gibson shows) – “He's got some route skills. I think he can run a number of different routes effectively. He's pretty good at the top of his route. We thought he caught the ball consistently, and like you said he moved the chains. He was a good football player and he got yards and had some ability after the catch. We thought he played a little bit bigger than he is too.”