Even when the Dolphins were floundering at 1-4, there was an enormous difference evident between this coaching staff and previous ones here:
Whereas players privately criticized Joe Philbin and his coordinators, second-guessing their strategy and approach, nobody did that with these coaches, believing the staff was competently preparing them even when the team was losing and that solutions eventually would be found.
“It’s completely different now; we love this staff,” linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.
Adam Gase “doesn’t sugarcoat but he doesn’t yell or scream; that’s one thing players respect.”
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Players ultimately deserve the most credit for this impressive mini-winning streak, but Gase, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and this staff have made some moves --- some glaring, some subtle --- that have helped.
• Inserting Cam Wake and Andre Branch as the starting defensive ends the past two games. Dolphins coaches determined that Wake simply needed to play more after two games with fewer than 20 snaps.
“The energy Cam and Andre brought, that has been the biggest difference [in the defense the past two games],” Joseph said.
“I think having Cam out there full time, Andre playing more snaps – that has helped. That has been different for us as far as the ends having more energy out there.
“Cam, he has come a long way. The first three weeks, he wasn’t Cam. Now he’s back to being Cam. If he’s one on one with most tackles, he’s going to win a majority of the snaps. So, he’s back to being what Cam was in the past.”
As for Branch, “we watched Andre on tape [from last season in Jacksonville] in the spring,” Joseph said. “You can watch an entire game on Andre and say, ‘He’s just OK,’ but you can pick 15 plays and say, ‘Boy, he’s special.’ We weren’t sure what he was going to be. But obviously, he’s talented enough to be a special guy. Right now, he’s focused. He’s in a contract year; that’s huge for him. He’s a gifted guy. He’s tall. He can run. He’s aggressive. It has been good for us.”
• Before the Pittsburgh game, Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey encouraged Gase to incorporate more inside zone runs to complement outside zone runs, and Gase was agreeable – not surprising because Gase is more receptive to players’ ideas that Philbin was.
“Calling the same run over and over gives [Gase] a little bit of a rash, but other than that, it’s been pretty darn good for turning this thing around,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said.
The Dolphins finally have committed to the running game, something the old staff didn’t consistently do even when Lamar Miller was playing well, and “I believe in what we’re doing with all my heart,” Christensen said. “I’ve seen it work for a long, long time and it’s based on the right things.”
• Benching Mario Williams and Byron Maxwell. Both have played far better since, with Maxwell starting again in the wake of Xavien Howard’s knee injury.
“It’s gratifying to know that they’re hearing you,” Joseph said. “If you ask them to play better, you hope they’ll play better and that has happened in those two cases. With Mario, he has definitely come back the last two weeks and played harder. Once he played harder, he was going to play better.
“Here, it’s a multiple-coverage scheme, so Maxwell has got to play a certain way every down. Early on, he wasn’t doing that. Now he’s doing that better. It looks better for Byron. He’s jamming receivers. He’s on top of vertical routes. [This defense] can be cornerback friendly if you do it right. He’s figuring it out.”
• The biggest reason for Ryan Tannehill’s success the past two weeks has been improved protection resulting from the starting offensive line finally being healthy.
But Gase has helped matters; Tannehill is dropping back more quickly at the urging of coaches.
He’s being encouraged to use his legs, including some designed roll-outs, which makes a lot of sense.
• Creative stuff, including using Sam Young as a sixth offensive lineman on 14 plays against Buffalo and Jakeem Grant on a fake reverse on Damien Williams’ touchdown run.
“As soon as we stuck Jakeem in there on Damien’s run, you saw everybody on the [Buffalo] sideline pointing at him and Adam called a little fake reverse to him,” Christensen said. “It influenced a couple of guys, which helped Damien get the touchdown. That’s another way to handle the extra guy in the box – having a Jarvis Landry or having [Grant go in motion]. He’s improving. We’re trying to get him more and more involved in the offense. We’d love to have a package for him each week. He’s a dynamic guy.”
For a lot more Dolphins nuggets from today, including updates on Dion Jordan, Xavien Howard, Kiko Alonso and more, please click here....
For Heat and UM nuggets from today, including some interesting stuff from Hassan Whiteside, please click here....
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