Miami Dolphins

Players love Vance Joseph; like Adam Jones, who considered following him to Miami

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph works with the defense at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, Aug. 5, 2016.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph works with the defense at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, Aug. 5, 2016.

Adam Jones made some news Tuesday.

The Bengals’ veteran corner told Miami reporters he was “somewhat” close to signing with the Dolphins in the offseason.

It doesn’t take a Mensa member to figure out why:

Vance Joseph, his old position coach, is Miami’s first-year defensive coordinator. And Jones loves him.

“Great dude,” Jones said. “A player's coach. He was good for us here. He's very smart. Taught us a lot of things as a group, as far as different routes and playing different things.

When asked where Joseph would rank among the many position coaches he’s had in his career, Jones responded:

“He would be in the top. I've played with a lot of good coaches but VJ was one of the best coaches I've been coached by.”

On Thursday night in Cincinnati, Jones and Joseph will be reunited, but not in the way some had hoped in the spring.

The Bengals and Dolphins meet Thursday for the 22nd time, and friends will be foes, if only for a few hours.

Vance Joseph Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator talks about the competition for positions and the play of linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Joseph, predictably, tried to play down the significance of returning to the place he spent the past two years.

“It’s no emotion, really,” Joseph said. “It’s the next game for us. We’ve got to go 2-2. That’s our goal this week.”

Major improvements on defense would be a helpful step toward that goal.

They can’t consistently get off the field. Since the end the Seahawks game, the Dolphins have allowed 61 points on their opponents’ past 26 drives.

Miami ranks second to last in rush defense (147.3 yards per game), 28th in total defense (415.0), 18th in red zone defense (allowing a touchdown 55.6 percent of the time) and 17th in yards per play allowed (5.5).

And the task gets no easier Sunday against Andy Dalton, who has thrown for more yards this year (938) than all but four quarterbacks.

Making matters worse: Miami could be without linebackers Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, neither of whom would have practiced Tuesday if the Dolphins had conducted anything more than a walkthrough. Misi is dealing with a neck injury; Jenkins has a strained groin.

“Well, we’ve got [Donald] Butler ready to be the starter at Sam ‘backer if we don’t get Koa, and at Will ‘backer, we’ve got Neville [Hewitt] ready to be the starter for Jelani, if he doesn’t go,” Joseph said. “So we’ve got two guys ready to go. That’s why they’re here, especially Butler. He’s here to play linebacker. It’s his chance. It’s his turn to show us what he can do.”

Joseph acknowledged his familiarity with the Bengals’ offense helps on a short week. But the Dolphins’ issues on defense go beyond X’s and O’s. Adam Gase said Monday that the coaching staff is having a tough time evaluating the scheme because some players aren’t doing what’s asked of them.

Vance Joseph, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator, talks about the status of Dion Jordan and cornerback Tony Lippett.

“That happens when guys [on the defensive line] are pass rushing every snap,” Joseph said of Dolphins freelancing up front. “We’ve got to play blocks better. Every snap can’t be a pass rush. When you’re pass rushing, it forces you to be softer in your gaps. So you can be in your gap, but it’s soft, so it gets moved. For the linebacker, instead of it being a smaller gap, it becomes a big gap. We’ve got to recognize run/pass better and play blocks better up front. That’s an issue when you’re an attack front, because we’ve preached attack, attack, attack. But in the same aspect, they’ve got to play blocks better.”

Similar issues cropped up a year ago too, and some then saw it as a manifestation of the disconnect between players and the coaching staff.

That’s not the case now. Dolphins defenders are becoming as fond of Joseph as Jones was in Cincinnati.

“I like Vance a lot, first and foremost, as a human being,” said Ndamukong Suh. “He’s a smart, sharp guy. We get along; great personality. Most importantly … he’s a guy that understands that he’s not out there on the football field making plays. It’s his players out there making plays for him. He puts us in great positions to do that, I respect a guy who has that type of mindset.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

Related stories from Miami Herald