For a team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time since George W. Bush was in the White House, there sure was a lot of soul searching in and around Dolphins camp this offseason.
News conferences were public confessional booths for Jordan Phillips, Jakeem Grant, Leonte Carroo and others during the spring. None played as well as they wanted in 2016. All vowed to be better.
Perhaps they took their cues from Adam Gase, who isn’t shy about admitting mistakes when they happen.
Because even Gase, who earned coach of the year consideration for maximizing the Dolphins’ roster last year, knows adaption is key to success.
So Dolphins training camp No. 2 for Gase, which opens at 8:45 a.m. Thursday at Nova Southeastern, will look a bit different than training camp No. 1.
In short, he wants his team to learn and compete at the same time.
“Offensively, you can’t say, ‘Here’s our install. We’re not worried about what our defense does,’” Gase said. “We took a little more time of – and it started in the spring of – we have a little more of that game-plan type feel, but at the same time, we’re installing our base stuff. We’re just making sure that we’re not putting our players on offense at a disadvantage.”
Gase continued: “And [defensive coordinator] Matt [Burke] is doing the same thing on defense. He’s trying to put those guys in a position to where you’re installing your base stuff, but at the same time, you’re trying to give those guys enough to where they don’t feel like one side of the ball is taking advantage of the other. I really enjoyed it in the spring, because there was a sense of competition and that intensity was good. I think the players felt it as we got going in the spring – and the same thing in training camp – where they feel like a little game plan-ish type feel on each other and guys making adjustments and not just saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ It’s making those tweaks here and there to help our guys have success.”
Gase believes the new approach will help keep his players focused — or “Zero[ed] In,” as the 2017 slogan goes — during the long, hot days to come.
“When you start making all these adjustments and you’re talking a lot of football, guys are engaged with all the kind of stuff,” he added. “When it becomes that same-old talk every day and you’re talking about the exact same thing, that’s when it gets tough on guys. The fact that we keep moving situations around and trying to change it up and giving different looks on both sides, guys enjoy that and they get engaged.”
The hope, of course, is that the back-and-forth nature of practice will lead to a more competitive start to the 2017 season than the team had in 2016. The Dolphins went 1-4 out of the gate, and the both sides of the ball were a mess.
“There were a lot of things that I would have done a lot different those first five games, whether it be how we played as a group or certain individuals or how we use certain guys,” Gase said. “When you get to that second year as a head coach, your involvement to be able to help the defense, it changes, because you’re not setting anything up in the spring. You’re really trying to figure out what went right, what went wrong, make those adjustments, communicate to the staff, meet with those guys.”
Gase added: “Now you’re able to at least have more conversations with the defensive coaches and ask questions and kind of have a little more give and take with those guys, where in that first year, you’re trying so hard just to make sure the side of the ball that you’re working with is all set up. That’s why I felt like I was really lucky having [former defensive coordinator] Vance [Joseph]. I mean, it was really like I was having another head coach on the staff, and obviously that showed by him getting a job after the season. I never had to worry about anything and now I feel like I can be a good sounding board for Matt if he needs me.”