The weekly coordinator interviews were moved to Wednesday this week because the team will be traveling Thursday, which is the usual day coordinators speak.
So Darren Rizzi, Vance Joseph and Clyde Christensen took their turns at the mike. And I will post whatever interesting stuff each said over the next few hours but because I don’t want to burden you with too much, let’s handle one at a time.
Let us begin with Joseph, the Dolphins defensive coordinator...
Remember I told you last week Joseph is about truth when he talks to and about his playerrs? Well, we got another dose of that today from him suggesting one reason Andre Branch is playing well is because he wants a big contract, to taking on the narrative put out there by Brandon Marshall that Byron Maxwell holds all the time.
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On Branch, you know he is now the starter at defensive end ahead of Mario Williams. And he’s playing quite well.
“I think Andre Branch is a talented guy and he was when we signed him,” Joseph said. “He’s been a guy that just wasn’t consistent. Now he’s being more consistent. He’s playing with a tougher attitude. He’s not avoiding contact up the field. He’s working into tackles.”
“He’s in a contract year,” Joseph said. “He wants a long-term deal somewhere so I don’t blame him. Play well and you get your long-term security. He’s a top-round pick. He should be a good player because he’s talented enough.”
It is extremely rare for a coach to go there on the contract issue. Most don’t acknowledge that players are motivated by the lure of money. (They are). But this raises significant questions.
Would the Dolphins, knowing Branch’s history, pay him? Of would they rather another team bet that an inconsistent player who is playing well in a contract year continue to perform once he gets paid?
Obviously, there can be no answer right now. We have half a season to determine where this goes. But clearly it is on the organization’s mind.
Chris Culliver said Wednesday he was told he was playing this week. Joseph was much less certain of that.
“The plan is to continue to evaluate him,” Joseph said. “He’s getting closer and closer each week. When he’s ready, we’ll play him. He wasn’t quite ready last week. Hopefully, he’s ready this week.”
And the chances of that are good?
“Yeah, yeah,” Joseph said. “Obviously we want to get him out there. We need more capable corners. If he’s ready he’s going to play.”
Culliver would play exclusively at corner. He’s never played in the slot. And that’s how it’s going to be in Miami. But only as long Culliver practices well with no setbacks Wednesday and Thursday.
“Just coming in, filling in where needed,” Culliver said. “First game back. Obviously you’re not going to just come in and start every single play and play. Like I said, just get to it and get busy and keep progressing and see how we go from there.”
Last week Bacarri Rambo played 30 of 54 snaps only days after the joining the team. That’s because he instantly caught the attention of coaches in practice and so “we said, let’s see what we got,” Joseph said.
Rambo’s a good single-high safety and that helps the team play Michael Thomas more in base defense and on special teams.
“That’s his actual role,’ Joseph said of Thomas. “He’s a bigtime teams player. So to keep Michael with coach Rizzi, it allows him to play less downs on sub. It was natural to put Rambo in and he played very solid. He wasn’t perfect but it was fun to see.”
As we all know, Brandon Marshall put out a narrative last week that Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell holds on every play. So I asked Joseph if that is true?
“He does not,” Joseph countered. “I would say last week he had a couple. It’s the game. It’s the game of a press corner. It’s a fine line between having a corner who never touches people to a guy who grabs all the time. I don’t want a corner who never touches guys. I want a guy who’s close, who’s competing, who’s trying to make plays.”
Maxwell was called for one pass interference penalty Sunday -- that for 26 yards in the fourth quarter -- and Joseph is not sweating that too much.
“He’s probably got two or three on the year, that’s not bad,” Joseph said. “That’s not bad compared to the league. Most guys who are bad probably have about 10 right now. He’s got two or three. So I’m fine with Max. Max competed hard last week and did a fine job.”
We all know Jordan Phillips had that highlight interception and hurdle against the Jets. But Joseph said the second-year defensive tackle played well throughout the game.
“Jordan played very well,” Joseph said. “It was probably Jordan’s best week of practice and Jordan’s best game ...”
Joseph has a theory of why Phillips stepped up last week. He thinks it has something to do with Earl Mitchell, who will be activated this week for the San Diego game, returning to practice last week.
“I thnk this Jordan: He’s in a room with a lot of veterans so he’s the baby amongst the d-line,” Joseph said.of Phillips. “I think when Earl was here in the spring, Earl had a hell of a spring. I mean, a big-time spring. And Jordan would try to take Earl’s job. And when Earl got injured, Jordan stepped up bigtime. And Earl comes back last week and Jordan stepped up bigtime.
“I think Earl pushing him is going to help him. In the room, we want healthy competition. Iron sharpens iron. So if Earl being present helps Jordan practice better and play better, that’s what I want. I want those guys competing to be the guy next to Suh. I think Earl being back helps him.”
And if that happens, Joseph said, Phillips can “be a real force for us.”
Come back throughout the afternoon for updates from Christensen and Rizzi plus whatever news might break.