Barry Jackson

Gase assesses Dolphins defense, including one thing that wasn’t as good as he expected

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill catches a 52-yard pass in front of Miami Dolphins strong safety T.J. McDonald in Miami’s loss in December. Adam Gase wants better chemistry between safeties McDonald and Reshad Jones.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill catches a 52-yard pass in front of Miami Dolphins strong safety T.J. McDonald in Miami’s loss in December. Adam Gase wants better chemistry between safeties McDonald and Reshad Jones. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Some Dolphins defensive nuggets from Adam Gase’s session with reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz Carlton:

• He wants more chemistry from the safety combination of Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald. They played the final eight games together after McDonald’s eight game NFL suspension to start the season.

“I don’t think it really turned out as well as we thought with what we saw in training camp,” Gase said. “That eight week layoff, T.J. did a great job of being ready to go, being able to physically to be able to do that. [But] we didn’t have that chemistry we were looking for. It took those guys a while to really get that feel for each other. It will be better getting to training camp and for us to be able to continue that growth.

“I was feeling something good when we were in the middle of training camp. T.J. was playing really well. Reshad and him were doing a good job of communicating with each other. There was a good feel.” 

• Gase confirmed what’s obvious at linebacker: “We have one hole right now. We’re looking for either somebody to step up and take that spot or we have to bring somebody else in, whether it’s draft, trade, somebody getting cut from another team. We’ll kind of see how it plays out. We’ve got some young players we’re encouraged by. Kiko [Alonso] and Raekwon [McMillan] are two guys we really like. We’re excited to get Raekwon back [from a knee injury].”

Alonso and McMillan are expected starters. The third starter could come in the draft.

The Dolphins also are intrigued with Stephone Anthony, who was acquired from New Orleans last September.

“We got a first good look at him,” Gase said. “I thought he did a great job in practice. Times we got him in the games, he did a

lot of good things. We have to see how it plays out. I don’t want to promise anything to anybody. Competition will be a good thing for us.”

• As expected, Gase said the Dolphins will add at least one defensive tackle to replace Ndamukong Suh, who was released.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase meets with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“We will keep adding to that position, keep creating competition,” Gase said. “We will see how it plays out. These guys are only going to get better. [New defensive line coach] Chris Kocurek is going get those guys better. That’s all he has ever done in his career. If things play out the way they always seem to play out, we are probably going to add multiple pieces somewhere where we create great competition.”

The Dolphins are counting on Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux for major roles, potentially as starters.

Is the team confident enough in Vincent Taylor to project him for a significant role?

“He was a guy we felt like was playing well for us,” Gase said. “It was unfortunate he got hurt... late in the season. If he was inactive, it didn’t sit well with him. You would see a guy that would terrorize the practice field. He’s our kind of guy. I’m excited to watch him improve the year coming forward.”

• On trading for defensive end Robert Quinn and re-signing end/tackle William Hayes:

With Quinn, “we got a young player that can rush the passer,” Gase said. “He’s got a great motor. You watch him on film. The guy keeps rushing the passer. Adding him, getting William Hayes back was big for us. Those are two guys to add to that room we feel really good about.

“We really wanted to make sure William was in our building this year. He was very impactful. It was unfortunate he got hurt [with a season-ending back injury last November]. That was something that was lingering for a long time with him. He played through. It got to the point he couldn’t handle it anymore. Pain was that extreme. I am excited to see a healthy William Hayes.

“He is probably one of my favorite guys to watch play in games and practice. His love for football is hard to match. Other guys feed off his energy, especially on game day, the physicality he plays with. He does a great job… setting the edge. That’s something he brings that we need.”

The Dolphins has a historically bad defense last year. It's up to defensive coordinator Matt Burke to fix it.

• Asked if he expects Tony Lippett to challenge Cordrea Tankersley at cornerback, Gase said:

You play so many guys. You are playing five DBs at a time so much. Guys get banged up. We are going to keep competing, see how it unfolds, add as many guys as we can and get these young guys better.

“Cornerback is one of those positions where you can’t have enough. You guys talk about drafting a quarterback every year, draft a corner every year. It’s becoming a position where it’s high priced. All of a sudden, we’re looking at Xavien Howard coming out, his contract pretty soon [Miami owns his rights for two more years, with a team option for 2020]. You see him getting better.”

Regarding Tankersley specifically, Gase said: “He got better. There were times he wishes he could go back and do some things different. But that’s a rookie year. We would love to see him come back with a mindset of that’s his spot and he’s not going anywhere. And really be aggressive as far as not let anyone take that spot that he’s had.”

• Gase is fully committed to slot cornerback Bobby McCain.

“Everybody wants to always replace Bobby, but all he does is consistently play better than probably everybody else,” Gase said. “He’s one of our top leaders in our locker room. He just keeps getting better.”

• On why the Dolphins lost safety Michael Thomas to the Giants but re-signed Walt Aikens:

“We lost a good player. I think when we started this thing, we knew between Mike and Walt both being up, it wasn’t going to be an easy thing for us to get both of those guys back. I think what we predicted for ourselves and what happened was two different things. I really felt like Mike was going to be quick. I didn’t think he’d last this long on the open market.

“We wanted to make sure we got Walt done and we were able to do that. There were a couple of things we weren’t able to get done to help our special teams. I think Walt is a guy that we’re going to see really step up in a leadership role this year. I don’t know if anybody can really replace Mike as far as his leadership goes and his ability to make plays was outstanding. He’s a tackling machine, but we also have a lot of guys that were impact players that we still have on the roster between Mike Hull and Walt and the rest of that group. We’ve got a good crew of guys and we’ve added some guys that are actually going to be able to help on special teams.”

• On second-year safety Maurice Smith, who impressed the staff but was lost to an appendectomy in December:

“He did a lot of good things. It was unfortunate we lost him for the season. We showed up Friday and learned one of the guys you had plans to play that week wasn’t going to play because he had appendicitis. He showed us a lot. There are a lot of good things he did. Like any rookie, ups and down. The guys he learned under in college [at Alabama and Georgia] are guys I respect a lot. He knows what we’re looking for.”

This is my seventh post from the NFL owners meetings in the past 24 hours.

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