After meeting with this Dolphins staff and top players as an ESPN Monday Night Football announcer last year before they were beaten handily in Carolina, Jon Gruden sees Miami from a different perspective this week, as coach of the 0-2 Oakland Raiders, who visit the 2-0 Dolphins at 1 p.m. Sunday.
And Gruden shared several observations on the Dolphins in a conference call with South Florida reporters Wednesday:
▪ On Miami’s defense: “There’s no question they’re playing extremely well up front. Usually, when you’re playing great defense like they are, it all starts up front.
“The addition of Robert Quinn is huge. Quinn has given them supreme effort opposite Cameron Wake. They have a very good unit inside that can generate pressure as well. It’s a combination of new players, new energy and the scheme. They have always had the scheme. [Defensive coordinator] Matt Burke does an excellent job with all the multiple looks. It’s fun to watch them. Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready.”
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▪ On the Dolphins’ offense: “Just seeing Ryan Tannehill back, they spread the field,… have a lot of [read pass options]. They make you defend the field horizontally from sideline to sideline and they also have receivers that can stretch you vertically.
“They make you defend every blade of grass. Tannehill’s scrambling ability is a winning edge for them. He can get out of trouble. They can create quarterback runs and do a lot of different plays with a quarterback that has this kind of athleticism.
“I think the spread nature of their offense, the way they can spread you out laterally horizontally and vertically - is very impressive.”
▪ On running back Kenyan Drake: “He’s dangerous. I’ve seen him against unblocked defenders in the hole against New England. I saw him against Denver last year make some of the most magnificent runs. He can stop and start and accelerate with the best of them. He’s a good receiver. He’s becoming an outstanding receiver in this style of offense. He’s the perfect back in this spread system. If you get him one on one in open space, he can do a lot of damage.”
▪ On his observations of the Dolphins staff from his meeting with them last year: Gruden praised Burke as a “very smart, very good communicating man” and said “you know what kind of offensive coach Adam Gase is. You know how their practices are run, how detailed their preparation is. It will be a good challenge to try to slow them down and win this game.”
▪ On Tannehill, with whom he sat down to tape a pre-draft special in 2012: “I had a great time with him. I have a lot of respect for his rise. Going from wide receiver, where he was a good receiver – to make himself a quarterback in that conference in that short a period of time says a lot about the man. You just knew if he was given an opportunity and had some stability around him, he had a chance to be a really good quarterback.”
Gruden said he now knows he mispronounced Tannehill’s name for years because he knew Steve Taneyhill, a former quarterback at South Carolina.
“You can’t fault me, I’m human like everybody else,” Gruden said. “I know his name now for sure.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Safety Reshad Jones did not practice because of a right shoulder injury sustained late in the first half of Jets game. He played through the injury Sunday. Asked if he will be able to play against Oakland, Gase said: “That’s what we’re working on. It was better than it was Monday.”
If Jones cannot play, one option would be shifting Minkah Fitzpatrick to safety, moving Bobby McCain back to the slot and inserting Torry McTyer at boundary cornerback.
“A lot of trust there,” Gase said of McTyer. “He’s not afraid to put hands on anybody and stay as tight as possible. Since the time he’s gotten here, he has done nothing but improve.”
▪ Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (knee) and long snapper John Denney (shoulder) were limited.
▪ Fitzpatrick said he has not heard from Tampa quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick or his camp about the decision by Minkah Fitzpatrick’s family to trademark “FitzMagic” for licensing purposes. But if he did?
“If he wants the name, he can take it,” Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “He’s a certified vet. Great football player. If he wants it, he can contact me or my people, and he can have it.”
Some Buccaneers fans reacted angrily on Twitter, and Minkah Fitzpatrick cited “some very unnecessary comments directed toward myself and my family.”
▪ Gase called Kiko Alonso’s game against the Jets (13 tackles, two forced fumbles) “probably one of the more productive games I have ever seen by a linebacker. He was all over the place.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Adam Beasley contributed to this report.