The Dolphins new regime has displayed a willingness to add players who have had legal issues in their past. But they’ve also made clear that those players must do everything expected of them as a Dolphin.
That will be the case for defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the former Arizona Cardinals first-round pick who signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with Miami on Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to working with him and helping him reach his potential,” coach Brian Flores said late Thursday night after Miami’s 34-27 win against Atlanta in the Dolphins’ preseason opener at Hard Rock Stadium. “But that’s going to be up to Rob. I’ve told him that. I’ve had very direct conversations with him. He knows where I stand as far as him coming in, working hard, doing things our way, getting himself back into shape, rehabbing, and then hopefully we get to see, or he gets to realize, his potential. I enjoy taking on that type of challenge and helping guys reach their potential.”
Nkemdiche sustained a torn ACL in a game last December and won’t be ready for football activities until September, according to one of his agents.
He had 4.5 sacks in 10 games for Arizona last season but was released July 28 after failing his physical. His past legal issues include a 2015 drug possession charge from an incident at an Atlanta hotel (before Mississippi’s bowl game) and an arrest earlier this summer (June 6) for speeding and driving with a suspended license in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“He’s a talented young defensive tackle,” Flores said. “I think any time you can add somebody with this type of talent you got to at least explore it. We did that, we did a lot of research homework on Rob. We felt comfortable making the move, [general manager] Chris [Grier and vice president of football administration] Brandon Shore, myself, we had a lot of conversations about it.”
Speaking to reporters Friday morning, President Donald Trump said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross - who was criticized by receiver Kenny Stills and some fans for holding a Friday fund-raiser for Trump - “is a great friend of mine. He’s a very successful guy. We were competitors but friends in real estate in New York in the old days.
“He’s a great guy. He is — by the way, I think he’s probably more inclined to be a liberal, if you want to know the truth. But he likes me, he respects me. We’re doing a fundraiser there, we’re doing another fundraiser with another friend of mine. And I understand the fundraiser was totally sold out, and it’s very successful.”
Of the controversy about Ross’ fundraiser -which has resulted in a backlash from some - Trump said: “I think it just makes Steve much hotter. I didn’t speak to him yet. I’ll see him in a little while. The controversy makes Steve Ross hotter. He’ll figure that out in about a week.”
THIS AND THAT
Besides being unhappy with Josh Rosen’s interception, Flores was displeased when Rosen, with a defender wrapped around his feet, threw a risky pass to Preston Williams for a 16-yard gain on third and 8.
“At some point as a quarterback, you have to take a sack. That’s the play,” Flores said. “But the guy has a little bit of a gunslinger mentality and likes to let it rip. Obviously, that was a nice one to Preston, but I think we want to play smarter than that in that situation. Not just let the ball go like we did.”
But Flores also liked some of what he saw from Rosen, who was 13 for 20 for 191 yards and led three scoring drives (including two for touchdowns) in the six possessions he handled.
“I thought he made some good throws,” Flores said. “Specifically in the second half I thought he put together a couple good drives.”
▪ Miami averaged only 3.0 yards per carry Thursday and the offensive line allowed numerous quarterback pressures and two sacks. Third-round guard Michael Deiter committed a false start and said: “I thought I did OK. Some good, some bad, but it wasn’t all bad and it wasn’t all good.”
Of rookie starting guards Deiter and Shaq Calhoun, Flores said: “There’s some getting used to the game speed; that was something that showed up just from the naked eye that I saw. It got better as the game went on for those guys.”
▪ First-round pick Christian Wilkins, who started and had three tackles in his first NFL game, said he planned to watch a tape of the game before going to sleep Thursday night to see what he did wrong: “I’ve never been more excited to watch a game tape ever I don’t think.”
▪ Flores, on his defense, which allowed 27 points, 233 yards in the air (20 for 36, no interceptions) and 104 on the ground (4.0 per carry): “I thought tackling was an issue, a major issue. Tackling, communication, defending the deep part of the field --- it wasn’t good enough. That’s something we’ll spend a lot of time on. I can think of four or five missed tackles off the top of my head that would have kept the score down a little bit more than it was.”
▪ Flores, on undrafted rookie cornerback Nik Needham, who was beaten for several receptions: “Nik has had a good camp. He’s been consistent really throughout the spring and in these training camp practices. [Thursday] he struggled. He had a couple good plays, but he definitely missed a couple tackles and had a couple tough coverage situations and some penalties. He had some struggles, that’s for sure.... But I still have a lot of confidence in Nik Needham.”
Needham started because Eric Rowe, the usual starter, was held out with an injury.
▪ Kenny Stills on Williams, after his impressive four-catch, 97-yard night: “He’s a first-round talent. He’s going to be somebody to deal with in this league for a long time, and so we’re looking forward to everything that he can do.”
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