Through the power of modern technology, members of the South Florida media were granted access Thursday to eight of Miami’s free agent acquisitions for a Q&A session.
By now, it’s well-known that this team will take on the demeanor of its head coach, Brian Flores. That demeanor may be tough, focused and physical on the football field, but the flip switches once outside the gridiron.
Flores’ respectful nature emanates about the team’s personnel. Conducting interviews over a videoconferencing application presents unique challenges, but it doesn’t prevent politeness. At the conclusion of these media availabilities, the newest Dolphins graciously said goodbye and eluded to the future opportunity to meet each of the 20 or so media members with a hand shake and hello.
Perhaps the ear-to-ear grins and joyous exuberance was running rampant among the newest Fins because of the upward trend of this football team.
“I am fired up to play for Miami,” cornerback Byron Jones said. “This is a young team that’s going in the right direction, and the thing that I can bring to this team is leadership and also good man coverage. What really brought me to Miami was the idea of joining a young team and being a leader on that team and kind of being a catalyst for cultural change and helping this team win,”
Being a good person is certainly part of the equation, but it’s just small part of the winning recipe. Another part of that puzzle – a competitive spirit.
“I hear [Flores] is intense and likes to create competitive scenarios, competitive situations,” Jones said. “That’s just something that I wanted to be a part of. That’s exciting for me, just to be on a team that he’s leading.”
Flores’ presence makes Miami a destination – a place atop free agents’ wish lists.
“Once free agency started, the Dolphins were on me hard,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “Other teams wanted me. I just felt wanted by the Dolphins and I’m excited to play for Coach Flores. I can’t wait.”
The opportunity to play for Brian Flores the leader is superseded by just one thing – playing for Brian Flores the football coach.
“I feel [and] envision that I’ll be playing everywhere like I have been,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “I’ve said it before – I don’t really consider myself having a position. I don’t really like that. I don’t like being called a d-end or a linebacker or anything. I’m just a football player. You roll the ball out onto the field, I’m there. I’m showing up. That’s my job and I’m going to be about it all the time.”
Miami signed 10 free agents last week, seven of which come from the defensive side of the ball. New center Ted Karras was able to offer some perspective on what it’s like to go against a Brian Flores defense.
“It’s tough,” Ted Karras said. “Any time you play Coach Flores’ teams coming in, even when he was the d-coordinator here, it’s going to be a tough day for guys on the inside. A lot of hitting, a lot of guys covered up. They were a tough team and that was a tough loss for us [in Week 17], so I have a lot of respect for when they came up to New England and came up and beat us. That earned a lot of respect from me, so I’m looking forward to being a part of a team with those guys.”
The expectation that comes with being a Miami Dolphin is to put the name on the front of the jersey ahead of the name on the back. Every player has a role, and part of that role is accepting the job being asked of any given player.
“No, we didn’t talk about my role or anything like that,” running back Jordan Howard said. “I’m just going to come in and be the best teammate that I can and be whatever they need me to be.”
New linebacker Elandon Roberts embodies that mentality – the mindset that there’s a job to be done, and it’s up to the player to execute his role no matter what it takes.
“At the end of the day for a linebacker, you have to make a tackle,” Roberts said. “So it’s a ‘do what you’ve got to do’ mentality. If you’ve got to do that, then you’ve got to do it. It’s just a mentality that I go by.”
Roberts played in all three phases last season, just like his new teammate Christian Wilkins. Wilkins reunites with former Clemson teammate Shaq Lawson in Miami. Lawson raved about Wilkins’ production and versatility, particularly one play on offense last year, and several on offense when Wilkins was at Clemson.
“[Wilkins] played on the offensive side of the ball and scored touchdowns and I haven’t scored yet, so that’s the only difference between us,” Lawson said.
Utilizing players to their strengths is another core tenant of this current Dolphins administration – something that attracted new offensive lineman Ereck Flowers back to his hometown.
“I think the switch [from tackle to guard] plays into a lot of my natural strengths,” Flowers said. “I’m just looking forward to taking those next steps and getting better.”
Flowers enters his sixth year as a pro at a ripe age of 25. Hungry, humble players with youth on their side provided another overarching theme of Miami’s offseason. All 10 of the free agent additions were age 29 or younger, and seven of the 10 newcomers are 26 or younger.
Van Noy instantly accepted his role as the veteran leader.
“I’m just going to try to hopefully take a more leadership role because I’m going to be one of the older players on this team, and I just hope I can help out the young guys – not just as football players, but as people, too. I just want them to – I hope I can show them the right way, how to be a professional because that’s what it’s all about.”
Van Noy provides Flores with an on-field conduit. A specific memory from their time together in New England symbolizes that player-coach relationship and the value Miami’s new defender.
Referencing a cold, December New England day, Van Noy detailed Flores’ ability to inject energy into his team and elevate preparation habits.
“He brought me and [Dont’a Hightower] over and kind of just said, ‘look. We’re just – we’re not just trying to be out here,'” Van Noy said. “‘We’ve got things to do.’ It didn’t hit us until we got to the meeting because when we were watching the plays, he was like, ‘look at right here, we’re just not out here. We’re trying to get things done.'”
Fast forward the story to game day on Sunday.
“It came to a time and a place where the play that he wasn’t happy about in that practice popped up in the game,” Van Noy said. “Me and [Hightower] started laughing at each other because me and him both made a play on it, and we go to the sideline and we started laughing at him like, ‘look, we’re not out here…’ We kind of did his little comment back to him, and he started laughing.”
After hearing many of the Dolphins’ new acquisitions speak today, it’s safe to say that their respect and admiration for Coach Flores played a big role in why so many of them wanted to become Dolphins.