Prior to starting his team’s Friday practice, Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel met with the South Florida media.
In what has become a show within a show, the McDaniel pressers have been entertaining, informative, educational and, at times, hilarious. The personality of this young rookie coach shines through in his meetings with the media, and the most recent is no different.
Early in the questions, preseason management came up as to how the young coach will approach the upcoming exhibitions and avoid injury.
“I think it’s a tough balance; an inexact science that you try to handle on a case-by-case basis and what the team needs, understanding that every time you’re playing football, there’s always a risk in that,” he said. “There’s an inherent risk, but there’s also, preseason is a valuable time to hone your skills and having 11 people work together for the regular season. So realistically I don’t try to shortchange.”
The Dolphins will have joint practices with the Tampa Buccaneers next week, leading into a preseason game against the 2020 Super Bowl champions. McDaniel explained how he’s not getting too far ahead in the preparation process.
“We have three practices before we head off to Tampa and practice against them, and I try not to get ahead of myself and say, ‘Okay, this person, first of all, is anointed the starter. Second of all, how much are they going to play,’” he said.
McDaniel further described his process in an almost zen-like fashion, saying, “I think it’s important to wait until you get there before you really decide exactly how long each individual player will play because there’ll be starters that end up playing in Preseason (Week) 1.”
The inevitable follow-up question to anything Tampa Bay-related came quickly after, as McDaniel was asked about how the NFL’s recent ruling and the allegations against owner Stephen Ross may be impacting the team or those involved on the field.
“You said a key thing in that statement where you’re not sure if it involves the people on the field so that right there, the most important thing as a head coach is that that’s your entire focus,” he said.
McDaniel went on to stay on-brand and essentially redirected the question in his existential way saying, “So, you can say a lot by saying a lot or not saying anything at all. We have an incredible challenge in front of us as the 2022 dolphins I think the players are owed complete and utter focus on that, so I think there’s power in not giving legs to something that doesn’t really affect those 2022 players that really deserve full and undivided attention.”
Moving on to questions on direct player availability, McDaniel was asked if there’s any concern with veteran cornerback Byron Jones and his status leading into the regular season.
“No,” he said. “The concern is with him continuing to progress. Right now that isn’t a concern for us, but it takes a full commitment each and every day for that to hold true, so right now we’re confident in how he’s rehabbing. If there’s a setback, then we’ll be concerned, but until then, we feel pretty good about it.”
Sticking in the secondary, McDaniel had a chance to talk about second-year safety, Jevon Holland. A reporter mentioned that it’s been noticeable that McDaniel spends a good amount of time conversing with his young rising star.
“It has been really, really cool watching Tua (Tagovailoa) and him compete,” he said. “And that’s an odd thing to say, like in regards to a safety versus a quarterback, but he plays all over the place, he communicates the defense from the call from the sidelines and he’s a student. I think Tua respects that, and they have kind of a nice competitive bond going.”
Holland has been showing leadership skills and is seemingly becoming a quarterback on the defensive unit.
McDaniel continued to talk about Holland’s football IQ saying, “It speaks to how football smart he is, how to – the things that he does on the football field are super exciting for the Miami Dolphins moving forward. He is athletic and has a lot of skills, but none of that even matters if he doesn’t have a brain for football and a commitment to football like he does.”
On the offensive side of the ball, lineman Michael Deiter has been unavailable, and McDaniel had a chance to provide clarity.
“He’s feeling better. We’re trying to be pragmatic and not be greedy, so expect him sooner than later.” McDaniel said before getting more specific. “It’s not sometime this week. We’re taking it day-by-day intentionally, but also trying to battle him because he is competitive as all get out.”
Expanding on the center position that Deiter could re-enter when he returns to action, players like Connor Williams, Adam Pankey and Cole Banwart have been handling the snaps in the early goings of training camp.
“We have bullets everywhere, so we’re – adversity is an opportunity,” McDaniel said of his other options. “There’s been some great snaps for a couple other players because of his [Deiter’s] injury.
“I really challenge guys to take advantage of opportunities and utilize those practices to their benefit. There’s never too much versatility an interior offensive linemen can have, so that’s why we’re pretty comfortable being pragmatic.”
The Dolphins have a weekend of fan-attended practices before heading into a week of preparation for Tampa Bay.