Five Takeaways from Brian Flores (Including Tua Cleared)

Earlier today, Brian Flores spoke with the media about QB Tua Tagovailoa, Covid-19, and the 2020 NFL season.

As players and coaches return to team facilities, one thing is clear. The beginning of the 2020 NFL season is officially upon us.

That’s right, folks.

Football is back.

And in an offseason without preseason, open practices, and other football activities–it’s going to be challenging to get a real grasp of this team and roster. This means we will have to rely heavily on the media and interviews with the players and coaches to dissect what is truly going on with this team.

So, today when Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores met with South Florida media. Many were listening. What would the leader of the Miami Dolphins have to say about the many issues heading into the 2020 season? Covid-19? His rookie quarterback?

Here are five takeaways from Brian Flores press conference 


Takeaway #1

What coach said:

What I heard:

Tua is all systems go. Which is what we’ve heard over the last several months from Tua and his representatives. This, now being confirmed by the Dolphins, is enormous. Not only could he technically play IF he had to, but he’s ready to go out there and compete for the starting job. Which is exactly what he’ll do, according to Brian Flores. All that truly matters, however, is that Tagovailoa is ready to go.

Takeaway #2

What coach said:

What I heard: 

As we’ve become accustomed to, no job is truly safe. Flores wants the best players playing. And if a seasoned veteran gets dethroned by a hungry young rookie, the best player will play. That goes for every position, although all eyes will be on quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa will need to get acclimated to the system at a rapid pace, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will be right next to him every step of the way. Miami won’t rush Tua, but if the better talent is expected, it play. It probably won’t be very long before that’s the Hawaiian Prince.

Takeaway #3

What coach said:


What I heard:

Football players are just like the rest of us. This means for the 2020 NFL season to start, sacrifices will have to be made. That goes for every coach, player, staff, and employee of the Miami Dolphins. Everyone should be wearing a mask, social distancing, and taking precautions to keep the players and their families safe.

Takeaway #4

What coach said:

What I heard:

This offseason is going to be different. Like I mentioned before, there is no preseason. Hell, the roster was cut to 80 players before teams could even report. It’s a different time. And a lot of these players are going to make the roster based on their reps in practice, drills, etc… Players have to earn their roster spot. It won’t be easy. Only the best will survive.

Takeaway #5

What coach said:

What I heard:

Xavien Howard will not be rushed back and is currently slated to start the season on the PUP list. X is making progress and has been rehabbing all summer, but may not be ready to play. Could this be the reason Miami drafted Noah Igbinoghene? Is Nik Needham the next guy up to play opposite of Byron Jones? Or could the Dolphins bring in Logan Ryan, a player Brian Flores is very familiar with? If Howard isn’t ready to go by week 1, things are going to look much different in Miami’s secondary.

Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins appear as ready as they can be for the 2020 NFL season to kickoff. And with lots of uncertainty surrounding the team, in the middle of a global pandemic, should make for one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory. Now, all we can do is sit back, relax, and get some popcorn ready. Football is here. And before we know it, the Tua Tagovailoa era will be upon us.

Report: Dolphins intend to try rookie OL Robert Hunt at right tackle.

The Miami Dolphins placed a lot of emphasis on shoring up the trenches on both sides of the ball in the 2020 draft. One of the players they drafted is Louisiana offensive lineman Robert Hunt, a physical power blocker who makes a name for himself by utterly dominating defenders coming at him. His style of blocking would indicate that he fits best as a guard in the NFL. But he has plenty of experience as a tackle from his college days.

So the question is, what do the Dolphins plan on doing with Hunt?

“Robert can play right tackle, he can play right guard.” GM Chris Grier said after drafting Hunt 39th overall. “So for us, he’s going to come in and compete for a job. Brian’s talked about it. It’s a competition. That’s one of the things we liked about him – position flexibility to play those things, but the thing we loved about him was his competitiveness. He’s a tough, physical player. He plays with an attitude. He’s got good football intelligence. It’s important to him.

“A lot of those criteria and qualities the coaching staff is looking for, this kid has them so we’re very excited. After we took him, Brian and I got multiple texts from people on other teams saying that was their guy, so we were happy to get him and think he will be a good fit. (We are) looking forward to having him – when he gets here – to work and get on the field and compete for a job.”

The answer is vague as per the norm. In truth, the plan can be anything and can easily change as time goes on. But according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, there is some clue as to where Miami plans on letting Hunt try out first.

“…we’re told the Dolphins at least want to give (Hunt) a chance at right tackle,” wrote Jackson. “The plan – subject to change, obviously – is to allow Hunt and Jesse Davis to compete at right tackle and decide which player is better suited to tackle and which is better suited for guard.”

Trying Robert Hunt out at right tackle makes sense for several reasons. Firstly, putting Hunt at tackle frees up the logjam at guard the Dolphins currently have. Presently, the roster consists of Keaton Sutherland, Shaq Calhoun, Danny Isidora, the aforementioned Jesse Davis, and of course 2019 draft pick Michael Deiter and rookie Solomon Kindley. Naturally, the best case scenario would have Kindley win the job at right guard as another massive, power blocking player. That would leave Hunt at right tackle and Jesse Davis can be the primary backup.

Secondly, and more importantly, Hunt has an entire season to try and develop at right tackle. The entire draft class is predicated on developing potentially elite talent. Hunt isn’t projecting to be elite right away. However, there’s no telling what his ceiling can be at tackle if he fixes his footwork and mobility. That’s the trade off the Dolphins have made. Giving up immediate contributors for a chance to turn high-upside prospects into superstars in a year’s time.

Hunt, for his part, has made it clear he has no preference.

“I definitely can play any position that coach or the o-line coach need me to play.” He said after being drafted by Miami. “I’m a versatile guy. I think that will help me out a lot in this draft, so wherever coach needs me to play, that’s where I’ll stick at. I’m open to playing any position. I’m ready to play any position. Anything, anywhere that I can help the team out, I’ll definitely do it.”

Hearing that is definitely encouraging. Many players say that they’re okay playing anywhere, but not everyone means it. Infamously, Minkah Fitzpatrick initially claimed he enjoyed being a chess piece on the football field. Then a year later he expressed his deep frustration with that philosophy, resulting in a trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That trade gave the Dolphins Austin Jackson, but having Fitzpatrick in the defense Miami is building would make it potentially elite. The fact that Hunt seems open to the initial experimentation is a good sign.

Fans should be excited about the potential Robert Hunt brings to the table. Some are bothered by the lack of instant starters in this year’s draft class, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. In 2019, Brian Flores took a ragtag group of undrafted free agents and roster castoffs and dragged them to 5-11 when they had no business winning even one game. If that’s what Flores can do with subpar talent, what can he do with potentially elite talent?

Robert Hunt is eager to find out. He attended the NFL combine but was unable to workout, and that may have hurt his draft stock. But Hunt believes that everything that’s happened to him is for a reason. He’s happy to be in Miami where they’re building something special. And he doesn’t care if that’s at guard or tackle.

“It is what it is. This was going to happen anyways.” He said. “I’m a big believer in God. God puts you in places that He wants you to be. He definitely put me here for a reason. I’m just going to take the opportunity and go forward with it. He doesn’t make mistakes. This is a blessing to me. It doesn’t hurt me or help me. This is my opportunity. I’m super grateful for it.”

The Dolphins' free agent signings fit into coach Brian Flores' scheme. (Tony Capobianco for Five Reasons Sports)

Brian Flores has chance to separate himself from Belichick disciples

There is no doubt that Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is trying to build a culture of winning and success. Just look at the free agency hauls for the organization over the past week or so. Furthermore, Flores is trying to break a trend with Belichick assistants. He is trying to come out on top.

When you look at the list of former Patriots assistant coaches who went on to become head coaches, the resume is not overly impressive in terms of winning.

Eric Mangini had marginal success, coaching the New York Jets from 2006-2008 and Cleveland Browns from 2009-2010. Although he finished with a career head coaching record of 33-48, he did win the Coach of the Year Award in 2006. That year, he was the head man for the New York Jets, compiling a 10-6 record. They lost to the Patriots in the AFC Wild Card Game, ending an otherwise great season. It was a crowning achievement for the coaching career of Mangini. He would never achieve that level of success again.

Looking at the Belichick disciples recently, Flores has a chance to stand out from the pack. Mike Vrabel did a great job with the Tennessee Titans this past year, leading them to the AFC Championship Game. Time will tell exactly how he does the rest of the way, but it seems as though he has a bright future.

Bill O’ Brien has had an interesting couple of months. The Houston Texans did well for themselves in 2019. They went 10-6 and finished first in the AFC South. Ultimately, they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Game. It wasn’t even the on-field results that were the most interesting part of all this. It’s what happened off the field.

O’Brien traded star receiver DeAndre Hopkins away for essentially a bag of peanuts. In actuality, Houston received running back David Johnson, a 2022nd-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Although Houston may have not been able to afford Hopkins’ asking price for a new contract, Houston should have been able to receive more than that in a trade.

In the meantime, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia is coming off a 3-12-1 season. Good enough for fourth place in the NFC North, he hasn’t exactly been leading the Lions to success right now. Detroit certainly has pieces to be successful. Whether they will be able to reach a level of success with Patricia remains to be seen.

Brian Flores can be ahead of the pack

In any event, this is a chance for Flores to shine. He has a ton of talent at his disposal, and that does not even include the fifth overall pick in next month’s draft. Here is where he can separate himself from the rest of the Belichick disciples. Sustained success is certainly a viable option in 2020. The Dolphins have made several solid moves in free agency, and they still hold the fifth overall pick. That is certainly impressive. Undoubtedly, that should help them accelerate the rebuild.

When you take a look at the type of players the Miami Dolphins want onthier roster, look no further than this latest free agency. The New England Patriots Miami signed  are all gritty players. Ted Karras was a solid depth piece on the line for the Patriots last season. Both Roberts and Van Noy are linebackers that can produce consistently. You know what type of production you’re going to get out of them. they will play hard game in and game out.

This offseason could be a key moment in helping Brian Flores stand out from the rest of the pack. He has a chance to be successful for a long time, something that no other former New England assistant has ever been. There is a blueprint in place. Flores once this team to play physical, smart football, as well as being disciplined to boot. Now, Brian Flores has to take the next step. Execution is critical, and it’s something that has held up the others in their quest for greatness.

Dolphins Chris Grier

Pressure Point: Up to Chris Grier to build on Brian Flores’ good work

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores just made the job of general manager Chris Grier a whole lot tougher.

So be it.

How can you care at all about the Dolphins and not find delight in the stunning 27-24 upset they pulled off Sunday in Flores’ finale as a rookie head coach in his first visit to New England, where he worked for 15 years in the Belichick regime?

Especially when it mucks up Patriots playoff plans, denying them a first-round bye.

Also considering Miami hadn’t won at Foxborough since September 2008.

I know. I know. By winning five of their last nine to finish 5-11, the Dolphins strayed far from the tanking playbook — which Flores always claimed he wasn’t in on anyway. And there is no choice but to believe him now.

Win didn’t hurt draft standing

Sunday didn’t alter their standing in the draft order anyway.

Trying to win by losing has always been a cockamamie concept. Of greater importance, the win at New England was the latest in a growing stack of evidence that the Dolphins finally have a coach they can win with.

It was remarkable, really, coming to New England as 17-point underdogs and considering the 43-0 debacle in Miami in Week 2.

Sure, now Flores must show he can win more meaningful games when given the tools to work with. But he achieved far more with less than Adam Gase did in taking the 2016 Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season.

But he has a locker room full of believers, and likely much of the fan base.

Now that this most confusing of Dolphins seasons is over, speculation can shift from what they may or may not be trying to achieve on the field to what they must accomplish in the NFL draft.

Now it’s all about what Grier will do with those three first-round and assorted extra draft picks (14 total in 2020).

Finding the quarterback of the future remains the general manager’s mandate despite the team’s competitive gains behind the inspired play of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Dolphins give Patriots a taste of their own medicine

Tua tough call as first-round pick

The Dolphins have the No. 5 pick next April and may have a chance to select Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (provided he enters the draft), who must come back from a significant hip injury.

Maybe Tua will fare better than Bo Jackson, whose mercurial career was halted by a hip injury. Considering the injuries to both ankles that have also sidelined Tagovailoa, his durability is an issue.

Grier will spend more time poring over Tua’s medical reports than his game film. It will take conviction to make that choice or another available quarterback.

Regardless of whichever quarterback Grier chooses, bringing back Fitzpatrick would buy time in the development process.

Fitz reached folk hero status with what he accomplished leading an offense devoid of any reliable running game. That was cemented Sunday by outplaying Tom Brady and orchestrating the winning touchdown drive capped by the payoff pass to Mike Gesicki.

That doesn’t change that Grier must come away from the draft with a quarterback, but it’s just the top of a laundry list of needs.

Numerous needs on offense, defense

On offense, the challenge is to upgrade the line and add a featured running back, through draft picks and signings.

The receiving corps is respectable, with DeVante Parker having a breakout year and Gesicki making major strides in his second season. But pass protection and blocking for the running game needs to improve.

On defense, pass rushers are top priority, on the line and at linebacker. An ever-changing cast in the defensive backfield held its own against Tom Brady on Sunday, highlighted by former Patriot Eric Rowe’s pick-six. But Grier will be looking for another cornerback and likely a safety, especially if Reshad Jones isn’t brought back.

Grier is on the clock and on the spot for 2020.

As for 2019, which began with getting outscored 163-26 in the first four games, Sunday’s stunner made it almost sad to see time expire.

One thing for sure, the time for hoping for losses is thankfully over.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Miami Dolphins give New England a taste of their own medicine

The Miami Dolphins came away with a huge win on Sunday.

Paths cross often in the National Football League. The Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots 27-24 on Sunday. A bunch of former Patriots coaches had their fingerprints all over the victory.

Let’s start with the head coach. Brian Flores began his career with the Patriots in 2004 as a scouting assistant. He then worked his way up the ranks over the course of the next decade. He was named the linebackers coach in 2016 and served that role until last year. Now, he gets to preside over an entire team.

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins showed the type of toughness that has been a trademark of New England over the years. There is no doubt that Flores has put his stamp on this team, and it showed. Much like New England has done over the years, the Dolphins fought hard. They never gave up, and they played until the final whistle. You always hear about the New England Patriots mantra “Do your job.” The Dolphins did that on Sunday.

New England connections key in Miami Dolphins victory

Offensive coordinator Chad O’ Shea did a great job in terms of game planning He let Ryan Fitzpatrick do whatever he wanted while getting the receivers involved. Furthermore, he did a great job of keeping the New England corners on their toes.  Fitzpatrick passed for 320 yards and a touchdown. The leading receiver for Miami was Devante Parker. He had another tremendous day, catching eight passes for 137 yards. A 28-yard snag was his longest of the afternoon.

Dave DeGuglielmo was the other coach of note on Sunday. A Lexington, Massachusetts native,he was the Patriots offensive line coach from 2014-2015.  His offensive line did a great job of protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Patriots often sent three pass-rushers towards Fitzpatrick. This was in an effort to get more cornerbacks on the field and prevent big plays in the passing game. The offensive line held up nicely for the Dolphins, shutting the three-man rush down. Fitzpatrick was only sacked twice for 13 yards.

Eric Rowe also managed to get the last laugh on New England. He recorded a pick-six that set the tone for the defense early. He is certainly making his three-year $18 million extension seem like the right move. Truthfully, it was the right move before this game. Sunday just proved that. He had a really great day for the secondary, and was a steadfast presence.

As the Miami Dolphins look to build their team, this was a signature win. It’s not easy to be New England in Foxboro. Florez and his staff did that emphatically. Good times may be ahead for the Miami Dolphins. Sunday certainly  proved that.

Coach Flores and players on the Miami Dolphins voice frustration following loss to Jets

In a game that meant little outside of draft position, Miami’s coach Brian Flores was fuming following Sunday’s 22-21 loss to the New York Jets.

Jets kicker Sam Ficken converted a game-winning field goal as time expired, but it was a play leading up to the kick that had Flores irate.

To make matters worst, the pass interference wasn’t called on the field, but was reviewed and reversed.

Flores didn’t want to answer questions about the call when speaking to the media. As we saw during the game, he was quite animated after discovering the no-call was reversed.

“It’s a tough call,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “We had guys step up. Pat Laird made some nice plays and Isaiah made some nice plays. Those are the things I try to focus on as the positives for us and the things we did well and maybe some of the things we could have done better. We obviously scratched and clawed our way back into that game and it would have been a nice one to win.”

Jason Sanders converted a franchise-record seven field goals in the loss. However, if Miami had found the end zone at least once, the call would’ve been a non-factor.

I think we’re all disappointed,” Fitzpatrick added. “We’re just disappointed in losing the football game. There’s a lot of emotions that go into that.”

Nik Needham finished with four tackles, two passes defended and was in coverage for the game-changing call.

“Honestly it’s trash,” Needham said of the call. “We lost on a call. It’s trash. I’m not going to lie.”

Despite low expectations, it is clear that the Dolphins were never trying to “tank” the season away.

“Any loss is tough to swallow,” Flores said.  “So, this is no different than any other loss. They’re all tough to swallow. Our guys played hard and I’m proud of the way they work. It’s a tough one.”




Dolphins displaying true ‘next man up’ mentality

One of the key philosophies of the New England Patriots for the past decade has been their ability to take backup players and make them play like starters. Whoever takes the place of the injured player has to provide the same level of play. Teams in the NFL look for that “next man up” mentality year in and year out. Only some actually manage to find it. However, it seems that the 2019 Miami Dolphins are on their way to putting it all together in that regard.

Observe what Miami has endured this season in the injury department. Even after trading a vast majority of their best players, those who remain on the team still are not contributing due to circumstances beyond their control. They are now all on season-ending injured reserve.

  • CB Xavien Howard – Knee
  • WR Jakeem Grant – Ankle
  • WR Preston Williams – ACL
  • SS Reshad Jones – Chest/Ankle
  • FS Bobby McCain – Shoulder

And the list goes on and on from there. As a result, the Dolphins are being forced to call on players who normally wouldn’t even make an NFL roster to take their place. Yet they make it work. They compete week in and week out in spite of their withering roster.

Unfortunately, it got even harder for Miami on Sunday. Both DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson, two of the Dolphins remaining wide receivers, left the Jets game with possible concussions. That left only Allen Hurns, newcomer Mack Hollins, and the returning Isaiah Ford as their wide receivers for the game. Parker is having a career year, so losing him especially hurt.

“It definitely made it a little bit difficult.” Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said after the game. “We had guys out there hobbled and giving everything they had. I was proud to be in the huddle with those guys. I know there’s a lot of stuff people won’t see or don’t really care to write about, but there were some guys that really gutted it out today. It was tough sledding in the second half from communications and lining up for us just because of some of the injuries we had.”

But again, while it was tough, it wasn’t impossible. Isaiah Ford responded by playing the best game of his career. The young receiver out of Virginia Tech caught six passes for 92 yards against New York. Obviously, he’s unhappy with the loss. But he’s glad he got a chance to show what he’s capable of.

“I’ve had confidence in myself the entire time that I can play at this level.” Ford said. “I know I can go on the field and help our team win.”

Undoubtedly, it’s good to see players like Ford stepping up. But who could predict the Dolphins would even be in this situation by this point?

“Just when you thought this season couldn’t get any crazier.” Fitzpatrick said. “Isaiah has been on the active (roster) and off, on the practice squad and up and down. He’s worked so hard. He’s a guy we have so much faith in as quarterbacks because whenever anybody has a question, sometimes when coaches have questions, we’ll go back to Isaiah and say, ‘What is this signal? What is this route?’ and he knows everything. I was happy to see him get out there and get an opportunity to catch some balls and really take advantage of it and make the most out of it today.”

In spite of that, Brian Flores admitted that it isn’t easy to compensate for the loss of top players like that.

“It complicates things a lot.” He said. “Obviously, when you go into a game with a specific game plan with guys in mind. When you lose one player at any position, you have a backup for that. When you lose two, that’s when it’s tough … Again, Isaiah Ford stepped in and played well. Mack Hollins who we just got a couple days ago, he stepped in and gave us some good snaps, drew a pass interference penalty. And then our tight end group, they really stepped up for us. So, I thought as a collective group, given the adversity of losing two guys, I thought we battled through it.”

Once again, coaching deserves credit for adapting and helping players shine in bad circumstances. Flores will have a lot of roster turnover come next season, with talent coming from free agency and the draft. But here and now, he has to work with what he has. What he has is not good. However, that’s what “next man up” is all about. The Dolphins are taking players who have far less talent, and bringing it to the wire every game. That alone is a sign of things to come.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

Mark Walton

Dolphins waive Mark Walton in light of latest police incident

The Miami Dolphins are spending the 2019 season giving players a chance at redemption. Robert Nkemdiche, a former first round pick, couldn’t show enough to warrant Miami keeping him on the roster. Running back Mark Walton, on the other hand, seemed to be taking everything in stride. He even became the starter over Kalen Ballage.

But then he got suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Then on Tuesday, things took a dramatic turn, as Walton found himself in the middle of yet another incident. Mark Walton is charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.

This woman is pregnant with Walton’s child, and she told police that she told Walton of her pregnancy on Sunday.

According to Tom Schad of USA Today Sports, one of Walton’s attorneys stated that the now ex-Dolphins running back cooperated fully with the police. But that doesn’t change what happened, and naturally, Miami released him immediately after hearing of the incident. General manager Chris Grier offered a statement to the public, and nothing more has come from the Dolphins since then.

It’s always sad when a promising young athlete throws their career away due to a lack of self control. Mark Walton’s actions are inexcusable, and it’s no surprise the Dolphins cut ties immediately. Coach Flores wants to create a team-first culture of accountability. Decisions like the one Walton made have no place in Miami, or anywhere else.

Credit the Dolphins for giving Walton a chance to redeem himself. Second chances are needed in this world. However, once the chance has been given, it must be taken.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

Nik Needham

Nik Needham coming on strong at CB for Dolphins

Think back to training camp and the preseason. Of all the players that put themselves on display, one of the worst by far was cornerback Nik Needham. Regularly beaten in coverage, missing tackles, it seemed he could no right. Within two weeks, fans were tired of hearing his name. Usually, unless someone is making a big play, the less you a corner’s name, the better. Needham’s name was said a lot.

So, how in the world did an undrafted free agent who didn’t even make the final 53 man roster suddenly become one of Miami’s top defenders?

It starts with understanding the game on a deeper level.

“I think just the understanding of the game, as well as the understanding of the business side of things.” Needham said after Miami’s second loss to Buffalo, in which he spent most of the game shadowing wide receiver John Brown. “It’s not just a fun and games thing anymore … I think I’ve matured a lot, I’ve taken a lot of the information that the other guys and the coaches have gave me and just applied that.”

Once more, we come back to the emphasis that head coach Brian Flores put on developing players in 2019. True, Sunday’s game against Buffalo ended in a loss, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Miami’s two wins against the Jets and the Colts came as a result of continued improvement from young players, Needham included. That serves as a testament to Flores and his staff. Taking a band of misfits and making them competitive from week to week.

However, there are still growing pains that comes with this approach. Needham did much better than expected, but he wasn’t perfect. He did allow Brown to break free on a couple of plays, one of which turned into a touchdown.

“Yeah it was Cover 2, but that was my fault. I’ve got to sink a little more. I’ve got to carry John Brown right there and be underneath him a little more and drift inside a little bit, so that was on me for sure.” Needham said. “It’s just a learning process but you’ve got to grow up quick because you don’t want to just be out there messing up all the time and then say ‘Oh, that’s a rookie.’ To me personally, that doesn’t feel good. People saying, ‘It’s alright.’ No, it’s not alright. If I’m out here, I need to be out here performing at my best and at a high level.”

Again, no one expected Nik Needham to be as good as he is right now. They expected his career in the league to be over after the pitiful performance he displayed in preseason. But players who want to succeed find ways to learn from everything, even his opponents. New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas offered some valuable insight not too long ago, telling the rookie out of UTEP that he could recognize what Needham was going to do on any given play.

That message, along with many others, resonates with Needham. That’s the difference between players who have potential, and players who develop into solid contributors. To some extent, all players have potential, it’s what they do with it that matters. Needham is taking everything in stride, including the recent onslaught of praise he’s receiving. That’s exactly what coach Flores wants from all his players. That’s how he envisions players continue to grow and not stagnate.

“You forget about everything you’d done. You forget about the last couple games or you forget about any success you had.” Flores said on Thursday. “I know he’s getting – I don’t know much about social media, but people are saying he’s this or that or (any of that). Your friends, your family, they’re going to congratulate you. That’s great. But if you start listening to all that too much and – I don’t know. Maybe it’s one minute less on one more text and (it’s) one minute less on film. You’ve got to try to put that away and focus on the task at hand.”

Flores didn’t talk much more about it that day, since he felt the need to call out a member of the media for laughing at his statement. Nevertheless, the message was received, and it seems to be working.

Nik Needham is developing faster than anyone could have anticipated. He’s already deflected six passes in six games for Miami, and come away with an interception against the Colts, and nearly another one against Buffalo. Does this mean he can be the clear-cut number two cornerback alongside Xavien Howard next season? That will require much more time to decide. If nothing else, Nik Needham is proving he can be an excellent backup in a young secondary, and he should be considered a success for this new regime. At this point, there’s no telling what his ceiling could be.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

John Jenkins

John Jenkins contributing heavily to improved Dolphins defense

Think back to the days of Paul Soliai. He was the last true nose tackle that made an impact on the Miami Dolphins defensive line. His ability to take up space and disrupt rushing lanes is well-remembered. Since his departure, Miami has been searching for someone who can take up that role. The unsung hero doing the dirty work so others can shine. It seems, however, that the search is over, with veteran DT John Jenkins filling the void.

“John (Jenkins) has brought energy, enthusiasm.” Head coach Brian Flores said on Wednesday. “He’s one of those kind of unsung players that no one really knows about, talks about; but I would say our linebackers really enjoy having him in front of them because he takes up some space. He does a lot of the dirty work that – it’s those dirty (work) plays that if you get enough of those contributions from several different players and that’s how you get productive plays and string good plays together. He’s been a big part of, I would say, the improvement defensively. (He is) one of my favorite guys to be honest with you.”

The 30-year old Jenkins isn’t a big playmaker. Since his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints in 2013, Jenkins only has a total of 143 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Not exactly wow-worthy to say the least. But again, Jenkins isn’t meant to make plays. He helps others make plays. Considering the recent emergence of Ohio State alums Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, it seems Jenkins is doing his job well. McMillan has emerged as a premier run-stopping linebacker, and Baker is finding it much easier to both cover receiver and rush the passer through lanes opened by Jenkins’ raw strength and bulk.

And again, Jenkins doesn’t get much credit. When Baker, McMillan or any of the other linebackers jump in and make a flashy play, they receive praise. But that’s just part of the process, as linebacker coach Rob Leonard stated at the beginning of November. He wants the linebackers to take what they do and use as a sign of progress for their development.

“You have to make them see it. You have to make them see what you see in them to get the best version of themselves.” He said. “I’m always trying to paint that picture whether it’s film or just speaking to them as men because that’s where the confidence comes into play. Who you are as a person, who you are as a player – you’re always painting that vision of how I see them so they can fulfill their potential, but they have to believe it. It comes from them.”

That much is true. The linebackers have to perform. But it certainly helps when there’s a big body up front making their lives easier.

However, that doesn’t mean Jenkins is incapable of making plays of his own. Last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Jenkins chased down a running back from behind and brought him down for a loss. That’s not a simple feat for a man his size. Him being a veteran voice in an extremely young locker room just adds an extra bonus.

“He’s got a great energy, great enthusiasm, loves to play the game.” Flores said. “(He is) a guy we really like. We got him after the 53 cut. We were happy to get him. He’s been very productive, but his effort, his energy, his enthusiasm, his leadership – being one of the older guys in that room – that’s shown up in a big way for us and we’re happy to have him.”

So what of the future? As it stands, Jenkins is on a 1-year contract worth a mere $800,000, give or take a few. He’s played a little less than 45% of the snaps on defense this season for Miami. Those few snaps, however, have had an undeniable impact. The 2020 offseason is going to be an eventful one for the Dolphins, but some of the talent on the 2019 roster may just stick around. John Jenkins should be a key candidate for retention.

Every team needs that one guy who opens up the way for the rest of the defense. Jenkins may be just what Miami needs, both now and later, to turn the Dolphins defense back into the juggernaut it once was.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung