The 2020 Dolphins likely will feature between 20 and 30 new players, and the question, posed to a number of Dolphins recently, was a simple one:
If you have a friend - from high school or college or the NFL - who is drafted by the Dolphins or thinking of signing with them, what would you tell them to expect with this coaching staff? And, beyond that, what do they need to do for Brian Flores to embrace you?
That produced several thoughtful responses, all at least somewhat different:
▪ Rookie guard Shaq Calhoun said he would tell potential Dolphins that “you can’t complain about anything [here]. I would tell them every day you have to come in with your lunch pail ready to work. And make sure you listen. The key is listening to what you’re being told and applying it.”
▪ Offensive lineman Jesse Davis said “guys that do more than they’re asked to do” are especially valued here, and that’s what he would convey.
“So rehab your body, watch more film, help younger players. Hard work is where it starts” here, Davis said.
The other thing you need to succeed under this staff, Davis said, is “being ready to go at any given moment.”
Davis explained it this way: If they tell you they’ve called a meeting in five minutes, you better be there. If you don’t expect to play and you’re suddenly put in the game, you better be ready.
“The message,” Davis said, “is ‘do your job’ because if everyone does, the play will be successful.”
▪ Cornerback Nik Needham said this would be his message: “They are going to coach you super hard and you have to be mentally tough here. That’s definitely different from what some [players might have experienced]. You have to take all the coaching points. And you have to put the extra hours in because that’s what [Flores] expects. He expects excellence. You have to push yourself as hard as you can to live up to the potential he has for you.”
The other thing, Needham says, is you need to be willing to play different positions. That, of course, didn’t sit well with Minkah Fitzpatrick, who asked for and was granted a trade.
▪ Linebacker Jerome Baker: “You’ve got to be about team first here. Since [Flores] got here, that’s all he stresses. Team first and everything will work out. That’s been our message the whole year.”
▪ Multiple players said you better know the nuances of the opponent by Wednesday, because Flores will quiz you in front of teammates during Wednesday meetings. And if you can’t identify the scheme used by your next opponent - or the strengths of the player you will be going against - be braced for Flores to ask “How can you not know that?” as safety Eric Rowe said.
▪ Linebacker Vince Biegel would tell players that if you’re thinking of signing here, you better not only be “smart, tough, dependable,” but also “not just doing the right thing on the field but doing the right things off the field. Be a leader in the community. Be a family man with high values. That’s one thing I’ve learned from this coaching staff and appreciated because they really do value those things. He’s been an unbelievable head coach for us. I’m really excited what he’s established here.”
▪ Veteran defensive tackle John Jenkins said he would tell any veteran free agents that Flores is different from some other coaches, in a good way, in this sense: “Some coaches, they don’t see you; they know you’re there but they don’t really see you. Coach Flores actually sees his players.
“What I mean is he knows the player you are and allows you to be the player you are. I will give you an example. I’m not a third down rusher, as much as I want to be, and I’m not the guy he would put outside to rush the quarterback. He sees me for what I can do [and is not going to put me in position to do something that’s not a strength]. He’s going to allow you to be you.”
And Jenkins said he would tell veterans that Flores is “not going to overlook you.” If you’re on the roster, you’re going to get a fair shake to earn playing time.
▪ Rowe said if you don’t have a high football IQ, you might not be a fit here: “Everybody knows there’s some guys that are not really [high] football IQ but are really gifted. Here you’ve got to have both.”
▪ Other players said that they would speak highly of Flores in terms of personal interaction with players, noting his desire to get to know his players more than superficially, which is appreciated.
Football analysts often talk about the value of a coach having a year to establish a culture. But is that actually important here, considering many of these players won’t be here in a year or two?
Players insisted, even privately, that that it’s significant, because returning players not only will know what to expect from Flores in 2020 - and more significantly, the offensive and defensive playbooks - but also will be able to prepare rookies and free-agent additions for what’s expected of them.