HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement:"Good seeing everybody, I appreciate you guys being here. Beautiful day, good practice. [I'm] excited about where we're at. A couple things: we signed Steven Means, that will be announced in a few minutes, so he will be added to the roster. What was the other one? (SVP of Communications Chad Steele: "T.J. Carrie, the practice squad add.")Yes, T.J. Carrie, he'll be on the practice squad. [He is] a heck of a corner, been around. We've played against him many times, so we're pleased to have him with us. What other questions do you have?"
Can you talk about Miami's offense compared to a year ago, and how they've gotten faster? _(Mike Preston) _"Right. Offensively, to your point, it's the San Francisco, [Kyle] Shanahan, kind of grew out of the old [Gary] Kubiak offense, and now [Sean] McVay, all those guys are kind of in the same family, and that's what this is. It's in the same tree that we saw last week, in terms of what they do, how they operate, a lot of the words they use are the same, the scheme is essentially the same, but they've changed it. They've done a good job down there, and [Dolphins head] Coach [Mike McDaniel] has done a great job of tailoring it to their players, tailoring it to their quarterback Tua [Tagovailoa]. [He's] done a good job, gets the ball out quick. A lot of RPOs, because he's good at that, a lot of movement passes. Obviously, speed; they have two of the fastest receivers in football playing for them. Two running backs who run that scheme extremely well, and what I mean by that [is] the wide-zone-type scheme. So, that's kind of how they're built on offense."
You saw a lot of Cover Zero from the Dolphins last year, and you said that's something you worked on during training camp. How do you adjust to that? (Todd Karpovich) _"We would have been negligent if we hadn't worked on it. _(laughter)It was something we needed to get a lot better at, and we studied it the whole offseason. We'll have a plan for it and hope it works, because these guys are probably the best in the league at doing it right now. They do it more than anybody, they do it better than anybody and it's just something they're committed to. I have all the respect in the world for what they're doing defensively. They're very physical, they play hard, they're tough up front. Zach Sieler, I told the guys, 'This guy, man. We know this guy. He was here. He's just a big wrecking ball in there.' And [Christian] Wilkins is a wrecking ball in there. A lot of good players, and a great scheme."
One of the keys to beating a defense like that is being able to complete passes down the field. Did last week's game and the successful deep ball make you feel more confident? _(Pete Gilbert) _"It certainly builds confidence. It depends on what they give you. Those particular passes, maybe the first one to Devin [Duvernay], the quick fade route out of the bunch would have a chance against a zero blitz. The one to [Rashod] Bateman would not, you wouldn't have enough time to get that off, but those are the kinds of things that we'll be looking at. Yes, you'd love to hurt them that way. That's the idea, hurt them any way you can in terms of that, and we'll have different ideas in terms of how to do that, and I'm sure that they'll be preparing for those things as well."
When you play a team like this that played you so well last year, is there an eagerness among the players to do it again? _(Childs Walker) _"We haven't talked about it like that. To be honest, we're just trying to execute. We're just trying to execute, and be ready to play, and be prepared and that's what we're focusing on."
ILB Patrick Queen played really well. How much of what he does is connected to the defensive line keeping guys away from him? _(Cliff Brown) _"Very important. Ask Ray Lewis, and some of the lines he had in front of him. Ray certainly made the most of those guys, and those guys were a team working together. You can go all the way back, 'Goose' [Tony Siragusa] comes to mind since we have the helmet sticker on, and Sam Adams … You can take it back. Kelly Gregg, and Haloti Ngata was pretty good, last time I checked. So, that's kind of a tradition here, and hopefully we can extend that tradition with these guys."
How nice is it to get DT Travis Jones back at practice? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Speaking of; it was great to get him back at practice, and he looked good out there. So, I'll have to look at the tape and just see exactly, but he's done a great job with his rehab, and we'll see if he'll be ready to play or not."
You mentioned the Metlife Stadium turf on Monday. Did that factor into whether RB J.K. Dobbins and CB Marcus Peters would play? (Jamison Hensley) _"No, that wasn't something that we talked about specifically. I never know what's going on in someone's mind or whatever, but that wasn't a specific issue there. The turf … I saw what Andy [Reid] said, and I just feel like everybody in this league should do everything they can to put the best surface out there. How much is invested in the players who go out there and play, and our league really is a player driven league, and we want those guys to have the best of the best, especially surfaces to play on. You can't always get everything. I just credit … I look at [owner] Steve Bisciotti for instance, and I think it was seven, eight, nine years ago where the players went to Steve and asked for grass. Steve said right away, 'Yes.' That was his answer; he didn't even blink. He said, 'Yes.' He put in the best grass you can put in out there for our climate, and you guys have seen how well it plays. [Steelers head] Coach [Mike] Tomlin is always … He loves our grass. When he comes in, he goes, 'I can't believe how great this grass is.' _(laughter)Yes, we talk about grass before the game. You were wondering, right? (laughter)I credit Cleveland, and the [Browns' owners] Haslams for what they've done there with the grass. Pittsburgh, obviously, with the [Steelers' owners] Rooneys and what they've done. That turf was, it was a turf field, it was matted down, it was packed down, it was a little tight. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. I don't know, but that's what I saw. It was a little tough."
The running game struggled a little through the preseason and last week. Has the film shown you anything for why it hasn't taken off? _(Tim Barbalace) _"Yes, one week. We're still on the launching pad, for sure, but they were determined to stop the run [and] it was a really good front. Start with them. You should start with giving the Jets defense credit; it's a very good defense. Everybody's going to find out how good that defense is for the course of the season. They were doing a good job of getting up field. We didn't do a great job of executing in some of our combination blocks like we want, and we can do better. From a gameplan standpoint, we can do better, and from a blocking and execution standpoint, we can do better. I also think that we had a plan kind of to keep control of the game early, so we didn't over scheme it too much. We wanted to make sure that we didn't have too many negative plays, because that's a team that lead the league maybe last year in negative runs against them – hits in the backfield. So, all those things kind of come into play."
Is there something specific you need to see from RB J.K. Dobbins and CB Marcus Peters to feel comfortable having them play, or is this just part of the plan? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"As always, you don't know. You have to go by what you see, and in the end, the standard is what's best for our team, and what's best for the player. Are they ready to go? Do they think they're ready to go? Do they believe they're ready to go? Do they want to go? That's part of the healing process, for sure. Then, whoever the player is compared to what options you have. That becomes your next thought in there."
Has the GPS tracking and that data changed how you evaluate players who are returning, and how is that different than 10 years ago? _(Luke Jones) _"Absolutely, it's a great point. What you used to only see, now you can see and measure, so we look at that as well."
QB LAMAR JACKSON
Opening statement:"I'm passing out popcorn. If you've got a good question, you get popcorn. (laughter) The shake is mine – off limits." (Reporter: "So, when they say, 'Get your popcorn ready, we're going to have some fun here.") Yes, we might – it depends."
On being under center more last week against the Jets, and if that can be expected going forward:"Yes, absolutely. We've been going under center during camp – stuff like that. Coach wanted to do things different this year, and I'm pretty comfortable with it."
On how he feels about pausing contract negotiations:"Respectfully, I'm really done talking about it. I told you guys before I was going to be done with it Week 1. Week 1 is over with; we're done talking about it. I'm focused on the Dolphins now."
* On if he could explain why guaranteed money was so important to him:*"I might give you (reporter who asked previous question) some popcorn for that question, because it was over with. (laughter)You might have to get the shake, [and] it was off limits. But like I said, I'm done talking about that, respectfully. It's Dolphins time."
* On if the NFLPA input that he got was meaningful to him:*"Oh my god. You apologized already. You did apologize. But we're talking about the Dolphins today. I appreciate that apology though."
On if running first-down play-action was a point of emphasis last week:"Yes, we watched film on those guys, and play-action … We saw the linebackers bite for the run a lot – they [were] head-first to the run – and [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] coach just drew it up, and we had a lot of success with it – play-action."
On why the Dolphins were so effective against them last year, and if they expect to see the same looks from Miami this year:"They just caught us off guard, really. We hadn't really gone over defenses doing all-up zero against us – like, just all-up flat-out zero. But I feel like we'll have an answer for it this year. We watched film – watched a lot of film on those guys – because we don't want it to happen again."
On if how the Dolphins played them last season changed the way other teams played them:"No, not really. Other teams did zero [blitz], but it was just the way they did it that kind of affected us. But like I said, we'll have an answer this time around if they do the same thing."
On how important it was for him to hit on some deep passes last week and being the only QB with three TDs of 15-plus air yards last week:"Yes, that's good. I feel [like] we've been doing that, though – like, it's not just [against] the Jets [when] we're able to do it. I feel like we've been throwing the ball down the field; it's just, [at] certain times, we have a lot of success with our running, and it just takes away from the throws and stuff like that. But we've just got to keep doing what we're doing, take what the defense gives us and keep having success how we do it."
On how much downfield throws are a part of the answer when defenses are aggressive:"It slows the defense down from blitzing, and it makes the safeties stay back, the corners stay back, and it just lets us do our thing. Underneath, we might get some runs here, get some underneath passes here. And if they come up, we're throwing the ball again – over the top."
On if back-shoulder passes are a good way to punish teams that put corners on an island:"I think so. It helps affect the game a lot more. I think so."
On if it's any more satisfying to show that he's able to beat teams with his arm:"Absolutely. I'm a quarterback. The little running back thing was going around and stuff like that; obviously, I don't play running back. So, yes, it does, it does."
On if he could envision less designed runs as he progresses throughout his career:"I don't know. I'm trying to play until I'm 100 [years old] – if I can. (laughter)So, if the [less] running helps … We're going to see."
On keys to punishing teams that want to blitz a lot:"Just go at their weaknesses – how they came at ours last year – and we're going to go from there, because we don't really know how they're going to play us. Teams might show this on film, or they might do one thing another year, then when they play us again, they change it up. So, we're going to have to see when the game starts."
On if it's special to play the Dolphins – his hometown team:"To be honest with you, I get fired up anywhere I play at; it doesn't really matter to me about being home. I just love the game. So, when I get out there, I'm going to try to do my thing, regardless."
On if he attributes the late play-clock scenarios to it being the starter's first game action:"Yes, and we've got long play-calling, too, so we've just got to do what we do a little faster, sometimes. I felt like the clock was low a little bit, though, for some reason against us. [When] we go to the line, it's already [at] like 18 seconds; I'm like, 'What? Doesn't it start at 30 or something – 25?' But it's good. We'll be better this week and as the season goes on."
On if he said something to TE Isaiah Likely after the game, given that he didn't have a strong outing:"Yes, 'That's the first game; we've got 16 more games. That's nothing. Every game is not going to be perfect.' He [Isaiah Likely] is still a star in my eyes, and he's going to prove it, and we're going to show it – we are going to show it."
On if he attributes the slow start to not playing in the preseason and knocking the rust off:"Yes, I think so – a little bit. I think it got after us a little bit. We were talking about it; I was like, 'Man, I'm feeling stiff a little bit. This is my first action in like nine months.' And a couple of us said the same thing. But like you said, in the second half, we just went to flying around and doing what we were supposed to do."
On if RB J.K. Dobbins is still impressing him:"Yes, absolutely. I think so. He [J.K. Dobbins] is looking pretty good to me."
WR RASHOD BATEMAN
On how satisfying it was to connect on multiple deep shots against the Jets last week:"I feel like we've just been doing what we've been practicing. We've all come up here and said that we're not concerned about what anyone else has been saying about us. I think it showed last weekend. Credit 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay], he played hard [and] had a good game. Shoutout to Lamar [Jackson] for the bomb, but I just think we keep proving guys wrong. I don't think we're concerned about that; we just focus on each game at a time."
On having a pretty big game against the Dolphins last year, and what the key is to beating a team that wants to blitz often:"I feel like we just have to find the holes in the defense to be successful. Last year, I just felt like we didn't execute well, and this year, I think we just have to execute way better."
On if he would say beating defenses like this has been a focus:"I wouldn't say it's been a focus, but it's definitely something that we've worked on."
On the best way to get quick separation against man coverage:"Just having a plan and knowing what you're doing. Just play fast. Other than that, the game is kind of going to fall where it falls."
On if he looks forward to the challenge of playing against tight man coverage and showing off his quick releases:"I look forward to the opportunity every Sunday. I'm blessed to be here, healthy, happy to be out there. I wasn't here last year, so I'm just going to keep taking the game one day at a time."
On if his 55-yard touchdown reception last week was a confidence booster and a sign of the big-play element to come for the offense:"Yes, for sure. It definitely shows signs that we can make some explosive plays for the offense. We're definitely going to need that later down the line, so to show ourselves that we're capable, it definitely helps us a lot, for sure."
On if he is extra eager to play a team that they didn't play well against last year:"I don't think it works like that. I think we all can say the same thing, what happened a year ago has nothing to do with what's going on right now. We can say that in our personal lives, in football, anything. So, nothing that we did last year has anything to do with what we're doing this year."
On if there were any discussions last week after the first incomplete deep shot before attempting it again:"Nothing was really discussed. It kind of just ended up opening up, and we just did our thing. It just happened."
ILB PATRICK QUEEN
On how good it feels to make tackles and finish plays:"It feels normal. That's what I'm supposed to do; that's the player I am; that's the player that I need to be every Sunday that we play. So, now, the focus is just [to] be able to do that consistently now."
On how defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald's defense has helped him elevate him game:"It's very refreshing, just to be able to go out there and just play football [and] know everything. When every defense is called, everybody on the field knows what they're supposed to be doing. So, it's just really refreshing to know that you can just go out there and just play the game."
On if playing every defensive snap in Week 1 was particularly rewarding:"Yes, it was, but I feel like there were a few plays I could have signaled to the sideline and just let them know I was tired. And obviously, it could have hurt us, but at the end of the day, the biggest thing is just being able to be in that position – to see how tired I was – and just know where I could get better at and just fundamentally be better when I get tired." (Reporter: But generally, you felt a lot better?") "Yes, I feel way better, way better than I have in the past."
On how the defense will try to match the Dolphins' speed:"Any time you face people like that, it's a tough challenge, and you've just got to give respect where it's due. So, the biggest thing for us is just to come out there, [take] good angles to the football [with] everybody running to the ball at the stack and just try to get these guys on the ground – get shots on them."
On the challenges presented by Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa:"He [Tua Tagovailoa] is very accurate, and like you said, he can run the ball, too. So, dealing with a dual-threat quarterback, just everybody has got to be on their keys, everybody has got to be doing their responsibilities. People in the media try to say he's not a good quarterback – this and that. Obviously, if you start for an NFL team, you're a good quarterback. So, we're just going in being prepared, trying to take away those reads and just play football."
On how fast the back end of the defense is in dime personnel:"Really fast. Every time it was like me or somebody else [who] was on the tackle you, you look up, and there was a DB [defensive back] right there, saying, 'Good job.' So, I know those guys get to the ball; they're flying around. And that's what we've all got to emphasize – getting to the ball. And just having those guys back there, it just makes my job a lot easier – just knowing that if I do my job, they'll be doing their [job], and they'll be right there to help me out."