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March 25, 2014

Joe Philbin talks at the NFL annual meeting

ORLANDO -- It was morning Joe at the NFL annual meeting today.

That's Dolphins coach Joe Philbin with the media ... And here are the highlights:

[Keep refreshing as I will add more items as quickly as I can type.]

On the status of Mike Pouncey going forward, Philbin said he has not been told that his starting center will miss time either because he's in NFL mandated counseling or because he will be suspended. But Philbin could not guarantee Pouncey will be available for every game.

"We've been in contact, as you guys are well aware, with the National Football League since the onset of this. It's been five months roughly since the onset of November 1st and we've been coordinating with them throughout," Philbin said. "This is a decision the commissioner has made so we're going to continue to work through this with the National Football League and draw this to a conclusion.

"This is where we're at today and we'll continue to work through it."

Philbin declined to say if Pouncey, on the leadership counsel a year ago and invited to the dinner to welcome new free agent signing Branden Albert, remains a team leader.

"The offseason program doesn't begin until April 21st," he said. "I have a lot of faith in the guys in our locker room. I have a lot of faith in Mike Pouncey. And so we'll see. But in terms of the leadership counsel and all those things, I've given a lot of thought to it and haven't made any commitments as to how we're going to do it next year. We'll give all that ample consideration."

Philbin also said the club has not made a decision whether to exercise the fifth-year option year for Pouncey.


Philbin, who admitted he had a few sleepless nights as a result of the harassment scandal that plagued the Dolphins, has been doing a lot of reflecting since the end of the season.

"Let's be honest, guys, every offseason since I've been coaching and I'm going into my 31st year, you always think of ways you can do your job better," he said. "As I examined some of the things that as the head coach of the Dolphins I can do better, I think the visibility factor can be a difference. That's one of the things I'm going to do. It's not that I've never been but I think what happens sometimes to coaches is you're conflicted with, 'Should I watch that blitz tape. Gosh, I got to get that third down film watched.' And sometimes it's better use of a head coach's time to walk through the training room, walk through the locker room, walk through the hallways. It's not that I've never done that stuff, but it's fair to say I'm going to do it more."

I asked Philbin what he's going to do to make sure his players and his assistants bring their issues to him. Philbin has previously told players and others to do so but last year it was shown that Jonathan Martin chose to keep his treatment by other players away from Philbin's attention for fear of being cast a snitch. Also, offensive line coach Jim Turner basically lied to Philbin when the coach asked if certain things that were being alleged were actually happening.

Turner told Philbin they were not.

Not only were they happening, but Turner apparently was part of the problem.

"Well, I mentioned the visibility," Philbin said. "I think accessability also is important. They're a little bit tied together. In the NFL, everybody doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news. The head coach is busy. Don't bother him. He's watching film. He's doing this or doing that. We got to get away from that. I frankly have to be a little more vigilant in my enforcement of policies and proceedures that I want to have in the locker room and the program. That falls on me.

"But there has to be better communication both ways. From them to me to me to them. Players to me. Me to players. That's something I felt, as you have a little bit of time to reflect on things, certainly needs to improve."

More: "The teaching atmosphere, the coaching atmosphere, as I said many times and I firmly believe this, I'm the one responsible for the workplace conduct. When the player walks in the building until he leaves, I'm setting the schedule. So it's up to me to make sure it's done properly."


Philbin said "injury issues" curtailed the progress of several players in the 2013 draft class. Obviously he's talking about Jamar Taylor and Dion Jordan.

Philbin said Jordan was limited because he had the shoulder surgery just before the draft, had a limited lifting program, didn't have an OTAs and missed part of training camp. But this year, "with a full offseason," for Jordan the Dolphins want to see his snaps increase.

"He's going to have to get more snaps on first and second down," Philbin said.


Philbin said the team's focus is to keep Jordan at defensive end. And he shot down a report from a month or so ago that said the Dolphins were unhappy with Jordan's work ethic.

"I'm not sure where that came from, I've said I'm expecting him to make a signficant jump from year one to year two," Philbin said. "He's definitely a hard worker."


Philbin showed a little sense of humor. He was asked about the addition of Bill Lazor as the new offensive coordinator and said the coach promised Ryan Tannehill would have the third-highest quarterback rating of all the rookies from the 2012 draft class.

You'll remember last year Mike Sherman promised Tannehill would be the most improved QB from the '12 class. Philbin remonstrated with Sherman about that prediction, which didn't turn out.


Philbin said the Dolphins studied the tape "extensively" on Cortland Finnegan and "we liked what we saw on film."

But ...

"He's going to have to earn play time like anyone else," Philbin said. "One thing we do like is he gives us some position flexibility. After watching the cutups, we thought Jimmy Wilson played well. Finnegan played some inside, he played outside."

And the Dolphins have high hopes for Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.

"We expect to see progress there," the coach said.


Philbin said Lamar Miller's pass protection improved as the year went on "but there's still room for improvement there." Where Miller must definitely improve to stay in the mix to carry the football is offering more explosive runs.

"There was definitely development," Philbin said. "As we look to year three, we want a couple of more explosive runs. I think his pass protection improved but there's still room for improvement there as well. I think he can do all three thing you want a running back to do. He's got good running skill, he can pass protect, he can catch the ball."

Philbin added "we're not opposed to adding" a running back to the competition "if that's the best thing for the team."


Philbin said the team still isn't fully certain where home is for Dallas Thomas -- right tackle or guard.

"I really like what he's doing so far in the offseason," Philbin said.


The Dolphins run defense has declined each of the past two years. Philbin pointed to missed tackles, fundamentals, technique, gap issues as the reason.

"We have what we call a run fit period where we practice the run defense for the various fronts we'll see," Philbin said, "and sometimes the carryover from practice to the game hasn't been good. The run-fits and the tackling are the primary culprits."


Philbin said he believes Dannelll Ellerbe will "make progress" in his second year in the middle for the Dolphins but ... "again, we haven't ruled out any combination or possibility of shuffling guys. We'll see."

Overall, in assessing the linebacker play, Philbin used the word "inconsistency" to describe their play.

"There was productivity there but we need to get more consistency out of the linebacker position, without a doubt," he said.


It was interesting to me that Philbin said he wanted improved play-speed from safety Reshad Jones in 2014 while also saying the play-speed and tempo and playing downhill was the most attractive thing the team saw in new safety Louis Delmas.


Speaking of play-speed, the Dolphins like that in new guard Shelley Smith. They also liked his ability to pull and run and move and get to to the second level, Philbin said.


General manager Dennis Hickey addressed the media for approximately 15 minutes today. Appreciate that. But he didn't really say anything notable other than ...

Recently signed Shelley Smith and Sam Brenner are among the players the team will consider as backup center options. That's important as the possibility of Pouncey missing time at the start of the season looms.

Hickey, who brought in middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson for a visit and offered him a contract, interestingly would not commit to Dannell Ellerbe as Miami's middle linebacker when asked what the Dolphins plans for him are in 2014.

"We always look at, and Joe part of his core philosophy, same with me is putting players in the best position to be successful and help us win," Hickey said. "Dannell is a great player. We really like Dannell and that's part of the process as we go through -- again, whether it's offense, defense or special teams -- putting them in position to help us win."

Time out.

The Dolphins signed Ellerbe to a five-year, $34.75 million contract with $14 million guaranteed so he could be their middle linebacker. He replaced Karlos Dansby as the Dolphins middle linebacker. And one year later neither the head coach nor general manager can absolutely, positively say he is the team's middle linebacker going forward.

If that doesn't raise some red flags and eyebrows and whatever else denotes curiousity, I don't know what does.