Lots of New Year's Eve Dolphins notes: Coordinators reflect, address issues; Criticism of 2nd-rounder; '72 toast and more nuggets
Lou Anarumo and Zac Taylor walked to the podium inside the Dolphins media room on Thursday, neither having any idea if this was the last time in their lives that they will hold mandatory news conferences as coordinators (or in Taylor’s case, de facto coordinator) of an NFL defense and offense.
If they hold those positions again after Sunday, it likely will be elsewhere.
Both men had a chance to impress Dolphins management as in-season replacements, hand-picked by interim coach Dan Campbell.
And though players shoulder much of the blame for the 5-10 record, the Dolphins statistically displayed little or no improvement on either side of the ball after changing coordinators.
The Dolphins allowed 25.2 points per game under Kevin Coyle through four games. They have relinquished 25.3 per game in 11 games with Anarumo as coordinator.
Offensively, the Dolphins generally have regressed, at least statistically, since Bill Lazor was replaced by Taylor, who doesn’t have the coordinator title but calls the plays.
The Dolphins averaged 20.4 points per game under Lazor, ranking in the bottom third of the league. They’re averaged 16.2 in four games under Taylor.
“Nothing is the way we want it or we wouldn’t be sitting where we’re at [but] I can’t say I regret those moves,” Campbell said of his coordinator decisions. “Lou has done a hell of a job. Statistically, it’s not good enough. [But]… schematically, I don’t regret that.
“Zac – what I’m pleased is he’s committed to the run game. I feel like he’s trying … to run it more to the way I think we should play the game. It protects our offensive line, helps the quarterback with the play action pass.”
Days after he was named interim coach, Campbell promoted Anarumo to replace Coyle, even though he had been a defensive coordinator only once before, with the U.S. Merchant Marines from 1992 to 1994.
Anarumo made subtle changes, including simplifying the defense and moving Ndamukong Suh around more.
But the Dolphins’ rush defense remained among the worst in the league (opponents are averaged 130 yards per game on the ground against Miami, which ranks 30th) and the pass defense is allowing a 98.8 opponent passer rating, which is 25th.
So how could a defense add Suh and be statistically worse in run defense?
“You can’t be 30 out of 35 [plays],” Anarumo said. “You have to be 35 out of 35. That has been our Achilles’ heel this year. You stop them for 30 plays and three of them get out for big runs. That’s the run defense this year. You can’t do that. That’s my fault. I haven’t done a good enough job to get them to eliminate those long runs.”
Offensively, Lazor was fired partly because Campbell wanted to run the ball more. The Dolphins have averaged 23 rushing attempts per game under Taylor, compared with 19.8 under Lazor.
But the Dolphins have scored only seven touchdowns in four games under Taylor, who had never called plays before.
So is there anything the two replacement coordinators would have done differently?
Taylor indicated he regretted not getting the ball to Jarvis Landry more in the first three quarters against Indianapolis.
Anarumo said he wouldn’t have done anything differently with player usage because “we played kind of the hand the way it was dealt.”
As for strategy, “there might be certain things we might have done differently in certain games,” Anarumo said. “But for the most part, we put the guys in good positions to make plays. There are certain things I certainly could have done better.”
What pleased the coordinators most during their stewardship of the offense and defense?
“Reshad Jones’ play, how productive he’s been,” Anarumo said. “I’m most pleased because I’ve seen him through it the whole way. And the way the guys have responded to us as coaches. You’re happy with effort they’re giving.”
Taylor cited “our receivers had a good year. Overall, the young players on this offense all have a bright future. The future is bright for this offense.”
Nobody has worked more closely with Ryan Tannehill over the past four years than Taylor. So what does he need to do to progress from a pretty good quarterback to something much better?
Taylor pointed to developing more of a chemistry with receivers and “being 100 percent on the same [page].” And “he can continue to improve his decision-making.”
Overall, Anarumo is pleased with the job he has done for this reason: “I would like to think if you talked to the players on defense, I would think they would agree that we gave them the best chance to put themselves in position to make plays. That’s all you can ask for. Even before [Coyle] was let go, there was a trend of simplifying things. We kind of built on that.”
Taylor said this brief experience has reinforced in his mind that he has what it takes to be a coordinator.
“Maybe to a fault, but I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I always dreamed about being a coordinator. We haven’t had as much success as I would have hoped.... [But] I have enjoyed every day stepping into this building.”
The Dolphins named receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones as co-winners of the Dan Marino MVP award, as decided by team officials (not players) and reporters that cover the team.
In the only award determined by players, center Mike Pouncey was named winner of the Don Shula Leadership Award.
Left tackle Branden Albert won the Ed Block Courage Award and safety Michael Thomas won the Nat Moore service award for his community work.
Pouncey (foot), and Jelani Jenkins (ankle) missed practice; Campbell said there’s only a “slight” chance either will play.
Landry, Matthews, Earl Mitchell, Jamil Douglas and Kenny Stills were limited; Matthews (ribs) said he will not play Sunday.
Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has missed eight games with a toe injury, practiced Thursday, but Campbell said he wasn’t sure if James will play Sunday.
### The Dolphins’ 2016 opponents are set. Besides AFC East teams, Miami will play at home against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco and Tennessee, and will play on the road against Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Seattle and San Diego.
### Though Don Shula indicated he was rooting for Carolina to go unbeaten because son Mike is his offensive coordinator there, 1972 Dolphins star Dick Anderson said he will get together with Nick Buoniconti for a toast when Buoniconti returns from vacation.
“It puts a big smile on our face,” Anderson said. “One team doing it in 95 years is a pretty good accomplishment.”
### Curiously, Dolphins players have not risen to Ryan Tannehill’s defense amid the Miko Grimes controversy. Perhaps they don't want to leave themselves open to cyber-bullying from Miko Grimes.
“I don't really want to be part of that topic,” Landry said when pressed by Boston media on a conference call.
A friend of Tannehill on the team also said he didn't want to touch the topic.
### Dan Campbell made clear he’s not satisfied with second-round defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. “Up and down. He has to work on being more consistent. We’re not getting the gains we had hoped for.”
### Campbell believes rookie cornerback Tony Lippett can be an NFL starter: “For a rookie, he’s an aware player. He reads route combinations pretty dang good. He practices and plays hard. He’s got a bright future.”
### Cornerback Bobby McCain did not play at all on defense last Sunday, with snaps instead given to Tyler Patmon and Tony Lippett (along with Brent Grimes and Brice McCain, of course).
But Campbell said rookie Bobby McCain “has a bright future. He is best suited to be in the slot.”
### Anarumo confirmed the Dolphins want another look Sunday at cornerbacks Lippett and Patmon, who was signed recently.
Patmon “played a lot of snaps at Dallas at a high level," Anarumo said. "Inside as slot defender; he gives you some depth outside. We’re happy to have him.”
Patmon played 11 games for Dallas in 2014 and another 11 this season before being cut. He has one career interception.
### Safety Cedric Thompson, a fifth-round pick, was the only one of the Dolphins’ seven rookie draft picks not to be on the 53-man roster this season.
Campbell said he wasn’t promoted from the practice squad because bottom-of-the-roster players need to play special teams and “that’s something he hasn’t excelled at.
Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a look at Miami's first-round draft options.