Dirk Koetter: “Fitzpatrick Definitely Knows What He’s Doing”

Sports Xchange

(On Vernon Hargreaves III’s injury)

“Yeah, he’s going to miss a little bit. Soft tissue - those are always sort of delicate, tricky-type, but it won’t be anything, I don’t think that will keep him out of any real games.”

(On the performance of M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead)

“Yeah, I thought all of the rookie DBs really competed hard and that’s what you want to see. That’s what you want to see. They all played physical, they all tackled well, they all have things to work on as well, but we’re pleased for their first game. I think just the new players, the rookies in general, might have been a little nervous last night and that’s to be expected for their first NFL game, but those three DBs, they really did a good job. They all played a lot too. They all played between 35 and 45 plays.”

(On balancing quarterback repetitions)

“Well, we have to be more balanced in the reps. In fact, I just looked at the reps so far from when we’ve come back and I think Jameis [Winston] has taken like 300 reps and [Ryan Fitzpatrick] is around 285 and [Ryan Griffin] around 250, so we have to be that way. That’s not our normal design, but I really thought that all three of those guys played well last night. I thought they all did what they were supposed to do and for an offensive football team, that’s what you want. When Griff went in there and took that third group down and moved them when they had to, did a good job in the two-minute [drill]. Again, 20 out of 26. I thought Jameis really did a nice job of controlling the football, playing under control, keeping two hands on the ball, making good decisions, he had a couple drops and Fitz got us in the end zone. That is what he is supposed to do.”

(On kicker Chandler Catanzaro’s missed extra point)

“Yeah, I can pinpoint it. He missed it. Is that pinpoint enough? There’s these goal posts like this and it went right off to the side.”

(On whether he thinks Catanzaro’s missed extra point was a result of nerves or mechanics)

“I don’t know. I don’t know about that. I know you’re supposed to make a very high percent and we got that very first miss out of the way, so we are clean sailing the rest of the season.”

(On how he feels about the kicking situation)

“Fine. I feel fine. Chandler is going to do a great job for us.”

(On how important it was for Catanzaro to make the last field goal to win the game)

“That was big. Shoot, we wanted to win. We wanted to win the game. We had a game like that last year in the Giants game where we moved it right down there, we could’ve kept running plays, but once you get to a certain point where the risk-reward isn’t worth it anymore to get a penalty, get a 10-second runoff, get a fumble, you get it to the spot and kick it, so yeah, that part was good. It would’ve been a really hard decision last night on the 53-yard field goal in a real game with a seven-point lead. Should we have punted that, tried to pin him down versus go for the win on a 53-yarder? Between Drew [Ferris] the long snapper and Chandler, just that whole operation, we wanted to try a long one and that gave our defense kind of a rough starting spot, but you have more freedom to do stuff like that in preseason and then those are hard decisions in real football.”

(On Ronald Jones II’s performance)

“I thought Ronald was pretty average. I think Ronald was wanting to contribute in a big way. I know he wanted to contribute in a big way and I think he’s been doing that in practice. I think he was maybe pushing it a little bit. I thought he lined up too deep in the backfield a couple times. Ronald, probably his best thing last night is he had three really nice plays in pass protection and that’s something that we wanted to see how he would do. Not necessarily his man, but on some of those play-actions, if one of the o-linemen gets beat, the running back has to kind of be the save the day guy and Ronald did a nice job of that. I know he can run the football. We all know he can run the football. It didn’t show up last night. He had a couple chances that were good. Right before the half, we had the perfect look on defense and we had a breakdown in the o-line and he didn’t get a chance to get started. It was average for a first game. We have high expectations for him and he has for himself as well.”

(On Peyton Barber’s performance)

“Really good job. He only played 12 plays, but Peyton finished his runs and that’s what Peyton is. He’s a finisher. He also made a good little play on a scramble that Fitz hit him. He had a nice play in protection. For as little as he played, he did exactly what he needed to do last night.”

(On if the offensive line stepped up or the play-calling made it easier to pass-protect)

“Yeah, both of those things happened and I think a combination of the way the game was called. I think the quarterbacks did a nice job of getting the ball out of their hands last night and I think we had some guys really step up, so we only wanted to play our first group about 15 plays last night. Because we were so beat up, the second o-line played between 58 and 64 snaps and Mike Liedtke was playing a position that he hasn’t been practicing other than for one day at left tackle. I thought Brad Seaton at right tackle and Mike Liedtke at left tackle, those two guys really stepped up and competed. You can talk about mental mistakes and bad technique all you want, but there’s something to be said for guys who will just go out there and lay it on the line and those two guys did.”

(On OC Todd Monken taking over play calling last night)

“Well, Monk and I talked about that in the offseason and we agreed that that was going to be something we’d like to try to do for him to get him some experience calling plays and let him do it, so we did. I thought he did a fantastic job. I thought the entire offensive staff, the way they chip in. We always game plan offensively together, so that part didn’t change that much. I thought Monk did a great job and I wanted to look at the game – that’s the first game in I can’t remember how many years - many, many, many, many years that I haven’t called plays in a game and of course it’s more relaxing. It’s way less stressful and it’s a preseason game, but I really enjoyed watching the game from a different perspective and doing some other things. Probably all the other coaches are mad at me for getting in their way, but it was fine and Monk did a good job.”

(On the red zone offense)

“We were three-out-of-five red zone touchdowns. You just look back – both Miami and us had five red zone opportunities. We were three-for-five, 60 percent. They were two-for-five, 40 percent. We know in close games, we’ve been on the other side of that. that one extra possession in a one-score game, that could be the difference. We want to be five-for-five. Our goal is 60 percent, which will get you usually top five in the NFL. That’s what we were last night. We did better, but not a finished product.”

(On cornerback Ryan Smith’s performance against Miami)

“I think he struggled. I think Ryan struggled. They definitely were throwing at him there for a while in two of the drives that they had. The one PI (pass interference) they called against him, down the sideline, I think you could easily argue that was OPI (offensive pass interference) instead of DPI (defensive pass interference), but you know Ryan is working at it. Ryan’s a tough guy, he had five tackles, he had the interception at the end of the game. Ryan’s got to be more consistent and no one knows that more than him.”

(On which linebackers stood out against Miami)

“I think they all had their moments, both good and bad. Riley Bullough is a such a good leader on the field, is a good special teams player. He missed a key tackle last night that I know he’s beating himself up for today, if I know Riley. Jack Cichy is one of those guys, it was his first game as a rookie. I think he might have been a little bit nervous. He’s an improving player. We rolled a lot of guys in there. Cameron Lynch is a guy that has been primarily known as a special teams player and maybe because he has played in so many NFL games, I thought Cameron Lynch showed up a little bit bigger last night. I think we just have to remember that last night was just one piece of this whole puzzle.”

(On any players that surprised him with their performance against Miami)

“Well I think those young receivers that were playing at the end, ‘Erv’ (Ervin Phillips) and ‘Serge’ (Sergio Bailey), both of those guys – when [Miami] scored to take the lead, I kind of felt like we had that game for most of the game. Dare [Ogunbowale], our new running back, I thought he did a nice job. I can’t pronounce his last name off the top of my head, so I’ll let you guys get that. I thought those guys – I already mentioned those two offensive tackles, I already talked about the three rookie DBs (defensive backs). I’m sure I’m leaving people out. There was good and bad across the board. The guys are in watching the tape right now. We are going to go out and have a walkthrough here in a little bit and make some corrections and then get ready for tomorrow. There’s good and bad on all of these preseason games.”

(On having a backup with the level of experience with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the level of comfort Fitzpatrick has in the offense)

“I think Fitz said earlier in the year that he’s never really been in a situation where he was the backup yet he was getting reps with the first-team guys. Let’s face it – it’s different repping with the first O-line and the first group of receivers and tight ends. Fitz definitely knows what he’s doing. In fact, the one play last night, we were in no-huddle – it was the one to [Chris] Godwin down the sideline where [Fitz] tried to get holeshot and it was a nice throw and it was right there. We were in no-huddle, so we were already going fast and Fitz saw that the defense wasn’t lined up, so he signaled Godwin a different route. I didn’t even see it. It was right before the snap. There’s an example of Ryan taking advantage of his experience, but to take advantage of your experience, you have to know the system to know how to do it. We also had a couple of miscommunications too. I think there’s a fine line there between taking advantage of your experience and trying to do too much and we’re trying to find where that line is right now.”

(On implementing a national anthem policy)

“We’re waiting. I think it’s really important that we see what the League decides in conjunction with the Players Association. That’s what I’ve been talking to the guys about. It’s a very important issue. Obviously around the league last night there were some things that happened. There’s going to be something more said. Until then, we’re just trying to go out there and do the best we can. You know our stance on it, me personally as well as the club. We’ll hope that they get to a resolution quickly here.”

(On the officials implementing this season’s new rules)

“They actually told me before the game that they were going to really focus on illegal contact/OPI. If you remember, the last day that the officials were here, we had about 200 flags that day. So that’s really what I was expecting and there wasn’t that. That was surprising to me. They did call the one illegal use of the helmet on Miami. Brad Allen, one of the head officials in the League came out and said they were going to be tight on that, so I expected more of those as well. I felt like the main thing – all that any coach or player can ask for is that the officials are consistent in how they call it and I thought they really did a good job of that last night.”

(On if the new lowering the helmet rule will be difficult to enforce)

“I do think that’s going to be difficult. One of the league supervisors that was here – Wayne Mackie – I thought he said it really well. What he tells those guys is, ‘You’ll know it when you see it. You won’t have to look for it.’ When I’m up there [in my office] and I’ve got my clicker and I’m going, ‘Is that it? Is that it? Is that it?’ But the ones that they’ve shown – they’ve shown all of us… the obvious ones they want out of the game. We all can see them. Everyone in this room can see those. The officials can see those too, right when they happen. Everything else is moving so fast, I think we are going to have some that we’re going, ‘Yeah, that’s a great call,’ and others where we’re going, ‘How could he possibly call that?’”

(On the potential for ejections, similar to the college football rule for targeting)

“They can do that now, they can eject. The good news on that is that if they think it’s egregious enough to eject, it gets reviewed by New York, so there’s somewhat of a safety net there.”

(On cornerback Carlton Davis III not touching a receiver on the ground following a catch)

“He sure did. That’s exactly what happened. That’s the first time I’ve seen it. Our whole sideline was screaming. [Davis] was lucky he was on their sideline, because he had about 200 people on our sideline screaming at him and when [Davis] came off, by the time I got to him, he said ‘I know, I know, go touch him down.’ That was just one of those where no matter how many times it happens in practice, let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again.”

(On what he liked from M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead)

“I thought the game wasn’t too big for them and we thought they all played physical. I think all three of them had plays where the ball was in the air where they left their feet and laid out to prevent a completion. The one towards the end there, in the fourth quarter, where they double-moved [M.J.] Stewart in the corner and the guy initially called it a touchdown – the thing about that double move is [Stewart] kept going until the end. He covered that pretty [well]. It was a good throw. The guy was out of bounds. Those guys (the rookie defensive backs), they did a good job of hanging in there and they showed that they were physical enough to play.:

(On if the Dolphins’ first touchdown was a ‘pick play’)

“It wasn’t a pick play, it was offensive interference, because [a teammate] was blocking before [the receiver] caught it. We have plays like that as well. You’ve got to time it up to where the guy catching it, you’re not blocking until [the catch] – it was a bang-bang play. I was talking to the [official] about it and he said it was close and I said, ‘Yeah, it was close.’ And when you see it on film, it was close towards us, but it didn’t get called that way.”

(On if Cantazaro’s kickoffs against Miami were where he wanted them to be)

“Well, he needs to get a little bit more hang than he had last night. We were trying to kick the ball out last night, all right. We were trying to kick it out. If you remember – when you see where another team puts their returner, you know what they’re [planning]. If they line him up on the goal line that means they’re going to not bring it out. That guy was lining up eight or nine yards deep – that means, ‘We’re bringing this out.’ And in preseason, some teams just want to practice that. Our philosophy is if a guy’s going to take it back from there, we should be tackling him inside the 25 [yard line], and we did a pretty good job of that. Sometimes, when you try to tell your kicker to kick it out, his hang time’s not going to be as good, so if they do bring it out from two, three, four-yards deep, the hang’s going to be a little bit less. Now, Nate [Kaczor] can talk to him and say, ‘Hey, we want you to hit it to the two-yard line, but instead of a 4.05 hang time we want it to be – like, their kicker kicked a couple against us that were like 4.2 – 4.3 hang times so they can cover them better. We were trying to kick it out last night, that doesn’t mean we’re going to try to do it that way all the time. Our coverage teams did a good job.”

(On if any offensive linemen stood out last night)

“Well, the first group only played either 12 or 14 plays, those first four guys – Seaton being the exception. All of those guys played fine, but that’s a very small sample size. So I’ll still go back to Seaton and Liedtke; the two tackles would be the two guys that I thought stepped up.”

(On the progress of offensive lineman Alex Cappa and his playing time Thursday night)

“Well, remember now – go back to the quarterback rotation. We’re really playing two No. 1 quarterbacks so we’re doing our best to protect those guys. And then Cappa played a half. I mean, he played 64 plays in the game.”

(On safety Jordan Whitehead missing much of the offseason program and if his play surprised Koetter)

“He did, he did. You know, when we watched him on film at Pitt, that’s how he runs downhill. That’s what jumped off the film at us. When you’re practicing against your own guys, we don’t let the safeties come down and blow up the running back, so that was really his first chance to do that and I was impressed. He was out of position a couple times but you can definitely see his speed and straight line coming down there and being in position to make some big hits. The officials made him leave after that first play and he had to go in, go through the protocol, and they cleared him to come back out and he stilled played, I think, 40 plays after that. So yeah, I was impressed with him.”

(On wide receiver Mike Evans working to improve his yards-after-catch and if he had more room to run after a reception on Thursday night)

“He definitely did and that’s why he slammed the ball down right when it happened. I mean, Mike is looking to improve his RAC [run after catch] and that was a good example of it. I thought Cam [Brate] also had one going the other direction and it’s something that those guys are wanting to secure the catch, they do want to run after it. They also know that safety’s bearing down on them and it’s a work in progress. Both guys have been working hard at it in practice and I was telling [Vice President of Communications] Nelson [Luis] on the way down here – Mike had that one, but he also had the one that Fitz had him where he went over the linebacker, in front of the safety, jumped in the air, caught it behind him and took the hit from the safety. Elite players are always working on stuff and it’s not always going to be perfect.”

(On tight end Alan Cross being on the bubble each year and how much he helped himself last night)

“I’d say he’s not on the bubble. Alan Cross is a pretty good football player and does a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t always see. He’s a guy that is in the shadows sometimes but then all of a sudden when you need him, if a guy’s hurt, he knows all the positions. I mean, he plays fullback, he plays tight end, he can play in the slot, he plays on all the special teams. Heck, he could probably coach the special teams. Just a good football player and that was just a beautiful route and throw on his touchdown. So he got to actually get some third down ‘Y’ because the third down ‘Y’, who is that third down tight end that’s in there, he actually got to do it a couple times last night and he does it in practice, but nobody necessarily sees that. But he can do it when we need him to.”

(On if he is curious how quarterback Ryan Griffin would look with the starters)

“I am. And actually, last year before he got hurt, we had plans to play him some with the ones because we knew Jameis was going to be there. And remember, Fitz and Griff were kind of battling there and it was close. So we had plans to get him in. He doesn’t take reps with the ones out here – maybe sometimes in seven-on-seven drills he does. But I’ve been telling you, I’m a Ryan Griffin fan. Five years in two good systems, he just needs playing time. He obviously showed what we think he can do. He has a stronger arm than you think he does and very accurate and a good touch passer. He moved around in the pocket, he got the ball out of his hands. For the most part he made really good decisions last night. That’s never perfect. But we’re not going to probably be in a situation right now that we can put him in with the ones because of the things you guys already know about.”