DAVIE — The Dolphins signed a tight end from the Broncos this week, which, perhaps, gives them the espionage edge.
His name is A.J. Derby and we suppose he has been giving Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke the scoop on Trevor Siemian and Demaryius Thomas and all the things the Broncos plan to try on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
On the day Derby arrived in South Florida, he said, basically, look, I just got here, I haven’t had time to unpack.
But with these teams knowing so much about each other — Adam Gase and Vance Joseph are close friends — and the teams combining for 12 consecutive losses, any edge should be sought.
Joseph was Dolphins’ defensive coordinator last year and so on the surface it would seem Joseph has an advantage as he sets up his Broncos defense to face Gase’s offense on Sunday.
“I don’t know,” Gase said this week. “We’ll see. I don’t have a good answer. I think we’ve both evolved even from last year.”
That’s about as short an answer as Gase has ever given. It’s kind of a fascinating, underlying storyline. Perhaps after the game we’ll learn that Denver’s defense knew exactly what Miami’s offense was doing. Or that Miami’s offense, knowing that Denver’s defense would know exactly what it was doing, changed up everything it usually does.
Play-call tendencies. Signals. Audibles.
“I think that’s a good question,” said Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, a former Broncos quarterback. “We huddle more so now than we are on the ball. Code words have changed, I think, throughout the years. We know their head coach and their defense as well too, so it’s going to be a little bit of give and take. We know what they’re doing, they know what we’re doing, so I’m sure both sides will be mixing it up a little bit.”
It stands to reason that as Joseph coached Miami’s defense last season, he knows the best ways to attack Cameron Wake in the running game and Kiko Alonso in the passing game. It also stands to reason he knows how to attack cornerback Xavien Howard in the air and how to bait talented safety Reshad Jones into over-aggression.
It’s a crazy mind game, in a sport where coaches most often try to talk about how important it is to keep the focus on what they do, and what they do well. Of course, neither team has done much well lately.
The Dolphins spend some time focusing on mental approach and psychology and so it seems a theme this week is that, yes, Joseph knows the Dolphins personnel and plays and strengths and weaknesses. But they know his tendencies, too.
“I think it puts us in the best situation to know what he has in his arsenal,” Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake said. “A lot of people are familiar with the opponent that we have, because Gase obviously coached there. We have numerous coaching staff who switched in between. So we’re familiar with each other. It’s just going out there and playing your best ball. And seeing who comes out best in the end.”