LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Miami Dolphins may be considering drafting a quarterback as high as the 11th overall pick in the next NFL draft, but Broncos pass rusher Von Miller believes the team has the quarterback it needs.
Miller was conversing with a reporter about if Ryan Tannehill has it in him to take the next step to the Pro Bowl level of say, Alex Smith of the Chiefs or Matt Ryan of the Falcons.
“I think he has it in him,” Miller said after a Pro Bowl practice on Saturday. “But he’s shown it before. He’s shown that he is a franchise quarterback. He’s just got to stay healthy. That’s the name of the game for everybody.”
Miller and Tannehill were teammates at Texas A&M.
Tannehill missed Miami’s defeat of Denver this season. In his only start against the Broncos, Tannehill passed for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns, but lost in a shootout, 39-36, in 2014.
Miller said he had a good relationship with Miami coach Adam Gase when the Miami coach was in Denver.
“I love Gase,” Miller said. “He is one of my guys. I wanted him to let me play wide receiver. But he’s one of my guys.”
Miller also advocated for the return of Broncos coach Vance Joseph, who was Miami’s defensive coordinator in 2016.
“I just think he has got that ‘It Factor’ about him,” Miller said of Joseph. “That special thing you need to be a great coach, he’s got it.”
MOBILE, Ala.—Braxton Berrios isn’t feeling any pressure at the Senior Bowl this week. Perhaps he should, considering every NFL team has a group of scouts there to evaluate whether he’s got a professional future in the sport, but that’s not how he thinks.
After a big senior season for the University of Miami, Berrios believes his performance speaks for itself. He’s not going to change anyone’s mind about his speed or his 5-foot-8, 177-pound frame at this point.
“I’m not out here to prove anything,” he said. “Everybody out here watching already has a ton of film and they kinda have their opinion about you already. I’m just here to continue being the playmaker that I am and prove myself to be a leader, even in this All-Star game.”
Berrios is playing under Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph and the North team this week, giving him a chance to play with prized quarterback prospects Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen.
He is projected to be a late-round pick or a player who will get a shot as an undrafted free agent, but he has no doubt he’ll merit a selection. That opinion was reinforced after meeting with “a ton of teams” in his first two days in Mobile.
“I have the skillset and I think I’ve proved enough,” Berrios said. “Obviously I’m going to keep on working, but I fully expect to be drafted.”
If he’s right, it’ll be a tremendous payoff for his breakthrough last season. After minimal impact in his first three years at UM, he turned up with 55 catches for 679 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior.
Berrios credits that production in large part to the continuity he enjoyed under Hurricanes receivers coach Ron Dugans. They spent the last two years together after Berrios had different position coaches as a freshman and sophomore.
Beyond receiver, Berrios is looking for work wherever he can find it on the North team. He is hoping to boost his value by showing he can be a kick or punt returner and has even practiced holding for field goals.
“Whatever a team needs me to do, I’ll find a way to do it,” he said.
DAVIE — There wasn’t a message being sent to the other sideline.
It was a message being sent to his own.
That was Dolphins coach Adam Gase’s explanation Monday for attempting an onside kick with 10 1/2 minutes remaining and a 33-9 lead.
Eyebrows were raised about the Dolphins possibly running up the score against, of all people, Broncos coach Vance Joseph — their defensive coordinator last year who remains friends with so many in Davie, including Gase. Some in Denver wondered if it was a shot at John Elway, who runs the Broncos’ football operations, but Gase said it was not.
“The whole point of that was for our guys to understand that we have to play 60 minutes every week and you have to play that game like it’s 0-0 for 60 minutes,” Gase said. “And that was the biggest point that I wanted to make to our guys, that we’re going to be aggressive the entire time.”
It’s not like this situation has come up often for Gase before. Until Sunday, the biggest blowout by the Dolphins under Gase was a 34-13 victory over the New York Jets on Dec. 17.
Sunday, after the Dolphins took a 33-9 lead on Jay Cutler’s 23-yard pass to Kenny Stills, Cody Parkey was instructed to perform an onside kick.
“I think we were just trying to win the game, honestly,” Parkey said. “Coach tells me what to do and I go ahead and do it. It’s as simple as that.”
The kick was recovered by Alterraun Verner on the Miami 48-yard line, but the Dolphins went three-and-out … yet still managed a score.
Matt Haack’s punt was fumbled by Isaiah McKenzie after a hit by Chase Allen. McKenzie, trying to salvage the play, was then tackled in the end zone by Senorise Perry, accounting for Miami’s second safety of the game, a team first.
Still, the onside kick raised speculation in Denver that Gase was trying to take a shot at Elway after Elway cleaned house after the 2014 season — including letting go of Gase, then offensive coordinator of the Broncos. Cornerback Chris Harris said there “had to be bad blood” to trigger such a decision. NBC analyst Tony Dungy said it wasn’t something he would call in that situation if he were coaching.
“You guys have seen every game we’ve played,” Gase told reporters Monday. “It’s not like we’ve been dominating and we haven’t had big leads.”
In fact, Dolphins players have lamented all season long about their inability to play a 60-minute game. Many thought Sunday was their first such performance.
“That’s the mentality I want our guys to have and that’s why those guys on the other sideline, those offensive players — they know where my mind’s at for an entire game,” said Gase, the Broncos’ offensive coordinator from 2013-14. “They’ve been through it with me before.”
DAVIE — One team has lost seven in a row. The other, five. To say Sunday’s game will be devoid of intrigue, though, would be to forget what makes Sunday’s Broncos-Dolphins game unique.
It’s not every day that two teams who aren’t even in the same division know each other this well.
It’s not every day that both head coaches used to wear the other guy’s colors.
So if you’re in Hard Rock Stadium for warmups, watch what’s happening on the field. Watch how one player after another will take a moment away from stretching and walk over toward midfield for a handshake, perhaps an embrace.
And then they’ll do their best to make the other guy miserable.
Take Darren Rizzi, the Dolphins’ associate head coach. He calls Broncos coach Vance Joseph — the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator last year — a very good friend. Even their families are close.
“I wish him the best of luck, except for one game a year,” Rizzi said.
Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh calls Joseph a “great dude.” This week, he reflected on the times he’d wander into Joseph’s office to talk football, family and chat about the many friends they have in common.
Once 1 p.m. Sunday rolls around?
“For me, I salivate at it,” Suh said. “I’m excited to go against his offense, his team and I think he has a good vibe of what I can do as a player, and I’m sure he’s eager to stop that and I’m eager to see what he throws at me and stop that.”
Gase said he hired Joseph knowing it would be a one-year deal. He knew that Joseph was in such demand around the league that in 2017, he was a cinch for a head-coaching job. Joseph hasn’t forgotten how Gase helped open doors for him.
“He’s high on my list of guys I talk to all the time about this job,” Joseph said. “Being with Adam last year was awesome. We had adversity and no one blinked. He kept pushing, the team kept pushing and the coaches (kept pushing), and we made it out of it. When you go through those things with a person, it makes you close because it was hard last year. We lost four-five in a row and ended up winning nine straight, so I get it.”
Joseph knows the Dolphins are just as desperate for a win as the Broncos. He believes it’s only a matter of time before Gase turns it around, just like last year.
“I know him,” Joseph said. “He’s tough, he’s smart and he’ll figure it out. Hopefully not Sunday, not this game.”
Smarts? Gase said he hired Joseph for that very reason. They’ve known each other nearly a decade, and not always while on the same side. That’s where the respect was built.
“I think it was just that I had a lot of trust in him,” Gase said. “I had gone against him multiple times and always felt like he was a problem. He always knew … I felt like he always knew what we were doing. He just did a great job preparing his guys and they were always tough games, no matter who we had on offense, it just always seemed like it was a challenge.”
There were times when Jay Cutler was throwing passes and Julius Thomas was catching passes in Broncos colors, not Dolphins colors. There was a time when Gase was coordinating Denver’s offense. There also was a period in which Denver running back C.J. Anderson had signed an offer sheet from the Dolphins and the Broncos had to match. Still, Anderson says, “Goose, that’s my dude.”
Back in Davie, Dolphins defensive players Andre Branch and Bobby McCain reflected on how much they enjoyed playing under Joseph and how they expected Joseph to get a promotion all along.
“He did a great job and he was rewarded with a head-coaching job and that’s how it’s supposed to be,” McCain said. “At the end of the day if you win, everybody wins. That’s how I see it. If you win, the cook wins, the cleaning lady, everybody wins.”
Branch: “It’s definitely going to be exciting to see him. It’s been awhile. He was the guy that brought me in here.
“But at the end of the day I’ve got one goal in mind: that’s to win the game. I wish him nothing but the best but we’ve got to win this one.”
About all that’s missing is for Richard Dawson or Steve Harvey saying, “Let’s play the Feud!”
“It’s always fun to see a lot of the guys you either worked with or coached,” Gase said. “After that, it’s pretty much nameless, faceless. You’ve got to focus on doing what you’ve got to do to win the game.”
DAVIE—One of Vance Joseph’s trademarks as Dolphins defensive coordinator last season was his unfiltered criticism—privately and to the media—of players who were underperforming and needed a push.
He’s not doing that as much now that he’s the head coach of the Broncos.
Joseph, who faces his old team Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, said this week he’s had to tone down his “brutally honest” assessments.
“It’s obviously good to be truthful all that time, as much as you can, but sometimes being truthful can do more damage than it can good,” he said. “Obviously, taking this job, you have to pick your moments for being brutally honest and pick your moments to fix your issue.
“I think it’s fine line between always being brutally honest. Even with my job last year, I think being brutally honest with players was absolutely right. But sometimes in this position as a head coach, being brutally honest about certain things that are going on within the football team, you can’t, because that’s a football issue. It’s a fine line between being honest and being so honest where you do more damage than good.”
Joseph’s having a rough time in his rookie season as a head coach. Denver started 3-1, but has lost seven straight and is a mess in every regard. He is widely thought to be on the hot seat.
The Broncos have started three quarterbacks, including bringing back Brock Osweiler. They rank 22nd in total yards and 26th in scoring, and they’ve committed the second-most turnovers in the league.
On defense, which is Joseph’s specialty, Denver’s been good. Only the Jaguars and Panthers have allowed fewer yards, and the Broncos have held their last two opponents (Cincinnati and Oakland) to 21 points or fewer.
“What you don’t want to do is panic and start questioning the process, start questioning what you’re doing from a football standpoint, start questioning your players,” Joseph said. “Last year in Miami, no one ever did that. Even when we were 1-4, we had fun at work and guys came to work and everyone was engaged. We had good weeks. We knew that if we continued to have good weeks, then the year was going to be the year.
“It feels the same way here. We haven’t had a bad week, as far as the work, and the players being here and being engaged and what we want to get accomplished. Obviously, we’ve had some bumps with turning the ball over and we’ve had some quarterback changes this year, but other than that, it’s been a fun year and guys are working to win each and every week.”
INDIANAPOLIS–The Dolphins envisioned a scary pass rush last season with Mario Williams and Cameron Wake at defensive end and Ndamukong Suh in the middle, but one piece of that equation didn’t materialize. Williams, who earned $8.5 million last season, was a dud.