Three Miami Dolphins offensive coaches dish on their players, other issues

Barry Jackson
·7 min read

The Miami Dolphins’ incumbent running back and tight end coaches - and the new offensive line coach - on Saturday spoke with reporters for the first time in 2020, and it’s clear they’re excited about their new toys on offense.

Some feedback from each:

RUNNING BACKS COACH ERIC STUDESVILLE

On the additions of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida: “We’re excited about Howard, his experience being in two different places [Philadelphia and Chicago]. He’s a smart guy. You love his size, good feet for a big back, good vision. He will have a chance to be a physical presence for us and effective in the pass game. Breida, with his speed, you see his burst and quickness early on as soon as he touches the field.”...

(Quick aside: I think the Howard/Breida tandem is being undervalued a bit. Howard is third in the league in rushing yards since 2016, Breida third in per-carry average since 2017. I’m not expecting elite stuff, but health provided, they should be solid.)

Studesville isn’t ready to give up on Kalen Ballage, despite his meager 1.8 per carry average last season on 74 carries, the lowest for an NFL player with a minimum of 70 carries in at least 70 years.

“There’s things we can look at and study [with 2019] but I’m going forward with Kalen,” Studesville said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s passionate about this; he wants to be good. I know he wants to improve on that performance. He’s giving great effort in meetings and on the field. We’ve got to see how that plays out.”….

Though Studesville spent time with all the top backs in the draft (such as D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor), he did not specifically say whether he was disappointed about Miami not drafting a back high in the draft. “There are a lot of things that go on in there; I’ve always approached it that’s not what I can control.”

TIGHT ENDS COACH GEORGE GODSEY

On the recent acquisition of Adam Shaheen, a former Chicago Bears second-round pick out of Division 2 Ashland who has 26 catches for 249 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons, with 27 game appearances and 13 starts:

“I was in Detroit for a little bit and was able to see him [in the NFC North],” Godsey said. “He’s got great range from a length standpoint and size and he’s had his issues trying to stay on the field. That’s part of the NFL.

“He’s a young prospect that is ascending. He’s very motivated in these meetings. The guy has been productive in the pass game and his length against NFL defensive ends or outside backers that are on the line of scrimmage, that’s a valuable piece to have. It’s up to him to get open in the passing game.”...

Godsey said one of the biggest reasons for Mike Gesicki’s ascent last season was an “emphasis on his practice habits. Got some extra time with Fitzy [Ryan Fitzpatrick] running routes so he can see it the same way as the quarterback. He became more of a communicator with the quarterbacks”...

The Dolphins are eager to see what they have with Chris Myarick, the second-year undrafted tight end from Temple who flashed in preseason last year and then spent the season on the practice squad.

“Chris is a very good pro,” Godsey said. “He comes to work and is prepared. He’s a physical player. He has worked to maintain a higher weight to be more productive as a point of attack tight end. But he also has some of those off the line characteristics to be able to do some two-back stuff. He runs through mistakes and corrects them. We like how Chris practiced last year. He practices with good effort.”...

I asked Godsey what went into selecting Montana State defensive end Bryce Sterk - who hadn’t played tight end since his early years in high school - as Miami’s defensive-end-to-tight-end project.

“This is a physical guy,” Godsey said. “He is a strong, heavy handed guy. There are some technique things we’re working on and we’re trying to have the attitude to improve every day. No spring [OTAs] for a rookie that’s transitioning [to a different side of the ball] is a difficult position to be in. He’s open to learning.

“Being an offensive player that played defense, there’s a good perspective there. Those things can help him with his blocks. He’s a bigger tight end and we are going to emphasize technique, especially starting with blocking first.”

Before he left the Pacific Northwest to report to Dolphins camp, Sterk studied tape of several tight ends the past few months - including Kansas City’s Travis Kelce - and caught more than 100 passes a day from family members and a machine….

With a new offensive staff, the Dolphins last season reduced the amount of times Gesicki was asked to block. So what tight end on this team is best equipped to be an in-line blocker? Durham Smythe might still be the best.

“There’s going to be a lot of versatility with these guys,” Godsey said. “Not only as a point of attack tight end, when actually on the line, but on a move guy. Looking for versatility on that. We have a lot of guys returning -- from Durham, to Chris who was on the practice squad. We’re looking to diversify as much as we can and maybe not be one dimensional with one particular guy.”

NEW OFFENSIVE LINE COACH STEVE MARSHALL

I asked Marshall if he would feel uneasiness starting a high-round rookie (left tackle Austin Jackson, guard/tackle Robert Hunt) in week one of the regular season without any preseason games this year.

“If they were in three or four preseason games, it’s the nature of the NFL that there’s going to be some trepidation about going with a rookie,” he said. “And would you feel like we’ve done enough to get them ready? Absolutely [there’s uneasiness] but it wouldn’t change if we’re getting ready to play the first preseason game. Everyone is in the same boat that way. I would be worried for veteran guys in the first game.”

Bottom line: If the rookies outplay the veterans in training camp, the rookies won’t be penalized for being rookies. That will come into play with the Julien Davenport/Jackson competition at left tackle, and Hunt vs. several others (Danny Isidora, Shaq Calhoun, Michael Deiter) on the right side….

Speaking of Hunt… Marshall declined to give a longterm vision for him (as far as tackle or guard) but said: “I love the heck out of him. He’s competing his tail off. He’s a great young kid. Productive player at college. Every day is a new adventure for him mentally. He’s learning the NFL game coming from Lafayette. We’ll see where it goes. I really like Rob. He’s got a lot of character and is a smart guy.”...

Would the offensive line potentially change if the Dolphins go with a left-handed quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) over the right-handed Fitzpatrick? “There’s some truth in the difference between that left and right tackle debate, but at the end of the day, we’re looking for the five best,” Marshall said…

As the New York Jets offensive line coach, Marshall coached Jesse Davis in 2016 during the early stages of his career, when he was transitioning from a defensive linemen to an offensive lineman. The Jets released Davis when Marshall was there, but Marshall made clear he appreciates what Davis offers.

“We had Jesse for an extended period of time; he came as a d-lineman from Idaho,” Marshall said. “We felt very good about him [but] we couldn’t keep him based on numbers. Jesse is putting himself together a heck of a career; we will lean on Jesse from a leadership standpoint off the field and in meetings. I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s accomplished.”

New receivers coach Josh Grizzard also spoke but declined to discuss the skills sets of any of his players because they haven’t begun full practices yet. Grizzard was promoted to replace new Colorado coach Karl Dorrell, who will be missed because he extracted the most from DeVante Parker, developed Preston Williams (and selfishly, from a purely media standpoint) offered cogent insight and analysis to every question we ever asked him.

Adam Beasley has a piece on the new Dolphins quarterback coach and Armando Salguero a piece on the new offensive coordinator on our web site.