A big part of preparing in the NFL is analyzing film, one of the few parts that tend to get hidden from the fan.
On Monday evening, the Miami Dolphins opened up this aspect of preparations to the fan, by conducting a film session featuring their assistant defensive backs coach Blue Adams.
Before I get to the session, here’s a quick biography on Adams, who’s entering his third season on the Dolphins’ staff. He is a native of Miami who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, then bounced around and played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons.
He entered coaching in 2010 as coach of the secondary at Purdue, then in 2011 moved onto the University of Northern Iowa as their secondary coach, before being hired by the Dolphins in 2012.
The session started off with Adams’ introduction, then he explained what the Dolphins want out of their players on defense.
The first things, anytime a young man walks in a building, these three things he has to have, as a defensive player. First thing I’m looking for is he has to be sound. Our defense, has to be sound. When I say sound, it has to have some integrity, it just can’t be something that you just bring out in the air, and just create. It has to have some integrity.
“Next thing I’m going to talk about is it has to be a smart player. A lot of times you get great guys, great men, that are athletic, but they’re not necessarily that smart. We want to stay away from those players. We want sound players, we want smart players and the third thing that we like is we like to have our tough players.
“Tough men, this game is a tough game, it’s a physical game, it’s a brutal game. The last thing you want is a guy that’s not tough.”
As Coach Adams was describing what he wanted for a player, I could only think of the current players on the Dolphins secondary. Each of them fit this mold, from All-Pro Brent Grimes, to Safety Jimmy Wilson.
This also explains the Cortland Finnegan signing, one of my least favorite of the offseason. While I do worry that some of his skills have eroded, he is a smart, sound and tough player, and has been throughout the duration of his career.
Adams then began to break down two plays, both from Miami’s Halloween Night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The first play reviewed was the Brent Grimes interception, one that gave Miami a 17-3 lead in the third quarter.
Adams implored the audience to take a look at Brent Grimes, calling him “a special guy”. He pointed out that when Grimes saw the formation the Bengals were in, he was able to read the routes that would be run, then praised Grimes’ red zone defense and coverage technique, calling it “a big-time play for us, at this point of the game.”
Adams would go on to explain to the audience the width that Grimes had on the receiver, which they worked on in practice. He said “you can’t coach it any better than that”, while explaining how the width helped Grimes get in front of the ball, resulting in the interception.
After breaking down the play using coaches’ cam (which is an option on NFL.com if you’re willing to subscribe), the play was shown in real time to the crowd.
This was followed by a breakdown of the other key play from the Dolphins vs. Bengals Halloween Night classic, the play that ended the game.
Adams walked the audience through the play, showing the communication between the safety and the cornerbacks, but had said it wasn’t “what we wanted”. Despite that, he credited Miami having smart players for how the play ensued, including the coverage Miami’s corners played on the Bengals’ receivers.
He then pointed out how great of a job the interior rushers did on the play, including how Cam Wake started on the outside, then moved inside, forcing a matchup with a guard where he beat them.
The ending result was the safety, and a Dolphins win.
Finally, Adams wrapped the session up by looking at the biggest defensive drive of the season, Week 15 against the New England Patriots. Miami was leading 24-20 with one minute and fifteen seconds left.
Adams called it “one of the biggest games we’ve played”, then pointed out how on that final drive, the Dolphins having smart players was a must, due to the absence of both Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll, the two starting corners.
“That’s Will Davis, rookie at the time, hadn’t played a whole lot. But at the time, he has to go. This other guy here is Mike Thomas, only been here for three days, but he has to go. This guy at the bottom is Jimmy Wilson, a safety by trade, but he has to get in and play corner, and he has to go.
“We only have to hold this guy for a minute and 15 seconds, that’s all we’re asking them to do, and that’s what they’re going to do. They have to do it.”
Coach Adams then broke down every play in the drive, from the first play that was offsides, to the final play.
“I can tell you this; any time that Tom Brady is allowed to sit back there and hold the spot, it’s trouble for us, big time trouble for us. You got to get him off the spot, you gotta create plays to get him off the spot.” Adams says, pointing out how the Dolphins (or any team) has to make sure that Brady has pressure on him.
Adams went through each play and explained how each play went down. He went out of his way to point out Michael Thomas and how he had only been in Miami for 72 hours prior to the game, yet was on the field for a final drive against Brady.
This praise is first seen on a play where Brady completes the pass to Shane Vereen for two yards.
“What he does great, is that with a minute and nine seconds left, he kept this guy inbounds. It’s great, it’s absolutely amazing, you had to be there. You have to be there to understand that energy. What we’re asking these guys to do, regardless if you’re the starter, or the ninth man on the depth chart, you have to get it done.
Adams would then continue to explain the importance of pressure on the quarterback, explaining that Brady is a different player when he has to move, which is why “we gotta get him off the spot.”
Adams then shows bad coverage by Thomas on a 12-yard reception to Danny Amendola, but points out Reshad Jones being at the point to tackle Amendola before he could gain more yardage on the play.
That play was followed by a timeout by New England, which meant during the session we would fast-forward to the next play, which was an outright disaster. I’ll let Coach Adams explain what happened to allow the play (a 24-yard completion to Amendola) occur.
“This time, they’re going to create motion here, trying to isolate Will Davis. There’s poor communication here between Will Davis and one of the middle backs, we wound up turning the guy loose.”
“Mike-Backer (Dannell Ellerbe) see’s it late, Will Davis is expecting help, and there’s a big-time void in there. This is a gimme now, for where we are, for what we’ve done up to this point, we’ve given them big-time yardage, which you can’t do against an all-pro quarterback, one of the greatest quarterback of all time.”
Adams then points out how on most of the plays towards the end, the Patriots picked on Thomas, then sets up the scenario in play.
“Once we get into the red zone, we can start to do other things to create pressure because there’s not so much depth. We don’t have to worry about certain routes.” said Adams, who then explained how Mike Thomas does a great job opening up his shoulder to be able to play the ball, while also pointing out that the receiver will tell you when the ball is coming by lifting his arms up.
As Adams explained in the play “This is a caught ball here, Mike continues to fight all the way to the end.” The play described was a deep pass to Danny Amendola that Thomas broke up, which would turn out to be the second most important play of the game for Thomas.
Here’s Adams’ explanation of the biggest play of that game, and thus far of Michael Thomas’ career:
“Seven seconds left, it’s fourth down they have to throw the ball into the end zone because they need a touchdown to get the win. We couldn’t have been in a better situation here.
“This coverage here, we’re playing double-doubles. We’re kind of double-teaming certain guys. We wanted to double-team Amendola and [Julian] Edelman. We wanted to double-team those guys and leave Will Davis on this number one by himself.
“If you could see Reshad Jones and Jimmy Wilson is double-teaming Edelman, Mike Thomas and Chris Clemons is on this guy (Amendola) here.
“What Mike Thomas knows is if he comes in, just to go ahead and stay wide, because they’re probably working the guy behind him (Austin Collie). That any time you’re in a double-double type coverage, they’re usually going to try to run double-post, which is what they run.
“Mike Thomas does a great job, winds up getting the pick. This is the same guy that has only been here about 72 hours before, and continues to learn, and he made the play here.”
This was followed by showing the drive in real-time, from the start until the interception. As Thomas made the interception that made him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 15 last season, there was a small, constrained applause from the crowd.
Overall, it was a fun and educating event for current and prospective season ticket holders, one I’d like to see the Dolphins do more often. Adams didn’t give away everything (if he did, then Bill Belichick would likely send a buddy down here in Florida, in fact I wouldn’t doubt it if he did), but informed the fans in a fun way of what to look for when looking at the Dolphins’ secondary.
Follow Thomas Galicia on Twitter @thomasgalicia.