DAVIE – Welcome again to Team Turmoil, aka Adam Gase’s Miami Dolphins.
The Reshad Jones mid-game strike points to what can happen when a head coach is hyper-focused on one aspect of the team rather than on the big picture.
It also raises questions about the relationship between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and his players.
In his Monday news conference, Gase didn’t reveal what prompted the veteran safety to pull himself out of the game after participating in only 10 plays Sunday against the Jets. But it was apparent that Jones was disgruntled rather than injured.
“I had a conversation with him [Monday] night. I have an idea of a lot of things that happened. And it’s going to get cleaned up,” Gase said. “There’s other factors involved. So I’m going to get that addressed and cleaned up.”
Gase shifting focus, finally
Here’s what was revealing:
Asked if he had any indication in the preparation for the game that the leader of the secondary might be out of step with the game plan, Gase said, “I did not know he was unhappy about anything. But a lot of things got cleaned up last night.”
As to whether Burke was aware of Jones’ unhappiness, Gase said, “I can’t speak on that. I’m a little more involved right now. So I know a lot of things going on.”
Gase, who directs the offense, indicated he is now getting more involved in the defense.
“That’s part of my job to make sure that I communicate, they communicate back – that we’re all on the same page,” he said.
It has apparently taken 2 ½ seasons into his tenure to reach that realization. Some disastrous performances by the defense, including allowing 884 yards and 74 points in back-to-back losses to the Lions and Texans, surely got his attention.
Now having a veteran of Jones’ stature abandon his teammates during a game calls into question not only the team chemistry that Gase has often touted this season but also the unity of the defense under Burke.
Curiously, Gase’s remarks about the incident seemed more aligned with Jones than with his defensive coordinator.
“Me and him are on the same page right now,” he said of Jones, who came to Gase’s office late Sunday. “I know what happened and that’s where I’m going to leave it.
“I have to get some things cleaned up as far as how we go about things.”
Bigger role for Fitzpatrick
What was obvious in the defensive approach Sunday was that Minkah Fitzpatrick’s role was elevated to give the talented rookie more of an every-down presence rather than playing mainly in the nickel package.
That is a positive development, based on how Fitzpatrick has played all season. It is unclear how that may have figured in Jones’ displeasure.
Fitzpatrick began the game playing boundary cornerback and ended up at safety after Jones’ exit. He played in all but one defensive play.
“He played three or four different spots [Sunday],” Gase said of Fitzpatrick. “We’re moving him around. We’ve got some different roles for him. We’re just going to keep moving guys around.”
One thing Gase said definitively was that Jones will play Sunday at Green Bay. He did not reveal whether there will be any disciplinary action or the impact the defection will have on Jones’ standing with his teammates.
The verdict on how well Gase can pull this mess together will come quickly in a difficult match-up against the Packers.
“We let about a thousand yards in two games [versus Detroit and Houston], we’re not going to stay the same. We’re going to move around. We’re going to have different guys playing spots,” Gase said.
“We’ll see what we do this week. We’re playing a different guy this week. I just know if we do a lot of things we did this last game, the results will be different. I know we’re results oriented. Aaron Rodgers is a little different than Sam Darnold.”
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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