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Judge's Chambers: Development of the roster


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Judge's Chambers,'s weekly interview with head coach Joe Judge:

Q: You said last week the offense has to flow through the quarterback. With Mike Glennon replacing Daniel as the starter, do you have plays that are best suited him, or do you just run the offense?

Judge: "I think the plan is to run our offense, but that includes gearing toward the strengths of our players. With Mike, there's a couple things we do to play more to his strengths. It doesn't alter the entire game plan, but you just know certain plays that you have penciled in for certain guys. That's no different than if it's a receiver, tight end, running back, or whoever it may be. But generally, the offense is the offense, and we still have a mode and a theme to how we are going to play each game."

Q: The quarterbacks last week wore wristbands for the first time. What is the advantage to wearing the wristband? Does it speed up getting the play call in?

Judge: "It's just a process of communication and a different way of doing things. I don't think it radically changes anything. You still have the ability to talk into the ear of the signal callers, the quarterback, linebacker, or whoever it is for you. I don't think it radically changed anything, but it was a system of communication that we worked with and helped us a little bit."

Q: Last week was kind of an anomaly, because you had a new play-caller (Freddie Kitchens) and it was a short week. Monday, you used the word "evolution" regarding the offense. Now that you have a regular week and Freddie has a game under his belt, can you begin to think about what you want the offense to be over the final six weeks?

Judge: "I've known for a while what, long term, I want the offense to be. I think we'll continue to keep building on it. Again, things don't happen overnight. We've got to keep on progressing as a team. I think the offensive staff is doing a good job right now working together and putting together some plans with players in mind."

Q: Could you tell from the sideline that (tight end) Chris Myarick caught the touchdown pass against Philadelphia with his knees?

Judge: "Actually, I could, yeah. I saw it get trapped between his legs. We all kind of looked at each other and saw him trap it and then cradle it in with his arms and get it. You kind of look at each other in terms of how they're reviewing it. We were talking on the radio and said, 'No, he got it.' We saw him get it."

Q: In the five games starting with Carolina, the defense has cut its points allowed almost in half. Total, rushing and passing yardage, first downs and opposing completion percentage have all declined. What are some of the primary factors behind what's been a big defensive improvement in the last five weeks?

Judge: "It's all about playing team defense, everyone taking care of their responsibilities and complementing each other that way. The only way you can play defense is everyone being on the same page, and everyone playing their responsibility. We talk all the time, sometimes there's checks on the field, or whatever it may be, and look, if we're wrong, we're all wrong together. If someone makes the wrong check, we've got to play with the principles and rules to make sure we're on the same page. I think that's always the most important thing with defense is everyone being on the same page."

Q: Was it gratifying to play a game without a defensive penalty?

Judge: "We look to eliminate penalties in every game we play, so obviously that's a huge mark for us. We don't want to have penalties, turnovers and mental errors, so to come out of this game with limited penalties and no mental errors, that was something helped us have success. And no turnovers as well."

Q: And until the last play of the game, no sacks allowed. At one point on the final drive, the secondary was comprised of (James) Bradberry, Xavier (McKinney), Julian, J.R. Reed and Steven Parker. There were guys who hadn't played a lot, and you stopped the Eagles. What does that say about players who either recently arrived or haven't played much that you can throw them in there in a critical spot like that and have them play well?

Judge: "It's the same thing I say all time about having everybody prepared. Really for us, it's about development of our roster and development of our players. There's a lot of young guys that during the bye week we kept out for a little bit of extra practice, whether it was individual work and some scheme work as well. We told them that week that there's going to be a lot of guys there that are going to make an impact on our team throughout the stretch of the year. That's already held true in the first few games and will continue to be true, so we need everyone to always be developing and producing on the field."

Q: McKinney is getting a lot of attention for his outstanding play lately. Rightfully so, he's playing very well. He seems to have really stepped up since Jabrill (Peppers) went out, and the last two weeks without Logan (Ryan). Do you think he took it upon himself to be more assertive in the absence of two veterans?

Judge: "I'm not going to speak for Xavier on that. I don't think the absence of any other player makes somebody else a better player. I think Xavier had good games because of how he is executing in those games. He always prepares very well for us. He's continued to progress in his roles and where he is as a player in this league. We expect him to make a lot of plays, and they come his way based on how he practices and prepares."

Q: Logan Ryan said yesterday that no other safety in the NFL has four or five picks out of the post and that's really hard to do. Why is that really hard to do?

Judge: "You've got to cover a lot of ground and it's the deep field, it's the breaks on the underneath throws. The range, the instincts, and the understanding are all part of it, but then you still have to be able to go out there and make the play. You have to be able to plug it all together and have the skillset, have the schematic understanding, have the instincts, and then, have the physical ability to go out there and finish it with the interception, and he's had a lot more pass breakups and hands on a few others as well. Look, Xavier is a very productive player. We knew that about him when we looked at him coming out of college. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him. He's done a good job for us so far. Obviously, I think he can keep improving within his roles, and the way he prepares will help him do that."

Q: Is he a much better player now than he was in September when the season started?

Judge: "I think our entire team is a lot better than we were in September, yes."

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins

Q: (Dolphins head coach) Brian Flores and you know each other very well. (Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator) Patrick (Graham) spoke extensively about Flores with the media. You know a lot of Miami's staff, they know you. Are there advantages and disadvantages to that when you're preparing to play somebody you know so well?

Judge: "Sometimes you can overthink it if you know someone really well, which we all do. There's familiarity with not just me and Flo, but a lot of other coaches on both staffs. It's our job to know everyone in the league anyway, it's a people business. We have to know who the coaches are and who the coordinators are. Then, it ties in the players and how they use them, so that really ties into game planning and how you call the game. That being said, you definitely do know some things they're going to look to attack you with, and I'm sure they know the way we're going to look as well. From having years and years of conversations, years and years of discussions, going into philosophies, situational calls, and things of that nature, we've all sat in the same meetings in development. Me and Flo sat in on a lot of coordinator meetings together and talked about how to play two-minute football, how to play four-minute football, and how to handle the 'got to have it' situations. We've talked extensively about building rosters. These are all things we've been a part of together. There's a lot of things that we don't necessarily have to measure up exactly with, but there's a lot of things philosophically we've come to agree on and believe in because of how we've had success together in the past. Those are things you want to continue with."

Q: What are one or two attributes about Brian Flores that stand out to you?

Judge: "I think about someone who's very intelligent and aggressive, that's what it comes down to with me. I think that's the way his players play. He prepares them, you can see his personality come out through his players. I have a lot of respect for Flo. I worked with him, which includes competing against him for many years through training camp and in-season practices as well. There's a lot of things I could use as adjectives to describe Flo in a complimentary manner, but those are two that stick out right away."

Q: You just played (quarterback) Jalen Hurts. Now, you're playing Tua (Tagovailoa). They have almost the exact same height and weight, both played at Alabama, but they're very different players. Tua has much better passing statistics, Jalen runs more. Do you see more differences or similarities between those two quarterbacks?

Judge: "It depends on how you want to make the argument. You can make it either way. I think both guys are very intelligent. Both guys have the ability to play with multiples. Both guys have been successful on multiple levels. They're both great competitors. I think with both, if they're playing to their strengths, it can hurt you. Tua has done a really good job of being an accurate passer. He's very efficient with his completion percentage and moving the ball. I think Jalen does a really good job of using his legs to extend plays, and that can really create some passing opportunities off that as well. I think both guys, when they play to their strengths, are very effective."

Q: Last week, Tua threw four incompletions in 31 attempts. He completed more than 80% percent of his passes in November. Is it an indication to you that this is a young quarterback who's making rapid strides?

Judge: "Absolutely. I think what people forget sometimes about quarterbacks is that position, more so than any other in any sport, is the toughest and requires the most development and progression through your career. Nobody comes in here truly ready to play as a quarterback out of the box as a rookie. Now, there's guys who have had success early on, but nobody truly comes in prepared to be as good as they're going to be. Obviously, the more experience you have in games, the better you get. You've got to learn from the good and the bad. I think they're doing a good job down there really teaching him. You see this guy progressing in his career."

Q: Also, it's the second week in a row that you're playing a team whose top receiver is a rookie top-10 draft choice from Alabama. You were very complimentary last week about Devonta Smith. Do you see similar skills in (Jalen) Waddle?

Judge: "I think their skillsets are very different. I think their impact on the game is very similar. When you think of Waddle, you think of pure speed. This guy is ridiculously explosive. He has good hands. He can really make explosive plays with the ball in his hands. He does a good job as a returner, a slot receiver, and on the perimeter as a receiver. He has some savvy in getting open, but he's a playmaker. He really puts a lot of pressure on the defense and coverage units. With him versus Smith, it's just different players, but the thing you see that's very similar about the two is their competitiveness. They're both very, very tough, they're very competitive. They're used to being successful. They're not sitting in there and just being satisfied with being on a team and having a paycheck. They're out there to win. You see it translate in how they play."

Q: Tua and Waddle were teammates in college, do you see the chemistry between them when you watch the tape?

Judge: "Yes, I do. You can see it last week with Jalen and Smith as well. To be honest, it's just two guys that have a history together that goes beyond just training camp and early in a rookie season. You can tell they're definitely on the same page together on both teams, so it's very, very unique, especially two weeks in a row, to have a quarterback and a receiver that young and that talented. Both guys with that high of an impact, being so much on the same page and having such a history with the passer."

Q: The Dolphins blitz on a league-high 42 percent of opposing pass plays. Linebackers, corners, safeties, they'll bring anybody. What kind of challenges does that present for both the offense in general and the line in particular?

Judge: "Well, it's about protection. The protection not only comes on the offensive line and picking up what's coming. Protection includes the quarterback, in terms of making the right IDs and getting the ball out on time. The one thing they do is they'll bring one more than you can block, so someone has got to handle him. And really, the quarterback is the guy to handle it, so when you play that type of football, it's very, very aggressive. It comes down to who makes the plays, who can get the ball out faster, what receiver can make a play in space against the defensive player, can you make them miss, can you make the tackle in space? They do a very good job of rallying to the ball defensively and getting guys on the ground. You've got to just understand how you have to play offensively and how it creates an opportunity you can use in your favor."

Q: Waddle would have been a good draft haul by himself, but they also have (linebacker) Jalen Phillips and (safety) Jevon Holland, plus they have (cornerback) Xavien (Howard). Phillips had three sacks last week and he has at least a half-sack in four straight games.

Judge: "He definitely flashes. This guy has a great skillset. I was down at the pro day when he worked out in Miami, and you could see it in person. He's long, he's got a really good frame. This guy is going to really develop and grow throughout his career, but he's got a great skillset right now. They're moving him around and creating matchups with him. He really plays to his length and athleticism. It's unique for a guy to be that long and have such fluid movement as well. Normally, longer guys are a little bit stiffer. He doesn't fall in that box, which is why he was such a high pick, but they're doing a great job with this guy as far as creating matchups. He'll definitely be somebody we have to be aware of where he'll on the field."

Q: What do you see from Holland and Howard?

Judge: "Both are impact guys. Howard is a physical, aggressive, in-your-face press corner. He has great ball skills and instincts. He plays very aggressive. Holland is definitely a guy you can see being a really good player in this league for a long time. He's got the ability and versatility, playing different parts of the field and matching up in different matchups. He's really got great vision, instincts, and really does a good job attacking the ball and closing. Right now, their secondary is one of the top ones in the league. That's due to the talent they have, the commitment they made to developing that part of the roster, and then, the coaching they're getting."

Q: Lastly, they scored on a blocked punt last week. Does that really get your attention, not only as the head coach, but as a special teams guy?

Judge: "Well, it better get everybody's attention. But I didn't need that blocked punt last week to tell me that they're going to play very aggressive in the kicking game. They have a very talented core with very well coached players. I've been going against (assistant head coach/special teams coordinator) Danny (Crossman) for a long time now. I know how his players play. They play very hard and very fundamentally sound. He's got a lot of things in his back pocket, gimmicks, gadgets, rushes and aggressive plays that he's going to use, so everyone better be alert to it."


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