Dolphin coaches dish on play time decision, possible change, Sanders, botched exchanges

David Santiago/

News and notes from the regular Thursday media briefing with some Dolphins assistant coaches:

▪ In the wake of No. 3 cornerback Eli Apple struggling against New England, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said “We are going to consider all options” at his position.

“It’s always something we’re looking at. It was a tough game for him. He did contribute some good plays.”

Per Pro Football Focus, New England threw at Apple 10 times and completed seven of those passes for 76 yards. Apple also was penalized three times.

Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou have played every snap at cornerback; Apple has played most and Justin Bethel has played some and had a positive impact on those plays.

The Dolphins’ other options besides Apple: Cam Smith, Parry Nickerson and Kelvin Joseph.

There’s also a decent chance that Bethel could play more.

Bethel “has been able to get more looks and he’s a trusted guy,” defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill said. “We know when we put him at any position, he’ll do his job at a high level.”

With Howard getting a rest day Wednesday, Smith “got more practice reps yesterday,” Fangio said. “Hopefully when he’s called upon he will be ready to play.”

Hill said Smith “is progressing every day. I like the way he’s preparing. He’s sitting next to Jalen Ramsey in meetings, asking questions. When his time comes, he’ll be ready.”

As for which cornerback - if any - joins the rotation should Apple be benched, Hill said those decisions are based on game matchups or “who’s performing well [in practice], who’s picking up on the game plan.”

▪ Fangio said Andrew Van Ginkel - who played inside linebacker in Game 1 and outside linebacker in Game 2 when Jaelan Phillips was sidelined - will play both positions moving forward.

Fangio confirmed, as we initially reported in March, that he called Van Ginkel when he was a free agent in March: “I did call him. I did watch him. I liked what I saw. I saw some versatility, a tough guy who’s smart and instinctive and I wanted him back.”

▪ Fangio said linebacker David Long “played more” against New England than against the Chargers “because of the injury to Phillips. He responded and did a nice job for us. He played more solid. Mental errors and technique errors were limited.”

▪ Fangio, who previously coached the Broncos, will be facing some players that he coached there. “The storylines are juicy but not as effective as you think it is,” he said.

So does Hill think Fangio is relishing playing his former team?

“Who wouldn’t want it going against your former team?” Hill said. “He hasn’t mentioned it. Only thing he has mentioned is us continuing to grow as a defense and be 3-0 as a unit.”

▪ Cornerback Xavien Howard has four penalties in two games and Fangio said “it’s a concern - you’ve got to be able to cover them without fouling them.”

▪ Even with Phillips missing the second game, Emmanuel Ogbah has played just 34 snaps in two games. So what must change for him to play more?

“Just keep improving in every facet of the game, which he is,” Fangio said.

▪ Safety Brandon Jones played no defensive snaps on Sunday after playing only two against the Chargers. Will that change?

“We would like to get Brandon going,” Fangio said. “He missed the entire offseason. He missed most of training camp, did not play in any preseason games. He just needs to catch up. If you’re not honed up [playing safety], they’re not just six yards gains. They’re big ones.

“We’re giving him more practice reps every week. We’re confident he will [be ready to play more].”

DeShon Elliott played every snap opposite Jevon Holland against New England and “DeShon played the best game he had for us,” Fangio said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to build on that…You need two good safeties.”

Hill, said Elliott, “for the most part, he’s been consistent. He’s been communicating very well. Their partnership has been going very good.”

▪ Fangio said Kohou “is playing good for us. He’s starting at the corner position in base package” and moving to the slot in nickel packages.

“I have very good confidence in him in either position. He’s played well these first two weeks. He’s a good tackling cornerback” as well.

▪ Fangio said Denver is “vastly improved offensively.”

▪ Jason Sanders has been two different kickers over his five-plus year career. In his first three seasons, he was 12 for 15 on field goals of 50 yards or more.

Since then, since the start of 2021, Sanders is 4 for 13 on those long kicks, including a 55-yard miss on Sunday. Is it time to rethink the team’s kicking situation?

“I’m not even close to that,” Crossman said.

Crossman said “any time we send Jason out, we feel confidence” because he continues to consistently make long ones - in fact, all ones - in practice.

▪ There have been a handful of botched exchanges between Tua Tagovailoa and center Connor Williams, and offensive coordinator Frank Smith said coaches haven’t felt compelled to tell them to fix it because the two players are accountable by nature.

“The quarterback exchange thing is magnified,” Smith said. “They are going to make sure they work through anything that is off.”

Is the issue being caused by Williams?

“I don’t think it’s necessarily one guy,” Smith said. “They are so committed to doing things right these are things we are going to work through it.”

▪ Ramsey has been very involved in meetings and helping the team’s cornerbacks, as he continues to work his way toward a return in November or December.

“Ramsey is a true leader in the room,” Hill said. “He’s completely involved. He’s there mentally and in his actions. Sometimes players are the best coaches in that situation.”