MIAMI (AP) — Byron Jones has yet to meet his new coach. Shaq Lawson is still learning the names of teammates. Kyle Van Noy is stuck in California, 2,300 miles from work.
Bonding by the Miami Dolphins’ large, expensive free agent class has been delayed in this offseason like no other. But the newcomers are optimistic about the direction of their new team.
“What brought me to Miami was the idea of joining a young team and being a leader on that team, and kind of being a catalyst for cultural change,” Jones said. “They’ve got a bunch of ballers on that roster, with the prospect of drafting a lot of dope players, and we’ve also brought in a bunch of different free agents. I wanted to be a part of the building of something special.”
Cornerback Jones signed up — for $82.5 million over five years — even though the coronavirus has prevented him from meeting coach Brian Flores. Like much of America, the new Dolphins are staying put during the pandemic, and they conducted teleconference interviews Thursday while scattered around the country.
Miami signed 10 newcomers to deals worth more than $237 million, including more than $143 million guaranteed. With 14 picks in the draft, including five in the first two rounds, the Dolphins could be much improved after going 5-11 in Flores’ first season amid speculation the organization was tanking.
“This is an up-and-coming team,” new running back Jordan Howard said. “I know a lot of people were trying to say they were trying not to be competitive last year, but they beat a few good teams late in the season. I definitely feel like this is a team that’s on the rise.”
To improve, the Dolphins must mesh, and that process has been delayed. Lawson is part of defensive front that appears significantly upgraded, but his tongue became tangled when he referred to the other new end, Emmanuel Ogbah.
“I don’t know how to pronounce his name, but I know that’s my teammate,” Lawson said.
Van Noy will also be part of the new-look pass rush. He spoke from Los Angeles and discussed the challenge and need to stay in shape during the pandemic.
“There’s a ranch about 45 minutes away from me, and no one’s there,” Van Noy said. “It’s pretty cool. There’s a hill I can run, and there’s some weights I can lift. There’s no one else around. It’s just me, myself and I.
“So I’m staying in shape, so I’m really happy about that. I’ve had offseasons where I’ve gotten too heavy for my own good, and it’s not fun to have to lose a bunch of weight.”
In choosing Miami, the new Dolphins all said Flores was part of the draw. That includes Jones, even though they’ve spoken only by phone.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him throughout the league,” Jones said. “I spoke to a couple of coaches and players throughout the whole process, and they had nothing but good things to say about him. That’s exciting for me, just to be on a team that he’s leading.”