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Phillips, Rousseau address Dolphins-Bills intrigue. And Duke Johnson discusses departure

·5 min read
David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Some Miami Dolphins notes from the University of Miami’s Legends Camp held over the weekend, an event that featured several former or current Dolphins:

▪ Bills edge player Greg Rousseau and Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips never played a down together at UM, but they were technically teammates for two years and they’re excited about a Buffalo-Miami rivalry that seems likely to be more competitive than recent seasons.

The Bills have beaten their AFC East rival Dolphins seven times in a row and nine of their last 10 meetings, and the scores usually haven’t been particularly close. The Bills won by margins of 10 and 17 points in 2019; by 3 and 30 points in the 2020 season (with that season-ending 56-26 drubbing costing Miami a playoff spot) and by 35 and 15 last season.

Rousseau, who had 50 tackles and four sacks in 17 starts as a Bills rookie last season, is eager to see the chess match between the Bills defense - which added Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller - and Miami’s offense, which added Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill.

“It’s exciting,” Rousseau said. “I know they’re going to be trying to get the ball out to the perimeter. [They’ve] got to use their speed. That’s going to be their strong suit. I’m expecting -- from looking on the outside in -- that they’re going to be fast paced: screens, sleds, RPOs, maybe take a [downfield] shot here and there. I feel they’re going to have a really fun offense to play against. It’s going to be a challenge. They have a lot of really great players.

“The addition of Hill, they’ve got speed. And Tua [Tagovailoa] is getting better year by year. It’s going to be fun for sure.”

Phillips, who had 42 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 17 games and five starts as a Dolphins rookie, said: “The Bills are incredibly talented. [And] we have a lot of talent this year. It’s going to be really fun to have those games.

“The more times you go against somebody, the more comfortable you get. Just as much as I’m preparing for [Bills QB Josh Allen], he’s preparing for us. I’m sure he will have some new tricks up his sleeve. He’s an incredibly talented guy and somebody you always have to worry about.”

Allen has a career 106.8 passer rating against Miami, with 21 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, an 8.9 rushing average on 48 carries with four rushing TDs and a 7-1 record.

Bills coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane spoke earlier this offseason of the challenges Miami will now pose when the teams meet on Sept. 25 in Miami and Dec. 18 in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, Phillips said opposing defenses “are going to be running a lot” to defend Miami’s offense.

“We’ve got a ton of talent, a ton of explosive guys,” Phillips said. “I’m excited to see what they can put together. I’ve got a lot of confidence in coach [Mike] McDaniel and our OC [offensive coordinator Frank Smith] and everybody involved in play calling.”

In some ways, Phillips still can’t believe Miami acquired Hill.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Phillips said. “Tyreek has been excellent at what he’s doing since I’ve been in college. I look up to him as one of these crazy talented NFL players. It’s wild to be on the same team and in the locker room with him.”

Any difference that Phillips has seen with Tagovailoa? “You can see his confidence, that he’s being himself and really enjoying it. I’m really happy for Tua.”

Phillips and Rousseau were technically teammates for two years but never suited up together because Phillips sat out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules (when Rousseau had 15.5 sacks for UM) and Rousseau opted out the next year - the 2020 COVID-impacted season - during which time Phillips had eight sacks for the Canes.

“It’s always love between me and Greg,” Phillips said.

THIS AND THAT

Phillips said he has “leaned out a little bit” and dropped “five to eight pounds.” He said that won’t have any negative impact against the run.

“I’m feeling very stout against the run,” he said. “I’m continuously trying to hone by body and my craft.”

He played 54 percent of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps last season and said becoming something close to an everydown player is “absolutely” important to him.

“As long as it’s what’s best for the team, I want to be out there as much as possible to be out there to make some plays,” he said.

▪ Running back Duke Johnson confirmed that the Dolphins never offered him a contract in free agency but that he’s not upset about it. He instead signed with Buffalo.

A source said the Dolphins initially conveyed interest in resigning Johnson but the organization changed course after Mike McDaniel’s hiring because the staff saw better available fits for McDaniel’s running scheme.

“They just wanted to go in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I figured McDaniel wanted his guys; Raheem Mostert is one of his guys. I know the nature of the business. No hard feelings.”

Johnson, 28, said he treasures the experience of being able to “suit up for” his hometown team. He ran 71 times for 330 yards (a 4.6 average) in five games and four late-season starts for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins kept two veteran backs from the 2021 team (Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed) but moved on from Johnson and Philip Lindsay and signed three players (Chase Edmonds, Mostert and Sony Michel) who are front-runners for the team’s top three running back jobs, with Gaskin, Ahmed, Gerrid Doaks and undrafted rookie ZaQuandre White also competing.