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  Q&A with Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Phins.com participated in a Q&A session with Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland on November 8 at the Dolphins Training Facility in Davie, FL. Jeff took questions on a number of subjects.


On his philosophy on players

We try to get “make up” players. We want smart, tough, and discipline players. We want players with intangibles like character, integrity, toughness, intelligence, work ethic, accountability, dependability, and, most importantly, passion. If you don’t have passion, you can’t do this job.


On his team being 4-4 at midseason and if he’s surprised

I expected this. When we turned this roster over from last year, we turned over 27 of 53 players. The players that are still here, they have the “make up”. They’re good players and they have a lot of pride; guys like Channing Crowder and Renaldo Hill. I can’t say enough about what they’ve been able to do to help this program turn around.


On what they saw in Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford

Both of those guys are “make up” guys. Merling was a junior coming out of Clemson. We felt like he was a pressure player, a guy who could pressure the quarterback from a “5” technique (from the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle) or a “4” technique (nose to nose with the offensive tackle). We knew he was going to get bigger and grow. When you have someone who can pressure a player from the “4” technique or the “5” technique, that’s kind of rare. We felt he could do that and play the run. He probably needs a bit more work in the run game than maybe Langford does. Langford is a young guy out of a small school (Hampton). He played in a 4-3 scheme same as Merling. Langford is tough, highly competitive. His motor never stops. He’s big and he’s going to get bigger.


On whom he’s watching right now in college that’s impressed him

I don’t know if Dolphin fans are going to like what I’m about to say here, but I really enjoy watching Alabama play. I really do admire Nick Saban. I think his program is going in the right direction. I was just down there a couple of weeks ago, and they have a couple of prospects that just play hard, with a lot of passion and discipline and accountability. They’re smart football players. It’s nice to know they’ve been through a program as tough as that one. I was at LSU the other day, too. LSU’s got some players in the same boat as (Alabama). I was at Missouri this week and they certainly have some good players. The college game is all about projection. You have to project these players in a Dolphin uniform. Free agency is about production.


On the trades for Akin Ayodele, Anthony Fasano, and Jason Ferguson

We were in talks with Jerry and Stephen Jones probably a week to a week-and-a-half prior to the draft. We had targeted a couple of players on the Dallas Cowboys and we were able to get three of them.


On positions he will target in 2009 Draft

You’ve got to let the chips fall where they are. We didn’t go into the (2008) draft saying we were going to draft three defensive linemen and two offensive linemen. That’s the way the board was stacked, that’s what the strengths were in the draft. You draft the best players on the board that fit. Every draft is different. We don’t stack the board with 257 players. We stack the board with less than 150 players. We actually draft horizontally, by position. So you might have a tackle with the same grade as a receiver, with the same grade as a safety, with the same grade as a quarterback. So if they’re all a similar player (grade-wise), you can bypass certain players because of need.


On Chad Pennington and his impact

Chad has obviously made a tremendous impact from Day One. If you remember, the media was pretty hard on the receiving position going into training camp, prior to Chad getting here. Automatically, almost immediately, the receivers got better when Chad got here. And that’s not because they faster or they got open quicker. It’s because they got the ball on the right stride, or the right hip, or the right shoulder, or wherever it needs to be. It was accurate, on time. He throws a really catchable ball. He’s a leader...in the locker room, on the field, everywhere.


On if he anticipated Chad Pennington being released by the NY Jets

It came to our mind. You knew (the Jets) couldn’t handle the cap hit that Chad had and Brett so we knew they would have to do something there. Obviously we felt good about him because he knew the division so well. He had a pretty good record in the division. Those (players) don’t fall off the tree very often and when they do there’s a race to get to that acorn.


On why Pennington chose the Dolphins over other teams

Talking to Chad’s agent, there was obviously some interest from other teams, but I don’t know much interest there was. I know it meant a lot to him to be with Dan Henning (Dolphins offensive coordinator) again and to have an opportunity to start and play. I said to (Pennington), “Look, we’re going to give you an opportunity to earn the position.” He said, “That’s all I want”.


On his long term expectations for the young wide receivers

We’re one of the 3-4 youngest teams because we have guys like Devone Bess and Brandon London and our draft class. It’s hard to say what their long term outcome is going to be. Those guys are smart. London is a highly competitive kid; he’s making a difference on special teams. Bess can return punts and do a lot of things. You’ve heard Coach (Sparano) say ‘the more you can do, the more plays you can play, that’s our big thing’. London and Bess do that. I think they have a chance to have a more integral part as we go down the line.


On any interest in signing DeAngelo Hall

Not a whole lot to be honest with you.


On what convinced him to keep Ricky Williams

Ricky’s a good football player, first and foremost. We said when we first got here that we were going to evaluate everybody. Everybody was going to (start out) 0-0. Ricky came in and he knew it was 0-0 and he worked his tail off. I’ve known about Ricky for a long time. I scouted him during his time at Texas. He came in here, he’s a professional, he knows how to take care of his business, he knows how to finish plays. He struck us as a guy we’d like to keep around here and give another chance. He just did everything right. We weren’t going to look back and (dwell) on what he did wrong. We obviously know it. It’s in the back of our heads. We’re aware of it.


On Tony Sparano and the team’s turnaround

What I’m kind of surprised about is how quickly Coach (Tony) Sparano has been able to help this team turnaround, how quickly the culture in this building has changed. I think that’s kind of rare. I can’t tell you how proud of Tony I am. That’s one tough guy there. Someone asked me ‘what are you looking for in a head coach?’ before I got here. I said, “I’m looking for a captain, for a guy to lead us”. Someone said, ‘well, are you looking for a shrimp boat captain or a battleship commander?’. Obviously we were looking for a battleship commander and that’s what we got in Tony.


On if he’s considered bringing in a kickoff specialist to help the coverage teams

No, I haven’t. I think Dan Carpenter has been able to do from a distance and hang time standpoint is pretty good. I’d say it’s in the top half of the league in terms of hang time and distance. I think our problem with kickoffs is that we need to develop a different mentality going down (on kicks). Carpenter’s doing his job. Now, he’s got to keep it on the right side of the field. When it’s supposed to be a deep right (kick), it needs to be deep right, not deep left.

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