October 25, 2014

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE -- The Miami Dolphins have not won two consecutive games this season.

Until Sunday when they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Well, at least that's my prediction. That's my pick. I'm picking the 3-3 team over the 1-6 team.

What a gambler!

Anyway, consider the keys to the game:

When the Jaguars pass the football: In what initially was supposed to be a sit-and-learn season, Blake Bortles took over at quarterback from Chad Henne (remember him?) in Week Four. And since then he’s completed 100 passes, the third-most in the NFL over that four-game span. Bortles uses the check-down a lot, which is one reason he owns a 65.5 completion percentage. The Dolphins must try to get him to look further downfield because that’s where the turnovers come. Bortles has five TD passes and 10 interceptions. The Miami secondary is coming off a stellar outing against Chicago – having shut down Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. A unit that can contain that star-studded attack should be able to handle a rookie quarterback and a wide receivers corps that features three rookies. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Jaguars run the football: The Jaguars gave up on Maurice Jones-Drew in the offseason and committed to free agent Toby Gerhart as their primary ball carrier. Except that Gerhart suffered a foot injury against Pittsburgh two weeks ago and missed two games. The team is being cautious with his return. Former Deerfield Beach High star Denard Robinson is handling most of the duties at running back even though the Jaguars have former University of Miami player and washout Storm Johnson on the roster. The Dolphins struggled in run defense the first three weeks but have delivered three consecutive solid performances, including limiting the Bears to 52 rushing yards and a 3.7 yard per carry average last week. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the football: This attack is morphing from one that tried to connect on the deep pass with regularity (but could not) to one that concentrates on the short to intermediate routes – slants, quick outs, screens. That asks receivers to get open quickly and make a defender miss, but more importantly, it does not require quarterback Ryan Tannehill to hold the ball a long time or connect on long throws he has been known to struggle with that approach. As a result, Tannehill has increased his completion rate and the Dolphins are moving the chains more consistently through the air. The Jaguars don’t do a lot of things well on offense or defense and one of the things this team struggles with most is pass defense. The Jaguars are No. 30 in the league in pass defense. The Jaguars allowed over 320 yards passing in three of their games – all losses. The Jags do get to the passer effectively, ranking fifth in the NFL in sacks per pass play. Chris Clemons has a sack in three consecutive games. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins run the football: Ryan Tannehill has the team’s longest run each of the past two games. He is quickly becoming a dynamic threat that must be respected as a runner. What does that mean? Eventually teams will be looking for the quarterback keep on the read option and be caught flat-footed when Tannehill neither hands to the running back nor keeps, but instead throws. When the Dolphins are near the goal line, however, look for Lamar Miller to continue as a growing part of the plan as he has scored a touchdown in three consecutive games from inside the red zone after not scoring at all the first three games of the season. The Jags defense has been solid both on the ground and through the air while in the red zone, allowing only two touchdowns in opponents’ last 13 red zone trips. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: Brandon Fields is having a nightmare season so far. His gross punting average is 31st in the NFL among 32 punters and his net average is last among 32 punters. The net average is obviously affected by Miami’s struggles covering punts as well as Fields’ own inconsistency. The Dolphins are also hoping kicker Caleb Sturgis, who had a kick blocked and missed another kick wide right last week, can get his act straightened out. Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee is good enough that he takes up an entire page of notes on the team’s game release. He has the most career FGs in club history, he has seven career game-winning FGs, his 92 percent success rate is second in club history and he’s connected on 23 of 38 kicks from 50 yards or more. ADVANTAGE: Jacksonville.

Coaching: Gus Bradley has an infectious attitude. He is optimistic, energetic, and comes with a solid resume as a defensive coordinator and assistant coach. But in his second in Jacksonville, Bradley is 5-18 (.217 winning percentage). Not good enough. Joe Philbin and his staff are coming off one of their finest performances. They took a disappointed and likely dispirited team following a tough Green Bay loss and got them ready to play and play well within one week. The result was a fine win at Chicago. Miami coaches helped erase physical mismatches against their defensive backs and offensive linemen. And they got their team to play with consistency. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

October 24, 2014

NFL trade deadline: Miami Dolphins possiblities

The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday and unless I miss my guess, the day will likely come and go without a blockbuster to shake things up. That's the NFL, where significant midseason trades simply don't happen very often.

But let us dig deeper on the Miami Dolphins. I have no information whether they are shopping anyone or shopping for anyone. But my guess (again) is it would be somewhat difficult for Miami to get rid of some weight based on who they might offer, salary cap ramifications and, of course, compensation.

Three players the Dolphins could logically decide they would trade for the right compensation?

Wide receiver Brandon Gibson.

Guard Shelley Smith.

Defensive end Dion Jordan.

Again, I'm not saying these guys are on the trade block. I'm saying that if someone comes along and makes an attractive offer for any of these, logic dictates the Dolphins would listen. And there are logical reasons to consider each as viable on the trade market.

Consider:

Gibson was a healthy scratch in last week's game. He has lost his starting slot receiver job to rookie Jarvis Landry. Landry is the future. And Gibson is one year removed from patellar tendon surgery on one of his knees. So for a wide receiver needy team, he might be somewhat attractive in that he's experienced, he's not a diva, and he might come cheaply -- perhaps a sixth or seventh round pick.

For the Dolphins, trading Gibson might make sense because he is redundant on the roster as a receiver and he cannot get active because he does not play special teams. He has been passed on the depth chart. And the major purpose he serves is as insurance against an injury to one of the four guys ahead of him. If he goes, the Dolphins would still have five receivers in Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams.

So offer him to the New York Giants. Their slot receiver Victor Cruz just went down for the year.

The cost of trading Gibson? It would offer a cap savings this year that could be carried over to next year. There would be dead money left on the books, too. But the move would ultimately help the cap by up to $1.7 million this year. By the way, if the Dolphins cut Gibson next year with a post June 1 designation, they can pocket a $3.26 million cap savings.

Dion Jordan: This is not an outrageous idea, primarily because there is always interest in a pass-rushing lineman or linebacker and Jordan can be either in the right system. Also, the Philadelphia Eagles approached the Dolphins about making a Jordan trade last offseason. Also, Jordan is young (only in his second season).

Why would the Dolphins do this? I don't believe they would barring a stellar offer and, you must recognize no one makes a stellar offer at this time of year. There would be no way the Dolphins would get back comparable compensation for what they invested in Jordan, which was not just a first-round pick but a high No. 1.

No one is going to give a first-round pick for Jordan. I don't think his value now is even a second round pick.

Why? Again, people are looking for bargains. Jordan is unproven. He is coming off two suspensions for violating the NFL drug policy on performance enhancing drugs and the NFL substance of abuse policy. That's the double play of drug policies Jordan ran afoul of. Not good, despite the fact he now says he's "drug free." The truth is Jordan faces an extended suspension of up to one year for his next strike in the substance abuse regimen. So that taints him in a trade scenario.

Then there is this: The Dolphins would have to be blown away (pardon the pun) by a trade offer to consider moving Jordan because the move is a salary cap nightmare. Trading Jordan at this point would leave nearly $10 million in dead money on Miami's books. Even trading him next offseason would be a $1,060,209 cap hinderance when you do the math on the $6,607,836 in dead money minus the scheduled $5,610,627 cap cost that would come off the books. It would be a negative cap move for the Dolphins to trade Jordan even in 2015.

It's four times worse now. Literally.

Trading Jordan doesn't become a cap savings move until 2016. And, remember, such a move is not done in a vacuum. The Dolphins would want appropriate top compensation for Jordan now to take the cap hit. I seriously doubt anyone would be so desperate as to make such an offer for a player who is unproven and whose reputation off the field is now questionable.

Then there is Shelley Smith. Believe me, this would not be a blockbuster. Smith is a reserve lineman who has been a reserve lineman throughout his career. The Dolphins believing he could morph into a starter apparently included a little wishful thinking.

Yet Smith is making better-than-backup money. His cap number this year is $2.5 million and next year it goes to $3 million. I'd be shocked the Dolphins would carry Smith on the roster next year for $3 million unless he wins a starting job coming out of training camp.

I would not be shocked if they simply cut him after June 1 and took the $2.75 million cap savings that would bring. But for now, it might also make sense to deal Smith for a seventh-rounder and take the cap savings of over $1 million this year that could be carried over into next year.

You get a late round pick and a million bucks in cap savings for trading a second- or third-stringer.

Yeah, I doubt anyone out there bites.

Same applies to outside linebacker Phillip Wheeler. Trading him would saddle the Dolphins with approximately $10 million in dead money. His cap number (with him here) would go up (with him traded away). And no one is going to pay for Phillip Wheeler's services to any significant degree because no one will want to take on the horrible contract the Dolphins gave Wheeler in 2013.

So this is not happening, folks. More likely the Dolphins simply cut Wheeler after June 1 next offseason and save $3 million against the cap.

So what if the Dolphins go shopping for help?

Firstly, I think the Dolphins have a pretty solid roster as it stands. Jeff Ireland laid parts of a good foundation and Dennis Hickey has in one year done an outstanding job of adding to it. I'm writing a Sunday column on the topic that will post Saturday so please watch for that.

But if this team fancies itself a playoff contender and a trade deadline buyer, perhaps upgrading at running back or linebacker or maybe even cornerback might help. I'm not talking giving a first-, second-, third-, or fourth-round pick for anyone because I doubt anyone worthy of that compensation is available.

But a reserve corner who is an upgrade over Jamar Taylor or Will Davis? That would be good.

A big RB who could offer a change of pace to Lamar Miller? That would be good.

Tuesday is the trade deadline.    

October 23, 2014

New opponent, new challenge for Miami Dolphins coaches

Every week is a test for any NFL coaching staff and just as the Green Bay game was a test for Miami Dolphins coaches (which they failed) and the Chicago game was a test for Dolphins coaches (which they aced with flying colors), Sunday's game will be a test for Dolphins coaches.

But unlike the Green Bay debacle and the wonderful work done in the Chicago victory, this game offers different challenges for the coaching staff.

This game tests coaches' ability to set a goal and have the team attain it.

That goal this week?

Coach Joe Philbin laid it out in the minutes following the Chicago victory in the locker room: Win two in a row. Get on a roll. The Dolphins have not yet done that this season.

"Obviously, we had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago and lost the game on the second to last play of the game," Philbin said, referencing the Green Bay loss. "We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to finish games better. Certainly, we haven’t done it yet and until we do it’s one of the challenges we’ve got to meet as a football team."

The challenge this week comes with a benefit and burden.

The benefit is the Dolphins face one of the worst teams in the NFL. Jacksonville is 1-6. Jacksonville has a rookie starting quarterback. Jacksonville has two rookie starting receivers. Jacksonville doesn't score many points. Jacksonville's defense, meanwhile, is 27th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed.

So the Jaguars seem to be easy pickins' on paper.

The burden?

Getting a football team coming off two emotional games in a row -- one in a loss and one in a great victory -- to take their preparation and the Jaguars seriously.

It is the coaching staff's job, in other words, to make sure the team suffers no letdown against an inferior opponent.

That's what Philbin has been trying to do. And the way he's doing it is by trying to convince his players to understand that Jaguars can hurt them if the door is opened.

"Really what I said to the team is just watch the film," the coach said. "Two weeks ago, I studied, usually all of the close games in the NFL from the prior week and I watched their team line up to potentially kick the game-winning field goal against Tennessee to put their team in position to win.

"Last week, they won by 18 points. Their defense the last few weeks I think is averaging giving up 13 points a game or something like that. They’ve got a young quarterback. I didn’t even really talk about the record so much as just watch the tape. These guys are improving. They’re a good football team."

The Dolphins need to win this game because they see themselves as much more than a .500 team. Unfortunately their vision of themselves is worthless unless the record actually states they're better than .500 and right now it doesn't do that.

So winning at Jacksonville would help confirm what the Dolphins thinks of themselves. For the coaches, meanwhile, getting the team above .500 and staying there is important to their job security. Not that Philbin is too worried about that.

"Not at all," he said. "Again, when you coach, I’ve coached at all different levels, college football and in the National Football League, and I’ve always approached it as a one game at a time mentality. It’s certainly a privilege to be the coach of the Miami Dolphins. Really we’re just focused on playing a team, I think Gus (Bradley) is doing a great job up there, and his team is improving.

" I think they have the fewest penalties in the National Football League. They’re playing great red zone defense. They’re doing a lot of good things up there. I’m concerned about getting our guys ready to play as well as they can Sunday at one o’clock."

 

October 22, 2014

Joe Philbin answers media questions

Joe Philbin believes the deep ball is coming for his Miami Dolphins. He thinks Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is very talented. He believes practice squad running back (and possible future third-down back) LaMichael James is coming along nicely although the player may not necessarily know the entire offense yet.

How do I know he thinks all these things? Because he said so today.

This is everything he told the media today:

Opening statement) “A couple of things that we talked to the team about really improving, today was our third down day. That’s one area of our football team that we’ve really got to coach better, play better, execute better all the way around. That was kind of the focus today and certainly something as we move forward during the season we are going to have to do a much better job at both sides of the ball.”

(On how troubled he is about the punt and kickoff return coverage) “I think there are a lot of factors that go into it. Just like we talk about the passing game, we talk about protection and spacing and timing and accuracy and decision making. The kicking game, there’s a lot of it. There’s the kick, there’s coverage, there’s defeating blocks, there’s tackling, there’s spacing, there’s reading the blocking schemes. There’s a lot of things that go into it and there are things of where we are at statistically that we have some things we need to keep working on, get better at and correct. I wish I could say it was one thing.”

(On what he has seen from Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles and if there is any comparison to QB Ryan Tannehill’s rookie year) “I haven’t sat around and thought about that, but I guess the one thing I would say is I remember he didn’t start the game, I don’t believe, but I know he played in the preseason against Tampa Bay in the first preseason game, and we played Tampa Bay in the second. I remember watching and I remember saying, ‘Wow, this guy looks pretty good.’ I think he’s very talented and I think he can make all the different types of throws. He’s elusive. He’s got good pocket presence, so he’s doing a good job. We are going to have to play well to defend him. I really was very impressed with him the first time and I’ve seen some additional film since then. He’s come along nicely.”

 

(On if he is happy with the offensive line) “You always want to see more. You ways want to see improvement. You want to see development. This group that we have out there that we’ve had out there the last two weeks has been together two weeks. There’s certainly some positive things. It’s funny, I think I said this to you guys and I believe it, if you look at the stat sheet we did have four sacks. That’s not acceptable. That’s too many. Yet at the same point in time a lot of the pass attempts are as clean of a pocket as we’ve had all year. There’s certainly a lot of room for development and that’s why we practice. That’s why we want it to translate to the game.”

(On what he likes about what the offensive line is doing now) “I think they are smart guys. I think they are tough. I think they are passionate about football. That’s what I really like the most about them.”

(On how important footwork is for a quarterback) “I think it helps. I think it contributes to them. Like anything else, you’ve seen quarterbacks that have had great success in this league that maybe don’t adhere to the same precise fundamental footwork. But I think as a starting point, I think it’s very important. I think for young quarterbacks it’s very important and it’s something we certainly spend a lot of time, Zac (Taylor), Ben (Johnson) and Bill (Lazor) spend a lot of time emphasizing with all the quarterbacks. I think it can only help you.”

(On if there are some quarterbacks that throw better on the move) “Oh, I’m sure. I think that’s fair to say, yeah. I think if you study different guys, I think just in my experience some do throw better on the ball on the move than others, sure.”

(On how encouraging it was to see QB Ryan Tannehill take adversity from a few weeks ago and channel it into playing at a higher level) “You want the players, as the season progresses, you want to see improvement and development out of everybody at all position. You want the units to improve. Again, I think that’s the encouraging thing about our football team the last few weeks is I think we improved in a lot of different areas. Certainly, his performance has helped that. Some of the guys around him, their performance has helped that. I think it’s good. I think he is playing well and we are looking forward to him playing well again.”

(On what it says about a quarterback that can get through a difficult time) “Inevitably if you are in the game long enough or you walk on the planet long enough, you are going to have things happen to you that maybe you didn’t plan on happening, didn’t want to have happen, and you have to deal with them. I think that happens, and that is part of the maturation of all us I think at various points in time. I’m sure you’ve had some in your career.”

(On the place the read option has in the offense at this point) “It’s a part of the offense. It’s something that can be a positive thing. It’s not rocket science. It’s not the magic pill, but it’s something that we’ve utilized game-by-game based on how our opponents line up and how we anticipate them playing that particular scheme. One week could be emphasized more than another. Some weeks may not be, but I think it is something defenses have to spend some time on tape to demonstrate the ability to at times run it effectively. I think that’s going to devote some practice time to it.”

(On his reaction to seeing QB Ryan Tannehill carry defenders attempting to tackle him on his long run against Chicago) “I loved that. I thought it was great. I think he, after contact, got contact at after 12 yards. I think he was smart. He had good ball security at that point in time and was able to drag guys. Those types of runs, we showed the whole team just the running backs, the tight ends and the wide receivers, when you break tackles or carry guys five, six, seven, eight extra yards, I think it’s a momentum building for the whole team.”

(On if QB Ryan Tannehill is under rules to slide whenever possible) “Not in that situation. He was fine. If somebody is coming straight on or what we would call a vice tackle where guys are coming at him from two different angles, then certainly we would want him to go down.”

(On if he hesitates using the word trap game when playing a team with only one win) “Yeah, I do. As I’ve said and I definitely said to the football team, it’s really you have to watch the film. The film says that this team is improving dramatically over the last three weeks that we’re playing. Again, I think their defense is averaging giving up 13 points a game the last three weeks. You give up 13 points a game in the National Football League, you are giving your team usually a pretty good chance to win every single time you go out. I think they have a tremendous red zone defense. They’ve got a bunch of sacks on defense. They have a young quarterback. They are the least penalized team in the NFL, if I’m not mistaken, or close to it. There’s a lot of indications that Coach (Gus) Bradley and his staff are doing a great job up there. Their team is getting better, there’s no doubt about it. I haven’t really brought up the record. What I talked about was watch the tape. There’s enough there on tape that we have to get ready and we have to play well.”

(On if he feels like he has to limit the times he calls the read option in fears of QB Ryan Tannehill taking a big hit) “Not necessarily. We have to do whatever we have to do to move the ball in the game. If we feel like that’s the best way to do it, then we will call it a bunch of times. If a team defends it awful well and we don’t seem to have the answers to get it going, we probably aren’t going to call it a whole lot. We haven’t put any restrictions, limits. It’s hard to predict. I said last week, if you would have asked me last week, I would have said we probably are going to be handing the ball off all day. Things change when you get to the game.”

(On if RB LaMichael James knows the offense yet) “He’s coming along. I think he’s coming along pretty well. I can’t speak to say that he knows 100 percent of it, all of it, but he’s a bright guy, he’s been diligent. He’s done a good job so far.”

(On how DE Dion Jordan looked today) “I was encouraged by the way he moved around again. I thought he’s had two good days of work so far. That was positive.”

(On if C Samson Satele has exceeded expectations since the team picked him up especially with moving Mike Pouncey to guard) “I don’t know if it was part of the plan, but I don’t know that it wasn’t part of the plan. I think you just deal with things day-to-day and you learn more about a player. We certainly didn’t know a lot about him. He’s come here. We like the way he goes about his business in the building. We like the way he’s performed on the field. He’s a good guy in the locker room. We’ve just kind of taken it one day at a time and he’s done a nice job so far.”

(On if there is anything that has changed about WR Mike Wallace’s game that has made him more of a possession receiver) “The biggest thing I’ve noticed is just his work ethic around here, his comfort around here, I just think he feels better about being a Miami Dolphin. I know that sounds crazy, but I think it’s translated and helped him on the field. I really do. He’s got five touchdowns in six games. What did he have five all of last year maybe? Who knows what the future holds, but I like the way he’s contributing. I like the energy that he is bringing. He’s practiced hard. He’s been running hard in practice and working on the timing with everybody, with the whole passing game. I can’t really pinpoint one thing necessarily other than I just like the way he’s going about his business more and I think all of that stuff, at the end of the day, counts for something.”

(On if he thinks the deep ball is coming) “It’s coming, it’s coming.”

(On the moment in the Chicago Bears game where WR Mike Wallace made him smile on the sideline) “It was good, it was a good conversation. Again, his enthusiasm has been great, his energy has been great. I think I told him, I’ve got to cut this conversation off because I’ve got some other things to do. It was a positive conversation, it was good.”

(On RB Lamar Miller and his strong start and him not having as high a rushing average as he did in the first four weeks) “Let’s face it, our tailbacks, our running back I guess since we’re not in the I-Formation anymore, so I can’t call him a tailback, but our running back position, especially last week, I think averaging three and half between Daniel (Thomas) and he. Again, you’ve got to credit Chicago. We’ve got to do a little bit better. I don’t think it’s anything specific that Lamar hasn’t done, we’ve just got to pop him free a little bit more, give him some more opportunities. One of the things we’ve talked about is and one of the reasons I mentioned earlier that we showed the clip of Ryan (Tannehill) running is we want him to get to the secondary level, whether it be against a nickel back, a safety, a corner. I said it to him again on the field today, we’re going to get you to pop loose there and really break one and show your speed. It would be great for him, great for the offense obviously and the team. Hopefully that will happen.”

Miami Dolphins kicker and punter in the crosshairs

Tuesday was not a wonderful day at work for Miami Dolphins kicking specialists Caleb Sturgis and Brandon Fields. That's because their boss called them out for jobs not too well done so far this NFL season.

Coach Joe Philbin singled out Sturgis during a team meeting, in front of all the other players, for missing a field goal in Chicago last weekend.

The coach was also asked during his press conference about his punter Fields having a suprisingly poor season kicking the ball so far and Philbin didn't mask the fact something is wrong there.

It was eye-opening because the coach often covers for some players.

Not this time.

Sturgis is connecting on only 78.6 percent of his kicks so far this season. That's 28th in the NFL out of 32 kickers. From 30 yards on out, Sturgis is 6 of 9 (66.6) and that is also not a good mark.

Sturgis had a 32-yard attempt blocked in Chicago. But it was the missed 50-yarder that drew unwanted attention for Sturgis.

"We told him today, we were in the team meeting today and we said we’ve got to make those field goals," Philbin said. "We kind of went through that sequence where we took a sack and knocked ourselves back, and made the field goal more difficult.

"That being said, I said to him right there in the whole team meeting, we’ve got to make those field goals. He knows that and I suspect that he will work at it and he’ll get better at it."

Sturgis is in his second year and hasn't yet lived up to the No. 5 draft pick the Dolphins invested on him last season. So the fact the coach called him out in a team meeting and then shared that fact publicly is not terribly shocking.

This is:

Fields, arguably the best punter the Dolphins have ever had, is having a terrible season so far. And Philbin didn't argue the point Tuesday.

"Early on we got the punt blocked in Buffalo," Philbin said. "He just hasn’t looked as comfortable quite yet back there, as he has in the two years that I’ve been here, the previous two years. I’m confident he’ll work his way through it and he’ll get back to being the outstanding punter that we all know.

"For his standards, it’s not quite what we’re used to. I think he would acknowledge that, but I’m very, very confident that he’ll get back to that soon."

Fields has a long way to go to get back because his 43.3 gross average this year is 31st in the NFL out of 32 punters. His average is the worst he's had since his rookie year in 2007 and, amazingly, it is only one yard better than his 2013 net average of 42.4.

As for the net average this year?

It's 31.8. That is dead last in the NFL. That is so bad it is nearly four yards worse than the next worst net average. Oh, and it is the worst of Fields' career by four yards.

Yes, long way back.

October 21, 2014

Miami Dolphins DE Dion Jordan: 'I'm drug free'

Dion Jordan talked to the press for the first time since he began serving his initial suspension (for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances) and the first time since being popped and saddled with a second suspension (for violating the NFL substance abuse policy). The interview session was a mixed bag.

He declined to admit he underwent treatment at a rehab facility, although that's exactly what happened. But he was unequivocal in telling you -- Dolphins fans everywhere -- you should feel confident about one thing:

"I think they should be confident I'm drug free," Jordan said. "Yes, I'm very confident."

Jordan also admited "I made a mistake."

Well, that's good.

Jordan was not quite so direct when asked if he underwent treatment at a rehabilitation facility.

"Man, honestly, I had to take time for myself," Jordan said when asked to confirm his stint in rehab. "That's what I did. I wasn't able to be around the guys so my whole thing was go back and be around people familiar to me who keep me grounded. That's what I did and I stayed in shape and I'm thankful that once I got back the Miami Dolphins everyone within the organization took me in and allowed me to get back into my normal routine so when it was time to step on the field I was back to where I was."

Huh?

Anyway, Jordan doesn't think now that he's back he's getting something of a second chance.

"I can't call it that," Jordan said. "I'm not looking back at what happened. It's no point in me doing that. I'm moving on and that's all I can do. I  have the ability to contribute to this organization and that's what I'm going to do."

Jordan does believe he "bettered myself" and "came back with a clear mind" and "took care of my business." Bottom line, Jordan feels he's in good surroundings now.

 "It feels really good to be back and get back into the swing of things and being around my teammates; getting back to my normal routine and what I'm used to," he said.

Dion Jordan working as are Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are back working and so is Dion Jordan today.

Jordan, on the exemption list now, does not count on the 53-man roster but he is able to practice with the team. And that's what he's doing but the much anticipated ways defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the team could easily find uses for Jordan somewhat disappoints me so far.

Today, Jordan was incorporated into the kickoff coverage team, picking up where he left off as he was on the kickoff coverage team all last year and the preseason.

Today, Jordan worked with the defensive linemen because, well, he's a defensive lineman.

But during the open portion of practice at least there was no evidence Jordan was going to get snaps with the linebackers where he might start working as a strongside backer. Miami's linebacker corps continues to be Koa Misi in the middle and Jelani Jenkins and Phillip Wheeler outside.

Me: :-(

As you may know I have advocated using Jordan as a strongside linebacker.

Some other notes from practice:

Misi and CB Brent Grimes, who were not able to finish Sunday's game due to injuries, were back practicing today and showing no signs of injury. They practiced at least on a limited basis as the media is not able to view the entire practice.

Brandon Gibson, out the last two weeks, is back at practice today and working at least on a limited basis.

Jimmy Wilson, who missed last week due to a hamstring injury, is not practicing today.

 

The PFF and Salguero rewind of the Bears win

Glad tidings on the scoreboard typically translate to good grades for the Miami Dolphins from my friends at ProFootballFocus.com and this week is no different.

The Dolphins beat the Chicago Bears and the film rewind of the victoy was kind to Miami.

Here are some nuggets:

Offensive Summary

RB Damien Williams saw the first snaps in relief of Lamar Miller, but Daniel Thomas ultimately played more, holding a 24-5 snap count advantage over Williams. Miller handled 43 of 71 snaps.

The Dolphins played plenty of 12 personnel protecting the lead in the second half, but Jarvis Landry saw 42 snaps and looks entrenched as the starter in the slot for now. Brandon Gibson, meanwhile, was inactive for his second consecutive game.

In what’s already been a dominant year for LT Branden Albert, he recorded his highest grade (+6.9) of the season, excelling in the run game (+4.4) and silencing Jared Allen and Willie Young in the pass rush. Young led the NFL in sacks before this game.

Passing

QB Ryan Tannehill had a clean pocket, with no pressure on 27 of his 36 drop-backs. He was 23-for-27 with 239 yards and 2 TDs on those drop-backs.

With a clean pocket, Tannehill was able to look down the field a little more. On passes travelling 10-19 yards downfield he was 6-of-8 for 78 yards and the pair of scores.

The shot down the field and the bomb have apparently been benched by the Dolphins. The team simply doesn't try them recently. Tannehill was 1-of-3 for 25 yards on passes of 20-plus yards downfield.

Rushing

The primary success in the running game came behind Albert. Miller attempted six runs behind his left tackle, producing 32 yards.

Miller is doing a better job not going down on first contact. He posted 38 yards after contact, his second highest number of the season, despite just 63 yards overall on the ground.

Receiving

The Dolphins were able to take advantage of TE Charles Clay’s matchups with the Chicago LBs. Three of Clay's four catches and 46 of his 58 yards came against Shea McClellan and Khaseem Greene, including his TD catch.

Tannehill attacked Greene at will, targeting him the most of any Bears defender. Clay, Miller, Thomas and Williams caught seven of eight targets for 79 yards, with the lone miss being a drop by Miller on a check-down.

Defensive Summary

DE Cameron Wake continues to make right tackles look silly. In addition to his sack-fumble-recovery, Wake tallied three hurries and made two more stops in the run game.

Michael Thomas and Jamar Taylor split nickel corner duties in Jimmy Wilson’s absence. Thomas played 26 snaps as slot corner, while Taylor played 19 snaps at right corner, kicking Finnegan to the slot in those instances. Taylor struggled giving up two penalties.

Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi were the nickel LBs for most of the day, with Philip Wheeler joining them in the base. Misi couldn’t finish the game out and Jason Trusnik and Wheeler manned the nickel on the final drive.

Brent Grimes couldn’t finish out the game either, leaving on the final drive. The three DBs to close the game at corner were Finnegan at RCB, Thomas in the slot, and Taylor at LCB.

The Dolphins did not report any injuries for either Grimes or Misi so it will be interesting to see if both players practice on Tuesday.

Coverage

Despite allowing six catches on nine targets for 67 yards and a score, Cortland Finnegan bounced back from his very poor Week Six. He broke up two passes: one in the end-zone near the end of the game to Brandon Marshall and another on a deep-ball to Alshon Jeffery.

Besides the interception, safety Reshad Jones broke up two passes and allowed two catches on 4 targets.

After shadowing Jordy Nelson last week, Brent Grimes was back at his left corner position. Bears QB Jay Cutler targeted him just three times, resulting in two catches for 8 yards. Excellent work by Grimes and the people up front who rushed Cutler.

October 20, 2014

Consistency by the Miami Dolphins a significant step

CHICAGO -- Inconsistency has been the bugaboo for the Dolphins this year. Everyone knows that. Everyone has come to expect it.

And one game of consistency does not change everything, as I write in my column today. By the way, I also take you into the Dolphins locker room and into the Bears' locker room immediately after the game. Let's just say there was a vastly different vibe from each place.

Anyway, the consistency (or lack thereof) by the Dolphins this season has been galling. Except on Sunday the Dolphins gave us their most consistent performance of the season.

Consider:

Miami scored seven points in the first quarter.

And seven points in the second quarter.

And seven points in the third quarter.

And six points in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Tannehill was hot in the first half. And he was hot in the second half.

The defense caused turnovers in the first half. And caused turnovers in the second half.

The Jekyll and Hyde personality of the Dolphins was happily, thankfully missing this day.

So does that mean the Dolphins have found the answer to consistency going forward? I don't know. You don't know. I don't believe the Dolphins know. But at least the possibility is there because for the first time this season, we've seen a full offensive and defensive performance from this team throughout four quarters against a solid opponent.

Feel good about that. It is progress.

October 19, 2014

Miami Dolphins defeat Chicago Bears, 27-14

CHICAGO -- There were questions about this Miami Dolphins team before today.

Do they have an answer for last week's bitter defeat?

Can they save the season?

Can their defense stand up to a franchise quarterback?

The answer is this 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears.

The team that left the field so dejected and disappointed last week, the team whose players made Dolphins coach Joe Philbin coach "antsy" and feel "queasy" last week, delivered its most convincing performance since the season-opener.

(Yes, there was the Oakland victory but that was a victory over ... winless Oakland).

This performance in Soldier Field, against a playoff contender,

Ryan Tannehill delivered. He was 25 of 32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. His rating was 123.6. That's a career high rating for Tannehill.

The defense delivered. Jay Cutler was intercepted by Reshad Jones. That led to point. Cameron Wake had a strip sack and fumble recovery and that led to points. The defense focred another fumble by Dante Rosario and that would have led to points, too, except the attempt was blocked.

So yes, the defense did its part.

A loss would have been devestating today. This win?

It keeps open every possibility for the remainder of this season. 

Ryan Tannehill lighting up Bears in first half

CHICAGO -- The Dolphins are halfway to a much-needed victory at historic Solider Field, leading 14-0 so far, and the way they're doing it is quite simple really:

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is playing out of his mind.

Tannehill has completed 14 of 15 passes for 176 yards with two touchdown passes -- to Charles Clay and Mike Wallace. Tannehill started the game with 14 consecutive completions. His quarterback rating is 155.1.

It is such a convincing performance so far, it's easy to overlook the four sacks Tannehill has suffered.

The Miami defense, meanwhile, is also playing well.

The Bears have two first downs.

Two.

Live blog: Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears

CHICAGO -- Jimmy Wilson is not playing today. That's not a surprise as he was doubtful for this game. Samson Satele is active and will start at center so Mike Pouncey stays at right guard.

The other inactives:  Brandon Gibson, Shelley Smith, Jason Fox, Anthony Johnson, Billy Turner and Harold Hoskins.

If you have time before the game, check out my column on the importance of today's game (means everything) right here.

There's a live blog today. Go below:

 

Live Blog Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears: Oct. 19, 2014
 

October 18, 2014

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Bears

CHICAGO -- I don't think the Miami Dolphins can beat the Chicago Bears. I think the Dolphins can win Sunday's game at Soldier Field if the Bears help, by beating themselves.

But if the Bears don't beat themselves. If Jay Cutler doesn't throw interceptions. If the defense doesn't have coverage busts. If coach Marc Trestman doesn't make bonehead decisions ...

Bears win.

So I'm picking the Bears because I think the Dolphins are just as likely to make mistakes -- as has been their history this year.

Here are the keys to the game:

When the Bears pass the football: Brandon Marshall is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. Alshon Jeffery is 6-3 and 216 pounds. The Dolphins cornerbacks, meanwhile, are elves. Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, both 5-10, will be physically overmatched against Chicago’s starting receivers and to make matters worse, both defenders are coming off tough games against Green Bay last week. So do the Dolphins play more zone rather than matching up man-to-man as much as they tried to do last week? Do the Dolphins trying to integrate taller but less experienced Jamar Taylor into the mix in the nickel package? The issue is problematic. The only way around it is to address the passer and not so much the receivers. If the Dolphins’ defensive front, led by Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, can pressure quarterback Jay Cutler so much that he hasn’t the time to wait for his redwood receivers to come open, the Dolphins have a chance. Oh, by the way, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett is 6-6 and also a significant mismatch against Miami’s linebackers and safeties. ADVANTAGE: Chicago.

When the Bears run the football: The overall statistics say running back Matt Forte is an average runner, averaging 4-yards-per-carry. But at home, Forte is much better. He is averaging 99.7 yards rushing and a touchdown in the last five home games. In those games he is averaging 159.7 yards from scrimmage, including 60 passing yards per game. The Chicago offensive line is getting healthier. Michael Ola is back on the bench because Matt Slauson is healthy again. The Dolphins’ run defense has been ranked lower than the pass defense (13th vs. 7th) but it has actually been more consistent, offering solid resistance in all but one game -- against Kansas City. The important issue this game is for the Dolphins to be able to stop the Chicago running game without committing an extra defender into the tackle box. That defender can then be deployed against early-down passes. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins pass the football: Ryan Tannehill has to avoid the terrible start (he didn’t last week) or the inconsistency from half to half (he didn’t last week) because he truly does hold the key to his team winning – as most NFL quarterbacks do. When Tannehill posts a rating of 90-plus, the Dolphins are 13-1. So he must find a way to play well if not outplay Jay Cutler. One statistic that suggests this might happen is Tannehill has completed 69.4 percent of his passes the last two games. It would not shock to see more and more and more of Jarvis Landry because he is getting better and is the future at wide receiver for Miami. But the Dolphins have to also find a way to integrate Brian Hartline more into the offense because ignoring a two-time 1,000-yard receiver is no way to succeed. The Bears defense is not as strong as it once was – except against the pass it has players to be wary of. Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller leads the NFL with three interceptions and defensive end Willie Young leads the NFL with seven sacks. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: It is Lamar Miller’s show now. With Knowshon Moreno out for the season it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins commit more carries to Miller or instead keep Miller at his current rate of use (averaging 12 rushes per game) and give more carries to either rookie Damien Williams or Daniel Thomas. If the Dolphins are wise, they’ll do both. Miller, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, should rightly be a bigger part of a running game that should rightly be a bigger part of the offense. The Dolphins expect improvement from their offensive line, as Mike Pouncey, who started his first game last week, will get better. But again, this team must run the ball more often. Last week the Dolphins faced the No. 32 run defense in the NFL and ran the ball only 23 times while passing against a better pass defense 31 times. The Bears have the No. 10 rush defense in the NFL. So is Miami going to test them even less? That would be a mistake. By the way, Ryan Tannehill should run the football more often. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: The Dolphins have to do some serious improvement on both their punt return and punt coverage teams. The team is last in the NFL, yielding 15.7 yards per punt return. That average is obviously affected by last week’s crucial 17-yard return that set up the Packers at their own 40-yard line. That cannot continue in crunch situations. The Dolphins are not much better on kickoff coverage, yielding 28.2 yards per return, which is fifth worst in the NFL. The Bears, meanwhile, have covered kicks well. They’re No. 4 in the NFL on kickoff coverage. Chicago’s punt coverage isn’t quite as proficient, yielding 9.9 yards per punt return, which is seventh worst in the NFL. Miami punter Brandon Fields, who has averaged over 40 net yards per punt each of the last three seasons is averaging 31.3 net yards per punt this year, a career worst mark. Not good enough. ADVANTAGE: Chicago.

Coaching: Marc Trestman, a gifted offensive mind, has come a long way from being a Dolphins quarterback coach. He’s won a Grey Cup in the Canadian Football League and now has his own team. It is illustrative of how poor some of the decisions made by Dolphins coaches have been. In 2004, then head coach Dave Wannstedt wanted to promote Trestman to offensive coordinator but changed course when another assistant – offensive line coach Tony Wise – suggested there would be an offensive assistant mutiny as a result. Trestman was one of the most gifted coaches on the staff but had to stay in the shadows. The Dolphins stunk that year – Wannstedt’s last in Miami. What does that have to do with this game? Didn’t I mention Trestman is a gifted offensive coach? ADVANTAGE: Chicago.

October 17, 2014

Dion Jordan (around camp already) on cusp of return

Dion Jordan has been around the Miami Dolphins practice facility this week, according to a source, no doubt as he prepares to return from his second of two suspensions he has served to start this season.

Jordan, about to begin his second season, is eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, one day after the team plays the Chicago Bears.

Too bad this added suspension without pay for violating the NFL's Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse kept Jordan out of the lineup against Chicago. The Dolphins could definitely use him.

Indeed, Jordan would be the perfect matchup aganst Chicago 6-6 tight end Martellus Bennett. Indeed, Jordan would have been the perfect matchup against Green Bay 6-4 tight end Andrew Quarless last week, but don't get me started.

Why would a defensive end be a good candidate to match up with those tight ends, you ask?

Well, because I think it is time to bring the curtain down on the idea that Jordan is a hands-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive end. He's obviously capable of being much more than that. Yes, he can rush the passer. But he's got the speed and the skill set to run with tight ends.

(Note to self: Do not go into the Dolphins should run the 3-4 defense rant).

Remember last season Jordan did exactly what I'm saying in New England, running step-for-step with Rob Gronkowski? Afterward he told me he felt comfortable doing it. He told me it was easy.

Well, if it is easy, perhaps the Dolphins should consider allowing the Jordan return to signal a new start for the player. How about the team that is dangerously low on linebackers to the point Phillip Wheeler, who is not necessarily great in coverage, is still starting, make a bold move and use Jordan at strongside linebacker?

After all, I'm told by a couple of people in the know that former general manager Jeff Ireland considered Jordan capable of playing strongside linebacker when he was drafted. It was to be part of the plan for Jordan, I'm told.

But Jordan spent a large majority of his too few rookie plays at defensive end. There were excuses for that. Jordan was injured during the offseason and so he couldn't get into the offseason program. He was injured most of training camp and so he couldn't get a lot of practice in. And by the time the season started, Jordan was pretty much behind with little chance to develop and catch up.

Guess what?

There will be plenty of excuses for this move to not happen again this year. The kid just spent the past six weeks on the suspension shelf. It's just easier putting him into the part-time pass rush rotation and telling him to simply chase the guy who throws the football.

Who's going to complain if that happens? After all, it was Jordan's fault he hasn't been available to get coached up on a new spot, first for violating the performance enhancing drug policy and then the substances of abuse policy.

Well, that suspension is now history. This has to be about the view ahead not behind.

This has to be also about doing the most impactful thing rather than the easy thing.

And as strengthening the strongside linebacker spot we all saw is a weakness is the most impactful thing, that's what I wish would happen. To me, a linebacker corps of Jelani Jenkins at weakside, Koa Misi in the middle and Jordan at strongside is more athletic and a better option than having Wheeler in there instead of Jordan.

Will it take work? Sure. But why do you think they pay so well?

Coaches that are getting a ton of money (relatively) should work at making a gifted and underused athlete who is making a ton of money (by any standard) work on fitting a clear need.

Do I expect it can happen immediately? Like against Jacksonville next week? Probably not. But work at it. Develop this guy. He's worth it.

And the Dolphins defense could definitely use the upgrade.

October 16, 2014

Pouncey will improve ... So Miami Dolphins should run more

Mike Pouncey had not played a game in 10 months so, yes, he was nervous on the eve of his season-debut against the Green Bay Packers.

“I was nervous. I woke up that morning like at 4:30 in the morning," Pouncey said Wednesday. "I had a bunch of family in town, so I just expressed to them how nervous I was. I felt like I was a rookie all over again. But once I got out there after that first snap, it was just great to be back out there. I felt back to normal."

No.

Not back to normal.

Normal for the past three seasons has been playing center. Normal has been getting in a training camp and preseason. Normal has been not waiting until October (Week 6 of the season) to play in a season debut.

And that's really good. Because as Mike Pouncey's season becomes, shall we say, more normal, we might see his level of play become much better -- maybe to the Pro Bowl heights we saw at times in recent years.

Remember, when I first wrote about Pouncey possibly making a change from center to guard on Sept. 28, he told me he could be a Pro Bowl guard. Well, let's go ...

"I did all right," Pouncey said of his performance. "But I hold myself to a high standard and I’ve got to play a lot better than I did."

Pouncey's history suggests he will be better. And that is where I think the Dolphins can turn this into a part of a season-helping (saving?) idea:

Look, Even when the right guard spot was an abyss -- with one mediocre guy playing for a while until he got hurt and was replaced by another mediocre player -- the Dolphins were running the football pretty well.

The team is No. 3 in rushing yards per attempt at 5.0. The team is ranked No. 6 in rushing yards per game at 136.2. And these impressive rankings despite the fact the team is No 15, or middle of the pack, in rushing attempts per game at 27.4.

So you know what I think?

With an improving OL, because Pouncey will likely be better with every passing game at RG and rookie RT Ja'Wuan James is improving as well, with Lamar Miller so far showing he deserves more carries, and with the passing game being mostly inconsistent, I think the Dolphins should run the football more.

Much more.

They should be run-first, if that's what it takes. 

Obviously, what they've been doing in mixing more passes than runs hasn't exactly worked to a great degree. Why not do what you do better more often, especially when your personnel to do that thing you do better is, well, getting better?

It is just an idea. 

October 15, 2014

Marshall trade was bad for Dolphins but wasn't wrong

I asked Joe Philbin if he (and former general manager Jeff Ireland) traded Brandon Marshall because of the erstwhile wide receiver's history for not getting along with young quarterbacks, specifically Chad Henne.

"Not necessarily," Philbin said today. "Again, that was a long time ago and it was we just felt like where we were as a program and organizationally, the opportunity came and that was the decision we came to."

Stop.

Protecting their coming quarterback, protecting their organization and a severe mistrust of Marshall was the reason the Dolphins traded Marshall, ya'll.

In the spring of 2012 the Miami Dolphins planned to draft a young quarterback. They were well aware there would be growing pains with that young quarterback. And the team was wary about Marshall disrespecting the new kid the same way he had Henne on the sideline or in practices or during games.

Yes, the team was also worried Marshall would have a final nuclear meltdown to go with his lesser run-ins with police and his wife. Marshall, you see, was not in the same place then as now. He was a ticking time bomb then. Police would be called to his address on a semi-regular basis, I've been told.

At least seven times that went unreported in the media.

Marshall today is more mature. He says he got himself saved. He is in a situation playing with friend Jay Cutler where he respects Cutler and understands him and himself more. So he's obviously in a better place.

But even now, Marshall is sometimes Marshall.

He was asked today about those 2010-11 Dolphins.

"We were a quarterback away from having a team," Marshall said.

Still ripping Henne to this day.

Anyway, I predict the narrative this week will at some point be how terrible the Dolphins trade of Marshall was. And I have issues with that narrative. The idea to trade Marshall was a good one. I advocated it well before the Dolphins did it.

Indeed, I advocated not signing Marshall before the Dolphins signed him. I never thought it would happen. I didn't think giving up two second-round picks for him and paying him a big contract was a good investment.

So I didn't hate the trade to Chicago philosophically. I understand the Dolphins had to trade Brandon Marshall. It was the right thing to do.

Now, what they did after the trade ... with the picks they got in exchange?

Not good.

The Dolphins essentially  (I say essentially because there were other throw-ins used to get some pieces) traded Marshall for tight end Michael Egnew, cornerback Will Davis, tight end Will Davis and receiver B.J. Cunningham.

Cunningham was cut in his first training camp. Engew was cut in his third training camp after two subpar seasons as a third-round pick. Davis is a role player today. He served as a nickel corner the first four games of this season but has been demoted since. And tight end Dion Sims is merely functional as a blocking tight end but not necessarily a game-changer.

Not comparable for a two-time Pro Bowl player that is a game-changer, right?

No. It isn't.

But did the Dolphins have to make the trade, given the circumstances they found themselves at the time? Yes. Probably.

If the Dolphins had drafted T.Y. Hilton in that 2012 third round instead of Michael Egnew, no one would complain today.

Moral of the story? Draft better.

Can the Miami Dolphins put stinging loss behind them?

The loss to the Green Bay Packers was a gut punch. To me, that bitter defeat has the potential to be a season-defining moment that sends the Miami Dolphins on a tailspin from which they might not recover.

So this week I am looking for signs this team is rebounding. I am searching for clues to see whether Sunday's loss will linger like a hangover after an all-night bender or whether the team is walking a straight line to the next assignment rather than being haunted by the past.

The Dolphins provided some of those clues on Tuesday. Oh, some players were honest. They said they still felt the sting of the loss a full two days after it was sealed.

"Even during practice I was kind of upset we lost the game," receiver Mike Wallace said. "I was still thinking about it. But once [Wednesday] comes, we've got a new gameplan. We got to let it go. It's tough to lose those type of games but we got to move forward. We'll be fine."

That's honest and expected. Let's face it, that game stung. And for many people the pain of failure is stubborn and hard to overcome while the satisfaction of victory is fleeting.

“I think it’s tough," cornerback Cortland Finnegan admitted. "I think when you had a good team right where we had them, it’s tough, but it’s the 24-hour rule. I think the Chicago Bears don’t give a rip what happened against the Green Bay Packers. So we’ve got to go out there and give them our best."

A football team is the united heartbeat of 53 individuals and a coaching staff. (Yeah, that's some prose). Anyway, even as there is only one heartbeat there are varying opinions and reactions. Some players said they had already moved forward.

The question is whether those players and the coaches will dominate over any lingering lack of confidence, or pain, or emotional bankruptcy in willing the entire group to pivot to the next game against the Chicago Bears.

Joe Philbin said he saw a tangible sign that the defeat is not lingering.

"I thought it was our best Tuesday practice of the year," Philbin said after a session that lasted approximately 90 minutes. "I know we had a tough hard-fought game the other day, but I thought our guys came out and really prepared extremely well. We’ve got a long way to go before the game and a lot more of the game plan to put in, but I thought we got off to a good start."

A good practice suggests the players were not sleepwalking. It suggests they were being professional and moving on to the next assignment.

But it is only one sign. It is still early in the week. Philbin and his coaches must be wary of a team liking wounds or picking at scars for too long. And so Philbin talked to the players about it.

“We talked a little bit in the team meeting." Philbin said. "We said look, ‘We’ve got to be tougher than that mentally.’ Really, as we all know, obviously it takes tremendous physical skill to be an NFL football player, but, once you get there, a lot of it is mental. So all of us, myself included, we all have to get back to work. This is an important game and we have to play well."

It is easier said than done.

"One hunderd percent honest, it's how bad you messed up or how great you did," defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "Sometimes you want to move past a game, so you move on. Sometimes it's easier than others and sometimes it's harder than others.

"In terms of lingering and thinking of what you did, [a loss] will last through a good part of Monday. You're sitting there and thinking about what you did, what's going to be said when you go back into the building, what you're going to be corrected on or what you might be praised for. When it's a loss everything is going to be illuminated as much as when you win but either way, you have a game next week and you have to perform. You think about them. And part of you becoming a pro is forgetting about them. Learning from it, extracting the nutrients from a win or loss, but moving on to the next."

We'll see how well the Dolphins can move on to the next this week.

October 14, 2014

Two days later: Wheeler sticking by his stance

We live in a constitutional republic. But NFL teams are totalitarian islands in this country where  speaking one's mind might be frowned upon by the unquestioned (and unelected) leader head coach or general manager or owner.

The Dolphins are such an island and linebacker Phillip Wheeler ventured into uncharted waters after Sunday's loss when he openly questioned the team's coaching staff for its call on the deciding Green Bay touchdown.

So did Wheeler get a big talking-to from one of the authorities on high?

"Nah," Wheeler said today. "I don't want to talk about that situation any more. We're moving past it. We're moving on to the Bears game."

If indeed Wheeler didn't get a couple of minutes on Joe Philbin's infamous couch then that would be interesting. A couple of years ago, linebacker Karlos Dansby openly disagreed with Philbin and the coaching staff on a couple of issues and both times was asked to visit the couch. Same with running back Reggie Bush.

Wheeler said he's not wanting to relitigate the entire deciding-TD situation and whether or not he should have been on tight end Andrew Quarless one-on-one. But he also said he's not retracting saying the call was not the best.

"I don't glorify it and I don't apologize for anything I said," Wheeler said. "I just don't want to talk about it much. I really don't want to talk about it."

Dolphins walking wounded at practice today

The Dolphins are back at practice now. Well, at least some of them.

The team's list of injured players -- led obviously by running back Knowshon Moreno, who today was placed on injured reserve and is out for the year -- is extensive as it has been in some time. And given that it was long last week, that's saying something.

Today defensive back Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) and center Samson Satele (right fibula) are definitely not practicing today. Left tackle Branden Albert, who suffered an elbow injury during Sunday's game but managed to return, is missing at least part of today's work. He was not practicing during the open portion of practice today.

Same with Lamar Miller and Charles Clay who also missed the open portion of practice.

I will say that Miller, Clay and Albert don't seem to be significant injuries based on the fact they were jogging and they all finished Sunday's game.

On the bright side, receiver Brandon Gibson, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, is back on the practice field today and working at least on a limited basis.

Koa Misi, who missed four weeks with an ankle injury and was not available at the end of Sunday's game, was at practice today.

Salguero and PFF review of Packers at Miami Dolphins [Updated]

[Update: The Dolphins have placed running back Knowshon Moreno on the injured reserve list this morning. He suffered an ACL tear in a knee against the Green Bay Packers and is now out for the season. Moreno played only three games for the Dolphins and actually ran the football only once in the second game (against Buffalo) in September because he dislocated his left elbow on that lone run. He finishes the season with only 31 rushes for 148 yards. Moreno signed a one-year deal worth $3 million last offseason. His Dolphins future is obviously uncertain given his injury history. Moreno had and ACL injury cut short his season in 2011 as well.]

Moving on ...

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan followed his best game with the Dolphins (versus Oakland) with his worst game with the Dolphins (versus Green Bay). Jarvis Landry may have made his eventual move ahead of Brandon Gibson earlier than expected while Gibson rested. And Will Davis returned to the bench, perhaps closing the window on his chance to shine in 2014.

Those are some of the snapshots you can take away from the film study of Sunday's 27-24 Dolphins loss to Green Bay done by my friends at ProFootballFocus.com and some added insight by me.

As with every Tuesday following a game, the grades are in, the review is complete.

Here are the grades from @PFF and @ArmandoSalguero: 

Offensive Summary

Despite not seeing the field in the second half, Knowshon Moreno still got 23 snaps in his first action since Week 2. Starting RB Lamar Miller got 34 snaps and Damien Williams got four when Miller needed a breather in the second half.

There was zero rotation at slot wide receiver with Brandon Gibson out. Jarvis Landry logged 47 snaps, compared to five for Rishard Matthews and one for Damian Williams.

Branden Albert handled Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers in pass blocking (+2.1), but had his worst day of the season in run blocking (-1.2), in addition to picking up his first two penalties as a Dolphins player.

Passing

Both of Ryan Tannehill's interceptions came on drop-backs where the Packers did not register a pressure of any kind.

Tannehill was almost perfect when he was not blitzed, going 13-of-16 for 187 yards, although he did throw an interception. He threw both touchdowns when Green Bay brought the blitz, but was 7-of-15 overall for 60 yards and a pick as well.

Tannehill struggled getting the ball down the field again, going just 4-of-11 on passes traveling 10+ yards; and three of those four completions were inside the numbers for about 10 yards.

Rushing

The Packers would not let the Dolphins run behind Mike Pouncey. On eight total carries directed towards Pouncey or the gap between Satele and Pouncey, Miami produced just 3 yards.

All three of Tannehill's runs were of the designed variety, something Green Bay has struggled with for a few years.

Receiving

The Dolphins were able to take advantage of Jarvis Landry vs. A.J. Hawk a few times; Landry was targeted twice vs. Hawk, catching both targets for 30 yards.

Despite dropping another pass, a potentially big play, Mike Wallace saw targets against six Green Bay defensive backs.

The Dolphins did nice YAC work. They gained 167 of their 244 receiving on yards came after the catch. This tells you, in part, how horizontal the Miami offense has become. The team relies on receivers catching short to intermediate passes and making yards afterward. The long throws that Tannehill has struggled with as a professional have been shelved the past couple of games. 

It will be interesting to see if this is a temporary situation or part of the permanent plan going forward.

Defensive Summary

Cameron Wake (+2.4) and Olivier Vernon (+3.7) continue to be two of the dominant 4-3 DEs in the game, each tallying two sacks, two hits and a hurry against the GB line.

Reshad Jones handled 77 of 80 snaps in his return from suspension. Jimmy Wilson, who previously started at safety during Jones' suspension, played 60 snaps as the nickel corner, Will Davis, previously the nickel corner, didn't play a defensive snap.

With Derrick Shelby suspended, the three rookies, Anthony Johnson (10 snaps), Chris McCain (12 snaps), and Terrence Fede (16 snaps) all saw some time on the field. Shelby was reinstated by the Dolphins on Monday and will rejoin the team Tuesday. I expect the snaps for the rookies will decline.

Coverage

Cortland Finnegan was exposed by Rodgers and rookie Davante Adams for five catches on six targets for 70 yards. Finnegan also played too far off on Adams on the fake spike and failed to tackle the Green Bay receiver inbounds -- by takling the outside leg -- and thus Adams was able to slip out of bounds and keep his team alive. Finnegan tackles Adams inbounds and the game ends right there.

Brent Grimes allowed seven completions on 12 targets for 94 yards to Jordy Nelson, but held him to just 24 yards after the catch.