July 30, 2015

Quickie reaction from first day of Miami Dolphins practice

The first day of training camp is in the books for the Miami Dolphins. Here's a quickie look at what I say and heard:

***The Dolphins were not in pads, per NFL rules that stipulate the team must not be in pads the first three days. Today was actually the second day for the Dolphins on the field (they walked through Wednesday) so Day 3 of acclimation will be Friday. Full pads on Saturday, if coaches deem so.

***It is was not a great day for the cornerbacks trying to win the starting job opposite Brent Grimes. Jamar Taylor was beaten deep twice by third-year free agent wide receiver Michael Preston, who isn't to be confused with Julio Jones or Dez Bryant.

Preston did have a fine day. He got open multiple times, although the passes weren't always on target as with the times he was behind Taylor. But he had three catches during the practice. Taylor did win the matchup once with a pass breakup on a deep sideline pass.

***Will Davis, meanwhile, was left in the dust by Tommy Streeter who got five yards behind the cornerback down the right sideline. Davis trailed so far back he stopped running. Fortunately for the defense, a perfect pass to Streeter from quarterback Matt Moore was dropped by the free agent wide receiver. Davis did have excellent coverage on Greg Jennings earlier when he broke up a pass from Matt Moore.

Look, the Dolphins have questions about who will win the starting job opposite Grimes. It is likely to be Taylor. He and everyone else has to do better.

***Speaking of deep ball passes, quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked up where he left off last season on such passes. In other words, he wasn't completing many. He missed one to Matt Hazel and another to Preston.

I noticed that after practice, Tannehill stayed on the field and worked on deep passes with several receivers.

Tannehill did throw well into some tight windows. He completed a pass to Jennings between five, count 'em, five defenders.

Matt Moore seemed to have the better practice today although that is moot relative to the starting job. Josh Freeman was intercepted by Bobby McCain.

***Caleb Sturgis missed much of the offseason, including minicamp, because he injured his leg playing kickball. He must prove he can stay healthy this camp and was doing exactly that early on.

Sturgis connected on kicks of 33 (twice), 40, 44 and 45 to start his practice. He then missed a 44-yarder left. Then he missed two more from 44 yards before connecting one last time from 45.

Must. Do. Better.

***Free agent rookie WR Kai De La Cruz had the catch of the day, a one-handed snatching of the football out of the air while in stride. That will get someone's attention.

***The linebacker rotation I told you about in the previous post was apparent at times during practice. Koa Misi got a vast majority of the first-team snaps at MLB, but there were repetitions in which Misi moved outside and Kelvin Sheppard worked in the middle.

Having said that, Chris McCain had a nice practice. He batted a pass at the line of scrimmage on one play.

Remember: It would be McCain and Jelani Jenkins outside and Misi in the middle or Misi and Jenkins outside with Sheppard in the middle.

***Left tackle Branden Albert did mostly light work and didn't participate in any team drills. He continues to lower expectations, saying he doesn't know if he'll be ready for the regular-season opener, but clearly the Dolphins are pointing him in that direction.

With Albert not taking team drill snaps, the starting left tackle spot was manned by Jason Fox.

***The punt return job is not really open as Jarvis Landry is probably the guy. But Brent Grimes, and LaMichael James worked at the spot as well.

 

 

Miami Dolphins 2015 season has arrived!

It is finally here: The start of Miami Dolphins training camp.

It begins with an 8 a.m. practice followed by interview sessions with players, coaches and owner Stephen Ross.

A couple of significant things to watch:

LT Branden Albert is cleared to practice. But that doesn't mean he will be taking team reps just yet. He will be slowly eased back into the workouts, participating in some individual drills, following his rehabilitation from knee surgery. The idea is to knock some rust off and get comfortable before asking him to do more.

At linebacker, look for Koa Misi to take repetitions at both outside and middle linebacker throughout camp. The linebacker position will be an area of mixing and matching. Indeed, about the only linebacker who has locked down a spot is Jelani Jenkins.

Misi outside or in the middle, Kelvin Sheppard in the middle when Misi is outside and Chris McCain outside when Misi is in the middle are rotations you're likely to see during camp.

This has to be the year the Dolphins finally get back to the playoffs. As I write in my column today there are no excuses for not making the postseason. Otherwise, well, think French Revolution.

I will be tweeting practice live so follow me on twitter for real time updates. When it is all over, I will be updating this space with a practice recap and all the noteworthy things said by players, coaches and the owner.

It begins!!!!

July 29, 2015

Looks like Turner, Thomas, Douglas Miami Dolphins top guards at the opening of training camp on Thursday

The most widely asked question about the start of Miami Dolphins training camp is when they will try to address the guard position that no fan has a serious comfort level about, even as Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas are penciled in as the starters.

There are questions as to why the Dolphins haven't signed free agent Evan Mathis.

There are questions as to why the Dolphins are waiting to make what seems on the surface as an obvious move.

The answer is the Dolphins seem invested in Turner and Thomas and even rookie Jamil Douglas to the point they will start camp with those players vying for the two starting guard jobs. The players have gone through the offseason program. The personnel department and coaching staff have a level of comfort about those players.

There's investment there.

And now they young players are going to get a chance early in camp to show what they can actually do.

I liken this to how the Dolphins approached a similar situation in 2014. Remember last year the Dolphins went to camp with an obvious need at center. They felt comfortable enough with the players on the roster that they opened camp even as free agent Samson Satele remained available.

It wasn't until the centers in camp proved they weren't up to even completing a shotgun snap that Miami made the move for Satele. It took about a week of evidence gathering for the Dolphins to make a move.

Well, maybe Turner, Thomas, and Douglas get at least that long in this year's training camp practices, in the heat, in pads, in anger, to prove they merit the team's confidence.

Or prove they do not.

And, meanwhile, Mathis is not signed. Indeed, he has not even visited the Dolphins, according to a club source. So while there are social media types going around claiming Mathis has an offer from Miami on the table, that feels more like a rumor.

Typically when the Dolphins are serious with a player, they bring him to camp for a visit. Last year, even as Satele waited for the verdict on Miami's camp centers, he had already visited with the team.

Mathis has not.

So I would expect barring a major change today when players report for physicals, that the three guards who have been on the roster and have been part of the plan will get first crack at the open jobs.

If they fail, then Mathis becomes an option.

By the way, this says nothing about the kind of money Mathis wants. Even if the Dolphins wanted him, they're not going to pay him anywhere near the kind of contract he had with the Philadelphia Eagles, who were scheduled to pay him $5.5 million in 2015.

And Mathis wanted a raise from that deal to between $7-$8 million per year which would have put him in the upper crust of guard salaries. Obviously, no team has deemed Mathis worthy of such an offer or he would be signed already.

At some point, Mathis might come down on price. At some point, a team that is desperate might come up. But it would take some magical agent work by Drew Rosenhaus to get the kind of money for Mathis the player was expecting or even scheduled to make.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, would more likely want a player like Mathis for two years at perhaps $2-$3 million the first year -- a far cry from what Mathis would want. Oh, yes, and the second year of that contract? The player likely would never see it.

Mathis turns 34 in November.  

July 28, 2015

Tom Brady destroyed evidence, loses appeal

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remains suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season because today the NFL upheld its ruling on the suspension pertaining to the so-called deflategate scandal.

Brady had appealed the suspension through the NFLPA.

Commissioner Roger Goodell released the findings minutes ago, along with a signed 20-page document that not only tells  us Brady's suspension is upheld but offers indicting details that suggest Brady actively covered up attempts to get at the truth of whether he was directly or indirectly involved in tampering with footballs prior to the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The following from Goodell:

"The most significant new information that emerged in connection with the appeal was evidence that on or about March 6, 2015 -- the very day that he was interviewed by Mr. [Ted] Wells and his investigative team -- Mr. Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been using since early November 2014, a period that included the AFC Championship Game and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation. During the four months that it was in use, almost 10,000 text messages were sent or received by Mr. Brady using that cellphone. At the time that he arranged for its destruction Mr. Brady knew that Mr. Wells and his team had requested information from that cellphone in connection with their investigation. Despite repeated requests for that information, beginning in mid-February 2015 and continuing during his March, 6, 2015 interview by the investigators, information indicating that Mr. Brady might have destroyed his cellphone was not disclosed until months later, on June 18, 2015, and not confirmed until the day of the hearing itself."

Wow.

So Brady, knowing investigator Ted Wells wanted his cellphone, ordered that very cellphone destroyed. He testified at the appeals hearing that it is his habit to destroy cellphones after a certain period of time.

The texts in the destroyed cellphone, the NFL has been told, are not recoverable.

Brady obviously can seeks injunctive relief through the federal courts. It is unclear whether he'll do that or not. Remember, the Patriots as an organization decided to not appeal sanctions against the organization even as their star quarterback went forward with his appeal.

But the fact Brady actively ordered the destruction of evidence calls his claim of innocence into question. Innocent people don't destroy evidence.

If the suspension survives a court challenge, it is obviously important news around the AFC East. It obviously can affect the Miami Dolphins chances of winning the division.

No biggie: Josh Freeman returns to the Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins signed quarterback Josh Freeman today after having cut him July 24. And the fact Freeman is a former NFL starter and a QB and a well-known name kindles the idea that something important is afoot with this move.

No.

Freeman, like it or not, is about the 87th man on the Dolphins roster. And since the team had three open roster spots leading up to the training camp limit of 90, the personnel department brought him back.

But only for now.

The truth is Freeman's career has taken a hit to the point he is a camp arm. Neither he nor McCleod Bethel-Thompson are assured of a roster spot as the third quarterback. Actually, the Dolphins are more likely to go with two quarterbacks -- Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore -- on the 53-man roster than use an extra spot for a third quarterback. That is what they did in 2014.

It would take unforeseen circumstances such as Freeman playing like Aaron Rodgers in the preseason or an injury to either Tannehill or Moore to give Freeman an open road to a roster spot. Otherwise, this is just a bottom of the roster move.

The Dolphins have 88 players signed. They have two open roster spots. They are working out multiple players today. Look for someone else to sign by the end of the day.

No, not Evan Mathis.

More on him later.

 

July 26, 2015

Miami Dolphins' Philbin: I'm not worried about me

You should know by know that Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has delivered a message to fans and given us a preview of what his message to players will be when they report for training camp on Wednesday.

(If you didn't know it, obviously you did not read my column yet. So get to reading it, please).

And it occurs to me that the reason the coach is setting the bar quite high for his team to start 2015 is perhaps because he wants to be the coach in 2016. After all, if the Dolphins succeed this coming season, Philbin remains the head coach.

If not ... then Philbin's job security will be a constant hot topic.

So I asked Philbin about that when we met on Saturday and he said that is not the case at all. He insisted his job security is not on his mind. He said he's not thinking of winning for his own sake.

"It's more for everybody else's sake," he said. "For Steve Ross who's supported me throughout my tenure here, who's had patience, committed the resources that we need to build a successful football team, so for him. For the fans, for the people on the staff, for the people who work their tails off who care not only about winning but care about the organization itself.

"For everybody, I'd like us to reap the rewards of our labor. It's time for all of us. But I haven't really thought about playoff or bust for me."

I mentioned in the column what Philbin worries about when he thinks about his team.

"I want to see the quarterback and receiver corps, their timing and rhythm, the anticipation. That's something," he said. "Our sub defensive package in the secondary is something we have to get a feel for. I want to see some of those corners emerge and see the competition there. That's something that's going to be important. And probably the linebacker position shaking. Finally, the competition at guard. We're going to start gather information pretty soon. We're going to know a lot more a week from now."

So what makes Philbin confident about his team?

"I like the way they work," he said. "I like the chemistry so far. And it's early. We're going to learn more about our guys in the next five or six weeks in training camp and preseason but I like the way they work and their passion for the game."

July 25, 2015

Miami Dolphins changing their practice schedule

For years the Miami Dolphins have been looking for the right practice schedule to optimize peal performance on Sundays -- or Mondays or Thursdays as the schedule dictates.

The point is while most teams have taken Tuesdays off, the Dolphins have at times had Monday off. Or Fridays. Or whatever day coach Joe Philbin thought gave his team the best chance to win.

Well, after investing in and expanding their sport science department, the facts and figures apparently indicate having Tuesday off is best. So the Dolphins will be off on Tuesdays this year, turning a practice day from years past into some down time for players.  

"We're going to do a couple of things a little different during the season," Philbin said. "Our game week will be different. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that. We're not looking to cut corners or do less but we are going to have the players spend a little less time on their feet.

"Last year we started collecting a lot of information but didn't have the context to make decisions," Philbin said. "But now we can kind of predict how much player load and volume intensity, based on the practice schedules I give them, how that impacts the guys."

Less time on their feet means less time practicing.

"We're switching the day off from Monday back to Tuesday," Philbin said. "We're not going to really practice Monday. We used to practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday walkthrough, a little Saturday as well. So we're going to practice one day less."

The idea behind all this is to keep players fresh so that the team does not wilt late in the season, something that has happened the past couple of years. Miami lost three of its final four games in 2014 and the final two in 2013 -- each time turning a playoff contender into an also-ran. 

"I feel good about the schedule we've put in place and how we're going to do that," Philbin said. "We're going to see if that makes a difference."

Interesting perhaps only to me:

I covered this team before sports science was a thing. Don Shula would give his players Tuesdays off. They come in on Mondays to run and get the kinks of the game out or to report for medical treatment. Then they'd begin the practice week on Tuesday. Same with Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban. Tony Sparano changed things up at times. Philbin did as well. Now sports science concludes the old school way is probably optimal.

 

Parker, Albert availability for season opener not a worry for Philbin

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin isn't worried about the injury status of two of his offense's biggest potential contributors for 2015 despite their significant injury issues. 

Left tackle Branden Albert, recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, is on schedule with his return to the field and that means he might pass his physical when players report on Wednesday. The expectation is he will not be on the physically unable to perform list for the start of camp.

"The hope is -- and once we get guys through physicals when they come in in a couple days we'll know more -- but the hope is to move him out of the rehab portion and into the football portion," Philbin said Saturday. "And we have to do it in a way that makes sense. It's not going to be first day, every team rep, here we go, let's do an Oklahoma drill and let him and the guys whack people around. That's step one. Getting him out of the rehab mode and into the football practice mode and in the gradual progression of getting back."

Albert has set the first game of the regular season as his timetable for returning to the field. Philbin is perhaps a bit more optimistic because the coach is thinking Albert could play in the preseason.

"The perfect scenario is get him some work in some preseason game and get him ready to play first," Philbin said.

Rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker, recovering from foot surgery, is not going to be ready for practice at the start of training camp. He is a candidate for the physically unable to perform list.

"Whenever the medical staff tells us he's ready to go we'll get him out there," Philbin said. "... Hopefully, we'll get him back sooner as opposed to later."

Despite the fact Parker won't be 100 percent in time for Thursday's first training camp practice, the coach has little doubt he'll be ready for the regular season.

"It's hard to predict if Week One he'll be ready for 30 snaps or 60 snaps," Philbin said. "It's hard to put a number on it yet. We're not there yet. He's back in town. Right now he's been working, doing what he can do. And you got to let that stuff heal."

In the meantime, the Dolphins can use Parker's rehab time to get a better sense of the rest of their wide receiver talent and perhaps even experiment with tight ends.

"We're going to look at different combinations. I think we still have a talented room there with [Kenny] Stills, [Jarvis] Landry, [Greg] Jennings. And [Rishard] Matthews. We've got [Matt] Hazel," Philbin said. " Dion Sims it appears is continuing to develop so maybe we'll look at more two-tight end combinations with fewer receivers on the field. But obviously the focus is get [Parker] medically ready to roll and schematically, to the degree we can, we'll keep him engaged in the meantime."

[BLOG NOTE: Yes, I am back from vacation. Thanks for all the kind emails and twitter messages asking about my return. Check back often for updates ...]

[BLOG NOTE 2: Matthews was not included earlier among the group of receiver mentioned by the coach because it is not clear on tape whether the coach mentioned him. But enhancing the audio suggests Philbin did mention him between Jennings and Hazel.]

June 19, 2015

Minicamp Musings (but not by Armando)

Armando Salguero, the usual resident at this most popular Herald blog address, is on vacation. Coming over from The Herald's FIU sports blog to do a little blogsitting with occasional posts during Armando's vaca will be me, David Neal, or the Dolphins/Heat/Hurricanes/Marlins Sports Buzz in your ear, Barry Jackson.

Both of us sat through this week's pair of high end flag football practices in Davie. There's only so much you can say about shirts-and-shorts low-contact football. Lorenzo Booker looked good under those conditions.

Caveat stated, some observations, a few of them relevant:

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's ball placement, particularly on his red zone throws, grazed perfection. His quick slants to the slot imitated good fastballs: low, inside, tough for the opponent to reach and yet right on target for the catcher. His throws to the end zone sidelines described perfect parabolas for the task. The last time the Dolphins excelled in the red zone, nobody but football coaches paid attention or called it "the red zone." Tannehill being better there could be worth an extra win.

I saw Pete Stoyanovich take the kicking job from Fuad Reveiz in 1989 and you knew it was happening as it happened. Same thing when I saw Dan Carpenter take the kicking job from Jay Feely in 2008. By comparison, Andrew Franks kicked like he hoped to hang around long enough to inherit the job from injured Caleb Sturgis. Kicking from 36 and 46 yards, Franks hooked a few inside the upright, hooked a few outside the left upright. Sturgis can only shine the kicking shoes of Stoyanovich, Reveiz, Carpenter or Feely, but Franks' didn't give Sturgis even more reason to regret playing a little kickball.

Kool-Aid break

 

The Dolphins mixed and matched like your kid with Legos in the secondary and on the offensive line. On the o-line, Mike Pouncey at center and Ja'Wuan James at one tackle spot were the constants. Otherwise, seemingly everybody got a turn with the No. 1s. This is the epitome of "check back in August." That includes Brandon Albert. Albert did conditioning on the unused fields or sidelines. He moved as if he'd need every minute between now and the first serious snap of the late summer to be ready. (Quick digression: Pouncey said this year's birthday party would be a small thing at his home. Clearly, the man learns.)

In the secondary, among those getting a look at nickel corner was Brice McCain, part of the Dolphins' hat trick of McCains -- rookie corner Bobby McCain, fast and tough, which could make him as solidly good on kickoff returns as he was during his sophomore and senior years at Memphis; and linebacker Chris McCain, who could start at outside linebacker after minimal snaps last year. About his minimal snaps last year, Chris said he got what he earned and needed to spend more time studying the Dolphins' scheme. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the same thing, but more politely.

To simulate haivng to operate in a noisy stadium, instead of cranking canned crowd noise, the Dolphins went for truly annoying and blasted music. Not bad music, not good music, not old music, not new music. All of the above. It seemed far more effective a test for non-verbal communication than the crowd noise, which is laughable even at its loudest. The pass completion to Kool Moe Dee's "I Go To Work" went to Greg Jennings, the only wide receiver born when the song was released.

 

June 10, 2015

Surprise: No practice today fellas

Miami Dolphins are scheduled to meet at their training facility this morning for what is supposed to be an OTA practice -- the third this week. Not happening.

Coach Joe Philbin will surprise his team by calling off practice and instead heading from Davie, Florida south to Hialeah in Northwest Miami-Dade County -- about a 40-minute ride -- to do a service project at an elementary school.

The players will board a bus and others in the organization will join them at Mae M. Walters Elementary School. There, in the heart of a Hispanic neighborhood that is, well, lower, lower middle class, the the team will participate in painting, landscaping and providing various improvements to the school.

And what does this do for the Dolphins?

Yes, there will be good will from the community which they serve. But the coaches who will attend also hope this will be a good team chemistry-building exercise.

It beats kickball.    

June 05, 2015

Surgery for DeVante Parker

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker had left foot surgery this morning at Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables.

He will not participate in the team's minicamp and will miss the start of training camp but will be ready for the start of the regular season, per a team source. So breathe. Calm down. It will be OK.

Parker, the first-round pick in the 2015 draft, had the procedure as a precaution. I am told if this was the regular season, he would be playing this week.

But because Parker has been so impressive since joining the team and the plan with him is to be a long-term help rather than a short-term bridge, the club is being cautious to address what I am told is not a big issue now so as to not have it be a recurring issue during the season.

Obviously, Parker missing the rest of the offseason and part of training camp (he'll probably start the practice sessions on PUP) will set him back on the field. He will, however, be involved in rehabilitation and team meetings.

This means veteran Greg Jennings, signed late in free agency, will likely play a major role in the offense, along with Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills early in the season as Parker works in.

Two more things:

Parker's injury is similar to the injury linebacker Jelani Jenkins had last year, per a source. Jenkins missed one game as a result.

And Parker, who complained of soreness in the foot after Thursday's OTA session, did break his left foot in 2014 while at Louisville. That forced him to miss eight weeks. He had surgery on that foot and now has had a second surgery on the same foot, in part, to correct part of that first surgery. The most recent surgery replaced the screw originally placed in his foot last year.

June 04, 2015

Jeff Ireland effect still on the Miami Dolphins

The narrative surrounding today's Miami Dolphins is that with new general manager Dennis Hickey's draft and offseason acquisitions in 2014 and Hickey's and new executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum's draft and offseason acquisitions in 2015, the Dolphins are replenished with fresh talent from this braintrust.

In other words, the influence former general manager Jeff Ireland had on the roster has been removed. Some more unforgiving souls would contend the stench has dissipated.

That seemed more true than ever this offseason when practically every significant move Ireland made in 2013, his final offseason with the team, was undone.

Mike Wallace, signed in 2013, was traded.

Brian Hartline, given a big contract extension in 2013, was cut.

Brandon Gibson, signed in 2013, was cut.

Dannell Ellerbe, signed in 2013, was traded.

Phillip Wheeler, signed in 2013, was cut.

Dion Jordan, drafted No. 3 overall in the 2013 draft, has been suspended for a year by the NFL for violating the league substance abuse policy.

Much of what Ireland did in 2013 has, poof, gone away.

But that's simply not the complete story.

That is only part of true portrait of these past two Dolphins offseasons because, indeed, much of what the Dolphins new braintrust has done is also to embrace what Ireland did.

The Dolphins this offseason made a franchise quarterback commitment to Ryan Tannehill, extending his contract through 2020 and paying him $96 million, including $21.5 million in fully guaranteed money. Tannehill is the first Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino the team has committed to for the long term. He's their man.

And he was Jeff Ireland's draft pick in 2012.

The Dolphins this offseason made a commitment to center Mike Pouncey, extending his contract through the 2020 season. Pouncey practices hard. Plays hard. Is a team leader in every sense, the Dolphins believe. He's their man. And he was Jeff Ireland's draft pick in 2011.

The truth is the Dolphins are going to be relying as much and expecting as much from Jeff Ireland's players than Hickey and Tannenbaum's.

The linebacker corps? Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are Jeff Ireland draft picks, the latter in the 2013 fourth round.

The cornerbacks? Brent Grimes was a Jeff Ireland free agent acquisition and Jamar Taylor is going to get his chance to win the starting job after being a Jeff Ireland second-round pick in 2013.

The starting running back? Many people are excited about rookie Jay Ajayi. But Lamar Miller is an incumbent 1,000-yard rusher and the more likely starter. And he was a Jeff Ireland fourth-round pick in 2012.

The team wasn't thrilled about losing tight end Charles Clay, a Jeff Ireland draft pick, to the Buffalo Bills in free agency. But when they announced they would not match Buffalo's offer sheet to Clay, they let it be known they were confident in Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims as their top two tight ends. Cameron signed this offseason. Sims is a 2013 fourth-round pick ... by Jeff Ireland.

I had a team executive kid with me Wednesday about how much I criticize the idea of Dallas Thomas being the starting left guard for the start of training camp late next month. (Yes, folks, they read every word). The Dolphins are going in that direction, apparently, no matter how much I criticize the idea. The Dolphins are comfortable with the idea of Dallas Thomas as their starting left guard. Dallas Thomas was a 2013 third-round pick ... by Jeff Ireland.

Olivier Vernon? Jeff Ireland.

Derrick Shelby? Jeff Ireland.

Don Jones? Jeff Ireland.

Will Davis? Jeff Ireland.

Rishard Matthews? Jeff Ireland.

The point is the Dolphins seem headed in a positive direction following Ireland's departure. Fans -- you -- seem generally satisfied with the team Hickey and Tannenbaum have put together. You're optimistic.

The truth is if you are satisfied and optimistic, then you like the team Hickey, Tannenbaum and Jeff Ireland put together.

June 03, 2015

Ryan Tannehill football camp next week

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will host his third annual Football ProCamp next week a stone's throw (or long pass) from the team's practice facility in Davie, Florida.

The two-day Citi Ryan Tannehill Football ProCamp will run from 4-7:30 PM on June 9 and 10 at Nova High School. Registered participants will learn fundamental football skills and have the opportunity to meet and interact with the Dolphins' newly minted $96 million quarterback.

Each attendee will receive an autograph from Tannehill and a team photo with him. 

Tannehill will be on-site to direct the event and will be joined by a selection of prep and college coaches from the area. The camp is open to boys and girls of all skill levels in grades 1-8. Cost of the camp is $99. 

Spots remain at available. For more information go to RyanTannehillCamp.com.

June 02, 2015

Olivier Vernon a $12 million-a-year player? Yes

NFL contracts obviously affect individual players and their teams but they are not done in a vacuum. Each contract also can affect other players around the league, which is the reason the deal Cameron Jordan is getting from the New Orleans Saints today is important.

That deal -- reported by Mike Garafolo of FOXSports1 as a five-year, $55 million deal with $38 million in "guaranteed" money and $27 million over the first two years -- is causing a lot of players to enjoy their days today.

Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan are almost certainly going to use this deal when they negotiate their coming new contracts. 

And Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is going to do that as well.

Indeed, I have it on good authority the Jordan deal, which comes in at about $12 million annually (APY) when you include incentives, is what Vernon will use as the floor for his coming negotiations with the Dolphins.

The floor!

Houston is dancing. Jones is dancing. Kerrigan is dancing. And OV is surely dancing.

Vernon, 24, and Jordan, 25, play different positions. Vernon is a 4-3 defensive end. Jordan is a 3-4 defensive end.

But their production, particularly as pass rushers, is nearly identical. Jordan through his first three seasons had 21 1/2 sacks.

Olivier Vernon through his first three seasons had 21 1/2 sacks.

Jordan had 7 1/2 sacks in his fourth season. Yeah, um, Vernon expects to be better than that in 2015 for his fourth season.

Vernon can easily look at himself as a $12 million per year player after this season because the only way the Dolphins can keep him after this season is to sign him to a multi-year deal that pays him market dollars now established by Jordan ... or use a $15 million or so franchise tag on him.

(Because Vernon was not a first-round draft pick there is no one-year option the team can apply to him. In that regard, Jordan had less leverage in his negotiations than Vernon will have).

And if the Dolphins apply the franchise tag on Vernon in 2016, the only way they keep him in 2017 without signing him to a deal that by then probably averages $15 million APY is by franchising him again. And that second franchise tag would be 120 percent higher than the first or about $17.7 million for one year.

So the choices really are to get a multi-year deal that pays around $12 million annually ... or franchise him the next two years for $32.7 million ... or lose Vernon in free agency -- at age 25 next offseason or at 26 in 2017.

Obviously all this is contingent on Vernon performing this year. But he is going to bet on himself that he can easily match the 7 1/2 sacks Jordan had in his fourth year. With Ndamukong Suh joining the defensive line and Cameron Wake playing on the other side, it is pretty clear Vernon isn't likely to get a ton of double-teams.

If Vernon stays healthy, he's going to perform. If Vernon performs, he's going to get paid. And the floor to that payment came in today with Cameron Jordan's deal. 

Kevin Coyle: Open jobs will remain open for now

The Miami Dolphins will have multiple starting jobs available on defense when camp open in July. That is a fact defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle made Monday after the team's open OTA session.

While there has been speculation in some media circles that, for example, Jamar Taylor will be the starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, that is not necessarily the way the Dolphins are thinking. Taylor is getting his chance. No doubt.

But he hasn't earned the spot yet.

Zack Bowman will get a chance to win the job. Will Davis may get a chance once he's healthy. Rookie Tony Lippett, running third team now, might even get a chance.

Coyle said a decision on the starter won't be made until late in the preseason -- probably after the third preseason game.

So the timetable works in favor of Davis, who is recovering from knee surgery. It works in favor of Bowman, a seven-year veteran learning the Miami system.

Coyle also wouldn't commit to the current linebacker starters the team is using in OTA sessions -- Koa Misi in the middle and Chris McCain and Jelani Jenkins on the outside. Oh, Misi will start somewhere. And Jenkins will be a starter. But the question is whether Misi continues in the middle or if Kelvin Sheppard plays the middle better than, say, McCain plays the outside.

Coyle believes his defense has a lot of depth as well. I don't know about that, but he says he's studied it.

"We have depth and competition," Coyle said. "I was in here over the weekend looking at the board trying to figure out the 53 and 46 when you come down to the regular season. It looked as hard as it's been for us here. That's a good thing. The sad thing is you want to keep every one of them."

Oh, yes, Coyle explained why he's feeling optimistic about his 2015 defense in my column today.

I'm frankly not too worried about the linebacker issue. The Dolphins have talent, albeit raw, at that spot. I am concerned about CB spot.

Don't sleep on Bowman. 

June 01, 2015

Ten Miami Dolphins OTA observations

Ten quickie observations from Monday's OTA session for the Miami Dolphins:

1. Kicker Caleb Sturgis was not present and will miss the rest of the spring with a leg injury, per coach Joe Philbin. This is not a crisis situation for the Dolphins. But it is a bad look for Sturgis, who has struggled with injuries on and off during his first two years with the team.

Rookie Andrew Franks took all the kicks today and didn't exactly shine. He made kicks from 36, 44 and 44 but missed from 44 and 49 yards.

Yeah, um, it is time for the personnel department to be on the lookout for a veteran kicker -- someone who can 1. stay healthy and, 2. make kicks consistently.

That is something no Dolphins kicker has been able to do for a couple of years.

2. It was an outstanding day for rookie cornerback (college receiver) Tony Lippett. He had one, two, three interceptions -- two against Matt Moore, one of Josh Freeman -- on a day the team was working in the red zone.

I asked coach Joe Philbin afterward if this was indicative of what Lippett has been doing since being drafted and the sense I got is that this was something of a coming out party for Lippett.

3. The Dolphins did indeed work red zone drills because, as I've told you in the past, they want to finish this year. Finish the season. Finish games. And, of course, finish drives.

To that end on offense, tight end Jordan Cameron is a weapon. He caught two TD passes in the red zone. Dion Sims likewise had two red zone TDs.

On defense, this is a bid deal. The D must improve in the red zone. Kelvin Sheppard had a pass defensed to stop a TD bid. About the linebackers: It is assumed by some that the Dolphins are set with Koa Misi in the middle and Chris McCain and Jelani Jenkins on the outside. I believe the competition is that combo versus Sheppard in the middle, Misi and Jenkins on the outside.

The question is can Sheppard show more instincts in the middle than Misi while Misi is more stout against the run than McCain on the outside. Or perhaps McCain is simply so athletic and such a playmaker (as he showed in the 2014 opener) that he has to be on the field.

4. DeVante Parker, a star in the previous OTA open to the media, was more quiet on Monday. He had a TD catch on a slant in 11 on 11s. He also made a one-handed catch for a TD versus air. That was about it for him this day.

5. It was not a stellar day for backup QBs. Matt Moore threw two interceptions and almost a third that safety Shamiel Gary dropped in the end zone. Josh Freeman continues to struggle with accuracy. The Dolphins need Ryan Tannehill to stay healthy, folks.

6. Speaking of Ryan Tannehill's health, there was no grand moment of embarrassment for the offensive line -- particularly the guards -- today. Dallas Thomas was fine. Billy Turner was fine. For Thomas, that was an improvement over last Monday's open OTA. Rookie Jamil Douglas did take some first-team snaps over Thomas. Veteran Sam Brenner did get a handful of first-team snaps over Turner. Coaches are just mixing and matching at this point.

Jason Fox was the starting left tackle as Branden Albert continues to rehab his knee. The starting line RT to LT: Jason Fox, Dallas Thomas, Mike Pouncey, Billy Turner, Ja'Wuan James.

7. Unlike last week, safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Will Davis (knee) did not work at all. Delmas was on the field observing. Davis was not on the field.

Michael Thomas, he of the Tom Brady last-second interception in the 2014 opener, worked with the first-team defense in place of Delmas at safety.

8. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on what he felt when his 2014 defense gave up last-minute leads to Detroit, Denver and Green Bay last year: "It gives me major headaches," he deadpanned. I'm writing about Coyle for tomorrow.

"I'm as optimistic as I've ever been going into this season," Coyle said today.

More from him in my column. 

9. Jarvis Landry is a known quantity as the slot. The Dolphins are giving him some reps on the outside to see what happens. Let me suggest he is a very good slot receiver. And that is probably where he's best suited.

10. Not so bold prediction by me: Reshad Jones, around the football all the time in practice, is going to have an outstanding year in 2015. He was outstanding when he came back from suspension last year. He is looking like he's ready to pick up where he left off. Pro Bowl year for him.

May 29, 2015

Dolphins need to consider every upgrade option

If you ask Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey the question, he'll give you the same answer every time.

The question:

Are you looking at (fill in available player's name here) to see if he can become part of the Dolphins?

The answer:

Something akin to "We're always searching for opportunities to add players that will help us improve as a team."

And so with guard Chris Chester available after he was cut by the Washington Redskins two days ago, I am going to assume the Dolphins personnel department has already studied his tape and the proper people have called his agent to find out where the player's mind is at.

(Where his mind is at can better be translated to what's his asking price, is he willing to play for you, what kind of condition and health is he in?)

So why is castoff guard Chris Chester a thing? Well, you read what I wrote Thursday. You know the Dolphins' guard situation is uncertain with hasn't-performed-well Dallas Thomas at left guard and unknown quantity Billy Turner at right guard.

Chester, by most accounts suited to the zone blocking scheme which the Dolphins run, is a right guard. He is a bridge kind of player to get you to maybe next year when you address the guard situation (again) in the draft.

But he is a solid and known quantity.

He's a former second-round pick. He started 16 games for the Redskins last year. He yielded five sacks, three quarterback hits and 16 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He was the 33rd rated guard in the NFL, per the analytics website. And you know what that made Chester?

Better than anyone who played guard for Miami a year ago.

Better than Mike Pouncey.

Better than Dallas Thomas.

Better than Daryn Colledge.

Better is another way to say upgrade. Isn't that what the Dolphins are trying to do here? Maybe getting Chester lets Miami move Turner over to left guard where he can compete with Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas and let the best uncertainty win.

By the way, I am not saying the Dolphins should sign Chris Chester. But I believe they should be seriously considering the idea.

That's where we are in the offseason now. It is hole-filling time. The guys who will become available have issues of one stripe or another. They've all been discarded in one place or another.

No Pro Bowl guys are available today.

But upgrades might be out there. Study them. Seriously.

[Update: Adam Caplan of ESPN reports Chester has already set up visits with Atlanta and Philadelphia. Looks like the Dolphins love their guards].

Speaking of studying and monitoring,  situations that bear monitoring are that of Evan Mathis and Zane Beadles. Both are, you guessed it, guards.

Mathis isn't showing up for work at OTAs in Philadelphia because he wants a new contract. That's a tough situation because the Dolphins cannot pay what Mathis is making now, much less what he wants to make if he's cut. But his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is local so perhaps if Mathis is cut, the Dolphins could be interested.

Beadles, who signed for a huge $6 million per year deal with Jacksonville last offseason, is going to be in a training camp battle for his starting job. If he loses that battle, there is a possibility the Jaguars will try to trade Beadles (not an option for Miami because the contract moves, too) or cut him.

Neither Mathis nor Beadles are great. But you know what they are based on their recent history?

Upgrades for Miami.

May 28, 2015

The delicate inability to tell the truth about a player

It has to be a tough moment when an NFL coach or personnel man has to defend that which cannot be defended. And yet that happens all around the league when teams are asked about players who are obvious weak links on their starting units.

It has happened to the Miami Dolphins.

A lot.

It's Tony Sparano defending Chad Henne in 2011 when he knew after 2010 Henne wasn't an NFL starting QB.

It's Nick Saban defending Jason Allen, telling me in 2006 when it was obvious Allen was overmatched, that "Hey, Troy Polamalu wasn't great right away, either."

It's Cam Cameron insisting Trent Green didn't come to the team with concussion issues during 2007's training camp.

The sad truth is when an imperfect set of circumstances leaves a team with an imperfect solution at a position of need, coaches and personnel men feel the need to defend that player best they can so as to not tear down what tiny possibility that player has of performing.

I get it, it's a tough spot to be in.

And in that light I present to you today Joe Philbin and his thoughts on Dallas Thomas:

"I think when you really look closely, we've broken down how he plays at guard, how he plays at tackle," Philbin told me this week. "How many sacks at guard? How many sacks at tackle? He had some really good games, too. I think some guys they say, 'Oh but the Baltimore game, oh ah.' Well, we went out to Denver and he blocked a pretty good pass rusher all day and did pretty well. Consistency is one of the things we've been talking to him about, sure, but it's a big year for him."

Look, Philbin is a former offensive line coach. He is an expert on the subject. And there is nothing that convinces me that looking at Thomas at guard has any expert convinced this player will be anything short of a weak link at left guard for the Dolphins in 2015.

Put it this way: Monday was the first OTA session of the offseason with offensive players facing defensive players and vice versa. There were no pads. It was not a contact practice. And yet I saw Thomas crumble in a heap on a run play that got blown up by Earl Mitchell and Olivier Vernon as if he was a junior varsity kid competing in the NFL.

But then again, my agenda is not to mask the truth in the desperate hope that hiding it will keep a player's confidence from being wrecked.

My approach is to expose that truth so that, perhaps, the Dolphins do not settle into a false sense of security that this will somehow be alright. It will not be alright. It has not been alright. It will not be alright unless Thomas is suddenly a completely different dude between now and the start of July's training camp. 

Another difference between what the Dolphins see and what I see: They see ability, potential. They are looking to see, as reader Andrew Manera pointed out, if Thomas has talent. I look at performance. I'm looking for results. They're looking at the possibility for results.

Dallas Thomas is a worthy backup. That is where he offers value. He should be kept behind glass which should be broken only in case of emergency -- like when your better starting left guard tweaks an ankle. He is not a 16-game starter.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, you're just a journalist and not a very good one at that. You don't know football. You weren't even born in this country. Go cover futbol).

Thank you, gallery. Nice to see you still chime in every so often. I remind that when the Dolphins were saying Shelley Smith was an ascending offensive line prospect last year, I was telling you he was a journeyman at best and not the answer. I remind you when the Dolphins were saying Nate Garner could be a backup left tackle, I was saying, sorry, but no. When the Dolphins were saying Cortland Finnegan could be a good two-year bridge starting cornerback, I was telling you he was not a two-year answer or even a one-year answer. Daniel Thomas? I was saying let him go in 2013. Yeah, I miss it at times. Everyone does, right?

But we've seen two years of Dallas Thomas. I saw that knocked-on-his-rump moment in a non-contact practice.

Not.

It. 

As to that study Philbin is referencing: Thomas played right tackle in six games last season. Forget those. His days as a tackle are over. If he's playing tackle at any point in 2015, something went horribly awry.

He played guard in six other games in 2014. Those are the performances that matter because those are the ones the Dolphins apparently studied to see if they could get by (for now) with Thomas as the presumptive starter.

In those six games at guard (three at LG and three at RG) Thomas yielded no sacks, two quarterback hits, and 12 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He had a negative overall grade in five of the six games and the one in which he didn't have a negative grade was one he did not start but was used in a shuttle system with also-not-good-enough Shelley Smith.

According to PFF, Thomas was a better guard than tackle. And that is clear to anyone who has seen him play. He's better suited to play guard than tackle. But he nonetheless did not perform well as a guard. He is not a starter.

The Dolphins, of course, cannot say that now.

May 27, 2015

Dolphins talent level perhaps highest since Philbin arrived

On Tuesday I asked Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill if the team's talent around him, obviously offensive talent, is the best he's seen since he joined the team in 2012.

"I think especially in our skill positions, guys I’m throwing the ball to, guys are natural pass catchers,” Tannehill answered. “They catch the ball with their hands and are athletic. It is definitely the most athletic group we’ve had.”

And I make the point in my column today that this is arguably the most talented team the Dolphins have had since Joe Philbin became coach.

Philbin, however, isn't ready to make that pronouncement. He's got other things on his mind.

"It's hard to tell yet," he told me. "The challenge for me in the OTA is to make sure you don't have too many pile ups, you don't have bang ups, you don't have guys playing through one another to get to the ball. I'm not looking at a lot of playmaking the first day. I'm trying to get the practice organized right so coach Philbin doesn't get fined and we lose a week of OTAs. But seriously, that takes up time."

But coach, back to the talent thing, you have six, maybe seven legitimate Pro Bowl candidates -- most of whom have already made at least one Pro Bowl.

Coach wasn't bending. So I noted that although the Dolphins seem loaded in some areas, they also seem top heavy. That is to say, they've got areas where the questions outnumber the known quantities.

Linebacker is one such area. And, like it or not, this team lacks depth everywhere except perhaps at wide receiver. (DeVante Parker is headed toward being the best rookie receiver this team has had in a long, long time, but that's a blog for another day).

This team needs youngsters to not only provide depth but become starters despite opening the season as little or unproven commodities.

Philbin thinks that is possible.

"It's early but guys guys like the Matt Hazels, the Walt Aikens, the Billy Turners, Damien Williams, I'm probably forgetting some guys. Chris McCain," Philbin said. "They look like they're moving better. They're understanding things better. We have to give them more opportunities to compete against one another. That group of guys -- the Jamar Taylors, the Will Davises -- the young guys who have contributed but haven't played a significant role to this point in time, it's important they step up without a doubt."

May 26, 2015

First OTA practice in books: What I saw

The Miami Dolphins first OTA practice was in the books early Tuesday afternoon.

This is what I saw:

DeVante Parker is a beast. He is clearly a mismatch problem for smallish cornerbacks and that was evident by his treatment of Brent Grimes this day.

Parker beat Grimes again, and again, and again. Each time, the Pro Bowl cornerback had good coverage of Parker. But 6-3 versus 5-10 is simply not a fair match and Parker made that point on in cutting routes, slants and posts.

On one play, Grimes was flagged for pass intereference. He was being as physical as the NFL allows -- moreso. And he rode Parker. And Parker caught the football anyway.

"Watching (Parker) out here is like Jarvis Landry last year," said former Dolphins player and long time analyst Kim Bokamper. "You can tell right away he's a player. Except he's 6-3 and Jarvis isn't."

Based on what I saw today, it is fair to say that DeVante Parker may seem covered but he is not.

This was a good day for Miami receivers against the DBs.

The starters in the three receiver set are Jarvis Landry, Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Parker worked into the starting group and was the completion of the group on the four-receiver set.

Landry made a couple of one-handed catches during drills.

The one defensive back that stood out was Reshad Jones. He is seemingly ready to pick up where he left off last season. He made several pass breakups in the deep secondary even though there is no contact allowed in these drills.

LaRon Byrd made a couple of nice catches and coach Joe Philbin said he saw good things from Matt Hazel.

One thing of note: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill tried one deep pass. Incomplete

----------

Every player on the roster was at camp today. Yes, that included Ndamukong Suh, who practiced.

Branden Albert (knee) and Don Jones (shoulder) did not practice. Louis Delmas  (knee) and Will Davis (ACL) were on the field but seemed a little limited in their reps.

----------

Dallas Thomas worked in as the starting left guard. Billy Turner worked in as the starting RG. Chris McCain worked in as a starting OLB. The starting CB opposite Brent Grimes was Jamar Taylor, who actually seemed to have a better day than Grimes.

----------

The team is working Landry, Kenny Stills, receiver Christion Jones and RB LaMichael James at punt return.

Stills dropped one.

----------

This is a non-contact practice. But Dallas Thomas struggled on one pass blocking play, giving up a hurry, and then collapsed to the ground on a run play only a couple of repetititions later.

The team gave rookie Jamil Dougleas a couple of first-team reps but most of them went to Thomas at LG and Bill Turner at RG.

----------

Ndamukong Suh had some sort of issue with jumping offside. He did it twice. He had a history of doing it in Detroit. This bears monitoring.