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.



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.  

Bill Lazor on Ryan Tannehill: 'Everything better'

The Miami Dolphins passing, uh, OTA practice just concluded.

And you must know that this is indeed a passing intense two hours because there is no real contact work and players are not in pads. So as it is all about passing let me share some thoughts in the next couple of posts. 

I asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor what a fair expectation for quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the offense would be:

"That's a good question," he said. "I think everything should be better. Everything should be clearer. I'm very happy with how his offseason went and the time we got to spend with him. Ryan is an extremely hard worker. He's a very intelligent guy. And he wants to do it right. I don't know that you can script a better formula for a guy to be successful. That's how he's approached it. And I'm really proud of how far he's gone in the offseason. And I think we were all waiting for this time of year where you have a defense to throw against to try to put yourself to the test and that's what he's doing."

Tannehill last season threw 27 TDs. He had 12 INTs. His QB rating was 92.8 and he threw for over 4,000 yards.

Everything better would be outstanding.

May 22, 2015

Interactive session: Offer Dolphins' Top 50 memorable moments

The Miami Dolphins are celebrating their 50th season in 2015.

And I am celebrating right along with them.


As part of my personal pom-pom garnished celebration I will be compiling the franchise's Top 50 most memorable moments and publishing them in The Miami Herald.

But being as that this is an interactive space, I've decided to let you do some of my work let you participate and take your suggestions in the comments section as to what you believe to be the top four or five greatest moments in Dolphins history.

For our purposes a game can be a memorable moment. Who would doubt that Monday Night beating of the previously unbeaten Chicago Bears in 1985 wasn't a great moment?

For our purposes a moment can be a memorable moment. That moment when Joe Robbie hired Don Shula? That moment when Shula drafted Dan Marino? Great moments, to be sure.

A season is not a memorable moment. (Hey, it's my deal so I can make the rules). So the perfect season does not qualify as a great moment. But winning Super Bowl VII to culminate a perfect season can be a great moment.

See how it works?

By the way, bad moments are allowed, too. Yes, that 62-7 beating at the hands of Jacksonville? Remember that?

So offer your thoughts. If someone is already sharing the moment you thinking of, agree with them and offer another great moment. There should be plenty of them.

Yes, folks, this is in part an exercise of nostalgia.

There's nothing wrong with that. It should be fun. When I compile the Top 50 I will obviously share with you to see what you think.

May 21, 2015

Miami Dolphins have settled family business this offseason

Think of this Miami Dolphins offseason as a set of scenes out of The Godfather.

(Work with me).

You know the part where Michael Corleone tells Carlo, that wife-beating rat, that "today I settled all family business?" Yeah, well, that's the Dolphins this offseason.

The Dolphins have been knocking off to-do items from their list like Corleone hitmen knocked off family enemies at the end of the movie.

No, the Dolphins didn't kill Tattaglia, but they signed Ndamukong Suh to the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history. They obviously made Suh an offer he could not refuse.

The Dolphins didn't shoot Moe Greene in the eye, but they got a contract extension with center Mike Pouncey.

The Dolphins didn't gun down Barzini, but they got a contract extension with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins didn't knock off Stracci, Cuneo, Tessio and finally Carlo ... but they have already signed DeVante Parker, Jordan Phillips, Jay Ajayi and every other 2015 draft pick -- an unprecedented milestone in that every rookie was signed before May's rookie minicamp.

The Dolphins have settled all family business like the dickens.

And while I grant you that sometimes I am critical of the team for being, well, mediocre at best lately, I have to give credit where it is due as well.

And it is due to the front office.

EVP football operations Mike Tannenbaum, GM Dennis Hickey, EVP football administration Dawn Aponte, and director of football administration Ryan Herman have lit up phone lines and agent ears the past 8-10 weeks and the cumulative accomplishment speaks for itself.

There is nothing left undone at this point that I can see.

Obviously, I'm leaving out the total whacking of half a dozen players (for cap and other reasons) and the trade of a couple more players (for cap and other reasons). And I'm not going to trifle that an extension for Olivier Vernon looms.

I am going to note the way the Dolphins are approaching contract talks seems different, according to agents I speak with. The team doesn't seem to get caught up in the weeds as much. There has been less antagonism in negotiations.

(The Charles Clay dealings notwithstanding).

Agents don't hate dealing with the Dolphins now, best I can tell, and that wasn't universally the case last year, or the year before, or the year before that.

Tannenbaum obviously has stamped the approach to negotiations and contracts with a different style. It is working.

No, this says nothing about the decisions that go into moving forward into these negotiations. That's not the point. Whether Ryan Tannehill deserved a contract extension now or not is not the issue. The point is when the Dolphins have this offseason decided they want to make something happen, well, it has happened.

They have settled family business.

May 20, 2015

Suh missing offseason program: Bad optics, won't affect play

I was a guest on the ProFootballTalk.com radio show Tuesday and aside from spending time with my buddy Mike Florio discussing Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Tannehill's new contract, Ryan Tannehill's flaws, and Ryan Tannehill's future, there were a couple of moments when other things Miami Dolphins came up.

And chief among those was the fact Ndamukong Suh -- still the highest-paid player on the Dolphins despite Tannehill's new deal -- has decided to skip significant portions of the team's offseason training program after initially showing up in Davie, Florida not long after signing his new $114 million contract.

(Yes, Suh participated early on but has recently skipped the voluntary work with teammates ostensibly in favor of his own regimen, which was his habit in Detroit as well).

And so let me share the thoughts I shared with Florio and expand on those based on team people I spoke with Tuesday:

First, it is indeed poor optics that the player who just signed the team's richest contract is not sweating and grinding and working with his teammates on a regular basis. Cameron Wake is there. Tannehill is there. Mike Pouncey is there. Brent Grimes is there. Suh is often not there. 

It actually looks worse that Suh initially showed up and then stopped attending because that feels like he is motivated by the show of it rather than the actual work of it. It was as if Suh was appeasing folks other than himself for a little bit before eventually doing what is truly his intent. It's kind of like when you were forced to visit a distant relative when you really didn't want to be there just because your parents told you showing your face was the right thing to do.

So there's that.

Secondly, not showing up regularly to the program is not wrong. It is, after all, voluntary. But neither does staying away make Suh a team leader at this time. Look, he's new, he's by many accounts aloof. And now he's not necessarily around at a time coaches want players bonding.

Thirdly, staying away from the program is poor leadership as defined by Suh himself. At his introductory presser, Suh acknowledged he wants his teammates doing as he does. It is about setting a good example for others to follow, he said.

"I’ve always been a person to lead by example," he said. "As I’ve grown and learned and taken many steps in my NFL playing career and as a person, personally, I understand that I have to speak up and I will do that. But at the same time, you do have to show people the right way to do things and that’s what I’m most excited about."

Well, the example Suh is setting now is that you can stay home or be elsewhere and miss the offseason program and it is fine as long as you show up in shape and ready to play -- which has always been his history in Detroit after missing that offseason program.

Fourthly, the point cannot be stressed enough that this is not really a defining performance issue. Suh has always been in shape. He has always been ready, willing and capable of taking extended snaps in games. This is not about him avoiding being sloppy fat. Or out of breath in the fourth quarter. It isn't that. Never was in Detroit, either.

So what do the Dolphins think about this?

I suppose you can say they are resigned to accept it. I spoke and texted with multiple club people Tuesday. None of them think it will be a huge problem come September or even at the opening of training camp in July. Indeed, Suh is expected at the mandatory minicamp next month, no problem.

But what is always said in these exchanges is "we wish he was here" or a "it would be better if he was here."

Suh has decided otherwise. He has, one supposes, other priorities and ways of doing things.

Will that affect his play in 2015? No, based on his past history. The man is a great talent. He is a great player. He is self-motivated. And he is, in many respects, the best at what he does. Missing significant portions of offseason training is not likely to change that.

But is it optimal? Is the team totally thrilled about this? Does it bond Suh to teammates now? Does it give him a chance to claim a leadership mantle early on in his time with the team?


May 19, 2015

Agent's view: How the Tannehill deal happened

Ryan Tannehill brought his parents -- Tim and Cheryl Tannehill -- to his press conference to celebrate and talk about his new contract extension with the Dolphins. He also brought his agent Pat Dye.

And afterward, Dye shared his thoughts of how the deal between his client and the Dolphins got done. (Yeah, I'm sure the Dolphins will not be thrilled about this but they need to loosen up, frankly).

It all began when club owner Stephen Ross met Tannehill for dinner and announced, "You're our guy." The owner told Tannehill he wasn't going anywhere. The owner told Tannehill the Dolphins wanted him as the QB for a long time.


"We talked a little bit at the senior bowl, but had a lengthy meeting at the combine. They had recently, just before that, theyt told Ryan that they were committed to him, that he was the face of the franchise, the future of the franchise, and that they definitely wanted to have discussions about extending him. They wanted to manage expectations, with the timeline.

They said they might start talking after free agency and before the draft, which is kind of when it happened. They brought him in, had a face to face. They made an offer and initially we were not inclined to even respond.

"We had a conversation and they said you have to give us some idea of what you think is fair. We continued to make progress, but about three weeks ago, we hit a place where we just didn't think we were going to get there. Then Monday a week ago, they made a significant move, in terms of total dollars, yearly average, improving the guarantee some. That was the first time I or Ryan felt like there was hope that we might get something done.

"We went back to them, made some concessions on the dollars, guarantees. It was clear to them that we wanted to get something done. After that it was just moving some things around and some nuances. It's a contract that today looks great for him, but if he continues to ascend, I just told Dennis Hickey, we're going to be knocking on the door in three or four years and hopefully with a Lombardi Trophy to revisit it.

"Obviously, they are betting on the [improvement] with those kind of dollars. The yearly, new dollar average puts him in the top seven QBs in the league and the only one ahead of him that hasn't been to the Super Bowl is Matt Ryan, who was coming off the NFC championship game and had an enormous cap number. It's Flacco and Brees and Roethlisberger, they put him in pretty rarified air. I fully believe that we may end up regretting this deal one day. I think this guy has all the ingredients to be an elite player.

"He certaintly wouldn't want me to say this but there have been a lot of challenges since he's been here. You think back to his rookie year, he's third on the depth chart, David Garrard gets hurt, we're in a contract holdout, you have a rookie head coach, rookie offensive coordinator. So there's all that and then the second year he loses his left tackle, left guard and center. I'm not even going to comment on the rest of the offensive line.

"And then this past year some of the challenges from some of the perimeter people and you lose Branden Albert. We represent Ja'Wuan James and he filled in nicely. But it's not the same when you have Branden Albert on the left side and Ja'Wuan on the right side. So every year he's had challenges. And yet his arrow when you look at his QBR and completion percentage, he's made significant jumps each and every year and he's done it since college.

"The way we all measure these deals is like hitting fast forward. Let's pretend he's hitting free agency for 2017. How much money are they paying him over those next four years. So this deal adds 77 million new dollars for four new years. Some of that $77 million is actually going to be additional dollars over years One and Two. So he's actually going to make money in years One and Two than he otherwise would have made. But those $77 million over four new years, that yearly average is $19.25. Brees average $20. Flacco is $20-and-change. I think Aaron Rodgers is $22 million. And I'm comparing apples to apples. That's how teams and agents measure these deals. What's the new dollars over the new years?

"I think there definitely an element on betting on the come in this deal. You just made the guy the sixth highest paid quarterback on the new deal. And he's never been to the Pro Bowl. Hasn't had a winning season. Never been to the playoffs. But I think you see the ascension. You see the progress.

"This is his team and this deal validates that. I told Ryan as we were getting ready to do this, "You need to prepare yourself for waking up one day and reading Andrew Luck is getting $25 million. He's a talented guy who was the first pick of the draft for a reason and he's been to the AFC championship. But this team is willing to make you one of the highest paid quarterbacks now and I don't think you put that off."

Tannehill all about steady improvement

If one phrase can be used to describe Ryan Tannehill's time as a quarterback it is "steady improvement."

He improved in a multiple of areas in 2014. He set career highs in completion percentage (66.4 percent compared to 60.4 percent from the previous year), touchdowns (27 compared to 24 from the previous year) and passer rating (his 92.8 passer rating shattered his previous career high of 81.7 from the previous year).

And it should be noted the "previous year," or 2013, was better than his rookie year in 2012.

Tannehill's history for progress year-to-year goes back to his Texas A&M days when he performed better as a senior -- 29 TD passes and 15 INTs and 3,744 yards -- than he did his junior year when he wasn't even able to win the QB job outright the entire season.

Tannehill has been about steady improvement and that is good because now that he's the Miami Dolphins newly minted franchise quarterback, having signed an extension through the 2020 season on Monday, the name of the game for him has got to be progress.

No delays. No setbacks. And certainly no pratfalls of the variety we've seen from Robert Griffin III or Andy Dalton.

Understand, there comes a moment when a player reaches his ceiling. It is that critical mass moment when his abilities are at their height. His experience has reached a plateau that defends against surprise. His familiarity and comfort with offensive system and teammates matures -- making them his playbook and players.

When all of that harmonizes you have ... Tom Brady since 2006. Peyton Manning in his "Omaha, Omaha" heyday. Drew Brees after his third NFL season.

It is art when these men, at their very best, perform.

Tannehill is nowhere near those guys yet. But, thankfully, he is nowhere near his ceiling, either.

He has tons more room to grown. He has room for more steady improvement.

And the Dolphins, obviously recognizing this, paid Tannehill. The Dolphins, obviously betting this steady improvement continues, invested in a future where Tannehill is not just playing but performing.

So what do they see that can improve?

And why do they believe Tannehill will continue to take further steps toward orchestrating great quarterback play?

Firstly, the facts have something to do with it. Understand that Tannehill will be playing in Bill Lazor's offense for only his second year in 2015. The team, I am told, expects him not to think nearly as much about things but to feel the system. The team wants Tannehill thinking like Lazor. The team wants Tannehill knowing not only what his guys are supposed to do and going to do but how the defensive players are supposed to react and going to react. 

There really wasn't any time during 2014 when Tannehill reached that level. It is ahead of him. And with time it is attainable.

This is also ahead: The Dolphins have undergone a major reconstruction on offense to bring in players that better suit Tannehill's gifts and can help hide his flaws. The seam throws will now be more en vogue. The intermediate routes will be stressed. Yes, there will be deep throws as situations and the offensive line allow. But perhaps, just perhaps, the player Tannehill throws deep to in the future will have stayed with him after practice or worked with him during the offseason on those deep routes more than Mike Wallace ever agreed to do.

(Not blaming Wallace. It is the QB's job to get the ball to his open WR. No excuses. But extra work could have helped a bad situation and Wallace-Tannehill never really got locked in on that front).

I am also looking for greater leadership from Tannehill.

It is his team now.

When he arrived, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess and others were already well formed receivers. Tannehill wasn't going to be barking orders to those veterans. Wallace's arrival signaled a new dynamic because one guy was older and more accomplished and higher paid and the other guy was Tannehill.

That has all changed.

Now, Tannehill can tell DeVante Parker how he wants things and when and where and Parker must adjust his game to make that work regardless of the fact Parker was a first-round pick. Same with Kenny Stills. Same with Jarvis Landry. Greg Jennings, not a diva by reputation, will likely see the dynamics on offense and try to fit. If not, he'll be gone soon enough.

It is Tannehill's team. And that dynamic can help Tannehill assuming he takes firm grip of the reins as he started to at times last year.

I also want to see Tannehill start to make players around him better. That is the mark of greatness. Look, we've all seen players we believed gifted leave the Pittsburgh offense, or the Colts offense, or the Patriots offense and perform worse than they had previously.


We've also seen players go play with Brady, Manning, Aaron Rodgers and rise to a level they had not reached previously. And this isn't just about receivers.

Offensive linemen that seem pedestrian on other teams suddenly look very good playing in front of great quarterbacks because, well, the quarterbacks erase a lot of mistakes. Dan Marino did this better than anyone I've seen.

Tannehill has to do this to get better. He has to do this to be great.

And, yes, I know what some of you are doing now. You're murmuring that Tannehill will never be great. You think this despite the fact Tannehill is only 26. And, I grant you, that may turn out to be true.

But to dismiss the possibility as long as Tannehill continues steady improvement year after year is simply a poor bet.

[BLOG NOTE: The Dolphins will have a press conference for Tannehill to discuss his new contract at 3 p.m. Tuesday. I will attend and update this space at the time. For real-time updates follow me on twitter: @ArmandoSalguero]

May 18, 2015

Ryan Tannehill signs contract extension through 2020

Ryan Tannehill is the Miami Dolphins franchise quarterback, meaning the franchise is committed to having him as its quarterback.

The strongest evidence of that came this afternoon when the Dolphins signed Tannehill to a contract extension through the 2020 season.

Terms of the extension are not immediately available but Tannehill should make around $16-$19 million per season with the team. (That is an estimate, obviously).

[Update: Tannehill's extension is worth $96 million that includes $45 million in guaranteed money, per a league source.]

Interestingly, Tannehill was part of a fine quarterback class from the 2012 draft that included Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles. Tannehill is the first of the bunch to sign an extension.

“We are thrilled that we were able to sign Ryan to an extension,” said Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum. “He is an ascending talent, a team leader and checks all of the boxes you are looking for at the position."

“Signing Ryan to this deal is important to our franchise,” added Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey. “He is a proven quarterback in this league that combines a talented skillset with work ethic, passion, toughness, and a team first mentality. We are committed and believe in Ryan as our quarterback for the long-term and we are excited to be able to sign him to this extension.

Tannehill started all 48 games in his three-year career and has completed 1,029-of-1,662 passes for 11,252 yards, 63 touchdowns and 42 interceptions, for an 84.0 passer rating. Additionally, he has totaled 145 rushing attempts for 760 yards and four rushing touchdowns. 

In 2014, Tannehill started every game and completed 392-of-590 (66.4 percent) passes for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, for a 92.8 passer rating. He also added 56 rushes for 311 yards and one touchdown. His completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passer rating and rushing yards were all career highs.

Tannehill's 92.8 passer rating was the fifth-highest single-season figure in Dolphins history, his 392 completions set a franchise single-season record, his 66.4 completion percentage was the second-highest single-season completion percentage in team history, his 4,045 passing yards were the seventh-highest single-season total by a Dolphins player and most since 1994, and his 27 touchdown passes were the sixth-most in a season in Dolphins history and also the most since 1994.

Miami Dolphins lead NFL in dead money

Well, Miami Dolphins fans, you can shout, "We're No. 1" and be accurate.

As you know the Dolphins have used this offseason to remake their roster. The wide receiver room is different. The linebacker room is different. Defensive tackles came (Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillps) and went (Jared Odrick, Randy Starks).

But all those moves are not done in a vacuum. Many, such as the trades of Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe, and the cutting of Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Phillip Wheeler and others come with salary cap implications.

And those implications, which include the acceleration of prorated bonuses, are part of the Dolphins offseason story now.

That money stays on Miami's salary cap even when the players are gone. It is known as dead money.

And the Dolphins lead the NFL in dead money, according to Spotrac.com.

The Dolphins are carrying $25.3 million in dead money.

The New Orleans Saints are carrying $21.6 million in dead money.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are carrying $21.1 million.

The Baltimore Ravens are carrying $20.9 million.

The Kansas City Chiefs are carrying $19.9 million.

Notice only one of those teams was in the playoffs last season.

Dead money often accrues when teams go in a different direction. It is a penalty for reversing financial course following a bad decision. Dead money also often accrues when players signing big contracts do not live up to those and get essentially fired.

In Miami's case, both situations are true.

The Dolphins have been going in a different direction since Jeff Ireland was fired as general manager is 2014. And while some of the contracts this front office did failed -- Starks, Cortland Finnegan -- the big deals the Dolphins generally showed remorse on this offseason involved those done under Ireland.