August 29, 2015

Good news on Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Tannehill

All is well. Really.

Three key figures in the success or failure of the Miami Dolphins offense are at the center of positive news this evening, even as reports have surfaced that there are bad tidings on the horizon.

I am told by multiple team sources that Branden Albert absolutely, positively remains on a time table to be ready for the regular season opener and that even if a setback or caution precludes the left tackle from playing in that game, he definitely will not be out until Week 3 of the season.

Earlier Saturday, ESPN reported Albert would not be ready until Week 3.

Mike Pouncey, meanwhile, was wearing a brace on his left knee when I found him at his locker stall after the game. Relax, he is expected to be fine and ready to play in the regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins Sept. 13, per multiple sources. 

"I'm not too concerned about it," Pouncey said. "We've got an MRI set for the morning. Basically a guy fell on it but I'm not too concerned about it."

Pouncey came to the sideline after it happened than returned to the game. Bad decision.

"I thought I was OK when I came to the sideline and wanted to go back into the game to test it out," he said. "Once I realized I couldn't play on it I came out."

Pouncey said he's not concerned about the injury. "I'll be back at practice next week," he said. "I ain't missing no game so you don't have to worry about that."

Finally, this was yet another stellar performance for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and one in which, most importantly, he stayed healthy.

Tannehill completed 15 of 19 passes for 145 yards with one touchdown. His quarterback rating for the game was 116.0. And that means this preseason, Tannehill is 33 of 41 for 303 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His QB rating for the preseason is 121.8.

You know what that means?

"I feel I'm ready," Tannehill said when I asked about the regular season. "Obviously we have two more weeks until the start of the regular season and those practices are going to be crucial. But I feel confident of where I'm at right now and what we're building and the next two weeks will be crucial for us as we get ready for Washington."

Despite feeling personally ready, Tannehill was a little disappointed with the performance of the first-team offense against Atlanta. 

"We had penalties, we had negative plays and we still have to put drives together," Tannehill said. "I expect better out of our offense."

Source: Albert return for opener in doubt

Branden Albert, expected to return from knee surgery for the regular-season, is not as rock-solid a call as it once seemed, an NFL source is telling The Herald's Adam Beasley.

Per the source, Albert and the Miami Dolphins remain hopeful he can be ready for the opener but that doesn't seem nearly as probable as it once did.

ESPN's Adam Caplan reported Albert is out until Week 3, but a source tells Beasley it could be sooner.

Albert has said all along that his knee's repair is fine. It's just a matter of regaining strength and conditioning to it. He returned to full practice this week.

Albert is not playing tonight against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason home opener and is not scheduled to play next week against Tampa Bay. 

August 27, 2015

Everything Kevin Coyle told the media Thursday

This is supposed to be a big year for the Miami Dolphins defense. Have you heard that?

They signed Ndamukong Suh. They put a lot of faith and trust in some players that the pundits have questioned. Coordinator Kevin Coyle is back to prove the collapse late last season was an anomaly.

Well, Coyle has a lot to discuss only three weeks removed from the regular-season opener. He met with the media Thursday and this is what he said:

(On Ndamukong Suh saying there’s more talent on this team than the Lions last year and if he agrees with it and what it says about the confidence of his players)– “First thing I’d say is that not being around the Lions I’m not, I can’t really make the comparison like Ndamukong possibly can. But what I think it says is that everybody on our defense, everybody on our team has high expectations. And we all want that and I think from a coaching perspective the talent that we have coupled with the way these guys have been working since back in the spring, that I think gives us the confidence going into the season that we have an opportunity to be a very good defense. We really do. If we come together like I think we can, we’ve shown small snippets, you might say of what we could be like here in the preseason. We haven’t really had enough of body of work to say one way or the other but we’ve been solid with the first group and there’s been a lot of bright spots with some of the other guys backing them up. So overall I think the expectation level is as high as it’s even been certainly since I’ve been here and now we have to go out there and prove it. And we’ll do that by putting our team in position to win games starting with September 13th.”

(On if he likes that confidence when a veteran like that says that)  --  “Absolutely. Yes. I think it’s a symbol of not only did they appreciate the other guys around them. When someone’s been in the league for a long time they can get a sense of, players and or coaches, as to what your potential is. Again potential is one thing like we always say. And now we got to go out there and prove it each and every week as we get started. You have a good vibe. You got a great vibe in the building. The chemistry of this team is the best it’s been since I’ve been here and generally that reflects an attitude and a confidence and that’s good going into the season."

(On what he looks for in a 4-3 middle linebacker and if they have that on this roster)  -- “Yeah. I think we’ve got multiple guys that have that, the qualities to do that. First and foremost you’re looking for an instinctive football player that likes to takes change and communicate and I think we’ve got a number of guys that have worked in there. Kelvin Sheppard has done a very good job here taking that role upon himself. Koa [Misi] has made great strides in that capacity as well. He’s been out as we all know here the last couple of weeks but yet he’s going to have opportunities to show that and we’ve got some young player too. Zach Vigil has really stepped up. The great thing, I think I’ve mentioned to you guys a little bit is that I don’t feel that the game for some of our young players is too fast or too big like sometimes people say. I think our young guys have gotten great reps, great work. I think Duff (Mark Duffner) has done a great job with the young linebackers so guys like Zach, and Jeff Luc has stepped up. There’s something special about the middle linebacker in every defense. Some obviously have more physical traits that you might like to see in terms of what you ask them to do but yet I think we’ve got guys that can fill that role.”

(On if he feels Sheppard should be enough in Koa Misi’s absence for him to be the guy)  --  “I think the final decision has not been reached yet. Mostly because Koa hasn’t been practicing and playing in the preseason up until this point. But it’s not an issue where we lay awake at night worrying about it. It’s going to work its way out. We feel confident that we’ve got the right mix of guys that can get the job done so we’re gonna let it back and play its way out. This will be a good opportunity to access where we’re at when we come off the field Saturday night.”

(On what he’s seen from Chris McCain and what he still needs to work on)  --  “Yeah, same thing. Chris is a guy who flashes tremendous athleticism. You love his height. You love his range, his length that he can do a lot of different things. But the consistency down in and down out is something that, I just talked to Chris on the way off the field and I just want to see him go out there Saturday night and just cut it loose and be the athlete that’s he’s capable of being. Don’t think too much, don’t worry. It shouldn’t been. Our game plans have been simple and they’ll continue to be that way. But I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Chris at this point. I think he knows that. We know that. But we know what he’s capable of doing. So again, we’ll see how it progresses here this week and over the next couple of weeks prior to the opening game. But he can play better. He can be more impacting both as a linebacker and as a rusher and I hope we start to see that.”

(On giving Brent (Grimes) the game off last week and what he saw from the guys who stepped in there for him) --  “Well there’s still a lot of competition at the corner spot. Unfortunately I thought Jamar [Taylor] started the game very well and there was outstanding interception he made. The technique on that play, you go right back and watch it - his footwork, his break. I mean it was text book. It was clinic. So between Jamar and Brice [McCain], I mention this all the time. Really there’s, in the NFL, when you say starting corners the people make a big deal of who are the two starting corners. Three of them are gonna play 65-70 percent, some days even more games, even more of the snaps. So you really have three starting players that you have to find in that group and I think we’ve got those kind of guys and then we had a guy like Zack Bowman getting good work. The young players, Bobby McCain has had an opportunity to show what he can do. Tony Lippett has done well on the outside. So we’re getting a lot of work for the young guys. I think we’re building up some depth there on the perimeter with those people and I think we kind of know what number 21 brings to the table and giving him a little bit of a rest I think was a smart thing.”

(On how much work he has done on the Washington Redskins)  --  “We’ve done a lot of homework both last spring. We spend a lot of time, the way coach sets up the schedule, we allocate a lot of time in the spring towards our early opponents once we identify them. But even prior to that in the division opponents and then certainly the Redskins we’ve spent more time than anybody in the opener. So we’ve got a good book on what they did last year. Obviously we’ve got the preseason games. The amazing thing about technology now a days, we were in Carolina, they played the night before we did and we had that film in the hotel the morning when we got out of bed and we could go down and watch the quote coaches copy of the film there before we played Carolina. So we all saw that game just casually. You’re not studying it like you’re getting ready to play them the next day but you want to see who’s doing what, which players are performing well, how they’re rotating personnel. That type of thing. So we’ve done a lot of work and that will continue as we see them here this weekend. Preseason games often times don’t give you a great indication of schematics of what the team may end up opening the year with, but at the same time you do get a feel for a lot of things. So we’ll be busy at work here getting ready for that next week. The team that you honestly don’t spend as much time on is your fourth preseason game in terms of a lot of the films study and a lot of intense preparation.”

(On the situation at safety with Louis Delmas out)  --  “First it’s a shame. It really is a shame that Lou (Louis Delmas) was injured because he’s a great player and he’s brought a tremendous amount to this team in the locker room, on the practice field. You know you love the guy for who he is and the enthusiasm he has for the game and all that type of thing. But at the end of the day we’re in the business of, it is the next man up. We got to find who’s going to be able to take that role and the guy, you know the leading candidate would be Walt [Aikens} and even prior to Louis’ injury, Walt had, I think been one of the most improved players on our team throughout the spring, throughout training camp. He’s a very, very good athlete. He needs experience and he’s getting that and hopefully will make an impact on the defense. Mike Thomas, his role has increased. Mike’s guy that you can rely on. He’s very, very capable and he’s very steady and confident back there. So we’ve got some guys that have jumped on the opportunity and hopefully they’ll continue to keep getting better.”

August 26, 2015

Dolphins plans: Thomas at LT, Tannehill at QB

Count on Dallas Thomas!

The club has decided that if Jason Fox is unable to play in Saturday's preseason game against Atlanta, Thomas will be asked to move to left tackle from his left guard position. He would protect Ryan Tannehill's blind side.

And, yes, Tannehill is expected to play Saturday.

(Even though I think that's unwise).

By the way, the chances of Fox playing are dimming by the day. He missed practice for the second consecutive day while nursing a concussion.

Branden Albert is practicing this week and doing so at full speed, including today's padded practice. But he is not expected to play Saturday night, barring a significant change in internal plans. This despite the fact Albert told The Herald's Adam Beasley that he feels good one day after practicing full on Tuesday.

With Thomas expected to play at left tackle with the starting unit, obviously the Dolphins need a starting left guard. And that will be Jamil Douglas.

Interestingly, at a time most teams are trying to nail down their offensive line and build cohesion, the Dolphins are moving things around more than they did earlier in the preseason.

It is likely Thomas would be asked to go back to left guard when Albert is ready to play in the regular-season or when Fox returns from his concussion.

By the way, Dallas Thomas yielded seven sacks while playing at right tackle last season, per ProFootballFocus.com. He played only five games at right tackle.

August 25, 2015

Evan Mathis signs with Denver Broncos

The Miami Dolphins will not be adding a former Pro Bowl guard.

Evan Mathis, a free agent since being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in June, has signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos.

The deal is worth $4 million with playtime incentives, according to a league source. The source also tells me Mathis turned down a $5.5 million deal with another unnamed team because he wanted to play for a top contender.

I cannot say it is 100 percent but I am 99 percent sure the $5.5 million offer was not from the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins instead are going to go with their young and unproven interior linemen to start 2015. That means Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas are names you should know and remember.

Two of those three will likely be Miami's starting guards for the regular season opener Sept. 13 against Washington.

Branden Albert back to full activities in practice

Two players whose health has been the topic of concern for Miami Dolphins fans today took an important step toward being ready for the start of the 2015 NFL season.

Left tackle Branden Albert announced he was doing "everything" in practice at full speed. It is the first time Albert has participated in all the drills in practice since he blew out his knee last November.

"I'm back doing everything," Albert said.

Despite the good news, it is still unlikely Albert will play Saturday in the Dolphins' third preseason game. And he was coy about being available for the regular-season opener at Washington.

"I don't know," he said.

Chances are good, however, he'll be ready for that regular-season game. 

As you may know, I advocated not playing quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the game Saturday if Albert and Fox do not play.

Tannehill apparently does not share my thoughts.

“I expect to play and play as much as I would regardless of who is out there just because those are the guys that are going to be out there when we play in a couple of weeks," Tannehill said. "Injuries are a part of the game and, like it or not, that’s just kind of the way it is. That’s the risk you take when you play this game.

"Our guys are stepping up, guys are working hard and people are going to have opportunities, and I want to see them take advantage of it.”

Actually, the guys out there might Saturday not be on the team in a couple of weeks if the Dolphins go with their third-team players. The other possibility is moving Dallas Thomas to left tackle and using Jamil Douglas at left guard.

Linebacker Koa Misi, nursing a calf injury, also returned to practice today. That is important because he had not practiced since early August.

Misi may play Friday, depending on how the calf responds in practice this week.

Not practicing today was offensive tackle Jason Fox, who is nursing a concussion, cornerback Jamar Taylor (quad), linebacker Jordan Tripp (ankle) and receiver DeVante Parker (foot).

Parker, recovering from foot surgery, was running despite not practicing. He was running hard. He was not cutting.

Finally, in a move that was expected, the Dolphins placed Louis Delmas on injured reserve.

 

August 24, 2015

Agent: Decision on Evan Mathis this week

One of the more intriguing questions of the preseason is why teams with obvious needs in the interior of their offensive lines have declined to sign free agent guard Evan Mathis despite the fact he is a former Pro Bowl player.

Well, that intrigue is expected to end this week, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Mathis.

"The news is we'll have a decision on a team by the end of this week," Rosenhaus said during his weekly appearance on South Florida's WSVN-7.

Mathis has had interest from the Seattle Seahawks and "other teams," according to Rosenhaus. He has not visited the Miami Dolphins despite their obvious need to upgrade the interior line.

And why?

Well, Mathis has up to now wanted a deal that would pay him around $5.5 million this season or what he was scheduled to make from the Philadelphia Eagles before they cut him in June. No team has been willing to come close to that price.

And so the chances are quite good Mathis is now going to be lowering his asking price.

I do know that Mathis would like to play for the Dolphins and his kin, former Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower, has put out feelers with the team to try to make that happen. Rosenhaus has also pitched the idea of adding Mathis multiple times to the team, specifically to football executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum.

And yet ... nothing.

But there's this: Billy Turner, considered to be the better of the duo of Dallas Thomas at left guard and Turner at right guard has been, well, not good this training camp and preseason. Everyone considered the training camp struggles to be a product of him mostly working against Ndamukong Suh.

But Turner has struggled mightily against both Chicago and Carolina. Turner gave up a quarterback hurry on a pass play and a tackle for loss on a run play on the first series alone against the Panthers.

No, Turner has not been an utter disaster that would cause the Dolphins to call for an armored car to pick up Mathis. But neither has Turner been so solid that the Dolphins could simply ignore the idea that Mathis is still out there.

And his price might be going down.

August 22, 2015

Carolina Panthers beat Miami Dolphins, 31-30

Never mind the score. For the second consecutive week the Miami Dolphins got fine performances from their starting offenses and defenses before the backups failed to hold the lead in eventual losses.

This night the Carolina Panthers, down 14-0 when the starters were in the game, rallied behind their substitutes to win, 31-30.

The good news is that for the second consecutive week, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sharp. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 102 yards. He had one TD and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 117.2

More importantly, Tannehill moved the offense. He played three series. One ended with a punt. Two ended with touchdowns.

For the preseason, Tannehill is 18 of 22 for 158 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His QB rating this preseason is 126.9. He has led three TD drives in five possessions this preseason.

He looks ready, folks.

And that's important because, well, maybe he should not play next week against Atlanta in the so-called rehearsal game of the preseason. That third game, to be played at the refurbished Sun Life Stadium, is the one starters usually play into the third quarter.

But here's the thing: The Dolphins are not going to be ready to play starting left tackle Branden Albert in that game, barring a significant, significant change in the progression of his return to football following last year's reconstructive surgery.

Albert is on schedule to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 13 against Washington. Next week is not Sept. 13.

Albert has been getting 5-10 plays against his teammates in team drills of late. His next step is not playing three quarters of football in a preseason game. His next step is stepping up the workload in practice, particularly in team drills.

So forcing Albert in against Atlanta seems unwise. Maybe he gets some snaps in the preseason finale. Maybe not. But not next week.

And so why is this a thing?

Well, backup left tackle Jason Fox, who has been starting while Albert has been out, left tonight's game to undergo evaluation for a concussion. He did not return. If the evaluation is positive, it is possible Fox might not be cleared to play versus Atlanta.

If he is not -- and obviously I don't know at this point -- that would mean neither the first-team nor second-team left tackle would be in the game to protect Tannehill's blind side against the Falcons. I suppose the Dolphins could play Ja'Waun James at left tackle as they did last year but that is not optimal for a team trying to get a second-year player ready to play right tackle in the regular season.

After the game, Coach Joe Philbin was non-committal about how he'll deal with the situation.

"We'll see and take it a day at a time and see what our options are, where he's at," Philbin said. "It's a little early to project."

Look, if Fox is cleared, this is not an issue. Until that happens ... issue.

It must be said that even though the Dolphins moved the football and had success, Tannehill was under duress. He was sacked once and fumbled as a result. He had two other dropbacks where he didn't have time.

Tight end Dion Sims gave up a sack and right guard Billy Turner gave up a pressure as well as a tackle for loss in the backfield on a run.

The Miami defense, having collapsed at the end of 2014, has been dominant so far in the preseason and that continued tonight.

The unit did not yield a touchdown. Indeed, it gave up only two field goals. It had two three-and-out series. It stopped the Panthers with a goal line stand. And it gave the offense the ball in the red zone when Jamar Taylor picked off a pass deep in Carolina territory.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton completed only 4 of 10 passes against the Dolphins starters. He threw the INT. And his QB rating was 13.3. That's not good.

Now to the reserves ...

The story changes. Overall, the Dolphins are showing they have very little depth based on the fact their reserves are playing poorly as units the past two weeks. This team does not look terribly deep when both the Chicago Bears and Panthers turned first-quarter deficits (starters) into losses when the Miami backups were in the game.

Not all the reserves are struggling, however.

LaMichael James, trying to impress coaches and earn a roster spot, had a 21-yard punt return and a 22-yard run from scrimmage as he led the team with 45 yards on six carries. He helped himself tonight.

Receiver Matt Hazel, trying to stick in a crowded receiver room, led Miami with four catches for 47 yards and one touchdown. He also had a 4-yard TD grab.

Taylor, trying to lock down a starting job at the boundary cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes, had the interception and that's good. But he got hurt and, if you know his history, that's bad. He left the game with a quadriceps injury. It did not seem extremely serious. 

Rookie CB Bobby McCain also left the game with an ankle injury. That one looked much more consequential. Not good.

The rest of the backups not named Gerell Robinson were unimpressive. Robinson caught a 10-yard pass and turned it into a 56-yard touchdown.

 The offense turned the football over -- with interceptions thrown by Matt Moore and Josh Freeman.

The defense gave up the lead and in so doing exposed some vets that probably should not get exposed in the second half of preseason games.

Former third-round pick cornerback Will Davis, for example, allowed consecutive completions and then followed that with a pass interference penalty.

Freeman, who's Dolphins experiment will end by getting cut before the regular season, was inconsistent. He threw an interception that gave Carolina the lead, was inaccurate, and then ... he threw that 10-yard pass that Robinson turned into magic.

I will say that both Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas were active on defense when they were in at safety. They are vying to replace Louis Delmas, who is out for the season. Aikens started and was fine early. Thomas came in later at strong safety when starter Reshad Jones left the game.

The battle for the final backup defensive tackle spot continues to rage. A.J. Francis had a sack. Jordan Phillips doesn't need to worry about that last roster spot. He's going to be on the team and he had excellent pressure on Derek Anderson on a stunt where he came inside out while Chris McCain, playing defensive end, took up two blockers.

August 21, 2015

Dolphins coaches get, um, entertaining for players

So imagine Joe Philbin in a white tuxedo and top hat rapping -- that's not a misprint -- about how things are going to go when the "Dolphins come to town."

And then check out what that looks like, courtesy linebacker Koa Misi's instagram account.

Yup, that's Philbin, flanked by assistant Jay Kaiser on the bass and special teams coach Darren Rizzi on his right and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle in the wig and 70s-era marshmallow shoes further right of him.

Apparently coaches put on quite a show for the players Friday night. Executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum even brought in a clown.

The jokes practically write themselves ... Did the magician pull a guard out of his hat?

Obviously this was all done for team bonding purposes. Will it work?

Maybe.

I wonder if Bill Belichick does this kind of stuff?

Miami Dolphins sell out 2015 season tickets: Boom!

There is palatable excitement about the Miami Dolphins coming regular season and one of the way to measure that is by how well tickets sales go.

Well, when Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel mentioned the matter at the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Tuesday, he estimated all 2015 season tickets would be sold out by the end of next week.

Guess what?

They're sold out now -- at the end of this week.

And now I say this: In the past few years, I've covered a lot of games at Sun Life Stadium that were sold out but also full of fans wearing the other team's colors. They root for the opposition.

The reason is they buy tickets on the secondary market from Dolphins season ticket buyers.

The hope is this season those that invested in Miami Dolphins season tickets will keep them in their possession. Where they belong.

Single-game tickets, meanwhile, remain on sale.

August 20, 2015

Miami Dolphins skip walk-thru, go to Straight Outta Compton

IMG_2853Joe Philbin is different this year. I've repeated it and repeated it and repeated it since before training camp opened for the Miami Dolphins.

He changed the work schedule for the regular season. He's made the point he want to forge a better bond with players. There are a handful of examples I've chronicled that show the guy is trying to be a better head football coach.

And today there was another example.

Philbin cancelled a scheduled team walk-thru in South Carolina and took his players to the movies. The Dolphins went to see Straight Outta Compton.

Joe Philbin.

Straight Outta Compton.

This cannot be the same guy who looked at me as if I had horns protruding from my forehead when I suggested he take his team to see Lone Survivor, the story of Seals in Afghanistan, as a way to get them fired up before playing the New York Jets in a season finale.

And yet today ... Straight Outta Compton.

All I can say is I guess Joe Philbin is dope.

Cam Newton to Ndamukong Suh: 'Life is good for you'

Yeah, Ndamukong Suh is rich and everyone knows it, including Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who, um, is also rich.

Well today during the joint practices between the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers, Suh was pushing the pocket and getting close to Newton and so the two of them started talking. They weren't talking with each other, necessarily. They were talking at each other.

At one point, Newton told Suh, "Yeah, life is good for you."

(Is that supposed to psyche out Suh?)

Suh, who signed a $114 million contract with Miami this offseason, was asked about the exchange after practice during his once-a-week media availability.

"Life is good for me? I don’t know about that," Suh said. "I’m definitely happy about my life, but there’s more to accomplish.

“Did I expect the chatter? No, he just came up to me, so it was a good conversation and left it at that.”

Suh addressed other issues during his brief visit with the media. This is what he said:

(On the two practices with Carolina and what he got out of it) “It’s obviously a great measuring stick to go against an NFC team that I’ve obviously seen before, but, for our group in Miami, to kind of just give us a measuring stick to where we’re at right now in training camp. It’s a good little measuring stick. At the end of the day, we’ll get a game against them here on Saturday. It was some good work, definitely, in essence, (it’s) kind of like three games back to back going against Carolina right now."

(On how he felt the defense held up in the two days) – “We’ve got a lot of film to watch, but I think that we did a pretty good job for the most part, at least for the defensive line I can speak that we were re-setting the line of scrimmage in their backfield in a handful of the plays. So I’m excited about it. I think we got a lot of growth at the end of the day to continue to come together and gel as a group. I’m excited. I think we did, we came out here and accomplished some good things."

(On the team getting away for a couple of days and the ability to bond, and if there is anything to that) – “Oh, without question. I think it’s a great opportunity for us. Obviously, it’s not ideal, we can’t go back to our own homes, but it’s good for us to come together, be in the hotel, love each other, hate each other, love each other all of the time for 48 hours straight, really going on more than that, knowing that we have another day tomorrow and then we’ve got a game before we come back home on Saturday night."

Thursday morning injury update PLUS Misi status for preseason game 2 (not great)

Koa Misi, who has not practiced since he injured a calf Aug. 5, missed his second day of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers this morning and will not play in Saturday's second preseason game for the Miami Dolphins.

Misi previously missed the preseason game at Chicago.

Interesting situation with Misi. Even if he returns to practice next week, which is not a certainty early on, the Dolphins will have a decision to make on him for the Aug. 29 preseason-opener against Atlanta. That game, the third preseason game, is typically the so-called dress rehearsal game in which starters play up to three quarters.

Are the Dolphins going to expose Misi to three quarters of game action after only one week of practice? Hard to fathom.

In other injury news:

Safety Louis Delmas, who went down with an apparent ACL tear to his right knee on Wednesday, flew back to South Florida and is scheduled to be evaluated by doctors today.

[Update: Today's MRI has confirmed Delmas has an ACL tear. He will be placed on injured reserve.]

DeVante Parker, recovering from foot surgery, is off the physically unable to perform list but is not practicing today.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings has an elbow injury and is not practicing today.

Linebacker Jordan Tripp, dealing with an ankle injury, will not practice again today.

 

August 19, 2015

Source: Louis Delmas has torn ACL

It looked bad when it happened and it apparently is bad for Miami Dolphins safety Louis Delmas.

A league source tells me the intial report on Delmas, who went down in a heap during today's joint practice between the Dolphins and Carolina Panthers, is he tore the ACL to his right knee. Delmas is having an MRI today to confirm the initial findings.

Delmas is headed to the injured reserve list, assuming the initial report is accurate. There is no cap relief for placing a veteran player on IR.

[Update: A look at the Delmas contract shows this injury is going to cost him a big chunk of money -- approximately $1.75 million. He had $750,000 coming to him in the form of per game bonuses, prorated at $46,875 per game. He will not collect any of that. The Dolphins save $140,625 against the cap there because only three of those prorated bonuses were not likely to be earned. But here's the big hit: Delmas signed a split contract because of his injury history. And so, if the Dolphins place him on injured reserve before the regular season begins, they will not owe him his full scheduled $1.475 million base salary. They will only owe him $417,000 because his injury happened in the preseason. He will not get the other $1 million or so and the team would save that $1 million in cap space. The the total savings in cap space to the Dolphins could be approximately $1.14 million. The total cost from this injury to Louis Delmas could be $1 million in base salary plus another $750,000 in bonuses for a total of $1.75 million.]

Delmas had total reconstructive surgery on the same knee in December when he tore it up in Week 14. The Dolphins, encouraged by his quick recovery, signed him to a one-year contract. Delmas was working as the starting strong safety for the team.

Now that job will fall to Walt Aikens or Michael Thomas or perhaps someone the Dolphins find elsewhere.

Louis Delmas injured during joint practices with Panthers

The Miami Dolphins are holding their breath now because moments ago starting strong safety Louis Delmas was carted off the field, suffering from an apparent knee injury.

The injury, which came in non-contact fashion, appears to be to the same knee that Delmas had surgically reconstructed less than 10 months ago.

The irony of this injury is that Delmas was covering Ted Ginn. Ginn is a former Dolphins first-round bust from 2007.

This practice has been brutal for both teams. Earlier, Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered an apparent knee injury in non-contact fashion as well. He, too, was carted off the field.

Walt Aikens, Michael Thomas, Jordan Kovacs, rookie Cedric Thompson and Don Jones, who was taken off the physically unable to perform list today and is working slowing back into practices, are the depth at safety for Miami. One may be called on to become a starter.

Parker and Jones off PUP today, all on schedule

The Miami Dolphins this morning removed wide receiver DeVante Parker and safety Don Jones from the physically unable to perform list.

Relax, it does not mean either is now taking part in full scale practices in South Carolina against the Carolina Panthers. Neither is ready for that.

This move is procedural, according to a source, so that both players can do some light drills in practice -- more than simply jogging, which is what they have both been doing.

The timetable for the return of both men remains the same. Parker, the team hopes and a source confirms, is scheduled to be ready for the regular-season opener against Washington on Sept. 12.

Jones, recovering from shoulder surgery, is also expected to be ready to play in a game within a month (probably less). Unlike Parker, however, his spot on the roster is tenuous. Jones will practice, at least some today in South Carolina.

Parker will not practice, per se, today. Neither will Koa Misi (calf) and Jordan Tripp (ankle).

August 18, 2015

Another reason for optimism? Philbin does it again

The Miami Dolphins feel good about themselves -- I mean, really good, as I wrote in my column today. Indeed, check out how executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum explains how optimism surrounding the Dolphins is apparently more legitimate than the optimism the other 31 NFL teams are feeling right now.

...And I'm not sure I buy that one.

But ...

I do know there are reasons to expect something better from this team this year. And one reason that I've previously shared here and here and here is that coach Joe Philbin is working on being a better coach.

Let's face it, Philbin and his coaching staff are a source of uncertainty for many fans and, yes, pundits. Yes, he has a solid roster. But will the Dolphins play for the coach, particularly late in the season?

The answer last year and the year before was no even as bad teams were playing against the Dolphins for Rex Ryan and other coaches that didn't seem to have as much talent at their disposal late in the year.

Well, Tuesday I learned Philbin gave us another example of how he's trying to forge relationships with the men on his roster that maybe, just maybe, will bring them closer to him. And if that happens, maybe these guys will play for their coach -- or simply play better because they feel better about things -- throughout the season, including late in the year.

So what did Philbin do?

On Monday he gathered the team and announced players didn't have to wear suits and ties to travel on the team plane to Carolina. Oh, the team is still taking business trips, including Tuesday afternoon to South Carolina for joint practices with the Carolina Panthers.

But everyone was free to wear jeans. And shirts.

No suits. No ties.

It is the first time since perhaps Dave Wannstedt was coach that the dress code on the team plane has been relaxed. The past three years Philbin has adhered to the idea that these men representing the Miami Dolphins should look spiffy.

Except that looking spiffy is a pain for some of these players.

And that's the reason when Philbin announced the new rule for this trip, which were not in effect the first trip of the season to Chicago, the entire team offered a resounding round of applause and cheered approval.

Look, on its face this is not a big deal. It's a small thing.

But it shows the coach is considering the greater comfort of his players. And perhaps they appreciate it enough that the bonds between the coach and his team are strengthened.

And that's another reason to be optimistic about this year.

August 17, 2015

The Carolina dilemma with Brandon Albert; PLUS how Miami Dolphins will distribute WR work

The final open training camp practice for the Miami Dolphins was notable in that ...

A. Wide receiver Kenny Stills, since Aug. 2, returned to practice and got some repetitions with the first-team offense.

B. Wide receiver DeVante Parker, rehabilitating from foot surgery, began jogging. The rookie who has not practiced at all this training camp jogged up one sideline, walked across the field, and then jogged back down the other sideline.

Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

C. Left offensive tackle Branden Albert took multiple snaps in 11 on 11 team drills. It was the first time this camp Albert has participated in a team drill. He's been limited to light work, then individual drills, then more individual drills that included one-on-one situations against defensive players.

And out of all that the thing that intrigues most short-term is Albert's situation because, frankly, it presents the Dolphins with something of a dilemma.

As Albert is apparently on the cusp of being ready for more work in team drills, it stands to reason he continues building on that status -- maybe later this week he could get a dozen team drills. And build on that later in the week.

So what is the dilemma?

Well, the Dolphins tomorrow fly to South Carolina to participate in two days of dual practices with the Carolina Panthers. And in those dual practices, the one-on-one situations will pit Miami's offensive linemen against Carolina's defensive lineman. The 11-on-11 team drills will match Miami's offense versus Carolina's defense.

So do the Dolphins let Albert, who they have nurtured along during training camp, work against players on an opposing team, knowing that sometimes players on opposing teams have agendas other than not hurting a player who is slowly returning from full reconstructive knee surgery?

Now, I'm not saying any Panthers player would try to injure Albert. But what if someone gets amped? What if competitive juices flow? What if someone decides he wants to get the best work possible against a left tackle with a reputation (Albert) and goes at or close to full speed?

Do the Dolphins expose Albert to that possibility?

Of course not, right?

Unfortunately, as with the definition of a dilemma, most of the options don't offer great choices. So, what if the Dolphins simply insulate Albert? What if they do not expose him to any competition against the Panthers?

Well, then it would seem the days of dual practices versus the Panthers might not have helped Albert progress as much as, say, a week of practice back in Davie. With and against teammates. In a much more controlled environment.

It's a tough call what the Dolphins should do.

"We haven't made any final decisions on that," coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "We saw him get a little bit more work today, it was great to see him in there, working on cut technique. It was great to see him working on the things he's going to be doing during the course of the year. We'll see how he feels, we'll see where we're at before we decide whether we put him in."

Philbin acknowledged that dual practices are typically not run at the same speed and with the same urgency as practices involving one team.

"The level of competition will get turned up a notch, which is good, but we'll see," he said.

All I'm saying is the Dolphins must consider whether they really, really want to expose Albert to work against Charles Johnson, Frank Alexander or Kony Ealy only a day or so after he worked a handful of team drills against teammates for the first time?

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There is intrigue in how the Dolphins are going to manage the wide receiver rotation now that Stills is back at practice.

With both Stills and Parker out, the Dolphins have used Greg Jennings and Rishard Matthews as starters, along with Jarvis Landry.

And Jennings has impressed coaches with his precise route running and technique. The man is a surgeon at his craft. And coaches simply love it. Indeed, they've been pleasantly surprised that a player soon to be 32 years old and who some considered declining has been so good in camp.

Coaches also have liked what Rishard Matthews has done during his time working with the starters.

So which player gets diminished with Stills back now and Parker back eventually?

Today, the team worked a rotation. Stills worked into the starting group and shared the time with Matthews and Jennings. 

"I've done a really good job with the film study, paying attention in practice and taking notes," said Stills, making the point he doesn't feel as if he's that far behind everyone else. "Yeah, I'm behind in a few things, but I feel like I've got experience. I've played before. I just hop back in there and try to make some plays."

When the entire receiver room is healthy, it will be interesting to see how the passes are distributed, particularly considering tight end Jordan Cameron will also factor.

Will there be enough footballs around to keep everyone satisfied?

"Plenty. Plenty," Stills said. "We've got great guys in the room, and so it makes a huge difference. All of us want to see each other do well and we just want to win at the end of the day. It doesn't matter who's getting the ball, as long as we're winning."

Newsy morning at Miami Dolphins training camp

Tight end Arthur Lynch, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve and had struggled in this Miami Dolphins training camp, was cut by the team this morning.

The club signed free agent linebacker James Davidson.

On the injury front, the club announced that only linebackers Koa Misi (calf) and Jordan Tripp (ankle) would not be practicing today.

This assumes receiver Kenny Stills, who has missed the past couple of weeks with a calf injury, will be back at practice although that is not totally certain because, well, sometimes the trainers forget to report a guy here and there.

So confirmation will come from my twitter account whether Stills is working or not.

It will also be interesting to see what repercussion this has on Rishard Matthews. Will he be bumped back to second team? Or will Stills have to earn his way back on first team?

Tune in later.  

August 16, 2015

Notes on Earl Mitchell, Branden Albert, Brice McCain, lots more

The Miami Dolphins cut their practice outdoors in front of fans short today because there was lightning in the area so the folks had to be satisfied with about 45 minutes of work before they were sent home. The team moved into the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble for the rest of their drills.

But the people present saw 310-pound nose tackle Earl Mitchell playing fullback. And catching two passes. Weee!

This move has been some time in coming. Mitchell played some on offense while in college at Arizona. And his teammates are quite familiar with that.

"Yeah we have little jokes about it in the locker room," cornerback Brent Grimes said. "We show people the highlight tapes that coach [Kevin] Coyle came up with of Earl playing at Arizona getting a couple of carries, catching some passes. So we knew he could do some things with the ball. Now he's getting his chance."

Mitchell caught two passes in practice. So maybe he's a guy on short yardage -- blocking or, crazy as it sounds, catching a pass.

But Mitchell -- apparently the center of attention in the lockerroom -- didn't feel too comfortable discussing his duty on offense Sunday. This is, after all, really hush-hush stuff.

"You got to talk to Philbin about that one, man. I don't know about all that," Mitchell said about playing fullback.

When was the last time you played offense, Earl?

"I was in college, probably going into my junior year."

How good are your hands?

"How good are your hands, man? You got too talk to Philbin about that."

I get it. Guy is trying to keep things under wraps. But let's face it, most teams preparing for short-yardage instruct their players in assignments if a fullback is in the game. And it doesn't matter if that guy is a traditional fullback, a tight end, or a nose tackle.

"It's cool," Grimes said. "I'm hyped for him. I hope they give a chance to score a couple of close touchdowns. Maybe Earl will spring one. Earl is the man."

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The man on the Dolphins offensive line is Branden Albert. With all respects to Mike Pouncey, the success or failure of this line may rest with whether Albert makes a fully successful return from total reconstructive surgery. 

And he took another step in getting there this weekend taking one-on-one drills versus teammate Cameron Wake. And he looked good.

Indeed, Albert looked much better against Wake, a Pro Bowl performer, than Dallas Thomas, who followed Albert in the one-on-one line, did against another defensive lineman.

"I was delighted," coach Joe Philbin said of the drills by the left tackle. "It's another step in the progression. I think he's feeling better. Most important is how he feels about it. And I think he's gaining confidence on a daily basis. He's got hurdles to overcome but he's making progress where he is."

The Dolphins gave undrafted rookie free agent Zach Vigil work with the starting unit today. He was first-team in 7-on-7 drills.

That, one supposes, is a reward after Vigil played relatively well against Chicago last week and has been practicing well while other players -- specifically Koa Misi and Jordan Tripp -- have been hurt.

Vigil has worked both at middle linebacker and strongside linebacker.

I watched Tripp today. He was walking around without either a walking boot or crutches. But he was clearly in some discomfort and had a pronounced limp. He's not going to be playing for a while.

Misi continues to miss. It is wise the Dolphins are being cautious. But this team needs a good Plan B if Misi continues to suffer from the injury bug because, well, he's been out since the start of last season.

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It was a good day for Brice McCain in practice. Within the span of a couple of repetitions, he had a pass breakup on a deep post to Jarvis Landry and then came back and deflected another pass that showed he could be physical -- even at 5-9.

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The Dolphins did some mixing and matching along the offensive line again today.

Rookie Jamil Douglas, who has been vying for a starting job against Dallas Thomas at left guard, got second-team snaps at right guard today. And Jacques McClendon, who has been competing almost exclusively at right guard, got second-team snaps at left guard today.

The two starters continue to be Billy Turner at right guard and Dallas Thomas at left guard. I'd say they have done nothing but solidify themselves lately. (Sorry, Evan Mathis).

I get the feeling the only way the Dolphins pull the trigger on Mathis is if Thomas totally collapses in practices next week against Carolina or over the next couple of games.

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In case you've missed it, my column today on Rishard Matthews is a must read! Well, maybe not a must read. But a should read is fair. Get to it.