October 23, 2016

Starters and inactives of Dolphins versus Bills

Today is about the lineup, not so much the inactives. And to that end consider:

Michael Thomas is starting at safety today for the injured Reshad Jones.

Running back Jay Ajayi is starting today, ahead of Arian Foster. Yes, Ajayi has earned that job back.

Andre Branch is starting today ahead of Mario Williams. Yes, Williams has apparently lost his job after not starting last week.

Dominque Jones is starting at tight end for the injured pair of Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims. Jones is very familiar with Adam Gase's offense and the coach trusts him.

Tony Lippett is starting today for injured Xavien Howard. Lippett was managing a hamstring injury this week.

The inactives for Miami are:

Howard, Bene' Benwikere, Julius Warmsley, Nick Williams, Terrence Fede, Sims and Jordan.

All of Miami's running backs are active. All of Miami's linebackers are active.

For the Bills ... running back LeSean McCoy is active.


October 21, 2016

Trio of Dolphins fined, but Ndamukong Suh not among them

So the Pittsburgh Steelers are peeved and the NFL is reportedly looking into a pass-rush situation in which Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh seemed to kick Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last Sunday.

The investigation into the play continues.

Suh, however, was not fined for the action this week, per a league source.

He is so far the luck one because three Dolphins were fined for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in Week Six -- or the Pittsburgh game.

Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams and Ju'Wuan James were all fined $12,154.

As to the Suh incident, Miami coach Adam Gase Friday supported Suh's work on the play in question. Gase said he didn't notice the play the first time he went through the tape but went back and looked when the mini-controversy arose from the Steelers' complaints.

And after watching the play again, Gase said he saw a guy playing hard and trying to get to the quarterback.

"He’s trying to figure out a way to get to the quarterback," Gase said. "I don’t know if I can comment on it past that. I just know how I’ve watched him play. He just goes as hard as he can and he does everything he can to try to sack the quarterback."

We'll see what the NFL says on the matter in the coming days.

Miami Dolphins' only way to relevance is to win games in the AFC East

If you're thinking this season is already over for the Miami Dolphins because they are 2-4 and in third place in the AFC East then stop reading now.

This post is not for you.

Nothing to see here.

Move along.

Well, you've made it to the fifth paragraph so obviously you think there is still at least faint hope the Dolphins can make some noise the remainder of 2016 following last week's upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cool. I'm with you.

And that hope has a chance to blossom into full blown optimism if the Dolphins can beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Consider that the Dolphins have found a new energy and enthusiasm since their Pittsburgh victory. It was a meaningful victory because not only were players rewarded for their hard work but because coaches believe they saw the team turn a corner on this season.

What I mean by that is coaches have gotten more comfortable with their players. Players are getting more comfortable with their assignments. The Dolphins see significant progress happening and last week's game, they believe, was the first strand of evidence of that fact. So no one within the organization believes this is the same team that headed into the game against Tennessee. This is a different team, they believe.

Do I believe that? I'd like more proof because, well, this isn't the first time people in the organization share this feeling with me. And I've seen it mean nothing in the past. So let's see.

But also, let's be open to the possibility a victory over Buffalo is not impossible. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo's most explosive offensive weapon, is reportedly not playing, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. The team's second-most explosive offensive weapon Sammy Watkins, who last season was something of a Dolphin killer, also is not playing. So there's that.

The game is in South Florida. And it's still hot down here. And the Bills are not a hot weather team. So there's that.

The Miami offensive line is healthy and about to play its second game together. Last week's showing was an epiphany of sorts for that unit. That's how eye-opening it was. The Dolphins believe that unit is the foundation for future success. So there's that.

The Bills are on a roll, no doubt. They've won four consecutive games. But, with respect, the Bills aren't to be confused with a proven ball club. The Bills are on a longer playoff drought than the Dolphins. They fired their offensive coordinator after the second game of the season and that seemed to work for them the past month, but is that going to last?

And last I checked, Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a good game-manager type. But he's not Tom Brady.

So all those things must be considered. And, yes, the fact the Dolphins will be without their most impactful defensive player in Reshad Jones is a problem for Miami. No doubt. Michael Thomas is a fine backup and a smart player. But Jones was starting and earned a Pro Bowl berth last season for a reason. So that hurts the Dolphins.

Now, having said all that, the Dolphins have a chance to become relevant on Sunday. If they win, it will be their first victory against an AFC East rival this season. Last season the Dolphins didn't win a game in the AFC East until the regular-season finale against New England.

Miami was 1-5 in the division last year.

If the Dolphins, who already lost to the Patriots this year, can even their division record to 1-1 and we're not done with October yet, that suggests progress and other things. Among the other things it suggests is the Dolphins will have just beaten what was considered an AFC Super Bowl contender (Pittsburgh) and the AFC East's second-best team (Buffalo) in consecutive games.

The Dolphins would then head to the bye on a positive note with a 3-4 record and come back with a home game against the reeling New York Jets before heading off to California for two games.

It is possible, if the Dolphins are right about having turned that fateful corner, this team heads to California with a 4-4 record and two wins within the division.

No, that's not quite playoff contention. But it is relevance. It is pointing toward contention. The Dolphins will be making noise at that point.

So that's the rosy, optimistic view of the world.

But what happens if the Dolphins lose to the Bills? At home? To fall to 2-5? And 0-2 within the division?

At that point this season truly is no longer about this season. At that point, it's about next year. And draft order. And maybe dumping talent before the trade deadline.


Because if the Dolphins, 1-5 in the division last year, continue to show they cannot win games against their divisional rivals, then there really is nothing to talk about because there's no road to postseason play that doesn't travel through winning division games. There just isn't. And if Miami loses to Buffalo it will be 0-2 in the division.

So this game is pivotal. This game will show whether the Dolphins simply caught the Steelers on a bad day last week or they actually found a formula for succeeding with some consistency. This game will show if the Dolphins have made progress both from earlier this season, as coaches think, and from last year when they were the AFC East doormats.

Hey, you made it to the last paragraph. I guess you're interested in what will happen Sunday. 

October 20, 2016

TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) out again this week

Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron, in the NFL's concussion protocol, is making progress.

No, he's still not ready to practice. No, he's not playing on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

But he's making progress.

We know this because Cameron was on the field working with trainers today in what was obviously a test of his physical progress post concussion. It stands to reason that if he passes such a test, his next step would be to actually start a rehabilitation period.

If that goes well, practice on a limited basis would be the next step and the full practice before he actually gets back to game action.

No, this isn't a right now recovery. But post-bye -- at some point -- the Dolphins hope their starting tight end who is about to miss his fourth game can get back on the practice field.

One thing: Cameron has suffered four concussions since the end of 2012. So coach Adam Gase has said he isn't playing Cameron until he's 100 percent recovered. This all assumes Cameron makes steady progress. A setback would obviously change everything.

Dion Sims, meanwhile, is also in the concussion protocol. This is his second concussion in two years. It remains unclear what his status for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills is but I wouldn't be banking on him playing.

Sims did not practice Thursday.

October 19, 2016

Richie Incognito: Still searching for lesson of Bullygate

Three years later, Richie Incognito has came out the other side of the harassment scandal that helped blow up the 2013 Miami Dolphins better than anybody.

I'm glad to see it.

Incognito has apparently found an NFL home with the Buffalo Bills. They love him.

"Well, I just let him know that everybody makes mistakes in life. I’m certainly one that’s made several in my life," Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan said of Incognito. "But you know what? Everybody deserves another opportunity as well and, with Richie, I saw a guy that – you know, there are no do-overs. But he owned it, he did everything, and he has been unbelievable here. In fact, he’s a leader here. Every teammate respects him and he’s earned that right.

"The people in our community look up to Richie and everybody loves him. I can’t speak to what happened in the past. I can tell you what he’s doing right now and he’s been outstanding on the football field, in the classroom and in our community."

And Incognito loves them back.

The Miami Dolphins? Incognito keeps in contact with several of the team's players. He even keeps in contact with former coach Joe Philbin. But owner Stephen Ross, who threw Incognito under the bus and took Jonathan Martin's side? Not so much.

Last year, Incognito's first with the Buffalo Bills, the South Florida media requested to talk to the offensive lineman on a conference call. Either because Incognito declined or the Bills didn't want to go there, that conference call never happened.

On Wednesday, that awaited conference call happened. And this is everything Richie said about, well, everything ... including friend turned former friend Jonathan Martin:

Q: What has your life been like in the last two years?

A: "Last two years have been good. I think Terry and Kim Pegula, Doug Whaley, Rex (Ryan), they all stuck their neck out on the line for me. They brought me in and gave me an opportunity to come up here and reestablish myself in the league and get back to playing football and it’s been great. You know, they welcomed me with open arms and you know, I think about repaying them every single day with just hard work and being better. Getting the most out of my teammates."

Q: Were you given any guidelines of what you couldn’t do to stay a member of the Buffalo Bills?

A: "No, no guidelines. One thing I believe helped was Tony Sparano coached with Rex in New York and Dave DeGuglielmo, the offensive line coach, coached with Rex. So they had good insight into who I was and what I was about. So when I sat down with Rex, he said “we know who you are, we know what you’re about. We just want you to come be yourself, be comfortable and, you know, help this team win."

Q: Now what was your life like three years ago?

A: "It was nuts, man. It was nuts. It got turned upside down, you know? You guys had a front row seat to the circus. You know, middle of the season we’re grinding, we’re trying to get wins. We started that season 3-0 and you know we’re really feeling good about ourselves, and hit a rough patch and then the whole incident went down. I’m a pariah in the national media and basically turned radioactive there for a few months. And you know, that was it. It was crazy. It was a crazy and surreal experience to go from within the locker room, a member of the Miami Dolphins, to just kind of an outcast, to kind of just out there."

Q: And what was the hardest part about that?

A: "You know, the hardest part about it was not being able to play, and not being able be with my teammates. You go from being in the locker room with the guys, you’re part of the team, to you’re being suspended. And your off in your own little world. It was incredibly difficult at that time because all I wanted to do was be with my teammates, be with my guys that supported me. Be with my guys in the locker room."

Q: In the aftermath of what happened, you talk to the other guys on the team, and all of these guys came out in support of you. I don’t think I talked to anyone in support of Jonathan Martin. What did that mean to you?

A: "You know, it meant a lot to me. It meant a lot. You know, you don’t really know how people really feel about you until something like that goes down and I have a tremendous amount of respect for guys in that locker room like Mike Pouncey, Ryan Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Cameron Wake. Each of those guys to a man—not only, one, tell the truth but two, speak so highly of me. They made me very proud and you know I was proud to have been associated with him and have been out on the field and played with him. And that was a cool and special moment to me because, during that whole time it was so crazy and there was so much stuff being said, and to hear my guys say that and stick up for me, it was really special for me."

Q: Have you had any conversation at all with Jonathan Martin in the last three years?

A: "He’s reached out and tried to speak a few times but I have nothing to say."

Q: How often do you keep up with trying to keep in touch with guys on the Dolphins?

A: I speak with guys routinely. It’s tough during the season because we’re kind of doing our thing but spoke with (Kraig) Urbik last week, saw Tannehill last time I was down so we’re still close. I still read the Sun and the Herald, read all the stuff that’s going on down there. I keep up with the guys and, you know, I’m still pretty close with a lot of guys down there."

Q: You ran for 312 yards last week. What has really been the difference these last four games?

A: "You know, we changed coordinators, we started 0-2 and it served as a huge wake up call when we fired Greg Roman. You know, a lot of guys—you know, we approached it the right way. Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, guys started pointing fingers at themselves and started saying “we need to play better, we need to play up to our potential. I think Anthony Lynn has done a great job coming in and simplifying it for us. We’re just going out and we’re playing. We’re confident in the game plan, we’re taking ownership in the gameplan, and we’re executing on Sunday’s."

Q: When was the last time, if at all, you spoke to Steve Ross in the aftermath of what happened? Did you ever talk to him?

A: "No. Mr. Ross never reached out to me and I haven’t had a word with Stephen Ross since before my suspension."

Q: What about Joe Philbin?

A: "Yeah. Coach Philbin and I, we stayed in contact through the whole thing. You know, we spoke kind of routinely through the suspension and then after the season. And then you know, Joe came up to me and congratulated me last year when we came to play you guys early in the season. And then I saw Joe in the preseason with the Colts."

Q: How’s the Ferrari?

A: "Hah! The Ferrari’s great man. I got rid of the black Ferrari and got a Rolls Royce, the race two-door."

Q: What are we supposed to learn and take from Bullygate?

A: "You know, I don’t know. I think I’m still searching for the lesson in all of it. Everything went down the way it did and I think there was what happened in the media and then actually what happened. And only me, Jonathan Martin and the guys in that locker room know exactly what happened. And that sticks. So as far as lesson, I think it’s tough.

Q: You say only you, Jonathan Martin and the guys in that locker room know exactly what happened. Is there anything that you want people to know that they don’t know now?

A: "You know, I think the story’s kind of played itself out. Jonathan and I were close friends. I cared about him. If anyone was there for Jonathan, it was me. And Jonathan had his troubles. He had his demons, like we all do. And he left for whatever reason, and he handled it the way he did. And then the story kind of takes on a life of its own and there’s the narrative that Jonathan and his camp wants you to believe, and then there’s, like I said, what me, Mike Pouncey, what John Jerry, what Jim Turner, what we know what happened. And I can sleep good at night knowing what happened and what my actions were. I’m not saying I was a saint but I sleep well at night knowing what I did.

Q: Do you feel like you were used as a payday?

A: "I don’t know. I really don’t know."

Mario Williams not good but not a drama problem, either

Mario Williams came to the Dolphins a year after his time in Buffalo ended in failure and drama.

The failure happened because Williams didn't seem to fit into Rex Ryan's defense and his statistics suffered -- either because he wasn't a fit or simply lost something. The drama came when Williams began discussing his situation and making no secret of the fact he was unhappy and wasn't. There was also some drama when teammates recognized Williams wasn't exactly trying very hard.

Well, Williams is with the Dolphins now and his experiencing failure again. But Wednesday it became clear we're not at the drama stage at all -- at least not publicly.

Williams, who has only one sack among his six solo tackles in six games, was benched last game. But he's not ripping anyone over the situation.

“By all means I’ve got to get better with all regardless, not even talking about whether I'm starting or not," Williams said Wednesday. "You’ve just got to better and I think each and every one of us have to do the same. Each and every one of us  we still have a lot of work to do, still have a lot of rhythm to catch up with, with situations in the pass game, run game, whatnot. I think everybody would say the same thing."

It was something of a surprise when Williams didn't start last week but Williams wasn't shocked.

“No, because that had been … it’s an open locker room for us," he said. "We’ve already talked about different ways to get guys spark or get guys going, try to manage snaps, things like that. The first five games it was pretty heavy on the defense as far as the amount of snaps and things like that … no, it wasn’t a surprise."

So does Williams want to get back in the starting lineup? Sure. Does he expect to keep coming off the bench?

“I have no idea," he said. "It’s just whatever the coaches say as far as schematically or the amount of plays or whatever. It’s not my call."

Question after question on Wednesday gave Williams the forum and the opportunity to become an issue. Williams was even served up a chance to rip the Bills and he declined.

“Nah, no, because I’m here, I’m in Miami<" Williams said. "That’s not something that I speak about. Stop playing, man.”

This is good. There is nothing worse than a player who is not performing also becoming a malcontent or locker room problem.

Williams isn't playing well. But the situation isn't full fledged Buffalo bad at this point because ... no drama.

Good news, bad news: Jones out, help coming

This is bad: Reshad Jones is out for the remainder of the year, a league source is telling The Miami Herald.

That means the Dolphins' most impactful and productive player is done.

Jones tore a rotator cuff against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and got two different physicians to confirm the injury.

The Dolphins have a choice of playing Michael Thomas or Walt Aikens at Jones's safety position the remainder of the season. Jordan Lucas also backs up at safety but is unlikely to be the answer

On the bright side the Dolphins today expect both cornerback Chris Culliver and linebacker Zack Vigil to practice for the first time this season.

Both are expected to ease into drills. That means they probably will only take individual drills initially.

Culliver, a cornerback, had been on the physically unable to perform list because he blew out his knee last November while playing for the Washington Redskins. he was signed by the Dolphins with the vision of him helping the team during what was expected to be a playoff run. That run is not certain but if he can regain the form he had previously, he will upgrade the secondary.

Vigil suffered a back injury sometime in the offseason and is also on the physically unable to perform list.

The Dolphins need Culliver. The team's cornerback situation is almost dire because starter Xavien Howard recently had a second surgery on a knee and is two weeks into a recovery period that was expected to take between 3 to 6 weeks.



October 18, 2016

PFF Week Six grades: Redemption for a lot of players (except Mario Williams)

This week's grading session, courtesy our colleagues at ProFootballFocus.com, is about redemption.

All the grades you are about to read, collected from the Dolphins' 30-15 thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers, focus on players who have been previously been criticized one way or another. (I've added the grade for Reshad Jones because he played hurt this game and, as I reported Monday, the team is waiting later today or tomorrow for what could be bad news.)

So here are the grades and I'll explain the redemption part afterward:

RB Jay Ajayi had the best game of his young career, where he turned 25 carries into 204 yards  and two touchdowns. In terms of a rushing only grade, Ajayi was the second-highest rated RB of the week, trailing only Dallas' Ezekiel Elliot. He had 148 yards after contact, which was significantly more than the second most (Elliot had 98) and forced three missed tackles.

The missed tackles stat is interesting because Ajayi is almost exclusively a downhill, contact runner. Adding a little shake to his game makes him even more dangerous.

And the redemption part for him? Well, you know he was in the doghouse to start the regular season. He dogged it the final preseason game because he apparently didn't think he should be playing -- as most first-line players were not. Then he screwed up in the days following and got left behind as punishment when the team traveled to Seattle for the season-opener.

So is it surprising he has come back to reclaim his starting job and just delivered such a great game?

“I don’t know if anything surprises me, because he did [Sunday] what he had showed us all through the spring," coach Adam Gase said. "He had done it in training camp practices. I think I’ve said it; he had a rough seven days between the last preseason game and the first game, or 10 days, whatever it was. But every other part of it, he has been the same guy. I felt like yesterday was a good example of letting him get into a rhythm, and he’s a big man running down a hill at a good rate, and he can break tackles, and he knows where to go as far as what we’re doing in our run-scheme. If we get him going, we just keep trying to get him the ball.”

QB Ryan Tannehill's up-and-down season continued against the Steelers. He followed a terrible outing against the Tennessee Titans by ranking as the seventh-highest QB overall for Week Six. The formula for getting a good game out of Tannehill was explained in detail by me in this prescient column the morning of the game.

And sure enough, Tannehill was pressured only five of his 32 dropbacks against the Steelers and was effective both under pressure (4-of-5 for 73 yards) and under no pressure (20-of-27 for 179 yards). Tannehill ranks as the 13th highest-graded QB through six weeks of the season thus far.

Oh, yes, please don't make me explain why this performance qualifies as redemption, although fleeting until next game, for a quarterback who left the field at home the week before to chants of "We want Moore," as in backup Matt Moore.

After ranking dead last in the NFL in terms of pressures allowed per passing play and overall PBE in weeks 1-5 (pass blocking efficiency is a formula that combines sacks/hits/hurries relative to the number of passing plays), the Dolphins' offensive line was graded as the fifth best unit in Week Six. They did not allow a sack, only one QB hit and five total pressures on 32 passing plays against the Steelers for a PBE of 90.6.

Remember, however, that despite the ranking from the previous five games, Sunday marked the first time this particular line -- with all its starting players -- played for the Dolphins this season.

One week after being targeted a career-low three times, running some wrong routes and blocking poorly, WR Jarvis Landry grabbed 7 of 8 targets for 91 yards with 44 yards after catch (YAC). He was the fourth-highest-rated WR in terms of receiving grade in Week Six, and ranks ninth of all WR in targets (52) and second in receptions (41) through six games. Landry has also forced 10 missed tackles on the season, most of any WR.

First-round rookie Laremy Tunsil returned to action after missing Week Five with an injury that happened when he slipped in the shower -- yes, embarrassing. The redemption?

Although he continued to struggle in pass protection (as has been the case all season aside from Week Two at New England), he had a great game run blocking. He was the fifth-ranked guard in Week Six for run blocking, and ranks in the top 20 of all guards in run blocking through six weeks.

DE Cameron Wake played 41 of 55 defensive snaps against the Steelers in Week six, his most snaps played on the season for any single game and by far the highest percentage of snaps he's played. The extra work did not negatively affect Wake's performance, as he once again posted a strong grade in pass rushing, registering half-a-sack. In terms of 4-3 DE's, Wake graded out as the fifth best at the position for the week and through six games this season, he trails only Cameron Jordan for the top pass rushing 4-3 DE position.

The redemption issue here isn't about Wake, although he is proving concerns about his surgically repaired Achilles are unfounded. The redemption here goes to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and the other coaches who initially decided Wake needed to be limited in his snaps to save him for future use. And I've been saying more use was necessary. Pretty much everyone has been questioning why such little use of Wake.

Last game, in which Wake started ahead of the benched Mario Williams, showed the questions were legitimate. At least the defensive staff adjusted to what seems a better plan now.

Speaking of Williams ... no redemption for him after he got called out for needing to "play harder" by Joseph.

Williams played 13 of 55 snaps against the Steelers, which was a significant change since he had played at least 45 snaps in every game this season before it. He had a solid although unremarkable game despite the limited snaps and recorded his 12th QB hurry of the season, 16th most at his respective 4-3 defensive end position. Williams did miss two tackles while collecting one tackle. So, yes, he missed more tackles than he made.

But back to redemption ...

After being benched earlier in the season, CB Byron Maxwell responded in a big way against the Steelers. He was targeted eight times but allowed only four receptions for 29 yards  (including only 23 yards on five targets against star WR Antonio Brown) and had four  passes defended, which is exactly how many Maxwell had in the five previous games.

In terms of pass coverage grade amongst cornerbacks in Week Six, Maxwell was the 2nd-highest rated CB, trailing only New England's Malcolm Butler. Excellent.

DE Andre Branch has had significant trouble setting and holding the edge on run plays this year. You'll recall the New England and Tennessee games in particular. But he had 1 1/2 sacks and three stops on the afternoon. Only Ndamukong Suh (48) played more snaps on the defensive line unit than his 44.

Needing no redemption but clearly at risk of being out for the season pending a second opinion on his shoulder, Reshad Jones had another good game for the Dolphins. Generally known for his run defensive abilities over the course of his career, Jones has taken his game to another level this season in pass coverage. He was targeted only two times on the afternoon and did not allow a reception while also grabbing an interception in the process. Through the first 6 weeks of the season, Jones ranks third at his respective position in both overall grade and pass coverage grade.


October 17, 2016

Dolphins holding their breath on Reshad Jones shoulder injury

Reshad Jones has been diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff that would cost him the rest of the 2016 season but the Dolphins are at this hour waiting on a second opinion to see if their worst fears are warranted.

The secondary results will take a day or two to obtain because Jones travelled to see a specialist to get this second opinion. Obviously the seriousness of the injury has moved Jones and the team to seek confirmation on the injury to see if there's any possibility of salvaging the season.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported Jones was getting tests on his shoulder and his season was in jeopardy.

Jones, a 2015 Pro Bowl safety, has so far authored what seemed like another impactful season.

He has one of the team's two interception and is the team's second leading tackler. He is also second on the team in passes defensed.

The bottom line is Jones is vital to the success of the Miami defense. And yet he might be gone for the season if the tests from a different doctor agree with initial findings.

Jones has been a durable player for Miami, starting 16 games every season since 2012 except 2014 when he was limited to 12 because of an NFL suspension. This past Sunday he played despite missing all but one day of practice because of a groin injury. He seemed uninjured in the locker room and during a press conference after the game.


Dion Sims joins Jordan Cameron as Dolphins TEs with concussions

The Miami Dolphins have two tight ends in the concussion protocol.

Coach Adam Gase said Monday Dion Sims did indeed suffer a concussion against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday. He also said Jordan Cameron, who has missed three games while in the concussion protocol, remains in that status.

Sims, you'll recall, suffered a concussion in the regular-season opener at Washington in 2015 and missed a month as a result.

So what will the Dolphins do about their tight end situation Sunday against the Buffalo Bills?

Gase said he, general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum will meet Monday night to figure out what direction to go with the situation.

The team is down to Dominique Jones and MarQueis Gray as the team's two healthy tight ends.

It's obviously possible the team can call on practice squad tight end Thomas Duarte or add a free agent off the street. The trade for Gronk or Jimmy Graham is probably off the table.

It is obviously possible either Sims or Cameron can recover in time for Sunday. But that is uncertain.

Gase also reported cornerback Chris Culliver and linebacker Zach Vigil -- on the physically unable to perform list -- will begin practice this week. This is indeed the first week players on PUP can return to practice, thus opening a three week window in which they can prove their health to their teams.

Dion Jordan is also on PUP but Gase said he's not ready to practice.

Gase said Vigil and Culliver will be limited to individual drills at first.

Dolphins overcome on offense, overcome with Maxwell, Ajayi, Vance Joseph, Wake

It was an outstanding win Sunday. Truly impressive. Truly inspiring. I thank the Miami Dolphins for giving me the opportunity to write a winning team column that didn't rip the team at least once this year. Last time the Dolphins won, you'll recall, against Cleveland, I ripped the team.

Not this time. This was fun.

But there were moments that made one feel the Dolphins were just being the Dolphins. And I want to go over some of those here even as we recognize that, unlike previous games, the team overcame those flubs and mistakes.

We start with the dropped TD pass by DeVante Parker. I was told last week by a Dolphins source that one of the team's issues was the inability to overcome bad moments. Typically, the team would have a penalty or assignment bust or dropped pass or dropped interception or something would go wrong.

And there would be no recovery. And that's what that Parker drop was. It erased a Ryan Tannehill TD pass in the first quarter and the Dolphins had to settle for a field goal. That's four points left on the field, thanks to Parker -- who by the way, also seemed to have an inconsistent day running routes. There were a couple of routes where he simply didn't seem to be maxing out on the effort scale.

Then in the second quarter, the Dolphins got a TD pass from Tannehill to tight end Dominique Jones. TEs catch TD passes in the red zone. Never forget that. But this TD was wiped out when Ja'Wuan James was flagged for lining up illegally.

Now, I am told the Dolphins examined the still photos of the formation and James was not lined up illegally. The receivers were lined up correctly. Their point to the officials was good. And this penalty should not have been called.

It was. And the TD was nullified. And the Dolphins had to settle for another FG.

And the whole time I'm thinking, same old Dolphins. Failing to maximize. Failing to overcome adversity within a game.

But guess what?

On this afternoon, those setbacks were merely a setup for success later in the game. The offense overcame.

Jarvis Landry, who played poorly last week against Tennessee, played well against the Steelers. He brought the production of seven catches for 91 yards and also brought attitude. Fine day.

So he overcame a bad day last week.

Jay Ajayi, left behind in South Florida for the season-opener in Seattle, had five really bad days in September that led to missing that trip and heading to the doghouse instead. He worked himself back. Earned his way back. And is now he is the team's obvious bellcow back.

He got 25 carries for 204 yards. And I'm really impressed by the 204 yards because it is the fourth-most by a Dolphins back ever behind a couple of Ricky Williams 2002 performances and a Lamar Smith playoff game performance. But the 25 carries is notable because the team recognized a hot back and stayed with him.

Shuttle system? Yeah, Damien Williams played and carried six times. Yeah, Arian Foster played and got three carries. But not so much.

The Miami Dolphins have found their new starting running back and it's not the guy who's been to Pro Bowls before. Coaches have handed the reins to the running game to Jay Ajayi.

And Ajayi delivered Sunday.

"I just use everything that's gone on, just from the talk of us not being a good group that can help this team win, talk of there might not be qualified backs in our room, just that Week One issue, just everything has all been motivation not just for myself but our whole room," Ajayi said.

So Ajayi overcame adversity of sorts.

The Dolphins coaching staff? I'd say they overcame some adversity.

Look, seven days ago the Dolphins were feeling the burn of a loss to Tennessee that made the season feel lost. And everybody was looking at everybody sideways. And this coaching staff did stunning things.

They cut two offensive linemen who started that Titans game. One of those cuts should have been made after last season. Dallas Thomas has no place in the NFL. But Billy Turner? He started out of position. He was a high enough draft pick. He had position flexibility.

And yet this staff saw Turner basically shut down the final series or two against the Titans, giving up a couple of sacks on Ryan Tannehill, And coaches decided that's not the type of player that belongs on the Miami Dolphins longterm.

That's not all. This staff saw lazy play from Mario Williams and Byron Maxwell and called them out on it.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who criticized Mario Williams for needing to "play harder," last week, didn't stop there. Williams was benched on Sunday.

He played only 13 snaps -- or 24 percent of the plays.

Cameron Wake got the start and the bulk of snaps at left end. He played a season-high 45 snaps, which is 75 percent of the plays.

And the move worked. Wake had 1/2 a sack and was active all day. I saw him chasing one pass completion play 11 yards downfield.

Williams? Look, he's a big name. But something is simply not showing up there and I don't know if it's 100 percent lack of effort -- some of it has been lack of effort -- or he's simply lost some of his game due to age or whatever.

Williams finished with one tackle. I saw him miss two tackles -- one at the line of scrimmage, one behind the line of scrimmage.

Afterward, Wake was asked if he was happy to be back to his "regular role."

“Regular is a relative term, I guess," he said. "I’m ready for whatever situation calls for my services. If it’s the way it was before, if it’s the way it was today. I know that the situation of the game or the plan for the week can change. That’s just the nature of this game. When my number is called, I’m going to go in there and do everything I can to help the team. I’ve been comfortable with that since the day I stepped on the field."

Wake is a good soldier. He'll never be a rock-the-boat guy. So if coaches tell him it's a great idea to use him exclusively as a pass-rusher to save him for later in the season or later in his career, he'll nod his head in agreement. If the coaches tell him they need him to play 75 percent of the plays because he's the best they got, he'll nod his head in agreement and go with that.

I'm glad to see the coaching staff realized saving Cam Wake for the future is good in theory but flawed in practice. The NFL is a right now league. Worry about December in December. Worry about 2017 in 2017. There are games to be played now.

In making the change Vance Joseph stepped up. He did what great coaches do when stuff ain't working. He adjusted. He didn't stop looking for a solution. He found the answer for at least this one game.

Joseph also found a way to pull Maxwell out of his doldrums. Think of this: Last week, Maxwell seemed to be disinterested. He hasn't shown himself a willing tackler since the Seattle game.

But on Sunday, something happened, and that was Maxwell jawing with Antonio Brown. Maxwell was all over one of the NFL's best receivers and actually seemed to get in his head. Afterward, Brown, usually jovial and accommodating, was all surly and unhappy.

Brown was asked if he had room to operate (he didn't).

“I don’t know man, you’ve got to ask the guys … ask someone else," he said. "I thought I had some room but I guess not. We lost the game."

But, but, Antonio ... Were you surprised more deep balls weren't called for you?

“I don’t call the plays," he said. "I just run the plays. I didn’t get it done today, no excuses."

Maxwell? Last week he declined to speak with multiple reporters after the game even as he sat at his locker by himself. Saying ... nothing.

Sunday? Happy Maxwell.

“It felt great to get this win," he said. "We needed it, boost the morale of the team but it feels good though."

Joseph got something out of Maxwell this week. He overcome the narrative that his players are underperforming and actually benched one that was. Maxwell responded after being something of a zombie the past few weeks. He overcame the idea that he's not interested in playing.

That was the Miami Dolphins Sunday. They overcame in so many areas.

Here is the complete playtime document from the NFL:



October 16, 2016

Dolphins surprise the Steelers (and you), romp 30-15

This is how it was supposed to be.

The Dolphins unloaded a month's worthy of frustration and not-good-enough on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday after by beating the favored black and gold guys 29-14 in a game that suggests things for the home team.

This result suggests things because this marked perhaps the first game this year the Dolphins played to their expectations. They did what they thought they'd be doing all this time.

So can this continue?

The offense held the football and basically dominated at the line of scrimmage. Jay Ajay picked up the first 100-yard game of his career. And then he picked up the first 200-yard game of his career. He gained 204 yards on 24 carries, marking the first 200-yard game for the Dolphins since Reggie Bush did it in December 2011.

That running game, combined with timely passing from quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the Dolphins balanced and hard to stop. Tannehill got time to pass and completed 24 of 32 passes for 254 yards without a TD or interception. 

The Dolphins outgained Pittsburgh on the ground and through the air.

It should not surprise anyone this happened on a day the five starters the Dolphins hoped would man their offensive line when the season began started their first game together in 2016. Tannehill, sacked six times last week, was not sacked by the Steelers.

The Dolphins held a time of possession advantage of nearly 2-1 and that helped to protect a defense that had seemed weak in previous games and held up well against a quality passing game. The Steelers couldn't run and but also showed a surprising inability to pass.

Indeed, Before they began their final drive of the game with three minutes to play, the Steelers had all of 63 passing yards. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger was limping part of the game. He left the game for a time in the second quarter with what was reported to be a knee injury. He did return in the second half to no great improvement.

Antonio Brown, perhaps one of the NFL's best receivers, was a non-factor. Byron Maxwell covered him exceedingly well which was, got to say it, an huge surprise.

The Steelers had two turnovers on interceptions by Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus. The Dolphins didn't turn the football over.

Before this game began few of the nearly 45-50 percent of the people in the stands here would have predicted a Dolphins victory. That's probably because a good 45-50 percent of the people at Hard Rock Stadium were Steelers fans.

But the Dolphins re-wrote the script.

They authored this game in the manner they expected to author this entire season.


Arian Foster and Reshad Jones active for today

The Miami Dolphins will be at full strength today.

Running back Arian Foster and safety Reshad Jones, both questionable with soft tissue injuries this week, will be playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Foster had missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. Jones missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a groin issue. Jones did practice on a limited basis Friday.

So the Miami defense now has perhaps its most impactful player -- although he is not 100 percent.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who has missed time with a groin injury, is also active today.

On offense, the addition of Foster will be interesting because while he'll be available, it raises the questions whether he should start or not.

Update: The rest of the inactives are CB Xavien Howard, CB Bene' Benwikere, S Walt Aikens, DT Julius Warmsley, DE Terrence Fede, TE Jordan Cameron and OL Sam Young.

Tony Lippett starts for Howard, Dion Sims starts for Cameron.

On another matter, Ryan Tannehill is your quarterback. You want to know the reason why? Well, check out my column.


October 14, 2016

It's not only Mario: Multiple Dolphins players not playing hard enough

It was eye-opening when Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday that defensive end Mario Williams needs to play harder. I mean, that is about a cruel and cutting a criticism of a player anyone can make.

There are, after all, players that make mental mistakes. There are players that simply are less athletically gifted than others. There are players lacking experience. All of those can be tolerated. All of those are understandable.

But not playing hard enough?

Are we freakin' kidding?

And yet there it was with Williams.

“He’s got to play better. He’s got to play harder. He’s got to play better," Joseph said.

Harder? Like he's cruising sometimes? Not giving maximum effort?


Except it is not unreal to Dolphins coaches. Sources tell me coaches on both sides of the ball think multiple players on both sides of the ball are not delivering full effort all the time. I've been told coaches discuss the lack of effort or inconsistent effort practically every week.

Coaches, the sources say, believe Williams, Byron Maxwell, multiple offensive linemen, running backs, and receivers sometimes do not sell out every single play. That's the key, by the way, the consistency of effort on every play.

That means rallying to the football even when it is across the field. That means blocking until the whistle sounds. That means running full tilt on every single pass route -- which I mentioned in passing a couple of days ago does not always happen.

It is such a common topic within the football offices that head coach Adam Gase freely discussed it on Thursday when asked what he does to motivate players that don't always show maximum effort.

“I think a lot of times, it’s just in you," Gase said. "If you’re a guy that’s not a max-effort guy, it’s tough to bring it out. That’s why you try to draft guys, you try to sign guys that if you have experience with them, you’ve seen them do it in the past, you just try to get that consistency. Sometimes it’s inconsistent. If you can get it to where play-in and play-out and you say ‘Hey, maybe we have to cut the snaps down to where you’re full go all the time,’ then that’s what you do. You try to figure out a way to make it work. You sometimes know when a guy has it in him. You’ve just got to make sure you’re constantly staying on him to give that full effort."

You know, Gase is a new coach. He's got a lot on his plate. He's trying to learn his players. He's trying to teach and establish a standard on how he wants things done. He's trying to fix a major project in quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He's trying to win.

One thing he should get from every single player on the roster without having to ask for it is maximum effort 100 percent of the time.

 The team's record should not matter. The score in a game should not matter. Professionals are being paid and quite handsomely to at least try, for God's sake, to the best of their ability. Every. Single. Down.

How can this be a thing?

October 13, 2016

Byron Maxwell responds: Keep your head down and keep working

Byron Maxwell is in the crosshairs because his defensive coordinator called him out and he's not playing well.

I explained in the previous post there's not a ton the Dolphins can do about it right now.

So what does Maxwell have to say? What's his answer?

Here's what he told reporters today:

(On his level of confidence with how he’s playing personally) – “I’m very confident. That’s where I’ve got to live at, just the position I play and everything.”

(On if the last five weeks have tried him and made him do some soul searching) – “No, I mean you have to be confident in your ability and what you can do. I’ve been a good player in this league for a long time. I know at the end of the day, everything I do has to come back to technique when you’re out there on the field.”

(On Head Coach Adam Gase praising how he bounced back emotionally after the Cincinnati game and if he has been on board and completely locked in) – “Yes, obviously it’s the next game and we’re getting ready for the Steelers. I’ve got to bounce back. This is the NFL; it’s a long season. I’ve just got to be ready.”

(On what keeps him steady after the start of the season he’s had) – “You know it’s a long season and you’re just trying to win some games, basically. That’s how you stay steady. Just go about your work, really just focus on working, really. That’s all you can do.”

(On if he feels like his shoulder is 100 percent) – “Yes, my shoulder is good.”

(On him favoring his shoulder during the game) – “Yes, my shoulder’s good. There is nothing wrong with it.”

(On if he feels like he could tackle better) – “Definitely I feel like I can tackle better. That’s ball though. Teams are going to try to make corners tackle. You have to know that coming into the game and be ready for it. It’s just a mindset, really.”

(On sitting by himself for a while after last Sunday’s game) – “I was just waiting for the traffic to go out.”

(On the challenges of the Pittsburgh passing game) – “Obviously yes, it’s a challenge. Obviously they have 84 (Antonio Brown) but they have a bunch of guys that can take the top off the defense and work the intermediate (routes). It’s a great challenge. They’re going to throw the ball. We’ve got to be ready.”

(On playing against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who can move around and extend plays, and how difficult it is for a cornerback to cover) – “Yes, it adds an extra two or three seconds and he can get guys off and he is just flinging that ball up. At the same time, it’s an advantage but it can be a disadvantage too. You can get your hands on the ball if you stick with the guy. It’s really just ball skills at that time.”

(On what makes Steelers WR Antonio Brown elite) – “He’s quick. He doesn’t stop; he just keeps going. He can run all of the routes. Not many guys can do that. You can really key on a guy but he can run all of the routes, he can run 9-balls, he can run slants, he can run the whole route tree.”

(On what has gotten him through a slump in the past) – “Just keep working. Just put your head down and keep going and when you look up, you see where you’re at.”

Byron Maxwell is not good, but what is the solution?

Byron Maxwell sat at his locker stall in his uniform for a while after Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. After a while he picked himself up and got a shower. He changed into his street clothes and then sat right back down. And he sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there.

He took sips from a gallon sized container of what looked like water. And he stared into nothingness, alone with his thoughts.

And he drank. And he stared. And he sat.

The Dolphins game against Tennessee ended around 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. It was 5:45, and the Dolphins locker room was empty of other players when Maxwell finally decided to make his exit.

So he was either waiting for traffic to die down. Or he was really spent. Or he was doing a lot of thinking.

Maxwell now has this to ponder: The Dolphins are not thrilled with how he's playing. And they've told him. And they're telling the public as today defensive coordinator Vance Joseph conceded Maxwell "has not played well overall."

That's pretty obvious. Joseph went to Miami head coach Adam Gase in the days prior to the Cincinnati game and advocated benching Maxwell. Gase obviously deferred to his DC.

The only reason it is certain Maxwell regained his starting job last week and continues to be the starter as the team heads into the Pittsburgh Steelers game Sunday is because rookie Xavien Howard is out after another knee surgery -- his second in five months.

So Maxwell plays and will continue to play.

But make no mistake. The Dolphins are not thrilled with him.

And rightly so, apparently, because according to ProFootballFocus.com, Maxwell is the 58th rated cornerback in the NFL now. He is 51st in pass coverage and 91st in run defense. And the run defense is truly frustrating because Maxwell is long and strong and should be good in run support.

But as everyone saw against the Titans when he took an inside angle on a QB keeper, letting Marcos Mariota get outside and walk in for an easy short TD run, Maxwell either doesn't get or simply doesn't want it.

He's often seemingly not much of a willing tackler.

And you know where that leaves the Dolphins in the short term?

In trouble to the, um, max-well. (Sorry). Because the team seemingly has no other recourse right now.

Yes, Howard is eventually expected back. But not this week.

Yes, Chris Culliver will begin practicing next week as the physically unable to perform rules allow. But Joseph said he won't be ready to start right away.

Yes, Bene' Benwikere was signed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, as I explained in the previous post, but he arrived five minutes ago. Joseph said today the Dolphins will try Benwikere outside initially. Of course, that's where they need him most. But it's going to be interesting to see how much playing time he can get right away.

And yes, the Dolphins also added Chimdi Chekwa, who they cut after the preseason but obviously needed now. Is he the answer after not playing the first month of the season?

The point is there are no ready and obvious replacements for a poorly performing Maxwell. Deion Sanders isn't coming over that hill to save the day. Even if he could come over that hill, Sanders wouldn't pick the Dolphins to play for anyway because ... playoff opportunities.

So Byron Maxwell is your guy.

By the way, the Dolphins are not likely to get tons better even after Maxwell exits eventually if the players mentioned above are his replacements and continue to play as they have.

Howard, who the Dolphins believe will be quite good in the future, is rated the No. 88 cornerback overall by PFF. Benwikere was rated the No. 72 cornerback overall. Tony Lippett is rated the No. 63 cornerback overall.

All of them are rated lower than Maxwell on an overall grade basis so far this season.

On the bright side, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady -- all remaining on the Dolphins schedule this year -- are not great quarterbacks.



Who is going to get the personnel decisions right: Dolphins or the Ravens and Panthers

NFL teams pay a lot of money to men who watch tape and judge players and decide whether the athletes should serve on their roster. And these men get it right some. And these men get it wrong a lot.

The ones who are wrong less often typically are considered the really good ones.

Not surprisingly, these NFL general managers and personnel experts often have a difference of opinion. And this week the Dolphins are right smack in the middle of such a difference of opinion. So someone is going to be right ... and someone is going to be wrong.


On Friday, the Carolina Panthers decided Bene' Benwikere, fresh off a toasting at the hands of Julio Jones in which he (Benwikere) allowed nearly 250 of the 300 receiving yards the Atlanta receiver gained in a game, decided the cornerback was not worthy of being on their roster. The Panthers gave up on Benwikere.

A couple of days later, the Dolphins decided Benwikere was worthy of not giving up on and so they claimed him off waivers. That's about the same time the team, fresh off a beating at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, decided Billy Turner, among others, was not worthy of being on their roster. The Dolphins gave up on Turner.

And Wednesday, one day after the Dolphins cut Turner, the Baltimore Ravens decided he was worthy of not giving up on so they claimed him off waivers.

So what we have here is either the Miami Dolphins are right...

Or the Carolina Panthers and/or the Baltimore Ravens are right.

(I know, I know. Dolphins fans think their team never gets it right and we all remember the Panthers went to the Super Bowl last year and Baltimore is historically a winning organization while the Dolphins ... well, 1972 was a good year).

Here's the serendipity of these events: The Panthers asked a part-time player, generally a slot cornerback, to start a game on the boundary, out of position. Against those seemingly stacked odds, the team asked the player to succeed. And when he didn't, the team cut him.

The Dolphins asked a part-time player, generally a guy who worked at right guard or tackle most of the time, to start a game, play at left tackle, out of position. Against those seemingly stacked odds, the team asked the player to succeed. And when he didn't, the team cut him.

So the Dolphins added a player who was cut generally for the same reasons they cut Turner.

And now the Dolphins believe Benwikere will perform better for them, while the Ravens believe Turner will perform better for them.

(A little insider perspective here: The Dolphins expected Turner to be a tough brawler type who might not always use perfect technique but would at least fight the opponent. But that fight has been sorely lacking. And the technique didn't improve. Also, while it seems unfair Turner moved to left tackle, the truth is he did get some reps at the position last week. As to the idea that Jermon Bushrod, who has played left tackle basically all his previous nine NFL seasons, could have done a better job at left tackle, the Dolphins disagree. The team believes Bushrod's days as a left tackle are pretty much over.)

I have no idea how Turner views his release from the Dolphins. But I gained instant respect for Benwikere when he refused to blame the Panthers or say he was put in a position to fail by coaches when he spoke about his situation.

"You know, I could say that, but at some point you have to take responsibility for yourself if you want to be in that role, especially if that's what you're working towards," Benwikere said. "You have to take that preparation and effort and take those steps. That's something I put on myself. And that's why I talked to myself.

"I talked to myself about the conditioning, I had that inner talk with myself about what do I really want to become. Do I want to be just another guy? Or do I want to be an elite player and step up and make great plays? That's the effort I need to take about my own actions."

Now, that's not to say the Benwikere's situation was fair and he acknowledges that.

"What happened, that's not on me to decide whether it was fair. Do I think it was fair? No," he said.

But he has moved beyond whether it was fair to what he can do to avoid a repeat. And to avoid a repeat Benwikere needs to learn the Miami defense as quickly as possible because the Dolphins are hurting at cornerback.

He also needs to improve his conditioning, as he mentioned, because that was a factor in his poor play against the Falcons. The Falcons, you see, would apparently shuttle Jones out of the game to rest him then put him back in to run deep routes against Benwikere who had been in the game the whole time. The cornerback has said he simply ran out of gas covering Jones on the deep routes after covering another receiver the previous play.

"Conditioning was definitely a factor in the last game seeing how I split time before and then things fell a certain way and they needed me to play more often," Benwikere said. "So I wouldn't say my conditioning was bad but to be a great-caliber player when you're going against another great caliber player, you need to have the extra step to get the edge."

It is a new day for Benwikere in Miami as it is for Turner in Baltimore.

"When I came in the first thing they talked to me about was a clean slate," Benwikere said. "It don't matter what happened where you were. We don't really care. So my main goal is come get better, throw that performance out the window, put that behind me. Throw everything from that system away and get ready to get to work here."

Either the Dolphins or the Panthers will be proven right on this one.

Either the Dolphins or the Ravens will be proven right on Turner.

We shall see.

October 12, 2016

Jordan Cameron not expected to play vs. Pittsburgh, future uncertain

Tight end Jordan Cameron will not be playing Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he continues to try to recover from a concussion he suffered Sept. 25 against Cleveland. It gets worse ...

There is concern within the Dolphins that the player could be out an extended period as he mulls his NFL future.

Cameron has missed two games and is about to miss his third in a row. He did not practice Wednesday as the Dolphins began preparations for Sunday's game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Cameron's situation is delicate because the most recent concussion is his fourth in four years. And so both the player and the team are being cautious about the recovery. Cameron is said to be quite concerned about his longterm health.

The Dolphins have relied on Dion Sims as their starter with Marqueis Gray and recently signed Dominique Jones getting snaps as well. Jones, signed Oct. 3, caught two passes for four yards against Tennessee last Sunday.

On the brighter side of the Dolphins injury situation, guard Laremy Tunsil and tackle Branden Albert both practiced on Wednesday. Albert is a definite to play against the Steelers.

The Dolphins will continue to monitor Tunsil's progress during the practice week to make sure his ankle, which he injured slipping and falling in the shower last Sunday, does not swell up again after a practice.

And today we blame the Miami Dolphins receivers, starting with Jarvis Landry

Let's see ... we've blamed Ryan Tannehill for Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. We've blamed the run defense. We've blamed the offensive line here and the Dolphins offered an amen to that here. We've blamed a lot of people for Sunday's loss.

But some folks have apparently escaped the fire.

Until now.

Let's look at the Dolphins receiver corps.

They usually get mostly love and credit when they perform at a high level. But none of those guys reached a high level on Sunday. And it wasn't just about catches or the lack thereof. It was other things that go into playing winning football that the receiver corps did not bring to this game.

Take Jarvis Landry, for example. He's Miami's most consistent receiver. He had a bad game. Forget for a minute that he had only three catches for 28 yards. That's not the reason he had a bad game.

He had a bad game because he failed multiple times to play winning football.

Consider that Landry cost the Dolphins a touchdown. In the third quarter, Tannehill passed to Jay Ajayi who then ran nine yards for a touchdown to make it a 24-20 game with the extra point to come and a quarter-and-a-half to play.

Except Landry was called for holding and the 10-yard penalty not only nullified the touchdown but put a Dolphins offense that was under siege all day and basically has very little margin for error this year, behind the sticks. Predictably, the Dolphins didn't get the TD back. They settled for a FG.

So that lost opportunity was on Landry.

Screens and blocking for them were of a particular problem for Landry this day. In the second quarter, on what could have been a 20-25 yard gain, the Dolphins settled for seven yards on a slip screen to Kenyan Drake because Landry took on his defender with a roll block. Kenny Stills says I should call it a cut block. 

No. 1. Landry has been taught not to roll block on that play.

No. 2. It was a terrible roll block anyway.

The man Landry was supposed to block basically skipped over Landry's block and made the play. If that man is blocked by Landry, the Dolphins have the football at midfield or better with 40 seconds left in the half. And that's about 12-15 yards from FG territory. In other words, the Dolphins run that slip screen to the right correctly, they can run another one to the left and they have a FG. That's three more points.

I'm not even going to get into the idea that Landry ran a wrong route later in the game and all the receivers failed to haul butt on the game's final play -- which in my estimation is an unpardonable sin. I mean, the game was lost by then, but these guys get paid ... PAID ... a lot of money to provide maximum effort on every play.

Yet on the game's final play Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker all seemed to be offering three-quarter speed. Why? Because they all had such great days and were good with their efforts?

The point is there's more to Landry playing winning football than catching eight passes in 12 targets for 80 yards. There's more to it for Parker than posing a threat and looking athletic and catching one deep pass every two games. There's more to it than for Stills than being super fast, and working super hard, and wanting it super a lot but having only nine catches in five games.

This is supposed to be the best receiver corps in the AFC East. It is not.

Stills cost the Dolphins a win at Seattle. Parker believes he's really good but hasn't produced like he's really good and it is a win when he rolls out of bed in the morning and has a good breakfast -- which he had to be taught to do. Landry until Sunday led the NFL in catches, but he's also had a fumble at New England which he lost and has run wrong routes and been penalized in previous games.

And please don't get me started on the Dolphins tight ends.

I know the Dolphins really like Dion Sims. Obviously they paid good money for Jordan Cameron.

So which one is a security blanket for Tannehill? Which one catches everything thrown to him? Which one is always in the place he's supposed to be, the right place?

Indeed, as the Dolphins search for an identity this season, I ask which of these receivers is Tannehill's security blanket? Who is the go-to guy?

Everyone has always assumed it is Landry. And -- if you do not mistake the top paragraphs for anything but dispassionate review -- please understand Jarvis Landry is a good player and is a net-plus for the Dolphins. But he has the potential for so much more. He can be the calm in the storm for Tannehill when he's under pressure and reading only half the field or staring down a receiver.

If Landry always runs the right route, always carries out his assignment, always gives maximum effort, avoids dumb penalties or fumbles trying to fight for extra yards, he can be that security blanket.

He wasn't that on Sunday against the Titans. 

October 11, 2016

More cuts after Dolphins loss to Tennessee and what it means (updated final edition)

The hits keep on coming ...

The Miami Dolphins today also terminated the contract of running back Isaiah Pead from the active roster and are cutting offensive lineman Jamil Douglas off the practice squad. Alex Marvez of Sporting News was the first to report Pead's release.

The Dolphins today added cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and Sam Young to the active roster. Both were with the team during training camp and got cut. The team also added center Jake Brendel and OT Terry Poole to the practice squad.

Earlier today the team dropped the hammer on offensive linemen Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner.

All combined, the Dolphins today cut their third-round pick in 2013, their third-round pick in 2014 and their fourth-round pick in 2015.

The Pead release? It signals two things:

Expect Arian Foster back on the field as early as Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers after he missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. The Dolphins were heavy at running back but had to be that way because Foster wasn't playing.

He's going to be available now so Pead, the fifth man of the five-man room, is gone. Pead carried eight times for 22 yards this season.

Brendel and Poole were apparently the best of a bigger group of players that tried out Tuesday. That group included Brendal, Poole, OT David Foucault from Montreal, Canada, linebacker Trevor Reilly from Utah, former Notre Dame DB Darrin Walls, and former Connecticut DB Blidi Wilson.

Young originally signed with the Dolphins on March 11, 2016 and spent the 2016 offseason and training camp with the team before he was released on Sept. 3, 2016. Young has played parts of six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2010), Buffalo Bills (2011-13) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15), appearing in 58 total games with 13 starts. He entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick (179th overall) by Dallas in the 2010 NFL draft. Young is from Coral Springs, Fla. and played high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in nearby Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Chekwa addition is interesting because neither Tony Lippett nor Byron Maxwell, who started for Miami on Sunday played well. So they are on notice.