August 21, 2015

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?

-----

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."

-----

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.

-----

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.

-----

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.

-----

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.

Sunday morning injuries, Matthews column and MORE

The Miami Dolphins are practicing at 8 a.m. on a cloudy, threatening Sunday. Well, most of the people on the team are practicing.

Not practicing are Koa Misi (ankle), Will Davis (knee), Kenny Stills (calf), Christion Jones (hamstring), and Jordan Tripp (ankle) are not practicing this morning.

Apparently no longer on the team is offensive lineman Chris Martin, who The Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting has been cut.

With Stills continuing to miss practice, the opportunities continue to flow for Rishard Matthews.

As I write in my column today, the often troubled wide receiver has seen a dramatic turn of fortunes this training camp. He's also changed his view of doing things because of some growing up he's done.

Check it out. And come back later for the update. 

 

August 15, 2015

We may be seeing Joe Philbin at his best so far

Saturday was a different day for the Miami Dolphins at practice. It was so different that receiver Greg Jennings remarked to coach Joe Philbin how he'd never seen anything like it in his nine previous NFL seasons.

The Dolphins, you see, held a two-hour practice and did not have one 11 on 11 drill the entire time.

None.

What is typically the most competitive portion of practice was simply not on the menu today. Why?

Today was about correcting mistakes. Today was about addressing fundamentals. For a team that had 12 penalties in its preseason opener and basically played poorly for three quarters, Philbin wanted to address the issues here and now.

And while the change in practice regimen may seem mundane to untrained eyes, it is a shining example of how Philbin's approach this year is different.

"I've tried to be a little more succinct and less detail oriented with the team in terms of, 'We're meeting at 6:45 p.m., get on the bus at 6:50 p.m.'" Philbin said. "I've tried to give them the whys of why we're doing things. Today we didn't have any 11 on 11 work. I tried to give them the reasons. I said guys, 'We believe in fundamentals.' I never had a practice without a team period until I came here. I had Greg Jennings come up to me today and I guess they never did that the last two places he's been. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to put the team in a position to win."

Don't underestimate this, folks.

The Dolphins on paper are a pretty good team. Las Vegas has their over-under number at 9. The reason it might not be higher?

Well, consider this: A national pundit was at training camp recently as part of his tour of most NFL cities. I asked him what he thought of my team.

"They have the talent," he said. "We'll see if they have the coaching or they keep getting out-coached in important games."

True or not, like it or not, that is a question mark for this team: Coaching.

And so it is notable that the head coach is actively trying to be better.

"When I studied whatever got me here, some of the things I may have done reasonably well to put myself in position to get this job is I was able to build positive relationships with the people I coach, the people I worked with," Philbin said. "And early on, when you're a coordinator, you want to know everything that's going on. You want to know every blitz, every adjustment. You become a head coach, maybe early on, I wanted to have my hands in all that stuff. I wanted to know every minute detail of what the team did.

"And now, as it's going on, it's not like I'm not involved. But I want to be more involved with the players. I want to build that relationship with the players so they trust me and have confidence. I told them why I want to win a championship. Why I think they should have confidence. Every decision we make -- why we have no 11 on 11 today, why we're going early to Carolina -- is made to win a championship."

About that trip to Carolina next week. The Dolphins will spend two days practicing with and against the Panthers prior to their preseason game Saturday. Philbin tried to make that happen last year but the game against Atlanta, who agreed to such practices, was the opener and the coach wanted to do it the second game instead.

So he and Carolina coach Ron Rivera got together and figured out a suitable way for their teams to do this. Andy why?

The Dolphins play seven of their first nine games on the road. The coach wants his team used to be on the road.

"My past history in the NFL, we didn't do that, we stayed in," Philbin said. "One year we had a team come in. I just felt it would be good for our guys to compete. It would be good because we have to be semi road warriors early in the year with seven road games the first nine weeks, so I felt it would be good for us that way."

I've covered Philbin for four years now. This is pretty good thinking. 

 

Koa Misi, Kenny Stills still out [updated]

The Miami Dolphins are back on the practice field today. Well, most of them.

First, it is good news linebacker Koa Misi, who missed practice the last week with a calf injury, is scheduled to return to practice today.

[UPDATE: The added Misi to the injury report once practice began. He is not practicing].

The bad news is wide receiver Kenny Stills, who missed the past week of practice, continues to be out because of his calf injury.

Linebacker Jordan Tripp, who injured his ankle in Thursday preseason-opener, will not practice today. He won't be practicing for a while, I'm told.

Others not practicing today: Cornerback Bobby McCain (hamstring), receiver Christion Jones (hamstring) and OL Chris Martin (back).

Check back later for the post-practice update.

August 13, 2015

Miami Dolphins lose to Chicago Bears, 27-10

So you saw the headline and unless you know what happened, you're a little disappointed the Miami Dolphins were not representative in their first preseason game of the 2015 season.

Relax. The starters and, really, the second-team players did just fine. The Dolphins scored on their first offensive series and the starting defense did not give up a point. The reserves once we got past some of the second-team players?

Terrible as a group.

(More on all that in a second).

You should know that reserve linebacker and special teams contributor Jordan Tripp left the game in the first half with a right ankle injury. The injury doesn't look good in that Tripp left Soldier Field in a walking boot and with the assistance of crutches.

Fellow linebacker Chris McCain also left the game with an ankle injury but his doesn't seem serious. He walked off under his own power and did not require a boot or crutches. He was seen walking without significant discomfort on the sideline later in the evening.

So there's that. Tripp had an injury issue early last season, was having a good camp and may now have to deal with this setback.

It seems clear the Miami offense is in a much better place right now than it was a year ago at this time when the offensive coordinator was new, the players were not best suited to the system and multiple players wanted to get theirs.

Led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins took the opening kickoff and marched 85 yards to a touchdown -- a 2-yard pass from Tannehill to Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins both ran and passed well against the Chicago starting defense.

Lamar Miller had a 27-yard run. Tannehill completed 6 of 7 passes for 56 yards with that TD and no interception. His quarterback rating for the evening was 139.6.

The only problem with that starting unit and the opening drive? Left tackle Jason Fox had a holding penalty. Right guard Billy Turner had a holding penalty in the red zone.

Turner, who played into the second quarter and even got some work in the third quarter, seemed to have a better night than he had a scrimmage last week or has had in practice against Ndamukong Suh. Yes, he still looked lost at times -- not blocking anyone at one point while both center Mike Pouncey and right tackle Ja'Wuan James handled their men one-on-one on one pass play.

But Turner didn't have any awful look-at-me-screw-up moments. He was otherwise anonymous, which is good for an offensive lineman.

Dallas Thomas had a similarly uneventful night. If somewhere Evan Mathis was rooting for a either Miami guard to implode, thus opening the door for him, it did not happen this night.

On defense, the starts fared well against Jay Cutler and company.

It became evident how much teams respect Suh when the Bears committed double teams to blocking him almost every play. That helped Cameron Wake get a one-on-one on one pass play and he turned it into a sack.

That sack, however, was nullified by offsetting penalties but the consequence Suh had on a play he was nowhere near was obvious.

The Dolphins had too many penalties as a team. They had 12 penalties for 80 yards.

Cornerback Bobby McCain had three of those penalties.

And defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was called for three neutral zone infractions.

Suh was called for one neutral zone infraction.

Unacceptable.

Johnson particularly seemed to have an off night. He was blocked on what turned into a 21-yard run right up the gut by the Bears.

It has been clear for a long time the Dolphins are going to go with two quarterback during the season, with probably a third quarterback on the practice squad.

The reason for this is Josh Freeman has simply not been good enough in practice to warrant a roster spot and has been running fourth-team behind McCleod Bethel-Thompson.

And when Bethel-Thompson took over for Moore this evening, the script seemed to be playing out as it had in practice. He's been slightly better than Freeman.

Bethel-Thompson had a QB rating above 100 early on. Then he imploded.

The threw two interceptions that sandwiched a Mike Gillislee fumble. He completed only five of 12 passes. It was a bad outing.

And then Freeman came in and, against third-team competition, fared not much better. He threw an interception while completing only 5 of 16 passes.

Both of Miami's lower tier quarterbacks had ratings of 21.9.

I would not be surprised if the Dolphins go shopping for another third-quarterback practice squad type because it was that bad.

 

 

Preseason-opener primer PLUS my AFC champion pick

It is game day. And although the Miami Dolphins are playing but a preseason-opener, I must say I have a good feeling about this year, so mine eyes are eager to see how this team looks as it comes together. (Mine eyes? Old English much?).

Look, if I had to pick a team to win the AFC, I would pick the Indianapolis Colts. They have the quarterback who may already be the best signal-caller in the conference in Andrew Luck and I like their mix of veteran and young talent. I also like that they come at you with speed on offense and the defense has added some solid girth such as former Dolphin Kendall Langford.

But the AFC East is wide open for the Dolphins and, indeed, I could argue they should win the division. They will, after all, have the best quarterback in the division the first four games of the season -- barring a change in status to Tom Brady, who is fighting a four-game suspension to start the season.

If Brady is out, it will be Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm for the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Jimmy? Is this guy an adult?

The Buffalo Bills are currently on track to go with Matt Cassel as their starter because E.J. Manuel has struggled during training camp.

The New York Jets lost their quarterback for 6-10 weeks two days ago because a teammate punched Geno Smith. And soon you'll be reading stories about how pretty good Ryan Fitzpatrick has been in his career. Except Fitzpatrick has been with six teams in 11 NFL seasons and the Jets are his fourth stop the past four years.

You know what that makes him? A journeyman.

Yes, the Jets and Bills have outstanding defenses. Yes, the Patriots have defensive genius Bill Belichick. But the Dolphins should have a very fine defense as well if one believes this unit's makeup on paper.

(They better have a fine defense on the field too or, you know, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle).

So I'm bullish on the Dolphins right now.

And tonight offers a first look at the 2015 team as coaches begin to piece this puzzle together.

Things to look for?

Yes, Billy Turner, who suddenly has emerged as a bigger question mark at right guard than the combination of Dallas Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas at left guard, must perform. Look for him to get a longer look than most starters.

I want to see how the cornerbacks play. Zack Bowman, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett have shown signs they are going to be on the team. You want all three on the team because they are all 5-11 or taller. And two other cornerbacks who will be on the team are 5-10 Brent Grimes and 5-9 Brice McCain. So the Dolphins need length in that cornerback room to deal with the likes of Brandon Marshall and Rob Gronkowski and Andre Johnson and Sammy Watkins and Dez Bryant and Pierre Garcon.

I know I didn't mention Will Davis. He is not guaranteed a roster spot. He needs to show durability and play more physical and consistent to make this team.

I want to see the linebackers. Koa Misi is not scheduled to play. But the Dolphins need to work Chris McCain at strongside linebacker to see if he is fully versed in his assignments. They need to see if their confidence in Kelvin Sheppard in the middle is coaches falling in love with a player in the offseason or whether the affair is actually merited. And because last year was eye-opening about how durability can be an issue at linebacker for Miami, the team needs good performances from Jordan Tripp, Spencer Paysinger and others.

The others are the young guys. Somebody from the following group needs to step up on special teams and then not blow assignments if he gets a chance on defense: Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt, Jeff Luc, Zach Vigil. I'd say those four are vying for one roster spot right now. That can change but only if they make it change.

The defensive line battle is proving interesting, although not at the head of the unit. We know Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Terrence Fede and Derrick Shelby will be on the team. That doesn't leave a lot of room for guys such as Kendall Montgomery, Enmanuel Dieke, and Ray Drew.

The defensive tackle competition is going to see a good player get cut unless the Dolphins keep five. Hard to do. Right now, Anthony Johnson and C.J. Mosley are fighting for that fourth roster spot. Johnson had the advantage early in camp and is younger and cheaper.

Mosley has turned it on in the last week and he's got more experience.

Don Jones, who has not been healthy all camp is in trouble at safety. Michael Thomas, Walt Aikens and Jordan Kovacs are having productive camps. Rookie Cedric Thompson shows promise. Can't win a job if you cannot compete. The interesting thing is whether the Dolphins are comfortable letting Thompson go on waivers and then re-signing him, this time to the practice squad. Either that or Kovacs is out. The preseason will determine.

On offense, everyone assumes the five wide receivers will be DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews. Matthews has really helped himself on the field in the absence of both Parker and (lately) Stills.

But Michael Preston has also been impressive. Matt Hazel has been solid as well, although he seems like a practice squad possibility. The preseason will determine.

The Dolphins have two tight ends on the roster -- Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims. But does Gerell Robinson force the team to keep three? Are Jake Stoneburner, Arthur Lynch and Tim Semisch going to dazzle in games in ways they have not really done in practice?

Quarterbacks? It is going to be Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore. McCleod Bethel-Thompson will likely be cut and signed to the practice squad, assuming he doesn't have a terrible preseason or screws up otherwise. Josh Freeman is going to be cut, barring him becoming 2010 Josh Freeman -- and he's given no hints in practice that is about to happen.

These offensive linemen are on the team: Mike Pouncey, Branden Albert, Ja'Wuan James, Jason Fox, Jamil Douglas, Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas.

These guys have to hump to make it: Sam Brenner, Jacques McClendon, Chris Martin, J.D. Walton, Jeff Linkenbach, Michael Liedtke, and Aundrey Walker.

Right now, McClendon has the best chance of all the lower tier guys to make the team. He's been getting notable work with the first-team at right guard.

Running back: Lamar Miller and Damien Williams have done nothing to suggest they will not be the starting and second-string back this season. Williams is not explosive but he just does things right, including pass protection.

The Dolphins have taken a long, long look at LaMichael James this camp and that will likely continue against Chicago. Even on special teams. Jay Ajayi, something of a disappointment to this reporter because he hasn't been able to stay healthy, is probably on scholarship so he's not going to be cut.

Mike Gillislee and recent arrival Demitrious Bronson need to really wow because they start the evening at the back of the running back pack.

It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. eastern.

 

August 12, 2015

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross funds a new sport

It is a travel day for the Miami Dolphins and day off for me, but I thought you might be interested to know club owner Stephen Ross just spent $1 million to fund a new drone racing league.

(Must resist desire to mock).

(Must not be a smart-aleck).

According to the Wall Street Journal, the project is actually funded by RSE Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by Ross. The idea will use old factories and other interior spaces as courses for the drones that can hit up to 70 MPH.

Hey, folks laughed at Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon when they dreamed up competitive roller derby and look what a resounding success that is, right?

The target audience, one supposes, is the same millennial who gets into robot fighting and virtual reality combat. I guess traditionalists such as myself would rather watch, well, cars race in Daytona and Indianapolis or horses race in Kentucky, Baltimore and Queens -- albeit not for very long. Traditionalists are not the target audience.

Ross, however, is anything but a traditionalist. He's a push the envelope kinda guy. If it is new, he wants to hear about it and be on the cutting edge.

And the Drone Racing League definitely is that.

 

August 11, 2015

Miami Dolphins Tuesday practice report and other things

Tuesday's practice, the last non-walk-thru prior to Thursday's preseason-opener at Chicago against the Bears, is over. Here's what's happening:

The best news of the day is that left tackle Branden Albert, recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, continues to progress toward actually practicing. He's been limited and done only light work as he's transitioned from the rehab stage of his recovery.

"It's going to be sooner or later," he said today. "I don't got an exact date but it's going to be soon."

Albert said "I'm working toward getting back ... we'll see in the next few weeks. Things are going right. I'm not hurting. I'm not swelling up. So things are going positive."

Look for Albert's practice work to increase as early as Saturday or Sunday after the Dolphins return from Chicago. He's not likely to work in team drills yet, but perhaps he'll get into some one-on-one work and other individual drills.

Man's got to get in the water sometime to find out if he can still swim.

It seems more and more likely Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner will be the starting guards against the Bears and regardless of whether he starts or not, Turner is bound to get a lot of work. Obviously Jamil Douglas, who shared snaps with Thomas at left guard, and Jacques McClendon, who took fewer first-team snaps at right guard, will also get a good look from coaches.

It is clear the Dolphins need Turner to step up and have a good night. Coach Joe Philbin said the team has been asking more consistency in both pass protection and run blocking from Turner. He's simply not there yet.

Thomas got a handful of snaps at left tackle today but don't read anything into that other than the Dolphins were preparing for an emergency should they suffer an injury to the starting and second-string left tackle. Football coaches prepare for all sorts of contingencies and Joe Philbin is no different.

On defense, one of the battles that has raged this training camp is at the boundary cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes. More and more it is clear Jamar Taylor is pulling ahead there although no coach would say that publicly and Philbin has said the competition is wide open.

One reason Taylor got a vast majority of the first-team snaps at the spot today is Brice McCain clearly tweaked his groin during practice and stopped working. It is not anything serious, but I would not be surprised if the Dolphins simply keep McCain on the sideline Thursday night rather than risk him aggravating the injury and making it worse. (Remember Dmitri Patterson?)

Speaking of Taylor, he and receiver Rishard Matthews got into a bit of a scuffle during practice. A bit of a scuffle is defined as both players took serious swings on each other but merely connected to each other's helmet.

Louis Delmas intervened immediately and tried to break the two up before a pile of offensive and defensive players joined in.

"It was just a little jawing going back and forth, a little shoving and pushing," Taylor said. "It just turned into a little scuffle man. It's just part of camp. Definitely need to play somebody else. I know Rishard is too. We've been kind of going at it for the past couple of weeks. That's still my guy. I look forward to him making plays on Thursday, and so do I, look forward to making plays as well."

The Dolphins need both players to make plays this season as both seem more and more likely to be on the team -- Taylor as a starter and Matthews as a fourth or fifth receiver and special teams contributor.

(Matthews might be asked to do more if the health of other receivers doesn't hold up, as has happened in camp).

Matthews, obviously, would love to be given more opportunities because he recognizes this is a contract year for him. He will be a free agent after the season.

"It's very important for me," he said. "I need to just contribute a lot this year, whether it's special teams or wherever they want to put me. I want to contribute wherever, all over the field."

Matthews has gotten a good look so he cannot be upset about that and isn't. He'll start Thursday night if the Dolphins open in a three-wide set on offense. 

The special teams are often a sign of what coaches are really thinking about players further down the roster. Let's face it, a guy is not going to be on starting punt and kickoff teams if coaches don't project him on the roster.

And, yes, it is early so those projections can change. But at least you get a clue of which players are performing well enough that if the season began now, they'd be on the team. (Peanut gallery: But Mando, the season does not begin now).

Thank you, gallery. Once again, you are correct. Guess I won't tell you who is on first-team kick and punts then ...

Actually, yes I will.

The first-team kickoff team:

CB Jamar Taylor, WR Rishard Matthews, DE Terrence Fede, linebacker Chris McCain, linebacker Spencer Paysinger, safety Jordan Kovacs, linebacker Jordan Tripp, safety Walt Aikens, CB Zack Bowman, CB Bobby McCain, and of course the kicker.

Kickoff return:

Fede, Kovacs, Walt Aikens, Bowman, Paysinger, Tripp, Matthews, Anthony Johnson, Mike Gillislee, Tim Semisch, LaMichael James.

I'd say this is the lineup you'll see returning early Thursday but not necessarly vs. Washington in the season-opener. Gillislee's spot on the roster is tenuous. James is being given a chance to show what he can do as a returner but the Dolphins know Jarvis Landry can do the job quite well. And I don't know that Semisch spot on the roster is at all secure.

{I have to do more watching of the punt and punt return teams. Maybe Thursday night).

Speaking of special teams, Miami coaches gave players an opportunity to get this evening's walk-thru practice off. All that had to happen was rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had to catch a punt.

It was an awkward end over end and Phillips had to run a dozen yards or so to track it. But he caught it, getting him a big round of cheers from teammates.

Tuesday pre-practice injury report

The Dolphins are heading out to practice for the last time before playing the Chicago Bears Thursday night in the Windy City.

Well, most of the Dolphins will be practicing.

Not practicing today are: Linebacker Koa Misi (calf), receiver Kenny Stills (calf), receiver Christion Jones (hamstring) and running back Jay Ajayi (hamstring) will not be practicing today.

Misi and Still are unlikely to play against the Bears in the preseason-opener at Chicago Thursday, as I reported Monday.

It doesn't look great for Ajayi, either.

Check back later for post-practice updates.

August 10, 2015

Miami Dolphins Monday afternoon practice report

The Miami Dolphins on Monday finished installing all their plays. That part of training camp has ended. From here on it will be about fine-tuning and preparing for opponents as players are expected to know what's in the playbooks iPads.

The Dolphins will begin preparing for Thursday's preseason-opener at Chicago against the Bears on Tuesday. (Yeah, there will be some light prep work for this game despite the fact most veterans will play no more than a quarter and probably less than that).

It is unlikely either linebacker Koa Misi (calf), or receiver Kenny Stills (calf) will play against the Bears. Neither has practiced since last week. Rookie running back Jay Ajayi (hamstring) also may be kept out of the game, although that decision is not yet made.

Monday's practice did not have the number of bombs from quarterback Ryan Tannehill that were on display Sunday. Sorry, just didn't happen.

Indeed, Tannehill didn't connect on his lone deep throw of the afternoon -- a close-but-no-cigar attempt to Rishard Matthews down the left sideline.

Matthews continued to nonetheless seize the opportunity given him in the absence of Stills. He took first-team snaps.

The right guard competition between Jacques McClendon and Billy Turner continued, with McClendon seemingly getting most of the first-team snaps early in practice and Turner getting them later in practice.

Me? I focused exclusively on McClendon in one helmet-to-helmet snap against Ndamukong Suh and it was unremarkable in that Suh did not beat the lineman, make him look silly, or make him cry. McClendon stood Suh up to a stalemate. (Hint: That's what you want from the offensive lineman).

So I can understand why the Dolphins are giving McClendon a good look now.

There may be some movement at the cornerback competition opposite Brent Grimes. That competition has been waged between third-year veteran Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain, who was acquired in free agency this offseason.

Although McCain was acquired ostensibly to play the slot cornerback position, his level of performance and professionalism and toughness has caused coaches to give him a chance to win the starting job outside. And he and Taylor have been sharing snaps outside.

But today all the snaps went almost exclusively to Taylor, suggesting he may have an advantage now and would be the starter outside in the first preseason game. McCain played mostly at slot, which was coaches expected him to do when he signed.

We'll see if the trend continues Tuesday. Regardless, the competition is not yet over.

Today was kicker Andrew Franks' best day in camp. He connected on four of five attempts, including from 49 yards and from 56 yards out. The 49-yard kick was so high it crossed along the top of the extended uprights and looked as if it could have been good from 59 yards out.

Both the long kicks were with the wind. The lone Franks kick came from 49 yards out.

Coach Joe Philbin said he left the scrimmage Friday night recognizing both kickers made their three attempts but unsatisfied by how both Franks and incumbent Caleb Sturgis kicked.

***Today's practice included the first scrap of training camp.

Ja'Wuan James and Kendall Montgomery got into a quick skirmish that soon subsided. This team needs a preseason game.

***Jordan Kovacs and Brent Grimes had interceptions on Monday.

***Philbin said veteran defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, unimpressive the first week or so of camp, has "come along the last couple of days."