September 20, 2015

Today's inactives favor the Miami Dolphins

The release of the pregame inactives offered an interesting transaction that is likely to affect the Miami Dolphins game versus Jacksonville.

While Reshad Jones and Cameron Wake are active, as I reported earlier, the Jaguars are going to be without starting left tackle Luke Joeckel today.

Sixth-year pro Sam Young, a native of Coral Springs, starts in place of Joeckel today.

The inactives for Miami are Will Davis, Tony Lippett, Jeff Linkenbach, Billy Turner, Dion Sims, Matt Hazel and A.J. Francis.

As I reported earlier Chris McCain is active today. He is expected play on special teams and in place of Cameron Wake for some snaps.

Miami Dolphins expect good news on Jones, Wake

JACKSONVILLE -- The Dolphins expect both Reshad Jones and Cameron Wake to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars today -- barring an unexpected setback to their hamstring injuries in pregame warmups.

Both players were listed as questionable for today's game.

So availability is not likely to be the issue.

The issue seems to be how long either play will be able to play. The team hopes it can relieve both players and not extend them so as to minimize the chances of aggravating their injuries.

That means Michael Thomas should get some snaps at strong safety.

And, obviously, Terrence Fede and other subs, such as Chris McCain, who will be active, will get plays for Wake.

{Come back later for inactives and other updates.]

On the Dolphins MLBs: Roles, playing time, how it should be done

 JACKSONVILLE -- Koa Misi had a good game last week. Although the linebackers, and the rest of defense, struggled to stop the run, Misi goes into today's games as the top outside linebacker in the NFL, according to

But as I write in today's Miami Herald Misi was one of the players who didn't get it done -- or didn't get a chance to get it done -- at middle linebacker for the Dolphins.

The position was once the epicenter of excellence for the Miami defense. Lately, it has been something of a black hole.

So please read my column. Now, as this space is infinite, let me share some things not in the column.

Maybe the fact the Dolphins have struggled to fill the MLB spot is because it requires great physical gifts but also quick thinking and recognition and experience.

Misi, for example, talked to me about the difference between playing inside and outside.

"Compared to outside it's like night and day," he said. "The amount of reads you have within the game, you have a lot more adjustments and calls to make. Just getting the defensive line aligned to where they should be and knowing if there's a motion what you have to do with the d-line and what your job is -- because that can change -- it's just a lot more happening there.

"Playing middle linebacker you're reading everything inside out. Playing outside linebacker you're reading everything on just one side of the field to the inside. Everything changes of how you're looking at things."

That work was not necessarily an issue for Zach Vigil last week. But after the snap, he needs to be much better.

"There's more communication that needs to be done very fast and very efficiently in this system to be effective," Vigil said. "You have to set the front. You have to call out things you see. I thought I was pretty good at that part of it. I just have to improve and get better.

"[Last week's] game I need to improve much from if I want to be a contributor on this defense."

All the players I spoke with agreed picking one player and rolling with that player is the way to get that player better. It is the only way, short of unexpectedly trading for Luke Kuechly, to get good production from the position.

Nobody likes the idea of changing positions constantly as the Dolphins have done the past two years.

"It's just easier when everybody knows I'm playing here and you're playing there and that's not going to change," Misi said. "Then you don't have think about I got to go back out here or I have to go play middle now in this game or outside linebacker in that game. It's easier when you're stuck to one position."

Kelvin Sheppard, who is sharing the spot with Vigil, thinks it is better when there is not a whole lot of sharing going on.

"Middle linebacker you can get into the flow of the game and you play better," he said. "You ask all 53 guys on our roster and I'm pretty sure they would all say they want to play every snap. I hope I'm on a team where all 53 guys are that competitive and I hope I am. Everybody wants to be on the field every snap. But the coaches handle that and defining roles. I just try to go out and execute the role that's given to me.

"And I want my role to increase more and more and more." 

September 19, 2015

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars

Some things we know: Ndamukong Suh did not have a great game last week at Washington and neither did most of his defensive line mates. The Jaguars offensive line is not good. And this weekend will be a meeting of the, so far this season, resistable force versus the movable object.

But here are some things you may not know: Suh last season had only two games in which he delivered grades nearly as bad as he did in his Miami opener, according to So in one Miami outing he's already delivered half as many "poor" (his word) games as he did all of last season.

And while the Jaguars offensive line is terrible, guard Zane Beadles last week actually had quite a good game. Beadles is the third-ranked guard after one week of play, per PFF.

How 'bout that?

Anyway, the rest of the how the Dolphins and Jaguars match up is not kind to the Jags. There's a reason they are a six-point underdog at home, folks.

The matchups:

When the Dolphins pass the football: Ryan Tannehill started slowly last year and he wasn't thrilled with his play last week. The difference is not playing well this year is defined as completing 64.7 percent of his passes and posting a 93.5 QB rating. Tannehill did throw a couple of passes that probably should have been intercepted but he is well ahead of last season's start when he was hearing talk of being benched after playing against the Jaguars. The Dolphins kept much of their plans for tight end Jordan Cameron under wraps in the preseason. They opened the wrapping against Washington and Cameron had four catches. The good news is the team has more stuff that it still has not shown, particularly in the red zone. The Dolphins believe their passing game will feed a different player every week. Some games it will be about Greg Jennings, others Jarvis Landry, others Kenny Stills. Yeah, let's face it, unless teams work at taking Landry away, he's going to be Tannehill's go-to go. The Jacksonville secondary added cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown on the same day in free agency last March. This group is a work in progress. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins run the football: Let's come to terms with the idea the Dolphins are not a running team. They ran the ball only 18 times last week against Washington and that included three runs by QB Ryan Tannehill. And while Lamar Miller averaged a modest 4.1 yards per rush, he got only 13 carries. He averaged 13.5 carries a game last season. So it could be that what we saw last week is simply the plan because we saw it last year as well. The Dolphins say they'd like to run the ball more and point to the fact their 13th play of the first half last week was in the two-minute offense because they didn't hold onto the ball enough. But that begs the question, would they collect more first downs and keep the ball longer if they ran the ball more? The Jaguars made some moves this offseason to address their front seven. They signed former Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick. They drafted Dante Fowler in the first round. Unfortunately, Fowler was hurt in a non-contact minicamp practice and is out for the year. Odrick, a 4-3 defensive tackle and 3-4 defensive end, is playing as a 4-3 defensive end for Jacksonville -- perhaps not his best position. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Jaguars pass the football: Quarterback Blake Bortles is supposed to be vastly improved in his second NFL season but he didn't show that in the regular-season opener. He threw two interceptions while completing only 55 percent of his passes. That makes him a 54.5 rated quarterback, which is 31st of 32 NFL starting QBs. It stands to reason Bortles will have better outings once he gets more talent around him. The problem is the Jaguars' passing game has been plagued by injuries to wide receiver Marquise Lee, a former second-round pick, and tight end Julius Thomas, a free agent signing from Denver. Neither is certain to play against Miami. The Dolphins did mostly good work in the secondary last week, with both Brent Grimes and Brice McCain collecting interceptions. But a hamstring injury to Reshad Jones may force Miami to start Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens at safety -- both of whom were backups when training camp opened. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Jaguars run the football: The Jaguars run attack is not necessarily the personality of the offense. Rookie T.J. Yeldon is the starter and Denard Robinson is a change-of-pace back. Yeldon is a 21-year-old rookie. The Jacksonville offensive line is a unit just recently brought together. Right tackle Jermey Parnell and center Stefan Wisniewski were signed in the offseason. Left guard Zane Beadles was signed last offseason and right guard Brandon Linder was drafted last season. And Luke Joeckel, the anchor and dean of the unit, has been in the NFL a whole two seasons. This is not a cohesive unit but neither has it had time to become a cohesive unit. The Miami defensive front is supposed to be great because, well, Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake and all. Except last week the Dolphins weren't prepared for cut-blocking early in the game by Washington while Suh struggled with that and double-teams. It will be interesting to see if the Jaguars copy the strategy this week and force the Dolphins to prove they're prepared for it. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams: Everyone on the Miami special teams not named LaMike James had a great time last week. Special teams coach Darren Rizzi made a key decision to bench James from the punt returner role in favor of Jarvis Landry and Landry returned a punt for the winning score. That 69-yard punt return made Landry the special teams player of the week in the NFL. And rookie kickers Andrew Frank (FGs) and Matt Darr (punts) successful debuts. The Jaguars traded longtime kicker Josh Scobee to Pittsburgh  and kept first-year kicker Jason Myers instead. And Myers missed a 44-yarder to go with his make from 22 yards in his first game. Not great. On the bright side, punter Bryan Anger is quite experienced. He punted 94 times last season. That was second most in the NFL. Um, maybe the frequent use of the punter is not a bright side. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Coaching: The Dolphins made a lot of the same mistakes, had much the same approach, and played much the same way last week as the previous couple of years. This despite a supposedly upgraded roster. No, it is not time to panic but it is time to wonder if the reason for that is the team simply takes on the personality of its coaching staff. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has a 7-26 record. How does he still have this job? ADVANTAGE: Miami

September 18, 2015

Multiple questions on Miami Dolphins injury report

The Miami Dolphins officially ruled tight end Dion Sims out from Sunday's game at Jacksonville. Sims, who is suffering from a concussion, was not cleared to practice all week following his head trauma at Washington.

The Dolphins also listed safety Reshad Jones (hamstring), defensive end Cameron Wake (hamstring) and defensive end Derrick Shelby (eye) as questionable. All practiced Friday on a limited basis.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are more beat up than Miami.

Starting safety Johnathan Cyprian, who has finger and calf injuries, is listed as doubtful after not practicing all week.

Starting left tackle Luke Joeckel is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He did not practice all week.

TE Julius Thomas, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, DE Andre Branch and CB Dwayne Gratz are listed as out.

Stat of the week? Bortles goes down a lot

The stat of the week for the upcoming Miami Dolphins game at the Jacksonville Jaguars?

The Jaguars have allowed at least four sacks in eight consecutive games. That is the NFL's longest active consecutive game sack streak.

And that statistic obviously speaks to how the Jaguars led the NFL in sacks allowed last year with 71 and are off to a rousing start on the same category this season, allowing five sacks last week against the Carolina Panthers in a 20-9 loss.

In other words what I'm saying is the Jaguars' protection of their quarterback is putrid.

And that's good...for the Miami Dolphins, who didn't exactly get off to the fast start chasing quarterbacks everyone expected. The Dolphins defensive front, which players say they consider among the best in the NFL, last week collected one sack against Washington.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips collected his first career sack. Meanwhile Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon -- players with reputations for being able to chase the quarterback -- didn't get to the signal-caller.

“Each and every week you want to come into the game, you want to play better football, but the other team plays professional football too," Vernon said, obviously not realizing this rule excludes Jacksonville's terrible protection. "It’s not going to come easy, but on our side of the defense, we should’ve played better last week and we look forward to playing better this week.”

The Jaguars are seemingly perfect prey for a Miami defensive wanting a taste for quarterbacks.

The expectation (that word again) is the Dolphins should be able to do what eight teams have done the past eight games against the Jaguars -- which is make Blake Bortles or whomever is playing quarterback quite uncomfortable.

If it happens, consider it a launch point.

If the Dolphins, however, fail to mount consistent pressure against Bortles, that would suggest something is amiss because, again, everyone else seems to be able to do it.

It should be interesting to see.

September 17, 2015

Jones returns to practice, McCain needs to return to gameday roster

First the news: Safety Reshad Jones said he feels better about his hamstring injury today so he expected to practice at least on a limited basis for the Miami Dolphins.

His status for Sunday remains in doubt but the fact there's been progress on that front is good news for the team.

TE Dion Sims and DE Derrick Shelby missed practice today for the second consecutive day.

Sims is in the concussion protocol and has not yet been cleared. He was, however, on the bike during practice.

Shelby, who was poked in an eye Sunday during the Washington game, wore sunglasses as he roamed the sideline at practice -- even while in the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB).

Some interest to those wondering about Chris McCain.

His fall have been interesting since the offseason. The Dolphins were intrigued by his physical gifts and length to the point he was the starting strongside linebacker when training camp opened. And then, poof, he was not in the plans.

McCain lost his starting job when Koa Misi was moved from middle linebacker to strongside linebacker.

And last week he was a healthy scratch from the 46-man gameday roster. McCain was the only linebacker on the 53-man squad who was inactive for the game.

This is curious because it is hard to believe McCain is not one of Miami's best 46 players. The Dolphins instead put Spencer Paysinger, and rookies Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt on the game day roster.

But here's the thing: I covered this team last year. Against New England, McCain had a blocked punt. Against Green Bay he recovered a blocked punt. Was he great otherwise? No. He had all of one special teams tackle in the 10 games he was active in 2014.

But he makes big plays. He has that knack. That's worth a gameday roster spot.

So either Suh played poorly or good -- depending on who you ask

Ndamukong Suh, the Miami Dolphins $114 million man, has had time now to study and digest his debut performance for his new team and this is how he thinks he played in that first game:

“Poor," Suh said Wednesday. "I just didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do, but it’s over with. I’m moving forward to Jacksonville."

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, Suh's boss, has studied the tape of the one-tackle, one-assist performance by Suh. And this is what Philbin said when he addressed how Suh played in his first game for Miami:

“Yeah, he did a good job," Philbin said. "He did a good job. I thought he got off to a good start. I’m sure there is room for improvement. I think there is for our whole defense, certainly. So far, a good start."

Look, I realize that sometimes a coach wants to deflect criticism from his player. I hope that is what Philbin is doing here because, let's face it, Suh most certainly did not do "a good job" in his first Miami outing and doesn't mind admitting as much.

The concern here is if there is a bigger issue at work. The concern is whether the Dolphins head coach might be not holding high highest-paid player to a high standard -- privately, publicly, indeed, at all times.

It is not throwing Suh under the bus to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone. There's nothing wrong with doing that.

It is troubling, however, if the Miami coaching is in any way, shape or form comfortable that clearly substandard performance was in any way "good." Accepting sub-par performances, after all, is no way to climb out of Miami's perpetual 8-8 mediocrity.

This reminded me of a couple of years ago when Mike Wallace caught three or four passes for 50-some-odd yards in a game and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was glowing in his praise of the receiver.

Minutes later, Wallace was dumbfounded by the praise, saying he didn't think that what he'd done merited any praise because it was, as everyone but Sherman recognized, just a mediocre day at the office.

I understand if Dolphins coaches elect to sometimes deflect on behalf of their players, sure. But I also want them to have high standards that everyone -- the public, the players, everyone -- knows are the goal. And nothing short of meeting that goal gets an atta-boy no matter what.

The right answer from the coach?

Something akin to:

"He didn't play as well as he would like or we would like but he has another chance to do that this week and we have confidence he will."

September 16, 2015

Reshad Jones status for Jacksonville game 'tricky'

Reshad Jones was optimistic about his return to the lineup this week as he was leaving the visitor's locker room in Washington on Sunday. "I'll be OK," he said.

But a source close to Jones on Wednesday said it is more likely than not the Dolphins starting strong safety will miss Sunday's game at Jacksonville, barring a significant improvement in his hamstring. The source said even if Jones improves, the decision to play will be "tricky" because there is a possibility of re-aggravating the hamstring or possibly even making it worse by coming back before it is mostly healed.

Jones did not practice Wednesday.

If Jones cannot play against the Jaguars, the Dolphins will effectively be without either of the starting safeties they opened training camp with. Free safety Louis Delmas is out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee.

The Dolphins would have to go with Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas as their starting safeties.

The Dolphins are also nursing injuries to other significant contributors today.

Tight end Dion Sims is in the concussion protocol and is not practicing. His status for Sunday is doubtful although that is not official.

Defensive end Derrick Shelby, poked in the eye during the Washington game, did not practice today.

On the bright side, defensive end Olivier Vernon, who left the game with an ankle injury, practiced today at least on a limited basis. And offensive tackle Jason Fox, who has been brought along slowly after suffering a concussion in the second preseason game Aug. 22 and missed the regular-season opener, is practicing today.

On another note, newly signed Raheem Mostert said the Dolphins have told him he will be the team's kickoff return man this week. That is, assuming he doesn't mess up in practice this week, of course.

After offseason of changes, Miami Dolphins defense again a focus

Last season ended with the Miami Dolphins, well, out of the playoffs but also looking at their defense with disappointment. And folks were looking at defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle kind of sideways.

That's not me saying that.

Coach Joe Philbin considered Coyle's work and weighed replacing the defensive coordinator. Obviously, the head coach decided against a change. But adjustments were needed.

So Coyle changed his approach in some respects -- trying to make sure the defense was better at doing fewer things. The personnel changed as players such as Phillip Wheeler were jettisoned while Ndamukong Suh was signed. And Coyle himself got in the weight room and lost some weight and added some muscle, a symbol of a new and better Miami D.


But after an offseason of adjusting the scheme, improving the DC's looks, and adding talent, here we are looking at Coyle kind of sideways again. After one game.

And let us have perspective here. The Dolphins defense allowed only 10 points on Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Most any team will take that every week.

But it isn't about the 10 points. That's great.

Iti s about what this game suggests longterm.

It is that after months and months of preparation for this game, the defense -- with the exception of Reshad Jones and Brent Grimes and maybe Koa Misi -- played on its heels at least half the game.

It was that the Redskins, which are not expected to be any sort of offensive juggernaut with a backup QB starting and a challenged offensive line in front of him, took the game to Miami.

It was that the Redskins surprised Coyle's unit with something so fundamental as cut blocking and it took a long time to adjust to that.

It was that Suh, a great player in Detroit, looked unimpressive with this unit.It was that folks were seemingly surprised the Redskins double-teamed Suh as if that has never happened before.

What's all this about?

Let's take them one at a time:

About the adjustments. The old adage applies here: High school teams adjust to opponents next week. College teams adjust to opponents next half. NFL teams adjust to opponents next series.

The Redskins cut Miami interior linemen time and again and there was no significant adjustment to that until the second half. Too slow.

“I think it takes a little bit, we have to be ready to adjust quicker as players and as coaches we kind of want to be able to see those things fast as we can so we can get that information, but really often times they’re the best guys to talk to, to try and figure out what’s going wrong because everything is happening so fast," Coyle said. "Whether it’s a tightening of an alignment, changing a shade from one to the other or changing a front, that type of thing, we’ll have some options and some answers as we move forward."

That's great. Coyle wants to talk to his players to better understand what is happening on the field. But it seems to me, once that conversation is over, after the first series, the adjustment should be made. After all, cut-blocking is a fundamental tactic. It is not revolutionary. Adjust.

As to the approach of the defense: It was uninspired save for Jones and Grimes and maybe Misi.

Suh seemed more nervous than inspired. And as a result his only tackle of the game came five or six yards downfield. Remember this guy is a proven star. And yet his first outing in Miami suggested he didn't have his mind right to play.

That's not me saying that. Coyle admitted that.

“I think he can play better and I think he knows that, but again, I go back to what I said earlier, I think he was amped up and wanting to really do well and it took him a little bit to get settled down," Coyle said. "I think they really did – they tried to scheme us some. They didn’t run at Ndamukong very much, they ran away from him and when they did run away, they had people down at his legs and chopping him, cut blocking him and things like that. They did some things schematically that they wouldn’t put him in a position where he could use his strength and things like that, but as the game wore on I think he did better. He did better in the second half and certainly we still expect big, big things from him as we move forward."

I would hope. The Dolphins cannot change the guy's contract so they better change his output and approach from the first game. It should not surprise anyone that teams will run away from Suh. It should not surprise anyone that teams will game plan for him. It has been happening for half a decade.

So why the issue?

Another issue the Dolphins have not fully resolved on defense over the past couple of years is the linebacker unit. First Dannell Ellerbe was paid big money to play the middle but stunk so then he got moved. Then Koa Misi was going to be the answer at middle linebacker until he wasn't and got moved. Then Kelvin Sheppard was going to be the answer until he wasn't and had to share the job.

So after a full training camp, we don't know if Sheppard is the guy going forward or undrafted rookie Zach Vigil is the answer. Both shared the job almost equally on Sunday. Neither was stellar.

What gives?

The season has begun. Pick a guy and roll.

But no.

The Dolphins are sharing the position for the purpose of, get this, building some depth.

“We felt that they both did a lot of good things in preseason and we let them know well in advance, prior to the game, early in the week that they both would be sharing time and that was the intention," Coyle said. "They both about split the number of reps when we were in base defense and they both did a good job. That’s positive, we think that we’re building some depth there, we’ve got a veteran player that played well and a young player that when he got in there, he hung tough and did a good job."

Building some depth.

When Jimmy Johnson saw Zach Thomas play one quarter in the preseason, he knew he would be his middle linebacker. He picked him. He let Jack Del Rio go. And he let Thomas grow into the job while, yes, suffering the struggles of growing pains as Thomas got better and better.


Maybe Zach Vigil isn't Zach Thomas. But if he's worthy of sharing the role...And he's young..And he's green...And the other guy is a journeyman...Go with the youngster and give him the work. Don't split the baby.

Finally, the biggest issue the Dolphins needed to address this offseason on defense was the run defense. The team was an unacceptable 24th against the run last year. Well, after one game this year it is 30th against the run. There were missed tackles. There were missed assignments. Coaches were surprised by the other team's approach. And Suh got practically erased.

That cannot be. It needs immediate attention.

“There are a lot of little things that we need to address here as we go forward after our first game," Coyle said. "I think part of it was the anxiousness of guys to go out there in the first game and really do well and sometimes you can overdo some things, but we’ve got to get off blocks and they did a good job on the backside of plays of low-blocking, the cut-blocking on the backside of plays and we didn’t play well in the first half.

"We have to do a better job of those types of things, there weren’t long breakout runs, but there were way too many five-yard runs, six-yard runs and we didn’t tackle as well. We had a couple of times where we made a hit at three yards and he would squirm and twist and now it’s second-and-4 instead of second-and-7, as a result we weren’t able to get them behind schedule much, particularly in the first half.

"That’s why are third down defense was as poor in the first half as it was. In the second half, we got them in longer yardage situations and they didn’t convert a third down in the entire second half. We’ve got to play better across the board, our players know that, we’re going to work hard on it here later this week hopefully like they say ‘you can make a lot of improvements between week one and week two.'

"We’ve got our share to make and we will."

They better.

September 15, 2015

PFF and Salguero review of Dolphins victory over Washington

The partnership between this blog and continues this year. As in the past, the metrics website will break down the Miami Dolphins previous game and provide analytics to me here. I'll add whatever insight and knowledge I can to augment your reading experience.

(Go ahead, make a joke).

Anyway, this week's one-touchdown (on offense) performance by the Dolphins is under the PFF microscope:


  • Right tackle Ja’Wuan James (2.3 pass block grade) did not allow a pressure on 38 pass block snaps.
  • QB Ryan Tannehill had a 0.7 passing grade on the seven pass plays the defense blitzed. Not terrible. Not great.
  • WR Rishard Matthews was the only Dolphins pass-catcher to drop a pass.
  • It was a rough outings for guards Dallas Thomas (-3.2 in 57 snaps), Jamil Douglas (-4.7 in 57 snaps) and left tackle Brandon Albert (-2.4 in 55 snaps). Here's the thing: Douglas is a rookie making his first NFL start. So his grade must be viewed through that prism. Albert was playing his first game since returning from knee surgery last November and, indeed, didn't get any snaps in any preseason games. So he is allowed some rust. What's the excuse for Thomas? Oh yeah, there is none.
  •  Tight end Jordan Cameron (1.1 receiving grade) was targeted five times on the right side of the field and three of those were 20-plus-yards from the line of scrimmage. You know what that suggests? Well, Cameron was Miami's only deep threat this game, but he continues to be the same player who last season was the only tight end with four receptions of at least 40 yards. The two longest -- for 81 and 51 yards -- were for touchdowns against Carolina and Pittsburgh; the other two were for 47 and 42 against Pittsburgh. No, the Dolphins did not complete all their deep passes against Cameron, but he is definitely a deep threat.


  • Defensive end Cameron Wake had his only sacks nullified by a penalty in the secondary on Jamar Taylor but he wasn't great agaisnt the run, either. He had a -2.1 run defense grade in 31 run snaps.
  • The Dolphins linebacker corps is not great, especially at middle linebacker right now. But strongside linebacker Koa Misi (2.4 overall grade) had nine tackles, three QB hurries and six defensive stops with just one missed tackle.
  • It was a rough day in coverage for Jamar Taylor (-2.3 pass coverage in 27 snaps) and Walt Aikens (-1.1 pass coverage in 27 snaps). Reshad Jones explained to me days before the game he and Aikens are still working on their communication and understanding of each other's tendencies. That is over and above simply playing the position with physicality and technique to Aikens.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had a sack in his first NFL game but he struggled against the run -- turning in a -2.7 run grade on the seven run snaps he played.
  • Cornerback Brent Grimes (1.4 pass coverage grade) allowed two receptions on five passes thrown his way for 22 yards and had one interception.

  Special Teams

  • LaMichael James had a -1.2 Kickoff return grade. He also fumbled, although the Dolphins recovered. Any surprise he was cut?
  • Jarvis Landry had an 1.3 punt return grade thanks to the game-winning 69-yard return for a touchdown.

Signature Stats

  • Running back Lamar Millar had an elusive rating of 28.6 and made two tacklers miss him on 13 attempts.
  • The Miami offensive line had a Pass Block Efficiency of 81.8 which ranks 13th out of the 28 teams who had played prior to Monday night. Not good.

September 14, 2015

NFL says no punishment for Ndamukong Suh, but DL needs corrections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ndamukong Suh is in the clear.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora this morning told The Herald's Adam Beasley the NFL's senior football operations staff has reviewed the Suh tackle in which he dislodged Alfred Morris's helmet from Alfred Morris's head and no action will be taken.

While there was contact between the players, the NFL said Suh's action was not deemed a kick.

So Suh will not be dealing with the cloud of a possible suspension hovering over him this week.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, do have problems to solve with their defensive front.

Suh had only one solo tackle on Sunday against the Redskins in his Miami debut. He and other Miami interior linemen said they were surprised by the Redskins attacking them with cut blocks -- which are legal.

Defensive end Cameron Wake had one sack that was nullified by a penalty and finished the game without even one tackle.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon suffered and ankle injury and left the game for much of the fourth quarter. He also did not have a tackle.

Defensive end Derrick Shelby, who replaced Vernon, was poked in the eye and it looked swollen and  black-and-blue after the game. He had one assist.

Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell was the most active Miami lineman. He had three solo tackles, including a tackle for loss and an assist.

Rookie Jordan Phillips had a sack, the first of his NFL career.

Ndamukong Suh faces NFL scrutiny for kick of Morris helmet

LANDOVER, Maryland -- The NFL this week will review the tackle and ensuing "business" Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh put on Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris during Sunday's game here.

Suh, who was previously drawn scrutiny for kicking a Green Bay offensive lineman and also stepping on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tackled Morris and as he got up and walked away seemingly kicked the running back's helmet off his head.

The move was not flagged on the field even as Morris complained about it.

After the game, Suh said he didn't remember the play at all.

"I tackled him plenty in the game," Suh said, "so I don't recall."

Well, actually, Suh had only one unassisted tackle all day -- the one against Morris.

The play seemed to feed into the narrative that Suh is a dirty player. Of course, the Dolphins don't believe that to be the case. Owner Stephen Ross aggressively dismissed that description of Suh soon after signing him to a $114 million contract. And that opinion apparently bled into the team's negotiations with Suh.

Although NFL contracts often contain provisions voiding guaranteed monies paid or owed in the event of a suspension -- an approach the Dolphins championed for years before it became popular dating back to the Ricky Williams days -- such a provision is completely missing from Suh's contract, according to

Suh started this season dealing with a situation similar to the one he faced at the end of last season. You'll recall the NFL suspended Suh for the playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys because Suh stepped on Rodgers. Suh appealed and won that with his suspension adjusted to a $70,000 fine.

There's irony there because if Suh is starting this season dealing with the same issue as he did at the end of last season, so did the Dolphins.

My column today discusses how the Dolphins, a new team that has embraced a new approach and new direction and new results, looked a lot -- too much, actually -- like the Dolphins we've been seeing for far too long.

The Dolphins are much more talented than the Redskins. And that was certainly more true when DeSean Jackson left the game in the first quarter. And yet, it was the Redskins taking the fight to Miami for much of the game.

It was the Redskins seemingly wanting this game more than Miami early on.

Yes, the Dolphins won. But in doing, they pulled out a win against an inferior opponent rather than stomping a team that isn't very good.

And I know the "A win-is-a-win crowd" will complain I'm being hard on the team. I got that pushback last season when I said the same thing after an unimpressive win at Jacksonville. And what happened?

A team that was inconsistent against Jacksonville was inconsistent much of the season -- sometimes playing well, sometimes sleepwalking through games.

I saw the same kind of performance on Sunday.


The irony here?

September 13, 2015

Dolphins special teams shine while offense and defense struggle

LANDOVER, Maryland -- All preseason the Miami Dolphins used LaMike James as their punt returner.

All that time the plan was to have James fill that role, along with the kickoff returner job because receiver Jarvis Landry, who filled both roles last year, needed a break. The team wanted Landry fresh for his work on offense.

And that remained the plan, even earlier last week when the team began preparation for Sunday's game against the Redskins.

But a funny thing happened on Wednesday.

I'm told by a team source that special teams coach Darren Rizzi pitched using Landry as the punt returner. It was something of working on instinct or a hunch, I'm told. And coach Joe Philbin approved the unexpected switch recognizing that James was dealing with a slight shoulder injury.

And today Landry returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and the winning score in a 17-10 victory over Washington.

In a game the Dolphins offense and defense didn't seem completely ready for the start of the season at times, the special team answered the bell.

And it wasn't just Landry.

Rookies Matt Darr and Andrew Franks did excellent work as well on Sunday.

Darr punted four times for a 43.5 net average, including one inside the 20.

Franks connected on a 22 yard field goal -- his only field goal attempt of the day -- and clobbered his kickoffs. He had three touchbacks including two he booted out the back of the end zone.

Great day for special teams. 


Take a breath: Dolphins survive to beat the Redskins

LANDOVER, Maryland -- It wasn't pretty. Indeed, the Miami Dolphins didn't really look ready to play at times.

But it is a win.

The Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins, 17-14 at sold out FedEx Field Sunday. Jarvis Landry returned a punt 69 yards and a touchdown to give the Dolphins the winning points.

The Dolphins had trailed for three quarters and although they seemingly are the more talented team, seemed to play much like the team we watched at times last season. Last season's team finished 8-8.

And so the Dolphins have a long way to go.

They kept pace with the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the AFC East standings. But in winning this, they seemingly just survived.


Redskins dominating Dolphins, but not on the scoreboard

LANDOVER, Maryland -- The Redskins have been dominating the Dolphins in the first half of today's game.

The Redskins have rushed for 93 yards. The Dolphins have rushed for two yards. Two.

The Redskins had the football 23:39 to Miami's 6:21 in the first half.

The Dolphins seemingly benched middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard for rookie Zach Vigil. Ndamukong Suh has been a non-factor.

And yet this game is only 10-7 in favor of the Redskins.

Look, I'm not saying any of this is great news. The Dolphins looked initially unprepared for the Washington run game and ineffective on offense. They trailed 10-0.

But to be down only three points in a game they've been dominated is a bright spot.

Brent Grimes has an interception. Reshad Jones is playing well and has multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The Redskins have lost DeSean Jackson, safety Duke Ihenacho and cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the first half. The Dolphins lost tight end Dion Sims with a concussion.

And the Dolphins get the ball first in the second half.

Dolphins at Redskins: The fight, interesting inactives, game plan note

LANDOVER, MARYLAND -- Well, there's lots of pregame news to share:

We start with Barry Jackson's scoop that LaMike James and Jarvis Landry got into a fight during a special teams meeting recently. Not good, folks. What happened to #strongertogether?

Apparently, what started the confrontation is that Landry flicked James' ear. FOXSports1 was first to report that. What are we kids here?

Next we have the inactives that are truly interesting:

Cornerback Will Davis is inactive. So are running back Jonas Gray, cornerback Tony Lippett, offensive tackle Jason Fox, linebacker Chris McCain, wide receiver Matt Hazel, and defensive tackle A.J. Francis.

So the backup left tackle today is right tackle Ja'Wuan James or possibly left guard Dallas Thomas. More likely Thomas with Jamil Douglas moving to left guard and Billy Turner going in at right guard.

McCain is interesting in that he's inactive because Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt are active. So two undrafted rookie linebackers are active -- obviously for special teams reasons -- than the second-year veteran who started training camp working with the starting defense.

Some game plan ideas?

Watch out for tight end Jordan Cameron. He has been noticeably absent from the offense in the preseason.

I am told that is by design. I am told the Dolphins declined to run certain plays for Cameron so as to not tip off today's opponent. When the Dolphins get in the red zone today, that stuff is in the game plan.

You'll see who catches TD passes in the red zone.

One more thing: Keep the deep pass to Kenny Still, running a stop and go down the sideline in mind. Just saying.


Players need to be great for Miami Dolphins to be great

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Dolphins spent much of this offseason paying players they believe have a great future.

My column today says those players and others who have been good but not great for Miami need to step up this year. The players can't but just solid anymore. They cannot be just good anymore.

They must make the leap to being Pro Bowl caliber.

They must be elite.

They must be as close to great as they're likely to get.

And that's the only way I see the Dolphins making the jump from a mediocre team the past two three four five six seven seasons to a playoff team with a chance to do damage in the postseason.

Safety Reshad Jones is one such player. He's good. No doubt. But as long as there's room for improvement, he's not quite where he needs to be.

“I want him to continue to improve," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "He’s been a very, very productive player for us. I think his tackling has been good so far in the preseason and I want him to continue that. That’s an important part of his job description, when the ball gets in his space, getting guys down on the ground. Then I’d love to continue to see increased production with his hands on the ball when the ball is in the air. He’s done a good job of it in the past, but I think there’s certainly room for development there too."

Jones told me he played 60 percent of the time in the box last season. He played forty percent as a free safety. His three interceptions came during that time he was free to roam.

"I think that's the plus in my game," Jones told me. "I'm versatile. In the box, if you watch me, I play there. But I can play back a lot, too. I don't think of myself as a strong safety or free safety. I think I can go out and play strong or free or even corner if need be."

Strong words. But Philbin is just about right there with him.

"I think he’s a complete safety," Philbin said. "He can play low, he can play down in the box, he’s got good range, he’s a good tackler, he can cover ground. I think he has a chance to be a good all-around player.”

No, good isn't good enough. Pro Bowl. Great.

Him and others.

Lamar Miller is in my column. He needs to make his leap to being a complete back.

And I must say, the preseason suggested that might be happening. According to, Miller caught all seven of the passes throw to him in the preseason for 69 yards -- a yards per route run of 3.29 which ranked fifth of 61 running backs who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.

I didn't mention Jelani Jenkins in the column but it would be wonderful if he makes a leap. Jenkins, by the way, had a 4.1 overall grade this preseason, according to, and that was fourth-best of all the 4-3 outside linebackers this preseason.

 Read the column. And check back late morning for a pregame update.

September 12, 2015

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 2015 Miami Dolphins season is one day away and it is time to think about the matchups with the Washington Redskins.

Every week, one day prior to the game, I will break down the game, looking at how the Dolphins match up with their opponent. This week, the Washington Redskins are not a bad matchup for Miami particularly along the line of scrimmage when Miami's defense is on the field.

The matchup of Brent Grimes vs. DeSean Jackson also promises to be epic.


When the Dolphins pass the football: The Dolphins were fifth in the conference in pass attempts last season and the return was good in that they were third in completions. And yet with that relative success the team almost totally revamped its pass catching personnel. Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay are out, DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, and Jordan Cameron are in. The question remains is this an upgrade? The team obviously believes it is because the group is said to be less worried about statistics and more about winning. That has yet to be tested, but it will be because the plan is to spread the football around from game to game, depending on the matchups. As quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had an excellent preseason completing over 80 percent of his passes, still needs to acclimate with Parker and Jennings and others, it's a good bet he'll fall back to his go-to receiver Landry often. Cameron has not been much of a factor either in the preseason or practices but the Dolphins hope he becomes a tough red zone threat. The Redskins secondary has been inconsistent at best in recent years but last year the team was sixth in the NFC in fewest completions allowed per game (21.6). The addition of starting cornerback Chris Culliver is supposed to make the group stronger. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins run the football: First down is important this game because the Dolphins want to set a tone and preferably do it on the ground with Lamar Miller setting up second-and-five or less. The problem is the Redskins last season were second in the NFL in least yards allowed on first down. They also added Terrance Knighton, affectionately known as Pot Roast, to clog the middle and improve the run defense. This will be a good test of Miami's new interior line, with Mike Pouncey moving back to center and Dallas Thomas at left guard and rookie Jamil Douglas at right guard. The Dolphins are by no means a running team. Offensive coordinator ran only about 39 percent of the time in 2014. But Miller averaged 5.1 yards every time he carried the football and scored eight touchdowns. Miller hasn't said it publicly but he wants more touches this year -- a contract year for him. That's about him. But the fact he turned in a 178-yard performance when he got a season-high 19 carries in last season's finale, suggests a few extra carries per game gives more opportunities for a breakout run. And that is about the team. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Redskins pass the football: The Redskins have formidable talent on the outside with Miamian Pierre Garcon offering speed and size at 6-foot and 216 pounds. DeSean Jackson is the deep threat who has a whopping 21 career TDs of 50 yards or more, one of only 10 NFL players to record 20 or more since the 1970 merger. Matching up with Jackson will be interesting. Expect the Dolphins to have cornerback Brent Grimes shadow him wherever he goes in a matchup of mighty mites. Redskins tight ends aren't the problem matchups they once were as starter Jordan Reed is hot and cold. The issue containing this passing game is the offensive line. It is bad. Brandon Scherff was drafted to play tackle but he struggled so much he's now a guard. Right tackle Morgan Moses is not stout and has inconsistent technique. Other than left tackle Trent Williams, this group is weak. And that plays into Miami's strength along the defensive line with Ndamukong Suh lining up inside of Cameron Wake. The fact the Redskins OL is so troubled makes the idea of Kirk Cousins starting at quarterback a secondary issue because, well, the bigger question is will he be able to finish the game? ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Redskins run the football: Florida Atlantic product Alfred Morris has been a revelation for Washington since being drafted in the sixth round in 2012. His 3,962 yards in three seasons puts him ahead of players such as Edgerrin James and Walter Payton in yardage their first three seasons. He's second behind only Marshawn Lynch in rushing since 2012. But, again, that offensive line this year is an issue. And the Dolphins, who had their run defense drop off the table last season are intent on improving it this year. The Dolphins run defense began to struggle in 2012, coinciding with the arrival of the current coaching staff, but last year it dropped to 24th in the league while allowing 4.3 yards per rush. So why do you think the Dolphins paid $114 million for Ndamukong Suh? He comes from Detroit, where the Lions were the best run-stopping team in the league last year. And, yes, he was a big reason for that success. The Dolphins also have made significant adjustments to their linebacker corps by moving Koa Misi back outside to the strongside linebacker spot while Kelvin Sheppard has taken over at middle linebacker in place of Misi. Will the adjustments and additions work? ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: Special teams coach Darren Rizzi may not get too much sleep before this game because it will mark the rookie debut of punter Matt Darr and kicker Andrew Franks. Both came to the Dolphins as undrafted players. Both displaced veterans. Darr's work helped him beat out longtime Dolphins punter Brandon Fields. And while the focus will be on his punting, it is his duties as the holder that require close scrutiny because Fields rarely if every flubbed a hold. Franks comes with a booming leg but one that still requires refining. He better get it refined fast. The Dolphins have also made changes in their return game in that LaMike James will now handle both the kickoff and punt return duties, replacing Jarvis Landry. James had one fumbled punt in the preseason. Redskins kicker Kai Forbath had three game-winning FGs last season. He doesn't choke. And Tress Way last season led the NFL with a 47.52 average. ADVANTAGE: Washington.

Coaching: Joe Philbin has made significant attempts this offseason and training camp to relate to his players and get them to buy into a brotherhood approach to this season. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has simplified the defense and stressed doing fewer things better. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, meanwhile, continues on path to a head coaching job at some point and this season has players in their second year within his system, suggesting greater success. Jay Gruden? He's unproven as a head coach and not a fan of the franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. The man is on the hot seat already. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

September 11, 2015

Dolphins make multiple roster moves (none might be permanent)

The Dolphins have been busy little bees this afternoon, working the back end of their roster.

The team has promoted running back Jonas Gray and offensive lineman Sam Brenner from their practice squad to their active roster. To make room for both players on the roster, the team waived both guard Jacques McClendon and quarterback Logan Thomas.

Thomas, signed off waivers earlier this week, didn't last long enough to find a place to rent. He was living in a hotel. He was also something of a luxury as the Dolphins already had a quarterback on the practice squad and two others -- Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill -- on the active roster.

The Dolphins may still add Thomas back onto the practice squad if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

The move to promote Gray is interesting in that he was obviously a late addition to the practice squad and obviously showed enough in practice this week to convince the team he is worthy of a spot. It is possible the Dolphins were guarding against another team poaching Gray from their practice squad.

Gray is now able to play in Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins but that would mean either Lamar Miller or Damien Williams would lose snaps in the game. That remains to be seen as neither Miller nor Williams has been known to have done anything that would suggest such action.

Brenner was the backup center for much of training camp but was cut on the final cut to 53 players. McClendon, who also played guard during training camp and the preseason, had taken over backup center duties when that happened.

Obviously, Brenner returns to that spot on the roster now after what seems like a better week of practice than McClendon.

By the way, none of these moves are permanent. The Dolphins could easily re-sign McClendon next week and put Brenner back on waivers and eventually the practice squad. And, of course, Gray's status is game-to-game as well.

We are talking about the back end of the roster.

On the injury front, the Dolphins are relatively healthy as they depart for Washington Saturday. Left tackle Jason Fox, who is still fighting the fallout from a concussion, is listed as doubtful.

Branden Albert (knee), Jamar Taylor (thigh), LaMike James (shoulder) and DeVante Parker (foot) all were full practice Friday and are listed as probable.