April 11, 2016

Miami Dolphins offseason conditioning is under way

Miami Dolphins players have been working out for weeks. Some have actually been working on the field on their own for weeks. But Monday marked the official start of the team's offseason strength and conditioning program.

And while the Dolphins don't allow mere media such as myself on the premises to see what's going on and report back to you, sources seem kind of proud of what is happening over there on the first day that new coach Adam Gase's gathers the team en masse.

This is also new head strength coach Dave Puloka's first day with most of his team in the weight room.

The bigest news is that Ndamukong Suh was present.

Look, this is news because Suh has always had a reputation for being in and out during the offseason. He works out at the Nike training facility in Oregon every year -- or at least he has throughout his career. That caused, um, questions in Detroit because he didn't show up to the Lions program in the offseason.

It wasn't such a big deal to the Dolphins last year because Suh, the team's highest paid defensive player, showed up early in the program before leaving to do his own thing. And Football Czar Mike Tannenbaum, curious as to what his own thing was, flew to Oregon to see Suh's work.

I'm told Suh works in a state of the art environment that simulates the weather of Davie, Florida, where the Dolphins train, in the dead of summer. (That is hot and humid, folks).

And he's hooked up to diagnostic machines and oxygen and other breathing apparatus throughout his work. Think opening for Six Million Dollar Man.

The point here is Suh is in South Florida and working, but no one should question what he's doing when and if he disappears later during the program.

Cameron Wake, Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, Mike Pouncey, Byron Maxwell, Mario Williams, Kiko Alonso, Jay Ajayi, Branden Albert, Ja'Wuan James, Kenny Stills are among the majority of players who showed up today. All need good seasons for different reasons. I am still endeavoring to see if anyone failed to attend and will update with that.

By the way, it's the new coach's first program. The date has been known to players for weeks. It  would be good for everyone to show.

One more thing: If you missed my column Sunday on the approach the Dolphins are taking to building a team this year and for the future, you should check it out. It includes a fascinating chart that compares what Miami is doing and can do in the future to the other three teams in the AFC East.

April 08, 2016

Ryan Tannehill and key receivers trying to get locked in on Adam Gase's coming playbook

The Miami Dolphins will begin their offseason strength and conditioning program on Monday and that will mark the first official milestone of the team re-gathering for the first time since the 2015 season. But the truth is the NFL is a full-time, year-around proposition and these guys have been working out at Dolphins camp on their own for weeks and, yes, some have even been doing on-field drills on their own for quite some time.

And the latter is the impressive part. Even though head coach Adam Gase has not yet handed over his playbook to any player -- firstly because that's against the NFL rules, secondly because he's still tweaking the thing and doesn't want to hand over an incomplete work -- players in the Miami passing game have been working on running plays they expect will be in Gase's repertoire for nearly seven weeks now.

Back in late February, quarterback Ryan Tannehill started watching tape of the what the Chicago Bears did on offense under Gase in 2015 and what the Denver Broncos did under Gase as their offensive coordinator in 2014.

And, on his own, Tannehill put together a series of plays and route tree those Denver and Chicago offenses ran as staples.

"I've watched more Denver stuff so far," Tannehill said. "I'm sure I'll get into a little more Chicago stuff. But I've watched more Denver stuff at this point, just seeing things they did well there with Peyton (Manning). I'm excited about what I see. I think the more I watch, the more excited I am about the things they did and the things we're going to be doing."

Obviously, the route running and throwing sessions are simulations of what the players believe Gase will ask them to do eventually. But the fact Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and other receivers are regularly getting together with Tannehill to work on this stuff well before they have to speaks to many things -- all of them good.

It speaks to initiative by the players to be better under a new system.

It speaks to leadership by Tannehill -- which has been under assault in some corners -- in that he led the effort and mustered his teammates.

It speaks to great work ethic that goes above and beyond at this stage of the offseason.

It speaks to a new enthusiasm within certain sectors of the Dolphins locker room that has already embraced Gase's coming playbook.

"We've been throwing for several weeks now, working with the guys off campus," Tannehill said. "We throw twice a week and we have several guys that are showing up consistently. We're getting better. That's the funnest part for me, seeing guys getting better."

So what do the workouts consist of?

"We run routes a little differently than we have in the past," Tannehill said. "That's an adjustment for everyone. It's an adjustment of getting the ball out on time and the different angles guys are coming out, and the different ways we're moving at the top of routes now."

And Tannehill reports that the drills have started to look better and better -- even if they are against air.

"It's exciting for me from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3 to Day 4 to see the improvement of guys running the routes and me throwing the routes and seeing no balls hitting the ground," the quarterback said. "You see the first day, balls were hitting the ground from (being) rusty and receivers are not coming out (of their routes), or they're unsure at the top of the routes, or I'm misjudging the throw.

"Then a few days into it, we have no balls hitting the ground for an entire workout. It's exciting for me to see that improvement not only for myself but my receivers as well."

April 07, 2016

Stephen Ross names potential ownership successor

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross does not plan to sell his team any time soon. But if or when he changes his mind or dies, the Dolphins already have an NFL approved ownership succession plan in place, The Miami Herald has confirmed.

The NFL recently approved Ross granting New York businessman Bruce A. Beal Jr. the right of first refusal to purchase the franchise should Ross no longer be the owner.

The arrangement was voted on and approved at the recent NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton. The move to initiate the succession plan came directly from Ross. A league source stressed that just because Beal has the first right to buy, it does not compel him to do so. He has a choice.

CBSSports.com was the first to report this story. 

Bruce beal jr.Beal Jr. is friends and a longtime partner of Ross at the current owner's New York-based Related Companies. It is not clear if Beal and Ross have agreed on an eventual sales price for the Dolphins for some future date. Ross paid a reported $1.1 billion for the team and its home stadium in Miami Gardens.

Beal Jr., 46, joined Related in 1995 and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day development process for projects across all asset classes throughout the country including acquisition, finance and construction activities. In addition, Beal oversees Related’s existing operating portfolio and the company’s affordable housing initiatives.

Beal is a trustee for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Citizens Budget Commission, St. Bernard’s School and Diller-Quaile School of Music. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Preservation Corporation and the Friends of the High Line, the Advisory Board of Harvard University’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government and REBNY’s Executive Committee, Board of Governors and Housing Committee. Mr. Beal graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Ross, 75, felt the desire to put a succession plan in place because he has no obvious successors. Although he is married and has four children -- two of them stepchildren -- he has said in the past no one in the family wishes to take over the Dolphins in his absence.

Enter Beal who has been a fast and steady riser within the Ross real estate empire. Although Beal's family ran a Boston real estate and development business he told Crains that he longed to be the next Jacques Cousteau. He attended marine biology camps, toiled at a Nantucket fish market and worked at a dolphin lab in Hawaii.

That didn't pan out.

Beal eventually returned to real estate.

"Building and construction are very tangible," he told Crains. "It's great to look at something and say, 'We built that.' "

At some point, Beal may have the opportunity to look at the Dolphins and decide whether he wants to build a team he owns.

Dolphins 2016 preseason schedule here (free)

The Miami Dolphins have until Thursday, August 25 to complete their canopy roof over the home stadium without a name.

That's because that is the day the team's preseason schedule will take a turn for home for the first time as the Dolphins host the Atlanta Falcons that evening. And not only will fans in attendance see the facilities new lid, but so will the entire country because the game will be telecast on national television by NBC Sports.

The Dolphins begin their preseason schedule at the New York Giants the game week of August 11-15. That will be Adam Gase's NFL head coaching debut. His regular-season debut will come about a month later. That will also be a chance to see the Giants new $17 million-a-year defensive end Olivier Vernon.

You better tune in early or you might miss him.

The Dolphins will remain on the road the second week of the preseason, traveling to play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, perhaps the most impressive venue in all of the NFL. That game will be played the game week of August 18-22.

The Dolphins will round out their preseason with a home finale against the Tennessee Titans the game week of Sept. 1-2.

Dates and times, aside from the nationally telecast game, have yet to be decided. The three games  not nationally televised  will be shown locally in South Florida on CBS4.

 

Miami Dolphins promise No. 13 overall pick will absolutely be a starter

When the Miami Dolphins traded down from the No. 8 spot in the NFL draft's first round to the No. 13 spot in the same round in exchange for cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, there was much studying of the situation internally. Tons.

And this is what the team ultimately concluded: The Dolphins believed they were going to get a starting cornerback. A starting linebacker. And another starter with the 13th pick because that player was going to be no less a contributor than if they had selected him No. 8.

No. 13 was, correction, is going to be a starter, according to the Dolphins.

"We talked about it shortly after coming back from Indy, we started kicking around," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. ""It’s great. Tom [Garfinkel], Steve [Ross], obviously Chris [Grier], Adam [Gase], we had a lot of discussion about it and in a cap system you only have finite resources so to trade back and get two guys we’re projecting as starters and it’s reasonable to think we’ll get a starter at 13 if we stay there, to get three starters in one trade we just all felt like, ‘Hey, we’re not one player away.’ This is an efficient use of cap resources, of capped resources and just felt like it was in our best interest."

Ok, so Tannenbaum doesn't come right out and proclaim the No. 13 pick will be a starter. But he's as close to saying it as you can get.

So let me try again...

Because Adam Gase said it.

"We got two starters and we're going to add a third at 13," Gase said during the NFL annual meeting. "I look at it as, we moved back five spots and got three starters. I was all for it. I know this: one guy is not going to change our team. So adding three starters for us was a big deal. We had a lot of needs we needed to fill, so when we started talking with those guys, and Mike felt good about the two players we were going to get, I felt really good about it."

And, folks, if this is how it plays out, we should all give the Dolphins a round of applause because three starters for moving back five slots in the first round is good business anyway you cut it. It really is compelling stuff assuming the starters are solid players.

But (yeah, there's always one a but), how can the Dolphins be so all fired certain No. 13 will be a starter?

How?

I mean, sure, that is obviously the plan. No team picks in the first round thinking, this guy cannot start for us. No team plans for that.

But it happens.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker was No. 14 overall last year. And training camp came and went and he wasn't a starter. And the season's first month came and went and he wasn't starting. October and November passed and still not starting. It wasn't until December, amid the realization that the season was going nowhere and injuries had taken Rishard Matthews, that Parker started four of the final five games.

So he was a starter but it sure took a while.

Dion Jordan was No. 3 overall. Not a starter. Indeed, not even in the media guide last year because, you know, that drug suspension made him invisible.

Jared Odrick, the first round pick in 2010, missed all but a handful of plays his rookie year so it took him a while to become a starter.

Ted Ginn wasn't a starter most of 2007. Then again, Cam Cameron said he was drafted to play special teams. (Yes, that year scarred me forever).

Jason Allen in 2006? Nick Saban's final first round pick in the NFL never started for him. He was a dud as a rookie and I remember Saban telling me, you can't expect him to start right away because Troy Polamalu didn't exactly do that, either. Allen was a good man and his mom was a saint. But he was never,  ever Troy Polamalu.

Dolphins history is dotted with first round picks that didn't start right away. Or ever, really.

Yatil Green never started a game for the Dolphins. Jamar Fletcher started four his entire Dolphins career after being the first-round pick in 2001. Billy Milner, Don Shula's final first-round pick, started nine games his rookie year after Ron Heller got hurt and was gone the next season.

The point is it takes some brass ones to say unequivocally the No. 13 overall pick will be a starter. Period. End of discussion.

And it's not just about the Dolphins. Last year 12 of the 32 players picked in the first round were not starters. Hey, it happens. Drafting is not an exact science.

So I'm looking at what the Dolphins are about to do at No. 13 and wondering who do they believe they're getting that can absolutely start for them?

I know if Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is there at No. 13 and he's picked, he starts Day One. Mission accomplished. Promise fulfilled.

I believe if cornerback Williams Jackson III is there at No. 13 he would start Day One because, frankly, there are no other candidates as of right now. Even if they slightly overdraft Ohio State's Eli Apple (I like him) at No. 13, he probably starts Day One -- although this would require some fast and hard technique teaching and coaching by Lou Anarumo and Vance Joseph.

Vernon Hargreaves would be the starting slot corner Day One and I guess that counts.

Reggie Ragland would be a starter at middle linebacker right away and allow the Dolphins to kick Kiko Alonso outside. Ohio State's Darron Lee? Probably not as much. (He's fast but a small boned kind of guy and I think the Dolphins need to get bigger and stronger at linebacker).

If the Dolphins go guard, does Cody Whitehair start right away while making the transition from college tackle to guard? Maybe. But not a certainty.

But, remember, Gase and Tannenbaum spoke with certainty. Courageous, men. Courageous.

April 06, 2016

People in Miami Dolphins organization blaming everyone but selves is weak

The Miami Dolphins have been on this unapologetic "blame last year's coaches" tour for quite some time now.

It began last October when head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle took the fall for a poor start and underperforming defense. Weeks later, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor got fired for an underperforming offense and failure of quarterback Ryan Tannehill to improve.

After the season, receiver Greg Jennings accused the coaching staff of babying Tannehill. Owner Stephen Ross joined the chorus -- as if his firings hadn't already made his position known -- by blaming coaching for much of the team's troubles a couple of weeks ago. And on Tuesday, defensive back Michael Thomas piled on by telling 120 Sports that coaches "handcuffed" players on defense and that defenders were "limited to how many plays we could call, what type of plays we could call."

Thomas also found a way to blame Ndamukong's Suh's underperforming season on coaches because, he claimed, the $19-million-a-year defensive tackle "wasn't put in position to make plays."

And, I say, enough already!

Look, the entire Earth knows the Dolphins didn't get award-winning work from its coaching staff last year. Or the year before. Or the year before that.

But all this blaming after the fact ... All this deflection of responsibility ... All this hindsight pointing of fingers toward people who already got axed feels creepy. And kind of classless.

You know what I want to hear from Greg Jennings? Not that coaches "babied" Tannehill but that he (Jennings) caught only 19 passes in return for a $5 million payday and was a ghost most game days. I want to hear that on third-and-eight when he did get the opportunity to catch the football from that babied quarterback, he would too often drop it, or fall down after a seven-yard gain.

You know what I want to hear from owner Ross? "It is my fault."

Ross said the failure of 2015 was both on coaching and players but added, "...Obviously, we made a decision on the coaching, didn't we? That speaks for itself."

Actually, what speaks louder is that amid the failure of 2013, Ross's best thinking was that he had a good coaching staff. The Dolphins went through a bullying scandal that still boggles the mind and, of itself, required a firing of the head coach. But Joe Philbin was retained by Ross. The Dolphins dropped off the map their final two games -- losing two games to two losing teams when they needed only one victory to make the playoffs. Yet, again, Ross stuck with his coaches.

Amid that lethal combination of embarrassing scandal and embarrassing end to the season, Ross thought Joe Philbin was good.

And in 2014, when the Dolphins again failed miserably at season's end, losing three of four, Ross gave Philbin a contract extension!

So now he's blaming the same coaching that he so curiously and mistakenly propped up for years through no winning seasons and no playoff appearances?

Methinks Ross needs to look in the mirror before blaming coaches for his team's troubled recent past.

Lazor got blamed for Tannehill's failure to audible. Lazor got blamed for Tannehill's failure to improve in 2015, the first time in his NFL career the quarterback didn't get better from the previous year. But no one mentions Tannehill had his best pro season in 2014 -- under, you guessed it, Lazor.

Where were the complaints then? And where does the coach's responsibility for building the player stop and the player's responsibility for his own performance start?

(By the way, the former coaching staff "babied" Tannehill but also abandoned Tannehill because Philbin wanted to draft Derek Carr and Lazor didn't build a relationship of trust with Tannehill. And so where was Ross when this was going on as early as the spring of 2014?)

Suh wasn't put in a position to make plays?

Well, part of the time he was out of position, Suh put himself there. Because instead of trusting the system and the coaching and doing as asked, Suh did indeed freelance. He did indeed revert to old habits forged in Detroit. He did indeed do his own thing. That was reported by The Miami Herald early last season. Suh and the team pushed back hard on the notion and even exacted an apology from the reporter.

Guess what? It was true.

I've been told by multiple people within the organization Suh was doing his own thing. He was wanting to run his own show, right down to calling defensive meetings and ordering lounge chairs for the defensive line meeting room. And, yes, a position coach or defensive coordinator with courage would have stopped that approach dead in its tracks.

But they don't get all the blame. The responsibility for accepting a $19 million per year paycheck and then failing to live up to it is mostly on the player -- particularly when he lines up in the middle of all the action at defensive tackle but sometimes disappeared from games altogether. Check out Suh's production the first month of the season, and then again after November 22. Not close to $19 million worthy.

Thomas, meanwhile, complained he was playing out of position. He said injuries forced coaches to put him at safety.

Actually, coaches decided he's more a safety than a slot corner. And still, coaches put Walt Aikens at safety first. And Aikens listened to coaches. And worked on things in practice, preparing for what he was about to see in games. And when he saw them in games, he blew coverages. And blew coverages. And blew coverages.

That's on the coaching? I tell you where to be, you agree with me and tell me you understand, and then when it comes time to be there, you're somewhere else? And that's my fault?

Not buying it.

Aikens doesn't have to worry about that now. Although he remains at safety, the Dolphins this offseason added a presumptive starter to play next to Reshad Jones. Issa Abdul-Quddus, signed from Detroit as a free agent, is expected to be the new starter. And if he's not, then Aikens may get another shot.

So if he continues to blow coverages, that's on new head coach Adam Gase and new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and not on Aikens?

Where's the accountability here?

Thomas, it should be noted, is not going to be starting at safety despite replacing Aikens there last season. Thomas, I suppose, welcomes this because he said he was asked to play out of position due to injuries. He said his best position is slot cornerback. And I respect that's how Thomas feels. I admire he took one for the team and played where he was asked.

But guess what? Sports does not offer all perfect situations.

The Dolphins lost Branden Albert in 2014 and asked rookie Ja'Wuan James to play left tackle. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was out and Magic Johnson played center. The Heat asks Dwyane Wade to play point in stretches.

The Dolphins signed Brice McCain to be the slot corner in 2015. But he happened to be better than both Thomas and Bobby McCain at slot early on. And then everyone with eyes recognized he was better than Jamar Taylor on the outside as well. And so Brice McCain, signed to play slot, was enlisted as a starter on the outside.

And he struggled. But was that on the coaches?

They were putting their best available player at the spot. They had no one else. And when they tried someone else, Taylor turned into a completion-first down-touchdown yielding machine.

So it's on coaching that they look around and no one else is available?

Thomas, who I'm told was actually trying to talk the team up during his 120 interview, may or may not get his shot at slot cornerback this year. My take is he failed to lock down the job last year (admittedly with limited reps) before being moved to safety fulltime. That's not all on coaching.

As you know, I was not a fan of Kevin Coyle. Scan this blog and you'll see I documented the steady decline of the defense year over year under Coyle.

But you know what? When players such as Brent Grimes failed time and again in 2015 after succeeding in the same situations in 2013 and 2014 -- while being asked to do the exact same thing under the exact same system -- I don't blame that on Coyle.

The responsibility goes to the player.

Finally...The whole idea of blaming people who are gone and cannot defend themselves is lame. It is not a good look for the Miami Dolphins. It speaks of a lack of personal accountability. It speaks of pointing fingers to someone else. Back to Grimes and his wife Miko: The cornerback had an off year, but the wife ripped a teammate, in this case Ryan Tannehill, time and again while never acknowledging the CB was bad.

Huh?

With the Dolphins, it seems, it is always someone else's fault. This speaks of a culture that obviously Gase is going to have to address because we keep seeing this deflecting of blame and finger pointing over and over this offseason.

April 05, 2016

Reasons to like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and reasons not to (NSFW)

The Miami Dolphins did a wise thing in claiming slot cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu off waivers from the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.

It is wise because the Dolphins have a need at the position (yes, including at the slot). It is wise because this is a free gift. It costs the Dolphins nothing now and minimal cap space if Ekpre-Olomu makes the roster. There is a great upside if Ekpre-Olomu gets healthy and returns to the form he showed in Oregon in 2014 before he blew out his knee and needed reconstructive surgery.

And if E-O fails to get healthy -- obviously something the Cleveland Browns thought because they simply waived him -- well, then, the Dolphins will do similarly and he will be waived.

No harm.

No foul.

But ...

If E-O is healthy, what do the Dolphins have? That's the question that stretches beyond the injury history fundamental.

On the positive side, E-O was projected by some as a first-round pick for 2015 before the injury dropped him to a seventh-round pick. I thought him more a late second rounder because, as I've stated before, I don't love short cornerbacks unless their name is Darrell Green. And Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's name is not Darrell Green and neither can he run a 4.28 in the 40 yard dash, which was Green's average time. 

E-O was a great player at Oregon. He was tough. He was smart. He was productive. He had all the makings of a good NFL player. So that's the upside.

The downside is maybe he's lost a step because it has been a year since that injury and he's still not right. Even if he hasn't, matching him in the slot against 6-3 Brandon Marshall seems like a nightmare matchup for the Dolphins. And, of course, there's that year off that suggests when E-O is healthy, he's going to have to knock some rust off.

I'm not saying this is going to work. I'm not saying this is going to fail. I'm out of the prediction business, folks, in case you haven't gotten the drift from this blog this offseason. Show me. Make my eyes believe.

I do know the claiming of this player was smart. That I like. It comes with no risk. And possibly a handsome reward.

Anyway, enjoy the highlights. They are not produced by me and so I did not pick the music. The lyrics can be offensive for some and should probably not be played at work or in front of children or mixed company.

You are warned:

 

And this:

 

Miami Dolphins may take another run at Cameron Wake restructure

You'll recall that the Miami Dolphins and the representation for Cameron Wake got together in late January and February and held talks to restructure the Pro Bowl defensive end's contract.

And you'll recall the process didn't exactly get off to a rousing start.

And you'll recall the end results were not what the Dolphins wanted and did not compare favorably with what was happening at other NFL stops.

So today, as at the end of the 2015 season, Wake's scheduled cap value for 2016 is $9.8 million. And that is simply too high for a 34-year-old player coming off a season-ending Achilles rupture last October -- one who may not be 100 percent at the start of training camp and may not be a full time player early on during the 2016 season or perhaps ever again.

But, according to a team source, the failure inability to come to terms with Wake on a restructure, that may or may not have included a request for a salary cut, may not be the last word on the subject. The Dolphins have not closed the door at taking another run at this issue in order to exact a cap savings from Wake this year which they can, per NFL cap rules, carry over to next year if it helps the team achieve a cap surplus at the end of 2016.

So the Dolphins don't feel the book on this matter is necessarily closed.

What does that mean?

Well, the team might try to work with Wake again just prior to or just after the draft. That could help the team gain cap space for the post May 12 run at a couple of free agents the Dolphins might decide to purse. The Dolphins had $19.9 million in salary cap space as of Monday, per the NFL Players Association so it's not like they are hurting and need the savings.

But it is merely good stewardship to try to save where possible and, again, the Wake deal, which is in its final year, begs addressing.

In my opinion, it is more likely the Dolphins wait until just before the end of training camp to try to adjust the contract again. Remember, base salaries are guaranteed if a player is on the 53-man roster the first week of the season so that is kind of the deadline the Dolphins have if they still wish to work some sort of pay cut into the formula.

If, however, by that time they have seen that Wake is back to his old self (or safely on that arc) based on practices and perhaps some snaps in the preseason (late in the preseason, mind you) then they might want to take the route of trimming the cap number by maybe adding a year or two to Wake's contract and guaranteeing money that would be guaranteed the first week of the season anyway.

The point is the team wants to squeeze whatever savings it can out of whatever contracts it can. And just because it was unable to do that with Cameron Wake's contract months ago, doesn't mean it won't try to get that done months in the future.

April 04, 2016

Miami Dolphins showing patience with Leon Hall

The Miami Dolphins search for cornerback help this offseason has so far not included one obvious name despite the fact we're nearly a whole month into free agency.

The name is Leon Hall.

And the obvious connection is that new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was the Cincinnati Bengals secondary coach and Hall played for him.

So it makes sense there should be interest.

But here's the reason the Dolphins so far have been showing patience rather than interest in Hall, per people familiar with the situation...Money.

Hall, who has been making an average of $9.75 million the past four seasons under a deal that paid him $39 million. And because Hall is 31 years old, he recognizes this could be his final contract in the NFL. And so he does not want to take a big pay cut from his last contract. Indeed, he wants to maximize what might be his final contract.

Teams, on the other hand, are mostly bargain shopping now. They didn't consider Hall worth a big offer early in free agency, so he kind of priced himself out of that market. And now the deals that are out there might be for 50-60 percent less than what Hall has been making the past four years. 

And teams have not been willing to entertain paying Hall more than that because he is mostly a slot cornerback now -- as he was the past couple of years for the Bengals -- has had some back and other health issues he's dealt with, and again, he's 31 years old.

Indeed, beyond Hall's asking price, a team has to think carefully about offering anything more than a two-year contract because Hall isn't likely to be better at 33 than he is today.

Except Hall so far hasn't seen it that way.

And so while the market will naturally work to drive down his salary because the demand has so far not been there, the draft does loom and Hall will probably eventually understand that fewer opportunities mean less money.

And less money will mean more interest.

So far the Arizona Cardinals are the only team Hall has visited as a free agent. My guess is when his price comes down, the interest from teams, including the Miami Dolphins, will pick up. 

April 01, 2016

Reshad Jones has April Fools jokes

So April 1 has come and gone and, except for a little bit of a heart attack Friday evening, all is well.

The attack came around 8 p.m. when Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones got on twitter and basically told his 42,000 followers he was thankful for his time in Miami and was happy about the next chapter of his career with the Atlanta Falcons.

 

And that got Dolphins fans freaking out a little bit. Some people congratulated him, and others went into full blown oh-noes depression.

And Jones then let his tweet marinate for two hours.

And Mando's mentions starting blowing up because people wanted to know if the most impactful defensive player on the team last year had played his last game with the Dolphins. So Friday night more or less interrupted for yours truly.

Well, it turns out Reshad Jones, Georgia product, is not going home to the Falcons. It was an April Fools prank.

And I can tell you the Dolphins have no intention of letting Jones go via a trade. Not now. Probably not anytime in the future. Maybe not ever.

The Dolphins consider Jones a key player on their defense.

Yeah, um, not funny Reshad.

Miami Dolphins interest in Greg Toler is about flexibility

Greg Toler makes sense.

Signing the veteran cornerback who is visiting the Dolphins today is not going to change the course of an offseason for anyone. But it could dramatically change the team's approach as it prepares for the NFL draft April 28-30.

Why?

The consensus best approach to any NFL draft is picking the best player available rather than picking exclusively for need. If the Dolphins had been able to pick the best player rather the need pick for need in 2004, they would have picked Vince Wilfork instead of Vernon Carey. They would have picked Patrick Willis instead of Ted Ginn in 2007. They would have picked tight end Rob Gronkowski (not a need) instead of Koa Misi (needed a 3-4 OLB) in 2010.

And if need had not been a huge consideration, the Dolphins would not have taken running back Daniel Thomas in the second round of the 2011 draft and traded up for the privilege of doing so. Thomas, back on the roster now because repeating mistakes can be an educational experience, was a Dolphins draft bust.

In fairness, the Dolphins picked need in 2010 and went with Vontae Davis and that worked out -- until they traded him. The team picked need in 2014 with Ja'Wuan James and so far that has worked out.

But overall, the Dolphins don't want to draft out of need (desperation?) going forward.

“My philosophy is let’s draft the best guy," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said at the NFL annual meeting. "I mean I’m not going to… I would never hamstring Mike (Tannenbaum) and Chris (Grier) and be like ‘Hey, we need to have this.’ We want to draft the best player ..."

But unless the Dolphins sign Toler, a 31-year-old veteran who has started 25 games the past two years, or some other viable cornerback such as Leon Hall, the team might find itself drafting for need again. The team might find itself over-drafting a cornerback in the first round because it really, really needs a cornerback to start opposite Byron Maxwell.

(They also need a slot corner, by the way).

And Toler might be a vehicle for the Dolphins to believe they don't have to absolutely, positively, without doubt, draft a cornerback in the first round or the Earth will end.

Look, Toler has suffered knee and neck injuries the past two years. Even when he's been healthy, he's had only moderate success. The Indianapolis Star called his three seasons with the Colts a "volatile" stint. So make no mistake, this guy is not Deion Sanders. Or Deion Sanders' helicopter pilot.

But he is an experienced and viable NFL cornerback. He will not break the bank, which is key in Miami's thinking about getting back compensatory picks in 2017. And looking around the Dolphins roster and in free agency, there are precious few of those available.

So getting Toler, or a guy like Toler, might offer the team flexibility on draft day. That's what this is about: Not feeling obliged to take a cornerback because there aren't enough bodies at the position.

Greg Toler would add a body. And some draft flexibility.

The return of Daniel Thomas isn't good news for the Dolphins

It was the dinner hour when word began to leak that the Miami Dolphins were having quite a busy day on Thursday.

There was word from league sources that Miami had agreed to terms with running back Daniel Thomas. That followed the news Miami had agreed to terms with running back Isaiah Pead.

And then twitter blew up in an uproar of Dolphins fans.

Understandably so.

Thomas, the Dolphins second round draft pick in 2011, was a bust in Miami before. He averaged all of 3.6 yards per rush in his Dolphins career, had more injuries and fumbles than big plays, and never met the expectations of a team that traded up to get him in that fateful '11 draft.

And Thomas, unimpressive for several years as he never gained the starting job he was drafted to win, was finally cut in 2014. Then re-signed. Then he was cut again. Then he bounced around, including with the Chicago Bears. And cut. And more bouncing. And then signed Thursday.

And the legitimate question is why?

Because it seems the current Dolphins braintrust that wasn't here when Thomas was first here missed the memo. That memo was left by the old Dolphins braintrust. That memo reads, "We got fired by putting guys such as Daniel Thomas on the roster."

(Nothing personal against Thomas. He's a hard worker and a good guy. He's just not good enough in the NFL).

By the way, new general manager Chris Grier has been with the Dolphins 16 years. He was here when Jeff Ireland picked Thomas. He was here when Thomas showed anyone with eyes he is not good enough. So what's Grier's excuse for this?

Pead? Another guy who was a second-round bust.

He was originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams. He played 27 games for the Rams. And carried the football 19 times.

He played 27 games. And carried the football 19 times.

He played 27 games. And in those games got 19 total carries.

He also was suspended one game for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. And he also suffered an ACL injury that ended his second season.

Last year he was out of the league except for a three-week stretch with Pittsburgh after they lost star running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers released Pead on November 27.

And Dolphins fans are going, "Huh?"

This team has a running back problem. I kid you not. You can read about it here. And here. And here.

And part of the short-term answer to that long-term problem is Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead?

Look, I don't know enough about Pead because I haven't seen him up close. I haven't seen him practice and play in person. So maybe there is something there there.

But I can tell you there will be a handful of undrafted running backs that are better than Daniel Thomas.

This signing -- nay, this third re-signing -- is not a confidence builder. At. All.

Now, this requires perspective: The Dolphins are whispering to me that these additions are just meant to fill the roster for the upcoming camps and OTAs and possibly training camp. The Dolphins are not actually counting on Daniel Thomas or Isaiah Pead to be the backups to Jay Ajayi.

If either of the duo plays out of his mind, great. But if they are what they have so far been in the NFL careers, nothing lost.

And that is meant to offer solace because the team will continue to beat the bushes of free agency and a possible trade as the search for a running back continues. But I tell you now, if Daniel Thomas is on the 2016 Miami Dolphins, something went awfully wrong in the search for another running back.

Someone failed miserably.

Meanwhile, I wonder what Knowshon Moreno is doing? Reggie Bush, who is still recovering from injury? Hey, as long as we're checking out former Dolphins running backs, I wonder what Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are doing?

All of them have a chance today to be better than Daniel Thomas.

Yes, I'm exaggerating. But only a little.

March 31, 2016

Miami Dolphins have talked to KC Chiefs about trading for a RB

The Miami Dolphins have been shopping for a running back for several weeks, and that includes conversations with multiple teams about doing a trade. And a league source tells me one of those teams the Dolphins have been talking to is the Kansas City Chiefs, who happen to have four experienced running backs on the roster.

The Dolphins had shown interest in all the Chiefs running backs -- Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and Knile Davis -- but it seems the one the Chiefs are most willing to part with is Davis. And Davis happens to be the least accomplished of the bunch.

Davis also happens to have requested a trade from the Chiefs because he finished the season third on the team's depth chart behind West and Ware and could be cut if Charles returns from 2015's season-ending knee injury to reclaim his starting job. Charles, who had knee reconstruction surgery, is expected to be ready sometime in training camp.

(One supposes KC has grown tired of Charles being injured so much and could want to move him, but someone would have to blow them away to make such a deal. I don't know that the Dolphins are in the blow somebody away mode right now).

The Chiefs today announced contract extensions for both West and Ware, suggesting the team intends to keep both.

“Charcandrick and Spencer both stepped in and were very effective for us offensively last year,” Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said. “These guys have different styles and abilities, and together they provide us quality depth at the running back position.”

That leaves Davis as the player the Chiefs would be most willing to part with in trade.

Davis is a former 2013 third-round pick of the Chiefs whose size and bulk (5-10 and 227 pounds) and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash) have not yet translated to great NFL success. He rushed for 463 yards on 134 carries in 2014 for a 3.5 yard per carry average. Last season, Davis was little used, gaining only 72 yards on 28 carries. One of Davis's issues has been his penchant for fumbling. He had seven his first two NFL seasons in 2013-14.

He obviously was behind Ware and West on the depth chart after Charles was injured.

Davis served mostly on kick returns. He had a 108-yard kickoff return for a TD his rookie season and a 99-yard kickoff return TD in 2014. Last season he returned 24 kicks for 603 yards -- a 25.1 yard per return average.

If the Dolphins and Chiefs consummate a trade for Davis (big if) it would not be a blockbuster. The Chiefs are getting nowhere near their third-round draft investment in return for Davis.

Anyway, enjoy the highlight reel. Remember, this is about highlights. No lowlights included:

 

Miami Dolphins need at RB is acute but might not be filled until later in draft

So I think the Dolphins will draft a cornerback in the first round because that is their greatest need and players such as William Jackson III of Houston and Eli Apple of Ohio State have either met or will meet with the team and are more or less values in the vicinity where the Dolphins will draft in the first round.

(Hey, um, I'd like for the Dolphins to trade down maybe 8-10 spots from No. 13, maybe pick up another second-rounder, and still think they could be in position to pick either Jackson or Apple. Apple needs good coaching to keep his hands off receivers downfield, and picking him at No. 13 is too early, but he's my guy).

And having said that, the Dolphins have other needs...

Running back. Linebacker. Defensive end.

And I think running back is Miami's next greatest need because they let Lamar Miller walk, they couldn't get C.J. Anderson as a restricted free agent, they couldn't close with Chris Johnson, Arian Foster is still nowhere close to 100 percent, the trades the Dolphins have explored have so far not yielded fruit, and Jay Ajayi cannot carry the football every single time in 2016.

So the Dolphins need a RB1 or RB1a to share the load with Ajayi.

But here's the thing ...

Todd Gurley is not walking through that door. And Ezekiel Elliott will probably be gone when Miami picks at No. 13.

Wait. If Elliott is there at No. 13, and the Dolphins have not traded down, they might consider taking him, then trading up in the second round to land some other CB because, well, cornerback is a thing for the Dolphins in case you haven't been paying attention.

Anyway, the more likely scenario is Elliott is not there and the Dolphins pluck a corner and the running back spot still needs filling.

But just because the running back position needs a major contributor and perhaps even a starter doesn't mean the running back comes next on the to-do list. Simply, running backs in this draft can be had in the third, fourth, fifth rounds. Check that, running backs can be had in those rounds and even as undrafted free agents in practically every draft.

Anderson, who the Dolphins were willing to pay $18 million over four years, was not originally drafted. Miller, who got $6.5 million per season from the Houston Texans, was drafted in the fourth round.

What I'm saying is running backs don't have to be selected early for them to succeed. No, you're not getting Adrian Peterson or Gurley or LaDanian Tomlinson. But talent is out there. Arian Foster, by the way, was not drafted in 2009 and was even cut by the Texans before being signed to their practice squad in September of 2009.

So that tells you that if you see the Dolphins pick a corner in the first round, and maybe a linebacker such as Georgia's Jordan Jenkins (love him) or USC's Su'a Cravens in the second, that's fine. Indeed maybe back-to-back corners is the way to go. Or CB in the first and DE in the second.

There are myriad possibilities that do not include a running back until later. And I would be fine with that and so should you. You don't want to overdraft anyone but doing it with a running back stings more because there are so many of them.

So some running back possibilities after the first round?

I like Derrick Henry if he's there in the second round.

Go ahead, kill me.

With their 42nd overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select the Heisman Trophy winner!

Yes, I know I just got done telling you running backs can be found later. And running back is a need but defensive ends and even a linebacker or another cornerback might be greater importance to the Dolphins.

But I just like this player. I like the value for him at No. 42. I think he's going to be good. I don't care what past University of Alabama running backs have done or not done. I think he was great in pee wee, great in high school, great in college, and he's going to be great in the NFL if he gets with the right team.

I think he is a downhill guy who can put his foot in the dirt with decisiveness. I think at 242 pounds he can create some of his own yardage. I think he's fast enough, running the 40 in 4.58ish.

He reminds me of Steven Jackson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams.  

So, now the alarm clock sounds and my dream is over. And when the Dolphins don't pick Henry or any running back in the second round because they think a defensive end or cornerback or linebacker is more valuable, that means they still have to get one later on.

So Alex Collins of Arkansas (fumble problems), Devontae Booker of Utah (best of this group in my opinion), Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech (durability questions), C.J. Prosise of Notre Dame (raw and inexperienced) and Jordan Howard of Indiana University (not flashy, gets caught from behind some, meh) are considered by the "experts" to be the next wave of runners available in the third or fourth rounds.

Did I mention I like Derrick Henry in the second round?

GM Mando's first two rounds would look like ... Eli Apple in the first and Derrick Henry in the second. And both are starting immediately.

Stop laughing!  

March 30, 2016

Miami Dolphins biggest need in NFL draft is a cornerback

It's that time of year for mock drafts (clickbait), draft visits, mock drafts 2.0 (clickbait), private workouts, and the regurgitation of someone else's mock draft with the appropriate indignation about how awful that mock draft is (more clickbait).

I'm not doing that here.

With rare exceptions, mock drafts do not include legitimate inside information from team sources. Some mocks include information from teams intending to put smokescreens out there. But that is not good information. Draft visits do not necessarily signify draft interest. Private workouts are more telling, in my opinion.

What matters about the coming month of draftmania is that you know your team. And as this is a Miami Dolphinscentric blog, you should know the Dolphins. And if you know the Dolphins, you must think the following about the next draft:

  1. The Dolphins expect their first-round draft pick (No. 13 overall) to be a starting player. That comes directly from coach Adam Gase. So that player has already been penciled in this early on in the process.
  2. The Dolphins have worked hard to fill multiple needs in free agency. They signed two starting defensive ends in Mario Williams and Andre Branch. That's right, Branch is a starter at least early on while Wake gets his bearings as he returns from his 2014 Achilles rupture. Wake will be a pass-rush specialist when he's healthier. And maybe eventually he can add more snaps each game. The Dolphins added a starting safety in Isa Abdul-Quddus. The Dolphins added a starting linebacker in Kiko Alonso. The Dolphins filled depth at offensive line, and quarterback. So the team is by its moves telegraphing that those spots may still be "wants" and even "needs." But they are not "must haves."
  3. There are two positions that are "must haves" -- cornerback and running back.

If we can agree on the fact the Dolphins must add one and perhaps two corners in this draft we are getting somewhere. If you don't think that is the case, you don't know your team and so let's walk through the exercise ...

Byron Maxwell is the one starting cornerback on the roster. That's it. He's the only cornerback on the roster who has been an NFL starter and had any consistent amount of success in that role. (He's also had seasons when he wasn't consistent, by the way, with last season being the prime example). But he's the best Miami has right now.

Who else?

Bobby McCain is on the roster. He started three games last year as a rookie. Jamar Taylor is on the roster. He started six games last year.

And to that I say: McCain is intriguing in that he was a puppy in 2015 and showed a bit of a bite. But let's face it, he seems better suited to playing in the slot than outside because of his size. The NFL is going with longer cornerbacks now. Teams want to follow the Seattle look. They want to be able to match up with 6-3 receivers such as Brandon Marshall or 6-2 receivers such as Eric Decker, especially when both are on the same team and on the Dolphins schedule twice a year.

Bobby McCain is 5-10. He's a fighter. He's got a chip on his shoulder. He's got potential. But none of that erases that he's 5-10.

Taylor is slightly bigger at 5-11. But unlike McCain, he's had his chances with the Dolphins. This is his fourth season in Miami. And he hasn't shown a lot. He was hurt his rookie year. He took advantage of some of his chances his second year and showed he might be able to compete. And then last year was a disaster.

Taylor was basically handed a starting job in 2015 offseason camps. And then lost it in training camp. And he lost it to Brice McCain, who was signed to be the slot corner.And when McCain struggled outside because, well, he was a slot corner playing outside, Taylor got another chance. And he was bad. It wasn't so much the completions he allowed. That happens. It was the first downs and touchdowns he gave up. And the blown coverages.

That 84-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. last December?

Jamar Taylor.

Suffice to say that Giants game was the only one Taylor played the final five weeks of 2015. He was a healthy scratch in the other four games because coaches didn't want him on the field.

Obviously, that doesn't mean Taylor is done with the Dolphins. With a new coaching staff and new year, he gets a chance to make the team in 2016. He gets new life. But film does not lie and the new staff watched what he did last year so they are not counting on him to be something in his fourth NFL season he has failed to be his first three years.

The Dolphins are not expecting a cornerback, drafted in 2013 to play man-off and zone, to become a press cornerback now. It could happen. God is still on His throne. But it would be an improbable miracle.

And so cornerback. It is a must have. If the Dolphins do not come out of the 2016 draft with a player who can viably be considered the starter, they have failed.

(And then the team will be shopping the back end of free agency for Leon Hall or someone of that ilk).

If the Dolphins fail to draft this cornerback in the first or second round -- someone such as Jalen Ramsey, William Jackson, Eli Apple, Jalen Mills, Vernon Hargreaves, Kendall Fuller, or DeAndre Houston-Carson -- there will be problems. There will be issues. It will be bad. The season will be over. Life on Earth will end.

Seriously, it will be a bad look for rookie general manager Chris Grier managing his first draft.

One thing I must share with you that readers intimately familiar with the Miami roster are probably already wondering about: Tony Lippett.

He was a fifth-round pick last year and basically got redshirted for three-quarters of the season because he was making the transition from college receiver to NFL cornerback. But the final three weeks of the season, Lippett was a guy. He was playing ahead of McCain and Taylor. He had five tackles against Indianapolis and two tackles and a pass defensed in the finale against New England.

And he was doing it at an eye-popping 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.

(Yes, GM Mando likes long cornerbacks and I am told the Dolphins are finally understanding long cornerbacks is the way to go).

Now, this year the Dolphins are going to press outside. That is what Gase has said. And in theory that seems to fit Lippett's skillset very well. He's obviously physical enough to do that. He's got great ball skills (from his receiver days) so that will be a big deal. And he's not so set in his ways as a cornerback that he cannot be taught a different technique.

Watch out for this kid.

But is he ready to start? No. He's ready to compete.

The Dolphins need a starting cornerback candidate out of this draft. It is a must have.

(BLOG NOTE: I was going to discuss the running back issue in this post as well, but we're at 1,180 words so that will be the next post, barring breaking news.) 

 

Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, battered in 2015, is healthy again

Injuries cost teams games in the NFL and one of the Miami Dolphins' most underrated and, yes, under-reported injuries of 2015 definitely had that effect.

Offensive right tackle Ja'Wuan James went down on October 29 with a toe injury that was not the big news of the day because in that very game, defensive end Cameron Wake ruptured his Achilles tendon and receiver DeVante Parker aggravated a foot injury on the same foot that had undergone surgery twice, including last summer.

So James kind of fell through the cracks.

Well, let me fill in some of the gaps ...

Firstly, the James injury was a dislocated big toe. There had been speculation, including some by me, that it was a turf toe. It was much more serious, obviously. It was so serious that James did not play the rest of the season, missing the final nine games, just as Wake did not.

The injury was a concern for the Dolphins because team doctors couldn't get a real handle on how long it would take to heal. They said it could be as little as four weeks. They said it could be as much as eight weeks. That is a huge gap between best and worst-case scenario. And even then, it took longer than the doctors expected because even as James started walking again and got some practice near the end of the season, he was never quite right.

He was never good enough to get in a game.

I'm told he is well now. The injury is fine now. 

But the damage was done. Because James could not play, the Dolphins were forced to go with Jason Fox as their right tackle the final nine games. Fox, a good man, was not up to the task. He struggled in pass protection, giving up a handful of sacks. He was cut this offseason. And the Dolphins have worked hard to improve the offensive line depth behind starters like James because the line has been hit hard by injuries in recent years. All you need to know is Mike Pouncey has missed games each of the past two years and left tackle Branden Albert missed much of the 2014 season after suffering a career threatening knee injury.

The Dolphins this offseason signed tackles Sam Young to compete for the No. 3 tackle job Fox held last year. The team added Kraig Urbik for depth at guard and center. And Jermon Bushrod was added to compete at guard and possibly backup at tackle in a pinch.

The Dolphins offensive line depth has gotten better this offseason.

But the team hopes it won't need that depth.

And an important part of that hope is having James pick up where he left off his rookie season in 2014 and early in 2015. The team needs James to be the stabilizing force he has been while also improving his base and core strength. That's the goal.

A now-healthy James is a good start toward that goal. 

March 29, 2016

The strengthening of the Miami Dolphins offensive line

When new Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase studied the Dolphins offensive line and how to get that embattled unit better, the answer he came up with was simply to strengthen the unit.

It wasn't about dumping right guard Billy Turner and left guard Dallas Thomas. That wasn't it. No, it didn't necessarily mean signing the highest rated or most expensive guard in free agency. That's not the approach to strengthening the unit Gase elected.

Gase literally wanted to get the players in the building stronger to strengthen the unit. So the manner in which those players train and come to training camp was studied. Gase looked at the time the team spent in the weight room last year and was not impressed. He saw that under former coach Joe Philbin, more time was spent in the classroom learning the playbook and game plans and such.

And less time was spent in the weight room getting strong, and fast and thick enough to, you know, actually execute on the field.

So last year, while it could be said the Dolphins were studious enough to win up front, they weren't strong enough to win up front. At least that's how Gase sees things.

So that changes this offseason. Dolphins offensive linemen have gotten the message through the grapevine that they better be working on becoming weight room beasts this offseason. And when the offseason strength and conditioning program begins next month, much of the time the team is allotted every day will be used to lifting weights and getting stronger.

“I feel like I keep going back to our strength and conditioning program," Gase said. "That’s one thing that when we came in, me and Mike (Tannenbaum) and Chris (Grier) had long conversations about this as far as how can we get better in that area. And we feel like the first step we made was by promoting (Head Strength and Conditioning) Dave (Puloka).

"(We) put him in charge and we talked about it. We said let’s get back to some good, old, ‘Let’s lift.’ Let’s spend our two hours in the weight room. Let’s get these guys bigger and stronger and faster. That’s been a big focus. I want to try to give him as much time allotted that he is allowed to get these guys in the position to when we do start, we can see a difference. We can see a difference physically in our guys as far as their strength and being able to come off the ball and move people."

That the Miami offensive line needs weight room work should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog. Last November, after a victory over Philadelphia, I reported that players talked about the need to get stronger among themselves after a game. No less than Mike Pouncey acknowledged he needed weight room work.

The Dolphins believe both Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas need lower body work to improve their base so that, you know, they're not turnstiles to the QB and can move bodies off the ball.

Albert can probably use some building up of his legs. Ja'Wuan James, impressive as a rookie but not quite so last year due to a toe injury, needs to build change that body around.

There is much, much work to do with that offensive line.

Now, this is not saying that will cure the ills of the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Look, talent is important. Development is important. Technique is important. Luck in keeping healthy is important. The Miami offensive line has had a failure in one or more of these areas season after season.

This coming season, however, Gase is insisting that lack of bulk and strength will not be excuse for the unit.

 

March 28, 2016

Arian Foster an interesting possibility for Miami Dolphins but be wary

Arian Foster is an interesting guy.

He is visiting the Dolphins this week and although he might not be offered a contract right away, as I reported earlier today, the Dolphins are obviously interested in getting to know him, about him, and gauging him as a possibility to fill their running back needs.

Foster, 6-1 and 227 pounds, is a vegan. Except occasionally, he gets tired of that and says he'll have meat. He's talked about being reared a muslim and now being an atheist. He's a philanthropist. Poet. Actor. Oh, yeah, and he's an NFL running back -- an unemployed NFL running back.

On that note, forget about him being a prophet because before he got back on the field last year he said, "I feel like this is going to be my best year."

It wasn't. Foster was able to play only four games before rupturing his Achilles against the Miami Dolphins last October. In that regard, Foster has been through the injury wringer. He's suffered groin injuries. Hamstring injuries. A broken collarbone. Torn meniscus. He required serious back surgery in 2013. He has started all 16 games only once during his seven seasons -- that in 2012.

The 2013 season was a dark time for Foster because he had the disc injury in his lower back that required surgery and ended his campaign after only eight games. So in 2014, the question was whether he'd be the same guy?

Foster responded with 1,246 yards on 260 carries with eight rushing TDs and five receiving TDs. This is what it looked like:

 

Foster struggled with injuries again prior to the 2015 season. He suffered another groin injury that required surgery in the preseason. He missed the first three games of the season and that's the point where cracks in his relationship with the Houston Texans began to show.

"I’ve recognized how vulnerable he is," Houston owner Bob McNair said prior to the 2015 season. "It seems like every year he’s had some type of soft-tissue injury. We just keep our fingers crossed and hope it won’t happen, but he seems to be vulnerable to that type of thing."

Ouch.

The Dolphins have to be very, very careful with Foster for multiple reasons:

They don't want to overpay for anyone much less a veteran coming back from a major injury and carrying baggage as being injury riddled much of his career. There is no use trying to fill a need, paying to fill that need, and then still having that need when the player you signed is injured. Remember, durability is an ability. Availability is an ability.

Foster, meanwhile, said early on he wanted to play for a winner and wasn't intending to sell his services cheaply. That's interesting because the Dolphins are not what I would call a playoff contender and Foster must realize this.

That means playoff contenders such as Denver, Seattle, and Dallas, who are system fits for Foster, haven't exactly been knocking his door down.

Buyer beware.

Running back Arian Foster a big name UFA because of his past

There are big names in free agency that excite -- Alex Mack, Janoris Jenkins, the franchise players like Von Miller and Eric Berry. And then there are names in free agency that excite because they are known to you and me and have performed great feats in the past, but they're probably not the players of those past feats anymore.

Arian Foster is the latter.

Unfortunately.

The running back will be visiting the Miami Dolphins this week. And on the surface that suggests the team is about to resolve its running back issue because Foster had 1,616 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2010. And he had 1,424 yards in 2012. And he had 1,246 yards in 2014.

But he's possibly (probably) not that guy anymore.

And that is why I am told by sources that over-excitement over this looming visit is not wise because it will be about a medical check to see where Foster's recovery from an torn Achilles tendon is at less than a year since the October 2015 injury. This visit will be about getting to know Foster who is known for being a little eccentric. This is an exploratory mission and that is why, I am told, it probably won't lead to a rush to offer Foster a contract.

And even if a contract between the Dolphins and Foster is eventually hammered out, the Dolphins are still looking to draft a running back in 2015 for myriad reasons. The reasons?

This is a good running back draft. One Dolphins official kidded with me recently that finding a running back in this draft should be easy.

Another reason drafting a running back is a good idea is that Foster, for all his gifts, has been injury prone during his career.

He is 29 years old and played only four games last year before tearing the Achilles against the Dolphins. He missed three games in 2014. He missed eight games in 2013. In his seven NFL seasons, Foster has started all 16 games once -- in 2012.

Look, there's a reason that free agency started going on three weeks ago and Miami will be Foster's first visit.

So, yes, Arian Foster is a big name player.

But as there are questions about him, he might not be the kind of big name a team hangs its offseason on.

The fallout of Miami Dolphins personnel opinons

This time of year, it seems, everyone is a personnel guru. Everyone has opinions about NFL talent and incoming NFL talent. And mostly those opinions that drive decisions in the spring, determine wins and losses in the fall and winter.

And so today I share with you multiple Miami Dolphins personnel opinions that matter that should give insight about why the Dolphins have taken the path they have taken this offseason.

Consider:

Running back Lamar Miller: Start with the fact interim coach Dan Campbell was not a fan. During the latter half of the 2015 season, the interim coach seriously wanted more Jay Ajayi and less Miller, per multiple people I've spoken with, because he believed the rookie the better back. Obviously that transition was never made, but it set the stage for what happened this offseason in that the Dolphins were more aggressive than they expected to be in trying to re-sign Miller (they offered $5 million per season) but were not going to step beyond that for a player some in the building were lukewarm about. Understand, new coach Adam Gase liked Miller based on tape study. But not to the extent Houston did. The Texans signed Miller for $6.5 million per year average.

Fallout: Either the Texans or the Dolphins are right. The Texans believe Miller is a bell cow back that can challenge for the rushing title. They believe him a 1,200-1,400 yard per season back, who is also a threat out of the backfield. That's what they're paying for. The Dolphins believe C.J. Anderson was a better back than Miller. So they liked somebody else's player more than their own. And having neither, they've shrugged and believe they'll draft someone and/or sign a back-of-free agency guy like Arian Foster (do not forget this name) and will be fine. Foster, by the way, will visit the team this week. This is a good draft for running backs, by the way. The Dolphins think they can find one as good or better than Miller in that draft.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon: I have written multiple times the Dolphins liked OV. They didn't love OV. There was one tape session among coaches last year, I'm told, in which those present spent five minutes breaking down all the things the player did wrong or poorly. (This obviously could not have been the Dallas tape against Tyron Smith because Vernon had a fine game that day). Simply, the Dolphins saw Vernon as a 7-8 sack a year guy who was not a cornerstone on their defense despite being only 25 years old. The New York Giants see Vernon as a cornerstone. They see him as a double-digit sack guy who can team with Jason Pierre-Paul on the other side to form a formidable sack duo. By the way, the OV camp likes to point out he was really a 10.5 sack guy last season, not 7.5 as the statistics say. The reason is Vernon had three sacks stripped away by penalties in the defensive backfield.

Fallout: Either the Giants or Dolphins are right. The investment the Giants have made on Vernon speaks of both great desperation and great confidence. That team is desperate to win immediately and return what has been a dormant pass rush to its Super Bowl days. The Dolphins saw Vernon as more a complimentary player. They didn't see him worth $17 million per year, which is what the Giants are paying. They didn't see him as a $12 million per year player in August 2015 when they made him their most serious offer.

Rishard Matthews: Look, Matthews was long gone even last year when he was having his best season. A source close to Matthews told me his free agency wouldn't be just about money, but opportunity. The player wanted to play and he knew that wasn't going to happen in Miami. In Miami, the Dolphins had traded for Kenny Stills and spent first- and second-round picks on DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry, respectively. The team was heavily invested in those players and that left Matthews as something of insurance in case that plan didn't work. But the problem is the Dolphins clearly misjudged Matthews for several years. You'll recall that Matthews got playing time in 2013 because the Dolphins had no one else. And he responded with 41 catches and 2 TDs in five starts that year. He believed he had earned an opportunity to be among Miami's top three receivers. The Dolphins, under Joe Philbin, didn't. Philbin wanted Matthews gone. Then-GM Dennis Hickey resisted but also didn't count on Matthews. He drafted Landry.

Fallout: The Dolphins, believing Matthews an afterthought type player, considered receiver a significant need both in last year's draft and in the 2014 draft. They spent high picks that might have gone to fill other needs, such as cornerback, because they didn't have a good enough internal evaluation on Matthews. Now, did the team get two players better than Matthews? Maybe. Probably. Landry is outstanding. Parker promises to be outstanding. But remember that Matthews was a superior deep threat to Landry, averaging 15.4 yards per catch to Landry's 10.5. And Matthews caught more passes than Parker, 43 compared to 26, despite missing three more games than the rookie. Decisions made years ago by a coach later fired laid the foundation to Matthews leaving the Dolphins.

Mario Williams: The Dolphins think he's better than Olivier Vernon. Period. Yes, he's older. Yes, he comes with baggage because last season the guy was not a positive force in the Buffalo locker room once he recognized he didn't fit in. But the Dolphins believe they can address all that and are willing to pay $8 million per season over the next two years for the opportunity.

Fallout: Miami has chose cheaper and older and believe that is an upgrade. That makes them unique because teams like the Giants and others considered Williams as well when he was cut by the Bills. And the Giants went a different direction. And other teams didn't want to pay what the Dolphins are paying. It'll be interesting to compare Williams's performance in Miami the next two years to Vernon. It should be noted, the Dolphins also expect a draft pick to come from losing Vernon so that will figure into the metric eventually.

Kiko Alonso: The Eagles view of this player should make you afraid. They believe he was a ghost in their defense last year. No big plays. No impact. Missed tackles. The velocity to the football he showed his rookie year in Buffalo was missing. The Eagles were so disappointed, they gave up on a player who is relatively inexpensive at under $1 million because he's in the final year of his rookie contract. The Dolphins see a different guy. They see a great scheme fit. They see a player who will improve because he'll be two years removed from his knee reconstruction surgery. They see a player who'll benefit from their weight program.

Fallout: Yeah, either the Eagles have a solid grasp of their player, or they just bonked and the Dolphins took Alonso out from under their nose.