September 12, 2016

Reaction coming in on Dolphins players' protest on 9-11

SEATTLE -- Hours after four Miami Dolphins players decided to drop to one knee in protest during the national anthem on Sunday, I asked club owner Stephen Ross what he would tell fans not pleased with such political commentary from players they otherwise root for.

Said another way, I asked Ross what he'd tell his season ticket holders.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the organization – all the players included – that want to show any disrespect for this country, for the flag, for the soldiers or anything else. I think they all know (that) as an organization, we’re totally 100 percent behind them. I think today, what has been brought up is a conversation that needs to be had, and I think they’re doing it in their way, and I applaud them. That’s what it’s all about."

Players Arian Foster, Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Jelani Jenkins all echoed those sentiments. They were protesting asking you not to hate them for it.

"I think there is a lot of negativity surrounding this decision, and we are not looking to hurt anyone's feelings, we're not looking to disrespect anyone, that's why we chose to put our hands over our heart, as well. We also stood during President Obama's speech which honored the 9-11 victims. I know there's going to be a lot of negativity around that. Arian (Foster) is going to share the message about that, and we hope that people are going to understand where we're coming from."

And that's all well and good, but people disagreeing with these players are not bringing "negativity." They are bringing their opinion as well and, like the players, they have a right to their opinions.

Those people who disagree run the gamut from the famous to the anonymous. Super model Kate Upton took to Twitter and made it clear to her two million followers she was not a fan of the Dolphins' protest. She also went on her Instagram account and vehemently disagreed with the Dolphins actions on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

 

In my opinion, the national anthem is a symbolic song about our country. It represents honoring the many brave men and women who sacrifice and have sacrificed their lives each and every single day to protect our freedom. Sitting or kneeling down during the national anthem is a disgrace to those people who have served and currently serve our country. Sitting down during the national anthem on September 11th is even more horrific. Protest all you want and use social media all you want. However, during the nearly two minutes when that song is playing, I believe everyone should put their hands on their heart and be proud of our country for we are all truly blessed. Recent history has shown that it is a place where anyone no matter what race or gender has the potential to become President of the United States. We live in the most special place in the world and should be thankful. After the song is over, I would encourage everyone to please use the podium they have, stand up for their beliefs, and make America a better place. The rebuilding of battery park and the freedom tower demonstrates that amazing things can be done in this country when we work together towards a common goal. It is a shame how quickly we have forgotten this as a society. Today we are more divided then ever before. I could never imagine multiple people sitting down during the national anthem on the September 11th anniversary. The lessons of 911 should teach us that if we come together, the world can be a better and more peaceful place #neverforget.

A photo posted by Kate Upton (@kateupton) on

And while many times citizens that don't make millions and aren't in front of media cameras or microphones have to counter-protest, so to speak, in a vacuum, that doesn't happen today.

A dozen or so Dolphins fans,  including several season ticket members, wrote to me Sunday to voice frustration and dissatisfaction about the Miami protest. Some are upset about the player protests and don't know what steps to take next. Some have decided to stop rooting for the Dolphins.

Some like Greg Gully are making their feelings known to Dolphins ownership. This is a letter from Gully to Ross and his season ticket customer service representative:

"Dear Mr. Ross,

"I am a season ticket holder for the Miami Dolphins. A proud Dolfan since 1968. Born and raised in NYC and recently moved to Southwest Florida. What you need to know is that I was a First Responder on 9-11-01 at WTC site.

"I understand that cancelling my dream season tickets will not be felt by you or the team but how can I in good conscience support a team or league that allows any one person to disrespect the memory of the heroes we lost on 9-11-01? This was my 1st season as a holder and next season I was going to upgrade to the 72 Club seats.

"You should understand how angry and embarrassed I was to witness Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Jelani Jenkins and Kenny Stills kneel during the National Anthem on the 15th anniversary of 9-11-01. 4 players, no less, that almost were not even on our team this season. I understand it is their right to not stand for the anthem but it is also my right to not contribute my hard earned money to pay their salaries."

This is a difficult situation, friends.

I think you know  my opinion on protesting on 9-11. 

I don't view my opinion as negativity. I simply believe these four Dolphins players made a bad mistake.

September 11, 2016

Kenny Stills on key drop: 'No excuses. Just a drop'

SEATTLE -- The biggest play of Sunday's game between the Dolphins and the Seahawks was a play that wasn't made.

It was a play in which the Dolphins found receiver Kenny Still wide open on what looked like a post. Safety Earl Thomas busted the coverage and Stills was 50 yards down field by himself for an apparent TD.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw the football right in Stills' hands. And ...

Stills dropped it.

"Sometimes you drop the ball," Still said after the game. "No excuses. Just a drop. It was a good ball. I just dropped it. It hurts the team. You want to make those plays. I worked hard all offseason to make those plays. I've got to make them."

 I asked Stills if the sun was in his eyes.

"No," he responded. "Just dropped it."

And obviously it was a big play because the Dolphins lost this game 12-10. Stills makes that play, well... who knows what might have been.

Coach Adam Gase ran a similar play as the Denver offensive coordinator against the Seahawks with success. But when his new team and player did not make the play, he was thinking beyond the drop.

“Obviously if we catch it, it’s a big play," Gase said. "One play does not make a game. The biggest thing that we talked about the entire week was that bad things happen. You have to move on to the next play. My thing was how are we going to respond to this adversity?"

Not great. Not terrible, either.

The Dolphins did get a field goal on their very next possession. Of course, they didn't exactly drive for those points because they came after an Isa Abdul-Quddus interception that gave Miami the ball at the Seattle 42 yard line. The Dolphins advanced the ball 19 yards before Andrew Franks kicked a 41 yard field goal.

The Dolphins defense had one beautiful drive, that in the fourth quarter to take a 10-6 lead. But otherwise the offense was ineffective.

Miami collected only 11 first downs. The Dolphins had 64 rushing yards on 20 carries, which is a 3.2 yard per carry average. The passing game suffered a drop from Jordan Cameron and obviously Stills while Tannehill completed 16 of 29 passes for 186 yards. Tannehill's quarterback rating was 74.8.

The offensive line didn't have a good day. Tannehill was sacked four times.

“We’re playing a really good defense," Gase said. "It’s tough keeping the ball. They did a really good job of taking away a lot of the things that we prepared for. We have to make some adjustments within the game. With these guys it’s a tough game of cat and mouse. They were one step ahead of us early. Some of the things that we had schemed by didn’t have our players in the best position possible. We tried to get through the game and make some adjustments as the game went on."

Seahawks find a way to win, beat Dolphins 12-10

Let's start with the news: Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams has a concussion and is in the NFL's concussion protocol so his status for next week's game at New England is uncertain.

As to the game: The Miami Dolphins thought they had a quarterback and a defense before this day kicked off and you'll forgive their abused and all too often disheartened fans if they had their doubts.

Well, doubt remains. But less about the quarterback than the defense.

At least after today's 12-10 Dolphins loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

On this day the Dolphins came to the Great Northwest and nearly upset the Seattle Seahawks. They held a 10-6 lead until the Seahawks marched for the winning score with 31 seconds left to play.

Disheartening, yes. I know.

It was a kick in the teeth when Russell Wilson culminated the winning 75-yard drive with a 2-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin. Baldwin beat Bobby McCain for the score.

Until that moment the Dolphins defense had been more than up to the task. Obviously the defense had not allowed a touchdown to that point..

The offense, meanwhile, found its leader in Tannehill. The Dolphins quarterback merely had perhaps his finest career moment in leading an 86-yard drive for what might have been the winning score in the final seven minutes.

Tannehill, looking at a 6-3 deficit, completed 4 of 5 passes for 55 yards and capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.

The score seemingly gave the Dolphins their winning margin. But it did not seal the game. Instead, Russell Wilson matched Tannehill's heroics.

"We just found a way to win," he said. "We made plays when we needed to."

Look, I told you this morning in my column that the Dolphins are team that has to learn to win. The Seahawks are a team that knows how to win.

We saw that this game.

DeVante Parker inactive; Carroo gets a start; the fall of Dallas Thomas; the road for Jay Ajayi

SEATTLE -- We are 90 minutes from game time here and a couple of interesting notes:

DeVante Parker, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, is inactive. This despite the fact he's made significant progress in getting better from the injury in recent days. The Dolphins are hopeful Parker will be ready to play next week at New England.

That mean rookie Leonte Carroo plays today and indeed gets his first NFL start if the Dolphins come out in the three-wide package.

The other inactives are running back Isaiah Pead, quarterback Brandon Doughty, running back Jay Ajayi, center Mike Pouncey, guard Dallas Thomas.

Thomas, the starter at left guard when training camp began, has fallen to inactive for the first game behind reserve Kraig Urbik. The reason Urbik is up over Thomas is the Dolphins are comfortable Urbik can play all three interior offensive line spots, including center, where he is the backup today.

Anthony Steen starts at center for Mike Pouncey. ESPN reported earlier today Pouncey is recovering from a hip fracture and will be having a CT scan Monday. He could miss the next couple of games as well, ESPN reported.

Isaiah Pead, Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake, and Arian Foster are the active running backs today. Ajayi, obviously, is back in South Florida.

Here's the thing on Ajayi, the team is not planning to trade him, or cut him. He is, however, going to be monitored to see how he reacts to being left behind in South Florida. His reaction to being benched as the starter in favor of Foster was not good.

Now Ajayi has to prove he's gotten the message and can be professional about his approach to being on the team. If not, he'll remain inactive.

By the way, there's the idea that Ajayi will find it hard to be active because he doesn't play special teams. While this is an issue, I'm told Ajayi's value as a backup to Foster would merit him being active if his attitude is right.

 

 

Today is about a united America again

Fifteen years ago today a heinous act by Islamic terrorist hijackers succeeded in bringing down the World Trade Center Twin Towers ... but failed in bringing down our country.

The tragic events of that awful day in New York City, and at the Pentagon, and in that otherwise anonymous field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania were meant to bring America to her knees. And sure enough, many Americans did take to their knees -- in prayer -- filling churches across the country.

But that was only one way the attacks failed in their intent.

In the hard days and months after those multiple acts of terrorism, America did not show fear but great courage. Young people answered a call to national service. People of all ages felt a kinship to each other -- as Americans.

Those acts meant to sow division instead brought us closer together as a nation than any time I've seen during my lifetime.

Those murderers, you see, killed white Americans. black Americans. Asian Americans. Hispanic Americans. They killed Christian Americans. Jewish Americans. Muslim Americans, Hindu Americans. Those murders killed in the name of their god some Americans who believed there is no God.

We all felt loss. We all grieved.

And in the aftermath of that attack, in the wake of our shared grief, there was a palpable unity throughout this land. There was suddenly in this troubled and divided country something bigger and more important than ourselves that brought us all together for a short time.

Americans had been attacked. Killed. Murdered.

We didn't delineate. We didn't hyphenate. All of those victims were simply Americans to us.

And suddenly the fabric of a country woven by people from different lands, political parties, colors, ethnicities and religious bents seemed to pull tighter. America was strengthened.

Where has that gone? What happened to that America?

Today is Sept. 11, 2016. It is the anniversary of that fateful, memorable, sad, emotional day. And today the NFL will kick off another season.

And because the NFL is now so much a part of what America is, it suffers violent convulsions to its inner core much the same way the country does. In that regard, the NFL is very much like America. The NFL, our national sport, is uniquely American.

The NFL's most important employees -- its players -- are predominantly black. Yes, there are other races and peoples represented in the NFL ranks, but let us agree black men dominate the NFL on the field if not yet in the board rooms and owners' suites.

And because so many of the league's biggest stars come from a portion of our society that has unquestionably seen violence perpetrated on people that look like them, there is outrage in locker rooms across the NFL as there is outrage in black households across America.

That cannot be diminished. That cannot be dismissed. That is a troubling fact of life in today's America.

So something needs to happen for that needless killing of a people to stop.

I don't have the answer for stopping the killing of some black people at the hands of some police.

The President, who is black, also doesn't have the answer. The Federal Justice Department, headed by a black woman, has not brought one indictment on any officer, deeming every shooting it has so far investigated as lawful so that department also does not have an answer. The black district attorney in Baltimore who failed to get even one conviction of the officers that arrested Freddie Gray on the day he died while in custody obviously does not have the answer.

And, sorry to say it, but it is the truth, no NFL player wearing any uniform today has the answer for solving this obvious issue. And no NFL player is going to fix the problem today.

It.

Simply.

Ain't.

Happening.

Today.

No matter what.

There is nothing any NFL player in or out of uniform today will be able to say or do that will address the issue of some rogue policeman shooting somebody to the point a solution for that problem is found. Can we agree on that?

No amount of protesting today will fix the problem. No amount of speaking about the issue at press conferences afterward games today will fix the problem. No amount of symbolic gestures today will fix this problem.

And yet, somewhere around this league, it is likely that some NFL player will think it incumbent upon himself to make a gesture, or not stand for the national anthem, or make some other personal protest to bring awareness to the issue.

I have news for those who think that way: That will not bring any good awareness to your cause. None. 

Any NFL player using today to protest by somehow disrespecting the flag, the country, his team or some of his fans will be doing the cause he holds dear a disservice.

Why?

I can tell you that the united post-Sept. 11 America of 2001 no longer exists. We are a divided country one again. We are divided on issues of race, politics, religion, abortion, sexuality, gender, you name it. And we are united on the idea that police are systematically targeting black people for elimination or, at the very least, different treatment than whites.

And so I can guarantee any player undertaking a protest today -- on the anniversary of 9-11 -- that your message about violence or oppression or whatever will be drowned out by those that see your protest as disrespect for the flag and the country on a date that marks for so many a day of violence against all Americans.

To those men considering a protest today, I ask you to consider what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes:

"There is a time for everything,

"and a season for every purpose under the heavens;

"a time to be born and a time to die;

"a time to plant and a time to uproot;

"a time to kill and a time to heal;

"a time to tear down and a time to build up;

"a time to weep and a time to laugh;

"a time to mourn and a time to dance;

"a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them;

"a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

"a time to get and a time to lose;

"a time to keep and a time to cast away;

"a time to tear and a time to mend;"

"a time to be silent and a time to speak;

"a time to love and a time to hate;

"a time for war and a time for peace."

Friends, NFL players, everyone, the September 11 anniversary is not a time for internal war. It is not a time to inspire hate. This is not the time to fight. This is not the time to tear down. Your time may come but not today.

This day is not about you.

It is not about your cause, whatever your cause may be -- and this applies to everybody. This day, in my humble opinion, should be about the solemn and sobering rememberance of those who went to work that morning and never came home that evening; ones that got on planes that never landed; those who's lives were violently snuffed out or changed forever.

Acknowledging this, accepting this does not weaken anyone. It doesn't lessen anyone. Indeed, it shows strength to show respect to those who deserve it.

Today is about the Americans who fell on that day 15 years ago -- some of them first responders, sure, but also accountants and secretaries and interns and executives and realtors and civilian government workers. Today is about the victims. Today is about the Americans who served or lost their lives in the years after 9-11 directly because of what happened on 9-11.

Maybe if for one day, albeit 15 years later, we can agree what today should be about we can take the small first step toward addressing our issues and solving our problems. Maybe we can take a step toward becoming that united America again.

September 10, 2016

Don't even THINK about giving up on DeVante Parker

SEATTLE -- DeVante Parker is nursing a hamstring injury (again) and the Dolphins are almost definitely going to err on the side of caution and hold him out of Sunday's regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

Parker, who hasn't been through a full practice in 13 days, is listed as questionable for the game.

"My biggest thought that goes through my head is I want to make sure this is for the duration," Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Friday. "I do not want to have a setback. I do not want to let, basically, one game determine, ‘Does that mean he’s going to miss three more (games)’ if we say, ‘He’s good to go this one,’ but he’s not really?

"We’re going to keep evaluating him. Obviously, he’s trying to get back as fast as possible."

This is smart. Gase is apparently willing to wait another week and let Parker be fully ready to play rather than sending him into a this game less than 100 percent and risk he re-aggravate the hamstring that will put Parker out two or three weeks and games.

Hearing this, some Dolphins fans on both sides of the Mississippi (I recognize the west side today because I'm on the west side of the great river now) think Parker is a lost cause.

My Twitter mentions are freaking.

My email inbox is filling up.

Oh noes, DeVante Parker is a bust!

To which, I advise, stop. Tap brakes. Find patience.

We are talking about the first game of a second-year player's career. We're talking about a player who has proven when he's healthy he can play at a high level in the NFL -- and if you don't believe it, consider the 20-plus yards per catch average from November to January last season. We're talking about a player who is only 23 years old.

Look, I know the Dolphins have their hands full trying to get Parker to be a better professional. But not all young players mature at the same rate. Jarvis Landry isn't much older than Parker but is light years more mature.  

The measure of a good organization and coaching staff is not worrying that your fantasy team got blown up because Parker is still nursing a nagging injury. The measure of a good organization is showing the right amount of patience with their players, especially the ones who don't come along quickly.

I remind you the Dolphins have recently pulled the trigger way too quickly on players because they didn't have enough patience. The team traded away Vontae Davis because he was too immature. How'd that work out?

And while I admit Parker is not the most mature guy in the world, it is not the headache causing maturity issue. He's not out getting in trouble. He's just something of a kid. 

He'll grow out of it. He'll grow up.

Have patience.

September 09, 2016

Pouncey, Ajayi out against Seattle (with update)

The Miami Dolphins are practicing in the great (and beautiful and not humid) Northwest today.

But Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is not. And running back Jay Ajayi is not.

Ajayi did not travel with the Dolphins to Seattle. Coach Adam Gase decided he would not be playing this game so Ajayi is a healthy scratch by coach's decision.

A Dolphins player told The Herald's Adam Beasley that Ayayi, who lost the No. 1 running back job to Arian Foster, was upset the past week. Ajayi obviously did not react well to being the stating running back most of the offseason and training camp and then losing it the last week of the preseason.

Also hurting Ajayi is that he does not play on special teams so he might have been inactive anyway.

This situation is of Ajayi's own doing. He should have gotten a clue that coaches needed to see him succeed when he played a half in the final preseason game. And, unfortunately for him, in a game the coaches wanted to see him succeed, he had a fumble and a dropped pass.

After that game, Gase said he was "disappointed" in Ajayi.

And then he sulks when he loses his job?

Pouncey is out Gase said. He has not practiced the past three weeks while nursing a hip injury and it quite obvious to anyone with eyes he is not playing against the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday.

The Dolphins will release an their final injury report of the week later today. Bith Pouncey and Ajayi will be listed as out.

Another player very unlikely to play is receiver DeVante Parker. He practiced in a very limited basis Friday but he is also unlikely to play.

One piece of positive injury news for the Dolphins: Linebacker Jelani Jenkins seems certain to play barring a setback with his surgically repaired knee.

Jenkins may not yet be ready to handle a full load of snaps but he will be available.

[Update: The Dolphins list six players as questionable on the injury report and both Pouncey and Ajayi as out. Questionable are Parker, Jenkins, Terrence Fede (knee),  Earl Mitchell (calf), Laremy Tunsil (knee) and Isaiah Pead (hamstring) who practiced full. Amazingly, Pead might be active for this game and Jay Ajayi will not.]

September 08, 2016

Travel day for the Miami Dolphins so let's pick the NFL standings

Today is a travel day for the Miami Dolphins. The team actually studied the results of other teams flying from the east coast to the west coast of this awesome country -- even ones in other sports -- to see how to optimize their travel plans.

So the team is flying today and practicing in Seattle Friday.

"With this being the first game of the year, we were actually able to do it," Gase said. "We felt like if we could get out there a day earlier than what we normally would do, we felt like we had a chance to get our guys out there and practice but we could use that Thursday as a travel day.

"We were able to do just a short meeting on Thursday, jump on the plane (and) get there. We’re going to do one thing to where we can kind of get guys just moving around a little bit, then practice Friday and then Saturday do our walkthrough. We just wanted to give our guys the best chance they could to feel as good as they could heading into Sunday.

So there is no morning practice update today, no injury report until later this evening, no major news to share, no media availability. And I'm just about plum out of opinions, too.

Except ...

It's time for the annual Salguero-screws-up-his-annual-NFL-predications post.

I know the records below won't add up because, Miami-Dade County Public School mathematics classes. But you should have a solid idea what I think is about to happen this NFL season, which, by the way, begins this evening!

Here we go ....

AFC East

1. New England  10-6  Tom Brady and the pass rush are missing. Brady returns after four games; the pass rush does not.

2. New York 9-7         Great defensive front and solid (yet aging) receivers. But no way Ryan Fitzpatrick matches 2015's career year.

3. Miami     8-8          Best case scenario is Adam Gase fixes Ryan Tannehill and the future brightens. But the future is not now.  

4. Buffalo   6-10        Their training camp featured one drama after another and that's a bad omen. LeSean McCoy is awesome though. 

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh  12-4    They have the best offense in the NFL once Le'Veon Bell returns from suspension.

2. Cincinnati  11-5    Solid talent up and down the roster.

3. Baltimore   8-8     This team is starting to get a little long in the tooth.

4. Cleveland  3-13     RG3 was a nice preseason story. The preseason is over.

AFC South

1. Houston     9-7     The best of the worst division in the NFL. J.J. Watt is not human. Just isn't.

2. Indianapolis 7-9   Perhaps the worst offensive line in the NFL. You know who coaches that offensive line?

3. Jacksonville 7-9   I love Blake Bortles. This team is a year away from being really good.

4. Tennessee 6-10   Solid along the lines of scrimmage; All the playmakers not named Marcus Mariota are unspectacular.   

AFC West

1. Kansas City  11-5   They're well coached, don't make mistakes on offense and play solid defense.

2. Denver   9-7          Forgive me for not buying a Super Bowl repeat with Trevor Siemian at QB.

3. Oakland  7-9        Solid (which is better than it used to be) but still not quite ready to contend.

4. San Diego 6-10      They'll look good until their annual rash of injuries will waste another Phillip Rivers season.

NFC East

1. Washington  11-5  They found something on offense late last year and the defense is coming on.

2. Dallas  9-7            I was ready to pick the Cowboys to win the division until Tony Romo broke his back.

3. NY Giants  8-8      Giants must think you can build through free agency. They also think their OL is good. Wrong on both.

4. Philadelphia  4-12  Yeah, the Eagles proved this year they care more about future years.

NFC North

1. Green Bay   12-4    So, they have the best QB in the NFL on any given Sunday. Good enough.

2. Minnesota   10-6    I like Sam Bradford a whole lot more than the experts. Ignorance is bliss.

3. Detroit        7-9     Team reflects its city. Suh left. Johnson left. Buzz is gone. Best days in the rear view.

4. Chicago       6-10    John Fox really, really knows how to coach. But he doesn't play. Team needs more players.

NFC South

1. Carolina     12-4    Yes, they take a step back from 15-1. But this team is headed to the playoffs even with 2 rookie CBs.

2. Tampa Bay  9-7     Offense is really, really nice. Defense is really, really not. Who you blaming then, Miko?   

3. New Orleans  6-10 Sean Payton is an elite coach but he no longer has an elite roster. Rebuilding.

4. Atlanta        6-10   Dan Quinn would like to run the Seattle defense but he doesn't have Seattle talent. 

NFC West

1. Seattle   13-3          Pete Carroll kept 15 rookies on his roster so this team has experience and hungry young blood.

2. Arizona   9-7           Yeah, that whipping the Panthers put on them in the playoffs isn't going to wear off soon enough.

3. Los Angeles  6-10     Hollywood is used to big-money blockbusters that fizzle.

4. San Francisco  5-11  Their starting QB is Blaine Gabbert and his backup is such a driveling idiot he wore a Fidel Castro T-shirt on the day he was trying to make a statement against "oppression."

 

September 07, 2016

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins to try to practice today

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said earlier this week that linebacker Jelani Jenkins was on a good track to play in the regular-season opener at Seattle on Sunday and today the team hopes to see the most significant sign of that.

Jenkins will be working on the field for the first time since he had a "clean out" surgery. It won't be known until later to what degree Jenkins will be practicing. (My educated guess is he'll be limited). But after missing the past two weeks, the fact he's on the field at all is a good sign.

Team trainers will monitor how well Jenkins holds up during today's activities and if he experiences soreness, swelling or pain the next 24 hours. The practice will also measure how much strength the linebacker has regained in the surgically repaired knee.

"The fact that he's out there participating is big for us," coach Adam Gase said. "To see him feel better and move around better is good."

While the Dolphins remain hopeful Mike Pouncey or DeVante Parker could play on Sunday both missed practice again on Wednesday. Pouncey is nursing a hip injury that forced him to miss the final two preseason games. While he is not working in drills, Pouney did make an appearance on the side to work with trainers. That is the first time he's been seen on the field in any fashion since the injury.

Parker has a hamstring injury -- something that has plagued him in both legs, in different spots -- for the past few months.

"It could go either way" with those two, Gase said of their game status.

The Dolphins, per NFL rules, will release an injury report later today.

If Jenkins cannot play the team will ask Spencer Paysinger to play early downs while Neville Hewitt will get some work in pass downs. If Parker cannot play, the Dolphins will lean on rookie Leonte Carroo to take more snaps but could lean more heavily on double-tight end packages. If Pouncey cannot play, the Dolphins will go with undrafted rookie Anthony Steen as their starting center.

September 06, 2016

'I like this Miami Dolphins offensive line'

This is going to sound strange to you. It feels weird for me to type: The Miami Dolphins are not worried about their 2016 offensive line. And, for the first time in years, the organization is right not to be worried.

Amazing.

Right?

AmIright?

Look at the Dolphins line that will start at Seattle on Sunday in the regular-season opener. It this group too young? No. Is it a group of over-the-hill vets? No. Are there high draft picks in the group? Yes. Are there Pro Bowl players in the group? Yes.

Is there a glaring problem with this unit that everyone on Earth except the Dolphins recognizes? Actually, unlike past years, no.

Has every single player in that group enjoyed NFL success at one point or another? Well, rookie first-round pick Laramy Tunsil has not. But, get this, he's a rookie. He's about to make his NFL debut Sunday. So asking him to show his NFL cred is kind of unfair. What Tunsil can show anyone who wonders is his work since the start of training camp in July. He won a job after being the team's second player on their draft board in April. He was not gifted that job. He won it.

"A lot of times you take that first pick – especially a high first pick – and you declare him the starter," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said Tuesday. "I think (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase was adamant right from the get-go that we’re going to play the best five. If he’s in that best five, great. If not, he can back up at left tackle.

"We could do a lot of different things. There were a lot of different scenarios. There were a lot of guys we looked at. We really gave them equal time, probably as long as you possibly could without (limiting) some folks and then being unfair to them. He kept improving. He’s not great yet, but he sure is a talented guy. He sure works hard. He keeps improving, and that’s all we’re looking for – keep playing hard and keep improving."

So Tunsil has come as billed so far and met expectations.

He's not a weak link.

Indeed, I look at the group and don't see a weak link. Well, center Anthony Steen is a rookie and an undrafted one at that. He might be starting Sunday because Mike Pouncey is fighting to get healthy after sustaining another hip injury in the preseason, he's had two surgeries on his hips, that has kept him out of the lineup the past couple of weeks.

But when Pouncey eventually gets healthy, he is part of the solution and not part of a problem.

So LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, C Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod, and RT Ja'Wuan James have the makings of a solid NFL line. And even as the Dolphins prepare to play the ominous Seahawks defense, no one is saying Miami is seemingly overmatched up front.

Indeed, a legitimate question this game is whether the Seahawks' offensive line is overmatched up front, not Miami's.

 “I feel pretty good about it," Gase said about his offensive line Tuesday. "I feel like they’re getting a good feel as far as the tempo of what we’re doing, how Ryan (Tannehill) is doing some things at the line of scrimmage and making changes and the way that we handle protections in the run game and things like that. The nice thing … Really, (Larmey) Tunsil is the guy that’s trying to get caught up the quickest. Obviously, the rest of those guys have been practicing a lot more than him. Bushrod being in the offense before, it’s just a different position for him not really necessarily terminology, not necessarily understanding why we do stuff. He knows that, it’s just at a different spot. As far as them knowing what to do, I feel really good about it."

I've heard all this before. I heard Joe Philbin say he felt good about a line that featured Dallas Thomas at left tackle and I remember thinking, 'You cannot be serious.' I remember Tony Sparano saying with a straight face that he'd watched the tape on Mark Colombo and that he'd be a great addition. And I thought, 'Love you coach, but you misfired on this one.'

When Gase talks about this line, my cynicism is not riled. My skepticism doesn't cause me to cackle as the coach is speaking. I don't see this line as the Titanic sailing into icy waters. I don't see obvious issues as long as the starters stay healthy and the unit remains intact. (Backups are another issue, but that's not what we're discussing here).

This Dolphins line must get better at run blocking. They cannot return Arian Foster (in the video) to prominence unless they step up their ability to get to the second level. This unit must also continue to protect Tannehill as it did in the preseason -- where he was sacked only once in three games. But mostly this line is in the "find-chemistry" mode now. It's not in the "find-talent" mode past Dolphins lines have spent seasons toiling in.

"It’s (about) playing off of each other and understanding when the center does something, the guard is going to be able to play off of them," Gase said. "Same thing with the tackles with the guards. There is something to say about chemistry amongst those guys up front. I’ve seen it change midseason, and it worked as well. The longer guys can play together, obviously, the better they’re going to do when they work together.”

Now, recognizing this is a Dolphins blog, I know you hate your lives because your team has mentally and spiritually abused you the past 15 years or so. So I know you are reading these last few paragraphs and think I've lost my everlovin' mind.

It is simply not possible for the Dolphins to have nice things. It is against some obscure NFL bylaw for this team to have a high-caliber offensive line. You know this.

And, yes, the Steen issue glows with uncertainty. I mean, the guy was a guard 47 seconds ago and now he might be starting against the Seattle Seahawks who are the pick of many pundits to win the Super Bowl and the World Cup and the medal count at the coming Winter Olympics they're so dominant.

But I have a feeling about Steen. He's ... plucky. Nothing's been handed to him. He's earned this chance should it happen Sunday. I don't think the stage will be too big for him.

“He has been great," Gase said. "He’s a sharp guy. He picked things up quick. For a guy that … When you get thrown in there and all of a sudden you’re the guy, that’s a lot on your plate. I haven’t seen him really change his demeanor from the day he arrived here, at least with us. He has been really good as far as dictating what we’re doing up front.”

I like this Miami Dolphins offensive line. I haven't typed that sentence in a long time.

Cameron Wake not a starter; Jordan Phillips ballin'; DeVante Parker not practicing again

We know the Dolphins' plan for Cameron Wake this year was keep him as healthy as possible for as long as possible -- hopefully, the team believes, into the playoffs.

And we know that would mean Wake might not be the starter all the time, yielding a status he's had for years. Well, today defensive coordinator Vance Joseph confirmed that is the plan during his weekly coordinator's presser.

"In our first and second-down package, Jason Jones will be our starting end along with Mario Williams," Joseph said. "Cam will be used some on first and second but mostly in pass rushing situations."

Joseph said you should expect Jason Jones to start against the Seattle Seahawks if the season-opener game starts with the opponent in a run package. If the Seahawks come out looking to pass, Wake might be on the field this and every week early in the season.

That's because Jones is in on the base defense. And Wake will take his usual spot in passing situations for Miami's pass rush package.

Why?

Again, the idea is to keep Wake, 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles' tendon, healthy as possible for a long as possible this season. He lasted only seven games last year and wasn't exactly healthy to start the year. He's healthy now -- relatively -- although he has admitted he's not 100 percent.

This, obviously, is another sign that he is healthy enough to contribute but indeed is not 100 percent.

-----

There have been questions about what exactly Jordan Phillips is doing for the Dolphins so far in his second NFL season.

The questions were raised this week because Earl Mitchell, who missed practically the entire preseason and training camp with a calf injury, returned to practice this week.

And he's listed as the starter next to Ndamukong Suh.

And Phillips, who is supposed to make a big jump in his second year after being drafted in the second round in 2015, is a backup.

So I asked Joseph what kind of camp and preseason did Phillips have?

"He started slow," Joseph admitted.

But then the DC said Phillips picked things up and overall had "a tremendous" training camp and preseason.

"I'm very pleased with Jordan Phillips," Joseph said.

So one supposes Phillips will get a lot of snaps on Sunday and beyond -- perhaps even more than Mitchell depending on the veteran's conditioning.

My take, frankly, is the Dolphins are starting the veteran out of a combination of respect for his experience, and the idea that Mitchell is also a good player.

------

The Dolphins are practicing this afternoon and ... the news is bad for DeVante Parker.

The receiver, nursing a hamstring injury, is not practice gain. His status for Sunday's game at Seattle looks very dubious.

Jelani Jenkins 9knee0 is not practicing today, either. I'd tell you his chances of playing are also minimal except coach Adam Gase said Monday the linebacker is on a positive track to play. Circuitous track.

Finally, Mike Pouncey is not even to the point he's on the field for practices. He's been nursing a hip injury for a couple of weeks.

Dawn Aponte 'transitions' away from Miami Dolphins, NFL

Dolphins executive vice president Dawn Aponte is leaving the organization and "transitioning" to a top role at RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment venture co-founded by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and club vice-chairman Matt Higgins.

"I am transitioning out of the Dolphins," Aponte said Tuesday. "This is something [executive vice president] Mike [Tannenbaum], Matt and I have been talking about for more than several months. It started out as a conversation with sort of what's the next step in my progression and my career, where my interests are and what I've been looking to do."

Aponte, in the NFL for 25 years and one of its most highly accomplished and respected executives regardless of gender, becomes an executive -- perhaps the top executive -- under Higgins at RSE. Her focus will be on business development.

"I've had an amazing experience in the NFL with all the different things I've been able to do and touch and experience," Aponte said. "In our conversations we discussed how I could best use my experience and expand it to more business involvement. This is something new where I can contribute but also grow and develop."

The Dolphins have promoted Senior Director for Human Resources Brandon Shore into Aponte's former role as chief contract negotiator. He has climbed the ladder within the organization over the past six years, starting off as an intern under Aponte.

"I see this as a branch transfer for Dawn," Tannenbaum said. "She's working for Matt now but will still be available to us to give us her thoughts on big picture approaches to matters. Brandon worked here under Dawn a long time and he understands our culture and how we approach things. He's seen how Dawn does it. How I've done it. But he has his own ideas."

Shore is now the team's senior director of football administration. Tannenbaum will continue to have final say over all matters of contracts and other areas. Shore reports to Tannenbaum.

For Aponte, this move is a win-win. She has a Master's in Finance and Management, an accounting degree, and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. She is a member of the New York state bar.

So Higgins will immediately set her on one of RSE's top ventures -- the Drone Racing League.

"I've known Dawn since 2004 and we're very close. I have an intimate understanding of what she's capable of doing," Higgins said. "Very few people in our industry have a combination of a law degree, an MBA, accounting agree. With her credentials, she has an understanding of how to advance complicated issues. The things she's done in the NFL are applicable elsewhere."

Among those applications is managing IT, dealing within marketing negotiations, among other things. Aponte will immediately work with RSE's Drone Racing League relative to relationships with broadcasters and pilots and how to expand the league.

"Dawn," Higgins said, "is going to hit the ground running."

September 05, 2016

(Most) Dolphins begin preparations for Seahawks; Tunsil. Howard Foster are starters (none a surprise); Jenkins on track to play

The Dolphins have begun their week of preparations for their NFL regular-season opener at Seattle on Sunday. Well, most of the Dolphins have begun prepping.

As the team practiced today, there were a handful of notable absences.

Center Mike Pouncey was nowhere on the field. He's recovering from a hip injury.

Receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) was jogging around the field but not practicing.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) was jogging around the field but not practicing.

Coach Adam Gase sounded optimistic that Jenkins could play against Seattle on Sunday.

“I don’t want to jinx myself," Gase said. "I think he’s on a good track right now. I know he’s been working really hard. It seems like he’s around here a lot because he doesn’t want to miss that first game. I think all of those guys that are really kind of on the sideline right now are itching to get out at practice. They do not want to miss an opportunity to go play this team because this is a really good team. This is a great organization that’s been very consistent; especially since (Head) Coach (Pete) Carroll has gotten there. I think these guys know that this is a good team and they want to showcase what their talents are.”

The rest of the team is mostly healthy. Backup quarterback Matt Moore told me earlier today he's 100 percent following that concussion a couple of weeks ago. He's practicing full go.

Kenny Stills, who left practice one day last week with a back issue, is practicing full go today.

The Dolphins will release their depth chart at some point in the next few minutes -- so check back here for that update.

My prediction is that MY LINE, which I wrote about August 14, will be the starting line against the Seahawks. Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.

Update: And my line of LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, Center Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Ja'Wuan James is indeed the starting line on the depth chart.

The national reporters may make a thing about Tunsil winning the starting job. Really? You know that was the plan all along if you read this blog with regularity.

Arian Foster is listed as the starting running back ahead of Jay Ajayi.

Why is Foster the Dolphins' starter?

"I think a little bit of the reason is experience; but at the same time I think Arian, from the time he’s gotten here, has really shown that, that is the correct spot for him to be in," coach Adam Gase said. "He had a really good camp. He did everything we asked him to do as far as what we wanted to see in the preseason and he’s been very consistent in his knowledge of the offense in the short period of time that he was here – it was impressive to watch him (and) how quickly he picked it up."

It should not be forgotten that Ajayi, given the opportunity to shine in the final preseason game, fumbled on one carry and dropped a pass. That made what seemed like a close race for the starting job into something else.

Earl Mitchell and Ndamukong Suh are the defensive starting tackles. Cameron Wake and Mario Williams are the starting defensive ends. On Wake, I'd be careful to expect him to start every game. The Dolphins are making no secret of the fact Wake is going to be mostly a pass rusher early in the season. So if the Seahawks, for example, roll out double tight ends, a half back and fullback for their first play on Sunday, Wake is not going to be in there. Jason Jones probably would be the starter in that case.

The starting corners are Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. Again, no surprise on Howard because I reported as much on Aug. 28.

“I think in the time that we saw him practice in the spring, we were feeling that’s where it was headed," Gase said of Howard. "He really did show the skill set that we thought he had when we drafted him. The injury really set him back as far as just being able to showcase that, really on the field more than anything. I think in the limited time he’s been back, he’s really shown that he didn’t fall off from the time he missed. Mentally he knows exactly what’s going on. I don’t know if sometimes, maybe for those rookies, when they can sit back and they can’t actually practice but they’re able to watch and learn from others mistakes, or what somebody else has done well. He did a good job of making sure he stayed up with everything so when he got a chance to get out there, it wasn’t like he was starting over again.”

 

Jarvis Landry: Respect for Richard Sherman but not going to avoid him

Richard Sherman is perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL. Can we agree on that?

If you ask him, the Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl player might say he's the best cornerback in the NFL. He's accomplished (26 career interceptions). He's still in his prime (age 27). He's a student of the game.

And Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry respects all that. But the Dolphins receiver isn't necessarily afraid of that.

"He's definitely a premier corner in this league," Landry said Monday afternoon before the Dolphins began preparation for Sunday's regular-season opener at Seattle. "He's definitely a guy that we respect but that we're definitely not going to shy away from. Just having the opportunity to compete against a guy like that, man, I know it's something this offense and this receiving corps looks forward to."

Not shy away from Sherman? Actually, that is exactly what a lot of teams have done to avoid having problems throwing the football. That might be the reason Sherman's interception numbers have decreased each of the past two seasons -- from eight in 2012 and '13 to four in 2014 and only two last season.

That doesn't seem to bother or worry Landry.

"I mean, for me, man, I want to win. I'm a competitor," he said. "You know, so regardless of who the guy is, we're there to win. Period."'

Dolphins biggest underdog in the NFL: Happy Labor Day!

The NFL's first regular-season week is here and guess who the biggest underdog in the league is this week?

Yeah, you guessed it: The Miami Dolphins.

The folks in Las Vegas, and the islands that serve as hubs for online gambling websites, have decided your Dolphins have the smallest chance of any NFL team to win this weekend when they travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks.

Miami opened as a 10 1/2-point underdog on most books. They are down to 7 1/2-point underdogs on most of them now -- tied for the biggest point spread in the league.

So the bookies are not buying the Adam Gase renewal of the culture and remaking of Ryan Tannehill. They're not buying the unleashing of a great defensive line. They're not buying a perennially mediocre team's trip across country to play a perennially good team.

And the Seahawks have been that.

Seattle has made four consecutive playoff appearances and five in the past six years. Pete Carroll's team has two Super Bowl appearances during that time. And, yes, there was that Super Bowl win in 2013 over the Denver Broncos.

The Seahawks have been good but not great at home in recent years. They were 5-3 at home in 2015. That was a sign of some weakness compared to previous years.

The Seahawks were 7-1 at home in 2014 and 2013.

The Dolphins were 3-6 on the road last year. What, nine games? Well, the trip to London was considered a "home" game by the team and the NFL. Those of us who live in the real world understand a trip to London is not a home game for a Miami team.

Happy Labor Day!

September 04, 2016

Miami Dolphins claim receiver Justin Hunter on waivers, cut Whalen

Some of the hundreds of players cut by their teams on Saturday are being claimed by NFL teams today and the Miami Dolphins are active in that, claiming former Titans receiver Justin Hunter, according to an NFL source.

Hunter, 6-4 and 205 pounds, is a former second-round pick of the Titans in 2013. He caught 22 passes for 264 yards and 1 TD last season and has 68 catches for 1,116 yards with eight touchdowns in his career. Despite his much heralded 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Hunter has averaged only 12 yards a catch last season. His career average is a much more meaty 16.4 yards per catch.

[Update: To make room for Hunter on the roster the Dolphins have cut Griff Whalen, per a source. Obviously the Dolphins weren't going to carry seven wide receivers.]

The Dolphins, believe it or not, are familiar with Hunter because Miami receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was the Titans receiver coach previously.

The addition of Hunter, who played collegiately at Tennessee, could signal in part the Dolphins concern that DeVante Parker may not be ready for the regular-season opener at Seattle. The Herald's Adam Beasley reported Saturday Parker could miss that game with a hamstring injury.

I've been told that decision has not been made at this point but it is clear Parker is gaining a reputation for injuries. He has dealt with multiple foot and hamstring injuries in his short time with Miami since being the first round draft pick in 2015.

 

September 03, 2016

Dolphins keep three QBs; Lucas makes it; Duarte only rookie cut

The Miami Dolphins have their 53-man roster and it includes three quarterbacks and all but one of their drafted rookies.

The team has kept quarterback Brandon Doughty and cornerback Jordan Lucas -- later round picks who were on the bubble as the team trimmed players from the roster in the last two days. Tight end Thomas Duarte is the only rookie who did not make the team.

Here are the team's moves today:

Cut:

James Burgess LB, Deandre Coleman DT, Jamil Douglas G, Thomas Duarte TE, Zac Dysert QB, Shamiel Gary S, Tyler Gray LB, A.J. Hendy S, Ulrick John T, Chris Jones DT, Cleyon Laing DE, Rashaan Melvin CB, Lafayette Pitts CB, Cedric Reed DE, Rashawn Scott WR, Jordan Williams DE.

The Dolphins also released (terminated contracts) of the following vets:

Chimdi Chekwa CB, James-Michael Johnson LB, Domique Jones TE, Daniel Thomas RB, Sam Young T.

The team also put cornerback Chris Culliver on physically unable to perform.

Here's the thing: At tight end the team kept Marqueis Gray as the third guy. The team kept Mike Hull as the backup middle linebacker. Julius Warmsley did indeed make the team as the fourth defensive tackle. Terrence Fede, nursing an MCL injury, is on the team.

For now, folks. For now.

Cut day: Gase talks about relationships with players; Culliver to PUP; updates on day's moves as they come in

I talked with Adam Gase privately after Thursday's preseason finale and wrote this column which appears in today's Miami Herald and elsewhere on this website. In it, Gase tells me what he really thinks of Ryan Tannehill. The Tannehill haters will be disappointed.

But, frankly, I see in Gase something I didn't see the past four years from the Miami Dolphins head coach: He actually tries to bond with his players. I tries to forge a relationship with them.

"The way I look at it is, these are our guys," Gase said. "These are our guys in this organization -- offense, defense and special teams. We started with 90 guys in April and every guy I've ever ended up releasing, I've told them once you're one of my guys, you are forever one of my guys. I'll always do whatever I can to help that guy, whether he's in the first cut or second cut, or he's on our team. If he ends up somewhere else, I'll always try to help. That's how I feel about that because you appreciate what these guys put in -- the time and effort."

Gase and the Dolphins will cut their roster from 75 to 53 today. One of those move will be the placing of cornerback Chris Culliver on the physically unable to perform list. This is confirmed. He will not count toward the 53-man roster. He would be able to continue rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee. He will be eligible to begin practicing after the sixth regular season game -- so October.

So the Dolphins will be making 21 other moves today. Come back to this page and refresh it throughout the day for those moves updated as they come in. Let's get started:

The Dolphins terminated the contract of offensive tackle Sam Young. He was scheduled to make $760,000 this year. He was on third team. Bad combination. 20 moves to go.

The Dolphins have released CB Rahaan Melvin. No surprise as most of these will not be. Melvin has NFL experience but it is bad NFL experience and he didn't cover anyone in camp. 19 moves to go.

Chimdi Chekwa is gone. I must say I'm a little surprised with this because the Dolphins are light on corners and there was a span of 5 minutes where Chekwa was taking first-team snaps -- that before he got hurt. 18 moves to go.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones has been released. Minor surprise here because he was working with the second team throughout camp and started like a house on fire before cooling off late in camp. This moves bodes will for Julius Warmsley, who now has a path to being the team's fourth DT. 17 moves to go.

Another move, this one expected, that bodes well for Warmsley: The team has waived DT Deandre Coleman. So the four DTs would be Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell as the starters, Jordan Phillips and Warmsley as the backups. 16 moves to go.

Tight end is an interesting spot for the Dolphins. They need a third TE. MarQueis Gray seems to have the inside track. Dominque Jones does not. Jones has been cut, per a source. 15 moves to go.

The Dolphins have too many safeties. Shamiel Gary will not be one of them. He has been cut, per his agent David Canter. 14 moves to go.

The Dolphins will definitely keep four defensive ends -- Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Jason Jones, who can also slide inside on rush downs. Will they keep five? We'll see. Meanwhile, The Herald's Barry Jackson notes the team has cut DEs Cleyon Laing and Jordan Williams. 12 moves to go.

Gase personally picked Daniel Thomas because he liked what the kid did for him last training camp in Chicago. And Thomas, bless his heart, did about as well as he's ever done in a Dolphins uniform. But at the end of the day, he's a 3-yard per carry guy in a 4-yard per carry league. And he's not that good on special teams to merit a spot. So, per Barry, the Dolphins cut their former second-round pick today. 11 moves to go.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting the team has cut LB Tyler Gray. No surprise. 10 moves to go.

The Dolphins are waiving wide receiver Rashawn Scott, per a source, but the team is planning to bring him back to the practice squad. I like this kid's potential. 9 moves to go.

The team has waived Jamil Douglas. What a waste. A fourth round pick a year ago, he's out now. He was trying to show himself versatile as a guard and center but had a snap penalty in the final preseason game. He was running third team so no surprise. 8 moves to go.

Offensive lineman Ulrick John is out. I'm told veteran Kraig Urbik has not heard from the team -- great news on cutdown day. He has been playing at right guard, left guard and center. Indeed, with Mike Pouncey uncertain for the opener, the team might decide to carry Urbik into the opener as the backup center. 7 moves to go.

The Dolphins have waived their first draft pick -- seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte -- per Barry. No surprise. He needs to remake his body, get stronger, get better on special teams. He's a practice squad reclaim. The Jets released Jace Amaro today. I'm telling you this because any TE that gets released today is a candidate for the Dolphins to claim or try to sign later on. The team wants to upgrade the No. 3 TE spot, regardless of what happens today. 6 moves to go.

The Dolphins are down on numbers with the CB spot. They cut Lafayette Pitts as well as Checkwa. That suggests late-rounder Jordan Lucas makes the team but that is not confirmed. If Lucas makes it, the team will have four boundary corner types on the roster. It will have two slot corners -- Bobby McCain and Mike Thomas -- on the roster. 5 moves to go.

I've confirmed the Dolphins are cutting No. 4 QB Zac Dysert. And what does this mean? Well, I can tell you Brandon Doughty has not heard from the team yet, so that's good news for him so far. He outplayed Dysert in the final preseason game Thursday. This move means the Dolphins could keep Doughty as their No. 3. Or Doughty could still be cut and they go with 2 QBs. My sense is Doughty makes it. 4 moves to go.

In related news, the Saints have cut defensive end Chris McCain three days after trading with the Dolphins for his rights. That means the Dolphins will not be getting that conditional seventh-round pick from the Saints.

The Dolphins linebacker corps is coming together, but only for now. The team has cut the University of Louisville's James Burgess, a South Florida high school product. That leaves Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Spencer Paysinger, and Neville Hewitt on the team. But that doesn't mean all is set. A decision is needed on Mike Hull and James-Michael Johnson. Even then, look for the Dolphins to scour the waiver wires to upgrade this unit. 3 moves to go.

September 01, 2016

Preseason game 4: Jay Ajayi disappoints; Brandon Doughty impresses; offensive line still working toward consistency; Tony Lippett gets a pick

The prevailing thinking among some pro football fans is that what happened around the NFL tonight was a bunch of teams played the fourth and final preseason game and ... forget it ... bring on the regular season.

Except Adam Gase was not thinking like that after the Miami Dolphins 21-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

I know its the fourth preseason game and everybody kind of shrugs their shoulders," Gase said. "But anytime you walk on that field it's important."

That's why backup Brandon Doughty should be feeling pretty good right now.

And running back Jay Ajayi probably shouldn't be.

The more important thing first. Ajayi first.

He had a rough night. He fumbled on the first series of the game.  Indeed, he started this game and fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. And the Titans converted the turnover into a touchdown.

Later he had what seemed like an obvious drop on a second-down pass. It was a slant and it would have been an 8-10 yard gain had he caught the ball. Not good.

"I was really disappointed that he put the ball on the ground," Gase said. "I feel like what he's shown me in the spring and training camp as far as being a guy who's reliable in the passing game, I don't know the exact ball placement if it was behind him or he dropped it. I know when the ball's on target he usually makes that play.

"And I would have liked to see him not ... I don't think we had the ball on the ground the entire preseason with our running backs and to have that happen is I guess I expect better from him. I have high standards for him."

Ajayi finished the game with 13 yards on three carries. It was interesting that one of the team's top two running backs -- perhaps even the starting running back -- would get a chance to build confidence against Tennessee's reserves and instead he comes out of the game having disappointed his coach.

The running back corps will be an area where decisions have to be made. And Daniel Thomas (not my most favorite player in the world based on his past history) made that decision a little tougher because he had a decent night.

He caused a fumble on a punt return. He rushed 10 times for 31 yards and scored a touchdown. I'll be honest, this coaching staff has gotten Thomas better. He's better than the running back I saw with the Dolphins multiple times the past few years, starting when he was a second-round pick in 2011.

But is he good enough to make the team?

"I like our depth," Gase said of his running backs. "Seems like we've had a lot of guys have success, whether it be in practice or the preseason games. It hasn't shown as far as the total group. There's someone different flashing every game. We're never all healthy at the same time. Every time we went out to practice it was four different guys. DT might have been the only guy who was consistently out there so.

"We'll see how this shakes out in the next two days and we'll see who we have on the roster."

Kenyan Drake, by the way, made his Dolphins debut. He had four rushes and gained six yards. He also returned two kicks and averaged 22.5 yards per return.

"It felt good," Drake said after the game. "Just (going) out there (and) just running around felt good. (I) got a lot – a little burst – and look forward to continue the growth through it in the weeks to come.”

The Dolphins have a decision to make on their No. 3 quarterback. First, they have to decide if they're going to have a No. 3 quarterback.

If the answer is yes, it seems Brandon Doughty is that guy because he outplayed Zac Dysert this game.

And since both players entered the game in a virtual deadlock for the No. 3 job, with maybe Dysert holding a small advantage, it is possible the tables have turned.

Dysert completed 10 of 16 passes for 85 yards. He threw an interception in the end zone. His quarterback rating was 50.3.

Doughty was eight of 12 for 98 yards. He didn't throw a TD nor an interception. But there was just more energy in the offense when he was at the helm. His quarterback rating was 91.7.

Advantage Doughty.

But again, being the third best guy is no consolation if this turns out to be a race for two spots. So the next two days will be a mission for players like Doughty who will sweat the cuts to 53, which must be done by Saturday.

“Sit and wait and pray that I don’t get a call," Doughty said. "I was kind of saying my goodbyes to some of these guys in case something happens. I’m really hoping that I make the 53. That’s a goal; it’s a dream of mine. In reality, we know this is a business and numbers kind of don’t work your way sometimes.”

There were some interesting things happening in this game...

First round rookie Laremy Tunsil said a couple of days ago he was playing. The coaching staff decided otherwise after Tunsil was forced to leave practice two days ago with an injury. He's fine. But the Dolphins didn't want to risk anything.

"The other day was a little bit of a scare for him so we were just being smart," Gase said.

There has been no announcement -- except from me, of course -- but Tunsil is the Dolphins starting left guard. That is a done deal at this point. But he has work to do.

"I've seen a guy who's improved since the first day he's been here," Gase said. "His pass protection is his strength. He's done a good job in that area. We need to get some things cleaned up on the run game. A lot of times it's just ball's coming out quick, understanding the angles, how the linebackers fill. So there's a little bit of learning here and there he needs to do."

Interestingly, Jermon Bushrod, the starting right guard the past two games, started this night as well. It suggests his spot on the starting unit isn't as concrete solid as the others. But, then again, this is a unit that looks settled for the Seattle season-opener but anything can happen beyond that.

"I think we have a good idea what we want to do with that first game but as we said a couple of days ago there might be a chance we play multiple guys in this game," Gase said. "We're going to just keep working through that situation."

The Dolphins are working through the cornerback situation. Xavien Howard got his first NFL start tonight. It was uneventful. He allowed one completion, a third down conversion in front of him, but that was erased by a penalty on an offensive linemen.

So good.

Tony Lippett, who has been the other corner opposite Byron Maxwell this preseason, started this game. He had an interception on an underthrown pass. Good.

He also got beat a couple of times and his coverage, particularly on slants really doesn't seem to be up to standards. So Lippett accepted credit for the pick. And recognized he still has work to do.

Still, the interception is a nice way to cap a preseason.

“Yes, I guess it was a nice way," Lippett said. "It’s not the end. I’m going to keep going into the season and keep striving for greatness and continue to try to make plays."

Twenty years without Don Shula for the Miami Dolphins

Today is September 1, 2016. On this date 20 years ago, the Miami Dolphins opened their 1996 season with a victory over the New England Patriots in a game that was memorable primarily because it was the first one played without Don Shula roaming the sidelines for the first time since 1970.

It's hard to believe that 20 years, nearly a generation, has passed since Shula left.

It's hard to believe we've survived.

It's hard to believe how bad things have gotten with the Miami Dolphins franchise since then. That's right, bad. I'm not talking right now. Obviously, now the franchise is starting yet another post-Shula reboot -- with a new head coach, refurbished stadium, new roster, yada, yada, yada.

But the past 20 years have been lost in a time warp of pain, frustration, and, too often, embarrassment.

I covered Don Shula's final six seasons as the Dolphins coach. I recognize those were not perfect times. (The only perfect time was 1972, actually). I recognize there were flaws. But in hindsight, I also now see how much greater he was than the men who followed him. I recognize how much greater those former days were than the franchise's latter days.

Dolphins fans in 1996 complained their team needed a new coach because he was perpetually 10-6 and it had been a decade since Shula got them to the Super Bowl.

Dolphins fans in 2016 haven't been to the playoffs, indeed haven't had a winning season, since 2008. And they haven't won a playoff game since 2000.

Perspective.

Don Shula had two losing seasons in his 26 years as Miami's head coach. The Dolphins have had five losing seasons the past seven years.

The hope is this franchise has turned a page on that book of recent history. The hope is the new guys will return the franchise to its former excellence, and perhaps even get a whiff of the former glory.

But the past 20 years? Frightening.

Below is a look at the history of Dolphins head coaches (no interims) after Don Shula and before Adam Gase. In the comments section, kindly rate these administrations best to worst if you like:

Jimmy Johnson (1996-99): By practically every account, Johnson failed to accomplish his coaching goals. He didn't get the Dolphins to the Super Bowl, as he promised. He didn't win the AFC East. He didn't give every ounce of effort the job required -- as evidenced by his overnight resignation in 1999, which he rescinded the next day. Johnson had a rocky relationship with quarterback Dan Marino and that certainly didn't help. Meanwhile, general manager Jimmy Johnson was very, very good. He drafted Jason Taylor in the third round, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison in the second round, and Zach Thomas in the fifth round. Yes, he had misses, most notably not picking Randy Moss but picking Yatil Green in another draft. But he left his successor plenty of talent. Oh, about that departure … Johnson exited after a final 62-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dave Wannstedt (2000-04): This one puzzles considering Wannstedt's 43-30 record with one division title and two playoff appearances. But … the truth is Wannstedt benefitted from his predecessor Jimmy Johnson leaving him with a playoff-caliber defense that had greats such as Taylor (a potential Hall of Famer), Thomas, Surtain, Madison, Tim Bowens and others. And Wannstedt systematically made that team weaker every year just as he had done when he was the head coach in Chicago. Wannstedt had a coach mutiny in 2004, and helped drive Ricky Williams into his first retirement by over-taxing the running back. Did we mention he also made the decision that forced Dan Marino off the roster?

Nick Saban (2005-06). Forget that he told a lie that in recent years he has admitted he now regrets. He said he would not leave to become the Alabama coach and, well, he absolutely did a few weeks later. But beyond that, Saban, who was a good football coach. The good coach was failed by a terrible personnel man. That terrible personnel man's name is Nick Saban. Saban picked Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees -- a decision that set the franchise back perhaps a decade. He drafted Jason Allen, a bust, in the first round. His only lasting picks were linebacker Channing Crowder and running back Ronnie Brown, and Brown was the No. 2 overall draft pick which one has to truly work at to botch.

Cam Cameron (2007): He won only one of 16 games and was fired. That still stands as the worst season in franchise history. But Cameron was not just bad because his record was bad. He raised terrible to Mount Everest heights by saying things such as, "I want our team to fail forward fast." He decided not to coach one preseason game, telling multiple people he wanted key assistants to get experience as head coach in case he ever had to miss a game. Problem was after the game he lied and said he had been the head coach when everyone knew otherwise. And the assistants Cameron wanted to give more experience to actually had been NFL head coaches previously and Cameron had not. Oh, yes, there was also a player mutiny at the end of the season and Joey Porter reportedly threatened to end Cameron on a plane ride home from a loss.

Tony Sparano (2008-11): Fans hated his fist pumping after field goals, a celebration they believed showed the coach was content not scoring touchdowns. But it didn't start out that way. Sparano's Dolphins turned the NFL inside out the coach's first year when he helped re-introduce the Wildcat offense to the league after about 60 years. Those Dolphins won the AFC East, marking the only time New England failed to win the AFC East the past dozen years. It ended poorly, obviously, because Sparano couldn't recapture the early magic with his later teams, his relationship with general manager Jeff Ireland went bad and his relationship with new owner Stephen Ross never got off the ground.

Joe Philbin (2012-14): Nice man. Organized. Never used a curse word. Tried hard. But just a terrible head coach. He was a lightweight fighting in the heavyweight division. Under him the Dolphins endured the harassment scandal in 2013, never eclipsed .500, and finished the season worse than they started practically every year he was at the helm. Philbin hired a weak staff. He didn't believe in many of his players -- most notably quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And players weren't motivated or energized by him. His greatest achievement was convincing owner Ross that he was the solution when seemingly everyone but Ross realized he wasn't.