December 31, 2015

Miami Dolphins team MVP? Neither Tannehill nor Suh [Updated]

The last week of the season means the Dolphins are once again considering things that all great teams consider toward the end of the NFL regular season. No, not the playoffs.

Today the team will announce its Most Valuable Player Award. And the local media will announce its annual Good Guy Award, which goes to the player (or coach) that best cooperated with the local media in 2015.

The Good Guy recipient is ....

Miss Colombia.

Yeah, a little Steve Harvey humor, there.

The winner is center Mike Pouncey.

The MVP award is interesting.

My guess is the leading candidates are safety Reshad Jones, who had his best NFL season in 2015, receiver Jarvis Landry, who set new team receiving milestones, and punter Matt Darr, who was perhaps the most consistent player on the roster.

I voted for Jones.

The award was shared by Jones and Landry in a co-winner situation.

But here is what is interesting. I asked my Twitter (@ArmandoSalguero) followers their thoughts and no one suggested the names that the Dolphins would obviously most expect and need to be their MVP candidates.

Ryan Tannehill.

Ndamukong Suh.

The two men who got mega-contracts from the Dolphins this offseason are not in the MVP picture. And rightfully so because neither had a great season. Solid. Maybe even good. But neither was great.

And the Dolphins paid for great.

Suh is the NFL's highest paid defensive player. And for that investment the Dolphins with one game to play got 37 solo tackles, 18 assists, 5.5 sacks and five passes defensed. He started slow and didn't have a sack until October 25. His sack total ties him for his lowest since 2011 when he had four.

"I’ve always said it and I’ll continue to say it, my focus is to outdo the year that I did before and go from there," Suh said.

So what does he think of his season and the Dolphins season?

“Like I said, I’ve got to go back and watch the film," he said. "I don’t have an overall picture. My focus is on the Patriots and getting prepared for them."

Well, if his goal is to be better every year, he fell short of the mark. In 2014, Suh was in the Pro Bowl. He wasn't among the six interior linemen initially voted to the Pro Bowl this season. Last season he had 44 solo tackles -- more than this year so far. Last year he had 8.5 sacks -- more than this year so far.

Tannehill similarly is not meeting the expectations set before this season. He obviously didn't meet the expectations everyone thought when he signed his new $96 million contract that had $77 million in new money.

Tannehill has 22 TDs and 12 INTs so far this season. That means his touchdowns are down from the 27 he threw last year and his interceptions are up from the 11 he threw last year. His completion percentage and quarterback rating also have taken a step backward this year.

And, yes, the Dolphins are a worse team this year than a year ago. The team overall has regressed.

But Tannehill's history had been steady improvement year over year his first three seasons. Did he simply forget things he had already learned? Was his supporting cast less talented?

This step back is a bitter pill. And it put Tannehill in something of a pressure-filled situation for next year.

You see, Tannehill must find a way to show that 2015's regression was an outlier. He must do this to continue to earn his spot as Miami's unquestioned starting quarterback. And the thing is he's going to have to do that with a new offensive coordinator and head coach. He's going to be running a new and presumably different system.

He won't have an easy assignment.

All I know is this: Both Tannehill and Suh are scheduled bigger paydays next year than their already sizeable ones this year. At this time in 2016, they had better be in the team MVP conversation.

 

December 30, 2015

Dolphins hope Ja'Wuan James can play Sunday

The Miami Dolphins have four significant injuries they've been managing -- offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, center Mike Pouncey, receiver Rishard Matthews and Earl Mitchell -- and only one of those has a good chance of playing on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins are hoping right tackle Ja'Wuan James can return to the lineup after going out, ironically, against the Patriots in October with a toe injury. Interim coach Dan Campbell said today that James has the best chance to play of the four. James practiced full today.

If James is able to play, that would send Jason Fox to the bench. Fox has struggled as the team's No. 3 offensive tackle this year.

Matthews is working on the field on a limited basis but is not 100 percent. He said recently he believes he's about 70 percent healed from the fractured ribs he suffered against the New York Jets in late November.

Pouncey (foot) did not practice on Wednesday and neither did Mitchell (calf).

December 29, 2015

Kelly fired in Philly: Fish and Chip, anyone?

So the fastest-talking head coach in the NFL, Chip Kelly, went into a meeting with Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie today and within hours of the gathering, he was fired.

Kelly is now free to return to coaching in college, or finding another NFL job, or doing nothing because the Eagles still have to pay him in 2016. Assuming he wants to stay in the NFL because it is the premier football league in the world, Kelly thus becomes a viable candidate for a handful of teams that will be looking for coaches.

Tennessee seems most obvious because of his ties to former Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.

But the Miami Dolphins will also be searching for a head coach. So does Kelly become a candidate? Is he a fit?

Do you, as fans, salivate over a possible serving of Fish and Chip?

First, I have no sourcing saying Chip Kelly is now a Dolphins candidate. I do, however, assume the Dolphins' looming coaching search, led by Mike Tannenbaum on behalf of owner Stephen Ross, is going to be thorough and thoughtful.

Say what you will about Tannenbaum -- including the fact he worked for the Jets -- but he is both thorough and thoughtful in attacking issues.

And therefore one must assume that the Dolphins will study, consider, and vet Chip Kelly as a possible candidate.

Does that lead to an interview?

No idea.

The next few weeks will tell.

Indeed, now that Kelly is a free agent, the next few days might tell. Remember the Titans are also without a head coach and can begin their search in earnest when they're ready.

Beyond all that, however, do I believe Chip Kelly would be a good candidate for the Dolphins? I'm glad you asked:

There are assets and liabilities to Kelly.

The dividends are he has been a winner. He won at Oregon and won at Philadelphia his first couple of years there.

He embraces the sports science approach and is an outside-the-box thinker with everything from his training regimen to practices to the offense he runs. Ross loves this. Tannenbaum loves this. Me? I don't think a team is good necessarily because it is practicing on Tuesday and off on Friday. I think a team is good because great talent that fits the scheme is disciplined, like-minded, and is put in a position to succeed week after week without distraction or deviation from the common goal.

Kelly also has a reputation as a good offensive mind -- a reputation that took some hits this year, but still.

And then there are the liabilities.

Kelly has an emerging NFL reputation for being disliked by players. Some players in Philadelphia now do not like him. More players that were emancipated from the Eagles roster and felt the freedom to speak their minds also say they didn't like him or like playing for him. So there's that.

Kelly is obviously not a great talent evaluator, given a relatively small sample size. He rid the Philly roster of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and two starting guards. He added free agent busts Byron Maxwell, who is arguably among the biggest free agent busts of 2015, he added DeMarco Murray, who didn't pick up where he left off in Dallas, he added oft-injured Ryan Matthews who continued to be oft-injured. So the guy doesn't know talent evaluation or at least is not a deft personnel man. He liked Mark Sanchez, for goodness sake!

And that leads to the next issue, which is Kelly is said to have a pretty massive ego. And as part of that ego, he forced the Eagles to give him organizational control over all things football for 2015. He brought in his own personnel underling and the general manager was fired. He picked the groceries, as Bill Parcells would say. And it was a disaster.

And did I mention Kelly has a massive ego?

So it is possible he might want organizational control at his next stop as well. Or he might look at the carnage he left in Philly and decide he should stick to coaching.

Regardless, is he capable of playing nice with everyone else in the organization a thing the Dolphins seem to have a thing about?

Weighing those things does Chip Kelly seem like a fit for the Dolphins?

Not in my opinion.

Dolphins have lost enough to have Paxton Lynch in their sights

Weeks ago I was first to report that the Miami Dolphins like Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the coming draft.

It was an innocuous enough report way back on Thanksgiving because, well, we all had turkey on our minds and it didn't seem like the Dolphins would be bad enough to find themselves in a position to pick Lynch in the first round, anyway.

The Dolphins were 4-5 at the time, so there was still a chance -- a chance! -- they could recover enough to maybe even make a run at a wild card spot.

Now we know different.

Now, the Dolphins find themselves at 5-10, having lost five of their last six games, and the Dolphins find themselves in the No. 7 spot in the projected draft order.

And if that remains or if the Dolphins improve their draft spot by losing to the New England Patriots in the season-finale Sunday, they probably will have a decision to make on Lynch in the first round.

Interesting.

Lynch is probably a top 10 pick. Others vying for that status include DE Joey Bosa, CB Jalen Ramsey, DT Robert Nkemdiche, CB Vernon Hargreaves, OT Ronny Stanley, De DeForrest Buckner, OT Laremy Tunsil, QB Jared Goff, OT Jarran Reed, and others.

That doesn't mean Lynch will be there when Miami picks. But no longer does it mean the Dolphins definitely won't have a chance to pick him -- at least not at this point, nearly five months out from the draft.

That leads me to this: Would a team with obvious needs at MLB, OG, CB and DE draft a QB in the first round when it has a starting QB in Ryan Tannehill.

I would tell you Tannehill will probably be the starter in 2016 regardless of whether Miami picks a QB or not. But I would also tell you he needs some competition. It cannot hurt him. He's had none for three years. He needs a bit of a shakeup.

As to the other needs, I would never draft a guard that high. I would probably not draft a middle linebacker that high unless he was Luke Kuechly or someone like that. (By the way, Kuechly wasn't drafted that high because he went ninth overall). The defensive end spot and cornerback spot always merit consideration that high in the draft because they are premier positions.

So is left tackle. The Dolphins don't need one of those.

So is quarterback.

Paxton Lynch

December 28, 2015

The Miko Grimes saga: New epithets, Dan Campbell reaction, and does she have a point amid the vulgarity?

To begin with, this really shouldn't be a story. It shouldn't be a story because it should not be happening. There is no reason that the wife of an NFL team's star defensive player should be publicly bashing the same team's quarterback. Doing so simply makes her, the players involved, and the organization look bad.

And yet, the Miami Dolphins have this very situation on their hands.

And this is a national story. It was picked up by Sporting News, The Big Lead, BlackSportsOnline, and ProFootballTalk. My tweets about this blog post outlining the issues Miko Grimes has with local media, but more importantly, Ryan Tannehill, were retweeted by reporters in Atlanta, New York, Boston, Buffalo and nationally by multiple NFL Network reporters.

And, amazingly, this: The first question to interim coach Dan Campbell at his day-after press conference today was about cornerback Brent Grimes's wife. And the second question was about her. And the third question.

"Any conversation that I have with Brent will be just between us," Campbell said. "I'm going to keep anything that deals with that in house. It's the way I believe."

Well, assuming Campbell addressed this with Grimes, that would mark at least six times the Dolphins have addressed with the player the outlandish, profanity-laced commentary his wife authors on social media. One supposes it would be the first such career chat that involves the fact Miko Grimes is ripping Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill a new one in ways only her mind could conjure.

Here are some samplings previously not published by this blog: 

TannehillcomparedtomartinAnd this:

Teamhatesryan

 Mrs. Grimes asserts in a tweet not published here because it includes her usual vulgarities, that Tannehill "is a bum."

And she also is tweeting at players directly, specifically offensive players, to tell them they "don't deserve this."

And interim coach Dan Campbell's reaction to it all is, he's not too worried about it.

"To be honest with you, I'm not concerned with those things. I'm concerned about the way our guys in our locker room handle their own business with each other," Campbell said. "I'm not worried about outside noise. This is not the first time, to be honest with you, these things have happened. It's quite a story. But it's about how our guys feel in the locker room. You can't listen to all that stuff out there anyway, otherwise it will bog you down."

Interesting.

So this has happened before? Within the Dolphins?

Asking for a friend.

As to how the guys feel within the locker room...That is precisely the point. How do Dolphins players feel within that locker room?

Is Mrs. Grimes venting on behalf of her husband? More importantly, when she states unequivocally that Ryan Tannehill is hated within the Dolphins locker room, is she peeling back the curtain on something that is true? Something she heard from Brent Grimes or other players?

This is kind of important stuff because the Dolphins are invested in Tannehill at least for a couple of more years. Did they invest in a player his teammates "hate?"

This is soap opera stuff that makes fans cringe because they want to believe their team is free from such internal drama. And, frankly, covering it is a bit off-putting because it's not on the field. It's not right in front of everyone's eyes. It's kind of murky. Dirty. 

But, like it or not, it matters because what happens behind the curtain almost always affects what happens on the field. (Anyone debating this should google Dolphins bullygate scandal. That thing helped define and ruin an entire season back in 2013.)

So this matters.

But Campbell is trying pretty aggressively to sweep it under the rug as quickly as possible.

"I've never sensed there's been any animosity or any type disconnect between those two guys [Tannehill and Grimes]," he said. "That'a never been an issue. I still don't think it's an issue. Hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Certainly, my wife sometimes thinks different than I do. She has that right."

Yeah, she has a right to think whatever she wishes. But blaring it on social media? In the most vulgar of tones? That is not protected speech. And the Dolphins would certainly have the right to make business decisions based on whether they feel comfortable with what is being said.

Look, this is no longer about someone closely tied to the team having a potty mouth. This is no longer about criticism of the media.

This is about whether or not Mrs. Grimes has a point about Ryan Tannehill that is shared by people within the locker room, as she boldly asserts.

This is about how the Miami Dolphins handle the situation going forward because, frankly, what they've done so far has been an utter failure and an embarrassment to the organization's past.

This is about an NFL team deciding whether to keep a talented player despite knowing his wife will likely continue bringing unwanted attention and distractions to the franchise. Mikoripsqbaboutcoaches

And, mark my words, Mrs. Grimes is unlikely to go quietly into the night. She's got strong opinions about all things Tannehill -- including what his presence will mean to the looming coach search.

This is not right. It should not be happening.

December 27, 2015

Miko Grimes (wife to Dolphins CB Brent Grimes) goes after media, Ryan Tannehill

Brent Grimes is an unassuming, calm individual. His wife? Not so much.

Miko Grimes, the cornerback's 40-year-old wife, has gained a reputation for being outrageous, vulgar and mostly controversial on her social media (twitter) account. Yes, she also was arrested prior to a game earlier this season for a run-in with police officers, had to get court permission to travel out of country to see the Dolphins in London while awaiting trial, and then had the charges dropped in court. Mikoarrest

And yes, she officially seems to hate most of the media covering the Miami Dolphins.

Except the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly. Kelly and Grimes did a radio show together, before she was arrested and then fired by local radio station WQAM, and so she and Kelly are cool. Mikoedited

She is not, however, cool with me. She is not cool with The Herald's Adam Beasley, whom she once asked on twitter if he menstruates -- no lie. She is not cool with a Palm Beach Post reporter. She has begun to call us the A's in her uniquely colorful manner.

In a tweet Sunday evening, Mrs. Grimes suggested the three reporters have intercourse with Magic Johnson's sexual organ. Except she used more explicit language.

Oh, and she's not cool with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

My interaction with Mrs. Grimes began in the preseason when she confronted me about something that I had written relative to Tannehill that compared the Miami quarterback's stats to Baltimore QB Joe Flacco's stats. Grimes took exception to me calling her out when she sub-tweeted me saying that their records were not similar. True, I responded. Their records are not the same. But football is a team sport. And also not equal with Tannehill and Flacco is the talent or coaching around them.

Anyway, at our pleasant initial meeting she called me a "p---y."

I walked away.

The Dolphins met with Grimes and his wife at that time to explain that was not proper use of her press privileges. The Dolphins, you should know, have met with Brent Grimes about his wife at least five different occasions to express concern over Mrs. Grimes' colorful personality. At least five. Joe Philbin told me in the preseason he told Grimes in a meeting that he needed to address with his wife her social media behavior because, like it or not, it reflected poorly on the organization.

Football Czar Mike Tannenbaum has also been aware of the attention Mrs. Grimes has brought to the organization, according to sources, and is also not happy with it.

Anyway, after her legal incident, Grimes went underground on twitter. She required her 10,000 followers to get her permission to follow her rather than keep her account public.

She did not, however, hold back on her mindset.

That was plainly evident over the Christmas holiday when she was apparently incensed by a post on this blog reporting that Grimes was unaware about any talk of a possible salary cut for him for the 2016 season. The post also explored the idea Grimes is playing below the standards he set his two previous years in Miami.

So Mrs. Grimes took to twitter and said she was going to confront me again and "spit in his face," meaning mine. She should be aware spitting in someone's face in the state of Florida can be prosecuted as battery -- a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. She also addressed me as a "fat p---y."

Anyway, after spending part of her Christmas eve and Christmas day venting, often in vulgar terms, Mrs. Grimes decided to widen the scope of her holiday spirit. She went after other reporters and then Sunday night went after Tannehill.

The Tannehill attack most importantly: It is not new. Grimes often criticized Tannehill on that radio show she was fired from on WQAM. I didn't know this until Sunday evening because I didn't listen. But if I had, I would have written about that criticism then. You see, for a journalist to criticize the Dolphins' quarterback when merited is in bounds. It's part of the job. But when that "journalist" is also the wife of one of the team's defensive stalwarts that becomes news.

But that doesn't matter any more because, again, Mrs. Grimes was fired from her "journalist" job. So now she's simply the wife of the team's star cornerback. And she tweeted this Sunday night about the team's quarterback: She said she knew Tannehill "stunk" the minute she and Grimes signed but tried to hold her tongue because she didn't want to affect the cornerback's belief in his team. She also tweeted: "I should've known we were gonna lose when I heard we didn't complete a single pass in two minute drills this week against the practice squad defense." She added: "My Column: how many people does Ryan Tannehill have to get fired before you realize he's the problem."Tweet

Tannehill seems to be something of a burr for Mrs. Grimes. Indeed another reason she recently said she is upset with me is that she perceives me as defending Tannehill too much. She wrote on twitter that I "am up Tannehill's a--."

I can confirm that this is factually inaccurate as I most certainly am not "up Tannehill's a--." I just wrote a column wanting to trade Tannehill to New Orleans.

Mrs. Grimes also seems to be peeved with the Dolphins because they, in her words, allow their media to "destroy the defense and make it look like Tannehill is not the problem."

Tweet3For the record, the media does not belong to the Dolphins. The Dolphins are an entity the media covers for their respective outlets. So the Dolphins cannot allow or disallow the media from reporting anything. But the greater point is Mrs. Grimes sees some sort of conspiracy in the media over their coverage of the team's quarterback versus their coverage of the team's defense. And that leads to the question whether Brent Grimes also believes the team he plays on has different rules for the quarterback and different rules for defensive players.

The Dolphins are aware I am writing this. I reached out to the team's media relations department as well as a couple of people within the organization. They are not happy about the undue publicity.

I get it. A team that is looking bad on the field (5-10) doesn't need to look bad off it as well. Indeed, the Dolphins do a lot of philanthropic and noteworthy things off the field to build their brand and reputation among their fans and in the South Florida community.

Miko Grimes ignoring repeated requests from the team to tone it down and be classy and her unhinged social media rants don't help that cause.

Indianapolis Colts defeat the Miami Dolphins, 18-12

The Miami Dolphins were thisclose to a stirring comeback victory.

They were on the five yard line. Fourth down. Game on the line. Ryan Tannehill in shotgun formation. Receivers ready to attack the end zone one last offensive play.

And then Jamil Douglas snapped the football. Tannehill caught it.

But no one else on the Dolphins moved.

No one.

Coach Dan Campbell and Tannehill later explained they had a double cadence call, meaning the team would go to the line, give a hard count, then back away to see how the defense reacted before either calling a new play or going with the play called on the next snap count.

Douglas never waited for the second snap count.

And three Indianapolis Colts defenders, seeing the ball snapped prematurely, attacked the quarterback. They sacked Tannehill, collecting one of six sacks on the day.

And game game.

Colts 18.

Dolphins 12.

By the way, the Colts did little damage in the second half. They scored only a field goal in the second half.

And it was enough.

Dion Jordan the face of 2013 failure

If you read my column in today's Miami Herald, you understand that general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin were in agreement about how good Dion Jordan could be prior to the 2013 draft.

This is no small thing considering those two had significant disagreements otherwise.

But here's the thing that amazes me:

Even as both men where on the same page about a player, their vision was askew of each other when it came to a plan for that great player.

Ireland viewed Jordan as an outside linebacker and likely a strongside outside linebacker who could cover tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, or rush the passer on zone or conventional blitzes or in a pass-rush package. Philbin's vision was of a 4-3 defensive end.

Both men wanted the guy. Both were agreed he had elite potential. But when both looked at Jordan, they saw different positions for the guy.

This happens when people are not of like minds. Even in the rare instances they agree, they are not sharing a vision.

By the way, I have no Jordan update. He has not been around the team nor the facility, per NFL suspension guidelines. And, yes, there have been some troubling photos of him looking thicker (added weight, not muscle) online in the past few months.

That leads me to this: Is Jordan going to be ready to put his past positive tests for performance enhancing and street drugs behind him when he returns? Is he going to come back in shape? Is he going to be ready to become the player both Ireland and Philbin thought was the best in the 2013 draft?

No one knows. But I would point you to when he last came back from an extended suspension -- that on October 26, 2014.

Did Jordan come back in great shape? Well, he was in shape. He was not in great shape. The conditioning regime he had put himself through compared to Reshad Jones, who also had been suspended, was like night and day. Jones was a professional who took the work seriously and came back ready to contribute immediately. Jordan came back needing to get ready to get ready.

And, I remind you, Jordan returned and talked of having learned his lesson about drugs. He laughed off a direct question from me when I asked if he was free of drugs. And then he got popped by the drug testing policy again, leading to his current one-year suspension.

So if you believe the best predictor of future actions is past behavior, you have your answer on Dion Jordan.

We'll see.

Oh, yeah, the Dolphins play today.

December 26, 2015

Keys to the game: Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins

This is a stunning fact: The four lowest graded players on the Miami Dolphins offense all play on the offensive line, according to metrics site ProFootballFocus.com.

Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas and Jason Fox all have negative grades in the minus-20s, per the site. Dallas Thomas has a negative grade in the minus-40s. And whatever you think of the site's grading system or expertise, this is not in doubt: We have seen evidence these players have not been good enough this season.

So you can trust the grades or trust your eyes. Either way the answer is mostly the same.

(Yes, there have been moments when all have shined also. But mostly ... not good enough).

And this surprises whom?

Maybe only the Dolphins because they picked these guys. They chose to stick with these guys. They had faith in these guys to the point the team turned away from Evan Mathis (not great, by the way, but still an upgrade on a one-year rental) as a possible replacement at guard to soothe the struggle.

But no.

This is not groundbreaking news. This is written, if anything, for the record. So that it becomes clear that the Miami offensive line is a problem. It  is, however, a problem that I have written may not be aggressively addressed in the offseason due to all the other problems the Dolphins have to address first.

Anyway, on the bright side, the Indianapolis Colts defense the Dolphins face on Sunday is not a dominant unit.

This is how the matchups shape up:

When the Dolphins pass the football: Receiver Rishard Matthews is questionable so there's a chance he plays, which would be good. But the offensive line is troubled because center Mike Pouncey probably cannot play -- he wants to but his ankle and foot injuries may have a different vote. And right tackle Ja'Wuan James still is not 100 percent ready to play regardless of whether he'll be active or not. If the Dolphins are true to their established format, they will feed Jarvis Landry 10-15 targets. It is up to the Colts' pedestrian pass defense to limit Landry's yards after catch because that's where he does most of his damage. The Colts, by the way, have one exceptional cornerback in Vontae Davis and the rest of the pass defense -- including the pass rush -- is weak. The Colts are 29th in the NFL in sacks per pass play. Hey, maybe Ryan Tannehill can walk out of the stadium after this game without his usual entourage of bruises, aches and pains. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins run the football: It is unclear if the Dolphins were foreshadowing a switch at the running back spot last week when Lamar Miller went to he sideline and pretty much stayed their the second half while Jay Ajayi got the work against San Diego. Obviously, Miller had an unproductive first half and did suffer a minor quadriceps injury, but he said afterward he was able to play. Miller has similarly been limited in practice this week while Ajayi has gotten as many if not more first-team reps. The Colts have an unremarkable run defense, with former Dolphins Kendall Langford doing solid work at the five technique and Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson doing good work at inside linebacker spots. Freeman has actually been pretty good. And yet, Indy is 25th against the run.  ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Colts pass the football: Last week veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers diced up the Miami secondary as if with a Ginsu knife. The Colts come to town with an even more experienced quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck. But make no mistake, without Andrew Luck driving the football (sometimes forcing the football) downfield, the Indianapolis passing game is not nearly as dynamic under Hasselbeck. T.Y. Hilton, one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL the past few years, has been diminished (for him). Yes, he still leads the team with a 16.7 yards per catch average among players regularly active, but Hasselbeck doesn't look for him nearly as much as Luck used to. That's one reason Hilton complained about not getting the ball enough last week. The Dolphins secondary would ordinarily match Brent Grimes on Hilton every play. But that hasn't proven as fruitful a strategy this year as it has in the past. If the Dolphins go with a different approach, it will speak volumes about what they think of Grimes. ADVANTAGE: Indianapolis.

When the Colts run the football: Frank Gore needs 121 yards to reach 12,000 for his career but this isn't the same player that carried the ball for San Francisco five years ago. Gore is averaging a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry and hasn't eclipsed 100 yards in a game all season. Indeed, Gore hasn't eclipsed 50 rushing yards in three of the past four games. Yes, the Indy offensive line has something to do with this. This group seems much better suited to pass blocking than run blocking. Ndamukong Suh should have a great day. If he doesn't, something is wrong. The problem for the Dolphins is linebacker Koa Misi is done for the season and Jelani Jenkins missed last week and remains slowed bgcause of an ankle injury. We might see a lot of backups to a unit where the starters aren't exactly stellar. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams: Adam Vinatieri was kicking when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth but no one has informed him age typically causes players to lose their gifts. Vinatieri is 7 of 7 on field goals of 40-49 yards and is three of four for kicks of 50 yards or more. It'll be interesting to see if the Colts let Hilton return punts during this one so he has a chance to make a big play in his home town while also trying to improve on the league's 28th ranked punt return unit. The Dolphins continue to look for a kick returner. Last week Reshad Jones did some of that work early in the game. The fact is Landry has been nursing a knee injury and probably shouldn't be back there and Damien Williams is not dynamic and probably shouldn't be on the team. ADVANTAGE: Even. Coaching: What we have here is two men who may be looking for work after the season. Both good men. Both solid football coaches. But neither has milked more out of their team than the talent suggests is possible. Wrote the same thing last week. Still applies. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: What we have here is two men who may be looking for work after the season. Both good men. Both solid football coaches. But neither has milked more out of their team than the talent suggests is possible. Wrote the same thing last week. Still applies. ADVANTAGE: Even.

December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015: Gifts all around!!!!

Cynical souls out there scorn at posts like this. Powered by pomposity, they sneer at a light-hearted attempt to lift up readers on a cheer-filled day. To them I say, Merry Christmas anyway.

God bless.

Love for you and yours.

And to the other 99 percent of the Earth's population I say, it is time to once again hand out gifts to the Miami Dolphins. This is not a vain exercise. This stuff works! Consider that last year, one of the gifts I handed out was a strong desire by Ndamukong Suh to play for Miami. Blog pic

(Yeah, I also wanted Darrelle Revis and tried to gift them to the club cheap. That part didn't fly.)

So maybe somewhere in this bag of goodies for the Dolphins, a couple actually come to pass.

Let us, thus get to our holiday tradition of handing out Christmas gifts for the Dolphins:

For interim coach Dan Campbell, two eye-popping names of coordinators he can realistically hire to give his interviewers pause when the Dolphins talk to him about the full-time coach gig. Possession of those names is the only chance Campbell has of getting the job.

For Stephen Ross, the man who already has everything, something he has never had as Dolphins owner: A winning season.

For Football Czar Mike Tannenbaum, a coming season so grand that he can stop thinking of twin AFC title game losses as a success.

To Tannenbaum again, because Santa Mando really likes him, wisdom and vision as the point man to the looming coach search.

To Tannenbaum again (yeah, he was really good this year), a profound understanding that football teams are nothing if they're soft along the line of scrimmage and guards play on the line of scrimmage.

To Ryan Tannehill, a flak jacket.

And a Pro Bowl guard to go along with his Pro Bowl center.

And an insurance policy if that guard isn't added.

And a proven NFL offensive coordinator/quarterback coach who has been there and done that and had great success in the past.

To Mike Pouncey, 10 pounds of sheer, nasty muscle.

And renewed health for his brother Maurkice.

To Jordan Cameron, a new scheme that lets him exploit the seam and the red zone -- as God intended when he built him.

To Brent Grimes, a return of that seemingly lost half-step.

And peace with no drama in his home.

To Lamar Miller, a game plan that allows him to carry the football 18-20 times.

To Jay Ajayi, a game plan that allows him to carry the football 15-18 times.

And to both of them, an ongoing competition for those extra four or five carries that makes them both better.

To the rest of the offense, a game plan that calls for 25 passes per game and not a whole lot more.

To Rishard Matthews, a well-deserved new contract from that team closer to home that you've been wanting.

Or from the Dolphins, which would be a surprise.

To DeVante Parker, that next step that you must take in 2016.

And healthy feet to allow that step to be without melodrama.

To Suh, more impact plays to go with your impact contract.

To Branden Albert, an offseason of staying right instead of having to get right.

To Reshad Jones, that trip to the Pro Bowl next month you so desperately want.

And deserve.

To Dennis Hickey, the discovery of another Lavonte David.

Or Derrick Brooks.

Like, in the third round.

To Kenny Stills, that moment when reporters are talking to you about your great receiving accomplishments and not your new hair style.

A full and complete recovery to the six players on injured reserve.

Kudos to the sports science, nutrition and training staff who are obviously doing great work because last year the team had 13 players on injured reserve at Christmas.

More talent for Jamar Taylor.

And Dallas Thomas.

And Billy Turner.

And Jamil Douglas.

And Armando Salguero.

A bright tomorrow for the outgoing coaching staff.

A bright today for the incoming coaching staff.

A joyous Christmas day for you and yours. A prosperous jubilee year in 2016. And a heartfelt thank you for coming here regularly. 

 

 

Brent Grimes unaware of any talk of a 2016 pay cut

If there is conversation about Brent Grimes not playing up to the level of past years, and being diminished at age 32 (33 by next football season), and the Miami Dolphins needing to take a hard look at giving him a pay cut in the coming offseason, he is not aware.

And, yes, there is that conversation in all quarters of the football world.

"Honestly, I don't keep up with that," Grimes told The Miami Herald this week. "I just play. I don't read anything, I don't watch ESPN. I don't watch anything. So I don't know what anyone is talking about. I just know what the people around here are talking about and that's all I really can go off of."

So what are people within the Dolphins building talking about when the conversation turns to the club's top cornerback?

"That everybody respects me and I can play," Grimes said. "I don't know what is the narrative in the media or outside of here because I don't keep up with it."

There is truth to what Grimes says. The Dolphins coaching staff still considers Grimes their best cornerback. And for much of this season they considered him a premier CB. That's obviously the reason they asked him to cover Sammy Watkins and Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant all over the field and often in one-on-one situations.

But unlike past seasons when Grimes would win most of those matchups, or at the very least trade blows for blows in those -- such as his game against Calvin Johnson in Detroit last season when he gave up a TD pass but also had an interception -- this year the battles have more often gone to the receivers.

Marshall, Watkins and Beckham had great days against the Dolphins. Grimes, meanwhile, shut down Bryant.

"I do whatever the coach asks me to do," Grimes said. "That's what I've always done and what I continue to want to do. I've been doing what helps the team."

And for the season, metrics site ProFootballFocus.com has Grimes rated the NFL's 54th best cornerback for 2015. He was in the top 20 last year and in the top 10 in 2013.

So this is not trending in the right direction year-to-year. That doesn't mean Grimes will be worse next year. But it does mean the Dolphins, projecting for 2016 and seeing Grimes scheduled to cost $9.5 million against the salary cap, might want to adjust that number.

The Dolphins may ask Grimes to cut his base salary some. Or they might come up with some other innovative Mike Tannenbaumish way of massaging things to where Grimes feels good about his salary and the Dolphins feel better about a lower cap number.

But if things don't work out just right, there's always the possibility the Dolphins may decide to move on. Such a path would save the Dolphins up to $8 million in cap space if done after June 1 or if designated as a June 1 cut.

It is an interesting proposition. Go to your best cornerback because he hasn't been elite and ask him to take a pay cut? Or do nothing, understanding you are taking up elite cornerback cap space in 2016 for a player who recently played a step or two below elite in 2015.

So what does Grimes think of that?

"I'll wait until that happens," he said. "I always live in the moment. I'm attacking this day and we'll go from there."

Notice Grimes did not rule anything in or out. There have been suggestions he would be on the next plane out of town if the Dolphins no longer value him at the same level (i.e. approach him about a pay cut). His wife has made such a suggestion on social media.

But Grimes and his family also have planted some roots in South Florida. They like it here. So he's not definitely out.

"My family likes it here," Grimes said. "It's nice. My family is good. We have a good time."

And would he like to keep playing for the Dolphins?

"Yeah, of course," he said. "We'll see what happens."

December 23, 2015

Rishard Matthews back; Devante Parker looking good; Jones changes his mind; Suh sulks; Taylor to the house

Interesting stuff happening at Miami Dolphins camp today.

Firstly, Rishard Matthews returned to practice and worked the whole way (full) so if he continues on that arc, expect him to play Sunday against Indianapolis. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins return Matthews to the starting role he had prior to getting injured or DeVante Parker will keep that role.

My guess is that Matthews gets his starting job back.

Why?

Dan Campbell is that kind of guy. He's a former player and he defers to veterans. And veterans don't like losing their jobs to injuries -- Wally Pipp aside.

Parker, however, is coming off a good game against San Diego and will nonetheless play a lot.

I thought he took a huge step up last week," Campbell said of Parker. "I thought he played pretty well. There are still a few things, just details of the game for him that he’s got to be better at, but his physical ability is beginning to show up. He’s turning into a pretty solid receiver right now. There’s enough that’s going on where he’s playing with size.  Watching that tape against San Diego those corners tried to stick him a few times, jam him and he was getting off press. He was working them. He was pushing at the top of the route. He played big. He played big, he played physical, he used his speed, he had separation and there towards the end of the game it looked like they started to back off of him. They started to feel the stress he was putting on him which is good. He’s improving. We talked about this. He did some good things in Baltimore and then Monday night when we played the Giants he kind of took a step back and then this week he took a jump. That’s what we’re anticipating. I think he’ll be even better than he was last week. That’s what we’re looking for.”

This matters, as I've written in the past. The Dolphins have a decision to make on Matthews this offseason and he has one to make about them because he is unsigned. So does he return for next year knowing he might not able to hold off Parker from the starting lineup? And do the Dolphins pay Matthews knowing he might not be a starter given that they have Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills and all of them are able to start?

Interesting.

Ja'Wuan James returned to practice but only on a limited basis and working with the scout team. He is expected to work at right tackle some with the starting unit on Thursday. We'll see how that goes.

Branden Albert did not practice on Wednesday but it was a so-called rest day. Campbell said he expects Albert to practice on Thursday, suggesting he might be playing Sunday despite missing much of the San Diego game with an injury to his right knee -- the same knee he had reconstructed in the offseason.

Mike Pouncey, in a walking boot, continues to say he wants to play Sunday and in the season finale against New England. Campbell wants him in there but isn't necessarily expecting it.

If you asked me that today, if he’ll play? I don’t see it, but I didn’t think after the Jets game he would play either and he came out and played for us," Campbell said. "We’ll see and it’s just day-to-day for him."

Jamil Douglas would play center if Pouncey cannot.

Both Reshad Jones and Ndamukong Suh were selected as alternates to the Pro Bowl although neither was selected to play right off. And it seemed something a sore subject for both men, at least temporarily.

Jones initially peeved at the perceived slight, said he would not go even if he's called upon to do so as a replacement. After thinking it over, however, and getting some sage advice from some older folks, Jones said he would play in the game after all if asked.

Suh was asked if he was surprised about not being selected.

"Next question," he said.

Suh was asked if he thought making the Pro Bowl is important to his legacy?

"Next question," he said, clearly delivering the message that getting snubbed was sore subject for him.

But here's something more important to a person's legacy: Whether they're the same person in good times and in adversity. It's easy to be a nice guy in good times. The measure of a man is how he conducts himeslf in tough times. 

Speaking of tough times, Jamar Taylor is squarely in the middle of those right now.

Taylor is in the doghouse. He's struggled this year. He didn't improve. And coaches finally marginalized him to the point he's been inactive some, despite being healthy, and been unused when he was active -- such as last week. And that isn't likely to change unless someone in front of him gets hurt.

So the Dolphins are going to be giving more playing time to Bobby McCain, who is starting, and Tony Lippett, who is going to get work again against the Indianapolis Colts.

So anything going on with Jamar, coach?

“No," Campbell said. "It’s just that we wanted to get a look at (Tony) Lippett and Bobby (McCain). They’ve been the next in line.”

December 22, 2015

Pro Bowl selections make multiple issues evident for the Miami Dolphins

The Pro Bowl announcement was this evening and the Miami Dolphins, in their 50th season, saw one player elected to the prestigious roster. One.

Center Mike Pouncey.

Pouncey makes it for the third time and second time as a center. He said this evening he played this season with a "chip on his shoulder" to prove to everyone he is worthy of being considered one of the top centers in the NFL. He's done that.

More importantly:

Pouncey also said his goal is to play in the game and, news alert here, he said "the plan" is to play in the game and his goal is playing the Dolphins final two games of the season. That and the fact the Dolphins did not place him on injured reserve on Tuesday suggests Pouncey might at the very least be able to play in the season-finale against New England. His status for Sunday's game against Indianapolis is more uncertain but he is not necessarily out.

So there's that good news.

And it is good news because the injuries to both offensive tackle Branden Albert and Pouncey were initially thought to be serious. But as neither is on IR and both might play again the final two weeks, it means they could be way ahead of things this offseason and for 2016 than if they'd been lost for the season after getting injured at San Diego.

Instead of starting a new rehab on his right knee from scratch, Albert can use the offseason to build on what he spent all last offseason doing. Instead of starting to rehab a foot injury this offseason, Pouncey can concentrate on doing that which is necessary for him to reach the next level of his progression -- getting stronger.

So that's good news, too.

Now, do you want the bad news?

The bad news is that no matter what you think of the Pro Bowl, the Dolphins are not considered talented enough to have more than one player in it. Remember, the fan voting counts 33 percent of the balloting. Coaches and players count 66 percent. And that means that players and coaches around the NFL do not consider the Dolphins as talented as everyone expected them to be.

Say what you will of fans voting for their favorites, but coaches and players generally have a solid idea of who is good and who isn't.

Also this: The New England Patriots had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl. The New York Jets had three players selected to the Pro Bowl. The Buffalo Bills had one player selected to the Pro Bowl.

So are the Patriots the most talented team and so they have the most Pro Bowl players? Or do they have the most Pro Bowl players because they're successful? I believe the Patriots have talent. Let's face it, the Dolphins do not have a super star on the roster like Tom Brady. He affects the course of every single game and most of the time he does so in his team's favor. Same with Rob Gronkowski who is the best tight end in the game.

The Dolphins don't have the best anyone at their position on their roster.

Ndamukong Suh is not in the Pro Bowl. And I've been getting pushback in the comments section and on twitter when I've written he has not lived up to his contract so far. Well, he didn't get the votes for the Pro Bowl, so obviously people in the know agree with me. The interior linemen are Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, Gerald McCoy, Kawann Short, and Calais Campbell. I'd have a hard time picking Suh over any of those except for maybe Campbell if I were starting a team. And none of those others makes $19 million per season.

As to Reshad Jones, who also didn't make it ... Don't be surprised if he gets in as a replacement. Tyrann Mathieu made it but he's on injured reserve so a replacement will have to be named there. Reggie Nelson, Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, Kam Chancellor and Charles Woodson were the other safeties picked. Great, great goup of athletes. All deserving.

So is Jones.

 

Dolphins draft position; injuries weaken roster; PFF grades

The important stuff first. I'm talking about the future.

The new NFL draft order following this weekend's games is as follows:

  1. Tennessee 3-11
  2. Cleveland 3-11
  3. Baltimore 4-10
  4. San Diego 4-10
  5. Dallas 4-10
  6. San Francisco 4-10
  7. Miami 5-9
  8. Jacksonville 5-9
  9. New Orleans 5-9
  10. Chicago 5-9
  11. Detroit 5-9
  12. Tampa Bay 6-8
  13. New York Giants 6-8
  14. Oakland 6-8
  15. Philadelphia 6-8
  16. Buffalo 6-8
  17. Indianapolis 6-8
  18. St. Louis 6-8
  19. Atlanta 7-7
  20. New York Jets 9-5

The teams holding the selections from 21-32 are playoff teams and their order will be selected based on the outcome of the postseason.

So basically, the Dolphins had a terrible weekend on the field but improved their chances of getting a good player in the spring draft. The Dolphins have an outside chance of landing a Top 5 pick if they continue to play as they have with their diminished lineup.

About that: Linebacker Koa Misi, linebacker Chris McCain and center Mike Pouncey have probably played their final games of 2015. Branden Albert (knee) isn't seriously injured but his status this week is uncertain.

And speaking of uncertain:

Bobby McCain played poorly in his second consecutive start. According to ProFootballFocus.com, McCain had his worst game of the season and ranked 115th of all cornerbacks in the NFL this week.

Brent Grimes, who had an interception, recovered after struggling the past few weeks. He was PFF's fourth-highest graded cornerback for the week.

Wide receiver DeVante  Parker had a drop but he was graded 15th among wide receivers this week.

December 21, 2015

The future does not seem bright for the Miami Dolphins

SAN DIEGO -- My column today, following the 30-14 blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers, explains how we've been wrong in calling the Miami Dolphins mediocre. They are not mediocre. They are bad.

 But here's the thing: There is bad now with hope for tomorrow.

The Tennessee Titans are bad now but have hope because they're going to hire a new coach and Marcus Mariota seems like the real deal.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are bad now but they have hope because their second-year QB has thrown over 30 TD passes and they have cap space going forward.

The Indianapolis Colts are bad now but that's partly because quarterback Andrew Luck, who is still a great prospect, has been injured much of the year after taking the Colts to the playoffs the past couple of seasons.

The Dallas Cowboys are bad now. But they are where they are because Tony Romo has missed much of the season and Dez Bryant only recently got right physically.

The Oakland Raiders are bad now. But they have a solid young quarterback. Rookie receiver Amari Cooper is very good and Michael Crabtree has regained his past stardom. Khalil Mack is a stud. They are all young. And this team has tons, and tons, and tons of salary cap space coming up.

So there's bad with hope for the future.

Then there's the Miami Dolphins.

They are bad. But where is the hope for the future?

Is it in Ryan Tannehill who gets pummeled every game and has regressed this season?

Is it in a defensive line that has Cameron Wake coming off an Achilles injury at age 35, Olivier Vernon unsigned for 2016, and Ndamukong Suh drawing a huge salary but not making a huge impact?

Is in the secondary that needed a cornerback when the season began, but following the way Brent Grimes has played this year, might now need two cornerbacks this offseason? (Maybe one, but maybe two).

Is it in the backfield with the combination of Lamar Millerr and Jay Ajayi? Look, Miller dinged his quad in the second quarter of Sunday's game. And then he got put on ice afterward. it was the running back coach's decision and interim coach Dan Campbell said he was good with that.

And afterward Miller seemed as perplexed and vexed by it all as he's ever shown publicly saying, "I have no words," about the situation. Oh, and by the way, Miller is a free agent after the season.

Is there hope for the future in Jordan Cameron? He's due to get a big payday next year but has, for whatever reasons, contributed precious little this season. So does the team keep him on a hope and a prayer or try to cut his salary, likely causing him to walk into free agency?

Is the hope in the looming return of Dion Jordan? Yeah, right.

Where.

Is.

The.

Hope?

December 20, 2015

Branden Albert 'fine;' Mike Pouncey likely to miss time

SAN DIEGO -- The injuries first: Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert, who suffered an injury to the same right knee that needed reconstruction last year, said "I'll be fine," after he left the locker room following a 30-14 loss to the Chargers.

The news is not quite is good for center Mike Pouncey.

He left the stadium with his left foot stabilized in a boot. He might not be done for the season but he is going to miss time, according to a source. Coach Dan Campbell, asked if either Albert or Pouncey suffered season-ending injuries said Albert was better off than Pouncey.

So the Miami offensive line that was terrible on Sunday even when the starters were in, is about to lose its heart and soul. Not that it matters as far as the 2015 season is concerned.

The Dolphins are 5-9 and a bitter disappointment of a team.

Their secondary is swiss cheese and Phillip Rivers proved that by completing 26 of 36 passes for 311 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The picks were inconsequential as one Reshad Jones had in the first half was erased when he fumbled the ball back on the return and San Diego recovered.

The second one, by Brent Grimes, came when the game was already decided.

And this game was decided by halftime when the Chargers held a 23-0 lead.

The Dolphins scored two second half touchdowns, including one with 1:45 remaining to play.

Garbage time stats galore.

December 19, 2015

The cap ramifications of trading Tannehill and picks for Brees and Sean Payton

So my column in Sunday's Miami Herald is a proposal for raising the Miami Dolphins out of their perpetual mediocrity.

And some of you will like it. Some of you will hate it. Some of you will be totally confused like a couple of people on twitter Saturday night and still want to explain why I'm wrong even if they don't understand what I wrote or what they're talking about.

And some of you will ask whether in proposing the Dolphins go get New Orleans coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in 2016 the Dolphins and Saints can make it work from a salary cap perspective. Yes, they can if Ryan Tannehill is included in the trade, as I propose.

Yes.

Yes, they can.

Drew Brees in 2016 will be in the final year of a deal that must pay him $19.75 million and cost $30 million against the cap. So to trade Brees for Tannehill, the Saints would have to swallow $10 million in dead money to do this trade. But they would save $20 million against the cap.

In adding Tannehill, they would take on a contract that has the current Miami QB signed through 2020. And that means they would take on Tannehill's $11.640 million  cap hit in 2016. So, for the Saints, this trade saves them about $9 million in cap space. It works for their cap.

As to the Dolphins:

The Dolphins would save $2.4 million by dealing Tannehill although they would have to carry $9.2 million in dead money. And then they would have to initially add that $30 million hit from the Brees deal.

But here's the thing: The Dolphins would not be doing this as a one-year rental of Brees. Brees would have to agree to come and he'd have to agree to do an extension beyond his one year. And that extension would be perhaps three years. So Miami could craft that extension in such a fashion as to lower the Brees cap hit for 2016 by at least half to $15 million.

You know what that means? It would mean that exchanging Tannehill for Brees would cost the Dolphins approximately $3.4 million in cap space for 2016 when all is said and done. That's not even considering the fact the Dolphins aren't spending cap room on their first round pick because, obviously, that pick and the cap hit to pay that player goes to New Orleans.

Those are the cap ramifications of trading Tannehill and first-round considerations for coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

Discuss ...

The 2016 salary cap costs and looming cap moves for the Miami Dolphins

So how does one turn a $2-$5 million deficit into a $35-$40 million windfall? Well, if you're an NFL team or an observer of NFL salary cap machinations, watch the Miami Dolphins.

They're about to do that -- or something pretty close to it -- this coming offseason when they look at their cap situation, their 2015 record, the production of players that helped author that record and say, "Nope, that's not going to do. We need to change course."

The Dolphins are indeed going to change course, folks.

You obviously know they're finding a new coach, new offensive and defensive system, new approach. And they're going to find new players. And they're going to get rid of some current players. (And maybe some current players are going to get rid of them).

Right now the Dolphins have slightly over $155 million in cap obligations scheduled for 2016. The small issue is the NFL cap next year is projected to be between $150-$153 million. That is a conservative projection but it nonetheless shows the Dolphins in the red.

So there will be cuts. And restructures.

Let's start with the restructures because it is a big deal:

Ndamukong Suh is scheduled to cost $28.6 million against the cap in 2016. Hahahahaha. Yeah, that's crazy. Even if you think Suh is an impact player of the highest order, which he is not, that is a bonkers cap number. So the Dolphins will restructure by moving money around and giving him more guaranteed money and massaging the thing and when all is said and done, the team will whittle that cap number down in the $10 million range. 

And a $10 million number for a very good defensive tackle is about right in today's NFL.

So there's an $18 million savings right there, from one move.

Other players in line for restructures? This is where it gets interesting.

The fact is the Dolphins have multiple players that are or have been good in the past but are now in the crosshairs for salary adjustments due to mitigating circumstances.

Take Cameron Wake. He was injured two months ago, rupturing his Achilles tendon, but he still leads the team in sacks with 7. Wake is scheduled to make $8.2 million next season and cost $9.8 million against the cap in the final year of his contract. The Dolphins can cut this 34-year-old defensive end coming off a major injury and save $8.4 million and be done with it.

Or they can massage the thing. They can extend Wake a year or two, thus giving the player guaranteed money on the front end that meets or exceeds the amount he was scheduled to make, lower his cap number now and in years to come, and keep what has been a productive player.

If Wake is willing, I think this is the road the Dolphins take, particularly if Olivier Vernon walks in free agency. And, by the way, the Dolphins and Vernon are nowhere near a contract agreement on that front.

I believe Brent Grimes also falls into this category of players with high cap numbers for next year (Grimes's number is $9.5 million) who have not played up to that future number this year. Here's the deal with Grimes: He's going to be 33 next year. And the Dolphins can save $6.5 million in cap space by cutting him pre-June 1 and $8 million by designating him or cutting him post June 1.

Very, very tempting.

But I remind you cutting a player means he's gone. And in a year the Dolphins will be looking to add cornerback talent rather than subtract, this becomes an intriguing issue. Will the Dolphins cut their diminished but still best corner? Or will they pay him what his contract demands? Or will they try to restructure?

The Dolphins then have other players on the books who seem almost certainly headed toward being cut because their cap number is high, while the dead money from such a move and the 2015 production is low.

Tight end Jordan Cameron is scheduled to cost $9.5 million against the cap. The Dolphins cut him, they save $7.5 million. He's got 29 catches for 341 yards with two touchdown passes. And I get it, he's going to be only 28 next year. And the Dolphins offense this year could make Rob Gronkowski look unimpressive. But Cameron at $9.5 million is not happening.

Greg Jennings is not happening, either. He's scheduled to cost $5.5 million against the cap. No. The Dolphins can save $4 million of that with a pre-June 1 cut.

Defensive end Quinton Coples is scheduled to cost $7.75 million against the cap. Nope. The Dolphins can save every penny by cutting him. He'll be cut. Only way this doesn't happen is if Coples collects 10 sacks the next three games. The Dolphins will not pay this.

There is speculation out there in the media somewhere players such as Earl Mitchell and Brice McCain are headed out the door.

I look at it as Mitchell will cost $3.5 million against the cap and that is not a high number even if he's a backup to Jordan Phillips. The Dolphins can save $2.5 million by cutting him. McCain is scheduled to cost $3.5 million against the cap and the Dolphins can similarly save $2.5 million by cutting him. I don't think this is a done deal, either. He's a slot corner and he's been asked to play out of position this year. If Bobby McCain can prove he's a solid outside corner, Brice McCain can go back to his spot in the slot in 2016. If Bobby McCain needs to go to slot, Brice McCain becomes expendable. 

But I say this: The team needs cornerbacks. One can never have too many and the Dolphins have too few that can play well. 

The Dolphins will have to make a decision on Dion Jordan. He is scheduled to cost $6.2 million against the cap. And with his history of street and performance enhancing drug abuse and unmet expectations and the photos that have come out of him on the internet this year of looking overweight while he's suspended, I would say it is a good bet Jordan is not going to return to the team fully healed and looking like a chiseled statue of David when he returns.

So the Dolphins cut him.

Miami can save $3.2 million in cap space by doing so but will have to carry $2.992 million in dead money for the privilege. What a waste of talent this guy.

Jason Fox has started in place of Ja'Wuan James this year and will do so again Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. But it says here the Dolphins are going to cut him before the 2016 season arrives. He is scheduled to cost $1.542 million against the cap. The team can save $1.38 million by cutting him. 

Jamar Taylor has fallen out of favor with the current coaching staff because he has been a pass completion turnstile and a touchdown-yielding machine. But he's only scheduled to cost $1.15 million against the cap. I believe the team will keep him, take him to camp and let him compete under the guidance of a new staff.

If he makes it, fine. If he plays like he has been, he'll be cut and the Dolphins will save $899,475.

Finally, long snapper John Denney is scheduled to cost $1.215 million against the cap in 2016. The team can save $1.115 million by cutting him in his final contract year. Will they do this? It is not an urgent or certain move. Denney hasn't seemed to decline even at 37 years old. 

But this is the same team that cut Dan Carpenter. And Brandon Fields.  One predictor of this move would be the club drafting a player who has snapped the football in college. Not saying that will happen. But $1.115 million is the savings.

December 17, 2015

Big shakeup for 2016 Dolphins offensive line? No

I ask Dan Campbell why it is the Miami Dolphins offensive line is not a team strength despite the fact the team has invested free agency money and draft picks and more free agency money, and more draft picks on the unit over the past half-dozen or so years -- all of them of which the interim coach has seen because he's been an assistant in Miami that long.

And Campbell looks at me like, "Dude, you're killing me because you know the answer."

But he doesn't say that. He says, “That’s a pretty good question."

And then he pauses and thinks.

And thinks.

And thinks.

"I think some of it is – to begin with, I’m not trying to make excuses," Campbell says, "but I guess one of the first things I think of is for example this year, (Mike) Pouncey has clearly been our most consistent player and he’s steady as a rock. BA (LT Branden Albert) is coming off a massive injury and we’re fortunate that we’ve even had him, to be honest with you. That’s tough to come back from in less than a year from where he did. He was a little bit shaky early in the year, he battled – he just wasn’t the old BA, but he’s gotten better and better.

"We lost Ja’Wuan (James) and that’s hurt us with consistency. Really even Dallas (Thomas) and Billy (Turner) ...first of all, this is the first year that we’ve had Dallas Thomas play a full year at guard because he really finished at tackle for us. Then, Billy Turner is a second-year guy who got no playing time last year other than a couple of snaps at tackle at the end of last year.

"I guess to answer your question, it’s hard to make it a strength when there’s no consistency. We really haven’t had a chance for those five guys to grow together the way you would ordinarily like. That would be off the top of my head."

I appreciate Dan Campbell. He's an honest guy. A good man. I voted for him in the annual "Good guy" award balloting done by the local media to pick a Dolphins player that has been most cooperative. No, he's not a player. I don't care. I voted for Dan Campbell.

But here's the thing that he didn't and couldn't say: The moves the Dolphins have made along the offensive line for years have failed to deliver a good offensive line because the players have consistently failed to live up to expectations.

The drafting of Jake Long No. 1 overall in 2008 was a mistake, especially considering Long was out of the league earlier this season, didn't last beyond his rookie contract with the Dolphins, and two left tackles -- Ryan Clady and Branden Albert -- taken in that draft have had better careers.

The free agent additions of Justin Smiley and Jake Grove added two free agency busts and both were gone from the team within a couple of years.

The drafting of John Jerry in the 2010 draft's third round? Mistake, especially considering Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders, NaVorro Bowman, Everson Griffen and Jimmy Graham were taken later that round.

The signing of Marc Colombo, Tyson Clabo and paying pf Vernon Carey? That failed.

And don't get me started on the drafting of Jonathan Martin in the second round in 2012.

So that's why it has taken so long to get this unit right. Resources have been squandered year after year, personnel department after personnel department, coaching staff after coaching staff.

And the folks on the job now are not without responsibility.

Mike Pouncey has worked out. He was drafted in the first round and has delivered. And he was paid in the offseason and so far, so good -- although he is not a sure-fire Pro Bowl talent.

But James in the first round last year did not take the significant step in his second year to live up to his draft status. Yes, I know he's been injured. He wasn't outstanding before he got hurt. And, as Bill Parcells told me once, one of the abilities we have to measure is durability.

Same with Albert. If he can stay healthy going forward, great. But the jury is out on him beyond this season relative to him regaining the dominance he showed in the games he played for the Dolphins before the knee injury in 2014.

That leaves us Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. Neither are blue chippers at this point. On most weeks, both struggle to be C players.

ProFootballFocus.com, flawed as it may or may not be, grades Turner No. 75 among 82 guards it grades. PFF also grades Thomas No. 81 among the 82 guards it grades. So, bad.

And is this a surprise to anyone? Did the entire Earth not complain about the prospects of Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner being Miami's starting guards in 2015 well before 2015 began? And, I recognize had the Dolphins gone out and improved their guard play by upgrading the talent at the position this offseason, the Dolphins still might not be a winning team.

But if a schmoe can understand this was going to be an issue, why didn't the Dolphins?

One more thing: Evan Mathis, available to the Dolphins for $4 million as late as July, is not playing to his previous high level in Philadelphia. He's grading out as the No. 12 guard in the NFL, per ProFootballFocus.com. So 12th among 82 guards is not Pro Bowl caliber.

But No. 12 compared to No. 75 or No. 81. Oy.   

And now for the worse news: Ready?

Barring a significant shift, the Dolphins might be tempted to go into the 2016 season with generally the same offensive line as in 2015. Wait, that's wrong. Jason Fox is not included in that. The team is not happy with him as a No. 3 offensive tackle and that may cost him his job before next season. But Albert, Pouncey, James, Turner, and Thomas?

They're coming back. And they're probably going get a grand opportunity to be the starters again next training camp.

Yes, there may be a new coach. There may be a new system. But the Senior Vice President, Mike Tannenbaum, is not going anywhere. And he makes the ultimate decisions on personnel.

And he's got other pressing issues, folks. They need to address the defensive end spot. They need to address the middle linebacker spot. The past few weeks have shown they need a cornerback and probably a safety in an urgent way.

In other words, the Dolphins feel like they have a lot of work to do before they get around to guard. Oh, we might see one on the draft's third day. But signature free agent signing? Or first day draft pick to improve the offensive line?

Unlikely at this point.

What would that mean? It means the most likely way the Miami offensive line is going to improve is through experience and cohesion and working together, as Campbell said. But if you're waiting for Larry Little, Dwight Stephenson and Bob Kuechenberg to come through that offseason door ... you're probably going to be disappointed.

December 16, 2015

Dolphins dropping some season ticket holders who resold their tickets

The Miami Dolphins are informing some of their season ticket holders they will not be allowed to renew their memberships for 2016 because those fans re-sold a majority of their tickets on secondary markets in the past.

This is the second year the team is using this approach to weed out what it believes to be professional brokers who in the past have bought swaths of seats on a season ticket basis and re-sold them to out-of-town buyers who are typically fans of Dolphins' opponents. This year, however, the program is affecting fewer season ticket accounts but is identifying more than merely brokers.

This year the program is identifying fans that for whatever reason have decided to sell their seats rather than use them. The Dolphins want to give current season ticket members the first option to sit in those seats through the renewal process.

"We want to protect our most valuable fans, provide them opportunities to get better seats and defend our home field," Dolphins senior vice president and chief marketing officer Jeremy Walls in a statement to The Miami Herald. "We are doing this so we can create more access and a better stadium experience for our true members. However, if there are extenuating circumstances or we make an error with our real fans, we will work to accommodate them on a case by case basis.”

The Dolphins are not the only professional team that does this. The NHL New Jersey Devils, for example, have done this in the past.

But the approach raises questions about how the team monitors the activities of its season ticket members and whether or not those members can do with their tickets whatever they wish because, after all, the Dolphins sold the tickets and they belong to the fans who purchased them.

Nonetheless, the team insists privately that it understand fans may sometimes resell their tickets out of choice or extenuating circumstances and it will try to work with fans flagged as having sold their seats "too often" -- a term not defined by the team.

Ultimately the team says, it wants to promote a greater game environment for all fans and a better home field advantage for the home team. This season the Dolphins are 5-8 and 2-3 at Sun Life.

Fans who contacted The Herald unsolicited to reveal the Dolphins' practice were not happy, with one saying his season-ticket representative seemed to point a finger at him for the Dolphins struggling.

"He actually told me that my activity was hurting the home field advantage," the season ticket member said. "My family scraped together enough money for three lower bowl season tickets four years ago and I usually sell a couple of games to offset the renewal cost. This year, we had a change of work schedule and we couldn't get to as many games as we wished so I obviously sold them. Now, they are giving us the boot.

The thing that ticked me off was that it came across like the rep was blaming season ticket holders for the home losses. If the Dolphins put a better product out on the field more home fans would go to the games. Plus, the Dolphins have no idea who is sitting in my seats or what team they are rooting for. They very well could be Dolphins fans. The thing is it was only this season where we couldn't make most of the games. For the previous years we made at least five regular season games per season. And this year they even took away one home game, which ironically, we were free to attend had it been in Miami."

It is true the Dolphins forfeited a home game at Sun Life in favor of a "home" game against the New York Jets in London. Fans were not charged for that game. The purpose of that move was ostensibly to qualify to host future Super Bowls -- as the league asks teams trying to land a Super Bowl to agree to playing a game in London within years of that Super Bowl.

But it is also true not every fan contacting or contacted by The Herald was upset by this policy.

"I sit in a section that is supposedly sold out on season ticket basis so I expect to sit among Dolphins fans," said another season ticket holder. "But I get to the game and look around and there's a bunch of Giants jerseys in my section. And I look around the stadium and there's a bunch of Giants fans or Cowboys fans cheering when their teams score or stops us. That's not a home field advantage. That's like a neutral field. So anything the team can do to improve the home edge, I'm fine with that.

"I'm glad they're doing this. If you're going to buy tickets, go to the game. If you can't go, don't buy."