November 06, 2014

Poll: London home game fine with you or not?

The Dolphins today sent out a press release confirming my report that they are traveling to London again next season, this time giving up a home game at Sun Life Stadium to play the AFC East rival New York Jets.

The team has so far had no further comment on the matter. I have commented on the matter because that's my job. (By the way, I hate the idea).

Now it's your turn.

Tell me how you feel on the matter by ...

1. Choosing one of the choices below.

2. Writing why you feel that way in the comments section.

The Dolphins read this blog. So let them read you loud and clear.

Go!

polls

Bad idea: Dolphins yield Jets home game in '15

I like the idea of the NFL playing games in London. I even like the idea of the Miami Dolphins occasionally doing their league civic duty and playing games in London.

But what we are learning in the past two days goes too far and turns a good idea into a bad joke.

And the Dolphins are the punch line.

The Dolphins, you see, are traveling to London in 2015 for the second time in as many years, as I reported Wednesday. Now here is where it gets ugly.

The Dolphins are giving up a home game for the privilege.

Gets better worse...

The Dolphins are giving up a home game against an AFC East division rival.

Worse ...

The Dolphins are vacating their home-and-home series with the New York Jets next year, playing one game at New York's MetLife Stadium, as usual, and the other game -- Miami's so-called home game -- in London.

I'm trying to think which part of this set of facts is good for the football side of the Dolphins organization.

Thinking.

Still thinking.

Still thinking.

The Dolphins and NFL sources will privately tell you this is a good deal for the, um, home team. It may give the Dolphins a chance to advance construction on their scheduled upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. It may also set up the Dolphins as a team that can host a Super Bowl because NFL owners last month voted to tie hosting a Super Bowl to giving up a home game to the London venue.

(In other words, a team hosting a Super Bowl must agree to play in London at least once within a five-year span. So the Dolphins would be eligible to win a SB bid through 2020 knowing they already met the criteria.)

But I'm not buying any of this spin. Neither are some right-thinking people.

As one NFL source told me Wednesday, "What it looks like to me is you have a team that rather be hosting Super Bowls than playing in Super Bowls."

Harsh. Very harsh. And I do not know for a fact the Dolphins agreed to go back to the United Kingdom in order to line up for a Super Bowl bid.

But when you understand that the Dolphins are giving up a home divisional game against arguably their most bitter rival, it is hard to argue a counterpoint to that criticism -- or any criticism. The Dolphins are actually the only team that will be giving up a division home game to play in London next year. No other team has done it in the past, ostensibly because it is not a great idea.

The optics are the optics.

I also know this: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose team is playing in London on Sunday, recently told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan that giving up a home game to host a Super Bowl at his AT&T Stadium in Arlington was not a palatable option for him.

The Cowboys are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars as the visitors on Sunday.

"We're playing Jacksonville in London and we would not have played in that game if it cost us a home game, and we just wouldn't do it, and haven't done it," Jones said. "That's not being mean in any way or [not] being a team player. We made too big of a commitment to our fans and to our organization to play our 10 games here."

So what about the Dolphins commitment to play at Sun Life?

Wait, stop. Forget that.

What about the Dolphins commitment to give themselves every competitive advantage possible?

The Dolphins are perhaps behind only New England and Green Bay as the most secretive organization in the NFL. They do not discuss injuries to the point coach Joe Philbin will not talk about an injury report that is coming out in a couple of minutes anyway. They tell players not to discuss injuries or they'll be fined. They tell agents not to speak to the media (a request many agents laugh at behind the back of the person making this request because it is beyond the pale of normal NFL operating procedure). The Dolphins also do not want possible lineup changes reported.

And all this and more is done under the guise of protecting the organization's competitive advantage.

And until Wednesday night when I found out about this home game against the Jets being moved to London, I respected the Miami competitive advantage narrative because winning trumps everything in the NFL -- even if you have to act paranoid to do it.

But amid that competitive advantage mania about a pulled hamstring or a looming free agency signing that everyone will find out about anyway, the Dolphins are giving away a home game.

To the New York Jets.

So much for competitive advantage.

By the way, you know how far it is from Miami to London? The Internet tells me it is 4,425 miles. You know how far it is from New York to London? The Internet tells me it is 3,459 miles.

So the Dolphins will travel nearly 1,000 miles farther to their home game against the Jets next year than the Jets will. That's a nearly two hour longer flight.

The game will be played Oct. 4. The average temperature in Miami on Oct. 4 is 88 degrees. The average temperature in London on Oct. 4 is 60 degrees.

This is a bad idea, folks. There is no amount of NFL gate guarantee or prestige for landing a Super Bowl that makes giving up a home game worthwhile.

Jerry Jones, for one, recognizes that.

Stephen Ross?

Well, he made the case years ago that it was better to switch early season games to road games or to 4 p.m. starts because it was too hot at Sun Life early in the season for 1 p.m. kickoffs. Some Miami fans had told the Dolphins owner that sitting in the stadium in September for those 1 p.m. games was too uncomfortable.

And so Ross requested the changes in 2009-2011. Except he failed to recognize that fans like winning probably more than they dislike sweating. And those early kickoff times had always been and could remain a weather advantage for the Dolphins.

(No better proof of this advantage than this year's regular-season opening win againt New England. The Patriots led 20-10 at halftime. The Dolphins rolled them in the second half in the heat).

It took Ross a few years to figure this truth out and stop fiddling with the 1 p.m.  kickoffs and early-season home games.

Now, he has obviously signed off on giving up a home game ... to a division rival ... named the New York Jets. He couldn't figure out that is not a benefit to his football team?

And that sound you're hearing? People in New York cackling.

Pro Bowl match: Mike Pouncey vs. Ndamukong Suh

The game within the game this week will be played at great heights along the line of scrimmage when the Miami Dolphins visit the Detroit Lions and guard Mike Pouncey faces defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Pro Bowl offensive lineman versus Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

“He’s a really good football player," Pouncey said Wednesday. "He plays really hard. He’s a Pro Bowl football player. We have to go out and play our best against him. He’s going to be the best defender we play against all year."

That is high praise from Pouncey. And Suh will be trying to live up to that billing by playing well, but also playing a lot of snaps.

The Lions, you see, are without tackle Nick Fairley, who is out with a knee injury, and had been without C.J. Mosley, who was sent home from London and suspended for two weeks. Mosley is back with the team.

That left the Lions with only three viable tackles against Atlanta. So Suh played. And played. And played, getting few series off.

“I’m built that way," Suh said. "I’m built to endure long drives. I’m endured to just go out there and play whatever snaps I need to play. I think I’ve, over the years, proven that I can maintain and take care of myself to where I can play whatever game, with whatever consequences or anything that comes across our way."

And Suh is good with that workload. 

"I look at my rookie year and I don’t think I remember coming out of the game, so it is what it is," Suh said. "I don’t really look at it like that. I look at it as an opportunity to go out there and play, have an impact that much more and go from there."

Awesome. So how about we tackle the elephant in the room?

Suh, you see, has this reputation as something of a dirty player. Don't believe me. Let your eyes decide:

 

 

 

Anywho, It is fair to say most of those instances have not happened lately. But they have indeed happened.

So is Pouncey ready to defend himself or his quarterback if Suh get all extracurricular?

“No, we don’t worry about that," Pouncey said. "We are going to go out, play hard. We’re not worried about him playing dirty. We worry about him playing as hard as he can. We have to go out there and match his intensity."

Yeah, I get the feeling Pouncey will be matching intensity bigtime if Suh takes a cheap shot at Ryan Tannehill.

November 05, 2014

Miami Dolphins returning to London in 2015

The Miami Dolphins are going back to London in 2015.

An NFL source has told The Miami Herald the Dolphins have been selected to once again be part of the growing number of games the league is playing at Wembley Stadium in London.

The date of the game and Miami's opponent has not yet been set. A report saying the Dolphins would be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in London next year is not correct. Miami and the Jaguars are scheduled to play next year in Jacksonville but not in London and that game will not be moved.

The Dolphins are 1-1 in London.

In 2007 they lost to the New York Giants and this season they beat the Oakland Raiders.

It should come as no surprise the Dolphins might be making more trips to London. The NFL is hoping to expand the series that has already been widely popular.

The Dolphins are a popular team in the UK.

And as a team hoping to host Super Bowls, the Dolphins may have to accept more trips overseas as part of the priviledge of hosting the league's biggest game in Miami because the NFL has had internal discussions about making that part of the process.

Wednesday injury news here (updated)

Both the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions are getting good injury news today.

The Miami running game can apparently exhale today because running back Lamar Miller is at practice and seemingly not the worse for wear following his AC joint sprain (separated left shoulder) in the San Diego game last weekend.

Miller is working on a limited basis.

He stepped out of several drills including the individual RB drills.

Other Miami players working on a limited basis included Charles Clay (knee), Koa Misi (ankle), Mike Pouncey (hip) and Jimmy Wilson (hamstring).

The Dolphins also got starting left guard Daryn Colledge back after he missed practice all last week and the San Diego game with a migraine and sinus condition and back condition. Colledge was full go in practice today so he should start barring a setback.

The Dolphins don't have tight end Dion Sims back yet. He is out of his walking boot but still not practicing today.

In Detroit, wide receiver Calvin Johnson worked with the team Monday, is practicing today and is apparently healed from his high ankle sprain. Coach Jim Caldwell, speaking to the South Florida media on a conference call, said he "anticipates that" Johnson will play Sunday against the Dolphins.

Johnson practiced full go on Wednesday.

Running back Reggie Bush (ankle) also practiced full go on Wednesday and is on course to play on Sunday.

Miami Dolphins are coming but wait for the arrival

Hey, you. Yeah, you. Stop painting your face aqua and orange for one second. Come over here where the rest of the population lives. This place is called Earth.

Welcome back.

I know you've been flying high over the last few days, enjoying the Miami Dolphins victory over the San Diego Chargers. It was a great win. It was the best game the Dolphins have played in a very long time.

But, um, it was one game.

Repeat that with me: It was one game.

And yes, that victory suggests bigger and better things are coming. I'll give you that. I see bigger and better things on the horizon as well.

But unlike many of you, I've been around here a long time. I've seen things. I know things. And I know that playoff berths aren't nailed down the first week of November. I know that singular games this early don't decide anything other than what happens on one particular day.

I know that winning the November championship is about as meaningful as winning the free agency title and the draft grades award and the training camp championship and the preseason Super Bowl.

And I know that the team I cover has won all those paper tiger honors before and it has resulted in nothing come January.

So pardon me while I ask you to save the champagne celebration for New Year's or the actual accomplishment of something significant -- such as earning a playoff berth -- which would happen around the new year, anyway.

In other words, pardon me if I ask you to calm down and return to reality.

I'm making this request because while the Dolphins seem to have a firm grasp on what they are working on, many fans and media do not.

They Dolphins are not working on celebrating last week or announcing the dawn of a new title era. They're simply working on adding another win Sunday to follow the ones they've had the past few weeks.

“The one thing about this team that I’m seeing, they know that it’s one week at a time," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Tuesday, speaking for the team as coach Joe Philbin was away at his father's funeral. "We had a good win, we were happy about it. Then we come back in here and Tuesday is back to work."

Interesting that Coyle spoke for about 12 minutes on Tuesday and didn't make reference to the Dolphins winning a championship.

Oh, because they haven't.

(Yes, I know, I sound like a downer. But do you come here to read the truth or fairy tales? If you want fairy tales they are found elsewhere so ...)

Here you get present day reality. And that now is that the Dolphins are playing very well. But the NFL rewards consistency. The NFL requires teams winning on the road to succeed. The NFL requires teams prosper within their division first before the conversation can turn to playoffs and such.

The Dolphins kicked the Chargers in the thunder bolts on Sunday. You know what that meant?

“It’s still a small glimpse," safety Louis Delmas said. "Every win or loss doesn’t seem as good or as bad as it is. We definitely still have a lot of things to improve on. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and hopefully improve for the upcoming games."

Good attitude.

Right attitude.

The truth about the Dolphins is they are seemingly ascending. I believe I wrote that ascent was possible when I wrote Miami has the most stable roster of any team in the AFC East. I wrote that two weeks ago.

But now I see some pundits and national media types, such as the Monday Morning Quarterback, going all breathless on us, saying the Dolphins are suddenly the eighth best team in the NFL -- seven slots ahead of Buffalo, who, you know, has the same record as the Dolphins and beat them in their only meeting so far this year.

Now I get people on twitter asking me sarcastically if I think quarterback Ryan Tannehill is elite, knowing that I don't think he is because, well, through 40 starts he has not been and a great, outstanding, career game against the Chargers doesn't change that.

Elite?

Brady.

Manning (you know which one).

Brees.

Rodgers.

Not because they're good the last few weeks. But because they've been good this year and for a long time before that. One good game or even a string of three or four good games doesn't make anyone elite. Otherwise Bryan Hoyer would be elite. Matt Cassel would be elite. Josh McCown would be elite.

So stop with the elite talk. Please.

I read how Bucky Brooks over at NFL.com is saying the Patriots might not be the best team in the AFC East right now. Well, they are and anyone with eyes sees they are, based on their record and what they've been doing the past month and have done in past years.

Bucky makes the point the Dolphins are better.

Mando makes the point we would be smart to actually pass them in the standings or even get out of third place before we start pounding chests. Haven't you, as Dolphins fans learned the meaning of premature pronouncements before to understand this is the best course?

Look, I covered this team when it had the best record in the NFL at 9-2 in 1993. They didn't win another game that season, finishing 9-7.

I covered this team when SI picked them to go to the Super Bowl in 2006. They went 6-10 and the coach quit to go back to college.

I covered this team when they were 8-6 and all it had to do to make the playoffs was win one of two games against teams with losing records and nothing to play for. And then the Dolphins lost both those games. That was last year. Remember last year?

What I'm saying is hold off on the preening. Let the team prove itself. Don't get ahead of yourselves.

Wise people consider a thing and soak it in once it is fact. Fanboy fools jump on bandwagons, make bold pronouncements and then feel cheated if their team doesn't perform exactly as they predicted.

Be wise, friends.

November 04, 2014

PFF and Salguero review of Miami Dolphins victory over San Diego

You know this is going to be good because how else does a team get graded when it blows out the opponent 37-0 as the Miami Dolphins blew out the San Diego Chargers Sunday?

But as my friends at ProFootballFocus.com grade the good and the bad every week while I add my share of insight, this week you get a dose of what went right with the Dolphins.

The weekly film review:

Offensive Summary

It was a blowout, but still monitoring the snaps at the No. 2 wide receiver position reveals Jarvis Landry is still the man while Brandon Gibson is successfully fighting off a freefall. Landry had 56 snaps, Brandon Gibson had 37 snaps, and Rishard Matthews had 22 snaps.

With Lamar Miller banged up, with a separated shoulder, Daniel Thomas saw 22 snaps and Damien Williams saw 18 snaps in relief. The Dolphins obviously go with a committee led by Thomas if Miller's shoulder injury lingers.

With the blowout, Shelley Smith, Nate Garner, Matt Moore (each with 17 snaps) all saw some time on the field as Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey, and Ryan Tannehill were able to get a view of the action from the sideline.

Passing

Ryan Tannehill had a fine day and posted a career high in quarterback rating but was still 0-for-3 on passes of 20-plus yards. He was, however, 7-for-9 on the intermediate 10-19-yard throws for 143 yards and two of his three TD passes.

Tannehill was very strong in all facets Sunday, but when the Chargers did not send the blitz, he went 15-for-19 with 202 yards and a TD.

Tannehill wasn't afraid to target San Diego's top corner, Brandon Flowers. He completed 5 of 8 targeted passes against Flowers to three different receivers for 61 yards and a TD.

Mike Wallace had one pass off an end around. It was a deep throw. It fell out of bounds. Wallace proved Tannehill is not the only one on the team with deep ball accuracy issues.

Rushing

Lamar Miller's best runs came up the middle and behind right guard Mike Pouncey, totaling 49 yards on 7 carries in that direction. His four stretch runs to the left yielded 0 yards. Miller also broke three more tackles as that continues to be an area of growth for him.

Neither Daniel Thomas nor Damien Williams did much to impress on the ground, but Williams broke three tackles while Thomas did not break any.

Receiving

TE Charles Clay was matched up with ILB Donald Butler on his TD catch. Butler, by the way, is under heavy scrutiny in San Diego. Think Phillip Wheeler or Dannell Ellerbe scrutiny.

He catches plenty of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, but all 46 of Jarvis Landry's yards came after the catch.

Defensive Summary

With the return of Jimmy Wilson, Michael Thomas (16 snaps) nor Jamar Taylor (9 snaps) saw much time on the field until garbage time. Thomas is done for the season with a chest injury. The Dolphins are signing Jordan Kovacs to replace him. Don't expect Kovacs to get the kind of playing time Thomas got. Kovacs will be a special teams player primarily.

The All-22 checks have to be made, but Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon, Brent Grimes, and Reshad Jones all received grades of +2.5 or greater.

The defensive line rotation was stretched due to the blowout, but here's how some of the “non-starter” snaps shook out: Terrence Fede  got 12 snaps, Earl Mitchell got 24 snaps, Derrick Shelby got 22 snaps, Dion Jordan got 22 snaps. For the starters, Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick saw 32 snaps, Olivier Vernon had 35, and Starks had 23 snaps.

Coverage

Cortland Finnegan allowed all four catches for 60 yards to Malcom Floyd, and another catch for 15 yards to Keenan Allen. Finnegan consistently gives up catches and yards. But he hasn't let anyone get behind him and he occassionally turns in a big play -- such as the fumble return TD against Oakland -- so that is the reason he's considered a good performer in Miami.

Opponents' passing

Rivers got into trouble when the Dolphins were able to pressure him off his spot. During his 11 pressured drop-backs, he went 3-for-8 for 34 yards and an INT, also getting sacked three times.

The key for the Dolphins was getting pressure with the four-man front. When they did not blitz, Rivers was a pedestrian 9-for-17 with 104 yards, and all three INTs.

November 03, 2014

Lamar Miller is day to day

The MRI results are back for Lamar Miller.

They reveal he has an AC joint sprain. He is day to day.

An AC joint sprain is also more commonly known as a shoulder separation.

An AC joint sprain is a relatively common sporting injury affecting the shoulder and is characterized by tearing of the connective tissue and ligaments of the Acromio-Clavicular joint.

The AC joint is responsible for connecting the shoulder blade with the clavicle and allows for some shoulder movement. During certain activities, stretching forces are placed on the AC joint. When these forces are excessive and beyond what the AC joint can withstand, tearing of the ligaments and connective tissue of the AC joint may occur. This condition is known as an AC joint sprain.

Miller suffered the injury to his left shoulder in the third quarter of Sunday victory over San Diego. It seems unlikely he will be practicing Tuesday when Miami players return to work.

The bottom line on Miami Dolphins stomping San Diego

A lot can be said of the Miami Dolphinns victory over San Diego on Sunday.

But in my opinion this says all that needs to be said: Read this.

That is all for now.

November 02, 2014

Lamar Miller says he'll be fine

You may exhale now.

Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller is apparently fine. He spent a grand total of perhaps 45 seconds in the team trainer's room after Sunday's game. He left the locker room wearing no sling or any other protection for his left shoulder.

"It was just a stinger but I'm good," Miller said. "I'll be fine once I get treatment."

Miller clearly will need the treatment to keep his grip strength and might miss some parts of practice because he is clearly not 100 percent. He struggled to pull a T-shirt over his head after his shower.

But that is a far cry from the concerns some fans had when they saw or found out Miller was injured in the third quarter of today's game against San Diego. Miller, you see, is Miami's starter and only real big threat at running back.

Miller did not return after he left the game but that was perhaps as much about the team's thorough 37-0 whipping of San Diego as it was the injury.

"I could have come back," Miller said.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins sent Miller for an MRI. That will tell the real story of how serious this is.

Miami Dolphins blow out Chargers, 37-0

The Dolphins have enjoyed some stirring victories this year.

Chicago a few weeks ago.

New England in the regular-season opener.

But this 37-0 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday was perhaps the best of them all.

This was complete as Miami played hard and well on offense and defense from start to finish.

The offense was convincing -- so much so CBS left in the third quarter to continue televising a more competitive match -- in puting up the most points of the season at home. Both teams even benched their starting quarterbacks and other starters with a good 13 minutes to play because, well, it was over.

And the game was emotional on multiple levels.

Joe Philbin, coaching his first game since the death of his father, saw his team play about as well as he's seen under his leadership.

Ryan Tannehill delivered and answered whatever questions were raised last week in the poor performance at Jacksonville. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns. He enjoyed a 125.6 rating. It has his highest career rating in a game. 

And the defense was simply dominant. They intercepted Phillip Rivers three times. They sacked Rivers three times and backup Kellen Clemens once.

The one troubling issue is a left shoulder injury sustained by running back Lamar Miller in the third quarter. He left the game and did not return. I will endeavor to get an update on that as soon as possible.

The Dolphins have won three games in a row and four of five.

Lamar Miller injures shoulder

The Miami Dolphins are rolling the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter. Seriously, with it 37-0 at this point, this game is over.

But the cost has been an injury to starting running back Lamar Miller.

Miller left the game in the third quarter when he injured his left shoulder. Although his official status to return is questionable, it seems unlikely he will play again today.

Miller was with a trainer on the sideline. The trainer asked Miller to raise his arm above his head.

Miller could only raise his left arm perpendicular to the ground.

Miller finished the game with 49 yards on 11 carries. Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams will close out the game.

Live blog: Chargers at Miami Dolphins

Koa Misi will be starting for the Dolphins at middle linebacker today.

Dallas Thomas will be starting at right guard because Daryn Colledge is out, as expected.

The Chargers are making some changes as well. Branden Oliver starts at RB and Kavell Conner starts at inside linebacker for Manti Te'o.

The Dolphins inactives today: Lowell Rose, Chris McCain, Daryn Colledge, Jason Fox, Anthony Johnson, Billy Turner, and Dion Sims.

McCain is out due to a foot injury.

There is a live blog today. Go the community and live the good life:

 

 

Live Blog Miami Dolphins vs. Chargers: Nov. 2, 2014
 

November 01, 2014

Keys to the game: Chargers at Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins embark on a season-defining stretch the next month, with opponents who currently boast a 22-9 record, and the first of those is the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

So do the Dolphins start that tough part of their schedule with a victory?

No idea. They would have a better chance if the Chargers hadn't gotten 10 days off -- they played at Denver Oct. 23 -- I'd say Miami's chances would be better. But that is not the case.

(Hey, no one has said I must predict the outcome of games. I do it for fun, although some of you get nose bleeds if I don't pick your team. So I'm not going to pick this game. Whaddaya think about that?)

Anyway, here are the keys to the game:

When the Chargers pass the football: Phillip Rivers doesn’t always get mentioned in the company of elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees but belongs in the conversation with those players as long as no one is discussing winning a Super Bowl. “He has an extra sense when something bad might be happening,” coach Joe Philbin said. In other words, Rivers has good instincts for the pocket and how to escape bad situations. The Dolphins had success against the Chargers last season, particularly in the red zone, forcing them to kick field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. Perhaps one reason for that is tight end Antonio Gates was battling injuries and was slowed to the point he was contained – four catches for 52 yards and the team’s only score. But Gates is healthier now and playing as well as ever, leading his team with nine TDs. Speaking of a renaissance, nine-year veteran Malcolm Floyd has been San Diego’s best deep threat, averaging 19.6 yards per catch. The Miami secondary has been great in recent weeks, intercepting six passes in four games, including two returned for touchdowns. ADVANTAGE: San Diego.

When the Chargers run the football: The question has been whether Ryan Mathews is ready to return to action. The answer is no. But Donald Brown, out recently with a concussion, will be available. And Miami-born rookie Branden Oliver will likely continue to be a big part of the run game for San Diego because he’s emerged in the absence of both Mathews and Brown. But let’s face it, this team passes to set up the run. This team runs as an afterthought. That’s the biggest difference between these Chargers and the dominant Chargers of the last decade that featured LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime. Those offenses were more complete. The Miami defensive front was gashed last week by the Jaguars as players lost the edge on run plays on multiple occasions. The Dolphins are No. 16 in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 111.1 rushing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the football: Let’s see, Mike Wallace came to the Dolphins to be a dynamic deep threat receiver and is mostly a possession receiver. Brian Hartline has four drops, including two last week, and is on pace for his worst season since 2011 when he wasn’t a fulltime starter. Tight end Charles Clay, feeling good about himself two weeks ago after the Chicago game, was limited to one catch last week at Jacksonville. The Dolphins passing game is not consistent and doesn’t seem to be maximizing its talents. Part of that falls on quarterback Ryan Tannehill who is trying to find consistency and keep it throughout not just multiple games but even within games. All that translates to the 25-ranked pass offense. The Chargers pass defense sounds more ominous with defensive end Dwight Freeney rushing the passer, corners Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett at their posts and safety Jahleel Addae available for service. But Verrett is out and Addae is doubtful. The Chargers better pack their depth for this road trip. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Dolphins run the football: Giving Lamar Miller two carries in the first half of any game is probably not in Miami’s plan, but that’s exactly what happened last week because the Miami offense could not string together any first downs. Will the Dolphins flip the switch on Miller and allow him to be the catalyst for the rest of the offense? That hasn’t happened yet either as he’s averaging 13.5 carries per game, and the Dolphins seem intent on being a passing team. The team is running only 43 percent of the time. The San Diego run defense is vulnerable. It yields 4.5 yards per rush, which is 23rd in the NFL. If only the Dolphins would run the ball more. It makes too much sense. So it probably won’t happen. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: The Chargers have the worst kick return team in the NFL as they are ranked 32nd.  They’re 21st in punting return average. The Chargers cover the kicks better than they return them but they still are not great in punt return coverage, ranking 21st in the NFL. Kicker Nick Novak was 4-for-4 against Jacksonville on Sept. 28 and was named the special teams player of the week. The Dolphins have the AFC special teams player of the month in Jarvis Landry and he continues to be threat on kickoffs. Caleb Sturgis has connected on three consecutive field goals and Brandon Fields has raised his net punting average by two yards the past two weeks. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross interviewed Mike McCoy and Joe Philbin when he was searching for a head coach in 2012 and obviously was more impressed with Philbin’s organizational skills than McCoy’s play-calling and other assets. Was it the right call? Impossible to answer at this point. McCoy’s team did get to the playoffs last year but Philbin’s team beat the Chargers. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Philbin returns after death in his family

Joe Philbin is back with the Dolphins today, no doubt with a heavy heart.

The Dolphins coach who missed practice the past two days returned this morning after his father passed away last night. Paul E. Philbin was 93 years old.

The elder Mr. Philbin is survived by his wife Mary (coach's mom) among others.

Joe Philbin will coach the Dolphins on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. I'm told that was his intent the whole time.

My heartfelt condolences to the Philbin family.

October 31, 2014

A familiar formula for Miami Dolphins to ride to victory

Any Miami Dolphins fan can recite the reasons the Buffalo Bills, for example, have dominated their team in recent games: It's the line of scrimmage.

Simply, against teams with great defensive fronts, the Miami offensive line struggles because the interior of the Dolphins offense has at times been terrible inconsistent. On the other side of the ball, a team with a solid offensive line (such as Buffalo) has been able to overcome if not containt Miami's very good defensive front.

With me so far?

Well, Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, the Dolphins might have the ability to turn that exact script against the San Diego Chargers. It is likely the only hope the Dolphins have of winning that game because, frankly, the Chargers have better skill players on offense than Miami -- starting with quarterback Phillip Rivers.

The way I see it, Rivers is great and tight end Antonio Gates is great but their mark on a game fades if the Dolphins can win at the line of scrimmage. And from the looks of history and circumstances that seems quite possible.

Consider that the Miami defense is ninth in the NFL in sacks with 21. That's good. But it is tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks per game -- averaging three per game. The Dolphins rush the passer very well and that no doubt is one reason the secondary lately has feasted on interceptions (six in the past four games).

Combine that with the fact the Chargers are on their third starting center, having lost their starter and backup for the year, and that third guy -- Rich Orhnberger -- is struggling with back issues.

Combine that with the fact the Chargers lead the NFL with 103 pressures allowed despite sitting 16th in the league in the number of passing plays, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Combine that with the fact the Chargers struggle to run the football -- they only average 3.1 yards per rush and are 30th in rush yards per game at 85.8

And what you see is a developing picture of the Dolphins holding a distinct advantage along the line of scrimmage when their defense is on the field.

Well, what about when the Miami offense is on the field?

To start, the Chargers are not exceptional at rushing the passer. Their 15 sacks is tied for 19th in the NFL. Defensive end Corey Liuget is their sack leader with 2.5 out of the 3-4 set. He's good. But where's production from Dwight Freeney?

The San Diego defense also allows 110.9 rush yards per game. That's 14th which is middle of the pack. Safety Eric Weddle often has to creep into the tackle box to augment the run defense. And that is not a sign of a dominant run defense.

If the Dolphins, which for some curious reason don't run often enough despite having success at it, would decide to stick with the run, the statistics suggest they could have success against San Diego.

So what does this all mean?

This game offers a viable opportunity for the Dolphins to win the game at the line of scrimmage. It has been done to them with success all too painfully in recent history.

Perhaps they can flip the script.

 

 

October 30, 2014

Joe Philbin, others miss Miami Dolphins practice Thursday

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was not at practice Thursday because of what the team termed a "personall family matter."

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who met with the media in Philbin's place, said the entire staff ran practice.

"The way coach Philbin has this machine running, the machine kind of runs itself," Coyle said. "As soon as the horn sounds, practice is moving and its not a hard deal to follow. Coach has done a phenomenal job organizing every practice and every second of every practice. So we just follow his lead and go from there."

Coyle said Philbin would "be back shortly."

Right guard Daryn Colledge, who missed practice on Wednesday with a migraine and sinus infection, missed practice again Thursday. Tight end Dion Sims (toe) was in a walking boot again on Thursday and missed practice. He seems unlikely to play.

The Dolphins have been spending extra time after practice with Evan Wilson and Gerell Robinson, who were added to the practice squad earlier this week. It is possible Wilson or Robinson will be promoted to the regular roster to fill the void if Sims cannot play, as expected.

October 29, 2014

Colledge battling migraine and sinus infection

Miami Dolphins guard Daryn Colledge is listed as missing practice Wednesday due to an illness.

According to a Dolphins source he still has the migraine that bothered him during Sunday's game at Jacksonville. And he also has a sinus infection.

If Colledge cannot start at left guard against San Diego on Sunday, Dallas Thomas is the most likely candidate to replace him.

TE Dion Sims has a toe injury and also didn't practice. He was wearing a walking boot.

Charles Clay (knee), Nate Garner (neck), Chris McCain (foot), Koa Misi (ankle), Mike Pouncey (hip), Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) all were limited in practice on Wednesday.

John Denney (knee) and Cortland Finnegan (neck) practiced full despite their ailments.

Miami Dolphins secondary has been excellent but is about to be seriously tested

The Miami Dolphins secondary is on fire.

Last Sunday it had two interceptions of Blake Bortles, by Brent Grimes and Louis Delmas, and both returned their picks for touchdowns. (That's very good for the Dolphins). Delmas also had a recovery of a Bortles fumble.

Two weeks ago, the secondary had an interception against Jay Cutler, this one by Reshad Jones, and that pick gave the offense the ball at the Chicago 23 yard line and also eventually led to a touchdown. Cortland Finnegan also caused a fumble in that game.

On Sept. 28 against Oakland, the Dolphins secondary collected an interception by Grimes, which led to a Dolphins field goal, and Finnegan recovered a fumble and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. Oh, yes, Jimmy Wilson and Walt Aikens also had an interception each in that game.

So to recap the past four games, the Miami secondary has six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns and two others that resulted in 10 points, collected two fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown, and forced another fumble.

Three of the four members in the starting secondary -- Grimes, Finnegan and Delmas -- have scored and Jones had a turnover that led to a score.

Great work by them. Fine job by DB coach Lou Anarumo and his assistant Blue Adams.

So this unit is doing work, no?

“Most definitely," Jones said Tuesday. "We’ve got some veteran guys on the outside. I think we have some of the best corners in the league. Me and Lou [Delmas], I think we’re doing a good job. We’ve got the ball rolling in the right direction. We’ve just got to keep it going."

Ah, there's the issue.

It's an issue because while the Miami secondary has been a turnover-producing machine and has rivaled the offense in points production, it has done much of its work against some lesser quarterbacks.

The two interceptions in Jacksonville came against a rookie quarterback. The interception against Oakland was against a rookie quarterback. The fumble return against Oakland happened on a bad exchange between the center and the rookie quarterback's backup, Matt McGloin.

Jay Cutler? He's been a good quarterback. He's a veteran. His numbers are solid. But everyone understands there are questions about him of late.

The one game the Miami secondary hasn't really produced big plays in the past month was against Green Bay. And one supposes that's because QB Aaron Rodgers is elite. So it's understandable.

But the problem is the Dolphins and that ball-hawking, turnover-producing, points-scoring secondary are about to embark on a series of games against top-tier, indeed, elite quarterbacks.

No more rookies (Bortles and Derek Carr). No more backups sent in the game to clean up (Matt McGloin). No more QBs that are being looked at sideways in their own locker room (Cutler).

The next three of four games the Dolphins meet quarterbacks that boast QB ratings over 100.

The next three of four games the Dolphins meet quarterbacks with TD to INT ratios of 3-to-1 or better.

The next two of four games the Dolphins meet quarterbacks who have already thrown 20 TD passes or more and still have at least half a season ahead of them to chase more scores.

In the next four games the Dolphins meet Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Kyle Orton and Peyton Manning. (Wait, Orton is that Sesame Street quarterback that does not belong with the others, right? Well, only if you dismiss his 104 QB rating and 9 TD and 3 INT work since taking over the starting job in Buffalo.)

In other words, things are about to get real for the Miami secondary starting with Rivers on Sunday. He of the bolo tie has 20 TDs and 5 INTs so far with a 109.9 rating, which is third-best in the NFL. That means he's having a very good season.

“Everybody knows Philip Rivers has been a great quarterback in this league for a long time," Grimes said. "He gets rid of the ball quick. He stands and looks pressure in the face and still makes accurate throws. He has a great arm. You can go on and on about him.

"You’ve just go to make it tough, just like anybody else in this league. There are a lot of great quarterbacks and, if you give them easy things, you’re going to make them look even better. We’ve just got to try and challenge him all game and make things not easy for him."

Finnegan echoed his fellow cornerback...

“He’s playing at a high level, at an MVP level," Finnegan said. "He’s got 20 touchdowns. He’s got receivers. He’s got a tight end. He’s got a running game. You’ve got to be on point. You can’t give him anything easy, make them earn everything. You’re hopeful at the end of the day that’s enough, but we’ll see.

"It’s a tough task."

That's the way it is going to be for the Miami secondary the next four games. They've faced some inexperienced quarterbacks the last few weeks. They face some elite guys, particularly Rivers and Manning, the next few weeks. 

Oh, I forgot to mention: Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson said Tuesday he'll be ready to play after nursing a bum ankle the past month when the Lions return from their bye ... against the Dolphins.

October 28, 2014

Tuesday tape review from PFF and Salguero

If it's Tuesday (and it is) then it is time to review the tape of the Dolphins most recent game -- a 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

My friends at ProFootballFocus.com and I give you some insight on what happened in the game every Tuesday.

Here's this week's edition:

Offensive Summary

With Brandon Gibson active, Jarvis Landry’s snap total took a slight dip. Landry played 32-of-61 plays, Gibson handled 28 plays, and Rishard Matthews took 18 snaps.

Nate Garner was injured on his first snap subbing for Daryn Colledge, but came back and handled 16 total snaps when Mike Pouncey missed the final 15 snaps, kicking Dallas Thomas from left guard to right guard. Pouncey was fine. He was being rested, according to the Dolphins after feeling a twinge in his surgically repaired hip.

Grades aren’t final yet, but Daryn Colledge earned a -4.2 in only 10 snaps. Not good. It will interesting to see if Colledge says he had the migraine before the game and tried to play through it? Or started having the migraine during the game and it affected his performance? Or maybe he just played poorly?

Passing

QB Ryan Tannehill took three sacks when under pressure, but also performed well when he was able to get off a pass in those circumstances, finishing 4-for-8 for 104 yards when pressured. The majority of that yardage came on the plays to Mike Wallace and Dion Sims.

The Dolphins actually looked deep more too, with Tannehill finishing 2-of-5 on passes traveling 20+ yards for 88 yards. It was the intermediate passing game which lacked consistency, with just one completion on four attempts between 10-to-19 yards.

Rushing

Four more missed tackles and 46 more yards after contact for Lamar Miller, as he’s starting to show he’s more than just a one-cut, straight-ahead runner. Unfortunately, the Dolphins don't really use him enough, it seems.

Daniel Thomas continues to perform well on his limited opportunities as 16 of his 18 yards on the ground came after contact.

Receiving

WR Brian Hartline recorded two more drops, bringing his 2014 total to 4 dropped passes. Despite Hartline's rough patch, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor says he is confident the receiver will get his problems solved.

“I think Brian is a guy that is used to having a lot of production and he wants to contribute," Lazor said. "He has confidence in himself and his ability to contribute and I have confidence in him. It’s a long season, so sometimes you go through little waves, up and down. If he’s frustrated with certain things right now, I have pretty good confidence that he’ll be able to channel that into being more productive. I think people around here have known Brian long enough. I don’t know if we have a harder worker on the field, at least in my history of football that’s the most important thing that will translate into production. I think it will show up.”

Lamar Miller caught all three of his targets, even picking up 15 of his 21 yards after the catch; another area of improvement for the third-year back.

Defensive Summary

OLB Jelani Jenkins played nearly a full complement of snaps (67-of-72), but the Dolphins shuttled in LBs with each of the following picking up snaps in the nickel or base at some point: Jason Trusnik (54 snaps), Philip Wheeler (14 snaps), Kelvin Sheppard (17 snaps), Jonathan Freeny (7 snaps). Freeny was productive with a sack. Sheppard has a penalty called on him.

Similar to last week, Michael Thomas and Jamar Taylor split nickel corner duties with Jimmy Wilson still out due to his hamstring injury. Thomas played inside (with Cortland Finnegan at CB) and Taylor played outside (with Finnegan moving to nickel) for those plays. Taylor had more snaps than Thomas, 34-23.

DE Dion Jordan was immediately thrown back into the fire, playing 28 snaps and picking up a hurry and a couple tackles. He was also used on special teams.

Coverage

Jamar Taylor’s on the hook for the coverage bust on Allen Robinson’s TD, but had been attacked by Bortles prior to that. In all, he allowed 6 catches on 9 targets for 84 yards and that TD. Yikes!

Taylor has passed Will Davis, who played in nickel situations the first four games of the season. Coaches think Davis would be worse than Taylor?

Opponents’ passing

Bortles was a disaster when under pressure, going 1-for-9, taking four sacks, tossing two interceptions, and scrambling into a lost fumble.

Bortles also struggled on throws 10-plus yards down the field, completing just 5-of-14 passes for over 111 yards (48 coming on the garbage-time TD), and the two picks.