Mike Pouncey and Reshad Jones are missing practice for the Dolphins today -- one for injury reasons, the other for reasons unknown.
Jones was working off to the side with trainers trying to get a tweaked leg muscle issue rehabilitated. The injury report that will be released later will specify whether Jones has a calf, groin, hamstring, quad, whatever. Bottom line with him, however, is he will start against the New England Patriots on Sunday, according to a source close to the player.
Pouncey is not injured. But he was absent from practice today.
It is not sure if the absence had to do with his lingering legal issue in having to testify before a grand jury in connection with the Aaron Hernandez case. Pouncey was subpeonaed the last time the Dolphins played the Patriorts.
It is also possible Pouncey, who missed two games with a gall bladder issue that started out as food poisoning, had to have attention for this issue.
The Herald is working on getting clarity.
[Update: The reason Pouncey was absent from practice today is he was testifying before a Grand Jury relative to the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation.]
The Dolphins will not explain the reason for Pouncey's absence in the coming press conferences.
In Pouncey's absence, Nate Garner worked at center while Sam Brenner took the first-team snaps at left guard.
It's all about football for the Dolphins these days.
As I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are focused on the New England Patriots and getting to the playoffs and little else. Yes, there is a troubling history with New England the Dolphins must overcome. But that's all about football.
The spectre of scandal and possible firings or suspensions stemming from the NFL investigation that dominated the headlines last month has faded.
The most obvious evidence the investigation has faded was an ESPN report Tuesday afternooon that said NFL investigator Ted Wells canceled his follow-up interviews with the Dolphins. The report also said the investigation may not be completed before the end of the year.
I have other news:
This investigation, completed or not, may not be released until after the Super Bowl.
Think of it, the last thing the NFL wants the final month of the season is the narrative to turn away from football and toward an uncomfortable scandal. It's unfair to the Dolphins, who are in the middle of a playoff hunt, and the league that is enjoying perhaps its most popular time of the year as fans, the media and teams gear up for the postseason.
So do the investigation findings come out now? No.
Well, how about right after the regular-season? Well, if the Dolphins are in the postseason -- which is a possibility if they win out the final three weeks starting with New England on Sunday -- that would pose a major distraction amid playoff preparations. So the findings aren't coming out then.
Indeed, even if the Dolphins are not in the playoffs the last thing the NFL wants is for the national narrative to turn away from the postseason and the league's best teams to focus on something that happened in an isolated incident or series of incidents between two players on a non-playoff qualifier months and months ago.
No, the NFL is going to make sure the integrity of its postseason is not damaged. And the postseason, as we all know, does not end until after the Super Bowl.
And that's when the league would most likely release the investigation's results.
That, of course, leaves some unresolved issues.
So let us resolve them.
I reported last month that Richie Incognito would not play for the Dolphins again once he was placed on suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. That report stands. Incognito's days in Miami are over.
There has been speculation that the Dolphins and Incognito's representatives came to an agreement that would bring the deposed guard back to the team. False. There was an agreement but that was one where the Dolphins agreed to pay Incognito in exchange for him not challenging the suspension via a grievance. Indeed, the agreement actually extended the suspension.
So Incognito basically agreed to sit out and be paid.
It has further been reported Incognito's suspension must end next week. I predict Incognito's suspension will definitively not end next week. I believe his camp will or has already agreed to extend the suspension through the end of the season.
Yes, he will be paid. But the suspension will continue.
The reason this is the course that must be taken is that neither the NFL (which is driving this entire situation) nor the Dolphins want to be placed in a position to make a roster decision or any type of decision on the player before the report's findings are released.
The Dolphins certainly don't want to spend at least one day next week distracted from their preparations for Buffalo because they're explaining why they cut Incognito and accounting for other Incognito-related issues like the resurfacing of questions about his, ahem, golfing escapades. Plus such a move would spark renewed interest in the whole issue and, remember, the NFL doesn't want that.
So Incognito will agree to simply remain suspended. No roster move. No headlines. No controversy. Just ... silence -- like the last few weeks.
Why, you ask, would Incognito agree to such a course?
Didn't Peter King of NBC and SI report at least one playoff-caliber team would take Incognito if he's cut? Wouldn't Incognito want that?
Yeah, whatever. The NFL doesn't want that. And Incognito is going to agree to do what the NFL wants.
That's simple: It is clear Incognito engaged in some behavior Jonathan Martin perceived as harassment or bullying. Incognito admitted to that voice mail so he's admitted to some harassment. So he is going to be punished for that. Also, bringing unwanted publicity and attention upon his team and the league -- which in of itself is a violaton of the NFL personal conduct policy -- also merits punishment.
So Incognito will agree to remain suspended the final couple of weeks of this season, with pay of course, in return for a guarantee that there will be no further discipline from the NFL beyond this season. He would be free to return to the league next season.
That return, again, would be with another team. He is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Dolphins are not going to re-sign him.
As for Martin, I'm reporting his days with the Dolphins are finished as well. The Miami locker room that was clearly on Incognito's side in this whole affair will not be a suitable place for Martin to make his return. He'll be traded to the highest bidder at some point in the offseason.
Unless I miss my educated guess, that is how this story and scandal that was so explosive for multiple weeks in November will be turned into a much smaller story that captures the headlines for a short time in the offseason.
The Dolphins today added four new members to their Walk of Fame. Linebacker Kim Bokamper, receiver O.J. McDuffie, guard Keith Sims and running back Mercury Morris were added to the place where team alumni, coaches and fans who have made significant contributions are added and honored.
And in accepting the honor, Mercury Morris went all Mercury Morris on several subjects.
In the video below, he takes on Jamal Charles, Al Michaels and does an impression of Jim Brown:
Newsy afternoon today at Dolphins camp where the team has placed cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and R.J. Stanford (broken leg) on the injured reserve list.
For Patterson, this decision marks the end of a tough battle to regain his healthy after he injured the groin in the season-opener. He was able to play in only six games and started only four of those following the injury. He did suffer multiple setbacks during his attempt to recover.
The Dolphins today announced the signing of free agent cornerback Justin Rogers, a three-year veteran, and the poaching of Michael Thomas off the San Francisco 49ers practice squad.
The team is practicing today and running back Lamar Miller, who left Sunday's game with concussion like symptoms and did not return, is on the field.
Although it is impossible to say how much Miller will work and the Dolphins won't say, I can tell you he would not be on the field at all unless he had passed a concussion protocol test.
A source close to Miller tells me he doesn't think the running back's symptoms were too serious. So it makes sense that, barring a setback, Miller should be available for Sunday's game against New England.
Finally, the Dolphins added four new members to their relative new Walk of Fame. The third class inducted into the Walk of Fame consists of WR O.J. McDuffie, RB Mercury Morris, DE Kim Bokamper, and OL Keith Sims.
Yesterday was perhaps the longest travel day of my career. (Using Chicago's O'Hare as a connection hub in December and counting on Farm Mule Airlines American Eagle as the connector is a bad idea, folks). I was, however, home by midnight.
Anyway, the folks at ProFootballFocus.com got the film review of the Dolphins stirring victory over Pittsburgh to me early this week. And I'll add insight where I can as usual.
Here we go:
First let me say that in Mike Wallace's first game against his former team there was lots of pregame hugs and cheer. And the Pittsburgh defense paid much attention to Wallace. While he caught only two passes for 19 yards, he affected the game.
Take, for example, the six-yard TD from Ryan Tannehill to Charles Clay in the second quarter. Clay was all alone in the right corner of the end zone. Know why?
Wallace, who had lined up on the right side as usual, ran an in-cut and not only was he doubled but actually and without exageration five Steelers defenders -- FIVE -- zoned him up in the middle of the field to keep him contained.
That left Clay uncovered for the easy throw by Tannehill.
Obviously it was a defensive bust. But it spoke to the unseen (in the statistics) effect Wallace can have on a defense.
RB Lamar Miller outsnapped Daniel Thomas 20-10 before leaving. Thomas played all but one snap after Miller left with a concussion.
Nate Garner started, but played just 16 snaps. Sam Brenner played 48 snaps at left guard.
Salguero: It seems Brenner is mounting something of a push for the starting job outright. He has been something of an epiphany this season -- a rookie undrafted free agent -- making the suspension of Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito seem of no effect.
Despite seeing just two targets, Rishard Matthews played 43 snaps. The Dolphins still prefer their 11 personnel above anything else.
It was another short passing day for Ryan Tannehill. On passes over 10 yards, he was 3-for-8, while on all other passes, he was 17-for-25.
Tannehill didn’t handle pressure very well, going just 1-of-8 and getting sacked twice when either blitzed or under pressure.
Daniel Thomas performed well, but the Steelers’ defense weren’t really touching him. Just 29 of 105 yards came after contact.
When Brian Hartline moved into the slot and worked on slot corner William Gay, he caught all 3 of his targets for 32 yards.
Clay caught passes against Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, Cortez Allen, Ike Taylor, and Will Allen. He also had that wide open TD.
Dmitri Patterson returned from his groin injury to play 12 snaps. Nolan Carroll started but did get a couple of series off in the first half.
Phillip Wheeler had his fifth game with a grade of -3.0 or worse this season.
Cameron Wake continued his run of good play now that he’s fully healthy. He tallied, four hurries, a hit, and one sack.
The Dolphins did not exclusively use Brent Grimes to shadow Antonio Brown. However, Grimes still excelled in the matchup, allowing two catches for 18 yards on four targets.
Jared Odrick peeled off the line of scrimmage and was in coverage on Jerricho Cotchery’s TD catch.
Salguero: Interesting zone blitz idea but not a good matchup in coverage.
Finally a bit of news: The Dolphins are signing safety Michael Thomas to the roster today. They lost R.J. Stanford for the rest of the season to an ankle injury on Sunday. Thomas was on the 49ers practice squad and is a rookie from Stanford.
It has been long speculated around league circles that Ireland could be something of a scapegoat after this season if the Dolphins didn't reach certain heights -- most likely making the playoffs -- or if the continuing NFL investigation finds some sort of lack of institutional control within the organization that led to Richie Incognito to somehow harass Jonathan Martin.
That speculation was fed the evening of November 11 when Ross spoke in glowing terms about coach Joe Philbin but did not mention Ireland other than to say he would be on one of his committees.
It was as if Ross was supporting his head coach while throwing his GM under the bus.
But I'm told Ross and Ireland have discussed the GM's status and the speculation is not accurate -- at least not right now. Obviously, there are three games remaining in the regular season and the Dolphins are neither in the playoffs nor out of the playoff hunt so no final declarations or assertions of fact can be made on the matter.
But for now, that which is being widely assumed -- that Ireland is a goner after the season -- is not correct.
And you know what?
Right now, keeping Ireland would seem to be the right call. Indeed, keeping the current administration -- personnel dept., coaching staff -- as status quo seems right based on the results the team is getting.
That's not how I felt back when the Dolphins lost to winless Tampa Bay and the NFL investigation was in its infancy. At that point it seemed as if the Dolphins were a mess internally and Ross needed to clean house.
Even the offensive line that seemed to be a mess doesn't look so bad now. (The Dolphins averaged 7.5 yards per carry against Pittsbugh).
That all requires credit given to the players and coaches that previously came under earned criticism. Fair is fair. Tyson Clabo was a turnstile to the quarterback early in the season. He's been good the past month. Offensive line coach Jim Turner, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, and yes, head coach Joe Philbin, made mistakes and were criticized earlier this seaosn.
Lately, they've made corrections, corrected course even as they remained convinced what they've been doing is right, and it has worked.
This team's course has changed. And that must be noted and accepted as fact now.
Obviously, the season is not over. And if this NFL season has proven anything it's to expect the unexpected. So no one knows whether the Dolphins will continue their current hot streak and perhaps finish the season 10-6. No one knows if the Dolphins might also collapse and finish 7-9.
The point is to draw conclusions on what will happen based on what we know today is unwise. To say the offense or defense is this or that based on what we saw early in the season is unwise.
The wise thing, I believe, is to see what actually happens before we make proclamations about the 2013 Dolphins. Let's see what happens first. Let's watch the next three weeks and judge afterward.
They not only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-28, but so many other things happened that affect this season that we need a list:
The Ravens lost to Minnesota. The Ravens beat the Vikings after the teams traded four TDs in 82 seconds. That means the Dolphins still trail for the sixth and final playoff qualifier for the AFC playoffs. The Ravens remain ahead of the Dolphins in the playoff chase despite having the same 7-6 record because Baltimore beat Miami.
This game was meaningful for other reasons:
The Dolphins had not scored more than 27 points this season. They did that.
The Dolphins had not scored an offensive touchdown in eight consecutive games. They did that.
Daniel Thomas, playing the entire second half because backfield mate Lamar Miller was knocked out of the game with a concussion, had a 55-yard run that. He rushed for 105 yards on 16 carries.
Charles Clay caught seven passes for 97 yards. He caught two touchdown passes, including the winning score.
The Dolphins rushed 24 times for 181 yards and and an 8.6 average.
This week's game at the Steelers and next week's hosting of the New England Patriots will likely be the last time the Dolphins are underdogs this season. In other words, they should beat the Jets and Bills but the next two games will be the difference between a .500 record or something better.
At least that's what the odds will say.
What do the matchups say?
Consider Sunday's match versus Pittsburgh:
When the Dolphins pass the football: Ryan Tannehill is on something of a roll (predicted by Salguero) with back-to-back 300-yard games. Tannehill must realize this game is an emotional one for receiver Mike Wallace, who played four seasons in Pittsburgh, so he must find his deep threat early in the game in order to establish him and keep him focused. Wallace doesn’t play well when he’s not involved early. The Steelers will likely shadow Wallace with cornerback Ike Taylor, their best coverage man. The Steelers this week have said they will try to take away tight end Charles Clay from the Miami offense and that makes sense because Clay has become a comfortable outlet for Tannehill when he’s pressured. Clay has come up with career best in catches (53) receiving yards (581) and TDs (4). The Steelers have not been able to manufacture a lot of pass pressure this season as Lamar Woodley has been injured much of the season. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.
When the Dolphins run the football: Last week was a confidence builder for the Dolphins because they ran the ball effectively and often against the New York Jets, who are the NFL’s best run defense statistically. Well, why not dial up the same formula this week against a mediocre (ranked 18th in the NFL) Pittsburgh run defense? Lamar Miller seems comfortable with getting more carries in the absence of Daniel Thomas. And while Marcus Thigpen and Mike Gillislee didn’t exactly impress as change-of-pace backs last week, they also held onto the ball, which is important in wintry climes. Right guard John Jerry’s status came into focus on Friday when he was listed as probable for the game. He will start at right guard. Rookie Sam Brenner will continue to serve as the backup at both left and right guard. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.
When the Steelers run the football: Le’Veon Bell totaled 136 yards from scrimmage last week against Baltimore (73 rushing, 63 receiving) and the Steelers want to build off that performance by continuing to feed the rookie. The lack of chemistry due to injuries and lineup changes along the offense front has hampered Pittsburgh’s run game this season. Indeed, it’s been a long time since the Steelers were a classic running team. The Dolphins continue to look up at much of the league in the run defense rankings. They’re 25th in the NFL in the category, but they are coming off a solid performance in which the Jets managed only 99 rushing yards. Of course, the Jets averaged 4.5 yards per carry but they had to abandon the run because the Dolphins had such a wide lead. Running the football and stopping the run is not what either of these two teams do best. ADVANTAGE: Even.
When the Steelers pass the football: Ben Roethlisberger is elite. He can carry a team for a period of time and that’s exactly what he did in the month of November when his great play lifted the Steelers to a 3-1 record for the month. Roethlisberger extends plays with his size, scrambling and movement in the pocket and that means defensive backs must hold their coverage longer. When the Steelers throw, Antonio Brown is the deep threat and the team’s best weapon with 85 catches for 1,103 yards. But in the red zone, Roethlisberger looks for tight end Heath Miller and slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who has a career-best eight TD receptions this year. The Steelers offensive line is a mess with injuries at tackle, suggesting the Dolphins can get pressure on Roethlisberger. ADVANTAGE: Pittsburgh.
Special teams: One can safely assume Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin won’t be on the white part of the sideline this week after being fined $100,000 for being on the field and the white against Baltimore last week. Word of advice to Dolphins returner Marcus Thigpen if Tomlin strays again: Run into him. It would likely lead to the awarding of a touchdown. The Steelers seem slow on their punt and kick coverage teams. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Coaching: Despite his faux pas last week at Baltimore, Tomlin is a quality coach and a proven motivator. His defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, is doing good work at hiding the weaknesses in his aging, slow defense. The problem in Pittsburgh is the uncertain chemistry between Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The Miami coaching staff got the better of the Jets last week simply by avoiding mistakes such as abandoning the run (Mike Sherman did not) and daring the Jets to do something on offense they cannot do, which is throw the football. So the staff is on something of a streak. Sort of. From a motivational standpoint, however, Tomlin has few equals. ADVANTAGE: Pittsburgh.
Dolphins guard John Jerry has passed the NFL's baseline concussion testing protocol and is expected to start at his usual right guard spot against the Steelers Sunday.
Jerry practiced in full during Friday's practice and is listed as probable.
The news is not quite so good for rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor, who is listed as out with a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss last week's game. This will mark the seventh game Taylor misses due to injury this season.
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) are questionable. They both practiced on a limited basis on Frday.
For the Steelers, they had already said defensive end Brett Keisel would miss the game due a foot injury.
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is listed as doubtful due to a knee injury. He was limited in practice on Friday. DT Steve McLendon (ankle) is listed as questionable and he was also limited in practice on Friday.
OLB LaMarr Woodley, who has missed the past couple of games for Pittsburgh with a calf injury, has practiced full the past two days and is listed as probable.
The Dolphins are off today. But you don't get a day off here on this blog.
Here are some random notes from the week so far:
The weather for Pittsburgh on Saturday says snow flurries are possible and that is interesting only in that Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has never played in snow before.
“If it’s snowing I’ve heard it’s not too bad," Tannehill said. "It’s actually nice to play in from the guys just in the locker room talking. Matt (Moore) played in the snow a few times I think and he said it’s nice, it doesn’t affect the ball and just going out and playing."
The problem for quarterbacks is rarely the snow. The problem is the wind and the freezing rain. Those affect flight and handling of the football.
"Well we practiced wet ball drill today so it’s something that we’re prepared for, if it comes to that," Tannehill said on Wednesday. "Obviously, if you have ideal conditions and you don’t want it to be sleeting. It’s football, its December football in Pittsburgh and we have to be prepared for whatever comes at us."
Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace is going to be the focus of attention on Sunday. He's obviously returning to play his former Pittsbrugh teammates. And while he has no regrets about his business decision to move on to Miami in free agency, Wallace still lets signs of his nostalgia peek through when he talks.
Asked this week if he misses Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Wallace said, "“Definitely. That’s my guy; it’s not really even about that it's more so just friends. That’s like my big brother. So anytime you play with a guy like that you are automatically going to miss him, but things they happen for a reason. You just take it and roll with it."
Asked about Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, Wallace said, "That’s my guy, I’ve got a lot of love for Coach Tomlin. He’s one of the best coaches I ever played for in my life. Not just as a coach, but as a person and a motivator. He’s one of the greatest I’ve ever played with, I’m definitely going to have a couple words for him but it’s not just going to be about that. That’s just an incident that happened on the field, the Soul Train picture was kind of funny though."
Wallace is having dinner Saturday night with some of his former Pittsburgh teammates including Antonio Brown. Wallace said he'd pay.
Brown is Wallace's guy, too.
The Dolphins had three players who did not practice on Wednesday -- John Jerry (concussion), Jamar Taylor (hamstring) and Daniel Thomas (ankle). Of those only Jerry has the best chance to play on Sunday.
The Dolphins will give Jerry a baseline concussion protocol test Friday to see if Jerry can be cleared of his concussion symptoms. If he passes, he'll be cleared for practice and would be on his way to playing Sunday. If he cannot pass, Jerry will have to sit. If Jerry sits look for the team to turn to rookie Sam Brenner to fill the spot.
Brenner started at left guard when Nate Garner had to move to center to fill in for Mike Pouncey.
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was limited in practice on Wednesday but his is a frustrating situation because the team needs him, the team wants him to practice to prepare for games, but the team needs to limit him as well so he doesn't suffer yet another setback on the groin injury that has plagued him this year. I've counted a minimum of two setbacks this season with that injury.
"You have to figure out, you have to have faith that a player is ready, you have to get players ready to play a game," coach Joe Philbin said. "At the same time gauge their physical preparation for the game but also their mental preparation it’s all kind of tied together. I don’t know if there’s a magic formula to it, I think you just have to take it on a case by case basis."
Ultimately, Philbin said, the decision to play Patterson or not comes down to what's in the best interest of the team.
With Taylor so far not practicing this week because of his hamstring injury, the Dolphins certainly could use Patterson being able to contribute.
Patterson this year has been able to play in only five games.
Ryan Tannehill has trouble connecting with his receivers on deep passes.
But hitting the broad side of an eight-point buck from 30 yards?
Dropping a basketball into first floor bucket from the second floor of DICK'S Sporting Goods store?
Firing a frisbee into a net while riding a bicycle?
Tannehill and the guys from Dude Perfect are going all trick shot artists in the DICK'S Sporting Goods store make you want to shop in the place or online for the available gear.
Will doing so make you a trick shot artist like it does Tannehill? Doubt it. But wouldn't you settle for one 59-yard connection from Tannehill to a streaking Mike Wallace that lands right in the receiver's hands in stride against Pittsburgh?
Obviously, the video is in fun. The deep ball issue is not. And here's the thing:
It's probably not going to get better this year because the Dollphins don't feel they have the time or the possibility (due to circumstances) to practice it.
I'm told the Dolphins throw maybe a handful of deep ball passes throughout the week of practice. So maybe five deep ball opportunities in four and sometimes three practices.
OC Mike Sherman knows the only way to get it right is to practice it, but he says he simply cannot spare the extra time and effort it requires physically.
“I think it’s just a matter of repetition," Sherman said. "One thing you have to understand is you can’t just go out there every day in practice and just throw 25 deep balls. You just don’t have the legs to do that during the context of our week or day, or a season. It’s just a matter of having some work together and some familiarity. Mike’s (Wallace) been nursing some tendonitis, so that hasn’t allowed us an opportunity at times during the course of the week even to work on that."
Understand what Sherman just said. Sherman is admitting some weeks the Dolphins don't "work on that."
Wallace also had the groin problems during training camp and that prevented the work as well. But even when he was healthy during camp, the team would go days and days without throwing him a deep ball. I know because those practices were open to the media and I reported the issue here.
This issues reminds me of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.
The grades from tape review are in and the Dolphins predictably looked as good on tape and scored highly in the grade category for this week's ProFootballFocus review as they did on the field.
As always, I offer you PFF's assessment and add my commentary and insight.
Lamar Miller handled 65 of 82 snaps, clearly claiming lead-dog duties with Daniel Thomas sidelined. Miller ran into the Jets’ brick wall when running up the middle, recording 16 yards on 8 totes. On his 14 other carries, running either right or left, he totaled 56 yards.
Salguero: The Dolphins were a right-hand running team this game. Miller, for example, collected 54 of his yards 77 yards running to the right side.
Four of Mike Gillislee’s nine snaps came late in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins were killing the clock.
Dion Sims (45 snaps) and Michael Egnew (27 snaps) played the majority of their snaps in the second half as the Dolphins ran the ball with a lead.
Ryan Tannehill was 0-for-4 on passes 20+ yards down the field, as he did not need to go deep to beat the Jets. He was, however, 7-of-8 on passes that went 10-19 yards.
Salguero: Tannehill missed an open Brian Hartline deep down the left sideline. It would have been a TD. This QB's inability to connect deep is no longer a coincidence. It is a fact we've seen time and again over two seasons now.
Tannehill threw an interception when he was blitzed, but overall, went 8-for-11 for 134 yards when the Jets sent pressure.
Brian Hartline did a lot of his damage against rookie Dee Milliner, catching four of nine targets for 54 yards.
Mike Wallace caught four of five targets for 28 yards when matched up with Antonio Cromartie. His two longest plays, though, came against Dee Milliner (28-yard TD) and Demario Davis (21-yard catch and run).
Salguero: Milliner was benched in the third quarter. This is not the first time he's been benched this season. The No. 9 overall selection for the Jets is not picking the Rex Ryan defense up very well, not tackling well and looking nothing like the player he was at Alabama.
Charles Clay terrorized Demario Davis and Dewan Landry on Sunday, catching six of his seven passes against them for 63 of his 80 yards.
Salguero: You didn't hear much from the Miami offensive line, did you? That's what a good day sounds like. They should be anonymous. When you hear their names, bet that bad things are happening. LT Bryant McKinnie, who had his worst game of the season according to PFF last week, had his second-best day as a Dolphin versus the Jets. Nate Garner and Tyson Clabo also got positive grades. RG John Jerry and C Mike Pouncey got negative overall grades. Pouncey was downgraded mostly because of his run-blocking. But I must say, Pouncey did a masterful job of getting the Dolphins into the right blocking schemes and perhaps PFF doesn't consider that when grading the center.
After playing his most snaps of the season last week, Dion Jordan was back at 19 snaps out of a possible 55 plays. He played sparingly until the final quarter of the game.
Salguero: The Dolphins are going to have to figure something out that makes better use of Jordan going forward. Obviously, it's up to him to beat out either Olivier Vernon or Cameron Wake for more playing time. But he needs the opportunities to make plays because when granted such opportunities, he usually makes an impact.
Will Davis played the first 13 snaps of his NFL career. First, he spelled Nolan Carroll when Carroll left briefly with an injury. Then, he came in during garbage time.
Carroll was the most picked on cornerback for the Dolphins in a game that didn’t see them tested much. Carroll gave up four catches on six targets for 34 yards.
Dannell Ellerbe had one not so good play in coverage; a missed tackle on the 20-yard screen to Bilal Powell. But, he had one good play in coverage; tracking back on Greg Salas and intercepting a Geno Smith pass.
Salguero: The Dolphins had three sacks against the Jets, but that wasn't the entire story of their pressure on the QBs. Miami also had three QB hits and 12 hurries of Geno Smith and Matt Simms.
Salguero: The Dolphins defense did not have a penalty all game.
Last Monday Kevin Coyle was showing regret and taking responsibility for that defensive call before halftime against Carolina that set his defensive backs at the goal line and let Carolina complete a pass and get a field goal.
This week, as is the case usually in the NFL, all things are new again. Coyle's defense gave up only one field. It was the lowest amount of points the team has allowed all year.
Coyle's a genius again. Until next week when the result will determine a new status.
Anyway, Coyle met with the media today. This is what he said:
(On if he anticipated this much production from Olivier Vernon) - “When you watch him in practice, it’s not a surprise to see him having the success that he had because he’s been a demon in the one-on-one pass rush since training camp. He’s a slippery guy, and he’s very powerful for what you might say is an undersized type pass rusher. He’s not a big guy. He’s not an overly tall guy yet plays with great leverage, has great strength and has some wiggle to him. He’s just doing a great job right now. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things with the other guys being good, the pass rushers as well, but he’s certainly stepped up his game. ”
(On what goes through his mind as a defensive coordinator when an opposing team changes quarterback) - “We anticipated that it might occurred in this particular game depending on how the game was going to unfold. There was some talk about that in the media and the newspapers prior to the game. We looked at (Matt) Simms on tape from in the preseason in the limited time that he had in some games in Buffalo and in Cincinnati he played a bit. But we didn’t think it was going to change their scheme dramatically. We just talked about the players, particularly on Saturday morning in our last unit meeting I spent time talking about Simms if he were to come into the game don’t be surprised, that type of thing. Really at halftime I didn’t want to make a prediction he was coming in, but we had talked about it as coaches right when we got together before we went to talk to the players. I said, ‘I got a pretty good hunch that he is either going to come in right now or if things don’t get any better we’ll see him at some point.’ ”
(On how much percentage wise preparation wise was for Geno Smith and Matt Simms) - “We got prepared for the Jets and what the Jets do. It didn’t really matter what quarterback was going to be in the game. It really didn’t.”
(On if Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe are playing better now than they were earlier in the season) - “I do. I think they’ve both given great effort since day one in everything that they’ve done. I think their comfort level in the system in the roles that we’ve asked them to take up you can see it, particularly in Philip in the last couple of weeks. He’s playing with a lot more confidence. He’s a lot more sure of himself and what he is doing out there. He flies around. He had a heck of a game I thought yesterday, Dannell as well. Both of them made impact plays in the game. The interception Dannell made was exceptional there. That was a critical point in the game. It’s a game where you felt geez we’re dominating the game yet one slip (we) could have been losing the game at halftime. Then (Ellerbe) made the pick. We got the field goal right before the end of the half and we moved on from there. I think both of those guys, and another guy I just can’t say enough about is Koa Misi. Sometimes he doesn’t get as many snaps in certain packages, but when you watch the tape and you watch number 55 on tape, there is nobody that plays any harder than Koa Misi or as effective. He’s having a heck of a year, he really is.”
(On if Brent Grimes has allowed a touchdown this season) - “I read somewhere that he hasn’t. It’s not something I sit there and start charting who gave up this and that as a team.”
(On if he recalls Brent Grimes allowing a touchdown this season) - “No I don’t. You know he’s playing exceptional. He really does a great job in coverage, and a lot of times unless you really just isolating on him you don’t realize how good of a job he is doing on some of these receivers that he’s matching up with. They tried to double-move him on the play before his interception, and he would have intercepted that one if the receiver had not kind of…there was contact in the endzone there as Grimes was going up for the ball. He had that one read, and he was going to go up and take that one away. And he supported the run yesterday. There were a couple of times the ball hit the perimeter he had to come up. One of the first plays in the second half he had to come up, crash, replace and did a heck of a job. He’s something else. He really is.”
(On Brent Grimes not dropping interceptions) - “He’s a phenomenal athlete, and he has incredible eye-hand coordination, athleticism, and I think he sleeps with the football (laughs). Really, as soon as he walks out on the practice field, you see him every day, he’s got a ball in his hands during stretch. He’s flipping it around. He’s catching it. He’s kicking it. He’s a ball of energy. He’s got great ball skills. He makes some catches he makes look so easy in practice at times. He’s a terrific athlete.”
(On where Will Davis stands right now in his growth) - “I’m glad he got a chance to get some snaps yesterday because he had a heck of a week, actually the last two weeks he’s had really good weeks of preparation. I wasn’t pleased with the catch (against him) at that point, but as I watch the tape I didn’t realize at the time the guy had run a double-move on him and had run a post corner. (Davis) got a little bit over the top of it and was a little late coming back onto it, but I thought the guy had just sat down near the goal-line there. Had he done that, Will should have been closer. Irregardless he should have been closer, but it wasn’t as easy a play to make as I initially thought. He’s coming around. He’s another guy with exceptional hands. He had about three or four interceptions in practice last week. Hopefully he’ll keep getting better and get more opportunities here as the season goes along.”
(On where Jamar Taylor is right now) - “Just like Will (Davis), I felt like the last couple of weeks both of them were really coming on and starting to play better in practice, play better in practice, make more plays in practice, play faster in practice. That’s important. For us to have confidence that they can go into the game, they have to make plays in practice whether it be for us as we are giving them more reps as a defense or on the scout team. Some of the real indicators a guy is getting ready are when he is going against the first team offense, and he’s making plays all over the field. Both of those guys are starting to do that recently.”
(On challenges from Pittsburgh’s offense) - “I’ve defended Pittsburgh or been on a team that’s gone against Pittsburgh for a number of year. I was trying to count it, I think Ben (Roethlisberger) started his rookie year, so eight plus we played him in the playoffs once, so we’ve played him 17 times. We are not on the winning ledger in a good number of those. He’s a heck of a challenge, and he’s got some real good talent around him particularly at the wide receiver position. He’s a unique challenge in that so many of his plays he’s able to extend and create plays. (He’s) different in a lot of quarterbacks in that when he does create plays he’s not running for the first down necessarily. He’s throwing bombs down the field. You see it time-and-time again, and this year is no different. So we are going to have a great plan. We are going to have to really be disciplined in what we do against them. It’s a big challenge. Pittsburgh is a tough place to play. It’s going to be exciting. They’ve got a great crowd there. They’ve got excellent coaches. My first opportunity to come to the league was under coach (Dick) LeBeau in Cincinnati. I’ve got a lot of respect and appreciate all that he’s done for me. It’s going to be fun to go there and play our best game of the year.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- I have no idea if the Dolphins are going to make the playoffs. No one does.
As of today, they are still on the outside looking in as Baltimore is holding the final AFC playoff spot over Miami despite both teams having the same 6-6 record. The Ravens, you'll recall, defeated the Dolphins and that is the difference between them now.
Frankly, I saw a bad first half from Miami Sunday followed by a promising second half. That speaks about these Dolphins because they are nothing if not inconsistent. So I can't tell you that fine second half dominance over the Jets is going to carry over to next week.
Even when the Dolphins led 6-0 at halftime, the Dolphins were dismantling the Jets -- holding a 265-39 edge in total yards and a 16-2 edge on first downs.
And then the Dolphins actually added points.
Ryan Tannehill, who had a fine game. He completed 28 of 43 (65.1 percent) for 331 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. His QB rating was 94.2. (I told you he could get hot in December).
He found Brian Hartline for a 31 yard score.
The QB found Mike Wallace on a 28-yard score off a screen.
And the defense, which had shut down Geno Smith in the first half, continued its dominance. Backup Matt Simms was no better after he took over a benched Smith. Simms threw two interceptions. Dannell Ellerbe and Brent Grimes had the picks.
Olivier Vernon had 2 1/2 sacks.
It was, as Joe Philbin, likes to say, a complete team win.
Did the Dolphins show some flaws? Well, yeah.
They still can't score a TD on third-and-gaol from the one yard line. They still can't get an offensive TD in the fourth quarter.
With one notable exception, everyone seems to know the NFL is a quarterback league. (I'll get to the exception in a minute). And so today's game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins should favor the Dolphins, because, Miami's quarterback is simply better than New York's.
Jets starter Geno Smith has promise. Has a good arm. Has the desire.
But he's a rookie. He has much to learn. And he's prone to mistakes. Very.
He leads the NFL with 22 turnovers.
Ryan Tannehill has shown in improvement this season over his rookie campaign. It's not as much as OC Mike Sherman promised -- remember, he said Tannehill would be the NFL's most improved QB.
But 2013 Tannehill is slightly better than 2012 Tannehill.
And, as I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, at this late stage of the season, Tannehill is poised for a big finish to the year. I cite multiple reasons why I think Tannehill can turn his play up several degrees and actually tow the Dolphins into the playoffs.
My problem is the Dolphins aren't necessarily asking that much of him. Indeed the Dolphins, under head coach Joe Philbin, deny the undeniable by saying a hot quarterback cannot carry a team. Philbin goes so far as to deny Aaron Rodgers carried the Packers during the Super Bowl run that he himself witnessed first hand.
My problem with that is if the coach, and by extension the coaching staff, is not asking great things out of Tannehill or other players because they are of the mind that players are just interchangeable parts -- all equally important and none more valuable than any others -- then they are less likely to get great performances from their players.
I simply believe Ryan Tannehill is better than Geno Smith. And, you'll read on Sunday, I believe Tannehill can carry his team at the end of this season. I'll link to that tomorrow.
Meanwhile, how do the rest of these teams match up?
When the Dolphins pass the football: Well, seems Ryan Tannehill discovered Mike Wallace last week. He threw the ball deep and threw it often to the dynamic deep threat receiver. And while that resulted in only a couple of big plays and a touchdown, it didn’t mean all is well. Tannehill and Wallace are still a work in progress. Tannehill still underthrows his speedy receiver way too often. That needs work. The Dolphins also have to find a way to get more consistency out of Charles Clay as his performances have been uneven as defenses change coverages and have been successful containing him in all but a handful of games. The New York pass defense is susceptible to the big play, as Baltimore showed last week. The addition of Ed Reed at safety hasn’t helped that yet. Antonio Cromartie, the team’s best defensive back, may play against the Dolphins but his is not 100 percent healthy. ADVANTAGE: Even.
When the Dolphins run the football: This might get ugly. The team that managed two yards rushing against Tampa Bay and has failed to post the league average 4.2 yards per rush in five games this season, including last week against the Panthers, is facing the NFL’s top rush defense. That suggests something of a mismatch. And while the Dolphins hope the return of center Mike Pouncey can reinvigorate the run game, it should be pointed out Pouncey played in that fateful game against Tampa Bay three weeks ago. The Jets are getting great play from Muhammad Wilkerson who leads a front seven that is among the best in the NFL. With running back Daniel Thomas out with an ankle injury, rookie Mike Gillislee may get a few carries. ADVANTAGE: New York.
When the Jets run the football: The only way the Jets will move the ball consistently against the Dolphins is by running. The Jets have a solid offensive line that is relatively healthy and they have two solid, albeit not great, runners in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Quarterback Geno Smith also is a run threat when he needs to get out of the pocket, but he’s definitely not a Cam Newton or Steve Young. The Dolphins have been surprisingly poor against the run this year. They are 26th in the NFL against the run. And it’s getting worse as the season progresses. The Dolphins have given up 136 rushing yards or more in each of the past five games. What was a stout run defense in 2011 (No. 3 in the NFL) has found a way to let a big leak out the middle of the line in several games this year. ADVANTAGE: New York..
When the Jets pass the football: They’re a mess passing the football. The conversation about Geno Smith the past few weeks has been whether he’d be benched rather than whether he’s improving or not. Smith is a turnover machine with 18 interceptions and five lost fumbles. He doesn’t read defenses well pre-snap and doesn’t read the field well during the play. His receiver corps is led by, of course, Jeremy Kerley. Moe and Larry were left unsigned in the offseason. Stephen Hill hasn’t caught a TD pass in four games and Santonio Holmes hasn’t been fully healthy for over a year. The Dolphins are coming off an uneven game in the secondary because Nolan Carroll was surprisingly great against Carolina and Brent Grimes had perhaps his worst game of the season. Dimitri Patterson is out Sunday. No surprise. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
Special teams: MetLife Stadium, like the Meadowlands before it, is a difficult place to kick in the winter because strong winds not only blow through the stadium but do so in different directions. Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis will soon find this out. Josh Cribbs has taken over from Clyde Gates as the Jets’ kickoff returne man and while he is not the dynamic player he was four years ago, he was an upgrade nonetheless. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Coaching: New York’s Rex Ryan started the season on the hot seat. But he took ownership of the New York defense and has made the decision to stay with a rookie quarterback. His job is not completely safe but he has kept a team with a flawed roster in the postseason conversation. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has a more talented roster than the Jets and is getting uneven results from that roster but he has kept the team together in the face of an uncomfortable NFL investigation. ADVANTAGE: New York.