May 02, 2016

Miami Dolphins unveiling radical idea for rookie minicamp

The Miami Dolphins will have their eight draft picks and 10 undrafted free agents in town beginning Thursday, and rookie minicamp will go from Friday to Sunday. And the rookies will not touch the field at the team's training facility once during those three days.

No pads. No helmets.

No practice during minicamp.

Brilliant!

No, really. This is happening. And it is really smart. And radical.

Adam Gase has been planning for months as coach of the Dolphins -- and for over a year before he became an NFL head coach -- how he would handle something that seems so mundane to the rest of the world as a rookie minicamp. And he's got ideas. And he's implementing those this week.

And they will not include actual practices on the field.

Instead Dolphins rookies will spend all their time during this minicamp in classroom sessions learning how to be Miami Dolphins. That means they're going to get schooled on the schemes they're playing, their assignments, and everything football that involves the brain.

But they're also going to get a little polished up as people. They're going to get life labs to help them with nutrition, financial planning, sports science, and dealing with the media -- the last of which is a big part of their job believe it or not.

The point of all of this is two-fold and here is the genius part, in my opinion.

Gase wants to combat the rookie wall syndrome that seems to stop some rookies dead in their tracks come late November or December. There is a theory these young men hit that wall because they're playing four preseason and 16 regular-season games in the NFL and usually play 12 games -- maybe three more if they're on the best teams -- in college.

There may be validity to that.

But this: The Dolphins understand every single one of these rookies regardless of where they went to school, just played their 2015 seasons and as soon as that was over they began training.

They trained for the Indianapolis Combine.

They trained for their Pro Days.

They trained for the various workouts they did for teams privately.

And they also spent much of the past six weeks or so flying all over the United States (greatest country on Earth) to meet with the various team coaches, general managers and others who might be deciding whether to pick them.

That takes a toll. So Gase believes it's time to take the foot off that pedal for these rookies. He doesn't want to burn them out physically.

Meanwhile, Gase wants these guys more mentally ready to be a factor the next time they get on the field, which will be with veterans. Dolphins vets have been in their conditioning program for four weeks and just had a minicamp of their own where they got coached on the playbook and such.

So Gase wants to get the rookies as caught up as possible up mentally as quickly as possible so when they get on the field, there is less hesitation and they play faster.

So what's the downside?

The Dolphins don't think there is any but if you have to nitpick, it means the Dolphins won't be bringing 30-40 players to camp as tryouts. Teams typically do that so they can actually field a weekend of rookie minicamp practices. The players gladly come for a chance to catch someone's eye and get a big break.

None of that this year.

So do the Dolphins miss out on an opportunity to find ... to find ... I cannot think of a player who was discovered as a tryout and went on to greatness in the NFL. Not this century, anyway.

The Dolphins simply believe their energies should be better focused on getting the 10 or so rookies that are actually going to make this team ready to contribute as quickly as possible rather than finding that improbable one kid who comes out of nowhere and takes the team to the Super Bowl.

I think the odds favor the Dolphins in this regard.

The Dolphins recently had a veteran minicamp. Here are some highlights of that...

 

 

May 01, 2016

Post (draft) mortem: Dolphins collecting UDFA's; Gambling; What might have been

Let's start out with the undrafted free agent college players who have already agreed to terms with the Dolphins after the draft:

Remember...The Dolphins will be signing far fewer of these this year because they simply don't have enough roster space to sign 25 undrafted guys as in years past. Indeed the most undrafted players the team could bring on is 10 and that would bring the roster to the NFL mandated 90-man limit.

Obviously, the Dolphins could add more UDFAs but would have to start cutting players currently on the roster -- something I would recommend because I don't get the logic of having proven vets (who have only proven they're not good enough) instead of adding a young guy who is probably already as good and might actually surprise somebody. Having running backs Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas on the roster, for example, makes no sense to me because we know what they are. And there are better UDFA running backs out there (or were) after the draft.

The list:

Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, who I reported first last night, has agreed and will compete with second-year kicker Andrew Franks for that job.

University of Miami WR Rashawn Scott who had five TDs for the Hurricanes last year. The Hurricanes confirmed this on their twitter account.

Florida Tech (huh?) TE Gabe Hughes.

Temple WR Branden Shippen, who is neither exceedingly big (5-11) nor fast (4.6 on good day) but was very good in the red zone.

Toledo center Ruben "Not Hurricane" Carter. Long snap? Yes.

San Jose State long snapper Ryan DiSalvo. Again, another person who is going to try to displace longtime and highly-paid (for a long snapper) John Denney, who is in his 12th NFL season and at 37 years old is only months younger than his head coach.

Defense anyone?

Boise State LB Tyler Gray, a special teams possibility who had a blocked punt for the Broncos last season.

FAMU LB Akil Blount, another playmaker possibility for special teams initially. Blount had two pick sixes last season and comes with good genes. He's the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame CB Mel Blount.

Kentucky DE Farrington Huguenin, who mostly showed run stop ability. Kentucky's defensive line coach confirmed this imminent signing.

Louisville MLB James Burgess, a former Homestead High standout. This was first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal and I confirmed it. Very productive guy, often around the football, good in coverage. But at 6-foot he's not quite the size that Vance Joseph covets in the middle of his defense. But you know what? We're talking special teams guys here so ...

Oh, look, that's 10 undrafted free agents. This list would bring Miami's roster to 90. Amazing how the math works.

----------

The first round was what it was Thursday night. Seems so long ago. It was surprising and here's two things I'm hearing ...

Had Laremy Tunsil not fallen to Miami, there were would have been some significant desire to trade back in the round because the Dolphins would have otherwise wanted a cornerback and the way they had the corners graded was Jalen Ramsey No. 1, and Ohio State's Eli Apple at No. 2. That's the corners.

Ramsey was the No. 1 player on Miami's board overall and Tunsil was No. 2.

Back to the corners...

Ramsey went No. 5 to Jacksonville so he was long gone and Apple was surprisingly picked by the New York Giants at No. 10.

That would have left the Dolphins with Williams Jackson III their pick either at No. 13 or perhaps trading back and trying to pick him then. As it was, the next cornerback went at No. 24 when the Bengals picked Jackson. And then the Steelers felt compelled to reach for University of Miami CB Artie Burns at No. 25.

So the Dolphins picking Tunsil helped the Bengals in getting a legitimate first-round talent.

----------

I wrote today the Dolphins are now embracing risks much more aggressively than they have in the past, and definitely in the recent past. One such risk is receiver Leonte Carroo, for reasons I explain in my column.

But the Dolphins don't see Carroo as a risk. They see him as a bargain despite the steep price they paid to get him in a trade up. Why?

“Like Carroo, when they saw how they could go down and get Carroo, who we had as a No. 2," owner Stephen Ross said. "We thought he was the second-best receiver in the draft.”

OK, let's suppose this is true.

The Dolphins had Carroo, who they picked in the third round, graded as a second-round player. I get that. That is plausible.

But they had him graded the second-best wide receiver in the draft?

If that is true, whoever combined to do the grades for Miami was confused the day they graded receivers.

Look, I get that this was a down year for receivers. But the Dolphins had Carroo second in a group that included Will Fuller (who went to Houston in the first round), Josh Doctson (who went to Washington in the first round), and Lacquon Treadwell (who went to Minnesota in the first round)?

Sorry, not buying it.

----------

Back to Tunsil...Here is a concern of mine:

When teams prepare for the draft, they grade 200-300 draftable guys. Some teams put all of those on their board. Some put no more than 120ish on their board because they recognize they're not picking everybody.

But when it comes to grinding on guys, it is fact teams do not do as much work on guys they are unlikely to be in position to select. For example, I know the New England Patriots, not holding a first-round draft pick, didn't do a ton of work on FSU's Jalen Ramsey. They just didn't.

And the reason they didn't is because they knew Ramsey was never going to slide into the second round to them. Ever.

Ever!

Well, I question how much work the Dolphins did on Tunsil compared to, say, Eli Apple or William Jackson III or other guys they expected might be available to them when they were scheduled to pick.

Remember, the Dolphins had Tunsil graded as the No. 2 player overall. And they knew they were not ever going to have the second overall pick.

So there is absolutely zero way anyone can convince me the team had Tunsil studied backward and forward, inside and out in the same manner they would have if they had at Top 5 pick. It's just not true.

And this ...

The teams that knew they would be in a position to draft Tunsil, the teams in the neighborhood of the top 5ish, did do that extreme homework. And they passed on Tunsil. The Tennessee Titans, who held the No. 1 pick for some time and most draft experts had picking Tunsil to protect Marcus Mariota's blind side, decided to trade down (and away from the opportunity to pick Tunsil).

And even when Tunsil slid to them at No. 8, the Titans who had done an in-depth workup on Tunsil, picked someone else to protect Mariota's blind side.

So what did these teams know that maybe the Dolphins did not?

Another possibility?

Sometimes there is paralysis by analysis. Maybe teams that knew more about Tunsil than the Dolphins were simply overthinking it. And the Dolphins, sitting at No. 13 likely having done less work on the player, pulled the trigger with no fear.

Point is ... somebody is going to be wrong.

And somebody is going to be right.

---------

If you are interested on how the La'el Collins issue during last year's draft played out and the contrast to this year with Tunsil, I take you behind the scenes on that here.

The Dolphins were conservative in their decision-making relative to Collins. They were obviously not with Tunsil.

I would warn you to resist the urge to determine the team simply should have picked Collins last year because, in hindsight, he didn't murder someone. At the time, all 32 teams decided they weren't going to select him early in the draft because they thought he might have.

It is just fascinating to me that the pendulum has swung back so far for a team that suffered a national scandal in 2013. In 2014-15, being conservative was the approach. In 2016  

April 30, 2016

Draft over: Dolphins add QB and TE in final round

The Miami Dolphins are done picking in this 2016 NFL draft.

They added quarterback Brandon Doughty and tight end Thomas Duarte in the final round today. That means this draft that supposedly was going to address the defense netted the Dolphins two cornerbacks.

And six offensive players.

(Not that I have any problem with that. Good picks are good picks regardless).

The Dolphins did adhere to a Fake GM Mando philosophy by picking a quarterback. I believe you pick a QB every draft without fail.

Doughty was a record-breaker at Western Kentucky. The list of his accomplishments for the Hilltoppers is impressive. It's as if the number of records could make a hill that needs topping.

Seriously, Doughty holds 37 school records, including 17 career passing marks, 14 season marks and six single-game marks.

Anyway, Doughty is a local kid. He was is from Davie, Florida where the Dolphins train. He visited when the team hosted local players prior to the draft.

Duarte, 6-2 and 235 pounds, caught 97 passes for 1,626 yards (an impressive 16.8 yard per catch average) in his three seasons and 38 games.

"I pattern my game after Jordan Reed," Duarte said of the Washington Redskins tight end. "I make sure I catch the football. It leaves the quarterback's hands and I try to make sure I don't drop anything."

Jamar Taylor traded, Dolphins pick Penn State DB Jordan Lucas

The Miami Dolphins needed one cornerback, maybe two out of this draft. You read that here before, right? Well, the team just got its second cornerback out of the draft today by selecting Jordan Lucas from Penn State with the 204th selection.

And with Lucas coming aboard, the Dolphins dumped traded veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor. The Dolphins sent the 250th selection and Taylor to the Cleveland Browns for the 223rd overall selection (seventh rounder).

So basically this was a mercy killing of Taylor's Dolphins days.

This is good for Taylor. He needed a change of scenery. And he wasn't very good for the Dolphins since being picked in the second round of the 2013 draft. Taylor finished last year in the coach's doghouse -- as a healthy scratch in four of the final five games.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase recently said all players get a clean slate under him.

For Taylor the clean slate comes with the Browns.

Lucas, who played boundary, field and slot corner as well as strong safety at Penn State, will be slated for cornerback with the Dolphins. 

"They want me to play corner," Lucas said. "They want me to be a press corner, physical, and that's the type of guy I am."

Lucas is 6-foot and 201 pounds. He had three career interceptions for the Nittany Lions. He had more sacks than interception.

"We did a lot of blitzing from the corner," Lucas said.

Miami Dolphins pick WR-KR Jakeem Grant

The Miami Dolphins wanted to give Jarvis Landry a rest from his duties as a kick and punt returner last year. They weren't able to do it.

Landry was simply the best returner on the team.

That might change now.

The Dolphins today picked Texas Tech's Jakeem's Grant, a 5-6 sprite who all about speed, with the 186th overall pick -- a sixth-rounder. Grant will be using all of his 5-5 3/4 to return both punts and kicks for the Dolphins.

Don't get caught up on Grant's size.

"I love my size," Grant said. "But tell everybody I'm 5-6 1/2 because that's with my shoes and you don't go anywhere without your shoes on."

Grant, an All Big-12 kick returner, is full of energy and confidence. And so he thinks he can do more than be a return man.

"I definitely think I can play receiver and I definitely will be the return guy," Grant said. "Once I get the ball in my hands, nobody can stop me."

Grant is about speed.

"A lot of teams have clocked me at 4.1," he said responding to questions about his 4.38 time at his Pro Day. "I don't think a 4.3 is my speed. When I ran a 4.3 I was ticked off because that's slow to me."

Grant said he patterns himself after Darren Sproles and Tavon Austin.

The Dolphins gave up a sixth (196) and a seventh (227) to move up 10 spots in the sixth round to 186.

 

 

 

Pats and Dolphins trade...It doesn't go well for Miami

Trades among teams within the same division are rare in the NFL because, well, teams don't like to potentially help improve their most direct competition.

But today the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins got on the phone and exchanged picks -- the Dolphins ceding to New England their fifth rounder (147th overall) in exchange for two sixths- (196 and 204 overall) and a seventh-rounder (250th overall) this year.

And that's fine. The Dolphins wanted to add bodies, I guess. The Patriots apparently had a player in mind they wanted to select in the fifth round.

Except the Patriots turned around and dealt their newly acquired pick to Seattle. The Patriots gave up that fifth-rounder they just got from Miami in exchange for a seventh-rounder this year ...

...And a fourth-rounder next year.

So instead of staying put and possibly adding a fourth-rounder next year, the Dolphins see their division rivals use their slot to add a fourth rounder next year.

The Dolphins, I suppose, will say two sixths and a seventh this year are more valuable than a seventh this year and a fourth-rounder next year.

No. No, it is not.

A fourth-rounder is better than a sixth or even two sixths.

Remember that the Dolphins traded away their third and fourth rounders next year already, plus a sixth this year, to move into the third round to pick receiver Leonte Carroo. Remember that Miami was crowing about getting a fourth-rounder next year for the loss of starting running back Lamar Miller.

And yet they have missed the opportunity to add such a pick because they traded with Bill Belichick instead.

Note to the Dolphins: If your phone is ringing and the caller ID says Belichick, don't pick up. If someone in your draft room says, "Hey, let's call Belichick and see if we can swap picks with him," escort that person out.

Dolphins source: Dion Jordan can come back

The Miami Dolphins are open to having former first round pick Dion Jordan rejoining the team after his NFL mandated suspension ends, according to a highly placed team source.

"If he wants to play and shows us he loves football, why not?" the source said moments ago in the lobby of the team training facility.

Jordan, picked No. 3 overall in 2013, was suspended in April of 2015 for at least one year. He is already eligible for having petitioned the NFL to return. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would have to meet with Jordan before deciding what course to follow with the player.

Jordan and the Dolphins have not been in contact, per NFL substances of abuse program guidelines requires. So the team admittedly does not know if Jordan is in shape or not, does not know if he has righted his issues or not.

Jordan is in step 3 of the NFL substances of abuse program. He was previously suspended for violating the leagues performance enhancing drugs program and served a four game suspension for that. That was mitigated to a two game suspension but then Jordan was suspended another four games for violating the league's substances of abuse program. This happened in 2014.

The Dolphins have in the past tried to trade Jordan, most notably to Chip Kelly while the coach was in Philadelphia. Kelly coached Jordan at Oregon.

No trade was actually consummated, however, because Jordan's suspensions ruined the timing of the talks.

The Dolphins have an obvious need at defense end. Cameron Wake is 34 years old and is coming off a season-ending ruptured Achilles' injury.

The team signed Mario Williams as a free agent, but he's 31 years old and signed for only two years.

The interesting thin is the Dolphins have never found a place for Jordan, in part because he seemed to always be suspended or injured, in part because the team's previous coaching staff seemed stumped how to use him.

There is a possibility the current coaching staff might want to play Jordan, 6-6 and 270 pounds, as a strong side linebacker because he can run 4.5 and has shown an ability to cover tight ends.

 

 

April 29, 2016

Miami Dolphins trade back into third round, pick Leonte Carroo

It was supposed to be over for the Dolphins today after they made their third round pick. But was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

No!

(Spare me the complaints and go watch Animal House).

So the Dolphins traded back into the draft's third round (No. 86 overall) and selected wide receiver Leonte Carroo of Rutgers. I really like this pick. The Dolphins gave up their sixth-round pick this year (186th) and a third and a fourth round pick in 2017.

"I catch the ball very well," Carroo said of his traits. "I'm a very confident receiver that makes plays. I had 29 career touchdowns and only three career drops."

Carroo was one of the 30 players who visited. Another team that loved Carroo?

The New England Patriots.

"This is a highly competitive kid who loves football ... He'll compete for playing time right away," General manager Chris Grier said.

Grier said Carroo brings "an alpha personality."

"I'm a very confident guy and I put in the work to have success," Carroo said.

Carroo said his favorite wide receiver growing up Marvin Harrison but said, "I'm a much faster Anquan Boldin" because, he said, he's "very physical but also have the ability to go deep when asked to do so."

Carroo joins a young receiver corps that includes Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.

Miami Dolphins pick RB Kenyan Drake

Running back Kenyan Drake of Alabama is the Miami Dolphins third round pick in the NFL draft.

Drake was the backup to Heisman Trophy candidate Derrick Henry at Alabama but nonetheless averaged 6.4 yards per carry during his carry.

Drake, 6-1 and 210 pounds, was not as big as Henry but he's obviously not small. He is much more shifty than Henry and seemingly quicker.

"The pick was definitely a surprise to me, a dream come true," Drake said when asked if he was surprised to be picked so high. 

Drake, who has had his share of injuries, said "I'm completely healthy."

Drake suffered a broken leg (including a dislocated ankle) and a broken arm during his career. 

Drake will immediately compete with Jay Ajayi for the starting job in Miami but it is obvious Ajayi is ahead in the competition initially.

 

Miami Dolphins pick Xavien Howard in second round

The Miami Dolphins have their much-needed cornerback.

The team has selected Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, a 6-foot-1, 201-pounder, who runs 4.44 in the 40.

Howard has all the traits the Dolphins want but he comes with questions ... 

"His tape is highly conflicting," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "It's either really good or really bad. you look at the tape of his game against North Carolina, he couldn't find the football."

H

"They're expecting me to come in and make plays and learn the defense," Howard said.

He said he models his game after Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis and described himself as "a physical cornerback."

Howard said he loves to play press. Good, because that's what the Dolphins are going to ask him to do.

By the way, I told you the Dolphins were trying to trade up in the second round. They did exactly that to get Howard, giving up a fourth round pick to Baltimore.

 

Dolphins need more: First round splash not enough

When the first round wound down to the final picks Thursday night, the Miami Dolphins were trying to see about trading back into the round.

It didn't happen.

But it suggests the Dolphins had another player they clearly wanted pretty badly. It clearly suggests the Dolphins wanted to make a huge splash and picking the player rated No. 2 overall on their board -- OG Laremy Tunsil -- despite picking him No. 13 wasn't enough.

And so in a few minutes the Dolphins -- and the rest of the NFL -- returns to the draft. Rounds 2 and 3 are tonight. And it will be interesting to see if the same Dolphins who were trying to trade up into the first round, tries to move from No. 42 overall and 11th in the second round to a higher perch.

The only way you do this is if you have a player you truly covet.

Perhaps the only way you do this is if you're desperate.

Well, the Dolphins covet a handful or three players. And they are desperate to win.

So it will be interesting to see if the team moves up in the second round.

Speaking of desperation ...

The Dolphins need to address defense.

The Dolphins need a cornerback.

The Dolphins need playmakers.

Obviously if Miami is going to move up, it is to address one of those desperate situations.

Follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero for real time updates.

Laremy Tunsil presser drama following draft night drama

Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick Laremy Tunsil was scheduled to meet with the South Florida media at 3:30 this afternoon at the team's training facility. He didn't make it.

Tunsil, the No. 13 overall selection in the NFL draft Thursday, suffered "an allergic reaction" while in the building and could not meet with the media, the team said.

The Dolphins do not know what Tunsil suffered his reaction to ...

"We're trying to find that out right now," coach Adam Gase said.

[Update: 90 minutes after missing the presser, the Dolphins rescheduled and came back with Tunsil who seemed none the worse for wear following his episode.]

"He had been in the building a couple of hours and we're trying to find out more right now," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. "As soon as we have more information, we'll share it with you."

[Update: Neither the Dolphins nor Tunsil said what exactly Tunsil was allergic to, but the player said he's had episodes in the past.]

The Dolphins, God bless them, did a next man up kind of thing in making general manager Chris Grier, Tannenbaum and Gase available. Gase and Tannenbaum returned with Tunsil for the second bite at the apple.

"I'm excited to be here," Tunsil said. "It's a blessing to be in the NFL and to be a part of the Miami Dolphins organization."

Tunsil said the past 24 hours, bizarre by any measure, "have been good to me, man. I got drafted in the NFL."

Tunsil refused to answer questions relative to the hacking of his social accounts, the video that went viral in NFL circles of him taking a bong hit through a gas mask, or just about anything else.

"I'm here to talk about the Miami Dolphins," he repeated a couple of times.

Tunsil did say he's appreciative the Dolphins stopped his slide in the draft at No. 13 overall in the first round.

"They gave me a chance and I'm going to show them why I'm the best player in the draft," Tunsil said.

Tannenbaum was asked the team's comfort level with Tunsil being available and not in the NFL drug program starting his career -- not that the program mandates a rookie would start out suspended in the program anyway.

"Our expectations are he'll be ready to go," Tannenbaum said.

Gase was asked where Tunsil is going to play. He didn't say.

"I won't say what we're going to do quite yet," the coach said, holding his cards close to his chest, as he was not wearing a vest.

I've reported Tunsil starts out as a guard.

"Anywhere they put me will be fine, man," Tunsil said before admitting he admires Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith.

The second press conference lasted seven minutes.

Laremy Tunsil: The inside story of Dolphins pick

The Miami Dolphins were sitting in their so-called war room late Thursday evening, watching the NFL draft on television, when Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil began to slide.

He was out of the Top 3. And then he was out of the top 5. And when he got passed over at No. 6 by the Baltimore Ravens, suddenly there was a buzz in the room.

"We're sitting there watching the best player in the draft fall and we started talking about this might actually be happening for us," a source I spoke with early Friday morning told me.

And when Tunsil dropped all the way to No. 13 where the Dolphins eventually selected him, the disbelief was as palpable as the satisfaction over what had just happened.

"We're picking 13 and the best player in the draft just fell to us," I was told.

The Dolphins promised weeks ago that No. 13 player in the draft would be a starter for them.

Laremy Tunsil will be the fulfillment of that promise. He is today a starting offensive lineman for the team.

No, he's not going to be a tackle, the position he played at Mississippi. He's going to be a starting guard by the time the 2016 NFL season rolls around. That is assuming both of Miami's tackles stay healthy. And if the worst happens with either Branden Albert at left tackle or Ja'Wuan James at right tackle, then Tunsil will be the candidate to fill the vacancy at either spot.

A true swing tackle who isn't going to let quarterback Ryan Tannehill get killed.

But if disaster does not strike, Tunsil is a guard who will upgrade a position that has begged upgrading for some time.

(Halellujah, the Miami Dolphins addressed the guard position)!

That's the vision the Dolphins have for what happened Thursday evening.

Now, is it a vision with no clouds? No. Of course not.

Tunsil comes with a problematic history and issues that need addressing, as I wrote in my column. There are legitimate reasons Tunsil dropped.

But the Dolphins are aware of these issues and they plan to address them.

The Dolphins tell me Tunsil and all of their rookies are going to get coached up on life skills, dealing with living in Miami, understanding their roles as professionals, all these things adults need to learn. All that in addition to learning the playbook when they show up at the team's Davie, Florida facility.

"The majority of the players coming into the NFL today are far from polished people much less players," a Dolphins source told me.

The team recognizes this. The team will address this.

The expectation is also that Tunsil will come to his new team with "his eyes wide open" because he just got a master's degree on how life can go wrong very fast. Think about it: Thursday morning Laremy Tunsil was expecting to be drafted maybe as high as No. 3 overall.

By Thursday night he had his privacy invaded, his reputation and habits unearthed to public scrutiny, and his earning potential was greatly diminished as a result. If that's not a life lesson for Tunsil, then there is no hope for this kid.

So, yes, there are reasons to doubt this will go right. As the Dolphins told me, "You've seen it go wrong before so you doubt ..."

Heck yes, I doubt, because it is true. I've seen movies like this reach bad endings before.

But this is a new coaching staff. This is a newly revamped personnel department. This is a different player.

The Dolphins, in short, believe this is a new day.

Let's see.

April 28, 2016

Ezekiel Elliot to the Cowboys with the No. 4 pick

The Dallas Cowboys just selected running back Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick in the first round.

And that has repercussions for the Miami Dolphins.

As Elliott was the only offensive player the Dolphins were willing to trade up for in this draft, they are obviously not going to be trading up for an offensive player.

The Dolphins are also unlikely to fill the running back need in the first round now that Elliott is off the board.

So where does that leave the Dolphins?

Jalen Ramsey remains on the boad and he is a cornerback. Myles Jack remains on the board. And the chances the Dolphins trade up to, say, No. 8 overall to grab a player is all but gone.

So do the Dolphins jump higher to pick Ramsey? That question will have an answer soon enough.

[Update: The Jacksonville Jaguars get Ramsey. He stays within the state.]

 

 

Whispers, rumors, smokescreens all here (free)

As we get ready for the start of the 2016 NFL draft, I want to share with you the talk going around that I've heard today from various sources. Now, please understand, some of these people have agendas and they say things they obviously want out there.

So please take everything with a grain of salt.

This post is unlike any other that ever appears in this space in that some of these items cannot be independently verified, with men in war rooms or personnel departments not answering texts or answering with, again, certain agendas.

I am, nonetheless, going to share it with you because you love stuff like this if for no other reason than you love draft talk and speculation...

  1. Myles Jack to the Dolphins. Keep hearing it over and over from different people.
  2. I'm hearing the Dolphins are still open to a trade but a gigantic move up to No. 3-4 is going to be nearly impossible. There had been multiple "reports" the Dolphins wanted to get back to the top 10 after trading out of the top 10 earlier this offseason. Obviously, everyone has heard rumors the Dolphins might try to push back up to No. 8 overall where Cleveland is scheduled to pick if certain players are available there -- most likely for running back Ezekiel Elliott. That is a strong possibility. But when it comes to a move into the top 5, that's when the price becomes too prohibitive. The Dolphins, by the way, are not confirming or denying anything. "Not one player away," one source texted when I asked about flying back up the board to the top 5. "We're going to let the draft come to us," another source said cryptically. And so if you're expecting the rocket launch to No. 3 to pick Jalen Ramsey of FSU, that will require so many resources it will be practically impossible. This also means the Dolphins jumping up to No. 4 to pick Ezekiel Elliott or Ramsey is similarly an emptying of the treasure chest the Dolphins think is prohibitive. But again, going to No. 8 is a different story. So stay tuned.
  3. Back to Jack ... The Dolphins have not taken the UCLA linebacker off their board today despite the fact the player told the New York Post he might eventually need microfracture surgery. Indeed, the Dolphins really like Myles Jack, injury notwithstanding.
  4. Several teams have been scrambling today to do extra work on Jack. He didn't help himself when he opened his mouth, folks. He might have actually hurt his status to the point he might be available when the Dolphins are scheduled to pick at No. 13.
  5. Names that we have not heard closely tied to the Dolphins that might surprise because they might end up with the Dolphins: Myles Jack. Clemson's Shaq Lawson. Georgia's Leonard Floyd.
  6. If the Dolphins trade down from No. 13 or stay put, the cornerbacks come into play. William Jackson III and Eli Apple are still names circulating.
  7. Su'a Cravens is a possibility in the second round. I suppose it depends on how serious the Dolphins' concern about the seriousness of the Reshad Jones holdout. I remind you Jones stayed away from offseason workouts three years ago before he signed his current deal and then came in when the team promised to work with him. Maybe this is a repeat of that which would mean it is not a serious worry.
  8. The Dolphins did a lot of grinding on University of Miami cornerback Artie Burns. I asked if the team sees him as an immediate starter as a rookie. "No," was the answer.
  9. Remember Alabama's Reggie Ragland? A couple of months ago, there was major buzz about the possibility of Miami drafting him because, well, he's pretty good. The Dolphins still like him but that would require moving Kiko Alonso from the middle to strong side linebacker.    

Myles Jack admits he might need microfracture surgery

One of the big unknowns of this NFL draft has been the status of Myles Jack's knee.

There have been reports his knee, repaired for a torn meniscus late last year, is "a ticking time bomb." There has been pushback from the Jack camp that he's perfectly fine and has been working out for teams. And there is a lingering belief he is going to drop in the draft based on the different opinions different teams have about his status.

But Wednesday Jack seemingly hurt himself when discussing the topic with Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. Jack admitted he has degenerative problems in his knee and microfracture surgery could be in his future.

"[The degenerative problems are] there, but it's nothing extreme," Jack said. "Down the line, possibly I could have microfracture surgery potentially. Who knows what will happen? Nobody knows how long anybody is going to play in this league. To play three years in this league would be above average."

Whaaaat?

That seems like a game-changer to me. Jack, if healthy, is a top 5 pick. He's a sideline to sideline transformational talent at linebacker. But he obviously has long-term health issues tied to his knee and he admits as much.

The sound you're hearing is Jack dropping in the draft.

Microfracture surgery is fairly common to repair cartilage that helps cushion the bones where they meet at the joint. It is painful. It takes up to 10 months to recover from. The repaired cartilage is never as strong as the original. The knee often becomes more stiff.

And this: Athletes rarely regain the same level of ability after the surgery.

Basically, this is how it was with reconstructive surgery in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Dolphins, who have the No. 13 selection in the first round, like Jack. They have had discussions about him and even discussed what they might do in a scenario to trade up for him. But they would prefer to have to make a decision on Jack if he's there at No. 13.

After what he said today, he just might be there at No. 13.

Draft day is here: Miami Dolphins looking defense

Welcome to the 2016 NFL draft.

By the end of this weekend we'll have a good idea whether the Miami Dolphins have a chance to be a solid team in the coming season or not. That's right, it is that important.

Why?

Because the Dolphins have numerous and obvious needs. And although they may push back against this truth with talk of "We've got players on the roster you know nothing about that can offer solutions" I simply don't buy any of that public relations.

(Just like I didn't buy the "Our guards are good enough" narrative we heard from the team last year before the guards failed).

(Or the "coaching staff really does have the pulse of the locker room so relax because we know more football than you" narrative of the past four years).

(Or the "new quarterback who will start this year is good enough" narrative we heard for a dozen years before that).

This year so far, I'm hearing too many people be really excited about the team's current crop of cornerbacks. And that is why I explain in my Miami Herald column today why the Dolphins must draft a starting cornerback by the time this draft is over. I believe that excitement is either contrived or misplaced.

Look, the Dolphins have only one starting cornerback right now. You need three. If two don't show up somehow the season is doomed already.

I'm not kidding, folks.

I'm not exaggerating.

I've never been so sure of anything in all my days of covering this team. The Dolphins must land a starting cornerback in this draft and if they don't, the patchwork of talent they have as Plan B will only serve as fodder for failure throughout the regular season. Mark my words.

And while I'm on this subject...The Dolphins are not just a cornerback needy team. They are a cornerback(S) needy team. That makes me wonder why the team cut Brice McCain. The roster move came and went without much commentary from me because there were other things afoot -- such as the departure of general manager Dennis Hickey, the hiring of new GM Chris Grier, the coaching search that eventually landed Adam Gase, and then all the big news that followed that.

Brice McCain got cut and no one seemed to notice.

I'm noticing now.

Why did this happen?

Look, McCain wasn't great last year. We know that. But how much of that was his fault? It is a legitimate question because he signed a 2-year, $5.5 million deal to be Miami's slot cornerback. And the Miami corners were so bad last year, it wasn't long before the coaching staff was offering McCain a chance to start outside. And being a competitor, that's what McCain did.

And being out of position, McCain was overmatched and struggled.

And that got him cut?

It was as if he was being blamed for stepping in to a hopeless situation and failing. He did a good deed and it did not go unpunished.

Brice McCain on this team now would be Miami's best slot cornerback. And, yes, yes, I know Bobby McCain can develop and last year showed promise. Great. So you simply award him the starting job? That's how it goes?

Or do you ask him to compete against a wiley veteran who has attitude and a past history of success?

Now, if McCain had been a big cap savings, then I get it his release. He wasn't.

So what was it? I think I know, but the whispers I've heard (having nothing to do with the player) have to be further developed and confirmed to be printed. I'm old school like that.

Moving on ...

The Dolphins need a cornerback or two. Did I mention that?

Now, there are a couple of scenarios that might prevent the team from picking a cornerback such as Eli Apple (guy I like) or William Jackson III in the first round. That scenario involves the availability of UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

If Jack is there at No. 13, do the Dolphins cast aside the bigger need -- cornerback -- and pick the better player who is a linebacker? The team has said it will not draft for need. It will draft the so-called best available player. That, by the way, is why the Dolphins drafted defensive Jordan Phillips last season despite having paid (overpaid, from my vantage point) Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Suh is also a defensive tackle.

So the Dolphins didn't have an existential need at defensive tackle but went there anyway because Phillips was the highest rated player on their board.

Following that history, if Jack is there, I assume he gets picked ahead of a player who fills the more pressing CB need because he'd ostensibly be the higher rated player.

But what if Jack isn't quite there? What if he's at No. 11ish in the first round? Do the Dolphins give up a later-round pick to move up a few slots and pick Jack? Depends on the price. Depends on their intel on Jack's knee and comfort level with that intel. But will they consider it? You bet.

And what cornerbacks figure later on if the Dolphins cannot land one in the first round?

I like Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech. Jalen Mills of LSU might be a solid choice in the third or fourth round. Mississippi State's Tavese Calhoun is on the Miami radar late in the draft -- although he's not starter material at this point. The Dolphins did a lot of digging on Miami's Artie Burns. I get it, he's 6-foot and has speed and athletic explosion. But he's a project to me to pick anytime before the fourth round. And he'll be gone before the fourth round, if you believe all the experts.

The Dolphins will be looking at defensive end this draft, too.

The Dolphins will be looking at running back.

Maybe they'll finally be shamed into picking a good guard.

This team has a lot of needs. Cornerback, in my humble know-nothing opinion, is the biggest one of them all. 

April 27, 2016

Miami Dolphins RB Jay Ayayi trimming down to speed up

Despite the constant speculation that the NFL draft (starting at 8 p.m. Thursday) bringing to the Miami Dolphins a starting running back, the people on the field at the facility Wednesday were talking, acting, as if the team has its starter.

Jay Ajayi.

And Ajayi, about to embark on his second season, is working as the starter now and Dolphins coach Adam Gase is comfortable with that.

"I've just been pushing myself throughout this offseason to have a great sophomore season," Ajayi said. "I was able to get a lot of opportunities last year when I finally started playing and I felt comfortable. And now I'm ready to elevate my game to a new level this season."

There really are only one or two running backs the Dolphins could add this draft that might displace Ajayi from the starting job immediately. Yes, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott is chief among them. But a running back picked in later rounds won't get that sort of instant anointing. He'd have to come in behind Ajayi and beat him out if he could.

"I'm not worried about that stuff, that's out of my control," Ajayi said. "I can only control my mentality every day, my work ethic and that's what I'm going to do."

To prevent that, Ajayi says he's trying to become a "shiftier" back. He said he played at 228-230 pounds last year and this year wants to be at 218-222.

"I want to be able to be quicker, shiftier," Ajayi said. "doing the work so that I can put my foot in the ground, make a cut and get up the field. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally to take that role as the starter and I think I've been doing a great job so far. It's just about constantly progressing all the way up to the season."

Practice Notes:

*Center Mike Pouncey (illness) did not practice today during the voluntary veteran's minicamp. He joined Ndamukong Suh (working out or whatever in Portland), Reshad Jones (contract issue), Koa Misi (illness), and Mario Williams (personal family issue) missing practice Wednesday.

*Defensive end Cameron Wake (Achilles) was on the field but did not participate in drills as he continues to rehab from his October 2015 surgery.

*It was another excellent day for receiver Jarvis Landry. He's good, The Miami Herald has learned.

*Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said his wife and he are expecting the birth of their first child in July, before training camp.

April 26, 2016

Voluntary veteran minicamp Day 1 in the books: Drama already

Let me get this out of the way right now: New Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said before today's first practice of the voluntary veteran minicamp he "talked smack" to the defense.

Standing ovation, everyone.

Love this already.

After four years of dealing with a head coach who sometimes got "queasy," this is a welcome change in approach. Gase spent the entire practice talking into his walkie-talkie and the reason for that is to have "the quarterbacks get used to hearing my voice."

Smart.

Yes, folks, I like this guy.

Plus he's undefeated, which helps. But the truth is if a team takes on the personality of a coach (and it does), I believe the personality of this team will be more vibrant and confident. I believe a word you'll hear a lot is swagger.

No need to remind you the personality of the team in recent years was sleepy, lacking energy and needing urgency. It was a reason the team often had trouble starting games.

Moving on ...

Gase said everyone gets a clean slate with him and his staff. If a player had a reputation for being "lazy," he could come to work, give everything he has, and the new staff wouldn't hold the past against him.

That's good. Except that people don't often change personalities and habits just because a new man is occupying the nicest office in the building. And so that leads me to Ndamukong Suh.

He was not present for the first day of voluntary minicamp. And Gase is refusing to complain about it. But Suh, as The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley is reporting, has rarely been present for offseason conditioning before this camp. He showed up the first day and not much after that. Same as last year. 

And none of this suggests Suh will be out of shape or not prepared when he shows up for the mandatory camp in June or training camp in July. On the contrary, Suh will probably be among the players most prepared and in the best shape.

But this is more about optics and leadership than muscles built and conditioning honed this offseason.

Suh is the highest-paid player on the team. Whether he likes it or not, other guys watch him. Other guys, particularly younger players, pattern themselves after him. And remember last year, Suh told his teammates in a meeting, "This is my defense."

So he accepted the mantle of leadership when he signed that $114 million deal last spring. And if there was any mistake about that, he held that mantle aloft for everyone on the team to understand when he spoke those words in that meeting. 

And it simply looks bad for the organization, the coaches, the locker room, that this "leader" is choosing to lead by staying the heck away from this camp.

For the record, Gase is publicly taking this in stride. He says he learned long ago not to be upset about players not showing up to voluntary camps. Privately? I can't imagine the guy who talks smack to a defense is thrilled his highest paid player is in Portland, Oregon today when the rest of the team is in Davie, Florida.

About that team:

*Defensive end Andre Branch said he's taking first-team snaps at defensive end in place of Cameron Wake.

Wake did not take any team drills and might for some time. Gase said the goal is to have Wake ready for training camp.

*Tony Lippett said he was pleased he's being given the opportunity to win a starting cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell. But getting snaps with the starters has its drawbacks as we saw when receiver DeVante Parker took Lippett deep on a nine route. QB Ryan Tannehill placed the ball perfectly to Parker, yes, in stride. Touchdown.

Bobby McCain, getting his shot at slot corner, was good at times and not so much in others today. Jarvis Landry is a tough cover when he lines up in the slot, folks.

*You know that Reshard Jones is planning to hold out this entire offseason if he doesn't get a new contract. Well, Michael Thomas said he worked with the first team defense at safety in Jones's absence.  Issa Abdul-Quddus is the other safety.

*Mario Williams missed today for a personal reason. Linebacker Koa Misi was reportedly sick today and did not practice, either.

*The Miami offensive line is shuffling in Kraig Urbik, Billy Turner, and Dallas Thomas at guard.

*Not working today due to injuries: Jermon Bushrod and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

 

Reshad Jones plans to sit out offseason

Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones, perhaps the best defensive player on the team in 2015, is sitting out today's voluntary veteran minicamp and will not report to any activity this offseason unless he gets a contract extension, a source tells The Miami Herald.

Jones was one of several players who did not attend today's practice. Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Koa Misi were also not present. But Jones's reason for not attending seems different from the others.

"Reshad is the most productive safety in the NFL right now," the source close to Jones said. "And so what he wants is to be paid like it. He wants some security."

The source said Jones will not attend the team's mandatory minicamp in June nor will he be part of the offseason conditioning program. It is unclear if he will decline reporting to training camp in July and risk daily fines for that.

The Dolphins have told Jones and his agent Joel Segal they plan to extend Jones. He is a cornerstone of their defense, they have said. But Jones has two years (2016 and 2017) remaining on his contract so the team might not want to do an extension until next season.

Jones wants an extension this season. The team and the player's representatives have had no substantive conversation about an extension this season as yet.

Jones averages $7.03 million per season on his current contract and that average is seventh-highest average among safeties, according to Spotrac.com. He averages highest among strong safeties. He is scheduled to make $7.225 million in 2016 and $7.06 million in 2017. 

Jones obviously wants to be among the highest paid safeties overall.

Look, Reshad Jones signed a contract in 2014. I get it. But just as teams change their minds and cut players before their deals are fully expired, players have the right to do the same thing.

Jones actually outperformed his deal last season and expects to do so again this year. So he's making a stand.