July 25, 2014

Jarvis Landry excites the Dolphins early

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross shook the hand of one player coming off the field on Friday: Rookie Jarvis Landry.

Later, Ross mentioned Landry unsolicited, suggesting the owner is excited about Miami's second round pick before the kid catches even one pass in a game. Maybe he knows something.

"I think Jarvis Landry is somebody I think everybody is really excited about, speaking to the coaches. I think he’s really going to be somebody that’s going to surprise a lot of people and really bring some excitement to this team,” Ross said.

Well, if the coaches are telling him to keep an eye on Landry, maybe we should also.

What does Landry think of his first day of practice?

Check the video:

 

Quickie observations from first Dolphins practice

The Dolphins first practice of 2014 is in the books.

Some quickie observations:

Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace have a long way to go on their deep ball connections. Still. The duo combined for one completion deep down the left sideline midway through practice during seven on seven drills. But there were two other instances when Tannehill underthrew on deep passes -- one to Wallace who was wide open behind Will Davis and once when Damien Williams was open deep.

The starting offensive line today was RT Ja'Wuan James, RG Dallas Thomas, C Shelley Smith, LG Daryn Colledge and LT Branden Albert. James gave up multiple sacks in both one-on-one drills and in team drills. But ... Remember the pads were not fully on, he was matched against Cam Wake, and the kid is a rookie.

Colledge had a fine moment in one-on-one drills against Earl Mitchell. Stoned him at the line of scrimmage.

It must be said that the quarterback-center exchanges need cleaning up. There were two fumbled exchanges between Tannehill and Smith. Second-team center Sam Brenner ground-balled one shotgun snap, and Tannehill bobbled another exchange.

Mike Pouncey, the starting center once he returns from his hip surgery, said he "ahead of schedule" on his rehabilitation. But, as you know, he will miss the start of the season and he may miss up to seven games, as I've reported.

Speaking to the media today, general manager Dennis Hickey said every player passed his conditioning test. Derrick Shelby was limited in practice after having arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. A source said he'll be fine. Coach Joe Pilbin told me earlier this week the Dolphins had 99.1 percent attendance in their voluntary offseason programs and OTAs. So that obviously paid dividends.

Brandon Gibson, who missed much of last year after tearing a patellar tendon, practiced today. He didn't seem limited but, again, the club was not in pads. It may be that once the pads go on the Dolphins don't throw Gibson into contact drills immediately.

Interesting scene after practice: The one player owner Stephen Ross made a point of meeting and talking to was Jarvis Landry. And then Ross mentioned Landry as a big addition during his press conference. Perhaps the owner has been told by coaches to keep an eye on the rookie.

What did I see from Bill Lazor's offense today? Lots of screens, especially bubble screens to receivers, lot of passes in the flat to the TE (Michael Egnew caught two and dropped one) and lots of quick throws. I saw the read option, including using Tannehill on the keeper.

I did not hear Go and Go-Go at practice today.

Dion Jordan, who will be suspended four games in the regular season, got some first-team snaps in practice today. No, he's not the starter. That's Wake and Olivier Vernon. But Vernon got a break here and there and Jordan got the reps. Vernon, by the way, had at least one sack today.

Second-year CB Jamar Taylor, who was beaten on the deep completion from Ryan Tannehill to Mike Wallace, recovered nicely later in practice. He had a nice pass defensed and near interception on a Matt Moore pass.

The Dolphins are working Nate Garner as their backup LT. Obviously, if Albert goes down, the Dolphins may shift rookie Ja'Wuan James to LT and play Garner at RT. But ... if there is any point this season Garner has to play LT in a game, that is bad news. Garner is a fine swing player. He is a solid G and a serviceable RT. He is not, repeat, not a LT.

Speaking to the media today, owner Stephen Ross said plans for the upgrade to Sun Life Stadium are being drawn up and construction on the facility will begin after the season. He said by the 2015 season there will be new seating (a new bowl) at the facility. The new scoreboards and the roof will go in for the 2016 season. Ross said Sun Life "will be tantamount to a new stadium" when construction is complete.

Ross was asked if coach Joe Philbin has to make the playoffs this year to keep his job. He demured. "I'm expecting Joe Philbin to be here for a long time," he said, "but every year you want to see improvement."

Dolphins want Tannehill to take steps in three areas

The most significant questions facing the Dolphins in 2014?

Is Joe Phiblin capable of leading a turnaround? Is the offensive line going to be a wall or a stumbling block? And will quarterback Ryan Tannehill be good enough?

As Joe Philbin makes clear in my column, which appears in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are looking for steps of progress in three major areas from Tannehill.

They want better decision-making.

They want better accuracy.

They want more playmaking.

“There are really three things that I think about quarterback play," Philbin told me in an exclusive pre-training camp interview. "One is decision-making. I think decision-making ties into play speed. The better decision-maker you are, the quicker you make them and that ties in to the opportunities to make a tight throw or take the guy that’s open sooner to get him the ball in space and let him run a little bit. I think there’s room for development there."

Accuracy is number two. Getting the ball to Mike Wallace in stride rather than overthrowing it. Leading Brian Hartline on a slant rather than forcing him to make an acrobatic catch, which causes him to immediately fall down rather than run for 20 yards.

And the last thing is playmaking ability.

"Can you imagine what our offense would have been without our two-minute offense? We had a pretty good two-minute offense last year," Philbin said. "And [Tannehill} demonstrated in those situations he has a good feel for the game, good clock management. He can communicate effectively without taking a ton of time. He’s got playmaking ability.

"But even there, we’re looking for more. He’s got a great pair of legs on him and we’ve seen some of that. And so when you get a 15-yard run from the quarterback and all of a sudden you’re in pretty good field position even when you don’t have great execution, that’s great. He’s capable of some of that stuff.”

Three things to improve on, Ryan Tannehill.

It begins in training camp today.

Philbin: Settling OL may happen later rather than sooner

It about the offensive line, folks. It's always about the offensive line with the Miami Dolphins. The pendulum of fate has swung in the wrong direction for the Dolphins after all those years enjoying the play of  Larry Little and Jim Langer and Richmond Webb and Dwight Stephenson. As 2014 begins, the offensive line once again is Miami's major issue.

In my column in today's newspaper and website, coach Joe Philbin makes no secret of the fact the offensive line is an a major issue for the Dolphins. Simply, this team is facing not just a big issue but a historically significant issue with regards to the offensive line.

And so with training camp starting today, all eyes will be on the offensive line. And the Dolphins know it. And the scrutiny might just be there a while because we might not get answers for a long time, according to Philbin.

“The preseason is going to be important for the Oline," Philbin told me in an exclusive interview prior to the start of training camp. "Let’s face it, we don’t have five locked and loaded guys right now. I’m not panicking over it, but it’s important we find them. We’ve got to get reps and field evaluations and give them opportunities."

And how long will that take?

"It’s great to settle on a line a little sooner rather than later, but I think it might take a while to figure all that out,” Philbin said.

Yikes!

Obviously the loss of Mike Pouncey for perhaps the first half of the season is problematic. The Dolphins placed Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list on Thursday, along with running back Knowshon Moreno. Pouncey's stay on the list will be long. Moreno's probably won't be, according to what Philbin told me this week.

So much work will have to be done on this OL unit. Much work, folks. 

“We have to figure out the offensive line," Philbin said. "In the OTAs, I loved the offseason program, but we’ve got to get some pads on. We’ve got to get some blitzes coming live or semi-live. We have to put those guys in some pressure situations and turn the crowd noise up and motion across the formation, make an adjustment call and see if those guys can function in real time.

"The walk-thru is great and film study is great and real important. But you have to step back and let them do a little bit and see what we got."

July 24, 2014

Last year's draftees may step up this year

Now that you know the face of the Dolphins 2013 draft class, Dion Jordan, put himself and the team in a tough spot for training camp based on his coming four-game suspension, it should be said that the rest of the '13 class is entering camp on a hopeful note.

That's right, the class that disappointed last year is suddenly promising after several of the players have had good offseasons.

“Overall, I thought the draft class from ’13 was better [this offseason]," coach Joe Philbin said. "We’re looking for those guys to step up and contribute.”

Third round pick Dallas Thomas will be competing for a starting guard job and, indeed, is a favorite to win that job based on his offseason.

Second round pick Jamar Taylor, who missed most of last season with various issues, began to perform with some consistency in OTAs. He might be positioning himself to compete with veteran Cortland Finnegan for a starting job and if he loses that competition figures in the chase for playing time in the sub packages.

“Clearly, he’s practiced consistently this offseason,” Philbin said. “He was out there and made some plays and looked like the guy we saw on tape before we drafted him.”

Cornerback Will Davis is healthy again and that makes the Dolphins hopeful he can pick up where he left off last training camp before he suffered something of setback. “Last year he showed good things in camp but then in the Tampa game he hurt his foot or something and never really got back,” Philbin said. “He contributed in New England game and here and there, but he never regained his form.”

The Dolphins are even seeing hopeful signs from running back Mike Gillislee, a fifth-round pick, who contributed on special teams but may be fighting for actual carries this year.

 “He didn’t get a ton of runs last year,” Philbin said, "but we like the way he's been moving around."

Irteresting, isn't it? The 2014 Dolphins may be getting an infusion of talent ... from their once absent 2013 draft class.

Follow me on twitter for live updates from camp and a real time conversation and exchange of ideas.

Jordan suspension presents training camp issue

Dion Jordan came to the Dolphins with high promise and expecations as the third overall draft pick in 2013. Then stuff began to happen.

He wasn't able to practice very much last training camp as he rehabilitated from shoulder surgery. When he did begin to practice and play, he soon suffered a setback to the surgically repaired shoulder. And so his rookie season was basically lost amid the team's need to play people who were stronger, more prepared, more experienced.

Well, this year Jordan is ready for training camp. No issues. He's healthy. All good ...

... Except that he's already been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances.

So one year he's handicapped in the preseason and this year he's handicapped in the regular season. Not good.

"Let’s face it, four weeks off from football is not going to be a benefit," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin tells me. "So we have to have him do some work.”

Philbin means Jordan will have to get work -- a lot of it -- in training camp. And that will have to carry him over for four weeks once the regular-season begins.

The problem is the coaching staff is going to have to figure out how to work Jordan as much as possible without hurting players who will, you know, actually be on the field for the start of the regular season.

“This is a brand new world because we haven’t had a player suspended in our previous two training camps," Philbin said. "As a young player, my feeling is he needs to get work – especially in the bigger picture that he’s not going to be getting work later on. He needs work now.

"But we can’t jeapordize the preparation of other guys. At the same time, we’re going to have to get him work. He’s going to get it without a doubt. And he needs it. And he needs padded work. You think back to last year’s training camp, he had very minimal repetitions in things he needed. You think back to last year, we had eight or nine of those days when we had those one-on-one periods where there was some form of a half line where there are two guys going old fashioned high school stuff.

"We have to be ready to go Sept. 8th but at the same time we can’t stunt his growth."

And while the Miami coaching staff tries to walk the fine line, this much is certain:

Dion Jordan has effectively killed his chances of being a starter when he returns to action after four games. No matter how much work he gets, no matter how well he plays in training camp practices and the preseason, the Dolphins cannot promote him ahead of, well, anybody because they know Jordan won't be around when the regular-season begins.

Jordan may get a lot of playing time in the preseason finale while other veterans and starters are held out in preparation for the regular season. But that is hardly expected to matter five weeks later when he returns. 

And no matter how well Jordan performs in the preseason, he won't be a starter when he returns to the team because obviously he'll have been a month without participating in any actual football regimen.

Not the best way to start a career for a No. 3 overal pick who is expected to make an instant impact. 

Dolphins linebacker experiment is over ... success!

The grand linebacker experiment the Dolphins took to the offseason lab is over and, as the team gets ready to open training camp practices Friday at their Davie training facility, it is possible to say the experiment worked.

Eureka!

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin tells me Koa Misi is the middle linebacker and will be in that spot when practice starts Friday -- much as he was during the offseason. Dannell Ellerbe is moving outside after spending last year in the middle. And Phillip Wheeler will man the other OLB job.

So as far as the Dolphins are concerned that's how they're going to camp and only a disaster will make them change course.

"I would say unless something really, let's just say Koa can't get us lined up or can't make a left call or right call, then we'll look at it more. It looks like it's going to be OK," Philbin said. "If the roof caves in we can always go back and those guys can be the same. The defense hasn't changed that much. But I think we're looking forward for it to work.

"I think the position change has been good. I like the position change."

Unlike most snarks and cynics (me sometimes) Philbin doesn't view the move in terms of Ellerbe failing as the MLB.  He looks at it from a positive standpoint and that is that Misi earned more trust from the coaches and more downs on the field.

"I think Misi was good. When you talk grades and we grade every game, he was one of the guys that graded out highest on our defense," Philbin said. "So from my chair and, I'm throwing out 500 snaps but maybe it was 480 or 520 for him, but here's a guy that graded out highest of anybody on our defense so why wouldn't we try to get him on the field a little bit more?

"When watched the film he flies around. He tries to play football the right way. I think he's a good example of how you want to play defense. I just think so far that has gone well."

Wheeler, who at times struggled in coverage, is showing hopeful signs of getting better, Philbin said.

I think Phillip Wheeler looks more comfortable right now," the coach said. "He played in the OTAs with better body control than he did last year. He had good production last year, it's just at times we felt he was a little out of control and it hurt him at times. He was better."

The idea of the Dolphins shuffling their linebackers obviously came about after the team struggled (at times) to stop the run. The team yielded an average of 124.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked them 24th in the NFL.

Yes, some of those problems were up front. But too often when Ellerbe or Wheeler got to the football, it was five, six or seven yards down the field. That's one reason teams averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Miami -- ranking the Dolphins 18th in the NFL in rush average allowed.

So maybe this works. Maybe it doesn't.

But for now this is the way the Dolphins are going to address the issue.

July 23, 2014

Pouncey could miss first half of 2014

When Dolphins center Mike Pouncey went in for surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, the best-case scenario for getting him back on the field was three months. In other words, he was likely to miss all the games in September.

Well, a source familiar with the center's surgery and recovery says it's more likely he will miss four months (from the time of surgery June 23). That would carry the rehab process through September and into late October.

"Eight weeks is probably what we're looking at," the source said today.

The Dolphins have a bye the weekend of October 4-5 so the regular-seasons' first eight weeks will cover seven games.

Every person is different, obviously. Some heal sooner. Some do not. Some have a higher tolerance for pain. Some do not. And Pouncey is said to be aiming for missing as little time as possible.

But the recovery is the recovery and missing only three games is looking unrealistic.

Pouncey, by the way, will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The Dolphins hold their first practice Friday.

The Dolphins policy is not to comment on the injuries or recovery periods of their players. The team also in the past has threatened players with fines if they discuss their injuries or recoveries with the media.

So the best way to gauge Pouncey's recovery at the end of training camp will be to monitor whether the club puts him on the active roster or places him on regular-season PUP.

If the team puts Pouncey on the active roster, he will still be miss September's games as he continues to recover. But this will suggest the team is comfortable with him returning sometime before six games are played.

If the team places Pouncey on the regular season PUP this will prove the rehab and recovery from this surgery will extend beyond the initially hopeful three-month recovery period.

Placing Pouncey on regular season PUP gives the Dolphins flexibility with a roster roster spot, but the player must sit out the first six games.

After six games, teams have a five-week window in which to allow the player to begin practicing. Once the player begins practicing teams have a 21-day window in which to decide whether to activate the player to the 53-man roster. If either of those deadlines pass, the player must remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

June 05, 2014

The right Dolphins role for Dan Marino

The Dolphins and Dan Marino have been talking about a job with the organization for more than a year, and yes, the topic has intensified (at least to the public) because CBS fired Marino in February and, as predicted, everyone assumed the proverbial son would return home once his time on national TV had ended.

But despite a face-to-face meeting between Marino and club owner Stephen Ross in April, which The Herald's Barry Jackson first reported, nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet.

Dan Marino may someday again work for the Dolphins.

... Or he might not.

Why the uncertainty?

Well, I guess to hire someone you have to have a job available to them. And then that person has to want that job.

And Marino and the Dolphins seem to be floating in a netherworld of not quite there on either front.

The Dolphins would love for Marino to rejoin the organization. But it is quite clear they want him as what he naturally seems to be -- a face for the franchise that is recognizable and respected and a reminder of how good things used to be.

(Playoffs almost every season is much better than no playoffs every season).

Such a position does not require a lot of preparation. Such a position does not require a fulltime, breakneck commitment. Such a position is a great fit for Marino.

And I commend the Dolphins, specifically club president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, for seeing that fit.

But ...

Marino doesn't seem to be sold on that fit. He seems to want to be more than a marketing tool that is trotted out at events and then set back in the shadows when real football business is handled. Marino apparently would like some actual power.

The problem is Marino is not currently suited for a role that includes any power. He's not ready to be a coach. He's not ready to be a general manager. He's not ready to be team president. Just as importantly, the Dolphins power bureaucracy is saturated as it is.

And then there is this: No one is certain exactly how much desire Marino has for putting in exceedingly long hours. I'm certain if this 52-year-old man wanted to work hard and long and be away from his family and commit, he would be an amazing success at whatever position he wanted to fill.

But there is no surety about that commitment at this point.

And so Marino is not hired yet.

In truth, if the commitment hurdle could be crossed, Marino could turn into a major asset for Ross if the owner would read the next few paragraphs carefully:

Dan Marino would be perfect as the owner's eyes and ears. Call him the special advisor to the owner.

Remember that Ross is an absentee owner. Like it or not, the Dolphins are one of his business ventures, but not his primary business venture. Like it or not, the Dolphins are more a billion-dollar hobby. Ross lives in New York. He works in real estate. And he dabbles as an owner.

That's simply the truth.

Ross relies on the people he has hired to run the Dolphins. He relies on coach Joe Philbin. He relies on general manager Dennis Hickey. He relies on executive vice president Dawn Aponte. On the business side he relies on Garfinkel. He relies on advisor Matt Higgins.

And none of that is any different as any other NFL owner except that Ross is absentee. He's not around the team on a day-to-day basis. He does not witness firsthand what is happening. He is a commander-in-chief who relies on his generals to report to him.

The problem?

Sometimes generals have an agenda. And that agenda is always keeping their job and staying in good favor. Sometimes the commander-in-chief is simply out of the loop.

That is how a general manager and a head coach can go almost an entire year losing respect for one another and much of a season not speaking and it festers until one of them is gone.

So what I propose is inserting Marino into the gap Ross needs to fill between knowing what is actually happening within his organization and what he's told is happening within his organization.

I would turn Marino loose and have him sit in on meetings, talk to the coaches, hear what they think and are planning. And then once he sees the results of those plans and what actually is happening on the field, report to Ross what actually went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the personnel department and let him ask questions. What's Hickey's vision? What are the issues he's concerned about? How is he addressing them? Who is he trying to sign? Who is he planning on discarding? And then when we see how that vision translates to reality, he could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the cap and the legal matters Aponte oversees. What is her vision for handling the coming Mike Pouncey extension, especially given the fact Pouncey seems to have some maturity issues? What is her strategy for handling the coming Ryan Tannehill second contract? Why aren't the first three draft picks signed yet? What was her legal advise on the firing of multiple people who are now threatening to sue? And then when we see how that strategy and vision play out, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose in the locker room, where he would already have a ton of respect based on his credentials and history. If the vets are tired late in the season and need to lighten up in practice, he'd know. If the players don't trust the trainer, he'd know. If the players come in drunk or hung over to practice (it has happened on multiple occasions the past four years), he'd know. And then when we see how locker room issues affect the performance of the players on the field, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

(Who knows, he might even be able to head off some problems if they're addressed early enough).

Eyes and ears.

Without any agenda. Without fear of having to say what he feels the owner wants to hear to keep his job. 

That's what Marino could provide. Frankly, someone like Jason Taylor could similarly fill that role.

After I gave a brief outline for this role on my twitter account (you should follow me), some people called the job I propose one as a snitch.

That's a crass way of looking at it. The role is meant to increase the level of accountability throughout the organization -- and boy, has it needed it the past decade. The role is one that reports the good news as well as the bad. The role can help the team when its heading toward a ditch similar to last year's harassment scandal. The role can help fairy tale stories about what is going on get brushed away but what is true and accurate.

The role could help Ross be a better owner.

Would that role require an investment in time from Marino? Of course. That's why it's called work.

But it would not require the Hall of Famer keeping coaches hours. He doesn't have to meet with everyone every day. He doesn't have to sit in every meeting. But game plan meeting? Big draft meetings? The meetings where the grand strategy is crafted? Of course.

Marino could work smart hours rather than long hours. Oh yeah, and instead of traveling to New York every week for a pregame show, he'd travel only when the Dolphins are on the road or only to the Senior Bowl and Indianapolis Combine.

By God, people in the media travel to those events for a fraction of what Marino would make.

But what the person in that role could provide might prove invaluable.

June 04, 2014

Louis Delmas feels "great," which is good

Talent has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Playmaking ability has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Durability?

That's been a question for the Dolphins new starting safety.

Delmas played 16 games only once in his five-year career with Detroit. And even after that 2013 season, the Lions decided to cut Delmas.

So how's Delmas's health now.

"I’m great. I’m great," he said recently after a Dolphins OTA practice. "I haven’t missed a day of training, haven’t missed a day of practice. I’m feeling good right now, the best I’ve felt my last four years of football. So I’m very excited about this year."

Re-read that please. Delmas, ready to start his sixth NFL season, is feeling the best he's felt since his rookie year in the NFL.

That's good news for he Dolphins because they desperately would like Delmas to stay healthy in the coming season because healthy mean available and when Delmas is available, he generally makes plays.

Last year Delmas had three interceptions. Plays.

He had two sacks. Plays.

He's averaged nearly one fumble recovery per season. Plays.

He returned one of those fumbles and an interception for a touchdown as a rookie. Plays.

The Dolphins defense wants more playmakers and Delmas offers that possibility.

But he cannot do any of that if the durability issues haunts. Delmas is doing what he can to make sure it does not.

“Rest," Delmas said. "That’s something my first couple of years I didn’t take pride in is resting. After the season, I always started immediately with workouts. I think, as the years started going on, I started earning more miles on these legs, I needed to rest a little more. The coaching staff and the trainers are doing a great job of managing me. I’m comfortable right now."

It must be said one of the flaws Delmas has is also one of his strengths.

The man plays at ludicrous speed (Spaceballs reference) all the time. That's great for a Miami defense that is looking to attack more and set the tempo on the field.

But that approach has sometimes in the past led Delmas to give up big plays in the back end when he over-reacts.

And this:

Delmas gained a reputation in Detroit as a vicious hitter who gave no quarter. When he hits, he delivers the blow with everything he's got. But his full speed approach sometimes got him hurt. And his full speed approach at times got teammates hurt as well in situation where an offensive player duck beneath his hit and Delmas ends up hitting one of his own.

Perhaps Delmas can tame that aspect of his game some. Being home in South Florida might help in that regard. Enjoying his environment perhaps can be the settling influence Delmas might need. 

"It’s a fun environment," Delmas said. "I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity that I step foot on the field."

June 03, 2014

See why Dolphins want upgrade at MLB

Watch the video below.

It is a compilation of Alex Mack highlights from 2013. Mack, the center for the Cleveland Browns, truly is among the best at his position in the NFL. But that's not the reason the video is on here.

The reason comes around the :34 second mark.

In that play you see Trent Richardson taking the ball around his 48 yard line and gaining 11 yards to around the Dolphin 41 yard line.

In that play you see Mack getting to the second level and locking on to Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. And you see Mack driving Ellerbe back ...

... and back.

... and back.

Richardson is tackled by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. Meanwhile, a couple of more yards down the field, Ellerbe is still being blocked by Mack.

The Dolphins middle linebacker got locked up just beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't get off the block, like, at all. And he got driven off the line of scrimmage some 15 or so yards by the time the running play ends.

And you wonder why the Dolphins run defense struggled in 2013?

And you wonder why the Dolphins are working with Koa Misi as the middle linebacker now and Ellerbe, signed to a five-year, $34.75 million contract last year, was a bust in his first year with Miami?

Yes, Ellerbe was second on the team with 101 tackles. But only three of his tackles were for a loss. Three tackles for losses is the same number Reshad Jones had in 2013.

And Jones plays safety, often 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. 

(Anyway, watch the video before I continue below. Remember, the play in question starts at the :34 second mark.)

 

The Dolphins hoped Ellerbe could be their new Zach Thomas or Bryan Cox (he played MLB for a year in Miami) or John Offerdahl. He had been a solid fill-in for Ray Lewis when Lewis was injured in Baltimore.

But the move simply did not translate in Miami.

And so what to do with a player who is making $6 million this year, is costing $7.425 million against the salary cap, and cannot be cut because the move would weigh the Dolphins down with $11.6 million in dead money.

So Ellerbe is headed outside, with Misi now the MLB.

Why Misi?

Well, the attempt to sign D'Qwell Jackson in free agency did not pan out. He went to the Colts. The idea of drafting Ryan Shazier did not pan out. He was drafted by the Steelers before the Dolphins could even make a decision on the clock. And Jordan Tripp, drafted in the fifth round, is not ready.

Sooo ...

Koa Misi, everyone.

"Since I’ve been here, one of the things that we’ve emphasized strongly have been fundamentals on defense whether it is block protection, pursuit, tackling, creating turnovers," coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "One of the things we’ve liked about him, that I’ve liked in particular, is when we do a year-end cut-up and we show examples how to take on a block, how to tackle properly, how to pursue the football. He shows up on a lot of those cut-ups.

"Football, as I like to tell the team, is not complicated. Defensively, we want to do those things. We want to see him do those things and we want to take a look at him from the interior, from the middle. We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I’ve been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he’s done a nice job."

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's not ready to commit to Misi as the starting MLB just yet. But, honestly, what choice does he presently have?

Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door. (Well, maybe he might in Dallas.)

So ... Misi.

“I’ve always been open to anything," Misi said, thus dismissing an inaccurate report that he was unhappy with the move to the middle. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I’ve been switching positions. I’m always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we’ll go back to the way things were."

So far, it is working as far as adjusting to the new spot and comfort level are concerned.

"I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played outside linebacker (and) all of our reads were from the outside in," Misi said. "I was walked out on number two. I’m playing Mike (linebacker) now, I’m in the middle. I’m reading everything inside out. I’m dropping in the middle. Everything’s different. I’ve got a lot more calls to make. I’ve got a lot more reads. With work, it will get better.”

 "Once I get this defense down playing, playing Mike, I think I'll be all right.

"I’m already feeling a lot more comfortable."

Ellerbe?

The team didn't ask him what he thought of the move.

"They just told me they were thinking about some things," Ellerbe said. "I’m down for it. Where ever I can stay in and get comfortable and be able to help the team and play my best, I don’t care where they put me."

The Dolphins are still in the middle linebacker market. As they should be. They'll keep an eye out for possible candidates as teams make cuts between now and training camp and then again before the regular season.

The next phase of this experiment is obviously to see how Misi handles the middle when hitting begins. Then everyone will see how he handles the middle when the preseason games begin.

Amazingly, a team that paid so much to fill its middle linebacker spot a year ago still has uncertainty with the quality of play at that position.

June 02, 2014

Coyle defends his defense ... but facts

The new Dolphins offense is going to be more diverse. Today (one day) we saw motion, tight end screens, a reverse, a little read option -- and the Dolphins were only working in the red zone.

(And not one go or go-go heard all day).

So things are going to be interesting for the 2014 Miami offense, as has been well chronicled.

But the defense is undergoing changes of its own as well.

"We're always looking to improve," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "We take the offseason and study teams around the league. We look at ourselves. We look at ways we can be better and utilize personnel better.

"We'll do some different things come the Fall, but I'm not going to talk about them with you guys."

Well, some of the things the Dolphins are experimenting with are apparent. The team is giving Koa Misi the middle linebacker repetitions this offseason while Dannell Ellerbe is shifting to strongside linebacker. The experiment continues and has been something of a success in the offseason, but Coyle stops short of saying it will be what the Dolphins do in the regular season.

"Right now, I can't commit today that it's a done deal," Coyle said, "but certainly I like what we're seeing."

Coyle, speaking for the first time since the end of the 2013 season, made a prideful case for the quality of his defense.

"We have a great foundation that we've built here. We feel real strong about what we've done," he said. "The bottom line is if you ask any defensive coach or head coach or anybody that really understands football for that matter, the bottom line is keep the points off the board.

"We've been very good at that the last two years. We finished seventh in 2012, eighth in 2013. There's only been four teams in the league that have been in the top 8 --San Francisco, Cincinnati, Seattle and us. We've been third in the AFC for two consecutive years in scoring defense. So the bottom line is keeping people out of the end zone and giving yourself a chance to win." 

Those statistics that Coyle repeats are impressive. But here is what the coach is missing ...

The Miami defense was playoff caliber before Coyle arrived. Nothing against him. He's a good coach. He's a good man. But he's not a historian.

The problem is I'm partly a historian.

The truth is the same Dolphins defense that was No. 8 in scoring defense (20.9 points per game) in 2013, and No. 7 in scoring defense (19.8 PPG) in 2012, was No. 6 in scoring defense (19.6 PPG) in 2011. So, ahem, the defense was already built to high standards before Coyle arrived.

And that defense the past two years has gotten worse results, not better, if the standard is points allowed -- the statistic Coyle points to as the one football people think most important.

Also, the idea of talking of how great the defense is should recall two more things: On Nov. 15 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills. On Dec. 23 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills averaged 21 points in those two games. With Thad Lewis as their starting quarterback.

Facts. 

Coyle: Dolphins considered putting Jordan on IR

Everyone knows the Dolphins didn't get enough out of rookie Dion Jordan last season. The team wasn't happy with it. Jordan wasn't happy with it. Fans weren't happy with it.

It beats what might have happened.

That's because the Dolphins late during the 2013 training camp considered letting Jordan spend the entire season on injured reserve, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

"We came very close during the preseason to have to make a decision whether or not we were going to try to redshirt Dion or know we were going to get limited snaps from him," Coyle said Monday after the Dolphins OTA practice.

"We had to make a decision whether to have him active for the year," Coyle said. "We talked about that late in the preseason in camp to make a determination whether we could get enough out of him. As it went, we wish we would have gotten more, but situationally, we knew where his strengths were and where he had not gotten enough work and so we didn't want to expose him nor the team."

Jordan played the fewest snaps of any defensive end on the active. He played less at the end of the year than even in the middle of the season. That was last year.

But this is a new year and "this is a different Dion," Coyle said. Jordan is up over 265 pounds. He's obviously involved in the offseason program.

And Coyle thinks the player drafted No. 3 overall a season ago is going to do great things this season. Like, really great things. 

"All the talk in the offseason that centered around he wasn't utilized, he didn't do that, we knew going into the year he hadn't had an offseason," Coyle said. "He was coming off of an injury. But it would be in the best interest of our team to have him, even for limited snaps. We made that decision. Certainly, Dion wished he had a bigger rookie season and so do we.

"But we have great expectations for Dion Jordan coming into this year. You cannot have enough great pass rushers and we feel with Dion at full speed we have a prime time player that's going to explode this season. "

May 29, 2014

Bryant McKinnie should be an option for Dolphins

The Dolphins have come a loooong way in addressing the obvious and urgent needs of their offensive line. This post will, in effect, show you how far the personnel department has come in that regard.

That's because we're going to discuss some offensive line depth issues today.

No, I'm not concerned about the starting left tackle. No, I'm not worried about the starting right tackle or center. I'm not even worried about the budding competition at the guard positions ... yet.

I do cringe every time I think of the depth at tackle and center.

And that's what this post is about.

Although the Dolphins are set with Branden Albert as their starting left tackle, the moment the second-team lined up during a recent OTA, it became obvious how tenuous Miami's offensive line situation remains.

The backup left tackle was Nate Garner.

Now, Garner is a solid player. He is a jack-of-all-trades type. He has played well when he's been given chances at either guard position and the right tackle spot. He even spotted in and played well at center earlier in his career and last year.

But he's not a left tackle. Indeed, left tackle is the only offensive line position he has been a disaster playing.

Perhaps general manager Dennis Hickey doesn't know this because he wasn't here. Perhaps coach Joe Philbin doesn't know this because he wasn't here (although he should have seen the tape in 2012).

But the last time Garner played left tackle was for a couple of quarters in 2011 against Philadelphia. He came into the game because Jake Long went out with a knee injury. And then the flood gates opened.

The Dolphins gave up nine sacks that day against the Eagles. Garner gave up three of them. Amazingly, he also yielded seven quarterback hurries that game.

Seven.

That was the only time in memory that Garner played left tackle in a game. And it was his worst game as a professional.

The Dolphins as a result turned to John Jerry as their left tackle the final two games that year when Long was eventually ruled done for the year.

This is not a knock on Garner. He's a valuable backup. He's got good position flexibility.

But left tackle is not one of the positions he's flexible in. It just isn't.

Yet, he's the backup left tackle now.

Big mistake.

What's worse, this mistake will not show itself 1. unless Hickey or Philbin read this post and go back to that 2011 tape of the Philly game or 2. until the Dolphins actually start hitting either in practice or the preseason, which is two months away.

And by then the best chance to address the issue might have passed.

My suggestion?

You will think me crazy, but I would have a talk with Bryant McKinnie. I'd bring him in and ask him if he's willing at this stage in his career to be a minimum salary insurance policy backup. He would have to take a one-year $955,000 deal with no guarantees. He'd have to get in shape in what remains of the offseason and come to camp and compete.

And he'd have to know he's not beating out Branden Albert.

But if he wants to serve as that insurance policy, he could make that near-million dollars in 2014, which beats unemployment.

I'd think of McKinnie as my closer in case my ace pitcher tires. I'd think of McKinnie because Nate Garner is not a closer at left tackle.

Center?

The Dolphins have a curious situation there as well.

Mike Pouncey is the starter and that is not going to change. But the possibility of the NFL sanctioning (read suspending) Pouncey for some portion, however large or small, of 2014 still exists. Moreoever, Pouncey last year missed some games so it's not like the guy is indestructable.

So what is the answer at center if Pouncey has to sit?

Well, it should be Nate Garner. He started in Pouncey's place twice last year and performed well enough.

So Garner should be getting second-team reps at center.

Except he's not because he's getting second-team reps at left tackle!

So let me get this right: The Dolphins need to guard against the unthinkable at left tackle and center, the two most important offensive line positions. So they are giving the guy who showed he cannot play left tackle second-team reps at left tackle and in so doing cannot give him second-team reps at center, a position he's proven he can play.

Call Bryant McKinnie, Dolphins.

Yes, he's 34. No, he's not starter quality anymore. And he needs to get in shape.

But last year he started 10 games at left tackle for Miami. And he didn't have a game in which he allowed three sacks and seven hurries.

May 28, 2014

Dolphins new offense asks a lot of Tannehill (and others)

Ryan Tannehill played 51 games (19 in college and 32 with the Dolphins) under the old Mike Sherman offense. It was so familiar to him that, as a rookie, he often helped veterans on the Dolphins learn the nuances of it. It was comfortable for him. It was home for him.

The new offense coordinator Bill Lazor is installing for the Dolphins leaves Tannehill just as unfamiliar with the scheme as any other player and perhaps less than some players more familiar with variances of it. Rookie Jarvis Landry, for example, says he ran the same Dolphins plays at Louisiana State under former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron, who is now the LSU offensive coordinator.

So Tannehill has work to do and, clearly, his abilities on the field and work ethic and ability to digest information off it will be tested in the run up to the regular season.

Can he get it all down and be proficient quickly after coasting in the knowledge of the old scheme the past few years?

 “I think so," Tannehill said. "I think we already have a baseline of going through it just the beginning stages at this point.  There’s still a learning curve.  It’s not going to come overnight.  It’s going to take some time not just for me but for all of our guys.  The receivers are running routes that they haven’t run before doing adjustments that we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be a learning curve but that’s what this time is for.  This spring practice that we have, everyone here, it’s getting better when they have to be here because we’ll have a full camp here.

"t’s a learning process.  We’re doing some different things in the backfield that we haven’t done before.  We’ve been doing it on air but it’s completely different when you throw a lot of defense out there then you’re trying to process a lot more information so it’s the fun process.  I’m exciting to get in and watch the tape and see the mistakes I made and how I can correct them.  But that’s what this time is for and I’m just excited that we have this time, that we’re able to get everyone out here, have all the receivers out here that are healthy working and just start building that chemistry just a little bit so when the ball comes we are ready."

About those receiver running routes and making adjustments they haven't done before ...

One of the complaints I had about Sherman's offense last year was there was hardly any motion used to help receivers get free of coverages. Indeed, receivers often lined up in the same place play after play as a so-called strategy.

Not so with Miami's new offense. Receivers will be in motion a lot.  There will be five players in the pass pattern a lot -- that coming in multiple combinations such as two WRs, two TEs and a RB or 3 WRs, a TE and a RB. And most of the time, receivers will have options on their routes.

This Dolphins offense places a premium on speed that the so-called West Coast offense of the past couple of years did not. Mike Wallace is happy about that. This offense requires a strong-armed QB and Tannehill fills that need well. The offense also relies a lot on timing. Tannehill will often be throwing to a spot and expect the WR to be there.

That can be good as it will get the ball out quickly. But that can also be problematic if the receiver and quarterback are not in synch, as sometimes happens when things are new.

The new scheme also requires Tannehill to fix the deep ball accuracy issue of the past because otherwise the long ball -- and the offense often looks long first and then works back -- is of no effect.

So the chemistry between Tannehill and Wallace is a bigger deal than last year.

 “Well it’s big. It’s big time," Tannehill agreed. "I think that’s one thing you looked at from last year is just connecting more.  Not only on deep balls but just connecting more on every run and he’s been here working in the offseason and putting forth a lot of effort and that’s exciting from a veteran guy like that who’s been in other organizations that maybe haven’t had the same offseason type program that we have.  For him to come here and be working this year it’s exciting."

Much work needs done on this. During Tuesday's OTA session, Tannehill tried one deep pass to an open Wallace that I saw. He overthrew it. So the issue isn't exactly fixed yet.

Look for a lot of inside running out of the new Dolphins offense -- something that might give Daniel Thomas more of a shot at making the team than even I previously thought because he's the biggest back on the team. (Yeah, I'm still not convinced he's it. He's had three seasons and shown very little. I doubt suddenly he has an epiphany in Year Four and becomes John Riggins.)

The Dolphins' new offense places a big demand on the tight end. It was out of this kind of offense that Kellen Winslow Sr. and Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates gained prominence. Is Charles Clay, coming off a breakout season, ready to take another big and significant step in his development?

The Dolphins used a lot of double tight end formations at Tuesday's OTA so are Michael Egnew and Dion Sims ready to become factors? (Rookie Arthur Lynch is nursing some sort of injury that seems minor.)

The possiblities are grand. But the possibilities for a grand disappointment also exists. Remember that Cameron's version of this same offense didn't exactly lead to a great season in 2007.

"It’s fun. Just the way things turned out last year wasn’t what we were looking for," Tannehill said. "Personally, from a team standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, to come out, kind of have a fresh start, new identity, new offense with really talented players across the board.  You know you look at our roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball, you see a stacked receiver room.  Brought in Knowshon  (Moreno) in the backfield.  The guys up front that we brought in are really talented players and I’m just excited I get to play with them."

 

May 27, 2014

Lazor: Tannehill has to practice at game speed

You've heard a lot about temp with this new Dolphins offense.

Players talked about today at the OTA. Get in the huddle. Get out of the huddle. That's what tempo meant today.

Eventually, the Dolphins will go no-huddle and then up-tempo will mean something -- as in trying to throw so much at the defense as to get that unit tired and into retreat mode.

The designer of this attack is offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The player most responsible implementing it?

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And that is why Lazor believes Tannehill has to speed up in practice. He needs to practice at game tempo.

Eventually the other players will catch up.

Here's more from the Dolphins new offensive coordinator:

(On progression of offense) – “I feel better about it than the last time you or someone in this group asked me the question because we’ve had the chance to be on the field a little bit. The thing that was a lot different today was the fact we were able to go against the defense. A couple of things changed I think from what we were doing the last couple two or three weeks. The intensity level rose a little bit. I think what you saw was the guys struggling a little bit early on to be poised with some new coaches coming in and some new terminology, I think there was probably a little stress level and it was kind of interesting to watch them work their way through that and settle down a little bit as we went. Each guy handles that a little differently. These guys are pros, and I think most of them were really excited to get out today. All of them to me seemed really excited to get out there. There was a little excitement in their play. Now you get to see guys compete more. We did it on air the last few weeks. We are really trying to teach them the basic fundamentals. Now they’ve got to apply it to having a defender there. I thought it was a great first day. I thought the guys tried to play with great tempo. Just walking off the field, I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of the video yet, but I think some of the basic things that need to get corrected, number one, would be communication offensively. If we are not all on the same page, we’ve got a very low chance of being successful. Some of the times you saw some mistakes where we saw mistakes, we weren’t together. Who did the center call? What protection did he set? Was the quarterback together with him? Some of the calls are new for these guys. Some of the guys are new. Some people have been at it, (but) they haven’t played together before. I think we’ll get that point made real fast to them that they’ve got to get the communication ironed out right away so we are all together. But I thought the effort was great, and I was really happy with that.”

(On how he would describe the tempo of his offense) – “When you hear the word tempo being spoke about, there are probably a couple of different meanings. One of the meanings when we say tempo to our guys, we talk about from the break of the huddle until the snap of the ball. I think what you saw today, I believe you were there at practice, most of the day we were in huddle. Even when we are in a huddle, we talk about playing with a certain tempo when we break the huddle until we snap the ball. As we go forward, there will be some other times we will choose to operate a different way, and tempo will take on some other meanings. As far as the plays you saw and how fast the ball was out today, some of it is a nature of what we installed today. Day one teaching we always start by getting the hitch in. There were a couple of quick throws out to the receivers. Part of that was the nature of it, but in general our passing game the ball is going to come out on time. When number one is open, the quarterback is going to take whatever his set-drop is when the ball is coming out. If number one is one-on-one, we expect him to win so we expect to throw the football. Hopefully you see that a lot."

(On how long it takes for the talent to fit within his offense) – “How long it takes is a work in progress. It’s day-to-day. What we did today isn’t going to be good enough tomorrow. We made that clear to the players afterward. They’ve got to get better, and there is no ending point. When you ask how long does something take, that means at some point you will arrive. The mindset for them is that there is no end. We aren’t going to arrive. We are just going to keep going and keep getting better and growing. Talent-wise, I think we have what we need to be where we want to be. I feel excellent about how fast the receivers played today. There were a lot of good examples of the running backs running the ball decisively, not 100 percent. We’ll address that, but for the most part I thought we were pretty decisive with the football. I thought the quarterbacks were pretty decisive in getting the ball out. It was mentioned it seemed the ball was coming out on time. If you see them back there holding the ball or patting the ball, you will know that I’m not happy."

(On what he needs to get from Mike Pouncey with a young offensive line around him) – “Every once in a while I’ll walk through the locker room, but not that often. But I’ll see him all the time in the meeting room and I’ll see him all the time on the field. In all three of those cases, whether it is the locker room when I’m in there or on the field, I expect him to be a professional. I expect him to kind of live up to what the billing is, and the billing is a guy who was just in the Pro Bowl and a guy whose teammates, coaches and everyone in the organization looks to as a leader. So to me the bar has already been set. Mike and I walk into this professional relationship with a real clear picture. I’ve got real high standards as far as what I’m expecting from the center, and we are going to put a lot on the center on the practice field and on the game field as far as setting the tone for our offense, making calls, (and) getting everyone on the right page. One of the most exciting things for me is the day I first spoke with Mike. I spoke with him on the phone, and I laid out what I was looking for. He was very excited to do it. I think he’s taken that bull by the horns. He’s the right guy to get that done for us."

(On how the draft impacted what he wants to do with the offense) – “Well after one day on the field against the defense, I should go back (because) we had rookie camp also, a lot of time on air. I feel excellent about how we’ve addressed the offensive line. I think we’ve brought in talented guys both in free agency and the draft. It was no secret that was probably the number one most talked about issue when I got here as well as the personnel of the offense. All signs point to us having the pieces in place. How they work together, who is on the right, who is on the left, all of that stuff will get worked out. That’s why we practice. You walk onto the field today and you look at the bodies, and you all have been around. You’ve seen them. As you watch them move, you say, ‘OK these guys look the part. They move like they are supposed to move.’ Now we’ve got to get them doing it the right way.”

(On what the key was to helping Nick Foles in Philadelphia transform from a rookie to second-year Pro Bowl quarterback) – “If it was one key, it would be easy and we could bottle it and sell it, right? Each guy is different. I think that is important. I think it is important to set a standard for someone to make it very clear. I think as a coach, whether you are the position coach or directing the offense, you’ve got to do a couple of things. Number one you’ve got to be a great teacher. You’ve got to make it very clear for them, and I’ll answer specifically with the quarterback position, you have to make it very clear what you expect, not only what to do but how to do it. Number two, you have to be very demanding. Now if you are demanding but you didn’t do a good job explaining how you want it done, then you are just a jerk that kind of goes and yells all the time, right? But if you do a great job teaching it but you don’t hold them to a real high standard, then their play is only going to reach a certain level then it is going to stop. But if you can do a great job teaching what I want done, exactly how I want it done and then hold it to them every single day. There is no magic. It’s a formula, and every guy has different traits that need to be improved than others, but if the quarterback is accurate and decisive, you’ve got to feel like you can work with him, you can mold him, you can push him (and) you can take him. Sometimes it takes a pat on the back. Sometimes you have to hold his face to the fire. Every guy needs different things. You might need  different things on different days, but that’s what we are here for.”

(On where Ryan Tannehill needs to improve) – “I would say I put a lot more credence or a lot more emphasis right now on what we’ve seen on the field than studying tape. We’ve watched the tape, and we’ve watched the deep throws, the short throws, the good throws, the bad throws, and at some point we just couldn’t wait to get on the field. But as we are on the field, we started right from the very beginning with how we want them to play physically, and it’s no different than when we take my 9-year old son, and if he’s every going to be the quarterback, how we are going to start with him, playing with great fundamentals, the footwork, the pace, playing on a certain tempo. As I finished playing the practice video from today, I want to see the ball coming out on time, letting his football tell him when it’s time to throw it, and I want to see that he trusted us that this is how it all fits together. The quarterback has got to play at game speed every day in practice. The receivers will catch up to him. The quarterback has got to play at game speed, and that’s the first thing we are trying to do with Ryan from the very beginning, play at game speed every day and what does that feel like? The only way to learn it is to do it.”

(On the three wide receivers that were injured last season and how they are doing in OTAs) – “I can’t talk about where they are in the rehab process and all of that. I can tell you that I’ve seen all three of them work. They are all doing it, I think the correct term is as able, go as able as they come back. As professional players, as receivers, they’ve got to be experts on their body. They’ve got to know. Now we have a lot of professionals working on them as when to push, when to pull back, when they rest, but when they come out and put the helmet on, when they go to run a route on these fields for the quarterbacks, they’ve got to do it full-speed. I trust them. I trust it when they go out there to do it full-speed it’s because they can, and when it is a time when they can’t that they pull back. I think you probably saw Armon (Binns) more than the others in the team period today, but I hope as we go we continue to see all of them more and more. I think they are focused. When I’ve seen them work, I see guys who are eager to get out there on the field with the quarterbacks, which is what we need. We’ll all get better when we are all out there together.”

Joe Philbin answers media questions at OTA

Joe Philbin hadn't spoken to the media since the first day of the draft.

Today he fielded questions about center Mike Pouncey, the offense, the chemistry between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and reciever Mike Wallace. Here are the answers:

(Opening Remarks) – “It was great to get back on the practice field today.  The one thing I would tell you that we’re very, very excited about is the participation that we’ve had throughout the offseason program.  This is the start of our sixth week, as you guys know the offseason is divided up into different phases.  We had phase one for two weeks.  Phase two for three weeks and then we started the OTA phase which is phase 3.  Our players (should) be commended.  I think they’re in good physical condition and I thought our energy, our effort on the field was very good today."

(On Mike Pouncey and his role on the team) – “The one thing without question about Mike Pouncey which is important is he wants to be a great football player.  He wants to make a valuable contribution to the Miami Dolphins and he’s not unlike any other player that we have in terms of there’s an educational process that every player goes through, but love the effort and energy that he brings and that he’s put forth into this offseason and today is day one, it’s a long, long process but he’s off to a good start."

(On Mike Pouncey saying he doesn’t feel he needs any medical clearance and if he’s correct)  --  “Well again we’re in communication with the National Football League and when we have additional information we’re in constant communication with them and when decisions are made we’ll certainly inform you guys when that occurs."

(On Brandon Gibson) – “I think you mentioned one thing.  We’re looking for progress on a daily basis  with Brandon.  He’s been very diligent in his preparation for the offseason.  Spent a lot of time here.  The training staff, the medical staff, (has) done an excellent job with him.  But it’s a process.  It’s going to take a little bit of time and you know there’s going to be steps forward and probably as people return from injury, not uncommon, steps backwards.  So we’ll take it one day at a time but his dedication has been exceptional.  He’s a bright, bright guy that keeps picking things up well.  So I think he’s off to a good start."

(On whether Koa Misi being at inside linebacker is a long term or short term move) – “Yes and yes.  You know we’re kind of looking at it.  We evaluate it as you know.  We went through a thorough evaluation of the off season.  Watched a lot of tape.  I think we played about eleven hundred snaps on defense last year.  And so this is a lineup for today that we wanted to take a look at that’s not written in stone.  We have to see have everybody…the pieces fit together but we certainly feel like he’s a guy that’s capable so we wanted to provide that opportunity."

(On Jason Taylor being at camp today) – “Well I told him at our seven o’clock staff meeting, I don’t think he really knew what he was signing up for (laughing).  So we hope he’s back tomorrow.  I think he’s going to be around a lot in the OTA’s.  He’s approached us about working with the defensive linemen.  I don’t know if there could be a better mentor for our young players than Jason Taylor.  He’s energetic and enthusiastic about helping out and contributing and so I’ll have to check with him after how he felt about his first practice.  Player hours and coaches hours, players on a six hour day.  Coaches aren’t.  So we’ll have to see how that goes."

(On whose idea it was to bring in Jason Taylor and if it’s salary job)  --  “Well it’s the one day, kind of a one day at a time on a volunteer basis right now.  We’ve reached out to a lot guys.  We anticipate other former players getting a little bit more involved.  We love to have them come back.  We were fortunate last week in Phase 2 that Nick Buoniconti came by.  Hometown boy from Springfield, Massachusetts and he had a chance to talk to the team.  So we’re going to encourage that.  Get as many former players out here as possible.  How many want to put the whistle on that’s another story.  But as you guys know we have a tremendous alumni group.  These guys have been very, very supportive of our staff and certainly want to involve them whenever we can."

(On finding more playing time Dion Jordan)  --  “We consider every single option.  There’s absolutely truth in that statement.  The thing that at the end of the day, the thing that we look for with him when we drafted him was it a guy that was going to be able to put pressure on the quarterback.  You know one of the big things we feel that’s important to for our defense is to continually pressure opposing quarterbacks.  And that was really the mind set when we took him.  And we feel like to develop him in those skills requires a time commitment and if you’re always wondering about pass drops and who you have in zone and who you have in man, not that we haven’t used him in there and not that we won’t.  Third downs its own kind of animal.  We’ll do whatever we have to do on third down to get off the field.  That was kind of the thought process behind, how can we develop this player the best and that was the decision we came to."

(On Marcus Thigpen) – “I’ll be glad to talk about anybody that was out there at practicing today."

(On Bill Lazor’s offense) – “I would describe it as the Miami Dolphins offense first and foremost.  It’s not one individual.  I’m sure if Bill were here and you asked him that question, my reaction would be that he would say everybody’s contributing. We’ve got a talented offensive staff.  We’ve got guys that have worked very hard.  They work well together.  I’m really pleased about where the staff is at this particular point in time.  But you know we talked to Bill, the same things that Bill and I talked about in January are things we want to see.  We want to see an offense that plays fast with tempo.  We want to see an offense that does a great job taking care of the football and we want to see an offense that’s explosive.  So those are really the parameters.  That hasn’t changed and it’s not one individual.  It’s not mine, it’s not Bill’s, it’s not Dan Campbell’s or Ken O’Keefe’s, it’s the Miami Dolphins offense and in fairness to Bill this is day one of seeing eleven players on the opposite sides.  So we have to find out, he has to get a better sense of what exactly these players can and cannot do."

(On Ryan Tannehill’s and Mike Wallace’s chemistry developing) – “Well I think Mike, if you ask, Mike’s, his attitudes been outstanding.  He’s been working hard every single day that he’s been here.  I think he feels a lot more comfortable just as we like to say, parking his car in the parking lot and coming to work.  I think he feel better about being a Miami Dolphin.  I think he understands the expectations that we have in the offseason and so forth.  So really like what he’s doing.  He’s getting extra jugs on his own.  He’s doing a lot of things on his own and I think it’s improved but certainly today’s day one and we expected that it will continue to develop."

(On Dion Jordan, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Dallas Thomas contributing from scrimmage) – “We’re going to provide a ton of opportunity out here on the practice field, in the preseason for these guys to earn playing time.  And so I think if you look at Dion who wasn’t healthy and wasn’t physically present here in the last off season, this has got to be a beneficial that he’s here.  If you look at Dallas Thomas who was able to participate only on limited basis last offseason, he’s been one of our hardest workers throughout the offseason program.  So those two guys in particular, we’re going to provide these guys a lot of opportunity and then it’s really, the films should be able to tell us what decisions to make and how much playing time that they earn."

(On what was said to new members of the Offensive Line) – “We didn’t really say an awful lot.  I mean we want them to make their own decisions when they walk into the building.   When they feel the energy, the excitement that the coaching staff has.  Working with these guys every day.  When they see the way these players are treated by our equipment staff, by our security staff, by our medical staff, by our food staff, by the fields, probably forgetting people, but I don’t really have to say a whole lot.  I mean the people that come to work here every single day create an outstanding atmosphere that’s, I think is outstanding and I think the players feel that.  Again if you have to talk about it a lot you probably don’t have it."

(On John Benton) – “Well John’s a professional.  He’s got very, very good experience.  He’s been in the league, I believe this is his eleventh season in the league.  He’s run the offensive line on his own.  He’s been an offensive line assistant.  He’s been in a number of different schemes.  Obviously he was with Coach (Gary) Kubiak for eight years.  They had a lot of success both running the ball, protecting the quarterback.  John’s a teacher first and foremost and I think when you watch his film the techniques and the fundamentals that he teaches show up on tape.  And often times I’ve told the players a lot, it’s not what I can tell you I know at the podium or on the chalk board or in the classroom but really my resume and John’s resume is the film.  When you turn the film on how do the offensive linemen play and I’m confident he’s going to do an excellent job." 

Quickie OTA practice reaction

Dion Jordan, the Dolphins first round draft pick, looked as if he took an air pump and plugged it into his arms and shoulders this offseason. That's how big he looks.

Jordan said he's "a little over 265" pounds now.

"I was definitely too light to go out there against some of those offensive tackles," Jordan conceded.

"This year I had the opportunity to have an offseason where I can take care of my body. I'm trying to move forward and continue to try to better myself in a few areas."

Jordan, who struggled with the rehabilitation folllowing shoulder surgery last year, said he mostly did strength work this offseason. "I'm 100 percent," he said.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin admitted the team considered using Jordan as an OLB this year but decided against it. To hear the coach explain it, coaches don't want Jordan thinking about covering zone or man when he should be chasing the quarterback.

So he's a defensive end.

Interestingly, former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor returned to the practice field today to work with the defensive line. Coach Joe Philbin said Taylor is working strictly on a volunteer basis for a while.

There were several players who are injured and did not work today: KR-PR Marcus Thigpen has a back issue and was not present. Defensive tackle Jared Odrick, rookie fifth-round pick Arthur Lynch and undrafted rookie Tariq Edwards did not work. It's unclear what issues they have.

Wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who tore a patellar last year, was on the field but limited in drills. He did not take part in team drills.

The starting offensive line?

RT Ja'Wuan James, RG, Shelley Smith, C Mike Pouncey, LG Dallas Thomas, and LT Branden Albert.

You should understand this is just a snapshot rather than Miami's Day One starting line. Rookie Billy Turner also got a couple of first-team snaps at left guard.

The starting defense?

Today we saw the Koa Misi middle linebacker experiment for the first time. Philbin said this is a permanent solution to Miami's linebacker problems for today. In other words, this is the way the team is going to roll for now but it isn't necessarily permanent.

We also saw Cortland Finnegan as the starting corner on the other side of Brent Grimes. And Louis Delmas worked at one starting safety along with Reshad Jones at the other starting safety.

Finnegan, by the way, had an interception in the team period against Ryan Tannehill.

DE Cameron Wake, DT Earl Mitchell, DT Randy Starks, DE Olivier Vernon. was the defensive line.

The linebackers were Misi in the middle, with Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe outside.

The secondary is CB Brent Grimes, CB Finnegan, and Jones and Delmas at safety.

 

Open OTA workout today so tune in

The 2014 Dolphins squad, at least a vast majority of them, should be at training camp today for an Organizational Training Activity.

If you want play-by-play of the two hours of practice between 10 and noon you should follow me on twitter -- @ArmandoSalguero.

Otherwise come back here this afternoon for the quickie posts on what happened.

Things to look for today?

1. Brandon Gibson's progress from his knee injury (torn PCL) last year. Is he working? To what degree?

2. The offense. What are they running? How much is the classic Air Coryell descendent that you're likely to see as something of a departure from the West Coast offense offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has planned? How much read option will we see (the Dolphins will run some of it)?

3. Starters. Is Ja'Wuan James already inserted into the right tackle spot? How are the guards looking? How are the cornerbacks setting up?

May 24, 2014

The perfect plan for the Dolphins offensive line

It'll be interesting tracking the progress of right tackle Ja'Wuan James and guard Billy Turner during training camp and throughout their entire rookie season.

Much is at stake for both men and the Dolphins have invested heavily and are depending on each to succeed relatively quickly.

No, the team hasn't voiced high expectations for either.

The Dolphins are actually being very, very careful not to put pressure on their rookie linemen even though everyone understands there is much expected of both men.

“They haven’t gave too many expectations as a set thing, but like I said before, I’m just coming in trying to compete," James said Friday. "I just want to contribute to the team the best way I can."

Well, let's be transparent ... The best way James, Miami's first-round pick, and Turner, Miami's third-round pick, can contribute is by being good enough to start and increase the level of play for an offensive line which was a disaster last season.

James is further along. He is more likely to get a call to the starting lineup right away.

But do not discount Turner, who I wrote my column about in Saturday's Miami Herald, and who is an impressive young man. You'll read in my column what approach Turner takes to playing and where that approach was born.

You'll see how that is quite different from the James approach.

There's nothing wrong with the James approach. But I prefer Turner's.

If everything, and I do mean everything, goes just as general manager Dennis Hickey hopes, the Dolphins' offensive line will look as follows in 2014:

LT: Branden Albert

LG: Billy Turner

C: Mike Pouncey

RG: Shelley Smith

RT: Ja'Wuan James

I like the idea of letting Turner and his attitude on the left side between two proven veterans. I like the idea of having James next to an experienced guard in Smith rather than another rookie.

After giving up an NFL leading and franchise record 58 sacks last season, after being the epicenter of a troubling harassment scandal, after being the target of so much bad publicity, it sure would be refreshing for the Miami line to work as anticipated, as planned.

Too much to ask?