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57 posts from August 2008

August 31, 2008

The words straight from Jeff Ireland's mouth

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland talked to the media today. It's a big deal. He has declined to do so since the April draft.

This is what he said:

(On what went into the decision to add C Andy Alleman, T Nate Garner and WR Brandon London) – “Obviously we felt like we had a need at the position so we went after the players that we did because there is a need there, and we felt like their abilities are what we needed.”

(On the report of signing Ricky Williams to an extension through next year)  – “Yeah, we did.  We extended him for one more year.  We didn’t want him to be a free agent so we did extend him, yes.”

(On what has impressed him about Ricky Williams since the offseason) – “You guys see it out there, we see it out there; he’s done an excellent job in the weight room, in the meeting rooms.  He’s come out there, he’s jumped out at us on tape, he looks good in the preseason.  Everything we’ve seen since we got here - and it was zero-zero when we got here, Tony (Sparano) said that in the first press conference - he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s a player that’s shown he can play; he showed us that he can play so we didn’t want him to make the free agent market.”

(On how long has Ricky Williams’ extension been in the works) – “I don’t know, not very long, a couple days.”

(On if there is a chance that Anthony Armstrong could wind up on the practice squad) – “We’ll have to see, obviously, if he passes through waivers, but yeah, he’s a player we still have an interest in, yes.”

(On what went into the decision to trade Josh McCown and keep John Beck) – “What it came down to is, obviously we didn’t know that (Chad) Pennington was going to be out there.  Things changed pretty quickly when we were able to pick up that thing that fell out of the tree there.  That was obviously a good move for us when we did pick up Chad. Tony (Sparano) was right on when he said we might keep four quarterbacks.  We decided that we weren’t going to keep four, we decided who probably has the best upside? We felt like John (Beck) was still a young player and he’s done a great job here in the last week and a half and felt like that was the player that we felt like he had more upside and more future to him and more developmental possibilities, so John was the guy we went with.”

(On if there was any truth to the rumor of trying to trade John Beck) – “I’m not going to confirm that we tried to trade or anything like that about John Beck.  We traded Josh McCown.”

(On if he is comfortable having a rookie and a second-year quarterback backing up Chad Pennington and if there is a chance they may pick up another veteran quarterback) – “We feel pretty good about it.  We feel pretty good about where Chad Henne and John Beck are.  Chad Henne is a guy that we feel very good about; obviously he’s our number two right now.  I feel pretty good about it as a matter of fact, yes.”

(On if Ricky Williams is more dedicated now than he has been in the past) – “I wasn’t here in the past so I don’t really know how he had a lack of dedication in the past.  I know what I read and what circulates in NFL circles.  When we sat down coming here, we said that we’re going to give this guy every benefit of the doubt and he’s got to show us that he is dedicated. He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.  We feel really good about our decision to extend him.”

(On if he envisioned this much change having only one returning starter at the same position on the offensive line from last year with Samson Satele) – “We felt like, obviously when we came here we let go of some guys that were starters at the end of the season.  Yeah, we knew there was going to be a lot of turnover there.  Did I know there was only going to be one left?  Probably not at the time, but we knew that we had some work there; we knew that we needed to get younger.  Now we got some young guys there that we feel like we can grow with and that we can develop and develop them the way we want them to develop them.  We feel pretty good about where the offensive line stands today.”

(On his overall impression of the 53-man roster going into week one) – “I feel pretty good about the 53-man roster.  As a matter of fact I feel very good about the 53.  I think we’ve made some improvements in pretty much every area.  I think we’ve helped the depth of the offensive line tremendously, we helped the defensive line tremendously, the secondary we feel very good about. I think the resurgence of Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill and Jason Allen, just getting him more consistent, has helped the secondary.  I think we’ve helped ourselves with a young placekicker we feel real good about so we have a good young nucleus of players that we feel very good about working with and developing.”

(On if there is a position where he thinks they lack depth and need to shore up)  – “We got to see these guys play a little bit more before we can go into where we have a weakness right now.  We’re not where we want to be, that’s for sure, in a lot of different areas, but to come out and say that this position is weak; I don’t want to get into that.”

(On eight of nine draft picks making the final roster and Lex Hilliard ending up on the practice squad) – “We had some holes to fill, and we feel very good about the nine draft choices that we drafted, we feel very good about those guys. It’s nothing to say that Lex didn’t do anything to earn a job, because I think that he did. He earned a practice squad spot right now, and we have to see how that position turns out. Jalen’s got to come out and play and he has to perform, but the other guys we feel real good about, Jake (Long) and Kendall (Langford) and Phillip (Merling) and the rest of the guys we feel real good about them.”

(On if there was as much talent on the waiver wire as he would have hoped for) – “It’s never as good as you want it to be, it’s never as good as you want it to be. Teams are smart, they are not just going to let go because they have a certain number of receivers. If that is a strength of their team they are going to hold on to the strength of their team, and as much as you project and try to analyze, the ones that you want to come free never come free. I feel very good about the three players that we were able to get. They fit a need and we all feel very good about where they can go on this team.”

(On if the team will continue to be active in adjusting the roster) – “We have been here for six or seven months now and it’s never stopped, so I don’t think that it’s going to stop now. That is the one thing that has been constant is change around here. Yes, I can see ourselves being active, there are several more waves of player availability, and so I would say that we’d be active in just about all of them if the player and the need fit.”

(On if anyone exceeded his expectations during training camp) – “I think pretty much everybody was about what we thought they would be. I’ll give kudos to Donald Thomas, he came in and really played well. All the rookies exceeded a little bit of my expectations, but I will say that Donald Thomas did a nice job. For the most part they kind of were what they were; I mean they are what they are.”

(On the release of Keith Davis) – “Well like coach said and like I said a while ago, we did not know much about Yeremiah Bell when we first got here. We knew he was coming off an Achilles injury, and coming off three seasons where he hadn’t finished the season on the active roster. We knew Renaldo (Hill) was coming off a knee injury and we didn’t have (Chris) Crocker at the time and we knew a little about Jason (Allen) but it hadn’t all been positive at the time when we found out. The more we learned about all three of them, we learned that those are four players that we felt pretty strongly about as we are going through this process. So Keith really just didn’t fit in the long term plans as some of these other guys did.”

(On how it affects the special teams units) – “Keith is obviously a very good special teams player and so is Ed (Miles), and obviously those are difficult decisions to make. As you look at it we felt that we had some guys on the roster that can fill those shoes and that’s going to be something that we continually monitor, the special teams and the number of plays these guys can play and the flexibility that some positions have and some positions don’t have. Again, that comes back to player availability. Special Teams is something that we stress a lot around here, so you can see us probably making some moves in that regard in the future.”

(On the makeup of the tight end position on the roster) – “Well it didn’t come down to money to be honest with you; it came down to having something a little bit different. You have (Anthony) Fasano, you have (David) Martin and then you have (Sean) Ryan, and Ryan was really third piece that was a little bit different than what we had. So when you are putting a team together you don’t need the same pieces everywhere. You need to have a little bit different, so you can run different things when you are in certain packages. Ryan gave us something a little bit different, a big tough guy. So we are glad to have him. We felt we got the right player.”

(On the difference of his role this year as to years past) – “The process for me is really the same; I am just probably a more integral part of the decision making than I was in Dallas. The process of you get in the room, you grind tape, you talk to your scouts, you talk to Bill (Parcells), you talk to Tony (Sparano). So it really the same process for me in this particular period in time.”

(On the new additions and where they fit in)

“I think (Andy) Alleman is going to be a center and (Nate) Garner is going to be a tackle.”

(On the urgency to shore up the linebacker position) – “The outside linebacker position is pretty much set for me. I mean Joey’s (Porter) healthy or will be healthy, hopefully this week. We feel pretty good about the outside linebacker position.”

(On looking back on whether the Free Agent class was successful) – “I would say, when you make as many moves as we did, Bill (Parcells) has always told me, ‘Hey this business is a 50-50 proposition’. So I think that we did better than 50-50. Certain things, you can’t predict what is going to happen. I felt like we did a pretty good job, based on what came available, what’s out there and how some of the players that were here developed. I felt like we did a pretty good job, I feel real good about it.”

Dolphins add three, trim three to finalize roster

The Dolphins have claimed center Andy Alleman from New Orleans, offensive tackle Nate Garner from the Jets and receiver Brandon London from the Giants.

But as they say in baseball, three up and three down. (Yeah, I covered the Marlins Saturday).

So receiver Anthony Armstrong, linebacker Rob Ninkovich and offensive lineman Trey Darilek have been waived.

By the way, the headline above is misleading. To say the Dolphins have "finalized" their roster is to assume they will not continue to try to upgrade the bottom of their roster. Bad assumption. That work will continue well into the season.

The Dolphins have added five players to their practice squad. They are: CB Will Billingsley, WR Jayson Foster, OT Darren Heerspink, RB Lex Hilliard, and TE Matthew Mulligan.

General Manager Jeff Ireland talked to the media today for the first time since the April draft. I will post his entire interview when the transcript is available, so check back later

August 30, 2008

Dolphins terminate Peelle, cut Mauia, Hilliard

I've always believed that the more painful the final cuts are for an NFL team, the better that team is. The Dolphins have just made their final round of cuts and, seriously, it doesn't seem like it is that painful.

Among the players the Dolphins have cut are tight end Justin Peelle, fullback Reagan Mauia and running back Lex Hilliard, who was the only draft pick from this year's class to be let go. Hilliard, a sixth-round selection, is a good candidate to be added to the practice squad.

Mauia does not make the team because he doesn't catch the football with any consistency and while he is advertised as a great blocker, he's not better than Sean Ryan, a tight end that can be used in Miami's offense as a lead blocker, if it comes to it. It also didn't hurt that Ryan had a nice catch against New Orleans Thursday.

I know safety Courtney Bryan is gone also.

Here is the complete list of the 17 moves the Dolphins made to pare the roster to 53:

Waived

CB Will Billingsley

LB Titus Brown

S Courtney Bryan

C Mike Byrne

WR Jayson Foster

LB Maurice Fountain

LB Junior Glymph

T Daren Heerspink

RB Lex Hilliard

FB Reagan Mauia

LB Edmond Miles

TE Matthew Mulligan

LB Kelly Poppinga

G/T Pedro Sosa

C Matt Spanos

DT Anthony Toribio

Contract Terminated

TE Justin Peelle

This means players such as receiver Anthony Armstrong, Davone Bess, Ikechuku Ndukwe, Lionel Dotson, Puentin Moses, and Rob Ninkovich have made the team. That's good for them for the time being.

But I know the Dolphins are looking through the waiver wire for receivers, offensive linemen and outside linebackers to improve the bottom of the roster. So guys that are on the team this evening might not be on the team by Monday evening.

August 29, 2008

Dolphins trade Josh McCown to Carolina

The Dolphins have traded quarterback Josh McCown for a late-round draft pick.

Two sources say the trade was consummated this afternoon after the Panthers took stock of their injury-riddled quarterback situation.

The trade seems to mean the Dolphins will go into the regular-season with three quarterbacks -- starter Chad Pennington, backup Chad Henne and third-stringer John Beck.

One source, however, tells me to refrain from including John Beck as a certainty in that group. Seems teams are also asking about Beck as a trade possibility and as Bill Parcells once told me, "Everyone on this team can be traded for the right price except Jake Long."

The Dolphins have not yet announced the trade but neither are they denying that it is happening.

On Thursday evening, McCown saw his lack of preseason playing time as a bad sign.

"Probably not playing the last three weeks is not a good a sign," McCown admitted. "I haven't been in this situation ever, but I know the writing is on the wall usually when you don't play. But for right now, I'm here and I'm excited about being here. I believe in my abilities. I know that I can play. So I'll embrace my opportunities whether it is here or somewhere else. I'll be ready to roll."

Now he'll roll for the Panthers.

August 28, 2008

Josh McCown's preseason ends with 10 plays

NEW ORLEANS -- I walked out of the Dolphins locker room and across the Superdome Stadium field with quarterback Josh McCown this evening.

That hundred-yard walk was McCown's longest stint on a pro stadium playing field since the first preseason game when he got a total of 10 plays in the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay.

McCown, for the record, is a great guy. He is a man of faith, a man of principle, a guy with a solid sense of humor as well as a very live, strong passing arm.

So I kidded with him a little bit. Nice preseason, I told him.

"Thanks I appreciate it," he said without missing a beat.

For the record, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano contends the team may keep four quarterbacks and that could be true. But that would make the Dolphins the exception among NFL teams. And with McCown being the only quarterback on Miami's roster who didn't play Thursday night and the quarterback who got the fewest snaps this preseason, it simply doesn't look good for him staying on the roster through the first week of the regular season.

"Probably not playing the last three weeks is not a good a sign," McCown admitted. "I haven't been in this situation ever, but I know the writing is on the wall usually when you don't play. But for right now, I'm here and I'm excited about being here. I believe in my abilities. I know that I can play. So I'll embrace my opportunities whether it is here or somewhere else. I'll be ready to roll."

I asked McCown if he has asked Sparano or the coaching staff about their plans and about his status. He has not.

"You try to do as much as you can do and everything else sorts itself out," he said. "Even if I were to ask, I don't know what kind of information they would give us. So I have no clue."

McCown feels a sense of helplessness about his status. It is a fair feeling for a player who finishes the preseason with 5 completions on 8 attempts for 35 yards without a TD or INT. His passer rating this preseason was 72.4.

Sparano would contend that McCown got a good shot to win the job in that he had nearly 500 throws during OTA days and early in training camp. But I would tell you that opportunity comes when players are still learning the offense during OTA days and as the offense is being installed early in camp.

It is hard for any QB to look sharp at that point.

"I mean, there's not a lot I can do about it," McCown said. "They make their decisions so I have to do my part. Obviously I would love to have more of an opportunity to play and compete. But it just didn't work out that way."

Live blog from New Orleans Saints game tonight

NEW ORLEANS -- The gumbo is good here but the folks are concerned about Hurricane Gustav that could be threatening this city over the weekend. The Dolphins will be done with business by then.

That business is tonight's preseason finale at the Superdome between the Dolphins and Saints. It should be an interesting exhibition at least for one quarter because both teams plan to use their starters at least that long.

Chad Pennington will start for the Dolphins and Chad Henne is expected relieve him. I assume Josh McCown and John Beck could get a call in the second half.

Ricky Williams will start for the Dolphins but coach Tony Sparano said he would also like to get Ronnie Brown some work despite the fact the running back is still recovering from a sprained finger. Brown missed last week's game against Kansas City and got only a couple of carries the week before against Jacksonville before the finger injury happened.

The competition between Chris Crocker and Jason Allen to see which wins the starting free safety job goes to its final stages tonight so watch those two.

Tonight will also be a test for Matt Roth, who apparently has won the starting strong side linebacker job. He will be tested for the second week in a row by an outstanding tight end. Last week it was Tony Gonzalez. Tonight, Jeremy Shockey is scheduled to start for the Saints. This is a matchup that concerns me going into the season because I don't think teams are game-planning against Roth in the preseason, but you can bet they will do that once the games count.

Joey Porter (back) will not play tonight. Charlie Anderson starts at weakside outside linebacker.

I will be here with you LIVE starting at kickoff, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. (east coast time). I will be updating this post before the game should any news or lineup changes occur. So join me in the comments section for the live blog.

August 27, 2008

Dolphins release safety Keith Davis

The Dolphins have released safety Keith Davis.

This is a curious move for several reasons.

First: Davis has been starting on practically every special team the Dolphins play. He has, by all accounts, acquitted himself well on those special teams.

Secondly: The team is under the 75-man roster limit. It didn't need to release anyone. So it raises eyebrows that Davis would get released when there was no roster mechanism that required the move.

I spoke with agent Curtis Stephens, who represents Davis, and he is obviously not thrilled his client was released but assures me the transaction is simply a matter of a player being released for not meeting a team's need. Stephens read my previous post on this subject and was concerned it left open the possibility the release was caused by something other than the Dolphins going in a different direction -- which Stephens says is not the case here.

"Players get released in the NFL every day and this is no different from any of those instances in any way," Stephens said. "Believe me, there is nothing curious about this. There was no off-field issue involved in this and when you complete your due diligence, I'm certain you'll find that to be true."

I will trust Stephen's word.

Davis was listed on the team's flight manifest for Wednesday's trip to New Orleans. He was even given a room number. But he was told of his release before the team left South Florida so he didn't make the trip. The Dolphins, meanwhile, offered no comment on the Davis transaction.

Davis was signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Cowboys this offseason. He was part of the Cowboyfication of the Dolphins that included tight end Anthony Fasano, linebacker Akin Ayodele and others.

During his time with the Cowboys, Davis was shot twice in what appear to be random incidents. He was shot in the head in 2006 when he was driving along a Dallas highway. He drove himself to the hospital and was later released.

In 2003 he was shot in the hip and elbow while picking up a friend at a topless bar. Bill Parcells then released Davis on the first day of his first training camp with the Cowboys, but the player was eventually re-signed in 2004 and became a starter.

This release is not so great for Davis, but it benefits Renaldo Hill. Hill had been playing third team strong safety, to Davis' second-team, since the start of training camp. But of late Hill had been coming on strong and playing well, even getting an interception during one of the preseason games and earning the praise of coach Tony Sparano for his special teams play.

So Hill looks more likely to make the team now that Davis is gone.

Baltimore Ravens eyeing John Beck [updated]

The Baltimore Ravens have issues at quarterback as reported in this article by my friend Aaron Wilson. Troy Smith has a tonsil problem, Kyle Boller has a shoulder issue, and Joe Flacco is a rookie.

So the Ravens are casting longing glances at other quarterbacks around the NFL -- including Miami's John Beck. The Ravens have had at least one conversation with the Dolphins about Beck. They also like San Diego's Casey Bramlet, who was on the Dolphins practice squad at times last year.

All this as a guard against Boller's shoulder injury sidelining him for an extended period.

Nothing concrete was apparently accomplished Wednesday but it is unlikely Baltimore would go into the regular-season with only two quarterbacks. That raises the possibility former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron, who likes Beck and helped draft Beck last season, would put his protege high on the list of possible answers for a team with quarterback questions.

The Ravens would obviously like Beck if he is cut by the Dolphins, but that may or may not happen. So Baltimore is apparently considering offering something in trade for Beck because he has obvious value to that team. Bramlet, meanwhile, was cut Tuesday so if he clears waivers he could be added to the team.

Both Beck and Bramlet know Cameron's system and could be plugged in fairly quickly if an emergency develops with the starter. Obviously Beck would be considered a better option because, having seen Bramlet throw in camp, he's not exactly a star.

This is a situation that bears monitoring.

August 26, 2008

Feely in at KC on Monday out of KC on Tuesday

Former Dolphins kicker Jay Feely was signed by the Chiefs on Monday. He was cut Tuesday.

"It's shocking," Feely agent Glenn Schwartzmann told ESPN.com.

I would say, but the agent's shock would probably wear off if he saw the kicking numbers at Chiefs camp the last couple of days.

Feely connected on 11 of 15 tries Monday and 13 of 15 today. Pulling out my slide ruler, that is 24 of 30. Connor Barth connected on 28 of 30 and Nick Novak was 27 of 30 the past two days.

So Feely was third in a three-man race the past two days. Given the numbers, maybe his agent shouldn't be shocked.

Upon leaving the Dolphins Feely ripped the Dolphins, saying it was obvious to him how bad the team was going to be because of a lack of talent. Then, of course, he signs with a team the Dolphins dismantled, 24-0, and seemed much less talented than Miami.

So while his agent is shocked, Feely should be thrilled he was cut from a team less talented than Miami.

Mando's prediction for the AFC East [updated]

I've been thinking about this a long time -- at least the last 10 minutes or so -- and I have decided to share with you my prediction and expectation of what will happen in the AFC East this season.

Understand that professionals out in Las Vegas have established the over and under victory total for the Dolphins to be 5 1/2. You either have to pick them to win five games (under) or six games (over) to post a wager in that town.

In keeping with my optimistic nature, I'm going with the over. But in keeping with my equally realistic nature, I'm also picking them to finish last in the AFC East. Here is how I think they'll finish:

New England 10-6

New York      10-6

Buffalo         8-8

Miami          6-10

I think the Dolphins will be vastly improved this year, but I still have concerns about the team's ability to pass the ball consistently and I think that will ultimately hurt the running game. I have concerns about how the team will get defensive pressure on the quarterback and that may expose the secondary some.

I also see this team is not blessed with depth. So if the players stay healthy, good things will happen. But if there is an average number of injuries throughout this season, that will cost the team dearly -- more than it would most teams. Last year, you must understand, was a terrible year for injuries and we saw the results.

Understand this is only a prediction so there is a only one way to be right and a million ways to be wrong. Last year I picked the team to go 10-6 so take all this with a grain of salt.

But use this as a forum to have fun and share your opinions and give your predictions of what the 2008 Dolphins are likely to do. Also take the poll over which I slaved for several seconds.

By the way, this is what Jimmy Johnson is saying about the Dolphins: "I do see the Dolphins being a little bit better," he said. "Parcells, I talked to him last week and he likes their defensive front."

Johnson still sees the Patriots winning the division and says the Jets will "only compete to be the second best team in the division." Johnson thinks the addition of Brett Favre will add a spark to the Jets, but he doesn't think they're ready to overtake the Pats because their defense isn't that good, in his opinion.

August 25, 2008

Observations from Monday's practice [updated]

There is news out of Dolphins camp -- other than simply Chad Pennington being named the starting quarterback.

Here's I can tell you:

Yes, Pennington was named the regular-season starting quarterback by coach Tony Sparano. Sparano made the point that the offense is so young, with a second year receiver and center, two rookies on the offensive line, and other inexperienced players throughout, that Pennington was the logical pick.

In a column I wrote in Monday's Miami Herald, I tell you how Pennington has basically snatched the leadership of this team. Read the darn column.

Pennington's reaction to be named the starter?

"I'm excited about the opportunity to lead this team," he said. "We've worked extremely hard over the last two weeks. And I'm proud to be a Miami Dolphin."

Other stuff going on:

Joey Porter was not working during the portion of the practice I was allowed to view and Sparano said he visited the doctor today to have his back checked out again. Charlie Anderson was working with the first team at the weakside linebacker spot.

Linebacker Edmond Miles who left Saturday's game with a knee injury is apparently fine. He is practicing today.

Free safeties Chris Crocker and Jason Allen are sharing first-team snaps, suggesting the Dolphins view this competition as ongoing.

Ronnie Brown is sharing first-team snaps with Ricky Williams at running back.

Although the Dolphins must trim to 75 players by Tuesday, they don't really have to cut anyone. They're already down to 72 players. So they may be adding some players. Everyone was present and accounted for today -- including Rutgers undrafted rookie right guard Pedro Sosa. Sosa is wearing No. 78.

August 24, 2008

The words right from the players' mouths

The Dolphins had plenty to say about their 24-0 victory over the KC Chiefs Saturday night. It was the team's first preseason shutout since 1980. It was their second consecutive victory.

Lots to be optimistic about. Here's what the players think:

QB Chad Pennington

(Have you now settled the starting QB question) “I don’t know, my focus is just on trying to get us better and trying to better myself. I think as a team it’s always good to come away with a preseason win. Anytime they keep score, regardless of the situation, you want to come away with a win. To have that winning feeling and to capture what that’s all about. With that being said we have to make sure that we’re not satisfied with this. We need to look at the film critically. We understand that there’s a lot of things that we need to get better on to prepare for opening day and for the rest of the regular season.”

(About the play of Ted Ginn) “I’m excited about our whole receiving core. I think each one of these guys brings something to the table that’s unique. With a guy like Ted, he’s got something that you just can’t coach, and that’s speed and it’s so important to have speed on the field. There are times in this league every game where they’re going to challenge us and they’re going to see if we can prove that we can push the ball downfield. It’s so hard to score on 12 and 15 play drives on a consistent basis and you have to have that fire power to score quickly and kind of take the pressure off the offense. With all of our guys we’re really working hard trying to gain that chemistry, not only with our short intermediate routes but also to start to get the feel for each other down the field.”

(About the first drive of the game) “As an offense we were disappointed. We strongly believe that when you get it down that close, you’ve got to punch it in for a touchdown. Luckily we were able to make up for it with a punt return for a touchdown and Ted did a great job with that. At the same time, we need to put that in the end zone and come away with the touchdown. There were some really good things that happened there, we had some really nice runs and the offensive line kept the pocket really clean and created some holes for Ricky.”

(How have you changed the work ethic?) “I’m a strong believer in communication and you have to give those guys feedback. If you don’t talk about it and you just go out there and work, you may get a little bit better but you’re not going to make the strides that you need to take to establish that chemistry.”

RB Jalen Parmele

(On the 80-yard run) – “It was a big play.  I saw that the left side of the field was wide open.  The offensive line did their job perfect on the left side that opened up the hole wide open. I saw that and you got to explode through that as a running back when the hole is that big.”

(On the touchdown run) – “The touchdown run was designed to follow the guard and that’s what I did.  I was kind of stuffed at first, but just told myself to stay low and I got a good push from Reagan Mauia in the back.  He helped me get through the endzone.

(On the long run for 80 yards) – “The offensive line hit their blocks perfect.  We saw that the play was going to be wide open and as a running back you just got to see the hole and make it.”

(On a pretty good night at the office) – “We did some things well and some things we need to improve on.  We’ll just watch film and learn from it, that’s the biggest thing.”

TE Anthony Fasano

(On if he thinks he was able to claim the number one tight end spot) – “I go out there every day and try to perform and play hungry.  I think our position is kind of shaping up so we’ll see how it goes in the next couple weeks leading up to the first game, but I’m looking forward to helping out this offense.”

(On if he’s feeling good about where he’s going to be on the depth chart) - “Yeah, again I’m going to go back and look at this tape.  I know I would love to have a couple plays back and really work on this, and work on some of the things I didn’t do well, but I think I will be able to help this offense. 

(On having two guys to carry on his touchdown reception) – “Right, I actually haven’t seen the replay really, it happened pretty quick.  It was all about timing and I think we kind of caught them off-guard and I think the timing really helped.  The ball was right on me right out of my break so that gave me some room to run.  It was just a ‘12-yard In,’ just basic.”

(On if he was supposed to go to the endzone on the other play) – “Yeah I would love to get a little more depth in there and make it a touchdown catch.  I was trying to secure the catch and come back to the ball. I think it kind of hurt me, but it’s one of those things you want to work on and one of those plays you want to have back.”

(On if it’s the type of play that wouldn’t happen two or three weeks from now) – “Right, exactly.  That’s why it’s a preseason game and that’s why you’re out here.  I think it’s a great game for us to learn from.”

 

WR Ted Ginn, Jr.

(On the punt return for a touchdown) – “I just got to give credit to my return team.  We worked at it all week, we went out, we just executed and we just had fun.”

(On how is the receiving core coming together) - “It’s coming great.  We just work hard every day and we keep going at it as a group, we keep learning as a group and we believe in the quarterback and O-Line.  We should be fine.”

(On how his relationship with Chad Pennington is developing) – “It’s great.  Chad coming in as a new quarterback and we’re just trying to get to know everybody.  We’ve been together probably for a good, strong two weeks now.  As we keep going along great things should happen.

(On what he saw with the touchdown return and the blocking) – “I saw the ball short number one.  I didn’t really think I was going to be able to get to the other side, but just a great help from my kickoff return team.  I’m not a one-man team, I was great to have them out there blocking for me.  That’s what we kept constantly just trying to keep working on.”

(On thriving on getting passes down the middle of the field) – “Yeah, you run your routes, you get your depth.  Whatever coverage it may be, it might be an opportunity it may not.  The thing is you just got to continue to get better and do what he asks of you and just keep having fun out there.”   

(On how it feels for the team with two preseason wins in a row) - “I mean it’s great.  You go 1-15; you really get away from all of the enjoyment of winning and things like that.  Just to go out and take two preseason games on our belt.  Just continue to push on with this until the regular season.”

(On things are starting to come together pretty quick) - “Yeah, we’re in the National Football League.  In the National Football League a lot of things are going to come together quick.  You can go from the sorriest team to the greatest team; you can go from the greatest team to the sorriest team.  It really doesn’t matter where you stand, you just got to go out every day, just keep continue to get better and better and you should be fine.”

(On if he’s playing at the highest confidence level right now) - “I always had high confidence.  Last year was a learning experience, this year is more go out, play football and have fun.  That’s all I try to do.”

(On if things are starting to come easier to him) - “Yeah, just the game is slowing down and different things are happening to us, different coverages are opening up.  You just got to take advantage and keep having fun.”

LB Channing Crowder

(On holding the Chiefs scoreless during the game) – “That’s what I was telling the young kids, it’s hard no matter what it is. It’s hard to get a goose egg in this league. When they were down there on our side of the field, I was telling everybody to get that goose egg and they did. It was real good to get that goose egg. We’re really not together yet right now. We made nine penalties, had some turnovers, so we’re not there yet. But you can tell we’re progressing each week and that’s what the preseason is all about.”

(On winning two games in a row) – “We lost our respect last year. Let’s be honest with ourselves. 1-15, nobody respects you. Even talking to guys like L.J. (Larry Johnson) and Tony (Gonzalez), they see that we’re turning it around. Our defense kind of clicked today with all the turnovers. The offense was doing good with all the big runs and the big plays, so we still have two more weeks to work for the Jets and we have to keep working and keep rolling.”

(On what they need to do to keep being consistent) – “Just keep working. Like I said, there are a lot of good things and there are a lot of bad things as well. … If we can get as close to perfection as we can, we can be a good team.”

(On the goal line stand with Philip Merling) – “Oh, that’s big. That’s two weeks straight we had a goal line stance. That’s just big and not giving up. That’s consistency. It’s fun to watch and especially fun to watch the young guys do it. We have two weeks until they start counting and when they stat counting, hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

 

DE Vonnie Holliday

(On the pass rush against the Chiefs) – “Yeah, that’s what we’ve been looking for. The coverage was great. The guys really got after the passer tonight. We really just got after this group overall. The run game, the pass game, it felt good. Coach (Sparano) said to come out tonight with a lot of energy and guys did that. It felt good for me to just get back out there. I like the energy, I like this group and I really like the direction that we’re headed.”

(On what a game like this does for the team’s confidence going into the regular season) – “Coming off of one win last year, any win is a good win, even if this is preseason for us. It helps a lot. You talk about Larry Johnson and that offense in Kansas City, being able to contain him is huge. He’s ones of the premier backs in this league. We still have a problem; we still have to eliminate the penalties. There are still too many penalties. Too many negative plays on special teams, things we have to work on. While this is sweet, it’s reward for all the hard work we put in. We know that this is just the beginning.”

(On being able to shutout the Chiefs) – “That’s huge. Anytime you’re able to shutout your opponent in the National Football League and put that big goose egg up on the board is big. To be successful in this league, you need confidence and to walk with a swagger. We haven’t had much to be talking about or have a swagger about until now.”

(On the announced crowd of over 60,000 fans) – “I have to say I was very happy to see our fans out there tonight. Hopefully, the wins will encourage our fans to come out and support us, the Dol-fan faithful. It means so much to us and I definitely want to send that out and let our fans know that we’re working and come be apart of this.”

RB Ricky Williams

(On what the win does for the team’s confidence) – “I think it’s a positive to put two good games back-to-back like this and we didn’t have the best week of practice.  But we fought through it and didn’t give up.  To come out here and play well like this, I think we’re starting to believe in what we’re doing, and that’s what we need.”

(On not being able to score a touchdown on the first drive of the game) – “We always want to score six points when we get down there but I thought we did a good job of running the ball down there.  We took 10 minutes off the clock, but ideally you want to score when you get down there.”

August 23, 2008

Live blog from Dolphins versus Chiefs this eve

OK, we're in the big (empty) house known as Dolphin Stadium and all is well.

Quick update: Mike Lehan, out the entire preseason with a high ankle sprain, is going to make his preseason debut tonight. DE Vonnie Holliday will also debut tonight. RB Ronnie Brown and LB Charlie Anderson are not playing.

This is a night to grade this team as much is it is to grade individuals. Sure, it will interesting to see the progression of Chris Crocker as he tries to pass Jason Allen in the battle to win the starting free safety job. My bet is on Crocker who is simply more instinctive. Coaches are not pleased with Allen.

And finally, it will interesting to see if rookie Chad Henne can continue to keep the QB competition interesting.

I have been told that competition is NOT over, by the way. Everyone assumes it will be Chad Pennington's job. But I've been told the coaching staff still has NOT awarded the starting job to Pennington, and Henne could still win it based on what happens tonight and beyond. Of course, if Pennington plays great, that will go a long way toward giving him the job.

But as of right now, it is still an open competition.

Remember that the Chiefs, once a mighty running team, finished dead last rushing the football last season. The Dolphins, meanwhile, were dead last defending the run. We'll see how far those units have come this offseason.

Anyway, meet me in the comments section at 7:30 for the live blog!

August 22, 2008

Clearing up some rumors on Bolt and Boldin

In response to all your crazy requests that I do some work today, I slaved over a hot telephone for a couple of seconds this afternoon and chased down the rumor that the Dolphins are trying to speak with multiple Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

The story on some internet site I'd never heard of reported Bill Parcells sent a scout to China to speak with Bolt about joining the Dolphins. So I called Parcells directly and got his voicemail. It said, "I can't come to the phone right now, I'm on my way to Beijing."

Just kidding.

Seriously, though, the Dolphins are not interested in signing Bolt. At least it hasn't dawned on them as of a few hours ago that they might want the world's fastest human in their uniform as an experiment. They're still trying to get the experiment with another fast human -- Ted Ginn Jr. -- to work out first.

There's supposedly some other rumor about the Dolphins speaking with agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents receiver Aquan Boldin. All I can tell you is if the Dolphins speak to Rosenhaus about Boldin without the permission of the Arizona Cardinals, that is called tampering.

And as of this writing, the Cardinals have given no permission for such talks.

So while it remains true that Boldin desperately wants out of Arizona, and it is true he would consider the Dolphins as a landing spot, it is not true there are on-going talks between the Dolphins and Boldin's agent right now.

Otherwise the Dolphins would have a pretty large problem.

A couple of notes: It was pretty funny to me today when a couple of posters on my previous blog post mocked me for listing David Kircus in the "on the outs" list among WRs. Kircus was cut today. I'm glad to know I'm not wrong all the time.

Anyway, I will be on 790 The Ticket Saturday morning 9-11 a.m. so listen in if you like either locally or streaming live on 790theticket.com. You can call into the show at 1-888-790-3776 toll free from anywhere in the United States. I'll be happy to talk anything Dolphins with you all in advance of Saturday's preseason game vs. Kansas City. 

August 21, 2008

Get your complete roster breakdown here

The Dolphins play their third and most important preseason game Saturday night so now is as good a time as any to take a look at the entire roster on a position by position basis.

I am not assuming anything on here as you will see. I think, given some of the moves of this new regime, that is a safe way to go. Let me know where you agree and where you disagree.

QB: In: Chad Henne, Chad Pennington. On the bubble: Josh McCown and John Beck: The skinny: Although Sparano has said the team might carry four guys, that is hard to fathom. More likely the team keeps three with McCown and Beck sweating out the cuts. The Dolphins are hoping some QB around the league goes down this weekend, making a trade involving McCown or Beck palatable.

RB: In: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. On the bubble: Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele. On the outs?: Lex Hilliard. The skinny: Despite the ESPN rumor that Brown might be gone from the team this season, it is hard to believe the Dolphins would simply push him out without getting value in return. And no one is giving up a first-round pick for Brown so there is no return value seemingly available. The coaching staff, particularly Sparano, likes Cobbs. But despite his effort and desire, his production (10 carries, 25 yards) has been pedestrian this preseason. Parmele runs a little high, but he runs hard. Hilliard has disappeared at times this training camp and can hope for a practice squad spot at best.

WR: IN:Ted Ginn Jr, Derek Hagan. On the bubble: Ernest Wilford, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Anthony Armstrong. On the outs? Jayson Foster, David Kircus. The skinny: The Dolphins probably keep five of these guys. They would listen to trade offers for Wilford with a return trip to Jacksonville a slight possibility. Absent that, a good game by Wilford on Saturday assures him of making the team. Camarillo and Bess have been fairly consistent but they need to excell on special teams to nail down a position. Armstrong has become Miami's most explosive receiver in practices the last week or so. Kircus, perhaps Miami's best deep threat in practices, had a good chance to make the team until Armstrong started flashing skills.

FB/TE: IN: Anthony Fasano, David Martin. On the bubble: Reagan Mauia, Boomer Grigsby, Justin Peelle, Sean Ryan. On the outs? Matthew Mulligan. The skinny: The Dolphins will probably keep five from this group and that normally breaks down to two FBs and three TEs, but because the Dolphins use TEs in the backfield as blockers, the team has flexibility on personnel. The decisions will boil down primarily to special teams. The better special teamers will get the nod and, based on past performances, that is an advantage for Grigsby and Peelle first, followed by Ryan and Mauia.

OL: In: Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Samson Satele, Donald Thomas, Vernon Carey, Trey Darilek. On the bubble: Darren Heerspink, Matt Spanos, Irechuku Ndukwe. On the outs?: Mike Byrne, Shawn Murphy. The skinny: Thomas is the most pleasant surprise of any rookie given his draft status (6th rounder). Long has played as advertised while Darilek is a Dallas Cowboys favorite of Sparano's and he also plays multiple positions. The Dolphins have very poor depth behind the starters so even those players making the roster should hold their breath until after Miami studies the talent available on the waiver wire. Murphy, promising in offseason camps, has not physically won a job on the roster although his draft status could still save him.

DL: In: Kendall Langford, Vonnie Holliday, Jason Ferguson, Matt Roth, Phillip Merling. On the bubble: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Rodrique Wright. On the outs? Anthony Toribio, Lionel Dotson. The skinny: The Dolphins are encouraged by their youngsters (Langford and Merling) and have to feel good about the maturity and professionalism Ferguson and Holliday bring. Beyond that, the depth is questionable. Starks has been slow to get comfortable in Miami's system and Soliai has been inconsistent as he tries to learn to be a professional. The cuts here should not be difficult.

LB: In: Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor. On the bubble: Joey Porter, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Titus Brown, Edmond Miles, Rob Ninkovich. On the outs?: Kelly Poppinga, Maurice Fountain, Junior Glymph. They skinny: I know, I know, you think Porter is definitely on the team. That may be true based on reputation and his contract, which included a $20 million guarantee. But if you measure guys making the team based on production this preseason, Porter is a big question mark based on his inability to contribute because of injuries. The Dolphins may think this is the start of a troubling trend and may try to trade Porter. Anderson was starting early in training camp but injuries have kept him from earning a roster spot as well. He was back practicing this morning and may try to play Saturday to open the coaching staff's eyes. Brown is a darkhorse that coaches love for his desire, effort and potential. Moses needs to show more consistency.

DB: In: Andre' Goodman, Will Allen, Joey Thomas, Yeremiah Bell, Nathan Jones, Chris Crocker. On the bubble: Jason Allen, Michael Lehan, Renaldo Hill, Keith Davis. On the outs? Will Billingsley, Courtney Bryan, Chris Roberson. Allen, Lehan and Hill are probably on the team so I don't want to hear any crap about where I put them. The fact is there are still questions among the coaching staff on all of those guys so one cannot simply anoint them to a roster spot or assume they have one locked up -- no matter what anybody says. Davis can make the team with a solid special teams performance Saturday evening. The guys on the outs were in the game last weekend when Jacksonville bombed the Miami secondary in the final quarter.

Spec: In: K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, and LS John Denney. The skinny: It must be nice to be them.

August 20, 2008

Dolphins tell Joe Horn no thanks for now

The Dolphins have finally called back the Joe Horn camp and the message is the team wants to continue to evaluate its young receivers rather than commit to the 36-year-old former Pro Bowl player.

So the timing of Horn's availability doesn't seem right for the Dolphins.

Horn and his agent Ralph Vitolo are expected to continue shopping for a landing spot with the idea of getting into a camp as soon as possible so Horn can get cracking on learning a playbook and getting in football shape.

The Dolphins have not ruled Horn out for down the road should one of their current crop of pass-catchers go down with an injury. But the team clearly isn't viewing Horn as a guy to carry on the roster ahead of the group of guys they currently have.

This confirms pretty much what you've been reading here that the Dolphins are starting to feel better about their young crop of receivers as those players have gotten more familiar with the offense and the quarterbacks and the speed of the game.

Ted Ginn Jr. continues to improve, as evidenced by his outing against Jacksonville, while Derek Hagan seems to have sealed a starting job on the other side. Ernest Wilford, who still has work to do, is playing a little better while Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess are steadily gaining the coaching staff's confidence.

One darkhorse guy to continue to keep an eye on is Anthony Armstrong. According to coach Tony Sparano, Armstrong has lately shown amazing deep-threat ability. He had three catches over 50 yards in one recent practice, according to the coach.

BLOG AND RADIO NOTES: I want to thank you for continuing to visit this blog in record numbers. On Tuesday, this blog had a record 42,093 page views. I appreciate your hunger for Dolphins news, analysis and opinion. And I thank you for your loyal readership.

Having said that, show up on my radio shows! I will be on 790 The Ticket Thursday 10-noon, Saturday 9-11 and Sunday 1-3:40 p.m. You can listen online at 790theticket.com if you're not in South Florida and you can call in to 1-888-790-3776 toll free wherever you are.

Dolphins trade Travis Daniels to Browns

The Dolphins have just announced the trade of cornerback Travis Daniels to Cleveland in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick.

Daniels had been running with the second team and was seemingly en route to making the team until struggling somewhat Saturday at Jacksonville. Daniels, in his fourth NFL season, fills a void for the Browns because their corners got toasted against the Giants.

Daniels is already on a flight to Cleveland. The move pretty much guarantees that Joey Thomas, who had an interception Saturday, will make the team.

It also opens the possibility that either Chris Roberson, Nathan Jones or Will Billingsley will have a spot on the team. Jones is the favorite out of that group. He was working second team today in the spot Daniels had before the trade.

This week's return of Michael Lehan from a high ankle sprain gave the Dolphins three starting-caliber corners along with Will Allen and Andre' Goodman.

One NFL source said the Browns inquired about getting Lehan ahead of Daniels but the Dolphins didn't want to do that.

Chris Crocker has a chance to pass Jason Allen

If Jason Allen thought he had the starting free safety spot sewn up because he's been running with the first-teamers throughout camp, he must have been surprised this week when Chris Crocker was moved ahead of him in practice.

Crocker, an unrestricted free agent addition from Atlanta, has been working with the first-teamers this week and could start Saturday's preseason game against Kansas City.

Allen will likely see less playing time as the coaching staff measures whether Crocker is a better fit alongside Yeremiah Bell.

"It's not about performance, it's about finding spots for people," coach Tony Sparano said. "Jason in the first two games went out and played with the first team defense. But we feel we have several safeties back there and that is an area where tough decisions have to be made."

Sparano isn't one to rip anyone but it is clear if the Dolphins were completely comfortable with Allen as the starter, they would not be using Crocker with the starters this week. Stay tuned to this as I think if Crocker responds with a good performance, he could win the starting job for the regular-season opener.

August 19, 2008

Titans showing most interest in Joe Horn

There are rumors the Dolphins are making a play for receiver Joe Horn because, well, he's available.

Agent Ralph Vitolo tells me that he has indeed called the Dolphins to see if they're interested. But he also says as of 6:30 this evening, the Dolphins had not returned his phone call.

Vitolo tells me the Tennessee Titans have shown the most interest in Horn so far and that, "Dallas is also a big possible landing site for Joe."

Horn has narrowed his list of teams he would play for to seven teams and although Vitolo tells me the Dolphins are one of those that I should "stay tuned" to see what transpires, it seems like a stretch for the Dolphins to make a strong play for the 36-year-old Horn.

If this was two weeks ago, I might think it would be likely.

But the truth is the receivers have recovered a little since their difficult start to training camp. They are catching the ball better and, as I reported in an earlier blog post, the coaching staff is thinking Derek Hagan and Ted Ginn Jr. will be the starting duo.

The rest of the receivers corps is still a work in progress but at least the coaches have seen some progress. And that is pleasing to them.

That doesn't mean the Dolphins have settled on keeping their current group of receivers. The Dolphins, with the first waiver claim early this season, will use that on some receivers if they believe one or more guys other teams put on the street are better than the guys they currently have in their locker room.

Four Dolphins rookies vying for starting jobs

The roster is obviously beginning to crystallize for coach Tony Sparano and today he shared some of his views on it, making it obvious that four Miami rookies might be starters when the season begins Sept. 7.

The rookies? Donald Thomas at right guard, Jake Long at left tackle, Kendall Langford at left defensive end, and Chad Henne at quarterback. That's right, Chad Henne at QB.

Langford got his first start of the preseason Saturday against Jacksonville and is scheduled to start again this weekend against Kansas City.

"We put Kendall in there and Kendall hasn't missed a beat," Sparano said. "He's playing against good people. I like him in there. He might be there for a long time."

Everyone has been assuming for a while that Chad Pennington will be Miami's starting quarterback and that is that. Except the Dolphins are not making that assumption because, so far this preseason, Henne has been the team's best QB by all the combined measures this staff is considering, including game management.

"This guy has shown me great poise, he really has," Sparano said of Henne. "He's been in some tough situations and handled it well. He's probably made the most heads-up plays at that position. Now that being said, he's played the most."

I asked Sparano how he feels about the possibility of playing a rookie QB and Sparano didn't seem bothered by the notion. "If he's the best guy, I play him," the coach said.

So Henne is still in the QB duel with Pennington. It is not settled yet. And it says here he could be the team's starter before this season is over.

Thomas has been a starter for going on three weeks now and Sparano basically said that unless the rookie collapses he's the guy at right guard.

"I think it's Donald's job to lose at that position right now," Sparano said. "I say that in all honesty and if we don't play well enough, we'll find someone else that does. And this is a marathon and we're going a bunch weeks in a row so you got to be able to do it and be consistent, but we're not going to change.

"He's continuing to get better and as long as that happens, he's going to stay there."

------------------OTHER STUFF FROM TODAY'S PRESSER--------------

Joey Porter is hurt again. After missing the preseason opener with a back injury, Porter missed today's practice with a couple of injuries. The back is acting up again and he's got some knee injury, too.

It has gotten to the point where one reporter asked Sparano about Porter "stacking" injuries

"His back was a little sore again today and we tried to get him loose," the coach said. "He also kind of tweaked a knee. We're  dealing with that right now. I'm not sure what the status is of that is. I think it might just be a sprain."

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The coaching staff has zeroed in on Derek Hagan and Ted Ginn Jr. as their starting receivers. They will start Saturday and, barring a terrible night by Hagan, that is the duo that will open the season versus New York.

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Finally, as was reported earlier on this blog, Sparano shot down the ESPN rumor that Ronnie Brown will be playing elsewhere in 2008.

The exchange:

Q. Is there any chance you guys might trade Ronnie?

A. "No. There's no chance we'll trade Ronnie ... There's been no discussion of that internally or externally."