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55 posts from October 2008

October 31, 2008

Dolphins need more from Merling, Langford

The Dolphins are pleased with rookie defensive linemen Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford. But there is a gap between being pleased and being satisfied.

The Dolphins are by no means satisfied with either because, well, both are struggling lately.

Langford has managed only two tackles the past two weeks. Merling hasn't had more than one tackle in a game since the San Diego game, three weeks ago. Both are big bodied men with much promise. But they are also rookies.

And they've been playing like it lately.

“You see at different times during the course of games, you see different peaks and kind of valleys with them a little bit," coach Tony Sparano said Friday.

Seems the valleys come as the two players are on the field longer or later in games, which suggests some sort of conditioning or stamina issue.

"You’ll see them make some plays early in the ballgame," Sparano said. "Maybe you’ll see them, the longer the drive goes, flatten out, maybe flatline just a little bit there ... With all due respect, our two young guys there, Phil and Kendall, are good players and they’re going to be really good players for us. I think [consistency's] what they struggle with. That’s what we’re trying to get out of them -- more consistency, fundamentally and cut it loose a little bit."

Sparano says he has suggested to both players they should have more fun playing the game. Maybe a little energy and buzz will keep them going longer.

"I keep telling them, ‘Play like it’s a college game," Sparano said. "Go out there and play the game like it’s a college game,' " Sparano said. "I need that kind of enthusiasm out of them because they’re young guys, not far removed.  They understand exactly what I’m talking about. Go out, have fun, cut it loose for as long as you can go."

The interesting question is how long either will be able to maintain their stamina in the Denver thin air Sunday. It should be interesting.

October 30, 2008

Dolphins hope to have right look for Marshall

The Houston Texans and Denver Broncos run very similar offenses because Houston coach Gary Kubiak worked as the Denver offensive coordinator throughout their Super Bowl days.

The similarities are especially striking in the No. 1 receiver both teams have: The Texans have Andre Johnson. The Broncos have Brandon Marshall.

So the Dolphins assignment this week is to keep Marhall from having a similar game to the one Johnson had against Miami. Johnson caught 10 passes for 178 yards.

It is striking that these two players are built out of a similar mold. Johnson is 6-3 and 223 pounds. Marshall is 6-4 and 230 pounds.

So keeping Marshall from hurting the Dolphins as much as Johnson did has been on the forefront of coach Tony Sparano's mind. The Dolphins have been spending a lot of time in practice trying to get a good feel for what Marshall is likely to do, with receivers Brandon London and Derek Hagan playing Marshall on the scout team.

I asked Sparano if he's concerned the success or lack of success the defense has against its scout team this team offers an omen of what will happen Sunday?

"Yeah, and I read an awful lot into that, probably too much sometimes," Sparano said. "It keeps me up a little bit at night sometimes. Our guys, right now, we have two guys that are running around out there that have the jersey on. We put them in the jersey so the defense knows where the players line up and that's been Hagan and London today, the two of them.

"So you go one play and then the next guy comes up and he gets going. Hagan and London are big, strong guys that can get the ball, that have consistently done that in practice for us right now. So, that's been a pretty good situation for our defense to have those guys running down the field and the ball getting up to them. Now when you're seeing them catch a ball, and then another ball, and then another ball, and it's not contested, and you're not getting over there, and doing some things to pull the ball out and competing for the ball, it concerns you, yeah."

According to Sparano, the Dolphins did just fine defending the looks Hagan and London provided. "Today we had a good day out there," he said.

October 29, 2008

Comparing the rookie offensive tackles

Only two rookie offensive tackles have started all their games for their teams this season.

Jake Long of the Dolphins is one. Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos is the other. In Denver, the belief is Clady, drafted 12th overall, is better than Long, who was drafted first overall.

The statistics suggest that belief has some merit.

Clady has been penalized twice for 15 yards this season. He has not allowed a sack yet. Long has been penalized twice for 20 yards in seven games. He has also allowed 2.5 sacks for 15.5 yards worth of negative yardage.

Well, Long is a better run-blocker, right?

Actually the Broncos insist Clady is better on that front also. The Broncos offense leads the AFC in yards per rush and is fourth in the NFL in that statistical category. The Dolphins are 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt and are 11th in the AFC.

The penalties and the sacks allowed are according to Stats Inc.

Dolphins offense should have the upper hand

Much has been written and rewritten the past couple of days about Chad Pennington's breakthrough 300-plus-yard passing day last week. Ted Ginn Jr.'s breakout game against Buffalo also has been the subject of much analysis.

And much has been talked about the usage of Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat package -- both of which have been scaled back of late.

But I'm here to tell you this weekend should, must, be a boon for the Miami offense.

If the Dolphins are to beat the Denver Broncos Sunday it says here they will have to outscore Jay Cutler and company. And the Dolphins are fully capable of doing that because, well, the Denver defense is scary bad.

Don't take my word for it. This Denver Post article about the Broncos defensive troubles pretty much sums it up. The Broncos have the NFL's 30th overall defense, with only Kansas City and Detroit ranking lower. The Broncos have the 30th-ranked run defense and 28th-ranked pass defense.

And it gets worse for the mile-high guys. Injuries and incompetence have forced the Broncos to shelve their use of the 3-4 alignment and concentrate exclusively on the 4-3 alignment. They are also scaling back the defense to make it more fundamental, which is to say less complex.

And, oh by the way, cornerback Champ Bailey, perhaps one of the best players in the league, is out of the lineup with a groin injury.

So what should that mean?

It should mean Ginn should continue to prosper as a deep threat. It should mean the Wildcat, lessened in recent weeks, might have a resurgence based on the fact it can confuse a defense that is neither here nor there with its alignment. It should mean another good day for Pennington, who picked on injured Buffalo cornerback Terrence McGee last week and certainly will test Champ Bailey's replacement this week.

Are you guys getting the feeling the Miami offense should have the upper hand this weekend?

October 28, 2008

The championship game starting QB [updated]

If you are a Dolphins fan you should thank God for Brett Favre.

That's right. Favre is your friend.

It was Favre's decision to un-retire that eventually landed him with the New York Jets. And it was that trade between Green Bay and New York that made Chad Pennington available to the Dolphins. And Pennington has been a blessing to Miami.

I'm not saying Pennington doesn't have flaws. We all know his troubles completing certain routes. We all know about the guy's arm-strength issues. But the guy is a fine player and is delivering the best QB play the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino.

Favre, meanwhile, was actually booed at times during the Jets' victory over Kansas City last Sunday.

And that leads me to this: If you were the coach of a team, any team, and I gave you the choice of picking one of these two guys as your starting quarterback, which would you start?  Pennington or Favre?

I asked this question on my radio show Monday night and it got quite heated because the Jets fans got angry at me. (I admit, I love to tweak Jets fans). But I'm expecting there won't be too many Jets fans on here so I'll dispense with saying mean things about their team.

I will say, however, that Pennington so far this season is out-playing Favre in many respects.

Pennington's completion percentage (69.3) is higher than Favre's (68.5). Pennington has thrown for more yards (1,710) than Favre (1,611) despite having 33 fewer attempts.

Pennington has more completions of 20-yards or more (20) than Favre (17) and more passes of 40-yards or more (5) than Favre (4).

Favre does have more TD passes (15) than Pennington (7). But he also has thrown more interceptions (11) than Pennington (3). Pennington's rating for the season is 100.5 while Favre's rating is 89.5.

I know that Favre has the stronger arm and has actually played and won championship games. So I assume you will weigh that in your decision. Try to be, as Fox News would say, fair and balanced. And don't just leave a comment with the guy's name and no explanation for the pick.

[Update: Pennington has been nominated for the FedEx Air & Ground Player of the Week honor. That means you can go to NFL.com/FedEx and vote for Pennington so that he beats out the other nominees for the award. The voting will be available online until 11 a.m. Friday and the winner is decided exclusively by the voting so get to clicking.]

October 26, 2008

Dolphins beat Bills 25-16 to keep hopes alive

The Dolphins have just completed their biggest upset victory of the year and that's saying a lot considering previous victories over New England and San Diego.

The Dolphins have defeated the Bills 25-16.

The Dolphins pretty much outgunned a Bills team that entered the game with a 5-1 record and sole possession of the AFC East lead. Miami passes for a season-high 314 yards with 175 of those yards contributed by receiver Ted Ginn Jr. who caught seven passes for his best day as a professional.

Quarterback Chad Pennington completed 22 of 30 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions.

The Dolphins trailed 9-7 at halftime but they got a 3 yard TD run by Ricky Williams and a 43 yard field goal by Dan Carpenter to take a 17-16 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Then all heck broke loose.

There was the safety caused by Joey Porter. There was the Will Allen interception that led to a field goal. And there was the fumble recovery by Channing Crowder to seal the game.

The Bills had four turnovers on the day.

I am about to go into the Dolphins locker room where, no doubt, players will be talking about staying alive in the AFC East race. The question is do you believe they are capable of staying alive in the AFC East, given their ability to beat the division's two best teams?

Or do you see this as something a freak victory?

I say the Dolphins are ALIVE. And legit.

Dolphins hold 17-16 lead going to 4th quarter

The Dolphins have overcome a 9-7 halftime deficit to lead the Bills 17-16 at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Bills took a 16-9 lead in the third but Ricky Williams scored from 3 yards out to give the Dolphins back their lead.

One thing you should remember: Trent Edwards has the highest fourth-quarter rating of any QB in the AFC East. Chad Pennington has the lowest. We'll see what happens.

Join me in the comments section for the live blog's continuation.

Bills lead Dolphins 9-7 going into 3rd quarter

The Dolphins led most of the first half but a blocked field goal by the Bills and a 47 yard field goal by the Bills as the half ended turned a 7-6 Miami lead into a 9-7 deficit.

The Dolphins have done most of their damage through the air today. Quarterback Chad Pennington has completed 11 of 14 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown. He has been actively searching for Ted Ginn Jr. today and as a result, the receiver has three catches for 67 yards.

The Bills are also having success throwing the ball. Quarterback Trent Edwards has 12 completions on 19 attempts for 107 yards.

The feel of the game is strange in that Miami has been leading much of the way and by all accounts has played better. Yet the Dolphins trail. Strange.

Anyway, the teams are coming back on the field now. Join me in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Dolphins lead Bills 7-3 going to 2nd quarter

The Dolphins and Bills both scored on their first drives today.

The Dolphins got a touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to tight end Anthony Fasano while the Bills got a field goal after Miami stopped them on third-and-goal from the 1 yard line.

The Dolphins have clearly decided to make Ted Ginn part of the game plan today. The first pass of the day was a 46 yarder to him and he has 2 catches for 63 yards after one quarter.

Join me in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Live blog from Bills at Dolphins today

It is another lovely, humid day at Dolphin Stadium and today we will answer the question that has become most apparent about YOUR Miami Dolphins this season.

Do they always play up to the level of their competition?

As you know the Dolphins have two wins and four losses entering today's game against Buffalo. The Bills are leading the AFC East at 5-1.

That shouldn't really worry you because the Dolphins this year have played better against better competition. They whupped New England and dismantled San Diego -- two teams that played in the AFC title game a season ago and are considered playoff contenders this year.

Yet Miami lost against a winless Houston and against a Baltimore team that had lost three consecutive games. Neither of these two teams are considered playoff contenders.

So if they act according to script, the Dolphins should play well against the Bills today. Buffalo is, after all, considered one of the most complete teams in the conference and perhaps the entire NFL.

Anyway, we shall do a live blog today as every game day. It will begin in the comment section here then jump to the comment section of the new update posts I put up every quarter. Pregame you can also catch me on 790 The Ticket [790theticket.com for those of you not in South Florida].

October 24, 2008

Draft breakdown at the forgotten position

Reader John Williams was looking at my Dolphins early draft needs analysis and realized I forgot a very important position of need: Safety.

Sure enough, the safety spot will be an issue for the Dolphins in the coming offseason in that starting strong safety Yeremiah Bell and starting free safety Renaldo Hill are unsigned and the Dolphins don't really have apparent stars waiting in the shadows behind them. Remember that Jason Allen, the first-round pick in 2006, has been moved to cornerback.

Anyway, here is the look at the safety spot in the draft:

Taylor Mays of USC and William Moore of Missouri are the consensus first-round picks. Mays is a monster at 6-4 and 225 pounds and he runs a 4.47 which is stunning. The fact is he is not a robot back there but actually shows coverage as well as hitting ability.

Moore is more fluid, perhaps because he is slightly smaller. But he's not small at 6-1 and 225 pounds. In 2007 Moore had seven interceptions and was a second team All-American but he has had little impact this year without a pick. Some folks are blaming the Missouri defensive scheme for this because it asks Moore to play as many as three different positions in a game.

The next tier of guys includes Nic Harris of Oklahoma, Derrick Pegues of Mississippi State and Patrick Chung of Oregon.

Harris has played cornerback. He has spent time at linebacker. He is also something of a freak in that he is 6-3 and 230 pounds and runs a 4.5 in the 40.

Pegues is not built in the mold of the other two in that he is only 5-10 and 196 pounds. But what he lacks in size he more than makes up in agility and speed. He run a 4.42 and is less than 100 yards from breaking the SEC record for kickoff return yards. He projects as a second or third rounder.

Chung is 6-foot and 210 pounds. He is Oregon's kick returner, he is the second-leading tackler and he is considered a solid leadership guy as a senior. Chung is another one of these versatile athletes that plays mutliple positions. He has been a linebacker and a safety. Now he's listed as a rover for the Ducks.

October 23, 2008

Clearing out the Thursday notebook

Some good stuff I thought I'd share with you:

First, Michael Lehan tweaked his hamstring in practice today. So he was limited. That could be nothing if Lehan is fine for game day or it could be HUGE if the team needs Jason Allen to start playing, which is what it looks like will happen.

Allen was expected to get some time in the dime package this week because the waiving of Chris Crocker created a spot there. If Lehan goes out, there is yet another spot.

"Jason Allen is getting better and better," coach Tony Sparano said Thursday. "He's ready to go into a game."

The Buffalo game could be the time.

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I asked Tony Sparano what his perfect day on offense would look like.

"The perfect situation would be to run 40 times and throw 25 times," he answered straight-forward.

Sparano explains that he'd love to have Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams carry the ball 24 times and give the other guy 16 or so carries. He said that breakdown would typically give the Dolphins about 34 minutes in time of possession. So what does that do for him?

"It's not a major statistic but if you look at it, the team that runs the most plays wins about 82 percent of the time," Sparano said. "Your chance of winning the game goes way up."

Looking at the Miami games this year, the Dolphins have come closest to that perfect script in two games. They ran the ball 36 times against New England and 39 times against San Diego. They threw the ball between 21 and 29 times in those games. And won both.

Miami has thrown the ball more often than it has run in every other game this season. And Miami lost all of those.

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Receiver Ernest Wilford talked today. It's Thursday.

He said he feels like he has finally caught up with the offense and is catching the ball better than he has all year.

Does that mean he'll be on the field this week?

Listening to Sparano talk, the Dolphins cannot count on Wilford playing more than 15 plays per game because his special teams contribution is limited. So we'll see.

A quick look at the Dolphins in the draft

I don't want to get too far ahead of things here ... but let's take a look at next year's draft.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, I don't think it is fair to expect the Dolphins to fix all their ills in one year and it is less fair to expect them to repair their 2008 troubles with the players they currently have on the roster. It will take another draft or two. It will take more free agents that, hopefully, will deliver more production than this year's free agents have.

But six games into this season, it is becoming clear where the Dolphins will be searching for talent after the season. They want a starting caliber cornerback. They want a young, beefy nose tackle. They want a play-making wide receiver. And oh, yeah, they'll have to fill some needs at linebacker in addition to rounding out more depth throughout the roster.

So today I want to focus on the draft and what it promises in the early rounds at CB, WR, and NT.

So why CB? The Dolphins have been victimized much too often the past few years by prototypical wide receivers that simply out-run, out-jump, out-muscle, and otherwise out-play Miami's cornerbacks. Recall the games Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and others have had against the Dolphins as proof.

The problem is Miami's secondary isn't necessarily a good matchup for that type of receiver. So the Dolphins will be looking for a prototypical CB to deal with prototypical WRs going forward. Where would that lead Miami early in the draft?

Vontae Davis of Illinois. He is 6-foot and 204 pounds and perhaps the top corner in the country despite being a junior.

Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State. He is 6-1 and 200 and also has prototypical size. Victor Harris of Virginia Tech is 6-foot and 192. He could add a little bulk and be a better run-support guy, but he is said to be quite accomplished in coverage.

All the so-called gurus also like Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest but he is 5-9 and 190 pounds. I've never seen him play so I don't know if he plays bigger than his size. But this strikes me as a guy the Dolphins wouldn't include as a first-round selection because of his size. (Perhaps someone who has seen him play can comment on the guy.)

One other possibility based on his senior-year performance, size and connections to coach Tony Sparano is Darius Butler of U-Conn. The guy is 5-11, 181 pounds and is from South Florida.

At WR, the Dolphins want a prototypical receiver that will cause other teams the problems they have been dealing with for some time. Also, they want a wide receiver that will be productive because, right now, Greg Camarillo is the only WR on the roster that is producing consistently.

I personally don't see the Dolphins picking a WR in the first round unless they are picking later on and there is a value pick that falls in their laps. Why? Teams have shown themselves capable of finding quality, productive receivers later in the draft (late first, second, third rounds) and that is where the value lies at WR.

At wide receiver everyone is apparently in love with Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. What is not to like? He is 6-3 and 214 pounds and fast as the wind. He has amazing numbers and he is expected to come out as a third-year sophomore. The question on him is whether he is a product of the freaky Texas Tech system and whether he can translate to NFL systems. (Again, only seen him play one quarter so somebody please comment if you've seen him extensively.)

Others that demand attention are Jeremy Maclin of Missouri who is 6-1 and 200 pounds, Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland who is 6-3 and 206 pounds, and seniors Brandon Tate of North Carolina, who is 6-1 and 195 pounds, and Brian Robiskie of Ohio State, who is 6-3 and 199 pounds.

Tate is done for this season after he underwent surgery to repair his ACL and MCL. But he is expected to be ready by next season and the surgery only means he'll be available later in the first round and likely the second or third. By the way, Robiskie is the son of former Miami assistant Terry Robiskie.

Also: I know Florida faithful will shout from the rooftops that Percy Harvin deserves mention here as a top receiver prospect. But the guy has had some injury issues this year, is not a big guy per se at 5-11 and 195 pounds, and I just don't like Urban Meyer. So there.

As you obviously saw last Sunday against Baltimore, the Dolphins are hanging by a thread at nose tackle. Jason Ferguson is great as long as he's healthy. But he wasn't healthy last year, he's battling an oblique injury now and he'll be 34 years old in November. Miami needs help there.

And I don't see a ton of help available in the draft.

Several of these guys I'm about to mention are not prototypical nose tackles so the Dolphins will have to do a better job with, you know, actual scouts and film study than what I did by making two phone calls and going on the Internet.

But here are some early names I've uncovered:

The guy that stands out the most is Alabama's Terrence Cody, who is a freakin' giant of a man at 6-5 and 360 pounds. Alabama coach Nick Saban (yeah, that Nick Saban) has talked Cody's need to stay in shape because the guy apparently likes to eat.

But if Cody is a big eater he also feasts on running backs. When Cody was injured and missed most of the second half against Mississippi last week with a knee injury, the Rebels gained 158 yards in that half, or 66 yards more than any of Alabama's other opponents had managed in an entire game.

So it is fair to say Cody stands out.

Two guys that also stand out to me are BJ Raji of Boston College and Terrance Taylor of Michigan. Raji is a fire hydrant at 6-1 and 323 pounds while Taylor is not far behind at a compact 6-foot and 319 pounds. Neither is prototypical, but I think the Dolphins must consider their production as well as size.

Sen'Derrick Marks of Auburn is 6-1 and 288 which seems kind of smallish to me, but he is perhaps the most athletic man of this bunch. The guy dunks while taking off from the foul line. Geno Atkins of Georgia, who is 6-1 and 290 pounds should also be considered a possibility. He is also from South Florida.

There you have it. The first draft update of the season comes six games in. I think that is a record.

October 22, 2008

Dolphins defend their ability to get deep

So how you liking Miami's ability to get big downfield plays in the passing game?

The Dolphins think they're doing just fine, thanks. Today, quarterback Chad Pennington and coach Tony Sparano brought up this statistic about how the Dolphins are faring well in pass plays of 20-yards or more. Apparently they've heard criticism that Miami's offense isn't a big-play unit with the pass and they are refuting that.

"It's perception versus reality," Pennington said.

"You talk about big plays and whether or not the ball is getting the down the field -- 'oh they're not throwing the bomb' -- but we have 17 plays over 20 yards which is like eighth or ninth in our league when you're talking about pass plays," Sparano said.

Actually, the Dolphins are tied for 14th in the NFL on plays of 20 yards or more. That is still satisfactory. But it is by no means eye-popping.

The truth is the Dolphins are averaging 2.83 pass plays of 20 yards or more per game this season. Last year -- with Trent Green, Cleo Lemon and John Beck at quarterback, without Chris Chambers most of the year and youngsters Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn Jr. getting playing time for the first time -- the Dolphins averaged 2.56 pass plays of 20 yards or more per game.

Not a math wiz, but that .27 play per game is not significant this early in the season.

The point is there really is no appreciable difference yet this year.

I must say Miami's coaches are truly doing it with smoke and mirrors. At the very least they are not getting down the field in the conventional sense. Miami's three longest gains in the passing game this season?

An 80-yard pass to Patrick Cobbs on a screen pass.

A 53-yard pass to Patrick Cobbs on a flea-flicker.

A 39-yard pass to Ronnie Brown.

Cobbs and Brown, by the way, are not wide receivers. They are running backs.

So the Dolphins may tout their ability to get down the field. But to believe they are having success actually passing deep downfield, you know, like to their wide receivers, is neither perception. Nor reality.

Would Keyshawn help Miami receivers corps?

The Dolphins have begun their preparations for the Buffalo game in earnest today.

I can report to you nose tackle Jason Ferguson was not working during the portion of practice open to the media. I can also report that former Jets, Cowboys, Bucs, and Panthers receiver Keyshawn Johnson, currently an ESPN analyst, was at practice.

Relax. He was not in uniform. He was simply visiting.

But this being an interactive blog, I wonder what you guys think of the idea of adding Johnson. Again, it is not happening unless something extremely freaky happens. But do you think the fanciful addition of Johnson, a guy who is 36 years old and has not played since 2006, could be an upgrade for the Dolphins?

This really would not be a commentary on Johnson. It would obviously be a measure of your confidence in the Dolphins' current receivers.

Beyond the question about whether Johnson would be any sort of upgrade, one has to address the issue of which receiver would have to go if Johnson were added. So if you say Johnson would be an upgrade, you have to tell me which of Miami's current receivers -- Davone Bess, Ted Ginn Jr., Ernest Wilford, Brandon London, Greg Camarillo or Derek Hagain -- would you jettison first?

Remember, this is not really happening (I think). Johnson was just visiting with old friend Bill Parcells today. But what if?

October 21, 2008

Dolphins look for answers, find only a couple

So where are the answers?

Well, if you are a logical person you might ask yourself, "What the heck are the questions?"

The most important question is where do the Dolphins find the answers to what ails them? And you know the ailments: The right guard position is inconsistent, the secondary needs to cover better and hold on to potential interceptions, the special teams need to find a way to make plays that change field position, and the offense needs to find a way to stretch the field.

I have good news and bad news. The answers will come. But if you expect them all this year, that is not likely, which is the bad news.

The fact is the only way the Dolphins could correct some of these problems is to hold a private, singular draft or free agency signing period right now and I don't think the NFL will go for that. So the true solutions won't come until next spring when that happens for everybody.

Until then?

Well, many of you want to trot Jason Allen into the secondary. He's a cornerback now and you want him to replace Andre' Goodman as the starter. Others want the Dolphins to sign Ty Law.

Here are the problems with that: Allen is thisclose to earning a bust label. The former first round pick is in his third year and still is not a starter. He is on his third coaching staff and none have really held him in high enough regard to start him.

Nick Saban tried him at CB and moved him back to safety. He never started for Saban, who is a DB guru. Cam Cameron started Allen at safety only after five other players ahead of him went down with injuries. Tony Sparano handed Allen the starting free safety job at the beginning of training camp this season and by the middle of training camp Allen had lost the job to Chris Crocker, who then lost it to Renald Hill. Sparano then moved Allen to CB. Allen's game day contribution is on special teams.

Ty Law? He's 34 years old. He has not played since last year and that is saying something considering all the NFL teams out there that need secondary help. Law was contacted by the Dolphins last week -- along with three other no-name street free agents. It wasn't that the Dolphins wanted to sign Law immediately, it was that they wanted to establish an information profile on him in case one of Miami's current CBs goes down. So he is on the back burner.

That's consistent with what Law wants because he's not exactly itching to play for Miami even though he lives here. He would like to play for a team that has a chance to compete for a championship. He'd love to play for Green Bay or the Giants or Dallas. So he's sitting and waiting for those teams to call. Will he accept a chance to play for a losing team like Miami? Maybe. But that is not his preference.

So where is the answer in the secondary? In the draft or free agency.

Special teams? Everyone, including myself, has been lobbying to let Ted Ginn Jr. return kickoffs. He did so Sunday with mixed results. "I thought Ted Ginn helped us a little bit on the return game," coach Tony Sparano said.

Good. It was a logical move a couple of weeks late.

But Miami's special teams have a loooong way to go. The team spent the offseason upgrading the units and they have given up way too many big plays this season. The coverage teams did better last week. "We weren't great but we were a lot better on coverage," Sparano said.

The Dolphins need the coverage teams to be great. After the investment of practice time and free agency dollars the Dolphins have made, this unit should be great. It says here there will be more tweaks here in the offseason. The guys currently on the roster can improve only so much.

The receivers? Ginn and Greg Camarillo got open deep last week. Chad Pennington didn't throw them the ball. Having said that, it continues to baffle how neither Derek Hagan nor Ernest Wilford can get on the active roster on game day. They have been inactive each of the past two weeks.

The Dolphins will address the receiver position in the draft, although I don't believe it will necessarily be with a pick in the first round. I believe Miami is more likely to address this position in the second or third round, not the first, because that is where value comes.

The first round screams for help at CB and NT.

Why nose tackle? Jason Ferguson is banged up now. He missed all of last year with an injury. He will be 34 next month and it has become clear to the Dolphins they are soft up the middle without Ferguson. They will turn over rocks to solidify that spot.

Finally, I wrote today he Dolphins should be taking a more serious view on playing Chad Henne after the next two games. That might be the answer to the idea of stretching the field. Absent a switch at QB, I don't see the Dolphins getting deep throws with much consistency the rest of the season.

OK, that's a lot to digest. Discuss ...

October 19, 2008

Dolphins lose second in row, 27-13 to Ravens

The Dolphins figured they could get back to .500 today.

They figured wrong.

They didn't figure on Chad Pennington throwing an interception that went for a Baltimore touchdown.

They didn't figure on having their Wildcat package declawed by the Ravens first-ranked defense.

They didn't figure Willis McGahee would come off the bench and gain 105 yards on only 19 carries for a 5.5 yard per carry average. They didn't figure rookie quarterback Joe Flacco could prosper against them.

The Dolphins least of all didn't figure Cam Cameron's offense would dominate the Miami defense. By the way, I detail the frustrations and misdeeds of the Dolphins defense here in a column I wrote for today's newspaper.

All that happened and now the Dolphins stand at 2-4. They play division leading Buffalo at home next week.

So what do you think?

[Program note: I will be on 790 The Ticket today from 10-noon so you can listen and call if you want to talk Dolphins. If you're not in South Florida, you can listen at 790theticket.com. The number to call is toll free nationwide at 1-888-790-3776.]

Dolphins trail Ravens 20-13 going to 4th quarter

The Dolphins got a scoring pass from Chad Pennington to rookie receiver Davone Bess in the third quarter but still trail Baltimore, 20-13 starting the fourth quarter.

Pennington found Bess from 7 yards out to get Miami close.

The Ravens only got a field goal from Matt Stover in the quarter. They held a 17-6 lead at the half.

OK, the live blog continues in the comments section below

Ravens lead Dolphins 17-6 going to 3rd quarter

The Dolphins had a tough time in the second quarter, seeing a 3-3 tie erased before their eyes as the Ravens got touchdowns on both offense and defense.

The Ravens turned an otherwise routine pass attempt to Patrick Cobbs into a 44-yard interception return touchdown by Terrell Suggs. The Dolphins fought back with a field goal by Dan Carpenter, his second of the day, but that wasn't quite good enough to keep them close.

The Ravens responded with a TD drive in the two-minute drill, scoring on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to receiver Derrick Mason.

The first half was the worst half of football by the Dolphins so far this season.

Quarterback Chad Pennington has completed 8 of 15 passes for 96 yards. He misfired on the interception that was returned for a score.

Ronnie Brown has been contained as well. He has 16 yards on 100 carries. Greg Camarillo has three receptions but dropped a TD pass.

OK, join me in the comments section below for the resumption of the live blog.

Dolphins, Ravens tied at 3-3 to start 2nd quarter

The score suggests a defensive game, but that is a little deceiving because both the Dolphins and Ravens had success on their first possessions today.

The teams exchanged field goals on their first drives.

And the drives were long enough that it was the only possession each team had. So we are tied at 3-3 going into the second quarter.

Anyway, the live blog continues in the comments section here.