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55 posts from October 2008

October 07, 2008

Ronnie Brown Player of Week again? [With poll]

Ronnie Brown is at it again and you can help him.

For the second consecutive week, Brown is nominated for the FedEx Ground player of the week in the NFL. Brown, who gained 125 yards on 24 attempts against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, is a finalist along with Washington's Clinton Portis and Carolina's Angelo Williams.

Portis had 145 yards on 29 carries against Philadelphia and Williams had 123 yards on 20 carries against Kansas City. Obviously, Portis had the more impressive outing as he had more yards and it came against the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is how many votes every player gets from you, the fans. That is where you, the fans, come in. Fans can vote right here starting today through 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner is announced Friday afternoon.

This potential honor for Brown, which would be the second of the season for him, got me wondering ... which player is Miami's MVP at the quarter pole?

I know it is only one-quarter of the way through the season, but everyone must admit the Dolphins have accomplished some unexpected things so far. So take the poll below and let me know who your MVP pick is so far.

After you've taken the poll, tell me why you think that player is the MVP in the comments section.

Dolphins likely won't face old QB in Houston

Sage Rosenfels was one of the 10 quarterbacks I mentioned in yesterday's post that served as a bridge between Jay Fiedler and Chad Pennington the last six years. He's in Houston now. And he has started in place of a sick Matt Schaub recently.

But he's not starting against the Dolphins on Sunday.

Schaub, while still a little weak following a viral infection, is expected to be back at practice Wednesday when the Texans begin preparing for the Dolphins.

"Yeah, he should be fine," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's feeling a lot better [Monday]. I think he's still a little weak [Monday] but I think he'll be fine. He'll be back on the field Wednesday. I don't see any reason not to be."

Rosenfels played well enough to help the Texans lead Indianapolis 27-10 with four minutes to play Sunday. But then he suffered a three-turnover meltdown that opened the door for the Colts' rally and eventual victory.

The Dolphins must not underestimate the Texans, a team they have never beaten.

You can read where the Texans stand and find out they are not the disaster of a team their 0-4 record would suggest. They have some excellent players, most prominently in my mind being Andre Johnson the former Miami High and University of Miami star. (Go Stings! Go Canes!)

Anyway, it is clear Kubiak has a lot of respect for the Dolphins and will try to pass that level of respect to his players.

"I see a lot of Dallas when I watch them, defensively with what they are doing," he said. "And of course, Tony [Sparano] and Bill [Parcells] were together so long in Dallas, you know, the way they built that team very, very quickly. And then they're sitting there with two great, great backs.

"But you have to give them a ton of credit for what they've went and done here in the last two weeks. They've found something with their football team that's giving people fits and it's our turn to deal with it this week. They've done a heck of a job. Tony is a good football coach."

October 06, 2008

Today's Dolphins looking as good as yesteryear

We know the Dolphins are playing very well the past two games. But did you know they are playing at a level that would rival some pretty good Dolphins teams of the past? Some playoff Dolphins teams?

It's true. Consider these facts:

FACT: The Dolphins have now defeated both teams that played in the AFC title game last season. The last time that happened was in 1998 when Miami beat both Pittsburgh and Denver after they played in the AFC title game the season before.

FACT: Chad Pennington's passer rating was 109.6 against San Diego, marking the second consecutive game his rating is over the century mark. The last time a Dolphins QB went consecutive games with a passer rating over 100 was in 2002 when Jay Fiedler did it against Detroit and Indianapolis. The Dolphins have gone through 10 starting quarterbacks between Fiedler and Pennington in those six years.

FACT: The Miami offense has gained 851 net yards the past two games. That is the highest two-game total for Miami since 1995, Don Shula's final year as head coach. Think about that.

FACT: The Dolphins had one penalty for 5 yards. That is the lowest amount of penalty yards by the team since 1998.

FACT: The 10 first downs Miami yielded is the fewest total allowed by the Dolphins since 2003.

I realize this doesn't mean the Dolphins should be looking toward the Super Bowl, as Justin Smiley suggested in my column following Sunday's victory over San Diego. But it definitely does speak of excellent things the team is doing that match accomplishment by past Miami teams that were playoff qualifiers.

October 05, 2008

Dolphins beat Chargers 17-10 to reach .500

Do you believe in miracles?

The Dolphins have just defeated the San Diego Chargers, 17-10 at Dolphin Stadium to even their record at 2-2. Don't know if it was miracle or just hard work and teamwork.

Anyway, Ronnie Brown gained 125 yards on 24 carries and one TD to lead the Miami offense. Yeremiah Bell was amazing on defense and led the team with six credited tackles. Matt Roth also had a very good day with three tackles for losses and one sack.

The Dolphins played nearly flawless, although they had one turnover. They had only one penalty for 5 yards.

This game marks the first time since Jan. 1, 2006 -- the last game of the 2005 season -- that the Dolphins have been at least a .500 team without being 0-0.

OK folks, now you know what it is like to win back to back games.

So celebrate and discuss ....

Goal line stand keeps Miami up 17-10 in 4th Q

The Dolphins have just come with an excellent goal line stand on fourth-and-goal from the 1 yard line to start the fourth quarter.

LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped short after the Chargers threatened to tie the game.

The third quarter pretty much belonged to the Chargers as they scored the period's only touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Phillip Rivers to former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers.

That TD cut Miami's lead from 17-3 at the half to 17-10.

The Chargers then kicked off and Davone Bess fumbled the kickoff, putting San Diego in position for yet another score. But the Dolphins defense answered the challenge, stopping Tomlinson at the 1 yard line.


Dolphins lead Chargers 17-3 going into 3rd Q

The Miami Dolphins have completely dominated the Chargers in the first half today. Amazing.

Ronnie Brown has 64 yards on 10 carries with a TD run out of the Wildcat package. Greg Camarillo has a 17-yard TD reception and Dan Carpenter has a 47 yard field goal.

The Chargers have been unable to crack the Miami defense after an opening drive that lasted 14 plays and resulted in a 34 yard field goal. Since the drive Miami's defense has dominated the Chargers. LaDainian Tomlinson has only 22 yards on 5 carries.

Yeremiah Bell leads the Dolphins with four credited tackles.

The Dolphins are averaging 6.7 yards per play on their 33 offensive play.

Chad Pennington is having a pretty good day, having completed 12 of 16 passes for 140 yards and the TD. Phillip Rivers, the NFL's second rated passer coming into the game, has completed only 8 of 15 passes.


Dolphins, Chargers tied at 3-3 at end of 1st Q

ng The Dolphins and Chargers are tied at 3-3 with only a couple of minutes left in the first quarter.

Both teams scored on their opening drives with San Diego getting a Nick Kaeding field goal and the Dolphins answering with a 47 yarder from Dan Carpenter.

The field is in great condition so far today but skys are now overcast and threatening. In fact, it is now raining.

Live blog this sunny day from Dolphin Stadium

The football season that was interrupted at the worst possible time for the Miami Dolphins by a fricken bye weekend is back on today as the team on a one-game winning streak returns to the field against the San Diego Chargers.

Today will determine some important things:

1. Are the Dolphins for real or was that victory over New England a mirage? Understand that Miami doesn't have to win to prove it is for real. Give the Chargers all they can handle and the Dolphins will earn some believers.

2. Can Miami beat a team with an actual quarterback? Phillip Rivers is rated No. 2 in the NFL among QBs.

3. How well does the Dolphin Stadium sod drain and hold up after getting soaked and trampled Saturday during the UM-FSU inundation. I remind you, in case you didn't watch the game or read this blog the past several weeks, the baseball infield is finally gone. We have a football field again!

[UPDATE: The field looks great! It's painted and it's dry.]

4. What fanciful tweaks to the Wildcat package have the Dolphins made with two weeks to prepare?

5. Does the package work in the NFL when the other team has time to prepare for it?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to today's live blog. I will also be on radio at 790-AM and 790theticket.com if you're outside South Florida, from 11-1 p.m. Listen, call, talk, whatev. I'll meet you in the comments section after kickoff.

October 04, 2008

Inside Dolphins stats for real NFL geeks

You guys got into the Xs and Os of Tony Sparano's wildcat formation so well that you have now graduated to bigger and better Xs and Os stuff.

Football Outsiders is a good resource for the stat geeks among us that are interested in the deeper meaning of what is actually happening on the field. In other words, we want to know which offensive lineman is producing the most rushing yards when the team runs behind him. We want to know which defensive lineman or which side of the side of the line is allowing the most rushing yards or producing the most pressure on the QB.

So here's some answers:

According to the Outsiders here is Miami's individual run-stopping rankings:

Joey Porter has a 1.37 Yard Per Carry average against. That means Porter, who leads the team with four sacks, is also playing quite effectively at the point of attack. Vonnie Holliday has a 3.35 YPC. Jason Ferguson has a 4.07 YPC. Kendall Langford has a 4.81 YPC. Matt Roth has a surprising 1.55 YPC.

Obviously the Langford, the rookie, needs to improve his run-defense  while Ferguson, the oldest guy on the line, is also allowing a degree of success on runs up the middle. Overall, however, the stats suggest Miami's front is playing well against the run.

Here is the link from footballoutsiders.com for the team defensive line statistics.

Along the offensive line the Dolphins are getting mediocre production that seems to be improving but has a way to go yet. Interestingly, Jake Long is Miami's most productive run blocker. So all of you that continually request Jake Long updates, that is great news.

Every time the Dolphins run behind Long, they average 4.8 yards per carry. The rest of the line's averages: Justin Smiley has a 3.91 YPC, Samson Satele  has a 3.88 YPC, the combo of Donald Thomas/Ikechuku Ndukwe has a 4.22 YPC, and Vernon Carey has a 3.79 YPC.

Here's the team offensive line statistics.

The Dolphins admittedly struggled to run the ball the first couple of games. But there seems to be no major weak link on the line, even now that Ndukwe has taken over for the injured Thomas. The Dolphins run-distribution statistics suggest they are not avoiding running behind any one particular player.

So what do you think?

Personal note: I want to thank loyal reader Richard McQuillen for sharing these statistics with me, and by doing, with you also.

October 03, 2008

Dolphins sell out (sort of); game televised locally

Two NFL games were in danger of not selling out this week. The Lions home game was one. The Dolphins home game was the other.

The Dolphins have announced that game against San Diego is now sold out. Sort of.

Tickets remain available for the game but television has guaranteed the purchase of any unsold tickets. That means the game will be on television locally in South Florida and available at sports bars throughout the Sunshine State.

You guys in other parts of the country, this wasn't your worry anyway.

Caution: Xs and Os football class is in session

I've been wondering why exactly the Dolphins, and many other NFL teams, use an unbalanced offensive line against the New England Patriots and other 3-4 defenses. I know, life is really sad when I am admitting these thoughts are in my head.

Anyway, to quench my curiosity I did something most folks don't have the opportunity to do: I asked Dolphins coach Tony Sparano to explain it. And he did! It was amazing!

Now this is strictly meat for rabid football fanatics. I don't often go over stuff like this because not many folks like to read about Xs and Os. But I found this so fascinating I had to share Sparano's answer to my question, "What does an unbalanced line do to a defense:

"It does two different things," Sparano said. "When you go unbalanced, with a tight end on one side and a tackle on the other side, it forces [the defense] to declare what you want to do with your safety. Do you want to put your safety in a situation where if he goes to the big side, to the two-man side ... Do you want to run support that side? Do you want to bring the safety over there? Or do you want to leave the safety back to the tight end side right now, knowing that he's the eligible [receiver].

"It also forces [things] [against] some teams that want to be balanced on defense. You play 3-4 teams. They want to have the nose on the center. It forces them to have to do something else. If they keep the nose on the center, then they are playing maybe their four or five techniques a little bit wider. They have to play those over maybe a ghost tight end maybe in some of those situations. Or they need to reduce the front. And they need to make the nose now play over the guard. Now all of a sudden, they are doing jobs that they're not used to doing in those defenses."

In other words, it makes the defense do things it doesn't want to do along the line of scrimmage. It makes the defense show the offense its intentions with the safety. And it puts the defense out of its comfort zone.

Smart coaching. That explanation raised my respect level for Sparano's Xs and Os acumen and ability to communicate. If he's able to explain what coaches are trying to accomplish to me, he's obviously able to communicate it to his players. Good stuff.

October 02, 2008

Miami Dolphins receivers are awesome!

The headline got your attention, didn't it?

OK, so maybe the Dolphins don't have the most dynamic receivers in the NFL. Maybe they don't scare anyone. Maybe they're just, well, there.

But at least they don't drop passes.

That is the contention of Stats Inc. and ESPN and this blog post by Pat Yasinskas. According to the chart on his blog, the Dolphins are the only NFL team that has not dropped a pass this season.

I did a quick survey of my memory and could not remember a drop this regular season. There were a ton in the preseason so unless you guys can remember one, it means the receivers have definitely addressed one of their preseason shortcomings.

Dolphins on Greatest Games tonight on ESPN2

You are now in time travel mode: Long hair, wild printed shirts, bell bottoms and white belts are in. No, we're not talking 2005. It is late 1974.

Nobody has cell phones. The Internet hasn't been invented yet. Don Shula's Dolphins are coming off two consecutive Super Bowl championships and they are back in their rightful place again.

The playoffs.

On December 21, the Dolphins are in Oakland for what they hope is the first step back to their fourth consecutive Super Bowl and third title in a row. Al Davis, not yet a member of the undead who occasionally rises out of his coffin to fire coaches, spends time before the game talking with John Madden who is not yet a broadcaster or a video game icon.

On that fateful afternoon 34 years ago the Dolphins and Raiders play one of the most memorable playoff games of all time -- the Sea of Hands game. It is called that because that is what it looked like at the end when Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler launched a pass that traveled past a sea of Dolphins hands and into the awaiting arms of Clarence Davis.

After three lead changes in the final five minutes, the Raiders win 28-26 and Miami's hopes of winning a third straight Super Bowl are dashed. Within months the Dolphins break up, with Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield defecting to the World Football League.

That classic playoff game has been the subject of many tall tales, but none have been spun by NFL Films because they lost their footage from that game. The films were believed lost in a move years ago. The NBC tape of the game was believed destroyed in a fire. (Wish MSNBC would be destroyed in a fire.)

Anyway, the folks at Films recently found the lost tapes and the footage will be aired for the first time in 34 years tonight on ESPN2 as the latest installment of the Greatest Games series.

The 90-minute show will air at 12:30 a.m. Friday on the east coast (which is late tonight) or 9:30 p.m. pacific time (which is still Thursday). It will re-air again later and I'll alert you about that if you miss or do not DVR tonight.

It is billed by NFL Films as the most comprehensive show of the game ever done because it includes current interviews with some of the game's participants. I know it is something of a bummer because it was a Dolphins loss, but for the true Miami fan wanting to have a full body of knowledge about his team, including its history, this show is a must see.

A quick quiz:

How was Miami's opening TD scored that day? You might be surprised.

Who scored Miami's final TD, the one some said came, "too soon?"

Who was tackling Stabler as he threw and who was draped around Davis as he scored?

Don't cheat if you don't know. Just watch.

October 01, 2008

JT thanks local media for 11 memorable years

Seth Levit, the executive director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, just popped into Dolphins camp on business and part of that business was to pass out letters to 30 or so selected members of the media which Jason Taylor wanted to reach out to.

Taylor, now with the Washington Redskins, wanted to thank those media members who covered him throughout his Miami career -- an unnecessary, but very classy move. Taylor wrote those members of the media a letter.

Here is the one delivered to me:

Dear Armando,

I hope this letter finds you well. The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me but now that I am beginning to get my feet back on the ground, I want to take a moment to reach out to some of the journalists who covered me on and off the field throughout my Miami Dolphins career.

While it may sound like rhetoric, I sincerely feel as if my 11 years in Miami were some of the most memorable of my life. The amazing moments, sometimes triumphant and sometimes, well, pretty darn awful, all had a major impact on me -- and you were there to capture so many of them. As professional athletes living and working in the public eye, we often complain about the "media" and how we are covered. I know I have done my share. Looking back, however, I am fortunate enough to say that the positive words written and said aobut me far outweigh the negative and because of the hard work you and your peers put in, I can someday sit down with my three children and share with them a very special time in my life.

So I want to thank you, Armando. Thank you for telling me who you think I am and who you think I am not. I want to thank you for providing South Florida fans an opportunity to get to know me in some small way. I want to thank you for supporting my community work and more than anything, for your professionalism. I'm sure you didn't always agree with every decision I made on the field or every statement I made off of it, and there is a good chance that I didn't always agree with every word you wrote or said, but in the end, we both have jobs to do and I'd like to think we did them with a mutual respect.

As a token of my appreciation, please accept this small gift [a leather computer/travel bag]. I'm hopeful that you can put it to good use as you continue to tell important and interesting stories about the players and organization that will always have a unique place in my heart.


Jason Taylor

Anyway, I know many Dolphins fans are still Jason Taylor fans. Figured you guys might like to hear about him. And for the sake of disclosure, Herald ethics policy requires I not keep the bag. Oh well.

The rest of the Ricky Williams interview

On Monday afternoon I had an interesting chat with Ricky Williams about his bye weekend, his current view of his career, and his maturation process as a man and player.

During that interview I asked Williams about Marijuana and he spoke openly about it. I asked him if he was tempted to smoke again, and interestingly enough, he admitted he was tempted during the bye weekend. I wrote a story about it in The Herald.

But there were other parts of the interview that were not included in the story for space reasons or because, mostly, they had less to do with the theme of the story. So I include them here:

How do you overcome addiction to Marijuana?

"I think you can get addicted to anything. I think overcoming it, you need help definitely. You need a support system and you need some way to remind yourself, one, why not to do it. And two, you have to remind yourself of the positive things that will come if you refrain from doing it."

"It's hard for me to say I was addicted to Marijuana. I'm not convinced I had a Marijuana problem. I smoked occasionally and I had bad timing. I was in a program where there was zero tolerance. And so for me it was a matter of if I was 100 percent sure I wanted to be a football player, it wouldn't have been an issue for me to [not] smoke. But I think a lot of times I had serious doubts [football] is what I wanted to do. So I wasn't motivated not to smoke."

So what changed?

"I think the problem is when you get to a certain point in your career, you see the end of football. And that's when the doubts become stronger. But I've already seen past the end of football and I'm looking forward to getting to life after football. But I also realize the longer I can play and the more productive I can be over time, it makes life after football easier. So I'm motivated to stay here as long as I can."

How much does money have to do with that?

"It has a big part to do with it. It's something I was never comfortable saying, that I played for money. But I'm at a point now where if I wasn't making money, there's no doubt I wouldn't be here."

You sound so much more mature about life than you used to years ago.

"One of the biggest things is over the past couple of years, I've started to embrace and appreciate  family life. So now I understand the decision I make don't just affect me. They affect my kids, they affect my wife, they affect everything. Being around them all the time makes it easier. Before them, I was more about myself and I didn't think too much about how much my decisions affected other people. That comes from maturity."