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58 posts from November 2008

November 30, 2008

Justin Smiley out for remainder of season

Dolphins left guard Justin Smiley confirmed he broke his right leg during the first half of today's game.

He is done for the remainder of the season.

"It's a bummer," he said. "It's kind of depressing. I'm happy the offensive line pulled together but obviously I'm not too happy about my situation."

Smiley said he heard the leg "snap," when he got rolled up during a running play.

"It happens a hundred times and you come out of it unscathed," he said. "This time wasn't one of those times."

The Dolphins used Andy Alleman at left guard today but coach Tony Sparano immediately mentioned recently signed Al Johnson as a possibility when asked about the state of his offensive line.

Too bad about Smiley. He's one of the good guys.

"It is hard to see him go down, the way he works everyday in practice," said left tackle Jake Long. "Andy stepped in great and we all settled down after that and started to put together some good drives. Andy really stepped in and did a good job."

Smiley is expected to be placed on injured reserve. This is the second consecutive season he finishes the year on injured reserve, having been forced to the list by a shoulder injury.

Dolphins beat Rams 16-12 to improve to 7-5

Twas not pretty. Twas not entertaining, really.

But it was a victory.

The Rams beat the St. Louis Rams, 16-12, this afternoon and remain in tenuous contention for an AFC playoff spot.

There should be no mistaking that Miami played well today. It was a 1-touchdown performance for the offense against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

And for the defense, while they did keep the Rams out of the end zone, they did make it exciting by allowing four long scoring drives. Ultimately the Dolphins can thank God Rams quarterback Marc Bulger has apparently gone from being Pro Bowl to toilet bowl caliber.

Bulger threw three interceptions including the one to Andre' Goodman that sealed the deal.

So what do you think? And do you still think the Dolphins are playoff contenders?

Dolphins blowing out Rams 13-9 to start 4th

It is a butt-whupping!

You wish.

The Dolphins continue their sleepwalk through today's game at St. Louis. Terrible effort. They are head and shoulders better than the Rams but have managed to make this a game going into the final period.

Join me in the comments section and we'll see what happens.

Dolphins lead Rams 10-9 to start 3rd quarter

Cannot say this has been a stellar effort by the Dolphins, but they have done enough to lead the St. Louis Rams 10-9 at the beginning of the third quarter.

The Dolphins scored all their points in the second quarter on a Ronnie Brown TD run and a FG by Dan Carpenter. Believe it or not, the Rams offense has moved the ball with more consistency, putting together three FG drives.

Obviously, the failure to get in the end zone is costing St. Louis.

One thing that is troubling to me is the fact the Dolphins have tried to throw the football more than they've tried to run against St. Louis. The Rams are ranked 30th in the NFL against the run this year but Chad Pennington is 10 of 16 for 115 yards.

Ricky Williams has 6 carries for 28 yards and Ronnie Brown has 5 carries for 24 yards. Brown has the TD run.

The Dolphins lost starting guard Justin Smiley to a leg injury in the first quarter. He has not returned and the fear is the injury is serious.

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

Rams lead Dolphins 6-0 to start 2nd quarter

The Dolphins have shown no life early in today's game against the St. Louis Rams.

They have declined to run the ball although the Rams are among the worst run defenses in the NFL. When Miami has run, it has worked -- six rushes, 50 yards.

The Rams, meanwhile, look like the more engaged team. They have scored on both offensive possessions of the first quarter hence the two field goals.

The live blog continues in the comments section below. Join me there.

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Rams today

It is snowing in St. Louis, which is a big deal to me because being a tropical kinda guy, I don't often walk through snow or have to deal with what snow does to your hair. But are the Dolphins concerned with today's flurries?

Not so much.

As you know they play the hapless St. Louis Rams at 1 p.m. today. As you also know we will blog live right from this site to all parts of the globe.

A reminder about today before I cut you loose. Paul Soliai is not playing today due to a suspension. Ernest Wilford will be active.

The Rams are starting Orlando Pace and Steven Jackson is expected to play. St. Louis middle linebacker Will Witherspoon is not expected to play. That means rookie David Vobora will start in the middle for St. Lou. Vobora should not be known to you other than the fact he was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2008 draft.

Yes, he was the last player selected in the draft.

Anyway, the Dolphins should be able to run the football. We shall see. Join me in the comments section below for the start of the live blog at kickoff.

UPDATE: Jason Allen, who injured a hand/wrist in last week's game, is inactive for today's game.

November 29, 2008

NT Paul Soliai suspended by Miami Dolphins

Paul Soliai's days with the Miami Dolphins seem numbered.

Soliai is out of Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams because he has been suspended by the team. The team declined further comment on the matter.

Look for Randy Starks to get snaps at nose tackle when starter Jason Ferguson needs a rest.

It is the second time this season Soliai will miss a game for disciplinary reasons. Given Bill Parcells' patience, or lack of it, for players who spend more time contributing to the team's fine treasury than to the team's tackle totals, I would say to you Soliai shouldn't consider himself secure in Miami.

Soliai has a grand total of two tackles this season. That is not a misprint. Two. He has not collected a tackle in six weeks, including the week he was made inactive against Baltimore for disciplinary reasons.

Last year Soliai suffered from immaturity, a lack of work ethic and some lapses in desire but he got a new lease on life when Parcells was hired and he hired Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Now the new regime seems to understand what the old regime saw.

Miami Dolphins fill open roster spot with center

The Miami Dolphins have filled the roster spot opened by the placing of receiver Greg Camarillo on injured reserve by signing free agent center Al Johnson.

Johnson is a 6-5 and 305 pound dude who was originally a second-round pick of, you guessed it, the Dallas Cowboys in 2003. Johnson was with the Cowboys four seasons before signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent in 2007.

Johnson was on Arizona's injured reserve list all of this season before being released Oct. 21. Johnson had a knee injury. Johnson is no baby. He is 29 years old and has started 45 games in the NFL.

It should be noted here that once Johnson is 100 percent healthy he would bring great depth. The Dolphins are short on the OL given that backup center Andy Alleman has been taking most of his practice snaps at right guard this week.

But the fact Johnson is slightly bigger and, according to reputation, stronger than Samson Satele should give Miami's young center some pause.

Satele had a poor game against Vince Wilfork Sunday and hasn't exactly been a force in a couple of other games this season. And with end of season games against stout inside players Marcus Stroud, Glenn Dorsey, Isaac Sopoagoa and most notably Kris Jenkins, the Dolphins may have bigger plans in store for Johnson than we believe.

The team may try the combo of Satele and Johnson at center-right guard  -- meaning one of the two could move to guard while the other starts at center. We'll see.

November 28, 2008

Miami Dolphins run game must be all-in

Pretty soon -- like next week -- the NFL season will bleed into December and teams that can run the football effectively and consistently will have an added advantage as they head for the NFL season's finish line.

It is no coincidence that the NFL's top five teams in rushing yards per game -- the Giants, Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore and Tennessee -- have had good seasons so far. It is not a stretch to think they will continue to have good seasons because they seem built for offensive success running the ball even when the weather turns uninviting.

But this being a Dolphins blog, we're not going to study the Giants or Ravens or Titans now. We should consider the Dolphins running game.

Before this season began and we didn't know anything about the Dolphins (some of you might argue I still know nothing about the Dolphins) we all accepted the idea the offense should have a fairly effective running game. After all, the Dolphins have a former Heisman Trophy winner backing up a former No. 2 overall pick in the draft at the running back spot.

We all expected Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to be the team's best players. We all expected some success running the ball, especially with first overall pick Jake Long plowing the way from his left tackle position. Time for that expectation to pay more dividends, don't you agree?

The Dolphins are not a terrible running team. But neither are they a stellar running team if you look at their raw production numbers.

They average 112 yards per game running the ball which is 15th in the NFL. They have gained 1,241 rushing yards which is 17th in the NFL.

So Miami's run-production is middle of the pack. But if the Dolphins are to make a legitimate push for the playoffs this winter, when winds get stiff and the strength behind Miami's passing game would tested in outdoor venues such as Kansas City and New Jersey, the Dolphins definitely could help themselves by running the football better.

And this week this week could be a wonderful springboard.

The Rams are among the NFL's worst run defenses. They allow almost 163 rushing yards per game which is ranked 30th in the NFL. They've yielded 20 rushing touchdowns this year which is 31st in the NFL. Six running backs have had 100-yard days against them. They are allowing their opponents a 4.9 yard per carry average which is also 30th in the NFL.

In other words if the Dolphins don't run successfully against St. Louis on Sunday, something is amiss. Coach Tony Sparano knows what awaits the Dolphins down the road in the cold climes against New York. So does he think it important Miami get its running shoes laced right starting immediately?

You bet.

“Yeah, it’s going to be really critical," he said. "There’s no question about it. We have goals to where we want to be and how we want to be playing going through the next four or five weeks here. We know that we’ve got a lucky draw here in the next couple weeks just in that you’re inside and indoors and of course, the next week we’d be home in that third week, then in the last two week, you don’t know what you’re going to get out there.

"I grew up in the northeast, so I know what we’re going to get down there in the last ballgame of the season. You’ve got to be able to run the ball. We need to be able to establish that. Ronnie, Ricky, these guys are going to be really important down the stretch for us. Now that being said, those are good people to be hanging your hat on down the stretch. What we do have to do, though, is we’ve got to create some consistency over the next couple weeks. You can’t just show up in Week 14 and not run the ball worth crap prior to that and think that it’s going to get done.”

Here's a thought that might interest you: I believe the Dolphins should run the ball more than they have been doing. That's right. More.

Miami's 4.2 yards per rush average is tied for 12th in the NFL which is a higher ranking than its actual yardage production numbers. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rank 20th in the NFL with 298 rushing attempts -- lower than their production numbers.

So it stands to reason if they run more often their production numbers will climb because when Miami does run, they average a pretty good chunk of yardage every carry.

The idea is for Miami to do something they do fairly successfully more often. Makes perfect sense because, well, December is around the corner.

November 26, 2008

The breakdown for Miami Dolphins receivers

This has been a busy day, which is why this is my fourth blog post of the day. [Don't expect one tomorrow as I will be eyebrows deep in stuffing and mash potatos and gravy and turkey and pies and other stuff that keeps me in finely tuned shape.]

I just want to catch you up on the receiver situation. Greg Camarillo, out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL in a knee, was placed on injured reserve today. So I asked Tony Sparano what happens now?

The coach said Davone Bess is "the next guy up," meaning he will start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. But it is not quite so simple.

Because Bess plays a lot on special teams as a returner, the Dolphins don't intend to merely add the extra work to his plate. They will add work, but they will add work to other players' plate also.

The Dolphins are likely to promote a practice squad receiver before 6 p.m. Saturday -- likely Anthony Armstrong -- to take Camarillo's place on the roster. And while Bess will start that doesn't mean he'll get every snap.

So look for Ernest Wilford to be active -- finally -- and get some chances to earn his $6 million signing bonus. Look for Brandon London to also get snaps with the offense.

If I'm Wilford, I do everything I can to make a mark this game because this feels like one last best chance for him to stay with the Miami Dolphins long-term.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Joey Porter issues his apology in public

Linebacker Joey Porter just came into the locker room and gave a 40-second statement that included an apology and explained his thoughts relative to the Sunday incident in which he refused to come off the field twice when coach Tony Sparano wanted him to come out.

"I just like to apologize for not respecting coach Sparano's order to come off the field," Porter said. "I wasn't looking at it that way. I was just staying on the field playing football. I wasn't trying to make it as being disrespectful to the team or not obeying his order.

"We have a great relationship. It's crazy how you all got a hold of this and just tried to make this seem as if me and him are not good. I listen to all his orders, I wasn't looking at that situation that way. I was just staying on the field playing football that's just my nature -- if I'm not hurt I don't like to come off the field. So I think it got blown out of proportion but I definitely apologize to coach, staff and that's pretty much it."

Porter took no questions about the incident that happened near the finish of Sunday's loss to New England.

I am so over this thing it is not even funny. I'm especially bored with players blaming media for making things "blown out of proportion," but nonetheless those things are significant enough that they require public and private apologies to the coach and teammates.

NFL fines Crowder, Light $15,000

The NFL has confirmed to Miami Herald collegue Jeff Darlington that Miami's Channing Crowder and New England's Matt Light have been fined $15,000 for their involvement in Sunday hair-pulling slap-fight.

Neither player will be suspended.

The fines are for the "verbal and physical altercation," suggesting that although Crowder did not participate in the actual volley of fists, there were mean words exchanged before Light began to pound on the back of Crowder's head and pull his dreds.

These fines solidify for me that the NFL has no structured plan for fining players.

Consider:

Joey Porter gets fined $20,000 for ripping the officiating following the Houston game but Channing Crowder and Matt Light get $15,000 for a fight in front of 67,000 people that has been replayed countless times on ESPN and other national TV outlets?

Vonnie Holliday gets docked $7,500 for a perfectly legal hit on Matt Cassel after the teams' first meeting this year but this ugly moment gets $15,000.

And does the NFL want us to believe that Light punching Crowder three times in the back of the head while the linebacker's helmet is off, then pulling his hair deserves the same fine as Crowder pushing Light and perhaps saying mean things about his mom or wife?

Anyway, on another matter, the Dolphins are already practice today. Jake Long was not in pads during the time the media is allowed to view what happens on the field. He did have his right ankle heavily taped. Best case scenario he'll walk-thru the drill today, which means he is limited at best.

The team has not added another player to the active roster which suggests Miami will ask either Ernest Wilford or practice squad player Anthony Armstrong to be active Sunday against St. Louis.

Thanksgiving no day off for Dolphins

I've covered the Dolphins for a long time, which means I've had many holidays ruined by the NFL.

I've covered games on Christmas night, New Year's eve, and yes, Thanksgiving Day. One year I spent my Thanksgiving holiday away from my family in San Francisco because Dave Wannstedt had decided before the season it would be a great idea for the Dolphins to stay on the west coast the week between games at Seattle and San Francisco.

This year the Dolphins do not play on Thanksgiving. Thankfully.

But they sure enough work on Thanksgiving.

You see, unlike some previous coaches including Don Shula who made Thanksgiving a short day for the team, Tony Sparano has not really changed the team's work schedule Thursday from any indication I can see.

The Dolphins practice at 11:10 a.m. today, and at 11:10 a.m. on Thursday, and at 11:10 a.m. on Friday. They have meetings before practice today, and Thursday, and Friday. They have meetings after practice today, and Thursday, and Friday.

So the holiday is not affecting Miami's work schedule, and by extension, the work ethic in the least this week.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing or a good thing. I'm just reporting to you how the Dolphins are handling their holiday week as it relates to working. So think of them when you're carving off that turkey leg Thursday afternoon. I know I will.

'Cause I ain't working Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be blessed!

November 25, 2008

Porter will not be suspended following apology

Joey Porter will not be suspended for his insubordination. Whether he will be fined for refusing to leave the field during Sunday's 48-28 loss to New England when coach Tony Sparano ordered him to do so remains unclear.

Porter will not have to worry about a suspension, in part, because on Monday he apologized to Sparano for his conduct. So if Sparano was considering a suspension, that thought is gone.

Porter went further than merely apologizing to the coach. He also apologized to teammates later Monday afternoon in front of Sparano. The apologies were confirmed during The Miami Touchdown Club meeting Tuesday that various members of the team's organization attended.

The Dolphins are not commenting on Porter's apology. The Dolphins aren't even confirming Porter apologized. The Dolphins aren't even confirming they play the St. Louis Rams Sunday. Kidding.

Sparano wants his players focusing on Sunday's game against St. Louis and the less he talks about this, the more likely that is to happen. So don't expect a lot of talk about this Wednesday when the team gathers for the week's first day of Rams prep.

What remains unclear is if Porter was fined for his insubordination. I wrote this column for Mother Herald making the point that Porter should absolutely NOT be suspended, but that he should be fined.

Time for Ted Ginn Jr. to become the go-to guy

What do the Dolphins do without Greg Camarillo?

The question itself shows how much the Miami receiver corps needs an offseason talent infusion. But we'll talk about how any receiver corps where Greg Camarillo is the best player is not a good receiver corps another day.

For now, the Dolphins have Camarillo's cleats to fill because he is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

So I repeat, what do the Dolphins do?

There are options although none sound exceedingly appealing: They can re-sign Derek Hagan. They can promote Anthony Armstrong from the practice squad. They can play Brandon London more. They can activate Ernest Wilford, who coach Tony Sparano continues insisting is improving but still hasn't improved enough to, you know, actually play in a recent game.

The Dolphins can even search the free agent heap and add a new body into the mix although this doesn't make a lot of sense because that player won't know the playbook for a while and there is only a month or so left in the season.

Like I said, many options, none great.

Let me suggest another option for making up for the loss of the team's top receiver. I suggest Ted Ginn Jr. step up.

Remember Ginn? He's the guy drafted No. 9 overall last season. He's the guy making the big bucks. He's the guy who should be Miami's best receiver to begin with.

Everyone has been quite patient with Ginn until now because he's young, having come out of Ohio State a year early. He's not so polished, needing tutoring on his route running. And he's basically a good kid everyone wants to see succeed. And so we wait.

Well, enough of that.

Ted Ginn Jr. should be, and now must be, Miami's go-to receiver. When Chad Pennington steps back to throw the football downfield, Ginn should be the first option. When Pennington throws Ginn a fourth-quarter pass that would turn third down into a first down, Ginn has to catch it. When the Dolphins need a pass play, Ginn needsto make it more often than not.

That has not been the case for Ginn since his Miami career started. But now the spotlight is on him. If he thought there was pressure to perform as the No. 9 overall pick before, wait until practice resumes Wednesday and he's option No. 1.

That is pressure.

I would tell you Ginn will respond to the added attention and responsibility one of two ways: He'll accept it and prove himself worthy of the role as Miami's go-to receiver. Or he'll show himself a guy not yet ready, and perhaps not ever ready, to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

I have been a big Ginn supporter for some time. Last year I lobbied so he could get playing time and then a starting role. I've written he is making progress a thousand times. This year I lobbied for him to be used as a kick returner when the Dolphins were using Davone Bess.

But now I am not certain Ginn is up to the challenge that awaits him. I wish him the best. I hope he steps up.

We'll see if he does.

November 23, 2008

How does Tony Sparano handle Joey Porter?

With 3:23 left to play in Sunday's Dolphins loss to the Patriots, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano got an ugly glimpse of how hard to control Joey Porter is when the linebacker collected an unnecessary roughness penalty -- no doubt, on purpose.

One play later Porter was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct -- just a guess here, but whatever he did was probably premeditated. And so Sparano had seen enough. He sent Charlie Anderson into the game to replace Porter.

Porter refused to leave the field in direct insubordination of his coach's wishes. Porter ordered Anderson to go back to the bench. After the game, Porter refused to speak with the media. (So much for being a stand-up guy.)

So this is what the Dolphins have:

A linebacker who has a big mouth. A linebacker who has gaudy sack stats and is the team's only player applying consistent pressure. The defense's only big-play-maker. The defense's most unhinged player.

Porter has spent most of the season being way out there with things that have nothing to do with sacking quarterbacks. He has made news for calling out Matt Cassel before the season's first meeting between the Dolphins and Pats. He ripped a referee. He ripped Matt Jones and the league's handling of his situation. He said he would like to have Michael Vick on the Dolphins and said people critical of Vick for killing dogs were somewhat hypocritical because the dogs slain were pitbulls and those folks don't like pitbulls, anyway.

On ESPN Sunday, Porter said Bill Belichick is a cheater who has stolen two championships from Porter because the Pats beat the Steelers two times in the playoffs in the years the Patriots were allegedly cheating.

None of that really bothers me. It's just noise.

But Sunday's refusal to do what Sparano ordered is a problem. Joey Porter crossed the line. And it's not the first time it happens with a rookie head coach as Porter crossed the line several times with Cam Cameron last year.

So what should Sparano do with and to Porter?

Fine him? Suspend him? Ignore him? It will be interesting as most things involving Joey Porter are. It will be interesting because it is Sparano's first test of his will over the will of a star player.

Patriots beat Dolphins 48-28 to hurt Miami hopes

The Dolphins were hoping to make a statement today. Unfortunately for them, the statement they made was that their defense wasn't up to the task of staying with Matt Cassell.

Matt Cassel.

The New England backup quarterback looked every bit as good as Tom Brady has looked in the past in leading New England to a 48-28 victory. Cassel completed 30 of 43 passes for 415 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

When it was over, Cassel was celebrating with his receivers after New England's final TD with 37 seconds to play. For good reason, I guess. Randy Moss had eight catches for 125 yards and three TDs -- two of them caught against Jason Allen, the other against Andre' Goodman.

Wes Welker had eight catches for 120 yards.

The Patriots had 530 total yards. That is the most allowed by the Dolphins this season. The previous high was 485 yards allowed against Houston.

So the Dolphins didn't fight very well on defense although Channing Crowder got ejected for fighting. In fact, Crowder was ejected along with New England offensive tackle Matt Light.

The Miami offense had only modest success keeping the team in the game. Quarterback Chad Pennington completed 24 of 41for 341 yards. He also had three touchdown passes. Pennington did throw an interception that New England converted into a score.

Miami is now 6-5 and sinks to third place in the AFC East, tied with the 6-5 Buffalo Bills. The Jets are 8-3 and New England is 7-4.

Patriots turn tables, lead Dolphins 31-21

The third quarter was not a friend to the Miami Dolphins.

They yielded 14 points as Randy Moss abused Jason Allen. They didn't have a whole lot of cohesion on offense although they did get one TD. And they lost offensive tackle Jake Long to an ankle injury for parts of the quarter.

Long is questionable but he looks like he wants to come back and at least try out the injury on the field.

This is a tough situation for the Dolphins. Join me in the comments section of the blog and we'll see what happens.

Dolphins trail Pats 17-14 to start third quarter

The Dolphins have some work to do in the second half as they have not really been able to contain the New England passing game today.

Matt Cassel has completed 18 of 25 passes for 205 yards and while Miami made him pay with an interception that set up a TD, it is not enough now. The Dolphins trail 17-14 at the start of the third quarter.

Ronnie Brown is not equalling the day he had against New England earlier this year. he has six rushes for 23 yards. He had 113 yards on 17 carries in the first game. The Dolphins have only two rushing first downs, three fewer than New England. And the Patriots aren't even trying to run the ball today.

So, like I said, there is much work to do in the second half.

Join me in the comments section for the live blog to see if the work gets done.

Miami Dolphins up on N.E. 7-3 after 1st

The Dolphins were backpedaling at the start of today's game as New England came out passing and took a 3-0 lead.

But an interception by Renaldo Hill set the Dolphins up in good field position and they converted with a TD pass from Chad Pennington to Greg Camarillo.

So the Dolphins are leading, but the Patriots were driving again near the end of the first quarter.

Join me in the comments section to see what happens as the live blog continues.