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58 posts from November 2008

November 23, 2008

Live blog of HUGE Miami Dolphins game today

Did you wake up this morning feeling like it's Christmas? I did. I was actually excited about covering today's game and I've covered perhaps 300 NFL games and 18 Super Bowls in my career.

Today is about making a statement for the Miami Dolphins.

If the Dolphins beat the New England Patriots, we will know that we know that we know that they are for real, that they won't go away the rest of the season, that what we saw during the four-game winning streak was not a mirage.

If the Dolphins lose to New England today we will once again be focusing on a yeah-but team. They won four consecutive games before today, yeah, but they barely got by terrible Oakland and Seattle teams. They got to these heights of relevance, yeah, but they fell back to the pack of teams likely not getting in the playoffs.

So today is, well, HUGE!

Expect a huge crowd today. The traffic around the stadium is already buzzing when normally it is dead this time of day. I will be blogging live starting at kickoff. Join me in the comments section and we'll watch what happens together.

November 21, 2008

Fourth quarter belongs to the Miami Dolphins

Before I get to the primary point of this post let me update you on a couple of things: The Dolphins are reporting no injuries for this game. Everyone is good to go. The Patriots are banged up. LB Adalius Thomas and Eric Alexander are out. RB LaMont Jordan is doubtful. LB Tedy Bruschi, C Dan Koppen, CB Mike Richardson, DT Richard Seymour, and S Ray Ventrone are questionable.

Now on to my prose:

It was the best of times it was the worst of times ...

Oh, never mind.

As everyone knows the Dolphins are riding a four-game win streak as they enter Sunday's game against the Patriots. Ask coach Tony Sparano how it is his team has won those four consecutive games and he points to, oddly enough, time of possession.

He has this theorem that the team that holds the ball the longest, typically wins the game. I have a corollary from this thinking that the team that dominates the fourth quarter, holding the ball most in that game-deciding period, has the greatest chance to win.

And the Dolphins have proven my corollary (I love this word) the past four games.

If we can agree a quarter is 15 minutes I would tell you the Dolphins have dominated the final quarter each of the last four games with at least 10 minutes of possession time in each.

Against the Bills, the Dolphins held the ball 10:40 in the fourth.

Against Denver, the Dolphins held the ball 11:48 in the fourth.

Against Seattle, the Dolphins held the ball 10:31 in the fourth.

Against Oakland, the Dolphins held the ball 10:16 in the fourth.

The Dolphins had long game-clinching or game-winning drives in each of those games that either bled into the fourth quarter or ran clock off the fourth quarter.

So it is no coincidence that Miami has won six times this year when it has held onto the football at least 30:00. But it is also no coincidence the Dolphins won the past four games by controlling the clock and ball when it matters most -- in the fourth quarter.

Hey, this is my second post of the day so if you missed my first one on the Wildcat package, click back there and check it out.

Eye-popping focus on Miami Dolphins Wildcat

Born on Sept. 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins' Wildcat Package is celebrating its first notable milestone this weekend: The Dolphins for the first time will use it against an opponent who has seen it used by Miami previously.

So Wildcat will be under the microscope Sunday because not only are the Patriots seeing it for the second time, but their coach is Bill Belichick and everyone knows he's a genius. (Particularly when he films the other team's signals).

I figured this would be a good time to look at what Wildcat has done for the Dolphins so far. We know they run it between 4 and 12 times a game and we know it's been good, but that does not truly come into focus until we study the eye-popping numbers.

The Dolphins have run Wildcat a total of 59 times this season. They have rushed 55 of those times, passed twice and been sacked twice. Miami averages 7.1 yards per play in Wildcat. It averages 5.6 yards per play outside of Wildcat.

Out of the 55 rushes, the Dolphins have gained 356 yards. They have scored six rushing touchdowns out of Wildcat. They have averaged 6.4 yards per carry out of Wildcat.

The base offense production pales by comparison. The Dolphins have rushed 225 rushes for 819 yards out of the base set. That is a 3.6 yards per carry average, about 44 percent less than what they average in Wildcat. The Dolphins have scored eight of their rushing TDs out of the base offense which means Wildcat has almost equaled the point production on runs despite being used on 170 fewer running plays.

Am I the only one who thinks these numbers are staggering?

The passing numbers also show a big advantage in Wildcat but I would say there really isn't a big enough sample size here to declare Wildcat better than the base offense on pass plays.

The Dolphins have thrown 2 passes out of Wildcat. They have completed both, meaning their completion percent is ... 100 percent! The amazing thing is both the completions scored touchdowns -- a 53-yarder from Chad Pennington to Patrick Cobbs and a 19-yard score from Ronnie Brown to Anthony Fasano.

The Dolphins have gained 72 passing yards and have suffered two sacks out of Wildcat. There have obviously been zero interceptions.

Miami's pass offense outside of Wildcat completes 66.5 percent of its 311 passes. The Dolphins have gained 2,388 passing yards and have suffered 18 sacks outside of Wildcat.

But it is in the payoff that Wildcat stands apart from the rest of Miami's pass offense. While both Wildcat tosses went for scores, averaging 36 yards per scoring pass, Miami has thrown only 7 TD passes with 5 interceptions otherwise -- not terrible but also not very impressive.

The point is Wildcat has been a rousing success in giving the Dolphins offense a spark. It has given the unit a big-play ability it lacks otherwise. It has been consistent. It has put opposing defenses on, well, on the defensive.

The question we will have answered Sunday is whether Wildcat can work against an opponent in a rematch game. And if the answer is affirmative, one might wonder if the Dolphins should use the Wildcat package more often?

November 20, 2008

Another Dan Marino pass record in jeopardy

In keeping with today's theme about passing offense (check out the previous post on Miami needing more passing TDs) I bring to your attenting the fact the NFL this week is making a big deal in its releases that both Drew Brees and Kurt Warner are locked in a chase to beat Dan Marino's single-season passing yards mark.

In 1984 Marino passed for a jaw-dropping 5,084 yards. Let me repeat that: Five thousand and eighty-four freakin' yards!

But through 10 games this year Brees, the QB the Dolphins passed on not once but twice, is on pace to pass for 5,201 yards for the year. Through 10 games Marino had 3,094 yards that fateful Super Bowl season. Brees has thrown for 3,251 yards through 10 games this season.

"Drew is having a great year,” says NFL Network and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci. “He’s a veteran player who gives the Saints confidence. He makes his receivers better and they play hard because of his leadership. He’s also been good for the city of New Orleans and has brought excitement to the fans.”

How torqued are you that Miami indeed passed on Brees twice -- once in the 2001 draft and again during the 2006 free agency signing period?

I still remember Rick Spielman assuring me after that 2001 draft that Brees was good, but not so much better than Jay Fiedler that Miami needed to pick him. I also remember sitting in Nick Saban's office and him saying that he wanted Brees over Daunte Culpepper, but that Miami's medical staff recommended Culpepper so he went with that.

Anyway, Warner is on pace to throw for 5,048 yards this season so he is also making an attempt on Marino's mark. Warner currently has 3,155 yards passing this season which is more than what Marino had through 10 games but still projects to fewer yards than Marino at 5,048 yards. Regardless of the projection, Warner is also on the hunt for the record.

"He’s playing in an offense that he feels really good about and he’s got good players around him," said former Cowboys and current Fox analyst Troy Aikman. "He’s a terrific leader for that team.”

Here's a chart showing the men who have passed for most yards in a season with *Projected:

MOST PASSING YARDS, SINGLE SEASON

PLAYER

TEAM

YEAR

SEASON TOTAL

Dan Marino

Miami

1984

5,084

Kurt Warner

St. Louis

2001

4,830

Tom Brady

New England

2007

4,806

Dan Fouts

San Diego

1981

4,802

Dan Marino

Miami

1986

4,746

Drew Brees

New Orleans

2008

5,201*

Kurt Warner

Arizona

2008

5,048*

Miami Dolphins need to improve on passing TDs

As the Miami Dolphins biggest game in years draws closer it is worth noting that coaches this week are looking for ways to score more points more consistently. The Dolphins scored a season-high 38 points against New England on Sept. 21.

But as Miami readies for the rematch this Sunday it finds itself in something of a scoring slump. Simply stated, one or two touchdowns per game is not enough to keep the current playoff push on course. And that's pretty much what the Dolphins are averaging these days.

The Dolphins have 209 points this season which means they average 20.9 points per game. In today's high-speed, high-scoring NFL that's only good enough to be ranked No. 23 league-wide in scoring.

And if you want to look what area of their offense the Dolphins need to improve most to step up the point-production, it is glaringly the passing game. The Dolphins have only 9 passing TDs this season. That means the Dolphins are tied for 26th in the NFL in passing scores.

Quarterback Chad Pennington has only eight passing TDs this season.

Pennington's game-management has been very good, his leadership is excellent, the guy is very valuable. But Miami simply needs more scoring passes from him.

But while Pennington would like to get more TD passes, he says there is a reason his number is modest.

“We’re running the ball really well in the red zone," Pennington said. "A lot of times, that’s where you can get some easier touchdowns so to speak, as in the red zone. But we’re running the ball so effectively; we just haven’t had to throw it as much. It’s one of those things as a quarterback: Would you like to have more touchdown passes? Absolutely, just to create more success for your offense.

"But, at the same time, I’m not going to sacrifice, trying to force something in there to try to drive stats up. That’s just not good football.”

True enough, the Dolphins have 14 rushing touchdowns this year and that is tied (with the New York Giants) for second most in the NFL. So there are potential TD pass opportunities that Pennington is passing up (pun intended) to get the team in the end zone via the ground.

But to believe the Dolphins don't need to improve their scoring through the air is not realistic.

November 19, 2008

Greg Camarillo signs deal with Miami Dolphins

As you know, I wrote about the five veterans whose agents are involved in contract negotiations with the Dolphins before they become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. The Dolphins had another starter scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season.

I say had because today the Dolphins signed receiver Greg Camarillo to a three-year contract. The deal is worth between $5 and $6 million.

This during a week folks are comparing Camarillo to Wes Welker, another receiver the Dolphins acquired as a special teams player after he was waived by another team and was not drafted originally. The Dolphins last year allowed Welker to go to New England in a trade made possible because the team did not sign the restricted player early.

This regime has decided Camarillo won't get there next year. He's going to be with Miami through 2011 if he's here the life of his new contract.

Camarillo is currently the Dolphins leading receiver.

Not too shabby for a guy who wasn't certain he'd be on the team when the preseason began. The guy is a fighter, he's smart, he's a guy you want on your team.

Miami Dolphins take 'really good' step to victory

If you have been paying attention you know coach Tony Sparano swears by what happens at practice. If players don't practice well, they don't play. Don't believe that, ask Ernest Wilford. If stuff doesn't work in practice, Sparano has serious misgivings about using it in games.

If his team doesn't practice well overall, that worries Sparano.

Conversely, when the Dolphins practice well, Sparano says, they typically win.

So I asked the question today looking for the answer that ultimately may determine Miami's success Sunday. I asked Sparano today if he team practiced well.

"Really good," he said almost proudly. "There was a lot of attention to detail. There was one focus and that was on the task at hand."

Later in his answer Sparano said his team was, "Really sharp on both sides of the ball."

If you recall, Sparano was not happy with the way the Dolphins practiced the first two weeks of the season and, not coincidentally, they lost those first two games. So coaches forced the team to practice with more intensity the week before the first New England game. (Not sure if whips were involved). The Dolphins won that game.

Sparano said his team learned how to practice that week. And the team has built on what it learned about the importance of practice. The coach believes the Dolphins have achieved a high level of achievement in practice and that is one reason, he believes, they are on a four-game win streak.

Given all that, you should feel good the coach is pleased with his team's first day of practice as it prepares for Sunday's HUGE game against New England.

On another interesting and important front, the Dolphins had everyone practice today. The team is reporting ZERO injuries. Amazing.

The Patriots had four players that did not practice Wednesday and one other that was limited in practice. LB Eric Alexander (hamstring), RB LaMont Jordan (calf), LB Adalius Thomas (forearm), and CB Jonathan Wilhite (flu) did not practice. DT Richard Seymour (toe) was limited.

Which player should be Miami Dolphins' priority?

In today's Miami Herald I wrote this potential Pulitzer Prize winner detailing Miami's on-going but very deliberate contract negotiations with five starters who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the season ends.

All of them -- Yeremiah Bell, Vernon Carey, Channing Crowder, Andre' Goodman, and Renaldo Hill -- have been instrumental in Miami's success this season. All of them are expecting nice contracts for their work. None of them have gotten that contract yet.

Some might not ... not from the Dolphins anyway.

The story details some questions the team has about some of the players. It also contains an interesting quote from Crowder that is perhaps the most brutally honest self-assessment any player has delivered in all my days of covering the team.

Anyway, I'm wondering what you think Miami's priority will be in getting these guys signed? Is that any different than what you would do first.

Also tell me what you think these guys are worth.

By the way, the Dolphins actually have six starters who are unsigned after this season but receiver Greg Camarillo is a restricted free agent so he's not going anywhere.

Finally, for you Mando haters that take up pitch forks and torches at first opportunity, I was being sarcastic about the Pulitzer. Everyone knows I'm really after the Nobel.

November 18, 2008

Surprise element still a Miami Dolphins friend?

The Dolphins had a very special friend that helped them beat the New England Patriots the first time the teams played Sept. 21. Readers, meet The Element of Surprise. Mr. Surprise, meet my readers.

Mr. Surprise introduced himself to the New England Patriots that game back in September when the Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat Package for the first time. He was there again when the Dolphins went with their unbalanced line. So surprise was on Miami's side in the first game.

And absent new wrinkles this week the Dolphins won't have surprise on their side. So will Miami's assignment be harder because it might not have surprise in the arsenal?

“Yeah, sure," coach Tony Sparano said. "There’s not the element of surprise, but there hasn’t been an element of surprise with the Wildcat since we played the Patriots, honestly. We play another team and we play them for the second time, that’s always the challenge. When you’re playing your division teams and you’re playing them the second time, there really are no secrets. You do what you do, and they know it and we’re sitting here and it’s Week 13 or whatever, Week 12.  There are very few secrets.

"It’s going to come down to execution, it’s going to come down to turnovers, it’s going to come down to those kind of things. Maybe who’s a little bit more physical, all of those good things, and we understand that."

In that regard Dolphins players are comfortable believing surprise wasn't the primary reason they won the first game. The Dolphins say they won the game because of their execution.

“I think [surprise] played in, but at the same time you still have to go in and execute the plays no matter what you’re running," Ronnie Brown said. "Obviously for them to see the package and the lineup, it was a little different for them, but at the same time we still have to execute, people have to make their blocks. [Surprise] may have played a factor, but at the same time it came down to technique and fundamentals also.”

Knowing surprise can be a strong ally, the Dolphins want to make sure it doesn't work against them. They know the Patriots would love to pull something out of Bill Belichick's hoodie to surprise Miami defenders.

"You’ve got to prepare yourself for anything," linebacker Joey Porter said. "It can happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried that. We hit them with the Wildcat the first time we played them and caught them off-guard, so you imagine that they’re going to put some things in there to catch us off guard. They have the extra days to prepare, so they had a long week, so they can do a lot of things that we haven’t seen yet, but we’ll prepare ourselves. We’ll be ready.”

November 17, 2008

Coverage teams are absolutely 'killing' Dolphins

I have been raging about the Dolphins special teams problems for weeks now. I continue that rage in my column that appears in today's Miami Herald.

On Sunday the special teams almost cost Miami a victory, which could have been a season-killer. And so now I am not the only one upset about bad coverage teams. Tony Sparano moments ago tried defending parts of his special teams, such as the protection on field goals. But he did admit portions of special teams play are, "killing," the Dolphins.

Here's what some players are saying:

"Everybody has to do better," punter Brandon Fields said. "I have to do my job better to get better hang time to allow the cover guys to get down there and they have to get off blocks and make tackles. A lot of times we've been in positions to make plays and we haven't made them. We let returners get out of our grasp and get down field. It's something we have to get fixed and corrected. We're coming down to the wire where we have big opponents and big games where it's going to be back and forth. A return touchdown can easily cost you the game."

"We're going to have to find a way to get it right," defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said. "If it's me going down there and running down on kickoffs -- it's been a long time -- but I'll give it a shot. It really can't be any worse than that play in the game. We're going to have some guys step up. We have to put a hat on some guys. And we tried a different approach last week, we'll probably try a different one this week. The good thing about it is it can get fixed. I know this coaching staff isn't going to let this continue to go on."

I hope not. Safety Yeremiah Bell told me today he expects there to be a team meeting to discuss the special teams. "I'm sure we'll have a team meeting on special teams," he said. "The area needs to be talked about."

So who do you blame?

Sparano said he has no regrets the team cut special teams core players such as Keith Davis, Edmund Miles and Boomer Grigsby in the preseason and earlier this season. He said those guys simply weren't good enough at their positions to keep on the team.

I don't know about that. I think Keith Davis is a better safety than either Courtney Bryan or Brannon Condren. In fact, Davis is starting now in Dallas because Roy Williams is injured.

Anyway, how does this get fixed?

November 16, 2008

Dolphins beat Raiders 17-15 to improve to 6-4

It was closer than anyone expected. And the special teams, terrible as they have been this year, tried to give this one away.

But when it was over the Dolphins won on a 38-yard field goal by rookie Dan Carpenter.

It was a good day for the defense, which kept Oakland's offense out of the end zone all four quarters, extending that group's scoreless string to 13 consecutive quarters. The offense, meanwhile, sputtered most of the day although it put together that final, last-gasp drive that resulted in the the winning FG.

Raiders quarterback JarMarcus Russell had a tough day completing 15 of 22 passes for 156 yards and was sacked four times. But after the game, in a heart-rending moment, Russell was seen crying in the locker room because apparently he was given the news of a passing in his family. No more details are available and Russell has not talked.

Anyway, the Dolphins are in second place in the AFC East -- ahead of the 6-4 New England Patriots, which they beat earlier this year. The Jets are in first place at 7-3.

So what are your thoughts?

Dolphins whipping Oakland 14-5 in final period

One more quarter to go and the Dolphins are thisclose to improving their record to 6-4. They currently lead the Raiders 14-5.

Although the Oakland defense has played well -- even scoring a safety in the third quarter -- the offense has struggled. The team that gained 299 yards on Miami rushing last year has only 47 rushing yards so far.

So join me in the comments section and we'll see if the Fins can hold on.

Dolphins lead Raiders 7-3 going to 3rd quarter

Hand it to the Raiders ... they are not laying down.

After falling behind 7-0 on a Ted Ginn Jr. 40 yard end around, the Raiders answered with a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. This has not been a memorable half with phantom sacks, phantom pass interference calls, and way too many penalties, including seven by Oakland.

The Dolphins have 10 first downs to Oakland's 4. Miami has 70 passing yards to Oakland's 33.

Ronnie Brown has eight rushes for 57 yards. Ginn has two receptions for 32 yards.

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

Dolphins lead Raiders 7-0 going to 2nd quarter

The Dolphins don't have a reputation for having a big-play offense, but Ted Ginn Jr. certainly can be a big-play guy.

He proved that in the first quarter when he took an end-around handoff and scampered 40-yards for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead today.

Chad Pennington, probable for the game with a sore foot, seems to be just fine. He even scrambled for a first down on Miami's touchdown drive.

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

Live blog of Raiders vs. Dolphins today

Beautiful day in South Florida. Great day for a whipping of the Oakland Raiders.

Crypt keeper Al Davis reportedly emerged from his coffin this week and ordered coach Tom Cable to take the offensive play-calling duties from Greg Knapp. So today, the guy who opened the season as Oakland's offensive line coach is now the offensive line coach ... and the offensive play-caller ... and the head coach.

For the Dolphins the biggest concern today is Chad Pennington's sore foot. He is expected to start and, barring an in-game aggravation of his injury, he should finish.

But I wonder if this game against a struggling Oakland team wouldn't be the perfect scenario for Chad Henne to get playing time if Miami is comfortably ahead today?

Anyway, the live blog starts in the comments section at kickoff. Come strong!

November 15, 2008

The winning 20,000th comment post

Yesterday I offered the person who submitted the 20,000th comment on this blog an opportunity to write his own blog post. What follows is the offering from reader-turned-correspondent Luis Iglesias:

Ok first I want to thank Armando for giving me the opportunity to write my own post... Sooo here it goes...

OK so the Wildcat offense has worked in some games and in some games it hasnʼt. I donʼt like the idea of Miami being too dependent on the Wildcat offense. We need to be able to run our offense through our base formation effectively.

I think we have scored more touchdowns out of the Wildcat than in our base formation. I live in Dallas and I am a Dolphin fan and the talk around here is that Miami uses the Wildcat in order to be successful on offense. Some reasons why we have not being able to be successful with the run out of our base formation are very simple:

We do not have a  No. 1 receiver that scares other teams, other teams can just stack up the line of scrimmage with 8 guys and put single coverage on our receivers. Also we are not using Ronnie Brown the way we used him last year when he led the NFL in scrimmage yardage [before he was injured]. If we start running more screens and short passes to Brown or Ricky Williams we can spread the defense and they would stop lining up with the 8-man fronts, allowing us to run the ball better out of our base formation.!

The Wildcat is cool, but we shouldnʼt be dependent on it. It should just be a trick play that you use once or twice during a game. Last thing I am going to talk about is that some of you disagreed with me that we should get a receiver like Dwayne Jarrett on our team.

Jarrett was projected as a first round talent and was going to replace [future] Hall of Famer Keyshawn Johnson. I bet a guy with so much talent would want to get traded out of Carolina and get some playing time somewhere else. Look at some of the guys on our team that barely played for the last team they were in. Anthony Fasano was the backup to Jason Witten. Akin Adoyele is another. I also hear former first round pick linebacker from Ohio State Bobby Carpenter is not happy in D town.

So all I am trying to say is we should get those guys that are very talented and the only reason they do not get playing time for their respected team is because the coaches choose to play their veterans ...

... Gulp, oh man I hope this is well received.

--Luis Iglesias!

November 14, 2008

Dolphins willing and able to stop Wildcat

The Dolphins have used the Wildcat formation/package/gimmick plenty this season with considerable reward for the use. Some of Miami's biggest plays this season have come out of that package.

So the Wildcat has been a friend.

But can it be an adversary?

The Raiders, Miami's opponent this weekend, are among the dozen or so teams that have employed a version of the Wildcat package at different times this year. In fact, the Raiders unveiled their Wildcat package the same day (September 21) the Dolphins did, although they've not used it to the same degree or with the same amount of success.

So are the Dolphins ready for the Wildcat package if it is employed against them?

“I hope that we’re prepared, but we’re going to prepare just like they’re going to prepare for us," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "With that being said, we’ve practice against it a bunch. We know what our answer is. We’re not searching for our answer. We know what it is. Now whether or not we execute it well enough or good enough in the game, we’ll see. We know what our answers are.”

Sparano is confident his team knows what to do. Linebacker Joey Porter seems confident his team will succeed against it.

"We’ve been running it since the beginning of the season, so we feel that we’ve got some things that can stop it," Porter said. "Like I said, it’s a copycat league, just won’t be the only team that’ll probably run it.  If you look across the league, a lot of teams have been using it.  If they try it, we’ll be ready for it.”

[Inside stuff: On May 12th this blog migrated to this format and it has been wildly popular. As of today there have been 19,950 allowable comments submitted by you which means we are 50 comments shy of 20,000. We'll get that 20,000th comment sometime this weekend, perhaps as early as today. The person who submits that 20,000th comment will be rewarded (if you want) with the opportunity to post your own thoughts on the Dolphins in the main section. I will announce the winner and then get in contact with that person via email. Anyway, thanks for your many comments and thanks for your continuing support.]

November 13, 2008

How long will Henning be with the Dolphins?

Dan Henning is by all accounts doing a fine job as the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator. After initially delaying a decision to accept the job in Miami and the Dolphins looking at other candidates, the hiring of Henning has paid tremendous dividends.

"He has balls of steel," Ricky Williams recently said of Henning and his play-calling.

"I didn't know Ricky was that observant," Henning kidded today.

But as the Dolphins have found a solid play-caller and proven championship offensive coordinator the question remains can they keep him? Henning is 66 years old and when I asked today how often he ponders his future and whether he wants to continue working, he admitted it is often on his mind.

"A lot," Henning said. "That happens a lot. I've been retired twice. And when I came down here I didn't know [coach] Tony [Sparano]. I knew Bill [Parcells]. So Tony and I had to feel one another out. I had to make sure he was interested and I had to make sure I was interested. And we went through a little bit of a dance there and the object was for us to get to know one another. I wanted to know what it was going to be like and I wanted him to know what I was going to be like so he would be comfortable with me.

"So if I do this it has to be under the conditions I'm doing it now. And right now it's a comfortable situation. I believe we got people that can get us players. If we don't have people that can get us players I have to go retire again. And I think Bill and [general manager] Jeff [Ireland] are doing a great job at that. And we have a head coach that can control the players and has a passion for wanting to win and knows how to organize and, in my mind, has done an excellent job of motivating the team. That allows me to do my job with some kind of a comfort zone -- although Tony would say he doesn't want anyone to feel comfortable."

That's great but it didn't sound like a solid commitment to me. So I asked if he could say he wants to be around a while longer?

"Tomorrow," Henning answered. "I'd like to still be here tomorrow. That would be nice."

Hmmmm. I can not tell you Henning is going to be one and done with the Dolphins. But his coaching history is one of a nomad. Rarely has he stayed places beyond two or three years.

His history:

1968-1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1976-1978
1979-1980
1981-1982
1983-1986
1987-1988
1989-1991
1992-1993
1994-1996
1997
1998-2000

2002-2006

2008-present
Florida State
Virginia Tech
Houston Oilers
Virginia Tech
Florida State
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins
Washington Redskins
Atlanta Falcons
Washington Redskins
San Diego Chargers
Detroit Lions
Boston College
Buffalo Bills
New York Jets
(Offensive coordinator)
Carolina Panthers
(Offensive coordinator)
Miami Dolphins
(Offensive coordinator)

November 12, 2008

Dolphins will not overlook Raiders

Some of you chastised me in the last post about my apparent confidence that the Dolphins would not overlook the Raiders game this week, particularly in light of the fact the Dolphins play the Patriots next week..

Well, I remain confident the Dolphins will not look past Oakland. Why?.

I just asked Dolphins coach Tony Sparano if he and his staff have done anything extra this week to make certain the Dolphins don't get caught napping by Oakland.

"Extra work? Nothing more extra than what I do every single week with them from a preparation standpoint. When you look at the bare facts with this team, when you just look at the facts, first of all this team beat a team [New York Jets] that beat us in our division. Second of all what I can recall is last year this team came in here and they won a game [35-17] and rushed the ball for 299 yards. Two hundred and ninety-nine yards!.

"So when you start looking at those kind of things and it’s not the first time this team has done done that – this team has rushed the ball for 260, 270 yards. This team is the eighth-best team rushing the ball in the National Football League and when you watch them, they rush it well. Looking at the way they run it, if you don’t get ready to stop the run in this football game, you’re going to be in for an awful long day and you’re going to be out there a long time.

"When our players see those type of things … you look at this defense and the type of players they have … I have an awful lot of respect for [defensive end Derrick] Burgess. He hasn’t played in the last several weeks, but I have a lot of respect for this guy going back to when he was in Philly. This guy has always been kind of a pain in my neck along the way because he can rush the passer and he makes plays. Tommy Kelly played his best game the other day. His best. We looked at this guy during the course of free agency. This corner they have [Nnamdi Asomugha] he’s a tremendous player. Tremendous player. You talk about cover corners out there?

"It’s easy. Their punter [Shane Lechler] is second in the league for God’s sake. He’s got more 60-yard punts than any punter in the National Football League right now. His net is 41.1 yards per kick. They have some weapons. When you start to look at all those things on paper, it’s pretty easy not to look by anybody. I mean who are we? We can’t look by anybody, we’ve got five wins."

So now do you understand why I'm not worried about Miami sleep walking on Sunday?

And do you understand why Sparano is becoming an excellent young head coach?

Dolphins defense in for a great day Sunday?

At the risk of making it seem as if this will be an easy week for the Miami Dolphins defense I would refer you to some interesting factoids about the Oakland Raiders offense.

1. They suck struggle a lot. The Raiders have gone nine consecutive quarters over the past three games without scoring a TD. They have not crossed the goal line the past two games. The Raiders are last in the NFL in points scored, which is the most important offensive statistic. And they are 29th in the NFL in total offense, which is ranked by yards gained per game.

2. The offense is not only unproductive but in a state of flux and confusion. According to this story the Raiders will have their third person this year calling the plays for the offense when Oakland comes to South Florida for its whipping. Fired head coach Lane Kiffin called the plays earlier this year, then offensive coordinator Greg Knapp called the plays and now, well, who knows what will happen. Yikes!

Did I mention that quarterback JaMarcus Russell has been benched? Did I mention that running back Darren McFadden is injured?

Oakland head coach Tom Cable was just on a conference call with the Miami media and was asked twice who will call the plays this week. He said he would give that information later today when he speaks to his own media. Can't wait.

So the table is set for a good day on defense for the Dolphins. We'll see how they deal with the prosperity.