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65 posts from December 2008

December 04, 2008

Ricky Williams explains the inexplicable

Ricky Williams is being, shall we say, shy with the South Florida media of late for reasons I don't understand because they haven't been explained to me.

But Williams on Wednesday did spend some time on a conference call with the Toronto and Buffalo media because he apparently likes them. [They're probably smarter than the South Florida guys because, among other things, they spell center as centre.]

And during his interview with the smarter reporters from the great white north, Williams said some interesting things, some controversial things, and some stupid things.

Let's begin with the stupid thing. Williams was asked if the NFL's first regular-season game in Canada could eventually signal problems for the Canadian Football League. Williams picked that moment to say CFL players are different but just as good as NFL players.

"I think people’s first reaction is to think that the CFL is an inferior league and I wouldn’t subscribe to that," Williams said. "I think playing up there is different, a different game and I don’t think the NFL players are necessarily better than that of the CFL, they're just different. They're quicker, they're smaller, they don’t spend as much time at work. There, we had four-and-a-half-hour work days and here we’re eight sometimes nine hours. Coaches are sometimes here even longer."

NFL players not better? Oh boy.

Williams was asked about his 2006 CFL experience and what he thinks the CFL means to Canadians and in answering Williams said, in part, that CFL fans are better than Miami fans -- like you.

"I mean I don’t know, I’m an American so I’m not sure how important it is to Canada, but I know that each town we went to, including the hometown fans, when you went to a game, the people there, they're true fans," Williams said. "Sometimes, especially in Miami, you get people who only come when you’re winning and they're not necessarily big football fans. But going to places especially like Hamilton and Regina, Calgary. Just really, really huge football fans and it was just a lot of fun being in that environment week in and week out."

Yeah, Toronto CFL fans are great. In a greater metropolitan area that is home to 5.5 million people, the Argos' attendance averaged exactly 30,000 last season up from the 2003 all-time low of 14,998. The Dolphins', meanwhile, have a season ticket base of about 50,000 this year -- one year after a 1-15 season, and in the seventh season of a playoff drought.

But hey, let's not let facts get in the way of Ricky's point.

Finally, Williams seemed to make no bones of the fact he likes Canadians more than Americans because they are more accepting, according to Williams, and so that's what he tells teammates when they ask about life in Canada.

"Even before this week guys are curious about what it’s like and of course I only have positive things to say because I really did have a good time," Williams said. "In general I just like Canadians. They all seemed very nice and honest. And one thing that I talk to people about as far as Canadians versus Americans is, I think in America, I think people sometimes are frowned at when you try to be an individual and from my experience, that’s something that’s appreciated in Canada and obviously I don’t really fit in everywhere I go. I really enjoyed it up there for that reason."

Discuss ...

December 03, 2008

Jason Allen injury causes NFL to react

The NFL has requested and received an explanation from the Dolphins as to why cornerback Jason Allen did not play against the St. Louis Rams.

Allen has a broken right hand. He had it last Wednesday, last Thursday and last Friday when he practiced for the Dolphins. Because he practiced the entire period each day and because he was indeed injured the Dolphins listed Allen as probable.

That raised eyebrows Sunday afternoon when the team made Allen inactive. Obviously the NFL, which wants to maintain the integrity of its injury reports, was concerned and asked Miami to provide an explanation about what happened.

Basically, according to sources, the Dolphins explained to the league that Allen being inactive for the game was as much a coaching decision as an injury situation. He could have played, but coaches decided not to use him. Coaches decided Allen would be at too great a disadvantage.

Allen obviously could not hand-fight with receivers and might not be able to tackle properly despite being able to participate in controlled practices during which he neither had to hand-fight nor tackle.

The Dolphins also pointed out to the league that its own rules require that any player who is, in fact, injured and nonetheless practices full on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday must be listed as probable.

So the Dolphins don't believe they've toyed with the injury report despite an item in profootballtalk.com that raises that very possibility. No word yet what the NFL's opinion is on the matter but the Dolphins, according to sources, believe the issue is pretty much closed.

Allen, by the way, practiced today (full) without a cast but was wearing an Ace Bandage wrap over what he called "a hard cast" that stretched to his forearm when he was seen in the locker room. Allen broke the hand in the second half of the New England game.

The amazing thing is that although Allen is seemingly in the same situation as last week, today's injury report does not include Allen at all. So the presumption is Allen WILL PLAY Sunday otherwise the Dolphins will have more 'splainin to do.

Jesse Chatman surgery proves Dolphins right

New York Jets running back Jesse Chatman is having knee surgery today at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables as yet another step in what has been a bitterly disappointing season for the former Miami Dolphins player.

So why am I breaking this Jets news on a Dolphins blog?

Because it speaks to yet another set of personnel decisions, these controversial, that Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells made this year that have, well, paid off handsomely.

Chatman, you'll remember, was a pretty good player for the Dolphins last year. He gained 515 yards and averaged 4 yards per carry. But unsigned for 2008, Parcells and Co. let him walk.

That came in the wake of the Lorenzo Booker trade that brought howls from the bloggisphere because Booker showed much promise toward the end of the 2007 season after being drafted in the third round of that season's draft.

The Dolphins jettisoned Chatman and Booker and kept ... Patrick Cobbs.

Tell the truth: You were scratching your head over that one. But guess what? It has worked out very well for Miami.

Chatman signed a one-year deal with the Jets and promptly was suspended four games for violating the NFL's banned substance policy. After the suspension was lifted, he played all of three games before suffering the season-ending knee injury which required surgery today by Dr. John Uribe.

Chatman's total contribution to the Jets was five carries for 8 yards and two receptions for 5 yards. He also played on special teams those three games.

Booker has also been something of a non-factor for Philadelphia even as the Eagles have endured injuries to both Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. Booker has 20 carries this season for 53 yards -- a 2.7 yard per carry average. He also has 5 receptions for 10 yards.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are maximizing their contribution from Cobbs to the point he's become one of the team's more valuable players. Imagine that. Cobbs has 10 carries for 44 yards and 16 receptions for 256 yards. He has scored three touchdowns and is one of the team's most active special teams players.

The Dolphins saw in Cobbs attributes that fit "the makeup" of a player they want. And Cobbs has delivered well enough that he was offered and signed a contract extension.

So the Dolphins were right on Cobbs. And those, me admittedly among them, that wondered about the wisdom of letting a proven rusher (Chatman) and a promising third-down speedster (Booker) go were wrong so far.

That doesn't mean the Dolphins will be right all the time -- see Ernest Wilford and Shawn Murphy -- but I think we've all learned to trust these personnel guys much more than we did previous ones.

So give Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and assistant director of player personnel Brian Gaine a hand. They earned it on this one.

December 02, 2008

Miami Dolphins content to save Ronnie Brown

One of Ronnie Brown's goals this season -- aside from gaining over 1,000 yards -- was to remain healthy the entire season for the first time in his four-year career.

Well, so far so good.

Brown is none the worse for wear with four games to go.

But one reason he is healthy may be both blessing and curse for the Dolphins. The fact is this season, for the second season in a row, Brown's usage in the running game has decreased. That's right, the guy who has been the trigger man for the Wildcat Package, the Dolphins starter in nine of 12 games, is averaging 14.1 carries per game this season.

He averaged 18.5 carries per game in 2006 and 17 carries per game last season until he injured a knee and was lost for the season after seven games.

Brown ranks 26th in the NFL in carries per game and his 169 carries is 16th in the NFL.

So perhaps the reason Brown is healthy is that he is fresh and often on the sideline as backfield mate Ricky Williams takes his 10 carries per game.

The problem for Brown, however, is that he's one of those backs that gets better with more carries. He has often discussed how he likes to get into a rhythm as the game progresses and his carries mount. He obviously is not finding that zone with fewer and fewer carries.

So the Dolphins find themselves straddling the proverbial fine line between using Brown enough to get the most out of him without using him so much that he could become worn, and more prone to injury.

Of course that assumes you buy into the idea that Miami is saving Brown from injury by, well, saving Brown. Remember last year's terrible injury? It happened on an interception return in which Brown was trying to make a tackle.

It wasn't about him getting too many carries.

So would you use Brown more the final four weeks of the season, throwing caution to the wind and hoping he finds his comfort zone and that extra gear that frankly he hasn't had lately? Or do you continue to let him plod along at 14 or so carries a game and get the 4.1 yards per carry Brown is delivering so far this year?

I say the Dolphins have a thoroughbred in the stall and they should ride him. But I don't get a vote. The guess here from everything I'm told is the Dolphins are going to continue giving Brown 14-15 carries a game while Williams continues to get his 10-12 carries. And if there's one game one of them is hot, that guy will get more carries that game.

But handing it to one guy over and over and over so he can find a rhythm for the game and get stronger with every carry and maybe put the team on his back in the fourth quarter? Not likely.

December 01, 2008

Dolphins can win AFC East, but will they?

The Herald crew was the last of the media contingent to leave the Edward Jones Olmos Dome Sunday night because, truth be told, we suck at math. And for about two hours collegue David J. Neal was crunching numbers and scenarios to come up with this singular but important nugget:

If the Dolphins win the rest of their games, they win the AFC East.

Said another way, the Dolphins have to go 11-5 to guarantee themselves the AFC East title.

Now, Miami can make the playoffs without winning out but then we get into the minefield known as needing help from other teams. And the Dolphins don't want to tread there unless they have to.

The Dolphins are definitely aware of their opportunity. As coach Tony Sparano said today, his players knew Sunday's results when they stepped off their charter Sunday evening and they all understood victories over Buffalo in Toronto, at home against San Francisco, at Kansas City, and at New York would give Miami the division crown.

"Not looking ahead is a ridiculous statement," Sparano said, when it comes to understanding the possibilities.

The question is do you think the Dolphins can win out?

The trip to Toronto this week saves Miami from playing an outdoor game in Buffalo as the Rogers Center is an indoor facility. The home game against San Francisco is winnable but the 49ers suprised the Bills Sunday. The game at KC is winnable but the Chiefs have shown impressive fight at times this year and they beat Oakland Sunday. And yes, the Jets lost to Denver on Sunday, but they have a victory over Miami already once this season.

So again the question to you becomes: Will the Dolphins win out to assure themselves the AFC East title?