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35 posts from May 2009

May 13, 2009

Clearing out the notebook of lots of good stuff

Hopeful Dolphins fans believing the Dolphins could still find a starting-caliber nose tackle in Paul Soliai may have been dealt a two-fisted setback this week.

First and most discouraging is Soliai admitting he's gone from being a big dude to a fat big dude this offseason. In collegue Barry Jackson's buzz column, Soliai says he's weighing in at a whopping 360 pounds. The Dolphins want him at 345 pounds ASAP.

And they want him at that weight because his days as a nose tackle may be over. The fact is Soliai is expected to get repetitions during the coming minicamps as a defensive end as well as a nose tackle. And if the roster on the team's English language website (there will be two Miami Dolphins websites by training camp, one in Spanish) can be believed, Soliai is more a defensive end than a nose tackle or defensive tackle.

And none of that spells good news for the supremely gifted, but work ethic challenged youngster.

One thing Bill Parcells hates is overweight football players. One thing the Dolphins cannot condone is guys who go flabby even at the start of the offseason conditioning program. Understand that the program has been underway for several weeks now.

Can you imagine what Soliai was weighing when the program started, assuming he's lost some weight while working out and being back under team scrutiny?

The other thing is Miami's glut of defensive ends -- Phillip Merling, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, Lionel Dotson and Rodrique Wright -- suggests Soliai is in for a long day every day he's trying to make a spot for himself among that group.

Look, Soliai's make-or-break training camp is coming up. He's already had his youthful indiscretions with the last coaching staff and this one -- getting suspended by Tony Sparano for one game for breaking an undisclosed team rule. So there is very little margin for error.

And an expanding waistline shrinks that margin even more.

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You've read different places that Jason Taylor has a "handshake agreement" with the Patriots. You've read the Dolphins have given up on 2009 because they are not actively pursuing Jason Taylor.

As one source close to the situation told me Tuesday night, "Don't believe what you read -- you know better."

The facts are Taylor has no agreement in place with anyone as of this writing. The fact is the Dolphins continue to weigh their options on Taylor and have not made a final decision on the matter, as of this writing.

The fact is the Dolphins definitely, positively have not thrown in the towel on 2009 for any reason, much less the fanciful one that they realize they're not a Super Bowl contender. Be serious. Does that sound like Tony Sparano or Bill Parcells to you?

I'm going so far as telling you the Dolphins are still monitoring the Anquan Boldin situation. Parcells thinks this kid is a monster! He recognizes there are problems with trading for him -- compensation to the Cardinals and compensation of $7-$8 million per year to the player. But the Dolphins have definitely not at this point completely dismissed the idea of being active on the matter if it ever hits the front burner.

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Esteemed Sports Illustrated (bleeding money, by the way) and NBC football information man Peter King recently ranked all 32 NFL teams and didn't show the Dolphins a lot of love by slotting them at a non-playoffs-making No. 17.

Man's got a right to his opinion ... even when it's wrong.

Here's Salguero's 1-through-32:

1. Pittsburgh. Did I miss something? Did they lose a game this offseason? Did they graduate someone? And can you believe it, their schedule is fifth-easiest (.435 opponent winning percentage) in the NFL.

2. New York Giants. They faded late last season because they didn't have a receiver who could make plays. They've addressed that issue in the draft and might address it further. Gotham returns to normalcy atop the NFC East.

3. Philadelphia Eagles. Loved their draft. Love their quarterback. The offensive line puzzles, but the west coast offense can overcome some of those shortcomings. This is the final big push for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

4. New England. They seem to be stacked. And they are stacked -- like a deck of cards that will come crashing down if Tom Brady gets hurt again or fails to reclaim his old form.

5. Tennessee. The nucleus from last year's 13-win team is still intact and outside the starting quarterback spot and maybe Keith Bulluck, this is a team coming into its prime.

6. Indianapolis. Coaching retirements and threatened retirements are an issue but Peyton's Manning's presence mitigates much of that. They're good, but no longer great.

7. Green Bay. They are just too talented and the schedule is too inviting (fourth-easiest in the NFL) to rank this team any lower. Greatest question mark remains at the quarterback position where Aaron Rodgers is good but will never be Brett Favre great.

8. Carolina. The assumption here is Julius Peppers will play for the Panthers and Jake Delhomme won't throw five interceptions per game as he did in that playoff meltdown against Arizona last year. The Panthers didn't make much of a splash this offseason, but a conservative approach might not be a bad thing for a 12-4 team.

9. Dallas. They hope getting rid of Terrell Owens is addition by subtraction. It more likely will be subtraction by subtraction. But this team promises a solid running game, a good quarterback and solid defensive front -- and that's hard to argue against.

10. Miami. The Dolphins have the toughest schedule in the NFL with opponents boasting a .594 winning percentage. And so don't be surprised if Miami is a better team and nonetheless cannot match last year's 11-5 record. But drop out of the playoffs? Out of contention? Out of sight? Don't think so.

11. San Diego. This team has superior talent that is augmented by the return of Shawne Merriman. But the problem here is not the talent, it's what Norv Turner does with that talent. The jury is still out on him as a head coach, even as he's in his 11th year and on his third team as the head man.

12. Atlanta. The offense is dangerous with the addition of the best tight end to play the game, Tony Gonzalez. But the defense that had no depth last year lost key contributors Keith Brookings, Dominique Foxworth, Rod Coleman and perhaps most notably Michael Boley. Ouch.

13. Minnesota. They have the talent to win a Super Bowl, where it not for that minor detail position known as the quarterback. The offseason flirtations with Brett Favre prove the team isn't sold on Sage Rosenfels or anyone else taking snaps from center.

14. Baltimore. That bus out of town carrying Rex Ryan and Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard and Jason Brown didn't exactly dismantle a playoff team. But it did damage. Matt Birk might actually be an upgrade at center over the short-term but losing Scott will leave a mark.

15. New Orleans. What can I say, I love offense. And the Saints will absolutely lead the NFL in scoring (again) in 2009. On the defensive side of the ball, the team set in motion a plan -- that included the drafting of Malcolm Jenkins and signing of Jabari Greer -- to address its obvious shortcomings. The plan may fail, but at least it made sense.

16. Houston. They have the best wide receiver in the NFL in Andre Johnson, who happened to attend my alma maters Miami High and the University of Miami. So they're doing something right. The problem is Matt Schaub has proven to be somewhat unreliable in staying on the field and in playing well the times he's on the field. That makes the backup quarterback situation is a concern. Dan Orlovsky? 

17. Arizona. Last season's improbable run to the Super Bowl doesn't change the fact the team's best running back (Edgerrin James) is gone while the team's best defensive lineman (Darnell Dockett) and second-best receiver (Anquan Boldin) want to be gone. Miracles do happen, but not in consecutive years. 

18. Chicago. Peter King picked them fourth, I assume, because Jay Cutler is supposed to make everything better ... just like he did in Denver. Cutler is excellent, no doubt. But this team has begun to age and it still hasn't gotten Cutler enough weapons unless you think Juaquin Iglesias is the answer. Orlando Pace is the new left tackle but one has to wonder if he can last the season much less play well.

19. Kansas City. They're the reincarnation of the 2008 Dolphins story. They have a good QB in Matt Cassel. They have a favorable schedule in that it's the 15th easiest in the NFL. And they won't yield rushing yards in large plots of real estate like they did last year. Even without Tony Gonzalez, this offense should score a lot of points.

20. San Francisco. They played hard for Mike Singletary last year and will do so again or he'll threaten to stare at them. They have the best linebacker in the game in Patrick Willis. And they got lucky the best receiver in the draft, Michael Crabtree, fell right in their laps. But Alex Smith and Shaun Hill have yet to settle their competition and even when they do, the 49ers will still be lacking a consistent quarterback.

21. Buffalo. The boring, rust-belt team added Terrell Owens and is experimenting with the spread option offense. Amaaazing. Problem is the offensive line remains unsolved (although I love the Andy Levitre selection), there is no backup quarterback to speak of, and the secondary is leaky.

22. Jacksonville. The Jags have aggressively addressed their offseason needs the past two seasons by drafting multiple players at positions of needs -- pass-rushers in 2008 and offensive linemen in 2009. Last year's picks didn't come through as rookies. This year's picks -- tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe -- must come through to protect David Garrard, or quarterback will be a need in the 2010 offseason.

23. Washington. The Redskins were players in the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. They coveted Mark Sanchez. If you're Jason Campbell you should be getting an uneasy feeling about your Redskins longevity. The offensive line, once a strength, continues to break down or retire or under-perform. And the defensive front isn't much better.

24. New York Jets. Mark Sanchez may be the quarterback of tomorrow, but this team has issues with finding a quarterback today. New Yawkas believe Sanchez can do the same thing Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did last year as rookies. Wrong. The difference is Sanchez started 16 games in college. Ryan started 31 games at Boston College while Flacco started 26 games at Delaware -- so both were much more NFL-ready than Sanchez.

25. Seattle. There is nothing about the Mike Holmgren "retirement" that is good for the Seahawks. And it might not be too long before quarterback Matt Hasselbeck follows Holmgren to other pastures -- particularly if his back issues continue to flare up. On the bright side, the additions of Aaron Curry and Max Unger promise cornerstone players for years to come.

26. Cincinnati. This is a team with too many questionable character players and a fragile quarterback. That's not a good combination.

27. Cleveland. New coach Eric Mangini is hoping to relive 2006, when he stumbled upon a New York Jets team that still remembered how to win after posting a 10-6 record in 2004. The Browns were 10-6 in 2007 and slumped badly last year, but Mangini doesn't have the players to suit his style in Cleveland to work his Mangeniusness again. And his most trusted personnel man (himself) isn't helping. This, by the way, is the year Dolphins fans find out if their love affair with Brady Quinn was warranted.

28. Denver. So owner Pat Bowlen gets rid of Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls, and replaces him with thirtysomething Josh McDaniels, who has won zero Super Bowls. Then McDaniels gets rid of quarterback Jay Cutler, who is a Pro Bowl player, and replaces him with Kyle Orton, who is now officially a journeyman. What's next, replacing Brandon Marshall with Derek Hagan?

29. Tampa Bay. Raheem Morris is a fine young coach in the mold of Mike Tomlin. Problem is he doesn't have Mike Tomlin's roster and will not get Mike Tomlin results during a rebuilding year.

30. Oakland. Starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell is not as proficient a professional as backup Jeff Garcia, which is kinda sorta a problem. Message to Al Davis: You haven't done anything right since 2001. Time to fade into the silver and black background just as your team has.

31. St. Louis. Quarterback Mark Bulger lost that "it" factor last year and seemed legitimately afraid uncomfortable in the pocket at times. The Rams are tying to address this with the addition of first-round left tackle Jason Smith. But that addition still doesn't address the seven or so other gashes that are bleeding from this team's depth chart.

32. Detroit. They had the worst-to-first blueprint laid out for them by the Bill Parcells example in Miami and, with few exceptions, they did things exactly the opposite way as what Parcells would have done. And they'll get opposite results of what Parcells got.

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Some of you have asked me to be more interactive every so often.

Done.

I'll be on here around 1 p.m. Wednesday to talk, debate, discuss and otherwise chat with you. I'll stick around as long as you'll have me.

May 12, 2009

Value of Dolphins draft to be weighed

I'll be the first to admit I often view the draft through the prism of what the player is likely to do for the Dolphins, with little regard for what might have been if the team would have picked some other player.

It is the preliminary view that most teams take, frankly, because they prefer not to be compared with what other teams did. As Jimmy Johnson used to say, "Once the draft is over, I think and worry about the players I took. I don't ever think about the players I passed on because I'm not ever going to see them, but maybe once every four years and, at worst, maybe twice a year."

Well, that's sound organizational thinking -- especially if one traded oneself out of the opportunity to draft Randy Moss.

But today, those of us outside any NFL organization are taking a different view of the last draft. This time we're looking at it through the lenses of what might have been and what had better come to pass to make Miami's draft a success years from now.

The fact of the matter is the Dolphins are thrilled with the selection of CB Vontae Davis with the 25 overall pick in the first round. As a team source told me, he is at worst the second-best cornerback in the draft. He fills a position of dire need. And the Fins are thrilled to have him because they simply do not buy the so-called character issues with him.

But long-term Davis has to do more than simply be a solid cornerback for the Dolphins to make this pick a success. The fact is Davis was selected ahead of some very good prospects. And no on is going to be thrilled if Davis turns out to be a good player, but two or three guys drafted behind him become Pro Bowl guys.

The draft is about getting good value and picking a good player earlier while better players go later is not getting good value. So the hope is Davis is better than the guys picked behind him to make this a value selection.

That being the case, in the future we will view the Davis selection and also think that one pick later, Green Bay selected outside linebacker Clay Matthews. We will measure Davis historically against how Hakeem Nicks does in New York because the Dolphins also had a need at receiver and Nicks was on the board. So if Nicks, who went with the 29th overall selection, has a better career than Davis, I for one will feel kind of jipped.

It works both ways, by the way. The Saints, picking at No. 14, made Malcolm Jenkins the draft's first selected cornerback. Wouldn't it be sweet if Davis, selected 11 slots later, turns out to be a better player? The expectation is Jenkins must be better, but as Bill Parcells says, "You can't buy insurance for this stuff."

By the way, aside from Nicks, we must also follow the career path of WR Kenny Britt, who was picked 30th by Tennessee, because he was also on Miami's radar and also plays a position of need.

The second round again offers an interesting snapshot we must all refer to in the future. The Dolphins selected Pat White at No. 44 overall. He plays the quarterback position which is the most important on the field. White should immediately contribute in the WildPat and spread option package. Great.

But White was a luxury pick that answered no major pressing need. The Dolphins passed on Virginia OLB Clint Sintim, who was taken by the Giants one pick later at No. 45. Again, pass-rush is always a need and Miami has that need, even today. Furthermore, it should concern Miami fans Sintim was selected by the Giants because they run a hybrid 4-3 defense that sometimes looks like a 3-4 and sometimes uses linebackers as rushers [Thanks to the reader who corrected me on this]. They have proven to know a little something about identifying good front 7 players.

Miami also passed on Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and Hawaii OLB David Veikune -- both selected after Miami selected White. So those players will be linked to White.

With the 61st overall selection the Dolphins selected cornerback Sean Smith, a supremely talented kid with great size and potential and position flexibility. I loved this pick. And so did the Dolphins.

But the fact is in picking Smith the Dolphins passed on U-Conn OLB Cody Brown, who went to Arizona. It'll be interesting to see which player contributes more throughout his career.

The third round finally brought the Dolphins a receiver in USC giant Patrick Turner. At 6-5 and 225 pounds he should be a red zone threat. He better be, anyway. Eyes will be on him to see if he's more effective in the red zone than 6-6, 245-pound TE Chase Coffman, who the Bengals selected 11 picks later. Turner needs to be more productive than Penn St. WR Deon Butler, who the Seahawks selected at No. 91. Oklahoma WR Juaquin Iglesias (99th overall) and Wisonsin TE Travis Beckum (100th overall) also were selected after Turner in the third round.

The hope is Brian Hartlin, who Miami selected in the fourth round at No. 108 overall, is better than those previously mentioned players taken after Turner. The hope is OLB Victor Butler, taken by Dallas at 109 overall, doesn't prove to be a better player than Hartline.

The Chargers, in need of a nose tackle, took intriguing Vaughn Martin out of Western Ontario with the 113th overall selection. He would have filled Miami's nose tackle void. Hartline needs to become a greater value for Miami than Martin becomes for the Chargers.

The Dolphins have a much greater chance of getting draft decisions right than the Raiders because that is the history of late when comparing Bill Parcells and Al Davis. But Davis did pluck WR Louis Murphy from the University of Florida roster with the 124th overall selection. Murphy is bigger (6-3 and 205) than Hartline and faster. Is he more raw? Absolutely. More injury prone? Absolutely Will we watch the two develop and see which one becomes better?

Absolutely.

By the way, two more NT-types went before the third round was over -- Auburn's Tyronne Green to San Diego and Michigan's Terrance Taylor to Indianapolis. Hard to dismiss these picks as both Bill Polian and A.J. Smith have done some outstanding work in building winners through the draft.

The Dolphins were active in the fifth round, picking TE John Nalbone out of mighty Monmouth and S Chris Clemons from Clemson. The interesting thing to me is that in picking Nalbone out of a program that doesn't typically produce NFL talent, the Dolphins passed on OL Duke Robinson out of Oklahoma, a program that typically does produce NFL talent. Robinson went to the Panthers two picks after Miami selected Nalbone so the career comparisons between them is on.

Clemons was very impressive in the rookie camp and colleague Craig Barnes, who covered college football for decades at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, tells me this kid is the real deal and that Miami got a steal. Great! So it should be no problem comparing how the Dolphins do with Clemons and how the Cowboys do with Clemson S Michael Hamlin, who was selected one pick later.

And, oh by the way, the Cardinals picked project OL Herman Johnson out of LSU with the 167th overall selection. The guy is fat at 386 pounds. But a year or so in the Arizona desert should trim him up a bit if the Cards are right on the kid. (He likely would have lost weight in Miami's humidity also). So I'll be checking in on him and comparing his value to Nalbone's and Clemons's.

The sixth round brought the Dolphins backup left tackle Andrew Gardner from Georgia Tech. Wonder how his value will stack up against TCU ILB Robert Henson, who went five selections later, or Washington State WR Brandon Gibson, who went at 194th overall to Philadelphia? We'll see.

The seventh round brought the Dolphins J.D. Folsom from Weber State. But the move that troubles me is the trade the Dolphins made with Kansas City for the 237th overall pick. The Dolphins traded it for Kansas City's seventh-round pick next year.

The stated reason Miami got no premium for trading a pick this year for a pick in the same round next year is that the Dolphins had no more players on their draft board. Really?

If that's the case, not one player that was selected after Folsom, was selected at No. 214 overall, had better become a star in the NFL. Not one of the 20 players selected after the Dolphins basically passed at No. 237 had better become a solid NFL contributor because if he does, it means the Dolphins walked away from the opportunity to select that guy.

It'll be interesting to see in the coming years how it works out. The belief here is Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland will get it right more often than they get it wrong. But that doesn't mean we won't be checking on it to make sure that is true.

By the way, the video below is of Nevada WR Marko Mitchell, who was selected at No. 243 overall, six selections after the Dolphins decided there were no more players on the board.

May 11, 2009

Moore and Wooden on the value of experience

Ran into a couple of former Dolphins players at the Jimmy Buffett concert announcement Friday. As I told you in an earlier post, Dolphins great Kim Bokamper and Dolphins mediocre Joe Rose were there. Receiver Nat Moore, a rightful member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, was there as was former safety Shawn Wooden, who is a class act by any definition.

I got to talking with Moore and Wooden when the topic of the new drafted receivers took a left turn and became the topic of the current draft class. That topic also took a detour and got Moore talking about how Ted Ginn Jr. and John Beck were basically thrown under the bus from a planning perspective.

"Look at what the plan was when both those guys were drafted," Moore said. "Beck was supposed to sit a year and learn behind Trent Green. Then Trent Green got hurt and the next guy got benched and now what was supposed to be a two-year timetable is a two-month timetable because Beck is starting.

"Look at Ted Ginn. He comes in as a guy who is going to help the team as a receiver down the road but initially the plan was for him to learn that position while contributing on special teams right away. That was the plan. But they trade away Chris Chambers and now the kid has to play and then they cut Marty Booker and the guy has no veteran teaching him how it's done."

I have long valued the presence of veteran leadership on a team because without it, a team is simply incomplete. Look at all the great teams. None are comprised of just young players. Or just old players. I believe all great teams strike a balance between experience and youth, and are served from both camps.

The same can be said of groups of players on the team. The Dolphins had experience in the quarterback group (Chad Pennington) last year. They had experience in the linebacker (Joey Porter, Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder) group. They had experience on the defensive line (Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson). They had experience in the secondary at every starting position. They had experience in the running back corps. They had experience at tight end.

But they had no experience of note at wide receiver. And guess which group of players frustrated most with promised potential that did not fully arrive?

The wide receivers.

Davone Bess was a rookie. Greg Camarillo was a first-year starter. Ernest Wilford, the veteran with most experience, was a non-factor. Derek Hagan, a third-year veteran, was a glorified practice squad guy. And Ginn, the No. 1 receiver, was only in his second year and first as a full-time starter.

In other words, the group lacked an experienced mentor among their ranks.

So why is that important?

"It's very important on a football team," Wooden said. "I remember when I came in, guys took me under there wings. Louis Oliver taught me how to break down film. When Sam Madison got drafted, T-Buck (Terrell Buckley) helped him learn the game. When Pat Surtain got drafted the next year, both of them helped him."

So I asked the question that has always floated in my head when this subject comes up. In the absence of an experienced veteran, isn't it the position coach's job to step up and be the mentor?

"It is but they don't do it," Wooden said. "They really can't do it. It's like a family. The coaches are your parents. But the veterans are the older brothers. You listen to your parents, but you try to pattern yourself after your older brothers. When they say things it has more authority because they've just been there. That's how it is on a team. The older players know the tricks, they're on that field, they know what you're going through because they're going through it, too."

And that, according to Wooden and Moore, is invaluable.

"Look, football isn't all about being the best athlete," Wooden said. "I can go over to Liberty City and find five guys who can run a 4.3. But that doesn't make them a professional football player. That doesn't mean they have it up here (pointing to his head) or can be professional or have work ethic."

That other stuff must be learned. And it is Wooden and Moore's opinion that having mentors on the team to teach it to younger players is important. Unfortunately, Ted Ginn Jr. hasn't had a mentor to teach him.

Discuss ....

May 10, 2009

Sunday column: This bloke's got hang time

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Taking my mom to an early dinner this afternoon and I hope all of you are also doing something special for your moms today, if they're still with us. If your moms have passed, find time to remember the woman who brought you into the world or the one who took care of you in this world, or both.

If you want, you can leave a rememberance to your moms in the comments section. (No, it's not a football topic but some things are more important than football. Yeah, I said that.)

As far as Dolphins football is concerned, the column I wrote for today's Herald tells you about a bloke who discovered punting by accident and now has a chance to make the Dolphins. 

Jy Bond is an interesting kid. He's Miami's raw punting prospect and a longshot to beat out Brandon Fields in the coming minicamp.

But part of being raw also means Bond has a booming leg and much untapped potential. You should read what Bond did during his Dolphins tryout that got general manager Jeff Ireland's attention.

And you can also read about the difficulties of trying to make it in a sport played half a world away from his home in Australia.

As Bond would say, cheers mates! 

May 08, 2009

Fins sign O-lineman with a history [Updated]

The Dolphins have signed interior offensive lineman JD Quinn and will announce the addition early next week.

Quinn is, um, interesting for a handful of reasons:

He was at the team's rookie minicamp last weekend on a tryout basis after going undrafted out of Montana. He impressed coaches and general manager Jeff Ireland enough that they tried to get to know him and his personality more so they could feel comfortable with him on the team.

And the Dolphins needed to feel comfortable with Quinn because of  his past.

Quinn was arrested in May of 2008 for a DUI violation and was temporarily suspended from the Montana football team. It was Quinn's second DUI arrest in less than a year because he was similarly arrested in July 2007 in Missoula.

The arrests were settled in court when Quinn pleaded guilty to per se drunken driving, wherein a defendant admits to driving with a blood alcohol level greater than the Montana legal limit of .08 but does not admit to driving while intoxicated. The May 2008 arrest was settled when Quinn pleaded guilty to a mudflap violation -- the reason he was stopped in the first place -- and the drunk driving charge was dropped. The court then sentenced Quinn to 10 days in jail, with all the time suspended, and ordered him to complete an alcohol dependency program.

But, believe it or not, that's not really Quinn's claim to fame, or infamy if that's how you look at things. Quinn, Oklahoma Sooners fans might recall, was dismissed from that team in August of 2006 and lost a year of eligibility for his connection in a car dealership scandal that included starting quarterback Rhett Bomar, who also was tossed from the team and transferred to Sam Houston State.

Quinn accepted $8,137 from the Norman, OK., Chevy dealership but never did any work there. That's an NCAA violation related to undue benefits and the governing body came down hard on the Sooners, forcing the the school to vacate eight victories, give up two scholarships, and also extending a previous probationary period.

Quinn became something of a villian among Oklahoma fans when he showed little regard for his old school in the taped phone conversation below.

Quinn, 6-4 and 300 pounds, will work at guard and center for the Dolphins.

[Update: Beat writer Jeff Darlington sends me this link that shows Quinn was also arrested for DUI in 2005. Quinn was 19-years-old at the time of this first arrest (assuming there weren't others earlier). The legal drinking age in Oklahoma at the time was 21 years old. So do the math, that's three DUI arrests for Quinn the last four years.] 

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

May 07, 2009

Where the real Dolphins star power should be

Land Shark Stadium logo

I went to a Jimmy Buffett concert Friday morning. No, seriously.

As a way of unveiling the new name and logo for Landshark Stadium, the one formerly known as Dolphins, then Joe Robbie, then Pro Player, then Dolphins again, then Dolphin Stadium, new owner Stephen Ross is enlisting the help of his friend Jimmy Buffett.

Buffett, who has been invited to join the Dolphins as a minority owner but has not committed, performed three songs at the venue before invited media and serveral "VIP" guests that included men in hula skirts, people wearing fake parrots as headgear, and yes, even makeup. It was quite a scene with Dolphins great Kim Bokamper and Dolphins mediocre Joe Rose dancing with one another as if drunk and in love.

The new logo is a fin rising out of a depiction of the stadium.

As I told you first in a post about three weeks ago, Ross wants to glamorize Dolphins games. He wants people to think of game day as an event that transcends football. He wants to make Landshark Stadium the place to be on home game Sundays in the fall and winter. And to do that, in part, he intends to attract and invite A-B-C- and D-listers to the games as well as athletes and celebrities from other sports.

The only "celebrity" at the venue Friday, aside from former Miami players, was former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning.

Ross intends to institute a red aqua orange carpet so paparazzi can get their shots of the so-called stars before they parade around the field prior to the game, then head behind the windows of their private suites. (Yeah, you didn't think Paris Hilton was going to sit in the stands did you?)

So why am I telling you this?

Because it is freaking, fracking fascinating when you consider that the new owner is trying to turn the business side of the organization into something of a showcase while the guy running the football operation loves collecting lunch pail players and fielding a blue collar team.

It is a startling contrast of approaches within the same organization.

Ross wants the beautiful people to come out to his games. He wants stars and glitz. He wants the Dolphins organization to represent and embody South Florida, Miami, and South Beach with all its diversity and flavors and attractions. 

Bill Parcells wants a team made of players that make a living behind facemasks and are happy staying relatively anonymous. Did you see the Parcells video a couple of posts ago on this blog? He warns his quarterback against being "a celebrity quarterback."

"We don't need any of those," Parcells admonishes.

And I know he pretty much feels the same way about running backs, and tight ends and defensive ends and safeties and every other position on the field. Parcells would rather his players not write books and not appear on reality or interview shows. He'd be fine with a namelss, faceless band that just thinks, eats and breathes football.

So you have the juxtaposition of those two different approaches within the same organization -- one on the business and marketing end, the other on the football side. And I would tell you neither is wrong. But neither is completely right.

Let's face it, the reason people want to buy tickets is to see their team win. And the stars that really attract fans are usually in the game. Sure, it would be cool to go to a football game and, by chance, see Jennifer Aniston walking to her suite. But that experience would not be worth a nickel if you're walking out of the stadium later unhappy because your team hasn't enough firepower to beat great opponents.

So the hope is the Dolphins soon find some bigtime stars on the football roster. While the stars in sunglasses and walking with entourages don't get in the way of the real show.

[BLOG NOTE: I saw former receiver Nat Moore and safety Shawn Wooden at the event today. We talked for a while and out of those conversations I will tell you on this blog on Saturday the importance of veteran leadership and how a lack of that hurt John Beck and continues to hurt Ted Ginn Jr. So check back Saturday for that insight from two men worthy of respect.]

Dolphins In Depth: You've got mail

The last 10 days or so have been a busy time for the Armando Salguero microsoft Outlook box. She's been full with questions and comments from you, the readers, about all things Dolphin.

So today I'm going to share with you some of the letters and clear out the box in one fell swoop. Thanks (to most of you) for the nice comments you include in those letters, by the way.

I've condensed some of the letters for our purposes here because, well, I don't want to take up so much space on the Internet. Don't want it to get full or something.

The e-mail: Armando, agree [Chad] Pennington has much to offer. However he lost arm strength in his career and it's not coming back. This regime saw something in the loss to the Ravens that all teams will do upon looking at the film. Therefore Parcells will most likely replace Pennington with Henne and White for the wildcat this coming season. Michael Alexander.

The response: Michael, the changing of the guard is indeed coming. But the only way it happens this season is if Pennington doesn't play up to the standards he set in 2008. It would be hard to justify benching Pennington for any other reason. Even if the Dolphins are losing and out of contention, Pennington has to remain in the lineup if he plays well because benching him could cause locker room turmoil. Of course, it is unlikely the Dolphins would be losing a lot with their quarterback playing well. It would require a total collapse by the defense.

The e-mail: " I can tell you Pat White has a loooong way to go before he can compete with Henne. It will be either Henne or White if Bill Parcells' plan is followed. I still believe it will be Henne. Why? He has the superior arm. He has the superior pocket presence. He is not as mobile as White, but neither is he immobile. White? You have to understand I've only seen four practices so this will be a fluid and too-early call on a rookie. But unless he has an arm transplant, it isn't likely to get a whole lot stronger. And unless he's about to get a leg extension, he isn't likely to get a whole lot taller.His arm is good enough, but not great. He sailed quite a few passes during the practices this weekend. His mid-range and short-range throws are excellent. His ability to read and recognize was decent, considering he learned the play only hours before running them. But his deep outs and 9-routes (deep up the sideline) throws were unimpressive to me. They get there, but not with the velocity of a Henne pass. White is behind on both his size (which is important to staying healthy and seeing over the blockers and rushers) and arm strength."

Drew Brees is 6-foot and 209 pounds. They (White and Brees) have similar arm strength.  Also, Brees doesn't seem to have a problem throwing the ball past his lineman. My opinion, Pat White has the heart of a lion and could easily be the starting quarterback in 2010. John Williams.

The response: You are entitled to your opinion. And you have a 50-50 chance of being correct. But Drew Brees played in only one game as a rookie and then was terrible as the starter the next two seasons before finally blossoming in 2004 -- a turnaround that suprised even the San Diego braintrust.

The e-mail: Bill Parcells has the chance to make it up to me. I will forgive the draft mishaps IF they pick up recently released Pittsburgh Steelers linbacker Larry Foote. He is a proven NFL linebacker, and he's won two Super Bowls with the Steelers. After all the linebackers that were passed by in the draft, we now have the chance and the cap room to pick up one of the better proven linebackers in the league. He is familiar with playing in a 3-4 and I'm sure Joey Porter would love to have a former Steeler playing beside him. NC Mike.

The response: Foote signed with Detroit. So Parcells apparently isn't too concerned about making things up to you.

The e-mail: One thing about writers like you is that you're always looking for controversy, whether it's there or not. First, there was the Bill Parcells controversy, or lack of one, and now this. Do you remember when Tony Sparano talked about getting Chad Henne more reps? Why do you think he said that?  Because it sounded good?  No, it's because that's the Dolphins' plan, to slowly ease Henne into the starting job. The Dolphins have something different in mind for Pat White. How do I know this, you ask. I don't have the inside scoop like you do. I look at the history of quarterbacks like Pat White. Names like Kordel Stewart and  Antwan Randle-El come to mind. Kordel Stewart was a starter for a time, but in the end, was relegated to the role you see that type of QB in. They are not drafted to be starters. They are drafted to give the offense more versatility, and less predictability. That's the role Pat White was drafted to play. Maybe he'll be a good backup, but, unless Henne goes down, that's all he'll be. Why don't you write about the real Dolphin issues, and how they're being addressed. Like cornerback, wide receiver, pass rush, etc. There is no controversy, or competition at QB. Bet this doesn't get printed. James Janoff.

The response: First, Bill Parcells thought long and hard about whether to stay or leave the Dolphins and required a change to the contract's language to stay. Meanwhile, that was Jeff Ireland saying Pat White was drafted to compete at quarterback. I didn't pluck that out of thin air. That's the Dolphins official stance. Finally, betcha it does get printed.

The e-mail: Hey Mando! I know you probably think I'm stalking you with my contant Dolphins-related e-mails but, then again, not much Dolphins in the news around here. My question this time is do you think the Dolphins should or could go after Foote? I think he would be a big uprgade to Ayodele (not that I have anything against him though) and also what is Matt Roth up to this days? With so many players trying to take his job away (Wake, Anderson, Walden and possibly JT) is he at least trying to prove he should be the starter or is he away on holidays? Anyways Mando, hope everything is ok in sunny Miami! Francisco.

The response: Hey Francisco! Although I have not talked to Roth recently I understand he's in the offseason workout program and not on holiday. This kid is a worker and isn't going to pull back on a competition for his job, regardless of the challenger. This is a contract year for Roth as he is unsigned for 2010. So if he's ever going to play at his peak, 2009 would certainly be a wise time to do that. And yes, sunny Miami is grand!

The e-mail: First I know what a football genius Bill Parcells is. I have read all of his books, respect him, glad to have him here, but I already have a God. CHAD HENNE was 6-foot-2 until he reaches the NFL and was measured standing on the Dolphin playbook. [Now he's] 6-3. I am hostile to Chad Henne only to the extent that it makes Jim Mandich unlistenable. His throwing and ball handling skills (that is what I have seen in 2008 preseason practice) are impressive. But in a big game with it all on the line? Everyone is blinded by Henne's Bowl game performance Michigan vs. Florida. But Florida took the game off, then went on to a National Championship. Michigan took it seriously, then responded with a 3-8 season. The biggest game of Henne's career had to be the last Michigan-Ohio State game. Henne, a 4-year starter, never had beaten Ohio State, etc. So what happened? Henne throws for 69 yards, Michigan losses. On that Michigan team there were  two receivers drafted into the NFL., a running back drafted, and the No. 1 left tackle in college ... 69 yards ... Look at the film, Henne appears confused and indecisive. Dolphins offensive coordinator] Dan Henning says that Henne is as good as Matt Ryan & Joe Flacco...I will need to see this in the last quarter of a big Dolphin game. Cheers, Mike.

The response: We all want to see it in the last quarter of a big Dolphins game. We'd like to see it the first three quarters also. But I'm not hung up on a bad performance against Ohio State, or four losses to Ohio State. Peyton Manning never beat Florida and things turned out alright for him. Cheers, Armando.

The e-mail: Good Morning Armando. In the wake of the horrible tragedy to the Dallas Cowboys scouting person, the Fins practice bubble becomes an area of concern now, especially with the nature of our ocassionally violent thunderstorms, during the summer. I believe that league-wide, the structural integrity of these practice bubbles should be reinforced in some manner, especially in South Florida!! Thank you and all the best to you and family, John D. Vega.

The response: Good morning John. The Dolphins assure me they are confident about the structural integrity of the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble. The builder of the Dallas bubble did not build Miami's bubble. The Miami bubble is inflated while the Dallas bubble was held up by metal beams. Furthermore, the Dolphins monitor, via computer, advancing weather systems in real time. So when a particularly harsh one approaches the team facility, practice is stopped and players can exit the bubble. The bubble, meanwhile, is said to be able to withstand hurricane force winds. I pray to God we never have to find out for sure. All the best to you and family.

The e-mail: Do you know when the dolphins tickets go on sale? Not the season holder ones, the normal ones. And also, do you know how much those seats at the floor by the end zone cost? I've never been to a dolphins game and i'm really interested in those seats. Please let me know. Thanks. Unsigned.

The response: The Dolphins say individual game tickets will go on sale sometime in early July. A team spokesman tells me he is not certain what price the tickets will be but they "won't be too different from what the tickets cost on a season-ticket basis."

The e-mail: Armando, I read your blog almost every day and I am troubled by what I see in the comments. I live in Connecticut and I am surrounded by Patriots and Jets fans. I have to pull my weight seeing as how there aren't many Phins fans up this way. But what bothers me is reading some of the so-called Dolphins fans comments about our team. I've been a loyal Phins fan for over 27 years and while I don't always see eye-to-eye with some decisions that have been made by the team, I don't talk poorly about them. Some of these fans don't seem like fans at all. It seems they just happen to live in South Florida and the Dolphins are the local NFL team, so they feel obilgated to root for that team. I say if you don't like the local team and what they do, then ROOT FOR SOME OTHER TEAM!!! Mike Wright.

The response: Mike, what do you mean you read the blog almost every day?

May 06, 2009

Pennington the starting QB we've been ignoring

The third quarterback in the conversation these days is seemingly Chad Pennington. We talk about the drafting of Pat White and its effects on the Wildcat and the spread option. We talk about Chad Henne and how the Dolphins have designs for him being the starter in 2010.

Yet we seem to overlook Pennington, who is kind of important because, well, he's the starter now. He's the guy who will hold the reins to the offense this year.

SOBeFit Magazine recently did an interview with Pennington for an upcoming issue, and in it, we see another example of why Pennington is the perfect quarterback for a Bill Parcells-led organization.

Pennington is a consummate professional. He never gives place to the wrong idea even though, inside, you know the guy might be questioning what's happening atop the organization or himself or his teammates. He never questioned the quarterback competition the Jets put him through the last couple of years he was there. He never second-guessed the Brett Favre acquisition, either.

And in Miami he has not uttered a cross word about the Dolphins plan to elevate Henne, their decision not to re-sign him even as he enters the final year of his contract, or their decision to draft Pat White, yet another guy who might replace him.

In fact, Pennington is quite complimentary of White in the interview with SOBeFit.

"We'll wait and see where the coaches want him to fit in," Pennington tells the publication that is on sale at newstands. "Obviously some people have mentioned the Wildcat offense -- mentioned him being able to do some things because not only is a great athlete but he throws the ball really well and doesn't get enough credit for how well he throws the football. And anyone who put up the numbers that he did -- he won four bowl games in college as a starting quarterback -- he did a lot of really good things. He adds to our team and makes us better and so do all the other free agents and draft picks we've acquired."

Pennington led a handful of late-game drives that either sealed a Dolphins victory or delivered one in comeback fashion last season. In the maelstrom that is an NFL huddle during fourth-quarter heroics, Pennington was outwardly cool, calm.

How does he do it? Where does it come from?

"Well," he tells SOBeFit, "I think first it comes from my father and him being a coach and me being able to be around his team and his players. Growing up, my heroes were his high school football players. They weren't professional football players or college football players. And, although I may be calm on the outside, I am like a tornado on the inside, with emotions and feeling and things that are going through my mind ... nervous energy.

"So you have to be able to harness that in and then show a calming effect because those other 10 guys are looking at you in the huddle for leadership and direction."

And what does that cover?

"It covers everything," Pennington tells the publication. "It covers speed ... power ... strength. It covers all the prehab, as I call it, to make sure that I'm keeping everything intact with the smaller muscles in my body. It covers film work. It covers the mental preparation. It covers being a servant to your team. That's part of being a leader -- the service. So it's a wide range of things and I constantly have to go back and revisit my plan to make sure I'm hitting all those goals."

Being a servant to his team? That is a true professional and the prototype of what Parcells wants from his quarterback. As you will see below.

May 04, 2009

The dynamics of the White-Henne competition

I cannot begin to tell you how many e-mails have flooded my Outlook box since the draft, wondering about the dynamics of the looming Chad Henne vs. Pat White competition.

Can I give you one man's opinion?

Don't get too worried about this competition deal. Having witnessed only four rookie minicamp practices I can tell you Pat White has a loooong way to go before he can compete with Henne. And, by the way, Henne has a loooong way to go before he can be considered an NFL starting quarterback.

Thank God for Chad Pennington!

Pennington should be the starter at the beginning of the 2009 season, assuming he is healthy. Where things go beyond that will be determined by Miami's record (are the Dolphins contending in 2009 or so far out of the picture they need to look to 2010?), how well Pennington is playing, and how fast Henne and White are progressing.

But let us forget 2009 for the moment. It is an unquestionable fact the Dolphins are expecting a quarterback transition prior to the 2010 season. It will be either Henne or White if Bill Parcells' plan is followed. I still believe it will be Henne.

Why? He has the superior arm. He has the superior pocket presence. He is not as mobile as White, but neither is he immobile. And I have never seen him overmatched by any situation or circumstance during his 12 months in Miami. 

White? You have to understand I've only seen four practices so this will be a fluid and too-early call on a rookie. But unless he has an arm transplant, it isn't likely to get a whole lot stronger. And unless he's about to get a leg extension, he isn't likely to get a whole lot taller.

His arm is good enough, but not great. He sailed quite a few passes during the practices this weekend. His mid-range and short-range throws are excellent. His ability to read and recognize was decent, considering he learned the play only hours before running them. But his deep outs and 9-routes (deep up the sideline) throws were unimpressive to me. They get there, but not with the velocity of a Henne pass.

That does not guarantee White cannot become a better quarterback than Henne and a fine quarterback overall. Arm strength is only part of the equation for an NFL quarterback. But off the blocks, White is behind on both his size (which is important to staying healthy and seeing over the blockers and rushers) and arm strength.

If you are wondering why I haven't mentioned Henne's one-year advantage over White in experience, it's because in 2010 that might not be a factor. White, you see, will see more game action this season than Henne if Pennington continues playing well. Absent a change at the starting job, Henne will sit while Pennington starts. And White will play more than Henne as he contributes to the WildPat spread option package.

Many of you were thrown off by general manager Jeff Ireland's point that White will be exclusively a quarterback at first and would compete with Henne in the future. What about that is troubling? This is what he must say. This is how it must be.

Can you imagine picking a guy in the second round and setting the ceiling at playing only in the WildPat package? The last time that happened was when Cam Cameron announced Ted Ginn Jr., the ninth overall pick, was going to be a special teams guy. It's a disastrous approach.

So Ireland set the bar high for White and, in so doing, gave the rookie something great to shoot for while also sending a message to Henne. The message: You've not won the 2010 starting job yet so don't get all comfortable and cocky.

The Dolphins win all around with their current situation. Henne is motivated. White is motivated. And the team has a great competition in the offing.

If Henne wins the competion, which I predict he will, the Dolphins have a promising young QB as the starter and a backup quarterback, who also has promise but will not be simply holding the clipboard waiting for an opportunity. The backup will be contributing (hopefully) in the WildPat spread option package the Dolphins hope to eventually unleash.

If White wins the competition, the Dolphins have a mobile quarterback with a good enough arm that is obviously so intelligent and sound that he beat out a more experienced player. And the Dolphins still have waiting in the wings a hungry Henne who will be doing all in his power to reclaim something he will see as being rightfully his.

We have a term for this in my country. Win. Win.

By the way, to answer some reader questions, yes, the 2010 Dolphins probably would want a veteran quarterback added to fill out the QB corps. That experienced QB could be Pennington if he's willing to accept a diminished role. Or it could be some other player if Pennington finds an opportunity to compete for a starting job elsewhere. Pennington is currently unsigned for 2010.

May 03, 2009

Dolphins rookie minicamp is complete

The van is parked in front of the Dolphins training facility and players hauling luggage are on their way out. Rookie minicamp is in the books.

The star of today's practice was easily safety Chris Clemons, who had two interceptions. Not only was Clemons a terror for quarterbacks, he was quite impressive in the classroom throughout the minicamp.

"He's a guy that stood out and did a good job that way," coach Tony Sparano said. "He did a good job of getting people lined up and communicating. Then he gets his hands on two footballs and finished the play ... It was impressive to me."

Me, too!

The interesting thing is Clemons has a reputation as something of a hitter and he hasn't had the opportunity to make a mark hitting folks yet because these have been non-contact practices.

Sparano said he was also impressed with the way receivers Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner and linebacker Cameron Wake absorbed the information coaches were drowning them with this weekend. "His recall was good also," Sparano said of Wake.

Sparano said five veterans today volunteered to speak with the greehorns about being professional and what it means to be part of the Dolphins and how this team wins. The players who came in were Will Allen, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Matt Roth and Reggie Torbor.

Back to the field:

Receiver Todd Lowber did not practice today because of an undisclosed injury.

Quarterback Pat White got better and better throughout the weekend. I thought he was gaining confidence in the pocket and it showed in that he was less deliberate in his delivery. He also impressed Sparano with his mental alertness and recognition.

"We did some check-with-me stuff in today where he's got two plays and has to get them into the right one," Sparano said. "And he got them into it right."

I continue to be fascinated by the practice matchup of 6-5 WR Patrick Turner and 6-3 cornerback Sean Smith. Smith got the better of the matchup Friday. Saturday was pretty much even if not leaning toward Turner. On Sunday, Turner won the battle including a deep sideline gain.

For the record, I do not relate to you any information on the trenches guys -- outside of them jumping offsides -- because, let's face it, these guys aren't playing football yet. I've seen too many linemen on either side of the ball impress during minicamps where there is no hitting.

And then they disappear when the pads go on and the hitting begins. So to relate scouting reports about a guy's feet is ridiculous to me. I will tell you, however, that Louis Ellis is becoming something of a media favorite because he simply flashes a lot.

But Ellis is apparently headed to a diet and conditioning program because at 315 pounds, he loses steam as the practice wears on.

Finally, the Dolphins announced Michael Dee has been hired as Chief Executive Officer of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium. It probably doesn't matter much to you other than the fact his hire does not change in any fashion the way the football operations is run.

Owner Stephen Ross said he remains the only person football czar Bill Parcells reports to.

Little facts about (shush!!) the spread offense

Big day of Dolphins coverage at ye olde Herald.

I will be blogging throughout the day on Sunday as the Dolphins wrap their rookie minicamp. The first practice begins at 10 a.m. so expect updates in the minutes and hours ahead.

Meanwhile, I want to share with you my Sunday column in which I write about some of the Miami coaching staff's accomplishments last year and some of the challenges the staff faces in 2009.

I think I have been remiss in making the point the past couple of days because I've done it in passing and as a matter of fact as I did in the column, but let me correct that situation. I have been told the Dolphins will employ portions of the spread option in their offense this year.

Once again: The Dolphins coaches have been working this offseason on plucking portions of the spread option from the college ranks and adding that as part of the Wildcat (renamed by Salguero as WildPat) package.

The idea is not revolutionary The Dolphins realized the spread option had a place in the NFL when the Kansas City Chiefs lit up the Miami defense last season. Obviously the offense has worked in colleges as well.

But the idea is evolutionary. It makes sense to take Wildcat to the next level and that is, in part, the spread option. So the plan is if rookie Pat White progresses in the offense as he has the potential to do, the Dolphins will employ White in the spread option/Wildcat (renamed by Salguero as WildPat). It's going to take a while and you're probably not going to see it until the regular season. But the plan right now is to use it.

The Dolphins are not eager to let this out because coaches are rightfully secretive about their plans and strategy. And even this passing mention will soon be forgotten and left to float off into cyberspace. But I predict if and when Miami unveils it in the regular season, there will be quite a bit of attention paid to it -- attention rivaling the unveiling of Wildcat last year.

Just remember you knew it was coming way in advance. 

Discuss ... And come back later for the camp updates. 

May 02, 2009

Rookie camp Day 2 is in the rear view mirror

The Dolphins rookies looked a bit better this morning than they did Friday -- at least that was true of quarterback Pat White and some of the other players on the field.

White had one of the first passes he attempted batted back, which is something I worry we'll see considering he's a 6-foot quarterback. But he seemed to have a better feel for things thereafter.

"The first couple of throws in 7 on 7 he sees things crytal clear and that good because that was from this morning's install," coach Tony Sparano said. "I thought he threw it a little better today than he did yesterday."

Anthony Armstrong, a practice squad receiver most of last season, had a good practice overall. He beat tryout safety JC Neal on one sweet route that was one of several highlight moments for him. He also had a notable drop.

The match between 6-5 receiver Patrick Turner and 6-3 cornerback Sean Smith is something to witness. It's hard to believe the size and athletic ability on these guys. Smith got the better of the matchups today, shadowing Turner most of the time.

But Turner impressed Sparano with his ability to "drop his hips" quickly enough to get out of his initial route burst and make his cut or come back to the ball. Big receivers that can't do this give defensive backs too much recovery time to stay in coverage ,so being able to slow down and come back to the ball or change direction is key.

"I want to prove I'm a red zone target," Turner said. "I want to prove I'm a consistent receiver and I make plays."

One thing I noticed immediately about Turner and Brian Hartline is that they are indeed tall as advertised but they are quite lanky. Turner is 220 pounds but looks like he can easily add 10 more pounds of muscle. Same thing with Hartline.

Compared to older, more veteran receivers who are somewhat V-shaped, these two are built straight up and down for now. I'm certain the Dolphins weight program will do wonders for them and improve their ability to get physical with defensive backs.

I talked to J. D. Folsom, the seventh round pick, about playing special teams. This kid's ticket to a roster is largely connected to his ability to contribute on special teams. "You got to learn the new techniques we're being taught and use them," Folsom said. "Like you said, my ticket onto the team is on special teams so I'm going to do whatever I need to do to make sure I contribute and do what coaches want."

Finally, you should remember this is a non-contact camp. But free agent nose tackle Louis Ellis got my attention as he is 315 pounds and not fat. He is just seemingly country strong and that showed at times even in these drills as he showed good penetration on a couple of snaps.

In the afternoon session that ran 90 minutes White looked good again -- as did Turner, and Smith, and Anthony Armstrong.

I did notice Vontae Davis clutching his lower back a couple of times so that will bear monitoring the on Sunday.

Anyway, the highlight of the afternoon session was a beautiful 40-yard completion down the left sideline in which Turner beat Smith despite the fact Smith had excellent coverage and was draped all over him as they went to the ground.

The play showed the athletic ability of the QB, White, in that the deep throw was accurate. It showed the athletic ability of the cornerback who was in good position against a very big receiver. And it showed extraordinary ability and concentration by Turner who not only displayed good hands but the ability to run a deep route.

Tight end John Nalbone isn't getting a lot of love from coach Tony Sparano. Yes, the fifth-round pick got open and caught a 12-yard pass but he went to the ground at around 17 yards and the head coach wasn't pleased.

"Don't fall down," Sparano said. "Dammit John, nobody even touched you!"

The other fifth-rounder, safety Chris Clemons, is clearly one of the fastest players on the field. In special teams work, he's always the first guy down the field on punt coverage work. the lone exception was the play in which 295-pound tryout player Demonte Bolden jacked him up by hitting him with a big blocking pad.

Big day with two practices on tap

The Dolphins coaching staff will put the rooks through their toughest day of the minicamp so far today and I'll be right there covering it for you.

After mostly confusing the rookies with reams of information Friday, the staff will add to that with more playbook information today. Like coach Tony Sparano said yesterday, if they haven't gotten it, they need to study more because we're not waiting for anybody, we're adding more tomorrow.

It's tomorrow!

I will blog for you after the 10 a.m. practice and I will blog for you after the afternoon work as well. Meanwhile, please take a look at the column I wrote off of the rookie camp's first day.

It includes some interesting, perhaps only to me but whatever, information on how the Dolphins see the possibilities with Pat White. It also tells you the struggles of the first day of the first rookie camp. And it tells you a bit about Vontae Davis and what the Dolphins think of him as well.

It's really awesome stuff!

So remember to check back here for the updates. Yes, I know it's Saturday. Yes, I know most of the country is not working today. So what?

The Dolphins are working. And I'll be working for you as well.

May 01, 2009

Post-practice update from rookie minicamp

Dolphins second round pick Pat White, the former West Virginia quarterback, has a minor pinky injury and so he is not taking many snaps during the rookie minicamp today.

White's injury is not preventing him from working. He is throwing the ball around. He simply is not taking the ball from the center in an exchange to protect the hand.

White struggled during the 90 minute practice today. He threw two interceptions. "It wasn't a good day," said White, who wears gloves on both hands. "I just have to come back out tomorrow and get better."

He did complete a deep sideline pass to Anthony Armstrong. "It was a good ball," coach Tony Sparano said. "I've seen that throw on film."

One man's difficulty is another's fortune as one of the interceptions was made by first-round pick Vontae Davis. "My first pick on my first day," Davis said with a big smile. "It gave me the feeling that I can play at any time with anybody."

Of course, Davis will soon realize the pace gets drastically faster when veterans are on the field. But so far, so good for this young man with the mohawk haircut. I kind of liked his physical approach when he knocked a teammate down. Sparano, who wants to keep healthy players, warned Davis not to do that again.

Sixth-round pick Andrew Gardner, a left tackle, also struggled a bit. he jumped offsides twice during the practice.

"I was glad we didn't have to play a game today," coach Tony Sparano said.

He added, on the positive side, there also weren't a lot of mental errors. "I just want to see them moving around, changing directions ... see the things athleticly that make you feel like you bought with the drafted guys and the other guys," Sparano said.

Sparano also said he was watching players' demeanors "to see who steps up and who steps back."

Cameron Wake and Lex Hilliard, meanwhile, looked very sharp. Hilliard has the advantage of knowing the plays and it showed as he was more aggressive than other players. Wake is just a strong-looking dude who obviously has as much as five years on a lot of the youngsters on the field.

Wake looked like a man among boys at times.

The Dolphins not only are working with drafted and undrafted rookies this weekend during their rookie minicamp, but are also allowing tryout players to participate.

Yeah, I know, all you high school star of yesteryear wish you'd gotten the memo earlier that Miami has tryout players.

Anyway, here's the list:

Tennessee defensive end Demonte Bolden, Temple center Alexander Derenthal, Mars Hill defensive end Christopher Dowdell, Florida Atlantic linebacker Michal Hancock, California quarterback Nathan Longshore, North Carolina State safety JC Neal, Montana guard JD Quinn, The University of Miami T Christopher Rutledge.

Good luck to them all as they live the dream.

[BLOG NOTE: I'm at Dolphins camp will be blogging about the goings-on. Please come back for the updates.]

Dolphins still mulling Jason Taylor scenario

A conversation earlier this week between the the Dolphins and Jason Taylor's representative was polite and inconclusive and so it is correct to say the team is not aggressively chasing the former Pro Bowl player now. But the Dolphins also are not willing to fully close the door on the possibility of signing Taylor, a club source said Thursday night.

So this is where we are: Taylor's representative Gary Wichard is continuing the job of finding Taylor a team to play for in 2009. There is interest from other teams, most prominently, the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins?

They continue to monitor the situation and reserve the right to become more active at any moment. Or not.

This is apparently not an easy decision for the Dolphins because there is more to weigh in bringing Taylor back to Miami than say, signing him for the first time as a late free agent addition.

Bill Parcells has studied tape of every single snap Taylor played in 2008 and came away believing there is still gas in JT's tank -- just not at the same high mark as a couple of years ago. Taylor has indeed diminished, according to the Dolphins source, so there is a serious question about how big of an upgrade he would be over say, Cameron Wake.

There are other things to think about as well. The Dolphins want to be absolutely certain they make a correct call on Taylor because he is something of a gamble for them. If they sign him and he proves drastically diminished in training camp, the team is concerned about embarrassing him and offending its fan base by having to cut him.

"How would that look?" the source asked.

The team is also concerned about the financial ramifications of adding Taylor. Although he will not come at a price anywhere close to the $8.5 million he was scheduled to make in Washington, he will cost some money and cap space.

And if Miami decides to keep Taylor and he either doesn't play well at the start of the season or gets injured again, as he was much of 2008, the money spent on him would be wasted. "He's a veteran, you know," the source told me. "And after Week One of the season his salary is guaranteed so there is no going back for us."

The Dolphins also want to be prepared should "another Chad Pennington" fall to them sometime between now and the regular season. If Miami adds Taylor, that would limit the team's ability to add another contingency player that would cost $3-$4 million against the salary cap.

Finally, the Dolphins are still weighing the question of improving now versus improving for the long haul. Suppose Taylor is better than the player he proved to be in 2008. Will he still be around in 2010? 2011? Probably not.

So the Dolphins are deciding whether giving those 2009 snaps to a younger player -- namely Wake -- is a better investment that would pay greater dividends in 2010 or 2011.

It's a fascinating scenario that is playing out because, frankly, it never crossed my mind guys like Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland would actually weigh things such as the potential embarrassment to JT if they cut him.

But again, nothing is concrete at this hour. Although the Dolphins are not being aggressive now, the source repeated time and again that can change and no final decision has been made. Interesting.

By the way, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com believes the Dolphins are feigning interest in Taylor for the sole reason of driving up the price the Patriots ultimately will have to pay. That would be cold. And cool.