I'm just a Neal, yes, I'm only a Neal, and I'm sitting in for A. Salguero...
Armando should be back tomorrow. He'll definitely be back Monday. Whatever, you're stuck with David J. Neal today.
In the afternoon practice, during red zone team drills, Chad Pennington got the first team into the end zone in two plays. A diving Davone Bess collected the TD pass on a seam route. Chad Henne found Brian Hartline on a post ahead of Jason Allen, then hit his next three passes. Pat White went six for 11 in the earlier team drills, but later threw two interceptions to Courtney Bryan and a few near interceptions while running the scout team. White and Henne took most of the reps today in preparation for doing the same Monday.
Both Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder had sacks in the morning practice. For those obsessed with Ted Ginn Jr., one way or the other, today was another tribute to Ralph Ellison -- he was The Invisible Man.
In both practices, Shawn Murphy and Donald Thomas rotated at right guard with the first team. Both will play Monday as Sparano wants to see the offensive line together and wants to settle the right guard position "yesterday," as he put it Saturday. Thomas said he's behind where he thought he would be right now. Be that as it may, it's clear the coaches love Thomas' strength and superior athleticism (compared to Murphy) and want him in that spot if it's at all a close call.
Earlier, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's daily press conference was called by rain, a first that I've seen in over 20 years in this business. Sparano does his daily media thing during training camp in a big covered porch-like area north of the practice field. As we started, the rain came down slanted toward the west. Then ,the wind shifted so the rain began shooting over the media's shoulder and into the face of Sparano. Sparano didn't seem to care about facing the media in the wet and the wind. Even as we crowded in around the lectern to yell our questions above the wind, Sparano was trying to listen to the Palm Beach Post's Edgar Thompson holler a Pat White question when The Herald's Jeff Darlington stepped in like Richard Steele to deliver an RSC -- Rain Stops Contest.
Before that, Sparano said he thought Ernest Wilford's improvement the last few days could be credited to getting more opportunities. Not with practice snaps, but with balls thrown to him on those practice snaps. Saturday, Wilford had a nice fingertip catch, a one-hander on ball thrown behind him, a nice high grab. He called his blocking "a work in progress" and "fundamentally, there's some things that certainly he doesn't know as well as some of those other tight ends that he's catching up on."
Wilford got behind rookie safety Chris Clemons on one downfield pattern in the morning practice. That's Clemons, who has some giddyap, with Wilford, The Six Million Dollar Man who moves like the slow motion shots of Steve Austin at bionic speed. Anthony Armstrong got well behind Vontae Davis on another team drills deep pattern, and Will Allen on still another. I asked if both sides were going full speed.
"Why, because the offense looked decent today?" Sparano replied with a bit o' bile. "Every player's being evaluated out there, so I would say, yes, they were going full speed."
If that's so, it's a little disconcerting when third team and practice squad level wide receivers are dusting the Dolphins top defensive backs.
White's been more accurate both in seven-on-seven drills and team drills, but it would be nice if Mark Lewis would give him a shotgun snap that didn't dribble back to White or threaten to missile over his head.
Sparano confirmed that, yes, if Connor Barth outkicks Dan Carpenter -- and he hopes both will kick Monday against Jacksonville -- Carpenter's out of a job. And, like last year's Carpenter-Jay Feely competition, it could be decided early in camp. For a team that doesn't get cheap points, plays close games and has trouble in the red zone, partially because they don't yet have a dependable big receiver, a kicker's dependability takes on greater importance than with most teams.
"Missed a couple of kicks," Sparano said of Carpenter. "He's missed a few, the other guy's made 'em. I've seen the asme thing you guys have seen. So, that's it. Eventually, those have to go through. I told them both, the entire team, time is not on our side right now. This is not one of those deals where you say, "We'll get it tomorrow, we'll get it tomorrow, we'll get it tomorrow." These things have to start happening, soon."
By the way, Barth's demeanor and look resemble Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. Wonder if there's a Scooby Snack bonus in his contract.
Everybody was there in both pads-and-shorts practices. Matt Roth was still in the baseball hat. The morning practice, originally scheduled to be outside and open to the public, was moved inside the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble when lightning was spotted somewhere in the area. Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells spent most of that practice happily talking with Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla. Also in the bubble house was the Dolphins first Hall of Fame quarterback, Bob Griese, and former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad.
Special teams worked on downing punts inside the 10, especially the speed guys getting downfield to just catch the ball instead of playing the often-capricious bounce.
The Dolphins are off tomorrow, aside from a walk-through. Monday, 7:30, vs. Jacksonville at the largest structure in Miami Gardens.
I'm headed home for caffeine, dinner, Powerball, Lotto and jazz. Good night, folks.