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59 posts from September 2009

September 13, 2009

Live Blog: Pat White the backup, Henne the 3rd QB

Good Sunday. If you haven't read Armando's eloquent salute to his mother in the previous post, please do so. Then, call your mother, father, aunt, grandparent, uncle or anyone who was significant in helping you be a better person growing up and let them how much you appreciate what they did. We rarely have the perspective or sense to realize their efforts when they're doing them, so we should at least tell them now.

Then, come back for the Live Blog that'll feature the game blog rookie backup, David J., trying to participate properly from the Georgia Dome and the starter, Armando Salguero, participating from his South Florida home.

Chad Henne has been designated the third quarterback. Pat White will be the backup today. Inactives are wide receiver Patrick Turner, linebacker Cameron Wake, safety Chris Clemons, tight end John Nalbone, offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, offensive guard Shawn Murphy and defensive end Lionel Dotson. Greg Camarillo will start instead of Davone Bess.

Atlanta's inactives are cornerback Tye Hill, safety William Moore, linebacker Spencer Adkins, offensive tackle William Svitek (sounds more like a Thrashers left wing), offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds and defensive tackle Trey Lewis. The Falcons third quarterback is John Parker Wilson. Also, the Falcons will start Brian Williams at cornerback instead of Brent Grimes, giving them more experience at the saggiest part of their defense. Williams has been a starter throughout his previous seven NFL seasons, with Minnesota then Jacksonville.

In the midst of researching this, but it appears Sean Smith will be the first Dolphins rookie cornerback opening day starter since fourth-round pick Gerald Small started the 1978 season opener. Small went on to start six seasons for the Dolphins.

I'll be diving into the comments section for the rest of this post. Got the Time to Kick (Tucchus) playlist going. With significant Dolphin fan representation in the Georgia Dome, Opening Game excitement and what should be a intriguing, scintillating game, this place should be bouncing for the next few hours.

"Just because you're not for real...why you want to hurt me now?..."

September 11, 2009

Hilda Salguero: Sept 13, 1925 - Sept. 11, 2009

The Dolphins lost a big fan today. My mom, Hilda Salguero, passed at precisely 4:59 this afternoon. She would have been 84 years old on Sunday.

You've perhaps read on this blog the past couple of days that I was out with an "injury." Well, that is partially true. I've been suffering from a broken heart.

After I was finished with a radio show Monday evening, I called my mom with the intention of checking in and telling her I was going home to watch the Hurricanes. Normally sharp and cheerful, she was unresponsive on the phone. I knew right away something was wrong. When I arrived at her apartment, I knew it was bad as she had fallen and was dazed.

She had suffered a massive stroke from which she did not recover.

I know this is a football blog and I hesitated to post these facts on here. I know you come here for news. You come for entertainment. You come for analysis. You come because you enjoy my work. And some of you come simply because you love to hate me.

No matter the reason, all of you come here to read what I have to say. And I need to say this:

All I am and what I do is directly a result of my mother and father. And even as they are now both departed from this world, the reason I am here is because of them.

In 1967, my mother and father went to the Havana Airport to bring me to the United States. It wasn't about them. They could adapt to a new government. But they just didn't want me growing up in a terrible communist dictatorship. That day at the airport that regime showed its colors even as we were boarding our flight to Miami. They checked me in, and then they told my parents, both of whom had exit papers, that only one would be permitted to board the Eastern Airlines jet. Only two of three Salgueros, they had decided, would be allowed to leave that day and for a long time to come.

My dad stayed behind. And my mother brought me to this country. She didn't know the language. She didn't have a cent. All she knew is she was saving me for a better life. And that was the theme of her existence for many years after that.

She worked two jobs so I could be enrolled in private elementary school.

She saved for a coat to wear during New York's harsh winters, but used the money to buy me a TV instead. I learned to speak English watching that tiny black-and-white TV.

When my dad was allowed to come to this country in 1970, he came home to a nice, furnished New York apartment -- nothing grand, but respectable.

My mom never graduated high school. When I came home with homework I didn't comprehend, she couldn't help me. But she would encourage me to read the problem through over and over. She would pray I would get it. And most of the time, that worked.

She woke up at 4 a.m. every day to walk me to a sitter. Then she'd take a bus and two trains to work. She'd get home around 7 p.m. and start the routine all over again the next day. One time, when I was 7, the sitter had taken me grocery shopping with her kids. While her kids didn't carry any of the groceries home, she forced me to carry two one-gallon milk jugs -- one in each arm.

Later that night when I complained to my mom that my arms hurt, she asked me why. When I told her, she went looking for the sitter to confront her and curse her out.

I was always the smallest kid in my class because I skipped second grade due to some higher test scores. This one kid picked on me constantly and I became afraid of school. My mom asked me why and when I told her, she took me to school the next day, found the kid, pushed him up against a wall and warned him not to ever pick on me again. She also gave the kid a note with her name and told him to tell his parents what had happened.

The kid's mom, a strapping giant woman who dwarfed my mom, showed up at school the next day as did my mother. I'm not exactly sure what transpired between them, but for some reason that bully stopped picking on me after that. In fact, for a while he became kind of my bodyguard, keeping all the older boys from picking on me.

Oh, and by the way, I didn't need a body guard very long. My mom took me home after her confrontation and enrolled me in boxing. She warned me never to allow myself to get bullied again, otherwise, she said, she would whip me and then search out the bully to allow him to whip me.

Never had that issue again.

The Dolphins were my mom's team. She loved them because she loved me. I once explained to her that when the team won, my job was easier. The players are friendlier. The stories are generally better. Everyone is more cooperative.

So she rooted hard for the aqua and orange. She watched every game, partly, she said, hoping for a glimpse of me in the press box. We'd talk after every game and she'd either complain about the plays and players that led to a defeat or celebrate those that brought the victory. The last couple of years, she told me she couldn't watch some games all the way through because the ebb and flow of the action was too much and caused her chest pains.

She loved Jay Fiedler because, she would say, he was such a fighter. She loved Ricky Williams because I explained what he is like and she decided he is his own man. That is something to be admired, she would say. Last year, she decided Ronnie Brown was also among her favorites because he triggered wildcat and she recognized it was different and bold. And she loved different and bold.

My mom would have been 84 years old on Sunday. The scheduling was troubling to me because her birthday coincided with the Dolphins' regular-season opener at Atlanta. It wasn't a great choice for me because I knew I would have to miss one or the other. I had decided to miss my mom's birthday, because she understood work is work.

Now, I'm going to miss both. 

Just Killing Time Until Sunday...

Good morning, folks. Armando's still out. David J. Neal substituting.

The Friday injury report lists only one Dolphin, cornerback Vontae Davis, and he's Probable with his knee injury. For Atlanta, rookie safety William Moore is out with a hamstring injury. Under Probable are defensive end John Abraham (knee), running back Jerious Norwood (knee), long snapper Mike Schneck (knee), center Todd McClure (calf), linebacker Tony Gilbert (hamstring) and defensive end Chauncey Davis (foot).

Sparano said he's more nervous now than he will be Sunday. He's a prep nut who, like most coaches, is a worrier: "I just got off the elevator with (outside linebackers coach) Jim Reid. I said, "That was practice No. 40. I wish we had 40 more."

Contrast that with rookie cornerback Sean Smith, who almost seems to float about happily. Sparano chuckled, "Sean's a young player. Those guys feel a little bulletproof. That's OK. It's us old hunting dogs who like to play the "What If?" game and look for loopholes, obstacles, all the things that jump in front of you. Sometimes, you are looking for things that aren't there. These young guys...look, they come from big colleges, play in front of big crowds, played with pressure. So, for them to be a little loosey-goosey is OK. As a coach, when I look at our team, that's one of the things I don't want to stop. I'd hate to have a bunch of robots out there."

In practice, attendance was perfect. The Friday music in the Little Nicky Memorial Practice Bubble was "I'm So Hood" followed by Aerosmith's "Dream On." As for practice itself, the defense seemed to be using a safety on the tight end. If the Dolphins were really worried about me putting that in this blog, they wouldn't have done it with the entire media standing there. Heck, maybe they're hoping I do put it in and then do something different. Whatever.

I'll be writing Matt Ryan and Jake Long for the paper tomorrow. I understand what the Dolphins did in playing it safe with Long even if Ryan turns out to be a better player. The Imperial Triumvirate's philosophy is you start up front with people who can move other people and protect your quarterback. Makes sense if you look at what's happened to some pretty good quarterback prospects who went to bad teams that couldn't run and/or couldn't pass protect (see "Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Tim Couch, David Carr"). Plunkett won two Super Bowls with very good Raiders teams as he revived what had been a dead career, but he had one of my favorite lines on just how much a quarterback's success relies on those around him.

Plunkett had just had his comeback season that ended with the Raiders winning the Super Bowl, the same year Peyton's daddy, taken No. 2 overall after Plunkett in the 1971 draft, had just gone through the 1-15 Aints season in New Orleans. Pittsburgh had won four of the six previous Super Bowls.

"My career wouldn't have had all these peaks and valleys if I had been with Oakland for 10 years. You know who I feel for? I feel for Archie Manning. He's a nice guy and a hell of a quarterback, and if he had been with Pittsburgh all along and Bradshaw been with the Saints, Archie would be the star and Pittsburgh still would have won those Super Bowls. It's the team you're with that matters."

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were helped by running games that took the heat off of them and not with just one back, but two and three who could arrest a defense's attention by ripping off chunks of yardage behind a strong line. Flacco had Derek Mason, a veteran possession guy. Ryan had Rowdy Roddy White, a big play guy who also lead the league in third down conversion catches. The Dolphins didn't have the line or the receivers to support a Ryan or Flacco going into the 2008 draft. So, you build the support system while finding a quarterback.

Besides, quarterbacks are such a dice roll. Many a good NFL personnel man still working and respected would've taken Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft. In terms of raw passing talent, many coaches and scouts will tell you few if any in NFL history surpassed Jeff George and look at his career. What you can't always tell about quarterbacks are the intangibles -- leadership ability, physical and mental resiliency. As Ben Roethlisberger said in Sports Illustrated's quarterback round table, toughness is playing the worst game in your life, everything going wrong and staying in there, still trying to pull it out.

It's still too early to gauge how good Long's going to be as is the case with Ryan. Long does strike me as the methodical type who would literally list his deficiencies, put the list in a desk drawer, then work quietly, patiently to check each one off as he removed it from his game. 

Speaking of lines, Sparano didn't sound entirely comfortable with where the offensive line is right now because he feels they didn't truly get their five starters set until relatively late in training camp. I think the run game matchup Sunday favors the Dolphins in a 150-yard rushing day kind of way. It'll be interesting to see what they do against a weak run defense.

I'll update again later. Discuss, disagree, but keep it PG.

September 10, 2009

Start of the College Weekend...

Armando's out so this will be David J. Neal doing my best Earl Morrall/Don Strock for the next few days. Thanks for the welcomes yesterday. Oh, by the way, I won't be policing comments as vigilantly as Armando does and I'm certainly no prude, but please try to keep it clean.

From September through December, Thursdays make me nostalgic the college weekends that started when I walked out of the last class or filed my last college newspaper story on Thursday.

Vontae Davis went through all the drills at practice, yet didn't appear to be moving smoothly. He again said his knee was OK, then ambled off looking terribly stiff. Offensive tackle Andrew Gardner had an excused absence. On Atlanta's injujry report, defensive end John Abraham fully participated at practice Thursday after limited practice Wednesday. Safety William Moore didn't practice with a bad hamstring, missing his second straight practice.

Each Thursday, the coordinators will be unmuzzled and allowed to speak to the media. They went about 20 to 25 minutes earlier than scheduled today, so I was in the midst of a McDonald's run when defensive Paul Pasqualoni spoke and was just coming back in with Darlington's Chicken McNuggets and my Double Quarter Pounder meal when Dan Henning took the podium.

Perhaps most interesting was what Henning said about Pat White. Saying White joked with him after the preseason that he's becoming a "four-minute expert" after closing the preseason games, Henning said, "That was his job under those conditions. But, he never got an opportunity to show that he can do other things and, if he has to go into the game, I'm confident that we're in a position that right now, we can manage Pat and we can win with him."

Of course, we'll only find out this season if both Chads go down. Unlikely, but hardly impossible.

One of my main themes this preseason has been "cheap points." Last season, aside from the Wildcat stuff, the Dolphins scraped by week after week without getting many quickie touchdowns -- special teams touchdowns, big plays out of the base offense, interception or fumble returns for scores or that set up touchdowns. With unspectacular special teams also not helping with field position, their touchdown drives tended to be laborious affairs, relying on a minimum of mistakes and maximum effort. Excepting the Wildcat debut and the game against Kansas City's buffet defense (take what you want, when you want), the Dolphins had 28 touchdown drives. Of those, 18 were longer than 70 yards.

Just because they were able to do it for 16 games last year, often against teams that would need GPS to find a first down marker, doesn't mean the odds favor them doing it again. You can have a good defensive game against Atlanta, New Orleans, Indianapolis (although Indy might still be in Getting Comfortable mode), New England and Houston and still wind up allowing 24 or 28 points. That's why Sparano wanted to see more from Chris Williams ("I see a guy who can change the field..."). It's why they really want Ted Ginn to develop into a true big play receiver.

I asked Henning if they would be more explosive out of the base offense. He asked, "Are you saying we weren't last year?" Well, yeah, I said. He pointed out Pennington was top five in yards per attempt (actually sixth). Then, he quickly admitted that's not yards per completion.

"Who was it, Bum Phillips, who said statistics are like a loose woman -- you can do anything you want with them?" Henning said. "We will be as explosive as people allow us to be and we had some players that are obviously explosive players -- Ricky, Ronnie, I think Teddy's an explosive player. I think, at times, Pat Cobbs can be an explosive player based on system and what they're allowing you to take. I saw in the playoff game last year, we had Davone Bess catch a pass and go 45 yards down to the 3-yard line against the Ravens.

"So, we are attempting to be what we can be. As John Wooden would say, "To be the best you can be, that's being successful."

Maybe I said this yesterday, but today, you could feel the malaise even more during the locker room and media sessions. Players, Sparano, media all just want Sunday to come so there's something else to talk about.

I'm usually not big on lists from the national publications. That said, The Sporting News put together a panel of 106 experts that actually included Hall of Fame players -- which the actual Hall of Fame selection committee should start doing -- to select the Top 100 players in the NFL. Peyton Manning came out No. 1, Tom Brady No. 2 in a mild upset. The top defensive players were Washington's Albert Haynesworth at No. 6 and Baltimore's Ed Reed at No. 7.

The only Dolphin on the list was Joey Porter at No. 48. The Lions actually had two players on the list, wide receiver Calvin Johnson at No. 82 and linebacker Julian Peterson at No. 72. With the trade (but not yet reporting) of Richard Seymour, the Raiders have two players on the list.

Personally, I find little to choose between Brady and Manning -- Brady has more rings mainly because the Pats defense threw it down hard in the Super Bowl against the Rams and in the 2003 AFC title game against Indianapolis -- but Reed would be my next choice. Whether blocking punts, returning punts, returning punts or fumbles, nobody changes a game like he does when he gets his hands on the ball. I can think four games just off the top of my head in which the Ravens were getting gangsta slapped and an Ed Reed play swung the game 180 degrees. There's a great NFL Films clip of Herman Edwards, then with the Jets, screaming at Lamont Jordan to not throw a halfback option pass with, "No, no, no! Ed Reed!" Sure enough, Reed picked it off and took it house to house (called back on a dumb block in the back by Will Demps).

That's my opinion, for what it's worth. I might update it more a little later. Talk amongst yourselves...

September 09, 2009

B-r-r-r-ing in the double...

Armando's out. You're stuck with David J. for the next few days. Sorry if that upsets you. But if you've got the time, energy and lack of real problems to be upset about it, consider yourself blessed by the Supreme Being (whatever your faith calls it). Like the Dolphins, we'll be vague about Armando's injury until NFL rules make us do otherwise.

Speaking of injuries, the first injury report of the week is out. Cornerback Vontae Davis is listed as participating fully in practice with his gimpy knee. Davis didn't appear in the locker room today after several reporters noticed him doing the Fred Sanford limp out of the locker room Monday.

For Atlanta, defensive end John Abraham had limited participation with a knee problem. Safety William Moore was out of practice with a hamstring injury. Running back Jerious Norwood (knee), center Todd McClure (calf), linebacker Tony Gilbert (hamstring) and defensive end Chauncey Davis (foot) participated in all of practice.

Tight end Davon Drew, whom the Dolphins picked up off waivers from Baltimore, has been waived/injured. Drew was hampered by ankle problems, especially early in the Ravens' training camp. The Dolphins signed offensive lineman Nate Garner, who can play tackle and guard and was a late Dolphins cut last weekend. Sparano said only that Drew was injured and the resigning of Garner gives them another backup lineman who can fill in at a number of spots.

Number changes, for those into that sort of thing: Quentin Moses went from 74 to 93, Vontae Davis went from 24 to 21 and Sean Smith went from 31 to 24.

Captains have been selected. No surprises: Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Jason Ferguson, Chad Pennington.

"It's a sign that they're all old," Tony Sparano joked.

"All four of these guys arrived here at different times in different ways," Sparano continued. "Joey was really the only guy here when I got here. Jason (Taylor) comes back to us. It says a lot that the team would vote Jason as a captain right now. Joey, coming off the year that he had and being one of the people who have been here through the last couple of years. Ferguson is a guy we bring in that the team has voted captain twice. Pennington, he shows up a week into the preseason and he gets voted captain. These guys have come from different places to group together here. The one thread they all have in common is there's great character in those four peope. There really is. Great character, great leadership skills, all in different ways."

Interesting that Sparano, a detail-oriented guy with a very good memory, says that Porter was "really the only guy here when I got here." Sparano was hired Jan. 16. Jason Taylor wasn't traded until July 20. Not that there was ever any estrangement between Edyta's dance partner and The Dolphins Imperial Triumvirate...

Porter admitted, "It means a lot to go out there and have that captain's badge on your jersey. I remember last year watching the guys who had that on their jersey and I wanted to be one of those guys." It reminded me that inside many pro athletes, there's still a little kid who wants acknowledgement and encouragement beyond just the good grade or big paycheck.

Pennington said the most encouraging thing about Jake Long is how badly he wants to get better and how much he hates making mistakes. He's one of the few offensive linemen Pennington's known who apologizes in the huddle when his guy gets to Pennington or almost gets to Pennington. The obvious outsider response to that setup is you hope he actually improves to where such apologies aren't necessary. Long will get a test Sunday. Either the Dolphins will run the ball well enough to stay out of third and long or Long will find himself playing Sheriff Buford T. Justice against John Abraham's Bandit.

There was another huge media scrum around Sean Smith today, his third in the first two days this week. This isn't his fault at all -- Smith's not shy, but it's not like he's standing on a chair and summoning writers, microphones and cameras -- but I wondered, "Gee, what happens if he plays well in a real game?" Modest as his words can be, they can't hide that this is one cocky cornerback who has the talent to match.

OK, I'm headed back to South Beach to get Pollo Tropical for my daughter's dinner. Further bulletins as events warrant.

September 07, 2009

Dolphins begin preparations for Atlanta

It's football season!!!!!!

The Dolphins have begun their preparation for the Falcons today. Vontae Davis was on the field practicing. He is still nursing a left knee injury. He was wearing an electric stimulation device to quicken healing in the area after practice.

Outside linebacker Quentin Moses did not practice today. "Moses was ill today so we got him out of here," coach Tony Sparano said.

The ongoing story at camp today is the placing of tight end David Martin on the injured reserve list -- not on the waiver wire as reported elsewhere. That thrusts Joey Haynos to a starting role in the double tight end set -- which the Dolphins used more than 50 percent of their offensive downs last season.

The Dolphins categorize their TEs as an F or a Y. Martin was the F while Anthony Fasano was the Y. The difference between the spots?

The F moves around a lot. The F can line up in the backfield. He can split out wide. Or he can be on the line of scrimmage. The Y is home position next to the tackle.

"Last year, especially the Jets game, prepared me for the F position which was David's position," Haynos said. "It was a good bit of experience so it really helped. I knew this could happen on down the line but it happened now and I'm ready for it."

The Dolphins are lessened today because they are now without a player that averaged 14.5 yards per catch last season. He had a 61-yard TD catch. He had eight catches of 20 yards or more.

But Sparano notes that while Martin was injured most of the offseason, Haynos was getting all his repetitions in OTA days and minicamps.

"I'm very excited," Haynos said. "This will be a good amount of playing time for me and now I've got to make the most of my opportunity. Obviously David had a really productive year last year but I'd like to have this offense not skip a beat."

To make sure that happens, quarterback Chad Pennington kept all the tight ends and several receivers, including Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo and Patrick Turner, on the field for extra work after practice. Pat White was out there, also.

As to the addition of Davon Drew, plucked off waivers from Baltimore, Sparano said the team liked him "a lot" coming out of the draft.

"He has outstanding receiver skills," Sparano said. "He was very good against press technique against his college team."

Sparano admitted the team has to get Drew better at blocking. 

Clearing out the notebook [Updated]

Happy Labor Day everyone! I will be celebrating by doing what comes natural: Laboring.

I'll be at Dolphins camp for the first day of practice and prepartion for the regular-season opener vs. Atlanta on Sunday. Today marks the first day the media will be allowed in the Dolphins locker room this season. All previous interviews were done on the field as players came off after practice.

After practice, I'll be doing a three-hour radio show on 790-AM in South Florida from 4-7 p.m. You can listen live or on the Internet by clicking right here. You are welcome to call into the show or text me at 74965.

Now to clearing out the notebook:

The Dolphins might get around to announcing their practice squad and other roster moves they made on Sunday sometime on Monday. Some of those moves were somewhat curious.

[Update] First they completed their 8-man practice squad. DE Ryan Baker, CB Will Billingsley, LB J.D. Folsom, T Nate Garner, LB Danny Lansanah, OL Mark Lewis, WR Julius Pruitt and WR James Robinson.

The big news of the day is that Miami has lost tight end David Martin for the season. It has been reported Martin was cut. But the NFL.com website has Martin as being placed on Injured Reserve. I trust the website. Just saying. [Update]: The reports are indeed wrong. The Dolphins say Martin is on IR.

Martin was apparently told by team doctors he needed surgery on his right knee, causing him to miss at least eight weeks, and perhaps more, depending on how much damage doctors found during the surgery.

Martin, who has not missed any significant time this preseason and was at practice Saturday, doesn't agree he needs surgery. He will seek a second opinion.

With Martin in the final year of his contract and the Dolphins depending extensively on the double tight end formation, the team could not afford to wait on more doctors' opinions. So it moved on.

The team claimed rookie TE Davon Drew off waivers from the Ravens. The team still has four tight ends on the roster.

But only Anthony Fasano has any extensive NFL experience, as he's in his fourth season. Fasano has caught 62 passes in his career. Joey Haynos, John Nalbone and Drew have a combined two career NFL catches -- with rookies Drew and Nalbone having none and Drew not even knowing the offense.

Moreover, none of the tight ends on the roster have proven they can be the deep down the seam threat that Martin was in 2008. Martin averaged 14.5 yards per catch last season, including a 61-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins tight end corps is now be younger, and cheaper, and signed with the team for a longer period of time. But it is not better. It is weaker than it was Saturday.

[Update] Haynos, by the way, will be the second TE this week when Miami goes with a double TE package, which is like, a lot.

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You might have seen my column about Jason Taylor Sunday. You might have also missed it, as many of you take the weekend off from reading, since you're not at work stealing money from your bosses by surfing the net on company time.

Anyway, take a look at the column, especially if you're at work right now. And let me tell you something I couldn't fit in the piece. Taylor, who for years played at 242-244 pounds, told me he's up around 255 now.

He eventually wants to be at around 252ish.

"I think it'll help in the long run once I find that perfect number," Taylor said. "It's good that I can maneuver my body around right now."

That's important. Remember the chief concern with Taylor is not whether he is quick enough to rush the  passer. We know he can do that. The concern as he plays the strong side linebacker spot is if he's bulky enough to hold the edge of the defense on run plays.

The extra bulk should help.

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Thought you should know that Miami is now among the teams that other teams pluck at for talent. Remember last year when the Dolphins were constantly stirring the bottom of the roster with other team's discards?

Now some of Miami's discards are making other teams.

OL Brandon Frye was claimed off waivers Sunday by Seattle and is on their roster. Ernest Wilford made the Jacksonville 53-man roster.

Of course, not all Miami discards are worth keeping. Eric Green was cut by San Francisco. Joe Cohen was cut by the Raiders. Tearrius George was cut by the Cowboys. 

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As you might have heard, the evil empire that is the New England Patriots traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday for a 2011 first round pick. And while we don't even know if the NFL will be around in 2011, the national media immediately took to buzzing about what a great deal it is ... for the Patriots.

"Belichick strikes again," ESPN's Chris Mortensen tweeted on his twitter. "Richard Seymour dealt to Raiders for 1st rounder - top 5, top 10 pick? Seymour last yr contract & declining."

"Seymour turns 30 later this season," ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted on his twitter after breaking the story. "New England gets back a first-rounder that could turn out to be a high first. Wow."

Look, I get that a first-round pick for a player that might or might not be on your team next year or even in the league in three years is a ransom for New England to gain. But has anyone stopped to think that while the Patriots might have helped themselves for 2011, they hurt themselves for 2009?

That's right. The Patriots defensive line is better with Richard Seymour than it is without him. Anyone think of that? The Pats are immediately lessened by this trade. Period. And while it might be taking one step back to take two steps forward, that step back is happening now -- as the Patriots are hoping for a Super Bowl run.

Let me put it another way: You think the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets are all sitting around saying, "Wow, the Pats really helped themselves for 2011." Or do you think their reaction is, "Glad we don't have to see Richard Seymour two times this year."

I think the latter.

One more thing: Everyone in the national media is assuming this is a good deal because Seymour wasn't going to be on the Pats next year. He and the team have not come to any kind of like mindedness on a deal so it was a lost cause.

Has anyone heard of franchise tags? Has anyone heard that if 2010 is an uncapped year, teams also get transition tags they can employ and those can bring back multiple draft pick compensation if another teams signs your player? And there is no salary cap, so don't tell me a franchise tag eats cap space.

So even if the Pats and Seymour weren't going to sign a new deal beyond 2009, the Pats pretty much could have kept him tied for at least one more year at age 31. Oh, and about that age thing ... weren't the Patriots rolling out the red carpet, hoping to sign 35-year-old Jason Taylor last spring?

Didn't they sign 37-year-old Joey Galloway?

Give me a break. Belichick is good. But he ain't that good.

Agree or disagree?

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[Update] As I reported on my twitter moments ago, Vontae Davis (knee) is at practice today. He missed practice Saturday with the injury he suffered in the final preseason game at New Orleans. So all appears good on that front at the moment.

Follow me on twitter. And check back Monday afternoon for an update on the latest.

September 06, 2009

The cutdown day post-mortem and what's next

Cutdown day is over, but the activity surely is not. The Dolphins had their pro scouts in Sunday and they met with general manager Jeff Ireland and the rest of the Miami brain trust well into the evening.

The idea was to see about plucking talent from the NFL's list of cuts. The Dolphins might find a player or two that could be worthy of adding to their 53-man roster, although that is less likely this year than last. The Dolphins also are looking at that list for possible additions to Miami's 8-man practice squad.

Also chief among the personnel department's assignments is upgrading the Miami kick return game, particularly the punt returning.

Saturday was a wild day throughout the league. Lots of activity. But as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins enjoy a slice of continuity and his name is Jason Taylor. I don't think anyone truly appreciated the fact Taylor is on the roster until today when Matt Roth was placed on the reserve, non-football injury list.

That list means Roth cannot practice or play for Miami until Week 7 the earliest. Can you imagine the problems that would cause the Dolphins were Taylor not on the roster? Read the column and see how Taylor differentiates what he's doing for Miami now compared to the past few years the Dolphins have been running the 3-4 alignment on defense.

Now to the actual Miami cuts:

I'm not going through the entire roster. But if you want to see the that, check out the official depth chart.

Everyone is talking about the fact the Dolphins kept four tight ends instead of three. It doesn't suprise me and if you follow me on twitter, it would not surprise you, either, as I tweeted the possibility on Aug. 31. The common theory is Miami kept four tight ends because the team believed it could not get either John Nalbone or Joey Haynos through the waiver system to be able to sign either to the practice squad.

That is speculation and while not wrong, it isn't the entire story. The Dolphins aren't about just making decisions that affect this season, but also seasons to come. And the team isn't about picking a team based on a formula that designates each position with an unchangeable number of roster spots.

First, Bill Parcells picks the right players and that means players that have a future and a possibility of contributing in the future. Remember that David Martin is unsigned beyond this season and the Dolphins might not re-sign him because he's soon going to be on the wrong side of 30 and will be getting quite expensive as a free agent.

Nalbone and Haynos are cheap and both are signed for next year. The Dolphins believe they can develop Nalbone into a solid downfield threat. And they believe they can "change his body" a little to make him a better player.

So they didn't want to get rid of a player that has a future for the sake of keeping an equal or lesser player  that may not have such a high ceiling long-term. 

The Dolphins kept three offensive tackles -- starters Jake Long and Vernon Carey and rookie reserve Andrew Gardner. If you are a reader of this blog, you know I love Gardner. But you also know he is not game-ready by any means. Just isn't. Sorry.

So the Dolphins have gambled that Long and Carey will get through a 16-game schedule unscathed in any significant way, because if those two must miss time, the team has no legitimate answer to fill the void short-term. Sure, Miami can plug Gardner in, but that doesn't mean it would be pretty.

The Dolphins will likely add a tackle to the practice squad to develop the kid, and don't be surprised if an available veteran tackle gets Miami's attention. 

The interior line's depth is seems fine for now with Shawn Murphy and Joe Berger -- both of whom can play guard and both of whom have gotten work at center in practice.

The Dolphins kept five receivers which is no surprise. Rookies Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner are added to last year's core of Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo. All I can tell you is Turner will be inactive the first week of the season and until something significant happens to change that.

The Dolphins kept six outside linebackers. Six! Look for five to be active on game days with Erik Walden and Charlie Anderson and perhaps Quentin Moses to play lots of special teams. Cameron Wake needs to pick up his special teams play to find himself active on game days.

The Dolphins kept six defensive ends. Lionel Dotson and Tony McDaniel will be battling week to week to land that final active spot on game day. Oh, and Phillip Merling has absolutely got to pick up his play to keep from getting passed by either of those two. That may not be a first-week issue, but look for that as the weeks pass because Merling has hung a target on himself as a guy with great potential who is in danger of becoming something of an underachiever.

Merling needs to play better now that the bell on the regular-season is ringing.

Finally, the cutting of Will Billingsley is significant. I was told and reported Saturday the Dolphins were cutting him. Yet Billingsley was at practice Sunday morning. The fact is Billingsley was held back as insurance.

The Dolphins, who might add Billingsley to the practice squad, wanted to give the youngster a chance to work Saturday. They wanted to keep him off the waiver wire until the 6 p.m. deadline. And they wanted to make sure Vontae Davis (knee) would be healthy enough to be available for next Sunday's regular-season opener at Atlanta.

Davis missed practice Saturday. But the cutting of Billingsley as originally planned is a positive sign that Miami is somewhat confident Davis will be healthy enough to contribute, if it comes to that and the rookie suffers no setbacks during the coming week.

September 05, 2009

Dolphins cuts complete as roster reaches 53

The Dolphins have finished the first and second round of their cuts today and now stand at the NFL mandated 53-man roster limit.

In total, these are today's moves:

A dozen players were cut -- WR Brandon London, S Courtney Bryan, CB Joey Thomas, LB William Kershaw, DE Rod Wright, OL Brandon Frye, CB Will Billingsley, G/C Mark Lewis, LB J.D. Folsom, OT Nate Garner, WR James Robinson and DE Ryan Baker.

One player was placed on the Reserve Non-football injury list -- OLB Matt Roth.

The club kept four tight ends. The club kept eight offensive linemen. The team kept five cornerbacks and five wide receivers. The team keeps six OLB, which is an unusually high total but understandable in that Erik Walden and Charlie Anderson are core special teams players.

The team kept three ILBs, with J.D. Folsom representing the only rookie from the 2009 draft class to be cut. The team kept four safeties.

Check back in a while and I'll give you a more complete analysis.

The moves as Dolphins roster heads to 53

So here's the list of moves so far today:

The Dolphins have cut ILB William Kershaw, DE Rodrique Wright, CB Joey Thomas, WR Brandon London, S Courtney Bryan, OL Brandon Frye.

OLB Matt Roth has been placed on Reserve Non-Football Injury list. NFI means Roth does not count toward the 53-man roster now. He must sit out until after Week 6, then he gets a three-week window during which he can be activated. If he isn't ready within the span of that window, Roth will have to miss the remainder of the season. Roth cannot practice with the team between now and Week 6 of the season.

The Dolphins have not released a complete list of cuts yet. They must get down to the 53 man roster by 6 p.m. this evening. The team needed to make 13 moves today. The above is six moves shy of the necessary total.

That means guys at practice today will be cut, which is business and cold and necessary.

RB Lex Hilliard, on the bubble because Miami's running back stable is quite full, is at practice today.

WR James Robinson, a late signee during camp, is at practice.

Rookie linebacker J.D. Folsom is also at practice.

Joey Haynos and John Nalbone, the third and fourth tight ends, are at practice today. David J. Neal is reporting the Dolphins are keeping Haynos. It is entirely possible the team keeps both tight ends, at least initially. The Dolphins would have four TEs on the roster.

Will Bilingsley is at practice today but I'm told that is because Vontae Davis (knee) is not practicing and his status for Atlanta will be graded as questionable. When/If Davis is good to go, Billingsley will be gone.

Nate Garner, playing behind Vernon Carey at right tackle, makes the team (for now) even as the OL is made up of five-starters, two reserve tackles and two reserve interior players -- Shawn Murphy and Joe Berger. That's nine offensive linemen. Mark Lewis is still on the team at this hour. He and Garner were at practice. Doubt both will be on the team by 6 p.m.

Today's dispatching of Wright means the Dolphins now have one player on the roster from the 2006 draft, which can now be described as a huge waste of time. Jason Allen, primarily a special teams player after being selected in the first round of 2006, is the only player from that draft remaining on the team.

Gone from that draft are Derek Hagan, Joe Toledo, Fred Evans, Wright and Devin Aromashodu. Cleo Lemon, who came to the Dolphins in exchange for a A.J. Feeley and a 2006 sixth-round pick is also gone. And Manny Wright, who was selected in the 2006 supplemental draft, is also long ago gone.

So four years later when the players from that draft should be hitting their prime and composing the nucleus of a team, the Dolphins have one special team contributor out of the whole thing. Sad.

By the way, Joey Porter and Erik Walden are not at practice today. They have excused absences, according to the team.

September 04, 2009

Holliday traveling to Denver; 2 CBs sent packing

Former Dolphins defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday, unsigned since the Dolphins cut him this offseason, may not be unemployed very much longer.

Holliday is tonight traveling to Denver to visit the Broncos about signing and becoming part of that team's 53-man roster, according to an AFC West personnel source.

Holliday has visited the Broncos once already, that during the offseason. It is believed if the Broncos deem Holliday in good shape and health, they may offer him a contract. That team cut two defensive linemen -- Matthias Askew and Carlton Powell -- earlier Friday.

The Broncos, under first year head coach Josh McDaniels have already added former Dolphins cornerback Andre' Goodman and former Dolphins safety Renaldo Hill to their defense.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, might miss Holliday this season.

The Dolphins cut Holliday understanding it would be a loss of valuable locker room leadership. But the club expected not to lose much on the field, believing second-year end Phillip Merling ready to ascend to the starting job.

But Merling, who played behind Holliday in 2008, was unable to make the climb to the starting right defensive end job this preseason despite being handed the job at the opening of training camp. Randy Starks eventually won the job while Merling continues to play a reserve role.

Last season, Holliday played ahead of both Starks and Merling.

The Dolphins also are moving on this evening as they trim their roster to 53 players. They have released cornerbacks Joey Thomas and Will Billingsley.

A breakdown on Miami's broken special teams

One of Tony Sparano's pet peeves this preseason has been cutting down on hidden yardage because, to the Dolphins coach, hidden yardage is a dirty secret that gets your NFL team beat.

Well, this preseason the Dolphins special teams have been yielding hidden yardage like that was the assignment or goal. It's as if the units have been trying to give away hidden yards. And last night against the New Orleans Saints, the hidden yards came out in the open for everyone to see when Miami's special teams gave up a 55 yard punt return touchdown.

The problem is there was nothing shocking or surprising about Rod Harper's TD return that cut through the heart of the Miami coverage team. We've seen it before and way too many times.

Even during this undefeated preseason, the Miami special teams, well, bombed.

Consider:

Versus Jacksonville: Chris Williams muffs a punt but recovers ... Vontae Davis costs the team 15 yards for interference on a fair catch ... Davis is called for a personal foul on another punt return, costing the team 13 yards on a half-the-distance-to-goal walkoff.

Versus Carolina: Captain Munnerlyn returns a punt 58 yards for the Panthers ... Williams fumbles a punt that Carolina recovers and eventually turns into points ... The fumble has a bright side in that it makes everyone forget the illegal block above the waist the Dolphins commit on the same play ... There was also a 15-yard personal foul penalty on a kickoff.

Versus Tampa Bay: Clifton Smith returns a punt 30 yards for the Bucs ... The Dolphins partially block a punt on Tampa Bay's first possession but Charlie Anderson fumbles the loose ball and Tampa recovers, using the new offensive life to complete a scoring drive ... Reggie Torbor is flagged for holding on a punt ... Courtney Bryan also muffs punt, but at least has the presence to bat the loose ball out of bounds so Miami can retain possession.

What's the expression? It's always something.

That's seemingly the mantra for Miami's special teams unit this preseason. And that all comes even after the Dolphins have spent extra time on special teams during practices, certainly more than any Miami team I've ever covered.

The Dolphins are not getting enough bang for their practice time buck. Stupid penalties have to stop. They cannot continue to give up at least one long punt return every game. The fumbling and bumbling need to stop, too.

So far, Sparano has deflected attention away from his coaching staff and made the point the problems belong to players. A guy is in perfect position to make a tackle but doesn't. Three guys blow out of their lanes. One guy makes a bonehead decision. Somebody has an itch he has to scratch at the precise moment the ball is coming to him.

It's always something.

Well, when one has these problems consistently, the coach must shoulder responsibility as well. Special teams coordinator John Bonamego is by all accounts a very well prepared coach. He knows what he wants and needs to accomplish.

But despite that preparation, his special teams stink.

So those same special teams must correct all its issues immediately because coaches also are evaluated during the preseason and some around the league that haven't met standards have been fired or re-assigned.

And this preseason, Bonamego's special teams simply haven't met standards.

Dolphins beat Saints 10-7 for perfect preseason

The Dolphins did that which you must appreciate after the last game of the preseason: They came out mostly uninjured, they progressed from that bad outing vs. Tampa Bay last week, and they won.

Bring on the regular-season!

"I thought we struggled last week as a team against Tampa and that's why we came out tonight with one goal in mind and that was to execute," receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. "I thought we did OK. Now it's time to play real football -- to get into a real game week and show what we are made of. I know we had a good preseason, but in a week or so the games count for real and that's what's important."

The Dolphins got notable performances this night from cornerback Sean Smith and quarterback Chad Henne. The concerns come in the form of a knee injury to cornerback Vontae Davis and another special teams outing that can only be described as a debacle.

Sean smith Smith had a sick one-handed interception (left courtesy Chris Graythen of Getty Images) that brought his total for the preseason to two. He had the only interceptions in the secondary this preseason. And, it should go without saying, he is in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener against Atlanta Sept. 13.

"I think this guy has tremendous ball skills," coach Tony Sparano said. "He was a receiver prior to playing in the secondary. I can remember when we started watching fiml during the draft process, out scouts showing me a play of Sean making a very similar interception like that. I believe it might have been against Wyoming or something like that. It was almost a similar play to that. You could see his ball skills show up then."

While the news is great on Smith, it is not so on Davis, who injured his left knee in the first half of the game. Davis was walking around with a protective sleeve over his leg after the game. But there was no brace and no apparent concern on his part about the injury.

"I think it's OK," Davis said after the game. He was told not to give full details of what the trainers told him and he complied.

Davis was limping but he has 10 days to treat and rehab the injury.

The Dolphins have 10 days to treat and rehab their special teams that continue to be an enormous concern. The concern this night came in the form of a 55 yard punt return touchdown by Rod Harper.

"We've got to take a look at this film," an obviously displeased Sparano said of the return. "I'm not sure what it was. We've got to look at the film. We've got to get better at it."

Moments after saying this, Sparano was seen pointedly questioning special teams coordinator John Bonamego about the play. It was, according to eye witnesses, not a cordial conversation. And it should not have been, frankly.

The Dolphins got themselves to the perfect preseason nonetheless because their backup quarterback Chad Henne played well while New Orleans backups Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington played poorly.

As I wrote in my column for The Miami Herald Henne recovered from last week's poor outing against Tampa Bay. He led Miami's only TD drive of the evening. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 89 yards. His QB rating was 82.6 which was better than last week's 16.1.

"I'm happy with the progress I've made but I know there's more out there," Henne said. "I'll watch the film and correct what I did wrong and go from there."

It also helped Henne that he didn't sit for three quarters and then get thrust into the game in the fourth quarter. But as a reserve quarterback, the truth is he needs to be ready to play and play at a high level at a moment's notice.

The Miami defense, both first and second teamers, chased Brunell and Harrington. Brunell threw the interception to Smith. Harrington was sacked eight times.

Charlie Anderson had two sacks, Tony McDaniel had two sacks, William Kershaw, Reggie Torbor, Rodrique Wright, and Lionel Dotson all had one sack each.

Miami coaches came into this game with perhaps a handful of open jobs/roster spots available. One of those was the starting receiver job opposite Ted Ginn Jr. Last week, rookie Brian Hartline seemed to take a huge step toward winning that job.

But a funny thing happened on Hartline's trip toward starting in Atlanta. Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess. Miami's coaches simply feel more comfortable with the two veterans. And although the top four WRs on the roster are Ginn, Bess, Camarillo and Hartline, it now seems the Dolphins are more comfortable with a veteran than the rookie as the starter.

"We're trying to regain chemistry because it's been a revolving door," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "We've worked a lot of guys in camp and now we're trying to hone in on the core guys who will be making plays for us on Sundays."

One WR who will not be active on Sundays? Patrick Turner, who was inconsistent much of the preseason and was practically invisible this night because he didn't earn much playing time with either Pennington or Henne in the game. Turner caught only one pass for six yards.

Finally, I'm curious to see exactly what, if any, use the Dolphins have for Pat White by the season-opener. They have had these great plans of using him in the spread offense -- a sort of second generation Wildcat package -- since they drafted him.

But as a QB, White has struggled. And those struggles continued Thursday night as he completed 2 of 6 passes for 13 yards. His passer rating was 42.4.

Yes, the coaching staff can pluck four to five plays they like for White. Yes, those plays might change the pace of things against teams. But if White is going to be effective in that role, he has to be a threat to complete passes as well as run the ball. A passer with a 42.4 rating is not much of a threat.

September 03, 2009

Live blog: Does Henne step up or step back?

Yes, there are a handful of topics on the margins that might interest viewers of tonight's preseason-finale in New Orleans. Will the Miami cornerbacks flourish or wilt in the face of the NFL's best passing attack? Will the special teams unit get its act together? Will John Nalbone or Joey Haynos win the electrifying competition for the third TE job?

You know the most important topic that must yield answers tonight?

How does Chad Henne respond to pressure? How does he handle adversity? Now that he basically stunk against Tampa Bay last week, and his coaches were on his case all week, and the media was writing he was struggling, and fans were asking why he's the heir apparent when he's proven nothing, Henne must respond.

He must step up.

Because if he doesn't respond in this particular forum -- against backup players in a game with little or no meaning -- how is he going to get it done in situations that demand courage and spirit and excellence? If he doesn't get it done here, why would the Dolphins believe he can some day take them to the playoffs?

That, to me, is the most important issue at play tonight. It transcends tonight. It addresses not just the coming days, but the coming years in Dolphinsland. If Henne reacts well to a tough outing, all is good and we move on to the next challenge.

But if he steps back, in so small a stage as this, then why should we believe he can step up on bigger stages?

The answer comes tonight starting at 8 p.m. (ET) from the Superdome. The live blog starts in the comments section below. I'll be here a few minutes earlier to give you any lineup changes and news.

Dolphins might look at Sinorice Moss

NFL teams must cut to 53 players by Saturday and all over the league players that are on the outside looking in are sitting around saying, "Wa happen?"

Giants receiver Sinorice Moss is one of those. According to this article in today's New York Daily News, the 25-year-old Moss is no longer sure if he has a future with the Giants.

Can you see where I'm headed?

Look, Moss is not a star. He's not even a starter.

But he can return punts and kickoffs. And he's very similar to Davone Bess -- only with speed. Did I mention he's from Miami? Did I mention he played for Bill Parcells disciple Tom Coughlin the past three years?

I'm not saying the Dolphins should go get Moss. Heck, if he's cut he'll go through the waiver system first and someone might put in a claim on him.

But I am saying if he's cut and passes waivers, the Dolphins might look at him because he's much more polished, almost as fast, much more proven, and a better wide receiver than say Chris Williams -- a guy the Dolphins coaching staff was seriously considering for a roster spot before punts started bounding off his head.

Just saying...

[BLOG NOTE: I will post a preview to tonight's preseason-finale in a few hours and we will have a live blog of the game right here starting at 7 p.m. ET]

The jockocrasy misses it on Bill Parcells

There are times I learn something from watching ESPN. Normally that happens on Baseball Tonight or when John Clayton, Chris Mortensen or Adam Schefter are sharing the fruits of their reporting.

The jockocrasy, as Howard Cosell used to call it? Not too enlighting.

I tell you that because Keshawn Johnson, part of the legions of former athletes that now are acting like they can analyze the game simply because they played the game, said Wednesday during an ESPN conference call that Bill Parcells is stepping into the shadows in Miami, even as this preseason has shown how the team belongs more and more to coach Tony Sparano.

“You can see where the Miami Dolphins of the preseason are starting to look like a Tony Sparano football team, under the guise of him more so than it was under Coach Parcells last year,” said Johnson, who was coached by Parcells with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. “I can tell that Tony’s running the team more, and less of Bill having his hand in the situation.”

Johnson went on to stay Parcells would not stay with the Dolphins "beyond his obligation."

Really? So Johnson is "reporting" Parcells, who weighed walking away last offseason, will finally walk away once his current contract expires? When he's 70 years old? In 2011?

Duh.

Look, the Dolphins this time of year are undoubtedly Sparano's team. He is, after all, the head coach.

But to suggest Parcells somehow has lost any interest or influence, or has become worn or tired of the team is simply dead wrong. Parcells is at practically every practice the team conducts. He engages aggressively with players. He determines the vision for drafting. He determines the vision for re-signing free agents and signing new ones.

When general manager Jeff Ireland wanted to trade for Tony McDaniel in the offseason, he got approval from Parcells first.

Parcells will not travel to away games this season. He's not in New Orleans for tonight's preseason-finale against the Saints. But he didn't travel to away games last year and he watches the games on TV and studies the film and makes decisions based on what happens in this and every game.

Bill Parcells is engaged and this is as much his team this year as it was last year.

Will he step away when his contract is up? Probably. He might leave before then, even. But by any measure, the Dolphins are every bit a Bill Parcells project today as they ever were.

Please.

September 02, 2009

Acorns & how they impact contract extensions

The loyal readers of this blog (and there seem to be a couple of you, thank God) might remember the subject of "acorns" has come up a few times here because general manager Jeff Ireland once brought it up, and because about a year ago the club plucked an acorn named Chad Pennington off the market, which helped turn the franchise around.

You might remember that I told you the Dolphins were budgeting for the possibility that another acorn might fall from heaven this year. The team was basically putting aside some salary cap space -- a couple of million, I am assuming -- to use on that acorn were he to materialize.

Hate to tell you, but no acorn has come available and it doesn't look great that one might be coming anytime soon. The Dolphins will continue to wait on that.

But assuming no such well-priced veteran that might help the Dolphins now come available, the team will definitely put the acorn savings to use. It will be used to extend the contracts of future free agents.

The Dolphins, by my unofficial count, have 15 players unsigned for the 2010 season. A couple of those such as Joey Haynos and Rodrique Wright may or may not be on the roster in a couple of weeks so that number could decrease.

But the team will be proactive in trying to extend the contracts of players it deems important to the future of the franchise. And trust me, Ireland and Bill Parcells have already identified those players.

Some of the players not currently under contract for 2010 won't be leaving the Dolphins regardless of whether the team does an extension or not if there is no new collective bargaining agreement and the NFL goes to an uncapped year. In that uncapped year, players with less than six accrued seasons of service are restricted free agents.

In capped seasons, players need have only four accrued season to be unrestricted free agents. In the uncapped season, a player must have six accrued seasons of service to hit unrestricted free agency.

For the Dolphins, that means Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter, William Kershaw, Brandon London, Quentin Moses, Anthony Fasano, Wright and Haynos are unsigned for 2010 and are scheduled to be restricted, assuming they're on the team and there is no cap. 

Want to know a secret? Everyone who has been running around saying Matt Roth is in a contract year and could be a free agent in 2010 is only half right. Matt Roth is indeed unsigned for 2010. But he will have only five accrued seasons to his credit.

That means if 2010 is an uncapped season, and Roth is not signed, he will be a restricted free agent, rather than an unrestricted free agent.

(Side note of worth: Most folks who follow the collective bargaining game as much as they do the actual game are of the opinion that no collective bargaining agreement will be signed before they play that uncapped year, so players like Fasano and Roth who might otherwise be unrestricted simply won't be.)

The Dolphins do have veterans scheduled to become unrestricted free agents regardless of the CBA because they have more than six accrued seasons of service. They are: Jason Taylor, Chad Pennington, Jason Ferguson, David Martin and Nathan Jones.

So it is quite possible the Dolphins will try to lock up a couple of these guys if the acorn hunt yields no harvest. The team might also lock up a restricted player or two -- Fasano is my guess -- to avoid having to place a high tender offer on the player.

Assuming Ferguson wants to play and his production doesn't fall off the table this year, Parcells will want him on the team at least another year. And remember that Taylor is hinting that he might want to play two more years, so perhaps the Dolphins approach him about an extension at some point this season if his production is good.

The issue of Ronnie Brown is interesting because, in the case of an uncapped year, he is signed for 2010. He is scheduled to make $5 million. If a new agreement is reached, Brown becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Pennington?

We've been through it a million times. That one will work itself out, with him playing at such a high level than the Dolphins are forced to re-sign him. Or he doesn't, in which case he will be free to find another team that wants him as a starter while the Dolphins go with Chad Henne.

Such is the case in the NFL. Acorns come. Acorns go.

September 01, 2009

SI: Dolphins 8-8 and out of the playoffs in '09

The one thing you will be pleased to know by the time this post is over is that Sports Illustrated, despite being a beacon for excellent sports writing, is awful at predicting what the Dolphins will do in the coming NFL season.

Remember the magazine had the Dolphins in the Super Bowl in 2006. The Dolphins finished the season 6-10.

So in the 2009 NFL preview edition that hits the newstands (those still around?) tomorrow, the magazine is telling everyone it believes the Dolphins will follow their 11-5 season in 2008 with an 8-8 record in 2009.

That record, by the way, would not be good enough for Miami to be in the playoffs. SI has the Patriots winning the AFC East with a 13-3 record and the Dolphins finishing second.

The playoff teams, the magazine predicts, will be the Steelers (11-5) winning the AFC North, the Texans (10-6) winning the AFC South, San Diego (11-5) winning the AFC West, and Baltimore (9-7) and Indianapolis (10-6) earning wild card berths.

The magazine has the Patriots beating the Bears in Super Bowl 44 to be played in Miami.

So what do you think of the prediction?

No drama but plenty of surprises this preseason

As I wrote earlier this training camp, this has been a drama-free preseason for the Dolphins. Not much that was out of the ordinary happened.

Some players stepped up. Some stepped back. No one of consequence has gotten hurt.

But there have been some surprises. And most of the surprises are pleasant so far.

I would categorize strong side linebacker Quentin Moses as a pleasant surprise. His chances of making the team when camp began seemed bleak. He was deep on the depth chart and with Matt Roth and Jason Taylor ahead of him, his prospects didn't look to bright.

But then Moses batted a pass here, registered a sack there, defended pretty well against the run over there, and batted another pass over there. And now, Moses looks like he's about to secure a roster spot on the team, particularly as Roth seems headed to the physically unable to perform list.

“I think Quentin’s progressed nicely," Tony Sparano said Monday. "I think that he’s doing a good job, to me, at the point of attack. I’ve seen, I’ve seen just a lot of improvement out of Quentin since the time that we’ve started now, you know, with him this year. Particularly starting in OTA’s, I seen a lot of improvement out of him. So, stronger player, better knowledge of the position, one of those things."

More surprises?

Look no further than rookie Sean Smith. Drafted in the second round, he is on the verge of locking up a starting job for the regular-season opener. He's tall and big, he's physical, he has excellent ball skills and the coaches love the fact he doesn't back down from opponents. He fights back and battles as he did against Tampa Bay when they started picking on him a little bit. Smith also has the secondary's only interception of the preseason.

Paul Soliai has been something of a pleasant surprise. He was overweight this offseason. The microscope was on him because he had this reputation as not being a good professional. Well, he lost the weight and is playing with great motor of late.

He has locked up the No. 2 nose job behind Jason Ferguson. He has begun to earn the respect of people high up in the organization.

Brian Hartline has surprised folks. Few rookie receivers are good enough to challenge for a starting job right away, particularly ones drafted in the fourth round. And yet, Hartline is on the verge of earning that job if he produces against New Orleans as he did last week against Tampa Bay.

Hartline is today leading the team with 107 receiving yards and a 21.4 yard per catch average.

Randy Starks hasn't really been a surprise, but he's opened eyes with his ability to earn a starting job. That starting job at right defensive end had Phillip Merling's name all over it. Merling had the starting job at the start of training camp. But Starks has been better in practice and mostly better in games, particularly on early pass downs, when he provided some solid pressure.

It has been surprising the Dolphins haven't really gotten their tight ends involved as much as one might expect during this preseason. Anthony Fasano has one catch for 2 yards. David Martin has two catches for 12 yards. John Nalbone has one catch for 3 yards and Joey Haynos has not caught any passes in the preseason.

There are other mild surprises, I know. But if I outlined them all for you, you'd have nothing to do in the comments section. Well?

Add more suprises.