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75 posts from October 2009

October 14, 2009

Dolphins sign Kory Sheets to replace Cobbs

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Lex Hilliard would be replacing Patrick Cobbs. That is probably true, but he forgot to mention the guy taking Cobbs' vacancy on the active roster.

According to The San Jose Mercury News, the Dolphins signed running back Kory Sheets off the San Francisco practice squad on Tuesday. Sheets didn't sound all the excited about leaving his peeps in San Francisco.

"I've been with these guys all training camp, and we went through the grind together," Sheets said. "I've bonded with these guys. But this is just part of the business." 

Sheets played for Purdue University. He is second on the Purdue career rush list with 3,341 yards. Mike Alstott is atop that list.

Sheets -- 5-11 and 208 pounds -- was not drafted out of Purdue.

He's got a three weeks to impress the Dolphins brass.

Note to Sheets: Find a way to show up on special teams.

What will Dolphins do as trade deadline nears?

The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday at 4 p.m. and most NFL teams can now be grouped in one of three categories: Buyers, sellers, and the Dolphins.

The sellers aren't hard to spot. The Oakland Raiders are willing to trade practically anyone on their roster that isn't a core young player. The Cleveland Browns are willing to part with whatever talent they have left -- as long as it's not Joe Thomas -- for the right price. The Kansas City Chiefs are selling. Same holds true for the St. Louis Rams -- literally and figuratively.

There are also a handful of other teams currently struggling that aren't selling wholesale, but they are willing to part with certain players.

And then there are the buyers. The Cowboys are looking around to help their defense. The Patriots are snooping around for help on both sides of the ball. Chicago still would like receiver help. Green Bay wants to shore up its offensive line, despite knowing few teams are willing to give up a good offensive lineman. The Chargers are also always willing to talk at the deadline if the deal is right.

And then we have the Dolphins.

The Dolphins are a tough team to figure out because, well, everyone is always on the market and available in trade for the right price -- except for a handful of players such as Jake Long, Chad Henne and, and, well that's it.

The Dolphins also are always looking to add talent any way they can do it, as long as the price is relatively cheap. They are, however, a very cautious trade team because they value draft picks and understand as well or better than most that the 2010 draft is loaded with talent.

So, as the deadline draws closer, I would not be surprised if the Dolphins bought, if the Dolphins sold, or if the Dolphins did nothing.

Understand that the odds are Miami will not pull the trigger on any mega-deal in the coming week. Trades are hard to make in the NFL and big in-season trades are even more rare.

But allow me to speculate for a second. And I caution you this is only speculation because it has nothing to do with anything anyone has said or whispered or screamed at me. It is only speculation.

If they are of a mind to do so, the Dolphins could go out and try to improve their receiver corps, or special teams, or the tight end corps, or their secondary. The fact is the Dolphins could use a boost in each and every one of those areas.

Players that could be available in those areas include WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Zach Miller, WR Javon Walker, KR-PR Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR Chansi Stuckey, and WR Antonio Bryant. Yes, I know Stuckey was just traded to the Browns. So?

And Bryant is making bigtime money from the Bucs this year but, frankly, is not producing. He got called out by coach Raheem Morris after dropping two passes in a 33-14 loss to Philadelphia. It is no coincidence the Bucs worked out five receivers on Tuesday.

If you'll notice, one of my adopted sons Anquan Boldin, is not on this list. The reason is the Cardinals are simply not going to give him away for anything lower than a second-round pick plus other considerations and, although he's been slowed by injuries and isn't producing to his usual lofty standards.

Not producing to his usual lofty standards for Boldin means he only has 23 catches for 252 yards and an 11-yard per catch average. Those stats are still better than any Miami receiver.

If I had to make a guess, if the Dolphins are going to add a player in trade, it will happen with a returner of some sort. The team just lost Patrick Cobbs to a torn ACL in his left knee. He's out of the remainder of the season.

That means the team could use a kick returner because until now, the team has been reluctant to give that job to Ted Ginn Jr. And he hasn't exactly earned it, either. So perhaps a trade for a special teamer could help matters.

Boy, getting Josh Cribbs would be great, wouldn't it?

October 13, 2009

Calvin Pace: Chad Henne a 'clown quarterback'

Some guys should think before they open their mouths. And if Calvin Pace actually said the words he is quoted as saying in the New York Times Fifth Down blog, he obviously needs to take that advice.

After the Dolphins beat the Jets, 31-27, Monday night, a game in which Chad Henne completed 20 of 26 passes, showed out a 130.4 passer rating and authored his first career fourth-quarter comeback victory, Pace ripped Henne.

“Against a second-year clown quarterback, we didn’t affect him enough," Pace said, according to the blog. " I guess you have to give him credit. The defense lost the game today."

So Henne just lit you up and you call him a, "clown quarterback?"

Seems to me it is Pace wearing the big red nose and crawling out of a tiny car with the rest of his Jets friends.

And this confirms it as Pace discusses Miami's Wildcat package:

"I can't respect that stuff, all that Wildcat," he said, according to the blog. "We're in the NFL. Don't come here with that nonsense."

Excuse me while I laugh at this dude.

It occurs to me that perhaps Pace should question his offensive coaches about how nonsensical Wildcat is because the Jets also use a version of the look -- they call it Seminole, with Leon Washington as the triggerman.

And, in fact, the Jets were using a version of Wildcat before the Dolphins, back in 2007 when Brad Smith ran it. So they didn't think it was nonsense then.

Also, if you have no respect for the Wildcat, how about stopping it? The Dolphins ran Wildcat on 16 plays and gained 110 yards -- including 21 yard pass to tight end Anthony Fasano.

The Dolphins plowed the Jets using Wildcat, and everything else for that matter, and now Pace is ripping it?

Come on, man! 

Now NFL players did some pretty stupid things this weekend. Some of those are below. But how do you weigh Pace's ridiculous remarks with those other dumb things?

The DVR version of grades to the game

It was a late night for all of us Monday night and as a result the grades to the game did not make the Miami Herald's editions today. (It might have helped if I had done them faster.)

Anyway, I just got done watching the DVR version of the game so here are the grades to the game:

Running backs: The Dolphins ran 64 total offensive plays and Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were involved in 39 of those, either in Wildcat, carrying the ball in the base offense, or as targetted receivers. These guys carried the team for most of the night, including the 2-yard winning TD run by Brown. By the way, fullback Lousaka Polite was an unsung hero. His blocking added to the physical nature of Miami's running game and he did convert a first down on one of his carries. The only negative here is that Patrick Cobbs tore the ACL in his left knee in the fourth quarter and he is out for the remainder of the year. Ricky Williams (ankle) is not a serious injury. GRADE: A.

Quarterback: The Dolphins coaching staff started out the night wanting to manage Chad Henne so as to avoid the game-costing mistake by the young quarterback. And then the Dolphins found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter, not once, but three times. And that called for an unleashing of the Henne. And Henne responded with a coming-out performance that undoubtedly boosts his confidence. Henne threw two fourth-quarter TD passes, got rid of the ball so as to avoid sacks, and made sure his passes were either completions or not -- no interceptions. Let me think for a second how one grades a player with a 130.4 QB rating ... OK, got it. GRADE: A.

Receivers: The Dolphins found players they had seemingly lost the first quarter of the season. Anthony Fasano, he of the four receptions the first four games, caught four passes and was targetted seven times. Embattled Ted Ginn Jr. actually showed his speed in getting behind the Jets secondary. It was the longest pass play the Jets allowed this season. And while Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess added only complementary plays, their blocking downfield was one reason the long screen pass broke out and a couple of bubble screens gained good yardage. Most importantly, no drops. GRADE: B.

Offensive line: First the bad news, which was that Jake Grove was called for a holding penalty and a false start. Now the good news, which was that the entire offensive line was more physical, more athletic and thereby more effective than the New York front. None of New York's different looks seemed to confuse the Miami front. And the linemen showed their versatility by blocking in tight spaces on runs, and blocking in space such as Miami's 59-yard screen pass. By the way, did you notice how much time Henne had to scan the field on the 53-yard pass to Ginn? It was a long time. GRADE: A. 

Defensive line: The Jets averaged 4.6 yards per rush despite some great play by nose tackle Jason Ferguson. Randy Starks applied good pressure and actually collected a sack and three quarterback pressures. Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling have played better in the past and need to play better in the future. GRADE: C.

Linebackers: As heroics go, this group showed it. Joey Porter played with a tweaked (still) hamstring. Jason Taylor played much of the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. And Channing Crowder was everywhere in both run stopping and pass coverage. But, frankly, the results from this group were inconsistent. GRADE: C-minus.

Secondary: There were various penalties, some questionable, by players on the back end that cost the Dolphins. The pass interference by Yeremiah Bell, the personal foul by Gibril Wilson, the illegal contact penalty on Will Allen and the pass interference on Allen all made Miami's defensive assignment more difficult. Then there were those looong completions to Braylon Edwards (34 yards) and David Clowney (53 yards). It continues to boggle that rookies Sean Smith and Vontae Davis are playing the best in this group. GRADE: D.

Special teams: They gave up first downs on two fake punts. The first one, a 26-yard rush by the punter, set up New York's first touchdown. The second one, a direct snap to receiver Brad Smith on which he gained 12 yards, extended a drive that gave the Jets a field goal. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. The Dolphins also had a holding call on a a punt return. Jets coach Mike Westhoff schooled Miami's John Bonamego this night. GRADE: F.

Coaching: The Dolphins answered New York's various defensive fronts with a base Wildcat formation, a jumbo Wildcat formation, and a couple of passing Wildcat plays. The Dolphins made adjustments on defense, though they did not work. Great clock management on the final drive. Only question: Why put a cold Pat White in the game at a crucial time? It worked, but talk about gambling. GRADE: B-plus.

Overall: On a night that Miami's stars were out, when the Dolphins were on the national stage, the team responded with an electric fourth-quarter comeback victory. But be not fooled, the Dolphins remain a lunch pail, blue collar group that can get results against even the most hyped team in the NFL. GRADE: A.

Comeback! Dolphins beat Jets, 31-27

The Dolphins trudged and trucked for three quarters Monday night. And then the offense went crazy in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points to erase leads of 20-17 and 27-24.

Final: Dolphins 31, Jets 27.

The Dolphins rode the wildcat package, triggered by both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, for three quarters. But in the fourth-quarter, the team needed Chad Henne to come up big.

And he did.

Henne threw TD passes of 2 yards to Anthony Fasano and 53 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. in the fourth quarter. He also had completions of 8 and 12 yards on the final 13-play, 70 yard drive that was culminated by a 2-yard run by Brown.

The 12-yard pass converted a third-and-10 situation from the New York 16 yard line.

Henne was the better QB on the field, completing 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His quarterback rating was a whopping 130.4.

The Dolphins quarterback rewrote the headline of this one to fit, well, himself: Henne-given Monday!

Interestingly, the Jets didn't give Henne much props afterward. Linebacker Bart Scott said Henne, "managed the game well."

Safety Kerry Rhodes said Henne, "played a good game. He played good enough to win."

Mark Sanchez, the much hyped New York QB, completed 12 of 24 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown. His QB rating was 87.5.When this night was done, the Dolphins outrushed the Jets, 151-138; and out-passed the Jets 262 to 171.

Ronnie Brown was pretty solid also. He rushed for 74 yards on 21 carries and they were all hard-fought yards. But the payoff came on his 2-yard score with 6 seconds to play that gave Miami the victory.

"We've got 10 seconds left on the clock," Brown recalled afteward, "We were in the huddle, we're all like, 'All right, here we go -- we've got to score a touchdown. No settling for field goals. We've got to finish the game.'

"That's something we've been strugglin g with the first couple of games. We said "We're going to finish tonight. Whatever we've got to do, get the ball in the end zone." Blocked it up, ran the ball downhill."

Afterward, Jets coach Rex Ryan was beside himself, which is to say, he was taking up a lot of space.

"First off, it was a complete embarrassment by our defense and by me, obviously we need to prepare better," he said. "I didn't have the defense prepared the way they should have been and I take full responsibility for that.

"I've never been involved in a game like that in my life. Our offense did tremendous and gave us every opportunity to win the game. At the end, I though about using time outs but I said, 'You know what, they're not scoring.' I was wrong. I'm just kind of at a loss for words with our defensive performance. We made that quarterback look like Dan Marino. He was pretty good, though, he deserves credit. We have to do a better job at defending that long pass. It was just a horrendous day for our defense."

October 12, 2009

Dolphins down 13-10 to start the fourth quarter

The Dolphins are down, but they have pieced together a loooooong drive that has given them a first-and-goal situation at the 4 yard line.

Join me in the comments section and we can discuss what happens now ... and whether the Dolphins can pull this one out against the Jets.

Jets lead Dolphins 13-10 to start 3rd quarter

The Dolphins have been pretty solid on offense. But the sport relies on offense, defense and special teams and on the latter two, it's not so good for Miami.

The Miami defense has failed to hold leads or ties three times tonight, when Miami led 7-0, 10-7 and as tied, 10-10. Jay Feeley has connected on field goals of 40 and 43 yards with the last one giving New York the lead.

The heroes for Miami? Who else? Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

The goats? Special teams. Defense.

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

Dolphins lead Jets 10-7 in 2nd quarter

The Dolphins and Jets expected to lock each other in a defensive struggle.

And then the game started and that idea went out the window.

The Dolphins have scored on both their first quarter possessions. they are doing things on offense they haven't done all year -- such as a 29 yard pass from Ronnie Brown to Anthony Fasano out of the Wildcat formation.

The Dolphins also set themselves up for a field goal after a 59-yard screen pass from Chad Henne to Ricky Williams.

The Jets, however, are in the fight. After Miami took a 7-0 lead, they tied it by driving for a 3-yard TD pass from Mark Sanchez to recently acquired Braylon Edwards. That drive was extended when the Jets faked a punt and gained a first down on the play.

Anyway, we are ready to start quarter No. 2. And the live blog continues in the comments section below. See you there.

Live blog of tonight's Dolphins-Jets HERE!

Another reason to dislike the Jets: I'm driving south on I-95 at 5:30 and suddenly the traffic just stopped cold, parking-lot style.

A Broward Sherrif's Office SUV had come up the ramps and parked in the middle of the expressway and stopped traffic so that the Jets -- in three chartered buses -- could plow ahead and get to the stadium.

And, of course, the maneuver stopped caused a jam that didn't clear for 25 minutes.

Anyway, the Dolphins and Jets are on the field warming up. The Dolphins will wear their orange jerseys and white pants, as I thought I made abundantly clear on the last post. The Jets are wearing their white jerseys and green pants.

The inactives for Miami are Chris Clemons, Shawn Murphy, Lionel Dotson, Patrick Turner, John Nalbone, Quentin Moses and Andrew Gardner. Jets reciever Jerricho Cotchery, who was questionable with a hamstring injury, is active for the Jets. Lito Sheppard is not active tonight. Dwight Lowry is expected to start in his place.

And the live blog begins in the comments section below.

Dolphins need heroes versus Jets

I hate those trite labels sports writers put on games such as "must-win," or "do-or-die," or "make-or-break," but looking at tonight's game against the Jets, they pretty much all apply.

The Dolphins are 1-3 while the Jets are 3-1, so a victory is good because it puts the Dolphins in position to chase the AFC East championship as coach Tony Sparano believes his team is good enough to do. A loss, however, would put the Dolphins three games behind New York and in a position to do no better than a season split with the team from Gotham.

So the Dolphins need a heroic effort to avoid that latter scenario. (By the way, speaking of heroics, check out the video below about heroic efforts by the Dolphins while wearing orange jerseys, as they will do tonight.)

It stands to reason if the Dolphins need heroics, they will need heroes. Here are some players the Dolphins need a heroic effort from tonight:

Center Jake Grove: The team signed him this offseason, in part, because he played so well against Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins, he of the 360 pounds, when the Raiders and New York played last year. Grove's got to make the personnel department look good tonight.

Wide receiver Greg Camarillo: He calls New York cornerback Darrelle Revis, "the best cornerback we've faced this year." That means Camarillo has to step up his game to be the best WR Revis has faced this year. Got to even things up a little bit. I grant you, this is difficult. Revis shut down Randy Moss a few weeks ago. So what? We need heroes!

Running back Ronnie Brown: New York coach Rex Ryan, he of the inflated opinion of his team, has said that no one runs on his defense if they [the Jets] don't want. Well, the Jets don't want, because stopping Miami's game is priority No. 1 for them. The Dolphins, of course, must run on the Jets to have any chance. This is a matter of imposing one's will on the opponent.

Linebacker Joey Porter: He hasn't been 100 percent in two weeks and missed last week's game. He should be active tonight even though he still isn't 100 percent. No what? This ain't no time to complain about pulled muscles. Man's got to play well.

Give me other players that must show out and be heroic tonight. And tell me why. And watch the video. And come back here later for information on inactives and such. And stick around for the live blog!

Dolphins looked at Edwards, and looked away

Game night and this is what's cooking at this early hour: In this column that appears in Monday's Miami Herald, I break down one major difference between the Dolphins and Jets.

The major difference is philosophy relative to winning now or building for the future. I give you examples of how those differences have affected personnel decisions, including this week's trade by the Jets to acquire Braylon Edwards.

The Jets needed a No. 1 receiver and they were obviously willing to give up multiple draft picks and two players to get Edwards and, in their opinion, fill the need. I talked to coach Tony Sparano privately about the matter and he revealed the Dolphins knew Edwards was on the market and studied the idea.

But ...

"We do our due diligence on all the things that might be, could be, should be," Sparano told me. "No question about that. I think everybody needs to understand we did that. But from our end, we are quite content with the people we have right now. We have a good group of people. This is the right 53 people."

Although Sparano did not say this, and no one within the organization has said this to me, I believe the Dolphins decided adding Edwards could subtract from the team even as they were trying to add. In other words, adding him might have brought more talent into the locker room, but also might have ruined some team chemistry or caused some internal issues they didn't want.

So, ultimately, it wasn't a fit in Miami's opinion.

And oh, by the way, it's not like Edwards is a home run on the talent front. Yes, he can be dominant in flashes. Yes, he has the size and speed to be elite. But he can also drop the football in crucial situations and, in fact, is tied for the NFL lead in drops over the past four seasons.

And the dude's tempermental nature is not necessarily a good thing.

Anyway, my column does not side with one philosophy or the other on the build-for-the-future vs. win-now issue. Why?

I believe you should do both. I don't think there should be a hard and fast rule about anything. It's just as crazy to say, "We will never trade away any draft picks," as it is to say, "We're having a fire sale on all our draft picks."

I don't buy the idea of signing a 26 year-old player who is good, but ignoring a 30-year-old who is great, simply because of his age. All things being equal, sign the younger guy. All things not being equal, sign the better guy.

There are, in my opinion, exceptions for everything. Don't agree? If Andre Johnson was offered to the Dolphins for a first-round and third-round pick in 2010, you wouldn't do it? I would, assuming the Dolphins aren't picking in the Top 5.

Come to think of it, I might do it faster if they're picking that high and having to pay the prices those unproven rookies are getting these days.

But Johnson probably is the only WR I'd do that for and one of only maybe a handful of players I'd do that for. By the way, check out this video of a TD catch Johnson had yesterday. It is seriously impressive.

Anyway, the point is, players that merit that sort of trade do exist. And not to consider them because you have some immovable concrete philosophy would not be smart.

So, do everything, when building a team. And hopefully, do most of it right.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back later this afternoon and I'll have another post up for you leading to our live blog extravaganza of the Jets vs. the Dolphins!]

October 11, 2009

An update on Patrick Turner's progress

Many of you have asked how Patrick Turner is progressing and why it is he hasn't been able to get active on game day, much less catch a pass. (Yes, I'm back on the receivers). Anyway, there are several reasons when the Dolphins take four receivers to the game why Turner hasn't been one of them.

The first reason is Turner hasn't been active is Miami's pecking order has been, as of the last game, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn Jr. and Brian Hartline. And while Hartline is every bit as much a rookie as Turner, he's learned the Dolphins offense faster and can actually play all three receiver spots in a pinch.

"To Brian's credit, he knows all three positions and that is the difference," coach Tony Sparano said. "I think you talk about how he has progressed ... this guy knows all three positions. He can go into the game at any one of those at any moment in the game and handle the workload."

Turner, meanwhile, is not yet ready to play all three spots.

He also has not yet shown coaches he is better on special teams than some other special teams player. Turner tells me he is working at punt, punt return, kickoff and kick return in practice so the Dolphins are trying to get him special teams ready, but obviously he hasn't gotten there until now.

That doesn't mean Turner is a waste. (He is a rookie, folks). The fact is Sparano said Turner had perhaps his best practice day of the season on Thursday. I talked to Turner Saturday to try to understand what it was he did that was so impressive on Thursday and, frankly, I failed miserably at coming away with a good answer.

"I think I'm doing a pretty good job," Turner said. "I'm going out there and making plays and that's what they want me to do. I've been playing pretty consistent (in practice). That day I probably made a couple of good plays back to back and that's what stood out. When they bring in a guy, that's what they expect from him."

I asked Turner what specifically coaches are telling him he needs to improve upon to make himself activation worthy, and again, I failed miserably at getting you a specific answer.

"Just be a difference maker, really," he said. "That's what they tell me."

I asked Turner if he's been given any indication that he is on the verge of getting active, and this is the best answer I got:

"I'm not sure," he said. "That's up to them. I can't really think about that. All I can do is take care of what I can do in the present time and better myself so I can get on the field."

I hope Turner becomes a better receiver than he is an interview. You should remain hopeful that can happen at some point because I asked Turner what fans will see from him when he finally gets on the field for the first time in the regular season.

"That I'm a complete receiver," he said confidently. "That I make plays."

October 10, 2009

Ronnie Brown better as he carries more

I remember travelling to Cartersville, Ga. in 2005 to do a story on Ronnie Brown and having his mom tell me she would wait in the tunnel for Tommy Tuberville after some Auburn games to ask the Auburn coach why he wasn't starting her son.

And Brown, learning of this, would ask his mom to refrain from doing such things because whatever the coach decided to do was fine by him.

Brown remains the same in that regard. The Dolphins ask him to run the ball 12 times, he'll do that. The Dolphins ask him to carry it 25 times, he'll gladly do that as well. And he will not complain, he will not second-guess.

But ask the statistics how to maximize Ronnie Brown and they scream, "GIVE HIM THE BALL MORE!"

And the Dolphins are doing precisely that so far this year. Last year, Brown carried the football 214 times. So far this year he's on pace to carry 288 times. That would be a 34.5 percent increase. (Note, I stink at math so if it's not really a 34 percent increase kindly correct me in the comment section, with an emphasis on kindly.)

There are some good reasons Brown is getting more use in 2009. Firstly, he is now further removed from his late 2007 knee surgery so he can withstand the strain of more work. Secondly, Brown produces better when he gets more work.

Notice I did not say he produces more. Any NFL running back will deliver more yards with more carries, which is producing more. But Brown is producing better, meaning his rushing average rises in games he gets the ball more often.

In the two games this year he's carried the ball 20 times or more, Brown is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In the two games this year he's carried the ball fewer than 20 times, Brown is averaging 4.2 yards per carry.

That is not true of all running backs. Ricky Williams, for example, this season is averaging 4.4 yards per carry in games he gets the ball 15 times or more and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry in games he carries it fewer than 10 times.

The point is some running backs seem to thrive as they carry the ball more. Ronnie Brown so far this season is proving himself to be one of those.

And what does that suggest?

As offensive coordinator Dan Henning said a few weeks ago, "feed the stud." The Dolphins should continue to give Brown the football.

Lots.

October 09, 2009

The grand possibilities of the Dolphins pass rush

While some folks have spent this Dolphins-Jets week distracted by the fact the Jets have a great blitz package and get their best pass-rusher, Calvin Pace, back from an NFL mandated suspension, it has gotten somewhat lost that Miami's pass rush also is looking intimidating.

Consider that Jason Taylor is coming off a two-sack performance against Buffalo and is tied for the team lead with three sacks. Consider that Joey Porter returned to practice this week, even if on a limited basis, and could be back on the field Monday night after missing last week's game.

And then consider Cameron Wake.

Cameron Wake.

Cameron Wake.

There, I wrote his name once for each sack he had against Buffalo last game.

The Dolphins kept Wake inactive the first two games of the season for special teams and other reasons, but figured out the past two weeks that even if Wake isn't a great run-stopper, even if he isn't a Pro Bowl special teams guy, he does one thing very well.

Rush the passer.

The guy is relentless. And when I asked Wake what one special trait, more than any other, makes him a good pass rusher, he picked that relentless nature.

"You know what, I'd probably say determination," Wake answered. "I have that desire to want to get to the ball at all costs. I play to the whistle and obviously put all the other God-given talents you have -- the speed, the power, the quickness -- in there with the drive. Because if you don't have the desire to get to the quarterback, it doesn't matter what kind of skills you have."

The Dolphins have Wake on something of a plan as they try to mold him into a fulltime player. That work probably will not be completed this season. But in the meantime, the orders of the day is to get Wake in the lineup in pass-rush situations.

“Cam is a strong guy, he’s one of those guys with the unique ability to get around the edge and bend the way he bends," said coach Tony Sparano. "Not too many people can make those kind of moves and stay on their feet, but he has that ability. [He has a] really good first step, really good. So, I think those are some of the things I think he brings to you.

"There’s a whole progression that we have with Cameron right now, and in some places, he’s still certainly a work in progress with his progression. But there’s some things that he can do well that we need to make sure we emphasize.”

Pass rush being the primary among those.

And that presents the Dolphins with grand possibilities. Once Porter fully returns from his hamstring injury, the Dolphins need to figure out how to rush the passer with Porter, Jason Taylor and Wake -- at the same time.

It's not an easy problem because all three are edge rushers and there are only two edges to be attacked. But the Dolphins have to figure out a way to unleash their best pass rushers on the passer -- and Wake is one of those.

I'm sure in some nickel and dime looks the Dolphins will include Randy Starks or Phillip Merling on the attack as they currently do. But it would certainly create some problems for an offensive line to have Porter lined up on one side, Jason Taylor lined up on the other, and Wake outside of one or the other.

It hasn't happened yet.

But the possibility is certainly exciting.

October 08, 2009

The wounded according to the injury report

And another thing about the Dolphins receivers ...

... Nah, just kidding.

The injury report is out and, as usual, the other team is a lot more beat up than the Dolphins. (Don't tell me the Parcells offseason workout program of lifting those dead weights doesn't work.)

The Dolphins are listing Akin Ayodele (back) as having participated in today full practice while Joey Porter (hamstring) and Phillip Merling (ankle) were limited in drills. Merling, by the way, was still heavily wrapped and limping.

Porter seems poised to return to action against the Jets after missing last week's game versus Buffalo. “Joey was not completely full but did a good amount of work, he was limited," coach Tony Sparano said.

The Jets had starting right tackle Damien Woody (ankle) and cornerback Donald Strickland (ankle) sit out drills altogether.

WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring), S Kerry Rhodes (knee) and CB Lito Sheppard (quadricep) will limited during practice. LB Larry Izzo (hamstring), S Jim Leonhard (knee) and LB Bryan Thomas (wrist) were able to work through the entire practice.

One more thing, although the game is Monday and the deadline for selling the game out is Friday night, the Dolphins believe it is a practical certainty the game will be sold out. In fact, the Dolphins expect their biggest crowd of the season so far on Monday night.

Is WR a blindspot for Miami brain trust?

The Dolphins personnel people and coaching staff are, to sum it up, excellent. Football czar Bill Parcells is without peer right now in his personnel acumen, Jeff Ireland was a rising star before Parcells plucked him from the Cowboys and has continued his ascension, and Tony Sparano has long ago put to bed any questions about how he would respond to being a new head coach.

These guys are among the best in the business and the best Miami has had since Don Shula, who was the best coach of all time.

Having said all this, every single person I just mentioned is human. They don't always get it right. They don't always hit home runs. They admit as much.

And now I'm wondering if there isn't a blind spot with this group in Miami.

The receiver position.

Forget for a second that Miami's receiver group isn't impressive by any definition. There are good players in Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo, but there are no great players. Never mind that.

The issue that worries me is how the Miami brain trust views receivers.

Example: This week as the New York Jets made a trade for receiver Braylon Edwards, there was much excitement in Gotham over the acquisition that sent Chansi Stuckey to Cleveland. The Jets figure they have traded a slot-type receiver for a full-fledged No. 1 type receiver that can stretch the field.

“I think he’s a receiver who really draws attention," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "In other words, you almost have to game plan specifically about someone with Braylon’s talent, and if you don’t, we’ll take advantage of that situation. That’s a guy with his type of size, speed, type of talent he has, it’s almost more of what defenses really can’t do to us anymore. Again, I think he’s just going to be just a huge part of our success.”

Obviously the Jets see Edwards as a major upgrade over Stuckey. ESPN's Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williams, while noting Edwards drops a lot of passes, which he does, also agrees New York's new receiver is an upgrade over the previous one.

"That offense is now complete," Williamson told ESPN AFC East blogger and reporter Tim Graham, "and for the long haul, too."

My problem is that while the Jets and outside "experts" see Edwards as an obvious upgrade over Stuckey, the Dolphins apparently don't agree with that. While Ryan is saying Edwards is a player you "have to game plan specifically about," Sparano sees Stuckey and Edwards in the same light.

The coach the Edwards addition does not change one iota Miami's preparation.

"Stuckey was a pretty good player," Sparano said. "We thought he was a pretty good player. From our end it is just another weapon out there. Do you know how many weapons the team last week had? We sat here and talked about it, they had a bunch of them. And the team the week before? Every week there is a bunch of weapons out there and we need to prepare for them. From our end, the preparation really won’t change.”

So clearly, Miami's evaluation of Edwards is that he is not necessarily special. New York's evaluation is that he was worth two draft picks and two players in trade.

One also has to look at Miami's attempts to improve their receiver corps this year when discussing this issue.

The Dolphins hit a home run on Bess as an undrafted free agent. They struck out on Ernest Wilford as a high-priced ($6 million guaranteed) unrestricted free agent. And it is too early to tell on 2009 draft picks Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner -- although Hartline is contributing and Turner is not.

And what about history?

We know that Parcells doesn't like tempermental wide receivers or those that might seem to become tempermental -- likely as good a reason as any why the Dolphins didn't buy into the Edwards trade talks.

Parcells didn't want Jerry Jones to sign Terrell Owens. Parcells didn't want the Patriots to draft Terry Glenn. He was overruled on both counts and eventually left both teams, in part, because of that overruling. Owens and Glenn did, for a time, produce bigtime for the Parcells teams that acquired them.

Glenn, matter of fact, was good enough that Parcells brought him to Dallas when he went there.

Meanwhile, name another outstanding receiver to have been uearthed by Parcells? Mark Ingram? Stephen Baker? Phil McConkey? Miles Austin? Patrick Crayton? Am I forgetting somebody?

The point is some solid football people have disagreed over the years with the Dolphins current brain trust on receiver decisions. And the brain trust has been wrong on some of the more notable decisions.

So it merits study what happens going forward with the Edwards trade, what happens going forward with Hartline and Turner, and what happens going forward with Miami's resolution to its receiver issues.

That will give us the answer whether there is a blind spot with that position ... or not.


 

The priority vs. Miami's offense? You kidding?

One of the many aspects of Monday night's game between Miami and New York that I love is that it will measure toughness. It will measure guts. It will measure which team steps up and which backs down.

That is what you see when two bulls lock horns. That is what you will see between the Dolphins and Jets.

“Something is going to have to give," Miami coach Tony Sparano said. "They are outstanding against the run, so are we on defense, and both teams like to run the ball, so something is going to happen out there.

"It is probably not going to be for the meek on either side of the ball. It is true. ... You got two teams that like to run the football and I think run it well. Those guys certainly run it well and those are not finesse runs they are dialing up, either. They are powerful runs, they are power runs. They are a lot like us that way and two good defenses so there will be a lot of bumping out there.”

The Jets consider themselves bad boys when it comes to toughness and stopping the run and dominating the line of scrimmage. Coach Rex Ryan has said that opponents will only run against his team when the Jets let them -- meaning when the Jets are either playing poorly or commit to much to stopping the pass.

Well, that happened last week against New Orleans. The Saints rushed for 153 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per rush.

“Miami’s the number one rushing offense in football and they’ve earned that, that’s for sure, they get after it pretty good," Ryan said. "You have to give New Orleans credit, they were able to move the ball on us. I think they were the better team that day. We don’t like it, and we’ve got to try to get ready to match up against a more physical team, probably the most physical team we’ve faced all year. We’re very excited about the challenge, we think we’ll be the most physical team that they’ve faced all year, so this is going to be one of those classic football games.”

“I would say he is right," Sparano said. "They are a physical team. I have a lot of respect for the other teams that we just played, but that is the way it is anytime we play the Jets, regardless -- it has been physical. They are a big, strong, physical team. So are we. I think that it will definitely be a physical game.”

Here is an interesting fact: I was told on Tuesday that despite their reputation for blitzing and applying pressure to the quarterback, the Jets intended to stop the Dolphins' running game as their priority and make Chad Henne beat them, if he can.

They figure their defensive backs match up very well versus Miami's receivers and can limit any damage Henne and those receivers can do. So the Jets, I was told, would go all out to stop the Dolphins from running the ball effectively.

In essense, the New York game plan, is to take away what the Dolphins do best -- run the ball -- and make Miami do that which it hasn't proven capable of doing, which is to win by passing.

Moreover, the Jets think they can have success in stopping the Dolphins' running game because the Dolphins run well "against a certain type of defense," suggesting the 4-3, that New York doesn't use and has no intention of shifting into.

I passed that information along to someone in the Dolphins organization and he laughed at me, told me, I'm wrong, that Ryan will try to blitz the heck out of Henne, and that's how they're going to attack the Miami offense.

Well, I asked Ryan what his priority is.

 “Well, we better stop the run first if we’re playing Miami, that’s the number one priority without question," he said as if he had nothing to hide. "Then we’ll think about blitzing the quarterback or whatever second. We’ve got to stop the run if we’re going to be successful.”

I kind of threw that back in the face of the Dolphins person after Ryan said it. Know what?

The Miami employee said Ryan is obviously lying to throw Miami off the scent of his game plan.

I totally disagree.

So what do you think?

Do you think the Jets will be going all out to stop Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, or putting most of their efforts into confusing and blitzing Henne as their primary goal?

October 07, 2009

Ryan: Braylon Edwards starts vs. Dolphins

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is on a conference call with the Miami media and he just said newly acquired receiver Braylon Edwards will start against the Dolphins Monday night.

"We expect him to be in the starting lineup Monday night," he said. "We're fortunate he's played in similar systems so we'll get him up to speed. And if we have to have a wristband [for the plays] with him then we will."

Ryan said the Jets gave up good players for Edwards but what the receiver does is prevent teams from stacking the box or disrespect New York's ability to go downfield.

"I think we get a receiver who draws a team's attention," Ryan said. "It's almost about what the defenses can't do to us anymore."

Interestingly, the Dolphins laid out their game plan and put it in place prior to this trade expecting Chansi Stuckey, not Edwards to be in the lineup. Said another way, the Dolphins wrote their game plan before this trade. They are practicing already. What do they do now?

As they say in the newspaper business, get me rewrite!

[Update: Well, coach Tony Sparano disagrees with me. He just said the Miami preparations don't change one iota with Edwards joining the Jets.

"No," he said. "Yesterday they had a pretty good lineup before the got Edwards. It doesn't change it at all. I think you prepare every week for good skill players. Stuckey is a pretty good player. We thought he was a pretty good player. From our end, it's just another weapon out there. You know how many weapons the team last week had? We sat here and talked about it. And the team the week before that? So every week there's a bunch of weapons out there and you have to prepare for them. From our end, the preparation really won't change."

Wow. I am shocked. And I do not agree.]

Anyhoo, Ryan said "Ronnie Brown ... is the best back we've faced," and the Dolphins are "the most physical team we've faced so far this season." But he added, "We're the most physical team they've faced."

Ryan, who interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job before Tony Sparano was hired, said he has no animosity toward the Dolphins for not hiring him.

"I went in there not really thinking I had a legitimate ... I wasn't sure about the process," Ryan said. "I got a lot more out of the interview than they did. I spent several hours with Bill Parcells ... I've approached some of the things in building football teams and all that and I've tried to do that here. I've taken some of those ideas with me."

Ryan, by the way, also said if he had one thing he could do over, it would be how he handled the Channing Crowder offseason diatribe.

"I was joking about the whole thing," Ryan said before adding jokingly, "Look, one thing I'd tell you guys is I'm not going to be hard to find out there. I'll be wearing a white jersey with a 77 on it."

No. 77 for the Jets is 360-pound nose tackle Kris Jenkins.

Classic.

Upset Edwards heads to NY, not Miami?

In the get-it-done-now world of the NFL, the Jets have decided they are going to upgrade their receivers corps now rather than wait until the offseason, so they have unofficially traded for Browns receiver Braylon Edwards.

Never mind that he's under investigation by the NFL for a possible violation of the league's conduct policy.

Never mind that he's had only one good season since coming into the league in 2005 -- that when he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 TDs in 2007.

Never mind that in Cleveland, Edwards was known almost as much for dropping passes as catching passes.

The Jets have improved their receiver corps now, in the short term. That fact is not up for debate. Edwards is not a great player, but he is good. And he's a good answer for New York in the short term.

That offers a stark and interesting contrast to the Dolphins, who prefer to travel the longer, safer, winding road toward improvement.

The Dolphins knew Edwards was available. They also know their receivers corps is sub-standard -- trust me, they know.

But the Dolphins nonetheless decided not to pull the trigger on getting Edwards for reasons of sanity, sure, but also for this other reason: The Dolphins believe, indeed know, they are not one player away from any sort of championship in 2009.

The Dolphins are 1-3 and the addition of Braylon Edwards now isn't getting them to Super Bowl 44. The Dolphins are 1-3 and Braylon Edwards isn't getting them an AFC East title. Not now. Not this year.

And that is what you must weigh if you're judging whether the Dolphins should have jumped in the trade fray. It's not about could Edwards help the Dolphins be better in 2010 or 2011. It's about did the Dolphins believe Edwards could make a difference in 2009?

Why?

Because while the Dolphins probably cannot find another receiver to help their cause this season as much as Edwards might, they do believe they can go into the free agent market or draft next offseason and find someone that fits them better.

For the years going forwards.

They believe they can find someone that will not cost two players and two draft picks as Edwards cost the Jets. They believe they can find someone that will not cost them a big, shiny, new, expensive contract plus the picks as Edwards will the Jets. They believe they can find someone without the baggage that Edwards carries to New York.

But not until the offseason.

So the Dolphins have made their choice. If they were ever in the Edwards sweepstakes, which I doubt, they decided the buy-in was too high to remain. It is a short-term choice for what they believe is a short-term solution.

Long term? The Dolphins no doubt believe they can do better, all things considered, this offseason.

October 06, 2009

Dolphins douse Crowder while Ayodele burns

The Dolphins are going to do everything they can to keep the offseason jabbing between Channing Crowder and Rex Ryan from turning into a game week distraction as the Jets and Dolphins prepare to play for the first time this season.

You might remember that Crowder and Ryan went back and forth for about a week in the offseason about who should be considered the team to beat in the AFC East, and whether or not the division title went through Miami or New England or New Jersey.

Well, that issue is certain to arise this week, with the New York media being among the best at beating the drums on any subject of their choosing. Except the Dolphins have shut down the New York hacks on this one.

New York writers requested that Crowder participate in the Wednesday conference call going to New York. The Dolphins privately considered the request for a nanosecond before publicly and officially responding that Crowder is "unavailable."

The Dolphins, who warned Crowder to stop talking about Ryan and the Jets during offseason OTA days, have again warned the linebacker that the issue might come up this week if he talks to the Miami hacks, of which I am one.

So it will be interesting to see if Crowder finds other things to do during the open locker room sessions this week or if he finds himself "unavailable" for the South Florida media as well.

And even if he does show up in the locker room, it will be interesting if Crowder discusses the subject once he's asked. You must remember that coach Tony Sparano doesn't like distractions that might affect the outcome of the game. And the coach thinks an unidentified gnat flying around South Florida qualifies as a distraction that affects the outcome of the game.

So don't bank on fireworks from Crowder.

Interestingly, while the Dolphins were trying to stop the controversy from Crowder, they apparently didn't see an end run to the controversy by Miami's other ILB, Akin Ayodele. Appearing on the Ronnie Brown show Monday evening on WQAM, Ayodele went off on the Jets.

"Their head coach really blew the fire even more this offseason with Channing and both of them going back and forth," Ayodele said. "How does a head coach, why would you even try to go with word, you know battle a player. That to me doesn't make any sense, so yeah, the animosity is there, the hatred is there. You know there's no love.

"It will feel great once we put that whooping on them."

And then there was this from Ayodele, who is not a candidate to become Rex Ryan's new best friend.

"I seriously do not like him, I don't like their team, I just don't like the fact that he had the whole altercation with my boy [Crowder]. You can't out-talk Channing Crowder -- can't do it, I'm sorry. And I really think it does betwe the fire for this game coming up and it adds a little more to it."

Ryan, meanwhile, is likely to address the issue. He sort of did so already on Monday during his press conference when he was asked for thoughts on Crowder.

"Yeah, I hope he's thinking about me," Ryan said tongue in cheek. "I kind of forgot about that. God, that's something else we have to worry about -- Channing Crowder."

Lame, I know, but the Jets were coming off their first loss of the season. Ryan did suggest he'd be better on the topic later this week.

And why is this an issue at all, you ask?

Are you kidding? Where you living under a rock in June?

The genesis of the fun came when Ryan was talking about Bill Belichick and the Patriots and said, "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings. I came here to win, let's put it that way ... I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else."

Crowder, a very bright kid, believed Ryan only considered the Patriots as a team to worry about and that omitting the Dolphins was disrespectful.

"I know it's his first chance to be a head coach, and I know he's excited about life," Crowder noted. "But I've never played a football game in June in my life. So congratulations to him. He's the OTA Super Bowl winner."

And with that, it was officially on.

Ryan shot back.

"I don’t know this Channing Crowder," he said. "All I know is that he’s all tatted up, so I guess I ought to be nervous about him. If I was younger, I’d probably handle him myself."

And that opened Ryan to a full-on retort that, frankly, I thought scored major trash-talk points. 

"Oh, Lord have mercy," Crowder told this newspaper. "What's wrong with him? Now he's talking about preparation? We play them twice this year. If he wants to be prepared, shouldn't he know the starting middle linebackers of his division rival?

"He says he'd take care of me if he was younger? I'd have beat the hell out of that big old joker. Or if he really wants to get retro, my daddy or my uncle could have handled him. Don't get big. Win with preparation? Start watching some tape and learn who your rival is. Come on now."

Crowder's greater point was that the Jets, "didn't even win the division and now they're all talking about the [AFC East] goes through New England. That's what gets me bothered. I don't  care about that other stuff, but don't say the division goes through New England.

"It goes through Miami."

And Crowder still feels that way. If you read this blog regularly, you know that last week Crowder was asked if he felt differently about the AFC East and whether the Dolphins were still the team to beat based on their then 0-3 record.

That record didn't bother Crowder then and didn't change his opinion of how he feels.

"Same way," Crowder said. "When [Tom] Brady came back, everybody crowned the Patriots the champion. And then the Jets came and they're playing good ball and Rex Ryan crowned them the champions. We're the division champions right now from last season. Everybody thinks they're good. The Bill are playing good ball, they went to the wall with the Patriots. So it's a wide open division right now.

"Everybody's on the Jets, riding the Jets' bandwagon. In the beginning everybody thought Brady was going to come back and take them to the Patriots they were pre-[injury]. So everybody has their guess and their opinions of the AFC East.

"We want our piece of the pie. We want our bite of the apple."

You want the kicker to all this? As they now cannot speak with Crowder because he is "unavailable," the New York reporters will get their second choice on their conference call Wednesday. The Dolphins are scheduled to give the reporters a much tamer, more calm member of the team to interview via telephone.

Joey Porter.