'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring ...
Yeah, about the Dolphins cornerbacks: I told you folks long ago that you should listen to just about every word coach Tony Sparano says about his players. You should gauge those words. And then you should measure those words against what the Dolphins do either on the field or in contract talks or with their personnel decisions.
That's how you find out what these Dolphins really think of their players.
Sparano, you see, has a no-public-criticism policy relative to players. So a dude can fumble four times the past two games and you will not hear Sparano tell you he's displeased. A player can miss a dozen tackles and you won't hear the coach utter a reproach.
But you'll see guys benched. Or demoted. Or something on the field will tell you how the coaches really feel.
So this week you'll see what coaches think of their two young cornerbacks, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis.
Publicly, both players are playing well and both players need to continue improving to reach their potential. Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, and more specifically against Andre Johnson, might offer the most challenging test either rookie has faced.
That's because Johnson is statistically the best receiver the Dolphins have faced this season and because subjectively, he might be up there with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as the best player the Dolphins have faced all year.
(And I'm not just saying that because he went to Miami High, like me, and went to The U, like me.)
"When you’re playing against players of this caliber week-in and week-out, it does help you," Sparano said Wednesday. "I’ve seen both of them learn from playing against some of these players along the way at different times. I think that it will help them, sure I do."
But how the Dolphins play Johnson will tell you what they think of their rookies.
Remember earlier this year when the Dolphins would allow their corners to match up with whomever lined up opposite them? That lasted a while until the Dolphins starting matching up. And typically it was Davis lining up against Randy Moss or Terrell Owens or the big reputation receiver, despite his smaller (5-11) stature.
That told you that coaches felt Davis, shorter but more physical, had a better chance of working successfully against the taller receivers. It didn't work out too well. Sure, Davis had his moments. But he gave up long TDs to both Moss and Owens.
Well, last weekend, the Dolphins had a switch of tactic. The Dolphins put Smith. who is 6-3 and 215 pounds, against fellow long and lanky rookie Kenny Britt. Britt, 6-3 and 218 pounds, was Tennessee's leading wide receiver.
Smith held him to two catches for 32 yards -- a good outing for Smith.
Davis had a tougher day against the Titans. He had an interception, to be sure. But he also gave up two touchdown passes -- one to Justin Gage and one to Nate Washington.
So this Houston game will tell you which player the Dolphins believe is currently their best young cover corner. Smith? Or Davis?
This game will tell you which player the Dolphins believe is more ready to challenge the best wide receiver in the game.
Of course, the chances of Miami putting just one of their corners on an island against Johnson should be low -- better be low or coordinator Paul Pasqualoni will have to answer for it next week.
But the corner that draws the assignment for Miami against Johnson? That's the kid the coaches really believe is their best on the roster. No question about that.
[Update: Everyone practiced today, including Jason Taylor, who is nursing a shoulder injury. The game has been declared a sellout and will be televised locally.]
Merry Christmas everyone! My gift to you is the video below. Enjoy and God bless you all!