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Miami Dolphins release the (young) hounds

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind Sunday morning was to make sure to talk to Miami's young players about getting more playing time if the Dolphins lost to the Patriots. After all, a loss pretty much would have ended Miami's chances of winning the AFC East and all but dashed their playoff chances.

It would have been time to make an all-out commitment to youth.

Well, the Dolphins won.

And I'm hoping the Dolphins continue to put more responsibility on youngsters for a reason that has zero to do with surrender or getting ready for 2010. The fact is Miami's young players are making leaps that suggest they're ready for more opportunities.

So even as the Dolphins continue to be relevant, they should rely on their youngsters!


Chad Henne, the QB coaches have nurtured because he has started only nine games, showed us he can gladly throw the ball all over the field anytime he's asked. Henne had his first 300-yard game in outdueling Tom Brady.

Well, if Henne can do this kind of work against a solid New England team, he should continue to be given the benefit of the doubt on his number of snaps. Personally, I think plays that take the ball out of Henne's hands and give it to Ricky Williams to throw, or worse, to Pat White, should be discarded.

Henne deserves all the snaps he can get. He has not arrived yet and is still learning and improving. But he has earned the responsibility of throwing all of Miami's passes. Let Williams do what he does best, which is run. Let White do what he does best, which is ... which is ... I'll come up with something.

Well, let Pat White continue to learn how to be an NFL QB on the bench by holding the clipboard. Enough with the ill-timed, ineffective direct snap spread offense that doesn't really fool anyone or gain much yardage. Henne is good enough that putting the ball in his hands gives Miami its best chance to succeed.

Then there are a couple of young receivers. Brian Hartline showed he's coming along very nicely. He and Henne are forging chemistry. So give him more plays. Look, Ted Ginn Jr. is, at best, going to be a part-time player next year. At worst, he might not be on the team. So isn't it time to let the already-better Hartline maximize his snaps?

Same with Davone Bess. He has been Miami's best receiver all season long. Unfortunately for him, the Dolphins don't have a deep threat go-to guy that would do for him what Randy Moss does for Wes Welker. I covered Welker and am now seeing Bess up-close. Bess is every bit the player and would get similar results if and when Miami finds a star receiver.

That addition will free Bess to play the slot rather than outside. And that's when you'll see this kid take off because he is perfect for the position against nickel backs and safeties.

That brings me to the defense.

I just about wanted to throw up when Joey Porter put on some army fatigues after the game and started talking about how this game was the time to go to war.

“There are just certain games that you know it’s going to be a war out there," Porter said. "Today was one of those games for us because honestly if we lost we were out of it. We needed to win this just to have a chance. We came out and played with a purpose, played with passion. Coach said our passion had been lost a little bit, so we wanted to make sure we came out and played with some enthusiasm and some passion, and we did that today.”

Really? This game was a war?

And how many people got shot? How many guys lost limbs? How many guys went without food or water? Porter's remarks minimize the sacrifice of the real heroes -- our military that right now is fighting Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other evil, sick fricks.

Football is a game. War is life and death. Those two are not equal and if Porter doesn't know that he's got bigger issues than his inconsequential Sunday performance.

Porter had four tackles, none of which I remember. He had zero sacks or pressures.

First-year player Cameron Wake, meanwhile, is perpetually in the other team's pass pocket. Wake had the game's most important pressure when he forced Tom Brady to throw an errant pass that Channing Crowder intercepted to dash New England's hopes. 

Personally, I hope to see more of Wake and less of Porter as we proceed the last month of the season.

Sunday was an important day in the growth of Miami's puppy cornerbacks -- Sean Smith and Vontae Davis. Both had their difficult moments Sunday. Davis was part of the double-coverage that failed on an 81-yard TD pass from Brady to Randy Moss.

Smith had single duty against Sam Aiken when the New England receiver outfought Smith for a catch and an 81-yard TD.

But despite those difficult moments, the pups bit back.

Davis had a big interception in the end zone on second-and-goal from the 5 to thwart a potential Patriots touchdown that would have made it 27-19 with an extra point coming. Smith also had some solid moments.

But what you might not have noticed is that Miami trusted the rooks to the point they matched up all over the field -- at times swapping sides so Davis could shadow Moss wherever he went. The Dolphins also rolled their coverages and mixed up their coverages.

In other words, the Dolphins did things in the secondary with two rookie starting corners that teams usually don't do unless they have experienced players at those positions. That's growth.

“What we did was we tried to double these guys a little bit," coach Tony Sparano said. "We had Vontae moving with [Moss] a little bit. The first touchdown was double-coverage. The big play to Wes was double-coverage. He just split it.”

I wrote about Miami's advancing youth movement in my column for Monday's Miami Herald. But if you click on the column, you soon will see this column offers another measure insight than what I just tried to paint for you.

The Patriots, you see, are the other side of the coin to Miami youth movement. While the Dolphins are increasingly in position to use younger players and get results, the Patriots are going in the other direction -- the wrong direction. It's not a pretty picture for them. Check it out.

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