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64 posts from December 2009

December 20, 2009

Titans holding 24-9 lead in 4th quarter

NASHVILLE -- The Dolphins needed turnovers and points to get back in this game and the Titans have cooperated.

They turned the ball over inside their own 30 yard line. But all Miami could do was kick a field goal after a 7-yard drive.

Chad Henne, meanwhile, ended another Miami attempt at points when he was intercepted in the end zone.

It doesn't look good, folks. Join me in the comments section for the completion of the live blog.

Titans lead Dolphins 17-6 in the 3rd quarter

NASHVILLE -- The Dolphins have a playoff berth on the line today and they are laying an egg.

They have failed to get in the end zone despite two trips inside the red zone.

Chad Henne has thrown an interception. Ricky Williams has lost a fumble.

And Justin Gage has burned the Miami secondary for two touchdown catches.

Terrible. It's 17-6, Titans.

Join me in the comments section as the live blog continues.

Titans lead Dolphins 7-3 going to 2nd quarter

NASHVILLE -- The Dolphins got off to a fast start today, getting a field goal and a 3-0 lead after Vontae Davis delivered his fourth interception of the season.

Then the Titans drove for a go-ahead TD, with Vince Young connecting with Justin Gage on a 22-yard pass.

Gibril Wilson got beat on the pass.

We go to the second quarter. Join me in the comments section.

Live game blog starts right here from Music City

NASHVILLE -- It is cold and gray and I'm battling a cold, but we're still going to fire up the live blog prior to kickoff today.

Looking at this game, I see it as the most difficult one of the three left on Miami's schedule. The Titans have won 6 of 7 games. They are relatively healthy. And they are at home.

That doesn't mean if the Dolphins win today, they can cruise against Houston and Pittsburgh. But this is the big hurdle, in my humble opinion.

As I reported on my twitter page Saturday, Jake Grove traveled with the Dolphins for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain at Carolina. It is a pregame decision whether he'll be active or not. Joe Berger is scheduled to start at center anyway.

[Update: Grove is indeed active and Berger starts at center, as I reported Saturday. Nate Garner starts at right guard over Donald Thomas. The inactives are Tyler Thigpen as the third QB, Patrick Turner, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Kory Sheets, Evan Oglesby, Andrew Hartline, Andrew Gardner and Lionel Dotson.]

Vince Young is expected to play for the Titans despite his ankle injury.

Check back 90 minutes before kickoff for the inactives. And be here by kickoff for the live festivities. 

December 19, 2009

Chad Henne has bought insurance for 2010

One of the questions often asked of me when discussing the Dolphins is whether Chad Henne is indeed Miami's quarterback of the future or just a first-year starter whose future is not yet certain. The Dolphins get the same question from folks like me -- the media.

The answer?

"I still think of him as a first year starter, yeah," coach Tony Sparano said this week. "I think that we’d be making a mistake to think otherwise right now. I think that I want to let the whole process happen here. Whenever we flip the calendar, I'll say he's a second year starter, or whatever the case is then. I just want to let the whole process happen and sit down and evaluate the whole body of work at the end of this. I think that's really fair for Chad.

"He's doing a tremendous job right now. I see him getting better, and better, and better. I just want to see this thing go, and really be able to break down some of the good things he's done, and some of the not so good things at the end of this whole thing, and then we'll go from there. To me, he's a first year starter that's getting better and better every week."

That's fair. The Dolphins will assess Henne when the season is over. A novel idea in today's give-it-to-me-yesterday digital world.

But here is the truth the Dolphins won't tell you yet. Henne is indeed their quarterback for the next couple of years. That simple. Henne is 7-3 as a starter in his first year starting. That has bought him much good will this year, but it has also bought him the starting job for 2010.

Simply put, the Dolphins cannot have a first-year quarterback help raise the team from the depths of an 0-3 start to playoff contention in 2009 and not reward him with the starting job the following year. So Henne is your guy for 2010.

But 2010 will determine if Henne is indeed the guy longterm. If Henne continues to improve, continues to win, he will continue buying himself more commitment from the team. If he struggles, questions will creep in to his future.

So Henne needs to improve to make certain he puts up a Jake Long block on the possible questions.

Next season Henne will have to correct the glitches and holes in his game he has at times shown the past 10 games. Those issues?

He has to cut down on interceptions. He has 9 interceptions versus 9 TDs this year.

"The turnovers obviously come out at you," Henne said. "I think we have nine interceptions at this point. A lot of those are coming at the end of the game. For me it is more of a focus and concentration at the end of the game knowing what the situation is to begin with and not to force the ball.

"Yes, for me, some of them are forced balls, some of them are tipped. I think as a quarterback with a lot of interceptions you really have to correct it yourself."

Henne has to find a touch pass to go with his line-drive throws.

"I think overall it is coming along," Henne said. "We work on it all the time at practice and getting it over the linebackers’ heads. It showed up on Sunday against Jacksonville making some of those completions over the linebackers' heads and making some throws. That is a big improvement for me and I just got to keep working on it. It is just going to come along with experience."

He has to improve his accuracy as the Dolphins expect their QB to complete 64-66 percent of his passes compared to the 58.8 percent Henne is currently completing.

Henne also needs to get through his progression of reads quicker than he has at times this year. Reading the field quicker means you take fewer sacks because the football is out faster. Henne has already taken 20 sacks this season in 10 games, while Chad Pennington absorbed 24 sacks in 16 games last year with an inferior offensive line. So the process has to speed up a bit for Henne.

Finally, Henne has to get to the point where the Dolphins can rely on him to win them games. Obviously he needs help in this regard. The Dolphins need to put more talent around him. But the truly elite quarterbacks are not game-managers. The offense is on their shoulders.

Henne has done that at times this year -- against the Jets in the first game and the second outing versus New England come to mind -- but he's also failed at it in games the Dolphins needed more points late to pull out a victory.

All told, you cannot be displeased with what Henne has done in his first 10 games. At no time has the moment been bigger than him. At no time did anyone suggest he's not smart enough. At no point has he thrown a pass that everyone agreed is beyond the capability of his arm-strength.

And after the three-interception meltdown at Buffalo, Henne responded with a very good game against New England.

So is Chad Henne Miami's quarterback the next decade? No one knows yet. But he definitely has already bought himself the starting job in 2010. No question.

[Update: I am told by a club source that Joe Berger will start for the Dolphins at center against the Titans Sunday. It will mark the fourth consecutive start for Berger since Jake Grove suffered a high ankle sprain against Carolina.

Also, I got my Dolphins holiday card in the mail today. Check it out below.]

Follow me on twitter. You'll get updates when I post new blog entries. You'll get news first. You'll also have a merrier Christmas! I promise. 

Holliday2

December 18, 2009

Live blog chat right here at 1 p.m.

After spending some time with the blog regulars during the 35-31 Colts victory over Jacksonville Thursday night, I got this grand idea that perhaps a live blog chat was in order.

So I dialed room service and ordered it up for today.

There will be a live chat on this blog at 1 p.m. and we'll go as long as you guys keep it interesting.

We can discuss Sunday's game. We can discuss the playoff picture. We can discuss anything and everything Miami Dolphins.

By the way, the Jacksonville loss Thursday night means the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) are now the No. 6 seed for the playoffs. The Dolphins (7-6) trail them, but obviously have the opportunity to make up that ground over the season's final three games.

Meet back here at 1 p.m. And if you can't be here then, leave whatever questions or comments you have now and I'll respond when the action begins.

December 17, 2009

Coordinators make their appearance

Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning talked ot the media for about 14 minutes today and I was fascinated by the discussion about what this group of coaches -- and obviously the personnel dept. -- thinks of the balance between having a group of mediocre receivers or a group that is excellent and might include a so-called diva.

"We like this group of receivers," Henning said. "I've told you that before. They're like Rodney Dangerfield. [Greg] Camarillo and [Davone] Bess weren't even drafted. [Brian] Hartline was drafted but he was drafted after another guy on the same team [Pat Turner] and three or four other guys that went before him. And no one thought he was as good as we thought he was. And Teddy has been chronicled around here as ... he's been villified. And the only guy that has it worse than him right now is Tiger, I guess.

"But they like one another. They work together. They bought in to what we're teaching and so, you know, when you're talking about a coaching situation, everyone would love to have the most talented, biggest, strongest, fastest guy with the best hands. We don't have that and don't get them all the time. But even when you have that, as some people have found with certain individuals in this league, the best thing to have in a coaching situation is these type of guys."

Henning says Camarillo knows all four receiver spots. Bess knows three of the four. Hartline is learning all four. And Ginn knows two.

"We're getting a lot out of them," Henning said. "And we don't have any diva problems. Diva problems can suck the energy out of your football team."

Henning agrees sometimes having a reciever that tilts the field is worth the trouble. But he is very cautious about it.

"Yeah, but he's got to be good," the coach said when asked if he'd take a diva. "He's got to be good."

Why?

"It does take away," Henning said. "You just can't have discord because it's a team operation and when that's being talked about all the time and everybody's afraid to get into a guy's aura and you have to tiptoe around a locker room, it takes away from your team. So the guys' got to be pretty good. He's got to be an Alpha and a definite game-changer."

Look, my personal opinion? There are no perfect players because there are no perfect people. So if you have to pick between a bunch of great guys that stuggle on the field and a couple of great guys and some "divas" that take you to Super Bowls, I pick the latter.

Period.

Mark Clayton and Mark Duper were troubled people. You think Dan Marino isn't thankful he had them?

Santonio Holmes got in all sorts of trouble his first couple of years in Pittsburgh. You think that game-winning catch to win the Super Bowl last year wasn't worth that trouble?

Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni talked to the media for almost 10 minutes and in that time he kept shroudded the fact on which player -- Sean Smith or Gibril Wilson -- had the ultimate responsibility on that 63-yard pass last week versus Carolina.

"We're supposed to cover the guy," Pasqualoni said. "I can't get into the details of the coverage. But in any of those coverages that we play, technically, you'd like fo the guy not to run between two guys. Ideally, you'd like to intercept it or knock it down."

The Dolphins have yielded 31 pass plays of 25 yards or more this year. That's an average of more than two per game.

And for the record, on plays where the corner is supposed to have help over the top from the free safety, the free safety is charged with getting over in time to knock down the pass.

I asked Pasqualoni about Jason Taylor's recent sack drought. He hasn't had a full sack since Oct. 25. Part of that is due to the fact he wasn't getting many opportunities, as he was curiously coming off the field on third down. But last game, Taylor got pass-rush chances.

He is locked at 6 sacks so far.

"They come in streaks," Pasqualoni said of sacks. "You get hot and sometimes you cool off. Sometimes it doesn't go your way. A couple of weeks ago when we were playing the Patriots, I don't think we had any sacks. At the end of the day, and I know that sacks [are] a big deal and big statistic in this league, but we just got through talking about team defense. We beat the Patriots and we didn't sack the guy once, but we win the game.

"You tell me? What would you rather do? Have fives sacks and lose to the Patriots? Or have no sacks and beat the Patriots? So to me, it all depends on the way it's going. If they come, they come. That's great. If they don't, it's not the most important statistic on the goal board. that won-loss is the most important one. That's the way I look at it. I would not get all out of shape about out, I really wouldn't."

In other news: Reggie Torbor returned to practice at least on a limited basis today. He is still nursing a hamstring injury which pretty much has assured he'll not start ahead of Akin Ayodele this week despite playing better than Ayodele last week.

Emptying the notebook for big doings Thursday

Clearing out Wednesday's notebook:

A couple of weeks ago the Cleveland Plain Dealer "reported" Bill Parcells was on the Browns' radar and that a source believed he might be swayed into being interested in the job as Browns football czar.

Um, that report doesn't resonate so well right now as Cleveland has offered the job to Mike Holmgren.

The truth of the matter is Parcells has been spending the past few weeks meeting with Miami's scouts and studying tape as if there was a soon coming exam. The tape he studies is of Miami practices, Miami games, Miami opponents, and college players he will be interested in draft next April.

And if he is drafting next April, it will be for the Dolphins. I cannot report this as fact. But call it a prediction that I'm fairly confident about.

The truth is Parcells has it pretty good in Miami. Worries that new owner Stephen Ross would become a pain for him have not materialized. Ross, very active on the business side, has not asked Parcells for the keys to the franchise that Wayne Huizenga tossed the future Hall of Famer in December 2007.

Parcells would also be hard pressed to quickly reproduce elsewhere the results he has brought in Miami because he basically hit the ground running here. He had "his guys" that are familiar with his system and he hired them here.

Those men have contracts with the Dolphins. It would be difficult for Parcells to then take those guys to say, Cleveland, and have his golfing and dining partner (Dan Henning) as an offensive coordinator, his apprentice (Jeff Ireland) as a general manager, his former assistant (Paul Pasqualoni) as the defensive coordinator, and his former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach (Tony Sparano) as the head coach.

Simply, it would be hard for Parcells to reproduce the quick turn-around he did here because he would have to start from scratch with a lot of people and he didn't have to do that here.

Another issue is that Parcells' job isn't truly done here. Have you noticed? The Dolphins haven't won a Super Bowl. Haven't won a conference title. Haven't won a playoff game. They are better than they where they were when Parcells arrived. But they are by no means elite. And Parcells was hired and is being paid to make them elite.

So if he leaves, he leaves the job unfinished and I don't believe he wants to do that. Not this time. Finally, where else is Parcells going to go that would offer him the lifestyle that South Florida offers? He can play golf in December. Hialeah is re-opening. Spring Training is around the corner.

You don't get that anywhere else.

Nope, Parcells isn't leaving the Dolphins for another NFL job. If he ever leaves, it might be for television. But another team? Hard to imagine.

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The motto that other Dolphins teams have used -- without much success, I must add -- made its 2009 appearance around the Dolphins facility on Wednesday.

Why not us!

It was plastered throughout the locker room. Just like that. The phrase is actually a question, but it was punctuated by an exclamation point. And what purpose does the phrase serve?

"How can I put this," cornerback Sean Smith told me, "no offense, you guys the media, the evil media, everybody's talking about the playoffs and whatnot, but nobody's mentioned the Dolphins from what we've seen. Even though that doesn't really matter to us, I think it's a message to ourselves that even though a lot of people aren't talking about us, why can't it be us?"

Although the Dolphins admittedly have little room for error if they want to get in the playoffs -- needing to win out and also needing other teams to lose -- they like their chances. They like their chances even if they've perceived that the media (mostly national) pretty much ignores them.

"We're doing positive things so why can't we finish it off by getting the playoffs?" Smith asked rhetorically. "It's a reminder to us not to worry about what everybody else is talking about. Let's play our game and worry about what we do in these walls."

It's classic bunker mentality. But hey, if it works, whatever gets you through the night.

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I had a handful of followers on my twitter asking me Wednesday if receiver Patrick Turner would be getting playing time before this season is over. This is what coach Tony Sparano said about Turner on Wednesday:

"Patrick's done a nice job, he really has," Sparano said. "He's a work in progress right now. Obviously, you wish you could take every player to the game and we can't do that. We've carried four receivers on a lot of occasions. He's been active a couple of times and played sparingly on special teams. But the guy works very hard in practice. I see great improvement out of him and he's a guy sooner or later here that is going to get an opportunity and I'm sure make the most of it."

Translation: Unless something significant changes in the final three weeks of the season, such as an injury to one of the other wide receivers or unless Miami's playoff hopes are dashed by a loss or two, Turner isn't going to be playing at all on Sundays.

He's just the fifth horse in a five-horse race and that doesn't qualify him to be active on game day.

The fact Miami has had two receivers -- Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo -- go over 100 yards in receiving the past two games also means the coaching staff isn't going to sit anyone just to play Turner.

So Turner's time may just have to wait until 2010.

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The last word on the Ted Ginn Jr. versus Chris Johnson match race that never was: Ginn didnt want to step up and take Johnson on, either by words or deeds. And one would expect most of Ginn's teammates to step to the receiver's corner.

But not all of them.

Asked if Ginn or Johnson is faster, linebacker Channing Crowder picked Johnson.

“I’ll put him and a cheetah up," Crowder said. "The cheetah might have a step on him, but he is ridiculously fast, explosive and just a great back.

Asked if he believes Johnson could give Usain Bolt a run for his money, Crowder has no doubts.

“He probably can," Crowder said. "He might run with Bolt in the damn 100. Y’all don’t know how fast that boy is. I know y’all look at numbers. He is fast – fast, fast; flat out period fast. There’s game speed and this explosion and good cut, good feet, no. He’s fast. He’s fast, period. Capital letters. Write it down in your report. I know I’m going to give y’all what you need to write down. He’s fast. Y’all know how to spell it, with a capital damn ‘T’ at the end."

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Thursday is a big day at Dolphins camp. The coordinators talk. The locker room is open We'll see if Reggie Torber (hamstring) practices after missing Wednesday. I'll have an update on Vince Young's status. And I'm sure a couple of surprises are bound to crop up. So ya'll come back often, ya'hear? (Getting my Tennessee talk all polished).

December 16, 2009

Chris Johnson punks Ted Ginn Jr.

Just got off a conference call with Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson. Johnson, who once ran a 4.24 time in the 2008 Indianapolis Combine, is obviously quite fast.

And that speed leads to a lot of conversations.

And the conversation today involved questions about how he'd do in a match race against Ted Ginn Jr., Miami's resident speed merchant.

"That's not even a legitimate question," Johnson responded.

Allllllrightie then. How would you do in a match race against track star Usain Bolt, Johnson was asked.

"That's a better question," he said.

Johnson then told the story of being at a pool party on South Beach in the offseason and several Dolphins, including Joey Porter and Ginn were present. He said Ginn and him got to talking about a race and Ginn actually challenged him to a race.

Johnson was apparently all in. To hear him tell it, he told Ginn to meet him on Ocean Drive and they'd run right there, right then.

"I showed up," Johnson said. "But he didn't."

[Update: Ginn talked in the locker room and confirmed the story is true. But he had no desire to get into a tit for tat with Johnson.

"It's nothing that relates to football," Ginn said. "That right now is not really my main agenda. I just want to go out and play football. It's not like I play defense and he play offense or he play defense and I play offense. We both on the same side of the ball. It's not a benefactor to me at all. I just want to talk about, you know, something else than that."

The best man may win. It's all up to the man upstairs. I know he's pretty fast and I'm fast and it would be good for both of us to run one day. But until that happens, I don't think this week is the week to really go into details about it."

Aside from it seeming as though Ginn had insurance on his mind before his interview, -- thus the inappropriate use of the word benefactor -- he did exactly as the Dolphins wanted him to do. He didn't stir any controversy that might motivate an opposing player. So that's that.]

Newswise today, Reggie Torbor (hamstring) did not practice. Jake Grove (ankle) practiced full for the first time since he suffered the high ankle sprain against Carolina Nov. 19. Grove worked primarily with the second unit.

Joey Porter (right knee) and Vernon Carey (back) were limited in practice.

For the Titans, Vince Young (hamstring), Keith Bulluck (non injury), Kevin Mawae (back), David Thornton (shoulder), Tony Brown (knee), and Eric Bakhtiara (concussion) did not practice. Nate Washington (ankle) was limited.

I asked coach Tony Sparano if any college has asked permission to interview any of his assistants for a job. This based on speculation the Virginia Cavaliers are targetting Miami oustide linebacker coach Jim Reid as a defensive coordinator candidate.

"No," Sparano said, before explaining now is the time for coaches to concentrate on winning games for the Miami Dolphins.

I'm told this doesn't necessarily eliminate Reid from a possible move to Virginia. It does mean he will not interview for anything prior to the end of the NFL season.

By the way as I reported on my twitter earlier today, the Dolphins cut Nevin McCaskill from the practice squad and added OL Ray Feinga, formerly of BYU.

Check back soon, I'll have more updates as news happens. 

Dolphins do a good deed for Christmas

Not a lot of words for you this morning. Those will come later, immediately following the press conferences, conference calls, open locker room, and whatever phone calls from your servant blogger to sources get returned.

So check back later for information.

Meanwhile, you might be interested to know that on Tuesday, Dolphins coaches and players donated $37,000 worth of toys to 170 kids from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties that otherwise wouldn't have enjoyed a gift this Christmas.

Tony and Jeanette Sparano, members of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad, and players including Charlie Anderson, Akin Ayodele, Ryan Baker, Davone Bess, Ronnie Brown, Greg Camarillo, Dan Carpenter, Vernon Carey Vontae Davis, John Denney, Nate Garner, Andrew Hartline, Jake Long, Lydon Murtha, John Nalbone, Lousaka Polite, Joey Porter, Paul Soliai, Donald Thomas, Reggie Torbor and Patrick Turner took part in the event.

“Having the opportunity to come out here and put a smile on these kids face is priceless,” said linebacker Reggie Torbor. “We are in a position where we are blessed and can help other people. We just wanted to make this holiday a special one for everyone involved.”

But enough words. Let the pictures tell the story. (I thought I'd throw in a photo of my Christmas tree at home, which the wife and I finished trimming on Tuesday). By the way, we do not forget our Jewish friends here. Happy Hanukkah ya'll and Shalom. Enjoy:

Jpeezy dance
Holiday event Olinement Cheerleaders Christmas

December 15, 2009

The great transition that is, was, & must come

I wrote a column in today's Miami Herald that focused on how the Dolphins have continued winning despite undergoing a difficult transition at quarterback, cornerback and nose tackle. Those transitions are the toughest there are in the NFL --  obviously at quarterback but particularly at nose tackle if the team runs a 3-4 scheme.

Check out the column and you'll see some fascinating statistics that prove Chad Henne, Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, and Paul Soliai have been exceedingly effective in replacing valuable veterans.

The column also gives you a hint where future transitions will be needed.

The column does not address where the Dolphins have already made changes previous to this season. The offensive line and defensive line is where those changes came first. That's where Bill Parcells built his foundation.

And the offensive line has delivered, as well it should since it came at a price of $156 million.

"Here's what has been the most impressive - and when you watch an offensive line play, it's never pretty, it really isn't," coach Tony Sparano said. "Their tenacity, I think is a good word, they really are, they're a pretty tenacious, resilient group. They're doing some ugly things hard, and as long as you're doing them hard, you've got a chance. They're giving us a chance that way. Those guys would probably tell you that's a compliment. First of all, I don't dish many out their way, but secondly, that fact in the offensive line, it's not always pretty. It's a different position than most, yet, they're pretty tenacious, and they're pretty resilient. I think that that's the thing to me that stands out the most about it, it's that even when the game gets a little bit ugly, they keep grinding pretty good."

The defensive line has been effective of late also. Sparano said he challenged his defensive ends to play well last week against Jacksonville. They did. And Randy Starks was excellent.

"I think he’s having a great season, I really do," Sparano said. "I’ve said it before, but Randy was physical again yesterday, he had four or five tackles, tackle for loss in there, made a big play in one of those situations. There's still things Randy can get better at, there really are.

"Fundamentally, go back to that again, there's some things in the game yesterday that Randy will watch the film, and he'll know he left out there on the field. He played pretty good in there yesterday, physical, did a great job I thought. We asked our defensive ends yesterday, Randy, [Phillip] Merling, [Kendall] Langford, to do a hard job in that run game yesterday. Their job was very, very difficult from what we asked them to do from a defensive standpoint yesterday, but I thought the three of them, they really did a pretty good job in that game."

Starks is interesting because he came from the Tennessee Titans as a free agent in 2008. He had never played in a 3-4 defense. He'd always been a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. Well, he kind of struggled in his first year. He really wasn't much of a factor. But he seemed to get it in training camp. The light bulb seemed to flicker on and now it is burning brightly.

"I think I've had a breakout season," Starks said. "This is probably the best football I've been playing throughout my career. It could be the coaching, the coaching staff. The coaches help me a lot, coach Kace, Kacy Rodgers, he's helped me. Maybe this defense fits me better, maybe I'm just a 3-4 type of player, not a 4-3.

"The first time I ever played 3-4 was last year. It was a hard adjustment for me, but now, I'm getting the hang of it."

Discuss ...

And remember to check out the column for those stats and what I've been told is the next coming change of youngsters replacing vets.

Also, follow me on twitter.  You'll be able to see a picture of my Christmas tree the wife and I just finished trimming.

December 14, 2009

On the Jags victory and the playoff scenarios

JACKSONVILLE -- On the bright side, the Dolphins won on Sunday and remain in contention for both the AFC East title and a wild card berth.

The 14-10 victory over Jacksonville was not a thing of beauty but most Dolphins victories aren't. You should be used to that by now. Do you really care, anyway?

Are you so into aesthetics as to need razor-sharp performance on both offense and defense to be satisfied?

Or is the bottom line enough for you?

The amazing thing to me is that one day after beating the Jaguars and owning the same record as them, the playoff scenarios reveal Miami remains on the outside looking in, while the Jags are still qualifiers ahead of Miami if the season ended today.

But the season does not end today.

So if there is a two-way tie between the teams, the Dolphins advance to the playoffs.

In the case of two-way ties, the teams the Dolphins don't have an edge against are the Ravens. It is inconclusive what would happen if the Ravens, Broncos and Dolphins are locked in a three-way tie based on data not yet known.

To decide the final spot, it would go down to a two-way tiebreaker between the Broncos and the Dolphins. In such a case, this would come down to strength of victory between Denver and Miami. We do not yet have sufficient data to determine such a scenario. So if Denver's only loss comes to Philadelphia, and the Dolphins and the Ravens both win out, this will require further analysis.

Sunday's game was interesting for a couple of reasons.

The Dolphins shelved Pat White and his spread option package. They also did not use Wildcat.

They did have some crazy play-calling as I note in my column.

The defense was nails, forcing seven three-and-outs. Chad Henne broke the team's single-game record for consecutive completions in one game with 17.    

Follow me on twitter. There's a prize if you do. Not really, but felt like writing that. 

December 13, 2009

Miami Dolphins defeat Jaguars 14-10

JACKSONVILLE -- The Dolphins did it. They got over .500 for the first time this season.

It took some excellent defense -- particularly in the fourth quarter -- and some timely offense. But the Dolphins beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 14-10 Sunday to improve their record to 7-6 and remain in the chase for an AFC playoff berth.

So maybe it wasn't revenge for 62-7, but the desperate Dolphins will take it.

They got a 108-yard performance from Ricky Williams. Chad Henne had his moments also, at one point completing a team record tying 17 consecutive passes. He finished 21 of 29 for 220 yards.

The defense, meanwhile, limited Maurice Jones-Drew to 59 yards on 18 carries. There were no open receivers throughout. The Dolphins kept the Jags from converting on a couple of desperation fouth-down attempts.

It wasn't pretty. But the Dolphins will most definitely take it.

Your thoughts?

Dolphins holding on 14-10 going to 4th quarter

JACKSONVILLE -- This one seemed well under control. The Dolphins were leading 14-7. They were deep in Jaguars territory.

And then Vernon Carey gave up a second-down sack. Then offensive coordinator Dan Henning called a sweep on third-and-18 which didn't get within an area code of a first. And then Dan Carpenter missed a chip-shot field goal.

Not to be outdone by bad tidings, the defense then got in the act. Torry Holt caught 63 yard pass from David Garrad. And the Jags kicked a field goal.

It is 14-10.

Ricky Williams, by the way, has fumbled three times today, having just lost the first one for him.

The live blog continues in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Jags 14-7 going in 3rd quarter

JACKSONVILLE -- The Dolphins owned the first quarter. And the second quarter.

But Jacksonville seemed to find a sense of urgency when Chad Henne scored from 1 yard out on a QB keeper to give Miami a 14-0 lead.

The Jaguars answered with a six-minute drive that culminated with a Maurice Jones-Drew 1 yard run to make it 14-7.

Henne is having a great day so far. He has completed 14 of 16 passes for 146 yards.

Join me in the comments section as the live blog continues.

Dolphins lead Jags 7-0 going to 2nd quarter

JACKSONVILLE -- The Dolphins are dominating so far.

Aside from two Ricky Williams fumbles (and even those were not lost) Miami has had everything go its way.

The defense has limited Jacksonville to consecutive three-and-outs. The offense scored on a Williams 1 yard score on its second possession.

Dolphins looking good. Check in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Live blog of Dolphins-Jags starts right here

JACKSONVILLE -- Walked out of my hotel this morning and it felt like swampy weather -- humid, no wind, warm.

Football weather in December!

The Dolphins play the Jags today. That means live blog right here at kickoff.

That also means I will be giving you the update on players in and players out of today's game in about 30 minutes. Check back for the update.

[Update: Neither CB Rashean Mathis nor DT John Henderson are active for Jacksonville today. WR Mike Sim-Waker is active. For Miami, Nate Garner is starting for Donald Thomas at right guard while Justin Smiley starts at left guard. Miami's inactives are Kory Sheets, Erik Walden, Andrew Gardner, Jake Grove, Lionel Dotson, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Patrick Turner and Tyler Thigpen is the third QB.]

Meanwhile, check out my Sunday column in The Miami Herald. In it, Tony Sparano explains how he gets a pulse for what kind of performance he'll get from his team every week. It's not an easy task, as you know, because the Dolphins have been up and down this year.

Hence the 6-6 record.

Anyway, the Fins are on the field. I saw a ton of Dolphins jerseys around the stadium when I was coming in. I expect a strong Dolfans showing. 

December 12, 2009

Memories of 62-7 resurface during Jags week

Editor's Note: The following post contains material not suited for Dolphins fans with weak stomachs, fragile dispositions, or outstanding memories.

Do you remember the day the last great Dolphins Age passed away?

Where were you on Jan. 15, 2000? What were you doing on the day of 62-7?

For the uninitiated, 62-7 forever lives in Dolphins infamy as the score of the divisional playoff game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins in January of 2000. And as the Dolphins are in Jacksonville today, only weeks from the 10-year anniversary of that not-long-enough-ago game, I decided to recall what that day meant then and still means today.

"It's been 10 years? I guess so," said Jason Taylor, the lone member of today's Dolphins to play in that game. "We've had so many moments since then you kind of forget it. Thank God.

"It was just a long day, really. That was one of those days that won't go down in infamy, but pretty darn close. Nothing worked. I think they scored their first play or first three plays, I don't know. They were running plays that should go for two yards and they were running for touchdowns instead."

The game, as Taylor recalls, was indeed a disaster for Miami. Coming off a stirring 20-17 victory over Seattle in an AFC first-round playoff game, the Dolphins traveled to Jacksonville hopeful they could put a year's stress and strife behind them.

That 1999 season, you may recall, was known as the year Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson spent feuding. Johnson wanted to bench Marino, threatened to bench Marino, but in the end knew Marino gave him his best chance to win. Marino cursed Johnson, wanted to throw more often than Johnson would allow, but in the end recognized he was diminished and could no longer consistently carry the team on his back.

So this flawed team full of fight (inwardly as well as outwardly) went to Jacksonville hoping, believing, that they had a "shot to be special," as Johnson said of them.

Didn't turn out that way. The Jaguars were supremely talented. And ready to play.

Jacksonville scored a touchdown on their first possession. On Miami's first play from scrimmage, Aaron Beasley intercepted Marino's first pass and Jacksonville took over at the Miami 41 yard line. The Jags kicked a field goal. Then the Jags scored again the next time they had the ball when Fred Taylor ran 90 yards for a score. And on the very next play, Marino was stripped of the ball while in the pocket and Tony Brackens scooped the ball up and ran 16 yards for another score.

It was 24-0. And it was only the first quarter.

The Jaguars didn't let up. They led 41-7 by halftime, with Miami's only score coming on a 20-yard pass from Marino to Oronde Gadsden.

Jacksonville would score 21 more points in the second half, with two of those touchdowns coming on a 70-yard and then a 38-yard touchdown pass by Jay Fiedler. Yes, that Jay Fiedler.

The Dolphins fumbled six times that day, losing five. Marino was intercepted twice. The Jaguars tallied 520 total yards, including 257 on the ground.

"It was just a mess. Just a mess," Taylor recalls. "And at the end of the game, as disappointed as you were because you got your butt kicked, it was almost to the point where you were glad because it was over and they couldn't score any more."

But aside from the demolition the Dolphins suffered, the game is known as much for what happened next as what happened during.

"It was Danny's last game, Jimmy's last game," Taylor said.

Johnson had decided to quit coaching for good at least a month before that season ended, probably longer. He had tried to quit after the 1998 season but had been convinced to return by owner Wayne Huizenga. There woud be no bringing him back after 1999.

The morning after the fiasco in Jacksonville, Johnson called a selected handful of reporters individually to his office and told them his intentions to depart. He also told them of his endorsement of Dave Wannstedt as his successor. (Amazing aside of how far we've come: Even though Johnson told the newspaper reporters first, no news leaked because most newspapers didn't have websites up and running at the time that could break the news. So the news broke on radio and TV.)

Within a couple of hours, Johnson held a news conference announcing his departure. Just as it had been immediately following the Jacksonville loss, Johnson took no questions. He made a statement and headed out the back door of the Dolphins' main meeting room.

And in the same press conference the Dolphins then announced the hiring of Wannstedt. Such a thing should not have happened then as Huizenga gave a failed coach the priviledge of naming his successor -- something Huizenga didn't allow Don Shula to do.

But the Wannstedt hiring could not have instantly happened in today's NFL, either. Today, the Dolphins would have had to undergo a search process that involved the interviewing of minority candidates. I'm not saying the Rooney Rule would have saved the Dolphins from Wannstedt, but, well, if you close your eyes, you can dream that perhaps clearer heads might have prevailed.

So Wannstedt ascended to the head coaching job that very day. He had spent the past year dipping heavy hands into the defensive game plan and that plan had just yielded 62 points and now he was going to make decisions over both offense and defense.

That is amazing for it's lack of clarity.

Wannstedt's first decision?

He wanted a new quarterback. He wanted Marino gone. Johnson had benched Marino in the second half of the Jacksonville game in favor of Damon Huard. Within weeks the Dolphins began the process of divesting themselves from Marino as a player.

On Feb. 10, the Dolphins asked Marino to void the final two years of his contract. It was an elegant way to basically cut Dan Marino, making him a free agent. Marino weighed offers from Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh to continue playing but ultimately his ego and competitive spirit didn't override his intelligence. Marino could no longer move in the pocket to avoid hits. He had thus become injury-prone.

The golden arm that made Marino famous never betrayed him. His legs did.

So on March 13, 2000 Marino announced his retirement from football.

"Boy, I really struggled with this," Marino said at his retirement press conference. "This has been the toughest month of my life as far as dealing with playing football or retiring. After the season, I pretty much thought that I was not going to play anymore and I felt that way for a while and I think it was because of the physical aspects of the game. It kept coming back to how my lefs felt during last season, going through the neck injury, not knowing whether I was going to be able to throw the football, and family reasons also. But Claire and the kids were great. They wanted me to play, to be honest with you. Really, it was my decision, a family decision and a health decision."

When the unrestricted free agency period opened that year the Dolphins replaced Marino with Fiedler. Wannstedt would later admit he had been impressed by what he saw from Fiedler the day the Jaguars beat Miami 62-7.

That was 10 years ago this season. The Dolphins play the Jaguars on Sunday.

Follow me on twitter. I will be tweeting news later today about Jake Grove likely being downgraded to out for Jacksonville and other information. Those tweets appear <---- over there, by the way, if you simply refuse to follow me.

December 11, 2009

Ferguson: 2010 a go if recovery goes well

Jason Ferguson has already begun his rehabilitation following surgery to repair a right quadricep injury. He's been doing his rehab every morning at Dolphins camp. And that's pretty important because the veteran nose tackle says he wants to return to the Dolphins next year if that recovery goes well.

"That's what I'd love to do," Ferguson said Friday. "If the recovery is good, I'll be good."

There was uncertainty whether Ferguson would ever play again.

He is 35 years old and had talked about perhaps retiring after this season. He is also unsigned for next season. Ferguson is making $4 million in 2009 in the final year of contract.

But while the contract situation would have to be settled between him and the Dolphins -- with the team needing to decide on making a commitment to Ferguson or not -- the issue of whether Ferguson wants to keep playing is apparently not an issue.

Regardless of Ferguson's desire to return, the Dolphins are likely to address the nose tackle position in other ways this offseason. The team is expected to try to add a younger player to groom for the future.

In other news:

A source tells me C Jake Grove will be listed as doubtful on the injury report that will come out in a couple of hours.

The source also said the Dolphins expect OLB Joey Porter to play against the Jaguars despite the fact he didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Porter did practice Friday and is telling folks he's going to play barring some unforeseen setback. The source did not know how the Dolphins will list Porter, although he's likely to be listed as probable from the sound of things.  

[Update: My report on Grove is correct and the Dolphins are listing Grove as doubtful. Jason Taylor (shoulder) and Joey Porter (knee) are probable. Nathan Jones (hamstring) is questionable. For the Jaguars, Mike Sims-Walker (calf), DT John Henderson (shoulder), and Rashean Mathis (groin) are doubtful. That's huge as Sims-Walker is the team's best receiver, Henderson is its best defensive lineman and Mathis the best cover cornerback.]

Follow me on twitter. It's good for you. I promise. 

Lousaka Polite: The Dolphins sure thing

In 1964, the people of the newly independent nation of Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) selected Lusaka as their capital.

That name struck a chord in the Polite family around the time their new baby boy was coming into the world in September of 1981. And coupled with the fact Mr. Polite's name was Lou, it made perfect sense to name the new addition Lousaka.

Today Lousaka Polite is the Miami Dolphins' starting fullback. They could just as easily have a different name for him: Sure thing.

Polite, you see, is exactly that on short-yardage situations. Ten times this season the Dolphins have handed him the football on third or fourth down and 1 yard to go. All 10 times Polite has delivered a first down.

That pretty much continues a trend Polite started in 2008 when he converted 11 of 12 attempts on third or fourth down. So what gives?

"The first thing I think about is I'm thinking about what the front is going to be on defense," Polite told me Thursday. "What are they going to show me? Then I think about my reads and what they entail, proper footwork and getting behind the right guys and trusting my blockers and fighting for a yard.

"It's all 11 against 11 fighting for a yard. That's what goes through my head. And it's an honor that they trust me enough to put me in that situation. I always want to deliver for my team. In my mind I feel like I have to get it done for my team because they're counting on me. That's what I contribute, as well as blocking, but especially in those situations -- that's when you want to deliver.

"All eyes are on you. The whole sideline knows you're getting the ball. You want to deliver for them."

So what's the secret?

"There's no real secret to it," Polite said. "It's just fighting and making the right decision with the ball. You just put two hands on it and fight until the whistle blows. Honestly, the guys up front make my job easier. I couldn't get that yard if they didn't block the guys in front of them. It would be impossible -- me against the other 11 guys. That's not going to happen. It starts with them and moving those guys off the turf."

Polite's conversion prowess this year, not to mention the fact he's a very good blocker, has made him a Pro Bowl candidate. I vote for the Associated Press All Pro team and he will be on my ballot at fullback.

But even as fan voting continues and teams will vote next week, Polite says that's not his priority at the moment.

"There's talk about it but that's not important to me right now," Polite said. "What's important is that we stay together and try to stay in this thing. Those things take care of themselves as far as accolades. If you're winning and playing well as a team, people will notice. That's their job. Who doesn't want to be the best at what they do? It would be a great honor, but it's not the first priority right now."

Coach Tony Sparano has said Polite is among the most thorough and smart players on his team. He knows his job inside and out. He knows his assignment. He knows what's asked of him. He knows how to be a pro.

And part of being a pro is trying to become a better pro. So Polite is trying to do that.

"I want to be a more dominant blocker," he said. "I don't want my guy even in the mix. I don't want him to lay a hand on the runner. I don't want him to get near the quarterback."

Polite has obviously come a long way from his three years in Dallas and then one season in Chicago in 2007.

"I think earlier in my career, the first couple of years, I was still getting a feel for the game and adjusting to the speed of the game," Polite said. "Maybe it just wasn't my time yet."

When the Dolphins gave Polite his opportunity last season, when he was signed as a free agent in October of 2008, Polite's time had come.

"It was an opportunity," Polite said, "to show that I've grown and I'm a better player."

No doubt.