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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.


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I know we're talking college, but when you say " the worst possible team you would want anyone to root for..." Only the names Jets and Pats are coming to mind....

I bet it is FIU

or Miami Dade Community College

You guys are not good detectives. It is not FIU.

You are going to kick yourselves for not figuring it out when I tell you.

FAU Owls? Thats pretty bad I guess...

Brigham Young ? :)

Tennessee ?

Va Tech? Boston College? Florida?

i don't know... I'm out of U rivals

I got It , Boston college

Does she root for the prison team Davone Bess played for?

Uh oh NJ, we both said BC at 6:11...

They probably looove doug flutie

Yale, I hate those smart fukers

Anyone have a Nittany Lion ornament on their tree? I do

What college team would Dolphins fans -- that's you -- HATE?


I hate Michigan

baaaahhh... I don't really hate Bama, just their Coach... hate is a very strong word... I don't even know the guy... I strongly dislike Nick Saban

I got to agree on Cody. his body looks so soft. If you look at parcells' NTackles, they are thick and stout but not that big and soft. Ferguson, Ratliff, not the biggest guys but strong as bulls.

OHHHH Snap carlito, the same time thew same team, We must be the same person, Right NJ????

Uh oh Cuban, we both said Bama at the same time... must be the same person

Ding ding ding ding!!!!!


Cuban and Carlito get it at the same time. You have no idea what it's like going to the in-laws and listening to Bear Bryant stories and how Nick Saban is really a good coach.

I bet its Grambling. You would expect great talent from that school, but no the disapoint every year.


We did it again!!!

Hahha, I even used the term dirty Alabama earlier in this blog and guessed FSU. I do hate Alabama - actually I hate Nick Saban. Boo'd him in the theatres during the Blind Side.


He is a good coach Armando - from a college prospective. You can't deny that.

I love

The '86 Canes love JoePa too.

Actually, I don't hate Nick Saban or Alabama.

I respect Saban as a coach.

He was also fun to cover because you could get under his skin pretty easy. It was great!

But I recognize his lie taints him to all Dolphins fans. And rightfully so, I guess.

what about his taint?

Saban has no honor.

I have many penn st. ornaments and memorabilia. LMFAO !

I feel bad for family gatherings mando, unless it takes place with your family... Nah just kidding, You and your family have a great christmas this year............

BOOOOO to Joe!!!

I'll be performing at the Piggly Wiggly off I 95 in Poughkeepsie for anyone who's in the neighbourhood.

What was the context involving when you got Saban the most upset during his long tenure? Sorry if you have covered this in past discussions.


Whats up with Vernon Carey... I noticed he was missing for a while on sunday?

Nothing beats psu tailgating, not even
jt's stomach

You being serious NJ or are you being facetious?

What did Joe Pa and Penn State think of Jim Kelly, the guy they wanted to turn into a LB, when Kelly threw three TDs and led Miami to an upset in like 79 or 80?

Aloco, Behave yourself....

You lied last night Mark..

why is our best recievers white and border jumpers, why?

its linebacker u. i bet kelly could have been an allpro lb

The time I made Saban most upset was when he warned me and other media not to write about the punter -- donnie jones -- telling his teammates in practice that they were going to shove a turkey up Detroit's butts on Thanksgiving.

Saban didn't want that to be written. I wrote it. He brought me up to his office and scolded me.

Oh I'm sure Joe felt good for Jim. No hard feelings. I can't tell you how many times over the years he (JoePA) has either refused to recruit or wanted to switch a player's position upon stepping foot on campus. JoePA didn't recruit Bob Sanders, from my hometown by the way, because he thought he was too small. Well, he went to Iowa and laid the wood every single time they played.

Aloco, Jim Kelly might have become a Pro Bowl LB.

But he is a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Checkmate, brother.

did he spank you

Dont know Mando, That was like 30 years ago, Your showing your age ......By the way, is that picture of you taken in junior high???

i dont mind gays, but come on now.


Congrats on Bob Sanders being from your hometown. I could name all great football players from Miami but there isn't enough time or space on this blog...


That's hillarous. As if he controlled what you could or couldn't write.

Armando, as a sportwriter, do you approach your questioning of coaches or stories any differently depending upon who the coach is? For instance, because of Saban's demeanor, were you more hesitant to write something then when compared with Camoron or Sparano?

Great "Q" Joe....

Well, obviously Miami is a hotbed of talent. Fred Bilitnikoff is also from Erie. That's one hall of famer.

joe tried to turn my friend from tailback to mlb, so he went to stanford. he played tailback for 2 years than converted to a linebacker. He now plays outside linebacker for the Falcons, so maybe JoePa knew something.

Thank you cuban

I admit that Saban was at first very intimidating. Players would even tell you that.

But it quickly wore off. Very quickly.

Shula was intimidating to a very young cub reporter (me) until I got to know him or he mellowed, or both.

Cameron thought he was smarter than everyone and really was not.

Jimmy was interesting to cover. I don't even want to discuss Wannstedt. Sparano is all coach all the time. The guy loves his job and lives his job.

And, I must say, he does his job well so far.


Also, congrats on not being from Jersey. I was just messing with you earlier... no hard feelings.

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