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61 posts from March 2010

March 31, 2010

Dolphins preseason schedule right here

The Dolphins have a preseason state rivalry going with Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, playing both teams in each of the past six years dating back to the 2003 preseason. Well the building tradition continues.

The Dolphins will once again play both the Jags and Bucs in the 2010 preseason according to the preseason schedule released today by the NFL.

Unlike the past couple of years the Dolphins will not play the New Orleans Saints in the preseason. That kills me because I love to eat in New Orleans, but I digress. Losing this matchup means the Dolphins will not play the defending Super Bowl champs.

The Dolphins will play the Dallas Cowboys in the impressive Cowboys Stadium. That game will be the finale of Miami's four-game preseason schedule.

The third game, the one in which teams typically play their starters into the second half, will match the Dolphins against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium. The Falcons beat the Dolphins 19-7 in the 2009 regular-season opener.


Here is the 2010 preseason schedule:

Date      Game   

Aug. 12-16   Bucs at Dolphins

Aug. 19-23   Dolphins at Jacksonville

Aug. 26-29   Atlanta at Miami

Sept. 2-3     Dolphins at Dallas.

The actual dates and starting time will be released soon. None of Miami's preseason games are tentatively scheduled for national TV. They are all scheduled for broadcast in South Florida on WFOR-4, with the away games always live and the home games requiring a sellout for the broadcast to be live.

Carlton Mitchell a WR sleeper to watch

While we're waiting for the NFL preseason schedule announcement at approximately 3 p.m., I wanted to catch you up on a wide receiver that intrigues me -- most wide receivers intrigue me because the Dolphins have a great need there.

USF's Carlton Mitchell had, by most accounts, a very good day on Tuesday during his Pro Day. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, he showed he can run like a much smaller man.

My source tells me four scouts clocked Mitchell with the wind at: 4.40, 4.42, 4.41 and 4.46. Obviously, different scouts get different times but it's safe to say Mitchell can run a 4.4 in the 40.

Against the wind, my source tells me Mitchell was in the high 4.4s and low 4.5s: 4.47, 4.5, 4.48, 4.51.

The low times, were an improvement from Mitchell's combine time.

But that isn't what was most impressive to me. According to aspiring scout Chris Cordero, the question mark on Mitchell was neither his productivity (although that could stand improvement with another season in college) nor his size and speed.

The problem has been his inconsistent hands: But here's the impressive thing. Mitchell apparently recognizes that weakness and is being proactive in trying to correct it.

"He has inconsistent hands [but] he's been catching 300 balls a day from the Jugs machine to work on them," Cordero tells me. "Apparently, at the Pro Day – he dropped some passes and looked inconsistent catching the ball at times. He runs good routes and is able to sink his hips and get in and out of his breaks quickly for a larger man.

"He didn’t do the vertical at either his pro day or combine that I know of – so he might not have the best ups, but he has long arms and big hands to go along with his 6-3 frame. He needs work as a blocker – but gives good effort in that department. Should be a threat in the red zone."

[Update: Cordero corrects that Mitchell did do a vertical. It was 33 inches.]

[Update 2: Mitchell's agent Christina Phillips tells me Mitchell's vertical was actually 36 inches.]

That is obviously the bright side and the blemishes. But as a value pick in the third round, Mitchell has the goods.

"I have him as my 5th best WR behind Dez Bryant, Demaryious Thomas, Arrelious Benn, and Golden Tate," Cordero said. "I give him a late second to early third round grade. He could develop into a No. 1 WR."

One hopefully the Dolphins are considering.

By the way, the Marvin Lewis, Tom Coughlin and Lovie Smith were among the people present for the USF Pro Day.

The day Dan Marino almost joined the Raiders

Perhaps the biggest story in the NFL this past week has centered on the possible trade of Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported the Oakland Raiders are currently the leading candidates to trade for McNabb, a quarterback that has been to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl. And I would tell you there is precedence for the Raiders looking to make a big splash with a quarterback trade and that can be traced to Miami in 1990.

That's right, the Raiders once tried to trade for a pretty good Dolphins quarterback.

Dan Marino.

And they almost pulled it off.

This is nothing new that I am reporting to you. I've reported this fact previously. In fact in the mid to late 1990s when I first wrote it, I took a lot of heat from local sports talk radio because the hosts simply didn't believe the report.

Hank Goldberg, then on WQAM in South Florida, called me out on it on air. Goldberg had a relationship with Al Davis back in the day and promised his listeners he'd ask Davis about the veracity of my story over their next lunch. Goldberg never mentioned the issue again on the air that I know of, but he did confess to me once that he did indeed check with Davis.

And obviously, Davis confirmed the story.

What exactly is the story?

Well, on Dec. 26, 1989, Don Shula held his day-after press conference following the regular-season finale loss to Kansas City on Christmas eve. The Dolphins finished the year 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Back then, missing the playoffs was a sin for Shula's team so there was obvious concern that Miami needed to do something dynamic to change direction. Shula wanted back in the playoffs and the idea of trading Dan Marino was starting to gain traction among fans.

Well, one reporter asked Shula if he might consider such a trade.

"I don't ... My actions aren't governed by ..." Shula stumbled as if surprised.

Then he recovered and said, "Furtherest thing from my mind."

But it got closer to Shula mind later in the offseason when the Miami coach and Davis started discussing a Marino blockbuster.

Shula, only the winningest coach in NFL history, not only considered the trade, but nearly took the step. The reason Marino didn't play his final decade in silver and black is because Shula and Davis came to an agreement on the trade and then Shula increased his asking price not once but twice.

[Mid-morning update: You probably want the details of the trade, right? You'll have to buy the book for that.]

Davis, who thought he had a deal for Marino at one point, balked at the final lopsided proposal from Miami.

Why am I telling you this? Well, the story still intrigues me because of the enormous personalities involved. The history and fortunes of two elite franchises might have changed had this trade gone down.

I'm also repeating the story because the story broke in the mid 1990s during an age when information still flew below the Internet radar. It is not widely known to this day.

Finally, I'm recounting the tale because I've heard from several people that they cannot believe the Eagles would consider trading an all-timer like McNabb. 

Well, believe it.

If the Dolphins could almost trade Marino, the Eagles can certainly consider trading McNabb.

[BLOG NOTE: The NFL preseason schedule is supposed to be released today. So check back throughout the day for that and any other updates that might might present themselves.]   

March 30, 2010

Source: Rolando McClain visits Dolphins

Rolando McClain seemed like the obvious pick for the Dolphins at No. 12 in the first round when this offseason began. Then the Dolphins paid a mint for inside linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency and everyone kinda, sorta dismissed the possibility for McClain.

The Dolphins apparently haven't dismissed the possibility.

A source tells me McClain was in town the past couple of days to visit with the Dolphins.

And while that doesn't mean the Dolphins will draft McClain, it obviously shows an interest in the guy. Contrary to what many of you believe, the Dolphins do not bring guys in for the sake of creating smokescreens.

Teams have a limited number of visits and this team doesn't waste those on players they don't like or don't want to know better. This team creates smokescreens by simply saying nothing, zero, nada, zilch, and letting speculation and poor reporting (I've been guilty) do their work.

McClain is believed to be the best inside linebacker in the draft. But for all his production and hype at Alabama, there are questions about him.

He is adequately fast, but not otherworldly as his 4.69 and 4.68 at the Alabama Pro Day attests. He did have a 35-inch vertical leap which is showing good hops for a 6-4 and 249-pound guy.

McClain revealed at his Pro Day he suffers from Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory disease of the intestines. McClain has said he's known of the disease since he was in ninth grade and treats it daily. I am told the Dolphins knew about McClain's Crohn's illness before McClain admitted he had it.

A couple of points:

The Dolphins are obviously not ruling any good player out as a possibility at No. 12. McClain was productive at Alabama so he's obviously a good player.

If McClain is the pick, Channing Crowder could have a fight on his hands for his starting job and either Crowder or Reggie Torbor could find himself playing elsewhere in 2009.

That is, of course, a big if right now. McClain is visiting with a handful of other teams as well, most notably the New York Giants.

Quick react: Bryant Pro Day good, not great

Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant will likely be available when the Dolphins pick in the first round at No. 12.

But the chances of Bryant being the pick are not great, in my opinion. It's only an opinion, mind you, not anything anyone has told me.

Bryant had his Pro Day workout at Lufkin High School in his hometown of Lufkin, Tex. today. Approximately 20 teams were in attendance. including the Dolphins.

But the Dolphins were not represented by any of The Big 3 -- as Jeff Ireland, coach Tony Sparano and Bill Parcells were probably more busy doing work on guys that, you know, they actually might draft.

There was a report from ESPN's Adam Shefter earlier in the day that Bryant ran a 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash last week. Well, what a difference a week makes. On Tuesday, Bryant ran an average 4.55 time in the 40-yard dash with one time with the wind at 4.5 and change one time against the wind in the 4.6s, according to a source.

[Update: Gil Brandt of NFL.com says the time narrowed to hundreths of a second are 4.52 (with the wind) and 4.68 (against the wind). Brandt reports Bryant ran a third time and posted another 4.52. That averages out to 4.57.] 

Those are good times, on average, for a 220-pound man. But it isn't jaw-dropping. One interesting thing about Bryant's weight: He has dropped from the 225 he weighed at the Indianapolis Combine in February.

I'm also told Bryant had a 38-inch vertical leap. Also very good for a 6-2 guy.

I am awaiting word on how Bryant did in the position drills and how well he caught the football and whether he showed any rust after missing much of 2009 while he was on NCAA suspension. The test results, however, should do nothing to knock Bryant down.

Unfortunately for him, I don't think it appreciably raises his stock, either.

[This is a quickie reaction. Come back in a bit for more details and further analysis as they come in.]

[Late update: My source this evening told me Bryant caught the ball well enough and was solid getting in and out of his breaks But, but, but, "this just wasn't an elite workout. It was good. Not elite," he said.]

Miami's first pick? Best player available

The rest of the country is acting like the visit of Texas safety Earl Thomas to the Dolphins this week is breaking news, but readers of this blog knew about it two weeks ago. I nonetheless am going to use the visit of the outstanding free safety to make a couple of points.

Point One: Regardless of the speculation about Miami's first round draft pick, I think the conclusion we should all agree upon is the Dolphins should probablypick the highest-rated player on their board when their turn comes.

Unlike last year when Miami went with a fine player that also fit an obvious need -- cornerback Vontae Davis -- this year the Dolphins seem to have so darn many needs, it's likely anywhere they turn will handle a need.

So might as well just pick the best player, I say.

If that player is an outside linebacker such as Derrick Morgan, great. Miami's got a need.

If that player is a nose tackle such as Dan Williams, great. Miami's got a need.

If that player is a free safety such as Thomas or Eric Berry, great. Miami's got a need.

If that player is a wide receiver such as Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas or Arrelious Benn, fine. Miami's got a need.

If that player is an elite left guard such as Michael Iupati, great. Miami has a need there.

If that player is a running back such as C.J. Spiller, great. Miami needs a home run hitter and next season Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are out of contract. As an aside, a club source tells me Spiller has not visited the Dolphins and has no visit scheduled so that should temper all the unsubstantiated rumors out there. I put up his video anyway because he's electric.

Miami has a need or could use upgrading at practically every position. The areas I would say are absolutely not likely to be addressed or need addressing in the first round are cornerback, quarterback, kicker and punter.

Otherwise, you can make a solid case for adding an elite player at just about any other position on the roster. Think about that long and hard. The Dolphins could easily stand upgrading along the OL, at LB, FS, RB, TE, WR, and DL.

That brings me to my next point.

At season's end there was a debate on this blog (I know there was because I started it) about how close the Dolphins are to championship caliber. Ronnie Brown made the point on his radio show that the Dolphins are close. Many fans commenting here agreed.

I made the point the Dolphins were not yet in the same conversation with the Saints and Colts and other playoff teams.

Well, if you see just how much improvement the Dolphins can use, you should be able to agree the Dolphins aren't close. I mean, they don't have a starting FS on the roster right now. Thomas would be good, Berry would be great.

They don't have a dynamic receiver on the roster right now. My apologies to coach Tony Sparano who insists he's happy with this group because, well, what else is he going to say?

The NT situation is a question mark.

They don't have a proven starting OLB on the roster right now.

And even the team's greatest strength -- the running of Williams and Brown -- is something that will have to be addressed by next year at the latest.

Now, maybe the stars align right and good things begin to take shape immediately for Miami. It is, after all, Holy Week. But barring that, the Dolphins still have significant work to do. They have much building yet to do in this draft and next.

They are not close.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back later this afternoon because I will post all the relevant news (perhaps a Dez Bryant update from his Pro Day) plus a new blog entry on why the Raiders' chase of Donovan McNabb makes sense historically and what intriguing connection that has to the Dolphins.You will be interested.]

March 29, 2010

Crowder on the wrong post-season team

Over the weekend I shared with you the list of players that must step up from what their career byline has been so far in order to turn the Dolphins from also-rans to playoff contenders in 2010. In that regard, I served up positive spin because many of the guys I mentioned could indeed turn into excellent players.

But there is, of course, the famine side to the feast I served.

Players obviously can go in the other direction as well, playing well one year and then laying an egg the next. Joey Porter took that route in 2009. Chad Pennington was on that path the season's first three games until he got injured. Akin Ayodele also went in that direction in 2009 after a solid 2008.

Well, the folks at Pro Football Focus have put together an NFL-wide All-Declined team. That team is comprised of the players whose careers are on the downward trek. But the list also includes players who simply suffered from down years.

One Miami Dolphins player made the team.

ILB Channing Crowder.

Crowder was pretty good in 2008 -- at least good enough to earn a three-year contract from Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Crowder led the team in tackles in nine 2008 games. The Dolphins bought in on Crowder.

But after delivering a career-high 114 tackles, six passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2008, Crowder's 2009 production tanked.

He had a career-worst 51 tackles, one sack, three passes defensed, and one interception in 2009. Crowder led the team in tackles in only one game.

"[He was] unable to make the big plays and really out of place in coverage," the Pro Football Focus guys write. "Definition of a down year."

The Dolphins' mystery at quarterback spot

One of the interesting side hobbies I've picked up in covering the Dolphins is reading the people I cover. (They read me, so I figure turn about is fair.) Seriously, I like to listen and observe how things are laid out and that often gives you greater hints about what is happening than what these folks are actually saying.

And even when the hints fail to paint a full picture of what is going on, it gives you an idea that something is going on.

Based on that, when I look how the Dolphins are handling and talking about the quarterback situation, it seems painfully obvious something is going on.

Think about it:

At the end of last year coach Tony Sparano declined to name Chad Henne his team's starter. Yet last week, without Henne completing even one pass in anger since the end of the season because the Dolphins have not played any games, Sparano names Henne his starting quarterback. Fine.

Last year the Dolphins were hesitant to re-sign Chad Pennington. They figured they had their three guys in Henne, Pat White and Tyler Thigpen. But then we saw 2009 play out and this offseason the Dolphins gladly accepted Pennington back.

So on the surface the Dolphins have their four quarterbacks. No biggie, right? But that suggests to me either Thigpen or White or both should be nervous. And the Dolphins are making these veiled remarks suggesting there's some strategy about what's about to happen with these quarterbacks. They're talking like either trades, or cuts or draft picks are en route.

"I'm not gonna reveal my hand, but we do have four quarterbacks," Coach Tony Sparano said last week.

Reveal your hand? Well, nobody knew the Dolphins have a hand to play until they declined to reveal it.

I found it interesting that Pennington, obviously sensing something, requested a no-trade clause in his contract. The Dolphins balked, suggesting they didn't want to give Pennington something they don't like giving other players, but also suggesting they perhaps had trading Pennington in mind.

The issue was resolved by giving Pennington a trade bonus that would pay the player a seven-figure sum if he is indeed traded. It's only money. It is an uncapped year. So don't be surprised if Pennington is traded.

Then the Dolphins made Pennington the No. 3 quarterback. The way it was portrayed by the Pennington camp is this gives him time to settle into his work in the preseason rather than feeling pressure to make more throws following his fourth shoulder surgery. The way Sparano portrayed it was different.

"We feel strongly about a couple of players that are there right now, strong enough that we make sure we do our due diligence, making sure those players are going to get the reps needed to continue to grow," Sparano said. "That's important. Chad Pennington completely understands the role he's in right now. 

"Again, I don't want to put barriers around them over there. We're going to let these guys play and see where we are. But we feel strongly about a couple of players at that position."

It is good the Dolphins feel strongly about a couple of players at the position. But they have four players at the position.

And that leads to the next thing that perked my ears and told me something is afoot. Last week, Sparano named Henne the No. 1. He said Pennington is the No. 3. But he declined to name No. 2 and No. 4.

I'm not getting into that," Sparano said as alarms are going off in my head. "You guys have a 50 percent chance of getting that right."

So the Dolphins have a mystery No. 2 QB? And they have a mystery No. 4?

Strange.

Pat White, a second-round pick in 2009, was the No. 2 quarterback after Pennington went on injured reserve last season. But team sources kept telling me if Henne went down, Thigpen, the No. 3, would start the following week's game ahead of White.

Thigpen finally got a chance to play the final game of the season and he was, well, inconsistent. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 83 yards. He threw a 34-yard touchdown and also threw two interceptions. One could hardly say that is who Thigpen is because he came off the bench with little preparation and no practice snaps.

And yet that was better than what White showed all season long.

White could not complete a pass all season and was not even dynamic as a runner out of the spread option. He simply didn't look like an NFL player. And Sparano, who usually gushes about his players when they have a future on the team, was quite reserved about White.

"My thoughts and my evaluation was at the end of the season there was still work to be done with Pat," Sparano said. "I don’t think Pat would say anything different. There’s still work to be done. There’s always work to be done. I mean, there’s work to be done with Chad Pennington right now. That’s the great thing about Chad Pennington; he’ll let you work with him. There’s a bunch of work to be done with Pat, fundamentally throwing the ball.

"[Quarterback coach] David Lee is breaking those guys down every day. So I think that’s been it. But I did see growth. I saw growth from season’s start to season’s end with what Pat can handle from the offensive standpoint. At the end of the year there were no restrictions. He was able to handle it all mentally that way. And I’ve seen growth from a fundamental standpoint out on the practice field. Now, at the end of the day, with the competition out there, whether it’s going to be good enough or not, that really isn’t up to me. It’s going to be up to those players."

Sparano ruled out a switch in position for White at this time. The fact is he's never really played receiver, isn't exceedingly fast or big. The commitment has to be made for him succeeding or failing at one position before asking him to play another.

But it just seems like White has to take a giant leap to even salvage a roster spot in 2010.

Another issue is whether the Dolphins add a quarterback from the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Don't dismiss the possibility. It is real despite Miami having four quarterbacks on the roster.

And why is it such a tangible possibility?

Because I believe of the four quarterbacks currently on the roster, perhaps only two will be with the team when the regular-season begins. 

March 28, 2010

Joey Porter arrest makes you feel what?

If you're upset because the Dolphins haven't cut any of the three players arrested on various charges, including DUI, this offseason, perhaps you can take solace in knowing the Dolphins cut Joey Porter ...

... before he got arrested for suspicion of DUI and resisting arrest in California on Saturday.

According to reports Porter was confronted by California Highway Patrol officers early Saturday in a fast-food parking lot.

Porter refused to provide his driver's license and began to roll up his window when asked to leave the car. Police say that when an officer reached to unlock the door Porter slapped the officer's hand.

Porter eventually got out and complied with orders, placing his hands behind his back. He and a passenger were arrested.

Alrightie then.

Now, quick study of human nature:

How many of you are saddened that this has happened? You feel regret that Porter made an unwise choice, that he endangered life by allegedly being drunk and behind the wheel of a vehicle. How many of you are disappointed this has happened?

And how many of you feel happy about this? You feel avenged that something bad has happened to a guy that said bad things about your team? You feel like a loudmouth got his comeuppance for being something of a jerk to your team?

Your responses should be interesting.

March 27, 2010

Bill Sheridan checks out ILB at Arizona St.

Recently hired inside linebacker coach Bill Sheridan was at the Arizona State Pro Day Friday (wow, that's a lot of consecutive capitalized words) and a source tells me he was there primarily to lay eyes on ILB Travis Goethel.

Goethel is 6-2 1/2 and 238-to-240 pounds. Although originally believed to be a late-round type of player, Dolphins In Depth aspiring scout Chris Cordero tells me he has him graded in the fifth round.

The ASU Pro Day took place outdoors on grass, and Goethel ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 and 4.62 seconds unofficially. He had a 9-2 on the broad jump, a 4.22-second short shuttle, a 6.71-second three-cone drill. He also did positional drills but there is no report on how he looked.

This is what Cordero thinks of Goethel:

"He is a solid tackler who can deliver some big hits. He has very good instincts and good read and react ability. Does a nice job in pass coverage as well. Has also been very durable and is a team leader. The only thing keeping him from being a high draft pick is average athleticisim and his lack of elite size -- although he did some work to dispel some of those athletic doubts at the Pro Day. I give him a high 5th round grade."

Yesterday was also Pro Day at The U.

If you don't know what The U is, well, I got nothin' for you.

Tight end Jimmy Graham is Miami's most impressive draftable player. He stood on his 4.53 Combine time in the 40-yard dash. He did catch the ball for scouts. The Dolphins were represented at the workout but apparently not by a coach or GM Jeff Ireland.

How my boys have fallen. Used to be every single team would send a head coach or a general manager or both to watch the six or so first or second rounders Miami would put on display at its Pro Day.

:(

By the way, if you're interested to find out why O.J. Atogwe hasn't gotten much play in restricted free agency, check this out. It could explain some things. 

March 26, 2010

Dolphins interest in Mike Williams is interesting

OK, they're not interested in Brandon Marshall. I get that. They're not interested in Terrell Owens, even as a short-term solution to a big problem. I sort of get that, also.

The Dolphins might not be interested in Dez Bryant if it takes the No. 12 overall selection in the draft to get him. Something about risk versus reward. I get that, too.

Yet there is an interest in Mike Williams.

Hmmmm. I'm trying to get that.

The team brought Williams for a visit at the Davie, FL. training facility on Thursday and spent several hours with him.

Williams is a 6-2, 220-pound prototype from Syracuse University. Well, he was from Syracuse University until he reportedly left the team in November. Those reports, by the way, were the result of Syracuse coach Doug Marrone saying Williams quit the team. So the sourcing cannot be questioned. Williams quit the team according to his coach.

It was a strange situation because Marrone said Williams went to him without being summoned and simply quit.

Asked at the time why Williams quit the team, Marrone said, "You'd have to ask him. I have no idea. I'm not going to discuss the conversation from my end. Obviously, I told you that he came up to me and voluntarily took himself off the team. That's it."

Well, that's not really it.

Reports later surfaced that Williams was on the verge of being suspended by Marrone when he decided to quit. It wasn't the first time Williams had issues at Syracuse. He was suspended from school in 2008 for cheating on a test.

When he quit with four games left in the season, Williams had 49 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns. He ranked first in the Big East and 14th nationally with seven receptions per game. He was first in his conference and 20th nationally in receiving yards.

The saga of Williams leaving the team in 2009 is a big issue for teams. When a player leaves a team it raises questions as to how much he loves the game, it raises questions whether he's a quitter, it raises questions whether he's likely to repeat the offense in the pros if things get tough, because as Nick Saban used to say, past actions is the best predictor of future actions.

"I've been talking to all the NFL teams about that," Williams said during the Indianapolis Combine in February. " I want to leave it at that. But what I want everybody to know is I didn't quit. I'll leave that story at that."

So Williams didn't want to say what actually happened, or what he believes happened, but he did want to remove the doubt about him quitting.

"I told the teams that, all the teams know the whole story," Williams said. "I want to leave it at that, I don't want to make it a big media story. I just want everybody to know I didn't quit."

Williams apparently is admitting to teams that he cheated on the test. He told them he simply doesn't like school. And he's telling teams that he can be reliable.

"I want to let them know that I'm a nice person, I'm a good person," Williams said. "School was just my problem. I had bad judgment when I was young. School has been my problem, I want to let them know I can play football and be there for that team."

Obviously the Dolphins have bought in -- at least to the point of bringing Williams to town.

Sparano explains why he sticks to prototype

Last week I explained to you that the prototype player is important to the Dolphins.

I told you the Dolphins have certain specific size and speed and other requirements they don't deviate from very much. And I know you like it when I tell you things like this because then you get to argue with me about it.

But then someone with serious credibility says the same thing I said and then you come around because suddenly Salguero's not on the island all by himself anymore.

Well, Tony Sparano explained the idea behind drafting for the prototype, signing prototype free agents, and being careful about not making too many exceptions on the prototype during the NFL annual meeting a couple of days ago.

Here are his thoughts:

"If you continue to turn your cheek to prototype, to size, to speed, to those types of things, to the mental part of it, to the prototype players, to the position specific skills, then all of a sudden you turn around and two years later you look at your football team and you have a team full of non-prototype players," Sparano said. "So you have a lot of non-prototype players and you’re a small team, you’re not a big team. You’re a slow team, you’re not a fast team because you like this kid and you like his qualities and he’s a good football player.

"So I think in some situations you’ve got to be cautious about the prototype thing and that you might be passing on a good player, so we try not to do that. We try to take all of those things into consideration and we do, that’s a fact. But I also do believe that you don’t want to look back later on and see a team full of non-prototype players. That’s not good in this league, to be a small team or to be a slow team or to be one of those types of things. It’s not a good thing. The thing I keep hearing from people that play us is, ‘Wow, they’re physical. Wow, they’re physical. They’re big, they’re physical.’ That I think is because of the type of people that we bring in."

And so that is the reason that despite my appreciation for Brandon Graham, for example, I see little to no chance the Dolphins would draft the Michigan star to be their OLB because he's 6-1 and not 6-3 or 6-4. It is a shame because, clearly, the adherence to prototype forces the Dolphins to pass on certain guys.

Dwight Freeney would have no place on the Miami roster. A Zach Thomas, even in his prime, probably wouldn't be a fit, either. Neither would Darrell Green, who I would rank as the best cornerback of all time. He was only 5-9 and 180 pounds.

But the Dolphins have a philosophy and it has succeeded in the past in a number of different places so who's to argue. I'm just here to 'splain stuff ... and hope coach Sparano backs me up on it as he does this time.

By the way, tell me who you believe to be the best cornerback of all time. And tell me other non-prototypes that were among the game's greatest players.

[And come back later this afternoon. I'm going to wash the Vette this morning, but I'll update the blog in the afternoon or earlier if there's any news.]

March 25, 2010

Needed help at LG? Don't sleep on Michael Iupati

All the so-called experts as well as fans -- me included -- have for several months told you what the Dolphins' needs are without, you know, actually hearing it from the Dolphins. Those are among the closely guarded secrets of Team Big Tuna.

Well, the needs you heard about are still accurate. They're just incomplete.

The Dolphins can definitely use an OLB, a NT, WR, FS out of this draft.

But did you know LG should be on the list, too?

And perhaps even in the first round.

Surprised?

Don't be because the Dolphins have been, and continue to do much legwork on Idaho guard Michael Iupati, a 6-5, 331-pound behemoth that truly impressed on tape and continued to impress the Dolphins during the Senior Bowl week and in the game.

The Dolphins were so impressed they brought Iupati to town on March 15 and 16 for a visit. The Dolphins were the first team Iupati visited so they were obviously the first to recognize his potential worth. But they haven't been the last.

Iupati, who is expected to be available when Miami picks at No. 12 in the first round, has been a busy man lately, traveling to several other teams. The interest in him is substantial.

By the way, if the Dolphins go with an interior offensive lineman in the first round, it would almost have to be Iupati, as there isn't another player at the position that offers value so high. Iupati is the only one that does while Ole Miss guard John Jerry rates slightly lower.

So why would Miami seriously consider Iupati at that spot?

Well, have you heard, they have interior offensive line issues. Still. The club is expecting to trade left guard Justin Smiley at some point this offseason. That creates a void at the position. I suppose Nate Garner, who started four games at the spot last year, could be a candidate to fill the void, but who else will compete for the job?

Donald Thomas and recently acquired Richie Incognito are both right guards. That's their spot. That's where they are clearly best suited. Moving either to left guard is asking them to play out of position.

So the Dolphins need LG help assuming Smiley goes as planned.

Don't be surprised if Michael Iupati is that help. Don't be surprised if the Dolphins pick him in the first round.

[UPDATE: The National Football Post rates Iupati the No. 8 best prospect in the draft while ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. has rated at No. 14. So obviously, folks are thinking No. 12 is around the place he should be selected at this stage.] 

March 24, 2010

Dolphins seem to be driving Jason Taylor away

... And another thing ...

Oh, got a little carried away. I guess I'm a fired up because I've been thinking longer and harder about Jason Taylor's current situation. It really doesn't make sense to me. And on my drive from Orlando back to South Florida I thought of other reasons it doesn't make sense.

To catch you up, I've written a column for Wednesday's paper explaining how poorly the Dolphins are acting in dealing with Taylor. Read the column to get the details that go well beyond coach Tony Sparano declining to comment about Taylor during the NFL's annual meetings.

I then explain the reasons it makes sense to re-sign Taylor and make the point that by acting as they are, the Dolphins seem to be driving Miami's all-time sack leader to another team -- possibly the Jets or the Patriots, who had interest last year and still are looking for pass-rushers this year.

Well, here are some things I didn't have room for in the column that add to my point.

The Dolphins began their offseason conditioning program Monday. It's a big deal to them. It certainly was a point of contention in the spring of 2008 when they wanted Taylor in the program and not on Dancing with the Stars.

That basically nullifies the thought that Miami is taking a wait-and-see approach on Taylor. They obviously have a chance to sign him and get him in the program now. They have a chance to sign him and get him rehabbing his shoulder under their care. They have a chance to sign him and get him in better shape than he would otherwise be in.

Why aren't they doing that?

The Dolphins also have a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan. Why wouldn't they want Taylor to be signed and absorbing Miami's new defense as the mold is cast on that defense this offseason? Sure, Taylor could catch up later if he had to. But why delay such a thing?

Look, Jason Taylor wants to play for the Dolphins. I know this.

If the Dolphins would like Jason Taylor, they should tell him so now. If they don't want Jason Taylor, they should tell him so now. He will live either way.

But this being all mysterious about the issue with Jason Taylor? That's not good business. 

Sparano rightly asks for perspective on arrested players

Today I ask the mob to put down its torches and pitch forks and take a deep breath. And I think Dolphins coach Tony Sparano would agree with me that in judging the recent rash of off-field stains by arrested or suspended players, we inspect the fruit before deciding it is rotten.

This offseason some Dolphins players have obviously shown bad judgment, been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and clearly failed to use their God-given brains in getting arrested or suspended by the NFL.

Will Allen and Ronnie Brown were arrested for DUI related offenses after failing field sobriety tests. Tony McDaniel was arrested for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. And Jason Ferguson was suspended eight games by the NFL for failing a league mandated drug test for performance enhancing substances, the second positive test of his career.

"First of all, I'm going to say this: I'm obviously not happy with any of this," Sparano said Tuesday. "That is for sure. I'm absolutely not happy with any of it. Anytime any player -- anybody -- brings a negative light to the organization in any way, I'm not happy about it. Those things have been addressed."

But then the Dolphins and we need to step back from the ledge of outrage and move to the more solid footing of reason and logic. Drunk driving is horrible and hitting a women is equally reprehensible. But we're talking imperfect people here and none are chronic offenders.

And no one has been convicted, save Ferguson who will serve his penalty.

"A few of the players that have had these issues as of late have been model citizens since I've been there and, really, for a long time in this league," Sparano said. "From my end, I do take that into consideration when you're talking about character. I've seen these players in critical situations during the course of the season, in critical situations during the course of games, off the field and what they've done in our community. I've seen them do a lot of positive things that way. I don't want to confuse one issue with character, but it is an issue that concerns me and is an issue that has to be addressed. But we're just going to let this whole thing play out and gather the facts and then make some decisions."

It is easy to demand the Dolphins or any other public trust have a no-tolerance policy and cut these players for getting arrested. But that isn't reality and isn't the right approach.

I cannot tell you exactly where the line is drawn for requiring instant termination of a relationship. But none of this offseason's problematic incidents have crossed that line yet. That doesn't mean no players should be terminated for being in trouble. Some definitely need to go.

The NFL is seriously concerned about Ben Roethlisberger and his (at best) penchant for getting into compromising positions with women who claim he has sexually abused them and (at worst) actually is a predator.

But one DUI arrest in Brown's case is not in the same universe with Roethlisberger. Allen, who has had offseason incidents in the past, is walking perilously close to being a problem, but again, what if he is tried and found not guilty of his DUI? He has, by the way, pled not guilty in the matter.

"I think you've got to look at the player's history," Sparano said when I asked if he'd cut a player who got in trouble. "If the history was chronic and there was a lot of problems there in the past or any of those type of things, I think that's something you would consider, for sure. But I think you really have to look at the past history of the player and see where you are and maybe, at that point, where your tolerance may be for that situation. But that's a possibility."

It obviously isn't a possibility with any of these players yet. And even with Ferguson the Dolphins went in the other direction -- signing him to a one-year contract days after the suspension was announced by the league.

"Jason Ferguson, really, for us, he's been a captain here for two years," Sparano said. "He has been a guy that I know very well, that we know very well and that knows us very well. I think that the guy made a mistake. But at the end of this, the middle of the season we really would've been looking long and hard to find a player like Jason Ferguson when he got hurt and we couldn't find one. At the end of this whole thing, when the suspension is over, we'll see where we are during the course of the season and where we are at that point. It may possibly be a great move."

So does it send a mixed message that Ferguson is a team captain, a leader on the defensive line and is also rewarded with a new contract after his second performance enhancing drug suspension?

Sparano thinks not as he vouches for Ferguson.

"He's been suspended one time since he's been here with us as a captain," the coach said. "But I would say to you that ... to send a mixed message? I don't think it sends a good message. I really don't. I know this player. I know Jason Ferguson pretty well."

March 23, 2010

The complete downlow on the Dolphins WRs

Well, following the Patrick Turner post, I'd like to follow the theme and let you know what Tony Sparano said about the rest of the wide receiver situation -- including the possibility of acquiring either Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall.

You're not going to like it, but here goes.

The Dolphins are not in the market for Owens. And they are not about to give up a first round pick, plus $10 million annually, plus a big signing bonus for troubled restricted free agent Brandon Marshall.

"I don't know if either of them make sense for our ballclub one way or the other," Sparano said. "Both are great players in their own ways, different from each other. Obviously I've had Terrell before and know his strengths. Brandon I've played against before, know his strengths.

"I'm happy with the group of players we have right now, been very productive over the last couple of years and are continuing to get better."

And I'm thinking, he's kidding, right?

Nope.

Sparano was asked again later as a new wave of reporters came to him and asked the same question about interest in acquiring Terrell Owens and Marshall. And the coach got less reticent on the topic.

"I wouldn't say, not at this time," he said of his team's interest in Owens or Marshall. "Right now we're kind of sitting back and we feel good about where we are right now. We'll see as this things goes on if all of a sudden something came to us that was tremendous. But right now I wouldn't say. We're OK where we are."

Well, where are the Dolphins exactly?

I have been told they will definitely look to draft at least one wide receiver -- perhaps in the second round if things break right. Would they draft Dez Bryant in the first round? I doubt it. But they're not ruling it out and they're definitely not ruling it out if the kid is still available in the second round -- which, believe it or not, is possible.

"I just think we need good players," Sparano said in answering a question about Bryant. When I say that, we have a lot of good players on our team, and we want to take good players. So we have to be concerned with the other things that are out there, the issues. We have to do our due diligence that way. But we have to take good players. Whether it's a receiver, whether it's a defensive back, an offensive lineman, we have to make sure that we take good player for this football team. And whether that's myself, Bill, Jeff, we've really preached this offseason. Bill and Jeff have been on a mission since the middle of last season with this draft class, preparing that way. So I just feel like more good players we can bring on the team, the more good things we can find for them to do."

Translation: I'm not ruling anybody in or out.

Finally, what is Sparano's assessment of his current wide receivers? Well, let me just tell you what he was willing to share.

"We haven't changed the receiving corps since the season ended," Sparano said. "I liked them during the season, I like that group of players. I do think that we some young players that were on the practice squad in Taurus Johnson and Julius Pruitt, and of course, Pat Turner, who didn't play and I'm anxious to see compete.

"These players did a great job every day in practice against our defense, so I'm kind of anxious to see, when you don't have those goggles on, and you not in a game week, and worried about screwing up rotations and those kind of thing. These players compete. I'm really anxious to watch that. But the top of that group, with Teddy Ginn and Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartlin, I'm really pleased with what those guys have done this offseason and how hard they've worked during the course of this offseason. So we'll see as we go forward, but I would expect to see a better group of people of that group of people."

I would expect to see some difference in the group, however. That is almost certain. And Sparano pretty much admitted as much later.

"Do we want people to come in and compete? Absolutely," he said. "Do they know there's going to be someone in there to compete whether it's a younger player or the young players already on this roster? I'd say yeah. Sure they do. They know that. That's what we're festering down there right now. It's a competition. No job is safe. You got to go into training camp and you got to show us."

The Miami Dolphins' view on Patrick Turner

Patrick Turner is a 6-foot-5, 223-pound gift begging to be unwrapped.

But after not getting even one snap on offense and not catching a pass in 2009, the Dolphins are still waiting for Christmas morning to arrive.

So what's the teams view of Turner, or at least they view coach Tony Sparano was willing to share on Tuesday?

It is of a big player that obviously doesn't play big at times. It is of a raw individual who still needs to improve fundamentals. It is of a guy with potential that needs to start showing production.

"I hope he takes the next jump," Sparano said. "I hope he becomes a little more aggressive with the ball, a little more polished with route running, those kind of things and he uses some of the knowlege [wide receivers coach] Karl Dorrell has given him, some of the wisdom that Karl has given him in the last year from a release standpoint and those type of things.

"The fundamental part of the thing with Patrick is the most important thing right now. I want to see that growth. I want to see him more aggressive with the ball when it's in the air. He's a big receiver that I want to see him play big."

And so do we. Desperately.

Tony Sparano breakfast: The quickie take

Tony Sparano has just finished an hourlong breakfast meeting with the local media.

This is the synoptic (look it up) version of the most pertinent points:

1. Sparano, who declined to name Chad Henne his starter after the 2009 ended, named Henne his starter today. Henne is the starter and Sparano confirmed an earlier Miami Herald report saying Chad Pennington is the No. 3 QB.

2. Sparano did not name the No. 2 and No. 4 QB but that is quite obvious. Tyler Thigpen starts out at No. 2 and Pat White is the No. 4.

3. Sparano said Pennington is the No. 3 because he doesn't need as many snaps as the mystery No. 2 guy. I asked the coach if Pennington's surgically repaired throwing shoulder has rehabilitated to the point he can throw a 15- to 18-yard out and he said, "Yes."

4. Sparano said there was "100 percent" attendance at the start of Miami's offseason conditioning program Monday. That included restricted free agents Anthony Fasano, Ronnie Brown and Quintin Moses. Not present at the program was guard Justin Smiley, whom the team is trying to trade.

5. On Smiley, Sparano said his injury history was part of his evaluation process but the coach said, "other things were also involved" in the decision to break ties with him.

6. Sparano shot down the ridiculous rumors that Phillip Merling will be moving to OLB. He (the player) weighed 295 pounds at the end of the 2009 season. Yeah, he's a 3-4 defensive end.

7. Sparano opened the door for the Dolphins chasing older unrestricted free agents the remainder of this offseason. In the past, the team has concentrated on UFAs that generally were in the 25-28 year old range because those were still in their prime. But desperate times call for desperate measures. So Sparano said the "philosophy is to find the best player" regardless of age. My opinion? Keep an eye on unrestricted free agent safety Darren Sharper.

8. It doesn't sound as if Jason Taylor is a big priority for coming back to the Dolphins. At this point it looks as if the team is planning to go on without Taylor in 2010. I asked Sparano if the team intended to bring the team's all-time sack leader back in 2010 and Sparano said, "I'm not going to make a comment on that ..." before going on to saying JT is a "super guy" and that he "enjoyed having him on my team."

9. Sparano said the team is obviously not hiring another coach for the outside linebackers. Last year Miami had an ILB coach and an OLB coach. Bill Sheridan will handle both ILBs and OLBs this year and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will also be involved in the process.

10. Sparano said he'd feel comfortable if the wide receiver corps going into 2010 was the same as the 2009 wide receiver corps "because we know exactly what we're getting." OK, step off that ledge because I still expect the Dolphins to draft a wide receiver (or two). The coach has to say this because it's part of his job. And I have to share it with you because it's part of my job.

11. I asked Sparano his reaction to the string of arrests this offseason, three in all so far, and whether he might ever cut a player based on being convicted after an arrest.

"Obviously we're not happy about it," Sparano said. "Absolutely I'm not happy. Anybody that brings negative light to the team disappoints me. At the same time the team is getting all the facts on  this ..."

The coach said he would weigh a player's history when deciding that player's fate on the roster following an arrest or conviction. 

12. Sparano said newly signed Richie Incognito is "more a right guard-type of guy for us right now," suggesting he and Donald Thomas will compete for that job. The question is who starts at left guard when Justin Smiley is no longer on the team?

The obvious answer is the team can move Nate Garner to left guard where he started a game last year and played a lot. "We're going to put all of them out there and let them go and see what happens," Sparano said.

13. Incognito's reputation for suffering lapses of anger were partially the cause of him being dropped by St. Louis. Sparano addressed those lapses.

"We spent an awful lot of time together," the coach said. "This wasn't something that was just done very, very fast. We did our due diligence this way with Richie. But in spending our time together I wanted to hear why he thought some of these things happened and then I wanted to voice my opinion on where we were. And where we are right now is one of the lowest-penalized teams in the National Football League for the two years that I've been here. It is a way to win and lose in this league and not something that I'm going to tolerate. I think Richie understands that very clear. One of the things, I think, with Richie is to get a fresh start, a new start. I'm looking forward to being able to help him with that."

[BLOG NOTES: Check back as I'm updating as I write.]

To broil or not to broil is the Dolphins question

ORLANDO -- What is more important, to make Dolphins fans more comfortable in early season home games?

Or to make visiting teams more uncomfortable in early season home games.

You cannot have both.

The Dolphins have decided it's more important to keep their fans comfortable. And that is why owner Stephen Ross has officially requested that the NFL schedule as few as possible 1 p.m. home games for the Dolphins early in the coming season.

This despite the obvious weather advantage the Dolphins enjoyed for years when visiting teams often wilted in the heat and humidity of early season 1 p.m. games at Sun Life Stadium.

"Our goal is to have as few games at 1 p.m. in the early part of the season as possible," Ross said Monday during a chat with South Florida media at the NFL owner's meetings. "We've let the league know that. Last year was a great schedule. If I can duplicate that schedule we've done a great job. I like night games, four o'clock games, that kind of stuff earlier in the year."

Frankly, this is akin to the Buffalo Bills asking the league not to schedule too many December home games because it might snow. Sure that snow can make the fans miserable and, trust me, I've walked through that crowd, they're not happy.

But the football side of the Bills' organization believes the snow and cold and wind is part of their home field advantage. And they love it!

The Dolphins have enjoyed an equally inarguable advantage early in the season on their home field when temps can soar to the high 90s and the humidity threatens to drain every ounce of energy and desire from one's body.

Playing primarily 1 p.m. games in September, the Dolphins posted a 24-6 home record from 1990 through 2006. The team, after all, practiced in the heat and was prepared to play in the heat when opponents were not.

The most obvious example of the home field heatvantage came in the 2005 opener when the Dolphins beat the Broncos 34-10 not because they were better more likely because that team had three players go out of the game suffering from heat exhaustion and cramps. Denver, accustomed to the thin mountain air, melted down in the second half.

But Ross thinks having those early season games at 1 p.m. can be a home field disadvantage if fans aren't in their seats.

"The fact is when you see you’re winning but still see empty orange seats, and they [the fans] really want to be there, which would you choose?” Ross asked.

The Dolphins have chosen. Which do you think is the right choice?

[BLOG NOTE: Coach Tony Sparano will have a breakfast round-table at 7 a.m. Come back during the day for updates on what he said.]

March 22, 2010

Compensatory pick: Dolphins add 7th rounder

The NFL has just announced it has awarded 32 compensatory draft choices to 19 clubs and the Dolphins get one of those picks.

Don't get all fired excited.

In losing Andre' Goodman and Renaldo Hill while adding Jake Grove and Joe Berger in free agency, the Dolphins get a seventh-round pick for the loss. Miami's pick is the 45 pick of the seventh round and 252 overall.

Even though the Dolphins did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents, the free agents lost were deemed to rank higher than the ones signed.

The Dolphins now have 10 overall selections in the coming April draft.

The New England Patriots were the biggest gainers, getting four compensatory picks for their losses of a year ago. The Pats got a sixth round pick (205 overall) and three seventh-rounders (247, 248 and 250 overall).

Last offseason the Patriots lost Heath Evans, Jabar Gaffney, Larry Izzo, LaMont Jordan and Lonie Paxton to free agency. They added Brandon McGowan.

Neither the Jets nor the Bills were awarded a compensatory pick.