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44 posts from May 2010

May 20, 2010

Zach Thomas to retire as a Miami Dolphin

As I posted on my twitter feed earlier this morning, Zach Thomas is expected to sign a one-day contract with the Dolphins today and then retire as an all-timer.

Readers know I've advocated on this blog for that to happen. The Dolphins are showing excellent judgment, good public relations, and frankly, that they have blood in their veins and that their heart isn't as cold as some might think.

Great job by Miami!

Thomas, 36, played for the Dolphins from 1996 through 2007. He was elected to seven Pro Bowl games. He recorded 1,075 career tackles. His final year in Miami was a frustrating one hampered by concussions and auto accidents with Patriots fans. He spent his final two seasons in Dallas and Kansas City.

His rookie year, Thomas was so good so fast that coach Jimmy Johnson told veteran Jack Del Rio -- now the Jaguars head coach -- he had no future in Miami and that he was getting cut because a young, unknown, short linebacker was simply better.

This is a good day to be a Dolphins fan.

In the comments section please leave your favorite Zach Thomas memory. I might actually use it in a column.

Also, do you think the Dolphins should retire Thomas' number? Do you think Thomas belong in the ring of fame or honor or whatever the Dolphins call it? And do you think Thomas is a Hall of Fame prospect?

[BLOG NOTE: Interesting that only minutes after I blogged about Karlos Dansby not being the focus of any attention and finally getting some notice, the Dolphins announced today's press conference with Zach. So if you haven't seen the Dansby blog post feel free to click for it.] 

Karlos Dansby finally gets some attention

It is rare when a star free agent signs a $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed, is asked to come to his new team and assume a leadership position, and that player is somehow overshadowed much of the offseason.

And yet that is what has happened with Karlos Dansby.

He was the big offseason acquisition ... until the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall.

Unlike Marshall, Dansby didn't get a press conference -- either one approved by the Dolphins or simply attended by Dolphins staffers offsite at a hotel the team uses to house players during training camp.

Unlike Marshall, there was no grand fascination with what his number would be.

Wednesday's OTA day was supposed to be the day Dansby got the attention because it would be his first official press conference with the South Florida media and his debut as the leader of the Miami defense. But the attention was still on a million other things:

Marshall's number.

Marshall's hip.

Marshall's other hip.

Jason Ferguson's excuse for a positive performance enhancing drug test.

Ronnie Brown's health.

The rest of the team's lack of health.

Chris Clemons as the first-team safety.

The outside linebackers.

Can we give Karlos Dansby his moment, please?

We found out Dansby is playing the Moe exclusively while Channing Crowder is expected to continue at the Mike. Tim Dobbins, acquired from the San Diego Chargers on draft day, will likely be asked to learn both but he's playing primarily the Mike right now with Crowder still rehabilitating his lisfranc surgery.

"It’s a lot different, a lot different," Dansby said comparing the system he played in Arizona and the one defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has installed in Miami. "A lot of different responsibilities...I’m looking forward to it. They want me to be a leader. You got to do that by actions. You can’t do that by words. I am out there right now trying to prove myself.

"You got to earn that. That’s everywhere you go. You got a responsibility, I’m just trying to do my job and put my best foot forward.

"We are having a good time. I’m meshing well. You know, all the guys, we’re taking to each other. We are doing a lot of stuff off the field and on the field, so I’d say we’re meshing real well right now."

Dansby has been upstaged by Marshall but he nonetheless carries the weight of improving the run defense that ranked No. 18 last season.

"I wouldn’t call it a weight," he said. "I’d just call it an opportunity to be great, and that’s what I’m trying to be right now. I’m taking all major steps to try to be great."

Dansby is still feeling his way around. That's perhaps one reason he is not certain he's going to be on the field all three downs. (It would be a shock if he's not because he's getting paid like a three-down linebacker.) But that assurance must wait. If it comes, Dansby may get the opportunity to call the defensive plays.

“I’m not sure yet," he said. "We still have changes to do. If I’m an every down backer, I might have the opportunity to call the calls. If not, it really doesn’t matter, as long as I’m on the field."

Regardless of whether he's calling plays or not, Dansby must somehow earn a spot as one of this new defense's leaders in 2010. It is on him because the young unit doesn't really have many veterans more accomplished than him.

But Dansby seems to know what is required to lead.

"It’s being disciplined," he said. "Being disciplined, taking care of your body and going on the field, being in front of the guys, and like I said, and making all the plays that we’re supposed to make, and that’s how you become a leader."

May 19, 2010

OL Cory Procter scheduled to visit Dolphins

With Justin Smiley on the outs and Nate Garner not practicing because he had an offseason surgery the team declined to specify, the Dolphins are apparently in the market to help their offensive line.

So free agent offensive lineman Cory Procter, cut by the Cowboys on Monday, is scheduled to visit the Dolphins no later than Friday, according to an NFL source.

Procter, 27, has already visited the Broncos and the Patriots.

Procter is primarily insurance against injury in the interior of the Miami line. He was active for every game in 2009 but appeared in only five total plays from scrimmage, according to the Dallas Morning News.

A center by trade, Procter played left guard in 2008 when Kyle Kosier was injured. Procter is 6-4 and 311 pounds. Procter was signed by the Cowboys off the Detroit Lions practice squad in 2005. The Lions signed him originally as an undrafted free agent out of Montana.

Marshall (hip surgery), Turner (other surgery) out 'til camp

Well, things just got a little more interesting.

While the Dolphins are expecting marked improvement from their wide receiver position, two players with the biggest set of lenses on them at the position will probably not be practicing this offseason.

Coach Tony Sparano said today Brandon Marshall had "a routine procedure," that will keep him out until the start of training camp. Sparano then confirmed the procedure is a surgery to "clearn things up," while declining to be specific about the body part in question.

ESPN is reporting the surgery Marshall had was hip surgery. Marshall had hip surgery last year in Vail, Colo., and missed the start of training camp as a result. 

[Update: I'm told Marshall had surgery on the same hip two weeks ago. It's interesting perhaps only to me, but Marshall passed a Dolphins physical while requiring surgery.]

[Update 2: The Herald's Jeff Darlington is quoting a source close to Marshall that is saying the procedure was not to the same hip but the other hip and that it was not a clean up. Now that we're all totally confused, I'm sure the next story will be that Marshall really had ankle surgery.]

Asked if he knew about the need for this surgery before signing Marshall, Sparano paused ...

"Well," he said. "No."

Marshall was nonetheless in good spirits today.

"It's definitely frustrating, but you know, some things you can't control," Marshall said. "In my past, I learned that, not to worry myself and hold my head down when I can't control it. I'm just going to do the best I can with the mental reps and prepare myself that way."

Patrick Turner likely will not work this offseason until training camp either, the coach said.

Turner also had surgery this offseason and was only allowed to walk around the practice field today as the rest of the team practiced.

This has varying degrees of importance.

It is clear that one of the things the offseason is meant to provide is chemistry between a quarterback and wide receiver. So it is important for Marshall and Chad Henne to have been able to work together and learn each other this offseason.

I remember Dan Marino used to say it would take three or four months for him to get to know a new wide receiver. Training camp doesn't accomplish the feat by itself because of the time constraints and because other players are taking repetitions.

So in that regard, this is a setback for the Dolphins passing game being on point immediately between its starting quarterback and go-to receiver. Is it a huge deal?

Not if Marshall can be his 100-catch self in time for the regular-season opener.

On the Turner front the issue is different.

Turner is not an accomplished player. The issue with him is whether or not he's going to get enough work this offseason to make the significant and necessary personal improvement to compete for a job in training camp.

Sure, one needs to worry about his ability to get in synch with Henne also. But the greater worry for Turner is whether he can carve a niche for himself on the roster first and the gameday roster second. He was unable to earn a spot on the gameday roster consistently as a rookie and didn't figure at all in the offense.

So he needs to get better. Can he do that in training camp? After not working much this offseason? While coming back from some unknown surgery?

I don't like his chances.

Other offseason surgeries for the Dolphins: Nate Garner, who didn't practice Wednesday. Reggie Torbor, who didn't practice Wednesday, Channing Crowder, who didn't practice Wednesday. I know Crowder's surgery was for a lisfranc injury. The Dolphins are being coy about the reasons for the other surgeries.

Quickie OTA notes and observations

Here are my quickie reactions to today's OTA practice.

The injured first: Patrick Turner, Brandon Marshall, Jason Ferguson, Channing Crowder, and Reggie Torbor were not in practice. Ronnie Brown and Will Allen, both out much of 2009 with injuries, worked but are clearly not 100 percent. Marshall declined to say what injury he is nursing.

Ferguson, who will serve an eight-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs, said he tested positive because he was taking a diuretic and blood pressure pill, "to make weight."

"It's my fault being lazy and not checking the list," Ferguson said. "I didn't know it was on there. They know it was no steriod."

The number: Marshall wore No. 19 today. But don't go out and buy your No. 19 Brandon Marshall jersey just yet and definitely do not rip the G-I-N-N off the No. 19 jersey you already bought. Marshall said he will have his real number "by camp."

It was jarring to me that Quentin Moses was working first-team strongside outside linebacker. Charlie Anderson was the other first-teamer at weakside. =The second team was, interestingly, manned by the players who most fans and media hope and expect will actually be on the field because they seem more explosive -- Cameron Wake and second-round pick Koa Misi.

Anderson, by the way, said he worked at both weak and strong side today.

Wake told me he's not concerned about not being first-team right now.

There is clearly a battle brewing at center. Joe Berger, who played very well at the end of 2009, took first-team snaps ahead of Jake Grove, who worked with the second-team.Donald Thomas, who was exclusively a right guard the last couple of years, worked with the first team at left guard today. He was first team at LG while Richie Incognito worked with the first-team at RG. The starting line left to right was Jake Long, Thomas, Berger, Richie Incognito and Vernon Carey.

Brown looks strong and healthy. He said he has not signed his restricted free agent tender but obviously will do so eventually. "I haven't signed but I pretty much have," he said with a shrug.

Clearly a new long-term contract is not imminent.

Allen, by the way, is working exclusively at cornerback at this stage and doesn't seem to have any desire to move. "People saying we have a vacancy at safety because they have nothing else to talk about," he said. "To me there's no vacancy. I saw someone out there today. We have someone there."

The man working at first-team free safety was Chris Clemons.

The second-team corners today were Jason Allen and Evan Oglesby.

With Crowder sitting out today's work, newly acquired Tim Dobbins took the first team snaps at inside linebacker alongside Karlos Dansby.

Obviously, there will be a competition for the starting right defensive end job. But for today, and I stress, today, the first-teamer was Phillip Merling. Rookie Jared Odrick worked with the second team.

One final thought: This is only an OTA. It is only May. Training camp is two months away. But Patrick Turner not being on the field is a bad sign for a player who was unable to make enough progress to get any snaps from scrimmage on offense in a game last year.

OTA today culminates a bunch of fun days

It's been a fun few days and today's morning OTA practice should be the culmination.

To recap:

On Friday, before I went on vacation, I left you with my 32-1 NFL precamp rankings. I ranked the Dolphins No. 10, just behind the Jets but ahead of the Pats and Bills. Many of you accused me of being too optimistic. Others said I had drunk the Kool-Aid. I wonder if you backed off your criticisms when you saw Sports Illustrated's Peter King rate the Dolphins No. 6 three days later.

On Sunday, my column comparing the Dolphins and Jets as virtual equals published in the Miami Herald. I got a couple of e-mails from Dolphins fans. I got a ton of e-mails and tweets from Jets fans. Some examples:

From John Link of Poughkeepsie, NY: "I am not one to trash other teams like this but the Fins just don't look good this year. Stop lying to yourself."

From Steven Lorenzo: "How many playoff games did cryami win?"

I spent part of my weekend responding to some of the more logical e-mails. (That means I answered like three e-mails.)

And in between my wife and I went to Universal Studios and Orlando and visited her folks!

But today is a work day. Today the Dolphins are doing their OTA thing. And I'll be at the 10 a.m. practice to report, analyse and opine on it for you.

I would not expect nose tackle Jason Ferguson (quad) to be 100 percent yet so I'll be watching for that. It'll be interesting to see what degree if any Ronnie Brown (lisfranc) is able to participate.

And yes, if Brandon Marshall has chosen a number, I'll tell you what it is.

Follow me on twitter to get the updates from the field. And come back here often because I'll be posting fresh new stuff throughout.

May 14, 2010

Salguero NFL pre-camp rankings No. 32 to No. 1

For some reason, this morning when I woke up I got this wild hair idea to give you my NFL ranking of teams from 32-1. Six hours later, I'm done writing.

So with no further delay, the Salguero NFL 2010 pre-training camp rankings:

32. Tampa Bay: Gerald McCoy is an upgrade for the defensive line, but folks in Tampa will soon see he's not in Warren Sapp's league -- good not great. The quarterbacking is suspect, they've exchanged experienced WR talent for inexperienced and untried WR talent, the running game is pedestrian, and there is nothing about the coaching staff or front office that induces confidence.

31. St. Louis Rams: Improvement! They were the NFL's worst team last year but the truth is until and unless the Sam Bradford pick takes hold, this team will be struggling near the bottom of the pack. Sorry, Lou, but A.J. Feeley can be a lockerroom killer. And, yes the offensive line will be somewhat better with Rodger Saffold, but the DL, 27th versus the run last year, is a leaky dike.

30. Buffalo: Very few folks with other options want to go to Buffalo -- not bigtime coaches nor players. It's the reason the franchise has struggled since the start of free agency in the mid-1990s. The quarterback situation is unresolved, the defense is transitioning to the 3-4, they dismissed one of their more effective playmakers in Terrell Owens, and everyone else in the division is good. That is no formula for success.

29. Jacksonville: The big free agent signings were, wait for it, a special teams player (Kassim Osgood) and a defender (Aaron Kampman) that had 3.5 sacks last year. They reached in the first round on Tyson Alualu, nobody is showing up to games, this is a train headed in the wrong direction.

28. Detroit: The Lions scored core players in the draft's first round (Suh and Best) while continuing to shore up the secondary in the third round (Amari Spievey). Kyle Vanden Bosch will bring veteran professionalism to the locker room and some solid production to the field. But look out for the biggest jump to come from the quarterback (Matt Stafford) and wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) positions. This team has stopped declining.

27. Oakland: They actually had a good draft! Cryptkeeper Al Davis didn't over-reach or make any head-scratching gambles -- those have backfired in recent history. But this team is still overcoming the mistakes of its recent past (JaMarcus Russell) and the coaching is simply not stellar outside of passing game coordinator Ted Tollner.

26. Cleveland: The Browns have straightened out their front office -- largely by raiding the Dolphins front office -- and are well on their way to returning to, um, mediocrity for the short term. Mike Holmgren and Tommy Heckert Jr. have done fine work turning the CB spot from a weakness to a strength by trading for Sheldon Brown and drafting Joe Haden. If T.J. Ward can stay healthy, the deep secondary is also taken care of. But the Cleveland offense, No. 32 last year, still reeks. Jake Delhomme is highly paid but highly inconsistent. And that will be this offense's story in 2010.

25. Arizona: To recap, they've lost Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Bertrand Berry, Bryant McFadden, and Anquan Boldin. And while I love Dan Williams and Daryl Washington as their first two draft picks, adding aging vets Joey Porter and Alan Faneca is not about getting better but plugging leaks poorly. The Cards, a Super Bowl team in 2008 and division winners in 2009, will be fighting Seattle for third place in the NFC West.

24. Seattle: Leon Washington (if healthy), LenDale White (if motivated) and Russell Okung (if he lives up to his draft status) should help the running game improve on last year's terrible (26th overall) rating. That should also take pressure of Matt Hasselbeck and perhaps help him stay healthy. Simply, if the QB is healthy, the Hawks can vie for mediocrity. If the job falls to Charlie Whitehurst, a talented but inexperienced career backup, it's going to be a looong season. 

23. Washington: They were perhaps the most active team this offseason, hiring an outstanding new coach, trading for a future Hall of Fame quarterback, and adding more horses at running back than a stable at the Kentucky Derby. All that is well and good, but the quarterback is not everything. Donovan McNabb can't do it all. The offensive line, and secondary are question marks. The drafting of Trent Williams will solve some of the OL problems once he gets over his rookie growing pains. 

22. Carolina: One does not get better by losing Julius Peppers, having a coach enter a season as a lame duck, having no first round draft pick, and using the second-round pick on a player (Jimmy Clausen) who probably will not play as he learns the NFL game. As horrible offseasons go, Carolina is right up there. Their best move might have been picking Brandon LaFell in the third round because at least he might start in 2010.

21. Denver: Josh McDaniels acts like he knows things no one else does. So he's traded away a franchise quarterback, a franchise wide receiver, gotten rid of a fine defensive coordinator, reached for Tim Tebow in the first round, traded away his starting TE, and pieced together an offensive line with a ton of question marks and one major injury -- the patellar tendon tear to left tackle Ryan Clady's left knee. McDaniels will also learn that there is a reason Akin Ayodele was cut.

20. Kansas City: New England Midwest got significantly stronger in the defensive backfield this offseason with the drafting of Eric Berry and Javier Arenas, who will be a fine nickel player. The rest of the defense, putrid against the run last year, is still a work-in-progress. The offense should be better with the addition of running back Thomas Jones and center Casey Wiegmann. Both are in the twilight of their careers, but serve as upgrades for this team nonetheless. It'll be interesting to see what new OC Charlie Weis can do for QB Matt Cassell.

19. New York Giants: Yes, this is a surprise but this team is starting to age and not very well. Despite an emphasis on the defensive line, opponents were able to run the ball quite well last season. Adding rookie Linval Joseph will probably only make up for the loss of Fred Robbins. Jason Pierre-Paul is a project player who as a rookie has the feel of a wonderful athlete but only an average football player. He needs much work. The Giants have no backup quarterback, having replaced David Carr with Jim Sorgi. If Eli Manning breaks down, this is a cellar-dwelling team. Otherwise, welcome to third place in the NFC East. Again.

18. Chicago: They were 7-9 despite the fact Jay Cutler threw 26 interceptions. Twenty-six interceptions! If new OC Mike Martz can get Cutler to cut that number in half, the Bears win 10 games this year. The expensive addition of Julius Peppers will work only if the player feels he has to live up to his salary -- something that hasn't always been the case. The return of linebacker Brian Urlacher will help but the release of Alex Brown remains a head-scratcher. Former Dolphins seventh-round pick Devin Aromashodu seems on the verge of stardom.

17. San Francisco: They added a future Pro Bowl player in Mike Iupati but reached badly for Anthony Davis. Safety Taylor Mays will remind the Bay Area of Ronnie Lott in the manner he hits, but definitely not in the manner he covers. The team also improved its return game by getting Ted Ginn for a fifth-round pick -- a good trade for them. But let's face it, the 49'ers look set at most of their positions save quarterback. If Alex Smith can finally become a solid NFL starter, this team wins its division. If Smith continues his roller coaster career, this team once again struggles to win eight games.

16. Pittsburgh: They want to go back to their old pounding running game personality because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won't be around for at least four games and possibly up to six games. The addition of Maurkice Pouncey to the offensive line will help that. Santonio Holmes is gone so the air around his former hotel room on the road has cleared. But that means second year player Mike Wallace needs to become the star his rookie campaign suggested he could be. The defensive front and linebackers are solid but the cornerback play is still a concern despite the re-aquisition of Bryant McFadden.

15. Houston: Signing a kicker and former Dolphins offensive tackle Wade Smith in free agency, while losing standout cornerback Dunta Robinson is not the way to improve a team. The Texans seem to be forever treading water around the 8-8 mark and this year bodes no differently as the defense seems weakened by the loss of Robinson and coming suspension of Brian Cushing. The offense has made no significant improvement. Matt Schaub will once again have to throw for nearly 5,000 yards to keep the Texans above .500

14. Tennessee: They are counting on this draft to help immediately and last year's draft to finally help because it certainly didn't contribute much in 2009. The Titans are obviously also banking on Chris Johnson being able to continue his torrid rushing pace which could be a reach because he simply doesn't have the size to carry 720 times in two years -- particularly not if he sits out most of the offseason and preseason in a contract squabble. The picking of Derrick Morgan should deaden the pain of losing Kyle Vanden Bosch.

13. New England: I'm sure there will be angry e-mails from Massachusetts. Too bad. Tom Brady is still great, but honestly, he's not working as hard these days as he once did. Wes Welker probably will not be around early in the season and it might take a while before he's 100 percent. The team doesn't have an offensive coordinator or a defensive coordinator and that's just weird. The cornerback spot is still a weakness despite the selection of Devin McCourty in the first round. And the running game ... well, what running game?

12. Philadelphia: The good news: Brandon Graham will be 2010's defensive rookie of the year and he will not fail any drug tests. Nate Allen will be solid in the deep secondary and Ricky Sapp will seem like a bargain if the Eagles let him rush the passer on a situational basis. The bad news: One does not improve by getting rid of a great quarterback and sending him to a division rival. The bet here is Kevin Kolb will not have a better season in 2010 than McNabb had in 2009. And trading away Sheldon Brown will not result in a net gain.

11: Cincinnati: If Antonio Bryant stays healthy and tight end Jermaine Gresham, a tight end with deer speed, is recovered from his knee injury, the Bengals slow-developing offense will finally give quarterback Carson Palmer weapons to work with. The prediction here is that Jordan Shipley will also become a favorite of the veteran quarterback. Cincy's defense is intact and actually improved the depth at corner with the addition of Brandon Ghee. Adam "Pacman" Jones? Special teams help. Nothing more.

10: Miami: They've come a looong way this offseason. Seriously. The addition of Brandon Marshall means the Dolphins finally have a consistent playmaker in the passing game. Adding inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and moving Randy Starks to nose tackle will help solidify the run-defense that fell from No. 10 in 2008 to No. 18 last year. The secondary remains a major question mark with the free safety spot a huge concern. If Chad Henne develops into a top-tier quarterback, this team should be back in the playoffs. If he doesn't, 8-8 here we come.

9: New York Jets: Yeah, they're making Super Bowl noises but that's just what it is -- noise. The Jets didn't improve by switching out Thomas Jones and Leon Washington for Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. They took a step back which isn't the best way for a running game to go. Their pass-rush, nearly non-existent last year, will be better with the addition of Jason Taylor, and Antonio Cromartie improves the secondary. But left guard is a concern as is at least one defensive end spot.

8: Minnesota: Will he? Won't he? And how is his ankle? All the questions about the Vikings revolve around Brett Favre and whether he'll play his 20th season or not. I believe he'll play. I also believe age will begin catching up to him. Simply, it is hard to expect another 33-TD, 4,200-yard season from a soon-to-be 41-year-old. The Vikings still have an excellent offensive line and running game and can bring pressure on defense, but they don't scare the elite teams with a diminished Favre or Tarvaris Jackson at QB.

7. San Diego: The Chargers upgraded by adding rookie running back Ryan Mathews, who will retrun dowhill running to the San Diego offense. But there is no visible upgrade in trading out Antonio Cromartie for Nathan Vashar and Donald Strickland, who are nothing more than backup players at this point. The idea of eliminating a player that's motivated only 75 percent of the time is a good one, but only when he's replaced by someone as talented and more motivated. The Chargers failed in that regard. This is still a highly talented roster, led by perhaps the NFL's best quarterback.

6. Dallas: The Cowboys have plenty of talent at all positions with the possible exceptions of left tackle and safety. Yes, Alex Barron is now in town and will compete with Doug Free to protect Tony Romo's blind side, but can he stay onside? The team cut Ken Hamlin, who is still on the market, but hasn't really replaced him. Owner Jerry Jones took a huge gamble in drafting Dez Bryant, who is clearly still out of shape after missing most of 2009 at Oklahoma State. But the kid has great potential and seems to be in the right place because he'll get advice from Michael Irvin.

5. Green Bay: The Packers needed to keep their talent early this offseason and did exactly that by re-signing offensive tackle Chad Clifton and rewarding playmaking safety Nick Collins. The other major assignment was shoring up the offensive line and GM Ted Thompson did that by selecting tackle workmanlike Bryan Bulaga with the first overall selection. The rookie might play at guard initially. The Packers are so solid they used their second and third round picks to address possible future needs. 

4. Atlanta: They have the franchise quarterback. Matt Ryan reminds of a young Tom Brady. The passing game and running game are in great hands. The secondary is better with the addition of Dunta Robinson. First round pick Sean Weatherspoon is going to be a star in the NFL someday and will be in sub packages as a rookie. The Falcons will also get an added punch by the return of 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry to the lineup, after he missed all but two games with a knee injury. This team has the feel of a comer. 

3. Indianapolis: The left guard question remains and there are questions about the return to health of safety Bob Sanders and receiver Anthony Gonzalez. But the Colts don't seem to be sweating the Gonzalez injury based on the expected improvement of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. On defense, Colts fans are going to love Jerry Hughes and Pat Angerer, who might become core players on the defense for the next decade. Oh yeah, Peyton Manning is pretty good.

2. New Orleans: Charles Grant is gone, but younger, better Alex Brown replaced him. Running back Mike Bell also left via free agency but the bad news is the Saints might have to pass more. Let's face it, the only things that can derail this team are complacency or a wave of injuries. Quarterback Drew Brees is likely to work toward preventing the former. That latter is a matter of fate. 

1. Baltimore: Anquan Boldin gives them an answer for third-down and crunch passing situations. Donte Stallworth comes with a new view of life after spending the past year on suspension. They drafted talented tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson to offer yet more large targets for quarterback Joe Flacco to hit -- assuming Todd Heap isn't on the field, of course. Derrick Mason is back. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed haven't slowed down. Terrell Suggs is healthy again. And while house-sized defensive tackle Haloti Ngata recovers from pectoral surgery, the Ravens will give lots of training camp snaps to condo-sized Cory Redding and mansion-sized Terrence Cody at defensive tackle. Oh, almost forgot, if Suggs and Jarret Johnson and Antwan Barnes aren't getting to the QB enough, the Ravens will probably throw top draft pick Sergio Kindle in the mix as well. They're loaded!

[BLOG NOTE: I'll be off until next Wednesday, so I'll post again then. You have plenty to chew on until then, I'm sure. And remember to read my Sunday column in The Herald or online at on the Herald site because it will explain why I ranked the Jets and Dolphins practically together.]

May 13, 2010

Which players will things 'click' for in 2010?

A dividend of having a young team, as the Dolphins inarguably have, is that players can take significant leaps from their rookie or second seasons, thus helping to raise the team to a much higher level almost overnight.

Sure, some players fail to take that big step or they don't meet the expectations and potential their gifts suggest. (Such players get traded to the San Francisco 49'ers for a fifth-round pick.)

But many up-and-comers make their biggest move in their second or third years.

I was discussing this in part with former wide receiver Nat Moore on our recent day-trip to Haiti when he recounted the story of Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Moore told of how as a rookie year, Clayton often benefitted from the fact defenses typically doubled Mark Duper on the outside or himself on the inside. Clayton was still learning and really didn't contribute much as a rookie -- six catches for 114 yards.

"But the next year when the light bulb went on for him, there was no stopping him," Moore said of Clayton. "He beat single coverage and then he figured out the game so well, he could beat double-coverage. With his talent, he just took off."

Took off like a rocket, actually. Clayton caught 73 passes for 1,389 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns in 1984. Duper, who didn't catch a pass as a rookie in 1982, climbed to 51 in 1983 and 71 for 1,36 yards in 1984. Apparently things clicked for him as well.

Well, we should expect the 2010 Miami Dolphins to sound like a field of crickets because I expect there to be a lot of clicking going on for that young roster.

The Dolphins have players that everyone in the organization hopes are on the cusp of being big-time contributors if not outright stars.

Chief on that list is quarterback Chad Henne.

In his third season and second as the starter, Henne must have a breakthrough season for the Dolphins to make a legitimate run at the playoffs. This is the year he has to solve the accuracy and timing issues he had at times in 2009 as a first-year starter. Those were understandable then. There's a next step to take now.

I think Henne will take that step. He's too gifted, too confident, and too hard-working not to take the step. I'm not expecting him to lead the league in passing. That's not what Miami's system is initially going to ask of him.

But 24-25 touchdowns? Why not?

And as long as he keeps the mistakes to maybe 10-12 interceptions, things will be very, very good in Miami.

Of course, Henne will need help. And there's a good chance he'll get it. Here is a list of other players I believe can have a breakout year in 2010. You'll notice some folks are missing. I'm being conservative here. I'm sure you will add the missing names in the comments section.

This is my list:

Brian Hartline: I predict he will win the starting job opposite Brandon Marshall. He is bigger than Davone Bess, faster than Greg Camarillo and he can play all three WR positions. He's a smart guy. He's mature. He gets it. He has shown reliable hands. No, he is not a burner. But he did run track in high school and I believe he's fast enough to hurt defenses when their focus is on Marshall.

Vontae Davis: It took him a while to find his NFL niche. He was raw and a little wide-eyed at first. But he is tough, he is as athletic as they come, he's fearless and there's no quit in him -- as evidence by that TD-saving tackle from behind on a kickoff last year. Davis suffered something of a setback with a wrist injury earlier this offseason. But there has been no mention of that lately and if he continues to rise at the rate he did after the midpoint of 2009, he'll be the second-best cornerback in the AFC East by the end of 2010.

I wanted to include Cameron Wake. I even had his paragraph written up. But I just need to see more. The fact is he was very explosive as a pass-rusher, but still had only one sack the final four games of the season when he was getting his most playing time. Wake might bust out with 14 sacks in 2010 and that would surprise no one. But he also might have six sacks in 2010 and, well, that would surprise no one. It will all depend on whether things clicked for him.

May 12, 2010

Buyer beware: The case of O.J. Atogwe

Almost every day, the Salguero inbox includes a couple of questions about the Dolphins' chase of free safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe. To which I respond, what chase?

Atogwe is property of the St. Louis Rams at the moment. The Dolphins cannot chase him without permission from the Rams because the player is an unsigned restricted free agent at a time the restricted free agency period has passed.

Yes, there is a chance Atogwe will become an unrestricted free agent at some point in the next month if he and the Rams cannot come to contract terms after June 1 when his restricted tender expires. The NFL Network has reported Atogwe will not sign his tender which is obvious at this point. But what is not often said is that the Rams probably aren't going to go quietly into the night without trying to keep Atogwe by signing him to a long-term contract.

Let's assume for a minute, however, that Atogwe's days with the Rams are over. If that is the case, the thing that needs to be said is this: Buyer beware.

Atogwe, you see, had a great season in 2008 when he had a team- and NFC-high eight interceptions. But last year was a bad one for him and it ended prematurely in December when Atogwe was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated right shoulder.

The shoulder required reconstructive surgery which is major surgery. Atogwe is still working to recover from the surgery, according to reports. He also reportedly suffered a sports hernia that he is trying to come back from as well.

So how would you feel about paying top-dollar for a player coming back from two significant injuries, particularly when one is a shoulder injury?

Obviously any Dolphins' interest will have to be tempered by how confident they are Atogwe can be 100 percent -- and not just short-term, but over the long-term.

But do you remember the last couple of times the Dolphins signed a player with shoulder troubles?

Justin Smiley was signed to a big long-term contact in 2008 and after only two seasons is on the outs because his shoulder is not well enough for him to stay on the field over a 16-game season. Chad Pennington came to the Dolphins with a history of shoulder problems, having had two operations on his throwing shoulder while with the Jets. Last year, he again required shoulder surgery because he dislocated his throwing shoulder during a game against San Diego. Pennington missed all but three games.

Do the Dolphins make the same leap with Atogwe in hopes of solving their long-term free safety issues? Will the Rams, who have reportedly scheduled talks with Atogwe in the coming weeks, even allow that to happen?

It is obviously not a certainty.

May 11, 2010

The revote on Defensive Rookie of the Year

The Defensive Rookie of the Year award handed out annually by the Associated Press has been in the news lately because its recipient Brian Cushing was just suspended after failing a test for performance enhancing drugs, and then losing his appeal.

The test, reportedly taken last September, suggests Cushing played 2009 while benefitting from a cycle of PEDs that are banned by the NFL.

So the AP yesterday decided to have a revote. The 50 people who vote annually on the AP All-Pro team and post-season awards got an e-mail ballot that is due Wednesday. I am one of those voters. I had no trouble re-submitting my ballot.

I orginally picked Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd as my DROY choice and was only one of six people to do so. Cushing got 39 votes. I simply stuck with my original vote.

The AP also took a revote on the outside linebacker position. In that one, I had to make a change. I had originally voted for Cushing and Elvis Dumervil. In my new ballot I changed out Cushing for DeMarcus Ware, who was an All-Pro selection even without my original vote.

So here is the question: Do you, as fans, believe a positive drug test can rightfully cost a player a post-season award because his performance was enhanced by a drug?

I obviously do think the award deserved a revote. And I'll live with the results of the majority. But I have a bad taste about giving any award to someone who gains it by cheating.

The reason I'm blogging this is that someone following me on twitter wanted me to vote for Vontae Davis or Sean Smith for DROY. Now, I have no problem voting for local guys. In fact, I feel I know them best as I've watched all their games.

That's the reason I voted for Tony Sparano as coach of the year in 2008 (he didn't win) and voted for Jake Long for All-Pro last year (he got it).

But Vontae Davis or Sean Smith for DROY?

I believe both played well at times. I believe both made strides. I believe both will continue to improve and become better players. But both also had moments in which they struggled.

Davis was beaten deep a handful of times. Smith's coverage was not always as tight as one would want and he didn't have any interceptions. In defending Gibril Wilson at the Indianapolis Combine, general manager Jeff Ireland laid some of the blame for the lapses in the secondary on the rookies.

Byrd, meanwhile, had nine interceptions. No, he wasn't Ronnie Lott in run-support. But which one of you wouldn't have taken nine interceptions from your free safety last year?

So I cast my vote. I'm sticking with it.

Discuss ...

Rebuilding can frustrate when it's done over & over

There is building a franchise. Don Shula did that and it resulted in a couple of Super Bowl titles.

There is rebuilding a franchise. Jimmy Johnson did that and the nucleus of players he brought in were flawed on offense, very good on defense, and ultimately good enough overall to contend for playoffs spots from 1997 through 2003.

What we have now, however, is something much different. What we are seeing with the Miami Dolphins now is in some respects rebuilding position that we though had already been rebuilt. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland are in the midst of doing that and so far the results are mixed.

Miami's dynamic and enigmatic personnel duo corrected a lot of wrongs their first season, turning a 1-15 disaster into a division winner and playoff team. But last year was a step-back season as the Dolphins dropped to third place in the AFC East with a 7-9 record. (Some of you may not accept it was a step-back year, but the facts are impossible to ignore.)

Now, after two years of building the team as they would want it, the Dolphins find themselves in the curious position of rebuilding the same team. 

After two years on the job, Parcells and Ireland got about the business this offseason of rebuilding practically the entire defense. The defensive coordinator is new. At least three of the four opening-day starters at LB will be new. The starting nose tackle will be different in the 2010 regular-season opener than he was in 2008 and 2009. The starting free safety will be new for the third time in three regular-season openers. Miami's right defensive end will be new -- again -- as the Dolphins will start Jared Odrick or Phillip Merling or Tony McDaniel as the fourth person to fill that starting job in three years.

All these are facts. And all the facts speak of the Dolphins having to cover ground in rebuilding that they already supposedly addressed in their initial rebuilding of this team the past two years.

Let's face it, the club has failed to properly address the free safety spot -- first giving the job to Jason Allen, then Chris Crocker, then Renaldo Hill, then Gibril Wilson, and now another player to be named at a later time.

Let's face it, the Dolphins invested two years, a modest draft pick, and millions of dollars in ILB Akin Ayodele only to find out he wasn't very good at stopping the run or in coverage.

Let's face it, the nose tackle position was an issue before last season began. Everyone knew Jason Ferguson was a stopgap measure and I remember Ireland being asked why he didn't address the position in the 2009 draft. He basically answered there are only so many big bodies to go around and one of them didn't fall to the Dolphins.

So Miami went into 2009 with Ferguson and he broke down. The Dolphins finally addressed the issue this offseason by moving Randy Starks to nose tackle.

The greater point here is Miami has reached a stage where the fixes need to finally take. The club cannot keep addressing the defensive line time and again. The club cannot keep addressing the free safety spot year after year.

And this rebuilding upon a rebuilt position also affects the offense. For all the money and resources the Dolphins have invested on the offensive line, the unit is still not completely resolved. In 2008, the right guard spot was an issue. In 2009, the right guard and left guard spots were issues.

Can we get the guards addressed once and for all, please?

The Dolphins believe they have done that at right guard where Richie Incognito is expected to compete for a starting job with Donald Thomas and perhaps Nate Garner.

The left guard spot is much less certain. Garner and rookie John Jerry seem the most likely challengers for the job. Justin Smiley, who Miami signed to a 5-year, $25 million contract in 2008, lasted only two years. He is now on the trade block because of shoulder injuries that one might have seen on the horizon when he was with San Francisco and was forced to miss the latter part of 2007 with a shoulder issue.

So three years into rebuilding their offensive line ... the Dolphins are still rebuilding the offensive line.

My greater point is this: Everyone accepts the Dolphins needed a thorough rebuilding. Everyone accepts it was going to take time to do. But it is hard to accept that the Dolphins are already in Year 3 and still rebuilding what they already supposedly rebuilt. They are having to double-back, so to speak, to address issues they supposedly already addressed.

That slows things down.

And it cannot continue because, as with all teams, new issues pop up every year. Next offseason the Dolphins could be looking for help at running back or tight end, and perhaps wide receive. Next year the Dolphins could be looking for more backup quarterback help. Anyone looking off into distance can see that.

The last thing the team needs is to have those concerns, while also needing to address OLB (again) or FS (again) or CB (again) or OL (again).

Therre is still a lot of building being done around the construction site that is the Dolphins roster. Here's hoping the work currently being done won't soon require that it be redone. Again.

May 10, 2010

The Cowboys draft board (the real McCoy) here

Jerry Jones whiteboard
The days and weeks leading to the NFL draft see a glut of draft boards or mock drafts from experts and non-experts alike, but we never really see an actual NFL draft board.

Until now.

The picture above is Dallas owner-president-general manager Jerry Jones standing in front of his team's draft board on Saturday, April 24 -- the third day of the draft. Many of the names on the board are clearly visible. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The Cowboys have confirmed this is their actual board. Apparently the team's in-house television department mistakenly put a video clip of Jones in front of the board up on the Internet somewhere. A loyal reader of mine in Iowa passed the picture along to me. I then confirmed its authenticity.

The picture speaks for itself, but in case you are having trouble deciphering all the names, the list of those that are legible are found below.

Here's how it works: The Cowboys graded the players on their board and put their names on computer readout tags. As players are drafted, the Cowboys replace the tag with the player's name, the team and spot where he was actually taken. The original Dallas order remains intact.

So Sam Bradford was the top-rated player by the Cowboys and he was selected by the Rams No. 1. In that the two teams agree.

But, for example, the Cowboys had Gerald McCoy rated ahead of Ndamakong Suh. So McCoy remains at No. 2 on their board while Suh is No. 3. The team simply removed McCoy's tag when he came off the board and added the team selecting him and the actual spot he was picked.

So why is this interesting to you?

Well, it is interesting to me the Cowboys had Dolphins first round pick Jared Odrick rated No. 15 on their board. The Dolphins got him with the No. 28 overall selection. So according to the Cowboys' grade, the Dolphins got a bargain.

Same thing with Koa Misi, who the Cowboys rated No. 35 overall, but the Dolphins got with the No. 40 overall selection.

It works the other way also, by the way. The Dolphins drafted guard John Jerry in the third round with the 73rd overall selection. The Cowboys had a fourth-round grade on Jerry -- 110th overall. So according to the Cowboys' grades, the Dolphins reached on Jerry.

The teams more or less agreed on a fifth-round grade for safety Reshad Jones.

Obviously this is all opinion. Not every team is going to agree on the grades and worth of players. One assumes the Dolphins don't believe they reached for Jerry.

Anyway, take a look at the Cowboys player rankings below. The round, overall selection and team that actually selected each player is in parenthesis. Some names were illegible. I could not find A.J. Edds and other Dolphins picks on the board. Perhaps you can. 

Round 1
1. Sam Bradford (1st round, No. 1 overall, St. Louis)
2. Gerald McCoy (1st, No. 3, Tampa Bay)
3. Ndamakong Suh (1st, No. 2, Detroit)
4. Russell Okung (1st, No. 6, Seattle)
5. Trent Williams (1st, No. 4, Wash.)
6. Eric Berry (1st, No. 5, KC)
7. Rolando McClain (1st, No. 8, Oak.)
8. Joe Haden (1st, No. 7, Cleve.)
9. CJ Spiller (1st, No. 9, Buff.)
10. Mike Iupati (1st, No. 17, S.F.)
11. Dez Bryant (1st, No. 24, Dallas)
12. Earl Thomas (1st, No. 14, Seattle)
13. Bryan Bulaga (1st, No. 23, GB)
14. Sean Lee (2nd round, No. 55, Dallas)
15. Jared Odrick (1st, No. 28, Miami)
16. Jason Pierre-Paul (1st, No. 15, NYG)
17. Derrick Morgan (1st, No. 16, Tenn.)
18. Kyle Wilson (1st, No. 29, NYJ)
19. Maurkice Pouncey (1st, No. 18, Pitt.)
20. Navorro Bowman (3rd, No. 91, S.F.)
21. Jahvid Best (1st, No. 30, Det.)
22. Tyson Alualu (1st, No. 10, Jax.)
23. Jermaine Greham (1st, No. 21, Cincy)

Round 2
1. Devin McCourty (1st, No. 27, N.E.)
2. Demaryius Thomas (1st, No. 22, Den.)
3. Koa Misi (2nd, No. 40, Miami)
4. Jerry Hughes (1st, No. 31, Indy)
5. Brandon Graham (1st, No. 13, Phila.)
6. Nate Allen (2nd, No. 37, Phila.)
7. Morgan Burnett (3rd, No. 71, G.B)
8. Taylor Mays (2nd, No. 49, S.F.)
9. (covered name)
10. Dan Williams (1st, No. 26, Ariz.)
11. Kareem Jackson (1st, No. 20, Hou.)
12. Ryan Matthews (1st, No. 12, S.D.)
13. Brian Price (2nd, No. 35, TB)
14. Rob Gronkowski (2nd, No. 42, NE)
15. Brandon Ghee (3rd, No. 96, Cincy)
16. Jimmy Clausen (2nd, No. 48, Car.)

Round 3
1. Sergio Kindle (2nd, No. 43, Balt.)
2. Anthony Davis (1st, No. 11, S.F.)
3. Corey Wooton (4th, No. 109, Chic.)
4. Patrick Robinson (1st, No. 32, N.O.)
5. Dexter McCluster (2nd, No. 36, K.C.)
6. Joe McKnight (4th, No. 112, NYJ)
7. (covered name)
8. - Chad Jones (3rd, No. 76, NYG)
9. - illegible
10. Colt McCoy (3rd, No. 85, Cleve.)
11. Taylor Price (3rd, No. 90, N.E.)
12. Lamarr Houston (2nd, No. 44, Oak.)
13. D’Anthony Smith (3rd, No. 74, Jax.)
14. Damian Williams (3rd, No. 77, Tenn.)
15. Eric Decker (3rd, No. 87, Den.)
16. Thaddeus Gibson (4th, No. 116, Pitt.)
17. Corey Peters (3rd, No. 83, Atl.)
18. Rodger Saffold (2nd, No. 33, StL.)
19. Toby Gerhardt (2nd, No. 51, Minn.)
20. Golden Tate (2nd, No. 60, Sea.)
21. Brandon LeFell (3rd, No. 78, Car.)
22. Amari Spievey (3rd, No. 66, Det.)
23. Mike Neal (2nd, No. 56, G.B.)

Round 4
1. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (4th, 126th, Dall.)
2. Javier Arenas (2nd, 50th, K.C.)
3. Vladimir Ducasse (2nd, 61, NYJ)
4. Ed Dickson (3rd, 70, Balt.)
5. Tag illegible
6. Clay Harbor (4th, 125, Phila.)
7. Perry Riley (4th, 103, Wash.)
8. (plate removed)
9. Torell Troup (2nd, 41, Buff.)
10. Carlton Mitchell (6th, 177, Cleve.)
11. Mike Johnson (3rd, 98, Atl.)
12. John Jerry (3rd, 73, Miami)
13. Linval Joseph (2nd, 46, NYG)
14. Major Wright (3rd, 75, Chic.)
15. Dominique Franks (5th, 135, Atl.)
16. Larry Asante (5th, 160, Cleve.)
17. Tony Moeaki (3rd, 93, K.C.)
18. Mitch Petrus (5th, 144th,  NYG)
19. Ben Tate (2nd, 58, Hou.)
20. Kam Chancellor (5th, 133, Sea.)
21. Andre Roberts (3rd, 88, Ariz.)
22. Myron Lewis (3rd, 67, TB)
23. Tag illegible

Round 5

1. Shawn Lauvao (3rd, 92, Cleve.)
2. Jacoby Ford (4th, 108, Oak.)
3. Danny Batten (6th, 192, Buff.)
4. Sam Young (6th, 179, Dall.)
5. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (3rd, 86, Phil.)
6. Kevin Thomas (3rd, 94, Indy)
7. Tag illegible
8. Dennis Pitta (4th, 114, Balt.)
9. Darrell Stuckey (4th, 110, San Diego)
10. Alterraun Verner (4th, 104, Tenn.)
11. Alric Arnett (undrafted)
12. Tag illegible
13. Garrett Graham (4th, 118, Hou.)
14. Reshad Jones (5th, 163, Miami)
15. Tag illegible
16. Tag illegible
17. Tag illegible
18. Tag illegible

Round 6
1. Jared Veldheer (3rd, 69th, Oak.)
2. Tag illegible
3. Tag illegible
4. Tag illegible
5. Tag illegible
6. Tag illegible
7. Tag illegible
8. Tag illegible
9. Tag illegible

Round 7
1. Walter Thurmond (4th, 111, Sea.)
2. Marcus Easley (4th, 107, Buff.)
3. Mike Kafka (4th, 122, Phila.)
4. Tag illegible
5. Tag illegible
6. Tag illegible
7. Tag illegible

May 09, 2010

Brandon Marshall works to be part of the team

Before I start today there is some business to conduct: First, happy Mother's Day! If you are a mom, God bless you. If you have a mom, hug her, kiss her, visit with her, call her, talk to her. She is a treasure that will not be around forever. Make the best of her time here. Secondly, this is a football blog in general and a Dolphins blog in particular. If you want to keep your comments from being deleted, please do not curse, do not attack other folks in a personal manner, and try to keep the conversation somewhat on football. You are adults and I'm going to treat you as such. Thanks.

Now to the football business.

During my trip to Haiti Saturday with folks from the Dolphins, the topic of Brandon Marshall came up.

I want to report to you that Marshall, who came to the Dolphins with a reputation as something of a problem child in Denver, has worked hard to earn the respect of his new team in the first month or so in Miami.

You will remember Marshall came into town April 14 to take a physical and sign his contract. It was a long day for him. Well, he was in the weight room, working out with his teammates early the next day. Several players noticed.

In the ensuing weeks, Vernon Carey hosted a charity golf tournament. Carey asked his teammates to support the tourney. Not all of them did. Marshall did. He showed up and mixed with several current and former Miami Dolphins players. He won guys over.

Then Ricky Williams had the premier of his Run Ricky Run documentary on Miami Beach. All Dolphins players were invited. Not all were able to show up. Marshall showed up to show his support. And yes, players noticed.

The point is Marshall has made an effort to become part of his new team. He's made an effort to show his teammates there is no sense of entitlement on his part -- particularly as it applies to Davone Bess and the possible exchange of jersey No. 15.

The issue of Marshall's number is still being resolved and not completely settled last I heard. But the new guy apparently is treading carefully so as to not step on any toes. Players are noticing.

Good thing? Certainly for team harmony and chemistry. 

May 08, 2010

Dolphins alumni (and me) head to Haiti today

A handful of Dolphins alumni are flying to Haiti today to help in relief efforts for the earthquake-savaged nation. I will be going with them.

The Dolphins contingent is scheduled to include former receiver and current vice president and senior advisor Nat Moore, and former safeties Bobby Harden, Sean Hill and Bryant Salter.

Our group is scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince at 2 p.m. and will take a tour of Project Medishare’s Hospital in Haiti. The Dolphins, Sun Life Financial and Project Medishare will present 13 ShelterBox tents to the 13 families that participated in the Haiti Connect Project that began on April 4.

Quarterback Chad Henne got the ball rolling on the project in April as he donated the first ShelterBox tent while participating in the video conference with one of the families that took part in the program. The additional 12 tents and Saturday’s trip to deliver the tents to Port-au-Prince were soon to follow through The Miami Dolphins/Sun Life Stadium Haiti Relief Fund. Included with the tents are aid and survival items that assist victims of natural disasters and other catastrophic events.

I obviously believe this to be a good cause. I also believe it will be a good column that I'll share with you in Monday's paper.

I've never been to Haiti before. And even though we are only going for the day, more than one person has recommended I pass on the trip. One person told me the story of one of Bill Clinton's Secret Service agents who was bitten by a tick and contracted lyme disease. He's been out of circulation for two months as a result.

I don't believe that will be my fate. I'm well prayed over. Check for the column from Haiti Monday.

May 06, 2010

Owens sets off Dolfan frenzy with tweet

At 8:36 a.m. today, Terrell Owens tweeted the following:

"Miami bound..."

And about 10 seconds later I got a bunch of twitter followers asking if this meant Owens is going to sign with the Dolphins. From what I can see, many of Owens' own followers recognized the same possibility and asked him if he's coming to sign.

Ah, the Internet.

Anyway, I cannot confirm for you the specific reason Owens is coming to Miami. He has a place here, I know that. He often trains down here.

But I can confirm for you that T.O. is not coming to join the Dolphins, according to a club source. I think the Dolphins generally like their receiver corps now that Brandon Marshall is part of the group. And I do not see them currently adding anyone who is 36 years old and will be 37 during the season, regardless of whether he has gas in the tank or not.

Simply, I think the Dolphins don't need someone to take catches away from Marshall and Owens might either do that or be unhappy that he's not seeing enough passes his way.

Having said that, I do think Owens still can be a solid contributor for some team in the right situation.

But do I think he's "miami bound," to make the Dolphins that team and that situation?

Nope.

[Update: Owens was asked by one of his followers if he meant he's headed for Miami or the team and he replied, "city." So that should be that.]

May 05, 2010

McDuffie wins $11.5 mill suit vs former team Dr.

Former Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie on Wednesday won an $11.5 judgment from a malpractice lawsuit against former Dolphins team doctor John Uribe.

A Miami-Dade Circuit jury returned the verdict after a two-and-one-half-week trial.

McDuffie accused Uribe of malpractice in the treatment of a left big toe injury he suffered in 1999. McDuffie's lawyers said an MRI showed severe ligament damage, but Dr. Uribe told McDuffie he would recover without ever informing McDuffie of the ruptured ligament.  His injury worsened as he continued to play with it. He has had two surgeries on the toe since 1999, and was released by the Dolphins on Feb. 28, 2002, after nine years. McDuffie officially retired in August of 2002.

McDuffie is said to have reached a settlement with other doctors involved in the case.

Both McDuffie and Uribe were unavailable for comment. A source said an appeal by Uribe is likely.

McDuffie played 116 games for the Dolphins from 1993 to 2000. He had 415 receptions for 5,074 yards and 29 touchdowns and also returned two punts for TDs. McDuffie, 40, was Miami's first round pick in the 1993 draft. He led the NFL with 90 catches in 1998.

Uribe was the team's chief orthopedic specialist throughout the Jimmy Johnson coaching tenure and until the final year of the Dave Wannstedt years. He is also the former team doctor for the University of Miami football team and has successfully treated patients such as Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Javon Kearse and Shawne Merriman.

Uribe remains the team doctor for the Florida Panthers.

Time to open the Salguero mailbag

As this blog has been inconsistent in posting your comments the past couple of weeks days and I'm told the problem might not be totally fixed until May 6th, I figured I would share some comments readers have e-mailed me recently.

I try to answer as many e-mails as I can, even the unkind ones, but I obviously cannot get to all of them. Here are a handful of the hundreds I get daily.

The mailbag:

Armando!

What a name on that Utah kid. But dude you missed an awesome opportunity to make funny reference to that volcano in Iceland. Something like, Dolfans better hope Nawa'akoa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi is just as explosive as Eyjafjallajokull lol. Go ahead dude, you can use it lol.

John Sternal

John!

You you got quite a sense of humor there, buddy.

Armando Salguero

------------------------------------------------

Orlando:

I think this is the Big News of 2010 Draft. Our conference is going passing happy. This is the Drew Brees Legacy.

That is the reason the Tuna had to buy into bringing in Marshall. Forget about no rest when Dolphins are planning, working.

Carlos Muina

Egbert:

I've been writing for years that the NFL is a pass-happy league. Thanks for reading my work so closely -- particularly my byline.

Armando

------------------------------------------------

Why can't miami ever take a solid touted player and have him live up to his potential as well? As a Dolphin fan that goes back to 1971 i must say i am not impressed by the Parcells regime so far. I must say that on paper are moves this year appear to be correct (Offensive playmaker was a no brainer). But look below (from the ESPN website) typical Miami drafting:

Odrick is a unique prospect who does not have a great fit anywhere....

Misi is going to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker....

He doesn't have elite measurables....

Edds is a bit of a reach here...He is a bit limited as far as overall athleticism and range ...

Troy

T-

Is it fair to think you don't like Miami's draft? I think one thing Bill Parcells does pretty well is draft defensive linemen and linebackers. Having said that, I will give him the benefit of the doubt on Odrick, Misi and Edds -- a defensive end and two LBs -- until they prove Parcells wrong.

Armando

-----------------------------------------------------

First, I have to say I read your articles religiously.  You are right on the money in my opinion, but that may be because I happen to agree with you the majority of the time.

I started to email you yesterday to say that I think the team is going to have Will Allen, Smith and Davis on the field at the same time.  I am not sure who is going to move to safety but I think it is going to happen and then you write the same thing.

I like the first and third pick and think they will both contribute in a major way this year.  Pretty happy with the draft overall.  Thanks for all your hard work.

John

I appreciate you reading my stuff. We won't always agree, but two individuals rarely do. We do agree that the if the Dolphins don't find an "acorn" on the market the next couple of months, it cannot hurt to consider moving either Will Allen or Jason Allen to free safety. Why not? Obviously, Jeff Ireland said he wouldn't bet on it happening -- which, of course, means it might happen at any time.

Armando

---------------------------------------------------

I am a lifetime Miami Dolphins fan and avid supporter of the franchise. So it was deeply troubling when it was reported and later confirmed that GM Jeff Ireland asked a potential recruit, Dez Bryant, if his mother had ever been a prostitute. This type of question is demeaning, offensive and shows a general lack of class on the part of Mr. Ireland and the entire franchise. It is further upsetting that a question such as this may indeed have been asked based on the color of the recruit's skin. It in fact forces me to ask if Mr. Ireland feels that African-Americans deserve some level of diminished respect? I understand that posing a question of racism is serious but I am left to wonder about Mr. Ireland's commitment to diversity. Finally, Mr. Ireland's apology was only issued after he was publicly named on certain television networks and websites. It appears that Mr. Ireland does not mind treating young African-American players with disrespect and contempt. What he does mind is his actions being publicly disclosed. Thus, I believe his apology is hollow and without merit.

Jason Yoepp

I am certain the Dolphins appreciate your lifetime of support. There is no doubt the question to Bryant was off base, probably in any context. I would assume such a question will never be asked by Jeff Ireland again. Having said that, I do not believe this question had anything to do with race or racial profiling. If Dez Bryant was a white kid with a similar background as Bryant's, I believe Ireland would have asked the same question. Furthermore, if you wonder about Ireland's commitment to diversity, don't bother. The NFL is about 70 percent black and 100 percent green. Teams, including the Dolphins, don't judge players based on skin color, but rather on talent. And they do it in a color blind manner to get the best players which will bring championships, more success and thus more money to the franchise and its employees. Finally, if you question the timing of Ireland's apology, you should also question the timing of Bryant's accusation. He did not complain to anyone on the team about the question when it was asked. And it was not revealed the Dolphins were the team that asked the question, conveniently, until after the draft -- when Bryant was assured the Dolphins hadn't selected him. That was not coincidental.

Armando Salguero

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Armando,

Just wanted to write in about your blog. I live in NJ (same town where former Dolphins FB Darian Barnes played his high school ball) and well, all I get is crap from the hated Jets fans. Love reading your articles, but hate seeing comments that bring a negative light to you. Keep up the good work and keep informing us here in NJ like always. Great work!

Mike Dacenko

Toms River, N.J.

Mike,

Thanks for the kind note. One thing that will drive your Jets fan tormentors nuts: Last year, the Dolphins swept New York. They have no comeback to that. None. Also, I didn't realize there were any comments on this blog that bring a negative light to me. All the folks who post on here love me!

Armando

May 04, 2010

NFL's top 10 RBs and nary a Dolphins mention

Quickly, which two players have carried the Dolphins offense the past two years?

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should have been your answer, although some contrarians among you will surely find another name to post in the comments section.

The point is these two players have been more than solid in that Brown was a Pro Bowl player in 2008 and Williams had a renaissance of sorts in 2009, ranking 10th in the NFL with 1,121 rushing yards while also scoring 11 TDs, and setting the widest span between 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history. Williams established the record at six years between 1,000-yard seasons, breaking a mark (5) previously shared by Mike Garrett, Gary Brown, Ernest Byner, Ottis Anderson and Mike Anderson.

So Ricky and Ronnie are pretty good right?

Apparently The Fifth Down blog at the New York Times doesn't think so.

In rating the NFL's top 10 list of RBs, author Andy Benoit mentions Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.

And in what feels like an honorable mention category, the blog mentions Ryan Grant, Felix Jones, Shonn Greene, Michael Turner and Ryan Grant.

Now, I get that Brown was injured much of the 2009 season, but he did gain 648 yards and score 8 TDs, which surpassed anything Greene did.

But the facts are Williams had more yards, a higher rushing average, a longer long run, and scored more TDs than Mendenhall. He outgained Gore, DeAngelo Williams, Jones and Greene, and had a better average than Grant, Benson, Peterson and Jones-Drew.

Maybe on a whole I would personally prefer to have some of those guys on the list ahead of Williams or Brown. But not all of them.

Williams, for his 2009 performance, belongs on the list considering the blog states the list is strictly based on 2009 performance and not on what players one should pick for a team in the future. Of course, the blog also promises there will be disagreements.

They got that right.

The reasons the Starks move is a gamble

We all know the Dolphins made the decision to move Randy Starks from defensive end to nose tackle the first night of the draft.

It is a fascinating approach to solving the team's questions at nose tackle.

But it is a gamble and one that just as easily might not have been necessary.

You will recall the Dolphins traded down from their No. 12 overall spot in the first round to No. 28. The move was brilliant on several levels. It put the Dolphins in position to upgrade the nose tackle spot one way or another and also gave them a chance to add another starter by adding a second-round pick.

The interesting part was that the Dolphins had options. When they traveled from No. 12 to No. 28, the Dolphins had both nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Jared Odrick on their radar. If Williams had not been picked by Arizona at No. 26, the Dolphins might well have taken him at No. 28.

In that regard, reports of Miami's interest in Williams were accurate. And in that scenario, Williams would fill the bill at NT and Starks would have simply stayed at defensive end.

But the Dolphins found themselves with no Williams available, so they picked Odrick instead -- knowing that they would soon be asking Starks to make the move to nose tackle. When Jeff Ireland wouldn't say where Odrick would play (inside or outside) the night of the first round, it was because he still had not told Starks that the move was officially being made.

The next day, after Starks had agreed to the change, Ireland announced Odrick would be a defensive end.

And in moving Starks the Dolphins are gambling.

Starks, you see, is coming off a season when he grew into the 3-4 DE position to the point where my friends at ProFootballFocus believe him to be the second-best 3-4 DE in the NFL in 2009. The PFF guys have Starks as the second-best run-defender among 3-4 DEs and the sixth-best pass rusher.

(Quick aside, Kendall Langford is ranked the seventh-best pass rusher and sixth-best run defender. Phillip Merling is rated 15th best overall, with a slightly better showing as a pass-rusher than run-stuffer. Also interesting in the ranking based on film study is that Vonnie Holliday, who the Dolphins cut last offseason, rated higher than either Langford or Merling.)

But I digress. The greater point is Starks offered the Dolphins a pretty good DE option already. Starks was a known quantity at DE.

So what's the gamble?

Obviously the Dolphins must hope Odrick, an unproven quantity, comes in and plays as well or better than Starks at DE while also hoping Starks moves to NT and upgrades that spot. And the team must hope the the combination of both moves upgrades the overall defensive front more than having, say, Starks at end and Paul Soliai or Jason Ferguson or someone else at nose tackle.

It is a calculated move that could eventually adequately fill all the defensive line needs Miami had prior to the draft. But as with everything else that is unproven, it is, well, a gamble the Dolphins have taken.

May 03, 2010

A focus on the still lingering free safety question

There are some positions on the Dolphins that beg attention. The areas I'm talking about are unsettled, need adjusting or simply need more talent. One of the most interesting of those has been, and remains, the free safety position.

Free safety is a position that begs our attention because there are so many things going on. First, you should recognize there are "acorns," as general manager Jeff Ireland calls them, still out there that could be picked up and added to the roster.

Free agent safety Darren Sharper is not one of those guys. Sharper has two contract offers that he's considering -- one from New Orleans, one from Jacksonville. The Dolphins were not in the mix as of this morning and you should not expect them to get in the mix. Sharper, as I write this, has not been on Miami's radar all offseason so it would take a significant shift in direction for that to change at this late stage.

Sharper is an excellent player, a playmaker at safety. But Sharper is probably older (35 in November) than the type of player the Dolphins want to add to the roster now.

[UPDATE 4:41 p.m.: Sharper has agreed to a one-year deal with the Saints, according to a source close to him. Several news organization and websites, including profootballtalk.com, are reporting the same thing, citing a league source.]

There is the possibility the Dolphins might be planning to do something with O.J. Atogwe after June 1. The issue can get complicated but, in a nutshell, Atogwe is a restricted free agent who is not signing his tender. After June 1, the St. Louis Rams must extend his tender to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

But to extend the tender they must pay him 110 percent of his 2009 salary which was $6,342,021. Most observers don't see a way the Rams will extend a new tender of $6,976,223 after June 1. Atogwe simply didn't play up to that level last year after a very good year in 2008. So Atogwe may be hitting the market.

And the Dolphins might/should consider the 28-year-old as an option.

For now, the other options the Dolphins can consider are on the roster. And I would tell you the next month is important to those guys because how they perform in coming OTA sessions could impact whether the Dolphins chase an Atogwe or some other acorn in June and beyond.

That means Chris Clemons, Tyrone Culver, and Reshad Jones are on notice. They either answer the bell in May -- as much as they are allowed in Jones's case -- or the Dolphins will go looking for someone better in June and through training camp.

My feeling? Miami's 2010 starting free safety is not currently on the roster. Everything the Dolphins have done this offseason -- cut Gibril Wilson, chased Antrel Rolle and Ryan Clark, drafted Jones while seriously considering Earl Thomas -- suggests the Dolphins want to upgrade beyond Clemons and Culver.

No knock on either, those are just the facts.

Jones, by the way, is interesting in that he was all the rage during rookie camp. He visited the team priot to the draft and was thought to be a third-to-fourth round talent by many before going to the Dolphins in the fifth round. Although there have been past questions about his instincts, he has prototypical size.

"I felt him in the last couple of days," coach Tony Sparano said of Jones on the final day of the rookie camp. "He’s been around the football a bunch and made a couple of plays [Saturday] in the bubble. I think that he’s got the hardest job out there obviously because he’s got to get things lined up. I think from his standpoint it’s trying to figure things out defensively.

"We really didn’t throw as much at him defensively in this camp as we did maybe thrown at the offensive guys but we did throw a pretty good dose at him. It won’t be like when we get down the road here and he’ll be getting it fast, but, we threw a pretty good dose at him. He digested it pretty well; I thought he moved around great."

We will keep our eyes on Jones. Actually, we'll keep our eyes on all the free safety candidates -- because that's a position that if far from being settled.