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50 posts from August 2010

August 31, 2010

Jeff Ireland will try to find, speak with Dez Bryant

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland will look for Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant sometime before or after the preseason game between Miami and Dallas Thursday night so that he can close the book on the questiongate incident that happened between the two men just prior to the draft.

A source tells me that Ireland has given thought to the Bryant situation in recent days and would like to speak with Bryant. Ireland and others within the Dolphins organization have discussed how to handle Thursday's likely meeting because the GM knows it will be an issue for the media and perhaps Bryant himself.

Ireland declined to comment on the matter Thursday, citing Miami's policy to have coach Tony Sparano be the club's one voice during the season.

But I am told Ireland has decided he will try to find Bryant and talk to the wide receiver if that search is successful. Ireland has told at least one person that he would "try to make sure Bryant is OK with everything," and perhaps repeat in person what he said during a phone conversation with Bryant following their pre-draft incident.

That incident, which became a national story and caused something of a league-wide fuss, reportedly happened when Ireland asked during that pre-draft interview if Bryant 's mother had ever been a prostitute. Bryant reportedly answered the question by saying his mom had never been a prostitute.

The context of the question is still a mystery as Bryant and Ireland were the only two in the room at the time and neither has really discussed the context of the question. It is known that Bryant had a troubled childhood and that his mother at one time served time for selling drugs. Bryant's mother was since released from jail.

After news about Ireland's question was reported, Ireland apologized to Bryant. He issued this statement first to The Miami Herald and then other media:

"My job is to find out as much information as possible about a player that I'm considering drafting," Ireland said in the statement. "Sometimes that leads to asking in-depth questions.

"Having said that, I talked to Dez Bryant and told him I used poor judgment in one of the questions I asked him. I certainly meant no disrespect and apologized to him.

"I appreciate his acceptance of that apology and I told him I wished him well as he embarks on his NFL career."

Ireland and Bryant spoke by phone after the Cowboys granted the Miami GM permission to speak with their player. The two have not spoken since. But Bryant has made it apparent he wants to move on from the incident and holds no grudge against Ireland.

"I'm pretty sure if I was to see him on the field, I would shake his hand, shake coach Sparano's hand," Bryant told Dallas-area reporters two weeks ago. "Just a lot of misunderstanding in that situation. Everything is fine."

The most outward and obvious manifestation that everything if fine would be a public handshake between the men. But it is believed Ireland may try to catch up with Bryant in a more private setting -- perhaps in the tunnel leading to the field -- rather in the open setting of the field.

Regardless of where it happens, Thursday may mark the close of what was at times an uncomfortable chapter for both men and moreso for Ireland.

Bryant has missed all of the preseason so far but recently returned to practice and is expected to play against the Dolphins.

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August 30, 2010

Crowder goes for 2nd opinion, Haynos waived injured

Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder went for a second opinion of an unspecified injury that has kept him out of the past two preseason games and out of practice since the week leading to the August 21 game at Jacksonville. 

The coach declined to specify what injury Crowder is nursing but said he is "not too concerned at this second," about Crowder missing the regular-season opener at Buffalo.

Charlie Anderson has been working at inside linebacker the last couple of days in Crowder's absence.

In the meantime, the Dolphins also announced that tight end Joey Haynos (foot) has been waived injured. Haynos suffered the injury in Friday's preseason loss to Atlanta.

The move obviously insures the status of David Martin, who seemed likely to make the team anyway. Now Martin seems a lock. The intrigue is what the Dolphins will do beyond Anthony Fasano and Martin.

The club likes John Nalbone despite his inconsistent hands. It is possible this opens the door for Nalbone to earn a roster spot. The club also has the option of searching the waiver wire once final cuts are made to find a suitable replacement for Haynos, ostensibly someone that would be an upgrade from Nalbone.

The Dolphins may not wish to place Nalbone on waivers with the intent of putting him on ppractice squad for fear of losing him. Last year, they showed that reluctance and kept the rookie tight end. Weeks later, however, the club put Nalbone on waivers and no other team showed interest. Nalbone spent much of the year on the practice squad.

On other fronts:

Misi on the move

Rookie outside linebacker Koa Misi has been working on the strongside all of training camp, but he's gotten a strong dose of weakside work in recent days.

 "We're trying to take a look at him rushing from the other side," coach Tony Sparano said.

Misi has over 500 snaps as the strongside linebacker, according to Sparano. Ikaika Alama-Francis is taking first team snaps at strongside of late.

Can I say something? It is the fourth game of the preseason in three days. If Misi was playing great the Dolphins would not be looking at moving him at this late stage, especially considering he is not going to beat out Cameron Wake on the weak side.

He need to bow up and play better ...

... Or lose his opportunity to start for now.

Special teams still need to improve

Sparano, a master of the unexpected statistic, said the Dolphins have covered 13 kickoffs this preseason and the average starting field position on thos for opponents is the 33 yard line. Of Miami's kick returns, the Dolphins have managed a starting field position of the 25 yard line.

Um, not good on either end.

Big Ben to play against the Dolphins?

We all know that Ben Roethlisberger got a six-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for, basically, conduct detrimental to the human race.

That was sort of good news -- from a strictly competitive perspective -- for the Miami Dolphins because Pittsburgh plays the Dolphins the sixth week of their season.

But now comes this tweet of a report from Mike Wise of the Washington Post saying Roethlisberger's suspension will be trimmed back to five games based on his recent good behaviour. If true, that would mean Big Ben would chime in for the first time this season on Oct. 24 ... against the Dolphins.

That would mean the Steelers team that is currently struggling to find a starting quarterback from the group of Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich could have a much better option for that Miami game.

Roethlisberger got his original six-game ban when it was determined he violated the NFL's personal conduct policy. Goodell handed down the suspension even after a Georgia woman decided not to press criminal charges against Roethlisberger after he allegedly sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a Georgia night club. It was the second incident in which Roethlisberger was tied to a sexual battery incident, although he's not been convicted of either.

Under the suspension, Goodell ordered Roethlisberger to undergo counseling and has been under greater scrutiny from the league.

"Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare." Goodell wrote in a letter to Roethlisberger in April. "I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life."

In announcing the suspension, Goodell said he would re-examine Roethlisberger's conduct prior to the season's start and could alter the suspension, depending on how well or poorly Roethlisberger was comporting himself.

[UPDATE: And now profootballtalk.com is saying that Wise was just kidding. Geez, you can't believe anything these reporters report anymore. The media stinks! Film at 11. By the way, Mike Florio will do his weekly segment on Armando and the Amigo Tuesday in the 8 o'clock hour.] 

August 29, 2010

The words from Tony Sparano's mouth

The Dolphins are back working on Sunday and for the first time since studying his team's loss to Atlanta, coach  Tony Sparano spoke with the media this afternoon.

This is everything he said:

(On if anything stands out to him from the game after looking at film positively) - "There were some things positively. There was some very good-during the course of this game-I thought some very good individual performances. So, there was some guys that played on the upside of 40-45 plays that I thought played really well in this game, I'm not going to single them out. But, I did think they played really well. I think some of these guys either hadn't played as consistent prior to that and made improvements in that ball game or some of them maybe even didn't play so good against them in the past, okay. The last time we played them. But, I thought it was good to see. There were some guys that were really did good things that way. Some guys even on special teams that I thought as we tried to settle that group down a little bit that played like we thought they might play in this game. So, those were pretty much from my end, those were some of the positive things. Initially I thought on the defensive side of the ball that the interior part of our group, I thought Atlanta kind of maybe on the surface got after a little bit, but it really wasn't that. So when I watched the film I thought that was positive-like we were knocking them back pretty good. The ball spilled out on the perimeter a couple times and when the ball spilled out on the perimeter they made some yards and that's a concern. Can't happen, but, the interior-the integrity of what was going on in there I thought was fine. And I thought even at times with the amount of protection that we did in that game the offensive line I thought protected fairly well. Not great, but fairly well."

(On if a change has been made with Alama-Francis playing with the first team in practice) -"We're looking at him there right now. Not necessarily a change. And it might even just include that Ike was in that group and we're maybe looking at Koa (Misi) as well. So, not really a change, but, he was in first group today."

(On if there is any concern with Koa Misi) - "No, I would say that it's about trying to line your - in some situations-maybe with the emphasis of the day today trying to line your ducks up in the right order a little bit."

(On Joey Haynos' injury and how much of a setback it is)
- "As far as the degree of the setback, not positive yet. But, I think it's going to be a little while. Not sure."

(On Vontae Davis playing well) - "Well, Vontae played well. I said it after the game I thought like he played well and I thought after watching film that he played well. The thing Vontae has done in three games right now that has been consistent is he's tackled, he's tackled well. What he hadn't done consistently but well, was the man coverage part of things and in this game did that well. So, that's improvement. He made improvement out here in practice during the week, he took it to the game. That's really what you want to see in some of those things. I don't want to get on and on here but it's like I said before, it was important before a game but more important to see some of those things come out of it where guys got better during the week and got better in the games."

(On what most concerned him after watching film) - "Efficiency."

(On how so and if he could elaborate on the previous question)- "I have this thing that I believe in called hidden yardage that happens in the game. I think it's a way that you win and lose, okay. My team is educated on how you win and lose in this league. There educated on how many close games we've been in over the last couple of years and how many that we've won. In this game we committed 19 minus plays. Now that's not just offense. That has to do with penalties, that has to do with minus runs, that has to do with sacks, that has to do with any of those things. Now you have a chance to get some back on the other side of the ball by forcing them to commit some of those. We didn't do that-they only committed six. So, we forced defensively six minus plays and we had either offensively or defensively we had some defensive penalties we had a special teams penalty-19 of them that totaled about137 yards. They had 27 yards worth of minus plays. In my book, that's about 110 yards and that's about 8 or 9 points that we gave up during the game. Plus we threw a red zone interception which goes against all the rules. So, from an efficiency standpoint, we eliminate some of the minus plays during the course of the game and take care of the ball in the red zone-we won a turnover battle and lost the game. That doesn't happen too many times in this league, okay. So, that's what I mean when I say efficient. We can get a lot better at that.

(On if Friday's game help settle the center position at all) -"Yeah, in my mind a little bit, so."

(On if he's going to announce the starter) - "No."

(On if it's safe to assume that in Thursday's game the starters will start) -"No, I wouldn't assume that."

(On creating turnovers in contrast with the lack of efficiency)
- "Well the efficiency part of things is just-you put 11 guys out there on a play okay and one guy-(you know) we talked a little bit about it in here today after practice. But it could be one guy that does the most minor thing-but that minor thing can cause a minus play. And on defense sometimes you can cover it up. Eventually it'll get back and bit ya, but you can cover it up a little bit by effort. Sometimes effort covers up a bad play over there. On offense you'll get exposed fast that you won't be able to cover it up. And I think that that's the part that we just need to clean up. (I'm sure-I can't say every team, but there's a lot of teams in the league right now I'm sure they're going through the same thing-I really don't care about that, really (only) worried my own group-but that's where we have to get better at. So, we need to improve in that area."

(On having any concern that Channing Crowder won't be ready for the season opener)
- "Ah, I don't know right now."

(On if he's preparing for that possibility) - "Not at this particular second, no."

 

(On Micah Johnson and his development)
- "You know what, Micah's done a pretty good job. I've been pleased with what he's done; he's made some tackles out there. There's areas for his improvement, you know we got to get him downhill a little bit more. He's a little bit of a skater right now, but he is making some plays. This week he played 17 plays; he played like 39 plays in the game and 17 on, on special teams. So he was in the high 50's at the end of the thing, and he did some good things on special teams. That was encouraging."

(On how David Martin looks after being back for a while now)
- "He played better this week, probably, and I thought played pretty good against Jacksonville, but that was really a limited deal. I think he played about a dozen plays against Jacksonville and then this week a little bit more, so played better this week. He's starting, starting to make some progress there. I think he's kind of getting his legs and those kind of things back."

(On if he looks as he did back in 2008)
- "Well I think, I think he's getting there Andy (Kent). I just feel like right now, he's missed some time, a great portion of time from a physical standpoint, and that's probably the area that David has to catch up in the most. When I say that I mean the physical conditioning, the strength, all those things, but other than that his skills, catching the ball, doing the things that he does, he'll probably be able to do that when he's 65 years old."

(On David Martin's chemistry with Anthony Fasano) - "Very good, I like it a lot. You know one thing with Anthony is, I've been in situations with Anthony where having football heads in the room with him, okay if you will, guys that enjoy talking football and like talking about, ‘hey did you see this? What did they do on this one? How did they do this?' That kind of thing stimulates Anthony a little bit and gets him going as far as his approach to maybe some of these things. So the two of those guys that relationship and I know they're good friends off the field here, but I think it helps both of them in that situation. Where Anthony has had to take kind of a different role at times with let's say John Nalbone. He's had to be the teacher, and in this situation these guys are kind of equal and they're sharing information that's pretty valuable, I think."

(On John Nalbone's development)
- "Well he's played a lot of plays. Nobody took more plays than John in the spring, and right now I would argue that John doesn't have the most plays out of the tight end position right now. It might be close after this week, but he's got a lot of plays as we speak. I think that part of the development is important. I think when we get into working against other teams out here, like getting ready for Dallas this week, well we won't spend a lot of time on Dallas, but maybe getting ready like we did last week against Atlanta. I think those plays are valuable you know when you got a guy like (Tony) Gonzalez that you're getting ready for and you're drawing a card up, that's a good card for Nalbone to get a rep at."

(On the importance of the upcoming game against Dallas)
- "Well let's see, I should answer this this way. That fourth game is very important, okay, it's very important, and it is from my end because we go into every one of these wanting to win them. So we'll want to win this game. It's important for some players, make no mistake about that, it really is. I think it's important for some players on this team. I have, I have a large percentage in my head that I think is kind of all set, but I got a couple guys right now that I think I really need to play, and this is a good game to do that because last week maybe you couldn't do that as much because you wanted to get 48 plays out of, out of the starters. I mean you didn't want your defense to play 48 of them, but you wanted to get that portion. I think this week you have an opportunity, and then there's other issues too. You know Benny Sapp for example. I want Benny Sapp to play. I hope, we'll put him out there for a while and let him run around. I think that's going to be important for us too; that's two different issues."

(On Will Allen and if he will be ready for the season opener at Buffalo) - "I have no real update on him right now other than that he's doing a nice job in his rehab at this particular time."

(On the traits a nickel corner must have) - "I think, short memory, I really believe that. One of the things that people don't give those players enough credit for is the amount of space they have to cover. It's easy to look out there and say aw man, he should have had that guy, but the amount of space. When you're playing corner, the boundary is your friend a little bit, but when you're in the middle of the field or they're motioning and you do those kind of things, this is a problem. There's a whole lot of space out there and I think that that's probably one of the biggest traits is being able to have the quickness to defend and maybe the intelligence maybe to defend that kind of space. Then I think you got to be physical because if you're a guy that can get your hands on him within the legal area, I think that helps you gain that space back tremendously. So you got to have no fear, and a little bit with Benny, that's what I've seen on film. He's a guy that's not afraid to slug it out a little bit."

(On how tough a decision it is to set the final roster with players being injured who may not be able to play right away)
- "It's difficult, it's a difficult decision just in that you're taking a look and you're saying okay well I'm holding a spot and if you don't really know timetables or any of those things, I think you got to evaluate maybe the amount of players you have for those spots, any of that type of stuff. It becomes difficult; you got to look at a lot of different things there."

(On if there is a set date where a player won't make the roster if he can't play by that date) - "Yeah I would say that there's a cutoff, yes. I wouldn't necessarily call it that, but I would say there is a cutoff."

(On Charlie Anderson working as an inside linebacker again in practice) - "Well here's what it is Omar (Kelly), it's just that I would say to you that the value of maybe being able to bring a guy like Charlie to the game that can play nickel pass rush snaps with his hand in the ground, possibly play up and cover people and sub, play up in the regular defense, or go and play Will linebacker. That's a valuable piece if you can do it, and Charlie's a very smart guy. We've done this with him before; this isn't the first time. We did it last year, you know (when) Channing was hurt, last year, and we kind of Akin (Ayodele) was a little bit hurt, so we, we got Charlie always ready but never had to put him in the game. We thought, we've seen this many reps of Charlie Anderson right now as an outside linebacker and a nickel rusher, so let's take a look at him here for a little while this other way and see if this can help us."

(On Sean Smith and if he is concerned with his focus or if this is just part of dealing with a young player)
- "No concern, really, no concern with focus at all. I mean the one thing I've noticed with Sean is that he has been pretty focused out here; he's getting better at what it is that he's doing. My approach is just my normal approach with him. We had, we had a small issue this weekend, and it was small but I needed to, I needed to do what I did, and Sean needed to go in the game and play too. So that's what we did, and it's really over."

August 28, 2010

Uninspiring Falcons beat sloppy Dolphins in preseason G3

This was supposed to be the sneak peek. This was the dress rehearsal for the Dolphin before the regular-season show opens because this was the game the coaches prepared for the opponent, the starters played longer and units and sub packages were comprised of personnel you're likely to see in the regular season.

But it wasn't good enough. As I write in my column in the Saturday Miami Herald, the Dolphins are not yet ready for the start of the regular season, which is only 14 days away at Buffalo. (Thankfully, guys, it doesn't look like the Jets or Pats are playing much better.)

But let us concentrate on the Dolphins:

"We played sloppy, inconsistent," coach Tony Sparano said, "at times did some decent things, but couldn't finish. We just didn't finish. There was something always unexecuted one place or another on either side of the ball. They were 10 of 18 on third down on defense and on the other side we were two of 12. So we didn't stay on the field, and we really couldn't get off the field too well, either. There was something always unexecuted one way or the other.

"That's my fault. I got to do a better job."

Truth is, everyone has to do better for the Dolphins to be ready to play to start the regular season. Sparano did a study of how teams make the playoffs and he found an undeniable connection between starting fast and getting in the playoffs.

So the Dolphins must start fast in 2010.

They must find a pass rush as the first-team defense hasn't really created a consistent one all preseason. Last night the Dolphins had 26 pass-rush opportunities for their first-teamers. They did not sack Matt Ryan even once.

Sure, they didn't blitz but once. But sometimes you have to get to the passer without creating the rush. Sometimes it has to come from your core rushers without the help of corners or safeties or other blitzes.

"We really didn't do a whole lot from a pressure standpoint in this game," Sparano said. "I think you want to see what happens when you have four or five guys in the rush in the rush. At times with four or five guys you have to win your individual match-up and we didn't always do that."

Cameron Wake won his matchup twice that I counted. He didn't collect a sack, but he got a hit on Ryan or hurried a throw. I didn't see anyone else do that.

I'd like to see quarterback Chad Henne begin to find a groove. The hope was that he could pick up Friday night where he left off last week against Jacksonville. He had an excellent night against the Jags. He could not extend that excellence versus Atlanta.

Henne never looked comfortable. Never looked on the same page with his primary receiver Brandon Marshall. And he seemingly, and most troubling, never looked the defense off. He seemed to lock onto one side of the field or one receiver and throw it to that side or receiver while never seeming to think about turning his head and, whaddaya know, surprising the coverage by throwing the other way.

"We're going to need some work," Henne said. "Obviously, we're inconsistent in areas. We just got to keep on grinding. I mean time is running out. We need to start clicking and get it done in this preseason game, next preseason game and do it in practice."

Sparano said this outing probably will not affect the way he approaches the final preseason game. He did say it might change how he approaches "the next three days of practice." That probably means the intensity will be stepped up. I can only hope.

The running game, by the way, is also becoming a source of attention, if not outright concern. The Dolphins really haven't created much daylight or run lanes this preseason. I have yet to see a great block by an interior lineman at the second level of the defense. Perhaps that's a product of all the mixing and matching they've done in practice with the interior guys at RG, C, and LG.

But that sounds like something of an excuse. The fact is John Jerry has been the RG since the second week of camp. He's been a first-team fixture. The truth is Richie Incognito has been at LG for over two weeks now. Yes, the center spot has been a revolving door. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Jake Grove is the better run-blocker while Joe Berger is probably the better pass-blocker.

This position needs to get settled with some sort of permanence this week -- with permanence defined as finding the dude that will start the Buffalo game and giving him most of the work the next 14 days.

There were some positive points last night.

Yeremiah Bell is still as solid a strong safety as you will find and he had an interception. Karlos Dansby showed his coverage skills on a couple of plays in which he caused incompletions on throws to tight end Tony Gonzalez. Brian Hartline seems to be coming out of his shell a bit and is figuring in the offense pretty well. There were no obvious mental mistakes in the defensive backfield. Vontae Davis played well.

But ... even some of the positives raise questions.

How is it Davis can be showing such nice progress in his second season while Sean Smith is not? Smith missed the start because he violated a team rule, according to Sparano. Not too worried about that. But when he got in the game in the second quarter, he got tore up (yes, tore up) on a double move that left his lower body defending an out and his upper body chasing a receiver streaking down the sideline.

Smith was a good five yards behind the receiver when Ryan overthrew the apparent touchdown pass. Crisis averted, but that move is on film now. You think the Bills will try that on Smith with Lee Evans applying a banquet of double moves on Sept. 12?

"It's frustrating," Bell said. "You never want to go out and literally get punched in the mouth. They hit us off some plays tonight, they were more physical than we were. As players, the coaches can't do anything about that. We have to take that upon ourselves and go out and do a better job."

Kindly follow me on twitter. And listen to my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, on 640-AM here in South Florida every M-F from 6 to 10 a.m. If you're not in South Florida, you can listen live by clicking here during show hours. 

August 27, 2010

Live blog here to celebrate season ticket milestone

The Dolphins tonight celebrate their most important preseason game of 2010 and already they have good news on the horizon: The team will soon announce that it has surpassed the 50,000 season-ticket mark for the first time in the Bill Parcells era and the first time since 2007.

Although the club has not yet made it official, I'm told by several sources there is a sense of pride at the fact the local fans have seen fit to invest in season-tickets at a rate not seen in several years despite the tough economic times that plagues the nation and South Florida.

There is much work to do, however, for the Dolphins business side. While there has been a steady increase in the sale of tickets since they fell off the table following Nick Saban's departure, 50,000 to ,51,000 is not the goal. The club would like to be closer to 2006 levels and be in the 60,000s season tickets sold.

One supposes the success the team will have this year will go far toward determining that.

To that end, I present to you tonight's game.

Things to look for:

The secondary: Um, they've been pretty bad this preseason and now they're facing the best quarterback (Matt Ryan) they've seen so far and for a much longer period of time. The expectation is the Ryan will go at least one half tonight as will Miami's starting DBs.

[Update: Jason Allen is slated to start ahead of Sean Smith at RCB. Smith has been on notice all preseason that his job is at stake. Count this another strongly worded message that he needs to pull up and play better or he'll find himself coming off the bench when the season begins.]

To blitz or not to blitz: I've shared with you what the Dolphins' defense is going to be this year in previous posts. Attacking is the operative word. But this preseason the Dolphins have shown no blitzes with their first-team defense. Do they unwrap some of that package tonight? I do not know. But I'll be watching with interest to see how effetive Koa Misi and Jared Odrick can be when three or four of their teammates are also trying to bust down the offensive line wall along with them.

No injuries, please: That is a key goal. The coaching staff hasn't babied this team, but it has been cautious to avoid the physical, emotional, and psychological distress that a season-ending or other signifcant injury can have upon a team. Today the St. Louis Rams are sick at the loss of receiver Donnie Avery for the season. Teams that come out the third preseason game relatively healthy usually go into the regular season that way because the final preseason game is usually a passing excersize on the field. If Miami can escape this contest unscathed, that will bode wll for the opener.

Last minute news: Will Allen and Nate Garner are the only scratches for the Dolphins. That is interesting because it suggests Channing Crowder is dressed ... but he will not start. Tim Dobbins is starting for Crowder tonight. Jake Grove is starting at center.

So meet me at kickoff in the comments section for the live blog. It should be a hoot. 

August 26, 2010

Some behind-the-scenes on the Miami Dolphins

Throughout our country the Hard Knocks post-broadcast analysis is taking up sportstalk radio segments and blog space. Spit on that.

In Dolphins country, I have a little inside-the-team look to give you without the million-dollar production of an HBO show. The inside look is courtesy one Tony Sparano, who was my guest this week on the Armando and The Amigo Show on 640-Sports in South Florida.

By 8:30 one morning this week, Sparano had already worked out, conducted a team meeting, conducted a meeting with his coaches, and had three players into his office for one-on-one time. The one-on-one meetings were not pat-on-the-back sessions.

"They're about urgency, telling them about urgency, and expectations and those type of things where you're counting on somebody and he's not playing up to his level," Sparano told me on the show. "You're trying to make somebody aware of the opportunity they may have and how fast their window is closing. You try to tell some of these young players that but sometimes they get lost in the middle of training camp and then it's too late.

"I think it's important for me to let my players know where they stand in some of these situations and I'll bring them up to my office and tell them, ‘This is what I want to see, this is what you've done so far, and this is what I haven't seen.' They walk out of here with a pretty clear picture of what I'm looking for."

Sparano did not say which players he met with. Actually, I didn't have the guts to ask. (I suck). But I do know coaches have lately been on first-round pick Jared Odrick to get more out of him, to get him to expect more of himself and produce more. Just sayin'.

I also asked Sparano about his weight-loss regimen. He told me he works out in the morning and then tries to get another workout in before he leaves the facility at night. He's still doing two-a-days. He said he's lost 61 pounds since he began, following knee surgery.

Finally, you see the Jets behind-the-scenes fun and frolic on Hard Knocks. The Dolphins are not without some of that. On Sunday, the coaches, Sparano and Jeff Ireland called in Bill Parcells to an office. They surprised him with a birthday cake and a song.

Parcells turned 69 that day.

Happy birthday, Bill.

August 25, 2010

My reaction to Camarillo trade? Get Vincent Jackson

My reaction to the Greg Camarillo trade? I wish the Dolphins would stop dancing around the topic of getting really, really, really good on offense and check into Vincent Jackson.

He's available, don't you know?

He's about as available as Brandon Marshall was when the Dolphins traded for him. He'll cost a high draft pick, perhaps a second-rounder. He's going to want to get paid. And he's going to serve a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

So?

Give the Chargers a 2013 second-rounder. Give Jackson a contract just below Brandon Marshall's and one equally as cautious with the guaranteed money.

And after three games in 2010, boast the most explosive and most imposing set of pass-catchers in the NFL!

The Dolphins are trying to shine some Chevy Malibus with Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace and Patrick Turner. One of them will probably make the roster as the fourth wide receiver. I'm told the team will look far and wide to identify its fifth wide receiver. So why not to out and buy a BMW and go in style!

This, of course, will not happen. Miami's got too much money invested in Marshall as is. Miami's going to give Davone Bess a new contract at some point this year. The receiver corps cannot be the area on which Miami tilts its salary cap upside down.

But think about this: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are unsigned for next year. The team will draft a running back, and perhaps quite early. So Miami's expenditure on running backs may be going down soon. Since the really big money isn't being used on the RBs and the defense seems built for the future, why not field a bangin' passing game?

(I know, I'm dreaming. But I'm also respectfully suggesting).

Anyway, back on Earth, coach Tony Sparano talked today about acquiring Benny Sapp in exchange for Camarillo.

"You get a guy that has some position flexibility," Sparano said. "He's started games at corner in this league, played a large number of plays last season, played in some playoff games and also plays inside in the nickel. So I think he has a little position flex that way and special teams as well."

Moore, who along with Roberto Wallace figure to be in line for a practice squad job at minimum, reacted to the trade also.

My mentality is the same -- come in here, work hard every day, and with Greg gone it hasn't changed at all," Moore said.

That would be the perfect approach if the Dolphins studied the Jackson idea closely.

Good-bye Greg Camarillo, hello Patrick Turner

The Dolphins have traded wide receiver Greg Camarillo to the Minnesota Vikings for unspecified compensation according to multiple sources. The trade was first reported by The Herald's Jeff Darlington.

[Updated: The Dolphins get cornerback Benny Sapp from the Vikings in return. Sapp, a Fort Lauderdale native, is in his seventh NFL season. He started seven games for Minnesota last year. The move suggests Will Allen may not be ready for the start of the season. Allen, out the entire preseason following knee surgery, is now not a lock to be on the roster all of 2010.

The breakdown on Sapp from the good folks at ProFootballFocus.com: "He's an aggressive, quick corner that plays the run pretty well but does struggle in coverage at times. Last season he was thrown at 57 times and allowed 40 completions, for a 10.7 average.  He gave up 2 TDs and got his hands to 6 passes. Opposing QBs had a 103.5 QB rating when throwing at Sapp in '09.

Sapp's a capable nickel corner that plays inside, and will allow completions, but he tends to keep everything in front of him and will be active against the run.]

Camarillo was informed of the trade this morning. He obviously was not at practice today.

So, this is where we are:

Patrick Turner is looking like he is going to make the Dolphins.

He has been on the cusp of a roster spot as the team's No. 5 wide receiver. With Camarillo, previously considered a roster likelihood now gone, Turner moves up one notch. Turner was today taking second-team snaps with Davone Bess. (Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline were taking first-team snaps in the base offense.)

And the fifth wide receiver position is now up in the air (again) with Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt and Roberto Wallace battling for that job. Moore has to be the favorite right now with Wallace (6-4 and 225 pounds) looking like he can make a push.

One of those guys will likely be on the practice squad.

Yes, that still leaves the No. 5 job open. Do not dismiss the possibility Miami searches waiver wires and other practice squads for that player. In that case, Miami's No. 5 wide receiver may not be on the roster right now.

[Update 2: Guard Randy Thomas, signed last week, has had his contract terminated.]

On the topic of hating the Pats and Jets (and Bills)

While the New York Jets and New England Patriots have spent the past day or so trading barbs about hating one another, Dolphins players are busy these days watching from afar and not really feeling that kind of venom for either team.

Oh, sure, the Dolphins don't like the Jets or the Pats or Bills for that matter. But hate?

Not all of them.

"I mean I can't say I hate one team more, but it's great rivalries," quarterback Chad Henne said. "We obviously have a great AFC East division there, and I don't think any of the teams like each other too much. But I can't say I hate a team, but definitely compete against them and we don't like each other a lot."

I asked center Jake Grove, the man with perhaps the nastiest on-field disposition on offense, if he hates the Jets or the Pats, or anyone else for that matter.

"I kind of dislike all of them, I guess," he said. "I like the team I'm playing for. The other ones I couldn't really care less about. I wouldn't say I'd single one out more than other ones. They all kind of irritate me a little bit."

Henne sees no real use for hating an opponent. He is quite clinical in that regard.

"I don't know, I just don't see a hatred in a team," Henne said. "That's really not going to get me anywhere. It's more, it's competition out there. Obviously you want to win every time, and hatred's not in my mind."

[BLOG NOTE: Practice starts in about an hour so come back here for the update soon after. And, of course, there will be a new post with all the latest after coach Tony Sparano and the players speak after practice.]

August 24, 2010

The clock is ticking for the Dolphins

Coach Tony Sparano recently told the media, which is not allowed to enter the Dolphins training facility until the regular season, that he has put a big clock in the locker room that is counting down to the opener Sept. 12 at Buffalo. 

"It's been counting for the opening game for about four months now," Sparano said. "And as I tell the team on a pretty regular basis, they're not adding more time on that clock. There's less and less time right now ... If those guys are in that huddle out there, meaning, first huddle second huddle whatever it is and these mistakes are being made—we can chalk it up to young we can chalk it up to all those things but we're not going to say that we got a lot of time. We don't. We need to get it corrected and they need to get better at it."

The clock was Sparano's idea and has gotten something of a mixed reaction among some of the players.

"I don't really look at it that much," cornerback Vontae Davis said. "I worry about what tomorrow has in store for us and that's practice."

"I guess it kind of remind me of college," quarterback Chad Henne said, "I know Ohio State has a clock counting down to Michigan. But I think it's good. It keeps our minds on Buffalo and I know we want to get off to a fast start this year. It's great, it reminds us it's not getting further away. It's getting closer."

Regardless of what the players think of the clock, there is importance to Friday's preseason game against Atlanta. Sparano sees it as a measure of his team because the Falcons are a good team.

"This is a team that I consider a playoff team from the NFC and from our end here, we consider ourselves to be one," the coach said. "It's a good test, a good challenge."

Sparano said playing time for his first team offense and defense, "is not going to be a whole lot more" than it was last week when starters played a little over a quarter."

But the coach still wants his starters to at take at least one series in the second half.

"You do want to heat them up again in the second half and play them coming out of halftime, but after that we'll start to play some bubble guys," Sparano said.

Defensive rookie update:

Many of you ask me my opinion on rookies Koa Misi and Jared Odrick. I think they're going to be fine. They need more urgency. They need to improve their technique. But neither is overwhelmed by the NFL game.

And Sparano, whose opinion is more important, is seeing steady improvement.

"This week [against Jacksonville] I was able to watch Koa Misi punch the tight end several times and separate. And that's a pretty good tight end they have over there," the coach said. "With Odrick, I started to see a little more involvement in the run game and holding the point of attack on double teams a little bit better."

Brady hates Jets, shows Dolphins some love

One of the topics this morning on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, was how funny it is when Dolphins fans can stand by and watch New England Patriots on New York Jets violence and vice versa. We saw that Monday when Tom Brady told the hosts on WEEI in Boston, in part, "I hate the Jets."

The context was whether or not Brady watches Hard Knocks. Brady apparently does not because he doesn't want to support any show the Jets are on. Well, soft-spoken Jets coach Rex Ryan came with a retort (shockingly).

"Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots, so what's the difference," Ryan shot back.

Lovely ain't it?

Anyway, while the two camps have each other in the cross-hairs, Brady took time during his interview to show love to the Dolphins. No, seriously.

And he went out of his way to do it.

Brady was asked about New England's offense coming with new wrinkles and doing different, elaborate things. Brady said all that is overplayed. He said doing a couple of things very well can be almost as effective if the personnel is good and right.

"I've said before the best defense I've ever played against was the Miami Dolphins about 8, 9, 10 years ago, and they played pretty much the same defense the whole game," Brady said. "And it didn't matter what you did, they rushed the passer, they covered you, they covered you short, they covered you deep.

"They had one or two change-ups that really complimented what they were doing. I had my worst games against the Dolphins. Our passing game against them was terrible, and we knew going into the game exactly what they play, and that to me is the mark of a really good team is when they do kind of say what you're going to do but you do it so well that they really are not able to stop you anyway."

Much respect for Tom Brady.

[Blog note: Come back in a while and I'll post the practice update right here.]

[The early update: Just got back from the practice field where the media was allowed to watch 30 minutes of work. Ray Feinga, Channing Crowder and Quentin Moses are still not practicing. Everyone else was accounted for. No lineup changes that I could see. Check back for the post-practice update.].

August 23, 2010

Much ado about a Monday afternoon

Tons of stuff going on so let's get it:

Coach Tony Sparano was asked if he envisions getting his No. 4 quarterback into Friday's preseason game against Atlanta. "Do I envision that?" Sparano asked. "No."

Pat White, in case you've not tuned in lately, is Miami's No. 4 quarterback. He didn't play in the preseason opener. He didn't play last week in the second preseason game.

One thing I can tell you for sure: He's not being showcased to be traded.

You may remember that Sparano talked about having to clean up some man-coverage issues after the game at Jacksonville. I asked Sean Smith, who yielded a 22-yard completion to Mike Sims-Walker, what cleaning up thos things meant as far as he's concerned.

"I can only speak for myself, but it's about understanding what you want to take away. What leverage to use. It was a very long game for us so it was kind of easy lose technique on certain plays. It's also about knowing when you're being inside or outside technique."

We know the Dolphins have struggled on special teams the past couple of weeks. They've had two blocked punts and given up returns of 41, 47, 48 yards. So I asked special teams ace Jason Allen what he thinks of the play of his unit.

"If you had a scale of 1 to 10 based on the potential we have, I would say it's about a five or six right now," he said. "I'm just being honest. I feel the potential we have as a group, we haven't reached very far in that potential. We have to spend more time on details. [Special teams coordinator] Coach [John Bonoamego] talks all the time about one guy being who we all are. It only takes one guy to mess up the entire special teams. We all got to be together as a unit and have the mentality we're going to get the job done." 

Sparano said last week one reason the special teams might be so problematic right now is the mixing and matching being done. Allen doesn't buy that.

"There's no excuses," he said. "First team, second team, you have to do your job. that's the mentality we have to have. We have to do it a high level. We have a bunch of athletes that are fast, big and strong that are more than capable of getting the job done. We have to go out and do it."

BROADCAST UPDATE: Coach Sparano will be my guest on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. If you live in South Florida, the show is on 640-AM. If you don't live in South Florida, we stream live online here. My show is on Monday through Friday 6-10 a.m.  

The early report from a stormy Monday

The Dolphins are back to work this afternoon and they have picked up where they left off Saturday evening. They are avoiding the bad weather.

The team held approximately three periods of practice -- walkthru, stretching and one more -- outside, but then a thunderstorm rolled in. So the team went into the bubble.

Channing Crowder, with what looks to be a hamstring injury, and Quentin Moses, with an undetermined injury, are not practicing today. Vontae Davis, who left Saturday's game with a chest issue, and Brandon Marshall, who excused himself during from postgame interviews because he "had to see the doctor," is also practicing today.

The club has cut RB Tristan Davis, NT Travis Ivey and TE Kory Sperry. The Dolphins are now down to only one Cory [Proctor] on the roster after beginning training camp with three.

Center Jake Grove was taking snaps with the first-team offense earlier, suggesting he will get some first-team snaps the remainder of practice. Today is the first day practice is close to everyone. The media sees only the first 30 minutes and then, well, we have to head out into the rain.

August 22, 2010

The postgame analysis of Dolphins 27-26 victory

As I tell you in my column off of tonight's 27-26 preseason victory for the Miami Dolphins over the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is plenty of good to celebrate and some bad to be worried about.

But the bottom line is the Dolphins showed improvement from preseason game one to preseason game two. I saw it. You saw. Coach Tony Sparano saw it.

 "I feel like we got a little bit better this week during the course of practice and I think Chad [Henne] and Brandon [Marshall] played a little bit better," Sparano said. "Chad was efficient with the football ... And I thought Brandon made some plays. One of the things I really enjoyed was Brandon with the ball in his hands. He's exactly what I thought we might have when he gets the ball in his hands.

"We weren't very good a week ago so making improvement this week was critical. And we have a long ways to go and there's a lot of areas out there we can get better in. I'm fine right now where our team is but we got to make the same kind of jump this week in practice.

"We're nowhere near where we plan to be, but I do believe we made some progress tonight."

The biggest jump was made by Henne, which is important because he plays the most important position on the field. He completed 11 of 14 passes with two of those incompletions the results of drops -- one by Ricky Williams and one by Brandon Marshall.

"The first series was a slow start but overall we're seeing things clearly out there and trying to be more effective and efficient in our offense," Henne said. 

Henne had a 55 yard TD pass to Anthony Fasano and an 11 yard TD to Fasano. Both showed how Brandon Marshall helps even when he's not catching the football. On the first, Marshall blew up two defenders with the block that sprung Fasano for the score. On the second, Marshall's presence opened things up for Fasano.

"They split the safety and tried to double-cover Brandon out there so Anthony came open with a linebacker and I threw it because the linebacker wasn't looking," Henne said.

All in all, the outing was a confidence-building experience for Henne.

"Coming out here and performing well definitely builds it up and helps you going into the next preseason game and going into the season," he said. 

The Dolphins went into the game thinking Chad Pennington would play only if Henne got his work in the first half. If that happened early enough, Pennington would get his preseason opportunity. That's how it played out as Pennington completed 3 of 4 passes and led a touchdown drive.

"I thought Chad did fine," Sparano said. "First of all it was tough duty. He knew going into the game that depending on what the situation was like at the end of the half, he may or may not play. So it's tough being in that kind of situation and as I've been saying all along, he gets it. He wanted to underthrow Brandon just a little bit on the deep throw and Brandon did a good job of working back to the ball ... He even ran one there so that was pretty nice."

Although much about this night came in a good-new package, there were the sour moments, too.

Pass protection was good early. Later it was bad. The team gave up five sacks. One of those sacks was yielded by the starting offensive line, the rest by the reserves.

The special teams were troubling.

"We had another kick blocked tonight which, to be honest, was a flat-out concentration error," Sparano said. "And they have some good returners. I thought it was up, it was down, It was inconsistent. Nolan [Carroll] had a couple of decent returns. It was up and down, a little inconsistent."

To be fair, the kick coverage team has been a mish-mash of personnel as coaches try to find the right combos. Sparano promised that will be resolved in the coming week.

While Henne looked good against the Jacksonville defense, David Garrard performed surgery on the Dolphins secondary. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 79 yards with one touchdown. His passer rating was 145.3.

"We had things there in man coverage that we didn't take care of," Sparano said. "That concerns me because it's two weeks in a row where the ball is completed down the field on us a few times. We had a couple of chunk plays. They're a good group, but we have to be able to clean some of that up."

I asked Sparano his thoughts about getting or not getting Pat White in the game. He said, "It's circumstance right now. I can't get four guys in the game every week. So I didn't get him in the game this week and that's the way it went."

My guess is that was only the thought he felt he could share. He probably really thought that White is the team's No. 4 QBs and getting No. 4 QBs in games is not really a big priority. After the game, White said he was told he would not be playing.

As you have read here already, he's on his way out, which is surprising because he was a second-round pick, but not surprising when the second-round pick is the No. 4 QB. Right now, it seems only a matter of when, not if, the Dolphins will jettison White.

Maybe they can get something for him in trade.

What can I say? I'm an optimistic kind of guy.

August 21, 2010

Live blog of Preseason 2 begins here at 7:30

We're blogging live from EverBank Field starting at 7:30 p.m.

Meet me in the comments section for that extravaganza.

Things to look for tonight:

Biggest issue -- The interior offensive line. It is time to settle on some guards, folks. I reported last week that Joe Berger has won the starting job at center. But LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, Cory Procter, and Donald Thomas have been mixed and matched so much we really cannot say with certainty the starting combo for the season opener is set. Yes, Jerry is a favorite to win a job. Obviously Incognito is getting his chance as well. But tonight will go a long way in deciding whether they keep their advantage. One thing to know is the club is somewhat disappointed that Thomas has not improved sufficiently as he gets ready to start his third season. The former rookie sensation hasn't really progressed as much as they hoped.

Interesting Issue One -- Patrick Turner was impressive in last week's preseason opener. Can he be a factor two weeks in a row? If he can, I would tell you he will all but assure himself of a roster spot. I want to believe that Greg Camarillo is going to make this team based on his history, experience and dependability. But I want to see Turner and Marlon Moore push him.

Interesting Issue Two -- The kick return spot makes me wonder what's going on because, let's face it, the team doesn't really want Patrick Cobbs to win the job. The Dolphins want someone else to be their primary guy with Cobbs as an offset returner. So my eyes are on Nolan Carroll. It could be a big night for Carroll. He's from the Jacksonville area. He's fast, he's got a reputation for having good hands, and he's going to be on the team. Watch to see if he makes a case for winning the job tonight.

Late-game reason to watch: Nate Ness has opened the eyes of coaches and with Will Allen's status uncertain through the first week of the season, the team is hoping Ness follows a nice outing against Tampa Bay with a nice outing against the Jags. We shall see.

I'll update here with any pregame news. Right now, it is raining at the stadium. But at least there is no mud because, well, there is no baseball infield.

See you at the live blog.

Katina Taylor talks Zach, JT, New York vs. Miami

We know that Jason Taylor is a *&^%$# New York Jet now -- through no fault of his own, I might add. And while his family is now splitting time between New York and South Florida, his foundation is still eyebrow-deep in the local community, helping South Florida kids.

That's why Camp Katina Cartwheels to Character is underway as we speak this weekend. Katina Taylor, the vice president and co-founder of the Jason Taylor Foundation, is hosting the annual gymnastic camp for local needy and worthy girls running through Sunday.

The fact the Taylor Foundation is still doing work locally speaks to Jason Taylor's intention to make this his home. If and when he goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he will be doing so on the heels of what he did with the Dolphins and recalling his days in Miami.

Anyway, I interviewed Katina Taylor on my weekday morning radio show, Armando and the Amigo, Friday morning. I asked about the camp, her thoughts of Zach Thomas (her borther) retiring as a Dolphin, and the differences between New York and South Florida. Click here for the 640-Sports website and you'll find the interview in the best of 640 section.

A couple of interesting tidbits:

Taylor ranked Zach Thomas as the second-best athlete in her family behind their older brother Bart Thomas.  

"Zach, We all, my brother Bart grew up flipping around," Katina said. "My brother Bart was fifth in the world in gymnastics in the sixth grade. He's a natural athlete. He's 6-3, very speedy. "

Katina is a competitive gal. Yes, she loves South Florida. But her allegiances are to the Jets now.

"We enjoyed the 12 years we had here in Miami," she said. "It was awesome ... We have friends that are still playing and we wish them the best. However, we're Jets ... We're competitive. We're Jets and we're out to win."

OK, Jet-haters, before you get your drawers all in a bunch listen to the interview first. There was no malice or anger or spite in her voice.

[BLOG NOTE: The Dolphins play the Jacksonville Jags in the preseason's second game tonight. There will be a live blog here starting at 7:30. Come back.]

August 19, 2010

Pat White's days with Dolphins seem numbered

Everyone is reporting today that Chad Henne will play about a half in Saturday's preseason game at Jacksonville. That is, after all, what coach Tony Sparano said.

"I think probably Henne's going to go, I'd like to take Henne into the half," Sparano said Thursday. "I got a play count particularly in my head right now, that would take him through the first half, but if you hit that play count a little bit earlier I might take him out. If we move the ball and had some success and he hit that play count and I felt good about it, I think I might do that. Unless there was a two minute situation before the half hanging there that I feel like he might need or something like that. Right now I'm thinking that he's going to go the first half of the game and then we'll see how it trickles down. I'd imagine at this point Tyler [Thigpen] would get in there and we'd see where we are."

Well, I'm more concerned with the "we'd see where we are" part.

Pat White, last year's second-round draft pick, is the see where we are guy. He is apparently an after-thought now, if one believes Sparano -- and I do. He was something of an afterthought last week when he came into the game the final series to do little other than take a knee.

Folks, his days on the Dolphins are numbered. I don't know if he makes it past the first round of cuts in a couple of weeks. It definitely doesn't look like he makes it out of the final cuts.

Simply, he's not a very good quarterback. Simply, there are no plans in the works to try him at another position. Simply, his goose seems nearly done if not out-right cooked.

Earlier this week Sparano said White showed marked improvement throwing the football a week ago. That grand improvement didn't get White any meaningful snaps in last Saturday's game. And it didn't vault him above fourth-string this week.

Sure, he's taking more snaps than Chad Pennington right now. But Chad Pennington is an established NFL quarterback who doesn't need to fry his surgically repaired arm in practices. The Dolphins know what Pennington can do.

Unfortunately for White, the Dolphins know what he can do also. And what he cannot do.

He's simply not good enough.

Is he better than he was as a rookie in 2009? Yes. Is he good? No, not really. 

Sparano hasn't said any of this, mind you. He doesn't have to. Sometimes you don't have to hear it from the coach to know it is true. Pat White is the fourth-best quarterback in camp.

And unless the Dolphins keep four quarterbacks or trade one of those ahead of him, White's days in Miami are now numbered.

August 18, 2010

Funnyman Brandon Marshall regales media

Brandon Marshall can be a funny guy. Yeah, that's it. He has a sense of humor.

He did his third press conference since coming to the Dolphins. Before he began to address the local hacks, he asked a Miami Dolphins staffer for a football, got it, and punted it to begin the press conference.

"Any questions," he said laughing.

Like I said, funny guy. Anyway, below you can find the full transcript of his talk with the reporters:

(On explaining what just happened) -- "Well, you guys aren't really good journalists because you reported it wrong. It didn't make it over the fence; it stayed in the facility (referring to his punting a ball in practice the other day after a drop, laughing)."

(On what emotions the punt expressed) -- "I don't think it's a secret; I'm the type of guy where I want to compete and I want to compete at the highest level on a consistent basis. When you struggle at times, well when I struggle at times, I'm not going to be happy, and it's not going to be a secret, and I will never let it be a secret. When I'm frustrated in practice, I'm going to be frustrated. Now in the game it's a different story; I think in the game you don't want to give your opponent that edge so you try to control your emotions but in practice you want to compete and you want to get better. That's exactly what we're trying to do here."

(On his showing of emotion in the past) -- "Well I think that's exactly what it is. I'm not going to compare a situation in the past to my situation now. This is the first time in, in four years that I've went into a season or a training camp where I was completely happy. Now am I happy every day, no because we compete every day, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and that ultimate competitor in me, I'm not going to be happy. I think we're doing a great job as a team competing every day and trying to get each other better. A lot of great competition going on you know on the field, which I think is going to help our team in the long run."

(On whether his new contract puts any additional pressure on him) -- "Not at all, I mean the pressure to do what, catch a football? I've been doing that since I was six years old. The only thing I can do is what I can do; I'm going to be the same guy. Whatever made me great is what's going to be on the field throughout this season. I'm excited about this opportunity that we have as a team, our goals, and working to achieve that."

(On if he enjoys the spotlight) -- "I love it. I embrace it. I think this is an organization where there's going to be a lot of lights on us. I think we have a special team here. It's a special organization, and I think we have a chance to do some special things."

(On him seeing his charisma wearing off on his teammates) -- "Well like I said, it's good when you take the positive from it like Vontae (Davis). Every day we're going out there and competing. Every day he wants to prove to me and to our teammates that he can shut me down. There's, what's the word…I guess I'm supposed to be a good receiver. It gives him an edge on other receivers. It gives him a confidence when he does great against me. Every day he's out to prove one thing, that he can shut me down and our other receivers in our room. So it's exciting to see that our young corners are getting better and they're taking advantage of this opportunity."

(On his reaction to Vontae's punt after breaking up a pass in practice) -- "Yesterday? I didn't like it at all. I went back to the sideline and I told coach, I can't believe I let him get the opportunity to kick the ball because he made a great play. It's a play I think I should have had and he knocked the ball away, and he got up and punted the ball, and I didn't like that at all."

(On his relationship with Vontae) -- "Oh I care, oh I care. It makes me mad (when he punts the ball) just like if I make a good play and I say some words to him, it's not good for TV but he's going to come back out and he's going to compete that much harder."

(On the competition aspect of his relationship with Vontae) -- "Yeah I mean me and Vontae, we went out to lunch today and we just sat down and tried to pick each other's brains' about what we're seeing on the practice field, how we can make each other better, and it's exciting. Sean (Smith) the same. Sean's a corner who like I said before is physically gifted and the way he's been applying himself in this camp is amazing, and I think those two are going to have a great year."

(On how this camp is different for him considering he is happy and healthy) -- "Yeah, definitely healthy, definitely happy, the only thing is I'm hot. Add another H to that, the three H's: happy, healthy, hot."

(On how things are coming along with Chad Henne) -- "You know what; we got off to a slow start last week. We let the conditions get the best of us. I went out there and had two drops; you definitely don't want to start off that way. But hey, we got three more preseason games left, a bunch of practices before Buffalo, 24 days till Buffalo. We got time to get things better; we're not where we want to be, but we'll work to get there."

(On whether getting off to a slow start makes this weekend's game a big game) -- "Every practice, every game is a big game. Not just because how things went for our first team last week. Every time we step on the field, and every time, whether it's practice or game day, we want to take advantage of it. That's exactly what we do every day."

(On whether his being out during OTA's has slowed his progression with Chad Henne) -- "No, not at all. That was a time where I was able to get mental reps and pick his brain every play. That helped a lot, and like I said, we have a bunch of practices before Buffalo and that's all we need. We'll be fine."

(On his reaction to people saying he should change his number away from #19) -- "I think this is kind of played out, but it's just practice. I'm not going to go over there with A.I. (Allen Iverson) (laughing). Like I said, that's why I get frustrated because the way you play is how you practice. If you're dropping the ball in practice, you got a chance that you'll drop the ball in the game. It's something that we definitely, I definitely need to correct, so there it is."

(On him having all the attention) -- "I've always had a bullseye on my back and a spotlight on me. Not always for the positive, but it's been there before. It's nothing that's unique to me, and I embrace it."

(On the quarterback group as a whole) -- "Well I'm excited because we get a chance to grow together. We have a leader in Chad Pennington who has a lot of wisdom, who's played a lot of games. He helps not only the quarterbacks but he helps us receivers in the segment room. I'm going into my fifth year, I don't know it all. I may be one the oldest in my room, but I still have a lot of learning to do. How to approach the game in a professional way on and off the field, and that's what Chad Pennington brings to us, so we're excited to have him, and I hope he stays around for a long time."

(On how the offense compares to the offense he played in for Denver) -- "Well actually, it's similar. The formations, personnel calls, it's kind of from the same (coaching) tree. The transition for me is pretty easy and pretty similar."

(On his relationship with Mike Sims-Walker) -- "Well that was my college roommate, one of the best men in my wedding, more like a brother. So that's my buddy."

(On whether there are ever any wagers between the two) -- "Definitely. Every time we match, man we got wagers on everything. We're always betting but it ain't about cash though, (it's a) gentlemen's bet, gentlemen's bet."

(On whether he wants Darrelle Revis to settle his contract dispute with the New York Jets so he can go up against him) -- "Well of course because I mean in order to be the best, you got to go against the best and you would love to compete against someone of his caliber and make plays on him. It kind of gives you that confidence; kind of solidify yourself, so I would love to see him out there. I think it will get done; I don't think it's a matter of if, but when."

(On how he expresses his emotion even while he's in the spotlight) -- "Well I think down here, it's new to you guys because I'm a new guy, but a year from now you guys will be  able to say oh that's just Brandon. That's how he performs, that's how he practices, he plays with a lot of emotions, he approaches the game with a lot of passion. You don't want to do that in the game but it's practice. Like I said, I'm a guy that wants to compete, and compete at a high level. Hopefully things will work out for us where we get things rolling in the right direction."

(On how he channels his emotion to make sure it's positive) -- "Well I mean I honestly believe you're supposed to be, you should be harder on yourself than anyone else. I honestly believe that. If you don't push yourself, then how can someone else push you? So that's what I believe in, and that's how I approach the game."

Some contested starting jobs have already been won

The Dolphins will break training camp Thursday. That means the opportunities to win jobs, particularly starting jobs, during training camp are dwindling.

"We're going to get into the paring down process now," coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday. "We're going to spend a lot more time in meetings and a little less time on the field."

And as the coach confirmed when I asked, less time on the field means the players working with the second-team will have fewer chances of erasing the gap the players working as starters established since July 30 when camp opened.

"When you have fewer opportunities, and the team knows this because I've told them, I've been very, very clear with the fact that they need to make opportunities now," Sparano said. "Because when training camp breaks, eventually I'm charged with getting the team ready to play that's going to get ready to play. I have to start to identify those people and get those people in positions to play.

"Some of these people that have been getting a lot of reps because you have two-a-days, those things are going to be fewer and further between. When that stuff starts to happen, yeah, you get fewer opportunities. So as I told the team you need to be showing us what you want to show us right now."

Well, in some cases where jobs were available at the start of camp, the decision has been made as to the starter. I am told by a source that barring a total meltdown in the coming two games -- an unlikely proposition -- second-year man Chris Clemons has won the starting free safety job for Miami. Sparano has not confirmed that, but he makes no secret of the fact he like Clemons with veteran Yeremiah Bell back there.

"I did this math yesterday and they've played 945 plays this training camp and they have four total mental errors between the two of those guys," Sparano said. "Early on during our first year year, I couldn't tell you the number of problems we were having back there. With those two players back there there's a good influence coming with young people in the ballgame. With the Vontaes [Davis]and the Sean Smiths and the [Nolan] Carrolls, having those two back there has been pretty good."

I am told by the same source that Joe Berger has similarly beaten out Jake Grove for the starting center job.

Again, if either Clemons or Berger totally tanks in the next two weeks, then the team reserves the right to make a change. That's the case with any player that tanks throughout the season. But the decision on them as starters is otherwise made.

And they are not alone.

Rookies Koa Misi and Jared Odrick have pretty much won starting jobs at strongside linebacker and right end, respectively. Misi, barring a total meltdown, has held off Ikaika Alama-Francis for the starting job. Odrick started training camp ahead of Marques Douglas and has remained there.

As for the still undecided starting jobs at right guard and left guard, the next several days will be key.

"The separation will come here in the next several days," Sparano said.