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50 posts from August 2010

August 05, 2010

Newsworthy practice at Dolphins camp today

Just witnessed the most newsworthy practice of camp so far.

The Miami Dolphins coaching staff is obviously shuffling the deck a little bit today. Remember I told you in the last post coach Tony Sparano intended to add a "fly in the oinment" at center?

He did exactly that by promoting Andrew Hartline to first team while letting Jake Grove take second-team repetitions and Joe Berger work with the third team.

"Just came in this morning and coach [DeGuglielmo] said you're working with the ones today and I said, 'OK,'" Hartline said. "It's definitely an exciting thing. I'm working hard and trying to prove I can do something here. Hopefully, I showed a little something today and we'll see what the film looks like."

Sparano and Co. may be sending a message today as cornerback Sean Smith, who at times has failed to look like even the player who started every game last year, was bounced to second-team status during some team periods. Jason Allen took the first-team snaps while Smith waited to enter the work with his second-team mates.

I'm not saying Smith has lost his job here. And I'm certainly not saying Jason Allen has a chance to start. The fact of the matter is Jason Allen was probably in there because Will Allen did not practice because he's being rested. Jason Allen also hasn't been exceedingly impressive in coverage, either.

But Smith has seemed uninspired at times this training camp. Brandon Marshall has beaten him several notable times and even today he came out on the short end of several passes. Roberto Wallace beat him for a TD in the corner of the end zone on what was essentially a jump ball from Pat White. And Patrick Turner outmuscled him on a comeback route from Chad Pennington.

After the completion to Turner, Smith's frustration showed. He pounded the turf with his fist.

Several players sat out practice today. Aside from Will Allen, receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Patrick Cobbs were held out so they could rest, according to a team spokesman. Ryan Grice-Mullen continues to miss practice with his leg issue. Linebacker Austin Spitler also wasn't working.

You are obviously aware of Allen's history since being taken in the first-round of the 2006 draft but you may not know much about Hartline, who came to the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He spent much of the year on the practice squad.

Having played at Central Michigan where they run the spread offense, Hartline prided himself on his mobility. It is obvious watching him in drills, he can move well for a lineman. But Hartline needed to get bigger, stronger.

And so he did exactly that.

"I'm stronger," he said. "I can't tell you how gratified I am toward the strength coaches here. I came in and they gave me a workout that was just unbelievable. I put on probably five or six pounds of muscle and stayed the same body fat. They pushed me every day trying to make me better. I owe a lot of my abilities this your to them because they made me a hell of a lot stronger."

So what can Hartline potentially bring to the table? I'm not sure he's going to win the starting job. But he is definitely capable of winning some job on this team.

"I feel like I'm a pretty athletic guy," he said. "I feel like I can play multiple positions. I think I can play guard-center-guard so maybe they feel like they can take me instead of two guys. But I can't speak for them."

Hartline is letting his play speak to them apparently.

'Fly in oinment' at center could be in works

There could be a twist coming at center.

"We may go with little ... throw a fly in the oinment here as we get on," Sparano said.

The first week of training camp has seen Jake Grove and Joe Berger split first-team snaps on a daily basis. But with Berger doing some things better, while Grove does other things better, Sparano hopes one of them will improve his weaknesses to the point where he separates from the other.

I would hope we start to see separation in those players in the next week or so," Sparano said. "It's starting to happen a little right now."

If the Dolphins do seek "a fly in the oinment" they might throw Cory Procter or even Nate Garner into the mix. I suppose it's even possible the team might sign another player.

Staying in the same vicinity of the center and nose tackle, I think Sparano said something quite interesting today in that he sees a possible upgrade at nose tackle this year with Randy Starks as the starter. Remember that was a question when Jason Ferguson was injured, was suspended and then ultimately retired.

Skeptics thought there might be little way to find a nose tackle as effective as Ferguson.

But Sparano thinks otherwise now.

"I'd say I feel that way, yeah, I feel we have a chance to upgrade. You know my feeling about Ferguson and people like that so this isn't a slight on him. From a productivity standpoint, getting pass rush from the nose in base ... I mean, talk about having a perk. That alone upgrades you a little bit. To make plays from that position in first and second down situations, that's critical."

Scrimmage Saturday

The Dolphins will run a full-pad scrimmage on Saturday. Sparano said there should be around 110 plays during the scrimmage. The scrimmage is scheduled to be held outside and will be open to the public.

Pasqualoni down, Nolan up!

As you might know former defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni liked to run his defense from the sideline. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan likes to work from the press box so that's where he'll be on game days. The Dolphins will practice at Sun Life Stadium on Monday and with the different dynamic in the coaching staff, Nolan will be in the press box during that session to simulate what will eventually happen on 2010 game days.

Check back

The Dolphins practice at 3 p.m. I'll have an update after practice. Check back.

August 04, 2010

The words from Sparano's lips

Coach Tony Sparano spoke with the media earlier today and this is everything he said:

(On any updates on Kory Sheets) – “No updates on him right now. We just sent him out to the doctors. I’m not quite sure, looks like an achilles, but, not sure.”

(On Jake Long and how he should make next step in his career) – “Well, listen, Jake Long is a pretty good player for us I think, he really is. But I think, and this is the line coach in me coming out, but there’s a bunch of things that  Jake (Long) would tell you he feels like he needs to be able to get better at to put him—to raise the bar a little bit with his game. I think consistency, probably with his hands more than anything else would be the biggest thing. He’s getting better and better in the run game. People are starting to figure that out, in other words that this guy really is a pretty good run blocker. And his protection skills I think have gotten better and better. But, adding the ability to use his hands a little bit more and a little bit better I think would help him. But, that’s an area that I think can help improve his game.”

(On if he finds that tackles that have a fast rise their first few years than even out on the field)—“No I think for a while I think these guys can continue to get better. I think once they think they know it all then you’ve got a little bit of a problem. Maybe that’s where all of a sudden they start the flat line, when they start to think they know it all. And I’ve coached some guys like that. I’ve coached some guys that think they have all the answers and they just stop getting better. You know, I don’t know that that’s going to happen with this guy. I just—in other words, if I were betting that right now, which I am not, but if I were I would lay a lot of money that this guy doesn’t approach things that way, he just doesn’t do it. He’s a kind of guy that is pretty curious and diligent on wanting to get better in every way possible. (I mean) one of these guys that comes in, in the morning and is asking the questions of how do I get better and want to do I need to do.”

(On if it’s pretty scary good) – "Pretty scary good.”  

(On the role of the TE’s in the offense after acquisition of Brandon Marshall) – “I think it stays the same as last year. With Brandon (Marshall) I just think the opportunities with Brandon are going to be a little bit better. I think when you have a player like this all of a sudden the middle of the field becomes a little bit more intriguing I think and that’s an area that the tight end usually can work in. But I think that there job description won’t change a whole lot. I think it depends more, Brandon (Marshall) aside, it depends more on the combination tight ends that we have on this team when it’s all said and done. So, in other words, if you have some people that can do similar jobs, then you might be able to get (Anthony) Fasano involved a little bit differently, somebody else involved a little bit differently so we’ll see."

(On the TE group as a whole) – “I like the way the group is right now, it’s a hard position. Honestly, my opinion, other than the quarterback, they have one of toughest jobs on the football team and just because they have to do everything and they can’t be okay at it they got to be good at it. They have to be good protecting, they have to be good out of the backfield, they have to be good in the pass game, they have to be good in the run game. So, they wear a lot of hats and I think from that standpoint there this group, we’re lucky they have some of that flexibility and they’re all very smart players.”

(On Kory Sheets and what he has seen in him) – “Well, I like the way he was catching the ball as a returner which was something Kory needed to improve on and I’ve seen some of that improvement. I like what he was doing with the ball under his arm during the course of practices. Pretty explosive guy. So, but we’ll see. (I mean) I really don’t know. This just happened and he’s at the doctors now. I’ve told you what I thought it looked like.”

(On Brandon Marshall and if he wants him to catch a certain number of passes in contrast to his stats last year) – “Well I don’t—what I don’t want is, I don’t want to make predictions on what it’s supposed to be like and then later on (you know) one way or the other maybe have that be an issue okay. It doesn’t need to be an issue. What I think is that—I think that when you have a player like Brandon Marshall and then obviously your thoughts should be that the ball goes through this guy somehow or another in other words how is he involved in the progression . Or, maybe  where you want him to splash water. Sometimes you just want those guys to run fast and draw a little bit of attention and be able to do something different. So, I think Brandon (Marshall) understands that. I think with a guy of this player’s ability, you know, he’s had a hundred catches a couple of times, but a guy with his ability, I don’t—I  can’t put a number on one way or another or one way or the other where he’ll be. I just know he’s going to catch a bunch."

(On if Brandon Marshall has been a “diva”—part of his first words upon acquisition-“I’m not a diva”) – “No, he really hasn’t. And I have to say that. I mean, this guy, he’s been outstanding. He’s been a real curious guy in the meeting room wanting to know more. Studies it good, not afraid to share information with the other players and if you don’t pull him out, out here and pull him out of reps, he’ll take them all. So, that’s the kind of guy I think that you want to have setting examples for. I don’t see that in this guy."

(On if he thinks his staff had not went to the Senior Bowl, would they have missed out on Koa Misi) – “That’s a good question. Our scouts are outstanding, alright. So, I’m sure we would have gotten it right. They’ve done a tremendous job. But, that being said, one thing you did see at the Senior Bowl through the course of the week and these practices—and you know the Senior Bowl starts hot, in other words, everybody’s there we got all the coaches everybody, but then as the week goes on it’s a ghost town for a little while until we get to the game. And as the week started to go on, you got a chance to see this guy in coverage playing off the ball which he’s hasn’t done doing some of those kinds of things. So, I think the Senior Bowl helped us tremendously in that part of the evaluation and really just getting a chance (you know) when the dust settles and everybody else got (done) poking and pulling at the players, it gave us a chance later in the week to be able to visit with some of these guys and really get a chance to see what made them kick a little bit. So, I would say that it certainly helped in the process it did not hurt.”

(On if Koa Misi is one of the versatile guys that he has seen ) – “He’s pretty versatile. (You know) he can do some jobs. Now I mean, this guy I didn’t play in a game yet. So, and we certainly don’t wanna—but, I just kind of feel like when we went through the evaluation process with Koa Misi one thing we thought, there were things there that we knew we would get at the game. And I’m kind of seeing some of those things out here right now. So, we’ll see what happens. He’ll certainly be there and he’ll certainly be, will get his turns.”

(On if having first and second year guys mostly contributing and if that’s a reason for excitement at this point) – “Well I hope it’s exciting. I think that I’m not afraid of it. I certainly am not. I think that when you get to where you want to be the JV grows up and they become varsity players and right now we’re looking at a lot of those kinds of players out there. Kendall Langford is a guy like that right. Vontae (Davis) and Sean (Smith) and these types of players that when young players that are starting to grow up Cameron (Wake) (you know) that is starting to grow up in your system a little bit. Now there’s another jump there. To really be (you know) the Yeremiahs (Bell) and the Will (Allen) those kind of (players), there’s another jump that has to take place. These players need to make that jump, but I’m excited about those possibilities right now. Never mind the young guys that we have running around here like (Jared) Odrick and those type of people who we think are going to obviously be contributors. So, I’m pretty excited about it I like (it). The one thing with this group right now, is they go out here and they’re young enough and bold enough to go out here and challenge this weather in every practice and all these types of things and not bat an eye at it. So, I kind of like that part of their young enthusiasm."

(On whether it is more stressful to start young players in the front seven or at cornerback) – “That rookie corner thing is pretty stressful; I’m not going to lie to you. It’s just the job descriptions are different back there and I think that when you’re starting two young rookie corners like that, you know that a mistake, I mean for God’s sake, we all seen those kids compete last year, but sometimes it ended up in the other guy’s hand. These kids have learned from those things and they’ve gotten better and better. Now, I don’t want to downplay what it takes to be an outside linebacker as a young player in this league, in this defense. It’s really a hard job; it really is. But those corners, that’s why when you get them you need to keep them.”

(On whether the second QB on the depth chart has been determined) – “No, not really.”

(On the time frame for determining the second quarterback) – “I have no idea.”

(On the benefits of tonight’s night practice) – “Well, part of it is, the benefits I hope are rest. Okay, and recovery time and that; that’s really why I did it. As we look back, as you’ve seen, we went five or six in a row in pads. I put them in shells the other day and now we’re going into pads again for a couple here. We’ll have a little break here now. These players will get off their feet for about seven hours here; just off their feet for seven hours, get a little bit of rest before this evening. I hope to have more energy, get them out of the sun a little bit. Tomorrow their day really won’t start until 10:30, we moved practice back to 3:00 tomorrow but 10:30 is when their day starts, so they get a chance to sleep in a little bit tonight. This was all part of trying to not make everyday Groundhog Day around here, change it up a little bit for them that way and to get them as much rest as we could in between some of these sessions at different times. Tonight, Monday, really that’s what purpose that serves.”

(On Chad Pennington having something to prove off his injury) – “I would say that if you brought Chad Pennington up here, Chad Pennington would tell you that he has something to prove to himself, to Chad Pennington with the injury thing and all that. Something happened out here in practice last week, I don’t mind telling you that last week or whenever it was, where he threw a ball and all of a sudden, boom, something just, there was relief. Something just went off where, wow, I mean that thing came out of his hand and it was really done well. He felt really good, those are the things that happen with any injury, not just Chad Pennington’s, you know the ACL’s that they need to come back from, those type of things. I think that part of it is where Chad would tell you he has something to prove to Chad. Other than that, he doesn’t really have much to prove to me that way. The one good thing with Chad Pennington is I know exactly what he needs to be ready to play in the games, I really do. Now, a couple of these other guys, they require a lot more than that just because they’re young.”

(On the signing of Micah Johnson) – “Micah’s a guy we did a lot of work with in the draft, we really did. He’s a guy that from our standpoint we felt big, physical, 3-4 mic linebacker. I mean he really is a big, strong kid that way, maybe best football still ahead of him, I don’t know. We’ll see, he’s going to get an opportunity out here. He was out there and we had a chance to bring him in. With A.J.’s (Edds) situation, that gave us a chance to do that and take a look at him.”

(On whether he was a Senior Bowl player) – “Not to my knowledge, no. No he wasn’t.”

(On A.J. Wallace) – “A.J. Wallace left the team.”

(On gauging Cameron Wake’s progression) – “Well, I mean we had a lot of reps during the spring and certainly a bunch of reps up until today. Today, example that was an empty day out there today in the morning practice so he had plenty of coverage opportunities there. We’ve really tried to make sure that from my end that I put them in that position as much as we possibly can. We’re getting a chance to see him do some of those things in pass coverage right now. I think the progression has been very good, very, very few mental situations right now and physically he’s starting to understand some of these route concepts pretty good. I like where Cameron’s coming right now; we just got to get him in the game where it really happens fast at this position and really let him play. This is a guy, he was on our roster last year as an OLB but most of his reps came in nickel as a pass rusher, not as a linebacker and we need to get this guy out there playing the OLB position in a game.”

(On what can be learned about Cameron against the run) – “What I’ve seen, and again what’s good about this is that I have two coaches right now that are doing some of the evaluating on that side of the ball in Mike Nolan and Bill Sheridan that really haven’t seen Cameron that way. So when they’re watching him, some of this is the first time and you’re listening to a lot of positive things about how stout he’s playing against the run right now, his point of attack stuff, his hands. I really have seen that in some of these individual drills as well. I think he’s coming along nicely.”

(On how close Austin Spitler is to returning) – “Well, I thought yesterday he was getting closer and then this morning we had a little bit of a, of a setback there so I can’t answer the question.”

(On Ryan Grice-Mullen not going full speed in practice today) – “Yeah, well we knew that with Ryan today, he was going to get involved in individual periods in the beginning of practice and then maybe a little bit more as it went on. We were just going to try to take it easy with him, but this is a way for us to get him started."

(On what would qualify as a successful season for Ricky Williams) – “Well, I think for Ricky Williams, it’s hard for me to say that. I would tell you that both of those guys feel like together they want to rush for 1,000 yards. That’s their, I’ve heard them say that before. They both (Ronnie Brown and Williams) want to rush for 1,000 yards and all that good stuff. I have to believe that a successful season for Ricky Williams, if he were saying it, would just be about the team and about the team winning and about him having the opportunity here to experience that with these fans here in South Florida. I think it’s going to be all about the team for Ricky.”

(On how much longer he thinks Ricky can play) – “I don’t know, it’s the damndest thing, but when I watch the guy run out here I keep, your eye tells you to keep watching for, for the arrow to go down and the drop off, but I haven’t seen it so I really don’t know.”

(On Ricky maybe wanting to see how long his body can allow him to play) – “Ricky’s a lot smarter than I am. I would never like get into that kind of conversation with him when it comes to those kind of things. I’m just finding out about this body (his own) right now, and I don’t like some of the answers that I have. I would tell you that I could see that being true. In his mind I could see the challenge of how long I could do this, and keep my body going the way it’s going. I could see that.”

(On the scuffle at the end of practice between Richie Incognito and Lionel Dotson) – “Two minute drill at the end of practice when it’s ninety degrees out. That could have been me out there. I just don’t, my end of things, I chalk it up but you just don’t want anybody to get hurt and you don’t want to do any dumb things.”

(On whether he’s anxious to see Tyler Thigpen in game situations) – “Pretty anxious, I really am. I want to see him get to the game because I’ve seen improvement. Improvement out here and improvement in the game at that position are two different things. I am anxious to get him to the game and to put him out there and to see whether or not that carries over. You guys somewhere along the line, somebody’s going to ask me the question about, coach, sometimes the practice guys, they practice really good but they go to the game and they don’t do this, or vice versa. They don’t practice good and then they go to the game and play good. I kind of, the game as an indicator to see whether or not all the work you’ve done carries over is important. You don’t want to get that guy to the game, whoever it might be, and see something different out of him. I’m kind of curious. The other thing with Tyler is the game with Tyler, brings out a little something different in a good way too. Where out here, you have him kind of in a cage; he gets in the game and some of what he does in a game situation can be really good that way too.”

(On whether defensive freedom for young players can lead to mistakes) – “No, I would hope, one of the good things is Mike Nolan’s area of expertise really is in the back end of things. Between Mike, Todd (Bowles), and Joe Danna right now, I feel like I have three people back there that certainly have their eye on some of those situations. I don’t think the inexperience is going to be able to be used as an excuse right now for anything that happens back there. I think that we’ve done a good enough job of educating these guys. They’re starting to understand our coverage concepts, and they’ve played enough plays. We’ll have to see, we’ll see where it goes, but I would hope that inexperience doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

August 03, 2010

Busy afternoon for the Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins added inside linebacker Micah Johnson this afternoon to replace the need created by the season-ending right knee injury to A.J. Edds.

Undrafted out of Kentucky, Johnson was with the Giants this spring when they went through their OTA work. He was waived June 21. Unlike Edds, who is considered a fine coverage linebacker, Johnson is a run-plugger who, frankly, isn't very fast.

Johnson posted times of 4.92 and 4.84 in the 40-yard dash during his pro day at Kentucky, according to reports. I didn't notice that speed (or lack of it) being noticeable during practice because it's hard to tell what is Johnson being slow and what is him being deliberate as he learns a new system.

The Dolphins terminated the contract of Evan Oglesby. The official move is termination non-football illness.

On other fronts:

Running back Ronnie Brown talked to the media in two different interview sessions after practice. He is the most at-ease man with the media on the team. He doesn't dodge questions. He's just great that way.

He's also pretty good on the field, which is one reason Brown admitted the topic of Miami having twin 1,000-yard rusher has come up in conversations between he and Ricky Williams.

"We were talking about it yesterday," Brown said.

Brown says one reason for such optimism is that injuries that have plagued him -- a blown out knee in 2007 and a fractured foot last year -- are not concerns right right. He said the knee "feels great," and the foot is "a  non-issue" that he doesn't even apply extra tape to.

"These last few years, I've had a couple of injuries I've had to deal with," Brown said. "Hopefully that's behind me. The good part is coming into this training camp I actually feel a little bit better than I have the last two or three years. I'm in a little bit better shape and hope I can continue to build on that and see what happens."

My focus during practice today was on the one-on-one pass rush/pass protection drills. So let me tell you what happened, but before I get to that, I should alert you that Nolan Carroll is coming.

He had a pick-six interception of Chad Pennington, his second such play in recent days. It just seems like this kid can move and jump a route with surprising quickness.

Now on to the drill. In this drill three or four offensive linemen take on defensive linemen. While they are lined up in formation, only one OL and one DL go live at a time. They are one-on-one and this is what happened:

Quentin Moses versus Jake Long. Moses pushes Long back but Long doesn't lose contact. Winner: Long.

Tony McDaniel versus Cory Procter. McDaniel gets off the snap fast and strong, basically blowing up Procter. Winner: McDaniel.

Jared Odrick versus Richie Incognito. Odrick is quicker and beat Incognito inside. Winner: Odrick.

Randy Starks versus Andrew Hartline. Starks explodes with a punch then goes around as Hartline loses his balances and falls. Winner: Starks.

Long versus Charlie Anderson. Long swallows Anderson who goes back to the huddle. Winner: Long.

Ryan Baker versus Cory Procter. Baker uses a bull rush and it works. Winner: Baker.

Lydon Murtha versus Erik Walden. Walden flies past, causing Murtha to grab Walden's jersey. Winner: Walden.

Long versus Koa Misi. Misi charges and Long rides him past the QB and out of the play. Winner: Long.

Incognito versus Charles Grant. Grant bull rushes the seemingly bigger Incognito and it works. Winner Grant.

Cory Procter versus Kendall Langford. Langford gets penetration, suggesting he has won, but former Dolphins end Kim Bokamper points out to me that is where the QB would normally step up and get the pass off. Winner: I'm calling it a draw.

A tale of two rookie linebackers

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has confirmed a Miami Herald report saying rookie A.J. Edds tore the ACL in his right knee. Edds is out for the season.

Edds was working with the second-team defense at inside linebacker. The team hoped he could help in situational passing downs. Interestingly, the Dolphins cannot immediately give the newly available repetitions to Austin Spitler. He is working through an unknown but not serious injury of his own right now.

"We need to get [Spitler] ready to go as well," Sparano said. "J.D. Folsom has been working in there and has been taking good reps. And [Tim] Dobbins can play two different positions."

Spitler is "doing very well," according to Sparano but the coach does not expect him to practice this afternoon. Follow me on twitter for some real-time updates on what happens at the practice.

The loss of Edds hurts. It's a shame.

On the positive side, rookie SOLB Koa Misi is having a very fine camp so far. An pure defensive end at Utah, Misi is making the transition to standup linebacker. It's not an easy transition.

"One of the biggest things with his transition is his footwork," Sparano said. "Koa was a put-your-hand-on-the-ground-and-go guy."

Luckily some of the natural gifts Misi has translate quite well for a SOLB.

"He has a unique ability not to stay blocked very long," Sparano said. "He can get off blocks and get out of trouble fast. But fundamentally, he can put himself in tough positions if he doesn't understand the proper footwork. So understanding footwork and hand placement will be a critical thing."

Fortunately for the Dolphins, Misi is getting it.

"What I find is when you tell him someting once it kind of goes into this black book over here some place and he figures out it's important," Sparano said. "Yesterday, in practice this guy had a pretty good day. Some of his rushes when you watch some of the speed coming off the edges with him and [Cameron] Wake has been pretty impressive.

"So little by little he's getting it. And he's not making the same mistake over and over again which is good. There are some guys out here that are mkaing the same mistakes. We're correcting the same things. Koa is not one of those guys."

August 02, 2010

Welcome to the cool climes of NSMB

I talked to Patrick Turner for some time after practice this afternoon and he was telling me how much of a toll training camp practices outside take on him.

"I lose five pounds every time we come out here," Turner said. "Some guys will lose 10 or 11 pounds per practice. It's Florida, now. It's hot."

No doubt Turner and his teammates were pleased this evening's practice happened in the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB).

It was an otherwise routine practice except for the fact rookie linebacker A.J. Edds suffered a tweaked knee and had to leave the drills. He was wrapped in ice and spent the rest of the practice watching and walking along the sideline. [Update: The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington is reporting Edds has a torn ACL. That would be a small blow to Miami's plans to use him in the situational passing defense.]

Ryan Grice-Mullen (leg) did not practice again.

I talked to strong safety Yeremiah Bell, one of my favorite players, and he shared with me how his role will change in 2010 in the Mike Nolan defense. I will play the interview on my radio show on Tuesday between 6-10 a.m. (You know you can listen live on the web or in your car if you're in South Florida at 640-AM.)

To me one of the most entertaining and athletically competitive drills in practice is the one-on-one matches between the wide receivers and defensive backs.

I watched this drill Monday. And this is how it went.

Brandon Marshall against Sean Smith. Marshall catches a pass over Smith who stumbles to his knees.

Brian Hartline against Will Allen. Allen knocked away an incomplete pass.

Davone Bess against Jason Allen. Bess beats Allen on a deep out.

Greg Camarillo versus Vontae Davis. Camarillo catches an in-cut.

Patrick Turner against Nate Ness. Turner flies (not kidding) pass Ness around the 10 yard line, Ness recovers and tips the pass around five yards deep in the end zone, but Turner snatches out of the air and keeps his feet in bounds. TD!

Taurus Johnson versus A.J. Wallace. Johnson catches one over the top.

Marshall versus Jason Allen. Unfair right? Wrong. Allen tips away the pass on a comeback route.

Jonathon Amaya vs. Julius Pruitt. Amaya knocks down a poor pass.

Davone Bess versus Ross Weaver. Bess catches one over the top.

Hartline versus Davis. Vontae jumps the short out. Interception.

Camarillo versus Allen. Camarillo uses a double move, first in and then up for a long TD.

Turner versus Ness. Turner uses his big body to catch an in-cut.

Marshall against Allen. Marshall goes deep down the middle and Allen doesn't keep up. TD.

Johnson versus Wallace. Short completion.

Bess versus Weaver. Bess catches an in-cut.

Hartline against Amaya. Hartline gets his hands on an inaccurate throw but doesn't make the catch.

Camarillo versus Allen. Camarillo uses the exact same double move he used the last repetition against Allen and as he's getting beat for the TD, Allen yells, "Ahhh. Same thing!"

Turner vers Ness. Turner fakes in goes out. Complete.

Marshall versus Nolan Carroll. Marshall runs past the super-fast rookie who is much faster than him. It's about technique and position with Marshall. TD.

Bess versys Weaver again. Completion again.

Marlon Moore versus Amaya. Short completion for Moore.

Topics on Tony Sparano's mind today

Tony Sparano just had his press availability for the day and here are the highlights:

The coach has obviously taken notice of the practice receiver Patrick Turner had Sunday evening and again Monday morning when he had another couple of nice plays.

"He made a play yesterday that was a good play," Sparano said. "He had to go up and get the ball and he did. He ended up falling on his back and all that good stuff. We got that thing out of the way. He's come out here and made a couple of nice plays this morning. I like what he's done right now. We're trying to get him in the mix a lot right now because we didn't get a good picture out him in the spring. So we're trying to get as many reps as we can with him. He's done a good job mentally so far. There's still a little rust because of not being out there in the spring. He's working through it and he's done a good job right now."

Donald Thomas worked at first-team left guard again Monday morning so that's good news for him. But just being there won't necessarily keep him there. Remember, as I've preached over and over now, the offensive line is what? ...

... A chemistry lab.

And Thomas, like the other linemen can't blow up like an experiment gone bad from time to time.

"He's done some nice things at times," Sparano said. "And we're looking for better than, 'at times,' from all of those guys."

Consistency will be what will separate the players competing for work along the offensive line. Thomas has an advantage because he's more than a powerful guy. He moves well, too.

Interestingly, rookie John Jerry, who has been working at left guard has experienced "minimal, minimal," mental mistakes according to Sparano. But he needs to get better technically and move quicker to keep his spot, according to Salguero.

Ivey You'll remember that yesterday, rookie Travis Ivey got a classice dose of rookie hazing when he was packed like a station wagon full of pads (pictured).

I asked Sparano his take on such hijinks.

"I've seen it go all different ways, Armando. Some of it is ridiculous, to be honest with you, and it can get carried away and some of it is good fun," Sparano said. "Ivey carrying a bunch of shoulder pads on him, shoot, he made ESPN and you guys thought it was great. At times that's good for chemistry and bonding but sometimes it gets carried away. And if I feel it's crossing the line, I get involved."

Finally, I've been saying for months how the WR job opposite Brandon Marshall was Brian Hartline's to lose. That is what I was told would be the situation.

But Sparano today pulled back the curtain on why that is so, on why it is Hartline that is getting first dibs on the spot.

"Honestly, it's run after catch," he said. "He had some big plays for us with his hands on the football running the ball so there was a little bit of that there."

Sparano cautioned that just because Hartline has the job today doesn't mean he'll keep the job.

One would expect the Dolphins coach to say exactly that on the fourth day of training camp. That's why they call it competition.

Armando and the Amigo debuts today 6-10 a.m.

This morning marks my return to talk radio, as I take over the morning drive show on 640 Sports here in South Florida.

I hope you will tune in to "Armando and the Amigo" and make me and my co-host Larry Milian part of your morning routine whether you live in South Florida or not. If you are local, you can obviously tune in at 640-AM if you're in your car or at www.640WFTL.com if you're at your computer.

Doesn't matter if you're at work. I'm having permission slips printed so your boss won't mind.

You can listen live by clicking the window that says, well, "Listen Live On Air Now." You can also call the show toll free from anywhere in the country. Our numbers are 1-888-640-WFTL. That's 1-888-640-9385.

You can also text me your questions or comments directly at 2247-640-640.

A few things I want to share that I will expand upon during today's show:

1. I just do not see Pat White making the Dolphins unless something drastic happens. His so-called "personal issues," as he called it and "personal injury issue," as coach Tony Sparano called it, have little to do with my opinion. I've been watching White practice the past few days and, frankly, I don't see the improvement from last season.

2. I'll share with you an interview I did with cornerback Sean Smith and tell you why we should pay very close attention to his practice battles with Brandon Marshall.

3. Look, this is your opportunity to get as inside the Fins as you can without being part of the team. I do not know it all, but I have no agenda. If you ask me a question, I'll tell you all I know. I don't have to hold back tons of information like some shows must. And I have 20 years of covering the team to draw on, which other shows simply cannot provide. Will I have an optimistic outlook most of the time? Yes. I think some good things are coming. You guys know I admire Bill Parcells and respect Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland. I also like most of the players. But I'm never going to give you the company line.

My show will cover all sports, so if you want to discuss college football or CFL football, or Arena football, or Australian Rules Football, I'm good with that. Just kidding. We'll talk baseball. Former Mets GM and ESPN analyst Steve Phillips is scheduled to be on the show today. We'll talk NBA and Heat also.

I also promise surprise guests and segments as the weeks pass. It should be fun.

So please give a listen.

August 01, 2010

The skinny following Sunday afternoon practice

Pool Let's dive in because it is hot up in here and I have the pool at home on my mind:

Today's afternoon practice was interesting in that we saw a rookie cornerback make a play, we saw an embattled wide receiver make a play, we saw Jason Allen struggle, and we saw more good work from Brandon Marshall.

Along the chemistry lab everyone else calls the offensive line, Donald Thomas took the first-team snaps at left guard for the first time this training camp, replacing Cory Procter, whose been manning the spot on previous days. Joe Berger worked with the first-teamers at center while Jake Grove worked with the second team.

Rookie John Jerry, a rookie puppy, continues to run with the big dogs on first team as the Dolphins continue to see if he has any bite, as Bill Parcells likes to say. ("If they don't bite when they're pups, they don't bite.")

Receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen sat out practice. It is not serious.

Patrick Turner update. Finally!

Many of you have been begging for a Patrick Turner update but I haven't provided one because, frankly, he hadn't really done anything of note until Sunday afternoon that I believed merited attention. He is, after all, a fifth or sixth receiver right now.

But Sunday afternoon Turner turned in a hopeful sign of what might be on the horizon when he caught a leaping, twisting pass in traffic. It was a highlight moment for a guy who was a terrible disappointment a year ago and needs much improvement to even make the team now.

Afterward, Turner spoke of how he's been watching Brandon Marshall, he of a very similar body type, and trying to absorb everything he can from the veteran.

"Brandon has been successful in the league, he's a Pro Bowler." Turner said. "You can't help but learn something from the guy every day. Brandon being sort of the same size and the same body type, I can go ask him questions and pick his mind a little bit."

Turner spent the entire offseason recovering from an injury and wasn't able to participate in any camps. But Turner downplays that he failed to make up ground during a time everyone else was trying to get better.

"I rehabbed hard, worked hard and the trainers did a great job and I feel they put me in a spot where I can come out and compete and show my skills," he said. "It can be a setback for you not being out here and not getting reps, but with any injury, it's your job to battle back and fight that."

So how does Turner climb the ladder fom 2009 disappointment to 2010 relevance?

"Coming out every day and showing them what I can do," he said.

Dansby makes calls

I told you in the earlier post that coach Tony Sparano gave a shoutout to Karlos Dansby as the most eye-popping player so far in camp.

Well, part of the outgrowth of that is that Dansby has been calling the defensive plays for the defense so far in camp. That would mean he'll probably wear the helmet with the coach-to-helmet equipment in games unless things change.

Channing Crowder called the defensive plays last year in games he played.

Allen struggles, Nolan doesn't

A couple of years ago it would have been news that first-round pick Jason Allen was having issues in coverage during practice. But we know better now.

That doesn't change the fact Allen got used by Julius Pruitt on one 60-yard bomb during practice and then eaten up by Marshall two repetitions later. Allen has had one or two good moments so far in these practices. Unfortunately, he's had just as many bad.

Rookie Nolan Carroll, meanwhile, got his first turnover in practice when he jumped a route and picked off a Tyler Thigpen sideline pass that he then took to the house. I must say, I've been very, very impressed with the rookie's speed.

Patrick Cobbs, Will Allen can move

Patrick Cobbs, coming off ACL surgery a year ago, is moving great! He sped down the left sideline midway through Sunday's drills and caught a TD pass behind a cornerback. That's motoring for a running back.

Will Allen, also coming back from knee surgery, looks much better than he did in  the offseason and maybe even better than he looked in camp last year.

He's moving great.

"I was impressed watching Will Allen change directions," coach Tony Sparano said. "Will wasn’t quite ready in the spring. He was ready to get some of the reps and get in there and do it, but right now I’m watching him run around out here, I see a completely different guy.”

Merling on non-football injury list

Despite Tony Sparano saying twice (once on Friday and once on Sunday) that no roster decision had been made on Phillip Merling, the Dolphins are now confirming Merling was placed Friday on the active non-football injury list.

As you know, I have reported the Dolphins are not likely to pay Merling's full $600,000 salary this season. They will attempt to work out an agreement with Merling's agent, which I think is a good bet considering that is Jimmy Sexton. Sexton also represents Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano. This will not be a problem. The side will get an amicable agreement.

 

Most eye-popping player in camp so far? Dansby!

The one player who has impressed Dolphins coach Tony Sparano most?

Karlos Dansby.

That was the coach's answer a few moments ago when I asked which player has been the most eye-popping so far in this young training camp.

"I personally don't like to single out any of these guys, but I've been really impressed with what's happening with Dansby right now," Sparano said. "The combination of him and Channing [Crowder] right now, when you're watching them communicate and watching them going what they're going through in the huddle together has been really impressive to me.

"To have someone like that, with that kind of range and that kind of skills has been pretty good out there. Karlos would be the guy for me."

So what has Dansby shown?

"He runs so well for a big guy," Sparano gushed. "When Karlos sees it, he pulls the trigger right away. Some poeple don't do that. They see it and they don't quite pull the trigger. So now it's a missed tackle or an almost [play]. With him, he sees it pretty fast and gets there in a hurry ... It's rare when you find the kind of players that are able to do that and I think he has that ability."

Got to get off fast

After my short eight-week vacation this summer, The Herald is milking me for every ounce of work the past week. I wrote my third column in as many days for Sunday's paper, this one detailing how difficult the season's early stretch promises to be and exactly what the Dolphins have done and must do to make that stretch a success. Check it out, please. 

Misi gets bigger

Several reporters have commented how Koa Misi looks bigger than he did after the draft.

Your eyes know truth.

Sparano said Misi gained between 10 and 11 pounds during the eight weeks he was in the team's strength program the mini camp. So the kid is around 255 pounds now. And the unexpected upside from the added muscle weight?

"He's running better than he did then," Sparano said. "He's got his legs under him better."

Sparano: No movement on Merling

As a matter of bookeeping, I asked coach whether the Dolphins have made a roster move or decision on what to do with Phillip Merling.

"No not yet," he said.

Well, coincidently, there is a report that contradicts the coach.

Look, I don't know which is correct, although I obviously defer to the coach's word.

I do know this: Merling is out for the year. The Dolphins must make a roster move with him eventually. And the team has no intention of paying his full $600,000 salary in 2010. The club will negotiate a settlement with Merling's agent to bring that figure to a more reasonable height considering the kid got hurt while working out away from the team.