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56 posts from September 2010

September 30, 2010

Marshall responds to NFL Network rebuke

Well, the NFL Network is not a favorite of Brandon Marshall's today following their strong rebuke of his final series against the Jets Sunday night.

Check out the previous post for the details and genesis of the issue.

Marshall today responded to the comments from Mike Mayock and Sterling Sharpe and Solomon Wilcots. The video below is courtesy of The Herald's Jeff Darlington.

Another look at the final set of downs vs. Jets

Normally, I'm on to the next game on a Thursday.

Today is not a normal Thursday.

The Dolphins don't play until Monday night so we'll have some time to get to the New England game soon enough. Meantime, I want to take you back to the final set of downs the Dolphins had against the Jets Sunday night.

The NFL Network did a good job of relating those final important downs in a breakdown segment that took Brandon Marshall to task for his effort on those final four downs.

Host Mike Mayock began the segment by showing Marshall's 30-yard catch and run that got the Dolphins to the New York 11 yard line with 54 seconds remaining.

Mayock, former NFL wideout Sterling Sharpe and former NFL DB Solomon Wilcots then break down Marshall not exactly flying off the line of scrimmage on first down -- a fade pass from Chad Henne in the end zone that Marshall didn't get to despite only man-coverage from Antonio Cromartie.

"Go get the ball! Go get the ball!" Wilcots said as Mayock was saying, "I know he's tired. I know he's gassed, but his hand doesn't even go up. He doesn't jump ..."

On second down, the criticism gets sharper with Mayock circling Marshall on the telestrator and saying, "he's just jogging, he's just jogging," on the play coming off the line.

"Now, you've got third-and-9. [The Jets] are going to bring three and drop eight, and here's our guy [Marshall] again. You traded, and paid this guy a lot of money. Beat the jam and get open. It's done. He's going to check is down to the far side. They're not even looking at Brandon Marshall right now, the best player, supposedly, on their team. Fourth down, game on the line, down eight points. [The Jets are] showing five, they're only going to bring three. Brandon Marshall, is he working hard?"

Wilcots chimes in, "No."

At the end of it all, Sharpe gives something of a note to Marshall with the kicker line in his thought to Marshall being: "At the end of the day, you my friend are going to have to bring it."

And here are Salguero's thoughts:

Aside from the look of Marshall, I want to know why the Dolphins aren't in shotgun? Look at the video and every time, even when they have no backs in the backfield, the Dolphins put Henne under center. Why?

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning will speak in a few minutes. Marshall is scheduled to speak today also.

Come back for their reactions.

[UPDATE 1: Henning was apparently not in the mood to give straight answers on a couple of questions today. One of those was why put Henne under center during that final set of downs and no RBs in the backfield, although he did reveal Henne does prefer to operate under center.

I asked Henning what his thinking was for having Henne under center on the final set of downs ...

"Is it better for him to be in shotgun?" he said to me.

"I don't know, I'm asking you," I said to him.

"We didn't have any thinking about whether he's under center or in shotgun. It doesn't make any difference, he works well out of both places," he said. "We had two timeouts left. We have a running game and there's all kinds of possibilities left. He in particular like to be under, by the way. But those plays we called had no bearing whether he was in shotgun or not."
  

Thursday morning practice update right here

In a move that may change the direction of the Dolphins season, the team has announced it has signed guard Ray Feinga to the active roster. Feinga takes the place of Tony McDaniel, who is suspended. The Dolphins got a roster exemption from the NFL while McDaniel serves his suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

In news that is more pertinent to Monday night's game against New England, guard John Jerry did not practice again today as he apparently continues to battle the illness that kept him out of last week's game versus New York.

Linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis and defensive end Jared Odrick are also is not practicing today. Looks like it is more likely Odrick will make his return from a hairline fracture in his right leg against Green Bay following the bye weekend.

The Dolphins offensive and defensive coordinator will speak after practice -- in about 90 minutes -- so come back then for updates and wisdom from Dan Henning and Mike Nolan.

September 29, 2010

Karlos Dansby dishes on Pats, prep, past

I am convinced Karlos Dansby was an amazing offseason pickup for the Miami Dolphins. He means nearly as much to the Dolphins defense as fellow offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall means to the offense. And I am convinced because of his even-keel nature and consistency, he might become a better investment for the Dolphins long-term than Marshall.

I am not, however, convinced I've done a good enough job of letting you hear from Dansby so far this season. So let me attempt to correct that a little bit.

What follows is the transcript of the conference call Dansby did today with the New England media. Enjoy:

(On what he’s seen from the Patriots on film this week) – “They’re pretty efficient. They do a lot of things to get defenses off balance and then like say they…they attack - they’re an attacking style offense and like I say they don’t hold anything back. Tom Brady is an efficient quarterback and he’s going to get it to the right guy at the right time.”

(On if this week’s preparation is more complicated due to how much is being thrown at him) – “No, not at all. You just have to be sound at what you do and go out and try to execute better than the opponents. That’s what you have to try to do every week and there’s nothing different this week that I wouldn’t do in the past weeks.”

(On what it’s like preparing for the tight ends and the receivers) – “They got two guys that could block very well and then you got a receiver. They say, they’ve been making a lot of plays on their offensive side of the ball. Like I say, they’ve been getting down the field and scoring touchdowns left and right and making big plays left and right. So, like I say, we just got to be sound in our technique and finish plays. I think that’s what we didn’t do against Dustin Keller and it allowed them to have a lot of success out on the field. Like I say, we were playing with bad technique and the communication was off - it was a lot of things that allowed him to have success out on the field.”

(On if he’ll carry the adjustments that he has made after the last game against the Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) – “Definitely, those (are) two great guys right there. Like you said, they are efficient in they offense and like I said, Tom Brady gets those guys the ball a lot. And like I said, those guys tend to get open a lot and he tends to find them. We got to be…we got to be in position and be in place to…in order to disrupt some of the balls being thrown to them or knock the timing off a little bit.”

(On if he’s ever played with Jonathan Wilhite in the past) – “Nah, I don’t think I played with Jonathan Wilhite. I haven’t had the opportunity to play with him.”

(On if the last time he played with the Patriots sticks with him going into this week (due to it not being a successful game for him)) – “Nah, I kind of left that where it was. (You know) that’s the year we went to the Super Bowl I think and like I say, we left that game there in New England. Like you said, it was a bad outing by our team. We didn’t get an opportunity to finish the way we…well it didn’t seem like we got a chance to start that game (you know what I’m saying) (laughing). They put a beating on us pretty bad. And like I say, they taught us a lesson though and it showed and it carried over through the playoffs when we had that opportunity, so. This year it’s a totally different team, totally different personnel right now and like I say I’m just looking forward to this opportunity to get our opportunity to play against these guys, so. After, like I say, after seeing them play for so long and seeing some of these guys - like I say I never had the opportunity to play against Tom Brady, I played against Matt Cassel, so, I think it’ll be fun for me.”

(On the defensive unit and if he sees some of his personality in this defense) – “Right now our unit is…I think we’re tough, we’re smart and we’re disciplined. Last Sunday we didn’t have a great outing and we knew that. Like I said, we’ve been here working for the last couple days; we’ve been getting it in, and guys have been putting in extra time. Like I said I think they’re following suit right now. I’m always in, always trying to get the information, always trying to figure out what it is that I can do to make this team better and make the guys around me better. Like I said I think the guys are starting to catch on and pick up, the intensity is starting to pick up in practice and in the weight room and in the film room asking questions just all around. We’re simply just trying to get better as a team and as a unit and hopefully we can show Monday that we, that we have done that.”

(On Brandon Marshall and what he brings to the Dolphins offense) – “He’s very dangerous, he’s very dangerous. Like I said we’re doing a good job of getting him the ball right now. Chad Henne and him are trying to build their relationship as the season grows and goes on. Like I said, we’re just trying to get better as a team all the way around. The offensive line is doing a great job of protecting and giving him an opportunity to get the ball down the field, and Brandon is making plays left and right. He’s an awesome addition to this team. Like I said him, just bringing him in the locker room has made us ten times better.”

(On if signing with the Dolphins has been everything he’d hoped for) – “And more, and more, and more. Everything I hoped for and more. Like I said, I checked the personnel out. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Having the opportunity to play for Bill Parcells and under Coach Sparano, it couldn’t be a better two, two guys to play for and represent. Like I said the history of the Miami Dolphins period; you have to be perfect man. You got to live up to this perfect atmosphere day in and day out, you know what I’m saying? You guys went what, 16-0 the 1972 Dolphins; you got to live up to that day in and day out. That’s what we’re working to; we’re just trying to be great in every aspect of the game on and off the field. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and it’s been everything I expected and more.”

(On how he and Mike Nolan getting along and whether he likes his aggressive style) – “Oh definitely man, definitely Coach Nolan has a lot of trust in me right now. I’m always in his ear always picking his brain trying to figure out what he’s thinking. Not only what he’s thinking, I’m trying to add a little bit of myself to him also just to let him know, hey coach we, we got your back. Whatever you want to call, we can get it done and just letting him, having the confidence in us to go out and execute his plan. Like I said last night we kind of let him down a little bit and I know that so we’ve been here working and grinding just trying to build his confidence up so he can call anything he wants to call and let us go play.”

(On whether he has kept track of his old team, the Arizona Cardinals) – “Well you know, I talk to Adrian (Wilson) on a regular basis. Like I said he’s, he’s kind of frustrated over there a little bit I think, but he’s playing hard. He’s not going to lay down, and like I said he’s just trying to rally the guys just like I’m trying to do, rally the troops. We got to play at a whole other level in order to have success in this league because it’s getting better week in and week out. Like I said guys are around you, man your peers are definitely getting better day in and day out. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, so he’s trying to lead his team over there also.”

Dolphins getting ready for Wed. afternoon practice

Rookie Jared Odrick will not practice today as he continues to make his way back from a hairline fracture on his right leg but the Dolphins are still optimistic the defensive end could contribute on at least a part-time basis versus New England Monday night.

The decision won't be made until later this week but the biggest clue whether Odrick will play even a bit will come whether he practices by Friday, I'm told. Stay tuned.

Linebacker Channing Crowder is scheduled to practice when the team takes the practice field at 3 p.m., according to coach Tony Sparano. "He'll do a little more," than he did last week, the coach said. The Dolphins will measure Crowder's progress or lack thereof and make a decision by Friday or so whether Crowder will play against the Patriots.

Linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis will practice today and Sparano said he is "close" to being back to his full weight and being able to play in a game.

The Dolphins had Austin Spitler miss a couple of weeks during training camp because of a sickness. Alama-Francis got sick the morning of the regular-season opener and was knocked out for a while. And guard John Jerry missed last week's game versus New York because of a stomach sickness.

"We've had our share of sickness and it knocked guys down body weight-wise," Sparano said.

But despite the curious number of "sicknesses" the coach said there has been no common thread to the three that should raise concerns.

The Dolphins have waived linebacker Erik Walden. He missed a block on what became a punt block during Sunday night's game versus New York. The Dolphins signed defensive lineman Rob Rose off the practice squad to the 53-man roster to replace Walden.

The Patriots are already practicing in Foxboro, MA. Running back Fred Taylor (toe) was not present for the start of practice. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley and OL Nick Kaczur were also missing.

[UPDATE: Jerry, nursing the sickness, is not practicing today.]

September 27, 2010

Tony Sparano defends the Wildcat package

The Wildcat isn't working very well anymore, folks. At least it wasn't working against the Jets to the point it seemed misplaced within Miami's play-calling.

But coach Tony Sparano today defended the use of the scheme that two years ago led to an improbable upset of the New England Patriots and last night seemed to contribute to Miami's downfall.

Sparano said the Wildcat's production was "average," and then he was asked if he believes the package was at any time a hinderance to the flow of the offense?

"No," Sparano said succinctly.

"I would tell you we ran reverse that was a minus play. We probably ran two or three others that were four-yard plays, which is what we're looking for," Sparano said. "I mean, we're not looking for 40-yard plays out of the thing. It's an efficient run. Ronnie had two or three efficient runs out of the thing. He threw a pass out of one of them that, to be quite honest with you, we threw down the field to Brandon, but if we threw the wheel route, it might have been a 30-yard gain. I ain't all stuck on that. Not at all."

The official game book didn't paint quite as rosy a picture of the Wildcat as Sparano did, however. Bottom line, the Dolphins ran out of Wildcat eight times by my count. It gained seven total yards. It accounted for one incomplete pass. Of the eight plays, four accounted for no gain or a loss of yardage.

The plays according to the game book:

Second quarter

First and 10 from the Jets 18 yard line:Ronnie Brown loses one yard.

Second and 11 from the Jets 19 yard line: Brown gains four yards.

Third quarter

Second-and-15 from the Jets 35 yard line. Brown has no gain.

Two plays later on first-and-10 from the Jets 20: Brown gains 5 yards.

On second-and-five from the Jets 15: Brown gains four yards.

On the next possession:

First and goal from the Jets 7 yard line: Brown gains one yard.

On the following possession:

First and 10 from the Miami 24 yard line: Brown throws incomplete to Marshall.

Fourth quarter

First and 10 from the Jets 36: Cobbs on the end around loses six yards.

It should be noted Brown gained 14 yards on five Wildcat carries. His carries out of the base formation accounted for 40 yards on six carries.

So that seems to build a case against Wildcat. But you must remember, the Dolphins lately are using the Wildcat package to even the odds on run plays. Seems most teams on early downs are stacking the box against the Dolphins on run downs. That means Miami is always at a one-man disadvantage in that with the QB under center, the defense always has one more defender than Miami has either blocking or running.

With the QB out of the way in the wildcat package, the Dolphins even the odds. So,yes, Wildcat is a downhill running offense.

Of course, that begs the question, why the reverses to Cobbs or Marshall.

By the way. The Dolphins seem to like Wildcat. Still. They get the only votes on the matter. Everyone else is kinda out-voted.

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Sparano was asked the reason cornerback Jason Allen was on receiver Braylon Edwards much of the night -- a matchup that Allen lost -- rather than using superior cornerback Vontae Davis on Edwards. Coach said it was because coaches thought Allen's size made it possible for him to compete better with Edwards.

That didn't excuse Allen's tough outing.

"Jason would tell you he needs to do better," Sparano said.

Jason, by the way, doesn't need to tell me. I saw it. He needs to to much, much, much better to stick Randy Moss or Wes Welker or Brandon Tate next Monday night.

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Ah, hidden yardage was no friend of the Dolphins Sunday.

Sparano said the Dolphins yielded 140 yards on special teams. That is the equivalent to a touchdown and then some.

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Ricky Williams fumbled once (officially) but had another moment in which he also lost his grip on the ball early enough that it was ruled a fumble before being overturned. Williams has three such losses of the ball in two weeks, although the ball has actually changed possession only once.

That's is enough for Sparano.

"Yes, it concerns me," he said.

Williams needs to keep both hands on the ball unless he is fine with not playing in the fourth quarter of games as he did Sunday night.

September 26, 2010

Jets beat Dolphins 31-23 to take first in AFC East

The Dolphins came into this game the AFC East's only unbeaten team.

They come away from this 31-23 loss in a three-way tie with New England and New York. All three teams have a 2-1 record.

The defense simply wasn't up to the task tonight, folks.

The run defense was leaky for the second week in a row, this night yielding 146 yards on the ground. Suprisingly, the defense that was so good against the pass the past two weeks, collapsed tonight. Mark Sanchez completed 15 of 28 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Chad Henne and the offense -- playing with one hand behind its back as the running game was a no-show -- stayed close for a time. Henne had his best game of the season, throwing for 364 yards while completing 26 of 44 passes with three TDs and no interceptions.

Jason Allen had a tough night, giving up a 67-yard TD completion to Braylon Edwards and also getting called for pass interference in the end zone.

Jets lead Dolphins 21-20 going to the fourth quarter

This is it, folks.

The game has gone back and forth and now is when great men make big plays ...

while other men shrink from the assignment.

Let's see which is which.

Meet me in the comments section.

Jets lead Dolphins 14-10 going to third quarter

It was looking ugly for a while -- as in the Dolphins were trailing 14-0 in the second quarter after Mark Sanchez connected with Dustin Keller for the second TD of the evening.

Then the Dolphins rallied.

They got a seven-yard scoring pass from Chad Henne to Anthony Fasano. 14-7.

Then they got a field goal from Dan Carpenter.

The Dolphins will get the ball first in the third quarter. Join me in the comments section.

Jets lead Dolphins 7-0 going to 2nd quarter

The Jets are getting good quarterback play from Mark Sanchez, who led a TD drive culminated by a 24-yard scoring pass to Dustin Keller.

The Dolphins?

Chad Henne missed Brian Hartline on a post pattern that might have gone for a TD had he thrown it well. It was overthrown. And the Dolphins have struggled on offense.

So the Jets lead 7-0.

Braylon Edwards, who did not play in the first quarter, will come in the game now.

The live blog continues in the comments section.

Live blog of Dolphins versus Jets starts here

I'm at the stadium and we're up and running for the live blog that begins around game time tonight. [Update: The Jets have announced at 7 p.m. this evening that Braylon Edwards, arrested for DWI earlier in the week, will be benched for the first quarter tonight verus the Dolphins.]

In other news, let me tell you the sod that was put down to cover the Marlins infield looks better than just having the actual dirt. It is an improvement. But is it perfect? Nope.

There are brown (not important) and uneven (very important) patches, particularly from the sideline to the near hashmark around the two-yard-line near the Jets sideline. There is one area that seems lower than the rest. Having said that, I still think the players will prefer this treatment of the field than having to play in the dirt.

I'm here nearly three hours before kickoff and the conditioning and weight training coaches are putting tight end Mickey Shuler Jr. through conditioning drills. That doesn't suggest he's playing. That suggests the team isin't thrilled with his conditioning and wants to get him ready.

As most of you will watch this game on television, let me tell you what to expect:

NBC's Football Night in America preview will include a Bob Costas interview with both Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Shockingly, both defend the Jets image.

Costas: Are you comfortable with the team’s image? The profile is much higher than it would otherwise be because the cameras followed you through training camp. Your coach is a charismatic guy with more than a little bit of bravado about him. So this is a team, which really hasn’t had that much success, but has a pretty high national profile.

Sanchez: That’s part of playing in this market, part of being a New York Jet. We love wearing that logo. It’s really important to us to represent that logo the right way. With the freedoms Rex gives us, be smart about what we do, on and off the field.

Costas: You’re a glamorous single guy playing a glamour position in New York City. (Sanchez laughs). There’s a lot of people who want you, in addition to putting up wins, they want you to be a certain kind of personality. You comfortable with that?

Sanchez: I’ve got to be me. I’ve learned that you don’t get those opportunities outside of this building without playing good football. That’s one of the best things Rex has told me about handling anything outside of this building. Just be yourself. Be the guy we drafted, No. 5 overall. Be our leader. And protect the team with what you say, how you act and what you do on the field.

[BLOG NOTE; Come back in a few and I'll give you the update on inactives and anything else that is happening out here in Orangeville.]

[Final Update: The inactives are John Jerry, Jared Odrick, Mickey Shuler Jr., Ikaika Alama-Francis, Marlon Moore, Patrick Brown, and Tyler Thigpen as the No. 3 QB.]

Breaking down the Dolphins vs. Jets

It is game day. Well, it's game night day, if you can keep your time elements in line. The Jets and Dolphins go at it at Sun Life Stadium tonight and I wish to share a couple of items with you.

First, I offer to you my Sunday column that shares with you a story Tony Sparano told his team a while back and doesn't really want out in public. I share it with you in the column because it fits perfectly for tonight's meeting between the Jets and Dolphins.

Even when I asked Patrick Cobbs about it, he said, "I see where you're going with this." So please check out the column.

As for the actual game itself. Let us break it down, shall we? 

 When the Dolphins run the ball: It’s hard to believe that the Jets wouldn’t have missed Kris Jenkins, because the few times he’s been healthy the past four seasons he’s been among the better interior lineman in the NFL. But Sione Pouha has taken over at nose tackle and, along with his mates, is part of the No. 3 overall run defense. Think that will dissuade the Dolphins from running the ball? Absolutely not. The Dolphins will contend with eight men in the box if they must, but they will not give up on running the ball. The Miami plan is to rush it 30 times tonight. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, usually reliable, are coming off a game in which each had a fumble. That is not acceptable to the Miami coaching staff and it cannot become a habit against a quality opponent. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the ball: The idea is to always get the ball to Brandon Marshall first and foremost and the Jets know this so they will likely double Miami’s best wide receiver. Marshall has been an interesting study this week. He's geared up for this game. He's been demanding excellence in practice. He's been spending some extra time in the film room. He refused to speak with the media, apparently because he didn't want any attention on himself or say the wrong thing. Guess he thinks he can sneak up on the Jets. The likely matchup will match Marshall versus Antonio Cromartie, who is familiar with Marshall from their days in the AFC West. Marshall had one game against Cromartie in 2008 in which he caught 18 passes for 166 yards. The Dolphins pass when necessary rather than as a first-option, but last season, Chad Henne surprised the New York defense by completing 20 of 26 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting between the two. The Jets shut down Henne in the second game, limiting him to 12 completion and 112 yards, but Henne did not throw a pick in either contest. The most important aspect of this game is Darrelle Revis will not play against the Dolphins, meaning New York will be without their best defensive back and likely their best defensive player overall. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Jets run the ball: The Dolphins will be without rookie defensive Jared Odrick for the second consecutive week but seem to have a solid solution to the issue as last week they moved Randy Starks from nose tackle back to the end spot where he played well last year. Paul Soliai, starting at nose tackle, played well according to coaches. He would face perhaps the most talented center in the AFC East in Nick Mangold, but Mangold has missed practice time this week with a shoulder injury. Last week the Dolphins allowed 145 yards by Adrian Peterson. “It’s on film,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said, meaning the Dolphins must now prove they can stop the run because the Jets saw what the Vikings did and will try to exploit the problems the Dolphins had stopping the run a week ago. ADVANTAGE: New York.

When the Jets pass the ball: Braylon Edward, he of the Taliban beard and DWI arrest, will not start because of last week’s troubles. But those close to the Jets don’t believe that will cause Edwards to miss a significant portion of this game after he sits out the first play. Edwards typically misses no more than a handful of offensive plays per game and this one might not be any different. One thing the Dolphins must be ready for is the unleashing of former Miami WR Patrick Turner. He was promoted from the Jets practice squad to their 53-man roster and is likely to be active for this game, nearly equaling the number of games he was active for as a rookie with the Dolphins. Regardless of which Jets receiver is in the game (their best one, Santonio Holmes is suspended), the Dolphins will be looking to confound New York quarterback Mark Sanchez with multiple fronts, multiple looks in the secondary and multiple pressures. Sanchez, athletic and mobile, is very good with the naked boot in one direction and throwing back to tight end Dustin Keller coming across the field. The Jets have not had a 300-yard passer in a game since 2006. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: The Dolphins are outstanding in kickoff and punt coverage but are downright inept in their return game. That’s one reason Cliff Smith was waived this week and will no longer be the kick and punt returner. Smith seemed hesitant during the two weeks he held the job. The work now likely goes to Davone Bess on punt returns and Nolan Carroll and Patrick Cobbs on kick returns. Former Dolphins special teams coach Mike Westhoff is running the special teams for the Jets now. Jim Leonhard’s 16.3 punt return average is fourth best in the NFL. ADVANTAGE: New York.

Coaching: These two teams mirror the personality of their coaches. The Jets are a loose, brash, physical, aggressive, perhaps undisciplined bunch. The Dolphins are a tight-lipped, low-key, aggressive, physical, disciplined bunch. Rex Ryan took the Jets to the AFC title game in his first season. Tony Sparano led the Dolphins to a series sweep over the Jets last season and has beaten New York three consecutive times. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

[BLOG NOTE: There will be a live blog of the game this evening so come back in the hour or so leading up to kickoff.]

September 24, 2010

Bobby Carpenter makes the move from OLB to ILB

When Bill Parcells and his people arrived in Dallas in 2003, Andre Gurode was languishing as an ordinary interior lineman who wasn't really a center and definitely wasn't a very good guard. Parcells and "his people," which included Tony Sparano let Gurode try to make a name for himself as a guard.

It failed miserably.

Well, rather than give up on Gurode, the Cowboys decided to make an investment in reworking his contract and moving Gurode to center.

Andre Gurode's career took off and he is now a perennial Pro Bowl player.

Well, the same group of people -- Parcells, Jeff Ireland and to a lesser degree, Tony Sparano -- drafted Bobby Carpenter out of Ohio State five years ago and tried to turn him into a 3-4 outside linebacker.

The idea failed. Carpenter was considered a bust until the moment the Cowboys cut him and he went to St. Louis. Then the Rams also cut him this preseason and the Dolphins signed him.

But rather than put him in the same position where Carpenter failed with two teams, the Dolphins found a niche for Carpenter at inside linebacker.

Despite joining the team only days before the regular-season opener at Buffalo, Carpenter actually started that game alongside Karlos Dansby. He also started last week at Minnesota. No, he's not playing every down, but rather on a situational basis.

He has only two tackles. But his goal-line stop of Adrian Peterson at Minnesota last week was an impressive and key moment in the game.

"During our time down there [in Dallas] with Bobby, we didn't kind of see him play inside as much as we're seeing him now," coach Tony Sparano said today. "And sometimes some of these guys start a little bit later. They really do, especially if you're bouncing them around positionally. With Andre, when we came in there he had just played a bunch of games at guard and when you watched it, it took us a while to figure out the best place to put him, too. Same thing with Bobby right now."

So can Carpenter possibly make the kind of leap at ILB that Gurode long ago made when he moved to center?

"Except we brought him in and immediately gave him a role. And that role, so we didn't confuse the whole thing because you look at him and he can play him outside or inside -- we didn't want to do that. We got him a role that he can help this football. But I can see him making that kind of improvement down the road, sure."

So consider this move permanent -- or as permanent as anything can be in the NFL.

"He's inside for a long time," Sparano said. "I'd like to keep him there for a long time."

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Sparano said today was the best Friday practice the team has ever had since he's been coach. That is good news for the Dolphins as they wind down preparations for the New York Jets.

Typically, the Dolphins play well when they practice well.

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Jets center Nick Mangold, out all week with a shoulder injury, practiced today in New Jersey. He is expected to start for the Jets. 

September 23, 2010

Chad Henne versus Jets: Nails

One of the topics that seems to be constantly on the tongue of fans and media is the progress of quarterback Chad Henne.

The topic matters so much this week because Henne faces perhaps one of the best defenses he will see all year this week when Miami plays the Jets. The Jets have the No. 11 total defense in the NFL right now.

They press up front and play zone behind that. They press up front and play Cover 2 behind that.

They come with multiple fronts and multiple pressures.

And against the chaos Henne last season completed 32 of 47 passes (68 percent completion) for 353 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in two games.

Most importantly, Henne was 2-0 against New York.

"Is there anyone else in the league 2-0?" Offensive coordinator Dan Henning asked rhetorically today. "And one of the best games offensively we've offensively here -- in fact, I would go so far as to say the best game we've had -- was last year. I think it was his third start. He played magnificently ... He played a superb game."

Henning continued: "There were times in the game the pressure came on Chad Henne and he did the right thing ... He had a chance to have something bad happen to him and did the right thing to avoid that. And he made some big plays when they were there. And at the end of the second game, although we didn't have a lot of stats, in the fourth quarter we had a drive for a touchdown to put the game where we up by five."

One of the primary goals of the Jets defense is to get in a QB's head. Henning isn't worried about that with Henne.

"I don't know how far Chad is going to go in this game as a quarterback," Henning said. "Now, he has all the tools. He has a tremendous desire to be the best. He is willing to take the pain of discipline rather than accept the pain of regret later. He's willing to do that. He's in this building every night. He looks at every piece of film. He studies. There's nothing frivolous about Chad Henne when it comes to football. I would think it would be tough to get in that guy's head."

[Update: The Dolphins have claimed TE Mickey Shuler Jr. off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings, according to a club source.]  

September 22, 2010

Taylor: Would still be in Miami if Parcells had left earlier

Jason Taylor was just on a teleconference call with the South Florida media and the question that I was eager to get an answer to was his thoughts on the timing of the Bill Parcells decision to step back from the absolute power spot in Miami.

Parcells considered stepping back from his job as executive vice president of football operations prior to the start of training camp. He ultimately decided to do it just prior to the regular-season.

But what if Parcells had done it six months ago ... when the decision on Taylor was made by the Dolphins, that decision not to offer the outside linebacker a contract.

Would Taylor still be with Miami if Parcells had left earlier?

"I think that horse is already dead," Taylor said moments ago. "If you had to hold my hand over the fire and forced me to give you an answer I would have to say yes."

I asked Taylor what he thought of that timing?

"Pretty ironic," he said.

Taylor will get a reception at sold out Sun Life Stadium. He played for the Dolphins for a dozen season and he now plays for a bitter division rival. Chances of the reaction to him approaching indifference are not good.

But which one will it be? Cheers? Or Jeers?

"I have no idea to be honest," Taylor said. " I would expect because I play for the Jets, they won't be very happy. It's their home opener and they're Dolphins fans so I would expect ... oh, hell, maybe I hope it's just mixed. Whatever. Obviously everyone wants to be cheered but I understand I'm the road team and the bitter rival so I wouldn't be surprised to hear boos."

Taylor is nursing an elbow injury. It doesn't sound like that will keep him out of the game.

"I got nicked last week, but I'll be fine," he said. "You guys been around long enough to know whatever hurts I won't tell you about and it'll always feel better when it stops hurting."

Speaking of how fans react to the opposition, I asked Rex Ryan today if he has a message for the fans which he greeted with the one-finger salute at an MMA event during the offseason.

"Oh, no, absolutely not," he said carefully.

That's not exactly the gasbag answer I wanted from the bigger-than-life coach. So I asked him if, following his Hard Knocks declaration that, "We know we're better than you," in facing everyone, he believes the Jets are better than the Dolphins.

"I believe we're better than any team we play, I've never gone into any game not thinking we're going to win or the team I coach wouldn't win," Ryan said. "I always believe we're going to win. Now are we go undefeated or 15-1, no that's not going to happen. But my attitude is that we are going to be better, that we are going to win, every game, 100 percent of the game throughout my life, I expect we're going to win."

As for Miami coach Tony Sparano, he had a one-liner or two in his press conference today. He was asked what Miami's strategy is considering Darrelle Revis is out for the game -- something the Jets are confirming.

"I don't think Revis is out," Sparano said. "I'll believe it when I see. Brett Favre retired. You guys told me that was official. When I get out there, then we'll see. Right now we're preparing as if he's going to play. If he does not play, then we'll make our plans accordingly."

Tony Sparano? Rex Ryan? Which to listen to?

Tony Sparano will speak with the media here in Davie at 3 p.m. today.

As per usualy, the local media will get the opposing coach on a conference call, with today that connection leading to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

The problem is Ryan will be doing his conference call at 3 p.m.

The two are at the same time in different locations.

Being as that I am mortal, I am wondering ... which one of the two coaches do I listen to? Which press availability do I attend?

I asked the folks on my twitter feed which one I should attend. I'm counting the votes. Let me know which one you think I should attend and will add your votes to the twitter votes. I'll go with the majority opinion.

Meantime, you should know the Dolphins get going at 11 a.m at practice. I'll come back with an update then.

I expect you will see Channing Crowder practicing at least on a limited basis for the first time since training camp. I do not expect he'll be full go in practice because he will have to be brought along slowly.

If Crowder is not out there, you might as well forget having him for the game. Come back for that update or follow me on twitter and get my tweets to your phone for the real-time updates.  

[Update: Crowder is working at least on a limited basis. He split first-team reps with Tim Dobbins during the portion of practice open to the media. Starting right guard John Jerry was not present at practice. Jared Odrick was on the bike outside while the Dolphins worked inside their bubble.]

 I am giving you a peek at what practice was like today, courtesyJeff Darlington's website.

[Update 2: John Jerry missed practice because of an illness.]  

September 21, 2010

Orange you glad Miami's playing the Jets?

The Dolphins will wear their orange jerseys against the New York Jets Sunday night.

It's a theme.

The team is hosting a "Paint South Florida Orange" event throughout the week, with various local buildings illuminated in orange throughout the week. Every fan at Sunday night's game will also get an orange rally towel and are asked to wear, you guessed it, orange.

The Dolphins wore orange in last season's home meeting versus New York and came away with a 31-27 victory. For the record, I am a fan of the black jersey with the orange and aqua outline around the white numbers that I've seen a lot around South Florida. They are not official jerseys, but I like them. I could not find a picture of one, but I found some footballs in the Dolphins online store that give you the basic idea of what it would look like. Use your imagination.Footballs

Ok, here is one interpretation of the black Dolphins jersey. I've seen this one around and also seen one where the numbers are while instead of black and the outline is aqua as well as orange. But I think this one looks intimidating. Thanks to Julio La Mar for sending the photo.

Black jersey

September 20, 2010

The words from Tony Sparano's mouth

Tony Sparano talked to the media Monday following Miami's 14-10 victory over the Vikings. This is everything he said:

(On how much more it means to be 2-0 considering both games have been on the road) – “I think it adds quite a bit. I think that when you can go into those two kinds of environments with a young team and come away with two wins I think it helps in a lot of different areas. Obviously that’s not an unknown anymore out there; we’ve played in two hard places to play and have won two football games, been fortunate to win two football games. I think as we get on in this thing and we get on in the long haul, that’s going to help us. I think it’s been very helpful.”

(On Jason Allen’s progression) – “I mean Jason has been…early on in the process bounced around a little bit. We had to find a home for him, try to find the right place, the right fit. We tried him at safety; we tried him at corner then we moved him back to safety, moved him back to corner. I think that finally we just settled in on the fact that we really need to let this guy play in one position and not bounce him around and ask him, to put him in the slot in the nickel; didn’t want to ask him to do too many things from that standpoint because I think all those things require a different skill set and you can get caught up in the goodies that Jason brings to the table that way. He’s got outstanding athleticism and sometimes that can get you caught in trying to get him to do too many things. So from our end we needed to back off of that and we needed to say, okay this is what we’re going to ask this guy to do. It’s what we’ve done, and the kid has really grown I think as a player. To his credit, he’s done some things off the field to help him(self), spent a lot of extra time. I told you he and I had this visit; he’s told you that. At this end of this visit he was given information, and he went out and took the information and made the best of it.”

(On Vontae Davis’s progression) – “Yeah well I mean Vontae’s a guy that obviously we think highly of; we drafted him in the first round and he’s a guy that I think, I think Vontae’s got a pretty bright future ahead of him if he keeps working on some things to help his game. There’s some things fundamentally that Vontae can do better, and there’s some things that he did really well fundamentally in this game. We talked earlier in the week about our corners having to tackle and he did that pretty well in the game yesterday and made  some good breaks on the ball when he was challenged out there. Vontae’s just got to keep working; he’s just got to continue to keep working. I think this guy’s going to be a pretty good player.”

(On whether Vontae Davis needs to work on his celebrations a little more) – “(laughing) He’s done a pretty good job of that; that’s okay. I want them to be excited when they play well.”

(On the impact of Karlos Dansby) – “Karlos played pretty good yesterday, obviously made a bunch of tackles. Here’s what I like about Karlos; here’s the thing that I think of all the things he does well on the field, one of his greatest strengths is that when he comes to the sideline in the middle of a game he’s exactly like he’ll be in a little while when you’re talking to him in the locker room. He’s as level headed as they come. You can make the correction; you can make the adjustment. He’s the quarterback (of the defense) now, so this guy goes out there and after he hears it on the sideline, he can get everybody lined up. He can get everybody on the same page; he’s kind of this really, he’s this quiet leader that is pretty level headed in the course of the game. He isn’t out there in the course of the game where you can’t get to first base with this guy. I think it’s one of the greatest strengths that he brings. Never mind all the, the running and the hitting and the big guy. Yesterday he played downhill hard yesterday in this game. I mean that was the kind of game it was going to be, and he got downhill a few times really hard and got squared up in there, forced some plays to bounce. He’s going to tell you he missed a tackle or two, but he made nine of them somewhere in there. I really think the guy brings an awful lot to our defense and I think little by little is making us better.”

(On whether the new defensive personnel has something to do with the improvement in open field tackling) – “I would say that’s the cause of it. I think at the end of the day the people you have out there are good tacklers or at least, now they were good tacklers for most of the day yesterday, but we missed nine of them. We missed four of them on one play, which isn’t good. It’s not an excuse (but) that guy’s going to make a lot of people miss. We missed four of them on one play so it’s something we got to do a better job of, but I think for the most part we’ve done a pretty good job of open field tackling. I do think that the scheme puts you in some positions. Vontae (Davis) makes a play in the flat yesterday and it’s because of the scheme. It’s because of coverage; he’s in the right place, the disguise makes the ball go out there and then he breaks on the ball and has to finish the play. At the same time I just think that you got some better players out there, and when I say that I mean better tacklers out there. I think you look at (Karlos) Dansby and (Chris) Clemons and Vontae and Jason Allen and these people. They’re pretty good tacklers I think.”

(On his evaluation of the offense after their first play of the game and was the deep pass available more often throughout the game) – “No, no, no it wasn’t there more often. For whatever reason on the first play of the game they came out, and they went to single high (coverage). Those are those green light specials I was talking about, and that just happened on that play. The play was called as a double go (route) play; it was called to get the ball down the field and really to get the ball to Brandon (Marshall) down the field. One way or another we were going to try to throw it down there. Coverage dictated that largely and they ended up going to single high. I mean we had a couple shots later in the game but the coverage didn’t dictate it. I think what happened there is eventually they kind of got back to doing what they do. Early in the game though I’m assuming that run game is what they were thinking and that’s where they kind of got that extra guy down in there a little bit and played some post high. That gave us a chance to throw it down the field. At the end of the day I mean offensively we’ve got to execute better; we’ve got to do a better job that way. We had, we had about 17 plays in the game yesterday that were either minus plays or no yard plays, no yards gained meaning incompleted passes or any of those kind of things. That’s not good; in a 49 play game you’ve got to do better than that from an efficiency standpoint. Now we’ve also had the first drive, the defense has an 11 play drive or somewhere around there in the first drive of the game. We defer, put them out there; now they make a stop on downs in that deal and then the offense takes the ball and goes 76 yards down the field and they score a touchdown. That was really good; then deferring we got the ball coming out in a tight game and the offense takes the ball 12 plays. Then we have a minus play, one minus play in 12 plays and it hurts you, and it hurts the drive. Now those are the things, defensively you could cover that up with effort sometimes. Effort, flying around, guys going all over; offensively, you can’t cover that up that much. We got to do a better job of just continuing to grind and be efficient. There was some really good things done at times in that game; you’re at the minus one yard line and you’re coming out and you punch one out like Ronnie (Brown) punched one out. That’s about as well blocked as, I mean it really was pretty well blocked. Now we get back on the minus one yard line and we turn it over and it ends up being a one yard drive for them. Those are some of the things we just got to be a little bit more efficient at right now from our standpoint.”

(On whether Jake Long’s performance yesterday against Jared Allen is a testament to his talent) – “I mean I could just tell during the week Jake was kind of getting ready for a little bit of a tussle there. I think that he prepared well for that game; that’s a heck of a player over there; there’s no way around it. I think every team would like to have one of those guys, but Jake’s a pretty good player. I’m glad we got him on our team.”

(On his not challenging a fourth and one in the fourth quarter) – “What was happening was really it was one of these muddle looks. I mean it was kind of, it was in the scrum and it kind of looked like that, and time outs were at a premium at that point. If you burned a timeout and they didn’t change it because it wasn’t one way or the other, and that’s kind of what we were all saying. We thought about it; it’s just it wasn’t clear. We had burned a timeout earlier or maybe two because of the noise and we got down on the clock, so we just didn’t do it. It wasn’t clear, and if it’s not clear I’m not going to do it.”

(On who graded the highest on defense yesterday) – “I would say that there was a lot of guys that played well, but I would say Jason Allen probably graded the best.”

(On whether he had a package of plays in place for Tyler Thigpen yesterday as the number two quarterback) – “I’m out of the loop in that information (laughing). Good try.”

(On the quarterback protection being better last week than against Buffalo) – “I think one thing that happened yesterday is a couple of our uncovered players, we really stressed that our uncovered guys had to find work in this game and had to be active. A lot of times the uncovered players were (Richie) Incognito and (Joe) Berger so they ended up finding some work there and kind of saving a hit here, saving a hit there. I just think the two tackles (Jake Long and Vernon Carey) really against those two players (Jared Allen and Ray Edwards) for the most part in the game played pretty well. Jared got a sack on a run where he (Chad Henne) put it down and ran and he (Jared Allen) retraced. I think on that play Jake had him blocked pretty good; it was a good hustle play by Jared which he’s going to make. Other than that, the two tackles being able to do what they did freed up some of those free players to help on the two big guys (Kevin and Pat Williams) in there occasionally, and then we did some things, sliding the protection where we put a little bit of pressure. I’ll tell you a guy that played good yesterday on offense and he didn’t catch a pass yesterday was Anthony Fasano. Anthony Fasano didn’t catch one ball yesterday and played a pretty good football game. This guy had nine protection reps yesterday and played pretty good in the protection. That’s hard to do because he’s got to block big people and then he played well in the run game yesterday which was one of the reasons why I think we ran the ball the way we did.”

(On whether John Jerry ever seemed phased yesterday) – “No, but John had some fundamental things that he didn’t do well at times out there, but he kind of stepped in there (and competed). What I like about John is his look is really good at the games and he’s playing against obviously two of the best players that you’re going to be able to play against at this position, and I thought he competed hard in there. It’s just the fundamental things he’s got to get cleaned up a little bit here to help him. I think that just gives him, by cleaning those things up gives him a few more tools in his toolbox. He competed hard.”

(On how pleased he is with Koa Misi) – “Another guy, and again this is just going back to this John Jerry question, another guy that on the surface when you look, this goes back to my point where sometimes effort can cover a few things up. Where if John Jerry blows something out there, it’s blown; I mean you’re not going to (cover it up), the quarterback’s going to get hit. That happened one time yesterday; he didn’t blow it mentally, he just, the guy on the other side who’s a heck of a player ends up beating him on a play. With Koa his motor, his tenacity is what really has covered up a few of these things. Fundamentally I want him to get better; I want him to keep getting better. He did some things better in this game than he did in the last game fundamentally. Those are all positives, but the pass rush, the quarterback pressures, the hits on the quarterback, being around the football, all those things I think got a little bit better in this game. That’s the production that you get when you put the guy out there like that, and I think, I just think the guy’s going to get better here as we go on. He’s got to be conscious of what’s going on out there at practice to help him get better.”

(On his level of concern with the offense only scoring two touchdowns in two games) – “I’m concerned; yeah, hey I want to score more points than that, no question about it, and I think we have to. I think that, I have great confidence that this group will continue to get better. I just don’t have a crystal ball in front of me here, and they have to understand the urgency right now in that we are really close in a lot of situations, really close. We’ve got to get over the hump in some of those situations, and I think we will. Right now this team has proven to me that in a lot of these hurdles, they work their way through them. This group will its their way through them.”

(On how an experienced wide receiver like Brandon Marshall can help a lesser experienced quarterback like Chad Henne) – “Yeah I think that, I mean Brandon in his conversations with Chad it’s kind of, and it’s good ball talk, it’s this is how they’re playing me; this is how I’m seeing and sometimes the receiver sees it one way and the quarterback sees it another way. For the two of those guys to get on the same page in that situation, I think helps and then having (Wide Receivers Coach) Karl Dorrell down on the field has really helped this process because Karl’s kind of the mediator there. He can kind of say, ‘Here’s the pictures fellas; this is really what’s going on,’ because I think at that point there it brings the whole group together: the receivers, the quarterbacks; it really brings them both together. I think that that’s been really helpful. I mean I think the conversation that Brandon and Chad have down there are usually the enthusiastic, hey I’m doing this, this guy can do this to me, this is how they’re playing me. I think that’s, that’s good communication; I’d rather have that than the guy sitting over there in the corner not talking.”

(On there being no worries with Brandon Marshall being experienced talking to Chad Henne who is not as experienced) – “No, no, no, I don’t think so. I think Chad needs, Chad likes that kind of conversation. He wants to know what those guys are seeing. I mean it isn’t any different than Chad Pennington doing it; Chad Pennington’s not, you’re not going to come off the field and Chad Pennington’s not going to not be saying something to you.”

(On whether he got off the field yesterday in Minnesota before he started thinking about the New York Jets) – “I just, I mean yeah I did. It was shortly thereafter, that’s for sure.”

(On his early thoughts about facing the Jets this weekend) – “Obviously they’re a good football team; this is another playoff team that we’re playing, another team in our division that we’re chasing. This is a good team, a well coached team. It will be a good football game, another physical football game.”

(On what it would take for him to be on Hard Knocks) – “I’m staying away from that one.”

(On whether he wants his defense to take it personally when Minnesota decides to go for in on fourth and two in the first quarter) – “No, I don’t want them to take it personally because I think that’s where you can lose your, maybe lose sight of what’s going on a little bit out there. I mean in that situation in a fourth and two there’s about 15 things they could have did, especially with Brett (Favre). I think all those things we had to make sure we had contingencies for in some of those situations. Taking it personally at that point maybe gets you caught up in some of that and you may get burnt. I think from our end it was (a) more businesslike approach in that we knew that if we had a stop there, for us we look at those things like turnovers. When you stop them on fourth down, and we did it twice yesterday, I mean it’s not going to show in the stat sheet that you had six turnovers yesterday, but that’s the way we look at it.”

A rewind of Jake Long vs. Jared Allen

Everyone should agree the meeting between Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long and defensive end Jared Allen was a clash of two high-quality guys.

I'm not absolutely certain who won the one-on-one matchup. There seems to be a difference of opinion on the matter, if you ask the folks involved. And While no one declared outright victory -- perhaps because there was no clear, blowout winner -- I think it fair to say both men landed blows against the other's armor on Sunday afternoon.

Long's best play was the block in which he took Allen upfield and out of the picture on Ronnie Brown's 51-yard run. The run, by the way, went left just inside of where Allen should have been if Long had not blocked him.

Allen, meanwhile, had a sack and did draw help from left guard Richie Incognito a couple of times. The sack is a little misleading because it means Allen got a good at-bat even while the Dolphins threw only 15 passes. Usually, a team throws 30 or so passes and then one sack is a very good day. So one sack in 15 chances is outstanding.

So when it was over, both men had something to hang their helmets on.

"I knew it would be a battle all game," Long said. "Watching film on him, I knew he plays to the whistle and is very relentless. My mindset was I had to match that or go beyond that. We had some good battles there, it was fun. It was a fun battle."

"I just wanted to come out and let him know I was going to be there all game and not let him intimidate me. I just wanted to go out there and match his intensity and finish every play."

Allen, appearing on the Jim Rome show, admitted he and Long were two well-matched, strong, physical men. But he did make the point he got limited chances to get to Chad Henne. 

"It was and I decided to get it hot a little early, why not, have fun with it," Allen said. "I started talking some trash and poking and prodding. Jake's a strong, physical guy. I tend to think I'm a strong pyhysical guy, I don't know if it's true or not. But it was tough because they didn't really throw the ball that many times when you think about it. I think they threw the ball 15 times. So its hard to get into a rhythm

"I thought up front was a hard fought game like we expected, but I thought we were able to dominate from the defensive side and kept them off the board and obviously they did the same."

Bottom line ... Did Long win the battle or did Allen win the battle?

"I don't know, I mean, they won, so I guess they did," Allen said. "But on the other hand I got a sack so I'll take that. I tend to look at things as how many one-on-one opportunities I got. I got a couple of them this game. The quarterback was siutting shallow so I kew it was going to be hard getting around the corner so I just starting taking him up the field and started countering back into the B gap. On the sack I did get, I got chiped. I barely missed another one, he gained a yard. But Jake did a god job. There were some times they were able to get the ball off and shut me down. But I still feel like a draw Richie Incognito he was chipping and there were times he was trying to tear my ribs apart a little bit."

September 19, 2010

Reaction from the locker room of Dolphins victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're back from the Miami Dolphins locker room and I guess I could start typing a bunch of quotes that would give you the mood of the team following today's 14-10 victory over the Vikings.

But as you know, a picture is worth a thousand words. So consider the following video posted at Jeff Darlington's website as your view of the happenings in the happy locker room of a 2-0 Miami team: