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56 posts from September 2010

September 19, 2010

Dolphins beat Vikings 14-10 in biggest upset since NE

  MINNEAPOLIS -- Yes, the offense isn't up to par and they made your heart skip a beat, but the Dolphins played outstanding defense and stood up to a tough road crowd in delivering the biggest upset victory since ...

Since ..

Since Miami upset New England in 2008 and ended the Patriots 21-game winning streak.

The Dolphins beat Minnesota today 14-10. Wow.

The Vikings outgained the Dolphins in rushing 120 to 156. They outgained the Dolphins overall 364 to 226 yards. But all those yards were worthless for the Vikings when they got turned away at the goal line three times, once on downs and twice due to turnovers.

Brett Favre threw three interceptions. with Jason Allen plucking two of those out of the air.

It was amazing.

Game on line as Dolphins-Vikes go to 4th quarter

MINNEAPOLIS -- The only way the Vikings could get back in today's game after the Dolphins took a 14-0 lead late in the third quarter was to beat themselves.

That means turnovers.

Ricky Williams fumbled inside his own 10 yard line and provided the opportunity.

The Viking capitalized with a TD run from Adrian Peterson.

And now this game is 14-7, Miami, and will be decided in the fourth quarter.

Join me for the final quarter of the live blog.

Third quarter starts with Dolphins leading Vikes, 7-0

MINNEAPOLIS -- It started out fast, with the Dolphins scoring on their first offensive possession.

Things settled down afterward, with the teams about ready to start the third quarter and Miami still holding a 7-0 lead.

Chad Henne has thrown only five passes and completed three of them for 70 yards. That includes the 46-yarder to Brandon Marshall.

The Dolphins are getting timely play from the defense. Vontae Davis got an interception at the Miami 1 yard line to thwart a Minnesota drive.

Minnesota WR Percy Harvin tweaked his hip again during the second quarter. He is questionable to return.

The live blog continues in comments section of this post. Go there now.

Dolphins lead Vikes 7-0 to start 2nd quarter

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Dolphins wanted to knock the Vikings back on their heels today. And they have done it so far.

They've stopped Brett Favre and his offense twice in the first quarter. On offense, they got a 46-yard completion from Chad Henne to Brandon Marshall on their first play. Later Henne completed a five-yard TD pass to Brian Hartline.

The Dolphins are clearly picking on Minny CB Lito Shepard.

Miami leads, 7-0.

Join me in the comments section as the live blog rolls on.

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Vikes right here

MINNEAPOLIS -- A victory today?

More than making the Dolphins 2-0 and keeping them in first place in the AFC East no matter what happens elsewhere in the NFL, it would catapult this team we know so much and yet so little about into a state of legitimacy.

Miami beats the team that went to the NFC title game a year ago and you have to believe that is a pretty good team.

Some keys to the game:

Inactives: Chad Pennington is the No. 3 QB. Why is that interesting? He was the No. 2 QB last week. All this means is the Dolphins are allowing themselves the option of using Tyler Thigpen as a spread option QB today. The other Miami inactives are Roberto Wallace, Nolan Carroll, Channing Crowder, Jared Odrick, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Lydon Murtha and Jermey Parnell.

Jake Long versus Jared Allen: I do not expect a shutout by Long. It's hard to expect that when the guy opposing him is a classic 4-3 DE of the highest order. Allen is stud. He's strong, he's quick, he's experienced and he's always seemingly motivated, meaning he doesn't take plays off. Long is similarly a stud. Today will measure exactly how healthy Long is following that knee injury in the preseason finale.

Brandon Marshall's day: I am sitting here two hours before the game and not many playes are on the field yet. Marshall is on the field. He's warming up his hips. He's practicing catching all sorts of passes -- over his head, too low, one-handed, Scene interesting perhaps only to me: Marshall is not catching those passes from Chad Henne. He's catching them from a trainer type. Henne is on the field about 20 yards away and he's throwing passes and working with Davone Bess. Fact is Henne has spoken more with former Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo on the field the past 30 minutes than he has with Marshall. Interesting.

[Update: Marshall eventually finished his regimen and came over to where Henne and Bess were working out routes and started working with them, too.]

Henne versus Brett Favre: It cannot be a blowout here, folks. We cannot have Favre throwing three TDs and 1 INT and have Henne deliver a stat line like he did last week -- zero TDs, zero INTs -- and expect the Dolphins to win. If you have not read it yet, I wrote my Sunday column on Henne and the message the Dolphins give him over, and over and over. It can be something of a confusing message, if you ask me because the Dolphins want Henne to do two things that aren't necessarily opposites -- throw TDs and not throw INTS. To throw TDs, you see, you almost always have to live with some interceptions. The Dolphins have drilled Hennes so much on not throwing INTs, it makes me wonder if he can be a big TD passer anytime in the future.

Alrightie, that's quite a bit to digest before the live blog begins at kickoff. Come back here for all the pregame updates. And let's meet in the comments section for the live blog. 

September 18, 2010

Dolphins to run on the Vikings? Bet on it

To run the football ... or to not run the football. That is the question facing every team that plays the Minnesota Vikings. That is the question facing the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

The Vikings pride themselves, among other things, on being one of the NFL's best run-stopping defenses. They were No. 2 against the run in 2009 and folks in Minnesota were upset about because they were No. 1 against the run in 2008.

And in 2007.

And in 2006.

No. 1 against the run.

The Vikes boast the Burly Wall of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams inside and have an athletic set of linebackers. Perhaps that is the reason the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints basically decided not to try running the ball against the Vikings in the NFL season-opener -- at least not in the first half.

The Saints decided it was best to soften up the Vikings in the first half by throwing 21 times and running just three times. It wasn't until the second half when the Vikings were seemingly expecting the pass that New Orleans began to run. The Saints finished with 36 passes and 25 runs.

The Dolphins, however, aren't that type of team.

They are a run-first team. If you have any doubt about that consider that offensive coordinator Dan Henning said this week his dream would be to never pass the football.

"You want the honest-to-God's truth?" he said to me. "I'd like to line up and run the ball every down and get in the end zone on every drive. We'd go to the Super Bowl and we'd win. Without ever throwing!"

He added, "of course it doesn't happen that way," but that is what he'd love to do.

So what do the run-first Dolphins do when they run headlong into the best run-stopping team in the NFL the last four seasons?

I spoke to one offensive player this week who told me the answer is simple. The Dolphins will run.

"They're a physical defense. We're a physical offense," the player told me. "Let's see who is more physical. We're going to do what we do."

This should not come as a surprise. Last year the Dolphins faced a couple of Top 10 run-stopping teams -- the Jets and Steelers. And they tried to run the football. The results were mixed.

In the first meeting with New York, Miami rushed 36 times for 151 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. In the second meeting, the Jets obviously adjusted. Miami rushed 23 times for 52 yards and a 2.3 yard average. The Jets were the No. 8 rush defense in 2009.

The Dolphins rushed 25 times for 99 yards against the Steelers for a 4.0 average per rush. The Steelers were the No. 3 defense against the run in 2009.

I recognized this is a new year. The Dolphins have two new guards and Joe Berger is settling in at center. I recognize Ronnie Brown is healthy. I recognize Ricky Williams is a year older. Miami also has a star wide receiver option outside in Brandon Marshall that it didn't have a year ago. So yes, the dynamics have changed.

But has the philosophy changed in Miami? Are the Dolphins going to abandon running the ball just because Minnesota is perhaps the NFL's best run defense?

Um, I wouldn't count on that.

September 17, 2010

Karlos Dansby on Armando and the Amigo

Dolphins defensive captain Karlos Dansby was on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, this week. It was interesting, at least to me, on several levels. Consider:

Dansby was asked if the Minnesota backfield that includes Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson is the best the Dolphins will face this year: "It's one of them. We're going to face a lot of them. We're looking forward to the challenge. We're not scared. It's going to be a big task for us, but like I say, we're taking it as a challenge."

Dansby was asked if the Dolphins will go after Favre (and hurt him) the way the Saints did in the NFC championship game last year. "The Saints put the blueprint out there. You can't look away from that. You have to get pressure on him and confuse him. Otherwise he'll pick you apart."

I asked Dansby if the sack he had against Buffalo last week is a sign of things to come. "I'm definitely going to collect more. It's going to be a lot like the other night -- I came untouched."

I told Dansby I therefore expect 10 sacks from him. Yeah, that sounds good to me.

"I expect 10 myself this year," he said.

The audio for the interview is right here:

KARLOS_DANSBY_INTERVIEW



Armando and the Amigo can be heard every Monday thru Friday at 6-10 a.m. on 640-AM in South Florida.

September 16, 2010

It's coordinators' day at Dolphins camp

Just finished the always interesting press conference with offensive coordinator Dan Henning.

One of the journalists asked Henning why the Dolphins didn't go deep at all aside from the pass to Brandon Marshall, which Chad Henne underthrew and then Marshall dropped.

Henning quickly retorted that was not the only time the Dolphins tried to throw deep against Buffalo. The Dolphins apparently called two other deep passes but failure up front -- with either the tight end blocking or running back blocking -- the play resulted in a sack.

"We tried deeper passes but we got sacked twice," Henning said. "That’s part of it, too. You want to go downtown against good secondary like that, you better hold them up. We had an eight-man protection in there and went deep. We didn’t win and we got sacked. So you say to yourself, ‘How we going to win this game?’ … You get sacked with an eight-man protection and two men out, you better start checking your hole card. You try to win the game. And we were in control in the game at that time."

Henning admits the failure to connect on the deep pass to Brandon Marshall was costly.

"Yeah, we should have hit that deep one," he said. "Brandon ran a great route and we underthrew it. Even though it was underthrown, it was still dropped. You got a combination of not getting it out there and then you have a drop. That’s a combination of either 3 [points] or 7 [points] in the game, and at the point in the game, that could put the game out of whack because then they have to play differently, too. Didn’t happen. So no matter what’s going in the game, you have to find a way to win that game.”

Henning has great respect for defensive tackle Pat Williams, whom he helped coach in Buffalo, and Jared Allen. The Dolphins this week are game-planning to make sure those two players don't beat them.

"Minnesota has that guy on the outside [Allen] and the guy on the inside [Allen]," Henning said. "You set your protections accordingly, you try and make sure the guy doesn't wreck your game by being in a mismatch, we try putting a side board out there for the different people. When you have two of them, it's tough. But that's supposedly why we get paid for."

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During the open session of practice today, Channing Crowder (groin)_and Ikaika Alama-Francis (illness) did not participate. Crowder's not playing, guys.

Alama-Francis is a more intriguing situation because he first became ill Sunday morning. Remember the Dolphins did work out Adalius Thomas on Tuesday so my thinking is they were kicking the tires on him in case this Alama-Francis mystery sickness becomes acute.

Interesting.

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I told you yesterday the talk of moving Randy Starks back to defensive end was just speculation. Starks has not taken a snap at end since training camp began and that includes this week.

With Jared Odrick on the mend for two weeks with a hairline fracture in his right leg, it seems Tony McDaniel will get the starting nod against the Vikings. At least that is the impression Mike Nolan left today.

"I expect him to play well," Nolan said

The Dolphins are known for using a rotation of up to four different defensive ends in any particular play. Coach Tony Sparano says the rotation will continue despite the fact Miami is now without Odrick and Phillip Merling, who is out for the year..

"We got to trust the next guy," he said. "The people that are going to the game, they're going to play."

September 15, 2010

Wednesday afternoon's happenings for Dolphins

Lots to get to. Let's work:

Last week an item in ProFootballTalk.com related a radio show interview NFL.com's Vic Carucci did with a Buffalo radio station, during which this very good journalist said Bill Parcells was very disappointed with Chad Henne.

That report was repeated on and by numerous outlets and although I immediatedly tweeted that the report was not accurate because Parcells is not disappointed in Henne, the perception remained out there that Miami's consultant is disappointed.

Sooo, I wanted to give that thing something of a funeral today. Sooo, I asked coach Tony Sparano if in any of his conversations with Parcells he has gotten any inkling that the Dolphins consultant is disappointed in Henne.

"No," Sparano said. "I read the little blurp there, but no, nothing."

Trust me, guys, Bill Parcells is not disappointed in Chad Henne. Now, if Henne doesn't live up to expectations, it might come to that. But at this point? Not disappointed.

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Defensive end Jared Odrick was in the locker room today (photo by David J. Neal).

He confirmed his right fibula injury is indeed a hairline fracture and said he's "week to week."

Odrick

And while he had no definitive timetable for returning, Odrick didn't act like someone that is going to miss a significant amount of time. [I reported yesterday it would two weeks.] Odrick said the cast and wrap he's wearing over it is a precaution.

Odrick did share that he's broken the same right leg previously. And he has a metal plate in that leg. Interesting.

"Anytime you lose a player, particularly a young player, and one whose coming off a good game, it's tough, but the next guy's got to step up," Sparano said. "These are things our team is educated on. We call them body blows. It's a punch in the stomach but the next guy's got to step up."

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There is talk the Dolphins might solve the Odrick absence by moving Randy Starks from nose tackle back to defensive end. Starks played defensive end the past two seasons and had a stellar season there last year, collecting seven sacks.

Well, that stuff is just speculation.

I asked Starks if he would welcome such a move. "I'll play wherever the coaches ask me to play," he said. "I'll do whatever they need for the team to win."

But ...

No one has asked Starks to do such a thing. I asked Starks if he's taken any snaps at defensive end since camp started.

"No," he said.

I asked Starks if he took any snaps at end today.

"No," he said.

I don't see how you can ask a player to play defensive end if he hasn't worked at the position since the 2009 season. Just sayin'.

The Dolphins will more likely go with Tony McDaniel to fill in for Odrick.

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This week will be something of a reunion for CB Benny Sapp and the Minnesota Vikings. He's playing against the team he was traded from to the Dolphins in preseason.

But Sapp had other things on his mind today when he went out to practice than that coming return to the Metrodome. He was thinking about that possible pick-6 interception he dropped Sunday at Buffalo.

"I thought about it until the moment I got on the field today," Sapp said. "Then I prayed for God to help me focus on this game that's coming up and leave that behind."

Sapp sought Devine intervention to help him forget but he also did the natural thing to help him succeed if he's in a similar situation in the future:

He and the rest of Miami's DBs apparently took time after practice catching passes on the jugs machine. The Dolphins dropped two pick-6 opportunities Sunday, with Jason Allen being the other DB to miss the opportunity.

"Trying to make sure it doesn't happen again," Sapp said.

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ILB Channing Crowder (groin) and SOLB Ikaika Alama-Francis (illness) did not practice Wednesday. 

September 14, 2010

Jared Odrick (hairline fracture) out two weeks

Conflicting reports are always interesting, particularly when I'm one of those in conflict so here we go:

This afternoon I reported defensive end Jared Odrick, nursing a leg injury, would miss this week's game versus Minnesota and was week to week for his return. I also reported the injury is not considered serious.

This evening, Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reported Odrick has a broken fibula and will be out six weeks.

And this is where we part ways.

I have been told by league sources that Odrick has a slight hairline fracture of the right leg. It does not require surgery. The X-rays were checked by noted Charlotte orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson and the prognosis is the Dolphins defensive end will be out approximately two weeks.

"Max," one source told me.

So six weeks or two weeks?

We shall see which source is correct.

One final look at Bills victory and Jets news

First the news that indirectly affects the Miami Dolphins: Rex Ryan announced moments ago that NT Kris Jenkins is out for the season (again) after re-injuring the same knee that forced him to miss much of last season. Jenkins suffered the injury Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have signed defensive end Lionel Dotson off the Denver practice squad, according to the Herald's Barry Jackson. Kenny Zuckerman confirmed the signing to Jackson.

[Update: The Dotson signing makes sense because defensive end Jared Odrick is very likely out this week against Minnesota, according to test results the team got back today. Odrick's injury is not serious enough that he's done for the year. He is week to week. He will remain on the roster, obviously.]

I just went through the Miami Dolphins victory over Buffalo one last time. Here are my observations:

The pass rush: It was obviously very good and definitely not vanilla as it had been in preseason. You know already that the first sack of the year, which came when Karlos Dansby came on a blitz after he lined up outside of Cameron Wake, was a thing of beauty. Dansby came unblocked. But what you probably didn't notice is that it was a zone blitz. Even as the Dolphins brought four men and one was unblocked, nose tackle Randy Starks backed out into zone coverage in the middle of the field. Beautiful.

On the next series, the Dolphins answered the call on a third-and-two situation by sending six men after QB Trent Edwards. Six guys, including safety Yeremiah Bell. Koa Misi was unblocked this time and hurried Edwards although the QB completed the pass. On the next pass down, the Dolphins brought three-men and by this time Edwards' head was spinning. He wasn't really pressured by the thee-man rush, but hurried his throw anyway underneath.

When it was done, Dansby, Misi and Cameron Wake had sacks. Wake, by the way, showed exceptional quickness on his rushes. He had a hurry that caused an incompletion aside from his sack and was often around the QB. Starks, who had seven sacks a season ago, didn't pick up any Sunday but did have a batted pass.

Clock management: Normally this topic involves coaching. Not this time. This time it involves quarterback Chad Henne. One of the trademarks of a good offense is shutting the door on a comeback. The Dolphins had a chance to do that when they got the ball with 5:03 to play Sunday and did a good, not great job on closing that door. It would have been a much better job had Henne handled the play clock better. With the game and play clocks winding, Henne snapped the football with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on first down. He snapped it with 10 seconds remaining on the play clock on second down. He snapped it with nine seconds remaining on the play clock the next down. He snapped it with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on second-and-two.

What is the point? Henne is obviously trying to manage everything right now but he has to manage the play clock as well. If he snaps the ball with, say, two seconds remaining each of those times I just mentioned, that takes an extra 35 seconds off the game clock.

That means when the Bills get the ball back, they would have had 1:13 to work with instead of 1:48. That is a big difference, folks. Henne must learn and coaches must remind him that the clock can be his friend. As Sam Wyche would say, "Milk it, milk it, milk it!"

Double tight? Not so much: The Dolphins have made a virtual living off the double tight end formation in the last two seasons. It has been a staple with Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos or Anthony Fasano and David Martin. This year the Dolphins have keep Fasano and John Nalbone. They used the double tight end formation only four times the entire game. The Dolphins decided, at least in this game, that putting three-wides out there is more likely to open things up across the defense. Thank you, God! I hope it is a tendency that lasts.

The offensive line: The Dolphins yielded three sacks on Sunday. One of those was given up by an offensive lineman. Ricky Williams gave up a sack on a blitz in the first half and in the fourth quarter, Ronnie Brown and Fasano blocked the same edge rusher while Bryan Scott ran past Fasano on a delayed blitz. The other sack was given up by Vernon Carey. Don't get too down on Carey or left tackle Jake Long, however. They were very good. They were primarily in man-to-man situations on passing downs and they moved the pile extremely well in run blocking situations. The Dolphins also tried the unbalanced line on a handful of occasions -- placing Long on the right side outside of Carey. It had only mixed results.

John Jerry was fine most of the time. He had a couple of ugly moments where his technique put him in awkward situations. His footwork was off a little bit a couple times -- so much so that Henne tripped over him twice. But in the straight-ahead blocking department, he was good. The Dolphins used Incognito to pull on several occasions. It didn't really work. Incognito isn't smooth pulling out and running across the formation to lead the blocking going against the flow. He is, however, quite powerful in the straight ahead stuff. The Miami line is what it is in that they get a good push off the ball straight ahead. But fleet of foot? Not so much. I will say that if Miami runners start bouncing runs outside more, there is yardage to be made there. Ronnie Brown showed this a couple of times, including his 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. Williams didn't have his best game and seemed to be content keeping his running between the tackles.

A receiver rewind: Brandon Marshall had that one notable drop on the long pass. He took responsibility for it on the field, basically telling Henne it was his fault. But Marshall was very good both with what he contributed that appears on the stat sheet and the stuff that doesn't. He had one viscious block that leveled a Buffalo defender. And his mere presence helped Fasano be so readily available down the seam. Rookie Marlon Moore dropped the only pass thrown his way. Brian Hartline had a tough day also, dropping two passes and having a first-down catch erased by a penalty. Davone Bess was excellent, particularly in the second half. He practically took over at one point. I must tell you, Hartline needs to produce soon in games or Bess might take that second receiver job away from him.

The no-huddle defense: The Miami D yielded 39 yards during Buffalo's first nine drives of the game. Then the desperate Bills went to the no-huddle and went 80 yards in 10 plays for their only TD of the day. I think the Minnesota Vikings will see that. I believe Brett Favre is pretty good in the no-huddle offense. The Dolphins need to tighten this stuff up.

September 13, 2010

Postgame view of Dolphins victory at Buffalo

Are you unhappy with the Dolphins 15-10 victory on Sunday?

You might be because everything didn't go well. The offense was sluggish. The defense gave up a TD drive in the fourth quarter when the game's outcome still hung in the balance. The special teams missed a field goal, booted a kickoff out of bounds and had no returns to speak of.

And yet the Dolphins won.

As I write in this column there are specific issues the Dolphins must address starting today. One issue, in my humble opinion, involves how coaches handle the running back rotation. I get specific in the column so please check it out.

Another issue involves the play-calling with regard to flow. The Dolphins were working the Bills in their base set in the first half and then they went to the wildcat. It changed the flow and the drive stalled.

At another point, Miami was again bullying the Bills on an apparent drive. Then they called for an end around with Davone Bess. Bess who is a fine slot wide receiver with good quickness, but does not have a lot of speed to get wide. The reverse went for no gain.

So the Dolphins, who self-scout, would be well-served to check that out.

"We did the best we could this week to get ready for [the Bills] and they threw some stuff out there that we kind of weren't really prepared for," Bess said after the game. "But our coach put us in positions to be prepared at all times. When we saw the certain coverages, we had answers for them."

Said quarterback Chad Henne: "I think we just need to go back to work and we've got to concentrate. I've got to put the ball in better places and become a little more accurate and we have to and we have to come up with more catches out there and get the ball in the playmakers' hands. Overall it wasn't pretty, but we got some things done."

The defense got most of the things done. It is interesting to me that the unit that was totally revamped in the offseason -- from the coordinator to the captains to starting rookies and others that hadn't started before -- was the unit that carried the day.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan showed he can scheme pressure on the quarterback almost immediately when Karlos Dansby collected his first sack as a Dolphin on the game's third play. On that play, the Dolphins brought the blitz with Dansby and Wake on the same side and Dansby came unblocked.

"I was hiding behind [Cameron] Wake, he's a threat," Dansby said. "Somebody's got to make a decision on who to block. Coach Nolan did a great job of dialing up that play, we just put it in this week as a matter of fact and we executed well."

I told you when the Dolphins signed Dansby they loved his ability to rush the passer as well as cover as well as play inside. Then coach Tony Sparano said Dansby was signed to play inside linebacker and talk of moving the player around died.

... Until yesterday.

"I'm all over the place," Dansby said. "You can't really pinpoint me. I've got a lot of guys around me. All I'm trying to do is to help them become better as ball players."

The defense tackled quite well for the first game out, I thought. There were no costly or obvious missed tackles like the ones that plagued much of last season. That will continue to be key as the Dolphins prepare to stem the Adrian Peterson tide next Sunday.

It was interesting perhaps only to me that Nolan employed in the first game what former defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni always hesitated doing: Matching up corners on receivers.

Under Pasqualoni, the Dolphins played a straight right-left scheme. Vontae Davis was always the left cornerback while Sean Smith was always the right cornerback. When I would ask why he wouldn't match up, Pasqualoni would say it created other problems he didn't wish to deal with.

Nolan apparently has no issues dealing with those. And he obviously has no issues dealing with the advantages of the strategy, either.

So Sunday, Jason Allen followed Lee Evans all over the field. Wherever Evans lined up, Allen lined up, be it left or right of the formation. Davis followed Steve Johnson all over the field.

That strategy will get interesting when the Dolphins play passing teams like New England and Green Bay. It will speak to which cornerback the Dolphins feel has a better opportunity to contain the likes of Greg Jennings or Donald Driver or Randy Moss.

One would also hope, by the way, the Dolphins will throw a changeup to this strategy at times, also. That means I would guess there will be times the Dolphins don't match up so as to not be predictable. Nolan will do that, too. He's pretty impressive so far.

September 12, 2010

Dolphins beat Bills 15-10 to open season at 1-0

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- It was a nail-bitter, especially after the Bills scored a fourth-quarter TD, but the Dolphins held on today for a 15-10 victory in the regular-season opener.

As masterpieces go, this one was painted in crayons.

But the NFL doesn't judge beauty. Wins and losses are judged by points, be they accumulated in ugly fashion or not.

The Dolphins defense was ugly today. It was a good ugly. They snarled, they spit, they fought, they dominated for the entire game except Buffalo's 81-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi, and Cameron Wake had sacks. Dansby was all over the field.

Jason Allen was unscathed in his starting debut as he shadowed Lee Evans throughout the game.

The Miami offense?

It needs work. Lots of work.

Chad Henne was not sharp. He was 21 of 34 for 182 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He held the ball too long at times. He and Brandon Marshall are still not quite in synch.

Henne underthrew Marshall on what should have been an easy, long TD pass. Forced to come back to the ball, Marshall then dropped it. Incomplete. 

Fourth quarter is here with Dolphins leading 10-3

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- That third quarter was forgettable.

Nobody scored.

Penalties.

Dropped passes.

Dropped interceptions that would have gone for a TD by Benny Sapp.

The game will be decided in this coming quarter. Let's watch it together during the live blog in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Bills 10-3 to start third quarter

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- The Dolphins defense is playing very well. The Dolphins offense isn't playing quite as well, but still not bad.

Dan Carpenter? He's had better days.

The Dolphins led 10-0 after a 1 yard Ronnie Brown score and then Carpenter kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Bills the ball at their 40-yard line. That was the impetus they needed to get a 51-yard field goal from Rian Lindell.

The Dolphins got the ball back and lined up for a 46-yard Carpenter field goal just before halftime. He missed it wide left.

The defense is getting the better of the Bills, with sacks from Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake. Buffalo has only four first downs.while the Dolphins have 13.

Brandon Marshall have six catches in the first half for 44 yards. He's well on his way to 100 for 2010. Brown, meanwhile, leads the attack on the ground. He has 8 rushes for 34 yards and his TD.

Join me in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Dolphins lead Bills 3-0 to start second quarter

ORCHARD PARK -- The Dolphins took their first lead of the season on their first possession of the season today against the Bills.

After playing stifling defense the first series (and every series afterward, really), the Miami offense marched 37 yards en route to 32-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter. That is the only score so far.

Miami's other possessions have been stalled by a reverse call and a failed wildcat try. But the defense has been excellent.

Karlos Dansby, blitzing from the outside, has one sack already.

OK, join me in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Live blog of Dolphins season opener right here

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Thank you, God. The 2010 NFL regular-season has arrived and so here we are. [I missed the 2009 season opener due to the passing of my mom. I'm thankful to be here today!]

First, let me tell you there will be a live blog here today.

Secondly, you might hear that there is uncertainty on the Dolphins part about the preseason that rookie Koa Misi had. Nonsense. It is true Misi may not start today. It is true Ikaika Alama-Francis will start today.

You know who will determine that?

The Buffalo Bills.

If the Bills come out in a run-package, Alama-Francis will get the call. If the Bills have pass-first personnel in the game, Misi will start. Either way, both will play a lot today.

It is no small accomplishment what Misi has done this preseason. He has gone for a down-lineman in college to a standup 3-4 outside linebacker. If he starts, he will be one of only three  four rookie linebackers to start in the NFL on opening week.

Sean Weatherspoon of the Atlanta Falcons, Daryl Washington, and Rolando McClain of the Oakland Raiders are the other two. So Misi, a second-round pick, is in good company.

As you know, Jason Allen will start for Miami at RCB. That move is not written in stone, folks. Sean Smith, the starter in 16 games last season, will play today. And if he is playing better than Allen, he will take over. If Allen is playing better, he'll keep his jobs and his snaps.

It is a fluid situation.

It is a cloudy day here, with drizzling rain in the air. The temps are in the high 60s. Love it!

There are some number changes today: Interior lineman Cory Procter will wear No. 71 and defensive end Robert Rose will wear No. 56.

I will have the pregame inactives as soon as they come out. So come back. And remember, the live blog starts in the comments section at kickoff.

[Update: The inactives are Roberto Wallace, Channing Crowder, Rose, Alama-Francis, Jermey Parnell, Clifton Geathers and Thigpen as the third QB. Obviously, Misi will now definitely start. The Alama-Francis inactive is not expected. Hmmmm.]

[Update 2: Alama-Francis got sick this morning, which is the reason he is not playing today, The Herald's Jeff Darlington is reporting.]

[Update 3: The Dolphins are now confirming that Alama-Francis was expected to start this morning but is not playing because he got sick this morning.]

September 11, 2010

Crowder out vs. Bills, probably vs. Vikes, too

In the coming hours you'll likely hear reports from various sources that Channing Crowder has been downgraded from questionable to out for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Let's get a bit beyond that. The fact is it is unlikely Crowder, nursing some sort of mysterious groin injury, probably will play next week against Minnesota, either. The Dolphins are optimistic Crowder will be able to kick off the 2010 regular season against the New York Jets on Sept. 26. But the club believes the chances are less likely than more likely Crowder will play against the Vikings.

That doesn't mean Crowder might not enjoy a miraculous healing in the coming eight days and be able to get on the field versus Minnesota on Sept. 19. But that is exactly what it would take -- a miracle.

The Dolphins will go with Tim Dobbins in Crowder's absence. 

September 10, 2010

... And once again, no Crowder at practice

The Dolphins final full practice before leaving to Buffalo? Routine for the most part.

On Friday the Dolphins put the finishing touches on their prep work for the Bills and, once again, inside linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) did not participate. As I told you yesterday on this blog, it just does not seem plausible for Crowder to play in the regular season opener.

[UPDATE: Crowder is listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. Jake Long (knee) is listed as probable after practicing all week, even if on a limited basis. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) is listed as probable. Marshall practiced fully on Thursday and Friday.]

I don't believe Crowder will even make the trip. I bet you hear reports of the Dolphins leaving him home by this time Saturday.

As for how he's looking, don't believe me. Believe your eyes from this video, courtesy Jeff Darlington's Miami Minute upload:

The Bills, by the way, are having linebacker issues of their own. Reggie Torbor was declared out for this game. So was Antonio Coleman. They also placed Kawika Mitchell on injured reserve on Thursday. The Bills are expected to go into Sunday's game with only three linebackers.

That's usually bad news for a 3-4 defense that needs four linebackers to just be on the field. I remind you, however, that the Bills used a 4-3 look in their final preseason game.

One more thing: Akin Ayodele, who was signed Thursday will not be active for the game, according to head coach Chan Gailey.

September 09, 2010

Thursday roundup from Miami Dolphins

My question to Tony Sparano on Thrusday was simple enough: Give me your No. 1 key to victory against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

“Number one key to be able to win this game in my opinion I would tell you would have to be the turnover situation," Sparano said. "I think we need to win the turnover situation. We can’t come out 0-0 in this game. I think we need to be ahead of the curve in the turnover situation, and I think that if you can do that and you can minimize the minus plays, the negative plays when you’re in somebody’s else’s place, I think you have a chance."

Understand that it is not new for a coach to say he doesn't want turnovers. But it is interesting that Sparano not only thinks, but stresses that the Dolphins must win the turnover battle to "have a chance." 

That wouldn't be a big deal to me if the Dolphins were playing the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts. But they're playing the Buffalo Bills, for goodness sakes. The Bills aren't winning any titles this year, folks. They'll be lucky to rise from the division cellar where they finished last year.

And the Dolphins need to have the Bills make more turnovers to beat them? The Dolphins cannot beat the Bills if both teams play error-free?

I am extremely nervous about this game. We all expected the Dolphins to easily be the better team. But looking over the Bills and Dolphins, I don't see an enormous gap. I don't see a 31-14 blowout for the Dolphins in a return slap for the beating Buffalo administered Miami in Orchard Park last year.

I predict a very, very close game.

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Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said today he was not sure if the Bills would have all three of their running backs -- C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson -- available to him.

I think I know.

During a segment on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said all three RBs will play against the Dolphins.

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I don't see how Channing Crowder (groin) plays against Buffalo. He hasn't practiced in nearly a month. He isn't running or cutting. He cannot possibly be in football shape now because he hasn't hit anyone for a long time.

Sparano kept hinting he was not worried about Crowder's availability for the Buffalo game as late as last week. He obviously has information we do not and he's not sharing it right now. So maybe the miraculous happens.

(The Dolphins, by the way, fine players if they speak to the media about their injuries -- something the players will eventually figure out gives the team an advantage over opponents, but also gives the team an advantage over them, too.)

Anyway, my naked eyes tell me not to expect Crowder playing the Bills. Tim Dobbins would be the starter there, if the depth chart can be believed. How's the "throw-in" in the draft-day trade with San Diego looking now?

We get on the Dolphins for blowing it when they pay guys such as Jake Grove $29.5 million and he turns out to be a bust. We should also note with appreciation when they find nuggets like Dobbins.

And, oh by the way, if Dobbins indeed starts and plays well, I'd be getting a little worried if I'm Channing Crowder. He is not promised anything. If he can be replaced by a less-noted, lower-paid player who is healthy then what is the point of keeping him?

Crowder should think about what happened to Grove during this uncapped year in that regard. Or maybe he should think about what happened to Justin Smiley or Matt Roth. Injured guys don't play. And guys that don't play don't stick around here.

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[BROADCAST NOTE: Huge show on Armando and the Amigo on Friday. Guests will include Miami SS Yeremiah Bell, CBS information man Charley Casserly, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, Bernie Kosar, former Bills coach Marv Levy, and the New York Post's Mark CannizzaroArmando and the Amigo is on every weekday morning 6-10 on 640-AM. If you're not in the area, listen on the web here.