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56 posts from September 2010

September 09, 2010

Dolphins cut bad investment Grove, re-sign Procter

The Dolphins have terminated the contract of center Jake Grove. Yes, it was a financial decision based on the fact Grove is not exactly living up to his contract and more money was about to be poured into his bank account if the team didn't make this move.

Grove, 30, signed a $29.5 million contract as an unrestricted free agent last year. It was money not well spent as Grove was injured part of last season starting only 10 games because, as has been his history, he was injured part of the season.

Those 10 games will be the full extent of his contribution for the $14.5 million he got guaranteed.

This training camp and preseason, Grove didn't fare any better. He was nursing an injured shoulder for much of camp and he was unable to beat out Joe Berger for the starting job.

Adding to Grove's issues is the fact his contract called for him to receive a bonus once he played the season-opener against the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins clearly had no desire to throw good money after bad.

The Dolphins filled their vacant roster spot by re-signing Cory Procter. Procter originally signed with Miami as an unrestricted free agent from Dallas on May 24 but was released Sept. 5.

Welcome back, Procter!

On the injury front, ILB Channing Crowder (groin) is apparently not practicing again today. He was not wearing pads and did not participate in individual drills. It's starting to look like Crowder won't be ready for Sunday's game. He hasn't practiced in three weeks. He doesn't look ready to practice today, much less play. Game's getting closer.

Jake Long (Knee) did practice for the second consecutive day.

Meanwhile, Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells was not present for practice for -- at minimum -- the first 45 minutes. Cannot say if he came late.

[Update: Parcells was seen warming up his golf game by swinging a golf club in front of the Dolphins facility while practice was going on out back. He left the facility while the team was practicing. You can do that as the consultant.]

ESPN pundits chime in on the Dolphins

The experts are chiming in on the Dolphins before the season begins. Las Vegas thinks the Dolphins over-under victory total this year is a pedestrian 8.5.

Other pundits, thankfully, have a bit higher opinion.

ESPN's Trent Dilfer is generally on board with the idea the Dolphins will be relevent as the season progresses into the early-January chase for playoff berths.

"I think they’re going to be pretty good," he said Wednesday. "I think they’re very well coached. I think the quarterback will play well – maybe not great – but he’ll play well. I think he’ll be manageable. I think the one thing the Dolphins will do nice with – especially with a veteran coaching staff – is they’ll manage the offense and personnel very well. They won’t give [Chad Henne] too much to handle. They obviously added a dynamic weapon on the outside with Brandon Marshall.

"Defensively, talking to some people there last year, they like the foundation of their defense. I think they know how to stop some of the big boys in that division and in that conference. I think the Dolphins are going to be one of those teams that’ll be in the mix the entire way. It’s really going to come down to they lost a couple close games last year and they’ll have to find out a way to win those tight games. All those teams that are kind of in the middle of the league and are borderline playoff teams, it’s going to come down to learning how to win. First you have to learn how not to lose. I think they’ve made that jump, and now it’s learning how to win these close games. If the Dolphins can do that – and they’re going to need a bunch of them – I can see them competing for the second spot in that division."

Tom Jackson is the elder statesmen of the ESPN analysts, as he's been at the network the longest. He also believes the Dolphins' success or failure will be tied to how they come out of close games.

"Well any team that’s fortunate to have [Bill Parcells] understands that you’re going to be a pretty sound football team. Everything right now has pretty much gone as planned. Chad may have been thrown in a little sooner than expected with Pennington’s injury but the plan was for him to come in and be the starter. I think they have an outstanding running game. I’m still old school enough to believe in that, so Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams with the Wildcat. I think they’re the only team that – they run the Wildcat differently than everybody else. You only need to look at the numbers t understand how effective and efficient they are with it. I actually had coach Parcells draw this thing up week in and week out when he was with us, and I would tell him it wouldn’t work and he would tell me it would. And when it was finally unleashed, I saw that he might know a little more about 1930s single wing and double wing than I did.

"They do have a dynamic weapon. I think they have some secondary weapons as well, but might be in as tough a division as there is in football. They lost a couple outstanding pass rushers on the outside. They got to figure out how to get in and get after the quarterback. It is key for them. Chad Henne has to come along. He has to develop a little quicker than he’d like to. But I will say this, he will be helped along by coach [Tony] Sparano and a very sound game plan at running the football. Any team that has Parcells even as a consultant will do the small things well. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot that much. At the end of those games – down by 2, up by 3, and chance to win – I don’t have every answer, but I’ll be very interested to see how many of those games they can walk away with."

September 08, 2010

Dolphins pick captains but none QBs

The Dolphins have chosen captains this year, as voted upon by players. The interesting results:

Jake Long for offense.

Karlos Dansby and Yeremiah Bell for defense.

Patrick Cobbs for special teams.

All are good choices. But it intrigues maybe only me that neither Chad Henne nor Chad Pennington are captains. I understand why they are not. But it is somehow strange to me that they are not because it means the Dolphins players don't think their QBs are the top leaders of their offensive units.

Why?

Henne is understandably not a captain because, let's face it, he hasn't really done anything in the NFL yet to be able to say to other vets, "I know how it is done. Follow me!" I must say Henne has all the makings of a leader -- work ethic, smarts, likelihood that he'll stay out of trouble. But he doesn't have the on-field resume. He doesn't have the history of playing well and with consistency for a period of time. Maybe next year.

Pennington has all the things necessary to be a team captain and has been a team captain in the past. But let's face it, he is a backup player now. It is hard to say, "I know how it is done. Follow me!" when the place he is leading them to is the bench. Not Pennington's fault, but it is a fact.

So the offensive captain will be Long, who has been in the league only three years, but has been a Pro Bowl player and a no-nonsense kind of (large) man. It makes sense.

I think.

Long, by the way, practiced  on a limited basis today. Channing Crowder did not practice.

Bills preparation begins with Long, minus Crowder

The Dolphins are working out today, with an 11 a.m. practice, and the view during the open media session offered both a bit of good news and bad.

The good news is that, as expected, offensive tackle Jake Long is practicing. Long suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale and there was some question about his availability for the regular-season opener against Buffalo.

The fact he is working, at least on a limited basis, suggests he will indeed play against the Bills.

The news on Channing Crowder is not quite so positive. Miami's starting inside linebacker is still not practicing today. He was off to the side doing rehabilitation work for what has been reported as an abdomen injury.

The injury report will be out later today and we'll have a full update on that once it is in, including the details of Crowder's injury.

Finally, no surprise in that the Dolphins announced the signing of kick returner Clifton Smith. Smith is a former NFC Pro Bowl special teams player as a kick returner. He averaged 27.6 yards per return for Tampa Bay that year. He had a 97 yard KO return TD and a 70-yard punt return TD that year.

Smith is in his third season. He was cut by the Bucs  after he spent the end of last year on the injured reserve list with concussion problems.

The Dolphins cut offensive lineman Joe Reitz to make room for Smith on the roster. Reitz was with Miami two days.

By the way, Bill Parcells was at practice today. It was in the bubble and Parcells was at his usual chair along the sideline one day after he stepped back from the executive vice president job and became a consultant.

Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey was just on conference call here and was asked what effect the Bill Parcells change would have on the Dolphins and he doesn't really buy Miami will be affected at all. "At 1 o'clock on Sunday it will be a moot point," Gailey said.

[Blog update: Check back later for a full update of what happens in the locker room and during the Tony Sparano press conference.]

September 07, 2010

Dolphins undergo a power shift in one day

The Miami Dolphins on Tuesday underwent a significant and fundamental shift in approach that should interest every fan because while team sources were saying that nothing has changed, indeed, everything has changed.

The club announced in a three-sentence e-mailed statement that Bill Parcells was no longer the football czar, but now a consultant, and that Jeff Ireland was now assuming "full control over all aspects and decisions in regard to the Miami Dolphins football team and support staff."

Before that announcement the Dolphins were, in fact, a two-headed monster.

The Dolphins were a football team located in their Davie, Florida training facility and headed by Parcells as the executive vice president for football operations. And the Dolphins also were a business and marketing operation located at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens and headed by CEO Mike Dee.

Parcells answered only to owner Stephen Ross. Dee answered only to Ross, as well.

But even as these two men rarely crossed paths, even as they served entirely different purposes for the same organization, the power, the prestige and the pull undoubtedly belonged to Parcells and the football side of the operation.

Parcells, with a resume that includes two Super Bowl rings and a history for making winners out of losers, had done precisely that in 2008 when he authored an 11-5 rebirth for Miami out of the ashes of a 1-15 season in 2007. That meant that pretty much anything Parcells wanted, Parcells got.

So even as the Dolphins football side and marketing/business side could not be more opposite in their approach, most every decision that had to be made was almost always made in favor of the football side of the operation.

And the football and business side did clash at times because they are so dissimilar.

The football side loves anonymity and a lunch-pail approach. They hire men that work behind facemasks and they enjoy the reputation of being somewhat aloof and mysterious.

The marketing side is out there and Hollywood, if you will. The marketing side ipainted the stadium in some hideous color scheme, installed an orange carpet entrance and invited celebrities to come see the product and be seen enjoying the product. The marketing side is building a nightclub at the stadium.

The marketing side also spent approximately $3 million to build a radio network and new website to promote the team and, ultimately, sell tickets and make money.

But when the marketing side wanted the football side to help promote the product, the team, the whole organization, the football side could successfully balk by using the Parcells approach as cover. Parcells didn't want his name on billboards, didn't want players shooting Christmas videos for the stadium's big screen replay board during football season, didn't want any distractions that could in any fashion detract the focus from, well, football.

And again, whatever Parcells said was law.

But Parcells has stepped aside now. He's done so willingly, by all accounts, although he has given no explanation for doing so. Parcells did not take four phone calls from The Herald on Tuesday.

But willingly or not, planned or not, Parcells has put Ireland front and center of the football operation.

And while Mike Dee was not Bill Parcells' boss he will hold sway over Jeff Ireland that he never did over Parcells. So Jeff Ireland may not be able to shield the football operation from the business and marketing arm like Parcells did -- just because-I-say-so-style.

The power has shifted from the football side of the operation to the business and marketing side of the operation now. It may not be immediately obvious to outsiders. But eventually the signs of the shift that took place Tuesday will be obvious.

To everyone.

[Broadcast note: The Parcells move and its ramifications will be the primary topic on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, on Wednesday. We'll have receiver Brian Hartline, Bills strong safety George Wilson, and others on air to discuss what this means for Sunday's season-opener. Former QB Art Schlichter will also be on the show to discuss the Ohio State versus University of Miami tilt.] 

Bill Parcells is stepping back from Dolphins control

Bill Parcells is stepping back.

Effecitive immediately general manager Jeff Ireland will assume full control over all decisions pertaining to Miami Dolphins football. This according to a short, carefully worded statement just out from the Dolphins.

In other words, Parcells has given full personnel control to Ireland effective immediately as he previously had given Tony Sparano full coaching control. And, yes, this is clearly a first and important step signaling Parcells' intention to eventually depart the organization.

This was his plan all along and he has decided to implement it at this time.

The full statement from the Dolphins reads as follows: "Effective immediately, Jeff Ireland will assume full control over all aspects and decisions in regard to the Miami Dolphin football team and support staff.This was the intent of the structure put in place in the past. Bill Parcells will remain with the club on a daily consultant basis."

Parcells has effectively taken the training wheels off of Ireland, an eventuality he had been planning when he first took over as Dolphins football czar in 2008 but has pushed harder the last few months.

An example of that happened in the offseason when the Dolphins first learned that defensive end Phillip Merling had torn his Achilles' tendon while working out on his own. Ireland called Parcells in his upstate New York home and asked what the team should do.

Parcells basically said, "You want me to tell you what we're going to do? You tell me what we're going to do."

The two men agreed to hang up, give Ireland a chance to study the situation overnight and propose solutions the following morning. The next morning Ireland called back and told Parcells his plan included signing "bridge" free agents on the market.

Parcells approved that plan -- much like a consultant might -- and Ireland put it to work, signing Charles Grant and Marques Douglas.

That was clear indication that Parcells wanted Ireland to fend for himself, think for himself, control the fate of the team ... himself.

The reasons Parcells has taken this step back from control of the team now is uncertain. The timing intrigues. Clearly, he didn't want to leave the team altogether at this time -- not days before the start of the 2010 season.

That would cause an earthquake within the organization that could distract and hurt Miami's chances on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. What effect this announcement and tomorrow's media frenzy that it will cause within the lockerroom is is unclear.

What is clear is that Parcells is backing away and intends to do so further very soon. He is signed through the 2011 season but is free to leave at any time and still collect his salary, according to a source familiar with his contract details.

So this partial step has happened now. It is possible, even likely, Parcells' full disconnect from the Dolphins will happen before the 2011 season dawns, according to a club source.

Parcells is the only one who really can answer when he intends to leave the organization altogether. He does not typically speak to local media.

He does typically work long hours. He has not missed any Dolphins practice this training camp and preseason. Starting every December he locks himself in his office and studies tape of every college player that will become draft eligible.

Until now, Ireland has worn the mantle of general manager, but every personnel move has gone through Parcells. Every player Miami has drafted or signed has passed under the Parcells microscope.

It is unclear if that will be the case going forward.

It is more likely that Parcells will handle Ireland as he has handled Sparano. Parcells makes himself available to Sparano for advice but not necessarily consent. There have been a handful of incidents that Parcells has not agreed how Sparano has handled the team -- one among them benching of a player in the last two years for disciplinary reasons.

But Parcells has never over-ruled Sparano. He had previously disagreed with and over-ruled Ireland. That is likely to change. He is now apparently more likely to give his advice and allow Ireland to make his own decision.

And by the time the 2010 season is over, Parcells will make his own decision that no one else will have the ability to alter -- whether and how he will leave the Dolphins altogether.

September 06, 2010

Will Allen not happy to be on IR - understandably

Will Allen is on injured reserve. And he's not very happy about it.

Allen, out on injured reserve for the second consecutive season, has told multiple sources how unhappy and displeased he is with the fact the Dolphins decided to effectively shut him down for the 2010 season and not hold a roster spot open for him until he could return to full health.

That timetable for Allen returning to full health was initially reported as the first game of the season but the truth is Allen isn't ready now. Multiple sources are saying he would more likely be ready to contribute in the Miami secondary by the start of October or the Oct. 4 game against New England.

The Dolphins decided against holding a roster spot open for Allen, privately telling The Herald's Jeff Darlington there were too many uncertainties with that timetable. Publicly, the club has shown no desire to explain its thinking on placing Allen on injured reserve.

"I'm not going to get into the specific reasons why we did any of these things," Coach Tony Sparano said this week when asked the reason for Allen being shelved. "But it's something that had to be done right now."

Allen disagrees, according to those close to him. In the days following his Aug. 11 arthroscopic surgery, Allen felt like he had turned the corner on the injury that forced him to miss all of the 2009 season. Yes, he had passed his physical and was practicing at the start of training camp, but he didn't feel quite right.

He felt right following the latest surgery and all he wanted, I am told, was a couple of weeks to prove that on the field.

He will not get that chance.

So why is this even a topic?

Well, the Dolphins have had issues in the secondary, and particularly at cornerback, this preseason. Sean Smith struggled. Jason Allen, often dismissed as only a special teams player after being selected in the 2006 first round, showed more promise than in the past.

And although Jason Allen wasn't stellar, himself giving up scoring plays in the preseason, he displaced Smith as the starter for the regular-season opener at Buffalo on Sunday. Sparano confirmed that Monday.

"The decision hasn't been made all the way," Allen said Monday. "But I'm preparing like I'm the starter. That's how I always prepare and this week is no different."

There is nothing here that suggests benching Smith for Allen is the wrong decision. That is a coaching decision and Sparano and his staff know better than anyone, certainly better than me, which players they have confidence in starting.

But the question that lingers is why the rush to discard Will Allen? Sure, there is uncertainty about his return to health. But tell me what is guaranteed in today's NFL, anyway?

Why not hold the roster spot open for a week or two just in case the Allen prognosis turns from a question mark to an exclamation point? And if that question mark lingers, then the Dolphins could put Allen in IR and move on.

The Dolphins, silent on the matter, might argue that roster spots are precious and they cannot hold any spot open for Allen. Really?

So the waiver wire additions of Joe Reitz, Robert Rose, Jermey Parnell and Clifton Geathers were all that important? Do these unproven, untested guys come with no uncertainty?

Are they all more likely to contribute to the Dolphins this season than Will Allen would once he got fully healthy?

And, yes, I know it is uncertain Allen would reach 100 percent health regardless of what sources are saying. But one must admit it is uncertain the young untested guys taking up the roster spots will ever help the Dolphins in any way, either.

We'll see how it works out.

[Broadcast note: Tune in to Armando and the Amigo Tuesday morning 6-10 a.m., as our guests will include former Bills WR Steve Tasker, who is broadcasting Sunday's game, Mike Florio of profootballtalk.com, Dolphins Pro Bowl safety Yeremiah Bell, former Mets GM Steve Phillips, and Jacksonville State head coach Jack Crowe, fresh off his team's upset of Ole' Miss. If you're not in South Florida, listen live here.]

Long, Crowder not practicing as Bills week begins

The Dolphins are working this Labor Day morning but not everyone is on the field as the team begins preparation for Sunday's season-opener at Buffalo.

The Miami Herald's David J. Neal reports that neither Jake Long (knee) nor Channing Crowder (unknown injury) are working. Both are on the field and stretching but neither is in gear and seemingly ready to participate in today's work. Long is wearing a brace on his left knee.

Lydon Murtha is working as the first-team left tackle today.

Now, climb off the ledge.

This is not by any means a final indication that both will miss the season-opener. Every indication has been that both will be able to play against the Bills -- including Long saying he'd be fine, and coach Tony Sparano saying he wasn't concerned about Crowder missing the game.

But ...

Well, we won't know for sure until game time. The Dolphins must release an injury report on Wednesday so we'll get a clearer indication if today's time off is a cause for greater concern than we might currently be inclined to have. 

The Dolphins today announced their seven-man practice squad. Six of the seven were with the team in training camp. The members today are:

DB Jonathon Amaya, DE Ryan Baker, G Ray Feinga, LB Chris McCoy, WR Julius Pruitt, LB Austin Spitler and TE Nathan Overbay, who spent training camp with the Denver Broncos.

September 05, 2010

A busy day-after cutdown day for the Dolphins

The Dolphins did more adjusting of their roster on Sunday, and as we discussed yesterday, the veteran defensive ends that made the final cuts Saturday won't be around for the team meeting Monday morning.

Will Allen also won't be around this year as he has been placed on injured reserve. Don't be surprised if Allen's Dolphins career comes to an end after he's healthy. He is signed through 2011 but it seems unlikely the team will pay him his scheduled $5.5 million for that season after he's missed almost two seasons with the same knee injury. Bringing him to camp next year will be an expensive risk the Dolphins may decide not to take.

Anyway, for an overview of the roster moves the team made Sunday click here.

Coach Tony Sparano met with the media late Sunday afternoon. It was a meeting that showed that the regular-season and it's pressures are here because Coach didn't seem eager to share anything that might help the Buffalo Bills.

Explain why the team made the roster decisions it did? No.

Give an update on Jake Long's knee injury? No.

Give an update on Channing Crowder? Nope.

 I get it, good for the Dolphins ...

One answer that stuck out like a sore thumb was when Sparano was asked if he'd bring back David Martin, who was cut yeterday.

"We'll see," he said.

Um, no we won't see. Martin has joined the Buffalo Bills and by tomorrow will be downloading for Buffalo not only what the Miami offense is about, but perhaps telling offensive coaches about all the blitz packages Miami is using in practice. Ouch.

The Dolphins open the season Sunday against Buffalo.

I'm sure the Dolphins will say all that information sharing is over-rated. But I'd rather have a former Buffalo player giving the Dolphins information than have a former Miami player giving Buffalo information, that's for sure.

Anway, what follows is everything coach Sparano said to the media today:

(On why Will Allen was put on IR) –“Well, I’m not going to get into any specific reasons why we did any of these things. But I just think that - something that had to be done right now.”

(On the team being very young and how many rookies are on the roster) –“18 total. Well (I mean) there’s 18 first or second year players, whether they be rookies or first or second year players on the roster right now. But there’s 23 guys on the roster that are five years or better. So, there’s a good mix I think on the team as you look at it right now - you’re trying to develop some young players and you have some of the young players that you have developed in that mix and then you have a good group of veteran players. I always thought that those five six year guys made up really your varsity - they were those guys that kind of grew up in your program a little bit. We’ve been fortunate now because we have a good group of 3 year guys right now on the team too with Jake Long and (Chad) Henne and (Kendall) Langford and these people here (you know) so, that’s been a real positive group for us too. So, I like the makeup of the team. The strengths are good. There’s youth and then there’s some certainly some veteran leadership there.”

(On how much did his experience with players like Davone Bess or Dan Carpenter (undrafted college free agents) in the past help him make the decisions that were made) -  “I’d say quite a bit, yeah sure. I think that one of things with Davone Bess when he came in here that you learned is that - we got a chance to evaluate really a guy that was ahead of the curve I think from a receiving standpoint. You’ve seen this guy come into a NFL camp show great stamina during the camp - it wasn’t too big for him at times, well most times I should say, it wasn’t too big for him. And played good in the games when he would have the opportunity to. So, he learned a little bit from Davone (Bess) in that situation and I kind of felt like these two players have really done a lot of those things. (I mean) every challenge that we’ve thrown in front of these two guys, they have answered really. Had very few days out there where concentration issues and any of those things were factors. So, it didn’t look like it was too big for them and when they went to the games they played pretty good. Not to mention that both of these guys can do a little bit more than maybe what they’ve been.

(On what he envisioned in Pat White when he was first drafted to the team) - “Just a young developing quarterback, that’s all, really. It didn’t have anything to do with - it didn’t have anything to do with wildcat or any of those things. We liked the quarterback prospect and I think that the wildcat stuff, all of those things were icing on the cake. We knew that we would get those things in Pat (White) and could have had those things in Pat (White) that way. We used him in a few games in those situations, but, this was again a hard decision. Not an easy decision because he is a young player that has good developmental skills. It’s more about what the other people at the position did I think in this situation. You look at what Tyler (Thigpen) has done in his time here right now. And he’s played a lot of snaps and had a lot of opportunity to both have success and/or fail. And we felt like Tyler (Thigpen) has made good strides and he’s a young players. He’s one of these four year guys that we’re talking about and then of course (Chad) Henne who’s a three year player in that group, so. We really feel like the quarterback position and the decision on Pat (White) really had more to do with what the other people did, including Chad Pennington.”

(On how he looks at the 2009 Draft) – “I just - I think you got to - you can’t, you certainly can’t dwell on the “what ifs” on any of those types of things. I think you got to look back and you got to try to think about what you got out of it. I mean I look at guys like (Chris) Clemons and some of these people and say hey, these are pretty positive guys right now that maybe - who knows, a while ago we were thinking we needed - we had to have a free safety and we had to go out and spend a lot of money for one and maybe there’s one there that we got in the fifth round, so.”  

(On if he looks at that and uses it as a learning experience) – “I think we evaluate everything we do. I think you go through this and you evaluate everything you do with the ones that maybe didn’t work out. But I also think you got to look at the ones that have worked, okay, and you got to look at these ones that you’ve stolen. And part of our philosophy here, and I’ve made that very clear is just that the time after that you’re off, okay, this whole free agent period right now, for us is an extension of the draft. It’s no different than accumulating seventh round picks right now. So, and I think that we’ve done a pretty good job in that phase right now to see ... really we’ve had three free agents make the team right now with the two young guys in receivers and Micah (Johnson). So, that’s - those are like added draft picks for us.” 

(On how tough it was to let go of David Martin)– “Yeah, it was really tough, really tough. So, (You know) in the last - in that. I told the team yesterday, I said look, I don’t expect anybody really - you certainly - nobody needs to feel sorry for me in this situation, that’s part of my job. But it wasn’t a good day yet it was a good day in that once the decisions were made, we were able to move on and really get a good look at this 53-man squad right now and you have excitement and enthusiasm about what lies ahead with this 53-man squad right now. (I mean) I like the makeup of it. But those decisions when you’re making them, they’re hard decisions, (I mean) they really are because (you know) you know these people personally and in one way or the other they’ve done something for you. And I’m not naïve enough to know that David Martin isn’t a guy that’s done something for me since I’ve been here and I appreciate that.” 

(On if Jermey Parnell is going to play offensive line and tight end) –“Right now he’s going to play offensive line, so.”

(On if they’re going to head into the season with just two tight ends for now) –“Well that’s the way we’re heading right now. We’ll see.”

(On if there’s any chance on bringing David Martin back) – “Well see.”

(On if John Nalbone can be a legitimate pass catching threat in the offense) – “I think so, yeah. I think that John, one of the - I think one of John’s redeeming qualities is the fact that he can run and catch down the field and we’ve seen it in practices we’ve seen it that way. We’ve seen it over the last year, so this is a guy that we think has gotten a lot better right now. He’s certainly has made improvement along the way. We’ll just have that - time will tell. (I mean) this guy hasn’t been in a game yet. So, we’ll see.”

(On if he’s still looking for something with the backup offensive lineman) – “Kind of still looking for the right combination of people. I think we’re a little bit closer to the right combination of people certainly. And I think the additions of the people that we just added here recently I think will help us with (Jermey) Parnell and (Joe) Reitz. So I think that that’ll help us a little bit right now. But I think one of the things you can’t - you got to be careful not to - when you’re putting a line together make sure that you have tackles - those positional players are a little different than - you want to have good - you want to have a number of backs those type of people because I think as you get on in this thing later on they’re hard to find. So, from my end, position flexibility some of those things maybe guys that can do a few more jobs and help a little bit. Now (Cory) Procter was one of those guys, he could do some jobs but I think there’s some other guys here including couple of the ones that we just brought in that we feel like can do some of those jobs.”

(On if the team is making an effort to become younger; accurate or coincidental) – “It’s just coincidental in those areas. I just think that - I think one of the things within the defensive line area is that you do have a couple of young developing players there that we just picked up. So I think - and they’re guys that we thought highly of. So, had they not been out there in that situation we certainly maybe wouldn’t have done what we did today. But because they were out there in that situation we had the ability to get them and we thought highly of them in the draft. This was an opportunity to get a couple of players that were young and developed and in what we’re finding out is that these interior guys - you know they’re the guys that play the most plays at the end of this whole thing. It isn’t the receivers it isn’t the running backs it isn’t those people. These guys go out there and they’re playing 75-80 plays at the level that they have to play from a physical standpoint you just don’t have enough of them and you would hope that they would be young enough and have enough stamina to do what you need them to do.”

(On his comfort level with his corner backs) – “Well I think one of the things is, obviously I feel comfortable with the group. I think Vontae’s really had a really good camp, so I feel really comfortable there. I thought Jason Allen had a really productive camp. I think Sean’s (Smith) gotten better. I know that Sean had a couple rough go’s at times in a few ball games, but I feel the guy’s gotten better. He’s another one of these two year players, so from that end. The addition of Nolan Carroll I think is going to be a good addition for us there, and Benny (Sapp is a good addition). I think those that people will help us a little bit; they give us jobs at the game and at the same time are competitive corners. I can remember coming in here my first year and being able to look around at some of the names at that time and now where we are right now. I mean we got five corners that I feel like can go in the game and compete. We’ll see, I mean I know they’re young; I got it, but they were young last year too.”

(On what he likes about the newly acquired Pat McQuistan) – “Pat McQuistan is a guy that of course I had with me in Dallas and I brought him in as a free agent at the time and he is a, first of all he’s a smart player, second of all he can play a few positions. He’s a durable player; the guy I mean he keeps going and a really strong guy. There’s a lot of things I like about Pat that way and I’ve had good experience with him. He’s helped himself in the last, you know the last year or so since I’ve been gone where he’s kind of been able to go in and play guard. In our game the other night he played two positions; he played and really on both sides, so he really played all four spots except for center out there in the course of the game which was pretty good.”

(On whether he would have had more patience with Will Allen’s injury if Vontae Davis and Sean Smith hadn’t seen so much playing time last season) – “I mean just, obviously knowing more about Sean and Vontae and seeing the progress of Jason Allen makes those decisions easier I think. Getting the surprise, I wouldn’t call it a surprise, I shouldn’t call it that, but seeing the progress of Nolan Carroll throughout this whole camp. I think those type of guys make that decision a little bit easier. I mean it certainly isn’t an easy decision though to be able to do that with a ten year guy.”

(On whether he has any information on Channing Crowder’s unspecified injury) – “No, no more information that I’m going to give you today. So I believe Wednesday’s the first time I really have to do that.”

(On this year’s expectations compared to his first two seasons as head coach) – “To me the expectations are really high going into this season, no question about it. I think that for us, we want to be in the playoffs, so those are the expectations. Now some people can stand up there and talk about it and not really feel like they have a chance to do it but think it’s the right thing to say, okay. I really believe that we have a chance to do this. This football team walking in the door on Monday knows the expectations clearly, okay. They’re not going to back down from the expectations, and that’s what I would tell you. I mean the expectations for us are that we continue to improve here and get to the playoffs and give ourselves a chance.”

(On what positions newly acquired Jermey Parnell and Joe Reitz play on the offensive line) – “Yeah, guard and tackle; again, Reitz can do a little bit of both. So, a Nate Garner like type of guy.”

(On whether Pat McQuistan is also a Nate Garner type of player) – “Yeah I mean, so same deal. So now you’re gaining on me and I know that, I don’t want to spend a lot of time with this but like with Cory (Proctor), you think well you lost a guard, okay and that type of thing, but you really did gain two you know here in these couple moves too. They can play guard and tackle which helps you a little bit.”

(On the status of Jake Long’s knee) – “You’ll find out Wednesday.”

(On Quentin Moses and his value to the team) – “Here’s what I think Quentin has done right now. In the ball games that Quentin has played in, of course he missed a game there. This guy against the run I think is probably one of the better guys that we’ve had against the run. I mean he’ll punch you; he can knock the tight end back. With he and Ike (Ikaika Alama-Francis) and Koa (Misi) right now, you feel a little bit stronger there, and what he’s done is he’s also gone in the game and given you a little bit of pass rush. Now he’s done that even last year at times when we brought him up in the few opportunities that we did bring him to the game, he was able to rush the passer and get to the quarterback a little bit that way. I think those are the things he’s done; what he needs to do right now is he needs to continue to, to progress on special teams because that’s going to be important for him as we get on in this thing too is that, that role gets better, but I think that that’s what he’s done.”

The answer on whether Anthony Becht is an option

Yesterday I speculated that the Dolphins might consider Anthony Becht as they review their tight end position and perhaps add a player. It makes sense because Becht is a solid blocker-type, which the Dolphins love and, more importantly, he's a Bill Parcells guy because Parcells drafted him in the first round of the 2000 draft.

Well, today there is no longer any need to speculate.

I'm told by a league source the Dolphins are not interested in Becht. He is 33 years old, he just got cut by the Arizona Cardinals, and the club is apparently going in another direction for the time being.

Perhaps the club revists the idea going forward (yeah, me speculating again) but as of today, Becht is not in Miami's plans. 

Battle for the starting C spot settled ... for now

The battle for the starting center spot was perhaps the most heated competition in training camp for the Dolphins.

And the winner is ... Joe Berger.

Didn't I tell you guys that on Aug. 18? Here it is right here in case you missed it the first time.

The interesting thing is that Berger has won the starting job for the regular-season opener. But this is a battle that may continue throughout the season.

The fact is Jake Grove doesn't seem 100 percent healthy as he nurses a shoulder injury. So Berger, who has played well and is healthy, gets the call versus the Bills.

But Berger must continue to play well even as Grove returns to health. Once Grove is 100 percent healthy, the Dolphins will re-evaluate the situation. At that point, it could be that Grove is the better call. At that point, it could be Berger is playing so well the Dolphins won't make a switch.

I cannot predict the future so I can't tell you what will happen then. I can tell you Berger is the Dolphins starting center against Buffalo. 

I'm off today (Sunday). Follow Jeff Darlington for all the latest Dolphins news today. I will be back to work Monday morning on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, on 640-Sports in South Florida. If you're not in South Florida, you can listen here every weekday 6-10 a.m. 

September 04, 2010

Cutdown day the list: Not any surprises, really

The Dolphins needed to make 20 moves today to get down the NFL mandated 53-man limit by 6 p.m.

They waived Kevin Hobbs, Rolly Lumbala, Chris McCoy, Nate Ness, Julius Pruitt, Austin Spitler, Donald Thomas, Pat White, Patrick Turner, Erik Walden, Ryan Baker, Ross Weaver, Lionel Dotson, Jonathon Amaya, J.D. Folsom, Andrew Gardner, Andrew Hartline and Ray Fienga.

The Dolphins also terminated the contracts of David Martin and Montavious Stanley.

Twenty names. Twenty moves.

The Dolphins are at the NFL roster limit.

Are you surprised by any of this?

Perhaps the David Martin termination is surprising. His agent, Terry Williams, told me he was surprised by it. But if you look at the depth chart, Martin was running third behind both Anthony Fasano and John Nalbone.

It is likely the Dolphins didn't want to pick up Martin's $755,000 contract which would be guaranteed for the year if he is on the roster the first week. Also, the Dolphins will be looking for TE help. Anthony Becht, cut in Arizona on Friday, is a possibility. He was drafted by Bill Parcells in the first round back with the Jets.

The waiving of Turner and White means the Dolphins blew it with a second-round and third-round pick in 2009.

Miami will go with three quarterbacks -- Chad Henne, Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen -- in that order with Pennington being the long-term backup. That means that if Henne is injured and out for the year, Pennington is the player who takes over. What is uncertain is whether the Dolphins will use Thigpen in a package similar to the one they used with Pat White last year. That would mean Thigpen would be active every week while Pennington would be inactive.

That package's name, assuming it exists? WildThig?

Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace made it as undrafted free agent wide receivers. Amazing! 

Another undrafted free agent -- Micah Johnson, who was picked up after training camp began when the Giants waived him -- has made the team.

Interestingly perhaps only to me, Quentin Moses has made the team for now. He missed nearly two weeks of the preseason nursing an injury but earned a spot anyway.

I say for now on so many of these because the Dolphins are spending tonight looking through the wires for the talent on other teams. So none of the guys that make up roster spot Nos. 53, 52, 51, or 50 should rush out to buy a house.

Cutdown day arrives, players depart

Coach Tony Sparano will speak to the media in about an hour and he may or may not announce all of Miami's roster moves today. [Update 2:30: Sparano's presser has been postponed to Sunday. It makes sense because as you will read further on down the team is making cuts today but today's 53 may not necessarily be the 53 that goes into Buffalo week.]

This is what we know so far:

Pat White has been cut, Parick Turner has been cut, J.D. Folsom has been cut, Austin Spitler has been cut, Ryan Baker has been cut, Donald Thomas has been cut, Montavious Stanley has been cut. Baker, Spitler and Turner are practice squad eligible.

Others likely to get the axe in the coming minutes include Lionel Dotson and Andrew Gardner. Rolly Lumbala, Julius Pruitt, Erick Walden, Kevin Hobbs and Ross Weaver also have reason to worry about job security today.

The defensive line will likely be Jared Odrick, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel, Charles Grant, and Marques Douglas. By the way, do not be surprised if either Douglas or Grant aren't on the team on Monday. I'm told the club will be searching the waiver wire and other sources for a younger defensive end to replace one of these veterans. The idea is to have a player that can be a contributor beyond one season. Grant and Douglas are likely one-year contributors. Obviously, this will depend on Miami's ability to find better, younger players on the market.

The Dolphins will keep three quarterbacks -- Chad Henne, Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen -- barring a last-second trade offer from some team.

Benny Sapp, acquired from the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago, makes the team. Pat McQuistan, acquired from the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, makes the team.

The club is expected to keep Lydon Murtha.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are not interested in T.J. Houshmandzadeh, according to a source. Houshmandzadeh has been cut by the Seattle Seahawks.

Watch the tight end situation closely. I'm hearing that David Martin is on the outs and John Nalbone will make the team. The Martin portion makes sense because if he is on the roster the first week of the season, his entire salary is guaranteed. The Dolphins probably do not wish to do that.

Again, the Dolphins won't necessarily go with only two tight ends. The waiver wire may add a player at that position. It is also possible Martin gets re-signed after the first week of the season.

[Update 3:25: Martin has indeed been cut, according to his agent.]

September 03, 2010

The reaction from the lockerroom following Dallas loss

Interesting game this one. I thought we'd see the Dolphins run circles around the Cowboys for a series or so and get out of Dodge.

The Cowboys cooperated by serving up their second-teamers as sacrifice to Miami's starters. The list of Dallas players that never took a snap in this game reads like a Pro Bowl roster: Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten, Leonard Davis, Keith Brooking, Terence Newman and Doug Free all DID NOT PLAY for Dallas.

In fact of their 22 starters on offense and defense, only two started for the Cowboys. Montrae Holland and Michael Hamlin drew the short straws for the Cowboys and had to start.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, went with their full complement of starters except for a handful of playes held out for injury reasons. Jake Grove, who has an injured shoulder, had trouble finishing practices for  the Dolphins this week, according to coach Tony Sparano, so he didn't make the trip. Vontae Davis did travel but was held out for "precautionary reasons," Sparano said. Channing Crowder also missed his third preseason game.

The rest of the starters played. And played. And played.

"The plan was that Jake [Long], Karlos {Dansby] and a couple other guys would be in there for three series or so," Sparano said.

The starting offense got 20 plays that stretched into the early part of the second quarter. The starting interior linemen -- Richie Incognito, Joe Berger and John Jerry -- played longer.

The starting defense got 26 snaps as a unit before coming out when Dallas got the ball with one minute left in the first half.

If you want to know my opinion on coach's decision to play his starters beyond that first series against Dallas, click here.  

For a minute there, it looked as if Sparano played Long one play too many. The franchise left tackle got rolled up on his left knee and was down for a couple of breath-stealing seconds. (Relax, he's fine. He was examined and although he didn't return to the game, he wasn't limping or feeling worse for wear afterward. He will start against the Buffalo Bills, assuming nothing outrageous happens in practice next week.)

Anyway, against second- and third-team competition, the Dolphins were down 7-3 at one point before taking a 10-7 lead and then surrendering that lead to go in 10-10 at halftime.

Chad Henne completed six of 11 passes for 53 yards for a 67.6 QB rating. He had one turnover on a fumble and he was sacked twice. Ronnie Brown gained 10 yards on four carries. Ricky Williams had two rushes for 45 yards, including a 42-yarder when he ran through a hole wide enough to fit a bus. Davone Bess was Miami's most consistent receiver catching five passes for 42 yards -- three of those on screen type throws where the QB just lifts up and throws to Bess at the line of scrimmage. Brandon Marshall caught one pass for 6 yards.

"We definitely wanted to improve on last week against the Falcons," Henne said. "And I think in some areas we did. We had a big run. We scored points on the first drive there. But obviously, we want touchdowns. We don't need field goals down there. We need to protect the ball and score more points."

And defensively, in that first half, the Dolphins yielded 163 yards with 143 of them coming through the air. Dallas third-string QB Stephen McGee completed 13 of 19 passes for 152 yards with one TD. His QB rating against Miami's starters was 110.0.

"A lot of people say I'm not good enough," McGee said, "but I know inmy heart how good a quarterback I am. I've said that since day one, it's a matter of [getting] a good opportunity."

One such opportunity came when McGee found Sam Hurd on a 43-yard TD pass. Hurd beat Miami cornerback Sean Smith.

"It's just that one play. That's how it is for me," Smith said. "I hold myself to very high standards. So no matter how well I perform, giving up a play like that is unacceptable. I just have to tighten that up. It's nothing that can't be fixed. Just need to look at the film, find out what I did wrong and do better next week.

"I had perfect coverage. I looked back too soon. When I looked back, I slowed down, the receiver got separation. You give the receivers any little bit of room and the quarterback is going to make that throw. So, I don't know."

I know.

Not good enough. From practically anyone. Offense. Defense. Coaching. Not good enough right now.

I might be alone on this opinion, however.

Coach Sparano seemed to express satisfaction from portions of the performance.

"Last week, I told you guys we couldn’t really take a whole lot from the game from a team standpoint," he began. "This time, I felt like at least we were able to get some things going offensively, and we were able to do some things on a defensive end. It wasn’t really sloppy until the very end (of the game). It was pretty clean."

And the players are apparently very confident despite finishing the preseason with two consecutive losses (whatever that means).

"I think we're definitely motivated," said defensive end Kendall Langford. "We're confident. We know the kind of team we have and we're just going to go [to Buffalo] and take care of business."

Let's hope.

September 02, 2010

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Dallas junior varsity

Let's start with the strange stuff first: Earlier today I was accused by another journalist on his twitter feed of exposing my source when I posted back-to-back blog items that included general manager Jeff Ireland -- the first post on the fact he would look for Dez Bryant today, the second on him asking me if I had my 53-man roster.

I wrote in the first post that Ireland did not want to discuss the Bryant matter. In today's post I said he asked me for my 53-man roster. These are two separate issues. Indeed, Ireland would not talk to me about Dez and then we talked about other things, among them his comment about my 53-man roster.

The journalist for the Palm Beach Post seemed to make the leap that because Ireland talked to me about the 53-man roster, he must have talked to me about Bryant. Not accurate. I have addressed the matter with this journalist and he has apologized, so the matter is closed far as I'm concerned.

Now onto tonight:

There is a live blog. I'm having some technical issues, but we shall plow on.

For the Dolphins, Vontae Davis will not play. I do not know the exact reason for this. He has been practicing. I'm told he did not break any team rules. So we'll find out after the game. Jason Allen will start in his place.

Rookie Micah Johnson will get his big chance tonight at inside linebacker. He will start for the injured Channing Crowder.

For the Cowboys, most of the starter will not play!

Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Doug Gree, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Mike Jenkins, Anthony Spencer, Jason Witten, Felix Jones and Terence Newman will not play.

So the Dolphins had better kick some butt, especially when their first-team players are on the field.

Meet me in the comments section.

Ireland wanted it, he gets Salguero's 53-man roster

On Tuesday when I approached Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland about the Dez Bryant matter, we had a good exchange and he ended it with this question:

"Do you have your 53 yet?"

My 53?

Even I don't care about my 53. I care about Jeff Ireland's 53, and I would bet that's what you (my readers) care about, too.

But since Jeff didn't offer to share with me his 53 until the Dolphins actually cut down to that number by Saturday, it got me to thinking. Why not give you guys my 53 after all?

So, just for kicks, here it is:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (3)

Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Tyler Thigpen.

My thinking: It is hard to cut a second-round pick, in this case Pat White. But he simply has not proven he's an NFL caliber player and it is better to cut losses now than continue to nurture a player who remains undersized and seemingly overmatched. No matter how much he learns the offense or defenses or settles down, he will still be a 5-11 or 6-foot QB in a 6-3 QB world. He will still have an inaccurate arm. He will never be 225 pounds and be able to absorb the hits in or out of the pocket.

Running Backs (5)

Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs, Lousaka Polite, Lex Hilliard.

My thinking: I keep Hilliard because he is a core special teams player and because Brown (injury history) and Williams (age and unpredictability) cannot be counted as certainties to play all 16 games. Cobbs sticks because he adds quickness to the offense when he's in there and he is a fine special teams player.

Wide Receivers (5)

Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Patrick Turner, Marlon Moore.

My thinking: Neither Turner nor Moore should buy houses locally. Not yet. If they do make the team, they will then have to survive the next round of concern, which is have they beaten out the sixth receivers around all the other teams that are now available? I would not feel secure about anything if I were them. And remember, there will be vets on the market in the second week that were cut simply because having them on the roster the first week would have guaranteed their entire season's salaries. Those vets will be signed by teams starting Sept. 13 and 14. Finally, Roberto Wallace is a tough guy to cut. He has that prototype body. He has tons of upside. If he doesn't indeed make it, he screams practice squad to me.

Tight ends (2)

Anthony Fasano, David Martin.

My thinking: Fasano and Martin, who is finally in good shape, have nailed down their spots. I cut John Nalbone, although he probably makes it for the actual Dolphins roster. The team likes him despite his inconsistent training camp and preseason. I went this direction because I fear injuries on the offensive line so I'm keeping an extra OLineman. I also believe the Dolphins can scour the waiver wire for tight ends better than John Nalbone.

Offensive linemen (9)

Jake Long, John Jerry, Vernon Carey, Richie Incognito, Jake Grove, Joe Berger, Donald Thomas, Lydon Murtha, Andrew Gardner.

My thinking: Make no mistake the Nate Garner injury is a definite painful setback. It means the loss of a versatile player that can start with little drop-off from anyone else. The final spots here come down to Donald Thomas vs. Cory Procter and I went with the younger guy, although Procter has at times been better than Thomas this preseason.  I also went with Gardner ahead of Lydon Murtha as the backup tackle. Despite Gardner not having a great training camp, there is still something there about that kid I like. Doesn't mean the Dolphins feel the same way. Also, regardless of whether Murtha or Gardner make the team, the Dolphins will be looking to upgrade off the waiver wire so they should buy a house locally just yet.

DEFENSE:

Defensive Linemen (7)

Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, Charles Grant, Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel, Marques Douglas.

My thinking: Grant and Douglas are renters, no question about that. They probably won't be on the team next year. But they have played well enough to make it for now. I could not put Montavious Stanley on there as well because we don't want three renters on the defensive line. Do not be surprised if the Dolphins put one or two young, hungry, up-and-coming defensive linemen on their practice squad with the hopes of developing them for later this season and next season. And, yes, I know I cut Lionel Dotson. What can I say? Three training camps and he's still a third-teamer? Got to move on.

Linebackers (9)

Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, Micah Johnson, Charlie Anderson, Erik Walden.

My thinking: Right off the top, Austin Spitler missed two weeks of camp with a stomach virus and had a tough time catching up. He does deserve a practice squad spot. Chris McCoy also deserves a practice squad shot. But has either won a roster spot? Not that I've noticed. Tim Dobbins makes it because he's experienced, a good special teams guy and a good man to have in the locker room. Erik Walden, to me, has value on special teams so he makes my team. Micah Johnson is border line, I will grant you. Not fast, much to learn, not polished. But I love that he hits people. He needs to get more downhill, as coach Tony Sparano said, so his tackles come in the hole or the line of scrimmage. But he has potential, in my opinion. This kid will play in the NFL. I say the Dolphins should keep Folsom because, in part, he's OK on special teams but more importantly, because of the uncertain nature of Channing Crowder's injury status -- which increasingly is becoming a yearly issue with him. [UPDATE: My apologizies to Charlie Anderson. Overlooked him earlier. He's on there now. J.D. you're out. But in the real world it will likely come down to Folsom vs. Johnson.]

Defensive Backs (10)

Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Benny Sapp, Nolan Carrolll, Will Allen, Jason Allen, Tyrone Culver, Chris Clemons, Yeremiah Bell, Reshad Jones.

My thinking: Yes, that's a lot of defensive backs but the injury to Will Allen forced this in my view of things. Another mitigating factor for keeping so many is that Carroll should win the kick return job, while Culver and Jason Allen are core special teams players -- meaning they play on all the special teams. Benny Sapp is the early-season insurance as the nickel corner so he makes it. Reshad Jones is going to be a good player and that hope is reason enough not to cut him and expose him to another team plucking him or signing him to their practice squad.

Specialists (3)

P Brandon Field, K Dan Carpenter, LS John Denney.

My thinking: Each of these guys signed contract extensions in the offseason and none have any real competition in camp. Even I can figure this one out.

[BLOG NOTE: The Dolphins and Cowboys finish up their preseason tonight with an 8 p.m. (EST) game. So, yes, there will be a live blog right here then. Join me for it during the game. Right here.]