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61 posts from October 2010

October 31, 2010

The reaction from the Miami locker room

The Dolphins are enjoying a victory Monday tomorrow. Coach Tony Sparano gave them the day off after Miami won its fourth road game in as many games.

The Dolphins are 4-3 and travel to Baltimore next Sunday.

This is what they said from the locker room today, courtesy Jeff Darlington's Miami Minute:

Dolphins beat Bengals, 22-14, to continue road success

   CINCINNATI -- It wasn't pretty. It never is with the Miami Dolphins.

It wasn't pretty. Unless you a field goal kicking guru.

It wasn't pretty. But the Dolphins today escape the Queen City with a 22-14 victory over the hapless Bengals. Miami improves to 4-3. The Bengals are 2-5.

Dan Carpenter kicked field goals and the Miami offense bagged its apparent limit with one TD -- a 1-yard run by Ricky Williams.

The Dolphins seemed to be on their heels defensive in the first quarter. The Bengals came out with a no-huddle approach and scored on their first possession. Jason Allen gave up a TD pass from Carson Palmer to Terrell Owens on that first score.

Then Allen was benched the entire rest of the game. Replacement Sean Smith did a good job and came away with an interception with 2:14 left that put this game to bed.

Your thoughts? 

Carpenter (5 FGs) leads Bengals, 15-14 to start 4th quarter

CINCINNATI -- Dan Carpenter for Pro Bowl!

He connected on his fifth field goal of the day against the Bengals in the third quarter to give the Dolphins a 15-14.

At least the Miami defense has tightened up.

Let's see what happens as we put this puppy to bed.

Bengals lead Dan Carpenter, 14-12 to start third quarter.

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals have gotten two touchdowns from Terrell Owens. They are using the no-huddle to keep Miami's defense off balance. And they have a sliver of a running game.

The Dolphins have Dan freaking Carpenter.

Carpenter has four field goals today, including a 54-yarder as the first half expired. That 54-yarder was the longest of Carpenter's career. And so the Bengals carry a 14-12 lead over Carpenter to start the third quarter.

The live blog rolls on.

Bengals lead Dolphins 7-3 leading to second quarter

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals used the no-huddle attack to do heavy damage against Balitmore last week. The Dolphins must have seen it on tape ... but didn't necessarily come with an answer for it.

The Bengals used the tactic to score on their first possesion -- one that saw Miami defensive backs overmatched by the Benglas WRs. The Dolphins answered with, what else, a field goal.

The second quarter begins now. And the live blog continues in the comments section.

Live blog an opportunity to understand Dolphins offense

CINCINNATI -- I love game days. They answer questions. They speak strongly and authoritatively over the speculation.

There has been much speculation about the Miami Dolphins offense this week. As I point out in my weekly Dolphins Sunday column the Dolphins have scored the fewest points in the AFC and that simply does not compute when you consider the tons of resources, draft picks and money the club has invested in the unit.

Check it out, because the inventory of resources Miami has used for this offense makes the result puzzling.

But here's the thing: All those resources succeeding or failing will come down to one player, and his name is Chad Henne. If Henne becomes a great player, the rest of the unit will be great. If Henne fails, the compilation of great talent around him isn't going to hide the fact the most important player on the field isn't good enough.

And the biggest problem with that?

The Dolphins are neither allowing Henne to succeed or fail. There seems to be such a collar around him that it is hard to believe Henne is free to either fail or succeed. The Dolphins are only asking Henne to manage games.

And, amazingly, the only time they ask him not to manage games is when they find themselves in a crisis. The only time the Dolphins put the game in Henne's hands is when they're behind. And if they're behind in the fourth quarter, then they really ask him to do things they don't otherwise ever ask him to do.

How does that make sense?

You don't trust the guy in the good times. But when things are going poorly, then you put the game in his hands.

Consequently, we don't know what Chad Henne is yet. He's got good stats, but he's terrible in the fourth quarter. He is fine on third down, but he isn't a quarterback that has proven his mettle with a handful of fourth-quarter comeback victories.

Henne is in limbo. We don't know what he is yet. And that's not his fault. That's where the Dolphins have placed him.

Join me for the live blog today starting in the comments section below. I'll update you with the inactives when they are released.

[UPDATE: Davone Bess will replace Brian Hartline as Miami's No. 2 WR today.]

[UPDATE 2: The inactives are Marlon Moore, Reshad Jones, Nolan Carroll, Clifton Geathers, Patrick Brown, Lydon Murtha and Mickey Shuler with Tyler Thigpen as the third QB.]

[UPDATE 3: Johnathan Joseph will not start at CB for the Bengals today. He is inactive. He is replaced by Morgan Trent. Also starting SS Roy Williams is also out. Reggie Nelson will start at SS for the Bengals.]

October 29, 2010

Dolphins must decide what they are going to be in 2010

The Dolphins this year have beaten Buffalo (0-6), Minnesota (2-4) and Green Bay (4-3). They've lost to New England (5-1), the Jets (5-1) and Pittsburgh (5-1).

So that basically tells you the Dolphins cannot beat the really good teams, but they can handle the bad or struggling teams quite well.

Eventually, the Dolphins have to decide if they are more than just a team that will only pretend to hang with the good teams. "We're just trying to make that leap and decide that we want to be a good team," running back Ricky Williams told the Cincinnati media on a conference call. "But right now we're just kind of back and forth."

This week sounds like a forth "kind of" week. The Bengals are not elite. They have a 2-4 record which suggests they have a myriad issues and further suggests the Dolphins can prosper against them on Sunday.

So the outlook is good this weekend.

But is that what the Dolphins really want to be? I don't think so. Coach Tony Sparano has been telling his players that they have reached the time in the season when teams start to pick what they are likely to become. The good teams get on a roll. The bad teams struggle. The mediocre teams continue to have good weeks followed by bad.

So you will soon start to see what these Dolphins really are.

Remember the Dolphins follow this supposedly winnable game with a trip to Baltimore, which is a much tougher, much more likely playoff contender. Will the Dolphins win this weekend and lose the next?

That would just keep them on the .500 roller coaster.

Sparano has implored his team to be better than that.

Do they have it in them?

October 28, 2010

Running game isn't even average on per carry rate

Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning admits the Dolphins rushing attack does not exactly resemble the barbarian hordes running roughshod through the defenses of the Roman Empire back in ancient times. (The Romans, you see, had injuries to their linebacker corps and didn't protect the bridges or northern frontier very well.)

"We're not happy with the way the running game is going right now," Henning said today during his 10-minute weekly window for speaking with the media. 

That is actually more of an admission than coach Tony Sparano was willing to offer Wednesday. The Dolphins are averaging only 3.8 yards per carry this year and Sparano was asked if that is efficient or good enough.

“It’s not satisfactory but an efficient play, okay in this league is what?" Sparano said, uncharacteristically challenging the reporter (not me). "You tell me; give me the number. You guys make them up.”

Ouch.

Actually, the media doesn't make up that number. The league average gain per rushing play is 4.2 yards per carry. So the reporter told coach Sparano a good rushing play, an efficient play gains 4.6 yards.

“No, that’s not an efficient play, 4.6," Sparano insisted. "That was our average, 4.6. That’s not an efficient play. You tell me."

The reporter lowered the bar and said 4.0 yards per carry, even though average -- just average -- is 4.2 yards per carry leaguewide. 

“Four yards, we’re at 3.8," Sparano said with a shrug that seemed meant to bridge the gap between 4.0 and 3.8.

Neither one is good enough. Neither one is even good enough to be average.

Sean Smith's time to return as starter has come

What was it Dennis Green once famously said? "[They] are who we thought they were!"

Well, guys, I recognize there has been much love (and deservedly so) for Jason Allen's surge to a starting cornerback role this season. And I recognize he has shown marked and obvious improvement from his four previous seasons when he wasn't able to crack the starting lineup.

But, with respect, he is who I thought he was. He is not, in my opinion, a good option as a starting cornerback for the Dolphins. In other words, I think the time is close to return Sean Smith to his role as Miami's primary right cornerback.

The coaching staff suggested that move might be in the works by playing Smith and Allen an almost equal number of snaps against Pittsburgh last Sunday. And Smith suggested on his twitter feed he might see more action this week versus Cincinnati, saying Wednesday "LOL 24 got action this week!!!"

My plan is to ask Smith straight up if he's starting this week against the Bengals on Thursday because he is scheduled to call my Armando and the Amigo radio show in the 6-7 a.m. hour. You can listen to the podcast on the site if you miss the interview live.

[UPDATE: Smith came on the show at 6:15 and after I asked him about Dr. J (makes sense if you were listening) I asked if he's starting this week. "I'm back," he said. "I can't wait to get out there and make some plays."]

So why is the timing right to re-install Smith as the starter at RCB?

Well, Smith has been practicing well according to one club source, and while Allen hasn't declined and does lead Miami with three interceptions, he has had some difficult moments in coverage recently. The most recent moment he'd like to erase was the TD bomb he gave up to Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace last week.

This week the assignment gets no easier as the Bengals will attack with accomplished receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. 

"Now you've got to pick your poison," Ochocinco said this week. "Which one you want to stop? You stop me, T.O. will kill you. You stop T.O. and I can hurt you in many ways so it goes hand in hand. You got two elite receivers on the same team that can really play. It's refreshing. It's just not adding up to what we thought it would be yet."

And the Dolphins have to do what they must to make sure it doesn't start this week. 

October 27, 2010

Some numbers about the Dolphins offense

If you know me, you know I'm not a numbers guy. If you read this blog, you know I run away from statistics and paint the picture with words. If you listen to my radio show, Armando and the Amigo every morning on 640-Sports in South Florida, you are aware I hate math.

But sometimes the numbers tell the tale.

So let me share some numbers with you about Miami's increasingly underwhelming offense:

How about the number 0? Zero is the number of times the Dolphins have succeeded on fourth-down attempts this year. They are 0-for-4. Zero.

How about the number 1? That's the number of rushing touchdowns the Dolphins have through six games. One. The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown in the backfield. They have Ricky Williams in the backfield. Both are in contract years so they're trying to impress. They have one rushing touchdown between them and that is that as far as the rest of the team is concerned.

One!

How about the number 2? That's how many TDs former Dolphins OLB David Bowens scored against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints on Sunday. He picked two passes out of the air and ran for two scores. You know how many TD passes Brandon Marshall has picked out of the air this year?

One. Marshall has one TD grab this year. Cleveland OLB David Bowens has two. Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall last week scored more touchdowns in one game than Marshall has in six games for the Dolphins.

That isn't necessarily an indictment of Marshall, although he bares some responsibility. But it does raise eyebrows of why the struggling Miami offense hasn't targetted him more in the red zone. It also raises questions why Chad Henne hasn't gotten the ball to Marshall more in the end zone.

Speaking of Henne ...

How about the number 8? Eight is the number of passes over 21 yards he has attempted this year. That is slightly more than one per game (1.3) and less than half of what he attempted last year (2.8). That is also the lowest in the league of any QB who has started every game.

Reader Chad Hagans sent along this list of QBs and the number of their attempts of 21-yards or more this season:

Matt Ryan: 12

Joe Flacco: 28

Carson Palmer: 13

Tony Romo: 21

Kyle Orton: 27

Aaron Rodgers: 26

Matt Schaub: 14

Peyton Manning: 30

Matt Cassel: 9

Brett Favre: 22

Tom Brady: 14

Drew Brees: 21

Eli Manning: 25

Mark Sanchez: 21

Philip Rivers: 28

Alex Smith: 18

Matt Hasselbeck: 13

Sam Bradford: 11

Josh Freeman: 24

Vince Young: 19

Donovan McNabb: 31.

Henne, with eight attempts, is either not going downfield enough or is being prevented from going downfield enough by the play-calling. Either way ... Not enough.

Either way ... not good enough.

If you have any other relevant numbers about the Miami offense you dig up, please share them with me and your fellow bloggers. List them in the comments section. I'm interested to see what you can come up with because, while numbers are not my forte, their meaning is sometimes interesting.

October 26, 2010

Tony McDaniel: New rules on hits slowed me down

The NFL's new mandate against helmet-to-helmet hits and focus on protecting defenseless players did its job in that no such hits were deemed delivered this weekend and the NFL did not impose any fines for such hits.

But if you ask Dolphins defensive end Tony McDaniel, the focus on not delivering such contact had an unintended and unwelcome affect on him.

"I honestly could say, myself, on some plays when I had a clear shot at the quarterback, I kind of slowed down and made sure I hit him in the right spot," McDaniel said. "I definitely think it slows us down a little bit as far as speed and thinking about a fine -- a $75,000 fine, a $50,000 fine. Some guys that's four or five-game game checks so it slows the game down a lot.

"I could say me personally as a player it slowed me down. Most definitely."

Ouch.

McDaniel believes the outgrowth of the new focus on helmet-to-helmet hits is that players will tackle lower. You saw such a tackle by cornerback Sean Smith on Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward. And that kind of play will limit head shots and concussions.

But it will increase the pain elsewhere: At the knees.

"I would rather get a concussion than blow out an ACL," McDaniel said. "Guys are definitely going to go lower now."

October 25, 2010

Dolphins offensive plays calls were curious -- again

Enough of the fumble controversy (for now) because the call will not be overturned or somehow repaired. The Miami Dolphins' 23-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot be erased so no need to continue reliving it.

But what seemingly we continually relive with these Dolphins is the curious if not outright inexplicable play-calling on offense that leaves fans in a frenzy and state of frustration.

Sorry, Dr. Dan Henning, oh sherpa of all things NFL offense. But count me among the folks left scratching their heads following Sunday's game.

I don't understand the strategy on the first two possessions, both inside the Pittsburgh 22-yard line. I didn't understand the strategy of starting a potential game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the game with a running play -- against the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.

Let's take the first two series first. The Dolphins kicked off and got a gift possession when the Steelers fumbled the kickoff and Reshad Jones recovered, giving Miami a first down on the Pittsburgh 22 yard line. Most offensive coordinators today view this as an opportunity to go for the opponent's throat. The Steelers were on the field in an emergency situation and so what do the Dolphins do?

They run an off-tackle play to the right side with Ronnie Brown carrying the ball. It gained 2 yards. Two yards! The Dolphins have the Steelers in a tough spot, in a momentum-capturing moment and they run a routine off-tackle play against the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL.

The next two plays were Chad Henne incompletions. I get the concept of throwing then. No problem. But here's my deal: Neither play went into the end zone. And neither play targetted Brandon Marshall.

The Dolphins, in their wisdom, didn't deem a call for their best receiver as a good option. And the team that has been kicking too many field goals and not scoring enough TDs didn't attack the end zone.

The team still got a field goal and a 3-0 and then got another gift the very next series when Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger fumbled and Koa Misi recovered for Miami at the 13 yard line.

Time to go into the end zone, right? Time to get the ball to Marshall, right?

Nope.

Henning called a Ricky Williams run to the left. It gained zero.

Then Henning called a Ricky Williams run to the right. It gained 8 yards.

Then on third-and-2 from the 5 yard line, Henning called on Williams again, once again testing the right side of the Pittsburgh defense. No gain. Field goal.

Not good enough, Salguero says.

Then there was the aborted attempt to win the game with the two-minute drive at the end. Let me just say that the execution, which is Henning's pet peeve, was bad. Anthony Fasano dropped a pass on second down. Henne threw to the wrong receiver (Lousaka Polite) on third down and that gained only 2 yards. And the fourth down play was a total breakdown of the protection and the communication between the QB and his receivers.

But ...

Why did that drive open with a running play? The Dolphins had taken a timeout, their final timeout, with 2:30 to play before Pittsburgh kicked the game-winning field goal. The idea at the time was to keep the Steelers from letting the clock run down to two minutes.

But then Miami made that timeout of no effect by opening their drive with a run. Either you need the time and you take the time out and then throw the ball. Or you don't need to save time and you don't need the to take the time out. You cannot have it both ways.

But with 2:19 to play, facing the best run defense in the NFL, using a running back that had gained 12 yards on 10 carries, the Dolphins handed the ball off to Brown. The play gained 2 yards.

I'm not playing the results here. I'm saying the Dolphins needed to throw in the end zone to their best receiver when they're inside the other team's 25 yard line after a turnover every single time they find themselves in that situation. I simply believe it's a good idea to get the ball in your best offensive weapon's hands as a philosophy.

And as for the final drive, if you're going to run the ball on first down, don't waste a time out before that. And if you are going to call the time out, which was the right call, then follow that up with another good call and pass the ball to open your two-minute drive.  

Follow me on twitter.

October 24, 2010

Referee from Pittsburgh explains fumble ruling

Referee Gene Steratore spoke to the pool reporter about today's controversial call that was the difference in score between the Dolphins and Pittsburgh. The Steelers won, 23-22 on a field goal made possible when they kept the football following what looked like a fumble in the end zone that was recovered by Miami's Ikaika Alama-Francis.

The refs initially called the play a TD. Then they overturned the TD and said it was a fumble. But they didn't complete the job by giving the ball to Miami.

"Naturally, the ruling on the field was a touchdown by Pittsburgh," Steratore said. "After review it was confirmed in replay the ball did come loose and it was a fumble prior to the ball breaking the goal line. That's where we go into the second aspect of that. In order to overturn this and give another team the football, I have to have clear video evidence of that team recovering the fumble. So when a little short segment of what I said out there. That is what I explained. We did have a fumble, but we did not have video evidence and a confirmation on who recovered the football so we changed an aspect of the play by not awarding Pittsburgh the touchdown. Miami is not charged a time out because we changed an aspect of that play, but we could not award the defense in this situation the football because we don't have video evidence of the defense recovering the ball."

Steratore said officials could not determine who recovered the ball because, "it is a pile of bodies in there and you don't have a clear recovery."

Asked again by he could not determine who recovered the ball, he said, "We confirmed that there was a fumble and we not able to confirm a clear recovery by the defense."

Steratore, by the way, was born in Washington, PA., which is 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. He still lives and has a business in the region.

Dolphins lose to Steelers 23-22 in another home loss

They came close.

But, as with all thing Dolphins at home this year, not close enough to matter.

The Dolphins were victimized by poor play-calling, poor officiating, poor coverage in the secondary and poor fan participation (yes, I said it. The stadium was like a morgue early on).

And the result is a 23-22 loss to Pittsburgh.

Your thoughts?

Steelers lead the Dolphins 20-19 going to 4th quarter

It's a barn-burner.

The Steelers and Dolphins traded field goals in the third quarter and will settle this game in the fourth quarter.

We'll see if that warm-weather advantage actually has teeth today.

We'll see if the Dolphins can win one at home. Finally.

Join me in the comments section.

Steelers lead Dolphins 17-16 going to third quarter

The Dolphins were kicking field goals in the first quarter.

The Steelers scored touchdowns in the second quarter.

Luckily for Miami, Davone Bess got past the goal line on a 26 yard play that showed his heart, will and determination.

So while the Dolphins trail 17-16, it could certainly be a lot worse.

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

Dolphins lead Steelers 6-0 to start second quarter

The Dolphins got the ball inside the 20 yard line after recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff. They kicked a field goal.

Then they recovered a Ben Roethlisberger fumble inside the 20. They kicked a field goal.

Not once did Miami throw the ball in the end zone after the turnovers.

The Dolphins lead 6-0 but it is a tenuous lead. Let's see what happens as the live blog continues in the comments section.

Live blog today as Dolphins take on Steelers

It is an overcast, humid day here at Sun Life.

Driving in, I saw a ton of fans wearing Steelers jerseys. It was more than I would prefer to see. Before we get started with the live blog that we always do on game day (it begins in the comment section below and will migrate every quarter), before I tell you the inactives, I would ask you check out my column in The Miami Herald today.

If you haven't seen it, I take a look at Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells and that entire dynamic. I did a lot of interviews behind the scenes for the column, so I feel confident in telling you what Bill Parcells is likely to be doing as he continues drifting away from the Dolphins, I tell you what trade Ireland tried to make in the days prior to the trade deadline, and I tell you how the Davone Bess contract extension went from dead to done.

Something I've heard this morning that I also have to share with you: Several people have asked me if Ireland was the guy who picked Pat White. Seems that pick more than any other is the measurement of whether a guy is ready to lead a personnel dept. or not.

The truth is Pat White was a Miami Dolphins pick. It was a Parcells pick because he studied the quarterback on film and watched him in West Virginia's bowl game and then in the Senior Bowl and he was smitten. Months before the draft, Parcells told several folks at a spring baseball game he really, really liked White.

Guess what? EVeryone else in the Dolpins organization, including Ireland, went along. I am not aware of anyone in the organization that said, "I'm going to hold my breath until we agree we're not picking this guy."

So it was a organizational error to pick White. It wasn't Ireland. It wasn't Parcells. It wasn't coach Tony Sparano. It was everyone. If you can't accept that sometimes organizations make mistakes, then you don't know football. As long as every mistake is covered by at least as many home runs, we're good.

So if you've got Shawn Murphy and Pat White, you better have Bess and Dan Carpenter. So far, the Dolphins have that balance.

It is still early for the inactives so come back for that update and come back for the live blog. Should be a fun game. And yes, I picked the Dolphins to win.

[UPDATE: The inactives are Marlon Moore, Deon Anderson, Robert Rose, Patrick Brown, John Jerry, Jeron Mastrud, Quentin Moses and Tyler Thigpen is the third QB.]

October 23, 2010

Ross tells Ireland Peterson won't be hired

Ever since we learned Bill Parcells was out of sight of the Dolphins -- living up the coast in Jupiter but no longer coming to work in Davie nor keeping an office there -- fans and team personnel alike have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The name of the other shoe is Carl Peterson.

But as I write in my column for Sunday's print edition of the Miami Herald, the Peterson shoe isn't a fit. At least that is what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has told General Manager Jeff Ireland. My source(s) tell me the Dolphins owner has given Ireland assurances Peterson will not be hired to replace Parcells.

The column has other interesting nuggets regarding Parcells, the trade deadline and the Davone Bess contract negotiation so please check it out when it goes online or lands on your porch.

But, really, the Peterson information is the most noteworthy to folks worried the man who never brought a title to Kansas City might be hired by Ross to bring a title to Miami.

In my legwork for the column, I also confirmed my earlier report that Ireland had amended his contract with the Dolphins so that he is answering directly to Ross and no one else. I was told that happened "a while back." The amendment would make the hiring of Peterson moot from a power standpoint, anyway, because Ireland would not report to him. But the amendment would not necessarily prevent Ross from making the move if he wanted to do it.

Now, however, we know the owner is not inclined to go in that direction. At least that is what he has told various people, including Ireland himself.

October 22, 2010

Cameron Wake's Pro Bowl caliber to be tested

True Story: In January of 2009 the Miami Dolphins decided as an organization that after having Cameron Wake on their CFL tracking list for some time, they would like to move on the pass-rush specialist. The club was well beyond the film studying and workout portion of its due diligence so it was time to get about the business of trying to sign Wake.

And so Jeff Ireland got to work negotiating with Wake's agent. During one session, Wake's agent got call-waiting and excused himself from Ireland. When he returned to the conversation and negotiation, he told Ireland that it had been another team calling.

Ireland immediately thought he was being toyed with. He thought the agent was telling him it was another team and that team was also jumping into the negotiations. (It is a typical agent ploy to increase the price for his client by saying there are other bidders.)

So Ireland assumed the worst.

Except the agent was actually up-front with Miami's general manager. He explained to Ireland the team on the phone was asking for tape of Wake so it could begin studying him.

Obviously they were too late to the festivities and Wake eventually signed with the Dolphins, picking Miami over about six other teams, among other teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We studied and pursued him when he came out of the Canada," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this week. "We do that on a yearly basis. We identified him and Stefan Logan, a returner that we had last year. They came out of the CFL together at the same time. We were able to acquire Logan, who did good business for us, but we weren't able to get in the mix on Cameron. We've been pretty aware of him even before him getting down there."

Now, the Steelers are keenly aware of Wake seeing as that he is a pass-rush threat and will be chasing Ben Roethlisberger this weekend.

Tomlin is pretty much an expert on great linebacker play. The Steelers have James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, both of whom are Pro Bowl players. And Tomlin says Wake is "having a Pro Bowl-caliber year."

I must concur. Wake is tied for fourth in the NFL with six sacks so far this season. He has more than Harrison (5) and is close to lapping Woodley (3.5). He leads the Dolphins. And he's coming off a three-sack outburst against Green Bay last week.

But the assignment for Wake gets more difficult, not less this week.

Last week, Wake did his work against rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga. This Sunday, the Steelers have veterans Max Starks and Flozell Adams at the tackle spots.

"Two quality, quality players," coach Tony Sparano said, describing Pittsburgh's tackles. "They're two veterans who understand how to play the game."

The Dolphins admit Wake is still a work in progress on how to play the game -- particularly as it relates to making him a three-down player. We all know he can rush the passer. That is obvious. But how's he doing on the other downs?

"It's getting much better, it really is," Sparano said. "Each week he does something different in the run game, he sets the edge better in the run game, gets off blocks better in the run game. There's another step taken. Now I think this is going to be the biggest challenge and I'm not just saying that because it's the next game."

Sparano is saying it because the Dolphins defense still hasn't proven it can contain the run on the edges all the time. They believe excellent running teams, like the Steelers, will see the film and believe they can exploit the edges of the defense with their running game.

"That part of it, he's got to step up to, there's no way around it," Sparano said. "We've got set the edges of the defense. That's a big part of the progression with him, which he is getting better at. He's done a solid job in ballgames here as of late." 

[BLOG NOTE: THERE WILL BE A LIVE GAME BLOG SUNDAY. THAT IS THE USUAL. ARE ANY OF YOU INTERESTED IN A LIVE CHAT ON SATURDAY? I'M NOT PLEASED WITH THE SATURDAY TRAFFIC SO I'M WILLING TO DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO GET YOU HERE ON SATURDAYS. LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SECTION IF YOU'D BE WILLING TO PARTICIPATE.]