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61 posts from October 2010

October 21, 2010

Dolphins vs. Steelers: A football game, a fight

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tough team. They are physical. They are eager to use that asset. And they have a well-deserved reputation for being the baddest dudes on the block going back to the days of the Steel Curtain.

The Dolphins, in case you have not heard, also fancy themselves a physical team. And so when these two lovers of violent football get together ...

"I think anytime you play against the Steelers you know it’s going to be a physical contest," coach Tony Sparano said. "They make no bones about it. I think that from our end we feel like we’re a physical football team, so it’s going to be a physical game.”

Believe it or not, that is the politically correct way to portray it. Running back Ronnie Brown has another way. He sees the Steelers as a bully. And he thinks there's only one way to deal with bullies.

"When you have bully on the school yard, he thinks he's the baddest," Brown said. "Therefore he's going to carry himself like he's the baddest. He feels that way, so therefore he's going to act like he's the baddest. That's how it is with the Pittsburgh defense. They think that way, they act that way. That's how it is until someone proves them differently. That's how it is."

And just because Brown plays running back and it is part of his job description to take blows, that doesn't mean Brown intends to let Pittsburgh bully him.

"You have to accept that challenge," he said. "As an offensive player, I come in with a defensive mentality. Just because I'm a running back doesn't mean I can't be an aggressor with the football.

"Until you stand up to the bully he's going to keep picking on you and if he feels he's found a weak spot, you're going to have to deal with that every day. If you show up and show him you're not scared, then it goes away. But until you do that, you're going to get the same result. So why not attack it full head on?"

The last time these two teams played -- in the 2009 regular-season finale -- the Dolphins didn't stand up to well against the bully. Quarterback Chad Henne had to leave the game with vision problems. Backup quarterback Pat White came in and lasted less than one quarter before he literally got knocked out.

"Last year you know it took us three quarterbacks to get through the game and hopefully that won’t happen this game," Henne said. "But, we’re going to have to protect, we’re going to have to keep it balanced, we’re going to have to run the football, and protect me in the passing game.”

Like Brown, Henne says he's not afraid, concerned, or sweating the physical nature of the Steelers, particularly on defense.

 “No, I mean I’m just going to go out there and play my game and I’m not going to let anything affect me," he said. "I’m not going to stare at the rush a little bit more. I’m just going to go through my progressions, know what I’m doing what I’m doing back there and you know if I get hit I get hit. That’s part of the game.”

Talking to several Dolphins players, one gets the idea the Dolphins have a little to prove to the Steelers. One gets the idea they intend on standing toe-to-toe with their Pittsburgh counterparts.

"They're going to keep grinding and you have to match that intensity," Brown said. "Coming into the game week, your whole mental process has to be ready for that. That's the good part of this game. they're going to present challenges. And you have to take advantage of that. You have to take each blow when they get their chance. And when you get your chance your have to take your shot.

"I'm not going to say they go out and try to hurt people. But they do try to strike some kind of fear. And if you buy into that, it is what it is. But if you don't and you go out and fight, that's what it's going to be. It'll be a fight."

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[BLOG NOTE: For those of you who are regulars on this blog and particular those who are live blog regulars on game day, I have a question: Do you wish for the latest comments to appear first from now on? We currently list comments in chronological order, but if most of you want a change to latest comments first, I will request that change be made. Answer in the comments section.]

October 20, 2010

Ronnie Brown: Two1K still the goal

Before the regular season began, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams openly discussed the idea of gaining 1,000 yards.


Now, five games into the season, Brown has gained 299 yards on 67 carries. Williams has 240 carries on 56 carries. Brown is on pace for 956 yards. Williams is on pace for 768 yards.

And Brown says the goal is still for both to gain 1,000 yards.

"I mean, why not keep the same goal?" he told me today. "We're five games in. We've got 11 games left. If I told you you want to get 20 interviews by the end of the month and you're at two interviews, you may give up. But for us, last week was a growth and we had a better chance to make some plays and we both got the opportunity to get the football a litle more.

"There's going to be a game we're going to have a breakout game as far as rushing. At the same time, we have a lot of guys on the offensive side of the ball that are capable of making plays. I don't think you adjust individually. You still maintain the same type of goals and you have to shoot for them, but at the same time, you have to have the opportunties and there have to be a lot of things in your favor as well."

Brown pointed out that gaining 1,000 yards each was not a prediction he or Williams made. "That was our goal," he said. "It wasn't saying this was going to happen.

The duo will have to do some serious work to get back on track for 1,000-yard seasons if this is the week they're going to do it. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday's opponent at Sun Life Stadium, boasts the No. 1 run defense in the NFL.

"What's that saying?" Brown asked.

I messed with Brown a little and suggested the Steelers were simply imprenetrable (they are not) to see how one of Miami's most competitive players would react. Well, he reacted like a true competitor.

"You probably thought we couldn't beat Green Bay in Green Bay last week, either," he said. "Anybody outside of our locker room probably didn't think that. Our goal is to win the football game. No matter what it takes. And as long as each guy realizes that, no matter what it takes, and as long as everyone gives everything he has, I like our chances."

Sparano's satisfaction with WRs is legit this time

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano likes his wide receivers.

I know, I know, we've heard this before. We heard it in 2008 when the Miami wide receivers weren't good enough. We heard it in 2009 when the Miami wide receivers weren't good enough. We're hearing it now.

“Well I like where we’re at right now with this group, I really do," Sparano said. "They’re all young; Brandon is the old man of the group and that’s a good problem to have. Now we have Davone for a, for a longer time now. Obviously Brian is only in his second year and the two young kids we have (Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore) we really like. I like the way that group is coming along. They’re not afraid to work; these guys go out in practice and they work their tails off out there. (Wide Receivers Coach) Karl (Dorrell) does a tremendous job I think of coaching those guys, really getting good development out of all of them. Brandon may have played his best game to date in this game. When I say that you say sure he caught ten balls for whatever he caught (127 yards) but I’m talking about fundamentally. I’m talking about how he ran his routes, the depth he ran his routes, the way he used his releases and all those things. I think that kind of growth, you kind of got to look at Karl too."

The difference between this statement now and the ones Sparano made the last two years is that, this time, you can be relatively certain it is not just coachspeak. This time, we see production on the field from the receivers to make the words resonate. This time, you don't feel like the coach is simply protecting a group and not throwing them under the bus.

This time the Dolphins do have an emerging set of receivers.

Marshall is elite. And he is getting better as his timing and experience in Miami's system and with his Miami teammates improve.

"I just know the guy played a really good football game (against Green Bay)," Sparano said. "At times, at times he was 12 feet tall out there. You were throwing the ball up and he’s going to get it in the middle of the field and doing those kind of things. To me I said this earlier in the week, when you challenge that guy in those situations and you’re the kind of player that Brandon is, I think that’s really what he, he enjoys that."

Miami's receiver corps is more than just Marshall. Davone Bess is playing very well. He's playing well enough that Miami gave him a three-year contract extension in the last week, the breakdown of which can be found in Tim Graham's AFC East blog on ESPN.com.

Hartline, a disappointment to the team in the preseason, is coming on now. He had perhaps his best game Sunday that included a reception made while on his back on a pass quarterback Chad Henne threw behind him.

And I see that Wallace is getting slightly more snaps in the little-used four-wide package.

So is Miami's receiver corps elite? No, not quite there yet.

But neither are the Dolphins desperately searching to make a trade for Vincent Jackson, either. (Although I have advocated piling talent upon, talent to freak the rest of the AFC East out).

The bottom line?

The Dolphins are pleased with their wide receivers again this year. Only this time, we're starting to see why.

The play Bess makes in overtime now, now that’s a tremendous play. You want to talk about quarterback friendly, that’s as good a play as you’re going to see just moving without the ball. I mean I think (Miami Heat) Coach (Erik) Spoelstra would love that down there, moving without the ball. It’s a tremendous play; he catches it and he gets the first down. It’s really, it was a neat thing to watch.”

October 18, 2010

Parcells takes another step away from the Dolphins

Bill Parcells' slow but steady departure from the Dolphins continued over the weekend when he cleared out of his office and decided his work with Miami would take on a different, more detached style than it was even recently in his role as consultant.

A club source just confirmed an ESPN report that Parcells is no longer taking part in day-to-day operations of the team. Starting Monday, Parcells was no longer intent on being at his post every day as he had been through even last week.

"Bill is still performing his duties to the Dolphins," the club source said. "But he's choosing to do it in a different fashion."

That new fashion is from afar. Parcells will rarely be at the team's training facility from now on and may not attend any home games, either. He never attended road games, even when he served as executive vice president for football operations.

Parcells yielded that title and job the first week of the regular season. It was the first step in what is certain to be a total disconnect from the Dolphins after the 2010 season ends. Monday's step was the second such step.

Parcells will continue to do the things he enjoys as he collects the remainder of his 2010 salary: He actually likes to grind hour after hour, studying tape of college players. He typically does that work starting in November so that likely will still happen, according to a source.

But unlike past years when Parcells studied players, then set the agenda for drafting them, he will have little if any say in the April 2011 draft, according to a second club source.

Parcells also will no longer be involved in helping the current players on the roster with tips or motivational tweaks. He will no longer be "down the hall," as coach Tony Sparano liked to say, for the moments the coach asked Parcells for his opinion.

And he will not be watching practices first-hand and suggesting to GM Jeff Ireland ways to address weaknesses on the roster.

So ultimately what does this mean for the Dolphins?

First, it is not a distraction. Coach Tony Sparano will answer a few questions about it Wednesday. Players might get a couple also. That's it. The truth is Parcells has purposefully had little affect on the locker room this year so the team will not suffer a great degree of distraction as it prepares for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But there is fallout. No doubt about that.

The safety net for Ireland and Sparano is pretty much gone. Parcells had removed it from Sparano a while back, refusing to correct what he saw as mistakes by the head coach or his assistants for fear of overshadowing their authority.

But he had no such fear of keeping Ireland from stepping in obvious muck. He correct possible missteps and went another direction, if necessary. Now Ireland is wholly and solely responsible for Miami's personnel decisions and Parcells is even more removed from the process than he was even last week.

And that, by the way, was quite removed. For example: Remember the first week of the season when the Dolphins set their initial 53 man roster? Jake Grove was on that roster with Parcells in charge. A few days later when Parcells stepped back and Ireland took over, the GM waived Grove.

Ireland didn't ask for permission. He told Parcells he was making the move and then did it.

Now Parcells will get this information via a phone call rather than perhaps a personal chat with Ireland in his office. No, that's not a big difference. But there is a subtle change.

The biggest change, the long-term effect is in that Miami instantly loses the credibility of having Bill Parcells at the helm. He had a track record. He won Super Bowls. He was proven. And so if he said Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano were good, they were good.

Now, neither Ireland nor Sparano have anyone vouching for them. They must sink or swim based on two things: Wins and losses.

They win, we're good, they're good, ownership is good, everyone's good.

They lose, as they did last year at 7-9, and suddenly there will be much questioning, second-guessing, wondering, wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth. I exaggerate, but you get the drift.

One man's word will no longer be enough to say, "All is well, we're on course."

Because that man is all but gone from Miami.


Bobby Carpenter turns it around? Not so much

A couple of weeks ago, when Bobby Carpenter had a nice game against the Minnesota Vikings in that he had a good goal line stop of Adrian Peterson, I asked coach Tony Sparano if he could see Carpenter turning his career around in Miami.

I wondered if Carpenter could finally live up to his draft pedigree that Bill Parcells gave him as a first-round pick (18th overall) in Dallas in April 2006.

Sparano enthusiastically agreed Carpenter might indeed author the turnaround.

Guess he'll have to do it elsewhere. After continually costing the Dolphins on special teams the past three weeks, Carpenter was unceremoniously terminated today. I say unceremoniously because the team announced the termination of his contract with a one-sentence press release issued at 7:49 p.m.

Easy come. Easy go.

Yes Dan, the tight end screen call was great

Dan Henning has been taking some heat from the press and fans lately. And he apparently is well aware of the temperature around him.

Fans have been complaining and the media have been pressing him about the timing of his play calls -- some of them clearly curious in nature because they seem to break rhythm and flow of potential touchdown drives. But during Sunday's 23-23 overtime victory over Green Bay, Henning had a shining moment of perfect timing and play-calling.

On a first-and-10 from the Green Bay 22 yard line, the Dolphins ran a bootleg right and threw back left to a tight end screen with Jake Long leading Anthony Fasano down field. It was perfect timing because the Packers came with a blitz from the screen side on the play.

So there was only one defender on the left side of the field and Long pretty much erased him. The score gave the Dolphins a 20-13 lead and made Henning so happy, he couldn't help but almost gloat a bit after the game.

While Fasano was speaking with me and a couple of other reporters in the locker room, Henning came over, certainly knowing full well his words would be captured by the reporters and absolutely intending for that to happen in my opinion.

“Great call on the tight end screen!” Henning said as he looked at Fasano and ignored the reporters.

And then, the offensive coordinator who is off limits to reporters after game according to the Dolphins stupid media policy walk hurriedly away.

It felt like Henning was celebrating the call, no doubt. But it also felt like he was looking for some attention to the call as well. Let's face it, if Henning had wanted to congratulate Fasano out of the view and earshot of the media, he could have done that on the team plane during the three-hour flight home, or today in a meeting, or any number of other moments.

But since Henning clearly wanted the attention, he's got it now:

Good call, coach! You done good on that one. And thank you for putting away the Wildcat on Sunday, finally following the advice of folks that recognize it is not working as well as it once was.

Fasano, by the way, agreed with Henning that the timing of the call was outstanding.

“You heard the OC come over. It was great timing," Fasano said. "We had a weak blitz and as long as Chad [Henne] had time to get it off good, it was going to work.”

The call was made perfect by the fact the execution was outstanding. That is a Henning pet peeve. He believes OCs get no credit for great calls, but rather the players get credit for great execution. So he never blames his calls when plays fail. He always blames the execution, which is one reason we've taken him to task here.

“I wasn’t blazing, but I was blazing enough to get in the end zone, I guess,” said Fasano, who then riled some Packes faithful with a fake Lambeau Leap. "I wanted to do the fake. I probably would have gotten pushed down if I had leaped in there.” 

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October 17, 2010

Dansby: Knee great because God took care of it

GREEN BAY -- If you saw today's game, particularly the ending, you didn't see a whole lot of Karlos Dansby on the field.

The Dolphins defensive captain was on the sideline nursing what he thought could be a blown knee. Except the hyper-extended knee has apparently suffered no major damage, according to Dansby.

And the reason Dansby believes the knee is good enough to play another day is because God took care of it. Pure. Simple.

“Man, it scared me, man," Dansby said after the game. "God was with me in that moment. He took care of me. He took care of me in that situation and I thank Him. Anybody else, it would have been a torn ACL or anything like that. Something in the knee would have been torn – bottom line.”

Dansby said he was pushed from behind and as he was falling he got a foot stuck in the ground while the other knee was caught in a pile he could not escape. "It was the scariest thing I've ever been in," he said. "Any kind of situation on the field, that was the scariest one I've ever been in."

But there's no need to fear when God is on your team, Dansby believes.

"My knee is great. I’m blessed," Dansby said. "He took care of me in that moment. He took care of me. And I give him all the praise and the glory.”


Dolphins beat the Packers 23-20 in overtime

GREEN BAY -- Victory!

Dan Carpenter nailed a 44 yard field goal with 9:01 left to play in overtime to give the Dolphins a 23-20 victory over the Packers today.


The Dolphins have a 3-2 record. All three victories have come on the road for the nomads.

Both teams had the opportunity to drive the ball in the overtime period. The Dolphins had one more chance and made the most of it, moving 26 yards in seven plays for the score.


Overtime: Dolphins and Packers tied at 20

GREEN BAY -- Extra football for the money, folks.

Let's get to it in the comments section.

Join me there.

Dolphins lead Packers, 13-10 to start fourth quarter

GREEN BAY -- This one will come down to the final period.

I suppose that is better than getting blown out. But the Dolphins dominated the third quarter and still couldn't take more than a three-point lead in the stanza.

They moved the ball relatively well on their two possessions. They got an interception from Jason Allen. And still they lead only 13-10.

Join me in the comments section to finish off the live blog. 

Dolphins tied with Packers heading to third quarter

GREEN BAY -- It has been a frustrating first half.

There was that interception in the red zone.

There was the partially deflected punt.

There was the holding call that nullified a 43-yard field goal.

It has been something of a circus here at Lambeau Field.

And yet the Dolphins are tied with the homestanding Packers, 10-10. It feels like something of a victory, really. So join me in the second half of the live blog to see if the Dolphins can actually author a victory.

Packers lead Dolphins 10-7 to start second quarter

GREEN BAY -- The Dolphins had this game in control in the first quarter until two passes changed everything.

After moving for a TD on their first possession, the Dolphins were moving again when Chad Henne threw a pass, basically, the only place the defender could reach it. Interception.

On the next play, Aaron Rodgers threw a career-long 86-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings that lit up Vontae Daivs.

Packers were trailing 7-3 before those two passes. They are now leading 10-7.

The live blog rolls on in the comments section

Live blog from Lambeau Field

(In your best John Facenda voice rising over NFL Films music) Lambeau Field ... It soars into the air out of an otherwise ordinary residential neighborhood. It smells great around here because the folks really know how to tailgate.

And today, it could be the site of the Dolphins most impressive victory of the season so far.

Think about that. Let it marinate.

The Dolphins are treading water at 2-2. But as I wrote in the column I wrote in today's Herald, Miami has hope they can still be champions because, well, there are no great teams in the NFL this season. Please check out the column as it tells you in Brandon Marshall's and Yeremiah Bell's own words what they think of their chances.

For both players to be correct, today is a big day. The Dolphins have won on the road twice already but, let's be honest, this opponent offers a much greater challenge than either Buffalo (0-5) and Minnesota (1-3). The Packers are Super Bowl contenders, if you ask anyone around here, and they have won three times as many games already as Miami's previous two opponents combined.

And unlike Miami's previous opponents, these Packers have a complete passing game. That, in my opinion, is the greatest untapped weakness of the Miami defense. Yes, teams have run the ball with some success. But it's the pass defense that definitely worries me. We'll see today -- with Aaron Rodgers at QB for Green Bay -- how that defense holds up.

Jared Odrick is in the house, folks. I'll have an update on his game status along with the inactives as soon as they're available. And, of course, we'll have the live blog at kickoff.

[Update: Odrick and John Jerry are inactive. Randy Starks is starting at RE while Paul Soliai continues as the starting NT. Pat McQuistan will start at right guard ... The complete list of inactives is Marlon Moore, Thigpen as the No. 3 QB, Austin Spitler, Robert Rose, Patrick Brown, Jerry, Jeron Mastrud and Odrick.

For the Packers, the only inactive you need to care about is that Clay Matthews is on the list. He's out.]

October 16, 2010

Jared Odrick update and the game breakdown

The Dolphins will be in Appleton, Wis. by late this afternoon. It will be interesting to see if defensive end Jared Odrick makes the trip or not.

Odrick is clearly not 100 percent yet. So my source that told me he would be back within two weeks was wrong and I was wrong for going with it. The source that told the NFL Network Odrick would be ready to go in six weeks wasn't right, either. Odrick can play, four weeks after he fractured his fibula.

The issue now is whether coach Tony Sparano decides playing Odrick with only two weeks of limited practice is worth risking the possibility of Odrick re-injuring the leg. My guess is Sparano will be conservative and not use Odrick. It is just a guess. We'll know more later today when we find out if Odrick traveled with the team or not. If he traveled, he's likely playing.

Odrick almost definitely will play next week, barring a strange setback.

Tomorrow, The Herald will publish my breakdown of the Dolphins versus the Packers. Because you read this blog, you get the breakdown today:

When the Dolphins run the ball: The Packers have been getting better against the run in recent games, improving four spots from their No. 19 overall ranking against the run to No. 15 today. But that still isn’t as good as what the Packers did last year when they led the NFL in rush defense. The truth is opposing quarterbacks have gashed the Green Bay defense while running the ball. Opposing running backs have averaged only 3.6 yards a carry against the Packers. So unless Chad Henne suddenly becomes a great threat running the football, it will be a challenge for Ronnie Brown to stay on his current 4.7-yard per carry average for the season. Brown is coming off his toughest outing of the season in that he gained only 27 yards on 11 carries against the Patriots. The Dolphins need to use Brown more. He’s not gotten more than 13 carries in any game this season with only 11 carries per game the last two losses. ADVANTAGE: Green Bay.

When the Dolphins pass the ball: The Dolphins have had good production from Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess but need Brian Hartline to make more of an impact down the field. It might be difficult to give Henne time to scan down the field if linebacker and NFL leading sack man Clay Matthews is healthy enough to play. Matthews is nursing a hamstring injury, which begs sympathy only if one does not realize Dolphins left tackle Jake Long has been playing with a bad right knee since the start of the season. The Packers have had a dozen players snare at least one interception since 2009, with 36 total interceptions in that time leading the NFL. Anytime Henne is passing, he is risking a turnover. Having said all that, the Packers have yielded 681 passing yards the past two weeks. ADVANTAGE: Green Bay.

When the Packers run the ball: Brandon Jackson has taken over for Ryan Grant, who is out for the season with an ankle injury. Jackson has been steady and even spectacular on one 71-yard run this year. Last week, Jackson rushed for 115 yards on 10 carries which marked the first time he seemed to be living up to the second-round pick the Packers used on him in 2007. The Dolphins have been unable to shut down another team’s running game since the first week of the season at Buffalo. The Dolphins have yielded at least 119 rushing yards in each of the last three games. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Packers pass the ball: The Packers have the highest-ranked passing attack the Dolphins have faced all season at No. 10 in the NFL. But the truth is that statistic is of no effect if quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been nursing a concussion, is not in the lineup. He has been practicing and is listed as probable so you should expect him to play. But if the unexpected happens and he sits, the Packers will resort to Matt Flynn as their starter. And the names of Dolphins players seriously worried Flynn might be more effective than Rodgers follows in parenthesis: (  ). Not a long list. Although Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are good receivers, the Dolphins feel good about the match ups with Vontae Davis and Jason Allen. Where the Dolphins are catching a huge break is that tight end Jermichael Finley, among the league’s best tight ends, is not playing because he injured. The Dolphins have struggled with fine tight ends for about three years now. ADVANTAGE:  Packers if Rodgers plays.

Special teams: Welcome back from the bye week, Miami special teams. How are things? Last time we saw you, you were yielding or accounting for 21 points on returns or blocks against New England. Are the problems solved? Is that gaping hole through which the Patriots and the Jets blocked a punt now plugged? The Dolphins enter this game as the league’s worst kickoff coverage team. Brandon Fields is 31st in the NFL in net punt average and 29th in gross average. Darren Rizzi takes over for John Bonamego as the special teams coach because Bonamego was fired last week. On the bright side,  anything that happens today will probably be an improvement. ADVANTAGE: Anyone but Miami.

Coaching: Mike McCarthy seems to have the talent to work with, but it somehow hasn’t translated on the field this season. Expected to be a Super Bowl contender, the Packers have been unspectacular on offense and unable to produce turnovers on defense. Injuries plays a factor in that, but overcoming injuries is something great coaches can often do. Tony Sparano, 20-17 in his third year, has spoken of his team’s much better record when it runs more than it passes. Look for the pragmatic coach to try and follow that formula. ADVANTAGE: Even.

October 15, 2010

Benching Henne? Hahahahaha! Not Sparano

Once upon a time when the Dolphins re-signed Chad Pennington despite the fact they were going with Chad Henne as their starter, we discussed the possibility Pennington's presence would be a shadow over Henne. The Dolphins, being nearly as smart as us, discussed it also.

And at the end of that discussion, the Dolphins believed Pennington's presence to be an asset.

So now that Henne has not morphed into Dan Marino -- although he's still getting better -- some of you want Pennington back in, which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me. But hey, you get to have an opinion, too.

Unfortunately for you, Tony Sparano doesn't care what your opinion is. Today he discussed the topic of benching Henne, having Pennington around as a lurking shadow, what the factors were weighed in the decision to sign Pennington.

“Well Chad (Pennington), and you know one of the things is he’s the thousand pound elephant that’s in the room sometimes, so, we knew that obviously that’s one of the things that you consider when you bring a player like (Pennington) back. But it’s the other things that outweigh those kinds of situations. I mean I honestly, and this is no disrespect towards any fans out there, but I could [not] care less what they think about the quarterback situation.

"From that standpoint the positives like Chad Pennington the rapper out there today (laughing) alright. Those things outweigh -- that’s right it was awesome -- you know and I mean that’s a smart player knowing at this time after 13 days, okay, and living with the taste that you’ve had in your mouth that my teammates need a little something here, okay. I mean here it comes out of the blue so that’s the last guy you felt like might be doing something like that so it was really ... I mean those are the things that outweigh any of that other stuff, in other words, when you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, well you know if it doesn’t go your way everybody’s going to start screaming about Chad Pennington and any of those kind of things so it’s not worth doing.

"I don’t want to be in those kinds of situations I mean I just wanted to have the best players I could have around me at that point and that’s why we did what we did and it’s been a tremendous help to Chad Henne."

Sparano has Pennington in his back pocket anytime Henne gets hurt or the game is out of hand or Henne needs to sit. But sitting Henne? During a game? This season?

Nope. Thought hasn't come up.

"No, I mean I haven’t really…I can honestly truthfully tell you that those things haven’t gone through my head because every time that something like that happens there’s three other things that I could look at to say, 'Man look at that young guy do this.' And I mean, I can bat that back and forth with any of the Monday morning quarterbacks that are out there. Again, I just…you look at a what the kid has done right now and you put his numbers up against some of the other people in the league -- some one of you guys did it recently here, okay, I’ve seen it here in print. But, I think those are the things the guy does or he’s getting a lot better that way. And having Chad Pennington around him helps him a lot."

So back off.

October 14, 2010

The world today according to Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall is the most compelling interview on the Dolphins right now because he's smart, he's not afraid to tell you what he thinks, he's sometimes controversial without being venomnous, he's honest, and that all comes wrapped in a package of a player that is a star.

So when Marshall speaks to the local media about once a week for perhaps 10 minutes, it isn't nearly enough time to get to understand the guy or get to know the guy. But it is enough time to be interested by the guy.

Today Brandon Marshall was interesting. But you be the judge:

He was asked about teammate and fellow wide receiver Davone Bess.

"He's one of the best route runners in all of football, ever," Marshall said. "I mean, among today's receivers or ever. You put in any tape and this guy's amazing what he's able to make his body do. He gets open almost every single play. You guys have seen him more than me. You've been around him more. The guy doesn't catch 70-something balls last year just because. There's a reason for that. He's on pace to catch almost 100 balls this year. And I'm excited for him. I'm excited to be able to be on the other side or the same side as him."

Marshall was on the CBS Sports pregame show last weekend. During the time he was there he gushed about cornerback Vontae Davis. Marshall called Davis the best cornerback in the game.

"They asked me who is the best DB in the NFL right now and the NFL is what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league and Vontae Davis is a shutdown corner right now," Marshall said. "Now you have [Darrelle] Revis who's played spottingly [sic] this year so I wouldn't say he's the best right now. You have Champ Bailey who's a little banged up and a little older. He's still great. The league is getting younger. And Vontae is that guy."

Marshall knows that Davis avoids attention. 

"He doesn't like it. He doesn't like the attention," Davis said. "But I'm going to answer the questions truthfully. I don't care if I put a target on his back or not. It is what it is and I expect him to step up every week the way he's been doing."

Marshall was asked if he has changed his pregame routine since offensive coordinator Dan Henning said Marshall gets overly excited before the game and that it could wear him out for the end of the game.

"I don't know why coach Henning said that," Marshall said. "I've never been overworked or overworked myself before a game. I usually take less reps before the game and try to stay calm before the storm comes. I get excited, but I never get overworked up. I'm going to continue to do the same thing I've been doing the past couple of years."

The last time we heard from Marshall was when Sterling Sharpe, Mike Mayock, and Solomon Wilcots took the wide receiver to taks for not giving for effort on the final set of downs in the game versus New York. Marshall disagreed with the trio and said none of them coached so they shouldn't be trying to provide coaching advice and none of them were very good player, either, in their day.

And then Marshall was on set was Sterling Sharpe's brother, Shannon, on the CBS set.

"I was on the set with his brother and everything was kind of smooth," Marshall said. "I was kind of nervous at first because Shannon is so big and in-shape still that I thought he was going to put me in a headlock in between segments. I hate to do this but I have to retract my statement. Sterling Sharpe was a beast. He was pretty good in his day and if he had an opportunity to stay healthy, he would be a Hall of Famer, no doubt about it. The other guys, I'm not sure."

Henning defends Wildcat calls again

Dan Henning has this character he refers to as Joe Shittheragman. Mr. Shittheragman is not a friend of the U.S. Marines (look it up) but in Henning's definition it is basically the nobody fan out there with an opinion about everything who doesn't really know what he's talking about.

Henning isn't a big fan of that guy.

Today, the Dolphins offensive coordinator was told that people want to know why he called an end-around on a Wildcat play versus New England -- a play that lost two yards and was the only Wildcat play the team used in the game.

Henning asked who exactly wanted to know about the play.

The reporter asking the question said, "Joe Shittheragman."

"In football when a play doesn't go well on offense, it's the call," Henning responded. "On defense, it's the player. If you go back in time and you look at the third down calls we've made with the Wildcat under the same situations, you'll see that in the Jets game last year down here we had a big third-and-eight with the Wildcat -- the exact play we ran the other day. We didn't execute the other day as well as we executed it the other time.

"We ran a third-down play against New England the first time we ever broke [the Wildcat] out and Ronnie threw a touchdown pass to [Anthony] Fasano. So tell Joe and all his other shittheragman relatives he doesn't know what he's talking about."

Do you buy it?

I don't.

The personnel the Dolphins had last year or in 2008 is different. The personnel the Jets had last year or New England had in 2008 was different.

Even Joe could tell you that.

Dolphins special teams: Not aggressive

The Dolphins are back at work this morning and there is absolutely nothing newsworthy to report other than the fact everyone -- with the exception of Benny Sapp --is practicing.

The media was in the house while the Dolphins were working on special teams under new coordinator Darren Rizzi. There is nothing extraordinary to report there, either. (If there were, I couldn't report it under Dolphins media policies anyway.)

But ...

Watching the period made me wonder: When was the last time the Dolphins took a chance on special teams? When was the last fake field goal? When was the last fake punt? When was the last reverse on a kickoff? When was the last onside kick?

My memory doesn't go back that far.

My point is the Dolphins are, along with the San Diego Chargers, perhaps the worst special teams unit in the NFL this year. They are now coming out of a bye weekend, having had time to digest their collapse against the New England Patriots and the firing of John Bonamego.

So they've had time to work on things and to work things out. They have nothing to lose anyway, so why not get aggressive and attack, attack, attack if they are otherwise not getting the job done so far.

I can handle mistakes on special teams when the unit or a player is pressing the issue. But this unit has been making mistakes simply doing the routine. So why not press the issue? Why not try to win a game on special teams for once?

[UPDATE: I asked coach Tony Sparano about this issue today. It does not seem like he shares my sentiments. Basically, he's saying he's not prone to try freaky stuff to gamble on greatness.

“No, I don’t think so. I mean I just think…I don’t think you want to deviate too far from where you’ve been. Now, there’s obviously every week we’re prepared and we prepare our players for different scenarios that could come up in the game from a special teams standpoint, but, I don’t think that’s changed. Our approach hasn’t changed in what we’re telling our players and what—and I don’t think you can…you want to get into desperate measures with that group. Because I actually do think that there’s some people within those units that have gotten a lot better and I’ve already said this before—and you guys aren’t hearing me when I’m saying it, or you are and you choose not to. But it really…although the evidence doesn’t show you that it isn’t really far away I don’t think from being fixed—and that’s one of the reasons why I think when you make a change like you did the continuity thing is important because there’s enough good things on film that I think you know are going to get us a lot closer to the end result. So, I don’t know that going out there and you know trying to rush every punt or faking field goals or doing any of those things is the measure…it just wouldn’t—really depends on the situations in the game and whether or not it’s right. I can tell you that you know in three or four games right now those things have been on the table and just you know has a large—in special teams a tremendous amount of whether or not you can pull something like that off. It has to do with what they’re showing you and it really does, so. Some of those things came and went and nobody ever knew about it.”

Well, it was a shot by me.]

If you're response is the Dolphins should always kick the ball because the punting is great or the field goal kicking is great, I have news for you. You are wrong on at least one of those points.

Miami's punting is hurting now. Brandon Fields is not kicking the ball great this year, perhaps for the first time since he was drafted in 2007.

Fields has a net punting average of 32.8 this season. That is 31st of 32 punters listed. He has a gross punting average of 40.9. That is 29th of 32 punters listed.

So I asked coach Tony Sparano why he thinks Fields hasn't been his usual self so far.

“The only thing I could say there, you know, we had one ball game there that, and I don’t really remember the game whether it was Buffalo or Minnesota -- it might have been Minnesota, where maybe it didn’t go as well as maybe he would have like it," Sparano said. "And then he’s had several opportunities really to knock it down inside the 20 yard line, the 15 yard line in there which he’s done a very good job of so far.

"I think that with that in mind we’ve been kicking going in a little bit and that’s been, that’s been probably has something to do with his numbers. One of the things we talked about as a team today which I think is important is we’re last in the league right now in average drive start, in field position, dead last. We’re, we’re starting on the 24 yard line and our opponents are starting somewhere right around the 31 yard line, so that has to change and it has to change in a lot of areas not only Brandon, not only (Dan) Carpenter, our coverage units, special teams. That can be, it will change with turnovers, us creating opportunities in their end of the field a little bit and certainly our offense with drives into that end of the field and us being able to knock them down in there. We need to start to change some field position around here and get it going the other way."

October 13, 2010

Much happening at Dolphins camp on a Wednesday

Tons happening at Dolphins camp today aside from the fact everyone practiced for the first time since the regular season began.

Quarterback Chad Henne talked to the media for his usual 11 minutes or so for the week and while the time is brief, we do cover a lot of bases.

He was asked what he thinks of the calls in some circles for his ouster as the Dolphins starter and Henne didn't flinch as he answered.

"That's up to the coaching staff," Henne said. "I'm going to prepare like I'm a starter and play like I'm the starter. It's my job to lose so I have to perform well and win some games."

Henne is interesting in that in two of the games most pressure-filled moments he is getting vastly different results this year.

Think about it, third-down passing and fourth-quarter passing is money time for a QB. Third down is typically when the defense comes full throttle so it can get off the field. And the fourth-quarter is when the game is decided.

And on third down, Henne has been excellent so far. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes (28 of 41) for 296 yards with three TDs and zero INTs. That means Henne's quarterback rating is 113.5 on third down, just behind Tom Brady (124.4) and Michael Vick (118.1). Drew Brees is fourth behind Henne.

"There's things where we get Davone [Bess] involved a lot more," Henne said trying to explain the success. "I don't know if we're third-and-short at times and so we're in favorable position off first and second down that we can be more efficient. Maybe it's that we keep executing in practice. You see it in practice where we get better and better in practice and we feel good that when we get in third down situations, we have a good chance of getting a first down."

Unfortunately for Henne, he is not too good in the fourth quarter so far. His QB rating is 51.1. He is completing 61.3 percent of his passes (19 of 31) for 249 yards with zero TDs and two INTs.

"I can't explain that," Henne said. "I haven't really looked at that a lot. Whether it's that we're up in the game and we're trying to run the ball or making smarter decisions with the ball if we have the game won, like the first two games. Or it's like the last two game where we're in two-minute situations and have the force the ball down the field and make those type of throws."


I love listening to cornerback Vontae Davis talk. He always says something interesting and is simply genuine.

Today he was talking about how his assignment doesn't get easier any week the team plays when he accidently, sorta, threw a former college opponent under the bus.

"Every week is not an Ohio State and then you go and play Northwestern," Davis said. "... Every week it's different. Every week it's a challenge because everybody's good."

The good receivers Davis might face this week include Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.

Davis on Jennings: "He's a good receiver. I still have to study him some more. I'm going to study him after meetings but he's a good receiver, very crafty, smart guy. Before I got to the league I seen him making big plays and I haven't seen anything change. He's still making plays."

Davis on the 35-year-old Driver: "Oh, man. Yeah, he's been around a long time. I'm going to go back to the Brett Favre comment. He's old enough to be my father, Donald Driver is. The older he gets, the smarter he gets. But I'm not looking for him to shake me. I'm younger, I should win most of the battles, but he's older, he's got the most experience."


And then there's this final (I hope) update about the Birdman ownership saga that has strangely put my name in a lot of hip hop blogs I never thought I'd be referenced in.

I received an unsolicited e-mail from Bryan "Birdman" Williams' media representative today. I asked her to please explain how it is Birdman said a couple of days ago he was awaiting "clearence" from the NFL to become a minority owner of the Dolphins and the NFL and the Dolphins both denied anything about that or even every speaking with Birdman.

The statement from the media rep:

"A lifelong sports fan, Bryan “Birdman” Williams has always been interested in ownership of a pro-sporting team and had asked an advisor to help him begin the process. Although Mr. Williams mistakenly believed he was further along in the  process, a partial ownership of a pro-sporting team is something he is still interested in and may actively pursue in the future."

Clarity. Finally. 

Follow me on twitter.

Dolphins getting healthier while Packers are limping

While the Green Bay Packers are hurting at quarterback, tight end and other positions this week, the Dolphins are getting healthier.

Today, when the Dolphins take the practice field for the first full workout of the week in preparation for the Acme Packers, several players that have been nursing injuries, resting injuries, or recovering from injuries are scheduled to work.

Jake Long, who hasn't practiced the last four workouts the Dolphins have held, is expected back at practice today. He is nursing the same knee injury suffered in the preseason finale against Dallas and was merely resting during the bye week in an effort to get healthier.

Jared Odrick, who has missed three games following the regular-season opener, is scheduled to practice today at least on a limited basis. The Dolphins will monitor him this week in hopes he can contribute a number of snaps against the Packers. He may not start, but the Dolphins are hoping he can play. That will be determined later in the week.

Channing Crowder, who hasn't played all season nursing a groin-abdominal injury, is expected to take a routine number of first-team snaps at practice today. The Dolphins are expecting Crowder to be able to begin his 2010 season this weekend at Lambeau Field.

The Crowder return to first-team repetitions is indirectly a help to Miami's embatled special teams. With Crowder taking those reps, Tim Dobbins, who along with Bobby Carpenter, did the work Crowder typically does on defense. He should now be more able to add repetitions on special teams.

In case you are not aware, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers is nursing a concussion. He will miss practice time this week. Tight end Jermichael Finley is not playing following surgery and backup Donald Lee's status is also uncertain, which is good news for a Miami team that often struggles against tight ends.

Linebacker Clay Matthews, who leads the NFL in sacks with 8.5, is nursing a hamstring injury and also, at minimum, will be limited this week in practice.

[Update: Internet service at the Dolphins practice facility has been down until now (1:03 p.m.) so I haven't been able to offer an update. But now I can so here it is: Everyone on the roster practiced for the Dolphins today. Everyone! Jake Long, Odrick, Crowder. Everyone. It marks the first time since the start of the regular season that has happened.]