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61 posts from October 2010

October 11, 2010

Ross: Birdman not bird of a feather

Why do people lie?

I mean, don't they understand eventually the truth comes out, especially if the lie is national news?

In the previous post I shared with you that rapper and music executive Bryan Williams, who goes by the handle Birdman, said on a national radio show that he was awaiting NFL approval to become a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins.

Not to take Birdman's word, with all due respect, I called the NFL to ask what is the deal with Birdman. A spokesman told me the league has no knowledge of any approval process for Birdman.

And there's a good reason for that. Birdman apparently isn't at all involved in the approval process he said he was, according to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

"I have NEVER spoken to him or any representative," Ross said in a statement released by the team. "Not considering or looking for any celebrity limited partners."

That is interesting on multiple levels. First, it shoots Birdman out of the sky.

Secondly, it means Ross is taking a break from the search for more celebs to fill his suites and walk the orange carpet at Sun Life Stadium.

Finally, a note to Birdman: Thanks for the wild goose chase.

Birdman looking for nest as Dolphins minority owner

And now this from the surreal part of Miami Dolphins football.

Rapper Birdman, who is Bryan Williams in the real non-rapper world, is apparently the next Dolphins minority owner in waiting.

Birdman broke the news to Angela Yee on the Morning After radio show.

"It's in [the] works," Williams, I mean, Birdman said. "You have to get clearance from the NFL and we're waiting for clearence. Once we get clearance, we good."

Birdman was arrested and charged with possession of more than two ounces of marijuana in 2007. There are conflicting reports as to the disposition of the matter, with some saying he pleaded no contest and others saying the charges were dropped.

I'm certain the NFL security dept. will get to the bottom of that matter. I'm sure the Dolphins already did all their due diligence, right?

If Birdman is approved, he would join Mark Anthony, Gloria Estefan, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, and Fergie as minority owners of the team.

My fave Birdman joint?

I'll go with Stuntin' like my Daddy, which inspires many emotions in me. As a concealed weapons license holer, I'm also partial to Always strapped.

Amid Parcells rumors, Ireland power unquestionable

There have been some speculative reports about Bill Parcells lately about what he is thinking of doing, what he's about to do, what he's going to do unless he changes his mind and doesn't do anything.

Can we be transparant here?

Nobody in the media knows what Bill Parcells is really, truly going to do and when exactly he's going to do it. He will leave the Dolphins completely whenever he decides and until that time, he's going to be around (even if perhaps infrequently) as the team's football consultant. It is all very unclear.

What is very clear is that general manager Jeff Ireland is in charge of personnel and has as solid a grip on that as Parcells did before his resignation as the team's executive vice president of football operations. How is this so?

Well, Parcells answered to no one but ownership while he was in charge of everything Dolphins football. And here's the news: Ireland answers to no one but owner Stephen Ross now.

That has not always been the case. When Ireland came to the Dolphins, his contract called for him to answer to Parcells and the club president. But that contract has been amended in the last couple of months before Parcells stepped down, according to multiple NFL sources.

Ireland's contract now says he answers only to Ross. He does not answer to Parcells. He no longer reports to Dolphins CEO Mike Dee. Furthermore, while Ireland is under this current deal, the Dolphins cannot hire a football czar and place that person over Ireland because, again, Ireland answers only to ownership.

So Ireland does not have the specter of being told what decisions to make by the business side of the organization or by a person Ross might hire to fill the role Parcells previously played.

That essentially means concerns that Parcells might leave and Ross might hire someone such as Carl Peterson to run the show as Ireland's boss are moot.

Obviously, once Ireland's contract expires following the 2011 season, all bets are off. Obviously, if Ross discharges Ireland at some point, he can hire whomever he wishes atop the football side of the organization.

But while Ireland is in Miami, he's the boss on pesonnel answering only to the owner.

And that's the case regardless of when or whether Bill Parcells leaves.


October 10, 2010

Congrats to 1972 Miami Dolphins (again)

The Kansas City Chiefs, the last NFL team to boast an undefeated record in 2010, are not boasting any longer. They just suffered a 19-9 decisionn to the Indianapolis Colts and you know what that means ...

The 1972 Miami Dolphins continue to be the only team in league history to enjoy a perfect season. Still.

No telling if there is an actual champagne toast scheduled for this evening in South Florida by Dick Anderson and Mercury Morris and company. But the point is the Dolphins still have their place in history.

Interestingly, that place might soon be more secure than ever. Because the NFL is exploring and, according to whom you believe, intent on expanding to an 18-game regular season, it may soon become more difficult than ever to author a perfect season.

It is obviously tougher to win 21 games, including postseason, than it was to win the 17 games it took Miami to go undeafeted back in the day, or the 19 games it currently takes to go undefeated.

As for what is going on around the NFL elsewhere, the Green Bay Packers are locked in an overtime game with Washington, but what is interesting is the number of players they have lost in the game. [Update: The Redskins kicked an overtime field goal to win 16-13.]

So far, Donald Lee, Jermichael Finley, and Clay Matthews have left the game with injuries. Finley's injury appears serious in that he returned to the field on crutches.

[Update: The Packers have confirmed to the Milwauke Journal Sentinel that quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion during the Washington game, which could have an affect on his status versus Miami.]

The Dolphins play the Packers next Sunday. 

October 09, 2010

Westhoff: Dolphins special team weak link remains

[First of all, let me start this morning by thanking you guys, once again. We all root for, focus on and observe an inconsistent Miami Dolphins team. But there is consistency in your interest in that team because so far this year Miami Dolphins in Depth is the most popular blog at the Miami Herald bar none. Last month (September), for example, my blog outpaced the next most popular blog by more than 210,000 page views. This blog outpaced the next most popular sports blog, Eye on the U, by 345,000 page views. No other sports blog at the Herald was in the same universe -- not even close. So you have spoken about your interest. And I appreciate your loud voices.]

As we all know, the last week was an apocalyptic one for the Miami Dolphins special teams.

They managed the worst single-game performance in the history of the franchise. Special teams coordinator John Bonamego was fired as a result.

But if you believe New York Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, who helped in the downfall of the Miami special teams by exposing them two weeks ago with a blocked punt scheme the New England Patriots repeated one week later, the Dolphins still haven't really corrected the issue with the firing of Bonamego, who got a call from Westhoff this week.

"Sure, I called him," Westhoff told the New York Post Friday. " Not so much to give him some pep talk or to tell him I thought it was wrong or right. That's not my business. I don't do that, but I did talk to him about (how) 'These things happens to a heck of a lot of people. You had some breakdowns.'  It's interesting that there was one particular guy that was involved in two of those major breakdowns.  Frankly, I don't think he could play. I don't want the guy either."

Westhoff would not reveal the name of the player he's talking about but it is safe to say he is still on the Dolphins as they didn't cut any player following the New England debacle. It is also known tackle Lydon Murtha and guard Pat McQuistan missed assignments that led to the blocked punt and field goal last week versus New England.

"I'm not going to tell you," refusing to name the player he believes is a weak link. "That wouldn't be fair, but there was a common denominator. There really was, but what I talked to [Bonamego] about was moving on in the future (and) what I thought would be a good way for him to go. As I said, he's not my best buddy.  He's not."

So why did Westhoff, a former Dolphins special teams coach, get involved in calling Bonamego at all if they're not friends?

"I'm the guy to do it," he said. "I've been around the longest and to me I just look at it as I think I know enough that I can talk enough from experience on both sides of. From having good days and bad days to be able to give him some of what he should do and look forward to in the future whether that's right or wrong.  I know one thing, I know he appreciated it when we talked. 

"It wasn't like, 'Oh, that's a terrible thing for them to do.'  I don't feel that. That is their business. What they do is their business.  It's not mine. I'm disappointed that that would happen though. Of course it was just a catastrophic thing."

It was a repeat of the plays -- at least on the blocked punt -- that we saw the week before from the Jets.

"If I could show you the clips of the three things because believe me, I've studied them. The punt block was the exact same block that we used exactly (on) the other side," Westhoff said. " [The Patriots} are no dummies. They saw it worked. The kickoff return was the guy broke around the edge, he had two unblocked guys. Make the tackle. We did. The field goal, they had a new guy that they had to substitute in at wing and he let their most dangerous guy (Patrick) Chung, he just let him run. It's ridiculous.  Trust me, when we showed it to our guys, I was just as tough on the guy doing it as I was on the strategy of how to do it. I think that's all part of it. I don't like seeing that (happen) to anybody. I don't care what your business is. I'm more solve the problem than affix the blame. I guess that's my style and philosophy.  It doesn't make me right."

October 08, 2010

Henne: I can take team to playoffs

Chad Henne is the topic of much conversation lately -- some good, some not too good -- and he should get used to it because he's the freakin' frackin' starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins! But the good news is Henne doesn't seem to mind the whirlwind of activity about him.

Henne is kind of quiet and kind of unspectacular in many respects. But he's also kind of very, very confident.

And that's a good thing because quarterbacks have to be that way. That confidence was on display Thursday when Henne was asked if he believes he can still lead the Dolphins, reeling from consecutive home defeats to New England and New York, to the playoffs ...

“Definitely, there’s no question," Henne responded immediately. "I see myself each and every day even in practice even in the games getting better at things that I wasn’t so good at last year. There’s glimpses out there and the biggest thing is being consistent. I mean I have full confidence that we can move the football on the offensive side of the ball, and it’s whether my job is to protect that football at all costs. You take those turnovers away, it could be a definitely a different game. You know it happened and I’ll learn from it, and that’s my job; I have to protect that football."

Well, he kind of went off in a tangent there at the end of the thought. But it is safe to say he sees himself getting better. (Once upon a time I saw myself getting better at writing and although that suddenly stopped after 24 hours, the self-awareness was a revelation.)

It must be no less a revelation for Henne when he studies himself and can understand that he reads the defenses faster, that he play-fakes better, that his drops are faster and crisper in that five-step drops are never four or six steps anymore.

Henne's touch passing is better, also, by the way.

Is he Drew Brees? Is he Peyton Manning? Is he even Matt Ryan? No, no, no. Not yet.

Henne is a middle-of-the-road quarterback these days. But he is not yet fully formed. Drew Brees wasn't fully formed in his second year as a starter, either.

So do I believe Henne can actually lead the Dolphins to the playoffs? Well, define lead.

If you define it by Henne putting the team on his shoulders and carrying them to the postseason by the sheer excellence of his passing, then no. I don't think he's capable of that yet.

If you define it by Henne leading a charge of like-minded teammates that also are performing at a high level, players such as Ronnie Brown, Brandon Marshall and others reaching the limits of their talents to surround Henne as he charges forward, then yes.

Yes, Henne can lead a Miami charge into the playoffs -- as long as his teammates are charging alongside him. By himself? Not yet.

October 07, 2010

Dolphins go into the bye weekend a day early

The Dolphins have finished their work for the bye weekend. Coach Tony Sparano told the players today that they are off Friday (unexpectedly) as well as Saturday and Sunday.

The team is scheduled to gather again Monday to begin preparations for the Oct. 17 game at Green Bay.

Sparano was in a good mood today, saying the players had, "two of the practice practices in a long time," on Thursday and Friday.

Sparano's message to the team the past couple of days has been that not all is lost following consecutive home losses to division rivals New York and New England and that the season isn't over yet. "they understand there's a lot of football left," he said.

Interesting that although there is no injury report for the Dolphins this week because they are not playing, Sparano said today that Channing Crowder has made "progress the last couple of days," suggesting there might be a light at the end of the dark tunnel of inactivity the inside linebacker has been in.

Crowder has not play at all in the 2010 regular season. Sparano at one point mentioned the moment when Crowder does eventually return so obviously he's not thinking injured reserve at this point.


Thursday afternoon practice report

Much interest about what's going on with the Dolphins offensive line today during practice.

John Jerry, he of the illness that has forced him to miss two games, returned to practice for the first time in two weeks.

Jake Long missed the second day of practice today but do not fret. As reported Wednesday by The Herald's Jeff Darlington who quoted a source, Long is simply being rested. Long's knee, an minor issue since the preseason finale at Dallas, has been bothering the left tackle. And since Miami isn't playing on the bye weekend, this was the perfect time for rehabilitation and rest.

At center today the Dolphins are of course getting repetitions from center Joe Berger. He is, after all, the starting center. But they are also getting reps out of backup Cory Procter. I would not be surprised if the team is trying to get more out of Berger by trying to kindle the flames of a competition between him and Procter. So there's that.

October 06, 2010

Sparano: Special teams players got better Mon.

Did you read the headline? Did you throw up?

Relax. Work with me, here, please.

Coach Tony Sparano just spoke to the media today and noted that in a game where the Miami special teams imploded -- allowing a 103-yard kickoff return, a field goal block returned for a touchdown, and a blocked punt that led to a touchdown -- there were parts of the special teams play that showed improvement from previous weeks and actually looked good.

Here's exactly how he stated the case:

"The hard thing, and I'm going to answer this question as honest as I can to answer it," Sparano said. "Tell me the return that came out there other than the big one? Tell me where we didn't ... "

His voice trailed off, before he picked up with a new thought ...

"So when I'm watching this film here the other night, am I pissed off? Sure," he said. "Obviously I'm pissed off. We can't cost ourselves points. We just can't do that. And we did.

"But when you break it down and take the three plays out of that tape, and you can't, they're part of the game, they change the game, no question about it. But when you do it and you take those plays out and start to watch the rest of the game, there were some really positive things done in that game.

"Guys like Nolan Carroll got better in that game. Reshad Jones got better in that game. Nobody said one word to me about Austin Spitler who played 14, 15 plays on special teams for the first time and played pretty darn good in that game. Well, you're going to say, 'Coach, how can they all play good?' There were three plays in the game, all in different phases and at different times in the game. That's not an excuse, but I just think they're fixable. And I trust the people in that room to fix them."

Obviously, Sparano trusts the new people in the room to fix the problem because he fired special teams coordinator John Bonamego on Tuesday. But all this suggests Sparano expects the players that are in the room, or at least some of them, are getting better.

He is, indeed, an glass-half-full person.

Randy Moss trade has ripple effects on Miami

Here in the NFL hinterland -- where ESPN thinks nothing is going on even though a special teams coordinator got fired four games into the season after an epic meltdown of his units and Bill Parcells is forever on everyone's lips because he's leaving one minute and running things to the point he's dissing Chad Henne the next -- we watch with interest today's Randy Moss trade.

Us boring folk down here on the porch fanning ourselves and drinking lemonade have two ways of looking at the trade that just happened in the media sophisticated Northeast because its ripple effects can be felt here:

We can be freaked at the fact the Patriots, a division rival, are about to get much stronger. The Patriots are obviously in rebuild mode despite their 3-1 record and we know that because one does not jettison an elite deep threat receiver no matter his contract status, unless one has a panoramic view of what's happening. Simply, one does not trade an elite player if you think you can win a championship this year. Trading away elite players, you see, diminish your chances.

So, the Patriots are reloading and that reported third-round pick they got for Moss is troublesome because it gets added to the Fort Knox of picks the team is storing for 2011. Next April, the Patriots have a full complement of picks plus Oakland's first round pick, Carolina's second-round pick, Minnesota's third-round pick and Denver's fourth-round pick.

To put it midly, the Patriots have an opportunity to clean up at the next draft.

And that's bad news for the Dolphins.

But there is the other side of the proverbial coin to consider. That side is about today and right now.

The short view of this trade is that the Patriots are looking off into the future and missing that which is right in front of their collective noses. Note to Bill Belichick: The 2010 season still has 12 games remaining. Your team is 3-1 and virtually tied for the AFC East lead. Tom Brady isn't getting any younger. Wes Welker is a nice receiver but he isn't a deep threat and Brandon Tate is uproven. So you just got weaker today, hoodieman.

The timing of this trade is such that Moss will play against New England's chief divisional rival -- the New York Jets -- this coming Monday night. But guess what? The timing of this trade also puts Moss on the Vikings on Oct. 31 when they travel to Foxboro, Mass. So the Patriots just helped get an upcoming opponent that much stronger even as they diminished their ability to attack secondaries in the short-term.

One can understand if the Patriots were forced to make this trade because Moss was being a pain in the posterior and turning into more of a locker room liability than dividend. But I am close to one of the parties involved in this trade and this NFL source tells me Moss was not in any way a problem in the Pats locker room or meeting rooms. Moss and Belichick never had words with one another, either, I'm told.

A couple of weeks ago, Belichick explained to Moss he didn't want him complaining about not having a contract after the season-opening win and Moss basically answered, "Yes sir. Understood."

This Tuesday there were reports Moss had a confrontation of some sort with Belichick. I'm told by my source Moss didn't even speak to Belichick after failing to catch a pass against the Dolphins -- and not because he was mad at the coach, but simply because he didn't have need or desire to say anything by way of complaint.

So it's not like New England rid itself of a cancer. It did rid itself of an enigmatic but also elite player.

So over here in the hinterland, we wonder if that's good for us? Or bad for us?

[Practice update: Jake Long was not at practice today. Not working was John Jerry, Lionel Dotson and Jared Odrick. Channing Crowder was working during the period open to the media, to what extent -- full or limited -- I cannot say with certainty.]

[Update: Patriots coach Bill Belichick released a statement about the Moss trade through the team:

"Over the course of the past several months, I have spoken with Randy and his representative about Randy’s place on our team and his future in football. Consistent with my dealings with Randy from the day we acquired him through our conversation this morning it has been honest, thoughtful and with great mutual respect.

"While I will keep private the details of internal conversations with players and staff suffice it to say that many things were taken into consideration before making the trade. In this business, there are complex and often difficult decisions but it is my responsibility to make them based on what I feel is best for our football team in both the short term and long term.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to have coached Randy Moss and aside from facing him as an opponent. I wish him the very best for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.”]

October 05, 2010

Dolphins fire John Bonamego, promote Rizzi

The Dolphins have fired special teams coach John Bonamego and replaced him with assistant special teams coach Darren Rizzi, according to coach Tony Sparano.

The decision was made by Sparano overnight.

Bonamego was Miami's special teams coordinator since 2008. He was the coach most responsible for the poor play of the teams the past two weeks when the Dolphins had two punts blocked, had a field goal blocked and returned for a TD, and gave up a 103-yard kickoff return TD.

Rizzi joined the Dolphins in 2009 and had no previous experience in the NFL prior to that. Rizzi has been coaching in college since 1993 through  2008 with Colgate, New Haven, Northeastern, New Haven again as the head coach, Rutgers and Rhode Island as the head coach.

In announcing Bonamego's departure, Sparano called it a "tough decision," cautioned that "it ain't all broke," and "players also have to take responsibility."

There will be some changes with players also in the coming weeks although there are no specifics at this time. The Dolphins have used starters on special teams, including Tim Dobbins, Jason Allen and Cameron Wake.

"I want my core players to play better on special teams right now," Sparano said. "To be honest, if we need to put more starters in there, we'll look at that."

I recognize that some of you will view this move as a day late and three touchdowns allowed short. The special teams, after all, have struggled for years in Miami with last week's Jets game being among the worst of that.

In that regard, Sparano might have moved one week sooner.

But doing it today, after Monday night's meltdown which I described in my Miami Herald column as an epic failure, is better than nothing. It is a risk. Rizzi might not be the permanent fix. And as the assistant, he was part of the staff that authored the problem as well.

But perhaps he will oversee changes. Perhaps he will correct the issues with blocking schemes against line stunts that Bonamego clearly did not. I would start with Pat McQuistan, who simply didn't block anyone on one of the blocked kicks last night.

We'll see how it turns out. 

The reaction following Miami's 41-14 loss to Pats

Special teams? It looked more like Special Ed.

"We should all be embarrassed, especially on special teams," linebacker Tim Dobbins said. "We let the whole team down."

My column tomorrow takes special teams coach John Bonamego to task. It is, after all, his unit that cost Miami three touchdowns.

But special teams core player Jason Allen said the issue was on the players.

"No question, he said. "The coaches are not in between the line. There are 11 guys on that field and we are responsible. Once you step in between the line, there are no coaches telling you what to do. The coaches do not play. They coach."

Hard to argue. But the coaches are charged with resolving on-going problems. And this was the second consecutive game and fourth game in last eight that Miami had a punt blocked.

Still, this epic fail was practically team wide this night.

"We got a lot to correct," cornerback Vontae Davis said despite the fact he is one facet that needs little correction. "We got to go to work, go in the film room, see what we have to correct. It's the little stuff. You can't turn the ball over, we know that. We got to work on that."

The Dolphins turned the ball over four times Monday night -- three of them Chad Henne interceptions. (Tyler Thigpen also threw one to, you know, get into the spirit of things.)

"We talked about a standard of play all week," Henne said. "We talked about that all week, and me personally, taking care of the ball. We still had a chance to come out in the second half when we're up, but we just didn't execute and I take that on as a quarterback. I'll put that one on my shoulders and just watch the films and try to improve on it."

Henne regressed in this game. Sure he completed 29 of 39 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. But he threw three interceptions with all of them seemingly thrown right at players in the opposite uniform as if he hadn't seen them.

"He was looking right at me," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said of his second interception.

"On the first one, the deep spread, I kind of forced it and the linebacker was underneath Brandon Marshall," Henne said. "That was definitely forced. The second one, I needed to put the ball more outside. The guy made a good play. When it came down to the last one, it was just miscommunication."

Marshall took responsibility for the miscommunication issue on the last interception.

But none of those errors even addresses the passes Henne threw in the dirt. Or the pass he failed to throw to Marshall when Miami's go-to receiver was WIDE OPEN in the middle of the field in the second quarter.

Look, any game the Dolphins limit Tom Brady to 153 passing yards and sack him three times, that's a good night for the secondary. But Miami was hurt once again but its run defense. Benjarvus Green-Ellis averaged more yards per carry (4.8) than he has names. Danny Woodhead also did some damage in averaging 4.5 yards per tote.

As Kendall Langford tweeted following the game, "WTF..."

October 04, 2010

Patriots lead Dolphins 27-14 going to 4th quarter

Special teams cost the Dolphins dearly in the third quarter.

They yielded a 103-yard kickoff return to Brandon Tate.

And then Brandon Fields had a punt blocked inside his own 20 yard line. The Patriots scored another TD.

Miami fought back with a TD pass from Chad Henne to Ricky Williams. But then the defense gave it back.

It is now officially the shootout we expected.

Join me in the comments section for the live blog finale.

Dolphins lead Pats 7-6 going to 3rd quarter

I expected a high-scoring game, and we'd probably have one were it not for two untimely interceptions by Chad Henne.

After moving the ball very well on their first possession of the night, the Miami offense has been derailed by two picks, one of which made me almost jump out of my seat.

On that second-quarter interception, Henne threw a sideline route to Brian Hartline when Brandon Marshall was running wide open down the middle of the field. Rob Ninkovich intercepted the sideline pass instead.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have not managed to get in the end zone, but have gotten their kicking game untracked with two field goals.

So to the third quarter we go. Join me in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Pats 7-0 going to 2nd quarter

The Dolphins have gotten off to a good start tonight, leading the Patriots 7-0 through the first quarter.

Davone Bess has SO FAR been the better slot receiver in this game -- not Wes Welker -- as he caught a 19-yard TD pass to give the Dolphins the lead. Bess has two catches for 40 yards so far.

Cameron Wake, meanwhile, is playing like a beast in applying pressure on Tom Brady.

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

Live blog of Dolphins versus Pats here

The Dolphins are rockin' the aqua tops and white pants tonight on Monday Night Football. The field is rockin' real sod again following last night's season-finale for the Florida Marlins. That means there are strange, brown, uneven patches from about the 30 yard line going in to the west end zone here at Sun Life Stadium.

I expect a high-scoring game.

I simply don't see how the Patriots will be able to stop the Dolphins running game. I know they will try. I know they will present multiple fronts that could include the dreaded eighth defender. But I just think the Dolphins have seen so much of it, they will be able to move the ball on the ground if they stick to it.

I also think the Dolphins will be able to pass the ball. The Patriots have shuffled their defensive backfield this week, benching both cornerback Darius Butler and safety Brandon Meriweather. They can be exploited.

And, obviously, I think the Patriots will be able to move the ball on Miami. I think Tom Brady can find the holes in the Miami secondary but the truth is the Patriots now think themselves something of a good running team with Benjarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield.

They think they can run it against a Miami team that has given up over 140 rushing yards each of the past two weeks and doesn't like putting eight men in the box.

So what do you have when all this comes together?


I could be wrong, but it's hard to argue with the logic. We'll see.

Come back here for the updates on the inactives. The live blog starts in the comment section below. See you there.,

[Update: The Dolphins inactives are Channing Crowder, Jared Odrick, John Jerry, Jeron Mastrud, Marlon Moore, Robert Rose, Patrick Brown, with Tyler Thigpen the third QB.]

You can also follow me on twitter.

Is Jason Allen the truth or a fraud? We find out soon

Even as there has been much celebration about Jason Allen's rise from the ashes to starter status this year, you might have noticed that my reaction to his rise has been muted.

I have not joined in the celebration or been prone to grand applause because, well, I'm still not a believer. (By the way, I also didn't rip him for giving up a TD and getting called for a pass interference against the Jets last week.)

I guess I have a hard time thinking that four years of bust do not get erased by four months of boom. And so I have decided to say nothing rather than say I don't trust him as a Dolphins starting cornerback because he's a good man and why rain on his parade?

But it gets serious now. This Dolphins schedule becomes seriously challenging now so I cannot be silent any more.

The next three games, starting with tonight's against the New England Patriots, will tell me if Allen is the resurrected talent everyone thinks he's become ... or something of a blind squirrel who stumbled upon a nut the first few weeks of this season.

The next three games Allen will face receivers such as Randy Moss and Wes Welker and Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. He will look across the field and see Hines Ward and Mike Wallace with the Steelers. And before too long, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin will be challenging him.

This is a far cry from the first two games of the season when Allen played wonderfully, but did so, in part, because of favorable matchups and the fact his opponents were diminished.

Allen was excellent against the Bills and Minnesota. But the truth is against the Bills he constantly got help over the top from safety Chris Clemons and that forced quarterback Trent Edwards to not throw even one pass in the first half to Lee Evans, whom Allen was covering.

Eventually Evans caught a couple of passes but Allen got the better of that matchup. No doubt about it. But remember the quarterback that was trying to complete passes against him that day was out of the starting lineup and eventually off the team within a matter of weeks.

Allen had the best game of his career against Minnesota. He had two interceptions and it was excellent work. But please remember he was working against a Minnesota team that doesn't have its best wide receiver because Sidney Rice is on PUP.

So now comes Tom Brady and the New England passing show. Then comes Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing show. Then comes Ben Roethlisberger and the fine receivers the Steelers bring to the field.

There are no excuses now. If Allen plays as well against that trio of teams and those difficult matchups, I will say I am finally convinced he has arrived. I hope he has.

We shall see starting tonight.

[BLOG NOTE: Of course, there will a be a live blog during tonight's Monday night game between the Dolphins and Patriots! Get back here in the hour or so prior to kickoff for all the latest and the chat.]

October 03, 2010

Victory leading into the bye is HUGE

My column in the Miami Herald today deals with the topic of defining this season. I write Monday night's game against the Patriots will tell us if the Dolphins will be contenders in the AFC East the rest of the season or just the team that watches the Patriots and Jets duke it out.


Read the column because it outlines the situation clearly.

The column also outlines how players feel about the importance of winning the game before the bye weekend.

If you win this game things are great in Dolphinsland for the next two weeks.

"Well it makes it easier; practices are easier, the week may be a little shorter so it definitely helps to go into the bye week with some momentum," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said.

A loss on the week before a bye ... Not good.

"Yeah, I mean you definitely have a sour taste in your mouth for one long week and you definitely want to get out on the field if you lose," quarterback Chad Henne said. "So, going into this bye-week we want to win. Last year we played the Jets and we won that game. We went in and had a little extra time to go against New Orleans. So, getting on this winning page and having success is important … This is the most important game, I mean there’s no doubt about it. If we lose this game we’re setting ourselves back in the division. So, this is a must, you know. We got to come out, trying to win this game."

October 02, 2010

Crowder doubtful (he's not playing) plus more

Usually the Dolphins are not practicing on Saturday because they're either having a walk-thru practice or flying to their away games. But since this week is about playing on Monday Night Football, the Fins practiced Saturday.

And afterward, coach Tony Sparano met with the local media for the final time before the game. Here is everything he said. By the way, Channing Crowder is back to the team and worked on a limited basis Saturday. He's listed as doubtful, but let's be clear, he's not playing.

(On if he wants to say how Channing Crowder’s doctors visit went) – “No, not really. I mean nothing I want to say.”

(On how Channing Crowder will be listed on the injury report) – “I believe he was limited practice today, doubtful.”

 (On whether the Patriots still have their mystique) – “Sure, yeah absolutely, as I told the team today, the Patriots, Jets those were the two playoff teams last year. So those are the teams we’re chasing. Until we beat them, we’re still chasing them. To me they still have that. They know how to win games; they know how to win big games. They’ve been in a lot of them; their quarterback’s been in a lot of them. I still think they have it; sure they do.”

(On the Patriots defense) – “Yeah I mean some of the faces obviously have changed, but they still look like the same group of people in that they’re really a big physical group. You don’t have (Ty) Warren or (Richard) Seymour right now, but you got (Ron) Brace and these guys are big, the other (Gerard) Warren. So they’re really big, strong, physical people. The two inside linebackers, you know (Jerod) Mayo’s been there a few years; I really think he’s a heck of a player, but this (Brandon) Spikes from (the University of) Florida is a good player, physical guy. I think it’s a similar group, I really do. The back end, their safeties are tough guys, no different than they were a couple years ago back in the day. I think it’s a good group of people.”

(On the Patriots offensive line) – “Yeah well I mean there’s obviously good depth but that group really, they’ve really worked well together right from the beginning. They’ve done a nice job; looks like they got a bunch of smart guys up there that play real hard. (Dan) Koppen I think really does a super job with them in the middle there in getting those guys lined up and getting them going. Of course (Matt) Light has always been really a good player. They’ve got good players up there, and they’ve had a couple guys step in there and fill in for them that have done a nice job.”

(On Lousaka Polite and Davone Bess on third down and the value to have a viable option in the running and passing game on third down) – “Yeah I think so; I think it means something to the people that are defending you too. I think that’s where it helps you. In other words if it was just one and not the other I think (it’s) a little bit easier to maybe take that element out of third down. When you have the possibility of being able to run the ball okay or gain the yard that you need there or have a player like Bess right now and, or Brandon (Marshall) because right now in the league Bess and Brandon are really up there in these third downs in the league. When you have those elements I think it makes it really hard to defend all the weapons, and it’s like us playing against this group. They got two or three weapons there on third down that you got to make sure you account for.”

(On whether it is a legitimate gift to be talented on third down) – “I think so, yeah and one of the reasons I think so Jeff is because of the situation. In other words that’s one of the most critical situations in the game that comes up. I think that the players that can consistently are good on third down the way Bess has been good on third down, you would call them clutch performers. You would put them into one of those categories, and I kind of think that there’s a, when you’re looking at critical factors of a player, I think that’s one of the critical factors with some of these players that you can find out after you draft them and when the ball is hiked a little bit. I think it’s a pretty good gift to have.”

(On the most important thing he tells his linebackers and defensive backs when facing Wes Welker) – “You have to be disciplined with Wes. It’s just before the catch is where you’ve got to be disciplined with this guy because you have to have yourself in good body position to either make a play on the ball or make a play on him. I think that he’s such a herky jerky quick guy that when he gets you set and he gets your feet flat footed at that point is where he makes his next move one way or the other. I think that when you fall asleep on that move, you’re going to lose the rep and not only lose it, but probably lose it badly because you’re going to be in a bad body position trying to tackle this guy. The things that you’re telling them is to constantly be on the balls of your feet, constantly being in good body positions, try to get your hands on him and reroute him, do some of those type of things is what I think you go to do. Making sure that you’re, and I used this term before, plastering him throughout the rep is going to be important.”

(On whether he has ever found himself getting too wrapped up in what Bill Belichick is doing) – “No, not at all, no.”

(On whether there is even a temptation to over-prepare when facing Bill Belichick) – “I think he’s a great coach; he’s one of the great coaches that we’ve had in this league for a long time now. Coach Belichick concerns me, but they guy wearing 81 (Randy Moss) and 83 (Wes Welker) and the quarterback (Tom Brady) and those people; they concern me pretty big.”

(On whether he would be pleased if the infield dirt was taken up again) – “Yes, so if that happens, that would be super.”

(On whether the infield dirt is an issue he may not know the outcome of until Monday) – “Yeah it’s not, it’s not an issue one way or the other. My team is 100% prepared for the infield.”

(On the umpire’s new placement) – “Yeah I mean I haven’t really seen a whole lot one way or the other with the placement. I thought it was it was going to be a bigger factor in interference at times back there just because you’re not used to having him back there. These quarterbacks all of a sudden turn around and there’s another body there. It hasn’t really been a factor one way or the other. The calls have all, I’ve actually studied the calls between this year’s three weeks and last year’s first three weeks, and it’s probably pretty similar.”

(On if defensive lineman can now get away with a little more because of the umpire’s new position) – “I wouldn’t, I’m not going to comment on that.”

(On his being good at avoiding those questions) – “I need my money. I got kids in college.”

(On his son Tony’s coaching and if he’s been able to keep up with it) – “Yeah I got a chance to watch the game last week; it was good. My wife and I put in Direct TV and actually on that day Friday and they played Jeff Garcia and the Omaha team or whatever that was. They lost in the last second of the game on a last play. It was interesting. Garcia threw a touchdown to I believe it was Robert Ferguson, but they had a bye week this week. Actually my little guy is playing Yale right now from Albany’s playing Yale down at the Yale Bowl down in my hometown so my wife and my entire family are there. They were winning at the half but you guys are holding me up.”

October 01, 2010

Will Tom Brady be focused against Dolphins?

Um ... Tom Brady is a great quarterback. Among his many gifts are his ability to focus on and often times dissect an opponent -- a skill that requires concentration and attention to details.

But Brady might have other things on his mind now, even as he continues preparation for Monday night's game between the Dolphins and his New England Patriots.

You see, TMZ.com has posted a photo of Brady's supermodel wife Gisele apparently getting up-close-and-personal with a man that is most definitely not Brady. The photo was shot in Paris Thursday evening. Brady is in Foxborough.

Enough said.