Tony Sparano likes to get inside of the numbers for his football team because, I assume, the digits sometimes can confirm what he sees on tape or perhaps on rare occasion present a different revelation that isn't necessarily shining through on tape.
So in the last couple of days while his players were off, the Dolphins coach was crunching numbers on a player productivity chart.
"One of the things I did with the football team the last couple of days is I put together a production chart of the last three games at every position including special teams and then we ranked them all via their production," Sparano said Monday.
"My figuring with the three games is we've kind of been on a roller coaster the last three games. So going back seven, eight games you'd be looking at some players that aren't even on the football team right now. The last three games we are 1-2 starting with the Baltimore game which was a staple game for us at that place, and then we really needed to win the game against Tennesee and we really needed to win the last game.
"When you're back's against the wall as it is right now -- we know our margin for error is a lot slimmer than it is for the Jets or New England -- so going back three games I figured this is crunch time and our backs are against the wall, so let's look at the producers. Let's look at some of those things and throw it out there and see what we come up with."
Sparano is not throwing the production chart results out there that I know of. (Memo to the coach: If you'd like to e-mail it to me, I won't say nothing just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org :-))
But this being a blog and all, and me being paid to give my opinion and all, I'd like to share with you the top three or four producers I see off the last three games the Dolphins have played. There is a serious surprise in the bunch.
I would say Miami's top producer the last three weeks has been Karlos Dansby. If you don't agree, you go argue with the man. He'll be taking you to the streets like LeRon McCLain. Dansby recorded 8 tackles, 10 tackles, and 10 tackles in the last three games. He has a sack, he has a pass defensed, and he's forced a fumble. It is rare when Dansby takes a bad angle to ball carrier -- something his running mate Channing Crowder could learn to improve -- and at least two of those tackles I just told you about stopped potential first-down gains.
The second most productive player was tougher to pick because both Yeremiah Bell and Cameron Wake are doing work in that three-game span. Wake's tackle total was eight against Baltimore, six against Chicago, but only one against Tennessee. He had three sacks in the three games, with two coming against the Ravens. He had one forced fumble in the three games. Obviously, the Titans game makes Wake seem more ... human. He was hurt during the game. He was handled by Tennessee's tackle combo. But does that erase the other two outings?
Yeremiah Bell is on pace to just about equal his numbers of a year ago when he went to the Pro Bowl but something has been missing. Oh, I know, he hasn't had to chase down from behind three or four ball carriers that plowed over Akin Ayodele or Gibril Wilson like he did last year. Bell collected five tackles at Baltimore, eight verus the Titans and five more against Chicago. He has a forced fumble. He has a pass defensed, he has a sack -- all in the last three games. That's productive.
And now I'm going to stun you.
Brian Hartline is one of Miami's most productive players the past three games. He caught four passes for 85 yards against Baltimore for a 21.3 yards per catch average. He caught five passes for 98 yards and a 19.6 yards per catch average against Tennessee. He had five receptions for 70 yards for a 14.0 yards per catch average versus Chicago.
Hartline has been Miami's most productive and most reliable receiver the last three games. Not only is he producing but he has (for whatever reason, including a bad throw from the QB) missed only one targetted throw in each game. In other words, if Miami QBs are throwing to Hartline the last three games, they are getting results for the effort rather than drops or incompletions of another sort.
No, Hartline does not have a TD in the last three games. Guess what? Neither does any other Miami wide receiver.
This is just my list while I await Sparano to e-mail me his. (email@example.com).
But it should tell you something about Miami's issues when neither running back Ronnie Brown nor Ricky Williams could be considered as having been highly productive recently. It says something that no Miami QB is highly productive in that time, and in fact, Chad Henne got benched during that time. It should say something that alpha receiver Brandon Marshall has not been exceedingly productive in that time, particularly when you balance receptions with drops and penalties.
So who am I leaving out? Who else has been productive? And who hasn't been?