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63 posts from December 2010

December 20, 2010

Sparano has no endorsement but gives one to Henning

Tony Sparano has not seen Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is some time and consequently has not received any assurances he will continue to be the Dolphins head coach in 2011. But, in case you're wondering, he is endorsing offensive coordinator Dan Henning as his guy.

Sparano was asked during today's press conference if he has met with Ross recently.

“I haven’t visited with him, no, and that’s not my problem right now,” Sparano said. “My problem is to get ready for the Detroit Lions. That’s what I’m charged with.”

For the sake of clarification, I asked Sparano if he's received any sort of endorsement or assurance from Ross that he will be the Miami coach in 2010. He has not.

“I just need to get my team to get ready to play this week," he said. "That's what I need to do. Everything is else is beyond my control. Let someone else deal with it."

Sparano must deal with picking a coach to run Miami's offense in 2011. I have reported previously that most people in the Dolphins facility expect offensive coordinator Dan Henning to retire. But if Henning were to get a wild-hair idea about returning in 2011 after his unit finished 31st in the NFL in scoring (where it currently ranks), Sparano sounds like he'd be fine with that.

“I think that Dan Henning, for Tony Sparano, has been tremendous,” Sparano said, using the often fatal third-person reference to himself in his speech. “I think the guy has done a wonderful job during my time here. I look at the entire body of work, you guys just look at the last three or four games.

"I look at the whole body of work and this guy has done a tremendous job. He’s the same guy that we were all talking about, ‘Man oh man, he finds the ways to use the personnel to the best of their ability.’ That was you people saying that not me. So I would tell you for Tony Sparano Dan Henning has been tremendous. It's easy to point blame, fellas, and I get it. it comes with the territory. That's the way it goes. I need to do a better job. Tony Sparano needs to do a better job.”

Here's my thinking: Sparano went overboard to defend Henning. I don't believe that was by accident. And I hope he fully intends to see Henning off with a gold watch or whatever the Dolphins give their retiring assistants who had terrible seasons.

Ultimately, Sparano will be judged by whether, in fact, Henning returns next year. I believe if he makes the pitch to Ross that he just made to the public about Henning, he will lose all credibility with the owner. I don't think that will happen. I think, I hope that was just for public consumption.

I just wish coach would realize we're not stupid. Dumb, maybe. But not stupid. We understand he's saying something that ultimately won't mean squat. So why say it and hurt your credibility?

... Unless, of course, he actually means this stuff with the zeal he used, in which case I would seriously worry about this franchise's future.

RoboHenne is back and that is not a good thing

One of the things I perceive is a problem with quarterback Chad Henne is his robotic, unfeeling, almost zombie-like approach to playing his position.

Henne would never think of calling a freak audible that isn't dictated by the defense or coaching staff. He follows his progression of reads even if it means throwing a 4-yard pass to Ricky Williams with 23 seconds to play from his own 28 yard line when he's got no timeouts and needs to go 45 yards to line up for a game-tying FG.

Heart? Passion? Emotion? Nowhere to be found.

It drives me crazy.

Henne had one game when he played like a guy with a big heart in his chest and emotion coarsing through his body this season: The Raiders game on November 28. He has since gone back to the uninstinctive, unemotional, uninspired, unsatisfactory play that we saw before he got benched.

On Sunday, however, Henne took robotics to a new high. He did it on the field. And he did it in his post-game press conference to the point he is starting to lose credibility.

To recap: On Sunday the Dolphins lost their sixth home game in seven outings. The offense was largely ineffective against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The loss eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs.

The pain and meaning of the day was captured by perfectly by Brandon's Marshall, who issued a finely tuned apology to his defensive teammates for the offense's poor play. Marshall also said it was everyone's fault, including coaches, that the offense is not producing. (You can read Marshall's statement in the previous post.)

Henne followed less than a minute after Marshall spoke. And he totally lost me.

(On Brandon Marshall’s comments apologizing to the defense) – “I mean it’s not embarrassing. Obviously we didn’t do what we wanted to do out there execution wise and finishing the game but we win and lose as a team; there’s no pointing fingers. That’s about it; we win and lose as a team.”

What he should have said: I can't blame Brandon for feeling the way he does. I can't disagree, either. No one with a brain would.

(On whether it was frustrating being taken out of the game late while the Wildcat was run) – “Well I mean that’s the coach’s decision. They make the call and if they feel they can run something with the Wildcat and make some positive yards, we’ll do that.”

What he should have said: Frankly, yes. I think Wildcat has a great place in our offense but when the game is on the line, I want the ball in my hands. And I don't want to comment beyond that.

(On whether the fans were justified in booing with only one home win) – “They’ve been booing the last couple weeks so I guess we’re used to it. We, we don’t want to go out that way. It’s a sick feeling for us. I mean to not have home field advantage in this league is, it’s tough and it’s not like we’re not trying out there not to win at home. I mean there’s a lot of guys out there with a lot of heart playing, playing their hearts out out there for our fans and our home field advantage out there.”

What he should have said: Yes. We work for them and we haven't given them enough reasons to cheer, enough reasons to show up in droves, enough reasons to be happy. It is on us. They react to us. We don't react to them.

(On what he would change to get more touchdowns rather than field goals) – “I mean put it on our shoulders. Whatever is called, we’re not going to point our fingers at our coaches or players. Whatever is called we have to execute. We had some negative plays there, some penalties that hurt us. It’s just execution. We’ll put it on our shoulders as players to execute the play that’s called and making the decision after that.”

What he should have said: I would change my execution. It needs to improve. I'm the starting QB. I touch the football on every play. If I perform at a certain level, we'll score more points. Having said that, I'm still learning and I need to get better. Be patient. I'll get there.

I believe the Dolphins will go searching this offseason for a quarterback that doesn't play robotic and isn't seemingly walking on egg shells because the coaches have brow beaten him and turned him into a double-talker.

The Chad Henne I've seen this year is not that quarterback.

December 19, 2010

Brandon Marshall apologizes to defenders blames everyone on offensive side of the ball, including coaches

Brandon Marshall just delivered a statement of mea culpa about the terrible offensive play the Dolphins offense -- ranked 31st in the NFL in scoring coming into today -- delivered in this 17-14 loss to the Bills and, indeed, has delivered all season.

The statement at his presser before he took questions:

"First before I take any questions, I want to apologize to the defensive guys, especially the players. All year they played their hearts out, they played together, they played like a unit is supposed to play. I'm not sure if we're out of the playoffs but we need a miracle to get in.

"I say that to say this: Offensively all year, we didn't get the job done. We didn't make enough plays. Today we didn't make enough plays. Today we didn't get the job done. It's embarrassing. It's just a shame. You have a defense like that, you don't have to be great as an offense. You just have to be OK. And we haven't been that all year. And it's embarrassing. So I apologize to each guy on the other side of the ball.

"And myself I'm held accountable, too. I'm not pointing fingers to anyone on offense, it's all of us as a group, coaches, too. We just didn't get the job done today and it's been that way all season."

Notice that Marshall does not exclude anyone. Seriously, it is the coaching, the play-calling, the execution, the running game, the passing game, the quarterback, the offensive line, and sometimes the receivers.

He got it all. The Dolphins need a total revamp on offense.


Dolphins lose 17-14 to the Bills -- terrible

The Dolphins were driving. They were ins.ide the Buffalo Bills 35 yard line. Chad Henne had driven them from deep in his own territory, which meant he was hot on a day he was otherwise not too good.

And on second-and-10 Dan Henning pulled Henne and ran a Wildcat play.

It gained not one yard.

Second and 10 went to third and 10. And that ended in an incomplete pass. And Miami went for a game-tying field goal inside of two minutes to play. It is the story of this season, folks.

Except Dan Carpenter missed it like he missed his other three kicks this day.

So Dolphins played for a tie and lost, 17-14.

At home.

The Buffalo Bills.


Don't talk playoffs to me. There will be no playoffs.

Bills lead Dolphins 17-7 to start of fourth quarter

The referee just said, "This is the end (long pause) of the third quarter."

He might as well have put a period after end.

That's how it feels here in Sun Lifeless Stadium. Down in every manner possible.

The Bills lead 17-7 and are driving again. Terrible.

Join me for the fun in the comments section. If the Dolphins cannot rally, this season is pretty much over.

Bills lead Dolphins 10-7 going to third quarter

I have a problem and it isn't the score of this game right now, which is 10-7 in favor of the Bills.

Here's my problem: The Dolphins are in playoff contention. They are aware they must come out breathing a combination of fire and sulfuric acid because, they should know, they are still in playoff contention despite the fact they stink at home.

So what happens?

The team comes out in a trance in the first quarter. They have no energy in the second quarter. And they fall behind 10-0.

Oh, wake up call!

So that's what it takes? You have to fall behind to the 3-10 Buffalo Bills to decide to start playing?


I assume the Dolphins are awake now. Brandon Marshall has five catches for 52 yards. Ronnie Brown has a TD run. Yeremiah Bell leads the team with four tackles and Bennie Sapp has an interception.

One hopes the team doesn't go back to sleep in the locker room at halftime.

Dolphins and Bills tied at inept (offenses)

The highlight of the first quarter?

Kevin Curtis made his Dolphins debut. On his third play he got behind Drayton Florence on a post pattern. He was wide open.

Chad Henne overthrew what was a certain TD.

And on the next play Henne threw an interception.

If you wish to discuss such great defensive play ... the live blog continues in the comments section.

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Bills: All Day!

I was watching the NFL Network this morning and was quite surprised by part of the broadcast which led me to turn it off.

The league's media arm was running down the AFC playoff picture, which of course, included the teams leading their divisions, the teams currently in as wildcard teams, and those "in the hunt."

The Dolphins, according to the wisdom of the NFL Network, were not included in the hunt although some 7-6 teams were. Either the Dolphins get no respect or the NFL knows something.

Look, I recognize the Dolphins have very slim possibilities of getting in the playoffs. Even if they win their final three games -- a serious possibility -- they are not guaranteed of getting in because they need others beyond just the collapsing New York Jets, to lose.

But geez, at least respect the possibilities, no?

I would tell you the biggest chance the Dolphins have of winning today's road game at Buffalo (remember the Dolphins are 1-5 at home so home field advantage doesn't exist this year) is to torment quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is the better QB in today's game. Look at the stats. So Miami needs Cameron Wake to make his life miserable. It is a real possibility as Wake leads the NFL in sacks and the Bills have some former guard Mansfield Wrotto, starting at right tackle. I told Wake about Buffalo's right tackle issues on Friday.

"We want those [issues] to peak on Sunday," he said. "That's the plan."


It is interesting to me that although Wake leads the NFL with 14 sacks, no one in the Dolphins organization believes he's arrived as a player. And there is more evidence of that than just what folks are saying. There are factoids that speak to Wake still not being in the forefront of the national fans or even Dolphins fanbase thinking. 

It is a beautiful day in So. Fla. And there are Bills fans in the house. I saw Bills fans on the Turnpike driving down to the game, for goodness sake. It will be interesting to me how many DOLPHINS fans show up today despite the fact this game is a sellout.

I did't detect a lot of buzz about this game this week.

Ah, the home field advantage.

[UPDATE: Reshad Jones starts for starts for Chris Clemons today.]

December 17, 2010

NFL reminds Fins, everyone else of sideline rules

The NFL has contacted all 32 NFL head coach -- yes, even the interim guys -- to remind them of the rules in place to keep the respective benches free of cheating creative ideas similar to the one employed by the New York Jets last week against the Dolphins.

Coach Tony Sparano received the heads up from the NFL Football Operations Department in the last 24 hours.

The memo from the NFL reminds all coaches of the following:

  • Each organization is responsible for appointing a “get-back” coach.  This individual must be aware of all sideline restrictions and will be responsible for insuring that your team and staff are in compliance. 
  • Violations could subject your team and/or individuals to both in-game penalties and other disciplinary action.  Flagrant violations after two warnings could result in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Discipline, including fines and suspensions, may be imposed by the League Office when appropriate.  
  • Pages A75-A76 of the Policy Manual for Member Clubs, Vol. II, Game Operations specifically state:

Team personnel in the bench area must observe the zone restrictions in the three areas — (1) the first border or white stripe; (2) the second border; and (3) the player area. Violations of the zone restrictions are subject to fine at the discretion of the Commissioner and game officials have been directed to call unsportsmanlike conduct penalties when warnings to clear the first border areas are not heeded. Safety and officiating access are the prime consideration… 

First Border — The only persons allowed in this solid white six-foot (minimum) area on a continuous basis during the game are the Game Officials and the chain crew; no coaches or players. 

Second Border — … [extends to solid yellow line within the bench area that is six feet from the solid white border.] Within the bench area, the only persons allowed within this second border on a continuous basis during the game are the head coach, assistant coaches involved in calling signals, assistant coaches in charge of substitutions, and small groups of situation substitution players ready to be sent into the game immediately. No other players are allowed in the second border. Each coaching staff should designate a “get-back” coach to ensure that the rules governing the borders are observed by all players and coaches during the game. 

Players & Bench Personnel — Except for those persons allowed in the first and second borders, all other persons with bench credentials and all players not in the game at the time shall remain in the bench area behind the second border. 

  • Additionally, on page A77, the policy states: 

While play is in progress, there will be no coaches or players within the white border, thus avoiding possible interference with officiating of the game. In the six-foot area between the back of the white border and the solid yellow line, only the following persons will be permitted: the Head Coach, Assistant Coaches involved in calling defensive or offensive signals, Assistant Coaches in charge of substitutions, and only those small groups of players ready to be sent into the game immediately (offensive or defensive packages). 

The game officials will issue warnings during the game regarding first and second border violations and work with the team’s “get-back” coach to prevent problems, and will call unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in cases of flagrant violations after two warnings…The League office may impose discipline on clubs for a first violation of the border rules, followed by increasing fines for subsequent violations. 

  • Rule 13, Section 1, Article 5 of the Official NFL Playing Rules provides as follows: 

“Coaches and other non-participating team personnel (including uniformed players not in the game at the time)     are prohibited from moving laterally along  the sidelines any further than the points that are 18 yards from the middle of the bench area (i.e., 32-yard lines to left and right of bench areas when benches are placed on opposite sides of the field). Lateral movement within the bench area must be behind the slid six foot white border.” 

To assist with the enforcement of this rule, effective immediately, all game officials are being instructed not to engage in any prolonged discussion with any coach outside of the permitted zone while play is in progress.

This rule is intended for safety and to avoid possible interference with officiating of the game. That means you will not see coaches arguing with officials for very long, either.

The name of the better QB in Sunday's game? Fitzpatrick

The enduring memory I have of Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is him getting around the edge of the Dolphins 2009 defense and running for a TD.

And as the Dolphins prepare for Sunday's game against the Bills, I am impressed that my trusty stat sheet that surprises because it says Fitzpatrick is a solid quarterback who border on being pretty good. He has 21 TDs to 11 interceptions. He's completing 58.5 percent of his passes. And his rating is 85.0.

Put another way, the Bills will start the best quarterback in the game on Sunday.

"I've been very impressed with him. I'm very impressed watching the film," Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "I didn't know what to expect because I did not study him until this week. I watched him in the past a little bit. When I was at San Francisco and he was at Cincinnati we played them. And I remember watching him before the game in warmups and thinking, 'This guy is pretty good.'

"Watching the film I've been very much impressed. He's got great eyes for a quarterback. If he hears that he'll think that sounds a little strange. he does an outstanding job with his eyes. He does an outstanding job getting rid of the ball. He knows the offense. He plays extremely intelligent and what I mean by that is he doesn't have to stare things down to know exactly where people are going to be. I've been very impressed."

That is not all.

"He's very resilient," Nolan said. "He doesn't get flustered by a bad down. We've played a lot of good quarterbacks all season long but this guy's got my attention he's got the player's attention, too."


December 16, 2010

Henning on things wrong with the Dolphins offense

Dan Henning is the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator. Everything that offense does -- or fails to do -- is supposed to be Henning's responsibility.

Henning isn't shy about telling you his offense isn't producing at a level that is acceptable to everyone. Actually, how couldn't he deny it. But the veteran coach is clearly of the thinking that players and their execution are the only things that make an offense go or stall.

His responsibility in the entire recipe? Rarely if ever mentioned.

Take today's press conference for example. The Dolphins offense has sucked struggled the past couple of weeks and most of the season. What does Henning believe is wrong?

On what is the central issue of the running game's problems: "Blocking. That's the issue ... Second level blocking. Getting to the second level. Breaking tackles. Same as it always is."

On the passing game: "We haven't done very well here in the passing game lately ... There's a lot of moving parts in the passing game. Sometimes it's difficult to pin down what the major problem is  or what the problems are and sometimes you might just run into a team that is playing pretty good or weather conditions and that type of thing. But we can't continue to exist with as little a passing game as we had last week. We have to do better than that."

Henning mentioned a Chad Henne gaffe in miscalling one protection during Sunday's game. He said the quarterback missed Fasano on a play when the tight end was open.

And then Henning broke down the whole picture for us, relating his thoughts on why the Dolphins are 31st in the NFL in points scored:

"We have to block better. We have to throw better. We have to run better routes. We have to catch the ball. We cannot have penalties. We have to move the ball in a more consistent, efficient manner than we have in the last three week -- not unlike we did in the Raiders game."

None of this is wrong. Henning is to be applauded for his relative candor. But I struggle with the fact that not once does the coach mention that, well, his coaching could perhaps have been better on an occasion or two or 10 this season.

It's like he is disconnected from the mess. It's as if he only calls plays and if the execution is 100 percent by those darn imperfect players, the plays he calls would work perfectly.

I'm trying not to be harsh or unfair. I've been told by a couple of folks that coach Tony Sparano is "disappointed" with me because I'm holding some of his assistants, such as Henning, responsible for some of the Dolphins struggles this year.

Well, maybe if some of those assistants would hold themselves responsible, I wouldn't have to say a word.

December 15, 2010

Fins expect looong sellout streak will continue

The last time the Dolphins did not sell out a regular-season home game in time to lift the local TV blackout?

You have to have a looong memory ... or a media guide.

It was October 18, 1998 when the St. Louis Rams came to town and were dispatched 14-0 by the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have sold out 99 consecutive home games on time over 12 seasons since that long-ago game against St. Louis. And, after much hand-wringing and persuading and negotiating even, the team is now hopeful that streak will reach 100 consecutive sellouts that lift the local blackout when the deadline arrives at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The Dolphins believe Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills will be sold out in time to lift the local TV blackout.

If it happens, as expected, it will have come with much work. The team will almost certainly get a guarantee from local station CBS-4. That guarantee will mean the station buys whatever number of unsold seats remain so that the game can be shown locally.

It is a win-win for everyone. The station has on its air what will certainly be the highest-rated show of the week in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market. The Dolphins get their sellout. And local fans that cannot afford or cannot get out to the game for some other reasons, have an opportunity to watch the game.

Good news for everyone.

God, I love when a plan comes together.

[ALERT: Thursday will be a very busy day. On this blog, you'll get an update from the coordinators, you'll get whatever information comes out of the locker room and you'll get the best of Coach Tony Sparano's presser. On my radio show Armando and the Amigo, we'll have Dolphins defensive end Kendall Langford, Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin, ESPN's Mike Wallace for Miami Heat talk, and a special surprise guest. I'll be gassed by the end of the day.]

Confirmation! Jets sideline wall no coincidence

There were folks who claimed Miami fans on this blog and elswhere were conspiracy theorist when it was claimed that wall along the sideline the Jets fabricated during Tripgate last Sunday could not have possibly been a coincidence.

Well, it wasn't.

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, in a conference call with New York reporters today, confirmed that the wall was a deliberate strategy. Tannenbaum said Sal Alosi, who tripped Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll as he ran downfield past the Jets sideline to cover a punt, also instructed several inactive players to form the wall.

So now we have Tripgate...and Wallgate.

Alosi, the strength and conditioning coach, is the fall guy for both. He had been suspended until the end of the season and fined $25,000 for his Tripgate actions. Tannenbaum announced today Alosi's suspension is now indefinite. (And it sounded like Tannenbaum was going to look at firing Alosi, altogether.)

Tannenbaum also said no Jets coach ordered Alosi to tell the players to line up. The Jets yesterday released a statement from Mike Westhoff, in which the special teams coach disavowed any knowlege of both Tripgate and Wallgate.

(By the way, I've talked to Westhoff before. I know he knows about Watergate, but that's another story and, no, he wasn't involved in that one for sure.)

So do you buy the Jets new explanation of what happened?

[UPDATE: Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said today he's not interested, keeping a stance he's had throughout this incident. "I'm by it," he said. "I have no reaction. I'm on to the Buffalo Bills."]

Tannenbaum told reporters the organization will be going back to tape of other games to see if this happened before.

This is definitely a black eye for the Jets organization. They've tried to handle this situation with alacrity. But today, they just got around to admitting something anyone who saw the replay or tape of the incident figured Sunday evening.

Let's see what else they discover in the coming days.

Follow me on twitter. You'll get the news faster.


December 14, 2010

Miami's offensive line continues to be a problem

You want to know where the Dolphins running game went this year?

Look no further than the offensive line.

(Well, the line isn't totally at fault as the running backs have had too many moments when they've showed little explosion and don't often break tackles and the offensive coordinator has abandoned the run on more than one occasion.)

But I digress.

It is mostly the offensive line. I would say the problems with the running game are located in that group about 60 percent of the time.

So what is the problem? Well, let's start at the beginning:

The Miami coaching staff and personnel department had a good-not-great offensive line in 2009 after committing to nearly $156 million in contracts, the first overall selection of the 2008 draft, a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, a sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, and a sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

But something happened to the Dolphins en route to having all that free agency money and draft resources become an excellent line: The bottom fell out.

The Dolphins signed Justin Smiley who came with a repuation for getting hurt and having a bum shoulder. And he got hurt and had a bum shoulder so bad the Dolphins asked him not to show up for offseason conditioning last March because they were afraid Smiley might hurt himself. He turned into a free agency bust because the team signed him to a big contract with the hopes he'd be the left guard for five years. He was the left guard for only part of two years.

The Dolphins also signed Jake Grove to a big contract in 2009 with the expectation he'd be their starting center for five years. He came with a reputation for getting hurt and the Dolphins were apparently surprised when, shockingly, Grove got hurt. Free agent bust.

Shawn Murphy was a draft bust. Donald Thomas, who showed much promise for about 10 minutes, got hurt in his first professional game and missed the rest of his rookie season. He came back last season and was a disappointment. He was cut in camp this year. Draft bust.

Andrew Gardner? Never really developed because, at the end of the day, he was a triple option blocker and no one in the NFL runs the triple option. Draft bust.

So those wasted picks hurt. 

The Dolphins did hit one draft home run by picking Jake Long with the first overall selection in 2008. He's been everything you might want of a franchise left tackle. So he's a draft exclamation point, as first overall picks should be.

But he's been playing injured practically the entire year.

I asked him after the Green Bay game how he was feeling. "I feel great," he said with a big smile.

That was perhaps the one time this season that's been the case. Long suffered MCL damage in one knee the final preseason game. That was an issue for a while. Then he injured his ankle. Then he suffered a shoulder injury that will likely require surgery after the season. And lately he's got knee problems again, which are limiting him in practice the last week or so to the point he hasn't participated in all the drills.

Long is playing well. But he's not as good as he could be simply because he's not 100 percent and really hasn't been all year, with the possible exception of that moment when he answered my question.

There is, of course, the right tackle spot, also. Vernon Carey is out for the remainder of the year. The Dolphins placed him on IR on Tuesday with a knee injury. Carey was not exactly setting the world on fire before he got hurt. Unofficial stats show he had allowed three sacks and was responsible for five penalties this season.

But Carey's departure is a big loss because the drop from him to the next best tackle on the team is significant. Lydon Murtha played right tackle on Sunday against New York. He yielded one sack and had a penalty. I do not know how he graded out run-blocking but the Dolphins averaged 3.2 yards per rush, so it is hard to imagine Murtha played great in that area.

And the tackles have been the strong points for the Miami line. Can you imagine?

The interior of the Miami line is a problem. A big problem.

Joe Berger is an over-acheiver and as many over-achievers do, sometimes he's up, sometimes he's down. The Dolphins are getting more than their money's worth for this second-tier free agent signee. That's good because they got so little for Grove. But is Berger dominant? Elite? No. No.

Rookie John Jerry showed hopeful signs of being a big-time acquisition when he earned a starting right guard job early on. But then he got sick and missed four games and was never really that good when he returned. Jerry actually started losing ground, playing poorly against Chicago and Oakland, so he was benched. So much for rookies developing from the jump and showing constant improvement.

This doesn't make Jerry a bust or a disappointment. But he's not exactly looking like a star, either, especially when you consider Pat McQuistan, a career backup who had not started a game until this year, is now starting at right guard.

You want to believe the reason McQuistan is starting is because he is simply a beast. The truth is he is starting because he's the best candidate of a struggling lot.

Interestingly, the biggest gamble the Dolphins took along the offensive line this year is working out. Richie Incognito came with an ugly reputation for losing his mind at precisely the wrong moment. That is the reason he got kicked off a college team, got kicked off the Rams and the Bills wanted to go in another direction so they cut him.

The Dolphins are lucky to have him now. Incognito has started every game. He hasn't freaked out at any point on the field. He's good enough that the Dolphins have made attempts to extend his one-year contract. He is not a big problem. He's good enough. But he's probably playing out of position because he seems to me to be a more natural and comfortable right guard. The fact he's playing out of position is a sign of Miami's weakness at left guard because, best case, Incognito would be at RG with a superior player at LG.

The picture this all paints is of a unit that the personnel department and the coaching staff have been trying to get right for three seasons with no success. They got somewhat good at the beginning of 2009 but they have fallen off since, never reaching a point where anyone with decision-making power feels the OL is solid and a non-issue.

Nope, the offensive line is an issue. The Dolphins will have to draft for more OL help this offseason. I imagine a guard or center will do the trick and the hope here is they pick someone early enough that he's good enough to play immediately. If Jeff Ireland is thinking outside the box, perhaps he can draft a right tackle and move Vernon Carey inside, although that would make Carey an overpaid guard. Whatever works, folks. It's not our money.

In the meantime, the offensive line is the black hole that swallowed Miami's running game. Frustratingly, the line doesn't seem dramatically better now than it was in 2008. On any given Sunday, it might even be worse.

Sal Alosi should be suspended from Sun Life Stadium, too

The New York Jets have handed down their discipline to Sal Alosi after the team's strength and conditioning coach intentionally tripped Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll while he was covering a punt during Sunday's game between the teams.

The Jets acted swiftly, with the proper amount of indignation, and Alosi has apologized both in a statement and in front of cameras. More importantly, he called coach Tony Sparano to apologize and allegedly called Carroll as well.

And all that is well and good.

But is the matter closed?

The Dolphins seem to want it that way, judging by Sparano's statement on Monday. In fact, the Dolphins seem more eager to have this go away than the Jets.

"I’m not going to get into it a whole lot here fellas, but to be honest with you it’s out of my hands," Sparano said. "It’s in a million other people’s hands right now but not in mine. So, at the end of the day the outcome…I don’t like what happened because a player could’ve gotten hurt, seriously hurt. But, that’s where it is."

That is the stable, measured response.

I am not a stable, measured guy. Mostly, I'm not stable. I was seriously peeved about the Jets move, not just because Alosi did an unsportsmanlike and dirty thing but because in a year when the NFL theme is player safety, this person decides he can deliver a cheap shot on an opposing player because, well, the idea came to him.

That cheap shot could have easily caused serious injury to Carroll, who has suffered broken legs twice in his career.

It also makes me angry that no one is seriously looking at this video and finding out exactly why the Jets had six people lined up in formation along the sideline that Carroll was going to run past? You think that was a coincidence? You think that just happened because those guys wanted a better view of the action?

I have zero proof, but I believe that "formation" was premeditated by someone to gain a competitive advantage. Check the video for yourself and decide.

So where do we go from here?

Well, Alosi is suspended for the remainder of this season and his fine is indeed steep at $25,000. But I say the Dolphins should be more active in penalizing Alosi.

Look, this is going to sound strange at first but hear me out: I believe the Dolphins should inform the Jets that Alosi is suspended from being on the sideline at Sun Life Stadium for one game, the next one he is scheduled to travel with his team to Miami.

You might argue that is handing down punishment on another team's personnel. I argue it is protecting the integrity of your own sidelines, your house, not to mention sending a strong signal that Dolphins players wear numbers, not targets, and if you mess with them intentionally, you will get a response from the organization.

Even if the league balks at such a move -- and, yes, the league is contacted by all teams on all such matter before they are taken -- the Dolphins should ask the league for permission to do this. And if the league balks, then the Dolphins should announce their desire to have banned Alosi the next time the Jets come to Miami.

The league should think of it as protecting Alosi as much as anything because, I assure you, the next time he roams the sideline in Miami, he will hear the crowd's displeasure. Well, he'd hear the crowd's displeasure if Dolphins fans were a bit more emotional and indignant about what happened Sunday.



December 13, 2010

The day-after QB frustration and tripping indignation

The Dolphins remain a hopeful bunch this morning.

Coach Tony Sparano will hold his day-after press conference in a couple of hours and, at some point, likely point out that the Dolphins remain in the playoff chase with a handful of other 7-6 teams and so, "Why not us?"

The Dolphins should win the next two games. They host the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. Those teams have combined for six wins. But it is that season-finale at New England that looms difficult for the Dolphins if the Patriots are of the mind to play all their players and not lay down.

That game could be the difference between 10-6 and a chance to be in the playoffs, and 9-7 and practically no chance to be in the playoffs. Of course, the Dolphins must do work against Buffalo and Detroit first. It is still a long shot and, as I point out in my column today, Miami's quarterback situation is not good right now.

Don't get me wrong. Miami's QB play is fine compared to the reeling Jets. But compared to playoff teams, particularly the New England Patriots? Not so good.

The truth is it seems Chad Henne is regressing. He used to have one good game, one questionable game. Since coming back from his knee injury, he's had one good game (Oakland) and two bad games (Cleveland and New York).

Very frustrating for any Dolphins fan hoping for a franchise QB, hoping for playoff relevance, hoping for a chance to have their team do something special.

Dolphins fans, by the way, were angry Sunday evening after Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami special teams flyer Nolan Carroll along the Jets sideline. It was a dirty move and Alosi eventually released a statement in which he apologized for the "unsportsmanlike" move.

But while Carroll, who eventually got an apology from Alosi, didn't think much of it, several Miami players were indignant. Consider their reaction in this Miami Minute courtesy The Herald's Jeff Darlington:

December 12, 2010

Marshall: Jets should bury this one, too

You have to love Brandon Marshall because, yes, he's a good receiver. But he gets it.

He understands when he's being tweaked. And he knows how to tweak the opponent.

And tweak the opponent is what Marshall has just done following Miami's 10-6 victory over the New York Jets.

"My goal this week was to make sure we took advantage of this oppotunity," Marshall said. "Big stage again and it was a divisional rivalry. The Patriots beat them last week and they took a ball and buried it. And we wanted to do the same. So hopefully they bury one our balls, too."


You'll remember Jets coach Rex Ryan took his team out to a hole in the back of their practice facility last week and buried the game ball from New York's 45-3 loss to New England. It was a symbol of how the team could put a terrible defeat behind them.

Well, this loss can't be too palatable for New York, either. They are officially on collapse watch. And coach Rex Ryan said he considered benching Mark Sanchez during this game.

Marshall did his part in helping Miami deliver a reason for New York to bury this result and the game ball from it. He scored the game's only touchdown on a 6 yard reception from Chad Henne.

Dolphins outlast the Jets, 10-6 in Meadowlands

The Dolphins have beaten the New York Jets, 10-6 and so their slim playoff hopes continue to be, well, slim.

But one must admit slim is better than none.

The defense obviously kept the Jets out of the end zone and limited them to 286 total yards.

The offense?

Well, the defense played great. Mike Nolan's crew played hard and well. Yes, they dropped a couple of interceptions but those are excused when you don't give up a TD.

Discuss ...

Dolphins still lead Jets 10-3 in borefest

Well, after an electric third quarter in which the Dolphins and Jets set back NFL offensive football about two decades, we have the fourth quarter.

The gun cannot come soon enough ...

No, I'm not talking about the one that signals the end of the game, but rather one that can signal the death of this terrible, terrible show.

The live blog continues in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Jets 10-3 going to third quarter

Well, it seems neither offense is capable of winning this game, even as the Dolphins lead 10-3.

Both offenses, you see, have done work to lose the game.

Every point scored today is a result of a turnover.

The Jets got their FG after Chad Henne was strip sacked by Calvin Pace and New York drove for a field goal. Both teams have two turnovers. The Dolphins have 89 total yards and the Jets have 113 total yards.

So the assignment at halftime for both offenses? Don't screw up!

The live blog continues in the comments section.