« March 2011 | Main | May 2011 »

36 posts from April 2011

April 21, 2011

Ireland's assignment is simple really -- make a difference

Jeff Ireland will conduct his 2011 pre-draft presser (as ordered by NFL rules) today and I will be certain to look beneath his footwear to check for a net. I'm pretty certain I will not find one, but for journalism's sake one has to confirm things.

I want to confirm Ireland is indeed operating in this draft without the Bill Parcells net under him.

This draft, you see, Ireland's on his own. It's his baby and his alone. To him goes the glory if things work out. To him goes the ignominy if things don't.

This draft will be different for the Dolphins in that there can be no rewrite of history when or if things go wrong. The Pat White draft pick, for example, was pretty much an orphan for quite some time until the last three months when I got Ireland and Parcells to took responsibility for the mistake on the record -- Ireland on my radio show, Parcells in a column I wrote last week.Jeff ireland one

No big deal, but I think that kind of set the record straight.

Parcells is still proud of the Jake Long pick and doesn't deem it a mistake but he understands, he also told me, if some folks think Matt Ryan would have been the better selection. The Big Tuna has also told me that in the spring of 2008 he sent Dan Henning, Tony Sparano and Ireland to Ann Arbor (to see Chad Henne), to Delaware (to see Joe Flacco) and to Boston (to see Ryan) and everyone came back saying Henne was every bit as good as the other two. 

So again, responsibility goes where responsibility goes -- on the entire organization.

Now the responsibility belongs to Ireland. As it should be. No more shadows behind curtains. No more masters jostling puppet strings. We're not in Oz anymore.

Jeff Ireland is the man and he will get from fans whatever his picks bring him -- credit or contempt.

But, I wonder, what is your confidence level he's ready? Are you anxious whether he can avoid mistakes that would not be made if Parcells were here? Are you excited he might make more bold moves now that Parcells is gone?

My view?

There can be no doubt Ireland has an approach that is his own. I hope he does, anyway, because he is an individual rather than a clone of his mentor. He's younger than Parcells which suggests he might be bolder but also comes with the caution that he might not be wiser. Jeff and bill

I do not predict he will depart from precepts Parcells taught him. He'll pick prototype guys or try to, anyway. He'll want big guys. He'll especially want fast guys in this draft. He'll try to stay away from troublemakers.

I hope he is desperate. I hope he comes to this draft ready to go for the end zone rather than settle for field goals. I've had enough of field goals. I saw too many field goals the past couple of seasons. I want picks that will prove themselves to be touchdowns!

Think about it: The Dolphins have been good at drafting the past three years. Assuming Jared Odrick does get healthy and back on the field and becomes productive, the last three years brought outstanding to solid picks, with Long being outstanding and Vontae Davis representing solid.

The second round has brought satisifaction (Sean Smith) and disappointment (White) and a still hung jury in the court of public opinion (Chad Henne). Later rounds have had both good and bad picks.

So the work is worthy of a C-plus, in my opinion. 

That's because there has been no awe inspiring pick. There has been no take-your-breath-away, give-that-personnel man-a-prize selection. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has been a game-changer. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has brought a player other teams must game-plan around or for. Long isn't that because, by definition, left tackles can only change the course of a game by screwing up. They do not change the course of games when they merely do their jobs.

Davis has not been a game-changer. Smith hasn't although had he caught his six potential interceptions a year ago that he dropped, he might have reached that plateau. Odrick hasn't gotten a chance. Henne hasn't been a game-changer in any consistent or confidence-building manner. Anyone else?


Ireland needs to find a game changer this draft. He needs to do something his mentor could not. Oh, Parcells helped bring solid talent to the Dolphins when they were lacking even that. But conference titles and Super Bowls are won with difference-makers, game-changers stacked atop solid talent.

Ireland, on his own this draft, has work to do.

NOTES: I will be updating the blog several times Thursday so check back throughout the day. I will also provide real-time updates from Ireland's presser on twitter. So please follow me to get those updates.

April 20, 2011

D.J. Williams, good man, good tight end, good fit

The Dolphins have Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams on their draft radar.

There have been, in fact, reports that when the Dolphins went to Fayetteville, Arkansas and worked out both Williams and quarterback Ryan Mallett, that it was Williams who was more intriguing to the team. I don't exactly know if I buy that.

But I know the Dolphins can use an upgrade at tight end. And Williams would be one. And that's why Williams has been the focus of much Dolphins personnel work and attention.

On Tuesday, Williams spent some time with me on my Armando and the Amigo radio show in South Florida. I asked Williams if he's noticed extra attention from the Dolphins?

"I want to say yes, but I don't want to sit there on draft day and hear, "the Miami Dolphins select," and they don't pick me. So I'll just leave it there," Williams said. "They have shown me interest, I will say that. We had a good time and had lunch with [offensive coordinator Brian Daboll] and everyone else when they worked us out."

At one point during that private workout in Arkansas, Williams volunteered to play the piano at general manager Jeff Ireland's wedding anniversary party.

"I figured, why not?" he said.

Williams said Tampa Bay, the Vikings, and the Texans are among the other teams who have also shown a high amount of interest in him.

So what will an NFL team get from Williams?

"I'm going to try to be the best the NFL has seen," he said.

Williams fits the Miami mold. He's 6-2 and 250 pounds, he's productive, he comes with a resume of having played in the Southeastern Conference, and he's a good man. Remember last year the Dolphins showed they want to add solid citizens to the roster.

Williams is an inspiration. As a child his mom was involved in an abusive relationship with his father in Texas. It got so bad his mom had to move the family to a shelter in the same state. Not far enough away, apparently, from the abuser so she changed her plans and decided to leave the state.

"We were sitting there in Dallas and my mom wanted to move further away," Williams said. "She pulled out a map and told me, 'Where are we going?' I just put my finger on a spot. I was young at the time, I didn't know what I was doing. I put my finger on the map and it landed in Little Rock, Arkansas, so we packed up and left. We lived in a shelter there for a time and pretty much worked our way up from there. We're in a good spot now, living nice."

Williams freely recounts his tale. He says his experiences have colored the person he is today.

"I was young but you always have that feeling that something's not right. I witnessed a lot of stuff going down between my parents. Just tthe fear and all that in my mom's eyes, you just know something's not right.

"But I wouldn't change anything because it's made me who I am today and it's made my family stronger. In life and even in football, adversity is going to come and it's how you respond that matters. It's like sandpaper. It's going to rub on you, but if you stay in it, it'll get worn down but you're going to come out smooth."

We asked Williams for first-hand information on Mallett, the quarterback the Dolphins also have on their radar.

You can hear the entire Williams interview, including what he said about Mallett, on the Armando and the Amigo podcast right here.

Kindly follow me on twitter.


April 19, 2011

Dolphins open 2011 regular season vs. Pats, close vs. Jets

The Dolphins will open the 2011 NFL season at home against the New England Patriots.

Talk about an instant opportunity to know how good the team is on a big stage. The Patriots won the AFC East last season and had the NFL's best regular-season record at 14-2. The Dolphins finished third in the AFC East and were swept by the Patriots. They also lost seven of eight home games in 2010.

So the 2011 season-opener is a chance for Miami to not only prove how good it is, but immediately erase the taste of last season's home record and third-place finish. It has me pumped. If you are similarly pumped, this is where you get your seasons tickets now.

The Dolphins play three big stage games in 2011. Obviously, the season opener on Monday night is a big deal. The Dolphins will return to primetime on Oct. 17 as they travel to New York to play the Jets. That game follows a bye so the Dolphins should be rested and prepared for their division rivals.

The other big stage game I am talking about is the Thursday, Nov. 24 game at Dallas. Happy Thanksgiving! I'll be eating press box turkey! (Yes, it is all about me.)

You should note that the two consecutive season-opening games at home are not played at the scorching hot 1 o'clock hour. That might be great for the fans because they will get some relief from sitting out in the scorching midday sun, but it does not once again maximize Miami's weather advantage early in the season.

“We open with two games at home and it’s not only imperative that we play well right from the start, we are going to have to show continual improvement throughout the year since we end the season with three straight divisional games," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said in a statement.

The Dolphins do have to deal with two potentially cold weather games late in the season when they travel to Buffalo (Dec. 18) and New England (Dec. 24) on back-to-back weeks.

You should also note that Miami will be on the road for five out of six games from Sept. 25 to Nov. 6. Yes, there is a bye week on Oct. 9 in the middle of that. But the stretch that includes games at San Diego, at the Giants and at Kansas City -- all playoff contenders -- promises to be difficult.

The Dolphins finish the regular season where they began -- at home. And they finish in similar fashion -- against an AFC East rival. The regular-season finale is versus the New York Jets. The Jets went to the AFC title game for the second consecutive season in 2010-11.

Here is the schedule:

Date                Opponent

Sept 12    New England  7 p.m.

Sept. 18    Houston        4:15 p.m.

Sept. 25    at Cleveland   1 p.m.

Oct. 2      at San Diego   4:15

Oct. 9         BYE

Oct. 17       at New York Jets  8:30 p.m.

Oct. 23       Broncos    1 p.m.

Oct. 30    at New York Giants    1 p.m.

Nov. 6      at Kansas City   1 p.m.

Nov. 13     Washington     1 p.m.

Nov. 20      Buffalo          1 p.m.

Nov. 24      at Dallas (Thanksgiving)    4:15 p.m.

Dec. 4       Oakland       1 p.m.

Dec. 11      Philadelphia    1 p.m.

Dec. 18     at Buffalo       1 p.m.

Dec. 24     at New England   1 p.m.

Jan.  1      New York Jets  1 p.m.

Kindly follow me on twitter.


Undrafted free agent pipeline shut for Dolphins

The hits just keep on coming.

We all know the Dolphins -- a team with deep pockets because the owner is among the richest in the NFL and a team that is also desperate for veteran upgrades -- has been injured as much as any by the current NFL lockout because that lockout has wiped out free agency so far.

The lockout has wiped out free agency.

The lockout has wiped out trades of veterans.

The lockout has wiped out new coordinator Brian Daboll teaching his offense to Miami players.

And then there's this: The fact there is no collective bargaining agreement also means no undrafted free agents will be allowed to sign with any teams after the day after the coming draft. That affects everyone. But it hurts the Dolphins more than most.


Well, look at Jeff Ireland's history. He and his personnel department love to make hay on undrafted free agents. When Ireland was in Dallas, the Cowboys signed Miles Austin as an undrafted free agent. They signed starting QB Tony Romo as an undrafted free agent. Both have blossomed into starters and have been to the Pro Bowl.

With the Dolphins, Ireland hasn't hit it quite so big. But it hasn't been unprofitable. Kicker Dan Carpenter displaced Jay Feely as a Miami's kicker when he was an undrafted free agent addition. Davone Bess has been Miami's second-best wide receiver the past few years and he was an undrafted free agent signee.

Jonathon Amaya, arguably Miami's best special teams player last season, was an undrafted free agent signee. So were Fay Feinga, Marlon Moore, and Roberto Wallace.

So the Dolphins like to do work in the undrafted free agent department.

This draft, however, that work won't be done immediately following the draft, barring an unexpected agreement between the league and the players' union. The truth is no one is really sure how those undrafted players will ultimately join the NFL.

Does that affect everyone? Yes. Does it hurt the Dolphins more than most teams? Absolutely.

April 18, 2011

Has Brandon Marshall been worth it so far?

It's simple and unsavory. The Dolphins are outnumbered in the number of draft picks they'll bring to the NFL draft in a little more than two weeks.

That is not up for debate.

This is: The Dolphins have fewer picks than other AFC East rivals because they made the football decision to invest their second round pick -- along with another second rounder last year -- on wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

So has Marshall been worth the price so far?

Simple question, really. Knowing what you know today, would you give up those two draft picks for Marshall today?

Marshall had a good-news, bad-news season with the Dolphins in 2010.

The good news is he caught 86 passes for 1,014 yards in his first season with the Dolphins. That led the team and was the team's most impressive season by a receiver in the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano years. Marshall was a legitimate threat to opposing defenses and often the only receiver that was double-covered by defenses.

But there is bad news, too. Marshall scored only three TDs, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2006. He played 14 games because he was injured for two others. He struggled with his hands, leading the team in dropped passes. He had a couple of on-field difficulties, including a poorly timed unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing the football at former teammate Jay Cutler in the Chicago game. He ran wrong routes more than any other Miami receiver.

And he and quarterback Chad Henne were rarely on the same page. I'm not blaming Marshall for this one. Chemistry is a two-way street. So it is up to bothhe and Henne to get their act together. Marshall talked at the end of the season how he enjoyed a better chemistry with backup Tyler Thigpen.

I hope Marshall uses his first season with the Dolphins as a launch point to better things. But what if he doesn't? We don't know. We can only judge what has actually happened.

So would you rather have those second-round picks or the player at this point?


April 14, 2011

Must never forget the RBs on Miami's radar

Enough about quarterbacks. We don't need no stinkin' quarterback!

(I jest.)

Yes, the Dolphins continue to be eyebrow deep in Ryan Mallet's visit, but they are also trying to address issues with their running back situation. Remember that Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs and Ricky Williams are unsigned for 2011.

So the club today is also visiting with Kansas State's Daniel Thomas. He will be in town through Friday. Next week the club will be hosting a meet with Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones, who is highly intriguing to me.

Thomas, a middle round candidate, looks the part of a Miami running back. He is 6-foot and 230 pounds. He isn't necessarily fast, having been timed in the 4.5 range. But he's something of a riddle on this one because he didn't run at the Indianapolis Combine and didn't the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury.

Thomas gained 1,585 yards on 298 carries in 2010.

He is by all accounts a great kid. Quiet. Son of a preacher. Team leader. That was very important to the Dolphins last year.

Jones, who is 5-11 and 195 pounds, is interesting based on his sheer speed and freakish hops. He had his pro day on Thursday and was timed in the 4.29 to 4.35 range, depending on which account you read and which scout is leaking the information. He also had a reported 41-inch vertical leap. There were 27 teams at his event.

Jones is not necessarily a full-time back. Teams think of him as a Chris Johnson type. If he produces like Chris Johnson, he'll be a stud. But I digress.

Jones comes with red flags. He has durability issues. He is coming off a broken foot that prevented him from participating in the Indianapolis Combine running drills. In fact, he was in a boot until a month ago. He had surgery on a sports hernia in 2009 that prevented him from participating in Spring practice last year. He also had a hand and shoulder injuries in 2009.

Oh, and he had a broken leg early in 2008.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like a disaster.

I didn't say he's a first overall pick.

I said he intrigues. He rushed for 1,742 last season and scored 14 TDs. He shared the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year award.

As you know the Dolphins need speed on offense. They need a home run hitter. Jones has scored on a 93-yard kickoff return and an 87-yard run from scrimmage.

I like him. A lot.


It's Ryan Mallett day at Dolphins camp

Ryan Mallett is scheduled to be in South Florida today to meet with the Dolphins for, by my estimate, the fourth time since the Indianapolis Combine in February.

Mallett is obviously more than just a passing fancy for the quarterback-hungry team. He is, by any definition, a player they are seriously studying and seriously considering in the coming draft. (Please note I did not say they will take him at No. 15 overall. I think they would consider him if they can trade down and pick up a second-rounder they lack or an extra third rounder.) So there's that.

Meanwhile ...

Mallett is fascinating to me.

He has so much promise. And he's got some obvious red flags.

The promise? It's pretty obvious. He has a great arm. He can throw the football 80 yards. He also has great confidence. "Trying to be like Tom [Brady] and Peyton [Manning] and guys like that is something that I strive for," Mallett said. "I watch the way they play the game. They control the game at the line of scrimmage and that's what I like to do."

You have to appreciate the unmitigated swag of a quarterback who has not thrown even one NFL pass and already is comparing himself to future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

But ...

Yes, there is a but as large as Mallett's 6-foot-7 frame. It's the reason Mallett is not a likely Top 10 pick and perhaps will have to wait until the latter part of the first round to get selected in the April 28 draft.

The waving red flags are plentiful. He did have consumption issues in college, according to a source. He did drink. At multiple times. To excess. That is a fact all teams know about. Drugs? I cannot report to you with certainty on that topic so I am not going there.

Don't diminish the alcohol. We're talking about a 22-year-old coming to South Florida. South Florida simultaneously offers and threatens a lifestyle about a million times faster than Mallett's native Texarkana, Texas. There are fifty ways to get in trouble on Miami Beach after you've had just one too many. Ask Fred Evans about that. (Google his South Beach moment).

So do not dismiss the beverages issue.

There are also whispers -- and they haven't diminished, but rather have increased -- about his unimpressive leadership qualities. A QB must be a leader. A guard doesn't have to be. A nose tackle doesn't have to be. A quarterback cannot succeed in the NFL if he is not a leader.

Frankly, the rumblings I'm hearing is that Mallett shrank in big moments during games and did it time and again. When the pressure was on most, he stepped tentatively. That is an issue because the fine NFL quarterbacks must play at their best under pressure, in the spotlight, and in the face of enormous odds.

NFL quarterbacks are the faces of billion-dollar franchises. Pressure? They better be comfortable with pressure both on and off the field.

But I am more interested in football and Mallett is more than the 32 TDs and 3,869 yards he rolled up as a junior. He is more than the 69 TDs and 8,388 yards he churned in limited 2007 action with Michigan and in 2009-10 as the starter at Arkansas.

The positives? There are plenty.

He improved, for starters. His completion percentage went from 55.8 in 2009 to 64.7 last season. That shows he learns, he adapts, he responds to coaching. Yes, he also threw for more more yards, touchdowns, and had a higher yard per attempt statistic last year than the year before. All excellent signs.

Mallett did this while playing in the Southeastern Conference, which is as close to the NFL as you're going to get without actually being in the NFL -- and that includes the UFL and Arena League.

Mallett was a classic passer in college. His team used the pro-style attack which is a big plus because his transition to the NFL won't be as difficult as if he was coming from the spread option.

His third down completion percentage was 64.1 last year with 8 TDs and 2 INTs. That means even when the defense expected him to throw, during football's money down, he was effective.

He was nails on third-and-three-to-seven-yard plays. He completed 72.7 percent of those throws. And he was even good on third-and-eight-to-10-yard situations in completing 55 percent of those throws. He was outstanding on third and very long. He completed 59.3 percent of his passes on third-and-11-plus- yards last season. That is, again, excellent.

So that makes him star quality.

But watch Mallet on tape, dig a little deeper into Mallett's impressive stats, and you start to see a couple of warts.

When the competition got better, Mallett got worse. Yes, he threw five TD passes vs. UTEP. Yes, he threw for 400 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. But I don't frankly give a darn about those. Last I heard, UTEP isn't on the Dolphins schedule any time soon.

Against ranked opponents, Ryan Mallett was only slightly better than average. He threw only 11 of his 32 TDs (34 percent) against ranked opponents. But he threw eight of his 12 interceptions (66 percent) against those same ranked teams. That should raise an eyebrow.

This should also: He faced one NFL-caliber defensive scheme in 2010. Nick Saban runs exactly that at Alabama. Watching them on tape is like watching Miami's defense in 2005 and 2006.

And, frankly, the Crimson Tide defense rolled Mallett. He threw 1 TD pass and 3 INTs in that game. His mistakes -- misreading coverage, not anticipating, inaccuracy, getting rattled -- were partially responsible for his team blowing a lead and ultimately losing.

And that kind of performance against the best competition was not isolated. It was, in fact, almost a pattern. He threw for a  modest 96 yards against Auburn. He completed only 53 percent of his passes his final two games of the season against LSU and Ohio State.

In the video below, Mallett shows a bit of a testy side as he walks off during what was yet another question about the drug rumors. That has raised minor questions with some teams. I don't have a big problem with it. Dan Marino often got snarky with the media, too. So that is a non-issue to me.

What interests me in the video is Mallett admitting he's not meant for running around the field. That is obvious from watching him play. That is a major, major, major, major, major concern for me. I don't worry about him resembling Michael Vick. I don't need that. But a quarterback in today's NFL must, must, must, must be able to slide and glide and move in the pocket. That's not an option. That must come standard.

I don't think it comes standard with Mallett. If his receivers don't come open quickly, he's toast. If his blocking isn't pristine, he's toast.

And if you blitz him, he's burnt toast because he not only doesn't move well, but isn't good at recognizing the coming blitz, either. He is well below average on this issue.

As a result, the man who threw 69 career TDs in college was also sacked 61 times. That means you're just as likely to get a sack as a scoring pass from this guy. And that was behind what was by most accounts very solid collegiate offensive lines.

So why is that a concern? Well, aside from the fact that a sack is a negative play -- particularly in the red zone or within field goal range -- it means you got hit. And hits in the NFL result in injuries. And injured quarterbacks either don't play as well or don't play at all.

And that leads to loses. And loses lead to coaches and general managers getting fired.

If Mallett cannot develop a better approach to evading sacks and even hits that don't lead to sacks, his career will be in much greater risk than quarterbacks who do have that ability.

The Dolphins, indeed, any team must measure that potential risk as they think about investing a draft pick, and probably a signature pick, on what could essentially be a sitting duck who's wearing a target on his back.

The Dolphins must chew on all these things and more.

They'll be masticating plenty today when Mallett is scheduled to be at the team's facility.



April 13, 2011

The joke that is the pre-draft press conference

Around the NFL as many as a dozen general managers and personnel department vice presidents will conduct mandatory pre-draft press conferences next week, most of them on April 21. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is similarly scheduled to have his presser on the 21st.

I encourage Ireland to lie if he must.

You did not misread because I did not mistype.

I encourage Ireland to lie ... if he must.

The truth of the matter is those pre-draft pressers are a hoax, a farce, an exercise in futility for journalists trying to get meaty and truthful answers to questions as fundamental as, "What are your team's most signficant needs?" or "Who are you going to select?"

Yes, we as journalists have to ask.

And, no, the GMs and VPs are not really going to tell us.

So it devolves into many words signifying nothing. The true reason the pressers happen at all is that the NFL mandates them. The NFL, you see, likes publicity.

The intriguing thing is that while most general managers and journalists understand this to be a dance in which the truth gets trampled, some folks are simply more open than others. Some folks are just salt and light. They cannot bring themselves to obfuscation. Or they let stuff slip.

Seeing the new Denver Broncos front office do things this offseason, I nominate John Elway as a candidate for being candid in his upcoming pre-draft presser. Having attended a couple of Ireland's meets with the media, I nominate him as someone who will offer nothing or perhaps even throw out a nugget of misdirection.

If I'm a fan, I'm hoping my team falls in the latter category rather than the former.

The truth is teams monitor each other. They watch each other's pre-draft visits and meetings. They read each other's press clippings. They do all they can do to get a handle on what the opposition is about to do on draft day.

And these pressers are a window through which teams peek.

So the really good teams offer a view of a dark room or no view at all. They do, not because they like to fib or have no morals. They do it for the sake of their own competitive advantage.

Overblown, you say?

Look, teams have eyes on each other and sometimes even the most casual misstep affects careers and drafts. I present to you the 2008 draft.

The Dolphins needed and wanted to add a running back later in the process. Bill Parcells had long been a proponent of sending a coach or scout to work out and check on his targetted player two days before the draft -- as a last-minute guard against surprises.

Except in April of 2008, for one reason or another, the Dolphins sent out running back coach James Saxon to work out Richmond's Tim Hightower one day earlier. The Dolphins liked Hightower and intended to pick him. The problem is the Arizona Cardinals picked Hightower instead.

Arizona's running back coach at the time, Maurice Carthon, played for Parcells and worked for Parcells. He knew that Parcells typically sent his RB coach to his targetted running back a couple of days before the draft. When he read media reports that Hightower worked out for Saxon, he turned the information over to Arizona's personnel department. The fact the Dolphins had met with Hightower one day earlier had allowed the visit to be in the press in time for Arizona to use the info.

The Cardinals swooped ahead of Miami and plucked Hightower.

I talked to Parcells last week. He told me the story. He was still somewhat irked about losing on out on a good player because of the circumstances simply because the information got out.

Parcells invented the Iron Curtain in the NFL. Bill Belichick, his former trusted assistant, perfected it. The Patriots say little when it comes to injury, depth chart, or draft information. In fact, I know of stories in which they openly used to mock former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards for having such an open approach with the media.

The Pats believed they could find out plenty about their New York competition just by reading newspaper accounts about them.

And so, yes, sometimes the open approach which the media hopes for during the coming pre-draft pressers can on occasion hurt a team.

I don't want the Dolphins hurt. If Jeff Ireland says something, I'll report it. That's my job. If he says the Dolphins are looking for a quarterback in the first round and Ryan Mallett is their guy, you'll hear it here first. (By the way, I don't think you better get used to the idea of Mallett being draft at No. 15)

But root for him to reveal anything significant? To hope he says something that could help Miami's opponents?

Go ahead, Jeff, lie if you must. You get an annual free pass for this one.  

April 12, 2011

Dolphins release preseason schedule for 2011

The Dolphins will do exactly what the headline above says they will do.

The team will announce that it is playing four preseason games in 2011, with one of those games being against Tampa Bay.

Last season, the Dolphins added Atlanta at home and at Dallas on the preseason schedule.

That's all I got for now.

What can I tell you? It's a lockout. News is scarce.

Update: OK, here it is. Drumroll please ...

The Dolphins preseason schedule according to the NFL begins Aug. 13 at the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina travels to Miami on Aug. 20 for the second preseason game. Miami travels to Tampa Bay on Aug. 27 for the important third game of the preseason. The preseason finale will feature the Dallas Cowboys traveling to Sun Life Stadium on Sept. 1.

Times of the games will be determined later. This, by the way, is from the official NFL schedule.

The Dolphins have released a schedule in which the dates are still up in the air. For example, the team is saying the Atlanta game will be played sometime between Agu. 12-15. The Carolina game will be played sometime between Aug. 19-22. The Tampa Bay game will be sometime between Aug. 26-29 and the Cowboys preseason-finale would be sometime between Sept. 1-2.

Know what? I'm going with the NFL schedule until further notice.

The only redundancy in the preseason and regular season schedule is the Cowboys, which Miami is scheduled to play in the regular season at Dallas.

The Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars -- for years a staple of each other's preseason schedule -- will not renew their in-state festivities this preseason for reasons that are not clear. Carolina takes the place of the Jaguars, obviously.

Miami will not be featured on any nationally televised preseason games.

This obviously assumes none of the games are cancelled due to an ongoing lockout. If all or part of the preseason gets washed out, we'll just simply have to find something else to do. Yes, that is the state of the NFL today.


April 11, 2011

Live blog chat today at 1 p.m.

New week so let me tell you the newsy tidbit first:

The Dolphins are hosting a visit from West Virginia inside linebacker J.T. Thomas, according to the National Football Post. Count him among the half-dozen or so inside linebackers the team has shown considerable interest in since the interview and workout process began.

That suggest, well, the Dolphins are feeling a need to add help at inside linebacker. Now, I don't know about you, but with Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder, Tim Dobbins, A.J. Edds, and Austin Spitler on the team, you might think the team is good at inside linebacker.

You would think wrong.

The club obviously wants to upgrade special teams, obviously wants depth because Crowder will be in the final year of his deal in 2011, and because Spitler is alright but not really great so far.

My suggestion?

Consider moving Koa Misi inside. He can play the position and the Dolphins could use a pick to add a superior pass-rusher, which is also a need. It will not happen, in all likelihood. But why not think outside the box?

I don't see Misi as a 15-sack player. I see him as a solid seven-sack player when he gets completely comfortable with the OLB job. Why not improve two positions at the same time and try to land a big playmaking pass rusher?

Just saying.

Anyway, today is live blog chat day here. We'll get it started at 1 p.m. I will hang here with you until your questions or comments are done. If you cannot be here then, leave your question or comment now and I'll answer those first.

See you then.

April 07, 2011

The other side of the Carson Palmer coin

There is always another side to the proverbial coin.

When I discuss the interest I've perceived from the Dolphins for Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer -- based on conversations I've had with folks within the organization -- I always am very careful to point out this account only applies to Miami's interest.

I cannot tell you exactly what will happen when the lockout is lifted and players are allowed to be traded because I am not certain what the Bengals will do about Palmer. And they also get a vote. Yes, I believe the Bengals have offered small hints here and there they might be willing to part with Palmer for the right price.

But I haven't actually talked to the Bengals, I don't know what the price would be, and I have no clue what the Dolphins would think of that price.

That is the other side of the coin. And Geoff "Butch" Hobson, who was so good at covering the Bengals for so long the team waved the white flag and actually hired him (If you can't beat them, hire them), says the trade winds for Palmer are so still, there are no trade winds.

Not for the third-round pick Dan Marino suggested he would give. Not for anything any of you are willing to part with, based on my reading of your comments.

"... If [the Dolphins] think it’s going to take Dan Marino’s suggested third-round pick, they should take a drug test," Hobson wrote recently. "Mike Brown giving up Palmer for only a third-rounder? Never happen. Brown giving up Palmer period? Maybe less than never."

I sat next to Hobson during the NFL annual meetings in New Orleans. He mentioned more than once to me he thinks Palmer is simply outstanding. He said watching him during practices, he's seen Palmer make every single throw imaginable -- dashing the theory Palmer is too injured and diminished to make a difference any more. He also, on more than one occasion, compared Palmer to Jim Plunkett.

Plunkett, like Palmer, was a former No. 1 overall pick. Plunkett, like Palmer, had his share of struggles with a struggling franchise that drafted him. And Plunkett was traded to the Oakland Raiders where he won a couple of Super Bowl titles.

If that analogy is accurate, Palmer would be exactly the right veteran QB to chase once the NFL labor situation is settled.

I suppose that's the third side of the coin. Um, yeah, the third side of the coin.

April 06, 2011

Mike Pouncey to Dolphins? He doesn't think so

The Dolphins need to upgrade the center position. Like, very much.

Among the most obvious ways the team is likely to do that is either by moving Richie Incognito from guard to center or drafting someone good enough to take over the job as a rookie -- someone like say ... Mike Pouncey.

Except that Mike Pouncey doesn't seem to be exceedingly prominent on the Dolphins' radar and he seems to think he's headed to another NFL team when the draft gets underway later this month.

"... Would be shocked if I wasn't in a Dallas uniform next year!" Pouncey tweeted earlier this afternoon. "The draft is April 28 so we will see."

We shall see. Obviously Pouncey, who was in Dallas for private meetings with the Cowboys on Tuesday and Wednesday, has gotten the idea that team really, really, really likes him. So he thinks that's where he's headed. The Cowboys hold the No. 9 overall pick, which I believe is way, way, way too early to invest on Pouncey.

If Pouncey is correct, perhaps Jerry Jones, with whom Pouncey met, said something about trading down in the first round. Perhaps the Cowboys are looking at Pouncey as their second-round selection -- No. 40 overall. That is all speculative.

This is not: If Pouncey had his choice of teams, he'd be going to Pittsburgh.

"To all the Steelers fans, I would love to be playing for the Steelers and if I had a choice I would," he tweeted, "but it isn't my choice."

Pouncey would "love" to be reunited with his brother Markice, who was Pittsburgh's No. 1 draft pick last year and a great addition to that team. The Pounceys played together at Florida.

Look, Mike Pouncey would be an excellent addition for the Dolphins, especially if they trade down as they want and hope to do in the first round in order to pick up an extra pick later in the second round.

Yes, he had nearly 100 poor snaps throughout the course of the 2010 season, most of those out of the shotgun. That's a concern. But I was told by a scout that is something that will be corrected by good coaching and something his sheer talent can overcome.

The greater point is, if Pouncey is correct, and he is headed to the Cowboys, does that mean the Dolphins need to make other plans at center?

After Pouncey, there is no real first-round option at center and possibly no second-round option, either. FSU's Rodney Hudson is considered a value in the fourth round. Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski is considered a fifth- or sixth-rounder because he doesn't have the strongest lower body in the world. But I like that he comes from a family line of tough-nosed centers, has great ability to recognize defenses and make line calls and is just a flat-out grinder. (Wow, re-reading what I just wrote, maybe he's more a fouth-rounder.)

I'm assuming Slipper Rock's Brandon Fusco is on Miami's board sometime late, although I wonder about the caliber of competition he faced. Oregon State's Alex Linnekohl is also a late-round possibility.

April 05, 2011

Still on the Carson Palmer bandwagon as the Fins best hope

Yes, I am still on the Carson Palmer trade bandwagon.

Laugh if you want. I've been there before. Folks mocked when I was all alone on the Ricky Williams trade bandwagon in 2000 -- except for Williams, who called me from New Orleans to express his interest in the idea, and Dave Wannstedt, who pulled me aside and asked what Williams had said before admitting he'd love to make it happen. It happened nine months later.

So, yes, Carson Palmer to the Dolphins? I continue saying it can definitely happen. I said it before. I'm repeating it now. Iit can happen. 'm for it. I will not allow it to die until it is, well, officially dead.

And it is not dead at this point.

The fact is, quite to the contrary. Every shred of evidence (and it is rare evidence, I grant you) coming from the Bengals is they might actually be inching toward the idea of trading Palmer. And every time I ask around with the Dolphins nobody says, "Dude, you're dreaming, move on."

Everybody in the Dolphins organization I've talked to about the idea so far has said things like, "Carson's pretty good," or, "I like Carson," or, "It's one of our what-ifs."

After I wrote the column on Palmer saying the Dolphins view him as a singular special options above guys like Kyle Orton or Vince Young, I told a high-ranking Dolphins personnel man about my column. He didn't say, "We're definitely going to do that." He did say, "He's a great kid. That would be something to think about for a long time. But he's not available right now."

So I'm not abandoning the idea until the idea deserves full abandonment. And that time has not come. Quite the opposite.

The latest twist on this possibility is an ESPN report stating the Bengals are among the teams that would be interested in Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb. Obviously, neither Kolb nor Palmer can be moved at the moment as the league is in lockout mode. But when that lifts, free agents will move, trades will be allowed. And everyone believes Kolb will become available via trade.

If the Bengals, who own the draft's No. 4 overall selection, get a QB, you should think they won't be involved in the Kolb sweepstakes. But if they don't get a QB there, Kolb will be a possibility for them. And if Kolb is on campus in Cincy, Palmer is no longer needed, thank you very little.

So the Bengals will have the choice of allowing Palmer to sit on his backside and get nothing for him. Or they will have the option of trading him.

The scenario becomes more complex if the Bengals pick a QB early because while it suggests Palmer is no longer in their plans long-term, it obviously doesn't close the door on him immediately the way Kolb's arrival would.

A little aside here: I have spoken to a league source whom the Bengals approached about QBs well before the story about Palmer wanting out of Cincinnati broke. The source told me in January that the Bengals were going to be looking at QBs as they prepared for life without Palmer. So at that point, they were readying for the possibility of moving on without Palmer.

Maybe they knew the storm that was coming -- that Palmer, sick and tired of being sick and tired in Cincinnati's often dysfunctional organization, wanted out and was vehement about it to the point of threatening retirement. Maybe way back then, the Bengals believed Palmer had played his final game for them.

I know, I know. Publicly, the Bengals' stance continues to be Palmer is their QB and he will play in Cincinnati or retire. Hey, doesn't that sound like the stance Bill Parcells took on Jason Taylor in 2008? Yeah, that was the stance the Dolphins had just before they traded Jason Taylor to Washington.

The point is, that is the public stance a team must take to keep hopes of getting value in return for a player. If the Bengals even hint they are moving on from Palmer, the price for him drops. And they do not want that because they would want the highest return possible for him.

I know some of you are reading this and telling yourselves, "The Dolphins shouldn't want Carson Palmer. He's not that good."

That is not an opinion without merit. But it is one without facts.

What if I told you Miami can add a QB that threw 26 TD passes last year in what was considered a bad year for him? That number of TD passes, by the way, represents 11 more TDs than Chad Henne threw and nine more than Miami threw as a team.

Yes, Palmer threw 20 interceptions. But Henne threw 19 interceptions and Miami threw a total of 21 altogether.

So plug those stats into Miami's 2011. Would the Dolphins have been better with 63 more points on the board and one fewer interception? Yeah, I would tell you they would have been. No doubt.

Are you aware Palmer completed 61.8 percent of his passes? Are you aware his QB rating was 90 or better in six games, including a 345-yard performance against the Patriots last year? Are you aware the guy was playing behind an offensive line that made Miami's seem like a Pro Bowl unit by comparison?

Are you aware Palmer won't be 32 years old until December? And Tom Brady, the QB everyone in the division hates to face, will be 34 years old during the same season?

Palmer would make the Dolphins a playoff contender, an actual true playoff contender, immediately. Maybe you hate that idea. Maybe you like the idea of picking Ryan Mallet or Andy Dalton, or Colin Kaepernick or Ricky Stanzi or Christian Ponder and hoping he becomes a good player by 2012 or 2013 or before the Rapture. Maybe the idea of being irrelevant for a couple of more years doesn't bother you.

Me? I know Palmer is good now. I think he'll be good for another five years or so, so the notion that adding him is only a temporary fix is bogus.

I like the fact there are little shreds of evidence that Cincinnati might warm to the idea of actually trading Palmer. 

And I'm not going to drop the idea of the Dolphins getting him until is it absolutely out of the question. That time has not yet arrived.

April 04, 2011

Week of player visits kicks off with ... Foster, Moore

In the first of many interviews the Dolphins will be conducting with college talent this week, the personnel and coaching staff over in Perfectville (yeah, I'm a nostalgic 1972-thinking kinda guy) is hosting Washington linebacker Mason Foster today and Tuesday.

Foster flew in this afternoon. He's not alone.

Miami is hosting Tennessee wide receiver Denarius Moore for a visit this week as well, according to this report by Fox Sports. Moore is, in a word, fast. He ran a 4.43 as his fastest time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Moore is No. 6 in the video below.

Foster was second in the entire country in tackles with 163 and that led the PAC-10. He also led the PAC-10 in tackles in 2008. Um, the guy had more tackles last year than anyone taken in the first round of the draft the past five years -- including Patrick Willis and Rolando McClain. 

I'm not saying Foster will be better than Willis or McClain but I am stating a fact. This also is a fact: If the Dolphins' interest extends to draft day and wanting to add Foster to the team, they'll have to find a way to add at least a second-round pick because he's not going to last past the second round, according to folks I talk to.

Some folks are comparing Foster to former Oregon State linebacker Nick Barnett, now with Green Bay. Hmmm. That is a compliment.

Foster is not a secret. He led all tacklers in the Senior Bowl with eight. He ran a 4.67 time in the 40 at his Pro Day so that is borderline outstanding for an inside linebacker.

Foster, No. 40 in the video below, is scheduled to visit with six teams, according to an NFL source.

Foster's visit continues to speak to a possibility I mentioned in my column on Sunday: That Miami, needing tons of help on offense, might use a high draft pick on defense.

I expect that might surprise you. I'm surprised in that I would expect any defensive pick that high to be used on an pass-rushing LB or CB rather than an ILB.

But, hey, maybe the Dolphins see a need to upgrade from Channing Crowder right away.

April 03, 2011

There are no prototypes at RB, plus more from experts

Running backs have been a big topic of discussion on the Miami Herald site lately and that continues today.

My column in today's newspaper looks, in part, at Mark Ingram Jr. and how the Dolphins should not discount him based on what the naked eye suggests are his drawbacks.

I've been lukewarm on Ingram until now because, frankly, he doesn't look impressive to me. He's not big. He's not fast. He's just, just, productive.

Then I got three sources on the phone. I reached out to personnel men -- one of whom is still in the NFL, all of whom own Super Bowl rings -- and they told me not to caught up in searching for a prototype running back.

There are none.

Running backs, unlike all the other positions, do not need to come in one particular shape or size to play well. Even the Dolphins, a team whose draft principles is picking for prototype size, understand that doesn't necessarily apply to running back.

At least I hope they do. One of the people I spoke with has talked with Jeff Ireland and he's certain Ireland understands running backs are the exception in the hunt for prototypical size.

Just look at some that succeeded. Chris Johnson, arguably the most dangerous runner in the NFL the past two years, is tall and lanky. He also happens to be fast as a spy plane. Marion Barber is compact and stocky and not very fast. Darren McFadden is big and loose in the hips and fast. Curtis Martin weighed 207 pounds. John Riggins weighed 237 pounds. Barry Sanders was 5-9 and he looked nothing like 5-9 Emmitt Smith.

They were or are all very good to great. There was not one prototype among them.

I tell you more about Ingram in the column. I also share with you the opinions of the experts on other players available in the draft. Hint: They aren't sold on picking offense if the best playmaker on the board is a defender.

April 01, 2011

RBs on the mind, in meetings, in the later rounds

The Dolphins are conducting meetings with players at their facility next week, with several players already scheduled to fly in Monday for Tuesday visits.

Count Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure prominently among the players the Dolphins will be meeting with soon. The team is looking for replacements for either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams or both and Leshoure's performance last season -- 1,697 rushing yards and 17 TDs -- suggest he's as solid a possibility as anyone.

So what should the Dolphins look for when they search for a running back?

They need to find a guy who can square his shoulders and get up field quickly. They should find someone who can absorb hits with some sort of subtlety to where it seems as if defenders are always just missing. This is important because backs that take full-on hits all the time don't last very long or get hurt a lot. Quickness is a trait you want from a running back, one that is more important than speed, quite frankly.

You probably think I'm crazy for typing that last sentence, right? After all, look at Chris Johnson. The man is a lightning bolt and that speed is intoxicating. Yes, but Johnson is also quick. Speed on it own gives you a track man. NFL teams want football players.

Speed is not so valuable in the absence of instinct.

Consider that Ronnie Brown came out of Auburn and to Miami as the No. 2 overall selectionin 2005. He ran a 4.4 in the 40 at the Indianapolis Combine. But how many 70 yard touchdown runs has that led to with the Dolphins?

Meanwhile, a guy such as Emmitt Smith could barely crack 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. And yes, he ran behind a dominant offensive line. But when he got past the second level, I don't rightly recall him getting caught from behind by cornerbacks or safeties that could run much faster. He had quickness. He had instincts. It's important.

One player that I had not heard about until this week was brought to my attention by a great personnel man I sometimes converse with and always respect. Check out Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott.

He's 5-11 and 211 pounds. His stats at Maryland as a junior were good but not great. He gained 708 yards. He's projected to be a 5th or 6th round pick. But this personnel man really likes Scott. Says he had very nice quickness to go with his 4.4 speed.

And, of course, he gets square quickly.

Look, I don't claim to be a draft guru. Frankly anyone in the media that claims to be a draft guru without actually having NFL experience is something of a poser. But what I do is talk to people who are legitimate personnel people, who have been in draft rooms and have true expertise and experience.

Those guys actually picked players. And I, in turn, pick their brains and pass along to you as much information as they allow me to do. Scott is a guy that has been suggested to me as a value pick in the fifth or sixth round but perhaps someone takes him a bit sooner.

We'll see how it turns out.

As they say in Boston, follow me on twitta.