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21 posts from May 2011

May 31, 2011

Miami Dolphins players No. 1 to beyond roster limit

Drum roll please ...

It is time for the annual Miami Herald countdown of the Dolphins roster! Excited? Fired up?

Yeah, I can sense the tension.

Anyway, this is my annual countdown of the players on Miami's roster from the best to the bottom of the roster guys. It should not surprise that No. 1 on the list did not change in 2010. The rest of the list did change.

Take this in. Study it. Tell me where you agree and don't. Understand that rookies and free agents who have never played a game for Miami or even in the NFL are on this list. Those guys are included in the list as projections.

This is a lot to take in. Do it in increments if you wish. This list will be up a while as I'm going on vacation and leave and won't be back until July. Well, I will come back if something happens (like the start of free agency) because I'll only be out of town two of the weeks I'm off.

But otherwise, this is the annual summer vacay post as well as the summer roster list post. If you need to see what I'm up to, you can follow me on twitter.

The list:

1. LT Jake Long: He blew out his left shoulder in November against Tennessee. That wasn't his first injury of the season as he suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale against Dallas. No problem. Long got treatment for the knee and played without issue. He got a harness for the shoulder and continued playing despite knowing he'd need surgery after the season. And he was still a Pro Bowl player for the third time in three seasons.

2. OLB Cameron Wake: Studly. He came from part-time work to a full-time starting job and more than doubled his production. He became one of the NFL's most unrelenting and explosive pass-rushers. The scary thing is Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has said Wake has not yet reached his full potential. He might get better!

3. WR Brandon Marshall: When he's right, when he has the right people around him, when he's used correctly, he can dominate and take over a game. In 2010 he was rarely used right and didn't really have the right people around him. He was good but he and quarterback Chad Henne never meshed. There might be a personality problem going on in that relationship and the problem isn't necessarily Henne's.

4. ILB Karlos Dansby: He was as-advertised in that he was a tackle machine and was solid and a leader. But it is rare when an inside linebacker can be a game-changer. Ray Lewis has done it. Brian Urlacher has done it. Dansby can do it in the future but he didn't do it in 2010. Still, he was a significant upgrade as a free agent.

5. NT Paul Soliai: He was given an opportunity starting the second week of the season and he turned it into a $12 million franchise player payday. It was as if Soliai, at times immature, turned the corner. The question is whether the improvement was his reach for a contract that might fade once he gets paid, or a legitimate and lasting ripening of a fine player.

6. DE Randy Starks: The Dolphins need to keep Starks at one position because he plays quite well when he gets the opportunity to make a position his home. Late last season, Starks was again Miami's best defensive end after starting the year at nose tackle.

7. WR Davone Bess: Exceedingly hard worker. Reliable hands. Dependable route-runner. He is a very good possession receiver and every NFL team needs at least one of those. His receptions (79), yards (820) and TDs(5) were career highs.

8. SS Yeremiah Bell: Always excellent in run-support, he led the team in tackles again. Bell is consistent in that he's had more than 100 tackles each of the past three years. I don't understand why the Dolphins didn't blitz him more often because he's outstanding at that.

9.CB Vonate Davis: Most physical and potentially dominating cornerback on the team. He still has not made the climb from "being there" on contested balls to "winning" the battle for most of those balls. He's good now. Not excellent. Not great. Not very good. Good.

10. DE Kendall Langford: An end in the 3-4 defense is never going to be a big-playmaker if he's not named Suh. So Langford hasn't been a playmaker but has been solid and consistent. There is a step or two Langford could take to reach a level of excellence that would turn Miami's front into a dominant unit.

11. DE Phillip Merling: Merling asctually played relatively well when he returned from the non-football injury list last year. It suggests he has matured and could be ready to finally meet the potential that made him the No. 32 overall selection in 2008.

12. CB Sean Smith: He was humbled a year ago in losing his starting job to Jason Allen. Jason Allen! He didn't quit. He never gave up. He fought through adversity, although it was of his own making. He regained his job and played well. The difference between playing well and being a star? Smith drops every pass that hits his hands. He could have had eight or nine interceptions a year ago. Time to catch those, Sean.

13. WR Brian Hartline: He was open enough and effective enough to suggest he can continue to be a good deep-threat option. His stats -- 43 catches for 615 yards -- would have seemed nicer if quarterback Chad Henne had connected with him on the handful of times Hartline got open behind defenses.

14. ILB Channing Crowder: Solid. That's what he's always been when he's healthy. But excellent? Game-changing? Nope.

15. OLB Koa Misi: Starter who showed a great motor. He never gives up on a play. He is relentless. He needs to get stronger both in the upper and lower body. Once he truly becomes a technician at his craft, he has potential to be an eight- or nine-sack a year guy.

16. C Mike Pouncey: First round pick. Not exciting, but a safe pick. Why was it a safe pick? Because Pouncey is going to be a very good player. That's why. When he proves it, he'll rise on this list.

17. TE Anthony Fasano: He is unappreciated because he's not playing in a great passing offense, he's had some memorable drops in previous years, and doesn't like media attention too much. That doesn't mean he's a bad player. Fasano was second on the team with 13.5 yards per catch (among players with double-digit catches). He was fourth on the team in catches and yards. Great? No. Good? Yes.

18. RB Daniel Thomas: Second round pick better be Miami's top rusher in 2011 because, well, that's what he was picked for. He'll share the load with whatever free agent running back Miami lands. Obviously, this is a projection.

19. QB Chad Henne: Anytime a QB is not among the Top 10 best players on the team, that team is in trouble. Anytime a QB throws more interceptions than touchdowns and gets benched at least once in the season because the team isn't scoring enough, he cannot be ranked too highly and definitely not in the Top 10.

20. RB Ronnie Brown: Good man. Fearless every Sunday. But not the greatest instincts, and injuries seem to have sapped speed and explosion.

21. RB Ricky Williams: He had flashes but they are coming farther and farther apart now. He no longer has the amazing burst he once had, he no longer breaks tackles or avoids tackles in the second level.

22. G/C Richie Incognito: He was the team's best interior lineman. He was not the problem.

23. RT Vernon Carey: He has the ability to be the most frustrating player on the offensive line because he has the ability to be an A-player but has too often been a C-minus player. His best season came in 2008 when he was pushing for a new contract. He hasn't played at that level since.

24. FB Lousaka Polite: Good blocker. Good short-yardage runner. He might be replaced in 2011 if the Dolphins put their expected greater emphasis on the H-back postion over FB.

25. P Brandon Fields: He followed his best NFL season in 2009 with his second best NFL season in 2010 -- although the two blocks he suffered (not really his fault) look bad on his stat sheet. His 31 punts inside the 20 were a career high.

26. K Dan Carpenter: After connecting on 89 percent of his kicks in 2009, he dropped to a disappointing 73.2 percent in 2010 and had two kicks blocked. The end of Carpenter's season was a nightmare, as he booted only two of his seven final attempts. He did deliver 14 touchbacks on kickoffs, tying the number for the previous two years combined.

27 (tie). DE Tony McDaniel: There is thinking out there that McDaniel, a free agent in 2011, will go elsewhere because he will price himself out of the Dolphins market. That's is possible. But I would argue the Dolphins need to be very careful not to undervalue McDaniel because neither Odrick nor Merling are absolutes based on their histories. On a scale of 1-10, McDaniel is a solid 7. You don't want to lose those.

27 (tie). C Joe Berger: Berger was a pleasant surprise in that he was a solid C to B-minus center most of the year. He was the improbable starting center last year when the Jake Grove experiment proved a failure. And it would not be surprising if Berger is the starter early in training camp while Mike Pouncey gets acquainted. But that won't last barring an injury to Pouncey or others.

29. S Chris Clemons: Solid. Doesn't make mistakes. But neither does he really make any big plays. He had only one interception in 14 starts.

30. S Reshad Jones: He's a ball magnet and he will compete for a starting job with Chris Clemons in training camp. Truth is I expect him to win the job. He had one interception in two starts, which is the same as Clemons had in 14 starts. Until he wins the job, however, he finds himself just behind the starer.

31. G John Jerry: Last year it was about him being a rookie, and him being unable to get back from his early-season sickness, and his need for being stronger and his need for using better technique. This season it has to be about Jerry overcoming those issues and living up to his potential.

32. DE Jared Odrick: He was a starter the first week of the season and then was lost for the rest of the season. He has much to learn. He has much to improve upon. And he must stay healthy because durability is a category on which players are judged every bit as much as ability.

33. QB Chad Pennington: He was coach Tony Sparano's choice to lead the team in the crucial point of the season but although Pennington's spirit was willing, his flesh was weak. He sufferedanother shoulder injury on his first possession of the game he started. Having suffered another injury playing basketball this offseason, the Dolphins seem prepared to move on. If he's healthy, he's better than Henne.

34. CB Benny Sapp: He was on the team last year because Will Allen got hurt. He didn't disappoint but neither did his play impress. The Dolphins want to push Sapp to either make him better or find someone better.

35. ILB Tim Dobbins: Solid backup and that's a big deal because Crowder is injury prone and even Dansby got hurt at the end of last year. 

36. S Tyrone Culver: Solid role player in dime defense. Solid special teams tackler. He's .... solid.

37. CB Nolan Carroll: Ah, if only he'd caught that interception versus Cleveland. He could have been a hero. As it was, he was a rookie making mistakes and trying like crazy to compete. Carroll has great speed. Decent ball skills. Good work ethic. Let's see if those translate in Year 2.

38. LS John Denney: The only time one notices him is when he botches a snap. But he doesn't do that and that makes him valuable. Excellent at his craft.

39. QB Tyler Thigpen: Gutsy, willing to gamble, and strong-minded, he has the personality of a winner. But he's erratic and just as likely to throw two interceptions as two touchdowns in a game.

40. CB Will Allen: He's got to prove he can still contribute after missing two years because of injuries.

41. WR Marlon Moore: That 57-yard TD catch against Oakland was an eye-opener. But he had some troubling drops in the following couple of games and was basically iced against Buffalo before returning the final two games of the season. He had two catches for 43 yards in the season-finale so he finished on a high note. It is time to go higher.

41. WR Roberto Wallace: Big. Strong. A fine special teams player. Good hands. But still largely unproven. His special teams ability is the reason he played ahead of Moore most of the season.

42. WR Edmond "Clyde" Gates: Yeah, he doesn't like to be called Edmond. He likes Cylde. I'll call him Mr. Clyde if he lives up to his speed and blows the top off defenses likes he's supposed to. We'll see. This is obviously a projection.

43. S Jonathon Amaya: Great hitter on special teams. He might have been Miami's most effective special teams hitter late in the season.

44. RB Patrick Cobbs: His role on offense declined to practically zero last year. That showed .. 1. The coaching staff's hesitation to seek alternatives to underpeforming Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and 2. Cobbs' inability to show himself worthy of a shot. Yes, he was the special teams captain. But Miami's special teams were terrible. Solid locker room presence. 

45. OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis: There was much buzz about Alama-Francis early in the season but injuries and circumstances prevented him from playing up to that buzz. He's a hard worker and a solid run-stopper.

46. TE Charles Clay: Hopefully this kid becomes a latter day Chris Cooley or Dallas Clark. No idea if he'll be even in the same conversation thus his low ranking.

47. DB Jimmy Wilson: A seventh-rounder who missed two years while in prison facing murder chargers, Wilson is obviously a gamble. He's also got the feels of a special teams contributor.

48. RB Lex Hilliard: Time to be more than a special teams player because the Dolphins are looking for viable running back options and he's not exactly the first name on anyone's lips among team insiders. With the team bringing in more special teams talent, 2011 could be a turning point year.

49. ILB A.J. Edds: The plan has not changed from a year ago in that he will be a passing situation substitution for Channing Crowder or Karlos Dansby if he has the abilities the team thought he did when he was drafted.

50. OLB Quentin Moses: Extremely under-rated. Mostly unknown. Can you believe he's been on the team since 2007? Says something for his latent ability which is little used. He did

51. Nate Garner: He was going to get a chance to compete to start at G when he got hurt and was lost for the year. Now the onus is on to prove he can recover and show some durability. 

52. OL Pat McQuistan: He started a handful of games. He should be a backup.

53. T Lydon Murtha: He is good stay active and take to the game as a backup. Is he good enough to displace someone on the starting unit? I doubt it, but I'd like to see him try. It can only make everyone better.

54. G Rey Feinga: His chances of winning a starting job are also dependent on the health of other players. Betting on someone to be hurt is a tough way to earn a living.

55. DT Frank Kearse: The Dolphins need a backup for Soliai not named Starks. Kearse has the opportunity to be that guy. Does he have the ability?

56. WR Julius Pruitt: He was active the regular-season finale but didn't catch a pass. He's been all about potential. It's time to be about production.

57. ILB Austin Spitler: The youngster got better at his special teams duties later in the season.

58. WR Patrick Carter: He's been in camp with Seattle, Tampa Bay, Denver, Baltimore, and was most recently on the Hartford Colonels. He's 26 now so this camp is probably his make-or-break NFL moment. Don't bet on make.

59. LB Mark Restelli: A free agent signee from the CFL. He's only 6-2 and 215 so he needs to get better. He's strictly a special teams guy if he makes the team at all.

60. T James Marten: The Dolphins are his fourth team in four years and he's still a project player.

61. QB Tom Brandstater: Late season signee and never really an option to play. Don't expect much different in 2011.

62. RB Kory Sheets: He had speed and potential before an Achilles' injury. No idea if he has either now.

63. CB Nate Ness: Cut in the preseason, then cut by Seattle when he was toasted during one game, he returned as insurance against injuries.

64. FB Deon Anderson: Dolphins have to learn that signing every Dallas Cowboys reject is not a good idea. Anderson was signed after the Cowboys dropped him and he promptly got hurt one week into his Dolphins career. He probably won't be on the team this year.

65. LB Mike Rivera: He's been jumping from practice squad to practice squad and was active only for the season-finale against New England. I simply do not know enough about him to give you an idea which direction he's going.

66. T Matt Kopa: Signed off the 49ers practice squad in November, he was mostly just insurance and was inactive the final seven games of the season.

67. DE Ryan Baker He's undersized. He's probably not the most naturally gifted player. But he works. He studies the game. He is a good guy in the community.

68. G Cory Procter: He was a backup most of the year before going on injured reserve in late November. He's likely played his final game with the Dolphins.

69 (tie). TE Dedrick Epps: Young kid. Project.

69 (tie). TE Mickey Shuler: Young kid. Project.

69 (tie). TE Jeron Mastrud: You kid. Project.

(Not rated) T Allen Barbre: He spent one week with the Dolphins last year, the final week of the season. I have no idea what he's about.

(Not rated) DT Chris Baker: Don't know enough about him.

May 27, 2011

Marc Bulger perhaps more attractive than you think

Marc Bulger.

I advise you to think Marc Bulger.

Why, you ask in an inquisitive voice, should I think of Marc Bulger on the Memorial Day weekend? Well, as I shared with you in a previous post, the NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora was reporting the Broncos are more likely than not to keep Kyle Orton when the season eventually gets underway. That seemingly eliminates one semi-attractive veteran quarterback option.

Yet another post this week had Bengals owner Mike Brown swearing Carson Palmer won't be traded, thus putting a dead end sign on that possible veteran QB avenue.

The possibilities are dwindling, folks.

So today when LaCanfora did his weekly segment on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, I had to ask, what legitimate most likely options that leaves the Dolphins? We both agreed not Kevin Kolb of Philadelphia. We both agreed not likely Donovan McNabb.

We both agreed Marc Bulger is a possibility.

Disclaimer: The last time I saw Bulger play was 2008 in St. Louis and he looked tentative, worn, and frankly, a little afraid to stand in the pocket. I thought he was done. LaCanfora acknowledged that Bulger was not good in his latter Rams days. But he told me something I didn't know about Bulger's most recent stint as a backup with Baltimore in 2010.

"I have some pretty good sources on the Ravens," he said. "When I talked to people there they were very impressed with Bulger. They told me when he's on the field and running the offense, the ball often doesn't hit the ground ... They believe he's going to be a very good quarterback in 2011. They would love to keep him in Baltimore as the backup but they think someone will sign him to compete to start or be a bridge quarterback and a pretty good one at that."

Bulger makes sense for Miami because he does have plenty of experience. He has had time to recover from the beating he suffered in 2008-2009. He won't require draft choice compensation. He won't be extremely expensive to sign. He is not exclusively a West Coast offense guy like McNabb and others. And the last time someone took a chance on a seemingly washed up former St. Louis QB, it paid off handsomely.

Kurt Warner went from New York Giants has-been to Super Bowl QB in Arizona.

I'm not saying Bulger will reap similar benefits for his next team. I'm not saying he will be the answer to Miami's QB problems for the next five years. The truth of the matter is the Dolphins are not likely to find that guy in free agency or via trade. Those guys don't just show up on your doorstep.

So if that is what you're hoping for, don't bank on it. I've told you, Peyton Manning isn't signing with Miami.

I'm just saying don't dismiss Bulger out of hand as a Miami possibility. He might not turn the franchise around. But he would serve as competition fo Chad Henne. At this point, that may be the only possbility the Dolphins might be left with.


May 26, 2011

Ross raises serious questions in USA Today

The NFL spring meeting adjourned in Indianapolis on Wednesday but before he left town, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talked to USA Today and addressed Miami's cost-cutting measures.

Look, the cost-cutting measure are what they are. Big business in America is hurting and it is taking measures to protect itself. So are local and state governments for that matter. It is a sad fact of life in today's bad economy and employees, such as those working for the Dolphins or Miami Herald for that matter, are always free to go work elsewhere if they are disgruntled about cost-cutting measures.

That said, the USA Today interview with Ross is eyebrow-raising for a couple of reasons.

First: Ross shows hints of a person suffering from buyer's remorse.

"The emotions of wanting to own a team were greater than the fact that this might be coming," Ross said of his purchase despite the looming lockout that everyone knew was coming. "You always figured that something like this, you know, it's going to get resolved. It's a question of when. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later."

Ross paid $1.1 billion for the Dolphins in 2008-2009 and that investment dropped in value almost immediately as the economy tanked, particularly the real estate economy in South Florida. He's mentioned how that wasn't a great investment short-term. Wednesday, he mentioned how the work stoppage is not a great time to be an owner.

"Who the hell wants to own a team and not play?" he said. "It's about having a system that works. It's not about a bunch of greedy owners. It's a bunch of players looking to see how much they can really get."

And that leads me to troubling issue No. 2.

Ross doesn't call the NFL players greedy outright. But he implies the problem with getting a new collective bargaining agreement is, again, "a bunch of players looking to see how much they can really get."

Isn't that another way to say greedy?

Ross, who deals often with unions as a New York city businessman, is careful not to alienate them. But he's not quite as careful about alienating the players because apparently he doesn't equate their union with labor unions.

"We negotiate with unions all the time, and there are issues there," Ross said. "But they're not the same types of issues. When you're dealing with guys earning over $1 million a year — the average salary is, what, $1.87 million? — you're not talking about the same kind of labor issues. Are these really labor issues? These are not labor issues.

"There should be no sympathy in the labor movement in America for these ballplayers. It's a different deal."

May 25, 2011

LaCanfora: Orton won't be available either

Another potential offseason veteran quarterback might be off the market. More good news for Chad Henne.

Terrible news for anyone hoping for a legitimate competition at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, reports today that "people I've talked to" in Denver are telling him they can see a scenario where Orton is the Broncos' starting QB in 2011 -- ahem, whenever the season actually gets underway.

"Orton is valued by the Broncos," LaCanfora writes. "They know he can be a winning quarterback. He's smart and can absorb a system, and has some natural chemistry with receivers there like Brandon Lloyd. For a franchise that is dealing with significant fan unrest, and coming off a collapse of a season, and with a new regime in place, the Broncos need to win some games. Now.

"Without question, Orton gives them the best chance to do that"

So how does that affect Miami. Simple: The Dolphins are going to be in the hunt for a quarterback that can challenge Henne for the starting job. The job requires experience, an ability to have instant success against good opponents, and an obvious need to be available in the offseason.

With Orton, you could check off the list of requisites one after another until, well, now when we reach the avialability issue. Obviously, anything can change and it often does. So the thinking in Denver can go a different direction.

But if LaCanfora's people are correct, you can cross Orton off Miami's list of potential QB challengers.

Let's see ...

That leaves ...

Marc Bulger, Vince Young, Kevin Kolb, maybe Matt Hasselbeck, maybe Donovan McNabb.


[NOTE: Jason LaCanfora will join my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, at 8:10 on Thursday morning for his weekly segment. We'll talk about this Orton situation and other NFL issues. Listen in.]

May 24, 2011

More Palmer trade denials from Bengals

The lead story over at NFL.com is bad news for the Dolphins.


Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown continues to take a hard line regarding the possible trading of disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer, saying from the current NFL owners' meeting that he remains adamant he will not trade the former Pro Bowl player.

"We don't plan to trade Carson," Brown said Monday at the NFL Spring Meeting. "He's important to us. He's a very fine player, and we do want him to come back. If he chooses not to, he'd retire. And we would go with Andy Dalton, the younger player we drafted, who's a good prospect.

"Ideally, we'd have both of them. That'd the best way to go forward. If we don't have Carson, we'll go with Andy."

I reported way back in March that of all the veteran quarterbacks with a possibility of being available when the NFL gets back to work, Palmer would be first on Miami's wish list if he's indeed available. I also told you that could be wishful thinking because the Bengals, specifically Brown, has said countless times he's not trading Palmer.

Palmer, as you may know, has said he will not play again in Cincinnati. He's said he would rather retire than return. So Brown is apparently picking the nuclear option rather than considering a trade that would bring a draft pick to his team.

And everyone I've spoken to tells me Brown is serious. So I get it.

But ...

I've been at this for a long time. And I know sometimes -- more often than many know -- things are said definitively for public consumption for the sake of taking a stance that improves ones status, or bargaining position, or fulfills some other agenda.


"I will not be the Alabama coach."

--Nick Saban

"We are not trading Jason Taylor."

--Bill Parcells

"We are not selling the Miami Dolphins."

--Tim Robbie

"I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."

--President Clinton

"Read my lips, no new taxes."

--President Bush 41

"I'm starting my diet tomorrow. Pass me the carrot cake."

--Armando Salguero

"Tom Brady, right arm (questionable)"

--New England Patriots injury report

"I believe this is the year that we're going to win the Super Bowl. I thought we'd win it the first two years. I guarantee we'll win it this year."

--Rex Ryan

Lies. All of them. Lies. Folks sometimes say things to suit their agenda. And when setting up a possible trade, it suits a team's agenda to raise the value on that player. I do not know if this is what Brown is doing. Again, from all I'm told, that is not his way of operating.

But until we know for sure, we cannot dismiss the possibility, however small, that Brown is saying he will not trade Palmer because saying otherwise at this point would basically lower Palmer's value. Think of what the Tennessee Titans are doing with Vince Young, for example.

They are being completely forthright. They are saying they'd like to trade Young, but will release him if a trade cannot be worked out. So Young's trade value, not great to begin with, is through the floor because every team knows if they hold fast on giving up compensation for him, they can enter a free agency derby for him without having to pay a draft pick in return.

Palmer, meanwhile, has most value if the team that currently holds his rights values him so highly that they would rather have him retire than let him go elsewhere.

Another agenda possibly at play here is one taught to me by a wise football man. He told me you never give in to a player who demands to leave your team because then you might have a handful of players making that demand. You hold that player hostage as long as possible. Then, if and only if you get high return for that player, you dump him before he becomes a distraction or problem in your locker room.

That is, if you remember correctly, exactly what the Dolphins did with Jason Taylor. It is, if you remember correctly, what they did with Patrick Surtain. It is, if you remember correctly, what they failed to do with Daunte Culpepper because they missed the timing for getting rid of him and he became a distraction in the summer of 2007.

So don't bet on the Bengals getting rid of Carson Palmer because owner Mike Brown is saying otherwise. But do not be surprised if the Bengals do get rid of Carson Palmer even though owner Mike Brown is saying otherwise.

May 23, 2011

Marshall and Wake among the NFL's Top 100

If you're still paying attention to football these days -- and the assumption is you are because, well, you're on a football blog -- then you're probably aware of the fun exercise the NFL Network is undertaking in ranking the league's top 100 players.

The countdown started at No. 100 and is down to No. 61 so far with more installments on the way until we reach No. 1. I have the feeling Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will find themselves vying for No. 1, and if they don't something is definitely wrong.

Dolphins players in that elite group?

Cameron Wake hit No. 63 in the released list of top 100.

"They asked me and when I voted, I didn't put myself in there," Wake said.


Wake definitely deserves the recognition. But that which is most exciting about Wake is that while other pass-rushers such as Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley will already find themselves rated behind Wake, there is so much further Wake can go.

I see Wake becoming every bit as dominant as Woodley's running mate in Pittsburgh, James Harrison. Harrison isn't as big, isn't as quick or as explosive as Wake. He is much more refined in his technique, he's slightly stronger in the upper body and his work ethic is beyond reproach.

DeMarcus Ware also will be ranked among the league's top 39 players.

So Wake, with one great 14-sack season on his resume, can definitely improve. (I would tell you he'll be a lot better if Koa Misi or another Dolphins rusher offers a counter-balancing rush threat as Woodley does for Harrison.)

Interestingly, Wake rates ahead of Houston defensive end Mario Williams on this list. Williams, you'll recall, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Think of the bargain the Dolphins got in adding Wake as an free agent out of the Canadian Football League.

Wake isn't the only Dolphins player on this list. Brandon Marshall is the NFL's 61st best player, according to the voting by his peers.

I have no problem with the ranking. Marshall, when he's right, when he's healthy, when he's feeling confident and engaged and enthusiastic, can be elite. Unfortunately, if you pay attention to the video of Marshall on the NFL Network site, most of his highlights come when he's in a Denver uniform.

Now, I recognize Marshall played most of his career in Denver and only one season in Miami. But the point I'm making is I still haven't seen in Miami the WR that Marshall was in Denver. Just look at his running ability in the Broncos uniform. Watch Marshall's ability to cut once he has the ball to make the defense miss. I didn't see that in Miami last year.

I saw Marshall break tackles on sheer strength and power. But I didn't see that kind of quickness. Not even close.

Marshall was working toward getting back that kind of quickness this offseason when he was stabbed by his wife in a domestic violence incident that is still unsettled. And although Marshall is expected to recover from the incident with his wife, he has not yet returned to working out fulltime.

NFL.com senior columnist Vic Carucci writes that Marshall deserves to be higher on the list of the Top 100 if one accounts for talent alone. But talent is not the only thing that decides a player's success in the NFL. So Carucci points out that Marshall is ranked where he is based on the fact other players didn't trust his him off the field.

Carucci goes on to outline the off-field issues Marshall has had and makes the point that if one is not on the field or free of off-field worries, it is tougher to reach one's potential. That, the columnist hypothesizes, is the reason a talent of Marshall's scope is pushed down the list of the top 100.

I would tell you the Dolphins have two more players with significant hope of being in the Top 100 -- ILB Karlos Dansby and LT Jake Long.

Dansby might or might not make it. Long is a certainty.

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May 20, 2011

Breakout players for 2011 -- whenever that starts

Before we head into the weekend (which some fools are claiming will be the final one as May 21 is supposed to be the end of the world) I want to give you my personal list of Dolphins players I believe should be on everyone's list of breakout players for the 2011 season.

...Whenever that 2011 season gets underway.

Breakout players are defined as players who have yet to show their signature talent. They are young players who have much potential but little in the way of stellar production to show for that potential. Cameron Wake had a breakout season in 2010.

The next Cameron Wake for the Dolphins?

My list:

1. Guard John Jerry: He was a starter much of last season but struggled finding his niche and then keeping it because he battled a sickness and that kept him from perfecting his technique and he wasn't strong enough and he probably needed a lesson in being a professional. Enough of that. It's the second season. The hope is he's working to get stronger as prescribed by the club's strength and conditioning coaches and he is going to get every opportunity to be a starter -- with every opportunity being defined as he's a starter Day 1 of training camp and then it's up to him to keep the job.

2. Cornerback Vontae Davis: Next season will be his third as a starter. It's time to live up to the grand potential he showed as a rookie. Davis is easily the most physical of all Miami corners. He works hard to get his body right. He works at the art of playing CB. But last season he had only one interception to show for his trouble. He had four interceptions as a rookie. You might claim he wasn't picked on nearly as much as he was as a rookie and that is correct. But he was beaten for at least four TD passes. That's not the ratio of interceptions-to-TDs anyone expects from a star CB. And make no mistake, Davis has the potential to be a star. It's time for him to reach that potential.

3. Free safety Reshad Jones: This kid is a ball magnet. He always seems to be around the football. The football always seems to be around him. It stands to reason the Dolphins, who want more game-changing plays in their defensive backfield, will give such a player an opportunity to win a starting job. If Jones continues to show that ball magnet ability, it would then make sense he bursts out of his role as a special teams player and situational player.

4. Wide receiver Marlon Moore: You cannot coach speed. Moore has it. He showed that potential with that 57-yard TD catch against Oakland last year. Coaches saw that and their eyes popped out. Unfortunately, Moore wasn't ready for more work. The following week he dropped a couple of passes and his chance for more playing time diminished. But a young wide receiver typically makes the biggest leap in ability between his first and second year. Moore is getting ready for that second year. A caveat: Most NFL wide receivers get plenty of work in that offseason between their roookie and second seasons. Moore isn't getting that with the Dolphins due to the lockout.

5. Defensive end Phillip Merling: Coaches were hoping for big things from Merling at this time last year. He was seemingly starting to figure out how to be a professional. Then he blew out his Achilles' tendon jogging on his own a month before training camp. He had to wait until the final five games to work himself off the Non-football Injury list. It wasn't a total loss, but it wasn't what everyone expected, either. Merling gets another chance at it this year -- hopefully while completely healthy. A big hint whether he'll be primed for a big year is how well Merling practices when training camp opens. He is known for at times not being a great worker in practice.

HONORABLE MENTIONS -- Koa Misi, Jared Odrick: Misi collected 4.5 sacks as a rookie mostly on sheer desire and refusal to quit. He was playing the SOLB for the first time in his career. He was playing in the NFL for the first time. He was probably a little undersized in that he needed to improve his upper body strength. As for technique ... what technique? The assignment this offseason and training camp is to address all those. We'll see the results.

Odrick was an instant starter at RDE. That says something about the kid. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they were not able to see the fruits of his potential. After a solid training camp, Odrick broke his leg in the season-opener. Four weeks later, he sustained an injury to the other leg that forced him out the remainder of the season. He gets a new start in 2011. The club has high hopes for him. So do I.

Check back Monday for more Dolphins information and analysis. Also, please follow me on twitter. Finally, I guarantee you the world will not end on Saturday. I have a Most Highly placed Source.

May 19, 2011

How a conversation turns into a rumor

Mike Sims-Walker? Really?

I've had a handful of e-mails from fans suggesting I check out the story about erstwhile Jacksonville Jaguars receiver's intention of joining the Dolphins once the lockout ends. So, being one that eventually takes a hint, I checked out the original post from which the rumors are now heating up.

All I can say is we're hurting for something to talk about. The post is a conversation between a reporter and a player. It's good stuff. But it never says Sims-Walker is headed to Miami. All it says is the receiver, friends with former University of Central Florida teammate Brandon Marshall, would like to reunite with Marshall.

"Me and him, our relationship on the field and off the field, we make each other better," Sims-Walker told the Florida Times-Union. "We compete with each other so much that we're going to bring the best out of each other every single minute. That will be the best thing for the whole team."

That does not mean Sims-Walker is headed to Miami. Will he shop his services with the Dolphins? Probably. Will he shop his services with the 30 other teams not headquartered in Jacksonville and Miami? Probably.

Sims-Walker will be hunting for a job after the lockout ends. I'd get interested if and when the Dolphins are hunting for Sims-Walker.

And I would not exactly bet on that happening for several reasons:

1. He is injury prone. He missed all of 2007 with a knee injury. He had various nagging heres and theres last season, including an ankle injury.

2. He is outgoing and vivacious and at times provocative. The Dolphins hate outgoing and vivacious and at times provocative.

3. He's had only one good season -- that in 2009 -- out of four in the NFL. That means he's hitting .250 which isn't too good.

4. The Dolphins have young, hard-working, faster players in the pipeline -- including Marlon Moore, Edmond "Clyde" Gates, and Roberto Wallace.

5. The Dolphins have needs above wide receiver that they will almost surely address ahead of wide receiver. The wide receiver position, barring some significant move with Marshall, is not likely going to be a position of major upheaval.

Other than that, sure, Sims-Walker might become a Dolphin.

May 17, 2011

Dolphins John Beck evaluation might be revisited in 2011

First a disclaimer: Yes, another quarterback post.

I cannot help it.

Look, basically I'm going to hold my breath, I'm going to yell from the highest mountain, I'm going to pout, I'm going to write blog post after blog post and column upon column until the Miami Dolphins have a quarterback everyone can believe in. So you are free to join me in a growing chorus of folks demanding a good (doesn't even have to be great, but at least not embarrassing) quarterback for Miami.

Or you are free to think I'm just over the top and a foof and need to chill about a quarterback because, it's not that important, and it has only been about 14 years since the Dolphins had a great one, and it's not that big a deal.

You decide.

Having said that:

Most NFL teams are graded by how successful they are at acquiring, maintaining or developing a starting quarterback. Being as that the Dolphins are an NFL team, they aren't exempt from such scrutiny.

And up to now, while the team had done nothing to prove it is good at acquiring a good quarterback -- neither Chad Henne, Pat White nor Josh McCown turned in good seasons -- it's ability to maintain a good quarterback was not in question because Chad Pennington came to the team with solid experience and credentials and played up to those in 2008 while leading Miami to the AFC East title. So in that regard, the Dolphins kept what was a good thing a good thing.

Developing a quarterback? Well, you'll remember the Dolphins had quarterbacks on the roster when Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano took over. Cleo Lemon was jettisoned and so far that decision was proven correct as he's no longer in the NFL. And no one questioned the release of John Beck because we all remember his struggles as a rookie and watched him struggle during the 2008 training camp QB battle.

But ...

Here we are, three years after that battle and the Beck ghost is threatening to haunt this Dolphins front office and coaching staff. Beck, you see, has somehow gone from being a bust that was cut by Miami to a backup in Baltimore, to a guy who might be the starter in Washington in 2011 -- assuming the season ever begins.

Beck's rise in Washington has been bizarre in that he is apparently ahead of Donovan McNabb on the depth chart yet has not taken even one snap in a game during his time there.

Folk in Washington are understandibly asking how it is Beck could make such a rise when he's had four years with little NFL success. Believe it or not, Beck's plausible explanation is that the Dolphins screwed him.

“When [Bill Parcells] first got there, I really liked Bill,” the quarterback told Washington radio station 102.1 several weeks ago. “Bill treated me like I was gonna be the guy. I would be in the weight room working out and he would come and stand by my squat rack, talk to me. He’d catch me in the hall or he’d have someone tell me, 'Hey John, Bill wants to see you.' I’d go sit in his office and he’d tell me, 'hey I believe that you can do this for us, I really like what you do, I think you remind me a lot of Tony Romo, things are gonna be great.'

“And then all of the sudden Brett Favre goes to the Jets, Chad Pennington becomes available, boom, that was it, done. And I went from competing for the starting job with Josh McCown to then the No. 3 on the roster overnight. So it was crazy, and then as the season went on they focused on Chad Pennington’s our guy and Chad Henne’s who we drafted so he's our future."

Despite looking like he was afraid of his own shadow in the locker room, Beck went on to say he was playing hardball with the Dolphins behind closed doors.

“So when the [2008] season ended," he told the radio station, "I went in and asked for a release. I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I don’t want to be the backup. That’s not why I play the game. I’m not the type of person who can be happy getting a paycheck and not playing. I want to be the guy playing, and I went and asked for a release, and me and Bill got into it a little bit there. So at this point, I’m not the biggest Tuna fan.”

Beck was eventually released on April 27, 2009 after two years with the team and more than one full year with the current administration. Obviously the current front office and coaching staff didn't see enough in Beck to warrant keeping him.

But here's the thing: That doesn't bother anyone as long as John Beck is a backup. That doesn't bother anyone as long as he goes to Baltimore and then gets traded to the Redskins without fanfare. Miami's decision to cut ties with Beck is even deemed correct if he becomes the starter in Washington and is mediocre at best.

But if he somehow continues his improbable climb from scrubino in Miami to scrubino in Baltimore to viable or outstanding starter in Washington, that makes Mike Shanahan look like a genius. And it makes the folks in Baltimore and the folks in Miami look, well, like they missed something.

If Beck somehow blossoms in Washingto, fans here will probably wonder what the Redskins were able to do that the Dolphins weren't able to do, what strings they pulled, what techniques they adjusted that the Dolphins didn't.

The Dolphins obviously saw something of value in Beck. They kept him for a year.

But they eventually gave up on him. So now that evaluation (so far proven correct) is on the hook again. If this kid shines in Washington, Dolphins fans will ask why Miami didn't hang on to him.

Is that fair? You betcha!

That's the business.

Personally, I wouldn't sweat John Beck just yet. Yesterday on Sirius he was talking like he's the presumed starter in Washington. "I believe I'm a starter in the NFL," he said.

But until he actually is that, Miami's decision to waive him won't be judged as questionable. And unless he plays well once he starts, that decision certainly cannot be judged as wrong.

You might argue that John Beck might have blossomed after four years and so there is no rightful expectation for the Dolphins to wait that long. Wrong. Teams wait that long for quarterbacks to blossom all the time.

I refer you to Aaron Rodgers, who didn't play until his third NFL season.

I present to you Houston's Matt Shaub, who led the NFL in passing yards in 2009 after sitting for a long time behind Michael Vick in Atlanta.

I refer you to Henne. The Dolphins have continued to wait on him to blossom and he could very well be the starter in 2011 despite not playing exceedingly well in 2009 or 2010.

Teams wait for QBs.

The Dolphins chose not to wait on Beck. They cut him loose. And he might get his opportunity in Washington. So Miami's quaterback evaluation might again be on the line.

Kindly follow me on twitter.

May 16, 2011

The truth about the DeAngelo Williams love affair

The recurring theme I hear when fans and some journalists speak of the Dolphins' running back options going forward is, sorry to tell you, often myopic at best. Basically, a lot of folks are just saying stuff without really knowing the facts.

For example, the group that blindly repeats the, 'Let's sign DeAngelo Williams,' theme obviously is not aware of the facts that could keep Williams from going anywhere in 2011. Those same folks say Williams has said he'd like to play here without knowing he's also said he'd like to return to Carolina.

And no one seems to recognize that even if Williams is a free agent, he'll have a handful of teams vying for his services.

So let's seriously consider this:

First, if the appeals court denies the NFL's request for a stay of a lower court's decision to end the lockout and the league must return to work under 2010 rules, as many believe will happen, then Williams simply will not be an unrestricted free agent at all.


If the NFL is forced to operate under 2010 guidelines, only players with six years of NFL experience will be considered unrestricted free agents. Williams has five years of NFL experience. He would be restricted. This is such a serious reality that Carolina on March 2nd placed a tender on Williams, assuring its rights to the running back.

It is such a serious reality that during the draft, once Carolina drafted Cam Newton, new Panthers coach Ron Rivera spoke passionately about how having Newton would benefit Williams in the backfield.

"If the defense crashes down on the line of scrimmage, [Newton] can bootleg outside and make something happen," Rivera told the Charlotte Observer. "If they honor that too much, then DeAngelo cuts back on the backside and breaks it for a 60-yard gain."

The Panthers tagged Williams with the highest tender, meaning any team wanting to sign him under 2010 guidelines would have to compensate the Panthers a first- and third-round draft pick. What does that mean? It means the Dolphins will not be getting DeAngelo Williams if he is restricted because I believe the Dolphins have come to dislike the idea of always being down one or several high draft picks each April while the New England Patriots are replete with their picks and some of everyone else's.

Of course, it is possible sanity prevails in this labor situation and the league and the non-union union work out an amicable collective bargaining agreement that makes Williams and all players with five years of experience free agents if they're unsigned.

Does that automatically clear the decks for the Dolphins?

Well, working for Miami is the fact Williams is represented by Jimmy Sexton, who also happens to represent coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland. I'm not suggesting that gives the Dolphins an advantage. I am suggesting if the Dolphins want to pay top market value, Sexton will be happy to bring a client to another client. It makes for a logical business dealing.

Also making Williams a possibility if he's a free agent, is the fact he has stated to several media outlets he'd like to play for Miami.

But guess what? Williams has stated to several other media outlets he'd like to stay in Carolina, too.

My guess is Williams wants to be wherever the payday is most lucrative and his opportunity for collecting stats and wins is greatest. That combination will trump everything, in my opinion, and he's not going to close any door until a decision is made.

One more thing regarding Williams: Folks seem to forget his former coach John Fox is now in Denver. Fox held Williams in high regard. The Broncos need help with their running game. The Detroit Lions were linked last year to liking Williams.

What I'm saying is their will be a market for arguably the best running back on the market.

So before we start picking out a number for this kid, remember he might be more valuable -- meaning $$$$ -- to someone else. And remember if the NFL lockout is ended by the courts and we're back to working under 2010 rules, Williams will not be playing in Miami because he will not be an unrestricted free agent.

May 12, 2011

You're fans so you'll keep loving the Dolphins

Being on the radio allows me to talk to you, the Dolphins fan, directly and instantly. Yes, this blog, my column, and twitter helps me stay in contact with you as well. But there is nothing like talking to someone on the phone which allows us unrivaled interaction.

So it was on Thursday, during the final hour Armando and the Amigo on 640-AM in South Florida, that I got to talk to a handful of Dolphins fans about their feelings relative to the team's current state. Understand, the topic grew out of the latest news that owner Stephen Ross had cut the salaries of club staffers, citing tough economic times brought about by poor seasons ticket sales and the current league-wide lockout.

There aren't a lot of fans happy about the club's employees taking a pay cut. Some even talked about this being another black eye for the club.

And then I had to speak my mind. Look, I get that some of you are upset with the Dolphins. I understand that at the end of last season -- after a 7-9 season that included a 1-7 showing at home -- some of you vowed not to renew your season ticket purchases. Others not already season ticket holders or not living locally vowed to disconnect from the team.

I understand some of you were sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And having said all of that, I believe only a small minority of you truly, actually mean what you're saying. I think a vast majority will do as you have done so many other years and simply forgive and forget and move on. You'll come back to the team. You'll come back through the turnstiles. You'll continue to have the Dolphins as a part of your being.

Yes, your heads told you to walk away after the season and then that was echoed with the embarrassment of the coaching search that either was or wasn't, depending on whom you believe.

But I am convinced your hearts will bring you back and do so in time for the 2011 season.

Am I right? Or am I wrong?

If you think I'm wrong, please pause a second. We just got past the draft. The Dolphins added what will likely be a starting center and a running back who will either start or have the ball in his hands 200 times in 2011.

Some of you are perfectly happy with that. Some are not. Some wanted the quarterback. Whatever your stance, I would tell you the most exciting part of the offseason is still on the horizon.

We all know the Dolphins -- with deep pockets, a willingness to spend, and a general manager who promises to be aggressive -- are likely to be major players in free agency. By major players, I mean they'll go get top-quality talent and they'll do it generally early in the process.

And that's when I believe the folks who were angry at the end of last season will suddenly forget some of that emotion. That's when I believe the folks who vowed to walk away will start considering what the additions might reap for the team in 2011. That's when the forgiveness stage will kick in and memories will begin to fail.

And, I believe, that's when you'll be right back where you were every year you've been a fan. Rooting for the Dolphins. Living and dying with them. Hating their rivals. Hoping and praying for the best.

Am I wrong?

Oh, I'm sure some might be inclined to stick with the feeling they had at the end of January. I can understand that. But at the end of the day you guys are fans. You are fanatics. You don't make logical, calculated decisions. You make decisions of the heart.


Listen to the segment on the show starting around 9:45 just before I invited the fans to call in. (You can listen to the whole thing if you wish, but I'm getting you to the point where the topic was flowing.) Listen to the fans who called in and how they felt.

And tell me where you stand -- not today, with free agency afar off in the distance. Tell me where you stand, knowing the Dolphins are going to add more talent in free agency and the new, inviting season will come in some months, along with a heaping, helping of optimism.

Be honest.

Armando and the Amigo on Dolphins fans


May 11, 2011

Dolphins among the Top 10? Not quite yet

ESPN is fond of lists. Very fond.

This offseason the monolith sports giant has published Top 10 lists for 10 NFL-related positions and jobs. The rankings ostensibly measure the best of the best at their jobs in everything from the running backs, to quarterbacks, to coaches to ownership.

The ownership ranking published Tuesday gives bigtime props to New England owner Robert Kraft, whose group is ranked second among the Top 10. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is ranked No. 10. In all, five AFC ownership groups are listed in the Top 10.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his celebrity minions partners are not among the Top 10.

I'm not surprised. Last season was not Ross's finest -- especially at the moment he hung his coach Tony Sparano out to dry publicly by looking for a Michigan alumnus replacement without telling Sparano and then being suprised it was somehow news.

So there's that. There's also Tuesday's news that Ross cut salaries to all club employees across the board. ESPN didn't consider this in rating owners as seveal who imposed auterity measures well before Ross and the Dolphins are on the list, including Johnson.

All is not otherwise lost, however. Ross is learning. I think.

His last couple of months have been better than the first month he had in 2011. Unlike in 2010, he didn't place extra pressure on his coach and quarterback by proclaiming the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender or saying his quarterback could eventually be better than Dan Marino.

That is progress in learning the sport and its culture.

(Note to Ross: It is perfectly acceptable to predict a Super Bowl, and indeed encouraged by me, if your team is legitimately that well stocked. It is also absolutely fine to fire up the fan base by suggesting your quarterback might become Marino-caliber after that QB has a season in which he throws for 30 TDs and 4,000 yards. Just sayin'.)

In regard to the most important aspect of ownership, I believe Ross already gets it. He opens the wallet and gives Jeff Ireland or Bill Parcells or whomever is hunting for free agents, the necessary resources to land those free agents. Last year, he did exactly that with Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall. He gets a 10 out of 10 from me on that.

So maybe Ross isn't in the Top 10. Maybe he's not even in the Top 20 yet based on the still not-forgotten indiscretion of earlier this offseason. But it's not a hopeless situation.

And that brings me back to the ESPN power rankings list.

If you notice, the lists breaks down the Top 10 coaches, quarterbacks, cornerbacks, linebackers, safeties, tight ends, wide receivers, pass rushers, and running backs.

Not suprisingly, the Dolphins are not very well represented on these lists, with only two members of the organization making any of the lists.

Marshall made the Top 10 list for wide receivers. He came in at No. 10 so it's not like he dominated the list, but at least it suggests the Dolphins have a viable option for the quarterback to count on regardless of his issues off the field.

Sometimes being so close to the team, one lsees all the warts and forgets the beauty of a player. It's easy to lose sight of the opinion of those around the league of the team. That Marshall is on the list reminds me, at least, of his still-valuable and valued gifts. He is a cornerstone player if he can get his personal life right.

The QB list? The RB list? The CB, S, and TE list? No Dolphins are found there.

Cameron Wake matches Marshall in barely making the pass rusher list at No. 10. That's not a putdown. Being the No. 10 pass rusher in the NFL is an honor. DeMarcus Ware is listed as the NFL's top pass rusher on that list, with Green Bay's Clay Matthews, Indy's Dwight Freeney, Minnesota's Jared Allen and K.C.'s Tamba Hali rounding out the top 5.

I wouldn't complain about Wake being No. 10. All the other players on the list have had at least two seasons as double-digit sack artists. Wake was very good in 2010 but the idea is to have some consistency to make a rise on the list.

So what do these power rankings mean when considered in unison?

Well, when the so-called experts don't have your teams quarterback in the Top 10, you have issues in a quarterback league. When your running backs are not among the league's Top 10, and the head coach has proclaimed you a running team, you have issues. When neither the coach nor the owner who considered replacing him are among the Top 10 as decided by peers, pundits, and other so-called experts, you have work to do with your franchise starting from the top down.

Is that true? Is that fair?


Dolphins implement financial austerity measures

The Dolphins told their employees in early March that the club was instituting a three-part plan to handle its finances during the current NFL lockout.

The first part of the plan was to simply hold the line and not make any cutbacks of any kind while waiting for the lockout to lift. That would be the case, club employees were told, until the April draft, meaning no jobs or salaries would be affected at least until then.

The second part of the plan would be to revisit the issue following the draft and make adjustments to salaries and or employee numbers if the lockout persisted.

The third part was to revisit the issue a third time in the fall if the lockout continued, cutting more deeply into ticket sales and possibly hurting the franchise with the loss of actual games. That third option would result in people losing their jobs.

The Dolphins on Tuesday announced to their employees the implementation of the second phase, citing lagging ticket sales and revenue due to the lockout. The Miami Herald reports everyone employed by the club making over $75,000 annually would get a 20 percent salary cut, everyone making more than $50,000 annually would get a 15 percent pay cut, and everyone making less than $50,000 per year would get a 10 percent pay cut.

Club employees were told the cuts affect "everyone," meaning coaches, personnel department staff and business side management are also believed affected although that was not made clear. The cuts affect only salaried employees but not employees making an hourly wage.

Pension plans and health insurance were not cut. The club advised employees on how to cut 401K contributions for the time being if they that is what they wished to do.

The news was delivered first to department heads in a 30-minute session at club offices at Sun Life Stadium and then to subordinate employees afterward in a 10-15 minute meeting.

All employees were told the club would restore their salaries to previous levels once the new league year begins -- whenever that happens.

The fallout from this?

Where to start?

The most ironic result is that Miami Dolphins employees, who are working for the club and NFL, are now solidly backing the players and are against the NFL in the current labor struggle. It's a pragmatic approach. Simply, the quickest solution to the lockout would come if players continue their current legal winning streak, thereby causing the new league to begin the quickest it possibly can. Remember Dolphins employees will have their salaries restored once the league year begins. So no one is rooting for club owner Stephen Ross and his fellow owners to find legal remedies that might draw out the lockout.

Secondly, I'm told there soon spread resentment among the so-called "regular Joes" that they are collateral damage in the battle between the billionaire owners and millionaire players. It's classic class warfare thinking and it is now spreading.

Thirdly, the Dolphins will soon have a morale problem among its employees if the first-day reaction to the news is any measure. Club hierarchy was asked if there would be any measures takent to ease the pain from the cuts. A party was quickly ruled out, I assume for its cost and sheer misplaced call. The club was asked if room could be made for shortened work weeks to somehow ease the pain of what is a 10-20 percent pay cut. No, was the answer on that one also. Folks are expected to continue working usual business hours.

Fourthly, club employees are questioning how they are having their pay cut to help the club's sagging finances but the club spent untold sums of money on Tallahassee lobbyists to try to convince state lawmakers to raise the state hotel bed tax, thus setting the stage for a local initiative to add a canopy roof and make other improvements to Sun Life Stadium. That measure did not pass in the legislative session so the lobbyist didn't get it done.

Club employees were also wondering how much money might have been saved had the club not built a nightclub in the stadium that opens only on game days. In truth, it's unclear if Club LIV at Sun Life is a money maker for the club or not, but that doesn't seem to matter to some disgruntled employees who see the expense as money spent on a boondoggle. "It cost the team money to build that they're now taking out of my paycheck," I was told.

It should be noted the Dolphins are not alone in asking employees to bear the brunt of the current lockout. In fact, fewer teams than not have held the line against cost-cutting that includes salary cuts. So it would not be fair to single out Ross as an irresponsible owner coming down on the little people.

But does that relieve any of the coming financial pinch for Miami's employees? Does it ease their frustration?


May 10, 2011

You pick the quarterback best suited for the Dolphins

This blog is usually in the business of giving you answers, not asking you questions. It gives rather than takes. That's because I work for you. You do not work for me. (By the way, about that raise ...)

Anyway, as you know, the quarterback question is the question for the Dolphins the remainder of the offseason. Yes, the Dolphins might want to add another running back in free agency. Yes, the team will look toward other areas for a kick and punt returner, pass-rush help, perhaps TE help, and definitely more speed all around.

But it's about the quarterback, folks.

I think I've made that point on this blog, in my columns, and on my radio show. Alas, if I wasn't a wildebeest of a man, perhaps I'd have a TV show, also. Then I'd be really dangerous.

Anyway, this column is my latest attempt at addressing Miami's QB situation and it comes to the conclusion that, despite all of Miami's best efforts, you should not be surprised if it is Chad Henne who emerges as Miami's best option for the starting job in 2011.  But that is not the purpose of this post.

The purpose today is not for me to give my opinion, but rather, for you to give your opinion. Below you'll find a cute little poll I pulled out of my, ahem, head. (Insert joke here). It asks you to give everyone your answer to Miami's quarterback question.

As the Dolphins are often interested in what their fans think, this is not a vain exercise. I guarantee you folks working for the team will see the results of this poll. I'm not saying that will sway the team's decision one way or another, but your voice does matter.

So simply pick the quarterback you believe should be Miami's quarterback target when the labor problems end and the flag drops on trades and free agency. Make your pick based on which player you believe is the best fit for Miami. Also, tell everyone the reason for your choice in the comments section. And if I failed to name your guy in the poll, do so in the comments section.


May 09, 2011

'Pouncey will be a center, and a good one'

The criticisms I hear most often of the Dolphins first round choice of Mike Pouncey is two-fold:

The first criticism is Pouncey is a guard -- just a guard. The second one is that Pouncey, when given the chance to play center, was terrible with the shotgun snap.

Let me make something perfectly clear. The Dolphins picked Pouncey to be a center. If he turns out to be a guard, he will have failed in meeting the expectations the Dolphins had for him. And the Dolphins will have failed in their vision for Pouncey because guards at No. 15 better be Pro Bowl types rather than merely starters.

Let me make something else clear. After speaking to two scouts and a coaching source on the college level, I was convinced by them that Pouncey is a center and will be a good one. Moreover, I was told not to fret too much over the shotgun snap problem Pouncey had early in the 2010 season.

"It was his first season starting at center, they probably didn't work on it live in practice as much as they should have, and once they identified it as a problem, it took him just a couple of weeks to resolve it," the college source told me. "Pouncey will be a center, and a good one. Don't get caught up in the comparisons with his brother. He'll be good in his own right."

So next time you hear someone say the Dolphins wasted their first round pick or didn't get value because Pouncey is not a center, do not remain silent. He is a center until further notice. And if someone says the shotgun snaps in college is a concern, you know the facts. He struggled early but addressed the issue.

By the way, it was interesting to me that the ESPN Sports Science video below (I love this series) has Pouncey at center. And he's snapping shotgun. And he snaps correctly 30 of 30 times.

There's something else that caught my eye in the video. Pouncey was put under some duress. And he seemed to like it. "I definitely best under pressure," he said, "and I love being under pressure."


May 06, 2011

My favorite Dolphins draft pick: Frank Kearse

It's not difficult for me to like rookies. They are a blank slate. They are often enthusiastic. They have, if one gets to them early enough, not been Dolphinized and therefore stripped of their personality.

Kearse_Frank Dolphins seventh-round draft pick Frank Kearse is one such individual. He is projected as a backup project player behind Paul Soliai. He comes with much to learn and many rungs of the ladder to climb because he played collegiately at Alabama A&M.

But during a recent guest appearance on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, I quickly went from wondering if he's a good dude, to liking him, to liking him a lot, to loving him -- without ever watching him play.

The fun began when I asked Kearse what he had for breakfast.

"Grits, eggs, sausage, a waffle and a bowl of oatmeal," he told me.

I asked him if he had a quarterback on the side.

"Once the lockout is over, it will be," he answered.

And we're off and running. And I'm beginning to like him.

Kearse is obviously a trusting soul. I asked how much work the Dolphins had done in studying him. Had they visited with him at the combine? Had they visited with him at his Pro Day? Had they brought him in for a private workout or a meeting with coaches? How many times had the team made contact with him?

"Honestly, I can only remember once," Kearse said. "A guy called and asked for my social security number back in February. In my wildest dreams I never thought it would be Miami. I was talking to Pittsburgh and New England and them other guys like every other week or every week. I thought it was going to be one of those guys but Miami swooped in and I'm happy they did."

So let me get this straight: Pittsburgh was interested. New England was interested. The teams that have combined for seven Super Bowl trips and five Super Bowl victories since 2001 were so interested in this kid they called him routinely. And the Dolphins plucked him?

I'm liking him a lot now.

And what about this answering the phone and having some guy on the other end of the line say he's with the Miami Dolphins and ask you for his social security number ... And Kearse give it to him?

"Hey, it's the NFL, man!" Kearse told me.

So he's trusting. I really like this kid now.

So what kind of player did the Dolphin get?

"A hard worker, intense, I hate losing," he said. "That's the thing. I hate losing. I swear, that's the worst thing that ever happens to me. But I know you have to do things in a certain way in order to win."

Kearse is 6-4 and 313 pounds. But he's no goofy Baby Huey type. He can be something of a nasty individual. I asked him if he'd ever been in a barfight and he said he had not. But on the field is another matter.

"I kind of walked by and hit this guy in the nuts one time when ref was on the other side of me," he said. "I got ejected like five minutes later because the guy wouldn't get off the ground. They scored quick, and I've been beating him, but the quarterback got rid of the ball before I could get to him, whatever. So we're going up the field for the PAT and he's talking trash. He's saying, 'You're supposed to be so good,' talking trash to me all the way down the field. So during the PAT he's still talking trash and I just wanted him to kind of shut up a little bit. But I didn't know he was going to take it that serious, falling down, walling around on the ground and such."

I now love this guy!

Kearse made the transition to defensive lineman from offensive lineman, which suggests he'll do whatever it takes to help the team. So I asked him if he ever punched anyone in the nuts as an offensive lineman.

"Oh, yeah, absolutely," he said.

I totally love this guy!

Listen to the entire interview. You'll have a smile on your face, I promise.

Frank Kearse on Armando and the Amigo



May 05, 2011

'Payback," Mallett? Really? Get a clue, kid

The Boston Herald did good work in peeling back some layers of Ryan Mallett's personality while visiting with the family of the lightning rod third-round draft pick.

Unfortunately, the newsy portion of this interesting look at Mallett makes the former Arkansas quarterback look like something of an oaf because it includes an account of what Mallett told his family when the Miami Dolphins failed to pick him in the second round of the draft.

Before [New England Patriots coach Bill] Belichick called, the Herald writes, Mallett was almost a Dolphin, as the team informed the family they were interested in trading for him.

“They took another guy,” Jim Mallett said told the paper. “Ryan said, ‘Payback.’ He remembers it all.”

Payback? Really?

Let me count the ways this is simply stupid:

No. 1: As I have reported to you, the Dolphins did indeed attempt to trade up to take Mallett. A club source told me "we tried to get our hands on him" but that the Dolphins simply didn't have enough ammunition they were willing to give to get that high in the third round.

So already, we have a problem. If the Dolphins did indeed phone the Mallett clan to announce they planned to trade up for the QB (a fact I have not been able to verify), then Mallett must have assumed they were trying to do that in the second round. I doubt they told him they were trying to pick him in the second round because they clearly had Daniel Thomas as their target in that round and picked him then. Had they been targetting Mallett, they could have had Mallett because he was available.

So perhaps the team just told Mallett they would try to trade up for him, and he assumed it was in the second round, not realizing the team meant in the third round. Obviously, no one else had Mallett pegged as their second-rounder. Obviously, the Dolphins wanted him in the third round because they tried to get to him in that round. Obviously, we have a failure to communicate here.

And that makes me thankful Mallett is not expected to learn Miami's playbook and be the starting quarterback this year since he and the club can't get their signals straight on something so simple as a phone call.

No. 2: Mallett must have a great, long, elephantine memory. He's going to need it because with Tom Brady as New England's starting quarterback now, Mallett may have to wait a looong time to remember that "payback" pledge. He's likely to be a 30-year-old first-year starting quarterback if things go well for Brady so I assume Mallett will find a way to keep his Spring 2011 payback promise prominent in his mind until the Fall of 2017.


No. 3: Does this kid have zero foresight? Does he not recognize the NFL is an odd fraternity? By promising to collect "payback" on the Dolphins, he has possibly closed the door to any future with the Dolphins. What happens if he's a free agent in five years? What happens if the Dolphins were to reconsider things and want to trade for him next year? What were to happen if Jeff Ireland got a job running another NFL team and needed a quarterback when Mallett's available? Mallett's comments might turn off Ireland and thus close off a possible avenue of escape from duty as Brady's caddy. Think, kid, think!

No. 5: Ryan Mallett's desire for payback meet Bill Belichick's intolerance of individualism. Bill Belichick's intolerance of individualism, meet your newest project, Ryan Mallett's desire for payback. Patriot lobotomy on the horizon.

No. 5: One of the reasons NFL teams did not invest a first round pick or a second round pick in Mallett is his disposition. I reported to you the Dolphins were not absolutely sold on his personality in order to pick him higher than the third round. Well, if the adversity of not getting selected where he expected set Mallett off, what might the adversity of getting his nose knocked off his face during a game do when his team needs him back in the lineup for a possible fourth-quarter comeback? Vowing revenge for a draft slight is one thing. Brady did that. But Brady didn't speak of it for years, until he had already established himself and it became lore rather than news on profootballtalk.

Mallett brought this perceived slight to light less than a week after the draft ended and before he's ever taken a snap. It makes him look petty, particularly since he won't be able to do very much about it unless Brady gets hurt.

There's nothing about this vow of "payback" that makes Ryan Mallett look heroic. And if he doesn't get that, perhaps he should add that to the reasons he was a third-round pick rather than the first-rounder his natural football gifts suggest he would otherwise have been.

Scout loves AFC East draft work (except for Fins)

More draft grades coming your way. Normally, I give you mine (if you force me) and move on. But I want to share with you today the AFC East draft grades put out recently by Dave Razzano.

Why Razzano? He's got the credibility of having 22 years of scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. He was around for five Super Bowls and three Super Bowl wins with those teams. So again, he has that credibility guys such as Mel Kiper and others (me included) do not have.

Razzano is not a big fan of the Dolphins draft. On his blog he gave the Dolphins' draft a D. It was one of five D grades Razzano passed out, with Miami joining Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle. Razzano did not give out any Fs so, basically, the Dolphins got the lowest grade he gave out.

"OC Mike Pouncey is solid but the Dolphins still lack a quality QB," Razzano wrote. "The next two picks of RB Dan Thomas and WO Edmond Gates look like back-up types.  Late round DC Jimmy Wilson will contribute early on special teams."

That's tough. It gets tougher considering Razzano apparently liked the work Buffalo, New York and New England did.

He gave the Patriots an A. He gave the Bills a B. He gave the stinkin' Jets a B.

May 04, 2011

The definitive look at the remaining QB possibilities

The Dolphins will address their need to add a quarterback to the roster once the league year begins and free agency and trades are allowed. That isn't speculation.

The Dolphins will do this because they could not find a quarterback in the draft they were willing to take when they were on the clock.

“Well I think we’ll have to look in free agency if we’re going to do that," general manager Jeff Ireland said. "Certainly we’ll look at all the quarterbacks in depth and (you know) the board didn’t fall right for us to pick up a quarterback. I didn’t feel like we were desperate for one and so we didn’t adjust our board to try to go after one. We stuck with our board and let it fall as it did.”

In a perfect world, the Dolphins would be able to find a player that could be a franchise caliber quarterback. there is really only one of those in the group that is likely to be available. His name is Carson Palmer. If Palmer doesn't become available, and the chances are good he will not, the Dolphins have to get creative and lower their expectations all at once.

What follows is an extensive look at the quarterbacks who are likely to be available and what their situation looks like. I present to you the signal-callers in order of how likely each player would be the answer for the quarterback-hungry Dolphins.

Carson Palmer: I told you in mid March that Dolphins sources were telling me he would be their No. 1 option if he becomes available and at the right time. The Cincinnati Bengals own his rights. He hates the idea of going back to Cincy to a degree that he's promised to retire if he's not traded. The Bengals have said they will not trade him, but they also have obviously moved on -- picking Andy Dalton in the second round of last week's draft. So perhaps the Bengals stick to their word. And perhaps they try to get something for Palmer. It could be nothing. It could be everything! If the Bengals put Palmer on the market, I report to you the Dolphins will be in line to get him. But even if that happens, other teams might also be in line, including Seattle and Arizona. Palmer has stated he'd like to play on the west coast. Seattle coach Pete Carroll coached him at USC. One small bit of trivia: Palmer's agent was also Dan Marino's agent back in the day. Don't know what that means, or if its too much information but I want to share as much with you as possible.

Marc Bulger: He will be starting his 11th NFL season in 2011. He was once considered among the most accurate and most-gifted quarterbacks in the NFL. That was circa 2004-2006. That was also when he was playing behind a solid offensive line and with some talent around him. But the Rams declined as the talent around Bulger aged and disappeared. So he declined. He got beat up and seemed beat down when I saw him play against Miami in 2008. He was bailing out of the pocket. He was rushing his throws. He had happy feet. Bulger was injured in 2009 and then signed a one-year free agent contract with the Ravens in 2010. He did not throw a pass in a game. Some people believe that year off served as a rehab of sorts for Bulger -- a time to heal and find himself again. He will be on the market. And there will be takers because Arizona, for one, might see him as a reclamation project similar to the one they undertook with Kurt Warner -- which worked out pretty well. I believe if the Dolphins cannot get Palmer, Bulger will be their second target. Not anything anyone has whispered to me. Speculation. But it is logical. The Dolphins can sign Bulger for a year or two and offer him a chance to win a starting job. If he beats out Henne, so be it. If he doesn't, he sits. Arizona might be able to offer him the starting job outright. We'll see.

Kyle Orton: He is limited. He is also under contract in Denver. This would have to involve a trade. That would mean the Broncos would have to be willing to get rid of a security blanket. It would signal that club president John Elway is handing the keys to the franchise to Tim Tebow. I don't know that Denver would be ready to do that in the offseason. Elway might want to wait until a training camp competition decides matters. If Elway is convinced Tebow is going to be his quarterback, he might want to get rid of Orton to avoid a QB controversy and also to save Orton's salary and and get compensation for Orton in return. That's not really a situation the Dolphins or any other outside team can really drive. 

Matt Flynn: He is never, ever, ever going to play in Green Bay unless something happens to Aaron Rodgers. So the Packers might be willing to part with this youngster (and winner) for the right draft pick compensation. He played when Rodgers was injured last season. He had a nice performance (3 TD, 1 INT) versus the Patriots in a 31-27 loss. It was his only start of the season. The case for Flynn is simple: He played collegiately in the Southeastern Conference and helped LSU win the national title. He's been very well coached in Green Bay. He's only 25 years old which suggests he could be part of the future. But ... He's unproven and moreso than Henne. He has played in the West Coast offense and the Dolphins don't run that. If the Dolphins are looking at the QB spot with a view of the future, this might be a good move. If they want someone for right now, and aren't eager to give up even modest draft picks, this isn't the move.

Kerry Collins: If this was 2001 instead of 2011, Collins would make great sense. But Collins is 38 years old now and there is no knowing how much he has left in the tank. I'd say he's a good option as a veteran backup that can pick up a game or two in a crisis. But compete to win the job? that is seriously hoping against hope. So why is Collins on this list? He's still got a great arm. He's good in the locker room. He's a professional. He has no off-the-field issues. To me, he makes perfect sense back at Tennessee where he can tutor Jake Locker. I assume that will be his preference. But you never know. He's one of the few guys on this list that isn't exclusively a West Coast offense quarterback.

Matt Hasselbeck: He was amazing in the postseason, throwing seven TDs and and only one INT. I don't know if he was finally healthy. I don't know if he was playing for a new contract. I don't know if the 35-year-old took a drink from the Fountain of Youth. Whatever, Hasselbeck positioned himself into being valuable to someone in free agency. Don't get too excited. Before he played a Pro Bowl player in the playoffs, Hasselbeck was bad in the regular season -- throwing 12 TDs and 17 INTs. That's really no upgrade in stats over what Henne offered the Dolphins. Hasselbeck is and has always been a classic West Coast offense guy, which is not a great fit for Miami's offense. Can the old dog learn a new offense? Will he want to? And would he want to come to a mediocre team in Miami for what might be the end of his career?

Kevin Kolb: He lost the starting job to Michael Vick last season and could now be expendable. The Eagles are expected to entertain trade offers. There are rumors the San Francisco 49ers covet Kolb. There are other reports the Arizona Cardinals will be players in the derby for his services if and when the Eagles open the market for him. I see Arizona as his most likely landing spot. I don't see the Dolphins participating to any degree because the price for him will be higher than any other QB on the trade market -- higher than Palmer, if Cincy budges -- because of his age. But that high price comes with limited experience. He has played 19 games in four years. He has 11 career TDs and 14 career INTs. There are NFL people that see him as a sure thing. There are NFL people that see him as a question mark. The detractors also say Kolb is more suited for a West Coast offense. It's what he knows. It suits his skill set. The Dolphins do not use the West Coast offense.

Vince Young: The Titans are parting ways with their former first-round draft pick. That should give you pause. It would be the second Titans coaching staff that would be comfortable with the idea of getting rid of Young. That should give you pause. And, ultimately, the separation is not really a matter of performance on Young's part but rather because of his locker room and off-the-field and personal dealings with coaches and teammates. That, again, should really give pause. Finally, on the field, Vince Young has been a winner but not really spectacular. Young has played 54 games. He's thrown 42 touchdowns. And 42 interception. I don't see how this makes sense.

Donovan McNabb: What happened? Two years ago he was a really good player. But much like other Philadelphia quarterbacks that go to other teams, McNabb suddenly stunk, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time in his career. Should McNabb become available, the Redskins will probably try to get something in trade for him. I don't see his trade value to be very high. Maybe a fifth-round pick. The Dolphins and Redskins have a relationship in that they made a trade in the most recent draft. (Maybe TMI again on my part.) I must tell you McNabb was excellent in Andy Reid's west coast offense but he didn't seem to take a shine to Mike Shanahan's run-heavy version of the offense. He also didn't seem to particularly endear himself to Shanahan behind the scenes so that raises red flags as well. Don't see him as a fit.

Kellen Clemens: He's a free agent. He's been with the Jets since 2006 and was once considered the future starter until Mark Sanchez came along. He has a nice arm, a nice disposition, and a history with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. No, he's not the answer to the quarterback question. He's a possibility as a backup. He would be a guy to remember if the Dolphins fail to find a veteran that can actually go toe-to-toe in a legitimate competition with Henne. Failing that ... Clemens is a possibility. Not possible, you say? Dolphins don't sign good guys when they cannot start in the NFL, you say? Two words: Josh McCown.

Brett Ratliff: You've never heard of the 6-4, 224-pounder from Utah. Neither had I until I started doing some homework. Ratliff played for Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in New York. He was traded to the Browns when Daboll came on board in 2009. Somehow he ended up on the New England practice squad. I assume the Browns cut him. And then the Browns signed him off the Patriots practice squad last season. No, he didn't start. He hasn't ever thrown a pass in a game. But if you're looking for a name that Miami might be interested in as a third QB toward the end of training camp, this is the one. Ratliff signed a future's contract with the Titans so he belongs to them right now. (Hey, we're talking QBs here. Everyone's important.)

Yeah, that's about it at the moment. Maybe somebody loses their mind and becomes suddenly available. Otherwise, maybe Dan Marino is itching for a comeback.



May 03, 2011

My grade of Dolphins draft: Why do you care?

Let's begin with the fact that no one -- not me, not you, not Mel Kiper nor Mel Gibson for that matter -- can give you an absolutely fair and accurate grading of the Dolphins draft.

I haven't seen these guys on the field. So I have no idea if Charles Clay is the next coming of Chris Cooley or Dallas Clark. I have no idea if Mike Pouncey is as good or better than Maurkice Pouncey. I don't know whether Edmond Gates will play like Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes.

So why does everyone want a grade for the draft?

Why did I get 127 151 e-mails since Friday asking me to grade the draft, some of those before the draft was even over?

Post-draft grades from the media are bogus. They are ignorant. They are an exercise in futility. They are a waste of your time.

Alright, are you ready for my grade?

Here we go:

The case: The Dolphins addressed the long-standing need for a center in Pouncey. They came into draft with only two running backs on the roster and no second round pick and got running back Daniel Thomas in the second round. They needed speed badly that might both improve Miami's ability to get behind the secondary and maybe put a charge in the special teams returns game. The Dolphins want to run a double-tight look a lot with one of those an H-Back type. The team had Paul Soliai locked up as its starting nose tackle and needed some help behind him. And, in the bottom of the musts-needs-wants totem pole, the club wanted a playmaker in the secondary.

The results: The Dolphins got the highest-rated interior lineman on their board in the first round and expect him to start at center. They landed Thomas while other teams were in the middle of a run (pardon the pun) on running backs. They yielded a third-round (valuable), fifth-round (valuable) and seventh-round pick (not so much) to get into the second round. Edmond Gates is now the man they Dolphins expects will "knock the top" off defenses. He is now charged with being deep open to give the QB a chance at a big play. Oh, and he's got a shot at helping on teams in the return game. Charles Clay was versatile and valuable at Tulsa as a fullback and pass-catcher. He's supposed to be good in space. We'll see if that space is located 10-15-20 yards down field. Frank Kearse comes as Miami's project mountain-sized nose tackle. And Jimmy Wilson is the gamble with the final pick that could add an athletic, hard-hitting, angry, sometimes too angry hitter that might upgrade special teams and knock some balls loose.

The projections: Mike Pouncey will start at center. If he doesn't, something went terribly wrong. I don't believe anything will go wrong here. He's solid, smart, and tough. He's a competitor and winner. I predicted this pick and agree with it. Daniel Thomas is another pick I predicted so how the heck am I going to rip it? He'll bring speed to the position that Ronnie Brown seemed to lose in recent years. He'll offer some second-level elusiveness the Dolphins haven't seen in a long time and one would not expect from a 230 pound running back. Gates is the X-factor. If he makes it, this draft makes it! If he's a bigtime playmaker, the Dolphins will score points, improve the passing game and help keep people honest on the running game, and, oh yeah, there's also the possibility I might see a punt-return or kickoff-return TD before I retire. Kearse smells like a practice squad guy to me. Wilson needs to be on his absolute best behavior -- that's the way it is for someone who's been tried for murder. I don't care that he got off, he is by all accounts not an angel. He needs to watch himself and not sully the name of the franchise. Dolphins do that in other ways already, they don't need to add more of that stuff. Clay? Please, please, please makes some plays in space against overmatched LBs and safeties.

The misses: No quarterback. The Dolphins didn't pick either Ryan Mallett nor Andy Dalton in the first round, they passed on Mallett in the second round, and could not trade up to Mallett in the third although I have reported they tried. Bottom line? Mallett would have been a reach early and everyone agreed. I think he just wasn't right for the Dolphins because he needs to go to a situation where he sits for a good, long time and learns to be a professional. He wouldn't have gotten that in Miami. He would have been thrust into a starter competition and because Chad Henne is not a star, Mallett might have won. And then he would have been overmatched with the things it takes for a guy to succeed as an NFL QB -- not just the on-field stuff, but off the field as well. He might become a fine player eventually in New England. I think he would have failed in the wrong situation and Miami was the wrong situation. I wonder why the Dolphins didn't go with Pat Devlin late? Twelve QBs were taken and Devlin was not. Will be interesting to see if Dolphins chase him as an undrafted free agent when that's allowed. finally, it hurts me the Dolphins didn't land Taiwan Jones. Loved him. Loved his 4.3 speed. Thought he had that innate ability to keep defenders from hitting him on flush every time. The great ones have that ability. Yes, Taiwan Jones had fumble issues. Guess what? So did Daniel Thomas.

The spin: The Dolphins didn't have a second-round pick when the draft began because they yielded it and one last year for Brandon Marshall. GM Jeff Ireland talked about Marshall being among Miami's first three picks. No. Second round picks won't make some $18 million the next few years. Second round picks don't come to the team with a reputation for not meshing with the starting quarterback. Second round picks don't usually come with a long domestic violence history and a newly sewn abdomen from a knife wound inflicted by a wife. Second round picks also don't come with the experience Marshall has and the almost certain guarantee that he'll give you 85 catches for 1,000 yards. It's a two way street. But adding him to the draft is spin.

The bottom line: I like the job Ireland did. Really do. He made the best of a tough situation because he came into the draft without a second-round pick while not drafting particularly high. The way to get great is not by drafting where mediocre teams draft. It's hard to find a big-time star there. I didn't love that Ireland had to give up that fifth-rounder while the Patriots were adding picks for next year. (Told him as much, too). But I understand he didn't have much of choice. He needed a running back. Maybe Pouncey is better than his brother. Maybe Thomas is Adrian Peterson. Maybe Clay is Dallas Clark. Maybe Gates is Mike Wallace. If that's the case, this draft will be an awesome haul. I don't see all of that happening. More likely these generally safe, solid, logical picks will add a couple of solid starters, maybe one playmaker, and some guys whose names we won't remember three years from now.

The grade: C++. It is better than average. It is way better than average. But good? Can't be when you didn't draft in the third and fifth rounds. Can't be when you couldn't find a QB. Can't be when I haven't seen any of these players on the field. (By the way, I give the Pats a C+. They had a chance to go for the kill shot on the AFC East and didn't do it.  They continue to put off for next year what they could do now, apparently not realizing Tom Brady continues to age and when he's done, they're done -- Ryan Mallett notwithstanding.)