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65 posts from August 2011

August 31, 2011

Tony Sparano on 2011 season: 'I got all confidence in world and you should, too!'

The NFL season is still a dozen days away but I'm ready for it. Fact is, most anyone who listened to coach Tony Sparano deliver the keynote speech today during the club's 2011 Kickoff Luncheon is ready for it after hearing promises of excitement and daring-do, and winning.

In other words, this was just what the doctor ordered for fans hungry for some good news peppered with a little bravado.

"This 2011 team is going to be exciting," Sparano said. "They're going to have a great attitude ... It is going to have excitment. We have an outstanding defense. We have good players. We have an enthusiastic, outstanding, attacking offense. Our special teams is attacking. This is all on the upbeat right now. Everybody in the building in full of passion. Full of passion right now. Excited. The other thing we have is daring people."

Cool. On the chow line of things I want to chew on, give me some enthusiastic, outstanding, attacking offense every time. Also, give me victories.

And Sparano promised those, too.

"Here's what I'm here to tell you," he began. "I've seen a lot of football teams and been part of more than my share -- unfortunately. But I'll say this to you, a lot of them have been good teams. I've been around teams before, seen what they're made up of and this football team right here, is a good team. There are good people in that locker room. We got good people in the room, good chemistry, they give off a good vibe, they enjoy being around each other. I'm walking through the locker room last night at 8 o'clock at night. We broke at about 5 o'clock and there are still guys hanging out with each other. That's a good sign. That tells me an awful lot.

"I'm going to say this to you and I know that I'm in public and I'm don't say a whole lot, I'm one of those take everything, give nothing kind of guys. This team will win. That's not a surprise to them. They've heard it."

Other highlights from the speech?

"This team is going to build its own tradition."

"This journey won't go without problems. It won't go without those things. But this group is a pretty daring group. A daring group, and they'll push forward."

Sparano called his team a "heck of a group." And, said, that group "will take the next step."

"I have all the confidence in the world," he said, "and you should, too!"

Some of the tough decision facing Dolphins coaches

The Dolphins are about to play their final preseason game before making their round of roster cuts to get down to the NFL 53-man roster limit and coach Tony Sparano says "hard choices" are about to be made.

I'll say.

I'm looking at players such at Will Allen, Phillip Merling, Tyrone Culver, Gerald Alexander, Nolan Carroll, Lou Polite, Phillip Livas, Ryan Baker, Frank Kearse, Larry Johnson, John Jerry, Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore as those presenting Sparano and his staff with those unenviable choices.

Let's look at them in no particular order:

Marlon Moore: I love this kid. I think he has loads of potential. He will play in the NFL, that is beyond question for me. The question is where? He's stuck in a numbers game in Miami. If the Dolphins keep their usual five wide receivers, he might be the last man out. The problem here is Moore needs to be a core WR to make the team because the Dolphins don't trust Moore on the field as a WR and don't have the time to develop him as such by playing him because they have better players at the position right away. Fact is, with development and experience, Moore will probably become better than Brian Hartline. But the Dolphins continue to go with Hartline because he is better right now and right now is most important to them. Thus Moore has to win a job on the roster as a special teamer. In that regard, he basically has to be better than Roberto Wallace. Sometimes he is. Most of the time, he's not. Thus his problem. If the Dolphins can find a way to fit six receivers on the roster, Moore makes it.

Roberto Wallace: Big, strong, loads of potential as a receiver. He's not the speedy deep threat that Moore is. But he's a better special teams player. That seemingly gives him a better chance at the fifth WR job. He's likely goin to play a ton against Dallas. He needs to produce on both offense and special teams to solidify himself. He obviously has not nailed down a job. But a good game could go a long way in helping him do that.

Phillip Livas: You want to root for this kid. You really want to root for him to return another punt for a TD. But after that initial explosion of attention he got, caused by that impactful 75-yard punt return against Atlanta in the preseason-opener, Livas has been quiet. Quiet gets you cut. He has shown potential but zero consistency. Barring another amazing game, I don't see how he makes the team.

Ryan Baker: This kid is like the old truck that starts up in the heat and the cold, doesn't mind never getting washed, sits unattended and needing a tune-up. And yet, when you ask for it to haul away a tree stump, it gets the job done. Problem for this old truck is the Dolphins have been building their defensive line with Dline versions of Freightliners. There are some serious, quality players on this unit. And so the old truck might have to go on the waiver wire.

Phillip Merling: He is probably the fifth of five fine defensive ends on the Miami roster. Yes, that makes him a trade chip. I wouldn't be surprised if he is dealt. But I know the Dolphins believe you can never have enough 6-4, 300-pound defensive ends, particularly when they are still in their early-to-mid 20s. Merling doesn't seem as explosive as he was in flashes before his Achilles' injury. But did I mention that he's 6-4 and 300 pounds and can still move very well? I believe he makes it. Unless he's traded.

Lou Polite: Sparano has made it clear he values Polite. Good FBs are very hard to find today. The coach has gone so far as to say it will take a lot of convincing for him to part with Polite. But the new offense has seemingly diminished Polite's role. With Charles Clay working in as an H-back type, the FB is not nearly as often on the field. And with rookie Daniel Thomas coming close to disappointing in the preseason, the club may find a need to keep an extra running back just in case. That also could hurt Polite. Me? I still find it hard to see the Dolphins let him go. Plus, I believe what Sparano says.

Larry Johnson: He's probably going to play a good deal against Dallas. That should give us a picture of what he's got left in the tank because we haven't seen him in practice which are now closed to the media. He is not pushing Reggie Bush nor Daniel Thomas for a roster spot. I perceive the battle here is between him and Lex Hilliard. This one is impossible to call because, well, I just don't know all the facts. Imagine a sportswriter admitting that? Wow.

John Jerry: What a bitter, bitter disappointment this guy is right now. If things had gone according to script, he would have used his rookie year in which he started eight games and come back this year a solid, capable, star-in-the-making right guard. Instead he came back soft and unprepared and went from starter-in-waiting to perpetual back up. Frankly, if it weren't for his draft pedigree (a third round pick last season), I could see him cut. That probably doesn't happen. But make no mistake, the fact Jerry couldn't lock down a starting job threw the Oline plans into chaos.

Culver, Carroll, Allen, Alexander: Two of these four will make the team for sure. One of these will definitely be cut. The other is kind of in netherland based on what happens in the game. To me, Allen seems a likely cut right now. He hasn't really stayed healthy in two seasons. He was tripped up by a hamstring injury earlier in camp. He used to be a good player, but we're not sure what he is now. And he's scheduled to make $1.5 million. If he's on the roster the first day of the regular season, that money is guaranteed. That's a hard thing to do with a player whose recent history is to be done by October. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Dolphins cut him and then tried to bring him back later. If they cut Carroll, he'll likely get picked up on waivers. Alexander to me represents special teams insurance. We'll see how valuable at the game Thursday. Culver is valuable in that he he can play dime, works in all the special teams, and can help in the nickel in a very tough spot. But has he made plays? Some. Not big ones this preseason. And that puts him at risk.

Kearse: I love this kid. But he's a kid. He has to learn to play. He isn't anywhere near Paul Soliai or even backup Ronald Fields. He feels like a practice squad guy to me.


August 30, 2011

Chad Henne still a loooong way to go

The line between a really good NFL quarterback and a JAG (Just A Guy) is so thin you often cannot see it with your own eyes.

Think about that.

That line has to be studied. It has to be viewed on tape. You have to capture what happens in a millisecond and slow it down to understand it.

That is my intention here.

You know I've been hard on Chad Henne for failing to become a good quarterback at the end of last season after 27 NFL starts. But I assume you also are aware it is not personal. When he plays well, I tell you. When he plays poorly, I tell you. Unfortunately for him and Dolphins fans, the guy has more often played poorly than well. And so much of what I've written about Henne has been critical.

The truth, however, is the truth. It is a great sword and a mighty shield.

Well, the last two weeks you've read and heard from me that Henne has improved. He played much better against Carolina than he did in the preseason opener against Atlanta. Did he play great? No. He played well enough.

Then last week against Tampa Bay, Henne played better than he did the week before. I would tell you he played good against Tampa Bay in completing 10 of 13 passes for 175 yards and one TD. It was more progress.

But did Henne play great?

His rating (143.9) and completion percentage (76.9) suggest he was great. The pictures say otherwise.

To rise to the level of great, you see, a quarterback needs to maximize his opportunities. And at no time this preseason has Henne done that with consistency. He's missed open receivers on a handful of occasions. And he's missed almost certain touchdowns on at least three plays that I can recollect off the top of my head.

Against the Bucs he had one one play -- on third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 4 -- where he missed two open receivers for a TD. Yes, he missed two receivers open for a TD. On the same play.

Here is the first picture:

Henne throw1 

As you see, Henne has time to throw. The Dolphins are in maximum protection with all five offensive linemen working on Henne's behalf as while tight end Anthony Fasano and running back Reggie Bush also are protecting. That's seven guys blocking for Henne against four rushers.

Henne has time.

And he has Davone Bess open in the end zone. Henne knows this because, as the picture above clearly shows, Henne is looking directly at Bess!

But the Miami quarterback doesn't pull the trigger. He misses the opportunity. He never even attempts the TD throw.

The next picture will show that Henne didn't just miss Bess.

Henne throw2 

As you see here, Henne has given up on throwing to Bess, even though he is still open. And he has given up on the pass play altogether. That means he is now missing the fact Brian Hartline has come wide open in the back corner of the end zone. What makes this frustrating is that Henne knows he has maximum protection and the pocket (indicated by the circle) is clean.

Henne has time. You can see that only one second has ticked off the play clock.

Yet Henne puts his head down -- ignoring a still open Bess and a now open Hartline -- and scrambles instead. He gains 1 yard on the scramble. The Dolphins' chance at a TD is wasted even though the protection is good and receivers are open in the end zone.

Everyone does their job except Henne.

So Miami kicks a 21-yard field goal instead.

Does this make Henne a bad QB? No. But it means he has miles to go before he's a good quarterback. You see, this was only a preseason game. It didn't count. The Dolphins lost this one 17-13 and no one cares. But what if this missed opportunity had happened in a real game. We just watched four points Miami should have had not get scored because Henne didn't pull the trigger.

Four points, a TD instead of a field goal, is often the difference between victory and defeat in today's NFL.

And this is just one play. He had Hartline open for a TD at the goal line against Carolina but threw a checkdown to Daniel Thomas instead. He had Brandon Marshall open -- as in nobody was covering him -- open for another TD against Carolina, but threw an incompletion to Hartline instead.

I, along with everyone else, still spoke of those performances against Carolina and Tampa Bay as outings where Henne improved from a year ago. And, to his credit, he has improved.

But he's got a long way to go yet.

Long way.

Props to Manny Suarez for e-mailing me the photos.

Peter King picks Dolphins to finish last in AFC East

The new editions of Sports Illustrated (with regional covers) will hit the stands Wednesday.

Word of advice for loyal Dolphins fans: Get out your anti-acids before you look at one.

Seems SI senior NFL writer Peter King isn't too convinced the Dolphins did anything to improve themselves this offseason. Quite the opposite, actually. King, you see, picks the Dolphins to finish fourth in the AFC East.

That means King is picking the Dolphins to finish last in the division. King has the Dolphins finishing with a 6-10 record. He's got the Bills at 7-9. He's got the Jets at 10-6 and he picks the Patriots to finish 12-4.

Last season the Dolphins finished third for the second consecutive season with a 7-9 record.

So basically, King has the Dolphins taking a step backward in 2011.

I do not have the expertise, platform nor audience of Peter King. But I do not agree with his predictions.

Give me your order of finish in the AFC East.

August 29, 2011

Preseason finale blacked out, more blackouts on way?

The Dolphins preseason finale against Dallas at Sun Life Stadium will not be televised live because the game will not be sold out in time to lift the local TV blackout. The game will be televised on a taped delay basis.

The Dolphins will make the announcement later this afternoon so that fans wishing to watch the game live have time to get their tickets and make plans to attend. The game will be broadcast by WFOR (Channel 4 in South Florida) starting at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday on tape and then be rebroadcast on Friday on Channel 33 at 8 p.m. Friday.

That's not good news, but the more sobering news may be on the horizon.

The Dolphins also plan to make it clear to their fans that tickets sales for regular-season games are not going as well as the team would like and that could mean blackouts of several meaningful regular-season games are about to happen.

Several home games on the regular-season schedule -- starting with the Week 2 game against Houston -- are so far from being sold out that the club is warning fans the only way to see them might be to buy tickets.

Games against Buffalo, Denver, and perhaps even Dallas and Washington may not be sold out in time to lift the local TV blackout unless local fans purchase tickets at a rate not yet seen in 2011.

That means Miami's regular season streak of 102 consecutive blackout-lifting home sellouts, dating back to October 1998, is in jeopardy barring a run on tickets. The Dolphins' streak is currently at 101 consecutive home sellout but the club expects to sell out the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against New England, which would mark the 101st game of the streak.

The Dolphins overall streak of consecutive sellouts, counting playoffs, dates back to January 2002 when a playoff game against Baltimore failed to sell out in time to lift the blackout.

So what does this mean?

Some thoughts:

  • Several NFL teams, including Jacksonville, Oakland, San Diego and Tampa Bay are having similar problems selling tickets. That speaks to these being tough economic times and folks being careful with their disposable income.
  • The Dolphins are in a tough situation because the people of South Florida have options if they want to go to a sporting event. The Hurricanes, Panthers, and Heat all play here. Oh yeah, the Marlins are here also, although most locals avoid attending their games.
  • This being South Florida, there are other activities for people to enjoy in the winter.
  • The Dolphins are hurt by the fact they were 1-7 at home last season. Those losses stung. Folks didn't enjoy going home from games unhappy and are obviously guarding themselves from a similar experience this year.
  • Some fans are waiting to see how the club does against the Patriots in the season opener before making a ticket buying commitment. Win the opener and the club will give people a reason for coming back. Lose, and it could be hard to convince folks to purchase seats for the following week's game against Houston -- a team the Dolphins have never beaten.
  • The Dolphins don't have a recent history for playing entertaining football. Folks down here want victories and even if those don't come in droves, they definitely want points. The Dolphins have been point-challenged the last couple of seasons.
  • The NFL lockout obviously hurt the club's marketing.
  • The lack of big-name offseason additions hurt the club's marketing.

This news will be jarring to some South Floridians. Folks have gotten spoiled with the idea of having the Dolphins on TV every Sunday during the season. Even during the 1-15 year, all the games were sold out in time to televise them.

But those days are gone. The club is going to make that clear. No owner can absorb the cost of buying his own tickets, particularly when the number of unsold tickets hover around 13,000 as it currently does for the Houston game.

Local television stations also don't have that kind of money. Last year, for example, the total number of tickets purchased to secure sellouts was no more than 2,000 for the entire season.

So the message that is about to come from the Dolphins should be clear to local Dolphins fans: Ticket sales are lagging. And unless they improve dramatically, the Dolphins will not be on local TV every Sunday.

If fans want to make sure they see their team play, they will have to buy tickets.

Some P.R. issues also football issues

The Dolphins, like any other NFL team, can suffer two basic kinds of black eyes. The first and most important one is a black eye to the football team itself -- be it in the form of an injury, or a loss, or anything that affects competitive advantage.

The second much less important hit, in my opinion, is the public relations and marketing hit a team might take from time to time.

The Dolphins today are dealing with two situations that offer both a P.R. hit and possible football hit. And I'm here to discuss what you care about: The football hit.

The situations? Diverse as they are, they involve the possible hiring of a new offensive lineman and the celebrating of a national championship college team.

Let's deal with the college team thing first. The Dolphins over the weekend announced that on Oct. 23, in conjunction with the Denver Broncos visit to Sun Life Stadium, they would welcome at least 20 former Florida Gators players, coach Urban Meyer, the Gator band, and that crocodile mascot thing to Sun Life to celebrate the Gators' 2008-2009 national title team.

If you listen to my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, you know this news got Hurricanes fans all angry because they view it as a betrayal by the Dolphins of the Hurricanes, who happen to be the Saturday afternoon tenants at Sun Life Stadium.

It is a marketing and P.R. issue because the Dolphins are today dealing with some irrate Hurricanes fans calling and e-mailing complaints.

I'm not concerned with that. That's intangible stuff.

What concerns me is football. Just football.

And this idea is bad from a tangible football aspect. Understand that Tim Tebow plays for the Denver Broncos. Well, he rides the bench for the Denver Broncos. That's not the point. The point is, the Dolphins on Oct. 23 could be welcoming into their stadium a sizable number of Gators fans, many of whom I imagine will want to see the guy that helped them to one national title and led them to the other do well.

A lot of those Gator fans, who otherwise might not attend a Dolphins game, just might find themselves cheering for Tebow -- who plays on the Broncos. And they might find themselves rooting for Tebow's team -- the Broncos.

So the Dolphins, a team that was 1-7 at home last season, might be unknowingly welcoming folks that will be rooting against the Dolphins that day. That is not exactly maximizing the home field advantage.

That can, to whatever small or large degree, affect Miami's football team and even work against the home team. That makes it a football issue that goes to the heart of competitive advantage.

On another front, you no doubt are already aware the Dallas Cowboys today released center Andre Gurode. He is a five-time Pro Bowl player. It was not an easy decision for the Cowboys -- certainly tougher than the cutting of Marc Colombo.

And now, as they do with most veterans that get cut, the Dolphins will consider their options. They will weigh whether Gurode might upgrade their troubled offensive line and decide whether to try and add the player.

This presents a football issue and a marketing and P.R. issue.

The P.R. issue? The fact is most Dolphins fans I interact with are sick and tired of the Dolphins picking up former Dallas Cowboys players. Many of them have not panned out, with most fans pointing to Akin Ayodele, Pat McQuistan, Cory Procter, Keith Davis, and Nate Jones as examples of that.

Obviously, Jason Ferguson worked out (for a time), Lou Polite has worked out, and Anthony Fasano has worked out (when his hands don't betray him). The jury is still out on Colombo and Kevin Burnett.

No matter. Many Miami fans are just sick of the Dolphins hiring Cowboys retreads.

So the possibility of hiring another Dallas castoff in Gurode is an emotional issue to folks. It is a P.R. question.

But again, I don't care about the P.R. aspect.

I care about football. And again, this is also a football issue.

As everyone is aware the Miami offensive line is coming off a bad game. When coach Tony Sparano growled their performance against Tampa Bay "wasn't good enough," he was being kind.

So do the Dolphins add a Gurode to upgrade that line?

I hope not.

To begin, Miami's biggest problem is on the right side of the line where right guard Vernon Carey seemingly hasn't gotten comfortable with his new spot and right tackle Colombo just yielded two sacks in the Tampa game.

So even if adding Gurode adds a good player, it doesn't directly add a player at either position Miami needs help. Yes, Gurode played guard early in his career. But he played it so poorly, he was nearly cut. It wasn't until he was moved to center by Bill Parcells that his career took off.

But the Dolphins have a starting center. Mike Pouncey is a big investment. He has played every snap this preseason at center. He is a center. The Dolphins are invested in making him into a good one.

The football question is do they abandon that idea for now to bring in Gurode to play center and move Pouncey to guard? The move likely improves your unit a bit in that it adds experience at center, adds more agility at guard and creates a competition at right tackle between Colombo and Carey.

But it retards Pouncey's progress as a center. It practically changes the entire dynamic of the Miami line, thus erasing whatever chemistry that line had built the past four weeks or so. The move also reeks of desperation and is a sign that suggests the team didn't get it right in moving Carey and signing Colombo in the first place.

Do the Dolphins do it? Do they add Gurode?

It's a P.R. question. But it is also a significant and serious football question.

The offensive play of the line

The Dolphins offensive line, particularly the right side, is big and not particularly quick. It is built on size rather than speed.

Tamap Bay's slashing defensive line is not particularly big. It is built for quickness.

Advantage quickness over size when the Dolphins played the Bucs Saturday night. The Miami offensive line looked overmatched in the preseason's most important game. The unit yielded three sacks of starting QB Chad Henne and managed to open (scientific calculation coming next) holes only ants could have scurried through with their crappy unacceptable run-blocking.

"Every time you looked back there, it was a little different," Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said. "Seeing the [Miami] quarterback getting hit, scrambling, throwing bad throws, getting hit after the ball was being released … it was a nice look for me and it was a nice look for our team."

It was not a nice look for Miami.

The right side of the line was particularly disastrous. Right tackle Marc Colombo, who has refused to speak to the media throughout training camp and the preseason, let his play do the talking and the result must have sounded something like this:

"Dang, just gave up my first sack of the game."

"Shoot, just gave up my second sack of the game."

"Wait, what?, you Tampa defensive linemen are making me look terrible and making Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland look bad for signing me!"

Colombo looked every bit the player the Cowboys jettisoned after yielding nine sacks a season ago. Truth is he's been kind of just average all training camp after practically being handed the right tackle job. But this night was a particurlarly terrible showing.

The amazing thing is Colombo gave up his two sacks on only 16 pass plays. And then he backed that up with ineffective run blocking on all but a couple of runs.

I'm not picking on Marc Colombo here -- the Bucs spanked him enough. I am saying he led the charge for a total unit-wide laying of an egg.

Vernon Carey gave up a tackle for loss. He yielded a pass pressure. He was flagged for one false start. And his run blocking produced about as many holes as you produced. The Dolphins cut Carey's salary to $2.5 million for this season and basically wiped out the final three years of the six-year deal he signed before the 2009 season. He will be a free agent after this year.

He will be unemployed if he doesn't play better than this showing.

All told, on a scale of 1-10, the right side of the Miami offensive line was a number more horrible than one.

I am not a coach. I cannot tell you who missed calls or assignments because the Dolphins haven't been kind enough to give me a copy of their playbook and playcalls. But I can tell center Mike Pouncey and left guard Richie Incognito had one play where they doubled one blocker while a blitzer ran by them.

Pouncey also had a notable moment in allowing another pressure up the gut on which even the TV broadcasters commented.

Incognito was probably the best of the group because he had no apparent and obvious mistakes. But on a night the Dolphins failed to gain even one rushing first down, he is almost guilty of bad play simply by association.

Left tackle? I'm not going to be hard on Lydon Murtha. He yielded a couple of hurries -- one in which the defender deliberately walked him back about four steps into Henne's face but couldn't get there fast enough because Colombo had already gotten destroyed by Dakota Watson. But the truth is, Murtha will not be in the lineup when the regular-season begins.

Miami's left tackle is Jake Long. So Murtha doesn't worry me.

I'd suggest Murtha might be a solid competitor for the right tackle job, but he hasn't looked like a starter this preseason so that probably isn't the answer, either.

I don't know the answer. And after four years of this current Dolphins administration failing to find the way to field a consistent, dependable offensive line, the Dolphins obviously don't have the answer.

The right tackle spot is a nightmare manned by a player who likely won't be here next year and is here this year seemingly because of his ties to the Dallas Cowboys. The right guard spot is manned by a player who the team recognized as over-valued and out of position at RT. So they put him at RG where he is also didn't show anything in his last outing.

I suppose the Dolphins could go out and try to add someone. Shaun O'Hara, or Dallas retreads Leonard Davis or Andre Gurode if he's dumped by the Cowboys. Maybe the waiver wires offer some sort of escape.

But whichever discard is added will be, well, a discard from another team and a guy coming in just two weeks from the start of the regular season.


August 28, 2011

Henne: 'I need to push the tempo more'

Was it a Dan Marino performance? No.

Was it a performance that proves Chad Henne is Miami's franchise quarterback? No.

Was it a good outing for Miami's starting quarterback? Absolutely.

As I wrote in my column today, Henne was more a solution than a problem in Saturday's 17-13 loss to Tampa Bay. He completed 10 of 13 passes and showed good command in the face of an angry rush. He found Brandon Marshall. He showed trust in Marshall. He got to the middle of the field with Anthony Fasano. He was accurate.

But there is more that must be done. Henne knows this. The Patriots are coming to town. They are going to watch the job the Miami offensive line did last night and believe themselves capable of getting after Henne. And they are going to attack the Miami defense and force Henne to keep up.

As I told you last week, the Dolphins need to turn up the tempo. Last night, Henne talked about, guess what, turning up the tempo. He also discussed his ability to audible. Last year he had a chance to audible at the line on 'check with me plays," meaning he could pick from one play or another.

Now he can pick just about any play.

He also discusses here how far along he feels he's progressed as a leader.

Sparano: OL 'not good enough'

The Dolphins lost to the Tampa Bay Bucs Saturday night. Not a big deal.

The Miami offensive line was terrible. That is a big deal.

The line was equally stinky at run-blocking and pass protecting, if results are the measure. The Dolphins rushed 17 times for 22 yards -- a 1.3 yard per rush average. The Dolphins did not pick up even one first down rushing. Not one.

Pass blocking? Chad Henne, working behind the first-team offensive line, was sacked three times. He was pressure on several of his 13 attempts. Right tackle Marc Colombo yielded a sack to Dakota Watson and another to Michael Bennett.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano called the performance, "not good enough."

Sparano was very complimentary of quarterback Chad Henne. I write in my column that Henne has improved to the point he is not the biggest worry on Miami's radar right now. Amazingly.

What follows is the rest of his post-game press conference.

August 27, 2011

Live blog of Dolphins versus Bucs

The Dolphins have waived linebacker Mike Rivera injured.

With that blockbuster out of the way let's discuss today's game between the Bucs and Dolphins.

Let's start with the defensive backs situation. Basically, the situation is down to three names -- Nolan Carroll, Will Allen and Tyrone Culver. And it looks like only two will make the team. Today will go a long way in determining which will stay and which will go.

The way I see it, Allen looks like an odd man out right now. Even if he plays well tonight, his $1.5 million salary and the fact he hasn't really played the last 18 months puts him behind the eight ball. Because of his age and salary, the Dolphins can cut Allen and risk losing him to another team.

Because he doesn't play special teams, the chances of him getting picked up are a lot more slim than, say, either Carroll or Culver. And you can always bring him back for the veteran minimum without having to guarantee the salary for the year and also saving around $500,000 in the process.

Obviously, everything changes if Allen plays out of his mind tonight. But otherwise, he's definitely not favored to make the team.

If Allen plays great, obviously Miami can look at Carroll or even Culver. I think the more likely cut would be Carroll because Culver can play both safety, in the nickel package, and on special teams. Carroll doesn't play safety.

On to other matters:

Running back Larry Johnson is expected to play tonight. He might get between 8-12 carries. I'm curious to see if the veteran still has it. I hope he does. I like a comeback story.

But the real issue at running back is not with Johnson or even starter Reggie Bush. The issue involves rookie Daniel Thomas. I've not been impressed with Thomas so far this preseason. Don't get me wrong, I believe he's been fine. But he hasn't done anything special.

More importantly, he has taken anyone's breath away within the Dolphins coaching ranks. They are asking more of him. They welcomed the addition of Larry Johnson.

The fact is if Thomas is going to respond to a challenge, this is the time. He's on notice he must run harder. He just looked up and the team brought in an accomplished player behind him. Hello?

Time to giddyup, rookie.

Obviously, we're looking for consistency from Chad Henne after a good performance last week against Carolina.

We're looking for signs of consistency from the offensive line.

We'll monitor the final WR spot battle between Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and the others. Wallace, because of his special teams work, has the advantage.

[Update: Reshad Jones will start ahead Chris Clemons at free safety. Jake Long will not play. Neither will Charles Clay, nor Lex Hilliard, nor Patrick Carter.]

It all gets underway at 7:30. The live blog is in the comments section. See you there.

August 26, 2011

Confidence is good ... now back it up, please

One of the things that aligns people such as Joe Namath, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Pat Riley with folks like, say, Rex Ryan is they all make big, audacious statements about who they are and what they're about to do.

It could be argued that on the low end of that boldness totem pole, we find Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis, who on Thursday had a definite opinion of where he and fellow starting corner Sean Smith rate among NFL starting duos.

"I'm going go (out) on the limb and say we're the best tandem in the league," Davis said.

But there's, there's Revis-Cromartie, there's the coming union of Asomugha and Samuels in Philly. There's my personal pick for top duo -- Williams and Woodson.

"Name all of them," Davis said. "I'm putting it out there, we're the best talent."

Well, I'd say the Miami tandem has a chance to become the best duo in the NFL. But it is quite safe to say -- even on a Dolphins fan-crazy blog -- that Davis and Smith definitely have not been the best duo in the NFL up to now.

Not when the two players combined for two interceptions last season.

Yesterday, by the way, was big-talk Thursday at Dolphins camp. That's great!

Even Tony Sparano, who is the most understated guy in Broward County according to a poll of Understated People of Broward, went about as far as he gets on chest pounding by saying the Dolphins will compete in the AFC East.


No, seriously, coach said his team will "make a run at this thing."

"I can’t tell you how this thing is going to turn out one way or the other but I can tell you that the way this team works, the attitude that I see, the ingredients that we have right now all show me that this team is poised and ready to go here to make a run at this thing," Sparano said. "And I think that I’ve been pleased with what we’ve done it practice.  We aren’t going to back down from anybody in this division.  I don’t care who they are and whose out there.  Our team comes to compete every single week and they have.  This team will compete and will compete at a high level in this division.  

"I think we’re one of the good teams in this division and I think anybody that doesn’t believe that probably going to make a big mistake.”

Your thoughts ...?

August 25, 2011

Chad Henne in his own words

Chad Henne spoke with the media today in advance of Saturday's important preseason game at Tampa Bay.

The minor challenge he had to his starting job prior to last week's game is apparently passed. Now, he's clear to discuss the return of Jake Long, his expectations for Tampa Bay, what statement he can make in that game, and whether the Dolphins offense is going to shock the world this season.

By the way, I noticed yesterday some of you commenting on Tony Sparano's speech pattern. Everyone is different folks. Henne has his own style, too.


(On having Jake back in the lineup) - “Yeah, it’s good to see him back, not only is it good to see him back, his physical talent is getting better, leadership qualities also, helping out in the huddle, doing a really good job with the offensive line, the guys in the huddle so yeah, all-round, it’s great to have him back in the huddle.” (On having him on your blindside) - “It’s great, he’s going to do his job every time. Feel comfortable, he’s going to give it his all, and it’s just a lot of fun having him here.”

(On looking forward to the next preseason game) - “Yeah, absolutely, I think, overall, Tampa is a fast, young team, upcoming and were excited to get better, were excited to get more plays in as an offense and I think it’s just going to be a good challenge to see where we progressed from last week to this week.”

(On being more an attacking offense) - “Absolutely, we’re definitely out there to attack them. If they give us a coverage that we see, we change and audible the play and we’re definitely on the attack in the game and they’re going to have to adjust to us.”

(On playing more to your strengths than compared to last year) - “Well, I think it’s more in my hands, I think as a quarterback, I have more audibles, I can get us in and out of the plays, get us the right plays, and give us a shot out there on the field.”

(On looking more comfortable on the field) - “Maybe, it’s things I’ve learned in the offseason, I think, it’s going on year four for me so I definitely feel a comfort level, but there’s still a lot of work to be done and I’m still not set in stone and knowing everything about the offense and the little twitches here and there, but I definitely feel like we’re going in the right direction, feeling really good where we’re at right now.”

(On where do you think you are in terms of game simulation) - “Well, I mean, we pretty much, we have most of our stuff in whether we ran the plays or not, we did install most of the playbook, but you know, it’s game week, you know, so you got to prepare for each and every team, there’s going to be different game plans in them.”

(On how much you had to running practices in the offseason) - “Yeah, definitely, very beneficial to myself, on the leadership part of the side, and just, you know, getting the guys to listen to me rather than coach and I think you get a little more out of it when its player to player rather than coach to player and kind of get them in the right spot, even though, you tweak a little bit about the route, you get a feel for them against stiff defensive coverages.”

 (On biggest difference in running backs) - “Well, I mean, obviously, last year we had two powerful backs, they can run the ball up and inside, we didn’t really use them a lot in the passing game. I think this year we’re more versatile in Reggie Bush, going out there, Daniel Thomas definitely go out there in routes, but I think we still have that power attitude also with all those backs. You know, Daniel (Thomas) and then Larry (Johnson) out there definitely are power backs.”

(On how the league is going to be shocked with the new offense) - “Well, I mean, it’s definitely a big change, it’s going to be a big change for everybody so you know, they’re watching film on us now, they’re studying us hard so they’re going to have adjustments on their defensive side and we’ll see a lot of different coverages than we have in the previous years, but we’re excited to see, we got to get to Tampa this week and see what we can improve next week."

 (On this game being a statement game)- “Yeah, I mean, they were a great team last year, started off very fast, have a lot of speed on defense, the biggest part that the defense reads the quarterbacks eyes pretty well so you got to be alert where everybody’s at, fit in the windows, and make the smart plays out there, but definitely a great test for us. Their offense, you know, got (Josh) Freeman back as a quarterback, he’s doing a really good job there so we’re going to have a good shot to see where we at right now.”

(On hoping to see after playing Tampa) - “We’re definitely going to try to improve on things that we can improve on from last week. You know, we got to come out fast, start fast as we did last week, put more points on the board when we get a chance into the red zone, put touchdowns on the board rather than field goals so we’re just looking to get those drives going, start fast, and make them adjust to our speed.”

(On the difference of having Reggie Bush in the lineup rather than not) - “Yeah, I mean, he definitely helped us out opened up some lanes in the passing game and obviously, in the running game. He’s a hard runner, once he hits the hole, he’s agile, makes somebody miss, it’s definitely tough to bring him down so he opens up a lot of space for us from the offensive side of the ball.”

(On impressions of Charles Clay) - “Yeah, Charles (Clay) is great. He’s coming a long, he’s still learning the offense, but done a great job, but what shocks me is his speed, he can really get down the field and attack, if he has a corner on him, you know, he can almost, you know, sometimes run under it, and safeties and linebackers, it’s going to be a little mismatch, but he’s done a really good job, he’s improving in his blocking, if we need him in there to block, but we’re excited in having him here.”

(On working with Mike Pouncey) - “Mike's been great, and smart guy, really smart guy. Picked up things really quickly, obviously he was there in the offseason workouts a little bit and that helped out, but our offensive line coach, Guge (Dave DeGuglielmo), has done a great job with him. Bringing him along, giving him technique, letting him make calls up front rather than me just giving him the answers so trying to build him up so he can make some of the calls and take a little off my plate.”

(On the shotgun snaps) - “Well, I mean, he’s been doing a great job. He gets it in the right places, I think last week we only had one miscue on the snap, but doing a really good job putting the ball where it needs to be and you know, being decisive where the snap is.

August 24, 2011

Wednesday afternoon potpourri of notes

Remember I told you a couple of weeks ago the Dolphins had a competition for the starting wide reciever job opposite Brandon Marshall?

They still have a competition going for that starting wide receiver job. I asked coach Tony Sparano today if he had decided on the winner of the competition yet.

"Not yet, no, yeah, to me, it’s still open with, you know, that group of there, you know, that’s there and, you know, we’re going to play them a lot in the next couple of weeks," Sparano said. "We're going to play them a bunch this week, as much as we can play them and get a couple of guys up in the rotation this week, but you know, they’re going to play all those guys a lot in the next two weeks.”

The players vying for that starting job are Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Clyde Gates.


The pressure is mounting on Will Allen to get on the field the remainder of this preseason and perform. He probably has to do it this week and next week without an injury setback to make the team. Oh yeah, playing well would also help.

 “I tell the team this all the time: It’s a show me game, at some point I have to see it," Sparano said. "I got to see it on the practice field. I got to see it in the game. It took me two days out here with JT (Jason Taylor) to figure out once he got here in pads it took me two days to figure out he’s still got it.

"So now I can control his practice pace. You know JT didn’t work yesterday and I can go to JT and say you’re down today.  I’ve already seen it … I know it.  I kind of know what this guy needs to get ready to play.  He knows what he needs to get ready to play. In Will's case particularly, and Will wouldn’t be upset with me for saying this, it's just I need to see it and more importantly Will needs to see it.

"He needs to know that he can go into the game and he can do this at the rate that Will was able to do.  I give Will, I give him a lot of benefit of the doubts if you will because he’s a smart player, really smart player, probably the smartest guy I have back there and I’ve seen him do it a couple years back.  But not having him last year and really limited a little bit prior to that -- that has been a long period of time that passes.  We just need to see these guys do it at a high level.  He’s had a couple good days out here right now in a row so I’m hoping to be able to get him to the game and be able to put him in those positions."

Look for Allen Saturday against Tampa Bay.


I told you a while back that Reggie Bush is a monster when it comes to working.

The Dolphins go through their walk-thru and he's there and then comes the two-hour practice and he's there and then the practice is over ... and he's still there!

Today, like most, was a 30-minute session for Bush post-practice. He was the last guy off the field.

He ran sprints by himself. Then he went over to the JUGS machine and standing a mere seven yards from the thing and caught passes slung at him at 22 MPH. By the way, when most receivers catch from the JUGS they stand 12-14 yards away. So try the closer distance sometime without breaking your nose or dislocating a finger.

Afterward, Bush jogged over to the blocking sleds and pushed them around for about 10 minutes.

The man's work ethic is beyond reproach so far. But don't believe me. Check out the video I took.

Dolphins tell Thomas he must hit hole harder

The common thinking for anyone with eyes who has seen Daniel Thomas run this preseason is that while he may become a good player down the road, the rookie still has to adjust to the NFL game.

Thomas, you see, is a former quarterback. He made the transition to running back at Kansas State and now is making the transition to pro football. That's a lot of transitioning. So he has some learning to do.

He needs to be more physical.

He needs to run with more explosion.

He needs to get his shoulders squared, his pad level low and his legs churning.

In lay terms, he needs to bust up in there.

I told you this Sunday after watching Thomas be somewhat tentative on two and-goal runs from the 1 yard line versus Carolina. Despite denials from the Dolphins, their addition of Larry Johnson suggested that's how they felt.

And today, Thomas himself confirmed it.

"I would say that's about right," Thomas said "I've just got to lower my pads and trust my blocks and everything like that and I'm trying to get better here at practice and carry it into the next game."

Thomas is getting encouragement to make his adjustments and improvements from those around him. After his first down run failed Friday, quarterback Chad Henne told him in the huddle to hit the hole harder on second down.

And coach Tony Sparano apparently also suggested Thomas run a wee bit harder by getting on the player's case in practice.

"Yeah he was," Thomas said. "He was just telling me I need to get it in there and to stop tippy-toeing and everything like that. It was true though."

August 23, 2011

Tuesday afternoon buffet of knowledge

I suppose your questions surrounding Larry Johnson include wanting to know why him and not Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown. Fair.

It seems the Dolphins view Johnson much differently than either Ricky or Ronnie. They were starter types for Miami. Johnson is merely a backup addition.

"Yeah I think a different set of circumstances at that time," coach Tony Sparano said. "You know, I mean really different. I don’t think we’re really talking about the same situation right now. This is something three weeks into training camp here or whatever it is, four weeks into training camp and we’re making a decision to do and again Reggie Bush is going to be the first runner out the gate here. I mean he’s going to be the starting running back. That’s what we’re doing so this is a different deal here, different role totally."

That doesn't mean Johnson won't be allowed to rise to the importance of a Ricky or Ronnie, but that's not the situation right now.


Jake Long continues to practice and work with the first team offense. But the Dolphins are still not certain whether or not he will play Saturday night against Tampa Bay, according to Sparano.

"I haven’t made that decision yet," coach said. "Not positive right now. If I had to make the decision today…probably not. But I don’t have to make the decision today."


I am not a football coach nor do I pretend to be one. I don't watch film. I don't grade it. I don't pretend to know about teaching technique. Basically, I'm a dummy. Basically, I'm a fat dummy.

But I talk to people who know their stuff and they share becaue they apparently feel sorry for me.

That is why on the topic of coin tosses and the decision that comes with it, I can tell you most NFL coaches will absolutely defer if they have the opportunity this season.

Simply, the new kickoff rules has turned getting the ball first into something of a bad idea. Teams have the choice of taking the ball first and getting it either on the 20-yard line (after a predictable touchback) or in somewhat poor field position based on the kickoff from the 35.

Assuming you have a solid defense and can stop the opponent on downs the first series, that potentially means the team that received the football could be kicking from the 20 and definitely from inside their 30.

That suggests that the punt returner might field the ball around his 25 yard line or likely much better than that. Even a modest return can place the ball at the 35 yard line.

That's 15 yards of field position the first series has already won for the deferring team without it even taking its first offensive snap. Yes, it's unseen yardage, but coaches love that kind of stuff.

I asked Sparano today why any coach would decide to receive rather than kick.

" I think that most times most people would probably not want to do that,” he confirmed.


The Dolphins play Saturday at Tampa Bay. And this is the third preseason game. So does that mean starters will venture into halftime and come out again in the third quarter?

“Well we will see how far we take them," Sparano said. "I'd like to reheat them again at halftime and bring them into the third quarter, yes … see how we do. If it was a situation where one side just played a staggering number of plays, which we certainly hope isn’t our defense, then I might reconsider that.

"Last week the offense played 55 or so I think in the first half of the game, we’ll see how that goes. I’d like to bring them back and get them heated up again which puts a lot of people in situations right now where maybe they wouldn’t play as much in this game. It makes practice right now important."


Larry Johnson isn't expected to be "the man," as Sparano said today. But he is expected to run like a man. And he intends to do just that -- bruising, banging, battering.

“I mean, it’s only too few guys that have their own character, their own way of doing things," he said. "Hopefully, I bring a little bit more old school toughness that I already had in Kansas City. Hopefully, that will give some of the younger guys who don’t really have experience running certain plays, kind of insights on the plays that worked for me, which is the same plays that they run here, the same plays that worked for me in Kansas City. It will be a good thing as far as knowledge to give to some of the younger guys."

Dolphins announce signing of RB Larry Johnson

The Dolphins have announced on their twitter feed they have signed running back Larry Johnson. So much for those tentative first-and-goal runs.

Johnson, 31 years old, hasn't had a productive season since 2008 when he gained 874 yards. That was also the same year the stuff hit the fan for him. He was suspended by the Chiefs for violating unspecified team rules. He was also suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for one game that season. Hmmm.

The next year Johnson was critical of Chiefs coach Todd Haley, which as you might guess, led to his suspension for conduct detrimental to the club. The Chiefs cut Johnson when his suspension ended.

Johnson bounced to the Bengals in 2009 in late November and then went to the Redskins in March of 2010 as a free agent. That didn't last. He was cut in September and was out of work the rest of the season.

Johnson has been arrested four times since 2003 on various assault charges against women. In 2003, he was arrested for assault and domestic battery for brandishin a gun at his then-girlfriend, during an argument at his home. The charges were dropped when Johnson agreed to participate in a domestic violence diversion program. In 2005, he was again arrested for assault when a woman accused Johnson of pushing her to the ground, but the case was dropped after the alleged victim failed to appear in court for three different hearing.

His third arrest for assault came on February 24, 2008, after allegedly pushing a woman's head at a nightclub that night. On October 10, 2008, Johnson was arrested for the fourth time and charged with one count of non-aggravated assault for allegedly spitting a drink in a woman's face at a Kansas City nightclub on October 11. Johnson tried to flee the scene but police officers tackled him.

The Dolphins have been in the market for a running back for some time. Today they worked out Clinton Portis. They also worked out Tiki Barber three weeks ago, around the time they worked out Johnson.

They are obviously:

Not comfortable with their current RB situation, which has rookie Daniel Thomas behind Reggie Bush. A couple of weeks ago, coach Tony Sparano admitted in a column I wrote that he was "nervous" about the running back situation.

Miami's running back corps delivered an unspectacular performance around the goal line on four first-and-goal runs against the Panthers, probably pushed the team over the edge.

Is Johnson going to be the guy who gained over 1,700 yards in both 2005 and 2006? No.

But I guess checking him out for the next couple of weeks cannot hurt a team looking to upgrade in the backfield.

Reggie Bush in his own words

I told you yesterday that Reggie Bush shot down the idea of taking the rest preseason off to avoid the risk of injury. (I suck, because it was my suggestion).

Well, that's not the only topic Bush addressed Monday during his exchange with the media.

Here is everything he said:

(On your favorite running play) -“My favorite running play? Hand me the ball, my favorite running play (laughing). I like to do it all, I don’t have a specific favorite running play, I like to do it all. You know, I like tosses, I like the inside zones, the outside zones, traps, sweeps, it’s all the same, you know, when you’re getting the ball.” (On what did you see watching film after Friday night’s game) - “Just looked at detailing, the little things like my depth in the backfield, my footwork, whether it’s running a route outside from the backfield. It was one where Chad (Henne) threw me a swing route, our timing was off. I think, maybe whether it’s pass blocking, it just detailing the little things and continuing to perfect my craft.” (On do you like running between tackles or is it just necessary) - “Both. I like to do it and it’s a necessary part.” (On what do you like about running between the tackles) - “Well, because, I get to get up field quicker rather than the outside tosses, it takes a little to develop and then you get up the field. Inside, you make one guy miss and you can be gone, you know, 50, 60 yards so that’s about it.” (On punt returning the first game of the season) - “I’m not sure, whatever the coach needs me to do, that’s what I’m here for and that’s really it. You know, if he ask me to return punts, I’ll return some punts, but that’s one of the reasons I came here.” (On having Coach (Jeff) Nixon as a coach, is it weird having a coach not much older than you)  -“(Laughing) Coach (Jeff) Nixon, he’s a good coach. He’s been around the league for awhile, coached in Philly (Philadelphia) for awhile, coached LeSean McCoy so obviously, he has a lot of experience with a good running back. He’s a great coach, he knows what he’s talking about, you know, he really helps us as running backs. Helps us, perfect our craft and continue to stay on us and coach us, and it helps us out a lot.” (On if he bring a lot of energy because he’s a young coach) -“Yeah, he brings a lot of energy to the position. You know, I really don’t even think of the age difference. I just try to learn from him because obviously, he’s a coach for a reason, he’s the running backs coach for a reason so I just try to learn from him. I don’t really think about the age difference, you know. I don’t really even asked him that.”(On practicing against the defense every day, does it prepare you for some of the tougher defenses) - “Yeah, I think, going against our defense definitely prepare us, for going against some of the tougher defenses. We have some big guys in the middle, they fly around, gets to the ball quick, they’re a fast defense and they’re big and strong in the inside too so I think, it prepares us, you know, very well against some pretty tough defenses.” (On practicing against the 3-4 defense) - “Yeah, the 3-4 scheme. Obviously, our division is built off 3-4 defenses so it definitely helps us out a lot.” (On what you saw from Chad (Henne) in the Carolina game) - “I thought Chad played well. I’ve been saying since I got here, day one, Chad’s got the tools, it’s just fine tune those tools, just like we all he have to do. I saw some great things from Chad from day one and he has the mechanics, he has the tools, and you know, especially with this new offense, I think it’s going to do wondrous things for his career. For the type of quarterback he can be, you know, in this division so I thought he did great on the last game. You know, I’m looking forward to him putting up another great performance.” (On Chad Henne having similar qualities like Drew Brees) - “Yeah, I mean, he threw some really good balls, some of those balls were perfect passes and he couldn’t put it in a better spot so I saw some similarities between him and Drew (Brees), but obviously, there a little different, you know, in a lot of respects ,but  I think (Chad) has matured a lot in his three years and he just looked really posed back there, and he looked like he was confident the way he threw the ball, the way he stepped up in the pocket. I texted him that night and told him I was proud of him.” (On if he will be participating in more goal line packages) - “Yeah, you know, I expect to be in some of those situations, you know, obviously, it’s the preseason, it’s about getting guys different opportunities and different places. You know, I know I’ll get my chance to get in there on goal line so I’m not worried about that at all.” (On a temptation bouncing outside rather than running inside) - “It’s not so much the temptation its more I just try to focus on taking what the defense gives me so not really forcing, bouncing runs outside, more just when it’s there, it’s there, that’s when you take it but for the most part, I try to do a good job at hitting the ball up the field, up the field, and really setting them up, for one or two times bounce the ball outside.” (On running over Brian Hartline in the game) - “Yeah, it was an accident. I apologized after the game, I didn’t mean to hit him in the back like that. You know, you never want to hurt your teammates. You know, anytime you see that on film, you know it doesn’t feel good.” (On a goal to staying healthy and playing the entire season) - “Obviously, every year, my goal is to stay healthy. Now, obviously, this is a physical game, and you know, it’s tough, you know, you got to do the best job you can to take care of your body, but when you’re on the football field and people are flying around, you never know, you know, all you can do is work hard and prepare your body for those types of hits but sometimes, there’s some situations you may not be able to avoid, I think it’s just, it’s the name of the game. You know, I don’t think it’s even about luck, it’s the type of game we play.” (On being ready to go into the season) - “I don’t think as a team, we’re ready to play the start of the season and me, as an individual, as a running back, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I still think there’s a lot of things I need to work on, I only played one preseason game here with the Dolphins so I definitely want to just, obviously, I have had a lot of practice with the team, but being out there with the team in game-like situations is a lot different so you know, I definitely think I have a long ways to go and hopefully this next game (I) will get a bulk of play, you know, get a chance to build on and fine tuning my tools.”

August 22, 2011

Monday afternoon camp report (free!)

The Dolphins did not draft anyone in today's NFL supplemental draft.

Terrelle Pryor went to the Oakland Raiders, who overspent invested a third-round pick on the former Ohio State quarterback. No other player was drafted during this draft. All of the remaining players become free agents.

Meanwhile, back at the stately Dolphins facility:

Tony Sparano said the open competition for the starting free safety job between Reshad "Get it on" Jones, as he likes to be called, and Chris Clemons, is still an open competition. Neither player has pulled ahead of the other, apparently.

The dynamic here is interesting. The Dolphins want more big plays out of the position and the team believes Jones can provide that better than Clemons. The Dolphins also want everyone properly lined up and as few mental mistakes as possible in the deep secondary, and that is apparently where Clemons has an advantage over Jones.

The Dolphins need someone to make a crossover.

"I think will go right to the end," Sparano said of the competition. "It's not something I'm rooting for but I think it's going to happen."

Methinks Jones wins, but that's just a prediction and I stink at predictions more than I stink at most other things in life. Nonetheless, Jones is getting better at getting folks lined up and a big play is a big play is a big play.

Speaking of those, Sparano said cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis have had the earnest thrill of participating in 510 camp plays before Monday. They are mostly error-free plays as they are averaging only one mental mistake every 70 plays or so. That is excellent as it translate to only one mental mistake per game.

What needs improvement is that neither Davis nor Smith has gotten his hands around enough footballs (interceptions) in practice. That typically shows up in practice before translating to the games. So far, not enough of either.

Moving on ...

Remember the other day I suggested on a previous post the Dolphins should perhaps shelve Reggie Bush the rest of the preseason in order to save him and minimize his injury risk?

Yeah, forget about that because it apparently isn't what Bush wants or expects. I asked Bush if following his very nice debut Friday against Carolina he needed to do some more sharpening of his game or if he felt ready for the season.

"I don't think that as a team we're ready to start the season yet and me as an an individual I don't think I'm ready yet," Bush said. "There's a lot of things I need to work on. I've only played one preseason game here with the Dolphins. I obviously have had a lot of practice with the team but being out there with the team in game situations is a lot different. I definitely think I have a ways to go, so hopefully this next game I'll get the bulk of the plays and get a chance to build on and fine tune my tools." 

The Dolphins had a walk-thru at the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (my name for it) this morning and then went on the field for about an hour before it began to rain. That forced them back inside the NSMB.

Lydon Murtha, Mickey Shuler, Lex Hilliard, Garrett Chisolm, and Patrick Carter did not practice.

Two thoughts on adding another QB (Pryor), RB (White?)

Sometime around 2 p.m. this afternoon, the NFL supplemental draft will have come and gone and we will know if the Dolphins made a fanciful reach for Terrelle Pryor or not.

As I have reported here, the Dolphins were among the 14-18 teams that attended Pryor's Pro Day workout in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Makes sense. The Dolphins need a young quarterback in the pipeline for the future.

And let me give you some present-day perspective: The Dolphins could use a No. 3 QB to use in wildcat work this year. That means if the Dolphins invest a middle to late-round pick on Pryor, they can use his 4.38-4.41 speed, his 6-5 and 238-pound frame and whatever limited passing skills he has as their Wildcat triggerman.

And then they could obviously try to develop him as a full-time QB down the road. Waaaaay down the road, given his questionable accuracy and footwork.

On the running back front, the Dolphins need to be searching for help at running back. Specifically, the team needs to be looking for a short-yardage back. For proof of this need you need only look back to Friday's 20-10 preseason victory over Carolina.

The Dolphins had a first-and-goal from 1 yard line against Carolina. And they didn't bang it in on a give to rookie Daniel Thomas on first down. They didn't score on a give to Thomas on second down. They didn't score on a give to Lex Hilliard on third down.

Hilliard finally got the job done on fourth down.

That's good. And bad.

Thomas, frankly, looked tentative on his goal line runs. He didn't look at all like a downhill runner. Hilliard dove both times.

The Dolphins need a plowhorse to bully his way into the end zone.

I suppose they could try Lousaka Polite in such situations during the regular season. But we don't know for sure that Polite will be on the team in the regular seaosn. I don't think 203-pound Reggie Bush is the answer, either.

The Dolphins need to explore adding a big running back.

Lendale White? He makes some sense since he was in that role for the Tennessee Titans in 2008 when scored 15 times. He's been in trouble since then -- he was suspended four games in 2010. He also suffered a torn achilles'' tendon in 2010. And the 235-pounder has been known to weigh 260-pounds during his time.

White is available as he was cut by the Denver Broncos a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, just stay aware on this -- not so much White, but the need for a big, strong back near the goal line.

There's obviously other avenues for the Dolphins to pursue to address this issue. Dozens of running backs -- several of them of the downhill runner variety -- will come available when teams trim their roster in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the bigger issue this raises is why did Thomas seem so tentative in his run at the end zone? He's 230 pounds. He's supposed to be a downhill back. Hmmm.

August 21, 2011

Long back, suddenly OL is much better

Jake Long, who was not able to pass his physical at the start of training camp because he was still nursing an undisclosed left leg injury, passed over the weekend and is back on the field.

Great timing by him.

Long's return coincides with a game in which reserve left tackle Lydon Murtha, who generally did fine filling in, struggled somewhat with three penalties against Carolina. Murtha wasn't bad at his assignments or anything like that. It's just that those penalties, especially the pre-snap ones, kill drives and he is simply not as good as Long.

So Long returned to practice Saturday and today gets the day off,  along with the rest of Miami's players. Long will be able to assess his physical condition and conditioning following his first dose of practice.

"It feels real good, getting back there with the guys and finally put the helmet on, jersey, run around out there, get to practicing, it felt good,” Long said after practice.

Dolphins coaches might not use Long in the preseason. He is expected to practice every day possible and that work against Jason Taylor, sometimes against Cameron Wake, and against Miami's burly defensive ends, should be good enough to get Long in football shape. The risk versus the reward of having Long crash helmets with another team's defensive linemen in the preseason seems to tip the scales toward risk.

Think about it:

Long worked all of last year next to Richie Incognito so it's not like the two of them need to learn each other. Yes, the offense is new, but I estimate the Dolphins will work between 40-50 team periods in which the first team offense faces the first team defense the next couple of weeks. On the week before the season-opener against the Patriots, and maybe even two weeks before, Long will also get snaps against a scout team.

So why are we worrying about getting him hit in a preseason game again?

"Whatever," Long said laughing. "Whenever coach puts me in there and expects me to play, I will be ready to play."

And with that, it seems the Dolphins starting offensive line is set. Long at left tackle, Incognito at left guard, Mike Pouncey at center, Vernon Carey at right guard and Marc Colombo at right tackle.

The biggest worry of all these for me? Not Long, coming off the injury. Not Pouncey playing as a rookie. Not Carey shifting to a new position at guard.


He has some ugly, ugly moments at times. The other night there was a pass play in which he let a blitzer run right past him untouched and in against Henne. Henne avoided the blitzer by scrambling away and then was hurried by another lineman that ran past Colombo. When that play was done, Colombo had gotten a chance to block two guys and really didn't lay a finger on either. Made me scratch my head.

Can he run-block well? Yes. Pass-block well? Not sure.

{Update: The Rams have released offensive lineman Tyler Donahue, an undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green. Why do you care? Because the Dolphins showed interest in Donahue earlier this year and will be among the teams wanting to add him to their roster. In fact, Donahue had a workout scheduled with the Dolphins Sunday. Donahue is a 6-6 and 300-pound offensive tackle.]