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65 posts from August 2011

August 20, 2011

Ireland: 'Didn't feel like needed to' bring new starting QB

The Dolphins were one of approximately 14 teams to attend Terrelle Pryor's Pro Day workout today. That does not mean they will draft the former Ohio State quarterback in the supplemental draft that will take place Monday, but obviously the team is doing its homework on the player.

That homework is probably just as draining as the long hours and eyelid drooping work the club did on practically every other quarterback that was available this year -- both draft picks, free agents and now the supplemental draft.

The man most responsible for that work, the man ultimately deciding what the Dolphins did or didn't do at quarterback this season, is general manager Jeff Ireland. And he obviously ultimately has decided that he is good with Chad Henne.

(So much for the conspiracy theorists or prayerful fans hoping for a late miracle addition at QB. It doesn't look like it is going to happen.)

Ireland has not spoken with the local media since the lockout ended. He did appear on Friday night's telecast of the Dolphins preseason game versus Carolina because the club and the broadcast company airing the game have that appearance written into the broadcast contract.

And in that interview on CBS-4 in South Florida, Ireland made it clear he is putting his faith, hope and trust on Henne to succeed at quarterback this year. That is ultimately why he didn't draft anyone else and the reason he didn't pay the necessary price to acquire Kyle Orton from Denver.

"We really felt Matt [Moore] was a capable backup this year," Ireland said. "He's had a lot of starts in his career. We really felt a lot of confidence in Chad Henne as well. And to go and leverage the franchise to go and do something else different than what we had here with Chad and his continued development, we just didn't feel like we needed to to do that at this time."

Earlier this offseason, the Dolphins spoke of upgrading at QB and, at the very least, bringing in a player to challenge Henne for the starting job. They did not do either. And Ireland is obviously cool with that.

"You got to know the value of what you're trying to get accomplished," he said. "The great thing about what we did is we threw a lot of faith into Chad and the continued development of Chad. We felt like a lot of things last year were fixable. And we have a lot of faith in [offensive coordinator] Brian Daboll as well and that process is going very well."

So Ireland is on record. He believes in Henne. He thinks Henne's problems of a year ago and two years ago will be fixed. That is some mighty strong commitment.

And it is a two-sided coin.

If Henne is good, Ireland's repuation for knowing his player becomes unquestionable because he made the right call. If Henne is not good this year, Ireland's reputation for knowing his player will have been wrong. (It's never good when the general manager makes a bad call on a QB.)

Either way, Henne has Ireland's reputation in his hands.

The view from the pressbox on Fins-Panthers

It was by every definition a good outing for the Dolphins Friday night. The detractors might point to the Carolina Panthers being the NFL's worst team a year ago or scratching 16 players from this game, or starting a rookie quarterback.

I would point to a 20-10 victory in which the first team offense and defense looked good.

Great? No.

Good? Absolutely.

You cannot blame the Dolphins for the opponent's flaws.

"Yeah, this is just a chekpoint for us," Brandon Marshall said after making his preseason debut. "Every week you want to get better, we want to grow as an offense, we want to gel a little more as a team. We know our goal and we know where we want to be every week. We know where we want to be at the end of the season. It's important for us to not hang off the rafters when we win and not put our head in the dumpster when we lose. That pertains to every play, not just the game."

Fair perspective. It also brings up the fact that because coordinator Brian Daboll's offense is still so new to this group, you won't see their best work until "the end of the season," as Marshall said.

That means the Dolphins have to be good on offense early and rise to a higher level later on. It could happen.

The Dolphins showed improvement on several fronts:

The line blocking looked better than it did a week ago against Atlanta in that, hey, there were some holes this week when the first teamers were in the game! And Reggie Bush used them to his benefit.

Bush rushed eight times for 48 yards. He also caught two passes for 33 yards, a stellar 16.5 yard per catch average. As I wrote in my column for today's Miami Herald, Bush's Dolphins debut was not only successful but a thing that captured the imagination of fans starved for a playmaker. Please do a brother a favor and check out the column as that is how I feed my family and we ain't had no breakfast this morning yet.

One thing that did not make the final cut of the column that I will say here: Bush proved something last night. He proved all his work -- both during practice and afterward -- is paying off. He proved his got not only speed but defense-deflating toughness, which is a great combination.

What else does he have to prove?

I say the Dolphins should give him the rest of the preseason off. See you Sept. 12 against the Patriots.


I remind you Bush is Miami's most dynamic playmaker in that he doesn't rely on others as heavily to get his as does, say, Marshall. He has a history of getting hurt. The Dolphins are going to use him plenty during the season. Why waste a proven vet in preseason?

I also remind you that this preseason alone, running backs Ryan Williams, Mikel LeShoure, Ben Tate and Montario Hardesty have already suffered season-ending injuries. Why expose Bush to that in meaningless games? Why expose him to pulled groins, or tweaked ankles, or strained hamstrings in inconsequential games?

He gets plenty of carries in practice. He's involved in plenty of collisions in those. He then works overtime after practically every single practice. He's in great shape. He's not a rookie who has to adjust to the speed of the game. Lather him up, to use a Tony Sparano term, in practice where you can control the violence a bit. But in more preseason games?

Why risk him?

(Rant over).

The offensive line had a nice night last night except for the four penalties -- three of them on Lydon Murtha. Those can be drive killers and must be eliminated. Those are about discipline and being in the moment mentally. Not acceptable.

Chad Henne was good last night. That is the truth and that is what I will always try to give you. I'm not going to gush and tell you he was great because he wasn't. He was good. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 194 yards without a TD or INT.

The good: He got Brandon Marshall involved early and often. He kept plays alive both with his patience and shuffling in the pocket and with his feet, running downfield for a total of 20 yards. That part was outstanding. His accuracy was good on short to medium range passes. His shining moment, I thought, was on the play where protection broke down, the snap from center was high, he tipped it, caught it, he moved around, kept his eyes downfield, and found Anthony Fasano for a 38-yard completion. That kind of play from a quarterback can feel like a dagger to the heart of the defense. Excellent.

The not-good: He threw a first-quarter pass to Brian Hartline who had man coverage down the sideline that was inaccurate in that it was overthrown and out of bounds, but in so doing he missed an uncovered Brandon Marshall who lined up in the slot and was covered by NOBODY. If Henne had looked for Marshall, who was lined up inside of Hartline, that play would have gone for a 25-yard gain and possibly more. He missed a wide open Hartline in the second quarter on a post pattern around the goal line and threw instead to Daniel Thomas out of bounds on a pass that was almost intercepted. He missed Clyde Gates streaking wide open downfield for what might have been the play of the night -- a 63-yard bomb behind double coverage. (Great job by Gates blowing the top of the secondary on that one, but he can't throw the ball to himself, too.)

Nonetheless, Henne showed progress. That's important.

“I mean, obviously, we moved the ball pretty well down there, got some big plays in certain situations," Henne said. "I have to watch the film, there’s some mistakes out there we’ll correct them. It’s good to get a win at home and start a run that way and winning at home that’s pretty important to us right now.

"Definitely gives you confidence, especially at home. Previous years we haven’t won a lot of games at home and get off to a start path, we’re trying to build a tradition here where this is our home field and we want to take advantage and play well here and it’s a good step for that.”

It would be nice if Henne got some more help from his tight end. Fasano caught two passes but dropped another one right in his hands, same as he did last week. If Fasano is going to catch only 66 percent of the passes that hit him in the hands, that is not good. He's got to do some work on the jugs, something I've not seen him do.

Defensively, the Dolphins forced Carolina to punt seven times. That's good.

The Dolphins limited the Panthers to 25 percent conversion rate on third down. That's good.

Carolina only had 68 net rushing yards. That's great!

Miami's leading tacklers were inside linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby, who each had four tackles. That suggests the Dolphins didn't allow runners to reach the secondary and force, say, Yeremiah Bell, Miami's leading tackler the past couple of years, to make the tackle. It also suggests the Dolphins didn't need to bring Bell down into the tackle box to help against the run. Bell had only one tackle.

Yes, safety Reshad Jones also had four tackles, but he played primarily with the second team. Burnett and Dansby were done for the night by that time.

“The defense, that’s understandable we had to have a better performance than we did last week," Dansby said. "We were in front of the home crowd so were just trying to build something here, win our home games and just hit on all cylinders. We did that tonight we had fun and we were flying around because people were saying we were playing uninspired football, we saw the quotes...we saw everybody was talking about so we tried to give you a show today.”

Oh, the corners were dominant. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith locked down Carolina's WRs. No, Steve Smith did not play. Not their fault. They did work against the Carolina receivers they faced. 

Overall, we saw a team get better. The Dolphins made progress from their first preseason game to their second. If they continue to get better every week, things are going to be good in 2011. I hope.

August 19, 2011

Live blog of preseason home opener right here

Preseason football in South Florida: The constant threat of rain -- it's already showed. The humidity. The baseball infield.


Let's hang! There will be a live blog of the Dolphins' 2011 preseason home debut right here starting at 7:30. I'll come back in a little while and tell you which players -- other than Jake Long -- will not play tonight. I'll be interested to see whether/how long Will Allen plays tonight after missing most of the past 21 months with various injuries.

[Update: The Dolphins are announcing Jared Odrick replaces Randy Starks in the starting lineup tonight. Allen will not play.  LB Austin Spitler, G Garrett Chisolm, T Ray Willis, OL Joe Berger, T Jake Long and TE Mickey Shuler are also scratched.]

Things to look for tonight -- other than Chad Henne's performance of course?

Dolphins linebackers versus Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. The Dolphins are going to face very good tight end play in the regular season opener against New England. They have a history of struggling against tight ends in the past. Let's see how Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and to some degree strong safety Yeremiah Bell fare tonight.

I want to see if Phillip Livas, who opened eyes last week with a 75-yard punt return, can show some consistency or if that was one-time luck. I'm not saying Livas needs to take another one to the house. I am saying he needs to show wiggle, ability to make the first guy miss consistently, and then acceleration past the second tackler. Blocking is supposed to take care of the rest.

I want to see if Matt Moore can show the spark again this week that he showed against Atlanta.

I want to see progress from center Mike Pouncey individually and then some clue that the offensive line is coming together as a group.

I want to see Anthony Fasano catch the ball rather than have the ball boink off his hands.

I want to see the front seven on defense stop the run, something they struggled to do last week at Atlanta.

And, obviously, I want to see a win. There is no substitute for victory.


It's on Chad Henne to determine success of Chad Henne

Several times over the past few weeks I've gotten e-mails and twitter messages from folks asking me to encourage Chad Henne, asking that I talk up Chad Henne, asking that I write nice, positive things about Chad Henne. The same folks want me to scold fans for booing Chad Henne.

The idea is that if Henne hears words of encouragement or, at the very least, doesn't hear criticism, his confidence will rise and he will play better.

I have a counter proposal: How about the Dolphins' starting quarterback raise his confidence by playing well? How about Henne shutting down the boos or the chants of "Kyle Orton, Kyle Orton," by making fans forget Orton was ever on the radar?

How about a guy getting everyone's approval and respect by, crazy notion here, earning it?

That is what is at stake tonight for the Dolphins quarterback when he makes his 2011 preseason home debut at Sun Life Stadium.

"Chad Henne needs a fast start out there tonight," former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury said on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, on Friday morning. "He needs to nut up and show people he is the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins and there is no question about that. He needs to get going right away and lead his team and make good decisions and show accuracy and take over the crowd because fans down there are just waiting for a reason to boo him.

"If he's the quarterback the Dolphins need him to be, he won't give them that chance."

Salisbury says the reason some fans in South Florida talk about Matt Moore as if he is an intriguing prospect and possible starter is because Henne has fed that conversation rather than squashing it. Indeed, even coach Tony Sparano, who two weeks ago proclaimed Henne the starter, this week added a clause to his proclamation by saying "Henne is the starter right now."

So the question about Henne as the Dolphins on the Carolina Panthers is simple:

"Is he going to step his game up," Salisbury said, "or step aside aside and let the fans beg for Matt Moore?"

Salisbury is right. It really is up to Henne. If he performs well ... Check that ... If he performs well enough, folks will line up behind him like toy soliders. Everyone will feel great if Henne throws a couple of touchdown passes and stays away from the emotion-sapping interception(s). No one will question him if he leads the Dolphins on a couple of touchdowns drives against the worst team in the NFL last season.

Truth is, even if Henne is just mediocre -- if he throws one TD pass without an interception and gets maybe that one score for his trouble -- no one will be upset.

But if he plays like last week, it could get ugly even though this game is at home.

It is up to Henne. The crowd, their reaction, the offense, and Miami's fate, are in his hands. He can play well and end any speculation about his job security. Or not, which will only make his job harder going forward.

It is up to Chad Henne.

Armando and the Amigo can be heard M-F from 6-10 am on 640-AM (WMEN) in South Florida or online at 640sports.com. We're also avaliable through the Tunein Radio app. Download the free app and search for WMEN.


Dolphins have to pick up pace to keep up with Pats

I've been dropping hints here and there that earlier this camp the pace of the Dolphins practice, particularly in their offensive drills, was not exactly fast.

It has improved. And last week coach Tony Sparano talked about how things have sped up and how one practice finished 10 minutes ahead of schedule. That's good ....

... but not good enough.

Now that the Dolphins have apparently picked up the practice pace, I implore them (yes, I know you coach types read this drivel) to go faster still. Like really, really, really fast.


Because speed is a wonderful weapon when found in the legs of a player. And t is also a mighty weapon when used by an entire offensive unit against an unprepared or slightly off-kilter defense. A quick pace puts the defense on its heels. A quick pace works against a defender's head as well as his body.

A fast-paced offense (run a play, get back in the huddle, jog out of the huddle, ID the mike, and GO!) dictates to the defense. The last few years, I've heard too many Dolphins coaches and players talk about "taking what the defense gives us."

Good offenses take what all they can. All of it. Even some stuff the defense doesn't really wish to surrender -- such as the pace of the game.

Take last night's Patriots versus Bucs preseason game in Tampa, won handily by New England 31-14. It was a classic case of an offense simply out-pacing the defense. New England's pace was so good, the Bucs couldn't get lined up.

"A lot of times we’d get the call but we couldn’t get lined up," Tampa Bay defensive lineman Gerald McCoy said. "They were moving the ball so fast. Now we have to learn to recognize formations to attack quicker. Tempo. That's why I love our head coach so much. He made things more difficult for us tonight on purpose. He did. That’s how you learn.

"(DE Adrian) Clayborn came to me and was like, ‘Oh my god, it was so fast!’ I said, ‘I know! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’ It was a reality check, we needed that.

"Man, I’m telling you man, they came out, they’d turn around huddle, snap, oh, 'There’s the Mike, Go!' I was like, ‘Dang! Um, Mr. Brady, can we line up?’ He didn’t care. He was like, ‘You’re not going to line up.’ When we turned around one time I checked back around and my hand was going to the grass and they were like, ‘Hut!’ And I said, ‘Noooooooooooo!’"


I want that for the Dolphins. The Dolphins should want that for the Dolphins.

I recognize the Dolphins are installing a new offense. I recognize they do not have Tom Brady at quarterback. I get all that.

But I also understand the Dolphins will be on the same field versus Tom Brady and the Patriots in the regular-season opener. And if they're going to keep up, they have to get an offense going that can, well, keep up.

So I'm simply saying that means putting the defense back on its heels. That's one way to seize the initiative. We shall see tonight against the Carolina Panthers if the Dolphins are closer to picking up the pace. One expects it should be better than last week against Atlanta when Miami didn't really look good enough versus the Falcons' starting D.

The Panthers should be another story. Better be another story.

August 18, 2011

A look at QB ranking, Pryor, supplemental draft

Two days ago Eli Manning went on Michael Kay's radio show in New York and made the case for himself as an elite quarterback, a "top five" quarterback. He further said, "I don't consider myself a 25-interception quarterback."

Look, everyone has a right to their opinion, but facts are a wonderful things. And the facts say last season Eli Manning threw 25 interceptions. (Note to Eli Manning: That makes you a 25-interception quarterback).

I may say I'm not a chubby dude, but the scale says I'm a chubby dude. Facts. Get it?

At any rate, as the quarterback topic is something of a big topic in South Florida, I decided to see exactly who are the top five NFL quarterbacks. And the top 10. And the next five in the middling 15. And then the next below average 15. And, of course, the most terrible two at the back of the line.

My quarterback ranking 1-32? It's purely my opinion. It isn't necessarily based on statistics from a year ago alone. It is, once again, my opinion.


1. Tom Brady.

2. Phillip Rivers.

3. Peyton Manning.

4. Aaron Rodgers.

5. Drew Brees. (Hurts, doesn't it?)

6. Michael Vick. (Dolphins once signed Marcus but looked away from Michael two years ago).

7. Ben Roethlisberger.

8. Josh Freeman (Superstar in the making).

9. Matt Ryan.

10. Tony Romo.

11. Eli Manning (You're not top 5, brother).

12. Matt Schaub.

13. Joe Flacco.

14. Jay Cutler.

15. Matt Cassel.

16. David Garrard. (Can the Dolphins trade for him?).

17. Matt Stafford (When healthy which is none too often).

18. Kyle Orton (The Dolphins tried to trade for him).

19. Carson Palmer (Would be ranked much higher if he was, you know, playing this year).

20. Sam Bradford (He'll be much higher by next season).

21. Matt Hasselbeck.  (Much, much higher when healthy).

22. Donovan McNabb.

23. Ryan Fitzpatrick (Sounds crazy but check the tape).

24. Mark Sanchez (Hurts).

25. Vince Young (Would be higher if he could keep his head together).

26. Alex Smith.

27. Jon Kitna.

28. Jason Campbell.

29. Chad Henne.

30. Tarvaris Jackson.

Tie, 31. Derek Anderson.

Tie, 31. Jake Del Homme

33. Jimmy Clausen. 

Obviously, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne -- the starter for "right now" in Tony Sparano's words -- is not very high on my list. How could he be based on his last two seasons?

Remember Henne's resume in those two years speaks whispers for itself: More INTs than TDs both seasons starting. Under .500 both seasons. Both seasons out of the playoffs. Benched twice last season.

And that leads me to some questions:

Am I blind to put Henne so far down the line? What am I not seeing? What do the Dolphins see that I and, I suspect, many of you don't? If the Dolphins don't see any better than we do, how could they possibly come out of the past two seasons and enter this training camp without even legitimate competition for Henne in the current training camp? Can Henne completely change his stripes and become a good quarterback this year?

Can the Dolphins still find another option at quarterback?

On that last question, you should know the NFL has set its supplemental draft for Monday. Terelle Pryor has been made eligible for that draft. The Dolphins are expected to be represented at Saturday's workout Pryor will put on for teams in the Pittsburgh area.

Will they use a late-round pick on Pryor?

Frankly, Pryor is a long, long, long range project. He proved in college he is coachable because he improved as a player at Ohio State. But he wasn't necessarily good. He couldn't lead his team to a conference title. His arm strength is average at best and accuracy is inconsistent.

Is he worth a seventh-round pick? Maybe.

In my opinion, North Carolina 3-4 OLB Michael McAdoo, Western Carolina's Torez Jones, and Lindenwood's 314-pound DE Keenan Mace, are better prospects than Pryor. Defensive back Tracy Wilson is also in the supplemental draft.

August 17, 2011

Henne vs. Newton Friday night (on TV)

Rookie first round draft pick Cam Newton will make his first professional start against the Dolphins in Friday night's preseason game at Sun Life Stadium, various media outlets are reporting.

"It's pretty much following the line of what we had planned throughout training camp, and that's to go back and forth and back and forth with our guys," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "It's a good opportunity."

That means its Newton versus Miami's much-hyped defense. That means it's Newton versus Chad Henne, who will start Friday's game for the Dolphins.

Rivera said his starters are expected to play about a half.

Coach Tony Sparano said Henne would start and play along with Miami's starters as deep as the second quarter. We'll see if the coach goes with his starter that long if Henne comes out hot and drives the Dolphins to a touchdown on his their first or second possession.

At that point does the quarterback's soaring (for the moment) confidence mean more to Sparano than mere snaps in a meaningless game?

The coach said Matt Moore would take second team snaps for the Dolphins versus the Panthers, with those likely coming no earlier than the second quarter.

We shall see.


Reggie Bush will make his Miami Dolphins debut (at least his preseason debut) on Friday, Sparano confirmed. He will start and rookie Daniel Thomas will also get work with the first-team offense.

Sparano said he had an idea how many touches he wants to give Bush but would not say because he wants to tell the player first. "I want him to get up a good lather," the coach added.

The Dolphins say the game, which is Miami's home preseason opener, will be televised locally. The game will be broadcast on CBS-4 in South Florida.

August 16, 2011

Tony Sparano in his own words

Tony Sparano covered a number of issues during his press conference with the press on Wednesday.

As the Internet is not yet full, I've decided to share with you every word the coach uttered so that it comes to you unfiltered.

Notice he was coy about the health of Jake Long (things are looking good for a season-opening debut), he awarded the starting right tackle job to Marc Colombo "right now" -- I suppose leaving open the possibility the Dolphins add another player such as Bryant McKinnie or someone of that ilk.

And he really didn't want to get into any criticism of Chad Henne by any former players. His words:

(On how dropped interceptions would change the defense as a whole if they were caught)- “We felt like at the end of the year it was somewhere around 24, 25 balls that we thought we had our hand on you know that we could have made plays on, some harder than others, some routine.  But that was last year and this is this year and right now they’re catching ‘em out there so we got to take it into the game and catch a few in the game.  I mean we got one the other night, Benny (Sapp) made a nice play on the ball and came up with it.  So that was good.”

(On how much dropped interceptions that were caught would change things)- “It’s going to change it tremendously.  I mean I think at the end of this thing when you look at it teams that are playing in somewhere deep into January there’s teams whose turnover ratio is pretty good.  I mean rarely are you seeing a team whose flip-flopped turnover wise kind of the way we were that’s playing at that point.  It’s just hard to win those kinds of games.  You know I think that’s something that we talk an awful lot about here.  Some people think its micromanaging or whatever the heck that thing is but if it is I am gonna continue to do it because it’s not helping us in January.”

(On the value he puts on Bryan Cox)- “Well right now it’s been tremendous.  You know I think that some place out on the practice field during the course of our practice the pass rushers can get lost a little bit.  It might be first down day; it might be short yardage goal line stuff.  Unless it’s third down when they’re rushing the passer you know those guys can get lost a little bit and Bryan (Cox) is kinda like, he’s this home, this kind of island out there where they can go to to get this work during the course of these special team periods.  You seem ‘em working ‘em pretty good and individual Bill (Sheridan) and Bryan (Cox) will split those guys up to get extra work.  It’s starting to trickle down I seen that after practice today (Jason Taylor) and (Jared) Odrick standing out there and it’s starting to get in the younger players a little bit.  Bryan has a different way of doing things with those guys that way and part of it is a challenge and part of it is fundamentals and things that he’s learned along the way.  I think it’s very, very valuable a lot more valuable coming from Bryan than it is coming from me who’s never done it before.”

(On how Bryan Cox has handled the whole mix of linebackers, both veterans and young players)- “Well I think he’s done a great job.  The good news is Bryan (Cox) comes with a lot of stripes.  You know a guy like (Jason Taylor) who’s got I believe, he corrected me the other night, but 132.5 sacks.  I left the half out and he told me how hard it was to get the half and he’s completely correct.  But that being said a guy like (Jason Taylor) hearing from Bryan (Cox) he knows Bryan has done it you know and the two of those guys bounce ideas off of each other a little bit and then the young guys are looking at Bryan with big eyes and are understanding that he’s been out there and this guy has been a really good player in this league. I think that’s done nothing but help us.”

(On the level of satisfaction on the intensity with practice)- “I think that the practices have been pretty good.  I like the intensity. I didn’t like the finish yesterday; I liked the finish today. You know this is a grind much different than any place I’ve been associated with.  It’s hard than it was in Dallas, certainty harder than any other place, you know Jacksonville.  I mean down here at training camp this time of year and with the heat being what it is and yesterday with the humidity was really up it’s just a grind.  To think that you’re gonna be…the intensity is gonna be from start to finish at its highest level, that’s not gonna happen.  You know but I think the longer it goes and the more you can keep the intensity the better you see your football team gettin’ and I felt like today we took some strides that way.”

(On without excuses, how the team has gotten to this point)- “To be honest with you my first year here I had blinders on, it didn’t really phase me one way or the other you know I just kinda brought this but as I said to you before I think you gotta identify particularly with the veteran players on the team, the (Jason Taylors) and the (Marc) Colombos and some of the older players on the team that you’re looking at and watch their body language out here in the heat and then you’re seeing some of the guys on the team that are in the best physical shape like a Davone Bess is always in good shape or (Tyrone) Culver and I try to watch those guys to tell me when I need to back off.  Today we finished practice 14 minutes early today. So when you talk about intensity now they’re getting through this thing pretty good so that was good.  Where yesterday I had to, I seem ‘em kinda maybe hittin’ a little bit of a wall and I had to trim some plays off of practice. That’s something in the past I probably wouldn’t have done.”

(On if he feels there is still untapped potential)- “Yes, I definitely do and that’s where I feel like Bryan Cox has been able to help a little bit there too.  You know again Bill Sheridan does a tremendous job, he and David Corrao with our linebackers, but having somebody to go to that can just coach him on pass rush and they can just sit in the room together and watch the pass rush film together you know I think is gonna make Cam Wake a much better player.  I think the way Bryan prepared for games mentally will help make a player like Cam Wake a better player.  You know in other words being able to share some of those things and what he look for in some of those situations.  Having (Jason Taylor) in the room with him helps make Cam Wake a better player so all these things I think are positive.  I think Cam (Wake)’s a pretty driven.  He’s not one to settle to where he was.  He understands there’s a whole different set of challenges coming at him this year with the way people are gonna approach him during the course of ball games and I think he’s starting to prepare for that out here now.”

(On Channing Crowder saying on the radio that Chad Henne cannot get the job done and if the rest of the team feels that way)- “He’s on the radio already (laughing)?  I’m not going to comment on that.  I’ve been around and round with this already before.  You guys know that.  You know my feeling on Chad (Henne).”

(On the defense’s conditioning with the lockout)- “I mean if you watch Jared Odrick run out here I wouldn’t call it a lack of conditioning I mean this guy is tremendous, in great physical shape.  Now some are in better than others, but I would tell you are they ready for game one right now from a physical standpoint…no, but they’re pretty close.  I like the shape that most of them are in, (Paul) Soliai, some of those guys came back in really good shape for where they are body weight wise.  It’s just gettin’ them into playing shape right now, playing football.  Eight plays are different than standing here running sprints.  When you play eight plays in a row at the level that those guys have to play at it’s completely different.  That’s where we need to be.  In the last couple of practices we’ve increased the number of reps that they are out there.  Before it was fours and fives and now it’s sevens and eights from a reps standpoint where they’re out there at one time.”

(On the uncertainty in the running game)- “Yeah sure I mean there is, no question about it.  I mean I’m seeing more and more out of ‘em every day in practice but I really need to see it in the games at a consistent level here and it’s hard because you’re running out of quarters but I mean we gotta see it.  We’ll get ‘em out there again this week, we’ll play some of these guys and see what we see.  I was pleased with what they did in the ball game last week although we didn’t gain a lot of yards on the ground. I am talking about total package protection, routes, all the things that are necessary.  Identifying the looks I thought was good but we got a little bit of a ways to go there right now.”

(On the uncertainty with the offensive line)- “I feel pretty comfortable I just think these guys just need to play together.  So they just need to keep playing together.  This is probably the most we have had a group together out there you know short of Jake (Long) not being out there right now, certainly since I’ve been here.  And I think that little by little they are starting to get better.  You know today was practice nine for that group.  So sometimes it takes 50 practices for those guys to get on the same page if you’ve played the position so we don’t have 50 practices right now.  They gotta figure it out fast but they’re gettin’ there and it’s not any different than probably any lines in our league right now.”

(On Jake Long’s progress)-“He’s doing well.”  

(On how Vernon Carey has adjusted since moving positions)- “I think he’s done a nice job.  I mean I think if you were to ask Vernon (Carey), Vernon would tell you it’s different because the speed is faster in there.  That’s a true statement.  I think he’s done a nice job to date right now. I see him everyday kinda getting’ a little bit better at something.  He’s a hard guy to move in there so he’s good, he can keep the quarterback’s feet clear between he, Richie (Incognito) and (Mike) Pouncey.  That core is pretty solid in there and hard to move that way.  We just gotta get ‘em playing just a little tick faster at the second level right now.  Those are the things that come with reps.”

(On his comfort level with A.J. Edds)- “I’m comfortable with what A.J. (Edds) has done so far. A.J. needs to keep coming.  You know we need to get him to keep coming.  He’s a young guy that hasn’t played a lot of football this way.  You know again he’s played out there in space but in between the tackles he hasn’t played a whole lot of football there and I think the more reps we can get him the better we’ll be.  I want to see him be able to put a couple performances together and maybe do some things in this ball game coming up this week that he didn’t do last week and see whether or not he can take another step coverage wise, another step with pattern reads and block recognition, all the things that good linebackers do.  

(On if Marc Colombo will be the starting offensive tackle for game one)- “Yeah that’s safe to say now.”

(On the story behind the hiring of Bryan Cox)- “You know it’s interesting.  When Bill (Sheridan) was here there would be several times when I would walk into Bill’s office and he might be on the phone with Bryan (Cox), ribbing him one way or the other as their relationship kinda is.  I’ve got to know Bryan (Cox) through Bill (Sheridan) and that’s the way I got a chance to meet him.  What I really liked about Bryan, talking with him a couple times at the Senior Bowl and at the combine and at those type of things and getting’ a chance to meet him is I just thought this guy is as straight as a straight shooter comes, he tells it like it is and I thought that from a player’s standpoint that they would appreciate that coming from a player.  I thought it would be valuable to have a resource like that on my staff because I needed somebody to say to me ‘hey coach, not in pads today…that’s too many.’ Or ‘hey coach…put ‘em in pads today.’  In other words I’m lucky that I have three or four of those guys on my staff at all different positions.  Ike (Hilliard) being a skill guy, and Danny Campbell being one of those semis.  It gives me a chance to bounce some things off of those people.  I got a chance to visit with Bryan (Cox) at the Senior Bowl this year and he and I just kinda sat and we kinda talked a little bit.  You know there was a point where he was obviously out of a job and that’s where it started.  But the vision, there was no position at that point and this was kinda of an idea that I just had and I thought would be somethin’ that worked out good.  I went to Jeff (Ireland) with it and I was fortunate that Jeff amen’d it.”

(On if he ever talked to Don Shula about Bryan Cox)- “I never really had a conversation with Coach (Don) Shula about him but when Coach Shula found out that I had him here and we seen each other at the Jim Mandich function he told me that it was a pretty smart thing to do.” 

 (On the practice schedule change after the preseason games)- “There’s not much I really like about it to be honest with you but I kinda felt like you see…you have to give the players one day off every seven days.  If you do the math right now and I don’t practice this week right after the game I have to give ‘em the Tampa Bay game off.  That’s probably not gonna work is it?  So I don’t think anybody would be too happy with that.   So it gets to a point where you give it to ‘em off in the middle of the work week or you bring ‘em in right then and there after the game which is not un-normal.  In other words in season you would bring ‘em in, they would lift, they would run, they would meet and all we did was bring ‘em out for kinda a 22-play deal here and got the first group a little bit of work.  So we’re gonna do that again this week and then we won’t have to do it the following week after the Tampa game.  We will be able to give ‘em the day off right after that because that’s a short week going into Dallas and then we’re kinda on schedule.  But having to give ‘em that one day off you know in a perfect world if that rule was in place before your preseason games were scheduled you would rather play all Friday nights or all Saturday nights, not a Friday and then a Saturday.”

(On if he has seen the impact with the training camp drop off)- “Not really that way.  Where the drop off comes is when you start to look.  I mean we’re all creatures of habit, I’m sure everyone is doing it around the league.  But I told my guys the other day both the team and the staff, and I told them this because of urgency, in other words time is not a friend right now, you gotta get your team ready to play.  I’m trying to make a point to the young players, you either got it or you don’t right now.  At some point the parade is gonna pass you by here.  So this time last year going into the first preseason game, we had 22 practices and this year we had 12.  And that equaled 1,167 reps and this year it equaled 744 reps so you’re 360 or 70 reps short of where you were a year ago going into the first preseason game.  You’re not gonna get those back, you’re not gonna make ‘em up.  So that’s where I see the greatest impact.  The walk through reps you really have to have the player’s attention in this walk through which it’s been good for us, the guys have done a nice job  but you have to have something specific that you’re gonna work on, maybe something that you wouldn’t rep out here in practice.  Whatever the situation is we do some coming out, we do some short yardage goal line; you know some of those kinda things.  The players gotta do a good job executing because they count.”

On top assistant hires: Daboll and Cox

The Dolphins made a handful of coaching changes after last season and the most important one will be the addition of Brian Daboll to become Miami's new offensive coordinator. Although initially skeptical about that hiring because all I saw was the fact the new coach's offense ranked lower than Miami's last year, I've completely changed my mind on this addition.

Brian Daboll is instilling a more aggressive, more dynamic offense for the Dolphins this year than you've seen recently. The success of the unit will fall on the talent running it, but I'm encouraged by what little the Dolphins have shown in practice and Friday in the preseason opener.

The offense attacks, which is what an offense is supposed to do. It does multiple things, making harder to prepare against. And I've yet to see Daboll call the incongruous end around at exactly the wrong time.

The second most dynamic addition to the staff?

Bryan Cox.

You'll hear a lot about Cox in the coming days for all the wrong reasons. Simply, the Dolphins will make him available to the media Tuesday and so the pack will write about him because its a seemingly easy story: Former Dolphins Pro Bowl player returns to South Florida to coach where he first played.

That is not the reason this hiring is important.

The hiring is important because the Dolphins are entrusting their most valuable defensive playmaker to Cox. It is up to Cox, who recorded 14 sacks in 1992, to help outside linebacker Cameron Wake make the next leap in his progression. (No, he's not fully formed yet.)

Wake led the Dolphins with 14 sacks s in 2010. So what is the next step for Wake? Well, the toughest assignment in the NFL is not having one good season. The toughest assignment is gaining everyone's attention with a good season and then following it with more good seasons.

Consistency suggests the player is maintaining a level of play, but in truth, consistency means the player is getting better because he is managing the same high level of performance despite the fact opponents are now trying to stop him, adjusting for him, scheming to erase him.

Wake has to get there. How?

He's explosive. He's got God-given gifts. Now, under Cox, the idea is for Wake to become a craftsman, a technician. Yes, he still has that amazing first step, but to remain elite he has to learn the tricks, the hand-fighting, the use of his hips and leverage.

I get the feeling Cox will also talk to Wake about harnessing his emotions. Cox was a master at it. Wake is more controlled. Maybe a little letting loose could help here.

Cox has work to do with Jason Taylor and Koa Misi as well. Misi, a grinder, needs to learn to play his position perhaps more than any Dolphins pass rusher. He gets his mostly on athletic ability and sheer determination. He needs work on his technique.

Taylor knows pretty much everything he'll ever know. But Cox is not beyond challenging his players, milking them. Cox and Taylor together are a couple of great pass-rush minds.

It is no secret I'm a fan of the Cox hire. I covered him throughout his Dolphins career. I loved the guy then and still do today. The Dolphins of the early 1990s were a finesse team. They didn't have a reputation for being able to push anyone around.

I loved the moment in 1991 when, as a rookie, Cox challenged the Cincinnati Bengals bench after they laid a hit on kicker Pete Stoyanovich. Here this almost anonymous fifth-round pick was leading the charge of standing up for Dolphins pride. Amazing.

In the summer of '92, I went to East St. Louis, Ill. with Cox when he went back home to the old neighborhood. I went to see first-hand what kind of place this guy had molded this fearless, confrontational, often angry man. I remember him asking me, "Are you crazy?"

East St. Louis was then and I suppose remains today a tough place. The most obvious example of how tough this place was is the city government had street lights flashing red and yellow starting at dusk rather than running through their natural progression. The idea was to let motorists stop only momentarily at the lights rather than sit there for a couple of minutes -- because that way drivers wouldn't get jacked up or pulled out of their cars as often.

I visited with Cox and his family for three days. After my visit one day, I announced it was time for me to go back to my hotel. It was around sunset. Cox, obviously concerned I kind of stood out in the neighborhood, asked if I needed him to follow me out of town.


"Do you want to borrow my gun?" he offered.


If I had been smarter I would have said, "You betcha!"

Obviously it was a cool experience for me. Cox was always open and honest. The guy hated Buffalo and he said so -- remember the Bills at the time where Miami's biggest rival and the reason the the Dolphins didn't make at least one Super Bowl.

The Cox dual one-finger salute of the folks at then Rich Stadium is a classic detailed below. It led to so many stories and a feud between Cox and the NFL that I could not possibly detail them all here. It was, shall we say, interesting. And, believe it or not, it served to unite the Dolphins defense behind Cox because all his teammates were enraged at the situation.

Cox played with vengence and the team lost something the day he went to the Bears in free agency. He's back now. There's gray in his beard and his belly is a bit larger than it was then.

But is this going to be a good hire by Tony Sparano?


[Please be sure to catch my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, this morning and every weekday morning 6-10 a.m. on 640-AM in South Florida and 640sports.com on the web.]

August 15, 2011

Monday afternoon training camp report

Let me begin by borrowing from the Dolphins 2010 lexicon and feed the wolf. As I clearly have seen from the quarterback-hungry and quarterback-controversy-hungry readers and fans that follow this team, you want to be fed quarterback news.

Here you go:

Chad Henne is the starter. Matt Moore is the backup. That's the way it is going to play -- regardless of what fans want -- for the immediate future. Henne will take all the snaps with the first team offense in Friday night's home preseason opener against Carolina and Moore is not getting any of those opportunities against starters.

"I don't have that in the plan right at this second," coach Tony Sparano said Monday. "Chad is going to get the first team reps right now and Matt will be in with the second group right now."

So let me play traffic cop: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Nothing to see here.

At least right now.

Henne would have to suffer a serious meltdown in coming practices and games while Moore would have to go Marinolike on defenses for this situation to change, in my opinion.

I'll let you know if it changes but until then, assume it will not.

Sparano said he told the team everyone needs to be ready to play and they might play 'until I'm tired of them playing." But he went on to say he sees "some guys" going into the second quarter perhaps even until halftime.

The Dolphins will have to spend the next couple of practices and games taking a serious look at their tight end situation because, behind Anthony Fasano, no one is really making the coaching staff feel comfortable. Well, Charles Clay is getting work in Miami's double-tight package but even he is not exactly wowing folks.

"I'm happy in that I like the group of people that are there, yes," Sparano said. "As far as the production at the group right now, no not quite so. In other words, we got  a lot of young players. They have a long way to go.

"It's a positiion that is muddy to me other than Fasano and I have to get to the bottom of it quickly."

After last week's dropped pass and zero-catch performance, I might throw Fasano into that mix of questionable production, but clearly the Dolphins do not.

Another area I would look for more clarity on is the offensive line. The unit isn't necessarily bad. But it isn't close to being good, either. They've got work to do and precious little time to do it. Look for this group to perhaps be among those that play a long time Friday. That is the only way to gel and get better.

On the newsy front, The Herald's Barry Jackson reports that the restructuring of Vernon Carey's contract cut the player's 2011 salary from $4.2 million to $2.5 million. The Dolphins also voided the final three years of Carey's contract. That means Carey would be an unrestricted free agent in 2012.

And that means the Dolphins will be looking to add more offensive line help next offseason.

On the injury front, Phillip Livas missed practice today after a hamstring tightened up on him. Livas returned a punt return 75 yards for a TD against Atlanta but obviously durability is an issue the Dolphins monitor closely so it's important for him to get back to his competition for a roster spot ASAP.

Livas is competing with Clyde Gates for return duties. And although you should know Reggie Bush took punts today in practice, he is not expected to fill that duty in the preseason.

Cornerback Will Allen returned to practice today after missing much of the last couple of weeks with a hamstring injury. He said afterward that he would not rule himself out of playing Friday.

Sparano gave a couple of interesting hints that could affect roster decisions. He called Lex Hilliard "one of the best two special teams players" on the team. That combined with Hilliard's ability to contribute at running back and even fullback in a pinch suggests he's got a role worthy of a roster spot.

The Dolphins have worked a lot of what they call 21 personnel, which is double tight ends and one running back but haven't shown any 22 personnel, which is two tight ends, a running back and fullback. Having not seen this, I wondered if Lou Polite was an endangered species on this roster.

Fact is fullbacks are endangered in the NFL as fewer and fewer seem to be holding jobs while team emphasize passing and using an H-back. Sparano seemed to suggest Polite has nothing to worry about.

"There's enough good things that Lou Polite does right now that will help us and somebody is going to have to do a heck of a job for me to think otherwise," Sparano said.

Live practice blog (possibly without Livas)

The Dolphins return to practice today in Davie, FL. and the team is expected to be in full pads for the work.

I'm told kick returner/punt returner/wide receiver is not expected to practice today. Livas, you may recall, returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown Friday night against Atlanta. He is managed an unspecified minor injury.

Not a big deal, it''s just that he's 5-8 and 178 pounds and the question on somebody that size is seemingly always, "Can he stay healthy long enough to contribute."

I will update as we know more once practice begins.

And once practice begins, I will be updating live on this blog. So go to the comments for that. See you there.

Limited practices, no offseason work is no excuse

First some news: The Dolphins have agreed to contract terms with free agent linebacker Marvin Mitchell and are expected to have him in the fold for practice Monday once he passes his physical, an NFL source said Sunday evening. Mitchell is primarily a reserve with four years experience in New Orleans. He was a seventh-round pick of the Saints in 2007.

On another front, there is no question the early part of this NFL season will provide something of an advantage for teams that not only have kept their head coaches from 2010 employed but also their coordinators.

The point is no offseason camps or OTA days coupled with limited work during training camp (no double-session practices) works against team installing new schemes on offense or defense and really, really works against teams that are installing both a new offense and defense and working under a new head coach.

The Dolphins kept coach Tony Sparano for this season so that is good on the continuity front. They are playing their second season under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and his scheme so that is good also. However, the offense under new coordinator Brian Daboll is new

And that is a challenge.

The truth is that puts the Dolphins' offense behind division rivals New York, New England and even Buffalo because all three of those are running the same offense this year as they did a year ago.

We all have to understand and accept that. The Miami offense is going to be behind the rest of the division for a while.

Now, this is something you don't have to accept:

The Dolphins are getting as much work this training camp as any other NFL team and certainly no less than any other NFL team. So the excuse that poor play is a product of limited practice time is bogus because other teams, including ones that are playing well, are practicing the same amount.

It's like folks that come out of a game complaining about heat or rain or snow as the reason they did not perform. It's hot for both teams. It's raining or snowing on everybody. The excuse rings hollow.

Also, those excusing Chad Henne for not looking particularly sharp the other night need to stop. I don't want to hear Henne struggled because the offense is new to him. The truth is he has admitted to having the playbook since February.

So 4 of 8 for 77 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs is not good. And it's especially not good compared to other quarterbacks who entered Week 1 of the preseason in similar tough situations.

Kevin Kolb, traded to Arizona from Philadelphia, was among those players who could not practice with his new teammates until the new collective bargaining agreement was reached. So he missed the first week of practice. He completed 4 of 7 passes for 68 yards without a TD or INT.

Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy, working under a new head coach, in a new offensive system, working against Green Bay's starting defense, working with a lineup that doesn't necessarily look star-studded, completed 9 of 10 passes for 135 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs.

Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert completed 9 of 16 passes for 85 yards with neither a TD nor an INT. He's a rookie. He got his playbook three weeks ago. He was facing New England's first-team defense. He didn't look great but neither did turn the ball over.

I'm not saying Gabbert and McCoy are better than Henne or anyone else. I am saying that they are facing similar difficulties, and in some cases, a more difficult situation than Henne. And they're performing.

So I don't want to hear about a limited number of practices being the reason one guy or one unit is struggling. Everyone else in the NFL has similar issues.

Deal with it. Overcome.

[Blog note: The Dolphins practice at 11 a.m. Monday. I'll be here for a live practice blog. Join me then.]

August 13, 2011

Sparano: QB battle not really a battle right now

Note to everyone who is now considering Matt Moore a legitimate competitor for the Dolphins starting quarterback job:

Stop it. Just stop.

At least for now.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano addressed the possibility today when he said he wouldn't say there is a quarterback battle right now because while Chad Henne had some issues during Friday's preseason game at Atlanta and Moore brought the team back from a deficit to help Miami win, 28-23, much has to happen for this to become a legitimate competition.

"I mean I wouldn’t say there is a battle right at this second," Sparano said. "To me it takes more than a few outings, couple practices any of those things.  But I mean I thought Matt did some good things.  I mean, on the surface it’s going to look like Matt did way more good things than Chad maybe, I guess to your eye but there was enough things in there to Matt’s 36 plays I believe it was that needed to be corrected as well.  He did some good things, that’s the Matt I know.  Matt can move the football team pretty well.  He’s got a little bit of savvy to him and he can move the team, step up in the pocket and make those kind of throws.  He did a nice job last night."

In other words, Henne has to seriously struggle while Moore has to seriously play sharp the final three preseason games for the coach to consider this an issue.

And so that is not where we are right now. Remember, we're talking about snapshots in time here. Today, this is not an issue. Much stuff has to change for it to become an issue.

Henne can close the door on the issue by simply playing consistently well the next two games.

But as I wrote in my column for today's newspaper, Henne was both good and bad versus the Falcons. And consistently inconsistent is not unusual for Miami's quarterback. He finished 4 of 8 for 77 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Playing against both Atlanta's starters and second-team players, Henne posted a 83.9 rating.

Moore, playing strictly against backups and guys that will not be employed by the Falcons in a month, completed 11 of 18 passes for 123 yards, with two TDs and one interception.

That's a good but not perfect outing. It's an outing that suggests Moore is locking in on Miami's backup QB job. It is not a performance that says, 'I'm better than the starter."

At least not right now.

August 12, 2011

Live blog of Falcons vs. Dolphins here

ATLANTA -- The news first: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, running back Reggie Bush and outside linebacker Jason Taylor are dressing tonight but are not expected to play for the Dolphins versus the Falcons.

Will Allen, Jake Long, and Garrett Chisolm, who have been injured much of camp, will not dress at all.

Daniel Thomas will start at running back while Davone Bess will start receiver. Obviously, the starting OLBs are Cameron Wake and Koa Misi.

There will be a live blog in the comments section starting at kickoff. See me there.

The curious whirlwind that is the Dolphins O line

Four years. That is how long its taken the Dolphins to build their offensive line.

Four years. That is how long its taken to set what is supposed to be a foundation, a building block to the team.

And we're probably not truly, surely, securely set yet.

Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland have got to be scratching their heads about this one. Building the offensive line has been a priority for the Dolphins since Ireland and Sparano were brought to Miami by Bill Parcells. Parcells believed you lay that foundation with burly, agile, strong, smart, angry linemen and the rest of the team will grow around them.

But this will be the fourth season of this current administration and the line today still comes with serious questions. Yes, still. Despite much free agent cash and draft pick resources and stirring of the roster, and searching for answers. The offensive line which should be an exclamation point remains something of a question mark.


I guess this one goes under the heading of best laid plans not going exactly as planned.

Oh, Jake Long has been excellent. He is a Pro Bowl player every time he steps on the field. He is a rock. But right now the Dolphins are hoping the rock has no cracks. Long will not play in Friday night's preseason opener against Atlanta. He is currently on the physically unable to perform list with what seeems to be a left leg injury. (The team does not have to specify injuries in the preseason and therefore doesn't). Long is rehabilitating that injury daily. But he obviously has not practiced this training camp.

Sparano told me last week the plan with Long is to have him ready for the regular-season opener versus New England. He might even be ready a bit before then, the coach said. That is good news. Even if Long doesn't get a full camp under his belt, even if he is freshly recovered from injury and not fully versed in camp hitting, he'll still be pretty good. Maybe he won't be Pro Bowl caliber until after the bye week, but he'll be good enough.

Jake Long is not the problem as long as he can eventually find his way back onto the field.

So what is the problem?

Let's begin on the other side of the line. The Dolphins have Marc Colombo as their starting right tackle and he isn't being challenged for his job at this point. One supposes Colombo, a former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, is fully prepared to play well this season because he has Sparano's endorsement.

When a reporter asked the coach about Colombo's struggles in 2010 while with Dallas, Sparano would hear none of it. "I watched the tape," the coach said confidently.

We have a difference of opinion, obviously, because the Cowboys watched the same tape and terminated Colombo's contract.

The tape, according to several metrics websites including ProFootball Focus, show Colombo giving up between seven and nine sacks a season ago, depending on the source.

Maybe there are mitigating reasons for the many sacks. Maybe Colombo was playing hurt. Maybe the Cowboys are making a mistake in letting Colombo leave. But one cannot dismiss the idea that maybe the Dolphins are making a mistake in letting Colombo arrive.

We shall see. That's not the point. The point is this is not a exclamation point solution. There are questions here. We don't know what the answers will be and neither do the Dolphins. For now we have questions at right tackle.

The right guard position is similarly a question mark. The team moved Vernon Carey to right guard because, well, because John Jerry is not living up to expectations right now. If Jerry were a player, he'd be the starter. That's how it's supposed to work when a team uses a third-round pick (73rd overall) on a player they coached in the Senior Bowl.

Let that marinate for a second.

The Dolphins didn't just scout Jerry. They didn't just watch tape of Jerry. They didn't just look at his measurables and talk to him at the Combine. They coached the kid for a week at the Senior Bowl in January of 2010 and really, really liked him. They believed he'd be a player.

He's not a player right now. He's in a fight to make the team.

And he might lose.

And so the Dolphins had to find a Plan B to play right guard. That would be Vernon Carey. I reject the notion Carey was the first option because, as I've written before, GM Jeff Ireland said very specifically at the draft, the team had no intention then to move Carey to guard. I remember this because I asked the question.

But something happened between that answer and training camp's fourth day because the Dolphins felt compelled to move Carey over to cover the void left by Jerry's inability to play well. So now Carey returns to the guard spot where he began his college career -- Carey played guard at the University of Miami.

Moving Carey to guard meant the Dolphins had to basically admit signing him to that six-year, $42 million contract after 2008 was not a terribly sound move. That contract at the time made Carey one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL. And yes, Carey started at the spot the past two years while under that contract.

But Carey didn't always play up to the wage scale. Last year, offensive coordinator Dan Henning said Carey has the potential to be very good, and some days he is. And some days he's not very good at all. It was a revealing description of an inconsistent player rather than of one making elite player money.

The Dolphins have adjusted Carey's salary. The definition of adjust here means "cut."

So now Carey is cheaper and the Dolphins hope he plays at least to the level of his newly adjusted pay. Will he? I don't know. The Dolphins don't really know. They hope he will. They don't really know. It's a question mark.

Another one.

The Dolphins used their first round selection this season on an offensive lineman -- center Mike Pouncey. I must say, he looks the part. He's a beast. He seems smart so I expect he'll pick up the mental requirements of his position -- which is not easily or quickly done. He seems strong. He seems quick enough.

But lately, the thing that raised a flag about Pouncey in college has shown up during practices. The center snaps and exchange with quarterbacks have not been always clean, especially in recent practices. I don't know if those are on Pouncey or on the quarterback or both. But something questionable is going on. So we'll have to monitor the situation to see if this question gets answered or if it becomes a larger concern. And until the answer comes, what do we have here?

A question mark.

The reason the Dolphins felt compelled to go for a center with their 2011 first round pick? Jake Grove was a high-price free agent bust. The club paid Grove $14 million guaranteed as part of a five-year, $29.5 million contract before the 2009 season.  

Grove came to the Dolphins with an extensive history for getting injured. It was the first thing after the contract details the South Florida media noted when Grove signed. And then Grove came to Miami and kept getting injured. SMH!

Grove was cut in September of 2010. He played a grand total of 12 games for Miami with 10 starts. Amazing, $14 million for 10 starts. Must be nice. Glad it's not my money.

Grove is out of the NFL now. So is Justin Smiley. He retired earlier this week after spending a couple of days in the Oakland Raiders training camp.

Oh, don't worry about Smiley, either. He's not hurting financially because the Dolphins paid him $9 million guaranteed before the 2008 season as part of a five-year, $25 million contract.

Like Grove, Smiley came to the Dolphins with an injury history. And, sure enough, he got injured plenty with the Dolphins. He missed the final four games of 2008 with an injury and then missed four more in 2009 with a problem to the shoulder that had been surgically repaired in 2007.

I reported last year that Smiley told friends he knew that 2007 surgery had not gone quite right because he lost strength in the shoulder he was never really able to regain. The Dolphins traded him to Jacksonville for a box of sneakers and a roll of rusty pennies before last season. Another free agency bust.

The Dolphins signed their offensive line to $154 million in total deals before the 2009 season. Obviously only the guaranteed portion of those deals actually cost ownership out of pocket. But the money spent pales compared to the wasted energy and time invested on solving a problem over and over and over.

At center, Samson Satele, Jake Grove and Joe Berger have not been the answer.

At right tackle, Vernon Carey and Lydon Murtha have not been the answer.

At right guard, John Jerry, Pat McQuistan, DonaldThomas, Nate Garner, nor Ikechuku Ndukwe have been the answer.

At left guard, Justin Smiley, Andy Aleman, Garner, and McQuistan have not been the answer.

Draft picks Shawn Murphy and Andrew Gardner also didn't help and are no longer with the team.

When you really think about it, the best move the Dolphins have made on the offensive line -- all things considered including price paid, or draft compensation invested -- has been Richie Incognito.

He came to the Dolphins last year after washing out of a couple of college programs because of anger issues. He came after washing out in St. Louis and Buffalo. He came as a free agent so he cost no draft compensation. He played for near minimum salary last year on a one-year tryout.

He started all 16 games, with 15 of those at left guard and one at center. He played well enough to earn a new contract for this season and beyond and he's anchored as the starter at left guard again. Because he's played center, I'm assuming he'll help Pouncey.

Think about this, NFL: Richie Incognito is the most stabilizing force on the Dolphins offensive line right now.

Talk about plans not going as they had been laid.

[Blog note: There will be a live blog of the Dolphins versus Atlanta preseason opener Friday night. Please come here for that. Also, kindly follow me on twitter.]

August 11, 2011

Lee Evans on the trade block? So ...?

Lee Evans is on the trading block in Buffalo, the entire NFL has known for a couple of days.

He's good. Last year was frustrating and injury shortened and disappointing from a production standpoint and he still caught 37 passes for a 578 yards, which is a 15.6 yard per catch average.

He is a classic deep threat sideline receiver.

The Dolphins lack one of those that is proven.

And I seriously doubt when Evans is traded, he will be wearing Miami colors. It doesn't fit. Trades within a division are rare in the NFL. The Dolphins would have to give up something for Evans and they seem too satisfied with their current crop of receivers to make such an offer.

It would require some major boldness by Jeff Ireland to see him as an upgrade at age 30, convince himself he wants Evans, convince Buffalo to give him up to a rival, and somehow negotiate the deal.

I'd like it. But don't see it. Only reason I'm telling you is I've already gotten 12 e-mails and a couple of tweets from Dolphins fans wondering why Miami doesn't make this move.

Arizona has been mentioned as a trade partner. Baltimore, Jacksonville and the New York Giants, too. So, again, it would be a pleasant surprise if he ends up in Miami but that's improbable. I would, instead, consider him not ending up in with New England or the Jets a victory of sorts.

Just sayin'. 


WR job available so why wasn't Edwards in mix?

I know the Dolphins are not a fantasy football team.

They operate under a salary cap. They make personnel decisions by weighing risks of potential roster additions as well as the potential improvement those additions might bring. There are no guarantees any addition will pan out because, as Bill Parcells famously says, "they don't sell insurance for this."

But ...

Following up on this column in today's Miami's Herald, in which coach Tony Sparano says there is a wide open competition for the team's No. 2 wide receiver job opposite Brandon Marshall, I have simply marvel at the fact the Dolphins were not the least bit aggressive in trying to add Braylon Edwards to the roster the past couple of weeks.

Edwards joined the San Francisco 49ers last week. He signed what was reported as a one-year, $3.05 million contract. Sounds expensive for a risky acquisition, right? It wasn't really. More on that in a moment.

I cannot stop thinking about the missed opportunity to add Edwards because currently the Dolphins are trying to decide whether Davone Bess or Brian Hartline or "maybe one of the young guys," as Sparano said, could step up.

In short, what the Dolphins have is an uncertain situation at the No. 2 receiver spot with none of the likely answers looking like as good a player as Edwards. I remind you Edwards caught 53 passes for 904 yards with seven touchdowns last season. That means Edwards averaged 17.1 yards per catch. For his career, Edwards averages 15.8 yards per catch, higher than any receiver on the Dolphins with more than one season of experience.

Now, I know Edwards is a knucklehead. I know he gets in trouble. I know he faces a possible four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy. I get all that. I get that if Edwards is suspended he only plays 12 games.

But that suspension is not a certainty. And were it to happen, Edwards would come back with something to prove. He knows he has to fly right or his next step will be out of the league because precious few teams were interested in him this year. I know that for a one-year deal with no guaranteed money, the risk is really a fair gamble.

Remember there is no insurance for this.

The reasons to have done this are logical. Edwards played at Michigan and was a teammate of Chad Henne. He and Henne had a good relationship to the point the wide receiver and quarterback never had issues in or out of the huddle. Edwards would have been extremely motivated for those two games against the division rival Jets after they walked away from him. And, you have to understand that Brandon Marshall is still battling the demons of his personality disorder, so his status is not completely certain. If anything happens to Marshall, the team would have no other proven dynamic receiver to put on the field.

So why didn't he make sense?

Too expensive? Not hardly.

The 49'ers, in fact gave, Edwards an incentive ladden contract. To make his $3.05 million Edwards has to catch 90 passes and go to the Pro Bowl. I dare any Dolphins personnel man to tell me 90 catches and a Pro Bowl trip by a Dolphins receiver wouldn't be worth $3 million.

It absolutely would be worth it. Is Edwards going to get that? Probably not. But he is going to likely be a deep threat as he's been much of his career. He's likely going to drop a handful of passes as he has most of his career. He's going to give you an average of 5 TD catches for the season, as he has most of his career. He would also present the secondary with a terrible problem because no one could double cover both Edwards and Marshall.

Alas, the Dolphins went a different direction. They think one alpha receiver is good enough. In a league where the Eagles pile talent, atop talent, atop talent, atop talent, the Dolphins seemingly are content going with their solid if unspectacular guys.

I hope it works.

Except it hasn't so far.

August 10, 2011

Henne: He's up, he's down, he's up again

Chad Henne was good again Wednesday.

No, I'm not going to write a daily report on his progress or lack of it. But I am somewhat committed to reporting how the Dolphins starting quarterback is performing when he does something of note.

And just as Sunday was noteworthy for Henne's fine play and Tuesday was noteworthy for his not-so-fine-play, Wednesday was another day on top.

"In the last four practices I’ve seen him make a jump," coach Tony Sparano said. "He’s practiced pretty well."

Henne on Wednesday completed a nice deep ball of 25 yards to Brandon Marshall during team drills. In team red zone drills, he dropped in a nice 5 yard pass to Anthony Fasano that was just out of reach of linebacker Koa Misi. He was generally accurate throughout the day.

Sparano, aware Henne has no real competition for the starting quarterback job, believes Henne can still improve despite not really being pushed by backup Matt Moore. 

“One thing I’ll say about this guy is during the lockout on, he’s been really self-motivated," Sparano said. "He’s done a tremendous job that way. The challenges of the new system and him keeping up with that system and having command and being in command, that challenge has been good for him."

Dolphins tell fans not to post practice videos

The Dolphins are working at this hour to scrub the bootleg videos someone who attended team practices this training camp posted on the Internet.

So for folks who dismissed the importance of the videos being available to everyone and anyone with a computer, I would tell you it's important to the team.

The club today also apparently stepped up monitoring the stands for people who might be breaking the rules of not taping practice. And the club released a statement to its fans or anyone else involved in the activity to explain why this is simply not OK with the Dolphins.

"We have rules in place that don't allow fans to take video at practice," Club spokesman Harvey Greene said in the statement. "Those rules exist so we are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by having the teams we play having video of any portion of our practice. We want to emphasize that shooting and posting of any video can negatively impact our ability to prepare for our opponents. I'm sure our fans understand that concern and will follow our camp guidelines to prevent that from happening again." 

Bootleg video of Dolphins practices on Internet

When the Dolphins admit fans to their open practices for training camp, they announce on the public address system that folks are not allowed to photograph or video any portion of practice.

Apparently, some person or persons attending Dolphins practices this year have been videotaping the team for extended periods of time without the team knowing. The videos, at least six of them, are quite long and quite clear. One extends 15 minutes. One extends 14 minutes. Several extend six and seven minutes.

Many of them show team periods where the first team offense is running plays against the first team defense. They show the Dolphins use of Reggie Bush. They show Miami's blitzes.

And they are on the Internet.

I will not publish the videos on here for obvious reasons. I won't even tell you where to find them.

But obviously somebody didn't think enough of protecting the integrity of Miami's practice to keep from posting them.

I had a short conversation with Dolphins vice president of communicatons Harvey Greene to alert him about the videos. He was surprised they exist and none too happy about it.

I'm expecting a statement from the team in the coming minutes.

By the way, the folks that uploaded the videos go by Dolphins fan handles -- such as Dolphinsfan911. If indeed fans that video taped the practices were Dolphins fans, what does it say about them?

This is, after all, only a week after Dolphins fans chanted "Kyle Orton, Kyle Orton," during an open and free practice at Sun Life Stadium. Taken together it gives Miami fans a black eye on the reputation front, in my opinion.

[Update: I looked around and my Armando and the Amigo radio show producers searched and we found no similar New England Patriots practice videos. The Dolphins play the Patriots Sept. 12 in the regular-season opener for both.]