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76 posts from September 2011

September 13, 2011

How could anyone throw for 517 yards vs. Dolphins?

Tom Brady passed for 517 yards against the Dolphins. It is the MOST passing yards the Dolphins have allowed in one game in franchise history, blowing away the 479 yards Ken O'Brien threw for in 1986.

But rather than simply blame the cornerbacks (who were to blame for much of it), one must take a wider view of the debacle situation.

The Dolphins got hardly any pressure on Brady. He was not touched the first quarter. Touched only a couple of times late in the second quarter. Ultimately he was sacked only once. That played a role.

Then there was New England's use of the no-huddle. It took a deep, palpable toll on the Dolphins. On one play, the Miami defense was simply catching its breath and Brady snapped the ball and completed a 9-yard pass to Deion Branch while the unprepared Miami defense chased him.

"When guys come to the line of scrimmage you have got to be ready to play. Period," Kevin Burnett said.

Coach Tony Sparano says the Dolphins knew the Pats would use the no-huddle.

"I mean, we practicied it a ton," he said. "I mean, something we prepared for. I mean, we do it ourselves. We practiced it a bunch, practiced it all week."

Can you imagine if it had taken the Dolphins by surprise? Wow!

Cornerback Benny Sapp was overmatched against bigger, stronger New England tight ends. So was Sean Smith. So was Nolan Carroll. Both Smith and Vontae Davis began to cramp in the fourth quarter. That thrust Carroll into the game for Davis, a moment he was not prepared for because Brady targetted him as if he had a bullseye hanging on his shirt.

Smith's cramp was obvious when he struggled to touch down Aaron Hernandez at the goal line after giving up a 30-yard completion.

"Stats and all that doesn't really matter, doesn't really tell what happened on the field," cornerback Sean Smith said. "We definitely need to go back and watch the film and see what went wrong."

What went wrong was, well, a lot. The Dolphins corners struggled and didn't get a ton of help from safeties, either.

"We just made a lot of mistakes," Reshad Jones said, "and they capitalized on our mistakes."

This was Jones' first start as the winner of the preseason free safety competition with Chris Clemons. Wouldn't be surprised if that competition continues in practice this week.

The Dolphins cut Will Allen on the last cuts. I also wouldn't be surprised if they bring him back because Sapp didn't look quite physical enough to deal with the bigger players and Carroll seemed unable to stick anyone.


September 12, 2011

Patriots defeat Dolphins 38-24 in opener

The offense wasn't good enough: No running game. Not enough protection for Chad Henne. Not enough drives ending in touchdowns rather than field goals.

The defense was terrible. Really, really, bad.

Tom Brady passed for 517 yards and the Patriots rolled up a total of 622 yards. If this defense doesn't get better, and quickly, this is going to be a long season.

New England had Aaron Hernandez go for 103 yards on seven catches. Wes Welker caught eight passes for 160 yards, which included a 99-yard touchdown catch.

The Patriots used the no-huddle and it caught the Dolphins unprepared physically. Ultimately, the Patriots wore down the Miami defense.

"We practiced it a ton," coach Tony Sparano said of the no-huddle. "They made too many big plays. We said it during the week, big plays are going to kill you. Some of their scores made it look kind of easy."

One word of advice: Bring back Will Allen. Miami's corners were terrible tonight. They were either cramped. Or unable to play physical enough to stay with New England tight ends.

Yes, that was progress we saw from Chad Henne. He completed 30 of 49 passes for 416 yards. He moved the Dolphins up and down the field between the 10 yard lines. But he couldn't convert inside the 10. Twice, he threw third or fouth-down passes from inside the 2 yard line that fell incomplete. One led to a field goal. One led to the Dolphins turning the ball over on downs.

Good. Just not good enough this night.


Patriots lead Dolphins 28-17 to start the fourth quarter

The Dolphins are got a field goal and a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Patriots got two touchdowns.

Yes, advantage New England.

The Miami defense is starting to look like a group of backups. Vontae Davis left the game with cramps. Sean Smith stayed in but suffered cramps as Aaron Hernandez caught a pass against him that set up a touchdown.

It's not looking good right now because the Patriots are looking like the team better equiped for the heat. Stunning.

The live blog continues in the comments section. Join me there.

Patriots lead Dolphins 14-7 to start third quarter

The Dolphins still have not figured out how to stop the New England tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined for seven catches, 95 yards, and one touchdown. And the galling thing is the Dolphins were matching up with corners for part of that time.

Tom Brady had plenty of time to throw until late in the second quarter when the Dolphins finally started getting pressure. Cameron Wake got a sack.

Jason Taylor is out of the game with a right ankle injury.

The third quarter is about to begin. The live blog continues. Join me in the comments section for it.

Dolphins trail Pats 14-7 in second quarter

Both offenses have started strong.

Miami scored on it's first possession on a Chad Henne draw play.

The Pats scored on both their first two possessions. Advantage New England.

The Dolphins have not been able to contain New England's tight ends. Terrible.

The live blog continues in the comments section below.

Live blog of Dolphins versus Patriots right here

There is a live blog tonight. I will update the blog with a new post every quarter so please go to the comments section under the new post every quarter. You know the drill.

The Dolphins will wear their aqua jerseys and white pants tonight.

The inactives are not out yet but I will update as quickly as I get them. The big one has to be Daniel Thomas. At this point, I don't really see the reason for having him active.

He was limited all week. You are risk re-injurying the hamstring. The risk is high verus the reward. If the Dolphins agree, that thrusts Larry Johnson to a backup role. I'm fine with that.

[UPDATE: Thomas is inactive. So are Marlon Moore, Charles Clay, Ike Alama-Francis, Will Yeatman, and Ryan Baker.]

I continue to believe the Dolphins made a mistake in not upgrading the TE situation more this season. The point will be made when Dante Rosario, a castoff from Carolina and Denver signed last week, will not only be active but be the No. 2 TE behind Anthony Fasano.

I guess Greg Olsen, Zach Miller, Jeremey Shockey or any of the other possibilities this offseason not a thought when you've got Jeron Mastrud in the pipeline and you are able to pick up Will Yeatman on waivers. Unfortunately, we'll see the difference in the quality of TEs tonight when New England shows off Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.


Anyway, join me in the comments section at kickoff.

Name we all might have to learn: Clyde

When the Boston Globe recently asked me to give the name of a Dolphins player the Beantown fans didn't know but might have to learn by the end of tonight's game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, I had to think for a while.

Reggie Bush is new but he's also known.

Marc Colombo is known and if he becomes too well known tonight , I'm thinking that would not be for good reasons.

Mike Pouncey? He's a first round pick. He's not exactly under the radar, either.

I gave them Clyde Gates.

You will see him tonight as will the Patriots. He'll be the wide receiver on the outside, typically streaking over the top of the New England secondary.

That's significant. In a game where Brandon Marshall will be moved all around -- slot, X, Y, perhaps even in the backfield if somebody gets really innovative -- in order to get him away from double-coverage, the easiest way to actually get that done is give the defense another receiver to worry about.

If Gates can get behind the new New England deep secondary even once, that will pretty much do the trick. Suddenly, the safety over the top of Gates will have to respect his speed. If Marshall is inside of Gates on the same side, his chances of facing single corner coverage will then improve.

Obviously, a lot has to do with whether Chad Henne can connect on a deep pass with Gates. That didn't happen in the preseason. It was not that frequent in practices open to the media, either. But they have been practicing for several weeks in closed sessions, so maybe the timing has improved.

Gates was open deep this preseason. I will say that.

It would make sense to give the Patriots something to think about so that they cannot focus on just Marshall or Bush.

Gates and his speed is that something.

"My game is speed, but I don't want to just be known as a speedster," Gates recently told me. "I want to be an every-down player. It's technique and knowing what you're doing and just effort."

By the way, and to explain this once and for all, Clyde is not really Gates' name. It is Edmond.

"My dad name was Clyde so everyone just called me Clyde," he said. "It's cooler. Way cooler. It makes me feel cooler as well."

Perhaps by the end of this evening, everyone will know Clyde Gates a little better.

Monday Night Football stakes are cut, dried

The stakes are pretty simple, really. Win good. Lose bad.

Win ... first place.

Lose ... last place.

Win, and the Dolphins will tie the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets for first place in the AFC East. Lose, and the Dolphins would be the only winless team in the division after one week. And they would be in last place.

No, that doesn't mean they will finish either first or last by the end of the season. But, clearly, this regular-season opener will be a table setter like few have been in recent years.

The Dolphins are 4-6 in season openers the past 10 seasons, but 2-6 the past eight years. The Patriots, not surprisingly, are much better right out of the gate. New England hasn't lost a season-opener since 2003. They are 8-2 in their last 10 season openers. And they've won two consecutive season openers on the road -- those coming in 2007 at the New York Jets and 2008 at Kansas City.

Yes, I get it and so should you, Bill Belichick typically has his team ready to play early in the season.

The question is will the Dolphins be ready?

Or will the table setter be a plate-breaking, entre-dropping, water-spilling disaster?

Note to Dolphins: You must defend this house

Whatever happens tonight, it is only one game. OK? Repeat after me: It is only one game.

If the Dolphins win, the victory is not a guarantee they are going to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs. If they lose, it is not an omen that the season is lost. It is only one game.

And having said that, there is at least one conclusion we will be able to draw based on the outcome of tonight's Monday night matchup between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins:

Who's home field is this, anyway?

Last season the Dolphins lost seven of their eight games at home. That was as bad as their home record in 2007 when the team was 1-15.

When you consider the Dolphins also lost their final two home games of 2009, Sun Life Stadium has been the venue where Miami is 1-9 in the last 10 games. And you wonder why the home fans are angry?

The Dolphins have to show they can defend their house. If they lose at home again Monday night, what has changed in that regard? Nothing. It is another home game where the fans go home unhappy.

How would that make them want to come back next week for the Houston game?

Now, a victory over the Patriots and suddenly a bolt of energy will strike the organization, it's players, and fans. Ticket sales will pick up. Player confidence will pick up. Everyone's mood picks up.

We'll know which way things are going by the end of the night. No doubt about that.

September 11, 2011

A (short) tale of the tailbacks

One of the questions that remains unanswered on the eve of the Miami Dolphins' regular-season opener is how effective rookie running back Daniel Thomas will be and how much the club will need backup-to-the-backup Larry Johnson behind him.

The reason this is important is the Dolphins cannot hope to rely on Reggie Bush to carry the football 25 times per game, regardless of what anyone in the organization insists. The second reason this is important is that Thomas didn't have a good preseason.

The third reason is the Dolphins didn't really want either Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown back this season.

We'll soon see about Thomas, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury for tomorrow's game against New England. I would estimate that even if he is active for the game, the Dolphins cannot be completely sure he'll be able to finish. So I would expect Larry Johnson to be active. It will work as insurance in case Thomas suffers another tweak to his hamstring.

Meanwile, both Brown and Williams have moved on and have already begun their 2011 seasons. They've done it with different degrees of success.

Ronnie Brown rushed four times for 7 yards in his Philadelphia Eagles debut.

Ricky Williams gained 63 yards on 12 carries, including a 26-yard run for the Baltimore Ravens.

Why is Paul Soliai still unsigned?

First, I want to draw your attention to the fact today is September 11, 2011. It's the 10-year anniversary of the Islamic terrorists' attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93, which eventually went down in Pennsylvania. That day changed the world, and not for the better. Do not forget what happened that day. If we do not forget, perhaps we can keep it from happening again.

The NFL will hold rememberances at its various venues today. Flags are flying at half mast at all NFL stadiums.

On to football:

 I want to ask this simple question: Why is Paul Soliai still unsigned beyond 2011?

The Dolphins recently signed both Nate Garner and Tyrone Culver to one-year extensions that will keep them on the team next year. That's nice, tidy work. But why is the heavy lifting still not done?


There can only be two plausible reasons the Dolphins still haven't gotten a long-term deal done with their franchise player: One, they don't think he can be trusted with a long-term deal ... Or, two, they think Soliai is too expensive and think he'll eventualy lower his price or get someone just as good for less money.

On the first issue, I can sort of understand Miami's worries. As I wrote in my column in today's Miami Herald, Soliai did indeed act something of a fool that first couple of years of his career. I outline his foolishness. But as I also outline in the column, Soliai has taken significant steps and showed significant reasons to trust him now. He is, it seems to me, a changed individual who has grown up.

Do the Dolphins not see that?

The second reason the Dolphins might not have already signed Soliai is they have a significant disagreement with the player as to his worth. Keep in mind Soliai is making over $12 million guaranteed because he signed his franchise tag tender. That's a lot of money. And every penny of it is counting against the Miami salary cap this season.

Maybe that's not a big deal to the team now that player acquisition time is over, but the Dolphins could easily have done a multi-year contract with Soliai, saved themselved at least 30-40 percent off that cap hit this year and used the savings to chase other talent -- like say a tight end, perhaps Zach Miller if they'd been of that mind.

But noooo.

Soliai and the team not only haven't signed that cap space saving new deal, they don't seem to be in the same ballpark. Although details are not available, it seems clear Solia's camp wants to be paid $10-$12 million per season because, well, Soliai is making $12 million this year and if he remains unsigned he's going to get between $18-$20 million in signing bonus alone next year. So he's probably looking at this as averaging $15 million per year.

The Dolphins will never and should never pay Paul Soliai $15 million per season. But $9-$10 million per season? That seems right considering Vince Wilfork got an average of $8 million per year 18 months ago and Buffalo's Kyle Williams pretty much matched that in August.

One truth about NFL player contracts: The prices never go down. Soliai's price isn't going to get cheaper unless something terrible happens to him this season. And everyone should consider the Haloti Ngata contract with Baltimore is looming. That deal will probably blow all the numbers I just mentioned out of the water.

As I mentioned in the column, the sides have until Sept. 20 to get a deal done. That's the deadline. If no deal is done by then, the chances of Soliai heading to free agency next year increase dramatically.

September 10, 2011

Henne-Marshall relationship to be known in tests

The new season is two days away for the Dolphins and one of the storylines that interests is the relationship between Brandon Marshall and Chad Henne.

Remember that dynamic last year?

Marshall talked about he and Henne weren't really on the same page. I guess it was because Marshall often ran impromptu routes based on what he felt or saw and Henne is not really an impromptu kind of guy. Henne is a precise guy that expects a 12-yard sideline route run at exactly 12 yards -- not 14 yards, not 11 yards.

Marshall is more emotional and reacts to the issues as they happen -- spur of the moment.

See the disonnect?

The relationship also was seen on the sideline on a number of times, with Marshall yelling at the quarterback and the quarterback ignoring the receiver's words.

So this year the question of how these two will get along has been important because, well, Henne is still the quarterback and Marshall is still Miami's alpha wide receiver.

Both players say the relationship between them is great this year. But to see how these view things and operate, one need only see how they answered the question of how they get along when the issue was brought up this year.

"I’m so tired of that question," Marshall said, "... how long are we going to go over that question? Maybe if I answer it differently for you guys this time, man.

"Caught a ouple of nice long balls in the preseason ... targeted a bunch of times ... what more can I ask for? He’s spinning it well. We’re communicating great ... I don’t know, is that good enough for you?"

Marshall's had perhaps four media availabilities since July but when he was asked about state of the chemistry between himself and Henne this week, he acted as if he goes to sleep with the question at night and wakes up with it every morning.

Henne also has been asked about the relationship, including this week. And his answer is a little more encouraging.

“I mean it’s going great," Henne said. "I really think Brandon has come a long way; I’ve come a long way.  And I think it’s just a new attitude this year.  A lot of frustrating points last year which kind of created that mis-relationship that everybody saw.  But I believe this year is a new person in Brandon a new person in me. We’re just excited to get back on the field on Monday."


Anyway, I really want to believe. I want to think these two vastly different individuals can find common ground -- at least on the field, if not all the time.

But I believe the true test of this relationship will be the difficult moments, the times when defenses are pressuring and double-covering and confusing the two men. At that point, when the proverbial bullets are flying, will they remain patient with one another?

Will each understand that the other is dealing with difficulties -- Henne in reading defenses and getting away from the pass rush and Marshall in finding open spaces in tight defenses and trying to detach from men named Revis and McCourty and Asomugha?

In the crisis moments when adrenaline is pumping and emotions are high and nerves are frayed, will this duo find understanding? Will they maintain their "new attitude?"

Or do they resort to that "misrelationship?"

It will be interesting to see.


September 09, 2011

Offensive linemen day on Armando and the Amigo

Back to business following the NFL and Dolphins admonishment ...

Today was a lot about offensive linemen on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo. Dolphins rookie center Mike Pouncey joined the show in the 7 o'clock hour and former Dolphins Pro Bowl guard Keith Sims joined the show in the 8 o'clock hour.

Both were excellent guests. That's because both are interesting. Pouncey is three days from his NFL debut against no less competition than Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth.

Pouncey is a very, very, very upbeat individual. He explains why in the interview. You can go to the 640 Sports website to listen to the interview and all the show hours. Here is the 7 o'clock hour of today's show that included Pouncey in the first segment:


After we talked to Pouncey, we brought Sims on the show the next hour. Sims is something of an offensive line expert because he played there for 11 NFL seasons. That qualifies.

Interestingly, when Sims looks at Pouncey he sees a guard even though the Dolphins see a center.

"I still go back and, I'm the lone voice out here in the darkness, but I'd rather see him at guard. I heard him talk about how centers are more valuable and guards are a dime a dozen, well, that's not true. You watch that game last night [New Orleans at Green Bay] and the Saints had two All-Pro guards and they had a 13-year center from the Bears. It didn't matter, when they could run the ball, their guards weren't the ones who could do it. The Packers shut them down. How many third-and-1s did the Packers shut down because of their guards?

"There were two instances Where they were going into score but they couldn't do it and they got sacked for 20 yards. And they couldn't get one yard. To me, and I guess because I'm biased personally, I would love to see Long and Pouncey together for the next 8-10 years. And now your left side is done. You can move Incognito to center. I've said that the whole time.

"We're going to see how athletic Pouncey is and at the center position, you're not going to maximize that athelticism."

Having said that, Sims said Pouncey  "has all the tools" to be an "outstanding" offensive lineman. "He's smart, he works hard, Hes very athletic. He could be very, very good. Now I'm not an offensive line coach. I just played the position for 11 years. Don't you want your most athletic guy at left guard?" 

This is the interview with Keith Sims included in the entire 8 o'clock of Armando and the Amigo:


Also, since the NFL and the Dolphins don't want folks like me showing folks like you the press conference of their offensive coordinators -- thus encouraging you to be more interested in your team and perhaps buying tickets -- I will share with you another type of video for your entertaininment.

Below is the UGG's commercial, featuring Tom Brady, that will premiere during the Monday night game between the Dolphins and Patriots. Tell me what you think.


Crappy NFL online video policy bites

Did everyone like the video premiere of the Dolphins' coordinators Thursday? The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Well, that's the last you'll see it.

The Miami Dolphins have informed me the video of Brian Daboll's and Mike Nolan's press conferences must come down because they violate NFL policy. I was surprised that the league which is struggling to sell out games throughout the country, including Miami, even had such a policy.

Nevertheless, I wrote the Dolphins -- the league's enforcement arm in this matter -- a respectful e-mail thanking them for so faithfully checking in with my blog and informing them the video post would be unpublished.

So it is.

The videos apparently violate the NFL's 2011 Non-Game Online Content policy. Per that ridiculous, moronic, stupid, asinine, myopic, undoubtedly money-driven policy, a credentialed member of the media (me) is allowed to attend a press conference, tape the press conference, and post the entire freakin' transcript of the press conference ...

... But I cannot video the press conference and show it to you --the fans that want to see such a presser after it happens.

Don't blame the Dolphins. They are simply the enforcement arm of the NFL. They are just the ones who asked I scrub the videos. The policy is from the NFL itself.

So there you are.

Now, I suppose the NFL would like you to go buy some tickets to a game. Anyway, this post is simply to explain why the previous post has been taken down. There's stuff going on at Dolphins camp today. I'll update the blog as necessary.

Just not with video exceeding 90 seconds for today.

September 08, 2011

Now we understand why Larry Johnson was re-signed

Larry Johnson is signed and on the practice field today. And he is taking some repetitions as the club's No. 2 running back -- at least in the portion of practice open to the media.


Well, because rookie Daniel Thomas is injured. And he is not practicing. The Herald's Jeff Darlington is reporting Thomas yesterday tweaked a hamstring injury he had earlier this preseason and so the club felt the need to buy insurance for Monday night's regular-season opener against the Patriots.

I have to tell you, Thomas has not had a great month. He's been tentative on some runs in training camp. He was told to stop "tippy toeing" by coaches at one point. And he got hurt. And now he's hurt again.

I've heard of better starts to an NFL career.

Now, let's think outside the box for a moment. Is this terrible news?

Given Thomas's obvious need to get better acclimated to the NFL game and the large stage on which the Miami season begins -- national TV -- would you rather hand the ball to the rookie or to Johnson?

I believe the moment won't be bigger than Larry Johnson. Monday night football?

Been there. Done that.

That does not mean it is certain Thomas will be out of Monday night's game. The Johnson signing is supposed to be for insurance. If it turns out that Johnson is thrust into a contributing role behind Reggie Bush, so be it.

In my opinion, at least. 

Dolphins trying to re-sign Larry Johnson

The Dolphins are trying to re-sign Larry Johnson and get him back on the roster by the end of today, a source is telling me this morning.

The news, first broken by the NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora, is interesting because it has several repurcussions.

One: If the sides can get it done by today, it means the Dolphins have intentions of keeping Johnson around for at least half a season because at minimum, the deal would include a split contract gauranteeing Johnson's salary and thus his place on the team for at least half the season.

Two: The move clearly means the club has had a change of thinking not just about Johnson, but about the current makeup of its running back corps. Miami is happy with Reggie Bush as the starter but questions have lingered about everything behind him.

Daniel Thomas is a rookie and has had, by the best account, an unimpressive training camp. Lex Hilliard, the third back, is also relatively inexperienced.

It is possible this signing could be triggered by an injury. Designated fullback Charles Clay missed practice Wednesday. If he cannot play, the Dolphins might move Hilliard to the fullback spot and feel the need to add Johnson. This part, however, is speculation.

The Dolphins practice at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Players and coaches will be available to the media approximately two hours later. I'll report back if Johnson is on the field or not. I'll tell you if Clay is practicing. And, obviously, when something says something around here, I will give you that information also.

[Update: The Dolphins have announced they have signed Johnson and cut offensive lineman Ray Feinga.]

Salguero: Miami Dolphins to upset New England

I'm not a homer. You kind people who read this blog daily know you are more likely to get a scathing review of the Dolphins in this space as you are a cheerleading attaboy.

That's just how things are when people don't perform.

That's just how things are when the last two seasons have brought twin 7-9 records and last year's homestand yielded seven failures in eight tries. Stuff like that makes me write angry.

Having said that, I'm picking the Dolphins to beat the Patriots Monday night.

I made my prediction on The Herald's Pigskin Challenge yesterday evening. I also will make the same prediction in The Herald's Monday print edition. And I'm saying it here as well, obviously.

I'm saying it here because this is the only venue for me to explain the odd pick. (It's odd considering no other Herald "expert" has picked the Dolphins at this stage and everyone and their mother nationally thinks the Dolphins are, how to put this delicately, crap).

Make no mistake, the Dolphins have issues. I think the right side of their offensive line is like a dam that has tons of little cracks, with the question being when, not if, those cracks will spring a leak. I think running Reggie Bush between the tackles is a joke. I think the secondary had better start working on catching interceptions on the JUGS machine every day after practice because I have not seen them do it as a unit even once this training camp. I think anyone who is certain Chad Henne will play well this season is stupid because that is impossible to know. I think Miami has zero depth at tight end. I think Miami's offense needs either Clyde Gates or Marlon Moore to be good enough to win that second receiver job because no one else is really going to pose a legit deep threat otherwise.

So I see the flaws in the Dolphins. And those are just off the top of my head.

But guess what?

The Patriots have flaws, too.

When I look at the Patriots, I see a well-coached team with the best quarterback in the NFL the last decade. That, in a nutshell, is the reason the Patriots have been so good for such a long time. But that, in a nutshell, is also the reason the Patriots haven't won a playoff game since January 2008 and, indeed, have lost three consecutive postseason games they were favored to win.

That team is mostly about Tom Brady.

The defense? Good, not great.

The receivers corps? If you don't include the tight ends, they're below average. With the tight ends, they're good.

The running backs? Ordinary.

The offensive line? Check the Detroit Lions preseason game. Check the recent addition of Brian Waters. Tell me what that says.

The Patriots maximize their potential. The Dolphins haven't. The Patriots have a franchise QB. The Dolphins haven't had one since 1998.

That, however, doesn't answer why I'm picking the Dolphins. This will:

I recently spoke with two people who talk to Bill Belichick with some frequency. They tell me Belichick is not really thrilled with his team these days.

They point to the fact the Patriots have been something of a turnstile of late, bringing in new players, jettisoning players like Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, whom most believed had had spots on the roster nailed down.

The comings and goings are a sign of dissatisfaction. Belichick has a plan and wants personnel to fit that plan, and apparently he is still stirring the mix to try to get the recipe just right. And he may well do that. But it will be hard for him to get it right this early.

So the Patriots are not last year's 14-win good. And they're not as good today as they might be a month or two from now. The Dolphins are catching them at the right time. So there's that.

Then I look at the players the Patriots added as their prized offseason additions. Albert Haynesworth? He practiced, what, a grand total of two weeks? And he's ready for the regular season? The man who takes every third play off is ready for a game in Miami's humidity?

I am skeptical.

The Patriots expect to go with a pressure-oriented defense this year. Quick, tell me what pressure-oriented defensive player have they added? Yes, Vince Wilfork is a beast. But he's been there.

Rob Ninkovich again? He's Belichick's latter day Lawrence Taylor? To play pressure defense you have to, well, create pressure. That means they have to find an elite pass rusher or do it as the Jets do -- with schemes. You do it with schemes, you better have great cornerbacks and disciplind safeties. We'll see about that.

On offense the Patriots like their rookie running backs. They can also point to Chad Ocho Cinco as a signature acquisition.

Ocho Cinco brings a great personality to Boston. Of course he does, he's from Miami. And this game he's coming home to play. All wonderful. All cool. And all worthless when the kickoff comes.

Ocho Cinco is still getting acclimated in New England. He is a possession receiver and the Patriots are hoping he can be more than that. I don't see it. Yes, Brady will make him look better than he looked in Cincinnati. Brady would make me look like a better receiver than I typically look in front of a Whopper. But that doesn't mean the Patriots found a 2007 Randy Moss.

"Chad’s been here all of training camp," Belichick said Wednesday. "He hasn’t missed any practice time. He's worked hard and he's spent a lot of time before and after practice working with our quarterbacks and with our receivers and receivers coach and so forth, so I think he’s pretty well versed in what we’re doing offensively. He hasn’t had as much game experience doing it as other players who have been here longer, but that’s the way it is on every team with certain players. I think he’s doing fine."

We'll see.

Look, the Patriots are going to be a good team. Please don't misunderstand. I think they'll eventually win the AFC East. But they've got miles to go and the folks I'm talking to say Belichick knows this and is working hard to correct the gap between what he's got now and what he wants.

The Dolphins, by the way, also haven't arrived. But they have advantages working on their behalf this game.

They have been pointing toward this game all offseason. If Brian Daboll doesn't have three or four surprise plays for New England, I'd be disappointed and so should you. Daboll, by the way, authored the offensive game plan last year that helped the Browns beat the Patriots.

The same holds true for Mike Nolan. He knows it is time for his defense to take the next step. The Dolphins had a good defense last year. Next up, this unit has to be dominant. The way to do that is turn Brady into a tormented soul who wishes he was back dancing in Rio instead of laying on the field at Sun Life.

Enter Cameron Wake. Enter some scheme work to get Jason Taylor loose. Enter a more seasoned Koa Misi. They have to get after Brady to make this thing work. If they fail, my prediction is worthless. (I know, it's probably worthless anyway).

The only way to beat the Patriots is to beat Brady. Hit him. Sack him. Frustrate him. You beat the Patriots.

I think the Dolphins can win the battle up front against the New England offensive line, tight ends and backs. They must win or else.

None of this speaks to the idea that Reggie Bush presents issues for the Patriots. They don't have an exceedingly fast defense. What are they going to do when the Dolphins come out in base offensive personnel, they respond with their base defense, and then Bush shifts out of the backfield and into the slot?

Who is going to check him? A linebacker? Really?

A safety and a backer? And now who's doubling Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess?

Oh, you can't double Bush, Marshall and Bess. Oh, I get it. Ten catches for Davone Bess, fantasy geeks. With five of them going for first downs.

I've said enough.

I know the Dolphins won't be in New England's class by the end of this season. Belichick is too good. Brady is way, way, way too good. Everyone else will fall in line or get shown the door. The culture there breeds success.

But the culture takes time to germinate every season. It needs breeding time. The Pats haven't had that time. And that is a great equalizer.

The Dolphins will grind. They'll use what little weather advantage they have remaining after ownership and the schedule maker chopped them off at the knees with a night game. They have the advantage of unveiling a new offense.

And Miami is desperate, or should be. These guys have a circle-the-wagon mentality going on right now. They're hungry. That means something.

For right now it means I'm picking the Dolphins in this one.

(By the way, this is a prediction. I've been known to be wrong. If I am, indeed, wrong, get over it! Also, this morning a radio station in Boston has turned me into the biggest villian since the Boston strangler. Of course, they didn't speak with me. Nice journalism, boys.)

Follow me on twitter. That means you, WEEI dorks.


September 07, 2011

Dolphins get it done on interview front today

I don't know about football, but the Dolphins are in midseason interview form.

As you know the Dolphins are taking it on the bottlenose from national pundits saying the team is basically a big pile of poo. Sports Illustrated picked them to finish last in the AFC East. No one at the four-letter monolith picked them to get to the playoffs. ProFootballtalk.com slated them the 29th rated team in the NFL.

The Fins don't seem to care much about those opinions.

"A lot of people are doubting us and they better get ready," linebacker Koa Misi said. "Because we're ready for the challenge."

Said Jake Long: "We're not listening to anybody out there questioning us. We know what we can or can't do. And we know what we're going to do. We're working real hard and coming together as a team and doing a good job."

The Dolphins open the season with a primetime game against New England on Monday night at Sun Life Stadium. They come back the following Sunday with a 4:15 game against Houston at Sun Life Stadium.

Back-to-back home games to open the season. Advantage, no?


Coach Tony Sparano believes this game isn't quite the advantage it should be or could be, if say, some billionaire and marketing folks weren't screwing stuff up for the football side of this organization.

"Yeah, it should be an advantage, it's probably more [of an advantage] at 1 o'clock in the afternoon," Sparano said. "It should be an advantage. Playing a game at 7 o'clock at night, it'll be hot for both teams. But it won't be 1 o'clock hot."


Anyone who has followed this team knows one reason the Dolphins are lately not playing as many (or any) 1 p.m. home game early in the season is because club owner Stephen Ross actually asked the NFL to schedule the home games later in the afternoon or at night.

By the way, Ross also authored the infrequent use of the team's old fight song -- you know, Miami has the Dolphins, the great football team, we're in the air ...

Ross dislikes the song. It used to play after every score. Now it plays only at the start of the fourth quarter. There have been grumblings it would be brought back, but so far ... nothing.

I reported in the previous post that the Dolphins piped in crowd noise today during their practice. This is a routine thing during weeks a team is going to travel. But this week the Dolphins host the Patriots. And, yet, they have to get their offense ready for loud visiting fans.

I asked Sparano if he'd ever seen a team pipe in crowd noise for practice on a home-game week while he was coaching anywhere else in his career.

"No, never did it before," Sparano admitted. "One of the reasons we do it here is we are in South Florida and the New England teams and New York teams, there's a a lot of fans out here. They have a good fan base themselves. Somehow they make their way into our stadium.

"That being said, you have to prepare for it. The way you prepare for it is two-fold -- in other words, our people being loud when we're on defense, because those guys do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. We want our fans loud. And then I imagine however many fans they have here, that will be the case, too.

"I want no surprises for our football team when we walked out there. So that's what we did."

The realities of being a South Florida team that doesn't sell out.

Running back Reggie Bush addressed that very topic during his interview session. He sees himself as a conduit for helping the area get re-energized about football.

"We want to bring passion back to Miami," Bush said.

On a football note: Long has been practicing at his typical left tackle spot for several weeks now despite the fact he didn't play a down in the preseason. Yet Sparano said he's not worried about Long being ready for the season.

"The guy's played about 5,000 plays in three years. I'm pretty confident I know what's going to happen and pretty confident I know what it's going to take him to get ready to play. Going into today he had close to 200 snaps [in practice] and going into the game he'll probably have close to 350 plays, which to be honest is a couple of hundred away from where the rest of the guys are."

What does Long have to say about the matter? Watch. Listen. Learn.

And follow me on twitter.


The early practice report from Miami Dolphins camp

The media window at practice is over for the day. The Dolphins are indeed getting ready for the Monday night matchup with New England.

As I sit in the media room writing this, I can hear the team's piped in crowd noise coming through the walls and doors. (The media room is adjacent to the practice field).

Yes, it amazes me that the Dolphins have to worry about crowd noise interrupting their offense -- AT THEIR OWN HOME STADIUM!

I'll have to listen more closely to hear if there's a Boston accent on the cheering.

Anyway, fullback Charles Clay is sitting out today's practice with an undetermined injury. Chris Clemons, who missed work Monday, was back on the field today.

Yesterday I tweeted that the Miami's depth chart was released by the team. It really isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Clemons was first-team at free safety on that depth chart. I would not be surprised if, in fact, Reshad Jones starts for Miami Monday night.

I cannot tell you why I believe that. Let's just say it's an educated guess.

Frank Kearse, waived on Sunday, has been re-signed to the practice squad and is working with the team today.

[MORE COMING: Interviews and other stuff is coming today. Check back often. You can also follow me on twitter for real-time updates.]

Bill Belichick's challenge: Win again in the playoffs

Many of you think the local media or some fans are too hard on the Dolphins.

Well, in New England, some folks are starting to look sideways at Bill Belichick. He was criticized by some for waiving Brandon Meriweather. His draft record has been the topic of much discussion, given that not one player from the 2007 draft is still on the team and the 2006 draft wasn't much better.

And the fact the Patriots have not won a playoff game since 2007, having lost three consecutive games that they were favored iwith two of those at home, hasn't gone unnoticed, either.

So today the Dolphins media kinda sort challenged Belichick on the topic during a conference call with the Patriots head coach.

One reporter asked Belichick if he feels pressure to go beyond having great regular seasons and produce playoff wins this season. "No," Belichick said abruptly. "Right now I'm thinking about Miami and that's it and that's plenty. Just trying to get ready for the Dolphins. That's all right now."

Another reporter asked Belichick to describe his feelings about having not won a playoff game in three years.

"Everything that's in the past is in the past," Belichick responded. "We all know what our records were in previous years and it doesn't really mean anything. We're just looking forward to Monday night and playing Miami and trying to get ready for that game. That's my focus right now."

[Big day today: There will be much said and done today, so check back often because the blog will update often. You can get the updates in real time on twitter. Please follow me.]