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76 posts from September 2011

September 07, 2011

Reggie Bush: Star, focal point, workhorse?

Reggie Bush will the be the focus of much attention, perhaps the most attention, on the Dolphins offense this year.

He was a national figure before coming to the Dolphins and remains so now. His importance locally is best understood in that every Wednesday, including this afternoon, when Chad Henne speaks with the media, Bush will either follow or precede Henne in conducting his own press conference.

The attention is warranted because Bush is expected to be a primary playmaker for the Dolphins. In fact, he's going to be asked to make plays as he's never been either in college or the NFL.

That's because the Dolphins, by their own account, are making Bush their lead running back. They're saying he's going to get the ball a lot and in many ways and everyone -- including Bush -- is embracing the idea because if some Reggie Bush is good, well then, a lot of Reggie Bush might be better.

I. Do. Not. Buy. This.

Sorry.

Early on when Bush was signed, I was told he would not be over-used and turned into a workhorse. It didn't fit his injury history, his body type, or his running style.

But lately the talk from the Dolphins is that Bush will get the ball a lot. I don't know if the change is based on something they saw in Bush during camp. I don't know if it's a lack of trust in rookie Daniel Thomas. I hope it's just a smoke screen.

Failing that, apparently Bush is going to get a bunch of touches, with the definition for a bunch changing from game to game and depending on need.

Not wise.

That kind of use for a 205-pound back is not exactly optimal. Oh, there are 205-pound backs that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game. Curtis Martin did it back in the day. But the ones who are successful at it can do it because they never take a solid blow.

Those guys seem to have a natural instinct for avoiding the full-on big hit. They seem to cause defenders to miss even as those defenders are making the tackle, if you get what I'm saying. Nobody ever really blows them up.

Bush hasn't been that kind of runner. He has taken some monster hits in his day. Consequently, Bush has a history for being injured during his NFL career. Bush has been able to play a full 16-game season only once in his five NFL years -- that in his rookie season of 2006.

He played only eight games last season because of injury. He was hurt on and off in 2007 and 2008. There's injury history there. And that is perhaps the reason the New Orleans Saints limited him.

They didn't let him be their starting running back the last couple of years because they thought it was more important to keep him healthy for the important downs rather than make every down an important down. They asked him to come in and specialize in situations to limit carries and hits.

They wanted Bush to be their sprinter, not their marathon runner.

The Dolphins seem willing to have Bush run the marathon. They seem prepared to ride him -- certainly more than the Saints did in recent years. Bush welcomes this, by the way.

But is it smart? Can Bush stay healthy in such a role?

"I mean I don’t have a crystal ball," Coach Tony Sparano said this week. "I can’t tell you whether or not it’s going to be or it’s not going to be. All I know is the guy works hard at it. I’ve been around a lot of running backs in the last several years that have been injured one way or the other. This is a really hard game at that position so people are going to get injured at that position.

"I’m really not concerned one way or the other about that at this particular time, I’m just concerned with finding ways to get the guy the ball. He’s going to be the first runner out of the gate and we’re going to figure out ways to get him the ball. We’ll see how it goes. This guy takes care of his body pretty well. Better than anybody I’ve been around."

Bush took care of his body in New Orleans. And he got hurt a lot.

I understand Miami's need to use Bush more than the Saints (sort of). The Dolphins don't have a franchise QB. They don't have the playmakers New Orleans has. The Dolphins need to use Bush.

But use him too much and you won't have him. Simple as that. Pete Carroll knew this at USC where Bush was not the primary back. Sean Payton figured it out at New Orleans after Bush's second season.

We shall see if the Dolphins get lucky and Bush stays healthy regardless of how often he's used. Or if the laws of physics -- big men pounding on a smaller man time after time will get the smaller man injured -- will force the Dolphins to change.

I must say this: I know Sparano is saying he's not worried about Bush getting injured. That cannot be totally true. His job as a coach is to manage his players in a way that allows them to contribute as much as possible. Injured players don't contribute. The coach must consider the possibility of injury to a player who has been injury-prone in the past.

And then there's this: Bush is another in a line of players the Dolphins have added that come with an injury history. I find it fascinating that a team that depends so much on its players being healthy, so often takes chances on players with injury histories.

This is the club, you must remember, that signed Justin Smiley the year after he blew out a shoulder. And sure enough, Smiley got hurt often during his two-year stint in Miami -- including a shoulder injury that made him lose strength in his upper body, something an offensive lineman needs.

Then the team signed center Jake Grove, who came with a long and eyebrow raising history for getting injured. And, shockingly, he came to the Dolphins and got injured.

Chad Pennington came to Miami with a history for being healthy one year and getting hurt the next. He was healthy in 2008 and got injured and was lost for the season in 2009. Then he got hurt again in 2010. Then he got hurt again in the 2011 offseason.

You as fans and the media sometimes get convinced that a team knows something other teams don't. That is rarely true once a player has a track record. Lions or Tigers or whatever those cats are don't change their stripes. (I hate strongly dislike cats). (Dog man myself). (Great Danes). (Bulldogs).

But I digress.

Do the Dolphins know something about Reggie Bush that tells them he can carry the load of Miami's running game while staying healthy? Do they know something the Saints didn't?

As coach said, no one has a crystal ball.

But we all have a guess.

September 06, 2011

Garrard availability may test Dolphins' Henne faith

These next couple of days will be very interesting around the NFL's quarterback-hungry teams because for the first time in nearly two months, a solid quarterback talent is available.

It should be interesting to watch how the Dolphins react.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will soon announce that quarterback David Garrard is being released. He becomes a free agent, able to sign with any team he wishes, any team that wants him.

Do the Dolphins become involved?

Two things are clear: Garrard's first choice is to remain a starter in the league. So he'll likely first deal with teams that will give him some sense he can take the starting job once he gets up to speed on their offense.

The second thing that is clear is that only teams with a relatively weak starting QB situation will be at the front of the line for Garrard. Washington might be an option. Oakland, maybe the Colts might also be interested. Perhaps Seattle, Carolina, Cincinnati and San Francisco get involved.

It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins test the waters on Garrard at all. It will be much more interesting -- as in seismic shift interesting -- if they jump into those waters head first.

I don't know if the Dolphins are going to do that. The next 30 hours or so will be telling.

I do know this: Garrard's availability may be a sign of exactly how truly committed and certain the Dolphins are on Chad Henne.

The club has been swearing up and down that it is putting its faith in Henne. Fine, we get that. We also get this faith grew a whole lot more ardent after the team tried and failed to draft a quarterback, then tried and failed to add a possible Henne replacement in free agency and the trade market. So let's be honest here.

The faith in Henne felt akin to a man with no money for shoes extolling the virtues of going barefoot.

Now Miami's faith will be tested.

Here is another thought: If the Bengals jump into the Garrard sweepstakes and actually sign him, they just might feel comfortable enough with their QB situation to loosen the shackles they have around Carson Palmer. It might be their way of breaking clear of the past and the shadow Palmer still casts over the franchise.

This scenario is purely speculation, but if it were to happen, there would be little doubt the Dolphins would then become players in the Palmer availability. On that, I'm certain.

So watch the next day or so. Watch how this all plays out.

The Dolphins may not be a player in the least in the matter, which would show their faith in Henne is more than just talk. But if they are even casual players in the derby for the available QB, we'll know that strong faith is having a forbidden fruit moment.

Off day take from the Dolphins offense, defense

The Dolphins worked on Labor Day. The players are off today.

When the team reconvenes on Wednesday, it will begin in earnest the final preparations for the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the New England Patriots. (Yeah, get your tickets now because they are going fast.)

I do not believe, as some pundits insist, that this game will be a blowout. Yes, the Patriots were seven games better than Miami a season ago. Yes, the Patriots swept the Dolphins in their two games and won by a combined score of 79-21.

But this is a new season. These are new teams. New results?

Perhaps. The Dolphins are hopeful. I am hopeful for them.

Obviously, the Patriots will get the first fully unvarnished view of what the new Dolphins offense looks like with new star running back Reggie Bush. They will also get the first look at Miami's upgraded and deeper defense.

Bush brings a speed factor the Patriots haven't seen from a Miami team recently. Hey, now Miami is going to have more than one playmaker on the field at the same time versus New England.

But the Patriots will present a problem. You know what has Bush's attention?

Think beef -- as in enormous New England defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth. Check out what Bush says about them and then check in with the other side of the ball below that.

Bush:

On defense, the elder statesman is Yeremiah Bell. He's been around since 2003 and he's seen a lot of players come and go.

He believes this year's crop of players is different than last year's because the swag quotient on this team is much higher. He sees a different attitude on this team he didn't see last year.

Bell explains:

September 05, 2011

Miami Dolphins are still working the roster

The Miami Dolphins are continuing to churn the roster today and it is not necessarily the very bottom of the roster that they're addressing.

The club today announced the signing of tight end Dante Rosario and offensive lineman Ryan Cook. The club waived inside linebacker A.J. Edds and terminated the contract of veteran lineman Joe Berger to make room for the additions.

"None of these are easy," coach Tony Sparano said. "These come down to numbers and needs at the time. We had 10 linebackers on the roster and we weren't going to carry 10 linebackers."

Edds goes because he was last on the list of those 10 LBs. And the reason he was behind everyone else, despite having what outsiders considered to be a good preseason, was the lingering affects of his 2010 injury. No, it wasn't the physical toll of that injury that hampered Edds, but rather the missed time which he ultimately could not overcome.

Is there a chance Edds gets re-signed to the practice squad? Sparano was non-commital. Basically, Austin Spitler, drafted in the seventh round last season, is ahead of Edds, a fourth-round pick, because one missed all of last season and the other played

"We'll see. I like some of the things A.J.'s done. Austin's done a really good job. Obviously, A.J. missed a chunk of time and we didn't have a chance to evaluate him a year ago where Austin had that time so he's a little bit further ahead that way."

The club is expected to add Frank Kearse to the practice squad if he clears waivers today.

The Rosario addition is a good job of solving a big problem with one move. No, Rosario is not the next coming of Tony Gonzalez. But he brings an athleticism and speed the tight end group lacked before today. It would probably be a good bet to think Rosario becomes the team's No. 2 tight end behind Anthony Fasano once he gets up to speed with the offense.

Rosario, 6-4 and 250 pounds, was recently cut by the Denver Broncos after spending the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers,

"I didn't know what to expect after being released from Denver I justed the opportunity to play," Rosario said. "I'm grateful that Miami's giving me the opportunity. I haven't been guaranteed anything. It's opportunity to come in here, work hard, show what I can do."

Rosario has 22 career starts to his credit. That should make you feel better than the lack of experience Miami had in Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman.

Cook, 6-6 and 328 pounds, is expected to provide the position flexibility the Dolphins have valued in recent years. He has played guard, center as well as tackle for the Minnesota Vikings the past five seasons. Cook also has experience in that he has 40 starts to his credit. He is a former second round pick of the Vikings.

The Dolphins clearly believed Cook an upgrade over Berger, who started 14 games last season. It should be said that Berger was in the final year of his contract with Miami.

Berger was scheduled to make $1.5 million for the team this year. Cutting him costs Miami $108,333 on the cap but the savings is that base salary of $1.5 million.

Finally, Marvin Mitchell was at practice today, Sprano said. Obviously, he was elsewhere during the period of practice open to the media.

Early onset practice report: No cure

The Dolphins are back on the practice field and here's the tidbits I can share:

Free safety Chris Clemons was not working today due to an injury of some sort -- probably some sort of muscle pull in the leg, based on the rehabilitation work he was doing.

Reshad Jones worked as the first team free safety today.

Resever center Joe Berger, inside linebacker A.J. Edds and inside linebacker Marvin Mitchell were not at practice today. I do not know the reason but will try to find out after practice.

Finally, Jimmy Wilson has changed his number from 35 to 25. No, Reggie Bush didn't want it. He tweeted days ago he liked the idea of the new number he's been wearing throughout camp.

[BLOG NOTE: I'll give you the latest after practice. Come back then.]

Tony Sparano's words -- many subject to change

I suppose we all can change our minds. Women do it. Double-agent spies do it. Obviously, football coaches do it.

Proof?

On Aug. 24, when it seemed apparent fullback Lousaka Polite's role was diminished within Miami's new offensive scheme, I asked coach Tony Sparano how that disappering role would affect Polite's roster status on the team.

“It doesn’t really affect (Lousaka Polite) in 21 personnel and we have not really gone into 22 personnel," Sparano said. "We have done it in practice, but we haven’t done it obviously we didn’t do it the other night. But 22 personnel is still part of our package. You have to have the fullback and I think there’s enough good things that Lou does right now that will help us and somebody’s really gonna have to do a heck of a job in there for me to think otherwise."

Two things: Seems the Dolphins don't "have to have the fullback" after all because you look at their roster following cuts to 53 and there isn't a traditional fullback in the bunch. Lex Hilliard can double as a FB, but everyone knows he isn't really one and Charles Clay is obviously not a FB even though he's listed as one on the depth chart.

Secondly, I guess the cutting of Polite means somebody did, in fact, "do a heck of a job" of helping Sparano think differently on Polite.

It is against that background that I present to you the transcript of yesterday's presser with Sparano.

During this press conference, coach compared rookie Daniel Thomas to a young Larry Johnson. (The clock is now ticking on Thomas authoring his first 1,700-yard season).

He said Nolan Carroll, who didn't distinguish himself in preseason games, had a "tremendous" training camp, and thus was a better choice to keep over Will Allen, who seemed to play well in his lone preseason outing. (Obviously, Allen lost his bid to make the team based on his lack of work in practices.)

Sparano says Marlon Moore basically made the team a couple of weeks ago and now that Miami has worked really hard to get some speed at the WR spot with Clyde Gates, Moore and some with Brian Hartline, the club isn't going to get rid of that speed. We'll see about all of that.

We'll see how long all these words stand up.

I should advise you to read quickly. Because everything is apparently subject to change.

(On the process behind the decisions of the 53-man roster) - “Well it was hard, I mean it was a good problem because we had hard decisions to make. But it was hard. I think there was a point in there where you’re in and around 45 (players) and you’re kind of grinding on the last eight or nine guys and who fits where and why and all that good stuff. I mean I think that the last ball game helped us a little bit you know to identify some of that stuff. It was really a total body of work here in training camp and you can’t excuse what went on for three, four weeks.

(On what was behind the decision to keep six receivers) - “I have six and I have six pretty good ones. So it’s a deep position and I don’t want to give up speed. I worked too hard to get it on this roster to give it up.”

(On if Marlon Moore was always on the roster) - “No I mean as of the last couple weeks it really wasn’t that tough of a decision.”

(On what he likes about Will Yeatman) - “Well he’s a guy we had on our radar for quite some time. Actually before the draft, in other words free agency all that kind of stuff and in the draft you know obviously went to another team. We seen him come available here and that was something we’d want to be involved in. He’s a smart guy, he’s a big guy, he’s a strong guy. It’s a little different than some of the guys that we have right now at the position and I think he brings a few different things to the table that way. He did a nice job in the preseason games for those guys.”

(On keeping five out of the six players from the draft class)- “I’ve said all along, I thought this was a really good rookie class. That being said they’ve had limited time out here to get themselves ready to go here and still not there yet, but I do think that each one of these kids has shown tremendous upside and can help this football team in a lot of ways. I see a lot of play eaters in this group, guys that will play a lot of plays one way or the other. Whether it’s Jimmy Wilson on special teams, (Clyde) Gates and his contribution or any of those guys so I’m just happy that our guys did a super job in the draft and I think it showed in training camp here and when the roster shaped up.

(On what kind of camp Chad Henne has had and where he is at right now)- “I think he’s had a really good training camp so I mean I think he’s way ahead of where he was a year ago. I think anybody that’s been watching us play can see that and I think that I would expect that he’s going to have a really good season.”

(On if it’s safe to say he isn’t done moving pieces on the roster) - “I mean I don’t know that we’re done necessarily. I mean I don’t know at this point in time with the amount of people that are out there. I mean let me tell you there’s a lot of guys out there right now obviously. Some people cut a lot more than we had to cut. But with the amount of people out there I don’t know you can say ever. But I would say we’re certainly coming to the end of it here. So I mean we got to get ourselves ready to play here and maybe a couple moves as we get going here. We always try to turn this roster at the bottom if we could.”

(On if Larry Johnson didn’t show enough in his time here) - “No, I mean, I thought Larry did a really good job I think it just came down to numbers and comfort. You know right now I kind of felt like at this particular time I have something similar that’s younger and a little faster and all those good things. But, I mean, I thought Larry did a really good job for us and it really came down to numbers at the position.”

(On if he was talking about Daniel Thomas in comparison to Larry Johnson)- “Yes.”

(On if the new rule regarding the game day roster come into the decision behind keeping two quarterbacks)- “Well I think the rule has something to do with it and I think also the rule gives you flexibility at the game you know for a little different body and I think it gives you the ability to bring in maybe somebody else that can contribute 25, 30 plays at the game some place. So I mean that helps us a little bit that way. To be honest with you, I felt best with two quarterbacks right now. And there’s a lot of teams that don’t do it but there’s a lot of teams that do it. Right now we are one of the teams that are going to play with two quarterbacks.”

(On if Will Allen’s health came into play)- “Total body of work. That’s all I can say there. I mean, I really, really like Will Allen and I really had a hard time with making that decision at the end of this thing. We’re deep back there right now with guys. I felt like Nolan Carroll had a tremendous training camp. I really thought Benny (Sapp) did good things you know and that group of guys and Jimmy (Wilson) and I had the least amount of work on Will right now. That’s where I was and that’s what really came into play is just a total body work with a lot of training camp and a total evaluation at the end.”

(On if the team has increased the team speed or playing faster)- “Nah, I think we’ve increased the team speed. I think that … I would say that’s a good question. I think we are playing faster. I think the tempo of things has changed tremendously in our approach on both sides of the ball. I think we’ve always played fast on defense but I think offensively we’ve been able to play fast and that’s kind of made our defense play a little faster if you will. That being said and there’s no substitute for having speed I think that we’ve created some speed on this team at a bunch of positions. The linebacker position runs better right now, the receiver position runs better, the running back position runs better, the line runs better so we have different speed right now I think all around.”

(On the conversation with Lousaka Polite) - “That was really difficult. That was a really difficult decision and conversation to have. You know both those guys Lou, Will Allen, just tremendous pros, really good pros and good people. Guys that have all the things that you really want to have on your team it’s just you have to make decisions that are hard decisions and these were hard decisions. We kind of went in a little different direction so there’s a little more flexibility right now with where we are then maybe where we were. All that being said those guys have done an awful lot for us and I appreciate that."

(On his thoughts on the running back position and its progression) - “My thoughts are, I think that we’ve helped ourselves a bunch here with Reggie (Bush). I’m looking forward to getting Reggie out there and getting him the football. Reggie is the starting running back. Daniel Thomas will be the next guy, pretty simple process. So I only have three of them and they’re on the roster right now.”

(On how much was a concerted effort to build the team this offseason with people not knowing what your pieces are doing) - “A lot, a lot of it was. First I had to find the speed and then we had to kind of start the chess game a little bit I think with the less predictability part of it. I feel like right now with the way that the roster is put together I’m not sure anybody really has an idea of how we might come at them one way or the other. So I think that’s a good thing. And I think the way we’ve been utilizing some of these different players has shown less predictability right now as well. We haven’t scratched the surface there yet. Obviously there’s a bunch of things that we’re practicing that we haven’t shown right now which we’re kind of looking forward to getting to do.”

 

September 04, 2011

Fins working back of roster with TE Yeatman, compile taxi squad

The Patriots liked Will Yeatman. They considered keeping him on the 53-man roster but ultimately cut him with the idea of signing him to the practice squad.

The Dolphins are expected to sign him to their 53-man roster instead.

This obviously adds TE depth. It makes Jeron Mastrud's status uncertain. If Mastrud stays, someone else will have to go. But this addition probably doesn't do a whole lot for Miami's passing game.

Yeatman reminds more of Joey Haynos than Jason Witten. He's 6-6 and 270 pounds and ran a 5.14 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He is a big blocking tight end. His blocking is what made the Patriots like him so much.

He's also a lacrosse player, which may have little to do with his football skills, but I'm throwing that in here just for giggles.

The club also is composing its practice squad. Cornerback Vincent Agnew is expected to be on the practice squad. Offensive tackle D.J. Jones is also expected to get a practice squad nod today.

[Update: Sure enough, Agnew is on the squad as is Jones. The other five practice squad additions today are QB Pat Devlin, RB Nic Grigsby, OL Garrett Chisolm, TE Brett Brackett, and WR Julius Pruitt. The Dolphins must seriously love Chisolm's potential. He was injured the entire training camp and did not practice once.]

Practice squad players make $5,700 per week for each week they're on the squad during the season. They don't get paid when the season is over. They are eligible to be signed onto another team's 53-man roster.

'Unofficial' depth chart has strengths, raises questions

Look at the Miami Dolphins depth chart below. It is copied straight from the Dolphins website and although it is clearly not the "official" depth chart the team might put out by Monday or Tuesday, it nonetheless has it good points and also raises questions.

As you look at the depth chart notice the areas where there is a richness of backups and areas where there are practically no backups.

The WR position and DE position enjoy the luxury of multiple backups -- so much so that it's doubtful all those backups will be active every game day.

The OT spot is currently a question mark when it comes to backups. It actually is also a question mark when it comes to the starting RT but that's another question for another day. Is Nate Garner ready to be the backup at both LT and RT? The man has never played LT in a regular season game. Yes, he's played some in practice and in preseason, but I assume the Dolphins know the regular season is a whole different game played at a much faster speed.

The backup left tackle hasn't been a worry until now because Jake Long has been a workhorse over there. But Long played injured all of last season and missed the this entire preseason as he was having a knee/leg injury nursed along. 

Now look at the running back and fullback position. Reggie Bush is the starter and that's very good. The Dolphins believe they have upgraded at that spot from a year ago. Bush is experienced, he's been in big games, he's accomplished things in the NFL.

But everyone behind him and everyone at fullback is a question mark. Backup Daniel Thomas is a rookie who had an average first camp at best. Third-string running back Lex Hilliard is in his fourth season but similarly has had little regular-season experience. He didn't carry the ball at all in 2008, didn't carry the ball at all in 2010, and had all of 23 carries in 2009. That's it.

Hilliard is also the backup fullback. He backs up rookie Charles Clay who is a fullback like I'm a Pulitzer Prize winner. Clay is a hybrid. He's an H-back. Tell me you want to use him like Indianapolis uses Dallas Clark or Washington used Chris Cooley. But a conventional fullback? The Dolphins waived that guy. His name is Lou Polite.

Speaking of tight ends: The Dolphins really like Anthony Fasano. And I get it, he's a very solid blocker and a smart player. But his inconsistent hands make him only a C-plus tight end. And behind him Jeron Mastrud is a puppy. Oh, he's a brilliant puppy, having graduated cum laude with a degree in business administration from Kansas State, but he's a puppy nonetheless.

So the only tight end with any significant NFL experience on the Dolphins is Anthony Fasano. A C-plus player. Sorry, but unless Clay turns into a beast and quickly, the front office has to look in the mirror and ask why it didn't do more to upgrade the TE position.

On the positive side, I do really like the makeup of Miami's receivers assuming each fills the role meant for him. And I really love the defensive line. The Dolphins are right up there with Pittsburgh as boasting the NFL's better 3-4 defensive lines.

Finally, there's the free safety spot. Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones engaged in a well chronicled competition for the starting job and, clearly, neither distinguished himself or separated himself significantly from the other. Considering the Dolphins eagerly want their free safety to be a big playmaker, that's not good news. Perhaps the regular season will tell another tale. We'll see on that.

This much is certain about free safety: It will not include Brandon Meriweather. He agreed to a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears this morning, according to ESPN.

Anyway, the "unofficial" depth chart as it is currently constituted. The team has Davone Bess first on kickoff returns ahead of Clyde Gates. I put Gates ahead of Bess on this depth chart. I have that power:

 OFFENSE

POS         STARTER                               2nd                              3rd                                 

WR                 19 Brandon Marshall                 15 Davone Bess                 18 Roberto Wallace

LT                 77 Jake Long                                                                                        

LG                 68 Richie Incognito                 69 Ray Feinga

C                 51 Mike Pouncey                 67 Joe Berger

RG                 72 Vernon Carey                 74 John Jerry

RT                 71 Marc Colombo                 75 Nate Garner

TE                 80 Anthony Fasano                 88 Jeron Mastrud

WR                 82 Brian Hartline                 10 Clyde Gates                 14 Marlon Moore

QB                   7 Chad Henne                   8 Matt Moore

RB                 22 Reggie Bush                 33 Daniel Thomas                 26 Lex Hiliard

FB                 31 Charles Clay

DEFENSE

POS         STARTER                            2nd                     3rd        

LE                 70 Kendall Langford                 78 Tony McDaniel                 90 Ryan Baker

NT                 96 Paul Soliai                 66 Frank Kearse

RE                 94 Randy Starks                 97 Phillip Merling                 98 Jared Odrick

SLB                 55 Koa Misi                 99 Jason Taylor                 59 Ikaika Alama-Francis

ILB                 58 Karlos Dansby                 53 Austin Spitler                 52 Marvin Mitchell

LB                 47 Kevin Burnett                 50 A.J. Edds

WLB                 91 Cameron Wake                 46 Jason Trusnik

LCB                 24 Sean Smith                 27 Benny Sapp

RCB                 21 Vontae Davis                 28 Nolan Carroll                 35 Jimmy Wilson

SS                 37 Yeremiah Bell                 29 Tyrone Culver

FS                  30 Chris Clemons                 20 Reshad Jones

SPECIALISTS

POS         STARTER                            2nd         

P                   2 Brandon Fields

H                    5 Dan Carpenter

H                   2 Brandon Fields

KR                           10 Clyde Gates  15 Davone Bess

PR                 15 Davone Bess                 10 Clyde Gates

LS                 92 John Denney                                      

September 03, 2011

Dolphins roster moves and what they mean

The Dolphins have announced the roster moves which got them to the mandated 53 man roster:

WAIVED: CB Vincent Agnew, TE Brett Brackett, WR Patrick Carter, G Garrett Chisolm, QB Pat Devlin, TE Dedrick Epps, LB Jonathan Freeny, RB Nic Grigsby, T D.J. Jones, T Matt Kopa, WR Phillip Livas, WR John Matthews, CB Nate Ness, LB David Nixon, QB Kevin O’ Connell, WR Julius Pruitt, S Mark Restelli, LB Robert Rose, TE Mickey Shuler, LB Quinton Spears.

CONTRACTS TERMINATED: S Gerald Alexander, CB Will Allen, NT Ronald Fields, RB Larry Johnson, FB Lousaka Polite,T Ray Willis.

PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE: T Lydon Murtha. A source tells me Murtha suffered a torn ligament in a toe.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Dolphins are at 53 players and some that made it today might not be on the team in a couple of days. The Dolphins are right now searching for a No. 3 QB -- which, by the way, may be a kid added to the practice squad. They have six WRs on the roster so that might be a position where movement yet happens. The club kept six DEs but only three RBs. All this raises questions and makes it clear this team is not complete.

The Dolphins kept Jeron Mastrud over Shuler. Also, John Jerry, a disappointment this camp, makes the team anyway. I suppose the draft pick investment in Jerry from a year ago -- a third rounder -- and the fact he's so young has saved him.

The Dolphins kept 10 linebackers -- five inside linebackers and five outside linebackers.

The Dolphins kept none of their undrafted rookie free agents.

It seems that rookie Frank Kearse beat out the veteran Fields for the backup NT job. That is not quite right, in my opinion. Fields is better than Kearse today. But the Dolphins can always move Randy Starks to NT if starter Paul Soliai is injured for any significant amount of time. So in fact, it seems Fields was not able to beat out Starks for the backup job. Kearse is a project but he's shown flashes and he's a fighter.

By the way, Chester Taylor was cut today by the Chicago Bears. Brandon Meriweather was cut by the New England Patriots. Because both have at least four seasons of experience, they become unrestricted free agents right away. They do not go on the waiver wire to be picked up by whichever team claims them. I hope the Dolphins are on the phone with somebody right now!

The biggest surprise of all this news has to be the cutting of Polite. Tony Sparano gushed about Polite and talked of how you couldn't find legit FBs in today's NFL anymore. He said Polite was one of those valuable guys and said how it would take a lot to convince him Polite had to go.

Well, he got convinced. I do know this, Polite was one of the top 53 on this team. He was a good locker room guy, also. Obviously, the Dolphins found reasons that overcame those assets. He was expensive in that he was going to cost $1.45 million against the cap. The Dolphins save $1.35 million by cutting him. This was the final year of his contract.

I suppose it is possible Polite is signed after the first week of the season at a discount and also without a guarantee for the entire year. But I also think other teams might show some interest in him.

Finally, I cannot stress enough that this does not end the moving and shaking of the Dolphins roster. This is mediocre team by most accounts. It has much work yet to do to be among the NFL's elite. I assume the front office is busy doing some of that work as we speak.

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Phillip Livas also cut, new PR man might be old returner

Phillip Livas has been cut by the Miami Dolphins, a source is telling me.

That means the player who handled the Dolphins punt return and much of the kickoff return duties this preseason is gone. He might be a practice squad possibility.

So what do the Dolphins do with the kickoff and punt return jobs?

Well, Clyde Gates seems to be the most likely candidate for the kick return job. The punt return job might have Gates in the mix as well.

But I would not discount the new punt returner to be the old punt returner -- Davone Bess. He's reliable. He has some quickness. And although he lacks the speed to give Miami a 75 or 80-yard return, his hands are very reliable.

The club also might employ Reggie Bush in the punt return mix -- especially in big games or big moments of games.

I am breaking my news on twitter. Simply, it is faster to get it out there. I give you the insight here. So if you must know stuff the second it breaks, please follow me on twitter.

Larry Johnson, Will Allen cut by Dolphins

A source is telling me the Dolphins have just cut running back Larry Johnson. Another source is telling me the Dolphins have also cut cornerback Will Allen.

"Thank you to all phin fans you've been great!!!" Allen tweeted after his release. "It's been a gr8t ride ... much love!"

Neither move is not exactly a huge surprise but its importance does speak to Miami's current running back and defensive back situations and what the Dolphins think of them.

Johnson played well in the final preseason game and there was thinking he might beat out Lex Hilliard for the final RB job based on his experience and history as a solid player.

But that didn't stand, particularly given the fact he was with the team about two weeks.

The move means Hilliard is likely on the team. The move means the Dolphins are confident Reggie Bush can stay healthy and rookie Daniel Thomas can be a good, capable backup. It must be said Bush has been injured during much of his NFL career and Thomas has not been inspiring during this training camp and preseason.

All this, however, comes with a caveat. Other RBs are being cut around the NFL. Other special teams players are being cut around the NFL. The Dolphins will study those moves and may well still make a move involving a RB by Tuesday or even in the coming weeks.

On the Allen cut, He also played well in the preseason finale against Dallas. This seems to be a move made to save the $1.5 million he would cost if he's on the roster the first week of the season. Veterans on the roster the first week of the regular season have their entire salary guaranteed for the season. The Dolphins were obviously not comfortable with the idea Allen, who has been injured the past two years, could stay healthy the entire season given what little work he's gotten this preseason.

There is a small possibility Allen might be brought back later if he's not picked up by another team. The move also suggests Nolan Carroll will be on the team.

The Dolphins have cut other players as well. I'll get those to you as soon as I know. They will trim their roster to 53 by the NFL deadline of 6 p.m.

Roster cuts: How Moore views his status (with video)

The Dolphins, like all NFL teams, will trim their rosters to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday. Obviously, that will not be the end of the roster rattling, as most teams then will pick up players waived by others in order to piece together the strongest roster possible.

The Dolphins have already cut players. I reported yesterday they cut Dedrick Epps, Gerald Alexander, and John Matthews. Today they have already cut six more players but so far reached only a couple of those -- the informed part is import because when the players find out, the media begins to find out.. One of those informed he has been cut is No. 4 QB Kevin O'Connell.

None of those cuts are surprises. None hurt.

The ones that would hurt include solid playres such as Marlon Moore, or Nolan Carroll or Larry Johnson or Will Allen -- players that have value but are caught in a numbers game. I don't know that any of the above mentioned players are either cut or sticking. When I know, you'll know.

All of them are waiting for news and hoping they never get a phone call from the team. No call means nothing's happened and so you're not cut.

Moore is especially intriguing to me because I believe he is easily among Miami's best 53 players but still might not make the team for several reasons: The Dolphins might only keep five wide receivers and the fifth wide receiver has to be a fine special teams player. Roberto Wallace has a role on the team because he's a very good special teams player thus he could win the fifth receiver job.

I believe Moore will play in the NFL this season regardless of whether he's cut or not. Someone else will pick him up if he is. My only hope is the Dolphins recognize he's coming on and somehow make room for him.

I talked to Moore after Thursday's preseason finale about the looming roster decisions and how he thought it would affect him. Here is that conversation

 

September 02, 2011

Larry Johnson gets in the end zone again -- finally

I'm rooting for Larry Johnson. I don't mind telling you that. I love a good redemption story.

Thursday night, Johnson did all he could to find a roster spot on the Dolphins -- rushing for 39 yards on 10 carries and scoring a touchdown from 22 yards out.

Johnson showed he can still set up blocks, still beat the one tackler the blocking does not account for, and still has the ability to run downhill when given a chance. The Dolphins can use that as insurance behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Does that put Lex Hilliard's spot at risk? Sure.

Hilliard has been a nice reserve, but he's mostly a special teams player. Want to hear something crazy? Johnson, 31, recently volunteered to play special teams for the Dolphins. He volunteered to go into special teams meetings.

No, he wasn't actually on special teams against Dallas. But the sentiment is impressive.

Johnson hasn't really played since 2008 because the last two seasons have been a nightmare. Fact is the last NFL he scored prior to Thursday night came against the Dolphins in December of 2008. Long time ago.

That suggests Johnson is still rusty and once he knocks off some of that rust, he might be better still. Obviously that is the glass half-full view.

Johnson isn't depending on that. He figures even if the Dolphins don't keep him, he showed some other NFL team that he still knows how to find the end zone. I wrote about the importance of this preseason game and the work done by Johnson and Will Allen in my column for the Miami Herald today. Please read it.

And please listen to the postgame interview below that Johnson conducted with a handful of reporters.

Will Allen overcomes anxiety, plays well

Will Allen got the start against the Dallas Cowboys in this final preseason game. He played left cornerback which is great news or terrible news -- depending on a player's perspective -- when he's playing a right-handed quarterback.

A right-handed quarterback typically attacks the left cornerback unless his name is Deion Sanders.

That gave Allen opportunities, which have come few and far between for Allen in this camp. Coach Tony Sparano said that before Thursday's game, Allen had only 19 reps. Allen has been injured off and on since the 2009 season so he's had few opportunities since that time.

That meant he had to maximize on Thursday night. He played over 20 plays, according to Sparano. I thought he showed something. He's valuable. He had five tackles and a pass defensed. He tipped the ball that Tyrone Culver intercepted.

I would keep this veteran. I don't know what the Dolphins will do. Certainly, if he's not in their plans they should try to trade him. I hear the Giants need cornerbacks.

Good, experienced ones are very hard to come by.

Anyway, Allen was feeling pretty good after the game. Lots of smiles. Couple of jokes.

I wrote my column in today's Miami Herald on how Allen and running back Larry Johnson stated their cases for making the team in a game reserved mostly for young players. Please check it out to see what Johnson had to say on the matter.

And obviously you can see what Allen said in the video below:

September 01, 2011

Live blog of Fins backups vs. Cowboys right here

It's a school night. It's a weeknight. It's the fourth preseason game.

Folks simply aren't coming out to this preseason game.

Some players aren't coming out, either. Like all of them.

The entire starting offense is sitting. The entire starting defense is sitting.

The new starters?

WRs Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore. LT Ray Feinga. LG Nate Garner. C Joe Berger. RG John Jerry. LT Ray Willis. QB Matt Moore. RB Daniel Thomas. FB Lex Hilliard. TE Jeron Mastrud.

The starting defense is DEs Tony McDaniel and Jared Odrick. NT Ronald Fields. Marvin Mitchell and Austin Spitler at ILB. Jason Trusnik and Ike Alama-Francis at OLB. Will Allen and Nolan Carroll at CBs. Reshad Jones and Tyrone Culver at S.

As we speak, I am sitting. But I am blogging the game live. The live blog gets underway in the comments section. Meet me there.

 

 

 

MNF: Dolphins need a masterpiece to win

Yes, the Dolphins play tonight against their feeder team, the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, there will be a live blog. And yes, this is the final preseason game.

So next up is the Monday night regular-season opener against New England. There are approximately 5,000 tickets left for that tilt. Unlike tonight's preseason-finale, the Dolphins expect to sell out that one.

But what happens in that game will set the tone for the rest of the season. ESPN will broadcast the game as part of a doubleheader with Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden on board for the call. They recently held a national conference call to talk about that game and the slate of games coming on Monday night.

The trio was asked to size up the two teams, including a critical look at their offensive lines, both of which struggled in their most recent preseason games -- the Dolphins versus Tampa Bay and the Patriots against Detroit.

JAWORSKI: "We all know that Detroit put a lot of energy into that game. It wasn't a show‑off preseason game. They wanted to show they were going to be for real. They really did torch the Patriots offensive line. I'm sure it's not been a good week at practice for the Patriots. It's an area they certainly have to get better. Tom Brady got hit too many times. He got flushed from the pocket too many times.

"You know what happens. This is a copycat league. We all know the Dolphins can play pretty darn good defense, and Cameron Wake can get after the quarterback. They're going to look at that tape and say, 'Hey, that was the Detroit Lions. I know it was a preseason game, but look at the individual matchups. They were winning up front.' When the Dolphins look at that tape, they're going to glean something positive out of that tape. They're probably going to look back and see Brady get rattled against theJets last year in the playoff game. When I look at this matchup, I think it's going to come down to that Patriots offensive line against that Miami defense, which is much improved again. They've got a wealth of talent on that front seven.

TIRICO: "Since I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and you have two Michigan quarterbacks going head to head, Tom Brady and Chad Henne. You know everything about Brady, obviously unanimous MVP. But what a huge game for Henne, and if you think about it over the last couple of years, Chad Henne's games have come earlier in the year, nationally televised games. So a very important game not just for Chad but for Miami.

"There is so much, I gu0ess, lack of clear messaging coming from the Dolphins during the off‑season. Would there be a new head coach? Would there be a new quarterback? Well, the same two guys are in the two most important positions in football. So they're feeling that pressure.

"Their schedule early on is difficult, and there's a lot rolled into this game at home. If they can get one against the Patriots and gain some confidence, can Reggie Bush have a good game in his debut? Brandon Marshall, after another off‑season with issuesand problems, I think we all always know approximately what we're going to get from the Patriots. There's such consistency in the regular season from Belichick.

"So Miami is the wild card to me. And will those guys who are put, I guess, on the ledge a little bit in terms of their future with the Dolphins, will they come up with big games with everybody watching first game of the regular season? To me, that'sthe big curiosity factor of the game going in."

GRUDEN: "I'm not as concerned about New England, nor am I as concerned about the offensive line after the Detroit Lions game. I credit Detroit with playing great at home. I think after being pummeled on Thanksgiving Day by the Patriots a year before, making numerous mistakes, they rose to the challenge. But I don't put as much stock in preseason games maybe as others.

"I think New England is the team to beat in the AFC this year for obvious reasons. They got the best coach, and they have the best quarterback combination. You could argue that, but they're dynamic. And I think their young players that emerged and exploded onto the scene last year will be even better. Hernandez, Gronkowski, a number of players will even be better this year than they were a year ago.

"I just have a lot of questions about the Dolphins. They've got a new offensive coordinator. They've got a completely new cast of running backs. Ronnie and Ricky are gone, and Chad Henne, he's going to really have to put a masterpiece together, I believe,to beat the New England Patriots in an opener."