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Five things on my mind this morning

Let me give you a piece of my mind (not that I can spare too much) this morning:

1. The Dolphins are stunning in their defensive fall from grace so far this season. They got lit up by New England. They improved somewhat against Houston but still, it wasn't good enough. And then, most disappointing to me, they gave up a game-winning drive to Colt McCoy and a Browns offense that was without running back Peyton Hillis and the club's starting right tackle Tony Pashos this past weekend.

So the Dolphins defense is ranked 30th in the NFL so far this year. Terrible, right? Team can't win until they get better, right?

Yeah, well, the Patriots have the No. 32 ranked defense in the NFL this year. That is dead last.

The difference is the Patriots have the best QB in the NFL so having the worst statistical defense in the NFL is not quite as painful as it is in Miami. It's vexing. But season-killing? Not when you can light up the scoreboard.

For the record, the Dolphins averaged 17 points per game last year and that was obvioulsy not good enough. This year the new, revamped, rebuilt, refurbished offense is averaging 17.6 points per game through three games.

2. As you might know, I reported Monday that the Dolphins are in money-saving mode. I've been told this by very high ranking sources within the football side of the organization. [UPDATE: Another high-ranking and annoyed source within the organization says the team is not in big money-saving mode, it's just going by a budget and there is no big deal afoot.]

Anyway, I got a call from yet another source within the organization Monday explaining that the team's salary cap space -- estimated between $7-$8 million under the $120 million -- will eventually be used this year.

I was told the space was left with the thoughts of using toward signing extensions with certain players whose contracts expire after this year. Among those players are Kendall Langford, Chad Henne and others. The team might even visit the idea of signing Cameron Wake before his deal expires after 2012.

Except, I asked this source, why such a need to save cap space for players who are basically taking you to a winless record? What's so great about them?

"That's a consideration that we might have to re-examine," the source admitted.

I would think so.

Yes, Langford is nice player. But he's not great. He's basically a space eater. He's got two tackles in three games so far this year. Igor Olshansky had two tackles in one game against Cleveland. Jared Odrick has four tackles. Randy Starks has 10 tackles.

Look, the Dolphins can sign Langford to keep him from hitting free agency. But the hope is the deal is modest. Because his playmaking has been modest.

Henne presents another interesting situation. Do the Dolphins sign him to an extension now? I say if the season continues on its present course, I would absolutely not do that.

Simply, if the Dolphins continue to stink, they will be in favorable position to pick a quarterback very, very early in the draft. Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore, Landry Jones and perhaps Robert Griffin III might all be available next draft.

So why invest in Henne now?

Now, if Henne goes crazy the next 13 games, absolutely, you re-sign him. Why? Well, if he goes crazy, he will have proven his worth and at the same time would have probably played the Dolphins out of the top rung of the draft anyway.

But again, you don't do that anytime soon. You let it play out until late in the year or  even after the season when teams have an exclusive negotiating window with their free agents.

So again, that cap space now makes no sense.

And while we're on the topic, Phillip Merling is out of contract after this season. Two words following his one tackle against Houston and coming off what was apparently a healthy scratch last week: Bye. Bye.

[NOTE: By the way, I'm thinking I've got to start cutting down on sources particularly when they all work for the same team and they're not all on the same page. Sheesh.]

3. I wrote in my column that coach Tony Sparano struggled to walk out of Cleveland Browns Stadium, moving gingerly and stopping once to, ahem, adjust because he was in obvious pain as he continues to recover from double hernia surgery.

I'm told by a source close to Sparano the coach was told his surgery required a short hospital stay followed by 10 days of bed rest. Sparano was in bed for one day and walking the next. While in bed, 75 minutes after the surgery, he was breaking down tape of the team's final preseason game.

Does that make him a great coach? No. Does it make him one very tough and dedicated dude? You betcha.

4. Thinking back to No. 2, there are other players who are likely in their final years with the Dolphins:

Vernon Carey, Will Allen, and possibly Paul Soliai because he's expecting a big payday after this year and the Dolphins might not be willing to meet his price -- as they've not been able to do in three separate contract offers since last October. Yup, three total offers aside from the franchise tag tender is what the team has put in front of Soliai's agent.

5. I like Jimmy Wilson. He's a rookie. He's a seventh round draft pick. And he took responsibility for "losing the game" against Cleveland Sunday. For the record, Wilson gave up the catch that resulted in the winning touchdown.

But he didn't lose the game.

Football is a team sport. It's won by teams. And lost by teams.

You have to admire Wilson's view anyway. He's a no-excuses guy. And he didn't much mention the interception he had earlier in the game, which happened to be the first of his career. Wilson, by the way, has one more interception than either of Miami's starting cornerbacks -- Sean Smith or Vontae Davis.

That means Davis and Smith have zero interceptions.

I cannot decide which is more disappointing: That Smith and Davis had trouble holding on to balls that would have been interceptions last year. Or that this year they haven't had any passes in their hands that they might have converted into interceptions.

 

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