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53 posts from November 2011

November 30, 2011

Olshansky another failed Miami Cowfin

You know by now that Igor Olshansky was cut late Tuesday by the Dolphins.

And with that, another former Dallas Cowboys castoff fails in Miami.

Olshansky is gone from his third team in four seasons because, how to put this delicately, he stunk of late. He had one tackle in the last month, which is only one more than you or me or any of our pets. Last week, during preparation period when he should have been highly motivated to practice hard and perform so he could get on the field against his former Cowboys teammates, Olshansky laid an egg. He suffered a calf injury.

And so he was inactive for the Thanksgiving Day game versus Dallas.

Womp, womp, womp.

So after much consideration the Dolphins signed formerly cut Ryan Baker as an upgrade to Olshansky. Baker was cut two months ago.

Another former Cowboy turned Dolphin has thus failed. (For the complete story on Miami's roster moves click here.)

Note to Jeff Ireland: Please, with respect, stop signing Cowboys discards. There's a reason they were discarded by a team that isn't exactly Super Bowl caliber. If you've got to sign discards, how about adding folks from the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers? Those teams run 3-4 defenses. Those teams score tons of points on offense. And those teams have done something in recent years neither the Cowboys nor Dolphins have done in a long time: They've won Super Bowls.

If you have to pick through someone's trash can, do it in a rich neighborhood, not the same old housing project that isn't producing results for you lately.

This year, more than any other since the current administration took over, the reach for former Cowboys has not really worked too well. Joe Berger was cut. Nate Jones was re-signed. And then cut. Lousaka Polite was cut. Marc Colombo was signed and has started but everyone knows he is more part of the problem that is the 2011 Dolphins than part of the solution.

Linebacker Kevin Burnett, another former Cowboy, signed a $21 million contract in July. The jury is still out on him because he has shown flashes of improvement lately, but overall, he has not played up to his contract.

The one shining success in adding former Cowboys to the Dolphins this year has been Matt Moore. He's been a revelation in that he has been many things the Dolphins hoped to get in a starting quarterback but never did from Chad Henne. He came to the Dolphins as merely a backup with no hope of competing for the starting job, so even in that regard, the Dolphins misjudged his abilities.

But at least Moore's been a good addition -- good work by the personnel department. He has so far played himself into deserving a chance to compete for a job in Miami in 2012.

Otherwise, the continued addition of former Cowboys has been a failure. It stopped working after 2008 when Anthony Fasano and Jason Ferguson and Akin Ayodele were added.

Igor Olshansky is only the latest example of that failure.

[Injury update: Dan Carpenter is practicing and ready to go. He will kick Sunday barring an unforeseen setback ... Vernon Carey did not practice today and will likely be listed as questionable on Friday.]

Dolphins interior OL good at 'playing with each other'

Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, studies his line with much enthusiasm and focus.

And while Marc Colombo has allowed a Sun-Pass-lane-like 27 quarterback pressures this season, the interior of the Miami line has been solid to good much of the season according to Sparano.

Following Miami's 20-19 loss to the Cowboys -- a game in which the Dolphins averaged 3.6 yards per rush, allowed four sacks, had a botched shotgun snap cost them a turnover that led to a touchdown, Sparano said the interior of Miami's line is getting much better.

“I think they’re getting better and better every single week, I really do," Sparano said. "I think that week in and week out when you look at how those guys are grading out they are getting better. They are getting better fundamentally."

The Miami interior line consists of left guard Richie Incognito, center Mike Pouncey and right guard Vernon Carey, who moved from right tackle this season.

"Vernon Carey, during the course of that game, again and I keep saying this but there was a stretch of plays in that game where Vernon Carey looked like a really good guard," Sparano said, "I mean a really good guard."

I don't know if any of that means Carey, who is unsigned for 2012, can have hopes of returning next year. But for this season, Sparano is seeing things from his interior linementhat we obviously do not see. And, in one respect, he's seeing things from his interior linemen that I hope I never see.

"The three of them are starting to get better and I think that just comes with knowing each other and playing -- this isn’t going to sound good -- playing with each other together, I guess."

November 29, 2011

Earth to Dolphins: Let's be realistic, honest

A quick survey of the Dolphins locker room these days gives you an interesting perspective of the players' world versus the real world.

In the players' world, this team is much better than its record. This team is truly gifted. This team has the horses to compete with anyone. In the players' world, the season still offers some grand opportunities and, depending on whom you ask, the Dolphins still have a chance at the playoffs -- it's the "We're not out of it until we're out of it" mentality.

You have to take some of this in stride. I love an optimist as much as anyone. I admire men who fight to the last bullet and then, lacking ammo, throw the gun at the opponent. I will never criticize the idea that until the math says otherwise, any reach at extending the season is possible.

But I draw the line at cross-eyed analysis of what is otherwise a very clear picture.

On Monday I heard Davone Bess say the Dolphins "can play with upper-tier teams." His suggestion is that Miami is every bit the equal of those teams.

Well, that is simply not true.

The Dolphins have not beaten a winning team this year. The Chiefs, Bills, and Redskins -- the teams Miami has beaten -- are all under .500. Overall, the Dolphins are 3-2 against teams that are under .500.

And the Dolphins are 0-6 against teams currently at .500 or better.

Miami has five games left, with three of those -- Sunday versus Oakland, at New England and the Jets in the finale -- against teams that are over .500. The Eagles and Bills are currently under .500 so one assumes Miami has a good chance of actually winning in those games given the season's trend.

Talk to other players and the common thinking in the locker room is there is lots of talent in there. I had a very enlightening sit-down with Brandon Marshall a few weeks back and one part of the conversation that was not published was our exchange about the talent on the team.

I told him flatly, that the team doesn't have enough talent.

"I don't agree with you," he said. "We have ballers in there. I look at all that talent and talent isn't the problem. We're just not executing."

Marshall and I had to agree to disagree on the topic because while the Dolphins do have ballers -- Jake Long, Marshall, Yeremiah Bell, Bess usually, Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby among them -- they don't have enough ballers. They don't have consistent ballers. And they don't have ballers in all the right places.

They don't have ballers in positions that make a big difference -- such as OLB, WR, KOR, FS, PR, QB, and RB.

They have solid players at TE, CB and DE, but none of those guys have proven to be difference-makers (Jared Odrick has potential, so the jury is still out there and I still have not given up on Vontae Davis).

So "all that talent" talk is relative. There is talent.

But it's not busting out the seams of the locker room. Dolphins coaches didn't pound their heads on desks in disgust, knowing good players were about to be let go, when they needed to make roster cuts. There hasn't been a big number of players that have left Miami this year and gone on to grand accomplishments with other teams.

So that abundance of talent is a myth.

Quick, name me which offensive players on the Dolphins would start on the Patriots? Marshall. Long. Mike Pouncey. That's it.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have eight players that would start on the Miami offense. That's the talent gulf between the teams on offense.

The Jets?

Marshall, Long, Incognito are the only Miami starters who would start tomorrow for New York. Sorry, Nick Mangold would start ahead of Pouncey and Matt Moore would not start ahead of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is no prize. I'm not a fan. But he's more consistent than Moore.

This is not to put down Miami players.

I'm simply trying to be real here and not write about elves and unicorns.

The interesting thing I see in the Dolphins locker room is an attitude that I would expect in a college locker room. I see guys giggling about celebration dances. Really?

I don't see grown men understanding that they have issues and then talking seriously about those issues so that they can find solutions.

I don't hear players saying, "We need to fix what is obviously broken because we realize if we don't, we might not be around here next year."

I don't hear, "What has happened this year is unacceptable and I am making it my business to pick my personal game up the final five games so that I can be counted among players who are part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

I don't hear guys saying, "I am focused on playing at the top of my game the final five games, better than I've played at any portion of my career."

Last week, Clyde Gates told the Miami Herald he was "having fun" playing this year and seemed oblivious to the idea that he has been a non-factor on offense this year. I grant you he is a rookie, but, c'mon man! This is professional football. Stay at the facility an extra couple of hours and learn how to break down the opponent. Ask more questions so you can know what exactly you must work on. And stay on the field after practice and work on those things until you bully your way into some gameday snaps. December arrives tomorrow. Giddyup!

You know, the Dolphins coaching staff and personnel department talks about getting players with "the right makeup."

I grant you a never-say-die-attitude should be part of that right makeup. But a sober and stubborn desire to improve something that's obviously not right or good enough should also be part of that makeup.

And that means recognizing and then addressing those things that are messed up. That means not wasting time thinking that there is enough talent and the goal is still to make the playoffs when, in fact, every shred of tangible evidence says that's not reality.

Koa Misi shows up! (Yeah, not so much on the field)

Koa Misi made a rare appearance in the Dolphins locker room on Monday. He showed his typically friendly disposition although it seemed he needed a haircut.

But I digress.

The point is Koa Misi was visible in the locker room. Now, he needs to show up with more frequency on game days.

The truth about the Dolphins 2010 second-round draft pick is that he has been something of an enigma this season. He wasn't exactly an impact player last year but this year he's been less productive than he was as a rookie.

Misi has 25 tackles through 11 games. He has one sack. He has one forced fumble.

That's it.

Last year Misi contibuted more. He averaged 2.56 tackles per game last year compared to 2.25 per game this year. He had 4.5 sacks in 16 games compared to his one sack this year.

He had two forced fumbles, two passes defensed and three tackles for loss. This year, no passes defensed. This year, he has three tackles for loss.

Not what I would call significant improvement. Not what I would call improvement at all, actually.

Now, if you talk to coaches, they'll tell you about things Misi is doing better technically. They'll tell you he's often in better position and is setting the edge better and on and on. But ask why his bottom line numbers aren't thus better and you get silence.

And, without apologies, production is more important than technique.

Misi came to the Dolphins as a try-hard defensive end who needed to make the transition to stand-up 3-4 OLB. He gave hope last year that he could make the transition.

This year? Not quite as much.

November 28, 2011

Peter King: Miami's got a 'good base of talent'

The day-after ritual that is reading Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback is complete for me. And as a poster pointed in the comments section earlier today, King mentioned coach Tony Sparano, quarterback Matt Moore and the Dolphins talent base in his column.

King says that whichever team hires coach Tony Sparano when he gets fired after the season "is going to get one heck of a football coach." Then King says that whomever gets the Miami job will inherit "a good base of talent."

I love Peter King. Really do. He's everything a sportswriter should be -- which is to say he's on TV.

But he's missed it on this one.

I agree with King that whatever team hires Sparano will get a good coach. But the facts don't jibe when he says on one hand Sparano is a heck of a coach and on the other hand he says the talent base on the Dolphins is good ...

... And then we look at the standings.

You cannot have a good coach and good talent and be a last-place team. Good coaches with good talent do not post a 3-8 record. Either Sparano, a good coach, doesn't have enough talent to win with, or Sparano is not very good and unable to properly develop the good talent he has to its maximum potential.

One or the other. Period. 

Beyond that, it must be said that King picked the Dolphins to finish last in the AFC East before the season began. While I was picking them second, he knew better than me and picked them last. That's why he dwarfs me.

But ....

The Dolphins King thought would be the worst team in the AFC East have confirmed his suspicions and are currently last in the AFC East -- and out of that scenario King sees a team with a good coach and a good talent base?

What does he think the Patriots, Jets and Bills have?

Just sayin'.

My take?

Sparano is a good coach. But the Dolphins don't have enough playmakers. They lack a starting-caliber quarterback that is ready to take Miami to .500, much less the playoffs. They don't have a consistent playmaker in the secondary. The right side of the offensive line is a mess. They have only one consistent pass-rusher. The running back corps is mediocre at best and has produced that way.

Good talent base? Don't think so.

Dolphins standards must regain former levels

Welcome back ....

When last we convened seven days ago, the Dolphins had hopes of running the table en route to a 9-7 season. There were whispers the team had found a quarterback. There was a movement among some fans that maybe, just maybe, this administration was right all along and it might merit another year.

No.

Today, this Dolphins' season turns for home and we already know 2011 will mark the third consecutive season this administration fails to post a winning record. That is disappointing by any measure.

Remember when these guys were new?

Remember what happened after that magical, fateful 2008 season? After winning 11 games and the AFC East, Bill Parcells went on ESPN during the Super Bowl and proclaimed the team wasn't good enough. He said that despite the 11-5 record, everyone in the organization knew they weren't there yet and much work needed to be done.

What would he say now?

That not-good-enough 11-5 has been followed by two seasons under. 500 and this year, which will be a break-even event at best. (No it won't because the Dolphins aren't done losing, but that's just a prediction.)

Judging by 2008 standards, these guys suck.

But I would say to you the Dolphins would not agree with that because they have lowered their own standards in recent years.

Whereas you never heard how hard the team played in 2008, I've been hearing that spoken of as some sort of feat worthy of applause way too often this year. Whereas players that didn't execute got benched or cut in 2008 (remember Chris Crocker, Derek Hagan, Ernest Wilford), now guys that do something to hurt the team in eight of 11 games (Marc Colombo) keep their starting job and the coach defends them with gusto.

I got news for these folks running the Dolphins: Nobody gives a flip that players are playing hard. That is assumed in the NFL. It is merely the starting point. These men are getting paid. That means that by playing hard, they are doing the bare minimum portion of their jobs.

South Florida knows football. It is football country. It produces more football players per capita than any place in the United States and third overall behind Texas and California. We do not accept that a player paying hard is an accomplishment. Activity does not equal accomplishment.

Accomplishment equals accomplishment.

Playing hard is what 90 percent of NFL teams do every week.

Playing well is what winning NFL teams do.

Mention playing hard and my eyes roll to the back of my head in boredom. Mention playing well and if you have proof of it, you've said something worth paying attention to and worth sitting up straight for.

But, of course, the Dolphins are giving us precious little worth sitting up for. It says something when the stories that draw the biggest interest on this and other Dolphins sites are stories about what is coming next year -- be it in the form of the next quarterback, the next coach, the next general mananger or the next uniform scheme.

This year? You basically stopped buying the propaganda in October. You know that what the Dolphins are putting on the field every week truly is not good enough by NFL standards. Not good enough playing. Not good enough coaching. Not good enough drafting. Not good enough owning. Not good enough ticket-selling. Not good enough fight song playing. Not good enough anything.

The Dolphins have seemingly lowered their standards and I fear many fans and some journalists have bought into the thinking.

Folks, 8-8 is not good. It is mediocre at best. The truth is Don Shula was coaxed into retirement because he couldn't do consistently better than 10-6. Dave Wannstedt was reviled because he kept missing the playoffs with 10-6 records. And now we're ok with 8-8?

Some people, stunningly, are apparently comfortable with 8-8 as the status quo. They're good with inconsistency or mediocrity. They've been numbed into such thinking.

Some fans see a quarterback play well for three games and find a way to forget the three previous terrible starts. Worse, some fans see three nice games by a quarterback and believe he's the answer longterm because they've not seen anything close to an answer for nearly a decade.

Some journalists likewise see mediocrity and call it good. I read somewhere that Miami's 2011 rookie class was doing a job well done on its own merits. Stop. Mike Pouncey is doing a great job. Period. End of story.

Daniel Thomas has been inconsistent and has basically proven zero this year. Thomas hasn't shown enough to suggest he'll be a rushing leader in three years any more than he's shown enough to convince me he won't be out of the league. He's still a question mark. Charles Clay is coming on lately and has fine potential but that doesn't change the fact he was invisible until late October. Clyde Gates has been, with two notable exceptions, unexceptional on kickoffs and he is nowhere ready to play on offense. Jimmy Wilson has been excellent on special teams and everything you would ask of a seventh-round pick. Considering the investment and draft position, Wilson might be the next best rookie behind Pouncey or third behind Pouncey and Clay.

That is not a job well done overall. Acceptable, yes. But that's it.

I must say, not everything is terrible. Brandon Fields is outstanding. Brandon Marshall is having a good year. Davone Bess is among the NFL's better slot receivers. The left side of the offensive line is very good most weeks. Cameron Wake has been solid and Jared Odrick is getting better. Yeremiah Bell is a sledgehammer in the secondary.

I'm also impressed with the job coaches have done with Matt Moore. He is a better player today than in July when he came to the Dolphins. That says something good about him and the men teaching him. (It doesn't say he's the future, however.)

I'm sure I'm missing some things to point out as outstanding. But I'm sure I'm also missing some things that are highly troubling and questionable as well.

(For instance, no one last week brought up the two-point conversion coach Tony Sparano opted not to try when the team went up 15-10 vs. Dallas. The two-point conversion chart says go for 2. Sparano followed the chart in the Denver game when his team went up 12-0. Why not follow it this time? I don't know if Sparano has been asked that question. I know I haven't seen an answer.)

Further evidence the standards around here are lower.

November 20, 2011

Some thoughts to last you seven days

This is the last post on this blog for seven days. I am on hiatus until November 28. So this blog is on hiatus this week, including Thursday's game at Dallas. Not my choice. Not any sort of suspension or personal issue. Just business that I've been told not to discuss here with readers.

Anyway, I'm not going away. You can still listen to me on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, through Wednesday. And while there will not be a live blog here during the Dallas game, I will be live on twitter. My twitter account belongs to me and not The Herald.

Meantime, let me leave you with a couple of thoughts to masticate on throughout the week:

1. As I wrote for Monday's edition of the newspaper, I believe Matt Moore deserves respect and praise for what he's done so far this season. Wonderful. But no amount of work he does this year should convince the Dolphins to believe him to be their long range answer at quarterback. Simply, I wrote, the Dolphins should not repeat the mistake the Buffalo Bills obviously have made with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That means, the Dolphins must draft a QB next April with eyes on developing that kid into a franchise guy. That should be the focus.

They should keep Moore, as his contract calls for. But they should also draft a QB very high. And as to signing Moore to a contract extension ... no thanks. He's signed through 2012. So not right now.

By the way, if you think what Moore is doing these last three games is new, you're incorrect. Starting in December 2009 he had a four-game span in which he threw 8 TD passes without an interception against New England, Minnesota, the New York Giants and New Orleans.

The Panthers bought in. They made him the starter for 2010. He finished that season with 5 touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions in six games.

2. I do not believe the Dolphins can win out. Yes, the current three-game streak is commendable. It's good for the team and fans. But it is as much a product of the Dolphins facing bad competition as it is them playing better. Let's face it, the Bills actually improved against Miami by losing 35-8. The week before, they lost to Dallas 44-7.

The Bills are so injured, they seem done for the season. They've lost their best pass-rush threat, their best defensive lineman, their No. 2 cornerback, their No. 2 wide receiver, their No. 3 wide receiver, their starting center, their kicker, and on Sunday didn't have the services of their starting left tackle and starting strong safety.

So if you think Miami's convincing victory had nothing to do with that, go ahead and live the dream.

Me?

I guess I want to see Miami beat Dallas. And the Patriots and Jets, to whom they already lost. Oakland is also no pushover. And Philadelphia is still more talented than Miami even without Michael Vick. So victories in those games will move me.

Victories against Washington, Buffalo and Kansas City? Nice. But I was born at night, just not last night. (Actually, I was born at 11:45 in the morning).

3. Is there anything that can save Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland?

I do not know for certain one way or another -- mainly because I have not asked the proper authorities. It's too early for that and one only gets a certain number of opportunities to ask that kind of question.

My opinion?

I believe the answer is absolutely, resoundingly, YES. The Dolphins have to win out. They have to go 9-7. Anything short of that guarantees both men of absolutely, positively NOTHING. Bottom line here is the current win streak is good. But it does not erase the seven-game disaster to start the season.

4. How do I feel about the current three-game win streak? Look, winning is awesome. Winning is the only thing that really matters at the professional level. That's the reason they keep score and the standings are updated every week. So winning is it.

But winning late after losing twice as many times early in the season makes those victories less meaningful. It speaks to you not being ready on time. It speaks to not being prepared. I don't want a horse that runs a great final furlong after falling down and throwing his jockey coming out of the gate. That horse has zero value. I want a horse that's in the race start to finish.

So to answer something I was asked on twitter Sunday, winning these games is great -- to a measured and diminished point.

Also, these wins are indeed hurting the team longterm. Think about this: Every victory the Dolphins add increases the chances they will draft lower in the April draft. That is not an intangible fantasy. That is fact. Many fans are worried about that, and I understand why. It is legitimate.

I don't want to hear how winning meaningless games now is more valuable than draft position later. It is not. I would never condone losing. I encourage winning. But I do so with my eyes open. Wins now are not as valuable because the chances of turning those wins into a playoff berth -- the whole reason for winning in the regular season -- are practically zero.

The Dolphins did that to themselves.

Fins escort Bills to woodshed, administer whipping

This was a complete victory as the 35-8 score suggests.

The defense extended its streak of quarters without allowing a touchdown to 12. The offense rolled up four TDs in the first half to make this a walk before the second half was played. Matt Moore threw three touchdown passes and had a 133.3 rating.

And the special teams got a blocked punt and touchdown when Lex Hilliard recoverd a block in the end zone.

Complete.

Total.

Stampede of Buffalo.

The Dolphins have won three consecutive game. They are 3-7. They travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Dolphins one quarter from their third consecutive win

The Dolphins have blocked a punt and recovered the ensuing loose ball for a TD. They have strip sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have two interceptions.

This team is doing everything man fans were hopeful of seeing when the season began.

That doesn't mean I'm complaining about the 35-6 lead to begin today's fourth quarter. It just makes you wish it had come earlier.

Join me in the comments section as the Dolphins close out what looks to be their third consecutive victory of the season and second consecutive at home.

 

Dolphins kicking Bills in the, well, you know

The Dolphins are asking no quarter. And giving none.

They're up 28-6. And when the Bills lined up for a 56-yard FG attempt with four seconds left in the half, Tony Sparano called a time out to ice the kicker. Haha. Classic!

The field goal by Dave Raymer was good anyway.

It's the only thing that has gone well for Buffalo today.

The Dolphins basically kicking the Bills in the hind quarters. Their 28 points at halftime is more points than the Dolphins have scored in seven of their previous nine games.

Great job.

Dolphins lead Bills 14-3 in the second quarter

The Dolphins scored on their first two possessions of the day. And they haven't even thrown a pass to Brandon Marshall yet.

Matt Moore is looking like he ate his accuracy vitamins this morning. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ... not so much as he's already thrown an interception to Nolan Carroll.

The live blog picks up in the comments section below. Join moi.

Live blog of Bills at Dolphins right here

We are less than one hour before kickoff and already the Dolphins chances of winning today have improved.

The Bills are starting backup Chris Hairston at left tackle because starter Demitrius Bell is injured and out. Also, playmaking strong safety George Wilson is out. Da'Norris Searcy starts in his place.

For the Dolphins, Phillip Merling will get another chance to play a football game. It's a while for him as he's been inactive six of the past seven games and five in a row. Tony McDaniel is inactive.

The other inactives are Dan Carpenter, Steve Slaton, Ike Alama-Francis, Will Barker, Ryan Cook, and Will Yeatman.

The live blog goes on in the comments section. Join me there. Oh, and one more thing: RG3!

Three important things on an 80-degree autumn Sunday

Three things this A.M.

1. There will be a live blog of the Dolphins vs. Buffalo today, a game at Sun Life Stadium that begins at 1 p.m. Check in with me and we can discuss the game as it happens. We can discuss the week that was. We can discuss the topics that I'm about to serve up as breakfast right now:

2. My column in today's Miami Herald is about Cameron Wake. The column tries to figure out exactly what it is the Dolphins have with Wake. Is he elite? After last season, everyone thought so. Now, we're not quite sure he's in the same conversation with DeMarcus Ware or Jared Allen among pass-rushers and even one of his coaches says Wake still has a distance to go in his development. Don't get me wrong, he's good. But to be elite, you have to get past the initial breakthrough season and do it when people know you're coming. Please check out what Jason Taylor says on the topic, and you'll see right off which team almost stole Wake from the Dolphins.

3. RG3!

Did you see him last night against Oklahoma? If you didn't, please check out the videos below and find other sources to see him play because he was excellent. All he did was pass for 479 yards and four TDs to lead Baylor to its first ever victory over the Sooners in 20 tries.

He threw a 34-yard winning TD pass with 8 seconds to play that must have traveled 50 yards in the air. And, yes, the pass was perfectly on target. He also led his team with 72 rushing yards on 18 carries, with most of those coming on scrambles rather than planned runs. So he has a world-class arm. He has national-class speed as a sprinter and hurdler. And he played big on the big stage.

He basically turned a kneel-down series meant to get his team into overtime into a fantastic game-winning drive all because Oklahoma got greedy and didn't realize Griffin III is capable to running and throwing like that.

I like that. And if you've been following me twitter, or reading this blog, or been listening to my radio show for any amount of time, you know I've been on this kid's bandwagon for some time. In fact, you can read my twitter timeline and last night my friends were demanding an RG3 tweet from me. Crazy!

This weekend has been great for Dolphins fans eager to learn more about the class of quarterbacks that will possibly be coming out in the draft.

We saw Brandon Weeden Friday night. We saw RG3, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley last night. Missed Andrew Luck against Cal, but Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian was there. So you don't have to worry about Andrew Luck, folks. He's going to the Colts as we've presumed for weeks.

Weeden was a disappointment to me. Yes, he threw for 472 yards and had three TD passes. But he also threw three interceptions and seemed, I'll say it, caught up in an individual trap-game letdown. Weeden seemed disinterested at times while he was on the sideline and was way too casual for my tastes on the field. He allowed his team to lose to an underdog with the Oklahoma game peeking over the horizon. He also pretty much seemed to crush his own chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. He was brutal.

Matt Barkley had a tough stretch against Oregon. He had an interception and also failed to connect with a running back on a handoff and that led to a fumble -- all helping the Ducks make a breakneck comeback.

But outside of those gaffes, Barkley was excellent. He completed 26 of 34 passes for 323 yards with four TDs and that one interception. In a hostile environment, he went nose to beak with the Ducks defense that last week got the better of Andrew Luck.

The most impressive thing about Barkley to me was that he was not moved by all the hype of the atmosphere. The Ducks run a play every 13 seconds or so and when they got going, it can be intimidating to the opposing offense, because they must answer.

Barkley, running an orthodox west coast pro-style offense, answered Oregon's score through three quarters. He was very cool. He did not allow the stage or the moment to be bigger than him. It was an impressive outing.

November 19, 2011

Dolphins sign Shayne Graham to fill in for Carpenter

The Dolphins will announce in the coming minutes that they have signed former Cinncinati kicker
Shayne Graham.

Graham will fill in on Sunday for Dan Carpenter, who is battling a groin injury that will prevent him from playing against the Buffalo Bills. Graham is in his 11th NFL season. He kicked seven seasons with Cincinnati and most recently was with the New England Patriots.

Graham was 12 of 12 on field goals and 35 if 37 on extra points for the Patriots last season. He is, by the way, a field goal kicker of high regard. His kickoffs?

Not exactly a boomer. But you must remember he'll be kicking from 5 yards closer than he has previously in his career so the issue is mitigated.

November 18, 2011

Carpenter injury no 'five alarm fire ... yet'

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano clarified the rumors about Dan Carpenter and his kicking situation a tiny bit this afternoon.

Carpenter his a tweaked groin. It's worrisome enough that Miami is working out kickers. Sparano downplayed the idea Carpenter, who is now questionable for the game after suffering the injury sometime Thursday, might be replaced prior to the Buffalo game.

That doesn't mean it won't happen. Doesn't mean it will. I did, however, chuckle when Sparano was pressed on the Carpenter thing for a third question. Looks like at the end of a week of preparation, dealing with a small media contigent, coach didn't feel like discussing the top much further.

Check it out:

(On trying out kickers) - “Well we have not yet. Some point this afternoon here. We have a workout scheduled this afternoon.”

(On if there is a problem with Dan Carpenter)- “Well you’re going to get the injury report any minute now. On the injury report you’re going to see that Carp (Dan Carpenter) is on the injury report with a little groin thing. Late yesterday afternoon, early eve it got a little bit sore so we’re just trying to cover our bases here. That’s all. No five alarm fire yet.”

(On Dan Carpenter’s injury) - “Listen, I just told you what I told you. That’s all I’m going to tell you today.”

(On playing a divisional game and the intensity that comes along with it) - “It’s a big game, obviously a big game. Every game is a big game but the division games are the biggest games. There’s some crazy stuff going on around the league right now every single game that’s played. You look at some of the records. Short of the Green Bay Packers and couple other teams it’s just nobody running away from anybody. All these games are big games. Every week matters. For us this is the next week. We’re excited about getting a chance to do it here at home. Playing a heck of a football team here in Buffalo.”

(On if he worries about his guys being too loose) - “Honestly we’re not any looser right now than we were for the first bunch of weeks. It’s just you guys are probably paying attention to it a little bit more because we’ve won a couple games. This group has been pretty loose all the way through this. They’ve managed to keep a real level head whether we obviously put ourselves in the hole that we ourselves in or won a couple games. They’ve been kind of the same, honestly. There’s been one or two days that are frustrating days through this process but the leaders have been really solid.”

(On toughest part of preparing on a short week) - “The toughest part is probably wasting time here (laughing). I don’t mean that in a bad way. I have Dallas Cowboy film. I have practice film. So there’s a bunch of things that we really have to do still here. I mean, some of the guys will be putting together game plans tonight. Obviously, finalizing game plans here tonight for Buffalo and then moving on to Dallas stuff and actually because we have to hand the players something on Monday. It ain’t going to happen on Sunday although some of us will be right in here after the game Sunday so that’s probably the hardest thing. For the players, it’s easy to shrink the focus down to just the game. The game in front them they’re not looking past anything right now because they’re smart enough to know this is what’s in front of them right now. They’re not worried about anything down the road.”

(On continuing to limit Buffalo’s takeaways) - “Well, obviously what you can try to do here from our end is just it doesn’t have to do anything from a coaching standpoint I don’t think. I just think all parties involved in the ball game us starting fast and continuing to do what we do or have done I should say is going to be important. We talk a lot about here and how we won a few games and how we played well in several games. And maybe how we lost some games I think that our guys are pretty aware of what we need to control. Buffalo is going to come in here ready to play. They’re a well coached team. And obviously they lost a couple games here, but the beginning of the season here. Those guys came out here on fire playing outstanding have been playing outstanding. So you can look at the last game if you want and draw an opinion on it one way or the other. I don’t think it’s a smart thing to do against this team. I think that you really have to look at the whole body of work here and understand turnovers played a large part in that game against Dallas.”

(On Anthony Fasano making progress with his injury) -“Yeah, sure did.”

It's about quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks!

It should be no secret to anyone regularly reading this blog that I'm mostly focused on the quarterback.

I care how the current quarterback is doing. I want to know how the college quarterbacks are doing. I want to know who the next quarterback is going to be. And all this, mostly because I know the past quarterbacks have simply killed the Dolphins and you and, most importantly, me.

So quarterbacks, quarterback, quarterbacks!

For the time being, I have to applaud Matt Moore. He is playing relatively well of late and overall through five starts, he's shown himself pretty much the equal of what Chad Henne was before he got injured.

The statistics speak for themselves. Moore has 4 TDs and 5 INTs with a 62.9 completion percentage, a 78.9 quarterback rating and 1,159 yard to his credit. In four starts, Henne had 4 TDs and 4 INTs, a 57.1 completion mark, a 79 QB rating and 868 passing yards.

Relatively equal.

The thing is they aren't supposed to be equal. Henne was supposed to be the better player. It shows us that if Moore continues on his current trajectory, he might come closer to assuring himself a role on the team next year whereas Henne is not likely to have a role on the 2012 Dolphins.

As to the quarterbacks that will have a role ont he team in the future, let's talk college QBs for a sec. On Thursday, my radio show, Armando and the Amigo on 640-AM in South Florida and streaming live video here at The Miami Herald website hosted a segment with Bucky Brooks. Brooks is the talent analyst for the NFL Network and NFL.com.

I asked him about the incoming QB class of talent:

"This could be a pretty good class," he said. "I've been told by scouts that as many as eight guys could carry a second-round or higher grade. At the top of the board you have Andrew Luck who will likely go as the No. 1 pick. After that you have some intriguing possibilities. You have Landry Jones at Oklahoma, Matt Barkley at Southern Cal, Robert Griffin III at Baylor, this guy Ryan Tannehill down at Texas A&M. Those are some of your top guys."

As the Dolphins aren't getting Andrew Luck from all indications, we concentrated on folks other than the Stanford quarterback. I asked Brooks his opinion of Barkley:

"The big thing about Matthew Barkley is he plays in a pro style system that is similar to what most teams run in the NFL," Brooks said. "When you look at him on tape, he takes a lot of snaps from under center. He executes some form of a West Coast offense at Southern Cal. He has great instincts and intangibles. His awareness is on point. The one thing that people talk about is he doesn't have elite arm strength. When you think about the Matthew Staffords of the world, the Cam Newtons of the world, his arm strength is not necessarily in that class. However, he can make all the throws. He has the ability to come in and be a productive player. So he's one of the guys that is definitely sitting at the top of the board."

How about Robert Griffin III out of Baylor?

"Outstanding player. Outstanding prospect," Brooks said. "When you think of Robert Griffin, you have to think of someone with the athleticism of Michael Vick and also with the pocket presence of any of your top quarterbacks, whether it be Aaron Rodgers or whoever. This is a guy who can really do it all and he may break the mold of the spread quarterback myth when it comes to it. He's very efficient, very effective. He can make all the throws. he can spin it. He can throw it deep down the field. He can really put it in tight windows. Even though some of his production would be inflated by the nature of the Baylor offense because they're throwing at will, he's done a great job of making all of the throws. You can see all of the throws on tape. In fact, when I talked to a scout who just recently went through there, he said he hasn't seen an athlete like him that can do the things he does also as a passer. He is somebody who probably has not gotten enough of the attention leading up and through the season. But if he does come out, he'll get a lot of attention. He'll be a fast riser up draft boards across the league because he is so talented and so versatile."

I like Brandon Weeden so, of course, I asked about him. Yes, I know he's 28 and will be 29 next NFL season, which would be his rookie season.

"Anytime you're dealing with an older player there's a concern," Brooks said. "The thing that helps him is he plays the quarterback position and we've seen quarterbacks play up into their 40s and play well. The thing that helps him is the maturity should allow him to get on the field faster because he's been through a lot of experiences. He doesn't have to go through some of the things young quarterbacks go through in terms of having to get used to the lifestyle. I think he has a bigtime arm. He's very productive. There are things in his game you'd like to see corrected. He does take chances. He does throw the ball into tight coverage sometimes. But in terms of being able to spin it and having the arm strength and doing all those things that you look for, he grades out well on all those things."

Does Brooks think Weeden will be among those picked in the top two rounds?

"I think so. I see him as a top 64 pick ... His talent stands out on tape."

November 17, 2011

What is it with the Dolphins and all this dancing?

I think dancing is great. Really. I admire dancers. I was a pretty good dancer once. (It's in the blood).

But the Dolphins are seriously into dancing lately. I mean, seriously.

You saw Jared Odrick do the curious Pee Wee Herman dance after he made a play against Washington on Sunday. Today, during warmups before practice, linebacker Kevin Burnett put on some interesting moves that caught the entire team's attention. It was like, everyone is stretching and Burnett is going off to Atomic Dog.

Burnett was apparently celebrating the 100 year anniversary  of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

And in the Dolphins locker room there is picture of Jason Taylor in all his Dancing with the Stars splendor with a funny caption that I don't believe I can repeat here but you get the drift.

My God, this is a happy 2-7 team!

Not only is there dancing, but then there are jokes about the dancing. Leading the charge as the butt of the jokes is the Pee Wee dance from Odrick. No question.

"I'm voting that the top worst celebrations I've every seen," linebacker Cameron Wake said of the Odrick dance. "I've told him, and he doesn't even care. I thought it was a one time thing, you know,  But that's his thing now. So I thought, 'Ha ha that's good,'  when I first saw it. But now it's like, "Dang, he's doing that again?' Next time he does it I'm going to push him out of the way."

Taylor was right there with the ripping of Odrick initially, but he dialed back Thursday.

"He got his feelings hurt when we said he didn't like it," Taylor said. "So we just left it alone. Whatever, just keep making plays he can do whatever dance he wants."

One player who definitely is not on the Dolphins top dance competition this week (or maybe any week for that matter, unless I miss my guess) is tight end Anthony Fasano. Fasano is nursing a tender ankle. He returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after missing practice altogether Wednesday.

The Dolphins hope by Sunday he'll be ready to bust a move or do whatever dance it is that moves him. 

Ireland honored for work with autism charity

You guys know I've had sort of a love-hate relationship with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland lately.

I really don't like that he is the only one atop the organization that has never really answered for the struggles of 2011 because of a failed and convenient One Voice policy. I made my feelings clear with this column that took Ireland to task for not joining coach Tony Sparano, the players, and even owner Stephen Ross in addressing the troubles of the season.

But as with most things, all is not black and white with Ireland. He has gotten things right in several respects with this team. And he is worthy of praise for the work he's done with local charities, particularly autism charities for local kids.

It is that work in the South Florida autism community that has earned Ireland and his wife Rachel a well deserved tribute Friday during an Autumn Moonlight event, benefitting the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Ireland, who has a child that has fought autism, will be the honored along with his wife and state senator Nan Rich at Autumn Moonlight's cocktail event at Specialty Automotive Treatments in South Florida. Proceeds from the fundraising event will go to the programs, services and research initiatives for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Call 954-262-7732 if you wish more information.

[BLOG NOTE: TE Anthony Fasano, who missed practice with an ankle injury Wednesday, returned to the practice field during the open portion of practice today. So he is working, at least on a limited basis. I'll update you on full details to that when I know more. Also, the coordinators will talk soon and I'll be back with another post when that is done. So check back.]

Plagued by 'moving parts,' coaches continue to nurture moving parts in the secondary

First there was the offensive line that was constantly being tweaked. The Dolphinscoaching staff eventually learned that searching for the great combination often times sacrificed good combinations and when that search failed, you got neither great nor good.

Well, we're seeing a little of that with the Dolphins secondary right now.

Yesterday, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano explained that one of the problems the secondary has had this year -- aside from Tom Brady throwing for a jillion yards in the regular-season opener -- was all the "moving parts" the team has had to shuffle back there.

Vontae Davis wasn't healthy so the team had to use Nolan Carroll, until he wasn't healthy and then came rookie Jimmy Wilson. Chris Clemons was back there and then the team went with Reshad Jones until he got hurt and then they had to try Tryone Culver because neither Jones nor Clemons was healthy. Benny Sapp was good enough to be on the team and have his salary guaranteed for the season while Will Allen wasn't good enough because he was injured (again) and couldn't be counted on -- until the day after the first game on which the Dolphins cut Sapp and re-signed Allen to replace him as the nickel cornerback.

A lot of moving parts. It's not a good thing in the secondary.

"I think with the amount of moving parts, Vontae (Davis) hasn’t been in there at times just like you said, Reshad (Jones) hasn’t been there at times, (Tyrone) Culver is in there, Jimmy Wilson is in there occasionally, might be Nolan (Carroll)," Sparano said. "So with the amount of moving parts I think they’ve done a pretty good job back there of weathering the storm. And now we’ve finally gotten guys healthy and I’m seeing them get better and better. The communication is just really improved tremendously and that’s just young players starting to become veteran players. That’s really what that is from Jimmy Wilson all the way up to Ty Culver."

Sounds logical, right?

Fewer moving parts, fewer chances for screwups. Fewer moving parts, more consistency.

Hey, I get it.

Except ...

Why are the Dolphins continuing to nurture more moving parts?

At a time when Reshad Jones is healthy again -- he hasn't been on the injury report in nearly three weeks -- the team has not returned him to the starting job. Tyrone Culver, whom I thought did a good job solidifying the free safety spot when it was given to him in the face of other injuries, has started and done well.

But the Dolphins apparently really, really like Jones. And so Jones has, for the past couple of games, been platooned into the game while Culver has come out.

A team that has bemoaned moving parts in the secondary as one reason for struggles earlier this season, has continued to allow moving parts at free safety.

Coaches obviously want Jones to play and be good enough to win the job outright because he is more a long-term answer at the position than Culver. But coaches also have wanted to stay with Culver because, again, he's doing a good job that does not merit a return to the bench and mostly special teams and some dime package duties.

So coaches are going with the old have the cake and eat it too approach. Both Jones and Culver are playing -- switching in and out at different times in the game.

Moving parts!

Cracks me up.

In a perfect, well-aligned world either Jones retakes the job outright or simply doesn't show enough to do so. (I believe Jones takes the job back and probably fairly soon, maybe even this week against Buffalo or next versus Dallas). But if not, how long do the Dolphins allow themselves to play both, risking a costly miscommunication, by playing two players at a position that requires only one?

I don't understand this need to experiment during games when stakes are so high with arguably the most important position in the secondary.

Why not share the spot in practice and make the decisions to play one or the other player based on what happens in practice rather play both in games? Why does the coaching staff gamble everything in the game to see who plays better instead of making a decision based on practice play?

Now, one can argue that both Culver and Jones are playing well enough to deserve playing time. That's fair. Play both then.

But then don't bemoan having moving parts.

[VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT: You don't want to miss the segment in the 8 o'clock hour with NFL Network talent evaluator Bucky Brooks on Armando and the Amigo today. We'll go over the college quarterbacks with him to see how he evaluates the class behind Andrew Luck. In fact, we'll see if Luck's struggles versus Oregon has affected his standing as the No. 1 overall pick. We'll also ask Brooks what he thinks of Matt Moore verus Chad Henne. Peronsonally, I see more upside in Moore. In the 9 o'clock hour, agent David Canter, who represents Paul Soliai and Sean Smith will join the show in studio. For you local South Florida sports fans, University of Miami coach Al Golden will join us in the 7 o'clock hour. The show is live on 640-AM on your radio dial. The show is on live video right here all four hours. And you can call in and talk to me from anywhere in the United States at 1-888-640-9385]

November 16, 2011

Miami Dolphins recovery good, slow starts bad

The Dolphins have changed and that is a good thing, a thing that deserves some notice and some praise. This team of late is more full of life, particularly early in games. The offense attacks and does the unconventional, like a Wildcat flea-flicker against Washington. The defense blitzes, flies around and celebrates.

There is simply more life to this team early in games and lately it is carrying over into full-fledged results we didn't see early this year. Those results, by the way, are called victories.

And those victories have come with the starting quarterback on the shelf and his backup in the games. They've come with the full knowledge that there will be no playoffs in 2011 and folks are getting canned at the end of the year.

The flat lines have definitely jumped. The Dolphins live in 2011.

You have to applaud that.

And that leads me to the next logical question: Why did it take so long?

Can you imagine if the Dolphins were playing like this when the season began in September instead of waiting until November to wake up?

They probably would have beaten Cleveland. And Denver. They are better than both those teams and yet wasted opportunities and basically seemed to be going through the motions against those team to the point of being upset by them.

If only this team had found itself earlier. They might be staring at 4-5 and in the hunt instead of 2-7 and out of it.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

The truth is this Dolphins team is no different from every Miami team under the current administration in that it stunk early in the season. Simply, they weren't ready to win and didn't win early on.

And that cost them and left them lamenting what might have been once the alarm clock finally sounded.

Consider that since the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano administration took over, the Dolphins have a 3-9 record in September in four seasons. They have a 6-9 record in October in four season. And when November hits, stuff finally clicks and they're a very competitive 18-12 through the end of the season.

Let that marinate, for a second.

This organization, as currently constructed, is good enough to figure things out, and keep players interested, and keep working hard in the face of adversity to salvage its reputation with wins once the leaves start to change colors.

But they're simply not very good at getting ready for the start of the season.

The Dolphins this year suffered their second winless September in three years -- they were 0-3 this year and 0-3 in 2009.

Even in 2008, when they eventually won the AFC East, they started out 1-2. (Remember when that was unacceptable and such a huge surprise that the desperate coaching staff installed a brand new and unconventional wing to the offense called Wildcat?).

Anyway, this year's typical slow start might be blamed on the lockout and the fact the offense is brand new and blah, blah, blah. Except that Miami started slow in 2008 and 2009 and the 4-3 start in 2010 wasn't exactly awe-inspiring either, although outstanding by comparison.

The lockout also doesn't explain how the defense, which didn't really graduate any seniors, was terrible early in the season despite playing a familiar system with familiar personnel under familiar coaches.

The Dolphins, folks, are simply a slow-starting team -- lockout or not. The record speaks for itself.

Now, that can be overcome when the streak that typically starts in November and lasts throught the remainder of the season is defined by an 8-1 record as it was in 2008. That type of recovery saves seasons.

But that kind streak is simply hard to do in today's NFL. No one should bank on that to save a season.

So why do the Dolphins get off to such frustratingly slow starts?

This year the question must be asked how well conditioned was this team? Karlos Dansby told me after Sunday's victory over Washington that he weighed 270 pounds when he reported to camp? Was that typical of other players?

I know John Jerry wasn't ready to compete when camp started -- that's why he was running third team after starting much of last year. I know Vernon Carey struggled early in camp -- and that earned him a paycut and move from guard to tackle. I know Jake Long wasn't healthy, which has nothing to do with his weight but still affected his conditioning and play early on this season.

So there's that.

And then there's the idea that this coaching staff takes a good while to figure out its players. It is only recently that Reggie Bush has been settled into a niche he's comfortable with and effective in. It's just recently that these guys figured out Kevin Burnett would be better off not calling the plays for the defense.

(Story I'm told: During the San Diego game, Burnett calls a defense. The Chargers shred the Dolphins on the play. Afterward, players in the huddle are chattering about the call and Burnett tells them he didn't call that play even though many of them heard it and went with it.)

Karlos Dansby now calls the plays up front full-time.

One cannot blame early-season injuries on Miami's recent uptick even though cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Daniel Thomas have lately been more healthy and ready to contribute. Why do I dismiss those injuries as excuses?

Because everyone else in the NFL suffers injuries! It is an unacceptable rationalization to say, we have injured players so we stink.

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last year with 15 players -- including seven starters -- on injured reserve. They won it starting Erik Walden at OLB after the Dolphins cut Walden (nice decision, by the way).

So I am at a loss. Why the constant early struggles? Why does it take so long for this team to roll, to reach potential?

I remember Don Shula's teams typically played great early in the season. For decades, the Dolphins had the NFL's best record in September and October. That carried on through Dave Wannstedt. (Unfortunately, Wannstedt's teams wilted in December and beyond, but that's another story.)

Yet, even late swoons seem better than having zero chance to play meaningful games in December because you failed to sprint off the line when the gun sounded and everyone else started running.

Frustrating? You bet.

I could more readily accept a team that is simply overmatched from the start of the season until the end than a team that is consistently slow in starting but teases by meeting its potential later in the year -- after it's clearly too late to really matter.

[Video reminder: If you want to discuss this or any Dolphins topic with me, you can call me. My radio show, Armando and the Amigo streams live video every Monday thru Friday right here at The Herald website. You may call in toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-888.640-9385.]