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53 posts from November 2011

November 14, 2011

Looking ahead to the Bills who may or may not stink

The Buffalo Bills, the next opponent for the Dolphins, have hit an interesting point in their season.

After starting out an inspired 4-1 and leading the AFC East, the Bills have, shall we say, hit a rough patch of late. No, check that. If "of late" is defined as yesterday, the Bill have stunk. They lost 44-7 to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

It was their third loss in four weeks. It was their third loss in four road games.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions including one that was returned for a TD. Running back Fred Jackson also had a fumble that turned the ball over. The 37-point loss was the worst of the season, surpassing a 16-point loss only one week earlier.

So the Bills are not just going badly but getting worse.

That, of course, only matters if you adhere to the facts.

"Listen, I think Buffalo has been playing really well," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said moments ago. "I don't think because of what happened yesterday, you can look at any of that. The bottom line is just looking at the game, I haven't watched it yet, but it appears to me that turnovers had an awful lot to do with it.

"It seemed like they had three or four turnovers in the game."

Yes, the Bills had four turnovers. That is playing poorly in my estimation. That is not playing really well.

Anyway, the Bills are beat up, having lost key contributors at WR, OLB and DL in recent weeks. The Dolphins are 2 1/2 point faves.

The Dolphins, winners of two straight, are also playing well -- except that the facts actually back up that stance.

November 13, 2011

Karlos Dansby: I am the NFL's best LB

Karlos Dansby got the game ball today after he had a sack, an interception and led the Dolphins with 10 tackles in their 20-9 victory over Washington.

Afterward, Dansby was feeling pretty good about himself. He was feeling so good, he said he's the best linebacker in the NFL.

Wow.

So I asked him, better than Baltimore's Ray Lewis? 

"I'm better than everybody," he answered without pause, prompting me to write a column about it in today's Miami Herald. "Everybody. Period. Point blank. I just haven't had the recognition, man. I'm more versatile than everybody. Period. Pont blank. I'm more versatile than everybody. Hands down. I can do it all. I can take the tight end. I can check the running backs. You don't have to put me in one hole, I aint no hole guy. You can play man-to-man all over the field, man. I can do it all. I can do it all. I can hit guys. I can drop in coverage. I can blitz the quarterback. I got, what, 28 sacks, almost 30 sacks.

"I'm just trying to get my pick game up. I'm trying to get into the 20-20 [interceptions-sacks] club."

Dansby believes he has logical reasons why he thinks he's the best right now.

"I''ve played every position there is at linebacker," he said. "I played sam my first two or three years. I've played the weakside, the Mo. I've played the Will and now I'm playing the Mike. I can do it all. Nobody else can say they've done that and played at a high level. Nobody else. Everybody plays weakside or play under at the Mike. I've done it all. I can press the guard. I watch film."

Brian Urlacher?

"Aging," Dansby said. "He's aging fast, man. He's a great linebacker, but he's aging fast. I respect all the linebckers. But I'm better. That's just how I feel."  

I wish I had asked him about Patrick Willis, but at some point, everybody has to mean everybody, in his mind.

If you missed it yesterday, I want to share with you my column that appeared in Sunday's paper about Brandon Marshall. I guarantee you'll come out of that read seeing a different side of Marshall.

Dolphins win second straight, this one at home

The last time the Dolphins won a home game was Nov. 14, 2010 -- before today, that is.

The Dolphins broke their nearly yearlong home drought by beating the Washington Redskins 20-9 today. This game proved not every former University of Florida quarterback that comes to Sun Life Stadium is treated warmly.

The Dolphins made Rex Grossman look bad. Really bad. He was held to 21 completions on 32 attempts for 215 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

This was the second consecutive week the Miami defense kept the opponent from scoring a touchdown. Karlos Dansby had a great game. He had a sack. He had an interception. He had the first tackle of the game and the final tackle of the game.

The Miami offense did solid enough work. Miami sandwiched three Dan Carpenter field goals between two Reggie Bush touchdowns runs -- one in the first quarter, the other in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins now have two victories. They join Minnesota and Carolina as two-win teams. The Colts remain winless. The Rams have one victory.

Dolphins cling to 13-9 lead to start 4th quarter

This game has devolved into a battle of field goals.

The Dolphins and Redskins both got one in the third, yawn, quarter.

And now the drama of the fourth quarter is here.

Will the Redskins rally?

Will the Dolphins hold on?

Will I stay awake?

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

Dolphins hold 10-6 lead over Redskins going to third quarter

The Redskins are not going away -- despite pleas by people who love watching great football asking them otherwise.

The Dolphins got themselves a shot Dan Carpenter field goal but he missed on a 49-yarder. (Don't you hate good fist-pumping opportunities being wasted?)

Anyway, let me introduce to you Washington's best offensive weapon: Graham Gano. The kicker. He's got two FGs so far. He missed one.

This is a barn-burner!

The live blog continues in the comments section. Join me there as we continue to burn the barn.

Dolphins lead Redskins 7-3 to start second quarter

The Dolphins came out like gangbusters. They marched right down the field on the first drive and di it while trying a fake Wildcat-flea-flicker pass to Brandon Marshall.

They also called a halfback pass. And eventually they got in the end zone.

But Matt Moore, whose accuracy has been a little inconsistent today, also threw an interception from inside his onn 25 yard line and that eventually led to a Graham Gano field goal 25 yards out.

So we go to the second half. And the live blog continues. See me in the comments section.

Davis returns to starting spot and we have a live blog

Live blog today!

Please go to comments section and off we'll go around kickoff.

As for what you'll see on the field ... Vontae Davis returns to his starting cornerback job today after missing the last couple of weeks -- first with a hamstring injury and then while he was suspended.

At free safety, it is clear that Tyrone Culver continues to be the answer for the Dolphins. He starts his fourth consecutive game.

How's that for buring the lead?

As we're still about an hour before kickoff, I ask that you check out my column in today's Herald. I had a candid conversation with Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall that I think you'll enjoy. I didn't pull punches. And neither did he.

See you in the comments section for the live blog.

Pre-game read: A conversation with Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall donned one of his AFC Pro Bowl jerseys during the week of preparation for the Redskins and wore it to practice.

It is just the kind of move that makes this very talented guy very interesting to me. He is nothing if not unpredictable. And that is why I sat down with him one on one for quite some time to do an interview with him.

This is the long and wide ranging interview.

Actually, it wasn't really an interview. It was a conversation because he asked a lot of questions also.

We both approached this sit-down with respect. He didn't say, "I can't hear you," when I asked him about the Vontae Davis incident last week. I tried to keep the dumb questions to a minimum --  which some days is hard for me. But it was serious business also. At one point when he didn't give me a straight answer, I asked him again straight and direct, no joking around. And then he got it. And I got the answer.

I came away from the interveiw both impressed with this young man and feeling different about him than when I went in. I would say he probably feels the same. When it was over he said, "I enjoyed it."

Please check out the conversation and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Yes, we'll have a live blog today of Washington versus Miami. Marshall played for Washington coach Mike Shanahan. Respects him from what I gathered.

I think you'll respect Marshall more after you read this conversation than you did before.

November 11, 2011

NFL keeps hands out of YB's wallet, but fines Colombo

Strong safety Yeremiah Bell admittedly expected bad news from the NFL this week. Nobody thought anything about Marc Colombo getting the news instead.

But that is precisely what happened Friday when Bell was not fined by the NFL, but the Miami offensive right tackle was fined $7,500 for hitting an opponent late and getting an unnecessary roughness penalty agains the Chiefs last Sunday.

Bell finished Sunday's victory over Kansas City with a trio of penalties -- a personal foul for a hit along the sideline, an unnecessary roughness for a hit out of bounds and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for some post play chippiness with a Kansas City player.

The number of flags and the hit would almost certainly translate to a fine, Bell thought.

Bell thought wrong. The NFL tells me Bell has not been fined.

Colombo, meanwhile, plowed into his opponent late after a running play. Yes, it drew a flag and drew the fine today.

Survey says Sparano unpopular but with what constituents?

On the face of it, Tony Sparano is not a popular coach.

According to a Sporting News survey of 111 players on 31 teams, the Dolphins coach finished second to Tom Coughlin among coaches players would least like to play for. Coughlin, of the New York Giants, got 22 votes while Sparano got 21 votes.

Dang it, lost again!

You'll read about this survey elsewhere in the media today and I wouldn't be surprised if Sparano is asked about it at his Friday press conference. But before folks start pounding on coach in the comments section, I must tell you why this survey is flawed and it doesn't really speak to Sparano's popularity among his players.

First, I know that I know that I know Sparano is very well liked among many of his players. Yes, there are a couple that cannot stand him. But mostly, the players in the Miami locker room like their coach and practically all have respect for their coach. That is what I know of the Miami locker room.

Secondly, the survey did not tally votes of players who could vote for their own coach. Players, in fact, were told not to vote for their own coach. So unless Shawn Murphy or Matt Roth -- two avowed Sparano haters -- are back on the roster, no one in the Miami locker room voted Sparano least liked.

Thirdly, the survey is obviously tilted in that the Dolphins were winless when the survey was done. Who on the outside looking in would want to play for an 0-7 coach? The results were bound to be negative for Miami's coach.

I'm telling you this so you see how what looks like damning and feels like an indictment is kinda sorta skewed toward getting a bad result. Now, I cannot account for Coughlin's victory. Nor can I account for Bill Belichick finishing third with 15 votes. But I don't have to. I don't get paid to cover the Giants or Patriots.

I do get paid, and handsomely I might add, to write columns in The Miami Herald. And today I wrote about, what else, Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley and Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden. My column is here and gives you perspective on where the Dolphins are likely to pick and what history says about the result they're likely to get.

[VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be discussing my column, Sparano's popularity and a little conversation I had with a very interesting Dolphins player on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, today. You can watch the show streaming live right here. We'll also be discussing the Penn State scandal, the University of Miami game versus Florida State, the Marlins and other topics.]

November 10, 2011

Dolphins vs Redskins will be on TV

The Dolphins want you at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.

But if you can't make it, you'll still be able to watch them on television even if you're a South Florida resident and subject to NFL blackout restrictions.

The team, along with help from WSVN Channel 7 in South Florida, are again guaranteeing the sellout of Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins. The club previously guaranteed sellout versus Houston and Denver.

That means Sunday's game will be televised and the streak of consecutive sellouts, which dates back to October 1998, will continue despite a 1-7 record.

Tickets for the game, meanwhile, remain on sale.

Sunday's game will honor the military and their families. Unused tickets will be used for the military and to reward season ticket holders. The Dolphins will distribute the allotment of unused tickets on a complimentary basis to the military and members of the Disabled American Veterans.

Fins gettin' better but why'd it take this long?

This NFL season is a sprint to prepare for and a marathon to run.

All the teams, without exception, had to hurry and prepare for this season once the lockout was settled and training camps opened. They had to get their players in, get their players in shape, get their players back into a routine, and get their players ready to succeed.

Some did it. Some didn't.

The teams that had a proven system and veterans for those systems were at an advantage. And the teams that were installing a new culture or new players or new schemes or all three, were woefully behind.

That is a truth.

The Dolphins were among the teams that were not fully established going into the season. You're hearing that a lot around South Florida now. Miami was installing a new offense with a new offensive coordinator. The Dolphins had a new starting running back and a new starting center and the starting quarterback was establishing himself in the new scheme.

All that is true. And all that was made more difficult for Miami when starting quarterback Chad Henne, who had learned OC Brian Daboll's offense in February, went down the first week of October and inexperienced backup Matt Moore was thrust into the job.

This is a guy who didn’t have an offseason with us, he didn’t have anything," coach Tony Sparano said of Moore. "The first time he heard it was Day One training camp. To be honest with you, it wasn’t even day one training camp because he couldn’t practice for a few days so he was behind. He got a chance to jump in there when he can rep wise. Right now he’s getting all the work and he feels a lot more comfortable I think out there."

A theme this week at training camp (among some media, not the team) is that the Dolphins, fresh off their first victory of the year versus Kansas City, are finally starting to have success because they are finally starting to get in synch one with another. Players are knowing their roles better, coaches are knowing players better, everyone is just now past the meet-and-greet stage.

The Dolphins have found a comfort level.

“Yeah, no doubt, and that just comes with reps and experience and sitting with (Offensive Coordinator Brian) Daboll and (Quarterbacks Coach Karl) Dorrell and really getting a feel what they’re thinking in every situation," Moore said. "Throwing unlimited balls to all the guys, and just getting those game reps. Being in the huddle with the offensive line and looking at those guys in crucial situations and coming up short with those guys, you just learn a lot and you get a feel for the people in the huddle and they get a feel for me, and so its constantly a work in progress. I sound probably totally different from last week, let’s face it, we won and I’m just kind of excited and just ready to move forward."

This media-driven theme suggests because the Dolphins are finally feeling more at-home with one another, they are prepared to plow ahead toward coming success.

But I've got questions about this common thinking.

First, the Dolphins truly were at a disadvantage against teams that made no significant changes from a season ago. That is legitimate. But the team was in the very same proverbial boat as all the other teams with new coordinators and new schemes and new players -- particularly new quarterbacks. They were in even better shape than teams that came into 2011 with new head coaches because those men were establish brand new cultures as well as schemes.

So one must assume the Dolphins wouldn't be behind those teams if they're on the same get-to-know-you scale. And yet, from a production standpoint, they are behind every single one.

The Carolina Panthers brought in an entirely new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback and they've scored 49 more points than Miami this season. Tennessee has a new head coach, new offensive system, new starting quarterback and their running back held out all of training camp so he has been learning the offense on the fly during the season. They've scored nine more points than Miami.

Denver? New coach, new offense, a quarterback change to Tim Tebow. And they've outscored Miami and beat Miami. Minnesota and Oakland have new coaches and new quarterbacks, too. And they've scored more than Miami.

San Francisco brought in a new coaching staff who installed a new system. And they're 7-1.

So I guess I'm rejecting the notion that the Dolphins were operating under a significant disadvantage compared to everyone else and that makes their record or lack of production understandable or excusable.

And I'm seriously annoyed that this talk somehow leaks over to the defensive side. You must remember that this defense that is lately playing much better is operating under the same system and same coordinator and set of coaches that ran it last year. All but two of the positions at the start of this season were manned by the same players who were starting last year -- and the two that weren't, with Kevin Burnett at one ILB and Reshad Jones at FS, were changes made on purpose as upgrades over last year.

Yet we recognize that the defense got off to a very, very, very slow start.

What's the excuse there?

Look, I am expectant that Miami can continue to play better as the season progresses, barring an onslaught of significant injuries. On offense particularly, this team is a work in progress. Players are finding their niche. And coaches, as Reggie Bush said Wednesday, are also hitting their stride.

"I think Dabolls’ play-calling has been a little better so he’s improving in that area," Bush said. "And then for us we’re improving in executing the play that he’s calling. Like I said, we’re all in this collectively. It’s not just the players, it’s the coaches too."

But to suggest it was patently impossible for Miami to be doing better coming out of the chute because the deck was stacked against them isn't right. That is clear based on the fact that after Sunday's victory over Kansas City, several players talked among themselves and wondered aloud why they couldn't have started playing better earlier.

“Sure, yeah absolutely you kind of think that way," Moore said. "Watching the tape, it’s a block here, it’s a throw, it’s a route, we weren’t as sharp. We just didn’t execute as well. I think guys, the longer we're in this thing the better were getting."

November 09, 2011

Dolphins injury report translated to good news

Reading the Dolphins injury report is normally an exercise in deciphering code. Sometimes guys that are questionable never travel with the team to away games. Sometimes guys that are doubtful play. Sometimes we hear guys aren't playing a position because they're not healthy ... even though they're not on the injury list.

But today's injury report is a breath of fresh air by comparison.

Ahhhhhhh.

The report states that only one player -- cornerback Nolan Caroll, who is nursing a hamstring injury -- was limited in practice. The report further states that cornerback Vontae Davis (hamstring) and receiver Clyde Gates (groin) are nursing injuries but still were well enough to do everything in practice like the healthy players did.

Now, allow me to tell you what some of this means:

It means you can stop thinking that Chris Clemons, who is not at all on the injury report, is injured anymore. He's been playing on special teams for weeks. He's not on the injury report at all. Thus the reason he has not regained his starting free safety job is because coaches have deemed not not better than either Tyrone Culver or Reshad Jones -- both of whom played the position Sunday at Kansas City.

Clemons has dropped back, apparently, to a special teams contributor but isn't really in play for the starting FS job so much now.

It also means eunning back Daniel Thomas, who has been on and off the injury report of late and missed games intermittently, got through the Kansas City game without re-aggravating his hamstring injury. He practiced full today. He's not on the report at all. Barring a setback in practice this week, he'll be able to play consecutive games this season for only the third time. Two consecutive games has been his longest time on the field without re-injuring the hamstring.

Also, the fact Davis practiced full means his hamstring, which has been a problem this season and cause for some disagreement among trainers and Davis, is improving finally. He is recovering. The team does not plan to shut him down for injury reasons as long as that recovery trajectory continues.

There you have it. A Dolphins injury report turned to English.

Or Spanglish.

Or just mostly good news.

Quarterback John Beck then and today

Remember John Beck?

My memory of him? First time I saw him throw, I was very, very impressed with his arm. First time I heard him speak, he was not quite so impressive. He talked the talk about wanting to get better and studying really, really, really hard, but it didn't seem genuine to me. It seemed like he was saying something he believed the media wanted to hear.

First time I saw him scrimmage? Not impressed. Too many check downs. Didn't have an attacking mentality.

First time I saw him in a game as a starter? It was against Philadelphia. The Eagles' attacking, blitzing, disguising defense ate him up. He completed only 9 of 22 passes for 109 yards. I let it go. It was, after all, his first start.

The last game I saw him start for the Dolphins? Convinced me he didn't have it. That was against Buffalo at Orchard Park. Beck looked scared to me. He took eight snaps, fumbled twice, including a blooper-reel moment when his flub was picked up in mid air as he was bobbling it and returned for a TD. He was also sacked three times. He was benched after those eight snaps and didn't play the next two games.

Beck has revived his career (sort of) in that he's now Washington's starting QB. He's come a long way since that meltdown day in the Buffalo winter. But he is still a project. Still unproven. Still seeking to find a niche.

He'll start against the Dolphins on Sunday. Today he spoke with the South Florida media. This is how it went:

On his progress: “It’s hard to say because, obviously, the goals that I had coming into the season that you work so hard for – it’s been kind of hard to accomplish those with the situation that we find ourselves in now. But I’m just continuing to work as hard as I can at that, so it’s hard to say exactly where I’m at, but I just know that I’m still working at it.”

On how far he’s come since his rookie year in terms of recognizing defense and comfort in the pocket: “As a rookie, you’re wide-eyed, especially when you’re going through the tough situation that we were in back in 2007 where we hadn’t won a game and you become a starter. There are a lot of things that a young quarterback has to deal with — just the transition to the NFL and that situation can be a tricky one. Since then, obviously, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in film rooms, on practice fields, being around coaches [and] gaining experience in preseason games. All of those aspects I feel like I’ve definitely improved, just getting what experience I can. There’s not the wide-eyed look any more.”

On how tough it has been being on teams that have to overcome injuries: “It is a tricky situation, but it’s adversity and you do your best to fight against adversity to overcome it. We don’t have the guys that we started the season with. That’s football – it happens to a lot of teams every single
year and you want to continue to work and continue to get better and improve as a team and continue to believe. Despite whatever adversity you’re facing, you have to still believe and go out there and play on Sunday and give it your best.”

On comparing playing for a winless team in Miami to not having a win as a starter in Washington: “It’s hard to say because that was my first year in the NFL and you don’t really know what to expect as a rookie in the NFL — what your situation is like, what the team is like. You don’t know what it’s like around the rest of the league. You just know that situation. I don’t know what it would have been like. It probably wouldn’t have been as tricky, just that situation that we found ourselves in [with] all of those injuries. You always want to have a plan when the season starts. Coach [Cam] Cameron sat me down and told me the plan and it felt like that was going to be a good one. As the season shook down, it was anything but that plan with Trent [Green] going down and all of those things. The more I’ve been in this league, the more I’ve learned that that happens. That kind of stuff happens all over the league to a lot of teams and it’s just about dealing with it. It’s about just trying to overcome it and continue to work.”

On playing for Head Coach Mike Shanahan and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan: “It’s been really good. I really like Coach [Mike] Shanahan. When he traded for me and brought me in here, we
got to sit down and talk and I’d be very happy to be here. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had to play this season. I’ve just tried to get better each week and do the best that I can with the situation. With Kyle, he’s ayoung coach that is very good at his craft and I’ve been able to learn a lot from him. I just continue to learn and grow a lot from the things that he’s teaching me so that I can become a better quarterback.”

On having to wait for his opportunity to start after his time with Miami: “You never know if you’re going to get another opportunity or when it can happen or if it’s going to happen. I just continue to try to work hard throughout the years and put myself in a position that, if an opportunity was there, I would go out and do well. There was an opportunity in the Philadelphia game to go out and play. Things went pretty good in that game and I try to continue to get better each week. It has been a struggle because things haven’t gone well the past couple of weeks, but, regardless, I am having an opportunity to play and try to go out and do my best each week and improve my game during the week of practice so that I can go out there and play a better game the next week.”

On not getting the chance to start for the Dolphins in the 2008 season: “Well, I got to learn a lot from Chad Pennington. When he came in, he was brought in to be the guy and he did a fantastic job that season. When I looked at that situation, I said that I’m obviously not one of the guys that was chosen by this group. They brought in Chad Pennington. They brought in Chad Henne. Those are the guys, but what can I do to make myself a better quarterback for a situation that could come up in years following? I spent a lot of time with Chad Pennington late at the facility talking to him, just kind of trying to pick his brain and work on my mental aspect of the game — preparation during the week leading up to the game, all of those things. I look at that year as learning a lot from Chad Pennington, watching him take a team that only won one game the year before and helping him lead them to a championship of the AFC East. I was able to learn a lot from that.”

On his relationship with quarterback Rex Grossman: “We’re both two people that have been playing quarterback our entire lives, battling for the same position. We’re professionals so we know how to interact with each other. We know how to work together, but we are, at the same time, both trying to be the quarterback for this football team. With that comes competition between each other and that’s just part of it. When you’ve been competing your entire life and you reach this level, you know how to handle it. It’s not like two little kids. You’re adults. You’re professionals. You handle it correctly.”

On what it would mean to get the first win of his career against Miami: “It would be good. I’ve been wanting to get a win in any stadium. These past few weeks, every week I’ve gone into the game, I’ve wanted it to be that game, that stadium, that situation. For me, really there is no difference in
this game than any other game I’ve gone into. I’m just trying to do my best to help my team win.”

Vote for Matt Moore for FedEx Air honor

As a privileged citizen of the United States, I believe in the American political system. I believe in voting to voice ones choice in our grand republic.

As a resident of Miami-Dade County and Florida for most of my life, I also believe in voting early ... and voting often.

And so I'm thinking if you are anything like me, Matt Moore is going to be a very humbled man by week's end because he is a nominee for the FedEx Air and Ground Player of the Week honors. As you know, Moore had a career day in leading the Dolphins to a victory over Kansas City.

He completed 17 of 23 passes for 244 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 147.5. Very nice. So you can go right here and vote for Moore to be the FedEx Air dude of the week. You have until 9 a.m. Friday to get your vote in.

He's competing against Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta's Matt Ryan so already he's in good company. I'm sure Rodgers will get a lot of Cheeseheads voting for him. Ryan, I'm not too worried about because Falcons fans aren't always the most interested ardent bunch.

So get to work for Moore. Vote. Vote again. Vote lots!!!

I think it's allowed.

Get a Miami Dolphins player elected to something other than an All-Disappointment or All-Underachieving team.

[VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT: It promises to be a big day on Armando and the Amigo. Today's guests include FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, former Dolphins and Penn State receiver O.J. McDuffie, former Dolphins and Penn State tight end Troy Drayton (see a theme building?), Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com and NASCAR driver Kyle Petty. You can tune in at 640-AM in South Florida or watch the Miami Herald live streaming feed right here. I promise the show won't suck ... much.]

 

November 08, 2011

Add another need for the 2012 Dolphins

We interrupt the celebration following the first victory of the season to bring you a dose of reality:

Yes, the first win was cool. Congratulations again to the embattled players in the locker room and the coaching staff. They deserve much credit for a hard-earned taste of success. Job very well done last week.

But the week that was also aimed the spotlight on a topic that has been lurking on the margins for quite some time: The Dolphins' need at another position not named quarterback.

While many of you have been fixated on Miami's need to upgrade to an elite quarterback -- a need that has not changed, no matter how well Matt Moore played Sunday -- the last week showed Miami's need at the other end of the passing game.

At cornerback.

Simply, the Dolphins are going to need to identify and draft a fine cornerback either next April or the draft after that -- unless they sign one in free agency -- because the talent on the roster apparently isn't the answer.

There were hopes the answer might be lodged in Vontae Davis or Sean Smith but this season has shown that Smith is a solid complementary cornerback, a good off corner, but he is not elite. Davis, meanwhile, the best and brightest hope Miami had for fielding an elite cornerback has been a huge disappointment.

He has suffered durability issues this year. I wouldn't be too worried about those right now because everyone is struggling to maintain their body in a year offseason conditioning was wiped out by a lockout. So that passes, sort of.

But the fact that in the games Davis has played he has given up as many big plays as anyone on the field troubles. The fact he has not stumbled into an interception here or there is troubling. The fact Davis has seemingly regressed from his rookie year, with interceptions going from four in 2009 to one in 2010 to zero this year is seriously frustrating.

Beyond that, Davis has not only struggling to stay healthy and make big plays, he's struggling to make routine plays. He does not have even one pass defensed in his four games this year.

And then there's the elephant in the room -- he's big and smelly and eats a lot and poops a lot.

Davis was suspended from Sunday's game at Kansas City. Everyone by now knows the facts involved and they include tardiness to practice, drinking to the point of being inebriated the night before that practice, and apparently not even recognizing why he was left home, thinking the reason was his near fight with Brandon Marshall rather than the fact he was late and had been drunk.

All those speak to a chronic immaturity that has dogged Davis since his college days at Illinois. Remember immaturity was indeed the reason scouts said Davis was a risk. Well, the Dolphins have witnessed that immaturity several times, as Davis was benched for the start of the Oakland game last year for being late to meetings and fined for conduct detrimental to the team.

I am not saying Davis is a waste or beyond rehabilitation. But the trajectory of his career is not exactly shooting in the right direction. In his third NFL season, Davis is not exactly showing signs he's about to be the next breakout talent at cornerback.

And that's why Miami needs help at the position.

The Dolphins have no playmaker at one of the biggest playmaking positions on defense. They haven't someone they can count on to end a drive or steal a turnover or maybe even turn the tables and score a TD here or there.

That simply hasn't happened for the Dolphins who are among the league's worst defenses forcing turnovers and are on course to break the franchise record for least interceptions in a year.

The other reason cornerback begs more attention?

The NFL is a passing league these days. Teams don't need one good cornerback or even two good cornerbacks. Teams need at least three good cornerbacks because the nickel corner these days is a de facto starter. The third corner plays between 50-70 percent of the down in today's NFL.

And Miami's nickel cornerback now is Will Allen, whom the team cut earlier this year only to bring back when it cut nickel cornerback Benny Sapp. Sapp, you'll remember, made the team then was booted off the team after struggling in the season opener against New England.

We've all seen the Dolphins this year. Nolan Carroll isn't the answer back there. Jimmy Wilson seems more like a safety. Allen is 33 years old. Smith is good but so far not great and not even very good. And Davis?

Not someone a team should trust or count on.

[VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm back on Armando and the Amigo today after traveling most of the day yesterday. If you wish to watch the show you simply go here. I'd love to hear from you, putting voices to the comments. Our phone number toll free in the United States is 1-888-640-9385.]

November 07, 2011

This victory shows the importance of great QB play

If there was ever a game that told you why the Dolphins have been so terrible this year and yet can be good enough if they make even one significant adjustment, this was it.

This was a game in which Miami got bigtime quarterback play. And so the Dolphins won.

This was a game in which the opposing QB didn't simply give the game away as happened last Monday night (against Phillip Rivers). And so the Chiefs lost.

Simple ain't it?

Great quarterback play ... Dolphins win.

This first victory of the season will be sliced and diced all sorts of different ways as the Miami coaching staff spreads praise and plaudits far and wide so everyone gets credit for this victory. But if you look at Matt Moore's game, you see why the Dolphins won.

Moore threw three TD passes. He didn't turn the ball over. Win.

If he does that every week, the Dolphins win 90 percent of the time. Simple as that. Obviously Moore hasn't been delivering that kind of performance thus far.

In his first start against the Jets, Moore missed wide open receivers. If they were open, On Sunday, Moore saw them and connected with them. He also didn't throw an interception in the end zone that was returned for a TD.

In the loss to Denver, Moore got the Dolphins in the end zone just once. He got them in the end zone twice in the first half and twice more in the third quarter. It was a veritable blizzard of TDs for the team that averaged only one TD per game the previous six games.

Against the NYG, Moore played well early but disappeared in the second half. This game, Moore played well early and later and so the lead the team forged in the first half was extended rather than erased in the second half.

Great quarterback play, people. It erases a multitude of problems.

There really is no other position in the game that can overcome deficiencies as well as the quarterback. You have a quarterback that doesn't take sacks in the red zone, doesn't throw interceptions, sees open receivers and hits them with accurate throws, you're going to win a ton of games.

Witness the 2008 Dolphins with Chad Pennington.

But you get a quarterback who is inconsistent half to half, much less game to game, and you have a roller coaster ride of a season and a mediocre team at best.

That is why getting a good quarterback is so important for the 2012 Dolphins. Moore isn't that guy just as Chad Henne wasn't. They are inconsistent. Simple as that.

The Dolphins get a fine QB and suddenly the receivers seem a whole lot better. Suddenly the defense doesn't have to hold on to a sliver-thin lead in the fourth quarter. Suddenly the margin of error becomes wider.

If you are one of the Suck for Luck people and felt pain when the Dolphins won Sunday, you probably are keenly aware of this need for a QB. If you're with the win-now folks, I assume you also know the need to find good quarterback play for the future despite your desire to succeed now.

And if you are the small, small minority thinking Moore could satisfy both camps by being that guy ... well, just stop it. Can you at least wait for a couple of more great games from him before you make the case he's the great QB Miami needs?

Please?

November 06, 2011

Dolphins believe Davis was drunk night before practice

Yes, Vontae Davis was late to practice, as reported by me in an earlier post. Yes, he got into an ugly argument with receiver Brandon Marshall,, as reported by NFL.com. And yes, the argument between Davis and Marshall started when Marshall called out Davis and then threw the ball at his head, as reported by Fox-TV.

But the reason most responsible and most alarming about Davis missing Sunday's game against the Chiefs is that the Dolphins believe Davis was drunk the night before the Saturday practice to which he was late. And when he showed up at the Miami facility, a source said Davis had the smell of alcohol and was suffering from an apparent hangover.

Davis and several other teammates had apparently been out late Friday. Davis was the only one late.

The Dolphins declined to address any reason why Davis was not on this trip to Kansas City, which was a successful one in that Miami captured its first victory of the season, a 31-3 upset of the homestanding Chiefs. Repeated calls by The Miami Herald to agent Todd France, who represents Davis, have not been returned.

"I’m not going to get into any of that," coach Tony Sparano said. "You guys know that. Vontae is obviously not here. What goes on in those locker room doors will stay between me and Vontae.”

Marshall, who caught eight passes for 106 yards with one TD, obviously was not punished in any way and that confirms the idea that the argument between the teammates was not at the root of why Davis was left behind in South Florida.

Marshall was asked about the incident after the game and did not deny the confrontation.

“Yeah, one of the reasons why we’re standing here with a W is because the guys in our locker room, we hold each other accountable," Marshall said. "Vontae is a special player. He’s one of the best players on our team. We look forward to getting Vontae back hopefully next week. We hold each other accountable and that’s why we’re a special group. Record doesn’t show it but hopefully next week we can put another win back  to back.."

It is unclear if the Dolphins must report Davis to the NFL either under the personal conduct policy or under the controlled substance and sobriety program. It is also not known if this was a one-time incident or a problem Davis has had previously.

 

Dolphins gain first victory of the season, avoid 0-16

The Dolphins win.

Haven't written that sentence since last December 12, 2010. The Dolphins had lost 10 consecutive games before today and that is where the losing skid ends.

The Dolphins didn't just beat the Chiefs, they whipped them, 31-3. They scored 31 consecutive points. They manhandled the Chiefs offense.

...And there's this, too: They fell behind the Colts in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes. It is fair to say the Dolphins won't get Luck. The Colts are in a full-on retreat. They are truly playing terribly. They're on their way to 0-16.

The Dolphins?

Not so much. This win saves Tony Sparano's job for this week certainly and perhaps through the remainder of the season.

Matt Moore played his best game of the season, completing 17 of 23 for 244 yards with three TD passes and no interceptions. His passer rating for the game was 147.5.

Reggie Bush gained 92 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 50 yards. Even Brandon Marshall had a TD grab, only his second of the season.

Begs the critical question, where's all this been?

But I'm not in a critical mood this evening.

Enjoy this.

Dolphins clobbering KC 28-3 to start 4th quarter

I know it's not over. In fact, the Chiefs are inside the 5 yard line to start the final quarter.

But this is a woodshed whipping right now, folks.

That's great! Winning is always good. Winning is fun. Winning feels good.

But I also recognize many of you believe this is terrible. Winning now, when the season is lost anyway, means Miami's chances of gaining the first overall pick and drafting Andrew Luck are fading.

So please, please, please, give me the next hot phrase for the next best QB the Dolphins should use.

SuckforLuck is dead.

What do you have for Robert Griffin III?

Landry Jones?

Matt Barkley?

Brandon Weeden?

The live blog continues in the comments section below.