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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]


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Bess is quick but SLOW...Hartline had better chemistry with Henne...Thank God we have Marshall...Pretty scary to think what our passing game would be without him...


GATES ,THEN............. VERY GOOD

GATES,NOW................ NOT GOOD AT ALL .

Hartline should not be starting period. This guy is just an ordinary average WR, nothing speical about him, he's prob better off as a third WR. I've never seen anyone move as quick as Bess but gets no where on his punt returns.

WHAT THIS WORD (( CHEMISTRY )) CAME FROM....................?????????????




Judy, I could care less about Jenkins or Claiborne or Kirkpatrick. I want a qb period! We draft any other position and it keeps us with buffalo in the 7 9 win purgatory indefinitely. At least with a qb, you will either be elevated or he will knock you back down in the region to take another qb.

Can't rise out of the bottom 5 to 7 slots. That will ensure a lost season for sure unless a top pro quarterback goes on the market.


Judy, I posted earlier that its a distinct possibility that either barkley or Jones would not declare. I don't see griffin staying in school one more year to take his lumps at Baylor. What would be the point? That's why I say they can forget college top end qbs if they drop back in the draft order anymore unless they pay Carolina or St Louis to move up. But that will be expensive.

Carolina will want blackmon and he won't exactly hang around in the draft and St Louis will want kalil and he won't last long either. Moving up from lets say 10th will not be feasible.

Posted by: Mark in Toronto | November 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM

If that were the case I would rather see them trade down in the first and gather up some more picks. Without a top rated quarterback to pick from in the draft it would be fruitless for them to stay where they are with the amount of talent that is there in the first two rounds.
They have no fourth round pick next year because of the Reggie Bush trade so that puts a damper on things. So, with no chance at the qb position why not try and get some picks and try and get some talent where you need it?
So, if they end up at #5, for instance, and trade down to #10 they can still have a shot at Claiborne or Kirkpatrick. Later in the round you have Upshaw who could help with the pass rush or Worthy who could shore up the d-line.
There is plenty of talent on the offensive line in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and running backs don't have a long enough shelf life to pick in the first rd, especially when you have guys like Polk, Pead and Gray available later.
So, given that the quarterback talent wouldn't be there I would say their most important positions to fill would be a pass rusher, cornerback and free safety. They need to do something about the defense, otherwise teams like New England will continue to pass up and down the field all day on them.

ALoco, my point was he clicked better with Henne...It's just one of those things...Maybe Henne had more confidence in him than Moore...I don't know...The thing I do know is Moore doesn't throw to Hartline very much...There's a reason for that...

Judy, I could care less about Jenkins or Claiborne or Kirkpatrick. I want a qb period! We draft any other position and it keeps us with buffalo in the 7 9 win purgatory indefinitely. At least with a qb, you will either be elevated or he will knock you back down in the region to take another qb.

Can't rise out of the bottom 5 to 7 slots. That will ensure a lost season for sure unless a top pro quarterback goes on the market.

Posted by: Mark in Toronto | November 17, 2011 at 10:39 AM

I agree that the quarterback position needs to be the top priortiy come the draft but, as you said, if they are too far down in the pecking order they would need to give up too much to get high enough to get one of the top quarterbacks if some do not enter the draft.
If it turns out that they all come out then the point is moot. But, until we see what happens after the college season is over we can't take it for granted that they will all be available.
Then you have to start thinking about where else the team needs help. Unless they plan on taking Weeden in the first like Minnesota did with Ponder there could be a possibility that there is nothing else they could do but pick up help at another position of need.

What does it say about Clyde Gates if we don't start to see more of him in the second half of the season?

Clyde Gates should be starting instead of Hartline...


This is the way I see it:

If all of the top-rated quarterbacks declare for the draft and Miami ends up in the top ten they should have a chance at one of them and they will take their guy.
If they don't come out then the guy they take is going to be either Claiborne or Kirkpatrick because of the strong need at cornerback or they take a pass rusher like Coples or Upshaw because they can't generate a pass rush.
That's just my opinion. Of course, that all depends on whether or not Jeffy boy is still in control of things. Hopefully, it's not the case.

#1, Clde cant even get off of the line of scrimmage, I see nothing in this guy that resembles a good WR.


ALoco, we won't agree on this one. I would like Cowher...But I don't believe he'll come back in the NFL...Andy Reid would be a wise choice...As a matter of fact, I think we have players better suited for a west coast type of offense but that's just my opinion...Not a big fan of either Fisher or Gruden...I hear a lot of good things about his brother Jay Gruden...Who knows...It would of been nice to have Harbaugh, that's the guy me and Mark in Toronto wanted...

Judy, I have a scary feeling that Ireland will be here. Just what we need, another SAFE 1st round pick.

Merling & Langford are FA's, expect Miami to target a DE with the 1st round pick if Ireland stays. You can NEVER have enough big bodies who don't decide games!

Spiderman, we have to give him a chance. We already know what we have in Hartline...What's the point?

Miami Dolphin top 10 offseason needs, in order of priority

1. QB
2. Head Coach
3. RT
4. Owner
5. Offensive Co-ordinator
6. RG
7. General Manager
8. TE
9. CB

I would rather see Andy Reid in the GM seat.

Joe S,

I don't see Ireland being here but just my opinion. Although Ross probably has no idea about football I think he is smart enough to know that his team is lacking talent.

I mean he has to see that, right?


Maybe we all get a Christmas present and Ross finally sees he is in over his head and sells the team to someone who acutally gives a $hit!

Judy, I agree with you. The 2 main problems for this team are the ir passing game and their giveaway Takeaway ratio. A franchise qb helps because he has the most direct influence in the success of the passing game. He also hopefully throws fewer picks than the incumbents and increases the turnover ratio too. A wide receiver is also an option for the same reasons but has less influence than a qb.

A CB or olb pass rush type is also high on the list because pressure and cover skills lead to more turnovers which they desperately need.

Another consideration but lower down on the list for that top pick would be a rt because he would also help improve the passing game and hopefully help reduce turnovers by protecting the qb and giving him more time.

So it goes qb, wr, CB, olb, rt. That's how I see the list of needs foe this team.

Thus my draft board is


I just havent seen any sort of flash from Gates plus he's horrible at returning kicks. '

Gary, my list goes
1. QB
2. Head Coach
3. GM
4. RT
5. FS
6. CB
7. RG
8. TE
9. Yes more DL
10. LB who can create pressure

I am getting a little worried Miami plays themselves right out of a 1st round QB myself.

With games coming up against Bills twice who have fallen back to earth and have mediocre talent that could be 2 win possibly, Oakland which is improved but Miami could beat them and even the Eagles who may not being playing for much when that game rolls around could be another win. Now they could just easily lose all them games too.

I guess only time will tell but I desperately want Miami to lose, lose, lose. Whether Miami finds a way to win a few or finish with what they have 2 wins what does it matter? They still stink. They still need a head coach who is innovative and a franchise QB as well.

I hope the Bills find a way to bounce back and hopefully give Miami the final blow it needs for guys to quit on Moron-O

My List goes:


Nothing else matters right now

Is it me...or did ALOCO's ENGLISH get progressively worse as he posted today....

He went from Masters degree in English Lit.... to 3rd grade Spelling be in a matter of hours....

Andy, LOL You'd think he does, but I'm not sure.

Jeff & Tuna screwed this team. I know all teams hit n miss around 50% in the draft & some narrow minded bloggers here like to point that out. BUT, we have not been good at the top when it matters most & that's what people refuse to talk about.

The 1st pick is your most valuable. Your biggest investment! You have to make the most of it. We haven't.

Look at Belli's 1st rounders since our FO took over. Too early to tell about 2011 so lets look at 2008-20100 NE had only 2 picks, 1 less than us but, both are studs & probowlers.

We have one & it was the #1 pick.

This is why we aren't very good. We don't have the dynamic players we should have. We don't because of Ireland's Philosophy handed to him by Parcells. Safe is better.

Example, Odrick. Is he having a nice season, yes. But he is a Part time DE. Do you know how many probowlers & impact players we missed out on to take a part time DE? This is BAD Drafting.

The "safe" philosophy has to go. I'm not sure Ross sees what most common sense fans see. We can only hope he does.

And add to that Joe, a de in a 3 4 doesn't have a huge impact on the outcomes of games unleashed he's a superior pass rusher like Seymour or Aaron smith from Pittsburgh. He better become that or it was a stupid pick. Same with mike pouncey. Interior offensive linemen are a stupid pick for a team like Miami. It made sense for the Steelers because they already had a qb, receivers, dbs, olbs, etc. We need help at all those positions. They have a greater impact in the NFL today than interior linemen.

Someone needs to explain how Lamar Miller is rated as a first round pick. Whewww!

Joe S,

Yeah Odrick is pretty solid. But who the "F" wants solid from a 1st round pick. I hated the Odrick pick when it happened. We already had 2 capable starters at DE so why pick another? He reminded me of the Jamar Fletcher pick when we had Madison and Surtain already.

Miami has been horrible in the 1st round for years. And the 2nd round has been even worse. I just don't see Ireland being here after this year. I'm sure of it, Ross hasn't made millions by being stupid and he will clean house when the season is over.

Mark, it's funny...I think on offense we have players that are better suited to play a west coast type of offense...On defense, I look at the players we have and I think they're better suited to play a 4-3. But yet we don't. Odrick, Dansby, Burnett, Soliai would probably make more of an impact in a 4-3 defense. Just my opinion of course.


I think our receivers would be good in a West Coast system and running backs too. But obviously from a QB standpoint, both Henne and Moore aren't exactly good short and mid range passers.

Defensively I wish they played a 4-3. JT and Wake at DE and Soliai and Odrick at DT would work. Burnett stinks he isn't physical and can't cover. He is useless. Karlos "self annointed best LB" Dansby would be better in a 4-3 and probably not at ILB but at strongside.

Andy, I could see a guy like Bess putting up big numbers in a west coast offense cause he has the ability to make the first guy miss. Short quick passes would be ideal for him, he's very quick but slow. Not sure how good he can be in a offense like the one we have. One thing we all know, we need another WR...Marshall is already putting up decent numbers, imagine if we'd have another playmaker on the field...A productive #2 would help out both Marshall and Bess...

kris,it's the aliens in alocos head.lol

gates looks like another miss. he is a clone of ted ginn but half as good. speed, without some moves, is useless.

Gates is a bum! Hartline is a white WR, there no good in this league.

Mark in Toronto,

I'm confused. I always thought the argument last year was that we needed to draft a first round QB and if we didn't get one we wouldn't win. We hadn't drafted once since '83 etc...

Now you're saying that if we can't get one of the top 2 or 3 then we should be looking at CB or some other position. Help me out here. I'm not getting it. This is one of the better years for QBs and you're suggesting we take a pass again? What gives? Thanks.

Yea I say get a QB 1st round no matter what.

Guess come out of the draft surprising people every year (Andy Dalton)

We just need some new talent at the position

*guys not guess

Montreal, agreed. Odrick would be a beast in a 4-3, Soliai i think is good in a 3-4. On offense, no doubt they would be a better west coast offense with bess and marshall especially. Bush would make a mess out of the backfield and Moore would look more like Rich Gannon every day.

Gates is a FOURTH round draft pick. Very few wide receivers come into the league and are stars right away. Kind of hard to call this guy a bust this early in his career.

Craig, you misunderstand. I was speaking in the case that we are drafting outside of the top 10 and fall out of the contention for the qbs. I also said it would be a wasted season if that happened - it would definitely be the worst case scenario - no playoffs, no qb.

However, I would bea proponent of a trade for peyton if they can't get a college guy and he's put out there healthy.

We should of took Ryan Mallet in the third round this year, he would of got some playing time and we would of known what we have in him. If he sucked just draft another QB in the first round this year. Jeff Ireland is a duck!

And Craig, if you looked at my draft list, my top 4 are all qbs, so how can you say I am a proponent of passing on a qb???

...Odrick is basically a rookie. Come on. Give him a chance to develop a little. Name one defensive lineman selected after 15 the last 2 years that is an all pro, or even a factor. It takes a little bit. If you want to make the agument that we should have stayed put at 12. I understand that more then questioning Odrick. IMO, Odrick has improved each week, enough to think that he is going to be a good, if not very good player in the future. There is a reason the Dansby, and Burnett have looked better the last month. Watch the defensive line, and Odrick, and you will see why.

Odrick is no stud Darryl.


Guys here beg for Ginn's head on a platter for 3 seasons. Ginn was a top 10 overall pick. Gates is a 4th-5th rd pick.

Guys Gates has promise. He only has two shortcomings right now:

1. The competition level of foes he played against in college didnt warrant being a polished route runner.

2. Dolphins do not currently have a qb that has great enough long ball touch to get it to him when does beat the defense deep.

Were you paying attention Sunday when Moore couldnt connect with Marshall deep on the trickery throw?

Mark in Toronto,

I think I misunderstood. That was the part I didn't get. I know you've been clamouring for a QB for a long time and this seems like the perfect time to draft one. I agree with you, I expect Jones or Barkley might go back for another year, maybe in an effort to be a number one pick next year.I would prefer a trade up to get a QB than a trade for a 36 year old Manning but I wouldn't rule that out completely either.

If Gates played with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers he would most likely have at least 3 deep scoring td plays by now.

Think long and hard about that.

..John. I never said Odrick is a stud. I just said he is playing well. He has played in 9 freekin games, and many are calling him a bust. Maybe he will be. If I could look into the future I would. I'm just saying for those who think he stinks, and was a waste..blah blah..blah. Don't be suprised if you are polishing his knob in a year as a big part of our defense.

Craig, I'm so desperate for a legit qb that I'm willing to consider almost anyone. It's been WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long.


I agree with you. Only halfway thru Odrick has 3 qb sacks. For a 3-4 DE, though not great, those are acceptable numbers for an entire season.

With 7 games remaining, should Odrick finish with 7-8 qb sacks, as a 3-4 DE he justifies his #1 selection. Plus show promise he can be a "dominant" 3-4 DE moving forward.

Also think Odrick detractors forget he also had a pick 6 this season to add to his 2011-12 numbers. He's also accumulated a fair amount of tackles for loss. Thus far this season Odrick is justifying his 1st rd status.


Anyone here thinking Odrick's a bust have lost thier freaking mihds!


You're missing the point. It's not about whether Odrick is improving or not. Not about what other DE's have made the probowl.

Most of us have said he's having a good year. But, 3-4 DE's dont win football games or impact the game like a FS, CB, WR, QB would.

Especially ones drafted to be part time, rotational players. Odrick was simply a BAD draft pick. Is he a bad player? No. Is it his fault he was taken in the 1st? No. It still doesn't mean it was a good pick.

Zero value to a drafting a 3-4 DE, #1, when you had 4 capable ones on the roster. This team is chock full of role players, it needs more elite skill talent.

Darryl, I don't blame Odrick for where he was drafted, I put that on Ireland for not taking a player that would have a chance for a more dramatic outcome on a game than a 3-4 DE. I also held out hope that Odrick can become a special player if he turns out like Aaron Smith or Richard Seymour. Those guys were rarities as special pass rushers out of that position. If he can be that - and I hope he can - then it's a good pick. If he turns out to be Kendall Langford (3,4 sack a year guy) then it's a horrible pick.

I hold out less hope for Pouncey to be an impact player because the way the game is played these days give an interior lineman almost no chance to shine.


If a 3-4 DE can get you 7-8 qb sacks in a season that's outstanding. Odrick is well on 0pace for those sack numbers. he has a pick 6 this season too.

WTH are some of you thinking?

I think rooting for your team to lose so we can get a better pick is insane. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. We could pick at 10 and pick a QB and that could be a find.
Every game of the phins I watch I want them to win and I root for them to win. If we get to pick at 9 instead of 3 so be it.

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