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71 posts from December 2011

December 04, 2011

Dolphins beat the Raiders 34-14

The Dolphins have picked off where they left off the last time they were at Sun Life Stadium.

The club that won only once at home last year won at home for the third time in six tries this season. So Miami is 3-3 at home. Improvement.

The Dolphins are also winners of four of the past five games. That definitely is improvement over the 0-7 September and October.

Is it enough to save folks their jobs? Should it be?

And what about the dropping draft spot?

All fair questions. This also is fair: 'Tis better to to watch a win than a loss, no?

Discuss ...

Dolphins spanking Raiders 34-0 going to 4th quarter

The Dolphins are enjoying their most lopsided game of the season so far. It seems impossible that they will not win and improve their record to 4-8.

The third quarter was interesting as Miami built a 34-0 advantage:

Big kickoff return by Clyde Gates.

Big interception returned for a touchdown by Kevin Burnett.

And Richard Seymour was ejected from the game for throwing a punchy at Richie Incognito.

And the blog continues in the comments section below.

Dolphins lead Raiders 13-0 in the third quarter

The Dolphins are clearly an East Coast team. They're awake. They're playing. And they're leading 13-0 going into the third quarter.

The Dolphins got a TD pass from Matt Moore to Davone Bess to extend their lead in the second quarter.

The Raiders are obviously a West Coast team. They're three hours behind. They're snoozing.

I'm not guessing they're all that into it right now. The live blog continues in the comments section and we'll see if Oakland wakes up.

Dolphins lead Raiders 6-0 to start second quarter

It is fist pump fest at Sun Life Stadium so far.

Dan Carpenter has two field goals and the Dolphins have a 6-0 lead. Yes, Carpenter's groin injury is apparently fine.

The Dolphins  defense, meanwhile, has gotten the better of the Raiders so far. Oakland has managed two three-and-out. They are on their third possession now.

The live blog continues in the comments section below.

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Raiders right here

They are giving away "Awwright Miami" t-shirts at the entrances of Sun Life Stadium today.

Yes, Jim Mandich will be inducted posthumously to the Honor Roll today. And the Dolphins will play the Raiders. And there will be a live blog on tap right here, starting in the comments section below. Meet me there at kickoff.

Before kickoff, I'd like to share with you my Sunday column. It gives you the backstory of Miami's chase of Carson Palmer this offseason and in July.

Why is that important considering he's playing for the Raiders?

It should give you an idea of what to expect in the coming QB search. Read it.

As for today: John Jerry starts at right guard for Miami, as I told you on Thursday.  The reason is Vernon Carey (ankle) is out. Steve Slaton, Ike Alama-Francis, Will Yeatman, Ryan Baker and Will Barker are the other inactives.

December 02, 2011

Sparano and Merling meet, but this one painless for DE

Normally, when Tony Sparano and Phillip Merling have had conversations or meetings, it hasn't been good for Merling.

Merling's been over his weight at times in his Dolphins career. And he's had to meet with coach.

Merling's been late at times. And he's had to meet with coach.

Merling's been suspended. And he's had to meet with coach.

Merling's been acting entitled at practice. And he's had to meet with coach.

Today, Merling met with coach again. But this time the cringe that might have started forming on Merling's face as coach approached was not warranted. This meeting was one in which Sparano tried to encourage the Miami defensive lineman.

"I talked to him today," Sparano said. " ... I told him you got to keep swinging ..."

Translation: Keep trying. Don't get down.

Sparano doesn't want to lose Merling even though Merling has been somewhat lost this season. Merling's been inactive six of 11 games and wasn't active at all in October. But recently, because the Dolphins had injury and performance problems with Igor Olshansky before cutting him and because Tony McDaniel was late to a team meeting and de-activated against Buffalo, Merling has gotten back on the field.

And he might continue to see playing time as long as he stays ahead of recently re-signed Ryan Baker in the rotation.

I cannot tell you everything Sparano said to Merling in their quick little confab. But I understand the reason. The coach needs Merling. And he needs Merling to play better.

The truth is Merling, in a contract year given he is in the final year of his rookie deal, hasn't been good enough. He has three tackles this season. He had one each in games against Houston, Buffalo and Dallas.

The hope among Dolphins coaches is that the production increases. Otherwise another meeting might be in the offing.

Dolphins defense hitting a low of points

Have you noticed the AFC stats lately? Yes, the Dolphins are last in the AFC East and their record is not acceptable by any definition. But their defense is doing something that must be at least acknowledged as solid:

The Dolphins are giving up relatively few points.

Look at the amount of points the team has allowed this year and it iis somewhat surprising the 206 points Miami has yielded is the lowest in the division. Fact is the Miami defense is ranked No. 6 in the NFL in points allowed.

Obviously, there are issues to resolve as to the the timing of when the Dolphins give up points. Those late points allowed to Denver and Cleveland cost victories. But overall, the Miami defense is playing pretty well of late and the relatively few points allowed is worthy of note.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is largely responsible for that. Yesterday, Nolan discussed the recent use of cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith in more of a man press technique as opposed to zone. He discussed the fact the Raiders pose a challenge in that they have a solid passing game and the No. 4 running game in the NFL.

Here's a taste:

 

December 01, 2011

Brandon Marshall's taxicab confessions

Brandon Marshall talks to reporters once a week while the Dolphins are in their weekly preparations, with rare exceptions.

He talked Wednesday afternoon. But the story about his run-in with a taxi driver following a night of partying at the Fountainbleu Hotel two weeks ago came out Wednesday night.

So he addressed the issue Thursday.

This is how it went:

Latest on Carey, Jerry, blackout, Marshall

The Dolphins are on the field and practicing. Vernon Carey is on the field but is not practicing.

The club's starting right guard is missing his second consecutive day of preparation for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Tomorrow is a big day. If Carey can do some work, his chances of playing will look much better. If he cannot practice tomorrow ... don't bank on him being ready for Sunday's game even though he said Monday he'd be ready to play.

And that would test Miami's offensive line depth. And that would test John Jerry.

Jerry is the first guy up at both right guard and tackle so if Carey cannot go, Miami would call on their second-year player.

Between you and me, it's time to call on Jerry anyway. The fact is Carey played well in spurts against the Cowboys and has done that most of this season. But the truth is Carey has been playing in spurts -- and only in spurts -- since 2009.

And the Dolphins have tolerated the inconsistency.

The team gave Carey a big contract after 2008 and the player hasn't been the same since. This season, the inconsistency led to his move from right tackle to right guard and a pay cut. Carey, 30, is unsigned for next year.

If Jerry were a good player, I'd tell you this is definitely Carey's final year in Miami. How much playing in spurts can one team take?

But the problem is Jerry so far hasn't been good enough to play in spurts himself. He started last year but it wasn't pretty. This year, he hasn't been better than Carey if you believe coaches. So he's sat and learned.

Well, it is December so it's time to stop sitting and show what you've got, in my opinion. Perhaps Carey not being available would be a blessing. Perhaps it would be an opening for Jerry to show all that he's learned and how far he's come. Obviously, it would benefit the Dolphins to know if Jerry is capable of filling the hole that an unsigned Carey would leave after this season.

Isn't that how it's supposed to work? The draft is supposed to fill in gaps and offer an orderly succession from an older veteran such as Carey to an up-and-comer such as Jerry. If the Jerry pick is correct, this would be a no-brainer.

Of course, not every pick goes quite according to plan. Already Jerry is biding his time on the bench while other players drafted behind him have become starters for their teams.

NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco, Major Wright in Chicago, Colt McCoy in Cleveland and the killer, Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, were picked after Jerry in the third round of the 2009 draft. All are starters for their teams. Graham is on his way to the Pro Bowl. Bowman is similarly a beast.

That is not opinion, but fact.

Here's another fact: The Dolphins need Jerry to show up before the start of the offseason. If he does, it would fill a hole for a team that has more holes than premium draft picks. If he doesn't, well, then the Dolphins might have to address the position again, either in the draft or free agency.

The Dolphins addressing the offensive line. We've been there before, haven't we?

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Sunday's game between the Dolphins and Raiders at Sun Life Stadium will be shown on local television. The club along with CBS-4 have guaranteed to buy any unpurchased tickets, thus guaranteeing a sellout necessary to televise the game.

Fans living within 75 miles of the stadium that otherwise would be affected by a local blackout, will now have the game available to them on CBS-4.

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I am told that Brandon Marshall will address his taxi cab incident that is all over the news after it was broken by the South Florida Times Wednesday evening.

Marshall is expected to say the issue has been resolved and is something that should not be blown out of proportion. Too late. Newspapers and websites from South Florida to South Dakota, from South Carolina to Southern California, have run with the story that on its face seems harmless.

Problem is, and Marshall will someday learn, nothing that involves him and being handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser will be deemed harmless.

Understand that the plan is for Marshall to address the issue. But Marshall is unpredictable. So we'll see. Check back later.

Awwwright, Miami!!!!: Do it Dierdorf, do it!!!

The Dolphins will induct former tight end and broadcaster Jim Mandich to the Honor Roll on Sunday when they play the Dolphins play the Raiders at Sun Life Stadium.

As you know, Mandich, who passed away in April, has been and forever will remain the voice of the Dolphins.

The game will be broadcast by CBS with Greg Gumbel on the call and Dan Dierdorf doing the color analysis. Well, Dierdorf was on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo this morning. And Dierdorf talked about how broadcasting this game is special for him because he was a teammate of Mandich's at Michigan.

In fact, Mandich was the man who helped recruit Dierdorf to Meeechigan, as he would call the institution.

"I think you guys know how much that means to me personally," Dierdorf said. "When I went on my recruiting trip to Michigan he was my chaperone ... He was larger than life. You were lucky to have him."

Cool. Well, I suggested to Dierdorf, if you want to make it really, really special then he should give Mandich a tribute-type shoutout by doing an, "Awwwright Miami!!!!" when the Dolphins score a touchdown or make a big play.

This is how Mandich sounded when he used to do it:

JIM MANDICH

I wouldn't expect Dierdorf to sound that way, but it would be cool if he tried, wouldn't it?

"I don't know how that would be received in Oakland," he said. "We always try to be fair and balanced."

Well, I suggested, give the Raiders a shoutout also -- as an in-kind trade of sorts. Actually, I said, "screw Oakland," but I digress. I suggested Dierdorf do a, "Just win, baby!" or something of that nature. I think that a fair exchange for hearing the Mandich tribute.

And with that Dierdorf came around.

"You know what, that's a great idea," he said. "You have planted the seed. that is a great idea. We all know 88 deserves it. We could do a little homage to both Jim Mandich and Al Davis."

Hey, it's not a promise that Dierdorf will do it, but it would be cool, wouldn't it? Dierdorf would be on Awful Announcing, the website that monitors such matters both good and bad, in a heartbeat.

He'd be famous!

Dierdorf on Armando and the Amigo

 

Dolphins among healthiest -- kudos to Miami's training staff

If the Dolphins don't enjoy some success this week against Oakland, don't look at the injury report for the reason.

The Dolphins are enjoying a stretch of good health (that they are reporting) and, in fact, they can lay claim to being the NFL's second-healthiest as of Wednesday when preparation and practices for weekend games began for most clubs.

The Dolphins only have three players on their injury report -- Vernon Carey did not practice due to a ankle injury, while K Dan Carpenter (groin) and safety Yeremiah Bell (foot) were limited in practice. Carpenter and Bell are expected to play on Sunday against Oakland. Carey has said he'll be fine but his status remains uncertain.

The Raiders, by contrast, had 16 players listed on their injury list with nine of those missing practice altogether. And we're talking stars missing practice. Richard Seymour didn't practice due to a knee injury. Jacoby Ford continues to nurse a foot injury. Darren McFadden is similarly not working because of the same foot injury that has kept him out of the line up for weeks and will likely keep him out versus Miami.

So the Raiders are a traveling triage ward.

And the Dolphins are healthy.

But it's not just that the Dolphins are healthy compared to their next opponent. If you study the league's complete injury report, you'll see that only the Kansas City Chiefs have fewer players on their report or have fewer significant injuries than Miami.

The Chiefs had only two players -- OL Ryan Lilja (head) and LB Demorrio Williams (groin) -- miss some snaps in practice because they were limited. Everyone else was full go.

Granted, the Chiefs recently lost starting QB Matt Cassel and he's not on the report because he's done for the year. But the Dolphins similarly lost their starting QB this year.

So the Chiefs apparently are the healthiest NFL team at the moment. And the Dolphins are a fairly close second.

Well done training staff! Well done conditioning coaches!