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54 posts from April 2012

April 30, 2012

Preview of the Dolphins offensive scheme

I've got a day off today but decided because I have some time to myself to (again) check out the Ryan Tannehill quarterback camp segment with former coach Jon Gruden. I'm glad I did.

The 25-minute tape below is interesting on many levels. It suggests Tannehill's work at Texas A&M was much more NFL intensive than the typical college approach. That's very good.

It shows why Tannehill will be ahead of veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore in his knowledge of the offense. (He's way behind in on-field experience against NFL competition but ahead in understanding the terminology and concepts of the offense he's running).

And, most interesting to me, it gave me something of a peek at the offense the Dolphins will run. Most believe Miami's offense will be the Green Bay Packers offense. Um, actually, it'll be more West Coast offense used at A&M with some Green Bay concepts added in. It is not the Green Bay offense per se.

So what will you decipher in this episode that will apply to the Miami offense. Examples:

It will show you the Dolphins future personnel groupings.

There is Eagle: Four wide receiver and a back.

There is Zebra: Three wides, a tight end and a back.

"That was our base personnel that this year we ran 90 percent of our stuff out of," Tannehill said.

There is Tiger: Two tight ends, two wide receivers, one back.

There is Y: Three tight ends, one back and one wide receiver. In this one the Aggies sometimes used the tight end as a fullback.

I'm confident the Dolphins will have the same groupings because West Coast offenses have had these grouping dating back 20 years.

They've also used the same hand signals for these grouping for 20 years. The Eagle is denoted by flapping of the arms. The Zebra is denoted by putting an arm across the body as in a stripe. The Tiger is denoted by holding up both hands like claws.

You will see Tannehill asked to name 15 formations. He names 12: Stack right, stack right plus, stack right minus, Trips left, Star left, Star right, Trey left, Trey right, Squeeze, Tight right, Stack right snug, Stack right Z short.

A typcial West Coast offense call that will soon make its way to a Dolphins huddle near you: "Ground left tight close halfback right sprint right Z corner halfback flat."

The Dolphins, er Aggies, made a lot of hay on outside breaking routes. Look for the Dolphins to make a lot of hay on outside breaking routes. There are three kind:

Acute.

Winston.

True comeback.

The Acute and true comeback are comeback routes. The Winston is an out route.

Acute goes 14 yards coming back to 12 yards. It is a five-step drop and a hitch for the QB. Out of the shotgun it is a three-step drop and hitch.

True comeback goes 18 yards back to 16. It is a seven-step drop for the QB. Out of the shotgun it is a five-step and hitch.

The Winston is a 10- to 12-yard out route. It requires a five-step-plant-and-throw motion from the QB. Out of the shotgun it is three-step-plant and throw.

Look for the Dolphins, like any West Coast team, to depend heavily on the Acute route. Tannehill clearly has a very strong arm in that he often threw Acutes to the wide side of the field in college. Not everyone can make that throw.

One problem with this route?

The wide receiver has to win. Herein lies the importance of the wide receiver that I feel the Dolphins have not full address, but that's another blog. The wide receiver must get the cornerback out of his pedal for the route to work. That means the wide receiver must threaten the defensive back to the point where he turns his hips to run. At that point the receiver is free to make his break and the play is an easy completion.

But if the receiver cannot make the defensive back get out of his backpedal, the defensive player is in perfect position for the interception. Along the sideline. With open field in front of him. The wide receiver MUST win. Or the quarterback cannot throw the football in that situation and must settle for the checkdown.

Tannehill failed to settle for the checkdown a couple of times in college and it cost him.

Did I mention the wide receivers must win and force the DBs out of their pedal?

Anyway, enjoy:

April 29, 2012

Miami WRs still a big question mark

The NFL is a passing league. The New England Patriots -- with a relatively weak running game and a flawed defense -- have proven that for years. The New York Giants, meanwhile, have been able to overcome the Patriots in two Super Bowls because they could both pass and attack the passer.

So championships revolve around the pass.

The Dolphins obviously recognize this because they have finally, finally invested a first-round draft pick on a quarterback -- this in quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And while there are questions whether Tannehill will succeed or not, I know this:

Tannehill will need great wide receivers to become a great quarterback. There is zero doubt about that. There can be zero argument about that.

I know that many of you contend the Green Bay Packers, for example, have a great passing game because of their quarterback and offensive system while diminishing the importance of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver and James Jones.

Wrong.

Great quarterbacks do not ever do it on their own. to the heights they can otherwise Even the Pats realized this when a mediocre group of receivers got them to the AFC title game in 2006 but the addition of Wes Welker and Randy Moss made them unbeatable in the 2007 regular season and undefeated through 18 games until the Super Bowl.

See the difference? Even with a HOF quarterback, great receivers are a huge upgrade.

That's why I believe the Dolphins must now upgrade the receiver corps. Yes, the club drafted B.J. Cunningham and Rishard Matthews on the draft's third day. And there are reports the Dolphins will sign Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller and Penn State WR Derek Moye as undrafted free agents.

But all four are developmental players. And the problem is a majority of Miami's current receivers are still developmental players -- including Marlon Moore, Clyde Gates, Roberto Wallace and others.

Frankly, I look at Miami receivers and see a lot of question marks. Maybe they turn to exclamation points. But I don't see Miami's passing game taking off unless and until they do or unless and until the front office upgrades with better players.

April 28, 2012

Ireland shreds bogus Jake Long 'report', other stuff

A ridiculous article appeared in the South Florida media Saturday, seemingly reporting as fact that Jake Long's days with the Dolphins are numbered. The article cited no source. The article made the leap that because the Dolphins drafted Jonathan Martin to play right tackle, that must mean the team's left tackle was done in Miami.

Wrong.

The article irked the Dolphins public relations staff and, more importantly, made general manager Jeff Ireland upset enough to address it first off in his post-draft press conference.

Here is what Ireland said ... along with everything else said at that presser.

"Before we get started I want to clear the air on an article, I don’t normally go overboard on media speculation but last night I saw an article about Jake Long. I have plans to keep Jake Long right here for a long time. So, don’t get ahead of ourselves and you guys have a question, especially on that here on a press conference standpoint. You guys are obviously free to ask me about those things and I’ll give you an honest an answer as I can. We have plans to keep Jake around here. We drafted Jonathan Martin to be a tackle on this football team. A right tackle on this football team so let’s don’t speculate any further than that."

"We had a great day today though fellas. We have a great staff upstairs. I want to thank my scouting staff in particular Chris Grier, Brian Gaine, Chase Leshin, and those guys worked long hours and I got a great staff of scouts. Thank Joe (Philbin) and his staff did a tremendous job. We’re still in the process…we’re getting through the free agency process which has been very productive tonight. I think we got some really good guys but that’s talk about the five picks we had today. Obviously we went up and got Lamar Miller. My vision for Lamar is just to come in here and learn and develop. He’s got as natural run skills as I’ve seen. I thought he was one of the better run backs in this year’s draft. He’s got good hands. He’s very quick. He’s got exceptional change direction. I think he had over 2,000 yards in just 335 carries in just two years. He was just a one-year starter. He’s got some kickoff return ability to him. So, we just felt like he was too good a value to pass up. I’m in the business of collecting good football players. I’m in the business…when you put the board up you follow the board and I have a good friend of mine once told me that if you have a strength of your team you build it, and don’t be afraid to build it. And so that’s what we’re doing with Lamar. We have a strength at that position and we’re not afraid to build it."

"The next player was Josh Kaddu in the fifth round from Oregon. A linebacker. We feel like he can play really any linebacker position. We think he’s an outside linebacker. I don’t see him as Mike but I do see him as a Will or a Sam. Tremendous athlete. (The guy) is explosive. He can run. He’s got long arms. He can drop. He can cover. He’s got great range and we think he’s going to immediately have an impact on special teams. That’s our vision for him right now. He’s a good kid and we’re glad to have him as well.

"Sixth round we took the all-time leader receiver at Michigan State B.J. Cunningham. This guys just a good football player. He’s not the fastest. He’s not the biggest. He’s not the quickest. But he is one darn good football player and you can’t have enough of those guys in your football team. He’s got very good hands. He’s tough. He transitions catch to run very well and look forward to having him compete for a roster spot here.

"The next player we took was Kheeston Randall a defensive linemen out of Texas. He’s big. He’s 6’4”, 305 lbs. He runs really good. He’s got very long arms. We think he can play any position on the defensive line. A three, a five, a one. So he’s got versatility. Got a good chance of seeing him at the Senior Bowl. Had a good week of practice there and he’s smart and he’ tough and so we feel very good about Kheeston.

"Second seventh round pick was Rishard Matthews. Big, physical receiver. I think he had 91 catches I think this year for over 1,000 yards. I think a 15-yard average. He’s a team captain there. We had a good grade on this young man and you know he’s one of those receivers that he plays a lot bigger than he is. There’s some comparisons to some people in the league that I won’t get into but I don’t want to make any false predictions about the kid but feel very good about this young man. He can run well. He catches the ball as good as anybody. Has big hands and so we have very good vision for him as well."

(On if he was surprised to see Lamar Miller in the Fourth Round) – “We were. I expected him to go a little bit earlier but you know that’s the draft. And for whatever reason he was still sitting there I felt it was too good a value to pass up and so we went up to try to get him in front of a couple of other teams."

(On how do you vision giving Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, and Lamar Miller carries this season) -“That’s the coach’s job to get those guys carries. He’s a developmental running back right now so he’s going to have to learn how to be a pro and he’s going to be a little sprinkle back until he becomes a full throttle back. He needs to become a little bit more rugged and he has to learn to pass protect a little bit better. We certainly have a vision for his as a kickoff return for him. The guy can catch. We may be able to put the guy in different spots from the running back position, but he was just too good of a talent. I’m going to leave it up to my coaching staff to find the right position for him and the right number of plays and how we get him into the game."

(On drafting University of Miami players, what did you like about them) -“Well, we had a chance to visit with pretty much all of the University of Miami guys. We kind of had our own special day. It was a Miami Hurricane/Miami Dolphin Day and really had a chance to spend some time with them. We want to try to create a relationship with the Hurricanes and Al Golden. He’s been very good to me. I respect him very much as a head football coach and I know the way he coaches. I like the way he coaches his players. I believe in his program. I believe in him. We had good long talks about each of these players we drafted. I think from Al’s prospective and my prospective, I think we’re just scratching the surface of the ability of the two players from the University of Miami. Obviously, Olivier (Vernon) and Lamar (Miller), I think they’re two tremendous prospects. The ceiling is endless.”

(On selecting a WR later in the draft rather than higher, did you not see value in the position) -“Well, a little bit of both. I have confidence in the players I have on the roster. We still have some young players that are ascending. I think we’ve drafted a couple of good players. We definitely think can ascend, but again we’re in a reach. That’s not my philosophy. The board speaks to me when I’m in the draft and wasn’t going to reach for anything. I was going to let the board speak to you. Like I always said, if the value marries the need then you marry it together. In this case at the receiver position that it married together in the sixth round."

(On addressing the safety position, did you not see value in the position) -“Yup, I didn’t think this year’s draft at the safety position was a real strong draft. You can miss on some of those guys if you’re not put in the position to really get those guys."

(On having enough explosiveness at WR or is that not what you’re trying to do) -“Well, you’re always looking for explosiveness, but it’s not just the receiver position. Coach (Joe) Philbin will tell you, it’s about the offense and we got some tight ends and we got some running backs and receivers and we know it’s about scheming it to where we can get the ball to the best hands of the playmakers that we have. I have a lot of confidence in Joe and his staff to be able to scheme it up. We don’t play for a couple more months too so we’ll see what acorns fall off the tree."

(On if you believe the new offensive system will improve the receiver’s numbers this season) -“Absolutely, I do (laughing)."

(On how important was this draft for you) -“It’s extremely important. I go into every draft that it’s important. We’re trying to win championships. I just believe this is the best way to build a team. Like you said, my second time to be fully control of the draft. It’s extremely important for me. It’s extremely important to this franchise that we hit on a lot of these players, all of them. Again, maybe I am naïve that I think I can hit on all of them, but we put a lot of effort into scouting these players and interviewing them. Chasing them across the country and we definitely put ourselves in position to be drafting these players and feel like they’re all great kids. They’ll have a chance to compete and add depth to this football team."

(On worrying if the defense did not get address this draft) -“No, I’m not. I’m not worried about that. Really haven’t in particularly focused on one thing in the draft room and again the board kind of speaks to me and we’re trying to address some certain things and I’ll let the board speak to me. Again, I’m in the business of collecting good football players whether it’s a need position or not. I’m in the business of getting as many good football players on this football team as we can here during this process."

(On Cameron Wake’s contract status) -“Well, the official comment is I don’t talk about any kind of contract negotiations in the media. I’m just not going to do it."

Coach Joe Philbin also addressed the media. And here it is:

(On if he felt he improved the offensive line during the draft) – “We’re really pleased with Jonathan Martin. We think he has a chance to come in and compete for playing time right away. We’re excited about getting our hands on him and working with him. So again how much we improve…obviously we have some players on the roster, some young players as well, that need to develop. We need to take a good look at them. We got a good look at them for three days without the pads, so we may not get a true handle on where some of the younger guys on the roster are until we get to the padded work. It’s certainly an area we want to improve and I feel good about the draft pick that we made but we still have a lot of work to do."

(On seeing a player like RB Lamar Miller, UM, dropping to the fourth round) – “I think he’s an outstanding fit schematically. When you talk about explosive plays, the two statistics in football offensively that matter are protecting the football and creating explosive plays. We look at Lamar Miller as a back that has an opportunity create explosive plays. He’s a guy who we think can break tackles. He has very good speed. If you looked at our board, and Jeff said that it was hard to ignore the guy. I liked him very much, the scouting department liked him very much, so when you look at a guy that has that kind of ability, it’s hard to pass up a guy like that."

(On if he feels as though he has enough pulling guards on the team) – “We pulled a little bit there. We did some of those schemes during the three-day camp. I wouldn’t say that I’m totally sure yet, to be quite honest with you. We did a little bit of it, but not enough for me to say definitively one way or the other."

(On the way he feels that the roster has changed because of the draft) – “I’m delighted about the guys we’ve added to the roster. I really like the character of the guys. The passion for the game of football, that was really important. Jeff and his staff do a great job finding out those answers. In conjunction, our coaches watched, though not nearly as much as the scouts, but they commented on the fit as to a scheme standpoint. I’m delighted with the guys we’ve added at this point in time."

(On the upcoming rookie mini-camp and any goals he might have for it) – “Hopefully, if the play’s going to the right, to get everyone to step to the right and not run into one another. That’s honestly one of the primary goals. It’s going to be more of an orientation. It’s not going to be, let’s do a hundred up-downs and see whom we can run out of here. We’re going to get them oriented to the weight room, get them oriented to some of our player engagement programs, we’re going to get them adjusted to our practice structure, our practice tempo, our schemes, our classroom environment, our weight room environment, all of those things. What we want to do is to prepare them for the OTAs and get them a little bit comfortable – a little bit – with the playbook. We’re not going to go nearly as fast as we do with our other guys. In five practices, as I mentioned to you yesterday, we put in first down, second down, third down, red zone, two minute…we’re going to do first down and second down with these guys. If they can get half of it and remember 25 percent, seriously, we’re ahead of the game. So it’s more of an orientation than a real camp and it’s going to be slower paced, not nearly as fast as we move with the other guys."

(On QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M, and his familiarity with the offensive playbook) – “Well, I was a little shocked when (assistant quarterbacks coach) Zac Taylor came...they met at 7:00 and he came back at 10:00 and said they were done. The guy’s already done. I said, gee, Zac, three hours and the kid knows the whole playbook. We might need to spend more time in coaches’ meetings if this is the problem. We’ve been here three months and the guy’s learned the offense in three hours. Again, I don’t know how many guys – I was talking to Kim Bokamper early this morning – how many guys were drafted today, two hundred fifty seven? I would guess that two or three other guys in the whole draft felt as comfortable as Ryan Tannehill did walking into a building. I would guess. And it may not have been anyone else, but there certainly weren’t a lot of guys that would have had the comfort level that he did today. And I think that’s good for a little while. Because he’s such a competitor, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I know we aren’t getting a complacent player because he feels like he knows a couple of people. That’s really the exact opposite. The only reason he’s here is because of his competitive nature and athletic ability. I think he and Zac…they met last night, they met this morning before you guys met with him at 10:00, he had already put in a good morning’s work. I think he’ll be off to a good start.”

(On if he was looking for a particular wide receiver make up in the players you drafted) – “Not really. I’m not really big into he’s an ‘X’, he’s a ‘Z’, he’s a slot, I think I told you guys that. It’s not that that I don’t believe in let’s have a go to receiver or a big guy that can win a one-on-one match up. I love to have those guys, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think in terms of ‘X ‘ and ‘Z’. The way we teach the passing game is we have individual cuts. We have two man concepts. We have three man concepts. I think the more guys that you can get into different spots to create mismatches for the defense, the better you are going to be. So I don’t think we locked in, somebody asked me is he a ‘X’ or a ‘Z’, I don’t know, he is a receiver. We’re going to get him, we are going to watch him, we are going to get him on the field and see if he operates better inside or outside. We like the size of both of these guys. They are a little bit bigger targets as a wide out. (Rishard)Matthews is a little bit faster, but they are both physical guys. They are both competitive guys. I think it speaks highly, (B.J.) Cunningham is the all-time leading receiver in the history of the school and they have had some good football players roll through that campus. We liked the way he caught the ball over the middle, we like his competitiveness and (wide receivers coach) Ken (O’Keefe) went up there to watch him work out as did Chris Grier, I believe. So again, I am not good at that stuff, he’s an ‘X’ and he’s a ‘Z’ and all that.”

Ross hopes Tannehill's No. 17 will be retired

Retired numbers
The Dolphins have retired three jerseys since the franchise's fledgling year in 1966. And owner Stephen Ross is rooting that first-round pick Ryan Tannehill is so good, so dominant in fact, that his career will require the team to retire Tannehill's No. 17 when he's through.

"This is your number?" Ross asked Miami's newest quarterback this morning when he handed him his Miami jersey.

Tannehill responded that's exactly the number he wore at Texas A&M. Ross paused. Thought about it. And then said ..

"Hope one day we can retire this jersey."

The Dolphins have all three of their retired jerseys hanging in the lobby wall of their Davie, FL. headquarters. They belong to Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, and Dan Marino. All three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is apparently what it takes to get your jersey retired by the Dolphins.

But no pressure, Ryan.

Dolphins select LB Josh Kaddu in fifth round

The Dolphins are working their board and so far the work has not yielded any wide receiver help.

It did just get them a linebacker -- Josh Kaddu from Oregon.

Kaddu has 10 career sacks. That's more sacks than third-round pick Olivier Vernon had at the University of Miami.

The Dolphins were originally scheduled to pick with the 145th pick in the round. They traded back with Tennessee to 155 overall and picked up a seventh-round selection No. 227 in the exchange.

Kaddu is 6-3 and 229 pounds.

"I feel like I'm a versatile player," Kaddu said, adding that he can cover receivers in the slot,feels like he can rush the passer, or hold the edge.

Kaddu has been told he needs to gain weight.

Kaddu said he molded his game and admired Ray Lewis growing up.

Love, love, LOVE the picking of Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller thought he'd be a first-round pick, second-round at worst.

Then the draft came. And the first round passed. And the second round passed. And the third round passed and Lamar Miller was not picked.

Finally, the somebody within the Dolpins organization must have seen the crosstown kid still on the board in the fourth round and said, 'Hey, this kid's fast and solid. Let's get him!"

And so the Dolphin traded up to the pick No. 97 -- giving up No. 103, No. 168 and a sixth-round pick next year.  In other words, the Dolphins gave up two sixth-round picks to get a promising playmaker.

Why do I love this pick? Because Reggie Bush, outstanding as he was last season in gaining over 1,000 yards, is unsigned after this season. And, given his history, this is a solid defense against Bush getting hurt.

So the Dolphins will have someone in wating if the Bush thing doesn't work out this year. Miller also can return kicks and punts.

Miller dropped, supposedly, because teams had issues with his shoulder injury and how that affected his running.

"There's no regret," Miller said. "I just thank God. It's a blessing just to get the opportunity to play in the NFL. Getting a chance to play in my hometown and getting a chance to play in a Super Bowl is a blessing. I don't regret anything."

Got to like Miller's optimism about the Super Bowl thing.

April 27, 2012

Dolphins pick Vernon, trade down, pick Egnew

The Dolphins used their No. 72 pick in the third round to draft defensive end Oliver Vernon of the University of Miami.

The team then traded No. 73 to the San Diego Chargers for No. 78 overall and No. 183, which is a sixth-round pick.

Vernon, 6-3 and 261 pounds, was told by the team he'll work in the 4-3. Vernon's best year came in 2010 when he had 10.5 sacks. He was suspended in the Nevin Shapiro scandal last year and contributed only 3.5 sacks in six games.

I asked Vernon who he would characterize his Hurricanes career.

"Unfulfilled," he said.

Vernon is the first University of Miami draftee for the Dolphins since Vernon Carey in 2004.

With selection No. 78, the Dolphins then picked Missouri tight end Michael Egnew, a 6-5, 252-pound seam threat who can also block.

Last season, Egnew caught 50 passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns.

Dolphins pick RT Jonathan Martin in second round

The Dolphins clearly were going to add an offensive tackle if you read the between the lines every time coach Joe Philbin pressed the importance of adding help up front.

Today, the Dolphins made Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin their second round pick. Martin will change positions to play in Miami.

"I haven't played right tackle but I feel I can play right tackle," Martin said. 

"It's a dream come true. It's an amazing city, amazing fan base, amazing history. I can't wait to get down there and work."

Martin said he talked to the Dolphins at the Indianapolis combine but didn't have much contact with the team beyond that. 

The Cardinal used zone and power blocking techniques up front so Martin can do both. "I feel comfortable with it," he said.

Martin initially was thinking of playing for Harvard when he was told by that school's admission office that his he would have been the university's first fourth-generation African American student. Martin's parents went to Harvard. His grandparents did. One of his great grand parents did.

General manager Jeff Ireland dismissed the idea that Martin is not extremely strong. Martin had only 20 reps on the bench press during the combine. Ireland said part of the reason is because he has exceedingly long arms for his position.

Live draft blog right here (and right now)

It's about to get started.

The Dolphins have needs practically everywhere you can look on the depth chart.

Miami has the 42nd overall pick in the second round. Let's talk football in the comments section.

Meet me there.

Round Two possibilities for the Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins tried to double their fun in the first round Thursday when they tried to trade back into the first round to continue adding talent late in the round, general manager Jeff Ireland said on my radio show Armando and Perkins today.

Ultimately he failed but it suggests he might try to move up from the 10th pick (42nd overall selection) in the second round to the top of that round tonight.

It also suggests the Dolphins -- needing help on the right side of the offensive line, at wide receiver, and pass-rusher -- will fill one of those needs before today's second round is over.

So which player might the Dolphins be targetting at 7 this evening when the second round begins?

Coach Joe Philbin consistently talks of the need to make the offensive line a team strength. He's gone so far as to tell owner Stephen Ross that part of the team's problem with its quarterback play has been its offensive line play.

Well, if the Dolphins are intent on addressing that offensive line, look at Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn, Stanford right tackle Jonathan Martin, and Wisconsin C/G Peter Konz as possibilities. By the way, yes I know Adams allegedly tested positive for marijuana at the combine and has other issues that raise eyebrows. And I've been told by one scout he has first-round talent and was reminded Warren Sapp had drug-test issues that caused him to drop in the draft. How'd that work out?

At wide receiver, Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech has size and speed but lacks production primarily because the Yellow Jackets simply stink at passing the football. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is available but will require a trade-up, as will LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey will likely be there when Miami picks in the second round.

Onto the edge pass-rusher or interior defensive line help: Clemson's Andre Branch will be there but I'm not sure if he will remind the Dolphins too much of recently cut Philip Merling. Marshall's Vinny Curry has great potential as a defensive end type, while Jerel Worthy seems more Miami's speed based on his size 6-3 and 310 pounds and pedigree of playing in the Big Ten.

By the way, I am aware Courtney Upshaw is missing from my list. My thinking is Upshaw will require a trade-up in the round and in exchange the Dolphins would get a non-prototype DE at 6-2 and 274 pounds who also lacks explosive burst. He's a great college player. He's a try-hard player. But so was Koa Misi.

Mike Sherman shares thoughts about Tannehill

Much has been speculated about what offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, formerly Ryan Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M, really thinks of the quarterback. I suppose we'll never know the full story unless someone gets Sherman drunk on truth serum.

But Sherman released a statement Thursday night giving you some of his thoughts on the topic:

"Ryan Tannehill is a unique individual. Much has been said about his intellect and athleticism. What hasn't been discussed is his unselfish nature and his "team first" mentality which fits in with coach Philbin's philosophy. four years ago when we were down receivers I asked him to play that position for us because we needed help there. He put his dream of becoming an NFL quarterback on hold to accommodate my request in order to help his team win.

"As far as his quarterback skill level is concerned, I doubt there is a player on Jeff Ireland's draft board who has been scrutinized more than Ryan Tannehill. The general consensus is that he is a talented quarterback with a tremendous upside. As his former head coach, I agree with that evaluation. He has just scratched the surface as a quarterback. His learning curve, however, will be enhanced and accelerated simply because he is coming to an offensive scheme and terminology where he has a lot of familiarity.

He is an extremely competitive person and will embrace the responsibility that goes with being the 8th pick in the NFL draft. There is no doubt he will work to exceed those expectations.

I am excited to have him in the quarterback room with Matt [Moore], David [Garrard], and Pat [Devlin]. He will be a great addition to that group. It will be very competitive to say the least."

April 26, 2012

Jeff Ireland talks about Ryan Tannehill

Dolphins general manager Ryan Tannehill came into the press room to briefly discuss picking quarterback Ryan Tannehill before scurrying back to the draft room for the rest of the first round. This is what he said:

Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland (After First Round Pick)

(Opening Statement) – “Well, thanks for being here. Obviously very, very excited to have Ryan [Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M] as our eighth pick in the draft. This is a kid we've been following - myself personally and our staff has been following for quite a while. There are a couple of things we like about him, obviously. He's got great size, he's got a strong arm, he's tough, he's very bright, he's got very, very good athletic ability for the quarterback position. We're just very excited to have him. This kind of finalizes a plan that we'd kind of put in place several months ago when we started with the free agency process, started preparing for the draft. We're excited to have him. This kind of solidifies the quarterback position. This isn't all about Ryan Tannehill; this kind of solidifies the quarterback position. When we set out, we wanted depth at the position. Obviously this brings a new, young face in there and he's going to compete as hard as he can. We're not going to make any predictions about when he'll start or what he'll do in the first year, but I can tell you one thing: this kid's a competitor and he'll want to be the starter. We feel like he's going to have a chance to learn the system. He's already got a leg up on that as well. It was an all-in decision. From the football side, our scouts, our coaches, Mike Sherman [Offensive Coordinator], Zac Taylor [Assistant Quarterbacks Coach], Jim Turner [Offensive Line Coach], all of who were at Texas A&M last year, all felt very, very good about it. I personally have watched all of his games from 2010 and I thought he had first-round ability just off of his junior season. This season I saw him play a couple of times. I very much like the player and we're just excited to have Ryan and his wife Lauren join the Miami Dolphins family.”

(On relying upon Mike Sherman as part of the due diligence process) – “I leaned on him a lot. He was his coach; he had him there four years and knew him very well. Zac Taylor knew him very well. I had Mike in my office or maybe I was in his office a couple of different times just asking different questions about the person, about the competitor, about the football knowledge that he has, his needs...I leaned on him quite a bit. I made sure that I was the only person to have that information along with Joe [Philbin, Head Coach]. I wasn't going to give it to the rest of the league. I leaned on him a lot as a matter of fact.”

(On how Tannehill factored into the Dolphins' plans at quarterback) – “You don't say well, oh, that's the guy, and put all of your eggs into one basket but you certainly say, well, look, we're going to these guys and these guys and he was certainly a part of the equation. You have contingencies to things but he was part of big plan. I'm not going to say he's the guy that we just went after and put all our eggs in that basket, but he was certainly part of a plan.”

(On what Tannehill can be with the Miami Dolphins) – “Putting a prediction on a player...it's not different than the ceiling on Vontae Davis (CB) or the ceiling on Jared Odrick (DE). I didn't take him as the eighth pick in the draft to be a back-up quarterback. I picked him to be a starting quarterback in this league at some point, to have an impact on this football team, to help us win football games and championships. That's the expectation that I have going down the line.”

(On the excitement level when drafting a quarterback) – “It's exciting. The draft's an exciting process in its entirety. And to draft a quarterback, whether it is first round or second round, it's exciting for you to have these hopes and dreams for a guy. It's a very important position and it's a position that everybody looks at for wins and losses. So we're excited to have Ryan and we're going to welcome him into the family.”

(On if Ryan Tannehill is ready for the starting job in the 2012 season or if he needs a year on the bench) – “I'm going to let the coaches decide on when he's going to be ready to compete. Obviously he's going to be on the roster and he's going to be competing with the other three quarterbacks we have. I think he's going to have a pretty good idea of what the offense is going to look like. He's going to have a leg up in that regard. You know, whether he's ready to be the starter, that's the coach's decision.”

(On if the fact that Tannehill had a coach who thought he wasn't ready to be a quarterback came up in the process) – “He told us all that, that he should have been the starter his freshman year. But that's the competitor in him. That's what I love about the kid, that he always thought he was better than the guys in front of him. But those guys that played in front of him had something to do with it too. Experience is something that he certainly needs. Experience is something that he doesn't have a lot of. But the games that he played, that also impresses you, because he was also able to do something pretty damn good in a short period of time.”

Miami Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill in first round

The Miami Dolphins have selected Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 overall selection in the first round of the NFL draft.

Tannehill, a Texas A&M product, is the first quarterback the Dolphins select in the first round since 1983 when the team picked Dan Marino.

"It was awesome, it was everything I expected and more," Tannehill said on ESPN of the phone call he had with the team before the pick.

Tannehill is 6-3 and 224 pounds. He threw 29 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in his 13 starts for the Aggies in 2012. There is an interesting statistic here: Aggies receivers dropped 70 passes this year.

As I have reported earlier, Dolphins owner Steve Ross did not push Jeff Ireland to pick Tannehill. The owner wanted a quarterback but did not demand this quarterback. I'm told Ireland decided Tannehill was his man over a week ago.

I do not expect the Dolphins to say that Tannehill will sit this season. But that is exactly what I expect will happen.

Tannehill still seems like the pick

One hour from the start of the 2012 NFL draft -- by 21st that I'm covering, by the way -- and every indication continues to point to the Dolphins picking Ryan Tannehill.

Why?

Who you got that's better? No seriously, who is better that will potentially be available at the No. 8 overall selection?

Hear my heart, I am not trying to convince you that Tannehill is the best player for the Dolphins. I am merely trying to explain what the Dolphins may be thinking. That is that there is no shining talent that is likely to be available at No. 8 that is a must-pick guy.

Mark Barron? Is he Ed Reed?

He's not even a free safety. He's a strong safety.

Quinton Coples? He's not Julius Peppers. Sorry.

Luke Kuechly? I love the kid. He's going to be a fine player. But the Dolphins have Karlos Dansby and this is a team that never won anything with great inside linebackers like Zach Thomas or John Offerdahl on the roster. Inside linebackers have to be all-time talents such as Ray Lewis to make a big difference and even then they need help all around.

David DeCastro? A guard? At No. 8. Not a value.

You guys know I love Fletcher Cox. I was the first in South Florida to suggest him as a possible pick by Miami. But he's so good, he might not be around when Miami picks.

I would consider Morris Claiborne as a potential difference-maker and so would the Dolphins, but it's unlikely he'll be there.

Bottom line, the quarterback with the potential to be a franchise player -- regardless of the fact he won't be that his first season in the league -- is the logical pick. It may not be right. But it is logical.

Let's see what happens.

I'll be in the comments section as the draft begins. Join me there. 

Miami Dolphins in trade-down mode

I alluded yesterday to the idea the Dolphins could trade down from the No. 8 overall selection in the first round and today that idea is picking up steam as multiple club sources are telling me at this hour Miami has spoken to at least three teams about moving back.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said at his pre-draft press conference that moving up and moving back are both possibilities. Well, moving up not so much.

Moving back definitely has a chance.

Simply, the Dolphins like the idea of possibly trading back two to 8 slots and picking up a second-round selection for their trouble. That's why Ireland has been in talks with the teams to gauge that possibility.

That doesn't mean the Dolphins absolutely are trading back. We won't know until the process begins and players start to come off the board. But Miami wants to be prepared.

The Dolphins are obviously in a good position for this move because players such as Mark Barron, Fletcher Cox, and some believe Justin Blackmon, might be on the board when the Dolphins select. Those players could cause other teams to place a higher value on Miami's slot than even the Dolphins do.

We shall see.

Draft day is here: Ready for a Prius draft party?

Draft day is here! Big doings here at The Miami Herald and on my radio show, Armando and Perkins on 640Sports.

Here's the deal: First off please check out the information below. It tells you what I believe will happen during this Dolphins draft. It tells you what should happen. It gives analysis and opinion. Pretty cool, right?

Then tune in to my radio show at 640-AM in South Florida or the webcast right here at The Miami Herald. We'll be talking Dolphins and NFL draft with tons of guests, including Nat Moore, Keith Sims, Tony Collins, Louis Oliver, Gino Torretta, Troy Drayton and others throughout the morning 6-10 a.m. You are welcome to call in toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-888-640-9385.

We are having a draft party in a Prius. Let's just say it was the suggestion of a co-worker I respect. 640Sports will have on-air personalities driving around South Florida in a Toyota Prius throughout the day. For my show, the Sports Brothers will be on the highways and byways giving out prizes.

If you listen to the show and attend the Dolphins Draft party starting this evening at Sun Life Stadium, you can win the 640 Sports Challenge. All you have to do is listen, show up to the draft party and win.

The winner gets a Jake Scott autographed football. Scott was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl VII, the game that culminated Miami's perfect season.

As to the actual draft, consider my thoughts by way of categories:

Most likely draft pick in Round One: Ryan Tannehill. As I wrote in my column today, Tannehill simply makes the most sense for a team trying to plug a hole that's been leaking far too long. He is not ready to play in 2012. The Dolphins won't admit this because, well, it's probably not wise to set the bar so low. But as Mike Mayock said this evening on the NFL Network, the guy is going to take a year or two to become NFL functional. The Dolphins have that time because they have two vets that I write about in the column.

Do I dig the idea of Tannehill?: Not that much. I believe the Dolphins would be picking a guy at No. 8 that is not the eighth best player in the draft. I understand QBs are overdrafted. This would be a classic case of a player being overdrafted.

Most likely alternative: Trade down. The Cowboys need to jump higher to grab Alabama safety Mark Barron. They need to get up ahead of the Bills who covet Barron and are scheduled to pick 10th. If the Dolphins aren't truly sold on Tannehill to the point they could be talked into picking lower and adding a second-round pick, this is the scenario that could play out. Frankly, I would love this scenario because Miami should still get a good player at 14 and then have two second-round picks plus two third-round picks. The Cowboys have the 45th overall pick or 13th pick in the second round.

Most likely player drafted if not Tannehill: I still think the Dolphins love Fletcher Cox. He fits as an addition to their 4-3 look. He can be an inside presence -- you've seen what that did for Detroit when they got one. He has pass-rush skills that can translate to DE. And he'd be great in sub packages. There's also the fact he would play right away. By the way, if you're thinking the Dolphins have plenty of DT help, remember the team is considering Jared Odrick at DE and Randy Starks is unsigned after this season.

Most likely player drafted if not Tannehill and Cox: South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore. Dolphins like him a lot. He also plays an impact position where the Dolphins have lacked players that turn the ball over. There are some NFL teams -- New England among them -- considering going with extra corners and dialing back to one safety. It is an adjustment to the offensive explosion that's happening in the league. Teams simply require more cover players.

Player the Dolphins absolutely, positively will not draft in the first round: Iowa OT Riley Reiff. Remember him? Kiper and Bucky Brooks and others had him listed to the Dolphins in their early mock drafts. The Dolphins don't love him much. He has short arms. He lacks explosive punch. And he simply would be a reach to anyone picking him in the top 20. And I don't foresee the Dolphins being that low in the round.

Quarterback I like most not named Luck or Griffin: Kirk Cousins of Michigan State. You will laugh, but he reminds me of Tom Brady. Under the radar guy. Chip on his shoulder. Played in a major conference for a long time and won a lot of games. Did heroic stuff in college. Was a wonderboy in the fourth quarter. Was very good in the red zone. Has a solid arm that could get better. Smart. He is a leader, as made obvious by the fact he was captain three consecutive years. He'll probably go in the late second or third round. I would take him. At the end of the day, I guess I'm big on production. You know, stuff that happens on the field.

Getting ahead of ourselves for Friday: In the second round I'm thinking offensive line and specifically right tackle. Mike Adams of Ohio State is a possibility. I also like Kendal Wright of Baylor as a WR possibility here. My concern is the Patriots, who worked out Wright as late as this week, will grab this kid late in the first round. If the Dolphins pick up multiple second-round picks, keep T.Y. Hilton of FIU on your radar. Kid is a TD waiting to happen. Otherwise he could be third-round material as both a WR and returner.

What must happen before the weekend is out: If the Dolphins leave this draft without having added a right tackle that can compete for a starting job, I believe the draft will have failed in part of its purpose. Yes, I know Lydon Murtha is the favorite of some fans and the team has liked him for some time. But he's injury-prone, folks. And durability is a critical factor. I saw Artis Hicks work at right tackle this week and he looks like someone that other teams discard. Maybe he'd look much better in pads. I hope so. But I believe the club needs to draft a right tackle at some point this draft that can plausibly take over the starting job.

April 25, 2012

Smokescreens? Smokescreens? What smokescreens?

Well, the Minnesota Vikings failed miserably. They tried to get people to believe the Cleveland Browns might draft Ryan Tannehil. You see, they wanted some team like, say, the Dolphins to panic and trade up to the No. 3 overall selection ahead of Cleveland to get Tannehill.

Except the Browns, sitting there with the No. 4 pick, were too busy talking up Justin Blackmon and sent practically the entire organization to Trent Richardson's pro day. So most folks are seeing the Browns not taking a quarterback with their first of two selections the first round of tomorrow's NFL draft.

Then, the Jacksonville Jaguars got involved in the screening of smoke. Fully aware they have the seventh pick in a draft containing perhaps six elite players, the Jags are eager to get out of their pick. And they see Tannehill as the only way of doing that by perhaps convincing Kansas City or Seattle or someone, anyone to trade to No. 7 for the right to get the Texas A&M QB.

That means you have to convince folks the quarterback will be off the board by No. 8, which of course is where the Dolphins pick.

Fine. Let's do that ...

"People know Miami's going to take him," Jacksonville director of player personnel Terry McDonough said on the Pete Prisco Show in J-Ville yesterday. "If a team wants a quarterback, they're going to have to come in front of Miami."

Convenient, right?

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are involved in their own agenda-driven campaign. You know about ProFootballtalk.com's report that owner Stephen Ross is pushing GM Jeff Ireland to draft Tannehill. I had Mike Florio, the author of the report on my radio show, Armando and Perkins, on Tuesday and he deftly sidestepped questions about his source, but it is clear that person is not in the Dolphins' organization.

So here's my question: How would a source not within the Miami organization thus not privy to conversations between an owner and general manager know what the owner is telling the GM?

Clearly, other teams want the narrative out there that the Dolphins are under pressure to pick Tannehill.

(Before I go on, allow me to clarify something: Florio's report was that Ross was "pushing" Ireland on Tannehill. That is not correct. But I know that Ross badly, badly wants a quarterback drafted by the Dolphins. There is a difference. Ross has let it be known he wants the right QB picked, be it Tannehill or whomever.)

The Dolphins, as I reported through sources, said the PFT report is not true. That's good. But then they went way further. And that's not good.

The Dolphins had Jeff Ireland issue an on-the-record denial of the story to Florio. And then Ross sent Florio and e-mail denying the story also. if the Dolphins had said nothing or issued a denial off the record, it would have given no clue they want Tannehill or don't.

But they went into the realm of protesting too much. And that sends red flags flying up staffs everywhere. So, believe it or not, the multiple denials actually worked against Miami around the league.

There are rumors today, by the way, that Miami wants to trade down from No. 8. Those are not coming from inside the Miami organization. Those are coming from one place, actually: Dallas.

Interesting.

I'm hearing the Cowboys want to move up to make sure they land safety Mark Barron. And obviously, Ireland as a former Cowboys employee would be a viable trade partner because of his relationship within the Dallas organization.

What does all this mean?

Believe nothing you're hearing except this:

The Dolphins love Ryan Tannehill for his potential but are aware he's a project. They are willing to take him at No. 8. They are not going to trade up to get him because they don't strongly believe anyone is going to get ahead of them to pick him.

The Dolphins are willing to trade down if a willing partner offers the right package. (Yes, I admit, the team wants that information out there.) And if in a trade down scenario Tannehill is gone, the club has other players fitting other needs that they would sell to the public as the right call for building their team.

Jeepers, this time of year is full of skullduggery.

Dolphins issues and answers on the menu

Do you want to know what kind of shape John Jerry looks like he's in?

Do you want to know my thoughts on Clyde Gates?

Do you want to know which quarterback looked better during the first day of the Dolphins' veteran minicamp?

Do you want to know why the Dolphins cannot afford to lose Cameron Wake? (This one is troubling because he's threatening to sit out if he doesn't get a contract extension and the Dolphins are holding fast to the idea he's not going to be paid what the best NFL pass rushers are paid.)

But the look of the Miami defense without Wake is not good. Jamaal Westerman? Really?

All these issues will be discussed on my radio show, Armando and Perkins, this morning from 6 to 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, we must congratulate coach Joe Philbin for his first Dolphins practice. In that practice, I was taken aback by Miami's need in the deep secondary. Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones, neither of whom has locked down the starting free safety job in previous years, are the assumed answers in Miami's deep secondary.

And as far as leadership is concerned, well, the loss of Yeremiah Bell is being felt.

“Y.B. has been the leader around here for a long time and to not see him is definitely strange,” said cornerback Nolan Carroll. “But we’ve got to adjust to it and grow from it as a group. There aren’t a ton of guys capable of [filling his shoes] in terms of leadership. But that’s why we’re out here — to find them.”

 

April 24, 2012

Notes from first day of voluntary minicamp

It was a day for establishing practice habits. It was a day to make sure fundamentals were on point. It was a day in which Dolphins coaches challenged players mentally.

The result of Tuesdays two practices at this voluntary veteran minicamp?

""I really liked the way the guys worked," coach Joe Philbin said. "I thought their work ethic was excellent. Obviously, we made a lot of mistakes from a technique and fundamental standpoint. There wasn't a whole lot of blown assignments believe it or not so I think the guys were attentive, I think they gave effort. I think we're off to a good start."

Cameron Wake was the only player of 64 on the roster who did not report today. He has missed various times this offseason to call attention to his displeasure over his contract situation.

The quarterbacks-- David Garrard and Matt Moore -- split the reps "almost dead even" Philbin said and Wednesday Pat Devlin will get more work.

The center-quarterback exchange was sloppy today. Moore and Mike Pouncey, who had issues last year, had a couple of problems with the exchange today.

A lot of my twitter followers mocked me when I mentioned I like Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as Miami's first-round pick if they select at No. 8. Some said it makes no sense to add another defensive tackle when Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Paul Soliai are likely defensive tackles.

Well, the Dolphins don't necessarily see Odrick as a 4-3 DT. They think he might be a fit as a 4-3 DE.

"We're intrigued by him," Philbin said. "We think he has a chance to fit in a couple of different spots. Obviously, in the sub packages he's done a good job inside as a rusher. We think he may have a fit as an outside (defensive end) player as well."

Speaking of Ryan Tannehill, it is obvious that offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, formerly Tannehill's coach at Texas A&M, has briefed the Dolphins on his former quarterback. But it's not like you think.

"We've talked obviously a lot," Philbin said. "We''ve had draft meetings. We've discussed him as an individual. We've watched his film. Obviously, Mike has been around Ryan for a long, long time. But it wasn't like we sat around and said, 'OK what about him at No. 8?"

"Remember a coach doesn't have the same perspective on the draft that a general manager has. A coach doesn't exhaustively watch player A and compare him to B and to C and to D and to F ... We really haven't had any discussions where he should go. But certainly he's a resource so we've asked him some questions about him."  

Jake Long said he feels "as healthy as I've felt in a while." Old Faithful is back.

Odrick and linebacker Karlos Dansby, meanwhile, missed work both in the morning and afternoon drills with unknown injuries.

Wake not at veteran minicamp PLUS other observations

The Dolphins are participating in a voluntary veteran minicamp and right away I noticed two things:

1. Cameron Wake was not here. His displeasure over his contract status -- he's entering the final year of his deal that calls for him to make $615,000 -- is personified by his absence. Interesting that Wake was part of the conditioning workouts last week after missing the first week of those workouts.

2. The Dolphins are on a quicker practice pace, it seems to me. If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know I'm a big proponent of practicing fast. Moving, moving, moving because I believe if you practice fast, you play fast. The past couple of years, and last year in particular, I often complained the club lumbered through workouts. It picked up as the season went on but it was dead slow through training camp.

3. Jared Odrick sat out the entire workout and instead worked on the side with ropes for strengthening work. Karlos Dansby also sat out portions of the workout this morning. It is unclear if they are nursing injuries or which injuries they're nursing.

It just dawns on me the Dolphins played better later in the year than earlier.

Anyway, the pace today was very, very quick. The offense would run a play and soon as it was over, the next play was up. In team periods, what sometimes happened is one unit would run a play and the next unit would be right up.

The rules at this minicamp prohibit me from telling you where players are lining up or how they are running in depth chart order. In fact, I cannot tell you practically anything about practice.

But let me tell you this:

In Miami's coming hybrid 4-3, Wake will be a defensive end. Obviously we didn't see this today because Wake is not here. But I am making a prediction of where Wake would fit best. It'll be interesting to see how this works, but I would tell you he played defensive end in the CFL when he had approximately 14,024 sacks his final two seasons in that league.

I can also tell you the Dolphins are hoping from a lot out of Clyde Gates. He was on the receiving end of more passes than just about any wide receiver today. I didn't say he was the most impressive receiver at the workout. To me, that was Brian Hartline and Roberto Wallace.

But suffice to say Gates was a major focal point.

I get asked by many of you how the Dolphins will handle their quarterback situation. That's impossible to predict with accuracy because we don't know if the Dolphins will add a QB in the first round or beyond in the draft.

I would guess this: Matt Moore will take the first-team snaps in training camp. David Garrard will take second-team snaps. Pat Devlin will take third team. The rookie (assuming Miami gets one) will take fourth team. I assume, eventually, Moore and Garrard will shift so that the former Jacksonville veteran will get some work with starters.

That's the only way to keep the competition legitimate. It's also a way to keep it competitive because if Garrard is always going against second-team defenses, he'll almost certainly always look better than Moore.

I like the Dolphins' plan for Reggie Bush. Yes, he might get introduced out of the tunnel on Sundays. But he might not necessarily get the most carries. It's clear Daniel Thomas, who was busy gaining his footing (pun intended) as a rookie, seems more grounded now (pun intended).

He looked good today. Obviously, there were no pads or hitting out there. But Thomas simply looked like he belonged.

Bush? I like the idea of getting him the ball on swing passes or putting him out in space a lot more than I like having him stick his nose in the B-gap and try to grind out four yards. Yes, I know it worked last year, but there's no guarantee Bush would stay healthy through two years of that type of work.