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28 posts from July 2012

July 31, 2012

Up-tempo is great when quarterback and execution are great

Some of the buzz around the start of Dolphins training camp practices has been about speed and tempo.

The Dolphins are practicing in multiple groups -- first-team offense versus first-team defense on one side of the 50-yard line and second-team O versus second-team D on the other side -- both at the same time.

It is a system that turns what would typically be an 80-play practice into a 140- to 160-play practice.

That's awesome!

But as the Dolphins practice fast and rarely even huddle, the tempo is also intended to carry over to games. That's because the Dolphins want to play an up-tempo, snap a lot of plays, fast-working offense this season.

“It’s a spread open, fast paced, up tempo offense," running back Reggie Bush said. "We run a lot of zone schemes, which, for a running back like me, is great. I’ve always loved the zone running scheme. It does wonders for running backs."

"Part of this whole thing is, while we want to be an up tempo offense, we do want to run a lot of plays at the opposition," coach Joe Philbin said. "We feel like the more plays run, the better opportunity you have to score points. But there’s also a couple of other residual benefits – I mean the conditioning aspect is I think a big advantage for our whole entire football team, offense and defense."

All that has the potential for very good things.

The New England Patriots run a similar attack. So did the Colts when Peyton Manning was the quarterback. Other teams go into this mode when they fall behind as well.

It's fast-break football ...

When it works.

What I mean is working fast on offense is a great weapon against an opposing defense because it doesn't let them catch their breath, it creates mismatches, and creates uncertainty and mistakes by them.

But it does all those things only when the quarterback play is at a very high level and the execution of everyone else on offense is crisp.

When the QB isn't quite so good or the execution of the offensive players isn't nearly perfect, this idea of running a lot of plays fast is a disaster.

It basically translates to having the offense rushing to get off the field. And that exposes Miami's defense.

Think about that.

When a fast-paced offense is performing as intended, it is moving the chains and doing it quickly and the defensive guys are on the bench watching. That's good.

But if the team running the up-tempo attack has three quick incomplete passes, its defense that was just on the field has to go right back out again. And the other team that just had a chance to score is going to get yet another chance almost immediately.

In that case, up-tempo offense turns into a rush to give up the football.

It is a two-edged sword.

Up-tempo is great when Tom Brady is at quarterback. But I wonder how things will be with David Garrard or Matt Moore or rookie Ryan Tannehill pulling the trigger. Philbin's offense places a lot of pressure on the QB as it is. They are responsible for making a lot of changes and making a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage -- moreso than more convential units that huddle up.

But it also asks the quarterback to be spectacular in completing a very high percentage of his passes to keep his unit on the field and protect his defensive teammates.

The approach also is demanding of other offensive players.

Suddenly a sack allowed by an offensive lineman is a bigger problem than usual because the team finds itself in bad down-and-distance situations while rushing into those situations.

Receivers similarly have to be precise with their routes.

One of the reasons Chad Johnson didn't get a lot of playing time last year reportedly was because he didn't know his assignments precisely. Like his days in Cincinnati, he'd stretch a 15-yard pattern to 17 yards and it would drive Brady nuts because the precision was lost.

And as the up-tempo attack cannot afford incompletions, Johnson didn't see the field a ton and only caught 15 passes on the year.

So now in Miami's up-tempo offense Johnson's going to be precise? He'll have to be to make things work for his quarterbacks. Everyone will have to be to keep moving the sticks and keep the offense on the field to avoid exposing the defense to more snaps.

By the way, this idea of a fast-paced offense isn't new in Miami.

Last year, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll tried it some in camp and Miami opened with it against New England.

The result was that Miami threw for 419 yards and rushed for another 98 yards in scoring 24 points. That, by any measure, is very good offensive production. But the offense sputtered just enough to give the ball back to the Patriots more times than what they held it.

And so while the Dolphins gained 488 yards, New England put up 622. While Miami scored 24, New England scored 38.

Miami's offensive players couldn't execute at the same rate as New England's. Miami also couldn't make big enough plays to maximize its time of possession.

The point is that, as with everything else, the idea of running an up-tempo offense sounds wonderful and definitely is when players are executing and the quarterback is playing at a high level. But one reason more teams don't do this is because they don't have a Brady or Manning running the attack and they don't want to expose their defense.

This year the Dolphins will try to run this attack with neither Brady nor Manning at quarterback. It'll be interesting to see how well that works for both the offense and defense. 

July 30, 2012

Coyle: Entire defense has 'really impressed'

Kevin Coyle is running (to lose weight) while he's running the Dolphins defense these days.

After every practice or whenever defensive players run wind sprints, their new coordinator joins them. It no doubt sends a message to the players that their coach is in it to win it right along with them. As fraternal moves go, this is a good one.

But Coyle has bigger things on his mind than simply getting in shape and bonding with players. He's got to find a safety to play alongside Reshad Jones. He needs to get Koa Misi adjusted to the 4-3. He has to manage the competition along the defensive line.

He spoke to the media for the first time Monday. This is everything he said:

(On why he runs wind sprints with the defensive players after practice) – “Because I’m overweight (laughing). My daughter keeps telling me that I put on some pounds, so I like to try to stay in shape. During the season it is a grind on you physically as a coach as (much as) it is, much more, on players. The better shape you are in, the better you can keep your stamina up, so it’s something that I try to do. It’s a little harder as you get up in years as I have over the years now, but I like to try and do that and I like to run with the guys whenever I can to show them that I can still do it a bit.”

(On where he sees the most growth on the defense thus far) – “Well, it’s a work in progress. I felt coming out of the spring one of the goals we had was to be better communicators in the back, and there was considerable improvement in that area. Our technique is getting better and better every day. It’s not close to what it has to be, but this group of guys has really bought into what we are trying to do and every day we see glimpses of how good they can be if they continue to work the technique we are encouraging and coaching them to do each and every day. The entire group, not just the secondary, has really impressed me is when these guys come in the building, they come in serious, workers. It’s a great attitude in there. We have fun in the meetings but yet there is a great focus and attention to detail. This is a hungry group; they’re hungry to win, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. It’s been a pleasure to get the opportunity to work with this entire group.”

(On what he told his players to expect from Hard Knocks having experienced it with the Bengals) – “You can’t allow anything to be a distraction. In this league, there are going to be cameras on you each and every place you go. We have a job to do. You have to focus on that job and you have to that singleness of purpose and focus of mind to go out there and not let anything get in your way. We talked about the fact that the guys in Hard Knocks crew do a phenomenal job. They say that after a couple of days you won’t notice that they (crew) are in anything, that they kind of blend in. I didn’t really agree with that, prior to it happening, but honestly, it’s that way. They were in the meetings the first day or so I think that players were conscience of it, the coaches were conscience of it, but now you just go about your business. I think our guys are feeling that way and the funny thing is, we feel like we’ve been in camp for four weeks when it’s only been four days, and the crew is going to be with us for another four or five weeks, so I think it will just get better and better as we progress.”

(On his impressions of the defenses ability to create turnovers) – “We would like it to be better than it is, although I think we have got off to a decent start. We got to get more interceptions, we left a couple out there today, but we got our hands on the ball. We are constantly trying to work on the strip aspect of things in the fact that we are not taking the ball carriers to the ground. So the first guys will go in there and hold him up and the next two, three or four, we want those guys working on one thing, and that’s locating the ball. Coach Philbin, the way he’s structuring practice each and every day, we’re doing some sort of ball security on both sides of the ball. So I think it’s a tremendous thing that our defensive players are learning how to carry the ball and learning how difficult it is in how you can get the ball away if you are not protecting it correctly. So those periods that we do in the very beginning of practice, those fundamental periods that some people give lip service to, we are hammering it away each and every day. I think it’s a great credit to Coach (Philbin) and how he structures the practices.”

(On there being only one available starting spot on defense (SS)) – “Well your count doesn’t matter, no offense. But there is a lot of competition out here, and there is a lot of competition throughout, and actually you’re wrong on that account (number of starting spots available), but I won’t get into any specifics. There is more than one job that we are out here competing (for), and we will keep competing for backups. Really from defensive standpoint, there are more than 11 starters in my mind. Sometimes, depending on the schemes you are going to play and the substitution defenses you have, you can have 13, 14, 15 guys which are, in my mind, starters in a respective group. As a result, they are going to be in game situations where they have to perform as a starter, so we have competition at safety, we have competition at corner, we have competition at the linebacker position right now. With our guys up front, we are competing not only for starting jobs, but we have a crew of guys up front and we are going to have some tremendous battles for the spots with the defensive line. We have a good crew of young players that are competing out here, so we got a long way to go. We haven’t had an exhibition game yet and there are still a lot of positions to be determined as we progress.”

(On his thoughts on being named defensive coordinator for the Dolphins) – “I was thrilled for a couple of reasons. Number one, when we started to discuss it and started to talk about the potential for the staff, I’m really excited about the staff we have. We have great chemistry in the room defensively. With the guys that we have been fortunate enough to add to the defensive staff, (we have) great quality coaches. There’s some veteran NFL coaches, some younger coaches coming from the college ranks, I think we have a really good blend. On top of that, offensively and defensively, when you sit in the meetings as a total staff, I think there’s a great vibe and a great chemistry there. Sherm (Mike Sherman) and I have worked together in the past; we’ve known each other for 25 years. Some staffs you’re on, every staff is different so I think our staff, we are fortunate in that we got a group of guys who are excellent teachers, excellent coaches and a great group of people. So it can’t get better than that.”

(On how the front seven on defense are handling the change from a 3-4 to 4-3) – “Excellent, excellent. I think that they are embracing it, and for some of them, it lends to their skill sets, maybe a little better, but not necessarily. They played darn good defense a year ago in the 3-4, and as I told you guys in the beginning, there weren’t that many true 3-4 snaps. There was a lot of under defense, a lot of substitution defense, so there are elements of what we did here a year ago that we are incorporating and some that we will continue to incorporate as the year goes on. But I think the transition has been great.”

(On who has had to make the biggest adjustment in the new defensive scheme) – “Probably Koa Misi playing off the ball at the Sam linebacker spot when he is out, off the line of scrimmage. But he is improving every day and we are excited about his progress.”

What's happening at Dolphins camp: Monday edition

Let's start with the newsy stuff first:

INJURIES: Receiver Brian Hartline (calf) sat out the third day of practice while receiver Clyde Gates stopped practicing midway through today's drills because of  unknown reasons a hamstring injury. Rookie safety Kelcie McCray also left practice early with an unknown injury. He was limping. [Update: McCray was not present for today's afternoon walk-thru.] Defensive end Olivier Vernon skipped a couple of drills after tweaking his ankle but jumped right back in after about five minutes and didn't seem worse for wear.

Safety Chris Clemons (knee) returned to practice today but not to the starting safety job he held before his injury. Jimmy Wilson and Reshad Jones worked as the starting safeties today.

Clemons getting back is obviously good. The fact the Dolphins were down two receivers in practice today was not good.

QUARTERBACKS: You read here on on my twitter feed yesterday that rookie Ryan Tannehill was impressive in his first day with the team since signing a contract. Coach Joe Philbin quantified how impressive, estimated that Tannehill took 53 competive passing snaps and completed approximately 40 passes on those.

Today seemed a little different. Tannehill was trying to hit longer passes while working with the second and third unit and so I'd estimate his completion percentage fell a bit. That doesn't mean he was off. He connected on a perfect nine-route to Marlon Moore that was right in the receiver's hands 40 yards downfield along the sideline. He also had a TD pass to Roberto Wallace late in practice during red zone drills.

David Garrard took most of the first-team snaps today and was also sharp early. He connected with Legadu Naanee for a TD in the back corner of the end zone. he also connected with Davone Bess for a big third-down completion for a first down in red zone work.

Matt Moore was also good. He connected on a deep pass to Chad Johnson in one-on-one work. Moore did have an awkward moment when he was blitzed and had the ball stripped from his grasp for a fumble.

None of the top three quarterbacks threw an interception today.

LINE UPDATE: The offensive line is a work in progress. I saw too many unblocked blitzers today -- at least three of them. Although at least one of those came when the team was in an empty backfield and you can't account for everyone, I saw this happen with blockers in the backfield as well. Coach Joe Philbin said the line is still trying to find some chemistry, understandable considering the entire right side is new. 

By the way, watched RT Jonathan Martin today. He wins some, loses some versus defensive end Cameron Wake but he is definitely not overmatched. He's learning a new position after playing mostly at left tackle in college, but he's handling the move to the right side quite well. Is he great? No, not right now. Will he be better than a certain swinging gate RT from last season? I think so.

PLAY BY PLAY: The Dolphins did a lot of redzone (20-yard line in) work today. Some of the action:

First team with David Garrard ...

1st and 10: Daniel Thomas with a 2-yard loss, tackle by Paul Soliai.

Second and 10: David Garrard incomplete.

Third-and-10: Garrard completes a 10-yard pass to Davone Bess.

First-and-10 from the 10: Garrard keeper for a TD.

First team with Matt Moore ...

First and 10: Moore incomplete.

Second and 10: Moore incomplete.

Third and 10: Reggie Bush gains 2.

First and 10: Jared Odrick with a strip sack of Moore.

Second and 10: Legadu Naanee offsides.

Third and 10: Moore completes a 5-yard pass to Naanee.

Fourth down: Moore completes a slant pass to Naanee for seven yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES: Lamar Miller, Clyde Gates, Steve Slaton, Rishard Matthews, and Quinten Lawrence are getting reps as the kickoff returners. Miller is taking the first-team reps ... On that kick return team, Julius Pruitt is working as an up-back with the first team. That's good news for Pruitt because it suggests he's currently in the team's plans for the 53-man squad. Obviously that is not set in stone.

MISSTEPS: Reggie Bush had a fumble today ... Naanee had an offsides ... Lydon Murtha had a false start.  

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he likes the competition for jobs at defensive line. Obviously Jared Odrick, Olivier Vernon and Jamaal Westerman are competing for playing time in passing situations as a rusher ...

Coyle said the player that has to make the biggest adjustment of any defender from last year's 3-4 to this year's 4-3 is Koa Misi. Coach Joe Philbin said the reason for that is Misi won't be on the line of scrimmage nearly as much this year.

“Well primarily he was an on-the-line of scrimmage player, so now certainly there’s packages where he will be an on the line of scrimmage player, but we were playing off the line of scrimmage and that’s a little bit of a different animal, so that’s probably the biggest adjustment number one," Philbin said. "Sometimes the pass coverage is a little different when you’re on the line the scrimmage rather than off as well. When you’re on the line of scrimmage more, I’m not going to say 90%, but you’re usually going against the tackle or tight end. Now, off the line, you certainly could be going against those players but you might be going against running backs etc…now you might be taught to leverage the ball or spill the ball and those types of different things, so those might be some of the things that he (Kevin Coyle) is referring to.”

... As mentioned above, Roberto Wallace caught a TD pass from Ryan Tannehill late in practice.

Heeeere's Roberto Wallace:

The Dolphins weigh progress-stopper vs. production

The Dolphins have a term that they refer to when deciding whether to add a veteran player or not -- "progress stopper."

I heard that term Sunday when talking to team decision-makers about their wide receiver corps. As I write in my column about Miami's receivers the team is weighing whether to add Braylon Edwards to the unit.

Part of the decision-making is outlined in the column. But part of the decision making process has to do whether Edwards, 29, might be a progress stopper for younger players such as Roberto Wallace, Julius Pruitt, Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore, B.J. Cunningham and Jeff Fuller.

The fact is the Dolphins know Edwards is probably better than all those players today. He's more ready to contribute now. And that is not to be sneered at because the Dolphins do want to win this season. The question is will those young players improve fast enough to cause the Dolphins to stand fast with them and let their progress continue rather than going with a more established player.


I brought up the name Legedu Naanee. He's 28 years old and will be 29 in September. To me, the question of adding Edwards doesn't mean stopping the progress of a young receiver, it means ending the Miami career of Naanee because Edwards would be replacing him on the roster.

A Miami personnel man nodded in agreement when I presented that scenario.

And it is a scenario not presented lightly. Right now Naanee is getting starting receiver reps. He's doing well, really. But he is at his best a 30-catch player. If the Dolphins replaced him with Edwards and get the best there, they've got a 50-to-60 catch player. They have a deep threat. They have a TD threat.

So if you see Miami sign Edwards in the next couple of weeks as is being considered, watch to see how it affects Naanee.

[BLOG NOTE: Check back around noon for the post-practice and post interview update. I was pulling double-duty during the weekend -- writined posts and my column -- so the posts here were not as detailed as I would like. Today I don't have to write a column, so you'll get more play-by-play from practice. Look for it]

[TWITTER NOTE: If you want real-time updates, including an occasional picture or video, follow me on twitter -- that's @armandosalguero -- for instant reaction to what is happening at camp and around other sports.]

{EARLY UPDATE: Brian Hartline (calf) is missing practice again today ... Chris Clemons (knee) has returned to practice today ... Eric Steinbach, who has played all of the 124 games he's started in the NFL at LG, is working at RG today with the second unit.]

July 29, 2012

Everything coach Joe Philbin told the media Sunday

Coach Joe Philbin today shared a wealth of knowledge about the team's quick pace at practice, about having multiple units run plays at the same time, about Ryan Tannehill and other topics.

This is what he said:

(On having quarterback Ryan Tannehill at practice today) – “Again, as I think I said the other day, you plan a practice for a football team, not just for one individual. I think every coach at every level would love to have all players available for every single practice that they have. It was good to have him out there, glad he’s with us.”

(On how Tannehill practiced today) – “I thought he threw the ball pretty well. I haven’t seen the stats of the practice. I’m going to go watch the practice tape here when I’m done, but my first impression is that he threw the ball pretty well. I know early on in the inside portion of practice, he threw a nice movement pass, 15-yard comeback or so (that) he hit pretty nicely. I thought his awareness for the first day and I was a little bit concerned because it was third-down and sometimes third-down I know, I sat in the defensive meeting yesterday, (defensive coordinator) Kevin (Coyle) has got 20 different blitzes going in, so I was a little bit concerned that he was walking into a buzz-saw so to speak. But I thought he did pretty well.”

(On if Tannehill appears to be making faster decisions) – “I thought a couple times today. Again, I still think in general that’s something that we need to improve upon. It’s going to be a big focus as we move forward at all the guys, not just him, not just Dave (Garrard) or Matt (Moore) or Pat (Devlin). It showed sometimes in the first time in live pads today. Again, it’s not always, remember they kind of have to have a place to go with the ball too, so I don’t want to put it all on the quarterbacks if they’re not playing fast enough. That’s easy to stand up here and say, but obviously the receivers have something to do with that. The protection has something to do with that. Like anything else, it’s all interconnected, but I do think that’s an area that, as we move forward, we’re really going to have to emphasize.”

On if he could tell that Tannehill wanted to make up for lost time in practice) – “Yes, I mean, I think I saw him at 11:15 last night, so he was excited, he was upbeat, said it had felt like an eternity that he had been away because I mean we had seen him every day in the facility up until that point. The guy’s a worker, the guy likes football. That’s one of those real positive qualities that we like about him. Certainly, I think he was eager to get out there.”

(On wide receiver Legedu Naanee playing with the starters) – “Well, I thought he had a good offseason. As I mentioned yesterday I think or the first day, we kind of evaluated it after the spring, kind of where everybody was and how we’ve stacked the positions. We thought he had a productive spring. We thought he earned an opportunity to get a bunch of reps. We’re a little bit of a right-handed team right now, so he hasn’t had a ton of activity. (He) might have had a little more today than the first couple days. I don’t think, probably he’d like to see the ball a little bit more often. Usually, again, in your instillation period, you only have so many reps and you can’t have quite the balance that you’d like to have as an offensive football team that you’re going to have during a game plan or a season. Again, you’re still kind of teaching and putting in a system so to speak. I think that will balance out over time, but I don’t know that he had a lot of touches quite yet, but he’s certainly deserving of a lot of opportunities.”

(On a report that the team worked out free agent wide receiver Braylon Edwards today) – “I want to say it was Tuesday or Wednesday I believe. I think it’s just our personnel guys doing their homework. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. I don’t know if it’s a reflection on anybody else. I think it’s just guys doing their job and seeing what’s available, making sure we have enough information to make  good decisions about who we would carry on a roster and who he wouldn’t.”

(On if guys were bogged down in pads today like he thought they may be yesterday) – “It wasn’t too bad. Not surprised. My initial reaction maybe that the defense might be a hair ahead. That’s not uncommon I think of the first day of pads when your offense guys, at least in my history, seem to take a little bit longer to get used to the leverage of the game and the speed of the game. I think the pass rush on third-down, it appears, again, I’m not saying we didn’t protect at all, it just appears there was time that they got a pretty good push on us even when they weren’t. We had a pressure period, but then we had a normal third-down period where you can mix up the calls and it just appeared at times even with their four-man rush they were getting some good pressure. I think that’s, again, something they’ve got to get used to. We’ve had a quick whistle on all of the stuff before. Now, you don’t necessarily have to have that quick whistle. We don’t want guys on the ground, but I think the protection looks to be a little bit of a concern.”

(On safety Chris Clemons being sidelined how much of an opportunity it is for guys like Tyrone Culver and Jimmy Wilson) – “Yeah, it’s huge. It’s big. You hate to see any player, you’ve got to remember at times, even though we get frustrated as coaches too, I mean, when you sit back and you think of it, these players put in a lot of effort and a lot of time and make a lot of sacrifices to put themselves in a position to compete for a job. When they get hurt, it’s tough on them. You don’t wish that on anybody. You want them to be able to get out there and compete for a job. That being said, as you mentioned , it’s an opportunity for other guys. You want to make yourself known. You want to get exposure so to speak. You want to get repetitions and, sometimes, an injury to somebody else can be a good fortune to another player because he’s going to have more opportunities to make plays on tape and get noticed. It works both ways, but you hate to see a guy that works hard get denied opportunities.”

(On Eric Steinbach playing at right guard for the first time and if there’s a chance he could play left guard as well) – “I wouldn’t rule anything out. I think that, again, you’re talking about a guy that really hasn’t played in 12 months and, beyond that, has been a left guard since 1999 or something. I think from that stand point, we didn’t want to rush any one. We kind of want to get his feet underneath him so to speak just from a football sense and learn. You don’t want to move a guy to a side when he has no familiarity with the scheme. He’s walking in brand new off the street. We’ll take a look, see how he does maybe after a week or so. Just want to see him get a baseline and we’ve got to get a feel where he’s at. He needs to be confident and comfortable himself in the system and then we can talk about more options. As you know, I’ve said a lot of times, we’re looking for the five best guys. We’re looking for good football players, guys that are tough, guys that can stay on their feet, guys that are smart up front. However that shakes out, it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not overly concerned about that stuff. That being said, you want to be aware that you’re dealing with a guy that’s got 14-years of reps at one position at one side of the line who hasn’t played in 12 months. You’ve got to use decent judgment on that.”

(On if he ran two units back-to-back in practice while in Green Bay) – “No, we didn’t really. Like I said, I think most of the year and, again, don’t quote me on this because I don’t know how accurate I am, but I think the player number used to be 80 or around 80 or at 80 for most of my career in the NFL if I’m not mistaken. We’re fortunate that we’ve got a relatively healthy roster and now we’re up to 90 guys. As I said, last year, I don’t know how many pro teams did it like we’re doing it now, but you didn’t have a lot of time to plan last year because you weren’t really sure what the heck was going on. We tried it in the spring and, when you don’t have pads and you’ve got shorter practices, now, again, we’ve kind of amped up the duration of practice every day and we’re going to go a hair longer tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’re going to be in the red zone. I’m going to tell the players it’s not as much running so I’m sure they won’t mind staying out 20 extra minutes, but that’s a joke (laughing). I’m sure that’s about the same response I’ll get in the team meeting (laughing). We’ll see. I don’t know how long we can do it. We’ll see. Hopefully, again, as we’re teaching the offense, I’d love to be able to keep doing this while we’re teaching the offense and defense, and get it all in. Then, as we get closer to a preseason game, we’ll probably shift the focus a little bit.”

(On where the idea came from to have two units practicing back-to-back) – “Well, we’ve done it in the past, but I know (offensive coordinator Mike) Sherman had done it a bunch at Texas A&M. That’s kind of how they practiced. I believe Coach (Nick) Saban did some of it when he was here to a certain degree I believe. Somebody told me that, I think. It’s a practice that maybe we’ll utilize if we can for as long as we can. Again, you’ve got X-amount of guys. Like I said, we really don’t want to practice for three hours at one time. I don’t know what the heat index was today, but it seemed like it was getting up there a little bit. We want to be smart. We want to get a lot of work in. Again, I think we’re going to have 120 snaps to evaluate. That’s a lot of snaps, so the guys are putting in a lot of work.”

(On his history with defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and why he chose him) – “It goes back, I first met him in 1986 I believe. I was working the Holy Cross football camp in 1986. I worked it a number of times there. Then, Kevin went onto Syracuse and was the defensive coordinator there when coach (Paul) Pasqualoni was there. They had a lot of success and I would visit up there. I knew him as well as some of their offensive coaches. I used to go up there to visit. I visited him when he was at Maryland. (I) never worked with him, but I had a long association with him, kind of a professional acquaintance I guess would be the best way to describe it. Then, as I was thinking about, if I had the opportunity, I’m a big believer in the explosive plays or creating them on offense and limiting them on defense. I think, if you look at it, my history at least where I was is that most of them were in the passing game, most were in the coverage matchups. That’s a huge thing to me and I don’t know, I was kind of hoping to get a guy that had a defensive back experience. Kevin’s called games in college I think for about 15 years I think. They did a great job in Cincinnati of taking the ball away in his tenure there and so those were things that were attractive to me from a big picture stand point and then I knew the quality of the individual well. I think if you watch him coach you can tell he loves football. He loves teaching. I was at the defensive meeting last night, I usually go to the offensive meeting, but I went to the defensive one last night, he’s got a great rapport with those guys. I think they have total faith that this guy knows what he’s doing. He keeps it light and he keeps them going. You can’t just sit in the room as a coordinator anymore and just put up a PowerPoint picture of a play and act like you know every answer and sit up there and talk for 50 minutes. Those guys will be asleep in two seconds. He engages the room. He does an outstanding job of that and I think he’s been doing a great job. He’s got a great family. He’s a family man. We’re really delighted he’s here.”

(On Coyle doing sprints with the players after practice) – “Is that why his jersey was so wet today (laughing)? I didn’t even notice that to be honest with you. I better pay more attention. I’m relegated now to where is the ball, what yard-line is the ball on, get out of the way of the film and that’s about all I’m doing these days. I didn’t even notice that to be quite honest with you. I knew his shirt was a little wet, but I didn’t know he was doing sprints.”

Edwards works out for Dolphins, who are interested

The Dolphins have worked out Braylon Edwards and the team has serious interest in signing him.

First reported on Hard Knocks, the workout showed the Dolphins that the former 1,000-yard receiver is healthy and could be an option for the team in the near future. Edwards wants to revive his career after missing most of last season due to injury while with the San Francisco 49ers.

Edwards has also drawn interest from Seattle.

I'll have more on this and the entire Dolphins wide receiver situation from the team's perspective, in my column tomorrow.

Today's practice was interesting on several fronts.

First, Ryan Tannehill worked for the first time since signing his contract late Saturday night. Tannehill will not be in full pads until Wednesday when the team comes back from its day off on Tuesday. I assume Tannehill isn't going to be off on Tuesday as he has catching up to do.

Nonetheless, he looked sharp today. He threw two interceptions -- one to Gary Guyton, one to Jason Trusnick -- but those came in 7 on 7 drills and both resulted from the fact receivers failed to make otherwise routine catches and tipped the ball in the air.

Tannehill was accurate despite his layoff, which he said wasn't very long as he worked with the receivers last on Wednesday before the opening of camp. I would say Tannehill was the second-most accurate passer in camp today behind David Garrard, who continues to lead the quarterback pack.

Tannehill is a long shot to win the starting job. He's not expected to get as many first-team repetitions in practice as Garrard or Moore initially but he will get some -- a topic around which offensive coordinator Mike Sherman danced today.

“Fortunately, our practices are structured, outside of the preseason games, our practices are structured where we’re getting a ton of reps," Sherman said. "We’re getting 150 snaps, 160 snaps at practice. Normally, your third quarterback, your second quarterback wouldn’t get nearly as many as we’ve since been seen out here. We’re working a couple groups at the same time and getting a lot of reps. When you get into the preseason, obviously only one guy can go onto the field at the same time. I don’t think they’re going to let us go back-to-back and have two groups going, which I wish they did, but you are limited by the amount of snaps you have in a preseason game. So you have to be very selective on who gets what and you have to make a timely decision on who the starter is going to be.

“Today, I just wanted to get him some reps. He got more reps than anybody. He worked primarily with the second group and then eventually we’re going to work him in with the first group once he gets caught up to snuff, which I think will be sooner rather than later because it seems like he’s right on task right now. But you still want to get those veteran guys here reps that they’ve earned and they deserve.”

Tannehill, nonetheless believes he has the opportunity to be the starter as you will see in this video:

Matt Moore?

He connected on a beautiful TD pass to Charles Clay down the seam in team drills but otherwise seemed to struggle with accuracy. He got most of the work with the first team. Moore would have been something of an interception machine today if Miami's starting CB duo had held on to the football. Sean Smith had a ball in his hands that he had to leap for but probably should have snagged for a turnover. Vontae Davis had a ball bounce harmlessly away despite the fact it was right in his bread basket. Davis had another possible interception bounce off his helmet.

Today was the first day in pads for the Dolphins. There was actual football contact.

I was pleased to see that the offensive line seemed up to the task of playing against Miami's defensive line. Remember, offense is typically behind defense this early in camp and Miami's defensive line is considered a team strength while the offensive line has serious question marks on the right side.

But there were no major or obvious breakdowns by the offensive line today. Protection was generally good. There were plays that would be sacks in a game, but a majority were coverage sacks. There were no huge holes on run plays but there were creases, which means there were opportunities.

One side offensive line note: Coach Joe Philbin said the reason Eric Steinbach is working on the left side with the second team is because he is being given a chance to get his footing after missing all of last year with a back injury and he's also working in a new system.

But the coach left the door open for moving Steinbach to right guard or perhaps even moving Richie Incognito to right guard if Steinbach is one of the best five offensive linemen on the team. In other words, don't get too caught up in the fact the starting offensive line has been stable the first three days of training camp.

Change could be coming if Steinbach is his old self. He has started 124 NFL games at left guard.


Sunday column: Upgrade talent, get Mike Wallace!

The Dolphins added talent to their list of players practicing today by signing first-round pick Ryan Tannehill.

But as I write in my Sunday column, they need more talent.

And I suggest they chase a trade for Pittsburgh Steelers unsigned receiver Mike Wallace. Now, understand, ESPN's Ed Werder was told by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert that Wallace is "not available in trade."

Sorry, I've covered this league too long to know that often a "no" means "not now" and sometimes it transitions to "yes, absolutely." Flatly, the Steelers know they are going to lose Wallace after this season and get practically nothing (probably a compensatory pick) in return. They may well decide to cut their losses and actually get something for Wallace instead.

I understand making a move such as this would be expensive on multiple levels. The Dolphins would have to pay the Steelers draft choice compensation  and then pay Wallace a hefty contract that averages between $11-$12 million per season.

But that's the cost of doing business, folks, when the receivers you drafted (Cylde Gates, for one) did nothing as rookies and aren't exactly doing great things the first few days of this training camp when there's been no hitting and receivers should be dominating the action.

So I say the Dolphins should be in the queue (British term in honor of the Olympics) for some major upgrade at receiver and a major talent addition to the roster.

Will they be? I believe they will at least make the call.

By the way, since my writing of the column, rumors are swirling that the draft compensation for Wallace has dropped -- with talk of a third or fourth-round pick for him being the commonly used price. Are you kidding? That's a bargain.

Think about it ... a 26-year-old ready-made game breaker for a third round pick?

If Wallace was in next year's draft, knowing what we know about him, he'd be a top 10 pick.

Anyway, read the column, please.

[BLOG UPDATE: As is the routine, I'll update this space after practice and interviews with the day's highlights. For real-time updates, kindly follow me on twitte.]

July 28, 2012

Tannehill agrees, expected at practice Sunday

Ryan Tannehill has made the trek over from the Bradenton, where he was working out at the IMG Academy, after agreeing to terms on a contract with the Dolphins.

ESPN Profootballtalk.com was the first to report the agreement through a source believed to be the player's agent. Agent Pat Dye has refused to answer emails or phone calls from The Herald.

[Update: A source close to Tannehill has confirmed the deal to The Herald.]

Tannehill, Miami's first-round pick, mised the first two days of practice and two walk-thru sessions as well. He is behind both David Garrard and Matt Moore in the chase for the Dolphins starting job. It is unclear if the Dolphins, who initially hoped he would compete for the job, will let him even join the competition by taking first-string snaps in the near future.

The holdup in the negotiations had been believed to be offset language which protected the Dolphins from paying all of Tannehill's guaranteed money in case he was released before his four-year contract expired.

It is believed Dye blinked on the issue even though the No. 7 pick and No. 9 pick had no offset language in their contracts. Tannehill was selected eighth overall.

The Dolphins, however, are believed to have also made some concessions to make a deal work for both parties.

Full terms of the contract are not yet available but should be by next week.

What's happening at Dolphins camp today

Here's a quick rundown of what is happening at Dolphins camp today:

First, Brian Hartline and Chris Clemons did not practice. Clemens apparently has some sort of right knee bruise. Hartline's problem is unknown. [Update: Hartline has a calf injury, according to Barry Jackson.]

For the second consecutive day, David Garrard was the most impressive quarterback in camp. He's simply more polished right now. He threw Chad Johnson open on an in-cut. He connected a couple of times with Davone Bess and once with Julius Pruitt where he lofted the pass just out of the reach of the defender.

Johnson, by the way, has complained (yes, already) a couple of times about being open and not getting the ball. Coach Joe Philbin said he agreed with Johnson on at least one of those and actually told Garrard about it.

Me? I think Johnson needs to shut up and practice, but I guess the coaching staff and quarterback don't mind.

Matt Moore, who worked mostly with the second-team today after taking first-team snaps Friday, struggled with his deep passes today. He overthrew a couple of deep sideline passes including one to Johnson.

My darkhorse most impressive player of the day was, wait for it, wide receiver Chris Hogan. He caught two passes -- one from Moore, the other from Pat Devlin that split the seam of the opposing defense. He got open for both and simply snatched the football out of the air.

I was interested in watching Lamar Miller for parts of today's practice. He's not figuring at this point in the two-minute offense. The running backs ahead of him there are Reggie Bush on first team, Daniel Thomas on second team and Steve Slaton on third team.

But I watched later on and Miller does show a burst throw the hole. Very impressive. I've no idea if he will do that when the hitting starts, but I'm encouraged. By the way, the hitting begins Sunday.

Coach Joe Philbin confirmed the team will be in pads for at least part of Sunday's practice and there will be some contact.

 talked to Eric Steinbach after practice. He explained that although the Ravens worked him out before the Dolphins, they didn't offer him a deal. He said they were concerned about his back, the issue that landed him on injured reserve in Cleveland last season.

"These guys didn't have a problem with it here and they figured I'm recovered one hundred percent from the surgery, which I have," Steinbach said.

Steinbach is familiar with Philbin from their days at Iowa.

"It's good to be here," Steinbach said. "It's good to get back with someone you know and have a relationship with. After a year of missing games with back surgery, it's good to know somebody wants you. I'm looking for the most part to just get back in action."

Steinbach is working with the second unit at left guard. The Dolphins are obviously letting Steinbach work his way in. But could he work his way all the way to starting status?

He's played left guard all his life and it creates an interesting situation because the Dolphins are much more settled at left guard with Richie Incognito than at right guard with Artis Hicks. Could Incognito, who has played the right side, make the switch?

Maybe. But if the Dolphins ask Steinbach to make the switch, I doubt he would balk.

"The role is to come in and as a veteran be a leader and help the offense as much as I can," he said. "I don't care what position it is. you play the best five up front. As long as I'm healthy and getting the system down, I'm confident I'm one of the best five."

Reggie Bush spoke for the first time this camp. What follows is part of the availability.


Why Tannehill doesn't have to be a holdout

Ryan Tannehill is in Bradenton, at the IMG training academy according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, while the Dolphins today go through their second training camp practice.

Matt Moore, with whom Tannehill was supposed to be competing for a starting job, made the point yesterday that missing practices and study sessions puts Tannehill "definitely a step behind." So after today, he'll be two steps behind.

And tomorrow, another step, and then another.

By the middle of next week, if this contract impasse continues, Tannehill will seem effectively out of the running in Miami's quarterback competition.

And as I explain in my column in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are putting Tannehill's agent in a very difficult spot in these negotiations that he'll find very difficult to compromise on. Simply, if agent Pat Dye accepts Miami's request to insert offset language in the Tannehill contract, he'd be commiting career suicide because other agents will lord that over his head next year when they're all recruiting potential first-round picks.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, see like the logical party to back down from the offset language issues because the team behind them and the team in front did so in getting their first rounders signed.

So it doesn't have to be this way. This disagreement is dumb.

Of course, the Dolphins apparently don't see it that way currently. But if I had to pick a side that's going to cave on the offset language issue, I believe it will be the club.

[BLOG NOTE: Same as yesterday, I'll have a quickie update as soon as practice and interviews are complete this morning so come back for that. If you want real-time updates, follow me on twitter and you'll get it practically as it happens.]

July 27, 2012

Everything Matt Moore and David Garrard said today

There are three quarterbacks in camp for the Dolphins now -- David Garrard, Matt Moore and Pat Devlin. Ryan Tannehill is not signed and not present.

This is everything Moore and Garrard told the media today:

Quarterback Matt Moore

(On how it feels to be back at training camp) – “It felt great to get going. I know guys were excited for this day, especially with all the changes that have gone on. It was just great to be back on the field and kind of get going.” (On if he reads anything into taking reps with the first-team offense in practice) – “I don’t know, probably not much. I know how it’s going to go. Zac, (assistant quarterbacks) coach Taylor has told us tomorrow David (Garrard) will be taking all those reps. So we have a really good understanding like I’ve been saying the whole time and so. But it was good to get out there and take those reps today. Whatever that means is we’ll figure that out later, but just trying to make the most of the reps that you get.”

(On finishing the 2011 season strong and seeing the team sign Garrard and draft Ryan Tannehill) – “You can only control what you can control. They have a job to do. They have things that they are planning for. For me, you kind of sit back and you watch. I knew going in, Jeff Ireland was very clear with me that they were going to go after somebody if not two guys, which they did. So there were no surprises there which is appreciated. But you know, you got to go out and do your best and do your job and you can’t worry about the transactions that are being made because that’s out of your control.”

(On Tannehill being absent from practice) – “I think it’s a little unfortunate. I know they are working through things. I’m sure he wants to be here. I don’t know the situation, so I can’t comment too much, but from getting to know Ryan, I’m sure he wants to be here. When he gets here, he’ll be ready to go.”

(On how much instillation of the offense Tannehill will miss from not being here) – “One install is a lot of, I think it was 96 slides on our deal, so I mean it was a lot of information that he’s missing. (He’s a) sharp guy. He’s obviously got a background in this offense a little bit. He’ll definitely be a step behind. Missing a day, in training camp the way it is now, I mean that’s a huge piece with only the one practice and the walkthrough tonight. That’s a big deal, so he’ll have some stuff to make up and some stuff to study up on, but I’m sure he’ll be fine whenever he gets back.” (On the pace of practice and Coach Joe Philbin saying the offense probably leads the league in number of snaps taken in one practice) – “We’ve got to. We have to lead the league (laughing). It’s great. I know it wasn’t where we want it. I think Coach Philbin made it clear, especially to the quarterbacks, we need to pick it up a little bit and I think most of the players agree. I think it’s only going to be an advantage to us as our tempo. It was good, it’s not where want it to be.”

(On how much he is looking forward to working with Chad Johnson) – “A ton. He made a ton of catches today, which is great. I think he’s got his motivation and his own personal drive – he’s got a lot to prove I think or at least that’s the way he feels. And so he’s going to be a key player for us. So I’m obviously really looking forward to working with him. He’s obviously still got the first quick step. He’s got the speed and the hands. I have no doubt he’ll follow through with the mental part of it. He’s done a great job since he’s been here, coming in late in into OTAs, mini-camp and such. (I’m) just really looking forward to continuing to work with him.”

(On if he and Johnson talk a lot about Oregon State) – “Not a ton. We were there at different times. I’ve never played with another Beaver, so that’s just my first and it happens to be a guy like that. So that’s good.”

(On if he tries to block out what is said and written about the quarterback battle) – “Yeah, I try to. That goes back to kind of what I said – you can only control what you can control. It’s difficult at times just because all the cameras and people writing. It’s hard not to hear about it, but, as a player, I don’t know, I just try to do my job. You know what I mean? And the coaches have a job to do in preparing us, preparing each guy and I think naturally somebody is going to rise up and become the guy. I’ve got too much other stuff to worry about than thinking about the two or three other guys that are also at that position.”

Quarterback David Garrard

(On the start of training camp) – “Just the first day is exciting. It’s exciting to have the fans out here. I’m sure they were happy to see a little bit of football again. You know, it’s not games and that kind of stuff, but just the fact that we’re back out practicing and getting ready for games is exciting to them. It’s exciting to us as well, especially myself having taken last year off due to my back. It was great to be back out here with a team, a team that wanted me. To be feeling healthy and healthy enough where I feel like I’m ready to roll.”

(On how the tempo of OTAs and mini camps prepared him for today’s practice) – “Yeah, you know, I’m glad we did have OTAs because we do practice fast. We have a fast tempo throughout the whole practice. We’ve got to be leading the league right now with most snaps in practice (laughing), so it’s pretty cool to see how many snaps you can get off. I like the tempo and, as fast as we are going, coaches continue to say that we’ve got to go even faster. When we get up to the speed that they like us to be at, it’s going to be a two-minute drill the whole time.”

(On if he has something to prove to the NFL or Jacksonville Jaguars) – “I put all that in the past. I’m just excited and I have something to prove to myself – something to prove that I can come back from back surgery and still get out and perform and still get out and show myself that I can still play in this league. This has been a dream of mine ever since I was seven (years old) and I want to continue that dream. My biggest dream is winning a championship, so you’ve got to be on the field or on the team to even be close to being able to do that. So I’m one step closer to that.

(On Matt Moore receiving first-team reps) – “It just means that he opened with the one-snaps today. They had to give it to somebody and they gave it to him. That’s fine. We’re going to continue to battle throughout training camp, so I’m not reading anything into OTAs or into the first day of training camp. We’ve got a lot of snaps left and we’ve got some games to play. Those will be more of the deciding factors than just who led in training camp with the ones.”

(On Ryan Tannehill not being at practice today) – “Yeah, you know if he was any other rookie that didn’t know the offense, it would be definitely tough on him, but he knows most of the offense. I think just not being out here with the guys is probably the toughest thing for him, but I’m sure once he signs his contract, it’s not like in days past where guys were trying to get 50 million dollar guaranteed, that kind of stuff. I’m sure once they iron out the little details, he shouldn’t be too long I wouldn’t think, but I’m not his agent or the GM or anybody trying to negotiate his contract. But he’ll be fine. Like I said, for him, coming from this offense in college, that’s a big plus for him.”

(On his chances of winning the starting quarterback job) – “I think my chances are pretty good. I don’t think they would have me here or even say that it was open competition if my chances weren’t good. I know I can still play. I’ve just got to continue to prove it on the field and that's what’s going to be the deciding factor is how we perform on the field. The quarterback position is the one position that you can clearly see most of the time who should be out there. As long as I continue to do my job and do what I can do and play my best, then hopefully that’s enough.”

(On if it’s hard to ignore the cameras for Hard Knocks)  – “No, I’ve actually been through them before back in 2004. They weren’t quite as much in my face, but I got used to them then and you get used to them now. After a few days with them running around poking a camera in your face, you can actually talk to them and tell them, ‘Maybe not right now.’ Or if you just keep going on doing what you’re doing. You don’t have to act. It’s not acting. It’s not like we’ve got to put on a show for the cameras. We just do what we do and, if that was a good byte for them, then great. If not, they’ll just find something else to plug in there. So it’s all good with them.”

Quickie training camp update

Some quickie reaction to what has transpired so far this morning at Dolphins camp:

Ryan Tannehill is not signed. General manager Jeff Ireland said in a rare training camp media availability that "progess is being made" but obviously both sides have dug in of late.

Tannehill is missing serious knowledge. According to Matt Moore, who took the majority of the first-team snaps, the QBs got 96 slides to work on this morning. That's 96 plays that Tannehill did not see or practice. "He'll definitely be a step behind missing a day," Moore said. "That's a huge piece."

Moore was not overly impressive. He threw an interception to Koa Misi and fumbled a handoff. The fumble had offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to kick the air in disgust.

Moore said that tomorrow's plan is for David Garrard to get most of the first-team snaps. That was decided before practice even began so it has nothing to do with performance.

The Dolphins seem to be in good shape. Philbin said no one failed yesterday's conditioning tests.

Paul Soliai said he was at 340 pounds although his assigned weight is 345. Karlos Dansby, overweight at the start of camp last season, is in shape now. He looks trim and he said he's at the weight he was at when last season ended.

Garrard was the best QB on the field today. The highlight play was a 25-yard completion that he threaded between two defenders to a diving Davone Bess. Although Bess had a good day, the best receiver on the field today seemed to be Chad Johnson. Johnson is not a deep threat but he can work the sideline and the intermediate routes very well.

Johnson did have one drop while wide open along the sideline.

The starting offensive line today was LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks and RT Jonathan Martin.

Eric Steinbach, signed yesterday, worked at left guard with the second unit. Coach Joe Philbin said the club promised Steinbach nothing but a chance to compete for a spot.

"He's hungry," Philbin said. "He's a good locker room guy."

Philbin, by the way, is a funny guy when he wants. He said he signed autographs after practice and one of the fans called him a savior. "I kept him and introduced him to my wife," the coach quipped.

The impressive players today?

Rookie Jeff Fuller looks like he belongs. He caught at least three passes, including a nine route for a touchdown.

CFL addition Marcus Thigpen looks very quick. He's getting work as a kick returner, which was a specialty for him. He looks legitimate.

By the way, Misi's interception was good to see considering he rarely made plays of consequence last season.

 Today's starting WR group included Johnson, Bess and ... wait for it ... Legedu Naanee. Brian Hartline, a starter each of the past two seasons, worked mostly in four-receiver sets and with the second unit.

More in a bit ...

[Update: Owner Stephen Ross just spoke to the media. He said he spoke to the team Thursday evening and explained why he bought the team, what he believes in, and how much he wants to win and have the franchise be the best in the NFL.

"Joe encouraged it," Ross said. "It hasn't been encouraged in the past."


I asked Ross if he plans to change the logo and he said not this year. But he left the possibility open for coming years, including next year. If you ask me to predict, I believe a change is coming next year.]

[Update 2: Tight end Will Yeatman is now offensive tackle Will Yeatman. He obviously doesn't have the kind of footspeed or quickness the Dolphins are looking for in a pass-catcher but is quite agile for a tackle ... Chad Johnson dropped one pass during practice. He caught five. He had a solid day from that standpoint, but obviously I've no idea if he blew any routes ... Garrard will get the first-team reps in practice Saturday.]

First practice for a playoff-caliber or rebuilding team

The Dolphins take the (artificial) field in the bubble for the start of their first 2012 training camp practice today. Forty-minutes later, they'll be on the (natural) grass field outside to show themselves to their faithful fans who came to watch the work.

What do those fans expect to witness?

Fans trekking to Davie the past three seasons to watch practice saw what eventually would be losing teams -- 7-9, 7-9 and 6-10 last season.

What do you expect the Dolphins to be this year?

I would expect they'd be a rebuilding team because after three consecutive losing seasons, my logic dictates something ain't right and needs serious reworking. But as I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, the team insists it is not rebuilding.

Head coach Joe Philbin, general manager Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross believe this team just needs minor tweaks to be a playoff-caliber collection of talent.

Me? I see the need for a QB, some playmaking at safety, a solid defensive end, a better option to Koa Misi at weakside linebacker, stability on the right side of the offensive line, and improvement at wide receiver as something of a rebuilding project.

And all that assumes, Reggie Bush stays healthy, Daniel Thomas improves and plays like a second-round draft pick should, Karlos Dansby is in shape the entire season (he wasn't last year), Jake Long comes back healthy of struggling with that issue the past two seasons, and Philbin is a good head coach -- which he has yet to prove.

And because it's difficult to find six good-to-excellent players to add to a team from one year to the next while changing the scheme on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball and having all those other factors fall just right, I see this as something of a rebuilding year.

The Dolphins don't see it that way. They see themselves as simply tweaking and on the cusp of a playoff berth if a couple of things go right.

The season's results will tell the tale.

But what do you see? Like now. What prophetic insight can you offer on this team before it hits the field? Go on the record. Make a call!!!!

Is this team playoff-caliber, as the Dolphins seem to think? Or are they a couple of years from the playoffs, as I believe?

[BLOG NOTE: As practices begin today, practice updates begin today. I'll have what happened and what everyone is saying following the practice. You should also follow me on twitter for real-time updates. That's @armandosalguero on twitter. Come back after practice and throughout the day for the updates.]

July 26, 2012

Kalil signing today may impact Tannehill talks

Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Matt Kalil signed today.

The deal had no offset language, according to various reports.

That's good news for Ryan Tannehill as his representative continues to talk to the Dolphins about signing their deal without offset language. Offset language allows a team to recoup some of the guaranteed money it pays a particular player in the event that player becomes a bust and is cut before his contract of four or five years (depending on a club option) expires.

The negotiations between the Vikings and Kalil was reportedly being held up by those teams insisting on offset language. The Vikings caved on the issue.

The Dolphins negotiations with Tannehill have included a team desire to include offset language in the deal. According to profootballtalk.com, the offset language issue is what is holding up Tannehill from agreeing with Miami. I have confirmed that is correct.

Obviously if other teams are backing off the demand for the language, the agent for Tannehill can also make the case his client shouldn't have the language in his deal.

So we'll see where this goes as the Dolphins are trying to get Tannehill signed in time for tomorrow's first practice. (Players already reported to camp today.)

With that said, consider this: It is absolutely wise for the Dolphins to try to protect themselves from the possibility that Tannehill might become a bust. But pushing the issue to the extreme that he misses significant training camp time starts things off on bad footing, thus increasing the possibility that Tannehill would be a bust.

It's a catch 22.

The Dolphins nonetheless remain optimistic a deal can be reached by the end of the weekend.

Dolphins add Eric Steinbach as RG

Eric Steinbach knows Joe Philbin because the NFL veteran lineman played for the coach at Iowa.

And now he'll try to play for him with the Dolphins.

Steinbach today signed a one-year deal with the team.

Steinbach didn't play in 2011 because he suffered a back injury that landed him on the Cleveland Browns injured reserve list. The injury required surgery. He was cut by the Browns but has drawn interest from the Ravens, who worked him out recently.

Steinbach, 32, also worked out for the Dolphins who were much more aggressive in making a decision on the veteran. The signing is indicative of Miami's uncertainty at right guard where neither third-year player John Jerry nor veteran free agent addition Artis Hicks seemed impressive in camps and OTAs.

The Dolphins waived Derek Dennis to make room for Steinbach on the roster.

It is unclear if Steinbach is completely healed of his back issue or will require more time. The Dolphins have mitigated their risk on Steinbach by signing him to a one-year contract.

Steinbach, 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds, began his career with Cincinnati from 2003-2006 then joined the Browns until he was cut. The former second-round pick has started 124 of the 125 games he's played.  I'm told the reason the Dolphins excited Steinbach because he expects to start in Miami.

If he's healthy, that's a practical certainty.

Dolphins relative strength on defense is ... good

The Dolphins this season are transitioning their defense from the 3-4 that has dominated since Nick Saban took over in 2005 and lasted through Cam Cameron to the Parcellian Era.

While Miami may use the 3-4 at times this season, I think it's fair to believe they should be called a 4-3.

Yeah, that means Cameron Wake goes from OLB to DE. That means Paul Soliai is no longer exclusively a nose tackle. And the five-technique defensive ends are suddenly going to have to transition or play defensive tackle.

Meanwhile, the unit lost its two most tenured players -- Pass-rusher Jason Taylor to retirement and SS Yeremiah Bell to the waiver wire.

Not surprisingly, the Dolphins haven't exactly replaced either player with guaranteed upgrades. Yes, Olivier Vernon was drafted in the third round and is expected to help rush the passer. But will he deliver seven sacks to offset the seven Taylor contributed last year?

Yes, the club is expecting Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons to finally grow up and man the deep secondary. But which will take over the leadership duties that Bell filled the past few years. And can either finally start getting some interceptions for the Miami secondary that needs more turnovers?

We'll see.

Overall, however, the Miami defense seems talented on many levels. The defensive line got stronger because Wake is now with the unit and he's perhaps the team's best defensive player. Two of the three linebacker spots are manned by proven vets. There is a good combination of youth and experience at cornerback although the depth is a question.

Are we about to see the 2001 Baltimore Ravens?


Are we about to see the 2007 Miami defense?

God, I hope not.

We're going to see a unit that should be solid and relative good. The unit's relative strength:

Defensive line: Kendall Langford is gone after signing a $6 per year deal with somebodyorother. Why does that not worry me? Well, because Langford was a nice player but not a playmaker. He was a big body but not one that collected sacks, caused fumbles, or made tackles behind the line of scrimmage with any consistency. The Dolphins, meanwhile, still keep Randy Starks, who does make plays, they have Jared Odrick, who has shown promise and also has made plays, and they re-signed Paul Soliai who has been to a Pro Bowl game. Those three beefy men will all play and form a good foundation for an active front. Tony McDaniel, the world's tallest defensive tackle at 6-7, provides decent depth in that he can give the team 20-25 solid downs every week. Add Wake at defensive and you have some quarterback pressure. If Vernon is the player GM Jeff Ireland believes, then the Dolphins have something. If not, this club needs pass-rush help. Look for Odrick to work outside initially. Overall strength: 7 but possibly a 9 if either Vernon or Odrick can become good ends.

Linebackers: Karlos Dansby is good and when he's on he's very good. Kevin Burnett, quirky and all, is good and can rise to very good at times. Gary Guyton knows how to play and is a winner. Jamal Westerman seems more like a down lineman to me and, beyond that, more like a special teams guy. The big question is Koa Misi. Can the guy find a comfort in the 4-3 that he clearly could not find in the 3-4? This is a make-or-break year for Misi because his position demands he make some plays and he didn't do much of that last year. Rookie Josh Kaddu is obviously a project. Overall strength: 7.5.

Secondary: Vontae Davis played very well late last season after his, ahem, one-game suspension. He finished the season with four interceptions but that doesn't tell the whole story. He was physical. He was very good in coverage. He started to show the promise everyone expects. Maybe he's starting to get it. Sean Smith is fine, too. Did he finish with a burst? Not really, but he was more consistent throughout the year. These guys aren't kids anymore. This is Year Four for both players. No excuses anymore, fellas. Six-year veteran Richard Marshall comes to the team with a reputation for being solid. He has made plays in his career. He is the strongest candidate for work as the team's nickel cornerback. I already discussed the safety position above. It is a concern. A darkhorse that requires attention is Jimmy Wilson. He's likely headed to the safety spot. He hits like a sledgehammer. He's fearless. Last year, he was probably over his head playing cornerback as a rookie. But I like his potenial. Overall strength: 6.

July 25, 2012

And then there was one (unsigned rookie) left ...

The Dolphins have announced the signing of tight end Michael Egnew and confirmed the signing of defensive end Olivier Vernon.

Only first-round pick Ryan Tannehill remains unsigned. The rookie quarterback and his representative were working to get a deal with the team throughout the day Wednesday and that is expected to continue Thursday.

The team's first practice is Friday and the club wants very much to have Tannehill done by then. Tannehill is one of five players selected in the first round that still have not signed.

Egnew was the second of Miami’s two third round selections (78th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft out of the University of Missouri. A four-year letterman and two-year starter with the Tigers, Egnew played in 51 career games with 26 starts, recording 147 receptions for 1,332 yards (9.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns. Born November 1, 1989, Egnew attended Plainview High School (Texas), where he lettered in football, basketball and track.

Olivier Vernon signs leaving two unsigned rookies

The Dolphins have signed defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The signing, first reported by Jason Cole of Yahoosports, means the Dolphins have two rookies unsigned at this hour. Rookies are to report to camp Thursday and the first practice for the entire team is Friday.

I have reported earlier today that Vernon's deal was close and that first-round pick Ryan Tannehill would be done by the end of the weekend, if not earlier. The Dolphins obviously hope to wrap up both Tannehill and tight end Michael Egnew by tomorrow or Friday so they can report on time and not miss a practice.

The Vernon deal is believed to be for four years and worth between $3-2.75 million.

Vernon will compete for playing time at defensive end. The Dolphins have high hopes he can even compete for a starting job opposite Cameron Wake.

[Update: The actual deal is indeed four years worth $2,848,080 with a $638,080 signing bonus.]

The relative strength of the Miami Dolphins offense

Training camp practices begin Friday. So how strong a team are the Miami Dolphins today? Are they playoff-strong or are they still languishing amongst the NFL's weak sisters?

No one will actually know until we get some regular-season games behind us, but as it looks right now the Miami roster still looks like it needs improvement, tweaking, in a word some strengthening, compared to other teams. Pundits, you should note, are not exactly picking the Dolphins to finish first or second in the AFC East.

Fact is, most experts are claiming the Bills have passed the Dolphins -- which, if true, would make Miami the worst team in the AFC East.

I'm not so sure that is true. The Bill still have their problems. And the Jets don't scare anyone.

I see the Dolphins as a 7-9 or 8-8 team. Don't hold me to that. I have yet to see them practice. I have yet to see them play a preseason game. I have yet to see the new coaching staff in action. Injuries here and around the league can rehape matters.

I'm simply measuring the team's relative strengths and weaknesses compared to other teams on paper. And I'm doing that today -- before camp even opens. So this isn't gospel, OK?

I'm simply comparing Miami's offensive line to others around the NFL. I'm comparing quarterback talent, wide receiver talent, etc ... to other NFL teams. A 10 is as strong as a team can get. A one is as weak as it can be at any position.

Miami's defense, by the way, seems more talented than the offense right now. For our purposes I'm going to break down the strength of both units by position with the offense featured in this post.

The offense:

Running back: I really like where Miami sits here. Reggie Bush is coming off a career season but because the Dolphins have not rewarded him with a new contract (neither has he asked, by the way) it can be argued Bush will still have something to prove this year. That's good work from the front office. Let him prove himself again by staying healthy and playing well. If he does it again, he deserves to be re-signed. If he doesn't, then we'll understand 2011 was an mirage. It must be said that last year's coaching staff ultimately had a good vision for Bush in that he carried the ball 216 times, stayed healthy, gained 5 yards per carry and was, in my opinion, the best offensive player on the team. I don't know that this staff shares the same philosophy for Bush. I think they want to get him out in space more, particularly on short passes out of the backfield or in the slot. Daniel Thomas was something of a disappointment to me last year. He averaged only 3.5 yards per carry and ran soft early in the season and again late in the season. He simply was not consistent. If he gets 150 rushes this year and raises that average to 4-4.2 yards per carry, the Dolphins will have a viable Plan B behind Bush. Rookie Lamar Miller was my favorite draft pick by Miami. If he can stay healthy, he can bring speed to the RB spot that not even Bush offers. If he doesn't get it right away, he can compete for kickoff return and perhaps even punt return work. And his future is bright. Steve Slaton, meanwhile, would be a great fit as a kick returner. He got only three returns last year and showed great promise but the coaching staff decided that alone could not keep him active on game days. Making the team will be a fight for Slaton. OVERALL STRENGTH: 7.

Quarterback: Reports I'm reading from the time I was away are speculating that Ryan Tannehill is already out of the running for an opportunity to start. Really? That's not what a team source suggested to me today. The source told me the club very much wants Tannehill signed and in camp as soon as possible so that he won't be behind in the competition with the veterans. The club wants Tannehill to compete and compete hard for the chance to start. No, he might not win the competition, but to suggest he's already lost it is not accurate. Saying that, it will be hard for Tannehill to beat out both David Garrard and Matt Moore in training camp. They have the experience advantage and simply know how to be professionals. Tannehill has to learn that. But make no mistake, Tannehill is the future while Garrard and Moore are caretaker QBs for the present. If Garrard and Moore are at their best in camp, the decision between them will be interesting in that they are opposites. Garrard at his best doesn't beat you. He won't throw the interception but neither will he throw the 75-yard pass. Moore is more a down-the-field guy. At his best, he might throw a costly pick but will find two improbable throws for a TD. Neither has been exceedingly consistent during their careers. Can either be consistent enough during camp to be the clear choice as the starter? We'll see. Either way, the Dolphins will again enter the season searching for their starter. That, friends, is not the place to be for an NFL team that if it plans to compete for a postseason spot. OVERALL STRENGTH: 5.

Offensive line: The Miami line should be better this year in that it will be more athletic. But the improvement could be muted initially by a lack of experience. You must remember that while the right tackle spot was a big swinging gate to the QB last year, Marc Colombo was at least experienced. He knew the tricks. No one Miami puts at that position this year, least of which rookie second-round pick Jonathan Martin, will have the experience that Colombo had. Any of the candidates may be more mobile and athletic, but not more experienced. It will be up to the coaches and the candidates to do quick work to get up to speed. By the way, Lydon Murtha, who was supposed to compete for the job last year, still might do so this year. But he is seemingly always injured and isn't much more experienced than Martin who is a rookie. That's not good. I expect a signifant jump in ability from center Mike Pouncey. I believe he can be a Pro Bowl player if he takes another step and stays healthy. I know Jake Long has been working hard to be as healthy as he's been since 2009. I think Richie Incognito is solid. Right guard? Still a mystery. OVERALL STRENGTH: 6 with a chance of being an 8 if everything goes right.

Tight ends: Anthony Fasano is good. He is not great. His hands seemed to improve last season and so did his redzone presence. He continues to come up with big plays and that's why his average yards per catch increased to a career high 14.1 last year. Having said that, the Dolphins see Charles Clay as a more promising downfield threat. Clay averaged 14.6 yards per catch as a rookie and seemed much more comfortable the latter part of last season, probably a product of getting his rookie legs under him. If the Dolphins are going to have a breakout tight end this year, Clay will be that guy. The club will use double tights a good deal so there will be plenty of opportunities. Rookie Micheal Egnew? Prospect. Project. Egnew is a hope for the future but hardly someone that can be counted on immediately. OVERALL STRENGTH: 6.

Wide receivers: Chad Johnson was the most impressive wide receiver in the late OTAs sessions. That's great for Chad Johnson but what does it say for a group when the 34-year-old guy whose stats have been on the decline and just got cut in New England is the most impressive guy? Truth be told, the Dolphins need someone to surprise. They need a fantastic bounce-back season from Johnson. Or they need Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore or Roberto Wallace to finally develop. Or perhaps Julius Pruitt, B.J. Cunningham or Jeff Fuller surprise from out of nowhere. Failing that, the same production from the same group of the past couple of seasons simply isn't going to be good enough. That kind of production got the Dolphins to three consecutive losing seasons. The Dolphins need someone special to emerge out of this group. Right now, no one can identify that player. OVERALL STRENGTH: 4.

Tomorrow: The defense.

Vacation over ... time to get to work

Vacation time has come and gone. The Dolphins begin training camp practices Friday and so it's worky worky time again for me until next May or so.

I'll get right into it later today by posting a breakdown of the Dolphins strengths and weaknesses. I've been reading that Miami's wide receivers expect big things this season. Chad Johnson (he's back to using his real name) is saying he's getting to the Pro Bowl this season while others such as Brian Hartline are saying the Miami WR corps is the best in years.

Ooookaaay. Maybe that turns out to be true.

But I don't think I'll believe until I see it.

Truth is Johnson, 34, has been on the decline the last two seasons and would need to reverse course to return to Pro Bowl status. Most players don't get better at age 34.

And Hartline needs to finally find some consistency and the trust of his quarterbacks as last year he had fewer catches in 16 games than he did while playing only 12 games in 2010. I'm not saying he needs to be the go-to guy because he couldn't be that with Brandon Marshall on the team, but this is Year Four for him and he's 25 years old now. Time to show for real. (It would be nice if he's healthy, which he was not for part of the offseason, missing some time with an unspecified leg issue and now recovering from an appendectomy.)

The Dolphins do have definite strengths. And I'll share those with you later today in a new post. (Yeah, we're back to posting multiple times per day.)

One thing: Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Miami's first-round pick, continues to be unsigned. There was reportedly a snag relating to "offset language," which would protect the team should Tannehill be released during his initial four-year rookie deal. Progress in negotiations has been slow so far because of that stumbling block but should pick up in the coming hours. I expect, barring an unexpected road block, he'll be signed by the weekend.

[Update: A source just texted me the contract "should get done soon."]

[Update 2: Third-round selection Olivier Vernon is also close to agreeing to his rookie deal, according to a source. This one should be done by the time the club practices Friday.] 

In the meantime, let me share with you about my vacation: I did a lot of chores around the house. And I spent quite a bit of time doing this: