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71 posts from August 2012

August 31, 2012

Dolphins reach a 53 man roster (for now)

Let me begin by telling you the following are the moves made today and it will leave a roster that is good only through today. That's because the Dolphins will be back at it tomorrow, putting in waiver claims, trying to make trades, hoping to upgrade the roster as much as possible.

So some players on the team today will not be the team Monday or Tuesday.

Having said that here are the cuts as announced by the Dolphins:

Cuts: Isaako Aaitui, Vince Agnew, Ryan Baker, Will Barker, Chandler Burden, Cameron Collins, BJ Cunningham, Clyde Gates, Jeff Fuller, Ray Feinga, Chris Hogan, Quinten Lawrence, Shelly Lyons, Andrew McDonald, Lydon Murtha, Anderson Russell, Roberto Wallace, Jamaal Westerman.

Veteran linebacker Gary Guyton's contract was terminated.

DE Jarrell Root was waived injured.

CB Kevyn Scott was waived with an injury settlement.

And the club finally got around to announcing the trade of Ryan Cook which was made two days ago. He was traded to the Cowboys for a seventh-round pick. 

Anthony Armstrong was waived by the Redskins. The Dolphins talked to the Redskins about trading for him today. The team may put in a claim for him now if it wishes but there are seven other teams ahead of Miami on the waiver priority list.

Hogan is expected to be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Chandler Burden is expected to be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Beginning at noon, New York time on Saturday, clubs may establish a Practice Squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the 46-player Active List for less than nine regular season games during each of any Accrued Seasons. A player cannot participate on the Practice Squad for more than three seasons.

The Dolphins are shopping for cornerbacks. The Dolphins are shopping for wide receivers. The Dolphins have four quarterbacks on the roster and although coach Joe Philbin said he loves all the players in the room, no one believes this team will keep four quarterbacks.

Lots of work to do yet, folks.

 

Why Brian Hartline return is great news (PLUS) practice and cuts update

Brian Hartline will return to practice as early as today and, barring a setback, will practice all of next week as the Dolphins prepare for the start of the regular season against Houston.

This is huge news for the team.

I know, I know, you think I overstate. You think I embellish.

But to those of you focused on what receivers the Dolphins might trade for, or what waiver wire discards they might claim, or the guys they worked out on Thursday, consider the following:

In adding Hartline, who has been out the entire preseason with a calf injury, the Dolphins are adding a player that is better or almost as good as any player the Dolphins have been linked to recently.

That's right, Hartline is as big an addition as Donte Stallworth, Anthony Armstrong, Mike Sims-Walker, James Jones, and Jabar Gaffney.

Consider the stats over the past two seasons:

Hartline: 78 receptions ... 1,164 yards ... 14.9 avg. ... 2 TD.

Stallworth: 24 receptions ... 391 yards ... 16.2 avg. ... 2 TD.

Jones: 88 receptions ... 1,314 yards ... 14.9 avg. ... 12 TD.

Gaffney: 133 receptions ... 1,822 yards ... 13.6 avg. ... 7 TD.

Armstrong: 51 receptions ... 974 yards ... 19.0 avg. ... 5 TD.

I know what you're thinking. Hartline isn't in the same class as either James Jones nor Jabar Gaffney. I understand your point.

But understand that unlike James Jones, Hartline has been playing in a prehistoric offense the past couple of years and has not been the beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and someone like JerMichael Finley at tight end.

Also understand that the Dolphins would have to trade for Jones and he would not know the offense right away. Hartline is on campus and knows the offense so he can contribute right away and I've been told he might even be a starter if he has a great practice week next week.

Gaffney?

He's on Miami's radar. They would like to add him. But the truth is he's currently injured and I was told by a good source that Gaffney's preference is to return to New England once he's healthy. If they don't want him, then he would look around to other teams. I believe they will take him back.

If something gets in the way of that and Gaffney comes to Miami, he would have to learn the offense. Would he be an upgrade? Absolutely. But it should not diminish Hartline that he's been more of a deep threat than Gaffney the past couple of years.

Mike Sims-Walker has not posted the kind of stats Hartline has recently and there's a reason he's been cut by multiple teams now. Stallworth obviously isn't the same guy he was before his tragic auto accident in which he ran over and killed a man crossing the road leading to Miami Beach several years ago.

Armstrong?

He's good. But is he heatlhy? He's battled injuries the past 12 months, including this training camp. So he's right there with Hartline on that. He's a burner and can get over the top of the defense. But the Dolphins still have to finalize a trade for him. Yes, Armstrong would be a help. But that doesn't mean Hartline is lessened.

Indeed, we should not diminish the importance of Hartline's return. If he can stay healthy, it definitely helps.

And now heeeere's the plus coverage:

The Dolphins released the following list of cuts, most already reported by The Herald  -- Vince Agnew, Will Barker, Ryan Baker, Cameron Collins, BJ Cunningham, Rey Feinga, Clyde Gates, Shelly Lyons, Quinten Lawrence, Lydon Murtha, Roberto Wallace, and Jamaal Westerman. The team says Gary Guyton's contract was terminated.

Ryan Cook is not on this list but he was traded to Dallas for a 7th-round pick. The trade is not official until he passes the Dallas physical.

The Herald previously reported OL Chandler Burden and WR Jeff Fuller were cut but they were at practice today. Barring an unexpected change, they are scheduled to be cut and both will likely be re-signed to the practice squad if they clear waivers.

The Dolphins will continue to make cuts and other moves through tonight's 9 pm deadline and then tomorrow and again Sunday. So nothing will really be settled for several days.

Not practicing today were John Jerry, Lake Long and Jason Trusnik. 

 

Dolphins talking trade for Anthony Armstrong

Three years ago Anthony Armstrong was discarded by the Miami Dolphins because he wasn't good enough to make it on the team. Today they are working to trade for the wide receiver to upgrade their corps of pass-catchers.

The Dolphins are in talks to trade Steve Slaton to the Redskins in exchange for Armstrong, according to a league source and as reported by multiple credible media outlets.

But this is just talk at this moment, folks. Nothing is done yet.

The rumored trade of Matt Moore, meanwhile, is merely that at this moment. Matt Moore right now is a Miami Dolphins quarterback. As for David Garrard, his status is simple. If he's healthy, he stays. If he's not, he goes. That according to a team source.

And the decision doesn't have to be made until next week.

The Dolphins have made about a dozen moves so if you wish to check on those click on the link.

Bunch of guys leaving, some guys coming

The revolving doors that is this time of year is officially turning now.

The Dolphins will cut upwards of 20 guys today and through the weekend. And they'll be bringing in people to complete their 53 man roster.

Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham has been cut. Wide receiver Clyde Gates has been cut. DE Jamaal Westerman has been cut. All come according to Barry Jackson. Linebacker Cameron Collins and Ryan Baker have also been released.

[Update: Wide receiver Roberto Wallace has also been released as has cornerback Quinten Lawrence. I expect Marlon Moore to make the team because, frankly, he's the only deep threat left. Lawrence had a terrible game against the Cowboys but he is a practice squad possibility.]

[Update 2: Linebacker Gary Guyton, offensive lineman Ray Feinga, offensive lineman Chandler Burden and cornerback Vince Agnew have been cut via The Herald's Barry Jackson.]

Update 3: Undrafted free agent Jeff Fuller has been cut. Cornerback Kevyn Scott has been cut.] 

Cunningham is a practice squad possibility. He was a sixth-round pick this year. Gates is a disappointment because he came in the fourth round last year and has not shown any of the "blow the top off the defense" billing that the Dolphins told us about.

Westerman came in free agency from the Jets.

Yesterday the team worked out seven players -- three wide receivers, three cornerbacks and a quarterback:

WRs Donte Stallworth, Brian Tyms and Mike Sims-Walker worked out. Stallworth and Sims-Walker are veteran journeymen. Tyms is a rookie who was with San Francisco but was recently cut.

The cornerbacks?

Rod Hood, recently cut by the St. Louis Rams, Donald Strickland, a street free agent who last played for the New York Jets, and Drew Coleman, who was with the Lions but was placed on injured reserve then released from IR Aug. 23.

The quarterback that had a workout is quarterback Matt Blanchard, a developmental quarterback cut by the Chicago Bears recently.

The Dolphins told all the players they worked out that they would keep them in mind over the next couple of days. That leaves the door open, but doesn't actually let anyone in yet. You know how that is.

Cutdown day will measure Miami's talent

The old joke told by NFL coaches and personnel men who look at bad teams with deficient rosters is that when it comes setting the final roster, it's hard to get down to 53 players ... and not keep going.

Honestly, that joke applies to the Dolphins today.

They have 53 jobs available. But they legitimately have maybe 40 players (at most) who have earned an NFL roster spot based on their performance this training camp and preseason, or based on their proven talent.

Everyone else? Open to interpretation. Open to the availability of players that other teams let go. Open to the possibility of trades. Open to their relative value to the team based on the relative value of another player who isn't that great, either.

The Dolphins must trim the roster to 53 players by 9 p.m. tonight. Much of that work will be done this morning. And many of the cuts will be easy.

For example, today the Dolphins will cut players such as Kevyn Scott, Shelly Lyons, Jarrell Root, Anderson Russell, Chris Hogan, and others.

[Update: The team has released DL Ryan Baker, who has been with the Dolphins on and off for two years.]

Some may return as practice squad players. Most will not.

Emotions aside, this is simply business. It happens every year.

The problem for the Dolphins is not that they must make hard cuts. The problem is that there are not enough hard cuts. Honestly, how many players that get the axe from Miami will get picked up by other teams? I don't think that will be a high number. Teams such as San Francisco, New England, Green Bay, the Giants and even Washington will meanwhile see a lot of their discards end up on other rosters. That is a sure sign those teams have talent.

Another problem in Miami is that some players may not be cut even though they deserve it. That is the surest sign of weakness on a team -- when players that haven't done anything to earn a job or shown anything that suggests they will someday do the job, get the job anyway.

Let's face it, Michael Egnew has not earned a job on Miami's 53 man roster. But because he is a third-round pick, he will likely stick with the team. He is, apparently, on scholarship.

 Let's face it, Clyde Gates has done nothing the past two preseasons as a wide receiver to earn a spot on the roster. But because he has the potential to be a deep threat and the Dolphins are so thin at the position, Gates might (I stress might because it is not certain) survive.

Cornerback Quinten Lawrence is all about potential now. He is not ready to play in the NFL. It showed Wednesday night when he got a lot of playing time against Dallas and none of his moments in the spotlight were highlights for the Dolphins. All were highlights for the Cowboys. Lawrence beat here. Lawrence pass intereference there.

Yet, Lawrence is likely to make this team.

That doesn't show how strong the team is. The opposite.

 

August 30, 2012

The reaction following 30-13 loss to Dallas

Some reactions from Wednesday night's press conferences and open locker room session following the fourth loss in four tries this preseason -- this time a 30-13 loss to Dallas ...

Joe Philbin was realistic about how bad his team looked in this game:

"That's unacceptable," he said. "Poorly coached game. We didn't play well. We had a lot of penatlties. We had 12 men on the field. We didn't tackle well. We didn't score touchdowns. You guys saw the same game I did, it was not a good football game, not a good performance by our team. I'm the head coach of the team and that's a poor job by me getting them ready. That's the facts."

Philbin is worried that the team he sees in practice does not show up for games -- any games so far this preseason.

"Am I concerned? Yeah," Philbin said. "The confidence I gain is when I watch guys practice and perform well. We've been a good team in practice  but we haven't transfered that to the game on a consistent basis and that's a concern, absolutely."

Some offensive line notes: Jonathan Martin started at right tackle and moved over to left tackle in the second half. John Jerry play practically the whole game. This was his chance to win or lose the starting right guard job.

The issues at receiver has put the spotlight on players that were supposed to step forward this preseason but didn't. Clyde Gates was one of those. Yet Gates is content with how he performed.

"The hamstring I had kept me out of camp a few days and I missed a game but other than that I'm very happy with the camp I had," he said.

Does Gates think he deserves a to be on the team?

"Yeah, I think I should be. I can't look at it no other way."

Understand that's one man's opinion. Gates has not been told he is on the team. "No I haven't been told I'm good. I'm just going with it, contoling what I can control. I've done everything they asked me to do. Whatever they asked me, I went out there and did it."

One of the most puzzling situations this training camp has been the play of Matt Moore. He completed only 4 of 12 passes this game. He completed only 20 of 51 passes this preseason. He threw two interceptions, including a pick six and didn't throw a TD or get the offense in the end zone.

I asked Moore why he has been unable to play this preseason anywhere close to as well as he did last year, understanding he played last year against starters and this preseason he's play primarily against backups.

"I don't know," Moore said. "I don't have an answer for you. I have to go back and look at the tape and continue to get better."

The regular season begins Sept. 9 at Houston. The Dolphins have 11 days to move heaven and earth and play well.

August 29, 2012

Live blog and lineup changes here

Minutes before the start of what promises to be the most meaningless game of the season:

Ryan Tannehill is going to start. He's going to start running, too, if he's smart.

That's because the starting offensive line will be a backup unit except for rookie Jonathan Martin at right tackle. The unit consists of Ray Feinga at LT, Chandler Burden at left guard, Ryan Cook at center, John Jerry at right guard and Martin at right tackle.

Crazy, right?

Daniel Thomas starts for Reggie Bush, who is not expected to play.

The injured scratches tonight are: Jake Long (right knee), David Garrard (knee), Nate Garner (head), Tony McDaniel (leg), Lydon Murtha (foot), Brian Hartline (calf), and defensive end Derrick Shelby (shoulder).

Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby is dressed but not expected to play. Austin Spitler starts in his place. Kevin Burnett is dressed but not expected to play. Gary Guyton starts in his place.

There's a live blog happening in the comments section. I'll be there for the kickoff. See you there.

August 28, 2012

Daniel Thomas is so far simply disappointing

On Monday I was standing on the sideline watching the Dolphins practice. On what is just a routine run play into the A-gap, Daniel Thomas took the handoff and this happened when there was no apparent hole:

The Dolphins running back took the handoff and turned his back to the line of scrimmage and backpedalled into the pile of offensive and defensive linemen facing the wrong direction.

I turned to Dolphins officials and said that play tells me all I need to know about Thomas as a running back. His instincts are wrong. Rather than lowering his head and pads and bullying his way into the line to create a hole or, at the very least, bouncing outside to salvage the play, he basically gave up on the play and protected himself.

Not what I would expect from the kid who is 6-1 and 228 pounds.

Not what I would expect from a second-round pick.

Not what I would expect from the player who is supposed to inherit the Miami running back spot after this year because Reggie Bush is in the final year of his contract.

Not what I would expect from an NFL running back.

That moment, in all its disappointment, came back to me when I watched Hard Knocks Tuesday. In the opening minutes of the show, amid all the players that are not getting the job done or getting cut or traded, we see Thomas called into coach Joe Philbin's office.

It wasn't so the coach could give the player a standing ovation. Seems Thomas was late to the team plane that carried the Dolphins to the Carolina game two weeks ago. And he apparently did not meet dress code requirements.

And then last week he was late to a weight lifting session.

"Last week you were late to the plane and you weren't in the proper dress code," Philbin tells Thomas. "Now, I come to find out you were 15 minutes late today. From where I sit I get concerned about that stuff. Obviously, you're going to get fined, but that's not the point. The point is I don't want to be fining anybody. I want guys that do what they're supposed to do and be where they're supposed to be and right now, two times in four days, that's not a good thing."

There's more:

"And I'm just telling you, this can't happen, that kind of stuff can't happen," Philbin adds. "I'm getting a little queasy about you. You got to take responsibility for your own career, what you're doing and when you're doing it. I don't want to come talk to you again. I want to see you out there and next time I want to talk to you on a positive thing, not this kind of stuff."

So what does all this mean?

Look, the Dolphins are fishing for bodies or draft picks or anything that can possibly help them rise from the mire that currently threatens to sink them to the bottom of the AFC East standings once the season begins.

The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, are searching for running backs. And so it's only logical that the Lions might be looking at Miami's supposedly well-stocked running back stable and think maybe Bush might be available for a receiver or draft pick.

And if I'm the Dolphins, I would love to be able to consider the option. Except that the heir to the job can't be on time and isn't exactly producing on the field and isn't exactly following in the tradition of Larry Csonka, either.

So what can the Dolphins do but hold on to Bush, right?

Well, you might say, they can offer Thomas. That's a fine idea except Thomas hasn't done anything of high regard in this league and his tardiness was now on national TV. Also, the head coach said on national TV that he's starting to feel "queasy" about the guy. Yeah, that's going to bring a bigtime dividend in trade from Detroit  ... or anybody.

It's just disappointing. That's all I can say. Disappointing.

Chris Cooley available as a tight end upgrade

The Redskins released tight end Chris Cooley today.

He is 30 years old. He is a former three-time Pro Bowl player. He said at his departure press conference, "I can still play at a high level." Oh, and catches the football.

ESPN's Adam Schefter just said teams such as Oakland, the New York Jets and Dolphins need tight end help and could use Cooley.

To me, he would be an upgrade for Miami's tight end corps. He would be help for Ryan Tannehill. Moreoever, this is what I wrote last week when I first heard of the possibility Cooley might become available.

That's all I have to say.

Discuss ...

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: It's on the players

The Dolphins returned to an old tradition today, once again gathering in front of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, to signal the unoffical start to regular-season kickoff functions. In previous years Dolphins coaches got in front of luncheon attendees and told them the Dolphins were Super Bowl contenders or playoff contenders or just plain had a chance to be special.

What did Joe Philbin tell the business community today?

In part, he made it clear the success or failure his teams is on players rather than coaches.

"Players are 90 percent of the equation, coaches are 10 percent," Philbin said, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

It is clear listening to Philbin these past couple of weeks and months, he doesn't think much of schemes or strategies being the difference between champions and chumps. He gives the credit for success on the field to the talent on the field. And, it should be noted, he puts much of the blame for failure on the field to the talent on the field.

This is an interesting view of things only because the reason Philbin is Miami's coach today is because Dolphins ownership and, to a large degree the personnel department, believed the Dolphins were a sufficiently talented team that needed only minor tweaking and improving. Ownership and the personnel department saw this team as one that could take a new step forward if a better coach  milked the grand potential out of the roster.

In other words, the folks that hired Philbin believed a coaching change would drastically improve Miami's results.

Yet Philbin seems to think a coach can only determine 10 percent of a team's fortunes.

Neither view is wrong. But it does give pause that the views are so opposing. 

Tannehill playing Wednesday ... but should he?

Joe Philbin and his staff usually sit together two days before a preseason game and map out the playing time for every player in the coming game.

When he spoke to the media Monday evening, Philbin had not yet conducted that meeting so he wasn't aware how much his quarterbacks would play. But he did know this much about starter Ryan Tannehill:

"He’s going to play a little bit,” Philbin said.

That's fine but the question needs to be asked:

How much is to be gained by playing Tannehill a little bit when the rookie will not have the benefit of having his blind side protected by left tackle Jake Long.

Long, you see, will miss the Dallas game after suffering a knee injury in practice Monday. He could miss between 1-3 weeks. So he could be ready for the regular-season opener but he's not suiting up against the Cowboys.

And that being the case, is risking Tannehill's health worth the handful of downs he's likely to get in a game that doesn't count? Or do the Dolphins believe so strongly that the rookie needs as many snaps as possible as to risk getting him injured (more than usual)?

Regardless of the answer, the hope is the Dolphins consider what is at stake. The hope is they weigh playing Tannehill a few downs to get him experience versus exposing him to injury because he's out there without his best blindside protector.

 

August 27, 2012

Dolphins fear Long MCL sprain may cost 1-3 weeks

The Dolphins have initially diagnosed the Jake Long injury as a medial collateral sprain, according to ESPN's Adam Shefter and the team is expecting results from an MRI to be available late tonight or tomorrow morning.

If that initial diagnosis is correct and so far nothing is certain because only the MRI will tell for sure, Long is likely to miss between one and three weeks if the sprain is mild. If the sprain is a moderate one, which the Dolphins don't think, Long could be out 3-4 weeks.

If Long has a torn MCL, this becomes an issue of more significant proportions in that Long could miss four to six weeks. Again, the Dolphins do not believe the injury to be this severe.

Understand that even under the best-case scenario, Long will not play against Dallas in the preseason finale Wednesday and will likely be limited in practice availability the week leading to the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Houston.

His status for that game depends largely on his ability to recover quickly.

On another injury note, linebacker Karlos Dansby also will not play against Dallas. He said today he and coach Joe Philbin came to an understanding that he would skip the Dallas game but be ready for the season-opener.

Dansby will have played only in the preseason opener but he has been practicing.

Jake Long leaves practice with injury

Long down
Dolphins left tackle Jake Long left practice moments ago after suffering an undisclosed right leg injury during practice.

Long was protecting on a quick pass when he suddenly fell to the ground in a heap of other players. The others got up. Long stayed on the turf inside the Dolphins practice bubble for at least two minutes. Two, long, painfully uncertain minutes.

After trainers and coach Joe Philbin came over to assess the problem, Long eventually was helped to his feet and walked to a cart parked along the sideline. Trainers unfastened his right knee brace, pulled it down to his ankle and began to work the area between the knee and ankle even as Long shook his head in disgust.

Long, it must be said, was seen pointing to his knee initially and later was rubbing it. After spending a couple of minutes on the cart, Long and head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill left the bubble to go into the facility. Long walked out under his own power.

I will not speculate if this thing is serious or not. The Dolphins themselves don't even know at this moment.

It may be that we don't know how serious this is for a while as Philbin has a policy in which he refuses to discuss injuries to any degree.

Long, entering his fifth NFL season, has been to the Pro Bowl four times. He played most of the past two years with injuries to his knees and shoulder. He said earlier this training camp that this was the healthiest he felt since his rookie year.

The difference between Colts, Dolphins

The Dolphins and Colts are similar in many respects in that both are rebuilding this year after a difficult 2011. The Dolphins have a new coach. The Colts have a new coach. The Dolphins are going with a rookie first-round quarterback. The Colts are going with a rookie first-round quarterback.

But the manner in which they are approaching this year is obviously different and that difference showed clearly in the trade that yesterday sent cornerback Vontae Davis from Miami to Indianapolis.

The truth is the Colts until Sunday had a major hole at one of their cornerback spots. It was as big as the hole the Dolphins have at, say, wide receiver.

But unlike the Dolphins who have this offseason addressed the wide receiver need on the cheap with low-round draftees and signing a has-been and troubled veteran in Chad Johnson, the Colts went more aggressive.

The Colts began shopping for ways to address their need. Early last week the team began searching for a way to plug that leaky hole in the defense. And knowing that Vontae Davis had lost his starting job in Miami, the Colts called asking to acquire him.

The Colts' first offer was a sixth-round pick.

Miami general manager Jeff Ireland, who had not been shopping Davis, told the Colts he was not interested.

By Thursday, the offer was improved to a fifth-round pick. Ireland still had no interest in that price for a player he views as troubled but still worthy of keeping  given his age, ability, relatively cheap cost and the first-round investment he had in Davis.

So the Colts let that sit for a while.

And Saturday the Colts came back again -- this time offering a third-round pick for Davis. I have to give Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson credit for persistence. He latched on to the idea of getting Davis like a pitbull locks down on a steak and didn't let go. And, of course, while he was showing little interest in the offers, Miami GM Jeff Ireland was not saying, "Stop calling me!"

Ireland was open to the idea of trading Davis, but at a price he wanted. That goes back to the Bill Parcells school of thought that "Everybody is on the trade block all the time." (For the right price).

The third-round offer got Ireland's attention in that serious, serious negotiations began to take place between the teams. The Colts were finally in the ballpark but Ireland wanted more. And the fact they were in the ballpark encouraged the Colts they might be able to solve their gaping defensive problem. It also encouraged Ireland that he could get a premium draft pick in this deal.

It was sometime late Saturday or early Sunday when Grigson came back with the second-round offer. The offer put Ireland on the hook but to reel him in, Grigson had to add the conditional sixth-rounder that he ultimately included in the deal.

Although he will never say it, Ireland obviously believes the Colts to be rebuilding and is banking on them having a high pick in next year's draft so, in his mind, he's not just getting a No. 2 but potentially a high No. 2. Grigson, meanwhile, sees that his draft picks will be a lot lower now that he's got a set of corners he's happy about to play games in this pass-happy league. He believes Colts coach Chuck Pagano can get major production out of Davis that obviously Joe Philbin and his staff didn't think they could get. And he believes he can compete and win a lot of games this year, particularly with the Davis addition.

One more thing: It doesn't bother Grigson that Davis has been dogged by "character" issues that include drinking. He believes the 24-year-old can be molded and will mature.

The Dolphins?

Publicly, they're saying all the right things about not giving up and not being diminished by this trade even though it is not arguable that they are not as good right now, today, as they were before they traded Davis on Sunday.

A lockdown cornerback is simply hard to find in today's NFL.

But the Dolphins have added valuable "ammunition," as Ireland called it and that can be used to address other issues in the future. Yes, I said the future. The truth is that while many fans have the expectation that the Dolphins are going to turn around and use their shiny, new second-round pick on a wide receiver (Miami's biggest hole now) in time for this season, I have serious doubts about that.

I think it's more likely the Dolphins have set themselves up for using that pick or packaging that pick in next year's draft to fill whatever needs this season proves the Dolphins have.

If it plays out that way, count that as a significant difference between the Dolphins and Colts. The Colts gambled and tried to get better on the fly by making a trade now -- even if it means chasing down a trade partner and giving up a second-rounder. The Dolphins would be taking a more careful approach, waiting until next April to use the pick they just acquired.

August 26, 2012

Ireland: Dolphins 'probably not interested' in T.O.

The Miami Dolphins got rid of Brandon Marshall because he had off-field issues and was, in the team's eyes, a problem with teammates. They got rid of Chad Johnson because he didn't fit the culture that coach Joe Philbin wants to establish -- that from Philbin himself.

And today they got rid of Vontae Davis, who is still a very talented player but fits into the category of not fitting the culture based on behind-the-scenes issues we'll get into later.

Is there any doubt whether Terrell Owens has a future with the Miami Dolphins?

"Probably not," general manager Jeff Ireland said when I asked him if he will have any interest in the wide receiver who was cut today by the Seattle Seahawks.

Owens is 38 years old, coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season, and he's not as productive as he once was. He caught two passes for 41 yards in two preseason games with Seattle.

But it is the off-field issues, the drama so to speak, that keeps Owens from being a possible answer for the receiver-starved Dolphins.

Owens has issues with his various paternity obligations. He is struggling financially. He has been known to blow up teammates, such as Donovan McNabb. And he still has hopes of having a reality TV show.

Nope, not happening.

As to the Davis trade, it is clear the Dolphins are getting rid of players they have become uncomfortable with beyond their peformance and Davis fell into that mold. He is only 24 and can change but he lost favor when he had issues being in shape this year, got into a pushing match with Carolina's Steve Smith two weeks ago, lost his starting job and last year showed up to work with a hangover after a late night of drinking.

"We know a lot about our players," Ireland said. "Some of that includes things you don't know about them or isn't seen by the public ..."

By the way, Ireland says the Dolphins might still use the extra draft picks he picked up in the Davis trade on a wide receiver. He called it "ammunition to do things this year or any year."

And that's what leads to those players lately being released or traded.

Vontae Davis traded for multiple draft picks

The Dolphins have traded Vontae Davis for two 2013 draft picks, the team has confirmed.

One pick is believed to be a second-rounder while the other is believed to be a low-round selection, probably a conditional sixth rounder.

The trading of Vontae Davis today signals the Dolphins are in full rebuild mode.

They have a rookie head coach.

They are trading away current talent for future talent.

They are going with a rookie quarterback -- granted a first-round pick, but a rookie nonetheless.

They are, so far, showing no interest in adding a veteran wide receiver -- having passed on the idea of signing Braylon Edwards when he was available. (Terrell Owens is available now after he was cut by Seattle today.)

Back to Davis, general manager Jeff Ireland released a statement on the trade that failed to explain why the team is taking this step:

"We appreciate all the contributions Vontae has made to the Dolphins since we drafted him in 2009 and we want to wish him the best of success in Indianapolis," Ireland said.

I suppose one can argue the Dolphins are getting good value in that they now have two second round picks slated for 2013. Except the Dolphins haven't exactly hit home runs with their second round picks in recent years.

Phillip Merling was a second-round pick. Chad Henne was a second-round pick. Pat White was a second-round pick. Koa Misi was a second round pick. Daniel Thomas was a second-round pick. Most are gone. None are stars.

Colts GM Ryan Grigson, meanwhile, is pleased with his move.

“Bottom line with this move today is we got better as a football team,” Grigson said. “That is always the goal each day for this organization. From the first time he stepped on the field at Illinois as a freshman or in the National Football League as a rookie, you knew Vontae was a special talent. Now he has a chance under Coach (Chuck) Pagano and this coaching staff to reach not only his potential as a football player, but as a person as well. That is our collective goal moving forward.”

Davis to Colts for draft pick, perhaps a player

A couple of days ago the speculation on this blog was that Vontae Davis was on the trade block and Indianapolis was interested in him.

A Dolphins source dismissed the speculation as "rumors." That source has lost credibility with me because today the Dolphins are working on finalizing a trade of Davis to the Colts for a high-round draft pick and perhaps a player, according to another source.

Foxsports is reporting Davis is going to the Colts for a second-round pick.

Trading Davis is a double-edged sword.

Yes, the Dolphins will get at least a high pick in return. Yes, Davis has fallen out of favor with the current coaching staff, losing his starting job at the beginning of training camp when he was out of shape and he's failed to regain it since.

But ...

Davis is young -- only 24 years old.

Davis is cheap -- still playing under his rookie contract that pays him just over $2 million combined for 2012 and 2013.

And cornerbacks, even third corners, are valuable and hard to come by in today's pass-happy NFL. There is also this little issue of Richard Marshall, who has taken over for Davis, not playing all that well Friday night against Atlanta.

Obviously, the Dolphins believe they know something about Davis that the Colts do not. Davis, as we said previously, has had issues with off-field maturity. He was suspended for a game last year when he showed up late and hung over to a walk-thru practice. He was suspended from starting one game in 2010 for breaking unspecified team rules. And, obvously, he was out of shape early this camp.

But that doesn't mean Davis is not talented. He led the team with four interceptions last season. He has been Miami's best cornerback the past three years.

Beyond that, there is this:

This is the second example of the Dolphins this year trading away a player asset for less than they paid without an appreciable replacement being on the roster or horizon.

In the offseason, the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall for two No. 3 draft picks after they gave up two No. 2 draft picks for him two years earlier. And they obviously didn't replace Marshall as Miami's current WR problems show.

Now they are trading away Davis for less than they got. If the Foxsports report is correct, they are getting a second-round pick for a player they drafted in the first round.

And do the Dolphins have a wealth of starting-caliber corners on the roster? No.

Mike Sherman: 'We dropped 8 balls'

It's hard to pick starting receivers when they don't perform. It's hard to pick receivers to fill out the roster when they don't perform. It's hard to judge a rookie quarterback when receivers don't perform.

The Dolphins receivers are not performing this preseason, and didn't perform in the last preseason game against Atlanta.

I wrote Friday night the group dropped seven passes. Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman thinks it was at least eight. Maybe more, depending on how stringent one judges the plays.

That's terrible.

And that leads me to this: The Dolphins need to revamp. Rather than having faith in players that haven't earned it, they need to find replacements. They need to do the work that should have been done in the offseason and look elsewhere for receivers.

I suggested on twitter Friday that Miami contact Green Bay about James Jones and try to swing a trade for him. (Naysyaer alert in whiney voice: But Armando, James Jones isn't a star. But Armando, James Jones drops passes, too.)

Folks, James Jones would be Miami's best receiver today. Period.

I also think the Dolphins should be waiting to see what the Washington Redskins do at tight end because the rumors are the team may be ready to move on from Chris Cooley. (Naysayer alert in whiney voice: But Armando, Cooley gets hurt a lot. But Armando, he's not in his prime anymore.)

Cooley is a better pass-catching tight end than any player on the Miami roster and he could be a major help to a rookie QB that needs a go-to outlet.

Finally, the Dolphins better concoct whatever scheme skullduggery they must to get Reggie Bush more involved in the passing game. He's a better matchup against a linebacker than any receiver is against a corner or safety. And Bush has more dependable hands than most of Miami's receivers. So stick him out there in the slot. Use him in a bunch formation. Do whatever, but make him available to catch passes.

That's my two cents on a stormy Sunday morning.

This is what Sherman told the media Saturday:

(On quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s performance against the Atlanta Falcons) –“Well, obviously there was some…about four or five passes that he wishes he had back that weren’t as accurate as he’s capable of being. But if you eliminate those and you want to look at the game objectively like I did this morning, he did a lot of good things. We dropped about eight balls and maybe even more than that if you want to get sticky on it. If he cuts down a couple of those passes and have a couple dropped balls we pick up, I think he moves the ball, he moves the team and we feel a little bit better about it. He didn’t make a bad decision. All his decisions were very accurate and decisive. I thought his third drive with the team down the field, much like last week, should have resulted in a touchdown. Anthony (Fasano) will catch that ball nine times out of 10. I thought that was a very good drive. I thought he showed good tempo. And the thing about Ryan, once you tell him something, once he fixes it, he fixes it. So I think we’ll be much improved as we move along. Obviously, we have to get better in a hurry.”

(On how tough it will be to determine who makes the team among the receivers) – “Well, they haven’t helped matters. I wish they would say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy’ and jump up on the table by having a knockout performance and that hasn’t necessarily happened just yet. One week it’s one guy. The next week it’s the next guy, so forth and so on. I think we’ll keep (Davone) Bess. I can pretty much guarantee that, but there’s only one of him. We need to fill in the other spots. We’ve got some good guys. It’s just who we think will be there for the long term and who’s going to be there every day. You’re right, we do have some tough decisions to make and I don’t know how much more clarity we’re going to have after the last ball game, but hopefully we will."

(On if wide receiver Davone Bess’ spot on the roster is the only one guaranteed at this point in time) – “No, I think there’s a couple other guys in there. It doesn’t hurt for them to worry about who they are and if they want to…”

(On his thoughts on the best treatment for dropped passes) – “Well, you know, obviously the best treatment, in my mind, for dropped passes is just to re-focus in practice and put a lot of effort and time into it. We catch a lot of balls in practice and I don’t know if the rain was a distraction. They didn’t drop passes, so we can’t use that as an excuse. Receivers going in and out of the game, trying to evaluate guys, we have different guys in there all the time, so that’s a little bit of a distraction maybe for the quarterback. But just go back to work and re-focus on the tip of the ball and put it away. There’s no magical secret or I would have been down there after the first quarter and got it done.”

(On guard John Jerry showing improvement) – “He played very well last week. I thought he did some good things in the game. Going against his brother, obviously that’s quite a challenge whenever you can go against family members like that in the trenches. He did do some good things. His footwork was a little bit eschew at times, a little long in his stride, but we’ve got to clean that up this week. Overall, he did some good things.”

(On the state of the offensive line two week from the opener) –“You know, we still have some work to do. I’m concerned a lot about our depth and the backup offensive linemen are much like the receivers. Someone needs to jump in there and say, ‘Hey, keep me. I’m the guy you need to have here to back up these guys.’ I thought (Nate) Garner played well and did some good things in there when he was in there. (Josh) Samuda did some good things in there. A couple of guys expressed themselves in the game that they want to be the guy, but the depth is something definitely we’re concerned about and quality of depth. We all know that the season doesn’t go without getting somebody banged up or beat up. Some people have to step in. Hopefully, Artis (Hicks) can come back and add another viable candidate to that group.”

(On when game planning for the Houston Texans begins)– “It actually began last April. So we started breaking them down and doing things. I was watching them this summer when I was on vacation. So we’ve had an eye on them. Very good football team. Very well coached. They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes. They run the heck out of the football obviously as we know and they play very tenacious defense. Wade Phillips has done a great job bringing that defense around.”

(On how much action the starters might see on Wednesday against the Dallas Cowboys)– “I’ve got to check with Coach (Joe) Philbin on that. Certainly, getting closer to the game, you kind of back off a little bit. I would envision Ryan playing more and getting some snaps. Certainly, we have to be cautious with what we’re doing, but he needs more game reps. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get him some. It depends on, I don’t think Jake Long needs too much, Mike Pouncey, (Richie) Incognito probably are ready. I thought all three of those guys played pretty well in the game. (They) did a nice job.”

August 25, 2012

Dolphins trim roster to 78, three more moves coming

The Dolphins cut nine players this morning and placed another on the physically unable to perform list trim the roster to 78. The club needs three more roster moves by 4 p.m. on Monday to get to the 75-man limit.

The moves today:

Cut: TE Les Brown (as ushge), DT Chas Alecxih, CB Marcus Brown, safety Tyrell Johnson (a free agency bust), CB Trent Hughes, LB Josh Linam, RB Jerome Messam, DE Jacquies Smith, and CB Jonathan Wade (who got burned for two TDs Friday night).

The club also placed running back Jonas Gray on the PUP.

During his press conference today, coach Joe Philbin made the point his team needs work. They will practice today, Sunday and Monday before playing Dallas on Wednesday in the preseason-finale. Usually starters don't get very much action in that game.

But the Dolphins need work so Philbin left the door open for playing starters a bit longer than usual.

"I wouldn't rule anything out," he said.

By the way, just as Wade had a terrible game, Richard Marshall was not necessarily good last night. He had a chance to slam the door closed on the starting job at cornerback and he played poorly. He simply watched as Julio Jones caught a 49-yard pass that was more like a punt and his tackling was suspect.

Vontae Davis had a pass interference that nullified his own interception.

So no one is exactly stepping forward. It's wide open between Davis and Marshall.

"We're not ready to name a starter," Philbin said, "but Vontae is certainly in the mix."

August 24, 2012

Dolphins are not ready for the regular season

On the bright side ... the regular season is still two weeks away.

The dim reality ... it's going to take longer than two weeks to make the Dolphins even halfway decent. But it wasn't all terrible.

And, as I wrote in my column for today's Miami Herald, the starters on defense kept the Falcons out of the end zone and showed some progress.

"It looked more like the defense I thought we'd be seeing," coach Joe Philbin said.

Otherwise, this 23-6 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons was painful to watch. The Dolphins look like a bad team right now. They play like a bad team right now.

"Don't ask me for answers, I just block," guard Richie Incognito said half-kiddingly, half-seriously. "It's a situation right now where it's preseason and we're trying to find our indentity and you have to go watch the tape and figure out what's wrong. This is the time to correct it.

"We have two weeks to work. We have two weeks to fix what we did wrong. We have to find rhythm on offense and find a way to put the ball in the end zone."

Two weeks to turn things around. For a receiver corps -- tight ends included -- that has shown practically zero improvement this preseason, the only way we see a turnaround is if we see a fresh set of players.

I'm not giving up on the youngsters. But some guys simply are who they are. The fact is this corps has struggle so much that Brian Hartline's chances of making the team have improved while he's been injured and not playing.

No one made plays this night. No one. In truth, there were seven dropped passes -- three by starting tight end Anthony Fasano.

"The coaches told us that coming in, they want someone who is going to start it off for us," Legedu Naanee said. "Nobody grabbed that tonight, we need to get back to work and make sure the next time we have the opportunity to make plays."

Quarterback Ryan Tannhill was not good against Atlanta. He had a 37.9 quarterback rating while he completed only 11 of 27 passes. But you give him the four or five passes that were dropped and suddenly his numbers look more acceptable.

Despite that, Tannehill tried to strike a typically positive chord.

"We did some things better than we did last week," he said. "And we did some things not as good as last week. I thought we improved. The line did a great job.

"We couldn't find a rhythm. We just need to be more consistent in my play and the offense as a whole. We need to be more consistent."

The regular season is coming. The Dolphins are not ready