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71 posts from August 2012

August 14, 2012

Backups please Coyle but starters have work to do

It's never good when the head coach says the second-team players look better than the starters. That is quite damning.

And yet, that is exactly what coach Joe Philbin said of his defense after their preseason-opener against Tampa Bay. "They looked more like a defense," was among Philbin's critiques.

I guess so when you consider the starting defense last week yielded 14 points in barely over one quarter of work and Tampa Bay's QBs were 12 of 13 for 132 yards passing the football. Miami mustered no sacks. And no turnovers.

Obviously, there are issues there.

Vontae Davis, struggling through camp, got beat on one of the first few plays he was in the game. Sean Smith missed a couple of tackles. Neither Cameron Wake nor anybody else got any sort of pressure on the passer. The team gave up two rushing touchdowns. And Tampa Bay won on third down -- a lot.

So it falls on defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to correct the problems in the next three weeks before the regular-season opener. We see the progress Friday night against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the second preseason game.

This is Coyle's take on the matter:

August 13, 2012

Preseason's second depth chart is out (yawn)

I kindly urge you to take the following with the proverbial grain of salt:

The Dolphins just released their second depth chart of the preseason. Matt Moore is listed as the starting quarterback with Ryan Tannehill second.

That does not mean Moore will start Friday night against Carolina in the second preseason game. It means he's simply the first-team guy right now. The Dolphins practice Tuesday and Wednesday and things can change before Friday.

The depth chart:

2012 MIAMI DOLPHINS TENTATIVE DEPTH CHART bASED OFF LAST PRESEASON GAME

OFFENSE

WR 19 Legedu Naanee 11 Julius Pruit 83 Jeff Fuller 86 Rishard Mathews

16 B.J. Cunningham 81 Chris Hogan

*10 Clyde Gates

LT 77 Jake Long 76 Lydon Murtha *69 Ray Feinga

60 Will Yeatman

LG 68 Richie Incognito 65 Erich Steinbach 63 Chandler Burden

C 51 Mike Pouncey 64 Josh Samuda 62 Ryan Cook

RG 73 Aris Hicks 75 Nate Garner 74 John Jerry

RT 71 Jonathan Marin 67 Andrew McDonald 61 Will Barker

TE 80 Anthony Fasano 42 Charles Clay 88 Jeron Mastrud 84 Michael Egnew

87 Les Brown

WR 15 Davone Bess 14 Marlon Moore 18 Roberto Wallace *82 Brian Hartline

QB 8 Mat Moore 17 Ryan Tannehill 7 Pat Devlin *9 David Garrard

FB 41 Jorvorskie Lane 6 Ryan Mahaffey 35 Jerome Messam

RB 22 Reggie Bush 33 Daniel Thomas 23 Steve Slaton 44 Lamar Miller

34 Marcus Thigpen

46 Jonas Gray

DEFENSE

LE 98 Jared Odrick 79 Derrick Shelby 70 Jarrell Root

DT 94 Randy Starks 78 Tony McDaniel 66 Chas Alecxih

DT 96 Paul Soliai 97 Kheeston Randall 95 IsaakoAaitui 90 Ryan Baker

RE 91 Cameron Wake 50 Olivier Vernon 52 Jamaal Westerman 72 Jacquies Smith

LB 56 Kevin Burnet 59 Gary Guyton 49 Jonathan Freeny 48 Shelly Lyons

LB 58 Karlos Dansby 53 Ausin Spitler 45 Cameron Collins

LB 55 Koa Misi 93 Jason Trusnik 57 Josh Kaddu

CB 24 Sean Smith 28 Nolan Carroll 25 Jonathan Wade 47 Trenton Hughes

32 Marcus Brown

CB 31 Richard Marshall 21 Vontae Davis 36 Quinten Lawrence 38 Kevyn Scot

43 Vincent Agnew

S 30 Chris Clemons 27 Jimmy Wilson 26 Tyrell Johnson *37 Kelcie McCray

S 20 Reshad Jones 29 Tyrone Culver 40 Anderson Russell

SPECIALISTS

P 2 Brandon Fields

K 5 Dan Carpenter

KO 5 Dan Carpenter

H 2 Brandon Fields

KOR 34 Marcus Thigpen 44 Lamar Miller 23 Steve Slaton *10 Clyde Gates

PR 15 Davone Bess 86 Rishard Mathews *34 Marcus Thigpen *10 Clyde Gates

LS 92 John Denney

2012 Rookies Underlined

*Did not dress last week

Players split on Johnson release but Philbin is right

Let's address the drama first: Yes, as I reported on NFL-AM and the Mike and Mike Show on ESPN2 this morning, there is a contingent of Dolphins players that are unhappy Chad Johnson was cut. They believe it unfair and some, specifically Karlos Dansby, have said as much publicly.

But I must also report there are multiple players that are either quite happy or ambivalent about the move. "This is a solid lockerroom we don't need no clowns here," was a text I got from one such player early this morning.

So I wish to convey a fair view of what the lockerroom is feeling. It's not everyone disagreeing with coach Joe Philbin's decision and certainly not everyone signing off on it either.

And having said that, I agree with the group that believes getting rid of Johnson was best. I agree with Joe Philbin's decision. I think it will ultimately be in the best interest of the team. I believe it will limit the amount of unwanted attention that shines on the Dolphins.

Moreover, I believe the Dolphins didn't necessarily lose a dynamic playmaker when they cut Johnson. They cut a guy who was probably going to play OK. But special? A Pro Bowl player? Nope.

Philbin is doing the right thing and for the right reason. Look, Johnson's bizarre behavior weighed against his importance to the team simply didn't balance out. He wasn't a fit. And Philbin said as much.

"It was more a body evidence from June 11th forward," Philbin said. "When he came in June 11th we sat down and we talked and we were very clear, I was very clear as to the expectations of the program. It just didn't work out. It's more about the fit. In my gut I didn't think the fit was going to be beneficial to either party whether it be in the short-term or longterm. That's what it was all about. It wasn't one specific thing. It just wasn't going to work."

This coach, new and untested as he is, deserves the benefit of putting on his roster the players he thinks fit. Remember, it's not always about the best 53 players but the right 53 players that makes winners.

Having said that, this coach is also under the gun now. He and his staff were hired because owner Stephen Ross believed he could do a better job of developing players than, say, Tony Sparano and his staff. This coach is supposed to be able to take young players and get them to play like the young guys played in Green Bay the past few years.

So now he's got to get that done. He has to milk every last ounce of production from Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore and B.J. Cunningham and Rishard Matthews and Julius Pruitt and Jeff Fuller and all the other young receivers.

He was hired to make tough calls. He made a tough call on Johnson. He was hired to develop players. Well ... develop the young receivers.

Philbin explains release of Chad Johnson

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin knew the Chad Johnson release would be first on the media's list of questions this morning so he tried to blunt those questions as well as he could by opening his press conference with a statement.

This is that prepared statement the coach read before the media:

"I'd like to address the roster move we made last night. As with any type of these decisions, it was not an easy one. It was not reactive. Nor was it based on one single incident. In making these decisions we base our evaluations on a set of criteria that supports our organizational goals and includes the player's performance both on and off the field.

"Essentially, we take into account the overall body of evidence to determine whether an individual is the right fit for this organization, and more specifically, this football team. That's how we made previous decisions and will continue to do so moving forward. Now I'd like to focus on moving ahead and I'll take any questions about those players who were out on the field today." 

Chad Johnson's release puts a lot of pressure on ...

The Dolphins personnel department: The front office took a gamble on Chad Johnson and lost. But in doing so it created something of a "progress stopper" that its very philosophy says to avoid. Johnson took at minimum 300 repetitions with the starting offense since camp opened. I'm sure the Dolphins wish those now wasted reps had gone to someone that will actually be on the team. The Johnson signing also gave the personnel department a feeling of false security. It could flirt with but not actually sign Braylon Edwards because the desperation factor wasn't there. Instead of Edwards the personnel department signed guard Eric Steinbach instead. Edwards caught two passes for 51 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown in his Seattle Seahawks debut. Steinbach is working with the second unit at left guard. And, of course, Johnson is unemployed right now.

Brian Hartline: If Johnson goes out and Hartline comes in, I see no drop-off for the Dolphins. Hartline, when healthy, can be more of a downfield threat than Johnson at this stage in his career and his hands are more dependable. The problem is Hartline hasn't been healthy. He's been nursing a calf injury since training camp began and hasn't practiced but once or twice as a result. The Dolphins need him. Badly. Immediately.

[Morning update: Hartline is not practicing today. Again.]

Roberto Wallace: He had a fine game in the preseason opener Friday night. He was rewarded by running with the first team offense on Sunday. This is his opportunity to shine. And his opportunity to disappoint. It is a two-edged sword. If he responds, awesome! But if he gets this big break and drops it, that could be a Dolphins career killer for him.

The other young Dolphins receivers: I've told you for some time that the Dolphins wanted at least two young receivers to burst onto the scene this training camp. They now need that to happen because Johnson's departure opens a roster spot that demands filling by someone deserving of being on an NFL roster. So Julius Priutt, B.J. Cunningham, Rishard Matthews and Jeff Fuller suddenly get a chance to win a roster spot that wasn't going to be there if Johnson stuck around. Time to step up.

And, of course, the Dolphins personnel department again: Whether it be adding Lee Evans, or Plaxico Burress or finding someone off waivers when players start getting cut, the department needs to add talent to Miami's wide receiver corps.

[Radio and TV note: I'll be on NFLAM on NFL Network at 6:35 a.m. today and on Mike and Mike on ESPN2 and ESPN radio at 8:30 a.m.]

August 12, 2012

Don't be surprised if Tannehill starts Friday

If the distance between third-string quarterback Ryan Tannehill and and second-stringer Matt Moore was small last week, as coach Joe Philbin said Friday, it seems much smaller today. In fact, it can be argued the two are tied in the battle to become the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback.

And while Tannehill seems to be climbing, Moore seems to be fading.

Both players took first-team snaps in practice today. I was not there. But The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley tracked the practice and reports Tannehill had the better day.

Beyond that, coach Joe Philbin did not rule out starting Tannehill against Carolina Friday night in the second preseason game.

Beyond that, Philbin also made the point he would like to pick a starter for the regular-season opener by the time the Dolphins play their third preseason game.

"Our plan all along was to get all three of those quarterbacks reps with the first group in the preseason," Philbin said referencing Tannehill, Moore and injured David Garrard. "We haven't quite crossed that bridge yet. We'll figure all that out as the week progresses."

Asked if Tannehill would get a chance to start in the preseason, Philbin responded ...

"In one of these games we'll definitely try it, yeah, sure."

Here's the deal: Moore already started a game. If this competition is going to be completely fair, Tannehill needs to show what he can do with Miami's starting group and against a starting defense to give the coaches an apples-to-apples comparison.

So it makes sense for the Dolphins to start Tannehill Friday -- keeping in mind he cannot drop off the table in practice the next four days to earn that distinction. That would be the fair way to draw the comparison. Moore versus starters one week. Tannehill versus starters the next week. Moore coming in as a backup one week after Tannehill came in as a backup.

Philbin does not want to publicly commit to a starter yet because he sees what we see. He sees his rookie advancing and his veterans falling off -- Garrard because of the knee injury and Moore because, well, I don't know why.

The problem is the Dolphins don't have a lot of time to make a decision if they are going to keep to their original plans. The team wanted to know who would be the starting quarterback after Friday's outcome.

"I've stated in the past that in an ideal situation when you have a quarterback competition in training camp, you'd probably like to have your starter named after your second preseason game," Philbin said. "The plan right now would be that our starters would play their most snaps against Atlanta (in the third preseason game). That would lead you to believe if things were right you would have your starter by then."

But if Tannehill and Moore -- oh so close to one another -- cannot separate, then what?

"I'm going to look at film and evaluate the position," the coach said. "I'm going to do the best thing for the football team to win games. I can stand up here and say I do believe that will be the scenario that unfolds, however, it may not. So we're going to have to be flexible and do the best thing for the team and make the decision when the time comes."

One more thing: The depth chart that will come out Monday will not be the final word on which quarterback starts for Miami Friday. It may be a snapshot of the competition on Monday. But Philbin says this is perhaps the preseason's most important practice week. A lot of things can happen. A lot of things can change.

So the first-team QB on Monday might not be the starter Friday. Come to think of it, last week, the first-team quarterback on Monday did not start the game Friday.

 

Police report: Johnson doesn't give a (bleep) about career

Chad Johnson has officially bonded out of jail at this hour but the details of the Saturday arrest that has his Dolphins career hanging by a thread are coming out via the police report.

According to the report, Johnson and his wife Evelyn Lozada returned from shopping around 7:10 p.m. Saturday. When Lozada was taking grocieries out of the trun of the car she "located a Walgreen's receipt in the vehicle's trunk for a box of condoms."

"The two then sat inside of their black smart car that was parked in the driveway directly in front of the house. They began talking about the sales receipt and their marriage. As they were talking Johnson became upset and without Lozada's permission grabbed her and head-butted her on the forehead causing a laceration. Johnson began screaming and Lozada attempted to calm Johnson down. He began screaming, "I don't give a (expletived deleted)! I don't give a (expletive deleted) about my career!"

"Lozada then fled on foot to a neighbor's house to get away from Johnson."

The police report goes on to say that Johnson claimed it was Lozada who head-butted him rather than the other way around. Johnson, the police report said, had no visible marks or bruises. Lozada, the report says, has a laceration approximately three-inches long.

Interestingly, Lozada told police she wished to press charges and signed an affidavit of complaint stating as much. That was before she was transported to a hospital. At the hospital, Lozada was treated, photos of her injury were taken, and a sworn statement was taped.

So much for the idea she won't be cooperating with the prosecution.

Johnson's behavior puts Philbin, Dolphins on trial

Chad Johnson was arrested on a misdeameanor domestic violence charge Saturday when police said he head-butted his wife Evelyn Lozada. And while the wife's cooperation and various legal wranglings will determine if Johnson will ever go on trial for the charge, the episode does guarantee one trial immediately.

Today, the Dolphins and their new coach are on trial.

This is not a trial of law or justice. This one will be a trial to see if Dolphins coach Joe Philbin means what he says and whether his words can be believed or not.

You see, the irony of Johnson's arrest is that it comes in the same week when Philbin already warned the player that he had to meet a certain standard of conduct to remain on the team.

Philbin was displeased that Johnson conducted what I have termed the most bizarre press conference in Dolphins history -- complete with multiple F-bombs, painted nails, talk of porn, and other ridiculousness.

That led Philbin to have a private heart-to-heart with Johnson. Except as the Dolphins are the subject of this summer's Hard Knocks series on HBO, the private conversation was captured in all its apparent lengthy discomfort for national cable airing.

And later, Philbin told Hard Knocks that unless Johnson fell into line he was in jeopardy of losing his job.

And then Philbin made the point to the rest of the media that he promised club owner Stephen Ross to run the organization in a certain way and that if people became an embarrassment for the organization, they wouldn't be part of the program.

Remember all that?

Philbin's words:

"Everybody's different," he said. "We want to let guys be themselves. However, we think everybody has an obligation to get on board with the program. I told Mr. Ross we were going to have men that represented themselves in the right way on and off the field. And that's important to me. It's important to our staff. I believe it's important to our owner that we do things the right way."

The "right way" has so far eluded Johnson. He's embarrassed the coach with that press conference. And now he's embarrassed himself and the organization by getting arrested. And for hitting a woman, no less.

And so the trial begins. No, not Johnson's trial, but Philbin's.

Is the coach going to keep Johnson on the team? Is he going to let this slide? Or is he going to cut the player on the spot. As early as today?

I'm certain Philbin can say he's going to wait to let the legal issue work itself out and hide behind the idea that Johnson will likely not be prosecuted -- this is a guess because usually spouses decline to cooperate with authorities and the issue disappears. Also, this is Johnson's apparent first offense in the local judicial system.

So the Dolphins can simply kinda sorta look the other way and let this thing blow over and keep Johnson. They've done it before, indeed many teams get away with this tact all the time. Guys beat up their wives or girlfriends and the teams separate themselves from the issue in the name of letting the law handle the matter. Then high-priced attorneys make the matter go away and the athlete keeps his job because the team is able to say it won't punish the athlete when the legal system didn't.

Happens all the time.

So Philbin and the Dolphins can probably go this route as many organizations and coaches often do to save face.

Or ...

Is the coach going to prove that his words are not just lip service? Is the coach going to actually do what he has said -- which is to weed out the idiots? Is Philbin going to cut Johnson for sullying the name of the Dolphins on multiple occasions in a one-week span?

Such a move would send a strong message. It would tell the rest of the locker room that coach isn't going to put up with this kind of behavior, particularly if you're barely hanging on as it is. It would send the message to fans and media that Philbin can be believed when he says something because put to the test, he did what he said he'd do.

So today could be a telling day.

Joe Philbin and the Dolphins have a choice. They are on trial. Chad Johnson's behavior put them there.

Now we watch for a verdict.

ypepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/#storylink=cp

 

August 11, 2012

Rewinding the game: Dolphins versus Tampa Bay

I watched the Dolphins 20-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a second time today. Miami still loses. Imagine that. And while there were some good points the Dolphins will probably emphasize for public consumption, there was also a troubling theme to this game:

Nobody that the Dolphins are counting on this year made a big play.

"Look, we’re looking for guys who can make great plays," coach Joe Philbin said after the game. "Whether it’s impact plays, whether it be third down, whether it be a defensive end beating an offensive tackle, sacking a quarterback, a receiver beating a corner in a one-on-one match up, a running back eluding a tackle and making a play, those types of things.

"I don’t think we had enough of them. Tampa Bay had more of it."

Some proof of that?

The startingdefense gave up a 92-yard drive to Tampa Bay's second-team quarterback Dan Orlovsky. That's a long way to go without a play being made. The starting offense didn't score.

Chad Johnson, who is supposed to deliver big plays this season, dropped the only pass thrown his way and the painful thing is it came on third down.

Even Ryan Tannehill, who was among the best Miami players in the game, had Marlon Moore open in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter and he hurried his pass and skipped it just ahead of Moore instead of delivering on target.

"I had Marlon on a great route, my eyes got big and didn’t set my feet (and) threw the ball into the ground," Tannehill said. "That’s one I’d like to have back. He ran a great route, was wide open. There’s no reason I shouldn’t get him the ball there and score a touchdown. I was really upset with that one there. I just got a little antsy and threw the ball in the dirt. You’ve got to score. To win games, you’ve got to put points on the board. It doesn’t matter how many yards you throw for, what your completion percentage is. You’ve got to score points. (I) definitely want to work on that and finishing drives in the red zone next week.”

Some other notes from the game rewind: 

Rookie RT Jonathan Martin: He played every snap into the third quarter. He didn't give up a sack. But he did pick up two false start penalties. He also yielded a quarterback pressure.

Fourth down inside the 5 yard line: Tampa Bay had it once in that situation and converted. Miami had it once in that situation and a Ryan Tannehill pass to Charles Clay was tipped away incomplete.

Kick return: Marcus Thigpen has to be kicking himself (pardon the pun) because he was supposed to get a lot of work returning kicks. But he was injured and did not play. So Lamar Miller and Rishard Matthews got the work instead. And while Miller didn't impress, Matthews was very good. Matthews had a 45-yard return that opened some eyes. Miller, a source tells me, needs to practice better. He's kind of just going along instead of attacking each practice session. He kind of played that way Friday.

Special teams note 1: Dan Carpenter only missed five field goal attempts last year. He missed two Friday night.

Special teams note 2: Jason Trusnick was Johnny on the spot when he recovered a muffed punt. Good work.

The line of scrimmage battle: it was won by Tampa Bay on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins created zero quarterback pressure. They had no sacks. Tampa Bay only had one sack but there was pressure. That's one reason Maat Moore had a couple of passes deflected at the line of scrimmage. As for run blocking? Pat Devlin was Miami's leading rusher on the night. Enough said. On the other hand, the Miami defense lost contain a couple of times. On one, LaGarrette Blount gained 16 yards on a run wide left when Gary Guyton got blocked downa dn Cameron Wake didn't contain on the edge.

Most impressive WR: That would be Roberto Wallace. He caught passes . He broke a couple of tackles. Yes, he dropped a TD pass. But Wallace feasted on the Tampa Bay backup secondary. Afterward, however, he was thinking of the missed TD and I supose that's what led him to say, "I left a lot of food on the table."

More on wide receivers: The Dolphins want, indeed need, one or two of their younger receivers to step up.Wallace (4 catches, 71 yards) did that. Julius Pruitt (6 catches, 52 yards) did that some. They seriously helped themselves.

Jimmy Wilson inexperience: He is a converted cornerbck. He still reacts as one at times and that was the case on Tiquan Underwood's 43-yard catch between Wilson and Smith. The ball should have been intercepted by Wilson but as the ball came down he waited to catch it with his body rather than reach for it at his highest point. That gave Underwood the chance to snatch it for the reception.

Missed tackles count: Three. Sean Smith had two, Koa Misi had one. But I must confess, I stopped counting when the starters left the field. Sue me.

Tannehill outplays Moore, deserves chance to start

I must admit I didn't think it would be a good idea for the Dolphins to start rookie Ryan Tannehill this year -- at least not early in the season -- because I figured David Garrard would be good enough and Tannehill would be better served learning behind a veteran quarterback.

Well, that's not in the cards now.

Garrard is out of the picture. Although coach Joe Philbin refused to acknowlege Garrard is having knee surgery, likely today, the truth is he's out for at least two weeks and probably twice that long. By then, the Dolphins will have named a starting quarterback.

So the competition for the Dolphins starting job is apparently now a two-man race between Tannehill and Matt Moore.

And if the competition will be decided by whomever is playing better, then that answer right now has to be Tannehill. Obviously, that can change. In fact, it can change on an almost daily basis because as Philbin said, the competition was very close before the game was played.

"I don't think it's huge," Philbin said. "I think it's relatively close, probably."

But the Dolphins have had a scrimmage. And then the first preseason game was played ...

And Tannehill played better.

Moore completed 7 of 12 passes for 79 yards with an interception. His rating was 43.4. He didn't get the team in the end zone, which is my ultimate measure of quarterback success. I grant you, Moore faced Tampa Bay's starters in the first quarter. But he also faced the second-team defense and still didn't score.

Tannehill got the Dolphins in the end zone once and obviously that does not count the TD pass that Roberto Wallace dropped. The pace of the game seemed to pick up when Tannehill was in. He didn't throw an interception. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 167 yards. And he seemed to have control of the game, changing the play two or three times to get to better plays.

"We had a fast-tempo run play designed into our boundry and they had blitz called and if had he handed the ball off it would have been a minus play -- minus 3, minus 4 yards," Philbin said. "But he made a quick decision, no hesitation, saw it clearly, got the ball out and we got a seven or eight-yard gain. Those are the kind of things we like to see from a rookie quarterback."

Me, too. Those are the kind of things I like from veterans, too.

Moore is capable of making those kind of changes at the line. He is capable of playing well at times. But let's face it, if Tannehill is this close to him now, if he played better than Moore Friday, what is the point of holding Tannehill back?

Play him. Start him!

The Dolphins are clearly not a Super Bowl caliber team. The idea of nursing the psyche of veterans by starting a veteran is not valid as a result. And it really isn't a factor if the rookie is nearly as good now.

Why?

Because he's the future. And I'm not talking about the future in a year or two. At this rate, Tannehill might be better than Moore in a couple of months.

Even Moore accepts his competition is supremely talented. "It's evident and very clear he can play .. I know he's good and talented."

So why wait? Play the kid.

August 10, 2012

Live blog of Dolphins preseason Game 1

It is the Miami Dolphins versus Tampa Bay.

No David Garrard (check the previous entries). No Clyde Gates or Brian Hartline, either.

So what to expect?

Vontae Davis is not starting despite the insistence of some in the media that he has not been demoted -- at least temporarily.

Matt Moore will start and is expected to get 15 plays or so. I expect Ryan Tannehill will follow and actually get work with the starters. This is a competition he's legitimately in, folks. He has a chance to win the starting job if he's better than Moore because Garrard has been all but  eliminated from the quarterback competition.

Interesting only to me: This Garrard injury raises questions. what the heck is the deal when a guy who has "loose bodies" on his knee, as the quarterback told Fox's Jay Glazer, is able to practice for three weeks with no issues?

And if he had those issues, how did he pass the team's physical?

I smell something here. And it ain't roses.

Anyway, live blog tonight. Meet me in the comments section.

Hits keep coming: Gates, Thigpen, Feinga also out tonight

David Garrard is not the only Dolphins player scratched from tonight's preseason-opener versus Tampa Bay.

Clyde Gates (hamstring), Marcus Thigpen (leg), Ray Feinga (illness), Brian Hartline (leg) and Kelcie McCray (foot) have all been scratched.

The most disappointing of these are Gates and Thigpen.

Gates has been on-again-off-again in practice relative to his performance and his health. The fact he's not showing up tonight has to be troubling given his inconsistent play in practice.

Thigpen is being given an opportunity to make the team as a kick returner and special teams player. But if he cannot compete, he cannot win a spot on the roster. So this hurts.

David Garrard injured, won't play tonight

Dolphins quarterback David Garrard confirmed moment ago he has an knee injury that will prevent him from playing tonight versus Tampa Bay and may prevent him from playing for several more weeks -- thus putting his assault on the Dolphins starting quarterback job in jeopardy.

"I'm going to sit back a couple of days and study my situation," Garrard said. "I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach. I'll be alright, though."

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Garrard had minor knee surgery. ESPN reported Garrard is expected to undergo surgery."

Garrard said he would wait a couple of days before any surgery.

[Update: Al Irby, Garrard's agent, tells The Herald's Adam Beasley that the surgery is likely Saturday morning.]

Regardless of the surgery's timing, it derails the veteran's plans to win the Dolphins starting quarterback competition.

Matt Moore is now expected to start against Tampa Bay with Ryan Tannehill as his backup and Pat Devlin behind them. The Dolphins quarterback competition, which Garrard was leading, now becomes a two-man race to the season-opener between Moore and Tannehill.

The Dolphins open Sept. 9 at Houston.

Even if Garrard is out only four weeks, it would be unlikely that he would be ready to play that game.

Dolphins will require fewer seats sold to lift TV blackout

The Dolphins today are announcing they will take advantage of the league's option of counting fewer seats sold in order to lift the weekly television blackout -- meaning the club now has to sell 51,128 tickets 72 hours before kickoff rather than the 60,500 it previously had to sell for the game to be on TV.

The NFL allows teams to discount up to 15 percent of its stadiium capacity in determining a sellout. The "manifested" capacity for Sun Life will be 65,000 including club seat and suites. The club seats and suites are not figured when determining a TV blackout or the lifting of that blackout.

While the team can continue to sell all of its 75,000 tickets to fill Sun Life, only 65,000 will count as the manifested capacity.

"This provides us the best opportunity to keep games on television," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said.

Last year the Dolphins had to purchase their own tickets to at least five of their eight home games to insure a home sellout. The idea of needing to sell fewer tickets to lift the TV blackout is a way of serving local fans who demand the games be on TV while at the same time saving the club the expense of buying so many or any tickets to make that happen.

There is a trade-off. While the club can still sell all 75,000 seats, the NFL will collect a bigger chunk of the windfall from the sale of seats above those manifested.

The move suggests the Dolphins envision trouble selling seats again this year in coach Joe Philbin's first year. But Dee points out the team is actually ahead of last year's season-ticket sales pace of 42,584.

"We could easily beat last year's number," he said. "We have sold 8,000 new season tickects this year so far so we have a chance to lead the league in new season ticket customers if not be in the top three."

That does not necessarily mean the Dolphins will eclipse 50,000 season tickets sold because there are obviously season ticket customers from previous years that did not renew for 2012.

Dee was asked if the Dolphins feel their stadium is currently too large for their local fan base, fan interest and the relative success of the team. He declined to say but did point out that Sun Life has 35,000 seats in the 400 level while most stadium around the NFL average between 22,000-25,000, he said. 

 

Quarterbacks have A LOT to prove tonight

This is the first of multiple posts today, including a live blog tonight, so come back often.

Tonight's preseason-opener for the Dolphins is a time to unveil (sort of because they don't want to show too much) a new coach, a new staff, a new offense and defense, and a new philosophy. But let's not kid ourselves ...

Tonight against Tampa Bay and next week's preseason game at Carolina will be the main deciding factors as to which quarterback will win the starting job. (The Dolphins want a starter settled in by the third preseason game.)

So tonight is mostly about the quarterbacks.

And all four have something to prove, something to worry about, something to hang their hats on. All four have a chance to either improve or hurt their chances. All four will be under the microscope.

Breaking it down for all four:

David Garrard: He's leading the pack right now, but that doesn't mean his lead is insurmountable. Indeed, coach Joe Philbin named him first-string but declined to say he's start the game because the depth chart came out Monday and there practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the coach said if someone had a better week of preparation, that player might start tonight. So while we expect Garrard to start, it is not absolutely certain right now to outsiders such as myself.

Wherever Garrard plays, his performance tonight is important because it can help solidify his status as the favorite to win the job or turn it into a major question. He's got to show that he's knocked the rust off after missing all of last season. He's got to show that he has command of the offense and respect of his teammates. He's got to show he can take a hit after missing last year with a back injury that required surgery.

"Yeah, I’m not even going to lie to you just because I haven’t been hit since then, but I feel great," Garrard said. "I don’t feel any different than before surgery. I should be fine. There shouldn’t be any issues."

Yes, that's what we heard from Daunte Culpepper in the 2006 preseason about his knee. So pardon me if I believe stuff when I see it.

Matt Moore: He's not a happy man right now -- understandably so. He came into this training camp knowing he'd be in a quarterback battle, but also recognized as the leading candidate to win the starting job based on his leadership, the respect he commands in the locker room, and the fact he was the starter at the end of last season. That is mostly gone now.

Moore's play wasn't as good as Garrard's (and I'd even say as good as rookie Ryan Tannehill). That's right. I think Tannehill has been better than Moore. So wasting that initial advantage has Moore frustrated.

"I’m the No. 2 like you said, so I guess it’s frustrating a little bit, but I’m not worried," Moore said. " I’m not overly concerned that it’s going to wreck my performance or wreck my play from here on out. We’re just competing and nothing’s changed in practice at all. I think they had to have a starting point and that’s how they went. That’s how this league works. Not everybody can play.”

I've heard a lot that Moore has struggled in practices because he's more of "a gamer." I've heard he's a lot better when the lights come up and the people are in the stands and the pressure is on. Even Moore has fed into that a bit.

“I think that’s when you need to be at your best and, playing in a game, that’s why you play this game," he said. "You love doing that. You love competing. It is one thing to do it out here, but you really got to step it up on game day. So I’m pumped."

Well, this is his chance to prove that. This thing they're playing tonight is called a game.

Ryan Tannehill: Did you read what I wrote above? I think he's the second-best quarterback in camp right now and the gap between him and Garrard isn't insurmountable that Tannehill cannot win the starting job this preseason.

Now, there are theories out that that state Tannehill is simply being groomed this preseason. That when it is all over, the plan is to have him sit for a while and marinate and get more mature and we'll get back to him later on when he's more ready to play.

That a bunch a hooey.

Coaches haven't decided Tannehill isn't going to start. They don't have some agenda to sit him no matter what. If he is the best QB in camp, he'll start. Coaches feel that way and Tannehill feels that way.

"I’m excited about where I’m at, I guess eight practices in now," Tannehill said. "(I’m) just trying to be the best quarterback that I can be. Obviously, as a competitor, I want to be the guy from Game One. It’s really up to the coaches to decide if they found the best guy for the team. I want the best guy that’s going to be able to lead this team to the most victories this year to be in there obviously. Hopefully, that’s me. I’m doing everything I can to be that guy, but, if not, then I’m just going to try and keep getting better every day."

 I believe his improvement has taken him past Moore already although the depth chart says otherwise. Can it take him past Garrard? Tonight's game will help us find out.

Pat Devlin: This kid is smart. He works hard. He has shown himself to be coachable. But ...

He's in a tough spot against either more talented competition or more experienced competition or both. Devlin cannot play himself into the Dolphins starting job, no matter what he does out there against third- and fourth-team players. It is simply not reality.

But he can play himself into a practice squad job. He can play himself perhaps into the coaching staff's confidence to the point where he might be the third quarterback and if one of the two vets are cut or traded.

And, of course, he can play himself into role on another team as I watched some games Thursday night and the backup QB play on some teams is atrocious. So Devlin has high stakes on the table. Not as high as the other three. But high nonetheless.

 

 

August 09, 2012

A look at position battles heading into preseason

Everyone has been seemingly mesmerized by the much-heralded struggles of Vontae Davis as he tries to fend off Richard Marshall for a starting cornerback job. As the Dolphins' official depth chart below shows, Davis is behind Marshall.

It is up to Davis if he'll stay there or not, although he's had good practices the past couple of days and is clearly the more althletic player. So that will play out in the coming couple of weeks.

But the depth chart begs other questions and speaks to issues elsewhere. Some of those issues:

The deep secondary offers a three-man race for the starting job and really a two-man race because while Chris Clemons and second-year player Jimmy Wilson are jockeying back and forth, Reshad Jones seems to have solidified his spot as a starter.

The fourth safety is interesting. Free agent acquisition Tyrell Johnson has been something of a disappointment given his credentials as a former high draft pick and veteran. He's mired on third team. Anderson Russell has made some plays in practice but is also inconsistent.

Tyrone Culver continues to be the most likely player to win the fourth spot, given his experience and ability to play special teams at a high level.

The linebacker spot is interesting in that I see Austin Spitler and Jason Trusnick as very good special teams players but lacking as actual backups. If starters Koa Misi or Karlos Dansby get hurt, I don't have a great feeling about Miami's depth with Spitler and Trusnick. Thank goodness Gary Guyton can play multiple positions.

Spitler and Trusnick are better on special teams right now than third-team players Cameron Collins and Josh Kaddu. And the irony? Both Collins and Kaddu have the potential to be better linebackers than Spitler and Trusnick.

So one pair is great on special teams but not so much on defense while the other pair isn't as good on special teams but have better potential on defense.

Depth at defensive tackle is a concern. Other than Tony McDaniel behind Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, the Dolphins are relying on untested players such as rookie Kheeston Randall to perform. The problem is we don't know if he will perform and two of the three tackles behind him are also rookies -- the third is veteran Ryan Baker who has experience and grit but is apparently the last guy on third-team.

I'm feeling better about the offensive line than I did a year ago. Everyone, except the Dolphins apparently, knew that Marc Colombo was not the answer at right tackle when they signed him. That issue was never resolved until the draft this year.

And Jonathan Martin has been outstanding so far. He practices well, he takes great notes in meetings and he has the physical capabilities to be a very good right tackle. Yes, games will add another layer to the challenges he is facing.

Ultimately you have to perform in games.

But I believe Martin will be fine, indeed, better than that. I believe he'll be good. Moreover Martin gives the Dolphins something they haven't really had since 2008 when they drafted Jake Long and that is a backup for Long.

I know, I know, you see on the depth chart that Lydon Murtha is the second-string LT. The truth is if Jake Long goes down for an extended period, I believe Martin will move over from right tackle. He played left tackle most of his career at Stanford and I think he could be a good left tackle in the NFL given experience.

So in a situation where Long is out for an extended period, Martin would be the guy moving over. It might be different over a short period where Long is missing one game. But multiple games, Martin is the guy and then Murtha would go to right tackle.

If you look at the depth chart, it is hard to fathom John Jerry making the team. He is overweight. He weighed 360 pounds a week or so ago. He isn't picking up his assignments well on pass protection (particularly on stunts) and he doesn't stay on his feet enough -- this all according to coaches.

He's running third team. It'll be interesting to see how he actually plays because in the past he's been unimpressive in practice but efficient in games. We'll see if that continues or if his tanking has too much momentum to stop.

One more note about the offensive line: Ray Feinga was supposed to make his big move this year. But he's running third team now and is nursing some sort of injury as well. Not good.

A look at tight end shows you that not a whole lot has changed from last year. Anthony Fasano remains the best one in camp. And while I have hopes for big things out of Charles Clay in his second year, I must inform you he hasn't been the monster in practice I hoped to see.

Clay has been good. He's made occasional plays. But he hasn't been dominant and if he's going to have a 50-catch season as I thought he might, logic dictates he would be showing that in this camp. He's not.

By the way, Les Brown, who is a great story and a great athlete and has great speed at 4.4, is not a great tight end. He's not even a good tight end right now. I'd like to tell you he's fifth out of five tight ends because of mitigating circumstances like a lack of experience or strength or technique or toughness at the point of attack.

But all of those apply to Brown. At this stage, he strikes me as a practice squad project. He needs to get stronger. He needs more coaching than he'll get in the next four weeks before the regular-season opener to be a viable contributor. He was and remains a project.

By the way, Michael Egnew has been unimpressive in camp. He's just ... just ... there. He doesn't flash with any degree of consistency. He doesn't get open consistently. He needs to seriously step it up in the next month.

At the wide receiver position, the Dolphins have an interesting situation. Their three "starting" receivers are players no one else wanted at some point in their careers. Chad Johnson and Legedu Naanee were cut from their teams in the offseason and they are starting in Miami. Starting slot receiver Davone Bess went undrafted once upon a time.

And yet they are Miami's top receivers right now.

Behind them, it gets interesting.

Brian Hartline is hoping to get back into practices next week -- perhaps as early as Sunday. He did some work in the walk-thru Wednesday so that was encouraging. He's a big factor because the Dolphins don't really have a deep threat to speak of.

Clyde Gates, perhaps Miami's fast receiver, has been inconsistent. He's good one day and a ghost the next. He's inconsistent. Julius Pruitt is interesting because, as you can see on the depth chart below, he has passed both Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace.

That doesn't mean he'll stay ahead of them because four weeks remain, but Pruitt has very good speed like Moore and (this camp) more consistent hands than Wallace. He doesn't have Wallace size and I have no idea how he'll contribute on special teams, but he's caught the coaching staff's attention.

As you've heard him say on this blog, Wallace knows this is put-up-or-get-out time. He got a chance to stick with the team last year. This year, he has to take the next step. Same with Moore. So far ... well, they have to do better.

By the way, rookies Rishard Matthews and B.J. Cunningham had their best week of practice this week. Perhaps they're starting to make their move. We shall see.

Back to Hartline a second: If he's healthy, he makes this team. No question.

2012 MIAMI DOLPHINS TENTATIVE DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

WR 19 Legedu Naanee 11 Julius Pruit 83 Jeff Fuller 86 Rishard Mathews

15 Davone Bess 10 Clyde Gates 16 B.J. Cunningham

81 Chris Hogan

LT 77 Jake Long 76 Lydon Murtha 69 Ray Feinga

60 Will Yeatman

LG 68 Richie Incognito 65 Erich Steinbach 63 Chandler Burden

C 51 Mike Pouncey 64 Josh Samuda 62 Ryan Cook

RG 73 Aris Hicks 75 Nate Garner 74 John Jerry

RT 71 Jonathan Marin 67 Andrew McDonald 61 Will Barker

TE 80 Anthony Fasano 42 Charles Clay 88 Jeron Mastrud 84 Michael Egnew

87 Les Brown

WR 85 Chad Johnson 82 Brian Hartline 14 Marlon Moore 18 Roberto Wallace

QB 9 David Garrard 8 Mat Moore 17 Ryan Tannehill 7 Pat Devlin

FB 41 Jorvorskie Lane 6 Ryan Mahaffey 35 Jerome Messam

RB 22 Reggie Bush 33 Daniel Thomas 23 Steve Slaton 44 Lamar Miller

34 Marcus Thigpen

46 Jonas Gray

DEFENSE

LE 98 Jared Odrick 79 Derrick Shelby 70 Jarrell Root

DT 94 Randy Starks 78 Tony McDaniel 66 Chas Alecxih

DT 96 Paul Soliai 97 Kheeston Randall 95 Isaako Aaitui 90 Ryan Baker

RE 91 Cameron Wake 50 Olivier Vernon 52 Jamaal Westerman 72 Jaquies Smith

LB 56 Kevin Burnet 59 Gary Guyton 49 Jonathan Freeny 48 Shelly Lyons

LB 58 Karlos Dansby 53 Ausin Spitler 45 Cameron Collins

LB 55 Koa Misi 93 Jason Trusnik 57 Josh Kaddu

CB 24 Sean Smith 28 Nolan Carroll 25 Jonathan Wade 47 Trenton Hughes

32 Marcus Brown

CB 31 Richard Marshall 21 Vontae Davis 36 Quinten Lawrence 38 Kevyn Scot

43 Vincent Agnew

S 30 Chris Clemons 27 Jimmy Wilson 26 Tyrell Johnson 37 Kelcie McCray

S 20 Reshad Jones 29 Tyrone Culver 40 Anderson Russell

SPECIALISTS

P 2 Brandon Fields

K 5 Dan Carpenter

KO 5 Dan Carpenter

H 2 Brandon Fields

KOR 34 Marcus Thigpen 44 Lamar Miller 23 Steve Slaton 10 Clyde Gates

PR 15 Davone Bess 34 Marcus Thigpen 10 Clyde Gates 86 Rishard Mathews

LS 92 John Denney

2012 Rookies Underlined

August 08, 2012

The differences between Chad Johnson and Brandon Marshall

Chad Johnson, who made a big deal about enjoying new freedom with the Dolphins after being muzzled in New England last season, today walked past the media and announced, "I don't do media anymore."

The change is obviously tied to Johnson's issue with coach Joe Philbin this camp in which the coach was displeased with Johnson's language and the way he represented the organization in his one press conference since joining the team.

The displeasure was on full display Tuesday night on Hard Knocks -- with a little career chat from Philbin as well as the advancing of the idea that Johnson will have to tow the line or be in danger of getting cut.

So there's that. Chad Johnson is being his usual enigmatic self and there is backwash from it. And that leads me to this: On more than one occasion since camp started I've had people suggest to me the Dolphins this offseason basically traded one problem child for another when they traded Brandon Marshall and signed Chad Johnson. That idea seems to have gained traction following Johnson's bizarre opening press conference and particularly following the airing of last night's Hard Knocks premier.

But let me share with you what I've been told by people with the team.

They don't see Johnson and Marshall as identical or even remotely similar.

The Dolphins believed, at the end, that Brandon Marshall was trouble to have on the team. They had grown weary of his ways. And the idea that he was a distraction was the least of the many, many concerns they had about Marshall.

Johnson?

He's something of a flake. A clown. A cut-up. He needs to clean up his language because, as coach Joe Philbin says, he's representing the team and this team wants to be represented in a certain fashion. But is Johnson dangerous? Is he going to get into violent disputes, either with people or family?

That's not been his history so far.

The truth about Marshall, whom I liked by the way, is that police were not just called to his house the one time his wife stabbed him. There was a long history of problems at the Marshall house. I'm told cops were called at least half-a-dozen times we didn't know about in addition to the stabbing incident that made headlines.

Marshall was also problematic among teammates. On more than a couple of occasions, I'm told Marshall totally lost it on the sideline and would yell at teammates or coaches or both. It got to the point, I'm told, nobody would go near Marshall. And this is in addition to the torment I'm told he heaped upon his quarterbacks, particularly Chad Henne.

Obviously, this is all second-hand and I'm certain Marshall would have a different version of these stories. So I give him that and so should you. But the things multiple people have told me about him paint a picture of a problem child that didn't seem headed in the right direction.

Combine this with good but not great results on the field -- remember he dropped a handful of TD passes last year -- and you can understand why Miami felt the need to trade Marshall.

Johnson?

If he's true to his history, he won't be getting arrested. Cops won't be showing up at his house responding to violent domestic disputes.

He may, however, wear on some teammates, as he did in Cincinnati. He may be something of a diva, as he was once he started producing. And he may not always be consistent in his performance, as evidence by his last year with the Bengals and last year in New England.

It should be said that Marshall today is probably a better player than Johnson. On the other hand, Johnson may be less of a problem child than Marshall, particularly when it comes to legal matters. The Dolphins will soon find out if Johnson, like Marshall, becomes a distraction or an embarrassment to the organization -- an issue for which Philbin may not have a lot of patience.

"There's a certain way, again, we want everybody to be themselves. I don't want everybody to be Joe Philbin," Philbin said today. "Everybody's different. We want to let guys be themselves. However, we think everybody has an obligation to get on board with the program. I told Mr. Ross we were going to have men that represented themselves in the right way on and off the field. And that's important to me. It's importnat to our staff. I believe it's important to our owner that we do things the right way.

"Again, I'm not going to sit here and say I've never cursed or used an inappropriate comment. I'm sure I have. There might have been some on the show because sometimes on the field I do ... It's important to all of us. I really believe that.

"We're not going to be a great football team if we've got 51 guys doing things a certain way and maybe two guys who are on their own program. It's too hard. It's too tough. We have to have guys that think the same way and whose brains think the same way about football. They can act different and dress differently. But they all kind of have to think the same. They have to buy in. If someone doesn't want to buy into the program, that's a problem." 

August 07, 2012

Hard Knocks sets the scene -- which is bad for Vontae Davis

The first episode of HBO's Hard Knock spent an hour establishing character lines.

We meet Derek Dennis first, which was somewhat curious as he was the first player cut even before he ever put on his pads for the team because the club signed Eric Steinbach.

We meet David Garrard while he and his family are at their lake house. We see Matt Moore offering to change his baby's "diappy," but also being described as a great leader by coaches.

Ryan Tannehill and his wife Lauren talk of the start of their marriage. (Tannehill broke his foot three days before the wedding.) "We started it in sickness and health but that's OK," Lauren Tannehill said.

Tame stuff.

The most inspiring moment is when left tackle Jake Long gathers the offensive line and demands they play better because as he says, they've just been playing like (bleep) and need to get the (bleep) on course. Long is clearly a leader on that unit.

The most interesting character is, no surprise, Chad Johnson. We first see him when he barges into a coaches' meeting and sits for two minutes before being  kicked out. The whole time Johnson is there coaches are looking around, seemingly wondering what is up with Johnson, who announces he cannot go home because his wife doesn't want him there until after camp is over.

"Is that true?" Philbin asks Johnson.

True or not, Johnson eventually gets the drift he's not wanted and leaves.

You read and heard here that Johnson had a bizarre press conference in which he used curse words as if they were punctuations. He also spoke of going into porn and showed off his painted black nails.

Philbin was asked about that and played coy, saying Johnson is expected to be responsible for what he says but that stuff such as black fingernail polish doesn't bother him.

"We want these guys to ultimately, I told Mr. (Stephen) Ross, I told the players, we want these guys to represent the franchise the right way on and off the field," Philbin told the media. "It’s not a complicated formula and the game of football itself isn’t complicated. Now, we want guys to act well, behave well, be good people. It’s not that hard. Use common sense. I don’t know if, black was probably a bad color for today. He probably should have used a light blue or something (laughing).”

Yeah, hilarious. Except that Philbin didn't think Johnson's use of the F-bombs was appropriate, a fact he wasn't eager to share with the media, but showed behind the scenes.

"You represent the organization, you represent everybody. That's not the way we're going to do it," he tells an assistant.

Philbin talks with the Johnson and the player doesn't seem to agree that the F-bombs are problematic. "You're different," he tells Philbin.

"I'd say I'm different than you," Philbin answers.

Philbin is asked by HBO about Johnson. "Either he falls in line or he doesn't," he says.

And if he doesn't, could it put him in jeopardy?

"It could, yeah, absolutely." Philbin said.

An aside here: Johnson is not in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. He's starting. He's the most dynamic receiver on the team right now.

Despite the snag, Johnson comes off as funny and something of a team clown. Cornerback Vontae Davis, on the other hand, comes off as the goat of the premier episode.

Davis, a former first-round pick and starter for three years but runnning second-team now, is obviously out of shape. "Man, I'm tired right now, but I'm not going to let coach know," Davis tells teammate Reshad Jones. "I'm going to go and what you call it? I'm a act."

Davis walks up and down the sideline and tells teammates he's taking acting classes. "I'm acting not to look tired."

"You can be as good as you want to be, but you got to change your attitude, change your ways," defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo tells Davis. "You need to give better effort. When you don't want to, that's the time to press on. Get yourself in better shape and I'm going to keep on staying on you to make sure you do it."

Davis also caught Philbin's eye when he left a walk-thru practice so he could go to the bathroom. "I'm 51 and I have to go every hour but I never go," Philbin says.

At another practice, Philbin asks Davis if he's taken care of his bladder that day. One miss by HBO is that it never makes the point that Davis has fallen to second team -- a huge detail.

Bottom line is Davis comes off looking unprofessional and immature.

The Dolphins are doing this five-week documentary to improve their brand. And generally, I think this first episode does that. It shows the quarterbacks in a good light. It shows the coaches seem to know what they're talking about. It gives the players some depth. Jeff Ireland comes off looking smart.

Even rookie free agent Les Bown got a lot of camera time when, frankly, his skill level is not to the point where he probably deserves it. He is, however, interesting because Brown thinks he can go from basketball to a career in finance to the NFL.

He has great speed and decent hands and general manager Jeff Ireland talks him up in a meeting. But his pass protection and run block is a "liability," according to tight end coach Dan Campbell.

Brown blocks like a basketball player. We'll see if the coming episodes show progress.

I was surprised Reggie Bush wasn't featured in the opening episode. Next one. The offensive line -- Jake Long, Richie Incognito and Pouncey -- also are expected to get more attention next episode.

Should be entertaining.

Enough psychology mumbo jumbo -- Marshall better than Davis now

The release of the depth chart Monday confirmed what reporters had been seeing in practice for over a week and that was Richard Marshall working a lot with the first-team defense ahead of Vontae Davis, indeed, often moreso than the former first-round draft pick.

Hard to believe, right?

The Dolphins were lining up a free-agent addition -- and not an exceedingly high-priced one -- ahead of the player who last season led the team in interceptions and finished with something of a flurry.

And so out came the speculation and theories. It must be a move to motivate Davis. It must be the team saving Davis' hamstrings, which betrayed him early last season. It must be coaches trying to light fires or put out fires.

It couldn't simply be that Marshall was practicing harder and more consistently than Davis. I kind of bought into the so-called conspiracy theories for a couple of days. But today I quit. Today, I begin to believe the truth and that is Davis will regain his job when he's the better cornerback and right now, today, he's not there.

Simple as that.

And don't believe me. Check out what defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle says of Marshall:

 

Tremendous focus. Not a snap in practice he doesn't give everything. More consistent in practice. Made more plays.

Simple as that.

Philbin apparently is not the mind-bending coach that Jimmy Johnson fancied himself as being. Philbin believes in communicating what he expects and then wants players to respond with maximum effort to meet those expectations.

"If you clearly communicate as a coach what the expectations are, what the job requirements are and what you're looking for, it's up to the player to fulfill those ... If you communicate what you're looking for and what you need from each guy, it's up to them to fulfill that role on the ballclub. I don't necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about ... again, we want guys that love the game and want to be good. If you have to play tricks with the depth chart today and this other thing tomorrow, at the end of the day, that's probably not the type of player that long-term is going to fit here in my opinion." 

Coyle says not to put stock in the depth chart in early August. It is not the Gospels. But unless Davis turns around his inconsistent work and shows all the focus and consistency he is capable of mustering, his superior athletic skill won't be enough to retake the job.

I don't know if that will happen or not. The Dolphins want it to happen because it means they've got a gifted player at his best while also having Marshall giving them a third cornerback that could compete for a starting job on many teams.

If that happens, great. If not, Davis will still play a lot. But Marshall's move in training camp will not be the ploy by a coaching staff pulling strings. It will be legitimate.

Tha'ts good.

PRACTICE NOTES:

It was a fine day for Miami's wide receivers. I didn't see any drops today. Not one. Meanwhile B.J. Cunningham had two leaping grabs that impressed, Clyde Gates had two deep catches and catch on a slant that showed good concentration, and Roberto Wallace snatched another ball out of a defender's grasp. Good work all around.

Chris Clemons had an interception of David Garrard at the goal line ... Jimmy Wilson dove and came up with an interception that he basically scooped off the ground after another defender knocked it down ...

Shotgun snaps continue to plague as Mike Pouncey had one errant snap today ...

Matt Moore's hands continue to be a question mark. He had a hard time holding on to the ball in the pocket last year. He fumbled on today while scrambling.

Daniel Thomas had his best run of training camp when he took a handoff and plowed through a hole between Jake Long and Richie Incognito during team drills. The kid looked like a latter day John Riggins on the play as he accelerated past the second level.

August 06, 2012

Philbin, Sherman expecting great things from QBs

Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin are agreed. They both think the Dolphins quarterbacks are going to be pretty darn good this year.

"I’m confident about it that we are going to get very, very good quarterback play out of that group," Philbin said Monday. "I believe we have talented players with good arm strength, good mobility with good leadership qualities. I couldn’t be happier about the four men that are in that room and I told them the same thing."

Sherman goes a tad further. He thinks one of Miami's team strengths will be the quarterback play.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never been in our situation," he said. "I know we came in here, there’s a lot talk about the quarterback position and all the angst, and rightfully so. I feel very confident that we’re going to be able to…that will not be a weakness on this football team. I think that will be one of our strengths when we get done this thing.

"We’re not there yet, we still have a long way to go, but in determining who’s the starter, once we do that, that person will now get sufficiently more reps and I think he’ll just keep getting better. I feel very confident about our quarterback position and where he’s headed and I think we’ll have a good starter when we get done."

That's a lot of optimism sprinkled with confidence from both men.

Me?

I think Joe Philbin might be a tad happier if he had Peyton Manning in that room. I think the Dolphins quarterbacks will not be a disaster. I'm thinking the QB position will get the benefit of solid offensive line play and more talent at running back and tight end, with the maturation of Charles Clay.

But the receivers still concern me and they and the quarterback are joined at the hip. If they're not good, it's hard for the QB to be very good. So I'm expectant of solid quarterback play.

But a team strength ahead of the defensive line or the specialists?

I'll believe when I see. We all will.

Here is Sherman discussing the past (Saturday's scrimmage) and the future (Ryan Tannehill):