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77 posts from September 2012

September 18, 2012

Looming Bush contract talks a dilemma but also an opportunity

At some point within the next month the Dolphins and the agent representing Reggie Bush will discuss what precisely to do about the contract status of the team's most impressive player so far this season.

Bush, the NFL's second-leading rusher, is in the final year of his contract. And although neither side pushed the other to get an extension signed before the start of this season -- with both thinking they held a good hand and both comfortable of the future -- the questions now begin to resonate:

Can the Dolphins afford to keep their best player before he hits free agency?

Can the Dolphins afford to let their best player walk away in free agency?

A few weeks ago, before he exploded onto this 2012 season, Bush was seemingly being set up for replacement by the Dolphins. Not only had they not talked to super agent Joel Segal about a new deal but last year they drafted Daniel Thomas in the second round and this year added highly regarded Lamar Miller in the fourth round.

In the world of well-run NFL franchises, that's how it is done. You acquire a running back. Use him up. Then you let him go before having to spend big money on what is increasingly a diminishing asset in today's pass-happy NFL.

The Dolphins did that with Ronnie Brown. And that's what they seemed to be doing with Bush.

Fact is, that still may be the plan. If the Dolphins decide re-signing Bush to a contract extension is too expensive, they might simply move forward with their younger, albeit unproven replacements that are already on the team and were drafted to be the next and less expensive guys up.

But Bush has thrown a wrench into this possible course of action by simply being everything the Dolphins could have wanted from him and much, much, more.

He is a threat from anywhere on the field as his 65-yard run Sunday against Oakland proved.

He has been not only willing, but actually eager to be a workhorse. He led the team with 216 carries last season and is on pace for 320 carries this season -- although that probably won't be sustainable.

Bush is the team's hardest working player. I did not say he's one of Miami's the hardest working players. He is the hardest worker on the team. It is a rare day when practice ends and Bush isn't pushing a sled or running sprints afterward. 

Bush also has stayed relatively healthy, reporting for duty in 17 of a possible 18 games.

The guy has been a beast. Even offensive coordinator Mike Sherman marvels at his ability to run between the tackles and stay fresh.

"I remember Reg when he came out of college and they didn’t ask him a whole lot in that regard, and he was so much faster than everybody else that is was easier to run around them than through them," Sherman said. "But, when I study the tapes form last year, certainly he did that numerous times, and has done that for us too. The durability is what amazes me. He’s out there today like he didn’t even play a game yesterday running around and doing what he does. (He’s) a very impressive young man, no question about that.”

Bush's value around  the league has increased dramatically since he arrived in Miami. And his value in Miami has increased dramatically the past couple of games. So it stands to reason the longer the Dolphins wait to attend to a possible contract extension, the higher the price to re-sign Bush will get because somebody will surely be happy to sign a 27-year-old playmaker in his prime.

Now, I suppose the Dolphins can play hardball and say they'll think about Bush's status at the end of the season, gambling that he slows down and his value declines. That would be an ironic way to attend to this matter because if that's the approach the Dolphins would be banking on Bush not playing as well as he currently is while also hoping, for the team's sake, that he plays better than he is now.

Segal, meanwhile, can play hardball as well. He can simply set a price for Bush and say if the Dolphins don't meet it, he'll become a free agent and go to the highest bidder. And if Bush continues his current trajectory, he's going to be more expensive after the season than he is now. The Bush camp would be betting that Bush is hitting his stride and what you see the past two games is what you'll see the next 14 games.

What makes most sense? Everyone needs to be reasonable.

The Dolphins need to realize Bush is one of their few offensive weapons and they should be in the business of adding weapons for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, not subtracting them.

The Dolphins should realize that Thomas has proven nothing so far as a player. Banking on him to replace Bush is wishful thinking at this point. Yes, Miller was very, very promising in his first game on Sunday, gaining 65 yards as Bush's replacement.

But they should like the idea of having both Bush and Miller in what amounts to a stable of one home run hitter and a player who was a home run hitter in college.

Segal, meanwhile, needs to realize his client has it pretty good down here. He gets the carries he wants. He lives in a town he likes. The team is going to improve as Tannehill gets more experience. And because the Dolphins know Bush best and have milked him for his highest pro production, maybe it would serve him to stay here.

So what is Reggie Bush worth?

That's not my business to judge. It's up to Reggie Bush, his agent, and the Dolphins. But you can believe this is a topic that will soon be on the table for the team and the player. And it will be very interesting to see how it eventually plays out.

September 17, 2012

Philbin: 'We have a million miles to go'

Joe Philbin, fresh off reviewing game tape of Sunday's 35-13 victory over Oakland, came into the Dolphins interview room at noon today and went absolutely bonkers with excitement about his first NFL coaching victory and Miami's first home-opener win in six years.

He was hyped. He was bouncing around. He was a different person!

No, not really.

Not at all.

In fact, Philbin made a point to his coaching staff and his players that their demeanor should be no different after this victory than it was after the opening-day loss to Houston.

"I told the team in the locker room, 'Our message to the media should be we have a long way to go.' We have to show a lot of improvement. I said to the team yesterday that seven days ago we knew we had to improve, we had to get better. We made a couple of strides but we still have a million miles to go.

"I said to the staff an hour ago, I want the mood to be the same as the Monday meeting [last week]. We have corrections we show the players every week and positives. And it should be no different than what it was last Monday."

The fact, however, is that the outcome this week was different than last week. So Philbin had to hand out his share of compliments about the Dolphins. Reggie Bush got a kudo. The Red Zone defense was good. Cameron Wake was singled out for his work versus the run.

A couple of offensive linemen also played well, according to Philbin.

"We thought Richie Incognito played a really good game, better than he did in Houston," he said. "We've been impressed with Pouncey both weeks. He plays the game the right way. There's a lot of pictures of him finishing plays and plain blocking people to the whistle and staying engaged on blockers. That was real encouraging."

But even in handing out kudos, Philbin is careful not to get too excited.

"... I don't want to give him too much or he'll start getting a big head."

The Dolphins, by the way, tackled better this week than the week before. But the theme remains. It was good. But nobody is going crazy happy.

"The good news is there's still a lot of room for improvement," Philbin said. "We have to tackle better relative to the amount of time we spend on it."

Without getting too crazy, things are looking up

When it was over Joe Philbin was dancing. And owner Stephen Ross was sort of dancing.

The Dolphins won their home opener for the first time since 2005 on Sunday and it should be a feeling worthy of being savored, as I write in my column today, because the Dolphins have been losing way too many home games in recent years and this was a departure from that.

So walk around with your head held high today, Dolphins fan. Feel good about this one.

But remember ... just as last week's opening loss was not the end of the season, Sunday's victory was not its culmination. This season is a process and Sunday was a step.

It was a nice step. A fun step. A feel-good step.

But only one step.

So please, all of you sending me e-mails or tweets that Miami is playoff-bound because it is tied for the AFC East lead at 1-1, you need to stop.

The Dolphins merely did what they were supposed to do. Remember that. Even I picked Miami to win this game and I stink at picking games. The Dolphins beat a team that had one less day to prepare after playing on Monday night, then had to travel across the entire country and play in black uniforms in temperatures that took a toll in the second half.

As one Dolphins official put it, "A decade ago this victory would have been overlooked because we would win games like this all the time."

How times have changed when some fans think beating Oakland is a huge deal. The truth is the Dolphins have pretty much blown out the Raiders each of their last three games. So again, this was good. But it wasn't the defining moment of the season. So tap the brakes a little bit.

I will say this:

The game offered positive signs.

Ryan Tannehill continues to impress because he continues to improve. He's playing like a solid game-manager quarterback right now. That's a compliment because, remember, the guy is a rookie. He's not making mistakes. He's not costing his team turnovers. He is making some plays that are helping the cause. That's really quite good for a rookie at this stage.

The defense is playing very stout against the run. The offensive push is very good in the running game to the point Reggie Bush is second in the NFL in rushing today behind only Buffalo's C.J. Spiller.

So there are good signs. There is progress.

Again, that doesn't mean this team is going to the playoffs. Sunday was one day, one game. 

But it does mean that good things seem to be happening for the Dolphins. Finally. 


September 16, 2012

AFC East one big happy knot

The Dolphins beat the Raiders and evened their record at 1-1.

The Jets lost to Pittsburgh so they are 1-1.

The Bills beat Kansas City in their home-opener. They are 1-1.

And the Patriots missed a potential game-winning field goal in the final seconds to lose to the Arizona Cardinals, 20-18 in Foxborough, Mass. Amazingly, the Patriots are 1-1.

Everyone is tied after two weeks!

How about that ...

Dolphins dismantle Raiders 35-13 to even record

The Dolphins needed this. A franchise that has taken more gut punches than Rocky needed to land a couple of shots of its own and today was the time.

The Dolphins knocked out the Raiders, 35-13.

It really wasn't that close.

Miami dominated in every phase in the second half. Yes, the home field advantage may have had something to do with it because Oakland players seemed a step slower, some even fatigued. Notice the three defensive backs chasing Reggie Bush on his 65-yard TD didn't gain any ground.

But the humidity was not the reason Miami won. They were just the better team today. They got a great performance from the running game, first with Bush shredding the Raiders and even rookie Lamar Miller doing damage, including his first career TD run.

Ryan Tannehill outplayed veteran Carson Palmer.

And the line of scrimmage belonged to the Dolphins -- particularly in the second half.

It was also a good job by the coaching staff that addressed the ills of last week's batted passes. There were none by the Raiders today.

It was a total butt-whipping, folks.


Dolphins pounding Oakland 21-10 heading to fourth

Reggie Bush, one of the smallest Dolphins, has put the team on his back and his carrying them as well as the football.

Bush clicked off TD runs of 21 yards and 65 yards in the third quarter to give the Dolphins their current 21-10 advantage.

Can the Dolphins hold on?

Let's see as the live blog continues in the comments section.

Dolphins trail 10-7 to start third quarter

It was not only an ugly first half, the Dolphins are trailing, too.

After Miami opened the game with a 12-play drive that spanned 80 yards for the first offensive TD of the season, the Miami offense has pretty much been shut down.

The running game that worked has disappeared. Pressure on Ryan Tannehill has been acute because the team is using longer drops to avoid passes being batted at the line.

The defense, meanwhile, solid early on, has struggled to cover Oakland receivers. And that 64-yard screen pass was a clinic on how not to do it.

The Dolphins are actually fortunate that they are only trailing 10-7. The Raiders had a first and goal and the 8 and had to settle for a field goal just before the half ended.

The live blog continues in the comments section. Join me there.

Dolphins and Raiders tied to start second quarter

The Dolphins offense had a nice opening drive and Ryan Tannehill got his first NFL TD on a 2 yard run.


The bad?

The Raiders just pieced together a 64-yard screen pass TD in which Reshad Jones was held, Chris Clemons took a bad angle to the ballcarrier, Koa Misi got pancaked and Karlos Dansby could only trail helplessly as he watched the score.

The game is tied, 7-7.

The live blog rolls in the comments section. Join me there.

Inactive and live blog here

The announcement of today's inactive tells us the Raiders receiver corps will get better ... and Miami's will get worse.

The Dolphins will be without Anthony Armstrong, who was doubtful with a hamstring injury. He is inactive. Other Miami inactives are Pat Devlin, Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman, Tony McDaniel, Ray Feinga, Daniel Thomas and Pat Devlin.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are getting some good news in that Denarius Moore, who was inactive in their opener with a hamstring injury, is active today. Moore averaged 18.9 yards per receptions last season.

As you may know, my column today is about how this game may determine the direction of either franchise for quite some time. Check it out if you haven't yet.

Another thing: I don't see this being a high-scoring game. Neither offense impresses me.

We will be having a live blog here today. It begins in the comments section at kickoff. Meet me there.


Today could set a course for the next few months

Good morning to everyone. It is game day and that means a live blog here starting at kickoff. Before then, there will be posts with updates on the active roster and so forth.

You already know Daniel Thomas and Tony McDaniel aren't playing. So Lamar Miller is up on offense. Keheeston Randall is up on defense.

This game is important and I say that with caution because it is only the second game of the season. But here's the play:

I write in my column that today's outcome will determine how Raiders and Dolphins fans will feel about their team and what direction those teams are headed for perhaps the rest of the season.

Too much, you say?

For the Dolphins a victory would pave the way for success the next two months. Think about that. And check out why that is true.



September 14, 2012

Salguero's Sunday pick is ... Dolphins

I think you know by now I am not a homer. I call it as I see it, sometimes good, often times lately very bad. Well, I just sent in to The Herald my pick for Sunday.

I'm picking the Dolphins to win.

If my prediction comes true the Dolphins would reach .500 for the first time since Oct. 2010.

Why do I think the Dolphins will beat the Raiders?

I see potential in this defense to do good things. They need to tighten up the secondary. They need to turn the pass-rush up a notch. But I think that can happen, at least to a small degree, with the personnel currently on the team.

So I don't see Carson Palmer and his inconsistent receivers carving up the Miami defense. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a nice player but I don't see Andre Johnson on the Raiders.

The Raiders' best player is Darren McFadden. But he's running behind an inconsistent offensive line and I like Miami's chances of slowing the Oakland charge. Plus the Raiders don't have a better-than-average tight end so the thing that always bites this defense probably won't this week.

Don't get me wrong. I see a low-scoring, tight, tense game.

I don't see the Dolphins offense moving the football up and down the field on the Oakland defense. But that defense is just undisciplined enough as to do some damage to itself and open the door for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and company.

Remember, Sunday won't offer just a homefield advantage for the Dolphins, it offers a major time advantage and schedule advantage for Miami.

The Raiders, who will travel 28,692 air miles this season, more than any team, will be getting on a plane and traveling five hours, losing three hours and settling in unfamiliar surroundings the day before the game.

On game day, the Raiders will be kicking off at what their body clock tells them is 10 a.m.

And then there is the weather advantage the Dolphins should enjoy, in that it is very humid in South Florida while Oakland is not nearly as taxing on a body.

For all these reasons I'm picking the Dolphins.

Discuss ...

September 13, 2012

Dolphins vs. Raiders on local television

The Dolphins announced moments ago that Sunday's 1 p.m. game against Oakland has been declared a sellout and will be televised locally in South Florida.

The sellout took some work. The club had to work it until the 5 p.m. deadline and even then had to guarantee the purchase of whatever tickets are not sold between now and game day. I am assuming the club got a sponsor or sponsors to share the cost of making that guarantee.

“As we’ve said many times, keeping the games on local television has been a priority of Steve Ross’ since he purchased the franchise,” said Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee. “Any remaining unsold seats will be offered to Dolphins premium seat holders and season ticket members on a first come first served basis.”

Suggestions to improve Dolphins' home field advantage

The Dolphins today are hopeful of announcing a sellout to Sunday's game between the Raiders and Dolphins.

Today is the deadline for that sellout to come in time to broadcast the game locally. So you'll get that update here as soon as I get it.

Meanwhile, this home opener is a great opportunity for the Dolphins both on and off the field. It is an opportunity to win and even the record at 1-1. It is also a chance to set the tone for 2012 home games.

The club has gotten it right in some respects already in that this game is being played at 1 p.m. That should be good for the Miami players who are as acclimated to the local heat and humidity as one can get and much more than the Raiders are. In past years, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross petitioned the NFL to play early-season games either on the road or at night. The idea was to make the weather more bearable for fans but in doing so it eliminated whatever weather advantage the Dolphins enjoyed on the field.

So that is no longer an issue. Good.

Here are some more suggestions for the Dolphins:

  1. Ross should bite the bullet and play the old fight song more. Early on in Ross's ownership tenure it became clear he doesn't like the song. He tried to replace it with a T-Pain version. Fans hated it. Then he grudgingly played the old fight song only to start the fourth quarter. My idea is play the fight song every time the club scores ... just like the old days. I understand you don't like the tune, Mr. Ross, and it is your team and your stadium. But you have often said the Dolphins are a public trust and the public likes the song. So play it!
  2. Increase the distance from the so-called celebrity owners. Look, having Marc Anthony implore the fans to "Fins Up!" is not motivating to anyone. Gloria Estefan is so 1980s it's not even funny. And Jimmy Buffet tunes make people want to go lay in a hammock. Fans don't connect these people with Dolphins dominance. Spare us!
  3. Show highlights of the good old days. The truth is the freshman entering college this year never saw Dan Marino play during his prime. Can you believe that? Show highlights of the Marino years on the HD big screen. Show us Don Shula barking at referees. Show us highlights of the Perfect Season. Artificial? Not at all when you consider this year marks the 40-year anniversary of the Dolphins 17-0 season. Remind people that things didn't always stink.
  4. Spare us the Orange Carpet interviews. The club played them during pregame in recent years. I admit I've seen it much less lately. Shut it down altogether. I don't care what Fergie has to say as she walks in the building. She doesn't know squat about football that I want to hear!
  5. Keep the volume LOUD. I must admit Ross has done a great job of making the football experience at Sun Life a much louder one. That's very good. OK, keep going.
  6. Flyover. Everybody loves a flyover. They inspire. They awe. They get the crowd going. It's impressive to see F-15s buzz the stadium. Do it every game.Stealthbomber
  7. Prayer. I've been around a long enough to remember when every sporting event began with an invocation and the national anthem. But in today's increasingly Godless society, many sports teams have gone away from the opening invocation. Well, maybe it's only coincidence but the Dolphins haven't played all that great since the invocation at home games stopped about a decade ago. There's nothing wrong with having God on your side. There is freedom of religion in America. Use it. Folks that want to pray can pray. Folks that don't want to pray can drink their beers for 30 seconds. Also, who is going to be offended by asking God to keep players free of injury and fans free from harm as they enjoy the day and then travel home afterward?
  8. Give out free swag! The Dolphins are doing a great job of that this Sunday, as every fan in attendance will get a free Dolphins hat celebrating the Perfect Season. Do it every week. Give out white hankies, bringing back a tradition that faded in the 1990s. Give out noise makers. And, by all means, if people are showing up wearing Raiders, Jets or any-other-opponent gear, don't even give them the time of day.
  9. Cheerleaders in the stands. I am not kidding. These women comprise one of the better units int in the NFL. Well, get them more up-close-and-personal with the fans. Have them file down aisles and onto the field for one of their timeout routines. Have them do some routines in the aisles in different sections of the stadium. Yeah, I think that'll get some buzz going.Cheerleaders

Well, those are my suggestions for improving the Dolphins home field advantage and getting folks more into the games. Feel free to leave some I may have missed.

And, smartalecks, spare me this one: Win more games.

Everyone knows that, ok? 


Thomas cleared for activity but no contact yet

Running back Daniel Thomas is suffering from a concussion and while he had been cleared for physical activity by Wednesday, he was not cleared for contact thus had to sit out practice.

As part of the NFL's concussion guidelines, Thomas must undergo and pass a baseline test clearing him to return to practice and game action. He must get the clearance from an independent neurologist so it's not really the Dolphins' or Thomas' call when he will return.

[Update: Thomas is not practicing on Thursday.]

And that means that, suddenly, Reggie Bush might get more of a load on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders and rookie Lamar Miller might get his NFL debut.

Bush getting work is not an issue. He's in great shape. He's been holding up very well during his time with the Dolphins the past 18 months -- that contrary to a previous reputation for getting hurt.

Miller is another story.

For him it's not so much being ready to carry the football. He's ready for that. For the rookie the concern is whether he's ready to do good work in blitz protection on passing plays.

“I think one of the hardest things, I think the transition from college to the NFL is pass protection because those guys they don’t just run at you anymore," Bush said. "They’re moving around. They’re giving you different looks, different blitzes, different schemes and then, on top of that, you get some of these linebackers and safeties who just, they’re not just coming right at you any more, they’re moving around. I think that is the biggest transition, but Lamar’s done a great job this year, so I don’t think we’ll be worried about him too much.”

Miller has shown no obvious pass protection deficiencies in the practice time the media is able to watch. But privately, coaches are hoping he isn't pressed into a situation where Oakland -- this week's opponent -- decides his entrance into the game becomes a signal to come after Ryan Tannehill. 


September 12, 2012

The outgrowth from battedballgate

The story du jour at Dolphins camp continues to be the four batted passes the Dolphins gave up to Houston on Sunday and all the sidebars coming out of that story.

The question is not who's fault those batted passes were. Everybody was at fault. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs to find a passing lane. The offensive line needs to gut-punch defensive linemen to get their hands down. Maybe coaches shouldn't be calling so many slants, particularly on three-step drops.

But this much is certain: It is an issue that has dogged Tannehill and Dolphins offensive coordiantor Mike Sherman before. I was told by Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that last season the A&M offense suffered 19 batted passes.

So this has been an issue before.

It was an issue in practice today as the first play in team period was, of course, a batted pass by defensive end Cameron Wake.

Beyond that, there is a narrative out there that one reason Houston defensive end J.J. Watt was able to be so effective in batting three of the passes against the Dolphins is that he knew the snap count and that he stole the snap count by watching Hard Knocks.

Well, that's interesting. Maybe Watt did steal the snap count. But it cannot be the reason he batted the passes.

"That makes no sense whatsoever," guard Richie Incognito said of Watt's contention. "It was so loud, we couldn't even hear the snap count. There's no way he heard it. He's just blowing smoke. Me and Jake Long were talking about this. We couldn't hear the snap count. There's no way him all the way out there could hear the snap count."

And then there's this:

"We were on silent count most of the time," Incognito said. "J.J. really has no idea what he's talking about ... It's ridiculous."

Coach Joe Philbin confirmed the Dolphins used a good bit of silent count. He wasn't sure of the percentage of plays so he estimated "20 percent" conservatively.

Regardless of whether Watt stole the snap count or not, battedballgate is a big deal to the Dolphins this week.

"A lot's been made this past week about correcting tipped passes," Incognito said. "We have to stay on [the defensive linemen]. We have to hit 'em. As soon as they jump we have to attack them and make them get their hands down."

Wednesday afternoon practice update

Just the facts:

The first play of team drills in practice today? A tipped pass at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Cameron Wake. The pass off Ryan Tannehill's hand fell harmlessly incomplete.

This issue needs work, folks.

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer was just on a conference call and said the issue is not Tannehill's fault. He blamed predictability of play-calling.

Meanwhile, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said last week and repeated this week that he stole the Dolphins snap count by watching Hard Knocks. Watt had three batted passes and a sack against Miami.

Running back Daniel Thomas (suspected concussion) is not practicing today. He is, however, working on the side on the field. Lamar Miller is the next guy up, folks, if Thomas doesn't pass his battery of tests this week.

Defensive lineman Tony McDaniel, hurt most of preseason and reinjured at Houston, was neither on the field nor working on the side. As I stated in the last post, the fact the Dolphins added Ryan Baker suggests they are concerned McDaniel will not play Sunday.

Follow me on twitter for real-time updates.

The breakdown of Ryan Tannehill's first game

Before we start today, let me update you on a roster move: The Dolphins re-signed defensive lineman Ryan Baker to the 53-man roster this morning because they are seemingly concerned about the injury status of Tony McDaniel, who has been injured most of the preseason and got hurt again against Houston. With the signing the Dolphins have 53 players on the roster. Onward:

Ryan Tannehill's first outing? Not good. Not terrible.

The statistics say it was terrible because three interceptions pulsates on that stat line, demanding attention and concern. But frankly a look at the three picks reveals that indeed Tannehill threw the passes but was failed by circumstances around him, teammates around him, good opponent play against him.

It wasn't all his fault.

Believe it or not, my major concern coming out of Sunday's 30-10 loss to Houston concerning Ryan Tannehill was not his interceptions -- two of which came off tipped passes at the line of scrimmage.

My major concern is about his accuracy. The kid was off on a handful of passes, the most obvious of these was a slant pattern to Anthony Armstrong which was way high.

My secondary concern is that he doesn't often go to his secondary receiver and often locks on to his target receiver. One time when he did go through his progression he found Reggie Bush for a nice 12-yard gain on third down. 

The third concern is that he threw a couple of passes late. It's like he hasn't caught on to the speed of the game yet. The interception on a slant pass attempt to Legedu Naanee was an example of Tannehill staring down the receiver while also throwing late. It cost him as Jonathan Joseph intercepted the pass.

The manipulation of the defensive backs can be learned and accuracy can be improved some but unless it happens relatively quickly Tannehill is headed toward a tough first season given that he has practically no help around him.

Why do I say he has practically no help?

If you'll notice, there are precious few completions to wide receivers early in the montage below of every Tannehill throw. Truth is no wide receiver other than Davone Bess caught a pass in the first three quarters against Houston. That means no one was a factor other than Bess until the game was out of hand and the Texans DBs had backed off somewhat.

Not. Good.

Beyond that, you'll notice in the montage below that until Brian Hartline caught a 34-yard pass in the fourth quarter, the long gains of the day were passes to fullback Jorvorskie Lane and halfback Daniel Thomas. I'm not complaining about long gains to running backs. I am complaining that wide receivers couldn't get behind the Houston secondary until the fourth quarter and it only happened once.

Anyway, Tannehill threw 36 passes on Sunday. He completed 20, including a shovel pass to Reggie Bush for zero yards. Below are all those passes courtesy of one of my twitter followers -- slipperysoap. Yeah, that's his handle. I didn't make that up.

Check it:

September 11, 2012

Mike Sherman has a lot of work to do

All eyes are on the Dolphins offense now. That's what happens when a unit seems to lack talent and not only doesn't score any touchdowns but makes mistakes (turnovers) that lead to 24 points for the other team.

That's not the way it should be.

And so this week offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has to address a lot of things. He started addressing those when he spoke to the media Monday.

This is all he said:

(On the number of batted passes during Sunday’s game) -“I think there were six.”

(On if there is any thought about altering Tannehill’s release, or is it a case of looking for open passing lanes or offensive linemen needing to get defenders hands down) – “I think the second thing you had is probably more appropriate (Open passing lanes).”

(On the 19 balls that Tannehill got batted down in his last year at Texas A&M) –“There were only three of them that we thought were his fault. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. It was in the game the other day, no question, but the gentleman, (Texans Defensive End J.J.) Watt, has a history of knocking balls down. He’s pretty good at it; I think he had four. And a couple of them were on twists coming down, so the quarterback wouldn’t have seen them anyways. It’s definitely something we’re looking at hard, and checking where he’s putting his eyes. He’ll be better this week with that.”

(On whether there is something that the offensive line could do to help the situation) –“Yeah, most of the time I just put that on the quarterback; he has to find the passing lane. You know guys are a little bit taller in this league, a little bit bigger, windows are a little bit smaller, and these guys have a lot of range. So it’s just something that he has to work through, and he will. He’ll be much better this week. He hasn’t had a problem with it in practice. It has not been an issue, which you would think this would be a reoccurring issue in practice. If you talk to the defensive coaches and players, they didn’t see this as a problem until the other day. But (the Texans) defensive line coach, Bill Kollar, is known very well, is a great coach, and they do a good job of the minute they read three step, hands are going up. You have to give them part of the credit. We’ll take some of the blame, but you have to give them some of the credit on a job well done.”

(On whether all of the batted balls came on three-step drops, and whether there is something to that) –“I believe so, yeah. When you drop shorter, the ball comes out a little bit (quicker), your eyes get quicker to where your target is. It’s hard to look people off at that time. Yeah they were three-step, yup."

(On whether he thinks that Houston is better than the rest of the league at batting balls down) –“I think it’s something that we have to address. It’s not just going to go away. I give Houston a lot of credit for what they did, and they are very good at it. I don’t know if everybody else is as good, but I’m not going to say that we’re not going to get any balls tipped if we’re not playing Houston. There are other teams that will see what they did and try to do the same thing."

(On how far Ryan Tannehill has progressed) –“I think the next game will be huge for him. I think from the first game to the second game, for any team, its huge, especially for a young quarterback. One thing I know about Ryan, he corrects himself and he is accountable. ‘I can do that better,’ and he fixes things. That’s the thing that always sticks with me in regard to him. He’s very conscience of what he needs to work on and then he spends time working on it and tries to get it right. So I’ll take the blame for it; I should have prepped him better for this than I did. He’ll be much better next week.”

(On his sideline demeanor) – “Yeah he’s, ‘let’s get on to the next play.’ He has the attitude that you want from a quarterback. I’ve been around some quarterbacks that have some phenomenal ability, but they don’t have that resiliency, and they struggle. I’ve also been around guys that don’t have quite the ability but have the resiliency, and they survive and survive well. So you have to have that mindset that, ‘ok we’ll fix it and move on to the next play.’ So, you know he’s mad at himself, but he’s not desperate or in despair.”

(On the thought process behind running the ball before the end of the first half instead of taking a knee against the Texans) –“You’re talking about the fumble, are you talking about the pass? Ok, well whether it’s right or wrong, whether there’s 45 seconds on the clock, we could have taken a knee, you’re right. It probably would have been safer, we probably wouldn’t have turned the ball over, but with 45 seconds left you have a chance maybe to break a run, rally, and then take a shot at the end zone. So that was our thinking going into it. If it was 10 seconds, 10-12 seconds, then I probably say take a knee. Forty-five seconds in a football game and we had timeouts left too, we just figured if we broke one, then we could take a shot, and that would be the right thing to do. If we had done what we were supposed to do there and blocked it correctly, then it wouldn’t have even happened, but we didn’t and so we turned the ball over.”

(On the Texans game planning to bat the ball down against a short passing game typically used with young quarterbacks, and if it will be a challenge moving forward) –“I don’t think so, because I don’t think that we did an inordinate amount of short passes. I know I wanted to start the game that way, and those didn’t get tipped. But I’m sure that would be a good philosophy that they could have because they are great rushing the quarterback. Those ends were the best in the league last year at pressuring the quarterback and we definitely didn’t want to get him beat up or sacked early in the game. But it really wasn’t a problem until our fourth possession, which is when it really started to unfold. The first three possessions I think we were pretty clean on stuff.”

(On whether his offensive success with past teams is motivating him to improve this offense for next week’s game) – “Winning the game is the ultimate objective obviously. However you can win the football game, that’s what you’re shooting for, but on the offensive side of the coin, we certainly let our defense down. There were a number of good things that happened in the ball game. I thought that we were able to run the ball well early, and could have continued to run the ball if the game hadn’t changed on us the way it did with the turnovers. I felt like we could move the ball, but didn’t do well, when we had some opportunities. We had some field position, we had the ball in the red zone, but didn’t put the ball in the end zone, and that’s a big concern of mine, that we’re down there on a couple of occasions and didn’t score touchdowns. Even late in the game when the game was out of hand, we had an opportunity to put it in the end zone and we didn’t take advantage of that. So as a competitor, yeah it does bother me.”

(On Tannehill’s fourth-down throws when he didn’t throw the ball into the end zone)– “Well, they were smart. Wade (Phillips’) has been doing this a long time. He made some really good calls and we had to put people into the end zone in order to take a shot. At the same time, they had everybody playing a picket fence back there and didn’t give us the end zone shot. So he elected to check it down hoping that he could run it in and that didn’t happen. Probably next time, he moves his feet a little bit, pumps and then maybe just throws it into the end zone on fourth down.”

(On how troubling it was that Davone Bess was the only receiver to catch a ball until the fourth quarter)– “If I thought it was going to be a problem this year, I don’t think it will be a problem. I think more receivers, I think the preseason has shown that the ball’s going to be spread around quite a bit. I’m not overly concerned with that because we had other guy’s catching balls. Reggie (Bush) was catching balls. (Anthony) Fasano was catching balls. (Daniel) Thomas got a screen, big, big screen. I’m not overly concerned with that, but if it ends up being a pattern, it would definitely be a concern that the receivers aren’t catching the balls.”


September 10, 2012

Room and time to be better for Dolphins

Before we start today, let me update you on a roster move: The Dolphins re-signed defensive lineman Ryan Baker to the 53-man roster this morning because they are seemingly concerned about the injury status of Tony McDaniel, who has been injured most of the preseason and got hurt again against Houston. So there's that. With the signing the Dolphins have 52 players on the roster.

The start of the NFL season was an exciting  prospect for Joe Philbin and his coaching staff becasue, as they said, the outcome against Houston would be a gauge of where the Dolphins are at this stage of their development.

Well, now they believe they know.

And if the players didn't know based on Sunday's 30-10 loss, Philbin reminded them Sunday night during the 2 1/2 hour flight home from Houston.

"I walked to the back of the plane and visited with players and told them, 'Now you know we're you're at. This is where we are." Philbin said. "The film is what we are right now. And so we have to accept responsibility for that and move forward and improve."

The bad news is the Dolphins are not in the same orbit as a project playoff team and possible Super Bowl contender. The good news?

The schedule offers a chance for better days.

In the next 10 weeks the Dolphins have it pretty good. They have only one playoff team from a year ago crossing their path -- the Cincinnati Bengals. It can be argued they don't run into an elite quarterback during that entire time, depending on what you think of Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton.

The team is also playing at home the next couple of weeks.

Things get easier, people.

Philbin, meanwhile, is hoping that while the opponents get easier his team gets better.

Maybe Ryan Tannehill makes better decisions and makes more accurate throws -- the five passes coaches thought should have been better.

Maybe a defense that suggested it can generate pass rush with Randy Starks helping Cameron Wake actually gets it going. Maybe the offensive line which Philbin said played only "ok" and "average" gets itself together and does well.

Maybe the Dolphins add a couple of veterans. (Philbin said general manager Jeff Ireland continues to search for talent to add to the current roster. A veteran wide receiver is obviously still possible, as Jabar Gaffney continues to be out there.) 

Maybe the Dolphins cut down on four give-aways. That is a formula for disaster and Sunday proved that. "We have to do a better job on our end of protection, eye control, throwing it in the open lane," Philbin said.

"This was the first time we had been in an NFL locker room before and getting ready to play in a real game," Philbin said. "So I don't know that I had any ... as I had said to you guys and said to the team, we're looking to have a reference point to find out exactly where we are so I didn't sit around and think, 'we're going to do this, that, and that.' I wanted to find out for myself where we were.

"And I think we've got a group of guys this game's important to. I think they're professional. I think they care. I think we got a lot of work to do. And hopefully they accept responsibility, as did I because I didn't coach the game well enough, nor did they play well enough for us to earn a victory.

"We did not play well enough to earn a victory. But I'm excited about going to work today and going into the team meeting and addressing the situation of where we are and where we're headed and I expect us to play better this week."


Defense didn't exactly plug the leaks

HOUSTON -- One of the more intriguing things coming out of Sunday's 30-10 loss to Houston was that the home team really didn't play that well and still won by 20 points. Obviously the Dolphins turnovers had a huge part in that, but can you imagine if Houston had been firing on all the proverbial cylinders under its proverbial hood?

As I mentioned in my column in Monday's newspaper, some of the defensive players after the game were talking as if the unit had played fairly well. And yes, there were instances, particularly early on, when the defense was up to the challenge of stopping Houston.

But what I heard suggested good work throughout.

“It’s the same old same old for me. We got a lot of tough guys, a lot of guys that can make plays all over the field," Cameron Wake said of the unit. "We know what we can do day in, and day out. We go at it in practice. I’ve seen what these guys can do. You just gotta go out there and execute and do our best to get the ball."

Wake and his teammates had their chances to be heroes when they were put in crisis situations after four consecutive Miami series ended in turnovers before halftime.

"That’s football," Wake said. "That’s the way the cards are dealt and you’ve gotta play your hand. As a defense, we’ve gotta go out there, regardless of where the ball is. They throw the ball in, and it’s on the one that’s an opportunity for us to keep them out, that’s an opportunity for us to get a turnover, an opportunity for us to do a lot of different things. That’s the mindset you’ve gotta have. You can’t go out there, ‘Oh man, they’re on the one yard line, what are we gonna do?’ We’re gonna stop them. That’s the way we go into each game."

Um, except that didn't happen. The offense gave the ball up four times on turnovers and four times the Texans offense converted points against Miami's D. Three of those times the Texans got the ball at their 46, Miami's 27, and Miami's 31 ... and converted touchdowns each time.

So what's this about 'we're gonna stop them?"

Yes, the Miami offense put the defense in a terrible hole. But the defense didn't exactly dig itself out. Those are simply the facts.