HOUSTON -- There was lots of post-play skullduggery and multiple shoving matches today betwen the Dolphins and Texans.But in the thing that mattered, namely the score, the Dolphins simply were out of their weight class.
The Texans did what everyone pretty much expected them to do: They trounced the Dolphins 30-10.
Ryan Tannehill's debut performance as Miami's quarterback was forgettable. He threw three interceptions. Not good that it happened. Not good in the way it happened -- with two of them coming on passes deflected at the line of scrimmage.
That was something we saw in the preseason and obviously has not been addressed.
The Dolphins made too many mistakes to win this or any game. Good teams lose the turnover statistic 4-0 and they typically lose. Bad teams have that happen and they get blown away.
The Dolphins got blown away.
Marcus Thigpen played well. Reggie Bush played hard and accounted for 115 total yards. Brian Hartline shined late. Davone Bess is a gamer. That was it, folks.
HOUSTON -- Well, the Dolphins are killing themselves.
They have four turnovers, three of them on three consecutive plays. And what was a 3-0 lead after one quarter is now a 24-3 deficit here.
The Texans clicked off four turnovers in seven minutes, three on interceptions and one on a Daniel Thomas fumble. Ryan Tannehill is having major issues with deflected passes as his last two passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted.
The live blog continues nonetheless in the comment section below.
I see the Dolophins throwing caution to the wind. I believe they are aware they are a major underdog and don't have the same amount of talent as the Houston Texans. So I believe they'll attack and gamble and see what happens.
I think the first couple of Miami offensive plays this game might be a deep pass off play-action. Don't be surprised if the team tries to get Marlon Moore or Anthony Armstrong over the top to, basically, stun Houston.
I believe the defense will blitz and blitz and blitz some more. I believe you might see a special teams gadget or two. I hope all this is so. It would be Joe Philbin setting the tone for his tenure. It would be great, wouldn't it?
Now to the inactives: Michael Egnew, Will Yeatman, Lamar Miller, Pat Devlin, Ray Feinga, Sammy Brown, Rishard Matthews.
As you know, there will be a live blog here today. We'll move from post to post at the end of every quarter so refresh often, particularly at the end of every quarter.
Some fans, frankly, are thinking this season is going to be another loser. Want to know what I'm thinking?
I predict the record for this season at the end of my column today after telling you where I see the Dolphins being at the moment as they get ready to kick off the season opener against Houston.
But this being an interactive exchange forum, I want to hear what you think. So read my column and then tell me in the comments section where you see the Dolphins record this year. Tell me where you agree or disagree with me.
Later, I'll update this blog with the day's inactives and any injury news and after that we'll have a live blog all day long. The Dolphins promoted linebacker Jonathan Freeny from their practice squad. I expect him to play today on special teams. Texans running back Arian Foster is expected to play, despite the injury report that has him as questionable. Linebacker Brooks Reed, meanwhile, is a legitimate game time decision.
Nolan Carroll was watching when the NFL season opened in New York Wednesday night and the Dallas Cowboys found a reserve cornerback who was in the game playing for, well, another reserve who had started and was now injured.
Time after time the Cowboys worked the backup cornerback successfully.
It was as if he was wearing a target on his back.
"That's how it is in the NFL," Carroll said this week. "It's about mismatches.They knew [Michael] Coe was playing and they tried to go after Coe a little bit. Then Coe went down and the guy behind him probably didn't get a lot of work at practice. So they tried to go after him with different looks and different routes. You try to get a mismatch."
The situation caught Carroll's attention because last year that was him.
Early last season the Dolphins started Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. And when Davis left the opener in against New England, Carroll entered the game as the team's fourth cornerback behind Benny Sapp. The Patriots saw him and found him. Time after time after time.
"You got to keep fighting. it happened to me last year, early in the season -- against New England and pretty much the first three games just being thrown in there," Carroll said. "You don't take that many reps with the ones, you're just watching. And watching is a lot different than doing. You just got to keep fighting. Keep plugging. It's a learning experience, really. This is what not to do the next time.
"I would tell [the Giants player] keep your head up and keep fighting. It's a learning experience. This is your first go-round and so all you can do is continue to stay positive and work."
This season Carroll is no longer an inexperienced No. 4 cornerback for Miami. He's now the No. 3 cornerback and as such will get a lot of work Sunday and every Sunday for the Dolphins in nickel and dime situations.
But unlike last season when Carroll was clearly unprepared for the playing time, this year he feels better about his chances. Much better.
"I think I'm a lot better as far as my technique, my experience, everything," he said. "I felt last year I was more just kind of out there playing. I didn't know what was going on, knowing the situation or what the offense wants to do. This year I know what's going on. I know what's going to happen on certain down and distance. I know formations and situations -- what they like to run, what they like to do. I'm much more confident this year than I was last year."
Jake Long is ready to go and will start at left tackle.
Brian Hartline is ready to go and will play.
Koa Misi is healthy and will start at outside linebacker.
John Jerry is healthy and will start at right guard.
That's the good news as delivered by the Dolphins injury report today. Long (knee), Hartline (calf), Jerry (ankle) and Misi (back) had all been limited in practice earlier in the week. All practiced full, the team reported today.
Miami did list defensive Tony McDaniel (toes/knee) as questionable. He was limited in practice Friday after practicing full the past two days. It is unclear if McDaniel was being rested or he had a setback. Either way, he seems the most banged up Miami player right now.
For the Texans, much has been made of injuries to running back Arian Foster (knee) and outside linebacker Brookes Reed (hip). Neither practiced today. Both are listed as questionable.
But both are expected to play. Foster even told Houston reporters he would play Sunday.
These past six weeks of training camp and preseason did not exactly deliver tons of great news about the Dolphins. The roster seems to lack talent. The team lost four of four preseason games. And every time we looked up, coaches were ripping players about their lack of performance.
There has, however, been some good out of this team so far.
And among the revelation of Jorvorskie Lane, the solid camp by Sean Smith, and big promises of a 150-tackle season by Karlos Dansby, the budding promise of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill stands out. It stands way out in neon, actually.
Tannehill has not just come as advertised. I'd say he's been better than advertised. Remember, he came to Miami as an inexperienced QB with only 19 college starts. Some said -- me included -- that he would have to sit a while and even those who wanted him to play right away did so on a blind whim not tethered to anything they knew of the rook's capabilities. Some said he was overdrafted as the No. 8 overall pick.
Well, Tannehill won the starting job. And he did it by ... winning the starting job. He was the best QB on the team. He knows the offense better than anyone in the room. He didn't make ridiculous decisions like throw into double-coverage in the preseason.
Does Tannehill have work to do?
He needs to be more accurate. He'll need to show some toughness in the face of a pass-rush. He'll need to show some guts when he throws two or three interceptions in a game, his team loses, his confidence wanes and everybody -- teammates, coaches, the media -- is looking at him sideways. After a Sunday game like that he's going to have to get back in the huddle the following Wednesday and prove he's the leader. He's going to have to prove he's unshaken.
We'll see if he has that in him.
But so far so good.
“I like his decision-making," coach Joe Philbin said. "If you watch the preseason film, there’s not a lot of picture of him throwing the ball into triple coverage and double coverage and making really bad decisions. Certainly, we want him to be a hair more accurate as we move forward during the regular season, which we believe we will be. No. 1, I like his decision making. No. 2, I think he has enough velocity with his arm that he can make the throws we need to make in this offense, whether it’s the 15-yard out breaking route, whether it’s the seam balls down the middle of the film, whether it’s throwing the ball on the move, which we think he does extremely well. We think he has a talented arm. The third thing is this guy’s a football player. In college, he helped his football team at two positions. He knows the game. He studies the game.
"The other nice thing is when he comes off on the sideline, this guy can kind of tell you exactly what happened. It’s not a mystery to him what just went on on the field. He might even tell you before you tell him that, ‘Yes, coach, I should have read the out breaking route instead of reading the option route based on the coverage.’ He knows what the coverages are. He’s not surprised a whole lot on the field.”
Tannehill's play is basically the most important thing for the Dolphins this year. It's not about the won-loss record because, let's be frank, the Dolphins are not a playoff contender. It's not about individual success by other players, either.
This year is about the quarterback. This quarterback.
This year is about Tannehill growing up, getting better, showing that he not only belongs but is worthy of the high draft pick Miami used on him.
If he lives up to that or at least moves consistently in the direction of living up to that status, this year will be a success.
So far so good.
To celebrate the start of all that in a couple of days, check out the video montage of Tannehill compiled and sent in by reader Joe Alvarez:
I confess that I don't know Joe Philbin well enough to vouch for exactly where he's coming from. I don't always know when he's kidding or serious. I don't know if he's a fiery motivator or professorial schemer. I can guess, but I cannot say I know 100 percent.
So today I asked coach if he's got a pregame or night-before speech ready to go for Saturday night or Sunday.
"I've got some ideas," Philbin said. "Sometimes I go on instinct but there's some thoughts I have, a couple of things I'm toying around with. They'll be different than some of my famous ones in Green Bay that I used to do the day before. I have to change up because I can't be quite the way I was when I was an assistant."
Um, ok, I'll bite: What was your most famous speech, coach?
"Probably the one where I dressed up like a pilgrim the day before a Thanksgiving Day game," Philbin said. "That's probably the most famous one."
"I'm totally serious," said the former Green Bay offensive coordinator. "I sent my wife out to the costume store. I had the buckles and the big hat and the whole bit. The point was we were playing the Lions and so it was Thanksgiving and they knew that over the years I'd done some spoofs on the Boston Marathon and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. I'd rubbed Massachusetts in their face. So the real point was we have to stick together like a family and play like a team. That was kind of the message."
The good news for the Miami Dolphins? Forbes declared today the team increased in value a total of five percent over the past year.
The bad news? The annual valuations of NFL teams as evaluated by Forbes has set the Dolphins value at $1.06 billion ... and that is still less than the reported $1.1 billion owner Stephen Ross paid for the team in January 2009.
Moreover, the club's 36 percent debt to value percentage is the third highest in the NFL behind only the New York Jets and New York Giants who recently took on significant debt after the building of the Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands.
At 1.06 million in estimated value, the Dolphins rank No. 15 in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys are the highest valued NFL franchise at $2.1 billion.
In the AFC East, the New England Patriots are valued at $1.635 billion (second-highest in the NFL), the New York Jets are valued at $1.284 billion (6th in the NFL) and the Buffalo Bills are valued at $805 million (No. 29 in the NFL).
One more thing: Don't feel poorly for Ross that this investment still isn't in the black. He's worth $3.1 billion, according to Forbes, which ranks him tied for the 367th richest person in the world. So he's doing fine, thanks.
Cut by an NFL eam one day and claimed by another team one thousand miles away the next day? Well, if you're receiver Anthony Armstrong, you got four hours to pack. You couldn't really move so you're now paying rent in two places. You're driving a rental car while you car sits up north.
And you spent seven hours learning a new playbook Tuesday while other players enjoyed a day off.
"It's kind of stressful," Armstrong said Wednesday after the Dolphins practice in preparation for Sunday's game against Houston. "But you embrace it and at least I'm employed and able to do that instead of being cut and out of football and having to figure out how to move back home."
"It has been a whirlwind, that's the perfect word for it. I go from supposedly on the team and getting ready for New Orleans to there's trade rumors and then I'm cut and going on to another team the next day. I had four hours to pack and I got here and had seven hours of playbook install with the coaches. It hasn't stopped yet. They've kept me pretty busy and I'm still getting used to coach (Joe) Philbin's schedule."
Armstrong was on the Dolphins practice squad in 2008 before being cut during training camp in 2009. He came to the Dolphins with great speed and an ability to get open deep. But his route running and hands were sketchy.
Well, his route-running is better. I cannot account for his hands. But he can still run. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill talked today about how well Armstrong "gets separation" on slant patterns.
"It's actually crazy and it's ironic," Armstrong said. "You leave and do some things in other places and now they bring you back to be what they wanted you to be way back then. Sometimes it goes that way. Sometimes it takes for you to kind of fall and let someone let you go and go develop somewhere else. You feel wanted. It's great."
So what's the different between the player who left Miami in 2009 and is returning in 2012?
"I think I've developed a lot better, one, as a man, and also as a receiver and a football player as a whole," Armstrong said. "I had some good coaches that I ran into who gave me pretty good sound work on fundamentals. Ike Hilliard was here and was up there (in Washington) for a brief time and learn much from him during that time frame. I'm always going to be able to run downfield, but it's important to be able to run underneath routes as well."
Armstrong has been getting the crash course in the Miami gameplan and playbook. He's not been asked to know the entire book, but rather the portions that he needs to know to contribute on Sunday.
"I try to learn the whole thing because it meakes it easier to understand it all," he said. "I'm pretty much up to speed with what they've given me so far. I'm not going to say I'm 100 percent but I'm probably pretty high 85-90 percent of what I need to know so far."
One advantage Armstrong does enjoy in returning to familiar surroundings: Despite the quick turn of events, he's in a familiar town. He's not getting lost on the highway.
"And," he said, "I know where all the good food spots are so that's pretty helpful."
I know there is much concern over the Dolphins offensive line only four days from the start of the regular season against Houston.
Is Jake Long healthy? Who is going to play at right guard now that Artis Hicks is on injured reserve? Can rookie Jonathan Martin hold up? Is there cohesion on this unit? Is there depth?
I say relax.
All is not doom and gloom. Things will be fine -- barring an injury in practice this week and at least until kickoff on Sunday.
The Dolphins offensive line is healthy, happy and ready to go. Jake Long is expected to be healthy enough to start against Houston after suffering an MCL sprain to his right knee 10 days ago. Long is practicing today.
The oft-troubling right guard spot has been inherited by the next man up and the one who started a couple of preseason games at the position. Yes, that is John Jerry. Yes, he missed time last week with some sort of ankle issue. He's fine. He's practicing. He's your guy at RG. (Don't ask me to account if he's going to play well or not or be able to hold up from a conditioning standpoint or not, but at least he'll be present Sunday.)
Martin? He'll be facing the like of J.J. Watts or Connor Barwin on Sunday. Both are proven pass-rushers. Yes, it is a concerning matchup. But I suppose the Dolphins will slide their protection to help the rookie. I suppose they will leave Long on the one-on-one island and help the rookie right tackle with double-teams and chips from running backs. I don't think it will be a disaster.
The rest of the starting line? Mike Pouncey is fine and needs to make a significant jump from a season ago. And Richie Incognito needs to continue being part of the solution and not a problem.
So the starting unit of LT Long, LG Incognito, C Pouncey, RG Jerry and RT Martin should be fine for now. Beyond that? I worry.
I worry that Will Yeatman is still a developmental player. I worry that Josh Samuda is a rookie and untested as well as unproven. I worry whether Nate Garner can stay healthy. And I worry that Ray Feinga is a guy who was good enough to get cut initially and only returned to the team because another player who actually made the team (Artis Hicks) got placed on injured reserve.
So what's the deal long-term for additions? Jake Scott is out there. So is Vernon Carey.
No NFL team has touched Scott primarily because he's been a mediocre player for a couple of years now and has injury issues. No one would want him on the roster the first week of the season and have to guarantee nearly $1 million in base salary to have him as a backup. Look for him to be a priority free agent call when a team suffers OL injuries after the first week.
Carey? He's retired and working as an assistant high school coach locally. He's not in shape, folks. Sorry.
David Garrard has been released and guard Artis Hicks has been placed on injured reserve. Other than speak to the utter waste of time this year's free agency period brought the Dolphins it suggests the Dolphins have some issues they still need to address.
First, the club is now without the player who was the defacto starting right guard in the preseason. Hicks was the best player there. But a neck or nerve (no one knows for sure) injury that kept Hicks from practicing part of the past two weeks has sent him to the injured reserve list.
The starting right guard now? Probably John Jerry. Maybe Josh Samuda. Maybe Nate Garner. It's uncertain because Jerry himself has been hurt the past few days.
The Dolphins did re-sign Ray Feinga after cutting him two days ago. He's primarily a tackle.
Garrard is gone because, well, he's still injured. And the club wasn't about to carry an injured QB with an injury history who would be guaranteed $2.75 million if he's on the roster this week.
This solidifies Matt Moore as the backup quarterback for now. Moore, by the way, obviously was not traded as was rumored and even erroneously reported by a South Florida radio show. It probably didn't help that Moore completed only 39 percent of his passes in the preseason.
The Dolphins have an open roster spot.
And for the record, the Dolphins this offseason signed Chad Johnson, Eric Steinbach, David Garrard, Gary Guyton, Hicks, Tyrell Johnson, Legedu Naanee, Richard Marshall and Jamaal Westerman as free agents.
Guyton, Tyrell Johnson, Chad Johnson, Garrard and Westerman were cut. Hicks went on IR. Marshall is a starter. Naanee is on the team.
Plaxico Burress because he's a free agent? No. Definitely not. Dolphins didn't want him last year and still do not.
Terrell Owens? I've already reported to you that GM Jeff Ireland said no.
James Jones in trade? I doubt it because he would cost (a high draft pick) and he's not worth that and the Dolphins think they now have a deep threat.
Donte Stallworth? Maybe. The club worked him out and sent him for a follow-up medical test so he's on the call list.
Jabar Gaffney? Maybe. He's worked out and is dangling out there.
[Update: Gaffney actually is working out today.]
That's the state of possible upgrades for the Dolphins at wide receiver. What does it all mean?
The Dolphins are shopping for bargains and discards right now.
If you expected the Dolphins to do something outrageous, perhaps even audacious, the past few days to improve the struggling wide receiver corps you probably weren't all that moved by the waiver wire pickup of Anthony Armstrong. He's a nice receiver, a solid second-tier talent. But a star? Not yet.
Moreover, if you believe that Miami really isn't done improving and the addition of Gaffney nor Stallworth impress you, again, you're going to be disappointed. That's because a big name simply is not likely to come this way, folks.
Mike Wallace is not coming.
Dwayne Bowe? Hard to imagine the Chiefs will part with him and that the Dolphins would pay him what he wants.
Who else is out there?
In the draft, I mean -- because that's where the Dolphins are most likely to improve that position most when they finally stop shopping in the bargain aisle.
The Dolphins are making additions to their two positions of need today.
They successfully reeled in their first waiver wire claim in getting cornerback RJ Stanford, who was cut by Carolina. They also added free safety Troy Nolan off waivers from the Houston Texans.
They have also added wide receiver Anthony Armstrong although it is unclear if he comes on a waiver claim or as a free agent. The Dolphins had discussed trading for Armstrong Friday before those talks with Washington broke down and the Redskins cut the wide receiver.
[Update: Armstrong was claimed off waivers.]
[Update 2: The Dolphins also claimed linebacker Sammy Brown, who was cut by the St. Louis Rams Friday. Brown is going to have to contribute on special teams because he's not going to play a lot otherwise. The Rams were expecting to put him on their practice squad. Brown was a late-round pick. He came to the NFL with a reputation for taking plays off. I hope he's over that or he won't survive in the NFL.]
Stanford is a former seventh-round selection in Carolina from the 2010 draft. He is pretty much a developmental player although he's on the Miami 53-man roster. Stanford has 13 career tackles and one interception.
Obviously, Stanford is not expected to start. He's a fourth or fifth cornerback for Miami.
Nolan, 25, is in his third season. He's played 30 career games the past two seasons and has three interceptions. The addition of Nolan can allow the Dolphins to move Jimmy Wilson from safety to cornerback if the club wants. I expect that will happen.
That's something coach Joe Philbin discussed Friday.
“As you know, we still have some things we have to do and we want to obviously see what’s out there," Philbin said. "To say we’re leaning one way or the other would probably be premature, but certainly he’s played that position. Good common sense would tell you that would be an option.”
Obviously, the addition of three players to the roster means three have to go. It makes sense for the team to let go of Steve Slaton. There is a glut at running back and the team wanted to trade Slaton for Armstrong yesterday.
[Update: Slaton has been cut.]
Armstrong, by the way, returns to the Dolphins after two seasons with the Washington Redskins. He had a fine season in 2010, catching 44 passes for 871 yards (19.8 average) but he was injured much of last season and slumped to only seven catches.
He was cut by the Redskins because they upgraded their receiver corps with free agent additions and Armstrong was injured for parts of camp. It's unclear how healthy Armstrong is right now. Armstrong was on the Dolphins practice squad in 2008 and was cut by Miami in August 2009 as the team trimmed the roster for the season.