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73 posts from December 2012

December 23, 2012

Dolphins lead Bills 7-0 to start second quarter

Reggie Bush is have a fine day catching the football. Lamar Miller is having a good day running the ball.

The Dolphins are leading the Bills, 7-0 after one quarter.

Miller has 29 yards on five carries. Bush has two catches for 31 yards and scored on a 17-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill.

The live blog continues in the comments section.

Inactives (Egnew active!) and live blog

Michael Egnew is in uniform and active for the first time this season. It's a party at Sun Life!

Dimitri Patterson, signed last week off waivers from Cleveland, is starting. I'm telling you, it's a party and you don't believe me.

The reason Patterson is starting is Nolan Carroll (knee) is inactive and the team is not going with Bryan McCann, who has played longer and been with the Dolphins longer. Interesting.

Jason Trusnik makes his second start in place of Koa Misi. Marlon Moore start at WR for the injured Davone Bess.

Here are the inactives:

Pat Devlin, Bess, Carroll, Misi, Patrick Brown, Kyle Miller, Keeston Randall.

We've got a live blog going in the comments section today. I'll join you around kickoff.                       

Starks back but who has the overall advantage?

The Dolphins got good news Saturday when Randy Starks, who missed the entire week of practice due to a personal reason not related to injury, returned to the team. He was promptly taken off the injury report. The Dolphins had previously listed him as questionable because they didn't know his status and now he will be available to play today against the Buffalo Bills.

I presume the Dolphins will play him.

How does the rest of today's game stack up?

Like so:

When the Dolphins run the ball: This was supposed to be a major advantage for the Dolphins in the first meeting between the teams but it didn’t work out that way. The Dolphins are a decent running team (16th in the NFL) while the Bills are terrible against the run (30th overall). The Bills were actually the worst rush defense in the NFL on the day in November the teams played. But Buffalo limited Miami to only 60 rushing yards and a paltry 2.5 yards per carry. That was the worst rushing average for the Dolphins in the past eight games. The troubling thing is Buffalo didn’t always sneak safeties into the tackle box to guarantee a numbers advantage at the line of scrimmage. When this happens, the Dolphins must win hat-on-hat assignments. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins pass the ball: The Bills are merely mediocre against the pass, but after a slow start, Mario Williams has shown his offseason signing to be a good acquisition. Williams has 10.5 sacks. The Bills typically line him up over the right tackle so Nate Garner, who is a better run-blocker than pass-blocker, will face perhaps his stiffest test since becoming a starter two games ago. The Miami receiver and tight end corps is a walking M.A.S.H. unit this week. Tight end Charles Clay is out for the season. Davone Bess missed last week, didn’t practice this week and is also out today. Brian Hartline also missed practice this week although he will play. Both Bess and Hartline are nursing back issues. None of this suggests a big day for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. ADVANTAGE: Buffalo.

When the Bills run the ball: C.J. Spiller was a bit surprising to the Dolphins not only because the degree of speed and agility he showed in the last game was unexpected but because he actually broke some tackles and Miami defenders weren’t really ready for that. If you like Reggie Bush, you should like Spiller because he’s younger, faster and more productive. The Miami defense had trouble with Spiller and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson earlier this year so it must prove it can handle the small, quick type of back. This will be a battle of wills. It will test how much the Bills insist on running the ball – they ran 31 times last game – and will test whether Miami linebackers and safeties are willing to play downhill to support the defensive front. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Bills pass the ball: Ryan Fitzpatrick has enjoyed team success against the Dolphins, as he’s 3-2 in games he’s started against Miami. But his individual statistics against the Dolphins are unimpressive. He’s thrown five TDs and seven INTs against Miami and his quarterback rating is a sub par 74.9. Fitzpatrick has completed 61 percent of his passes against the Dolphins and that mark would be higher if not for a game in 2011 in which he managed to complete only 51 percent of his throws. The Miami secondary has handled trades (Vontae Davis), injuries (Richard Marshall) and better quarterbacks (Tom Brady) so Buffalo’s pass attack won’t scare them. The Dolphins haven’t yielded more than 238 passing yards in six games. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams: Leodis McKelvin set the tone for the last meeting when he returned the first Dolphins punt of the game 79 yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins are certain that won’t happen this time because McKelvin this week went on injured reserve. What the Dolphins are hoping can repeat was the kickoff return TD Marcus Thigpen authored against the Bills. Dan Carpenter (groin) is done for the season but the Dolphins have added a solid and accurate kicker in Nate Kaeding to take his place. ADVANTAGE: Miami. 

Coaching: Remember Dave Wannstedt? The former Dolphins coach whose teams historically struggled in rematches against AFC East opponents? He’s the defensive coordinator in Buffalo now. The Bills defense got the better of the Miami offense last time. But they’re going to play the same style, without blitzes or disguises, which is Wannstedt’s approach. This is an opportunity for Miami coaches to step up. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Remember: Live blog today. I'll also update when inactives come out and as news warrants.

December 21, 2012

Bess, Misi officially out vs. Bills, others questionable

Davone Bess and Koa Misi will miss their second consecutive game Sunday when the Dolphins play the Buffalo Bills.

The news is better for wide receiver Brian Hartline, who is listed as questionable. Hartline worked some on Friday and is expected to play barring a significant setback.

Interestingly, the Dolphins are not certain about defensive tackle Randy Starks. Although he is not injured, he missed the entire week of practice for personal reasons. The club has declined to specify what those reasons are.

Starks is questionable for the game.

OUT
WR Davone Bess – back
K Dan Carpenter – groin
LB Koa Misi – ankle

QUESTIONABLE
CB Nolan Carroll – knee
WR Brian Hartline – back
TE Jeron Mastrud – hamstring
DT Randy Starks – not injury related

PROBABLE
WR Armon Binns – ankle
S Chris Clemons – neck, ribs
LB Karlos Dansby – biceps
DE Derrick Shelby – groin
S Jimmy Wilson – hip

The Bills will also have three players missing but none have been significant contributors. Starting center Eric Wood is questionable.

OUT
DE Mark Anderson – knee
LB Chris White – hamstring
WR Marcus Easley – hamstring

QUESTIONABLE
C Eric Wood – knee

PROBABLE
G Andy Levitre – knee
TE Scott Chandler – foot
DT Kyle Williams – ankle
LB Nick Barnett – knee
CB Justin Rogers – foot
DT Marcell Dareus – knee/wrist
TE Lee Smith – back
RB C.J. Spiller – shoulder
CB Aaron Williams – knee
DE Mario Williams – wrist

Carpenter hurting, Dolphins sign kicker

Dan Carpenter has been slowed by a groin injury and it is serious. How serious?

Carpenter is done kicking for the season. The club put him on injured reserve today, which means he will not kick Sunday against the Buffalo Bills or in the season-finale against New England and so today Miami signed free agent kicker Nate Kaeding.

Kaeding is experienced and also has playoff experience gained from his nine years with the San Diego Chargers. This year he was with San Diego three games and was seven-of-seven on FG attempts and six-of-six on point after attempts.

Kaeding, 30, was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006 and 2009 and is statistically the most accurate kicker in NFL history. He has connected on 87 percent of his kicks.

The irony here is Kaeding was placed on injured reserve by the Chargers earlier this season for, of course, having a groin injury. Once he got healthy, the club was forced to release him off the injured reserve list.

Kaeding also spent all of the 2011 season on injured reserve when he tore knee ligaments while trying to make a tackle on the opening kickoff of the regular season.

This ending is typical of the season Carpenter had. He was excellent kicking from 39 yards and in, connecting on all 12 of his attempts. But beyond that range he connected on only 10 of 15 kicks and missed kicks against the Jets and Cardinals that might have delivered victories in games the Dolphins eventually lost.

Let me say this now: The Dolphins did not bring in any competition for Carpenter the last couple of training camps. I would be surprised if that is the case next year.

Carpenter has only one more year on his contract (2013) and he is no bargain at $2.67 million so look for the Dolphins to search for a cheaper option.

 

 

Bills at Dolphins: I got it you take it

It's not sexy or exciting to read about, but since the Mayans were absolutely wrong and the world goes on and the NFL season continues this weekend, I want to discuss perhaps the most unsung issue facing the Dolphins and Bills this weekend.

It's the issue that will likely decide this game.

It's the issue that a majority of NFL coaches believe decides most NFL games.

Turnovers.

The Dolphins are terrible at causing them or benefitting from them. They have. for example, recovered only three fumbles this year. Only Kansas City and Philadelphia are worse with two recovered fumbles.

The Dolphins total take-away number this year is 12. That's nine interceptions and three recovered fumbles.

The Patriots, by contrast, have 20 recovered fumbles this year and 16 more interceptions. In fact, 10 teams have recovered more fumbles than the Dolphins have total take-aways so far. It's baffling to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

“We’ve done everything and then some, and we’re going to continue to do it," Coyle said. "Really, I say this to you guys, I don’t think there is a team in the league that works harder, not just as a result of what’s been happening this season, but from April when Coach Philbin came here, it’s been a
point of emphasis in every practice."

The good news for the Dolphins is the Bills pose a threat to their vast inability to come up with take-aways because Buffalo is among the most philanthropic teams with the football in the NFL. The Bills have given the football up 29 this season.

Only five teams have given it up more.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has 15 interceptions. He's fumbled seven times and lost five. The man is a machine!

C.J. Spiller has lost both his fumbles this year and the Dolphins are probably bemoaning the fact Fred Jackson, he of the four lost fumbles, is not playing Sunday.

The point is while the Dolphins are terrible at taking the ball away, the Bills are almost equally terrible at keeping the ball safe.

It is the moveable force against the resistable object.

December 20, 2012

Wannstedt's unchanging approach finally a plus for Miami

Earlier this year I shared with you how Dave Wannstedt, former Dolphins coach and current Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator, had not changed a lot with age.

His scheme is still the 4-3.

He still wants his cornerbacks to press.

He still believes in playing a very unsophisticated system that doesn't do much in the way of disguises or blitzes or, well, changing from game to game.

This approach, which worked great at the University of Miami in the 1980s and with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s, is probably a good way to go when it's backed up by superior talent. Ultimately, talent trumps everything.

You got it, you got it.

You don't, you beter figure something else out.

Well, as you know Wannstedt didn't have it to the degree he believed during his time with the Miami Dolphins. He certainly doesn't have it with the Bills.

And yet, his philosophy has. Not. Changed.

So much for adapting or evolving.

This philosophy was fine for a while with the Dolphins but as with most things in the NFL, somebody eventually studies the problem and solves it. The Dolphins' defense got solved eventually.

That's why Wannstedt won the AFC East his first season and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. They made the playoffs again his second year and then they missed the playoffs three consecutive years, eventually falling to 4-12 in 2004 and quitting before the season ended as he was going to be fired anyway.

Folks figured out the Dolphins defense. Players complained about it. I wrote about it extensively at the time. And Wannstedt did very little to correct the issue.

The most obvious proof this was happening? The Dolphins typically started fast but swooned as the seasons closed. Why? It wasn't the change in weather. It was the lack of change and in a defense that was apparently too easy to figure out.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in AFC East play. As the teams played each other twice, it gave opponents a second chance to figure Miami's defense out. And they did.

The Dolphins had a 10-7 record in first annual meetings against AFC East opponents during Wannstedt's time. They had a 6-9 record in the second annual meetings against those same opponents. (Wannsted left in October of 2004 which accounts for the 17 games on the first end but only 15 on the rematches).

So why is this history important?

Well, Wannstedt is basically the same coach only older in Buffalo. Earlier this year, the Bills didn't blitz, didn't change or disguise things on defense. They basically played their defense game after game and Wannstedt expected it to work.

When he was asked why he wasn't blitzing early on, he answered, "The front four has to get there."

And that brings me to this:

After all those years of being victimized by Wannstedt's unchanging approach, this week the Dolphins can benefit from that same stone age, unchanging approach.

Yes, the Bills beat Miami in the first meeting between the teams. But this week offers the Miami coaching staff, particularly the offensive coaches, another crack at the same looks, same scheme, same approach, for the second time.

This game is an opportunity for the Miami staff to show itself able to absorb information and solve the problem.

And they can do it with a degree of certainty that the Bills are not changing the variables as they prepare for the game because that's not how Wannstedt works.

What can I say? SMH.

Follow Armando Salguero on twitter.

A quick study? Michael Egnew is up next

Before Wednesday's media session the Dolphins staff pulled aside tight end Michael Egnew and gave him a quick tutorial on speaking in circles and not answering questions directly. It was a lesson in moving the lips without really saying anything.

This little lesson was apparently necessary because everyone knows Egnew, a rookie who has been inactive every game this season, is expected to finally be in uniform Sunday for the first time this regular season. The injury to Charles Clay makes Egnew the next guy up and so, barring a disastrous week of practice, the numbers necessitate Egnew be active.

(One word of caution: The Dolphins have Kyle Miller on the roster as well so he's a possbility, but he arrived in Miami only three weeks ago so it stands to reason Egnew is ahead of him in familiarity with the offense.)

Anyway, Egnew absormbed his lesson on media double-speak like a champion.

He was asked if he's ready to take care of business on Sunday.

"Right now, all I'm trying to do is get better every day. I let the decision-makers make the decisions," Egnew said. "I prepare for the game every week."

Does that mean he's ready or not?

Does Egnew realize that fans ask about him a lot? And does he feel any added pressure to get his career started?

"I prepare for the game every week," he said. "For me it's just another week and if I'm called upon, I'll be able to go."

Is that a yes? Is that a no?

I'll say this, if Egnew washes out as a tight end, he should go into local politics because he has the non-answer answers down pat.

But that's not a terrible thing. That tells me something. And here it is:

It tells me Michael Egnew is not dumb. He is a quick study. He obviously can learn fairly quickly as I've just shown you. That should be encouraging because if one can elminate an inability to learn as one of the reasons he has not been playing, we can get more easily get to the real reason.

Here it is: Blocking.

Egnew came out of college with absolutely no idea how to block.

Before the gaggle of reporters crowded around him Wednesday, I spent a couple of minutes alone with him and asked him, directly, if the reputation of University of Missouri (his college) tight ends not knowing how to block is fair.

He nodded his agreement without protest.

And then I asked why it is so many Missouri tight ends go to the NFL and have the reputation for not blocking.

"I think we're not asked to do a lot of it," Egnew said. "The offense we run doesn't call for the tight end to do a lot of it so that's not something you work on enough."

So to boil it down for you, Egnew arrived at the Dolphins not knowing how to block. He was picked in the third round of the NFL draft without a solid foundation of blocking.

Let that marinate for a moment ...

You know that football is about tackling. And running. And passing. And catching. And blocking.  

Those are the fundamentals.

But Egnew apparently wasn't taught blocking in college -- at least not at a level proficient enough to get him started in the NFL. The Dolphins have had to work from the ground up in this area.

That and some other reasons having to do with familiarity of Miami's offensive foundation are why Egnew has not played this year.

So here's the bottom line question:

How long does it take somebody to learn to block?

Again, Egnew is not a dumb kid. He's bright. He clearly learned the Dolphins system for saying nothing very quickly. I believe he should be able to learn to block somewhat quickly.

Why he hasn't learned to the coaching staff's satisfaction is a question that lingers.

But ready or not, here he comes Sunday. Unless things are much, much worse than we thought.

Follow Armando Salguero on twiiter.

December 19, 2012

Philbin challenges his RBs to break tackles

One of the more disappointing things about this season (there have been some, you know) came in the Buffalo loss in November.

The Dolphins lost but it was how it happened that truly frustrated. In losing the Dolphins showed an unexpected inability to run the ball. Understand that the Bills at the time were 32nd in the NFL against the run. That means that as NFL teams go, the Bills against the run basically, um, stink.

And yet Buffalo held Miami to 60 yards rushing. Buffalo limited Miami to 2.5 yards per carry.

It was completely unexpected.

So what up with that, I asked coach Joe Phiblin today.

“They did a good job of getting off of blocks number one, I felt," he said. "Unfortunately, we’ve watched that game a couple of times. We watched it in live color there when I was there. We watched it on the way home from Buffalo. Watched it the next day and I’ve been watching it a couple times this week.

"Number one, they got off blocks very well and the second thing I thought they did is they tackled well. I know that’s simple, but we didn’t have a lot … As you know, a lot of times you’ve got to have backs break a tackle to get explosive runs and we just didn’t have a lot of those. So it’s a credit to them. They got off blocks. Credit their coaches. They had a good game plan and they tackled well."

Did you catch that?

Yes, the Bill get credit for getting off the blocks. Yes, the offensive line has to do a better job of staying locked up. But in those sentences you can find a challenge to Miami's running backs.

And that challenge is this: Break a tackle, will ya!

Philbin appreciates backs that break tackles and definitely Reggie Bush didn't do a ton of that against the Bills. He also didn't make them miss very often.

The idea that Philbin likes backs that break tackles is evident in how he speaks of Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, a player very much like Bush in both size, speed and style.

"Their running back does a great job of breaking tackles and that’s why he's averaging so many yards per carry," Philbin said. "We’ve got to break a couple tackles and we’ve got to sustain our blocks better."

Daniel Thomas on IR so what now?

The Dolphins are shaking up and rattling the roster today. So let me tell you how and how the team might address the issues:

You know Charles Clay is out and on injured reserve with a knee injury. Today, Daniel Thomas joined his teammate on injured reserve with a knee injury so he's also done for the year. The team added Julian Posey to the roster from the practice squad.

Now, how does Miami deal with this?

Michael Egnew is very likely to be active Sunday against Buffalo. He would have to absolutely stink in practice this coming week to be inactive. The reason?

Well, the Dolphins are likely going to run a lot of double-tight-end formations because, in part, the team needs to run that look to protect right tackle Nate Garner against Mario Williams, who typically lines up over the right tackle.

If the Dolphins are like anyone else, they will use a tight end to double Williams on many if not most pass plays. This may be especially true for the Dolphins because while Garner is a decent run-blocker his weakness is pass-blocking -- something offensive coordinator Mike Sherman alluded to Monday.

This is only my speculation, but if the team is going to count on two tight ends so much, they need to take three to the game in case one gets injured. Thus Egnew comes into the picture.

At running back, the loss of Thomas is mitigated by the fact Lamar Miller has been working ahead of him already. Obviously the Dolphins need to have another option and that might include Marcus Thigpen who in recent weeks has actually been getting more work in the slot at receiver.

I say Thigpen works at back at RB now and Armon Binns gets the work in the slot. Again, that is just logical.

That still leaves a hole for what the Dolphins do on goal line situations. Thomas has been their goal-line back which is the reason he has four TDs this year. So who takes that job now?

Jorvorskie Lane is an option. Obviously, Bush is an option. And Miller, who weighs more than Bush is an option.

Lane was the one Miami used earlier this year so he can't be dismissed but his handle on the football has coaches worried. He has had some fumble issues. Bush isn't very big or physical so that worries. Miller has no experience and his tough running isn't exactly a proven commodity.

One wild card: Goal line run from the 1-yard line?

Quarterback sneak.

Improbable postseason charge would kill draft order status

The Dolphins are on two very interesting and divergent courses and, frankly, I'm torn about which is better.

On the one hand this team that is flawed and has lost more than it has won and doesn't have an offense that scores consistently is still not out of the playoff hunt. That's right, hard as it is to believ (even to them), the Dolphins are still mathematically alive for the postseason.

Now, various things have to happen, not the least of which is Miami has to win out and that includes a victory at New England where very few teams come away with a victory late in the season.

Beyond that, the Dolphins need help in geatting the right combination of losses from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and others.

[The Bengals must lose their final two games at Pittsburgh and home against Baltimore. The Steelers must win at home against Cincy and lose at home to Cleveland. And the Jets have to lose again.]  

It is so improbable even players are talking about this season as one in which the team didn't accomplish its goal of making the playoffs.

"We didn't do enough," linebacker Karlos Dansby said Tuesday in speaking to the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club.

And against this possible but improbable circumstance we have the NFL draft order.

You see, with every victory they add in this season that will likely end at New England, the Dolphins sink in the draft order. Last week the FIns were slated for the No. 11 overall pick in the first round. Then they beat the Jaguars and now Miami is slated for the No. 13 overall selection in the first round.

Every bit of success hurts Miami's draft standing.

Do you see the irony?

Win and you might draw closer to a playoff berth that might happen but probably won't. But if the team does win, the cost is a superior draft standing, which obviously hurts the chances of picking an elite player.

Dolphins fans should be particularly sensitive to this situation because many last year advocated a "Suck for Luck" mentality that entailed rooting for the team to lose so that it could get an elite quarterback such as Andrew Luck.

Turns out the Dolphins had too much success late in the season after starting out 0-7 and wound up with the eighth overall selection.

On the other hand, the Dolphins haven't tasted the playoffs since 2008. So perhaps some of you are more than willing to sacrifice the chance to have a Top 10 draft pick in exchange for the possibility -- however slight -- that the team might get into the postseason.

Where do you stand?

 

December 18, 2012

Tannehill's decision-making light years better than Sanchez

I just got done watching the Jets and Tennessee.

And when I stopped shaking my head in disbelief (this took several minutes) it dawned on me that one thing Mark Sanchez has been unable or refused to learn through nearly four full seasons as an NFL starter, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to do seemingly by instinct.

Sanchez, a mistake machine who has turned the ball over and NFL high 50 times the last two seasons, throws into double and triple coverage time and time and time again. It's like he's almost trying to throw interceptions.

He does it when he's got time. He does it when he's under pressure and seemingly panicked. He does it a lot.

He'll see one receiver and maybe two defenders and somehow believe that's a good place to go with the football.

It's incredible that he does it.

Tannehill rarely if ever does this and he's started only 12 NFL games.

"... On the film, there’s not a lot of they’ve got four, we’ve got one," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "I think that’s a good place to start. And I think his overall awareness as a young player is very good.”

I'm not saying Tannehil is a great quarterback. He's not yet. I'm not even saying he's going to be great once he gains more experience and has more talent around him. We'll just have to see if that happens.

But Tannehill's chances of being good are, well, good if he makes good decisions. It's a fundamental principle. If he keeps the football out of harm's way, he already has the game-managing thing licked.

It's good to have the Miami quarterback in that place.

It's especially good when you consider the Jets quarterback isn't anywhere near that place.

December 17, 2012

Tons of news and notes from Dolphins coordinators

Coordinators Monday was very interesting today. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle gave insight into a number of topics including the future at left tackle, the surprise at right tackle, Ryan Tannehill, Jason Trusnik, and more. 

I thought the most revealing statement of the day came from Mike Sherman, who gave team credibility to the idea that next year's left tackle might not necessarily be JaKe Long. As you know, this space and my column has discussed at length the idea that if Jonathan Martin plays well at left tackle, that will affect the Dolphins approach to re-signing Jake Long for next year.

Bluntly, Martin is cheaper than Long and if he's about as good as Long, Long has a problem returning to Miami at a high salary.

Sherman gave voice to this stream of thought.

"I think he has a chance to be a very good tackle in this league," the offensive coordinator said of Martin. "He still has some growing up to do and learning and whatnot and strength development. But I think he has a chance to be an excellent left tackle or right tackle in this league, wherever he ends up next year."

Martin has started two games and faced two premier pass rushers both times in Aldon Smith and Jason Babin.

By the way, the Dolphins are pleasantly surprised by Nate Garner at right tackle. He was struggling to make the roster in camp. Now?

The club is still concerned mostly about his pass blocking, but so far so good.

"He's put together a couple of really good games," Sherman said. "You worry about how he's going to handle the pass rush but he's done a good job."

Up next for Garner will be Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills.

As you know, this season is mostly about the progress of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Well, call Sunday a step in that progress because Shermas was very pleased with the rookie's performance to the point he said it "would have to be right up at the top" of his showings this season.

"Yesterday was a good indication of what he's capable of doing," Sherman said. "I think he's had some very good games. I think he shows a lot of promise. You have to understand, he hasn't played that position as much as some other quarterbacks have at a very high level. He's learning on the job. I think he processes things and tries not to make the same mistake twice.

"I think he has an excellent future and he'll just continue to get better."

Sherman says of Tannehill there's "not a whole lot of things we don't ask him to do." One thing the Dolphins don't ask Tannehill to do a lot is run the ball a la Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III. Obviously, they're concerned about him getting hurt.

So don't expect a ton more of spread option runs for Tannehill even though he's shown good mobility and ability to gash the defense on certain runs.

"I think at this level you have to be very careful," Sherman said. "You don't want to build your offense around that in particular. I think we want to do it when people aren't really defending that as much and you just throw it on them once in a while. If people are defending that, there's ways to defend it and it can really cause some havoc for your quarterback. And also, if they do that, your offense.

"You have to be very judgmental when you do that. It's something we'll do but not a heavy dose."

Some side notes from Sherman:

Receiver Armon Binns had 10-12 snaps and "had a winning grade," according to Sherman. Not bad considering he joined the team on Tuesday and played on Sunday.

When Charles Clay went down Sunday, the team moved Anthony Fasano to his position. It was a position Fasano hadn't played all year.

"He knew exactly what to do as we had to move the tight end group around," Sherman said.

Fasano this year has been spread out, in tight. even In the backfield. Yes, he's versatile. Not great. But good enough to be versatile.

On defense, the issues are different. The defense is frankly ahead of the Miami offense. While the Dolphins offense is striving for consistency, the defense has mostly reached that and is looking to take the next step.

I believe this is a playoff defense that is a couple of playmakers from taking a step to dynamic. I asked Coyle if his unit is a playoff defense.

"Well, it's tough to say," he said. "I think statistically in a lot of areas we're doing fairly well. They're key area we've talked about a lot during the course of the season -- scoring defense being one. Looking at the stats today I think we're No. 6 in scoring defense. When you can keep people from scoring, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. Consequently, you're going to put yourself in position to be contending for the playoffs. So that's a positive.

"Third down defense has been a positive. I think right now we're fifth in the league in third-down defense. there's a lot of good things that way. We're No. 1 in red zone defense after looking at today's stats. We were down there a few times yesterday and fortunately we didn't let them in the end zone. All those things being positives."

But what makes defenses good enough to get a team in the playoffs into defenses that succeed in the playoffs? Big plays.

"We've got to make more impacting plays on defense. We're not making the turnovers that [the media] has alluded to. We're not creating field position like great defenses do. Ultimately that's what we want to be. We want to do all the things we're doing now, but do them better and create more opportunities for offense and score on defense. We're not pleased that we haven't put the ball in the end zone."

Some notes from Coyle on a handful of players.

The coach said Jason Trusnik, starting for the injured Koa Misi, had a good day.

"He showed up on the fourth down play obviously but there were a number of plays in the run game where he fitted just exactly right," Coyle said. "Coverage-wise there were a number of plays where he covered the tight end down the field where I thought he did a great job. We were worried about their tight end being a vertical threat and Jason on a couple of occasions had him man-to-man and did a good job. He had a couple of good zone drops. Overall, I think he played really well."

The Dolphins had issues in the secondary Sunday -- not so much in performance but in numbers. Both Nolan Carroll and Chris Clemons left the game for multiple snaps -- and that thrust Bryan McCann and R.J. Stanford and Tyrone Culver to step up.

"We had to juggle some people around and that created some opportunities," Coyle said. "Bryan McCann played a number of snaps, quality snaps in the game and came up with some big plays later in the game."

Coyle said the Dolphins got their hands on more footballs and tipped more passes away than other game. Unfortunately for Miami, no interceptions -- even if it was Chad Henne throwing it for Jacksonville.

Jared Odrick is an interesting player. He was drafted in the first round as a 3-4 defensive end. Now he's caught between and betwixt because the Dolphins are running a 4-3 scheme. So Odrick is starting at DE even though that really isn't what he's best suited to do.

Can he play 4-3 DT?

"Could he do it? Perhaps," Coyle said. "I'm not sold that his best position right now."

By the way, safety Chris Clemons had his "most consistent game" for the Dolphins on Sunday. Clemons graded out at 90 percent. That means that on 90 percent of his plays, he got a plus. The Dolphins give a plus and minus on every play.

Execution is a plus. Failure to execute is a minus.

"He's been quietly consistent for the most part," Coyle said.

Winning is better than losing and Bush helps winning

Let's start out by saying that Sunday was a good day for the Dolphins.

Winning is much better than losing anytime, anywhere, anyhow. And, as I wrote in my column for The Herald, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars may not feel like an awesome accomplishment but it was important for Miami because it avoided making today feel like Armaggedon.

Having said that, I saw a couple of things Sunday that raised questions about the entire season:

1. Have the Dolphins maximized Reggie Bush?

Bush rushed 21 times for 104 yards. It marked the first time he went over 100 yards in a game since Sept. 16. And that was also the last time he got the ball 20 times or more in a game. Coincidence?

I don't think so. I think that in the desire to keep Bush healthy and spread the wealth, the Dolphins have made their running game poorer by not using their best weapon enough. At least that's what the statistics say.

The only reason Bush got more work Sunday is because Daniel Thomas suffered a knee injury on his first and only carry of the day. (More on that in a sec.).

So it was Bush that got opportunity after opportunity, which is something he loves. I asked him if he rather tote the ball 20-plus times per game or if he prefers the 12-14 times per game the Dolphins like to limit him to.

“That’s an easy question; 20 and up," he said. "You know what, obviously every game and every scenario is different. Sometimes you are going to throw the ball a little more and sometimes we’re playing from behind so you have to get a quick score. This is a game where I think we controlled the game for the most part, so we were able to kind of dictate what we wanted to do on offense, not coming from behind like we have been in the past throwing a lot.”

Yeah, Bush tried to cover with the idea that sometimes he doesn't get the ball because the Dolphins are trying to catch up and aren't running. But what about the times they simply are sitting him in favor of, well, inferior players?

Let's face it, Bush is better with more carries. Why?

"Why is more better? Because I am a running back, I don’t know," he said. "Running backs always want the ball more. I’m a playmaker and I like having the ball in my hands. I feel like the more touches I get, the more chances I have to make good plays out there.”

Agreed.

Now, about Thomas. You all know how I feel about him.

I simply don't think he's been very good. I don't see nearly the potential in him the Dolphins see. He's just a guy, in my opinion.

And Sunday offered another reason why I believe that:

2. Thomas has durability issues.

He's gotten knocked out of three games this year with injuries. He suffered a couple of concussions and yesterday went out with the knee injury. His status for Sunday is questionable at best.

Well, to me, durability is a critical factor on which players are judged. Some guys are simply more injury prone than others. And while Thomas is not what I would call injury-prone at this stage, there is no denying he's missed more time than any other running back on the roster because of injury.

That is something the Dolphins must consider for next year if they are going to pass the mantle of the RB position to Thomas and Lamar Miller and let Bush walk in free agency.

 

 

December 16, 2012

Dolphins defeat Jaguars, 24-3

Revenge for 62-7? No, not quite.

But the Dolphins needed it. They win for only the second time in seven weeks by defeating the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-3.

It was so,ething of an offensive outburst for the Miami offense that had multiple touchdowns in a game for only the second time in the last six games.

Ryan Tannehill threw two TD passes -- short throws to Jorvorskie Lane and Anthony Fasano. It was only the second game this year that Tannehill has more than one TD in a game. The last one was Oct. 14 against St. Louis.

Tannehill completed 22 of 28 for 220 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Brian Hartline seemed to drop a TD pass. He nonetheless went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Reggie Bush got 21 carries, the most he's had since Sept. 16 when he carried 25 times against Oakland. Bush finished with 104 yards and that included a 53-yard run in the third quarter.

Former Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was, well, Chad Henne. He struggled and was inconsistent most of the day. His best drive came in the final couple of minutes when the game was already decided. Henne completed 18 of 34 passes for 221 yards without a TD or INT.

Yeah, it was the correct call to let him go.

Dolphins lead Jags 16-3 going to fourth quarter

This one has gone pretty much as scripted.

The Dolphins are a solid team playing solid. The Jaguars are a terrible team playing ... well, you know.

Miami's had to settle for way too many field goals today -- three to be exact. It would have been four had coaches not decided on calling a whack fake field goal in which punter Brandon Fields tried to pass the ball for a TD.

Anyway, stay with me. You know no lead is safe against Chad Henne.

Go to the comments section now.

Dolphins lead Jags 10-3 going to third quarter

The Dolphins are getting timely penalty-calling against the Jaguars -- and that has helped convert multiple third down situations and nullified a touchdown.

The Dolphins are also getting a good rebound game from Ryan Tannehill, who started slow but has now completed 10 of 14 passes including a 4-yard TD to Jorvorskie Lane.

So Miami leads 10-3 going to the third quarter.

The live blog continues in the comments section. Go there.

Dolphins and Jags tied 3-3 going to second quarter

OK, so maybe it isn't the most exciting game on the schedule.

But the Jaguars scored ... a field goal.

And the Dolphins scored ... a field goal.

Game's tied 3-3.

The live blog continues in the comments section. Who knows, maybe somebody scores a touchdown this quarter.

How exciting!

Inactives, Finley, live blog all here

Another day in the neighborhood and the Dolphins have two of their five tight ends inactives today.

Michael Egnew and Kyle Miller are inactive along with Davone Bess, Dheeston Randall, Koa Misi, and Pat Devlin. Marlon Moore will start for Bess.

And so many of you are asking, 'What about Jermichael Finley?"

As you know the Milwaukee Sentinel reported he will be traded or cut in the offseason. And, of course, because he plays for the Packers, the connection to Joe Philbin is obvious. The Dolphins need to upgrade at tight end is obvious. Also, Finley is fullback Jorvorskie Lane's half brother -- whatever that means.

I have not had the opportunity to do any reporting on this topic so take all this with a grain of salt:

If the Packers are willing to discard him, he obviously has issues.

If the Packers think they'll be better without the guy, there are obviously serious problems with the guy beyond talent.

Having said that, there will probably be a market for him in free agency. I don't know if there will be a market for him in trade.

This is a conversation for another day that I will definitely do some homework on before we dive fully into it.

We will dive into a live blog today. It starts in the comments section. Meet me there.

 

Dolphins win Sunday or something is really wrong

I'm picking the Dolphins to win Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars have significant injuries throughout the roster -- including at running back where starter Maurice Jones-Drew is out and backup Rashad Jennings is out. They have the worst record in the league, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, at 2-11.

Honestly, if the Dolphins do not win today then something is seriously wrong and we might need to re-think everything.

But if you look at the breakdown below, you should come to understand that the Dolphins have advantages in practically every phase of the game as it stacks up.

When the Dolphins run the ball: The Dolphins go from playing one of the NFL’s best defenses one week to one of the worst this week and a reason for that is Jacksonville has been terrible stopping the run. The Jaguars are 31st out of 32 teams against the run. That bodes well for the Dolphins because Reggie Bush is making his push for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Miami is in transition, however, as last week Lamar Miller got more carries than Daniel Thomas, who was relegated to third down duty. One assumes that will continue this week otherwise the Dolphins will look like they are merely grasping wildly for answers instead of employing lineup changes for logical reasons. The offensive line remains the same. Look for more of that successful center sweep in which Mike Pouncey leads Bush around the corner. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the ball: Ryan Tannehill finished poorly last week when he threw four consecutive incompletions on a possession where Miami had a chance to tie the game. He needs to wipe that bitter taste from his mouth and the Jaguars offer the perfect defense to cleanse the palate. Jacksonville is not as terrible against the pass as the run, but bad nonetheless. The Jags are 24th in the NFL against the pass. Brian Hartline may have to carry the workload on the outside because Davone Bess is slowed by injury and will notplay. The Jaguars are dead last in the NFL in sacks so Tannehill should mostly have time to throw but the addition of sack specialist Jason Babin makes for a tough match up against Miami’s tackles. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Jaguars run the ball: Maurice Jones-Drew has been a premier running back in the NFL for several years. But don’t worry because the Dolphins aren’t going to face him because he’s been out for weeks with a foot injury. And they’re probably not going to see his backup Rashad Jennings because he’s trying to overcome a concussion. So the Dolphins get the third man up that is, well, who knows? The team has been using backup fullback Montell Owens as its primary ball carrier while Keith Toston is listed as the No. 3 running back on the depth chart. Statistically, the Dolphins had a terrible day defending the run last week because they yielded 155 yards and a 5.5-yard per carry average to the 49ers. But 50 of those yards came on a TD by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is a great running threat, out of the spread option. The Jaguars are not likely to employ that look. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Jaguars pass the ball: Cameron Bradfield, a second-year player, will be matched against Dolphins sack leader Cameron Wake. It seems like a mismatch and it is. But the Jaguars, believe it or not, have bigger problems. They spent much of last week figuring out who would start at left guard because Mike Brewster is on injured reserve and Eben Britton was bad in replacement duty against the Jets. So the Jaguars plugged in recently acquired Steve Vallos as a possible option. The Jaguars also lost wide receiver Laurent Robinson to injured reserve because of several concussions he suffered and leading receiver Cecil Shorts is also trying come back from a concussion. Oh, and did I mention Chad Henne is Jacksonville’s quarterback? The Dolphins castoff is a good guy and a hard worker. Problem is he has yet to prove he’s a good NFL quarterback. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Special teams: The Dolphins need to stop the bleeding with this unit because it has allowed or led to opposing touchdown in four consecutive games. Last week, it was a fumbled punt inside the 10-yard line. This unit is hurting the team’s chances of winning the past few weeks. This unit can’t blow it on a big play a fifth week in a row, can it? It seems about as likely as a punter pushing around a linebacker. Oh, wait Brandon Fields did that last week. ADVANTAGE: Even. 

Coaching: Two rookie coaches. Two losing teams. Both out of the playoffs. Both looking for answers and not finding many. ADVANTAGE: Even.