« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »

65 posts from March 2013

March 30, 2013

Dolphins add Grimes as cornerback stopgap

The Dolphins have managed to bring players they want to the team as unrestricted free agents this offseason while at the same time holding their ground on what they pay players they believe come with risk.

The latest example of this is Miami landing unrestricted free agent cornerback Brent Grimes to a one-year deal. The deal believed to be in the $4 million range is not exactly what Grimes was looking for. He wanted a long-term deal that averaged $6-$8 million. Grimes' base salary in 2013 will be $2.75 million.

But because he didn't play last year due to an Achilles' injury, because his market did not include more than three or four teams, and because the market for corners is generally been depressed, Grimes accepted the Dolphins one-year offer today.

This is a good addition for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have also signed TE Dustin Keller to a one-year deal. They signed guard Lance Louis to a one-year deal and they signed defensive tackle Vaughn Martin to a two-year deal. This after they paid much bigger money for receiver Mike Wallace and linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe.  

This is a good job by general manager Jeff Ireland. He stuck to his conviction on a price for Grimes and got it done.

"We are very excited that we were able to reach an agreement with Brent,” said Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. “His experience and history of play making production will add a great deal to our secondary."

Grimes is expected to be ready for the start of the season, according to an NFL source. Indeed, that may be conservative. Grimes is already running on his surgically repaired Achilles.

"I'll be straight in no time," Grimes told the South Florida media. He declined to give a specific time frame. He did say the surgeon told him 6-8 months recovery time. May would be eight months.

Grimes said he was not certain he'd participate in the coming OTAs. I would not expect it.

Grimes, 30 in July, was the Falcons franchise tag player in 2012. He played only one game in which he ruptured the Achilles. The previous three seasons he started 36 of a possible 48 games and collected 12 interceptions.

One more thing on the Grimes addition:

If he's healthy and back to his previous form he is a likely starter. And that means the Dolphins do not go into the draft with a major need for a starting cornerback high in the draft.

In other words, Ireland will have latitude as coach Joe Philbin said, to pick the best available player.

The Dolphins continue to have offensive tackle Eric Winston on the radar. He will sign with the team if the club convinces him to take a short-term (perhaps one-year) deal that is not for huge money. Winston, obviously, continues to believe he will get more somehwere.

We'll see.

March 29, 2013

Offseason conditioning dates important for Jerry

After the Dolphins 2012 season, on the day the team's players left the lockerroom (some for the last time), coaches had a chance to speak with everyone individually. Think of it as an exit interview. Think of it as a counseling session.

And in his one-on-one with multiple coaches, including head coach Joe Philbin, guard John Jerry was told this:

You can be a good player if you apply yourself and get in shape and become more professional about your body as well as your body of work.

And also this:

If you come to the offseason conditioning program sloppy fat and out of shape like last year, you'll be in trouble.

"It’ll be interesting to see," Philbin said. "I know the big thing we said to him when he left is we want to see how much you weigh when you come back for the offseason program."

Pause one moment, please...

Look, NFL players are human. They are people and as such they are imperfect and deal with issues and circumstances. Some are troubled in ways you and I are troubled. Some have bigger problems. Some seem to have it more together than most folks.

And yes, some cannot control how much they eat and allow themselves to get fat.

And yes, some aren't in love with working out and staying in good condition and they find themselves out of shape soon after the offseason begins and no one is monitoring them.

But...

Come on, man!

This is professional football. You're making a ton of money because God blessed you with physical gifts that very few people have.

And you're just going to take that body that was fearfully and wonderfully made and turn it into a food bin? You're just going to have zero discipline and eat anything you want whenever you want in quantities that normal people cannot fathom?

In short, you're going to act more like the Cookie Monster than an NFL player?

That is not professional. That is not acceptable.

(It's acceptable for a tax man to eat a lot and not work out because his thing is numbers and deductions. It's acceptable for a lawyer or judge to get floppy. It's acceptable for a journalist, ahem, because nobody is asking me him to be in great shape at work).

But an NFL player? A professional athlete?

It costs his team. It costs the player.

Jerry's inability to show multiple coaching staffs now that he can be trusted to be in shape is one reason the Dolphins feel they have a question mark at right guard. And that's probably the reason they added Lance Louis recently and still might add another guard in the draft.

The frustrating thing is Jerry can be a good player. When he stays on his feet and, you know, moves them, he is effective. Problem is he's carrying so much weight most of the time that becomes a chore.

"I do think he’s, the one thing he has to do a better job of is staying on his feet better, but he’s athletic enough to play guard," Philbin said. "There’s a lot of pictures of him showing very good quickness and explosiveness off the ball."

The coming offseason conditioning program is a big deal for the Dolphins.

Voluntary offseason workout programs are intended to provide training, teaching and physical conditioning for players.

As per Article 21 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club’s official, voluntary nine-week offseason program is conducted in three phases:

Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.

Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program.  On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis.  No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.

Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program.  Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or "OTAs." No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, and 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.

Article 22 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that clubs may hold one mandatory minicamp for veteran players.  This minicamp must occur during Phase Three of the offseason program.  Head coaches hired after the end of the 2012 season are also entitled to conduct an additional voluntary veteran minicamp. That does not apply to the Dolphins this year.

Each club may hold a rookie football development program for a period of seven weeks, which in 2013 may begin on May 13. During this period, no activities may be held on weekends, with the exception of one post-NFL Draft rookie minicamp, which may be conducted on either the first or second weekend following the draft. The dates of the post-draft rookie minicamps will be circulated at a later date.

So for the Dolphins the first day of the offseason conditioning program is April 15.

Miami's OTA sessions, as provided by the NFL are May 21-23, May 29-31 and June 3-6. The mandatory veteran minicamp is tentatively scheduled for June 11-13 for the Dolphins.

John Jerry, you're under the microscope.

Make sure you fit under it.

March 28, 2013

Martin signs for 2 years, Grimes and Winston still lurking

Defensive tackle Vaughn Martin signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins today. He said he was on a plane headed to a free agent visit with Seattle when he heard he was signing with Miami.

He got off the plane and headed to the Dolphins training facility to sign.

The former San Diego 3-4 defensive end said he talked with New England, Kansas City, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia aside from the Chargers before signing with Miami.

"I want to be a part of it. I want to be here in South Florida. I want to help this team win," Martin said.

Martin trains with Mike Pouncey locally in Delray Beach. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland made it an offseason priority to add a defensive tackle -- once he decided to part ways with Tony McDaniel -- because he believes the defensive line is strong, he wants to have flexibility there, and he believe adding a tackle improves on both.

So the Martin addition is good. But the Dolphins are not done, or at least don't want to be done.

They still would like to add a cornerback. They still would like to add an offensive tackle. They'd like to do it cheaply in free agency.

Brent Grimes remains on the radar. He's being patient despite the fact the free agency market for cornerbacks was not good this year and it's even worse for a player such as him coming off Achilles' tendon surgery.

The Dolphins have some confidence they can land Grimes but they're not breaking the bank for the guy. So the sides that seemingly have each other in their sights are working slowly toward trying to make a deal happen.

The team is also keeping Eric Winston in mind but the interest there isn't quite suggesting he'll land in Miami.

Winston doesn't want a short-term deal. The Dolphins don't want to commit for four years or five years and they certainly do not intend to pay $5 million per year. Maybe half that. But not $5 million per.

So Winston is waiting.

"Obviously I have ties down in South Florida, I have a lot of friends down there from college that still live down there," Winston told the NFL Network today. "I know the area pretty well. Obviously that is an added bonus, being able to play for a franchise like the Dolphins.  Like I said, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out."

But ...

"Being down there is not the be all, end all," Winston continued. "I am excited about what is going to happen. It is a new chapter in my life and my family’s life. We are going to keep moving forward with this until something happens."

What's Winston looking for?

“The offense needs to fit what I have done," he said. "I have done a lot of zone-scheme in the past. Obviously a great place for a family, I have two kids and a wife, we want to be somewhere where it is nice. It is not a place where it has to be ‘this.’ Everything comes involved in it. The best situation will present itself. Unfortunately, I am still waiting for that to happen. Hopefully it will happen soon.”

 

Former Eagles owner versus the Dolphins: Bitter fight is on

Jobsfirst2
Jobsfirst1
Braman CRA

You see the three images above? They represent the evidence the Dolphins say they have that Norman Braman is a "hypocrite," as Mike Dee said Wednesday.

The first two images are evidence that Braman Motors, which Braman obviously owns, received $58,000 in state tax credits for job creation. The third image shows Braman Motors applied for, and was awarded, $150,358.60 in Community Redevelopment Agency funds from the city of Miami.

What's the point?

It's all about the fight to get public dollars for the Sun Life Stadium upgrades.

Braman, the former Philadelphia Eagles owner, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross are fighting tooth and nail over this issue. And it is getting personal.

Braman has called Dolphins CEO Mike Dee "an a--hole." Ross has said Braman is "full of sh--."

Anyway, Braman explained the purpose of these funds to me in my column. It is a valid explanation and the funds went to a good cause. And the Dolphins say they accept the explanation. But they believe that if Braman is able accept public funds for his private business, he cannot say they shouldn't do the same even though he's getting hundreds of thousands of dollars and they would get hundreds of millions for the stadium.

"We have no problem with the fact that he applied for and received government aid to create jobs – that is the whole point of those programs and we applaud him for putting people to work," Dee told me in an e-mail. "We take exception, however, when he publicly chastises us for doing the same thing. That is the hypocrisy that he is at a loss to explain."

Well, as I write here this is about to get uglier.

Remember the term "smear campaign." You'll be hearing it in the very near future.

 

March 27, 2013

Highlights: Dolphins GM, CEO talk to fans

The Dolphins put general manager Jeff Ireland and CEO Mike Dee on the phone with season ticket holders this evening. They talked for 30 minutes and for me the three most interesting things are covered below:

Ireland was asked if he could share his draft plans for the upcoming NFL draft. He gave the name of the player the team is drafting and that player is ...

Yeah, just kidding.  

"I've got a lot of ideas and I have a strong idea of what I'm going after, but I just can't tell you," he said. "Certainly as I've said before, I believe in drafting core positions ..."

That means QBs, WRs, LTs, CBs, and pass-rushers.

"I like drafting when the core position meets a need and it meets the grade," Ireland continued. "And I try not to reach for a need position if I don't have to. We don't draft vertically, we draft horizontally and that's a whole different story to explain that. But we definitely have a plan. We definitely have guys we've targetted. We definitely have a certain number of players we've targetted. But we don't put, there's 255 draft picks that will selected, but we don't put that many players on the board. We grind through this. We eliminate it down to a specific number that we feel like is the number we want to go into and then we even cut that down even further to guys we're targetting.

"So we certainly have a plan."

Ireland said the Dolphins start draft meetings Tuesday and will go 21 consecutive days in those meetings leading up to the draft that begins April 25.

"There's a lot of work being done these next 21 days," he said. "Stand by and see what we do."

Ireland was also asked about the perpetual Dolphins problem -- the offensive line. He was asked his thoughts on it, including today's addition of free agent guard Lance Louis:

"Where I'm at with the offensive line right now is we don't play until August," Ireland said. "We don't go to camp until the middle of July so it's going to look differently in July and August than it does right now. So we're still tinkering in free agency with a couple of offensive line positions. Tinkering means we may or may not [do something] for the media that is listening. And certainly we have the draft. We have five picks in the top 82."

If the Dolphins want to sign more free agent OLinemen such as Eric Winston, they can use their $15.7 million worth of space (as of March 26) which profootballtalk.com reported this afternoon they have remaining. (The team will pick up an extra $7 million of space after June 1).

"And a third idea you can trade for one ... So it's something I'm still looking at. You don't lose a player like Jake Long to free agency and not feel that so we're going to address the offensive line as a whole as we go forward and we just have to stand by and see what we do."

Dee was asked about my Tuesday story that mentioned the Dolphins are willing to sign a relocation waiver for 30 years with Miami-Dade County as part of the complex package for getting public funds to upgrade Sun Life.

The question was whether the Dolphins might consider leaving South Florida if the deal with Miami-Dade County and the Florida legislature and, yes, voters fails to finance the upgrades as the Dolphins hope.

"Steve Ross has made it clear he will never think of relocating the Dolphins on his watch," Dee said. "And win, lose or draw on this stadium effort, Steve spent a lot of his formative years in the Miami area. He loves it here, that's why he bought this team. We're not going anywhere while Steve's the owner."

Yes. And ...

"Now Steve's 73 years old and he thinks and Jeff knows this, he thinks he's going to live to be 110. But at some point in the next 30 years he'll probably not be the majority owner of the team. So we believe the right time to address the stadium issue is now while the owner is willing to significantly invest in private funds to make it happen. He's a guy that wants to lock in the franchise here for the next 30 years so that any successor that buys the team from him or at some point takes over would be unable to relocate the team. The alternative to that is if we're not able to move forward on the stadium front, Steve is at some point not the owner, you're going to be looking at the possibility of a whole new stadium for three times the cost of what we can modernize this facility for and have a facility that would serve the community for 50 years. That's unheard of.

"This isn't a situation where we're saying if this doesn't happen we're out of here. We're going to be here but we'll be hard-pressed to figure out what we do best as a long-term solution."

Dolphins logo talk PLUS Salguero mock draft pick

It's logo talk this morning.

As you may know, I confirmed Tuesday that the logo leaked via instagram on the Internet last week is no fake. It is the real deal. It is the Dolphins new logo .

And my column in today's Miami Herald gives you some insight that I gathered relative to that logo being unveiled in a month.

But here is something that wasn't in the column that I've saved for you here:

The Dolphins uniforms will be aqua and orange. That means all white sometimes. That means aqua jerseys and white pants sometimes. I suppose it can even mean white jerseys with aqua pants sometimes. But there will be no alternate jersey in 2013.

No orange.

And thankfully, no orange on orange.

By the way, I was on NFL AM this morning representing the Dolphins in the program's mock draft. (Why NFL AM couldn't get a better representative, I don't know). Anyway, this is the mock I was given as picked by experts and beat writers in the cities where the teams are located.

1.      CHIEFS – LUKE JOECKEL, OT  TEXAS A&M

2.      JAGUARS – EZEKIEL ANSAH, DE  BYU

3.      RAIDERS – SHARRIF FLOYD, DT FLORIDA

4.      EAGLES – ERIC FISHER, OT CENTRAL MICHIGAN

5.      LIONS – DEE MILLINER, CB ALABAMA

6.      BROWNS – GENO SMITH, QB WEST VIRGINIA

7.      CARDINALS  - CHANCE WARMACK, OG ALABAMA

8.      BILLS – CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR TENNESSEE

9.      JETS – DION JORDAN, LB/DE ORGEON

10.    TITANS –  BARKEVIOUS MINGO, DE LSU

11.    CHARGERS – LANE JOHNSON, OT  OKLAHOMA

So with the No. 12 overall pick and with no option to trade down I selected Washington CB Desmond Trufant.

Here's my logic: The Dolphins need a cornerback. They lost two three-year starters since the beginning of 2012 and have no real replacements right now. I don't buy the Dimitri Patterson talk for one minute. Cornerback is also an elite position so I don't mind upgrading with such a high pick.

Milliner is gone but I've got Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant on the board.

I went with Trufant.

He's smarter. He's more instinctive. He's more fluid. He is a much, much, much superior system fit than Rhodes. Rhodes is the pick if you're wanting a press corner. The Dolphins don't want that. They want a man who can play zone, play combo, quarters, all of it. That's Trufant, who by the way, comes from football pedigree as his brother Marcus plays for Seattle.

Rhodes is bigger at 6-1 but Trufant at 5-11 5/8ths is plenty big. He's also more willing in run support. He runs very well. And he has great ball skills.

Was he the best available player (BAP)? No.

Star Lotulelei was still on the board. But the Dolphins need a cornerback of the future more than they need a defensive tackle with a heart condition that grades higher.

March 26, 2013

Mike Dee takes on Norman Braman head on

The Dolphins have been negotiating with Miami-Dade County in an effort to get $389 million worth of upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. The club is paying for 57 percent of the deal out of its own private funds and offering to refund $120 million to Miami-Dade County within 30 years, meaning it will give back the county's $120 million public investment that it is getting from a tourist tax.

But while this has played out, the club has fought an unseen battle with local car magnate and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman.

Braman has for some reason become the very vocal voice of the opposition. He has also been a major funding source for those opposed to any public funding for upgrading Sun Life.

Why is uncertain. But this much is certain:

The Dolphins don't like it much. The club has been simmering privately about Braman's lobbying of politicians against their efforts and public stance against the team in the media.

Those private sentiments leaked into public Tuesday evening when Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee took to twitter and went after Braman.

"With the offer that is now on the table, Norman Braman is frankly irrelevant to this conversation," Dee tweeted.

"When he agrees to repay the public money he accepted for his dealership, we will be happy to acknowledge his otherwise hypocritical stance," he added.

The team says that Braman, who opposes public funding of private ventures, took public money for one of his car dealerships. That is something I will be looking into the next few days.

Finally, Dee believes that whatever Braman says, the final say belongs to voters.

"Thanks for the positive replies," Dee said on twitter. "The voters of Miami Dade County should make this decision not Norman Braman."

Yup, it's on now.

DT Vaughn Martin visits Dolphins

The Dolphins spent the day visiting with unrestricted free agent Vaughn Martin today, the team announced.

The 6-4 and 308 pound Martin fits as a five-technique defensive end but also a 4-3 defensive tackle which is where the Dolphins see value in him.

Martin is not really a pass-rusher. He three career sacks in four season -- one sack in each of the past three years.

Martin, 26, started 12 games for San Diego last year and 15 games in 2011.

Sign Brent Grimes because CB is a problem

Free agency is slowing to a crawl now. The top names are mostly off the market. The Dolphins did not report any visits Monday. Things are quiet.

The club is still flirting with RT Eric Winston. There are a couple of other one-year or two-year contract type guys out there -- specifically Brandon Moore and Lance Louis.

But, frankly, I don't believe the Dolphins can affford to be done.

The team's free agency focus now needs to be cornerback. The position is a nightmare. Brent Grimes is out there and available. The only other team talking to him, other than Miami, seems to be Cleveland.

Get it done!

Why the urgency on Grimes?

The team's stated plan in free agency in it's early stages was to fill needs and upgrade as many positions as possible so that general manager Jeff Ireland could have room to operate in any direction he wants during the draft.

That's not me saying that. Last week at the NFL annual meeting both Ireland and coach Joe Philbin talked about having "more latitude" in the draft based on Miami's free agency moves. The idea, I am being told, is to go into the draft without having to select players because of need. The idea is to select the best available player (BAP).

But look at the cornerback position. You know what you see?

Need.

Need.

Need.

It's not so much that Miami lost Sean Smith because, frankly, he was not a good player at the end of the year after a very, very hot start. Inconsistency thy name is Sean Smith. It's because the apparent loss followed the loss of Vontae Davis and the injury-riddled year of Richard Marshall.

So Miami's top three cornerbacks from one year ago are either gone from the team or coming back from major back surgery.

Who does that leave the Dolphins with at cornerback right now? Let's ask Philbin:

“I think our front seven hopefully is going to be good again," he said. "I think it’s a good group. We like what we’re going to see there. We’re really happy that we re-signed Chris Clemons as well. Again, Chris is a guy that played 1,100 plays, he might have played more plays than anybody on our football team a year ago and the guy’s tough. He keeps his mouth shut. He just comes to work. He’s physical. He’s a good football player. I’m really delighted he’s back. Kelcie McCray’s a guy that we were excited about. In a limited role that we saw him, he’s going to have a chance to get to work again. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to have a good nucleus with a good defense. The biggest thing we said we’ve got to find a way to take the ball away. After watching all of the cutups, 1,000 or so plays on defense, we can’t survive with 16 takeaways."

Understand what just happened here. Philbin is asked about the cornerback situation and he talks about the front seven, a safety, an undrafted rookie player that was injured practically the first week of training camp last year, and the problems taking the ball away last year.

That isn't much of an endorsement of what is currently going on for the Dolphins at cornerback.

So let's have another go at it.

Coach, what are you excited about at cornerback?

"Well we have some young guys on the roster that we are excited about working with," he responds. "You know (Julian) Posey and (Deandre) Presley and those guys. We’d like to see how they come along, and the offseason program is a Godsend for those guys because they get to be in the building every day and learn and compete, so we’re excited about seeing what they are capable of doing. And then obviously there are a lot of good players still available in free agency that we may or may not pursue and then there’s 11 draft picks. So I think we’re certainly not done adding to that position and we’ll see what happens."

Oh boy. Trouble.

The Dolphins need Grimes. Or they need to get an idea and perhaps look into Tracy Porter or even DeAngelo Hall. (Porter is wildly inconsistent and Hall is not my favorite because of his attitude but both still have value as a one-year stopgap). Sheldon Brown, a solid zone defender, is also avaliable.

Barring the addition of a veteran cornerback the Dolphins are going to find themselves locked into a tough situation on draft day. They are going to find themselves drafting not one but probably two corners in the top rounds

The last time the club did that -- in 2009 with Davis and Smith -- it didn't work out very well. Yet, barring that kind of commitment to the positon, the Dolphins will be picking starting cornerbacks out of a group of players -- Marshall, Dimitri Patterson, McCray, Posey, Presley -- that raise more questions than they do deliver answers.

The Dolphins need to sign Brent Grimes, folks.

March 25, 2013

Team of free agents can win, but will they?

I watched the replay Saturday of the infamous Tuck Rule game from back in January 2002. (Yes, I have no life). Anyway, that game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders which the Patriots won in overtime and used as a springboard to beating Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship and St. Louis in the Super Bowl got me thinking.

As I watched, it seemed everywhere I looked I saw players that the New England Patriots did not draft. I saw free agents all over the field. I saw a team that clearly stomped all over the theory that championship squads must be home grown via the draft.

Consider the free agents on the Patriots:

RG Joe Andruzzi: He was picked up on waivers from Green Bay in 2000. He signed with the Patrtiots. He started every game at right guard in 2001.

LG Mike Compton: He left the Lions and signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2001. He started all 16 games and in the playoffs. So, yes, the Patriots starting offensive line had a couple of free agent starting guards.

Linebacker Bryan Cox: Yes, that Bryan Cox. After leaving the Dolphins and the Bears, Cox spent three years with the Jets. Then the Patriots picked him up in 2001 and he started seven games and played in 11. He had three fumble recovers and two forced fumbles and he scored a TD. The guy was in decline but he always had been a playmaker.

Running back Antowain Smith: He was originally drafted by the Bills. He was added as an unrestricted free agent and led the team by rushing for 1,157 yards. He'd been considered something of an enigma in Buffalo. He was a locker room leader in New England.

Linebacker Mike Vrabel: The Pittburgh Steelers drafted him but let him go to New England as an unrestricted free agent. So much for that theory that the Steelers don't let good players go in free agency. Vrabel started 12 games and had three sacks with two interceptions in 2001. He got better later and had three Super Bowl rings with New England before he went to Kansas City in 2010.

Linebacker Roman Phifer: Originally the 31st overall pick in St. Louis in 1991, Phifer went to the Jets as a UFA and signed a three-year deal through the 2001 season. He was, however, cut after the 2000 season and the Patriots signed him to a one-year minimum salary deal. Phifer started all 16 games. He was re-signed after the season for three more years. He was a Pro Bowl alternate two of those three years.

Cornerback Terrell Buckley: The former Packer and former Dolphins joined the Broncos for one season in 2000 and then went to New England when he was cut. He played with the Patriots in 2001 and 2002. He was the team's nickel cornerback and had an interception in the AFC title game against Pittsburgh that helped New England go to the Super Bowl.

Tight end Jermaine Wiggins: Another Jets castoff, Wiggins signed as a free agent in 2000 and lasted through the 2002 season. He also had a big game in the Tuck Rule game.

Cornerback Otis Smith: He played for the Patriots in 1996 but left to join the Jets for three years. Then he returned as an unrestricted free agent in 2000. He started 15 of 16 regular season games and throughout the playoffs.

Linebacker Larry Izzo: He was an undrafted free agent who made the Dolphins in 1996 and stayed through 2000. The Patriots signed him in 2001 as an unrestricted free agent. There he became the special teams captain and won three Super Bowl rings. He recovered two fumbles in the Tuck Rule game. Two.

Wide receiver David Patten: The Cleveland Browns cut him after 2000. The Patriots picked him up in 2001 and he started 14 games. He was the club's leading receiver in the Tuck Rule game.

No, this is not a Patriots blog. But I happily use the Patriots to prove the point that a team can be brought together from other teams and turned into a cohesive, high-caliber ballclub.

And, yes, that leads me to the Dolphins.

As you know they've been doing work this offseason in free agency. No, they probably haven't done as much as I'd like. The flirtation with Elvis Dumervil which I reported last Tuesday and the Denver Post reported Friday didn't bear fruit. Dumervil signed with Baltimore Sunday and his salary cap number for 2013 is, get this, $2.5 million.

So the Dolphins still have work to do finding more pass rush, adding a cornerback and possibly a defensive tackle. The offensive line is still in need of an upgrade, too. Eric Winston is still a possibility. He'd like to play for the Dolphins, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus, but would also like to get paid so there's that. The Dolphins may be waiting for the price on Winston to drop somewhat.

The Dolphins may add one or two more free agents.

And that brings up the question whether a team can win with a bunch of recently added veterans? Obviously, I just showed you the Patriots did it.

But I saw Don Shula not only fail to do it in 1995, it was something of a chemistry nightmare. And the following year I remember Jimmy Johnson cleaning house and telling me he didn't want veterans who learned to do things under different coaches to come to him and expect him to do what they were used to.

"I want rookies and players I draft to learn to do things the way I want them to," Johnson said. "I don't want to deal with fighting the veterans."

Well, the Dolphins have some new veterans now. And now it's up to coach Joe Philbin to get them to do things the way the Dolphins do things or he'll have to adjust to them.

Philbin isn't talking like he's the one who will be making the adjustment.

“They’ve got to get acclimated," he said. "We hopefully, in 13 months, we’ve been able to establish a culture and environment, an atmosphere of how we do business when they walk into that door. While these guys are veterans and we’re certainly looking for them to put their stamp on things and make an impact, they’ve got to kind of fit into how we do things. So I think it’s more them, at least, understand these are responsibilities, the obligations that come with being a Miami Dolphin and kind of fall in line and then let their football stuff care of itself."

It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

 

March 24, 2013

Dolphins operating by familiar script but will finale be different?

Dolphins fans are reinvigorated these days. I know this because the emails to me saying as much have tripled. The traffic on this blog has multiplied the past three weeks. I have more people following me on twitter than ever before.

The Dolphins are seeing the fruits of this excitement also in some areas.

As I write in my column in today's Miami Herald the sales of season tickets to new fans is proceeding nicely.

But ...

Yes, folks, there's seemingly always a but. The renewal sales are not doing well. Season ticket holders that spent their money last season are not so far buying in as well this offseason despite the apparent upgrades in free agency and the hope that some of the club's upcoming 11 draft picks will be contributors to turning the Dolphins into winners for the first time since 2008.

I have a theory why this is -- one I've shared with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and others. I believe Dolphins fans who have seen much heartache and pain the past decade and have gotten their hopes up multiple times only to have them dashed aren't going to operate on sheer faith anymore.

Many want to see results before they invest in tickets again.

And here's the thing:

The Dolphins, who obviously want to make the point that things are different this time, are actually following a very familiar script this offseason in telling you why the results in 2013 will be different. It's uncanny, really.

So, bottom line, will things be different in 2013? I'm not sure. I think so.

I love the Mike Wallace acquisition. I don't know that the linebacker additions will produce as many big plays as the Dolphins hope. I believe the Dolphins will be just fine without Jake Long or Sean Smith because, frankly, neither player actually ever won a game for the Dolphins. I really would like the team to add a proven and experienced pass-rusher while one is still out there.

But I still have questions about the quarterback position. Everyone, including coach Joe Philbin, this offseason is telling me Ryan Tannehill is the real deal. He's going to be very good, they say. There are no warning signs for him failing, they say.

If that's the case, everything will be fine with the 2013 Dolphins.

But I simply am not certain that will be the case. I saw some good but some not-so-good play out of Tannehill in 2013 even as other rookie QBs were playing like Pro Bowl players. So I think the jury is still out and I'm not ready to endorse him as the real thing yet.

And if Tannehill isn't the real deal?

Suffice to say we've seen what will happen play out before.

March 22, 2013

Branden Albert available as a LT option

During the NFL annual meeting, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland talked about how everything is on the table as far as making the team better. He mentioned free agency in all its forms, from street free agents to top-end free agents to lower-rung free agents. Obviously he mentioned the draft.

And he mentioned trades.

And so I have to throw this out there now:

The Chiefs have left tackle Branden Albert on the trade market.

The Dolphins, who are moving up after deciding Jake Long and his questionable injury history were too pricey to retain for $8.5 million per season, need a left tackle. Yes, the club has Jonathan Martin on the roster and he finished out the 2012 season at the position. But as coach Joe Philbin said "there's a lot of time between now and September. A lot of things could happen ... "

Trades are one of those things that can happen. Specifically this trade. The Dolphins will at least be investigating the possibility and likely will be interested in pursuing it.

Albert is not cheap. The Chiefs want a second round pick for him this year, according to multiple reports. There is also the likelihood another conditional pick in 2014 could be involved.

That's a steep price.

And then you have to consider the Dolphins, or any team paying that compensation, would also have to sign Albert to a long-term deal. And that deal would probably cost aroud $8 million per year.

Expensive for a player I'm not all that certain is great. I mean, he's good enough that the Chiefs put a franchise tag on him. But he's not so good that they are unwilling to trade him. He's not so good that they clearly believe a rookie left tackle in the draft would be an upgrade because that player would be younger, cheaper and, yes, possibly a better player, too.

The Dolphins have two second-round picks. They also have two third round picks.

As the Kansas City asking price is a second-rounder, I might not mind offering a third. I doubt any third-rounder Miami picks up this year would start right away as Albert would so it might be a good deal for Miami.

At any rate it deserves consideration. And I'm sure the Dolphins are considering it.

March 21, 2013

Dolphins open some draft possibilities, close others

Practically every day, someone who follows me on my twitter feed asks me what the Dolphins are going to do in the first round of the draft even though the draft is one month away.

Last week, I said the Dolphins were heavily interested in Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

I jumped the gun.

Rhodes is a fine player. He looks the part at 6-1. He plays with some nastiness. And the Dolphins do indeed like him. But that has to be measured in degrees and I was told recently that he probably isn't the guy in the first round because he's not a 100 percent system fit for the Dolphins.

Me: :-(

Rhodes needs to be in a system where he's getting his hands on a receiver. He might be able to learn the discipline of combo coverages that inlcude a lot of zone work and playing quarters. But that's not his game. He's more a press corner, folks.

So there's that.

I also said early on in the process that I would scream if the Dolphins used their first overall pick on an offensive or defensive lineman. Since general manager Jeff Ireland arrived with Bill Parcells, the Dolphins have tried to upgrade those two units in the first round three out of five drafts -- with Jake Long, Mike Pouncey and Jared Odrick as first-round picks.

Well, guess what?

The Dolphins are open to upgrading those two spots in the draft again -- perhaps even in the first round. Ireland wants to sorely keep the defensive line, a team strength, very strong. Two days ago, I reported to you the club has parted ways with Tony McDaniel. Well, the Dolphins want to add a defensive tackle. And, as you know, a pass-rusher is something the Dolphins continue to consider in free agency and will consider in the draft.

And this is supposedly a great year for defensive ends. So that is a serious possibility.

The Dolphins also will look at offensive line, particularly offensive tackle. Indeed, even if the team signs Eric Winston to play right tackle, I don't believe the club sees him as a long-term solution. Even if the left tackle job is handed to Jonathan Martin, the Dolphins want a fallback.

Well, drafting a left tackle and moving Martin back to right tackle is a possibility.

I've mentioned Oklahoma's Lane Johnson on twitter as a possible first-round selection. The Dolphins like him. They don't love him. Yes, they agree he's a first-round talent but what I'm hearing is not at No. 12 in Miami's eyes.

So where does that leave the Dolphins in the first round? Well, that's the point. The Dolphins have worked this offseason with the idea of filling in as many gaps on the team as possible. No the cornerback spot is not filled, but I believe the club will get serious in the next day or so about trying to sign Brent Grimes or some cornerback option so that cornerback is no longer a glowing, ominous and obvious need.

Basically, the Dolphins want to go to the draft with a wide field of possibilities. They want to draft the best available player (BAP) and not draft necessarily for need. The club drafted for need in 2009 when Vontae Davis and Sean Smith were added in the first two rounds. Neither are on the team four years later.

Lesson learned, I think."

"I don’t know that we’re complete at any position," coach Joe Philbin said this week. "I think hopefully what’s happened with some of the free agency moves is it gives Jeff more latitude to just go find good football players.

"We’re as interested in adding, again that term, it’s a vague term, but good football players to the roster at a variety of positions. I don’t know that we’re locked and loaded anywhere. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t know that many of the other 15 [coaches] that are in the room today are locked and loaded at a ton of spots. We’ve got to add good players at every position."

Yes, I'd say every position except quarterback, linebacker, punter and kicker is a first-round option for the Dolphins.

The offensive line is an option, as I've explained. Defensive line is an option. Cornerback, but not Rhodes, is an option. Safety is an option. Running back, following the loss of Reggie Bush is an outside and long-odds options I suppose. Receiver pops back into the picture as an option. And tight end is an option -- although I do not see a tight end in the draft worthy of the No. 12 overall selection.

The Dolphins have opened the field for themselves. Smart.

March 20, 2013

Travel day buffet of topics to discuss

PHOENIX -- Today is a travel day for me.

But I'm giving you plenty to chew on. If you check out my column from the NFL annual meeting, you'll see where the Dolphins stand and how they feel about a handful of intriguing players.

You'll see where Miami stands on Osi Umenyiora.

You'll see where Miami stands on Elvis Dumervil.

You'll see where Miami stands on John Abraham.

I believe it is a fairly complete roll call of the top pass rushers currently available in free agency and it shows the Dolphins want to upgrade the pressure on quarterbacks in 2013.

But there is more than one way to skin a ...  well ...  a quarterback. You'll also find out the name of a darkhorse candidate already on the roster -- other than Olivier Vernon -- the Dolphins think might become a good pass rusher based on what they saw in practice last year.

And you'll find out why such veterans as Umenyiora and others now consider the Dolphins as they wind down their careers when in the past they might not have.

You'll find out that defensive tackle remains a "want" for the Dolphins (Remember, they go by "musts," then "needs," then "wants" in the order of priority additions.)

By the way, the column doesn't mention Dwight Freeney as an option. That's not because he's not, but rather I simply forgot to ask about him. Why?

He's older than the veteran ends the Dolphins are more seriously considering. He also wasnt quite as productive last year. I suppose he should be on this list, but my gut tells me he's definitely not at the front of the line.

The column also does not discuss OT. The Dolphins have scheduled a visit with former Chiefs and former Texans right tackle Eric Winston today. First order of business is a physical for him and then he'll meet with OL coaches. He visited last year after being cut by the Texans and has multiple teams interested.

The Dolphins are looking for a tackle after losing Jake Long in free agency.

Discuss ...

March 19, 2013

EVERYTHING Joe Philbin told the media Tuesday

PHOENIX -- Joe Philbin talked to the media for 63 minutes on Tuesday at the NFL annual meeting.

This is everything he said:

(On how excited he is about the free agent acquisitions) – “Yeah, first of all, it takes a lot to get to that stage. There’s a lot of work to get to, that is involved in evaluating literally hundreds of free agents that become available. You’re never really sure how it’s all going to shake out because there’s teams have rights obviously to players for a certain period of time. So it’s kind of a fun process. It’s an exciting process. It’s a fluid process. Things change literally by the minute. I think his staff (Jeff Ireland) did a very good job of evaluating guys as did our coaching staff contributing to that. It was a joint effort by a lot of people and we’re excited about the guys we have.

(On if there was any particular move that he’s really excited about) – “We liked all these guys. Each one of them has his own unique skill set that he can bring to the ball club. Obviously, Mike (Wallace) got a lot of attention. He was early out the gate, but I like the guys we added. Again, I think if you look on the offensive side of the ball, I think Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller, Mike Wallace, all those three guys give us obviously some extra tools to work with. Then, defensively, Philip Wheeler was a guy we targeted a year ago. We liked him in free agency a year ago. Things for whatever reason didn’t work out and we were able to get him back. Dannell Ellerbe is another player that we like. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get that done, but it was good. I think what happens is sometimes you forget the Matt Moore re-signing was big for us (and) Brian Hartline and those type of things. I think it’s a good start. Certainly, not over, but a good start.

(On how much input he’s had the offseason regarding signing free agents and the Draft) – “Yeah, it’s a collaborative effort. Jeff and I work closely together. His staff does a great job with their film evaluations. Our coaching staff, I think if you ask Jeff, has worked their tails off in regard to both the free agent evaluations and they’re into the college draft process as well. So it’s a cumulative effort. Certainly, I’m not the money. I don’t discuss contracts and offer him this much or that much. That’s not my area of expertise. They certainly kind of take control, but I think we both kind of decide that we like this player, we think he can help us, he can contribute to our success and let’s go after him. And then, certainly, I’m kind of out of it next.” 

(On if he’s a little more involved in the personnel on the roster as opposed to last year when it was his first year) – “I’ve had more time. Let’s put it that way, absolutely. In the first year, you’re putting together a staff. You’re putting your calendar together, time frames, all those things. Obviously, we have a much better handle on that at this point. I would say definitely more of my time has been devoted to personnel.”

(On what kind of player Reggie Bush was in Miami) – “Very good football player. Very professional. Went about his business the right way. Practiced every day. Played every week. Good football player. Very good.”

(On if it is important for Bush to establish himself as an every-down running back) – “I don’t know about that. Again, we used him in a variety of different ways and he made a nice contribution to the offense. I’m not sure what his…how he would view what he had to do to re-establish himself, but I thought he played well this year.”

(On Bush’s personality) – “As I’ve said many times, very professional in the building. (He) went about his business. (He was) almost not quiet, but he was a pro. He was very good to work with.”

(On Bush, Karlos Dansby and Jake Long being gone and if it is a coincidence that they all were on the leadership council and if he’s worried who will lead now) – “Well, you’re always worried about team chemistry and leadership, and that’s a process that continually has to evolve with your football team. Certainly, you’re always concerned about the leadership and the direction of your football team. We think we have some excellent leaders on the football team still and that’s part of our job is cultivating that, kind of that atmosphere – giving guys, entitling players and empowering players to lead the football team and give direction. While I certainly acknowledge those guys were all very good, there was no plan from a leadership council standpoint, I think it’s just kind of a coincidence that it happened like that.”

(On Bush off the field) – “I liked his professionalism. Again, I think sometimes people may have certain perceptions about what Reggie is or isn’t. Again, he was a guy that came into the building, he worked hard every day. Being on the team was important to him and I thought he was a pro.”

(On if Bush is a good fit for the Lions’ system) – “Well, I’m a lot more familiar with the Lions from defense obviously from my years in Green Bay, but I think good football players can fit in any system. He certainly has running skill. He certainly has catching skill. So I’m sure they’ll find a way to use him.” (On having 11 selections in the Draft and how much more can be done to upgrade the team) – “Ideally, we’d add 11 excellent football players to the roster and create an even more competitive atmosphere than we have right now. That’s certainly what we’re looking to do. We all know the draft and free agency for that matter are not necessarily exact sciences, but I’d rather have 11 (draft picks) than five. So I’m excited about it. It’s going to give us an opportunity to find 11 guys that fit the system and character that we’re looking for on this football team.”

(On what Jonathan Martin has to do to become a good NFL left tackle) – “Consistency I would say would be the number one thing that you’re looking for out of your left tackle. I always use the saying, especially in pass protection that tackles block ends in the National Football League, so you’ve got to get to the point  in your career where you’re able to block defensive ends and not just 11 out of the 16 defensive ends, and that’s not always easy. Not that you can’t help guys and scheme guys and double team guys and chip guys. There’s nine million things you can do as a coach to help players and you certainly need to, you can’t do the same thing all the time, but, we’d like to say at the end of the day, you have to be able to block a defensive end if you’re an offensive tackle in the National Football League in our system. The ability to do that consistently well is the mark of outstanding offensive tackles and that’s something (important).”

(On if he would be comfortable with Martin starting at left tackle) – “If he’s the best one that we have, absolutely. We’ll see. As you guys are well aware, there’s a lot of time between now and September. There’s a lot of variables. A lot of things could happen. But if he earns the spot, I would be comfortable with it, sure.”

(On if he’s going to give Martin the opportunity to win the left tackle spot) – “I’m not sure about that. There’s still a lot of things we can do to this the roster. The roster’s going to be different when we even start practicing. I think we’re going on the field May 21st or 22nd, so it’s hard to say right now.” (On if Martin can play on either side) – “I think he’s demonstrated an ability on film in the National Football League that he has a chance to play either side.”

(On if Martin is strong enough to play regardless of where he plays) – “I think he’s strong enough, but, our hope too is that, because of his age, there’s still room for further growth and development. I think he’s demonstrated, there’s enough film clips of him doing it right, doing it well, doing it consistently that you think he has enough strength. That being said, you’d still like to see him get stronger. He’s a 22-23 year old kid. You hope there’s an upside there from a strength side.

 (On if Martin has the desire to get stronger) – “He’s a hard worker, yeah. I don’t know how he is around guys, (but) he’s very quiet, but he’s very hard working. On the football field, it’s all business. He’s working at his trade.”

(On the expectations of Ryan Tannehill given the free agent signings) – “We’re looking for improvement from him. There’s no question about it. Part of it’s the decision making that we think is so important. Part of it’s accuracy. Part of it’s play making ability at critical times in the course of a game. We’re looking for him to, while we think he made some really nice strides in his first year, there’s still a long way to go and he’s well-aware of that. He’s been in the facility a lot already working. He’s working at his trade. The guy’s a worker. So yeah we’re excited about the future for growth with him as well.”

(On if there’s a grace period for Tannehill to find a rapport with the new players) – “Well, hopefully we’ll get some of that accomplished in the offseason and training camp. As you know, the way we kind of do the multiple reps, hopefully we’re getting him some extra reps. But there’s not a lot of time. There’s not a lot of grace time unfortunately.”

(On the receiving corps overall) – “Number one, it was great to re-sign Brian Hartline. You want the players that play well for you to be rewarded. Here’s a guy that had the best year of his career and (we’re) excited about him. Glad that he was able to, we were able to come to terms with him. So I’m excited about having him. Again, Mike Wallace we felt brought a kind of a dimension to our offense that we really didn’t have necessarily. Brandon Gibson was a guy we watched early, all of us, (wide receivers coach) Kenny (O’Keefe) and (assistant wide receivers) Phil McGeoghan, (offensive coordinator), Mike (Sherman), myself, Jeff (Ireland), we just thought he was a football player. We just thought he was a good football player. We’re not at the stage where we’ve got too much of anything. We want to, we felt like we had an opportunity to add him, so we did.”

(On if Davone Bess still has a role on the team after the wide receiver signings) – “Absolutely. Yeah. As you guys know, I envision us bringing 10 or 12 guys to training camp. We’re going to get a lot of reps as we see and we’re going to let guys go out there and compete and earn spots and take it from there.”

(On if the tight end position is complete) – “We’re going to keep looking. I don’t know that we’re complete at any position. I think hopefully what’s happened with some of the free agency moves is it gives Jeff more latitude to just go find good football players. We’re as interested in adding, again, that term, it’s a vague term, but good football players to the roster at a variety of positions. I don’t know that we’re locked and loaded anywhere. That’s not a bad thing. I don’t know that many of the other 15 guys that are in the room today are locked and loaded at a ton of spots. We’ve got to add good players at every position.”

(On the different expectations for Lamar Miller this year) - “Well, obviously there’s, it’s a less crowded room today as we speak, so hopefully he’ll see the opportunity that’s out there in front of him and take advantage of it. Certainly, (he) impressed us with his running skill. He can catch the football. He’s got some explosiveness to him. We’ll see how he does in the offseason program and in training camp.”

(On where he wants to see Miller improve) – “I think it’s more the consistency element. The last game of the year against the Patriots, there’s a good picture of him in blitz pickup, a real nice picture of him picking up, I want to say it was (Jerod) Mayo I believe if I’m not mistaken or (Brandon) Spikes. I can’t remember exactly. When you’re a running back and you’re going to throw the ball and you’re involved in protection, you’ve got to display the ability to pick up a blitzing linebacker even though it might be a mismatch from a size standpoint. I think he can do that. He’s got to able to do that consistently. Catching the football – he’s a pretty instinctive guy with the ball in his hands and I think he has good hands. It’s just being that disciplined in the running game to stay on his course, stay at the right landmark and then be decisive with the ball in his hand. It will be fun to see where he’s at.”

(On how his first year as head coach went) – “As you’re progressing and you’re start in the National Football League, I think I started as an assistant offensive line coach. I really wasn’t responsible for anybody. Then, I was a tight end coach that had three or four guys, five guys. Then, I was the offensive line coach, you had a dozen guys. Then, you’re a coordinator (and) you had 28 guys. Now, you’re managing people a lot more than (in the past). As a coordinator, a lot of times I was more locked in the film room going through the minutia of the game plan and this guy has this foot back this way or, when he’s at six yards, he’s doing this. You’re involved in kind of more global thinking I guess is the hip word to use in that regard. I think it’s just more managing people, more about certainly leadership you want to lead your tight end group, your (offensive) line group, your offensive unit. But now it’s more of the whole football team and managing the people that are in it. You have 20 coaches. When I was a tight end coach, I was just more worried about myself.”

(On if he found himself tweaking a lot of things in his first season) – “We went through, we’re going to keep tweaking. We had the staff, at the end of the season, fill out - hey, what do we have to do better in travel? What do we have to do better in practice? What do we have to do better in our meetings schedule? In our facility? Is our field equipment good enough? Is our plane good enough? We got a lot of feedback on that stuff. We’re going through that process. Some of the things in phase one that we did last year, we felt like maybe we did too much meeting in the classroom (and) not enough lifting, so we’re going to change that up. We’re going to do that differently this year. That’s kind of the fun part of the job. There’s no, I don’t know that anybody’s got one locked and loaded formula that’s exactly right and can’t (be changed). You’ve got to stay flexible and hopefully change and get better. I just think the magnitude of the people you’re dealing with.”

(On if it’s different dealing with veteran free agents) – “They’ve got to get acclimated. We hopefully, in 13 months, we’ve been able to establish a culture and environment, an atmosphere of how we do business when they walk into that door. While these guys are veterans and we’re certainly looking for them to put their stamp on things and make an impact, they’ve got to kind of fit into how we do things. So I think it’s more them, at least, understand these are responsibilities, the obligations that come with being a Miami Dolphin and kind of fall in line and then let their football stuff care of itself.”

(On the defense and how things are shaping up, particularly with cornerback) – “I think our front seven hopefully is going to be good again. I think it’s a good group. We like what we’re going to see there. We’re really happy that we re-signed Chris Clemons as well. Again, Chris is a guy that played 1,100 plays, he might have played more plays than anybody on our football team a year ago and the guy’s tough. He keeps his mouth (shut). He just comes to work. He’s physical. He’s a good football player. I’m really delighted he’s back. Kelcie McCray’s a guy that we were excited about. In a limited role that we saw him, he’s going to have a chance to get to work again. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to have a good nucleus with a good defense. The biggest thing we said we’ve got to find a way to take the ball away. After watching all of the cutups, 1,000 or so plays on defense, we can’t survive with 16 takeaways.”

(On if there are specific characteristics that he desires for players to fit in on his team) – “I don’t know about fitting in. I want a guy that when he shuts the door on his car and he walks into the building (that) A, he’s excited about being there. He feels good about being a Miami Dolphin. I think it’s important for all of our guys to feel that. We want guys that want to make an impact on and off the field. I want good human beings and guys who want to get better. Guys who want to improve. Guys who want to have some fun. I look at it, I’m 51 years old, I told you, I don’t have all the answers. I want to keep getting better and improving and be a better coach. And I want guys that feel the same way. Just good decent people that really walk in the door, they want to be there, they want to be great and they want to win. We can work with those kind of guys. Those kind of guys you can work with every day.”

(On Olivier Vernon’s growth) – “Olivier’s got a lot of natural ability. He’s a good athlete. He’s got good power, explosiveness and he’s got some toughness. That’s what you really like about him at this stage. There’s some things he needs to refine from a fundamental technique standpoint, but he’s got some power and snap in his body and he likes football. He’s tough. I like all those things about him.”

(On if Jared Odrick fits in better as a defensive end or tackle given that the team has brought in a lot of defensive ends for visits) – “Not necessarily. We watched the film (and) I thought he did some good things this year and had production both outside and inside. As you know, the value of having him outside is that you’re creating a pretty physical presence in terms of your down linemen in run defense and then, when you move him inside in the pass rush, he kind of gives you that athletic inside player. I don’t think it’s bad that he’s got some of those you want to call it hybrid qualities where he can line up in a bunch of different spots.”

(On playing in the Hall of Fame game) – “I was there one time, my first year in the league we participated in it. I think the thought process is this – we’ve got 11 draft picks, so we don’t have a very old roster to start with and we’re adding 11 draft picks, so I think that’s going to give us an opportunity to get a good evaluation of those (players). One more game exposure where coaches are on the sideline, not in their ear and they can go out and play and compete so that we can find out a little more about them. It’s an honor for us to be a part of this. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame and to be part of the festivities that surround that event will be great for the organization. We’re playing a team with great history and tradition, like ours, in the Dallas Cowboys. It should be fun.”

(On if it will be fun to show the young team about the game’s history) – “Absolutely. I’m sure our veterans are going to be delighted that they’re coming to camp early too. Can’t wait for that announcement. (joking)”(On if he can tell when a guy is going to be a good quarterback and if he can see that in Tannehill) – “I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback, yeah, I do. I think he’s, you watch, and a lot of it’s sometimes it’s right now a lot of it’s… You only have 1100 plays or a 1000 plays, but you’ve got a lot more on the practice tape (and) you can see him making vertical throws. You can see him making out-breaking route throws. You can see him making in-breaking route throws. You can see him move around. He’s athletic and he’s smart, so there’s no really warning signs right now to me that would say he shouldn’t develop into an excellent football player. I would also tell you that I remember at the University of Iowa on the sidelines playing some sophomore kid from Miami of Ohio and I’m watching this guy throw the ball and I’m like this guy’s pretty good and I don’t know anything about him. I didn’t know his name, didn’t know who the hell he was, but he ran around one time, had a 50-yard scramble and I was sitting there coaching our line and this guy ran an out route and I saw the ball zinging at my head and I’m like, ‘This guy can throw the ball.’ Sometimes, experts, like yourself can tell that (joking).”

(On what makes him excited about McCray) – “You’ve heard me use this term before, he kind of moved around like a football player. Again, watching Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball at Iowa when he was a sophomore or redshirt freshman, I can’t remember what year he was, but there’s sometimes when you’re just watching film and you look at the guys and you’re saying this guy kind of looks like a football player, the way it should be. He kind of runs naturally. He maybe has some instinct going after the ball down the field. He can catch the ball easy without fighting it. That’s a word I like to use a lot. I kind of like those kind of players that move around like that.”

(On Will Yeatman’s development) – “(I’m) excited about it. Let’s be honest, he was playing behind the eight ball most of the year, but worked his tail off and I’m excited now that we have a chance to really kind of sink our teeth in with him. Not that we didn’t work with him in training camp, we did, but everybody knows there’s not a lot of time to work on a quote-un-quote developmental guy during the season. So he kept working at it and I’m excited. I think he’ll have a chance to compete. I think he might have some position flexibility. I think he’s athletic enough. He might be able to go to right side. He might be able to go to the left side.”

(On Yeatman’s athleticism) – “He can move. He’s a good athlete.”

(On Charles Clay’s development) – “We thought he was really coming kind of on the rise so to speak and obviously, unfortunately for him, he had the injury that he sustained late in the year. He’s been working his tail off. I’ve seen him in the training room just getting ready and he’s upbeat, optimistic and we’re excited about, once he gets back to a full recovery, getting him rolling again.”

(On if he’s concerned about Dustin Keller blocking well enough) – “We’ll see. I don’t know. Obviously, I’ve watched the tape. We kind of feel like we watched him for the last couple of years because I think he was kind of dealing with a few things this year of terms of injuries and I think we have to be smart about in game planning what we ask him to do. The thing about him you can see on the film is there’s, he’s very competitive in terms of blocking. It’s not like he’s turning his eyes the other way. There’s some who do that. I think we’ve got to work with him. Hopefully, there’s some upside there in terms of the technique and all of those things.”

(On if he can envision using more four wide receiver sets this year) – “I wouldn’t rule anything out, but four wides is, you just limit yourself a little bit with balance. Maybe on third down maybe a little bit if everybody in the part knows we’re going to pass the ball anyway. I wouldn’t rule it out, certainly could. We didn’t do much of that at all this year actually.”

 (On if John Jerry is athletic enough to play guard and if moving him to tackle is a possibility) – “Anything’s possible. I do think he’s, the one thing he has to do a better job of is staying on his feet better, but he’s athletic enough to play guard. There’s a lot of picture of him showing very good quickness and explosiveness off the ball. It’ll be interesting to see. I know the big thing we said to him when he left is we want to see how much you weigh when you come back for the offseason program.”

(On if 340 pounds is a reasonable goal for Jerry’s weight) – “I would hope so.”

(On how important it was to get Randy Starks back for chemistry in the front seven) – “Randy’s certainly one of the guys that the other guys look up to on the football team. Again, he’s tough. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s tough. He plays hard. He’s been a productive player in the league for a long time now. Again, you get good, tough, hard-nosed football players, you want to keep them around as long as you can.”

(On the defensive line being a tightknit group and how important that is) – “Well, I think it starts with, I think, they have an outstanding defensive line coach, Kacy Rodgers, I think it starts at the top and I think he’s created an atmosphere in that room where the expectations are high. He’s very demanding of those guys and they respond.”

(On if he can envision bringing in competition for Dan Carpenter) – “I wouldn’t rule anything out. Certainly, it’s possible. Again, we have to see how the roster shapes… This year, we didn’t bring in anybody. I don’t know about years before, but, this year, we didn’t. We would consider anything. We’re not at that stage yet where we’re making those kind of decisions, but we’re looking at everybody. We’re evaluating how all the…we’re certainly looking at all the kickers that are coming out and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

(On how bringing back Matt Moore helps Tannehill) – “It’s a really good room. Number one, Matt’s a good football player. Number two, Matt’s an excellent teammate. I think it’s an excellent situation for both parties. We’re excited that Matt’s back. He adds a lot. The ability for us to know that you have two quarterbacks that have played games and have won games in the NFL, that’s (big). I don’t know that every single football team has that.”

(On if Pat Devlin is disappointed that he didn’t get to be the backup quarterback) – “I haven’t spoken with Pat.”(On if Devlin would have been ready to take that role) – “He made a lot of progress last offseason and in training camp. Hopefully, he can do that again.”

(On the vision of changing the defense to becoming more physical) – “Well, the big thing that we talked about in the offseason when we watched the film, from a coaching perspective, we looked at us statistically of the profile of our defense statistically and we watched our cutups. There were a couple things that we were most concerned about and that is our inability to generate takeaways on defense and we had too many explosive passes. Some of the thing is, as I said, we identified (Philip) Wheeler a year ago. He had visited a year ago and things didn’t, for a variety of reasons, he went to Oakland. As we evaluated this year’s pool, we felt like these two players that we acquired at the linebacker position might be able to make a couple more impactful plays. That wasn’t an indictment on Kevin (Burnett) and Karlos. They did a very good job for us. (They are) true professionals and I was delighted that they were on the team. It was just one of those things we felt like these are two players that we wanted to add to the ball club. That’s really the frame work of all of the, as we looked at, after a thorough evaluation of what we did on defense. We did some, I think, to finish seventh in the league in scoring defense when you don’t have a very, let’s face it, when you don’t have a super productive offense and you don’t get takeaways, that (shows) they did some good things in that regard.”

(On if he feels like blitzing is the answer for producing more takeaways) – “That’s one way. I think it’s one way. I think it’s one way and I think if you can get those one-on-one matchups that a blitz creates and not necessarily just the blitzer, it might not always be the blitzer that gets the sack or the tipped pass or force the quarterback into a bad decision. It might be the other guy that gets the one-on-one that gets you freed up when you do blitz. But I’d like us to be a better blitz team. We have, I think, just an excellent pressure package. I think it’s multiple. We had some good productivity out of it, but I think we can do better.”

(On if blitzing forces you to play more zone) – “In simple terms, if you’re going to overload blitz, you’re usually playing zones. If you’re bringing one guy or possible two guys, it doesn’t necessarily force you to play zone. As you know, we’re never going to do, we’re not always just going to be an overload blitz team. We’re not always just going to be a man-to-man blitz team. We want to present a couple different scenarios so the offense doesn’t know exactly which one we’re doing.”

(On the expectations for fans this year given the free agent signings) – “Again, I think hopefully our fans are counting on us to make decisions that give our football team the best chance to win and that’s the backdrop that I think all these decisions were made under. I want our fans to expect this to be a good football team.”(On if he’ll utter during training camp that the playoffs are a goal) – “The day I got here, I said I want to build a sound, smart, tough football team that consistently competes for championships. That’s what we want to do. We’re doing this on a daily (basis). It’s a process and we’re working one day at a time to get to that stage.”

(On what separates the Dolphins from the Patriots) – “They won five more games than we did I guess. They’ve obviously have achieved an awful lot over the last decade-plus. The biggest difference probably is they’re turnover margin. I think for years and years they’ve done a very good job of that and last year we didn’t. I think we were minus-10. What did we end up? Minus-10 on the turnover margin? When you’re scoring 19 points a game and you’re a minus-10 turnover margin, that’s not a good formula for being a winning football team. I would say the one biggest difference between us and them in my one year and what they did last year is the turnover margin.”

(On how much of that is Tom Brady) – “I think it’s everything. You have to credit their whole team. They do a good job on defense taking the ball away and they do a good job on offense protecting the ball. So I think you have to credit it all. I don’t know that it’s just one player or one thing. If you had to ask me what’s the most impressive thing from my seat as a coach of what they’ve done over the years is the best thing I think they’ve done.”

(On what makes them excited about Dimitri Patterson) – “As you know, he kind of showed up on a…again, I’m in the middle of practice one day and then the next (day) he’s starting. He kind of, number one, he seems like a bright kid because that’s not easy necessarily to do to show up in the middle of a Wednesday practice and end up starting on Sunday. So I think he’s bright. I think he’s athletic and he looked to be fairly instinctive in the short period of time that we had with him. Like you said, we probably need to spend a little more time with him to get a real better feel for (him). I think we know he’s athletic and he’s got a good skill set for the position, but, beyond that, I don’t know that we really know the guy that well. So I think we’re going to need some time.”

(On how the team plans to address the cornerback position) – “Well we have some young guys on the roster that we are excited about working with. You know (Julian) Posey and (Deandre) Presley and those guys. We’d like to see how they come along, and the offseason program is a Godsend for those guys because they get to be in the building every day and learn and compete, so we’re excited about seeing what they are capable of doing. And then obviously there are a lot of good players still available in free agency that we may or may not pursue and then there’s 11 draft picks. So I think we’re certainly not done adding to that position and we’ll see what happens.”

 (On his thoughts about the Hard Knocks experience) – “I thought that NFL Films and HBO Sports were tremendous people to work with. I think that after about two days you don’t even realize they are there. They kind of become part of your organization, part of the fabric of your team. They’re good people, they are respectful people, and before we ever agreed to do it, we said, ‘look, one thing that we are going to be adamant about is that you show respect to the players and the staff.’ They always did that, and at the end of the day we’re teaching football. We’re teaching blocking and tackling, so you know there’s not that many great secrets that we’re keeping. It’s fun, and you know as the year went on you go to different stadiums and see some of the NFL Films guys and say, ‘hey Paul how are you doing?’ You know you knew these guys, you were with them a lot, and it was good.”

(On whether he has watched any of the Hard Knocks episodes) – “I haven’t seen one of them yet. I didn’t want all these guys to ask me questions about it. I swear to God.”

(On whether the his wife and kids have seen it) – “They thought it was good I guess. They said it was good.”

(On how he knows that people weren’t ripping him if he didn’t watch it) – “They probably were.”

(On whether forcing turnovers comes through coaching and how the Patriots have been so successful at it) – “Well the proof is in the pudding. I can sit here and tell you that I coached it and drilled it every single day, but the numbers don’t reflect that. I think you have to credit Coach (Bill) Belichick and the players and their whole staff. I’m guessing, I don’t know how they practice and I’m really not that concerned about it, but they must emphasize it and get it done because it shows up consistently in their profile. You have to give them credit for that.”

(On how much of the speculation about bringing Greg Jennings to Miami was accurate) – “All I’m going to say is I had an outstanding relationship with Greg Jennings over a period of six years. They guy is an excellent football player. He has a wonderful family and I think the world of him. He is an excellent football player and his career reflects that. That’s the facts and beyond that, we wanted this, we wanted this, we wanted that, I’m not going to get into any of that.  The facts are I have great regard for him, he's had a tremendous career, he did everything I asked of him when I worked with him on a consistent basis and he's a heck of a player. He’s got a wonderful wife and family and he's a good person. I don’t know where all that came from, that Joe Philbin doesn’t like him.”

(On whether he was involved in trying to keep Jake Long) – “We like Jake. Jake was a good football player on the field, he was a good member of the community in South Florida. He really represented the organization well in both areas during his five years. We wish we could have had him back, but as you guys know in free agency, players make decisions for a variety of reasons, and he decided that St. Louis was the best place for him and his family. We wish him well.”

(On whether he knew when he took the job that the team was going to be in this position for free agency and the draft) – “Not necessarily. I mean some of the decisions we made last year were I think, number one I think Jeff (Ireland) and Dawn Aponte do a great job of managing the roster and managing the finances of the club. Certainly that’s not my area of expertise. As you guys are well aware, you are kind of scrambling your first year. You are trying to put together a staff, you’re putting together how you are going to practice and how you are going to meet and all those thing, and so free agency last year and based on the cap situation we had, we did some things but we weren’t very, very active. I don’t know that we are going to be this active every single year either, but we try to make good decisions, sound decisions and it just happened to be we had the resources and we liked certain players. Just because you have the resources doesn’t mean you should spend money to spend money. These players that we brought here we like.”

(On how quickly into the process did he start envisioning how he was going to use Mike Wallace in his offense) – “We studied and we did a lot of homework. We charted very catch he's made for the last couple of years. We charted every drop he has made for the last couple of years. We’ve got it on a picture and we know where all the little dots are; inside the numbers, outside the numbers, this deep, that deep. So, when you are a receiver in the National Football League you kind of charged with a couple of simple jobs. Number one: get open. Number two: catch the ball. Number three: to block on a running play. So we are going to use him and we expect him to get open, we expect him to catch the ball and hopefully make a couple guys miss after.  Beyond that, you know that’s what a receiver does in the National Football League. I don’t think our style of offensive football is… we’re not going to have him run a go route every single play. You have to be able to do more.”

(On people assuming that Mike Wallace is only a deep threat) – “I’m not sure people studied the film and saw where all his catches were on the chart. Some people may have wrote that down, but I think if you look at his catch chart, that might not be quite as accurate as everybody thinks.”

(On what it’s like going from Green Bay, who is historically conservative in free agency, to this season with all the spending) – “It’s different. I don’t think or I don’t remember when I was a coordinator every having a free agent on offense. So that part of it will be different. Again, I wasn’t maybe as deeply involved in those discussions as I am today either, so I don’t know that we were ever in that position. I think everybody would say that probably most guys, you draft, develop and sign you own guys and you usually don’t have a big void or a lot of money laying around because you are using your money to keep your own guys. So, I think this was kind of a unique set of circumstances this year. But again, I feel good about the type of individuals that we added as well as the type of football players they are.”

(On how much better of a coach he thinks he will be in his second year) – “I don’t know this to be totally factual but my gut tells me… we lost one coach who got promoted to be a special teams coordinator with the Eagles on our staff. I think Green Bay didn’t lose anybody, but beyond Green Bay and Baltimore and maybe San Francisco because of the Super Bowl, I’ve got to believe that we are in the top 15-20% of the staffs in continuity. So I think that is going to pay us both, for myself and our players and staff, I think we’ll be better. We need to be. I hope to do some things better. We went through an exhaustive offseason evaluation. I asked every player when they came in for the exit interviews to give me one thing that you think we should do better. The door is shut and I don’t really care what you tell me. So they were a couple good ideas. Some we probably won’t use, but I’m definitely going to hope to do a better job.”

(On why Michael Egnew wasn’t a contributor last season) – “We just didn’t feel like… you know you have to earn opportunities. We just didn’t quite see it on the practice field enough to feel like he was ready to make a meaningful contribution or give him a big chunk of the game plan. We didn’t see enough from him in special teams where we could validate, ‘okay even if he doesn’t have a big role here maybe he can have a big role there.’ So we just didn’t see enough on the tape to warrant an active spot most of the season.”

(On what he needs to see from Egnew this year) – “A lot of it with the young guys is consistency. There were flashes where he made some of those types of plays, you know torqueing his body and getting down the middle of the field. I think his play speed, if I had to say one thing, it would be his play speed. Get that up. If his play speed is faster, then it’s going to help him in all (his game). Get off the ball quicker, get a better release off the line of scrimmage, get down field quicker. Just speed it up.”

(On the dynamic between him and Mike Sherman) – “It’s been great. As you guys know, Mike’s probably the hardest working coach that I’ve been around in 30 years in the profession. He pours his heart and soul into everything he does as you guys well remember, so that hasn’t changed about him number one. Number two, I think it has allowed him to be… you know he has a great rapport with the players and now that he's not necessarily the head coach and the GM he’s able to relate to those guys really, really well. The other thing he’s got is a phenomenal sense of humor, which I think with all of the responsibilities that he had at that time it didn’t really come out. So, hopefully if you ask him he is enjoying it. He is a great resource as well. I can just go into his office and shut the door (and ask), ‘do you think we should cut 10 minutes off practice here? It seems like the team is a little tired. What do you think?’ And he’ll say, ‘yeah .’ Or he’ll come to me and shut the door and say maybe I should give the staff an hour off or let them out of the building, so it’s a good give and take.”

(On what he learned about himself as a coach last season) – “One of the things I want to do a better job of is… I’ve got a great assistant. Jay Kaiser does a lot of things for me, but I want to be a little more involved in the whole football part of it. I think you’re managing so many different things for the first time and you’re taking road trips for the first time going through that thing, and you are so worried about just the overall operation that you don’t kind of let the other guys do their thing. So I want to get a little more involved in the teaching and the coaching. That’s one of the reasons you get into coaching is you want to teach and you want to coach. I don’t like stepping on people’s toes. I never liked that when I was position coach or coordinator. I didn’t want guys messing around with my guys, but I’ve got to do a better job getting more involved with that part of it.”

(On his vision for the offensive line) – “Sound football. Good, fundamental, tough guys. Smart, work together as a unit well, stays on their feet, athletic. As opposed to other teams I would probably value athleticism more than just sheer power, strength and size. Obviously you can’t get pushed back and knocked back, but smart guys that can stay on their feet and come off the ball with some quickness. But it’s more than the individual. You can kind of see it on tape. You can see those five guys that operate and function together. Individually they may not be outstanding, but they work well together as a group.”(On why athleticism is so important to him) – “I think part of it is because of the speed of the d-linemen and the athleticism of the defensive line and the movement post snap. It’s not so much people (staying) in one spot, so to handle defensive movement and planting and blitzing, you’ve got to have guys that can redirect. You have a better chance when you have better athletes that can stay on their feet against those types of moves.”

(On his hopes for Daniel Thomas) – “For his sake and ours, I hope he stays healthy. It’s hard for players to really make the type of development you’d like them to make if they are not able to stay healthy. Again, coaches value practice time, so if you’re not making progress and you’re injured, then you’re kind of slipping back. Then you’re coming back and you’re getting over the hump but you get hurt again, it makes it tough. So my first hope is that he stays healthy. My next hope for him is that he plays with more consistency. I know I’ve been using that word a lot today, but if you look at him, we’ve got to eliminate the fumbling, he had one or two mental errors at critical times and I’m not saying he’s the only player that had a mental error, but he just needs to do some things; display that consistency, stay healthy and kind of keep that gradual climb upward.”

(On what he sees from Jonas Gray) – “The reason we did that was from the college film that we saw. On the film we saw very good running skill and some power. He's got a real good lower body. So he's a guy that, on paper anyway, you would think that he should be able to function as a pass protector. He’s 220 and some odd pounds, and he's got some power and some athleticism. Again we haven’t seen enough of that yet ourselves, but that’s what we saw on tape and that’s sort of why he's here.”

(On whether he feels like he has enough talent and depth at the running back position) – “Oh I like those guys. I like those three guys and we’ll see what happens in the coming months.”

(On whether Gray is healthy) – “I believe so.”

(On what he will tell the players the goal for the season is when they gather at the start of the season) – “Well first, when we gather, we will first kind of review where we were. You have this resource, and again what happens in season is you play 1,000 plays and the day the season ends everybody is out the door. So we are going to take some time and before we start talking about next year, this is where we were and this is what we did, this is what we have to do better and then this is how we’re going to do it. So the offseason is really about, first and foremost, correcting and learning from the past and then moving forward. So that’s really going to be the initial focus of the offseason program. I think what happens, and we kid around as coaches, but in coaching you take all this film and analyze your offense in the red zone, third down, how you did against the blitz and all this stuff and you put it in a book about this (makes motion with his hands) big and you stick it on the shelf and you never use it. So I told the guys, look we are going to take a couple days and I want these players to have access to this information, because it’s for them. It’s not for me to keep the staff busy, because trust me I’ve been down the road before. So, we’re going to spend some time, first and foremost, on what we did. This is what we were, this is how we did things and this is what we need to do better, and hopefully our players can see it. Now you can have our o-line watch all the outside zone runs together as opposed to during the season when you don’t have time for that stuff. So we’re going to take a lot of time to try and fix some of the problems that we have.”

(On whether the timing of landing the Dolphins’ head coaching job worked out well) – “I think it did. Yes.”

(On whether there was a transition period where he had to deal with other things) – “Certainly there were times that it… As you guys remember with the timing of events, I think the family came down two weeks after I took the job, which was unheard of in coaching. Certainly it would not have been that scenario had it been a different set of circumstances. It was a gradual process. You move a sophomore in high school who has five great buddies and a girlfriend in the midst of what he had to go through, and it’s not all hunky dory just because we are in South Florida in the sunshine. There were certainly transitions that we had to work through, but I do think that the change of scenery was good for everybody. Not easy, but good.”

(On what he thinks about the read option in terms of how to stop it and maybe implementing it) – “Well I think you’ve seen we’ve used some of it already. Certainly we think our quarterback is athletic enough and smart enough to do that number one. Number two, I think it’s no different from any other play in football that to stop it, it takes good discipline, fundamentals, tackling. I mean there’s no magic to it. On paper it’s a good play, but a lot of plays are good on paper from an offensive standpoint. So defensively to stop it, you need good gap control, you need guys to have good pursuit, you’ve got have somebody forcing. You know we lost force on Kaepernick’s one big run. Most of the time we shut that play down big time, just like Kaepernick’s scrambling ability. He didn’t scramble against us because we had great discipline in our pass rush, we kept compressing the pocket and the guy had nowhere to go. I think we sacked him what, four times in that game, and we stuffed the run game really well except for (that one play). Again, we lost force and contain on the ball. You lose contain on the ball, and the guy went 50 yards to ice the game on us. But I think it is good football. We have it in our offense, but it’s not the magical play people think it is. There’s no magic to it. You have to execute the play from an offensive perspective, and certainly if you play good sound defense and you have a force player and an inside out player with good pursuit and you don’t have guys on the ground, you can stop it.”

(On whether he focused on being a physical football team his last few years in Green Bay) – “I think it always was. We always wanted to be. There was a certain way we wanted to play. I thought we did a good job with the players that we had in terms of putting them in a position to be successful and utilizing the talent that we had at our disposal. It was a point of emphasis, clearly. I don’t know if you can look at the stats just because of how many pass attempts we had as opposed to run attempts. I don’t remember off the top of my head, but I know we were kind of a throwing team a little bit.”

(On the benefit of having a tight end coach like Dan Campbell who played the game so recently) – “Aside from quarterback, I think it’s the most difficult position to play on offense. We’re lucky. Dan does a great job with these guys. He does all the things. He could coach run blocking, he can coach pass blocking, he can coach releases, he can coach route running and catching. And he does. He does a great job in all that stuff. He has a great rapport. Those guys have a tremendous amount of respect for Dan, and I think he's really an excellent football coach.”

(On Greg Jennings’ hallmark as a receiver) – “I thought he was an excellent route runner. I thought he caught the football well. He was fun to watch on film; very smooth. He did things like a receiver should. Ran good routes, got open, caught the ball, had a little slipperiness to him. He's just an all-around good football player. I think the world of Greg. He had a great career in Green Bay, and a wonderful guy as well.”

(On whether he sees a comparison between Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb) – “He's got that knack. Wasn’t he a quarterback for a while down there (Kentucky)? So he's just got that natural instinct. Just go down by the pole and, you know if there is a guy over there go the other way. He just kind of has that way about him where he can get open. He's a good player.”(On his impressions of Jermichael Finely in Green Bay) – “He is a very passionate guy; he loved football. He really competed hard, practiced hard. He's a good guy.”

(On how much playing receiver in college benefits Ryan Tannehill now as a quarterback) -  “I think there is some validity to that because he's sort of walked in their shoes so to speak.  I think when you’ve done that you have a better appreciation for some of the challenges that they have, and that helps I think the understanding of leverage, soft spots in zones and those types of things. So I definitely think it’s valid.”

(On whether the team was trying to address creating and stopping mismatches in their player acquisitions this offseason) – “Well we knew we have to be more explosive as an offense. We identified that as something that needs to get done to improve our 19 points per game, or 18.9, whatever it is. This is part of it. I think it will help us, but that will remain to be seen. But we wanted to add some explosiveness to the offense and the more good players you add, and hopefully the more they can contribute, the balance you can present to the defense with more than one option to go to, I think it is a benefit.”

(On the traits that Brandon Gibson shows) – “He's got some route skills. I think he can run a number of different routes effectively. He's pretty good at the top of his route. We thought he caught the ball consistently, and like you said he moved the chains. He was a good football player and he got yards and had some ability after the catch. We thought he played a little bit bigger than he is too.”

(On his thoughts about the job that Jeff Ireland and Dawn Aponte have done so far this offseason) – “Oustanding. Really excellent. Hopefully it’s not over yet; we’ve got a lot of work left to be done, but they’ve worked extremely hard both of them and I’m really pleased with what they’ve done so far. I’m looking forward to working with them the rest of the offseason.”

(On the type of person and worker that Aponte is) – “She is smart, hardworking, and professional. I think she is good.”

Tony McDaniel not returning to the Dolphins

PHOENIX -- Although most of the attention about Dolphins fee agents has centered on the activity of Jake Long or Sean Smith, there are other players that played for the Dolphins last year currently on the market.

That includes defensive lineman Tony McDaniel, who played the last four seasons with the Dolphins.

Well, McDaniel, an unrestricted free agent, is not returning to the team, I've been told.

It makes sense. McDaniel, 28, has struggled to stay healthy the past couple of seasons. Last year, particularly was a nightmare as he struggled with a knee injury, ankle injury, and other bumps and bruises despite his limited playing time.

McDaniel played only 11 games and managed only 11 tackles. He was originally expected to compete for a starting defensive end job but was moved inside where he struggled when he was in the game.

McDaniel came to the Dolphins for a late-round draft pick in 2008 and served the Dolphins well during the time they played the 3-4 scheme. He had 6.6 sacks in those three years and even started a couple of games for the team.

 

Morning Joe with Dolphins' coach Philbin

PHOENIX -- I had breakfast with Joe Philbin this morning. Actually he had a mandatory breakfast with all the media covering this event. He had a sausage and egg burrito, french toast, some fruit and coffee. I had everything else.

He spoke for about an hour.

The highlights:

Philbin discussed some of  his former Green Bay, some of which have been rumored as coming to the Dolphins. On Jermichael Finley: "Competed hard, practiced hard. Good guy."

Philbin on the read option: "It's a good play. We have it in our offense. But it's not a magical. You can stop it."

Philbin boils down Michael Egnew's problem last year gettig on the field: He talked about not seeing enough from him in practice. Made occassional play but it was rare. Then Philbin boiled it down by saying, "It's his play speed." Philbin wants Egnew to get his "speed it up." Yeah, not good.

The Dolphins studied Mike Wallace by studying every play he ran the past two years. They studied every catch. They studied every drop. They studied every pass patter he ran. Philbin said it's untrue Wallace is a one-trick pony, running only go routes. He added that Wallace won't be running go routes exclusively in Miami.

Philbin's expectations of Wallace? "Get open, catch the ball, hopefully make a couple of guys miss after. That's what a receiver does." 

Joe Philbin gushed about Greg Jennings and said the report that suggested Philbin didn't really like the former free agent wide receiver was untrue. "I don't know where that came from that Joe Philbin doesn't like him."

Philbin is a very even-keel guy. Not excitable. But he wants you, the fans, to get fired up. "I want our fans to expect us to be a good football team."

Philbin wants better production from his defense as far as turnovers: "I'd like us to be a better blitz team," he said. 

Philbin said part of reason Ellerbe and Wheeler were added was to get "more impactful plays.

Philbin said the team is not at stage to consider bringing in competition for Dan Carpenter but "we'll consider anything."

Philbin said John Jerry needs to stay on his feet better. But the primary thing the team is concerned about relative to Jerry is ... his weight. When Jerry left after the season he was told, "let's see how much you weigh when come back."

TE Dustin Keller's blocking has been called to question: "We have to be smart about game planning and what we ask him to do." Still has desire to do it."

I asked you Philbin if he's convinced Ryan Tannehill will become a good quarterback. He offered this: "There's nothing to me that suggests he's not going to be a good quarterback."

 ... And this: "I think he's going to be a very good quarterback, sure."

You've likely read me refer to 'Philbin guy" on this blog. What's a Philbin guy? "I want good decent people that want to be there, want to win. We can work with those kind of guys." And this: "I want a guy when shuts door on car and is in the building he's excited about being there ..."

Philbin says he feels team has established culture and free agents have to fit in to that. "Fall in line" is a term he used.

Philbin said he feels the team did too much meeting in classroom and not enough lifting so Dolphins are changing that this year.

Joe Philbin suggested the plan in free agency was to fill needs at all positions so the Dolphins could go into the draft feeling they could go in any direction they want. Meanwhile he's not satisfied with how thigns are today: "I don't know we're complete at any position."

You'll remember I've told you that the Dolphins believe Jonathan Martin can be a solid left tackle if he gets stronger but the question is will he want to do that? Will he work hard enough? Philbin said Martin is "all business and working at his trade" so he wants to get stronger, better. Philbin said Martin has to add consistency to his game. And, as a tackle, he has to block all defensive ends, "not 11 out 16 DEs" and do by himself. Consistently.

Philbin said it is only coincidence the Dolphins '12 leadership council, including Jake Long, Karlos Dansby and Reggie Bush are gone: "We think we have some excellent leaders on the football team now.

That's all for now. Check back again and again for updates from the NFL annual meeting.

Dolphins and Cowboys in HOF game

PHOENIX -- The Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins will kick off the 2013 preseason in the NFL Hall of Fame Game in August

The nationally televised NFL preseason game is scheduled for an 8:00 p.m.  at Fawcett Stadium on Sunday, August 4th and will be broadcast by NBC. The game will feature two teams for which Bill Parcells worked. Parcells is being inducted into the Hall of Fame that week.

This year’s contest marks the Dolphins’ fourth journey to Canton. Miami is 0-3 in previous visits. Miami suffered losses in the Hall of Fame Game to the Bears in 2005, St. Louis Rams in 2001, and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978.

The Cowboys return to Canton for the fifth time. Dallas holds a 1-3 record in the Hall of Fame series. Their last appearance came in 2010 with a 16-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. That game was preceded by an overtime loss, the only sudden death occurrence in Hall of Fame Game history, to the Cleveland Browns in 1999.  Dallas’ two other appearances were against the Oakland Raiders in 1979 and the Chicago Bears in 1968.

Tickets to the 2013 edition of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio will go on sale at 11:00 a.m. EDT today.

March 18, 2013

Tuesday notes from the NFL annual meeting

PHOENIX -- Some notes from the NFL annual meeting:

Bess still in the plans

The addition of receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson as well as the re-signing of Brian Hartline and availability of Dustin Keller as a slot receiver seems to make receiver Davone Bess an odd man out but general manager Jeff Ireland said that is not the case.

“Davone is an excellent inside slot receiver,” he said. “Gibson can play inside or outside. Brian can play inside or outside. Mike Wallace with his speed can get vertical. Obviously with Dustin Keller at the tight end position. Our depth right now is exceptional. We’re not making any bold predictions but we certainly have a vision for Davone.”

No panic at cornerback

The Dolphins lost cornerback Sean Smith to free agency last week and that means the team has now lost both its starters of 2009-2011. So where do the Dolphins fill the void?

“I like some of the players we currently have,” Ireland said. “Picking up Dimitri Patterson last year was a good complement to us. Richard Marshall was hurt a majority of last season. He looks like he’s in great shape at this point. There’s still an acquisition period we’re going through. We’ve got a couple of players we’re looking at.

“We knew where we were if we lost Sean. We’re not panicking. We’ve got a great plan in place.”

Lamar Miller time

With the loss of leading rusher Reggie Bush, the question has been what will the Dolphins do at running back in 2013. The answer seems clear because Ross in naming the team’s many expected playmakers added a running back’s name.

“Lamar Miller,” he said unsolicited.

Dolphins not finished adding speed

The Dolphins were obviously, depressingly slow last season as a team. Watching them operate from their own 30 was like watching most other teams in the red zone. Watching the defense run was troubling despite the fact coordinator Kevin Coyle made sure guys were in good position.

So the Dolphins added speed at receiver, tight end, both the Mike and Sam linebacker spots and, well, the offseason isn't over.

“You can see where the NFL is going," club owner Stephen Ross said. "It’s about speed and the passing game and excitement. And that’s what I think we’re developing there. And I don’t think we’re done.”

Ross: Tannehill-Moore as good at QB as anyone

PHOENIX -- The Dolphins are making a ton of moves in free agency and have more to make, accoriding to general manager Jeff Ireland who today opened the door on more signings, trades and then the draft as serious possibilities for upgrading the team in the coming months.

But, let's face it, the Dolphins are going to be only as good as their quarterback.

It's on Ryan Tannehill to improve dramatcially on a 12-TD, 12-interceptions season for the Dolphins to be a playoff team in 2013.

But count club owner Stephen Ross as very excited about Tannehill's prospects. Indeed, Ross spent part of his time on his private jet to these annual meetings watch Tannehill play at Texas A&M -- as a wide receiver. 

"This guy's an athlete and he's a very bright guy," Ross said in a meeting with the South Florida media. "You put those skills together, that's what really excited me about it. He as a person and what he's capable of, you put it as a package and people recognize this guy is winner. And complementing him with Matt Moore, I think we have as good a one-two punch at the quarterback position as anybody. He's going to get there. I feel confident."

Ireland wasn't ready to be quite so effusive but he didn't want to contradict his owner.

"I'm not going to put expectations on a young quarterback," Ireland said. "It's a continued development."

So I asked Ross if he really believes Tannehill and Moore as as good a combo as, say Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. Are they as good as Alex Smith and Matt Cassel? Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn?

"I didn't say that. I said the comination," Ross said. "I don't know what they have behind [Brady] but the combination of working together and knowing we have depth and two fine young men, I'm very excited about that. Is that wrong?

"I said he's developing," Ross continued. "[Tannehill] is not there. It's only his second year. I see him doing it. I'm not saying he's going to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning next year but he's developing."

Whatever he meant, it is clear the Dolphins are excited about the prospects of having Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore back for 2013."