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25 posts from May 2013

May 23, 2013

Team with no questions? I have some

A couple of weeks ago, amid the feel-good reflections of the offseason, guard Richie Incognito said the Dolphins had no questions. No, he wasn't suggesting the team is winning a championship in 2013. He was making the point he sees no obvious weaknesses or holes.

I suppose that could be fair.

Last year at this time, for example, we already knew the receiver corps was a problem. We already wondered about a rookie quarterback. We wondered where the sacks would come from if not from Cameron Wake.

Some of those issues have been addressed.

But are the Dolphins free of issues?

I'm not certain. (And neither can you be, by the way, because only a season of games will tell).

I can, however, present to you questions that will have to answered somehow in 2013. I'm not saying they're going to be problems. I'm simply marking them down in the uncertainty file.

Here we go:

Uncertainty 1: Will Ryan Tannehill be the QB everyone expects? Will he be a much-improved player from Year 1 to Year 2 or will the improvement -- assuming he makes some -- be more gradual? This is a big deal, by the way, because as Tannehill goes so will the Dolphins.

There's no doubt Tannehill is growing into his job.

"Last year at this time my head was spinning," he said. "I was just trying to figure out how things worked. I didn’t really know how the day went, how the offseason went, how practices went. So being in it a year, I am completely comfortable. Now I can go out and focus on all the little things that go into the game."

Now the question is will his play reflect his greater comfort level?

Uncertainty 2: Who is going to carry the running game? The question is obvious because Reggie Bush is gone and everyone who is left is unproven. The Dolphins love Lamar Miller. As I've written before, he is the heir apparent and is so talked within the team, owner Stephen Ross has mentioned him as a big playmaker for 2013. It's obvious someone internally has been telling Ross to expect big things from Miller.

But the Dolphins do have other choices. Daniel Thomas is a former second-round pick and he sees himself as the successor to Bush. He'll have to prove it. And he intends to prove it. So we have a competition building.

The darkhorse here is rookie Mike Gillislee. I keep hearing his name from club sources. There is an internal excitement about him. There is hope he can factor and perhaps even surprise everyone -- except you, of course, because I just told you what might occur.

Uncertainty 3: Health. Let's face it, the Dolphins are a skyscrapper of cards. Yes, they are looking like they can reach into the heavens. But they have a lot of fragile pieces. Brent Grimes, Richard Marshall, and Dustin Keller all had season-derailing injuries last season and are trying to stay healthy now. Can they? Rookies Dion Jordan (shoulder), Jamar Taylor (hernia), and Dallas Thomas (shoulder) all have injuries that are keeping them on the shelf until training camp the earliest. This issue deserves attention.

Uncertainty 4: Jonathan Martin as a left tackle. Yes, it's his job now. He succeeds Jake Long. And while Martin is expected to be healthier than Long, it is anyone's guess if he'll be any better. Indeed, Martin was no better in his stint as a left tackle last year toward the end of the year than Long was previously even though the veteran was constantly nicked. Perhaps that's the reason the team tried to re-sign Long and then flirted with both Brandon Albert and Bryant McKinnie as left tackle answers ahead of Martin.

This raises the question, 'How confident were the Dolphins in Martin?' Martin is a natural left tackle. He likes the position much more than he does the right side. Let's see if he plays like it.

Uncertainty 5: Can Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler live up to the hype? Both players have performed well as complementary players, players signed on the cheap, players stepping in for stars, players without any pressure.

But now both these guys are very, very, very highly paid. They were brought in to not only start but make big plays. They were brought in as upgrades. That's a far cry from what they're used to.

Wheeler, you'll remember, played for Oakland on a one-year, $700,000 contract last year. He signed a $26 million deal with Miami. He played well last year. Will be play 40 times better for the Dolphins now that he's making nearly 40 times the money?

Ellerbe was supposed to be the heir apparent for Ray Lewis in Baltimore. But the Ravens couldn't afford to keep him. He had very good moments in Baltimore. He had some bad moments in Baltimore, particularly earlier in his career. Will he be the playmaker that Karlos Dansby was supposed to be but really wasn't? Or instead of another Ray Lewis, will Ellerbe be more like Dansby?

We'll see.

Prove it time begins in a couple of months.

May 22, 2013

Dolphins four-wide package a big upgrade

OTA days don't directly translate to regular season success. Players that look brilliant in shorts sometimes fade in the padded violence of games. But OTA do speak to alignments and the vision of a coaching staff. They do serve to provide a glimpse of what may be coming in those areas.

And that's why the Dolphins four-wide set during Tuesday OTA was intriguing.

Mike Wallace. Brain Hartine. Brandon Gibson. Dustin Keller.

Two speedy receivers who have both had 1,000-yard seasons. A proven big, physical reciever that can work the middle and occasionally get deep. And a seam-threat receiver who has a reputation for uncovering quickly and making himself available to his quarterback.

Boom.

We've come a long way from Hartline, Anthony Armstrong, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano“Yeah you know we’re still learning, but I’m excited about what I see from those guys. They’re all getting a grasp on the offense and we’re starting to get a lot of reps with each other, so (we’re going to) continue to work that to .

If this group stays healthy, there is little reason to doubt that Miami, 26th in the NFL passing the ball in 2012, can become an efficient, effective and scary pass offense that threatens a defense in multiple ways.

"Yeah you know we’re still learning, but I’m excited about what I see from those guys,"quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "They’re all getting a grasp on the offense and we’re starting to get a lot of reps with each other, so (we’re going to) continue to work that to get better. I'm excited about what they bring to the team and what they showed today."

There wasn't tons to show during Tuesday OTA because it happened in mostly slippery, wet conditions. In fact, that's the first thing Wallace addressed.

Yeah I forgot about that part when I came here, but it’s all a part of it so it’s fine," he said.

That's perhaps the reason everyone looked a step slow to Wallace -- particularly Keller and Gibson.

“I learned about those two guys that they look a lot better on the field than in off-season drills," Wallace said. "They looked a little slow out there but then they get on the field and they’re a lot faster on the field than in workouts."

Part of playing fast is knowing what you're supposed to do. Wallace, Keller and Gibson are still figuring that out to a degree.

“It’s fairly different, fairly different," Keller said comparing the Miami system to that of the New York Jets. "I think pretty much everything in the NFL is all related, but you have different terminology and just different ways of running these things. All in all, it’s fairly similar."

When the players get the system figured out, when they get in proper shape, when they find a comfort level for their roles, then the four-wide package in Miami might become a staple of the passing game. At least, I hope so.

 “I’ve always kind of said it’s a passing league, you have to run the football but you have to be very multi-faceted, but you have to be able to throw the football and do it effectively," Hartline said. "Have depth have guys that can do many different things brings a lot to the table."

May 21, 2013

Bay Area, Houston beat out Miami for Super Bowls

Miami's attempt to host an unprecedented 11th Super Bowl was derailed today when NFL owners awarded Super Bowl 50 to the San Francisco Bay area and Super Bowl 51 to Houston.

In deciding against Miami, the owners showed a clear deference to communities that had invested heavily in building or refurbishing their football facilities. Santa Clara is building a $1.2 billion stadium for the San Francisco 49ers while Houston funded Reliant Stadium a decade ago and recently approved a $25 million upgrade for new high definition video screens.

The bid by Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium included promises that the signature Super Bowl 50 game would celebrate the past 49 years of NFL championship games but, more importantly, set the tone for the future of the game. Levi's Stadium is solar powered and thus energy neutral on game days. Numerous Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Yahoo and Apple also have put their technology behind the stadium.

"We've been looking forward to this moment since 1985," said Bay Area Super Bowl committee chairman Daniel Lurie. "We have a new stadium now and we're very excited the game is coming back."

Having lost in a head-to-head matchup against the Bay Area for Super Bowl 50, Miami then was pitted against Houston for Super Bowl 51. 

The bid by Houston was portrayed by one source as something of a repeat of the bid submitted by the community in advance of winning the 2004 game. But the Houston presentation did promise some new additions.

The city claimed it has surpassed New York as the most ethnically diverse city in the country. To that end the Houston Super Bowl committee pitched a "Super Bowl El Centro" exhibit that it said would attract three million national and international visitors.

Ric Campo, Houston's Super Bowl bid committee chairman, also told owners the city intended to turn the downtown Houston skyline into an NFL exhibit called "Super Bowl decor."

The presentation was ultimately good enough to beat Miami.

The vote by owners against Miami cuts more than just an average doubleheader sweep. It sends a chilling message that perhaps Miami has lost its prized status as a recurring host within the Super Bowl rotation.

The city has hosted 10 previous games but the last one came in 2010 and all the games until 2018 have been awarded, meaning Miami will see a minimum eight-year hiatus from the game. It's possible that gap between games may widen if the NFL continues to award games to cities that build new stadiums.

Atlanta plans to build a new stadium, Minneapolis plans to build a new stadium and Indianapolis and Dallas plan to continue bidding on games after building new facilities that won Super Bowl bids and successfully hosted games.

The Miami contingent, led by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, had come to this spring NFL owners' meeting optimistic that their presentation could succeed.

"There's no one better that can do it because we know how to throw a party," Miami Super Bowl bid chairman Rodney Barreto said prior to making his presentation. "We'll be giving the owners an incredible celebration in downtown Miami, recognizing the previous Super Bowls and contgratulating them on the 50th anniversary."

Despite rumors that Dan Marino or Jason Taylor would be part of Miami's bid, they were not. The presentation was hosted by former Dolphins receiver Jimmy Cefalo, who has had a long career in television in radio.

Cefalo introduced a film about Miami as part of the presentation. He said he rehearsed his part three times leading up to the trip to this meeting and again Tuesday morning.

"Miami has added enhancements to our bid that are greater and more spectacular than any bid before," Cefalo told owners in his presentation. "The South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee will invest approximately $37 million to bring a Super Bowl to Miami for a record 11th time and the Pro Bowl for a third time. We want to celebrate Super Bowl 50 with the first of its kind opening ceremony legacy charity concert for up to 40,000 attendees. All proceeds will benefit the NFL Player Care Foundation that is supporting medical research as well as financial grants to qualified NFL alumni for neurological care.

"South Florida will again offer our proven track record of success in hosting both the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl, where like in 2010 we will sell out both games -- 145,000 tickets. The evolution of South Florida also includes its vibrant waterfront urban core, where we look forward to celebrating the NFL’s legacy at Super Bowl Park entertaining hundreds of thousands with creative events, energy at a sense and a scale that to make the 50th Super Bowl truly momentous.”

Ultimately, no amount of rehearsal, no amount of party promises, no amount of good weather and plentiful hotel rooms could sway owners to pick Miami.

Reshad Jones changes mind, will report to OTA

Reshad Jones will show up to the Dolphins OTA session today, a source close to the safety said late Monday night.

Jones initally intended to stay away from the OTA sessions the same way he skipped an offseason condititioning session Monday because he is unahppy with his current contract.

The decision to show up came after Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Jones' agent Joel Segal spoke several times late into Monday evening, the source said. Details of the conversation are not known, but according to the Jones family source, Ireland gave Segal some assurance that the Dolphins would open discussions with Jones on a contract extension "eventually" if the player showed up.

It's unclear what "eventualy" means. It's possible the Dolphins could wait to see if Jones continues his good attendance in the offseason program and count that plus his play the last season-and-a-half as reasons for extending the player's contract.

Jones will be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2013 and is scheduled to make $1.3 million according to NFLPA figures. Jones would be a free agent after 2013.

It's also possible the Dolphins are simply stalling to avoid the embarrassment of having a key player skip OTA sessions that are entirely voluntary and in part open to the media. Dolphins coaches hate players missing OTA sessions and minicamps. They view it as a distraction and coach Joe Philbin typically deflects questions about those players, saying instead he wishes to speak only about players who are present.

If the Dolphins can stall Jones and his agent until the start of training camp, an advantage on having the player show up shifts to the team because players missing training camp days while under contract can be fined.

Whatever happens, this much is clear:

Jones, a productive defensive player coming off a good season, is clearly unhappy with his contract and wants an extension.

His camp has made that clear to the Dolphins.

The Dolphins are aware of Jones' feelings but apparently not feeling pressure to give Jones a new contract right away.

This is not over.

May 20, 2013

Reshad Jones not at offseason session today

Safety Reshad Jones, the Dolphins most productive and promising defensive back, did not attend Monday's offseason conditioning session according to a team source.

The club spent much of the morning trying to locate Jones, who until Monday had near perfect attendance in the offseason program. The Dolphins start their first set of OTA days Tuesday and will continue on Wednesday and Thursday with on-field drills. The work Monday was closed to the media but the club is scheduled to open the OTA workout Tuesday.

All offseason conditioning and OTA activities are voluntary and players are not subject to fines for missing them.

The reason for Jones' absence is not completely known to the team's front office and coaches but there has been speculation among some teammates that Jones is unsatisfied with the progress -- or more accurately, the lack of progress -- in talks to extend his contract.

It is known Jones' representative and the Dolphins have had intermitent discussions about a new contract for Jones but those have obviously not been fruitful to the point of getting an extension done.

Jones was unavailable for comment. Agent Joel Segal, who represents Jones, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Whether Jones plans to attend the OTA sessions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is unclear. Missing those would be a more clear and obvious sign that Jones is unhappy.

[Update: A source close to Jones tells me he is not planning to show up for OTAs Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday unless contract talks begin.]

This season, Jones is scheduled to be in the final year of his rookie contract which he signed as a fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia in 2010. But Jones has largely outperformed that deal, starting 28 games the past two seasons. On a team looking for defensive playmakers, Jones has been second only to defensive end Cameron Wake in that department.

Aside from leading the team with four interceptions last year, Jones also forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles, had one sack and three quarterback hits. Jones was also third on the team with 74 solo tackles.

Jones is scheduled to make $1.323 million this season, according to figures filed with the NFL Players Association. That would make him the team's lowest-paid starting defensive back and among the club's lowest paid starters -- depending on which players win starting jobs in training camp.

The Dolphins have had other players show their displeasure by staying away from the offseason program recently. Defensive tackle Randy Starks, Miami's franchise player, skipped the early portion of this year's offseason program. Last year, Wake skipped part of the offseason program as well as he was looking for a contract extension because he was enterring the final year of his first deal with Miami.

The Dolphins eventually rewarded Wake with a five-year, $34.53 million deal last May.

This offseason the Dolphins have spent $91 million in guaranteed money and approximately $204 million overall on new contracts.

Dolphins hold first OTA practice Tuesday

This week the 2013 Dolphins will begin the final phase of their offseason training regimen with the first of 10 organized team activity days more commonly known as OTA days.

Call this Phase Three of the offseason for all 32 NFL teams and it consists 10 practices and a mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of OTA. They typically break those down in sets of three or four consecutive days.

For the Dolphins the first OTA segment is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The club also has segments scheduled for May 29-31, and June 3-6. The club's mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 11-13.

No live contact is permitted during OTAs, but 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.

So what is important to watch out for? There are multiple things that are important to teams and coaches this time of year. They are:

1. Attendance. Atlhough OTAs are not mandatory, teams like to make sure to stress to players that it is in everyone's best interest to attend. It's good for the team. It's good for players. Most everyone does attend, even injured players as they work on regaining their form. But ...

It must be pointed out that OTA days are usually when you see drama if there's going to be any between a player and a team. Players unhappy with their contract status sometimes skip these sessions to get a team's attention. Last year, defensive end Cameron Wake did not attend as he wanted a new contract extension.

It is possible defensive tackle Randy Starks, who has skipped significant parts of the team's offseason program because he wants a new long-term deal could skip the OTAs as well.

2. Injuries. The worst news for any player is getting injured. It's bad news any time of the year. OTA sessions are no different considering there's no contact allowed and the fact training camp is coming in a couple of months. An OTA session in which no one is injured is a solid OTA days regardless of what else happens.

3. Chemistry. This is the time to start building. The Dolphins, you must recall, have two dozen new players that are likely going to be on the roster. Among that group, we're talking maybe 8 or 9 new starters. So how do these important players fit into or change the culture? How does the locker room react to the additions? How does the lockerroom react to departures such as that of Reggie Bush, Davone Bess and Jake Long and Karlos Dansby? All those men were leaders on the 2012 Dolphins. This is the time of year new leadership starts to be cast.

4. Speed. The Dolphins have not been an exceptionally fast team in past years. Plodding is more like it. They at times seemed to be playing in sand, they were so slow. The OTAs coming up will be a good time to gauge if the speed of the team has improved. Remember, players will not be in full pads. If this is going to be a quicker, faster team, it better show quite obviously starting now because it's not likely to suddenly show up in full gear later on. And as players such as Mike Wallace bring a speed dimension unseen on a Dolphins practice field in a while, now is a good time for teammates on both sides of the ball to adjust to that kind of speed. 

Tuesday is open to the media. Wednesday and Thursday is closed to the media and the public.

The Dolphins will typically make only one OTA day open to the media per session.

May 17, 2013

Salguero's Top 50 NFL players

There seems to be a lot of listing of NFL talent going around this offseason. The NFL Network is doing it. Pete Prisco over at CBSSports.com is doing it. And soon ProFootballtalk.com will be doing it.

PFT asked me to be one of 50 voters submitting their Top 50 NFL players. I did the exercise this morning and just sent the email.

The way I judge it is by determining a player's current production, his prospects for future production (is he ascending or descending?), his past production over a span of time, his injury status (Darrelle Revis would be higher if he wasn't rehabbing a major knee injury) and then the importance of the position to the team.

Quarterbacks are very important. Receivers are very important. Pass-rushers are very important.

OK, here's my list:

1. Aaron Rodgers.

2. Adrian Peterson.

3. Calvin Johnson.

4. Tom Brady.

5. Peyton Manning.

6. Vincent Jackson.

7. J.J. Watt.

8. Julio Jones.

9. Jared Allen.

10. Von Miller.

11. Ben Roethlisberger.

12. A.J. Green.

13. DeMarcus Ware.

14. Drew Brees.

15. Clay Matthews.

16. Aldon Smith.

17. Larry Fitzgerald.

18. Duane Brown.

19. Joe Flacco.

20. Patrick Willis.

21. Eli Manning.

22. Dez Bryant.

23. Patrick Peterson.

24. Demaryius Thomas.

25. Matt Ryan.

26. Darrelle Revis.

27. Andre Johnson.

28. Reggie Wayne.

29. Steve Smith.

30. Joe Thomas

31. Cam Newton.

32. Logan Mankins.

33. Andrew Luck

34. Vince Wilfork.

35. Robert Griffin III.

36. Jamal Charles.

37. Brandon Marshall.

38. Rob Gronkowski.

39. NaVorro Bowman.

40. Marshawn Lynch.

41. Arian Foster.

42. Julius Peppers.

43. Ryan Clady.

44. Antonio Cromartie.

45. Cameron Wake.

46. London Fletcher.

47. Chris Johnson.

48. Geno Atkins.

49. Tony Romo.

50. Thomas DeCoud.

 The next 10, just because:

51. Anquan Boldin, 52. Russell Okung, 53. Sam Bradford, 54. Richard Sherman, 55. Charles Tillman, 56. Jason Witten, 57. Torrey Smith, 58. Jimmy Graham, 59. Luke Kuechly, 60. Ray Rice.

Omissions?

Hey, I love Ed Reed, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Andy Levitre, Mike Wallace and others. Reed is not the top 15 player he once was. Wilson does it again next year, he's in the top 20. Levitre's a guard and he's young. Wallace would've been a top 50 guy before last season and although he didn't have a bad year, he stats did go down some. He can return with a good year in 2013.

 

May 15, 2013

Dolphins take flyer on QB Aaron Corp

Aaron Corp is not what I'd call a buyer. You know, the athletes that get signed by a team and because they know they're going to be around for a few years they put down roots and buy a home.

Corps is a barely a renter, actually.

He played for two colleges -- USC first before transferring to Richmond.

He was signed in 2012 by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. Then he was cut a month later. Then the Bills signed him in in February of this year. Then he was cut April 29.

Then the Dallas Cowboys signed him May 7. Then the Cowboys cut him May 9.

Today, according to thesidelineview.com, Corp agreed to a one-year contract with the Dolphins.

Corp, who is 6-4 and 220 pounds, will be given a chance to compete with Pat Devlin for the No. 3 QB job in Miami. That's the company line.

The truth?

He better show promise in the OTAs and June minicamp because his stay is not promised even until the start of training camp. If he does make it to training camp, I see him as a camp arm. Three quarterbacks cannot handle all the duties and throws of training camp.

He definitely isn't in a position to buy, just yet.

The Dolphins cut long snapper Patrick Scales to make room on the roster for Corp. One assumes Scales was also renting.

May 14, 2013

Dolphins sign their first three rookies to deals

The Dolphins are getting started on getting their rookies under contract. The team today announced the signing of linebacker Jelani Jenkins, defensive back Don Jones, and kicker Caleb Sturgis.

All are getting four-year contracts under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. 

The Jenkins deal is worth approximately $2.575 million. The Sturgis deal is worth approximately $2.24 million. The Jones deal is worth approximately $2.14 million. This all assumes each players sees all four years of the deal, obviously.

Jones got approximately $45,000 in guaranteed money in the form of a signing bonus. Sturgis got approximately $145,000 in guaranteed money. Jenkins got a signing bonus of approximately $472,000.

The Dolphins have nine draft picks, so six remain unsigned. (No issues, they'll all sign).

Jenkins was Miami’s first fourth-round selection (104th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida. Started 31 games at Florida and played in 36 total games during his career. Jenkins finished his career with 182 tackles (109 solo), six sacks, 17 stops for loss and six quarterback pressures and three interceptions.  Born March 13, 1992 in Rockville, Maryland, Jenkins attended Our Lady of Good Council High School in Olney, Md. where he lettered in both football and track.

Jones was Miami’s seventh round selection (250th  overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of the Arkansas State University.  A two year starter for the Red Wolves, he played in 26 games and recorded 128 tackles, two interceptions, one sack and one blocked kick. Born May 14, 1990 in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Jones attended Hazelwood High School in Town Creek, Alabama, where he lettered in football and track.

Sturgis was the second of Miami’s two fifth round selections (166th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida. During his career he made 70 of 88 field goal attempts which set school records, while his 70 made field goals also placed seventh on the Southeastern Conference all-time record chart. Over the course of his career he amassed 340 points which currently ranks third in school annals behind Chandler’s 368, and Tim Tebow’s 342 (2006-09)..  Born August 9, 1989 in Boca Raton, Florida, Sturgis attended St. Augustine High School (Florida), where he lettered in football and soccer.

Pouncey: Tannehill must be more vocal leader

The Dolphins wanted Jake Long back. General Manager Jeff Ireland wanted him back. Coach Joe Philbin wanted him back. And teammates wanted him back.

“I was texting him, I was all on Twitter, and I was calling him," center Mike Pouncey said Monday during his visit with the NFL Network. "We definitely wanted him to stay down here in Miami. He is a Pro Bowl football player. He is going to be missed greatly."

“Me and Richie Incognito were going to pick him up at the airport if he was going to sign back. We tried to get him back. We are going to miss him a lot. I wish him nothing but the best up there in St. Louis."

Long indeed decided to sign with the Rams and so he's gone. And now all the love the players had for Long shifts to Jonathan Martin, Miami's new left tackle.

"I think Jonathan Martin will do a great job," Pouncey said. "Left tackle is his position. He played it all throughout college. I think he is more comfortable on that side of the football and he has a year underneath his belt in the NFL. I think this year he is going to go out – he has put on 20 more pounds – and do a great job for us."

Pouncey along with Incognito are the new defacto leaders of the offensive line. But Pouncey realizes that the man who is called to lead the entire team plays quarterback. And he is apparently hoping Ryan Tannehill takes on that role a bit more than he did as a rookie.

“He has to be a more of a vocal leader," Pouncey said of Tannehill. "He has to keep us on the field on third downs which he has done a great job of. I think it is going to be a collective thing on offense this year. We have to run the ball to help him out. But I think he is ready to take next step for us."

So what's that next step for the Dolphins? Is it winning more games than they lose for the first time in four years? Is it making the playoffs?

“I can’t really say that right now," Pouncey said. "[Making the playoffs] is going to take a lot of dedication, it is going to take a lot chemistry. Obviously we have a lot of great players that we added to our football team and our quarterback has to play exceptional this year.”

May 13, 2013

Hartline: Dolphins have best receivers in AFC East

Brian Hartline looks at the Dolphins receiving contingent and he sees Mike Wallace, and Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller. You know what else he sees? The best receiving corps in the AFC East.

"Absolutely, I think we are," Hartline said Monday on NFL AM. "The whole passing game I think is an advantage of ours."

I like the confidence. And the analysis is probably correct.

The Jets' best wide receiver is still Santonio Holmes and he's recovering from ACL surgery while Mark Sanchez security blanket Keller is gone to MIami. The Patriots lost Wes Welker in free agency and tight end Rob Gronkowski has been forced to have multiple surgeries on his forearm and might need another one. The Bills have Stevie Johnson, a very good No. 2 wide receiver, but they don't have a lot after him and, by the way, they think Johnson is a No. 1.

So it can be argued that on paper Miami does have the best receiving corps in the AFC East.

But the thing I appreciate more about Hartline is he's bright enough to see beyond the obvious and in his interview with the NFL AM crew he also said "it's a quarterback league."

And having great quarterback play is more important than having great receiver play. You'll remember in 2008, the Dolphins had the best QB play in the AFC East. Chad Pennington rarely made any mistakes. He found open receivers. And with a mediocre receiving corps, he led the Dolphins to the AFC East title. (It also helped that Tom Brady wasn't on the field that year while recovering from knee surgery.)

So excuse me if I hold off on celebrating how great Miami's receivers are until a couple of things happen:

1. They show it on the field.

2. Their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, is everything you and the Dolphins expect him to be. (Yes, I'm simply going to observe on this one. I've been burned by high expectations for past Dolphins quarterbacks so I'm going to wait until I actually see it from Tannehill before I believe it, if you don't mind.)

If Tannehill plays at a high level, Miami might indeed have the best receiving corps in the division and be able to prove it. Without Tannehill playing well, the best receiver corps will be just another piece of an incomplete puzzle.

No mystery with Dion Jordan's assignment

I have gotten a handful of emails from fans wondering what the Dolphins are going to do with Dion Jordan, their newly minted first-round draft pick.

I supposed the question comes because general manager Jeff Ireland said during the draft he would let coaches figure out what the best way to use Jordan would be and coach Joe Philbin sometimes struggles to give a direct answer to a straight questions such as, "Is player X a guard or a tackle?"

So let me help you.

Dion Jordan is not a linebacker.

Dion Jordan is not a safety.

Dion Jordan is not a slot corner.

Believe it or not, it can be argued he did a little of all those at Oregon. Well, this is the NFL. This is not Oregon.

And in the NFL, on a 4-3 team, Dion Jordan will be a defensive end. If he is one of the team's best two complete ends, he'll start and play three downs. If he's more a pass-rusher early on while he learns the game, he'll play mostly on passing downs until he figures out his assignments and holding the edge of the defense on run plays and so forth.

But Jordan was drafted to get the quarterback on the ground. He was drafted to apply pressure to the passer. He was drafted to maybe cause errant throws that get intercepted. He was drafted to strip the ball from the quarterback and cause fumbles.

He wasn't drafted to cover tight ends or running backs. He wasn't drafted to patrol the middle of the field.

Hopefully the Dolphins move him around. Hopefully the Dolphins let him stand up if he's more comfortable doing that than rushing from a three-point or four-point stance. But, ultimately, rushing the passer is the thing.

He's going to get paid to collect sacks. And hurries.

No mystery.

May 10, 2013

Dolphins in fine cap shape (still)

The Dolphins are doing just fine with their cap space, according to the NFL Players Association numbers below released at 8 a.m. today.

The club has over $7.4 million in cap space and if you recall that after June 1 the club picks up another $10 million in space based ont he deferred cuts of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, there will be plenty of room to sign the draft picks, add a practice squad, do any acorn shopping general manager Jeff Ireland wants to do, and still have a bit of an emergency fund for the season.

By the way, Charles Woodson is still out there. He's eager to sign with a team. Yes, he's 37 years old, but he can still play. The Dolphins, as I have reported, had moderate interest in him a couple of months ago.

He could be a solid experienced leader of a young defensive backfield for one year.

Before that happens, however, the Dolphins could easily sign their later-round draft picks like other teams are doing. What are they waiting for? It's not rocket science.

Year: 2013
Unadjusted Team Cap: $123,000,000.00
Team Current Contracts Previous Year Carryover Team Cap Cap Room
TOTAL   $201,072,624 $3,847,156,659 $272,948,724
AVERAGE/TEAM   $6,283,519 $120,223,645 $8,529,647
Arizona Cardinals 51 $3,600,110 $117,885,354 $8,574,061
Atlanta Falcons 51 $307,540 $120,599,192 $2,183,108
Baltimore Ravens 47 $1,182,377 $121,183,138 $1,695,293
Buffalo Bills 50 $9,817,628     $120,106,345 $12,568,073
Carolina Panthers 51 $3,654,825 $120,952,393 $5,279,988
Chicago Bears 51 $3,236,965 $125,911,395 $2,997,860
Cincinnati Bengals 51 $8,579,575 $113,002,062 $20,924,869
Cleveland Browns 51 $14,339,575 $105,865,153 $31,243,312
Dallas Cowboys 51 $2,335,379 $115,101,151 $4,394,005
Denver Broncos 50 $11,537,924 $132,218,197 $7,542,794
Detroit Lions 51 $466,992 $115,059,436 $6,427,581
Green Bay Packers 50 $7,010,832 $117,287,966 $13,533,765
Houston Texans 51 $2,422,689 $121,663,466 $3,383,260
Indianapolis Colts 51 $3,500,000 $115,930,752 $8,479,522
Jacksonville Jaguars 51 $19,563,231 $118,067,692 $26,991,424
Kansas City Chiefs 51 $14,079,650 $132,674,660 $4,391,955
Miami Dolphins 51 $5,380,246 $120,800,655 $7,422,672
Minnesota Vikings 51 $8,004,734 $122,365,453 $7,427,761
New England Patriots 51 $5,607,914 $120,496,903 $8,655,441
New Orleans Saints 51 $2,700,000 $121,518,590 $3,100,647
New York Giants 50 $1,000,000 $119,659,326 $3,927,958
New York Jets 51 $3,400,000 $114,734,266 $11,794,471
Oakland Raiders 51 $4,504,761 $123,996,721 $2,686,320
Philadelphia Eagles 51 $23,046,035 $123,015,863 $23,294,806
Pittsburgh Steelers 51 $758,811 $124,127,046 $295,765
San Diego Chargers 51 $995,893 $117,440,718 $5,573,130
San Francisco 49ers 51 $859,734 $124,304,326 $1,468,993
Seattle Seahawks 51 $13,265,802 $132,006,117 $4,698,008
St. Louis Rams 51 $247,347 $118,408,968 $3,757,369
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 51 $8,527,866 $114,932,119 $19,285,603
Tennessee Titans 51 $12,867,893 $128,188,789 $7,019,124
Washington Redskins 51 $4,270,296 $107,652,447 $1,929,786

May 09, 2013

He said, she said turns against Florida speaker

Mike Dee and Stephen Ross say Florida Speaker of the House Will Weatherford promised them their bill, which in part would have allowed an election on Sun Life Stadium upgrades to go forward, would be heard and voted on during the last legislative session.

It wasn't. Weatherford closed the session without picking up the bill.

But Weatherford denies he ever promised to let the bill be heard as the Dolphins CEO and the Dolphins owner are contending.

“At no point during the process were any promises made to hear the Dolphins Stadium bill on the House floor. It's no coincidence that we haven't heard about this so-called commitment until after the bill died," Weatherford said in a statement to The Miami Herald.

So stalemate, right? He said. She said. Right?

Not quite.

Dee said other people heard Weatherford make the statements the Dolphins contend he said. And I found one of those people on Thursday.

"I was in the room with Mike Dee and Steve Ross and did hear what they heard," South Florida Super Bowl bid committee chairman Rodney Barreto said. "And yes, I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed that the people of Dade County were not given the opportunity to vote and that's a huge disappointment.

"This is a democratic process and [the legislators] were approving nothing more than allowing the people to vote. And I think that's lost in all this finger pointing, that we had an election going on and 40,000 people voted already and they should have had the opportunity to finish that vote."

Sources close to the discussions between the Dolphins and Weatherford say other people also heard Weatherford tell the Dolphins the bill would be heard. One of those persons, according to a source, is Turnberry Associates Principal Jeffrey Soffer.

Soffer, whose company owns portions of the Fountainbleau Hotel and Aventura Mall, was present when Weatherford and the Dolphins spoke on at least one occasion.

Messages left for Soffer at Turnberry Associates have not been returned. 

 

 

Being most improved isn't enough for Tannehill

In the aftermath of the draft and amid the preparation for the Dolphins rookie camp, I overlooked the words of Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman about second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

"This young man will be the most improved quarterback in the National Football League from year one to year two this year – I promise you that,” Sherman told the team's website. "He’s working extremely hard."

At first blush, this seems like a bold statement. After all, it seems to suggest Tannehill will be better this year than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and others. Right? It sounds optimistic and promising and confident.

But think about it.

Sherman didn't, in fact, say Tannehill will be the best among the 2012 QB class this season. He said he'd be most improved.

That's a completely different statement and, frankly, kind of an empty statement when you consider the facts.

What are those facts?

Of all the quarterbacks drafted in 2012 who became starters for their teams, Tannehill brought up the back of the pack along with Cleveland's Brandon Weeden.

Griffin III, Wilson, and Luck were not just better but way better. Even Nick Foles, who started games after Mike Vick went down in Philadelphia, had a better TD-INT ratio, better completion percentage and better quarterback rating than Tannehill.

So, if he was at the back of the pack among the 2012 class, it stands to reason that if he's going to be any good in 2013 he would improve the most. It's logical. Indeed, Tannehill could be the most improved and still be quite mediocre.

Seeing the jump from 12 TDs and 13 INTs to 18 TDs and 10 INTs is a huge improvement. But is it a great season? That's Christian Ponder territory.

Meanwhile, if any of the other QBs get much better that would put them in superhuman territory.

Yes, RG3 might get better. But is he going to throw 30 TDs and 5 interceptions instead of the 20 and 5 he threw last year? How much higher can he take his 102 QB rating? Is he going to complete more than the 65.6 percent of the passes he did last year?

Yes, Wilson might get better. But his 26 TDs and 10 INTs, his 100 QB rating and 64.1 percent completion rate were jaw dropping for a rookie. Is he going to be light years better coming off a season when he was already among the league's best?

Luck's numbers weren't nearly as impressive as Wilson's or RG3's. He threw 23 TDs and 18 INTS and completed only 54.1 percent of his passes. But he threw for a whopping 4,374 yards and led seven fourth-quarter comeback victories.

Is he going to lead 10 fourth-quarter comeback victories this season?

Sorry, Sherman's statement is kind of empty.

What I truly hope Tannehill does, other than improve, is climb past a couple of his contemporaries. Sherman should be looking for the kind of improvement that leaves us all saying, Tannehill was better than RG3 or Luck or Wilson.

Or better still ...

Luck took the Colts from the worst record in the NFL to an 11-5 record and the playoffs.

RG3 took the Redskins from a 5-11 record and last place in the NFC East to a division title and the playoffs.

Wilson took the Seattle Seahawks from a 7-9 record in the NFC West to an 11-5 record and the playoffs.

The Dolphins have spent over $178 million in new contracts this year to improve the team. Half of that is guaranteed money. The idea was to put enough talent around Tannehill to make him a better QB.

It would be great if he could match the seasons his three contemporaries had last year -- taking a losing team to the playoffs.

Now, that would be a feat.

May 08, 2013

David Hinds: On a journey climbing from the bottom

After the Dolphins rookie minicamp last weekend, the personnel department brought the dozen or so players that were trying out into the team room. General Manager Jeff Ireland got in front of the group, thanked them all for their work and announced he was signing only one of them.

The general manager then dismissed everyone and one of his assistants grabbed that one player who still had no clue he was the one just selected.

Meet David Hinds. Outside Linebacker.

Hinds is the newest and perhaps most inspiring Dolphins rookie. He has a long, long way to go but he just made the leap from not being draft or signed as a free agent to getting a tryout -- a process that rarely turns into NFL success -- and now he's got a contract and a chance to live his dream.

"I didn't really understand at first," Hinds said. "I didn't really understand how the tryouts really went. But the guy came up to me after the meeting and I was shocked. Praise God, that's the first thing I felt. Praise God. I felt like going down with emotion, but I kept it together. God is amazing."

The Dolphins congratulated Hinds, explained what they expect of him, and signed him to a contract.

"I called my dad once I got to my car because he was praying for me and when we were watching the draft together he was down but didn't say anything because he didn't want me to feel bad," Hinds said. "I knew it bothered him a lot that I didn't get drafted so I called him and told him and it was great."

When the Dolphins announced the signing on Sunday it was almost an afterthought because it went out in the same media release as the more newsworthy and prominent Tyson Clabo signing. But that didn't seem to matter in Hinds' world.

His phone blew up.

"I didn't have to tell anybody because I was getting calls from all over the place," he said. "It was a great feeling. I was humbled by it, man.

"It is one of the biggest moments of my life. You don't know what to expect but this was what I wanted to do since I was a little kid. I get to stay home. This is where I'm from. It takes a lot of stress off going somewhere else while I'm trying to accomplish this goal."

Hinds will get his chance on special teams and at outside linebacker. He's not big at 6-0 and 223 pounds. But he is quick (4.7 in the 40) and smart.

"I'm not the biggest guy but my speed, my agility, my reaction time is good," he said. "I feel like I'm a good cover guy."

Hinds attended the regional and super regional combine. He didn't attend the one in Indianapolis. And then he relied on his work in front of Miami coaches to speak on his behalf. 

"Man, honestly I went out there and gave it my all," he said. "I wanted to learn. I wanted to compete. I just wanted to show the coaches that I could be good for the organization. And I prayed a lot. I stayed in my playbook. I felt that if I gave it my all, that's all I could do. I just gave everything I had and just waited for the results."

Said Ireland: "The hard work, attitude and attention to detail David showed during the weekend rookie orientation paid off. As a player invited to try out, David approached the whole process -- highlighted by his work ethic during practices and meetings -- with the type of characteristics that we are looking to add to the Miami Dolphins."

You have to pull for this kid now, no?

He shone even when the draft rejected him. He picked himself up when 32 teams told him time and again that he wasn't worthy of being picked. 

"I reacted positively," Hinds said. "It was just me, my dad and my mom. They didn't want to sit down. My mom started cooking and my dad was pacing back and forth and going in and out while doing things around he house. I was the only one that sat there and watched it. I prepped myself because they all told me I'd be either a seventh-rounder or undrafted. So I understood the process. I was ready for it. Regardless, I knew I had a chance to go into somebody's camp."

Hinds understood his chances weren't over. But he didn't really understand how far he had to go. The fact is he didn't get drafted and then the mad dash by teams to fill their rosters with undrafted free agents also passed him by. Trying out off the street was his last chance at, well, a chance.

"I didn't understand that a tryout was different from a free agent at first but after I talked to my agent, I got it. The whole process, I believed in myself. I know there's a plan for me. I feel l can play football so any opportunity I get, I'm going to make the most of it."

So how did Hinds get noticed?

"I went in there and focused on special teams. I focused on being the first person in and trying to be the last person out. I tried to give them my undivided attention, paid attention to the details, and anything they asked me to do, I tried to do it correctly and at 110 percent. I wanted to show them that I belong. And right now, I have to keep showing them that.

"They gave me the opportunity, so now I have to work toward trying to make the 53 man roster and represents the organization best I can."

Hinds is a local boy. Yes, he played at FAU but also is a product of Miami Edison High. He lived in a little apartment behind the plaza on NW 79th street.

"My parents have a shop on 54th street in Little Haiti," Hinds said. "I'd walk home from there."

Hinds played only one year of high school ball at Edison because he didn't qualify academically before his senior year. He still got a full college scholarship and then started for the Owls as a true freshmen.

"I understand I'm at the bottom," Hinds. "I know I've got a long way to go. But I also know how to work myself from the bottom to the top. I'm very humble and I'm going to work my tail off. This organization made a great decision and I'm going to prove them right."

May 07, 2013

Important questions: Check my column and this blog

I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the Dolphins Monday and the topic was the now-dead stadium renovation bill.

After that and several other conversations with NFL people, I wrote this column on the topic in today's Miami Herald. It addresses whether the Dolphins will be moving any time soon and whether they'll move eventually. I explain the circumstances and the historical precendent for such a move.

I also ask the question why kill an election? What are the politicians and opponents of the renovations afraid of? Check out the column.

Other questions were left out of the column. Here are some of those questions and answers from Dolphins CEO Mike Dee:

Q: What is the Dolphins reaction to Florida Speaker Will Weatherford refusing to pick up your bill Friday and instead killing it by ending the legislative session?

Dee: "We believed based upon the word of the speaker who told us on four occasions the process would not kill this legislation that if there were votes to move it, it would be allowed to move through the process and ultimately be heard on the floor, so our first reaction was disappointment and shock. How could he have decided his vote in not moving this forward could count more than the collective votes of the legislature. We knew we had the necessary number of votes required to pass it, not to mention the 60,000 votes that had already been cast in Miami-Dade County. Speaker Weatherford decided his vote was the one that mattered and that he wasn’t going to allow the bill to be heard.

"And his comment that there needed to be more discussion or more information, I mean, we’d done everything he asked along the way. We were shocked.

“We relied on the word of the speaker of the house of the state of Florida and he didn’t deliver on his word. If this process had ended with the voters of Miami-Dade County saying this isn’t for us, if this process had ended at the beginning of the session with the Speaker of the House or the Governor or anybody saying this isn’t going to happen, that would have been one way for it to come to an end and we would have had to accept that.

“But when you’re committed to take it to the voters to make the final decision and the guy gives you his word that your bill will be heard and at the end of the day he doesn’t deliver on his word, that’s extremely disappointing.”

Q: To be fair, Weatherford tweeted that your contention that he gave you any assurance is, “untrue.”

Dee: “What reason would we have to take this position? We were assured by him, and by the way, there were people in the room at various points of these four meetings outside of the Dolphins organization and those we pay to help us who heard it as well. I’m sure he’s going to say what he has to say and I can’t tell you what he said to other people, but I can tell you what he said to us. And what he said to us was your bill will be heard. The process will not kill your bill. I can’t deliver votes. But your bill will be heard.”

Q: What is Plan B?

Dee: “Stay the course. There is no Plan B that includes a modernization or investment in the facility. We’ll get back to the business of working hard on the 2013 season and hopefully seeing a turn-around that those on the football side of the organization are working hard on and a team we can be excited about.”

Q: Why doesn't Stephen Ross pay for the project himself?

Dee:  “I think his commitment to this organization already stretches beyond what anyone else has done anywhere else with any sports franchise in North America. In terms of the stadium and team being able to do it, there’s no structure that provides for that and I don’t think there’s any intention to invest from the outside either with equity or limited partners or any other plan that might be contemplated."

Q: Speaker Weatherford will remain in his position next session. Will you go back next year and start the process again?

Dee: “It's too early for us to make that decision at this moment in time.

“I thought this was the moment in time that a non-relocation part of this agreement was an important element of it. Now the future is uncertain beyond Steve’s tenure. Steve has said he has no intention of moving the team time and time again. I believe he stands by that today. But at some point you’re going to have facility tht will pass its 30th birthday without a full-scale modernization because of what Will Weatherford did. And you have to look and see what options are out there for a long-term stadium fix. There’s no Plan B, so I can’t come up with any today.”

Q: Wasn't Weatherford previously considered an ally by the Dolphins? 

Dee: "Absolutely. He had been speaker designate two years ago when we had worked with legislators in Tallahassee at that time. And at that time he was one of the only guys in senior leadership who was completely straight up with me about the prospects we faced at that time. I found him at that moment in time to be a transparent and forthcoming guy. I’ve known him for three years. I’ve seen him between then and know and he was always engaged on our issue, always engaged on the importance of Super Bowls and big events for our economy. 

"He told us again on four occasions that the bill would be heard and we took him at his word. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver.

Q: Could you have done more to make this process work?

Dee: "We opened our books to the county's independent experts. We offered to repay $120 million of the public funds committed. We took on cost overruns. We removed financing risks that insulated the county from the tourist bubble bursting and we paid for the referendum.

“I don’t know if there’s one thing people asked us to do that we didn’t do.

“It's hard to imagine that we could have done any more than we did this session to align with the requests that were made by Speaker Weatherford and others to make this legislation work. The form of the partnership that was created with Miami-Dade County, the commitments around Super Bowls and big events, the criteria that was laid out by governor Scott that we met with respect to the state’s part of this investment, the endorsement of the hotel association and the major hotels, the Greater Miami Chamber, the numerous organization that were supportive of this.

"I don’t know what could happen that would cause the Speaker to see this differently, but I’m not optimistic irrespective of what may be taking place on the airwaves that he could see it differently. I think he made his choice and we’re going to have to live by it. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to live by it too because it has a long-lasting impact on the future of these kinds of events coming to South Florida."

May 06, 2013

Clabo: Dolphins ready to make some noise

Tyson Clabo's agent called Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland time and again about his client, trying to stir up interest. For a long time, Ireland didn't return the phone  calls.

A week ago, Ireland finally called back and said the Dolphins wanted to take a look at Clabo. Today's he's a Dolphins right tackle.

He thinks he's not much diminished from the guy that made the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago. He's very familiar with zone blocking, which is the technique the Miami line uses. And he thinks the Dolphins can "make some noise."

Here is Tyson Clabo:

(On the determining factor on signing with the Dolphins) –“When I was released and became a free agent, one of the first things that we wanted to find out was, who had interest. Once we found out who had interest, I sat down and I said, ‘What team do I think has use and is on the move upward in the League’ and Miami was right there on the top of that list and so we decided that this was the place for us."

(On if he was given a vision of what his role will be) – “I do have some experience. I have been in the League for a while, but there are some really talented offensive linemen on this team already, so if they feel that my experience will help in any way, I am more than happy to do whatever I can.”

(On how surprising his release from Atlanta was and what the last month was like) –“Well it was very sudden when I was released. Unexpected. The month that followed was, with all that uncertainty, I’m a guy who likes to have plan and who likes to be able to have a vision, a clear vision for the future and I didn’t have that for a while. It was a difficult time, but I think that its going to turn out for the best and its going to be worth it."

(On what makes him think that the Dolphins are headed in an upward direction) –“We made some big moves in the off-season and in free agency, the draft looked like it went really well, you never know but it seems like there is some talent. The young QB with a lot of upside and I just felt like we could make some noise."

(On coming from a power offensive system to a zone blocking scheme) –“I think that I am going to fit in pretty well. When I first came into the League I was with the Broncos on the practice squad and that’s (zone-blocking) all they did and then when I came to Atlanta, Alex Gibbs and Tom Cable were the line coaches, so I know the zone-scheme and I feel like that I should be able to hold my own."

(On if he is still the same player who made the Pro Bowl in 2010 from a skill-set standpoint) –“I’m a pretty tough critic on myself and I don’t feel like there has been much drop in my play to date, so I am just going to continue to take care of my body and try to continue to play at a high level."

(On how much his past as an undrafted, practice squad, NFL Europe player play in motivating him) –“I always want to do well. That’s really my biggest driving force is to feel like I did the job that I was brought here to do, or when I was in Atlanta the job that I had there. I just want to do well, and that’s really my biggest driving force is success. I work to reach those goals and so far it’s been pretty good for me so I am just going to keep doing that."

(On how quickly following his release did he hear from the Dolphins, did he expect this and if he has spoken to Brent Grimes) –“I haven’t had the chance to talk to Brent yet, but our wives are Facebook buddies and all that stuff, so I think that they have been in touch a little bit. Miami didn’t come into play until later in the process, after the draft. Some teams showed interest before the draft and then of course the draft happened and everybody changed their mind. So I was just happy when the phone rang and Mr. Ireland was on the other side."

(On the slow developing free agent market this spring) –“I didn’t get into it until much later in the process than a lot of guys did, but it was slow. I think that the depth of the draft had a lot to do with that, I thought there was lot of talent and depth in the draft, so teams wanted to sit back and see what they wanted to do there before they committed to any free agent."

(On looking forward to the home opener against the Atlanta Falcons) –“I am always looking forward to home openers. So it will be exciting, it will be good to see some of my friends and (former) teammates before the game and then after that we are going to try to put it to them."

(On what the experience was like reaching the NFC Championship game and getting so close to the Super Bowl) –“It was disappointing. Last year in Atlanta I thought that we had a really good team, a special team. Offensively we were dynamic and to come up just a little short was disappointing."

(On if he sees similarities in the Miami offense to the Atlanta offense) –“Well, over the past five years I’ve been in Atlanta we have had a young quarterback at the time and he turned out to be a pretty good player. We have a young quarterback here and he has the potential to be a very good player, and with the addition of some free agents, we have some guys that can take the top off the defense and have a vertical threat, run the football well. Offense’s if you can throw the deep ball and run the ball you are going to have a good chance, so I think that we have the chance to do both of those things really well."

(On if he has a lot still left to prove) –“I am not here to prove anything to be honest with you. I am here to play football and have a good time and win. If I play well, then it will give us a chance to do those things. I am here because I want to be, I am here because I still like to play football and I think that I can still do it at a high level. So as far as having something to prove, I just want to play and have fun and win football games."

May 05, 2013

Clabo signed: Dolphins may NOT be finished

This morning the Dolphins seemed to cross the line of no return in committing to Tyson Clabo as their right tackle and Jonathan Martin as their left tackle by signing the former Atlanta Falcons player to a one-year deal.

The Herald's Barry Jackson was the first to have the story.

Financial figures are not yet available but Clabo was hoping to recover the $4.5 million he was scheduled to make with the Falcons in 2013 before he was cut as a cap casualty.

And now Miami's offensive tackle issues are fully addressed, right?

Well, maybe.

The fact remains that while the deal to acquire Branden Albert is at best on life support and probably will not happen, it is not fully, completely dead. Yes, the Dolphins have moved on with Martin as their LT. Yes, the Chiefs have gotten Albert to sign his franchise tender and have declared that Eric Fisher will play right tackle.

The clubs have both privately said this issue is over.

Have you heard of posturing?

Did you know that teams return to apparently dead trades all the time? Years ago the Saints and the Giants haggled for months about Jeremy Shockey and failed to consumate a deal by both teams' imposed draft deadline. The deal was dead -- until it wasn't and was completed in July.

So this may not be totally over and here's the reason:

The way it has been explained to me, the Dolphins needed to get over three obstacles to land Albert:

They needed to get him in for a physical and needed him to check out fine.

They needed to agree to compensation with the Chiefs.

They needed to agree with Albert on a new contract.

The Dolphins never got over the first hurdle. They weren't allowed.

This deal stalled dead on the tracks because the clubs couldn't agree on having Albert drive from his home in South Florida to the Dolphins medical team and get an MRI and do other tests to see the condition of his back. You'll remember the offensive tackle missed five starts last year with back issues.

Well, the Dolphins wanted to check that issue out prior to going forward with the trade. The Chiefs wouldn't allow it. They wanted the Dolphins to do the trade and a deal and have it all be contingent on the physical afterward.

That, I am told by a league source, is hurdle that tripped this deal.

So what if somebody changes their mind after the start of training camp? What if the Dolphins get on the field next July and suddenly feel queasy (a Joe Philbin word) about Martin at left tackle? Remember, Martin allowed more hurries than any tackle in the NFL in 2012, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

What if that great leap in ability most players make from their rookie year to Year No. 2 doesn't quite hit like the Dolphins hope for Martin?

On the other hand, what if the Chiefs suddenly decide that Fisher is so good and so capable -- he was, after all, the first overall selection this draft -- and start to believe putting him at left tackle will be better for his career and the team longterm?

The door might re-open from either side.

Maybe the Chiefs relent on the physical because they see Albert as healthy. Maybe the Dolphins relent on the physical because of need.

Then there is this: The Dolphins could use another left tackle. No doubt about that. Martin today is the starter. But what happens if he's injured? The fact is the Dolphins are a better team with Albert as the starting and proven left tackle and Martin and Clabo fighting on the right side for the starting job. And if Albert goes down, then Martin can swing over and start there while Clabo starts are right tackle.

As it stands now, if Martin goes down, the Dolphins don't have a starting left tackle and there's no easy solution for replacing him.

The Dolphins could still use Branden Albert.

May 04, 2013

Impressions of rookie camp -- all one day of it open to media

Unlike other NFL teams, the Dolphins rookie camp is closed to the public and closed to the media after the first day. So the three-day event is mostly, well, closed.

But these are my impressions of what I saw the one day it was open:

First round draft pick Dion Jordan didn't practice and so didn't do anything impressive yet, as I write in my column. He'll miss a couple of OTA days. He'll be back for the June minicamp but probably still won't be ready to work. He's looking to take care of his shoulder injury and be ready for competition during training camp.

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Former Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs, an undrafted rookie free agent signee, knows how to make an impression. He was a walk-on at Michigan and rose to prominence and had something of a cult following in Ann Arbor. He knows the way to draw attention and that's hit. He did plenty of that, taking some liberties at times in the defensive backfield. He also had an interception. So he's got my attention, at least.

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Yes, running back Mike Gillislee was good in his first practice of rookie camp. He ran with authority. He hit the crease hard. No shuffling of his feet. No chopping. I like that. Will that translate to anything once hitting starts? No idea. But good start.

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The competition for kicker will be real. Kicker Caleb Sturgis connected on a couple of 50-yard tries. No, he's still not been in the fire of a pressure kick with his job on the line. But the kid kicked in The Swamp for the Gators. He's played in front of crowds much bigger than what the Dolphins will see in the preseason. I don't get the vibe that he'll be nervous.

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The Dolphins need to find good athletes and good system-fit players when searching for corners. Let's face it, Sean Smith wasn't a fit. He's better as a press corner. The Dolphins don't play press coverage. Jamar Taylor seems better suited for the off-man scheme the Dolphins use. And he said what he's seeing from coaches is similar to what he saw at Boise State.

“Most of it is similar, just different terminology you’ve got to get used to," Taylor said. "But most of the plays are kind of similar.”

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The Dolphins brought a couple of QBs to camp, including undrafted free agent Clay Belton of Findlay. He's has a way to go. A long way. His delivery is methodical. Takes too long. His accuracy is inconsistent. His footwork needs to be tightened up. He has a live arm, that's for sure. But I understand why he wasn't drafted.

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I mentioned Jamar Taylor above. Third round pick Will Davis looked every bit as natural and like he belonged. He had an interception. Good first day.

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Receivers Jeff Fuller and Brian Tyms -- both with the Dolphins last year -- were at the first day of rookie camp. Inconsistent. All I'm saying on that.