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66 posts from September 2013

September 12, 2013

Tannehill not going to 'force' Wallace the football

Everything's cool between Ryan Tannehill and his alpha receiver Mike Wallace.

Yes, Wallace was upset after Sunday's victory that he caught only one pass, was targeted only five times and didn't get so much as a glance from Tannehill in the first half. But that has passed now, Tannehill said Wednesday.

“Yes, Mike was obviously in a tough spot at the end of that game but, everything is 100 percent normal in the locker room," Tannehill said. " He’s great, practicing hard every day, joking around. He’s his same old self, so we are looking forward to getting back on the field this week."

Well, if he's his same old self, he's going to want the ball on Sunday agaisnt Indianapolis. Coaches know this. Tannehill knows this.

Except that Tannehill feels no need to necessarily feed Wallace going forward.

"I’m going to play the quarterback position the way the coaches install the plays," Tannehill said. "I’m going to go through the reads just like they install it. We’re going to try and get him the ball when he’s in the play, but we’re not going to force him the ball."

This is very interesting to me. You see, this suggests Wallace simply wasn't in the play, so to speak, in the first half Sunday. But he suddenly got in the plays in the second half when he was targeted five times, including on the first play of the half?

So why not just get the guy in the play earlier?

It'll be interesting to monitor going forward.

It'll also be interesting to see how Tannehill handles a receiver with a petulant side. You'll remember Chad Henne kind of struggled to deal with Brandon Marshall, not that I blame him at times. Marshall was at times a handful.

Marino argued and exchanged curses with the Marks Brothers, even on the field, but the three knew they counted on each other for success and had a great relationship off the field.

So does Tannehill have the make up to handle Wallace when he's demanding more targets, more attention?

“Well you should know, receivers are always open, and I’ve been there before too," said the Dolphins quarterback and former college receiver. " No, these guys do a good job of being realistic on the sidelines.  They’ll tell me exactly how the defense is playing them, what routes they like, what they think is there and that’s a big key. If a guy's just coming back saying I’m open on every play it’s tough to sift through that and find out what’s really good and we can implement during the game. When guys are truthful it really helps, and I think they’ve done a good job so far."

It also helps when the quarterback is the clear leader and the receiver understands that.

I must tell you, I saw some good signs from Tannehill in that regard Sunday. There were two snapshots that showed he's the leader and he has the respect of his teammates.

First, there was a moment when left guard Richie Incognito did what he sometimes does and got into debate shall we say with an opposing lineman. It had the potential to lead to pushing and shoving and a flag.

Tannehill stopped it by telling Incognito, an older player, to get back to the huddle.

"Yeah, he got into it a little bit," Tannehill said. "That’s my job on the field, to keep my guys focused on what we’re trying to do, which is go down and score.  Obviously, football is an intense game, there’s a lot of emotion.  Guys are going to get into it here and there but when its sidetracking us from what we’re trying to do, we ‘ve just got to focus, lock in and get ready for the next play."

Tannehill was a little harsher with receiver Rishard Matthews. The second-year receiver was getting hot and arguing with a Cleveland defender in the second half when Tannehill seemingly had enough and cursed out his teammate while demanding he get off the field.

The words were heard on television.

And off the field Matthews went.

"I forget what yard line we were on, but if we get a 15 yard penalty right there, it’s a long field goal and if we kick that field goal right there we put it at 13 points, a two touchdown game," Tannehill said. "We really didn’t need a dumb penalty right there and I just tried to get him off the field the best way I could."

Those are signs of leadership. We'll see if Mike Wallace will follow.






September 11, 2013

Handful of Dolphins among nominees for HOF

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced its list of 126 nominees to be inducted into the venerable institution. A handful of Dolphins pepper that list and that is an accomplishment in of itself.

Linebacker Zach Thomas, cornerback Sam Madison, cornerback and cornerback Patrick Surtain are included in this year's  list of first-year eligible nominees. It's a strong group that includes Seattle tackle Walter Jones, linebacker Derrick Brooks, Mike Holmgren and Tony Dungy.

Receiver Mark Clayton is also among the nominees as are cornerback/safety Troy Vincent and former Dolphins defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger and former Miami and Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.

I'm not sure any of these men will make it this year.

The process is a difficult one and ultimately no more than seven men will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. This current list of 126 will be reduced to 25 and then 15. That list will be announced in January.

Go luck, gentlemen.

The latest from Dolphins camp on a Wednesday

The Dolphins are practicing late today as per their new schedule and here's what's happening:

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, nursing a tender groin, returned to practice today. Patterson, however, seemed limited during the portion open to the media. I expect Patterson will play against the Indianapolis Colts, as he told The Herald on Sunday.

But ...

It's important he not suffer a setback. It's important the Dolphins are cautious with him.

To that end, it's possible Patterson might be limited to duty as the slot corner in obvious passing situations versus Indy. In that scenario, Nolan Carroll would have to start. Obviously, if Patterson feels fully recovered, he can take his spot in the starting lineup.

Rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor also is not practicing. He's been dealing with the hernia/groin issue since the offseason. He's not going to play on Sunday.

Quarterback Pat Devlin (ankle) also is not practicing today.

What Dion Jordan learned during Week One

In setting up their locker room this year, the Dolphins put first-round pick Dion Jordan next to Cameron Wake. It is not a coincidence.

Wake is a 100-mph dude. He loves to work. He loves to play. And he plays every down like it is his last. That is one reason he is the second-rated defensive end behind St. Louis end Robert Quinn after one game, according to ProFootballFocos.com. Quinn had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Arizona.

Wake got 62 snaps. And went hard 62 snaps. He had 2.5 sacks and four hurries.

That example has quickly traveled the one foot distance separating Wake and Jordan. Jordan gets it.

And after watching Wake against the Browns and have one of his more impressive games in memory, Jordan feels like he learned something in his NFL debut.

How the game should really be played ...

"Consistency," Jordan said. "That's one thing I learned, especially watching this guy Cam Wake rush. Consistency is probably the thing I learned."

What does that mean?

It means no Jadeveon Clowney act.

It means taking no plays off.

"There's no plays off because any play can change this game and Cam made some big plays last week and changed that game last weekend," Jordan said.

This is not to suggest Jordan didn't know about going full speed every play before Sunday. It's just that the game was an illustration of what can happen when you don't. And so he won't.

"I feel if I was ever to take a play off, guys would notice it, especially the guys in my room," Jordan said. "They would notice it. But that's not my menality. I have a motor so I'm going to use it."

Jordan played 17 snaps according to PFF. He had a sack and a tackle. He also had a penalty. The metrics site gave him a negative grade for the game. (Don't ask me, that's what they did).

But Jordan seemed pleased with himself.

"I feel like I played fast ... I  played a lot of special teams, I played a lot of defense. I had a pretty decent role for the team," he said.

It was a solid start.



Bunch of thoughts about ... running the football

Normally I try to give you a clear and cogent theme on blog posts and try to do it in a logical manner that connects the dots so as to make sense.

Not this morning.

This post is about the Dolphins running game and that's as much as I can tell you. It's going to jump around. It's not going to flow. It's going to be like a stream of consciousness that perhaps makes sense only to me.


1. The Dolphins could not run the footballagainst the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and so today they are ranked No. 32 (last) in the NFL running the ball. So who's at fault? The offensive line, first, because there was no daylight. The Cleveland front seven, which I believe will prove itself to be formidable this year. The Dolphins running backs, who didn't make anyone miss or run through anyone. And finally, Miami's coaches who had no schematic answer to the Browns other than throw the football.

2. Talking to Lamar Miller on Tuesday, he's applying himself to watching more tape to get better this week. From that tape study he said the Colts are "pretty much the same front we played last week but faster." Well, that's not good news.

3. Miller said aside from watching more film this week the thing he's going to do to get different results is "try to get positive yards and run harder." He also said he has to "get more hungry and do better this week." Run harder? Get hungier? So he wasn't running as hard as he could against Cleveland? He's getting his first NFL start and he's not as hungry as humanly possible? Really?

4. Another week like last week against the Colts and the Dolphins better start shopping for available running backs. Willis McGahee comes to mind. (Does that make you hungrier, Lamar Miller)? Anyway, I'm told by a source the Dolphins have so far shown no interest in McGahee, who worked out for the Giants this week.

5. Tyson Clabo was bad against the Browns. He knows it. But he's convinced the Miami running game will get right.

"I feel like we're a unit right now," Clabo said. "We're all on the same page, communiction-wise. It's just a matter of execution. I think we'll be fine."

In the next breath, Clabo adds, "I think we have a chance to be really good up front."

6. By the way, Clabo draws lines of distinction on who is playing well up front for Miami. Good? Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey.

"Obviously Richie and Mike are pretty good football players," Clabo said. "In my opinion, the rest of us are just trying to catch up, to play at their level. The bar is really high for us right now. I think we can get there."

And this:

"They [Incognito and Pouncey] are really talented but they do a good job, they do pretty much what they're supposed to do pretty much on every play. Physically, they don't get beat often. You're a competitor so you see that and, man, you want to do that."

7. The Dolphins have an interesting dynamic going on when deciding how to deal with a defense that is commited to stuffing the run at the expense of protecting against the pass. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman likes to continue to try to run the ball to see if something busts loose. Head coach Joe Philbin is more apt to give up on running the ball altogether and simply throw it all the time.

“I think coach Philbin is certainly of that mindset, I don’t know if I’ve quite reached that mindset yet," Sherman said. "I like to be able to keep them honest, hand the ball off here once and a while just to eat up some clock time and also to say hey we’re still going to run the football but I think coach Philbin could possibly convince me otherwise."

That's all. Enough thinking for now.

Come back later for another update. And follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero





September 10, 2013

Starks: 'I regret' flipping the bird

If you watched the game, you saw it. If you read this blog, you saw it. Randy Starks collected a sack on Sunday and celebrated with a one-finger salute aimed toward the Dolphins sideline.

The move became the source of much speculation. (Not on this blog, if you read the post). And the NFL may at some point have a say on the matter with a fine.

But speaking about the issue to the media for the first time Tuesday, Starks showed remorse for the move.

"Of course I regret it,” Starks said while a group of a dozen reporters gathered around him. "It’s something I shouldn’t have [done]. It was something that I was joking around with my teammates. Whatever consequences happen, I have to take it."

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin met with Starks about the matter on Monday. I'm told the coach made the point to Starks that flipping the bird on the field is not the kind of behavior he condones. The coach told Starks it's wrong.

On Tuesday the coach declined to say what was said in the meeting.

“Any discussions I might have had with Randy would stay internal," he said. "They are of a personal nature."

This much is clear: Starks was encouraged to make the issue go away. Quickly.

Starks said Tuesday he flipped the bird toward the Dolphins sideline because he was joking with some teammates on the sideline about getting a sack. He was just having fun, he said, but the gesture  "came out the wrong way."

Starks said the gesture had nothing to do with his contract situation. We already knew that, if you read my post on the topic. He said he understood how his definite distaste for not starting -- something that is not questionable -- might have led folks to think his gesture was a comment on that situation. 

"The situation I’m in as far as not starting and not being here [in the offseason], I can see how that can be misleading," Starks said.

Let this remain clear: Starks is over the contrace issue. It's not a problem for him. He's making $8.45 million guaranteed this year. So he is "over" that, as he said on Twitter Monday. But ...

He is unhappy about not starting. Those close to him make no bones about that. Starks himself said earlier in camp he felt like he was being punished for not showing up to offseason training by having to compete with Jared Odrick for the starting job.

And now this is also clear: While Starks isn't happy about coming off the bench, his salute wasn't a message.

By the way, on Tuesday Jared Odrick continued to be ahead of Starks in practice.

The latest from Dolphins camp right here

The Dolphins are back working and preparing for Indianapolis today and here's what's going on:

CBs Dimitri Patterson (groin) and Jamar Taylor (groin) are not practicing today. QB Pat Devlin (ankle) is not practicing today.

CB Will Davis, who missed last week's practices and game against Cleveland with a toe injury, returned to practice today. He practiced at least on a limited basis.

The Dolphins did a couple of practice squad transactions today. The club signed QB Austin Davis and cornerback Devin Smith to the practice squad. The club cut CB De'Andre Presley and DT Al Lapuaho off practice squad.

The there's this:

The Dolphins, I'm told, are not pleased with their special teams kick and punt coverage coming off the Cleveland game. The Dolphins today rank 31st in the NFL in punt return defense and they rank 25th in kick return defense.

So the club is considering some changes to the coverage teams. I'm told the team will give practice squader Jordan Kovacs, a safety, a long look on coverage teams this week and if he responds with great work in practice, he might be promoted to the regular roster to work on special teams against Indianapolis.

Don Shula A Football Life tonight on NFL Network

Don Shula was the greatest NFL coach of all time.

Yes, that is subjective. And an argument can be made for Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. A case can be stated that Chuck Noll won more Super Bowls. And I know George Halas and Paul Brown were league cornerstones well before Shula came on the scene.

But as Shula used to say, "There's a reason we keep score and there's a reason we have standings."

Shula won more games than anyone else.

And Shula was the only man to guide an NFL team to an undefeated and untied Super Bowl title. The 1972 Dolphins were 17-0. Perfect.

Shula coached the Dolphins from 1970 to January 1996. That means a lot of Dolphins fans today never watched a Shula team play. A lot of Dolphins fans today never watched Shula coach.

They know Shula more as a restaurant than a football coach.

Those people should watch the NFL Network tonight at 9 p.m. when Don Shula A Football Life will air, recalling the Dolphins' heyday, examining the history of a coach and the franchise he helped establish as elite, examining a fascinating man who will forever cast a shadow over every coach the Dolphins will have. 

"People ask me how I coach as long as I coached, for 33 years," Shula says early in the broadcast. "I tell them, 'you have to win early and often.'"

Shula did that. But he did something else. He won early and often and then kept winning. And winning. And winning. He had only two losing seasons in 33 years.

Shula was a pillar. He was around from the Korean War through the Cold War. He coached Unitas and Marino. He coached teams that ran better than any other. He coached teams that passed better than any other.

"He is a measure above normal men," Irving Fryar says in the piece.

"... He would cut his mother ...," Nick Buoniconti says of Shula's approach.

Shula remains the man against whom I measure other coaches -- not just Dolphins coaches, but all NFL coaches. He was very kind to young, cub reporter named Salguero. And we built a mutual trust. I knew he'd never lie. I knew integrity was woven into the fabric of his being. I knew that with Shula coaching the Dolphins, I'd be covering the team in the playoffs practically every year.

If you are old enough to remember Shula on the Dolphins sideline, watch A Football Life this evening to recall the good old days. If you are too young to remember Shula, watch A Football Life as an education.

After the 9 p.m. broadcast Shula will appear in studio at 10 p.m. on NFL Network to discuss the backstory of the documentary. It's an all-Don Shula primetime on NFL Network tonight.

September 09, 2013

A Salguero-PFF look back at Cleveland tape

The Dolphins played well against the Cleveland Browns. Well, most of the Dolphins played well.

With the exception of the offensive line, tight ends and running backs, it's fair to suggest the Dolphins had a good day on Sunday. ProFootballFocus.com agrees based on its Week 1 gradebook that the website has made available to me through our 2013 partnership.

Below is what the PFF analytics reveal from Miami's 23-10 victory and what I think of some of the metrics.


Both offensive tackles had days to forget, with Tyson Clabo and Jonathan Martin underwhelming in run blocking.

Salguero: Clabo had a good, but not great day pass blocking. He had a positive grade on pass plays and locked down that side. It was another story with his run blocking. He struggled and was indeed the worst graded run blocker on the offensive line. Martin also was better at pass blocking than run blocking but had a negative grade on both. Of Miami's five offensive linemen, only guard Richie Incognito had an overall positive grade. 

The snap breakdown between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas suggests an even split. Miller had 37 snaps, while Thomas received 33.

Miller gave up a hit and a hurry in only 7 pass blocking snaps.

TE Dion Sims played 15 snaps and Michael Egnew saw 21 at tight end. Sims ran just 3 pass routes, while Egnew ran 9.


On plays when Ryan Tannehill wasn’t under any pressure, he was 21-for-29. When pressured, he was 3-for-9 and was sacked 4 times.


All 5 of Mike Wallace’s targets came against Joe Haden.  He had a drop and only one reception.

Salguero: Much is being made of Mike Wallace's attitude regarding the game plan after the game. In truth, he got more snaps than either Brian Hartline or Brandon Gibson while still getting targeted fewer times and catching fewer passes.Dolphins’ receivers dropped four passes, with Brandon Gibson leading the way with 2 drops. Wallace also tripped mid route on a deep post down the middle of the field which eventually went over his head.



Cameron Wake with one of the highest overall grades in the league for 4-3 DEs this week.  Did well against the run, but was unstoppable rushing the passer.  Wake had 10 total pressures (3 sacks, 2 hits, 5 hurries).

Rookie DE Dion Jordan played 17 snaps in his debut. On 14 snaps, he rushed the passer, on 2 he dropped into coverage, and 1 was a run play.  He notched one sack.

MLB Dannell Ellerbe missed 3 tackles to lead the team.

Jordan Cameron had his way with the defense, catching his 9 passes on 5 different defenders.

Salguero: Phillip Wheeler had some trouble with Cameron.

Dannell Ellerbe excelled in coverage, allowing just 3 catches on 8 targets.

Salguero: We've been paying close attention on the competition between Jared Odrick and Randy Starks for a starting DT position. Dolphins coaches went with Odrick as the starter. And to the naked eye, Starks had the better day because he came away with 1.5 sacks. But according to the PFF metrics, Odrick graded higher. He graded higher overall (1.8 to 1.5), he graded higher on pass rush (2.3 to 1.4). Starks graded higher on run defense (0.9 to 0.3). Interesting.

Joe Philbin has work to do

The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.

And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.

That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.

Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used  -- show he's a problem now.

How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?

Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.

He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.

He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.

Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.

Sound minor?

It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.

And then there's this:

Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.

I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.

That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.

Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.


Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.

Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?

Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.

But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.

And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.

It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.

He loves South Florida.

And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.

But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.

The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."

"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.

Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."

Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.

Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.

So where does that all leave us?

Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.

I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.

And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.

I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.

But I know there are issues in general.

And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.

Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?

Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.

Issue erased.

And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.

The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.

Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.

The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.

No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.

Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.

If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has:  Not handling issues while they're still manageable.


September 08, 2013

Dolphins win, but Wallace upset

Although the Dolphins won the regular-season opener, 23-10 over the Cleveland Browns, Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace was clearly angry coming off the field and was still steaming after he dressed and left the Dolphins locker room.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland escorted a visibly angry Wallace off the field, putting his arm around the players waist and walking him as if leading him away from other people. Ireland was talking to Wallace the entire time the two walked back to the locker room.

Minutes later, Wallace, who caught only one pass for 15 yards, was one of the first players who left the locker room.

Can I walk with you, I asked?

"I don't feel like talking," Wallace grumbled.

Can you talk about the game?

"I don't want to talk," he answered.

Another reporter joined us and asked, "Can you talk about the game plan?"

"I don't feel like talking about it. Ask coach."

Wallace didn't have a catch at halftime. Indeed, the Dolphins hadn't even targeted him in the first half. They did immediately target him in the first series of the first half and he eventually finished the game with four targets. Brian Hartline had the ball thrown him 12 times and Brandon Gibson had the ball thrown to him seven times. Tight end Charles Clay had the ball thrown to him six times.

As he was walking away, Wallace was asked about the lack of targets in the first half.

"Ask coach," he said. "It's not my game plan."

Another question: In the second half they threw to you right away. Was something said at halftime?

"Ask coach."

This is not going to make Wallace, Miami's highest paid free agent, popular. It obviously doesn't look good that he was clearly thinking about his personal performance and situation ahead of the fact the Dolphins won the game.

Not a good look.

On the other hand, the kid has a point. Mike Wallace signed a $60 million contract. Not throwing him the football in the first half of a game he's single covered throughout is not good planning by coaches.


Live blog, Odrick starts, inactives ...

CLEVELAND -- Jared Odrick starts for the Dolphins at defensive tackle today.

I can tell you without equivocation that Randy Starks, who was a starter most of the past previous five seasons, is not happy with the idea. Starks is the Dolphins franchise tag player. Yes, he's going to share playing time with Odrick -- perhaps equally.

But it's a principle thing for these guys, at times.

The inactives for today's game are QB Pat Devlin, cornerback Jamar Taylor, cornerback Will Davis, Josh Kaddu, guard Danny Watkins, G-T Dallas Thomas and running back Mike Gillislee. 


Game day: On Mike Wallace and Cameron Wake

CELVELAND -- Welcome to the Dolphins 2013 season. As we begin with a 1 p.m. kickoff vs. Cleveland today, I want to give you a Sunday brunch offering about wo of Miami's best players.

It's actually about Miami's best offensive and defensive players.

Mike Wallace.

Cameron Wake.

It's no secret I pushed for the signing of Wallace as a free agent acquisition from the Pittsburgh Steelers even before the 2012 season ended. I did that because this Dolphins offense needed a proven, experienced, young deep-threat wide receiver. But as I write in my column in today's Miami Herald the Dolphins got more than they bargained for.

I predict Wallace will be good in Miami. What he gave the Steelers, he will give the Dolphins. And more. So please, check out the column to find out about the "more" part.

As for Wake, you'll recall I posted a couple of days ago the Dolphins expected to use Wake, Dion Jordan and Olivier Vernon on passing downs as pass rushers versus the Browns. Together. Three defensive ends in the same package.

Well, I've been told the key to that package is neither Jordan nor Vernon but Wake. You see, the Dolphins have visions this year of turning Wake into something of a hybrid attacker of the QB who comes from all angles and in different forms.

The Dolphins have plans to give Wake the ability to stand up and move around the defense, in some ways resembling the way Nick Saban used former defensive end Jason Taylor in 2006. Saban unleashed Taylor, freeing him from his four-point stance at left end to roam and blitz and cover and come at the quarterback from either side or up the middle.

Expect similar from Wake this year and as early as today.

Wake has experience as a stand-up rusher. When he broke in with the Dolphins, he was a 3-4 OLB. When the Dolphins went to the 4-3, he became a DE.

If the plans go well, he'll be the best of both in 2013.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back soon for another update. There will be a live blog today at game time.] 

September 07, 2013

Dolphins CBs hurting? No problem vs. Browns

I was talking to someone who has been around the Cleveland Browns for 20 years this week and the conversation turned to that team's passing game.

"They have four wide receivers," he said, "and three are slow."

That's the reason when the injury report came out Friday and it had starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and rookies Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin) listed as out, I didn't exactly flinch.

If the Dolphins were playing Atlanta or Denver or any other team with a capable receivers corps, this week would be trouble. But, with all due respect to the Browns, they should not be trouble.

The Browns won't have their most talented receiver Josh Gordon on Sunday because he is suspended by the NFL. That means Davone Bess, who was acquired in trade to be the slot receiver, is now promoted to starter alongside Greg Little, who becomes the No. 1 WR.

Little is a solid player who caught 53 passes in 2012. But he doesn't intimidate with size and speed like Gordon does.

The Browns don't look capable of challenging the Dolphins deep. Indeed, their only deep threat is former University of Miami player Travis Benjamin, who is better known for returning punts and kickoffs than catching passes.

By the way, the Dolphins are hopeful Patterson will indeed be active and play, barring a setback. So even that situation is not as bad as it seems.

Bottom line?

If the Dolphins were opening at Indianapolis against the Colts -- the opponent next week -- instead of at Cleveland, there would be major reason for concern. The Colts can throw the ball and boast multiple big-play and deep-threat options.

But the Colts come aren't the opponent. They're opening against the Browns. The Browns don't have that kind of talent.

So it's not as bad as it seems.

September 06, 2013

Dion Jordan's debut vs. Cleveland

The question about Dion Jordan much of this preseason was not how he'd be used against the Cleveland Browns in the rookie's NFL debut but, indeed, whether he'd be used at all based on his uncertain injury status.

That question has been answered. Jordan, nursing a tender shoulder much of the preseason, is playing in the Dolphins regular-season opener.

So now we want to know how much. And here are some answers based on interviews with players and coaches.

Expect Jordan on some special teams and on the field with the defense on some passing downs.

None of this is a surprise but what seems uncommon is the Dolphins may use Jordan in something similar to the New York Giants NASCAR pass-rush grouping of years past. Although Jordan is the backup to Olivier Vernon and plays the same position as both Vernon and Cameron Wake, it is possible the Dolphins want to use the pass-rush skills of all three players.


In the same pass-rush package.

So the Dolphins could include Jordan, Wake and Vernon -- three defensive ends considered Miami's best pass-rushers -- on the field and rushing the passer at the same time.

I'm told there might even be moments when the Dolphins have four defensive end types chasing Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden because linebacker and former defensive end Koa Misi might get in on the act as well.

How exactly the Dolphins would deploy this group of rushers has yet to be seen in 2013 -- not in practices open to the media or fans, not in training camp, not in preseason games -- so I cannot account for how much or little this might be used nor can I account for how the Dolphins would line up. (And even if I had seen it, I wouldn't report it anyway).

If the Dolphins go forward with this plan, it is good news at least on its face. There's been much speculation and hand wringing among fans whether the Miami coaching staff could find a way to maximize its talent at defensive end.

This is also good news because this grouping suggests a better pass rush.

But there are other ramifications because it likely means one of the down linemen will not be playing in a familiar four-point stance. It suggests someone will have to rush from a two-point stance (standing up).

The idea also may mean the Dolphins sacrifice pass rush up the middle for more pressure from the edge. 

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle hinted earlier in camp that if Jordan was physically ready to play, there would be a package to include him in the game plan. He doubled down on that this week.

"We haven’t made any final decisions yet," Coyle said on Monday. "Today he got a good number of reps in practice, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better able to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the game plan this week, I can guarantee you that."

Jordan's role on defense is expected to be limited almost exclusively to passing situations while his gifts on special teams seem suited for kickoff coverage and perhaps punt return and field goal block situations.

Jordan is quick enough and fast enough to run down on kickoffs. He's long and athletic enough to possibly block a field goal. He's strong enough to block on punt returns. Just saying.

Jordan worked on the kickoffs team early in camp and coach Joe Philbin has defended the idea of having valuable players -- including the first-round draft pick -- on special teams.

"We'll have starters on special teams," Philbin said Wednesday.

"It’s a critical play in football, the coverage, we’re going to use whoever we feel is going to be the best to help us pin the opponent down," Philbin said Monday. "Whoever that may be."

When he was asked about Jordan specifically on special teams this week, Philbin was coy about it but couldn't bring himself to dismiss the idea because, well, the guy's on teams and this coach doesn't lie.

 “We think we have a chance to be a very, very good special teams unit," Philbin said. "We want to utilize our personnel in the best way possible. If he is on one of those teams, then we’ve come to the conclusion that is going to help that particular phase of special teams." 

September 05, 2013

Whole must be better than parts for Dolphins OL

I'm talking with a Dolphins person earlier this week and this person tells me there's only one area on the team to worry about because it can wreck the season.

Tight end, I guess because Dustin Keller's injury really, really hurt this team.


The secondary, I guess because I'm not sure about Dimitri Patterson, the rookies (Will Davis and Jamar Taylor are injured) and Nolan Carroll is, well, Nolan Carroll.


The running game, I guess because Lamar Miller is mostly an unknown, Daniel Thomas is average on good days, and the offensive line is still coming together.

You're close.

The offensive line.

And then I hear how the line is still an issue and if it remains an issue, there goes the running game, there goes the deep passes to Mike Wallace, and there goes Ryan Tannehill.

One unit affecting everything on offense.

And not in a positive manner.

So that got me thinking -- which is rare and never good. What is it about this offensive line? Is it truly an issue? Is it a team weakness? Is it bound to be the reason the Dolphins offense struggles?

There is evidence that suggests there's reason for concern.

First there's what offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said this week:

"I still think it is a work in progress," he said of the line. "John (Jerry) is coming off of an injury. Getting him back into the fold is going to be huge. He’s been out for a little bit, but I’m excited about having him back. We certainly needed him back. I’m anxious for him to get more comfortable in there with the other guys and get more used to what we are doing."

Think about this. We are three days from the regular-season opener and the offensive line is still a work in progress? Pardon me for being old school, but the preseason and training camp was the alloted time for doing the work and progressing.

The regular season is here. It's time to roll.

Also this: John Jerry is the saviour of this line?

John Jerry is an average NFL guard. He's not Larry Allen. The fact the Dolphins are seriously counting on him to be healthy, well-conditioned, and then play at a high level without many missed assignments tells me there's a lot of wishful thinking going on.

Jerry is not in great shape yet. Yes, Sherman said Jerry inexplicably lost weight during his five weeks of knee rehab, but I don't imagine him being slimmer is the reason coaches identified him as the only starter on the entire team that needed to play in the fifth and final preseason game.

So what is it about this offensive line that worries?

Well, it's simple. This line today seems to have solid parts (assuming Jerry gets up to speed). The individuals are good. But as a line has to play as a unit -- with one heartbeat and soul and purpose -- the Dolphins offensive line seems lacking because the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

And what you need is for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Consider that, again, the parts range from excellent to solid.

At left tackle Jonathan Martin has come miles from the first eight days of training camp when he struggled as Miami's new fulltime left tackle. He was beaten like a drum by Olivier Vernon that first week. Since then, he's played very well in preseason and been a non-issue. He may not be the beast Jake Long was when healthy. But he's good. Solid.

At left guard, Richie Incognito is a snarling bulldog that can push bigger men backward with his initial punch. That is great. He's smart. He knows all the tricks. He moves better than he's given credit for. Not an issue.

At center, Mike Pouncey is not quite elite yet. But he's darn close. He's excellent. He's smart. He studies the opposition. He moves very well. He's cleaned up his shotgun snaps. I'd say 90 percent of NFL would take him as their starting center.

At right guard, John Jerry is the saviour. Having him is "huge," Sherman said. I kid, obviously. But the truth is last year was a good season for Jerry. He emerged. So he has the talent to be solid.

At right tackle, Tyson Clabo is a consummate professional. He typically knows his assignments. He knows his opponents. He uses good technique. And with his experience and all the other factors, he can usually overcome what physical deficiencies he might have. It can be argued the Dolphins upgraded at right tackle to start this season over last season when they had Martin starting as a rookie.

So that's the rundown of the individuals. All good.

Yet as a group, there's still something missing. Something is still not quite right. It's still "a work in progress."

Last season, the Dolphins had a new starting right tackle, a new starting right guard and Jake Long was working to get his knee 100 percent during the latter stages of training camp. And the group played very well early in the season, anyway. The Dolphins had the NFL's second-ranked running game after two weeks in the regular season.

But here's the bad news: They got worse as the season wore on.

The running game went to No. 4 in Week 3 ...

No. 5 in Week 4 ...

No. 8 in Week 5 ...

No. 11 by Week 8 ...

No. 13 one week later ...

Then it jumped around in the upper teens until finishing the season at No. 17.

The line was getting worse results even as Long was still in the lineup and Martin and Jerry on the right side worked together longer.

The worse results also affected the passing game because the protection for Tannehill got worse. The Dolphins gave up 16 sacks the first half of the season -- only three the first three games. And 21 sacks the second half of the season, including 10 in the final three games.

None of this means the Miami line will get worse this year. I believe these individuals should be good enough to provide the offense with a good running game. I believe these individuals should be good enough to protect Ryan Tannehill and give the passing game a chance to succeed.

But these individuals must come together quickly. They must play better as a group.

The whole must be better than the sum of the parts.  



The NFL's starting QBs ranked No. 1-32

Ryan Tannehill is four days from starting his second NFL season. And while we still cannot be certain what he will become, we know he must be better than he's been if he's to earn the trust placed on him as the face of the Dolphins franchise.

Tannehill knows Dolphins fans want, indeed, expect him to be very good this year. The team has surrounded him with a fine receivers corps. The defense is playoff caliber. This is his year to be much better.

He knows this. He hears it when people say he'll be the next great quarterback in Dolphins history.

“It’s nice but, it doesn’t matter, I still have to go out and play," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I have to go out and do the things that I want to do, that we want to do as a team.  We have high expectations for ourselves as a team.  As an offense, we want to be able to put points up.  We brought in a lot of weapons this year, and now it’s time to finally go out and play."

The Dolphins need Tannehill to become outstanding if not elite. That might happen this year. But that's not how he starts the year.

No, as we get ready to kick off the 2013 NFL season, the Dolphins have an unproven quarterback (still) that is not considered upper echelon in the NFL. Indeed, Tannehill is still among the lower third of NFL quarterbacks compared to others around the league. 

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, he's really good. He has all the tools. Ryan's awesome, man. He's got a great arm. He's a captain. He's on the leadership council. He's the man!)

Thank you, gallery. But none of that means squat. Tannehill is one of 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. That makes him special. But if there were a quarterback draft to start the 2013 season, Tannehill would not be picked early.

He probably wouldn't be picked in the middle of the pack, either.

That tells you where Tannehill begins the year in a quarterback-centric league.

I'm not making this up. Consider the Salguero rankings of the NFL's best quarterbacks 1-32. I understand that most of the readers of this blog are Dolphins fans and thus are biased. But try to put your pom-poms aside for a sec and think about what you would do if you were an NFL general manager.

Tell me what spots you would rate the QBs. Tell me where you disagree with the rankings:

1. Aaron Rogers, Green Bay  .... Great arm, smart, mobile, fine athlete, won a Super Bowl.

2. Tom Brady, New England ... Great accurate arm, burning passion to win, won three Super Bowls.

3. Peyton Manning, Denver .... Accurate, manipulates secondaries, makes all the throws, won a SB.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans ... Height schmeight, fine deep thrower, leader, won a SB.

5. Eli Manning, NYG .... Excellent arm, has innate ability to play big at big moments, won two SBs.

6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore ... Perhaps strongest arm in NFL, blossoming, won Super Bowl in 2012-13.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh ... Behemoth, great improvisation, bazooka arm, won 2 SBs.

8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta ... Smart, uses all his weapons, led team to conference title game.

9. Tony Romo, Dallas ... Great athlete, very good arm, still looking for playoff success cred.

10. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis ... The next superstar. Period.

11. Robert Griffin III, Washington .... Smart, courageous, great accuracy, runs like a deer.

12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco .... See RG3 only bigger, stronger.

13. Matt Schaub, Houston .... Pocket passer, plays up to surrounding talent.

14. Russell Wilson, Seattle ... More intangibles than just about any of them. Good arm. Winner.

15. Cam Newton, Carolina ... Adonis in a football uniform, gifted arm, runs well, good, getting better.

16. Jay Cutler, Chicago ... Amazing arm, gunslinger who takes risks, high risk and high reward.

17. Michael Vick, Philadelphia ... When healthy still elite running and passing, under-rated passer.

18. Phillip Rivers, San Diego ... Considered elite 2-3 years ago, has fallen off but still scares people.

19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati ... More passer than thrower, average arm but gets results.

20. Carson Palmer, Arizona ... Once great, declining but still excellent in right system.

21. Matthew Stafford, Detroit ... Inconsistent but excellent when hot. 80 TDs and only 25 years old.

22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis ... Finally has talent around him at WR, OL. Accurate, strong arm.

23. Ryan Tannehill, Miami ... All the tools, good learner, hard worker, but still work in progress at 25.

24. Alex Smith, Kansas City ... Perhaps best game-manager in the NFL. That's good. And bad.

25. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ... Roller-coaster career, roller-coaster accuracy, inconsistent.

26. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland ... Same as Tannehill only five years older and surrounded by less talent.

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota ... Smart, knows how to win, but not physically gifted like others.

28. Jake Locker, Tennessee ... Inaccurate, inconsistent, on the hot seat.

Tie 29. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo ... Unknown.

Tie 29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville ... Mostly unknown, seems to play scared at times.

Tie 29. Geno Smith, NYJ ... Not ready. Just not ready.

Tie 29. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland ... Brings a spark to the huddle. But great QBs do that and pass great, too.









September 04, 2013

Dolphins vs. Browns first injury report

The Dolphins and Browns released their injury report for Sunday's game at Cleveland.

For the Dolphins, CB Will Davis (toe), QB Pat Devlin (ankle), CB Jamar Taylor (groin) all missed practice today. As an aside, the likelihood of Taylor player Sunday is practically nil.

Tight end Dion Sims (groin) was limited in practice today.

And DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), and S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) were full participation in practice.

For the Browns, G Shawn Lauvao (ankle) did not practice. He was the only one.

DE Desmond Bryant (back) and OLB Barkevious Mingo (lung) were limited in practice.

Meanwhile, G Gary Barnidge (shoulder), WR Davone Bess (knee), LB Jordan Cameron (groin), TE Garrett Gilkey (shoulder), DL John Hughes (knee), LB Eric Martin (Foot) and DB Chris Owens (foot) were full practice.

Pouncey getting help to stop Blitzland

Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton began his career with the Redskins and coached in Detroit, and Cincinnati. But the stop that molded him most was unquestionably the seven seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That's where he picked up the zone blitz. That's where he learned from Dick LeBeau, considered among the best defensive minds in the business. That's where he got his coaching philosophy of attacking 3-4 defense.

And that's the reason the Cleveland Browns the Dolphins will face on Sunday will try to come with the same snarling, angry, zone blitzing, pressure-on-the-quarterback approach as what the Steelers generally use.

Remember Blitzburgh?

Horton wants Bllitzland.

That means two things:

The Dolphins will encounter a major challenge up front to block for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

But they will also have significant opportunities for big plays if they can get Cleveland's attacking front blocked.

So Miami center Mike Pouncey has to perform well before the snap as well as once the ball is snapped.

"No question, but that's how it's supposed to be," Pouncey said Tuesday afternoon. "The center is supposed to be the guy that sets the stage for the quarterback. You need a smart center against them to know what's coming.

"This is head on. We're playing a great defense. They have a big defensive line. They have good pass rushers. They got a good coach over there that tends to mix up a lot of different blitzes so we can't wait to see what he brings."

Horton is new to the Browns. But Pouncey nonetheless called his brother Maurkice Pouncey for help in figuring out what might be coming. Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has familiarity with some of the Browns personnel. And he does see a lot of the Pittsburgh defense in practice.

So did the call to Maurkice benefit Mike?

"A lot," Mike Pouncey said. "He plays them two times a year so I called him up and asked him how those guys play, their tendencies. It's good having a brother who plays in the NFL, especially the same position."

Pouncey might want to refer back to last year's Dolphins game versus Arizona. Horton was the Arizona defensive coordinator the last two years. If you recall, in that game, the Dolphins lit up the Cardinals for 480 yards.

So you see the opportunity for big plays against Horton's defense.

But the Cardinals also had two interceptions, forced and recovered two fumbles, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times.

The Cardinals brought the A-gap blitz a lot so I assume Pouncey is ready for that this week. He says he's definitely ready for the zone blitz.

"What I do is I study film and watch the linebackers and safeties and how they roll coverages," he said. "That's how I know from where the blitz is coming -- where it's coming from so I can help my guys on the offensive line be a step faster."

Follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero


September 03, 2013

Watkins responds to Roseman comments

Danny Watkins seems like a good guy. Whether he's a good player, we shall see eventually.

I know this, the Dolphins' time with Josh Samuda was played out. Samuda got a very good chance to win a starting job this preseason. It was probably a better chance than he deserved because one player (John Jerry) got hurt and another player (Lance Louis) was fighting to come back from knee surgery. Samuda couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.

And so in steps Watkins, a former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, who was cut from that team a couple of days ago after only two seasons with the club. It seems like a good move.

But there are questions.

If you read what Eagles GM Howard Roseman said about Watkins in the last post you know it's quite an indictment when an NFL GM says a player has shown little toughness.

I asked Watkins his thoughts about Roseman's comment.

"I got to Philadelphia and it was just a rough go from the get-go," Watkins said. "I felt like it just got broken down to bones and never got built back. It was more a mental thing. I was very disappointing to myself that it never panned out the way it could. Because I know I can play physical and tough football but it just never ... I think it was more a mental aspect than anything.

"These last three years have been such a whirlwind. it was great opportunity to play in the NFL. My college career was great, I love Baylor and what they did for me there. Looking back, six years ago if you had told me I'd be in the position I am today, I would have laughed at you. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to be where I am today."

Watkins picked the Dolphins over another NFL team, he said. He declined to specify what team. I asked him if he believes this is his last chance to find an NFL home.

"I'm very excited to be here and I know Miami has a, well the past history with the players here" Watkins said. "So this is huge for me. Like I said, it's the most exciting thing that's happened to me and I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity and make the best of it."

The Dolphins asked Watkins to work at snapping the football some on Monday. Is he a viable backup center?

It doesn't sound like it right away.

"I was a tackle in college. and guard in the NFL," he said.

Watkins said he's comfortable playing either left or right guard. 

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say who the backup center is now that Samuda is gone. He cited competitive reasons for declining to answer.