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66 posts from September 2013

September 03, 2013

Update from practice and who is Danny Watkins?

Here's a quick update on what's going on at practice today:

The rookie cornerbacks are still not practicing. Will Davis (ankle) and Jamar Taylor (hernia) missed the second straight day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns.

Davis, in a walking boot Monday, is out of the boot today. He was walking quite gingerly. Interestingly, yesterday Davis wore the boot on his left tankle. The team complained to at least one reporter about writing which ankle was wearing the boot. Today, Davis is wearing wrapping and a sleeve on his right ankle. Pretty sly, those Dolphins.

By the way, The Herald's Adam Beasley has reported Taylor will likely not play against the Browns. Just as well. He was bad in the preseason finale and clearly not ready to compete on an NFL regular-season level.

Long snapper John Denney and quarterback Pat Devlin were also absent from drills today. No reasons for those absenses yet, although Denney's, at least, is believed to be excused for personal reasons.

Newcomer Danny Watkins was at practice today, as expected. I believe the best use for him is as guard-center swing guy. Watkins is a former first-round pick waived by Philadelphia after only two years.

Why the bust in Philly?

The media in Philadelphia questioned his passion for football and Eagles GM Howard Roseman questioned his toughness, which is never good for an offensive lineman. Or a football player.

“When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him, never translated to Philadelphia, and that’s one of the things that I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him,” Roseman told CSNPhilly.
“You felt like you were getting an enforcer, and he never let himself go here on that, and I don’t know why that was. I told him that was what I was the most confused by. Because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw on his play on the field, and I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here."

Roseman interestingly believes a change of scenary will help Watkins.
“He put a lot of pressure on himself, and he couldn’t just go out and play, and I think getting away from being Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him,” Roseman said.

Well, that takes care of Watkins' aggressiveness. But the media in Philly also questioned his dedication and passion. It is no secret Watkins' first love is firefighting. He came to the United States to become a fireman, not a football player.

From today's Philadelphia Daily News:

"That photo on the firefighting site Northeastbravest.com the Inquirer uncovered, of Danny dressed out in full Rescue 1 gear at a Northeast Philly fire last Dec. 16, carrying a motorized saw, is really all you need to know about Danny and passion. His passion was for firefighting, which is what he left idyllic Kelowna, British Columbia, to come to the United States to learn more about. He got sidetracked by football. When somebody tells you that you can win a college scholarship, and then make millions of dollars doing something professionally, you pay attention. But paying attention does not put you on the intensity same level as someone who has spent his life hungry to play the game, living it, breathing it.

The Eagles were off that day in December when Danny toted gear around for his fire department buddies. But less than two months earlier, he had left the starting lineup with an ankle problem, and then he’d lost his starting job to journeyman Jake Scott, signed off the street. You’re a recent No. 1 pick consigned to the bench. Wouldn’t you want to spend every extra minute watching tape, perfecting technique, working in the weight room to get bigger and faster?"


Dolphins sign Watkins, waive Samuda

The Dolphins have signed guard Danny Watkins, a former first-round pick of the Eagles. To room on the roster for Watkins the team waived guard Josh Samuda.

For Watkins this is a chance to redeem himself after a tough couple of years in Philadelphia. For Samuda, who had a poor preseason moving from center to  guard, his time with the Dolphins is in jeapardy as he is not practice squad eligible. 

The 6-3, 310 pound Watkins joins Miami after spending the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (2011-12).  He was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft. In his career, Watkins has started 18 of the 23 games in which he appeared for the Eagles.  

Watkins was a two-year letter winner and started all 25 games played at Baylor after beginning  his collegiate career at Butte College. As a member of the Bears he earned first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior. Born November 6, 1984, Watkins played rugby and hockey at Mt. Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Watkins is a reclamation project to be sure. He fell out of favor under new head coach Chip Kelly. But even before then, there were questions about his desire and love for the game.

The Dolphins have had success with reclamation projects at guard before with Richie Incognito. Of course, that was under a different head coach and staff.

We'll see.

Watkins signed a one-year contract.

Watkins played 126 snaps in the preseason at right guard and ProFootballFocus.com rated him the 39th best offensive guard in the league. He committed one penalty, gave up one sack, and had a minus-1.2 run blocking grade during those games.

Last year Watkins was ranked the NFL's 54th best offensive guard based on the seven games and 461 snaps he played. He had a minus-4.7 overall grade, allowing just one sack, nine quarterback hurries and committing two penalties.

Watkins was considered a bust in Philadelphia. Bottom line is he is better off in Miami where he comes in as a backup with a chance to prove himself. He has no draft pedigree he needs to live up to here.

If he's only good enough to be a backup, no one will complain. He was, after all, signed to a low-budget deal. If he's good enough to push John Jerry at right guard or eventually succeed Richie Incognito, who is in the final year of his contract, he'll be considered a huge success.

If he isn't very good at all, he'll be another bottom of the roster player that eventually is churned out on waivers.

It's a win-win-win.

September 02, 2013

Coyle guarantees significant role for Jordan

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has good news:

Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan is in the game plan for Sunday's game at Cleveland. And he "guarantees" the first-round pick will have a significant role in that plan.

Jordan, as you must know, missed a significant portion of training camp and the preseason with a shoulder injury. He returned to practice last week. He worked in team drills today.

This is the rest of the what Coyle told the media today:

(On how concerned he is about depth at defensive back) – “You are always concerned going into the season with your depth at a number of positions, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some guys, a number of guys, who have played in games and started games for us still at the corner spot. We have some flexibility with some other players at the safety spot that have skills we can use if we got into a real jam and had to use them outside at corner in some situations. I feel fine. I wish we had everybody up and running as it makes the decision easier to who would be active. You can’t keep them all active for gameday. As it is, in most cases, you aren’t going to have 11 guys up. At the same time, we hopefully very soon will have a full complement of (defensive backs) ready to roll.”

(On Dion Jordan and his role for the upcoming game) – “You are trying to get me to give away the game plan (laughs). Dion has missed some practice time, so we are starting to add to what we perceive he will be able to handle for the game. We haven’t made any final decisions yet. Today he got a good number of reps in practice today, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the gameplan this week, I can guarantee you that.”

(On if he feels he has three starting defensive tackles for two spots) –“Absolutely, there’s no doubt. And I hate to differentiate between any of them because to me they are all top level quality players in the upper echelon of defensive tackles in the league.”

(On if the defense can carry the team to postseason success such as the Ravens, 49ers and even the Jets from a few years ago)  – “When we play defense, we hope we are going to do our part to put us in position to win every week. I’m a firm believer, being a defensive coach, that if you play great on defense and you play great in the kicking game that you have a chance to win every ball game in this league. That’s been proven by the teams you mentioned. You also can go back to some of the Tampa Bay teams over the years that won the Super Bowl by playing great defense. Offensively they did what they had to do to win games. I believe in our offense. I know our offense is going to get it rolling. Hopefully it will be this Sunday. In our room, we talk about the fact that if we play like we are capable of playing, we are going to have a shot to win a lot of football games. That’s what we expect.”

(On if his defensive players relish the role of carrying the team)  – “I think our veteran players like the idea. They enjoy the challenge. They want to be among the best defenses in the league. Now it is a matter of us proving that we can be in that same conversation. The only way you do that is consistently playing defense that way from the first game to the seventeenth week of the season.”

(On going up against former Miami Dolphin wide receiver Davone Bess and if he presents an interesting challenge)  – “He sure does. I have nothing but great respect for Davone. I loved being around him when he was here. (He was) a great competitor, a guy that is a tireless worker, and those types of things. Having our guys know what he is capable of, and I think in some ways that has heighten their preparation because when you look at a guy on tape you haven’t seen a lot and hasn’t played a lot in the preseason, if you didn’t know him it would be hard to get a feel for him. Our guys would know we had a heck of a time trying to cover him out here for a long time last season. He proved to be such a clutch guy, and he’ll be a go-to guy for them. We anticipate that. He’s got our attention, and we are going to have to do a great job because he is a very, very nifty slot receiver.”

(On Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and what he has seen on film from him) – “He’s an outstanding young quarterback. I think sometimes he kind of gets lost in the discussion with all of these young quarterbacks that have come out of late, but this guy has a terrific arm. Coming out of college he set all kinds of records. He was a great thrower. He can make all of the throws. He’s got a big-time throwing arm. Last year, like a lot of young quarterbacks, he kind of went through a learning stage. He looks much more poised and comfortable in this offense coming back. We are going to have to play great against him because he can make all of the throws. He’ll throw the ball down the field vertically as good as some of the top ones in the league.”

(On if he has any real concerns about the defense) – “You have concerns that everybody just gels together here early in the season. We do have some new faces. The communication, just the pre-snap dynamics that go on during the course of a game, you have some new linebackers and some new guys in the secondary. Hopefully I think we’ve shown in preseason that this group is a good cohesive group, but we are going to have to do it when we are out there and it’s live, it counts. I’m confident if we play like we are capable of, we will be very good against the run. We will have a heck of a challenge this week because the running back we are facing this week is strong, explosive guy. Their offensive line, I’ve got to tell you, is extremely physical. (It’s) one of the more impressive offensive lines that we will face. They work great together as a group. This will be a challenge in the run game. Hopefully we can create some long-yardage situations and do the things we like to do on defense on third down.”

Everything OC Mike Sherman said today

The Dolphins offense needs to improve dramatically this year. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman understands this.

This is what he said today after the Dolphins had their first practice of the week in preparation for Sunday's game at Cleveland:

(On what he is thinking after the preseason games and training camp) – “I don’ think you can draw any conclusions until you actually do it. I think what happens on the field is the only conclusion you can draw. Certainly we are trying to get to that point. We’ve practiced accordingly, but the proof is in the pudding, as my grandma used to say, but we will have to see and see what happens."

(On if they kept much to themselves in the preseason) – “You can only keep so much. You still have to play the games. You do run your core offense, but they are a good football team and they are going to anticipate what they are going to anticipate. We are going to anticipate what we are going to anticipate. We’ll see what happens. The evaluation will be at the end of the year, ultimately."

(On if he feels comfortable with the starting offensive line and the way it is with John Jerry out there) –“I still think it is a work in progress. 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."

(On if he would like to have a fifth wide receiver on the roster) – “I think everybody wants one more of everything (laughs). I’ll take one more of whatever I can get at any time. I like the four that we have. It will serve us well."

(On how much better John Jerry can get in terms of conditioning) – “John has always been able to run pretty good, even when we first got here and he was a little overweight. I never questioned his stamina. He ran around, you know. His movement suffered when he was a little bit heavy, but he can run all day long. That was never a problem, in my mind anyway. He’s in much better shape now. Actually, to my surprise, he lost weight while he was injured, which most guys don’t do that. I’m thinking about going on IR myself thinking it might help (laughs). He has done a good job of being on IR and lost some weight. I give him credit because that’s hard for a guy that hasn’t been able to run around and be out in this heat, to lose weight, and he’s done that. That tells you the type of commitment he has, and I applaud him for that."

(On if he is surprised there hasn’t been more separation between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas) – “Not really because they are different type of backs. One offers one thing (and) the other offers something else. They are just different dynamics between the two of them. I think because they are so different they offer, as I said, a different dynamic when in the game. I think there will be a challenge defensively to be able to put both running backs on the field separately."

(On what the key will be to converting in the redzone) – “You know we’ve had some opportunities in the red zone, we just haven’t taken advantage of them. That’s one thing. A couple of games ago I thought it could have been a better job calling some runs down there. I didn’t call some good runs. We have to be able to run the ball better in the redzone because people really defend the pass pretty well. There’s just so many defenders up there in the short areas. They just make it impossible to throw some times. We have to be able run the football down there and be diligent about that. And if you can run the ball down there, it opens up some throws in the passing game. Maybe you can play past them, vacate a window and get some balls in there. I think all of your problems end if you can run the football a little better. It helps everything."

(On saying Ryan Tannehill would have the biggest leap of the second-year quarterbacks this season) – “It’s the quote of the year (laughs). You guys won’t let me forget that. Neither will Coach (Joe) Philbin."

(On if he still thinks Ryan Tannehill will have big improvement now that training camp has concluded) – “I think that Ryan Tannehill is a diligent, hard (working), intelligent, competitive man. I think every day he walks onto this field he is going to get better, I really do. I believe in Ryan Tannehill."

(On if he expects to see as many eight-man fronts this year with new running backs) – “We had a pretty good running back. Reggie (Bush) had respect of his own as well. We started out running the ball pretty well, and we didn’t finish running the ball very well. That wasn’t indicative necessarily of just Reggie. We just didn’t run the ball very well. That was a collective effort on our part. We have to prove it. We have to prove that we can run the ball in order to determine what they are going to defend, if they are going to defend the run or the pass. If we are throwing the ball better, we will get seven-man fronts. If the run is beating them, we will get eight-man fronts. It is hard for me to determine what they are going to do. (Cleveland defensive coordinator) Ray Horton is a great defensive coordinator, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of eight-man front against him like we did last year. I’m sure we will see more of the same."

(On tight ends and if there are plays he can no longer call because Dustin Keller is not available) – “I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Dustin had talent of his own we certainly enjoyed having, but as one guy leaves another guy steps up. I’m hopeful the other guys will step forward and take his spot. There is no guarantee that everybody was going to stay healthy, so you always prepare for that possibility happening. He certainly was a savvy player and did some things, but I’m not going to say he is going to put handcuffs on us because he is not here. I’m hopeful we will be able to do some things with (Dion) Sims and (Michael) Egnew."

(On Dion Sims) – “I think I’ve already said this once before, I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t think this guy has got a chance.’ He came back for the OTAs and the rest of minicamp, and this guy made unbelievable progress. I really think he’s made a lot of progress since he’s been here. He made two catches out here. He has long arms on really low and high catches that normal tight ends weren’t going to make. He’s improved his blocking. He’s improved his route running, and I can’t say enough about the progress. Does he still have a ways to go? Yes, he has a lot of progress to make, but he’s come so far. In college he was a 280 pound tight end. I didn’t think he moved very well. To the credit of our personnel staff, they projected if he lost the weight he would be able to be the tight end he is right now. He’s done a very good job, and I think he’ll be a fine tight end in this league."

Interesting week ahead for Dolphins

Big week for the Dolphins. It's one of 16 that will run through December and culminate with a game that will determine your mood for the next three months.

So what's on tap?

Let's start with the minimal stuff first. The Dolphins announced their practice squad this morning.

No.         Name                                    Pos.       Hgt.       Wgt.   

31           De'Andre Presley             DB             5-10         188       

44           Jordan Kovacs                   S              5-10      210 

65           Sam Brenner                      C             6-2        310  

76           Jason Weaver                    T              6-5          305  

78           Al Lapuaho                          DT           6-2      301

85           Brian Tyms                          WR         6-3       204  

86           Kyle Miller                           TE           6-5      262 

87           Marvin McNutt                     WR         6-2        215

With two, count 'em, two wide receivers on the practice squad the Dolphins can actually stay at four wide receivers on the roster and make decisions on players as late as Fridays on the health of their roster players.

How does this work?

Well, if the Dolphins suffer some sort of injury to one of the top 4 WRs, they can monitor that injury and decide if that player is available or not. If he isn't, they can simply promote McNutt or Tyms because both players are familiar with the system.

Practice today gets underway at 11:20.

Dion Jordan will be there, I'm told.

[Update: Jordan is practicing, at least on a limited basis. He was actually working in on special teams kick coverage. So that's good.]

It is a big week for him. He needs to have a solid week of work to be on the active roster for Sunday's game at Cleveland. We'll see.

It's also a big week for John Jerry.

He is out of shape (still) and working on regaining his strength in his knee. He is obviously also trying to lose some weight.

While he is considered the starting RG, I'm told he needs to have a good week of practice to solidify that position because it is not sealed in stone. We'll see.

Finally, the Dolphins have questions at cornerback, near as I can tell. Will Davis is in a walking boot at practice today. No, he's not practicing. Also, fellow rookie Jamar Taylor was not present at practice during the open media portion of practice.

If neither Davis nor Taylor are available for Sunday, it explains why the Dolphins kept so many (11) DBs when they trimmed the roster to 53.

By the way, the Cleveland Browns added wide receiver Jasper Collins to their practice squad today. Coincidence?

And Dan Carpenter is among a handful of kickers trying out for the team today as well.

September 01, 2013

On Jeff Ireland, cuts, and PFF metrics

After the Dolphins establish their practice squad and modify the bottom of the roster a couple of times, the work of general manager Jeff Ireland will be mostly done for this roster. His work then will mostly consist of scouting and gauging how well players perform.

And that, in turn, will measure how well he performed this offseason.

My column in today's Miami Herald tells you that Ireland did well in upgrading the Dolphins from a season ago. (I know that will be unpopular with some). But it is the truth and I give you the list of compelling reasons based on what I've seen in training camp and preseason.

The Dolphins yesterday made cuts. And it is interesting not one undrafted free agent rookie made the initial 53. That's a good thing.

To me, it suggests the Dolphins have a strong enough talent base that they're not augmenting to the roster with project players that basically were rejected for one reason or another in the draft. Yes, Miami has had productive players make it as UDFA inn the past -- Davone Bess and Dan Carpenter come to mind as a couple lately.

But these players rarely become stars. They are usually mid-level talent at best.

So the fact none made it this year suggests to me the Dolphins already had plenty of mid-level talent and below and are working to fill the higher levels of talent, their blue chip player number.

As you know, I'm partnering with ProFootballFocus.com this season and will provide game insights based on their metrics film review after every game.

Here are some interesting things that showed up based on the preseason finale and how I view these results.

Offensive Summary 

After a good performance against the Bucs, fullback Evan Rodriguez crashed back to earth vs. the Saints in his most extended action of the preseason (33 snaps). He participated in 20 run blocking plays and had a negative overall grade of -1.6.

(Salguero: As you know, the Dolphins kept Rodriguez and here's my concern: Of his 33 plays, the Dolphins ran the ball 21 times, according to PFF's study. If that is accurate it means the Dolphins will typically run when Rodriguez is in the game. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has to keep this from becoming a trend that defenses can recognize, otherwise he'll basically be tipping his run-pass selection when Rodriguez is in the game).

[UPDATE: The Dolphins cut Rodriguez today. He broke the news on his twitter feed. Makes sense. He had an unremarkable camp and, as you just read, an unremarkable game in the preseason finale.]

Third round rookie pick Dallas Thomas allowed a sack and a hurry in 22 pass blocking snaps.

(Salguero: Honestly, this kid needs a lot of work. He's a guard. A guard. A guard. The Dolphins continue to work him at tackle).

Michael Egnew got the “start” over Dion Sims, but Sims played one more snap, 29 to 28.

Pat Devlin threw both of his interceptions in the middle of the field and less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Devlin attempted just two passes 20+ yards down the field, targeting Marvin McNutt on a long TD and Rishard Matthews on an incompletion.

Dion Sims caught four of his six targets, with all four catches coming 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Defensive Summary

Five players missed 2 tackles, including rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor.  The team had 14 total.

Taylor was targeted four times and allowed three receptions -- to Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, and Nick Toon.

(Salguero: The Dolphins need both Taylor and Will Davis to grow up quickly. It's been rocky so far with injury setbacks for both players. Taylor is nowhere near ready to play against good NFL wide receivers and win consistently).

Backup defensive tackle Vaughn Martin had a sack and 4 defensive stops en route to a +2.5 grade.

(Salguero: Now we understand why he made the team, in part. This game was key for him. He played very, very well).

Special teams 

The Dolphins committed three penalties on special teams.