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4 posts from October 22, 2013

October 22, 2013

McKinnie: The timing, 'Big Mac,' Philbin reaction

As I shared with you in the last post, the Dolphins' plan for Bryant McKinnie is to play him at left tackle. Only left tackle. Period.

And today, McKinnie confirmed he worked only at left tackle during practice. Jonathan Martin said he worked at both left and right tackle during practice.

"I'm a left tackle," McKinnie said. "All I've ever played. I've never taken a snap at right tackle."

So, again, when McKinnie is up to speed and ready to play, he is the left tackle and Martin will move to right tackle.

I believe this is a deal general manager Jeff Ireland had to make. It was a must-do move because to sit by and watch Ryan Tannehill get hit week after week was a recipe for ruining the young quarterback, if not getting him hurt.

So I approve. Bryant McKinnie is not a great player at this late stage in his career. But this is a rental to survive the season. It had to be done.

But the timing of this move boggles.

Why didn't the Dolphins do this trade two weeks ago during the bye? McKinnie was available then. The Ravens were shopping him then. The idea of trading for McKinnie was no secret to anyone -- least of all readers of this blog.

Everyone knew Tyson Clabo was struggling for weeks. It should not have come as an epiphany to the Dolphins on Monday -- the day after Clabo once again gave up game-defining sacks against Buffalo -- that their offensive line needs help. Clabo gave up game-defining sacks against Baltimore the last time the Dolphins played.

So why the timing of this move now instead of the last several weeks when it made more sense?

"We considered a lot of factors and made the decision and we thought this was the right time," coach Joe Philbin said today.

I hope he's fibbing. I hope he doesn't really believe the timing here was right. If he does, the Dolphins are in bigger trouble than anyone might think.

As you know the McKinnie addition fits like Chad Johnson fit. In other words, he doesn't fit the culture. Everyone knows it. And everyone accepts that desperate times call for desperate measures, thus this trade.

But Philbin said he's expecting McKinnie, a well-known party animal with a history for visiting all sorts of clubs on late night jaunts, to fit in with the Dolphins.

"We expect anyone who works for the Dolphins, coaches for the Dolphins, plays for the Dolphins to represent the organization in the right way on and off the field ... All of us have a responsibility to act accordingly," Philbin said.

McKinnie said his party reputation won't be a problem because when he's working, he's working. He said his party persona only applies to when he's off. McKinnie said "Big Mac" is his offseason persona. Bryant is his in-season persona.

(First of all, it's never good when a player claims to have an alter ego. Secondly, the infamous Love Boat incident in Minnesota in 2005 and Party Bus incident in Baltimore this year happened during the football season).

"I'm concerned about what he does in this building," Philbin said. "I don't mandate what people do outside the building. I enjoy my free time when I have free time. I expect him to be a professional just like the other guys."

Dolphins should keep their fingers crossed.


The plan for LT Bryant McKinnie

My guess is the Dolphins will be coy about their plans for Bryant McKinnie this week against New England.

You know ... will he start or not ... will he play or not ... left tackle or right tackle.

Forget that noise.

Here's the deal:

Bryant McKinnie is the Dolphins new starting left tackle. Jonathan Martin, who started the previous six games at left tackle, is moving to right tackle.

The only question that remains is whether McKinnie can get up to speed fast enough to be in the lineup this week. The Dolphins hope he can. He is, after all, a 12-year veteran. He has not been sitting on his couch so he is up to as good a football shape as he can be in for his history with weight issues.Mckinnie

(McKinnie is clearly overweight. The Dolphins list him at 352 pounds. He looks to be more in the 370 range. His sizeable belly bulges out of his practice jersey).

So if McKinnie can learn the playbook -- or enough of it -- to meet the coaching staff's expectations, he'll be playing on Sunday. If not, well then the following week for sure.

The intriguing dynamic the McKinnie addition brings to practice is what to do with Martin. He obviously needs to get re-acclimated with right tackle.

So do the Dolphins split his snaps between left and right to hedge their bets? Or do they commit to giving him right tackle snaps exclusively?

My guess on that is Martin gets the right tackle snaps. Although he stayed at left tackle during the short walk-thru team portion that was open to the media today (nice misdirection, Dolphins), he is expected to take most of the work at right tackle with the starters. 

So there it is. Miami's new starting OL is LT McKinnie, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG John Jerry, RT Martin.

When the starting running back is not the starter

For five weeks, Lamar Miller was the Dolphins starting running back.

He started the first five games of the season and had more carries in each of those games. He was, in name and in fact, the starting running back.

But on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills the Dolphins got the ball first, behold, Daniel Thomas was the running back with the starters.

Daniel Thomas supplanted Miller as the starter.

But coach Joe Philbin says what everyone saw is actually not what is the truth of the matter.

"It was a more of a function of the type of plays that we were running more than Lamar hasn’t done this or Daniel has done that," Philbin said. "As I’ve said many times, we like both of those guys. Lamar actually played more snaps in the game I believe in a game. He didn’t have more carries. I believe Daniel had 12 and Lamar nine, is that accurate?

"In a coaching mind, that’s still pretty balanced in my mind. We like the way both of the guys ran the ball yesterday. I thought they both ran the ball well.”

So is Miller still the starter?

 "Yes," Philbin said.

Interesting because the switch clearly seemed to work for Thomas, who answered with his best game of the season in gaining 60 yards on 12 carries. His 5-yard per rush average was nearly twice his season average. That now has improved to 3.4 yards per carry.

Miller carried the football nine times and gained 48 yards, which was his fourth best production of the six games.

It also will be interesting if the Dolphins go back to Miller as the starter out of the gate or if the performance Sunday will convince the team to try more of the same against New England.

Mike Sherman addresses the 'play call,' other things

The Bryant McKinnie trade sidetracked this blog from the pursuit of answers from Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman about his work and his unit's work in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday. Indeed, when Sherman entered the interview room Monday, I was on the phone with a source about McKinnie.

But, unlike Ryan Tannehill, I have time to gather myself and get back on plan.

So here now is Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman answering questions:

(On if he knows anything about a trade for Bryant McKinnie) -- “No, I don’t talk about personnel stuff. I leave that up to Jeff (Ireland) and Joe (Philbin)."

(On if Bryant McKinnie would bring if he did come to the team) -- “I’m not even going to comment on it right now because I don’t know the where ifs or what nots. Ask Joe (Philbin) and Jeff (Ireland)."

(On if he feels there needs to be changes on the offensive line) -- “If we had…believe it or not, we got out there every single game and evaluate our personnel. Every week we put the best guys in the best position. If we thought we had better at certain positions, then we would go in that direction, right or wrong. That’s how we look at it. Take that for what you can."

(On Tyson Clabo’s season so far) -- "Tyson came in as a veteran player. (He has a) tremendous attitude, tremendous personna and work ethic. I thought he brought a lot to the table in relationship to team chemistry and being a part of that group. Certainly we’ve faced some pretty good pass rushers, (Elvis) Dumervil, (Terrell) Suggs, Jordan and no less Mario Williams. We’ve struggled. Mario Williams is going to be a Hall of Fame player at some point of his career or life, I would imagine. They are tough challenges. The first three ball games we didn’t quite face those types of challenges, those types of pass rushers, in the last couple of ball games we had. Obviously, we’ve struggled. We just have to figure out whoever is playing those positions the best way to help them. I can do a better
job of that. At times we do, at times we can’t. You just can’t based on certain parts of it. At times we are good and at times we aren’t so good. Tyson has had his struggles at different times, but he’s brought something to the table as well."

(On decision to pass in the fourth quarter with 3:37 to play) -- "The first play was a run. It was against Bear defense, and they were 100 percent trying to stop the run. We have a lot of confidence in the two receivers, Mike (Wallace) and (Brian) Hartline on the outside. We felt comfortable with that. It was a five-step pass. Obviously the result isn’t what we were looking for."

(On passing the ball during the fourth quarter before the fumble play) -- "I don’t think you can protect a 21-20 lead in this league. I think you have to be fairly aggressive. I’ve been in situations myself trying to protect a 21-20 lead, and I’ve lost those games 27-21. We are going to be aggressive with a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. We aren’t going to sit on it. The difference between winning and losing in this is so much right there. It’s one play that can make the difference in a ball game for you or against you. With a one point lead, my philosophy and Joe (Philbin’s) as well has been to be aggressive. If we got the first down, the game would have been won and we wouldn’t be having this discussion at this point. Certainly it’s a valid question, without a doubt. At the same time the what-if factor is, ‘If you get it, do you have this conversation?’ No you don’t, and it would have been a great call. Those things happen."

(On what portion of four-minute offense is pass plays versus run) -- “That’s not four-minute offense. That’s trying to win the football game. Four-minute offense for us would be under four minutes on the clock. We have a nine-plus lead, probably 10 point lead in the game. You put your two tight ends out there. You try to burn your time outs or time off the clock. The part of it is most of those plays they are different type of plays. They aren’t drop-back plays. That was not a four-minute offensive play. That was a play to win the game. With the ball at midfield and Joe (Philbin) is the best at doing research on opponents, and in our research they had a two-minute drive last week to tie
the ballgame. We wanted to win the game. We wanted to get that first down. We knew the front they were going to play. They played the exact front and coverage we thought they were going to play. It just didn’t pan out."

(On if the amount of sacks to Ryan Tannehill is affected him) -- “Let me just say this about Ryan Tannehill. He’s normally very resilient and physical. If you ever notice how he takes a hit, he’s giving to it. Do I think he’s banged up a little bit? Yes, probably. He wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t. At the same time knowing him, he’s very resilient physically and mentally. I think that is what is going to make him a very good quarterback in this league."

(On if a player would come in via trade, could they conceivably start for the team) -- “Do you want the filibuster? As far as personnel goes my comments are directed to the general manager and the head coach, who are more in-tune with that. The what-if part of it, I’m just dealing with what-ifs today. I have to get through today and get ready for a great football team up in New England. That part of it I’m not going to address, thank you. I appreciate the question though."

(On if he remembers ever having a player brought in before and starting the same weekend) -- “I don’t recall not. I don’t recall doing either."

(On how long it would take someone to learn offensive linemen technique in this system) -- “Are you guys just passing the ball around here? Let’s get this game over with so we can move on."

(On the possibility of giving Tyson Clabo block help on the play that resulted in the fumble) – “I think there’s always ways. It’s a different style of play. (Mario Williams) is going to line-up somewhere, usually on the edge to the open side. He’s going to be a problem somewhere. In hindsight, yes, I think you can always do that. It’s a different call, it’s a different structure. It was a run-pass option, and they showed the pass look. That’s what we went to. We very easily could, if they didn’t play that front, could have went to the run. There are different variables. It would have made it a little bit complicated. In an ideal world, that is a possibility."

(On if there could be a variable where Mario Williams is double-teamed wherever he lines up) -- "We did some of that in the ball-game at different times. We banged him. We thumped him. We did different things to him. To do that consistently throughout the ball game and negate the fact that sometimes he’s not where you think he’s going to be. That happened once or twice. Then we moved to him. That’s another thing. You negate the structure of your pass offense in some ways because your route distribution is out a little bit. Now can you do it? Yes, you are limited a bit from what you can do but you have a chance to bang him in those situations."

(On if the pick-6 against Buffalo was a bad throw, bad read or a good defensive play) -- “All of the above probably."

(On Ryan Tannehill having more turnovers than touchdowns as part of the learning curve) -- “I think we always want to get better than where we are, and I think he’ll be the first one to tell you that. Sometimes on some interceptions he made a bad decision on one. He got hit on the fumble he had no chance of getting out of. It happened rather quickly, and the interception for the touchdown by Buffalo he was hit as he was delivery the back. He probably would have pulled it back if he had time to. I’m hoping that’s what he would have done. There’s a lot of variables to those things. To put them all on the quarterback I think is unfair. I think we all share that responsibility."