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53 posts from October 2013

October 31, 2013

Live blog: Season on the brink

The Dolphins' season is on the brink and it pretty much all hangs in the balance tonight. On national television. Against a good opponent.

Obviously, the Dolphins are an underdog because they're 3-4 and losers of four consecutive games while the Bengals are 6-2 and have won four in a row.

But there is no NFL bylaw that states the Dolphins must lose tonight. There is no understanding that the team in freefall must continue its dive to irrelevance.

The Dolphins can save their season tonight with a victory. They have to get good games out of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, their secondary and defensive line and, of course their offensive line -- particularly Tyson Clabo.

But all those things are possible.

Will it happen? We'll find out in a few hours.

And we can find out together on the live blog. Join me there.

[Update: The Dolphins inactive tonight are Mike Gillislee, Pat Devlin, Dallas Thomas, Will Davis, Danny Watkins, Jonathan Martin, and Dion Sims.]

[Update 2: A club source tells me the team is giving Jonathan Martin wide latitude in deciding when he wants to return to the team and that there has been no return date set. The source tells me the club is concerned about the relationship between Martin and some teammates.]


Dolphins starting to string embarrassments together

How has this Dolphins season, only seven games old, already been something of an embarrassment?


We start with Mike Pouncey pictured wearing a cap requesting the release of suspected murderer Aaron Hernandez. The picture hits the Internet and causes a public outrage. When Pouncey wants to apologize for photo to quell the public indignation, as his brother Maurkice immediately did on the advice of his team the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins forbid the center from saying anything. They apparently think saying nothing will make those offended feel better.

They also forbid Pouncey from saying anything after is subpoenaed to testify in front of a Grand Jury in relation to the Hernandez trial. Glad to see the team learned a lesson. Not really.

Right tackle Jonathan Martin on Monday then goes AWOL from the team when he gets upset over a lunchroom prank by teammates. He hasn't been around for three days. But the Dolphins, who refuse to acknowlege the national story, list Martin as doubtful for tonight's game against Cincinnati.

Defensive tackle Randy Starks, upset he is demoted from his starting job after going to the Pro Bowl last year, celebrates a sack by shooting his bench a one-fingered salute. The player denies it publicly, but the gesture was aimed at the coaching staff.

It took receiver Mike Wallace one game to show his unhappiness with the Dolphins game plan when he wasn't targetted at all in the first half of the season opener and only five times all game. Wallace, by the way, has toned down his distaste for how he's being used publicly but not so much privately.

Other players are also questioning the approach of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Guard Richie Incognito is unhappy Sherman stopped calling running plays in the second half of the New England loss and has been public about the Dolphins abandoning that which was working.

"I think we should just keep running the football 30, 40 times a game," Incognito says. "That's our blueprint for success. We have to run the football for four quarters."

The dislike for Sherman's play-calling can be found throughout the Dolphins organization. One high-ranking person within the team is dumbfounded by Sherman's approach in some situations, saying the coach misses "101 stuff" -- meaning fundamental things.

Coach Joe Philbin's relationship with the media has grown tense and, earlier this week, even combative. It wasn't that way last year even during a 7-9 season. The difference this year is the increased influence of Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte, a member of the New York State bar and a Bill Parcells disciple. Aponte, originally hired to manage the salary cap underJeff Ireland, got from under the general manager's umbrella when the two clashed. She has become a close Philbin ally.

Aponte shadows Philbin during television interviews, radio interviews and press conferences. During one recent taping of Philbin's coaches' show, she stopped the taping to straighten the coach's tie.

The second-year coach meets with Aponte before every press conference and accepts advice on what to say to the media. Can you ever imagine Don Shula doing this? Aponte's typical advice is for Philbin to say as little as possible even though the mission statement from team owner Stephen Ross, Philbin's and Aponte's boss, was to have the Dolphins become a more transparent and fan-friendly organization after the Parcells departure.

Bottom line?

The Dolphins are trying to be just as insulated since the Parcells departure as before because Aponte believes in the approach. Except these Dolphins should probably concentrate more on improving their play than they do at honing their message. Except neither Aponte nor Philbin have any of Bill Parcells' credibility for winning anything, much less multiple Super Bowls. 

And it doesn't look like that will change this season.

October 30, 2013

FOX: Martin 'flipped out,' leaves team

Jonathan Martin is doubtful for Thursday night's game with the Cincinnati Bengals because the Dolphins say he's dealing with an "illness."

Well, he's apparently dealing with more than that, according to FOX Sports 1, which just reported that Martin "kind of flipped out," and smashed a food tray on the floor of the team lunch room on Monday when a practical joke perpertrated by teammates didn't sit well with him.

Teammates apparently walked away from an ill Martin when he sat down near them in the lunch room. And not appreciating the joke, Martin went off ... like into the sunset.

And he hasn't returned to the team since.

The Herald has confirmed from two sources the story is accurate.

Martin is said to be getting "treatment" at a hospital for an unknown emotional issue, a Dolphins source confirmed for the Miami Herald. Martin checked himself into that hospital. The source declined further comment.

Martin, it must be noted, started the first six games of the season at left tackle and last week was abruptly moved to right tackle when the Dolphins traded for Bryant McKinnie.

At that time, Martin had hinted he was not thrilled with the move and said he faced a choice how to deal with it.

“You can approach this two different ways," Martin said last week. “You can go in the tank and be one of those guys who bitches and moans and is a cancer in the locker room, or you can be a guy who goes out there and can be a professional and plays as hard as I can."

But one source told The Herald he doesn't believe the move from one position to another is the reason Martin apparently "snapped." The source said the behavior is probably evidence of deeper issues.

The "treatment" Martin is seeking is apparently emotional treatment/counseling.

[Update 1: Martin has seemed "more aloof" in recent days prior to the incident Monday, a teammate just texted. This teammate said he's reached out to Martin and has been told the player is spending time with his family.]

Amazingly, the Dolphins listed a player who left the team, hasn't returned for two days and is in treatment as "doubtful" on today's injury report.

[Update 2: The Dolphins have released a statement on the matter: "Jonathan's Martin's status was addressed on the injury report as an illness." That is all the team has to say.]


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/#storylink=cpy



Jordan a situational player making most of situation

Among the greatest points of interest on the Dolphins this season has been watching the use (and by that I mean the relatively little use) of defensive end Dion Jordan.

Jordan, the Dolphins first-round selection and the draft's No. 3 overall pick, is a part-time player. He has participated in only 28.3 percent of the Dolphins defensive snaps this year. And that would be more than acceptable to the fan base if Jordan was a third-rounder instead of the third player picked. It would be acceptable if he didn't show so much promise. It would be fine if he didn't make plays.

But the fact is when Jordan has gotten his chances, he's shown up.

That was him hitting Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco's arm to cause the ball to fly harmlessly like a punt and be intercepted by Reshad Jones, who returned it for a touchdown.

That was Jordan running stride for stride with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski down the left sideline Sunday and picking up a pass defensed -- an eye popping example of the defensive end's speed and athleticism.

"I watched film on the guy and I understood that (Tom) Brady was going to try to get the ball to him," Jordan said of that match with Gronk. "That's not my first time playing in coverage. I understood what I had to do. I felt like I was going to be able to run with him. That wasn't a problem at all. I just had to brush up on the little things. It's been a minute since I covered a guy that far down the field so I was up for the challenge."


Yet Jordan, for all his ability, is a situational player so far his rookie year. He has 145 total snaps. Derrick Shelby, by comparison, has 262 snaps so far this year. Olivier Vernon leads all Miami defensive ends with 415 snaps. Even Cameron Wake, who missed multiple games with a knee injury and has been limited in his snaps the past two games, has 196 snaps.

So the question that lingers is if the Dolphins have this resource of talent on their roster, why don't they use him more? 

Well, the Dolphins coaching staff doesn't think Jordan has earned more.

"I think I’ve said before, players earn playing time based on their performance and what they do in the building, in the weight room, in the training room, on the practice field, on the game field so beyond that everybody has to earn their playing time on the field," coach Joe Philbin said.

Indeed, Jordan said he's gotten the message from coaches that if he wants to play more, he has to show better in practice.

"Yeah, and I recognize that," he said. "You just have to prove to your coach that you're able to play in certain situations. I just have to be more progressive every day, I have to find a way to make myself that much better as far as fitting into a role on the defense and understanding our opponents week to week.

"That's my goal every time I take the field, no matter what it is. To get better and compete. I understand those are the things that make the great players great. I'm trying to find a way to challenge myself. That's what I've been doing, trying to progress and do the little things right."

The perception to this point has been that the Dolphins have limited Jordan's role to manage his health. He had shoulder surgery early in the year and missed much of training camp after re-injuring the shoulder in a preseason game.

So there's an idea that coaches simply don't want to get Jordan hurt.

Not accurate.

"Not really," Jordan said. "Pretty much it's me just having to prove to my coaches what the deal is in practice. Philbin and my position coach and the guys in the training room understand I'm getting much better as far as my shoulder but at the same time, you know, you have to prove on the field you are able to go out there and do the job. I just have to progress and get better every day.

"I'm good with the shoulder. I just have to get over the (practice) hump. That's all it is. I missed a lot coming into the season and so I just have to find a way to progress. We're about halfway through this thing and I feel like I'm getting more comfortable as I take the field and the more snaps that I get."

That's obviously the way the Dolphins coaching staff is approaching this and it is not wrong. But there is the alternate idea that because Jordan has shown promise in limited game day snaps, maybe he'd make more plays with more game day snaps.

Is that wrong?

"No, not at all," Jordan said. "With me as the more comfortable I get, the more snaps I take, that's the way it is. Me personally, I feel like I have to maximize the opportunities that I get. That's the deal."

There is also a perception publicly and even in the Dolphins building that Jordan is a liability against the run so he must be limited to pass plays. That's the reason 95 of his 145 snaps have been pass-rush snaps. And it is fair to note, Jordan is not a finished product. He is learning to protect the edge of the defense. He has to learn to be a technically better run defender. He could probably use a bit more strength, too. 

But according to ProFootballFocus.com, Jordan isn't nearly as bad against the run as people might think. Yes, he has a minus-1.0 run defense grade so far this season. But guess what? Derrick Shelby has a minus-1.6 run defense grade. So Jordan has been better against the run than the Dolphins' designated run-stopping defensive end.

And while Jordan's pass rush grade is a gaudy 3.1 (second behind only Wake's 4.8) he simply makes more of an impact per snaps in the pass rush than either Shelby or Vernon.

Understand that Jordan has 10 quarterback hurries and three quarterback hits so far. Vernon has 16 quarterback hurries and two quarterback hits -- but also has 2 1/2 times more pass rush snaps than Jordan. 

Regardless of the metrics, however, don't expect the Dolphins coaching staff to be moved. They trust their eyes. They're going to manage Jordan until he pops in practice first. Until then he'll be a situational player.

The issues facing the Dolphins OL this week

Tyson Clabo is realistic about the player he has become nearing the end of his career at age 32.

“I understand that there are probably four right tackles in the NFL that can block Elvis Dumervil and Marion Williams consistently one-on-one,” Clabo said Tuesday. “At this point in my career, it doesn’t appear that I’m one of them. But I still have confidence in my ability to start at right tackle in this league."

The Dolphins may have to test that confidence Thursday evening.

That's because starting right tackle Jonathan Martin has missed the past two days of practice with what the team is describing as an illness.

And as the game is Thursday, there are serious questions whether Martin will be able to start, much less play the entire game. So either way, Clabo has to be ready.

And he sounded that way Tuesday.

“Roles change constantly in this league,” Clabo said. “Last week my role was to be ready in case anything happened. This week, my role might be a little different. That’s just life in the NFL week to week."

Last week, Clabo lost his starting job after yielding eight sacks in the season's first six games. And there is little chance Clabo could reclaim that starting job except that Martin is, well, sick.

So the Dolphins are hoping Martin responds and if he doesn't they hope Clabo responds.

“He’s a true professional," coach Joe Philbin said, offering a ringing endorsement of Clabo.  "Comes into work every single day wanting to get better and wants to improve."

The Bengals are a good but not great pass-rushing team. They are tied for 12th in the NFL with 22 sacks.

But left defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been good and has four sacks this season. He would match up against Miami's right tackle. Right defensive end Michael Johnson, who would line up against the left tackle Bryant McKinnie, has 1 1/2 sacks.

And while the possibility of Clabo vs. Dunlap poses questions for Miami, I would say the other side also has issues.

That's because while Johnson is not having an attention-grabbing season, he plays next to All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has five sacks and has been virtually unblockable for the past year or so.

Left guard Richie Incognito will have his hands full with Atkins and will likely require help from center Mike Pouncey. That means Incognito, who did fine work helping McKinnie with double teams in the New England game, won't be able to help the left tackle as much this week.

It seems this week the Dolphins will find it harder to slide their protection to the left side with their right tackle either fighting off an illness or coming into the game having allowed eight sacks already.

Tough matchup for Miami.

October 29, 2013

A look at Mike Sherman's failed second half

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman basically said Monday that the idea he abandoned the run -- indeed, abandoned what was going well -- in the second half of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots was not really accurate.

He said the statistics that show the Dolphins going pass heavy in the second half were skewed by the team being down 10 points with only 7:14 left in the game.

"At that point we were forced to throw it in that situation and I think we threw it during that time," Sherman said of the situation where Miami got the football trailing 27-17. "After the turnover, they ran it 15 and threw it three and they scored a touchdown and they ran out the clock.  In that same situation I think we threw it 15, ran it three almost the reverse.  We were down by 10 and we were in a two minute mode trying to get caught up.  Most of our passes that we threw and generated in that time frame, those 15 passes were almost all in a two minute mode trying to gain 10 points back."

And sure, enough, Sherman is correct. Once the Dolphins got down two scores, they felt the need to throw every down and did exactly that -- passing 15 times and running only once on a desperation Ryan Tannehill scramble that was called as a pass.

But ...

My problem with Sherman -- perhaps everyone's problem with Sherman -- isn't so much that he passed the ball so much when his team was trailing by 10 midway through the fourth quarter.

My problem with Sherman is he was partially responsible for that 10-point deficit because he's so stubborn about throwing the football -- with no apparent regard for what the opponent was doing, no apparent understanding of the results he was getting, and apparently forgetting the results he had just gotten one half before.

The Dolphins, you see, led this game 17-3 at halftime. The Dolphins gained that advantage because they ran the football 22 times in the first half and passed 18 times. They gashed the New England defense, ranked 31st against the run, on the ground to the tune of 103 yards and a 4.7 rush per attempt average in the first half.

It was a fine formula for winning against Tom Brady on the road. It ran clock, which shortened the game. It kept Brady on the sideline, limiting his opportunities. It helped the Dolphins defense.

It. Was. Working.

Right? Agreed?

But then for some reason known only perhaps to Sherman and the Dolphins coaching staff, the Dolphins went away from that which was working in the second half.

In the second half, with the Dolphins ahead by 14 or, worst case, tied at 17-17, the Dolphins ran the football six times. And passed 11 times.

So they built a lead running more than passing in the first half but came out in the second half and passed nearly twice as much as they ran even while they led or were, at worst, tied.

Up 17-3 in the second half, the Dolphins passed four times and ran only twice.

Up 17-10, the Dolphins ran one and attempted to pass once.

With the game tied at 17-17 in the second half, the Dolphins passed six times and ran only three times.

Eleven passes. Six runs.

And a 17-3 lead that was built running more than passing evaporated.

And the trend continued. Down 20-17 after a New England field goal, the Dolphins ran the football twice their next drive. And passed it four times.

So basically with the game in his hands, Sherman flipped his own first half script that was so successful. The criticism of him is not that he passed when the Dolphins were 10 points down. The criticism of him is that he forged a 17-3 lead by running more than passing and then went away from that in the second half, passing nearly twice as often as he ran, even as the team was still ahead, tied, or only a field goal behind.

And remember all this against the 31st-ranked run defense.

It gets worse. One of my other criticisms of Sherman is he views the game in binary fashion. If the defense loads up to stop the run, you pass. If you the defense loads up to stop the pass, you run. It's a simple choice of two things.

The problem is there are more than two possibilities at play in football.

Bill Belichick (and most NFL coaches) can quickly understand they can make the Dolphins do what they want. They can bait you into doing what they want you to do by giving you a certain look, just as a defensive back can bait a quarterback into making a throw the signal-caller thinks is open but really isn't.

Another problem I have is that presented with evidence that stuff is working, Sherman easily goes away from it (See above).

And given evidence stuff isn't working, Sherman sometimes continues to press forward as if that evidence does not exist. The continued confidence in right tackle Tyson Clabo is a clear example of this. Remember when Sherman promised Clabo's issues in pass protection would get resolved and no change was necessary? That was before Clabo gave up key sacks against Baltimore and Buffalo that factored in costing Miami the game.

Well, on Sunday, Sherman must have seen that the desperate Patriots were blitzing on practically every passing down in the second half. It was their halftime adjustment. And he saw how dangerous this might become initially when a sack from a blitzing defensive player resulted in a nine-yard loss. That sack turned what would have been a 37-yard field goal attempt into a 46-yard field goal attempt that Caleb Sturgis missed.

Well, shown that evidence, and still leading 17-3, Sherman passed more than he ran anyway. (Remember, he got this lead running the football more).

And then a blitzing defensive back got a strip sack on Ryan Tannehill.

And later, down 20-17, came an interception.

No negative plays happened when the Dolphins were running more than passing. Bad things started happening when Sherman flipped the script. And he just kept passing even as he was ahead of tied or just a field goal behind.


Tuesday PFF and Salguero look at Sunday's game

The good folks at ProFootballFocus.com delivered their weekly film review of Sunday's game and I am adding my weekly analysis and insight to that review.

Get it ...


Left tackle Bryant McKinnie played well in his Dolphins debut, posting a +2.0 grade and +1.4 pass blocking grade. He gave up two hits and a sack but neither came against Chandler Jones.

Salguero: The Dolphins helped McKinnie -- a lot. Left guard Richie Incognito helped McKinnie with double-team pass blocking approximately 75 percent of the time. The sack I saw McKinnie give up came on a blitz when he failed to recognize the free blitzer.

Right tackle Jonathan Martin had a dreadful time switching over to right tackle, giving up 3 hurries, 2 hits, and a sack for a -2.5 cumulative grade.

Salguero: Once again, the sack I saw Martin give up came when he failed to recognize a blitzer and basically let him have a free run at quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

As you know, the Dolphins allowed six sacks against New England. All of them came in the second half when Bill Belichick adjusted and had his defense blitz on practically every passing down. The Patriots are not normally a blitz-intense team. But the adjustment was excellent.

Unfortunately, the Dolphins did not adjust to New England's adjustment. Indeed, while most professional teams typically correct errors between series, the Dolphins seemed to make the same error against the New England blitz on multiple occasions.

“Well, what happened was that when we motioned across the formation, it really was on a couple third down situations and we’re not a big motion team as you know, well we motioned across on third down and we needed to just re-id some things and we didn’t," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. " I’ll take responsibility for that, it really shouldn’t have been a problem. It was a problem, all we had to do was re-id it. They got us twice on two third down calls, which they hadn’t really been a big pressure package in the third and short situations but they were particularly in that second half."

WR Rishard Matthews played 37 snaps after Brandon Gibson went down with his knee injury, but most came in the second half when the game was tied or the Dolphins were losing. Matthews saw 5 of his 6 targets against Logan Ryan in the slot, catching 3 of them. 

TE Dion Sims (29 snaps) and Michael Egnew (20 snaps) picked up extra workload as well in Gibson’s absence. 15 of Sims’ snaps and 10 of Egnew’s came in run blocking.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not connect on a single deep ball of 20-plus yards. He was 0 for 5.

Salguero: I watched the game again Monday evening. And three consecutive series in the second half spoke volumes to me about the difference in QB play between Tannehill and Tom Brady. You'll recall in the second half the Patriots came after Tannehill. Well on a third-and-2 situation from the New England 19, the Patriots had a free rusher come at Tannehill and the Miami QB failed to account for that blitzer by getting rid of the football. He took a 9-yard sack and instead of a 37-yard field goal to make the score 20-3, Caleb Sturgis thus had to attempt a 46-yard field goal. The rookie kicker missed the kick. The Patriots got the football and drove to the Miami 14 where on second-and-six the Dolphins blitzed Brady. And Phillip Wheeler got an unblocked run at the QB, except that as he was hit, Brady released a pass to Aaron Dobson who beat Nolan Carroll for a TD. The Dolphins got the ball back and once again, they went after Tannehill. And once again an unblocked blitzer came at Tannehill, who fumbled at his own 13 yard line when he was hit. The Patriots converted the turnover into a TD three plays later.

The point is, the Dolphins QB took a key sack and coughed up the football when the Patriots ran unblocked blitzers at him. The New England QB threw a TD pass on the play the Dolphins had an unblocked blitzer practically knock him into next week. It's not necessarily Tannehill's fault that he fumbled. But he must get rid of the football in the red zone. And it would be preferable if he got rid of it and completed a pass.

When running around the end, both left and right, Lamar Miller had six carries for 63 yards. On his 12 other carries, he had 29 yards.

Salguero: Here's a shocker ... The Dolphins fast running back is better running outside. Hmmm, maybe the Dolphins should call more outside runs for him.

Of the six times Brian Hartline was targeted, Alfonzo Dennard was in coverage for five of them. He shadowed him all over the field.

WR Mike Wallace saw targets against six different players, but caught passes on just two of them.


DE Cameron Wake played 34 of 68 snaps which was only a modest increase in workload from the 22 snaps he had last week against Buffalo.

CB Dmitri Patterson handled 62 of 68 snaps, signaling a full return to the lineup.

DE Dion Jordan played 18 snaps, getting full series in addition to his nickel role. He was in on 10 running plays, rushed the passer seven times and was in coverage once. The one coverage snaps had Jordan running stride for stride with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Salguero: Jordan is crazy athletic. He makes impact plays when he gets opportunities. The excuse about him not being able to set the edge on run plays no longer applies as he played more run plays than pass plays Sunday. So why is he getting only 18 total snaps with only seven pass-rush opportunities? Why? Makes no earthly sense to me.

Nolan Carroll is apparently being phased out as Patterson is healthy again. Carroll played only eight snaps on Sunday and in that time he gave up a double-move TD to Aaron Dobson.

Salguero: You'll remember at the beginning of the season, Carroll was the nickel corner. He'd enter the game on passing downs and take the outside receiver while Patterson would take the slot. Well, the groin injury to Patterson made Carroll a starter. But with Patterson back it not only seems as if Carroll has lost his starting role, but also the nickel cornerback role because Jimmy Wilson is filling that and did so on Sunday.

Special teams

Salguero: The Dolphins had a field goal blocked by the Patriots. It was the first field goal the Pats have blocked since 2010 when they blocked another Miami FG attempt. The reason the attempt was blocked is that right tackle Nate Garner was basically run over by two players, including Chandler Jones, who blocked the kick.

October 28, 2013

Forget Nicks or Gordon trade to replace Gibson

The Dolphins placed wide receiver Brandon Gibson on their injury report Monday evening as having missed practice with a knee injury. That's close to correct seeing as Gibson will miss the remainder of the season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee.

So what will the Dolphins do to replace Gibson?

Will they chase big-name talent in the coming hours as Tuesday is the NFL trade deadline?

Well, don't bank on Miami going out and trading for Hakeem Nicks or Josh Gordon, a source told me Monday afternoon.

The Dolphins are going to conduct wide receiver workouts and sign someone at some point. But because the team plays Thursday night against the Bengals, Rishard Matthews will take Gibson's job as the No. 3 receiver.

And the Dolphins may possibly promote Ryan Spadola from the practice squad to the big roster to bring their wide receiver totals to four for this game. Understand that this move is necessary because both Marvin McNutt and Brian Tyms were signed off the Dolphins practice squad in recent weeks.

Spadola was added to the practice squad Oct. 9. So he's had some time to learn most of the Dolphins offense.

It may be time to prove it.

Word of the day for the Dolphins: Regression.

BOSTON -- They led 17-3. They rushed for 156 yards and averaged 5-yards a carry. Tom Brady was less than mediocre, throwing for only 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception with a visibly swollen throwin hand. New England right tackle Sebastian Vollmer broke his leg and left the game, joining Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, who are done for the season, and cornerback Aqib Talib, who didn't play.

And given all these advantages and perfect scenarios, the Dolphins still lost?

Yes, the Dolphins lost.

And that leads me to the word for today: Regression.

As I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins collapsed and they are in full blown regression.

The Dolphins have regressed from the team they were last year at this time when they were getting better results with less talent.

The Dolphins have regressed from September when they were 3-0.

The Dolphins have regressed to the point they're arguably the worst team in the AFC East. That's right, Miami is in third place with a 3-4 record behind the Patriots and the Jets and just ahead of the Bills. But Miami has a division worst 0-2 record and they already lost to the last-place Bills.

How is any of that better than it was last year?

And amid all of this the Dolphins are borderline delusional.

"No, I don't feel like the season is starting to slip away because we have a great team," nickel back Jimmy Wilson said.

Is he serious?

Wilson went on to say the Dolphins need to win the next four games to make up for the last four consecutive losses. Well, the Dolphins are 2 1/2 games out of first place already and they're not getting stronger but they better start winning very soon if they want to salvage this season.

But how to do that when they're getting worse?

Ryan Tannehill is playing worse now than he played in September.

The talent level is getting worse with the loss of wide receiver Brandon Gibson for the season.

And the play-calling? It's getting worse. Consider that it's bad when offensive coordinator Mike Sherman abandons the running game when it isn't blowing the opponent away. On Sunday, he abandoned it when it was working! In a close game!

And now the players are noticing.

"It seemed like we were running the ball real well, we were effective," guard Richie Incognito said. "It was third and manageable; we were picking up big chunks on the ground. I think we got away from that in the second half. That is kind of where we kind of sputtered."

Tell me something ... why aren't Miami's rookies playing?

Why is Nolan Carroll playing -- and giving up a TD pass as soon as he enters the game -- but second-round pick Jamar Taylor and third-round pick Willie Davis are inactive? Well, either those kids are not very good (which is on the personnel department) or they are not being developed (which is on the coaching staff).

Why is first round pick Dion Jordan a part-time player but less talented, less upside Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby are playing more? I know Jordan is talented. It seems every time he's on the field, something good happens. But he's not really on the field all that much. How are coaches arriving at those decisions to play a better player less?Cluelessjoe

Why has Mike Wallace looked so ineffective? He came to the Dolphins as an accomplished deep threat. He came here without major issues about his hands. Now that he's with the Dolphins he cannot get deep and cannot hold on to the football? Sorry, I don't buy it's all on Wallace. The Dolphins blamed Brandon Marshall when he didn't produce as much in Miami as in Denver. Then Marshall went to Chicago and produced at a very high level again.

After a while it's not the player we should be looking at. It's the people charged with developing those players and the system those players are put in.

So where do we go from here?

Well, general manager Jeff Ireland needs to find a wide receiver because the Dolphins only have three on the roster and one on the practice squad.

Will he chase Hakeem Nicks? Josh Gordon? Justin Blackmon? Greg Jennings?

The trade deadline is Tuesday. Ireland addressed the desperate need for an offensive tackle by trading for Bryant McKinnie. And although the Dolphins gave up six sacks Sunday -- all in the second half -- four of those came when the Patriots figured out Sherman had no intention of running the football.Tannesack

The AFC East is still wide open, because the Patriots seem vulnerable despite their 6-2 record. The team has multiple injured players, including Brady who nonethless denied his swollen throwing hand was swollen. 

Unfortunately, the Dolphins don't currently have the feel of a team that is ready to turn things around. Sometimes they start poorly. Sometimes they finish poorly. Sometimes they can't run. Sometimes they give up on the run even when they're running well. Wide receivers don't get open quickly, or don't get open deep, or drop too many passes.

The defense that was supposed to make more game-defining plays doesn't. 

And Tannehill fumbles or throws the interceptions or shows little pocket or situational awareness -- particularly lately.

There's a word for all of that: Regression.

October 27, 2013

Patriots come back to defeat Dolphins, 27-17

FOXBOROUGH -- The Dolphins led this game 17-3 at halftime.

And then the collapse.

Miami gave up 17 points and the lead in the third quarter. Ryan Tannehill fumbled for the eighth time this season, losing his fifth and that helped the Patriots tie the game at 17.

by the time it was over, Dolphins were 27-17 losers.

The second half was marred by questionable calls -- such as a phantom pass interference on Jimmy Wilson and a holding on Dimitri Patterson. But the depth of this collapse is beyond poor officiating.

It's poor clutch play.

it's poor defense.

It's poor quarterbacking by Tannehill, who threw a terrible deep pass to Mike Wallace that was intercepted and showed little pocket awareness.

The problems are everywhere.

The Dolphins have lost four in a row now. They play again on Thursday against the Bengals at home. They will be the underdog in that game.

Things might get tougher.

Dolphins at Patriots: Live blog

FOXBOROUGH -- It truly is beautiful football weather for the today's big AFC East matchup.

Here's what's going on:

The inactives for Miami are Pat Devlin, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Mike Gillislee, Danny Watkins, Dallas Thomas and Will Yeatman. Interesting that the second and third round corners are inactive but the seventh round cornerback Don Jones is active despite his big special teams penalty last week.

For the Patriots it is interesting that Aqib Talib is inactive. That is a big deal for Miami.

Neither team is reporting lineup changes but Bryant McKinie is starting at left tackle and Jonathan Martin at right tackle.

Finally, starting center Mike Pouncey seemed to have some sort of injury difficulty during warmups. We'll keep a an eye on that when the game starts.

[Update: Pouncey seems to be fine.]

As always, there's a live blog here today. Join in!


Joe Philbin: 'We will fix it'

Joe Philbin is not, shall we say, a relationship builder when it comes to his dealings with the media. That's what I've been told by those within the Dolphins organization. And the imperical evidence of the past 21 months would seem to back that up.

He operates more at arms length with people like me -- unlike Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban and Tony Sparano. And unlike those gentlemen, he doesn't necessarily read or listen to everything that is written or said about him.

One more thing: He's not a fan of one-on-one interviews.

But this week, in the face of a three-game losing skid, Philbin decided it was in the best interest of the franchise to get closer to the enemy, I suppose. He decided to go against his own grain and do a one-on-one.

And he decided to do that with me.

Philbin had me brought up to his office and I asked questions and he gave, what I believe, were thoughtful, complete answers. (That, by the way, is not typical as he often and purposefully does not provide insight during his press conferences.)

So here is that interview.

In it, Philbin discusses what he's doing to address the current losing skid, what his and his staff's culpability is for that skid, what his message to the team is heading to today's New England game, and he promises this:

"We will fix it."

So please check out my column.

October 26, 2013

Keys to the game: Dolphins vs. Patriots

It's all hands on deck for the Dolphins because they are completely healthy and ready to use every player in the plan against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Everyone on the team practiced full on Friday. The coaching staff expects to use Bryant McKinnie at left tackle against New England, although a final decision won't come until Saturday evening.

Cameron Wake will get a full load of snaps as will cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is expected back at his starting job.

So who has the advantage?

Here are the keys to the game:

When the Dolphins pass the football: The Dolphins personnel department has pushed for Bryant McKinnie to start at left tackle while the coaching staff has taken a more methodical approach. Fans should hope the personnel department wins out because the Dolphins have basically lost two consecutive games when right tackle Tyson Clabo gave up key sacks against Buffalo and Baltimore. Adding McKinnie to the lineup means Jonathan Martin moves from left tackle to right tackle. This game will measure Ryan Tannehill’s ability to recover from a poor game, which his three-turnover game against Buffalo certainly was. The Patriots hope to have starting cornerback Aqib Talib back in the lineup but if he’s out again that will be a considerable help for Miami. ADVANTAGE: Patriots.

When the Dolphins run the football: Did the Dolphins coaching staff learn its lesson this week? Last week, against a weak run defense, the Dolphins didn’t maximize the running game, rushing only 25 times in a game that was never out of hand and in fact Miami led in the fourth quarter. The Patriots are no better than the Bills against the run, allowing four yards per rush, and they’ve been worse since the injury to Vince Wilfork ended his season and weakened the run defense. New England is now 31st in the NFL against the run. The Dolphins must, must, must give Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas a full plate of run attempts to shorten this game, avoid turnovers and move the football. It’s up to offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins (if Sherman doesn’t mess it up).

When the Patriots run the football: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been criticized this week because he didn’t run the football enough against the Jets despite being in a game the Patriots led and were having success with their running game.  Is this an epidemic, or what? The Patriots, curiously, are statistically a more successful running team than passing team. They have multiple backs that range in speed and size and can work either outside or between the tackles. But if the Pats are going to have any success running this game, they have to do it outside the tackles because the Dolphins clearly have a talent edge on the interior against New England’s center Ryan Wendell. ADVANTAGE: Even

When the Patriots pass the football: Tom Brady has not been playing up to his career standards as his quarterback rating is 20 points lower and his completion percentage is way down as well. That speaks to the loss of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez and the injury to Rob Gronkowski but it also suggests Brady is struggling to get on the same page with their replacements. Gronkowski returned last week and Brady targeted him 17 times. Look for more of the same, particularly in the red zone. The Dolphins could not figure out how to defend New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham a month ago. They better figure out how to account for Gronk. The Dolphins have the ability to push the Pats pass pocket up the middle with their outstanding defensive tackles and Cameron Wake is ready to take all his usual snaps on the outside. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: The Dolphins are way better than New England on kickoff returns. The Patriots are way better than the Dolphins on punt returns. Miami punter Brandon Fields is the NFL’s leading punter that includes net and gross average while New England’s Ryan Allen is closer to the middle of the NFL pack. The Patriots have tried more long-range field goals than the Dolphins and have more success doing it, as Stephen Gostowski has connected on 8 of 9 attempts of 40 yards or more, including 2 of 2 from more than 50 yards. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: Unless Joe Philbin has some sort of Wildcat-type innovation up his sleeve this category pretty obviously tilts in one direction. ADVANTAGE: New England.

Intangibles: Both teams are desperate for a win because the Dolphins have lost three in a row and the Patriots two of three. But the home field has been very good to New England as they haven’t lost an October game at Gillette Stadium since 2005 and are 21-1 there in October dating back to 2003. OVERALL ADVANTAGE: New England.

October 25, 2013

Assignment football: Stop Gronkowski

The New York Jets might have thought themselves unlucky last week when their scheduled game against the New England Patriots coincided with the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski to the lineup.

Well, the Dolphins might think themselves less fortunate because the Gronkowski they will see play against them Sunday has a game under his proverbial belt. He's had a 51 game snaps to knock off some rust. He's had an extra week of practice -- although admittedly limited.

Great, right?

"Yeah, I mean certainly he’s an impact player, and any time you have guys like that that are out and you’re fortunate enough to get back, they certainly make a difference and give your team a boost, and I thought he did that on Sunday," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "Hopefully we’ll be able to build on that going forward.Yeah, we ended up – we had to throw a lot of passes last week based on the situation in the game."

Stopping Rob Gronkowski has to be a major goal for the Dolphins this weekend if they hope to beat the Patriots. When healthy, he has been among the most accomplished tight ends in the NFL. And when facing accomplished tight ends, the Dolphins have not exactly had awesome success.

Remember Jimmy Graham caught four passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns against Miami. Remember Coby Fleener had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Remember Jordan Cameron caught nine passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

But there is some hope.

The Dolphins limited Tony Gonzalez to only four catches for 24 yards without a TD. And Gronk is more a Gonzalez type TE than he is a Graham, who the Saints flank out wide like a wide receiver. Gronk is more an in-line, traditional tight end.

"He’s a unique guy in that his combination of size and strength, his ability to body position people is really what separates him. I thought the Jets did some things that at times they did some good things with him in the ball game, but yet he still caught the ball and had over 100 yards of receptions in the game. You don’t want him to catch the big balls down the field, if you can kind of keep him contained where he’s catching shallow balls that is a good thing. You have to be able to do some things to try and take him out of the game, so that’s going to be a big challenge for us."

So what do the Dolphins do? I'd imagine because the Patriots have no accomplished outside threats, Gronkowski will draw doubles. He'll be bracketed by either a linebacker and a safety or a nickel cornerback and a safety, probably Reshad Jones.

Gronkowski one-on-one against either a cornerback or a safety is a mismatch because he's more physical than they are. Gronk one-on-one against a linebacker is a mismatch because he's faster than the linebacker. It is a sure-fire call for bracket coverage and fulltime attention.

"Remember Gronk is a good player for us – he’s a really good player for us – but we have some other guys that I really count on too that I’ve been playing with," quarterback Tom Brady said (suggesting he's got other weapons that he really doesn't have to any consistent degree). "It’s going to be a big challenge for our guys going up against a real good coverage secondary. I’m sure – they’re very much a game plan team, and they’ll have their different elements to their particular game plan, but even playing them last year, they’re a good defense."


Dolphins need better play late in games to win

Through six games this seasons the Dolphins have had one easy win (Cleveland) one blowout loss (New Orleans) and four games that have been decided late and have required a certain amount of heroics to win.

Twice the Dolphins delivered on the heroics -- against Indianapolis and Atlanta.

Twice the Dolphins failed to deliver -- against Baltimore and Buffalo.

The Dolphins got heroics from different units in their victories. The Miami defense delivered a late-game stop to beat the Colts while the offense came up with a late-game TD drive that beat the Falcons.

Against Baltimore both the offense and defense failed to respond late as the defense gave up a last-minute FG and the offense couldn't come up with any points, instead wilting under a barrage of sacks from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

Last week was more of the same as both units failed. The offense turned the ball over on a strip sack that led to the game winning field goal. And the defense not only couldn't force a long FG attempt but actually allowed the Bills to advance 21 yards on seven running plays that took 2:15 off the clock.

The good news? The Dolphins can sometimes pull out games with the heroics.

The bad news? The Dolphins are one of those teams that usually have to go to crunch time to decide a game and sometimes they'll succeed and sometimes they won't. It's a recipe for a .500 season.

"In the NFL you win close games and you lose close games," said CBS Sports analyst Phil Simms, who will be calling the Dolphins game at New England on Sunday. " t comes down to the last couple of minutes with who makes the plays to win. Most teams are in that boat. Miami is one of those teams.

"They have a lot of good players. But no matter how they play, it’s still going to come down to the last couple minutes just about every single week. So what side of the ball does it for you? Their offense could have run the clock out [against Buffalo], but that’s a little unrealistic.  he defense had a chance if they could have stopped Buffalo and not given them the field goal chance.

"They would have won. So, one side of your football team really has to dominate in those special situations.  And those special situations in the NFL are the last two or three minutes."

I share this because I believe Sunday's game might come down to the final couple of minutes. The Patriots, after all, are not exactly looking like a world-beating bunch, what with all their injuries and their two losses in the last three outings.

Yes, the Pats have dominated in Foxboro for a decade. They haven't lost an October game there dating back to 2005 and are 21-1 at the venue in October going back to 2003.

But something is different about this New England team. And this Dolphins team is as talented as we've seen in a while, despite its recent troubles. This Miami team matches up well against the Pats along the lines of scrimmage.

So it would be no surprise if this one comes down to the final minutes.

And if the Dolphins hope to win, someone is going to have to deliver bigtime in crunch time. Someone is going to have to help Miami finish.

Whatever happens, this much seems certain: The Dolphins are going to be involved in quite a few more close games decided in the final minute this season. They have to figure out a way to do better than .500 in those.

October 24, 2013

Tom Brady is either hurting or ...

It caused a bit of a stir Wednesday when the Dolphins put quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the injury report with a right shoulder issue that limited him in practice.

Well, he's on the same report today for Miami but it really doesn't matter a whole bunch because the Dolphins didn't actually practice today and everything the team turned into the NFL was an approximation of what would have happened had they practiced.

The Patriots, on the other hand, did practice.

And quarterback Tom Brady unexpectedly appeared on their injury report -- with a throwing shouler issue that limited him in practice.

Brady's right shoulder last appeared on the New England injury report in Week 16 in 2012.  It was on a Wednesay. And it was removed the following day.

Now, this means one of three things:

Tom Brady suffered some sort of shoulder malfunction on Wednesday that needed reporting today. Or ...

The Patriots on Wednesday did not place Tom Brady on the injury report with a shoulder injury even though he had one. Or ...

The Patriots noticed Tannehill on the Miami injury report Wednesday and decided to mess with the Dolphins a bit today.


Not the same Tom Brady, Patriots

A couple of weeks ago, as I was watching Tom Brady have another poor outing against the New Orleans Saints, I asked the question on twitter:


I asked the question when Brady failed not once but twice to move the football in the final two minutes of the game against New Orleans. On one of those crunch time possessions he threw a lame, floating interception that seemed so unBradylike, it looked like Dan Marino during his decline.

Then Brady got the ball back a third time in the final seconds and led the Patriots to a game-winning score -- an impressive, arching 17-yard pass to Kenbrell Thompkins -- that rescued the Patriots from defeat and set my twitter followers off on a mockfest of me that only recently subsided.

All because I had the nerve to ask the question that given the result seemed so ridiculous.

And yet, as the Dolphins prepare to play the Patriots on Sunday, I must note that TD pass on Oct. 13 is the only one Brady has thrown in the last three games.

And that game was the only time Brady has completed more than 50 percent of his passes in the last three games. (He was under 50 percent against Cincinnati and the New York Jets last week.)

And Brady's quarterback rating this year is 20 points lower than his career rating. And his completion percentage this year is eight points lower than his career completion percentage.

So if Tom Brady isn't showing some early signs of decline, then the loss of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez basically has turned him into a mediocre quarterback.

Either way, that is so far not the same Tom Brady the Dolphins are preparing to face this week.

"I'm not buying any of that," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday.

And I'm not buying that Philbin, a New Englander and someone rooting for the Red Sox to win the World Series, doesn't see it.

Brady simply hasn't been as effective this season as he has in the past. And not all of that is a betrayal from the Patriots personnel department in giving him too few weapons. It has reached a point where Brady spent part of his press availability this week fielding questions about his mechanics, his touch, even the New England offense's poor production coming out for the third quarter.

"We haven’t done great on offense this year period, so there are probably a lot of places we’ve struggled: in the third quarter and at the end of games and third downs and red area and short yardage," Brady said. "So, I think we are trying to work on a lot of things, and it is basic overall execution. There are no special plays or things like that for situations. We just haven’t done a great job executing period at certain points.

"But you know, this a new week, so we are going to go out there and try to execute our best. If we do that, we’re confident that we are going to win. That’s the best part of football, is we get a chance to line it up every week. Guys are focused and losing sucks. It sucks to be around here when we lose, but it’s happened and you move on and try to do better next week."

Dolphins fans are jumping off the bandwagon without parachutes the past few weeks because their team has lost three games in a row. You know what? The Patriots have lost two of their last three outings and that improbable TD pass -- that single TD pass Brady has thrown in nearly a month -- is the only reason New England isn't also on a three-game skid.

The most convincing of those losses came at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals made Brady and the Patriots offense look ordinary. Pedestrian. Borderline inept. The Patriots managed only two field goals. Brady had a a 52-game TD pass streak snapped. He was sacked four times. Afterward, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer got a game ball.

All of that is significant to the Dolphins.


Well, the Bengals on defense are basically a blood relative of the Dolphins on defense. Everything the Bengals do on defense the Dolphins do on defense. The approach is similar. The scheme is similar. That's because Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle came from the Bengals and brought the system with him.

And Coyle has the advantage of having three solid defensive tackles that are a key to beating Brady because the quarterback simply does not like pressure up the middle.

"Brady is  a  pure  pocket  passer, as good as there is in the game and all pocket passers don’t like  people  getting  into  their  comfort  zone," Coyle said. "Hopefully those  guys  will  be  able  to  do  some  things  in  that  nature, in  terms  of  compressing  the  pocket  on  the  quarterback, making  him  have to throw and not  set  his  feet.  All three of those guys is playing at a very high level and having the rotation I think has helped all of their play."

The Dolphins would love to get the kind of results the Bengals defense got against Brady. Frankly, the results the Jets got against Brady was pretty good, too.

If they do, what looks like a time of struggle for Brady -- or the early stages of a decline -- just might continue.

October 23, 2013

Ryan Tannehill limited in practice with shoulder injury

The Dolphins know that Ryan Tannehill likely cannot survive an entire season of hits at the rate they've been coming. Tannehill, sacked 26 times so far, is the NFL's most sacked quarterback so far this season.

And If the Dolphins didn't know this is not sustainable, evidence arrived today when practice began and the quarterback had to be limited in his participation due to a shoulder injury.

Tannehill (shoulder) was one of four Miami players to be limited due to injuries today. The injury is to the throwing, or right shoulder.

Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder), Brandon Gibson (shoulder) and left tackle Bryant McKinnie (knee) were also limited.

So basically, the quarterback and the new left tackle that needs all the practice snaps he can get to learn the new offense were limited today. Great.

This is the second time since the season began Tannehill has been on the injury report with a throwing shoulder issue.



Dolphins 'concerned' about moving Martin

A football team is usually a tightly knit group of individuals who depend on each other for community success. And when one member of the group fails, there are repercussions on other members.

Jonathan Martin, meet the repercussions.

Martin's fate with the Dolphins has not been entirely in his hands but instead has been determined by the actions of others.

Having played left tackle his final year at Stanford, he was drafted by the Dolphins and immediately placed at right tackle because the Dolphins had Jake Long. When Long got hurt, Martin, through no function of what he was doing, was moved to left tackle.

And when Long decided he rather play for the St. Louis Rams, Martin was left in limbo while the Dolphins searched for another left tackle. Again, Martin did nothing to either solidify himself as the left tackle nor lose the left tackle job.

He simply was caught by fate's whims.

The Dolphins found no suitable left tackle replacement for Long this offseason although they hosted Bryant McKinnie in free agency, studied a handful of left tackle possibilities in the draft, and even explored trading for veteran Brandon Albert.

But because other people either weren't signed or drafted or acquired in trade, Martin was elected Miami's new left tackle.

Great, a place to settle the second-year player, right?


Immediately, the Miami offensive line was a trouble spot and right tackle was the most beseiged position on the team. That shouldn't affect the left tackle, right?

Well, wrong again because as McKinnie became available in trade and he has never taken a practice snap at right tackle let alone played a game there, the Dolphins acquired him and expect him to play left tackle.

(Dolphins coach Joe Philbin would not say McKinnie is exclusively a left tackle but the entire NFL knows it and not admitting it insults everyone's intelligence.)

Anyway, McKinnie's arrival means Martin, through no fault of his own, gets switched again. He's played 11 1/2 games at right tackle and 10 1/2 games at left tackle and he's soon about to increase that number on the right side.

And Tuesday it was clear Martin isn't thrilled about the move.

“You can approach this two different ways," Martin said. “You can go in the tank and be one of those guys who bitches and moans and is a cancer in the locker room, or you can be a guy who goes out there and can be a professional and plays as hard as I can."

Martin says he'll be the latter. He'll be a good teammate -- even as he's scratching his head about why he's been affected by Clabo's inability to do his job and McKinnie's inability to play on the right side.

Philbin did admit there is concern that shuffling Martin around so much (which he doesn't even confirm is happening, by the way) might be bad for the player.

“You are always concerned," the coach said. "Any time you move a player, there’s always some concern about it. You have to take that in consideration if you do in fact decide to move somebody."

But all concerns aside the Dolphins are going to do it. Indeed, they even did during practice Tuesday. Martin said he worked at both right tackle and left tackle within the same practice.

You don't think that messes with his technique a little?

Martin has said before he prefers to play at left tackle. He feels more comfortable there. It comes more naturally to him. He tried to get stronger in the offseason to prepare for playing the position. He has a future there.

No, he's not likely going to be a Pro Bowl left tackle, but he surely can develop into a solid left tackle and that has value.

Yet that development has been detoured now. Did Martin have anything to do with that detour?


PFF and Salguero look back at Bills loss

This is the space were the pithy lead to the blog goes. As today I've already used up all my inviting prose, kindly go straight to the factoids and film study of Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills courtesy my partners at ProFootballFocus.com:


RT Tyson Clabo had his worst grade of the season (-4.6), allowing two sacks and seven hurries.

Salguero: Clabo will be replaced at right tackle by Jonathan Martin on Sunday against the Patriots or by next Thursday against the Bengals as the Dolphins shift the veteran to the bench after he's allowed eight sacks in six games. The only thing that might keep Clabo in the starting lineup is an unexpected injury or if newly acquired left tackle Bryant McKinnie takes at least a game to learn the Miami offense.

Salguero: Although Clabo gave up the two sacks, no other Miami offensive lineman allowed a sack. In fact, Martin was the only other lineman to allow so much as a hurry or hit on Tannehill. Martin gave up three hits and four hurries. Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry were clean in keeping Tannehill alive.

TE Charles Clay picked up his worst grade of the season (-3.4), with the majority of it (-2.4) coming in the run game.

TE Dion Sims saw his most snaps since Week 2 (24), but he was blocking on 19 of them.

Salguero: Dolphins coaches don't seem to have a very high regard for Sims as a pass catcher. They think his value is blocking. Obviously, I haven't seen him in a practice since training camp but he was developing at that time as a pass catcher. It's unknown whether that development in the passing game slowed or coaches are simply misjudging Sims.

When facing the blitz, quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a 98.7 passer rating. Against no blitz, he produced both interceptions and a 52.5 QB rating.

Salguero: This has been a truism with Tannehill practically all season. He has been a poorer passer when he is not blitzed.

Lamar Miller rushed for 43 yards and he picked up 38  of those after contact.

Both Miami running backs had good days making space for themselves. Daniel Thomas forced seven missed tackles on his 12 carries. Miller made five guys miss on his nine carries.

Mike Wallace caught 3 of 4 targets against Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore for 64 yards, but just 2 of 6 targets against Leodis McKelvin for 12 yards.


Randy Starks continued his rampaging season with a +6.6 grade and four hurries, one hit and a sack. He is the 7th ranked DT this season.

The Dolphins continued to limit their two highest paid pass rushers. Cameron Wake, returning to health from a knee injury, got only 22 snaps in the game -- 14 of those were pass-rush snaps. Dion Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick, got only 26 snaps, with 19 of those on passing plays.

Salguero: Jordan is primarily a pass-rusher. Of his 19 snaps on passing plays, he rushed the quarterback 18 times and dropped into coverage only once. Jordan finished the game with one tackle, one quarterback hit and two hurries.

Salguero: Coach Joe Philbin said Wake is 100 percent healthy but he didn't want to push Wake toward a full workload on his first full game back. Look for Wake to get his usual number of snaps, perhaps double what he got last week, against New England. Wake got minimal production from his snaps. He had only one hurry and one tackle against the Bills.

Without MLB Dannell Ellerbe collecting most of the tackles in the middle of the defense as he usually does, Reshad Jones had his best game of the season with a sack and 6 defensive stops.

Jimmy Wilson was locked in at nickel corner, playing 34 snaps. Meanwhile, Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson split No. 2 cornerback duties, with Carroll logging 38 plays and Patterson 30.

When working in the slot against Jimmy Wilson, Stevie Johnson caught 3 of 4 passes for 34 yards. Versus everyone else, he caught 3 of 7 passes for 27 yards. So obviously the Wilson vs. Johnson match up was not a good one for Miami. Something to keep in mind for the teams' rematch in December.

Patterson allowed two catches on three targets, while Carroll gave up three catches on three targets.