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3 posts from December 18, 2013

December 18, 2013

Marrone: Thad Lewis to start vs. Miami Dolphins

Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel was hobbled a bit after suffering a minor knee injury against Jacksonville last week. He practiced Wednesday on a limited basis.

And after that practice, head coach Doug Marrone decided Manuel wasn't well enough to play against the Dolphins.

So Marrone announced this afternoon that Thad Lewis, the one-time practice squad quarterback, will start at quarterback for the Bills against the Dolphins Sunday. Lewis started the teams' first meeting Oct. 20.

The Bills beat the Dolphins 23-21 in that game.

Lewis is excited, obviously. "We want to play for the city of Buffalo," he said today. "This should be a great game."

The Bills did not shy away from throwing the ball the first meeting against the Dolphins. Lewis threw 32 times and completed 21 for 202 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT. His quarterback rating that day was 70.1, which is unimpressive.

Lewis started three games for the Bills while Manuel was out. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes in that span, threw 3 TDs and 2 INTs.

Obviously, the fact Lewis beat the Dolphins once will cause some Dolphins fans to think this is bad news. This is most definitely not bad news for Miami.

Lewis is a backup and a project for a reason. Manuel, a rookie, was the starter for a reason -- namely he's simply more talented.

The Dolphins are living right, friends.

I will say this: The Dolphins, frankly, respected Lewis too much in that first game. You'll recall that the team had a 21-20 lead and the ball at their own 48 yard line with 3:39 to play. Run the ball three times and use Brandon "flips the" Fields to punt Buffalo deep and the Dolphins are forcing Lewis to drive 80 yards for a TD or maybe 45-yard for a field goal with less than 2 minutes to play.

But Miami coaches trusted throwing the ball more than they trusted their defense.

Ryan Tannehill on second-and-eight stepped back to pass and was crushed by Mario Williams, who caused a fumble. The Bills recovered at the Miami 34 yard line. Dan Carpenter eventually connected on a 31-yard field goal to give Buffalo the lead.

Dolphins coaches afterward said they threw because Lewis had success the week before against Cincinnati, throwing an improbable deep pass for a TD. The Dolphins feared he would do that against them.

They thought Mario Williams vs. Tyson Clabo was a better matchup than the Miami D vs. Thad Lewis with less than 2 minutes to play.

I hope if that choice pops up again this game, the Dolphins will have learned a lesson. Trust the D. Force the young QB to beat you. Don't let Mario Williams beat you. 

Mike Pouncey: NFL scandal 'wasn't true'

If you read today that Jason Taylor, on a committee appointed by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to institute a code of locker room conduct, believes the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito scandal was 'overblown' you probably should not be suprised.

It seems many Dolphins players believe the issue was overblown and some blame the media for the scandal.

Number starting center Mike Pouncey, a person of interest in the investigation conducted by Ted Wells, as one of those thinking the scandal was a media fabrication that he says "wasn't true."

'"All along we've known we done things the right way," Pouncey said. "That hasn't changed. It's been the same day since Day One. We never let any outside distractions get to us because we knew everything that was being said wasn't true. So we've just been doing our job and it's been paying off late in the season for us."

"We had the same team, we had the same mindset. We knew everything that was being said wasn't true. It affected us not one bit."

This statement seemed odd to me because while I know the media (as a giant all-encompassing entity) has gotten multiple stories on the scandal completely wrong, to say everything that was being said was untrue is ridiculous.

The media did not cause the scandal. That was conceived within the Dolphins roster and birthed when Martin threw down his lunch tray and left the team.

The media did not force Jonathan Martin to go AWOL. (He did that on his own).

The media did not suspend Richie Incognito. (The Dolphins -- Joe Philbin, onwer Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland -- did that).

The media did not leave any voice mails. (Incognito did that).

The media did not claim there was a physical attack on Martin. (Martin's lawyer did that). By the way, that alleged attack happened at Pouncey's house, a Martin associate has told the Miami Herald.

The media did not start an NFL investigation that compelled practically the entire Dolphins roster, coaches, personnel people and staff, to speak to Wells. (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at the request of owner Ross, did that).

So does Pouncey really think the scandal was a media thing?

"No question," Pouncey said. "You don't?"

No. I don't. The media didn't write any texts, either.

"One text," Pouncey said. "What does that mean?"

Obviously all of it means very little within the Dolphins locker room right now. That is perhaps one reason the scandal has not affected the team's ability to get hot and go on a three-game win streak so far this December.

That's good.

But the belief that the whole scandal was largely a media fabrication leaves open the possibility that the same environment that led to the mess remains unchanged and unrepetant because everyone insists nothing wrong happened. Players are convinced that which drove Martin to go AWOL was, well, nothing.

It would be interesting if that's what they're saying to their owner or their coach or the league because it was their owner, who said he was "appalled" by the issue, their coach, who suspended Incognito, and their league, which is still conducting an investigation on the affair.

[NOTE: I've no doubt Dolphins fans feel the same way as the players. Scapegoating the media is convenient and easy. Go for it in the comments section. It is predictable. But dismissing an issue that dominated the organization for nearly an entire month and still may lead to the suspension and/or firing of people as merely a media thing is unwise.]

Here comes two poor quarterbacks -- oh no

Go ahead, try to understand the Miami Dolphins. You cannot. It's impossible. They cannot be predicted. They cannot be understood.

And there is no more obvious way to illustrate this than to offer Miami's success against quarterbacks in 2013.

The Dolphins this year have beaten Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Impressive, right?

They have lost to, among others, rookie Mike Glennon of Tampa Bay and Thad Lewis, who started the year on the practice squad and was at the time Buffalo's fourth quarterback choice to start. The Dolphins also lost to Joe Flacco, who went on a tear last postseason to help Baltimore win the Super Bowl but this year is average at best with 18 TDs and 17 INTs and a QB rating that puts him 30th out of 35 rated signal callers.

And that is interesting only because in the final two games the Dolphins play two rookie quarterbacks -- one of whom is inconsistent and the other of whom has played quite poorly.

The Dolphins are in trouble!!!!

Seriously, the final two games against the Bills and Jets would seem to be a gross mismatch of a solid, veteran defense against two young QBs.

This week Miami faces E.J. Manuel, who is the 28th rated passer in the league tied with, get this, Matt Schaub. Manuel was injured during Miami's early-season loss to the Bills so he did not play. He's made five consecutive starts since returning from his knee injury. The Bills are 2-3 in those games and Manuel has been, well, inconsistent.

(At least he's consistent with his inconsistency).

Manuel completed over 70 percent of his passes in wins over the Jets and Jacksonville last week. He failed to complete even 60 percent in losses against Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, which was his personal meltdown game in which he threw four interceptions.

Let's just say Manuel is not a rookie phenom. He's held his own and that's about it.

Geno Smith has been a disaster this year, as the Dolphins saw for themselves Dec. 1 when he posted an 8.3 QB rating against them and was benched in a loss at MetLife Stadium.

Smith has thrown 21 interceptions. He's had five games in which he's failed to complete even 50 percent of his passes. He's had only one game where he's thrown more TDs than INTs in a game and that came Oct. 7. He's the lowest-rated NFL quarterback among starters with a 62.9 rating.

So he's not exactly the biggest challenge the Dolphins have faced this season.

All that should encourage a Dolphins fan. All that plays to the Dolphins' benefit.

Now, if the Dolphins can only do to the youngsters what they've done to far better quarterbacks -- namely, beat them -- everything will be good for Miami.