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3 posts from August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014

Cortland Finnegan is the nickel corner now

Training camp and the preseason is a time for experimenting and that's what the Dolphins are doing all over the field. And nowhere is there more experimenting than in the defensive backfield where the looming suspension of Reshad Jones has moved Jimmy Wilson to a starting safety job and left open the first-string nickel cornerback job.

The Dolphins have worked Cortland Finnegan, Will Davis and Jamar Taylor at the nickel. For right now and I assume until it is tested in a preseason game, the nickel job belongs to Finnegan with Taylor playing outside at cornerback with the first string.

"A lot of guys are capable," Finnegan said, sizing up the situation on Tuesday. "Will Davis does a great job, Jamar Taylor, Jimmy [Wilson] is the guy, myself. When the time is called, we'll all be ready. We've been all working it. We'll see how it works out in the game."

Finnegan said he was the Rams' nickel corner last season (For layman purposes, the nickel corner is the guy covering the slot receiver.)

That means if he's the starter in the base defense, Finnegan will be moving from outside in base to the nickel in the sub packages.

"I don't have a preference," Finnegan said. "Everyone's getting reps. We'll see when the coach decides. Everyone's capable. It's just a work in progress."

One supposes Davis and Taylor are competing for the outside corner job in the sub packages. Taylor holds the job for the moment but Davis, who is often around the football, will get an opportunity to win the job before the preseason is over.

On Tuesday the Dolphins finished the practice with their nickel defense backed up inside their 20-yard line against the first-team offense. Ryan Tannehill threw a practice-ending touchdown to pass to Rishard Matthews against the nickel defense.

Matthews beat Taylor for the score.

Like I said, the competition is still open.

Moore's uncertainty gives Philbin a chance to communicate

Amid much speculation about the Brady Quinn signing Monday, I told you this signing is mostly about Pat Devlin and shouldn't be considered a major challenge to Matt Moore's status as the Dolphins' backup quarterback.

All this assuming Moore does his work and isn't a disaster in the coming practices and preseason games.

But ...

When Moore came off the field after practice Tuesday he didn't sound exactly sure about his status. Not at all. Indeed, he sounded downright uncertain that he'll be on the team when the Sept. 7 opener kicks off.

"All I can control is what I can do and keep getting better and that's just how it is," said Moore who was then asked if his cap number ($5.5 million) might affect the team's decision to keep him or not. "They're going to do what they think they need to do. And all I can do is keep going and it really has no effect. If it does, I think I'm in trouble. Mentally, I just need to stay focused and continue to get better."

But here's the dilemma ...

The Dolphins haven't told Moore what his status is. They haven't told him he's their backup to Ryan Tannehill. They haven't told him Brady Quinn was brought in and could take his job.

They haven't said anything, Moore said.

"They told me, 'Hey we're bringing him in.' That's it. I said, 'cool,' " Moore said. 

 And that is somewhat understandable because, despite the fact Moore is most likely the backup for 2014, there is a caveat: What if Moore completely collapses during the preseason? What if Quinn suddenly finds a gear in his game he's never seemingly had before?

(Quinn didn't show that geat in practice Tuesday but it was his first day on the field with this team).

Anyway, Moore is in the dark.

Thus the relative insecurity.

Moore, who sat most of the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, said he's ready to compete now and expects to play on Saturday against Tampa Bay. Until then he understands his body of work in the offseason program and practices have to speak on his behalf. 

"I haven't played in a game yet so that's probably up in the air but I feel confident in what I've done, the body of work I put in during the spring," Moore said. "We got practices and preseason games coming up and I will have opportunities I imagine. You got to take full advantage of them."

Me? Why not spell things out for Moore?

Coach Joe Philbin has made a big deal about being more communicative with his players. Why doesn't the coach use his next bed check with Moore to simply lay out the facts?

If the Dolphins are eager to get rid of Moore for cap purposes -- not the case, folks, trust me on this -- the coach should spell it out to his veteran. Moore has earned that respect.

If Moore is on the bubble and has to not only play better than Quinn, which he should do, but play very well in the preseason to stay in Miami, then Philbin should tell him so. Why not? What harm would honest communication do?

Finally, if Moore just needs to keep his head down, grind, compete and not screw up, to keep his spot -- which I believe is the case -- then Philbin should tell Moore that, too.

Look, Matt Moore is a leader in the quarterback room. He is respected by veterans in the locker room. If Philbin wants to put action behind his promise of being more communicative with players then this is a good opportunity. 

Dolphins RB competition needs improvement

The Dolphins have a competition for the No. 3 running back job. The only problem is no one of consequence is actually competing for the job right now.

Daniel Thomas has a hamstring injury and has been out of practice eight days. He is not practicing today. That opened the door for Mike Gillislee to get more opportunities to win the job, or at minimum take a lead in the race for the job. But Gillislee has not been able to make the most of his chance.

Gillislee was unimpressive in the preseason opener against Atlanta, gaining 30 yards on eight carries (3.8 yards average) and then then he injured his hamstring in practice on Sunday -- neither is good news because he failed to impress to a great degree with his opportunity and now is sidelined and unable to show out in practice.

Well, the Dolphins have other running back options in camp: Orleans Darkwa, Damien Williams and Cameron Marshall was resigned for the third time on Monday. But it seems obvious to anyone with eyes none of these guys will be the answer.

So why not sign a running back? The Dolphins added quarterback Brady Quinn when Pat Devlin was unable to compete at quarterback. They have two running backs currently unable to compete and they add a retread Marshall who we already know is not going to factor?

Why not give Andre Brown, cut by the Texans after gaining 876 yards and averaging 4.1 yard per rush the past two years for the New York Giants, a try?

I'm not saying Andre Brown is Jim Brown.

I'm saying he is an upgrade over Cameron Marshall and Darkwa and others and could actually compete for a spot with Thomas and Gillislee -- both of whom aren't actually competing now anyway.

Thomas is making progress. He is running on the sideline and should be back practicing within the week. But is the idea to simply hand him or Gillislee the job?

Or is the idea to turn over stones and try to upgrade from players who, frankly, are backups and need to be pushed to make the team better?