March 19, 2013

Morning Joe with Dolphins' coach Philbin

PHOENIX -- I had breakfast with Joe Philbin this morning. Actually he had a mandatory breakfast with all the media covering this event. He had a sausage and egg burrito, french toast, some fruit and coffee. I had everything else.

He spoke for about an hour.

The highlights:

Philbin discussed some of  his former Green Bay, some of which have been rumored as coming to the Dolphins. On Jermichael Finley: "Competed hard, practiced hard. Good guy."

Philbin on the read option: "It's a good play. We have it in our offense. But it's not a magical. You can stop it."

Philbin boils down Michael Egnew's problem last year gettig on the field: He talked about not seeing enough from him in practice. Made occassional play but it was rare. Then Philbin boiled it down by saying, "It's his play speed." Philbin wants Egnew to get his "speed it up." Yeah, not good.

The Dolphins studied Mike Wallace by studying every play he ran the past two years. They studied every catch. They studied every drop. They studied every pass patter he ran. Philbin said it's untrue Wallace is a one-trick pony, running only go routes. He added that Wallace won't be running go routes exclusively in Miami.

Philbin's expectations of Wallace? "Get open, catch the ball, hopefully make a couple of guys miss after. That's what a receiver does." 

Joe Philbin gushed about Greg Jennings and said the report that suggested Philbin didn't really like the former free agent wide receiver was untrue. "I don't know where that came from that Joe Philbin doesn't like him."

Philbin is a very even-keel guy. Not excitable. But he wants you, the fans, to get fired up. "I want our fans to expect us to be a good football team."

Philbin wants better production from his defense as far as turnovers: "I'd like us to be a better blitz team," he said. 

Philbin said part of reason Ellerbe and Wheeler were added was to get "more impactful plays.

Philbin said the team is not at stage to consider bringing in competition for Dan Carpenter but "we'll consider anything."

Philbin said John Jerry needs to stay on his feet better. But the primary thing the team is concerned about relative to Jerry is ... his weight. When Jerry left after the season he was told, "let's see how much you weigh when come back."

TE Dustin Keller's blocking has been called to question: "We have to be smart about game planning and what we ask him to do." Still has desire to do it."

I asked you Philbin if he's convinced Ryan Tannehill will become a good quarterback. He offered this: "There's nothing to me that suggests he's not going to be a good quarterback."

 ... And this: "I think he's going to be a very good quarterback, sure."

You've likely read me refer to 'Philbin guy" on this blog. What's a Philbin guy? "I want good decent people that want to be there, want to win. We can work with those kind of guys." And this: "I want a guy when shuts door on car and is in the building he's excited about being there ..."

Philbin says he feels team has established culture and free agents have to fit in to that. "Fall in line" is a term he used.

Philbin said he feels the team did too much meeting in classroom and not enough lifting so Dolphins are changing that this year.

Joe Philbin suggested the plan in free agency was to fill needs at all positions so the Dolphins could go into the draft feeling they could go in any direction they want. Meanwhile he's not satisfied with how thigns are today: "I don't know we're complete at any position."

You'll remember I've told you that the Dolphins believe Jonathan Martin can be a solid left tackle if he gets stronger but the question is will he want to do that? Will he work hard enough? Philbin said Martin is "all business and working at his trade" so he wants to get stronger, better. Philbin said Martin has to add consistency to his game. And, as a tackle, he has to block all defensive ends, "not 11 out 16 DEs" and do by himself. Consistently.

Philbin said it is only coincidence the Dolphins '12 leadership council, including Jake Long, Karlos Dansby and Reggie Bush are gone: "We think we have some excellent leaders on the football team now.

That's all for now. Check back again and again for updates from the NFL annual meeting.

March 28, 2012

Parcells would have served Miami better as coach

In the middle of last season's seven-game losing streak, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talked often of what he wanted to do with his football team going forward but occasionally allowed himself to ponder what might have been. And one of the things he wishes might have been revolved around Bill Parcells.

Ross told friends he thought the contract Wayne Huizenga gave Parcells was ridiculous. Ross inherited a dea that allowed Parcells to walk away from the team before his four-year term was complete and still collect the full promised salary of the deal -- somewhere between $12-$16 million.

Secondly, Ross told friends he wished he could have kept Parcells ... as his coach.

"He coaches this team, we'd be in a different situation," Ross told his associates. "We wouldn't be 0-5 [at the time]."

Ross, I am told, went so far as to consider offering Parcells the coaching job as far back as 2010.

And that's perhaps the thinking in New Orleans today. Parcells has been in contact with the Saints about myriad things -- in part because he often talks with coach Sean Payton, in part because Payton wants him to take over as the New Orleans interim coach.

Parcells and a Saints contingent met in Jupiter, Fla., where Parcells lives part of the year, on Tuesday. They reportedly played golf. If the job in New Orleans didn't come up, it is only because it has already been discussed numerous times since last week when the NFL announced Payton was to begin serving a one-year suspension for his role in the Saints' so-called Bountygate scandal.

Make no mistake: Parcells is intrigued by the idea of returning to coach, if only for nine or 10 months.

Last season, for example, an NFL team offered him a head coach job. He thought about it for 48 hours before turning it down. He didn't like the idea of picking up and moving. He didn't think he could assemble a good enough staff comprised of "his people." He didn't have a franchise quarterback on the roster. He certainly didn't need the money.

He said, "No, thank you."

"But when something like this comes up, it gets me going," Parcells told me, "and I have to admit it becomes very, very hard for me to say no."

Parcells may still say no to the Saints although the concerns he had last year don't exist in New Orleans. The staff is already in place. He will have a franchise quarterback and there is no appreciable rebuilding to be done. The opportunity is, by definition, temporary.

But there are things that counter-balance the lure of returning to the sideline. Parcells is now eligible for the Hall of Fame. He was a top 10 finalist for the Hall this year. If he returns to coaching, the five-year clock on his eligibility for HOF consideration will revert to zero. He would have to wait a minimum of five years before he gets his next chance at the Hall.

That is not something Parcells would dismiss lightly. He respects the game. He respects the NFL and what it has meant to him and his family. Getting into the Hall of Fame is important to him. At 70 years old and about to turn 71 in August, he wants to be alive when he eventually gets the vote to get in. If he takes the Saints job, he would be 77 at the earliest before he can get in.

I say all that to say this: Bill Parcells is still a prized commodity as an NFL head coach.

His time with the Dolphins was not, by any measure, a stellar one. He recognizes that. We all do. But I don't think Ross is the only one who wonders what might have been if Parcells had been coaching -- the thing he does best -- rather than sitting atop the organization and making personnel decisions.

Parcells, you see, had very little to do with the coaching of the team. Tony Sparano was extremely jealous of his spot as head football man and was vigilant not to be overshadowed by Parcells. Parcells similarly wanted to give Sparano every chance he could to succeed. So he gave Sparano space.

He didn't offer corrections. He didn't tell Sparano his opinion on things he thought the former coach was getting wrong. Parcells did this only if Sparano asked. And often times, Sparano didn't ask.

So Parcells would roam the sideline offering casual tips to players here and there. He would tweak their egos here and there. But he would not coach the Dolphins.

Then on Sundays he'd sit in his pressbox perch and call the shots on coaching flubs or miscues as they were happening or, in some instances, before they happened. On several occasions general manager Jeff Ireland sat with Parcells and I'm told asked Parcells how he knew what was about to go wrong.

"It's experience and it's part of being a good coach," Parcells said.

Ross thought Parcells would have been a good coach -- better than he was a personnel man. Another team shared that belief last year. The Saints are probably thinking the same now.

September 14, 2010

One final look at Bills victory and Jets news

First the news that indirectly affects the Miami Dolphins: Rex Ryan announced moments ago that NT Kris Jenkins is out for the season (again) after re-injuring the same knee that forced him to miss much of last season. Jenkins suffered the injury Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have signed defensive end Lionel Dotson off the Denver practice squad, according to the Herald's Barry Jackson. Kenny Zuckerman confirmed the signing to Jackson.

[Update: The Dotson signing makes sense because defensive end Jared Odrick is very likely out this week against Minnesota, according to test results the team got back today. Odrick's injury is not serious enough that he's done for the year. He is week to week. He will remain on the roster, obviously.]

I just went through the Miami Dolphins victory over Buffalo one last time. Here are my observations:

The pass rush: It was obviously very good and definitely not vanilla as it had been in preseason. You know already that the first sack of the year, which came when Karlos Dansby came on a blitz after he lined up outside of Cameron Wake, was a thing of beauty. Dansby came unblocked. But what you probably didn't notice is that it was a zone blitz. Even as the Dolphins brought four men and one was unblocked, nose tackle Randy Starks backed out into zone coverage in the middle of the field. Beautiful.

On the next series, the Dolphins answered the call on a third-and-two situation by sending six men after QB Trent Edwards. Six guys, including safety Yeremiah Bell. Koa Misi was unblocked this time and hurried Edwards although the QB completed the pass. On the next pass down, the Dolphins brought three-men and by this time Edwards' head was spinning. He wasn't really pressured by the thee-man rush, but hurried his throw anyway underneath.

When it was done, Dansby, Misi and Cameron Wake had sacks. Wake, by the way, showed exceptional quickness on his rushes. He had a hurry that caused an incompletion aside from his sack and was often around the QB. Starks, who had seven sacks a season ago, didn't pick up any Sunday but did have a batted pass.

Clock management: Normally this topic involves coaching. Not this time. This time it involves quarterback Chad Henne. One of the trademarks of a good offense is shutting the door on a comeback. The Dolphins had a chance to do that when they got the ball with 5:03 to play Sunday and did a good, not great job on closing that door. It would have been a much better job had Henne handled the play clock better. With the game and play clocks winding, Henne snapped the football with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on first down. He snapped it with 10 seconds remaining on the play clock on second down. He snapped it with nine seconds remaining on the play clock the next down. He snapped it with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on second-and-two.

What is the point? Henne is obviously trying to manage everything right now but he has to manage the play clock as well. If he snaps the ball with, say, two seconds remaining each of those times I just mentioned, that takes an extra 35 seconds off the game clock.

That means when the Bills get the ball back, they would have had 1:13 to work with instead of 1:48. That is a big difference, folks. Henne must learn and coaches must remind him that the clock can be his friend. As Sam Wyche would say, "Milk it, milk it, milk it!"

Double tight? Not so much: The Dolphins have made a virtual living off the double tight end formation in the last two seasons. It has been a staple with Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos or Anthony Fasano and David Martin. This year the Dolphins have keep Fasano and John Nalbone. They used the double tight end formation only four times the entire game. The Dolphins decided, at least in this game, that putting three-wides out there is more likely to open things up across the defense. Thank you, God! I hope it is a tendency that lasts.

The offensive line: The Dolphins yielded three sacks on Sunday. One of those was given up by an offensive lineman. Ricky Williams gave up a sack on a blitz in the first half and in the fourth quarter, Ronnie Brown and Fasano blocked the same edge rusher while Bryan Scott ran past Fasano on a delayed blitz. The other sack was given up by Vernon Carey. Don't get too down on Carey or left tackle Jake Long, however. They were very good. They were primarily in man-to-man situations on passing downs and they moved the pile extremely well in run blocking situations. The Dolphins also tried the unbalanced line on a handful of occasions -- placing Long on the right side outside of Carey. It had only mixed results.

John Jerry was fine most of the time. He had a couple of ugly moments where his technique put him in awkward situations. His footwork was off a little bit a couple times -- so much so that Henne tripped over him twice. But in the straight-ahead blocking department, he was good. The Dolphins used Incognito to pull on several occasions. It didn't really work. Incognito isn't smooth pulling out and running across the formation to lead the blocking going against the flow. He is, however, quite powerful in the straight ahead stuff. The Miami line is what it is in that they get a good push off the ball straight ahead. But fleet of foot? Not so much. I will say that if Miami runners start bouncing runs outside more, there is yardage to be made there. Ronnie Brown showed this a couple of times, including his 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. Williams didn't have his best game and seemed to be content keeping his running between the tackles.

A receiver rewind: Brandon Marshall had that one notable drop on the long pass. He took responsibility for it on the field, basically telling Henne it was his fault. But Marshall was very good both with what he contributed that appears on the stat sheet and the stuff that doesn't. He had one viscious block that leveled a Buffalo defender. And his mere presence helped Fasano be so readily available down the seam. Rookie Marlon Moore dropped the only pass thrown his way. Brian Hartline had a tough day also, dropping two passes and having a first-down catch erased by a penalty. Davone Bess was excellent, particularly in the second half. He practically took over at one point. I must tell you, Hartline needs to produce soon in games or Bess might take that second receiver job away from him.

The no-huddle defense: The Miami D yielded 39 yards during Buffalo's first nine drives of the game. Then the desperate Bills went to the no-huddle and went 80 yards in 10 plays for their only TD of the day. I think the Minnesota Vikings will see that. I believe Brett Favre is pretty good in the no-huddle offense. The Dolphins need to tighten this stuff up.

August 22, 2010

The postgame analysis of Dolphins 27-26 victory

As I tell you in my column off of tonight's 27-26 preseason victory for the Miami Dolphins over the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is plenty of good to celebrate and some bad to be worried about.

But the bottom line is the Dolphins showed improvement from preseason game one to preseason game two. I saw it. You saw. Coach Tony Sparano saw it.

 "I feel like we got a little bit better this week during the course of practice and I think Chad [Henne] and Brandon [Marshall] played a little bit better," Sparano said. "Chad was efficient with the football ... And I thought Brandon made some plays. One of the things I really enjoyed was Brandon with the ball in his hands. He's exactly what I thought we might have when he gets the ball in his hands.

"We weren't very good a week ago so making improvement this week was critical. And we have a long ways to go and there's a lot of areas out there we can get better in. I'm fine right now where our team is but we got to make the same kind of jump this week in practice.

"We're nowhere near where we plan to be, but I do believe we made some progress tonight."

The biggest jump was made by Henne, which is important because he plays the most important position on the field. He completed 11 of 14 passes with two of those incompletions the results of drops -- one by Ricky Williams and one by Brandon Marshall.

"The first series was a slow start but overall we're seeing things clearly out there and trying to be more effective and efficient in our offense," Henne said. 

Henne had a 55 yard TD pass to Anthony Fasano and an 11 yard TD to Fasano. Both showed how Brandon Marshall helps even when he's not catching the football. On the first, Marshall blew up two defenders with the block that sprung Fasano for the score. On the second, Marshall's presence opened things up for Fasano.

"They split the safety and tried to double-cover Brandon out there so Anthony came open with a linebacker and I threw it because the linebacker wasn't looking," Henne said.

All in all, the outing was a confidence-building experience for Henne.

"Coming out here and performing well definitely builds it up and helps you going into the next preseason game and going into the season," he said. 

The Dolphins went into the game thinking Chad Pennington would play only if Henne got his work in the first half. If that happened early enough, Pennington would get his preseason opportunity. That's how it played out as Pennington completed 3 of 4 passes and led a touchdown drive.

"I thought Chad did fine," Sparano said. "First of all it was tough duty. He knew going into the game that depending on what the situation was like at the end of the half, he may or may not play. So it's tough being in that kind of situation and as I've been saying all along, he gets it. He wanted to underthrow Brandon just a little bit on the deep throw and Brandon did a good job of working back to the ball ... He even ran one there so that was pretty nice."

Although much about this night came in a good-new package, there were the sour moments, too.

Pass protection was good early. Later it was bad. The team gave up five sacks. One of those sacks was yielded by the starting offensive line, the rest by the reserves.

The special teams were troubling.

"We had another kick blocked tonight which, to be honest, was a flat-out concentration error," Sparano said. "And they have some good returners. I thought it was up, it was down, It was inconsistent. Nolan [Carroll] had a couple of decent returns. It was up and down, a little inconsistent."

To be fair, the kick coverage team has been a mish-mash of personnel as coaches try to find the right combos. Sparano promised that will be resolved in the coming week.

While Henne looked good against the Jacksonville defense, David Garrard performed surgery on the Dolphins secondary. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 79 yards with one touchdown. His passer rating was 145.3.

"We had things there in man coverage that we didn't take care of," Sparano said. "That concerns me because it's two weeks in a row where the ball is completed down the field on us a few times. We had a couple of chunk plays. They're a good group, but we have to be able to clean some of that up."

I asked Sparano his thoughts about getting or not getting Pat White in the game. He said, "It's circumstance right now. I can't get four guys in the game every week. So I didn't get him in the game this week and that's the way it went."

My guess is that was only the thought he felt he could share. He probably really thought that White is the team's No. 4 QBs and getting No. 4 QBs in games is not really a big priority. After the game, White said he was told he would not be playing.

As you have read here already, he's on his way out, which is surprising because he was a second-round pick, but not surprising when the second-round pick is the No. 4 QB. Right now, it seems only a matter of when, not if, the Dolphins will jettison White.

Maybe they can get something for him in trade.

What can I say? I'm an optimistic kind of guy.