September 18, 2014

Miami Dolphins OT problems seem solved so far

The Miami Dolphins still have an offensive line problem because the quarterback is getting sacked and the Pro Bowl center is still not playing (probably back by the Sept. 28 game vs. Oakland in London) and the running game has been hit and miss.

So football being a team sport and the offensive line being one unit, everyone says the Dolphins still have an offensive line problem.

But that is not entirely accurate.

The Dolphins do not have an offensive tackle problem right now.

Yes, the OTs are part of the unit and so they get lumped in with everyone else. But not here. Here I try to be a little more nuanced and, as the blog name says, in depth.

And left tackle Branden Albert and right tackle Ja'Wuan James are so far playing well. How well?

The Dolphins have played two games. Both men have gotten positive grades internally within the organization for both games.

And in understanding that you must have perspective on the depth (there goes the blog name again) of the problem these two guys are so far solving.

Remember 2013? Yeah, forgettable especially for the offensive line because of 58 sacks and blowup dolls and trays being thrown on the lunchroom floor and people going AWOL and the harassment scandal and the running game so inconsistent that third-and-one was a passing down.

Well, the truth is a lot of the line's on-field problems happened at the tackle positions. Indeed, a majority of the on-field issues happened at tackle.

The team did give up 58 sacks and the three tackles gave up 27 of those -- with Tyson Clabo yielding 13, Bryant McKinnie giving up seven and Jonathan Martin giving up seven in his shortened stint.

The Baltimore loss? Clabo. He gave up two sacks on consecutive plays late in the game that forced Miami to punt the ball away. The Ravens then drove for the winning field goal and afterward Clabo blamed himself for the loss.

The Buffalo loss at home? Clabo again. Mario Williams won consecutive one-on-one matchups against Clabo to record two sacks, including a strip sack that set up the Bills for their eventual game-winning field goal.

So It was on the tackles a lot last year.

And that's the reason the Dolphins poured so many resources into the position this year. General Manager Dennis Hickey paid Branden Albert $46 million over five years with $25 million guaranteed to sign as a free agent.

And so far, Albert has lived up to the contract. He has not allowed a sack this season. Not in the preseason. Not in the first two games of the regular season. That's why he's highly rated by metrics services and anyone with eyes.

"That’s cool," Albert said, "but, I’ve still got to do better to help this team. So I’m going to keep striving to do that. I’m not worried about what people think of me. I’m going to worry about what my teammates, coaches and fan base think of how I’m playing. So that’s all I worry about."

(Newsflash: Players, coaches and the fanbase are people, too).

Anyway, Hickey also invested his first round draft pick on Ja"Wuan James. And James got the requisite four-year deal worth $8.4 million with $4.45 as a signing bonus. Worth every penny so far.

James has started at right tackle from day one and has only given up one sack this season. But ... The sack came Sunday against Buffalo when Mario Williams got to Tannehill. But if you look at the play, the problem started when Shelley Smith lost the one-on-one match with his man who then wrapped himself around Tannehill. The Miami quarterback shed that attempted sack and stumbled straight into Williams who was still locked up with James. 

Williams gets the sack. James gives up the sack. But not really.

“I would say he spent a fair amount of time one-on-one against him," coach Joe Philbin said of James matching up against Williams. "I thought he played well. I think in both games he’s played pretty well. He’s got a lot of things to work on and improve, but again I think if you are going to play offensive tackle in the National Football League, at some point in time, you have to demonstrate the ability you can block a defensive end one-on-one. He certainly wasn’t perfect. He’s got a long way to go, but there are some good pictures on film if you study the tape of him blocking whoever lines up against him. It was encouraging."

Considering last year, absolutely.

Perhaps it is too early to declare the Dolphins' offensive tackle problems solved. But so far so good.  

[BLOG NOTE: Today is the first day of you needing to comment via facebook, a new Miami Herald policy for its blogs. Log in and have at it. Enjoy the exchange of ideas.]

September 17, 2014

Reshad Jones joins Jordan, remains on suspended list

Reshad Jones isn't coming back early, either.

The Miami Dolphins safety will not have his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs lifted this week, despite earlier reports by some media, even as the NFL and NFL Players Association today are expected to announce a new policy, The Miami Herald has learned.

[Update: A source close to Jones confirms now that he's been told he's not returning early.]

Jones remains on the suspended list along with teammate Dion Jordan, about whom The Herald reported Tuesday would also not have his suspension lifted.

So why are the two Dolphins players still suspended while other players around the NFL, such as Denver receiver Wes Welker and Dallas safety Orlando Scandrick, are being informed they can report to work as early as Wednesday?

The players under the performance enhancing substance policy suspensions being allowed back before their suspensions run their course tested positive in the offseason for amphetemines, which under the old drug policy were treated the same as performance enhancers thus were subject to the same four-game suspension upon the first positive test.

Those players' offseason amphetemine positive tests now are dealt with differently under the new drug policy.

Now, players testing positive for amphetemines in the offseason will be remanded to the recreational drug policy which allows for extra testing and counseling upon a first positive test but not a suspension.

Inseason positives for amphetemines will be treated same as before -- meaning there will be suspensions upon a first positive test result.

The fact neither Jones nor Jordan fall under the group who tested positive for amphetemines and will remain suspended suggests they tested positive for something other than amphetemines.

Both Jordan and Jones can return to the Dolphins on Sept. 29 -- one day after the team plays its fourth game of the season. The Dolphins will play Kansas City this weekend and Oakland on Sept. 28 before the players are allowed to return.

September 13, 2014

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo

It is going to be electric in Buffalo on Sunday. The team is welcoming Jim Kelly to the game and I would not be surprised if he doesn't address the crowd or perhaps even the team before the game. The team is also introducing Terry Pegula, the Buffalo Sabres owner who has reached agreement to buy the Bills. Pegula has promised to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

So there are intangibles working for Buffalo on Sunday.

I'm picking the Dolphins 24-21. Basically, I don't believe in Buffalo QB E.J. Manuel.

Here are the keys to the game:

When the Bills pass the football: The Bills are not a proven passing team. Despite the fact they invested heavily to draft wide receiver Sammy Watkins this year and invested heavily to draft quarterback E.J. Manuel last year, this team is a question mark throwing the football. Last week the Bills threw for a modest (modest is a nice word for paltry) 169 yards. That’s not scaring anyone. Until Watkins proves he is the same beast in the NFL he was at Clemson and until Manuel proves he’s an accurate, polished NFL passer, the Bills will likely see teams stack the tackle box to stop a very good running game while daring them to throw. The Dolphins are definitely going to throw multiple fronts at the Bills, including a four-man line, a three-man line and even a five-man line. They will zone blitz and count on ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon to win their matchup against Buffalo’s offensive tackles. Vernon should be no stranger to Buffalo tackle Seantrel Henderson. They both played and practiced against one another at the University of Miami. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Bills run the football: The Bills make their living running the football. It’s been that way in the past and they have picked up were they’ve previously left off, having averaged 5.8 yards per carry while gashing the Chicago Bears for 193 yards last week. C.J. Spiller, the smallish, fast back, is the primary ballcarrier. He does a lot of work inside but has the speed to go 70 yards on a given play. Fred Jackson is the bigger, slower but also more instinctive ballcarrier. The Dolphins should be wary of quarterback E.J. Manuel running the ball, particularly in the red zone. Although Manuel isn’t a scrambler and actually was injured last year against Cleveland while running, he can pick his spots. He did so last week, keeping on a spread option play and scoring on a six-yard run. The Dolphins know to win this game they must stop Buffalo’s run game. So even with all three of their starting linebackers out of the game, the Dolphins will commit to this up front even if it exposes them some to play-action. If the Dolphins stop the run, the Bills cannot win. ADVANTAGE: Buffalo.

When the Dolphins pass the football: Ryan Tannehill has picked up where he left off last season but in some instances that’s not a good thing. Last week Tannehill failed to connect on three potential TD passes to Mike Wallace when he delivered poor throws to a wide-open receiver. (OK, one that Wallace caught out of bounds in the end zone might have been a TD with a better effort). The point is Tannehill left a lot of points on the field instead of on the scoreboard. The Dolphins also want to welcome Charles Clay into the season. He not only was bracketed in coverage by the Patriots in coverage last week, making him hard to find, but also had a drop that might have resulted in a touchdown. He can be a dynamic player. The Dolphins want him to start being that now. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: Knowshon Moreno is the NFL’s leading rusher after one week. And although common thinking suggests that will not be the case after this game because the Bills are supposedly very good up front and good against the run, consider this: The Dolphins have seen holes in the Buffalo front in that it sometimes suffers from its linebackers over-pursuing. When linebackers over-pursue, that opens up cutback lanes. And the Dolphins’ zone blocking scheme is perfectly suited for providing cutback lanes. So what happens when a run game built to create cut back lanes meets a defense that sometimes over-pursues and allows cut back lanes? Big holes. The Bills can obviously dash Miami’s hopes of running by winning at the line of scrimmage and keeping discipline among its linebackers. Pretty simple, really. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: Dan Carpenter is better than Caleb Sturgis. Let’s agree on that. But the Dolphins’ second-year kicker nonetheless connected on all four of his kicks last week, giving him a very good start to the season. The Miami special teams are capable of big plays as proven when they set the tone immediately and gave the offense a short field with a blocked punt against New England. Jarvis Landry was very good on kick returns and that’s why his 28-yard per return average ranks fourth in the NFL. Landry was solid (not great) on punt returns. Colton Schmidt has taken over the punting duties for the Bills from Brian Moorman, who was the punter the past dozen years and did it so well he was on the team’s 50th anniversary team. Moorman was cut in August an all but announced his retirement. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: Joe Philbin has put a different looking team on the field, if the season-opener against New England can be believed. That, in part, is due to him doing a better job and having better assistants that are upgrades over last year. Last year, coach Mike Sherman was thrilled when Mike Wallace caught three passes for 59 yards in a game. This week, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor criticized his offense that put up 33 points and implored them to be better. Doug Marrone is coaching for his job. New ownership in Buffalo is on the way so this year is the year for Bills coaches. Meaning? They are obviously motivated to succeed. The fact they’ve had success against the Dolphins in the past gives them a slight edge. Philbin has not won in Buffalo as the Dolphins coach. ADVANTAGE: Buffalo.

September 12, 2014

Miami Dolphins rally to side of cancer-stricken fan

Miami Dolphins fan Michael Smith has all but lost his fight with stage 4 colon cancer. After nearly three years of chemotherapy and antibiotics and hospital stay after hospital stay after hospital stay, the Smiths signed the documents to place the 42-year-old former aircraft mechanic in hospice last week.

"It's a new step for us, but a very hard step for us as well," said Amy Chandler-Smith, Michael's wife. "There's a realization one comes to when you sign papers to go to hospice. It's a huge, huge thing. Because you're admitting defeat. Photo 3

"He's a fighter and he's always been a fighter. He's always fought for his family. He's always taken care of his family, and now it's admitting you have to give up. There's nothing else you can do.

"There's no more treatment for him. He can't get any more chemo. He's gotten too much antibiotics and his kidneys and liver are having issues. If he gets any more they'll start making him more sick."

It's bad.

Michael is gaunt. His face is drawn and colorless. And the picture of him in that bed at Hospice by the Sea at Memorial Hospital South in Hollywood speaks to his prognosis.

"It's terminal," Amy said. "He's kind of the light's are on but no one is home right now. He'll have moments when he'll be up and be fine and talking and be okay and there's other times when he's lost and in la-la land and he kind of looks through you and not at you.

"The cancer has taken a toll."

The cancer is obviously winning. But despite this the Dolphins learned of their fan's dire situation and have rallied to his bedside.

They cannot save him. There are some things not even an NFL team can do. But they can acknowledge him. They can encourage him.

And they're doing just that.

It started oddly enough. On Sunday, when the Dolphins opened the regular season, the Smiths gathered by Michael's bed. Amy dressed her husband in his Dolphins gear.

"Oh my God, he is just the biggest fan." she said, "And this was just my husband putting on his Dolphins gear. I got him ready for the game. I was, 'Mike, it's the Dolphins, it's the season,' So we got ready."

The shirt Michael wore reads, "We are a Dolphins family."

"That's because we are a Dolphins family," Amy said. "We're true, true, true Dolphins fans. Good or bad. Rain or shine. We've always supported the Dolphins."

Sunday was a good day. The Dolphins won. And much more importantly but not to be dismissed as assumed, Michael survived the day.

That night, laying in bed, Amy recounted the day and what the football team meant to her husband. Right then she decided it really would be great to have her husband perhaps meet a Dolphin before he passes.

So she got on the phone and called friends, who called friends, who got on social media and reached out to the team.

"The next day there were Dolphins calling me," Amy said. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a Dolphin here, let alone the next day, let alone a parade of past and present Dolphins here. We've had so many it's amazing."

Photo 2<---- Mark Duper was the first to visit.

Troy Drayton visited.

Zach Thomas called because he was going out of town. He promised to get back in touch today when he returns.

Derrick Rodgers called. Rogers then had Tim Bowens call. Lousaka Polite is visiting today. He asked if he could bring anything like "snacks, books, anything."

Roy Foster visited.

Three current players visited Wednesday at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Rookies Ja'Wuan James, Arthur Lynch and Billy Turner visited after their work day at the training facility had ended.

"It's an amazing outpouring," Amy said. "I'm so blown away. They have been truly beyond amazing."

Those visits and precious moments have been priceless for Michael and the family. But there are still other issues.

Michael had to stop working shortly after being diagnosed in November 2011. He tried to go back but couldn't do the job. The family lived on disability income and with no insurance had to rely on Medicaid from the state.

Then the medical bills began to pour in. The radiation bills alone were roughly $60,000, Amy said. And it does not stop there. There's ambulance bills, hospital stays, medicine.

"Astronomical," Amy said. "We get bills every day. I get a bill or two in the mail every day. To be honest with you, I haven't opened many of them. I can't afford to pay them. Getting them every day in the mail, they just sit in a pile. I'm scared to open them because I can't afford to pay them."

The family -- including the five children ranging in ages from 20 to seven years old -- had to downsize.

"We've had to downgrade everything," Amy said. "We've had to move into my mother-in-law's." 

The Dolphins have not helped the Smiths financially. Nor has anyone asked them to do so.

"Asking for money is odd to me," Amy said. Photo 1

But a company named HealthDonor has come along side the Smiths to try to help raise money. The company operates a crowd-funding platform to help people raise money for individuals with unexpected medical expenses in their time of greatest need.

One hundred percent of the donated money goes the beneficiary. If you wish to help the Smiths go to this link and kindly do so. You'd be helping someone in the Dolphins family. I checked the site out.

At the time of this writing $360 had been pledged to help the Smiths.

[Update at 10 p.m.: I'm told that Michael Smith died Friday afternoon surrounded by his family. May he rest in peace.]

 

September 11, 2014

Joe Philbin has improved Miami Dolphins coaching staff

Joe Philbin has not won in Buffalo as the Dolphins head coach.

He lost in Buffalo in 2012 -- final score 19-14 -- and he lost in Buffalo last season -- with that one going down in the media guide as a 19-0 score.

So why do I bring up this sour fact while you're still shopping for hotels in Phoenix for Super Bowl 49, following last week's season-opening win over New England?

To say this: The Dolphins go to Buffalo again this weekend. And while the same head coach is leading this Miami team, it is already clear it is a different type of coaching staff.

This one?

Better. Upgraded.

The view from multiple angles is that when Philbin relented (because he didn't want to) and fired friend, mentor and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and then replaced him with Bill Lazor, the Dolphins head coach did himself and the franchise a service.

In getting Lazor, Philbin picked a rising commodity in the coaching ranks. Multiple NFL people have told me Lazor will be a head coach candidate within three-to-five years assuming his work continues its current trajectory. He is demanding. He is "real," with players as quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday. And he's got a good scheme that has pulled plays from his multiple experiences and stops both in the NFL and college.

“He’s been great. He wants to be great. He wants to score a lot of points," Tannehill said. "He wants me to play well and that’s what I want. It’s been good to have him push me along and teach me the ins and outs of the offense and expect to play well. That’s what I like."

Dolphins offensive linemen also have a growing kinship not just with offensive line assistant John Benton but his offensive line assistant Jack Bicknell Jr.

This is not meant as a putdown but it is a fact: The Dolphins' offensive line coach the last two years had never coached in the NFL before coming to Miami with Philbin in 2012. Jim Turner was a career college coach.

This year the Dolphins offensive linemen get coached by men with a combined 15 NFL seasons of experience. Benton has been coaching NFL players 10 years in St. Louis and Houston; Bicknell Jr. has made stops with the Giants, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, the last two as the lead OL coach.

So aside from the fact GM Dennis Hickey upgraded the tackles a great deal and addressed the interior line well enough to hold the proverbial fort until Mike Pouncey returns, these two guys have indeed brought the talent -- all new to each other -- together very quickly.

I'm not saying they are going to be the Great Wall of China. But the Patriots did show multiple fronts against the Miami line on Sunday and the adjustments got made. There were some technical issues, but it was the first game out.

Then there's the linebackers coach.

George Edwards, who as the linebacker coach last year, had tons of experience. He'd coached with the Redskins, Cowboys, Browns, and was even the Bills defensive coordinator in 2010-11.

But something wasn't translating. Something didn't click last year with the LBs. And it may have been predictable based on what I was told in 2012.

"We got guys in the room underperforming and I think he's one of them," one linebacker told me of Edwards in 2012.

Alrightie then.

New linebacker coach Mark Duffner is equally experienced, having spent time with Jacksonville and Green Bay and Cincinnati. I don't know him from Adam, honestly, but I hear around the league he is very well respected as hard-working, loyal and capable assistant. He pushes players. He teaches well, I'm told.

The proof seems to be that when the Dolphins had zero starting linebackers in the game on Sunday, the reserves played well.

I'm not saying the reserves didn't make any miscues. But the results are the results.

So what does all this mean?

I'm not saying the Dolphins are beating the Bills or going undefeated or you should get back to that call booking the Phoenix hotel room.

I'm saying Joe Philbin has improved the group of coaches supporting him. That already is apparent.

Source: Misi, Wheeler out for Buffalo

The Miami Dolphins will be without all three of their starting linebackers on Sunday when they play the Buffalo Bills, as Koa Misi, nursing an ankle injury, and Phillip Wheeler, still nursing a thumb injury, will join Dannell Ellerbe, who is out for the year, on the sideline.

A source familiar with the status of the players told The Herald Thursday morning that Wheeler and Misi could return to the lineup as soon as the Sept. 21 game against Kansas City.

The only issue with that is the Dolphins play the Bills before then. The Bills rushed for 193 yards in a victory over Chicago last week and that makes them the NFL's No. 3-ranked rushing team. 

The Dolphins will have to slow Buffalo's rushing stampede with a linebacker corps that consists entirely of reserve players.

Jason Trusnik is expected to play in place of Misi at middle linebacker.

Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny are expected to man the outside linebacker spots.

There is also a chance the Dolphins could integrate recently acquired Kelvin Sheppard into the mix. At the very least, the former Bills and Colts linebacker is expected to be active for the game and probably play on special teams only six days after joining the team.

The Dolphins linebacker corps is something of a M.A.S.H unit right now.

Rookie Jordan Tripp (chest) has already been ruled out by the team. Fellow rookie Chris McCain, who had a blocked punt and a sack in his NFL debut, has missed the past two days of practice dealing with an illness and a hip injury.

McCain is expected to be available on Sunday, however, barring some sort of physical setback.

[BLOG NOTE: Today is Sept. 11. I want to take a moment to honor and memorialize the passing of those who died during the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. On a personal note, I also wish to memorialize the passing of my mom on 9-11-2009. Love you, Mami.] 

September 10, 2014

Wallace: Miami Dolphins could have scored 50

The Dolphins are still basking, at least a litte bit, in the afterglow of their 33-20 victory over New England in the regular-season opener and part of that is recognizing what went right and what went wrong.

And although plenty went wrong enough on offense that needs correcting, that fact also speaks to this truth:

"Honestly, it's not bragging or boasting but but I honestly feel like we could have scored at least 50 points," Wallace said Wednesday.

Wait, Wallace thinks the Dolphins could have hung 50 on the New England Patriots? On defensive guru Bill Belichick?

Well, you might think so too also after hearing Wallace go through the litany of mistakes the Dolphins made to stop themselves.

"I had a fumble early in the game, Lamar [Miller] had a fumble, we had a double move that should have been a touchdown, we had an interception when I ran a post that should have been a touchdown, we had a throw to Clay (which he dropped) that should have been a touchdown, we missed wide open ones," Wallace said. "That's already 21 more points so we could have had 50."

Actually, Wallace seemingly forgot a throw to Dion Sims that should have been a touchdown which he dropped. So that's four more points as the Dolphins settled for a field goal.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Monday and quarterback Ryan Tannehill Wednesday talked about leaving points on the field.

The Dolphins have apparently been adding those points up. Yes, had they made all the plays, they might have eclipsed 50 last Sunday. 

 

Miami Dolphins missing key players in practice

The Miami Dolphins are practicing today but the defense is working a lot of backups because starters Randy Starks and Koa Misi missed practice to add to the absence of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe who is on injured reserve.

The Dolphins defense in practice today is without players that combined for 453 tackles, including 26 for loss in 2013. This according to math genius of The Herald's Adam Beasley.

Starks is wearing a boot on his left foot. He was working with trainers to rehab whatever injury he is suffering. Misi, who missed three quarters last week with an ankle sprain, was in a cast on his left ankle. A cast is not an boot. It suggests a more serious injury.

The Miami linebacker corps is decimated with two starters  -- Ellerbe and Misi -- either definitely out or trending that way. Even Phillip Wheeler who is practicing at least on a limited basis is still lessened because he is still wearing the cast on his right hand, wrist and thumb that he wore last week to attend to his fractured thumb.

Wheeler was unable to play with his injury last week.

Obviously, if the Dolphins must resort to backups, the candidates are Jason Trusnik handling the chores in the middle for Misi and Jelani Jenkins handling the Ellerbe position at weakside outside linebacker as he did last weekend against New England.

There's obviously is a chance the Dolphins can integrate newly acquired Kelvin Sheppard into the lineup or use Jonathan Freeny if Wheeler cannot go against the Bills.

So the LB corps would be something akin to Trusnik, Jenkins and Sheppard or Freeny if the starters are out -- which is a very real possibility.

The Starks injury is worrisome because he is a starting caliber player. And although the Dolphins have Earl Mitchell and Jared Odrick, the run stopping defense becomes a concern if Starks cannot play, compounding the loss of practically the entire linebacker corps.

Interestingly, Starks practiced on Tuesday. So this injury happened since then.

We're not done. 

The Dolphins are limited in backups they have working in practice. Linebacker Jordan Tripp (chest) is still not practicing and hasn't worked since the preseason finale. Linebacker Chris McCain (hip, illness) was not at practice today for the second consecutive day.

We're not done, folks.

Offensive lineman Billy Turner is still in a boot and did not work during the portion of practice open to the media.

Center Mike Pouncey been running but still has not been cleared to practice. He will not play against the Bills.

Rookie Terrence Fede, who has not practiced in three weeks because of a knee injury, also is not practicing and will not play against Buffalo. His loss, not a major problem in the opener because most everyone was healthy, starts to become more pronounced with Starks in a boot and other defenders hurt.

Miami Dolphins believe Bills have best D front

We know what the Bills did to the Dolphins last season.

(Quickie lesson in recall: Teams played twice, Bills won both despite starting a third-string QB who is not even in the NFL right now because their defense, particularly their defensive front, dominated the Dolphins offensive line.)

Well, that memory I suppose is the basis of a theory that is circulating the Dolphins locker room that is coming from coaches: The Bill have the best defensive front seven the Dolphins will see this year.

“We just game-planned him a little bit today," right tackle Ja'Wuan James was saying. "They were saying this is probably going to be the best line we are going to face all year, so we just have to prepare, prepare like we just did for (the Patriots) game and help the team to get better."

Let's pause here to consider the idea of the Bills being the best defensive line the Dolphins face this year.

The Dolphins will play the Jets. They have a fine defensive front -- with Wilkerson, Richardson, Harris and them.

The Dolphins will play Baltimore. They have a fine defensive front -- Suggs, Ngata, Canty, Smith

The Dolphins will play Denver. They have a fine defensive front, particularly at linebacker with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller and Danny Trevathan.

The Dolphins will play Detroit. They have a fine deensive front -- Suh, Fairley, Levy, Tulluch.

And I haven't even mentioned the Bears and Packers who will bring challenges with players named Jared Allen, Lance Briggs, Lamarr Houston,  Julius Peppers and  Clay Matthews.

Also, the Bills got good but not great results against Chicago last Sunday. The Bills held the Bears to 86 rushing yards and are the No. 11 run defense now. Well, the Dolphins, led by AFC defensive player of the week Cameron Wake, held New England to 89 rush yards and are No. 12 in the league against the run.

So are the Bills dominant so far?

Regardless, the Miami Dolphins see the Buffalo Bills as probably their biggest challenge of the year up front.

And you know what?

They are probably correct.

The Bills suffered a serious blow to their defensive front when they lost linebacker Kiko Alonso in the offseason. But, frankly, they still intimidate.

Mario Williams is a $100-million-plus defensive end and no one in Buffalo is saying he's overpaid. Kyle Williams is a good veteran and Marcell Dareus, despite off field problems, is a rising player. Brandon Spikes is not a three-down linebacker in my estimation but he is outstanding against the run. Keith Rivers is solid at strongside linebacker, and the depth of the unit is solid so they simply keep coming.

It will be a challenge for a Dolphins offensive line that played very, very well against the Patriots. If they can play well against the defensive front they see as probably the best they face all season, the Dolphins may have something here.

November 09, 2013

Incognito violated NFL policy before but was he sanctioned?

In my column in today's Miami Herald I reference that golf outing incident during Fins Weekend in May of 2012 when Richie Incognito apparently sexually harassed and otherwise commited simple battery on an unemployed black woman who was volunteering as a hole monitor at the tournament.

The police report right here suggests Incognito acted like something of an oaf and bully.

According to the victim, Incognito used his golf club to touch her by rubbing it up against her vagina, then up her stomach then to her chest. He then used the club to knock sunglasses off the top of her head. After that, he proceeded to lean up against her buttocks with his private parts as if dancing, saying "Let it rain. Let it rain." He finally finished by emptying a bottled water on her face.

This is not in dispute. This happened. I have spoken to people who attended and the incident was the talk of the day. 

So why did we not hear anything about it until now? Well, Incognito and the Dolphins did a bang-up job of making the issue go away. The victim was paid off. And the team swept the issue under the proverbial rug.

Coach Joe Philbin, who was in his third month as Dolphins coach at the time, didn't cut Incognito. Oh, the coach was seen that season as standing up for the right kind of players, as Miami cut Chad Johnson after his domestic violence issue and traded Vontae Davis because, in part, he went to the bathroom too much during practice.

But Incognito, who did this misdeed, remained part of the team and locker room. He was one of the men Philbin talked about when he often said the Dolphins have the right kind of character in the locker room.

And still that is not the most worrisome thing here.

You see, this incident was a clear violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

The policy reads, in part:

"While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

Furthermore, NFL policy demands that clubs report any incident that possibly violates the conduct policy to the NFL. There are no exceptions. The fact no arrest was made or no conviction reached does not relieve the club from the burden of alerting the NFL.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in the NFL's court.

So did the Dolphins call the NFL or blow off the policy?

Did the NFL investigate or not?

Was there punishment on Incognito or not for this obvious violation of the NFL Conduct Policy?

I contacted the NFL on Friday and was told by a spokesman the league would not comment, citing the fact the league is not commenting on Incognito during its current investigation relative to the Jonathan Martin issue.

The Dolphins similarly are not commenting.

Here's the thing: Incognito missed no games, thus he was not suspended either by the league or the Dolphins. He was not cut from the team nor banished by the league. The strongest punishment he could have received, if any, was a fine that was not announced by the NFL.

(By the way, persons violating the policy are generally required to undergo a clinical evaluation and based on the results, may have to get counseling or treatment of some type. But regardless of whether the person gets counseling or treatment, those are not considered punishment).

The point is if the Dolphins and the NFL did their jobs in the 2012 incident, Incognito now faces sanctions as a repeat offender of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. That would be bad for Incognito.

According to the policy:

"With respect to repeat offenders, the Commissioner may impose discipline on an enhanced and/or expedited basis. In such cases, the timing and nature of the discipline will be determined by the Commissioner based on several factors including but not limited to: the severity of the initial charge and later charge; the facts underlying the later charge; the length of time between the initial offense and later charge; and the player or employee’s compliance with counseling and other programs. Following a full investigation and/or resolution of the proceedings, the Commissioner will review the matter and make any appropriate adjustments."

That assumes action the first time a year ago. 

But if the club or the league looked the other way last year, then Incognito's alleged harassing of a 6-5 teammate got the Dolphins' and NFL's attention like the harassing of a 5-5 "civilian" woman could not. And that would look bad for the institutions.

October 31, 2013

Dolphins starting to string embarrassments together

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

Consider:

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

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 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 23, 2013

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:

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

October 07, 2013

Bye week so see you next Monday

The Dolphins bye week is here so I won't be around this week.

No, I'm not on vacation or being lazy. Let's just say I'm "off" so to speak. So I won't be posting.

I will, however post whatever thoughts and information come to me -- including the weekly ProFootballFocus.com analysis -- on my personal twitter account.

Follow me here for updates. The handle is @ArmandoSalguero.

Before I go, let me leave you with my column in today's Miami Herald. I write about the offensive line that is so troubling for Miami.

The Dolphins gave up six more sacks on Sunday. Simply, the Dolphins have to come up with options to fix the problem because as Saul said on Breaking Bad, "the monkeys are in the banana patch." The Dolphins are being over-run. And under seige is no way for a young quarterback such as Ryan Tannehill to go through a season.

Talk to you next week.

October 04, 2013

Dolphins must do something at RT

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have made trades in the past week to try to salvage their season. Perhaps they were desperate moves. Perhaps, but they were moves by general managers who have each won multiple Super Bowls and believe in doing everything they can to help their teams improve now.

Perhaps the Dolphins need to get themselves in that kind of company and mindset.

The Dolphins, 3-1 and thick in the hunt for a playoff spot, have a serious problem on their hands in that they cannot protect their quarterback. They can't keep Ryan Tannehill upright as the 18 sacks they've allowed not only suggests but screams at full throat.

So rather than just sitting around and hoping and praying and acting like hard work is going to suddenly turn Tyson Clabo into a 26-year-old version of himself rather than the 32-year-old version we've seen give up four sacks in four games, perhaps the Dolphins should start shopping for an offensive tackle.

Or perhaps the Dolphins should consider moving people around to address that right tackle issue internally.

Either way, perhaps the Dolphins would be better off doing something instead of nothing.

So what can they explore?

Well, I do not blame the Dolphins for not being in on Levi Brown, who was traded from Arizona to Pittsburgh. He's frankly not much of an upgrade on any level. I don't blame them for missing out on Eugene Monroe, who was traded from Jacksonville to Baltimore.

Don't get me wrong, it would have made sense to get Monroe and start him on Sunday at left tackle while moving Jonathan Martin to right tackle. That would have been a good move, considering Monroe instead will be lining up against the Dolphins on Sunday because the Ravens gave up an undisclosed third-day-of-the-draft pick (somewhere between the fourth and seventh round) to get him this week.

A league source has confirmed for me that Jacksonville didn't really make the usual round of phone calls to the entire league to make Monroe available. So the Dolphins apparently didn't know Monroe was available.

But as the trade deadline approaches at the end of this month, perhaps it is time to be more proactive. Perhaps rather than wait on teams to call and say they have players available, maybe the Dolphins should start calling to see if players are available.

There's nothing wrong with being an active shopper.

The Ravens proved this when they called about Monroe and got a good player who wasn't really on the market.

So maybe a call to Tampa Bay to see if Donald Penn is available might be warranted for Miami. This, by the way, was suggested to me by a twitter follower. And looking at it, Penn is playing great and although he's very expensive, he's earning that pay. He'd be a huge upgrade for Miami.

Why would the Bucs trade him?

Well, they probably wouldn't but they did reportedly call the Dolphins to see if Miami would be interested in quarterback Josh Freeman. (The Dolphins obviously said no). So the Bucs are sort of rebuilding. Penn is 30 years old and maybe Tampa Bay can be convinced that a draft pick next year (maybe a third or even a second?) is good business because Penn is 30, expensive, and they aren't winning any titles anytime soon with a rookie QB, anyway.

It's a shot in the dark. And it beats taking no shot at all.

Maybe the Dolphins this weekend arrange a little discussion between Jeff Ireland and Ozzie Newsome. The Dolphins and Ravens GMs can talk about Bryant McKinnie. Maybe after Sunday's game is over, the Dolphins can send a seventh-round pick or perhaps a bag of bolts and door handles to the Ravens for McKinnie.

McKinnie, by the way, isn't the player he once was. He was once dominant. But he's partied too hard and gotten too soft to be very good anymore. His feet are slower. His belly is bigger. He's no longer a star, which is the reason the Ravens are replacing him with Monroe.

But you know what? The combination of LT McKinnie and RT Jonathan Martin is better than the combination of LT Martin and RT Clabo. And maybe McKinnie can lose weight in the Miami heat (Yeah, it is still hot down here). And, again, the Dolphins aren't exactly paying a premium for McKinnie, a player they liked in the spring.

McKinnie, by the way, is available according to a league source. And the idea of a deal is not unfamiliar to him as he raised it himself in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.

"We'll see," McKinnie said Thursday in his usual Australian accent (kidding), "maybe a trade, who knows?"

Obviously, those are not the only two tackles the Dolphins should explore. Explore everyone. Don't. Just. Sit. There.

Don't buy the fiction Joe Phiblin authors when he talks about guys working hard and getting better when the proof on the field truthfully counters that they are not getting any better. Some guys have maximized. Some guys have worked and they are who they are.

Change is needed.

Look in all crooks and nannies for that change. (See what I did there?)

One of the places, by the way, where the Dolphins should look is internally. That's right, on their very own roster.

No, I'm not advocating playing Dallas Thomas. The Dolphins are not that desperate.

I am advocating looking to see if perhaps Nate Garner can compete at right tackle. I am further advocating looking to see if perhaps moving John Jerry from right guard to right tackle might be suitable?

If you recall, Jerry finsished the 2011 season as Miami's left tackle. And he did a credible job when Jake Long went to his annual December appointment with the injured reserve list. The next year, the Dolphins moved him to guard and he's been starting but not starring there ever since.

Jerry is no great shakes at guard. And he'll probably be a mediocre-at-best tackle. But mediocre is still an upgrade from Clabo's four sacks in four games. Four sacks in four games stares longingly at mediocre. 

(Peanut Gallery: But Mando, if you move Jerry from guard to tackle you just create a problem at guard. What are you going to do with that problem?)

Garner is on the roster. Danny Watkins is on the roster. Or look to the trade market for a guard.

Do something.

I caught up with Watkins this week. The theme I came away with after the interview was he wants to compete for a starting job but he's still learning the playbook and Miami's techniques that have been so successful while giving up 18 sacks.

"Definitely feel good about it but there are still a few chinks in the armor so to speak," he said of where he's at. "But I feel good about it. It's definitely a different element coming in at the beginning of the season as opposed to being here for OTAs or training camp so that changes things. I'll go upstairs see the coaches and spend extra time with them watching the film and reviewing what I got to do. We'll draw stuff up if I'm unclear because some of it is new concepts. But they're really good about it."

So how are practices going?

"It's going well," he said. "The biggest thing is learning the technique and the offense. It's a lot better than what it was two weeks ago. It's when you flat line that you start getting in trouble. I'm just continually getting better."

As Dolphins practices are closed, I have no idea if Watkins is improving or not. I do not know if he's any good or not. But I'm hoping the coaching staff isn't simply accepting the status quo for the sake of keeping the offensive line intact.

Garner is also a possibility. Maybe he can be a better right tackle than Clabo. Maybe he can move in as the right guard and let Jerry go at right tackle. The point is not considering it, not trying it is a big mistake.

Obviously this week's game is not the time to try this. But the Dolphins have have a bye next week. That is the time to make changes. That is the time to bring in a player in trade or move Jerry and insert someone else.

Would that upset the continuity of things? Would that seem a bit desperate?

Giving up 18 sacks in four games and perhaps more on the way against Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil should put the Dolphins on the brink of desperation.

And continuity on a line that gives up 18 sacks in four games is not a good thing. It's a bad thing. It only suggests more of the same is coming in the future.

October 02, 2013

Dolphins' Mike Wallace: 'I'm definitely worried'

When the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to the biggest contract in their team history -- $60 million over five years -- they bargained for a deep threat receiver who would blow the top off defenses with regularity.

It is something Wallace did often with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But as the first quarter of this season is over and those big plays have not happened, Wallace is now concerned.

"I'm definitely worried about it because it's game four," Wallace said Wednesday. "I'm not paranoid or anything but in Week Four it's not the way I imagined my first four weeks going. Definitely not. I'm pretty sure it's not the way anybody imagined it going. So for myself, and starting with myself, [quarterback] Ryan [Tannehill] and coaches, we all got to do a better job and find a way to make it work."

This is not to suggest Wallace being on the Dolphins isn't working. He's caught 15 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. But his longest play was 34 yards and his 11.7 yard per catch average is well below the 17.2 yard per catch average he had before he arrived in Miami.

"I got to make big plays," Wallace said. "That's my main thing. I've been used to making big plays. And I definitely, definitely can make big plays. That's what I do. That's why I came here. That's why they signed me. It just hasn't happened so far for one reason or another."

Wallace is proven after four NFL seasons. He works hard. The talent vampire didn't suddenly drain him of his skills in the time since he left the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But the Dolphins' system doesn't seem to be a fit and his chemistry with Tannehill isn't the best. Indeed, Tannehill seems much more comfortable throwing the football to Brian Hartline and even Brandon Gibson, who also came to Miami in the offseason.

No one outside the Dolphins knows why that is. And if the Dolphins know why, they're not saying. But this much is clear, the current trend is not acceptable for Wallace.

"I know one thing, we not going to be able to go through a whole year like that," he said. "We have to make big plays. We have to back defenses up. That's what we have to do. Extra film work, different plays, whatever it is, whatever it's going to take, we have to get it done. We have to make big plays."

This current big-play drought doesn't mean Wallace is suffering from a sudden lack of confidence. He doesn't lack for that at all.

"I know I can do it," Wallace said.

But how fast it's done is now important for him as it should be for the Dolphins because the season is starting to leak away. So I asked Wallaced if his current worry would indeed grow to that "paranoid" state he mentioned if things don't change in the coming weeks and certainly by the middle of the season.

"Definitely," he said. "Then definitely something's wrong. And we're almost there. We only have four more games before that. We're already four games in. We don't have too much longer to figure it out. We got to make it happen. I don't know what we have to do. Hard work, I guess, by everybody."

September 25, 2013

Dolphins outscoring the AFC East

It was the turn of the century, in the year 2000, when the Dolphins won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The team had four Pro Bowl players on defense. And on offense the team did something it hasn't done since.

It outscored the New England Patriots.

Since then for a dozen years New England has scored more points than the Dolphins -- until this year.

But right now, today, the Dolphins are averaging 24.7 points per game. The Patriots, an offensive juggernaut for a dozen years since Tom Brady took over at quarterback, are averaging 19.7 points per game.

And indeed the Dolphins are leading the division in scoring.

It might be a new day in the division.

This statistic speaks to the addition of talent the Dolphins got on offense this year. Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson are helping the passing game.

This statistic speaks to the maturation of talent the Dolphins drafted. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, tight end Charles Clay, and left tackle Jonathan Martin are playing well.

And, yes, the statistical fact speaks to a talent decline in New England. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski hasn't played a snap. Wes Welker is in Denver. And Danny Amendola is injured, as he perpetually seems to be.

Tom Brady doesn't have the supporting talent he's had in the past. (It's like watching the 1996 Dolphins with Dan Marino and only one worthy wide out, O.J. McDuffie, a possession receiver).

But this statistic is also interesting because while the Patriots have played Tampa Bay and the Bills and the Jets -- none of them playoff teams a year ago -- the Dolphins have played two 2012 playoff qualifiers -- Indianapolis and Atlanta -- in two of their first three games.

Now, I recognize this is a small sample size. The season is still very young.

But I suggest the Miami offense has room to grow. The running game, mostly a non-factor so far, can get better. The combination of Tannehill to Wallace is still not quite comfortable for both players. The pass protection has been poor. Tannehill, while very good so far, could help by not holding the ball so long.

There is great room for improvement in Miami.

By the end of the year 24.7 points per game might be the Dolphins' output on a bad day.

All this is good news for the franchise. The truth is fans who grew up watching and expecting great offense every week when Marino was quarterback have been starved for good offense for nearly a dozen years.

Yes, the defense has often been very good.

But the offense has rarely been any good.

The Dolphins have had to win many 20-17 games in which they score only two TDs. It was unexciting.

This year the Dolphins have scored three touchdowns in two of their three games.

Progress. Perhaps a new day.

September 23, 2013

Dolphins shopping for CB help

The Dolphins have had trouble keeping their cornerbacks healthy this year and with two Super Bowl winning QBs on the shedule the next few weeks, the team went looking for help at the position Monday.

The team brought in half a dozen cornerbacks for tryouts Monday, according to a league source. Among those were former University of Miami and Oakland Raiders starter DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Former Bills starter Terrence McGee, cut by Buffalo in February, was among the players brought in although at 32 years old he doesn't fit the Dolphins typical search for youth.

In that regard, the tryout for Ron Bartell also raises eyebrows because he's 31 years old. Bartell was a second-round pick of the Rams in 2005 but has bounced around with Detroit and Oakland.

Ryan Mouton, a former third round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, was among the group trying out also. Mouton was cut by the Washington Redskins from their injured list in August.

The Dolphins also took a look at Jacob Lacey, who was waived by the Vikings in August after he had arthroscopic knee surgery. Lacey played with the Colts but after being cut in 2011 bounced around to the Lions and Vikings.

The sixth of the CBs brought in was Jalil Brown, 25, who was with Kansas City until the final round of cuts this year. Brown was a fourth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

The Dolphins are concerned cornerback Dimitri Patterson last week seemed to take a step back in his return from a groin injury suffered the first week of the season. Patterson had practiced on a limited basis the week after the injury and was a game-time decision for the game against Indianapolis. After missing that game Patterson was again limited in practice last week and then ruled out days before Miami's game against Atlanta.

The Dolphins have been trying to get both their rookies -- Willie Davis and Jamar Taylor -- ready to play and so far have had only mixed results. Davis recovered sufficiently enough from a toe injury to be active for Sunday's game but Taylor was not.

Taylor, fighting a groin injury and the aftermath of hernia surgery, has practiced the past two weeks but has yet to play a game for the Dolphins. 

 

What everyone is saying about Dolphins victory

If you're wondering what I think about the Dolphins beating of Atlanta and remaining in the ranks of the undefeated, here it is in all its glorious prose. I give it to you straight -- good and bad -- and, yes, there is a twist in that combination.

If you're wondering what everyone else is thinking about the Dolphins victory over Atlanta, here it is:

Joe Philbin

OPENING STATEMENT: Obviously it was a hotly contested football game. Atlanta is a very good football team. We knew that going in. [Falcons Head Coach] Mike Smith and his staff do a great, great job. We made enough plays to win the game. It certainly wasn’t classic or text book. We told the guys at halftime that the team that had the most faith and confidence in one another had the best chance to win. We made some plays when we had to. At the end of the first half, those three points were big. The last drive was huge.

(On their work with the two-minute drill) – “It was a huge drive. We had to have it there. There was no other alternative. We had to use our two time outs. It was at that point in the game. We had to step up and make plays. I thought our protection was better on that drive. The quarterback [Ryan Tannehill] threw the ball well. We caught the ball well on that drive and we were able to get the ball in the end zone. That, and I think those three points at the end of the half were huge. We knew that Matt Ryan [QB] does a great, great job in the two minute. He had tremendous protection a year ago in the two-minute offense so the clock was in our favor in those two scenarios."

(On what today’s win says about the team) – “We’ve got a bunch of hard working guys in there that are high character individuals. They’ve been very professional and hopefully we can continue to get better, to improve.”

(On the run defense) – “We close out the half and the game very, very well. Obviously we didn’t start the game well. We deferred to them 80 yards to score a touchdown. We started the second half and gave them the ball at the 14-yard line. There’s a bunch of things to work on. Our run defense is not where it needs to be. They controlled the whole tempo of the football game, which was one of the things we really felt going in was going to be important."

(On their performance despite injuries) – “We talked last night that we may have to get contributions from guys who are sitting in these chairs who don’t necessarily think they’re going to have a big role in the football game. That’s exactly what happened. Guys stepped up, guys like [Jason] Trusnik [LB], [Jonathan] Freeney [LB], and [Dion] Jordan [DE] played more, [Vaughn] Martin [DE] played more, [Derrick] Shelby [DE] played more on the defensive side of the ball. Those guys did a nice job."

(On the play of TE Dion Sims) – “Mike [Sherman, offensive coordinator] and the staff really deserve a lot of the credit. I want to say it was 42 or 43 seconds left [:43] somewhere around there. We had great field position. I thought it was a good move by Atlanta to call time out there to save some clock for themselves. It was kind of an action pass. We figured if it wasn’t good we’d still have a down or two to get a good play off."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill during the last drive) – “He was kind of getting grabbed and held and it was a make up for the sack-fumble he had on the first play of the second half."

(On protecting the quarterback) – “He had five sacks. It’s getting repetitive, you’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but the starting point in any passing game is protection. It’s tough for any defense to cover guys all across the field – it’s 53⅓  yards wide, I believe, and 120 yards long when you count the end zones – and if you can’t protect the quarterback, or if you get pressure on the quarterback, you help your pass coverage a lot and we have to do better."

(On grading the pass protection) – “How we did on the last drive? [Overall.] Not very good. Not good. You want me to give a grade scale? A, B, C, D…it just wasn’t very good. The last grade was a B-plus."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill so far this season) – “It’s important. We talk all the time about how quarterbacks have to make great decisions. They have to throw the ball accurately and they have to make plays at critical times in the game. Obviously, that drive, as I mentioned before, we had to have points on that drive, and he was able to do that. Just as the gentleman who just exited [Chairman of the Board and Managing General Partner Stephen Ross] just said, you can’t do it by yourself. We caught the ball well, we gave him good protection, and he had a chance to do his job."

(On playing before 70,660 in attendance) – “The crowd was outstanding. They were a huge part of the win. We’re going to need them every single week. They were fantastic. I think it was a thrill for our guys to play in front of a crowd like that."

(On the play of the defense) – “The guys stepped up and made plays. One of the things that we had mentioned to the ball club all week was that we wanted to do a better job of building momentum and building off of one another. If the offense gets a score, let’s get a three-and-out or a takeaway. That was a great example at the end. We needed it at the end and came up with a play. You never know what can happen offensively. A guy breaks a tackle and takes it to the house…we were able to, last week, stop a team on downs, and this week get a takeaway. That’s good stuff."

(On RB Lamar Miller’s late incomplete pass) – “We got right back to work. Mike [Sherman] just sent in another good play and off we went."

(On the team’s performance today) – “Like I said, we had a lot of confidence in those guys. They demonstrated that they love to play the game, they love to compete. They’re a team. It was a good step again in the right direction."

Tyson Clabo

(How would you describe Ryan Tannehill in that last drive) – “Flatline.  He was calm. You could tell that he expected to go down and score a touchdown.   There was no panic; nothing. He just said lets go down and score a touchdown and we did.  I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind.  Then we started moving the ball, there were big plays all over the place, it was pretty special."

(On the Atlanta Falcons) – “Good football team.   I’m sure they’ll go on and have success the rest of the season, but today, I’ll take the win."

(On if it reminded him of some of the old games with the Falcon’s, hanging in there and then pulling out the game at the end) – “Well I knew that we had to play well in the fourth quarter to beat those guys. They’re so good late and so we controlled the ball, I think we took it with over four minutes and they didn’t get it back until there was like 40 seconds left or something like that.  That was key I think, because you don’t’ want him to have time to do what he does really well.  It’s special."

Charles Clay

(On this win being a team win without anyone giving up) “There’s no doubt about it. I mean the guys did a good job sticking together. I mean even at the beginning of that last drive guys were upbeat in the huddle saying: ‘C’mon this is what great teams are made of and if you want to take the next step you got to score a touchdown.’"

(On whether there was any one play that turned the game around) “I can’t think of just one play. The guys did a great job the whole time. I mean, it was multiple times, it was an exciting game. We knew it was going to be that way coming in playing a tough Atlanta team."

(On his catch on the last drive) “I mean, it was a great move. That’s about pretty much all I can say about it. It’s a little seam route and Ryan (Tannehill) placed it in a perfect spot where I can make a play on it and no one else can."

(On the confidence of the team) “Well, I mean, this team has been working together for so long now we knew at the end of the game that if we came together, we knew that if we just played together then we can win that game."

(On how it feels to see the tight end being so involved on the last drive) “It’s big. Especially for Dion (Sims) seeing him finally get his catch."

(On Sims’ one-handed catch) “Yeah. He’s got to do it in style."

(On his catch in the fourth quarter) “I thought I was down. You know, when I got up and I heard everybody screaming, you kind of get worried, but I figured I was down."

(On whether he was the primary receiver or second or third look-off on his catch on the last drive) “It’s all based on coverage. On that play I would like to say that I was secondary, but like I said (Ryan) Tannehill did a great job with his eyes and he made a great throw."

John Denney

(On his 131st consecutive game for the Dolphins which broke Jason Taylor’s franchise record for consecutive starts) “It’s always nice and I’m more excited about the win right now. I’m more excited about being 3-0. It hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career and I’m excited to where the team is headed."

(On his fumble recovery) “It all happens real quick. I mean there was some wrestling going on down there. But what matters is when the refs finally get to the bottom of the pile that you’re the one with the majority of the ball."

(On whether he has ever recovered a fumble before) “I have once before in a regular season game and another time in a preseason game."

(On what it was like to watch Ryan Tannehill on the last drive of the game) “It’s great. It’s great to see when your quarterback has got that confidence and then he believes in himself that he can go down the field when we need it and score."

(On rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis being calm, cool and collected) “He is solid. I mean you’re getting your bang for your buck out of him for sure."

(On where this environment ranks for him) “Oh, this has got to be tops as far as the energy right now, it’s as high as I’ve ever seen it."

(On whether this is the best moment he has had as a Dolphin) “Yeah, we’ve been to the playoffs once. Right now because it’s the moment, absolutely I’d say it’s the greatest time because it’s now. We’re doing well now. We’re not living off the past. We’re making the most of the present and hopefully we can snowball that into the future."

(On what is special about this team, overcoming three turnovers and still coming out ahead) “I think because we’ve seen ourselves do it before, I think we will build that confidence to know that it is possible. We’re not heads down, giving up. We recognize the fact that we’ve done this before, we’re not out of this. There is plenty of time on the clock and we’re capable of turning it around."

Brent Grimes

(On the week leading up to the game) – “It was emotional. It was a crazy game, it came down to the home stretch and it was a great win. To win a game against a team who has been good in this league for a while now, that’s big. It was our home opener, we’re 3-0; it was just a big win. It didn’t mean that much just because it was the Atlanta Falcons."

(On QB Ryan Tannehill on the last drive) – “If you heard me on the sideline, I said I know we’re going to score. It just had that feeling. He moved the ball down the field and made some big throws, the team made some big catches and we got going."

(On whether it was a big win) – “I knew we have a lot of potential on this team and we’re doing some good things out there and we just want to keep it going. We’re only 3-0, we have a lot of positives, but we have a lot of work to do."

(On the DE Cameron Wake’s injury) – “We just know everybody is going to give their best effort. You never want anybody to go down, but you know it’s bound to happen in this game. You have to have people step up and we did that, everybody was talking on the sideline. We were all picking guys up telling each other to keep it going. We made a bunch of stops when we had to."

(On the feeling at halftime) – “We knew that this was the kind of game we were in for, so we didn’t panic; we knew we had to make adjustments and we had to get back to doing our fundamentals and play football how we know how to play. Then things started going our way in the second half."

(On whether this win says something about the team) – “I already knew it about my team. We got in here on April 15 and all the guys are all in. That’s what we are. We make plays when we have to and nobody doubted it.”

Brian Hartline

(On QB Ryan Tannehill’s composure on the last drive of the game) – “It was a good step. He stepped back there and put together a Ryan Tannehill kind of moment."

(On beating a championship level team) – “It was good. It was definitely a step forward. I guess high expectations usually bring out the best in you."

(On the team being 3-0 for the first time in 12 years) – “We have a special team. We have a lot of talent. We continue to progress and come together as a team on an individual basis. Offense, defense, and special teams all compliment each other. The sky’s the limit."

(On his touchdown catch) – “I had an opportunity, I saw the coverage and I knew I had an opportunity on the ball. Of course the only spot where the sun was left in the stadium decided to find the football and I couldn’t see it, so I decided to catch the black dot and it worked out pretty well. It was definitely hard to locate."

Richie Incognito

(On if it was all business in the huddle on the final drive of the game) – “All business, we were prepared to be in that situation and I think guys stuck together, it was a gutsy win and it was awesome to go down the field and get seven points."

(On if he was surprised by the play call on first and goal from the one yard line) – “You know, we have had a lot of success against our defense running that play. Obviously we do a lot of different scenarios on the goal line and we get competitive reps against the first team defense and we always have success with that play, it’s hard to defend. You have play action upfront, the tight end leaking out the back and they had it covered but he had his back turned and Dion (Sims) went up and made a play."

(On what went right on the final drive) – “We were able to pick up chunks of yards, instead of two yards and a cloud of dust, we were able to pick up six, seven, eight (yards) and consistently move the chains, keeping third down manageable and really leave our whole playbook to be called, we left ourselves some options moving the ball down the field."

Don Jones

(On if he thought Harry Douglas would be returning the punt where he tackled Douglas for the fumble after he waved off his team) – “Actually I didn’t see him wave it off because I was fighting all the way down the field trying to get my defender off. I finally found him. I looked up, and he was right where I was. I tackled him, and I looked up and he was on my shoulder. I decided to go on and dunk him. So it turned out to a pretty good play that a better team could get out and get a win."

(On if he felt the energy changing on the sideline after the play where he forced the fumble) – “Yes, most definitely. I think they gave us a lot more hope. I think it got the offense rolling a little more. Then after that, we came out and finished the game well and finished the game like Coach (Joe) Philbin had been talking about all week. We finished it out pretty good."

(On if he felt like Harry Douglas didn’t see him coming) – “He glanced at me bug-eyed. I don’t think he knew I was coming at him that fast. As soon as I got the chance, I just dived at him and caught him in my shoulders. I scooped him up and threw him down. It was a big play."

(On if he knew the ball had popped out) – “No sir, I was just so happy I was running to the sidelines celebrating. Then I looked and everyone was pointing back and I was like, ‘We just got the turnover.’  It was a big play I really needed. I just need to keep improving and listening to my coaches every week."

(On how it impacts his confidence making a big play) – “My confidence went through the roof. Now I feel like I could go down there and do that all the time, which I know I’m capable of. I just got to keep on working and keep on working, keep on getting coached up every week and after that everything will be good."

(On if he feels like he’s on the team because of special teams) – “Oh yes, most definitely. If it wasn’t for special teams I probably wouldn’t have made the 53 (man roster). I would probably be on practice squad.”

Dion Jordan

(On how it felt to get this win) – “It wasn’t just one guy, it was myself, OV (Olivier Vernon) made big plays, (Derrick) Shelby had to come in and make plays, (Randy) Starks played a lot, it’s just everybody as a collective unit.  We work out butt off throughout the week so we can play well on Sunday’s.  I’m just thankful that we prepared the way we did so that we can come out here and play well."

(On with all the injuries today, it was a next man up scenario, was it a good team effort) – “Oh yes, it’s the NFL and you never can predict what happens and that’s why guys have to prepare like they’re going to play on Sunday.  In our case on the defensive side of the ball guys had to step up, fortunately we prepared well enough and we made plays."

(On how he can explain this team, after it looks like they’re out of a game, and they keep winning) – “We have a lot of faith in each other, that’s all it is.  We work really hard throughout the week and it’s a grind, but we understand  on Sunday’s it’s going to pay off  in this league.  These last few games it’s been down to the wire, pretty much and we’ve played against some good teams.  Thankfully we stuck together and came out big, 2 weeks in a row."

Jonathan Martin

(On how rare it is to win a game when the winning team gives up five sacks and the losing team does not give up any) – “It just shows our ability to execute in the clutch. We got the ball back with just enough time to get down the field and it showed us how together we are as a team."

Mike Pouncey

(On what the 4th quarter drive says about Ryan Tannehill) – “He’s a monster, he’s taken the next step and everyone can tell he’s been playing well for us all season. The way he conducts himself in practice, you can tell its going to relate to the game, and so he’s playing well for us. It was a total team win; we couldn’t have done anything without our defense and kicking game."

(On what was said by Tannehill in the huddle on the last drive) – “He told us on the last drive, it doesn’t matter what you have done up to this point, the only things that matters is the last drive of the game and we went down and scored a touchdown. It just goes to show his leadership and his will to win the game, and we did it."

(On where he would rank today’s atmosphere) – “Number one, it’s the best I have ever seen this stadium. The fans were into it, they helped us out a lot. When the fans are into it hurts the other team. They were all juiced up, and so were we on the sidelines."

Mike Wallace

(Think Ryan did a good job spreading the ball)- “He did a pretty good job spreading the ball, getting it to everyone. He is doing the things a quarterback needs to do to take that next step."

(Tannehill’s poise down the stretch)- “He is just showing us everything we see in practice. He does this everyday. He makes plays. We making strides, he going down the right path to be a great quarterback."

(On Ryan being sacked five times, your team not recording a sack)- “No, but we have a team that overcomes it. It was a team win, everyone contributed. Big play by Don (Jones), turned the game around. Donny got the hit that caused the fumble and (John) Denney recovered it. We won in all three phases of the game to win it."

(On being outplayed, nothing going your way, but still finding a way to win the game)- “You think we got outplayed, I feel like we played the best. First half maybe, I will give you that, but the 2nd half, that’s where it really counts. It’s a team, everyone contributed in all three phases of the game."

(On the Special Teams tackle by Don Jones which caused a fumble)- “Biggest play of the whole game, we were driving but we had to punt the ball, but we got the ball back and scored on the drive."

(Never quitting on the game)- “60 minutes in the game, I’ve seen so much crazy stuff happen in the  football game, teams comeback down from 20,21, 28 points. Until the last second goes off on the clock you just need to have faith and believe you can win."

Falcons coach Mike Smith

(Opening remarks) –This was a game that we had a ton of opportunities to have chances to win the game. We just didn’t make the plays when they were presented to us. We’ve got to be a lot more efficient the red zone. We cannot leave out of there without scoring touchdowns. We’ve got to get the ball in the end zone. I thought that we played well in spurts. We’re not going to win whole lot of games in the National Football League when you lose the turnover battle, which we did today. But we’re going to keep working to make the improvements that we need to make as a football team."

(On the Dolphins’ game-winning drive) – “Obviously we did not get enough pressure. We didn’t play tight-enough coverage. And they made the plays and we didn’t. You’ve got to make those plays at the end of the ballgame."

(On when he felt the game was getting away from the Falcons) – “The game got away when (the Dolphins) went ahead, there, at the end when we had two timeouts and we’re in a situation where we have to score a touchdown. And when it really got away from us was on that last interception. Our guys fought to the very last play."

(On deciding to attempt a field goal late in the game based on the spot of the ball) – “I thought it was too far (to go for the first down). If it was going to be a half a yard or less, we had determined we would go for it. When they brought the chains out it was a good yard, yard and a half. And that’s very difficult in those situations to know until they unwind and bring the chains out it was definitely more than one yard."

(On the performance of the Falcons’ second-string players) – “Ee had a lot of guys that played … it was good to see those young guys step up. It’ll be interesting to watch the film. Paul Worrilow got a number of snaps in the ballgame today. (Joplo) Bartu continued to play … so, those guys, we knew would be able to step up and go out and compete. And I thought that they did a nice job standing on the sideline. We just didn’t get the outcome that we wanted today."

(On if he felt like the Falcons played well enough to win) – “The scoreboard says that we didn’t. There’s certain indicators in a football game that have a more high probability for winning. For losing. When you lose the turnover battle, the way we lost the turnover battle today, that’s probably the biggest one. Then our red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball wasn’t as efficient as we needed it to be. Those are probably two of the biggest indicators of whether you’re going to win the game or not."

(On if despite the loss, if he was happy with his team’s performance) - “Again, we didn’t win the ballgame. I liked the effort. I liked the resolve that we showed in terms of running the football. We wanted to run the football. We came in and I thought we did it. I thought that both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers did a very good job. The offensive line controlled the defensive front. I thought that we applied pressure on the quarterback; we had five sacks on our side. And again, you look at the indicators that I had mentioned and that’s really the difference in the ballgame. The red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball for the Falcons and losing the turnover battle."