September 11, 2013

What Dion Jordan learned during Week One

In setting up their locker room this year, the Dolphins put first-round pick Dion Jordan next to Cameron Wake. It is not a coincidence.

Wake is a 100-mph dude. He loves to work. He loves to play. And he plays every down like it is his last. That is one reason he is the second-rated defensive end behind St. Louis end Robert Quinn after one game, according to Quinn had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Arizona.

Wake got 62 snaps. And went hard 62 snaps. He had 2.5 sacks and four hurries.

That example has quickly traveled the one foot distance separating Wake and Jordan. Jordan gets it.

And after watching Wake against the Browns and have one of his more impressive games in memory, Jordan feels like he learned something in his NFL debut.

How the game should really be played ...

"Consistency," Jordan said. "That's one thing I learned, especially watching this guy Cam Wake rush. Consistency is probably the thing I learned."

What does that mean?

It means no Jadeveon Clowney act.

It means taking no plays off.

"There's no plays off because any play can change this game and Cam made some big plays last week and changed that game last weekend," Jordan said.

This is not to suggest Jordan didn't know about going full speed every play before Sunday. It's just that the game was an illustration of what can happen when you don't. And so he won't.

"I feel if I was ever to take a play off, guys would notice it, especially the guys in my room," Jordan said. "They would notice it. But that's not my menality. I have a motor so I'm going to use it."

Jordan played 17 snaps according to PFF. He had a sack and a tackle. He also had a penalty. The metrics site gave him a negative grade for the game. (Don't ask me, that's what they did).

But Jordan seemed pleased with himself.

"I feel like I played fast ... I  played a lot of special teams, I played a lot of defense. I had a pretty decent role for the team," he said.

It was a solid start.



September 09, 2013

Joe Philbin has work to do

The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.

And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.

That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.

Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used  -- show he's a problem now.

How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?

Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.

He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.

He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.

Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.

Sound minor?

It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.

And then there's this:

Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.

I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.

That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.

Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.


Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.

Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?

Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.

But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.

And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.

It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.

He loves South Florida.

And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.

But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.

The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."

"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.

Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."

Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.

Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.

So where does that all leave us?

Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.

I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.

And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.

I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.

But I know there are issues in general.

And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.

Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?

Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.

Issue erased.

And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.

The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.

Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.

The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.

No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.

Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.

If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has:  Not handling issues while they're still manageable.


September 07, 2013

Dolphins CBs hurting? No problem vs. Browns

I was talking to someone who has been around the Cleveland Browns for 20 years this week and the conversation turned to that team's passing game.

"They have four wide receivers," he said, "and three are slow."

That's the reason when the injury report came out Friday and it had starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and rookies Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin) listed as out, I didn't exactly flinch.

If the Dolphins were playing Atlanta or Denver or any other team with a capable receivers corps, this week would be trouble. But, with all due respect to the Browns, they should not be trouble.

The Browns won't have their most talented receiver Josh Gordon on Sunday because he is suspended by the NFL. That means Davone Bess, who was acquired in trade to be the slot receiver, is now promoted to starter alongside Greg Little, who becomes the No. 1 WR.

Little is a solid player who caught 53 passes in 2012. But he doesn't intimidate with size and speed like Gordon does.

The Browns don't look capable of challenging the Dolphins deep. Indeed, their only deep threat is former University of Miami player Travis Benjamin, who is better known for returning punts and kickoffs than catching passes.

By the way, the Dolphins are hopeful Patterson will indeed be active and play, barring a setback. So even that situation is not as bad as it seems.

Bottom line?

If the Dolphins were opening at Indianapolis against the Colts -- the opponent next week -- instead of at Cleveland, there would be major reason for concern. The Colts can throw the ball and boast multiple big-play and deep-threat options.

But the Colts come aren't the opponent. They're opening against the Browns. The Browns don't have that kind of talent.

So it's not as bad as it seems.

September 06, 2013

Dion Jordan's debut vs. Cleveland

The question about Dion Jordan much of this preseason was not how he'd be used against the Cleveland Browns in the rookie's NFL debut but, indeed, whether he'd be used at all based on his uncertain injury status.

That question has been answered. Jordan, nursing a tender shoulder much of the preseason, is playing in the Dolphins regular-season opener.

So now we want to know how much. And here are some answers based on interviews with players and coaches.

Expect Jordan on some special teams and on the field with the defense on some passing downs.

None of this is a surprise but what seems uncommon is the Dolphins may use Jordan in something similar to the New York Giants NASCAR pass-rush grouping of years past. Although Jordan is the backup to Olivier Vernon and plays the same position as both Vernon and Cameron Wake, it is possible the Dolphins want to use the pass-rush skills of all three players.


In the same pass-rush package.

So the Dolphins could include Jordan, Wake and Vernon -- three defensive ends considered Miami's best pass-rushers -- on the field and rushing the passer at the same time.

I'm told there might even be moments when the Dolphins have four defensive end types chasing Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden because linebacker and former defensive end Koa Misi might get in on the act as well.

How exactly the Dolphins would deploy this group of rushers has yet to be seen in 2013 -- not in practices open to the media or fans, not in training camp, not in preseason games -- so I cannot account for how much or little this might be used nor can I account for how the Dolphins would line up. (And even if I had seen it, I wouldn't report it anyway).

If the Dolphins go forward with this plan, it is good news at least on its face. There's been much speculation and hand wringing among fans whether the Miami coaching staff could find a way to maximize its talent at defensive end.

This is also good news because this grouping suggests a better pass rush.

But there are other ramifications because it likely means one of the down linemen will not be playing in a familiar four-point stance. It suggests someone will have to rush from a two-point stance (standing up).

The idea also may mean the Dolphins sacrifice pass rush up the middle for more pressure from the edge. 

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle hinted earlier in camp that if Jordan was physically ready to play, there would be a package to include him in the game plan. He doubled down on that this week.

"We haven’t made any final decisions yet," Coyle said on Monday. "Today he got a good number of reps in practice, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better able to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the game plan this week, I can guarantee you that."

Jordan's role on defense is expected to be limited almost exclusively to passing situations while his gifts on special teams seem suited for kickoff coverage and perhaps punt return and field goal block situations.

Jordan is quick enough and fast enough to run down on kickoffs. He's long and athletic enough to possibly block a field goal. He's strong enough to block on punt returns. Just saying.

Jordan worked on the kickoffs team early in camp and coach Joe Philbin has defended the idea of having valuable players -- including the first-round draft pick -- on special teams.

"We'll have starters on special teams," Philbin said Wednesday.

"It’s a critical play in football, the coverage, we’re going to use whoever we feel is going to be the best to help us pin the opponent down," Philbin said Monday. "Whoever that may be."

When he was asked about Jordan specifically on special teams this week, Philbin was coy about it but couldn't bring himself to dismiss the idea because, well, the guy's on teams and this coach doesn't lie.

 “We think we have a chance to be a very, very good special teams unit," Philbin said. "We want to utilize our personnel in the best way possible. If he is on one of those teams, then we’ve come to the conclusion that is going to help that particular phase of special teams." 

September 05, 2013

Whole must be better than parts for Dolphins OL

I'm talking with a Dolphins person earlier this week and this person tells me there's only one area on the team to worry about because it can wreck the season.

Tight end, I guess because Dustin Keller's injury really, really hurt this team.


The secondary, I guess because I'm not sure about Dimitri Patterson, the rookies (Will Davis and Jamar Taylor are injured) and Nolan Carroll is, well, Nolan Carroll.


The running game, I guess because Lamar Miller is mostly an unknown, Daniel Thomas is average on good days, and the offensive line is still coming together.

You're close.

The offensive line.

And then I hear how the line is still an issue and if it remains an issue, there goes the running game, there goes the deep passes to Mike Wallace, and there goes Ryan Tannehill.

One unit affecting everything on offense.

And not in a positive manner.

So that got me thinking -- which is rare and never good. What is it about this offensive line? Is it truly an issue? Is it a team weakness? Is it bound to be the reason the Dolphins offense struggles?

There is evidence that suggests there's reason for concern.

First there's what offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said this week:

"I still think it is a work in progress," he said of the line. "John (Jerry) is coming off of an injury. Getting him back into the fold is going to be huge. He’s been out for a little bit, but I’m excited about having him back. We certainly needed him back. I’m anxious for him to get more comfortable in there with the other guys and get more used to what we are doing."

Think about this. We are three days from the regular-season opener and the offensive line is still a work in progress? Pardon me for being old school, but the preseason and training camp was the alloted time for doing the work and progressing.

The regular season is here. It's time to roll.

Also this: John Jerry is the saviour of this line?

John Jerry is an average NFL guard. He's not Larry Allen. The fact the Dolphins are seriously counting on him to be healthy, well-conditioned, and then play at a high level without many missed assignments tells me there's a lot of wishful thinking going on.

Jerry is not in great shape yet. Yes, Sherman said Jerry inexplicably lost weight during his five weeks of knee rehab, but I don't imagine him being slimmer is the reason coaches identified him as the only starter on the entire team that needed to play in the fifth and final preseason game.

So what is it about this offensive line that worries?

Well, it's simple. This line today seems to have solid parts (assuming Jerry gets up to speed). The individuals are good. But as a line has to play as a unit -- with one heartbeat and soul and purpose -- the Dolphins offensive line seems lacking because the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

And what you need is for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Consider that, again, the parts range from excellent to solid.

At left tackle Jonathan Martin has come miles from the first eight days of training camp when he struggled as Miami's new fulltime left tackle. He was beaten like a drum by Olivier Vernon that first week. Since then, he's played very well in preseason and been a non-issue. He may not be the beast Jake Long was when healthy. But he's good. Solid.

At left guard, Richie Incognito is a snarling bulldog that can push bigger men backward with his initial punch. That is great. He's smart. He knows all the tricks. He moves better than he's given credit for. Not an issue.

At center, Mike Pouncey is not quite elite yet. But he's darn close. He's excellent. He's smart. He studies the opposition. He moves very well. He's cleaned up his shotgun snaps. I'd say 90 percent of NFL would take him as their starting center.

At right guard, John Jerry is the saviour. Having him is "huge," Sherman said. I kid, obviously. But the truth is last year was a good season for Jerry. He emerged. So he has the talent to be solid.

At right tackle, Tyson Clabo is a consummate professional. He typically knows his assignments. He knows his opponents. He uses good technique. And with his experience and all the other factors, he can usually overcome what physical deficiencies he might have. It can be argued the Dolphins upgraded at right tackle to start this season over last season when they had Martin starting as a rookie.

So that's the rundown of the individuals. All good.

Yet as a group, there's still something missing. Something is still not quite right. It's still "a work in progress."

Last season, the Dolphins had a new starting right tackle, a new starting right guard and Jake Long was working to get his knee 100 percent during the latter stages of training camp. And the group played very well early in the season, anyway. The Dolphins had the NFL's second-ranked running game after two weeks in the regular season.

But here's the bad news: They got worse as the season wore on.

The running game went to No. 4 in Week 3 ...

No. 5 in Week 4 ...

No. 8 in Week 5 ...

No. 11 by Week 8 ...

No. 13 one week later ...

Then it jumped around in the upper teens until finishing the season at No. 17.

The line was getting worse results even as Long was still in the lineup and Martin and Jerry on the right side worked together longer.

The worse results also affected the passing game because the protection for Tannehill got worse. The Dolphins gave up 16 sacks the first half of the season -- only three the first three games. And 21 sacks the second half of the season, including 10 in the final three games.

None of this means the Miami line will get worse this year. I believe these individuals should be good enough to provide the offense with a good running game. I believe these individuals should be good enough to protect Ryan Tannehill and give the passing game a chance to succeed.

But these individuals must come together quickly. They must play better as a group.

The whole must be better than the sum of the parts.  



The NFL's starting QBs ranked No. 1-32

Ryan Tannehill is four days from starting his second NFL season. And while we still cannot be certain what he will become, we know he must be better than he's been if he's to earn the trust placed on him as the face of the Dolphins franchise.

Tannehill knows Dolphins fans want, indeed, expect him to be very good this year. The team has surrounded him with a fine receivers corps. The defense is playoff caliber. This is his year to be much better.

He knows this. He hears it when people say he'll be the next great quarterback in Dolphins history.

“It’s nice but, it doesn’t matter, I still have to go out and play," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I have to go out and do the things that I want to do, that we want to do as a team.  We have high expectations for ourselves as a team.  As an offense, we want to be able to put points up.  We brought in a lot of weapons this year, and now it’s time to finally go out and play."

The Dolphins need Tannehill to become outstanding if not elite. That might happen this year. But that's not how he starts the year.

No, as we get ready to kick off the 2013 NFL season, the Dolphins have an unproven quarterback (still) that is not considered upper echelon in the NFL. Indeed, Tannehill is still among the lower third of NFL quarterbacks compared to others around the league. 

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, he's really good. He has all the tools. Ryan's awesome, man. He's got a great arm. He's a captain. He's on the leadership council. He's the man!)

Thank you, gallery. But none of that means squat. Tannehill is one of 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. That makes him special. But if there were a quarterback draft to start the 2013 season, Tannehill would not be picked early.

He probably wouldn't be picked in the middle of the pack, either.

That tells you where Tannehill begins the year in a quarterback-centric league.

I'm not making this up. Consider the Salguero rankings of the NFL's best quarterbacks 1-32. I understand that most of the readers of this blog are Dolphins fans and thus are biased. But try to put your pom-poms aside for a sec and think about what you would do if you were an NFL general manager.

Tell me what spots you would rate the QBs. Tell me where you disagree with the rankings:

1. Aaron Rogers, Green Bay  .... Great arm, smart, mobile, fine athlete, won a Super Bowl.

2. Tom Brady, New England ... Great accurate arm, burning passion to win, won three Super Bowls.

3. Peyton Manning, Denver .... Accurate, manipulates secondaries, makes all the throws, won a SB.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans ... Height schmeight, fine deep thrower, leader, won a SB.

5. Eli Manning, NYG .... Excellent arm, has innate ability to play big at big moments, won two SBs.

6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore ... Perhaps strongest arm in NFL, blossoming, won Super Bowl in 2012-13.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh ... Behemoth, great improvisation, bazooka arm, won 2 SBs.

8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta ... Smart, uses all his weapons, led team to conference title game.

9. Tony Romo, Dallas ... Great athlete, very good arm, still looking for playoff success cred.

10. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis ... The next superstar. Period.

11. Robert Griffin III, Washington .... Smart, courageous, great accuracy, runs like a deer.

12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco .... See RG3 only bigger, stronger.

13. Matt Schaub, Houston .... Pocket passer, plays up to surrounding talent.

14. Russell Wilson, Seattle ... More intangibles than just about any of them. Good arm. Winner.

15. Cam Newton, Carolina ... Adonis in a football uniform, gifted arm, runs well, good, getting better.

16. Jay Cutler, Chicago ... Amazing arm, gunslinger who takes risks, high risk and high reward.

17. Michael Vick, Philadelphia ... When healthy still elite running and passing, under-rated passer.

18. Phillip Rivers, San Diego ... Considered elite 2-3 years ago, has fallen off but still scares people.

19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati ... More passer than thrower, average arm but gets results.

20. Carson Palmer, Arizona ... Once great, declining but still excellent in right system.

21. Matthew Stafford, Detroit ... Inconsistent but excellent when hot. 80 TDs and only 25 years old.

22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis ... Finally has talent around him at WR, OL. Accurate, strong arm.

23. Ryan Tannehill, Miami ... All the tools, good learner, hard worker, but still work in progress at 25.

24. Alex Smith, Kansas City ... Perhaps best game-manager in the NFL. That's good. And bad.

25. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ... Roller-coaster career, roller-coaster accuracy, inconsistent.

26. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland ... Same as Tannehill only five years older and surrounded by less talent.

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota ... Smart, knows how to win, but not physically gifted like others.

28. Jake Locker, Tennessee ... Inaccurate, inconsistent, on the hot seat.

Tie 29. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo ... Unknown.

Tie 29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville ... Mostly unknown, seems to play scared at times.

Tie 29. Geno Smith, NYJ ... Not ready. Just not ready.

Tie 29. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland ... Brings a spark to the huddle. But great QBs do that and pass great, too.









September 04, 2013

Dolphins vs. Browns first injury report

The Dolphins and Browns released their injury report for Sunday's game at Cleveland.

For the Dolphins, CB Will Davis (toe), QB Pat Devlin (ankle), CB Jamar Taylor (groin) all missed practice today. As an aside, the likelihood of Taylor player Sunday is practically nil.

Tight end Dion Sims (groin) was limited in practice today.

And DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), and S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) were full participation in practice.

For the Browns, G Shawn Lauvao (ankle) did not practice. He was the only one.

DE Desmond Bryant (back) and OLB Barkevious Mingo (lung) were limited in practice.

Meanwhile, G Gary Barnidge (shoulder), WR Davone Bess (knee), LB Jordan Cameron (groin), TE Garrett Gilkey (shoulder), DL John Hughes (knee), LB Eric Martin (Foot) and DB Chris Owens (foot) were full practice.

Pouncey getting help to stop Blitzland

Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton began his career with the Redskins and coached in Detroit, and Cincinnati. But the stop that molded him most was unquestionably the seven seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That's where he picked up the zone blitz. That's where he learned from Dick LeBeau, considered among the best defensive minds in the business. That's where he got his coaching philosophy of attacking 3-4 defense.

And that's the reason the Cleveland Browns the Dolphins will face on Sunday will try to come with the same snarling, angry, zone blitzing, pressure-on-the-quarterback approach as what the Steelers generally use.

Remember Blitzburgh?

Horton wants Bllitzland.

That means two things:

The Dolphins will encounter a major challenge up front to block for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

But they will also have significant opportunities for big plays if they can get Cleveland's attacking front blocked.

So Miami center Mike Pouncey has to perform well before the snap as well as once the ball is snapped.

"No question, but that's how it's supposed to be," Pouncey said Tuesday afternoon. "The center is supposed to be the guy that sets the stage for the quarterback. You need a smart center against them to know what's coming.

"This is head on. We're playing a great defense. They have a big defensive line. They have good pass rushers. They got a good coach over there that tends to mix up a lot of different blitzes so we can't wait to see what he brings."

Horton is new to the Browns. But Pouncey nonetheless called his brother Maurkice Pouncey for help in figuring out what might be coming. Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has familiarity with some of the Browns personnel. And he does see a lot of the Pittsburgh defense in practice.

So did the call to Maurkice benefit Mike?

"A lot," Mike Pouncey said. "He plays them two times a year so I called him up and asked him how those guys play, their tendencies. It's good having a brother who plays in the NFL, especially the same position."

Pouncey might want to refer back to last year's Dolphins game versus Arizona. Horton was the Arizona defensive coordinator the last two years. If you recall, in that game, the Dolphins lit up the Cardinals for 480 yards.

So you see the opportunity for big plays against Horton's defense.

But the Cardinals also had two interceptions, forced and recovered two fumbles, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times.

The Cardinals brought the A-gap blitz a lot so I assume Pouncey is ready for that this week. He says he's definitely ready for the zone blitz.

"What I do is I study film and watch the linebackers and safeties and how they roll coverages," he said. "That's how I know from where the blitz is coming -- where it's coming from so I can help my guys on the offensive line be a step faster."

Follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero


September 03, 2013

Watkins responds to Roseman comments

Danny Watkins seems like a good guy. Whether he's a good player, we shall see eventually.

I know this, the Dolphins' time with Josh Samuda was played out. Samuda got a very good chance to win a starting job this preseason. It was probably a better chance than he deserved because one player (John Jerry) got hurt and another player (Lance Louis) was fighting to come back from knee surgery. Samuda couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.

And so in steps Watkins, a former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, who was cut from that team a couple of days ago after only two seasons with the club. It seems like a good move.

But there are questions.

If you read what Eagles GM Howard Roseman said about Watkins in the last post you know it's quite an indictment when an NFL GM says a player has shown little toughness.

I asked Watkins his thoughts about Roseman's comment.

"I got to Philadelphia and it was just a rough go from the get-go," Watkins said. "I felt like it just got broken down to bones and never got built back. It was more a mental thing. I was very disappointing to myself that it never panned out the way it could. Because I know I can play physical and tough football but it just never ... I think it was more a mental aspect than anything.

"These last three years have been such a whirlwind. it was great opportunity to play in the NFL. My college career was great, I love Baylor and what they did for me there. Looking back, six years ago if you had told me I'd be in the position I am today, I would have laughed at you. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to be where I am today."

Watkins picked the Dolphins over another NFL team, he said. He declined to specify what team. I asked him if he believes this is his last chance to find an NFL home.

"I'm very excited to be here and I know Miami has a, well the past history with the players here" Watkins said. "So this is huge for me. Like I said, it's the most exciting thing that's happened to me and I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity and make the best of it."

The Dolphins asked Watkins to work at snapping the football some on Monday. Is he a viable backup center?

It doesn't sound like it right away.

"I was a tackle in college. and guard in the NFL," he said.

Watkins said he's comfortable playing either left or right guard. 

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say who the backup center is now that Samuda is gone. He cited competitive reasons for declining to answer.

Update from practice and who is Danny Watkins?

Here's a quick update on what's going on at practice today:

The rookie cornerbacks are still not practicing. Will Davis (ankle) and Jamar Taylor (hernia) missed the second straight day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns.

Davis, in a walking boot Monday, is out of the boot today. He was walking quite gingerly. Interestingly, yesterday Davis wore the boot on his left tankle. The team complained to at least one reporter about writing which ankle was wearing the boot. Today, Davis is wearing wrapping and a sleeve on his right ankle. Pretty sly, those Dolphins.

By the way, The Herald's Adam Beasley has reported Taylor will likely not play against the Browns. Just as well. He was bad in the preseason finale and clearly not ready to compete on an NFL regular-season level.

Long snapper John Denney and quarterback Pat Devlin were also absent from drills today. No reasons for those absenses yet, although Denney's, at least, is believed to be excused for personal reasons.

Newcomer Danny Watkins was at practice today, as expected. I believe the best use for him is as guard-center swing guy. Watkins is a former first-round pick waived by Philadelphia after only two years.

Why the bust in Philly?

The media in Philadelphia questioned his passion for football and Eagles GM Howard Roseman questioned his toughness, which is never good for an offensive lineman. Or a football player.

“When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him, never translated to Philadelphia, and that’s one of the things that I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him,” Roseman told CSNPhilly.
“You felt like you were getting an enforcer, and he never let himself go here on that, and I don’t know why that was. I told him that was what I was the most confused by. Because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw on his play on the field, and I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here."

Roseman interestingly believes a change of scenary will help Watkins.
“He put a lot of pressure on himself, and he couldn’t just go out and play, and I think getting away from being Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him,” Roseman said.

Well, that takes care of Watkins' aggressiveness. But the media in Philly also questioned his dedication and passion. It is no secret Watkins' first love is firefighting. He came to the United States to become a fireman, not a football player.

From today's Philadelphia Daily News:

"That photo on the firefighting site the Inquirer uncovered, of Danny dressed out in full Rescue 1 gear at a Northeast Philly fire last Dec. 16, carrying a motorized saw, is really all you need to know about Danny and passion. His passion was for firefighting, which is what he left idyllic Kelowna, British Columbia, to come to the United States to learn more about. He got sidetracked by football. When somebody tells you that you can win a college scholarship, and then make millions of dollars doing something professionally, you pay attention. But paying attention does not put you on the intensity same level as someone who has spent his life hungry to play the game, living it, breathing it.

The Eagles were off that day in December when Danny toted gear around for his fire department buddies. But less than two months earlier, he had left the starting lineup with an ankle problem, and then he’d lost his starting job to journeyman Jake Scott, signed off the street. You’re a recent No. 1 pick consigned to the bench. Wouldn’t you want to spend every extra minute watching tape, perfecting technique, working in the weight room to get bigger and faster?"


Dolphins sign Watkins, waive Samuda

The Dolphins have signed guard Danny Watkins, a former first-round pick of the Eagles. To room on the roster for Watkins the team waived guard Josh Samuda.

For Watkins this is a chance to redeem himself after a tough couple of years in Philadelphia. For Samuda, who had a poor preseason moving from center to  guard, his time with the Dolphins is in jeapardy as he is not practice squad eligible. 

The 6-3, 310 pound Watkins joins Miami after spending the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (2011-12).  He was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft. In his career, Watkins has started 18 of the 23 games in which he appeared for the Eagles.  

Watkins was a two-year letter winner and started all 25 games played at Baylor after beginning  his collegiate career at Butte College. As a member of the Bears he earned first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior. Born November 6, 1984, Watkins played rugby and hockey at Mt. Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Watkins is a reclamation project to be sure. He fell out of favor under new head coach Chip Kelly. But even before then, there were questions about his desire and love for the game.

The Dolphins have had success with reclamation projects at guard before with Richie Incognito. Of course, that was under a different head coach and staff.

We'll see.

Watkins signed a one-year contract.

Watkins played 126 snaps in the preseason at right guard and rated him the 39th best offensive guard in the league. He committed one penalty, gave up one sack, and had a minus-1.2 run blocking grade during those games.

Last year Watkins was ranked the NFL's 54th best offensive guard based on the seven games and 461 snaps he played. He had a minus-4.7 overall grade, allowing just one sack, nine quarterback hurries and committing two penalties.

Watkins was considered a bust in Philadelphia. Bottom line is he is better off in Miami where he comes in as a backup with a chance to prove himself. He has no draft pedigree he needs to live up to here.

If he's only good enough to be a backup, no one will complain. He was, after all, signed to a low-budget deal. If he's good enough to push John Jerry at right guard or eventually succeed Richie Incognito, who is in the final year of his contract, he'll be considered a huge success.

If he isn't very good at all, he'll be another bottom of the roster player that eventually is churned out on waivers.

It's a win-win-win.

September 02, 2013

Coyle guarantees significant role for Jordan

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has good news:

Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan is in the game plan for Sunday's game at Cleveland. And he "guarantees" the first-round pick will have a significant role in that plan.

Jordan, as you must know, missed a significant portion of training camp and the preseason with a shoulder injury. He returned to practice last week. He worked in team drills today.

This is the rest of the what Coyle told the media today:

(On how concerned he is about depth at defensive back) – “You are always concerned going into the season with your depth at a number of positions, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some guys, a number of guys, who have played in games and started games for us still at the corner spot. We have some flexibility with some other players at the safety spot that have skills we can use if we got into a real jam and had to use them outside at corner in some situations. I feel fine. I wish we had everybody up and running as it makes the decision easier to who would be active. You can’t keep them all active for gameday. As it is, in most cases, you aren’t going to have 11 guys up. At the same time, we hopefully very soon will have a full complement of (defensive backs) ready to roll.”

(On Dion Jordan and his role for the upcoming game) – “You are trying to get me to give away the game plan (laughs). Dion has missed some practice time, so we are starting to add to what we perceive he will be able to handle for the game. We haven’t made any final decisions yet. Today he got a good number of reps in practice today, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the gameplan this week, I can guarantee you that.”

(On if he feels he has three starting defensive tackles for two spots) –“Absolutely, there’s no doubt. And I hate to differentiate between any of them because to me they are all top level quality players in the upper echelon of defensive tackles in the league.”

(On if the defense can carry the team to postseason success such as the Ravens, 49ers and even the Jets from a few years ago)  – “When we play defense, we hope we are going to do our part to put us in position to win every week. I’m a firm believer, being a defensive coach, that if you play great on defense and you play great in the kicking game that you have a chance to win every ball game in this league. That’s been proven by the teams you mentioned. You also can go back to some of the Tampa Bay teams over the years that won the Super Bowl by playing great defense. Offensively they did what they had to do to win games. I believe in our offense. I know our offense is going to get it rolling. Hopefully it will be this Sunday. In our room, we talk about the fact that if we play like we are capable of playing, we are going to have a shot to win a lot of football games. That’s what we expect.”

(On if his defensive players relish the role of carrying the team)  – “I think our veteran players like the idea. They enjoy the challenge. They want to be among the best defenses in the league. Now it is a matter of us proving that we can be in that same conversation. The only way you do that is consistently playing defense that way from the first game to the seventeenth week of the season.”

(On going up against former Miami Dolphin wide receiver Davone Bess and if he presents an interesting challenge)  – “He sure does. I have nothing but great respect for Davone. I loved being around him when he was here. (He was) a great competitor, a guy that is a tireless worker, and those types of things. Having our guys know what he is capable of, and I think in some ways that has heighten their preparation because when you look at a guy on tape you haven’t seen a lot and hasn’t played a lot in the preseason, if you didn’t know him it would be hard to get a feel for him. Our guys would know we had a heck of a time trying to cover him out here for a long time last season. He proved to be such a clutch guy, and he’ll be a go-to guy for them. We anticipate that. He’s got our attention, and we are going to have to do a great job because he is a very, very nifty slot receiver.”

(On Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and what he has seen on film from him) – “He’s an outstanding young quarterback. I think sometimes he kind of gets lost in the discussion with all of these young quarterbacks that have come out of late, but this guy has a terrific arm. Coming out of college he set all kinds of records. He was a great thrower. He can make all of the throws. He’s got a big-time throwing arm. Last year, like a lot of young quarterbacks, he kind of went through a learning stage. He looks much more poised and comfortable in this offense coming back. We are going to have to play great against him because he can make all of the throws. He’ll throw the ball down the field vertically as good as some of the top ones in the league.”

(On if he has any real concerns about the defense) – “You have concerns that everybody just gels together here early in the season. We do have some new faces. The communication, just the pre-snap dynamics that go on during the course of a game, you have some new linebackers and some new guys in the secondary. Hopefully I think we’ve shown in preseason that this group is a good cohesive group, but we are going to have to do it when we are out there and it’s live, it counts. I’m confident if we play like we are capable of, we will be very good against the run. We will have a heck of a challenge this week because the running back we are facing this week is strong, explosive guy. Their offensive line, I’ve got to tell you, is extremely physical. (It’s) one of the more impressive offensive lines that we will face. They work great together as a group. This will be a challenge in the run game. Hopefully we can create some long-yardage situations and do the things we like to do on defense on third down.”

Everything OC Mike Sherman said today

The Dolphins offense needs to improve dramatically this year. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman understands this.

This is what he said today after the Dolphins had their first practice of the week in preparation for Sunday's game at Cleveland:

(On what he is thinking after the preseason games and training camp) – “I don’ think you can draw any conclusions until you actually do it. I think what happens on the field is the only conclusion you can draw. Certainly we are trying to get to that point. We’ve practiced accordingly, but the proof is in the pudding, as my grandma used to say, but we will have to see and see what happens."

(On if they kept much to themselves in the preseason) – “You can only keep so much. You still have to play the games. You do run your core offense, but they are a good football team and they are going to anticipate what they are going to anticipate. We are going to anticipate what we are going to anticipate. We’ll see what happens. The evaluation will be at the end of the year, ultimately."

(On if he feels comfortable with the starting offensive line and the way it is with John Jerry out there) –“I still think it is a work in progress. John (Jerry) is coming off of an injury. Getting him back into the fold is going to be huge. He’s been out for a little bit, but I’m excited about having him back. We certainly needed him back. I’m anxious for him to get more comfortable in there with the other guys and get more used to what we are doing."

(On if he would like to have a fifth wide receiver on the roster) – “I think everybody wants one more of everything (laughs). I’ll take one more of whatever I can get at any time. I like the four that we have. It will serve us well."

(On how much better John Jerry can get in terms of conditioning) – “John has always been able to run pretty good, even when we first got here and he was a little overweight. I never questioned his stamina. He ran around, you know. His movement suffered when he was a little bit heavy, but he can run all day long. That was never a problem, in my mind anyway. He’s in much better shape now. Actually, to my surprise, he lost weight while he was injured, which most guys don’t do that. I’m thinking about going on IR myself thinking it might help (laughs). He has done a good job of being on IR and lost some weight. I give him credit because that’s hard for a guy that hasn’t been able to run around and be out in this heat, to lose weight, and he’s done that. That tells you the type of commitment he has, and I applaud him for that."

(On if he is surprised there hasn’t been more separation between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas) – “Not really because they are different type of backs. One offers one thing (and) the other offers something else. They are just different dynamics between the two of them. I think because they are so different they offer, as I said, a different dynamic when in the game. I think there will be a challenge defensively to be able to put both running backs on the field separately."

(On what the key will be to converting in the redzone) – “You know we’ve had some opportunities in the red zone, we just haven’t taken advantage of them. That’s one thing. A couple of games ago I thought it could have been a better job calling some runs down there. I didn’t call some good runs. We have to be able to run the ball better in the redzone because people really defend the pass pretty well. There’s just so many defenders up there in the short areas. They just make it impossible to throw some times. We have to be able run the football down there and be diligent about that. And if you can run the ball down there, it opens up some throws in the passing game. Maybe you can play past them, vacate a window and get some balls in there. I think all of your problems end if you can run the football a little better. It helps everything."

(On saying Ryan Tannehill would have the biggest leap of the second-year quarterbacks this season) – “It’s the quote of the year (laughs). You guys won’t let me forget that. Neither will Coach (Joe) Philbin."

(On if he still thinks Ryan Tannehill will have big improvement now that training camp has concluded) – “I think that Ryan Tannehill is a diligent, hard (working), intelligent, competitive man. I think every day he walks onto this field he is going to get better, I really do. I believe in Ryan Tannehill."

(On if he expects to see as many eight-man fronts this year with new running backs) – “We had a pretty good running back. Reggie (Bush) had respect of his own as well. We started out running the ball pretty well, and we didn’t finish running the ball very well. That wasn’t indicative necessarily of just Reggie. We just didn’t run the ball very well. That was a collective effort on our part. We have to prove it. We have to prove that we can run the ball in order to determine what they are going to defend, if they are going to defend the run or the pass. If we are throwing the ball better, we will get seven-man fronts. If the run is beating them, we will get eight-man fronts. It is hard for me to determine what they are going to do. (Cleveland defensive coordinator) Ray Horton is a great defensive coordinator, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of eight-man front against him like we did last year. I’m sure we will see more of the same."

(On tight ends and if there are plays he can no longer call because Dustin Keller is not available) – “I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Dustin had talent of his own we certainly enjoyed having, but as one guy leaves another guy steps up. I’m hopeful the other guys will step forward and take his spot. There is no guarantee that everybody was going to stay healthy, so you always prepare for that possibility happening. He certainly was a savvy player and did some things, but I’m not going to say he is going to put handcuffs on us because he is not here. I’m hopeful we will be able to do some things with (Dion) Sims and (Michael) Egnew."

(On Dion Sims) – “I think I’ve already said this once before, I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t think this guy has got a chance.’ He came back for the OTAs and the rest of minicamp, and this guy made unbelievable progress. I really think he’s made a lot of progress since he’s been here. He made two catches out here. He has long arms on really low and high catches that normal tight ends weren’t going to make. He’s improved his blocking. He’s improved his route running, and I can’t say enough about the progress. Does he still have a ways to go? Yes, he has a lot of progress to make, but he’s come so far. In college he was a 280 pound tight end. I didn’t think he moved very well. To the credit of our personnel staff, they projected if he lost the weight he would be able to be the tight end he is right now. He’s done a very good job, and I think he’ll be a fine tight end in this league."

April 21, 2011

Ireland's assignment is simple really -- make a difference

Jeff Ireland will conduct his 2011 pre-draft presser (as ordered by NFL rules) today and I will be certain to look beneath his footwear to check for a net. I'm pretty certain I will not find one, but for journalism's sake one has to confirm things.

I want to confirm Ireland is indeed operating in this draft without the Bill Parcells net under him.

This draft, you see, Ireland's on his own. It's his baby and his alone. To him goes the glory if things work out. To him goes the ignominy if things don't.

This draft will be different for the Dolphins in that there can be no rewrite of history when or if things go wrong. The Pat White draft pick, for example, was pretty much an orphan for quite some time until the last three months when I got Ireland and Parcells to took responsibility for the mistake on the record -- Ireland on my radio show, Parcells in a column I wrote last week.Jeff ireland one

No big deal, but I think that kind of set the record straight.

Parcells is still proud of the Jake Long pick and doesn't deem it a mistake but he understands, he also told me, if some folks think Matt Ryan would have been the better selection. The Big Tuna has also told me that in the spring of 2008 he sent Dan Henning, Tony Sparano and Ireland to Ann Arbor (to see Chad Henne), to Delaware (to see Joe Flacco) and to Boston (to see Ryan) and everyone came back saying Henne was every bit as good as the other two. 

So again, responsibility goes where responsibility goes -- on the entire organization.

Now the responsibility belongs to Ireland. As it should be. No more shadows behind curtains. No more masters jostling puppet strings. We're not in Oz anymore.

Jeff Ireland is the man and he will get from fans whatever his picks bring him -- credit or contempt.

But, I wonder, what is your confidence level he's ready? Are you anxious whether he can avoid mistakes that would not be made if Parcells were here? Are you excited he might make more bold moves now that Parcells is gone?

My view?

There can be no doubt Ireland has an approach that is his own. I hope he does, anyway, because he is an individual rather than a clone of his mentor. He's younger than Parcells which suggests he might be bolder but also comes with the caution that he might not be wiser. Jeff and bill

I do not predict he will depart from precepts Parcells taught him. He'll pick prototype guys or try to, anyway. He'll want big guys. He'll especially want fast guys in this draft. He'll try to stay away from troublemakers.

I hope he is desperate. I hope he comes to this draft ready to go for the end zone rather than settle for field goals. I've had enough of field goals. I saw too many field goals the past couple of seasons. I want picks that will prove themselves to be touchdowns!

Think about it: The Dolphins have been good at drafting the past three years. Assuming Jared Odrick does get healthy and back on the field and becomes productive, the last three years brought outstanding to solid picks, with Long being outstanding and Vontae Davis representing solid.

The second round has brought satisifaction (Sean Smith) and disappointment (White) and a still hung jury in the court of public opinion (Chad Henne). Later rounds have had both good and bad picks.

So the work is worthy of a C-plus, in my opinion. 

That's because there has been no awe inspiring pick. There has been no take-your-breath-away, give-that-personnel man-a-prize selection. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has been a game-changer. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has brought a player other teams must game-plan around or for. Long isn't that because, by definition, left tackles can only change the course of a game by screwing up. They do not change the course of games when they merely do their jobs.

Davis has not been a game-changer. Smith hasn't although had he caught his six potential interceptions a year ago that he dropped, he might have reached that plateau. Odrick hasn't gotten a chance. Henne hasn't been a game-changer in any consistent or confidence-building manner. Anyone else?


Ireland needs to find a game changer this draft. He needs to do something his mentor could not. Oh, Parcells helped bring solid talent to the Dolphins when they were lacking even that. But conference titles and Super Bowls are won with difference-makers, game-changers stacked atop solid talent.

Ireland, on his own this draft, has work to do.

NOTES: I will be updating the blog several times Thursday so check back throughout the day. I will also provide real-time updates from Ireland's presser on twitter. So please follow me to get those updates.

December 15, 2010

Fins expect looong sellout streak will continue

The last time the Dolphins did not sell out a regular-season home game in time to lift the local TV blackout?

You have to have a looong memory ... or a media guide.

It was October 18, 1998 when the St. Louis Rams came to town and were dispatched 14-0 by the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have sold out 99 consecutive home games on time over 12 seasons since that long-ago game against St. Louis. And, after much hand-wringing and persuading and negotiating even, the team is now hopeful that streak will reach 100 consecutive sellouts that lift the local blackout when the deadline arrives at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The Dolphins believe Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills will be sold out in time to lift the local TV blackout.

If it happens, as expected, it will have come with much work. The team will almost certainly get a guarantee from local station CBS-4. That guarantee will mean the station buys whatever number of unsold seats remain so that the game can be shown locally.

It is a win-win for everyone. The station has on its air what will certainly be the highest-rated show of the week in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market. The Dolphins get their sellout. And local fans that cannot afford or cannot get out to the game for some other reasons, have an opportunity to watch the game.

Good news for everyone.

God, I love when a plan comes together.

[ALERT: Thursday will be a very busy day. On this blog, you'll get an update from the coordinators, you'll get whatever information comes out of the locker room and you'll get the best of Coach Tony Sparano's presser. On my radio show Armando and the Amigo, we'll have Dolphins defensive end Kendall Langford, Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin, ESPN's Mike Wallace for Miami Heat talk, and a special surprise guest. I'll be gassed by the end of the day.]

December 12, 2010

We get evaluated, Dolphins should be evaluated top to bottom

All of us that have jobs are evaluated at least once a year to mark the progress or regression we've made on the job. Am I right?

So an evaluation isn't an insult.

So, as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins need to perform a comprehensive top to bottom evaluation of the entire football side of the franchise.

In other words, coach Tony Sparano needs to be evaluated.

General manager Jeff Ireland needs to be evaluated.

All the players need to be evaluated.

All the assistants need to be evaluated.

I tell you in the column what result the evaluation of Sparano and Ireland should be, barring a final month collapse by the Dolphins.

I also tell you why the Dolphins need to encourage a couple of other high-ranking assistants to find something else to do next season because their work in 2010 won't stand up very well to an honest evaluation, regardless of what happens in the final four weeks of the season.

Those final four weeks begin today, by the way, with the Dolphins facing the New York Jets. We will have a live blog around 4 p.m. I will update the blog and and get us set up for the live blog, with pregame news, well before then.

So come back. 

December 10, 2010

Marshall, Henne to reunite after nearly a month

Brandon Marshall will be back on the field for the Dolphins this Sunday when they play the New York Jets, according to a source. That barring a setback to Marshall's hamstring, which must be guarded against as he sits with little legroom in a Broadway theater watching the play Lombardi with his teammates this evening.


But I digress.

Marshall must show up big Sunday. He faces New York's Darrelle Revis, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. He must account for and overcome the likely absence of teammate Brian Hartline, who is recovering from surgery on a hand. And there is always that stuff about being on the same page with quarterback Chad Henne.

Marshall hasn't played with Henne in three games, as Henne missed the Chicago game and then Marshall missed the next two. So the two haven't played together since Nov. 18.

Marshall addressed all those issues at his weekly press availability. Here's what he said:

Ooops, wait a second. Before you go to the words from Marshall's mouth, I encourage you to read the words from Ronnie Brown's mouth that he used this week to inspire folks. Frankly, much of the news about the Dolphins has not been positive lately. But Brown shared much of his personal life and that might lift your spirits today.

(On if he’s ever been to a Broadway show) – “Yes.” 

(On if he’s looking forward to going see the play about Lombardi) – “Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a good thing for our team, our organization, and to get a chance to hang out with the guys and spend some time. That’s always good.” 

(On how much does he know about Coach Lombardi) – “You know what, I think we all know something and something about him, but I don’t think we know enough. (You know) I think he’s definitely a pioneer to this game and this is an opportunity for us to learn more.” 

(On how hard did he lobby Coach Sparano for him to be able to play last Sunday) – “You know what, I lobbied pretty hard. But I think it was in the best interest of our team for me not to play. There definitely was some soreness in there and the four days…the three or four days that I had extra to rest was huge, a big difference. I felt pretty—felt okay out there running around on Sunday, but, coming into practice Wednesday was totally different and gave me an opportunity a piece of my mind that thing is healed in there and I should be able to make the plays that I’m normally capable of making.” 

(On how tough was it to watch from the sideline again, especially when Brian Hartline went out) – “Well it was really tough, but we got to have faith in the guys that we have on our roster and they have to step up and for the most part they did a great job. Of course we made some mistakes out there…and I wish we could have some of those plays back—But, at the end of the day it didn’t make any sense to go out there and play fifteen great plays and on the sixteenth play re-injure my leg but now I’m done for the season, so. I feel good where I’m at now and this week of practice has been great. The excitement is high and we’re ready to play.” 

(On if he watched the Jets vs. Patriots game on Monday night) – “Oh yes, I’m the type of guy, anytime there’s a team in our division on I’m going to watch them with my pen and my pad and take notes. (You know) so that was an opportunity for us to get ahead a little bit and get in front of those guys.” 

(On how he can get more involved in the offense) – “Absolutely I think the great players around the league want to be put in position to help the team but sometimes like Coach Sparano taught me and is trying to teach me still, some days it’s a shot glass and some days it’s a wheel barrel. You got to understand that and you just got to try to be mentally tough and it’s a struggle when you’re used to catching a bunch of balls or being so involved but we got to do what’s best for the team and hopefully get a couple wins here and have some things fall into place for us and get in that postseason.” 

(On what the possible absence of Brian Hartline means) – “I mean that’s all perception. The reality of it is I’ve stretched the field plenty of times. Marlon Moore is probably the fastest guy in our receiver room and he’s more than capable. It’s all about opportunities; it’s all about situation. You understand the way our offense is built teams were kind of afraid to let us go down the field so when you have a shell, you’re going against a shell defense it’s tough to just run down the sideline when you have a guy, his job is just to play you three yards and beat you up at the line and then there’s a guy over top. That’s what we’ve been seeing a lot of and that’s why you see us in the range of five to ten yards working those routes and we did a great job at times but we definitely need to take advantage of more opportunities.” 

(On whether he’s excited to face Darrelle Revis Sunday) – “Well I didn’t say I was excited to play against that particular guy. I mean it’s an opportunity you guys built players around the league up to be great. He is a great cornerback, one of the best in the league now. I’m the type of guy that I love the challenge and look forward to playing against that Jets defense, great defense, tough defense and just want to win.” 

(On whether there is a big difference in the Jets secondary without Jim Leonhard) – “Well you know that guy, you got to give him credit. He’s the quarterback on that defense; he gets guys lined up so definitely when you lose a guy like that it definitely affects your team but this is the National Football League. Those guys are more than capable of making plays and getting the job done. They’re coming off a tough week and we’re going to get their best.” 

(On how much he can take from the Monday Night Football game this past Monday) – “I think you definitely got to study, you got to study that game and see what we can do that the Patriots may have done but at the end of the day it’s about us. We’re coming off of a, off of a bad game and have a nasty taste in our mouth too so we’re excited about this opportunity to play on the big stage and compete out there.” 

(On the Jets trying to position themselves for the playoffs) – “We’re trying to position ourselves for the playoffs too.” 

(On the Jets coming off of being routed) – “Well what about us getting routed? Hey they’re all the same; whether it’s three or 40. Whatever it is that’s a route. We got routed (laughing). I’m just messing around.” 

(On how much the chemistry has developed between him and Chad Henne) – “I think Sunday people will see the connection.”

December 09, 2010

Miami future cloudy for Brown, Williams

It is clear the Dolphins have no intention of signing either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams to contract extensions before the end of the season. That's interesting because both are scheduled to be free agents for 2011 (assuming there's a season) and neither are absolutely certain of being back with the team for varying reasons.

Both Williams and Brown have addressed the issue to some extent this week. Ronnie Brown was on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo this week, and his words clearly suggested he'd like to be in South Florida, but ...

"It's really out of my control," Brown said. "I want to be here, I love playing for the Dolphins, but that's kind of out of my hands."

The Dolphins and Brown are not currently negotiating a new deal, at least not with any sort of consistency. The Dolphins also haven't slipped Ricky Williams a post-it note with contract extension numbers -- something Bill Parcells did with Williams the last couple of times he offered Williams an extension.

(Obviously, Parcells is gone but I wonder if general manager Jeff Ireland picks up the practice from his mentor.)

Williams, enigmatic and unpredictable, speaks with the local media only rarely for reasons known only to himself. But he addressed his future, sort of, with the New York media on a conference call Wednesday.

"I have no idea," Williams said when asked if he sees himself in Miami next year. "I mean, I'll be a free agent after this year ... after this year it's kind of wait and see. You know if someone wants me and they can convince to do this one more year, I definitely would be open to the opportunity. But if not, I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish in my career."

It seems to me one or the other, but not both Williams and Brown will return to the Dolphins next year.

Fact is it would be cheaper for the Dolphins to draft a running back and replace one of the two veterans, then depend on one of the two along with rookie during the coming season. Of course, Miami could blow both Brown and Williams out and go with a rookie and Lex Hilliard and someone else in the backfield.

Fact is Brown is likely to get some offers in free agency if he gets to that start of the open market because while he has not put up elite statistics with the Dolphins, he has been solid and could be better behind a better offensive line.

And maybe the Dolphins simply need to change things up a bit with their running back dynamic. I know the Dolphins like Williams and Brown together but neither of them is a break-away back. The Dolphins could definitely use a back that adds more speed to the backfield because the current duo isn't going to pop a 70-yard run to stun a defense very often.

That, by the way, is just my opinion. The Dolphins, plodding and even a bit slow on offense, seem to think Williams, for example, is quite fast, thank you.

"[He] still shows me that he’s got good top end and good burst and runs the ball hard, physical,” coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday.

December 07, 2010

Henne remains the starter, but evaluation coming

Despite another three-interception game, Chad Henne remains the Dolphins starting quarterback -- for now.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Monday he is not considering benching Henne (again), this time for Tyler Thigpen. "No, I don’t think so right now," Sparano said.

But ...

Sparano admitted some re-evaluation will take place by the Dolphins at the quarterback position. Perhaps not now, but eventually? Absolutely. Like at the end of the season.

“Listen the guy’s a young player right now. He’s, I think, getting better at a lot of things. At the end of the year we’ll have to sit down and from our standpoint we have to evaluate the whole big picture, I mean, we really do but there’s obviously some areas there where Chad needs to continue to improve and he would tell you that. One of the areas is, is this, this turnover thing.

"We just cannot, nobody can; I mean I’m watching one of the best in the league the last couple weeks have some problems that way (Peyton Manning), so you just can’t overcome them in this league. The margin is, it’s just too hard to overcome those kind of turnovers and unfortunately what you see is the guy throwing the football doing it. We don’t see all the other factors around it and there are a lot of other factors that go into how the quarterback plays in general and, and I think what the outcome is. In other words the result of an interception or all and any of those things.

"I mean, we had two protections yesterday where for all intensive purposes we’ve blocked these protections 150 times during the course of the season and what occurred yesterday on those two protections should never occur in that particular protection but it did and he got hit as he was throwing and at the end of the day you don’t convert a third and four. That stops a drive and that kills you in some of those things. The quarterback kind of takes the blame for that and there’s a lot of people around him.

"I feel like we got to make sure that the people around him are getting better as well. That’s probably a long answer to a short question but I do think this guy’s getting better. We’re going to have to evaluate everything at the end of the year."

Seems like Henne will get at least this coming game to get out of the Cleveland hole he dug himself. If he wins, he continues. If he loses, well, he probably continues because benching him at that point would be moot. The Dolphins would be out of the playoffs for sure, rather than almost definitely out of the playoffs.

The only reason Sparano would have for benching him at that point is if the coach believes Thigpen has a better chance to win him some games and he feels the need to get himself some wins for his own job security.

It otherwise seems wise that Henne might just keep his job until the end of the season and gets those games to prove himself.

Either way, it seems the Dolphins will go quarterback shopping this offseason. They will either try to find backup help or a quarterback that can compete for the starting job. That, of course, will all depend on that evaluation of Henne that will come when 2010 is over.

December 01, 2010

Henne getting more comfortable in his own skin

There is a feeling from those around Chad Henne that he is feeling more comfortable these days.

That's interesting because so many critics called him robotic and unfeeling and just not comfortable in his own skin when he was on the field in recent times, most notably before his benching following the Nov. 7 loss to Baltimore.

But that seems to be shifting a bit these days. I cannot exactly quantify for you that Henne is feeling more comfortable with his status on the Dolphins because there is no statistic for that. But it's just a hunch, a gut feeling, that he seems more at ease.

The most tangible example of that is what Henne said today about throwing interceptions. Look, Dolphins coaches have beat him over the head with the dogma that he must not make the big mistake and throw interceptions.

These coaches preach not losing the game as much as winning it.

But the truth, as has been discussed on this blog before, is that great quarterbacks throw interceptions. It's a fact of greatness. If the QB is going to expose himself and gamble sometimes and stretch skills to the breaking point, sometimes the result will be an interception.

The measure of greatness could include making sure the touchdowns far outnumber the interceptions. But the interceptions will come. And the great ones, while not accepting the interceptions, understand they are a fact of life.

Henne showed on Wednesday he understands interceptions are to be avoided. But they are sometimes a fact of life.

"This isn't life or death," he said of the miscues. "There's worse things in life out there that you can do. Obviously it hurts you deep down inside, but you have to let those things go. You have to keep on trucking ...

Henne cracked a smile.

"That's like Will Ferrell there, huh? No, you just have to put it behind you and move on to the next play because you can't let something despise you and shy away from it. You have to keep confident and keep throwing the ball out there."

I like it. I don't want the Dolphins quarterback playing scared.

On the other hand, Henne isn't a wild child, either. He has a sometimes funny, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes edgy streak he rarely shows the media. But it is there.

On the other hand, he is still big on saying the right thing. So when he was asked today if Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson blew it by smiling and laughing on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to San Francisco on Monday night, Henne straddled the fence.

He would never condone what Anderson did. But he didn't want to rip a fellow QB, either.

"I think you take the game seriously," Henne said. "It's not time to joke around, I guess, on the sideline. I mean, sure, if someone says something funny, you're going to laugh but I think staying focused and staying in command at all times shows the team you're there to play, this is a business, this is a game. You have fun and I'm sure whatever Derek did wasn't to say, 'Blow off the game or my mind's out of the game.' "

Well, that's polictically correct Henne. Maybe he's not totally comfortable being himself yet. But he seems to be headed in that direction.