December 15, 2009

The great transition that is, was, & must come

I wrote a column in today's Miami Herald that focused on how the Dolphins have continued winning despite undergoing a difficult transition at quarterback, cornerback and nose tackle. Those transitions are the toughest there are in the NFL --  obviously at quarterback but particularly at nose tackle if the team runs a 3-4 scheme.

Check out the column and you'll see some fascinating statistics that prove Chad Henne, Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, and Paul Soliai have been exceedingly effective in replacing valuable veterans.

The column also gives you a hint where future transitions will be needed.

The column does not address where the Dolphins have already made changes previous to this season. The offensive line and defensive line is where those changes came first. That's where Bill Parcells built his foundation.

And the offensive line has delivered, as well it should since it came at a price of $156 million.

"Here's what has been the most impressive - and when you watch an offensive line play, it's never pretty, it really isn't," coach Tony Sparano said. "Their tenacity, I think is a good word, they really are, they're a pretty tenacious, resilient group. They're doing some ugly things hard, and as long as you're doing them hard, you've got a chance. They're giving us a chance that way. Those guys would probably tell you that's a compliment. First of all, I don't dish many out their way, but secondly, that fact in the offensive line, it's not always pretty. It's a different position than most, yet, they're pretty tenacious, and they're pretty resilient. I think that that's the thing to me that stands out the most about it, it's that even when the game gets a little bit ugly, they keep grinding pretty good."

The defensive line has been effective of late also. Sparano said he challenged his defensive ends to play well last week against Jacksonville. They did. And Randy Starks was excellent.

"I think he’s having a great season, I really do," Sparano said. "I’ve said it before, but Randy was physical again yesterday, he had four or five tackles, tackle for loss in there, made a big play in one of those situations. There's still things Randy can get better at, there really are.

"Fundamentally, go back to that again, there's some things in the game yesterday that Randy will watch the film, and he'll know he left out there on the field. He played pretty good in there yesterday, physical, did a great job I thought. We asked our defensive ends yesterday, Randy, [Phillip] Merling, [Kendall] Langford, to do a hard job in that run game yesterday. Their job was very, very difficult from what we asked them to do from a defensive standpoint yesterday, but I thought the three of them, they really did a pretty good job in that game."

Starks is interesting because he came from the Tennessee Titans as a free agent in 2008. He had never played in a 3-4 defense. He'd always been a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. Well, he kind of struggled in his first year. He really wasn't much of a factor. But he seemed to get it in training camp. The light bulb seemed to flicker on and now it is burning brightly.

"I think I've had a breakout season," Starks said. "This is probably the best football I've been playing throughout my career. It could be the coaching, the coaching staff. The coaches help me a lot, coach Kace, Kacy Rodgers, he's helped me. Maybe this defense fits me better, maybe I'm just a 3-4 type of player, not a 4-3.

"The first time I ever played 3-4 was last year. It was a hard adjustment for me, but now, I'm getting the hang of it."

Discuss ...

And remember to check out the column for those stats and what I've been told is the next coming change of youngsters replacing vets.

Also, follow me on twitter.  You'll be able to see a picture of my Christmas tree the wife and I just finished trimming.

December 02, 2009

Miami Dolphins personnel dept. good not great

One of my twitter followers (which you should join, by the way) asked me Tuesday afternoon what order of responsibility I would assign to Miami's current struggles. OK, let me be more honest: He asked who I blame for Miami's problems this season.

Well, with the Dolphins the responsibility (blame or credit) for a season's performance goes to the players, who must execute, the coaches, who must develop players and put them in a position to succeed, and the personnel department, who delivers the players to the coaches.

This blog usually focuses on the players and coaches.

Today we focus on the personnel department.

And that personnel department is pretty much the kingdom of Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland -- The Big Tuna and the Tuna Helper, as I sometimes amuse myself designating them. (I'll stop if one ever asks me to.)

The overall grade of the personnel department since March of 2008 has to be considered a B-minus as of today. That department took a 1-15 team and cleaned a very dirty house. I believe the accurate percentage of player turnover has been in the 75 percent range as only 16 players that were on the team before the current regime arrived are still on the team. That figure includes players on injured reserve.

The grade can and will change as this season's final month unfolds, but the point is the personnel department has done relatively well.

But great? Wonderful? Amazing?

Not really.

Quick, which player did this personnel department sign, draft or trade for that has been a game-defining player? Yeah, nobody. 

Jake Long might be an excellent player for the next decade but you're supposed to get that and more when you get the first pick of the draft. And Long doesn't change the game or force opponents to scheme and game plan for him. He's a foundational role player.

The point is we cannot name one player that we know will be a superstar for the Dolphins in the coming years. You hope Chad Henne might be that player. But there are almost as many reasons to doubt he can be that guy as there are reasons to believe he will be.

We hope Vontae Davis or Sean Smith become lockdown cornerbacks in the coming years and become perhaps the best CB combo in the NFL. But they're not there yet. Not even close. And so we can give the personnel department kudos for picking two starters, but no credit (yet) for finding greatness.

Cameron Wake has potential. But he is a project that might take another couple of years. Lousaka Polite is a fine player at fullback but he is a role player, not a star.

Anyone else on that roster that might be getting Pro Bowl consideration in the coming weeks or seasons?

Anyone?

We hope Phillip Merling goes there, but frankly, he's kind of a disappointment in that he didn't pick up this year where he left off last season and then rise from there. Kendall Langford is good enough to start, but not great. Randy Starks is a nice player, but he's not going to the Pro Bowl, folks.

The rest of that highly paid $156 million offensive line? Not a Pro Bowl player on there despite high hopes for the future of Donald Thomas. Again, good stuff, but no greatness yet.

The fact is the personnel department has hit on a ton C and B players. But the A and A-plus guys have yet to show themselves.

Miami's personnel department has also missed some as well, and that, of course, lowers the overall grade.

The personnel department's biggest and most obvious mistake is in its failing to find a playmaker for the offense. Here we are in Year 2 of Parcells and Ireland and we are relying on Ricky Williams to carry the offense.

Ricky Williams!

The guy was carrying the offense in 2002. So Parcells and Ireland are threatening to fall into the same abyss that swallowed Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban and Cam Cameron in that none added two or three offensive players that turned Williams into a role player. Saban almost did it by drafting Ronnie Brown, but even he complained in 2006 that one reason the Dolphins finished 6-10 was that his best weapon was not available as Williams was suspended for the season.

Cameron wanted to get rid of Williams because he disliked everything Williams represented, but even he found himself needing Williams.

And now these Dolphins need Williams. Too much. The truth is today's Dolphins have no real hope of winning games if the 32-year-old running back doesn't play great. That Miami finds itself in this unseemly situation is ... is ... really bad personnel work.

The personnel department has yet to find a star wide receiver. The Dolphins weren't interested in Terrell Owens, didn't trade for Braylon Edwards, didn't draft Hakeem Nicks, and now Miami has no receiver that is an appreciable threat to defenses. The team did draft Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner. Hartline has been OK as a rookie, while Turner cannot get on the field.

The personnel department blew it on Ernest Wilford. That's all I got to say about that.

The personnel department was looking for an upgrade at free safety this year and paid Gibril Wilson $27.5 million to be that guy. The New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, paid Darren Sharper $1.7 million for one year. Which of the two players has taken over games this season? By the way, it was a personnel decision to let Renaldo Hill go to Denver. He also has played better than Wilson.

No personnel department is flawless. Miami's is not. But the outstanding personnel departments cover a multitude of misses by adding one game-changing player a year or two. Look at Minnesota, who has added Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre the last three years.

No, they didn't draft two of those players. So what? All three are key reasons the Vikings are playing exceedingly well now.

The Colts do it through the draft, but they seem to get production from their rookies almost immediately. Look up WR Austin Collie's numbers. Look at what rookie CB Jerraud Powers is doing as a starter. And I'm not even mentioning Donald Brown, who we last saw plowing over Gibril Wilson en route to a TD at Land Shark Stadium.

The point here is the Miami personnel department is in great hands with Parcells and Ireland. They've done a good job. But you cannot honestly say they've done a great job until we see some great players on the field. We cannot say they've done a great job until we see a team that's better than 5-6.

November 30, 2009

Dolphins coaching was a problem versus Bill

There are complaints aplenty about the Miami Dolphins today.

Some of them come from fans, as blogs, message boards and radio call-in shows will be loaded today with complaints about play-calling and coaching.

Some of the complaints come from Miami's locker room and coaching staff. That's the one I decided to focus on for my column in the Miami Herald Monday. Players and coaches alike looked at their fourth-quarter collapse against the Bills, a collapse which turned a 14-7 lead into a 31-14 loss, and everyone agreed the Dolphins have a problem finishing.

The Dolphins are perhaps the NFL's worst team at finishing games. They've blown games against Indianapolis, New Orleans, and the Bills in the final stanza this year. They also got outplayed by San Diego in the fourth quarter of that game.

Read the column and answer the following question: How does a team that cannot finish games, expect to successfully finish the season?

As to matters not in the column:

The coaching by the Dolphins staff was horrible on Sunday. I have great respect for the Miami coaching staff because I believe they often get the most production out of some limited talent. But this blowout upset loss was different.

This was embarrassing.

The facts are the Dolphins were facing an inferior team on Sunday. The Buffalo starting cornerbacks of Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee did not play on Sunday. The Buffalo offensive line was missing two starters and had another dude playing out of position. The Buffalo head coach is a rookie. And Ryan Fitzpatrick from Harvard? Really?

The Bills had nothing to play for but pride while the Dolphins' season was on the line.

Then one has to understand the Dolphins had 10 days to prepare for this game.

And the Bills still won?

"We've got 10 days to prepare and I didn't do a good enough job obviously preparing them," coach Tony Sparano said. "I've got to do a better job."

Sparano, the former play-caller for Bill Parcells in Dallas, has to do a better job of riding herd over offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Henning, who has forgotten more football than most people will ever know, is normally a fine offensive coordinator.

Sunday was not one of those occassions.

Consider that on Miami's first possession the Dolphins moved from their own 45 yard line to the Buffalo 3. Chad Henne completed a 15-yard pass. Ricky Williams ran for 11, then 7, then six, then 5 yards. The Bills were on their heels.

And then on first-and-goal, Henning got cute by calling a halfback pass for a player that hasn't thrown a pass since 2000.

Interception.

Momentum lost.

"Yeah, you know, I got the ball and Joey Haynos was supposed to block the outside linebacker and then go, and I saw him, and I just didn't put enough arch on the ball and it was picked off by the backside linebacker," Williams said.

But why call the play at that point? I can understand if the Dolphins weren't running well? But they were rolling. Not smart. They used their best runner to throw, thereby not using their best runner's or best passer's greatest assets. Not smart. 

Sparano relegated the criticism of the play-call to "Monday Morning quarterbacking" and said the problem with the play was in its execution. It sounded like a coach who would prefer to blame a player than another coach for a play's failure.

There were other head-scratching offensive calls also.

In the second quarter the Dolphins took a 7-0 lead and then stopped the Bills on a three-and-out. Then the Dolphins complete a pass for 11 yards, Williams runs for 6 yards, Williams runs for 5 yards. And then Henning gets cute again.

He calls an end-around to Ginn on first down. It loses 4 yards. And you know what? The Dolphins make 11 yards on the next two plays but have to punt because they needed 14 yards for a first thanks to that reverse, So that reverse to Ginn costs the Dolphins a chance to keep driving.

The Bills then get the ball and tie the game at 7-7 on their next possession.

Finally, can I ask about continuing to force the issue with Pat White? He is neither one of the team's better runners nor it's best passer. And yet he continues to get plays at strange moments when Miami runs its spread option.

White ran once for 2 yards on Sunday. When did that first taste of action come?

In the fourth quarter. Right after Buffalo took a 17-14 lead. What changed at that point that didn't happen in the three previous quarters when Miami was winning? What was the freakin' point?

The defensive coaching staff doesn't get a pass here, either.

We all recognize the Dolphins are starting two rookie cornerbacks. We recognize they are talented. And we recognize they are capable. But why put them in one-on-one coverage a large majority of the game, every game?

Hello? Other teams watch tape, also ...

It is begging for a game-changing TD. And the Dolphins got exactly what they were begging for when Terrell Owens caught a 51-yard TD pass over Vontae Davis in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick said he recognized the coverage pre-snap and called an audible.

Dagger to the heart.

One more thing: We keep hearing how Cameron Wake cannot get into games more because he is a work-in-progress as a run-defender.

Well, how long does it take to coach up a player to defend the edge of the defense? We're 11 games into the season and Wake's still not ready to tackle somebody running wide?

And if Wake isn't, what makes coaches think Joey Porter is ready? Porter blew edge run assignments time after time on Sunday. Yes, he had a couple of sacks against reserve tackles. But that was Porter blowing the run defense against Fitzpatrick as the Ivy League QB set off on a 31-yard TD run.

So the young player can't be taught to defend the run 11 games into a season and the veteran can't be reminded to keep his assignment discipline? Yes, the players have a responsibility to get this done. But the coaches have an equal responsibility to make sure those players do their job or take a seat on the bench.

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November 25, 2009

Miami Dolphins players must produce quickly

Surprised by the waiving of Matt Roth?

If we can cast aside for a second the conspiracy theories about this move, of which there are many -- theories that are unproven and therefore unfair (for now) to relate -- Roth was waived based on performance. He had four weeks to prove he could contribute to the Dolphins this year and beyond and he failed.

He had four tackles in four games and so the Dolphins did what they always do: They acted quickly and decisively to get rid of a player they no longer needed.

(I happen to love that about this regime.)

Unlike other teams that nurture draft picks, coddle free agents, or hold on to veterans perhaps one year too long, sometimes adding to a mistake by refusing to eliminate that mistake, these Dolphins recognize their mistakes and get rid of them.

It sounds harsh because players are men not meat and these men have families to feed. But the NFL is a business and the Dolphins treat the business with little emotion. These guys are Vulcan-like in their rational, logical approach to casting out roster weakness.

That's why no player or coach can feel safe on the Dolphins unless he is producing.

Remember only a few weeks ago, coach Tony Sparano was saying of Roth, "it was good to get him out there," and a couple of weeks later he's gone. Remember I told you how Shawn Murphy got a figurative pat on the back from Sparano about how well he was coming along and two days later he was waived?

Here yesterday, unproductive today, gone tomorrow.

We've seen it time and again.

Samson Satele started all 16 games last year but was a weak link that glowed in neon in losses to Baltimore and other games. He was traded.

John Beck was talked up and credited for his professionalism all last year and in training camp. He was waived.

Eric Green was signed as Miami's free agent answer to its cornerback problems. He was cut in training camp.

Ernest Wilford was a huge free agent bust last year and so the team swallowed a $4.5 million salary cap hit to get rid of him.

The club claimed tight end Davon Drew off waivers and to hear Sparano talk, the guy was on Miami's radar for some time and had great potential. And five minutes later, Drew was cut.

And the approach applies to assistants as well. Remember offensive line coach Mike Maser? He spent 2008 cursing at his players and was basically fired one week after the season ended.

And all this leads us to this question: Who is next?

Earlier this year, when the Dolphins were struggling, I was told no one was safe. In other words, no player that Miami would want to cut after the season could relax simply because his contract situation. The Dolphins saw no salary cap situation they couldn't overcome.

Of course, this doesn't include guys like Jake Long or Vontae Davis or some others because the Dolphins wouldn't consider cutting or trading them anyway. But vets who aren't performing this year risk being outta here by next year regardless of their contracts.

And there are, of course, candidates. These players must step up in the coming weeks to avoid finding themselves possibly looking work elsewhere next season:

1. Jason Allen. The experiment has failed, he is a first-round bust. He isn't a starting-caliber cornerback or safety. That fact aside, he isn't exactly contributing a ton in his current role on special teams, either. He has only seven special teams tackles this year.

2. Ted Ginn Jr. Miami coaches will defend him until the cows come home the rest of this season. But in the offseason the team will make finding a legitimate No. 1 receiver one of its priorities. And if someone comes, someone's got to go. Ginn may still stick as a special teams weapon, but barring some sort of epiphany by him as a receiver, his days at that position in a Miami uniform could be numbered.

3. Joey Porter. The Carolina game gave him a huge reprieve because he's under the microscope bigtime. Porter had eight tackles against the Panthers. That's as many tackles as he had since the third week of the season. But coaches recognize Porter did that against a guard that was playing out of position in place of an injured left tackle. They aren't fooled by the stats. Porter, 33 years old in March, has to prove in the season's final six weeks and in the coming offseason camps and conditioning program, that he deserves a spot on this team. It is not guaranteed.

4. Lionel Dotson. Sparano raved this preseason about how Dotson "changed his body" and got stronger and bigger and better. And he's still managed to be active only twice this season after being active only twice last season.

5. Anthony Fasano. I struggled with this one because I know Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland really like this kid. He's good in the locker room. He's a solid citizen. He plays all-out. But his production has fallen off the table this year. He has only 14 receptions for 113 yards. Dallas Clark had more yards against the Dolphins in one game. Fasano has been injured, has two fumbles, and three drops. He's not having the season anyone would want in a contract year. I don't think he'll be off the team, but I think the Dolphins will definitely try to add talent at TE in the offseason and, as I said before, if someone comes in, someone has to leave.

6. Gibril Wilson. I struggled with this one also. If the evaluation on Wilson had stopped in October, Wilson would probably be gone next season. He missed tackles that cost touchdowns and, arguably, games. But something happened starting Nov. 1. Wilson has not had the same dubious tackling troubles and his coverage has been solid. So it's really quite simple for him: If he plays as he did before Nov. 1, he's gone. If he continues to play as he has been of late, he stays.

7. Patrick Turner. He'll be around for training camp next year because the Dolphins did invest a third-round pick on him. But he should look to example of Murphy, a fourth-round pick in 2008, before he gets too secure in his roster status. He must improve by leaps and bounds by next season because the honeymoon for Dolphins players in Miami can be very short.

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November 16, 2009

Mortensen: Porter not playing anytime soon

Well, this one came out of left field, but because Chris Mortensen is so well-respected and highly decorated as a journalist, it demands repeating here: The ESPN information man just reported Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter is not playing against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night.

Or "anytime soon," for that matter.

"The bottom line is I wouldn't expect to see Joey Porter anytime soon, certainly not Thursday night against the Panthers, although that's a coach's decison," Mortensen said on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown show.

And there you have it, except I have a hard time buying it.

I could understand if Porter is not expected to start. I could understand if Porter is not expected to get a majority of the snaps. But not play? And not for the foreseeable future?

I call Bovine Stool on this report.

I know Mortensen is pals with Bill Parcells because the two worked together at ESPN. I assume as everyone else does that Mortensen gets information from Parcells. And I can see how Parcells, a no-nonsense type guy with little regard for trash talkers that bark loudly but don't bite on game day, might be sick of Porter's big mouth act.

But shelve Porter indefinitely?

It would make better sense for the Dolphins to simply cut Porter. And I believe that will happen before the 2010 season begins. But just put the guy on ice?

I believe Porter is expected and will play Thursday against the Panthers. I have not been told anything one way or the other. But instinct forces me to believe the Dolphins won't shelve Porter while, for example, Quentin Moses is active for the game.

Nothing against Moses, but a player like Porter does not fall from grace so fast and with such a mighty thud as to be a starter against New England one week and then you don't hear from him again "anytime soon," thereafter.

Now, if Porter were injured, I would understand the possibility of not playing him. But Mort's report did not mention injury, and in fact, made the case that Porter is out because both Charlie Anderson and Cameron Wake were outstanding against Tampa Bay.

Porter also practiced Monday, was not on the injury report, and said during his talk to reporters that he is healthy. “I’m good man. I’m ready to go," Porter said. "I’m healthy. I’m ready to play."

Porter, by the way, expects to play against Carolina. He said he was getting ready for Carolina at least twice during Monday's interview. So if he's about to get shelved, he wasn't aware of it Monday.

Another reason I have trouble with the report is what Sparano said Monday, which I reported in the previous post. Yes, there is a rotation set now for the outside linebacker corps. That rotation was set prior to the Tampa Bay game and will continue for the Panthers game.

But Porter is expected to be part of that rotation rather than be excluded from it.

“I will be honest with you and I might have mentioned this after the game, but our plan going in was to have a rotation and we will continue to have a rotation and get as many of these guys in the game that we can get into the game," Sparano said. "I think [Cameron Wake and Charlie Anderson] were both productive yesterday so there is no reason for them not to get into the game and play.”

Nowhere in that is a hint that Porter will be left out in the cold. Furthermore, Sparano's almost enthusiastic defense of Porter against what he said was a media "hunt," suggested the coach plans to continue using Porter.

Even the suggestion that Porter has lost some explosion while his sacks have gone from 17.5 last year to 2.5 so far this year, seemed to vex Sparano.

“That’s your opinion," he retorted. "I think that you’re entitled to your opinion, but I think that for what we’ve asked Joey to do right now in the games that Joey’s been out there and been healthy, I’ve seen some of those things happen.

"Sometimes they just don’t go your way. It’s like when you guys sit here, and you say to me, ‘How come the receivers aren’t catching the ball?, How come the tight ends, coach, aren’t getting this, that, and the other thing?’ We want to talk about tight ends today? I think that those things, the opportunities are what the opportunities are. There was a ballgame a couple weeks ago, Joey was playing in, and if you start counting front side runs to backside runs, Joey was on the backside of a lot of those plays, an awful lot.”

So where does this all leave us?

If Porter does not play, it obviously signals the end of the relationship between him and the Dolphins much earlier than anyone expected -- that being by the start of 2010. It would mean the Dolphins have grown tired of his big mouth and diminishing statistics.

Simply, it would be hard for Miami to shelve Porter indefinitely without some backlash from the player. Porter wouldn't take it calmly, trust me. And, frankly, Porter would have something of a right to be angry if the report is true because it would mean the club was laying out its plans for him to a media outlet before telling him. Porter might have heard of Miami's plans on ESPN rather than from a coach that he likes and admires.

That would not sit well with him. He could get ugly about the whole situation. So the Dolphins would almost be forced to cut ties to avoid any drama. In that regard, the bigger story would be Dolphins getting ready to cut Porter.

So we are at a crossroads.

You either have a report that is wrong if Porter plays Thursday. Or you have an accurate report and a head coach who, in his zeal to defend an embattled player, crossed the line from defense to outright deception about that player -- defending him to the media while dumping him otherwise.

That's not how I believe Tony Sparano operates. He might not tell the media everything. But he's not a deceptive type of guy. And he doesn't mince words with his players. If Porter weren't going to play, he would hear that from Sparano, not on ESPN.

So I choose to believe the coach at the moment. I choose to believe Porter will play.

We shall see.

Latest on Ronnie Brown and Joey Porter

This is what we know at this hour: Barring a dramatic and unexpected recovery by Thursday, running back Ronnie Brown's right ankle and foot injury will keep him out of the game at Carolina, according to a source.

A twitter tweet from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports was the first to reveal the foot injury. A source confirms the Dolphins are concerned about Brown's foot long-term. The ankle injury is a shorter-term issue, the source said.

[UPDATE: The Dolphins have put out an injury report and Brown is indeed on there with a foot injury. The ankle is not listed. Brown did not practice on Monday.]

"The only thing I can tell you about Ronnie right now is that we're still in the middle of gathering information and we probably won't know more until a little later on this evening or first thing tomorrow," coach Tony Sparano said.

Brown was still on crutches today. He was wearing his sneakers and not a protective boot. Brown is not expected to practice Tuesday, either.

Barring a quick recovery by Brown, Lex Hilliard will get a chance to carry the football against Carolina, but the Dolphins are more likely to give Lousaka Polite some extra carries. Ricky Williams would obviously be the starter.

On other matters, Joey Porter spoke the local media today following his one-game deactivation Sunday. He declined to discuss the reasons behind the deactivation. After what was an uncomfortable give and take, several media members lingered around his locker.

"Ya'll going to wait for me to fart or something?" Porter asked.

Then he got into an exchange with a Palm Beach Post reporter who asked why Porter seemed so angry. 

"Did I say something personal to you?" Porter asked.

At that point Dolphins media relations man Harvey Greene stepped in and told the media to disperse.

And the clouds over Porter's sudden deactivation are clearing. According to a club source, one reason Porter was basically shelved Sunday was because his conduct was not what coaches expected throughout the week and including the moment when he was told he would be sharing time with Charlie Anderson.

Sparano and the Dolphins have declined to say specifically why Porter was deactivated.

But the source said coaches "were not happy with Porter's professionalism" in handling his knee injury and the news he would play less.

If Porter rebelled against sharing playing time, he'll simply have to get over it -- because it is going to continue.

"I'll be honest with you and I might have mentioned this after the game," Sparano said, "but our plan going in was to have a rotation. We'll continue to have a rotation and get as many of these guys in the game as we can get in the game. I think [Anderson and Cameron Wake] were both productive yesterday. There's no reason for them not to get in the game and play."

Despite Porter's shelving, despite production that has dropped dramatically, Sparano continues to defend a player who is clearly one of his favorites.

"I see different things Joey does, different things Joey's gotten better at," Sparano said. "Things you guys won't see unless you're watching the film with us.

"I just talked about setting the edge of the defense. I see this guy getting much better with his hands, much better in the run game versus some of these tight ends, the back side of things, retracing plays, all these things, that a year ago, while you're watching him get sacks and you think that's the measuring stick, we're sitting up there saying, 'God I wish he'd play this this way, I wish he'd do things this way.'

"We're starting to get some of those things from him. That's a credit to Joey."

One would expect Sparano to defend his player because he sees the media as being, "on a hunt," as he put it, over Porter. But the coach's defense borders on guileful because it's not the media that has forced Porter's statistics to drop dramatically.

And it's not the media that decided last year's club sack-leader was losing his fulltime gig and had to start sharing snaps with Anderson and Wake.

[ANOTHER UPDATE: TE Anthony Fasano (hip) did not practice Monday. G Justin Smiley (shoulder), NT Paul Soliai (ankle), LB Erik Walden (hamstring) were limited in practice Monday. For the Panthers, T Jordon Gross (broken ankle) is out. S Charles Godfrey (ankle), FB Brad Hoover (ankle), DE Charles Johnson (pectoral), DT Damione Lewis (shoulder) and RB Jonathan Stewart (Achilles) did not practice. TE Dante Rosario (knee) and DE Julius Peppers (hand) were limited in practice.]

Are the Dolphins backups that good?

It is the proverbial two-edged sword that the Dolphins now wield with the handful of players that sat out Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay and those players that took their place.

Obviously the Dolphins won the game, so the replacements were good enough to help Miami to victory. But because the Dolphins won the game, one has to wonder about the players who sat.

Here's the thing that is frying my brain right now: Were Miami's replacements that good? Or were the players being replaced not as good as we thought and thus easily substituted for?

Let's take it position by position:

At outside linebacker, Joey Porter was benched for reasons the Dolphins don't want to divulge. But in keeping those reasons and Porter under wraps, something very interesting became quite public. Porter can seemingly be easily replaced.

Either that, or the Dolphins have amazing depth at OLB.

Think about it. Porter has not had a full sack since September. He's been missing practice time. He was invisible in last week's game at New England. So he gets deactivated and, voila, Charlie Anderson and Cameron Wake not only pick up the slack, but play much better than Porter has recently.

Anderson had five tackles -- almost half as many as Porter has contributed the entire season -- and added a sack and two forced fumbles.

"I was able to get back there and I knew the guy was tough to take down, but he can't go anywhere without the ball," Anderson said. "A couple of guys were like, 'Hey go for the ball,' The second time I was able to do that."

And he did. So do you think Anderson is a super sub? Or do you think Porter has been playing so poorly that this is the type of production the weakside outside linebacker position should be delivering regardless of who is playing there?

Oh, by the way, with Porter out, Cameron Wake also got a few extra pass-rush opportunities than usual. He turned in a sack, bringing his total to four, and had two tackles -- again better than what Porter has been giving.

At the tight end spot, the Dolphins played without starter Anthony Fasano because he is troubled by a hip injury. To cover the void, the Dolphins moved Joey Haynos to the starting job and used rookie Kory Sperry in double-tight end alignments.

Well, in his first NFL outing, the rookie tight end caught three passes for 31 yards, including a touchdown. In other words, Sperry now has as many TD catches as Fasano has had this season. So did the Dolphins miss Fasano on Sunday?

That would be a no.

Is it because Sperry is really good, a diamond found in the practice squad rough? Or is it because Fasano just hasn't been producing up to par to the point a rookie could match the veteran's typical production with little problem?

Discuss.

By the way, Sperry was brought up from the practice squad because he has been consistently out-performing fellow rookie John Nalbone in practice. Nalbone was a Miami fifth-round selection. Sperry was not drafted out of Colorado State. So much for all the draft experts out there.

Anyway, the Dolphins were also without LG Justin Smiley on Sunday. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Nate Garner. I'm not going to try to fool you and say Garner played well or as well as Smiley might. I have no idea.

I do know the Dolphins didn't give up any sacks. I do know they rushed for 199 yards. So obviously the offensive line -- including Garner -- was doing something right.

The greater point is this: If the Dolphins can manage to get such good production from their backups, they are a team that either enjoys great depth, as I said before. Or they are a team with some starters that aren't much better than their backups.

One is very good. The other possibility is troubling.

Only the coaching staff knows the true answer. And I'm sure the answer is different in each individual case.

But if the Dolphins have reserves that can deliver pretty well on Sunday, perhaps using those players might be a good idea in the future. Maybe applying the thought to other positions might be worthwhile.

Perhaps Tyler Thigpen might get better results in the spread formation than Pat White. Perhaps giving Patrick Turner some snaps with the offense (he was limited to special teams duty far as I saw on Sunday) might actually surprise people with production.

The old adage is the starter starts because he's better than the backup. Perhaps with the Dolphins that isn't always true.

September 19, 2009

Thoughts (I have a few) on White activation

I know for a fact the Dolphins liked Pat White early in the draft process. Bill Parcells personally fell in love with the kid's play at West Virginia and in the Senior Bowl and was sharing that fact with his buddies at Spring Training games up in Jupiter, FL. early on.

The stuff about the Dolphins being moved to pick White because they feared New England would snatch him is bogus.

And now that Miami has Pat White, it has to figure out what to do with Pat White.

That normally isn't a big issue. If you've got a player that is going to contribute, you suit him up, activative him and throw him out there, hoping he'll succeed. But White, who's position, plays and even game status are veiled in secrecy, is not your ordinary player.

First of all, the Dolphins don't want folks to know when and how they're going to use White. That's a problem because the Dolphins also have made it clear White is strictly a quarterback and the NFL has rules concerning the three quarterbacks on the roster.

Because White is a quarterback, the Dolphins last week decided to designate him the No. 2 while true backup QB Chad Henne was designated the No. 3, or the emergency QB. As ESPN's Len Pasquarelli points out in his Friday Tip Sheet, that immediately tipped off the Falcons that White was indeed going to be used against them.

"When we saw that White was No. 2," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said, "We knew they had some Wildcat stuff planned."

So the Dolphins, try as they might to keep White's status a secret, are dogged by the fact you must designate your QBs 90 minutes before the game so the Wild cat is out of the bag.

To combat this Pasquarelli suggests the Dolphins designate White as a receiver or running back instead, so as to not tip off the opposition before the game. Sounds logical on the face of it. But there are problems with that approach.

First, White cannot be designated a wide receiver because he doesn't wear a WR number. He'd have to change his number to officially change positions. Secondly, the Dolphins did little to no work with White at wide receiver during training camp.

And though White might be able to line up at receiver as he did against Atlanta, that's not what the team has planned for him. The Dolphins want him taking snaps from center and either running or passing out of the spread offense. They have receivers to play receiver a lot better than White can.

Finally, the idea of designating White as a receiver or a defensive tackle for that matter, doesn't change the fact he takes up an active roster spot. And if Henne is taking up an active roster spot, that means someone who was active last week has to be deactivated.

The simple math is if you have White, Chad Pennington and Chad Henne active, someone has to be take a seat in the stands as an inactive player.

That poses a problem in its own right because the Dolphins are freaks about how many plays they will milk from each player they take to the game. If the Dolphins lose one of those players, somebody has to pick up the slack.

So there is no easy solution for making White active. It might be that Chad Pennington, Pat White and Chad Henne might all be active for some game to not tip Miami's hand on the use of White 90 minutes before the game. But that is a fleeting strategic victory as most teams will assume if White is active, he'll get snaps regardless.

That leads me to these two scenarios:

Is White worth having active at all. I would tell you that if White is active versus Indianapolis -- which is NOT a certainty -- he must produce because two consecutive unproductive weeks might cause coaches to conclude he's not yet ready to contribute.

And what makes White any less accountable than any other player, particularly a rookie? You're not ready? You sit.

Also, White has to be productive and do so in a package of plays that numbers at least half a dozen to a dozen. After all, what good is having White active for three plays and plays that fail at that?

So the pressure is on White to show up soon.

One more thought:

This conversation would be so different had White actually completed that lone pass attempt last week to Ted Ginn. That pass connects and it changes everything.

Defenses, you see, expect White to run. So, if they react like the Falcons reacted, they will load the box when he was at QB. That was obvious on his run for zero yards.

But if White completes that fateful pass, defenses have to respect his arm. And now they're not putting eight defenders in the box. And now White can run, which forces them to respect the run. And now they have to respect both run and pass. And that causes problems for the defense!

Had that pass been two feet shorter, it would have changed everyone's outlook on Pat White.

Of course, had I picked the right six numbers last weekend and actually played those numbers, I wouldn't be writing any of this right now. That, like the completion, did not happen.

So White must make something good happen this week. Assuming he gets another opportunity.

January 22, 2009

Meeting with Parcells most import to ... Ross

New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has a meeting with Big Tuna Bill Parcells, Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland, and coach Tony Sparano scheduled for Friday. At this gathering Ross expects to ease any fears he plans significant changes from the way former owner Wayne Huizenga did business with his football people.

Ross said: "The three of us are sitting down and letting them know, 'Hey business as usual,' and any questions they might have, especially Jeff and Tony, to make them feel totally comfortable that business will continue the way it has and they're wanted and I have a lot of respect for what they've done."

The hope is Ross continues to make Parcells feel comfortable about staying with Miami beyond the 30-day opt-out period that began Tuesday. During that period, Parcells is able to opt-out while collecting the total remaining salary from his contract, which still has three years remaining and is worth between $9-$12 million.

If Parcells walks, Ross has to write him a check for the entire remaining sum and Parcells can decide to go to the race track, go to work for another team, or simply hang out with his son-in-law Scott Pioli in Kansas City if he wants to -- nothing the Dolphins can do about it.

Parcells has not made a public statement about what he intends to do one way or the other but sources have indicated he wants to stay ... assuming he feels good about Ross.

So today is important.

But thinking about this, I'm of the opinion todayis much more important for Ross than Parcells. Think about what I just wrote. It is more important for Ross, the billionaire owner, to impress and defer to Parcells than vice versa. It is more important for the boss to please his employee than vice versa.

Disagree?

Let's walk this through: Suppose the meeting doesn't go well. Suppose Ross, for whatever reason, gives Parcells the willies and Parcells decides he simply wants his collect his check and check out. Which one becomes the villian? Is it Bill Parcells for leaving or Ross for not moving heaven and earth to make Parcells want to stay?

Ross would be the bad guy.

The fact of the matter is no matter what Parcells does the next 30 days, he wins. If he stays but his team doesn't win big, as we all hope, he's a hero for at least trying to finish what he started. If he stays and wins big, he's a hero for doing something Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban and others could not do since the 1984 season.

If Parcells leaves and the Dolphins win big, he's a hero for laying the foundation and bringing the people to Miami that ultimately delivered the big prize. If Parcells leaves and the Dolphins fail to win big, he's a hero for turning things around the one year he was here while his reputation for being the genius behind that improbable great season is heightened because the Dolphins will prove they couldn't do it without him.

In other words, the man who has spent practically his entire adult life trying to win in the NFL finds himself in a no-lose situation now.

Amaaaazing.

December 28, 2008

Is Parcells one and done in Miami? [Updated]

Everyone agrees the Miami Dolphins resurrection in 2008 was quickened by the hiring of football czar Bill Parcells.

But with the end of the season looming -- whether it be after today's game or after the Super Bowl -- the Dolphins are scheduled to change ownership and that has a definite impact on Parcells.

I am told as we sit here today the chances are "extremely good" Parcells will return to the Dolphins for the 2009 season despite the change in ownership.

Yes, Parcells signed a four-year contract with Wayne Huizenga last December, which suggests he has three more years remaining in Miami regardless. But the truth is Parcells is 67 years old and suffered some health issues earlier this year. So for him, football is really a year to year question regardless of what a contract might suggest.

Parcells also has a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away from the Dolphins if, at any point, Huizenga is not his immediate boss. And that clause would require the Dolphins to pay Parcells the entire remaining portion of the contract, or $9 million after this season.

ESPN reported in its pregame show that the clause has to be used within 30 days of Huizenga no longer being Miami's owner. Here's the story.

That brings us to incoming owner Stephen Ross. He has had casual contact with Parcells in recent months. But he wants to formalize the relationship with Parcells. He doesn't want Parcells using the opt-out clause. So why would Parcells do that when he holds all the cards now?

Can you say pay raise?

Don't be surprised if Ross and Parcells negotiate a pay increase from the $3 million Parcells now makes annually. Parcells is not at the Meadowlands today but Ross is scheduled to be here and agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents Parcells, is also at the game today. It's not a stretch for them to discuss the matter, at least in principle, as early as today.

That all assumes Ross vows to continue allowing Parcells the wide latitude on the football operations side that Huizenga delivered. The chances are very slim Ross would risk alienating Parcells by asking the czar to have a relationship that is any different than the one that has brought Miami such success this season.

The only scenario I can imagine that might lure Parcells out of Miami?  If the Jets lose today and ownership is so angered by the team's failure that New York's GM and coach are fired, Parcells might be convinced to rejoin the team he once coached and was general manager for earlier this decade.

Can you imagine?

August 01, 2008

Who will tell Parcells he's wrong? [updated]

I wrote in today's Herald that Bill Parcells is great, but not infallible. Breaking News!

Seriously, it is good he is here and is engaged. But as I wrote in the column, it is highly important that Parcells find someone he trusts that can eventually win arguments against him.

Why?

So when he defaults to ideas like: Let's not draft Terry Glenn in 1996 or Let's not sign Terrell Owens in 2006 or Let's bring in Terry Glenn to the Dolphins in 2008 or Let's sign Quincy Carter in 2008, somebody says, "Whoa, there big man. Let's think about this thing."

He had people like that with the Giants, Cowboys and Patriots. He doesn't have that yet in Miami although I believe he realizes it and that is the reason he's brought former Green Bay architect Ron Wolf to camp.

Anyway, please read the column if you can and let me know if you think getting a foil for Parcells is a good thing or not.

PRACTICE UPDATE: The Dolphins worked on special teams for practically the ENTIRE morning practice. That is why it was the most boring professional football practice I have ever witnessed.

How boring? At one point injured cornerback Michael Lehan was rehabbing his high ankle sprain by literally running around in circles.

Anyway, there has been a lot of talk lately about Vonnie Holliday working at linebacker. Let me clear this up for you. The Dolphins are having Holliday get some work with defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni in which he is in the standup position and being taught how to use his hands rushing the passer.

That does not mean the Dolphins are turning 285-pound Holliday who has never played off the line of scrimmage into a linebacker. It does mean they are checking to see if he catches on quickly and might be an option if injuries hit in the regular season.

It is a precaution not the plan for the season. The team did the same thing with Matt Roth during the offseason camps.

One thing this does show, however, is exactly how devastating the trade of Jason Taylor is to the Dolphins this year. I'm not saying it was a bad trade, but I have said it leaves a giant void in Miami's defense NOW.

Were Taylor still here, he would be that OLB rushing from a standup spot and Charlie Anderson would be his backup and Joey Porter would come after that and Holliday wouldn't be in the picture.

May 28, 2008

Another in the endless line of Jason Taylor posts

Sorry to do this to you guys, especially those of you officially numb to the Jason Taylor updates. But in the interest of telling you the latest about the Dolphins most recognizable player, I must pass this along.

Again, I apologize.

Taylor today was in West Des Moines, Iowa, which culturally is about as distant from Los Angeles and South Florida as Mars, to play a round of charity golf. After the event he was asked about his situation with the Dolphins.

"I'm under contract with the Dolphins," he said. "So again, I'm looking forward to playing some golf. Football doesn't start until July and training camp, so I'll be all right. I've been in L.A. and so far removed from it. Like I said, I'll deal with that when I get there."

According to the Associated Press report, Taylor avoided questions about whether he plans to meet with Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Bill Parcells when he gets back. (Remember their last encounter didn't go so well with Parcells ignoring Taylor.)

Taylor said his immediate plans are to work out, play golf and relax at home.

"We'll work with football here in the near future," Taylor said.

Personally, I'm not counting on that. I don't see a resolution to this, this, this relationship until just before the regular season beckons. At that point, some desperate team will trade for Taylor, or Taylor will report so he can get paid, or he'll simply stay away and possibly retire.

My best guess of what eventually happens: He reports.

Don't toss your No. 99 jerseys yet.

Did I tell you I'm sorry? Please forgive me.

May 19, 2008

Taylor-Parcells not talking bother you? [Updated]

Everybody's talking about the Jason Taylor Sunday Conversation on ESPN last night.

Everybody's talking about JT's desire to be known more for acting than football 10 years from now when he's 43 years old.

Everybody's talking about him saying he's in "five times better shape now than when I was defensive player of the year."

Everybody's talking except for Jason Taylor and Bill Parcells.

Am I the only one that finds this odd, bizarre, weird, out of the ordinary and otherwise strange? Bill Parcells sits down and has lunch with Ricky Williams, talks to much less gifted players on the team, seemingly meets with Jeff Ireland every five minutes, but since taking over as the Dolphins football czar he and Jason Taylor have talked all of 30 seconds?

I wrote about that 30-second communication in a column I wrote in late April. Taylor confirmed that communication (or lack of it) during his Sunday conversation. "I haven't talked to him so I really don't know him," Taylor said of Parcells. "I met him, obviously, for 30 seconds ... But I don't know him."

So let me try to work this out in my mind: The best player on the Dolphins and the man redirecting the Dolphins future have crossed paths for all of 30 seconds since DECEMBER when Parcells was hired. Does that not seem strange to anyone but me?

The one and only meeting between these two men includes the time, which I also detailed in that linked column, in which Taylor tried to visit with Parcells and was rebuffed.

This sounds like a junior high relationship for goodness sake.

Why hasn't Bill Parcells picked up the phone and called Jason Taylor? Why hasn't Taylor picked up the phone and called Parcells? They have some things to iron out, don't you think?

If, indeed, Parcells intends to hold Taylor to the Dolphins as he has said, it kind of makes sense to have communication with the guy. If, indeed, Taylor plans to play for the Dolphins in 2008 as he has said publicly, it kind of makes sense to keep trying to communicate with Parcells even if The Big Tuna continues to give him the Big Brush Off.

So why the chill?

Do I have to spell it out for you?

Behind the scenes this is a fractured relationship and, as I have written on this blog and in my columns, Taylor doesn't want to play for the Dolphins in 2008. He wants to be traded to a playoff team. His agent has called Parcells and Ireland and even owner Wayne Huizenga various times to tell them that.

A lot of you have criticized me for reporting this because you call it gossip. That's because you said I could point to no public quote in which either party claimed any sort of rift. Well, when the team's best player goes on ESPN and admits he doesn't speak with the guy who is running the team, I believe the gossip is looking a lot like fact.

One more thing: Don't tell me everything is fine because JT and coach Tony Sparano have been exchanging text messages. How many of you would feel comfortable getting kudos from your immediate boss while knowing HIS BOSS is angry at you?

Anyway, I've added a poll to allow you to give further opinion. Take the poll and I'll give you indepth results not available in the percentages later.

Discuss...

[Evening update: It is 7:30 which is 6 1/2 hours since I posted the poll. To this point 838 people have taken the poll which means approximately 128 people every hour are taking the poll. Most of the people taking the poll are from Florida, as one might expect, but there is a ton of people from California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hamphire, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Atlantic states taking the poll.

Interestingly, no one from Wyoming or Oregon or North Dakota has taken the poll. Guess there are very few Dolfans there. Internationally, folks from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Candadian friends in Quebec, Ottawa, Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver have taken the poll.

On the other side of the great oceans, there is so far one participant from South Korea, one in Israel, Poland, and Serbia. There is one participant in The Netherlands. There were multiple participants from the United Kingdom and Germany. There is one participant in Malaysia and several in Australia.

I tell you this because I find it interesting to what degree Dolphins fans will go to find information about their teams -- regardless of how far from South Florida they are. I commend you. In the future, I will continue to give you insights about the polls on this blog. And, by the way, since I started writing this update, 24 votes have been cast bringing the total to 862 and adding Bermuda to the participating countries.]

May 13, 2008

How's Randy Mueller looking to you now?

Last season, amid the storm of discontent over the Dolphins 1-15 season, fans raged against Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller.

Cameron, the head coach, was clearly over his head. He was the worst head coach I have ever covered and I covered Dave Wannstedt. It is possible Cameron might have learned to be better with more experience and his play-calling was fine. But he came into the job certain he was smarter than everyone else and struggled to figure out he really wasn't.

Mueller, the general manager, was clearly not over his head. I remember him telling me toward the end of 2006 that he believed the Dolphins to be one of the top four or five franchises in the NFL and that, with just a little time and patience, things could become very, very, very good in Miami.

Mueller was afforded neither the time nor patience and was swept out by new Dolphins czar Bill Parcells even before Cameron was.

But while Cameron left a legacy of often curious and sometimes comical mistakes, Mueller leaves behind a pretty good body of work.

Think about this: Two of the three quarterbacks on the Dolphins roster today are here because of Mueller moves. He drafted John Beck. Everyone knows that. But few people recognize the fact he traded Chris Chambers to San Diego and that second-round pick is the one Parcells used to draft Chad Henne this year.

So if either Beck or Henne turn out to be Miami franchise quarterbacks, some of the credit for that has to go to Mueller.

Mueller was ripped for trading Wes Welker for a second and a seventh-round selection. I believe that trade will eventually be seen as a trade that helped both teams and perhaps the Dolphins more than the Pats.

Welker is a great addition to any team. He's a fierce competitor, a great example of work ethic, a solid leader, and when he's got Tom Brady throwing the ball, he's a supremely productive receiver. But Tom Brady doesn't play for Miami so forget what Welker did for the Patriots last year. He didn't and wouldn't have done it for Miami.

I talked to Welker at the last Super Bowl and asked him if he could have tied for the NFL lead in catches (112) for Miami as he did in New England. "No," he said. Why, I asked? "Tom Brady," he answered.

No doubt Welker blossomed in New England. But he also became a better player by being around better players.

So what did Miami get in return for Welker? Samson Satele. He started every game at center as a rookie last year. He is slotted as the starting center again this year and perhaps the next 10 years. Remember that players typically make their greatest leap in performance between their rookie and second years. I believe Satele will be outstanding in 2008.

Mueller once told me he has "Pro Bowl written all over him if he works hard." And Satele will be good regardless of what quarterback the Dolphins have, regardless of whether Miami is a running or throwing team. The point is Miami traded a player that depends on other players to be good, for one that doesn't. That is a good trade.

Remember I wrote around Super Bowl time that a long-time NFL man who often speaks with Parcells told me Parcells was complaining about the lack of talent in Miami? Parcells told that NFL man that he had only three or four players on the roster he could build with for the future.

"I talked to him a week or two ago and he was telling me he has only three or four players down there," the NFL told me a couple of days before the Super Bowl. "He believes he's got a punter [Brandon Fields], he's got a center [Samson Satele], he's got Ted Ginn, and maybe he's got a running back if Ronnie Brown gets back to being the guy he was early last year. But even Brown he's not really counting on."

So at the time, Parcells mentioned four players. Three of them -- Satele, Ginn and Fields -- were drafted by Mueller in the same draft, the one draft he got to run for the Dolphins.

I know the proverbial jury is out on Ted Ginn Jr. And I still wish the Dolphins had picked quarterback Brady Quinn.

But I believe Ginn will be a very good player in the NFL. I think he catches the ball cleanly, I think his speed is a great asset. I think he WANTS to get better. Those are foundational points for a good receiver. Yes, he has to learn to run crisp routes. Yes, he has to learn to find the open areas in a defense as well as learn his own offense better.

But those latter things will come with experience if he applies himself. He has great tools. And again, a player typically makes his greatest leap in production in his second NFL season.

So even without mentioning fullback Reagan Mauia, the Dolphins have a handful of core players that Mueller is responsible for bringing to the team. Yes, Mueller might have missed on a couple of guys such as Paul Soliai. Yes, he might have overpaid for Joey Porter.

But ultimately his one season with the Dolphins will seem a lot more productive than the three or four years that preceded him. And in hindsight, that should be viewed quite favorably.