May 23, 2011

Marshall and Wake among the NFL's Top 100

If you're still paying attention to football these days -- and the assumption is you are because, well, you're on a football blog -- then you're probably aware of the fun exercise the NFL Network is undertaking in ranking the league's top 100 players.

The countdown started at No. 100 and is down to No. 61 so far with more installments on the way until we reach No. 1. I have the feeling Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will find themselves vying for No. 1, and if they don't something is definitely wrong.

Dolphins players in that elite group?

Cameron Wake hit No. 63 in the released list of top 100.

"They asked me and when I voted, I didn't put myself in there," Wake said.


Wake definitely deserves the recognition. But that which is most exciting about Wake is that while other pass-rushers such as Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley will already find themselves rated behind Wake, there is so much further Wake can go.

I see Wake becoming every bit as dominant as Woodley's running mate in Pittsburgh, James Harrison. Harrison isn't as big, isn't as quick or as explosive as Wake. He is much more refined in his technique, he's slightly stronger in the upper body and his work ethic is beyond reproach.

DeMarcus Ware also will be ranked among the league's top 39 players.

So Wake, with one great 14-sack season on his resume, can definitely improve. (I would tell you he'll be a lot better if Koa Misi or another Dolphins rusher offers a counter-balancing rush threat as Woodley does for Harrison.)

Interestingly, Wake rates ahead of Houston defensive end Mario Williams on this list. Williams, you'll recall, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Think of the bargain the Dolphins got in adding Wake as an free agent out of the Canadian Football League.

Wake isn't the only Dolphins player on this list. Brandon Marshall is the NFL's 61st best player, according to the voting by his peers.

I have no problem with the ranking. Marshall, when he's right, when he's healthy, when he's feeling confident and engaged and enthusiastic, can be elite. Unfortunately, if you pay attention to the video of Marshall on the NFL Network site, most of his highlights come when he's in a Denver uniform.

Now, I recognize Marshall played most of his career in Denver and only one season in Miami. But the point I'm making is I still haven't seen in Miami the WR that Marshall was in Denver. Just look at his running ability in the Broncos uniform. Watch Marshall's ability to cut once he has the ball to make the defense miss. I didn't see that in Miami last year.

I saw Marshall break tackles on sheer strength and power. But I didn't see that kind of quickness. Not even close.

Marshall was working toward getting back that kind of quickness this offseason when he was stabbed by his wife in a domestic violence incident that is still unsettled. And although Marshall is expected to recover from the incident with his wife, he has not yet returned to working out fulltime. senior columnist Vic Carucci writes that Marshall deserves to be higher on the list of the Top 100 if one accounts for talent alone. But talent is not the only thing that decides a player's success in the NFL. So Carucci points out that Marshall is ranked where he is based on the fact other players didn't trust his him off the field.

Carucci goes on to outline the off-field issues Marshall has had and makes the point that if one is not on the field or free of off-field worries, it is tougher to reach one's potential. That, the columnist hypothesizes, is the reason a talent of Marshall's scope is pushed down the list of the top 100.

I would tell you the Dolphins have two more players with significant hope of being in the Top 100 -- ILB Karlos Dansby and LT Jake Long.

Dansby might or might not make it. Long is a certainty.

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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.”

November 04, 2010

What Brandon Marshall is saying today

Thursdays are among my favorite days with the Dolphins because I get to hear offensive coordinator Dan Henning and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan try to share as little as possible about what really is going on with the team and then I get to hear wide receiver Brandon Marshall be relatively open and engaging and interesting.

Today was no different. During his session with the media, the Miami alpha wide receiver addressed whether he's disappointed that Randy Moss won't be joining the Dolphins, talked about his lack of concern about receptions, his significant concern about his lack of touchdowns, and even his opinion about some teammates:

(On him and Brian Hartline going back and forth about who is faster) – “He’s definitely faster but I like to give him a hard time (laughter). (You know) when we do our gassers or after practice I try to cut him off just messing with him. (laughter)” 

(On how has he seen Brian Hartline’s role evolve) – “I think he—not to put any more pressure on him but I think he invites the pressure and embraces it—but I think he plays, he has the biggest role as far as out of all the receivers. (You know) you got a guy like myself who…I sees a lot of coverage, a lot of cover 2 a lot of double teams and now we’re seeing Davone (Bess) starting to get bracketed and double-teamed at times. So, he’s the guy that got to beat one on one. That’s why I’m here that’s why I’ve been successful in the league and he has an opportunity to really do some big things the rest of this season and his career.”

(On the Ravens legendary defense and what he sees in it) – “Legendary, I like that (laughter). The Ravens are legendary. Well Ray Lewis may be (laughter). They have some good football players. When you talk about football players that’s what their defense is made up of. Sometimes you can’t coach some of the things that they do. They have a great feel for the game and they’re able to make a lot of plays from experience off of experience. It’s not going to be a pretty game. We, both football teams are tough physical and I think this is going to be a defining moment on what type of team we’re going to be for the rest of this season." 

(On if he has even been in a press conference where Ed Reed’s name doesn’t come up) – “Absolutely, absolutely. But, my rookie year (you know) no one wanted to talk to me about (you know) what I thought (you know) ask those cheesy questions, so (laughter). Now I guess I got a bigger role, but, Ed Reed he’s finally healthy and had two picks last week so it looks like he’s back where he left off." 

(On if he believes if Ed Reed is in training camp shape)—“I don’t believe anything Ed (Reed) says (smiling). Ed’s a liar (smiling). We put on film where you see Ed (you know) make a good play (you know) make a little play lay on ground, get up a little slow and then the next play get a pick and then the next series get another pick (you know). Nah, he’s back.” 

(On how difficult is it to read what Ed Reed does in coverage)— “He breaks all the rules. He breaks all the rules and I think that’s why he’s so successful is because he has the ability to just read the quarterback. He may be in cover 2 and pick a ball in the flat—he’s just amazing and makes a lot of plays for that ball club.” 

(On how disappointed is he that Randy Moss wasn’t able to come to the Dolphins) – “I’m not disappointed at all. I just thought it would’ve been a good opportunity for our segment, our segment room. Now for team, that’s not my decision. That’s not my place, and I don’t even know if that (may) have been a good fit for our team. But I know as far as us as receivers we’re so young, including myself (I mean) I’m the oldest in the room and I’m only on my fifth year. So, just to get some wisdom from a guy like that who has been around a little bit and probably one of the best that’s ever done it and (you know) I just looked at it as an opportunity to learn and help me get better and Brian (Hartline) and Davone Bess and Julius Pruitt (you know) all those guys.” 

(On why this is a defining game for this team) – “Because it’s the next game; I’m going to say that every week, I’m going to say that every week but probably in different words. Every week’s a defining game.”

(On why the team has had so much success on the road) – “It’s one of those things where we’ve been inconsistent and unfortunately we’ve been inconsistent in front of our fans at home. We’re a good football team; we have a lot of great football players, our staff is amazing. We just got to be consistent and be effective when we have our opportunity.” 

(On the 96 yard drive last week and the offense’s potential) – “Yeah, well I mean we have an explosive group from the running backs to the offensive line. We got Jake Long when we run gassers, up there with the wide receivers. It’s impressive to see the talent that we have. Like I said we just have to be consistent and put it all together and definitely do a better job in the red zone.” 

(On running four wide receiver sets against the Ravens, something the Bills had success with) – “To each his own; everybody’s formula for winning is different. Ours is a little different than Buffalo’s. What we do well may not be the same so I think with the game plan that we have going in and that we’re working on this week we should have some success.”

(On whether he wants more receptions) – “More catches? More catches? I’m on track to have one of the best year’s I’ve had. Now I need to get some more touchdowns, but more catches? I’m (a) top five targeted receiver in the league.” 

(On whether he wants more touchdown receptions) – “We can talk about touchdowns, but catches? That’s better, no I think there’s some frustration always because you want to see the offense live up to the potential. Hate to use that word but I think Coach Henning and his staff do a great job of getting the playmakers the ball or trying to. It’s tough, it’s tough, it’s tough when we have to line up and beat the guy in front of us. They get paid to defend us and the coaches get paid to beat the coaches on the other side of the field. It’s a battle; I think overall we do a great job of putting guys in position.” 

(On how often he would like to be thrown to even while covered) – “Well you got to understand, you have to understand when I’m covered, when it’s one-on-one yeah we’re going to throw it up. I’m looking at the top five, top 10 receivers in the league and even the coaches; we haven’t seen so much coverage rolled to one guy. I think that’s where Davone (Bess) is going to play a big role and Brian Hartline; he’s playing a big role of just making plays. I think they’re doing a great job of doing in week in and week out. If they’re going to continue to take me away with two or three guys then there’s other guys open. I am going to be frustrated; I may show some emotion. At the end of the day I know, what can we do if there’s two, three guys on me?” 

(On how his role had changed being the veteran at his position) – “I have to be accountable, each play each day and I think we have a great group. At the end of the day I am the oldest guy and there’s been, had a little success so far. We’re trying to win so whenever you see me talking to anyone it’s probably trying to get everything on the same page.”

Marshall doing well carrying passing game

So now it falls to Brandon Marshall again. Now that the Randy Moss dream came and went, now that the Dolphins kicked the tires on Randy Moss and decided not to rent the enigmatic wide receiver, Marshall is once again the only legit downfield threat the Dolphins can turn to.

Problem is there are whispers that Marshall isn't having a great season. He does, after all, have only one touchdown compared to 23 TDs his past three seasons in Denver -- a 7.6 TDs per year average.

Fine, I'll give you that he's not being as productive with the crooked number. But you must give me that the offensive approach in Miami in the red zone is lacking. The Dolphins cannot figure out how to get Marshall open and free of double-coverage in that area. (Suggestion: Put him in motion every once in a while, people!)

Anyway, aside for the scoring catches, Marshall is actually on pace to have a better season than he's ever had. Check out the graph below.

Marshall is on pace for 107 catches this season. That would be a career high.

Marshall is also on pace for 1,344 yards this season. That would be a career high.

His current 12.5 yards per catch average is higher than he had the past two seasons in Denver -- when he made the Pro Bowl.

Marshall is doing just fine, thank you.

Could he have used the help of having Randy Moss on the other side of the field? Absolutely!

Is the situation hopeless with only Marshall on the team?


























































































































September 29, 2010

Karlos Dansby dishes on Pats, prep, past

I am convinced Karlos Dansby was an amazing offseason pickup for the Miami Dolphins. He means nearly as much to the Dolphins defense as fellow offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall means to the offense. And I am convinced because of his even-keel nature and consistency, he might become a better investment for the Dolphins long-term than Marshall.

I am not, however, convinced I've done a good enough job of letting you hear from Dansby so far this season. So let me attempt to correct that a little bit.

What follows is the transcript of the conference call Dansby did today with the New England media. Enjoy:

(On what he’s seen from the Patriots on film this week) – “They’re pretty efficient. They do a lot of things to get defenses off balance and then like say they…they attack - they’re an attacking style offense and like I say they don’t hold anything back. Tom Brady is an efficient quarterback and he’s going to get it to the right guy at the right time.”

(On if this week’s preparation is more complicated due to how much is being thrown at him) – “No, not at all. You just have to be sound at what you do and go out and try to execute better than the opponents. That’s what you have to try to do every week and there’s nothing different this week that I wouldn’t do in the past weeks.”

(On what it’s like preparing for the tight ends and the receivers) – “They got two guys that could block very well and then you got a receiver. They say, they’ve been making a lot of plays on their offensive side of the ball. Like I say, they’ve been getting down the field and scoring touchdowns left and right and making big plays left and right. So, like I say, we just got to be sound in our technique and finish plays. I think that’s what we didn’t do against Dustin Keller and it allowed them to have a lot of success out on the field. Like I say, we were playing with bad technique and the communication was off - it was a lot of things that allowed him to have success out on the field.”

(On if he’ll carry the adjustments that he has made after the last game against the Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) – “Definitely, those (are) two great guys right there. Like you said, they are efficient in they offense and like I said, Tom Brady gets those guys the ball a lot. And like I said, those guys tend to get open a lot and he tends to find them. We got to be…we got to be in position and be in place to…in order to disrupt some of the balls being thrown to them or knock the timing off a little bit.”

(On if he’s ever played with Jonathan Wilhite in the past) – “Nah, I don’t think I played with Jonathan Wilhite. I haven’t had the opportunity to play with him.”

(On if the last time he played with the Patriots sticks with him going into this week (due to it not being a successful game for him)) – “Nah, I kind of left that where it was. (You know) that’s the year we went to the Super Bowl I think and like I say, we left that game there in New England. Like you said, it was a bad outing by our team. We didn’t get an opportunity to finish the way we…well it didn’t seem like we got a chance to start that game (you know what I’m saying) (laughing). They put a beating on us pretty bad. And like I say, they taught us a lesson though and it showed and it carried over through the playoffs when we had that opportunity, so. This year it’s a totally different team, totally different personnel right now and like I say I’m just looking forward to this opportunity to get our opportunity to play against these guys, so. After, like I say, after seeing them play for so long and seeing some of these guys - like I say I never had the opportunity to play against Tom Brady, I played against Matt Cassel, so, I think it’ll be fun for me.”

(On the defensive unit and if he sees some of his personality in this defense) – “Right now our unit is…I think we’re tough, we’re smart and we’re disciplined. Last Sunday we didn’t have a great outing and we knew that. Like I said, we’ve been here working for the last couple days; we’ve been getting it in, and guys have been putting in extra time. Like I said I think they’re following suit right now. I’m always in, always trying to get the information, always trying to figure out what it is that I can do to make this team better and make the guys around me better. Like I said I think the guys are starting to catch on and pick up, the intensity is starting to pick up in practice and in the weight room and in the film room asking questions just all around. We’re simply just trying to get better as a team and as a unit and hopefully we can show Monday that we, that we have done that.”

(On Brandon Marshall and what he brings to the Dolphins offense) – “He’s very dangerous, he’s very dangerous. Like I said we’re doing a good job of getting him the ball right now. Chad Henne and him are trying to build their relationship as the season grows and goes on. Like I said, we’re just trying to get better as a team all the way around. The offensive line is doing a great job of protecting and giving him an opportunity to get the ball down the field, and Brandon is making plays left and right. He’s an awesome addition to this team. Like I said him, just bringing him in the locker room has made us ten times better.”

(On if signing with the Dolphins has been everything he’d hoped for) – “And more, and more, and more. Everything I hoped for and more. Like I said, I checked the personnel out. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Having the opportunity to play for Bill Parcells and under Coach Sparano, it couldn’t be a better two, two guys to play for and represent. Like I said the history of the Miami Dolphins period; you have to be perfect man. You got to live up to this perfect atmosphere day in and day out, you know what I’m saying? You guys went what, 16-0 the 1972 Dolphins; you got to live up to that day in and day out. That’s what we’re working to; we’re just trying to be great in every aspect of the game on and off the field. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and it’s been everything I expected and more.”

(On how he and Mike Nolan getting along and whether he likes his aggressive style) – “Oh definitely man, definitely Coach Nolan has a lot of trust in me right now. I’m always in his ear always picking his brain trying to figure out what he’s thinking. Not only what he’s thinking, I’m trying to add a little bit of myself to him also just to let him know, hey coach we, we got your back. Whatever you want to call, we can get it done and just letting him, having the confidence in us to go out and execute his plan. Like I said last night we kind of let him down a little bit and I know that so we’ve been here working and grinding just trying to build his confidence up so he can call anything he wants to call and let us go play.”

(On whether he has kept track of his old team, the Arizona Cardinals) – “Well you know, I talk to Adrian (Wilson) on a regular basis. Like I said he’s, he’s kind of frustrated over there a little bit I think, but he’s playing hard. He’s not going to lay down, and like I said he’s just trying to rally the guys just like I’m trying to do, rally the troops. We got to play at a whole other level in order to have success in this league because it’s getting better week in and week out. Like I said guys are around you, man your peers are definitely getting better day in and day out. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, so he’s trying to lead his team over there also.”

September 18, 2010

Dolphins to run on the Vikings? Bet on it

To run the football ... or to not run the football. That is the question facing every team that plays the Minnesota Vikings. That is the question facing the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

The Vikings pride themselves, among other things, on being one of the NFL's best run-stopping defenses. They were No. 2 against the run in 2009 and folks in Minnesota were upset about because they were No. 1 against the run in 2008.

And in 2007.

And in 2006.

No. 1 against the run.

The Vikes boast the Burly Wall of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams inside and have an athletic set of linebackers. Perhaps that is the reason the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints basically decided not to try running the ball against the Vikings in the NFL season-opener -- at least not in the first half.

The Saints decided it was best to soften up the Vikings in the first half by throwing 21 times and running just three times. It wasn't until the second half when the Vikings were seemingly expecting the pass that New Orleans began to run. The Saints finished with 36 passes and 25 runs.

The Dolphins, however, aren't that type of team.

They are a run-first team. If you have any doubt about that consider that offensive coordinator Dan Henning said this week his dream would be to never pass the football.

"You want the honest-to-God's truth?" he said to me. "I'd like to line up and run the ball every down and get in the end zone on every drive. We'd go to the Super Bowl and we'd win. Without ever throwing!"

He added, "of course it doesn't happen that way," but that is what he'd love to do.

So what do the run-first Dolphins do when they run headlong into the best run-stopping team in the NFL the last four seasons?

I spoke to one offensive player this week who told me the answer is simple. The Dolphins will run.

"They're a physical defense. We're a physical offense," the player told me. "Let's see who is more physical. We're going to do what we do."

This should not come as a surprise. Last year the Dolphins faced a couple of Top 10 run-stopping teams -- the Jets and Steelers. And they tried to run the football. The results were mixed.

In the first meeting with New York, Miami rushed 36 times for 151 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. In the second meeting, the Jets obviously adjusted. Miami rushed 23 times for 52 yards and a 2.3 yard average. The Jets were the No. 8 rush defense in 2009.

The Dolphins rushed 25 times for 99 yards against the Steelers for a 4.0 average per rush. The Steelers were the No. 3 defense against the run in 2009.

I recognized this is a new year. The Dolphins have two new guards and Joe Berger is settling in at center. I recognize Ronnie Brown is healthy. I recognize Ricky Williams is a year older. Miami also has a star wide receiver option outside in Brandon Marshall that it didn't have a year ago. So yes, the dynamics have changed.

But has the philosophy changed in Miami? Are the Dolphins going to abandon running the ball just because Minnesota is perhaps the NFL's best run defense?

Um, I wouldn't count on that.

September 14, 2010

One final look at Bills victory and Jets news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 10, 2010

... And once again, no Crowder at practice

The Dolphins final full practice before leaving to Buffalo? Routine for the most part.

On Friday the Dolphins put the finishing touches on their prep work for the Bills and, once again, inside linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) did not participate. As I told you yesterday on this blog, it just does not seem plausible for Crowder to play in the regular season opener.

[UPDATE: Crowder is listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. Jake Long (knee) is listed as probable after practicing all week, even if on a limited basis. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) is listed as probable. Marshall practiced fully on Thursday and Friday.]

I don't believe Crowder will even make the trip. I bet you hear reports of the Dolphins leaving him home by this time Saturday.

As for how he's looking, don't believe me. Believe your eyes from this video, courtesy Jeff Darlington's Miami Minute upload:

The Bills, by the way, are having linebacker issues of their own. Reggie Torbor was declared out for this game. So was Antonio Coleman. They also placed Kawika Mitchell on injured reserve on Thursday. The Bills are expected to go into Sunday's game with only three linebackers.

That's usually bad news for a 3-4 defense that needs four linebackers to just be on the field. I remind you, however, that the Bills used a 4-3 look in their final preseason game.

One more thing: Akin Ayodele, who was signed Thursday will not be active for the game, according to head coach Chan Gailey.

August 22, 2010

The postgame analysis of Dolphins 27-26 victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The special teams were troubling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe they can get something for him in trade.

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

August 18, 2010

Funnyman Brandon Marshall regales media

Brandon Marshall can be a funny guy. Yeah, that's it. He has a sense of humor.

He did his third press conference since coming to the Dolphins. Before he began to address the local hacks, he asked a Miami Dolphins staffer for a football, got it, and punted it to begin the press conference.

"Any questions," he said laughing.

Like I said, funny guy. Anyway, below you can find the full transcript of his talk with the reporters:

(On explaining what just happened) -- "Well, you guys aren't really good journalists because you reported it wrong. It didn't make it over the fence; it stayed in the facility (referring to his punting a ball in practice the other day after a drop, laughing)."

(On what emotions the punt expressed) -- "I don't think it's a secret; I'm the type of guy where I want to compete and I want to compete at the highest level on a consistent basis. When you struggle at times, well when I struggle at times, I'm not going to be happy, and it's not going to be a secret, and I will never let it be a secret. When I'm frustrated in practice, I'm going to be frustrated. Now in the game it's a different story; I think in the game you don't want to give your opponent that edge so you try to control your emotions but in practice you want to compete and you want to get better. That's exactly what we're trying to do here."

(On his showing of emotion in the past) -- "Well I think that's exactly what it is. I'm not going to compare a situation in the past to my situation now. This is the first time in, in four years that I've went into a season or a training camp where I was completely happy. Now am I happy every day, no because we compete every day, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and that ultimate competitor in me, I'm not going to be happy. I think we're doing a great job as a team competing every day and trying to get each other better. A lot of great competition going on you know on the field, which I think is going to help our team in the long run."

(On whether his new contract puts any additional pressure on him) -- "Not at all, I mean the pressure to do what, catch a football? I've been doing that since I was six years old. The only thing I can do is what I can do; I'm going to be the same guy. Whatever made me great is what's going to be on the field throughout this season. I'm excited about this opportunity that we have as a team, our goals, and working to achieve that."

(On if he enjoys the spotlight) -- "I love it. I embrace it. I think this is an organization where there's going to be a lot of lights on us. I think we have a special team here. It's a special organization, and I think we have a chance to do some special things."

(On him seeing his charisma wearing off on his teammates) -- "Well like I said, it's good when you take the positive from it like Vontae (Davis). Every day we're going out there and competing. Every day he wants to prove to me and to our teammates that he can shut me down. There's, what's the word…I guess I'm supposed to be a good receiver. It gives him an edge on other receivers. It gives him a confidence when he does great against me. Every day he's out to prove one thing, that he can shut me down and our other receivers in our room. So it's exciting to see that our young corners are getting better and they're taking advantage of this opportunity."

(On his reaction to Vontae's punt after breaking up a pass in practice) -- "Yesterday? I didn't like it at all. I went back to the sideline and I told coach, I can't believe I let him get the opportunity to kick the ball because he made a great play. It's a play I think I should have had and he knocked the ball away, and he got up and punted the ball, and I didn't like that at all."

(On his relationship with Vontae) -- "Oh I care, oh I care. It makes me mad (when he punts the ball) just like if I make a good play and I say some words to him, it's not good for TV but he's going to come back out and he's going to compete that much harder."

(On the competition aspect of his relationship with Vontae) -- "Yeah I mean me and Vontae, we went out to lunch today and we just sat down and tried to pick each other's brains' about what we're seeing on the practice field, how we can make each other better, and it's exciting. Sean (Smith) the same. Sean's a corner who like I said before is physically gifted and the way he's been applying himself in this camp is amazing, and I think those two are going to have a great year."

(On how this camp is different for him considering he is happy and healthy) -- "Yeah, definitely healthy, definitely happy, the only thing is I'm hot. Add another H to that, the three H's: happy, healthy, hot."

(On how things are coming along with Chad Henne) -- "You know what; we got off to a slow start last week. We let the conditions get the best of us. I went out there and had two drops; you definitely don't want to start off that way. But hey, we got three more preseason games left, a bunch of practices before Buffalo, 24 days till Buffalo. We got time to get things better; we're not where we want to be, but we'll work to get there."

(On whether getting off to a slow start makes this weekend's game a big game) -- "Every practice, every game is a big game. Not just because how things went for our first team last week. Every time we step on the field, and every time, whether it's practice or game day, we want to take advantage of it. That's exactly what we do every day."

(On whether his being out during OTA's has slowed his progression with Chad Henne) -- "No, not at all. That was a time where I was able to get mental reps and pick his brain every play. That helped a lot, and like I said, we have a bunch of practices before Buffalo and that's all we need. We'll be fine."

(On his reaction to people saying he should change his number away from #19) -- "I think this is kind of played out, but it's just practice. I'm not going to go over there with A.I. (Allen Iverson) (laughing). Like I said, that's why I get frustrated because the way you play is how you practice. If you're dropping the ball in practice, you got a chance that you'll drop the ball in the game. It's something that we definitely, I definitely need to correct, so there it is."

(On him having all the attention) -- "I've always had a bullseye on my back and a spotlight on me. Not always for the positive, but it's been there before. It's nothing that's unique to me, and I embrace it."

(On the quarterback group as a whole) -- "Well I'm excited because we get a chance to grow together. We have a leader in Chad Pennington who has a lot of wisdom, who's played a lot of games. He helps not only the quarterbacks but he helps us receivers in the segment room. I'm going into my fifth year, I don't know it all. I may be one the oldest in my room, but I still have a lot of learning to do. How to approach the game in a professional way on and off the field, and that's what Chad Pennington brings to us, so we're excited to have him, and I hope he stays around for a long time."

(On how the offense compares to the offense he played in for Denver) -- "Well actually, it's similar. The formations, personnel calls, it's kind of from the same (coaching) tree. The transition for me is pretty easy and pretty similar."

(On his relationship with Mike Sims-Walker) -- "Well that was my college roommate, one of the best men in my wedding, more like a brother. So that's my buddy."

(On whether there are ever any wagers between the two) -- "Definitely. Every time we match, man we got wagers on everything. We're always betting but it ain't about cash though, (it's a) gentlemen's bet, gentlemen's bet."

(On whether he wants Darrelle Revis to settle his contract dispute with the New York Jets so he can go up against him) -- "Well of course because I mean in order to be the best, you got to go against the best and you would love to compete against someone of his caliber and make plays on him. It kind of gives you that confidence; kind of solidify yourself, so I would love to see him out there. I think it will get done; I don't think it's a matter of if, but when."

(On how he expresses his emotion even while he's in the spotlight) -- "Well I think down here, it's new to you guys because I'm a new guy, but a year from now you guys will be  able to say oh that's just Brandon. That's how he performs, that's how he practices, he plays with a lot of emotions, he approaches the game with a lot of passion. You don't want to do that in the game but it's practice. Like I said, I'm a guy that wants to compete, and compete at a high level. Hopefully things will work out for us where we get things rolling in the right direction."

(On how he channels his emotion to make sure it's positive) -- "Well I mean I honestly believe you're supposed to be, you should be harder on yourself than anyone else. I honestly believe that. If you don't push yourself, then how can someone else push you? So that's what I believe in, and that's how I approach the game."