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.

November 02, 2009

Victory Monday update from Tony Sparano

The players were off today but the coaches were working and this is what coach Tony Sparano's view of his team is 24 hours after the 30-25 victory over the Jets.

First, after getting the game ball for his two kickoff return touchdowns against New York, it seems unlikely Ted Ginn Jr. will be getting added special team duties as Miami's punt returner anytime soon.

"Right now I'm thinking we'll leave it the way I have it and coach the heck out of it," Sparano said before adding that punt returner Davone Bess, who had a fumble on Sunday, "can't make bad decisions" on his returns.

I think this is a mistake. Ginn played only 22 snaps Sunday and, while he remains limited in what he can do as a receiver, he does have special and elite skills as a return man. So why not use those skills more?

It might be easy to forget that in college, Ginn returned both punts and kickoffs and was actually more explosive on punts. He returned 64 punts for a 14.1 yard average at The Ohio State University and six of those were for TDs. He only returned two kickoffs for TDs.

Ginn actually returned 9 percent of his punts for touchdowns while returning 5 percent of his kickoffs for touchdowns. But hey, Miami's coaching staff is insistent that isn't going to happen right now.

Of course, they were insistent on not letting Ginn return kickoffs until Patrick Cobbs blew out his knee.

Sparano didn't say whether Ginn gets his starting WR job job anytime soon, but did say there were two pass plays against New York on which Ginn got behind the defender and quarterback Chad Henne was unable to get him the ball.

On other subjects:

Sparano said he attempted the two-point conversion when the team was up 11 in the fourth quarter because, "I was trying to take a scenario out of play in that the only scenario that could beat us was two touchdowns."

In other words, Sparano wanted a 13-point lead so that the Jets could not tie with a touchdown, a two-point conversion and a field goal or win with one touchdown and two field goals. Obviously Miami failed on it's bid for the conversion.

This season in the NFL two-point conversions are successful approximately 30 percent of the time.

On the subject of Miami's two rookie cornerbacks, both of whom will be under much scrutiny this week with Tom Brady and Co. on the schedule, Sparano was generally pleased with Sean Smith and Vontae Davis.

"Both picked different points to play well," the coach said. "Both had bumps and that's what's going to happen."

Although they combined for a total of 162 plays, Sparano said the cornerbacks had no mental errors. There were, however, technical errors that numbered in the single digits between the two that need to be cleaned up.

By way of a player update, Sparano said rookie receiver Patrick Turner's "had a couple of good, solid weeks of practice right now and he's getting better and better. I would say sooner or later we'll see him."

October 30, 2009

TEs not helping and associated problems

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning talks to the media once a week for 10 minutes and in at least two of the last four times he did that, he mentioned how the loss of tight end David Martin has hurt his offense.

It is an interesting comment because the Dolphins put Martin on injured reserve at the beginning of the regular season without really making too much of a big deal about it.

They put him out for the season and, as I reported in September, he had surgery Sept. 9. His agent told me at the time that Dr. James Andrews was of the belief Martin could be ready to play again in six to eight weeks. Guess what?

It's been seven weeks.

Best case scenario, Martin might have been ready to play last week. Worst case, he might ahve been ready next week.

That, I guess, is water under the bridge. The Dolphins made the decision they thought was best and are now living with it. But I bring up Martin more to plant this seed in your minds: Martin is unsigned for 2010.

It will be interesting whether the Dolphins, who often lament the Martin injury, make any attempt to re-sign Martin. His agent Terry Williams, told me that while neither he nor Martin were happy with being placed on injured reserve, that will not affect their decision in free agency.

"That will be a decision we will evaluate based on the financial considerations at that time," Williams said.

So we shall see if the Dolphins value Martin as much as they say they miss him. The Dolphins this season are trying to fill the Martin void with Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos. So far, the void ain't filled too good, if you get my drift.

Fasano, coming off his two most productive pass-catching games of the season, still has only 11 catches for 77 yards and one touchdown. Haynos has two catches for 38 yards.

Haynos obviously hasn't been the down-field threat Martin was. Neither has Fasano. In fact, Fasano hasn't been the threat he himself was last season when he finished with 34 receptions for 454 yards and seven touchdowns.

Coach Tony Sparano explained Thursday that Fasano's diminished numbers aren't all a result of something he is doing wrong.

“I think it matters a little a bit with the quarterback, whether he is comfortable throwing the ball in the middle of the field, I think because that is where most tight ends work," Sparano said, starting to list the reasons Fasano has not been as big a factor so far. "At the same time, I think our run game has a little bit to do with the lack balls that are out there that way."

Sparano explained that the Dolphins have seen a lot of defenses creep their safeties up in order to help stop Miami's outstanding rushing attack. That has, in turn, made the middle of the field a very crowded place for Fasano and Haynos to work.

"What I mean by that is you are not getting the middle of the field open against us," Sparano said. "The middle of the field is closed."

And that explains some things. But it doesn't explain everything.

It doesn't explain how Fasano had two receptions in the regular-season opener and fumbled both. It doesn't explain how he had a 19-yard reception in his hands against the Saints off a Ronnie Brown throw from Wildcat, and dropped the ball.

It doesn't explain his other drops this season. Fact is, Fasano is second on the team in drops this season, behind Ted Ginn Jr.

And, finally, the fact the middle of the field is closed is normally a good thing. You see, teams with passing games that are even mediocre, rarely see safeties playing like they were hybrid linebackers because no one in the pass-happy NFL is stupid enough to gamble like that on defense.

The gamble is your safeties crowd the line of scrimmage, most teams will be able throw the ball over the top for TD after TD after embarrassingly long TD.

But defenses have gambled like that against the Dolphins, hoping to shut down the run, because they have little or no fear of those embarrassing passes. Defenses close the middle of the field because they think they can matchup man-to-man on the outside and usually not get burned.

Defenses close the middle of the field against Miami because they don't fear a playmaking tight end will run up the seam, past the safety, and into the end zone. Defenses close the middle of the field against Miami because they believe the quarterback is more comfortable and confident throwing to the outside or to the checkdown running back than zipping a seam pass past a safety's earhole.

So it's wrong to blame the success of the Miami running game for shutting down the middle of the field. It is more correct to blame an ineffective receiver and tight end corps for not winning one-on-one matchups and not forcing defenses to respect them and open up the area. 

October 25, 2009

Henne getting "ownership" of Dolphins offense

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning handed each of his three quarterbacks a two-sided play sheet late this week and asked them to individually study each section of plays and mark the play in each section the players like most. Each QB was also expected to mark the play he liked second-most and mark, in red ink, the plays he didn't like.

When each QB returns the sheets, they are rarely marked the same.

"They all see the game differently," Henning said. "They see the game in terms of them, not their predecessor or successor."

On Saturday night, as he prepared his own play-call sheet, Henning looked at the answers starter Chad Henne said he liked most. Those are the plays Henning will call against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

If Henne goes out of the game and either Tyler Thigpen or Pat White have to play, then Henning will refer to the answers they gave on their sheets. And he'll try to call those plays, as long as he's got confidence the QBs can run them.

But I digress.

The fact Henning pays attention to the answers Henne gives is important because the offensive coordinator must seamlessly transition from the plays he used to call for Chad Pennington to the ones he now calls for Henne. And the answers from Henne help.

"I think I know what he does the best and what he doesn't do the best and that's another thing you have to take into consideration when you're putting a game plan together for him as opposed to Chad Pennington," Henning said.

But there is perhaps a more important purpose the returned play sheets serve: They make Henne feel like he has say over the Miami offense. And for the second-year player, that seems to be important.

Henning recalls that when the Dolphins were looking at quarterbacks to draft in 2008, he, coach Tony Sparano, and GM Jeff Ireland locked themselves in a room with Henne and asked the youngster about what he was doing in his final game against Ohio State and the bowl game against the University of Florida.

Henne, according to Henning, wasn't too enthusiastic about discussing the Ohio State game. He was quite effusive, however, in discussing the Florida game. Perhaps it was partially because Henne played poorly against the Buckeyes and lit up the Gators.

But Henning has another idea. He later learned that Henne actually helped author the game plan against Florida.

"That made me feel like, 'When he takes ownership, he's going to make it work,' Henning said. "And that's what we try to do here. We try and make sure they take ownership. When they take ownership, they play pretty [well]."

And that's exactly how Henning expects Henne to play today against the Saints. The 4 p.m. game is going to require that Henne keep the New Orleans defense honest as it tries to take away Miami's rushing attack. And if the Dolphins fall behind, then Henne will have to do some winging of the ball.

"I expect he will play [well]," Henning repeated. "That doesn't mean he might not on occassion do well. But I think he has the goods ... I think he has the temperment for this business."

[ANNOUNCEMENTS: I will be on the air from 1-3 p.m. at 790-AM in South Florida Sunday to discuss the New Orleans and Dolphins matchup. You can listen live at 790theticket.com and you can call the show at 786-360-0790. You can also text me at 74965. Afterward, I will head over to the stadium and we will be conducting our live game blog, as always, to discuss the action and get the latest information from the stadium.]

Finally, if you want to find out why Tony Sparano is coaching the Dolphins and not for the Saints today you should click on the link and find out. 

January 14, 2009

Dolphins fire line coach Maser; hire replacement

The Miami Dolphins are confirming they have fired offensive line coach Mike Maser. Giants assistant offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo has been offered the position and accepted but there are details about his contract still being worked out.

That puts to bed the speculation coach Tony Sparano would take over as the team's offensive line coach.

Sparano will announce DeGuglielmo's hiring if and when the contract details are resolved. The new coach is expected to bring to Miami a tough approach to offensive line play, one that more closely fits what Sparano wants.

Maser was hired on January 18, 2008 after 34 years of coaching experience and 13 as an offensive line coach in the NFL. Maser came to Miami after working with offensive coordinator Dan Henning at the the Carolina Panthers and with Sparano himself with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Maser was Jacksonville's OL coach in 2002 when Sparano coached the tight ends.

The Miami offensive line was a good-news, bad-news story this season. While offensive tackles Jake Long and Vernon Carey either met or exceed the expectations of Bill Parcells and Sparano in various categories, the interior of the line was troubled throughout the season.

Center Samson Satele seemed to regress after a good rookie season. And both guard spots were a weak point after injuries befell starters Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas. Another disappointment for the offensive line was the development -- or lack thereof -- of rookie guard Shawn Murphy. Murphy was the team's fourth-round draft pick but was inactive every game this season despite a need for upgrade at his position.

The Dolphins gave no reason for Maser's firing, but Sparano was clearly not happy with the performance of his guards throughout the season.

It is not known if any other Dolphins assistant is in danger of losing his job, although keeping the remainder of the staff doesn't mean there won't be further changes. Assistant head coach Todd Bowles is a head coach candidate in Detroit and is scheduled to interview in St. Louis. Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni has been tied to speculation he might be interviewed for the head job in Kansas City.

January 13, 2009

Bowles' second interview [Updated w/ audio]

Dolphins assistant head coach-secondary Todd Bowles is in Detroit this afternoon for his second interview with the team as it searches for a new head coach.

Although other names such as Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also are getting second interviews, it is fair to believe Bowles is among the group of leading contenders for the job because he is in for a second look. Bowles last week interviewed in Detroit and then Denver.

This article in the Detroit News gives an excellent account of what's happening with the Lions' coaching search.

Although Bowles is not allowed by the Dolphins to speak to the local media, the Detroit Lions put him in a press conference setting today. The audio for the entire press conference is below, courtesy John Niyo of the Detroit News. Technology is grand, ain't it?

In this interview Bowles talks about how Bill Parcells long ago told him he would be a head coach in the NFL. He explains how he'd fix the Detroit QB problem and compares it to the Miami QB situation when he arrived in Miami. He also talks about the importance of getting guys out of the training room and onto the field.

Finally, Bowles said he is scheduled to interview with the St. Louis Rams for their head coaching job later this week, although he says, "This is the only job I want," meaning Detroit. Bowles has also interviewed with Denver.

Blog note: Check the first of my series on Dolphins draft and personnel posts that can be found earlier on this blog in case you missed it. It includes a video! Wow! Video!

September 25, 2008

Dolphins working more this bye [updated]

I got a lot of grief from readers last year when I complained the Dolphins took not one, not two, not three, but four days off during their bye week.

On the bye week the winless Dolphins of 2007 didn't practice on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Not coincidently, that time the team could have been using to prepare John Beck for some playing time was squandered.

Things are different this year.

Although there are unsubstantiated rumors coach Tony Sparano might give the players a surprise day off Friday to go along with Saturday and Sunday, the schedule nonetheless calls for them to work. So if they follow that schedule, the Dolphins will be off only Saturday and Sunday or half as many days as Cam Cameron gave them off last year on the bye week.

Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Anyway, the Dolphins are at work this morning and I can report running back Jalen Parmele is back at practice. He has been signed to the practice squad. Cornerback Will Billingsley, meanwhile, was not at practice and he has been cut from the practice squad to make room for Parmele.

Vonnie Holliday was also not at practice for what coach Tony Sparano called, "a family issue." Outside linebacker coach Jim Reid, who was taken to the hospital after Wednesday's practice experiencing dizziness and difficulty breathing, is scheduled to undergo surgery Sparano said. He declined to say surgery for what.

[Update: I have confirmed that Sparano is giving the players the day off Friday. The reason he gave for doing this is because he accomplished in the last two days what he expected to get done in three. So they will be off Friday through Sunday. And still they will have worked longer this bye week than last year's bye week.]

September 18, 2008

Pasqualoni gives answers on Jason Allen

Many of you have asked, demanded, begged for reasons why Jason Allen is not Miami's starting free safety today despite the fact Chris Crocker clearly had at least one miscommunication issue against Arizona and this week Renaldo Hill is likely to start at free safety.

... which, by the way, means Allen is effectively third-team at free safety.

I have resisted asking the questions you guys have wanted me to ask this coaching staff because they take their cue from head coach Tony Sparano and he, frankly, has admitted he's never going to publicly unmask a player with criticism or sometimes even critique. In other words, he'll talk about players but he won't tell you when they make mistakes and where they fall short of the mark.

Having said that, I could not resist the idea of trying to get a legitimate answer from defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.

I asked him: "What is Jason Allen not showing that he needs to show to take the next step?"

He answered: "Jason as everybody knows has great position flexibility. He's a safety, he can play a bigger corner position. So we're working him in a lot of places right now. He's doing well. He's practicing hard. He's practicing with focus. He's just got to keep going. Jason's got a chance to be a good player with his position flexibility."

So I press: "If he improves what?"

And he non-answers: "Well, he's, he's ... as a corner, you know he played corner in college, I think everybody knows that. I think everybody also knows playing corner in this league is a little bit different so you have to give him enough time to get comfortable with the coverages and the press and the bails and all the zones and the mans you play. I would say if you wanted to put your finger on one word it's just give him a little time and as time goes he'll improve and improve."

Do you understand my life's frustrations now?

September 12, 2008

Sparano: Game vs. Arizona a 'must-win'

I have sometimes been accused of holding the Dolphins to a high standard that too often they have not been able to uphold.

Tony Sparano apparently believes there is nothing wrong with that. That is why he is putting pressure -- a lot of it -- on his team this weekend. How much pressure, you ask?

He believes this game against Arizona, only the second game in a 16-game season, is a must-win outing.

"I feel like when you lose your first game of the season that your second game is a must-win no matter what," Sparano said Friday afternoon. "I think every week in this league is a must-win in my mind, but when you’re trying to change a culture, there are no kind of wins.  They are all must-wins when you’re trying to change a culture. That being said, we know that last week we lost a ballgame that maybe we didn’t play as well as we could have in. I think that makes this game a whole lot more important, yes."

Um, rookie coach mistake.

I understand what Coach S is trying to say. He wants a sense of urgency out of his team, particularly because it didn't perform as well as it could have last week. But must-win?

A must-win game is one that means the difference between a playoff berth and going home for the offseason. A must-win game is one that avoids a winless season or gives you an undefeated season. A must-win game comes late in the season.

But the second game of the year? Nope.

Every game is important, but the Dolphins could lose this game and still have a good season. And what happens if they lose and the coach portrayed it as a must-win? What is he going to say afterward? The season is over because we didn't win the must-win game?

This is an important game because the coaching staff doesn't want the players to lose confidence. It's important because the Dolphins don't want fans to lose hope and believe this year is a scary extension of last season.

But must-win?

September 11, 2008

Sparano protecting players an asset or liability?

I cringed yesterday when I heard coach Tony Sparano say that against the New York Jets the Dolphins receivers as a group, "played well. Not great. Well."

You decide based on what you saw if the group played well.

My point is if you ever expect Sparano to tell you exactly how awful a certain player is, you will be sorely disappointed. He will NEVER openly criticize any player because he doesn't think it is beneficial to the player or the team.

If you read the question and answer column I did over the weekend after a sit-down with Sparano, you would know that when it comes to criticizing players Sparano believes he doesn't need to do that in public.

The intriguing thing is he doesn't mind calling out groups of players -- such as the offensive line or defensive backs or receivers -- as long as he doesn't single anyone out. That makes his defense of the receivers even more curious.

So this is what I am wondering:

Do you agree with the coach that receivers as a whole played, "well?"

Do you now lose some trust in what the coach says about his players because you know he's never going to rip a player no matter what?

And do you wish Sparano was more like his mentor Bill Parcells who apparently had no issues with publicly expressing his dissatisfaction with players? By the way if you don't remember, Parcells once referred to Terry Glenn as a "she" and talked about Terrell Owens' injuries that forced him to the workout bike without ever actually calling Owens by name.

Discuss...

September 02, 2008

Dolphins beat Jets in the draft's first round

Last April the Dolphins used the first pick of the draft to select Jake Long. The New York Jets used their first round pick, the sixth pick overall, to select outside linebacker Vernon Gholston.

Advantage Dolphins!

While Long has come pretty much as advertised so far and will start at offensive left tackle for Miami in the regular-season opener, Gholston has not quite started so fast. In fact, he's been awful.

I had Michael Lombardi, a 20-year NFL personnel man with Oakland, Cleveland and other teams, on my radio show over the weekend. First of all, he doesn't think the Jets are going to be very good at all. He picked them fourth in the AFC East, behind New England, Buffalo and Miami.

And he hates Gholston.

This is what Lombardi wrote in the National Football Post after the Jets preseason finale against Philadelphia.

"I watched Gholston last night and he is not playing well right now. What is most alarming is his inability to come off the blocks without explosison or to play the game with any physicality. Coming out of college, he did not, in my opinion, have one-step quickness. he has to run his feet to generate power -- much like a boxer who needs to "wind up" to throw a punch. Gholston is a poor rusher, playing right into the lineman. As a dropper, he has no chance. If he is in coverage, he is a HUGE liability. The question the Jets should be asking themselves is, 'How are we going to dress him on Sunday?' He is not a special teams  player and won't be on the field as a rusher with the defense. Difficult to imagine drafting  aplayer with the sixth overall, he is not a quarterback, and he does not offer any help on Sunday."

Long, meanwhile, has met every expectation of the Dolphins coaching staff. He still needs to improve his technique but coaches are riding him hard to get that done. Head coach Tony Sparano, in particular, has been spending time with Long to get him better as quickly as possible.

He is not a Pro Bowl player now. But with some experience and some improved technique and some time, he has the makings. The Dolphins believe they hit paydirt with the guy.

The Jets with Gholston? Not so much.

5 p.m. update: The Dolphins are about to announce the cutting of cornerback Joey Thomas and the signing of safety Tyrone Culver. The team also will cut Jayson Foster off the practice squad and add nose tackle Anthony Toribio. Culver was waived by the Packers when the team cut to 53 players.

August 12, 2008

Kicker Jay Feely released by Dolphins

Jay Feely, who was arguably the Dolphins most consistent performer in 2007, will not be with the team in 2008.

This morning Feely was called in by the Dolphins braintrust and released, according to a source.

Feely confirmed the release on a local radio and in conversations with local reporters, which he called to volunteer the information. That very move is one small reason the Dolphins had Feely on a very short leash. Bill Parcells hated the fact Feeley was so media friendly.

But Parcells also hated that Feely wasn't great with his kickoffs last year that problem coupled with the player's injury the past 10 days or so spelled the end. Feely missed practices and the first preseason game with a groin injury.

In Feely's absence, rookie Dan Carpenter won the job with Miami. Carpenter connected on field goals of 41 and 49 yards during the preseason-opener against Tampa Bay.

I cannot stress enough the focus the Dolphins are now putting on not losing hidden yardage in games. Last season, for example, special teams assistant Keith Armstrong bemoaned the fact that in one game alone, Feely's low and short kickoffs cost the Dolphins 80 yards of field position. Armstrong would not say what game that was, but the statistic was startling.

The Dolphins were not good enough then and are still not good enough now to recover from that kind of field position liability. I assume the team believes Carpenter will be better on kickoffs. Against Tampa Bay, he had three kickoffs and none were in the end zone.

So Feely, 32, is a free agent. Wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with Tampa Bay or New Orleans. Last year Feely connected on 21 of 23 field goals.

So the Dolphins say good-bye to another vet. And this blog loses a loyal reader.

August 11, 2008

The words right from Sparano's mouth today

Head Coach Tony Sparano

Pre-Practice – Monday, August 11, 2008


(On the injuries to LB Kelvin Smith and LB Charlie Anderson) – “Here’s where we are injury wise at the end of the game. Kelvin Smith, during the game, he suffered what looks like a pretty serious knee injury. We’re waiting on a little bit more information there, but that injury looks to be pretty serious. And then, Charlie Anderson in the game, he had a little bit of a hamstring deal in the game, so he’s kind of day-to-day right now. But those are the injuries that came out of the game.”

(On LB Charlie Anderson practicing today) -- “I’m not sure. It’s really day-to-day and we’ll be really smart with it, but I don’t see him practicing today.”

(On his plans for LB Kelvin Smith after his injury) -- “Not sure right now. At this time, we’re still waiting for a little bit more information, but it’s not great.”

(On which leg LB Kelvin Smith and LB Charlie Anderson injured) -- “Not positive. I think Charlie’s is the left, I’m not sure.”

(On his impressions of the first preseason game vs. Tampa Bay after watching the film) -- “My impressions after watching the game in general, are that I thought early in the game they did some nice things. They competed really hard. Whatever it’s worth in a preseason game, the score was 7-6 with ten minutes into the fourth quarter of it. I thought the first units competed really well against one another in that game, and really did see some really good things at times, particularly out of some younger guys in there. I was really pleased to see that. What we didn’t do, is we didn’t finish. So that’s something that we talk about. I don’t really care what the unit is that is out on the field at the time, it’s not an excuse. We didn’t finish the game and that’s the way we practice. Those are the things we talk about. We weren’t really disciplined throughout the course of the game. We had nine penalties there for 60 yards. Those are things that we preach about. We had a couple of minus plays out there, which are also things that we talk about. We really didn’t get the ball away from them, meaning they didn’t turn it over. Now, with that being said, neither did we, which is a good thing.”

(On how he splits up the rotation with four QBs in camp)  -- “Right now, we’ve seen an awful lot of a couple of guys here, of three players, so we can see a little bit less maybe of the three players there as we get on in this. We know we obviously have to get Chad (Pennington) work as well here, so we’ll work it around that way. It might be a little bit dominant in here early. We’ll see how it goes where a couple of guys get a couple more reps then a few other guys.”

(On how long he thinks it takes for a QB to learn an offense) -- “Well, that’s interesting. I think to learn an offense, I think a guy can learn the offense and have a pretty good grasp of the offense in a week to two weeks time. I really do, depending on who that guy is. Now Chad (Pennington) coming to us, and this was well thought out, is when we came here, really my first time in Dallas, when I learned our offense with Bill Parcells, that was the same offense that Dan Henning was involved in. So, when we came here, my notebook and Dan’s notebook were put together. And that’s kind of the way we developed our offense here and kind of the way we’re going to attack this thing. To be honest with you, Chad (Pennington) is pretty familiar with some of the terminology. This is going to be a little bit easier than it would be anybody else.”

(On who’s terminology he uses, his or offensive coordinator Dan Henning)  -- “We’re using my terminology. One of the greatest things is formations and how you get guys lined up. That’s the biggest part that comes out of the quarterbacks mouth in the huddle usually is the formation. And those things are pretty consistent. So Chad (Pennington), I think, would have pretty good recall that way. In fact, I know he does.”

(On what he liked from QB Chad Henne’s play in the preseason game against Tampa Bay)  -- “I’ll tell you two things I thought that were really telling to me. First of all, he did step up in the pocket and he did make a couple of pretty good throws in there. One of those throws was, I’m going to say to (Anthony) Armstrong in the game and then the other one was to (David) Kircus. Those are two pretty good throws, I mean really big-league throws. The ball out of bounds, there was another deal during the course of this game, we drill it all the time out here, and we talk about it a lot. But from a field goal standpoint, our second score, we were probably on about the 36-yard line at the time, somewhere in that range, maybe a little bit longer. But we were just outside of what we thought might have been (Dan) Carpenter’s field goal range. And we went back to pass, and Chad (Henne) was smart enough there not to take a sack, put the ball down and get positive yards out of this, which was something we talked about. I think he might have gained four yards in that situation and gave us the opportunity to make a field goal. That’s a heads up play for a young guy to make. Some young guys would take the sack there in that situation and you have no chance for a field goal. The other thing I thought is that he got hit twice in that game, it didn’t bother him at all.”

(On his evaluation of the first team offensive line against Tampa Bay) – “I thought that the first team offensive line, the course of that game, aside of the first two plays of the game, which we were not quite on the same page with, played  pretty well.  I was pleased with what they did in there.  I was really pleased as a group with what they did, but obviously when you look at your young players, Donald Thomas being out there for the first time, I was pleased with what Donald did during the course of the game.  There are a lot of things he has to get better at and we talked about it and Jake (Long), the same kind of deal.  I thought Jake played pretty well in that ball game and got challenged a little bit in that game.  Some speed rush up the field and he handled it pretty well.  He was pretty good in the run game.  Again, some things he has to get better at as well.”

(On his evaluation of Matt Roth at outside linebacker against Tampa Bay) -- “I see tremendous strength and he really set the edge a few times.  He did a nice job that way.  He put good pressure on the quarterback in some rush situations.  When I say, ‘set the edge,’ I mean in the run game.  He really set the edge, played on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.  But in the pass game, his pass rush was really solid.  He’s down the middle usually of his defender.  Now that being said, we need to work on some things that way.  Down the middle is good, but down the middle of a 300 pound tackle every single down, we need to come up with a little something different there.”

(On why Ernest Wilford seems to be struggling catching the ball) -- “I think sometimes when you’re a skill player like that, and you don’t always get a lot of at bats, and it doesn’t come to you a bunch, you have one or two and then it becomes a confidence thing a little bit one way or the other.  But he’s a pretty confident kid.  In fact, he and I sat down and visited a little today and I told him that I am confident in him and that we just got to get him into a point where we just practice one practice at a time here and we finish that practice and we know we had a good day.  And we go to the next practice and worry about it.  Maybe spend a little bit more time doing some things with him on the jugs.  We’ve got four arms in camp now so we can use some of these quarterbacks after practice and do some things that way too.”

(On not playing Joey Porter against Tampa Bay and injury updates on Vonnie Holliday and Jay Feely) -- “Vonnie is still day-to-day right now.  He’s doing a lot better.   We were smart in doing what we did with him.  As far as Joey goes, Joey had a little bit of a sore back.  He kind of tweaked it in practice last week.  It was fine then it kind of flared up on him so it was a little bit sore and we just wanted to be cautious with it.  That was all it was in that situation.  It was good for us to be able to see a few of the younger guys, too, in that deal.  Joey is going to be day-to-day right now and I would expect Joey, as we get on in this week to be okay.  As far as Feely goes, he’s still day-to-day right now as well and we’ll see where he is.”

(On if he’s comfortable with John Beck doing the check down or would you like to see him step up more downfield) -- “I think it depends on what’s happening out there, coverage-wise.  I know when Chad (Henne) got out there, there was a little bit more man coverage at that time.  Tampa usually plays a lot of two-deep and tries to keep the ball underneath you, underneath them I should say.  John had a few of those kind of opportunities where they were playing shell and he had to check the ball down a little bit.  He made the right decision.  We have talked a little bit to John just about being able to get the ball down the field.  You don’t want to force feed that to a quarterback and then he goes out and throws three interceptions because he’s trying to push the ball.  One of the big things is that it’s okay to check the ball down in our offense.  We threw a check down to Reagan Mauia.  To be honest with you, we weren’t in the right place when we threw the check down, but we threw the check down to Reagan and he gains nine or ten yards.  That’s what you want to see.” 

(On his evaluation of the special teams overall and the impact that Special Teams Coordinator John Bonamego has had)  -- “First of all, Bono’s impact I think is outstanding.  The players like playing for Bono in special teams and that’s a big part of it.  He keeps it interesting there.  He tells them when they do it right, he tells them when they do it wrong and he’s pretty good correcting it.  He uses a lot of visuals for them in meetings so that they can understand what it is that we should be doing and how we should be doing it out there on the field.  I think they’re excited about what he brings to the table in special teams.  As far as the game goes, I thought early in the game we competed pretty well.  What I didn’t like is there were 70 yards worth of punts returned in the kicking game.  And that’s 70 yards.  You take 70 yards there, you take 60 yards worth of penalties you’re at 130 yards.  You add four sacks for 23 yards, now you’re at 153 yards.  I think we got back three sacks for maybe 13 yards.  So at the end of the day there was 120 yards of hidden yardage left on the field.  My team knows this, they know about how you win and lose.  And of 123 yards when you look at it, in our game 100 yards is seven points.  It’s probably about nine points in the game.”

(On what you are looking for out of Chad Pennington today in his first practice) -- “Obviously I just want to watch him manage the huddle a little bit and see how he does that way.  See exactly what his recall is. We’re going to get him out there and let him go a few reps.  He’ll grab a bunch of reps today.  And we’re going to watch him and see what his recall is.  I want to watch him throw the ball a little bit, but more importantly just how he interacts with the players and the team.  He’s already done that, its kind of been a pretty nice couple days, transition that way.  You could feel his presence around a little bit.”

(On what the wide receivers need to improve on)  -- “Catching the ball.  I want them to catch the ball and I want to see run after the catch.  But your question is a good question.  The other thing is man-to-man.  I don’t think we’re doing a great job at the second level avoiding people.  They’re getting their hands on us a little bit, it’s happened in practice.  They disrupt the route there a little bit.  We need to have a better plan at the second level from a receiver’s standpoint and we have to win in man-to-man situations.  We have to win.”

(On is he going to have a set plan with four quarterbacks or play them by feel) – “I’m going to do it by feel right now, kind of what we need to get as we get on in this thing.  Honestly, right now it’s going to be feel for a lot of the guys on the team.  We’re kind of out of the hurting people’s feelings business right now.  We’re getting into the real deal here.  We have three preseason games left and really after today we’ll have nine true practice days left before we get into game week.  We’ve got to get people ready to play that we think are going to be headed to the game and get enough guys work that are on the bubble as we look at it and see guys that still have a legitimate chance to make this team.  There are a lot of guys that have that chance to make this team.  Really, there’s very few things that are set in stone but we got to get guys ready to play."