June 12, 2008

Dolphins finish offseason work with Thurs. OTA

The Dolphins finished their final OTA work of the offseason. They were scheduled to work Friday but Tony Sparano gave the guys the day off as a reward for their hard work.

In the next few weeks, rookies will be encouraged to show up and learn, and get bigger and stronger. But the vets are done until late July's start of training camp.

Today, Jason Ferguson, Jason Taylor and Joey Thomas were absent from the voluntary work. Ferguson was excused in that he told Sparano where he'd be. Thomas was held out for medical issues. Taylor was  ... never mind.

Interestingly, Bill Parcells, a sideline fixture at all the other workouts, was not at this one.

Running back Ronnie Brown, still recovering from knee surgery, took most of the first-team snaps in practice. That is the first time this offseason Brown does that as the team was bringing him along slowly.

Brown looked good in team drills but I did notice when he caught a pass and was tackled/fell down, he got back up by putting all the pressure on his left knee (the good one) while putting no weight on his right one (the surgically repaired one). It was an instinct thing that tells me Brown still isn't 100 percent certain about that surgically repaired knee. But that should eventually resolve itself with contact -- at least that is the hope.

ILB Channing Crowder, also held out of some team drills, got more work this week as he was eased back into the mix.

A couple of practice play notes:

Ricky Williams continues to impress and that includes with his pass-catching. Shuttling into first-team work in the two-minute drill, Williams caught a pass from first-team QB John Beck in the flat and turned it into a 5-yard TD.

The second-team offense, behind Josh McCown, also got in the end zone when MCown threw a 60-yard pass to tight end David Martin. The pass came against the first team secondary and LB corps. Martin's longest reception last year was 28 yards.

The third team offense did not score in the two-minute drill.

OT Julius Wilson spent a couple of moments on the turf when he bumped knees with another Olineman but seemed none the worse for wear afterward.

After practice Sparano threw some lesser-known players a bone when he said he was impressed with the work of WR Davone Bess, CB Scorpio Babers and NT Anthony Toribio during the weeks long OTA workouts.

By the way, former Redskins and Texans GM Charley Casserly was at practice today. He is doing work for CBS and the NFL Network and got the royal treatment he deserves from the Dolphins as GM Jeff Ireland spent much of practice with him while Sparano talked to him privately afterward.

And then I talked with him.

He told me he was impressed with the organization and pace of practice. He also told me the team definitely has an issue with the guard position opposite wherever Justin Smiley lines up -- either LG or RG. It is a void that is clear to any trained observer.

And that leads me to this: The Browns terminated the contract of LeCharles Bentley on Tuesday. He is 28 years old and a former Pro Bowl player who can play both center and GUARD. I realize he has a terrible injury history of late. But perhaps Miami's need, so obvious to everybody, will still cause Ireland/Parcells to take a look.


June 07, 2008

Post Saturday morning practice report

This is the deal:

Everyone was present and accounted for at practice this morning except for Jason Taylor. Randy Starks, who missed yesterday's morning practice, was present for the afternoon practice and today's work as well.

The Dolphins brought in receiver John Dunlap from North Carolina State to work as a tryout player. The fact the Dolphins lost Tab Perry and with some guys feeling a little sore, there is room for Dunlap to get reps. One of those receivers who is sore is David Kircus, who was limited in drills today because of a tight hamstring.

As I reported earlier Chad Henne took the first-team QB reps this morning. I wouldn't say it was a great practice for any of the QBs but that is beside the point. "We're competing and everybody is competing," coach Tony Sparano said.

"I want to see Chad in the first huddle. I want to see Josh in the third huddle sometimes. I want to see Beck in the third huddle."

Sparano explained that watching a QB in the first huddle tells him if he fits. Watching one with the second or third teamers tells him if the QB can rise above the other guys. Good stuff, I think.

Talked to Yeremiah Bell, who is one of my favorites based on how tough the guy is and how active he is on the field. Seems when he's on the field, he's always around the action.

Bell, recovering from a 2007 torn Achilles tendon, said he's 95 percent recovered from the injury. "The other five percent will come over the rest of the offseason," Bell said.

As you know from previous blogs, Bell is running with the first teamers. He loves the new defensive system, calling it "player friendly," and thinks he can prosper in it.

"When I'm in there running with the ones I'm going to do everything I can to stay in there," Bell said.

Chances look good he'll do exactly that.

"I'm really impressed with what he's getting done out here on the field," Sparano said of Bell. "He's a good quarterback [for the defense] to have back there."

Talked to Vernon Carey about the switch back to RT. "I'm back home," he said.

He didn't see the switch back as any sort of insult. He did say it took him some time to re-adjust.

"It was shakey at the beginning but that passed," Carey said. "I'm happy."

Guard Steve McKinney, who is not working because he is still recovering from a knee injury that forced him to miss most of 2007, said his goal is to be ready by the start of training camp.

"I don't know if I'll be 100 percent by then but I'll be practicing," he said.

Some highlights:

Best pass of the day came from John Beck who threaded the day's best pass between to defenders and into Derek Hagan's chest. Hagan caught the pass!

Ricky Williams continues to impress. On one running play he vaulted a guard and defensive tackle who were on the ground and clogging the hole. Amazing stuff which leads me to think right now, today, he is the best player Miami has on the field.

Name someone better if you disagree.

By the way, I notice a couple of you are asking how Jake Long or some other offensive linemen are looking. Honestly, I learned long ago that these minicamps are not an indicator of how good or bad an offensive lineman is because there is no hitting or blocking in anger at these camps.

So all I really can tell without blowing smoke is where folks are lining up. It would be ridiculous for me to tell you Jake Long is looking great when he hasn't actually blocked anybody coming at him full speed.

More to come. Check back.

May 21, 2008

Update from Wednesday OTA practice

Here are some nuggets from today's OTA practice, hot off the presses:

The biggest news is that John Beck is taking most of the first-team snaps at quarterback. But that's just today. It does not mean he's the starting quarterback -- remember there will be a competition -- because he and Josh McCown are splitting days taking first-team snaps.

In other words, Beck took first team snaps today, McCown will tomorrow, Beck will Friday and so on. Rookie Chad Henne, who is present despite being unsigned, doesn't know the offense well enough yet to get thrown in with starters.

"This way is better than going back and forth," McCown said of splitting first-team snaps day to day. "It's better for continuity."

Running back Ronnie Brown was on the field and working. Good news considering he is recovering from ACL surgery. But don't go overboard here. A non-contact practice in shorts and no pads is not an indication Brown is ready for the season opener. But this is encouraging.

Safety Yeremiah Bell, injured all of last year with an Achilles' tendon tear, is indeed working, and as a starter no less. So he is obviously healthy. Jason Allen is also taking first-team snaps.

Another player injured much of last year -- cornerback Andre Goodman -- is working with the starters ahead of Mike Lehan, who was the starter most of last year

Justin Smiley is working at right guard which leaves something of a hole at left guard. Look for Ikechuku Ndukwe as a dark horse at that spot -- at least for now. Obviously, Trey Darilek and rookie Shawn Murphy are possibilities, also.

The Dolphins are making the most of their linebacker acquisitions. Reggie Torbor, Charlie Anderson, and Akin Ayodele are all looking like starters at this point. Obviously that doesn't account for Jason Taylor not being here. That starting group is also joined by holdover Joey Porter.

Porter is still playing the strong side linebacker spot. Anderson is the weakside, or rush linebacker that Taylor would play if he were here.

Torbor (Giants) and Anderson (Houston) were acquired as unrestricted free agents. Ayodele came in a trade with Dallas.

Players predictably played down Taylor's absence today.

"It doesn't matter to me that he's not here," Porter said. "I'm not concerned about Jason. He'll be here eventually and he'll learn everything he needs to learn."

The Dolphins have injuries they are nursing. The most disappointing is nose tackle Paul Soliai who was practicing at the end of last year but has somehow found a way to be not able to work today. Will try and report his injury later.

Other injured players sitting out work today are safety Renaldo Hill, tight end Anthony Fasano, and guard Steve McKinney. Linebacker Channing Crowder, who finished last season on IR after knee surgery, was on the field but was limited. That's why he wasn't in with the starting linebackers when they competed in team drills.