July 02, 2013

What do you want to see?

This is David Neal blogging in for Armando Salguero, who is on vacation somewhere (San Diego? New York? Boston? The Heritage Foundation?) I don't know what Armando does with his vacation time any more than he knows what I do with mine.

Anyway, as far as I know, there's no real news today involving the Water Mammals. Charity work's being knocked out in these last weeks before training camp opens on July 20. That reminds me of something I'll get to in another blog post. But for this one, I'd like to ask you readers of this blog who've remained throuh the era of inactivity: what do you most want to see in training camp?

The development of Tannehill? How Mike Wallace looks? Dion Jordan? The kicking competition?

Have a good evening.


November 25, 2009

Miami Dolphins players must produce quickly

Surprised by the waiving of Matt Roth?

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

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

(I happen to love that about this regime.)

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

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

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

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

Here yesterday, unproductive today, gone tomorrow.

We've seen it time and again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 21, 2008

Get your complete roster breakdown here

The Dolphins play their third and most important preseason game Saturday night so now is as good a time as any to take a look at the entire roster on a position by position basis.

I am not assuming anything on here as you will see. I think, given some of the moves of this new regime, that is a safe way to go. Let me know where you agree and where you disagree.

QB: In: Chad Henne, Chad Pennington. On the bubble: Josh McCown and John Beck: The skinny: Although Sparano has said the team might carry four guys, that is hard to fathom. More likely the team keeps three with McCown and Beck sweating out the cuts. The Dolphins are hoping some QB around the league goes down this weekend, making a trade involving McCown or Beck palatable.

RB: In: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. On the bubble: Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele. On the outs?: Lex Hilliard. The skinny: Despite the ESPN rumor that Brown might be gone from the team this season, it is hard to believe the Dolphins would simply push him out without getting value in return. And no one is giving up a first-round pick for Brown so there is no return value seemingly available. The coaching staff, particularly Sparano, likes Cobbs. But despite his effort and desire, his production (10 carries, 25 yards) has been pedestrian this preseason. Parmele runs a little high, but he runs hard. Hilliard has disappeared at times this training camp and can hope for a practice squad spot at best.

WR: IN:Ted Ginn Jr, Derek Hagan. On the bubble: Ernest Wilford, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Anthony Armstrong. On the outs? Jayson Foster, David Kircus. The skinny: The Dolphins probably keep five of these guys. They would listen to trade offers for Wilford with a return trip to Jacksonville a slight possibility. Absent that, a good game by Wilford on Saturday assures him of making the team. Camarillo and Bess have been fairly consistent but they need to excell on special teams to nail down a position. Armstrong has become Miami's most explosive receiver in practices the last week or so. Kircus, perhaps Miami's best deep threat in practices, had a good chance to make the team until Armstrong started flashing skills.

FB/TE: IN: Anthony Fasano, David Martin. On the bubble: Reagan Mauia, Boomer Grigsby, Justin Peelle, Sean Ryan. On the outs? Matthew Mulligan. The skinny: The Dolphins will probably keep five from this group and that normally breaks down to two FBs and three TEs, but because the Dolphins use TEs in the backfield as blockers, the team has flexibility on personnel. The decisions will boil down primarily to special teams. The better special teamers will get the nod and, based on past performances, that is an advantage for Grigsby and Peelle first, followed by Ryan and Mauia.

OL: In: Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Samson Satele, Donald Thomas, Vernon Carey, Trey Darilek. On the bubble: Darren Heerspink, Matt Spanos, Irechuku Ndukwe. On the outs?: Mike Byrne, Shawn Murphy. The skinny: Thomas is the most pleasant surprise of any rookie given his draft status (6th rounder). Long has played as advertised while Darilek is a Dallas Cowboys favorite of Sparano's and he also plays multiple positions. The Dolphins have very poor depth behind the starters so even those players making the roster should hold their breath until after Miami studies the talent available on the waiver wire. Murphy, promising in offseason camps, has not physically won a job on the roster although his draft status could still save him.

DL: In: Kendall Langford, Vonnie Holliday, Jason Ferguson, Matt Roth, Phillip Merling. On the bubble: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Rodrique Wright. On the outs? Anthony Toribio, Lionel Dotson. The skinny: The Dolphins are encouraged by their youngsters (Langford and Merling) and have to feel good about the maturity and professionalism Ferguson and Holliday bring. Beyond that, the depth is questionable. Starks has been slow to get comfortable in Miami's system and Soliai has been inconsistent as he tries to learn to be a professional. The cuts here should not be difficult.

LB: In: Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor. On the bubble: Joey Porter, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Titus Brown, Edmond Miles, Rob Ninkovich. On the outs?: Kelly Poppinga, Maurice Fountain, Junior Glymph. They skinny: I know, I know, you think Porter is definitely on the team. That may be true based on reputation and his contract, which included a $20 million guarantee. But if you measure guys making the team based on production this preseason, Porter is a big question mark based on his inability to contribute because of injuries. The Dolphins may think this is the start of a troubling trend and may try to trade Porter. Anderson was starting early in training camp but injuries have kept him from earning a roster spot as well. He was back practicing this morning and may try to play Saturday to open the coaching staff's eyes. Brown is a darkhorse that coaches love for his desire, effort and potential. Moses needs to show more consistency.

DB: In: Andre' Goodman, Will Allen, Joey Thomas, Yeremiah Bell, Nathan Jones, Chris Crocker. On the bubble: Jason Allen, Michael Lehan, Renaldo Hill, Keith Davis. On the outs? Will Billingsley, Courtney Bryan, Chris Roberson. Allen, Lehan and Hill are probably on the team so I don't want to hear any crap about where I put them. The fact is there are still questions among the coaching staff on all of those guys so one cannot simply anoint them to a roster spot or assume they have one locked up -- no matter what anybody says. Davis can make the team with a solid special teams performance Saturday evening. The guys on the outs were in the game last weekend when Jacksonville bombed the Miami secondary in the final quarter.

Spec: In: K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, and LS John Denney. The skinny: It must be nice to be them.

August 13, 2008

Last update of the day for Wednesday

The idea that Jay Feely needed to be cut by the Dolphins, in a small part, because he was too vocal in the media and with his teammates is not foreign to some players still on the team -- even one player who calls himself Feely's friend.

"Jay's my boy," linebacker Joey Porter said Wednesday. "I like Jay Feely a lot. But at the same time, certain players get to do certain things and certain players don't. Nothing against Jay, but kickers don't get to be as vocal as I would be. I don't care who you are. [Mike] Vanderjagt tried and he got kicked out of Indy and he was the best kicker in the game. Kickers don't get to talk a whole lot."

Porter said the Dolphins picked, "the cheapest player," in the kicking competition.


Josh McCown and John Beck had the best day of Miami's four quarterbacks in Wednesday's practice because, well, they took only a handful of snaps in team drills while Chad Pennington and Chad Henne took the 36 between them and stunk struggled.

Pennington was 6 of 21 with zero touchdowns and two interceptions during the entirety of the team drills, which were split up into three parts. Pennington and the starting receivers were not always on the same page but he was also victimized by some horrible happenstance.

On one sure TD pass he hit TE Sean Ryan in the hands and the guy not only drops the pass, he drops it into the hands of Joey Thomas for an INT. Pennington's second INT was legit as Will Billingsley simply plucked a weak pass in the corner of the end zone out of the air. Derek Hagan, by the way, didn't exactly defend well, which is what he's called to do when he doesn't have a chance to catch it himself.

Pennington did have the nicest completion of the day -- a 40-yard-plus connection with Greg Camarillo. Camarillo also had a leaping grab of a Henne pass across the middle later in the practice so he had a good day.

Henne was not so good either. He completed 7 of 15 passes without a TD nor an INT. Henne also took a sack.


An item in profootballtalk.com today confirms an item on this blog from Saturday that Chad Pennington's deal could be worth $11.5 million but only if the guy takes Miami to the Super Bowl and he wins the MVP. The real value of the deal is more like $8 million. He got $500,000 to sign last week.


It was surprising to see but only hours after coach Tony Sparano said he's seeing improvement from Ernest Wilford in practices, I see him fall another notch in the ever-changing depth chart.

While we all know Wilford dropped from starter to third receiver last week behind Ted Ginn and Derek Hagan, today while the team worked in three-receiver sets, he wasn't one of the three receivers. Rookie Davone Bess, Ginn and Hagan were the three WRs working with the starters. Wilford was working with the second group. Interesting.


The Dolphins want to find a place for RB Patrick Cobbs on this team so don't be surprised to see him on kick returns Saturday versus Jacksonville.


Quickie Jake Long update: Good news. Nothing to report. He doesn't give up sacks, he doesn't jump offsides. Does he have work to do? Yes, on his technique. But he's never overmatched.

Some nuggets from Wed. morning presser

If you read this blog yesterday you saw the recount of an exchange between Bill Parcells and cornerback Michael Lehan. It was pretty clear that Parcells was tweaking Lehan.

Today, I asked coach Tony Sparano about Lehan and it seems clear, reading between the lines, the team is drawing near to that moment when they want the player who has nursed a high ankle sprain for over two months to get back on the field.

"Pretty soon it becomes important," Sparano said. "We're getting to a point right now where we're trying to make decisions as we get on with this thing on this team ... We need to see Michael out there ... We want to see Michael out there."

Lehan has been working off to the side and, according to my eyes, has been moving quite well. He was cutting pretty aggressively yesterday. "It looks like he's making great progress right now," Sparano said.

And it says here that progress needs to translate to getting back out there. "There's a lot of things taking place out there right, the competition is going on and he hasn't been out there," Sparano said. "There's a lot of things going on. Once he gets out there and he's healthy, I think he'll be fine, but he has to compete just like everyone else."


Don't expect to see Charlie Anderson (hamstring) on the practice field any time soon and he is not likely to play Saturday. Vonnie Holliday, nursing the same injury, is "probably close" to returning to practice so I believe he may play Saturday.


Expect Ronnie Brown, Jason Allen, Derek Hagan, Ted Ginn Jr., and the entire starting offensive line to get more playing time against Jacksonville Saturday night.


I asked how far along Chad Pennington is in learning the play book because it is not as easy as it looks. The answer is he missed all the installation of plays from early in camp and is expected to pick those up on his own.

"We're not able to go back and start from Day 1," Sparano said. "He's had to absorb that on the fly."

Sparano said Pennington has gotten all the "basic information," meaning he knows formations, the coverages, and obviously Miami's terminology.


Coaches are pleased that Ernest Wilfork this week has recovered from two pretty bad weeks of practice. He has improved visibly the last couple of days.

Sparano also said he has noticed rookie linebacker Titus Brown more of late.


By the way, tight end Aaron Halterman, waived injured earlier in camp, went through waivers unclaimed and his agent was unable to negotiate a settlement with the team. So he is now Miami's second player on injured reserve joining Tab Perry.

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."

August 10, 2008

Sparano: 'We may keep four quarterbacks'

Coach Tony Sparano just said that contrary to speculation, the Dolphins may not cut any of their four quarterbacks. It just might be a very crowded quarterback room if the coach is being honest.

"Throughout the rest of training camp ... we'll see how things go," Sparano said. "I expect that we'll have four quarterbacks for a while. We may keep four quarterbacks. I mean, that's the truth. We might just keep four quarterbacks at the end of this thing. I mean, the team we just played has got a bunch of them."

It is hard to fathom that the same coach who has been working guys at multiple positions, including trying veteran defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday and Matt Roth at outside linebacker for what he calls "position flexibility," will use a roster spot on a QB that would never have the opportunity to play or even run the scout team.

Anyway here is some other stuff off of Saturday night's 13-6 loss to Tampa Bay:

*Ricky Williams, who has not played a preseason game since 2003, looked excellent. He rushed five times for 31 yards -- a 6.2 yard per carry average. "It's a preseason game and I just wanted to come in and get a feel for it again and see where I was at," Williams said. "I did OK, but like the rest of the team, I have a ways to go."

*Ronnie Brown, who rushed three times for 4 yards, had a successful evening in that he didn't get hurt and probably is more confident about his surgically repaired knee than he was before the game. "It's kind of weird," Brown said. "I felt good throughout camp and just coming in today, every now and then I got a little soreness. I expected a little bit of that during the game, but coming out I felt really good. I was surprised. It's kind of like, 'Hold on. Where the soreness at?' But I have a lot to build on and I think that was just the first step on getting ready for the season."

*I really like Josh McCown as a person. He's salt of the earth material. So it is tough to see when good people have to face tough situations. McCown faced that in the fourth quarter and in the locker room afterward. In that fourth quarter he played behind the last-team offensive line and with players who are not going to be in the NFL next month. He nonetheless completed 5 of 8 passes for 35 yards, which amazingly gave him a 72.4 QB rating, the highest on the team.

Afterward, McCown faced questions about his future with the Dolphins from media assuming the Dolphins will keep only three quarterbacks. "They said over and over they're going to do what they have to do to help this team win," McCown said of Miami's addition at QB. "For us as quarterbacks, that's just part of it. It doesn't change anything. We were competing before and we're still competing."

*The Dolphins defense has the makings of a unit that will be better this year. But ... This is a unit that has to find playmakers. Granted neither Joey Porter nor Holliday played tonight while Roth played out of position at OLB. But the team has to identify players that will make big plays on third down so they can get off the field. The Bucs were 11 of 20 on third down tonight (a completely unacceptable 55 percent success rate). As a result they ran 76 offensive plays to Miami's 47 offensive plays, while holding the ball 36:11 to Miami's 23:49.

*During Pennington's press conference, he addressed the universal criticism of his arm strength. I thought it was a very insightful moment when this guy admitted he has heard the talk of his game's weakness and talked about what he's done about it. Here is what he said:

"I spent a lot of time this offseason really taking a look at the criticisms of me as a professional and seeing what I can do in bettering myself. One thing I tried to do was totally change my mechanics. I wanted to create the consistency on the down-the-field throws and velocity on the ball. It's never been a question on the velocity, but the consistency is where the criticisms always come from. It's a work in progress. It's hard to change something you've been doing for 25 years, but I found some really good results in training camp up to this point."

*The Dolphins reported two guys on the injury report. They were Charlie Anderson (hamstring) and Kelvin Smith (knee). The seriousness of the injuries will be fully determined later Sunday.

*Finally the column I wrote off the game centered on the Dolphins' receivers. They are struggling right now and you should read the offering to understand how bad it is and why improvement is needed. I also offer a possible solution to the problem.

August 09, 2008

Feely not playing tonight; other updated news

I'm at Dolphin Stadium, home of a team about to improve from last year's 1-15 record.

Just looking around and I am told that Jay Feely, who has been nursing a groin injury, will not kick tonight. Rookie Dan Carpenter will handle all the kicking duties.

The Miami Herald has reported that Josh McCown is not playing tonight while John Beck starts. Chad Henne is expected to play the second and fourth quarter in the report filed by beat writer Jeff Darlington.

Other lineup issues: Derek Hagan will start ahead of Ernest Wilford.

Donald Thomas will be the second Dolphins rookie offensive lineman to start. Rookie Kendall Langford will start at left defensive end for Matt Roth.

Matt Roth will start at strong side linebacker for Joey Porter. Phillip Merling will start at right defensive end for Vonnie Holliday.

Chad Pennington is at the stadium and has signed his contract. He is expected to be introduced, perhaps after the game.

Anyway check back often for updates. Understand that I am blogging and writing a column at the same time -- on deadline -- so I don't want to hear no $%#@&* if I'm not super fast with the updates. But I will do my best.

Meet me in the comments section at kickoff.

August 04, 2008

Some interesting tidbits from Monday's work

Ernest Wilford had a starting receiver job when this training camp opened. It was his job to lose.

But after not getting any separation with any consistency the 10 days of camp, Wilford started losing the job Monday. Derek Hagan, who has had some flashes while working with the second team and as the slot receiver, was promoted to first team.

Wilford worked mostly with second-teamers. Nothing is set in stone so I just come out here and compete and come out here and practice hard," Wilford said.

So why hasn't Wilford produced? "It's a little bit of everything," he said. "It's still preseason, the season is still young. Nothing is set in stone until you get to the preseason games. I'm a gamer. Derek is a gamer so everything is going to work out come preseason games."

Truth be told, Hagan has been a fine outstanding practice player and outstanding citizen on the Dolphins. But he hasn't really been a gamer in his career yet. Wilford, meanwhile, did start plenty of games for Jacksonville.

So does he think he'll get better once the games begin?

"I think so but you still need to come out here and prove it on the practice field," Wilford said. "Right now we just have to continue to work on consistency on the practice field and just try to come out here and catch balls."

Actually, it's get open, then catch balls. Otherwise he'll catch hell.

Matt Roth, Vonnie Holliday, OLB note:

Just so everyone understands: It is the preseason and the Dolphins are experimenting. So just because Vonnie Holliday works some as a standup SOLB for a week, it doesn't mean he's being converted to SOLB.

And just because Matt Roth works at standup SOLB some, as he did in the offseason camps and again Monday and likely the remainder of this week, it doesn't mean he's being converted to a SOLB.

It means it is the preseason and there is a search for an answer underway. And what is the question?

How do you replace Jason Taylor?

The easy way to do it is stick Charlie Anderson in there, play Roth at one DE and Holliday at the other DE and be, well, unsatisfied with the results.

But the Dolphins are not doing that. They are searching for options. They are trying to maximize their players. So maybe the answer is putting Holliday at the SOLB, using Kendall Langford or Phillip Merling as a DE and sending Anderson to the bench.

Maybe the answer is putting Roth at an SOLB and having Holliday, and either Randy Starks, Merling or Langford at the other DE while sending Anderson to the bench. Or maybe it is sending Roth and Anderson to the bench, playing two out of the group of Starks, Merling and Langford and using Holliday at SOLB.

The point is the team is searching for the best combo of guys to create the most pressure. The team is looking at all the options to settle on the best fit. It doesn't mean it will happen. It doesn't mean it won't.

It just means the Dolphins are looking to recover the 11 or so sacks the team traded to the Redskins.

July 09, 2008

Henne, Merling may want to wait to sign deals

The Dolphins have three players they need to get signed before training camp opens July 26 -- second-rounders Phillip Merling and Chad Henne and third-rounder Kendall Langford. And while the agents for all three predicted the week following the July 4th holiday would bring the start of serious negotiations, it has not brought a serious agreement.

All three will get done eventually, but there may not be an agreement until late next week at the earliest if the agents for the two second-rounders in particular follow the advice of the NFL Players Association.

The problem Henne and Merling are having with the Dolphins is the same as most second-rounders are having around the league: Because they sign four-year deals and there is no collective bargaining agreement in place for that fourth year (2011), it is creating problems in negotiations.

The problems stem from the fact most second-round deals the past couple of years have included a one-time bonus that was guaranteed in that fourth and final year of the deal. But that isn't available to players this year. Teams are offering to give the guarantee and bonus in the second year, but agents trying to protect their clients from being cut don't see that as a concession as most players picked that high wouldn't get cut in the second year of their deals anyway.

The NFLPA has cautioned all agents to proceed very slowly with their negotiations now through next week when the union and the NFL Management Council will go before a Special Master to iron out the issue.

The Special Master may or may not have a decision before the end of the week but if you have a calendar handy, you see where this is starting to get a little sticky.

Assuming the Special Master brings a decision by next week, that will clear the decks for the sides to strike a deal in approximately seven days before Miami's first practice. That doesn't make it impossible to get Henne and Merling signed and on the field for the first day of drills, but neither does it bode as an easy assignment.

So far only one player selected in the second round has signed a deal.

Thinking out loud: Wow I got through that without ripping a politician again today.

June 14, 2008

Things to address while on vacation

The Dolphins are officially on vacation now and although some rookies will be around the facility during the early part of July, most players won't be back until later in the month.

But just because everyone's on vacay doesn't mean stuff should not be happening. The Dolphins have work to do in certain areas over the next few weeks. And although not every issue will be fully resolved by the start of training camp, it wouldn't hurt the team to consider its options.

The issues?

1. Getting healthy: Miami needs to get cornerback Michael Lehan, linebacker Channing Crowder, guard Steve McKinney, and running back Ronnie Brown as close to 100 percent as possible.

Lehan suffered a significant ankle sprain during recent OTA action and was expected to be out about a month. That still puts him within reach of being ready for the start of camp but he obviously has to get treatment consistently to accomplish that.

Brown got his most work of the offseason in the last week of OTA work, taking snaps with the first-team offense in team drills rather than being limited to individual drills as he was earlier. But Brown still isn't 100 percent. The hope is another month of strength building and treatment and TIME will help the surgically repaired knee. I don't think you'll see him taking too many hits in training camp -- maybe not even the first preseason game. But he needs to show by the second or third preseason game he's ready to play because, otherwise, he would be showing he's not ready for the season.

Crowder is still not 100 percent following late-season knee surgery. He needs to get better for the team's as well as his sakes. Obviously Miami brought in a pair of veteran inside linebackers in Reggie Torbor and Akin Ayodele so Crowder will have to compete if he wants to retain his starting job. Then he is hoping to set himself up for a new contract and that cannot happen on the sideline. Finally, from a team perspective, a healthy Crowder makes the defense better and, at the minimum, improves depth.

As for McKinney, see a couple of paragraphs down.

2. Sign remaining rookies:

The Dolphins have three draft picks that remain unsigned -- second-rounders Chad Henne and Phillip Merling and third rounder Kendall Langford. None has missed mandatory minicamps or OTA days because of contract issues so the is hope the negotiations will be efficient and productive. But it is clear Miami cannot afford to let any of these three guys miss any significant amount of training camp time, so it is imperative they are present and accounted for at the opening of camp.

3. Fill the vacant guard spot.

Miami's OL seems pretty much set in four of the five spots -- with LT Jake Long, RT Vernon Carey, C Samson Satele, and G Justin Smiley looking solid. The problem is Smiley, a natural right guard, has been working at both sides and the side where he ain't is a question mark.

If Smiley lands at right guard, where he is more comfy, that leaves the possibility of putting two relatively inexperienced players to man the left side. If you put Smiley, a vet, at left guard, his experience would help Long but what about RG?

This won't get resolved before the start of camp, but it is an issue that needs monitoring. Veteran Steve McKinney, who would be a good veteran fill at LG, said recently he would be ready for the start of training camp "even if I'm not 100 percent." McKinney, added recently, is still recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss most of 2007.

That is all for now. I will be out of the country starting Sunday evening for 10 days. Spare me the don't come back jokes. You will have one final opportunity to talk Dolphins football with me if you want.

I will be on 790-AM The Ticket Sunday morning from 9-11 to talk sports with you. So call me from anywhere in the US at 1-888-790-3776. And if you are not in So. Fla. you can listen on the web at 790theticket.com.

May 21, 2008

Things to look for out of today's OTA reveal

The Dolphins today will unveil their entire team -- minus Jason Taylor, of course -- to the media for the first time this offseason, and some issues bear noting.

Some guys that only a year ago seemed assured of long futures with the Dolphins are, shall we say, fighting for their lives. Before actually seeing today's organized team activity or whatever they call this stuff, I am pretty comfortable telling you this much:

1. Jason Allen, who finished last season as a starter, hasn't been running with starters during the early days of OTA practices. He will get first-team snaps, but he is definitely in a battle to keep the job he held last year. He is locked in a battle to keep his spot against the likes of Renaldo Hill and Chris Crocker and even Keith Davis.

At the other safetey, Yeremiah Bell apparently has been moving quite nicely while recovering from his Achilles' tendon tear in the 2007 season-opener. While perhaps not 100 percent yet, he's very, very close. And coaches like him enough that he is projected a starter.

Hill, recovering from an ACL tear, is also working his way back and should be ready for work by training camp. And Crocker and Davis are Ireland/Parcells/Sparano additions so they have a built-in advantage over Allen. The point is Jason Allen, who was starting to look like something other than a bust at the end of last year, is fighting to keep from being that again.

2. Matt Roth, a second-round pick of Nick Saban in 2005, is going to have to impress during the coming minicamps and into training camp and the preseason to keep his roster spot. That after he started nine games last year.

Roth sucked was something of a disappointment as a starter last year and doesn't seem really suited for the 3-4 because he's neither super big, nor super strong, nor super quick. He's really more a 4-3 end -- except the Dolphins aren't running a 4-3 most of the time. So the pressure is on.

3. I am assuming here, but I think you'll hear today that Josh McCown is taking a majority of the first-team snaps with John Beck taking the second-team snaps and rookie Chad Henne starting out with the third team snaps. It is the logical order, if Salguero is coaching the team.

If this is not the order, it should be news because it means Beck or Henne, two youngsters have caught the staff's attention while McCown, the veteran, hasn't translated his experience to an early advantage. Whatever the case today, eventually McCown and Beck will share first-team snaps and playing time in the preseason as coaches stoke the QB competition.

4. It should be interesting to see what the tight end rotation is. And one question to Bill Parcells: Why isn't Kyle Brady on this team?

5. If you read stories of Ronnie Brown continuing to look really good and even taking snaps in the coming camps, don't pay much attention. The fact is his real test will not come until the regular season. It is not too difficult to hide a knee injury in the preseason. Remember Daunte Culpepper? But the rigors of actually getting hit in full contact work throughout an 18-carry game is a whole different story than training camp or even moderate preseason work.

And that won't happen until the games count for real. So hold your breath because the early returns may not be indicative of reality.

Anyway, I'll be blogging live during Wednesday's practice. Oh, no I won't. The Dolphins don't want anyone doing that because it might upset their competitive advantage. Never mind that the Giants allow their media to blog live from practice and it didn't seem to affect their competitive advantage too much.

I will, however, provide a post-practice update. God willing.