April 21, 2011

Ireland's assignment is simple really -- make a difference

Jeff Ireland will conduct his 2011 pre-draft presser (as ordered by NFL rules) today and I will be certain to look beneath his footwear to check for a net. I'm pretty certain I will not find one, but for journalism's sake one has to confirm things.

I want to confirm Ireland is indeed operating in this draft without the Bill Parcells net under him.

This draft, you see, Ireland's on his own. It's his baby and his alone. To him goes the glory if things work out. To him goes the ignominy if things don't.

This draft will be different for the Dolphins in that there can be no rewrite of history when or if things go wrong. The Pat White draft pick, for example, was pretty much an orphan for quite some time until the last three months when I got Ireland and Parcells to took responsibility for the mistake on the record -- Ireland on my radio show, Parcells in a column I wrote last week.Jeff ireland one

No big deal, but I think that kind of set the record straight.

Parcells is still proud of the Jake Long pick and doesn't deem it a mistake but he understands, he also told me, if some folks think Matt Ryan would have been the better selection. The Big Tuna has also told me that in the spring of 2008 he sent Dan Henning, Tony Sparano and Ireland to Ann Arbor (to see Chad Henne), to Delaware (to see Joe Flacco) and to Boston (to see Ryan) and everyone came back saying Henne was every bit as good as the other two. 

So again, responsibility goes where responsibility goes -- on the entire organization.

Now the responsibility belongs to Ireland. As it should be. No more shadows behind curtains. No more masters jostling puppet strings. We're not in Oz anymore.

Jeff Ireland is the man and he will get from fans whatever his picks bring him -- credit or contempt.

But, I wonder, what is your confidence level he's ready? Are you anxious whether he can avoid mistakes that would not be made if Parcells were here? Are you excited he might make more bold moves now that Parcells is gone?

My view?

There can be no doubt Ireland has an approach that is his own. I hope he does, anyway, because he is an individual rather than a clone of his mentor. He's younger than Parcells which suggests he might be bolder but also comes with the caution that he might not be wiser. Jeff and bill

I do not predict he will depart from precepts Parcells taught him. He'll pick prototype guys or try to, anyway. He'll want big guys. He'll especially want fast guys in this draft. He'll try to stay away from troublemakers.

I hope he is desperate. I hope he comes to this draft ready to go for the end zone rather than settle for field goals. I've had enough of field goals. I saw too many field goals the past couple of seasons. I want picks that will prove themselves to be touchdowns!

Think about it: The Dolphins have been good at drafting the past three years. Assuming Jared Odrick does get healthy and back on the field and becomes productive, the last three years brought outstanding to solid picks, with Long being outstanding and Vontae Davis representing solid.

The second round has brought satisifaction (Sean Smith) and disappointment (White) and a still hung jury in the court of public opinion (Chad Henne). Later rounds have had both good and bad picks.

So the work is worthy of a C-plus, in my opinion. 

That's because there has been no awe inspiring pick. There has been no take-your-breath-away, give-that-personnel man-a-prize selection. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has been a game-changer. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has brought a player other teams must game-plan around or for. Long isn't that because, by definition, left tackles can only change the course of a game by screwing up. They do not change the course of games when they merely do their jobs.

Davis has not been a game-changer. Smith hasn't although had he caught his six potential interceptions a year ago that he dropped, he might have reached that plateau. Odrick hasn't gotten a chance. Henne hasn't been a game-changer in any consistent or confidence-building manner. Anyone else?


Ireland needs to find a game changer this draft. He needs to do something his mentor could not. Oh, Parcells helped bring solid talent to the Dolphins when they were lacking even that. But conference titles and Super Bowls are won with difference-makers, game-changers stacked atop solid talent.

Ireland, on his own this draft, has work to do.

NOTES: I will be updating the blog several times Thursday so check back throughout the day. I will also provide real-time updates from Ireland's presser on twitter. So please follow me to get those updates.

February 08, 2011

Dolphins own free agent priority? Paul Soliai

Much of the unrestricted free agent focus surrounding the Dolphins' own players has centered around the offensive backfield in general and running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in particular.

I would tell you that is probably not the place the Dolphins should be placing their priority.

I would tell you the priority should be on defense. Right in the middle of all the action. At nose tackle.

Paul Soliai.

Soliai, drafted in 2007, is expected to hit free agency once the players' union and the NFL get their act together and agree on a collective bargaining agreement. He will not re-sign with Miami before a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, according to a league source, because he wants to maximize his earning potential and the 30 percent rule makes it hard to do that until after his current contract expires and he becomes a free agent.

So the Dolphins have "zero," chance of re-signing Soliai before he hits free agency, the source close to the player said Tuesday.

What does that mean?

It means the biggest body on the Miami defensive line, the player who started 14 games at nose tackle for Miami last year, will hit free agency assuming the league does not establish a lull period during which current teams have exclusive rights to negotiate with their own players.

I am told if Soliai hits the open market, it will be a free-for-all. He wants to remain with the Dolphins. But he wants to get paid. And there will be interest because there always is for a 355 pound defensive lineman that has proven he can play.

In talks between the Dolphins and agent David Canter, I am told by my source, the Dolphins are being cautious. Canter could not be reached for comment, but I'll keep trying. He is, after all, a weekly contributor on my radio show Armando and the Amigo.

I can understand why no deal has been reached yet. Soliai played better than he has at any time in his career in 2010 so he wants to be rewarded. The Dolphins are almost certainly guarding themselves against Soliai being a one-year wonder because he's been a reserve his previous three seasons.

Thus we have a gap that needs to be bridged.

Soliai was very good last year, tying Kendall Langford for the lead in solo tackles among defensive linemen with 33. He also led all defensive linemen with eight tackles for losses with eight. Bottom line, when the Dolphins lost defensive end Jared Odrick after the regular-season opener and needed to move Randy Starks from nose tackle back to defensive end, Soliai's play made that possible.

I imagine the Dolphins could retry the Starks at nose tackle experiment, but the bottom line is Soliai was more productive than any starting nose tackle the Dolphins have had under their current administration. So they should do everything possible to keep from losing that kind of talent.

There is also an inherent risk for the Dolphins in being overly cautious with Soliai. Unless they get that lull period, they could risk losing him to another team. And the New York Jets could be in the market for a starting nose tackle.

Just saying.

December 12, 2010

We get evaluated, Dolphins should be evaluated top to bottom

All of us that have jobs are evaluated at least once a year to mark the progress or regression we've made on the job. Am I right?

So an evaluation isn't an insult.

So, as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins need to perform a comprehensive top to bottom evaluation of the entire football side of the franchise.

In other words, coach Tony Sparano needs to be evaluated.

General manager Jeff Ireland needs to be evaluated.

All the players need to be evaluated.

All the assistants need to be evaluated.

I tell you in the column what result the evaluation of Sparano and Ireland should be, barring a final month collapse by the Dolphins.

I also tell you why the Dolphins need to encourage a couple of other high-ranking assistants to find something else to do next season because their work in 2010 won't stand up very well to an honest evaluation, regardless of what happens in the final four weeks of the season.

Those final four weeks begin today, by the way, with the Dolphins facing the New York Jets. We will have a live blog around 4 p.m. I will update the blog and and get us set up for the live blog, with pregame news, well before then.

So come back. 

December 06, 2010

Ross skips out on postgame locker room -- again

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano or general manager Jeff Ireland or both have a problem -- and it has nothing to do with what you think.

It doesn't have to do with the fact quarterback Chad Henne is inconsistent and both are tied to Henne as the franchise QB. It has nothing to do with the fact no one in Miami's defensive backfield can be trusted to catch a potential interception delivered directly to the hands. It also has nothing to do with the fact the running game, around which the offense is supposed to be built, has been absent the entire season.

Those problem pale for Miami's top football men compared to this: Owner Stephen Ross is clearly not happy.

And Ross makes the final call on both Sparano's and Ireland's job status.

Ross was at Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Sun Life Stadium. But when the Dolphins lost, he made himself scarce. Unlike other games in which Ross goes from his suite to the team's locker room, Ross skipped the trip on Sunday.

And it was at least the second home loss after which Ross skipped joining his team in the locker room after the game. He wasn't there after the shutout loss to Chicago Nov. 18. So that's two consecutive games after which Ross does not go see his team.

This, by the way, may not seem significant to you. But how the owner's feels about his team is something the football people must be keenly monitoring if they want to enjoy some sort of job security. And it is clear those absences are a sign of disapproval.

It doesn't end there.

Ross is clearly not happy with Miami's 1-5 home record. That record is terrible for any team, but particularly frustrating for a team that has managed a 5-1 record on the road. Clearly, if a team can win on the road, it should be able to manage some wins at home as well. If that isn't happening, it suggest they are under-achieving at home. Certainly, Sunday's loss to the previously 4-7 Cleveland Browns suggests that.

And that is bad because Ross wants his home games to be fun and entertaining and an event. He has spent many resources -- celebrities, concerts, noise, etc ... -- on making home games a bigtime experience.

The problem is all the appetizer and side dish stuff loses its meaning when the main course, the actual football team, is not palatable on its home turf. What's more, the Dolphins are not only seldom successful at home this year, they are boring in the process.

The Dolphins are averaging 16.3 points per game at home this year. They are averaging 19.5 points on the road.

That is not good. And it is especially not good when the owner is so keen on entertainment and showtime and offering people a compelling reason to attend games.

That leads me to the next issue: The Dolphins have two more home games at Sun Life Stadium this season. Never mind whether they win or lose those games against Buffalo (Dec. 19) and Detroit (Dec. 26).

The fact is neither one of those games is sold out at this time. The fact is, barring some unexpected series of events, neither of those games is likely to sell out in time to avert the local television blackout.

That sets a bad tone, folks. Home games that are not sold out make the owner (more) unhappy.

And that is increasingly an issue for folks like Sparano and Ireland.

[I'll be discussing this very topic on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, today from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. I'm sure the other local morning hosts that read this blog for material will pick up on this, but I would encourage you to listen to me directly so I can share other tidbits on this topic with you. Armando and the Amigo is on 640 Sports in South Florida.]

October 23, 2010

Ross tells Ireland Peterson won't be hired

Ever since we learned Bill Parcells was out of sight of the Dolphins -- living up the coast in Jupiter but no longer coming to work in Davie nor keeping an office there -- fans and team personnel alike have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The name of the other shoe is Carl Peterson.

But as I write in my column for Sunday's print edition of the Miami Herald, the Peterson shoe isn't a fit. At least that is what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has told General Manager Jeff Ireland. My source(s) tell me the Dolphins owner has given Ireland assurances Peterson will not be hired to replace Parcells.

The column has other interesting nuggets regarding Parcells, the trade deadline and the Davone Bess contract negotiation so please check it out when it goes online or lands on your porch.

But, really, the Peterson information is the most noteworthy to folks worried the man who never brought a title to Kansas City might be hired by Ross to bring a title to Miami.

In my legwork for the column, I also confirmed my earlier report that Ireland had amended his contract with the Dolphins so that he is answering directly to Ross and no one else. I was told that happened "a while back." The amendment would make the hiring of Peterson moot from a power standpoint, anyway, because Ireland would not report to him. But the amendment would not necessarily prevent Ross from making the move if he wanted to do it.

Now, however, we know the owner is not inclined to go in that direction. At least that is what he has told various people, including Ireland himself.

October 18, 2010

Parcells takes another step away from the Dolphins

Bill Parcells' slow but steady departure from the Dolphins continued over the weekend when he cleared out of his office and decided his work with Miami would take on a different, more detached style than it was even recently in his role as consultant.

A club source just confirmed an ESPN report that Parcells is no longer taking part in day-to-day operations of the team. Starting Monday, Parcells was no longer intent on being at his post every day as he had been through even last week.

"Bill is still performing his duties to the Dolphins," the club source said. "But he's choosing to do it in a different fashion."

That new fashion is from afar. Parcells will rarely be at the team's training facility from now on and may not attend any home games, either. He never attended road games, even when he served as executive vice president for football operations.

Parcells yielded that title and job the first week of the regular season. It was the first step in what is certain to be a total disconnect from the Dolphins after the 2010 season ends. Monday's step was the second such step.

Parcells will continue to do the things he enjoys as he collects the remainder of his 2010 salary: He actually likes to grind hour after hour, studying tape of college players. He typically does that work starting in November so that likely will still happen, according to a source.

But unlike past years when Parcells studied players, then set the agenda for drafting them, he will have little if any say in the April 2011 draft, according to a second club source.

Parcells also will no longer be involved in helping the current players on the roster with tips or motivational tweaks. He will no longer be "down the hall," as coach Tony Sparano liked to say, for the moments the coach asked Parcells for his opinion.

And he will not be watching practices first-hand and suggesting to GM Jeff Ireland ways to address weaknesses on the roster.

So ultimately what does this mean for the Dolphins?

First, it is not a distraction. Coach Tony Sparano will answer a few questions about it Wednesday. Players might get a couple also. That's it. The truth is Parcells has purposefully had little affect on the locker room this year so the team will not suffer a great degree of distraction as it prepares for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But there is fallout. No doubt about that.

The safety net for Ireland and Sparano is pretty much gone. Parcells had removed it from Sparano a while back, refusing to correct what he saw as mistakes by the head coach or his assistants for fear of overshadowing their authority.

But he had no such fear of keeping Ireland from stepping in obvious muck. He correct possible missteps and went another direction, if necessary. Now Ireland is wholly and solely responsible for Miami's personnel decisions and Parcells is even more removed from the process than he was even last week.

And that, by the way, was quite removed. For example: Remember the first week of the season when the Dolphins set their initial 53 man roster? Jake Grove was on that roster with Parcells in charge. A few days later when Parcells stepped back and Ireland took over, the GM waived Grove.

Ireland didn't ask for permission. He told Parcells he was making the move and then did it.

Now Parcells will get this information via a phone call rather than perhaps a personal chat with Ireland in his office. No, that's not a big difference. But there is a subtle change.

The biggest change, the long-term effect is in that Miami instantly loses the credibility of having Bill Parcells at the helm. He had a track record. He won Super Bowls. He was proven. And so if he said Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano were good, they were good.

Now, neither Ireland nor Sparano have anyone vouching for them. They must sink or swim based on two things: Wins and losses.

They win, we're good, they're good, ownership is good, everyone's good.

They lose, as they did last year at 7-9, and suddenly there will be much questioning, second-guessing, wondering, wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth. I exaggerate, but you get the drift.

One man's word will no longer be enough to say, "All is well, we're on course."

Because that man is all but gone from Miami.


September 07, 2010

Dolphins undergo a power shift in one day

The Miami Dolphins on Tuesday underwent a significant and fundamental shift in approach that should interest every fan because while team sources were saying that nothing has changed, indeed, everything has changed.

The club announced in a three-sentence e-mailed statement that Bill Parcells was no longer the football czar, but now a consultant, and that Jeff Ireland was now assuming "full control over all aspects and decisions in regard to the Miami Dolphins football team and support staff."

Before that announcement the Dolphins were, in fact, a two-headed monster.

The Dolphins were a football team located in their Davie, Florida training facility and headed by Parcells as the executive vice president for football operations. And the Dolphins also were a business and marketing operation located at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens and headed by CEO Mike Dee.

Parcells answered only to owner Stephen Ross. Dee answered only to Ross, as well.

But even as these two men rarely crossed paths, even as they served entirely different purposes for the same organization, the power, the prestige and the pull undoubtedly belonged to Parcells and the football side of the operation.

Parcells, with a resume that includes two Super Bowl rings and a history for making winners out of losers, had done precisely that in 2008 when he authored an 11-5 rebirth for Miami out of the ashes of a 1-15 season in 2007. That meant that pretty much anything Parcells wanted, Parcells got.

So even as the Dolphins football side and marketing/business side could not be more opposite in their approach, most every decision that had to be made was almost always made in favor of the football side of the operation.

And the football and business side did clash at times because they are so dissimilar.

The football side loves anonymity and a lunch-pail approach. They hire men that work behind facemasks and they enjoy the reputation of being somewhat aloof and mysterious.

The marketing side is out there and Hollywood, if you will. The marketing side ipainted the stadium in some hideous color scheme, installed an orange carpet entrance and invited celebrities to come see the product and be seen enjoying the product. The marketing side is building a nightclub at the stadium.

The marketing side also spent approximately $3 million to build a radio network and new website to promote the team and, ultimately, sell tickets and make money.

But when the marketing side wanted the football side to help promote the product, the team, the whole organization, the football side could successfully balk by using the Parcells approach as cover. Parcells didn't want his name on billboards, didn't want players shooting Christmas videos for the stadium's big screen replay board during football season, didn't want any distractions that could in any fashion detract the focus from, well, football.

And again, whatever Parcells said was law.

But Parcells has stepped aside now. He's done so willingly, by all accounts, although he has given no explanation for doing so. Parcells did not take four phone calls from The Herald on Tuesday.

But willingly or not, planned or not, Parcells has put Ireland front and center of the football operation.

And while Mike Dee was not Bill Parcells' boss he will hold sway over Jeff Ireland that he never did over Parcells. So Jeff Ireland may not be able to shield the football operation from the business and marketing arm like Parcells did -- just because-I-say-so-style.

The power has shifted from the football side of the operation to the business and marketing side of the operation now. It may not be immediately obvious to outsiders. But eventually the signs of the shift that took place Tuesday will be obvious.

To everyone.

[Broadcast note: The Parcells move and its ramifications will be the primary topic on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, on Wednesday. We'll have receiver Brian Hartline, Bills strong safety George Wilson, and others on air to discuss what this means for Sunday's season-opener. Former QB Art Schlichter will also be on the show to discuss the Ohio State versus University of Miami tilt.] 

May 04, 2010

The reasons the Starks move is a gamble

We all know the Dolphins made the decision to move Randy Starks from defensive end to nose tackle the first night of the draft.

It is a fascinating approach to solving the team's questions at nose tackle.

But it is a gamble and one that just as easily might not have been necessary.

You will recall the Dolphins traded down from their No. 12 overall spot in the first round to No. 28. The move was brilliant on several levels. It put the Dolphins in position to upgrade the nose tackle spot one way or another and also gave them a chance to add another starter by adding a second-round pick.

The interesting part was that the Dolphins had options. When they traveled from No. 12 to No. 28, the Dolphins had both nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Jared Odrick on their radar. If Williams had not been picked by Arizona at No. 26, the Dolphins might well have taken him at No. 28.

In that regard, reports of Miami's interest in Williams were accurate. And in that scenario, Williams would fill the bill at NT and Starks would have simply stayed at defensive end.

But the Dolphins found themselves with no Williams available, so they picked Odrick instead -- knowing that they would soon be asking Starks to make the move to nose tackle. When Jeff Ireland wouldn't say where Odrick would play (inside or outside) the night of the first round, it was because he still had not told Starks that the move was officially being made.

The next day, after Starks had agreed to the change, Ireland announced Odrick would be a defensive end.

And in moving Starks the Dolphins are gambling.

Starks, you see, is coming off a season when he grew into the 3-4 DE position to the point where my friends at ProFootballFocus believe him to be the second-best 3-4 DE in the NFL in 2009. The PFF guys have Starks as the second-best run-defender among 3-4 DEs and the sixth-best pass rusher.

(Quick aside, Kendall Langford is ranked the seventh-best pass rusher and sixth-best run defender. Phillip Merling is rated 15th best overall, with a slightly better showing as a pass-rusher than run-stuffer. Also interesting in the ranking based on film study is that Vonnie Holliday, who the Dolphins cut last offseason, rated higher than either Langford or Merling.)

But I digress. The greater point is Starks offered the Dolphins a pretty good DE option already. Starks was a known quantity at DE.

So what's the gamble?

Obviously the Dolphins must hope Odrick, an unproven quantity, comes in and plays as well or better than Starks at DE while also hoping Starks moves to NT and upgrades that spot. And the team must hope the the combination of both moves upgrades the overall defensive front more than having, say, Starks at end and Paul Soliai or Jason Ferguson or someone else at nose tackle.

It is a calculated move that could eventually adequately fill all the defensive line needs Miami had prior to the draft. But as with everything else that is unproven, it is, well, a gamble the Dolphins have taken.

April 28, 2010

Ross also issues statement re: Bryant incident

You read the statement from Rob Konrad in the last post defending Jeff Ireland. Now Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is also joining the statement releasing fray.

In his statement Ross does not condone Ireland asking Dez Bryant if his mother is a prostitute. But it should be noted Ross is also not exactly publicly reprimanding Ireland.

The statement:

"As an owner of many companies and organizations, including the Miami Dolphins, I have always strived to comply with the highest standards in all aspects of my businesses including recruiting.

"In interviewing employees we always look to obtain relevant and appropriate information in adherence with the best industry practices.

"Jeff Ireland has already apologized for questions asked of former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant.

"I will be looking into this matter personally and will take appropriate actions if necessary."

Don't ask me what all this means. Frankly, I'm getting a little vexed by so many people saying, well, nothing.

Look, it was bad for Ireland to ask Dez Bryant if his mom is a prostitute. Ireland admitted as much by apologizing. If Bryant is not good with the apology, Ireland has a lingering problem. If Bryant accepts the apology, what else is there to talk about assuming Ireland doesn't do it any more?

April 27, 2010

Jeff Ireland apologizes to Dez Bryant

Yes, Jeff Ireland asked the question. And he is sorry he did.

The Dolphins general manager has called receiver Dez Bryant in the last hour and apologized for asking the player if his mother was ever a prostitute. The question came during a pre-draft interview at the Dolphins training facility earlier this month.

Bryant has apparently accepted the apology.

"My job is to find out as much information as possible about a player that I'm considering drafting," Ireland said in a statement. "Sometimes that leads to asking in-depth questions.

"Having said that, I talked to Dez Bryant and told him I used poor judgment in one of the questions I asked him. I certainly meant no disrespect and apologized to him.

"I appreciate his acceptance of that apology and I told him I wished him well as he embarks on his NFL career."

This apology follows two reports by Yahoo!Sports' Mike Silver in which Bryant claimed he was asked by an unnamed team if his mom was a prostitue. Silver followed with an ensuing report claiming the Dolphins were the unnamed team and that Ireland was the person asking the question, according to a source.

Both reports were correct. And Ireland is hoping to put the issue to bed by issuing this apology. 

April 26, 2010

Jeff Ireland: The interview, the Wilson flap

I got the opportunity to speak with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland one-on-one Saturday night after his work was mostly done with the draft and the adding of priority free agents.

That conversation gave me a better understanding of exactly how it is the Dolphins attack the draft when Ireland and Bill Parcells are sitting in the war room together. I wrote about that as part of my column that appears in Monday's Miami Herald.

Another part of the column, by the way, tells you how Ireland seemed to be getting more comfortable even as this draft was proceeding. He actually made jokes when he was in front of the media. The guy was cool.

But we're not 100 percent there yet.

This interview gave me the opportunity to ask about a topic that's been bothering me for a while now:

I wanted to know why it was Ireland seemingly misled at the Indianapolis Combine on the subject of Gibril Wilson. As you know, everyone assumed Wilson was a goner after a season in which he played poorly and cost Miami chances to win at least two games -- Indianapolis and New Orleans.

But Ireland went to the Combine and in speaking with the media -- to his credit, against the wishes of Parcells -- defended Wilson so vehemently that it seemed like Wilson was coming back.

"We have our evaluation of Gibril Wilson," Ireland said at the time. "We know what kind of player he's capable of being. I think he's going to be a very good player for the future. He was disappointed in his play last year. He will tell you that. I think he can play better. We'll just have to see. I think he will."

Of course, everyone assumed Ireland meant Wilson would play better for the Dolphins. Bad assumption. The Dolphins cut Wilson when the new league year opened in March.

"I didn't say anything that was wrong," Ireland told me during our interview. "I didn't say anything that was false. If you read the transcript, I said he's going to be a good player in the future. I knew what I was saying. You know, he's a player on my team. And I'm going to defend a player on my team. I'm not going to say anything else bad out there. I do believe he's going to be a good player in the future. I like the kid. It was probably not the right position for him. That's obvious now. But I did believe what I was telling you. I was telling the truth.

"I just wasn't giving you every thought in my head."

Fair enough. It wasn't Ireland's fault that folks like me made an assumption. As Ireland told me in another part of the interview, every draft mistake his makes is a lesson he learns.

Count this a lesson learned for yours truly.

April 25, 2010

Undrafted free agents plus draft breakdown

The news first: I have six eight undrafted free agent names that sources say have agreed to join the Dolphins.

The players are:

Nevada DB Jonathon Amaya: 6-0, 203 pounds. Ran a 4.51 at the Combine. Benched 225 pounds only eight times.

Maryland DT Travis Ivey: 6-4, 325 pounds. No Combine results. Had 25 tackles including one sack in 2009.

Duke DL Vince Oghobaase: 6-5, 303 pounds. Ran a 5.48 at the Combine. Benched 225 pounds 27 times.

Penn State CB A.J. Wallace: 6-1, 201 pounds. No Combine results. Four career interceptions, three of those his senior year in 2009.

San Diego State WR Roberto Wallace: 6-4, 225 pounds. No Combine results. Caught 36 passes for 463 yards and three TDs in 2009 and that was his best of three seasons.

Michigan State DB Ross Weaver: 6-1, 203 pounds. No Combine results. Missed all of 2006 season. One career interception.

[Update: Florida International offensive lineman Andy Leavine has been signed as an undrafted free agent, according to my friends at www.draftday.dk. Leavine is listed at 6-5 and 292 pounds. He benched 225 pounds 31 times at his Pro Day.

Also, this morning I've learned Fresno State WR Marlon Moore is on Miami's undrafted FA list. Moore is 6-foot and 190 pounds. He had 15 catches for 317 yards and three TDs for the Bulldogs in 2009.]

Secondly, let me tell you what I thought of the Dolphins draft. Actually, it's late, I've slept five hours in two days and the wife is waiting for me so if you really want to know what I think click here.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone! 

April 23, 2010

Meet Dolphins new starting NT: Randy Starks

Dolphins general Jeff Ireland just announced that the Dolphins have resolved their nose tackle issues.

The team's new starting nose tackle is Randy Starks.

"[Coach] Tony [Sparano] talked to Randy about it today," Ireland said. "The quote he gave was, 'I'm at home there.' "

Not really certain I was hearing correctly that the team moved it's best defensive end to nose tackle, I asked Ireland if Starks had to compete for the starting NT job. He said Starks is indeed penciled in as the starter.

That has definite repercussions.

First-round pick Jared Odrick, Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling will compete for two starting jobs at defensive end.

Paul Soliai remains the team's backup nose tackle. And Jason Ferguson, out the first eight games of the season while serving a league-imposed suspension, can probably ease in and take fewer snaps per game than in the past. That, by the way, is a good way for Ferguson to stay healthy.

Also, the Dolphins are likely moving away from the classic 3-4 to a hybrid version where the nose tackle is often offset to one side or the other of the center. In the past, Miami's nose tackle was seemingly always over the center's helmet.  

Most importantly, the move puts the draft in a different light. Before this announcement, everyone believed the Dolphins needed to address the nose tackle and free safety position on Saturday.

Now we know they have a need at free safety, having addressed defensive end (Odrick), wide receiver (Brandon Marshall), nose tackle (Randy Starks), and outside linebacker (Koa Misi). That's a pretty awesome way to spackle holes on the roster.

I like it.


April 21, 2010

Thomas: Dolphins have to show respect

If a Mount Rushmore of Dolphins players existed, Zach Thomas would be up there with Dan Marino and Larry Csonka and a couple of others. He was a Dolfans' favorite player from the second in 1996 he stepped on the field as a short, no-neck-having, self-deprecating rookie to the day in 2008 he packed his belongings and left.

And to this day Zach Thomas remains a South Florida resident, a fan of the Dolphins, and someone the organization admires enough that it considered him to join the new radio team being assembled to work on a new flagship station -- the team by the way, would not consider me as a commentator because I'm not enough of a homer.

Anyway, the point is when Zach Thomas is peeved with the organization, well then, something is wrong -- not with Zach, but with the organization.

And Zach Thomas is steaming about how the Dolphins have treated his brother-in-law Jason Taylor (married to Zach's sister Katina). He's upset about the handling of the latest Taylor saga in particular and and about the way the Dolphins handle inconic players in general.

Yesterday on the Sid Rosenberg show on 560-AM here in South Florida, Thomas pulled back the curtain on how Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells handled his departure when he was waived by the Dolphins.

"The only thing that was like a punch in the gut to me was the day I was cleaning out my locker, the day they cut me, [agent] Drew [Rosenhaus] asked them if I could just say thanks to the fans through the media at the Dolphins facility and their answer was, 'No, he's not a Dolphins player anymore, he's got to do it off premises.'" Thomas said. "That's when you know, like, 'Wow,' the whole loyalty and everything they preach with team and things like that goes out the window."

None of this is commentary on how the Dolphins make football decisions. There is no arguing it was time for Zach to go. He didn't fit the Dolphins scheme. He was getting up there in years. He was coming off a year in which he had concussion issues.

But this is commentary on what happens after the football decisions are made. A player like Zach Thomas basically gets kicked to the curb in much the same manner as Abraham Wright would.

After he was waived, Thomas had to find a way to say good-bye to Dolphins fans. He had to call media members one by one, me and many others included, to say his farewell to ... you.

That is wrong.

This regime doesn't like making exceptions. They like to treat all the players the same. The Dolphins, for example, are one of the few NFL teams that do not welcome new free agents with press conferences because the team doesn't want to make it seem like the new players are more important than the ones already on the roster. The Dolphins also don't get mushy when former greats such as Thomas or, yes, Jason Taylor leave are or forced to leave.

And that is fine if you're talking about Shawn Murphy being traded. But if Jason Taylor is being traded, that needs to be handled differently.

The strange thing here is that general manager Jeff Ireland is aware of how great players should be treated. He sometimes talks about how he doesn't want to do anything that would sully the organization's great name or history.

Ireland's stepfather was a Hall of Famer E.J. Holub. His grandfather Jim Parmer was a former Philadelphia player and Bears executive. Those men knew the importance of legacy and standing. Those guys respected those ideals.

But Ireland, under Bill Parcells, isn't really holding up his end very well in that department. The Dolphins fumbled on the Zach Thomas dismissal two years ago. They dropped the ball again in the manner they treated Jason Taylor this offseason.

Their football decisions were probably correct in both instances. Their people skills were lacking both times.

"You've got to know to respect great players," Thomas said. "You've got to know that. Jason is going to be a Hall of Famer. He's going to be in the [Dolphins Ring] of Honor. His name is always going to be in Dolphin Stadium, and that's big. And you know what, you can do it in a different approach. It might not be their approach. But I get disappointed when I see guys that have put everything on the line for the Dolphins organization and have a Hall-of-Fame career like Jason Taylor and it goes down like it has the last couple weeks...

"I'm not trying to be hard on Jeff Ireland. But he's saying it wrong, especially for a guy who has so much history with the Miami Dolphins. He's the all-time sacks leader among active players, and you're going to talk about him like he's a first- or second-year player. He should know how to respect guys that have been great to the game. ... It's fine if you don't have a need for him. But you tell him up front. And you don't go through the media and act like you're shocked that it's being brought up. I don't like the organization to look bad that way."

Here is a quick suggestion to the Miami Dolphins, an organization that thinks it knows it all: Sign Zach Thomas for a day. Hold the press conference now that you refused to grant him in 2008. Allow Zach to say good-bye the right way.

You can't do anything about how you handled Jason Taylor's departure. Right the wrong you did with the Zach Thomas departure. And do it soon.

April 14, 2010

Interesting stuff on Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall

There are two players that tingle the toes (as Jim Mandich would say) of Dolphins fans as our team looks to checkmate all the moves the stinkin' New York Jets have been making and the evil New England Patriots are about to make with their 18 four picks in the draft's first two rounds. 

Dez Bryant.

Brandon Marshall.

I write about Bryant in today's Miami Herald and I share with you not only the sad circumstances of his upbringing but also what he's trying to do to overcome what he recognizes are maturity issues.

People close to Bryant tell me the wide receiver has hired a "life skills coach." Read the column to see what this person is charged with doing because it is interesting. Meanwhile, I asked if this so-called coach is traveling with Bryant as he takes his various visits to different teams around the league.

The question drew long pauses. "I don't want to confirm or deny that is happening," I was told.

Interesting. I make the case that Bryant having a "life skills coach" is a good thing. It shows he's being proactive in trying to address the issues some teams are worried about. But I've also heard some teams have been turned off when learning that this person is constantly around Bryant.

And yes, I've been told the "life skills coach" has been taking Bryant to some visits.

Regardless, I know the Dolphins have done extensive work on Bryant, trying to learn the truth about him and not just accept what is rumored. I think the truth about this kid paints a much more positive picture than the rumors.

As to Marshall, you know I hate rumor-mongering. I either tell you what other reputable sources are reporting or tell you what I have learned myself. When I don't know something I tell you.

I'm here to tell you that contrary to every instinct in my being and going against everything the Dolphins have said both privately and publicly, I keep hearing Marshall is indeed a possibility in Miami. (I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.)

I got a call from an agent Tuesday night who wanted to know what I thought about Marshall coming to Miami.

"Isn't happening," I responded.

"What makes you so sure?" he asked.

"What do you know," I asked.

Well this agent represents a player on the Denver Broncos. And he tells me his client told him Marshall said the Dolphins are the other team -- along with Seattle -- interested in him. So the agent said Marshall was being traded to the Dolphins.

That is not exactly straight from the horse's mouth. That is not even from the horse's brother's girlfriend.

But this is a serious agent I've known for years and he doesn't call to waste his time or mine. I am therefore passing it along to you.

Is it 100 percent? I still have my doubts. I find it hard to believe the Dolphins would be willing to give up multiple high picks (perhaps a second and third rounder) for the right to Marshall, whom they would then have to turn around and pay between $8-10 million per year on average.

It is just not a Dolphins type move. This team is supposed to be trying to add draft picks, not lose picks. It would also go against what coach Tony Sparano said at the NFL annual meeting when he said the Dolphins were interested in neither Marshall nor Terrell Owens.

But I pass it along to you nonethless because it comes from a credible source. If nothing else, I've given my boy Joe Rose another entire show this morning -- just like I did Tuesday morning. You're welcome, Joe!

April 07, 2010

With Taylor, Dolphins style is lacking

The Miami Dolphins like Jason Taylor. They say he's a good player and sincerely believe they have a good relationship with him. Coach Tony Sparano believes he and Taylor are as tight as an employer-employee relationship allows, while general manager Jeff Ireland believes he and Taylor's agent Gary Wichard have an open and honest association.

So the Dolphins are not seriously sweating Taylor's visit to the New York Jets.

The Dolphins know what Taylor would like to be paid in 2010 and they say Wichard knows the value they have placed on Taylor. No, the Dolphins haven't made an official contract offer to Wichard for reasons they believe to be sound business, but they insist "everyone knows where everyone stands." There is, by the way, a difference of opinion between the parties about Taylor's value.

But, the Dolphins believe if Taylor gets an offer from the Jets Thursday, or anyone else in the coming days, they will have the opportunity to adjust their opinion.

The Dolphins believe they will have a chance to match any offer any team makes Taylor.

Perhaps that is true. Perhaps it isn't. But that's what the Dolphins believe. So from a purely cold, unemotional, business aspect, nothing the Dolphins are doing really can be deemed wrong or a mistake.

But ...

Dealing with Jason Taylor is not and cannot be just about cold hard facts. It cannot be just about legal tender green dollars.

Taylor wants to be loved, maybe even wooed. He definitely wants to be shown respect because after 13 NFL seasons he rightly believes he's earned that. And the New York Jets are showing him that love and respect at a time when Taylor doesn't think the Dolphins are.

On Wednesday, the Jets flew Taylor to New York for a free agent visit. He and his wife Katina were picked up by limousine and taken to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a five-star facility overlooking Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan. The Jets later put Taylor in a helicopter and flew him to their new stadium in New Jersey. The place is in a wasteland called the meadowlands but the Jets sold it to Taylor as his new home he can help decorate with a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Jets wined Taylor. They dined Taylor. And Rex Ryan repeated to Taylor what he told Wichard the past couple of days as he was setting up this visit: If Taylor signs with the Jets, he will have between 12-15 sacks in 2010 because Ryan would use him as a pass-rusher coming from every imaginable and unpredicatable location on the field except perhaps the pressbox.

Jason Taylor was never recruited by bigtime college programs before he went to Akron but by Wednesday night he definitely knew what it's like to be wanted.

And that is the biggest difference between the Dolphins and Jets right now. The Jets have the Dolphins over a barrel on style if not necessarily on substance.

The Jets may not be able to pay Taylor very much at this time because they are limited by NFL Final Four rules imposed on clubs that made it to the conference title games. Taylor would like to make approximately $3 million per season and he would like a two-year deal because he wants to play two more seasons. Under the rules, the Jets seemingly can't get much higher than $1.5 million in the first year of the deal and cannot raise Taylor's 2011 salary more than 30 percent to $1.95 million.

But the Jets are nonetheless chasing Taylor like he is invaluable.

The Dolphins? They're the team that made it clear to Taylor last year he had to earn his roster spot after he signed. They're the club that isn't showing its cards or any emotion in dealing with Taylor. The Dolphins are the club that have returned some but not all of the calls from Taylor or his agent this offseason.

That matters to Taylor. And so does this:

Taylor has noticed that Miami signed Jason Ferguson this offseason after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs but they keep him at arm's length. The Dolphins have signed Chad Pennington when his shoulder might or might not be 100 percent going forward but they're biding their time on re-signing the same Jason Taylor who played an entire month with a bum shoulder last season.

Understand that the Dolphins don't see any problem here. They see nothing wrong with approaching folks in a direct and candid way or putting other folks on the back burner when necessary. But one man's candid is another man's tactless. One man's back burner is another's contempt. That's perhaps a reason safety Ryan Clark returned to the Steelers rather than signing with the Dolphins.

Clark didn't get more money from Pittsburgh than he might have from Miami. But he felt he got a whole lot more love.

The Dolphins are not big on that love thing. They don't show everyone a lot of love and particularly not to Taylor for some strange reason.

While Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick were calling Taylor's agent multiple times last year, the Dolphins acted like they were doing Taylor a favor in signing him at a bargain $1.5 million price. And Ryan's continuing chase of Taylor this year is in sharp contrast to Wichard approaching Ireland at the Indianapolis Combine in February and having to sell Taylor as a sound investment, like a pitchman stumping for his product.

Again, nothing wrong with Miami's substance. But the style raises eyebrows.

It is clear that all things being relatively equal, Taylor would love to continue playing for the Dolphins. The Dolphins know this and are absolutely using it to their advantage. And that's fine. The NFL is, after all, a business and Ireland is trying to conduct good business by getting the best deal for his team.

But good business is also about having good timing. And while the Jets are acting in their own timing, the Dolphins are banking on reacting to a New York offer.

Good business is also about keeping a good relationship. And there is no room in a good relationship for being lukewarm when someone else is being red hot.

Good business, in short, is also about style -- especially when it threatens to affect substance.

March 29, 2010

Crowder on the wrong post-season team

Over the weekend I shared with you the list of players that must step up from what their career byline has been so far in order to turn the Dolphins from also-rans to playoff contenders in 2010. In that regard, I served up positive spin because many of the guys I mentioned could indeed turn into excellent players.

But there is, of course, the famine side to the feast I served.

Players obviously can go in the other direction as well, playing well one year and then laying an egg the next. Joey Porter took that route in 2009. Chad Pennington was on that path the season's first three games until he got injured. Akin Ayodele also went in that direction in 2009 after a solid 2008.

Well, the folks at Pro Football Focus have put together an NFL-wide All-Declined team. That team is comprised of the players whose careers are on the downward trek. But the list also includes players who simply suffered from down years.

One Miami Dolphins player made the team.

ILB Channing Crowder.

Crowder was pretty good in 2008 -- at least good enough to earn a three-year contract from Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Crowder led the team in tackles in nine 2008 games. The Dolphins bought in on Crowder.

But after delivering a career-high 114 tackles, six passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2008, Crowder's 2009 production tanked.

He had a career-worst 51 tackles, one sack, three passes defensed, and one interception in 2009. Crowder led the team in tackles in only one game.

"[He was] unable to make the big plays and really out of place in coverage," the Pro Football Focus guys write. "Definition of a down year."

March 09, 2010

Five days into free agency is no time to panic

Unrestricted free agency started as a sprint over the weekend when many NFL teams jockeyed for position to immediately land their prize targets or re-sign their best players.

The Dolphins got Karlos Dansby who is an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Dolphins locked up backup quarterback Chad Pennington. And they added by subtracting Joey Porter and Gibril Wilson.

But not all has gone according to plan.

The Dolphins have struggled to land a starting-caliber free safety because fate has not been kind. They put a certain value on Antrel Rolle and the New York Giants placed a higher value on him and got him. Value is defined here by cold, hard cash.)

They placed a higher value on Ryan Clark than his most recent team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Clark, a classy, solid dude, had other priorities he had to answer to. So Clark left Dolphins money on the table in order to return to the Steelers.

Some front offices might begin to panic. I trust the Dolphins will not, not with Bill Parcells at the helm.

On the surface, the situation looks uncomfortable if not dire.

A survey of the landscape shows the Dolphins have needs at too many positions to solve all those needs through the draft. 

They need a starting OLB, a NT, a starting FS, and, of course, a playmaker at WR. Always a playmaker at WR.

So what to do?

While Cincinnati is hosting both Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens this week, while Seattle is studying Brandon Marshall, after Baltimore traded for Anquan Boldin and Kansas City signed Chris Chambers, the Dolphins have done nothing.

I love Boldin -- a lot. But I cannot criticize the Dolphins for not moving on anyone left. It would be a sign of desperation for them to go after domestic batterer Marshall. Even if the move might be popular with fans and sell tickets, it would be a huge risk.

Owens will be 36 years old. He's better than any wide receiver the Dolphins currently have, no question. But did I mention he'll be 36 years old? And he has a history that rubs Parcells the wrong way. So is the Big Tuna going to basically cast off everything he believes in and chase this player? That would be a sign of desperation.

Bryant? He has had issues with his knees. His career byline is one of inconsistency and wearing out his coaches and his welcome. He also apparently would like a nice payday.

So maybe, just maybe, the Dolphins would best be served by sitting this one out if they have a plan. (God, please let them have a plan!)

The safety position is equally troubling because the Dolphins don't have a starter at the position. By their chase of both Rolle and Clark, the Dolphins have told everyone they don't think Chris Clemons is ready to be a starter and might never be. Remember, they offered those guys multi-year deals so the team was comfortable with Clemons not starting at FS for some time.

The problem is that the free agent options are running out. Darren Sharper is very, very, very productive but also older than Miami typically likes. He's also coming off knee surgery and reportedly isn't taking trips. O.J. Atogwe continues to be out there, but as of this writing, no contact from the Dolphins.

The Dolpins obviously didn't want to draft for this position. They might need to unless they can uncover a double-secret starting FS no one is aware of.

And then there are the other issues the Dolphins haven't even attempted to address in free agency: The team needs at least one starting outside linebacker, but DeMarcus Ware isn't available. They need a nose tackle but Vince Wilfork re-signed with New England. The Dolphins are a team in much need. 

So why am I not crying "The Sky is falling" from my house top?

Two years ago, as the Steelers and Cards were preparing for a Super Bowl year, neither team signed a free agent early on. Last year at this team, neither the Colts nor the Saints signed a free agent early on.

Free agency is less than a week old. It is not Labor Day yet. The draft will plug some of these holes. And since this front office doesn't typically show desperation, neither will I. At least not yet. It is way too early for that.

February 26, 2010

Are Ayodele and Crowder also back in 2010?

Dolphins fans have spent over a month thinking change was coming to the inside linebacker position -- be it because everyone saw Rolando McClain trading his Alabama Crimson for Dolphins aqua, or because Karlos Dansby rumors are flying everywhere, or because no one really liked the play of Akin Ayodele or Channing Crowder.

But on the same day Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland suggested Gibril Wilson will return as the free safety in 2010, he also seemed to confirm Ayodele and Crowder also will be back in 2010.

"Well, you know, I think we have to get more production from the inside linebacker position," Ireland said when asked his comfort level with Crowder and Ayodele.

"They know that. We know that. You guys know that. So that's something I think those two guys are going to bring to us next year, too."

Read that last sentence again. It predicts higher production from Crowder and Ayodele for next year.

Well, to make that prediction, one has to believe they will be on the team to play up to the prediction. And if that be the case, then the Dolphins might not necessarily be thinking McClain.

I still believe the Dolphins will do their homework with Dansby. I still believe they will be in the derby to a degree. But it is an expensive chase and there is no way Ireland could or would predict the Dolphins will absolutely get him.

So the GM cannot talk as if Dansby is definitely coming. He can, however, speak to Miami's intention to keep Crowder and Ayodele. And I think that is what he did.

Frankly, in conversations I had Thursday with two folks somewhat familiar with what Dolphins people are saying, it seems the team is focusing on addressing three positions as their "must haves" this offseason.

Outside linebacker. Wide receiver. Nose tackle.

Those seem to be surfacing as the priorities.

Outside linebacker is important because, as Ireland stated, Miami has "age" at the position. And no, Joey Porter is not returning to Miami under any circumstance despite this report that raises the possibility that the rift can be patched.

U.S. Special Forces troops will patch things up with coward Usama Bin Laden before Porter and the Dolphins reconcile.

Nose tackle is "a priority," Ireland said because there are only so many men on the planet that fill the size requirement for the position and you get those guys when you can.

And wide receiver is important because the Dolphins could not throw the football very well last season -- No. 20 in the NFL -- and have to provide quarterback Chad Henne more weapons to change that fact.

"Every offense needs big playmakers, Ireland said. "Every offense does. This offense is no different. We need big playamkers. We need players that make chunk yardage.We need players that score touchdowns. This offense is no different. We need chunk players."

"We do need a big-play playmaker in my mind .. We need to get more production out of the wide receiver position."

So that's important.

Well, as I've stated before, the Dolphins cannot also include ILB as a need. Perhaps the Dansby gambit works. Perhaps not.

But at least the Dolphins have to be thinking they have guys already on the roster capable of playing the position as starters. And those guys -- Crowder and Ayodele -- seem likely to be back in 2010.


February 17, 2010

Kiper: Dolphins will debate McClain and Bryant

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Dolphins picking Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain with their No. 12 overall pick of the first round in the upcoming draft.

But Kiper believes the Dolphins will have a healthy and perhaps heated discussion whether to go with McClain or Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant if the wide receiver is on the board when Miami selects.

"Dez Bryant, I think he'll be in the discussion, but you look at him and he could go higher," Kiper said today on a nationwide conference call. "I have him going at No. 10 to Denver still ... [The Dolphins] certainly need wide receiver help and you got to get it at some point and I think they will try get in this draft.

"But at that point, I think McClain would be the best option if Bryant's gone. And even if Bryant's there it's going to be a heck of a discussion, I would think, even if Bryant is still on the board."

Yeah, I could see that discussion going something like this:

Jeff Ireland: Bill, we've got a wide receiver and a linebacker on the board and ...

Bill Parcells: I'm Bill freakin' Parcells and I love linebackers.

Ireland: Linebacker it is.

Seriously, the Parcells penchant for drafting linebackers is well-known. And picking McClain, whom Kiper says has "a Ray Lewis-type enthusiasm and Bill Parcells will see that in McClain," seems logical.

"You look at Parcells when he was with the Giants and at other places, he loves linebackers that have that type of ability, especially guys with his kind of size too, with LT and Carl Banks and those type of guys," Kiper said. "This is an inside linebacker that looks like an outside linebacker."

And that is where Kiper and I disagree. I believe the Dolphins have a greater need at OLB than ILB. But Kiper doesn't see any OLB as worthy of the No. 12 selection.

I believe Michigan's Brandon Graham is more than worthy of that pick, talk of his short arms be damned. I love Graham! I have put in adoption papers for Graham because I want that guy in my family if he's not going to be on the Dolphins!

And here's the kicker, despite saying Graham rates around No. 20-32, Kiper also seems to love Graham.

"I've liked him all along, that's the one guy I've been consistent with all the way through," Kiper said. "He's got that great work ethic, he comes hard every play. He took advantage of some offensive tackles that were very suspect, obviously, and in the NFL that's not the case."

Kiper believes Graham will somehow wind up chasing Dolphins quarterbacks someday, either for a Miami division foe, or a team the Dolphins must eventually beat to become great.

"I actually have him going to New England in the latest projection I did from the standpoint of being a 3-4 outside backer," Kiper said. "As a 4-3 defensive end situational guy if Indianapolis looks at him in that rotation with [Dwight] Freeney and Robert Mathis it makes sense. I think his character and every game bringing it, the way he did production-wise is the reason why he's a pick to go now between 20 and 32."

I think that's precisely the reason the Dolphins should take him at No. 12. The kid brings it every play. Every single play. And he brings it with speed and explosion and good instinct and discipline.

Why isn't he rated higher?

Anyway, if the Dolphins decide to address their 3-4 OLB need later in the draft, Kiper has a handful of guys rated after the first round. They are:

Jerry Hughes of TCU, Ricky Sapp from Clemson, Antonio Coleman at Auburn, Cameron Sheffield at Troy, Eric Norwood at South Carolina. Kiper had Wisconsin's O'Brian Schofield rated as a first-rounder until he blew out his knee at the Senior Bowl in January.

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