September 25, 2013

Dolphins outscoring the AFC East

It was the turn of the century, in the year 2000, when the Dolphins won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The team had four Pro Bowl players on defense. And on offense the team did something it hasn't done since.

It outscored the New England Patriots.

Since then for a dozen years New England has scored more points than the Dolphins -- until this year.

But right now, today, the Dolphins are averaging 24.7 points per game. The Patriots, an offensive juggernaut for a dozen years since Tom Brady took over at quarterback, are averaging 19.7 points per game.

And indeed the Dolphins are leading the division in scoring.

It might be a new day in the division.

This statistic speaks to the addition of talent the Dolphins got on offense this year. Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson are helping the passing game.

This statistic speaks to the maturation of talent the Dolphins drafted. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, tight end Charles Clay, and left tackle Jonathan Martin are playing well.

And, yes, the statistical fact speaks to a talent decline in New England. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Rob Gronkowski hasn't played a snap. Wes Welker is in Denver. And Danny Amendola is injured, as he perpetually seems to be.

Tom Brady doesn't have the supporting talent he's had in the past. (It's like watching the 1996 Dolphins with Dan Marino and only one worthy wide out, O.J. McDuffie, a possession receiver).

But this statistic is also interesting because while the Patriots have played Tampa Bay and the Bills and the Jets -- none of them playoff teams a year ago -- the Dolphins have played two 2012 playoff qualifiers -- Indianapolis and Atlanta -- in two of their first three games.

Now, I recognize this is a small sample size. The season is still very young.

But I suggest the Miami offense has room to grow. The running game, mostly a non-factor so far, can get better. The combination of Tannehill to Wallace is still not quite comfortable for both players. The pass protection has been poor. Tannehill, while very good so far, could help by not holding the ball so long.

There is great room for improvement in Miami.

By the end of the year 24.7 points per game might be the Dolphins' output on a bad day.

All this is good news for the franchise. The truth is fans who grew up watching and expecting great offense every week when Marino was quarterback have been starved for good offense for nearly a dozen years.

Yes, the defense has often been very good.

But the offense has rarely been any good.

The Dolphins have had to win many 20-17 games in which they score only two TDs. It was unexciting.

This year the Dolphins have scored three touchdowns in two of their three games.

Progress. Perhaps a new day.

September 23, 2013

Dolphins shopping for CB help

The Dolphins have had trouble keeping their cornerbacks healthy this year and with two Super Bowl winning QBs on the shedule the next few weeks, the team went looking for help at the position Monday.

The team brought in half a dozen cornerbacks for tryouts Monday, according to a league source. Among those were former University of Miami and Oakland Raiders starter DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Former Bills starter Terrence McGee, cut by Buffalo in February, was among the players brought in although at 32 years old he doesn't fit the Dolphins typical search for youth.

In that regard, the tryout for Ron Bartell also raises eyebrows because he's 31 years old. Bartell was a second-round pick of the Rams in 2005 but has bounced around with Detroit and Oakland.

Ryan Mouton, a former third round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, was among the group trying out also. Mouton was cut by the Washington Redskins from their injured list in August.

The Dolphins also took a look at Jacob Lacey, who was waived by the Vikings in August after he had arthroscopic knee surgery. Lacey played with the Colts but after being cut in 2011 bounced around to the Lions and Vikings.

The sixth of the CBs brought in was Jalil Brown, 25, who was with Kansas City until the final round of cuts this year. Brown was a fourth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

The Dolphins are concerned cornerback Dimitri Patterson last week seemed to take a step back in his return from a groin injury suffered the first week of the season. Patterson had practiced on a limited basis the week after the injury and was a game-time decision for the game against Indianapolis. After missing that game Patterson was again limited in practice last week and then ruled out days before Miami's game against Atlanta.

The Dolphins have been trying to get both their rookies -- Willie Davis and Jamar Taylor -- ready to play and so far have had only mixed results. Davis recovered sufficiently enough from a toe injury to be active for Sunday's game but Taylor was not.

Taylor, fighting a groin injury and the aftermath of hernia surgery, has practiced the past two weeks but has yet to play a game for the Dolphins. 


September 11, 2013

What Dion Jordan learned during Week One

In setting up their locker room this year, the Dolphins put first-round pick Dion Jordan next to Cameron Wake. It is not a coincidence.

Wake is a 100-mph dude. He loves to work. He loves to play. And he plays every down like it is his last. That is one reason he is the second-rated defensive end behind St. Louis end Robert Quinn after one game, according to Quinn had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Arizona.

Wake got 62 snaps. And went hard 62 snaps. He had 2.5 sacks and four hurries.

That example has quickly traveled the one foot distance separating Wake and Jordan. Jordan gets it.

And after watching Wake against the Browns and have one of his more impressive games in memory, Jordan feels like he learned something in his NFL debut.

How the game should really be played ...

"Consistency," Jordan said. "That's one thing I learned, especially watching this guy Cam Wake rush. Consistency is probably the thing I learned."

What does that mean?

It means no Jadeveon Clowney act.

It means taking no plays off.

"There's no plays off because any play can change this game and Cam made some big plays last week and changed that game last weekend," Jordan said.

This is not to suggest Jordan didn't know about going full speed every play before Sunday. It's just that the game was an illustration of what can happen when you don't. And so he won't.

"I feel if I was ever to take a play off, guys would notice it, especially the guys in my room," Jordan said. "They would notice it. But that's not my menality. I have a motor so I'm going to use it."

Jordan played 17 snaps according to PFF. He had a sack and a tackle. He also had a penalty. The metrics site gave him a negative grade for the game. (Don't ask me, that's what they did).

But Jordan seemed pleased with himself.

"I feel like I played fast ... I  played a lot of special teams, I played a lot of defense. I had a pretty decent role for the team," he said.

It was a solid start.



September 09, 2013

Joe Philbin has work to do

The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.

And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.

That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.

Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used  -- show he's a problem now.

How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?

Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.

He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.

He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.

Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.

Sound minor?

It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.

And then there's this:

Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.

I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.

That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.

Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.


Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.

Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?

Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.

But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.

And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.

It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.

He loves South Florida.

And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.

But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.

The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."

"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.

Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."

Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.

Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.

So where does that all leave us?

Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.

I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.

And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.

I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.

But I know there are issues in general.

And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.

Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?

Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.

Issue erased.

And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.

The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.

Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.

The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.

No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.

Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.

If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has:  Not handling issues while they're still manageable.


September 07, 2013

Dolphins CBs hurting? No problem vs. Browns

I was talking to someone who has been around the Cleveland Browns for 20 years this week and the conversation turned to that team's passing game.

"They have four wide receivers," he said, "and three are slow."

That's the reason when the injury report came out Friday and it had starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and rookies Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin) listed as out, I didn't exactly flinch.

If the Dolphins were playing Atlanta or Denver or any other team with a capable receivers corps, this week would be trouble. But, with all due respect to the Browns, they should not be trouble.

The Browns won't have their most talented receiver Josh Gordon on Sunday because he is suspended by the NFL. That means Davone Bess, who was acquired in trade to be the slot receiver, is now promoted to starter alongside Greg Little, who becomes the No. 1 WR.

Little is a solid player who caught 53 passes in 2012. But he doesn't intimidate with size and speed like Gordon does.

The Browns don't look capable of challenging the Dolphins deep. Indeed, their only deep threat is former University of Miami player Travis Benjamin, who is better known for returning punts and kickoffs than catching passes.

By the way, the Dolphins are hopeful Patterson will indeed be active and play, barring a setback. So even that situation is not as bad as it seems.

Bottom line?

If the Dolphins were opening at Indianapolis against the Colts -- the opponent next week -- instead of at Cleveland, there would be major reason for concern. The Colts can throw the ball and boast multiple big-play and deep-threat options.

But the Colts come aren't the opponent. They're opening against the Browns. The Browns don't have that kind of talent.

So it's not as bad as it seems.

September 06, 2013

Dion Jordan's debut vs. Cleveland

The question about Dion Jordan much of this preseason was not how he'd be used against the Cleveland Browns in the rookie's NFL debut but, indeed, whether he'd be used at all based on his uncertain injury status.

That question has been answered. Jordan, nursing a tender shoulder much of the preseason, is playing in the Dolphins regular-season opener.

So now we want to know how much. And here are some answers based on interviews with players and coaches.

Expect Jordan on some special teams and on the field with the defense on some passing downs.

None of this is a surprise but what seems uncommon is the Dolphins may use Jordan in something similar to the New York Giants NASCAR pass-rush grouping of years past. Although Jordan is the backup to Olivier Vernon and plays the same position as both Vernon and Cameron Wake, it is possible the Dolphins want to use the pass-rush skills of all three players.


In the same pass-rush package.

So the Dolphins could include Jordan, Wake and Vernon -- three defensive ends considered Miami's best pass-rushers -- on the field and rushing the passer at the same time.

I'm told there might even be moments when the Dolphins have four defensive end types chasing Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden because linebacker and former defensive end Koa Misi might get in on the act as well.

How exactly the Dolphins would deploy this group of rushers has yet to be seen in 2013 -- not in practices open to the media or fans, not in training camp, not in preseason games -- so I cannot account for how much or little this might be used nor can I account for how the Dolphins would line up. (And even if I had seen it, I wouldn't report it anyway).

If the Dolphins go forward with this plan, it is good news at least on its face. There's been much speculation and hand wringing among fans whether the Miami coaching staff could find a way to maximize its talent at defensive end.

This is also good news because this grouping suggests a better pass rush.

But there are other ramifications because it likely means one of the down linemen will not be playing in a familiar four-point stance. It suggests someone will have to rush from a two-point stance (standing up).

The idea also may mean the Dolphins sacrifice pass rush up the middle for more pressure from the edge. 

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle hinted earlier in camp that if Jordan was physically ready to play, there would be a package to include him in the game plan. He doubled down on that this week.

"We haven’t made any final decisions yet," Coyle said on Monday. "Today he got a good number of reps in practice, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better able to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the game plan this week, I can guarantee you that."

Jordan's role on defense is expected to be limited almost exclusively to passing situations while his gifts on special teams seem suited for kickoff coverage and perhaps punt return and field goal block situations.

Jordan is quick enough and fast enough to run down on kickoffs. He's long and athletic enough to possibly block a field goal. He's strong enough to block on punt returns. Just saying.

Jordan worked on the kickoffs team early in camp and coach Joe Philbin has defended the idea of having valuable players -- including the first-round draft pick -- on special teams.

"We'll have starters on special teams," Philbin said Wednesday.

"It’s a critical play in football, the coverage, we’re going to use whoever we feel is going to be the best to help us pin the opponent down," Philbin said Monday. "Whoever that may be."

When he was asked about Jordan specifically on special teams this week, Philbin was coy about it but couldn't bring himself to dismiss the idea because, well, the guy's on teams and this coach doesn't lie.

 “We think we have a chance to be a very, very good special teams unit," Philbin said. "We want to utilize our personnel in the best way possible. If he is on one of those teams, then we’ve come to the conclusion that is going to help that particular phase of special teams." 

September 05, 2013

The NFL's starting QBs ranked No. 1-32

Ryan Tannehill is four days from starting his second NFL season. And while we still cannot be certain what he will become, we know he must be better than he's been if he's to earn the trust placed on him as the face of the Dolphins franchise.

Tannehill knows Dolphins fans want, indeed, expect him to be very good this year. The team has surrounded him with a fine receivers corps. The defense is playoff caliber. This is his year to be much better.

He knows this. He hears it when people say he'll be the next great quarterback in Dolphins history.

“It’s nice but, it doesn’t matter, I still have to go out and play," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I have to go out and do the things that I want to do, that we want to do as a team.  We have high expectations for ourselves as a team.  As an offense, we want to be able to put points up.  We brought in a lot of weapons this year, and now it’s time to finally go out and play."

The Dolphins need Tannehill to become outstanding if not elite. That might happen this year. But that's not how he starts the year.

No, as we get ready to kick off the 2013 NFL season, the Dolphins have an unproven quarterback (still) that is not considered upper echelon in the NFL. Indeed, Tannehill is still among the lower third of NFL quarterbacks compared to others around the league. 

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, he's really good. He has all the tools. Ryan's awesome, man. He's got a great arm. He's a captain. He's on the leadership council. He's the man!)

Thank you, gallery. But none of that means squat. Tannehill is one of 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. That makes him special. But if there were a quarterback draft to start the 2013 season, Tannehill would not be picked early.

He probably wouldn't be picked in the middle of the pack, either.

That tells you where Tannehill begins the year in a quarterback-centric league.

I'm not making this up. Consider the Salguero rankings of the NFL's best quarterbacks 1-32. I understand that most of the readers of this blog are Dolphins fans and thus are biased. But try to put your pom-poms aside for a sec and think about what you would do if you were an NFL general manager.

Tell me what spots you would rate the QBs. Tell me where you disagree with the rankings:

1. Aaron Rogers, Green Bay  .... Great arm, smart, mobile, fine athlete, won a Super Bowl.

2. Tom Brady, New England ... Great accurate arm, burning passion to win, won three Super Bowls.

3. Peyton Manning, Denver .... Accurate, manipulates secondaries, makes all the throws, won a SB.

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans ... Height schmeight, fine deep thrower, leader, won a SB.

5. Eli Manning, NYG .... Excellent arm, has innate ability to play big at big moments, won two SBs.

6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore ... Perhaps strongest arm in NFL, blossoming, won Super Bowl in 2012-13.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh ... Behemoth, great improvisation, bazooka arm, won 2 SBs.

8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta ... Smart, uses all his weapons, led team to conference title game.

9. Tony Romo, Dallas ... Great athlete, very good arm, still looking for playoff success cred.

10. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis ... The next superstar. Period.

11. Robert Griffin III, Washington .... Smart, courageous, great accuracy, runs like a deer.

12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco .... See RG3 only bigger, stronger.

13. Matt Schaub, Houston .... Pocket passer, plays up to surrounding talent.

14. Russell Wilson, Seattle ... More intangibles than just about any of them. Good arm. Winner.

15. Cam Newton, Carolina ... Adonis in a football uniform, gifted arm, runs well, good, getting better.

16. Jay Cutler, Chicago ... Amazing arm, gunslinger who takes risks, high risk and high reward.

17. Michael Vick, Philadelphia ... When healthy still elite running and passing, under-rated passer.

18. Phillip Rivers, San Diego ... Considered elite 2-3 years ago, has fallen off but still scares people.

19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati ... More passer than thrower, average arm but gets results.

20. Carson Palmer, Arizona ... Once great, declining but still excellent in right system.

21. Matthew Stafford, Detroit ... Inconsistent but excellent when hot. 80 TDs and only 25 years old.

22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis ... Finally has talent around him at WR, OL. Accurate, strong arm.

23. Ryan Tannehill, Miami ... All the tools, good learner, hard worker, but still work in progress at 25.

24. Alex Smith, Kansas City ... Perhaps best game-manager in the NFL. That's good. And bad.

25. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ... Roller-coaster career, roller-coaster accuracy, inconsistent.

26. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland ... Same as Tannehill only five years older and surrounded by less talent.

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota ... Smart, knows how to win, but not physically gifted like others.

28. Jake Locker, Tennessee ... Inaccurate, inconsistent, on the hot seat.

Tie 29. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo ... Unknown.

Tie 29. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville ... Mostly unknown, seems to play scared at times.

Tie 29. Geno Smith, NYJ ... Not ready. Just not ready.

Tie 29. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland ... Brings a spark to the huddle. But great QBs do that and pass great, too.









September 04, 2013

Dolphins vs. Browns first injury report

The Dolphins and Browns released their injury report for Sunday's game at Cleveland.

For the Dolphins, CB Will Davis (toe), QB Pat Devlin (ankle), CB Jamar Taylor (groin) all missed practice today. As an aside, the likelihood of Taylor player Sunday is practically nil.

Tight end Dion Sims (groin) was limited in practice today.

And DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), and S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) were full participation in practice.

For the Browns, G Shawn Lauvao (ankle) did not practice. He was the only one.

DE Desmond Bryant (back) and OLB Barkevious Mingo (lung) were limited in practice.

Meanwhile, G Gary Barnidge (shoulder), WR Davone Bess (knee), LB Jordan Cameron (groin), TE Garrett Gilkey (shoulder), DL John Hughes (knee), LB Eric Martin (Foot) and DB Chris Owens (foot) were full practice.

Pouncey getting help to stop Blitzland

Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton began his career with the Redskins and coached in Detroit, and Cincinnati. But the stop that molded him most was unquestionably the seven seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That's where he picked up the zone blitz. That's where he learned from Dick LeBeau, considered among the best defensive minds in the business. That's where he got his coaching philosophy of attacking 3-4 defense.

And that's the reason the Cleveland Browns the Dolphins will face on Sunday will try to come with the same snarling, angry, zone blitzing, pressure-on-the-quarterback approach as what the Steelers generally use.

Remember Blitzburgh?

Horton wants Bllitzland.

That means two things:

The Dolphins will encounter a major challenge up front to block for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

But they will also have significant opportunities for big plays if they can get Cleveland's attacking front blocked.

So Miami center Mike Pouncey has to perform well before the snap as well as once the ball is snapped.

"No question, but that's how it's supposed to be," Pouncey said Tuesday afternoon. "The center is supposed to be the guy that sets the stage for the quarterback. You need a smart center against them to know what's coming.

"This is head on. We're playing a great defense. They have a big defensive line. They have good pass rushers. They got a good coach over there that tends to mix up a lot of different blitzes so we can't wait to see what he brings."

Horton is new to the Browns. But Pouncey nonetheless called his brother Maurkice Pouncey for help in figuring out what might be coming. Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has familiarity with some of the Browns personnel. And he does see a lot of the Pittsburgh defense in practice.

So did the call to Maurkice benefit Mike?

"A lot," Mike Pouncey said. "He plays them two times a year so I called him up and asked him how those guys play, their tendencies. It's good having a brother who plays in the NFL, especially the same position."

Pouncey might want to refer back to last year's Dolphins game versus Arizona. Horton was the Arizona defensive coordinator the last two years. If you recall, in that game, the Dolphins lit up the Cardinals for 480 yards.

So you see the opportunity for big plays against Horton's defense.

But the Cardinals also had two interceptions, forced and recovered two fumbles, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times.

The Cardinals brought the A-gap blitz a lot so I assume Pouncey is ready for that this week. He says he's definitely ready for the zone blitz.

"What I do is I study film and watch the linebackers and safeties and how they roll coverages," he said. "That's how I know from where the blitz is coming -- where it's coming from so I can help my guys on the offensive line be a step faster."

Follow me on twitter @ArmandoSalguero


September 03, 2013

Watkins responds to Roseman comments

Danny Watkins seems like a good guy. Whether he's a good player, we shall see eventually.

I know this, the Dolphins' time with Josh Samuda was played out. Samuda got a very good chance to win a starting job this preseason. It was probably a better chance than he deserved because one player (John Jerry) got hurt and another player (Lance Louis) was fighting to come back from knee surgery. Samuda couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.

And so in steps Watkins, a former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, who was cut from that team a couple of days ago after only two seasons with the club. It seems like a good move.

But there are questions.

If you read what Eagles GM Howard Roseman said about Watkins in the last post you know it's quite an indictment when an NFL GM says a player has shown little toughness.

I asked Watkins his thoughts about Roseman's comment.

"I got to Philadelphia and it was just a rough go from the get-go," Watkins said. "I felt like it just got broken down to bones and never got built back. It was more a mental thing. I was very disappointing to myself that it never panned out the way it could. Because I know I can play physical and tough football but it just never ... I think it was more a mental aspect than anything.

"These last three years have been such a whirlwind. it was great opportunity to play in the NFL. My college career was great, I love Baylor and what they did for me there. Looking back, six years ago if you had told me I'd be in the position I am today, I would have laughed at you. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to be where I am today."

Watkins picked the Dolphins over another NFL team, he said. He declined to specify what team. I asked him if he believes this is his last chance to find an NFL home.

"I'm very excited to be here and I know Miami has a, well the past history with the players here" Watkins said. "So this is huge for me. Like I said, it's the most exciting thing that's happened to me and I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity and make the best of it."

The Dolphins asked Watkins to work at snapping the football some on Monday. Is he a viable backup center?

It doesn't sound like it right away.

"I was a tackle in college. and guard in the NFL," he said.

Watkins said he's comfortable playing either left or right guard. 

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say who the backup center is now that Samuda is gone. He cited competitive reasons for declining to answer.

Update from practice and who is Danny Watkins?

Here's a quick update on what's going on at practice today:

The rookie cornerbacks are still not practicing. Will Davis (ankle) and Jamar Taylor (hernia) missed the second straight day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns.

Davis, in a walking boot Monday, is out of the boot today. He was walking quite gingerly. Interestingly, yesterday Davis wore the boot on his left tankle. The team complained to at least one reporter about writing which ankle was wearing the boot. Today, Davis is wearing wrapping and a sleeve on his right ankle. Pretty sly, those Dolphins.

By the way, The Herald's Adam Beasley has reported Taylor will likely not play against the Browns. Just as well. He was bad in the preseason finale and clearly not ready to compete on an NFL regular-season level.

Long snapper John Denney and quarterback Pat Devlin were also absent from drills today. No reasons for those absenses yet, although Denney's, at least, is believed to be excused for personal reasons.

Newcomer Danny Watkins was at practice today, as expected. I believe the best use for him is as guard-center swing guy. Watkins is a former first-round pick waived by Philadelphia after only two years.

Why the bust in Philly?

The media in Philadelphia questioned his passion for football and Eagles GM Howard Roseman questioned his toughness, which is never good for an offensive lineman. Or a football player.

“When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him, never translated to Philadelphia, and that’s one of the things that I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him,” Roseman told CSNPhilly.
“You felt like you were getting an enforcer, and he never let himself go here on that, and I don’t know why that was. I told him that was what I was the most confused by. Because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw on his play on the field, and I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here."

Roseman interestingly believes a change of scenary will help Watkins.
“He put a lot of pressure on himself, and he couldn’t just go out and play, and I think getting away from being Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him,” Roseman said.

Well, that takes care of Watkins' aggressiveness. But the media in Philly also questioned his dedication and passion. It is no secret Watkins' first love is firefighting. He came to the United States to become a fireman, not a football player.

From today's Philadelphia Daily News:

"That photo on the firefighting site the Inquirer uncovered, of Danny dressed out in full Rescue 1 gear at a Northeast Philly fire last Dec. 16, carrying a motorized saw, is really all you need to know about Danny and passion. His passion was for firefighting, which is what he left idyllic Kelowna, British Columbia, to come to the United States to learn more about. He got sidetracked by football. When somebody tells you that you can win a college scholarship, and then make millions of dollars doing something professionally, you pay attention. But paying attention does not put you on the intensity same level as someone who has spent his life hungry to play the game, living it, breathing it.

The Eagles were off that day in December when Danny toted gear around for his fire department buddies. But less than two months earlier, he had left the starting lineup with an ankle problem, and then he’d lost his starting job to journeyman Jake Scott, signed off the street. You’re a recent No. 1 pick consigned to the bench. Wouldn’t you want to spend every extra minute watching tape, perfecting technique, working in the weight room to get bigger and faster?"


Dolphins sign Watkins, waive Samuda

The Dolphins have signed guard Danny Watkins, a former first-round pick of the Eagles. To room on the roster for Watkins the team waived guard Josh Samuda.

For Watkins this is a chance to redeem himself after a tough couple of years in Philadelphia. For Samuda, who had a poor preseason moving from center to  guard, his time with the Dolphins is in jeapardy as he is not practice squad eligible. 

The 6-3, 310 pound Watkins joins Miami after spending the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (2011-12).  He was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Eagles in the 2011 NFL Draft. In his career, Watkins has started 18 of the 23 games in which he appeared for the Eagles.  

Watkins was a two-year letter winner and started all 25 games played at Baylor after beginning  his collegiate career at Butte College. As a member of the Bears he earned first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior. Born November 6, 1984, Watkins played rugby and hockey at Mt. Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Watkins is a reclamation project to be sure. He fell out of favor under new head coach Chip Kelly. But even before then, there were questions about his desire and love for the game.

The Dolphins have had success with reclamation projects at guard before with Richie Incognito. Of course, that was under a different head coach and staff.

We'll see.

Watkins signed a one-year contract.

Watkins played 126 snaps in the preseason at right guard and rated him the 39th best offensive guard in the league. He committed one penalty, gave up one sack, and had a minus-1.2 run blocking grade during those games.

Last year Watkins was ranked the NFL's 54th best offensive guard based on the seven games and 461 snaps he played. He had a minus-4.7 overall grade, allowing just one sack, nine quarterback hurries and committing two penalties.

Watkins was considered a bust in Philadelphia. Bottom line is he is better off in Miami where he comes in as a backup with a chance to prove himself. He has no draft pedigree he needs to live up to here.

If he's only good enough to be a backup, no one will complain. He was, after all, signed to a low-budget deal. If he's good enough to push John Jerry at right guard or eventually succeed Richie Incognito, who is in the final year of his contract, he'll be considered a huge success.

If he isn't very good at all, he'll be another bottom of the roster player that eventually is churned out on waivers.

It's a win-win-win.

September 02, 2013

Coyle guarantees significant role for Jordan

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has good news:

Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan is in the game plan for Sunday's game at Cleveland. And he "guarantees" the first-round pick will have a significant role in that plan.

Jordan, as you must know, missed a significant portion of training camp and the preseason with a shoulder injury. He returned to practice last week. He worked in team drills today.

This is the rest of the what Coyle told the media today:

(On how concerned he is about depth at defensive back) – “You are always concerned going into the season with your depth at a number of positions, but I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some guys, a number of guys, who have played in games and started games for us still at the corner spot. We have some flexibility with some other players at the safety spot that have skills we can use if we got into a real jam and had to use them outside at corner in some situations. I feel fine. I wish we had everybody up and running as it makes the decision easier to who would be active. You can’t keep them all active for gameday. As it is, in most cases, you aren’t going to have 11 guys up. At the same time, we hopefully very soon will have a full complement of (defensive backs) ready to roll.”

(On Dion Jordan and his role for the upcoming game) – “You are trying to get me to give away the game plan (laughs). Dion has missed some practice time, so we are starting to add to what we perceive he will be able to handle for the game. We haven’t made any final decisions yet. Today he got a good number of reps in practice today, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the gameplan this week, I can guarantee you that.”

(On if he feels he has three starting defensive tackles for two spots) –“Absolutely, there’s no doubt. And I hate to differentiate between any of them because to me they are all top level quality players in the upper echelon of defensive tackles in the league.”

(On if the defense can carry the team to postseason success such as the Ravens, 49ers and even the Jets from a few years ago)  – “When we play defense, we hope we are going to do our part to put us in position to win every week. I’m a firm believer, being a defensive coach, that if you play great on defense and you play great in the kicking game that you have a chance to win every ball game in this league. That’s been proven by the teams you mentioned. You also can go back to some of the Tampa Bay teams over the years that won the Super Bowl by playing great defense. Offensively they did what they had to do to win games. I believe in our offense. I know our offense is going to get it rolling. Hopefully it will be this Sunday. In our room, we talk about the fact that if we play like we are capable of playing, we are going to have a shot to win a lot of football games. That’s what we expect.”

(On if his defensive players relish the role of carrying the team)  – “I think our veteran players like the idea. They enjoy the challenge. They want to be among the best defenses in the league. Now it is a matter of us proving that we can be in that same conversation. The only way you do that is consistently playing defense that way from the first game to the seventeenth week of the season.”

(On going up against former Miami Dolphin wide receiver Davone Bess and if he presents an interesting challenge)  – “He sure does. I have nothing but great respect for Davone. I loved being around him when he was here. (He was) a great competitor, a guy that is a tireless worker, and those types of things. Having our guys know what he is capable of, and I think in some ways that has heighten their preparation because when you look at a guy on tape you haven’t seen a lot and hasn’t played a lot in the preseason, if you didn’t know him it would be hard to get a feel for him. Our guys would know we had a heck of a time trying to cover him out here for a long time last season. He proved to be such a clutch guy, and he’ll be a go-to guy for them. We anticipate that. He’s got our attention, and we are going to have to do a great job because he is a very, very nifty slot receiver.”

(On Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and what he has seen on film from him) – “He’s an outstanding young quarterback. I think sometimes he kind of gets lost in the discussion with all of these young quarterbacks that have come out of late, but this guy has a terrific arm. Coming out of college he set all kinds of records. He was a great thrower. He can make all of the throws. He’s got a big-time throwing arm. Last year, like a lot of young quarterbacks, he kind of went through a learning stage. He looks much more poised and comfortable in this offense coming back. We are going to have to play great against him because he can make all of the throws. He’ll throw the ball down the field vertically as good as some of the top ones in the league.”

(On if he has any real concerns about the defense) – “You have concerns that everybody just gels together here early in the season. We do have some new faces. The communication, just the pre-snap dynamics that go on during the course of a game, you have some new linebackers and some new guys in the secondary. Hopefully I think we’ve shown in preseason that this group is a good cohesive group, but we are going to have to do it when we are out there and it’s live, it counts. I’m confident if we play like we are capable of, we will be very good against the run. We will have a heck of a challenge this week because the running back we are facing this week is strong, explosive guy. Their offensive line, I’ve got to tell you, is extremely physical. (It’s) one of the more impressive offensive lines that we will face. They work great together as a group. This will be a challenge in the run game. Hopefully we can create some long-yardage situations and do the things we like to do on defense on third down.”

Everything OC Mike Sherman said today

The Dolphins offense needs to improve dramatically this year. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman understands this.

This is what he said today after the Dolphins had their first practice of the week in preparation for Sunday's game at Cleveland:

(On what he is thinking after the preseason games and training camp) – “I don’ think you can draw any conclusions until you actually do it. I think what happens on the field is the only conclusion you can draw. Certainly we are trying to get to that point. We’ve practiced accordingly, but the proof is in the pudding, as my grandma used to say, but we will have to see and see what happens."

(On if they kept much to themselves in the preseason) – “You can only keep so much. You still have to play the games. You do run your core offense, but they are a good football team and they are going to anticipate what they are going to anticipate. We are going to anticipate what we are going to anticipate. We’ll see what happens. The evaluation will be at the end of the year, ultimately."

(On if he feels comfortable with the starting offensive line and the way it is with John Jerry out there) –“I still think it is a work in progress. John (Jerry) is coming off of an injury. Getting him back into the fold is going to be huge. He’s been out for a little bit, but I’m excited about having him back. We certainly needed him back. I’m anxious for him to get more comfortable in there with the other guys and get more used to what we are doing."

(On if he would like to have a fifth wide receiver on the roster) – “I think everybody wants one more of everything (laughs). I’ll take one more of whatever I can get at any time. I like the four that we have. It will serve us well."

(On how much better John Jerry can get in terms of conditioning) – “John has always been able to run pretty good, even when we first got here and he was a little overweight. I never questioned his stamina. He ran around, you know. His movement suffered when he was a little bit heavy, but he can run all day long. That was never a problem, in my mind anyway. He’s in much better shape now. Actually, to my surprise, he lost weight while he was injured, which most guys don’t do that. I’m thinking about going on IR myself thinking it might help (laughs). He has done a good job of being on IR and lost some weight. I give him credit because that’s hard for a guy that hasn’t been able to run around and be out in this heat, to lose weight, and he’s done that. That tells you the type of commitment he has, and I applaud him for that."

(On if he is surprised there hasn’t been more separation between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas) – “Not really because they are different type of backs. One offers one thing (and) the other offers something else. They are just different dynamics between the two of them. I think because they are so different they offer, as I said, a different dynamic when in the game. I think there will be a challenge defensively to be able to put both running backs on the field separately."

(On what the key will be to converting in the redzone) – “You know we’ve had some opportunities in the red zone, we just haven’t taken advantage of them. That’s one thing. A couple of games ago I thought it could have been a better job calling some runs down there. I didn’t call some good runs. We have to be able to run the ball better in the redzone because people really defend the pass pretty well. There’s just so many defenders up there in the short areas. They just make it impossible to throw some times. We have to be able run the football down there and be diligent about that. And if you can run the ball down there, it opens up some throws in the passing game. Maybe you can play past them, vacate a window and get some balls in there. I think all of your problems end if you can run the football a little better. It helps everything."

(On saying Ryan Tannehill would have the biggest leap of the second-year quarterbacks this season) – “It’s the quote of the year (laughs). You guys won’t let me forget that. Neither will Coach (Joe) Philbin."

(On if he still thinks Ryan Tannehill will have big improvement now that training camp has concluded) – “I think that Ryan Tannehill is a diligent, hard (working), intelligent, competitive man. I think every day he walks onto this field he is going to get better, I really do. I believe in Ryan Tannehill."

(On if he expects to see as many eight-man fronts this year with new running backs) – “We had a pretty good running back. Reggie (Bush) had respect of his own as well. We started out running the ball pretty well, and we didn’t finish running the ball very well. That wasn’t indicative necessarily of just Reggie. We just didn’t run the ball very well. That was a collective effort on our part. We have to prove it. We have to prove that we can run the ball in order to determine what they are going to defend, if they are going to defend the run or the pass. If we are throwing the ball better, we will get seven-man fronts. If the run is beating them, we will get eight-man fronts. It is hard for me to determine what they are going to do. (Cleveland defensive coordinator) Ray Horton is a great defensive coordinator, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of eight-man front against him like we did last year. I’m sure we will see more of the same."

(On tight ends and if there are plays he can no longer call because Dustin Keller is not available) – “I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Dustin had talent of his own we certainly enjoyed having, but as one guy leaves another guy steps up. I’m hopeful the other guys will step forward and take his spot. There is no guarantee that everybody was going to stay healthy, so you always prepare for that possibility happening. He certainly was a savvy player and did some things, but I’m not going to say he is going to put handcuffs on us because he is not here. I’m hopeful we will be able to do some things with (Dion) Sims and (Michael) Egnew."

(On Dion Sims) – “I think I’ve already said this once before, I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t think this guy has got a chance.’ He came back for the OTAs and the rest of minicamp, and this guy made unbelievable progress. I really think he’s made a lot of progress since he’s been here. He made two catches out here. He has long arms on really low and high catches that normal tight ends weren’t going to make. He’s improved his blocking. He’s improved his route running, and I can’t say enough about the progress. Does he still have a ways to go? Yes, he has a lot of progress to make, but he’s come so far. In college he was a 280 pound tight end. I didn’t think he moved very well. To the credit of our personnel staff, they projected if he lost the weight he would be able to be the tight end he is right now. He’s done a very good job, and I think he’ll be a fine tight end in this league."

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.

March 29, 2011

Cobbs on NFL "slavery," free agency, lockout

Like most NFL players, Patrick Cobbs is spending some time on the golf course, some time in workout sessions, and most of his time waiting for the NFL lockout and current labor strife to be resolved.

Cobbs is expected to be a free agent when the labor agreement is settled, as the Dolphins did not sign him to a contract extension. "I'm nobody's running back," he said during an appearance Tuesday on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo.

And while free agency, by definition, will grant Cobbs the freedom to go to any NFL team that wants him, the running back can understand how fellow running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings could paint his situation as a player as "like modern-day slavery."

"I wouldn't say slave. But we are at the mercy of [owners]," Cobbs said. "This league is a great league or we wouldn't be playing in it. Obviously, we all love to play the game. But I think at times we are slaves. They tell us to jump and we jump. Most of the time we ask them how high. We bend over backwards, we give up our bodies every day to do what we love and also what they pay us to do. So we should do it whenever they tell us to do it. I mean, yeah, I can see where [Peterson] is coming from. So that's like slaves. But we're not slaves because we get paid pretty well to do it."

Cobbs made a distinction between himself, because he is seldom used to carry the ball, and Peterson, who is Minnesota's primary ballcarrier: "The way he runs the ball. he's getting paid to run into a wall every play. I can see where he's coming from."

That doesn't mean Cobbs wouldn't welcome more work with whichever team he plays for next. 

"I had a role this year," Cobbs said. "It wasn't as big a role as I had in 2008. Did I show it? Anything they asked me to do, I was always trying to do best I could. I feel like I could do more. I wanted to do more and hopefully I'll get to showcase that next year."

Having said that, Cobbs said he understood he was behind both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and they needed to get the ball.

 Cobbs was a team leader for the Dolphins in 2010. He was voted special teams captain. So was he surprised the team didn't re-sign him?

"Yeah, a little surprised," he said, "but it's a business and they have the right to do that ... If they don't sign me back, I'll have to find somewhere else to call home.

"I'm working out. I'm doing the things I would be doing normally. I don't have a team right now so if a team were to call me in [after the lockout] I'm doing the things necessary to be in the best shape I can be in. Hopefully that's tomorrow. Right now, I'm doing the things I need to be in the best shape in my life and go from there."

As an NFL player, Cobbs understands why he's not working right now. But he isn't a drone follower of the union line that says all NFL players are underpaid and underappreciated by ownership. In fact, Cobb thinks some players are underpaid, while others, not so much.

"I think the majority of this league is underpaid," Cobbs said. "I don't think everybody is underpaid. I think there are guys that get paid more than they should and there are a bunch of guys that get paid much less than they should."

September 29, 2010

Karlos Dansby dishes on Pats, prep, past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 11, 2010

Crowder out vs. Bills, probably vs. Vikes, too

In the coming hours you'll likely hear reports from various sources that Channing Crowder has been downgraded from questionable to out for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Let's get a bit beyond that. The fact is it is unlikely Crowder, nursing some sort of mysterious groin injury, probably will play next week against Minnesota, either. The Dolphins are optimistic Crowder will be able to kick off the 2010 regular season against the New York Jets on Sept. 26. But the club believes the chances are less likely than more likely Crowder will play against the Vikings.

That doesn't mean Crowder might not enjoy a miraculous healing in the coming eight days and be able to get on the field versus Minnesota on Sept. 19. But that is exactly what it would take -- a miracle.

The Dolphins will go with Tim Dobbins in Crowder's absence. 

September 09, 2010

Thursday roundup from Miami Dolphins

My question to Tony Sparano on Thrusday was simple enough: Give me your No. 1 key to victory against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

“Number one key to be able to win this game in my opinion I would tell you would have to be the turnover situation," Sparano said. "I think we need to win the turnover situation. We can’t come out 0-0 in this game. I think we need to be ahead of the curve in the turnover situation, and I think that if you can do that and you can minimize the minus plays, the negative plays when you’re in somebody’s else’s place, I think you have a chance."

Understand that it is not new for a coach to say he doesn't want turnovers. But it is interesting that Sparano not only thinks, but stresses that the Dolphins must win the turnover battle to "have a chance." 

That wouldn't be a big deal to me if the Dolphins were playing the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts. But they're playing the Buffalo Bills, for goodness sakes. The Bills aren't winning any titles this year, folks. They'll be lucky to rise from the division cellar where they finished last year.

And the Dolphins need to have the Bills make more turnovers to beat them? The Dolphins cannot beat the Bills if both teams play error-free?

I am extremely nervous about this game. We all expected the Dolphins to easily be the better team. But looking over the Bills and Dolphins, I don't see an enormous gap. I don't see a 31-14 blowout for the Dolphins in a return slap for the beating Buffalo administered Miami in Orchard Park last year.

I predict a very, very close game.


Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said today he was not sure if the Bills would have all three of their running backs -- C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson -- available to him.

I think I know.

During a segment on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said all three RBs will play against the Dolphins.


I don't see how Channing Crowder (groin) plays against Buffalo. He hasn't practiced in nearly a month. He isn't running or cutting. He cannot possibly be in football shape now because he hasn't hit anyone for a long time.

Sparano kept hinting he was not worried about Crowder's availability for the Buffalo game as late as last week. He obviously has information we do not and he's not sharing it right now. So maybe the miraculous happens.

(The Dolphins, by the way, fine players if they speak to the media about their injuries -- something the players will eventually figure out gives the team an advantage over opponents, but also gives the team an advantage over them, too.)

Anyway, my naked eyes tell me not to expect Crowder playing the Bills. Tim Dobbins would be the starter there, if the depth chart can be believed. How's the "throw-in" in the draft-day trade with San Diego looking now?

We get on the Dolphins for blowing it when they pay guys such as Jake Grove $29.5 million and he turns out to be a bust. We should also note with appreciation when they find nuggets like Dobbins.

And, oh by the way, if Dobbins indeed starts and plays well, I'd be getting a little worried if I'm Channing Crowder. He is not promised anything. If he can be replaced by a less-noted, lower-paid player who is healthy then what is the point of keeping him?

Crowder should think about what happened to Grove during this uncapped year in that regard. Or maybe he should think about what happened to Justin Smiley or Matt Roth. Injured guys don't play. And guys that don't play don't stick around here.

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[BROADCAST NOTE: Huge show on Armando and the Amigo on Friday. Guests will include Miami SS Yeremiah Bell, CBS information man Charley Casserly, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, Bernie Kosar, former Bills coach Marv Levy, and the New York Post's Mark CannizzaroArmando and the Amigo is on every weekday morning 6-10 on 640-AM. If you're not in the area, listen on the web here.

ESPN pundits chime in on the Dolphins

The experts are chiming in on the Dolphins before the season begins. Las Vegas thinks the Dolphins over-under victory total this year is a pedestrian 8.5.

Other pundits, thankfully, have a bit higher opinion.

ESPN's Trent Dilfer is generally on board with the idea the Dolphins will be relevent as the season progresses into the early-January chase for playoff berths.

"I think they’re going to be pretty good," he said Wednesday. "I think they’re very well coached. I think the quarterback will play well – maybe not great – but he’ll play well. I think he’ll be manageable. I think the one thing the Dolphins will do nice with – especially with a veteran coaching staff – is they’ll manage the offense and personnel very well. They won’t give [Chad Henne] too much to handle. They obviously added a dynamic weapon on the outside with Brandon Marshall.

"Defensively, talking to some people there last year, they like the foundation of their defense. I think they know how to stop some of the big boys in that division and in that conference. I think the Dolphins are going to be one of those teams that’ll be in the mix the entire way. It’s really going to come down to they lost a couple close games last year and they’ll have to find out a way to win those tight games. All those teams that are kind of in the middle of the league and are borderline playoff teams, it’s going to come down to learning how to win. First you have to learn how not to lose. I think they’ve made that jump, and now it’s learning how to win these close games. If the Dolphins can do that – and they’re going to need a bunch of them – I can see them competing for the second spot in that division."

Tom Jackson is the elder statesmen of the ESPN analysts, as he's been at the network the longest. He also believes the Dolphins' success or failure will be tied to how they come out of close games.

"Well any team that’s fortunate to have [Bill Parcells] understands that you’re going to be a pretty sound football team. Everything right now has pretty much gone as planned. Chad may have been thrown in a little sooner than expected with Pennington’s injury but the plan was for him to come in and be the starter. I think they have an outstanding running game. I’m still old school enough to believe in that, so Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams with the Wildcat. I think they’re the only team that – they run the Wildcat differently than everybody else. You only need to look at the numbers t understand how effective and efficient they are with it. I actually had coach Parcells draw this thing up week in and week out when he was with us, and I would tell him it wouldn’t work and he would tell me it would. And when it was finally unleashed, I saw that he might know a little more about 1930s single wing and double wing than I did.

"They do have a dynamic weapon. I think they have some secondary weapons as well, but might be in as tough a division as there is in football. They lost a couple outstanding pass rushers on the outside. They got to figure out how to get in and get after the quarterback. It is key for them. Chad Henne has to come along. He has to develop a little quicker than he’d like to. But I will say this, he will be helped along by coach [Tony] Sparano and a very sound game plan at running the football. Any team that has Parcells even as a consultant will do the small things well. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot that much. At the end of those games – down by 2, up by 3, and chance to win – I don’t have every answer, but I’ll be very interested to see how many of those games they can walk away with."