September 03, 2014

Dolphins go different route with leadership council (sort of)

Yes, like last season the Dolphins have a leadership council again this year (although they are not calling it that). And yes, like last season center Mike Pouncey is once again on the so-called council.

But before you have a cow about how terrible and tone deaf this is, stop for one second and find out the entire story.

Unlike last year, the Dolphins are not voting on the leadership council. And unlike last year, it's not about a five-man council -- that last year included Pouncey and Ritchie Incognito.

The way the council (remember, they're not calling it this) was decided upon this year was simply by picking the one or two most senior members of a position group to take leadership.

So for the offensive line, Branden Albert and Pouncey are the reps.

For the wide receivers, Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are the reps.

Both QBs -- Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore -- are reps.

For the defensive line, Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and Earl Mitchell are the reps.

For the DBs, it is Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan.

Knowshon Moreno represents the running backs.

Charles Clay represents the tight ends.

The point is the Dolphins are drawing from a bigger group based on seniority. So more voices. Less chances a rogue voice gains power, according to one team source.

Coach Joe Philbin, who last year stood back and let bad actors get into the leadership council by putting it to a vote of players, declined to address the topic today. At least he learned not to conduct an election because, as we've seen around the world, sometimes the wrong people get elected.

“I’m not going to get into any of the specifics, but we’ve been trying to get on the same page and working hard at it really since April 21st, since the day they got back into the building, and we are going to continue to work on it as we move forward,” Philbin said.

Yes, Pouncey, who was prominently named in the Ted Wells Report in February, is still among the Dolphins leaders. And yes, it will reflect poorly in some circles.

But Pouncey won't be one of five voices. More like one of 15 or so voices.

 

Belichick gets more Dolphins info because...he's worried

Lots of stuff happening today at Dolphins camp ... and, of course, with the Patriots.

First, you should know that linebacker Phillip Wheeler, who missed practice during the open portion of practice on Monday, is back on the field today. But he is wearing a club-like cast on his right hand.

If that thing is still on Sunday, there is no way he'll be able to tackle.

That seems like a concern.

The Dolphins publicly had no concern about the Patriots adding former Dolphins defensive back Don Jones off waivers on Monday. Indeed, all coach Joe Philbin could say about the former special teams tackle leader when Boston media asked was that he's on the Patriots now and that he didn't want to comment.

Great.

Well, I suppose he won't want to comment on the Patriots signing former kick returner-punt returner-wide receiver-running back Marcus Thigpen today. Thigpen has been added to the Patriots practice squad, per The Herald's Barry Jackson, and that now gives Bill Belichick a chance to have inside information on the Miami defense (Jones) and offense (Thigpen).

And you know what that tells me?

Two things:

It tells me Bill Belichick is indeed going to get more information on the Dolphins than he would otherwise have gotten. That is obvious.

But it also tells me Belichick is worried, if not afraid, of being unprepared against a Dolphins team that might break out a new wrinkle here or there. By the way, this morning I suggested the Dolphins come with a 3-4 front on defense.

The fact this is the opener and Belichick has no tape of the new Miami offense while the defense has had all offseason to add wrinkles worries the New England coach. A lot.

"Oh yeah, sure, without a doubt," he told the South Florida media on a conference call. "I mean, the opening game is probably the hardest game of the year to prepare for because there are just unknowns. Teams have held things back that they haven’t shown in preseason. You’re not sure exactly how they’re going to use their personnel, what different wrinkles they have.

"I know there’s a little bit of that from week to week, but there’s a lot more of it now. Teams have had a lot more time to work on it all through the spring and training camp and not show it in preseason games, but still be able to go out there and potentially run it with a high level of execution. That’s a lot different than putting a play in for a week and just having a couple days to work on it.

"And there are a lot of unknowns about the team that you’re on. You just haven’t been in this situation before. There are unknowns on your side of the ball; there are unknowns on the other side of the ball. And it’s opening day, so when you look back at Week One, there are always crazy things that happen in the league. I’d say particularly in the kicking game, but throughout the game: situations or unusual plays or just something that you wouldn’t really think would go the way it does, but that’s the start of the season. So yeah, I think it’s definitely the hardest game to prepare for.

"You don’t want to over prepare for it because there’s no way your opponent could do everything that you’ve seen them do over all the time that you’ve studied them or all the things they have the potential to do. But at the same time, you don’t want to underprepare and get in there and find out that they’ve done something that you haven’t worked on and you don’t have your team in a good position to work on it. It’s challenging to find that right line or preparations, definitely."

If you are not getting the idea that Belichick is concerned, let me further convince you. Belichick is the master of the one sentence answer, particularly with writers from other cities. And yet, he practically spoke on this topic for two minutes.

He's worried.

And then there is this: I still wish the Dolphins were as willing to find out what the Patriots are likely to do. They are, however, more concerned about themselves than their opponent. We'll see how that plays out on Sunday. 

Annual Salguero plea for Dolphins shift to 3-4

This is my annual plea (rant?) about the Dolphins defensive scheme and how what they currently run probably isn't as good as what they could be using. Ready?

The Dolphins, under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, run a 4-3 defense. It was that in 2012, again last year, and throughout training camp and the preseason this year. And no one seems to mind this because the Dolphins have a decent defense -- eighth in the NFL in points allowed last year, 16th against the pass and 24th against the run.

Good.

But I contend it is not good enough and not as good as it was in 2011 when that Dolphins 3-4 defense, with a similar core of players, finished sixth in points allowed, 25th against the pass and fourth against the run.

And yet with that previous success and a roster built for the 3-4, this coaching staff still committed to the 4-3. Well, here we are three years later and, guess what, I still believe the Dolphins would be better as a 3-4 front than a 4-3.

I think the personnel is better suited to 3-4. I believe the results would be improved with a 3-4. I don't get the love affair with the 4-3.

Consider this potential 3-4 lineup:

DE Jared Odrick ... He was drafted in the first round by Bill Parcells (who knows the 3-4 as if he invented it) to play the five technique.

DE Randy Starks ... Um, Parcells signed him to be a five-technique and he went to the Pro Bowl playing the five technique. Hello?

NT Earl Mitchell ... Well, the Dolphins signed him to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. But in doing that they are converting him to that position. He's been a nose tackle in Houston's 3-4 defense the past four seasons. Hello again? Is nobody home?

OLB Cam Wake ... The outside linebackers in the 3-4 are your playmakers. They rush the quarterback. Cam Wake's first job in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins? 3-4 OLB.

OLB Olivier Vernon or Dion Jordan when he returns from an NFL mandated four-game suspension ... Vernon is more than smart and athletic enough to play the position. Jordan, meanwhile, was drafted to be a SAM LB in the 4-3 and, if that didn't work, a hybrid who could put his hand on the ground. Well, the hand on the ground thing hasn't worked so well yet. But last year he made people notice when he ran step for step with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski in the game at New England. He played OLB at Oregon. So why are the Dolphins insisting he's a 4-3 hand-in-the-dirt DE? Let him play OLB in the 3-4.

ILB?

Dannell Ellerbe played ILB in Baltimore and was actually so good at it in that scheme the Ravens for a minute considered him the likely successor to Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis is probably going to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Anyway, the Dolphins signed Ellerbe for the equivalent of the gross national product of a small country. They thought him a middle linebacker in the 4-3. That failed. So now they're making him a WILL in the 4-3? Wrong. Not going to work either. He's a 3-4 guy.

Continuing ...

The Dolphins are going to try Koa Misi at middle linebacker this year. Koa Misi has never played MLB. But they somehow like him there more although he would be better as a 3-4 ILB than a 4-3 MLB because suddenly he doesn't have the entire field to worry about. The Dolphins, I remind you, drafted Misi with the 3-4 in mind.

And finally Phillip Wheeler ... I have no honest opinion about Wheeler in the 3-4. I assume he could play ILB. That is not the point. I know he was not completely comfortable in Miami's 4-3 last year and have doubts that has gotten significantly better this year with new emphasis on defensive holding coming into play. So why is he in an uncomfortable situation?

This preseason Wheeler showed he's proficient at rushing the quarterback via the A-gap blitz. What better way to use him then than as an ILB in the 3-4?

Obviously this is about the defensive front. The secondary remains the same in the Salguero 3-4 as it is in the Coyle 4-3. Anyway, this is about getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. And stopping the run is an increasingly serious issue for the Dolphins, or at least it has been the last couple of years when the team's ability to do it has gotten progressively worse.

There is also a football reason for using the two-gap defense of the 3-4. As most teams have to outnumber the offense to stop the run with the 4-3, they sometimes give up something in the back end when the offenses spread them out. But in the 3-4, if you have linemen that can make plays off of two-gapping, so to speak, a team can get away with one less player in the tackle box.

So against team that spread the field (oh, hey, like the Patriots) you can defend against the run better with one fewer player in the box.

So this is where I suggest compromise:

Since I obviously know much less about football than Coyle or any of his coaches, perhaps the Dolphins could do something crazy like not necessarily adopting my suggestion but at the same time adopting part of my suggestion.

Perhaps the Dolphins would be served using their so-called hybrid or part-time 3-4 more often against the Patriots in the regular season opener on Sunday and other opponents as situations warrant. That system, touted by Coyle, is actually quite rare to see on tape as Miami doesn't use it nearly enough for my taste. The Patriots know the Miami defense. They know that this defense, unlike the Miami offense, has not undergone any coordinator change.

So the Pats are expecting the same old Dolphins 4-3 defense. Freak them out! Come out in a 3-4. Or shift to the 3-4 during a key drive. Or for several key drives.

Once upon a time the Dolphins beat the Patriots by springing a surprise on them called the Wildcat offense. Obviously shifting to a different and unexpected scheme is cool but does not rise to the heights of pulling out an offense from the 1930s on an opponent.

But with talent that suggests it will work, why not try it? Why not?

Why not?

September 02, 2014

Dolphins Tuesday: Notes, quotes, anecdotes

The Dolphins are excited about Sunday's regular-season opener against the New England Patriots. And apparently, fans are too.

We know because the team is expecting a virtual sellout for the game, meaning the game will be telecast locally on Channel 4, picking up the CBS broadcast

The Dolphins can boast televising every home game dating back to December 2000 when a playoff game against Indianapolis was not on local TV because it did not sell out in time. Obviously, there have been games the past two or three years that have not sold out but still were televised because the team guaranteed buying unsold tickets.

But that apparently is not the concern this week. Although some tickets remain available and for sale, the Dolphins are actually thinking the first couple of games -- including this one -- are either sold out or selling out.

Games later in the year against Minnesota and Baltimore and San Diego still have tickets available and are not yet sold out. The Dolphins' have sold approximately 44,000-46,000 season tickets. That number can change as sales continue.

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Remember how Don Shula's teams dominated in September home games back in the day? Remember how Shula loved the idea of playing in the heat and having opponents wilt in that heat because they weren't used to the kind of weather South Florida provides even in September?

Well, Joe Philbin is embracing that s0-called hot weather advantage, too.

Although the Dolphins practiced in the (Nick Saban Memorial) bubble today, the coach is excited that Sunday's game against the New England Patriots will be a 1 p.m. kickoff against a team that could not possibly be acclimated to the kind of heat and humidity South Florida will deliver.

"I grew up in Massachusetts and spent my first 18 or 19 years there," Philbin said today. "I know it's hard to simulate this kind of weather up there on a consistent basis. You're going to get a hot spell here and there and you guys know with the rain or lack thereof in practice we've been out here. We've had 22 practices so far and we've been outside for 20 of them."

The forecast for Sunday is 90 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms. The high in Boston on Sunday is forecast to be 72.

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As you know, the Dolphins cut Don Jones and the Patriots claimed him on waivers. And that burns me. The Dolphins today dropped D'Aundre Reed from the practice squad and did not sign a former available Patriots player. They added defensive end Gerald Rivers.

So I asked Philbin why not do to the Pats what they'd done to his team -- in order to download valuable information about the opponent?

"We make decisions based what's best for our football team, whatever gives us the best chance to win," Philbin said. "He's on another team. We're not concerned about that right now. We're concerned about guys in our locker room."

Me: :-(

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Philbin said he's confident kicker Caleb Sturgis is ready to go for the season and, by the way, he expects the second-year player to be better than the 26-of-34 he connected on last season: "This is his second year. We expect him to have a better year than last year."

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Mike Pouncey, talking to the media for the first time since being removed from the physically unable to perform list, said he's "very excited" about his rehabilitation and "getting back as soon as possible."

He said he's "grateful" he is not on PUP but walked back his earlier comments in which he targetted the Sept. 28 game versus the Raiders in London as his return date.

"There's no timetable right now," Pouncey said. "For me when I said that it was just you get to play in London only one time in your career and that would be special for me. Right now there's no timetable but I'm hoping I can be back for that game."

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Mike Wallace versus Darrelle Revis on Sunday?

"It's possible," Wallace said. "You never know what people are going to do. I'm prepared to play against anybody. It really doesn't matter. If he does follow me it'll be an exciting matchup. I'll have fun. We'll go after it all day long."

Wallace said he's played against Revis -- when Wallace was in Pittsburgh and Revis was with the Jets  --four times. Twice, Wallace said, Revis followed him throughout the game.

"He's a good player," Wallace said "He's a smart, crafty guy, he's going to be in the right spots. You have to move him off his spots because he's not going to be fooled with the movement and jerking around at the line. You have to get going and be fast out of your breaks."

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Well, I had an anecdote but decided to hold it until later in the week.

Dolphins, well most of them, on the field working

The Dolphins are practicing today (for the second time this week, by the way, because they worked on Sunday) and there are some injury issues to address.

As practices are now closed to the media, please understand all this applies only to the open 30-minute portion of practice:

Linebacker Phillip Wheeler was not working. The Dolphins announced last week that Wheeler had a hand injury although that does not mean he missed today because of that injury.

Guard Billy Turner, who missed the last preseason game and was in a walking boot last week, did not participate in the period open to the media. He was, however, out of his walking boot.

Linebacker Jordan Tripp, who was reported to have a chest injury last week, did not work during the open portion of practice.

Rookie defensive lineman Terrance Fede, who missed the past two preseason games with a knee injury, did not work during the open portion of practice.

And, of course, center Mike Pouncey, who will not be ready to play for some time and has not practiced all training camp or the preseason, did not work during the open portion of practice.

 

Coyle: Taylor-Davis to share nickel duties

Once the Dolphins were aware safety Reshad Jones was headed toward a four-game NFL suspension and Jimmy Wilson was going to take his spot and Cortland Finnegan was comfortable manning the slot position in the nickel package, they had one more decision to make.

They had to decide whether Will Davis or Jamar Taylor would be the outside corner (opposite Brent Grimes on the other side) in the nickel package.

So Davis and Taylor -- both second-year players -- competed for the playing time.

And we settled ... well, nothing.

Seems both are going going to get playing time as I reported last Friday here.

"I think they are both going to have roles here as we go into the season," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Monday. "I think it will kind of play its way out somewhat. We have confidence in both guys. I have to be honest with you. There will be packages where you will see both of them and there are times where one will be in as opposed to another. There are probably interchangeable ones as well as we get going, but I think they have both proven that they are at the point now where we’ve got to get them out there in game situations and let them show what they are capable of what they are doing."

So what does that mean?

“In some of our packages, you will see Will and others you may see Jamar,” Coyle said.

Why?

Well, there are some things Davis does better and there are some things Taylor does better. Put another way, there are some places Davis is lacking and there are some places Taylor is lacking.

I believe Davis is the better coverage guy. But he lacks the strength and physicality to have consistent success against bigger, more aggressive wide receivers. Taylor has the physical presence. But he's not been as good in coverage as Davis against more sleek, fast wide receivers.

It presents a problem the Dolphins hope to solve by simply playing both. We'll see how that works out.

Here is the rest of everything Coyle said Monday:

(On New England tight end Rob Gronkowski saying he would play this weekend) – “We assumed that he might."

(On what Rob Gronkowski does that makes the team work harder) – “Any of the big tight ends you face, guys of that caliber that can create mismatches in man-to-man, body up against smaller defensive backs or even small linebackers becomes an issue. He’s also been a big target for them in the red zone, so if he plays and how much he plays, we don’t know how much that will be, but that’s not going to change what we do. We’ve got to defend their entire group. That’s a big enough chore as it is, so we’ve assumed that he would be playing. That’s kind of how we’ve been proceeding since the spring when we found out this was going to be the opener."

(On what he found out about the linebackers in the new positions during the preseason) – “I think what we were excited about was the second preseason game we had the opportunity to really see Koa Misi healthy and play like we believe he will be able to play for us inside. The first game, he was under the weather. I think I might have mentioned that to some of you guys, but he was sick the opening game and he was struggling, but the second game, I think he was in on about six hits in 23 plays or something of that nature. He was very active. I think Dannell (Ellerbe) is comfortable where he is. I think we’ve seen we’ve seen productivity out of Philip (Wheeler), both in defending the run and also pressuring the quarterback, as well as the backup guys. We’ve gotten a lot of cross-training done. (Linebackers coach Mark) Duffner has done a great job with this group cross-training the linebackers, so that they can play multiple spots. We’ve added some depth by doing that throughout training camp and you’re apt to see some of that as we get into the early part of the season."

(On the team’s tackling) – “We always want to tackle better, but I think it’s improved. You can’t put a lot of stock in preseason in terms of statistical things, but with that being said, our yards-per-play defensively was second in the league overall throughout preseason at 4.2, I believe. That’s total plays. You’ve got to be tackling in order to keep the yardage down, so obviously there are tackling issues early in camp. We always go into that trying to avoid that, but yet it’s an issue when you haven’t done it full-speed live and you get out there against (running) backs competing to make the team, it shows up. I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere where it hasn’t been an issue early in training camp, but I think we’ve taken some steps to improve."

(On if he anticipates DE Derrick Shelby taking snaps both at defensive end and defensive tackle) – “No, Derrick is a versatile guy. He’s a talented, conscientious (guy). We’ve nicknamed him ‘Trigger’ for the old Roy Rogers horse. For those of us of a different generation here, Trigger was the old reliable horse where he’s got Roy Rogers to win the day, so to speak. We’ve nicknamed him ‘Trigger’ because every time Derrick gets in the game he just makes plays. He’s so consistent. He’s a hard worker, nothing flashy, but you like to have guys like that. He’s played both spots and he’s played well at both spots. He gives us some versatility there and he’s a very valuable part of our defensive front."

(On how intelligent New England quarterback Tom Brady is in a game and gauging that intelligence within a game) – “I think (Tom) Brady is very intelligent. I think they do a great job of preparing him as well as a coaching staff, so I think there’s that element of when he knows exactly what he thinks you are going to be doing in certain down and distances or in certain alignments and things, he can make throws that most other guys in the league can’t. He can get the ball into very, very tight windows. You have to try to do some things to keep him off balance. That’s a combination of things. If it was one answer, everybody would be trying to do it. You’ve got to be able to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and you can do that by getting great rush on him, occasionally trying to pressure and things of that nature, trying to give looks that maybe he’s not certain what you’re in, all those types of things. When you play this type of caliber quarterback and there’s just a handful of them in the league, they can beat you with their arms and also with their brain because they can anticipate where you are going to be, get themselves into the proper play and it makes it very difficult in addition to just defending the talent that he has around him. It’s a great challenge, but we welcome the challenge and it’s something that we’re very excited about come Sunday."

(On where S Louis Delmas is right now) – “We are thrilled to have Louis Delmas as a part of our defense. He brings a tremendous amount of energy, excitement, physicality to the defense. I expect big things from Louis and he’s been nothing but a pleasure to coach since the day he walked into the door. He’s smiling all the time, he’s joking, he’s upbeat and I think all of the other players kind of thrive on his energy. He brings that every single day to the practice field, so he’s a physical presence. People have got to be aware of where Louis is. That’s the kind of safety you want that will be patrolling the middle of the field and coming downhill versus the run. When he hits you, you stay hit. I expect him to be a physical force for us."

(On how he feels about the secondary with S Reshad Jones missing the first four games) – “I feel good about the secondary. I’m really excited about the two corners, obviously (Brent) Grimes coming off the great season and adding Cortland Finnegan. Again, I could put Louis (Delmas) and Cortland in the same boat. They are two veteran players who have come in here and have been absolute joys to coach. These guys have bought into everything we are doing. They are total professionals, approach the game the way you want, bring a toughness and an edge about them, a demeanor to the secondary. I think Jimmy Wilson is settling into his new role very well here as we’ve gone through training camp. He’s had some learning to go through, but yet we have a good group. The young corners that are just stepping up and are going to have to play a bigger role for us have certainly improved throughout training camp. There’s a lot to be excited about from that group."

(On the challenges of facing a quarterback like Tom Brady in Week 1 instead of later in the season because that’s probably when there is the most guess work) – “I think you could look at it two ways. I think the fact that it is Week 1, we’ve known this since the spring and you’re always able to spend more time on your first opponent. That goes back to spring. Certain things that we worked on and certain things that we exposed as a player to, I think they have a better feeling now than they would have if this was game five or six during the regular season. Because there is the degree of unknown, you’ve got to be careful how many new things you are going to do because you are not sure exactly what you might be getting and you spend time on things that you might not see. On the other hand, I think the fact that we’ve had more time is a good thing for us and we’re excited about that. We are excited about playing them here at home in front of our home crowd and the great fans we have here in South Florida. I think it’s a good opener for us."

(On compensating for DE Dion Jordan’s snaps with players such as DE Derrick Shelby and LB Chris McCain) – “We are going to use a variety of those guys in that role. The thing that I think is important is early in the season, particularly down here, you’re going to have to go into games where you’re going to roll people through. It’s hard to play 60-70 plays in the conditions that we’ll be playing in, especially in a game where you are going to have to rush the passer and extend that type of energy. There will be different guys rolling through and those guys will certainly be part of it." 

Depth chart means nothing with THIS exception

NFL team depth charts mean very little

Got that?

They mean nothing in the preseason when coaches routinely dismiss them and even mock them in private. They mean almost nothing right now, as no team is going to tell an opponent what it plans to do with its lineup in five or six days.

As an example of how little the depth chart means, I submit to you today's Dolphins depth chart. It lists three starting defensive tackles. I assure you Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Earl Mitchell cannot all start at defensive tackle.

The team also lists Lamar Miller as the starting running back even though I have reported that Knowshon Moreno is Miami's lead back who will get the bulk of the carries while Miller will see a package in which he'll get his fewer carries.

(This is for now. If Miller gets hot, things can change).

But ...

There are instances when the depth chart proves valuable and that today is at the kick return and punt return positions. The Dolphins list rookie Jarvis Landry as the kickoff and punt returner. He obviously replaces Marcus Thigpen who filled those duties the past two years but was cut last week.

Landry thus will be active on Sundays, meaning the Dolphins may go to games with all five receivers active. (Rishard Matthews plays on special teams and that's how he gets on the game day 46-man roster).

This is a big deal because the Dolphins are trusting a rookie in his first game against a division opponent to, well, not screw up back there.

Also, five wide receivers active is a lot. Maybe Matthews is on the gameday bubble as he did miss a block on a punt in the preseason and that led to a blocked punt (It was nullified by a penalty but it still earned Matthews a stern talking-to from special teams coach Darren Rizzi).

Landry and right tackle Ja'Wuan James are two rookie "starters" for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins will have up to 10 new starters on offense and defense in the regular-season opener.

The Depth Chart:

OFFENSE

WR 82 Brian Hartline

LT 71 Branden Albert, 75 Nate Garner

LG 67 Daryn Colledge 77 Billy Turner

C 64 Samson Satele, 51 Mike Pouncey

RG 66 Shelley Smith, 63 Dallas Thomas

RT 70 Ja’Wuan James, 74 Jason Fox

TE 42 Charles Clay, 80 Dion Sims, 89 Harold Hoskins

WR 11 Mike Wallace, 18 Rishard Matthews

QB 17 Ryan Tannehill, 8 Matt Moore

RB 26 Lamar Miller, 28 Knowshon Moreno, 34 Damien Williams, 32 Orleans Darkwa

WR 10 Brandon Gibson, 14 Jarvis Landry

 

DEFENSE

LE 91 Cameron Wake, 79 Derrick Shelby

DT 94 Randy Starks/98 Jared Odrick, 76 Anthony Johnson

DT 90 Earl Mitchell

RE 50 Olivier Vernon, 78 Terrence Fede

LB 52 Philip Wheeler, 56 Jonathan Freeny 58 Chris McCain

LB 55 Koa Misi, 93 Jason Trusnik

LB 59 Dannell Ellerbe, 53 Jelani Jenkins, 57 Jordan Tripp

CB 21 Brent Grimes, 22 Jamar Taylor

CB 24 Cortland Finnegan, 29 Will Davis, 37 Sammy Seamster

S 25 Louis Delmas, 31 Michael Thomas

S 27 Jimmy Wilson, 35 Walt Aikens, 33 Brandian Ross

 

SPECIALISTS

P 2 Brandon Fields

K 9 Caleb Sturgis

KO 9 Caleb Sturgis

H 2 Brandon Fields

KOR 14 Jarvis Landry, 34 Damien Williams, 32 Orleans Darkwa

PR 14 Jarvis Landry, 18 Rishard Matthews, 21 Brent Grimes

LS 92 John Denney

 

Dolphins must counter Pats erasing Charles Clay

As I'm working off something of a theme based on my last post -- you know, Bill Belichick doing Bill Belichick things -- I figured I'd remind you something else the New England head coach always does against practically every opponent:

He singles out one area, facet or player on the opposing team's offense and decides that area, facet or player is absolutely not going to beat him. Belichick, in other words, tries to shut out something the other team does very well to beat that team.

The idea is the opponent then has to find some other way to beat the Patriots.

When the Patriots played Denver, Belichick tried to shut down Wes Welker. When they played the Saints, he locked Aqib Talib on Jimmy Graham and shut him down for the most part.

Against the Dolphins in the second meeting last year, Belichick decided the one thing he needed to shut down was tight end Charles Clay.

The Patriots bracketed and sometimes double-covered Clay in that second meeting. Clay had caught seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers the week before the New England game. He caught one pass for six yards against the Patriots.

So I asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor about this on Monday. I asked if he was aware of the issue and what he planned to do about it:

“Well, if they put 11 guys on him, we’ll have a hard time, that’s for sure," Lazor joked.

I doubt that will be their approach ...

"There are very few pass plays that are designed to only go to one person," Lazor said. "There are a couple. There are times when you have to work hard to get the ball to someone that people are looking to take it away from them.

"I have great confidence in [Clay's] ability to get open, probably shown specifically by certain people trying to take him away because they know what he can do and they know that if you have an average player on him, he’s probably going to get open. I’ve seen the film from last year. We know what plans have come against us. We know what’s worked against certain people."

That's good. Knowing what the Patriots tried previously before a columnist says it is always a good start so I am encouraged the offensive staff is on its game.

"Hopefully, all of the time we’re spending in the meeting room, we’re doing the right things as far as how we plan against it," Lazor continued. "There’s no doubt about it, when certain guys are taken out by double coverage or for whatever reason, others have to step up and they understand that."

So it is clear Lazor expects Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to step up if the Patriots decided to erase Clay.

Lazor addressed a number of other issues on Monday, as he'll do every Monday. This is all he said:

(On the pace of the offense and if there will be more high speed starting on Sunday) “There is no I think about it. I think we have certain decisions that we have to make on the strategy of how we’d like to approach each game and we’ll probably keep those to ourselves."

(On if there is a reason that the offensive pace during the preseason was not as fast) “Yes.”

(On what he’s seen from QB Ryan Tannehill through the preseason and what his next step will be) “I think we’ve spoken from the beginning about how he approaches the game and how he approaches practice and I’ll just echo that again. You’re talking about a guy that has the desire to be great and the desire to work at it, which is really important. We ask him every single day to be the most prepared player when he walks out on the practice field. So the first thing it’s going to be for the quarterback is work, off the field and in the classroom. I think he’s done a great job with that. We need Ryan to just continue to show mastery of what we’re doing, decisions that he makes, making them fast, being accurate with the football, getting the ball spread around. It just takes repetitions, it takes time. We try to put him in really hard positions in practice to get him ready to do it in a game."

(On if the players on offense are reacting more now versus when camp started) “I think we’re getting faster. I think you see it on the practice field. Yesterday, when we went out and practiced, I thought our pass skelly was faster. I think guys are moving. We want guys that can play in space. We want guys who when they get the ball in their hands, (they) know what to do with it. We want guys that can separate and that’s really what we’re pushing toward. I think every single day we’re seeing it get better."

(On how dangerous WR Mike Wallace and RB Lamar Miller can be in space with their speed) – “Time will tell, but that’s part of what we’ve talked about from the beginning about being exciting here. I think there are guys who can run and we’ve just got to get them in those positions. That’s our job as coaches."

(On where his comfort level is with the offense and how they’ve adapted to his system and how he feels going into the Patriots game)  – “I think they’re all going to be important. I don’t think it’s any different. Certainly, being a division team has a little extra maybe that it counts, but I don’t think the guys will approach any game any differently. I think you have 16 regular season games, you’ve got to make them all count. I don’t think of it as adjusting any more. I think we’re here, we’ve been working at it a long time. We’ve put a lot of time and effort in, players and coaches. So this is who we are and it’s our turn now to step out and prove it."

(On what he wants the personality of the offense to be) – “I think Coach (Joe) Philbin talked earlier today about scoring points, and in the end that’s what it’s about. We’ve got to do a good job getting points on the board. That’s how we can contribute to winning. There are a lot of ways to do it. There are some weeks where we’re going to do it running the ball more. Some weeks we’re going to do it throwing it more. But every single guy that gets the ball in his hands has got to run with a certain kind of attitude and every guy that’s blocking has got to block with a certain kind of attitude. Starting this weekend, I think the players will have the ability to show that on the field."

(On if there is a specific area in which he’s seen the most growth from QB Ryan Tannehill) – “I think in the first year of running a new system, it’s in learning what to do, learning how to call it, being comfortable with what you do. I think as far as his personal individual ability, I think we’ve seen him work to be decisive and to be on time, to get the ball out of his hand. I think in the games, he’s proven that he can do that, he knows what to do, he’s getting the ball off on time. So that will be a continual process. It’s not just him, it’s everybody. We’ve been pretty pleased with how he’s done that in the games."

(On the run game and how it important it is to have a balanced offense) – “We expect to be productive when we run the ball. We think we have good backs. I think we have a good offensive line. I thought the third preseason game, when we played everybody, was the best that we’d run it and we had gone into that game with that being one of the goals of the game for us as an offensive staff was we thought we needed to run it better after the first two. We thought that was the best that we’d done to that point. I think it’s on track. I think we’re going to face some real challenges as far as the people that we’re playing (against) up front. I think it’s going to be quite a challenge for us."

(On if he will be calling the game from upstairs or the sidelines) – “I’ll be downstairs. I’ll be on the field.”

(On why he decided to coach downstairs) – “I think it’s a comfort level, both for me and for some of the other coaches, for the players. I just felt like we tried both and that worked the best. We always reserve the right to change our mind. Had to put that in just so we were all together later."

(On what he likes about the offensive line and what he thinks they do well) – “I like how quickly that they’ve learned to communicate together. I like the fact that, when you walk in the room, when you talk to them, if we make an error, if you come out of a game, off a practice field and you talk about something that needs to be fixed, you very quickly get the sense that they’re all together, that they agree with you, that they understand what you’re talking about and that they quickly get it resolved that,  ‘Yeah, we’re going to get this thing fixed.’ I feel like it’s a unit. I feel like John Benton and Jack Bicknell (Jr.) have done a great job in coaching that unit because we also have new coaches at the spot. When you’re with them every day and you’re watching them on the practice field, you’re talking to them in meetings, you feel like they understand our goals, they understand how we plan on getting there and they have great resolve to get it done. To me, it’s the unity, it’s the attitude and now it’s time to put it on the field."

(On what he needs to see from RB Knowshon Moreno to emerge as the number one back) – “I don’t think of it probably in terms of that, I just think about I want to see the guy be productive. You can’t argue with the fact that in the amount of time that he’s been on the field for us he has been. So I’m looking for him to continue that."

(On if RB Knowshon Moreno looks fully healthy) – “He looks good to me. It’s for me to probably answer that. This is the first time I’ve been around him, but yeah, I feel great about where is. I felt great about how he played against Dallas and looking forward to seeing more."

(On if he has a feel for at the moment if he thinks the offense can be above average or if it’s unclear)  – “Well, it’s hard to qualify it. I guess I wouldn’t get into the job of predicting things. I would tell you I feel very good about the talent level that we have. I think, when you start new, which I am and some of our coaches are, there’s always that little bit of the first couple of games to see certain people. We have some new people that we need to see operate in a real game, live bullets. I think the preseason’s given us a good glimpse of it, so we have a pretty fair idea where we’re headed. I think there’s a lot that still needs to be developed. Some of it’s going to get done out here on the practice field. Some of it’s probably going to have to develop as the season goes on, but it’s time to go right now. I think the guys have proven to us on the practice field or the preseason game field that they can get it done. That’s who we’ve got to go with. It’s time to put up some points."

(On if WR Jarvis Landry is ready to play a major role in this offense)  – “I have no concerns about Jarvis being ready to play. I think, from the day he walked onto the practice field, he’s shown that he’s prepared. I think in every preseason game, he’s played at a high level. I think Jarvis is ready to play."

(On the challenge of going up against CB Darrelle Revis)  – “I think the guy is a fantastic player. I think they’ve got a lot of fantastic players. I think, defensively, in coverage, what they’ve shown is the willingness to play man coverage and challenge you. Sometimes, they have guys that are huge big name players. Sometimes, they’ve had guys who maybe aren’t considered at that level, but it hasn’t stopped them from contesting the throws, playing man coverage. There no doubts about the challenges ahead of us in the passing game as far as getting open."

(On what he’s seen from RB Lamar Miller in the preseason and where he would like to see him improve)  – “I think we’re expecting to have more production. That’s the biggest improvement in just the numbers that you’re talking about. I’ve seen lots on the practice field that tells me where we’re headed with Lamar and I feel very good about it, and his ability to be productive. But if you talk about the preseason games, our production needs to improve."

(On what specific areas of RB Lamar Miller’s game does he need to improve)  – “I think what Lamar is improving at right now and I expect him to continue to go is to be decisive from the backfield. I have no doubts about how explosive and productive he can be in space. There might be some schemes that are a little bit different for him and, the more reps he gets at them, the more decisive he is from the backfield. I’ve seen that happen during the preseason. I’m excited where we’re headed.”

September 01, 2014

Belichick doing Belichick things to Dolphins

Bill Belichick has a way of doing things. We know his way because he's been the head coach of the New England Patriots for so long that his tricks are now kind of, well, known. And yet he keeps doing them because the Dolphins keep helping him.

Let's go down the list of Belichick tricks:

1. Draft great talent right out from under the Dolphins noses by picking the best from Florida or the University of Miami. (Dolphins draft Vernon Carey, Belichick takes Vince Wilfork one spot later).

2. Trade with the Dolphins and make them wish they never did. (Wes Welker).

3. Sign a Dolphins player and have him play better with the Patriots than he ever did with the Dolphins. (Heath Evans, Sammy Morris, Junior Seau, Rob Ninkovich).

4. Sign a Dolphins player just before the Patriots play the Dolphins and while denying it, download everything that player knows about the Dolphins.

Well, today the Patriots resorted to trick No. 4.

The Patriots claimed safety and special teams specialist Don Jones off waivers one day after the Dolphins cut him. Jones, in his second year, led the Dolphins in special teams tackles last year.

Jones wore out his welcome in Miami because the team needed a corner and he wasn't great playing cornerback the last couple of weeks of the preseason. On the other hand Belichick doesn't mind adding Dolphins special teams guys.

Remember Larry Izzo?

Now, if I'm Dennis Hickey and I want to signal to Belichick that there's a new sheriff in town I go and sign one of the players he cut. The Patriots waived offensive lineman Chris Barker to make room for Jones.

I claim Barker and waive Dallas Thomas (who, by the way, is not good).  Or I put Barker on my practice squad. Either way, I don't let the Patriots get the better of me on this one.

Barker, by the way, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by, you guessed it, the Dolphins. When he was cut on the final cut last season the Patriots claimed him.

Introducing the change of pace back ... Miller (Moreno lead back)

Bill Lazor stopped a fairly fast-paced press conference Monday -- like a time out amid a Chip Kelly drive. The Dolphins offensive coordinator paused after a question ... pause ... think ... still thinking.

And finally he answered what seemed like a routine question: What have you seen from running back Lamar Miller and what areas would you like him to improve?

"I thnk, I think, I think we're expecting to have more production," Lazor said.

Ding, ding, ding, ding!

That is absolutely correct and honest. The Dolphins wanted Lamar Miller to be their starter this season. They wanted him to be productive. As it stands now, he's not either.

Even if Miller is the player introduced with the starters -- which he might not be -- it is clear Knowshon Moreno is Miami's lead running back. Miller, who was the starter and unchallenged all preseason, has lost his job as Miami's lead back.

Why?

"I've seen lots on the practice field that tells me where we're headed with Lamar and I feel very good about his ability to be productive," Lazor said, "but if you're talking about the preseason games his production needs to improve."

In other words, when Lazor calls for Miller to carry the football, it has to go further than the 3.4 yards per carry Miller averaged in the preseason. That, compared to Moreno's 6.4 yards per carry, is what earned Miller No. 2 back duties.

"I think what Lamar is improving at right now and I expect him to continue go is to be decisive from the backfield," Lazor said. "I have no doubts about how explosive and productive he can be in space. There might be some schemes that are a little bit different for him and the more reps he gets at them the more decisive he is from the backfield. I see that happen during the preseason, I'm excited about where we're headed."

So, Miller has to be more decisive when he has the football in his hands. And, in order to get that better, faster decision-making out of Miller, the Dolphins are giving him a package of plays especially for him.

By the way, a package of plays suggests change of pace back. Which makes sense ...

Because Knowshon Moreno is the Dolphins lead back.

Rob Gronkowski playing vs. Dolphins

While he did not play or take any contact work in practices or dual work with other teams, Rob Gronkowski's status for Sunday's game against the Dolphins was uncertain.

Gronkowski, the New England Pro Bowl tight end, removed the uncertainty today.

"I'm ready to go," Gronkowski said today. "I'll be playing..I feel mentally and physicall ready, for sure."

Gronkowski is coming back from an ACL tear that ended his season early last year.

"We were fully prepared for him to play," coach Joe Philbin said. "He's on their 53-man roster and we expected he would be available. We'll be ready for him, for sure."

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the Dolphins expected Gronkowski to play, but interestingly, raised the question about how much Gronkowski will play. That is key.

It should be noted the Patriots beat the Dolphins in the game Gronkowski played last season. And the Dolphins beat the Patriots in the game Gronkowski missed.

That doesn't mean Gronk is a one-man team. But he is New England quarterback Tom Brady's favorite red zone target when he plays.

So there's that.

Dolphins players change jersey numbers

If you bought jerseys with the preseason number for some players, you might have to go get a refund or start being the fanboy (or girl) for somebody else. That's because a handful of Dolphins players today changed their jersey numbers.

The changes:

Center Samson Satele has gone from wearing No. 69 to No. 64.

Right guard Shelley Smith has gone from No. 64 to No. 66.

Right tackle Ja'Wuan James has gone from No. 72 to No. 70.

Dallas Thomas has gone from No. 70 to No. 63.

OLB Chris McCain switched from No. 47 to No. 58.

RB Damien Williams switched from No. 5 to No. 34. (If you have an old Ricky Williams jersey, you can now recycle).

RB Orleans Darkwa switched from No. 3 to No. 32 in your program.

Waiver wire acquisitions Brandian Ross takes No. 33 and Sammy Seamster takes No. 37.

Thankfully, no one picked up No. 19. (If you know your recent Dolphins history, you understand why this is a good thing).

Be sure to check back at 1 p.m. for an update on the coordinators talking to the press and spilling their guts about the game plan against the Patriots. Joe Philbin will speak afterward to fill in the gaps on whatever Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle don't make clear.

 

August 31, 2014

Everything Dennis Hickey said today

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey talked to the press today.

He shared that the trimming of the roster, which is his pervue, was instead a collaborative effort. He announced the acquisition of safety Brandian Ross and cornerback Sammy Seamster off waivers and the release of Don Jones and wide reciver Damian Williams.

Hickey is seems excited about the upcoming season, saying he's eager for the opener against the New England Patriots.

This is all he said:

(Opening statement) – “I appreciate you guys coming. Obviously, it’s been a very busy weekend all throughout the NFL and with our staff here. It’s really one of the tougher weekends just because you have so many players who have invested so much into our organization with their time, with their work and their passion, and they’ve been committed to us. Unfortunately, we can’t keep them all, so it’s a tough weekend having to try to narrow it down and make those tough decisions, but we worked hard at it. It’s been a collaborative process, both our personnel staff and our coaching staff working really hard. When it comes to the decisions, obviously, we released those last night. Our roster is always somewhat fluid. I just want to at this point announce, we’ve made two roster claims. We claimed Sammy Seamster out of the Baltimore Ravens and Brandian Ross from the Oakland Raiders. In corresponding roster moves, we’ve released (Don) Jones, safety, and Damian Williams, wide receiver. Again, a lot of these players definitely were tough decisions, but that’s what we’re going for now. The 53 man roster is fluid and we’re in the process of lining up our 10 practice squad players. We’ll be in that process for the rest of this afternoon trying to line those guys up. With that, I will open up to questions."

(On the decision to go with eight linebackers) – “Any time you are doing a 53-man roster and you’re talking about developing a 46-man roster that you take to the game, special teams plays a big part of that. Obviously, linebackers play a big role in our special teams. Even with some of our moves, providing depth in special teams, guys that can help us on fourth down is a key part of that. That played a big part of that.”

(On why the team claimed S Brandian Ross and DB Sammy Seamster)  – “Just through our evaluations and through our preseason tape, as soon as we get to the Hall of Fame game, our scouts, myself, Eric Stokes, Joe Schoen, all of our pro personnel staff and even our college staff, we go through it and we grind all of the tape and just watching for players that could potentially help us. That was through a lot of film study. We felt like they provided both as positional players but also as special teams as a big part of their value."

(On if he could elaborate on taking C Mike Pouncey off PUP)  – “With any of those types of decisions, we are always going to consult with our medical staff. Dr. John Uribe, Ryan Grove our head athletic trainer, and all of the doctors involved to make the best decision for the player and the health and well-being. Obviously, as we consulted with that and Mike visited numerous times up there, they monitored where he was at and we felt at this point, this was the best decision for him. We feel like we have a good plan for him. Mike is doing great in his recovery and we’ll just continue to monitor that as that progresses.”

(On what the cornerback depth looks like after the roster changes today)  – “All of the 53-man roster, we would love to have a 100-man roster, so you’re always looking at the key areas of depth. Again, special teams plays a big part in that and so that was definitely an aspect of it.”

(On if there was any hesitation to keep not one, but two rookie free agents at running back)  – “Our philosophy is, once you get here, whether you are an unrestricted free agent or whether you’ve already been on the roster, whether you are a draft pick or whether you are an undrafted player, we are going to judge you based on merit and what you do here. Once they are here, we have competitive environments and you just compete, and that’s how we come to our decisions.”

(On going with two quarterbacks) – “We were very confident in our two quarterbacks. Again, there is always that decision you keep a third quarterback. At this point, we’re keeping two and again the roster is fluid in that matter.”

(On where the team stands in the punting and kickoff return games with the release of WR Damian Williams)  – “We feel like we have several guys who can compete there. During the preseason, you’ve see multiple guys who can go back there, whether it be on kickoff return or punt return. So we feel confident in those guys and we’ll work through that.”

(On how many of the eight linebackers on the roster can make impact plays to help the unit)  – “We feel like defense is a collective unit. They all work intertwined, so whether it is the front getting pressure on the quarterback, making the quarterback hold the ball an extra second to get our guys to get into drops or getting breaks on the ball, or just opening up lanes so it could be a one-gap and they can fill those gaps. It’s important that they all work together on those. We feel (linebackers) Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Jordie (Jordan) Tripp, you saw Chris McCain, some of those guys. We feel like we have a lot of talent there and we’re anxious to see them play.”

(On where the team has made upgrades from the previous year now that the 53-man roster is set) – “We’re always looking to have the best 53-man roster. You look at it more individually and trying to, ‘Does this person help us?’ With the goal obviously be winning and ‘Does this guy help us win?’ That’s our focus going forward is now we’re focused on our season opener. We went through the preseason. We’ve had a very productive preseason. We felt like we had a very productive offseason with our OTAs and building to this point. Now, we’re into the regular season and then that’s what we’re focused on.”

(On what it says about him as a General Manager and also the team that five undrafted rookies made the team) – “I would say that we judge you on what we see. Again, I always talk about, when it comes to scouting, I trust my eyes and our coaching staff is that way, our scouting staff is that way. We’re going to judge you based on merit and what we see, and ability to help us.”

(On the decision to keep K Caleb Sturgis and what he showed to give him confidence that this year will be better than last year) – “Body of work, but obviously we have confidence in him. He had the groin issue that caused him not to have the full amount of kicks, but we have confidence in him and look forward to him going forward.”

(On if there’s any concern that there may be a need for a practice squad kicker just in case) – “I’m always preparing for contingencies, whether it be from a short list or what we call an emergency list. We’re always looking at that and trying to get the best practice squad. We’ll entertain and explore all options that way.”

(On what initially attracted him to drafting DE Terrence Fede from Marist and what showed him that he would be a guy that would stick) “Again, when we evaluate players, we evaluate traits. The traits that we saw out of Terrence, whether it be from initial quickness to power to motor to production, all of those things. What we saw was a guy that we felt had the traits to translate to the next level. Obviously, he’s coming from Marist and the competition (level there), but we felt like we had enough in him to make that jump. We’ve been excited with his development. He’s been held back the last couple of weeks, but we’re excited about his future. That’s how we judge all players. We evaluate the player.”

(On if anybody on the 53-man roster solidified their place on the roster as a result of their play in the St. Louis game) “We’re always evaluating, whether it’s going back to the offseason program, OTAs, mini camp, training camp practices. We watch everything. It really is the body of work. The games are better competition, live, you’re taking people to the ground. Those are better opportunities, but it’s all a piece of the puzzle.” 

(On the decision to release RB Daniel Thomas and RB/WR Marcus Thigpen given their roles with the team over the past two years) “We just judge them individually. They’ve obviously have been good players in the past, but we felt like going forward that, in our best interest to get our best 53-man, we’re going to move on.” 

(On five undrafted players making the roster and if that speaks to his ability to find guys from anywhere or if it speaks to the talent level of this team, and if it wasn’t that high) “We felt like (this is a) competitive environment. The credit goes to those players. All of those first-year players when they come in, we said, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter how you got here. It’s up to you. You make of it what you will and then we’ll be watching.’ The credit goes to those players because they’ve proved themselves over a period of time, but the credit goes to them. They earned it.” 

(On going through the process of forming the 53-man roster with Head Coach Joe Philbin for the first time and how it went)  – “I think it went well. We had excellent communication and walking through it. Again, someone alluded to, this is a process. Just like a lot of things we do and just narrowing things down, and getting any discrepancies, just working through them over a period of time and trying to come to the best decision organizationally as we can.” 

(On what makes him confident that this team is better than last year’s)  – “What makes me confident about this team is the guys in that locker room. Having the chance the last seven months, my initial reaction was positive and it’s just been confirmed on every point. These guys are committed to winning, they’re passionate and they’ve paid the price. They’re excited to take the field at home and go to work.” 

(On what made TE Harold Hoskins separate himself from the other tight ends in camp)  – “Again, with the body of work, we felt like he had versatility. He’s got really good hands. We liked him coming out of college. So he did a lot of the things that we liked and we’re excited to watch him continue to grow.”

(On the depth at tight end and how comfortable he is with it)  – “Again, I wish I could have a 100 people on our roster. You’re always looking for that and, as soon as you feel like you have depth at one place, you can find you don’t. We’re always looking at that, but we’re confident in those players.”

On what he’s seen and what he expects from T Branden Albert and T Ja’Wuan James)  – “First, I’ll speak to Branden Albert. He’s been all that we’ve expected. One, he’s a talented talented pass protector, but also he brings that leadership. You have to protect the blindside of the quarterback. That’s a premium position and he’s done it well for a long time, and he’s continued to do it well here. We’re excited about that and also bringing strong leadership on the offensive line. Ja’Wuan James, we’ve been pleased with his progress. He came in and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s come in prepared and he’s come in confident. Every day, for a young player, you’re learning more and more, but he’s been a sponge and learning from the veterans and growing in his game. We’re excited for what he brings.”

(On what he and his staff from RB Orleans Darkwa in camp and preseason)  – “We saw a lot of things. Darkwa brought burst, he brought ability to play on special teams, good hands. You guys watched the games. He showed a lot of things that you’d be excited about.”

(On his comfort level with the center position after C Samson Satele)  – “Yes, we feel confident in Samson and we also feel confident in Nate Garner. We’ll continue to look and plan for contingencies on that.”

(On going through his first offseason, training camp and preseason as a general manager and what it’s been like personally)  – “To me, I don’t think about it in a personal sense. It’s a team and that’s really how we approach this. All of the decisions we made are not one person. It’s teamwork, whether it be from the personnel staff and my assistant GM (general manager), director of player personnel and those guys, or whether it’s working with coaches. It’s a team decision just like it is on the field. That part has been really gratifying because (I’m) really confident and feel good about our team, and working through decisions that way. That’s a gratifying part is to have that teamwork functioning well and working collaboratively together.”

(On how he feels about the roster heading into the New England Patriots game)  – “We’re excited about the season opener. Being at home, being in front of our home crowd, (we’re) really excited. It’s a divisional rival. We’re really going to get a test there. Obviously, they’re a talented group. I’m excited about this team and what they bring because of the preparation they’ve made going into this season, whether it goes back to the offseason, the preseason, gelling together as a team and (we’re) ready to take the field at Sun Life Stadium.”

(On why he didn’t spend up to the salary cap) – “You are always looking for a lot of different things. The great thing, Dawn Aponte does a great job managing our salary cap flexibility and that’s what you want to be able to do the decisions for whatever reason. It can come in a lot of different areas, whether it be in carrying over, free agency, all of the different areas. So fortunately, we have that cap flexibility and that’s a credit to Dawn and her staff.”

(On who comes to mind about if there were any surprises on the 53-man roster)  – “Really not any surprises. Look, these guys came in and competed. You say surprises, when you watch them from the beginning of the offseason all the way through, you see flashes of things and so it’s really not surprising at that point because you are watching them grow and showcase what they are capable of doing.”

(On what his approach is with players who can become a free agent after the season with restructuring and re-negotiating contracts)  – “We always look at all kinds of different options. Going back to the salary cap, we want to have flexibility. That helps with the decision-making process.”

(On if the team is able to provide game tape or similar contact with suspended players S Reshad Jones and DE Dion Jordan)  – “With those situations, we are going to follow the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) rules, very limited if at all contact. We will follow it according to the CBA rules on that.”

(On if he sees himself using all 10 practice squad spots)  – “Absolutely, especially the first week, there are a lot of moving pieces, whether it’s the first day of practice or all of those trying to get that spot. Absolutely, we are going to use all the resources we can to get good players in here.”

(On if there is an internal belief of when C Mike Pouncey would be ready to play)  – “We rely on our doctors and again those decisions are somewhat fluid as they get the check points throughout his rehab where he is at, and we are going to follow the advice of our medical staff.”

Dolphins claim Seamster, Ross, add Streeter to PS

The Dolphins are churning the roster again so far today.

The team, needing pure corners, claimed Ravens rookie Sammy Seamster off waivers, according to the Baltimore Sun. The club also claimed safety Brandian Ross from the Raiders. Ross was originally signed by the Packers in 2011.

GM Dennis Hickey has confirmed the additions. He also says the team has waived defensive back Don Jones and receiver Damian Williams.

Seamster fits the Dolphins mold in that he is from a small school, although still FBS.

Seamster, undrafted in the 2014 draft, signed with Batlimore as an undrafted free agent. The Dolphins now have six undrafted rookie free agents on the 53 man roster, tying them for the NFL lead this year.

Seamster appeared in 44 career including 10 starts. He had 69 tackles, including three for loss with one interception and four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Ross, re-signed by the Raiders as an exclusive rights free agent, is scheduled to make $570,000 and is under contract for this year only. Ross recorded 75 tackles and two sacks in 13 starts for the Raiders in 2013.

The Dolphins are also compiling their 10-man practice practice squad squad and one player they have added is former University of Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter.

Streeter, on the Ravens regular roster in 2012 and on the practice squad for the Bills in '13, has never caught a pass in the NFL.

Streeter, 6-5 and 219 pounds, was drafted in sixth round in 2012.

Hickey said the team will fill all 10 practice squad openings. QB Seth Lobato will fill one of those, according to a source.

August 30, 2014

Here are the cuts and what it means

The Miami Dolphins have set their 53-man roster today.

Here are the roster moves: 

WAIVED:

DT Isaako Aaitui

G David Arkin

C Sam Brenner

WR Kevin Cone

G Evan Finkenburg

CB Kevin Fogg

WR Matt Hazel

S Jordan Kovacs

QB Seth Lobato

TE Kyle Miller

DE Tevin Mims

DE D’Aundre Reed

K Jake Rogers

DT Garrison Smith

RB/WR Marcus Thigpen

RB Daniel Thomas

LB Andrew Wilson

TE Evan Wilson 

PLACED ON RESERVE INJURED:

DT Kamal Johnson

TERMINATED CONTRACT:

G Tony Hills

PLACED ON RESERVE/SUSPENDED BY COMMISSIONER

S Reshad Jones

DE Dion Jordan

 So what does this all mean to me?

I'm not thrilled with the running back position. The Dolphins kept Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller and Orleans Darkwa and Damien Williams. Moreno is a good-to-average NFL running back. But watching him in his one preseason outing and at practice compared to the other runners in the Miami stable is like watching Jim Brown in his prime compared to other guys.

That should not be the case.

The Dolphins need upgrade there.

Lamar Miller, who might be the starter, is a change-of-pace guy who can hit the home run if he finds the right crack. Those cracks were much more commonplace in college than they are in the NFL. Thus those runs Miller would provide at the University of Miami don't happen all that often with the Dolphins. He is still valuable. But the fact he's the starter or the No. 2 guy tells you something's amiss. He is a great No. 3 guy.

Damien Miller and Orleans Darkwa? Both are undrafted rookies. Both made this team by looking solid against second- and third-team competition. To me, they are both developmental players. To the Dolphins, they're both one fo the top 53. That worries.

What else?

At tight end the Dolphins don't one an inline complete tight end in the bunch. Charles Clay is becoming a star but he's an H-back type. Think Aaron Hernandez without the trail of alleged felonies. But he's not the traditional TE.

Dion Sims is a solid blocker but not a pass-catching threat of significance. Gator Hoskins, the third tight end on the roster, is a developmental player. He has the makings of a solid receiver. I like him in that role. But he's not a blocker. He's not complete yet. This position needs attention. 

I'm not thrilled with the DE situation. The suspension of Dion Jordan means Derrick Shelby is the No. 3 DE behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. That's fine on run downs. Shelby is every bit a solid run stopper. That's not great on pass downs because pass-rushing is not Shelby's signature.

The Dolphins can use maybe Jared Odrick at DE but that would affect their DT rotation.

Interestingly, the team has used linebacker Chris McCain and also Phillip Wheeler in pass rush roles a lot during the preseason. The zone blitz has been on display a lot in the preseason. So I guess there will be other ways to try to get to the QB when Wake or Vernon are resting.

The secondary is interesting because someone currently employed will likely be gone when Reshad Jones returns from his four-game suspension. Don Jones and Michael Thomas will be battling it out the next few weeks for some roster certainty.

Along the offensive line, the Dolphins are banking that if Samson Satele goes down during a game then Nate Garner can fill in right away. I would expect the team will try to bring Sam Brenner back on practice squad. That way, if Satele goes down, Brenner can be promoted to the active roster and start in his place while Garner goes back to his swing position -- in that he's able to play RT, G and C in a pinch.

If the Dolphins don't sign Brenner to the practice squad, they will have to sign some other center to that squad.

By the way, you had better hope Branden Albert is healthy all year long because the backup left tackle -- regardless of the fact Jason Fox and Garner are on the team -- just might be rookie Ja'Wuan James. James is the starting right tackle.

The Dolphins kept five undrafted free agents today: LB Chris McCain, DT Anthony Johnson, RB Damien Williams, RB Orleans Darkwa and TE Harold "Gator" Hoskins.

That means either general manager Dennis Hickey and his staff can turn over rocks and pull out talent like the dickens or the relative amount of talent on this team is not as high as we might be inclined to think, thus opening the door for undrafted guys. 

Combined with the six draft picks on the roster, the Dolphins have 11 rookies on the team. Either this team that was not old to begin with just got a great infusion of youth ... Or, again, the talent level that was here previously simply was not as high as we might be inclined to believe.

That will be settled starting Sept. 7.

Mike Pouncey on the 53 man roster

The Dolphins have taken center Mike Pouncey off the physically unable to perform list and placed him on the 53 man roster.

So what does that mean?

Well, Pouncey will definitely miss the start of the season. That is not really up for debate. But he could be practicing within a couple of weeks and preparing for the start of the season. Pouncey earlier targetted the Sept. 28 game against Oakland for his return.

Had the Dolphins placed Pouncey on regular season PUP, he would have had to miss six games before he could begin practicing with the team.

This way, Pouncey can practice and play much sooner.

The Dolphins hinted at this move when they cut both backup center Sam Brenner and third-string center David Arkin today. They wouldn't have done that if Pouncey were unavailble for six weeks while on PUP.

Samson Satele will start the season as the center and Nate Garner will likely be his backup.

 

More cuts as Dolphins reach toward 53 man roster

The Dolphins have cut running back Daniel Thomas and kick returner Marcus Thigpen.

As those cuts have been made, I am told all is quiet on the Damien Williams front. The free agent running back has not heard from the team, and that in addition to Thomas being cut suggests Williams is on the team -- at least for now.

Remember, teams give the impression that some players have made the roster by Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline. And then add two or three other players and make cuts to make room for those new players. So there is nothing permanent until Tuesday.

Anyway, the cutting of Thomas closes the book on the former 2011 second round pick. Thomas finishes his Dolphins career with 1,312 on 365 carres (3.6 yard average). Last year was his best with the Dolphins, as he gained 3.7 yards per carry. He never rushed for more than 581 yards, that coming his rookie season.

Thomas joins other Dolphins second round busts Phillip Merling, John Beck, Matt Roth, Chad Henne, Pat White and Jonathan Martin. And you wonder why this team has to rely on free agency? Those second round picks should have netted the nucleus of this team.

Thigpen, Miami's punt and kickoff return specialist the past two seasons, was hurt part of training camp. He got one final opportunity to make the team Thursday but offered inconsistent results.

He had a nice 39-yard punt return. But that was preceded by a fumbled punt after which he kicked the fumble. Nerves, obviously. The Dolphins recovered but Thigpen's fate seemed sealed.

I asked him afterward if he thought he'd done enough to make the team.

"That's tough to say, what's enough? I've tried to make plays but at the end of the day it's their decision. I did make mistakes but at the end of the day I left all I had out there," Thigpen said.

Thigpen is great people. He's a solid punt returner. I would not doubt he catches on elsewhere.

The Dolphins will now use Jarvis Landry as their punt returner. Damien Williams is a candidate to return kickoffs along with Landry.

The Dolphins have also cut defensive back Kevin Fogg. No surprise there.

[Update: Wide receiver Matt Hazel has been cut, according to a source. Hazel is the first of GM Dennis Hickey's draft picks to be cut. He made a push to make the team on Thursday night with a nice game. But the numbers are working against him. He is a practice squad possibility.]

[Update: Source tells me rookie free agent DT Anthony Johnson is expected to make the team. Remember, however, what you read previously about Tuesday. Fellow rookie defensive lineman Tevin Mims has been cut.]

[Update: Source tells me backup offensive tackle Jason Fox is expected to make the team. Remember, however, what you read previously about Tuesday.]

[Update: Source tells me fourth-round pick Walt Aikens is expected to make the team. Remember, however, what you read previously about Tuesday.]

[Update: The Dolphins have told TE Gator Hoskins' agent the player has made the team, as seemed likely yesterday when Kyle Miller was cut.]

[Update: The Dolphins are cutting QB Seth Lobato, per Barry Jackson. No surprise here. I reported here and here the Dolphins were likely to keep only two QBs with another on practice squad.]

[Update: Central Arkansas tight end Chase Dixon, cut recently by the Seattle Seahawks, is scheduled to come to South Florida for a workout. He tweeted about the trip. Dix is 6-5 and 242 pounds and caught four TD passes despite playing in run-heavy offense last year.]

[Update: The Dolphins are clearly looking to help the TE position. They have worked out tight end Jacob Maxwell today, according Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Neither the third TE nor sixth WR are safe on this roster.]

[Update: DL Isaako Aaitui has been cut, according to his agent.]

[Update: Offensive linemen Dave Arkin, Evan Finkenberg and Tony Hills have been cut.]

[Update: Backup center Sam Brenner has been cut, according to The Herald's Barry Jackson. Assuming that is true, the Dolphins will have cut their second-team center (Brenner) and third-team center (Arkin) today. That strongly suggests center Mike Pouncey will come off PUP and the team hopes to have him ready by the fourth game of the season. In the meantime, Nate Garner can serve as the backup center.]

[Update: The Dolphins have cut kicker Jake Rogers. Caleb Sturgis is apparently Miami's kicker to start the season.]

[Update: The Dolphins are going with six wide receivers for now: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams. For now. Remember the Tuesday rule I've repeated four previous times in this blog.]

Check back often for updates on the cuts ...

August 29, 2014

Dolphins cutting players today

The Dolphins have begun to get down to the 53 man roster limit.

The team moments ago told tight end Kyle Miller he is being released.

Miller, with the team the past two seasons, was vying for the third tight end job with Gator Hoskins and Evan Wilson.

After Thursday night's game against St. Louis, coach Joe Philbin was asked about the glut at tight end. The first player he mentioned unsolicited in positive terms was Hoskins.

“I think Gator Harold Hoskins, the last couple of weeks, has done a good job," Philbin said.

The team must cut down to the NFL mandated 53-man limit by 4 p.m. Saturday. It might be done before that.

Updates on McCain, Jordan, 2013 draftees, RG...

Dolphins linebacker Chris McCain is going to make the team.

He is the most pleasant surprise of this Dolphins preseason, given that he had not played football since last September when he was kicked off the Cal football team for "conduct detrimental to the team" as a junior.

Indeed, if you just landed on Earth from planet Uranus and I played McCain's preseason tape and Dion Jordan's preseason tape and told you one was an undrafted rookie and the other was a second-year player drafted No. 3 overall, you might have a hard time picking McCain as the undrafted rookie.

And that is kind of the point of my column in today's Miami Herald.

Jordan is off to an NFL mandated suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs but he doesn't necessarily go off on a high note. This preseason?

OK.

But not great.

Indeed, after a training camp in which the Dolphins were hoping for big things from Jordan and the rest of his 2013 draft class, the result is kind of a disappointment.

The starting right guard job looked like it might be claimed by a 2013 draft class player. It was not.

The No. 3 RB job looked like it might be claimed by a 2013 draft class player. It was not.

There was a starting CB job open for one of two 2013 draft class players. Neither won the job and neither separated from the other en route to important playing time that I outline in my column.

It's obvious Jordan won't be around for four games. He's a better player than he was a year ago at this time.

"I'm much better than I was last year," he said. "I'm much more healthier. I have better knowledge of the game and what my role is within the defense."

But the No. 3 overall selection in 2013 still has a long way to go.

That said, the Dolphins have multiple decisions to make between now and 4 p.m. Saturday when they have to get down to the 53-man NFL roster limit.

The team wanted to evaluate (or showcase for trade) running back Daniel Thomas tonight. As showcases go, this was a dud. Thomas rushed 13 times and gained 38 yards -- a 2.9 yard per carry average.

“I thought he ran well," coach Joe Philbin said. "I thought he ran hard. It was a little choppy there early. They were pressuring quite a bit. They had guys down near the box. I thought he ran physical and hard. It didn’t look like there was a ton of space there at times, but I thought for his first game he looked good."

So did Thomas do enough to make the team?

“I don’t know , we’ll have to see," he said. "It’s up to the coaches. I just gave everything I had. Just have to wait and see.”

I don't see it. I don't think Thomas did enough. Then again, I've been saying that for two years. 

The Dolphins have a glut of tight ends but, really, only Charles Clay and Dion Sims are certainties at this point. Interestingly, when Philbin was asked to talk about the position the first name out of this mouth was ...

“I think Gator Hoskins, the last couple of weeks, has done a good job.," he said. "I think Kyle Miller’s performed well the last couple of weeks."

Folks, the Dolphins need to churn the bottom of this roster after other teams waive players. The Dolphins could use an upgrade at RB, TE, and G. Kicker Caleb Sturgis (missed a 53-yard field goal, could not kick off Thursday) is no prize, either, although the Dolphins seem committed to him -- for now.

August 28, 2014

Matt Moore starts and a live blog

Ryan Tannehill is not playing. Matt Moore is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Dolphins tonight and he will get the bulk of the work in the first half at least. Eventually, Seth Lobato will relieve Moore at quarterback and get to make his case for a practice squad spot.

But this final preseason game is more important on other levels. For instance:

Running back Daniel Thomas gets to make his case for winning the No. 3 RB job behind Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller. Or not.

Undrafted free agent rookie RBs Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa will get another chance to impress as well.

At tight end, the Dolphins have decisions to make. Kyle Miller (my choice), Evan Wilson or Harold "Gator" Hoskins?

You should watch the play of Will Davis and Jamar Taylor closely. They are battling for playing time as the outside cornerback in the nickel package. As you know, safety Reshad Jones is going to be suspended and although he doesn't think that will derail his season the truth is it affects the secondary the first four games.

So Jimmy Wilson goes to safety. And in the nickel package that means Cortland Finnegan goes to the slot and either Davis or Taylor will have to man an outside CB spot.

The two second-year players have been battling for the job. Taylor was not great last week, giving up a TD and getting flagged.

So the ongoing competition continues tonight -- at least for a little while.

As usual, the Dolphins are not going to commit a lot of starters to this final preseason game.

But I am totally commited. So there is a live blog. Join the chat either in the space below or in the comments section:

 

 

Live Blog Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams (Preseason): Aug. 28, 2014