May 01, 2015

Suddenly the need to improve OL is more obvious

My column in Friday's Miami Herald explains why much of what we saw (and didn't see behind the scenes) with the Miami Dolphins in the first round was mostly about quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Please check it out.

And please, Miami Dolphins, don't stop. Keep going. Finish the job.

You see, as the first round closed on Thursday, it offered a move by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots that matched a move in the top half of the draft by the New York Jets.

The Patriots improved their defensive front by drafting Texas defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. It was a good pick at No. 32. Brown is a run-stuffer extraordinaire but also can provide some pass rush from the interior of the line and he does fill the sizeable void left by the departure of Vince Wilfork.

The Patriots also have Dominique Easley up front and he's expected to make a jump in his second season. And, of course, their pass rushers include Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and free agent acquisition Jabaal Sheard. Yes, they have issues in the secondary. But their front seven is good.

The New York Jets on Thursday also improved a very good defensive front by adding USC defensive end Leonard Williams to a group that already included Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. Yes, coach Todd Bowles is going to bring pressure.

Buffalo GM Doug Whaley said of Williams today: "We thought he was the best defensive and probably the best player in the draft."

The Bills didn't pick anyone but they added Rex Ryan this offseason to coach a defensive front that has featured three players with 10 sacks or more the past two seasons. Until somebody surpasses that, the Bills have the best defensive front in the division and perhaps the NFL.

So quarterbacks in the AFC East, including those facing the Dolphins by the way, had better find a way to get these monsters up front blocked.

That leads me to the continuation of the current draft.

Answering that onslaught of defensive line talent with Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner at guard is not exactly a great plan. Wait. Wrong. Turner gets a pass. He is allowed to prove himself in his first real shot to win a job at right guard.

Thomas gets no such pass. He is currently penciled in as the starting left guard. And as plans go, that's right up there with the Napoleon's strategy at Waterloo. Bad. Terrible idea. It is a prescription for disaster. (Nothing personal against Thomas, just basing this on what my eyes have seen).

And so the Dolphins, which helped Tannehill by getting him DeVante Parker in the first round, had better be thinking of adding a guard here in the next round or two that is able to rewrite the depth chart at left guard.

It must happen, in my opinion, or the Dolphins are going to be searching the free agent scrap heap for help at that spot the rest of the offseason and going into training camp. And unlike past seasons when bridge guards were acceptable (not really, but they weren't horrible) the fact the AFC East is loaded with defensive line talent demands an answer that is more than mere afterthought.

Look, I'm no draft expert. Yeah, keep your snide remarks to yourself.

But among the guards that are still available that are upgrades over Dallas Thomas, I would include:

South Carolina's A.J. Cann.

FSU's Tre Jackson.

Maybe (eventually) Hobart's Ali Marpet.

There are probably others. And the Dolphins personnel department likely knows all the candidates, of which there may be a handful more. The point is guard is absolutely a need for Miami. It was a need going into this draft. It is moreso following a day in which two of its three AFC East rivals made their good defensive fronts even better.

NOTE: Check back throughout the day again today for updates.

April 30, 2015

Miami Dolphins select WR DeVante Parker

DeVante Parker is a Miami Dolphin.

The Dolphins just selected the Louisville wide receiver with the No. 14 overall selection.

He was the best combination of best available player and filling a need.

The Miami wide receiver corps now consists of Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Parker, the rookie.

Gurley to Rams; Waynes to Minnesota, Parker still available.

The Miami Dolphins war room has suffered its toughest setback in the 2015 NFL draft after running back Todd Gurley was picked by the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams picked Gurley with the No. 10 overall selection.

That after the Dolphins hopes the Georgia running back would be available with the No. 14 overall pick. Gurley was the favorite of multiple Miami people, not the least of which was owner Stephen Ross.

Damn you, Jeff Fisher!!!!

The Minnesota Vikings followed by picking cornerback Trae Waynes, another presumed Miami target.

Three names emerge as most likely Miami Dolphins picks

Of all the possibilities the Miami Dolphins are juggling in picking No. 14, with those expertly outlined here, I am told by sources three names have emerged as the most likely picks this evening.

DeVante Parker.

Todd Gurley.

Breshad Perriman.

Apparently in that order.

Parker gets the slight nod over Gurley because, well, he's healthy and Gurley is not quite there yet. Gurley, who had knee reconstruction surgery in November, is said to be at around 75-80 percent in his rehab work without doing full lateral movement yet. He is expected to miss the season's first month (conservatively) but the player is shooting for being ready for training camp.

But as there is at least a significant possibility Parker will be gone by the time the Dolphins pick, Gurley is more than just a name I've been pushing in this space, on my twitter or on numerous radio interviews I've done.

He is legitimately a consideration at No. 14 for the Dolphins. This is for real.

Indeed, outside NFL sources are telling me Gurley is so talented, so impressive when healthy, he might be gone before Miami picks at No. 14, also. He is a hot name today and several people I speak with are saying you pick him for the long-term rather than the first month of his rookie season.

Perriman, the UCF wide receiver and son of former Detroit and Miami wide receiver Brett Perriman, is in the conversation as well. He ran that sub 4.3 time at his Pro Day. And the Dolphins are convinced talk of his inconsistent hands is mostly that -- talk.

They are increasingly comfortable with his hands and believe they will improve even more.

One caveat: If Gurley/Parker/Perriman or two of the three are there at No. 14, the Dolphins may be tempted to auction the pick as long as they are convinced they can get one of the players in the trade back.

Miami Dolphins 2015 draft: More debate, disagreement than usual

Everyone has an opinion this time of year when it comes to NFL prospects and strategy and overall decisions to be made in the NFL draft.

And apparently the Miami Dolphins are voicing those opinions more this year than in the past.

"I can't remember when we've ever had as much debate and disagreement voiced since I've been with the team," one Dolphins source said this morning. "It's been more than ever from what I've seen and heard and that's going back pretty long while."

The source went on to say there was "not a lot of disagreement" when Bill Parcells first became the Dolphins football czar in 2008 and through 2010. He said Jeff Ireland allowed for more debate than Parcells but not a lot. And he said last year did not offer too much debate because there was a lot of agreement in new general manager Dennis Hickey's first year.

"I can see a difference this year," he said. "I'm not saying anyone takes a disrespectful approach. So don't go crazy and make this a controversy. But it has gotten a little heated at times."

And new football czar Mike Tannenbaum has made that point that, hey, that's awesome!

"Again, the good news is we’ve had a lot of disagreements," Tannenbaum said multiple times during the team's pre-draft press conference. "I think that’s what we all want is to have robust debate." 

And ...

That could be very good.

Or it could be very bad.

Look, professionals paid to give their opinions drawing on their expertise and making it known is healthy. It adds layers to a decision that will shape the future of the franchise.

But I can also see where the folks who disagree on certain decisions and lose the debate could later absolve themselves from the decisions that do not work out favorably. We could get an every-man-for-himself approach.

Time will tell. But ultimately, what often happens is the good decisions have many fathers and the bad ones, as John F. Kennedy once noted, could become orphans.

2015 Draft day: Possibilities everywhere

The 2015 NFL draft begins in earnest this evening and the Miami Dolphins should be on the clock sometime around 10:20 p.m. And although the Dolphins (and five other teams) come to this draft with only six picks -- tied for the fewest -- the local club is awash with possibilities.

Here are some scenarios that are possible tonight:

1. Louisville's DeVante Parker, considered the draft's third best wide receiver prospect, lasts until the Dolphins pick at No. 14 overall in the first round. And the team that believes him a value at that spot picks him.

2. Despite depth in the WR class that will last into the third round, the Dolphins understand that Parker is likely to be picked before No. 14 and have other plans. Those plans can include trying to move up to get Parker. Or doing nothing and hoping Parker falls -- which, as I've reported, is a gamble because multiple scouts have told me he'll be gone before No. 14 with the Rams (10), Minnesota (11) and Cleveland (12) being pressure points for the pick.

3. If Parker is picked and the Dolphins remain at No. 14 because they deemed moving up too costly (remember they don't have a surplus of picks) then there are multiple players that will interest Miami. Those players:

A. Todd Gurley. The Georgia running back is a "top 7-10 pick all day long" if he were not recovering from reconstructive knee surgery so he would clearly be a value at No. 14 for Miami. Multiple mock drafts have the Dolphins picking Gurley. I have the Dolphins picking Gurley. I want the Dolphins to pick Gurley. 

Why?

World class speed -- he returned kickoffs for the Bulldogs -- in a 6-1 and 224-pound frame. He was productive. He played at the highest level of the college game against top competition. And he's a good person, according to multiple sources, which is important.

Look, the Dolphins are picking No. 14. An elite prospect is there, they should pick that prospect and start working on the second round. Period. Dare to be great.

Interestingly, if the Dolphins decide running back is a luxury because offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses them only 10-15 times a game far as we've seen, they can auction the pick for the right to pick Gurley.

San Diego, picking No. 17 and needing a running back, might be a partner. The Chargers might also try to get ahead of the Miami for fear the Dolphins might pick the running back.

At any rate, do not be surprised if the Dolphins come away with a running back at some point in this draft.

4. If Gurley and Parker are gone or if Parker is gone and the Dolphins are going to pick for need rather than best available player, then the pick might be at cornerback. The Dolphins value Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Why is cornerback a need? The team has no proven asset to start opposite Brent Grimes. Jamar Taylor is inconsistent when he's healthy and even at that, he's rarely healthy. Same for Will Davis. So who exactly is going to win that spot?

Remember: Last season, general manager Dennis Hickey picked to address the team's greatest need in the first round. He picked for need.

5. An NFL source insisted to me Wednesday that the Dolphins are high on Breshad Perriman from UCF. This was echoed by a source close to Perriman. All that may be true, but at No. 14? Seems high to me.

6. In trade-back scenarios into the late teens or 20s, watch for LSU's La'el Collins as a guard prospect despite the swirling issue surrounding him. Watch for U-Conn cornerback Byron Jones. Personally, I like Laken Tomlinson, the Duke guard -- and I don't mean point or shooting.

I predict this draft will see trades galore. Teams are looking to unload players while adding picks.

The Dolphins were looking to trade Dion Jordan but, um, well, that's ruined.

San Francisco is reportedly making OG Alex Boone available. Expensive. A rental unless he's signed to a contract extension.

Philadelphia is making their entire roster available. OK, maybe not the entire roster. But cornerback Brandon Boykin is available. OG Evan Mathis is available -- although the Dolphins have shown no interest. And ILB Mychal Kendricks, which makes sense for the Dolphins, is available. The asking price is expected to be a mid-round pick for each of these players, although the Eagles are asking for better than that.  

The one that should interest is Kendricks. I believe he would be an upgrade over Koa Misi at MLB and it allows the Dolphins to move Misi back outside where he is probably more comfortable and has more experience.

There were reports the Bears are making TE Martellus Bennett available. This is a move that would be hard to fathom for Miami because he wants a new contract (read big new money) atop the draft pick it would require to get him.

NOTE: Come back throughout the day and during the entire draft for updates and newsy tidbits and insight and, well, you get the drift.

April 29, 2015

Suspended Dion Jordan: 'I apologize'

Dion Jordan broke his silence this afternoon to speak about his year-long suspension from the NFL and Miami Dolphins following his violation of the league's substance abuse policy:

"I'm very disappointed that I will not be playing in the NFL in the 2015 season," Jordan said in a statement released on the NFLPA website. "Because of past positive tests and my status in the drug program, the consequence of dilute (not positive) tests is severe. I deeply regret putting myself in this position, and I apologize to my teammates and the Dolphins organization. I will use the time away from playing to finish my college degree. I will stay in excellent physical shape and look forward to returning to the NFL as soon as possible.  I’m deeply grateful to my family and friends for their continued support."

A few things:

An apology is good and so is accepting responsibility for one's own action. I note Jordan did not apologize to Dolphins fans who have been, at least until his latest misstep, invested in his success.

There's no mention of continuing drug therapy.

We'll see if Jordan's sorrow reaches heights where he'll be willing to give back at least a portion of his guaranteed monies.

Finally, Jordan was not in excellent shape when he came back from his six week suspensions (two weeks for performance enhancing violation, four weeks for substance abuse) last year. Reshad Jones was in excellent shape. Jordan took multiple weeks to get there.

Life goes on.

 

Fake GM Salguero's first two picks for the Dolphins in the NFL draft

Were I the general manager of the Miami Dolphins, my first two selections in this week's NFL draft would be set.

Yes, I want a cornerback because it is a passing league and my team needs a starter opposite Brent Grimes. Yes, I want a guard because I'll soon be investing multiple millions of dollars on quarterback Ryan Tannehill and part of that investment should include, you know, not letting him get beaten up every game day.

But at No. 14 I take all that into consideration and pick Georgia running back Todd Gurley if he is there.

And in the second round, I again take all that into consideration and pick Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley.

Why the Bulldog love?

The answer is right here.

Gurley and Conley share a common thread that goes beyond the fact both are elite athletes, college teammates, premier players and outstanding NFL prospects. That thread is something the Dolphins missed when they picked Dion Jordan in the first round in 2013.

Let me give you a hint: Beyond reproach off the field.

Which means they're going to be on the field and not suspended or in jail or in drug rehabilitation.

That's what I would do. Are the Dolphins likely to do it starting Thursday evening?

Well, I know for a fact how they feel about these two players. So we'll see.

April 28, 2015

Dion Jordan suspended for 2015 season

Dion Jordan's absence during the Miami Dolphins voluntary offseason conditioning program was a story last week. But that is being dwarfed today by the fact Jordan will be out all of the 2015 season while serving an NFL drug suspension.

Jordan tested positive in 2014 after serving two suspensions for violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy and substance abuse (street drugs) policy. The 2014 positive test occurred when one of Jordan's samples (he was tested regularly) was diluted, which the NFL deems an attempt to mask a positive result. The result was on the substance abuse side.

The story was first reported by ESPN.

A source tells the Miami Herald the Dolphins have been trying to trade Jordan since March. They have spoken to a dozen teams who showed interest. The Philadelphia Eagles showed the most interest and one source said a deal could have been made during the draft.

At one point the sides were discussing a deal that included Philadelphia guard Evan Mathis but that idea was dismissed by the Dolphins. The teams would more likely have exchanged Jordan for a later round draft pick.

The Eagles are coached by Chip Kelly, who coached Jordan at Oregon.

No deal will be made now.

Jordan will not appeal, per a source. That means he can request reinstatement next year. He will miss the season.

And what does that mean for his Dolphins future?

Well, he is officially a draft bust. How else to put it when the No. 3 overall selection in 2013 will have contributed only three sacks his first three seasons while being suspended three times?

He has as many drug suspensions as sacks. Think about that.

He has as many yearlong suspensions as he does NFL starts in his first three years.

It is a sad situation for the young man. But this is of his own doing.

But the business side, it is a terrible situation for the Dolphins who not only wasted the pick, but the extra second-round pick they gave Oakland for moving from No. 12 to No. two years ago.

 

April 27, 2015

Week Two of offseason conditioning: Jordan still a no-show

The second week of the Miami Dolphins offseason conditioning program began for the Miami Dolphins in earnest Monday morning.

Just not for Dion Jordan.

Jordan, absent from the first week of the voluntary workouts, was absent again today.

And while today's absence is only about, well, today, it suggests Jordan likely isn't going to join the program this week, either.

The NFL draft is Thursday. Teams will get quite serious in their trade talks this week leading up to Thursday's first round and carrying through Saturday's multiple rounds. Do not be surprised if Jordan is traded at some point.

As I discussed here, trading Jordan is a tough situation for the Dolphins.

Firstly, no one will likely give much compensation for a player who has had three career sacks, has a history for not being reliable, and is one positive drug test away from a year's suspension.

There's also the salary cap hit a trade would involve.

It is not good.

The ironic thing? I'm hearing Jordan has been in town recently. So this is not about staying home and working out with a trusted personal trainer or workout buddy.

Everything the Miami Dolphins say about this NFL draft

The NFL mandates its general managers and others conduct a pre-draft press conference but those have become notorious for delivering precious little draft information because, well, most teams don't want to reveal their plans.

The Dolphins are no different.

They had their draft presser Friday. It was long. It was enlightening to me to see how vexed the Dolphins are about Dion Jordan's status. (I question Jordan's desire to remain with the team).

But on the draft? We heard assistant general manager Eric Stokes loves Todd Gurley. We heard Mike Tannenbaum get an early start on his pitch for undrafted free agents. Tannenbaum also smartly put to rest the question of who makes the final call in the draft, which is a landmine many organizations step on without it having to be that difficult. After all, if you know, says what you know and move on. Equivocation may not sound like a problem, but when it gets rolled out publicly, it sounds of uncertainty in the process. Tannenbaum removed that uncertainty.

(One thing not said in this transcript: Hickey told me afterward he believes Stokes is ready to be a GM now. Obviously the Dolphins believe they have a star in the making here. I wouldn't be surprised if you hear more from him in the coming days, months, years).

Here is everything the Dolphins said at their pre-draft presser:

Mike Tannenbaum:

(Opening Statement) “First off, I want to thank everybody for coming to a bright, sunny afternoon in the tax-free state of Florida. That is my first official plug to all of the undrafted free agents that are listening to this press conference that we are in beautiful tax-free Florida. First off, I’d like to just say it’s been terrific working with Dennis and Eric going through this process. I’ve learned a lot, seen a lot of different approaches and it’s truly been collaborative and we’ve integrated a lot of different experiences that we’ve all had. I also want to specifically mention that I think these guys in particular have done a great job of identifying the strengths and the weaknesses of this draft going back several months. That affected our plan and some of the moves we’ve made up until this point and it’s easy to sit now, a week out and say, ‘Hey, this draft looks great at X position or Y position,’ and these guys did a tremendous job of that several months ago. I also want to publicly congratulate Mike Pouncey on his extension, it’s always great when you can extend contracts for players that were drafted here, developed here and coached here. I also wanted to touch on a little bit of this notion of analytics and the draft. Recently we had a friend of mine, R.C. Buford, the General Manager of the (San Antonio) Spurs, I thought he put it best. He said, when you’re scouting and evaluating players, it’s a combination of what your eyes and what you see and what your scouts see, your ears, what your scouts and the trusted information you get and you want to supplement that with the numbers and what your mind is telling you. If you don’t have alignment in those factors, keep asking more questions. I thought that was great perspective how analytics over the last couple of years have been added to the process. Our goal heading into next weekend is to have as much flexibility as possible. By no means are we sitting here saying our roster is perfect, but we feel good where we are. With the recent addition of Greg Jennings hopefully that gives us even more flexibility to make the best decisions possible for us whatever they may be. Before I turn it over to Dennis, I want to publicly thank (Director of Team Security) Stu Weinstein, who will be part of his 31st draft as a full-time member of the Dolphins. This will be his last draft as a full-time member. I just want to thank Stu for 31 great years and turn it over to Dennis."

Dennis Hickey:

(Opening Statement) “Thanks, Mike. I also want to echo that on Stu. In my 20 years (in the NFL), his time as director of security and doing those backgrounds, he is the hardest worker that I have ever seen in getting that information. I know he touches on a lot of lives that pass through this building. With the process that we go about, we have a methodical process that started about 12 months ago. It involves a lot of people and personally I want to thank my assistant Annie Berger in keeping me straight, she is the true brains of the organization and just all of the work that she does behind the scenes with that. The process involves a lot of people throughout the building, of course our scouts and our executives with Eric and (Director of Player Personnel) Joe Schoen and (Director of College Scouting) Chris Grier and (National Scout) Adam Engroff, and a lot of other people that sacrifice a lot and are committed to doing their part to help make the Miami Dolphins a championship team. The process encompasses a lot of different things and there is a lot of work that goes into it. The whole goal as we work towards it getting all of the scouts and their information and incorporating that with our coaches and their input and that’s what we’ve been doing over the last several weeks and trying to come up with a Dolphins value for each individual prospect and with that, the Dolphins value leads to making up the board and the board leads us to the decisions that we make. Last year, after the draft, we were fortunate to add what we feel is a very key member to our personnel staff and that is Eric Stokes, really, a quality evaluator, a great person and he’s really added a lot. I’ll pass it over to Eric."

Eric Stokes:

(Opening Statement) “Thanks, Dennis. This has really been an exciting time for me personally. This is my first draft as a Miami Dolphin and I really look forward to draft night come Thursday. I’d like to thank Mike and Dennis, (Head) Coach (Joe) Philbin, his staff. We’ve had a lot of healthy debates, it’s been a lot of fun working through this draft process and we certainly look forward to pulling it all together and have a great draft as we get to the weekend, starting on Thursday. I also would like to thank our scouts, members of our personnel staff, Joe Schoen our director of player personnel, I’d also like to thank Chris Grier, our director of college scouting, Adam Engroff, who is our national scout and to also recognize some of our area scouts, Ron Brockington, Chris Buford, Brad Forsyth, Marcus Hendrickson, Chase Leshin and Matt Winston. These guys do an unbelievable job. I also want to give a special thanks also to Ron Labadie, who is going to be completing 25 years here as a member of the Dolphins organization. We really appreciate all of his time, all of his efforts and really wish him nothing but the best moving forward. As far as the draft is concerned, as Dennis mentioned, we have a process driven approach to everything that we do. With that, that process really started about a year ago in May with our NFS meetings, at that time, that’s when we received a list of prospects, from there our scouts began their summer tape work and working off that list and then really getting into the meat and potatoes of the fall schedule. During that time scouts are on the road for about six months, this is truly when the evaluation process begins. More importantly, this is when character really begins to take shape. So extensive research is done at this time. From that standpoint, then we’re able to move onto college all-star games which is a great opportunity for us now to finally get some face-to-face conversations with prospects that are going to be in the draft and also get to look at them in a different competitive environment when you can maybe see a couple of things that you didn’t see in terms of the fall visit. From that standpoint, we get into the combine, which everybody knows has become quite the media event. At that point, it’s a great time for us to really get to know the juniors that declared, have some face-to-face time and really start to get to know those guys. Coming off the combine, we get into the spring, we have pro timing days and it really just serves a couple of purposes, one, another chance to look at the prospects at their schools, but also more importantly for us, more time to do research, and find out more of the answers to the questions that we have as we come out of the combine and our February meetings. From there, we get to our 30 visits, which we recently just completed and that’s an awesome opportunity to have prospects come into your building, get to spend time with your coaches, get to spend time with your personnel staff, get to meet our sports science, our strength coaches, our nutritionist. Really get an opportunity to get to know what this Dolphins organization is all about. With that, we’re really excited about the process and can’t wait for the draft.” 

Tannenbaum:

(On who ends any debate when discussing a player) “Dennis does. We have a great debate, we look at the board, we let the board dictate things in terms of trying to make trades and things like that, but the final decision rests with Dennis."

Dennis Hickey:

(On comparing the draft needs of last year to this year and how much more flexible this year appears to be in terms of which position to go after) “Again, the process is the same for us and placing that value. That’s where we valued Ja’Wuan James last year who is a quality player for us. The process doesn’t change, the names change, the players change, the prospects change, but that part of the process has not changed."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On how good of an idea they have of who they will come away with picking at 14 in the first round) “Based on my experience, if we’re at 14, there will probably be 12 players that we love, if we’re at 20 there are probably 18 and then you sit there and you hope. That’s always been my experience."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On DE Dion Jordan being absent for voluntary workouts) “Yeah, right now we’re in the voluntary part of the offseason program and we’re really happy with the attendance and if somebody chooses not to be here that’s obviously their decision."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On DE Dion Jordan being absent) “Yeah, again, it’s the voluntary part of the program and we can certainly talk about the guys that are here. That’s the part of the offseason program where we’re at."

Dennis Hickey:

(On having success with players that may have had issues in college last year and if that will influence their decisions this year) “Well, with all of the players, we judge them on an individual basis and that’s part of the process that Eric was referring to and that our scouts do such a good job, being extensive, being thorough, we always talk about doing our due diligence with every prospect. With that, those lead us to the decisions that we make based on an individual basis."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On having a history of moving up in the draft and if he feels like the Dolphins have enough ammo to move up this year) “Why can’t we talk about all of those trades they made backwards? Dennis traded back multiple times last year and we got Jarvis Landry. We’re an equal opportunity trader (joking). In all seriousness, we want to be as flexible as possible. We added Greg Jennings who we think is a really good player, that just added to our flexibility. As the next three days of the draft unfold, hopefully there will be opportunities to go up and down. I know there has been a lot said about moving yup a lot, but we could go the other way as well, so we’ll see what happens."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On how they weigh what they see at the combine versus what they see on tape) “I think for all of us, as many years as we’ve all done this, they’re all a big factor. I always like to say there is not one part of it that is outcome determinative, but one of my favorite parts about the draft is when you turn in the card, it’s a representation of the Miami Dolphins, it has Stu Weinstein’s imprints on it, it has our doctors, it has the area scouts, all of the things that these guys have touched on. I wouldn’t say that any one area is the outcome determinative, but you try to put all of the pieces together."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On if you get better at drafting as the years go on) “I would say for me, absolutely. You read the books about the great GMs (general managers) like Ron Wolf’s book in particular was meaningful for me, or coach (Bill) Parcell’s book recently and they talk about some of the mistakes they made early. But I would just tell you, for us, it’s about our preparation and you see what happens. I’ve seen a lot of unexpected things happen but I feel really good about where we sit with the roster and I feel really good about the flexibility we have. Sure, if we’re sitting here a week from Monday, we can certainly talk about, I don’t know what we’d have for lunch because we’ve had Subway, we’ve had Laspada’s, I don’t know who would be up next, but we can have that conversation. A lot of unexpected things are going to happen, and that’s OK. I just think we could all sleep well at night knowing that we’re prepared and when something unexpected happens hopefully for us it’s opportunistic."

Dennis Hickey:

(On if they put more weight into a player’s character given the recent trouble the NFL has faced with the multitude of suspensions) “Our emphasis on character has not changed. In all of the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve always placed a strong emphasis and relied on our scouts and the interactions we have with these young men, hearing their stories, what shaped the. That’s always been an emphasis. But again, we judge each player, each prospect on an individual basis."

Eric Stokes:

(On University of Georgia prospect Todd Gurley... Go!) “He’s a talent. He’s definitely a player that his ability that stands out and shines. He’s an exciting guy to watch. We’ve enjoyed working through that process with him and seeing him. From there, we’ll see where things shake out."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On how much weight they put on injuries that players suffered in college and if they would be available later rather than sooner in the NFL) “I would answer that question much more philosophical, be it character, injury, whatever it is. You have to be extremely thorough and look at where opportunity is. We always used to say, there are two sides to every story and the truth is in the middle and that could be an off-field issue, it could be medical. It’s a very subjective process. Candidly, you want to work with your doctors and say, ‘Hey, three years ago you guys had this guy off the board and he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level, what can we learn from that?’ It’s a learning process for all of us and that includes. That’s why this process is so interesting, it’s subjective in that, at the end of the day, you have to make your best decision."

Dennis Hickey:

(On if they look at when a player can help them, short term or long term when deciding to draft them) “We always look at things in short-term value and long-term. It’s a balance. Obviously, some guys have more payoff in dividends in the longer term and others in the short term. You weigh that with every prospect and that’s how you place them on the board."

Mike Tannenbaum:

“Sometimes a tiebreaker may be, player X doesn’t have a contract in 2018 and this guy does. That’s where you want to make sure you have a good sense of your cap situation and expiring contracts as well."

Eric Stokes:

(On what made him want to join the Dolphins) “First and foremost my relationship with Dennis was a factor. But also with that, the Miami Dolphins, this is one of the iconic franchises. This makes people stand up and perk up as far as our business when it comes to the history of this game, arguable one of the greatest coaches, you have Hall of Fame players, you have Super Bowl titles. So there are so many elements from that aspect that draw you, not only just a part of this game but a fan of the game. Then I would also say that (Owner) Mr. (Stephen) Ross, the ownership, the resources that we have there to be successful, all of those things sway you to wanting to be a part of this and really have a chance to do something special. I’ll also say that Ryan Tannehill was a big part of that also, a young quarterback, a prospect that I scouted coming out of (Texas) A&M, a guy that I just think is on the come and on the rise. That also was another intriguing factor to bringing me down here to Miami."

Dennis Hickey:

(On if the draft board is set) “Like I said. We are finalizing that. There will be minor tweaks, but for the most part, that’s part of the process leading up to it. We want to be proactive with our decision making and that’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. We’ve been funneling the information, the evaluations. We still have time to, hey, if there is a discrepancy, there has been a lot of healthy disagreements and healthy debate, so alright, we have the time to go back to the tape and watch it and work through any discrepancy and come to a final decision on the player and where he stands."

Mike Tannenbaum:

“The board is firmly etched in pencil."

Dennis Hickey:

(On how they evaluate players from schools on bad teams) “When you evaluate players, you focus on traits. Again, regardless of the competition, you can focus on athletic ability, feet, lateral quickness, strength, power, hands, ability to come out of cuts, all of those different things. You focus on the traits and they lead you to what the player’s projection will be."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On if a decision has been made on the fifth year option for QB Ryan Tannehill) “Is Pat Dye listening to this press conference? Because if he is what Eric just said was hypothetical (joking). Look, Ryan is here, we’re excited he is here, we haven’t made any decisions yet. We know when the deadline is and we’ll make those decisions when we get there. Obviously one of the other axioms you’d like to use this time of year is the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling, and for all of the resources Mr. Ross gives us to put into a player, you want to make sure that player is taking all of those resources and Ryan is just a great example of that."

Mike Tannenbaum:

(On what the conversations have been like with Tannehill’s agent) “Anything that we’d be talking about with an agent would stay between us and them."

Dennis Hickey:

(On if they’d like to use the draft to shore up the offensive line) “We’re always trying to get the best 53-man roster at whatever positions. We’ve added some guys this week. We also like the development and trajectory of a lot of our young players. That’s an ongoing process. We like our guys that we have here and we’ll continue to add to the roster."

Dennis Hickey

(On QB Ryan Tannehill being sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL in his three years and if that’s on him or the offensive line, and how much that is concerning) “Well, obviously, you want to keep your quarterback upright. That’s a big part of winning in the NFL. There’s a lot that goes into each of those individual plays and I think it’s a combination and something we’re always looking at."

Dennis Hickey

(On if they have to emerge from the draft with at least one quality wide receiver) “We’re looking to add quality players in a lot of different positions. That’s the goal."

Mike Tannenbaum

“One of the great things about our sport is there are going to be some untold stories in the fall and why can’t it be some of those guys like a Rishard Matthews that no one is talking about right now, that he takes the next step. Development from within is the most critical part for sustainable success. Yeah, we’re going to add some players and we think they’re going to be impactful and hopeful. The majority of the answers are already on the roster and we’re going to have to continue to improve. The other three teams in our division are improving, so we have to stay up with their rate of improvement and development from within has to be a big part of any plan."

Eric Stokes

(On thoughts on the wide receiver class overall) “I think it’s a very solid class. I think one thing you’re finding is, based off even last year, there was some dynamic explosive receivers. Receivers are contributing much sooner than what they used to and are becoming a little more impactful at an early stage. In regards to this class, I think there’s a little bit of everything. There’s some bigs, there’s some guys that are some littles, there’s some guys that have speed, there’s inside, outside, so the beauty of it is that there is really quality depth throughout. You can really kind of find whatever kind of niche that you’re looking for in regards to that position."

Dennis Hickey

(On if this draft has its own personality as far as strengths and weaknesses) “Absolutely, and we always talk about having clusters of players within the board and that’s always something where healthy debate comes into when you have players grouped together. Obviously, each year, it’s a little bit different where there clusters at what positions are. But that’s one of the things, as you said, every draft is a little bit different with those players and that’s what we’ve worked through as part of the process to come to this point."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On running backs not being as drafted as high previously and the position seeming to make a rebound in this draft, and if that’s because of the players or the way front offices are valuing the position) “Yeah, I think it was a little bit of each. Obviously, the prior team I was with, we ran the ball when we had success. I think you have to be balanced. I’m not sure if Ryan (Tannehill) asked [someone] to ask the question about how many times he was hit (joking). You have to be balanced and opportunistic. Now that there are a couple of better running backs, that’s certainly the perceived value. It’ll be interesting to see how that unfolds on Thursday night. The other thing we were constantly talking about is like, at the end of the day, we’re going to play with the players that college football puts out. If there’s a lot of depth in the receivers, over the last couple of years, that’s what we’re going to be playing with. Some teams have won recently with rotating running backs, so teams are going to look at that as well."

Eric Stokes

(On things like size, weight, etc. and if that determines what they need) “I say we need players who love football, first and foremost. I think we need players who have toughness and bring physical presence. I look at that a little bit differently. I love football, I love all kinds of different players, but, first and foremost, I want players that are going to be passionate about the game. Those are the kinds of players that we want to bring here to the Dolphins organization."

Eric Stokes

(On if a specific skillset makes a difference) “That all depends on what our coaches are kind of looking for. That’s kind of one of those deals where, that’s kind of an individual basis, in terms of what we need, where our holes are. I think that’s more case-by-case in terms of, you’re looking at different players with different skillsets, are you talking about nickel corners or are you talking about outside corners? Are you talking about Z’s or are you talking about X’s (receivers). Those are all of the types of discussions that we have with our coaching staff and we’re able to hone that down."

Eric Stokes

(On what he sees in this class of cornerbacks) – “I think overall it’s maybe not quite as flashy as it has been in the past, but I do think that there is a lot of depth at the position. A little bit like the receiver position, I think there’s a little bit of everything in this draft. Much as I said, I think there’s some guys that are more slot types, I think there are a few outside types, press-vertical corners. I think there are some guys that can play zone. Then I think there are guys that are interchangeable in terms of having some safety, corner flexibility. I think you can find a little bit of everything in this draft. It’s just about what kind of niche you’re trying to fill."

Dennis Hickey

(On if they feel comfortable with the offensive playmakers as the roster is now) – “We added Jordan Cameron who’s a quality Pro Bowl performer. Then trading, we see as our third-round pick this year with Kenny Stills who just recently turned 23. He’s still a young player, but has been a proven player in our league. So we’re excited about what both of those guys bring to the table as well as the development of our younger players. We’re excited about the playmakers that we have."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On the roster changes and if it’s gone more or less like he expected) – “Pretty typically unpredictable, I guess, in terms of there’s been, sit here and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to trade (Dannell) Ellerbe for (Kenny) Stills, (Mike) Wallace to Minnesota, and then get (Greg) Jennings.’ You just never know how it’s going to unfold. Again, it goes back to, it starts at the top. You look at Tom Garfinkel, Matt Higgins, Steve Ross, they give us great resources. Dawn Aponte and Ryan Herman put a plan together and we want to leave assets to be opportunistic. I learned that just from my history, that adding good players in June or July, we added Vinny Testaverde one year in June and went to the championship game with him. The lesson there is you just never know. To be able to get Greg Jennings within a week of the draft I thought was great for us. We’re going to go through the draft and I’m sure we’re all aligned in this with Coach (Joe) Philbin in that, when there’s opportunities in June or July, we’re going to stay aggressive and continue to improve because, let’s face it, we’ve got three formidable opponents in the AFC East and, for us to remain competitive with them, we can’t just sit back and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take the next six weeks off.’  When there’s opportunities, we’ve got to take advantage of them."

Dennis Hickey

(On how to judge players that love football) – “I think you go back to, one, that’s part of the research and what is his past performance and the people who have coached him, been around him, how they describe his love for football. And then you also watch how he plays and is it evident by when you put on the tape that this guy loves football. Obviously, there’s interaction, but a lot of that goes into all of the research that you do and what you see with your own eyes."

Dennis Hickey

(On how to stack guys on the board with character concerns) – “You weight it in, just like anything else. It’s putting the pieces of a puzzle together, so to speak. You weight it in and then our philosophy is to put him at where his value is going to be for your organization, taking all things in, this is where I see him, wherever it is on the board. It’s a wide board, it covers a lot of expanse there. That’s where we put him."

Mike Tannenbaum

“I look at the inverse sometimes too, which is sometimes it’s an opportunity. We just met with Stu (Weinstein) today. He wrote 600-and-whatever reports. That’s an opportunity to be that thorough because, if other teams are taking him off the board, again, there’s two sides to every story. If you can be more thorough than your competitors and he’s sitting there in whatever round it may be, what you thought happened wasn’t the truth and you give them a second chance. I think by being thorough, in the right situation, it can be opportunistic."

Dennis Hickey

(On giving undrafted guys last year a chance with character concerns and they had some success, and if that makes them re-think character issues) – “I think it goes back to the individual person and their story, what shaped them, their own individual situation. Again, going back to the work that Eric (Stokes), Joe (Schoen), Chris (Grier), all of our scouts do and their experience knowing what has worked in the past and what type of issues, just getting to the baseline, what is the situation and what’s your comfort level with that on each individual basis."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On his answer about tracing a player’s love for the game) – “For me, similar to what Dennis said, if you’re winning 37-0 or losing 37-0 and you put on the tape, is that the player, is he the same guy, is he playing with bumps and bruises? To me, who you are in life is how you treat people that can’t help you. When you go to the equipment manager at a school or the trainer or the third assistant strength coach, who’s the first guy in after a loss or who’s the last one to leave? All of those things are factors that I think answer that question."

Eric Stokes

“And Mike hit it with all of those factors. It also comes down to your gut, to your instincts, what is that little ticker inside of you really saying once you have opportunities to visit with these players and sit down with them and look them in the eye. That really goes back to me. I trust my gut, I trust my instincts, and I also factor that in as well."

Dennis Hickey

(On if they are confident that DE Dion Jordan has the proper love for the game or if there is any concern about his investment in this game)  – “This is a pre-draft (press conference). We’ll talk about the draft on that."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On Dennis Hickey having the final say on the 53-man roster and the draft, if that is correct and if Mike Tannenbaum has final say on the 90-man roster) – “Yeah, all roster decisions rest with Dennis. Again, the good news is we’ve had a lot of disagreements. I think that’s what we all want is to have robust debate. As it relates to all roster decisions, those rest with Dennis."

Dennis Hickey

(On if the roster is better suited now to what Head Coach Joe Philbin and Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor are trying to do) – “We’re really excited and we’re thrilled to add a guy like Kenny Stills, see what Jarvis Landry did last year and his continued growth in this system and the growth from year one to year two. A lot of young guys that are still in the development stage and seeing them take the next step. But yes, all of those things come in when you’re talking about players and talking about adding players, whether it’s through free agency, via trade or in the draft. We always talk about, what is their plan of success, what are we going to ask them to do to function in our scheme and how do they fit within that. That’s another part of the puzzle on the players, but we feel good about that."

Mike Tannenbaum

“To just take it another step further too, look, economics, we’re in a salary cap system, so it’s the right player at the right price and the right structure, and can we take player X’s resources and allocate it to another position and then go draft that player to replace that player and spend his money there. Again, I think, in particular, being around these guys for a few months now, when we first start putting our plans together in February and trying to map out, because when you’re building a football team, you have limited resources between cap and picks. Hey, we think the draft is going to be strong here so we’ve got to go spend money here. I think these guys in particular really nailed that because, again, it’s easier to sit here now and say, ‘Hey, now look in the draft.’ But to do that several months ago, that impacted what we did and look the receiver position is part of that discussion."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On if he’s ever deviated from the board during a draft) – “You really try not to. You sit there and you try to line up your need and how the board is. You do tweak trades where you say like, ‘Geez, we’re going to stay here, we’re not going to move and then you move.’ That’s happened because you feel like the opportunities are too good. I’ve had trades that we’re called to me where I’m like, ‘Did they really just make that offer? I don’t want to call you back, just hold on 10 seconds.’ I do believe philosophically you should wait until the end before you turn in the card because you just never know. Candidly, that’s what makes it so much fun and exciting. You work your tail off and you have these debates and you work all of these weekends and nights. The draft should be fun, you’re improving your team, it’s a great opportunity. Again, we’ve got a great story to tell. I don’t know if I mentioned, but there’s no taxes in this state. If you’re an undrafted free agent, it’s a great opportunity. The weekend should be a fun time for all of us."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On if they expect DE Dion Jordan to be at the first mandatory practice)  – “Look, I think what we’re expecting now is to just get through this press conference and get back into the room. We’ll deal with other issues down the road and I’m sure there will be plenty of those to deal with."

Mike Tannenbaum

(On if there is some element of luck in the draft) – “Luck’s part of everything in life. You worry about what you can control and luck’s certainly a factor, but I think it goes back to what Eric and Dennis touched on. When these guys have more time and more money, how are they going to be impacted by that? Are they going to take all of the incredible resources that we have here? We hired Wayne Diesel, a gentleman that has spent time in Africa and England, and he’s here just to get our players to play better and to feel better. We want to bring in as many people as possible that want to take those resources to get better. If we’re doing our jobs well, we’re going to maximize those resources. We won’t be perfect. We’ve made mistakes, we’ll make some more. Sure, luck is a factor in all of that."

Dennis Hickey

(On evaluating small school players and the competition they played, and how to put them on the board)  – “That goes into it. You always measure things and then you measure against all-star (games), when they play at a higher level, going against that level of competition, how do they react and how do they handle that environment. That comes into it. Again, when you issue with small schools, we’re excited about our guys who we drafted last year and we really feel like they’re ready to take the next step. We’re excited to have them on our team."

April 23, 2015

New Miami Dolphins WR Greg Jennings: Team first over me first

Greg Jennings had choices and ultimately signed with the Miami Dolphins despite knowing the team might still add another wide receiver this offseason -- perhaps as early as the first round of next week's NFL draft.

What would be Jennings' reaction to that kind of addition?

"My reaction would be let's go!" Jennings said laughing. "I'm here. I'm a part of what's going on and what we have set. Whoever we draft and bring to Miami, I think all of us will embrace it and try to move forward with the team goals."

Indeed, Jennings struck a chord for a team-first approach during his conference call today. That is a departure from the approach taken by former Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace, who often complained behind the scenes he wasn't getting the football enough.

That private complaining spilled over into public when Wallace took himself out of a game last year because he wasn't happy about how he was being used. Joe Philbin reacted to the rest Wallace decided to take in the second quarter of the season finale by bench Wallace the remainder of the game.

Wallace also was upset he wasn't targeted enough in his first game with the Dolphins in 2013 -- a foreshadow of what would come during the two seasons he was with the team,

Jennings, 32 in September, comes to the Dolphins with solid career credentials (552 catches in nine seasons) but says he won't bring a diva approach to targets and catches and other statistics.

"That's going to be what it's going to be," Jennings said. "My job is to come down there with the expectation of competing, not with quote-unquote my counterparts and my teammates but with myself to better who I am as a player.

"That's always been my focal point ... I'm not concerned with everyone around me when it comes to what I bring to the table. I'm confident in my abilities and my talents and what it takes to get better. So when it comes to targets and opportunity, that will all come. I just want to make sure I'm doing my job to help the team win."

That would be a switch for Miami. The proof, however, is in the doing. If Jennings can do as he says, the Dolphins traded a me-first wide receiver for a team-first wide receiver.

"I personally don't feel I have anything to prove," Jennings said. "But in this arena, you have to prove what you can do and who you are every single time you step on that field. I've been fortunate to have had a great career and it's going to get better."

April 22, 2015

Wednesday's moves give the Miami Dolphins options

Wednesday was productive for the Miami Dolphins and not just because they signed two offensive linemen for depth purposes and agreed to terms with receiver Greg Jennings to improve the wide receiver corps.

These moves upgraded the roster's talent and more importantly gave the Dolphins something they didn't have before:

The luxury of unshackling themselves from definite needs in the draft. The Dolphins will be free during next week's draft, starting with Thursday's first round, to follow alternative paths to getting where they want to go.

With Jennings in the fold once he signs his two-year, $8 million deal, the Dolphins no longer must sweat the idea of having to trade up in the first round to grab DeVante Parker or Amari Cooper or Kevin White. That was going to be a difficult move especially with Miami missing a third-round pick traded away for Kenny Stills.

Now that is no longer a must-do move.

Yes, the Dolphins can do it if the price and player and situation is right. But if not, they can sit tight and wait because they are not desperate to fill out the WR room with higher rated player. The Dolphins can instead draft a receiver in the second round, which is expected to offer talent in a deep receiver class as well, and be comfortable knowing Jennings is on board as a safety net while the young, presumably more raw receiver develops.

The Dolphins also might not feel forced compelled to reach for a receiver at No. 14 if they don't believe the available player is a solid value at the spot -- someone such as UCF's Breshad Perriman or USC's Nelson Agholor.

The Dolphins now have alternatives. Options.

The wide receiver desperation is relieved even if the need is still present.

Suddenly, in the first round, the Dolphins can address another need, such as cornerback with Michigan State's Trae Waynes if he's there. Or they can trade back and grab perhaps U-Conn's Byron Jones ... and then tackle the wide receiver issue in the second round.

There's also this:

The Dolphins, perhaps thinking Jennings along with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry are a viable set of starters, can go completely away from expectations and perhaps chase a running back -- either Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon -- when they pick at No. 14. (Yes, assuming either or both are there).

Let's face it, Lamar Miller is solid. But the longterm prospects for both these youngsters is better, especially for Gurley who is special when he's healthy.

In such a running back in the first round scenario, the team can address cornerback in the next round and wide receiver later on. Remember players such as Brandon Marshall, were not first or even second round picks. Marshall was a fourth-rounder.

And that leads me to Dorial Green-Beckham. I've been told the Dolphins are not early-round high on the kid for obvious reasons of limited tape and the domestic violence red flags. But I've been fibbed to at this time of year before. So if the 6-foot-6 receiver sitting there sometime in the third round (unlikely) of course someone could try to trade into the round to grab him.

As to the offensive line additions... I still do not think the Dolphins have two excellent starting caliber guards on the roster today. They've got a very good prospect in Billy Turner. And they've got experienced veterans in Dallas Thomas, Jeff Linkenbach, and Jacques McClendon.

(My opinion the experience these vets have is mostly in experiencing troubles on the field but my opinion doesn't matter).

The Dolphins think they've added the bodies for a competition.

"You compete, you compete to try and put the best five out there, the best seven or eight out there on game day that give you the best chance to win, to win every week in order to win a championship and that’s the ultimate goal," Linkenbach said after signing. "So you compete with yourself, you compete with your teammates, you compete with the other 31 teams. It’s a constant competition, whether it’s an official competition or if it’s with yourself. But as far as that, yeah, the coaches talk about competition, and that’s at all positions. That’s what I’m coming to do. That’s what I’m expecting, to get better every day.”

Yeah, okay.

That is apparently how the Dolphins view the guard position. And if that is true, you can easily cross that spot off the need list.

What does that mean for Miami? Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey can add talent elsewhere and feel good about themselves.

Five Miami Dolphins thoughts to ponder

A few thoughts about the Miami Dolphins for you to consider:

1. Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman is visiting on Wednesday and that seems to mean the team is doing all kinds of homework on every wide receiver possibility available and worthy of the No. 14 overall selection. The team has also visited with Louisville's DeVante Parker and USC's Nelson Agholor. Amari Cooper and Kevin White are just a dream. Indeed, as I've reported, some NFL people are convinced Parker won't be available at No. 14, either. It is all an unknown. This much is known: The Dolphins must emerge from this draft not only with a good wide receiver, but one that is ready to compete for significant playing time on Day 1. If that is not the case, if the Dolphins fail to land a young, promising, close-to-NFL-ready WR in this draft, they've failed in their grand retooling of the wide receiver room. The team blew out three experienced and productive players this offseason and so far has added only Kenny Stills to replace them. That is not enough. And a back-end free agent such as Greg Jennings or Wes Welker is not going to pick up that slack. The pressure is on Miami to address a hole of its own making.

2. I'm not buying any of these prospects coming out are going to be certain stars -- not even the ones at the top of the draft. We don't know. The NFL guys whose job is on the line over the decision do not know. Nobody knows, least of all so-called draft experts who say they know. Those are the same experts that said Tavon Austin was going to tear up the league. Those are the same guys who said Cordarrelle Patterson was the next Randy Moss. I remind you that the first four picks of the 2013 draft are all bordering on bust status now. Robert Griffin III, Justin Blackmon and Trent Richardson were prized picks in 2012. How's that turning out so far? The point is there are no sure bets. It takes a good marriage of talent (from the player) and development (from the organization) and circumstance (from sheer opportunity) for a draft pick to turn into a player. Consider this: Todd Gurley, reconstructed knee and all, is considered by many experts the best running back in this class. And so hypothetically, the Dolphins draft him at No. 14. And then, even if he's healthy enough to start the season on the roster, he gets only five carries a game early in the year. And the coaching staff becomes convinced that is his role because when they look on their practice field, they aren't seeing the explosive kid from Georgia two years out from surgery or the player Gurley was prior to surgery. They see a player working to regain his form and worthy of only a handful of carries a game. Suddenly, Gurley is a role player drafted out of a slot that is supposed to deliver an impact player. It takes more than talent for a player to succeed. It takes development, vision and the right circumstances. Which leads me to ...

3. Dion Jordan has become a resounding disappointment. The fact he was not present the first day of the Dolphins conditioning program suggests one of multiple things ... He was possibly told to stay away because the team is working to trade him, despite obvious negative cap ramifications ... He stayed away on his own because he simply does not get that he needs to be around a football atmosphere more than just about anyone on the Miami roster ... Or he stayed away for personal reasons -- again. In any case, Jordan has personally failed to muster his endless potential and turn it into production. The Dolphins coaching staff, struggling to handle players with no issues much less those with issues, has been unable to rally Jordan to a defined role and ability level. It doesn't hurt now that Miami has Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby taking snaps. But what happens next year when Wake is 34 years old and Vernon is expecting a new contract paying at or over $10 million per season, and Shelby is gone in free agency because someone gives him $4-$5 million per season? That's when the No. 3 overall pick from four years prior is supposed to be hitting his stride. That's when he's supposed to be taking over. That's when a team that had a plan and executed it with a player who produces, cycles excellent players onto free agency and replaces them with a cheaper but nonetheless excellent younger, cheaper player. That's the dividend the investment on a No. 3 overall pick in a draft is supposed to pay. Way it looks now, it probably will not pay off that way.

4. Trae Waynes. Cornerback. Just saying.

5. Just as finding a receiver who can contribute immediately is a must for the Dolphins in this draft, finding a guard is equally important. The difference is I don't know that the team agrees on that. I know they know about their WR need. But the team was giddy with excitement about the prospect of left guard Dallas Thomas and right guard Billy Turner starting at the spots when everyone spoke at the NFL annual meeting last month. I understand the need to give Turner a chance. But, again, Thomas has had his chance. And it did not work to any degree that merits any confidence he can get the job done in the future. The Dolphins desperately need a fallback plan if Thomas turns out to be, well, Thomas. The hope is the Dolphins, in this apparent guard-needy draft, can find a tackle that can move to guard relatively seamlessly and compete for playing time. Yes, I know I've preached not moving players to new positions after drafting them. But these are desperate times, in my mind. The idea of Dallas Thomas starting has done that for me. If that does not happen, the alternative is for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to get used to evading onrushing defenders because his left guard is a turnstile.

April 21, 2015

Miami Dolphins 2015 regular-season schedule here

Here is the Miami Dolphins 2015 regular-season schedule. My commentary is found further down.

Enjoy:

WK 1 Sunday, Sept. 13 -- at Washington, 1 p.m.

WK 2 Sunday, Sept. 20 -- at Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m.

WK 3 Sunday, Sept. 27 -- Buffalo Bills, 4:25 p.m.

WK 4 Sunday, Oct. 4  -- New York Jets (in London)

WK 5 Sunday-Monday Oct. 11-12  --  BYE

WK 6 Sunday Oct. 18   -- at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.

WK 7 Sunday Oct. 25  -- Houston Texans, 1 p.m.

WK 8 Thursday Oct. 29 -- at New England Patriots, 8:25 p.m.

WK 9 Sunday, November 8 -- at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

WK 10 Sunday, November 15 -- at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

WK 11 Sunday, November 22 -- Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.

WK 12 Sunday, November 29 -- at New York Jets, 1 p.m.

WK 13 Sunday, December 6 -- Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.

WK 14 Monday, December 14 -- New York Giants, 8:30 p.m.

WK 15 Sunday, December 20 -- at San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m.

WK 16 Sunday, December 27 -- Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.

WK 17 Sunday, January 3 -- New England Patriots, 1 p.m.

The Dolphins open the first two weeks on the road because, I'm told, that's what they requested to have more time to get Sun Life Stadium, undergoing renovations this summer, for the season opener.

The first 10 weeks of the NFL season, the Dolphins will be on the road for seven of them.

The Dolphins obviously play two prime time games.

The Thursday night game against the Patriots in New England will be a difficult assignment. The Patriots are very good at home and Miami not only has less time to prepare but will have to travel as well. Road teams on Thursday night traditionally do not fare well since that series was instituted.

The end of the season?

Killer.

Back-to-back home games to finish the season is a good thing. Back-to-back home games to finish the season against the Colts and Patriots -- the two teams who played for the AFC Championship in January is not a prize.

 

And then there's that three-game road trip in late October and early November at New England, at Buffalo and at Philly is not great. The only consolation there is the Dolphins will have extra time to prepare for that Bills home game after playing the Patriots on a Thursday night.

April 20, 2015

Cameron, Stills also present at Miami Dolphins offseason program

The big news today was always going to be whether Ndamukong Suh would show up for the start of the Miami Dolphins offseason conditioning program because of his history for not doing so with the Detroit Lions. And we have that answer.

Suh told the team's website he arrived for work at 5:45 a.m.

The new news is that Suh was joined today by two more recent and important additions to the roster: Tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

I am told both Cameron and Stills showed up and worked during the voluntary program.

And that's a good start for the three biggest additions to the Miami roster so far this offseason. The last thing any team needs is drama about such a mundane thing as some prominent player skipping offseason conditioning.

These three new Dolphins definitely avoided that drama today.

Mike Pouncey, the team's newly minted $45 million center, also attended today.

Ndamukong Suh present for Miami Dolphins offseason program

One of the recurring frustrations for the Detroit Lions while Ndamukong Suh was with that team was his penchant for skipping the offseason program.

He preferred to stay home and work out with a personal trainer.

His preferences have changed, apparently.

I'm told Suh is present and accounted for on the first day of the Miami Dolphins offseason program on Monday. So not only is he attending, which he rarely did in Detroit, but he's in for Day One.

Joe Philbin was previously non-committal about Suh attending when the coach was asked about at the NFL owners meetings.

“Yeah, we talked. We’ll see how things go and we’ve talked," Philbin said at the time. "He knows how important the offseason program is. We’ve had great attendance at our offseason program every year. That being said, it’s voluntary and none of the players have to be at the offseason program until the mandatory minicamp."

Yeah, voluntary.

Philbin and the Dolphins obviously wanted Suh in their facility in Davie and working with his new teammates, at least in his first offseason after signing his six-year, $114 million contract. It simply is a better look when the team's highest-paid player seems enthusiastic about the assignment of the day.

The offseason program starts with strength work. Suh doesn't need that a lot. There is no onfield work from coaches for the first two weeks.

But the program is about building team chemistry as well as muscles and endurance. And In that regard, Suh is off to a good start.

He obviously understands that first impressions matter.

 

April 17, 2015

DeVante Parker may only be a dream for Dolphins

Projections, rumors, speculation, smokescreens, and yes, lies.

That's the NFL's draft season.

And so take this for what you deem it worth (no jokes, funny boys):

In talking to multiple NFL personnel department sources, the buttlescut I keep hearing is that Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker is clearly a top 10 talent in this draft.

And Parker will not be on the board when the Miami Dolphins pick at No. 14 in the first round.

I hear that St. Louis, drafting No. 10 and needing to add talent because, well, Kenny Britt ain't it, is a strong possibility. I hear Minnesota, whose quarterback is a former Parker teammate at Louisville where the two players had great chemistry, is also a strong possibility.

This, mind you, after Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are receivers picked ahead of Cooper in the first round.

So where would that leave the receiver-needy Dolphins?

Perhaps Breshard Perriman from UCF or Sammie Coates from Auburn become more serious options.

Or ...

Take a cornerback in the first round -- such as Trae Waynes if he's available -- and then a receiver in the second round is the way to go.

Or ...

Trade down for a lower-graded talent (Coates, Ohio State's Devin Smith) and an extra pick is an option.

Or ...

Trade up to be in position to grab Parker is the way to go. This, by the way, is hard to do for a team that already yielded its third-round to New Orleans for Kenny Stills.

Or ...

Go away from the obvious needs at wide receiver and cornerback and address the guard position because Dallas Thomas really shouldn't be penciled in as anyone's starter or BAP (best available player, such as running back Todd Gurley).

The possibilities are all over the board.

And the Dolphins will have to consider all of them if, indeed, Parker is gone by the time No. 14 overall rolls around in the NFL draft.

 

 

April 15, 2015

Cameron Wake: 'Work to do before we start crowning ourselves'

The Miami Dolphins defensive line this offseason made a leap to one of the most elite units in the NFL because, well, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh joined Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, ascending youngster Olivier Vernon, and solid veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.

So yes, everyone is assuming this foursome can be fearsome in 2015.

But excuse Wake if he's not making that assumption.

"One side of my brain is jumping up and down like a little girl," Wake said Wednesday while discussing the Miami defensive line's prospects and other topics. "The other side is thinking all that is down the line. We have to get on the same page and make sure it happens that way.

"You know me, whatever can help us improve and be better overall, I'm all for," Wake added in discussing Suh. "He's going to help us, no doubt about that. But I don't count my chickens. Words don't mean anything. Big contracts don't mean anything. It's all about chemistry and trust and confidence we have in one another and the results we get on the field. When we know what's going on out there, then we can talk about what team has the best defensive line or what player is the best addition this offseason."

Wake had dinner with Suh after he signed and he's excited about the addition. But he has a message for fans or media already saying Miami's defensive line is great and habitually will be trouble for AFC East quarterbacks.

"We have a little work to do before we start crowning ourselves," Wake said.

Wake recognizes the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and the New York Jets got better this offseason, and the Buffalo Bills got better this offseason.

"For a long time, I've spoken about this [division] and how it's a bear -- which is a good word to use. We'll beat the Patriots, then Pats beat us, then we'll beat the Bills and Jets will beat us. Everybody is getting after everybody. It's always going to be a game in this division; it doesn't matter how good a team is or how bad a record it has.

"I didn't keep up with what happened in the offseason at first, but then I started looking at it and I think we've made some pretty strong moves, but you also see the other teams have signed former pro bowl players and improved as well.

"It's a strong, strong division. This season is going to be another one of those seasons where any game that is played within this division is going to be a hell of game."

It's good that Wake is looking ahead to 2015 because the finish to 2014, indeed the Dolphins finish the past two seasons, has disappointed him.

The Dolphins lost two of the final three games last season and lost their final two games in 2013. Two of those losses came against teams the Dolphins had beaten previously in the same season.

So why can't Miami finish strong ... in some games (such as Denver, Detroit and Green Bay last year) or in seasons (as in the past two)?

"If I had the answer to that question, my pay grade would be different," Wake said. "Whatever it is, not being able to pinpoint whether it happens in a game or a season or whatever, it is definitely frustrating," Wake said. "Very frustrating.

"You have the ability, you show you can do it for most of a game or a season and then you fall short. That is more frustrating to being completely out of it or not being able to compete. And then throughout the season it came down to one play or one missed tackle. To me it's always been my goal to improve upon what we've done. We have to improve on that."

Wake is 33 years old now. He is about to begin his seventh season in Miami. And that means he's feeling a good amount of urgency because he sees the window of opportunity closing eventually.

"Yeah, that would be an understatement," he said. "That feeling didn't start yesterday; it's something I felt my first few years of playing. The average NFL career is only three years and my life expectancy in the NFL is well beyond what the norm is.

"So I feel it."

The only way the Dolphins are going to be improve now that the meaty portion of free agency is over is through the draft or in an unexpected trade.

Wake is excited about the coming NFL draft and has been exchanging ideas with fans on his twitter handle (@Kold91) on the topic. He's doing this because he has teamed up with Publix and Procter and Gamble ahead of the draft to show how P&G products such as Tide, Downy and Charmin are the solution for all home needs. (If you want to participate check out the P&G Tackle Everything Sweepstakes).

For the Dolphins on-field needs, he is polling fans to see what position should be addressed at the 2015 NFL Draft.

So what does he want to see the Dolphins do in the draft?

"I'm one of those guys, to be honest, before the draft I don't pay too much attention what's going on," Wake said. "I don't count my chickens before they hatch. Whoever it is, they have to have that thing. They have to be able to jump in and make a splash, definitely work hard because we don't tolerate when a guy doesn't."

April 14, 2015

Melvin Gordon to visit Dolphins next week

Player visits make my eyes glaze over because sometimes they matter and often they don't. They are a way to fill space mostly and give you something to discuss.

But today's report from the Fort Worth Star Telegram that Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is scheduled to visit the Dolphins April 22 (a Wednesday) opens eyes.

Firstly, the fact the Dolphins are looking at a running back and, obviously a first-rounder, speaks to the idea that the team that looked the other way on the running back position during free agency is thinking about upgrading that position in the draft.

That's good because this draft is considered a good one for running backs.

Secondly, it is clear that the team is doing intense study on Gordon, and likely other running backs, because maybe, just maybe, the idea of adding a wide receiver or cornerback in the first round is a good one -- but circumstance may not allow it.

What circumstance?

Everyone knows the Dolphins like Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Kevin White and Louisville's DeVante Parker. Many also believe Cooper and White will be gone before the Dolphins pick and one scout told me this week he thinks Parker will be gone by No. 14 as well.

So what do the Dolphins do if the top three WR prospects are off the board at No. 14?

Cornerback. Maybe Michigan State's Trae Waynes. Maybe LSU's Jalen Collins.

Waynes is worthy of a No. 14 pick. The question is would Collins be worthy that high?

If he is, the Dolphins pick him. The team showed last draft with Ja'Wuan James that it has no issue picking a player in the first round most pundits don't believe is worthy of a first-round pick.

But to gauge that, to make that decision, the Dolphins would have to weigh a Collins versus other players equal or perhaps more worthy of that pick. They would have to weigh players at other positions worthy of that pick to see if they are more worthy, thus offering more value.

Thus ...

Melvin Gordon's visit.