August 11, 2014

Rex Grossman, other QBs to audition for Dolphins

The Dolphins are auditioning several quarterbacks on Monday and former Florida Gators quarterback Rex Grossman will be one of those, agent Drew Rosenhaus said on WSVN-7 in South Florida Sunday evening.

The idea that the Dolphins need quarterback help goes beyond the fact the team released Brock Jensen, the fifth quarterback on the roster, on Sunday.

It goes to the idea that behind Ryan Tannehill everyone else is either nursing some physical ailment or dealing with a significant lack of ability.

Matt Moore has missed much of practice for most of the past five days -- including Friday's preseason game at Atlanta -- because he's had a sore throwing shoulder. Moore did throw more in practice on Sunday but is still not 100 percent.

Third-stringer Pat Devlin hasn't competed since the team scrimmage Aug. 2. He has a hamstring injury. And there is this:

Although Devlin is a favorite of coach Joe Philbin, the shine on him is starting to fade because, frankly, he shows no signs of challenging Moore for backup status entering his fourth season, and the idea of keeping only two quarterbacks on the roster has to be considered because the Dolphins have more talent at other positions that might be worthy of a roster spot ahead of Devlin.

Seth Lobato? He got three quarters of work against Atlanta in the preseason game and although he wasn't terrible, the fumbled shotgun snap in the Atlanta red zone late in the game was disappointing to coaches. The Dolphins also did not score a TD while Lobato was in the game.

His days on the roster seem numbered.

So the Dolphins are looking to add a live arm in camp that perhaps might increase the competition in the quarterback room. Grossman, who turns 34 later this month, might be that player.

He has played nine years and thrown 63 TDs and 60 interceptions in 54 games (with 47 starts). He was the starting quarterback when the Chicago Bears went to the Super Bowl in 2006.

By the way, am I advocating signing Grossman?

No. I'm advocating looking around for possible answers. Turn over rocks. Look for possibilities.

And here it is: I wish the Dolphins would work out Tim Tebow. He's been working out and working with a quarterback coach. He does have NFL experience. He did help take the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 and was 7-4 as a starter and even won a playoff game against Pittsburgh.

Is Tebow a great prospect?

No, but he's more accomplished than either Pat Devlin or Seth Lobato.

So why not?

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The team signed running back Cameron Marshall to take Jensen's roster spot.

Daniel Thomas, nursing a hamstring, continues to miss practice. The Dolphins announced that Jason Fox (chest), Mike Gillislee (hamstring) and Micajah Reynolds (knee) would miss extended practice time.

Tight end Michael Egnew (concussion) returned to practice today.

 

August 10, 2014

Dolphins tweak Tannehill's technique

When Bill Lazor came to the Dolphins with a reputation as something of a quarterback whisperer everyone knew change was coming for Ryan Tannehill. But the degree of the fundamental nature of that change is starting to become clear.

Lazor tweaked Tannehill's footwork. That is supposed to improve accuracy.

"We just taught him how we want it to be. We explained it to him," Lazor said. "We gave him some drills on how to get it. And he worked his butt off, he's working his butt off to get it right.

"There were just certain fundamentals as with any position that we feel is the best way to do it. That's the way we're leading them. No one's perfect. PGA golfers have swing coaches and they're making money and are not done yet. It's just a matter of coaching. We're coaches. We have a great love for what we do and the fundamentals of the game and to try to make guys the best they can be. That's what we're doing with Ryan. For his part and all the quarterbacks here, they're buying in and working hard."

Well, Tannehill was 6 of 6 and led the Dolphins on a touchdown drive in the preseason opener Friday against Atlanta. So has he arrived?

"There is no 'I got it,' '" Lazor said. "Never.

""I thought he had 10 good plays. I thought he showed command. I thought he was very decisive on the field. The ball came out of his hand on time with all of them. He has a really good grasp of what we're doing. My job is to push him. I've got to make it very hard for him out here on the practice field. I heard a rumor that some people reported we've made it hard to him on the field. That's on purpose. That's how you build a quarterback and he's coming."

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The Dolphinzs returned to the practice field Sunday for a relatively light two hour practice. There were no 11 on 11 drills.

Cornerback Cortland Finegan was not present after posting on Instagram of a death in his family. Defensive tackle A.J. Fancis did not practice because he has a left knee injury and will miss multiple days.

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Running backs are dropping like flys for the Dolphins.

Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and Damien Williams (unreported injury) did not practice Sunday. And halfway through the practice, Mike Gillislee suffered some sort of knee injury. Gillislee stayed on the sideline with his left knee wrapped until the end of the drills.

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Jason Fox, who has been working as a backup left tackle, left practice accompanied by trainers.

The depth at left tackle is suspect already. Any significant injury to Fox would likely force the team move Nate Garner back to backup LT.

August 08, 2014

Reshad Jones suspended four games

Add another Dolphins player about to serve a four-game regular-season suspension for violating the NFL's performance enhancing substance policy.

Reshad Jones will miss the first four games of the regular season while serving the suspension, the Dolphins and NFL announced today.

“The NFL recently informed me that I tested positive for a substance that is banned under the NFL performance enhancing substances policy. I worked closely with the union to investigate what happened, and I learned that a supplement I took caused the positive test. I deeply regret not investigating the supplement carefully before I took it, and I will never again take a supplement without having it checked.  I am very sorry for the effect of my mistake on my teammates and coaches.  I apologize to them, Stephen Ross, the Dolphins organization and fans.  During the time away from the team, I will maintain an intense training program so that I can help my team as soon as I return."

Jones will be eligible to return to the Dolphins’ active roster on Monday, September 29, following the team's September 28 game against the Oakland Raiders. Jones is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games, including tonight in Atlanta.

“I was very disappointed when we found out about Reshad’s suspension," head coach Joe Philbin said. "When we talked to him, Reshad pledged to learn from this situation. Our secondary as a unit, including Reshad, has performed well this offseason and I have complete confidence in the group as we progress through training camp and into the regular season."

Jimmy Wilson, who has played approximately 600 snaps last season and is a coach favorite at both safety and nickel, is a likely replacement for Jones in the secondary early in the season.

 

Dolphins hire Mike Tannenbaum as a consultant

Remember this list of names of people who you must keep in mind for roles within the Dolphins organization? The list was published by me months ago and included Mike Tannenbaum.

Well, today that was the most recognizable and eye-catching name the surfaced in a release naming several new people to posts within the organization.

The release by the Dolphins said Tannenbaum is now serving as a "consultant."

According to the Dolphins, Tannenbaum, an agent for Priority Sports and Entertainment and a former New York Jets general manager, "will consult with the Dolphins on a variety of projects involving innovation, analytics and sports science. He will continue in his role at Priority Sports and Entertainment."

Prior to joining Priority, he spent 16 seasons (1997-2012) in various roles for the New York Jets, including his final seven years (2006-12) as the team’s executive vice president and general manager. Tannenbaum began his tenure in New York as director of player contracts in 1997 and was promoted to assistant general manager and director of pro personnel in 2001. In 2004, he was elevated to the role of assistant general manager and senior vice president of football operations before taking on the role of general manager prior to the 2006 season. Tannenbaum began his career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints in 1994 before accepting the position of player personnel assistant with the Cleveland Browns in 1995. He returned to the Saints for the 1996 season as a player personnel assistant prior to joining the Jets in 1997. A native of Needham, Mass., Tannenbaum received a degree in accounting from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and graduated cum laude from Tulane University Law School, where he earned his certificate in sports law.

August 07, 2014

Dolphins intend to be tougher team in 2014

The Dolphins want a new attitude in 2014.

This team wants to be tough. This team wants to be physical. This team wants to get as far from finesse as it is possible to make that transition from one year to the next.

And this team is serious about the transition.

The offseason brought multiple changes that signaled this change. The addition of Louis Delmas at safety replacing Chris Clemons? Well, Delmas is a downhill tackler who's reputation is that he hits so hard, sometimes he injures himself ... or his own teammates.

The change of Koa Misi to middle linebacker? Misi is not known for making the dynamic play. He's not a fumble-causing machine. He doesn't collect interceptions like stamps. But he is tough. He doesn't back down. He sticks his nose in a fight. And now he's in the middle of all the action.

The Cortland Finnegan addition replacing Nolan Carroll? Whatever you think of Finnegan's ability to cover downfield -- the past couple of years his skills have seemed to be diminishing -- his toughness has always been one of his greatest assests.

He's a fighter.

No, really ...

 

Carroll was one of my favorite guys for his thoughtfulness and work ethic and desire to milk every last ounce of ability and leave it on the field. But he wasn't overly physical. He didn't carry the proverbial chip on his shoulder.

So that's three changes on defense where the Dolphins believe they may be improved this year -- but also be tougher.

On offense the move to toughness is everywhere.

Joe Philbin brought in John Benton from Houston to be the line coach. And Benton brought in a running game scheme that features cut blocking, which defenders don't love.

"I just like what we’re doing on the scheme," said left guard Daryn Colledge. "I like what our running backs are doing in practice. I mean we play against the defense right now that knows exactly what we’re doing every single day and they’re seeing it over and over again, and we’re still able to find a way to run the ball a little bit.

"So we get out against some teams and spread them out and get a chance to start cutting some guys on the back side and really start opening some of those holes up and we’ve got some chances.  Plus, you’ve got 17 (Ryan Tannehill) back there, that guy can move a little bit, he’s going to give us an opportunity on the back side. He’s going to hold some of those linebackers for us."

Oh yeah, remember last year offensive coordinator Mike Sherman didn't want Ryan Tannehill running too much? This while Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and others were churning yards on the ground both when plays broke down and by design?

Well, this year new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor seems to be more willing and indeed eager to have Tannehill stretch his legs.

Run, Ryan, run!

That's a change in attitude in that it does not fear injury to the quarterback. It turns him into a threat, a playmaker with his feet.

Last year, by the way, the Dolphins were a sad, sad bunch on third and short.

This year, coaches are demanding that players understand that third-and-short of fourth-and-short must belong to the offensive line ... and the running backs.

This team will not be passing on third-and-one at a 75 percent clip like last year's team did. Indeed, coaches have made it very clear to players that they better get their minds right and start thinking about pushing the defense back on third-and-one run plays.

Physical.

That's what the 2014 Dolphins want to be.

Will they be that?

No idea.

Look, a lot of teams want to be a lot of things and then games happen and suddenly things change. I have no idea if this offensive line or running back corps is physical enough to dominate the line of scrimmage on third and one.

I don't know that we'll be focused on how physical Finnegan and Delmas are in the secondary if they're letting receivers get behind them and bombs are blowing the top off the defense.

But I do know the intent for being a tougher team is there. The signs for it are everywhere.

 

August 06, 2014

Knowshon Moreno off PUP, ready to roll

Running back Knowshon Moreno, who missed the first two and half weeks of training camp while on the physically unable to perform list, has passed his physical and is now active and ready to work.

Moreno, 27, immediately joins a running back competition that so far has been dominated by Lamar Miller, who has taken nearly 80 percent of the snaps with the first-team offense.

Moreno is expected to compete for the starting job but more likely will share the position and get much if not most of his time as the team's third down back -- a spot that takes advantage of his prowess as a blocker. Moreno is practicing today but he is highly unlikely to play Friday evening when the Dolphins open their preseason at Atlanta.

The timing of Moreno's return is good for the Dolphins because running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring) has been out the past two days, including today.

Other injuries the Dolphins continue to monitor include quarterbacks Matt Moore (shoulder) and Pat Devlin (hamstring) are not working much today. Devlin is totally out of practice and Moore is dressed out but not throwing.

Charles Clay (knee) is still out.

Olivier Vernon returned to practice today. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are practicing.

Dolphins trying to put sports science to work

Yes, the Dolphins are trying new things these days.

Coach Joe Philbin agreed and owner Stephen Ross paid for the cost of turning the swimming pool at the team's training facility into a giant cold tub so players could use the thing and, in theory, recover from workouts more quickly.

Philbin has cut down on the amount of time the team meets daily "a little bit," he told me.

He's going to release the veterans from their rooms at the team hotel earlier than he did during his previous two training camps.

All of this stuff is meant to maximize players. It's meant to make it easier for them to succeed.

It is tangible stuff. And then there's this:

As I write in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are turning to technology in the effort to cut down on injuries, perhaps some day be able to be able to forecast the likelihood of injuries, and ultimately to win more.

Read the column and find out how many other NFL teams are doing this kind of sports science stuff these days.

"It provides us information on what guys are doing in practice," said head strength coach Darren Krein. "It gives us an in depth understanding of how one player can be doing a lot more in practice compared to another player based on how they run, based on what they’re asked to do in practice compared to what another guy is asked to do in practice – for example if one guy is on special teams and another guy is not on special teams obviously their practice is going to be different.

"If it’s a third-team guy or a starter it can be a different outcome for them. As coaches sometimes you realize that but you don’t get a full understanding until this sort of tracking device goes on them that tells us exactly what is taking place in practice.”

Consider this: Training camp is a time players push themselves to their physical limits because they are competing, indeed, fighting for jobs. And being able to stay in the competition is key.

So some players may be motivated to not speak up when they are slowed by some sort of minor injury. Well the GPS devices that monitor the Dolphins now can tell Krein and assistant strength coach Dave Puloka a baseline on each player's load and other critical readings in a typical practice.

Suddenly a player goes outside his norm and regardless of whether the player speaks up or not, the Dolphins are aware something has changed in his body.

“If a guy’s got a certain pattern the unit is showing you on a daily basis and then he’s got a day where his player load is way up there and he’s doing the same thing, that would be an indication something is wrong," Krein said.

Look, coaching is part science and also part art form.

The Dolphins are trying to gain an advantage in the science.

It cannot hurt. And maybe it can help.

August 05, 2014

Can offense become part of Tannehill DNA quickly?

Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions in practice on Monday and followed that with three more interceptions on Tuesday.

"It's a combination of a bunch of stuff," the Dolphins starting quarterback said in explaning the issues. "Some throws we're trying to make in practice to see if we want to move on with them during the season. We have other answers on the plays, but the coaching staff wants to look at some throws against different coverages and see if we can complete them. I think we've come to the conclusion we're going to move on to another route."

An alarmist would have you fretting about these practice miscues, but I'm not too worried about it at this point. I am more interested with the rate at which Tannehill is making this offense his own.

Great quarterback play, you see, is as much art as science. It's not just knowing the play and carrying it out with proper execution. It is also about doing it with a certain instinct and pace and fluidity. Great QB play is almost rhythmic.

And the only way to have that rhythm is to have a great familiarity with what one is doing.

Now, Tannehill had familiarity with Mike Sherman's offense because he was in it five seasons. It didn't work for other reasons having nothing to do with it being part of Tannehill's DNA.

"It takes a couple of years to not even have a second of hesitation," Tannehill said. "I'm starting to get with it on a lot of our plays on this offense but we just finished our install today. It's going to be a few weeks at least before those plays are second [nature]. Obviously we're spending more time than in college studying and watching tape so it should happen a lot faster. But like I said, we just finished our install today and it should be a couple of weeks before it's second nature."

Tannehill is optimistic based on the fact, he says, that plays on which he hesitated early in camp require no hesitation on his part now.

"Definitely, definitely," he said. "I had a couple of plays today where I reacted just a half-second late. And as soon as it's over, I knew. You don't have to get coached up. You just know. And I can think back the first couple of practices where I had those plays and that happened, when those situations came up again, it didn't happen. These new plays we're going over, same thing, it won't happen again."

I'm frankly dubious about Tannehill's timetable. It simply would be superhuman for him to become one with this new offensive system to the point it's second nature. That could take a couple of years, I think.

The thing is the Dolphins don't have a couple of years. They need Tannehill to be good now, this year.

And the assignment gets more difficult: The team is not only asking Tannehill to learn and master this new offense, it is asking him to improve his decision making. And the Dolphins are defining decision making as better judgment on where he throws the ball and quicker reaction time as to when he throws it.

Neither of those is easy when the offense is not yet part of the quarterback's DNA. Hesitiation is almost to be expected in a new system and yet the Dolphins are demanding no hesitation.

Tough assignment.

Tuesday morning injury report here

The Dolphins got expected news today when players who left practice early due to injuries on Monday were held out today.

Tight end Michael Egnew, who suffered a concussion on Monday as first reported here, is not practicing today and is expected to miss multiple days. Also missing multiple days will be defensive end Olivier Vernon (back) and running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring. Tight end Harold Hoskins (hamstring)is also out for multiple practices.

Nate Garner who bruised his forearm in practice on Monday is working today.

By the way, Samason Satele, who joined the team over the weekend, is practicing today.

August 04, 2014

First depth chart of preseason here

The Dolphins, like every other NFL team, must release a depth chart before each game. The team opens the preseason on Friday at Atlanta.

And here's the depth chart:

OFFENSE

WR 82 Brian Hartline, 1 Damian Williams, 15 Kevin Cone, 81 Stephen Williams, 16 Raymond Webber

LT 71 Branden Albert ,75 Nate Garner, 63 Steven Baker

LG 67 Daryn Colledge 64 Shelley Smith

C 51 Mike Pouncey 65 Sam Brenner 69 Samson Satele 61 Tyler Larsen

RG 70 Dallas Thomas 77 Billy Turner 66 David Arkin

RT 72 Ja’Wuan James 74 Jason Fox 60 Tony Hills 62 Evan Finkenberg

TE 42 Charles Clay 80 Dion Sims 84 Michael Egnew 86 Kyle Miller

88 Arthur Lynch 89 Harold Hoskins

WR 11 Mike Wallace 18 Rishard Matthews 19 Armon Binns 87 Ryan Spadola

83 Matt Hazel

QB 17 Ryan Tannehill 8 Matt Moore 7 Pat Devlin 4 Seth Lobato

6 Brock Jensen

RB 26 Lamar Miller 33 Daniel Thomas 23 Mike Gillislee 28 Knowshon Moreno 5 Damien Williams 3 Orleans Darkwa

WR 10 Brandon Gibson 14 Jarvis Landry 34 Marcus Thigpen

DEFENSE

LE 91 Cameron Wake 79 Derrick Shelby 48 D’Aundre Reed 46 Tevin Mims

DT 94 Randy Starks/98 Jared Odrick 76 Anthony Johnson 68 Garrison Smith

DT 90 Earl Mitchell 96 A.J. Francis 97 Issako Aaitui 73 Kamal Johnson

49 Micajah Reynolds

RE 50 Olivier Vernon 95 Dion Jordan 78 Terrence Fede

LB 52 Philip Wheeler 56 Jonathan Freeny 47 Chris McCain

LB 55 Koa Misi 93 Jason Trusnik 45 Andrew Wilson

LB 59 Dannell Ellerbe 53 Jelani Jenkins 57 Jordan Tripp 43 Ryan Rau

CB 21 Brent Grimes 22 Jamar Taylor 35 Walt Aikens 37 Kevin Fogg

CB 24 Cortland Finnegan 29 Will Davis 30 Jalil Brown 38 Steven Clarke

S 25 Louis Delmas 27 Jimmy Wilson 31 Michael Thomas 41 Demetrius Wright

S 20 Reshad Jones 36 Don Jones 44 Jordan Kovacs

SPECIALISTS

P 2 Brandon Fields

K 9 Caleb Sturgis

KO 9 Caleb Sturgis

H 2 Brandon Fields

KOR 34 Marcus Thigpen

PR 34 Marcus Thigpen

LS 92 John Denney

Satele getting up to speed, Tannehill off target, injuries

Samson Satele said today he should be ready to play in preseason opener Friday.

"It's not my first rodeo," said Satele, who spent most of the day Saturday and all day Sunday trying to get up to speed on the Dolphins offense.

Satele said he likes the idea of joining the Dolphins and "getting a chance to start a couple of games before the big boy (injured starting center Mike Pouncey) comes back."

Pouncey, rehabilitating from hip surgery, is expected to miss between 3-7 games for the Dolphins, depending on the speed of his rehabilitation. It's going well now but the Dolphins will have a better idea by the end of this month how long it is truly expected to take.

Satele at worst adds depth and also offers consistency snapping the football. He said today he doesn't remember the last time he hiked a bad snap. The Dolphins, by comparison, had bad snaps routinely the first few days of training camp.

Interestingly, Sam Brenner got most of the first-team center snaps in practice today. But it won't be long before it's Satele.

Today was an interesting practice -- but not necessarily for Ryan Tannehill.

He threw three interceptions -- with two coming in seven-on-seven work.

The interceptions went to Reshad Jones and Cortland Finnegan in the seven-on-seven drills and Will Davis during the team period.

In the running game, Mike Gillislee continues to impress me. He is showing instincts and tough running and a bit of quickness that clearly were not obvious last year.

The defense is working on a lot of zone blitzes this year and some other intriguing looks that I prefer not to reveal yet as I see no need to alert Miami opponents. (Let them send spies to practice if they wish.)

The Dolphins are nursing some injuries and suffered some during practice today -- including to TE Michael Egnew (concussion test), OL Nate Garner (right lower arm/wrist), tight end Harold Hoskins (hamstring) and DE Olivier Vernon (back) who left practice early. For a complete rundown on the injury situation go here.

The tight end situation is interesting ... Clay is down, Hoskins is slowed, Egnew is seeing stars, and rookie Arthur Lynch is not yet competing full in practice.

With only Dion Sims and Kyle Miller completely healthy, the Dolphins may have to bring in a TE.

Injury update (some good, some not)

The Dolphins are back on the practice field this morning ... well, at least some of them.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis is dealing with a groin injury and will miss multiple practices. The Dolphins are going without a kicker in practice today and may or may not sign a kicker during the week. The injury is not serious, however, and I would not be surprised if Sturgis is the kicker on Friday evening against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener.

Tight end Charles Clay (knee), quarterback Pat Devlin (hamstring), cornerback Jalil Brown (knee) and wide receiver Stephen Williams (ankle) are also out today and are expected to miss multiple practices and perhaps the preseason opener.

On the bright side for the team, receiver Mike Wallace, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, is back at practice today at least on a limited basis.

Backup quarterback Matt Moore, who also missed multiple practices and the scrimmage with a sore right shoulder, is also back at practice today at least on a limited basis.

During the early part of today's practice, newly signed Samson Satele was taking second-team snaps at center while Sam Brenner was getting first-team work at center.

Nate Garner, who spent time at center with the starters last week, is back at tackle today.

[Update: Satele is now getting first team work at center. That was quick.]

[Update: Both tight end Michael Egnew and defensive end Olivier Vernon left the field with trainers. Obviously attending to medical issues. Dion Jordan replaced Vernon with the first-team defense.]

[Update: Egnew is being tested for concussion symptoms.]

August 03, 2014

Good stuff happening, some insights on Dolphins here

If you weren't aware or around last week, I made the point that the numbers of bad center snaps in practice were getting ridiculous. And Saturday the Dolphins addressed that by signing Samson Satele.

Good work by general manager Dennis Hickey -- seeing the problem and doing whatever he could to address it rather than letting it fester.

I also want to offer a round of applause for the Dolphins' new approach to rookie hazing following last year's embarrassing harassment scandal.

Read my my column to find out what that policy is.

Also, I tell you the most impressive newcomer on the team so far ...

The most disappointing newcomer on the team ...

What would be fair to expect from Ryan Tannehill in his first year in Bill Lazor's offense ...

I tell you what significant loss running back Daneil Thomas suffered in the offseason that may affect his status on the team ...

And I dive into the dynamic of using Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno this season.

Please check it all out.

 

August 02, 2014

Dolphins sign center Samson Satele

 The Miami Dolphins have signed free agent center Samson Satele, according to a source.

The addition of Satele, who has played for the Dolphins in 2007-2008, Oakland (2008-11)and the Indianapolis Colts most recently, will help address the troubling center snap issue the team has seen in practice the first seven practices of training camp.

Adding Satele will create competition at center and also improve depth.

The Dolphins opened training camp with Shelley Smith as their starting center but he struggled with his snaps. Smith, a guard throughout his NFL career, has never played center professionally.

The team then switched to Nate Garner working with the starting offensive line. And although Garner has been an upgrade over Smith, he also has had troubling moments at center.

Satele is a natural center. Although he was not outstanding (or even above average) for the Colts at center in 2013, he has few troubles with line calls or snaps.

The Dolphins waived offensive lineman Samuel Longo to make room for Satele on the roster.

The Dolphins' search for a proficient center is due largely to the fact starter Mike Pouncey is rehabilitating from hip surgery and could miss games into October.

 

Live Blog: Dolphins scrimmage 2014

It has been a while since we've talked, right?

Well as the Dolphins are going to invest 120 or so plays in a live scrimmage this morning at Sun Life Stadium, I am going to use that as a forum for letting you converse with me in a .... wait for it ... live blog.

I'll be in the comments section below giving you play by play of today's activities which begin at 9:30.

You can follow along, as the scrimmage is not televised or otherwise broadcast. And I will also be available to answer questions, concerns and otherwise accept your kudos for the great work I've been doing.

See you at 9:30 ....

August 01, 2014

Three more Dolphins backups out with injuries

The Dolphins are managing the injuries of a handful of players that will be missing Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium and practice time next week.

Backup quarterback Matt Moore is managing a sore right (throwing) shoulder and will miss multiple practices in the coming days. Wide receiver Matt Hazel, who left practice after falling hard when he was hit by DB Chris McCain, has a concussion and he will miss multiple practices and days.

And linebacker Tariq Edwards, who has been out a couple of days already, will miss more time as he deals with a knee issue.

Those three players are in addition to Mike Wallace (knee) and Sam Brenner (ankle) who also are not scrimmaging on Saturday and are expected to miss time beyond that.

July 31, 2014

Bad center snaps are getting ridiculous

What is Joe Philbin's pain threshold? What is John Benton's pain threshold?

The question matters because as the Dolphins finished their sixth day of training camp practice Thursday, the head coach and offensive line coach no doubt saw the two more bad snaps from their starting center.

The past five practices it was Shelley Smith, who has never played center in an NFL game, firing ground balls or high pitches to quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Midway through Wednesday's practice the Dolphins let Nate Garner start handling the starting center job. And today he misfired on two bad snaps -- rolling one and then sending another over
Tannehill's head.

The Dolphins have not had a practice in which bad snaps have not been a problem. It's seemingly a theme.

Having covered this team since Don Shula was coach, I have never, ever seen so many bad snaps in training camp -- be it the start of camp or not.

The problem is so acute that today the team tried guard David Arkin a little bit at center. "Rolling the dice," Philbin said.

And I'm thinking, is this the NFL? Is this professional football team unable to get somebody -- anybody -- to go through even one practice without flubbing a snap?

In practice!

That's not Paul Soliai (preseason game 1), Vince Wilfork (regular season opener) or Kyle Williams (second game of the regular season) leaning on Miami's centers in anger out there. This is practice.

Practice.

"I'm confident we can get it fixed," Philbin said. "Football, you can't win with the ball on the ground. But I'm confident we can get it fixed. I believe those guys stayed out after practice again. We do devote a portion of our walk-thru just to the quarterback-center exchange. It's the first thing we do on the field. But we have to get it corrected. I can stand here and talk about it but you have the same set of eyes as I do. We still see the ball on the ground too much."

So when is too much ... too much?

The Dolphins will be without starting center Mike Pouncey for the start of the season and perhaps as long as seven games. How much longer are they going to let failure to do the most fundamental function a center must perform to continue to be a problem before they actually address the issue?

Benton suggested recently that the first preseason game will go a good distance toward telling him how good (or bad?) this offensive line is. So the Dolphins might wait to see how their group of centers-in-the-making play in that Aug. 8 game before making a decision to go outside the organization.

That feels like they're waiting too long.

Samson Satele is out there. Unsigned. Available. Healthy by latest accounts.

Is he a great NFL center? Anyone familiar with his first stint with the Dolphins or his time as a starter with Oakland or Indianapolis knows he is not a great center. He's not a great blocker. He's not overly strong or quick. He's functional at best. 

But functional is an upgrade right now for that position in Miami.

Functional means the snap will get to the quarterback's hands when he expects it and suddenly you are not offering up a blooper reel moment to your practice tape.

The Dolphins brought Satele in for a workout last month. They did not sign him but are keeping him in mind. They want to see how the talent they have on the roster performs before making that call.

Me?

I've seen enough. Make the call. Handle the obvious problem. Get Satele up to speed on the offensive system sooner rather than later when it may be too late and could actually affect the regular season. If Smith or Garner or some other roll of the dice corrects the problem then simply get rid of Satele during the round of cuts.

The signing doesn't have to be a marriage.

But have a backup plan. Get a guy who can actually snap the ball.

Something so fundamental cannot be that difficult.

Wallace (hamstring) to miss scrimmage Saturday

Mike Wallace, nursing a sore hamstring, missed his second day of practice at Dolphins camp today and will likely be out past Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium.

Wallace will not play in that scrimmage and his status will be revisited next week to determine his status for the preseason opener against Atlanta a week from tomorrow.

This is not a serious injury. But it obviously slows the growth of Wallace's and quarterback Ryan Tannehill's ability to team up on dynamic long passes. The duo was unable to find a chemistry to offer many of those last season and the subject -- a focus in this training camp -- still has not been resolved.

Backup center Sam Brenner, nursing an ankle injury, also missed practice for the second day today. He is doubtful for the scrimmage but is expected to be back to practice next week if he cannot compete in the scrimmage.

July 30, 2014

Sturgis competing against kickers not in camp

Darren Rizzi spent a few minutes talking about the grand level of competition on his special teams this year -- "more competition than I've probably had in any of my six years here," he said -- and, suddenly, it dawned on me that at perhaps the most important spots there really seems to be no competition at all.

Let's face it, punter Brandon Fields has no competitor in camp. Long snapper John Denney has no competitor in camp -- other than some backups that are working at long snapping.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis has no competitor in training camp.

And while the lack of competition for the first two is totally understandable because Fields and Denney are at or near the top of their games among NFL peers, there's Sturgis.

As a rookie in 2013 he was not at the top of his game. His 76.5 percent success rate on field goals was 29th best in the NFL. Sturgis missed eight of his 34 attempts, including four from 30-49 yards. From 50-plus yards, Sturgis was not very good at all, connecting on only 3-of-7.

By comparison, Dan Carpenter, who was cut in training camp, connected on 4-of-6 from 50-plus yards and was 16-of-17 from 30-49 yards.

So Sturgis seems like he could probably use some competition because, well, isn't that what Rizzi is preaching?

Well, it seems Sturgis does have competition, according to the Dolphins special team coordinator.

"I think the specialist is kind of a different deal," Rizzi said. "There's always competition there. It just may not be in the building. There's competition around the league. We're always evaluating the specialist's position.

"That's a fluid situation. Although we may not have anyone here, it's always a fluid situation. We may not have a body here in camp doing it, but ... I will say this, I have a lot of confidence in Caleb Sturgis. He's a quality player. But a specialist is a little different than everywhere else. It really is.

"You don't necessarily have to have a body in camp for those guys to feel pressure."

I think what Rizzi is saying is if Sturgis struggles, GM Dennis Hickey will be calling available kickers.

Sturgis had a drought midway through the '13 season in which he missed four of five field goals. Rizzi noted the rookie was good early in the year and good late in the year but the lull in the middle made for a "roller coaster ride" that is not satisfactory.

"You have to be more consistent and he knows that," Rizzi said. "You go out there for one play and you have to get it down, bottom line."

To make the point, Rizzi said he's not asking Sturgis to kick a series of field goals in practice this year. Indeed, the kicker is getting one chance to make his kicks and he either does or does not perform -- much the same way it happens in a game.

"It's make or miss," Rizzi said. "You don't get a second chance."

I think it is time to pay attention to Caleb Sturgis's attempts in camp from this point forward. Because he's got a ton of guys around the NFL who apparently are competing with him.

  

More competition than I've probably had in any of my six years here,"

Coyle: Defense has 'chance to do something special'

The Dolphins offense has a new coordinator, a new scheme, a new offensive line. It's a great day when there isn't a botched snap in practice -- and so far there has not been a practice day when there hasn't been at least one botched snap.

So with the division rival New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills the first two teams on regular-season schedule one might hope the Dolphins' defense can carry the day while the offense gets acclimated to 2014.

And that's fine because the defense apparently is ready for that assignment.

"We like the challenge," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Wednesday. "We like the challenge of having a veteran group of guys who feel they can be among the league's top defenses. And if we execute we feel we can do that."

While the Miami offense is experimenting and shuffling players -- On Wednesday Nate Garner moved to starting center for part of practice, Dallas Thomas worked some at tackle and Billy Turner took first-team snaps at right guard -- the defense seems relatively set.

The starting unit in most every practice so far:

LE: Cameron Wake

DT: Earl Mitchell

DT: Randy Starks

RE: Olivier Vernon

WLB: Dannell Ellerbe

MLB: Koa Misi

SLB: Phillip Wheeler

CB: Cortland Finnegan

CB: Brent Grimes

S: Louis Delmas

S: Reshad Jones

Even Jimmy Wilson, who is competing at safety, is seemingly set as the starting nickel back.

A competition may develop at safety (Wilson/Delmas) or DT (Jared Odrick/Mitchell) or perhaps at CB (Jamar Taylor/Cortland Finnegan), but the above seems to be the group right now.

This group is building their core scheme that "we believe in," Coyle said, and trying to use players' strengths within the scheme.

"The core of what we do is in place," Coyle said.

So this group is simply refining rather than their offensive teammates who are defining.

And it shows on the field. Today, for example the last two plays of the team team period in practice, Cameron Wake had a sack and that was followed by a Cortland Finnegan interception.

"My instincts tell me the defense had the upper hand," coach Joe Philbin said of the entire practice in which the two-minute offense and defense was stressed.

As it should be. This defense should dominate the offense, particularly at this stage in training camp. But for that dominance to carry into the regular-season against opposing teams, Coyle realizes some things have to improve.

"Being more consistent in the run game and turnover issues," Coyle said. "If we can do that, we'll put ourselves in position to be difficult to move the ball against.

"If we keep building it, we have a chance to do something special."