December 16, 2015

Logan Thomas promoted to active roster

The Miami Dolphins obviously liked Logan Thomas when they claimed him after the Arizona Cardinals waived him and then later signed him to their practice squad a couple of months ago. Now they apparently like him a lot more.

The team today promoted Thomas to the active roster from the practice squad.

So what does this mean?

It is possible the team was simply protecting Thomas against being poached by another NFL team. Practice squad players are able to sign with other teams' 53-man rosters at any time.

Or perhaps this means more ... No, Thomas is unlikely to be replacing Ryan Tannehill, folks, so relax.

But with practices closed, it is possible Thomas has been so good running the scout team that maybe the Dolphins want to see what he's capable of doing in a game as a way of seeing what he can do as a backup option? Perhaps the Dolphins are planning for a time when Matt Moore, who is unsigned for next year, is no longer a backup option.

 [Update: I have confirmed Thomas was going to be poached. So the Dolphins were protecting their investment in the player by adding him to the roster. The club cut Jeff Linkenbach to make room for Thomas.]

Jimmy Wilson a fallback rental at safety?

We are aware the Dolphins suddenly have issues with their secondary, right?

What was expected to be a team strength this year has become anything but as Louis Delmas was lost for the season in the preseason. Then Walt Aikens, the No. 3 safety, showed he's not ready to be the No. 2 safety. Then Michael Thomas, the No. 4 safety, has lately been showing he's not ready to the No. 2 safety, particularly after a game in which he gave up two touchdown passes against the New York Giants.

Then Brent Grimes suddenly has lost a step or his explosion or something that suggests he's no longer the elite cornerback he was in 2013.

About the only player in the secondary who has played consistently well and made any sort of impact has been safety Reshad Jones. Unfortunately for the Dolphins most teams need two safeties rather than just one good one.

So, add the secondary among the multiple areas the Dolphins need to upgrade going forward.

That upgrade will happen in the offseason. Wrong phrasing. That upgrade will be attempted in the offseason.

But the Dolphins have a short-term opportunity to address the issue now. You see, the San Diego Chargers released safety Jimmy Wilson on Tuesday. And he can be claimed by any team with interest. And as he knows most of the Miami defense, hey, why not?

I know: Jimmy Wilson misses  tackles. He's not a star.

You should know I didn't say he's longterm answer. He'd be a three-week rental basically and after the season the Dolphins could cut him and not owe him his 2016 contract or absorb any serious salary cap hit.

It sounds like a reach.

But Walt Aikens wasn't? Shamiel Gary isn't? Michael Thomas?

On another matter, the Dolphins will be practicing Wednesday. The team is hopeful right tackle Ja'Wuan James will be able to work, at least on a limited basis, for the first time since injuring his toe Oct. 29.

That does not mean James will be able to play against the Chargers. This is a step-by-step process with this toe. Ba-dum.

But it is progress.

 

December 15, 2015

Campbell's going to fight on; Miller miscommunication; Taylor to be disappeared barring injuries; Tony Lippett time

 I shared with you this morning that the Monday night loss to the New York Giants hurt Dan Campbell's chances of getting the fulltime head coach job. I know he recognizes this.

But he talked to the media this afternoon and explained that while losing "pisses him off" he recognizes he did it to himself. His team did it to itself. It is no one's doing except those who work for the Miami Dolphins.

And so while Campbell is smart and knows he faces long, very long, odds of landing the Miami job after this season mercifully ends, he is such a competitor he is going to grind out the next three weeks as if it is his job to lose.

I know this: I'd be surprised if we see Jamar Taylor on the field the next couple of weeks because coaches are, as one source told me, "fed up" with him. He gave up an 84-yard touchdown Monday night and has a recent history of giving up a lot of completions. The only thing that might force the Dolphins to play Taylor is an injury, such as a concussion to Bobby McCain which put Taylor in the game.

It is Tony Lippett time, folks.

I know Campbell might order a tweak on how the Dolphins handle opposing elite wide receivers because the coach now admits cornerback Brent Grimes is not playing at the level he has in the past or at the level the team expected him to play.

And I know Campbell is a little weirded out by the fact he kept Lamar Miller on the sideline for parts of the second half, partly because the situation dictated and Miller had an ankle injury ... but after the game Miller said he was fine, didn't have an injury, and didn't know why he was held out. IMG_3214

"I was good," Miller said.

Anyway, Campbell addressed multiple topics today. Here's everything he said:

(On what explains the number of 100-yard receivers: poor tackling, poor coverage, missed assignments)  -- “I would say the top two, the first two that you said more than anything. We have had a few issues tackling. We haven't done a great job on the back end.”

(On if it seems that teams are going at CB Brent Grimes more this season than they had last year or the year before)  --  “Yeah, but let's put it this way, to me, they're playing their keys. If coverage dictates that they go his way, then they'll throw it. They made some plays.”

(So is that to say receivers are getting open more against CB Brent Grimes than in years past and if that’s a fair assessment)  -- “Yeah, I guess so. There's plays that are being made out there. I think, if you look at what we've been able to do – I say historically, I don't know how far you want to go back, but we've made plays on the ball in the secondary and we're not getting those right now. That's the difference."

(On what’s his mindset right now and what’s his message to this team)  -- “It's what I told them last night. We've got three to go, and it's strictly playing for the love of the game. Because now you're out and that in itself stings. There's no hiding that. We can call it all we want. I can run in here and have a smile on my face. It pisses me off. I know it pisses those guys off in the locker room. We created our own mess. We're responsible for it. But now, we'll find out who really loves it. We'll find out who wants to finish this thing out and who wants to play for the logo on their helmet and who wants to play for the name on the back of their jersey."

(On San Diego being 3-10, where the motivation comes from in a situation like this)  -- “Well, I know for me it comes from a team that's dying for a win right now and we're going to get everything they've got. They also have one hell of a quarterback, one hell of a tight end. They've got enough fight in them. They present their own challenges, and if we go out there and we're not ready, they'll beat the crap out of us."

(On 12 penalties last night and some of those were discipline penalties - false starts, personal fouls. How does he clean up discipline penalties as opposed to effort penalties) -- “Those are the most disappointing. You know, you’ve just got to address them. And those things will be addressed one-on-one with those individuals. I said it last night the ones where guys are scratching and clawing to make plays and something happens, hey, man, that’s part of the game. Those are the ones you have to be able to overcome because sometimes those happen. But the ones you’re talking about are totally inexcusable. There is absolutely, there’s nothing that’s OK about that.”

(On RB Lamar Miller said he was good to go towards the end of the game and if there was a reason why we didn’t see him much down the stretch)  -- “No, he just had the ankle for a while. And then we got to the point where we felt like we had to throw it a little bit more. The runs that we had, when you look at what we did in the second half, we ran really good in the first half, and we still busted a couple. But we come out and we get a one-yard gain and now it’s second and nine. We get a holding, we get a false start, we come out and run it for one. You know, I said it, there again, when you’re not efficient on first or second down when you run the ball you put yourself in a bind. You want to run it on second and 10 and now all of a sudden it’s third and 10, and that’s a problem.”

(On if he was saying at first RB Lamar Miller had an ankle issue but then later, you just felt like you had to throw more and the ankle wasn’t an issue towards to the end of the second half)  --  “What I’m saying is that he had, this is the first that I’ve heard of, that he was OK to go in the second. If that’s what he told you guys, I knew that he wasn’t in there for a spell because I saw him limp off the field. So at that point I was just trying to manage the game.”

On seeing that they are not getting much push off the ball on the rush attack and what he attributes that to when he’s getting the one-yard gains)  -- “There’s three different things that I can think of. The one play that I remember is where we don’t come off the double team on the linebacker. The linebacker hits it. So that’s a technique error, staying on a little too long. One of them is the running back. It’s a bad run. The other one is the tight end doesn’t finish the block on the backside. He’s the one that makes the play all the way down the line of scrimmage. So it’s never one guy. It’s always something different in the run game and where we were clicking in the first half we didn’t quite get those in the second half. I mean, we had a few but not enough.”

(On looking at the bigger picture and his future with the Dolphins past the next few games)  -- “I know you guys are going to want more of an answer. I’ll be honest with you, I just want to win. I just want to win. And all I care about is San Diego. I just want to finish this season out. That’s it.”

(On if there’s a point of view that says I can do without this job or the more time that he spends in it the more he hungry he becomes)  --  “I would say this: I’ve been here six years and nothing has gone the way that we wanted it to be. Every year we come in with new hope and, there again, we’re going to have another season where we have a playoff drought. I make damn sure that it stings and it hurts because the minute you go numb to that, then you’re just a loser. I want it to hurt. It motivates me and it pisses me off. It’s not too much for me to handle. To me, that’s how you get motivated to win because you get tired of losing and it stinks.”

(On with the playoffs no longer a possibility if he might be inclined to give some of the younger guys additional playing time)  --  “Yes. Yes sir.”

(On which younger players might get more playing time)  --  (CB Tony) Lippett. I think we can see some of Lippett, especially with Bobby (McCain) now where he’s at.”

(On if CB Brent Grimes is dealing with an injury or if he’s completely healthy)  -- “No, he’s as far as I, as far as I know he’s completely healthy.”

(On WR Jarvis Landry, 18 targets, is he comfortable with that and if he wanted to use him that much)  --  “We’ve always felt like you feel pretty good getting the ball in his hands because he makes plays, he is a playmaker. Yeah, you would like for production to be spread out a little bit over the rest of your receiving crew, your skill position. However, there was opportunities to be made out there that weren’t made, either.”

Dolphins loss to the Giants was a coach killer

This one felt different, folks.

The Monday night loss by the Miami Dolphins to the New York Giants was like other losses we've seen from the Dolphins in the past in multiple respects. Fade late. Fail to play complimentary football. It included the curious number of drops by the Dolphins receivers that are supposed to be quite good.

But the 31-24 defeat also felt different in one key respect. It felt like ... like ... a coach killer.

Dan Campbell and his diminished (by firings) staff have worked hard to make this misbegotten season work. And he has succeeded where Joe Philbin failed. He got this team to wake up and play with urgency. He got the respect of the locker room. He's made lineup changes that needed making.

But he's not getting the results needed to keep the job.

Sorry.

Campbell is 4-5 as the interim coach.

And this game was a bad look for the coach.

The Dolphins committed 12 penalties for 123 yards.

The Dolphins had a good thing going with Lamar Miller in the first half when he rushed seven times for 69 yards. But then the Giants adjusted at halftime. They tightened up. And the Dolphins had no counter. Miller gained 20 yards on six carries in the second half.

The Dolphins attack the seam of the Giants' 32nd-ranked pass defense with success. The tight end was open. Ryan Tannehill put the ball in there. But the guy put in the position was Dion Sims, the blocking tight end, instead of Jordan Cameron, the former Pro Bowl receiving tight end. Why? Why Sims and not Cameron?

And the biggest problem? Dan Campbell let New York's best player beat him.

Prior to the game, Campbell said the Dolphins would have "answers" for Odell Beckham Jr. Well, they may have had answers but they were all the wrong answers because Beckham, slowed by a stomach virus and sore legs all week, caught seven passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Beckham was better than Brent Grimes when he was one-on-one.

Beckham was better than Brent Grimes and others when the Dolphins doubled him.

Beckham was clearly better than Jamar Taylor when he blew past him on that 84-yard winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning. That 84-yarder, by the way, made the 60-yarder Beckham caught earlier a little easier to stomach. Not really.

Look, one of the cardinal rules of football coaching at the NFL level is allowing the other team's best player to beat you. One goal of coaching is to take that one guy that can ruin your day out of the game. Other teams do it all the time to the Dolphins. Ndamukong Suh gets erased all the time.

Teams figure out how to stop Miami tight ends -- when Dion Sims isn't helping them by dropping passes or fumbling -- all the time.

Teams figure out how to deal with Jarvis Landry all the time.

Last year, Bill Belichick decided Charles Clay was really good. So he seemed to hit the delete key on the Miami tight end when the Patriots played Miami.

The Dolphins thus have to take what the defense gives them.

But why don't other teams have to take what Miami gives them? Why do other teams still run their offenses through their stars against the Dolphins defense?

Look, Beckham is elite. I'm not saying the Dolphins had to shut him down completely. But, by God, they certainly could not have been surprised he was going to be Manning's main target all night.

And yet Jamar Taylor was on him late in the game.

Jamar Taylor, by the way, has played himself out of the privilege of being on the field. The Dolphins traded Will Davis and cut Zack Bowman but Jamar Taylor is still somehow on the field giving up touchdown passes.

That's not an answer. That begs a question ... why are you letting him be on the field? Haven't you seen enough?

Brent Grimes got toasted by Beckham. And he's having a tough time the past five weeks or so. But he competes. He's in the general picture of the play. He wins occasionally. Taylor seemingly never wins. I know Campbell sees this. Does he think he's going to get a different result putting Taylor out there again next week?

No. He's going to get the same result. Cut your losses, coach. Shelve Taylor.

Not that this matters.

The season is over for all practical matters.

All that remains is guys playing to put good performances on tape for 2016. Guys playing so they don't get their salaries cut in the offseason. Guys padding their stats or sealing their fates. In many respects the next three games will be like the fourth quarter of that Jets game just after Thanksgiving when New York led 35-7 and kind of just stopped trying, letting the Dolphins make the final score closer.

The issue on 2015 is decided. The next major benchmark for this team is picking a new coach.

So ...

Mike Shula?

Jim Harbaugh (if he wants to go pro again)?

Jim Mora?

Sean Payton?

Hue Jackson?

Mike Shanahan?

Somebody else?

Dan Campbell will get an interview. He's earned that. And he'll have to come to that session prepared to tell Mike Tannenbaum who he can realistically hire at the offensive coordinator, the quarterback coach and the defensive coordinator. And those names better be of experienced, respected people.

But here's something Campbell will be hard-pressed to answer ... 12 penalties for 123 yards? And how'd you let OBJ, the one guy you knew you couldn't let beat you, beat you?

 

December 14, 2015

New York Giants beat Dolphins, 31-24

It was entertaining.

And it was disheartening.

It was also a game that mathematically eliminated the Miami Dolphins from any playoff hopes. Officially.

The Dolphins secondary, still wearing skid marks, was atrocious. Eli Mannning completed 27 of 31 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns.

The Miami offense didn't have enough juice to keep up -- despite playing the No. 32 rated pass defense.

The Dolphins put up 24 points, more than they have in several weeks. But receivers dropped six passes. Lamar Miller had 69 yards in the first half and only 20 in the second half.

And here's the money stat: Dolphins had 12 penalties for 123 yards. That's a coaching staff killer.

The Giants had three penalties for 25 yards.

"Inexcusable," coach Dan Campbell said.

It is much of the same.

This loss was so Dolphins.

 

Dolphins claim troubled DE Damontre Moore off waivers

Damontre Moore developed something of a colorful reputation during his two seasons with the New York Giants.

He was fined multiple times for breaking multiple team rules, according to multiple reports. He recently got into a yelling match with both coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese, per a FoxSports report.

And he got into something of an altercation with teammate Cullen Jenkins over a pair of Beats headphones.

Welcome to the Miami Dolphins, Damontre Moore!

The Dolphins claimed Moore off waivers from the New York Giants today. He was on waivers because the G-Men were apparently tired of Moore's antics. He cannot play tonight because the transaction happened on a game day.

But the Dolphins are excited about the opportunity to add a former 2013 second-round pick.

First, he does have talent. Moore collected 8.5 sacks in 42 career games.

Secondly, the Dolphins have a need at defensive end that will be an issue beyond this season. Cameron Wake is going to be coming back from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon and Olivier Vernon is unsigned for 2016.

Thirdly, Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams coached and is familiar with Moore from their days at Texas A&M  in 2010-11.

This is a low-risk acquisition. Moore reverts to his troubled ways, he's out. But maybe he can be managed. And maybe he can produce. That would be good for the team.

 

The bad news: The Dolphins might rally the final four games

After the New England Patriots finished off the Houston Texans Sunday night, clinching a playoff spot, NBC's Al Michaels explained the Patriots can also clinch their 12th AFC East title in 13 years Monday night, but only if the Miami Dolphins lose to the New York Giants.

"Not that the Dolphins have a chance" to win the division, Michaels said. But the math simply works out that another Miami loss hands the division to the Pats.

And that is the point here. The Dolphins do not have a chance to win the AFC East.

Again.

The Dolphins have only an outside mathematical chance to make the playoffs as a wild card, although miracles would need to be weaved in South Florida, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New York and perhaps other NFL home cities for that to happen.

The only legitimate chance the Dolphins have of reaching some semblance of respectability this season is winning maybe three of their final four games to salvage an 8-8 season.

Great.

And you know what that would get Miami?

A lower draft pick.

The fact of the matter is the Dolphins are currently out of the top 10 in the draft order. That order is currently:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Sand Diego
  3. Cleveland
  4. Baltomore
  5. Detroit
  6. San Francisco
  7. Dallas
  8. Jacksonville
  9. New Orleans
  10. Chicago

So the Dolphins wouldn't be relevant enough to get in the playoffs. And they wouldn't be bad enough to get a high draft pick.

They would be where they have been so often the past decade or so --a mediocre team in a mediocre draft spot. Neither good enough to be celebrated nor bad enough to draft elite talent and make a quick climb to something much, much better down the road.

And the frustrating thing about all this?

The Dolphins might just play well enough the final month of this season -- perhaps starting tonight against the New York Giants in prime time -- to work themselves into that familiar mediocre spot.

The fact is all of the Dolphins remaining opponents have significant issues.

The Giants, for example, have the worst pass defense in the NFL.

The San Diego Chargers, losers in eight of the last nine games, have been ravaged by injuries.

The Indianapolis Colts are fighting to make the playoffs but there is zero assurance injured starting quarterback Andrew Luck will be back anytime soon.

The Patriots in the finale? Are they going to risk playing their starters in what will be a meaningless game?

In other words, the Dolphins actually might do some winning the next few weeks. They might be favored in at least two of those four games and a third -- New England -- might be off the board based on possible lineup decisions New England coach Bill Belichick makes.

Great right?

No, not great.

Again, the only way this is even good is if the Dolphins win out and make the playoffs. But the chances of that happening are about as good as Joe Philbin's chances of landing another head coaching job in 2016. Not impossible. But not likely.

This is the curse of mediocrity, folks.

This is what happens when you are so bad, you get blown out twice by the Buffalo Bills. But you're good enough to travel to Washington and Philadelphia and win. This is what happens when you can blow out the Texans, but lose to the Jaguars.

I have a theory: I believe Dolphins fans would feel better about their team long term if this year's squad was worse. And I mean worse as in a four-win team.

That kind of 2015 season, you see, would assure a high draft pick next year. It would force management to revisit everything, and I do mean everything about this roster. That kind of season would perhaps lead to a housecleaning on every level. That kind of season would guarantee that a new head coach and new staff would be coming in.

Instead, what we might get is another 8-8 season. And that might cause owner Stephen Ross, whose decision-making is questionable at best, to think his team is only a couple of players away. He might want to overpay for another defensive tackle to improve the run defense. He might be inclined to believe this interim coach is the answer. The personnel department might continue to believe the offensive line is more or less good enough and the linebacker corps only needs a small tweak, and the corners on the roster are good enough.

In other words, left to their own devices, the folks running the Dolphins might once again fail to see the forest from the trees as they have failed to see them year after mediocre year for so many years in the past.

A collapse would prevent that kind of misread of this roster and organization.

Now, I am not advocating for the Dolphins to tank. That's dumb. I'm not advocating anything, actually. But I am presenting what may happen if the Dolphins rally.

A heroic rally these next four games might lead us to the same kind of crazy talk we heard at the end of 2005. Remember the end of 2005? The Dolphins, playing at the time what was a weighted last-place schedule after a disastrous 2004, rallied and won their final six games to finish the season 9-7. And everyone, including the head coach and the media and the personnel department and, well, everyone convinced themselves the Dolphins were on the cusp of something really good.

Everyone convinced themselves that if Miami could add one more player -- a good quarterback -- this franchise would be set.

Yes, the Drew Brees debacle happened the following offseason. But what also happened is the Dolphins were not nearly as good as everyone thought. Despite solid coaching from Nick Saban, the team fell to 6-10 in 2006.

That late 2005 rally lied to us all.

And so a rally late this season? Remember 2005.

December 13, 2015

Why the Miami Dolphins waited on DeVante Parker while some in organization wanted him playing

The age-old difference of opinion between NFL front offices and coaching staffs has affected the Dolphins multiple times.

It reared its head in 2013 when general manager Jeff Ireland wanted Joe Philbin to play Dion Jordan and Dion Sims. It got so bad that year that the difference of opinion on several issues, the quick development and use of talent being one of them, affected the relationship between coach and GM.

That wasn't new in Miami then. Ireland and Tony Sparano disagreed in 2011 on what players should be cut and which should not. The GM, having security from ownership, seemed to make his decisions with an eye on the future. The coach, who was fighting to stay in his job, wanted decisions made with a focus on the present.

Well, a difference existed to a much, much lesser degree weeks ago when some in the Dolphins front office were waiting, hoping, still waiting, and really wanting the coaching staff to start using first-round pick DeVante Parker more.

And Parker was not playing a lot.

That is happening now. Finally.

Through sheer circumstance -- much like the one that thrust linebacker Jelani Jenkins from special teams player to solid starter when other linebackers got hurt and there was no one left -- Parker is playing now because Rishard Matthews suffered cracked ribs against the Jets two weeks ago.

So Parker has been pressed into service -- something the front office, many fans, and, yes, this reporter have been thinking should happen for some time.

And you know what?

I believe the front office, the fans, and I will be proven right. That receiver should be out there because, as I write in my column in The Herald today, DeVante Parker is about to do outstanding things for the Miami Dolphins.

He is the future. And the future is bright if he can avoid injuries.

That's not just me saying this. Parker, a quiet type, has some interesting things to say about what he is expecting in the coming weeks (left this season) and years.

So please, check out the column.

Now about that difference of opinion again...

When the Dolphins had Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, even Nick Saban, there was no such difference of opinion because the coach was also the final football authority in the building and so people didn't often disagree with that.

But since the Dolphins have gone to the multi-layered approach, with a head coach, general manager and sometimes a so-called football czar answering separately to the owner, it seems everyone has opinions. And differences of opinion.

(The Dolphins are not unique in this regard, by the way).

The head coach typically has final say on the lineup once we get into the season and the way those guys seem to handle it universally is they don't play new guys unless they see evidence in practice that the new guy should play. Unfortunately, when you're preparing in-season for the next game, you concentrate on giving practice repetitions to the players in the game plan.

So it is hard for backups, particularly young backups who are ascending, to show a lot in practice because their reps are limited. And so new guys don't get into the game very fast unless injuries occur or the guy already playing seriously struggles.

Yes, it is a Catch 22 of sorts.

The personnel department, meanwhile, is tasked with projecting what players can do for the team. That's their mindset. And having picked their players with that mindset, it is hard to simply detach from that way of thinking once the season begins. But because the personnel department does not have authority over the lineup, it sometimes sits in the corner steaming about why a player it projects can help the team isn't playing a lot.

This can become acute when the team is losing -- as it became with Ireland and Sparano and Ireland and Philbin.

The current situation -- where everyone in the personnel department seems to have more discipline about staying in their lane -- did not boil over into shouting matches or other drama, that I know of. But did they want Parker in there while the coaching staff held him back?

Absolutely.

Now, it is interesting perhaps only to me that the Dolphins have a football czar in Mike Tannenbaum and had one before that in Bill Parcells. And both these men, given authority to basically force lineup changes if they really want, have taken the road of not getting involved.

Let me tweak that: Both men have taken the road of not forcing the issue. They're involved. They may suggest a course of action, but both Tannenbaum and Parcells have been sensitive about stepping on anyone's toes. This despite the fact Parcells was on his way to the Hall of Fame and his underlings were not. Despite the fact Tannenbaum is empowered and definitely going to be around going forward while the current coach is on the job now as an interim.

Both men holding the hammer have so far decided not to use to this degree.

And so that's why it took fate to get Jelani Jenkins in the lineup. That's why nobody ever figured out what to do with Dion Jordan the last two years. That's why, to a lesser degree, it took a while to get Jamar Taylor to the bench and Bobby McCain on the field. That's why it took fate to get DeVante Parker in the lineup. 

December 12, 2015

Interesting things the Dolphins coordinators said on Friday

The Miami Dolphins made their coordinators (fine, Zac Taylor is referred to as the play-caller by the team rather than offensive coordinator) on Friday and here are some notable things they said:

It has been reported that the Miami offense, since the firing reassignment of Bill Lazor is a group-think thing with many people being asked suggestions. Indeed, I reported after Sunday's game the 38-yard touchdown from Ryan Tannehill to DeVante Parker was a player Tannehill wanted in the game plan. Taylor confirmed that.

And Taylor revealed on Thursday that Tannehill wasn't the only player whose opinion was measured.

"I asked for input from other coaches, other players and we were all on the same page throughout the game," Taylor said. "I wouldn’t say that I learned a lot I just think that the staff and players did a good job of executing and communicating during the game and we were able to execute especially in the run game."

The Dolphins passed for 86 yards last week and regardless of how much the team tells you the emphasis was on running the ball ... they only threw for 86 yards and that is not sustainable if Miami expects to win. So what is Taylor going to do to remedy that?

"We’ve got to make sure that we get all those guys involved and get him some good pass opportunities and we’re not just asking [Tannehill] to throw the ball on third down," Taylor said. "Sometimes it’s hard to get a rhythm as a quarterback. We had two drops, missed a few throws and then some of the calls could have been better, there is a collaborative effort. One thing I thought, I thought that the line did a great job. There was really only one miscommunication on a protection on third down where a free runner came through, but other than that those guys really fought. We got what we wanted out of that offensive line and those tight ends blocking in protection, blocking in the run game. It’s just on us to have a great plan and get these receivers involved.”

Taylor said he understands how some people might argue that Tannehill has regressed some this year, based on his statistics and his play. But to those people, Taylor is basically saying they should not believe their lying eyes.

"I don’t feel like he has regressed in any way, shape, or form," Taylor said.

Wow.

Anyway ...

"I still think he’s making progress," Taylor said. "I’m excited about his future potential and the direction he is headed. He’s becoming a better leader and he really sees the field well. There is no cause for concern. I’m still excited about the things that he does that I see every day in practice and that I see in the games. We just have to find a good rhythm as an offense."

The recent steady improvement from rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips coupled with the calf injury to Earl Mitchell led to the rookie starting last week while Mitchell was inactive. But defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said that when Mitchell is fully healthy he will continue to be the starter because "he's earned that right" but they’re both going to play "the number of plays we have set for them and that won’t change.”

The benching of Jamar Taylor was not a one-week experiment. Indeed, because Bobby McCain played well enough after being a little shaky early in the Baltimore game, the Dolphins are staying McCain ahead of Taylor. That means Taylor is going to have to learn to prepare like he's playing, even when he's not.

"I think obviously when you’re in a situation where things don’t go your way from a playing time standpoint he’s handled it well, he’s still preparing like he’s going to play," Anarumo said. "And each week is different based on the team we’re playing, based on how many wide outs are going to be in the game, based on certain situations. Each week is different and he’s done a good job of preparing to be ready to go and he’s done a good job with that this week too. I know he will be ready to go if called upon."

"If you believe Anarumo, the Dolphins are still trying to figure out how exactly they'll use Brent Grimes on Monday night. Either they'll have him shadow Odell Beckham Jr. or they won't or they'll mix it up.

"We’ve got some things this week that we’re still kicking around a little bit when it comes to that to be quite honest with you," Anarumo said. "I’m not quite sure how we’ll end up doing it, but we’ll have our best guys matched up on them."

Well, it is Saturday, the last day of practice. Monday is coming. It would be good to get it figured out.

Dolphins fans better hope Anarumo was just being coy because waiting until Saturday to tell a player the full extent of his assignment is a little strange.

 

December 11, 2015

Miami Dolphins want to get Jordan Cameron the football -- but those routes

The tight end is a wonderful weapon for NFL offenses. These guys are generally a matchup problem for defenses because they are both big and fast -- too big for defensive backs to cover, too fast for linebackers to cover.

And when teams realize this, their red zone offenses improve. They're third-down offenses improve. Their offenses simply get better all around.

When the quarterback and the tight end and the offensive scheme and the play-caller are of one accord, the tight end becomes a great asset. Think of the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski. Think of Carolina with Greg Olsen. Think of the New Orleans Saints with Jimmy Graham and now Ben Watson. Think of the Bengals with Tyler Eifert, who has 12 touchdowns this season.

Think of the Chargers traditionally with Phillip Rivers to Antonio Gates.

Tights ends. Major weapons.

But when something is amiss and teams do not take advantage of a gifted tight end, it begs scrutiny because failing to cash in on such a potential matchup problem speaks to the talent, the offensive system, the coaching, everything. It is a broken situation and the entire offense suffers. Think of the Patriots without Rob Gronkowski. Think of Jimmy Graham in Seattle. 

Think of Ryan Tannehill and Jordan Cameron and the Miami Dolphins.

Something is amiss here, folks.

Cameron has 26 catches for 306 yards, which means he's averaging 11.8 yards per reception. He has two touchdowns.

And that's bad because the former Pro Bowl tight end came to the Dolphins with credentials that suggest things should be much, much better than that. Remember that in 2013, Cameron was third among all NFL tight ends with 80 catches.

Remember that in 2014, even amid an injury-plagued season, Cameron led all NFL tight ends with at least 20 catches with a per catch average of 17.7 yards.

And remember he did all this while playing in Cleveland, which, last I looked, is not lately the home of great quarterback play or genius offensive game-planning.

So this is an issue (one of several) with the Miami offense in 2015.

I want more out of Jordan," Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell said. "I don’t disagree with that. We look for ways to get the ball to him and all of our tight ends for that matter, get some balls to Dion (Sims) as well. I think a lot of it early in the year was just about where we were at. We were in max-protection, which means if you do it out of 11-personnel (one tight end) that’s Jordan who has to block so you can get Jarvis Landry and the other two wide receivers down the field. We would like to incorporate more, there’s no denying that. I see it too and I would.”

Campbell seems to be putting a good portion of this on Cameron. And that is fair because it is up to him to be better. But that cannot be all. And the thing is everyone wants to do it because the head coach is a former NFL tight end and until two months ago was the team's tight ends coach, so if he wants it, everyone does.

Obviously, Ryan Tannehill wants it. I asked him if he likes throwing seam passes, a Cameron route strength.

“I love our tight ends," Tannehill said. "They’re big targets, they’re athletic, they catch the ball well in traffic and they can stretch the field down in those seams.”

Good. So why isn't it happening? Why are Dolphins tight ends, particularly Cameron, not major offensive weapons?

“I don’t know that’s a good question," Tannehill said. "I think that’s something that we took a step back and looked at last week is ‘Hey, we want to get our tight ends involved more.’ We have good athletes, good players and we’ve had a few opportunities, but we need to get them involved more. They’re not showing up like we want them to, like we think they should and I think that’s our fault as an offense of not getting them involved as much as we can. That’s something we’re looking forward to do over the next four games."

And here is where I think the offense is a problem. I see Cameron running a lot of shallow cross and quick outs. I'm sure he loves the five-yard gains.

But I don't see many hitches, many speed outs or many turn ins. I don't see him lined up outside and taking a safety deep very often -- you know just for kicks because he runs a 4.5 at 260 pounds.

I'm pretty certain Cameron could probably run those routes if asked.

(I hate this offense). 


December 10, 2015

Miami Dolphins top 50 players of all time

The Miami Dolphins will fete their 50 greatest players during a Fifty Seasons Gala Friday evening at the Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood and this is a good occasion to let you know who those 50 are, methinks.

The following list is from the team. It was arrived at, I'm told, through thoughtful discussion and voting of team personnel, alumni and some fans. And generally, this seems to be a good list.

(Me, I would have added Ronnie Brown somehow because the guy is the club's third-leading rusher of all time, he was the triggerman for Wildcat that fateful 2008 playoff season, and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry with Miami just as all-time leading rusher Ricky Williams did. I also might have found a way to squeeze Tim Ruddy onto the list. I will not tell you who I would exclude (there's a handful) because that's not what this is about. Perhaps another time.)

Anyway, the affair should be extraordinary. Employees who have worked for the organization 25 years or more are invited. Obviously Dolphins royalty -- Don Shula, Dan Marino -- are invited.

It should be fun.

Here's the Dolphins list of their top 50:

All-Time 50th Anniversary Team:

Quarterbacks

1) Bob Griese  --  Griese was one only three Dolphins to have his jersey retired. Griese played 14 seasons with the Dolphins (1967-80) and was a key component of the great Dolphins teams in the 1970s. He was the starting quarterback on the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl wins (1972, 1973) and threw for over 25,000 yards and 192 touchdowns in his Dolphin career. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1990, while his # 12 jersey was retired by the Dolphins in 1982.

2) Earl Morrall  -- Morrall played five seasons with the Dolphins (1972-76) and had a solid career as a starter in the NFL before joining Miami in 1972. Morrall became Miami’s starter when Bob Griese got hurt in the fifth game that year and started the next 11 games and the Dolphins won every one of them en route to their 17-0 perfect season. As a result of that performance he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year that year.

3) Dan Marino  --  Marino played 17 years with the Dolphins (1983-99) and is one of only three Dolphins to have his jersey retired. He threw for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns in his career and when he retired he held the NFL all-time record for most passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. He rewrote the NFL passing records in 1984 season when he threw for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns (the first over 40 TDs and 5,000 yards passing). Marino was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2000. His # 13 jersey was retired by the Dolphins in 2000.

Wide receivers

1) Paul Warfield  --  Warfield played five seasons with the Dolphins (1970-74), where he was an explosive threat from his wideout position on Miami’s great Super Bowl teams in the 1970s. When he left the Dolphins he ranked first on Miami’s all-time list in receiving yards and touchdowns, and his 21.5 yards per reception is still the highest average in Dolphins history. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1990.

2) Nat Moore  --  Moore played 13 seasons for the Dolphins (1974-86) and had 510 catches for 7,547 yards and 74 touchdowns. He was the Dolphins’ all-time leader in receptions, reception yardage, and touchdown catches when he retired. Moore still ranks first in touchdowns and third in receptions and receiving yardage in team history. He also led the AFC in scoring in 1977. Moore was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1999 and the team’s’ annual community service award is named in his honor.

3) Mark Clayton  --  Clayton played ten seasons with the Dolphins (1983-92). He combined with Mark Duper to form the “Marks Brothers” receiving duo. He finished with 550 catches for 8,643 yards and 81 touchdowns and ranks first in career receptions and touchdowns and second in receiving yards in Dolphin history. Clayton had 18 touchdown catches in 1984, then an NFL single-season record and still the Dolphin team record. He was inducted into the Dolphin Honor Roll in 2003.

4) Mark Duper  --  Duper played 11 seasons with the Dolphins (1982-92). He combined with Mark Clayton to form the “Marks Brothers” receiving duo. He finished with 511 catches for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns. Duper ranks first in career reception yardage, second in receptions, and third in touchdowns in Dolphin history while his average of 17.4 yards per catch is the second highest in team history (minimum 100 receptions). He was inducted into the Dolphin Honor Roll in 2003.

5) O.J. McDuffie  --  McDuffie played nine years (1993-01) with the Dolphins. He ranks fourth on the team’s all-time reception list with 415 receptions and is fifth with 5,074 receiving yards and led the team in catches for three straight seasons. His 90 catches in 1998 remains Miami’s single season reception record and is also the only time a Dolphin player ever led the NFL in catches…McDuffie is tied for team record for most punt returns and is one of three Dolphins to have two career punt returns for a touchdown…

Offensive linemen

1) Norm Evans  --  Evans is an original Dolphin who played  ten season in Miami (1966-75), more than all but one member of that inaugural team. He started all but six games during those ten years, including every game in Miami’s World Championship seasons of 1972 and 1973…His 91 consecutive starts during that span is the sixth highest in team history, and he was named to two Pro Bowls.

2) Larry Little  --  Little played 12 seasons (1969-80) with the Dolphins and was a key ingredient in the powerful running game that led to two Super Bowl titles in 1972 and 1973. He started 152 of the 158 games he played as a Dolphin, the third highest starting total by any lineman in Dolphin history. He was named to four Pro Bowls, including three starts. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was selected to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1993.

3) Jim Langer  --  Langer played ten years with the Dolphins (1970-79) and was the center of the Dolphins’ offensive line during the team’s championship years in the 1970s. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, including five times as a starter (only Dan Marino was named to more Pro Bowl starts in Dolphin history). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and was selected to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1990.

4) Bob Kuechenberg  --  Kuechenberg played 15 seasons in Miami, from 1970-84, more than any Dolphin except Dan Marino and he is third behind Marino and Jason Taylor in team history for most games started and played. He played on every Dolphin Super Bowl team but one (Super Bowl XIX) and had just 15 holding penalties called against him in his career. Kuechenberg was named to six Pro Bowl teams and was inducted into the Dolphin Honor Roll in 1995).

5) Ed Newman  --  Newman played 12 seasons (1973-84) with the Dolphins and played more years and more games (167) than any Dolphins offensive lineman except Bob Kuechenberg He made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1981 through 1984, the fourth highest streak by any Miami offensive lineman.

6) Dwight Stephenson  --  Stephenson played eight seasons with the Dolphins (1980-87) before having his career ended prematurely after suffering a serious knee injury  late in 1987. He was selected to five straight Pro Bowls, including four starts. He anchored an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL each of his seasons as a starter.Stephenson was in ducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and was selected to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1994.

7) Richmond Webb  --  Webb made 162 starts at left tackle during his Dolphins career (1990-2000), the fifth highest in team history, including 118 games in a row from 1991 to 1998. He was named to seven straight Pro Bowls (1990-96), the longest consecutive Pro Bowl selection streak in team history.

 8) Keith Sims  --  Sims played eight years (1990-97) with the Dolphins. He was a second round draft pick by Miami in 1990 and immediately started alongside offensive tackle Richmond Webb, the club’s first-round selection that year, to anchor the left side of the Dolphins line for the next eight seasons. He was named to three consecutive Pro Bowl teams (1993-95).

9) Mike Pouncey  -- Pouncey is in his fifth year (2011-15) with the Dolphins, having been a starter ever since joining the Dolphins as their first round draft pick in in 2011. He started all but two games for Miami at center his first three years in the league. Pouncey was named  as a Pro Bowl starter in 2013 and moved to right guard in 2014 due to injuries on the offensive line, where he earned his second Pro Bowl selection.

Tight ends

1) Jim Mandich  --  Played eight seasons (1970-77) with the Dolphins and was a valuable contributor to Dolphins’ three Super Bowl teams in the 1970s. His best season was in 1974 when he finished second on the Dolphins with 33 receptions and led team with six touchdown catches. After retirement he became popular member of Miami’s radio broadcast team and was selected to the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 2011. 

2) Bruce Hardy  --  Hardy played 12 years with the Dolphins (1978-89). He played more seasons and games (151) than any tight end in Dolphins history and had 256 catches for 3,769 yards as a Dolphin. His receiving yards are the most by any Dolphins tight end, and his reception figure is the second highest TE total. He started all but three games in a three-year stretch (1985-87) and also served as a long snapper during hiscareer in Miami.

3) Keith Jackson  --  Jackson played three seasons (1992-94) with the Dolphins. His best season was 1994 when he had 59 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns. His reception total was the fifth highest single season total by a Dolphin tight end, his yardage figure was third and his TD total was tied for first. Jackson was named to the Pro Bowl his first two seasons with the Dolphins.

Running backs

1) Larry Csonka  -- Csonka played eight seasons (1968-74, 1979) in Miami and was the team’s all-time leading rusher with 6,737 yards. He had three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons from 1971-73 at Miami advanced to the Super Bowl each year and was the MVP of Super Bowl VIII with 145 yards rushing. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and was enshrined in the Dolphin Honor Roll in 1990. His # 39 jersey was retired by the Dolphins in 2002.

2) Mercury Morris  --  Morris played seven seasons (1969-75) with the Dolphins and rushed for 3,877 yards, which ranks fourth in Dolphins history. He ran for  1,000 yards in 1972 and with Larry Csonka running for 1,117 yards as well that year, they became the first duo in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards each in the same season. Morris followed that with 954 yards rushing in 1973. He is the only Dolphin to return three kickoff returns for a touchdown and ranks first in team history in average kickoff return yardage. He was named to three Pro Bowls.

3) Jim Kiick  --  Kiick played seven seasons (1968-74) in Miami and with 3,644 yards rushing ranks he fifth among Dolphins’ all-time rushing leaders…He led Miami in rushing (ahead of Larry Csonka) in 1968 and 1969 and gained at least 500 yards five different seasons. An outstanding receiver as well, Kiick led Miami in receptions in 1970. He was named to the AFL All-Star Game in 1968 and 1969.

4) Tony Nathan  --  Nathan played nine seasons (1979-87) with the Dolphins. He accumulated 3,543 career yards rushing along with 383 receptions for 3,592 yards during his tenure in Miami. He remains the only player in Dolphin history to rank among the team’s top ten career leaders in both rushing yards and receptions. He led the Dolphins in both rushing and receiving in 1985 and started in both of Miami’s Super Bowl teams in the 1980s.

5) Ricky Williams  --  --  Williams played seven seasons (2002-03, 05, 07-10) with the Dolphins and with 6,436 yards and 48 touchdowns rushing as a Dolphin, he ranks second in team history in rushing yards and touchdowns. He set a Dolphins record in 2002 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,853 yards and followed that in 2003 with 1,372 yards. No one in Dolphin history has ever come within 100 yards of either of those totals.

Defensive lineman

1) Manny Fernandez  --   Fernandez played eight seasons (1968-75) with the Dolphins. He recorded 35 sacks as a Dolphin, which ranks tenth among Miami’s all-time sack leaders and is second among defensive tackles. He led the Dolphins with eight sacks in 1971, one of only three DTs to lead the Dolphins in sacks in a season. He is probably best remembered for his 17 tackles in Super Bowl VII…A member of the Dolphins’ Honor Roll

2) Bill Stanfill  --  Stanfill played eight seasons  (1969-76) with the Dolphins. With 67.5 career sacks in Miami, he retired as the Dolphins’ all-time sack leader and still ranks second in team history. His 18.5 sacks in 1973 remains tied for the single season team record, along with Jason Taylors 18.5 sacks in 2002. Stanfill made the AFL All-Star team in 1969 and was named to four Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 2010.

3 ) Vern Den Herder  --  Den Herder played 12 years (1971-82) with the Dolphins. He ranks third among Dolphin defenders in games played (159), is fourth in starts (143) and ranks fourth in team history in sacks (64). His five sacks against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 21, 1973 is tied for the most sacks in a game by a Dolphin player.

4) Bob Baumhower  --  Baumhower played ten seasons (1977-86) with the Dolphins and was a key member of the “Killer B’s” defense. He notched 39.5 sacks in his career, which is tied for eighth in Dolphins history and is the most ever by a Miami defensive tackle. He led the Dolphins with nine sacks in 1981, one of only three DTs to lead the Dolphins in sacks in a season. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and was inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 2008.

5) Doug Betters  --  Betters played ten seasons  (1978-87) with the Dolphins and was a member of the “Killer B’s” defense. His 65.5 career sacks ranks third among the Dolphins’ team’s all-time sack leaders while his 16 sacks in 1983 is the fifth highest single season total in team history. He was named as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Betters was inducted into the team’s Honor Roll in 2008.

6) Tim Bowens  --  Bowens played 11 seasons (1994-04) in Miami. During that time he started 155 games as a Dolphin, the third highest total among the team’s defensive players. Included in that total were 92 consecutive starts from 1994-99, the fifth longest starting streak in team history. He finished second on the team with five sacks in 1997. He was named as the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1994 and was selected to two Pro Bowl teams. 

7) Jason Taylor  --  Taylor played 13 seasons for the Dolphins (1997-07, 2009, 2011) and played 204 games while making 186 starts, the second highest figures in team history (behind only Dan Marino). He holds the Dolphin record for most all-time sacks (131) and is tied with Bill Stanfill for most sacks in a season (18.5). He was named as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was selected to six Pro Bowl teams. He was inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 2012.

8) Cameron Wake  --  Wake is in his seventh year (2009-15) with the Dolphins. He has recorded 63 sacks as a member of the Dolphins, which ranks fifth among the team’s all-time sack leaders. He has led the Dolphins in sacks four times and has registered double figure sack totals in three different seasons. His 15 sacks in 2012 is tied for the sixth highest single season total in Dolphin history…Wake has been named to four Pro Bowls.

Linebackers

1) Nick Buoniconti  --  Buoniconti played eight seasons (1969-76) with the Dolphins where he was a driving force on the “No-Name Defense” and was a captain of the undefeated 1972 team…He led the Dolphins in tackles every season from 1969 through 1973 and remains the only Dolphins defensive player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2001). He made one AFL All-Star team and two Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 1991.

2) Kim Bokamper  --  Bokamper played nine years (1977-85) with the Dolphins and was a member of the “Killer B’s” defense that helped the Dolphins make two Super Bowls in the 1980s. With 39.5 career sacks, he ranks tied for eighth among the Dolphins’ all- time sack leaders and led the Dolphins in sacks in 1980. Bokamper was named to the 1979 Pro Bowl team.

3) Bob Brudzinski  --  Brudzinski played nine seasons  (1981-89) with the Dolphins. He was a member of the “Killer B’s” defense that helped lead the Dolphins to two Super Bowls in the 1980s. He started all but three games in his first six seasons in Miami. He led the Dolphins in tackles once and in sacks once.

4) A.J. Duhe  --  Duhe played eight seasons (1977-84) with the Dolphins and was a member of the “Killer B’s” defense. With 38.5 career sacks he ranks tenth among the Dolphins’ all-time sack leaders. He had one of best playoff games in NFL history in 1983 AFC Championship Game when he recorded three interceptions, including one he returned 35 yards for a touchdown. He was named to the 1984 Pro Bowl team.

5) John Offerdahl  --  Offerdahl played eight seasons (1986-93) with the Dolphins. He was named the 1986 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and led the Dolphins in tackles three seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl his first five years in the league and his five consecutive Pro Bowls is tied for the longest streak by a Dolphin defender. He was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2013.

6) Bryan Cox  --  Cox played five seasons (1991-95) with the Dolphins and started all 77 games in which he played for the team. He recorded 31.5 sacks during his career in Miami. He led Miami in tackles in four of his five seasons and led the Dolphins in sacks twice, including 14 sacks in 1992. He made three Pro Bowl teams.

7) Zach Thomas  --  Thomas played 12 seasons (1996-2007) with the Dolphins and started all 168 games he played in Miami, the most games played and started by any Dolphin defender except Jason Taylor. He recorded 100 or more tackles 11 times and led Miam in tackles ten times. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls, tied for the second highest total by any Dolphin, trailing only Dan Marino. Thomas was inducted into the team’s Honor Roll in 2012.

Defensive Backs

1) Dick Anderson  --  Anderson played ten seasons (1968-77) in Miami and was one of the key performers on the “No-Name” defense. He started every game from 1969 through 1974 and had 34 interceptions as a Dolphin, the second highest total in Miami history. He made three Pro Bowl teams and in 1973 was named as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, one of only three Dolphins ever to earn that honor. He was selected to the Dolphin Honor Roll in 2006.

2) Jake Scott  --  Scott played six years (1970-75) with the Dolphins and was one of the key performers on the “No-Name” defense. He started every game in his Dolphin career and his 35 interceptions remains the Dolphins’ career INT record. Scott made the Pro Bowl five times, the most by any Miami defensive back and was the Most Valuable Player in the Dolphins’ win in Super Bowl VII with two interceptions. He also holds team record for most career punt returns and most punt return yardage. He was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2010.

3) Glenn Blackwood  --  Blackwood played nine seasons (1979-87) with the Dolphins and started all but two games from 1980 through 1985. He teamed with his brother, Lyle Blackwood, in the defensive backfield of the “Killer B’s” defense, including the Super Bowl seasons of 1982 and ’84. His total of 29 career interceptions ranks tied for fourth on the Dolphins’ all-time INT list and he led the Dolphins with six interceptions in both 1984 and 1985.

4) Louis Oliver  --  Oliver played seven seasons (1989-93, 1995-96) with the Dolphins and started all but three games his first four years with the team. His 24 interceptions ranks tied for sixth in Dolphins history and he led the Dolphins in interceptions four straight seasons (1989-92). On Oct. 4, 1992 at Buffalo he had three interceptions, including a 103-yard TD return, which at the time tied the NFL record for the longest interception return in league history.

5) Sam Madison  --  Madison played nine years (1997-05) with the Dolphins. His 31 interceptions ranks third on the team’s all-time INT list. He tied for the team lead with eight interceptions in 1998, which matched the second highest single season INT figure in team history and led Miami with seven picks in 1999. He was selected to four Pro Bowl teams (1999-02), the second highest figure among defensive backs in Dolphin history.

6) Patrick Surtain  --  Surtain played seven years (1998-04) with the Dolphins. His 29 interceptions ranks tied for fourth on Miami’s all-time list and is the second highest figure by a cornerback. He led the Dolphins in interceptions with six picks in 2002 and seven in 2003. He was named to three Pro Bowl teams, which is tied for the third highest total by any Dolphin defensive back.

7) Brent Grimes  -- Grimes is in his third season (2013-15) with the Dolphins and started all 16 games each of his first two years in Miami. He tied for the team lead in interceptions with four INTs in 2013 and led Miami with five picks in 2014. He was named to the Pro Bowl both seasons as a Dolphin, becoming only the third Miami cornerback to be selected to the Pro Bowl squad.

Special teams

1) Garo Yepremian  --  Yepremian played nine seasons (1970-78) as the Dolphins’ kicker and with 830 points,  he ranks second on the Dolphins all-time scoring list. In the AFC Divisional playoff win on Dec. 25, 1971 in Kansas City his 37-yard field goal in double overtime ended the longest game in NFL history. He led the NFL in scoring in 1971 and led the league in field goal accuracy three times. He remains the only Miami kicker named to two Pro Bowl teams.

2) Jim Jensen  --  Jensen played 12 seasons (1981-92) for the Dolphins at quarterback/running back/wide receiver. In 1988 won the WIOD Miami Dolphins Outstanding Special Teams Player award. He finished second on the team in receptions three straight years, with 58 catches in 1988, 61 catches in 1989, and 44 catches in 1990.

3) Reggie Roby  -- Roby played ten seasons (1983-92) with the Dolphins. His 555 punts is the third highest total in Miami history and his 43.3 yards per kick average ranks third. In 1991 he led the NFL in punting a 45.7 yards per kick average. He is the only punter in Dolphin history to be named to two Pro Bowls. Roby was one of the first to use just two steps to get his kicks off more quickly, a technique that is now used by every punter in the NFL.

December 09, 2015

Dan Campbell sees no reason to critique Ndamukong Suh (I do)

Miami Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell is not one to criticize his players publicly. Yes, he may bench them or even disappear them -- taking them from starters to being inactive in the span of one week because they're not playing well -- but he doesn't criticize his players.

And that is smart. It doesn't benefit a head coach to undress his players publicly because that is often a recipe for losing their confidence. A coach does that to enough guys and he loses the locker room.

So Campbell, a smart guy who understands how this works, wisely isn't going there.

Indeed, Campbell is more apt to say guys are playing very, very, very well when, you know, they're playing good enough. Or playing OK. Or even just getting by.

That is why it was no surprise when the Dolphins head coach on Wednesday defended his two highest-paid players when the New York media asked him about them on a conference call.

The New York writers asked Campbell about quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And, predictably, Campbell stood on the table for both guys. He said he's "glad [Tannehill] is our quarterback right now."

And he said he's glad the Dolphins have Suh right now. Indeed, Campbell went a little further with Suh because the framing of the question about the defensive tackle seemed to take Campbell by surprise. The question apparently came from the standpoint of what is the criticism of Suh?

“Yeah I guess that criticism came early, right, in the first three or four weeks because I don’t know any criticism that would come out about him now about the way he plays," Campbell said. "If you turn on the tape, nobody is playing better than he is at defensive tackle in the NFL right now. His game is at a high, high level right now. He is a productive player, he’s disruptive and I’m glad we’ve got him.” 

And that is fine.

But let's examine this more closely because, there are reasons, and valid ones, why there is criticism of Ndamukong Suh nationally.

Let's start with the fact he is playing at a high level. That is true. The past three games were great (versus Philly), very good (versus Dallas) and solid (versus Baltimore). That's a high level overall. And the first couple of weeks of the season Suh was horrible. Anyone with eyes saw that and he admitted as much.

But overall it is factually wrong to say no one in the NFL is playing better than Suh at defensive tackle right now.

St. Louis's Aaron Donald is playing better.

Minnesota's Linval Joseph is playing better.

Cincinnati's Geno Atkins is playing better.

Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox is playing better.

Green Bay's Mike Daniels and Carolina's Kawann Short are playing about as well at times, better at times, and not as well at times. Overall, however, Daniels, Short and Suh are all right there.

Yes, this is based in part on opinion. But it is also based on listening to pro scouts. It is also based on watching some (admittedly not a ton) of tape of other guys. And this is based in part on ProFootballFocus grades.

It is a compilation of factors brought together to form an opinion. I don't think Campbell is compiling that much material because he is an expert on how Suh is playing. He knows better than everyone. But he doesn't know better than anyone on the other guys. So for him to compare, he's out of his depth.

And so the mythifying of Suh as the best defensive tackle in the NFL at the moment is just bogus.

He's very good. He's among the best six or seven defensive tackles in the NFL. But he isn't the best.

And here's the thing: That also is not really the major criticism of Ndamukong Suh. It is not about whether he's a good player or not.

The problem I have with Ndamukong Suh is that he isn't often (ever for the Dolphins so far) a defining player.

So what is a defining player?

A defining player is one that changes the course of a game. A defining player is one that can put a team on his shoulders and carry it to victory. A defining player is one that can win a game for you nearly all by himself sometimes.

Dan Marino was a defining player. Jason Taylor was a defining player. Mark Duper was a defining player. Mark Clayton was a defining player. Manny Fernandez was, at least in one Super Bowl, a defining player. Ricky Williams was a defining player. Zach Thomas was a defining player.

Rob Gronkowski is. J.J. Watt is. Josh Norman has become one this season. Luke Kuechly is.

They make a difference in the outcome of the game, thus defining the game. They make a difference in the production of their unit, be it offense or defense, thus defining their team.

And Ndamukong Suh has not been that for the Miami Dolphins.

Disagree?

Well, the narrative I heard from the Dolphins after the Suh signing was that he was here to improve the run the defense. After all, I was told, the Lions had the best run defense in the NFL last season because of Suh. And the Dolphins needed that kind of redefining because they were an unacceptable No. 24 against the run in 2014.

The problem is the Dolphins defense this year is 30th against the run.

That is worse than last year.

Miami has been 32nd against the run a couple of weeks. Miami has been 31st against the run a couple of weeks. Miami is 30th now.

Did Suh change the defense for the better in that regard? Yes or no?

The other narrative I heard when Suh signed was he was going to be that guy pushing up the gut of the pass pocket. He was going to make Tom Brady's life impossible because Brady hates pressure up the middle. And he was going to do that to all the AFC East quarterbacks, particularly the inexperienced one in Buffalo.

Well, in five games against AFC East opponents this year, Suh has one sack, that against Buffalo on Nov. 8, during a 33-17 loss.

Indeed, against the AFC East, the Dolphins defense has allowed 41 points and 33 points to Buffalo, 27 and 38 points to the New York Jets, and 36 points to New England. And I am definitely not saying those points were Suh's doing. But I am saying his presence did not make any difference in the outcome of those games. The Dolphins could have gotten blown out of those games without him. They got blown out with him.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, he's always double-teamed!)

Yes, that is correct 'oh friends of the gallery. But I remind you J.J. Watt is always double-teamed. Geno Atkins gets double teamed. Joseph gets double teamed. This double team thing is not a foreign tactic used exclusively against Suh. It happens every NFL Sunday.

So here is my point. The Dolphins have a good player in Ndamukong Suh. There is no arguing that.

But he simply has not been a difference-maker. Can we agree on that?

He hasn't made the run defense better. He hasn't made the defense overall better. The team's record is not on an arc to be better this year than last year.

He's been an addition that hasn't helped improve the team.

And, finally, it cannot be ignored, the Dolphins have added that piece at a steep, steep price. Yes, folks, money matters because that's why the NFL uses a salary cap so you knew this was coming.

Ndamukong Suh is currently the NFL's highest-paid defensive player. He signed a deal for $114 million that was trumpeted by everyone involved. He's getting $60 million guaranteed. He's averaging $19 million per year, which is what franchise quarterbacks are getting in their second contracts.

The Dolphins are paying Suh like a boss.

And that is not his fault. They offered it to him. He took it. So would I, so would you.The difference is the Dolphins should know neither you nor I can change the course of games, or redefine a defense, or put the team on our backs once in a while.

The problem is the Dolphins paid Suh either knowing he wasn't going to change the course of games or a season or a defense and were fine with that or they paid Suh expecting him change games and transform the D and be a defining player.

Either way, it is troubling.

If the team paid that much money knowing Suh wasn't going to be a player to get them over the top in any significant manner so far, then they didn't use their free agency money wisely. They went to a Lexus dealer and agreed to pay Lamborghini prices. Not smart.

Or ...

The Dolphins paid that great deal of money expecting Suh to indeed be a difference-maker. They paid that money expecting Suh to raise the level of the run defense. They paid that money expecting him to help them win an AFC East game every once in a while. He has not done any of those so far.

And, like it or not, fair or not, that is a serious criticism of both Ndamukong Suh and the Dolphins.

December 08, 2015

Rishard Matthews expected to miss New York Giants game; PFF grades

Rishard Matthews, still nursing cracked ribs he suffered during the Nov. 29 game at the New York Jets, is not expected to play against the New York Giants next Monday night, per a source. It will be the second consecutive game Matthews misses.

It will also be the second consecutive game rookie DeVante Parker either starts or gets considerable playing time.

And while not having Matthews is a blow to the Dolphins offense because he has been one of the few pleasant surprises this season, the extra work for Parker is a welcome fallback.

Indeed, coming off a game in which he scored the lone offensive touchdown for the Dolphins on a 38-yard Top Ten type play, Parker scored quite high per our friends at ProFootballFocus.com for the entire game -- a 15-13 victory over Baltimore. Parker was the highest graded Miami offensive player, per PFF and was the No. 7 graded wide receiver in Week 13 leaguewide.

While Parker was prospering, fellow receiver Jarvis Landry struggled for the second consecutive week, per PFF. He had a negative grade as Landry caught only two passes for 5 yards on five targets.

Rounding out the offensive grades, Billy Turner struggled and finished graded 67th of 68 interior NFL linemen. Branden Albert, meanwhile, had a solid outing.

On defense the grades are as you might expect:

Olivier Vernon, who had 2 1/2 sacks, ranked as the second-highest graded defensive end in the entire league.

Derrick Shelby, who had half a sack and returned a tipped pass for a touchdown, was the No. 13 graded defensive end in the NFL.

Ndamukong Suh (70th out of 77 interior linemen graded) and Jelani Jenkins (39th out of 41 OLBs playing in a 4-3) struggled, obviously.

It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins handle Matthews's return if Parker continues to grow and the rookie's role continues to expand.

The Dolphins will handle that situation when it crops up. Matthews is expected to be week to week after he misses the Giants game.

At this point, having Parker healthy and starting to live up to his draft status is a blessing.

December 07, 2015

In the real world, Ryan Tannehill remains Miami Dolphins QB

My column today calls out the entire Miami Dolphins offense because eight first downs is not good enough in the NFL. One touchdown in a game is not good enough. It simply must get better.

But since Dolphins fans don't care that the scheme is no longer an oddity and so defenses have caught up, they want to place blame elsewhere. Since Dolphins fans don't care that practically everyone on the Miami offense has failed to improve this season, they want to ask solely about the lack of improvement of one player.

Since Dolphins fans have seen coach after coach after coach fired this season, they figure everything has been fixed within the walls of the Dolphins headquarters and so everything that goes wrong falls on the shoulders of one guy:

Ryan Tannehill.

Sigh.

Look, I Tannehill needs to improve. Everyone knows it.

But some of the opinions out there are nutty.

Some of the hot takes are more grounded in unicorn thoughts than reality.

For example, I sat in the press box Sunday and had a mostly thoughtful discussion with a colleague who said the Dolphins must sit Tannehill and play Matt Moore, who is better. And after I put my brain back together following its explosion I presented some reasons that is not true and should not happen.

Firstly, Matt Moore is good in small doses. He's a good NFL backup quarterback. But he's been a free agent a couple of times since 2012 and I don't recall any team thinking highly enough of him to offer him a starting job. This while players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor and Blaine Gabbert have been plucked out of the quarterback abyss and become NFL starters.

So that tells me NFL teams don't think highly enough of Matt Moore to trust him with the reins of their offense over an extended time period. But this writer and some of you fans want to do exactly that.

I also point you to the 2011 Dolphins statistics. Matt Moore started 12 games that year. And he fumbled 14 times (losing six) and threw nine interceptions to go with his 16 touchdown passes.

Tannehill has started 12 games for the Dolphins this year. He has lost three fumbles and thrown 11 interceptions to go with his 21 touchdown passes.

So tell me, is 16 touchdowns and 15 turnovers (Moore) better than 21 touchdowns and 14 turnovers?

This is not to criticize Matt Moore. The point I'm making here is Ryan Tannehill is starting and Matt Moore is a backup at this stage for a reason. Changing that is not going to fix anything for the 2015 Miami Dolphins.

Going forward ... The Dolphins are being encouraged by a vocal group of fans to change quarterbacks. They're being encouraged to dump Tannehill.

And I would say to you, that is probably not smart.

One, cutting him after this season would be salary cap prohibitive.

Trading him would also be difficult because his contract makes it so and I'm not sure any team would give a first-round pick for him. If a team would give a first-round pick for him, and the Dolphins could then turn around and use their two first rounders to get in the first couple of draft slots, that should require consideration. Regardless, that move is a gamble.

I know this, if Ryan Tannehill is on the open market as a free agent requiring draft no draft compensation, he's getting paid because he would have a handful of teams chasing him. And what does that tell you? Again, that people whose life work is to know talent, would highly value Tannehill.

So why doesn't all of "Dolphins nation" value him?

Well, there's the constant mediocrity.

The writer told me Tannehill cannot even get the Dolphins to 8-8. I reminded him he's done that twice. 

There's the perceived lack of improvement.

I see improvement. He's better than he was in 2012. He's better than he was in 2013. In some regards -- such as deep-ball accuracy -- he's better than he was in '14. Has there been regression in other departments, such as output, production? Yes.

But to say he's totally regressed is not factually correct.

There's also this crazy narrative that all Tannehill does is get coaches fired. Really?

So Tannehill got Mike Sherman fired? It had nothing to do with Go-, Go-Go, and lining up receivers in the same spot play after play, and a franchise record number of sacks, and no running game?

So Tannehill got Joe Philbin fired? It had nothing to do with picking up paper wads on the practice field, and lack of motivational abilities, and slow starts on offense and defense, and showing no leadership?

So what is my point?

The debate that rages now is moot. A lot of the hollerin' is just loud spewing of incorrect "facts."

Ryan Tannehill is still better than any current other option.

He's the quarterback, folks.

Does he need to improve? Yes. I've said that. He's said that. But I like the idea of hiring a veteran head coach who has had proven NFL success in the past as the new head coach and having him hire a good staff, including an accomplished offensive coordinator. I like the idea of putting Tannehill in that environment and seeing what germinates.

That option is better than benching him. It is better than cutting him. It is better than wishing on a star and hoping Paxton Lynch (search this blog) will land in Miami's lap.

It is also realistic. Some of that other stuff? Fantasy.

December 06, 2015

Miami Dolphins defeat the Baltimore Ravens, 15-13

Thank you, great defense. That's how the Miami Dolphins did it on Sunday.

That's how they beat the Baltimore Ravens, 15-13 at Sun Life Stadium.

The Dolphins collected three sacks, two interceptions and generally got excellent play from their defense to pull this one out.

It was nip and tuck. Baltimore's Justin Tuck, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, missed a 55 yard field goal inside of three minutes that would have given the Ravens the lead.

The individual heroics came from defensive end Derrick Shelby, who had a tip-interception-touchdown that went for 22 yards. Reshad Jones also had an interception to help the Miami cause and Olivier Vernon had three sacks.

So those guys did their part.

And yet the offense struggled badly. Lamar Miller went over 100 yards. That's good considering this was a day the Dolphins wanted to stress the running game. But his fumble inside of four minutes to play seriously jeopardized Miami's chances to win the game. So there's that.

Ryan Tannehill struggled. He completed only 9 of 19 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.

On a day the Dolphins put new play-caller Zac Taylor's work on display, the offense hardly was a showcase of fireworks.

 

The fall of Jamar Taylor is precipitous; Dolphins MUST run the football

Jamar Taylor, the Miami Dolphins second-round pick in the 2013 draft, has never really lived up to expectations. He was injured much of his rookie season. He was primarily a backup last season.

This season, given the opportunity to start, he has failed. This week he was demoted. And not only is he demoted, today the Dolphins made him a healthy scratch. He is inactive.

He has a long climb back to make that draft status worthwhile.

It thus makes sense why a source recently told me cornerback is one of the primary needs for the team in the next draft. Read my column today for the other spots the Dolphins will be looking at in the draft and free agency.

Rookie Bobby McCain will start for Brice McCain.

Jordan Phillips starts for Earl Mitchell, who is out.

And DeVante Parker is starting in place of Rishard Matthews, who is out.

Matt Hazel is active today.

Mike Pouncey is starting. Jason Fox continues to man the right tackle spot.

The Dolphins come into today's game with a clear order from interim coach Dan Campbell: Run the football.

They will do that at all costs today. Obviously, Bill Lazor failed to do that, which is one reason he is no longer the team's offensive coordinator.

 

December 05, 2015

Keys to the game: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

In 2007 the Miami Dolphins defense was in shambles.

Zach Thomas missed much of the year because of a concussion he suffered in an auto accident when a New England Patriots fan hit him on the expressway. Joey Porter was more about complaining than complying.

The team was using not its third safety, as it is this year, but its sixth safety on the back end because injuries ravaged Yeremiah Bell, Travaris Tillman, Donovan Darius, Lance Schulters, Cameron Worrell and others. And Keith Traylor was not exactly a big fan of Cam Cameron (who was?).

Those were bad times. It was so bad the Dolphins had the No. 32-ranked run defense.

Worst in the NFL. Terrible.

The Dolphins have the NFL's No. 32-ranked run defense today.

Worst in the NFL.

And what makes it more terrible is the Dolphins paid Ndamukong Suh $114 million to play the interior of the defensive line and help the run defense improve this year. The team hasn't suffered a season-ending injury to anyone on its linebacker corps much less its best linebacker.

Something is truly amiss here, folks.

If it is not the players it is the scheme and the coaching. Something has to change because having the worst run defense in the NFL is no way to put a team in position to win games with any consistency.

The Dolphins haven't been the worst run D all year. They've actually been No. 31 much of the time then declined after giving up 137 rushing yards to the New York Jets last week.

This week the Baltimore Ravens come to Sun Life with a modest running game. But it is not about this week's game. It is about a serious disconnect between the resources the Dolphins are expending to be strong up the middle -- with Suh and 2014 free agent Earl Mitchell and 2015 second round pick Jordan Phillips -- that raises eyebrows about how this could happen.

I don't have answers. The Dolphins need to find some going forward.

Here's the weekly matchups...

When the Dolphins pass the football: The Dolphins offense will be different this week with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor fired. For the passing game, that means quarterback Ryan Tannehill should have more latitude with audibles and he definitely had more input in stressing plays he likes to run. One supposes the Dolphins also eliminated the Lazor diagrammed plays in which three receivers ran five yards to the middle of the field, clogging that area, and one receiver ran a deep sideline to the left -- posting no one to the right side of the field. That's the play on which Tannehill threw an interception against the Jets last week. Poorly conceived or terribly executed, one or the other. The Dolphins are dealing with some injury issues as Rishard Matthews will not play and Kenny Stills is troubled by an ankle injury. The Ravens can still get after the quarterback despite the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs early on. They are 14th in the NFL in sacks, led by Miamian Elvis Dumervil, who has six. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: So is new offensive play-caller Zac Taylor going to run the football and be stubborn about it? Because failing to do so, in part, got Bill Lazor fired. (Not to mention his personality rubbed some people the wrong way). The Dolphins have been able to run the football when they've stuck with it. They just have not stuck with it very often. Lamar Miller and rookie Jay Ajayi were absent from the game last week as Miami only called nine run plays -- one on third-and-25. Interim coach Dan Campbell has said he wants a more physical running game. Let's see if with a new approach, he can deliver. It won't be easy, by the way, because the thing the Baltimore defense does best is stop the run. Their outside linebackers are good at setting the edge. Their interior is stout despite the loss of Haloti Ngata, the building-sized man who went on to the Detroit Lions. Brandon Williams has taken Ngata's place. The Ravens are riding a 19-game streak in which they've held the opponent to 4-yards per rush or less, the NFL's longest streak. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Ravens pass the football: Their starting quarterback is out. Their best receiver is out. Their starting tight end is out. Their starting running back is out. The Ravens have been ravaged by injuries to not just their starters but their offensive stars. And that suggests a tough day for them against the Dolphins. But the fact is the offensive line, which has also struggled with injuries, is still playing at a high level. The Ravens have had four games in which they have not allowed a sack. The battle between outstanding right guard Marshall Yanda and Miami's Ndamukong Suh will be interesting to watch, depending on how much the Dolphins move Suh around. Local product Kamar Aiken, who has bounced around the NFL with four teams, has apparently found a niche as a starter with the Ravens since Steve Smith was lost for the season. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens go after rookie Bobby McCain, who has been inserted at starting cornerback for this game. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Ravens run the football: Baltimore rushed for 183 yards in an easy victory over Miami last season, but leading rusher Justin Forsett is on injured reserve, making rookie Javorious Allen (who?) the team's top ball carrier. This would not bode well for the Ravens except the Dolphins have set a terrible standard for stopping the run this season, ranking 32nd in the NFL, the worst run defense the Dolphins have ever put on the field in the franchise's history. The Dolphins are allowing an average of 138.5 rushing yards per game. The Ravens are an unspectacular 18th in the NFL running the football. They average only 98.5 yards per game. This should be an epic battle -- terrible against awful. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: Baltimore's Justin Tucker is the second most accurate kicker in NFL history and he's connected on three game winning field goals this year. He's also leading the NFL with 51 touchback kickoffs. Punter Sam Koch, meanwhile, leads the NFL in net punting average. And the Ravens have blocked a kick of some sort (2 PATs, 2 FGs and a punt) in five consecutive games. The Ravens also rank first in punt return average. The bottom line is this team has won four games primarily on its special teams. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

Coaching: John Harbaugh has a team that has had its guts ripped out by injuries. And yet this coaching staff has somehow managed to have the diminished roster in every game this season and they've won three of four games. That is very good work. Dan Campbell has a team that has had its guts ripped out by poor performance. Players were downcast early in the week after two consecutive losses but the coaching staff, minus fired Bill Lazor, got everyone re-energized.

December 04, 2015

Miami Dolphins managing multiple injuries [Updated]

Earl Mitchell, who left Sunday's game with a calf injury, missed another day of practice on Friday. He has not practiced all week and his status for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens is uncertain.

If Mitchell cannot play, much of the playing time will go to rookie Jordan Phillips. The Dolphins also added Robert Thomas from the New England practice squad this week.

The Dolphins are having some issues at wide receiver.

Rishard Matthews, who suffered a rib fracture in the loss to New York, is not playing against Baltimore. And Kenny Stills apparently injured his ankle in practice on Thursday and did not practice Friday.

That means DeVante Parker and Greg Jennings will be the only healthy wide receivers available to Miami Sunday because even Jarvis Landry, who is playing, is managing a sore knee.

As I reported last week, right tackle Ja'Waun James is not playing against Baltimore.

Come back in a bit for the update once the injury report is released.

[Update: Mitchell is out. Stills is questionable. James and Matthews are out as previously reported.]

Brent Grimes not the same, but still pretty good

I've heard the whispers on social media from the amateur scouts and from pundits in the media and from fans who tweet at me or email me: Brent Grimes is diminished. He's playing his final year for the Miami Dolphins.

And that sentiment became more than a whisper after Sunday's game at New Jersey in which Grimes struggled to cover Brandon Marshall in multiple one-on-one and other situations.

And you know what I think?

Maybe Grimes isn't playing at his best. Maybe he isn't producing like he did his first two seasons with the Dolphins in 2013 and '14. But Grimes is not a big part of the problem. He's not the reason this team is 4-7.

Grimes has been asked to do things for three seasons that no team should ask a 5-10 cornerback to do.

Go out and cover the 6-4 Marshall one-on-one for about 50 percent of the game to cover up the other defensive deficiencies in the secondary. Go out and match up with Sammy Watkins practically every play. Last year the Dolphins asked him to go out and cover 6-5 Calvin Johnson.

And Grimes, being a competitor and not one to complain, nods his head and goes out and tries.

He succeeded against Houston's DeAndre Hopkins (averages 98 yards per game, had 50 against Miami). He succeeded against Dez Bryant.

Except that no matter how athletic he is and how technique sound he might play, he's still 5-10.

And he's going to lose a good percentage of those matchups against those premier big wide receivers simply because they are excellent also and, well, they're bigger. That is just the law of physics (or maybe gravity or something). A great big man is better than a great smaller man.

If you are worried about Grimes losing it, think more about this:

Why are the Dolphins asking him to do these things?

Last Sunday, after it was clear to everyone in the stadium Marshall was winning, why didn't the Dolphins change things a bit. I mean, that 3-yard TD in which Marshall basically boxed out Grimes in the end zone in one-on-one coverage was predictable to everyone in the stadium the second the offense and defense lined up.

It is a coach's job to put a player in a position to succeed. Grimes was not put in a position to succeed there.

And I get it, when you pay a cornerback $10 million (Grimes' cap hit this season) you need him to be very good. Well, Grimes is pretty good. He's just had a couple of stinkers this year is all.

Compare that to Jamar Taylor who has given up touchdown after touchdown, completion after completion, to the point he's been benched. That should be and is a bigger concern because while Grimes wins much of the time, Taylor wins very infrequently.

Compare that to safety Walt Aikens who has blown more coverages and given up more plays than anyone else in the Dolphins secondary this season. He's benched now, too.

And that happens. Players that don't perform get benched.

Except Taylor and Aikens are supposed to be the future. They're supposed to be stepping up.

We know Grimes is 32 and cornerbacks don't get better this side of 32 unless they are named Darrell Green. So the Grimes arc is not surprising.

But young players not improving is surprising. And frustrating. And unacceptable.

The Dolphins cannot continue to rely on signing free agent corners to play slot for $5.5 million over two years like they did Brice McCain and have those guys beat out your No. 2 cornerback Taylor. Yet that happened this year.

The Dolphins cannot continue to give Louis Delmas one-year deals hoping he can stay healthy so he can start just so they don't have to put Aikens in the game.

(By the way, the thing with Aikens is strange because he's athletic. He's long. He should be able to play the position. But he doesn't read and react well. He seems to forget what the team practiced during the week and finds himself out of position as a result).

That is the bigger concern than a 5-10 guy predictably losing to a 6-4 guy. One-half of the secondary is simply not good enough to even be on the field. And that half is supposed to be the future.

The Dolphins this week are thrusting rookie Bobby McCain to a starting role opposite Grimes. And McCain is an interesting guy who you've read about on this blog. I personally would have started him a couple of weeks ago.

But even the move to McCain puts a player in a tough spot. Let's face it, McCain is a rookie, no matter how tough and confident and willing he is. And he's more suited to being a slot cornerback than playing on the boundary. Yet because Taylor is not good enough, McCain is going to be asked to do something he is not ideally suited to do.

He's a slot cornerback, folks.

On Sunday McCain is going to be outside because the Dolphins have decided Taylor is too much of a liability to be there.

We'll see how it goes.

And where does that leave Brent Grimes?

He's still Miami's best cornerback. He's getting big bucks this year although he hasn't played up to the level of past years. He's scheduled to cost $9.5 million against the cap next year and, it says here the Dolphins may pay it because they don't have other options on the roster and creating another cornerback hole to go with the one created by Taylor's poor play is not wise.

Seems to me Brent Grimes is going to be here no matter what the pundits say, if the current performance level continues.

Maybe instead of worrying about replacing him, everyone might want to think about putting him in better positions to succeed.

December 03, 2015

Dolphins player that belongs in the Pro Bowl? Reshad Jones

The Miami Dolphins will soon be voting for the Pro Bowl and, as I looked around the locker room Wednesday, it was hard finding sure fire Pro Bowl players in this team.

There are two, maybe three:

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, maybe, because he's practically always there so his reputation will help plus he's had a solid year.

Center Mike Pouncey, maybe, because he also has a reputation for belonging (although last year he went as a guard) and he's had a good year.

But, interestingly, the Dolphins player who has stood out the most and deserves it the most is safety Reshad Jones. And he doesn't have a reputation. And obviously he's not on a winning team.

And the Dolphins use him as a hybrid both in the box and deep in the secondary.

And all those things hurt him.

But he belongs more than any other Miami player does.

""My numbers don't lie," Jones said Wednesday. "Are we going off performance or is it a popularity contest?"

It is often a popularity contest and no doubt Charles Woodson, in his 400th NFL season, is a sentimental favorite. He also has five interceptions and has played very well.

And Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson has six interceptions, eight passes defensed and a fumble recovery so he will get recognition as well. Nelson has the added advantage that he plays on a winner. And because Jones does not, that could hurt the Dolphins safety.

"Oh, yeah, most definitely," Jones said. "Winning has always been a factor in who is in the Pro Bowl and who gets Pro Bowl votes. But we're still going off individual play, right? My play has been stellar this year. And my numbers are better than anybody's numbers across the board. I still should have a good shot, I feel."

Jones does something those other safeties do not. He tackles. A lot.

He is fourth in the NFL with 98 total tackles. He is the only safety among the NFL's top six tacklers. The other five are linebackers. Yes, the guy is a beast in the box as well as dangerous to quarterbacks in the back end. But, unfortunately, that kind of versatility could cost Jones because the time he spends in the box takes away from his ability to collect interceptions.

Indeed, one game Jones did not play great in -- against Philadelphia -- was one in which coaches asked him to do, well, everything.

"The Eagles game, they had me all over the place. I was playing different positions," Jones said. "And so if I had a bad game, that would be the game."

There are no AFC and NFC teams anymore. The four best safeties will get picked first.

Jones has as good a shot as any and better shot than most.

I know this: I have an All-Pro vote from the Associated Press.

Reshad Jones is getting one vote for that team for sure. Mine.