July 29, 2014

Ryan Tannehill throws 1 TD in practice

The Dolphins worked on red zone offense and defense today and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw one touchdown during the 165 minute practice in team drills (11 versus 11).

The Miami quarterback's lone scoring pass in 11 on 11 work came on his last throw of the day when he found Brian Hartline in the end zone for a 4-yard score.

For the day, Tannehill completed eight of 14 passes.

The breakdown in team drills today:

Team period

First down quick slant completion to Mike Wallace. Tannehill 1-1.

Third down pass in the flat to Charles Clay. Tannehill 2-2.

Final down screen pass to Clay. Pump right, throw left. Gain of 6 for first down. Tannehill 3-3.

Inside 20

Completion to Lamar Miller streaming out of the backfield. Tannehill 4-4.

Incompletion on play action throw to Damian Williams who was doubled. Tannehill 4-5.

Incompletion on rollout. Ball thrown with no one in area. Tannehill 4-6.

Inside 10

Incompletion out of shotgun on attempt to running back Damien Williams. Tannehill 4-7.

Incompletion while trying to evade blitz. Tannehill 4-8.

Incompletion to right side -- no receiver in the area. Tannehill 4-9.

Incompletion on throw to WR Damian Williams at corner of the end zone. Tannehill 4-10.

Incompletion out the middle back of the end zone on pass intended for Damian Williams. Tannehill 4-11.

Team drill from the 30.

Completion to Damian Williams down left sideline for 20 yards. Tannehill 5-11.

Completion (called back due to penalty) to Rishard Matthews for six yards. Tannehill 5-11.

Completion to Dion Sims in seam for eight yards. Tannehill 6-12.

Inside 10 yard line

Completion to Brian Hartline for 6 yards. Tannehill 7-13.

TD completion to Brian Hartline for 4 yards. Tannehill 8-14.

To be fair, Mike Wallace sat out most of the second part of practice. He said afterward he had soreness in a muscle that he didn't identify and was told to take it easy. Nothing major.

But on a day in which most of the team snaps (against a full defense) come from the red zone, I think it would be fair to expect more scores. Second-team quarterback Matt Moore, by comparison, threw four TDs.

That's not to say Matt Moore should be pushing Ryan Tannehill for a starting job. And Moore is generally competing against the No. 2 defense.

Just saying today was not the most productive day for the red zone offense. Tannehill started well and finished well. He was not too productive during the middle portion of the practice.

By the way, backup center Sam Brenner left practice midway through with some unpecified injury. He was carted off. Nate Garner took over second-team center duties. 

July 27, 2014

A look at the Dolphins first '14 padded practice

Today was the Dolphins first day in pads in 2014. The Dolphins will have only 11 of these practices before the start of the regular season. The rest will be in shells, or just helmets or walkthru work. So this is a big deal.

This is how and when a football team is most likely to come together -- playing and practicing the closest thing to football that is not a scrimmage or preseason game.

And today was interesting.

It was actually a pretty solid day for the running game. Despite the worries of a totally brand new offensive line and the fact the Dolphins have a solid defensive line, the run game moved the football.

No, there wasn't full speed tackling but one could see if the offensive line was actually moving the defense off the ball or not. One could see whether and where cutback lanes developed.

In that regard, it was a nice day for Lamar Miller. He had one run that would have been a 60-yard touchdown run in a real game situation. It was a stretch play to the right that boasted a lane through which Miller simply thundered into and through.

Nice work.

The desire to get the ball deep to Mike Wallace is still mostly that ... a desire. Quarterback Matt Moore tried a couple of times in team drills. Both times he overthrew the open receiver.

Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill did connect on a 20-yard gain to Wallace on a route coming diagonally across the field.

Some other highlights today:

Cameron Wake continues his streak of practice days with a sack against rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James. The streak, expected when a Pro Bowl player faces a rookie for the first time, is at three practices. The Dolphins have practiced three days.

“I love it because I’m a competitor," James said of his matchup against Wake. "He’s a great player and he’s going to get me better, as long as I keep going as hard as I can against him, these constant reps we have, it’s going to get me ready for what I’m going to see in the season."

James said Wake is a good teammate. After practice the vet who schools the rookie on the field explains why the lesson was so hard.

“After practice he’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got your hands up here, you need to do this here.’ Or I’ll ask him something," James said. "But he does a good job of schooling me, trying to teach me the right thing, but when it’s in between the lines we’re going at it." 

Dion Jordan had a fine interception. He leaped into the passing lane and snagged a Tannehill throw and returned it for what would have been a TD.

The Dolphins worked the blitz several times today. I saw four blitzes. I saw no sacks out of those but there were two incomplete passes, one short completion and one no throw by the QB.

Dannell Ellerbe, who took over at MLB after Koa Misi left practice with some medical issue, was very active today. He blitzed multiple times. He blew up one running play by Miller behind the line of scrimmage.

Daniel Thomas had a 13-yard run  in one team drill. But had a handful of other runs and none went more than four yards. He tripped once for a three-yard loss.

The read option was again a staple of practice. Both Tannehill and Moore had plays in which they kept the ball.

Mike Gillislee had a 12-yard gain against the second team defense while working with the starters. He had a handful of other team drill carries before he left the field.

The Dolphins are getting a lot of mileage from throws in the flat. And after two days of watching the team throw end-arounds in the mix, today there was a reverse.

One thing that I noticed as I watch Ryan Tannehill throw today: The focus this year is to have him better decisions in that he goes to the right place but also goes there quickly. I am not seeing the quickly party.

My concern is that it will be difficult for him to make a quick decision, particularly early, as he gets comfortable in a new offense. Think about it. Tannehill was in Mike Sherman's offensive for five years. He knew it better than anyone.

This offense is about six months old to him.

So how do you expect the QB to make quicker decisions when the offense is newer?

“It’s a good question," coach Joe Philbin said. "One of the things I think Bill (Lazor) and Kevin (Coyle) have done a great job of is, for example, we have certain pass concepts. So what happens is Bill scripts everything. They don’t script together, but we noticed on two or three of our different pass concepts after the spring, we had only seen them against let’s say quarter’s coverage. What the quarterback needs to see is he needs to see a pass concept versus man-to-man coverage, three-deep zones, quarters, cloud coverage.

"So there is a little bit and there is some trick to it. So Bill and Kevin have gotten together really before camp started and really done a good job of working together and Bill saying to Kevin, ‘Hey Kevin, this is the same play. I’m running play four in period 12. Can you give me one high man? Can you give me a fire zone so that we can expose the quarterback?’ Not that the concepts are totally brand new. There is a lot of carryover in the pass game. It’s a valid point. It’s helpful to speed up the decision-making process if they get reps against a multitude of coverages."

The Dolphins obviously hope it works because, as I share in my column today, the team is hoping for more and better things out of Mike Wallace this year.  And Wallace can't have a better year unless Tannehill gets him the football.

Misi, Gillislee leave Miami Dolphins practice early

Middle linebacker Koa Misi and running back Mike Gillislee left today's first padded practice early with apparent medical issues.

The Dolphins do not disclose injuries unless the players are out for multiple days. Misi left the field after removing his cleats and having his foot/ankle area looked at. Gillislee left the field and seemed to be suffering from some sort of heat related issues.

Misi is expected to be the starting linebacker but after he went out the Dolphins moved Dannell Ellerbe, the starter last year, back to the middle linebacker job.

More information as it becomes available.

More injury management news:

Receiver Brandon Gibson participated in the first half of today's practice but once contact got more aggressive he was ordered to stop working. He stayed on the field after removing his pads and helmet and watched.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said last week the team expected to manage Gibson's return to practices and contact. Gibson, who practiced the first two unpadded practices this training camp, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon -- an injury that forced him to miss nine 2013 games.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan also seemed to be limited in today's practice. He was dressed out and participated in all individual drills. But he skipped many of the team drills.

Jamar Taylor took the team-drill snaps with the first-team defense.

Free agent guard Davonte Wallace missed all of practice with an unknown issue.

The Dolphins practiced in pads for the first time. They will do so 11 times this training camp, the next time coming Tuesday after getting Monday off.

Wallace eager, willing to do more: And may have to

The Dolphins hope to unleash Mike Wallace this year. A one trick pony, by his own admission, in the offense last season, I tell you in my column today some of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's plans for Wallace in 2014.

Wallace also explains for me how the pressure of performing up to his $60 million contract last season messed with his head and how he's addressing that this year:

“You just got to keep a level head," he said. "You’re going to have expectations on you but as a player I just got to keep my head. You can’t worry about anything but the focus and the grind every single day on the field. You can’t worry about the off-field stuff – about this person, that person. You just got to focus, man. I feel like I take that with me everyday and I learned that. That was a great learning experience for me my first year and I think you’ll see a big difference from Year One to Year Two here."

Wallace isn't expected to be just a nine-route runner this year. And he's excited about the possibilities that will bring. He said his goal is to be a first-team All-Pro this season.

And he's apparently ready to take that do-more theme to extremes.

Even special teams extremes.

 That's right, Wallace said he's willing to help on special teams in 2014.

“I don’t want to run down on kickoff team," Wallace said. "But if I can return a little bit, I’ll do that.”

 Wallace would like the Dolphins to pick and choose certain key moments or games and let him have a chance to make a big play on special teams.

"I feel I could bring a spark to the team if I get back there on special occasions," he said. "Not every play but every once in a while I feel I could make a spark. I could take one or two to the house.”

July 26, 2014

Photos from Day 2 of Dolphins camp

Some Dolphins training camp photos, courtesy Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz:

Tannhillthrow

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was better Saturday than his first day Friday. But there were still moments of uncertainty. He made one terrible decision, throwing a deep pass into double coverage. The ball could have been picked but was instead swatted down. He had another late decision to Mike Wallace that was intercepted. Tannehill did deliver a fine throw to complete a long pass to Damian Williams.

LamarMiller

With Knowshon Moreno on the physically unable to perform list, Lamar Miller continues to take first-team snaps at running back. Here's an interesting question that will face the Dolphins once Moreno is healthy: Do you start Moreno, knowing that he's also your best blocker on third down passing situations? That would thus put Moreno in the game all three downs. Or do you let Miller carry the mail the early downs and make Moreno, the best blocking RB on the team, the third-down back?

Huddleup

The Dolphins are urging more communication and being better teammates this year. So far that has kept the rookies free of the zany (and often embarrassing) haircuts that veterans forced on rookies in the past. Some rookies have been forced to carry the pads off the field for vets. That seems harmless. But in the wake of last year's harassment scandal, so far the rookies so far haven't had to treat for expensive dinners or play the role of fools.

Quick practice report: Day 2

The second day of Dolphins training camp showed small improvement for the offense. But not much.

Instead of three bad quarterback-center snaps/exchanges there was only one.

There were also three interceptions -- Jason Trusnick, Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones with a fine one-handed pick -- to go along with a couple of fumbles, including one by Lamar Miller.

Oh yes, and Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake continue to get the better of tackles Branden Albert and rookie Ja'Wuan James. Vernon had a sack vs. Albert. Wake is giving James multiple good lessons in what he should expect during the 2014 season.

Of all the poor plays by the offense, the one that sticks out most is the Jones interception. On that play, Ryan Tannehill had an open Mike Wallace down the field but for some inexplicable reason, the quarterback holds the ball perhaps a second or a beat too long. And so by the time he releases the ball, a wide open receiver is now not so open, and by the time the ball arrives, the defense has fully recovered and, well, Jones gets the interception.

Tannehill did complete a nice deep pass to receiver Damian Williams along the right sideline. Will Davis got beat on that one.

Davis, however, seemed to have a good day. He broke up a couple of other passes.

By the way, you should be impressed with the fact Brandon Gibson is so far showing no signs of the patellar ligament tear that shortened his 2013 season. He's practicing well and is clearly picking up where he left off with Tannehill on the chemistry front.

On the injury front, DE Derrick Shelby (knee) did not practice for the second consecutive day. DT Jared Odrick missed parts of practice early for an unknown reason but participated later.

How Miami improvements compare in the AFC East

So what are the Dolphins chances in the AFC East?

As I write in my Miami Herald column today, it depends on whether the Dolphins are improved at all and where that improvement might happen.

Look, let's be frank. (Frank is a cool guy). There are not a ton of tangible and obvious improvements on this team at this time. Yes, the season might tell a different story but right now we're more leaning on hope than certainty.

Miami's other AFC East rivals are leaning more on certainty.

In New England, the Patriots can say they’re better simply because starters Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer are back and healthy after missing much of last year and, oh yes, the team signed Darrelle Revis, too.

In New York, the Jets are boasting they’re better because lightning fast Chris Johnson is now the running back, they signed wide receiver Eric Decker and Michael Vick is on board to guard against the realistic possibility that Geno Smith isn’t a special quarterback.

And the Bills? The team that swept Miami last season -- still cannot believe that one -- suffered a terrible blow when it lost Kiko Alonso for the season because he was arguably their best player last season. But rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, perhaps the best player in the draft, is catching everything in sight in training camp, their starting QB, unproven and all but still an upgrade for them, is back from injury. And GM Doug Whaley has said his team is in win-now mode.

So where does that leave the Dolphins?

Hoping that the one position of obvious improvement can get company from other spots.

July 25, 2014

Jarvis Landry excites the Dolphins early

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross shook the hand of one player coming off the field on Friday: Rookie Jarvis Landry.

Later, Ross mentioned Landry unsolicited, suggesting the owner is excited about Miami's second round pick before the kid catches even one pass in a game. Maybe he knows something.

"I think Jarvis Landry is somebody I think everybody is really excited about, speaking to the coaches. I think he’s really going to be somebody that’s going to surprise a lot of people and really bring some excitement to this team,” Ross said.

Well, if the coaches are telling him to keep an eye on Landry, maybe we should also.

What does Landry think of his first day of practice?

Check the video:

 

Quickie observations from first Dolphins practice

The Dolphins first practice of 2014 is in the books.

Some quickie observations:

Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace have a long way to go on their deep ball connections. Still. The duo combined for one completion deep down the left sideline midway through practice during seven on seven drills. But there were two other instances when Tannehill underthrew on deep passes -- one to Wallace who was wide open behind Will Davis and once when Damien Williams was open deep.

The starting offensive line today was RT Ja'Wuan James, RG Dallas Thomas, C Shelley Smith, LG Daryn Colledge and LT Branden Albert. James gave up multiple sacks in both one-on-one drills and in team drills. But ... Remember the pads were not fully on, he was matched against Cam Wake, and the kid is a rookie.

Colledge had a fine moment in one-on-one drills against Earl Mitchell. Stoned him at the line of scrimmage.

It must be said that the quarterback-center exchanges need cleaning up. There were two fumbled exchanges between Tannehill and Smith. Second-team center Sam Brenner ground-balled one shotgun snap, and Tannehill bobbled another exchange.

Mike Pouncey, the starting center once he returns from his hip surgery, said he "ahead of schedule" on his rehabilitation. But, as you know, he will miss the start of the season and he may miss up to seven games, as I've reported.

Speaking to the media today, general manager Dennis Hickey said every player passed his conditioning test. Derrick Shelby was limited in practice after having arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. A source said he'll be fine. Coach Joe Pilbin told me earlier this week the Dolphins had 99.1 percent attendance in their voluntary offseason programs and OTAs. So that obviously paid dividends.

Brandon Gibson, who missed much of last year after tearing a patellar tendon, practiced today. He didn't seem limited but, again, the club was not in pads. It may be that once the pads go on the Dolphins don't throw Gibson into contact drills immediately.

Interesting scene after practice: The one player owner Stephen Ross made a point of meeting and talking to was Jarvis Landry. And then Ross mentioned Landry as a big addition during his press conference. Perhaps the owner has been told by coaches to keep an eye on the rookie.

What did I see from Bill Lazor's offense today? Lots of screens, especially bubble screens to receivers, lot of passes in the flat to the TE (Michael Egnew caught two and dropped one) and lots of quick throws. I saw the read option, including using Tannehill on the keeper.

I did not hear Go and Go-Go at practice today.

Dion Jordan, who will be suspended four games in the regular season, got some first-team snaps in practice today. No, he's not the starter. That's Wake and Olivier Vernon. But Vernon got a break here and there and Jordan got the reps. Vernon, by the way, had at least one sack today.

Second-year CB Jamar Taylor, who was beaten on the deep completion from Ryan Tannehill to Mike Wallace, recovered nicely later in practice. He had a nice pass defensed and near interception on a Matt Moore pass.

The Dolphins are working Nate Garner as their backup LT. Obviously, if Albert goes down, the Dolphins may shift rookie Ja'Wuan James to LT and play Garner at RT. But ... if there is any point this season Garner has to play LT in a game, that is bad news. Garner is a fine swing player. He is a solid G and a serviceable RT. He is not, repeat, not a LT.

Speaking to the media today, owner Stephen Ross said plans for the upgrade to Sun Life Stadium are being drawn up and construction on the facility will begin after the season. He said by the 2015 season there will be new seating (a new bowl) at the facility. The new scoreboards and the roof will go in for the 2016 season. Ross said Sun Life "will be tantamount to a new stadium" when construction is complete.

Ross was asked if coach Joe Philbin has to make the playoffs this year to keep his job. He demured. "I'm expecting Joe Philbin to be here for a long time," he said, "but every year you want to see improvement."

Dolphins want Tannehill to take steps in three areas

The most significant questions facing the Dolphins in 2014?

Is Joe Phiblin capable of leading a turnaround? Is the offensive line going to be a wall or a stumbling block? And will quarterback Ryan Tannehill be good enough?

As Joe Philbin makes clear in my column, which appears in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are looking for steps of progress in three major areas from Tannehill.

They want better decision-making.

They want better accuracy.

They want more playmaking.

“There are really three things that I think about quarterback play," Philbin told me in an exclusive pre-training camp interview. "One is decision-making. I think decision-making ties into play speed. The better decision-maker you are, the quicker you make them and that ties in to the opportunities to make a tight throw or take the guy that’s open sooner to get him the ball in space and let him run a little bit. I think there’s room for development there."

Accuracy is number two. Getting the ball to Mike Wallace in stride rather than overthrowing it. Leading Brian Hartline on a slant rather than forcing him to make an acrobatic catch, which causes him to immediately fall down rather than run for 20 yards.

And the last thing is playmaking ability.

"Can you imagine what our offense would have been without our two-minute offense? We had a pretty good two-minute offense last year," Philbin said. "And [Tannehill} demonstrated in those situations he has a good feel for the game, good clock management. He can communicate effectively without taking a ton of time. He’s got playmaking ability.

"But even there, we’re looking for more. He’s got a great pair of legs on him and we’ve seen some of that. And so when you get a 15-yard run from the quarterback and all of a sudden you’re in pretty good field position even when you don’t have great execution, that’s great. He’s capable of some of that stuff.”

Three things to improve on, Ryan Tannehill.

It begins in training camp today.

Philbin: Settling OL may happen later rather than sooner

It about the offensive line, folks. It's always about the offensive line with the Miami Dolphins. The pendulum of fate has swung in the wrong direction for the Dolphins after all those years enjoying the play of  Larry Little and Jim Langer and Richmond Webb and Dwight Stephenson. As 2014 begins, the offensive line once again is Miami's major issue.

In my column in today's newspaper and website, coach Joe Philbin makes no secret of the fact the offensive line is an a major issue for the Dolphins. Simply, this team is facing not just a big issue but a historically significant issue with regards to the offensive line.

And so with training camp starting today, all eyes will be on the offensive line. And the Dolphins know it. And the scrutiny might just be there a while because we might not get answers for a long time, according to Philbin.

“The preseason is going to be important for the Oline," Philbin told me in an exclusive interview prior to the start of training camp. "Let’s face it, we don’t have five locked and loaded guys right now. I’m not panicking over it, but it’s important we find them. We’ve got to get reps and field evaluations and give them opportunities."

And how long will that take?

"It’s great to settle on a line a little sooner rather than later, but I think it might take a while to figure all that out,” Philbin said.

Yikes!

Obviously the loss of Mike Pouncey for perhaps the first half of the season is problematic. The Dolphins placed Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list on Thursday, along with running back Knowshon Moreno. Pouncey's stay on the list will be long. Moreno's probably won't be, according to what Philbin told me this week.

So much work will have to be done on this OL unit. Much work, folks. 

“We have to figure out the offensive line," Philbin said. "In the OTAs, I loved the offseason program, but we’ve got to get some pads on. We’ve got to get some blitzes coming live or semi-live. We have to put those guys in some pressure situations and turn the crowd noise up and motion across the formation, make an adjustment call and see if those guys can function in real time.

"The walk-thru is great and film study is great and real important. But you have to step back and let them do a little bit and see what we got."

July 24, 2014

Last year's draftees may step up this year

Now that you know the face of the Dolphins 2013 draft class, Dion Jordan, put himself and the team in a tough spot for training camp based on his coming four-game suspension, it should be said that the rest of the '13 class is entering camp on a hopeful note.

That's right, the class that disappointed last year is suddenly promising after several of the players have had good offseasons.

“Overall, I thought the draft class from ’13 was better [this offseason]," coach Joe Philbin said. "We’re looking for those guys to step up and contribute.”

Third round pick Dallas Thomas will be competing for a starting guard job and, indeed, is a favorite to win that job based on his offseason.

Second round pick Jamar Taylor, who missed most of last season with various issues, began to perform with some consistency in OTAs. He might be positioning himself to compete with veteran Cortland Finnegan for a starting job and if he loses that competition figures in the chase for playing time in the sub packages.

“Clearly, he’s practiced consistently this offseason,” Philbin said. “He was out there and made some plays and looked like the guy we saw on tape before we drafted him.”

Cornerback Will Davis is healthy again and that makes the Dolphins hopeful he can pick up where he left off last training camp before he suffered something of setback. “Last year he showed good things in camp but then in the Tampa game he hurt his foot or something and never really got back,” Philbin said. “He contributed in New England game and here and there, but he never regained his form.”

The Dolphins are even seeing hopeful signs from running back Mike Gillislee, a fifth-round pick, who contributed on special teams but may be fighting for actual carries this year.

 “He didn’t get a ton of runs last year,” Philbin said, "but we like the way he's been moving around."

Irteresting, isn't it? The 2014 Dolphins may be getting an infusion of talent ... from their once absent 2013 draft class.

Follow me on twitter for live updates from camp and a real time conversation and exchange of ideas.

Jordan suspension presents training camp issue

Dion Jordan came to the Dolphins with high promise and expecations as the third overall draft pick in 2013. Then stuff began to happen.

He wasn't able to practice very much last training camp as he rehabilitated from shoulder surgery. When he did begin to practice and play, he soon suffered a setback to the surgically repaired shoulder. And so his rookie season was basically lost amid the team's need to play people who were stronger, more prepared, more experienced.

Well, this year Jordan is ready for training camp. No issues. He's healthy. All good ...

... Except that he's already been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing substances.

So one year he's handicapped in the preseason and this year he's handicapped in the regular season. Not good.

"Let’s face it, four weeks off from football is not going to be a benefit," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin tells me. "So we have to have him do some work.”

Philbin means Jordan will have to get work -- a lot of it -- in training camp. And that will have to carry him over for four weeks once the regular-season begins.

The problem is the coaching staff is going to have to figure out how to work Jordan as much as possible without hurting players who will, you know, actually be on the field for the start of the regular season.

“This is a brand new world because we haven’t had a player suspended in our previous two training camps," Philbin said. "As a young player, my feeling is he needs to get work – especially in the bigger picture that he’s not going to be getting work later on. He needs work now.

"But we can’t jeapordize the preparation of other guys. At the same time, we’re going to have to get him work. He’s going to get it without a doubt. And he needs it. And he needs padded work. You think back to last year’s training camp, he had very minimal repetitions in things he needed. You think back to last year, we had eight or nine of those days when we had those one-on-one periods where there was some form of a half line where there are two guys going old fashioned high school stuff.

"We have to be ready to go Sept. 8th but at the same time we can’t stunt his growth."

And while the Miami coaching staff tries to walk the fine line, this much is certain:

Dion Jordan has effectively killed his chances of being a starter when he returns to action after four games. No matter how much work he gets, no matter how well he plays in training camp practices and the preseason, the Dolphins cannot promote him ahead of, well, anybody because they know Jordan won't be around when the regular-season begins.

Jordan may get a lot of playing time in the preseason finale while other veterans and starters are held out in preparation for the regular season. But that is hardly expected to matter five weeks later when he returns. 

And no matter how well Jordan performs in the preseason, he won't be a starter when he returns to the team because obviously he'll have been a month without participating in any actual football regimen.

Not the best way to start a career for a No. 3 overal pick who is expected to make an instant impact. 

Dolphins linebacker experiment is over ... success!

The grand linebacker experiment the Dolphins took to the offseason lab is over and, as the team gets ready to open training camp practices Friday at their Davie training facility, it is possible to say the experiment worked.

Eureka!

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin tells me Koa Misi is the middle linebacker and will be in that spot when practice starts Friday -- much as he was during the offseason. Dannell Ellerbe is moving outside after spending last year in the middle. And Phillip Wheeler will man the other OLB job.

So as far as the Dolphins are concerned that's how they're going to camp and only a disaster will make them change course.

"I would say unless something really, let's just say Koa can't get us lined up or can't make a left call or right call, then we'll look at it more. It looks like it's going to be OK," Philbin said. "If the roof caves in we can always go back and those guys can be the same. The defense hasn't changed that much. But I think we're looking forward for it to work.

"I think the position change has been good. I like the position change."

Unlike most snarks and cynics (me sometimes) Philbin doesn't view the move in terms of Ellerbe failing as the MLB.  He looks at it from a positive standpoint and that is that Misi earned more trust from the coaches and more downs on the field.

"I think Misi was good. When you talk grades and we grade every game, he was one of the guys that graded out highest on our defense," Philbin said. "So from my chair and, I'm throwing out 500 snaps but maybe it was 480 or 520 for him, but here's a guy that graded out highest of anybody on our defense so why wouldn't we try to get him on the field a little bit more?

"When watched the film he flies around. He tries to play football the right way. I think he's a good example of how you want to play defense. I just think so far that has gone well."

Wheeler, who at times struggled in coverage, is showing hopeful signs of getting better, Philbin said.

I think Phillip Wheeler looks more comfortable right now," the coach said. "He played in the OTAs with better body control than he did last year. He had good production last year, it's just at times we felt he was a little out of control and it hurt him at times. He was better."

The idea of the Dolphins shuffling their linebackers obviously came about after the team struggled (at times) to stop the run. The team yielded an average of 124.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked them 24th in the NFL.

Yes, some of those problems were up front. But too often when Ellerbe or Wheeler got to the football, it was five, six or seven yards down the field. That's one reason teams averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Miami -- ranking the Dolphins 18th in the NFL in rush average allowed.

So maybe this works. Maybe it doesn't.

But for now this is the way the Dolphins are going to address the issue.

July 23, 2014

Pouncey could miss first half of 2014

When Dolphins center Mike Pouncey went in for surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, the best-case scenario for getting him back on the field was three months. In other words, he was likely to miss all the games in September.

Well, a source familiar with the center's surgery and recovery says it's more likely he will miss four months (from the time of surgery June 23). That would carry the rehab process through September and into late October.

"Eight weeks is probably what we're looking at," the source said today.

The Dolphins have a bye the weekend of October 4-5 so the regular-seasons' first eight weeks will cover seven games.

Every person is different, obviously. Some heal sooner. Some do not. Some have a higher tolerance for pain. Some do not. And Pouncey is said to be aiming for missing as little time as possible.

But the recovery is the recovery and missing only three games is looking unrealistic.

Pouncey, by the way, will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The Dolphins hold their first practice Friday.

The Dolphins policy is not to comment on the injuries or recovery periods of their players. The team also in the past has threatened players with fines if they discuss their injuries or recoveries with the media.

So the best way to gauge Pouncey's recovery at the end of training camp will be to monitor whether the club puts him on the active roster or places him on regular-season PUP.

If the team puts Pouncey on the active roster, he will still be miss September's games as he continues to recover. But this will suggest the team is comfortable with him returning sometime before six games are played.

If the team places Pouncey on the regular season PUP this will prove the rehab and recovery from this surgery will extend beyond the initially hopeful three-month recovery period.

Placing Pouncey on regular season PUP gives the Dolphins flexibility with a roster roster spot, but the player must sit out the first six games.

After six games, teams have a five-week window in which to allow the player to begin practicing. Once the player begins practicing teams have a 21-day window in which to decide whether to activate the player to the 53-man roster. If either of those deadlines pass, the player must remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

June 05, 2014

The right Dolphins role for Dan Marino

The Dolphins and Dan Marino have been talking about a job with the organization for more than a year, and yes, the topic has intensified (at least to the public) because CBS fired Marino in February and, as predicted, everyone assumed the proverbial son would return home once his time on national TV had ended.

But despite a face-to-face meeting between Marino and club owner Stephen Ross in April, which The Herald's Barry Jackson first reported, nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet.

Dan Marino may someday again work for the Dolphins.

... Or he might not.

Why the uncertainty?

Well, I guess to hire someone you have to have a job available to them. And then that person has to want that job.

And Marino and the Dolphins seem to be floating in a netherworld of not quite there on either front.

The Dolphins would love for Marino to rejoin the organization. But it is quite clear they want him as what he naturally seems to be -- a face for the franchise that is recognizable and respected and a reminder of how good things used to be.

(Playoffs almost every season is much better than no playoffs every season).

Such a position does not require a lot of preparation. Such a position does not require a fulltime, breakneck commitment. Such a position is a great fit for Marino.

And I commend the Dolphins, specifically club president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, for seeing that fit.

But ...

Marino doesn't seem to be sold on that fit. He seems to want to be more than a marketing tool that is trotted out at events and then set back in the shadows when real football business is handled. Marino apparently would like some actual power.

The problem is Marino is not currently suited for a role that includes any power. He's not ready to be a coach. He's not ready to be a general manager. He's not ready to be team president. Just as importantly, the Dolphins power bureaucracy is saturated as it is.

And then there is this: No one is certain exactly how much desire Marino has for putting in exceedingly long hours. I'm certain if this 52-year-old man wanted to work hard and long and be away from his family and commit, he would be an amazing success at whatever position he wanted to fill.

But there is no surety about that commitment at this point.

And so Marino is not hired yet.

In truth, if the commitment hurdle could be crossed, Marino could turn into a major asset for Ross if the owner would read the next few paragraphs carefully:

Dan Marino would be perfect as the owner's eyes and ears. Call him the special advisor to the owner.

Remember that Ross is an absentee owner. Like it or not, the Dolphins are one of his business ventures, but not his primary business venture. Like it or not, the Dolphins are more a billion-dollar hobby. Ross lives in New York. He works in real estate. And he dabbles as an owner.

That's simply the truth.

Ross relies on the people he has hired to run the Dolphins. He relies on coach Joe Philbin. He relies on general manager Dennis Hickey. He relies on executive vice president Dawn Aponte. On the business side he relies on Garfinkel. He relies on advisor Matt Higgins.

And none of that is any different as any other NFL owner except that Ross is absentee. He's not around the team on a day-to-day basis. He does not witness firsthand what is happening. He is a commander-in-chief who relies on his generals to report to him.

The problem?

Sometimes generals have an agenda. And that agenda is always keeping their job and staying in good favor. Sometimes the commander-in-chief is simply out of the loop.

That is how a general manager and a head coach can go almost an entire year losing respect for one another and much of a season not speaking and it festers until one of them is gone.

So what I propose is inserting Marino into the gap Ross needs to fill between knowing what is actually happening within his organization and what he's told is happening within his organization.

I would turn Marino loose and have him sit in on meetings, talk to the coaches, hear what they think and are planning. And then once he sees the results of those plans and what actually is happening on the field, report to Ross what actually went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the personnel department and let him ask questions. What's Hickey's vision? What are the issues he's concerned about? How is he addressing them? Who is he trying to sign? Who is he planning on discarding? And then when we see how that vision translates to reality, he could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the cap and the legal matters Aponte oversees. What is her vision for handling the coming Mike Pouncey extension, especially given the fact Pouncey seems to have some maturity issues? What is her strategy for handling the coming Ryan Tannehill second contract? Why aren't the first three draft picks signed yet? What was her legal advise on the firing of multiple people who are now threatening to sue? And then when we see how that strategy and vision play out, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose in the locker room, where he would already have a ton of respect based on his credentials and history. If the vets are tired late in the season and need to lighten up in practice, he'd know. If the players don't trust the trainer, he'd know. If the players come in drunk or hung over to practice (it has happened on multiple occasions the past four years), he'd know. And then when we see how locker room issues affect the performance of the players on the field, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

(Who knows, he might even be able to head off some problems if they're addressed early enough).

Eyes and ears.

Without any agenda. Without fear of having to say what he feels the owner wants to hear to keep his job. 

That's what Marino could provide. Frankly, someone like Jason Taylor could similarly fill that role.

After I gave a brief outline for this role on my twitter account (you should follow me), some people called the job I propose one as a snitch.

That's a crass way of looking at it. The role is meant to increase the level of accountability throughout the organization -- and boy, has it needed it the past decade. The role is one that reports the good news as well as the bad. The role can help the team when its heading toward a ditch similar to last year's harassment scandal. The role can help fairy tale stories about what is going on get brushed away but what is true and accurate.

The role could help Ross be a better owner.

Would that role require an investment in time from Marino? Of course. That's why it's called work.

But it would not require the Hall of Famer keeping coaches hours. He doesn't have to meet with everyone every day. He doesn't have to sit in every meeting. But game plan meeting? Big draft meetings? The meetings where the grand strategy is crafted? Of course.

Marino could work smart hours rather than long hours. Oh yeah, and instead of traveling to New York every week for a pregame show, he'd travel only when the Dolphins are on the road or only to the Senior Bowl and Indianapolis Combine.

By God, people in the media travel to those events for a fraction of what Marino would make.

But what the person in that role could provide might prove invaluable.

June 04, 2014

Louis Delmas feels "great," which is good

Talent has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Playmaking ability has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Durability?

That's been a question for the Dolphins new starting safety.

Delmas played 16 games only once in his five-year career with Detroit. And even after that 2013 season, the Lions decided to cut Delmas.

So how's Delmas's health now.

"I’m great. I’m great," he said recently after a Dolphins OTA practice. "I haven’t missed a day of training, haven’t missed a day of practice. I’m feeling good right now, the best I’ve felt my last four years of football. So I’m very excited about this year."

Re-read that please. Delmas, ready to start his sixth NFL season, is feeling the best he's felt since his rookie year in the NFL.

That's good news for he Dolphins because they desperately would like Delmas to stay healthy in the coming season because healthy mean available and when Delmas is available, he generally makes plays.

Last year Delmas had three interceptions. Plays.

He had two sacks. Plays.

He's averaged nearly one fumble recovery per season. Plays.

He returned one of those fumbles and an interception for a touchdown as a rookie. Plays.

The Dolphins defense wants more playmakers and Delmas offers that possibility.

But he cannot do any of that if the durability issues haunts. Delmas is doing what he can to make sure it does not.

“Rest," Delmas said. "That’s something my first couple of years I didn’t take pride in is resting. After the season, I always started immediately with workouts. I think, as the years started going on, I started earning more miles on these legs, I needed to rest a little more. The coaching staff and the trainers are doing a great job of managing me. I’m comfortable right now."

It must be said one of the flaws Delmas has is also one of his strengths.

The man plays at ludicrous speed (Spaceballs reference) all the time. That's great for a Miami defense that is looking to attack more and set the tempo on the field.

But that approach has sometimes in the past led Delmas to give up big plays in the back end when he over-reacts.

And this:

Delmas gained a reputation in Detroit as a vicious hitter who gave no quarter. When he hits, he delivers the blow with everything he's got. But his full speed approach sometimes got him hurt. And his full speed approach at times got teammates hurt as well in situation where an offensive player duck beneath his hit and Delmas ends up hitting one of his own.

Perhaps Delmas can tame that aspect of his game some. Being home in South Florida might help in that regard. Enjoying his environment perhaps can be the settling influence Delmas might need. 

"It’s a fun environment," Delmas said. "I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity that I step foot on the field."

June 03, 2014

See why Dolphins want upgrade at MLB

Watch the video below.

It is a compilation of Alex Mack highlights from 2013. Mack, the center for the Cleveland Browns, truly is among the best at his position in the NFL. But that's not the reason the video is on here.

The reason comes around the :34 second mark.

In that play you see Trent Richardson taking the ball around his 48 yard line and gaining 11 yards to around the Dolphin 41 yard line.

In that play you see Mack getting to the second level and locking on to Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. And you see Mack driving Ellerbe back ...

... and back.

... and back.

Richardson is tackled by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. Meanwhile, a couple of more yards down the field, Ellerbe is still being blocked by Mack.

The Dolphins middle linebacker got locked up just beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't get off the block, like, at all. And he got driven off the line of scrimmage some 15 or so yards by the time the running play ends.

And you wonder why the Dolphins run defense struggled in 2013?

And you wonder why the Dolphins are working with Koa Misi as the middle linebacker now and Ellerbe, signed to a five-year, $34.75 million contract last year, was a bust in his first year with Miami?

Yes, Ellerbe was second on the team with 101 tackles. But only three of his tackles were for a loss. Three tackles for losses is the same number Reshad Jones had in 2013.

And Jones plays safety, often 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. 

(Anyway, watch the video before I continue below. Remember, the play in question starts at the :34 second mark.)

 

The Dolphins hoped Ellerbe could be their new Zach Thomas or Bryan Cox (he played MLB for a year in Miami) or John Offerdahl. He had been a solid fill-in for Ray Lewis when Lewis was injured in Baltimore.

But the move simply did not translate in Miami.

And so what to do with a player who is making $6 million this year, is costing $7.425 million against the salary cap, and cannot be cut because the move would weigh the Dolphins down with $11.6 million in dead money.

So Ellerbe is headed outside, with Misi now the MLB.

Why Misi?

Well, the attempt to sign D'Qwell Jackson in free agency did not pan out. He went to the Colts. The idea of drafting Ryan Shazier did not pan out. He was drafted by the Steelers before the Dolphins could even make a decision on the clock. And Jordan Tripp, drafted in the fifth round, is not ready.

Sooo ...

Koa Misi, everyone.

"Since I’ve been here, one of the things that we’ve emphasized strongly have been fundamentals on defense whether it is block protection, pursuit, tackling, creating turnovers," coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "One of the things we’ve liked about him, that I’ve liked in particular, is when we do a year-end cut-up and we show examples how to take on a block, how to tackle properly, how to pursue the football. He shows up on a lot of those cut-ups.

"Football, as I like to tell the team, is not complicated. Defensively, we want to do those things. We want to see him do those things and we want to take a look at him from the interior, from the middle. We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I’ve been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he’s done a nice job."

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's not ready to commit to Misi as the starting MLB just yet. But, honestly, what choice does he presently have?

Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door. (Well, maybe he might in Dallas.)

So ... Misi.

“I’ve always been open to anything," Misi said, thus dismissing an inaccurate report that he was unhappy with the move to the middle. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I’ve been switching positions. I’m always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we’ll go back to the way things were."

So far, it is working as far as adjusting to the new spot and comfort level are concerned.

"I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played outside linebacker (and) all of our reads were from the outside in," Misi said. "I was walked out on number two. I’m playing Mike (linebacker) now, I’m in the middle. I’m reading everything inside out. I’m dropping in the middle. Everything’s different. I’ve got a lot more calls to make. I’ve got a lot more reads. With work, it will get better.”

 "Once I get this defense down playing, playing Mike, I think I'll be all right.

"I’m already feeling a lot more comfortable."

Ellerbe?

The team didn't ask him what he thought of the move.

"They just told me they were thinking about some things," Ellerbe said. "I’m down for it. Where ever I can stay in and get comfortable and be able to help the team and play my best, I don’t care where they put me."

The Dolphins are still in the middle linebacker market. As they should be. They'll keep an eye out for possible candidates as teams make cuts between now and training camp and then again before the regular season.

The next phase of this experiment is obviously to see how Misi handles the middle when hitting begins. Then everyone will see how he handles the middle when the preseason games begin.

Amazingly, a team that paid so much to fill its middle linebacker spot a year ago still has uncertainty with the quality of play at that position.

June 02, 2014

Coyle defends his defense ... but facts

The new Dolphins offense is going to be more diverse. Today (one day) we saw motion, tight end screens, a reverse, a little read option -- and the Dolphins were only working in the red zone.

(And not one go or go-go heard all day).

So things are going to be interesting for the 2014 Miami offense, as has been well chronicled.

But the defense is undergoing changes of its own as well.

"We're always looking to improve," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "We take the offseason and study teams around the league. We look at ourselves. We look at ways we can be better and utilize personnel better.

"We'll do some different things come the Fall, but I'm not going to talk about them with you guys."

Well, some of the things the Dolphins are experimenting with are apparent. The team is giving Koa Misi the middle linebacker repetitions this offseason while Dannell Ellerbe is shifting to strongside linebacker. The experiment continues and has been something of a success in the offseason, but Coyle stops short of saying it will be what the Dolphins do in the regular season.

"Right now, I can't commit today that it's a done deal," Coyle said, "but certainly I like what we're seeing."

Coyle, speaking for the first time since the end of the 2013 season, made a prideful case for the quality of his defense.

"We have a great foundation that we've built here. We feel real strong about what we've done," he said. "The bottom line is if you ask any defensive coach or head coach or anybody that really understands football for that matter, the bottom line is keep the points off the board.

"We've been very good at that the last two years. We finished seventh in 2012, eighth in 2013. There's only been four teams in the league that have been in the top 8 --San Francisco, Cincinnati, Seattle and us. We've been third in the AFC for two consecutive years in scoring defense. So the bottom line is keeping people out of the end zone and giving yourself a chance to win." 

Those statistics that Coyle repeats are impressive. But here is what the coach is missing ...

The Miami defense was playoff caliber before Coyle arrived. Nothing against him. He's a good coach. He's a good man. But he's not a historian.

The problem is I'm partly a historian.

The truth is the same Dolphins defense that was No. 8 in scoring defense (20.9 points per game) in 2013, and No. 7 in scoring defense (19.8 PPG) in 2012, was No. 6 in scoring defense (19.6 PPG) in 2011. So, ahem, the defense was already built to high standards before Coyle arrived.

And that defense the past two years has gotten worse results, not better, if the standard is points allowed -- the statistic Coyle points to as the one football people think most important.

Also, the idea of talking of how great the defense is should recall two more things: On Nov. 15 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills. On Dec. 23 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills averaged 21 points in those two games. With Thad Lewis as their starting quarterback.

Facts. 

Coyle: Dolphins considered putting Jordan on IR

Everyone knows the Dolphins didn't get enough out of rookie Dion Jordan last season. The team wasn't happy with it. Jordan wasn't happy with it. Fans weren't happy with it.

It beats what might have happened.

That's because the Dolphins late during the 2013 training camp considered letting Jordan spend the entire season on injured reserve, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

"We came very close during the preseason to have to make a decision whether or not we were going to try to redshirt Dion or know we were going to get limited snaps from him," Coyle said Monday after the Dolphins OTA practice.

"We had to make a decision whether to have him active for the year," Coyle said. "We talked about that late in the preseason in camp to make a determination whether we could get enough out of him. As it went, we wish we would have gotten more, but situationally, we knew where his strengths were and where he had not gotten enough work and so we didn't want to expose him nor the team."

Jordan played the fewest snaps of any defensive end on the active. He played less at the end of the year than even in the middle of the season. That was last year.

But this is a new year and "this is a different Dion," Coyle said. Jordan is up over 265 pounds. He's obviously involved in the offseason program.

And Coyle thinks the player drafted No. 3 overall a season ago is going to do great things this season. Like, really great things. 

"All the talk in the offseason that centered around he wasn't utilized, he didn't do that, we knew going into the year he hadn't had an offseason," Coyle said. "He was coming off of an injury. But it would be in the best interest of our team to have him, even for limited snaps. We made that decision. Certainly, Dion wished he had a bigger rookie season and so do we.

"But we have great expectations for Dion Jordan coming into this year. You cannot have enough great pass rushers and we feel with Dion at full speed we have a prime time player that's going to explode this season. "