November 09, 2014

Miami Dolphins midseason grades

We are exactly at the midpoint of the Miami Dolphins season. You know what that means?

I give out mdiseason grades!

Because midseason grades are really, really important to the Dolphins. (Not really). But they're interesting in that they measure progress and mark where this team is ... and may be going.

I tell you about that in my column in Sunday's Miami Herald.

The Dolphins are doing something right now they have not done since 2003. I tell you about that in the column and give you insight from Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill and Brent Grimes about what is making this team succeed.

The column, however, doesn't have grades for individual players. I got them here. Tell me where you agree. Tell me where you disagree. And check back Sunday afternoon for the live blog of the Dolphins at Lions.

OFFENSE

Pos. Player                Grade                        Comment

LT Branden Albert     A+               Solved team’s ‘13 LT issue.

LG Daryn Colledge    C-                4 good games, 3 terrible games.

C Samson Satele         B-               Good enough to allow Pouncey shift

RG Mike Pouncey      C                  Still working rust off

RT Ja’Wuan James     B-               Never hear his name, which is good.

WR Brian Hartline     C                  Has ability to do way more.

WR Jarvis Landry      C+               Dependable, good hands, the future. 

WR Mike Wallace     B-                 Deep threat turned possession WR.

RB Lamar Miller       B                  Excellent early, slowed lately

TE Charles Clay        C                  Knee injury, inconsistent hands have hurt him.

QB Ryan Tannehill   B-                  Inaccurate deep but doing other things

K Caleb Sturgis         C-                 Excellent on KO, inconsistent on FG.

DEFENSE

Pos., Player                 Grade                       Comment

LE Cameron Wake       A+                 Oustanding pass rush, good run stop.

DT Randy Starks           B-                  Struggled vs. Jax & GB, otherwise good

DT Jared Odrick            B                   Playing best ball of career

DT Earl Mitchell           B-                   Paul Soliai who?

RE Olivier Vernon        A                     Rarely doubled but always vs. LT

MLB Koa Misi              C+                   Durability is an ability

SLB Phillip Wheeler     C+                   Playing time diminished lately

WLB Jelani Jenkins       B                   Why wasn’t he starting?

CB Brent Grimes          A                    Worth every penny

CB Cortland Finnegan  C                     Yields yards. but only 1 TD

S Louis Delmas             B+                  Very good attitude, play speed

S Reshad Jones              A-                 Great in 4 games but that suspension hurt

NICK Jimmy Wilson     B                      Good at FS, better at SCB.

NICK Jamar Taylor       C-                    Work in progress.

P Brandon Fields           C+                   Struggled early, way better lately.

KEY RESERVES

WR Brandon Gibson    C                     Trying to regain form.

RB Damien Williams  C-                     2.8 yards per carry                       

RB Daniel Thomas       C-                    Size, experience keeps him on roster

TE Dion Sims              C                      Role player filling his role

G Dallas Thomas         C                      Fits role as backup.

LB Jason Trusnik         B-                    Valuable in an emergency    

DE Derrick Shelby       C+                    Solid on field, but that moment off?

DE Dion Jordan             I                     Should be, better be better.

WRITER

Columnist Armando Salguero      C-     Slow starter, always great in Dec.

November 08, 2014

Keys to the game: Miami Dolphins at Lions

DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions are getting healthier. The Miami Dolphins? Not necessarily.

If Daryn Colledge, who is doubtful with a back issue, cannot play and he cannot as of this hour, then the Dolphins suddenly become weaker at a position where the Lions' are more than capable of attacking.

It is going to be interesting.

Meanwhile ... Calvin Johnson.

The Dolphins did a fine job against Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall earlier this year. Neither are as good or gifted as Calvin Johnson.

Here are the matchups:

When the Lions pass the football: This team with Matthew Stafford at quarterback has been unspectacular passing the football so far. Yes, there are a couple of dynamic TD passes of 73 yards to Golden Tate and 67 yards to Calvin Johnson but two plays does not a passing game make. The mistake would be to believe the Lions would continue to be merely functional because now they benefit from the return of Johnson, who has missed three games with an ankle injury. He’s a difference-maker. Detroit is also hoping at least one or two tight ends can return to health this week and that can help open up the seam passes. Even the return of Reggie Bush adds a dimension for the passing game in that screen passes are once again a weapon. The Miami secondary has feasted in recent weeks --- collecting six interceptions in four games. Yes, they give up yardage. Indeed, cornerback Cortland Finnegan allows opposing quarterbacks a rating of over 100 throwing against him. But the big plays from the entire secondary, including Finnegan, often erase the memory and effect of multiple completed 12-yard outs or slants. Stafford, by the way, has been known to be a streaky thrower. ADVANTAGE: Detroit.

When the Lions run the football: Dolphins fans know as well as anyone that Reggie Bush is a hard worker. He doesn’t shy away from a lot of carries and, indeed, wants as many as he can get. He also runs between the tackles when he has to. But does Reggie Bush really scare anyone? He’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season. And backfield mate Joique Bell is a heftier tackling assignment at 229 pounds but he’s not been dynamic either, averaging 3.2 yards per carry with his longest run of the year being 17 yards. The Lions don’t run as their first option. The Lions don’t even run to set up the pass. They are the No. 31 running team in the NFL. They run because no one passes on every down. The Dolphins struggled to stop the run the past two seasons and actually got progressively worse at it. But they’ve stemmed that tide this year and are now more representative against the run than in past years, ranking No. 12 in the NFL in the category. They should dominate this category. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the football: The early season questions about whether Ryan Tannehill could play well and be a good quarterback have faded in the past month. With Jacksonville as a notable exception, Tannehill has been very good. He’s been on fire and he’s coming off a game where he posted his highest career quarterback rating. So he’s pointed in a very positive direction. The new question is can it continue? (Yeah, until and unless Tannehill reaches elite status there will always be new questions). Tannehill had a similar streak in early December of last season and then cooled off the final two weeks. Can he stay hot for an extended period? The Lions are excellent against the pass, primarily because they pressure the QB. That doesn’t diminish the fact they are No. 3 in pass TDs allowed per game, No. 5 in passing yards allowed per game, and No. 7 in interception percentage. This is the best pass defense Miami has faced so far. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: Ryan Tannehill has added a dimension that is more than gimmickry to the run game because he has at least one explosive run in each of the past four games. Indeed, Tannehill has a run of 20 yards or more in each of the past four games. That means the Lions and all opponents, really, have to respect the quarterback keep on the read option and have to spend time during the practice week preparing for it. On a more conventional level, Lamar Miller has always been considered a finesse runner even though he is breaking tackles at a higher rate this year. His toughness will be tested because his left shoulder suffered a minor separation last week and it happens to be the same shoulder that Miller injured at the University of Miami and required surgery. The Dolphins would be wise to have Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams ready for action. And the longstanding complaint that Miller doesn’t get the football often enough might have to take a break this week because it might be wise for Miller not to carry too often. The Lions have the No. 2 overall run defense in the NFL now. Enough said. ADVANTAGE: Detroit.

Special teams: The Dolphins invested a fifth-round draft pick on kicker Caleb Sturgis last year. The results have been mixed. Sturgis is a great kickoff man. But he has been inconsistent on field goals as his missed 45-yarder last week testifies. The Lions used a fifth-round pick last year on punter Sam Martin. It has been a good pickup so far. He is third in the NFL with a 47.6 gross punting average and eighth in the NFL with a 41.4 net average. Detroit kicker Matt Prater is a recent roster addition. He was 3-for-3, including a game winner against Atlanta but actually missed a shorter field goal to win the game that was nullified by penalty. Prater has been inconsistent, connecting on 5 of 7 kicks. The Lions are very good returning punts and kicks. The Dolphins are very good returning kicks but need to improve on punt returns. ADVANTAGE: Detroit.

Coaching: The Dolphins coaching staff has rallied behind head coach Joe Philbin as he stepped away the past two weeks for both the passing and funeral of his father. DC Kevin Coyle stepped up as team spokesman and staff elder statesman although he said he has no interest in ever being a head coach, which is odd considering most coaches are very ambitious. The staff seems to be closer now. Detroit’s Jim Caldwell has brought a calm and discipline to the Lions that they lacked before. If a team reflects the personality of its coach, the Lions will be playing smart, classy football under Caldwell. Are they there yet? Not quite yet.  ADVANTAGE: Miami.

November 07, 2014

Injury report: Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions

Here's the injury picture of Sunday's matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions:

For the Dolphins ...

TE Dion Sims (toe) is out. No surprise. He hasn't practiced all week.

LG Daryn Colledge (back) is doubtful. Don't expect him. It would take a significant improvement by Sunday for him to play. He'll likely miss his second consecutive game. Dallas Thomas would start in his place.

RB Lamar Miller (shoulder) was limited in practice again on Friday and is questionable. The Dolphins are optimistic he will play and those close to Miller believe he will play.

LB Koa Misi (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (abdomen), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hip/groin), NCB Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) are also questionable.

Everyone else is probable including TE Charles Clay (knee) and RG Mike Pouncey (hip).

For the Lions, DT Nick Fairley (knee) is out. No surprise there. He hasn't practied and was not expected back for this game.

TE Eric Ebron (hamstring) is doubtful. He practiced on a limited basis this week.

TEs Joseph Fauria (ankle) and Brandon Pettigrew (foot) are listed as questionable. Both will likely play, barring a setback.

The Lions are getting several injured players back for the game including Reggie Bush (ankle), and Calvin Johnson (ankle). Ziggy Ansah (toe) was limited Friday but is probable. DE George Johnson (hamstring) missed practiced Friday but is listed as probable.

Lions present Miami Dolphins a major problem up front

There are some inarguable NFL truths.

Elite quarterbacks erase a multitude of roster flaws. Tight ends are red zone matchup nightmares and, as I repeat incessantly to my twitter followers, they catch TDs in the red zone. And, of course, it is hard to win in the NFL unless you win at the line of scrimmage.

For our purpose here, let's deal with the third of those truths. You'll recall that the Buffalo Bills have made a living against the Dolphins lately, simply by winning at the line of scrimmage. You'll recall that last week I told you the Dolphins could use that very script against the San Diego Chargers.

Well, lo and behold, that was exactly how the Dolphins beat the Bolts. They swamped them at the line of scrimmage. San Diego could do nothing up front offensively, leaving Phillip Rivers to fend for himself -- which he could not -- and they mustered zero running game. The Miami offensive line, meanwhile, allowed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to keep his uniform mostly in pristine condition.

The formula worked for Miami.

But the formula might work against Miami in several respects this week.

The Detroit Lions, you see, at least on defense are not just a mirror image of the Buffalo Bills up front. They are an enhanced, faster, younger, better image of the Buffalo front seven The Lions, in short, can dominate up front in ways few Miami opponents can.

Consider:

Detroit defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Jason Jones this season have combined to produce 50 quarterback hurries, per ProFootballFocus.com. DT Ndamukong Suh has produced 26 pressures by himself and that ties him with Buffalo's Kyle Williams, only one pressure behind Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy, meanwhile, is very good in run defense. He has a very high run stop percentage of 16.6, meaning he shuts down the run (like by himself) 16.6 percent of the time.

All this says the Miami offensive front will have a tough challenge on Sunday.

“Well, number one, they are very stout upfront," coach Joe Phillbin said of the Lions. "They are a physical football team. They are active on the second level as well. Not only are they strong, but they can move and they are athletic. I think their pursuit is very, very good, and they tackle well. When you have those components, it makes it tough. What are they averaging, 3.2 or three yards they are giving up per rushing play? That’s way up there in the National Football League. They are playing good run defense.

“[Suh] is an excellent football player. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s athletic, he moves well, he gets off blocks. We’re going to have to play, Mike Pouncey, our whole offensive line’s going to have to play well."

On the other side of the ball, the Lions are not a run-first team. Truth is they don't run well at all, although some concession has to be made for the fact RB Reggie Bush has missed time and actually played hurt before that. It is also true the Detroit offensive line is not exactly a Great Wall so that works against the Lions.

The Lions have given up 24 sacks this year. They are 26th in sacks per pass play, which is bad.

But the Lions are not the disaster up front that San Diego was because of injuries. Indeed, they present a picture of getting healthier up front as right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who's been battling a concussion and other injury issues this season, is set to return against Miami. Waddle hasn't gotten a ton of snaps this year but has been very efficient in pass protection when he does play.

(You may not have heard of Waddle but he is a 2013 undrafted free agent -- a fine pickup by Martin Mayhew, Brian Xanders and the rest of the Lions' personnel department).

“I’ve watched the guys at length and, for the most part, those guys, they work well together," Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. "They’re a hardnosed, tough minded kind of group and obviously play to the whistle. So I think the front, that’s another challenge for us to do whatever we can to find the weakness, get after the quarterback and do our best to keep him from getting the ball in the hands of playmakers."

Isn't that often the key?

Yes. Yes, it is. And while the Miami defensive front has a marked advantaged over Detroit's offensive front, it is not as pronounced as the Dolphins enjoyed last week. The Miami offensive front, meanwhile, has zero advantage over the Detroit defensive front. Last week the Dolphins easily pushed the Chargers around and protected quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

That script probably won't be available this week.

November 06, 2014

Poll: London home game fine with you or not?

The Dolphins today sent out a press release confirming my report that they are traveling to London again next season, this time giving up a home game at Sun Life Stadium to play the AFC East rival New York Jets.

The team has so far had no further comment on the matter. I have commented on the matter because that's my job. (By the way, I hate the idea).

Now it's your turn.

Tell me how you feel on the matter by ...

1. Choosing one of the choices below.

2. Writing why you feel that way in the comments section.

The Dolphins read this blog. So let them read you loud and clear.

Go!

polls

Bad idea: Dolphins yield Jets home game in '15

I like the idea of the NFL playing games in London. I even like the idea of the Miami Dolphins occasionally doing their league civic duty and playing games in London.

But what we are learning in the past two days goes too far and turns a good idea into a bad joke.

And the Dolphins are the punch line.

The Dolphins, you see, are traveling to London in 2015 for the second time in as many years, as I reported Wednesday. Now here is where it gets ugly.

The Dolphins are giving up a home game for the privilege.

Gets better worse...

The Dolphins are giving up a home game against an AFC East division rival.

Worse ...

The Dolphins are vacating their home-and-home series with the New York Jets next year, playing one game at New York's MetLife Stadium, as usual, and the other game -- Miami's so-called home game -- in London.

I'm trying to think which part of this set of facts is good for the football side of the Dolphins organization.

Thinking.

Still thinking.

Still thinking.

The Dolphins and NFL sources will privately tell you this is a good deal for the, um, home team. It may give the Dolphins a chance to advance construction on their scheduled upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. It may also set up the Dolphins as a team that can host a Super Bowl because NFL owners last month voted to tie hosting a Super Bowl to giving up a home game to the London venue.

(In other words, a team hosting a Super Bowl must agree to play in London at least once within a five-year span. So the Dolphins would be eligible to win a SB bid through 2020 knowing they already met the criteria.)

But I'm not buying any of this spin. Neither are some right-thinking people.

As one NFL source told me Wednesday, "What it looks like to me is you have a team that rather be hosting Super Bowls than playing in Super Bowls."

Harsh. Very harsh. And I do not know for a fact the Dolphins agreed to go back to the United Kingdom in order to line up for a Super Bowl bid.

But when you understand that the Dolphins are giving up a home divisional game against arguably their most bitter rival, it is hard to argue a counterpoint to that criticism -- or any criticism. The Dolphins are actually the only team that will be giving up a division home game to play in London next year. No other team has done it in the past, ostensibly because it is not a great idea.

The optics are the optics.

I also know this: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose team is playing in London on Sunday, recently told Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan that giving up a home game to host a Super Bowl at his AT&T Stadium in Arlington was not a palatable option for him.

The Cowboys are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars as the visitors on Sunday.

"We're playing Jacksonville in London and we would not have played in that game if it cost us a home game, and we just wouldn't do it, and haven't done it," Jones said. "That's not being mean in any way or [not] being a team player. We made too big of a commitment to our fans and to our organization to play our 10 games here."

So what about the Dolphins commitment to play at Sun Life?

Wait, stop. Forget that.

What about the Dolphins commitment to give themselves every competitive advantage possible?

The Dolphins are perhaps behind only New England and Green Bay as the most secretive organization in the NFL. They do not discuss injuries to the point coach Joe Philbin will not talk about an injury report that is coming out in a couple of minutes anyway. They tell players not to discuss injuries or they'll be fined. They tell agents not to speak to the media (a request many agents laugh at behind the back of the person making this request because it is beyond the pale of normal NFL operating procedure). The Dolphins also do not want possible lineup changes reported.

And all this and more is done under the guise of protecting the organization's competitive advantage.

And until Wednesday night when I found out about this home game against the Jets being moved to London, I respected the Miami competitive advantage narrative because winning trumps everything in the NFL -- even if you have to act paranoid to do it.

But amid that competitive advantage mania about a pulled hamstring or a looming free agency signing that everyone will find out about anyway, the Dolphins are giving away a home game.

To the New York Jets.

So much for competitive advantage.

By the way, you know how far it is from Miami to London? The Internet tells me it is 4,425 miles. You know how far it is from New York to London? The Internet tells me it is 3,459 miles.

So the Dolphins will travel nearly 1,000 miles farther to their home game against the Jets next year than the Jets will. That's a nearly two hour longer flight.

The game will be played Oct. 4. The average temperature in Miami on Oct. 4 is 88 degrees. The average temperature in London on Oct. 4 is 60 degrees.

This is a bad idea, folks. There is no amount of NFL gate guarantee or prestige for landing a Super Bowl that makes giving up a home game worthwhile.

Jerry Jones, for one, recognizes that.

Stephen Ross?

Well, he made the case years ago that it was better to switch early season games to road games or to 4 p.m. starts because it was too hot at Sun Life early in the season for 1 p.m. kickoffs. Some Miami fans had told the Dolphins owner that sitting in the stadium in September for those 1 p.m. games was too uncomfortable.

And so Ross requested the changes in 2009-2011. Except he failed to recognize that fans like winning probably more than they dislike sweating. And those early kickoff times had always been and could remain a weather advantage for the Dolphins.

(No better proof of this advantage than this year's regular-season opening win againt New England. The Patriots led 20-10 at halftime. The Dolphins rolled them in the second half in the heat).

It took Ross a few years to figure this truth out and stop fiddling with the 1 p.m.  kickoffs and early-season home games.

Now, he has obviously signed off on giving up a home game ... to a division rival ... named the New York Jets. He couldn't figure out that is not a benefit to his football team?

And that sound you're hearing? People in New York cackling.

Pro Bowl match: Mike Pouncey vs. Ndamukong Suh

The game within the game this week will be played at great heights along the line of scrimmage when the Miami Dolphins visit the Detroit Lions and guard Mike Pouncey faces defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Pro Bowl offensive lineman versus Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

“He’s a really good football player," Pouncey said Wednesday. "He plays really hard. He’s a Pro Bowl football player. We have to go out and play our best against him. He’s going to be the best defender we play against all year."

That is high praise from Pouncey. And Suh will be trying to live up to that billing by playing well, but also playing a lot of snaps.

The Lions, you see, are without tackle Nick Fairley, who is out with a knee injury, and had been without C.J. Mosley, who was sent home from London and suspended for two weeks. Mosley is back with the team.

That left the Lions with only three viable tackles against Atlanta. So Suh played. And played. And played, getting few series off.

“I’m built that way," Suh said. "I’m built to endure long drives. I’m endured to just go out there and play whatever snaps I need to play. I think I’ve, over the years, proven that I can maintain and take care of myself to where I can play whatever game, with whatever consequences or anything that comes across our way."

And Suh is good with that workload. 

"I look at my rookie year and I don’t think I remember coming out of the game, so it is what it is," Suh said. "I don’t really look at it like that. I look at it as an opportunity to go out there and play, have an impact that much more and go from there."

Awesome. So how about we tackle the elephant in the room?

Suh, you see, has this reputation as something of a dirty player. Don't believe me. Let your eyes decide:

 

 

 

Anywho, It is fair to say most of those instances have not happened lately. But they have indeed happened.

So is Pouncey ready to defend himself or his quarterback if Suh get all extracurricular?

“No, we don’t worry about that," Pouncey said. "We are going to go out, play hard. We’re not worried about him playing dirty. We worry about him playing as hard as he can. We have to go out there and match his intensity."

Yeah, I get the feeling Pouncey will be matching intensity bigtime if Suh takes a cheap shot at Ryan Tannehill.

November 05, 2014

Miami Dolphins returning to London in 2015

The Miami Dolphins are going back to London in 2015.

An NFL source has told The Miami Herald the Dolphins have been selected to once again be part of the growing number of games the league is playing at Wembley Stadium in London.

The date of the game and Miami's opponent has not yet been set. A report saying the Dolphins would be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in London next year is not correct. Miami and the Jaguars are scheduled to play next year in Jacksonville but not in London and that game will not be moved.

The Dolphins are 1-1 in London.

In 2007 they lost to the New York Giants and this season they beat the Oakland Raiders.

It should come as no surprise the Dolphins might be making more trips to London. The NFL is hoping to expand the series that has already been widely popular.

The Dolphins are a popular team in the UK.

And as a team hoping to host Super Bowls, the Dolphins may have to accept more trips overseas as part of the priviledge of hosting the league's biggest game in Miami because the NFL has had internal discussions about making that part of the process.

Wednesday injury news here (updated)

Both the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions are getting good injury news today.

The Miami running game can apparently exhale today because running back Lamar Miller is at practice and seemingly not the worse for wear following his AC joint sprain (separated left shoulder) in the San Diego game last weekend.

Miller is working on a limited basis.

He stepped out of several drills including the individual RB drills.

Other Miami players working on a limited basis included Charles Clay (knee), Koa Misi (ankle), Mike Pouncey (hip) and Jimmy Wilson (hamstring).

The Dolphins also got starting left guard Daryn Colledge back after he missed practice all last week and the San Diego game with a migraine and sinus condition and back condition. Colledge was full go in practice today so he should start barring a setback.

The Dolphins don't have tight end Dion Sims back yet. He is out of his walking boot but still not practicing today.

In Detroit, wide receiver Calvin Johnson worked with the team Monday, is practicing today and is apparently healed from his high ankle sprain. Coach Jim Caldwell, speaking to the South Florida media on a conference call, said he "anticipates that" Johnson will play Sunday against the Dolphins.

Johnson practiced full go on Wednesday.

Running back Reggie Bush (ankle) also practiced full go on Wednesday and is on course to play on Sunday.

Miami Dolphins are coming but wait for the arrival

Hey, you. Yeah, you. Stop painting your face aqua and orange for one second. Come over here where the rest of the population lives. This place is called Earth.

Welcome back.

I know you've been flying high over the last few days, enjoying the Miami Dolphins victory over the San Diego Chargers. It was a great win. It was the best game the Dolphins have played in a very long time.

But, um, it was one game.

Repeat that with me: It was one game.

And yes, that victory suggests bigger and better things are coming. I'll give you that. I see bigger and better things on the horizon as well.

But unlike many of you, I've been around here a long time. I've seen things. I know things. And I know that playoff berths aren't nailed down the first week of November. I know that singular games this early don't decide anything other than what happens on one particular day.

I know that winning the November championship is about as meaningful as winning the free agency title and the draft grades award and the training camp championship and the preseason Super Bowl.

And I know that the team I cover has won all those paper tiger honors before and it has resulted in nothing come January.

So pardon me while I ask you to save the champagne celebration for New Year's or the actual accomplishment of something significant -- such as earning a playoff berth -- which would happen around the new year, anyway.

In other words, pardon me if I ask you to calm down and return to reality.

I'm making this request because while the Dolphins seem to have a firm grasp on what they are working on, many fans and media do not.

They Dolphins are not working on celebrating last week or announcing the dawn of a new title era. They're simply working on adding another win Sunday to follow the ones they've had the past few weeks.

“The one thing about this team that I’m seeing, they know that it’s one week at a time," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Tuesday, speaking for the team as coach Joe Philbin was away at his father's funeral. "We had a good win, we were happy about it. Then we come back in here and Tuesday is back to work."

Interesting that Coyle spoke for about 12 minutes on Tuesday and didn't make reference to the Dolphins winning a championship.

Oh, because they haven't.

(Yes, I know, I sound like a downer. But do you come here to read the truth or fairy tales? If you want fairy tales they are found elsewhere so ...)

Here you get present day reality. And that now is that the Dolphins are playing very well. But the NFL rewards consistency. The NFL requires teams winning on the road to succeed. The NFL requires teams prosper within their division first before the conversation can turn to playoffs and such.

The Dolphins kicked the Chargers in the thunder bolts on Sunday. You know what that meant?

“It’s still a small glimpse," safety Louis Delmas said. "Every win or loss doesn’t seem as good or as bad as it is. We definitely still have a lot of things to improve on. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and hopefully improve for the upcoming games."

Good attitude.

Right attitude.

The truth about the Dolphins is they are seemingly ascending. I believe I wrote that ascent was possible when I wrote Miami has the most stable roster of any team in the AFC East. I wrote that two weeks ago.

But now I see some pundits and national media types, such as the Monday Morning Quarterback, going all breathless on us, saying the Dolphins are suddenly the eighth best team in the NFL -- seven slots ahead of Buffalo, who, you know, has the same record as the Dolphins and beat them in their only meeting so far this year.

Now I get people on twitter asking me sarcastically if I think quarterback Ryan Tannehill is elite, knowing that I don't think he is because, well, through 40 starts he has not been and a great, outstanding, career game against the Chargers doesn't change that.

Elite?

Brady.

Manning (you know which one).

Brees.

Rodgers.

Not because they're good the last few weeks. But because they've been good this year and for a long time before that. One good game or even a string of three or four good games doesn't make anyone elite. Otherwise Bryan Hoyer would be elite. Matt Cassel would be elite. Josh McCown would be elite.

So stop with the elite talk. Please.

I read how Bucky Brooks over at NFL.com is saying the Patriots might not be the best team in the AFC East right now. Well, they are and anyone with eyes sees they are, based on their record and what they've been doing the past month and have done in past years.

Bucky makes the point the Dolphins are better.

Mando makes the point we would be smart to actually pass them in the standings or even get out of third place before we start pounding chests. Haven't you, as Dolphins fans learned the meaning of premature pronouncements before to understand this is the best course?

Look, I covered this team when it had the best record in the NFL at 9-2 in 1993. They didn't win another game that season, finishing 9-7.

I covered this team when SI picked them to go to the Super Bowl in 2006. They went 6-10 and the coach quit to go back to college.

I covered this team when they were 8-6 and all it had to do to make the playoffs was win one of two games against teams with losing records and nothing to play for. And then the Dolphins lost both those games. That was last year. Remember last year?

What I'm saying is hold off on the preening. Let the team prove itself. Don't get ahead of yourselves.

Wise people consider a thing and soak it in once it is fact. Fanboy fools jump on bandwagons, make bold pronouncements and then feel cheated if their team doesn't perform exactly as they predicted.

Be wise, friends.

November 04, 2014

PFF and Salguero review of Miami Dolphins victory over San Diego

You know this is going to be good because how else does a team get graded when it blows out the opponent 37-0 as the Miami Dolphins blew out the San Diego Chargers Sunday?

But as my friends at ProFootballFocus.com grade the good and the bad every week while I add my share of insight, this week you get a dose of what went right with the Dolphins.

The weekly film review:

Offensive Summary

It was a blowout, but still monitoring the snaps at the No. 2 wide receiver position reveals Jarvis Landry is still the man while Brandon Gibson is successfully fighting off a freefall. Landry had 56 snaps, Brandon Gibson had 37 snaps, and Rishard Matthews had 22 snaps.

With Lamar Miller banged up, with a separated shoulder, Daniel Thomas saw 22 snaps and Damien Williams saw 18 snaps in relief. The Dolphins obviously go with a committee led by Thomas if Miller's shoulder injury lingers.

With the blowout, Shelley Smith, Nate Garner, Matt Moore (each with 17 snaps) all saw some time on the field as Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey, and Ryan Tannehill were able to get a view of the action from the sideline.

Passing

Ryan Tannehill had a fine day and posted a career high in quarterback rating but was still 0-for-3 on passes of 20-plus yards. He was, however, 7-for-9 on the intermediate 10-19-yard throws for 143 yards and two of his three TD passes.

Tannehill was very strong in all facets Sunday, but when the Chargers did not send the blitz, he went 15-for-19 with 202 yards and a TD.

Tannehill wasn't afraid to target San Diego's top corner, Brandon Flowers. He completed 5 of 8 targeted passes against Flowers to three different receivers for 61 yards and a TD.

Mike Wallace had one pass off an end around. It was a deep throw. It fell out of bounds. Wallace proved Tannehill is not the only one on the team with deep ball accuracy issues.

Rushing

Lamar Miller's best runs came up the middle and behind right guard Mike Pouncey, totaling 49 yards on 7 carries in that direction. His four stretch runs to the left yielded 0 yards. Miller also broke three more tackles as that continues to be an area of growth for him.

Neither Daniel Thomas nor Damien Williams did much to impress on the ground, but Williams broke three tackles while Thomas did not break any.

Receiving

TE Charles Clay was matched up with ILB Donald Butler on his TD catch. Butler, by the way, is under heavy scrutiny in San Diego. Think Phillip Wheeler or Dannell Ellerbe scrutiny.

He catches plenty of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, but all 46 of Jarvis Landry's yards came after the catch.

Defensive Summary

With the return of Jimmy Wilson, Michael Thomas (16 snaps) nor Jamar Taylor (9 snaps) saw much time on the field until garbage time. Thomas is done for the season with a chest injury. The Dolphins are signing Jordan Kovacs to replace him. Don't expect Kovacs to get the kind of playing time Thomas got. Kovacs will be a special teams player primarily.

The All-22 checks have to be made, but Randy Starks, Olivier Vernon, Brent Grimes, and Reshad Jones all received grades of +2.5 or greater.

The defensive line rotation was stretched due to the blowout, but here's how some of the “non-starter” snaps shook out: Terrence Fede  got 12 snaps, Earl Mitchell got 24 snaps, Derrick Shelby got 22 snaps, Dion Jordan got 22 snaps. For the starters, Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick saw 32 snaps, Olivier Vernon had 35, and Starks had 23 snaps.

Coverage

Cortland Finnegan allowed all four catches for 60 yards to Malcom Floyd, and another catch for 15 yards to Keenan Allen. Finnegan consistently gives up catches and yards. But he hasn't let anyone get behind him and he occassionally turns in a big play -- such as the fumble return TD against Oakland -- so that is the reason he's considered a good performer in Miami.

Opponents' passing

Rivers got into trouble when the Dolphins were able to pressure him off his spot. During his 11 pressured drop-backs, he went 3-for-8 for 34 yards and an INT, also getting sacked three times.

The key for the Dolphins was getting pressure with the four-man front. When they did not blitz, Rivers was a pedestrian 9-for-17 with 104 yards, and all three INTs.

November 03, 2014

Lamar Miller is day to day

The MRI results are back for Lamar Miller.

They reveal he has an AC joint sprain. He is day to day.

An AC joint sprain is also more commonly known as a shoulder separation.

An AC joint sprain is a relatively common sporting injury affecting the shoulder and is characterized by tearing of the connective tissue and ligaments of the Acromio-Clavicular joint.

The AC joint is responsible for connecting the shoulder blade with the clavicle and allows for some shoulder movement. During certain activities, stretching forces are placed on the AC joint. When these forces are excessive and beyond what the AC joint can withstand, tearing of the ligaments and connective tissue of the AC joint may occur. This condition is known as an AC joint sprain.

Miller suffered the injury to his left shoulder in the third quarter of Sunday victory over San Diego. It seems unlikely he will be practicing Tuesday when Miami players return to work.

The bottom line on Miami Dolphins stomping San Diego

A lot can be said of the Miami Dolphinns victory over San Diego on Sunday.

But in my opinion this says all that needs to be said: Read this.

That is all for now.

November 02, 2014

Lamar Miller says he'll be fine

You may exhale now.

Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller is apparently fine. He spent a grand total of perhaps 45 seconds in the team trainer's room after Sunday's game. He left the locker room wearing no sling or any other protection for his left shoulder.

"It was just a stinger but I'm good," Miller said. "I'll be fine once I get treatment."

Miller clearly will need the treatment to keep his grip strength and might miss some parts of practice because he is clearly not 100 percent. He struggled to pull a T-shirt over his head after his shower.

But that is a far cry from the concerns some fans had when they saw or found out Miller was injured in the third quarter of today's game against San Diego. Miller, you see, is Miami's starter and only real big threat at running back.

Miller did not return after he left the game but that was perhaps as much about the team's thorough 37-0 whipping of San Diego as it was the injury.

"I could have come back," Miller said.

Nonetheless, the Dolphins sent Miller for an MRI. That will tell the real story of how serious this is.

Miami Dolphins blow out Chargers, 37-0

The Dolphins have enjoyed some stirring victories this year.

Chicago a few weeks ago.

New England in the regular-season opener.

But this 37-0 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday was perhaps the best of them all.

This was complete as Miami played hard and well on offense and defense from start to finish.

The offense was convincing -- so much so CBS left in the third quarter to continue televising a more competitive match -- in puting up the most points of the season at home. Both teams even benched their starting quarterbacks and other starters with a good 13 minutes to play because, well, it was over.

And the game was emotional on multiple levels.

Joe Philbin, coaching his first game since the death of his father, saw his team play about as well as he's seen under his leadership.

Ryan Tannehill delivered and answered whatever questions were raised last week in the poor performance at Jacksonville. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns. He enjoyed a 125.6 rating. It has his highest career rating in a game. 

And the defense was simply dominant. They intercepted Phillip Rivers three times. They sacked Rivers three times and backup Kellen Clemens once.

The one troubling issue is a left shoulder injury sustained by running back Lamar Miller in the third quarter. He left the game and did not return. I will endeavor to get an update on that as soon as possible.

The Dolphins have won three games in a row and four of five.

Lamar Miller injures shoulder

The Miami Dolphins are rolling the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter. Seriously, with it 37-0 at this point, this game is over.

But the cost has been an injury to starting running back Lamar Miller.

Miller left the game in the third quarter when he injured his left shoulder. Although his official status to return is questionable, it seems unlikely he will play again today.

Miller was with a trainer on the sideline. The trainer asked Miller to raise his arm above his head.

Miller could only raise his left arm perpendicular to the ground.

Miller finished the game with 49 yards on 11 carries. Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams will close out the game.

Live blog: Chargers at Miami Dolphins

Koa Misi will be starting for the Dolphins at middle linebacker today.

Dallas Thomas will be starting at right guard because Daryn Colledge is out, as expected.

The Chargers are making some changes as well. Branden Oliver starts at RB and Kavell Conner starts at inside linebacker for Manti Te'o.

The Dolphins inactives today: Lowell Rose, Chris McCain, Daryn Colledge, Jason Fox, Anthony Johnson, Billy Turner, and Dion Sims.

McCain is out due to a foot injury.

There is a live blog today. Go the community and live the good life:

 

 

Live Blog Miami Dolphins vs. Chargers: Nov. 2, 2014
 

November 01, 2014

Keys to the game: Chargers at Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins embark on a season-defining stretch the next month, with opponents who currently boast a 22-9 record, and the first of those is the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

So do the Dolphins start that tough part of their schedule with a victory?

No idea. They would have a better chance if the Chargers hadn't gotten 10 days off -- they played at Denver Oct. 23 -- I'd say Miami's chances would be better. But that is not the case.

(Hey, no one has said I must predict the outcome of games. I do it for fun, although some of you get nose bleeds if I don't pick your team. So I'm not going to pick this game. Whaddaya think about that?)

Anyway, here are the keys to the game:

When the Chargers pass the football: Phillip Rivers doesn’t always get mentioned in the company of elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees but belongs in the conversation with those players as long as no one is discussing winning a Super Bowl. “He has an extra sense when something bad might be happening,” coach Joe Philbin said. In other words, Rivers has good instincts for the pocket and how to escape bad situations. The Dolphins had success against the Chargers last season, particularly in the red zone, forcing them to kick field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. Perhaps one reason for that is tight end Antonio Gates was battling injuries and was slowed to the point he was contained – four catches for 52 yards and the team’s only score. But Gates is healthier now and playing as well as ever, leading his team with nine TDs. Speaking of a renaissance, nine-year veteran Malcolm Floyd has been San Diego’s best deep threat, averaging 19.6 yards per catch. The Miami secondary has been great in recent weeks, intercepting six passes in four games, including two returned for touchdowns. ADVANTAGE: San Diego.

When the Chargers run the football: The question has been whether Ryan Mathews is ready to return to action. The answer is no. But Donald Brown, out recently with a concussion, will be available. And Miami-born rookie Branden Oliver will likely continue to be a big part of the run game for San Diego because he’s emerged in the absence of both Mathews and Brown. But let’s face it, this team passes to set up the run. This team runs as an afterthought. That’s the biggest difference between these Chargers and the dominant Chargers of the last decade that featured LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime. Those offenses were more complete. The Miami defensive front was gashed last week by the Jaguars as players lost the edge on run plays on multiple occasions. The Dolphins are No. 16 in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 111.1 rushing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

When the Dolphins pass the football: Let’s see, Mike Wallace came to the Dolphins to be a dynamic deep threat receiver and is mostly a possession receiver. Brian Hartline has four drops, including two last week, and is on pace for his worst season since 2011 when he wasn’t a fulltime starter. Tight end Charles Clay, feeling good about himself two weeks ago after the Chicago game, was limited to one catch last week at Jacksonville. The Dolphins passing game is not consistent and doesn’t seem to be maximizing its talents. Part of that falls on quarterback Ryan Tannehill who is trying to find consistency and keep it throughout not just multiple games but even within games. All that translates to the 25-ranked pass offense. The Chargers pass defense sounds more ominous with defensive end Dwight Freeney rushing the passer, corners Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett at their posts and safety Jahleel Addae available for service. But Verrett is out and Addae is doubtful. The Chargers better pack their depth for this road trip. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Dolphins run the football: Giving Lamar Miller two carries in the first half of any game is probably not in Miami’s plan, but that’s exactly what happened last week because the Miami offense could not string together any first downs. Will the Dolphins flip the switch on Miller and allow him to be the catalyst for the rest of the offense? That hasn’t happened yet either as he’s averaging 13.5 carries per game, and the Dolphins seem intent on being a passing team. The team is running only 43 percent of the time. The San Diego run defense is vulnerable. It yields 4.5 yards per rush, which is 23rd in the NFL. If only the Dolphins would run the ball more. It makes too much sense. So it probably won’t happen. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Special teams: The Chargers have the worst kick return team in the NFL as they are ranked 32nd.  They’re 21st in punting return average. The Chargers cover the kicks better than they return them but they still are not great in punt return coverage, ranking 21st in the NFL. Kicker Nick Novak was 4-for-4 against Jacksonville on Sept. 28 and was named the special teams player of the week. The Dolphins have the AFC special teams player of the month in Jarvis Landry and he continues to be threat on kickoffs. Caleb Sturgis has connected on three consecutive field goals and Brandon Fields has raised his net punting average by two yards the past two weeks. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross interviewed Mike McCoy and Joe Philbin when he was searching for a head coach in 2012 and obviously was more impressed with Philbin’s organizational skills than McCoy’s play-calling and other assets. Was it the right call? Impossible to answer at this point. McCoy’s team did get to the playoffs last year but Philbin’s team beat the Chargers. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Philbin returns after death in his family

Joe Philbin is back with the Dolphins today, no doubt with a heavy heart.

The Dolphins coach who missed practice the past two days returned this morning after his father passed away last night. Paul E. Philbin was 93 years old.

The elder Mr. Philbin is survived by his wife Mary (coach's mom) among others.

Joe Philbin will coach the Dolphins on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. I'm told that was his intent the whole time.

My heartfelt condolences to the Philbin family.

October 31, 2014

A familiar formula for Miami Dolphins to ride to victory

Any Miami Dolphins fan can recite the reasons the Buffalo Bills, for example, have dominated their team in recent games: It's the line of scrimmage.

Simply, against teams with great defensive fronts, the Miami offensive line struggles because the interior of the Dolphins offense has at times been terrible inconsistent. On the other side of the ball, a team with a solid offensive line (such as Buffalo) has been able to overcome if not containt Miami's very good defensive front.

With me so far?

Well, Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, the Dolphins might have the ability to turn that exact script against the San Diego Chargers. It is likely the only hope the Dolphins have of winning that game because, frankly, the Chargers have better skill players on offense than Miami -- starting with quarterback Phillip Rivers.

The way I see it, Rivers is great and tight end Antonio Gates is great but their mark on a game fades if the Dolphins can win at the line of scrimmage. And from the looks of history and circumstances that seems quite possible.

Consider that the Miami defense is ninth in the NFL in sacks with 21. That's good. But it is tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks per game -- averaging three per game. The Dolphins rush the passer very well and that no doubt is one reason the secondary lately has feasted on interceptions (six in the past four games).

Combine that with the fact the Chargers are on their third starting center, having lost their starter and backup for the year, and that third guy -- Rich Orhnberger -- is struggling with back issues.

Combine that with the fact the Chargers lead the NFL with 103 pressures allowed despite sitting 16th in the league in the number of passing plays, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Combine that with the fact the Chargers struggle to run the football -- they only average 3.1 yards per rush and are 30th in rush yards per game at 85.8

And what you see is a developing picture of the Dolphins holding a distinct advantage along the line of scrimmage when their defense is on the field.

Well, what about when the Miami offense is on the field?

To start, the Chargers are not exceptional at rushing the passer. Their 15 sacks is tied for 19th in the NFL. Defensive end Corey Liuget is their sack leader with 2.5 out of the 3-4 set. He's good. But where's production from Dwight Freeney?

The San Diego defense also allows 110.9 rush yards per game. That's 14th which is middle of the pack. Safety Eric Weddle often has to creep into the tackle box to augment the run defense. And that is not a sign of a dominant run defense.

If the Dolphins, which for some curious reason don't run often enough despite having success at it, would decide to stick with the run, the statistics suggest they could have success against San Diego.

So what does this all mean?

This game offers a viable opportunity for the Dolphins to win the game at the line of scrimmage. It has been done to them with success all too painfully in recent history.

Perhaps they can flip the script.