September 06, 2016

'I like this Miami Dolphins offensive line'

This is going to sound strange to you. It feels weird for me to type: The Miami Dolphins are not worried about their 2016 offensive line. And, for the first time in years, the organization is right not to be worried.




Look at the Dolphins line that will start at Seattle on Sunday in the regular-season opener. It this group too young? No. Is it a group of over-the-hill vets? No. Are there high draft picks in the group? Yes. Are there Pro Bowl players in the group? Yes.

Is there a glaring problem with this unit that everyone on Earth except the Dolphins recognizes? Actually, unlike past years, no.

Has every single player in that group enjoyed NFL success at one point or another? Well, rookie first-round pick Laramy Tunsil has not. But, get this, he's a rookie. He's about to make his NFL debut Sunday. So asking him to show his NFL cred is kind of unfair. What Tunsil can show anyone who wonders is his work since the start of training camp in July. He won a job after being the team's second player on their draft board in April. He was not gifted that job. He won it.

"A lot of times you take that first pick – especially a high first pick – and you declare him the starter," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said Tuesday. "I think (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase was adamant right from the get-go that we’re going to play the best five. If he’s in that best five, great. If not, he can back up at left tackle.

"We could do a lot of different things. There were a lot of different scenarios. There were a lot of guys we looked at. We really gave them equal time, probably as long as you possibly could without (limiting) some folks and then being unfair to them. He kept improving. He’s not great yet, but he sure is a talented guy. He sure works hard. He keeps improving, and that’s all we’re looking for – keep playing hard and keep improving."

So Tunsil has come as billed so far and met expectations.

He's not a weak link.

Indeed, I look at the group and don't see a weak link. Well, center Anthony Steen is a rookie and an undrafted one at that. He might be starting Sunday because Mike Pouncey is fighting to get healthy after sustaining another hip injury in the preseason, he's had two surgeries on his hips, that has kept him out of the lineup the past couple of weeks.

But when Pouncey eventually gets healthy, he is part of the solution and not part of a problem.

So LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, C Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod, and RT Ja'Wuan James have the makings of a solid NFL line. And even as the Dolphins prepare to play the ominous Seahawks defense, no one is saying Miami is seemingly overmatched up front.

Indeed, a legitimate question this game is whether the Seahawks' offensive line is overmatched up front, not Miami's.

 “I feel pretty good about it," Gase said about his offensive line Tuesday. "I feel like they’re getting a good feel as far as the tempo of what we’re doing, how Ryan (Tannehill) is doing some things at the line of scrimmage and making changes and the way that we handle protections in the run game and things like that. The nice thing … Really, (Larmey) Tunsil is the guy that’s trying to get caught up the quickest. Obviously, the rest of those guys have been practicing a lot more than him. Bushrod being in the offense before, it’s just a different position for him not really necessarily terminology, not necessarily understanding why we do stuff. He knows that, it’s just at a different spot. As far as them knowing what to do, I feel really good about it."

I've heard all this before. I heard Joe Philbin say he felt good about a line that featured Dallas Thomas at left tackle and I remember thinking, 'You cannot be serious.' I remember Tony Sparano saying with a straight face that he'd watched the tape on Mark Colombo and that he'd be a great addition. And I thought, 'Love you coach, but you misfired on this one.'

When Gase talks about this line, my cynicism is not riled. My skepticism doesn't cause me to cackle as the coach is speaking. I don't see this line as the Titanic sailing into icy waters. I don't see obvious issues as long as the starters stay healthy and the unit remains intact. (Backups are another issue, but that's not what we're discussing here).

This Dolphins line must get better at run blocking. They cannot return Arian Foster (in the video) to prominence unless they step up their ability to get to the second level. This unit must also continue to protect Tannehill as it did in the preseason -- where he was sacked only once in three games. But mostly this line is in the "find-chemistry" mode now. It's not in the "find-talent" mode past Dolphins lines have spent seasons toiling in.

"It’s (about) playing off of each other and understanding when the center does something, the guard is going to be able to play off of them," Gase said. "Same thing with the tackles with the guards. There is something to say about chemistry amongst those guys up front. I’ve seen it change midseason, and it worked as well. The longer guys can play together, obviously, the better they’re going to do when they work together.”

Now, recognizing this is a Dolphins blog, I know you hate your lives because your team has mentally and spiritually abused you the past 15 years or so. So I know you are reading these last few paragraphs and think I've lost my everlovin' mind.

It is simply not possible for the Dolphins to have nice things. It is against some obscure NFL bylaw for this team to have a high-caliber offensive line. You know this.

And, yes, the Steen issue glows with uncertainty. I mean, the guy was a guard 47 seconds ago and now he might be starting against the Seattle Seahawks who are the pick of many pundits to win the Super Bowl and the World Cup and the medal count at the coming Winter Olympics they're so dominant.

But I have a feeling about Steen. He's ... plucky. Nothing's been handed to him. He's earned this chance should it happen Sunday. I don't think the stage will be too big for him.

“He has been great," Gase said. "He’s a sharp guy. He picked things up quick. For a guy that … When you get thrown in there and all of a sudden you’re the guy, that’s a lot on your plate. I haven’t seen him really change his demeanor from the day he arrived here, at least with us. He has been really good as far as dictating what we’re doing up front.”

I like this Miami Dolphins offensive line. I haven't typed that sentence in a long time.

Cameron Wake not a starter; Jordan Phillips ballin'; DeVante Parker not practicing again

We know the Dolphins' plan for Cameron Wake this year was keep him as healthy as possible for as long as possible -- hopefully, the team believes, into the playoffs.

And we know that would mean Wake might not be the starter all the time, yielding a status he's had for years. Well, today defensive coordinator Vance Joseph confirmed that is the plan during his weekly coordinator's presser.

"In our first and second-down package, Jason Jones will be our starting end along with Mario Williams," Joseph said. "Cam will be used some on first and second but mostly in pass rushing situations."

Joseph said you should expect Jason Jones to start against the Seattle Seahawks if the season-opener game starts with the opponent in a run package. If the Seahawks come out looking to pass, Wake might be on the field this and every week early in the season.

That's because Jones is in on the base defense. And Wake will take his usual spot in passing situations for Miami's pass rush package.


Again, the idea is to keep Wake, 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles' tendon, healthy as possible for a long as possible this season. He lasted only seven games last year and wasn't exactly healthy to start the year. He's healthy now -- relatively -- although he has admitted he's not 100 percent.

This, obviously, is another sign that he is healthy enough to contribute but indeed is not 100 percent.


There have been questions about what exactly Jordan Phillips is doing for the Dolphins so far in his second NFL season.

The questions were raised this week because Earl Mitchell, who missed practically the entire preseason and training camp with a calf injury, returned to practice this week.

And he's listed as the starter next to Ndamukong Suh.

And Phillips, who is supposed to make a big jump in his second year after being drafted in the second round in 2015, is a backup.

So I asked Joseph what kind of camp and preseason did Phillips have?

"He started slow," Joseph admitted.

But then the DC said Phillips picked things up and overall had "a tremendous" training camp and preseason.

"I'm very pleased with Jordan Phillips," Joseph said.

So one supposes Phillips will get a lot of snaps on Sunday and beyond -- perhaps even more than Mitchell depending on the veteran's conditioning.

My take, frankly, is the Dolphins are starting the veteran out of a combination of respect for his experience, and the idea that Mitchell is also a good player.


The Dolphins are practicing this afternoon and ... the news is bad for DeVante Parker.

The receiver, nursing a hamstring injury, is not practice gain. His status for Sunday's game at Seattle looks very dubious.

Jelani Jenkins 9knee0 is not practicing today, either. I'd tell you his chances of playing are also minimal except coach Adam Gase said Monday the linebacker is on a positive track to play. Circuitous track.

Finally, Mike Pouncey is not even to the point he's on the field for practices. He's been nursing a hip injury for a couple of weeks.

Dawn Aponte 'transitions' away from Miami Dolphins, NFL

Dolphins executive vice president Dawn Aponte is leaving the organization and "transitioning" to a top role at RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment venture co-founded by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and club vice-chairman Matt Higgins.

"I am transitioning out of the Dolphins," Aponte said Tuesday. "This is something [executive vice president] Mike [Tannenbaum], Matt and I have been talking about for more than several months. It started out as a conversation with sort of what's the next step in my progression and my career, where my interests are and what I've been looking to do."

Aponte, in the NFL for 25 years and one of its most highly accomplished and respected executives regardless of gender, becomes an executive -- perhaps the top executive -- under Higgins at RSE. Her focus will be on business development.

"I've had an amazing experience in the NFL with all the different things I've been able to do and touch and experience," Aponte said. "In our conversations we discussed how I could best use my experience and expand it to more business involvement. This is something new where I can contribute but also grow and develop."

The Dolphins have promoted Senior Director for Human Resources Brandon Shore into Aponte's former role as chief contract negotiator. He has climbed the ladder within the organization over the past six years, starting off as an intern under Aponte.

"I see this as a branch transfer for Dawn," Tannenbaum said. "She's working for Matt now but will still be available to us to give us her thoughts on big picture approaches to matters. Brandon worked here under Dawn a long time and he understands our culture and how we approach things. He's seen how Dawn does it. How I've done it. But he has his own ideas."

Shore is now the team's senior director of football administration. Tannenbaum will continue to have final say over all matters of contracts and other areas. Shore reports to Tannenbaum.

For Aponte, this move is a win-win. She has a Master's in Finance and Management, an accounting degree, and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. She is a member of the New York state bar.

So Higgins will immediately set her on one of RSE's top ventures -- the Drone Racing League.

"I've known Dawn since 2004 and we're very close. I have an intimate understanding of what she's capable of doing," Higgins said. "Very few people in our industry have a combination of a law degree, an MBA, accounting agree. With her credentials, she has an understanding of how to advance complicated issues. The things she's done in the NFL are applicable elsewhere."

Among those applications is managing IT, dealing within marketing negotiations, among other things. Aponte will immediately work with RSE's Drone Racing League relative to relationships with broadcasters and pilots and how to expand the league.

"Dawn," Higgins said, "is going to hit the ground running."

September 05, 2016

(Most) Dolphins begin preparations for Seahawks; Tunsil. Howard Foster are starters (none a surprise); Jenkins on track to play

The Dolphins have begun their week of preparations for their NFL regular-season opener at Seattle on Sunday. Well, most of the Dolphins have begun prepping.

As the team practiced today, there were a handful of notable absences.

Center Mike Pouncey was nowhere on the field. He's recovering from a hip injury.

Receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) was jogging around the field but not practicing.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) was jogging around the field but not practicing.

Coach Adam Gase sounded optimistic that Jenkins could play against Seattle on Sunday.

“I don’t want to jinx myself," Gase said. "I think he’s on a good track right now. I know he’s been working really hard. It seems like he’s around here a lot because he doesn’t want to miss that first game. I think all of those guys that are really kind of on the sideline right now are itching to get out at practice. They do not want to miss an opportunity to go play this team because this is a really good team. This is a great organization that’s been very consistent; especially since (Head) Coach (Pete) Carroll has gotten there. I think these guys know that this is a good team and they want to showcase what their talents are.”

The rest of the team is mostly healthy. Backup quarterback Matt Moore told me earlier today he's 100 percent following that concussion a couple of weeks ago. He's practicing full go.

Kenny Stills, who left practice one day last week with a back issue, is practicing full go today.

The Dolphins will release their depth chart at some point in the next few minutes -- so check back here for that update.

My prediction is that MY LINE, which I wrote about August 14, will be the starting line against the Seahawks. Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.

Update: And my line of LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, Center Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Ja'Wuan James is indeed the starting line on the depth chart.

The national reporters may make a thing about Tunsil winning the starting job. Really? You know that was the plan all along if you read this blog with regularity.

Arian Foster is listed as the starting running back ahead of Jay Ajayi.

Why is Foster the Dolphins' starter?

"I think a little bit of the reason is experience; but at the same time I think Arian, from the time he’s gotten here, has really shown that, that is the correct spot for him to be in," coach Adam Gase said. "He had a really good camp. He did everything we asked him to do as far as what we wanted to see in the preseason and he’s been very consistent in his knowledge of the offense in the short period of time that he was here – it was impressive to watch him (and) how quickly he picked it up."

It should not be forgotten that Ajayi, given the opportunity to shine in the final preseason game, fumbled on one carry and dropped a pass. That made what seemed like a close race for the starting job into something else.

Earl Mitchell and Ndamukong Suh are the defensive starting tackles. Cameron Wake and Mario Williams are the starting defensive ends. On Wake, I'd be careful to expect him to start every game. The Dolphins are making no secret of the fact Wake is going to be mostly a pass rusher early in the season. So if the Seahawks, for example, roll out double tight ends, a half back and fullback for their first play on Sunday, Wake is not going to be in there. Jason Jones probably would be the starter in that case.

The starting corners are Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. Again, no surprise on Howard because I reported as much on Aug. 28.

“I think in the time that we saw him practice in the spring, we were feeling that’s where it was headed," Gase said of Howard. "He really did show the skill set that we thought he had when we drafted him. The injury really set him back as far as just being able to showcase that, really on the field more than anything. I think in the limited time he’s been back, he’s really shown that he didn’t fall off from the time he missed. Mentally he knows exactly what’s going on. I don’t know if sometimes, maybe for those rookies, when they can sit back and they can’t actually practice but they’re able to watch and learn from others mistakes, or what somebody else has done well. He did a good job of making sure he stayed up with everything so when he got a chance to get out there, it wasn’t like he was starting over again.”


Jarvis Landry: Respect for Richard Sherman but not going to avoid him

Richard Sherman is perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL. Can we agree on that?

If you ask him, the Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl player might say he's the best cornerback in the NFL. He's accomplished (26 career interceptions). He's still in his prime (age 27). He's a student of the game.

And Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry respects all that. But the Dolphins receiver isn't necessarily afraid of that.

"He's definitely a premier corner in this league," Landry said Monday afternoon before the Dolphins began preparation for Sunday's regular-season opener at Seattle. "He's definitely a guy that we respect but that we're definitely not going to shy away from. Just having the opportunity to compete against a guy like that, man, I know it's something this offense and this receiving corps looks forward to."

Not shy away from Sherman? Actually, that is exactly what a lot of teams have done to avoid having problems throwing the football. That might be the reason Sherman's interception numbers have decreased each of the past two seasons -- from eight in 2012 and '13 to four in 2014 and only two last season.

That doesn't seem to bother or worry Landry.

"I mean, for me, man, I want to win. I'm a competitor," he said. "You know, so regardless of who the guy is, we're there to win. Period."'

Dolphins biggest underdog in the NFL: Happy Labor Day!

The NFL's first regular-season week is here and guess who the biggest underdog in the league is this week?

Yeah, you guessed it: The Miami Dolphins.

The folks in Las Vegas, and the islands that serve as hubs for online gambling websites, have decided your Dolphins have the smallest chance of any NFL team to win this weekend when they travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks.

Miami opened as a 10 1/2-point underdog on most books. They are down to 7 1/2-point underdogs on most of them now -- tied for the biggest point spread in the league.

So the bookies are not buying the Adam Gase renewal of the culture and remaking of Ryan Tannehill. They're not buying the unleashing of a great defensive line. They're not buying a perennially mediocre team's trip across country to play a perennially good team.

And the Seahawks have been that.

Seattle has made four consecutive playoff appearances and five in the past six years. Pete Carroll's team has two Super Bowl appearances during that time. And, yes, there was that Super Bowl win in 2013 over the Denver Broncos.

The Seahawks have been good but not great at home in recent years. They were 5-3 at home in 2015. That was a sign of some weakness compared to previous years.

The Seahawks were 7-1 at home in 2014 and 2013.

The Dolphins were 3-6 on the road last year. What, nine games? Well, the trip to London was considered a "home" game by the team and the NFL. Those of us who live in the real world understand a trip to London is not a home game for a Miami team.

Happy Labor Day!

September 04, 2016

Miami Dolphins claim receiver Justin Hunter on waivers, cut Whalen

Some of the hundreds of players cut by their teams on Saturday are being claimed by NFL teams today and the Miami Dolphins are active in that, claiming former Titans receiver Justin Hunter, according to an NFL source.

Hunter, 6-4 and 205 pounds, is a former second-round pick of the Titans in 2013. He caught 22 passes for 264 yards and 1 TD last season and has 68 catches for 1,116 yards with eight touchdowns in his career. Despite his much heralded 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Hunter has averaged only 12 yards a catch last season. His career average is a much more meaty 16.4 yards per catch.

[Update: To make room for Hunter on the roster the Dolphins have cut Griff Whalen, per a source. Obviously the Dolphins weren't going to carry seven wide receivers.]

The Dolphins, believe it or not, are familiar with Hunter because Miami receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was the Titans receiver coach previously.

The addition of Hunter, who played collegiately at Tennessee, could signal in part the Dolphins concern that DeVante Parker may not be ready for the regular-season opener at Seattle. The Herald's Adam Beasley reported Saturday Parker could miss that game with a hamstring injury.

I've been told that decision has not been made at this point but it is clear Parker is gaining a reputation for injuries. He has dealt with multiple foot and hamstring injuries in his short time with Miami since being the first round draft pick in 2015.


September 03, 2016

Dolphins keep three QBs; Lucas makes it; Duarte only rookie cut

The Miami Dolphins have their 53-man roster and it includes three quarterbacks and all but one of their drafted rookies.

The team has kept quarterback Brandon Doughty and cornerback Jordan Lucas -- later round picks who were on the bubble as the team trimmed players from the roster in the last two days. Tight end Thomas Duarte is the only rookie who did not make the team.

Here are the team's moves today:


James Burgess LB, Deandre Coleman DT, Jamil Douglas G, Thomas Duarte TE, Zac Dysert QB, Shamiel Gary S, Tyler Gray LB, A.J. Hendy S, Ulrick John T, Chris Jones DT, Cleyon Laing DE, Rashaan Melvin CB, Lafayette Pitts CB, Cedric Reed DE, Rashawn Scott WR, Jordan Williams DE.

The Dolphins also released (terminated contracts) of the following vets:

Chimdi Chekwa CB, James-Michael Johnson LB, Domique Jones TE, Daniel Thomas RB, Sam Young T.

The team also put cornerback Chris Culliver on physically unable to perform.

Here's the thing: At tight end the team kept Marqueis Gray as the third guy. The team kept Mike Hull as the backup middle linebacker. Julius Warmsley did indeed make the team as the fourth defensive tackle. Terrence Fede, nursing an MCL injury, is on the team.

For now, folks. For now.

Cut day: Gase talks about relationships with players; Culliver to PUP; updates on day's moves as they come in

I talked with Adam Gase privately after Thursday's preseason finale and wrote this column which appears in today's Miami Herald and elsewhere on this website. In it, Gase tells me what he really thinks of Ryan Tannehill. The Tannehill haters will be disappointed.

But, frankly, I see in Gase something I didn't see the past four years from the Miami Dolphins head coach: He actually tries to bond with his players. I tries to forge a relationship with them.

"The way I look at it is, these are our guys," Gase said. "These are our guys in this organization -- offense, defense and special teams. We started with 90 guys in April and every guy I've ever ended up releasing, I've told them once you're one of my guys, you are forever one of my guys. I'll always do whatever I can to help that guy, whether he's in the first cut or second cut, or he's on our team. If he ends up somewhere else, I'll always try to help. That's how I feel about that because you appreciate what these guys put in -- the time and effort."

Gase and the Dolphins will cut their roster from 75 to 53 today. One of those move will be the placing of cornerback Chris Culliver on the physically unable to perform list. This is confirmed. He will not count toward the 53-man roster. He would be able to continue rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee. He will be eligible to begin practicing after the sixth regular season game -- so October.

So the Dolphins will be making 21 other moves today. Come back to this page and refresh it throughout the day for those moves updated as they come in. Let's get started:

The Dolphins terminated the contract of offensive tackle Sam Young. He was scheduled to make $760,000 this year. He was on third team. Bad combination. 20 moves to go.

The Dolphins have released CB Rahaan Melvin. No surprise as most of these will not be. Melvin has NFL experience but it is bad NFL experience and he didn't cover anyone in camp. 19 moves to go.

Chimdi Chekwa is gone. I must say I'm a little surprised with this because the Dolphins are light on corners and there was a span of 5 minutes where Chekwa was taking first-team snaps -- that before he got hurt. 18 moves to go.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones has been released. Minor surprise here because he was working with the second team throughout camp and started like a house on fire before cooling off late in camp. This moves bodes will for Julius Warmsley, who now has a path to being the team's fourth DT. 17 moves to go.

Another move, this one expected, that bodes well for Warmsley: The team has waived DT Deandre Coleman. So the four DTs would be Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell as the starters, Jordan Phillips and Warmsley as the backups. 16 moves to go.

Tight end is an interesting spot for the Dolphins. They need a third TE. MarQueis Gray seems to have the inside track. Dominque Jones does not. Jones has been cut, per a source. 15 moves to go.

The Dolphins have too many safeties. Shamiel Gary will not be one of them. He has been cut, per his agent David Canter. 14 moves to go.

The Dolphins will definitely keep four defensive ends -- Mario Williams, Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Jason Jones, who can also slide inside on rush downs. Will they keep five? We'll see. Meanwhile, The Herald's Barry Jackson notes the team has cut DEs Cleyon Laing and Jordan Williams. 12 moves to go.

Gase personally picked Daniel Thomas because he liked what the kid did for him last training camp in Chicago. And Thomas, bless his heart, did about as well as he's ever done in a Dolphins uniform. But at the end of the day, he's a 3-yard per carry guy in a 4-yard per carry league. And he's not that good on special teams to merit a spot. So, per Barry, the Dolphins cut their former second-round pick today. 11 moves to go.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting the team has cut LB Tyler Gray. No surprise. 10 moves to go.

The Dolphins are waiving wide receiver Rashawn Scott, per a source, but the team is planning to bring him back to the practice squad. I like this kid's potential. 9 moves to go.

The team has waived Jamil Douglas. What a waste. A fourth round pick a year ago, he's out now. He was trying to show himself versatile as a guard and center but had a snap penalty in the final preseason game. He was running third team so no surprise. 8 moves to go.

Offensive lineman Ulrick John is out. I'm told veteran Kraig Urbik has not heard from the team -- great news on cutdown day. He has been playing at right guard, left guard and center. Indeed, with Mike Pouncey uncertain for the opener, the team might decide to carry Urbik into the opener as the backup center. 7 moves to go.

The Dolphins have waived their first draft pick -- seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte -- per Barry. No surprise. He needs to remake his body, get stronger, get better on special teams. He's a practice squad reclaim. The Jets released Jace Amaro today. I'm telling you this because any TE that gets released today is a candidate for the Dolphins to claim or try to sign later on. The team wants to upgrade the No. 3 TE spot, regardless of what happens today. 6 moves to go.

The Dolphins are down on numbers with the CB spot. They cut Lafayette Pitts as well as Checkwa. That suggests late-rounder Jordan Lucas makes the team but that is not confirmed. If Lucas makes it, the team will have four boundary corner types on the roster. It will have two slot corners -- Bobby McCain and Mike Thomas -- on the roster. 5 moves to go.

I've confirmed the Dolphins are cutting No. 4 QB Zac Dysert. And what does this mean? Well, I can tell you Brandon Doughty has not heard from the team yet, so that's good news for him so far. He outplayed Dysert in the final preseason game Thursday. This move means the Dolphins could keep Doughty as their No. 3. Or Doughty could still be cut and they go with 2 QBs. My sense is Doughty makes it. 4 moves to go.

In related news, the Saints have cut defensive end Chris McCain three days after trading with the Dolphins for his rights. That means the Dolphins will not be getting that conditional seventh-round pick from the Saints.

The Dolphins linebacker corps is coming together, but only for now. The team has cut the University of Louisville's James Burgess, a South Florida high school product. That leaves Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Spencer Paysinger, and Neville Hewitt on the team. But that doesn't mean all is set. A decision is needed on Mike Hull and James-Michael Johnson. Even then, look for the Dolphins to scour the waiver wires to upgrade this unit. 3 moves to go.

September 01, 2016

Preseason game 4: Jay Ajayi disappoints; Brandon Doughty impresses; offensive line still working toward consistency; Tony Lippett gets a pick

The prevailing thinking among some pro football fans is that what happened around the NFL tonight was a bunch of teams played the fourth and final preseason game and ... forget it ... bring on the regular season.

Except Adam Gase was not thinking like that after the Miami Dolphins 21-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

I know its the fourth preseason game and everybody kind of shrugs their shoulders," Gase said. "But anytime you walk on that field it's important."

That's why backup Brandon Doughty should be feeling pretty good right now.

And running back Jay Ajayi probably shouldn't be.

The more important thing first. Ajayi first.

He had a rough night. He fumbled on the first series of the game.  Indeed, he started this game and fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. And the Titans converted the turnover into a touchdown.

Later he had what seemed like an obvious drop on a second-down pass. It was a slant and it would have been an 8-10 yard gain had he caught the ball. Not good.

"I was really disappointed that he put the ball on the ground," Gase said. "I feel like what he's shown me in the spring and training camp as far as being a guy who's reliable in the passing game, I don't know the exact ball placement if it was behind him or he dropped it. I know when the ball's on target he usually makes that play.

"And I would have liked to see him not ... I don't think we had the ball on the ground the entire preseason with our running backs and to have that happen is I guess I expect better from him. I have high standards for him."

Ajayi finished the game with 13 yards on three carries. It was interesting that one of the team's top two running backs -- perhaps even the starting running back -- would get a chance to build confidence against Tennessee's reserves and instead he comes out of the game having disappointed his coach.

The running back corps will be an area where decisions have to be made. And Daniel Thomas (not my most favorite player in the world based on his past history) made that decision a little tougher because he had a decent night.

He caused a fumble on a punt return. He rushed 10 times for 31 yards and scored a touchdown. I'll be honest, this coaching staff has gotten Thomas better. He's better than the running back I saw with the Dolphins multiple times the past few years, starting when he was a second-round pick in 2011.

But is he good enough to make the team?

"I like our depth," Gase said of his running backs. "Seems like we've had a lot of guys have success, whether it be in practice or the preseason games. It hasn't shown as far as the total group. There's someone different flashing every game. We're never all healthy at the same time. Every time we went out to practice it was four different guys. DT might have been the only guy who was consistently out there so.

"We'll see how this shakes out in the next two days and we'll see who we have on the roster."

Kenyan Drake, by the way, made his Dolphins debut. He had four rushes and gained six yards. He also returned two kicks and averaged 22.5 yards per return.

"It felt good," Drake said after the game. "Just (going) out there (and) just running around felt good. (I) got a lot – a little burst – and look forward to continue the growth through it in the weeks to come.”

The Dolphins have a decision to make on their No. 3 quarterback. First, they have to decide if they're going to have a No. 3 quarterback.

If the answer is yes, it seems Brandon Doughty is that guy because he outplayed Zac Dysert this game.

And since both players entered the game in a virtual deadlock for the No. 3 job, with maybe Dysert holding a small advantage, it is possible the tables have turned.

Dysert completed 10 of 16 passes for 85 yards. He threw an interception in the end zone. His quarterback rating was 50.3.

Doughty was eight of 12 for 98 yards. He didn't throw a TD nor an interception. But there was just more energy in the offense when he was at the helm. His quarterback rating was 91.7.

Advantage Doughty.

But again, being the third best guy is no consolation if this turns out to be a race for two spots. So the next two days will be a mission for players like Doughty who will sweat the cuts to 53, which must be done by Saturday.

“Sit and wait and pray that I don’t get a call," Doughty said. "I was kind of saying my goodbyes to some of these guys in case something happens. I’m really hoping that I make the 53. That’s a goal; it’s a dream of mine. In reality, we know this is a business and numbers kind of don’t work your way sometimes.”

There were some interesting things happening in this game...

First round rookie Laremy Tunsil said a couple of days ago he was playing. The coaching staff decided otherwise after Tunsil was forced to leave practice two days ago with an injury. He's fine. But the Dolphins didn't want to risk anything.

"The other day was a little bit of a scare for him so we were just being smart," Gase said.

There has been no announcement -- except from me, of course -- but Tunsil is the Dolphins starting left guard. That is a done deal at this point. But he has work to do.

"I've seen a guy who's improved since the first day he's been here," Gase said. "His pass protection is his strength. He's done a good job in that area. We need to get some things cleaned up on the run game. A lot of times it's just ball's coming out quick, understanding the angles, how the linebackers fill. So there's a little bit of learning here and there he needs to do."

Interestingly, Jermon Bushrod, the starting right guard the past two games, started this night as well. It suggests his spot on the starting unit isn't as concrete solid as the others. But, then again, this is a unit that looks settled for the Seattle season-opener but anything can happen beyond that.

"I think we have a good idea what we want to do with that first game but as we said a couple of days ago there might be a chance we play multiple guys in this game," Gase said. "We're going to just keep working through that situation."

The Dolphins are working through the cornerback situation. Xavien Howard got his first NFL start tonight. It was uneventful. He allowed one completion, a third down conversion in front of him, but that was erased by a penalty on an offensive linemen.

So good.

Tony Lippett, who has been the other corner opposite Byron Maxwell this preseason, started this game. He had an interception on an underthrown pass. Good.

He also got beat a couple of times and his coverage, particularly on slants really doesn't seem to be up to standards. So Lippett accepted credit for the pick. And recognized he still has work to do.

Still, the interception is a nice way to cap a preseason.

“Yes, I guess it was a nice way," Lippett said. "It’s not the end. I’m going to keep going into the season and keep striving for greatness and continue to try to make plays."

Twenty years without Don Shula for the Miami Dolphins

Today is September 1, 2016. On this date 20 years ago, the Miami Dolphins opened their 1996 season with a victory over the New England Patriots in a game that was memorable primarily because it was the first one played without Don Shula roaming the sidelines for the first time since 1970.

It's hard to believe that 20 years, nearly a generation, has passed since Shula left.

It's hard to believe we've survived.

It's hard to believe how bad things have gotten with the Miami Dolphins franchise since then. That's right, bad. I'm not talking right now. Obviously, now the franchise is starting yet another post-Shula reboot -- with a new head coach, refurbished stadium, new roster, yada, yada, yada.

But the past 20 years have been lost in a time warp of pain, frustration, and, too often, embarrassment.

I covered Don Shula's final six seasons as the Dolphins coach. I recognize those were not perfect times. (The only perfect time was 1972, actually). I recognize there were flaws. But in hindsight, I also now see how much greater he was than the men who followed him. I recognize how much greater those former days were than the franchise's latter days.

Dolphins fans in 1996 complained their team needed a new coach because he was perpetually 10-6 and it had been a decade since Shula got them to the Super Bowl.

Dolphins fans in 2016 haven't been to the playoffs, indeed haven't had a winning season, since 2008. And they haven't won a playoff game since 2000.


Don Shula had two losing seasons in his 26 years as Miami's head coach. The Dolphins have had five losing seasons the past seven years.

The hope is this franchise has turned a page on that book of recent history. The hope is the new guys will return the franchise to its former excellence, and perhaps even get a whiff of the former glory.

But the past 20 years? Frightening.

Below is a look at the history of Dolphins head coaches (no interims) after Don Shula and before Adam Gase. In the comments section, kindly rate these administrations best to worst if you like:

Jimmy Johnson (1996-99): By practically every account, Johnson failed to accomplish his coaching goals. He didn't get the Dolphins to the Super Bowl, as he promised. He didn't win the AFC East. He didn't give every ounce of effort the job required -- as evidenced by his overnight resignation in 1999, which he rescinded the next day. Johnson had a rocky relationship with quarterback Dan Marino and that certainly didn't help. Meanwhile, general manager Jimmy Johnson was very, very good. He drafted Jason Taylor in the third round, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison in the second round, and Zach Thomas in the fifth round. Yes, he had misses, most notably not picking Randy Moss but picking Yatil Green in another draft. But he left his successor plenty of talent. Oh, about that departure … Johnson exited after a final 62-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dave Wannstedt (2000-04): This one puzzles considering Wannstedt's 43-30 record with one division title and two playoff appearances. But … the truth is Wannstedt benefitted from his predecessor Jimmy Johnson leaving him with a playoff-caliber defense that had greats such as Taylor (a potential Hall of Famer), Thomas, Surtain, Madison, Tim Bowens and others. And Wannstedt systematically made that team weaker every year just as he had done when he was the head coach in Chicago. Wannstedt had a coach mutiny in 2004, and helped drive Ricky Williams into his first retirement by over-taxing the running back. Did we mention he also made the decision that forced Dan Marino off the roster?

Nick Saban (2005-06). Forget that he told a lie that in recent years he has admitted he now regrets. He said he would not leave to become the Alabama coach and, well, he absolutely did a few weeks later. But beyond that, Saban, who was a good football coach. The good coach was failed by a terrible personnel man. That terrible personnel man's name is Nick Saban. Saban picked Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees -- a decision that set the franchise back perhaps a decade. He drafted Jason Allen, a bust, in the first round. His only lasting picks were linebacker Channing Crowder and running back Ronnie Brown, and Brown was the No. 2 overall draft pick which one has to truly work at to botch.

Cam Cameron (2007): He won only one of 16 games and was fired. That still stands as the worst season in franchise history. But Cameron was not just bad because his record was bad. He raised terrible to Mount Everest heights by saying things such as, "I want our team to fail forward fast." He decided not to coach one preseason game, telling multiple people he wanted key assistants to get experience as head coach in case he ever had to miss a game. Problem was after the game he lied and said he had been the head coach when everyone knew otherwise. And the assistants Cameron wanted to give more experience to actually had been NFL head coaches previously and Cameron had not. Oh, yes, there was also a player mutiny at the end of the season and Joey Porter reportedly threatened to end Cameron on a plane ride home from a loss.

Tony Sparano (2008-11): Fans hated his fist pumping after field goals, a celebration they believed showed the coach was content not scoring touchdowns. But it didn't start out that way. Sparano's Dolphins turned the NFL inside out the coach's first year when he helped re-introduce the Wildcat offense to the league after about 60 years. Those Dolphins won the AFC East, marking the only time New England failed to win the AFC East the past dozen years. It ended poorly, obviously, because Sparano couldn't recapture the early magic with his later teams, his relationship with general manager Jeff Ireland went bad and his relationship with new owner Stephen Ross never got off the ground.

Joe Philbin (2012-14): Nice man. Organized. Never used a curse word. Tried hard. But just a terrible head coach. He was a lightweight fighting in the heavyweight division. Under him the Dolphins endured the harassment scandal in 2013, never eclipsed .500, and finished the season worse than they started practically every year he was at the helm. Philbin hired a weak staff. He didn't believe in many of his players -- most notably quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And players weren't motivated or energized by him. His greatest achievement was convincing owner Ross that he was the solution when seemingly everyone but Ross realized he wasn't.

August 31, 2016

Dolphins roster breakdown: Who's made it, who's likely out; who's on the bubble, the team's strengths, weaknesses

I hate the NFL's preseason finale. It typically does not feature star players or even starting caliber players. It is often sloppy. It is a game played with one eye on being careful and avoiding injuries and another looking toward another game -- the regular-season opener.

So please NFL, get rid of the fourth preseason game.

Having said all that, I recognize when the Dolphins play the Tennessee Titans in the fourth and final preseason game for both, the fate of a handful of players will be decided as the teams make decisions in advance of trimming their rosters from 75 players now to 53 by Saturday afternoon.

So to that handful of guys, this game means everything. With that in mind, let's get to the roster spots seemingly already decided and those about to be decided. This is version 2.0 as we did one of these prior to the cut to 75.



On the team: Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore.

Battling: Brandon Doughty and Zac Dysert.

The situation: Doughty had the early advantage but it seems Dysert has a slight advantage now. Frankly, I don't see either of these guys on the 53-man roster. I think the Dolphins cut both and bring one or both back for practice squad.

Count toward 53-man roster: 2.

Running back

On the team: Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster, Kenyan Drake.

Not making it: Daniel Thomas.

Battling: Damien Williams, Isaiah Pead.

The situation: Pead was in the mix until he suffered a hamstring injury last Thursday that has forced him to miss this week of practice and Thursday's preseason finale. He likely wouldn't be ready to play in the regular-season opener, either. Williams is healthy and has been solid enough on special teams, although his work running the football has amounted to a 2-yard-per carry average. I think the Dolphins keep Williams and put Pead on injured reserve. Carrying five running backs is crazy. Carrying three when all three have an injury history is equally crazy.

Count toward 53-man roster: 4.

Offensive line

On the team: LT Branden Albert, left guard Laremy Tunsil, center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod, right tackle Ja'Wuan James (My line). Center Anthony Steen, guard Dallas Thomas, guard-tackle Billy Turner.

Not making it: No one is definitely out that I am comfortable putting here.

Battling: Jamil Douglas, Kraig Urbik, Sam Young, Ulrick John.

The situation: Urbik plays all three interior positions so that is a plus but as an eighth-year veteran his salary is the highest among all the backups at $975,000 this year. That has to be a consideration. Douglas hasn't shown much and is working third-team. Same with Young. The truth is the Dolphins front office has done a good job of finding redundancy at the offensive line. The last couple of years an injury to a starting tackle -- either Albert or James -- was catastrophic. That happens to Albert this year, either Tunsil or Bushrod (who has always been an NFL left tackle) can move there. If the James goes down, either Turner, John or Young can go there and two of those have experience. Turner, who was a starting guard last year, was a tackle in college and has been working at right tackle this summer and likely is the backup there. Me? It looks like a battle between John and Young for the final tackle spot.

Count toward 53-man roster: 9.

Tight end

On the team: Jordan Cameron, Dion Sims.

Not making it: Not eliminating anyone today.

Battling: MarQueis Gray, Dominique Jones and Thomas Duarte are all vying for the third spot. The third tight end must be a special teams monster -- otherwise Darren Rizzi gets in a tizzy. I don't know that any of these guys are special teams monsters. Honestly, it is possible the third tight end is on another team right now. Duarte needs to remake his body while serving his time on practice squad. I guess the team could carry him (hard to believe) but he is not a good special teams player.

Count toward 53-man roster: 3.

Wide receiver

On the team: Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo.

Not making it: Not putting anyone here.

Battling: So Jakeem Grant started out like a house on fire but has cooled of late. He's caught one pass for five yards the past two preseason games. He has not wowed in practice, either. I suppose he makes it as a punt and kickoff return guy and on future potential as a wide receiver. That leaves one spot, maybe, open. If so, Griff Whalen is that guy because he's the next best receiver. Rashawn Scott, who played at the University of Miami, has potential but he has not caught a pass this preseason. He needs to play well Thursday night to be more of a practice squad possibility.

Count toward 53-man roster: 5 or 6.


Defensive line

On the team: Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh, James Jones, Andre Branch, Earl Mitchell, Jordan Phillips.

Not making it: Cleyon Laing, Cedric Reed, Jordan Williams.

Battling: So do the Dolphins keep eight defensive linemen or nine? If they go by the idea that you keep good players, regardless of position, they keep nine. Julius Warmsley has come on of late and played well enough, albeit against backup competition, to merit a spot. Chris Jones has played tougher competition and was exceptional earlier in camp. If I'm the Dolphins, I keep both. Terrence Fede is a tough question, particularly now that he is nursing an MCL knee injury. He's not playing Thursday. Injured reserve?

Count toward 53-man roster: 8 or 9.


On the team: Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Spencer Paysinger, Neville Hewitt.

Not making it: Tyler Gray, James Burgess.

Battling: This is really quite easy. It's down to James-Michael Johnson or Mike Hull or somebody not currently on the roster for the final linebacker spot. Johnson has missed the last couple of weeks with an injury but supposedly would be ready to play in the regular-season opener if he makes the team. Hull has been more than solid and, indeed, leads the team in tackles during the preseason.

Count toward 53-man roster: 6.

Defensive backs

On the team: Xavien Howard, Byron Maxwell, Reshad Jones, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, Michael Thomas.

Not making it: Rashaan Melvin, Lafeyette Pitts.

Battling: This group is light on boundary corners. That's the reason the Dolphins should be looking for help on the waiver wire. And the reason the team needs Chris Culliver to get healthy -- something that won't happen until after the sixth game of the regular season at the earliest. And so, for now, it seem Chimdi Chekwa might just make it based on his ability to play outside. That may leave one spot open to be won by Walt Aikens, Shamiel Gary or A.J. Hendy. Aikens is probably the call based on his special teams contributions.

Count toward 53-man roster: 8 or 9.


On the team: Kicker Andrew Franks, punter Matt Darr, long snapper John Denney.

This group is set.

Count toward 53-man roster: 3.

August 30, 2016

Dolphins trying to get DeVante Parker to be a professional

The Miami Dolphins were only a couple of days into their 2016 training camp when receiver DeVante Parker felt a twinge in his hamstring. And then what was a minor nuisance turned into a hamstring strain a couple of minutes later. And as Parker missed practice time the team was figuring out what happened, and why it seemingly happened so often because this wasn't Parker's first injury issue. That's when this revelations came to light:

The Dolphins coaching staff learned that their prized first-round pick of a year ago hadn't really been getting a good breakfast every morning. Some days he'd skip breakfast altogether.

And he wasn't drinking enough water. Indeed, sometimes he wasn't drinking much of anything throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.

And the collective reaction from some in this organization that hired a team nutritionist in the last year and is placing a big emphasis on sports science for their players was, "Whaaaaat?"

DeVante Parker, grown man and physically gifted as he is, didn't know how to be a professional. The NFL is not Louisville, Parker's alma mater where he dominated by using mostly his raw athletic gifts.

The NFL requires more. The NFL requires everything.

And so the Dolphins explained to Parker if he is going to thrive in the NFL, he has to stay healthy. And to stay healthy, the team decided, Parker had to grow up off and on the field.

"A lot of the job of making him a good player has been getting him in a routine of learning to do things in life," receiver coach Shawn Jefferson told me. "He's got to get up every morning and get a good breakfast. Hydrate. You know what I'm saying? So we put a system in place now that I think is going to pay big dividends down the road."

This was almost a month ago. But on Monday, Parker felt a tweak in his leg again. And he stepped out of practice. Again.

And while the Dolphins are still hoping and indeed expecting big things from Parker this season, coach Adam Gase is making it clear the young man has to mature in several respects beyond just taking care of his body.

DeVante Parker has to take care of business on the practice field as well. 

"Parker's going to be day to day right now so we’re just going to keep working with him and strengthening him up," Gase said. "When you’re a second-year receiver, I feel like I’ve been through this a couple of times. I just go back to Demaryius (Thomas), when we were in Denver. It just felt like he was always hurt. It was just one of those things, it was just like one thing after the other.

"The thing is, these guys, the longer they start doing this, the more they realize how much they have to take care of their body, how important it is to practice fast every day ...''

There it is.

"...and make sure they really push themselves because now, all of a sudden, when you go to turn it on, especially on game day and your body’s not ready for it, this is when you can possibly have these kind of issues.

"So that’s been our point of emphasis with him is all the little tiny things that you have to do off the field, in the building, and then when you get out to practice you have to treat every day like a game. Sometimes it takes some guys a little longer to learn than others. Eventually it gets to the point where you get tired of being the guy standing on the sideline.

"I do think he’s a little frustrated as far as he’s been the odd man out all the time. Kenny (Stills) and Jarvis (Landry) have been out there working together now and he’s kind of had to watch. We’ll keep working and he’ll eventually figure it out to where he knows his routine; he knows how to stay healthy, he knows how to push through certain kind of pains where it’s not going to really deter him from where he’s going to miss some games.

"It’s a fine line there, especially at that position. You really have to be locked into your body."

It is a fine line between calling a player out and simply being honest. Gase is being portrayed in some places as having called Parker out. The fact is he doesn't have to do that in the media because this coach does it directly to a player's face. And he's had this career chat with Parker already.

So Gase isn't trying to embarrass Parker. He's doing what a good head coach does. He's trying to help Parker get better.

Parker, for his part, is going to have to learn to fight through pain. And when he feels no pain, he's going to have to practice harder as in at game speed at times.

Remember that last year, coaches didn't want to put Parker on the field because both head coach Joe Philbin and then interim Dan Campbell said they needed to "see it" from Parker in practice. And they didn't see it. Well, that's because Parker wasn't showing it in practice. He wasn't the same guy in practice he was in games (when he finally got the opportunity).

Unfortunately, whatever lesson the last coaching staff showed Parker about working hard during the week to make game day easier didn't seem to stick. Parker, it must be repeated because it seems he forgets, has to practice harder.

DeVante Parker is a kind, laid back, soft-spoken individual. He doesn't play that way. But he practices that way.

He has to stop practicing that way. He has to practice up to his potential if he ever wants to play to his potential. And what is that potential?

"A special talent," Jefferson said. "Trust me, he's a special talent. He's blessed athletically. Trust me. He can do it all."

The Dolphins are in the process of remaking DeVante Parker. They monitor what he eats to make sure he's energized. They monitor what he drinks to make sure he's hydrated. They are nursing his legs. They are trying to help him grow up.

Part of the growth is learning to be a professional. And part of being a professional is going to work every day the team is practicing as well as on game day.

DeVante Parker is fine; Laremy Tunsil playing Thursday; Dion Jordan on NFI; Culliver headed to PUP

Easy day at Miami Dolphins camp. More importantly, good day at camp.

There is good news on the injury front in that DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Laremy Tunsil -- all of whom left practice Monday -- are generally fine. All three were at the walk-thru practice (really jog-thru) with all three participating.

And before you think it, severely injured players do not participate in any sort of practices. So all is well with these three.

Coach Adam Gase said Parker is day to day. He will not play Thursday in the preseason finale.

And next week day-to-day means he practices at least limited.

Tunsil continues to look more and more like the team's starting left guard. Nobody has declared it. Tunsil won't admit it. But among players it is a poorly kept secret. Laremy Tunsil is the Miami Dolphins starting left guard.

But just because he's the starter doesn't mean he thinks he's arrived.

He spoke today about needing to continue to improve. He spoke today about playing Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans. (He's been told he is playing, he just doesn't know for how long).

“It’s up to the coaches," Tunsil said. "I just know I’m playing.”

Tunsil has not allowed a sack all preseason, although his run blocking needs to get better. So when a reporter asked if he'd experienced a breakthrough of sorts in making the switch from tackle to guard, Tunsil didn't exactly embrace the idea.

“I really don’t know what a breakthrough is," he said. "You can have a good game (or) a bad game. I really don’t listen to all the ‘breakthrough’ stuff. There’s room for improvement. I’m trying to get better every day and listen to the coaches."

The Dolphins have already reached the mandated 75 man roster limit. The way they did it is smart.

The team today placed DE Dion Jordan and linebacker Zach Vigil on the reserve-non-football injury list. So they no longer count on the roster going into the season.

This means Jordan and Vigil cannot play until after the sixth game of the season at the earliest. The Dolphins can or cannot choose to pay these players.

For Jordan, who is on a conditional reinstatement from the NFL after he sat out last year for testing positive in the substances of abuse program, this obviously means more time away from the field.

Consider how long it has been: The last time Jordan played was 2014. In his three-year career the former first round draft pick has started one game for the Dolphins. He was the first round pick of the 2013 draft.

Vigil, who came to the team as an undrafted rookie last year, has two career starts for the Dolphins.

Jordan thus becomes an insurance policy should the team feel uncomfortable with its defensive end talent midway through October. This roster move also allows him to rehabilitate fully from the knee injury and surgery that he apparently suffered while he was suspended.

Some folks have been wondering what the Dolphins are going to do with cornerback Chris Culliver, who is currently on the active-physically unable to perform list. As I've reported, the Dolphins expect to place Culliver on the reserve-PUP list when the cuts to 53 are made Saturday.

That means Culliver will not count toward that final roster number as he continues to rehabilitate from the knee injury and surgery he sustained in Washington last year but can come off the PUP during the season to help the Dolphins if they need it.


August 29, 2016

Dolphins dial back Tuesday practice after minor injury scare

The Dolphins had three players either leave the field or stop working during practice on Monday and, because Adam Gase's parents didn't raise no fool, the team's head coach noticed.

And so Tuesday's practice, which was supposed to be less physical than the one Monday, but nonetheless a competitive time on the field, won't exactly be that anymore.

Gase decided to change Tuesday's practice to a walk-thru. There should be no player leaving the field under uncertain injury conditions on Tuesday.

As to those players who left Monday -- guard Laremy Tunsil, receiver Kenny Stills, and receiver DeVante Parker -- what news is known is good news.

Tunsil and Stills are fine.

There is no word on Parker.

[Update: The Dolphins won't have clarity about Parker's status until the morning but the team is hopeful he will be fine.]

Chris McCain headed to New Orleans via trade

It is a new day and that means that sometimes NFL players break news of their status before the local media does. That happened this afternoon when Dolphins defensive end Chris McCain reported his days with the team are over and he's headed to #whodat.

#whodat is New Orleans, where McCain was this afternoon dealt for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.



And suddenly the glut of defensive end talent the Dolphins seemed to have at defensive end starts to make more sense. The team has four defensive ends they are definitely keeping:

Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Jason Jones and Andre Branch are on the team. The status of Terrence Fede is unclear based on his recent  sprained MCL knee injury that will not require surgery but will require time to heal.

McCain was battling Fede for a roster spot, assuming the team was willing to keep more than four ends. He is a superior pass rusher while Fede is the better run defender.

But McCain's apparent inability to hold the edge and the fact the team is comfortable with other possibilities on the defensive line sealed McCain's time in Miami. So look, the Dolphins front office just traded a player that wasn't going to make the team for a late-round pick. I think that is what good front offices generally try to do. I remind you the Dolphins signed McCain as an undrafted free agent two years ago.

The same social media activity that led McCain to be popular among many fans, and unpopular with others, also had detractors within the Dolphins organization. And for a player at the bottom of the roster, that played a role in his being moved also.

So the Dolphins defensive line, considered a strength on the team rounds out at tackle with Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips, and Earl Mitchell seemly assured of spots barring a trade of some sort. Who else?

The Dolphins seem poised to commit more spots to the tackle position than perhaps even the end spot. Both Julius Warmsley and Chris Jones have had good camps and preseasons.

Warmsley actually leads the team with three sacks this preseason.

It is possible the Dolphins keep four ends and five tackles.

The Dolphins now have 77 players on the roster. They must trim two by 4 p.m. Tuesday to be at the league's mandated 75 man limit.

Stills leaves practice with injury; Parker too; Tunsil too; Tannehill and Moore sitting Thursday

Wide receiver Kenny Stills left practice this afternoon after going down in a heap in the back of the end zone.

Stills, who actually had two plays in which he went to the ground, kept playing after the first one on a long pass from Ryan Tannehill. The second pass, Stills ran across the field, caught a pass and hopped to a stop along the sideline with the ball in hand. He eventually went to the ground for about two minutes before he got up, clutching his back. He then walked out of the team's practice bubble (The Nick Saban Memorial Bubble).

Afterward, coach Adam Gase said he had no update on any injuries during practice because he came to his presser before speaking with trainers.

Receiver DeVante Parker also stopped practicing after he got tangled with cornerback Bobby McCain. He was seen having his left hamstring stretched out.

Parker missed a couple of practice earlier in training camp because of a hamstring injury.

Stills was not the only player who left practice after an apparent injury.

Starting left guard Laremy Tunsil also left the bubble after warmups. He took no team drills.

Mario Williams also did not practice at all today for unknown reasons. The Dolphins announce players who are not practicing because of an injury prior to each practice. They did not announce Williams.

Meanwhile, Matt Moore returned to practice today after missing the last week with a concussion.

Gase said Moore will not play Thursday's preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans and said his inclination is that starter Ryan Tannehill will also not play in that game.

Gase said backup quarterback Zac Dysert and Brandon Doughty will share the game Thursday -- each getting approximately one half.


Spencer Paysinger is the man if Jelani Jenkins is out for Seattle

It had to be a bittersweet moment when Spencer Paysinger learned he's quite possibly going to be taking Jelani Jenkins' spot in the regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11 because Jenkins is recovering from knee surgery.

"Yeah, I mean, J.J. is one of my closets friends. He's my closest friend on the team," Paysinger said Monday. "So when he went down, we were all bummed. But he told me, 'If you get to go in, you're more than capable.'

"I'm not sure how the rotation is going to go -- some of us will be in nickel, some will be in base -- but the coaches are doing a great job of preparing us from the ones all the way down to the threes that you can go in and probably do a good job."

If Jenkins cannot regain his strength following minor knee surgery, it will indeed be Paysinger playing the weakside linebacker spot. Perhaps he plays on passing downs and Neville Hewitt plays early downs. Perhaps it is the other way around.

Maybe Paysinger gets all the snaps.

Whatever the assignment, Paysinger promises to be ready. He promises to be excited about the chance.

"Absolutely, absolutely. There's always excitement no matter whether you're running down on kickoff for special teams or getting in there on defense," he said. "You put the helmet on, you put the logo on. You're excited.

"If you're in this league you want to be the best you can possibly be. I've carved out a role as a good special teamer in this league. Also, I'm in the league because I'm a pretty good backup linebacker. All my years as with the Giants, I've always been counted on. The fact this situation came like this past couple of days is nothing new to me."

So what do the Dolphins get when they switch out Jenkins and put in Paysinger?

“What he brings to the table is he knows all the positions," coach Adam Gase said. "Obviously, he’s a very good special teams player for us, but his ability to be able to plug into any spot – and us not really lose anything as far as a guy knowing what to do – is valuable.

"When you have a player like that, especially that has some experience, that makes you feel better as a coach, and I think he’s been doing well as far as the way he’s played in preseason games and the way he’s practiced. You see a guy that’s constantly trying to get better."

Spencer talks about being able to see and understand defense and read the action "from one side of the field to the other side of the field."

As a sixth-year veteran, he's not going to be overwhelmed by starting in a season opener. Or playing in Seattle.

"I've had the opportunity to play there a couple of times," Paysinger said. "I've had some friends who have played there throughout the years. So me being an older player and being able to bring guys along, I know it's going to be a really rowdy crowd. The 12th man is serious."

The Dolphins play their preseason finale Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium. Gase has said veterans are going to play and Paysinger apparently welcomes that approach.

"Yeah, I mean, for myself I always like game reps for the season if it's preseason," he said. "... For me, I can't go into a season cold, whether its defense or special teams."

If the Dolphins do indeed need Paysinger to step in, it will offer them a dividend after they signed him in April of 2015 as an unrestricted free agent -- an addition done exactly for this role as a special teams leader and capable backup.

"Actually, going into free agency with the Giants I kind of felt like it was time for me to leave there," Paysinger said. "They actually offered me a great contract. It was actually a better contract than Miami offered me. But it was something that came down to happiness. I could have taken more money in New York and stayed ... I prayed on it. I did my research. And I knew that Miami was one of the top teams and I knew there was a position down here I'd love to play.

" l was coming back a teammate's wedding and my agent called and said, 'Hey Miami called.' So I flew here that night, and as soon as I landed and got outside and felt the warm air, I said, 'If they offer, I'm signing.'"

Paysinger is the team's third leading tackler on defense this preseason with 10 tackles. That puts him behind only Mike Hull and Shamiel Gary in tackles. One of Paysinger's tackle was for loss and he also recovered a fumble.

"I've done a pretty good job this preseason," he said with a smile. 

August 28, 2016

Xavien Howard on track to play Thursday, start after that; Drake plays Thursday; Tough news for Pead; great day for Jordan Cameron

Xavien Howard as the Dolphins starting cornerback against the Seattle Seahawks in the Sept. 11 regular-season opener? Bet on that.

The Dolphins are initially expecting to do exactly that with the rookie who has yet to play in a preseason game. And as part of that greater plan, Howard will play in Thursday's preseason finale against Tennessee -- his first game as a Miami Dolphin.

"We're going to play them both," coach Adam Gase said of Howard and fellow rookie Kenyan Drake, who also will be making his preseason debut. "And the next couple of days of practice we're going to see where they are from a conditioning standpoint. I think they're in good shape but obviously it's not dynamic football shape right now. I think X a little ahead of Drake. We'll have probably a set number of plays they can go and try to stay in that range without going over.

"They need to play. If those guys, if they're active for the Seattle game, it would be nice for them to have experience in an NFL game."

If it sounds like the Dolphins would be asking a lot of Howard to make his professional debut at Seattle, consider that he plays cornerback. And the way the Dolphins ask their players to play the position, much of it is fairly easy to figure out.

"If we line him up in Game One tomorrow, he could play," Gase said. "Playing corner and what we do, it's what he's been doing his whole life. So, I mean, we're going to line him up and tell him to cover that guy. Whoever is across from him. We're not going to make it hard on him. It's no secret what we do on defense. We attack and play man-to-man coverage."

By the way, in speaking of Drake in generalities, it seems more certain now the rookie will be on the 53-man roster than being on the short-term injured reserve list -- which was a definite possibility when Drake was nursing a hamstring injury for a couple of weeks.


Speaking of hamstring injuries, Gase said running back Isaiah Pead will be out at least two weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Atlanta Thursday night. That means the team will have a tougher roster decision on Pead than if he had remained healthy and continued to produce at the rate he did early in the preseason.

"Unfortunately for him, it's another hamstring," Gase said. "We'll kind of see where things are with the roster. It's unfortunate for him because he was kind of rolling a little bit. We'll see how everything falls."

The timing of Pead's return raises the possibility he could be placed on injured reserve. That way, the Dolphins don't lose a solid player to the waiver wire.

"It's tough," Gase said. "You have to figure out what the right thing to do and does the film and what the guy's done in practice enough to say, 'Hey, you made it and we're going to have to carry you.' Obviously, you have a few options you can do to kind of hold a spot and bring him back. We haven't made any of those decisions."


The Dolphins continue to believe center Mike Pouncey is week-to-week. He isn't playing or practicing this week. If he cannot practice and play next week, Anthony Steen will be the starting center against Seattle.

That's asking a lot for a player who started his first game for the Dolphins last Thursday against Atlanta.

"He did a good job," Gase said of Steen. "I know he had the ball on the ground that one time. But for the most part he did a good job. There were times he had to do some things as far as redirecting protections along with him and Ryan communicating. Him and Ryan were outstanding."

Translation: The Dolphins are not sweating if Pouncey isn't ready for the season-opener.

"He finds a way to get it done and he's physical and tough," Gase added about Steen.


So we know that Jordan Cameron has been in something of a slump. He's dropped a couple of touchdown passes this preseason. He's had some trouble becoming a big part of the offense.

But Sunday was perhaps his best practice of the entire preseason.

He caught 25-yard pass down the middle of the field in a two-minute drill. And then he finished off the drive with a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.

Teammates, obviously aware Cameron has been under pressure and has gotten some bad press, celebrated the score en masse. Practically every player on offense ran over to Cameron to congratulate the tight end.

"They've been doing things a little different in that when we get in the end zone, we're celebrating together," Gase said. "It's not a one-man show. I think those guys have been doing that during games and it's carried over to practice."

Yeah ... no.

Kenny Stills scored a TD on a streaking bomb which went some 60 yards Sunday. And he didn't get a team celebration for the score.

"It was fun. It was fun to get the two-minute drill going and to be successful and get some confidence back," Cameron said. "I don't know why they did [the celebration]. I was like, 'What is going on right now,' but it's always good to enjoy that with your teammates."

So was the celebration a big "screw you" to media critique of Cameron's recent play?

"I don't know," Cameron said, "that's what it felt like."

That makes sense.

"That's a guy all those guys really like and they really care about," Gase said. "For us, in that situation, that was a big play in that two-minute period. Him making that play, and he made a couple of good plays in that series, you can see Ryan ... Ryan's going to go to him and he knows he has a great matchup sometimes, especially when it's on a linebacker or safety. He'll keep getting opportunities."


Most NFL teams sit their veterans in the preseason finale. The Dolphins are not as likely to do that with all their veterans, Gase said.

“We’re in a different situation because we’re so young\," Gase said. "We probably have more guys that need to play, more than the luxury of, ‘Hey, we’ve got so many guys sitting out.’ I guess you look at it as almost, for Rizzi especially, I think, we can play some guys. Any kind of game experience is great. It is football at the end of the day, and things happen, but I’m not gonna sit here and stay up all night worrying if somebody’s gonna get hurt. We’re gonna play. Some guys will be out, and some guys will be playing.”

Linebacker James Michael-Johnson (thigh) is close to returning to practice, perhaps as early Monday, Gase said.

The coach said linebacker Jelani Jenkins' status for the season opener is uncertain. After he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery it will be up to how quickly he rehabs following the surgery.

"I can say there's a possibility that that first game he's good," Gase said. "It's how his body reacts to everything."

Ndamukong Suh (ankle) was not on the injury report today but he did not practice. Gase said it was a decision to have him stay inside the building and rehab ...




Ryan Tannehill as a runner -- why not?

Ryan Tannehill had two rushes for 22 yards in last week's dress rehearsal game against the Atlanta Falcons. The week before he gained 16 yards on two rushes against the Dallas Cowboys. And although there is nothing eye-popping about an NFL quarterback averaging 19 rushing yards per game there is this:

Ryan Tannehill, the former college wide receiver who is big and fast enough to do damage with his legs, has done very little damage with his legs in past seasons. Last season Tannehill gained 141 rushing yards in adding eight first downs to his team's offensive totals.

And that made Tannehill the NFL's 100th leading rusher.

And that made Tannehill fall in behind such Jim Brownesque rushers as Andy Dalton, who had 142 rushing yards.

And Blaine Gabbert, who had 185 rushing yards.

And Jay Cutler, who had 201 rushing yards.

Unfortunately, it didn't put Tannehill anywhere near double threat QBs such as Cam Newton (636 yards), Tyrod Taylor (568) or Russell Wilson (553).

And the question I ask myself is ... why not?

Why would a guy who is athletic, fast, and smart not use those attributes to help his offense move the chains? And why wouldn't the Dolphins, which have been a points-challenged franchise for some time, use their quarterback's obvious attributes to increase their productivity?

I dunno.

And I don't really care about the past that much as it pertains to this topic. Former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did what he did and that is past.

The question is whether what we've seen the past couple of preseason games with Tannehill actually running on designed zone read-option plays is a hint of what's to come?

Personally, I think the Dolphins remain lukewarm about Tannehill running the football. They're still trying to hone other things like, well, having him throw the football better.

But it just seems to me if you have a player who can provide this added dimension that threatens and in some instances frustrates the defense, why not take advantage?

Newton, for example, added 56 first downs to the Panthers' total last year just by running with the football. Alex Smith, another mobile quarterback, added 30 first downs to the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive output by running the football.

Why turn down between three or so extra first downs per game?

(And this is where I recognize the quarterback running the football comes with some risk. That risk is injuries. But the rules on sliding are so favorable to quarterbacks now -- in that players aren't even supposed to touch a sliding QB -- that the advantage outweighs the risk. After all, Newton, Wilson, Smith all ran without getting knocked out of starts last year.)

I believe there are two types of NFL quarterbacks -- the classic pocket passers and the more athletic movement quarterbacks.

Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers are pocket passers.

And the names you've read above are some of the movement quarterbacks.

What I do not necessarily understand is why the Dolphins have so far been trying to position Tannehill as one of the pocket passers when he is clearly more suited to be a movement quarterback?

The past couple of games have offered a small glimpse of what can happen if the Dolphins let Tannehill run two or three times a game. I hope that extends and expands in the regular season.