December 09, 2010

Miami future cloudy for Brown, Williams

It is clear the Dolphins have no intention of signing either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams to contract extensions before the end of the season. That's interesting because both are scheduled to be free agents for 2011 (assuming there's a season) and neither are absolutely certain of being back with the team for varying reasons.

Both Williams and Brown have addressed the issue to some extent this week. Ronnie Brown was on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo this week, and his words clearly suggested he'd like to be in South Florida, but ...

"It's really out of my control," Brown said. "I want to be here, I love playing for the Dolphins, but that's kind of out of my hands."

The Dolphins and Brown are not currently negotiating a new deal, at least not with any sort of consistency. The Dolphins also haven't slipped Ricky Williams a post-it note with contract extension numbers -- something Bill Parcells did with Williams the last couple of times he offered Williams an extension.

(Obviously, Parcells is gone but I wonder if general manager Jeff Ireland picks up the practice from his mentor.)

Williams, enigmatic and unpredictable, speaks with the local media only rarely for reasons known only to himself. But he addressed his future, sort of, with the New York media on a conference call Wednesday.

"I have no idea," Williams said when asked if he sees himself in Miami next year. "I mean, I'll be a free agent after this year ... after this year it's kind of wait and see. You know if someone wants me and they can convince to do this one more year, I definitely would be open to the opportunity. But if not, I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish in my career."

It seems to me one or the other, but not both Williams and Brown will return to the Dolphins next year.

Fact is it would be cheaper for the Dolphins to draft a running back and replace one of the two veterans, then depend on one of the two along with rookie during the coming season. Of course, Miami could blow both Brown and Williams out and go with a rookie and Lex Hilliard and someone else in the backfield.

Fact is Brown is likely to get some offers in free agency if he gets to that start of the open market because while he has not put up elite statistics with the Dolphins, he has been solid and could be better behind a better offensive line.

And maybe the Dolphins simply need to change things up a bit with their running back dynamic. I know the Dolphins like Williams and Brown together but neither of them is a break-away back. The Dolphins could definitely use a back that adds more speed to the backfield because the current duo isn't going to pop a 70-yard run to stun a defense very often.

That, by the way, is just my opinion. The Dolphins, plodding and even a bit slow on offense, seem to think Williams, for example, is quite fast, thank you.

"[He] still shows me that he’s got good top end and good burst and runs the ball hard, physical,” coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday.

September 18, 2010

Dolphins to run on the Vikings? Bet on it

To run the football ... or to not run the football. That is the question facing every team that plays the Minnesota Vikings. That is the question facing the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

The Vikings pride themselves, among other things, on being one of the NFL's best run-stopping defenses. They were No. 2 against the run in 2009 and folks in Minnesota were upset about because they were No. 1 against the run in 2008.

And in 2007.

And in 2006.

No. 1 against the run.

The Vikes boast the Burly Wall of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams inside and have an athletic set of linebackers. Perhaps that is the reason the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints basically decided not to try running the ball against the Vikings in the NFL season-opener -- at least not in the first half.

The Saints decided it was best to soften up the Vikings in the first half by throwing 21 times and running just three times. It wasn't until the second half when the Vikings were seemingly expecting the pass that New Orleans began to run. The Saints finished with 36 passes and 25 runs.

The Dolphins, however, aren't that type of team.

They are a run-first team. If you have any doubt about that consider that offensive coordinator Dan Henning said this week his dream would be to never pass the football.

"You want the honest-to-God's truth?" he said to me. "I'd like to line up and run the ball every down and get in the end zone on every drive. We'd go to the Super Bowl and we'd win. Without ever throwing!"

He added, "of course it doesn't happen that way," but that is what he'd love to do.

So what do the run-first Dolphins do when they run headlong into the best run-stopping team in the NFL the last four seasons?

I spoke to one offensive player this week who told me the answer is simple. The Dolphins will run.

"They're a physical defense. We're a physical offense," the player told me. "Let's see who is more physical. We're going to do what we do."

This should not come as a surprise. Last year the Dolphins faced a couple of Top 10 run-stopping teams -- the Jets and Steelers. And they tried to run the football. The results were mixed.

In the first meeting with New York, Miami rushed 36 times for 151 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. In the second meeting, the Jets obviously adjusted. Miami rushed 23 times for 52 yards and a 2.3 yard average. The Jets were the No. 8 rush defense in 2009.

The Dolphins rushed 25 times for 99 yards against the Steelers for a 4.0 average per rush. The Steelers were the No. 3 defense against the run in 2009.

I recognized this is a new year. The Dolphins have two new guards and Joe Berger is settling in at center. I recognize Ronnie Brown is healthy. I recognize Ricky Williams is a year older. Miami also has a star wide receiver option outside in Brandon Marshall that it didn't have a year ago. So yes, the dynamics have changed.

But has the philosophy changed in Miami? Are the Dolphins going to abandon running the ball just because Minnesota is perhaps the NFL's best run defense?

Um, I wouldn't count on that.

September 14, 2010

One final look at Bills victory and Jets news

First the news that indirectly affects the Miami Dolphins: Rex Ryan announced moments ago that NT Kris Jenkins is out for the season (again) after re-injuring the same knee that forced him to miss much of last season. Jenkins suffered the injury Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, have signed defensive end Lionel Dotson off the Denver practice squad, according to the Herald's Barry Jackson. Kenny Zuckerman confirmed the signing to Jackson.

[Update: The Dotson signing makes sense because defensive end Jared Odrick is very likely out this week against Minnesota, according to test results the team got back today. Odrick's injury is not serious enough that he's done for the year. He is week to week. He will remain on the roster, obviously.]

I just went through the Miami Dolphins victory over Buffalo one last time. Here are my observations:

The pass rush: It was obviously very good and definitely not vanilla as it had been in preseason. You know already that the first sack of the year, which came when Karlos Dansby came on a blitz after he lined up outside of Cameron Wake, was a thing of beauty. Dansby came unblocked. But what you probably didn't notice is that it was a zone blitz. Even as the Dolphins brought four men and one was unblocked, nose tackle Randy Starks backed out into zone coverage in the middle of the field. Beautiful.

On the next series, the Dolphins answered the call on a third-and-two situation by sending six men after QB Trent Edwards. Six guys, including safety Yeremiah Bell. Koa Misi was unblocked this time and hurried Edwards although the QB completed the pass. On the next pass down, the Dolphins brought three-men and by this time Edwards' head was spinning. He wasn't really pressured by the thee-man rush, but hurried his throw anyway underneath.

When it was done, Dansby, Misi and Cameron Wake had sacks. Wake, by the way, showed exceptional quickness on his rushes. He had a hurry that caused an incompletion aside from his sack and was often around the QB. Starks, who had seven sacks a season ago, didn't pick up any Sunday but did have a batted pass.

Clock management: Normally this topic involves coaching. Not this time. This time it involves quarterback Chad Henne. One of the trademarks of a good offense is shutting the door on a comeback. The Dolphins had a chance to do that when they got the ball with 5:03 to play Sunday and did a good, not great job on closing that door. It would have been a much better job had Henne handled the play clock better. With the game and play clocks winding, Henne snapped the football with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on first down. He snapped it with 10 seconds remaining on the play clock on second down. He snapped it with nine seconds remaining on the play clock the next down. He snapped it with 11 seconds remaining on the play clock on second-and-two.

What is the point? Henne is obviously trying to manage everything right now but he has to manage the play clock as well. If he snaps the ball with, say, two seconds remaining each of those times I just mentioned, that takes an extra 35 seconds off the game clock.

That means when the Bills get the ball back, they would have had 1:13 to work with instead of 1:48. That is a big difference, folks. Henne must learn and coaches must remind him that the clock can be his friend. As Sam Wyche would say, "Milk it, milk it, milk it!"

Double tight? Not so much: The Dolphins have made a virtual living off the double tight end formation in the last two seasons. It has been a staple with Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos or Anthony Fasano and David Martin. This year the Dolphins have keep Fasano and John Nalbone. They used the double tight end formation only four times the entire game. The Dolphins decided, at least in this game, that putting three-wides out there is more likely to open things up across the defense. Thank you, God! I hope it is a tendency that lasts.

The offensive line: The Dolphins yielded three sacks on Sunday. One of those was given up by an offensive lineman. Ricky Williams gave up a sack on a blitz in the first half and in the fourth quarter, Ronnie Brown and Fasano blocked the same edge rusher while Bryan Scott ran past Fasano on a delayed blitz. The other sack was given up by Vernon Carey. Don't get too down on Carey or left tackle Jake Long, however. They were very good. They were primarily in man-to-man situations on passing downs and they moved the pile extremely well in run blocking situations. The Dolphins also tried the unbalanced line on a handful of occasions -- placing Long on the right side outside of Carey. It had only mixed results.

John Jerry was fine most of the time. He had a couple of ugly moments where his technique put him in awkward situations. His footwork was off a little bit a couple times -- so much so that Henne tripped over him twice. But in the straight-ahead blocking department, he was good. The Dolphins used Incognito to pull on several occasions. It didn't really work. Incognito isn't smooth pulling out and running across the formation to lead the blocking going against the flow. He is, however, quite powerful in the straight ahead stuff. The Miami line is what it is in that they get a good push off the ball straight ahead. But fleet of foot? Not so much. I will say that if Miami runners start bouncing runs outside more, there is yardage to be made there. Ronnie Brown showed this a couple of times, including his 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. Williams didn't have his best game and seemed to be content keeping his running between the tackles.

A receiver rewind: Brandon Marshall had that one notable drop on the long pass. He took responsibility for it on the field, basically telling Henne it was his fault. But Marshall was very good both with what he contributed that appears on the stat sheet and the stuff that doesn't. He had one viscious block that leveled a Buffalo defender. And his mere presence helped Fasano be so readily available down the seam. Rookie Marlon Moore dropped the only pass thrown his way. Brian Hartline had a tough day also, dropping two passes and having a first-down catch erased by a penalty. Davone Bess was excellent, particularly in the second half. He practically took over at one point. I must tell you, Hartline needs to produce soon in games or Bess might take that second receiver job away from him.

The no-huddle defense: The Miami D yielded 39 yards during Buffalo's first nine drives of the game. Then the desperate Bills went to the no-huddle and went 80 yards in 10 plays for their only TD of the day. I think the Minnesota Vikings will see that. I believe Brett Favre is pretty good in the no-huddle offense. The Dolphins need to tighten this stuff up.

May 04, 2010

NFL's top 10 RBs and nary a Dolphins mention

Quickly, which two players have carried the Dolphins offense the past two years?

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should have been your answer, although some contrarians among you will surely find another name to post in the comments section.

The point is these two players have been more than solid in that Brown was a Pro Bowl player in 2008 and Williams had a renaissance of sorts in 2009, ranking 10th in the NFL with 1,121 rushing yards while also scoring 11 TDs, and setting the widest span between 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history. Williams established the record at six years between 1,000-yard seasons, breaking a mark (5) previously shared by Mike Garrett, Gary Brown, Ernest Byner, Ottis Anderson and Mike Anderson.

So Ricky and Ronnie are pretty good right?

Apparently The Fifth Down blog at the New York Times doesn't think so.

In rating the NFL's top 10 list of RBs, author Andy Benoit mentions Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.

And in what feels like an honorable mention category, the blog mentions Ryan Grant, Felix Jones, Shonn Greene, Michael Turner and Ryan Grant.

Now, I get that Brown was injured much of the 2009 season, but he did gain 648 yards and score 8 TDs, which surpassed anything Greene did.

But the facts are Williams had more yards, a higher rushing average, a longer long run, and scored more TDs than Mendenhall. He outgained Gore, DeAngelo Williams, Jones and Greene, and had a better average than Grant, Benson, Peterson and Jones-Drew.

Maybe on a whole I would personally prefer to have some of those guys on the list ahead of Williams or Brown. But not all of them.

Williams, for his 2009 performance, belongs on the list considering the blog states the list is strictly based on 2009 performance and not on what players one should pick for a team in the future. Of course, the blog also promises there will be disagreements.

They got that right.

April 27, 2010

Brown, Williams in final Miami year together?

Since the topic of Dolphins running backs has been all the rage of late -- with one being constantly whispered about as trade bait and the other as a documentary star and possible retiree after 2010 -- I wanted to appraoch the topic from a different direction today.

From the team's perspective.

You see, seemingly lost in all the draft coverage over the weekend, Jeff Ireland's words while addressing the running back situation seem to have gotten short shrift. And they beg more attention.

Ireland was asked Saturday evening if he might have liked to add a running back in the draft and he said that 2010 is the last year for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

"Again, when you put a board together, sometimes the chips fall differently in certain drafts," Ireland said. "Obviously we’re aware of the situation on our team. You have Ricky [Williams] and Ronnie [Brown] kind of in their last year. We’re aware of all those things. We have them for another year, so anything can happen that way. The draft falls certain ways and you can’t help the way it falls. We’re not ignoring those positions by any means, but I felt like we stuck to our board pretty good and stayed the course."

I'm not going to leap to the assumption that Brown and Williams are indeed done with the Dolphins after 2010. The truth is no one knows what will happen after 2010. The NFL may not even play in 2011 for all we know.

But weighing Ireland's words with the facts currently before us, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Miami will be searching for running backs after this year because one or both of its top backs will be gone.

As far as Brown is concerned, he has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender. He would like a long-term deal but that doesn't seem imminent because, well, the Dolphins don't really have to offer one right now.

Brown, 28, has yet to prove he's 100 percent back from last year's fractured foot and has never proven that he is exceedingly durable. The Dolphins own his rights this year via the restricted tender they placed on him and can extend after June 1st if Brown doesn't sign by then. Trust me, Brown is not going to sit out this year if he doesn't get a new contract so he will eventually sign that tender if the Dolphins don't give him a new deal -- and as we just discussed their motivation for doing so is not high.

Bottom line is the Dolphins can keep Brown this year and decide to replace him with younger legs in 2011, if they wish. Bottom line is they have been willing to let him go at different intervals since 2008. Bottom line is his long-term future in Miami is by no means certain.

Williams is another matter, but one no less fraught with uncertainty. The Dolphins have shown a past desire to pass him Post-it note contract extensions, which is the reason he's signed through 2010. He has said in the past that he would retire following the 2010 season.

He said Monday he is "not sure" if he will retire in 2010 and that the hiring agent Drew Rosenhaus should not be interpreted as an intention to play into 2011. Whatever, the point is neither Williams nor the Dolphins know without doubt what is going to happen.

But we do know this: Williams will be 33 next month and so whether he's able to stretch his career beyond 2010 is not a certainty by any means.

So the Dolphins might be wise to take the approach that this could be the final year for both Brown and Williams. And if it doesn't work out that way, well, then something good happened that stretched the Miami career for one or both of the running backs.

Still, better to make the error on the side of caution.

April 13, 2010

The Sparano-Taylor meeting off on wrong foot

Tony Sparano called Jason Taylor in recent days and with all the charm and charisma that convinces so many Dolphins to play hard 100 percent of the time, the coach told Taylor the two of them needed to meet this week.

Man to man. Coach to player.

Nobody needed to know about it, Sparano told Taylor.

And so Taylor didn't tell anyone about the meeting.

Taylor didn't tell his agent Gary Wichard. He didn't share it with any of his close confidants, either. So on Monday afternoon when ESPN senior insider Chris Mortensen reported on NFL Live that the meeting was coming this week, everyone connected with Taylor denied they knew about it because, well, they didn't.

But obviously someone inside the Dolphins organization told Mortensen. So the same organization that swore Taylor to secrecy leaked news of the meeting to the Worldwide Leader -- a figurative national bullhorn.

What is the deal with these Miami Dolphins? On the one hand, they're asking players to keep in-house matters in-house. On the other hand they're planting stories in the national media.

And what is the point? On the one hand, they seem to be reaching out to Taylor. But, in fact, by leaking the story, they have actually done damage to whatever they might be trying to accomplish. Taylor was disappointed with the team late Monday night when he learned news of the planned meeting leaked from the team after he was told to tell no one.

The Dolphins have been in lockdown mode on the Taylor issue for weeks. General Manager Jeff Ireland calls Wichard regularly every time facts about the Taylor-Dolphins negotiations -- or lack of negotiations -- get out in the media.

But Ireland is working for the very organization that slips ESPN interesting little notes -- like Ronnie Brown being on the trade block or Joey Porter not playing the rest of the season after his 2009 suspension. Granted, sometimes the information is flawed, but apparently the tuna can that is the Miami Dolphins isn't very well sealed.

The greater point is the Dolphins work in unorthodox ways. They have asked players to betray their agents -- as with the Ricky Williams contract extension that excluded agent Leigh Steinberg. And they betray their players -- as in leaking news of Taylor's private meeting with Sparano.


The now well-chronicled meeting, by the way, is still scheduled for the next day or so. Taylor is scheduled to go out of town with his wife late in the week. (No, he isn't going to New York to sign a contract.) At least that wasn't the plan late Monday before Taylor found out the meeting was all over the Internet.

So where does this meeting go? What purpose does it serve?

It should probably start with Sparano apologizing to Taylor. The coach put his reputation on the line in asking Taylor to keep things private, but his team instead turned around and opened its information pipeline to ESPN. That cannot help the Dolphins' agenda unless the agenda is to simply make a public relations move -- one the Dolphins want publicized on national TV.

Maybe the meeting is meant to tell Taylor to go quietly into the night -- or in this case to simply take an offer from the New York Jets.

But if the point of the meeting is to be sincere and try to convince Taylor to be patient with the Dolphins, to wait until after the draft and hedge his bet Miami might want him back, this definitely is a strange way to go about that.

Strange and wrong.

January 22, 2010

Which is the greater priority: OLB or ILB?

When the 2009 season ended for the Dolphins, the team obviously had issues on defense that still need addressing.

As I explained to you a couple of days ago, the linebacker corps was one of those issues. But the question is where is the bigger problem -- with the inside linebackers or outside linebackers?

Yesterday you saw Mel Kiper vote ILB as his first mock draft of the offseason had the Dolphins taking Rolando McClain of Alabama -- a tackling savant that will be an inside backer tackling machine in the NFL.

Well, lesser known Bucky Brooks of comes back and votes OLB as Miami's bigger issue. In his first mock draft of 2010, he's got the the Dolphins taking Texas OLB Sergio Kindle at No. 12 in the first round.

One reason Brooks has the Dolphins taking Kindle might be he also has Denver taking McClain one pick before Miami. In that regard, Brooks apparently agrees with what I wrote yesterday about the Broncos. You see, Kiper had Denver taking Dez Bryant at No. 11, but I think that's not the direction they will go because you can still find good WR help later in the draft, and Bryant has been away from the game for much of a year as he served an NCAA suspension. 

It would be interesting to know what Brooks thinks the Dolphins would do if both McClain and Kindle are on the board for Miami. Stop dreaming! But in his scenario, he sees Miami's OLB corps as needing urgent care.

"Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are at the end of their careers," Brooks writes. "so finding an athletic edge rusher is paramount."

Brooks obviously believes Cameron Wake doesn't fill that paramount need and I don't think any of us think Charlie Anderson is the answer, either.

If you've read this blog every day (it's good for your soul) you already understand how the Dolphins break down how they go about filling out their roster. As I've told you several times in the past, they have three primary categories: Wants, Needs, Must haves.

The Must haves is the priority category. It is the category that must be filled.

The Needs is the second most important. This category is what the team needs but can extend out if lesser players are on board.

The Wants is the luxury category. The Dolphins want a running back that will be ready to step in when Ricky Williams retires and Ronnie Brown is out of contract. But the team can probably survive 2010 if it doesn't address that want.

It is clear inside linebackers and outside linebackers fall either in the Needs or Must haves. No one not named Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland knows which position has risen to the priority category. Even they might not know because free agency might play a role in affecting this stuff.

You can argue the Dolphins have bodies at ILB with Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele. Sure, Ayodele didn't play well in 2010 and Crowder is often injured. So the team needs to address the position. But will things fall to pieces if Crowder and Ayodele are the starters again in 2010?

You tell me. The Dolphins will tell us.

At OLB, meanwhile, neither Jason Taylor nor Joey Porter might be coming back in 2010. I know both of them won't be back. That was a disaster last season. So the Dolphins need to add a body here to go with Wake and Anderson and Quentin Moses. But is this position a Must have?

You tell me. The Dolphins will eventually tell us.

Discuss ...  

December 29, 2009

Miami Dolphins: Playmakers wanted please

The 2010 Pro Bowl team will be selected Tuesday evening and the Dolphins aren't likely to fare exceedingly well in the selection process.

Jake Long will likely be recognized as he was last year, perhaps even starting as the AFC team's left tackle. So congratulations to him.

After that ... it's likely to be a tough sell getting much attention for Miami players.

Fullback Lousaka Polite might get some attention as a backup or alternate. Randy Starks might get some votes as an alternate but the fact is he's only got six sacks, and hasn't had one in the month of December as I noted in my column in Tuesday's Miami Herald.

Ricky Williams might also get an alternate spot but I don't see him beating out Chris Johnson or Thomas Jones or Maurice Jones-Drew to get on the Pro Bowl team as a starter or substitute.

I'll update you with the actual team later in the day.

As for what the lack of Miami players on that Pro Bowl team should tell you, it is this:

Despite the good job Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have done restocking the Dolphins with talent, the job is not complete and perhaps not even half-way finished.

Why do I say this?

We start with playmakers. Quick, tell me who the playmakers on the Dolphins are this year. Tell me the players on either offense or defense that scare the opposing teams. Tell me what Miami players the Titans were talking about two weeks ago while all the talk in the Miami locker room was about Johnson and Vince Young.

Tell me what Miami player opposing coaches consistently worry about.

I don't know that Miami has any player that keeps other teams awake at night.

Joey Porter was such a player last season, but his 17 1/2 sacks were obviously an aberration and not what we have seen from Porter in either 2007 or 2009. 

Jason Taylor used to be one of those sleep-robbing players but let's face it, the man is 35 years old now and his freakish ability to change the course of a game comes on much more rare occasions than it used to when he was younger.

Williams? He's a good player, no doubt about that. But he also is 32 years old and is talking openly about retiring after 2010. He was a game-changer in 2003, the guy a team could ride to much success. But he is a role player now.

Ted Ginn Jr.? Nope.

In fact no Miami pass-catcher is a game-changer.

Chad Henne? Not yet. Plus Parcells has to give the kid some weapons to work with.

The point is the Dolphins need to add a dynamo or two to the roster in the coming drafts or free agency because all the really good teams seem to have those kind of guys.

Fact is, even the mediocre teams seem to have those kind of guys. Houston has Andre Johnson. Pittsburgh has Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger -- though Polamalu has been injured most of this season.

New England has Tom Brady and Randy Moss and Vince Wilfork.

The Jets have Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington.

New Orleans has Drew Brees and Darren Sharper.

Indy has Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark and Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne.

The point is most teams have somebody that scares the other team -- somebody that can make a game-defining play at any moment and does that so often as to make his team dangerous.

The Dolphins don't often get the 45-yard interception return for a touchdown, or the strip-sack-fumble recovery for a TD, or the 75-yard bomb for a score from a receiver, or the 48-yard laser down the seam to a tight end for a TD.

The Dolphins are a team that relies on seven five-yard runs, a 13-yard completion, two Lousaka Polite fourth-and-1 conversions, a nine-yard completion, and a wildcat run to score their TDs. Lightning? The Dolphins wait for it to come from the sky rather than their offensive huddle.

The defense, meanwhile, is also mostly solid. But Sean Smith doesn't have an interception and neither does free safety Gibril Wilson. Yeremiah Bell is solid at run-support and is dynamic at erasing the mistakes of other players by catching people from behind. But he isn't blowing up a ton of people in the secondary or causing a ton of turnovers.

Nobody on defense is doing that.

That is not an indictment on any of the players I just mentioned. They all serve a purpose and all have strengths. They all have value.

It's simply that Miami doesn't have a couple of players whose strength is to make play after play that change the course of games in Miami's favor. And those players and those plays have to come for the Dolphins to take more steps toward being a consistently good team.

Follow me on twitter. Or don't.

December 24, 2009

Christmas wishes for the Miami Dolphins

'Tis Christmas eve. On this night, Cubans celebrate Noche Buena, which translated means Good Night. It is the night we believe Mary and Joseph settled in to the manger at the Inn and prepared for the birth of baby Jesus, who is the Christ.

It is a time for glad tidings and festive wishes. We also eat a lot and I plan to do much damage at my in-laws' house. Tomorrow we'll have Christmas dinner at my house. I hope yours is a joyous holiday.

Meanwhile, these are my Christmas wishes for the Miami Dolphins and Dolfans everywhere:

A week of open practices so I can judge for myself how much or how little Pat Turner is progressing.

More screen passes. Remember those?

Better touch passing for Chad Henne.

Better accuracy for Chad Henne.

Better protection for Chad Henne.

Better weapons around Chad Henne.

More of Jason Taylor on passing downs.

Less of Joey Porter on run downs.

Fewer sideline patterns for Ted Ginn. He finds the sideline often enough as is.

More recevier screens with Greg Camaillo running hard for six yards.

A shovel pass every once in a while.

A Pat White completed pass every once in a while.

A Gibril Wilson intercepted pass every once in a while.

A Nathan Jones corner blitz. Remember those?

More tackles for Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele at the line of scrimmage.

Fewer tackles for Yeremiah Bell five yards from the line of scrimmage.

Stability on the offensive line.

An offseason shakeup at WR.

An impact play or two for Kendall Langford.

Double-digit sacks for Randy Starks.

That Pro Bowl berth that follows double-digit sacks for Starks.

More playing time for Brian Hartline.

Fewer fumbles for Davone Bess, who leads the team with six.

A tight end that can eat up the seam route and catch the ball between a linebacker and safety.

A tight end that makes the other team's safeties seem overmatched.

A wide receiver that averages 16 yards per reception.

The same receiver having 82 receptions. (Do the math).

The death of the Orange Carpet.

The rebirth of the Flipper tank.

Cheerleader calendars that aren't rated R.

National anthems sung loud and proud at every game.

Military flyovers at every game.

Victory for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a tie. Not a respectful retreat. Victory!

Peace in everyone's heart.

More Miami players that talk the talk ...

... and then walk the walk.

Visiting Jets fans that know when to shut up.

Jets teams that aren't pompous ... even after getting swept.

A rematch with the Patriots ... in this year's playoffs.

A chance to avenge this season's 31-14 loss to Buffalo ... by playing the Bills in next season's AFC title game.

A speedy recovery for Ronnie Brown.

And Jason Ferguson.

And Patrick Cobbs.

And Chad Pennington.

And Will Allen.

All the privacy Ricky Williams so covets ... after he retires.

More attention and appreciation for Tony Sparano, because it's not all about Bill Parcells.

More time for Parcells in that darkened film room, because he loves it there.

More time for Parcells in that white bright afterglow of a Super Bowl victory, because he loves it there even more.

And finally, one request for myself: A sign from Heaven that my mom and dad are pleased with me and are waiting to see me up there some day.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

December 03, 2009

Coordinators explain selves, decisions

The first question to offensive coordinator Dan Henning today was why he called a halfback pass out of the direct snap formation against Buffalo last Sunday. The question came today because Henning only talks on Thursdays and because the play was an utter disaster, having been intercepted when Ricky Williams was hit as he threw on the first-and-goal play.

"Amazing that would be the first question," Henning said. "Let me just say this, we had 23 times we've been inside the 10-yard line this year. Two of those times the clock was running out and we kicked a field goal on first down. So that makes it 21 where we had opportunities to make touchdowns. We made 18 touchdowns in those 21 times. That's No. 1 in the league by far.

"My job is to get the ball in the end zone when we get down there. I don't make excuses for how we do it. And if you look at the 18, you'll find out there are some other calls that you would be asking questions about had they not been successful. We had a fumble and we had an interception. We don't apologize but we lament like everyone else."

Henning was asked if he understands why fans and media are perplexed why he called that pass play when Williams has publicly said he doesn't like throwing the ball and the Dolphins were plowing the Bills on previous plays in the drive.

"Certainly, I do," Henning answered. "I wonder about it. I'd like to have every call that wasn't successful back. Can't do it. That's not the way this works. Sometimes the players bail you out on a bad call that they make a good play. Sometimes they don't make a good play on what you think is a good call.

"We have to be accountable for that. You guys don't. I can only tell you our job is to get it in the end zone. We've done a good job of that. We didn't get it in there, that's a bad job."

I asked Henning what was his mindset in calling the play. Was he trying to fool the Bills?

"My mindset is Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday night," Henning said. "I do all the second-guessing you guys do and I still make that call. Because I thought it was our best opportunity at that time for the overall picture, OK? We didn't score there, we come back on the next series, we went ahead 7-0.

"There's a lot of things that I know when you go home to dinner at night, you don't have to worry about. I have to worry about it. I can only tell you that''s our job to get it in there. When we played New England last time, I can tell you we were down there and ran two straight plays. Runs. And we got stuffed. And then there was a guy named Ronnie Brown, he slipped out of there and threw a toucdown pass. You know what I heard about that one? That was innovative.

"And believe me, Ronnie doesn't throw the ball any better than Ricky does in that area of the field."

Henning said the Dolphins practiced the play in question for three weeks and that it worked every time in practice. He did admit Williams was not rushed in those practices.

Henning also admitted Williams has told him he doesn't like throwing the football. Despite this, the offensive coordinator that always asks his quarterbacks to list their favorite and least plays -- so he can call the ones they like and avoid the ones they don't -- doesn't apply that logic to his running back.

"Now Ricky would tell you he doesn't like to throw the ball. But over time, with all due respect to my boy Ricky, and I love him, he can tell you a lot of things he doesn't like to do or he might like to do and you might not agree with any of them," Henning said."So we have to deal with all that also. We understand that."

Henning's 10-minute interview was not all centered around the Buffalo call. He made a little news by saying the Dolphins are going to start using rookie receiver Brian Hartline more as we go forward.

"Hartline is coming along," he said. "We haven't pushed him to the front as much. We probably will here in the near future. We like him. He's making plays. He seems to show up as much as Greg [Camarillo] showed up in training camp the first year we were here, albeit we know and he knows what his shortcomings are. But he's an accountable guy.

"Hartline isn't quite as accountable yet. He hasn't been through the ropes and once in a while he'll blow this or blow that. But he has the ability to make explosive plays and we do need to get him the ball more."

The press conference with defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was not quite so touchy. But I did ask who was responsible for losing leverage and letting Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick pop wide and down the sideline for a 31-yard TD.

"Everybody," Pasqualoni answered. "Thats everybody's job. That run there is 31 yards. And the shame of it is, if we keep the leverage there, he's probably going to get sacked because nobody blocked the right end who forced him to his right our left, anyway.

"The guys up  front are responsible for it and they got to keep [the quarterback] inside. And we have to react in the back end and not give him a 31-yard run. We have to tackle him and get ready to play red zone defense. So it's just a matter of proper execution. That's all it is."

December 02, 2009

Miami Dolphins personnel dept. good not great

One of my twitter followers (which you should join, by the way) asked me Tuesday afternoon what order of responsibility I would assign to Miami's current struggles. OK, let me be more honest: He asked who I blame for Miami's problems this season.

Well, with the Dolphins the responsibility (blame or credit) for a season's performance goes to the players, who must execute, the coaches, who must develop players and put them in a position to succeed, and the personnel department, who delivers the players to the coaches.

This blog usually focuses on the players and coaches.

Today we focus on the personnel department.

And that personnel department is pretty much the kingdom of Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland -- The Big Tuna and the Tuna Helper, as I sometimes amuse myself designating them. (I'll stop if one ever asks me to.)

The overall grade of the personnel department since March of 2008 has to be considered a B-minus as of today. That department took a 1-15 team and cleaned a very dirty house. I believe the accurate percentage of player turnover has been in the 75 percent range as only 16 players that were on the team before the current regime arrived are still on the team. That figure includes players on injured reserve.

The grade can and will change as this season's final month unfolds, but the point is the personnel department has done relatively well.

But great? Wonderful? Amazing?

Not really.

Quick, which player did this personnel department sign, draft or trade for that has been a game-defining player? Yeah, nobody. 

Jake Long might be an excellent player for the next decade but you're supposed to get that and more when you get the first pick of the draft. And Long doesn't change the game or force opponents to scheme and game plan for him. He's a foundational role player.

The point is we cannot name one player that we know will be a superstar for the Dolphins in the coming years. You hope Chad Henne might be that player. But there are almost as many reasons to doubt he can be that guy as there are reasons to believe he will be.

We hope Vontae Davis or Sean Smith become lockdown cornerbacks in the coming years and become perhaps the best CB combo in the NFL. But they're not there yet. Not even close. And so we can give the personnel department kudos for picking two starters, but no credit (yet) for finding greatness.

Cameron Wake has potential. But he is a project that might take another couple of years. Lousaka Polite is a fine player at fullback but he is a role player, not a star.

Anyone else on that roster that might be getting Pro Bowl consideration in the coming weeks or seasons?


We hope Phillip Merling goes there, but frankly, he's kind of a disappointment in that he didn't pick up this year where he left off last season and then rise from there. Kendall Langford is good enough to start, but not great. Randy Starks is a nice player, but he's not going to the Pro Bowl, folks.

The rest of that highly paid $156 million offensive line? Not a Pro Bowl player on there despite high hopes for the future of Donald Thomas. Again, good stuff, but no greatness yet.

The fact is the personnel department has hit on a ton C and B players. But the A and A-plus guys have yet to show themselves.

Miami's personnel department has also missed some as well, and that, of course, lowers the overall grade.

The personnel department's biggest and most obvious mistake is in its failing to find a playmaker for the offense. Here we are in Year 2 of Parcells and Ireland and we are relying on Ricky Williams to carry the offense.

Ricky Williams!

The guy was carrying the offense in 2002. So Parcells and Ireland are threatening to fall into the same abyss that swallowed Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban and Cam Cameron in that none added two or three offensive players that turned Williams into a role player. Saban almost did it by drafting Ronnie Brown, but even he complained in 2006 that one reason the Dolphins finished 6-10 was that his best weapon was not available as Williams was suspended for the season.

Cameron wanted to get rid of Williams because he disliked everything Williams represented, but even he found himself needing Williams.

And now these Dolphins need Williams. Too much. The truth is today's Dolphins have no real hope of winning games if the 32-year-old running back doesn't play great. That Miami finds itself in this unseemly situation is ... is ... really bad personnel work.

The personnel department has yet to find a star wide receiver. The Dolphins weren't interested in Terrell Owens, didn't trade for Braylon Edwards, didn't draft Hakeem Nicks, and now Miami has no receiver that is an appreciable threat to defenses. The team did draft Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner. Hartline has been OK as a rookie, while Turner cannot get on the field.

The personnel department blew it on Ernest Wilford. That's all I got to say about that.

The personnel department was looking for an upgrade at free safety this year and paid Gibril Wilson $27.5 million to be that guy. The New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, paid Darren Sharper $1.7 million for one year. Which of the two players has taken over games this season? By the way, it was a personnel decision to let Renaldo Hill go to Denver. He also has played better than Wilson.

No personnel department is flawless. Miami's is not. But the outstanding personnel departments cover a multitude of misses by adding one game-changing player a year or two. Look at Minnesota, who has added Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre the last three years.

No, they didn't draft two of those players. So what? All three are key reasons the Vikings are playing exceedingly well now.

The Colts do it through the draft, but they seem to get production from their rookies almost immediately. Look up WR Austin Collie's numbers. Look at what rookie CB Jerraud Powers is doing as a starter. And I'm not even mentioning Donald Brown, who we last saw plowing over Gibril Wilson en route to a TD at Land Shark Stadium.

The point here is the Miami personnel department is in great hands with Parcells and Ireland. They've done a good job. But you cannot honestly say they've done a great job until we see some great players on the field. We cannot say they've done a great job until we see a team that's better than 5-6.

October 01, 2008

The rest of the Ricky Williams interview

On Monday afternoon I had an interesting chat with Ricky Williams about his bye weekend, his current view of his career, and his maturation process as a man and player.

During that interview I asked Williams about Marijuana and he spoke openly about it. I asked him if he was tempted to smoke again, and interestingly enough, he admitted he was tempted during the bye weekend. I wrote a story about it in The Herald.

But there were other parts of the interview that were not included in the story for space reasons or because, mostly, they had less to do with the theme of the story. So I include them here:

How do you overcome addiction to Marijuana?

"I think you can get addicted to anything. I think overcoming it, you need help definitely. You need a support system and you need some way to remind yourself, one, why not to do it. And two, you have to remind yourself of the positive things that will come if you refrain from doing it."

"It's hard for me to say I was addicted to Marijuana. I'm not convinced I had a Marijuana problem. I smoked occasionally and I had bad timing. I was in a program where there was zero tolerance. And so for me it was a matter of if I was 100 percent sure I wanted to be a football player, it wouldn't have been an issue for me to [not] smoke. But I think a lot of times I had serious doubts [football] is what I wanted to do. So I wasn't motivated not to smoke."

So what changed?

"I think the problem is when you get to a certain point in your career, you see the end of football. And that's when the doubts become stronger. But I've already seen past the end of football and I'm looking forward to getting to life after football. But I also realize the longer I can play and the more productive I can be over time, it makes life after football easier. So I'm motivated to stay here as long as I can."

How much does money have to do with that?

"It has a big part to do with it. It's something I was never comfortable saying, that I played for money. But I'm at a point now where if I wasn't making money, there's no doubt I wouldn't be here."

You sound so much more mature about life than you used to years ago.

"One of the biggest things is over the past couple of years, I've started to embrace and appreciate  family life. So now I understand the decision I make don't just affect me. They affect my kids, they affect my wife, they affect everything. Being around them all the time makes it easier. Before them, I was more about myself and I didn't think too much about how much my decisions affected other people. That comes from maturity."

September 21, 2008

Upset special: Dolphins blow out NE, 38-13!

FOXBORO -- The Dolphins out-coached, outplayed, out-thought, out-executed, you name it they did it to the Patriots today. But mostly they administered a beatdown on New England, 38-13 the stirring result.

New England coach Bill Belicheat agreed with me.

"I thought that Miami played a real good football game," he said. "They did everything a lot better than we did. They outplayed us. They out-coached us. They certainly dominated on offense and defense. I thought we were competitive in the kicking game but that was about it, not on the offensive or defensive sides of the ball."

Ronnie Brown went crazy on the Patriots defense. Using what the Dolphins refer to as the "Wildcat" formation in which Brown lines up in shotgun and either runs, hands off or passes, the running back scored four touchdowns, threw for another touchdown and gained a game-high113 yards on 17 carries.

Ricky Williams contributed 98 yards on 16 carries. Wow.

Brown had TD runs of 62 yards, 5 yards, 15 yards and 2 yards -- all of them out of the "Wildcat" formation. Miami's other points came on a 39-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter.

Although the Patriots scored their first TD of the day on a Matt Cassel pass, the Dolphins defense clearly outplayed New England offense also. New England's TD was made possible primarily because Ellis Hobbs returned a kickoff 81 yards.

That kickoff came after Ronnie Brown threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano to give the Dolphins a 28-6 lead. That is not a misprint. Brown, who ran for three previous scores, lined up in the shotgun and took the direct snap. He rolled left, which is his dominant hand, and pass to Fasano.

The Dolphins have clearly found a chink in the New England defense's armor as Brown tied the team record for rushing TDs in a game with three.

Brown scored from 5 yards out iwth :54 seconds to play in the half. Three of the scores have come on a play in which Brown takes a direct snap from center as Chad Pennington lines up at WR. Brown simply keeps the ball and finds a running lane that one can fit a truck through. He's done this twice. The third time he passed.

New England early on was able to match Miami score for score. The difference was Miami was scoring touchdowns. New England has two field goals.

So the score here is 21-6 so far after Stephen Gostkowski connected on his second field goal of the day.

Ronnie Brown is on a tear! He went over from 15 yards out for his second touchdown of the day as the Dolphins stretched their lead over New England to 14-3 in the second quarter.

The Miami TD answered a 37-yard field goal by Gostkowski that New England used to close the gap with the Dolphins to 7-3 early in the second quarter.

The Dolphins took a 7-0 lead when Brown took a direct snap from center and ran in from 2 yards in the first quarter.

The Dolphins have shown a lot of fight so far. They got their first interception of the season -- that by Randy Starks -- to stop a first quarter New England drive. Then the Dolphins drove 74 yards for the go-ahead TD.

It was the first time this season the Patriots have allowed a first-quarter touchdown and the first time this year Miami takes a lead in a game. Anthony Fasano caught passes of 23 and 24 yards on the drive to help the Dolphins.

It's a beautiful day for a live blog and we will have that in the comment section today.

Meanwhile the news today is that Brown got his first start of the season ahead of Ricky Williams at running back.

As reported in this blog often this week, Renaldo Hill is starting for Chris Crocker at free safety.

I ran into future Dolphins owner and current partner Stephen Ross before the game. He is here. It is interesting, to me at least, that Wayne Huizenga is not here and I didn't see him on the road last week, either. I don't know what that means, but I just figured you'd like to know.

For the Patriots, meanwhile, starting running back Laurence Maroney is out. Backup Lamont Jordan is questionable. The starter will be former Dolphins running back Sammy Morris.

September 08, 2008

Ricky's bad deal is actually much worse

If you read this blog regularly you know I've written that Ricky Williams did himself a grand disservice when he represented himself and signed a one-year contract extension 10 days or so ago.

Well, the news gets worse for Miami's running back.

It seems in agreeing and then signing this deal, which Williams did while acting as his own agent, the issue of that $8.1 million judgment the Dolphins won against Williams years ago was not touched. At all.

Ricky Williams still owes the Miami Dolphins the full $8.1 million according to a source.

So not only did Williams not get any guaranteed money in signing his extension, not only did he agree to some incentives that require him to run the ball a lot on a team on which he is sharing carries, but Williams did not convince the team to waive that long-ago perfected judgment.

Now, the Dolphins have not collected a cent from that judgment. They are not exactly hurting for the money. And they may never collect anything from it. But it is still there in its entirety hanging over Williams. If the team really wanted to play hardball, it could go after Williams for the full amount.

The only chip Williams ever had against making that $8.1 million go away was a new contract. He could have told the team that he would sign a new deal, even if it had no guaranteed money, as long as the team waived its rights to the judgment.

But Williams didn't make the case and so even though he's scheduled to make up to $5.6 million this year and next in base salary and some reachable incentives, he's still in the red.

Because he's still on the hook for that $8.1 million.

September 06, 2008

Dolphins trust Ricky Williams, but not that much

Ricky Williams revealed earlier this week he is taking a university math course once a week during this fall semester.

Maybe he should have done a little bit better figurin' before he agreed to his new contract extension. According to's Jason Cole, the extension Williams signed is quite unimpressive and shows the Dolphins belief in the enigmatic running back is limited.

Williams, listed as the agent of record on the deal, negotiated his own deal in part because his agent Leigh Steinberg is not currently certified by the NFL Players Association. But Williams must not have even gotten some friendly advice from Steinberg because I doubt any agent would have signed off on this deal.

The deal pays Williams $1.5 million in roster bonuses due in increments of $93,750 per game this year. That will be due Williams in addition to the $730,000 base salary he was originally scheduled to get. The deal also pays Williams $3.4 million in base salary next year.

The problem for Williams?

There is absolutely no guaranteed money in the deal. He'll get his $93,750 for each game only as long as he's on the 53 man roster. Williams agreed to give the Dolphins an extra season without getting a signing bonus or any other guarantees.

If he quits at any point this season, Williams loses the game bonus for the games he misses. Even if he gets hurt, through no fault of his own, he gets zilch for any game if he isn't on the 53-man roster.

Next year's money also in not guaranteed.

Had Williams been patient, and not signed the extension he wouldn't have gotten the extra $1.5 million this year. But assuming he played as everyone expects, he would have put himself in position for a giant payday this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

If Williams had the kind of season everyone expects this season, one NFLPA source says Williams could have commanded between $5-$6 million in guarantees from some team next season in addition to a good base salary. So not only did Williams not get any guaranteed money, but he might have underestimated his own worth.

"This will be used as another example of why players should never act as their own agents," the source told me this afternoon. "Ricky has made a mistake that has cost him a lot of money. Of course, he's done that in the past as everyone knows."

So the Dolphins are thrilled because they have zero exposure on the deal. They are telling Williams how much they believe in him and trust him -- but only as long as he produces regardless of circumstances.


September 03, 2008

Yeremiah Bell next to get an extension?

The Dolphins extended running back Ricky Williams' contract before this season began and now sources tell me the team is doing business on other contract fronts as well.

The Dolphins recently have exchanged contract extension proposals with strong safety Yeremiah Bell, with the idea of locking up that starter beyond 2008. Bell is currently playing out a one-year deal he signed after last season.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus is traveling and could not be reached for comment and his brother Jason Rosenhaus declined to comment. But a source close to Bell says there have been on-going discussions between the player's camp and the Dolphins.

No deal is imminent. But both sides are eager for the regular-season to begin and offer a gauge of what Bell can deliver. Bell missed all of last season when he ruptured an Achilles tendon in the season-opener.

So the Dolphins want to see Bell play up to the potential he showed during the 2006 season and in the 2007 and 2008 training camps. That would convince them to lock up Bell. Bell, confident he has come back from that injury, obviously wants to show the Dolphins he can play at a high level and stay healthy.

Both sides are expected to continue exchanging proposals because it makes sense to lock up Bell before the season ends and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. For the Dolphins, a new contract would lock up a starter and perhaps the most explosive player in their secondary in a year they have plenty of cap space to do that.

For Bell, signing an extension before the end of the season makes sense because it would put money in his pocket immediately rather than waiting for free agency. It would also provide Bell security knowing where he's going to be playing next year and beyond.

The Dolphins have two other notable players in the final year of their contracts. Starting inside linebacker Channing Crowder and starting right tackle Vernon Carey are both unrestricted free agents after this season.

A different source tells me the Dolphins have not reached out to those players and have not had preliminary discussions about extensions.

Despite this, I look for all three of these players to be locked up with new deals before the end of this season, assuming they remain healthy. I can't see the Dolphins not acting proactively on this matter.

But frankly, the deals for Carey and Crowder will be more difficult to get done. Both those deals will have to be multi-year, large signing bonus deals because that is what both those players will command on the open market.

If any of the three players mentioned in this post make it to free agency, I would think Crowder is the most likely to do that. I am told Crowder would not mind testing free agency.

August 21, 2008

Get your complete roster breakdown here

The Dolphins play their third and most important preseason game Saturday night so now is as good a time as any to take a look at the entire roster on a position by position basis.

I am not assuming anything on here as you will see. I think, given some of the moves of this new regime, that is a safe way to go. Let me know where you agree and where you disagree.

QB: In: Chad Henne, Chad Pennington. On the bubble: Josh McCown and John Beck: The skinny: Although Sparano has said the team might carry four guys, that is hard to fathom. More likely the team keeps three with McCown and Beck sweating out the cuts. The Dolphins are hoping some QB around the league goes down this weekend, making a trade involving McCown or Beck palatable.

RB: In: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. On the bubble: Patrick Cobbs, Jalen Parmele. On the outs?: Lex Hilliard. The skinny: Despite the ESPN rumor that Brown might be gone from the team this season, it is hard to believe the Dolphins would simply push him out without getting value in return. And no one is giving up a first-round pick for Brown so there is no return value seemingly available. The coaching staff, particularly Sparano, likes Cobbs. But despite his effort and desire, his production (10 carries, 25 yards) has been pedestrian this preseason. Parmele runs a little high, but he runs hard. Hilliard has disappeared at times this training camp and can hope for a practice squad spot at best.

WR: IN:Ted Ginn Jr, Derek Hagan. On the bubble: Ernest Wilford, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Anthony Armstrong. On the outs? Jayson Foster, David Kircus. The skinny: The Dolphins probably keep five of these guys. They would listen to trade offers for Wilford with a return trip to Jacksonville a slight possibility. Absent that, a good game by Wilford on Saturday assures him of making the team. Camarillo and Bess have been fairly consistent but they need to excell on special teams to nail down a position. Armstrong has become Miami's most explosive receiver in practices the last week or so. Kircus, perhaps Miami's best deep threat in practices, had a good chance to make the team until Armstrong started flashing skills.

FB/TE: IN: Anthony Fasano, David Martin. On the bubble: Reagan Mauia, Boomer Grigsby, Justin Peelle, Sean Ryan. On the outs? Matthew Mulligan. The skinny: The Dolphins will probably keep five from this group and that normally breaks down to two FBs and three TEs, but because the Dolphins use TEs in the backfield as blockers, the team has flexibility on personnel. The decisions will boil down primarily to special teams. The better special teamers will get the nod and, based on past performances, that is an advantage for Grigsby and Peelle first, followed by Ryan and Mauia.

OL: In: Jake Long, Justin Smiley, Samson Satele, Donald Thomas, Vernon Carey, Trey Darilek. On the bubble: Darren Heerspink, Matt Spanos, Irechuku Ndukwe. On the outs?: Mike Byrne, Shawn Murphy. The skinny: Thomas is the most pleasant surprise of any rookie given his draft status (6th rounder). Long has played as advertised while Darilek is a Dallas Cowboys favorite of Sparano's and he also plays multiple positions. The Dolphins have very poor depth behind the starters so even those players making the roster should hold their breath until after Miami studies the talent available on the waiver wire. Murphy, promising in offseason camps, has not physically won a job on the roster although his draft status could still save him.

DL: In: Kendall Langford, Vonnie Holliday, Jason Ferguson, Matt Roth, Phillip Merling. On the bubble: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Rodrique Wright. On the outs? Anthony Toribio, Lionel Dotson. The skinny: The Dolphins are encouraged by their youngsters (Langford and Merling) and have to feel good about the maturity and professionalism Ferguson and Holliday bring. Beyond that, the depth is questionable. Starks has been slow to get comfortable in Miami's system and Soliai has been inconsistent as he tries to learn to be a professional. The cuts here should not be difficult.

LB: In: Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor. On the bubble: Joey Porter, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, Titus Brown, Edmond Miles, Rob Ninkovich. On the outs?: Kelly Poppinga, Maurice Fountain, Junior Glymph. They skinny: I know, I know, you think Porter is definitely on the team. That may be true based on reputation and his contract, which included a $20 million guarantee. But if you measure guys making the team based on production this preseason, Porter is a big question mark based on his inability to contribute because of injuries. The Dolphins may think this is the start of a troubling trend and may try to trade Porter. Anderson was starting early in training camp but injuries have kept him from earning a roster spot as well. He was back practicing this morning and may try to play Saturday to open the coaching staff's eyes. Brown is a darkhorse that coaches love for his desire, effort and potential. Moses needs to show more consistency.

DB: In: Andre' Goodman, Will Allen, Joey Thomas, Yeremiah Bell, Nathan Jones, Chris Crocker. On the bubble: Jason Allen, Michael Lehan, Renaldo Hill, Keith Davis. On the outs? Will Billingsley, Courtney Bryan, Chris Roberson. Allen, Lehan and Hill are probably on the team so I don't want to hear any crap about where I put them. The fact is there are still questions among the coaching staff on all of those guys so one cannot simply anoint them to a roster spot or assume they have one locked up -- no matter what anybody says. Davis can make the team with a solid special teams performance Saturday evening. The guys on the outs were in the game last weekend when Jacksonville bombed the Miami secondary in the final quarter.

Spec: In: K Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, and LS John Denney. The skinny: It must be nice to be them.

July 17, 2008

More from Casserly and Sparano on Ricky

I wrote a column in today's Miami Herald about Ricky Williams and how he just might be the best player on the Dolphins roster and was definitely the best player on the team during the offseason practices.

I talked to former Houston and Washington GM Charley Casserly,and coach Tony Sparano about that subject for my column and they didn't disagree with me. But they said Ricky, for all his apparent abilities and despite shining in the offseason, still has a way to go to regain the form he had years ago.

And that cannot be argued. Remember we're talking about a guy who ran for 1,853 yards once upon a time.

So what does Ricky have to do to get back in the same vicinity as the player he once was? What are the signs he's doing it or not?

"The biggest key for Ricky will be getting back into a contact situation -- getting behind the line when it's live on the other side of the ball and really starting to feel those bumps and bruises a little bit and seeing where we are at that point," Sparano said.

"I'm curious to watch him because of his offseason and his strength and all the things that have come into play for him that we're seeing. I have a feeling he's going to feel pretty good."

Sparano thinks Williams will feel good because he's worked diligently this offseason preparing for that moment when the contact comes. But Casserly, who witnessed a couple of Dolphins practices and talked to several coaches afterward, says there will be more to look for once the contact begins.

"First of all, no one can say definitively how he's going to do," Casserly said. "We'll start there. The points to look at will be, one, there will be a learning curve. That goes for Ronnie Brown, too. It's a new offense. So there's a learning curve he'll go through hitting the holes with the new offensive line.

"Then he's got to get his legs back under him, he's got to get the speed of the game back. So if I'm watching him, half the time I'd be trying to figure out if he's still getting used to the system or is it him trying to get his legs back under him and where he is in his career.

"The next thing I would look for are burst and explosion. Does he have the explosion on contact where he still can knock guys back and then burst with speed? If you see that, then things are coming together. If you don't see that, then age caught up with him."

Casserly has one area of concern that I share that would show us Williams is losing it: Injuries. With the exception of an ankle injury early in his career, Williams has been able to play through injuries most of the time. But lately -- during his Canada experience and again last season when that Pittsburgh jerk player stepped on him -- Williams has suffered injuries.

"The injury factor is key," Casserly said. "Is he going to be able to take the hits? He's [31] years old. The good thing is they're not asking him to be the main back. They're asking him to play a role. Clearly, he's going to be hungry. There's no question the guy has played excellent football in his career. It's not like he hasn't done it and you kind of have him in the position where this is important to him now. So you have a hungry guy.

"I think if he can stay healthy, he's going to be good."

May 29, 2008

A crystal ball look at YOUR Dolphins offense

The torn Achilles tendon that receiver Tab Perry suffered during Miami's most recent minicamp underlined several issues that I want to share with you:

  1. The Dolphins woeful lack of talent at wide receiver just got thinner. When Perry was signed to a one-year contract, former Cincinnati teammate T.J. Whoseyourmamma was disappointed. "That guy is talented," Whoseyourmamma said of Perry. "That's a loss for us." So I initially could see Perry, experienced and quick, giving the Dolphins receiver corps some of the lightning it definitely lacks beyond Ted Ginn. But now Perry is waived/injured and one must assume the team will seek other help at the position.
  2. Speaking of other help at the position: Terry Glenn is not too thrilled with his situation in Dallas because according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram the team has kept him from participating in OTA work unless he signs a $500,000 injury waiver agreement. If Glenn gets hurt and must sit out the season, the team would then owe him much less than his scheduled $1.74 million salary. But Glenn hasn't agreed to sign the waiver. So even though he is apparently healthy, he isn't working and he isn't happy. Can you say trade to the Dolphins? Maybe Glenn and a third-round pick for the Dancer whose name I will not utter? Glenn does, after all, have a long history of playing for Bill Parcells, and the Cowboys almost certainly would love to add the Dancer to a front 7 that is already pretty darn good. [By the way, take the poll below on this issue.]
  3. Don't be fooled by the lack of contact. Throughout the NFL guys are pulling up lame and otherwise being sidelined by offseason camps and OTAs.
  4. Finally, you should take a close look at what the Miami offense promises to be: A gang of bullies. This won't be a quick-strike, down-the-field unit. They will be a bruising running team first and foremost. They will try to go through rather than over defenses. Given the added girth of Justin Smiley and Jake Long up front, the return (everyone hopes) of 232-pound Ronnie Brown and 225-pound Ricky Williams at RB, the addition of 265-pound TE Anthony Fasano and with 270-pound Reagan Mauia at FB, this team will RUN the ball. This will particularly be the strategy against modern defenses that have become smaller and quicker to keep up with passing offenses. So in a time the rest of the NFL wants to throw 65 percent of the time, the Dolphins will field a throwback offense that runs 60-65 percent of the time. The idea is that an offense like this will shorten the game, keep Miami's unproven quarterback from getting exposed, and also cover up for a receiver corps that is short on proven downfield ability. Smashball comes to Miami!
  5. If everything I've written is true, and it is, there is a downside. That is the Dolphins had better hope not to get behind in games. Otherwise the smashball thing becomes a liability more than a dividend.

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