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 19, 2010

Rumors: 'Can't take it no more'


They are everywhere. Everywhere!

Sometimes, they have zero credence, like the one that said Jason Taylor's contract with the Jets was "close to done." That was almost two weeks ago. I guess close can be a relative term -- like the moon is close to the Earth, if you compare our planet's distance to Pluto.

Sometimes the rumors are based in fact. Remember the rumor I reported to you about Brandon Marshall telling a Denver Broncos teammate he was headed to Miami? Remember the rumor about Ted Ginn being on the trade block?

Well, the days leading to the draft are perhaps the most rumor-filled days on the NFL calendar. And there are some interesting ones floating.

There's a rumor Ronnie Brown is on the trade block. The truth is, Brown cannot be traded right now. He cannot be traded until he signs his restricted free agent tender. The truth is the Dolphins are not actively calling all 31 other NFL teams and offering Brown. But the truth also is if a team approaches Miami about Brown, the Dolphins are more than happy to listen. I believe the Dolphins would gladly trade Brown for a second-round pick. I also believe they aren't likely to get that for him. We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins are intrigued by the idea of trading for Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Apparently the NYGs have taken a sort of liking to South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul and if that liking develops into them drafting him, that makes Umenyiora not only endangered, but practically extinct on the roster. Umenyiora played at Troy. Bill Parcells regularly looks at players from Troy and, indeed, picked DeMarcus Ware from Troy in 2005. Thus these trade rumors.

But this one is a head-scratcher, if you ask me. Umenyiora would project as an OLB in Miami's defense, but he's never played the position before. So the Dolphins would be interested in giving up a draft pick for Umenyiora after a 29-tackle, 7-sack season even when a team from New York has decided he's no longer a fit. But the Dolphins are apparently not as interested in giving up zero draft picks for Jason Taylor after a 42-tackle, 7-sack season even when a team from New York has decided he'd be a great fit. Yes, I know Umenyiora is 28 years old and Taylor is 35 years old. But I also know the draftee it costs to get Umenyiora would come cheaply and be maybe 21-22 years old.

On the positive side, if the Dolphins do indeed swing this deal for a fifth-round pick, they will have effectively traded Ted Ginn Jr. for Osi Umenyiora. That sounds like an upgrade to me. Ronnie Brown for Osi Umenyiora? Both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are recovering from various surgeris. Of course, so is Brown. We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins are trying to trade G Justin Smiley. It is true. It also hasn't gotten done so far. The bottom line here is Smiley has shoulder issues. He had them in San Francisco. He had them in Miami. They are not going away anytime soon. Furthermore, once the Dolphins put Smiley on the market and told him not to report for offseason conditioning, they basically alerted the rest of the NFL Smiley isn't in their long-term plans. The price for Smiley has dropped. Despite this, the Dolphins don't want to simply give him away. Their stance is they can hold onto Smiley up until training camp is set to open in late July. So what might Smiley bring in trade?

Not a lot. Purely speculating here: Maybe a sixth-rounder. Sad isn't it? We'll see.

There's a rumor the Dolphins will attempt to trade down in the coming draft. This is true. Although the chances are better that Miami will have to stick with pick No. 12 for lack of trade-down options, the team seriously would like to drop a handful of spots and pick up a late-second pick in the exchange. The Dolphins are not the only team wanting to do this. Denver might want to trade down also and the Broncos are scheduled to pick at No. 11. So, you guessed it, we'll see.

April 12, 2010

Is Ronnie Brown likely to get traded?

Adam Schefter, who covers the NFL nationally better than anyone, reminded everyone on this twitter posting Sunday that Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown has been available in trade for over a year and so the implication is don't be surprised if he is traded.

Frankly, I would be surprised if he's traded, but not for the reasons you think.

The truth is the trade availability with Brown has been an on-again, off-again thing dating back to 2008.

The Dolphins were willing to let Brown go for the right price prior to the 2008 regular-season when the player was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. There simply wasn't much of a market for him. Even at the start of that season, Brown wasn't really Miami's best back which is one reason Ricky Williams started.

But then Brown improved and impressed. As he got healthy he became the biggest offensive playmaker on the team and so Miami suddenly wasn't very eager to get rid of him. He was, at that point, off the market.

The Dolphins took calls about Brown last offseason. But at that point, with Brown coming off a Pro Bowl season, the team wasn't going to give him away and no one wanted to pay a high price for Brown.

So RB continued to be a Dolphins RB.

But in 2009 Brown got hurt again -- this time suffering a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. The fact Brown continues to border on being injury-prone troubles the Dolphins. His DUI incident in March also is a concern despite the fact he's never had any other off-field issues.

The bottom line is Ronnie Brown is today available to any team willing to part with a high draft pick. The Dolphins would love for someone to offer a first-round pick for him. The fact the Dolphins have not to this moment given Brown a long-term deal should also give you a clue the team is treading very carefully on the Brown matter as a long-term answer.

But what is Brown's worth in trade? He's had a season-ending knee injury and a season-ending foot injury the past three years? What team is going to give up significant assets for a running back with that kind of history?

The Dolphins, meanwhile, aren't simply going to give Ronnie Brown away. Yes, he's probably available but Bill Parcells doesn't run a thrift shop. If someone wants a bargain, Miami isn't the place to get one.

The bottom line is Brown seems more valuable to the Dolphins than he is on the trade market. No one is likely to give up a first or even a second-round pick for Ronnie Brown. The Dolphins are not likely to think a third or fourth-round pick for Brown is good return.

So does he get traded? It's possible. But it's not probable.

Remember, it takes two teams to make a trade.

Oh, by the way, Brown has still not signed his restricted free agent tender. He cannot be traded until he does so. 

[BLOG NOTE: Speaking of trades, the Jets actually made one Sunday night for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Come back here at 10:30 a.m. for a post on how that trade impacts the Dolphins. It will also give you a chance to weigh in on what you think of that trade relative to Miami's decision to stay clear.]

February 11, 2010

Are the Dolphins close to Saints, Colts? No!

In the aftermath of Super Bowl XLIV, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard this phrase: The Dolphins aren't that far off from winning a Super Bowl. They played both New Orleans and Indianapolis well and should have beaten them. So they're close.

The logic apparently follows that since the Dolphins lost to Indianapolis 27-23 the second week of the season, then lost to New Orleans 46-34 on Oct. 25th, Miami is close to being pretty good because those two teams are obviously championship caliber.

And it's not just fans seeing the Dolphins through this prism.

"I think we're close," Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown said on his Ronnie Brown radio show on 560-WQAM this week. "I think we have a lot of the right pieces to the puzzle. I think we still have a few things we need to tweak and get better at. But as a team, we're pretty close.

"We played both those teams this year and, to our credit, we were in the games and had an opportunity to win both of those games. So that says, as a team, we're close. But there are a few pieces to the puzzle we've got left."

Now, you're not going to like this so if you're not in the mood for an honest dose of reality, simply stop reading now. That way you'll go on about the rest of your day thinking your team is close to being Super Bowl-caliber because it hung tough with the two Super Bowl teams.

The rest of you, read on.

The Dolphins are nowhere near close to the Saints or the Colts.

Some facts:

NFL teams are judged by what they do through an entire season, not by what they do in one game. And during the 2009 regular season, the Colts were 14-2 while the Saints were 13-3. The Dolphins were 7-9. So Indy won twice as many games as Miami while the Saints almost accomplished the feat.

Both the Saints and Colts won their respective divisions and were No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. The Dolphins finished third in the AFC East and didn't make the playoffs

The Dolphins aren't close.

Any logic that suggests one team is comparable to another based on the outcome of one game must be uniform. So anyone saying the Dolphins are close to the Saints because they almost beat the Saints, must then have to keep a straight face as they say the Washington Redskins are close to being as good as the Saints. The Redskins, after all, lost to New Orleans by a 33-30 score on Dec. 6th. And yes, the Saints played everyone in that game and did everything they could to win.

So do you think the Redskins are close to the Saints?

Taking the argument one step further, if you think the Dolphins are close to the Super Bowl champions based on playing them close in one game, you must also believe the Tampa Bay Bucs are better than the champs. Yes, Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 20-17 on Dec. 27th.

And you cannot argue the Saints gave up in that game because Drew Brees completed 32 of 37 passes for 258 yards with 1 TD. He completed 10 more passes against Tampa than he did against Miami. But the Bucs won.

So do you think Tampa Bay fans are foolish enough to believe they're close to being as good or better than New Orleans?

The Dolphins aren't close.

Finally, of course, there's the empirical argument against the Dolphins: The Saints have better players. And more of them. The Colts have better players. And more of them. That cannot be disputed by any right-thinking NFL fan or player.

Tell me ... what player on the Dolphins offense rises to the level of a Drew Brees or Peyton Manning? Let me answer -- none.

What receiver on the Dolphins could start for the Saints or Colts? Let me answer -- none.

What defender on the Dolphins makes as many game-changing plays as either Indy's Dwight Freeney or Who Dat's Darren Sharper? Let me answer -- none.

The Saints had seven Pro Bowl players in 2009. The Colts had seven Pro Bowl players in 2009. The Dolphins had three -- Yeremiah Bell, Dan Carpenter and Jake Long.

Long didn't play because of injury. Bell got on the team because Indy's Antoine Bethea was in the Super Bowl. And Carpenter played because Nate Kaeding injured himself the first day of practice.

So both Super Bowl teams have more than twice as many Pro Bowl players as Miami, even when we all know the reason the Dolphins had three was due to extenuating circumstances.

The Dolphins aren't close.

And it pains me to hear Dolfans saying they are close to the Saints and Colts because it suggests they're not being realistic. Or just don't know what they're talking about.

[I'm off the rest of the week but if anything happens, I'll update you on twitter. So follow me.] 

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 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."

November 16, 2009

Latest on Ronnie Brown and Joey Porter

This is what we know at this hour: Barring a dramatic and unexpected recovery by Thursday, running back Ronnie Brown's right ankle and foot injury will keep him out of the game at Carolina, according to a source.

A twitter tweet from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports was the first to reveal the foot injury. A source confirms the Dolphins are concerned about Brown's foot long-term. The ankle injury is a shorter-term issue, the source said.

[UPDATE: The Dolphins have put out an injury report and Brown is indeed on there with a foot injury. The ankle is not listed. Brown did not practice on Monday.]

"The only thing I can tell you about Ronnie right now is that we're still in the middle of gathering information and we probably won't know more until a little later on this evening or first thing tomorrow," coach Tony Sparano said.

Brown was still on crutches today. He was wearing his sneakers and not a protective boot. Brown is not expected to practice Tuesday, either.

Barring a quick recovery by Brown, Lex Hilliard will get a chance to carry the football against Carolina, but the Dolphins are more likely to give Lousaka Polite some extra carries. Ricky Williams would obviously be the starter.

On other matters, Joey Porter spoke the local media today following his one-game deactivation Sunday. He declined to discuss the reasons behind the deactivation. After what was an uncomfortable give and take, several media members lingered around his locker.

"Ya'll going to wait for me to fart or something?" Porter asked.

Then he got into an exchange with a Palm Beach Post reporter who asked why Porter seemed so angry. 

"Did I say something personal to you?" Porter asked.

At that point Dolphins media relations man Harvey Greene stepped in and told the media to disperse.

And the clouds over Porter's sudden deactivation are clearing. According to a club source, one reason Porter was basically shelved Sunday was because his conduct was not what coaches expected throughout the week and including the moment when he was told he would be sharing time with Charlie Anderson.

Sparano and the Dolphins have declined to say specifically why Porter was deactivated.

But the source said coaches "were not happy with Porter's professionalism" in handling his knee injury and the news he would play less.

If Porter rebelled against sharing playing time, he'll simply have to get over it -- because it is going to continue.

"I'll be honest with you and I might have mentioned this after the game," Sparano said, "but our plan going in was to have a rotation. We'll continue to have a rotation and get as many of these guys in the game as we can get in the game. I think [Anderson and Cameron Wake] were both productive yesterday. There's no reason for them not to get in the game and play."

Despite Porter's shelving, despite production that has dropped dramatically, Sparano continues to defend a player who is clearly one of his favorites.

"I see different things Joey does, different things Joey's gotten better at," Sparano said. "Things you guys won't see unless you're watching the film with us.

"I just talked about setting the edge of the defense. I see this guy getting much better with his hands, much better in the run game versus some of these tight ends, the back side of things, retracing plays, all these things, that a year ago, while you're watching him get sacks and you think that's the measuring stick, we're sitting up there saying, 'God I wish he'd play this this way, I wish he'd do things this way.'

"We're starting to get some of those things from him. That's a credit to Joey."

One would expect Sparano to defend his player because he sees the media as being, "on a hunt," as he put it, over Porter. But the coach's defense borders on guileful because it's not the media that has forced Porter's statistics to drop dramatically.

And it's not the media that decided last year's club sack-leader was losing his fulltime gig and had to start sharing snaps with Anderson and Wake.

[ANOTHER UPDATE: TE Anthony Fasano (hip) did not practice Monday. G Justin Smiley (shoulder), NT Paul Soliai (ankle), LB Erik Walden (hamstring) were limited in practice Monday. For the Panthers, T Jordon Gross (broken ankle) is out. S Charles Godfrey (ankle), FB Brad Hoover (ankle), DE Charles Johnson (pectoral), DT Damione Lewis (shoulder) and RB Jonathan Stewart (Achilles) did not practice. TE Dante Rosario (knee) and DE Julius Peppers (hand) were limited in practice.]

October 22, 2009

Third-and-short belongs to the Miami Dolphins

This entire season you've heard coach Tony Sparano took about the need to get "chunk yardage," because the Dolphins want, indeed, need more big plays.

But you've not heard him complain too much about short yardage.


Because the Dolphins so far this year are the NFL's best short-yardage team and because Ronnie Brown is one of the NFL's most accomplished short-yardage backs.

According to stats compiled by the NFL, the Dolphins have the league's highest third-down conversion percentage when there are 2 or fewer yards to go for a first down. The Dolphins have faced 20 such situations this year and converted 17 times. (Getting out the trusty Salguero protractor and figuring out the sine and cosine here and, voila, that's an 85 percent conversion rate.)

The next best team in similar situations is Indianapolis, which has converted 80 percent of those third-and-short situations.





Miami Dolphins




Indianapolis Colts




Tampa Bay Buccaneers




Minnesota Vikings




Green Bay Packers




It stands to reason that the Dolphins would be good at picking up the tough yards on the money down if they have tough people up front. And they do. Miami's $156 million offensive line is returning good dividends on the team's investment in this category.

But Brown also has a lot to do with the success.

Going back to the 2000 season, Brown is the third-best third-and-two or fewer RB in the NFL. And he's in pretty impressive company, as the chart confirms.





Joseph Addai, Colts




Adrian Peterson, Vikings




Ronnie Brown, Dolphins




Larry Johnson, Chiefs




Brad Hoover, Panthers




So what does this all mean?

Basically these facts are important for an offense hoping to stay on the field and control the ball and the clock. You don't win the third-and-short situations, you don't win too many games unless you have a dynamic and explosive offense.

And these statistics are of particular importance this week because, with the Saints game Sunday, one way Miami can win the game is to shorten the game by keeping the football. If the Dolphins have the ball, the Saints don't.

If the Dolphins extend drives by successfully converting third-and-short, they keep the ball.

Great how that works, isn't it?

[THURSDAY PRACTICE UPDATE: As you might have noticed over there <--- on the twitter feed, I've tweeted that Matt Roth, fresh off his first day of practice Wednesday, is sitting out practice today. He was at practice but his left ankle was taped and he was limping. Guess there is now zero doubt about whether he plays Sunday or not.]

June 05, 2009

Pennington gets award, Porter gets busy

The Dolphins didn't hand out an MVP award last offseason because, among other things, the team didn't want to embarrass some player for being the best player on the NFL's worst team.

Things are different this year.

Moments ago, the Dolphins announced their 2008 award winners with quarterback Chad Pennington and linebacker Joey Porter sharing the Dan Marino Most Valuable Player Award.

Pennington, as you know, joined the Dolphins during preseason as a castoff from the New York Jets and only threw 19 touchdown passes with seven interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes in leading the Dolphins offense.

Porter was the cornerstone of the defense, leading the team with 17.5 sacks for 96 yards in losses. He ranked first in the AFC and second in the NFL in the sacks category. Porter, by the way, had some thoughts about the coming season that shows what the Dolphins think of all the love the New England Patriots are getting from pundits:

"We proved that that the AFC East comes through Miami, and having that feeling, knowing that we're the champions until proven otherwise," Porter said, according to colleague David J. Neal. "Our mindset is to win the division, set ourselves up for a playoff spot and then anything can happen once we reach the playoffs."

But what about the Pats?

"I don't understand how you put someone in front of us and we were the AFC East champs," Porter said. "We won the championship. We're the AFC East champs. You gotta beat someone to be the champion."

Porter apparently isn't a lone voice in the wilderness on this thought. Neal asked general manager Jeff Ireland if he agreed with Porter's assessment that the division title runs through Miami. The general manager went into a bit about how Porter is known for speaking his mind and so forth before offering this endorsement of the idea:

"It does," Ireland agreed.

Pennington, who received NFL MVP votes last season, also captured the Don Shula Leadership Award, annointing him the voice of the Dolphins locker room.

The Nat Moore Community Service award goes to Akin Ayodele while the Ed Bock Courage Award has been awarded to running back Ronnie Brown. Ayodele has been indefatigable in his service to underprivileged young people while Brown made an eye-popping recovery from a scary knee injury that not only threatened his season but his career.

The awards were handed out at Joe's Stone Crab on Miami Beach. As we speak they are serving breakfast. Steak, eggs and crab cakes are on the menu.

As this is a blog and, more specifically, my blog, I am today officially expanding the list of awards winners. As late as 1995, the Dolphins would give out awards to every position and in other categories. Jimmy Johnson killed that tradition ...

... And Armando Salguero is unofficially reviving it. So here now are the unofficial Mandos:

Newcomer of the year: Pennington, of course. Were it not for his arrival, the Dolphins might have won more like seven games instead of 11.

Outstanding offensive back: Brown. The guy scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards per carry behind an offensive line that had a center team management didn't like, had a hole at RG team management was constantly trying to fill, and had two new starters on the left side.

Outstanding receiver: Greg Camarillo. He was leading the team in receptions and yards through the first 11 games and impressed the team so much, he earned a new contract. He missed the final five games after suffering a knee injury but still finished only one catch off the team lead for receptions.

Outstanding offensive lineman: Jake Long edges out Vernon Carey simply because his arrival not only improved the left side, but also allowed the Dolphins to put Carey back at his natural RT spot -- thus affecting two positions positively.

Outstanding defensive back: You guys know how much love I have for Yeremiah Bell. But Andre' Goodman was lockdown city the last half of the season and led the team with five interceptions.

Outstanding linebacker: Porter obviously gets the prize but you have to admire the work Matt Roth did in converting to a new position and playing with a torn groin muscle much of the season.

Outstanding defensive lineman: Jason Ferguson. He played only 35 plays or so per game, but he was an anchor in the middle and one reason the Dolphins went from last in the NFL against the run in 2007 to 10th in 2008.

Rookie of the Year: Long, but Davone Bess and Dan Carpenter deserve recognition.

Outstanding special teams performer: Carpenter. The kid did the improbable by beating out a veteran kicker despite not being drafted and then he didn't miss a field goal from 39-yards and in all year long. He was also 10 of 14 from 40 yards and beyond. And this year he's the only player on the roster with no one competing for his position.

Outstanding Media Relations person: Fitz Ollison came to the team as the No. 3 media relations guy and brought a depth of experience and expertise from his other NFL stops -- which included San Francisco and Detroit -- that added to Harvey Greene's capable staff. He is No. 2 on the media relations depth chart this year.

Outstanding team executive: He does not talk to the media but his moves speak volumes. Bill Parcells hired budding star GM Jeff Ireland, hired excellent head coach Tony Sparano, and retained outstanding college scouting director Chris Grier. Three excellent moves and there were about two dozen more after that.

Outstanding assistant coach: Quarterback coach David Lee had very little to work with midway through training camp, as both John Beck and Josh McCown struggled at times while rookie Chad Henne was, well, a rookie. Then Pennington shows up and Lee gets him ready to play in the span of about three weeks. Then the team is in desperation mode and Lee shows everyone the Wild Cat package that would surprise New England and become all the NFL rage. Good work.

By way of a prize, each award winner has the option of spending five minutes with me, spilling every team secret he knows, so I can pass them along to you.

So give me your award winners ... And what are your thoughts on the AFC East? Do you agree with Porter?

October 09, 2008

Stay tuned for Ronnie Brown the passer

The Wildcat offense is seriously freaking the NFL out. Thursday, Dan Marino was at the Dolphins training facility to do a story for the CBS pregame show which will feature the Dolphins' recent success and their Wildcat offense.

Friday, ESPN is sending Cris Carter to the facility to do pretty much the same story. It's Wildcat this and Wildcat that on the pregame shows Sunday.

On Showtime's Inside the NFL this week, former Raiders and Bucs defensive lineman Warren Sapp went off on the Dolphins because of the Wildcat offense. He basically said he was offended by Miami's use of the offense.

"This is disrespectful to all defenses," Sapp said during the show's round table discussion. "It's disrespectful. You're taking the best player in the game, the quarterback, and you're putting him out wide, outside the numbers and you put the running back in the back. How the hell you going to pass the ball?"

A couple of things, fellas and ladies: Ronnie Brown can pass the ball. And he's getting more proficient at it because he's been doing it more in practice.

I've been told the Dolphins have been working more with Brown throwing out of the Wildcat formation this week. In fact, when the team is warming up in individual drills, Brown takes some repetitions with the other quarterbacks.

And then, obviously, he throws the ball when the Dolphins are working on pass plays out of Wildcat in practice. So look for that to show up this week against Houston.

And there is the irony in all this.

Sapp, who obviously doesn't know Brown already threw a TD pass out of the formation against New England, will have to eat his words if Brown starts slingin' it more often. And if it happens in Houston, it will come at the same venue where Brown infamously had a pass batted on a potential game-tying two-point conversion try two seasons ago.

Can hardly wait.

October 07, 2008

Ronnie Brown Player of Week again? [With poll]

Ronnie Brown is at it again and you can help him.

For the second consecutive week, Brown is nominated for the FedEx Ground player of the week in the NFL. Brown, who gained 125 yards on 24 attempts against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, is a finalist along with Washington's Clinton Portis and Carolina's Angelo Williams.

Portis had 145 yards on 29 carries against Philadelphia and Williams had 123 yards on 20 carries against Kansas City. Obviously, Portis had the more impressive outing as he had more yards and it came against the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is how many votes every player gets from you, the fans. That is where you, the fans, come in. Fans can vote right here starting today through 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner is announced Friday afternoon.

This potential honor for Brown, which would be the second of the season for him, got me wondering ... which player is Miami's MVP at the quarter pole?

I know it is only one-quarter of the way through the season, but everyone must admit the Dolphins have accomplished some unexpected things so far. So take the poll below and let me know who your MVP pick is so far.

After you've taken the poll, tell me why you think that player is the MVP in the comments section.

September 23, 2008

Brown about to get on a roll as he did in '07?

It is uncanny how this season is starting to mirror last season for Ronnie Brown.

Last year Brown entered the season with questions hovering about him. Was he overweight? Did he want it? Could he be the dominant player he's supposed to be based on being the No. 2 overall selection of the 2005 draft?

This year Brown entered the season with questions hovering about him. Was his knee healthy? Why couldn't he beat out Ricky Williams? Could he be the dominant player he's supposed to be based on being the No. 2 overall selection in the 2005 draft?

Brown started slow the first two games last year, averaging about 3 yards per carry in limited work. Brown started slow the first two games this year, averaging about 3 yards per carry in limited work.

Brown busted out in the third game of the 2007 season. Brown busted out in the third game of the 2008 season.

And Brown used that third game to go on a string of four consecutive games in which he passed the 100-yard rushing mark and was clearly Miami's most consistent offensive weapon. The hope is Brown can use Sunday's stomping of New England to roll out a string of good outings in which he can lead the Dolphins to some success.

Does Brown think that can happen?

"I hope so," he said. "Coming into the season I felt pretty good physically and each week I continue to feel better like I’ve been saying over the past few weeks.  It’s nothing different, just having a bit more success on the offensive side of the ball and that’s not based on my performance solely. We did a great job on offense and we did a lot of things coming into this week as far as practice-wise.”

If Brown can use Sunday's game as a launching pad for good things, the Dolphins offense promises to be more consistent than it was the first two games of the year. But it won't be easy. With San Diego, Baltimore, and Buffalo on the schedule three of the next four games, Brown will face traditionally good run defenses.

The Ravens have the No. 5 run defense this year. San Diego is No. 18 and Buffalo is No. 12. Houston, meanwhile, is No. 27.

We'll see where it goes. But if this year is indeed something of a mirror image of last year for the Dolphins running back, the next few weeks bode well.


[Update: Brown is one of three players nominated for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the week honors. Fans can vote for him at Get clicking.]

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.

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.

August 19, 2008

Dolphins to disavow Brown rumor [update]

We are approximately one hour from the time coach Tony Sparano is scheduled to conduct his daily press conference and it is fair to say he has a game plan in mind for this one.

Sparano apparently was taken as much by surprise by ESPN's Ronnie Brown report last night on Monday Night Countdown as, say, you and I may have been. So the belief here is that Sparano will try to make the point in his presser that Miami does not expect to jettison Ronnie Brown.

That, of course, is the plan as of now. It remains to be seen how well Miami's new coach, a guy not all that experienced with orchestrating press conferences, actually follows the game plan because sometimes the questions get asked in goofy ways by us media dorks and sometimes the answers don't make the point very clearly.

Anyway, as I updated in the previous post, Brown (sprained thumb) was on the practice field today wearing a cast that covered his entire right hand and extended half way up his forearm. He caught a couple of passes with his left hand in the time period the practice was open to the media.

And, in case you missed the point last night, it seems hard to believe the Dolphins would put Brown on the trade block as Chris Mortensen's ESPN report suggests for a number of reasons. They are:

He's not 100 percent healthy. His value to Miami is greater than it is to most other teams. He's a good insurance policy against Ricky Williams flaking out again. And he's a pretty young player with good upside potential left to tap.

Check back after the presser for an update on what Sparano said and how it compares to what he planned to say.

Update: Sparano indeed disavowed the rumor. He said there is "no chance," Brown is not on the Dolphins this year. He also said there has been, "no discussion of that internally or externally."

I am crafting the next entry that will give details of the QB competition and other notes so check back for a new post soon.