August 18, 2008

Brown on the way out of Miami? [updated]

ESPN's Chris Mortensen has just reported (sort of) that the Dolphins might get rid of Ronnie Brown before this season begins.

I'm saying Mortensen sort of reported it because, frankly, he backed into the whole subject. The Monday Night Countdown show was doing one of its cheesey segments, this one called 'Sink or Swim,' in which the pundits were giving their opinion whether certain players would succeed or fail this year.

Mortensen was asked about Ricky Williams and while talking about how he would "swim," he went on to say that the Dolphins are so pleased with Williams he "would not be surprised if Ronnie Brown sinks," to the point where "he is playing with another team this season."

Mortensen's reason for Brown being out of here is that the player is "struggling" this preseason.


Before I go on, let me tell you that Mortensen was at Miami's preseason game against Jacksonville Saturday evening and he did spend time talking to general manager Jeff Ireland. So one presumes this comes from Ireland as the source and not just out of sheer speculation.

But it is possible for a GM to sometimes think out loud without having any real expectation of following through on an idea. I also doubt Ireland would expect to see the idea unveiled on national TV.

I would think if Mort, an outstanding reporter by any measure one uses, had the story nailed, he would have come stronger than he just did. I think it would have been his lead comment, not following the Williams sink or swim bunk.

Having said all that, it is true that Brown is clearly not Miami's best RB now. That is Williams. It is true Brown has failed to play all 16 games in any of his three previous seasons. Update: Brown is at practice Tuesday morning and is wearing a significant cast on his right hand that goes halfway up his forearm and wraps around the sprained thumb. He was catching passes only one-handed during the open portion of practice that the media is allowed to see.

Anyway, it is true Brown will be in the final year of his contract in 2009 so the idea of getting something for him now might be attractive.

But I have a hard time believing the Dolphins would simply whack a guy that talented. And I also doubt any team would give the Dolphins the first round pick they invested on Brown in 2005 when you have a glut of running backs still on the market -- including Shaun Alexander and Cedric Benson.

So we shall monitor this one to see if Mort just dropped a bomb or simply lit a lame firecracker. My expectation is this isn't going to happen. And it shouldn't.

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.

Take the poll and then add your comments.

May 21, 2008

Things to look for out of today's OTA reveal

The Dolphins today will unveil their entire team -- minus Jason Taylor, of course -- to the media for the first time this offseason, and some issues bear noting.

Some guys that only a year ago seemed assured of long futures with the Dolphins are, shall we say, fighting for their lives. Before actually seeing today's organized team activity or whatever they call this stuff, I am pretty comfortable telling you this much:

1. Jason Allen, who finished last season as a starter, hasn't been running with starters during the early days of OTA practices. He will get first-team snaps, but he is definitely in a battle to keep the job he held last year. He is locked in a battle to keep his spot against the likes of Renaldo Hill and Chris Crocker and even Keith Davis.

At the other safetey, Yeremiah Bell apparently has been moving quite nicely while recovering from his Achilles' tendon tear in the 2007 season-opener. While perhaps not 100 percent yet, he's very, very close. And coaches like him enough that he is projected a starter.

Hill, recovering from an ACL tear, is also working his way back and should be ready for work by training camp. And Crocker and Davis are Ireland/Parcells/Sparano additions so they have a built-in advantage over Allen. The point is Jason Allen, who was starting to look like something other than a bust at the end of last year, is fighting to keep from being that again.

2. Matt Roth, a second-round pick of Nick Saban in 2005, is going to have to impress during the coming minicamps and into training camp and the preseason to keep his roster spot. That after he started nine games last year.

Roth sucked was something of a disappointment as a starter last year and doesn't seem really suited for the 3-4 because he's neither super big, nor super strong, nor super quick. He's really more a 4-3 end -- except the Dolphins aren't running a 4-3 most of the time. So the pressure is on.

3. I am assuming here, but I think you'll hear today that Josh McCown is taking a majority of the first-team snaps with John Beck taking the second-team snaps and rookie Chad Henne starting out with the third team snaps. It is the logical order, if Salguero is coaching the team.

If this is not the order, it should be news because it means Beck or Henne, two youngsters have caught the staff's attention while McCown, the veteran, hasn't translated his experience to an early advantage. Whatever the case today, eventually McCown and Beck will share first-team snaps and playing time in the preseason as coaches stoke the QB competition.

4. It should be interesting to see what the tight end rotation is. And one question to Bill Parcells: Why isn't Kyle Brady on this team?

5. If you read stories of Ronnie Brown continuing to look really good and even taking snaps in the coming camps, don't pay much attention. The fact is his real test will not come until the regular season. It is not too difficult to hide a knee injury in the preseason. Remember Daunte Culpepper? But the rigors of actually getting hit in full contact work throughout an 18-carry game is a whole different story than training camp or even moderate preseason work.

And that won't happen until the games count for real. So hold your breath because the early returns may not be indicative of reality.

Anyway, I'll be blogging live during Wednesday's practice. Oh, no I won't. The Dolphins don't want anyone doing that because it might upset their competitive advantage. Never mind that the Giants allow their media to blog live from practice and it didn't seem to affect their competitive advantage too much.

I will, however, provide a post-practice update. God willing.