October 04, 2013

Dolphins must do something at RT

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have made trades in the past week to try to salvage their season. Perhaps they were desperate moves. Perhaps, but they were moves by general managers who have each won multiple Super Bowls and believe in doing everything they can to help their teams improve now.

Perhaps the Dolphins need to get themselves in that kind of company and mindset.

The Dolphins, 3-1 and thick in the hunt for a playoff spot, have a serious problem on their hands in that they cannot protect their quarterback. They can't keep Ryan Tannehill upright as the 18 sacks they've allowed not only suggests but screams at full throat.

So rather than just sitting around and hoping and praying and acting like hard work is going to suddenly turn Tyson Clabo into a 26-year-old version of himself rather than the 32-year-old version we've seen give up four sacks in four games, perhaps the Dolphins should start shopping for an offensive tackle.

Or perhaps the Dolphins should consider moving people around to address that right tackle issue internally.

Either way, perhaps the Dolphins would be better off doing something instead of nothing.

So what can they explore?

Well, I do not blame the Dolphins for not being in on Levi Brown, who was traded from Arizona to Pittsburgh. He's frankly not much of an upgrade on any level. I don't blame them for missing out on Eugene Monroe, who was traded from Jacksonville to Baltimore.

Don't get me wrong, it would have made sense to get Monroe and start him on Sunday at left tackle while moving Jonathan Martin to right tackle. That would have been a good move, considering Monroe instead will be lining up against the Dolphins on Sunday because the Ravens gave up an undisclosed third-day-of-the-draft pick (somewhere between the fourth and seventh round) to get him this week.

A league source has confirmed for me that Jacksonville didn't really make the usual round of phone calls to the entire league to make Monroe available. So the Dolphins apparently didn't know Monroe was available.

But as the trade deadline approaches at the end of this month, perhaps it is time to be more proactive. Perhaps rather than wait on teams to call and say they have players available, maybe the Dolphins should start calling to see if players are available.

There's nothing wrong with being an active shopper.

The Ravens proved this when they called about Monroe and got a good player who wasn't really on the market.

So maybe a call to Tampa Bay to see if Donald Penn is available might be warranted for Miami. This, by the way, was suggested to me by a twitter follower. And looking at it, Penn is playing great and although he's very expensive, he's earning that pay. He'd be a huge upgrade for Miami.

Why would the Bucs trade him?

Well, they probably wouldn't but they did reportedly call the Dolphins to see if Miami would be interested in quarterback Josh Freeman. (The Dolphins obviously said no). So the Bucs are sort of rebuilding. Penn is 30 years old and maybe Tampa Bay can be convinced that a draft pick next year (maybe a third or even a second?) is good business because Penn is 30, expensive, and they aren't winning any titles anytime soon with a rookie QB, anyway.

It's a shot in the dark. And it beats taking no shot at all.

Maybe the Dolphins this weekend arrange a little discussion between Jeff Ireland and Ozzie Newsome. The Dolphins and Ravens GMs can talk about Bryant McKinnie. Maybe after Sunday's game is over, the Dolphins can send a seventh-round pick or perhaps a bag of bolts and door handles to the Ravens for McKinnie.

McKinnie, by the way, isn't the player he once was. He was once dominant. But he's partied too hard and gotten too soft to be very good anymore. His feet are slower. His belly is bigger. He's no longer a star, which is the reason the Ravens are replacing him with Monroe.

But you know what? The combination of LT McKinnie and RT Jonathan Martin is better than the combination of LT Martin and RT Clabo. And maybe McKinnie can lose weight in the Miami heat (Yeah, it is still hot down here). And, again, the Dolphins aren't exactly paying a premium for McKinnie, a player they liked in the spring.

McKinnie, by the way, is available according to a league source. And the idea of a deal is not unfamiliar to him as he raised it himself in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.

"We'll see," McKinnie said Thursday in his usual Australian accent (kidding), "maybe a trade, who knows?"

Obviously, those are not the only two tackles the Dolphins should explore. Explore everyone. Don't. Just. Sit. There.

Don't buy the fiction Joe Phiblin authors when he talks about guys working hard and getting better when the proof on the field truthfully counters that they are not getting any better. Some guys have maximized. Some guys have worked and they are who they are.

Change is needed.

Look in all crooks and nannies for that change. (See what I did there?)

One of the places, by the way, where the Dolphins should look is internally. That's right, on their very own roster.

No, I'm not advocating playing Dallas Thomas. The Dolphins are not that desperate.

I am advocating looking to see if perhaps Nate Garner can compete at right tackle. I am further advocating looking to see if perhaps moving John Jerry from right guard to right tackle might be suitable?

If you recall, Jerry finsished the 2011 season as Miami's left tackle. And he did a credible job when Jake Long went to his annual December appointment with the injured reserve list. The next year, the Dolphins moved him to guard and he's been starting but not starring there ever since.

Jerry is no great shakes at guard. And he'll probably be a mediocre-at-best tackle. But mediocre is still an upgrade from Clabo's four sacks in four games. Four sacks in four games stares longingly at mediocre. 

(Peanut Gallery: But Mando, if you move Jerry from guard to tackle you just create a problem at guard. What are you going to do with that problem?)

Garner is on the roster. Danny Watkins is on the roster. Or look to the trade market for a guard.

Do something.

I caught up with Watkins this week. The theme I came away with after the interview was he wants to compete for a starting job but he's still learning the playbook and Miami's techniques that have been so successful while giving up 18 sacks.

"Definitely feel good about it but there are still a few chinks in the armor so to speak," he said of where he's at. "But I feel good about it. It's definitely a different element coming in at the beginning of the season as opposed to being here for OTAs or training camp so that changes things. I'll go upstairs see the coaches and spend extra time with them watching the film and reviewing what I got to do. We'll draw stuff up if I'm unclear because some of it is new concepts. But they're really good about it."

So how are practices going?

"It's going well," he said. "The biggest thing is learning the technique and the offense. It's a lot better than what it was two weeks ago. It's when you flat line that you start getting in trouble. I'm just continually getting better."

As Dolphins practices are closed, I have no idea if Watkins is improving or not. I do not know if he's any good or not. But I'm hoping the coaching staff isn't simply accepting the status quo for the sake of keeping the offensive line intact.

Garner is also a possibility. Maybe he can be a better right tackle than Clabo. Maybe he can move in as the right guard and let Jerry go at right tackle. The point is not considering it, not trying it is a big mistake.

Obviously this week's game is not the time to try this. But the Dolphins have have a bye next week. That is the time to make changes. That is the time to bring in a player in trade or move Jerry and insert someone else.

Would that upset the continuity of things? Would that seem a bit desperate?

Giving up 18 sacks in four games and perhaps more on the way against Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil should put the Dolphins on the brink of desperation.

And continuity on a line that gives up 18 sacks in four games is not a good thing. It's a bad thing. It only suggests more of the same is coming in the future.

October 02, 2013

Dolphins' Mike Wallace: 'I'm definitely worried'

When the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to the biggest contract in their team history -- $60 million over five years -- they bargained for a deep threat receiver who would blow the top off defenses with regularity.

It is something Wallace did often with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But as the first quarter of this season is over and those big plays have not happened, Wallace is now concerned.

"I'm definitely worried about it because it's game four," Wallace said Wednesday. "I'm not paranoid or anything but in Week Four it's not the way I imagined my first four weeks going. Definitely not. I'm pretty sure it's not the way anybody imagined it going. So for myself, and starting with myself, [quarterback] Ryan [Tannehill] and coaches, we all got to do a better job and find a way to make it work."

This is not to suggest Wallace being on the Dolphins isn't working. He's caught 15 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. But his longest play was 34 yards and his 11.7 yard per catch average is well below the 17.2 yard per catch average he had before he arrived in Miami.

"I got to make big plays," Wallace said. "That's my main thing. I've been used to making big plays. And I definitely, definitely can make big plays. That's what I do. That's why I came here. That's why they signed me. It just hasn't happened so far for one reason or another."

Wallace is proven after four NFL seasons. He works hard. The talent vampire didn't suddenly drain him of his skills in the time since he left the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But the Dolphins' system doesn't seem to be a fit and his chemistry with Tannehill isn't the best. Indeed, Tannehill seems much more comfortable throwing the football to Brian Hartline and even Brandon Gibson, who also came to Miami in the offseason.

No one outside the Dolphins knows why that is. And if the Dolphins know why, they're not saying. But this much is clear, the current trend is not acceptable for Wallace.

"I know one thing, we not going to be able to go through a whole year like that," he said. "We have to make big plays. We have to back defenses up. That's what we have to do. Extra film work, different plays, whatever it is, whatever it's going to take, we have to get it done. We have to make big plays."

This current big-play drought doesn't mean Wallace is suffering from a sudden lack of confidence. He doesn't lack for that at all.

"I know I can do it," Wallace said.

But how fast it's done is now important for him as it should be for the Dolphins because the season is starting to leak away. So I asked Wallaced if his current worry would indeed grow to that "paranoid" state he mentioned if things don't change in the coming weeks and certainly by the middle of the season.

"Definitely," he said. "Then definitely something's wrong. And we're almost there. We only have four more games before that. We're already four games in. We don't have too much longer to figure it out. We got to make it happen. I don't know what we have to do. Hard work, I guess, by everybody."

September 23, 2013

What everyone is saying about Dolphins victory

If you're wondering what I think about the Dolphins beating of Atlanta and remaining in the ranks of the undefeated, here it is in all its glorious prose. I give it to you straight -- good and bad -- and, yes, there is a twist in that combination.

If you're wondering what everyone else is thinking about the Dolphins victory over Atlanta, here it is:

Joe Philbin

OPENING STATEMENT: Obviously it was a hotly contested football game. Atlanta is a very good football team. We knew that going in. [Falcons Head Coach] Mike Smith and his staff do a great, great job. We made enough plays to win the game. It certainly wasn’t classic or text book. We told the guys at halftime that the team that had the most faith and confidence in one another had the best chance to win. We made some plays when we had to. At the end of the first half, those three points were big. The last drive was huge.

(On their work with the two-minute drill) – “It was a huge drive. We had to have it there. There was no other alternative. We had to use our two time outs. It was at that point in the game. We had to step up and make plays. I thought our protection was better on that drive. The quarterback [Ryan Tannehill] threw the ball well. We caught the ball well on that drive and we were able to get the ball in the end zone. That, and I think those three points at the end of the half were huge. We knew that Matt Ryan [QB] does a great, great job in the two minute. He had tremendous protection a year ago in the two-minute offense so the clock was in our favor in those two scenarios."

(On what today’s win says about the team) – “We’ve got a bunch of hard working guys in there that are high character individuals. They’ve been very professional and hopefully we can continue to get better, to improve.”

(On the run defense) – “We close out the half and the game very, very well. Obviously we didn’t start the game well. We deferred to them 80 yards to score a touchdown. We started the second half and gave them the ball at the 14-yard line. There’s a bunch of things to work on. Our run defense is not where it needs to be. They controlled the whole tempo of the football game, which was one of the things we really felt going in was going to be important."

(On their performance despite injuries) – “We talked last night that we may have to get contributions from guys who are sitting in these chairs who don’t necessarily think they’re going to have a big role in the football game. That’s exactly what happened. Guys stepped up, guys like [Jason] Trusnik [LB], [Jonathan] Freeney [LB], and [Dion] Jordan [DE] played more, [Vaughn] Martin [DE] played more, [Derrick] Shelby [DE] played more on the defensive side of the ball. Those guys did a nice job."

(On the play of TE Dion Sims) – “Mike [Sherman, offensive coordinator] and the staff really deserve a lot of the credit. I want to say it was 42 or 43 seconds left [:43] somewhere around there. We had great field position. I thought it was a good move by Atlanta to call time out there to save some clock for themselves. It was kind of an action pass. We figured if it wasn’t good we’d still have a down or two to get a good play off."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill during the last drive) – “He was kind of getting grabbed and held and it was a make up for the sack-fumble he had on the first play of the second half."

(On protecting the quarterback) – “He had five sacks. It’s getting repetitive, you’re probably tired of hearing me say it, but the starting point in any passing game is protection. It’s tough for any defense to cover guys all across the field – it’s 53⅓  yards wide, I believe, and 120 yards long when you count the end zones – and if you can’t protect the quarterback, or if you get pressure on the quarterback, you help your pass coverage a lot and we have to do better."

(On grading the pass protection) – “How we did on the last drive? [Overall.] Not very good. Not good. You want me to give a grade scale? A, B, C, D…it just wasn’t very good. The last grade was a B-plus."

(On the play of QB Ryan Tannehill so far this season) – “It’s important. We talk all the time about how quarterbacks have to make great decisions. They have to throw the ball accurately and they have to make plays at critical times in the game. Obviously, that drive, as I mentioned before, we had to have points on that drive, and he was able to do that. Just as the gentleman who just exited [Chairman of the Board and Managing General Partner Stephen Ross] just said, you can’t do it by yourself. We caught the ball well, we gave him good protection, and he had a chance to do his job."

(On playing before 70,660 in attendance) – “The crowd was outstanding. They were a huge part of the win. We’re going to need them every single week. They were fantastic. I think it was a thrill for our guys to play in front of a crowd like that."

(On the play of the defense) – “The guys stepped up and made plays. One of the things that we had mentioned to the ball club all week was that we wanted to do a better job of building momentum and building off of one another. If the offense gets a score, let’s get a three-and-out or a takeaway. That was a great example at the end. We needed it at the end and came up with a play. You never know what can happen offensively. A guy breaks a tackle and takes it to the house…we were able to, last week, stop a team on downs, and this week get a takeaway. That’s good stuff."

(On RB Lamar Miller’s late incomplete pass) – “We got right back to work. Mike [Sherman] just sent in another good play and off we went."

(On the team’s performance today) – “Like I said, we had a lot of confidence in those guys. They demonstrated that they love to play the game, they love to compete. They’re a team. It was a good step again in the right direction."

Tyson Clabo

(How would you describe Ryan Tannehill in that last drive) – “Flatline.  He was calm. You could tell that he expected to go down and score a touchdown.   There was no panic; nothing. He just said lets go down and score a touchdown and we did.  I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind.  Then we started moving the ball, there were big plays all over the place, it was pretty special."

(On the Atlanta Falcons) – “Good football team.   I’m sure they’ll go on and have success the rest of the season, but today, I’ll take the win."

(On if it reminded him of some of the old games with the Falcon’s, hanging in there and then pulling out the game at the end) – “Well I knew that we had to play well in the fourth quarter to beat those guys. They’re so good late and so we controlled the ball, I think we took it with over four minutes and they didn’t get it back until there was like 40 seconds left or something like that.  That was key I think, because you don’t’ want him to have time to do what he does really well.  It’s special."

Charles Clay

(On this win being a team win without anyone giving up) “There’s no doubt about it. I mean the guys did a good job sticking together. I mean even at the beginning of that last drive guys were upbeat in the huddle saying: ‘C’mon this is what great teams are made of and if you want to take the next step you got to score a touchdown.’"

(On whether there was any one play that turned the game around) “I can’t think of just one play. The guys did a great job the whole time. I mean, it was multiple times, it was an exciting game. We knew it was going to be that way coming in playing a tough Atlanta team."

(On his catch on the last drive) “I mean, it was a great move. That’s about pretty much all I can say about it. It’s a little seam route and Ryan (Tannehill) placed it in a perfect spot where I can make a play on it and no one else can."

(On the confidence of the team) “Well, I mean, this team has been working together for so long now we knew at the end of the game that if we came together, we knew that if we just played together then we can win that game."

(On how it feels to see the tight end being so involved on the last drive) “It’s big. Especially for Dion (Sims) seeing him finally get his catch."

(On Sims’ one-handed catch) “Yeah. He’s got to do it in style."

(On his catch in the fourth quarter) “I thought I was down. You know, when I got up and I heard everybody screaming, you kind of get worried, but I figured I was down."

(On whether he was the primary receiver or second or third look-off on his catch on the last drive) “It’s all based on coverage. On that play I would like to say that I was secondary, but like I said (Ryan) Tannehill did a great job with his eyes and he made a great throw."

John Denney

(On his 131st consecutive game for the Dolphins which broke Jason Taylor’s franchise record for consecutive starts) “It’s always nice and I’m more excited about the win right now. I’m more excited about being 3-0. It hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career and I’m excited to where the team is headed."

(On his fumble recovery) “It all happens real quick. I mean there was some wrestling going on down there. But what matters is when the refs finally get to the bottom of the pile that you’re the one with the majority of the ball."

(On whether he has ever recovered a fumble before) “I have once before in a regular season game and another time in a preseason game."

(On what it was like to watch Ryan Tannehill on the last drive of the game) “It’s great. It’s great to see when your quarterback has got that confidence and then he believes in himself that he can go down the field when we need it and score."

(On rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis being calm, cool and collected) “He is solid. I mean you’re getting your bang for your buck out of him for sure."

(On where this environment ranks for him) “Oh, this has got to be tops as far as the energy right now, it’s as high as I’ve ever seen it."

(On whether this is the best moment he has had as a Dolphin) “Yeah, we’ve been to the playoffs once. Right now because it’s the moment, absolutely I’d say it’s the greatest time because it’s now. We’re doing well now. We’re not living off the past. We’re making the most of the present and hopefully we can snowball that into the future."

(On what is special about this team, overcoming three turnovers and still coming out ahead) “I think because we’ve seen ourselves do it before, I think we will build that confidence to know that it is possible. We’re not heads down, giving up. We recognize the fact that we’ve done this before, we’re not out of this. There is plenty of time on the clock and we’re capable of turning it around."

Brent Grimes

(On the week leading up to the game) – “It was emotional. It was a crazy game, it came down to the home stretch and it was a great win. To win a game against a team who has been good in this league for a while now, that’s big. It was our home opener, we’re 3-0; it was just a big win. It didn’t mean that much just because it was the Atlanta Falcons."

(On QB Ryan Tannehill on the last drive) – “If you heard me on the sideline, I said I know we’re going to score. It just had that feeling. He moved the ball down the field and made some big throws, the team made some big catches and we got going."

(On whether it was a big win) – “I knew we have a lot of potential on this team and we’re doing some good things out there and we just want to keep it going. We’re only 3-0, we have a lot of positives, but we have a lot of work to do."

(On the DE Cameron Wake’s injury) – “We just know everybody is going to give their best effort. You never want anybody to go down, but you know it’s bound to happen in this game. You have to have people step up and we did that, everybody was talking on the sideline. We were all picking guys up telling each other to keep it going. We made a bunch of stops when we had to."

(On the feeling at halftime) – “We knew that this was the kind of game we were in for, so we didn’t panic; we knew we had to make adjustments and we had to get back to doing our fundamentals and play football how we know how to play. Then things started going our way in the second half."

(On whether this win says something about the team) – “I already knew it about my team. We got in here on April 15 and all the guys are all in. That’s what we are. We make plays when we have to and nobody doubted it.”

Brian Hartline

(On QB Ryan Tannehill’s composure on the last drive of the game) – “It was a good step. He stepped back there and put together a Ryan Tannehill kind of moment."

(On beating a championship level team) – “It was good. It was definitely a step forward. I guess high expectations usually bring out the best in you."

(On the team being 3-0 for the first time in 12 years) – “We have a special team. We have a lot of talent. We continue to progress and come together as a team on an individual basis. Offense, defense, and special teams all compliment each other. The sky’s the limit."

(On his touchdown catch) – “I had an opportunity, I saw the coverage and I knew I had an opportunity on the ball. Of course the only spot where the sun was left in the stadium decided to find the football and I couldn’t see it, so I decided to catch the black dot and it worked out pretty well. It was definitely hard to locate."

Richie Incognito

(On if it was all business in the huddle on the final drive of the game) – “All business, we were prepared to be in that situation and I think guys stuck together, it was a gutsy win and it was awesome to go down the field and get seven points."

(On if he was surprised by the play call on first and goal from the one yard line) – “You know, we have had a lot of success against our defense running that play. Obviously we do a lot of different scenarios on the goal line and we get competitive reps against the first team defense and we always have success with that play, it’s hard to defend. You have play action upfront, the tight end leaking out the back and they had it covered but he had his back turned and Dion (Sims) went up and made a play."

(On what went right on the final drive) – “We were able to pick up chunks of yards, instead of two yards and a cloud of dust, we were able to pick up six, seven, eight (yards) and consistently move the chains, keeping third down manageable and really leave our whole playbook to be called, we left ourselves some options moving the ball down the field."

Don Jones

(On if he thought Harry Douglas would be returning the punt where he tackled Douglas for the fumble after he waved off his team) – “Actually I didn’t see him wave it off because I was fighting all the way down the field trying to get my defender off. I finally found him. I looked up, and he was right where I was. I tackled him, and I looked up and he was on my shoulder. I decided to go on and dunk him. So it turned out to a pretty good play that a better team could get out and get a win."

(On if he felt the energy changing on the sideline after the play where he forced the fumble) – “Yes, most definitely. I think they gave us a lot more hope. I think it got the offense rolling a little more. Then after that, we came out and finished the game well and finished the game like Coach (Joe) Philbin had been talking about all week. We finished it out pretty good."

(On if he felt like Harry Douglas didn’t see him coming) – “He glanced at me bug-eyed. I don’t think he knew I was coming at him that fast. As soon as I got the chance, I just dived at him and caught him in my shoulders. I scooped him up and threw him down. It was a big play."

(On if he knew the ball had popped out) – “No sir, I was just so happy I was running to the sidelines celebrating. Then I looked and everyone was pointing back and I was like, ‘We just got the turnover.’  It was a big play I really needed. I just need to keep improving and listening to my coaches every week."

(On how it impacts his confidence making a big play) – “My confidence went through the roof. Now I feel like I could go down there and do that all the time, which I know I’m capable of. I just got to keep on working and keep on working, keep on getting coached up every week and after that everything will be good."

(On if he feels like he’s on the team because of special teams) – “Oh yes, most definitely. If it wasn’t for special teams I probably wouldn’t have made the 53 (man roster). I would probably be on practice squad.”

Dion Jordan

(On how it felt to get this win) – “It wasn’t just one guy, it was myself, OV (Olivier Vernon) made big plays, (Derrick) Shelby had to come in and make plays, (Randy) Starks played a lot, it’s just everybody as a collective unit.  We work out butt off throughout the week so we can play well on Sunday’s.  I’m just thankful that we prepared the way we did so that we can come out here and play well."

(On with all the injuries today, it was a next man up scenario, was it a good team effort) – “Oh yes, it’s the NFL and you never can predict what happens and that’s why guys have to prepare like they’re going to play on Sunday.  In our case on the defensive side of the ball guys had to step up, fortunately we prepared well enough and we made plays."

(On how he can explain this team, after it looks like they’re out of a game, and they keep winning) – “We have a lot of faith in each other, that’s all it is.  We work really hard throughout the week and it’s a grind, but we understand  on Sunday’s it’s going to pay off  in this league.  These last few games it’s been down to the wire, pretty much and we’ve played against some good teams.  Thankfully we stuck together and came out big, 2 weeks in a row."

Jonathan Martin

(On how rare it is to win a game when the winning team gives up five sacks and the losing team does not give up any) – “It just shows our ability to execute in the clutch. We got the ball back with just enough time to get down the field and it showed us how together we are as a team."

Mike Pouncey

(On what the 4th quarter drive says about Ryan Tannehill) – “He’s a monster, he’s taken the next step and everyone can tell he’s been playing well for us all season. The way he conducts himself in practice, you can tell its going to relate to the game, and so he’s playing well for us. It was a total team win; we couldn’t have done anything without our defense and kicking game."

(On what was said by Tannehill in the huddle on the last drive) – “He told us on the last drive, it doesn’t matter what you have done up to this point, the only things that matters is the last drive of the game and we went down and scored a touchdown. It just goes to show his leadership and his will to win the game, and we did it."

(On where he would rank today’s atmosphere) – “Number one, it’s the best I have ever seen this stadium. The fans were into it, they helped us out a lot. When the fans are into it hurts the other team. They were all juiced up, and so were we on the sidelines."

Mike Wallace

(Think Ryan did a good job spreading the ball)- “He did a pretty good job spreading the ball, getting it to everyone. He is doing the things a quarterback needs to do to take that next step."

(Tannehill’s poise down the stretch)- “He is just showing us everything we see in practice. He does this everyday. He makes plays. We making strides, he going down the right path to be a great quarterback."

(On Ryan being sacked five times, your team not recording a sack)- “No, but we have a team that overcomes it. It was a team win, everyone contributed. Big play by Don (Jones), turned the game around. Donny got the hit that caused the fumble and (John) Denney recovered it. We won in all three phases of the game to win it."

(On being outplayed, nothing going your way, but still finding a way to win the game)- “You think we got outplayed, I feel like we played the best. First half maybe, I will give you that, but the 2nd half, that’s where it really counts. It’s a team, everyone contributed in all three phases of the game."

(On the Special Teams tackle by Don Jones which caused a fumble)- “Biggest play of the whole game, we were driving but we had to punt the ball, but we got the ball back and scored on the drive."

(Never quitting on the game)- “60 minutes in the game, I’ve seen so much crazy stuff happen in the  football game, teams comeback down from 20,21, 28 points. Until the last second goes off on the clock you just need to have faith and believe you can win."

Falcons coach Mike Smith

(Opening remarks) –This was a game that we had a ton of opportunities to have chances to win the game. We just didn’t make the plays when they were presented to us. We’ve got to be a lot more efficient the red zone. We cannot leave out of there without scoring touchdowns. We’ve got to get the ball in the end zone. I thought that we played well in spurts. We’re not going to win whole lot of games in the National Football League when you lose the turnover battle, which we did today. But we’re going to keep working to make the improvements that we need to make as a football team."

(On the Dolphins’ game-winning drive) – “Obviously we did not get enough pressure. We didn’t play tight-enough coverage. And they made the plays and we didn’t. You’ve got to make those plays at the end of the ballgame."

(On when he felt the game was getting away from the Falcons) – “The game got away when (the Dolphins) went ahead, there, at the end when we had two timeouts and we’re in a situation where we have to score a touchdown. And when it really got away from us was on that last interception. Our guys fought to the very last play."

(On deciding to attempt a field goal late in the game based on the spot of the ball) – “I thought it was too far (to go for the first down). If it was going to be a half a yard or less, we had determined we would go for it. When they brought the chains out it was a good yard, yard and a half. And that’s very difficult in those situations to know until they unwind and bring the chains out it was definitely more than one yard."

(On the performance of the Falcons’ second-string players) – “Ee had a lot of guys that played … it was good to see those young guys step up. It’ll be interesting to watch the film. Paul Worrilow got a number of snaps in the ballgame today. (Joplo) Bartu continued to play … so, those guys, we knew would be able to step up and go out and compete. And I thought that they did a nice job standing on the sideline. We just didn’t get the outcome that we wanted today."

(On if he felt like the Falcons played well enough to win) – “The scoreboard says that we didn’t. There’s certain indicators in a football game that have a more high probability for winning. For losing. When you lose the turnover battle, the way we lost the turnover battle today, that’s probably the biggest one. Then our red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball wasn’t as efficient as we needed it to be. Those are probably two of the biggest indicators of whether you’re going to win the game or not."

(On if despite the loss, if he was happy with his team’s performance) - “Again, we didn’t win the ballgame. I liked the effort. I liked the resolve that we showed in terms of running the football. We wanted to run the football. We came in and I thought we did it. I thought that both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers did a very good job. The offensive line controlled the defensive front. I thought that we applied pressure on the quarterback; we had five sacks on our side. And again, you look at the indicators that I had mentioned and that’s really the difference in the ballgame. The red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball for the Falcons and losing the turnover battle."

September 11, 2013

What Dion Jordan learned during Week One

In setting up their locker room this year, the Dolphins put first-round pick Dion Jordan next to Cameron Wake. It is not a coincidence.

Wake is a 100-mph dude. He loves to work. He loves to play. And he plays every down like it is his last. That is one reason he is the second-rated defensive end behind St. Louis end Robert Quinn after one game, according to ProFootballFocos.com. Quinn had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Arizona.

Wake got 62 snaps. And went hard 62 snaps. He had 2.5 sacks and four hurries.

That example has quickly traveled the one foot distance separating Wake and Jordan. Jordan gets it.

And after watching Wake against the Browns and have one of his more impressive games in memory, Jordan feels like he learned something in his NFL debut.

How the game should really be played ...

"Consistency," Jordan said. "That's one thing I learned, especially watching this guy Cam Wake rush. Consistency is probably the thing I learned."

What does that mean?

It means no Jadeveon Clowney act.

It means taking no plays off.

"There's no plays off because any play can change this game and Cam made some big plays last week and changed that game last weekend," Jordan said.

This is not to suggest Jordan didn't know about going full speed every play before Sunday. It's just that the game was an illustration of what can happen when you don't. And so he won't.

"I feel if I was ever to take a play off, guys would notice it, especially the guys in my room," Jordan said. "They would notice it. But that's not my menality. I have a motor so I'm going to use it."

Jordan played 17 snaps according to PFF. He had a sack and a tackle. He also had a penalty. The metrics site gave him a negative grade for the game. (Don't ask me, that's what they did).

But Jordan seemed pleased with himself.

"I feel like I played fast ... I  played a lot of special teams, I played a lot of defense. I had a pretty decent role for the team," he said.

It was a solid start.



September 09, 2013

Joe Philbin has work to do

The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.

And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.

That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.

Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used  -- show he's a problem now.

How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?

Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.

He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.

He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.

Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.

Sound minor?

It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.

And then there's this:

Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.

I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.

That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.

Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.


Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.

Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?

Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.

But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.

And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.

It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.

He loves South Florida.

And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.

But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.

The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."

"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.

Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."

Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.

Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.

So where does that all leave us?

Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.

I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.

And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.

I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.

But I know there are issues in general.

And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.

Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?

Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.

Issue erased.

And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.

The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.

Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.

The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.

No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.

Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.

If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has:  Not handling issues while they're still manageable.


September 07, 2013

Dolphins CBs hurting? No problem vs. Browns

I was talking to someone who has been around the Cleveland Browns for 20 years this week and the conversation turned to that team's passing game.

"They have four wide receivers," he said, "and three are slow."

That's the reason when the injury report came out Friday and it had starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and rookies Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin) listed as out, I didn't exactly flinch.

If the Dolphins were playing Atlanta or Denver or any other team with a capable receivers corps, this week would be trouble. But, with all due respect to the Browns, they should not be trouble.

The Browns won't have their most talented receiver Josh Gordon on Sunday because he is suspended by the NFL. That means Davone Bess, who was acquired in trade to be the slot receiver, is now promoted to starter alongside Greg Little, who becomes the No. 1 WR.

Little is a solid player who caught 53 passes in 2012. But he doesn't intimidate with size and speed like Gordon does.

The Browns don't look capable of challenging the Dolphins deep. Indeed, their only deep threat is former University of Miami player Travis Benjamin, who is better known for returning punts and kickoffs than catching passes.

By the way, the Dolphins are hopeful Patterson will indeed be active and play, barring a setback. So even that situation is not as bad as it seems.

Bottom line?

If the Dolphins were opening at Indianapolis against the Colts -- the opponent next week -- instead of at Cleveland, there would be major reason for concern. The Colts can throw the ball and boast multiple big-play and deep-threat options.

But the Colts come aren't the opponent. They're opening against the Browns. The Browns don't have that kind of talent.

So it's not as bad as it seems.

September 06, 2013

Dion Jordan's debut vs. Cleveland

The question about Dion Jordan much of this preseason was not how he'd be used against the Cleveland Browns in the rookie's NFL debut but, indeed, whether he'd be used at all based on his uncertain injury status.

That question has been answered. Jordan, nursing a tender shoulder much of the preseason, is playing in the Dolphins regular-season opener.

So now we want to know how much. And here are some answers based on interviews with players and coaches.

Expect Jordan on some special teams and on the field with the defense on some passing downs.

None of this is a surprise but what seems uncommon is the Dolphins may use Jordan in something similar to the New York Giants NASCAR pass-rush grouping of years past. Although Jordan is the backup to Olivier Vernon and plays the same position as both Vernon and Cameron Wake, it is possible the Dolphins want to use the pass-rush skills of all three players.


In the same pass-rush package.

So the Dolphins could include Jordan, Wake and Vernon -- three defensive ends considered Miami's best pass-rushers -- on the field and rushing the passer at the same time.

I'm told there might even be moments when the Dolphins have four defensive end types chasing Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden because linebacker and former defensive end Koa Misi might get in on the act as well.

How exactly the Dolphins would deploy this group of rushers has yet to be seen in 2013 -- not in practices open to the media or fans, not in training camp, not in preseason games -- so I cannot account for how much or little this might be used nor can I account for how the Dolphins would line up. (And even if I had seen it, I wouldn't report it anyway).

If the Dolphins go forward with this plan, it is good news at least on its face. There's been much speculation and hand wringing among fans whether the Miami coaching staff could find a way to maximize its talent at defensive end.

This is also good news because this grouping suggests a better pass rush.

But there are other ramifications because it likely means one of the down linemen will not be playing in a familiar four-point stance. It suggests someone will have to rush from a two-point stance (standing up).

The idea also may mean the Dolphins sacrifice pass rush up the middle for more pressure from the edge. 

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle hinted earlier in camp that if Jordan was physically ready to play, there would be a package to include him in the game plan. He doubled down on that this week.

"We haven’t made any final decisions yet," Coyle said on Monday. "Today he got a good number of reps in practice, so we are excited about that. At the end of the week, we’ll really feel better able to judge exactly where he’s at, but he’s going to have a significant role in the game plan this week, I can guarantee you that."

Jordan's role on defense is expected to be limited almost exclusively to passing situations while his gifts on special teams seem suited for kickoff coverage and perhaps punt return and field goal block situations.

Jordan is quick enough and fast enough to run down on kickoffs. He's long and athletic enough to possibly block a field goal. He's strong enough to block on punt returns. Just saying.

Jordan worked on the kickoffs team early in camp and coach Joe Philbin has defended the idea of having valuable players -- including the first-round draft pick -- on special teams.

"We'll have starters on special teams," Philbin said Wednesday.

"It’s a critical play in football, the coverage, we’re going to use whoever we feel is going to be the best to help us pin the opponent down," Philbin said Monday. "Whoever that may be."

When he was asked about Jordan specifically on special teams this week, Philbin was coy about it but couldn't bring himself to dismiss the idea because, well, the guy's on teams and this coach doesn't lie.

 “We think we have a chance to be a very, very good special teams unit," Philbin said. "We want to utilize our personnel in the best way possible. If he is on one of those teams, then we’ve come to the conclusion that is going to help that particular phase of special teams." 

September 05, 2013

Whole must be better than parts for Dolphins OL

I'm talking with a Dolphins person earlier this week and this person tells me there's only one area on the team to worry about because it can wreck the season.

Tight end, I guess because Dustin Keller's injury really, really hurt this team.


The secondary, I guess because I'm not sure about Dimitri Patterson, the rookies (Will Davis and Jamar Taylor are injured) and Nolan Carroll is, well, Nolan Carroll.


The running game, I guess because Lamar Miller is mostly an unknown, Daniel Thomas is average on good days, and the offensive line is still coming together.

You're close.

The offensive line.

And then I hear how the line is still an issue and if it remains an issue, there goes the running game, there goes the deep passes to Mike Wallace, and there goes Ryan Tannehill.

One unit affecting everything on offense.

And not in a positive manner.

So that got me thinking -- which is rare and never good. What is it about this offensive line? Is it truly an issue? Is it a team weakness? Is it bound to be the reason the Dolphins offense struggles?

There is evidence that suggests there's reason for concern.

First there's what offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said this week:

"I still think it is a work in progress," he said of the line. "John (Jerry) is coming off of an injury. Getting him back into the fold is going to be huge. He’s been out for a little bit, but I’m excited about having him back. We certainly needed him back. I’m anxious for him to get more comfortable in there with the other guys and get more used to what we are doing."

Think about this. We are three days from the regular-season opener and the offensive line is still a work in progress? Pardon me for being old school, but the preseason and training camp was the alloted time for doing the work and progressing.

The regular season is here. It's time to roll.

Also this: John Jerry is the saviour of this line?

John Jerry is an average NFL guard. He's not Larry Allen. The fact the Dolphins are seriously counting on him to be healthy, well-conditioned, and then play at a high level without many missed assignments tells me there's a lot of wishful thinking going on.

Jerry is not in great shape yet. Yes, Sherman said Jerry inexplicably lost weight during his five weeks of knee rehab, but I don't imagine him being slimmer is the reason coaches identified him as the only starter on the entire team that needed to play in the fifth and final preseason game.

So what is it about this offensive line that worries?

Well, it's simple. This line today seems to have solid parts (assuming Jerry gets up to speed). The individuals are good. But as a line has to play as a unit -- with one heartbeat and soul and purpose -- the Dolphins offensive line seems lacking because the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

And what you need is for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Consider that, again, the parts range from excellent to solid.

At left tackle Jonathan Martin has come miles from the first eight days of training camp when he struggled as Miami's new fulltime left tackle. He was beaten like a drum by Olivier Vernon that first week. Since then, he's played very well in preseason and been a non-issue. He may not be the beast Jake Long was when healthy. But he's good. Solid.

At left guard, Richie Incognito is a snarling bulldog that can push bigger men backward with his initial punch. That is great. He's smart. He knows all the tricks. He moves better than he's given credit for. Not an issue.

At center, Mike Pouncey is not quite elite yet. But he's darn close. He's excellent. He's smart. He studies the opposition. He moves very well. He's cleaned up his shotgun snaps. I'd say 90 percent of NFL would take him as their starting center.

At right guard, John Jerry is the saviour. Having him is "huge," Sherman said. I kid, obviously. But the truth is last year was a good season for Jerry. He emerged. So he has the talent to be solid.

At right tackle, Tyson Clabo is a consummate professional. He typically knows his assignments. He knows his opponents. He uses good technique. And with his experience and all the other factors, he can usually overcome what physical deficiencies he might have. It can be argued the Dolphins upgraded at right tackle to start this season over last season when they had Martin starting as a rookie.

So that's the rundown of the individuals. All good.

Yet as a group, there's still something missing. Something is still not quite right. It's still "a work in progress."

Last season, the Dolphins had a new starting right tackle, a new starting right guard and Jake Long was working to get his knee 100 percent during the latter stages of training camp. And the group played very well early in the season, anyway. The Dolphins had the NFL's second-ranked running game after two weeks in the regular season.

But here's the bad news: They got worse as the season wore on.

The running game went to No. 4 in Week 3 ...

No. 5 in Week 4 ...

No. 8 in Week 5 ...

No. 11 by Week 8 ...

No. 13 one week later ...

Then it jumped around in the upper teens until finishing the season at No. 17.

The line was getting worse results even as Long was still in the lineup and Martin and Jerry on the right side worked together longer.

The worse results also affected the passing game because the protection for Tannehill got worse. The Dolphins gave up 16 sacks the first half of the season -- only three the first three games. And 21 sacks the second half of the season, including 10 in the final three games.

None of this means the Miami line will get worse this year. I believe these individuals should be good enough to provide the offense with a good running game. I believe these individuals should be good enough to protect Ryan Tannehill and give the passing game a chance to succeed.

But these individuals must come together quickly. They must play better as a group.

The whole must be better than the sum of the parts.  



November 15, 2012

Tonight's game a chance for a little revenge

BUFFALO -- Here it is. The opportunity. This is the night.

If you are old enough and remember back long enough to know that Dave Wannstedt did enormous damage to the Miami Dolphins, then tonight is the opportunity for a bit of revenge.

It was Wannstedt who was pushed upon Dolphins fans when Jimmy Johnson convinced Wayne Huizenga to pick his friend Wannstedt to coach the team -- even after Johnson had failed in the assignment.

At first it seemed like a good idea. The Dolphins won the AFC East in 2000 under Wannstedt. And then the slow, steady decline of a franchise ensued. First the records got increasingly worse, then the team stopped making the playoffs. The wasting of talent Johnson drafted -- including Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain -- was underway.

And by the time Wannstedt was ousted (he quit after he was told he'd be fired) at midseason in 2004, the Dolphins were no longer the shining example of an NFL franchise they had been under Don Shula.

All that comes rushing back to me because tonight the Dolphins meet a unit Wannstedt coaches for the first time since 2004. Oh, Wannstedt was with the Bills last year when Reggie Bush went for over 200 rushing yards. But he was not the man in charge of the Bills defense. Now, he's the Bills defensive coordinator.

Did I mention the Bills have the worst defense in the NFL?

They give up more points on average than anyone. Perhaps the fact Wannstedt is still running that old 4-3 with press corners and not much change game-to-game is one reason. I was told by a long-time Buffalo observer the Bills didn't blitz the first four games of the season.

"Vanilla is a good word for it," he told me of the Bills defense.


All I'm saying is this is a purely emotional issue. This is not a football issue. The players on the field tonight have nothing to do with this. This is between Dolphins fans who still remember the start of this century and the man responsible for Miami's decline at that time.

Revenge, you say?

You bet.

By the way, there's a live blog coming tonight. I'll post the inactives in a few minutes. Hop on board. I'll join the blog at kickoff.

April 17, 2012

Proof Dolphins are working these days

The Dolphins are in the middle of their offseason program and I know this because the pictures don't lie.

Below are Reggie Bush, a workout machine, on the bench; quarterback Matt Moore, who will be competing for a starting job, doing some heavy lifting; and cornerback Sean Smith is showing off his new look hair cut.

(All photos courtesy the Miami Dolphins)

Reggie bush weights



April 21, 2011

Ireland's assignment is simple really -- make a difference

Jeff Ireland will conduct his 2011 pre-draft presser (as ordered by NFL rules) today and I will be certain to look beneath his footwear to check for a net. I'm pretty certain I will not find one, but for journalism's sake one has to confirm things.

I want to confirm Ireland is indeed operating in this draft without the Bill Parcells net under him.

This draft, you see, Ireland's on his own. It's his baby and his alone. To him goes the glory if things work out. To him goes the ignominy if things don't.

This draft will be different for the Dolphins in that there can be no rewrite of history when or if things go wrong. The Pat White draft pick, for example, was pretty much an orphan for quite some time until the last three months when I got Ireland and Parcells to took responsibility for the mistake on the record -- Ireland on my radio show, Parcells in a column I wrote last week.Jeff ireland one

No big deal, but I think that kind of set the record straight.

Parcells is still proud of the Jake Long pick and doesn't deem it a mistake but he understands, he also told me, if some folks think Matt Ryan would have been the better selection. The Big Tuna has also told me that in the spring of 2008 he sent Dan Henning, Tony Sparano and Ireland to Ann Arbor (to see Chad Henne), to Delaware (to see Joe Flacco) and to Boston (to see Ryan) and everyone came back saying Henne was every bit as good as the other two. 

So again, responsibility goes where responsibility goes -- on the entire organization.

Now the responsibility belongs to Ireland. As it should be. No more shadows behind curtains. No more masters jostling puppet strings. We're not in Oz anymore.

Jeff Ireland is the man and he will get from fans whatever his picks bring him -- credit or contempt.

But, I wonder, what is your confidence level he's ready? Are you anxious whether he can avoid mistakes that would not be made if Parcells were here? Are you excited he might make more bold moves now that Parcells is gone?

My view?

There can be no doubt Ireland has an approach that is his own. I hope he does, anyway, because he is an individual rather than a clone of his mentor. He's younger than Parcells which suggests he might be bolder but also comes with the caution that he might not be wiser. Jeff and bill

I do not predict he will depart from precepts Parcells taught him. He'll pick prototype guys or try to, anyway. He'll want big guys. He'll especially want fast guys in this draft. He'll try to stay away from troublemakers.

I hope he is desperate. I hope he comes to this draft ready to go for the end zone rather than settle for field goals. I've had enough of field goals. I saw too many field goals the past couple of seasons. I want picks that will prove themselves to be touchdowns!

Think about it: The Dolphins have been good at drafting the past three years. Assuming Jared Odrick does get healthy and back on the field and becomes productive, the last three years brought outstanding to solid picks, with Long being outstanding and Vontae Davis representing solid.

The second round has brought satisifaction (Sean Smith) and disappointment (White) and a still hung jury in the court of public opinion (Chad Henne). Later rounds have had both good and bad picks.

So the work is worthy of a C-plus, in my opinion. 

That's because there has been no awe inspiring pick. There has been no take-your-breath-away, give-that-personnel man-a-prize selection. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has been a game-changer. Not one Dolphins pick the past three years has brought a player other teams must game-plan around or for. Long isn't that because, by definition, left tackles can only change the course of a game by screwing up. They do not change the course of games when they merely do their jobs.

Davis has not been a game-changer. Smith hasn't although had he caught his six potential interceptions a year ago that he dropped, he might have reached that plateau. Odrick hasn't gotten a chance. Henne hasn't been a game-changer in any consistent or confidence-building manner. Anyone else?


Ireland needs to find a game changer this draft. He needs to do something his mentor could not. Oh, Parcells helped bring solid talent to the Dolphins when they were lacking even that. But conference titles and Super Bowls are won with difference-makers, game-changers stacked atop solid talent.

Ireland, on his own this draft, has work to do.

NOTES: I will be updating the blog several times Thursday so check back throughout the day. I will also provide real-time updates from Ireland's presser on twitter. So please follow me to get those updates.

February 28, 2011

Henne's meeting with Daboll, Dorrell apparently violates CBA contact rules

The NFL has warned "several teams" that players are not to meet with coaches and receive playbooks during this time in the offseason, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported over the weekend. The league has sent the Dolphins no such warning.

But perhaps it should.

That's because Chad Henne, Miami's presumed starting quarterback, told The Miami Herald today he's been meeting with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for the last month in preparation for player-organized workouts that would replace any offseason workouts or minicamps lost to a possible lockout or other circumstance related to the uncertain and unresolved collective bargaining contract.

Henne, apparently comfortable with the new playbook, would presumably run the offensive portion of the workouts. To be equiped for that task, Henne had to learn portions of the playbook, or at least significant portions of it. And to do that, he likely had to study the darn thing.

Regardless, even meeting with Daboll to discuss strategy and plays is apparently out of bounds, according to the Plain Dealer. And that definitely happened.

"I took some vacation time, maybe a week or two here or there, but once we signed Coach Brian Daboll, I tried to get into there as quick as I could to learn the offense," Henne told the Herald's David J. Neal. "I've been meeting with him for the last month now. I feel pretty comfortable with what he's teaching and what the offense is going to be about just in case -- who knows what's going to happen this Thursday? -- that I can pass it on to the guys and help the guys out."

Henne is quoted extensively in the story talking about the new offense and how it is quarterback friendly and a mix of the New England and New York Jets offense. The story does not make the conclusion that Henne violated any rules. It does not even consider the topic.

But I do.

According to the Plain Dealer, coaches and GMs at the NFL Scouting Combine were told by league officials that existing rules forbid meetings with coaches and the dispensing of playbooks until the official start of offseason conditioning programs on March 15. The league is saying the offseason rules were a concession to the wishes of the players union, which did not want coaches pressuring players to meet with coaches until the off-season programs kicked off, the Plain Dealer reported.

The Plain Dealer report specifically addressed meetings relative to strategy. Players and coaches are allowed to meet to discuss other matters, such as contract issues and to simply handle introductions and other business until March 3, it has been reported. 

An NFL spokesman could not immediately be reached on this matter. A message left with a Dolphins spokesman has not yet been returned.

Update: A Dolphins spokesman declined comment and added he would not even confirm that Henne had indeed met with Daboll -- although the spokesman was present today when Henne said he met with Daboll. I find that amusing for some reason.

Update 2: Whatever advantage the Dolphins gained (if any) is done because the league year ends March 3rd anyway and everyone knows and understands there is to be no contact between players and their teams after March 3rd.

Update 3: Veteran St. Louis scribe and radio host Howard Balzer passed along the portion of the NFL's clarification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that shows the contact between Henne and Daboll to be out of bounds.

The current collective bargaining agreement, which doesn’t expire until midnight March 3, has strict rules regarding what players can do before the beginning of offseason programs. The NFL has made this clear to clubs by way of written clarification. That clarification reads:

 "Prior to the start of off-season programs, players are permitted to use the Club’s facilities on a voluntary basis subject to the following rules: (i) such players may not receive per diem payments or workout bonuses of any kind and may not be paid or reimbursed expenses for travel, board or lodging during this period; (ii) such players are not permitted to participate in organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind; (iii) the Club’s strength and conditioning coaches may not direct such players’ individual workouts, but may supervise use of the weight room to prevent injury, correct misuse of equipment, etc.; and (iv) such players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period."

Obviously, the quarterback meeting with the offensive coordinator is a meeting of some kind when the CBA clearly states meetings of any kind are out of bounds.

Balzer also tells me via e-mail that in St. Louis, quarterback Sam Bradford has not met with his new offensive coordinator for this reason.

Update 4: Henne didn't just meet with Brian Daboll. Quarterback coach Karl Dorrell was in the room also at Dolphins training camp. That is similarly a violation of the CBA. And this is not just speculation. This is straight from Henne's mouth.

Watch the video:

December 12, 2010

We get evaluated, Dolphins should be evaluated top to bottom

All of us that have jobs are evaluated at least once a year to mark the progress or regression we've made on the job. Am I right?

So an evaluation isn't an insult.

So, as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins need to perform a comprehensive top to bottom evaluation of the entire football side of the franchise.

In other words, coach Tony Sparano needs to be evaluated.

General manager Jeff Ireland needs to be evaluated.

All the players need to be evaluated.

All the assistants need to be evaluated.

I tell you in the column what result the evaluation of Sparano and Ireland should be, barring a final month collapse by the Dolphins.

I also tell you why the Dolphins need to encourage a couple of other high-ranking assistants to find something else to do next season because their work in 2010 won't stand up very well to an honest evaluation, regardless of what happens in the final four weeks of the season.

Those final four weeks begin today, by the way, with the Dolphins facing the New York Jets. We will have a live blog around 4 p.m. I will update the blog and and get us set up for the live blog, with pregame news, well before then.

So come back. 

December 01, 2010

Henne getting more comfortable in his own skin

There is a feeling from those around Chad Henne that he is feeling more comfortable these days.

That's interesting because so many critics called him robotic and unfeeling and just not comfortable in his own skin when he was on the field in recent times, most notably before his benching following the Nov. 7 loss to Baltimore.

But that seems to be shifting a bit these days. I cannot exactly quantify for you that Henne is feeling more comfortable with his status on the Dolphins because there is no statistic for that. But it's just a hunch, a gut feeling, that he seems more at ease.

The most tangible example of that is what Henne said today about throwing interceptions. Look, Dolphins coaches have beat him over the head with the dogma that he must not make the big mistake and throw interceptions.

These coaches preach not losing the game as much as winning it.

But the truth, as has been discussed on this blog before, is that great quarterbacks throw interceptions. It's a fact of greatness. If the QB is going to expose himself and gamble sometimes and stretch skills to the breaking point, sometimes the result will be an interception.

The measure of greatness could include making sure the touchdowns far outnumber the interceptions. But the interceptions will come. And the great ones, while not accepting the interceptions, understand they are a fact of life.

Henne showed on Wednesday he understands interceptions are to be avoided. But they are sometimes a fact of life.

"This isn't life or death," he said of the miscues. "There's worse things in life out there that you can do. Obviously it hurts you deep down inside, but you have to let those things go. You have to keep on trucking ...

Henne cracked a smile.

"That's like Will Ferrell there, huh? No, you just have to put it behind you and move on to the next play because you can't let something despise you and shy away from it. You have to keep confident and keep throwing the ball out there."

I like it. I don't want the Dolphins quarterback playing scared.

On the other hand, Henne isn't a wild child, either. He has a sometimes funny, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes edgy streak he rarely shows the media. But it is there.

On the other hand, he is still big on saying the right thing. So when he was asked today if Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson blew it by smiling and laughing on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to San Francisco on Monday night, Henne straddled the fence.

He would never condone what Anderson did. But he didn't want to rip a fellow QB, either.

"I think you take the game seriously," Henne said. "It's not time to joke around, I guess, on the sideline. I mean, sure, if someone says something funny, you're going to laugh but I think staying focused and staying in command at all times shows the team you're there to play, this is a business, this is a game. You have fun and I'm sure whatever Derek did wasn't to say, 'Blow off the game or my mind's out of the game.' "

Well, that's polictically correct Henne. Maybe he's not totally comfortable being himself yet. But he seems to be headed in that direction.


November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010: More important than football

If you're looking for more words about Chad Pennington and Chad Henne or Dan Henning and Jason Allen, I don't have those for you here this morning. You can read my column in The Herald on the topic if you like.

Today this blog pauses to remember, to celebrate, to honor those that defended my right to write and speak those words without fear of reprisal from any despot or tyrant -- no, not Nick Saban. This morning this blog honors the fighting men and women of the United States armed forces and all the veterans who served therein.

This blog honors these people on Veteran's Day 2010 because they are more important than most of the fanciful, frilly things you come to this blog to enjoy. You come here to debate. You come here to exchange ideas. You come here to speak your minds. That is a freedom you should not take lightly.

That is a freedom I do not take lightly. You see, I come from a country where people don't have the basic fundamental freedoms of free speech, or liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

So perhaps I value those who preserve those freedoms here more than the next person. Forgive me if that somehow causes you any inconvenience. You have a right to your opinion so you can think me too sappy if you wish. Isn't that wonderful?

You have a right to your opinion.

People fought and died for that right. And for that reason, this morning, this blog is dedicated to our veterans. I will update with football information this afternoon. But for now, please acknowledge the service of people worthy of much respect. 

November 03, 2010

On dreams, Henning, Merriman, and Moss

Two facts: Today is my birthday! HBTM! Yeah, I'm 48 years old today. Thank you, Lord for keeping me alive this long. I am truly blessed.

I didn't feel that way this morning when the alarm clock sounded, however, because I soon realized Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning was in one of my dreams last night. I have no idea what he was doing in my dream but it is fair to assume he was interrupting a good thing with one moment of I-know-more-football-than-everyone genius.

Anyway, today should be an interesting day -- aside from my B-day celebration -- in that we should get some clarity about where former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss and former Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman will end up. Both were reportedly on the waiver wire at 4 p.m. Tuesday so their status could be settled by 4 p.m. or so today.

We know the Dolphins are interested in Moss. We know Brandon Marshall would more than welcome his arrival in Miami as he said on a local radio station in South Florida Tuesday. (I'd credit the station but as it spouts my information as if they did the legwork without crediting The Herald, they can bite it.) Anyway, Marshall said on the station that will not be named that he would be thrilled to have Moss on the Dolphins, contrary to the idea that he wouldn't want another alpha receiver on the team taking catches away from him.

Marshall, in fact, said he would welcome Moss as a deep threat on the team because that would open things up for him. Indeed, with Randy Moss on the Dolphins, which receiver do you not double-team? Yikes!

Again, the Moss idea makes sense.


Not too sure about that one. I am not aware whether Merriman is on Miami's radar or not. I assume not. Fact is current GM Jeff Ireland was in the DeMarcus Ware camp when the debate in Dallas in 2005 was whether to go with Ware or Merriman.

Merriman is enticing in that he's 26 years old, comes relatively cheaply short-term, and has had 43.5 sacks.

But ...

Merriman is a walking injury situation. He has never played all 16 games in his career and has missed much of the season in 2008 and so far this season (calf). You know how the Dolphins feel about perpetually injured players.

Merriman's production is also misleading in that only four of his career sacks have come in the past three seasons so he is not necessarily a guaranteed performer. It should be noted that Merriman's production declined after, ahem, he was suspended by the NFL in 2006 for testing positive for performance enhancing substances. 

Merriman also has something of a reputation for loving the nightlife. It was a source of contention for San Diego GM A.J. Smith. How would that play in South Florida with South Beach down the road from the Dolphins practice facility?

Finally, what statement would acquiring Merriman send to current Miami players Cameron Wake and Koa Misi? Wake is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Misi is having a good rookie season with decent run defense and 3.5 sacks -- which is only .5 sacks less than Merriman has had the past three years.

Soooo ... I'm not exactly seeing the Merriman idea too well.

Maybe I should go back to sleep and have Dan Henning explain it to me.


October 23, 2010

Ross tells Ireland Peterson won't be hired

Ever since we learned Bill Parcells was out of sight of the Dolphins -- living up the coast in Jupiter but no longer coming to work in Davie nor keeping an office there -- fans and team personnel alike have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The name of the other shoe is Carl Peterson.

But as I write in my column for Sunday's print edition of the Miami Herald, the Peterson shoe isn't a fit. At least that is what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has told General Manager Jeff Ireland. My source(s) tell me the Dolphins owner has given Ireland assurances Peterson will not be hired to replace Parcells.

The column has other interesting nuggets regarding Parcells, the trade deadline and the Davone Bess contract negotiation so please check it out when it goes online or lands on your porch.

But, really, the Peterson information is the most noteworthy to folks worried the man who never brought a title to Kansas City might be hired by Ross to bring a title to Miami.

In my legwork for the column, I also confirmed my earlier report that Ireland had amended his contract with the Dolphins so that he is answering directly to Ross and no one else. I was told that happened "a while back." The amendment would make the hiring of Peterson moot from a power standpoint, anyway, because Ireland would not report to him. But the amendment would not necessarily prevent Ross from making the move if he wanted to do it.

Now, however, we know the owner is not inclined to go in that direction. At least that is what he has told various people, including Ireland himself.

August 18, 2010

Funnyman Brandon Marshall regales media

Brandon Marshall can be a funny guy. Yeah, that's it. He has a sense of humor.

He did his third press conference since coming to the Dolphins. Before he began to address the local hacks, he asked a Miami Dolphins staffer for a football, got it, and punted it to begin the press conference.

"Any questions," he said laughing.

Like I said, funny guy. Anyway, below you can find the full transcript of his talk with the reporters:

(On explaining what just happened) -- "Well, you guys aren't really good journalists because you reported it wrong. It didn't make it over the fence; it stayed in the facility (referring to his punting a ball in practice the other day after a drop, laughing)."

(On what emotions the punt expressed) -- "I don't think it's a secret; I'm the type of guy where I want to compete and I want to compete at the highest level on a consistent basis. When you struggle at times, well when I struggle at times, I'm not going to be happy, and it's not going to be a secret, and I will never let it be a secret. When I'm frustrated in practice, I'm going to be frustrated. Now in the game it's a different story; I think in the game you don't want to give your opponent that edge so you try to control your emotions but in practice you want to compete and you want to get better. That's exactly what we're trying to do here."

(On his showing of emotion in the past) -- "Well I think that's exactly what it is. I'm not going to compare a situation in the past to my situation now. This is the first time in, in four years that I've went into a season or a training camp where I was completely happy. Now am I happy every day, no because we compete every day, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and that ultimate competitor in me, I'm not going to be happy. I think we're doing a great job as a team competing every day and trying to get each other better. A lot of great competition going on you know on the field, which I think is going to help our team in the long run."

(On whether his new contract puts any additional pressure on him) -- "Not at all, I mean the pressure to do what, catch a football? I've been doing that since I was six years old. The only thing I can do is what I can do; I'm going to be the same guy. Whatever made me great is what's going to be on the field throughout this season. I'm excited about this opportunity that we have as a team, our goals, and working to achieve that."

(On if he enjoys the spotlight) -- "I love it. I embrace it. I think this is an organization where there's going to be a lot of lights on us. I think we have a special team here. It's a special organization, and I think we have a chance to do some special things."

(On him seeing his charisma wearing off on his teammates) -- "Well like I said, it's good when you take the positive from it like Vontae (Davis). Every day we're going out there and competing. Every day he wants to prove to me and to our teammates that he can shut me down. There's, what's the word…I guess I'm supposed to be a good receiver. It gives him an edge on other receivers. It gives him a confidence when he does great against me. Every day he's out to prove one thing, that he can shut me down and our other receivers in our room. So it's exciting to see that our young corners are getting better and they're taking advantage of this opportunity."

(On his reaction to Vontae's punt after breaking up a pass in practice) -- "Yesterday? I didn't like it at all. I went back to the sideline and I told coach, I can't believe I let him get the opportunity to kick the ball because he made a great play. It's a play I think I should have had and he knocked the ball away, and he got up and punted the ball, and I didn't like that at all."

(On his relationship with Vontae) -- "Oh I care, oh I care. It makes me mad (when he punts the ball) just like if I make a good play and I say some words to him, it's not good for TV but he's going to come back out and he's going to compete that much harder."

(On the competition aspect of his relationship with Vontae) -- "Yeah I mean me and Vontae, we went out to lunch today and we just sat down and tried to pick each other's brains' about what we're seeing on the practice field, how we can make each other better, and it's exciting. Sean (Smith) the same. Sean's a corner who like I said before is physically gifted and the way he's been applying himself in this camp is amazing, and I think those two are going to have a great year."

(On how this camp is different for him considering he is happy and healthy) -- "Yeah, definitely healthy, definitely happy, the only thing is I'm hot. Add another H to that, the three H's: happy, healthy, hot."

(On how things are coming along with Chad Henne) -- "You know what; we got off to a slow start last week. We let the conditions get the best of us. I went out there and had two drops; you definitely don't want to start off that way. But hey, we got three more preseason games left, a bunch of practices before Buffalo, 24 days till Buffalo. We got time to get things better; we're not where we want to be, but we'll work to get there."

(On whether getting off to a slow start makes this weekend's game a big game) -- "Every practice, every game is a big game. Not just because how things went for our first team last week. Every time we step on the field, and every time, whether it's practice or game day, we want to take advantage of it. That's exactly what we do every day."

(On whether his being out during OTA's has slowed his progression with Chad Henne) -- "No, not at all. That was a time where I was able to get mental reps and pick his brain every play. That helped a lot, and like I said, we have a bunch of practices before Buffalo and that's all we need. We'll be fine."

(On his reaction to people saying he should change his number away from #19) -- "I think this is kind of played out, but it's just practice. I'm not going to go over there with A.I. (Allen Iverson) (laughing). Like I said, that's why I get frustrated because the way you play is how you practice. If you're dropping the ball in practice, you got a chance that you'll drop the ball in the game. It's something that we definitely, I definitely need to correct, so there it is."

(On him having all the attention) -- "I've always had a bullseye on my back and a spotlight on me. Not always for the positive, but it's been there before. It's nothing that's unique to me, and I embrace it."

(On the quarterback group as a whole) -- "Well I'm excited because we get a chance to grow together. We have a leader in Chad Pennington who has a lot of wisdom, who's played a lot of games. He helps not only the quarterbacks but he helps us receivers in the segment room. I'm going into my fifth year, I don't know it all. I may be one the oldest in my room, but I still have a lot of learning to do. How to approach the game in a professional way on and off the field, and that's what Chad Pennington brings to us, so we're excited to have him, and I hope he stays around for a long time."

(On how the offense compares to the offense he played in for Denver) -- "Well actually, it's similar. The formations, personnel calls, it's kind of from the same (coaching) tree. The transition for me is pretty easy and pretty similar."

(On his relationship with Mike Sims-Walker) -- "Well that was my college roommate, one of the best men in my wedding, more like a brother. So that's my buddy."

(On whether there are ever any wagers between the two) -- "Definitely. Every time we match, man we got wagers on everything. We're always betting but it ain't about cash though, (it's a) gentlemen's bet, gentlemen's bet."

(On whether he wants Darrelle Revis to settle his contract dispute with the New York Jets so he can go up against him) -- "Well of course because I mean in order to be the best, you got to go against the best and you would love to compete against someone of his caliber and make plays on him. It kind of gives you that confidence; kind of solidify yourself, so I would love to see him out there. I think it will get done; I don't think it's a matter of if, but when."

(On how he expresses his emotion even while he's in the spotlight) -- "Well I think down here, it's new to you guys because I'm a new guy, but a year from now you guys will be  able to say oh that's just Brandon. That's how he performs, that's how he practices, he plays with a lot of emotions, he approaches the game with a lot of passion. You don't want to do that in the game but it's practice. Like I said, I'm a guy that wants to compete, and compete at a high level. Hopefully things will work out for us where we get things rolling in the right direction."

(On how he channels his emotion to make sure it's positive) -- "Well I mean I honestly believe you're supposed to be, you should be harder on yourself than anyone else. I honestly believe that. If you don't push yourself, then how can someone else push you? So that's what I believe in, and that's how I approach the game."

May 28, 2010

Smith guarantees he won't be shut out in 2010

As you may already know, my column in The Herald today shares the feelings the Dolphins have about all the moves and boasts the New York Jets have made this offseason. I talked with cornerback Sean Smith to gather information for the column and I wish to share here some of the material about Smith I didn't use in the column.

Smith, who started all 16 games at cornerback as a rookie, is locked in a competition with Will Allen and Vontae Davis -- three men wanting two starting jobs. My opinion is Davis is going to win one of those jobs and it will fall to Allen or Smith to decide the other.

So what does Smith think of how he did in his rookie season with hindsight giving him clearer vision of 2009?

"I think I did some real good things out there," he said. "I don't think there was a game where I was getting my butt whipped all game. I would say there wasn't any receiver that had my number for a whole game. I think my coverage was solid for the most part. Even though I didn't have any interceptions, I'd say my play was above average for a rookie."

The zero interception statistic is obviously one Smith isn't thrilled about. He says, indeed, guarantees that number will change in 2010.

"I guarantee that will change this year," he said. "Guaranteed. No way I will go another year without an interception. It's impossible."

Smith might have thought he was going to be an interception machine after collecting two in the 2009 preseason. But the real games are different and the higher stakes obviously affected Smith's coverage plans.

"The first year I moved to corner from wide receiver, I had four [interceptions]," Smith said. "So I was like, 'It's not really that hard, I don't see how guys struggle.' Next year I had five. Then I had two in the preseason and I thought, 'We'll keep rolling.' But then you get in the game when it really counts and you don't want to be that guy that messes up.

"At times I was being a little bit too hesitant. And we were in some close, close games and if I gamble one time and I get beat, I'm like, 'No way. I'm not bearing that on my shoulder.' You can't play like that."

So how far does Smith believe he's come one year into his career?

"I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "I'm talking out there. I'm more vocal. I'm able to disguise things. I'm able to feel like a real vet, you know what I mean? I got the rookies asking me things. It's good to give advice instead of asking all the time."

Smith is also being smarter about his body and training regimen. Last year, he'd eat fast food and not concern himself with massages or icing down. Now he's eating more vegetables and fruits and staying away from fast food.

He hopes that will help him avoid the letdown he felt the final five or six games of last year when he felt somewhat worn down.

"I seen guys getting ice the first couple of weeks and I figured, 'I'm fresh I'm good,' " Smith said. "But after a while I had to take their advice. It was tough but I got through it.

"As the year went on I started to get the feel for body language of the receivers, learning how he lifts when he's going to break down. When you're watching things from the side you can tell when he's going to stop but when you're watching things from dead on its harder to tell when he's going to (drop) the hips."

It should be an interesting competition at cornerback.

[Check back throughout the day Saturday for updates from Day 2 of minicamp.]

May 20, 2010

Karlos Dansby finally gets some attention

It is rare when a star free agent signs a $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed, is asked to come to his new team and assume a leadership position, and that player is somehow overshadowed much of the offseason.

And yet that is what has happened with Karlos Dansby.

He was the big offseason acquisition ... until the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall.

Unlike Marshall, Dansby didn't get a press conference -- either one approved by the Dolphins or simply attended by Dolphins staffers offsite at a hotel the team uses to house players during training camp.

Unlike Marshall, there was no grand fascination with what his number would be.

Wednesday's OTA day was supposed to be the day Dansby got the attention because it would be his first official press conference with the South Florida media and his debut as the leader of the Miami defense. But the attention was still on a million other things:

Marshall's number.

Marshall's hip.

Marshall's other hip.

Jason Ferguson's excuse for a positive performance enhancing drug test.

Ronnie Brown's health.

The rest of the team's lack of health.

Chris Clemons as the first-team safety.

The outside linebackers.

Can we give Karlos Dansby his moment, please?

We found out Dansby is playing the Moe exclusively while Channing Crowder is expected to continue at the Mike. Tim Dobbins, acquired from the San Diego Chargers on draft day, will likely be asked to learn both but he's playing primarily the Mike right now with Crowder still rehabilitating his lisfranc surgery.

"It’s a lot different, a lot different," Dansby said comparing the system he played in Arizona and the one defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has installed in Miami. "A lot of different responsibilities...I’m looking forward to it. They want me to be a leader. You got to do that by actions. You can’t do that by words. I am out there right now trying to prove myself.

"You got to earn that. That’s everywhere you go. You got a responsibility, I’m just trying to do my job and put my best foot forward.

"We are having a good time. I’m meshing well. You know, all the guys, we’re taking to each other. We are doing a lot of stuff off the field and on the field, so I’d say we’re meshing real well right now."

Dansby has been upstaged by Marshall but he nonetheless carries the weight of improving the run defense that ranked No. 18 last season.

"I wouldn’t call it a weight," he said. "I’d just call it an opportunity to be great, and that’s what I’m trying to be right now. I’m taking all major steps to try to be great."

Dansby is still feeling his way around. That's perhaps one reason he is not certain he's going to be on the field all three downs. (It would be a shock if he's not because he's getting paid like a three-down linebacker.) But that assurance must wait. If it comes, Dansby may get the opportunity to call the defensive plays.

“I’m not sure yet," he said. "We still have changes to do. If I’m an every down backer, I might have the opportunity to call the calls. If not, it really doesn’t matter, as long as I’m on the field."

Regardless of whether he's calling plays or not, Dansby must somehow earn a spot as one of this new defense's leaders in 2010. It is on him because the young unit doesn't really have many veterans more accomplished than him.

But Dansby seems to know what is required to lead.

"It’s being disciplined," he said. "Being disciplined, taking care of your body and going on the field, being in front of the guys, and like I said, and making all the plays that we’re supposed to make, and that’s how you become a leader."