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69 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

Dolphins coaching was a problem versus Bill

There are complaints aplenty about the Miami Dolphins today.

Some of them come from fans, as blogs, message boards and radio call-in shows will be loaded today with complaints about play-calling and coaching.

Some of the complaints come from Miami's locker room and coaching staff. That's the one I decided to focus on for my column in the Miami Herald Monday. Players and coaches alike looked at their fourth-quarter collapse against the Bills, a collapse which turned a 14-7 lead into a 31-14 loss, and everyone agreed the Dolphins have a problem finishing.

The Dolphins are perhaps the NFL's worst team at finishing games. They've blown games against Indianapolis, New Orleans, and the Bills in the final stanza this year. They also got outplayed by San Diego in the fourth quarter of that game.

Read the column and answer the following question: How does a team that cannot finish games, expect to successfully finish the season?

As to matters not in the column:

The coaching by the Dolphins staff was horrible on Sunday. I have great respect for the Miami coaching staff because I believe they often get the most production out of some limited talent. But this blowout upset loss was different.

This was embarrassing.

The facts are the Dolphins were facing an inferior team on Sunday. The Buffalo starting cornerbacks of Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee did not play on Sunday. The Buffalo offensive line was missing two starters and had another dude playing out of position. The Buffalo head coach is a rookie. And Ryan Fitzpatrick from Harvard? Really?

The Bills had nothing to play for but pride while the Dolphins' season was on the line.

Then one has to understand the Dolphins had 10 days to prepare for this game.

And the Bills still won?

"We've got 10 days to prepare and I didn't do a good enough job obviously preparing them," coach Tony Sparano said. "I've got to do a better job."

Sparano, the former play-caller for Bill Parcells in Dallas, has to do a better job of riding herd over offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Henning, who has forgotten more football than most people will ever know, is normally a fine offensive coordinator.

Sunday was not one of those occassions.

Consider that on Miami's first possession the Dolphins moved from their own 45 yard line to the Buffalo 3. Chad Henne completed a 15-yard pass. Ricky Williams ran for 11, then 7, then six, then 5 yards. The Bills were on their heels.

And then on first-and-goal, Henning got cute by calling a halfback pass for a player that hasn't thrown a pass since 2000.


Momentum lost.

"Yeah, you know, I got the ball and Joey Haynos was supposed to block the outside linebacker and then go, and I saw him, and I just didn't put enough arch on the ball and it was picked off by the backside linebacker," Williams said.

But why call the play at that point? I can understand if the Dolphins weren't running well? But they were rolling. Not smart. They used their best runner to throw, thereby not using their best runner's or best passer's greatest assets. Not smart. 

Sparano relegated the criticism of the play-call to "Monday Morning quarterbacking" and said the problem with the play was in its execution. It sounded like a coach who would prefer to blame a player than another coach for a play's failure.

There were other head-scratching offensive calls also.

In the second quarter the Dolphins took a 7-0 lead and then stopped the Bills on a three-and-out. Then the Dolphins complete a pass for 11 yards, Williams runs for 6 yards, Williams runs for 5 yards. And then Henning gets cute again.

He calls an end-around to Ginn on first down. It loses 4 yards. And you know what? The Dolphins make 11 yards on the next two plays but have to punt because they needed 14 yards for a first thanks to that reverse, So that reverse to Ginn costs the Dolphins a chance to keep driving.

The Bills then get the ball and tie the game at 7-7 on their next possession.

Finally, can I ask about continuing to force the issue with Pat White? He is neither one of the team's better runners nor it's best passer. And yet he continues to get plays at strange moments when Miami runs its spread option.

White ran once for 2 yards on Sunday. When did that first taste of action come?

In the fourth quarter. Right after Buffalo took a 17-14 lead. What changed at that point that didn't happen in the three previous quarters when Miami was winning? What was the freakin' point?

The defensive coaching staff doesn't get a pass here, either.

We all recognize the Dolphins are starting two rookie cornerbacks. We recognize they are talented. And we recognize they are capable. But why put them in one-on-one coverage a large majority of the game, every game?

Hello? Other teams watch tape, also ...

It is begging for a game-changing TD. And the Dolphins got exactly what they were begging for when Terrell Owens caught a 51-yard TD pass over Vontae Davis in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick said he recognized the coverage pre-snap and called an audible.

Dagger to the heart.

One more thing: We keep hearing how Cameron Wake cannot get into games more because he is a work-in-progress as a run-defender.

Well, how long does it take to coach up a player to defend the edge of the defense? We're 11 games into the season and Wake's still not ready to tackle somebody running wide?

And if Wake isn't, what makes coaches think Joey Porter is ready? Porter blew edge run assignments time after time on Sunday. Yes, he had a couple of sacks against reserve tackles. But that was Porter blowing the run defense against Fitzpatrick as the Ivy League QB set off on a 31-yard TD run.

So the young player can't be taught to defend the run 11 games into a season and the veteran can't be reminded to keep his assignment discipline? Yes, the players have a responsibility to get this done. But the coaches have an equal responsibility to make sure those players do their job or take a seat on the bench.

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November 29, 2009

Miami Dolphins lose to Buffalo, 31-14

ORCHARD PARK, N.J. -- This was a first.

The Dolphins had lost games before, no doubt about it. But lose to a team they should have beaten? Lose to a team overmatched and undermanned? Not under Bill Parcells, Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland.

Until today.

Bills 31. Dolphins 14.

The offense is at fault. There were dropped passes, the blocking was spotty, and both Ricky Williams and Chad Henne threw interceptions. Henne threw three in the final two minutes.

The coaching is at fault. That Williams interceptions came on first-and-goal from the 2 yard line. And they threw, can you believe it? There were also the usual reverse when the running game is doing well and the one-on-one coverage in the secondary ... against Terrell Owens, who delivered a 51-yard game-clinching TD catch.

And the defense is at fault. This unit seemed slow, seemed mostly unable to apply a choke hold on a struggling opponent. They just stunk.

Now the Dolphins are 5-6.

It was an upset.

It was upsetting.

Dolphins lead Bills 14-7 in fourth quarter

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Dolphins dominated the time of possession in the third quarter, holding the ball for over nine minutes.

And those used that time to drive for a game-leading TD to give them a 14-7 lead going into the final stanza.

Join me in the comments section to see how it ends.

Dolphins-Bills tied at 7-7 going to 3rd Q

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Dolphins are the better team today.

Anyone looking at the rosters sees that.

Anyone looking at the list of injured players sees that.

Anyone looking at the teams line up sees that.

Anyone looking at the scoreboard isn't quite so sure.

The Bills and Dolphins are tied 7-7 going to the third quarter. Miami's offense has looked good in flashes but has been inconsistent. A red zone turnover also hurt when Ricky Williams threw an interception from his own 2 yard.

The Dolphins defense yielded a strange 31-yard touchdown run by Ryan Fitzpatrick ... the Buffalo quarterback.

So we're tied at halftime. The second half should be interesting. The live blog should be interesting, too.

Dolphins and Bills knotted at 7-0 in 2nd Q

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Dolphins have moved the ball effectively on the Bills.

The Bills moved the ball effectively on the Dolphins.

The Dolphins threw an interception on a questionable halfback pass call from the Bills' 2 yard line.

The Bills missed a 44-yard field goal.

So we have no points so far.

[Update: Henne just threw a 4 yard TD pass to Brian Hartline. Dolphins leading, 7-0.]

Live blog from balmy Orchard Park starts here

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Let's go with the news first: Nate Garner will continue to start at left guard for the Dolphins today ahead of Justin Smiley, who is active but still nursing a shoulder injury.

The inactives are: Patrick Turner, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Lydon Murtha, Jake Grove, Erik Walden, Lory Sheets and Tyler Thigpen as the No. 3 QB.

It is a beautiful day for football here and so that removes the final excuse anyone could possibly, realistically have for believing the Dolphins could lose today.

The Dolphins should not lose.

They face a Buffalo team with a new interim coach, a quarterback starting only his fourth game and one that is beat up.

The Bills today are without their starting left tackle, without their starting right tackle and without their starting right guard. And the last time today's tackles started was against Miami -- when the Dolphins had six sacks.

I must tell you there was a Disco convention at the local convention center in downtown Buffalo this weekend. so there were numerous bell-bottom-wearing, 1970s Donna Summer and Sylvester staying fans at the Adam's Mark Hotel where the Dolphins were staying last night.

Despite the music, there were no disturbances reported.

Today is a big day for Paul Soliai, who will be making his first start of the season at NT. Today is a big day for Joe Berger, who is making his first Dolphins start at center. Technically, the Dolphins are weaker up the middle on both sides of the ball than they've been all year. We'll see how they fare.

The live blog will start in the comments section below just before kickoff. And I will be updating with inactives in a few minutes. Come back. 

November 27, 2009

Today's Dolphins rooting for undefeated Saints

The Dolphins family, which stretches from the old-timers such as Don Shula to, um, the old-timers like Bill Parcells and Dan Henning, normally shares a common bond to which they stick like Super Glue: Everyone wants today's Dolphins to win. Everyone wants other teams to lose so no one matche the Perfect Dolphins' undefeated mark.

But this weekend that bond is stretched just a tad. While everyone undoubtedly wants the Dolphins to continue winning, there could be a bit of a difference of opinion over the New Orleans vs. New England game. 

Oldtime Dolphins, the crew from the 1972 perfect season, are likely rooting for the Patriots to knock off the 10-0 Saints from the ranks of the unbeatens. Simply, it might be the last game New Orleans is seriously threatened this regular season.

The current Dolphins? They don't have any hesitation telling you they want New Orleans to win, perfection and all that other stuff be darned, because they have their own interests riding on the game.

"We would like New England to lose because obviously it would help our efforts," guard Justin Smiley said earlier this week. "That's what the game's about, two great teams going against each other. It's going to be fun to watch."

I remind Smiley that his desires might clash with those of past Dolphins such as Mercury Morris or other greats that often talk to the team before home games and serve as honorary captains. Those guys understandably want to remain the only team in NFL history to go undefeated.

"We have a ton of respect for the guys who paved the way, don't get me wrong on that," Smiley said. "But this is a new era and a new team and we need some things to happen for us. Those guys went undefeated and won Super Bowls and stuff like that. We're trying to get to the playoffs. I'm sure they'll understand."

Here's an irony everyone will understand if either the Colts or Saints go undefeated.

Unlike the 1985 Dolphins that defeated the Chicago Bears to prevent that team from posting a 19-0 record and surpassing the 17-0 mark of the 1972-73 Dolphins, this 2009 Miami team hasn't quite stepped up to defend the franchise legacy.

This year the Dolphins had a chance to hang an L on both the Saints and the Colts and failed to do so both times.

So if either the Saints or the Colts go undefeated, the old timers can look no further than this year's Miami team to lament what might have been.

And so now I ask you, Dolphins Globe, where your allegiances stand this weekend. You obviously are proud the Dolphins so far are the only NFL team to ever go undefeated. So you obviously want to see New Orleans lose.

You also want your current team to have a chance at sharing the AFC East lead. If the Pats lose to New Orleans this weekend and then lose to Miami at Land Shark Stadium next weekend, Miami is tied for the AFC East lead.

So where are your allegiances this weekend?

(And don't tell me, you want the Saints to win this weekend and then lose a game after that. You ride the fence, you end up speaking with a very squeeky voice, if you know what I mean.) 

November 25, 2009

Roth claimed by Browns, rest of Wed. news

Former Dolphins OLB Matt Roth was claimed by the Browns today. No surprise there.

And yes, the Dolphins say Roth was cut from the team Tuesday for as "a football decision." That is not a surprise to anyone that reads this blog and saw The Herald's reporting on the topic yesterday.

On to news about Dolphins players still, you know, on the Dolphins:

NT Paul Soliai (ankle), TE Anthony Fasano (hip) and LB Erik Walden (hamstring) returned to practice today after missing last week's game. All practiced full and aren't even on the injury report so all should be available Sunday.

C Jake Grove (ankle) and DE Lionel Dotson (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Joe Berger is nursing a knee injury but he took the first-team center snaps. Ricky Williams is nursing a chest injury but he also practiced full. .

Soliai practiced with the first-team defense at nose tackle. The nose tackle rotation, I'm told, is likely to be Soliai and Tony McDaniel. There is some thinking that Randy Starks will be in that rotation, but I'm told that is not true. 

Why would the Dolphins take their most consistent defensive end and ask him to play out of position?

Won't happen.

Soliai has to step up and reward all the work injured and done-for-the-year veteran Jason Ferguson did in mentoring him the past 18 months. And Soliai plans to do just that.

"I want to play for him and show him I learned everything he taught me," Soliai said. "He believes in me and I got to show everybody I can do it, too."

The Dolphins filled out their 53-man roster today by adding Andrew Hartline to the active roster. hartline is 6-5 and 300 pounds and had been on the Miami practice squad since Sept. 15.

G-C Mark Lewis, who was with the team in training camp.

Lewis was back home in California when he got the call from Miami to come back. He had been working at a Christmas tree lot the past week and expected to do that job through the holiday season.

"I was working with tractors, chain saws, lifting trees and helping people out," Lewis said.

He expected to make about $3,000 in a month at the lot. On the practice squad roster, Lewis will be making approximately $5,000 per week as the prorated portion of a practice squad deal. 

The improvement of Chad Henne was a big topic of conversation today. Everyone is agreed the Dolphins new starting quarterback is getting better.

"I think you like to see a guy turning errors into non-errors instead of repeating errors and he has shown an ability to do that," offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "I think the more he plays, the better he's going to get."

Henne agrees.

"I definitely think I've grown a lot," he said. "I understand the offense, I'm anticipating things and know where I want to go with the ball."

Henne said he could see himself continuing to improve and, ultimately, playing for the Dolphins the next decade or so. We'll see.

Henne has great potential and I'm eager to see what he can do once he gets a great receiver to work with. By the same token, the true measure of a QB is how he reacts to adversity. No matter how good they are, all great quarterbacks suffer adversity. All the great ones overcome it. Lesser players are overcome by it.

So ... we'll see.

I asked Henning his think on not using the spread offense aka Pat White's package against Carolina last week. I was wondering if that was going to mark the shelving of the package or if there was some other reason for not seeing it.

Turns out there was another reason.

"We had Pat White ready to play in the game in certain situations and one of the situation arose and because of the time out situation, we didn't feel it was appropriate to use," Henning said. "And then we were ahead in the ballgame.

"So we continue to work with Pat and have him ready to contribute in the way we think is best for him to help us out. Sometimes it goes that way. Sometimes it rolls in and the situation doesn't present itself."

Finally, here's a pre-Thanksgiving feel-good note:

You know Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells has something of a reputation as a hard, unfeeling sort. He's really not that way at all. But rather than tell you, let me show you.

Parcells, a native of New Jersey, recently pledged $100,000 to St. Anthony's High School in order to help the school meet major budget shortfalls.

"I get it," Parcells said in a press release for The Street Stops Here, a documentary that in part details St. Anthony's problems and will air on PBS in the spring. "I've coached enough and seen enough to know how important a good, solid education is. I have a lot of respect for what the faculty and staff are doing at St. Anthony's. I'm glad to help in whatever way I can."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. God bless you all.

Miami Dolphins players must produce quickly

Surprised by the waiving of Matt Roth?

If we can cast aside for a second the conspiracy theories about this move, of which there are many -- theories that are unproven and therefore unfair (for now) to relate -- Roth was waived based on performance. He had four weeks to prove he could contribute to the Dolphins this year and beyond and he failed.

He had four tackles in four games and so the Dolphins did what they always do: They acted quickly and decisively to get rid of a player they no longer needed.

(I happen to love that about this regime.)

Unlike other teams that nurture draft picks, coddle free agents, or hold on to veterans perhaps one year too long, sometimes adding to a mistake by refusing to eliminate that mistake, these Dolphins recognize their mistakes and get rid of them.

It sounds harsh because players are men not meat and these men have families to feed. But the NFL is a business and the Dolphins treat the business with little emotion. These guys are Vulcan-like in their rational, logical approach to casting out roster weakness.

That's why no player or coach can feel safe on the Dolphins unless he is producing.

Remember only a few weeks ago, coach Tony Sparano was saying of Roth, "it was good to get him out there," and a couple of weeks later he's gone. Remember I told you how Shawn Murphy got a figurative pat on the back from Sparano about how well he was coming along and two days later he was waived?

Here yesterday, unproductive today, gone tomorrow.

We've seen it time and again.

Samson Satele started all 16 games last year but was a weak link that glowed in neon in losses to Baltimore and other games. He was traded.

John Beck was talked up and credited for his professionalism all last year and in training camp. He was waived.

Eric Green was signed as Miami's free agent answer to its cornerback problems. He was cut in training camp.

Ernest Wilford was a huge free agent bust last year and so the team swallowed a $4.5 million salary cap hit to get rid of him.

The club claimed tight end Davon Drew off waivers and to hear Sparano talk, the guy was on Miami's radar for some time and had great potential. And five minutes later, Drew was cut.

And the approach applies to assistants as well. Remember offensive line coach Mike Maser? He spent 2008 cursing at his players and was basically fired one week after the season ended.

And all this leads us to this question: Who is next?

Earlier this year, when the Dolphins were struggling, I was told no one was safe. In other words, no player that Miami would want to cut after the season could relax simply because his contract situation. The Dolphins saw no salary cap situation they couldn't overcome.

Of course, this doesn't include guys like Jake Long or Vontae Davis or some others because the Dolphins wouldn't consider cutting or trading them anyway. But vets who aren't performing this year risk being outta here by next year regardless of their contracts.

And there are, of course, candidates. These players must step up in the coming weeks to avoid finding themselves possibly looking work elsewhere next season:

1. Jason Allen. The experiment has failed, he is a first-round bust. He isn't a starting-caliber cornerback or safety. That fact aside, he isn't exactly contributing a ton in his current role on special teams, either. He has only seven special teams tackles this year.

2. Ted Ginn Jr. Miami coaches will defend him until the cows come home the rest of this season. But in the offseason the team will make finding a legitimate No. 1 receiver one of its priorities. And if someone comes, someone's got to go. Ginn may still stick as a special teams weapon, but barring some sort of epiphany by him as a receiver, his days at that position in a Miami uniform could be numbered.

3. Joey Porter. The Carolina game gave him a huge reprieve because he's under the microscope bigtime. Porter had eight tackles against the Panthers. That's as many tackles as he had since the third week of the season. But coaches recognize Porter did that against a guard that was playing out of position in place of an injured left tackle. They aren't fooled by the stats. Porter, 33 years old in March, has to prove in the season's final six weeks and in the coming offseason camps and conditioning program, that he deserves a spot on this team. It is not guaranteed.

4. Lionel Dotson. Sparano raved this preseason about how Dotson "changed his body" and got stronger and bigger and better. And he's still managed to be active only twice this season after being active only twice last season.

5. Anthony Fasano. I struggled with this one because I know Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland really like this kid. He's good in the locker room. He's a solid citizen. He plays all-out. But his production has fallen off the table this year. He has only 14 receptions for 113 yards. Dallas Clark had more yards against the Dolphins in one game. Fasano has been injured, has two fumbles, and three drops. He's not having the season anyone would want in a contract year. I don't think he'll be off the team, but I think the Dolphins will definitely try to add talent at TE in the offseason and, as I said before, if someone comes in, someone has to leave.

6. Gibril Wilson. I struggled with this one also. If the evaluation on Wilson had stopped in October, Wilson would probably be gone next season. He missed tackles that cost touchdowns and, arguably, games. But something happened starting Nov. 1. Wilson has not had the same dubious tackling troubles and his coverage has been solid. So it's really quite simple for him: If he plays as he did before Nov. 1, he's gone. If he continues to play as he has been of late, he stays.

7. Patrick Turner. He'll be around for training camp next year because the Dolphins did invest a third-round pick on him. But he should look to example of Murphy, a fourth-round pick in 2008, before he gets too secure in his roster status. He must improve by leaps and bounds by next season because the honeymoon for Dolphins players in Miami can be very short.

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November 24, 2009

Miami Dolphins cut Roth for lack of production

Life is tough on the Dolphins roster when you're not producing. Matt Roth was not producing since returning to active duty four games ago. So he's no longer on the roster.

The Dolphins released the outside linebacker today.

Despite the curious timing of the move, sources are telling The Herald not to look into fanciful reasons for the move other than Roth wasn't getting it done. Roth has only four tackles in four games and has not had a game in which he had more than one tackle.

Some members of the personnel department and coaching staff shared the opinion that Roth was no longer the same player he showed himself to be at times last season when he started 14 games and was fifth on the team with 53 tackles.

Asked if Roth's groin injury was the reason for his decline, a source said, "That's as good a guess as any."

The source also said Roth was a serviceable but not outstanding player even when healthy so his decline plus an early season episode in which he lied to coach Tony Sparano sealed his fate. The team obviously had no intention of re-signing Roth for next year. Roth is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next season.

Roth missed the first six games of the season while on the non-football injury list. He failed his conditioning test the first day of training camp and told Sparano he was sick. This after he had signed a waiver saying he was neither sick nor injured. After failing his test, Sparano met with Roth again and the player stuck with the story about being sick.

The club sent Roth for blood work which came back negative. It wasn't until agent Drew Rosenhaus revealed Roth had injured his groin again that Roth confessed to the injury.

The Dolphins filled Roth's roster spot with former Detroit defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, a 24-year-old product out of Hawaii that is in his third season. Francis has typical 3-4 defensive end size at 6-5 and 290 pounds.

The team also waived defensive back Nate Ness today and signed defensive back Evan Oglesby, a former Cowboys and Ravens player.

Dolphins vs. Pats flexed out of prime time

While Fins nation is all abuzz about the possibility of the Dolphins catching the New England Patriots for the AFC East lead in the coming two weeks -- assuming New England loses to New Orleans this weekend -- the brainiacs at NBC aren't so fired up about the idea.

NBC believes the Minnesota Vikings game versus Arizona is a more compelling prime time show. So the Miami game versus New England, orginally scheduled for 8 p.m. on Dec. 6, has been moved to a 1 p.m. game instead.

NBC "flexed" the Viking-Arizona to Sunday night.

The new start time means Miami vs. New England will be aired on CBS instead of NBC. 

One reason this game was likely moved is that rare is the national opinion that views the Dolphins as a legitimate playoff-caliber team.

Tim Hasselbeck was just on ESPN doing a "Contender-Pretender" segment, in which he labels teams with playoff possibilities in one category or the other.

Hasselbeck's opinion? The Dolphins are pretenders.

"I think they're a pretender as well, you referenced Ronnie Brown and the injuries. I don't think the Dolphins are going to be able to sustain the injuries they've sustained this season," Hasselbeck said. "When you look at it, they have Ronnie Brown and have Ricky Williams now, and the offensive line is banged up as well."

Nothing like insightful analysis. 

GM Jeff Ireland unfiltered (well, almost)

General Manager Jeff Ireland decided long ago that football season is a  time for the football team and its coaches to be in the spotlight. That and the fact he works for Bill Parcells, a man that wants his people working and not conducting interviews, is one reason Ireland has been practically invisible since April.

After he finished talking about his draft picks, Ireland slid into the background, where he's quite comfortable. He hasn't been doing many public interviews although he always says, 'Hey," when I pass him in the press box. Ireland did speak on the record in this week's edition of Dolphin Digest because the publication is in business with the club.

And that solid 10-question interview with Dolphin Digest editor Andy Cohen provides two interesting nuggets.

Nugget One: Ireland is keenly aware how terrible Miami's receiver corps is without the benefit of a star. This, thankfully, despite the company line from coach Tony Sparano that Miami's wide receivers are fine, and that everyone is happy with the receivers. One assumes Sparano privately agrees with Ireland, but after hearing the coach talk publicly of how happy he is with his receivers time and again, you almost start to fall for that Jedi mind trick.

The Jedi mind trick goes something like this:

Reporter: Tony, what do you think of the fact your receivers can't get open and you need to upgrade at the position?

Sparano: Our receivers are doing an outstanding job, they're improving every day in practice and there are things your lying eyes don't see that football people see which prove our receivers are doing fine.

Reporter: Your receivers are doing an outstanding job, they're improving every day in practice and there are things our lying eyes don't see that football people see which prove your receivers are doing fine.

This has gone on all season.

Well, now we know what the organization really thinks. The Dolphins agree with the rest of mankind that its receiver corps is badly in need of upgrading.

"We have to find players who can give us that chunk yardage that the coach always talks about," Ireland said. "We're not there yet and we're not going to be satisfied until we find those players.

"Every team is looking for them. We're not different. We're all looking for a superstar wide receiver. Those players come at a high price. You are either drafting them very high in the draft or giving up high draft picks and a lot of money to get them. Now, I'm not saying we wouldn't do that. The circumstances just haven't fallen for us to do either one right now.

"Do we want that kind of player on our team? Absolutely. All I can say to the fans is to be patient, we're fighting to try to find those type of guys. We're not going to mortgage the franchise for one player. We're going to try to build this team the right way and if those kind of players come to us, we'll certainly go after them and go after them hard."

And while Ireland recognizes the need to upgrade the wide receivers he will give to Miami's quarterback, he is curiously noncommittal about Chad Henne as that quarterback.

Cohen asks Ireland if he's convinced Henne is Miami's QB of the future. Henne has started seven games for Miami. But the GM declines to say if thinks Henne is the real deal based on what he's seen so far.

"Chad has given us a lot of reasons to hope. He has all the intangibles you want," Ireland said. "He is tough. I mean, really tough. There are critical things you need in a quarterback and Chad has many of those things. He's got some moxie in him and I really like that. I'm going to wait until this season plays out and I'm anxious to evaluate the entire body of work at that time. But I can tell you, I like a lot of what I see in Chad Henne."

November 23, 2009

No surprise: Ferguson done for year

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano just confirmed what everyone pretty much knew: Nose tackle Jason Ferguson is done for the remainder of the year.

The surprising thing is that the injury that ends Ferguson's season is not a knee issue, but rather a torn quadricep. Published reports had him out with a knee injury.

Sparano said the considerable void left by Ferguson's absence will be filled by Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel and Randy Starks.

The question that will hover around Ferguson now is whether this season-ending injury writes the final chapter in the 13-year veteran's career. Ferguson is 35 years old on Saturday and in the final year of his contract. 

Some thoughts as we get back on track

I'm baaaack. As the Dolphins have been off the past few days, I was similarly in rest mode. The club returns to work Monday and so does the publication of this blog.

Check back this afternoon for updates on nose tackle Jason Ferguson's serious injury. Check back for the status of center Jake Grove, whose status is also in question based on the ankle injury he sustained last Thursday versus Carolina.

In the meantime there are some thoughts I have circulating in my head.

First, as I write in my column that appears in Monday's Miami Herald, the Dolphins have rebounded from their potentially catastrophic first three weeks of the season. Remember black September? It brought the Dolphins three losses and a starting quarterback that went out for the year.

It would be a potentially season-killing blow to most teams. It wasn't for Miami.

The column details why not and some other setbacks the Dolphins have overcome to reach 5-5.

Watching the NFL action this weekend was interesting as it relates to the Dolphins.

Watching Cincinnati lose to Oakland, watching Pittsburgh lose to Kansas City, I couldn't help but think about the Dolphins and how they simply don't allow upsets.

Since the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano era began, the Dolphins have lost 10 games. I would have expected each one of those losses because they came against understandably superior teams -- teams more talented or simply more complete.

But games against inferior teams -- teams such as St. Louis, Seattle, Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco, Buffalo, or Tampa Bay?

The Dolphins simply do not lose those type of games. They don't play down to the level of the competition. They don't lose focus against such inferior teams. They avoid the mojo-killing upsets.

That's important because the Dolphins have a couple of those games coming in this season's final six weeks. One of those is Sunday at Buffalo against the 3-7 and nose-diving Bills. The Dolphins cannot afford a letdown against such a down-and-out team.

Their recent history suggests they won't suffer that problem.

By the way, if the season ended today, the Dolphins would not be in the playoffs. They are currently on the outside looking in. Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Denver are tied for the two wild-card spots with 6-4 records. Houston can join this group with a victory tonight.

The Dolphins find themselves in the same group with Baltimore and Houston (should it lose tonight) as teams one game back of the wild-card pack. But here's the rub:

The Dolphins play Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, and Houston before the season is out so they have the ability to close the gap.

Looking at it, the season's final two weeks at home -- against Houston and Pittsburgh -- are beginning to loom as season-making or season-breaking weeks.

The season promises to hit a climax at just the right time!

Check back later.  

November 20, 2009

The locker room reaction following a win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Six days ago, before they faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Tony Sparano told his team to strive for one mark by the time they took the coming weekend off: 5-5.

Sure Sparano was talking about multiple games and he usually preaches one at a time, but, "I looked a game ahead, I guess is what I'm saying. We knew we had two games in a short period of time and we knew it was going to be critical for us to take care of two football games to get ourselves back in position to make a charge."

Well, get the credit cards out because the Dolphins believe they are charging.

But first the bad news: Defensive tackle Jason Ferguson suffered a knee injury Thursday and did not return to the game. The Dolphins believe the injury is" serious," according to a source, and have scheduled an MRI for Friday.

The source declined to be specific about his definition for "serious." It is likely Ferguson will miss playing time but unclear if he is done for the remainder of the season.

The Dolphins find themselves in the playoff hunt today.

"We're back at eye-level now," said Nate Jones, who had an interception Friday. "We're back at ground zero. We're 5-5. We're have two huge division games coming up. We've put ourselves in a position to make a huge dent in this division and the league.

"We don't control our own destiny but we put ourselves in a position to make a run."

This game had many heroes.

Ricky Williams rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries. It was his second consecutive 100-yard game.

"I don't want to talk about myself," Williams said. "I want to talk about the team. We struggled a bit during the game, but the defense kept it close to give us an opportunity and give us time to get it together."

Yeremiah Bell made a tackle on DeAngelo Williams after a 50-yard gain. That came just before Jones got his interception.

"Without the tackle they score a touchdown," Bell said accurately. "It saved some points for the defense. I can run a little bit. I'm not going to downplay myself. I can run. And that's my job. It's to save touchdowns. I'm the last guy on the back end and I expect to make those plays."

Nate Garner was a hero. He played left guard, right tackle and center during the game as Jake Grove, Joe Berger and Vernon Carey went out with injuries. Carey and Berger returned. Grove did not return after his ankle injury.

"I'll play wherever they want me to play," Garner said.

Sparano said he never coached a game where so many players, particularly offensive linemen, went down.

"One time when I was an offensive line coach in Cleveland I was down to my last offensive lineman and he got poked in the eye and came out of the game, and I was coaching a defensive tackle right there in the middle and he finished the game," Sparano said. "But this thing today, they were going down left and right. I'm kind of happy we played on a Thursday and we got a couple of extra days.

"If another guy went down, I don't know where we would have gone. I don't know if they would have liked it but we would have been poking on one of those defensive line guys, maybe Merling."

As I wrote in my column, Chad Henne outplayed Jake Delhomme. After three quarters, Delhomme had completed only 9 of 21 passes. He was terrible. Henne was not spectacular -- completing 17 of 21 passes for 172 yards. But he avoided the big mistake and completed three big third-down passes.

"Ricky Williams stepped up today, and Lex Hilliard got in there," Henne said. "The wide receivers stepped up and the offensive line is playing great. Pass protection is great, I had a lot of time back there. All together we're forming a team and we're not putting it on anyone's shoulders."

November 19, 2009

Dolphins beat Panthers to hit .500

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Dolphins accomplished something Thursday night they hadn't been able to manage since before the season began.

They put as many victories as losses on their record. They are 5-5 today following a 24-17 victory over Carolina.

The Dolphins got 119 yards on 22 carries from Ricky Williams.

They got great play from Davone Bess.

They got a TD saving tackle from Yeremiah Bell.

They got a couple of sacks from Joey Porter and great pressure from Cameron Wake.

Yup, the Dolphins got a great team effort.

And now they can lick their considerable wounds for the next 10 days. Jake Grove, Joe Berger, Nate Garner, Jason Ferguson all went out of the game with injuries. All but Grove returned.

Discuss ... 

Dolphins still holding 14-3 lead going to 4th

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Dolphins and Panthers failed to do any scoring in the third quarter, which is fine for the Dolphins because, hey, they continue to lead.

If there's no more scoring the rest of the night, they'll be fine with that, I'm sure.

But that's not the way it works. The Panthers are at the Dolphins 8 yard line to start the fourth quarter. Yes, they are going to play one more quarter.

And you and I have to blog one more quarter. So join me in the comments section as we do that.

Dolphins lead Panthers 14-3 to start 3rd quarter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the first time in his career, Ricky Williams has a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. Fact is, he accomplished it in the same quarter, the second quarter.

And that's the reason the Dolphins lead the Panthers 14-3 as we prepare for the third quarter.

The Miami defense, a little shaky the first couple of drives, has stiffened.

We'll see if it lasts.

Join me in the comments section as the live blog continues.

Panthers lead Dolphins 3-0 going to 2nd quarter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards to a field goal and that is where we find ourselves to start the second quarter.

The Panthers are leading 3-0.

Miami offense, throwing more often than it runs, has yet to cross midfield.

Join me in the comments section for the continuation of the live blog.

Live blog of Dolphins-Panthers starts here

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Factoid interesting perhaps only to me: For the first time this season the Dolphins and the Panthers will leave a game week with different results.

One team will win, the other will lose tonight and will be live blogging most of the way through.

But the previous nine games, both teams lost their first three games this year. Both teams won two straight. And each won lost, won, lost, won the past four games.

It is very mild here, temperatures in the 60s. There is a light haze in the air.

The biggest news tonight is that Nate Garner will start at left guard for the Dolphins but Justin Smiley is not inactive. He will be available to play.

 Patrick Turner was working and he will be active for tonight's game.  The inactives are Tyler Thigpen (3rd QB), Lydon Murtha, Paul Soliai, Erik Walden, Anthony Fasano, Andrew Gardner, Lionel Dotson and Nate Ness are inactive.

RB Kory Sheets is active for the first time this season.

For the Panther an interesting note is that WR Steve Smith was involved in an auto accident on the way to the game tonight, but he is not injured. He is expected to play.

Meantime, this is where the live blog will start. So join me in the comments section just prior to kickoff.