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69 posts from November 2010

November 30, 2010

Phillip Merling activated from reserve list

It took Phillip Merling a while and there was a detour jog in South Carolina along the way, but the defensive end's 2010 season has officially begun.

Merling was today activated from the reserve non-football injury list by the Dolphins, meaning he is now eligible to begin playing after spending the past five-plus months rehabilitating an Achilles' tendon injury.

The Dolphins made room for Merling on the 53-man roster by waiving quarterback Patrick Ramsey. The Dolphins still have Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen as quarterbacks on their roster. Tom Brandstater is on the practice squad.

Merling, the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 draft, had hopes of finally meeting the grand potential and expectations the club had for him but he had a pretty bad offseason. First came the domestic battery arrest on his pregnant girlfriend -- an issue that was ultimately dropped because the girlfriend declined to go forward with the matter.

And then there was the injury ... away from the team practice facility ... while simply jogging.

The Merling addition means the Dolphins get a solid contributor (assuming Merling is ready to go full tilt) as a rotation player. Merling in recent years has accounted for 25-35 plays even when he wasn't starting.

The Merling return also lessens the blow of losing rookie starter Jared Odrick for the season.

Report: Davis, Smith fined for conduct detrimental

Both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith missed Sunday's start against the Oakland Raiders for what coach Tony Sparano said was a "coach's decision." This, of course, is a half-truth because it doesn't explain the reason why the coach decided to keep his two starters on the bench ...

...Until now.

According to Orlando Alzugaray of 640-Sports in South Florida, both Davis and Smith were held out of their start as discipline for being late to a meeting and have also been fined for conduct detrimental to the team. Big O is also reporting that this is "at least the third time" one or both of these players is late to a meeting this year.

It is unclear the amount of the fine. I'm working on getting that to you because there is a fine schedule that NFL teams can collect from players and that follows the collective bargaining agreement.

Both Davis and Smith entered the game following the first play in which Benny Sapp and Nolan Carroll played versus Oakland.

According to the Dolphins media release, this is the first start that Davis missed this year. Smith was the starter three consecutive games before missing this start versus Oakland. He was scheduled to start against Cincinnati, saying as much on Armando and the Amigo on 640-Sports the week prior to that game, but then did not make the start. He entered the game after the first series, replacing Jason Allen and played the rest of that day.

Henne's success is good news for Sparano, Ireland

Is there any assignment more important for an NFL general manager than picking his team's franchise quarterback? Is there any assignment more important for a head coach than developing his team's franchise quarterback?

The answer to both these questions is a resounding, not-up-for-debate, "No!"

And that's the reason Chad Henne's success is very important to Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano.

It's simple, really. If Henne succeeds going forward, if he continues to improve and continues to make strides and continues on the path toward becoming Miami's franchise quarterback, he will be also virtually providing a guarantee for Sparano and Ireland that they will be thought of successes in their respective jobs.

Simple as that, folks.

If Henne becomes a star, there is not a ton else either Sparano or Ireland could do to endanger their Miami careers. Henne goes to the Pro Bowl, Henne becomes the franchise QB, Henne joins the ranks of the NFL's elite QBs and the two men atop the Dolphins organization are virtually locked into their spots.

Thats because, typically, finding an elite QB leads a team to the kind of success that keeps hanging Ws on the standings and that keeps fans happy, which fills stadiums, which makes owners happy, which means everyone is safe.

Can you think of one GM who picked an elite QB and got canned? Can you think of one coach who developed an elite QB and got canned? I can't.

So yes, the fact Chad Henne played well Sunday against the Raiders was good news for the Dolphins, good for Henne, and definitely good for Ireland and Sparano.

Yes, it was only one game. But better a good one game than a bad one game, I say.

The other side of that two-sided coin isn't so good for anyone.

If what we saw from Henne against the Raiders (17 of 30 for 307 yards with two TDs and one INT) is more mirage than mastery, then that is bad news for everyone, and we do mean everyone.

If Henne continues to merely tread water and follow a good game with a bad game, we have an issue. Typically and up-and-down quarterback makes his team an inconsistent team. That kind of quarterback on the edge of getting benched one week and playing well the next is only good enough to get most teams to .500

And .500 isn't good enough for job security in today's NFL.

That kind of quarterback play would cause folks to question not just the QB but the people responsible for putting the QB on the team and in the lineup.

Let's face it, the most important player on any NFL team is the quarterback so finding the right guy is the general manager's most important decision. And once he's on the team, developing that quarterback into a player who has reached his potential and reached a level of excellence is the coach's No. 1 priority.

There is no defense for failing at this.

The general manager cannot say, "I screwed up in finding us a franchise quarterback but what about the cornerback and the defensive end I found?" That kind of argument gets met with a shrug.

And no coach can say with a straight face, "I couldn't do anything with the quarterback, but what about the job I did with center and the left tackle and the strongside linebacker."

"Yeah but you screwed up the franchise quarterback," is the worst line either the GM or the coach could ever have to argue against. It's a losing proposition.

So Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland have to be feeling pretty good about themselves right now. Chad Henne is playing well now. The guy they have tapped as their franchise quarterback is apparently pointed in the right direction toward that goal.

They both must hope and work toward the situation staying that way. Because both are undoubtedly tied to Henne.


November 28, 2010

Miami Dolphins defeat Raiders, 33-17

OAKLAND -- The haters will have to wait another day.

The Dolphins season, on the brink, survives today because the Miami got great efforts all around in this 33-17 victory over Oakland.

They got a great effort from Chad Henne, who threw for over 307 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

They got a great effort from the wide receiver corps that didn't seem to notice Brandon Marshall was missing. Davone Bess had 111 yards receiving on six receptions. Rookie Marlon Moore caught a 57-yard touchdown pass.

They definitely got good work from the defense. Miami had three turnovers. And the Raiders running game was absent today because Miami erased it.

It was a solid victory. The Dolphins are 6-5.


Dolphins lead Raiders 23-14 to start fourth quarter

OAKLAND -- The Dolphins are getting some nice work out of their depleted wide receiver corps.

Davone Bess is playing well.

Roberto Wallace just caught a nice first down pass.

And Marlon Moore had a 57 yard TD reception in the third quarter. Moore now equals the number of TD passes Brandon Marshall has caught.

So the youngsters are stepping up.

Let's see if it lasts in the fourth quarter as the live blog rolls on.

Raiders lead Dolphins 14-13 to start third quarter

OAKLAND -- The Dolphins are moving the ball. I will give them that. But they are settling for field goals or field goal tries. They connected on a 24-yarder and missed on a 52-yarder.

The Raiders, meanwhile, connected on a 44-yard bomb from Bruce Gradkowski to Jacoby Ford. And that gave Oakland the lead that they are still holding on to as we get started in the third quarter.

Here are a couple of concerns:

Chad Henne is taking a whipping. He's getting hit often.

And the Dolphins continue to get away from the running game. At one point they led 10-7. Then Henne threw an interception inside the red zone. And then offensive coordinator Dan Henning called five passes in the next six offensive plays, resulting in two consecutive three-and-out series.


Anyway, the live blog continues in the comments section.

Raiders lead Dolphins 14-13 to start third quarter

OAKLAND -- The Dolphins are moving the ball. I will give them that. But they are settling for field goals or field goal tries. They connected on a 24-yarder and missed on a 52-yarder.

The Raiders, meanwhile, connected on a 44-yard bomb from Bruce Gradkowski to Jacoby Ford. And that gave Oakland the lead that they are still holding on to as we get started in the third quarter.

Here are a couple of concerns:

Chad Henne is taking a whipping. He's getting hit often.

And the Dolphins continue to get away from the running game. At one point they led 10-7. Then Henne threw an interception inside the red zone. And then offensive coordinator Dan Henning called five passes in the next six offensive plays, resulting in two consecutive three-and-out series.


Anyway, the live blog continues in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Raiders 10-7 going to second quarter

OAKLAND -- This one started poorly for the Dolphins when Jacoby Ford took the opening kickoff 102 yards for a Raiders score and 7-0 advantage.

The Dolphins have dominated ever since.

They got a field goal on their first possession and capped their second possession with a 29-yard TD pass from Chad Henne to Patrick Cobbs.

The Dolphins are driving again. Join me in the comments section as the live blog rolls on.

Live blog of Dolphins versus Raiders set for 4 p.m.

It is nearly three hours before kickoff today and I still cannot tell you 100 percent that Chad Henne will start for the Dolphins against the Oakland Raiders. The assumption is he will start.

[Update: Chad Henne starts, the Dolphins have confirmed.]

The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington reported today that Henne took three times as many first-team snaps as Tyler Thigpen this week in practice. That is a strong and significant indication what is about to happen today. Expect Henne.

I told you earlier this week that Joe Berger would start at center today after missing last week's game with a knee injury and a "personal issue." He is indeed set to start today. He was on the field working with the first-team offensive line already.

There is a live blog today. It begins in the comments section below. I'll be there with you. And I will come back here for the lineup update and update on inactives prior to the game.

[Update: The Miami inactives are Brandon Marshall, Reshad Jones, Ike Alama-Francis, Matt Kopa, Eric Ghiaciuc, Mickey Shuler, Ryan Baker and Patrick Ramsey is the third QB.

The inactive status for Jones is strange because he started last week and has been playing well. He had a shin injury last week but practiced full on Friday. He is here on the trip.]

November 27, 2010

Brandon Marshall goes from doubtful to out

Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall will not play against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

He has been downgraded by the team from doubtful to out.

Marshall, who did not practice all week while getting treatment for his hamstring injury suffered versus Chicago, did not even make the trip out west with the club, I'm told.

The starting receivers will likely be Brian Hartline and Davone Bess.

Rookies Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore and first-year player Julius Pruitt are expected to be active for the game.

Wake providing great QB pressure, Misi is not

Cameron Wake is having a Pro Bowl caliber year. I have an Associated Press All-Pro vote and I am very likely going to put Wake on my ballot. That's what 9.5 sacks in 10 games will do for you.

What it also does is cause opponents to take notice.

Suddenly, Wake isn't getting one-on-one matchups any more. Suddenly, all the slide protections are to his side. Suddenly, other teams are game-planning to stop Cameron Wake.

And that's where things can get easy or much more difficult for the team's other pass-rushing linebacker. When everyone pays attention to the weakside linebacker, you see, that makes it time for the strongside linebacker to step up his game and pick up the production slack.

If Wake is getting doubled or the slide protection is going toward the weak side, then the strongside guy should benefit and make up some of the difference.

It's good news for the Sam linebacker if he responds. It's bad news if he does not.

"Now the Sam linebacker although should be productive (you know) that guy is not really in the rush as much as Cameron (Wake) is,” coach Tony Sparano said.

True, Koa Misi doesn't get as many at-bats at the QB as Wake because the Will linebacker gets more rush opportunities than the Sam linebacker. But the Sam does get rush opportunities. No doubt about that. And the Dolphins need that player to produce.

My worry is that Misi isn't producing all that much lately.

Misi has 3.5 sacks this season. That's not my concern. My concern is he hasn't had a sack or even a portion of a sack since Oct. 24, which means it's been a month since Misi got to the quarterback.

The Dolphins have obviously noticed the drought because more and more they've used Quentin Moses in rush situations replacing Misi. And they've tried other means of creating pressure on the quarterback, which is the reason safeties Reshad Jones and Yeremiah Bell have more sacks in the past month than Misi.

The Dolphins are creating pass rush with blitzes because they obviously feel the need to do so. Misi isn't getting it done on his own.

That's a problem because if teams recognize they can solve Miami's pass-rush by sliding protections to Wake or doubling him and the guy on the other side doesn't make them pay, it makes the offensive coordinator's job easier. Misi must turn the strategy to his advantage. He hasn't been doing that lately.

Perhaps he has hit the rookie wall. Perhaps he's run into a ton of good tackles (they get paid, too). But 0-for-the past month?

But this is an issue the Dolphins clearly cannot be happy about.

November 26, 2010

Jets, Pats continue to show why they're better

Thanksgiving Day might have been a wonderful holiday for us all, but it also had to serve up a heaping helping of solemn reality for the Dolphins.

On Thursday, you see, the New England Patriots won yet again. And the New York Jets won yet again.

Both have a 9-2 record today.

That means the only way the 5-5 Dolphins can be certain of passing either of these teams is if Miami wins at least all but one of the games remaining on its schedule and those teams lose all but one game remaining on their schedule.

The chances of that happening are remote and that is being kind.

The truth is as I was watching Miami's two division rivals play on Thursday, I got the sense that Miami cannot catch either club and shouldn't catch either team because both of them are just plain better than Miami right now.

There are reasons that last sentence is true today.

The Jets are better than Miami because their personnel department has done a better job than Miami's in recent years. The Jets are better than Miami because their special teams coaching is better than Miami's and it's been that way for a long time. The Jets are better than Miami because that coaching staff seems to be able to hide the roster's flaws much better than Miami's coaches hide the Dolphins flaws.


The Jets were not more talented than Miami in 2008. It was possible at that point to say the Dolphins were ahead of the Jets because they beat out the Jets for the AFC East title. The Jets had no quarterback. They were about to fire their coach. The defense was unspectacular.

But fast foward to today and the Jets have zipped past the Dolphins the past two years, adding star players such as Santonio Holmes and gap-fillers like Trevor Pryce alike. The Jets have been aggressive, adding not one but two former 1,000-yard receivers and trading up to find a their young quarterback.

All this while the Dolphins were slow to address the need for a playmaking receiver in 2009 and paid a premium (two second-round draft picks) for Brandon Marshall in 2010 without finding a complementary wide out to help the cause.

In the all-important quarterback spot the Jets front office is also currently holding an advantage over Miami. Right now Mark Sanchez is trumping Chad Henne because he's been able to remain on the field while Henne was benched two weeks ago.

I'm not saying the Jets have drafted better than Miami of late. The opposite seems to be true, in fact. But the Jets have made better trades and have picked up free agents that are bigtime contributors -- with LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie coming to mind. Miami has added notable free agents in Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake, but others such as Jake Grove and Gibril Wilson and Justin Smiley flopped badly and set the club back.

The Jets are a flawed team. They cannot get a pass-rush without generating it through schemes and blitzes. The quarterback is still inconsistent. And the running game is not as dominant as it was previously.

But the Jets have overcome the pass-rush woes with their coaching schemes and it has worked so far. They are managing Sanchez to the point where they haven't had to bench him. And they are nonethelesss milking production from the running game. They never seem to have a problem abandoning the running game or, as Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning would say, letting the running game abandon them.

So bottom line, the Jets have done and are continuing to do better work than Miami. It is not perfect work. But it is inarguably better work.

The Patriots are better than the Dolphins because, let's face it, their quarterback is head-and-shoulders better than any player on Miami's roster and better than any player on Miami's roster the past decade.

There's not much today's Dolphins coaches, players or front office could do about that.

But there is more to the Patriots than Tom Brady.

They, too, get better special teams coaching than Miami. They, too, get better offensive line coaching than Miami to the point where New England was without Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins the first two months of the season and it didn't seem to ruin anything. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have spent three years trying to figure out their interior offensive line problems.

The Patriots are rebuilding as we speak and are still winning and beating fine teams such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore. In a rebuilding year!

They're doing this by throwing the ball to Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker and handing off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If those names don't scare you it's because they're not scary. These are working class players that the New England coaching staff is getting more production out of than anyone thought was possible.

Meanwhile, the Miami coaching staff is getting less production out of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams than anyone thought possible.

The Patriots personnel department drafted a pair of rookie tight ends that look to be keepers and are already better than Anthony Fasano. Do you think the Dolphins would trade Fasano for Aaron Hernandez today? In a heartbeat. Would the Pats make that trade? Never! So why is it the Dolphins always address the tight end position on the cheap -- continually bringing in players discarded from other teams and acting like they've found some sort of treasure?

The interesting thing in comparing the Dolphins and Patriots is that Miami has a better defense. The Dolphins have more talent on defense.

Yet the Patriots still have twice as many interceptions as Miami (perhaps because their guys can catch the football) and their overall turnover numbers are better. In games against great offenses, such as San Diego and Indianapolis, that unimpressive defense seems to respond. And the Patriots stop the run better than Miami, which simply boggles my mind.

Inferior talent. Yet they are holding their own. How is that possible?

Guess it's all part of being better.

November 25, 2010

The Tony Sparano Thanksgiving Day update

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Day. The Dolphins worked today.

Brandon Marshall missed practiced again today while he continued to get treatment for his hamstring injury. Chad Henne again took limited first-team snaps at quarterback as he pushes for a return to the starting lineup despite his sprained knee.

Cornerback Sean Smith did not practice because he was excused as he became a new daddy.

And, curiously, several of the questions during coach Tony Sparano's press conference were centered around the brand new idea that the Black Hole in Oakland is a strange venue for visiting teams.

(On how he would assess Chad Henne’s mobility) – “I think it’s pretty good, so. It’s getting better. Getting better every day out there, so. He moved around pretty good today we’ll see.” 

(On Sean Smith not being at practice today) –“No, he was excused.” 

(On if Brandon Marshall pretty much the same) – “Yeah, Brandon (Marshall) did not practice.” 

(On if Sean Smith have a child today) – “To be honest with you I really don’t know what it was…I’m not positive what it was but whatever it was decided that it was going to peak it’s head at about 3:30 this morning (laughter).” 

(On if he would say that Cameron Wake deserves consideration for the Pro Bowl this year) – “(I mean) I think that most of the time those outside linebackers that make it (you know) it’s usually a numbers thing (you know) obviously that’s what’s happened recently so I think Cameron’s numbers are going to be pretty good, so. I would say he should get consideration, yes.” 

(On what else Cameron Wake provides the team outside of the obvious meaning other than the numbers) – “Well I mean I think from my perspective when you’re a line coach and you go out there and you’re playing against some of these teams that don’t have that dominant pass rusher—that guy that can rush the passer well enough—I think it makes your job a whole lot easier during the week from a game plan standpoint. So I think with Cameron and he (you know) I don’t want to say this wrong—I mean I think he’s a pretty darn good pass rusher. I think there’s some things that Cameron can get better at and he thinks there’s some things he can get better at. So, that being said, people have to pay attention to him and they are. When you watch the games, sometimes there’s tight ends and tackles at him…there’s backs chipping on him plus tackles—So, I think that they’re trying to pay attention to him which means he’s bringing a little bit more into their meetings than most and I think that helps us (you know) it does when there’s more guys paying attention to him…I think that (Koa) Misi and (Kendall) Langford and some of the guys (you know) Tony McDaniel that have been able to get some pressure as of late have been able to do that because they’re paying a little bit attention to Cameron (Wake).” 

(On if he expects big sack numbers out of Cameron Wake’s position since he puts him there) – “Yeah, it doesn’t always work though. In other words, you put some people over there and you don’t always get the numbers. Sometimes the nature of the position says yes and that’s what you expect from that guy in that position. But you could quickly figure out that you have the wrong there. I think as you go through this if that kind of production doesn’t happen….and I’m starting to feel like we got a pretty good guy there.” 

(On what does he expect to see out of the guys on typical Thanksgiving day practice) – “Well, you would hope that it would be all business and all focus. I mean the guys really focused pretty good today to be honest with you. I mean they had a lot of energy and it was a lot of jawing out there which was good—(you know) that usually tells me they’re in good spirits, so. They put work first today and then worried about (you know) the holiday which sometimes doesn’t always happen.” 

(On the Oakland crowd being rough) – “I mean they’re rough. I remember my first, first couple years in the league went out there, probably shouldn’t say this but I was a young line coach and I’m in the end zone and you’re up against it pretty good there, up against the back line and I had my back turned to the fans here and of course they know you by name. Now I mean they’re getting after you pretty good and I’m coaching the guys and kind of sending them out and I get a tap on the shoulder and I wasn’t sure, why would anybody be touching me? And then I turned around and it was this Darth Vader guy with a sword (laughing).” 

(On his moving away from the fans after he was touched) – “I got away and I’m, I started to look for protection yeah, whether or not these guys were going to protect me and they were gone.” 

(On the environment being hostile) – “Yeah it is and they’re passionate fans; I mean it really is, it’s kind of a neat environment. I really, I really enjoyed playing down there the couple times that I’ve been down there and I mean there’s obviously great tradition there. It’s a hard place to play. Now I mean they’re loud; I mean it gets loud there. One of the louder places that I’ve been.” 

(On Jason Taylor always having to remind himself the fans were all attorneys and accountants) – “(laughing) They’re going through, there’s a heck of a transformation happening.” 

(On whether he sometimes wants to laugh when he sees the fan’s outfits) – “It’s interesting; I mean they get all booted up. They’re behind their team and they support their team and I’ve been down there you know when it hasn’t been going real good for them and you still have that kind of support. Right now they’re really excited about what’s going on there so it’s going to be, it’s going to be loud and you’re on a holiday weekend so I’m sure it will be, it will be a big loud crowd mostly dressed in black and silver.” 

(On whether he has taken any steps to help Chad Henne’s psyche after being benched) – “You know he’s been really, he’s been really good. He was good last week in preparation. He was good against Tennessee in preparation. I think he’s had a couple interesting weeks obviously back to back here. One where he’s A) told he wasn’t going to start and then the next thing you know he’s in the game in four plays. That was, from his end that was a really hard test in that if he mailed in the work week you didn’t get the result and he’s a major factor in why we won that Tennessee game. I mean the guy really did come out and play well for us coming off of the bench there. Then he goes through a week when he’s down and still prepares, I mean prepares and now he’s in a spot this week where he has to juggle his preparation with his treatment, and he has this laptop that just doesn’t leave his side. I mean it’s like it’s got all the film on it and all that stuff and the guy is, is really grinding around the clock. I’ve been impressed with what he’s done and the way he’s handled it and he hasn’t changed to me at all. The good news is when we handled this I was, I was up front with him and we had an open conversation and that was it. The lines of communication have been really good.” 

(On what he is thankful for) – “Oh I mean first of all I’m thankful for my family. My family is, they’re tremendous supporters and love them dearly. I’m thankful for the guys in that locker room, my coaches, our fans, the people in this organization that work as hard as they work, so really thankful to have this opportunity.”

Thanksgiving 2010: Still reasons to cheer

We awake on this Thanksgiving Day 2010, blessed by God in so many ways, it is impossible to begin numbering them. The Dolphins also have plenty to be thankful for this day.

This team you love and follow with passion is 5-5 and that's not good enough for some of you while it is acceptable to others. Whatever your perspective, the Dolphins are a team still in the fight.

They might not win the fight. But they're still in the fight. 

They are working today. They are preparing for Sunday's game at Oakland. As they do their work, they should know they have plenty to be thankful for.

For instance: 

Thankful for two healthy and fresh running backs 10 games into the season.

Thankful both backs want to be very tired by the time Miami plays 16 games.

Thankful for Jake Long who played through a sprained knee earlier this year.

Thankful for Jake Long who is playing through a dislocated shoulder now.

Thankful for Jake Long who could play through a nuclear attack if he had to.

Thankful for Vontae Davis, who gets it and plays like it.

Thankful for Karlos Dansby, who has been worth every penny the Dolphins paid him as a free agent.

Thankful for Dan Carpenter, who is a field goal kicking machine.

Thankful for not always having to resort to the field goal kicking machine because, you know, sometimes the offense scores touchdowns.

Thankful for modern medicine and Jim Mandich's fighting spirit.

Thankful for the Edwin Pope pressbox.

Thankful for the schedule-maker who put the game at Green Bay in October.

Thankful for the schedule-maker who didn't put that game in December.

Thankful for rookie Reshad Jones and his ability to catch interceptions.

Thankful for Cameron Wake and his ability to corral quarterbacks.

Thankful for Paul Soliai apparently growing up.

Thankful for Paul Soliai no longer growing out.

Thankful for Kerry Collins being 0-5 vs. Miami.

Thankful for Kendall Langford's quiet consistency.

Thankful for Chad Henne's quiet resolve.

I am personally thankful that you regularly come to my blog. This has been a record-breaking year here and your keen interest in the Miami Dolphins is the reason. I am thankful for that.

I wish all of a you a prosperous and joyous Thanksgiving Day.

Be blessed.

November 24, 2010

Dan Henning not worried about job security

Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning was asked today during his weekly gathering with the media if he's concerned about his job security.

Henning, 68, has been retired twice before and will likely be heading that direction after this season. So the question of job security doesn't phase him much.

"Job security? You understand I've been retired twice. So job security is not something I worry about," he responded. "I worry about trying to take what we have and doing the best we can with it. Now, to give you a comparison, when we first came here in 2008, we have only four players left from the team we first picked up here.

"We have one lineman, we have three backs and we don't have any of the same quarterbacks, we don't have any of the same receivers, we don't have any of the same offensive linemen except for the one and we don't have any of the same tight ends."

(In interrupt to say that I don't think Henning's facts are correct. Anthony Fasano is a tight end and he was here in 2008. Davone Bess is a wide receiver and he was here in 2008. But I digress.)

"But that first year we were able to put it together and we were efficient, effective and consistent on offense," Henning continued. "We got a tremendous boost by having a quarterback drop out of the sky who was a tremendous leader for us. So that's what you're trying to do, get the best out of what you have. Now, we're not hitting on all cylinders right now. That's as obvious as you can get.

"We can say, 'We had this injury, we had this injury.' [The Bears] got after us pretty good. We went into the game and had 12 sacks and then they had six in that game. And they didn't blitz us. There were four-man rushes and twists in there. And then you have Tyler [Thigpen] in there trying to make the right decisions but he's a little bit later with the thought process than [Chad] Henne or [Chad] Pennington was at this point in time. So some of that blossoms on itself."

Henning wasn't done answering, although he already answered in his first two sentences. So he continued ...

"And then the running game, I hear you guys, and I hear fans and I hear coach [Tony] Sparano on occasion say, 'Why don't we run the ball more?" We'll we didn't abandon the run, the run abandoned us. In the first four series we ended up with a second-and-18 or second-and-20 and that's not the type of thing that makes for good run situations. Before the score was 16-0 we had 16 opportunities first-and-10 or second-and-6 minus and we attempted to run the ball on ninth of those. There was a 10th call that was a run that we killed to a pass.

"I'm not worried about that part of it. I'm worried about being effective. Efficient. And we're not doing that right now. And we're commited to getting back on track,whatever it takes, because you have no chance to do things when you put yourself in second-and-20 or second-and-18. First four drives we had three penalties, we had a fumble and we had two sacks. You can't operate that way."

I'm not sure what all that last part means. I guess it means Henning isn't worried about his job. But does blame others for Miami's offensive issues.

All Dolphins players (except for Marshall) practicing today

The Dolphins are back working this morning and based on the view of things during the open portion of practice, it is clear receiver Brandon Marshall is the biggest injury uncertainty the club is dealing with this week.

And that includes quarterback Chad Henne, who is practicing and aiming for a return to the lineup Sunday versus the Raiders.

Henne, nursing a left knee injury that relegated him to No. 3 status versus Chicago, is wearing a thick-looking black brace today as he took his snaps in the portion of practice open to the media. I cannot, under Dolphins media policy, tell you if Henne was taking first-team snaps or not. I also don't know if Henne was limited in practice or not.

But I can tell you the idea this week is for both Henne and Tyler Thigpen to take first-team snaps in practice, thus preparing both to play against the Raiders.

Marshall is scheduled to spend much of his day in treatment for his hamstring injury. He was not on the field during the open portion of practice.

Everyone else was on the field. Joe Berger (knee) seems fine as he was on the field. I have reported previously that he is expected back to his starting center job versus Oakland.

Jake Long is working so it seems logical to believe that whatever consideration coaches gave to shutting Long down because of his lingering shoulder injury, has been done and the idea is to let him play for now. 

[Come back later and I'll update you on what coordinators Mike Nolan and Dan Henning, as well as head coach Tony Sparano had to say. I'll also tell you what's happening in the locker room.]

Prediction: Good week will follow bad week

Amid a metldown week for South Florida's sports (unthinkable Dolphins home shuthout, Canes home loss, Heat lose two in a row including at home to Indiana) I wish to remind you not all is lost.

The Dolphins play the Raiders this weekened in Oakland. They leave for this trip Friday. I predict they will return with a victory -- that, by the way, doesn't mean anything because I stink at predicting, if you remember 2007. Nonetheless, I would think the Dolphins should beat the Raiders. If they don't, this season is truly lost, folks.

If they do win, the season lives!

Anyway, the Dolphins return to work today for that Sunday game. I'll update the blog this afternoon after the coordinators speak at around 12:45 and then again afterward if warranted.

In the meantime, you should know what some Dolphins players spent their off day doing Tuesday. They handed out Thanksgiving Day meals to families so that tomorrow would be a celebration of giving thanks that it will be for many of us.

Enjoy the pictures: Punter Brandon Fields helps Miramar resident Sharon Robinson with her family meal while below club CEO Mike Dee does a good deed.

Brandon fields t-giving 

Mike Dee tgiving 


November 22, 2010

Dolphins production chart opens eyes

Tony Sparano likes to get inside of the numbers for his football team because, I assume, the digits sometimes can confirm what he sees on tape or perhaps on rare occasion present a different revelation that isn't necessarily shining through on tape.

So in the last couple of days while his players were off, the Dolphins coach was crunching numbers on a player productivity chart.

"One of the things I did with the football team the last couple of days is I put together a production chart of the last three games at every position including special teams and then we ranked them all via their production," Sparano said Monday.

"My figuring with the three games is we've kind of been on a roller coaster the last three games. So going back seven, eight games you'd be looking at some players that aren't even on the football team right now. The last three games we are 1-2 starting with the Baltimore game which was a staple game for us at that place, and then we really needed to win the game against Tennesee and we really needed to win the last game.

"When you're back's against the wall as it is right now -- we know our margin for error is a lot slimmer than it is for the Jets or New England -- so going back three games I figured this is crunch time and our backs are against the wall, so let's look at the producers. Let's look at some of those things and throw it out there and see what we come up with."

Sparano is not throwing the production chart results out there that I know of. (Memo to the coach: If you'd like to e-mail it to me, I won't say nothing just send it to asalguero@miamiherald.com :-))

But this being a blog and all, and me being paid to give my opinion and all, I'd like to share with you the top three or four producers I see off the last three games the Dolphins have played. There is a serious surprise in the bunch.

I would say Miami's top producer the last three weeks has been Karlos Dansby. If you don't agree, you go argue with the man. He'll be taking you to the streets like LeRon McCLain. Dansby recorded 8 tackles, 10 tackles, and 10 tackles in the last three games. He has a sack, he has a pass defensed, and he's forced a fumble. It is rare when Dansby takes a bad angle to ball carrier -- something his running mate Channing Crowder could learn to improve -- and at least two of those tackles I just told you about stopped potential first-down gains.

The second most productive player was tougher to pick because both Yeremiah Bell and Cameron Wake are doing work in that three-game span. Wake's tackle total was eight against Baltimore, six against Chicago, but only one against Tennessee. He had three sacks in the three games, with two coming against the Ravens. He had one forced fumble in the three games. Obviously, the Titans game makes Wake seem more ... human. He was hurt during the game. He was handled by Tennessee's tackle combo. But does that erase the other two outings?

Yeremiah Bell is on pace to just about equal his numbers of a year ago when he went to the Pro Bowl but something has been missing. Oh, I know, he hasn't had to chase down from behind three or four ball carriers that plowed over Akin Ayodele or Gibril Wilson like he did last year. Bell collected five tackles at Baltimore, eight verus the Titans and five more against Chicago. He has a forced fumble. He has a pass defensed, he has a sack -- all in the last three games. That's productive.

And now I'm going to stun you.

Brian Hartline is one of Miami's most productive players the past three games. He caught four passes for 85 yards against Baltimore for a 21.3 yards per catch average. He caught five passes for 98 yards and a 19.6 yards per catch average against Tennessee. He had five receptions for 70 yards for a 14.0 yards per catch average versus Chicago.

Hartline has been Miami's most productive and most reliable receiver the last three games. Not only is he producing but he has (for whatever reason, including a bad throw from the QB) missed only one targetted throw in each game. In other words, if Miami QBs are throwing to Hartline the last three games, they are getting results for the effort rather than drops or incompletions of another sort.

No, Hartline does not have a TD in the last three games. Guess what? Neither does any other Miami wide receiver.

This is just my list while I await Sparano to e-mail me his. (asalguero@miamiherald.com).

But it should tell you something about Miami's issues when neither running back Ronnie Brown nor Ricky Williams could be considered as having been highly productive recently. It says something that no Miami QB is highly productive in that time, and in fact, Chad Henne got benched during that time. It should say something that alpha receiver Brandon Marshall has not been exceedingly productive in that time, particularly when you balance receptions with drops and penalties.

So who am I leaving out? Who else has been productive? And who hasn't been?

Can Dolphins catch teams in front? Stay in front of Bills?

Week 10 of the NFL season is complete for AFC East teams. And what we have to report today is that the Dolphins middle-of-the-pack status is so engrained right now, it's tough to escape.

The Dolphins are three games behind the division leaders with six games to play. The Dolphins are three games ahead of the division cellar-dweller with three games to play.

We're mediocre so far!

The troubling thing about that is I see few signs the Dolphins can rise from their current status. In fact, there are just as many signs the Bills might catch the Dolphins as their are signs the Dolphins might catch the Patriots and Jets.

Seriously, it was depressing on Sunday watching New York quarterback Mark Sanchez engineer a fourth-quarter rally -- his third late-game rally of the season -- and not believe he's getting progressively better. Sanchez has shown the improvement in his second year as a starter (15 TDs, 7 INTs) that Miami hopeful Chad Henne was not able to show before he was benched. Henne currently has 9 TDs and 11 INTs.

It was also a little eye-opening to see a young, rebuilding New England defense that scares no one continue to improve week-to-week to the point they gave up a bunch of yards (396) and four touchdowns to Peyton Manning, but also snatched three interceptions, including the one that sealed Sunday's victory.

The Pats are rebuiling. And they are 8-2.

So how do the Dolphins make up three games on these teams in the season's final six weeks? It's like asking a baseball team to erase a 10-game deficit in the season's final month. It is a difficult assignment, don't you agree?

It will also be difficult for the Dolphins to get caught from behind by the Bills. The Bills, you see, are a seriously flawed team.

But they are playing better than the Dolphins right now.

The Bills have won two consecutive games.

The Bills are showing signs of a running game. Fred Jackson gained 116 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry against Cincinnati.

Miami starting RB Ronnie Brown hasn't gained 116 yards in the last three games combined and hasn't gained over 100 yards in a game since October 4, 2009. Ricky Williams hasn't had 116 yards in the last four games combined and also hasn't had a 100-yard game this season.

The last time the Dolphins did not have any 100-yard rusher in an entire season was 2004, the year Williams skipped out just prior to the season.

Most troubling, perhaps, when you weigh whether the Bills can catch Miami is that they are getting better QB play than Miami. Let me repeat. The team that benched and then cut its opening day starting QB is now getting decent play from backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick has thrown 18 TDs to 9 INTs in 8 starts this season. The folks in Buffalo insist Fitzpatrick is not a keeper, that he's not a starting-caliber player. Maybe not.

But if the Dolphins had a QB that threw twice as many TDs as interceptions and was averaging more than two TD passes per game, we'd have a name for that.


November 19, 2010

Good news! Center expected back for Oakland

After starter Joe Berger missed Thursday night's game and backup Cory Procter left the game with a knee injury, the Dolphins might on the surface seem to be dealing with something of a crisis at the center position today.

Relax. They are not.

Berger, who started Miami's first nine games of the season after beating out Jake Grove for the spot, is expected to return to the lineup against Oakland when the Dolphins visit the Black Hole Nov. 28. It's not so much that Berger is expected to recover in time from the knee injury the team listed for him in declaring him out last week, although that apparently should be the case.

It's that, according to a club source, the "personal issue" that Berger is attending to should be sufficiently resolved by the week of the Oakland game. 

The source declined to specify what issue Berger is dealing with but it seems clear that it as much as the knee is the reason the player missed Thursday's game. And again, the club expects the issue to be handled when Berger, who has been away from the team for a time, returns to work.

So the Dolphins don't necessarily need to go shopping for a starting center. They don't have to worry about continuing to play left guard Richie Incognito at the center position as he did much of Thursday night.

The team should be fine once Berger handles his business.

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