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31 posts from March 2011

March 31, 2011

A look at the QBs through one man's eyes

One of the faithful readers on here yesterday complained that I have a man-crush on Cam Newton and haven't even really mentioned another quarterback the Dolphins could draft on this blog.

That's not correct. I've mentioned other quarterbacks. But admittedly none in the glowing terms I've mentioned Newton. So let me get about the business of explaining the man-crush. And then let me mention why that does not extend to other QBs in the coming draft.

Understand that all of this is my opinion. Please feel free to disagree. But, honestly, do your homework first.

My opinion starts with the idea that Cam Newton is the best quarterback in this draft. It is not Blaine Gabbert. It is not Ryan Mallet. It is not Jake Locker or any of the other names you'll hear thrown around. That doesn't mean Newton will have the most successful NFL career because there are many factors that go into that.

One of the primary factors that go into that mix that cannot be judged by me or you or even the experts out there that include 32 NFL general managers is the attribute that separates a star from an also-ran.

Some players, regardless of their measurable skills, have an attribute that you cannot see that allows him, indeed, propels him to success. Tom Brady has that attribute. Phillip Rivers has that attribute. It is that intangible something that draft gurus don't like to acknowlege because it doesn't come with stats and cannot be pointed out on film. Joe Montana had it and that helped him overcome the fact he wasn't exceedingly big or boasting the strongest of arms.

Jim Everett? Mark Herrmann? Ryan Leaf? Trent Edwards? David Carr?

All of them supremely talented and successful in college. None of them had that attribute. Fact is they seemed to be anchored by an attribute that prohibited them from going forward -- the anti-attribute, if you will.

Cam Newton has the attribute. I don't think Ryan Mallet does.

Beyond that, Newton will be selected in the Top 5 picks (should be No. 1, if you ask me) because, well, what's not to freakin' like? He's a winner. He won in junior college. He won a national championship his one year starting at Auburn.

That attribute? Did you see the game against Alabama? Nick Saban knows a thing or two about defense. Saban had great talent on his defense. And in the most pressure-packed situation of the season against the best defense he faced all year, a defense that represents the biggest rival on the Auburn schedule, a defense that had a lead, Cam Newton put his team on his back and rallied Auburn to beat Alabama.

And the Tigers won every other game on their schedule. The Tigers, I shouldn't have to tell you, play in the Southeastern Conference. And the Southeastern Conference is arguably the best conference in college football.

There are many criticisms of Newton lately. But he led his team while under extreme scrutiny nationally -- both positive as a Heisman hopeful and negative as a possible violator of NCAA rules. Ultimately, Newton won the Heisman and was not proven to have broken rules -- at least not yet.

He's not a genius but he's bright. He's got the physique at 6-5 and 245 pounds to play quarterback as well as Superman. He can make every throw. He's accurate enough that it is not a question mark. His parents have been married 24 years and they are important in his life. He has Warren Moon, a Hall of Famer, advising him. He can move very well so he has ability to escape the rush.

Can someone tell me the negatives?

Oh, he played in a basic single-wing-type attack? True. He didn't throw over 25 times in games? True. He didn't play in the pro-style set? True. He liked to save plays by running? True.

I didn't say he is perfect and spotless. I said he's simply the best player at his position and probably the best in the draft. He will not be there when the Dolphins draft. Fourteen NFL GMs are not that obtuse. But he is my top QB.

My No. 2 quarterback? Christian Ponder of Florida State.

He's athletic. He's bright. He has ENORMOUS hands, which is a great attribute in that he will be able to play in bad weather such as rain or cold because the ball won't be slipping out of his hands. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the draft. He's probably tailor made for a West Coast offense. But that attribute I spoke of? I see it in Ponder.

Blaine Gabbert? He could be good. He's bright. He understands the fundamentals of how to manipulate safeties. He's been coached in a very quarterback friendly system that made Chase Daniel, an ordinary QB talent, into a stud in college.

I am told Gabbert had very little success throwing downfield. Teams are looking at statistics about his completion percentage on passes of 5 yards or less compared to those of 5 yards or more. Obviously the shorter pass gave Gabbert a better percentage. It's that way for all QBs. But Gabbert's completion percentage on passes over 5 yards dropped so dramatically -- moreso than most other QBs -- that it is making scouts question his ability to succeed on intermediate throws.

Gabbert completed only 61 of his 301 completions for more than 15 yards. Compare that with say, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, who completed 101 of his 405 completions for more than 15 yards and you start to see Gabbert didn't stretch the field nearly often enough. Gabbert was eighth in yards per attempt in his conference.

Does he look the part? At 6-5 and 235 pounds, he absolutely does. Did he show that attribute I talk about earlier very often? Check the game against Iowa and get back to me.

Ryan Mallet? If you read the previous post you already know what I told you a very respected NFL man told me about Mallet's leadership skills -- or lack thereof.

Here's another concern: Can this kid get out of anyone's way?

NFL defenses today are fast, they're aggressive, they attack the quarterback and they generally arrive at the quarterback in a foul mood. How is Mallet, who is slower and less mobile than just about any quarterback in the NFL today, going to get out of the way?

I know of at least two teams that have this concern.

Colin Kaepernick? I like him. He can run like the dickens. He's athletic. He's kind of scrawny looking to me. And he's a project. He's not going to solve Miami's quarterback issues for 2011. Maybe in 2013. But not 2011.

Jake Locker? He should have come out in 2009. He would have made a ton of money. I don't like his accuracy. He reminds me of Brady Quinn in that regard. He looks the part, but so did Quinn. How'd that work out? We've learned stuff since then. (I hope).

My favorite darkhorses?

T.J. Yates of North Carolina late (6-7th) rounds of the draft and Ricky Stanzi of Iowa in the middle (3-4) rounds of the draft. Both started at least three years in college. Both won in college. Both completed around 60 percent of their passes in college. Both were coached by NFL caliber coaches. Works for me.

Are they going to be starters? Look, even half the guys picked in the first round are going to be busts. So to suggest to you that I know Yates or Stanzi will be eventual starters is simply ridiculous. I'm not in the mood for ridiculous today.

March 30, 2011

Dolphins on the road this week to study ... everybody!

The Dolphins are on the road.

General Manager Jeff Ireland, head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are among a contingent of Dolphins representatives who traveled from Auburn's campus Sunday -- where they met and worked out quarterback Cam Newton -- to Alabama's campus Monday -- where they worked out and met with running back Mark Ingram -- to Arkansas Tuesday -- where they worked out and met with quarterback Ryan Mallet and, according to NFL.com, tight end D.J. Williams.

The Miami contingent, or significant parts of it, will be on campus at Virginia Tech today to check out the talent there. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and tight end Andre Smith are of interest to the Dolphins. As happened at Fayetteville, Ark. on Tuesday, the quarterback will be scheduled to throw to the tight end.

Both Williams and Smith are considered outstanding blockers. Neither will ever be mistaken for Tony Gonzalez. These are H-back types. Sparano said he wants a run-first offense. These guys would certainly add to that.

And the conclusion you should draw from all of this is that the Dolphins are merely doing their due diligence. They are turning over every rook. (Yes, that was supposed to be a pun.)

There's been much speculation that the Dolphins will pick Ingram with the No. 15 overall selection. I will say for the hundreth time since I was told as much by a source: Miami wants to trade down in the coming draft. The Fins believe the value of a pick later in the draft with the addition of a late secod-round pick would be higher (depending on who is actually available at No. 15 on draft day) compared to simply picking at their scheduled spot.

Having said that, the team is considering highly talented players that come with some major flags.

Ingram? Doesn't have prototype size and his speed is a source of interest, depending on whom you're talking to. He isn't necessarily explosive, although the Dolphins aren't overly concerned about that aspect because he's quite dependable. Don't forget these are the negatives. There a ton of positives that make him perhaps the No. 1 back in the draft, according to one scout I trust.

Mallet? Great arm. Good accuracy. He has most of the tangible skills that should make him a fine QB. So why isn't he a certain Top 10 pick? Why isn't he even a certified first round pick?

The problem with him, I'm told, is not whispers of narcotics use or even a drunken disorderly arrest last year. The question with Mallet, one very good NFL source tells me, is the kid is said to have absolutely zero leadership skills. None.

That might not be a big deal if Mallet were, say, a guard or tight end. But a quarterback? Leadership is arguably 50 percent of the job.

Understand this: The Dolphins have a quarterback today, on the roster, who can make practically every throw. He works exceedingly hard. He is smart enough to know what to do. But everyone wonders if he has it. Everyone wonders why he seems so robotic. Everyone wants to see life and leadership from him.

So why is it that the Dolphins would pay a premium draft pick for a kid whose leadership skills are being questioned at this early stage in his career?

To double down on similar problems?

This is where the meetings the Fins are having with Mallet must bring them a comfort level that they can mold Mallet or bring something out of him he apparently hasn't shown in abundance already. It's a hard sell. Yes, someone will believe they can bring it out of him. But at the expense of a first-round pick?

Taylor? He's a leader. He's athletic. He's a worker. But he's not gifted with the kind of accuracy, arm, and size that other QBs in the draft apparently have. He's not a first-round pick. He's probably not a second-round pick.

And after Miami's painful and failed experience with Pat White, the Dolphins are certain not to repeat the mistake again in that they're not going to project undersized, run-first QBs higher than they did in the past.

Oh, did I forget to mention Cam Newton? Yeah, I guess I did. That's because I don't seem him being available when the Dolphins pick at No. 15.

March 29, 2011

Cobbs on NFL "slavery," free agency, lockout

Like most NFL players, Patrick Cobbs is spending some time on the golf course, some time in workout sessions, and most of his time waiting for the NFL lockout and current labor strife to be resolved.

Cobbs is expected to be a free agent when the labor agreement is settled, as the Dolphins did not sign him to a contract extension. "I'm nobody's running back," he said during an appearance Tuesday on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo.

And while free agency, by definition, will grant Cobbs the freedom to go to any NFL team that wants him, the running back can understand how fellow running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings could paint his situation as a player as "like modern-day slavery."

"I wouldn't say slave. But we are at the mercy of [owners]," Cobbs said. "This league is a great league or we wouldn't be playing in it. Obviously, we all love to play the game. But I think at times we are slaves. They tell us to jump and we jump. Most of the time we ask them how high. We bend over backwards, we give up our bodies every day to do what we love and also what they pay us to do. So we should do it whenever they tell us to do it. I mean, yeah, I can see where [Peterson] is coming from. So that's like slaves. But we're not slaves because we get paid pretty well to do it."

Cobbs made a distinction between himself, because he is seldom used to carry the ball, and Peterson, who is Minnesota's primary ballcarrier: "The way he runs the ball. he's getting paid to run into a wall every play. I can see where he's coming from."

That doesn't mean Cobbs wouldn't welcome more work with whichever team he plays for next. 

"I had a role this year," Cobbs said. "It wasn't as big a role as I had in 2008. Did I show it? Anything they asked me to do, I was always trying to do best I could. I feel like I could do more. I wanted to do more and hopefully I'll get to showcase that next year."

Having said that, Cobbs said he understood he was behind both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and they needed to get the ball.

 Cobbs was a team leader for the Dolphins in 2010. He was voted special teams captain. So was he surprised the team didn't re-sign him?

"Yeah, a little surprised," he said, "but it's a business and they have the right to do that ... If they don't sign me back, I'll have to find somewhere else to call home.

"I'm working out. I'm doing the things I would be doing normally. I don't have a team right now so if a team were to call me in [after the lockout] I'm doing the things necessary to be in the best shape I can be in. Hopefully that's tomorrow. Right now, I'm doing the things I need to be in the best shape in my life and go from there."

As an NFL player, Cobbs understands why he's not working right now. But he isn't a drone follower of the union line that says all NFL players are underpaid and underappreciated by ownership. In fact, Cobb thinks some players are underpaid, while others, not so much.

"I think the majority of this league is underpaid," Cobbs said. "I don't think everybody is underpaid. I think there are guys that get paid more than they should and there are a bunch of guys that get paid much less than they should."

Tony Sparano: Defense cannot rest

This blog invests much time discussing the Dolphins' need on offense.

Coach Tony Sparano has to concern himself with the Dolphins issues on defense as well as special teams.

If you've lost sight of the fact the Miami defense needs attention, click the link and see why it's important the Dolphins don't just forget the other side of the ball. Yeah, the other side of the ball, the one that was the team strength in 2010 but still isn't quite championship caliber.

I outline the things the Dolphins need to happen for the defensive unit to become championship caliber.

I believe Sparano and the Dolphins learned a lesson last year. They spent the entire offseason trying to improve the defense and pretty much let the offense become a stepchild of sorts. Oh, the stepchild got a nice Christmas gift. Brandon Marshall was signed at the high expense of two second-round picks and a multi-million-dollar contract.

But pretty much every other resource -- save for one of seven draft picks -- was used on defense. The coaching staff was adjusted but mostly on defense.

Sparano is living the other half of that coin this offseason, with offensive coaches leaving or being encouraged to leave in droves.

He does not, however, wish to simply forget the defense.

Here's an idea: The Dolphins should address both the defense and special teams in fell swoops. In other words, if the team can use some athletes on special teams (a need) perhaps a linebacker or cornerback in the draft would be a way to go.

Among the names on Miami's radar are Arizona's Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed. Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard is also on the radar.

Sheard comes with at least one red flag. Let's just say he's capable of throwing defenders around because obviously Pittsburgh police believed him capable of throwing citizens around. Sheard is from Hollywood Hills. Sheard was not convicted for his arrest because he pleaded down to disorderly conduct charges and paid restitution for damages.

March 28, 2011

Dolphins player workouts continue this week

I got a bit of a chuckle recently when media outlets around the country reported Bill Parcells is no longer with the Dolphins. Um, he hasn't been with the Dolphins since late October.

I also had to smile when I read that Dolphins players began working out today. Um, that's been happening for a couple of weeks as well and, like the Parcells thing, it really isn't news, either.

To that point, check out the video below filmed by Herald reporter Jeff Darlington. It chronicles the work receivers Davone Bess and Roberto Wallace and other NFL and CFL hopefuls are doing to get bigger, stronger, faster, and ultimately, better.

Brandon Marshall has been training for six weeks. Six weeks!

No, none of the work is happening at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, FL. The players are locked out and so they are not welcome at the training facility. But they are working out at various gyms and workout facilities throughout South Florida.

He's been under the guidance of Fit Speed Sports Performance in Fort Lauderdale. He was recently joined for a workout by Mike Sims-Walker, which has led to rumors the free agenct receiver recently cut loose by the Jacksonville Jaguars, might be trying to make a pitch to Miami's top receiver for a good word with Miami's front office.

I get the feeling Marshall would gladly put in that good work for Sims-Walker.

As you check out the video, notice Bess. He's not the skinny undrafted free agent out of Hawaii any more. The kid has some serious bulk on him these days, moreso than he had even at the end of last season.

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March 25, 2011

Report: Williams, Brown not very elusive

Earlier this week I wrote this column stating the Dolphins intentions of remaining a run-first team and telling you how intriguing that is, considering the Dolphins don't have any proven starting caliber running backs on the roster.

Yes, the club can always re-sign Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown or both. But I wrote that I wouldn't count on either being back.

This despite the fact coach Tony Sparano made very clear during his meeting with the media that he had no problems with the way Brown and Williams played last year. He actually said they played well.

Of course, I've reminded you time and again not to get too caught up in what the Dolphins say as much as what they do. If Williams and Brown played so well, how come the club opted not to re-sign either one before the labor agreement fell off the cliff into an abyss of pending legal challenges?

Well, the able folks at ProFootballFocus.com have crunched the numbers and they'll be happy to tell you why neither Williams nor Brown were priorities -- their numbers confirm what your eyes should have been telling you:

Neither Williams nor Brown were very good at gaining yardage on their own last season. Neither was good at breaking tackles or running away from tackles.

ProFootballFocus refers to this as its elusive rating. It measures a back's ability and performance independent of the blocking in front of him. This rating is a great equalizer in that it removes the advantages running backs that play behind great offensive lines have over those who do not.

PFF further states their elusive rating filters out coaching and playcalling, as well as the other 10 guys on the offense.

So where did Brown and Williams rate in 2010?

Bottom 20 of 58 rated backs.

Brown rated No. 48 of 58 with an elusive rating of 20.8. Keep in mind Ladell Betts had the worst elusive rating, according to PFF.com, with a 3.1. LeGarrette Blount led PFF's elusive ratings at 89.8.

Brown, the website said, gained 58.6 percent of his yards after contact or 2.2 yards per carry. That's bottom-third ordinary. Blount gained over 73 percent of his yards after contact and Oakland's Darren McFadden averaged 3.5 yards after contact.

For perspective, understand that Adrian Peterson gained 877 of his 1,298 after contact last season. Brown gained a total of 734 yards.

Ricky Williams fared better. But not much.

He ranked 40th of 58 backs, with an elusive rating of 26.7. He was in the same company with backs such as Willis McGahee and Michael Bush.

Williams averaged 2.5 yards per carry after contact, according to PFF. He had 404 yards after contact for the season -- meaning 60 percent of his yards came after contact.

The stats would suggest that if the Dolphins want to bring back the more effective back from last year, it would be Williams. The problem is no one can predict if Williams, who turns 34 in May, will simply fall of the table with wear because of his age or continue to provide semi-acceptable play.

The elusive rating article doesn't mention Brown or Williams except for one instance but it is interesting.

One more thing: DeAngelo Williams, the back many Dolphins fans are eyeing because he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent is not on the 2010 report because he was injured much of the season. Williams had an elusive rating of 42.61 in 2009, which was 15th best in the NFL.

More like it.

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March 24, 2011

Dolphins to host Newton,Gabbert this weekend

Maybe the Dolphins think they know something. Maybe they actually do know something. Maybe Cam Newton's draft stock will drop like a bear market and he will be available with the 15th overall selection of the first round -- the pick the Dolphins hold in the April 28 draft.

Maybe that is the reason the team is hosting a private workout with Auburn QB Cam Newton this weekend in South Florida, according to NFL.com. I am furthermore reporting Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert will also have a visit and work out for the team this weekend.

[Update: These visits-workouts are not at Miami's facility in Davie, FL. The team will fly to meet with the players rather than the other way around.]

Newton and Gabbert are among several quarterbacks this space has reported will share private workouts with the Dolphins. Colin Kaepernick is another. Ricky Stanzi is another. Tyrod Taylor is another.

But unlike those others, Newton and Gabbert are expected to go poof by the time the draft is out of the first 10 picks in the first round. Denver might take one at No. 2, Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said this week he loves both and the Bills hold the No. 3 pick. Tennessee (No. 8), Washington (10) and Minnesota (12) all might want a QB.

So what, I wonder, makes the Dolphins think either might be available when they draft at No. 15?

The possibility, my hope, is that maybe all the hype about Newton going early is just that. Hype. And maybe his lack of experience, his need to learn to read defenses and move safeties, his need to learn the pro-style footwork, all the things that make Newton a project, will push him down.

But all the way to the Dolphins?

Maybe they know something. But I get the feeling, more likely they are just covering their bases and when all is done, they will watch helplessly as Newton gets picked before they get a turn.

And while the club is indeed interested in Newton and just about every quarterback possibility out there -- they have studied them all -- coach Tony Sparano continued to do his best earlier this week to talk up incumbent Chad Henne.

That's because he was asked about Henne. Sparano said at the owner's meetings that Henne improved last season. (I am trying to write this with a straight face.)

"He completed a higher percentage of intermediate passes, which doesn’t make the fans happy and doesn’t make evidently a lot of people happy, but it should because it's a sign of progress," Sparano said Tuesday from the annual NFL owners' meeting.

"Other areas I thought he improved on was his ability to move in the pocket and create space. When you look at the number of sacks we had and the number of sacks avoided, the throwaways, those were the areas that he improved on."

Yes, but coach ... Henne stunk on long throws. Think the opener in which he missed Brandon Marshall by a mile. Think the underthrow the following week. Think the missed opportunity to hit a long TD against Cleveland. Think the missed throws of Brian Hartline in the Jets and Patriots games.

"Some of that is on us for the number of opportunities," Sparano said. "There's just a lot of factors, but when you get the green light, you’ve got to make the play, and Chad would tell you that."


March 23, 2011

Offensive line play as a grand, poetic dance

Offensive line play is like a ballet, which is ironic because I don't remember the last time I saw a 320-pound ballerina. I make the analogy because offensive line play has to be synchronized. It is about footwork. It values both strength and skill or technique.

It is beautiful when it is done well. It should be played to a soundtrack.

But it looks bad when someone butchers the technique or the execution.

The Dolphins offensive line last year was both poetry and an incomplete, no-sense-making sentence. (As the author of many incomplete, no-sense-making sentences, I know of what I speak.)

Anyway, coach Tony Sparano doesn't want his ballet to fall flat this year after struggling with inconsistency so often last year. 

Sparano, looking for answers, sometimes made changes along the offensive line. The right guard spot was often a revolving door that dropped one player off and picked another up. And that was probably too much switching week to week.

“The combinations of people sometimes from a mental standpoint can lead to the one or two mental errors per game that can hurt you,” the coach admitted Tuesday.

So whenever training camp begins, Sparano wants to build a line and stick with that group of starters. That's going to take some work because there is precious little the coach knows for sure about his offensive line.

He knows Vernon Carey will stay at right tackle. He said a move to guard is not in the cards "right now." Carey, seemingly slow at times last season to my eyes, can be a very good player. And he can also be very ordinary. Last year he was both.

But he was not fat. At least that's what Sparano said. The coach said Carey missed weight only once.

Sparano knows Jake Long will continue to be his most impressive and productive player. And, the good news is, Long should be healthy in time for camp. I asked the coach about Long's status and he said that while he wouldn't be ready to fully participate in offseason lifting or conditioning were a lockout not in place, the schedule was to have him ready for training camp. (You see what I meant about those crazy sentences?)

Richie Incognito is also a question mark. He can play either center or guard and Sparano said he is not 100 percent certain which one he'll play yet.

John Jerry? He was a right guard last year. The Dolphins want him to win a guard job this year and pay dividends on his draft stock and potential. But to do that he has to strengthen his core, according to the coach.

"He plays too bent," Sparano said. "I want him to play more erect."

Ahem. Moving on.

I wish to say something that will bust a myth wide open: Players with position flexibility is not what the Dolphins should want. Yes, I said it. A very wise and successful football man taught me recently what his definition of is of an offensive lineman who has position flexibility.

It means the guy is not good enough.

If the Dolphins are drafting offensive linemen, they should want a great center or a great guard. They should aspire to find someone who can play guard and tackle or center and guard. Why? Because only backups are position flexible.

If a player is a great center. That's where he'll go. That's where he'll stay. And no one will move him from there. Long? The guy is a left tackle. Period. End of story.

It is the journeymen and have-nots that have to find value as position flexible linemen. The Dolphins should not aspire to have-nots on the roster any more.

NOTE: As you know, the offensive line play and running back production go hand in hand. My column in today's Miami Herald examines why the Miami running game struggled and why you should not be buying Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown jerseys this offseason.


March 22, 2011

Dolphins under investigation for improper player-coach contact

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today said five teams have been fined for improper contact between coaches and players prior to the lockout being in place -- and although he did not name the Dolphins, it is believed they are one of the teams that are being investigated for the issue.

NFL executive counsel Jeff Pash told reporters after Goodell's press conference that the five teams are actually either being fined or are the subject of an investigation.

"Five teams were contacted, whether they were inquiries or fines or some of each, I haven't read the letters so I don't know," Pash said. "The commissioner sort of rather strongly suggested that one team in South Florida might have crossed the line. Beyond that, I don't know."

Pash did not confirm the Dolphins have indeed been fined. Simply read his words. A report that Pash did confirm a Dolphins fine is erroneous. The Dolphins may yet be fined. But confirmation of that is not yet available. The Dolphins had no comment through spokesman Harvey Greene.

Quarterback Chad Henne, Miami's presumed starting quarterback, told The Miami Herald last month he'd 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 was apparently out of bounds. The collective bargaining agreement between players and the league specified that following the uncapped year, players and coaches would not meet until at least March 15.

Henne's contact with both Daboll and quarterback coach Karl Dorrell happened in February.

"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 during a team golf outing in February. "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."

The Herald reported Henne's apparently inadvertant admission about the contact in February. Henne is quoted extensively in the story written by Neal at the time, talking about the new offense and how it is quarterback friendly and a mix of the New England and New York Jets offense. He did so with authority because he'd gotten the playbook and some tutoring from Miami coaches at a time the collective bargaining agreement said he could not.

Sparano: New offense "not similar" to old offense

NEW ORLEANS -- You'll remember that the change in offensive coordinator -- a welcomed one in some circles -- was cast in some places as a move from one attack that evolved from the Ron Earhardt-Ray Perkins system to another attack that evolved from the same system.

Different. Yet similar.

Well, that apparently isn't quite true. Brian Daboll's system, learned primarily during his time in New England, is different than Dan Henning's system which was learned from Earhardt during his days with Bill Parcells and which the Patriots use.

"No, it’s not really similar," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said of the difference while talking in a room full of head coaches during the NFL annual meeting. " I think from a terminology and verbage standpoint it wouldn’t be difficult. I mean, when they tell us it’s time to go, it’s time to go. The difficult part would be how much you can give them. Whenever the ball drops and we’re playing, it’s going to be the same for everybody in here, but there will be new coaching staff or new coordinators in this room and how fast you can get going and give them early, who knows. I think that’s going tobe the key. I think what we’ve tried to do with Brian and with where we are and what we’re in, we’re trying to keep as much terminology consistent as much as we can. So when we do get the players, that part of it is seamless.”

The fact is Miami's offensive line calls this year will be exactly the same as last year. that doesn't suggest the similarities of the system but speaks to their difference because rather than have nearly a dozen players learning new calls and new wording, it was Daboll who learned what the Dolphins called different things last year.

I told you in last post Sparano says his team will continue to run the ball. That is not news. But what I find interesting is that Sparano will do it fully knowing that fans, and indeed, his owner want more passing, more fireworks, more electricity.

"We're going to continue to run the football because that's my nature," Sparano said. "That might not be popular with everybody but that's what I like to do. So we're going to continue to run the football. It might look a little different the way we go about doing it."

That doesn't mean the Dolphins will be Ohio State from 1969. They will pass, also. And do it with more of a desire to get vertical. (Salguero aside: Can we limit the checkdown passes to less than one dozen per game?)

"When it comes time to open some things up, I think we'll be able to do some more things and challenge them," Sparano said. "I think we're going to be a little more vertical. Brian is a really aggressive guy by nature. And with some of the parts he has right now, I'm excited with Brian and some of the parts that we have."

Dolphins must, must, MUST improve deep pass game

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano says his team will continue to be a run-first team.

That's fine. Solid strategy.

But in today's NFL, you must, must, must pass the ball to win championships. I remind you Green Bay's running game was not exactly the example of hard-nosed football last year, in fact, James Starks wasn't really their starter until the playoffs.

The Packers won the Super Bowl on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. And last year, the Saints won it on the arm of Drew Brees. And Pittsburgh and Indianapolis could throw it before that.

So Sparano obviously cannot ignore the passing game. He must continually examine his quarterback play, his receiver play, his offensive line and running back blocking.

As to the receivers, the coach says "I like the group, it was really productive. Again." But ...

"Where we haven't done it is down the field with the big play," Sparano said. "With us, Brian [Hartline] was at the time [of his injury] the highest average guy. Brandon brings great productivity to the position and can be a guy that can catch a little one and go long or catch the long one.

"In fairness to those guys, we need to advance the ball down the field better. And that's something we've been working on this offseason ourselves."

Sparano says the problem is "a little bit of everything" when identifying why the Dolphins haven't been able to master the deep passing game. I would say look at quarterback Chad Henne. Look at the lack of speed on the outside. Look at the blocking up front. Look at receivers sometimes running patterns that they were not supposed to run.

"You can't point the finger at one person. It's wasn't Chad's fault. It wasn't Dan Henning's fault. There were some opportunities where we have the green light and can get the ball down the field and we didn't have the protection. and it might not be the line's fault that we didn't have the protection."

Great, it is nobody's fault that this phase was bad. Blame the media! That always works.

"At the end of the day," Sparano said, "we have to take more opportunities to throw it down the field and to do that we have to infuse more A) creativity, B) speed."

Sparano is hopeful Marlon Moore "the fastest guy we have" can help. He also talked about other guys on the practice squad who can scoot. Obviously Roberto Wallace is a factor. But there is no doubt the team will try to find an outside threat.

Remember that Jeff Ireland was among the Dallas personnel department that found Miles Austin as an undrafted rookie. Austin could not run a route to save his life. But he was big and fast and the Cowboys had a fifth-round grade on him. When Austin slipped through the cracks, the Cowboys scooped him up.

And the rest, five years later, is history.

One hopes history repeats in South Florida.

TMZ: Chad Henne acts like a boob in the Bahamas

Chad Henne picked a bad time to act like a boob. Of course, that assumes any time is a good time to act like a boob.

The TMZ photo of Henne on vacation in the Bahamas is below. The website said the shot and several others were snapped at a bar in Nassau.

Chad henne boob The Dolphins are aware of the photos and no one is really, seriously, thrilled that Henne was captured in this, cough, interesting pose. Yes, boys will be boys, but it doesn't say a whole lot for meeting the old Bill Parcells Ten Commandments for a QB...

... specifically the one that talks about not making a fool of yourself off the field.

I asked coach Tony Sparano about the photo this morning.

"My problem is I don't have the ability to talk to him so I really can't comment on this right now," Sparano said.

I asked, "I assume that's not what you want to see from your quarterback?"

"Good assumption," Sparano answered.

Sparano is indeed in a tough spot. He obviously isn't happy Henne is seen in this pose. Fact is, Sparano spent part of his early-morning press breakfast with writers talking about how he's sure Henne is working hard to improve his game.

The coach also cannot speak with Henne about the weekend outing. So it stinks for everyone involved. And then there's this:

This picture, believe it or not, is the most evidence any of us have that Henne has a personality. And yet, the evidence seems a little embarrassing for a guy who is trying to show himself as the leader of the Dolphins, the guy who wants to call workouts and have everyone follow.

The measure of whether Henne made a mistake in putting himself in this position is simple. It's not your opinion that counts. It's not my opinion that counts. Henne's opinion and Sparano's are the ones that count. Sparano isn't happy.

Henne? The question I would ask is if you could erase that photo from ever existing, would you? I bet his answer would be, "Yes." I don't think he'd say he's proud of the photo.

Here's a question: Would Peyton Manning be seen doing this? Drew Brees? Phillip Rivers?

March 21, 2011

Full transcript of Monday's meet with Ross, Ireland, Dee

NEW ORLEANS -- Before we go forward, you should be aware that Dolphins coach Tony Sparano will address the media starting at 8 a.m. (EDT) on Tuesday. I will be posting an update to this blog in the morning. I will also tweet Sparano's words in real time on Twitter. To get those tweets, follow me on twitter

On Monday the Dolphins brought together owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland and CEO Mike Dee to meet with the media. I must give Ross some major, major props for showing some experience and wisdom here.

In recent years, Ross has had no compunction about addressing things having to do with football and stadium matters despite the fact he has hired Ireland and Dee to take the lead on those matters, respectively. In doing that, Ross made some memorable missteps.

He's learned.

Ireland wasn't scheduled to be in the meeting but he was. Dee wasn't necessarily billed as being part of the meeting with the media but he was.

And Ross let his experts answer questions about their expertise. Well done.

What follows is the entire transcript of the meeting. Word to all media not present at the meeting: If you use information or pull quotes from the meeting, kindly credit The Miami Herald, ESPN.com, Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. All four.

Hear that, Joe Rose? I see you.

Before you dive into the transcript, check out my column on how Ross pretty much guaranteed Ireland and coach Tony Sparano are secure and can make decisions for the long-term good of the team rather than the short-term good of, well, themselves to save their jobs.

My question to him was, "Are you giving your front office, you coach a guarantee that they can make a long-term decisions so they're not worried about their jobs short-term?"

You can see below what Ross said and you can see what that means in the column

The transcript:

(On his impressions of the meetings so far) – (Ross) “They lay out where we are and what’s going on. I think that you really can’t be enthused about it because it’s not the kind of things that you want to be discussing. Not my idea of ownership.”

(On if he has experiences with labor work stoppages in your business) – (Ross) “Well, we do a lot of labor negotiations, we work with the unions and they build all of our projects. We build with a size that we have to use union labor and we have negotiated with them extensively. You have to work with them and it shouldn’t be necessarily adversarial, I mean, you are trying to win point and save money. You know what is going on in the world today, the unions have kind of exceeded their bounds in just about every aspect of life and today you have a very anti-union sentiment across the country.”

(On if he thinks that unions have exceed what they were set up to do) – (Ross) “Oh yeah, look at every single major industry that has been union dominated, those companies are in trouble. Look at every state and city government, they are all bankrupt. What’s happened is, this is like the perfect storm we are in, most of it not applicable to football necessarily. It not about the wages it’s about the work rules and the jurisdiction issues and all those kind of things and the benefits. Now that not necessarily here because I think that the players are looking more at the absolute dollars, but those other parts are issues and I think we are sympathetic to a lot of them that weren’t issues in the past. There’s a reason why there is a lot of anti-union sentiment in the country today.”

(On how closely he was watching the mediation in Washington D.C.) – (Ross) “I wasn’t watching, I was listening. I have never been through mediation, I have talked to people who have and you know it can be very trying times, you know you don’t feel a lot of movement. You aren’t sitting across the table directly, you are dealing with a mediator, and so you hope that you have a good mediator who knows how to bring people together.”

(On how much of a financial hit the Dolphins and the surrounding communities would take if there is no NFL in 2011) – (Ross) “It would be significant. No season all together?

(Or a pushback of the season) – (Ross) Anyway, obviously the worst situation is no season at all, but as you push it back, even now people aren’t buying tickets at the same rate they were in the past, people are waiting to see, a lot of people are, so it has an impact. It will have an impact with sponsors and what have you.”

(On if he was on board with the decision to lockout the players and if he was disappointed that the players walked away from the table) – (Ross) “I was very disappointed. I am the newest owner in there and I am a businessman so I am looking at it, you know, as much due diligence as we did, when you go in and buy a team you don’t understand all of the nuances. This is as complex and there are more nuances in this business than in any other business that I have been associated with. It is different, but, speaking as a businessman and knowing what I know now, you have a system that was broken and it made no sense. I think that everybody feels that we have got to get it fixed this time. Something was kind of tried, didn’t work for everybody and with the new eyes and being there and not having been there in the past they are 100% right. You cannot have a business where you pay players, as a percentage of the gross income. Anyone who has been in business who has worked for everybody, you don’t pay players a percentage of the gross. The expenses have grown so great compared to the revenues that there is no reasonable return to anybody’s bottom line, so I think the sense of entitlement that they have got to keep going up and up, we have seen that in every aspect of life, it doesn’t work. People feel that way so why should it be any different in how they feel about sports. I think that every owner wants, they own a team because they want to be on the ball field, it’s not ‘hey how do I build a bottom line’, but you have got to be reasonable in how you are doing it and have an incentive to invest money in the team and the different aspects, you know, businesses that you might go into, because you can’t pay them a percentage of the revenue, ‘hey you get 60% and we get all the expenses and then try to make money from that, I mean, it wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t have jobs if your company looked at it that way, nobody would have a job.”

(On the setback to the stadium renovation brought by Broward County declining the bed tax) – (Dee) -  “The Broward County reaction to what was purposed was surprising to us because we had a series of discussions over a six month period with county staff, members of the county commission, then (Broward) Mayor (Ken) Keechl regarding what our intent was, and you can subscribe to a theory or two as to what happened. Obviously the (NHL’s Florida) Panthers role is well documented. I think that the new commission was put on the spot to react and take a strong position on the matter before there was sufficient time to sit down and really fully vet it, again be mindful that the goal of the legislation wasn’t to execute an agreement, it was to enable a discussion and a process to unfold and take place. We brought 65% of the benefit the last time around to Broward county. Many hoteliers and those in the tourism community…Nikki Grossman is on the record saying how important it is, but also little known is the economic impact of having our training facility in Broward County, which is an annual impact of $130 million dollars a year, we had a study done. So we remain enthusiastic about engaging Broward County down the road. We think that we are a stakeholder in the county and they are a stakeholder with the team’s business interests in the county. They’ll be another day to have that discussion…will unlikely be part though of this particular legislative strategy that we are in the midst of.

(On if the organization has had conversations with Roger Goodell about the stadium) – (Dee) “Yes, they are aware of our efforts and we keep them updated on a periodic basis. We are not on the clock at the moment for a Super Bowl bid. The 2015 Super Bowl will probably likely be awarded later this year, there will be an update on that process at this meeting tomorrow. We have said publicly, we are going to continue to pursue Super Bowls in earnest with or without the improvements, but clearly based upon the lay of the land and competitive landscape that is out there, we are going to be an increasingly, you know, competitive environment.”

(On if the organization has looked at alternative ways to fund the canopy/roof) – (Dee) “We are focused now on our legislative strategy in the hopes that we have this local discussion. We are going to be heard tomorrow in Tallahassee in our first senate committee on our senate bill and we are working hard on thought and hope that the political will in Tallahassee will support the opportunity to engage locally, not only on the stadium, but on the Miami Beach Convention Center.”

(On if the training facility’s $130 million economic figure an annual or aggregate figure) – (Dee) “It’s an annual impact of over $130 million a year and we will make that study available to anyone who is interested in it. We have given the study to members of the Broward County Commission who we met with in the aftermath of the action that they took, so it is public record. There is a lot to go in. Like Nat Moore said ‘when I played for the Dolphins, the only guys that lived in Broward County that played for the Dolphins were Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Everybody else lived in Miami-Dade County because that’s where the training facility was. You look at the amount of players that live here and the taxes, the businesses around there…and players start business whether it is Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski or Dwight Stephenson around where they live. You look further at the economic impact of the hotel’s room that we buy with training camp. We are the single biggest customer with player stays and training camp. There are a lot of different spokes to that.”

(On if he brought the team knowing that there will be a lockout) – (Ross) “Well, I didn’t know it would get to this level. It was a risk. I would have thought that better minds would have prevailed already. It was certainly a risk.”

(On what he thinks it will take for both sides to resolve this issue) – (Ross) “I think they need to get back together and start negotiating. I don’t think anything’s going to be resolved in the courts because at the end of the day it’s the players and the owners that have to resolve the issues.  People might say hey I got this advantage or that advantage but I think the most important thing is that they start talking again.  The sooner that happens the better chance there is for an agreement.”

(On if he is confident there will be a 16 game schedule this year) – (Ross) “I sure hope so.  There’s a lot of time for that to happen but I think the fans and everyone want to see it as soon as possible.  Put that behind us.”

(On how the NFLPA compares with other unions that he’s dealt with) – (Ross) “In other unions we’re talking about wages up to maybe 50-60 dollars an hour.  Here at the high side, here you’re talking about players making 2 million plus a year.  Big difference.”

(In terms of philosophical) – (Ross) “That’s a philosophical thing.  There’s a bigger sense of entitlement when you’re making a huge amount of money.  I mean from that standpoint.”

(On what he can apply from dealing with unions before or if this is totally different) – (Ross) “I think the best thing is you’re talking to them and they have to understand your needs.  That’s not all about their needs.  And I don’t know how much what I read is what you guys write.  And it tends to be hey that they’re entitled to x amount of dollars more than they’re getting not the fact and the owners they don’t have to suggest the owners are making too much money but we can get paid more for this and it’s extraordinary.  Don’t forget they’re taking a percentage of the gross.  Very typically you’re paid by the hour in wages.  So it’s a total different thing.  So I don’t think that people can be as sympathetic to players and their needs as you would find in the typical labor negotiations in business.”

(On his needs of the expenses of running a team, and also the recession and how it’s impacted the fan base) – (Ross) “Right.  I think that’s all part of that.  You certainly can’t raise prices.  The costs are going up and we’re at the point now people just can’t afford to pay more for their entertainment dollar.  They’re sports dollar so typically that’s what’s always happened.  You always raise the prices.  We’re at that point you can’t raise prices any more.  I think everybody accepts that and our costs keep going up.  So and you have people earning 2 million plus a year.  So where do you think the reasonable, the line of reason falls.  It’s pretty simple, right?”

(On Brian Daboll) – (Ross) Jeff, Tony and I we met him and thought he was very exciting.  His ideas and he was well suited for the project and over other people that were there.  I mean Jeff had said he wasn’t the first guy he thought about when he brought him in.  He was kind of blown away by him.

(On his vision for the 2011 Dolphins offensively) – (Ross) “Well I mean I think what we want to do is be improved over where we were last year and I think that everybody wants to see improvement and you have to look at every position and hopefully you can improve, the player improves or we bring somebody else in.  It’s about competition and certainly we’ve got to put more points on the board.  So I guess that’s probably the best way you can really determine…have you really improved but based also on the won/loss records.  I mean we were strong defensively.  We want to get better offensively.”

(On keeping Tony Sparano and not having newness during the lockout) – (Ross) “Certainly, but that wasn’t the reason why we retained Tony, because there might be a lockout.  I didn’t take that into consideration.  It was the first time I had the opportunity and I understand that continuity is such an important part you just can’t keep changing the parts and expecting a different result.  And in talking to people, which I learned a lot.  Like I said I thought Tony was the best person for the job.  I still believe that.”

(On how he would do things differently with a couple of months of reflection) – (Ross) “I mean like I said when I had the press conference.  I realized how public it is.  And I wouldn’t want to do anything to really compromise my relationship with Tony from that standpoint.  I wouldn’t want him to be surprised.  He’s got to read the newspaper and following my journey across the country.”

(On if he’s giving his front office long term decisions on their jobs) – (Ross) “Absolutely.  We talk about it all the time.  If not you go sign old players and old big names and hope they have one year left.  I think we have a very young squad.  One of the youngest in the league. We’re building it from the ground up and I think the whole idea when I first bought the team is we want to be consistent you know playing in the playoffs.  Year in and year out where the people can expect to have a good, exciting product on the field.”

(On what his expectations are for the 2011 season) – (Ross) “To be better than they were last year.  Well I mean last year you guys quoted me, I said something, I thought we’d be there this year and I had to read it all over the papers, they were everywhere I went so…but I think that we have a great nucleus.  We’ve looked to really improve that.  Unfortunately people haven’t seen anything because we can’t sign free agents.  The draft hasn’t occurred.  So I think you’ll have a better idea as I will and even Jeff to see who we’re able to attract and who we end up with.  But I am sure that the amount of work that’s being put into it.  I know the staff, Jeff is working tirelessly.  I don’t think there’s a guy in this hotel that’s putting more effort in it than Jeff.  And we’re making sure in our organization.  I mean we’re right up there in terms of working.  It’s really incredible.  It takes hard work in this.  You just don’t go by what you read in the press in terms of what players you take and just looking at statistics and these guys pore over through every single detail.  Looking at them, once, twice, three times, different people looking at him.  Giving consensus.  And Jeff makes the ultimate call.  I mean I’m impressed by their work ethic and nothing happens successfully without a lot of hard work.”

(On making his decisions) – (Ireland)  “You know I’ve never felt that way, even with Wayne, now with Steve, I’ve never felt that way that I didn’t have time to make decisions.  And I know my role here.  My role here is to make decisions for this franchise.  The Miami Dolphins are bigger than Jeff Ireland.  I’ve got to make decisions whether I’m on a one year contract, a three week contract or a four year contract.  I’ve got to make decisions for the Miami Dolphins long term.  Our ultimate goal is to win and win consistently in this league and that’s my job responsibility.”

(On Chad Henne) – (Ross) “Chad Henne, you talk to people who really look at him and he has a lot of great skills.  Certainly, he has to continue to improve.  He made some improvement in other areas and I think people were unhappy with some of the other.  But I think he has the skills.  It’s unfortunate a strike like this, the lockout like this …. Help working with him.  I’m very optimistic that he’ll have the capabilities to take us.”

(On what he has learned about running a team) – (Ross) “The process of building a team is much more sophisticated and there’s so much more that goes into it than you’d expect. The work these guys do during the season and the offseason – its incredible. They really sacrifice an awful lot to try and deliver winners. I don’t think people understand that. It’s too easy to read the papers and talk about players. What these guys are doing is really scouting them and understanding them and watching tape after tape to find out if he’s consistent and will fit the right profile and that kind of stuff. It amazes you. You don’t realize that. A fan doesn’t realize that. And also during the game, a fan might say, ‘hey a guy ran a wrong route.’ But there’s a lot more to it. As a fan, I didn’t know that. And I talk to him afterward and say, “oh really, I didn’t know that.” But that’s it. Basically the fans want to see something exciting and they want to win. It’s that simple. And have a lot of fun doing it. And that’s what we have to focus on doing – winning and that they have a lot of fun when they come to the game, and basically winning at home.”

Ross: Henne OK as starter if he's best on team

NEW ORLEANS -- My question to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was simple and direct: "You would be comfortable if in the season-opener at home, Chad Henne would be your quarterback in 2011?"

"We're going to have the best team we can put on the field," Ross said. "I don't know what's going to happen but he'll be competing with someone. You know that. So if he's the best guy we can find to put in that position and he's demonstrated that, then I have no problem with that."

So what does that mean? It's not exactly a strong endorsement of Henne but it is more an endorsement of competition. Ross seems fine with the idea that if Henne survives a strong competition, then he should start for Miami.

I'd agree with that -- as long as the Dolphins bring in a player that truly has a legitimate chance to beat out Henne. And now, Tyler Thigpen is not that guy. He would not be given a great chance to beat out Henne. A quarterback with NFL experience as a starter, a guy whose won and been to the playoffs would be that guy.

I remind you what I reported about Miami's potential interest in Carson Palmer should he become available this offseason.

It is clear Ross loves Henne as a guy. The owner is a Michigan man. Henne is a Michigan man. But I remind you what Ross is saying about Henne now is much different, indeed, staggered from a confidence standpoint, from what he said a year ago.

A year ago, Ross was saying he had hopes Henne could become the next Dan Marino. Now?

"Chad Henne, you talk to people that really look at him, he has a lot of great skills. He has to continue to improve. He made some improvement in other areas. People are unhappy with some of the others. But I think he has the skills. It's unfortunate that a lockout like this doesn't help in working with him. But I'm optimistic that he'll have the capability to really take us."

Take them where?

Ross never finished the sentence ....

Ross has a much more clear vision for what he wants from the Miami offense.

"What we want to do is be improved over what we were last year. I think everybody wants to see improvement. And you have to look at every position. We have to be improved. The player improves or we bring somebody else in. It's about competition. And certainly you have to put more points on the board."

Dolphins: Palmer best of possibly available QBs

NEW ORLEANS -- Carson Palmer.

That’s the name. That’s the player. That’s the veteran, perhaps the only one, you must watch if you’re a Dolphins fan and have hope your team can find a game-changer quarterback whenever the NFL returns to the field.

Palmer is the one veteran quarterback in whose availability the Dolphins would almost definitely show interest.

I must, for clarity’s sake, stress there is absolutely no certainty about Palmer’s availability now. He doesn’t want to return to Cincinnati and says he’d rather retire than play for the Bengals again. The Bengals swear he’ll play for them or retire. No one knows who will blink first.

That’s not the point. The Dolphins and all quarterback-hungry teams have to consider all the possibilities this time of year. Failing to do so is simply failing to do the job.

So general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano, scouts and anyone else with a voice within the organization, must know which veterans could be available when the lockout ends. And Palmer is atop that list of possibilities for Miami.  

The others on the list of possible available QBs – Kevin Kolb, Vince Young, Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Alex Smith – also have to be considered. But none of them rate higher than Palmer. All the others have been identified by the Dolphins as a group of has-beens, or a could-bes, or a never-weres.

That long list of names is short on certainty.

Palmer is different.

Carson palmer He’s unquestionably better than Chad Henne. He’s not Tom Brady, but he’s head-and-shoulders above the other quarterbacks who might become available. He’s not a Pro Bowl player but he would be the second-best quarterback in the AFC East. He’s not Peyton Manning, but if he’s put in the right situation, he could help make a mediocre team a playoff contender.

The Dolphins, 7-9 the past two seasons, are indeed mediocre. And they understand time is no longer an ally because fans and ownership want a contender in 2011.

So Palmer is the player folks in the Dolphins organization would love in a Dolphins jersey.

None of this is my opinion. It’s the opinion of folks within the Miami organization who have done the work. This comes from folks who have watched the films or crunched the numbers or done the evaluations or talked to the men who did.

Where does that put Henne? It doesn’t really affect Miami’s incumbent starting quarterback. Not yet.

Henne is the only quarterback on the Dolphins’ roster so he is the presumed starter now. And in the next couple of days when Miami owner Stephen Ross and Sparano are asked their opinion of Henne while in the Crescent City for the NFL annual meetings, they will likely say all the right things.

They will likely say Henne still has good potential and still can be the starter when the season begins. They will show equal parts confidence and hope Henne can become a franchise quarterback.

What else would you expect them to say?

The unvarnished truth is Henne is in the same spot as any other player who hasn’t proven himself. His job is perpetually at risk until he either earns the right to not be challenged or until the Dolphins find someone better.

None of this considers the draft, of course, because the youngsters fall into a totally different class. It’s possible the Dolphins feel compelled to pick a rookie quarterback and try to develop him for the future.

The Dolphins are indeed working diligently to identify the rookie quarterback that might best fit their system, their chemistry, their coaching approach. But finding that rookie doesn’t absolutely eliminate the need for a veteran.

Why, you ask?

The Dolphins understand that very few rookies break into the league as playoff quarterbacks. The odds the Dolphins would find a rookie quarterback who can play very well very quickly are microscopic. More likely the people picking and coaching that quarterback might find themselves doing so for the next football administration.

So the team has to consider veterans that can turn the club’s fortune sooner. That list of vets is not very long. And Carson Palmer is at the top of the list.

March 18, 2011

Mark Ingram? Is he No. 15 overall special?

Why Mark Ingram? What is the facination with this young man?

I get that he is the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. I get that he is is an upstanding man. I get that he played for a great program at Alabama and in perhaps the most competitive league (SEC). But what is it about him that makes all the so-called draft gurus say he's going to be the Dolphins' choice in the first round of the April 28 draft?

Personally, I believe the Dolphins will select from the school of great need. They will select trade down.

Have I said it often enough? This team needs more picks more than ever with a likely coming rookie wage scale making draftees more valuable and cheaper than ever at a time the Dolphins lack a second round pick. So trading down in the first round and getting back a late second-rounder -- as Miami did last year -- or perhaps and early third-rounder, is a huge necessity.

Failing that, however, would the Dolphins use their pick on the 5-10 and 215-pound Ingram?

There's multiple ways of looking at this. From a historical and philosophical perspective is one way and that one suggests Miami should not go with Ingram.

Last season a alone a swing around NFL backfields revealed only two difference-making backs that were picked in the first round. Those were Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson.

Other RBs picked that early were not nearly as impressive. Ryan Mathews, Reggie Bush, Knowshon Moreno, Beanie Wells, Donald Brown, and closer to home, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were not difference makers despite being former first-round picks.

And in the meantime, running backs that didn't have that type of draft pedigree did make a splash. LeGarrette Blount was undrafted before doing fine work for Tampa Bay as a rookie. Arian Foster led the league in rushing and his pedigree is he was not drafted and toiled on Houston's practice squad before exploding onto the scene.

The point is effective running backs can be found throughout the draft and sometimes as free agents as well. 

Special running backs, of course, are different.

Special ones like Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James or Peterson are more than worthy of a high pick. But that leads us to the next perspective we must discuss in breaking down the Ingram possibility: Is he special?

He doesn't have great size as established above. He doesn't have great speed as evidenced by his 4.63 time in the combine and then 4.55 time at his Pro Day. By the way, what was going on with this kid around combine time that he was so unimpressive?

OK, well, maybe he's a monster on the field? He was very, very good in 2009 when he earned the trophy. But he was hurt much of 2010. He is a plugger. He merely plug away, plugs away in 5-, 6-, 4-yard bursts to get his yards. The 85-yard runs? The screen passes where he made two guys miss? The run up the middle where he ran around a linebacker and through the chest of a safety?

I didn't see that.

Don't get me wrong. Ingram is a nice player. He's a good player. I'd love for the Dolphins to have him. But I would hate for them to invest the No. 15 pick in the draft to get him.

Please remember that the draft is about getting value as well as a good player for your pick. Think about that because that idea has worked against the Dolphins previously.

I point you to 2008 when the Dolphins could have picked QB Matt Ryan with the first pick. They picked Jake Long. Long is a wonderful player. He's been a Pro Bowl player each of his first three seasons. But he's a left tackle.

He'll never lead a team to a Super Bowl. He'll never have the ball in his hands when the game is decided. He'll never be a difference-maker. So yes, the Dolphins got a great player with their first overall pick in 2008.

But they would have gotten more value if they had chosen Ryan, who is a very good quarterback and might someday do those things I just mentioned that a difference-making player can provide. Again, value can be just as important as production with the draft.

The 15th overall selection, provided Miami doesn't trade, should bring a special player. That pick should go to a difference-maker.

I believe Ingram will be a good platoon back. But a guy opposing defenses will have to game-plan for throughout the next four or five years?

I might need an eye exam. Because I don't see it.

March 16, 2011

Dolphins need to work during dispute

Soon and very soon, you'll start to read stories of NFL teams gathering informally and working together or, at the very least, conditioning together while the lockout/decertification saga plays out.

My hope is Dolphins players, which were scheduled to begin their conditioning program later this month, will be organized enough to come together as a team and work out. It helps team unity. It helps morale. It helps their conditioning!

The importance of this stuff cannot be stressed enough, I believe. No, we're not at the point where the club would be running practices. But one has to take the first step (conditioning) before one can begin to run toward the second step (football practice).

Former Dolphins wide receiver and current advisor to the CEO Nat Moore knows this and believes that team unity, even in the face of a labor dispute, is important. Appearing on Armando and the Amigo (you can listen to the podcast here).  Moore addressed the topic:

"I tell all our listeners that just like in 1982, 1987 and 1993, eventually there will be some kind of resolve and the game will be played," Moore said. "This is just too great a game for the players and the ownership to not come together and come up with an equitable agreement. What that is? I cannot tell you.

"The thing I would caution players, coaches and everyone else is there's so much stuff out there in the media, of people that don't know. I could talk off the cuff but I don't know because I'm not sitting in those meetings. The thing they have to do is for the players to continue to do the things they would normally do. Don't get so caught up in this because eventually you're going to play football.

And in 1982, the two teams that stuck together, practiced every day, got together and go the actual content of what was happening in the meetings, those were the teams that played for the Super Bowl. So I think it's about the team staying together, continue to build a bond, and the players continue to stay in shape and doing the things they need to do to be ready when this things gets resolved because it will."

Moore was talking, of course, about the Dolphins and Redskins.

"Both teams, we were out 56 days, but we got together every day at Miami-Dade Junior College North and we got a report from (player rep) Jimmy Cefalo about what was going on in New York. And that kept everyone's minds at ease. In the meantime, we worked on practicing and staying in shape and working on the stuff we knew we'd be doing when we got back. And in the process, we were way ahead of everybody we played against. The Washington Redskins, with Joe Theismann and his group, they did the same thing. They practiced three times a week while we practiced every day. So think it's important that things you don't control, you have to be a professional and know what the job description is. Know that when you come back you're going to be competing against others to maintain your position on the team. You need to be ready."

There can be no denying the work can help. But here's the question: Who leads the workouts?

We know that Chad Henne said he'd call the workouts for the offensive players. But does the embattled QB have enough clout to tell other players on offense what to do and when? Would WR Brandon Marshall, who had his disagreements with Henne last season, snap to attention when the quarterback calls a workout?

And what about the defense? I know the defense has players that could covene a workout. Yeremiah Bell comes to mind. So does Karlos Dansby. I hope they would be willing and eager to get the guys working.

But it remains the offense that I worry about.

One thing that would help Henne get that group organized is that he still has Jake Long's ear. And Long has the respect of most, if not all, of his players. Maybe Long would be the guy bringing everyone together.

It is a test of leadership. It is a test of work ethic.

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March 15, 2011

News, thoughts on Miami quarterback chase

First to the news: The Dolphins have scheduled a private workout and visit with Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick for later this month, something that should come as no surprise to readers of this blog.

Kaepernick is a second-day pick but he's been very exciting to scouts following a promising college career and a simply outstanding spring in which he practiced well at the Senior Bowl and has shown well at the Combine and other workouts.

Contrary to a published report, the Dolphins have not yet scheduled a private workout with Jake Locker, according to a league source.

The Dolphins have every intention of trying to acquire a quarterback through the draft so keep Kaepernick in mind. But lately, I've perceived disappointment from Miami fans on this blog and my radio show in that the current NFL labor impasse might damage Miami's opportunity to find a veteran quarterback to offer a short-term answer to Miami's issues at the spot

Oh, you see the long-term possibilities in the draft, but you think Miami's short-term possibilities are diminishing.

Well, I understand the thinking.

Because the current labor situation is one of union decertification and ownership lockout, nothing is going on in free agency or in the trade market. We're at a stand-still at least until April 6 when litigation between the sides is scheduled to be heard in court.

That means Miami cannot trade for Donovan McNabb or Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb. It also means Miami cannot possibly pick up or trade for Vince Young, either as a free agent if he's released or when he's made available in trade.

And that all but guarantees that incumbent Chad Henne would be Miami's starter again in 2011.

Well, I have a different view of this labor strife, one that might be a benefit to the Dolphins. It goes like this:

If the labor problems last past the April 28-30 draft, you should rejoice! But only as long as those labor issues get resolved between April 30th and June or early July sometime.

If that happens, and the NFL re-opens for business with a full-tilt free agency and open trading period, the veteran quarterbacks I mentioned above will still likely be on the market in some fashion or another. Except, much to Miami's benefit, the asking price will not possibly be a 2011 draft pick because the draft this year will have already passed.

So if the Dolphins have interest in going after a Palmer or a Kolb, they can do it with the idea of investing 2012 draft picks rather than picks this year. This year the Dolphins are hamstrung in that they don't have a second round pick because they used it in the Brandon Marshall trade last year.

But Miami has a full complement of picks for 2012. And I remind you of Jimmy Johnson's old theory that a first round pick next year is equivalent to a second-rounder this year based on the fact the player this year will come in and be more ready to contribute at a higher level by next year when that rookie next year is still getting his NFL footing. I'm not saying I agree with that, but that was his theory and it worked with players such as Patrick Surtain.

I don't believe the Dolphins can afford to use their first round pick this year on obtaining a veteran quarterback. They obviously don't have a second round pick so they are definitely pondering a trade-down option to recover that second pick. So right now, they probably can't go get either Palmer or Kolb because other teams will have more 2011 picks to haggle with than Miami.

But once this draft comes and goes, the Dolphins will be on a more even footing with other QB needy teams.

And then the idea of trading for a vetern QB such as Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb might be more palatable. I don't know that Miami would do it, but it would be more possible as well.

March 14, 2011

Dolphins work out Arizona's Ricky Elmore

While the pundits and so-called experts are trusting the Dolphins will use most, if not all, their draft picks on offense, I've been telling you the team desperately wants to improve special teams and its pass-rush.

There was some proof of that Monday when the club worked out Arizona OLB Ricky Elmore.

Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan flew out to be with Elmore for the private meeting. The two watched film together and went through the usual position drills.

Elmore led the PAC-10 in sacks for the second consecutive year in 2010. He did this while improving his 2009 total of 10.5 sacks to 11 sacks in 2010. That, by the way, is no easy task because once a player leads the conference in sacks, other teams take note and typically do what they must to contain that player.

Elmore, 6-4 and 260 pounds, nonethless finished ranked ninth in the nation in sacks.

So why the interest?

Elmore isn't a first-day pick. He more likely will go anywhere from the late third round to fifth round. He's a no-frills, high-motor guy that knows the game and want to learn more.

He's not a track star. He ran a 4.91 in the 40 at the Indianapolis Combine but I'm told that was because he was sick. (He ran anyway so you have to admire that). At his Pro Day on Saturday he improved all his measurables to 4.79 in the 40 with a 34.5 vertical.

Do the Dolphins have room for a guy like Elmore on the roster?

When one considers that Quentin Moses has had four years to develop, last year got several significant opportunities to play, and still produced only one sack, the answer would have to be yes.

When you consider the team was eager enough to improve its pass-rush that it put in a waiver claim for Shawne Merriman, the answer would have to be yes.

And don't even get me started on the need to bring in some fresh blood on special teams to immediately upgrade a unit that gave up a total of three punt and kickoff return TDs last year. The answer, again, is yes.

Maybe Elmore can fill all of those needs.

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March 13, 2011

Fins and Canes apparently making nice again

Remember back in 2005 when Nick Saban (sorry, had to say his name) took over the Dolphins and in his first draft he went with a Southeastern Conference player in the first round? And he picked an SEC player in the third round. And another in the fourth round.

Saban said he picked guys from the SEC because he had coached in the conference at Louisiana State and was familiar with the players. Saban also plucked Kevin Vickerson from Michigan State in the seventh round and it was no coincidence he had coached at Michigan State before LSU and was still closely tied to folks at that program.

The point is familiarity was something Saban believed -- right or wrong -- gave him an advantage. It obviously didn't play out that way in 2006 when Saban picked an SEC guy in the first round again, especially when we all saw Jason Allen trying to cover people. But, again, familiarity was important to the coach.

Fast forward to the Bill Parcells era. He had an amazing tie to Montana, for some reason. And the Dolphins drafted Lex Hilliard from Montana. And the Dolphins signed kicker Dan Carpenter from Montana. And the Dolphins added Cory Procter to the roster at different times last year. Procter came from the Dallas Cowboys via, you guessed it, Montana.

I say all that to say this: All NFL teams have programs they feel very comfortable with. They feel they get inside information from those programs. The coaches on the NFL team feel they have a kinship with the coaches on the college team.

Bill Belichick had that with Saban at LSU and with Urban Meyer at Florida most recently. I guess that's the reason he felt comfortable picking TE Aaron Hernandez when other teams were worried about the kid's drug tests.

The Dolphins used to have a program they were pretty comfortable with once upon a time -- the University of Miami. This column in today's Miami Herald outlines the history of the ties between Miami's professional and collegiate football teams.

But the relationship got broken around the middle of the last decade for reasons the column explains. And that wasn't good for either, in my opinion.

It didn't hurt as much as it could because the Hurricanes haven't been championship-caliber in recent years. So the Dolphins haven't exactly missed out on players that were difference-makers -- with the exception of Jimmy Graham last year. (Yes, that's only a projection, but I love that kid's potential and cannot understand why the Dolphins didn't get him). I seriously wonder why it is a kid like Sam Shields, who played at Miami and was available as an undrafted free agent, signed with the Green Bay Packers and not the Miami Dolphins?

That kind of stuff shouldn't be happening. And apparently Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland is working to keep that from happening in the future. At least it looks like he is.

That's good because other teams are apparently working things at UM these days as well. Not the least of those teams is the Patriots, who got themselves a pretty sweet connection to the U in former quarterback Bernie Kosar, who is working for New England as a consultant.

But apparently Ireland has the right idea in making nice with the Canes and making sure the valuable information on players that the college coaches might have goes to the Dolphins also.

The Canes had their Pro Day last week. Bad weather caused a suspension and postponement. They will pick back up March 25. The results of Pro Day are only partial because the event did not conclude. I have shared with you the available results below.

And if you are not impressed with any of the players available from Miami this year, that's OK. This isn't about getting a fast fix. The relationship I hope the Dolphins and Canes are forging is a long-term one that will take advantage of Miami players well into the coming years.

At the very least, the fact the lines of communication are open again is good news.

NamePos.HtWt40 Yd DashVert. JumpBench Press60 yd ShuttlePro-shuttleL Drill
Matt Bosher K/P 6-004 207            
Jared Campbell DB 5-11 200 4.7 31 14      
Richard Gordon TE 6-33 267 4.65 32.5 25      
Patrick Hill FB 5-81 237 5.05 27.5 21      
Ryan Hill DB 5-11 202 4.52 32 17      
Cory Nelms DB 5-11 191 4.39 37 14      
Kylan Robinson LB 5-11 224 4.73 32 17      
Allen Bailey DL 6-33 281            
Damien Berry RB 5-10 206 4.45          
Graig Cooper RB 5-105 197 4.6 32.5        
Orlando Franklin OL 6-57 315   30        
Brandon Harris DB 5-10 190   34.5        
Leonard Hankerson WR 6-2 202            
Colin McCarthy LB 6-013 236            
DeMarcus Van Dyke DB 6-010 174