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53 posts from October 2013

October 14, 2013

Dolphins offensive line same, practice report here

The most asked question of any Dolphins observer since the last time the Dolphins played easily centers on what the team is about to do with its offensive line.

That's understandable since the Dolphins yielded five six sacks the last time they played (versus Baltimore) and that was the topic of much conversation among coaches and the personnel department both privately and publicly during the bye week.

Well, as of today's first day back to practice following the bye, the Dolphins answer to the question is simple: Nothing will be done.

No lineup change. No additions (as of this hour). No subrtractions (as of this hour).

Miami's offensive line is the same at practice today as it was last week, and the week before, and the week before and dating all the way back to the start of the season: LT Jonathan Martin, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG John Jerry, RT Tyson Clabo.

No changes.

Interesting because the Dolphins vowed to solve the issues that troubled their pass protection during the bye. "We’re going to spend a lot of time this off week, looking at what some of our issues are, even more specifically than we already have," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said a week ago. "We’re going to fix what needs to get fixed, and I’m pretty confident that we can do that."

How that happened is beyond me. Obviously no personnel changes have been made. And as players haven't practiced since last Tuesday, there has been no on-field work to address the issues. So the only possibilities is the Dolphins might have made some schematic changes that we won't know about until Sunday's game against Buffalo.

(I doubt that, too.)

We'll see. But as of right now, the addressing of the leaky offensive line is at best a stealth project because no visible work or changes are apparent.


On the injury front, the Dolphins are working today without middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who suffered a shoulder injury during the Baltimore game and indeed had to leave that game after about one quarter.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson , who has missed four games with a groin injury, was on the field during the open portion of practice but didn't seem to be doing a whole lot. He didn't participate in many of the drills witnessed by the media.

Safety Chris Clemons, who has been nagged by little injuries, also was not working with the starters during period open to the media. No idea if this is indeed an injury issue or something else.

The backup safety is Jimmy Wilson.

[UPDATE: DT Paul Soliai and TE Michael Egnew also are not at practice today. No word why.]

October 07, 2013

Bye week so see you next Monday

The Dolphins bye week is here so I won't be around this week.

No, I'm not on vacation or being lazy. Let's just say I'm "off" so to speak. So I won't be posting.

I will, however post whatever thoughts and information come to me -- including the weekly ProFootballFocus.com analysis -- on my personal twitter account.

Follow me here for updates. The handle is @ArmandoSalguero.

Before I go, let me leave you with my column in today's Miami Herald. I write about the offensive line that is so troubling for Miami.

The Dolphins gave up six more sacks on Sunday. Simply, the Dolphins have to come up with options to fix the problem because as Saul said on Breaking Bad, "the monkeys are in the banana patch." The Dolphins are being over-run. And under seige is no way for a young quarterback such as Ryan Tannehill to go through a season.

Talk to you next week.

October 06, 2013

Ravens beat Dolphins 26-23, bye next

Well, it got exciting at the end. The Dolphins had a chance to tie it, but Caleb Sturgis missed a desperation 57-yard field goal attempt to tie with only a few clicks left on the clock.

Dolphins lose to the Ravens, 26-23, and go into the bye with a still respectable 3-2 record.

Tough loss.

The defense made it close. Reshad Jones had an interception return touchdown to tie the game at 23. But the defense also gave up a field goal drive. The winning field goal drive.

The offense?


Only scored one touchdown. Rushed for 22 yards on 11 carries. Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times, including three by Terrell Suggs.

Dolphins vs. Ravens live blog (and other things)

Cameron Wake is active for today's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

That's a big deal for the Dolphins as they try to take down the defending Super Bowl champions. Wake will be matched up against Michael Oher -- you know, the kid from the blindside who happens to play the right side for Baltimore.

Randy Starks is slated to start at defensive tackle.

The other inactives are: QB Pat Devlin, RB Mike Gillislee, CB, Dimitri Patterson, CB Will Davis, LB Josh Kaddu, G Danny Watkins, and G Dallas Thomas.

For the Ravens, it is notable that WR Jacoby Jones is inactive. That's big.

It's also interesting that LT Eugene Monroe, acquired from Jacksonville this week, is inactive. Bryant McKinnie will start at LT.

Of course, if there's a live game, there's a live blog. Join below.

The issues with getting the ball deep to Mike Wallace

I shared with you earlier in the week how Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said he was "definitely worried" about his first four games with the Dolphins.

Well, as Wallace is very important to the success of this team, I decided to explore why it is Wallace on the Dolphins is not quite working like Wallace on the Steelers worked for much of his four years there. Now, please keep perspective. We're only talking four games. Things can get better as soon as today's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

But for that to happen some changes have to be made.


Because in studying these issues, I've come to the conclusion everyone involved is partially responsible for Wallace so far not being the dynamic deep threat I know he can be.

Basically, I blame everyone.

In my column in today's Miami Herald, I go through the reasons Wallace isn't succeeding consistently so far. You want to know who I blame most?

The coaching staff.

Joe Philbin, you see, has taken an approach he thinks is right with Wallace and as you'll see, once Joe makes a decision, it is apparently written in stone and even if you question him, as I did, he comes back with the ""that's how we do it" response.

My column explains why the Dolphins should re-think that approach in this instance. They should re-think not moving Wallace around. They should re-think always lining him up on the right side. They should re-think how much production they're going to get out of their deep-threat receiver while lining him out right because their quarterback has issues thowing deep to his right.

Darn, gave part of it away.

By the way, would it be the first time Dolphins coaches misuse talent? Remember they kept insisting Reggie Bush is a between the tackle runner? Detroit puts him out in space and away we go. Remember they told us last year Jared Odrick is a defensive end? No, he's a defensive tackle in a 4-3 or a DE in a 3-4 but not a 4-3. Remember they're still insisting Daniel Thomas is every bit as good as any other RB on the roster?

Remember they took a 3-4 defense that was sixth in the NFL in points allowed in 2011 (yielding 19.6 points per game) and turned it into a 4-3 unit that was seventh in points allowed in 2012 (19.8 PPG) and is now 15th in points allowed (22.8 PPG)? We're going in the wrong direction, here. 

Check out the column. Then come back here and leave your comments.


[Update: By the way, one issue I didn't include in my column or in this post earlier is how the Dolphins practices are set up. I had a club source text me, apparently after he read what I wrote, and told me he thinks the Dolphins don't focus enough in practice getting the ball to Wallace deep and so it's no surprise it doesn't happen that often in games. Interesting.]

October 05, 2013

Keys to the game: Raven

I believe Sunday's game with the Ravens is truly a toss up. That speaks to how much respect the Dolphins have gained from a year ago ... and how weakened the Ravens are (particularly on offense) from a season ago when they won the Super Bowl.

Here's how I break it down:

When the Dolphins pass the football: The Dolphins have won four consecutive home games and it’s no coincidence Ryan Tannehill likes the venue because in his last three home games, the quarterback has completed 67 percent of his throws and has six TD passes against only one interception. All three Miami wide outs – Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson have enjoyed past success against the Ravens. The Baltimore secondary is without Ed Reed, but the Ravens haven’t suffered in their third-down efficiency, ranking sixth in the NFL on that key passing down. The Dolphins are tied for worst in the NFL protecting their quarterback, yielding 18 sacks. Terrell Suggs is on a tear with four sacks and 10 QB hits. Oh boy. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins run the football: Lamar Miller is averaging 5.8 yards per carry the last three games and has a touchdown in two of the past three games. The Dolphins running game has enjoyed slow but steady improvement since the season-opener. But the Dolphins simply don’t run that often. The Dolphins are rushing the football 33 percent of the time not factoring the scramble runs by Tannehill. The Ravens rush defense is statistically mediocre – 16th in the NFL. With nose tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty and linebacker Daryl Smith all playing well the Ravens should be better against the run. Obviously, they’re not maximizing in this department. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.

When the Ravens run the football:  The Ravens offensive line is not playing as well as it did last year during their Super Bowl run despite being mostly intact from that time. Perhaps the team really misses center Matt Birk. There’s no doubt left tackle Bryant McKinnie, overweight and getting older, is not playing well and is getting replaced by recently acquired Eugene Monroe. Running back Ray Rice, a three-time Pro Bowl player and the second-leading rusher in club history, is suddenly ineffective. Rice is averaging only 3.0 yards per carry and getting fewer touches than Bernard Pierce. The Ravens have promised to get Rice more involved and as his abilities somewhat resemble those of Darren Sproles, who gashed the Dolphins last week, that may is not good news for Miami. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Ravens pass the football: Joe Flacco had a terrible day last week against Buffalo, throwing five interceptions against a secondary missing three of four starters. That has not been Flacco’s history against the Dolphins, however, because in two previous meetings he’s thrown three TD passes without an interception and posted a 125.3 quarterback rating. If he has a similar game this time, history says the Dolphins lose because the Ravens are 28-3 when Flacco’s rating is over 100. The Ravens are diminished on the outside with the loss of Anquan Bolden. Torrey Smith is their only consistent weapon. The Miami secondary is still smarting from last week’s toasting at the hands of Drew Brees and help is not on the way because starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson is going to miss his fourth consecutive game. Watch out for the Ray Rice vs. Phillip Wheeler match up. ADVANTAGE: Ravens.

Special teams: The Ravens were outstanding on special teams last season and if you don’t think so, recall that kickoff return touchdown by Jacoby Jones in the Super Bowl. Jones has been injured much of this year and the special teams play was a nightmare in the season-opener, but the Ravens are still pretty good. Tandon Doss has a Week 3 punt return TD. These two teams also cover pretty well, with the Ravens holding a slight edge on punts and the Dolphins holding a slight edge on kickoffs. In a game that may come down to a field goal, Caleb Sturgis has so far been more accurate on long-range kicks than Justin Tucker. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Coaching: This is a study of differing approaches. Last week both teams suffered painful losses. Baltimore coach Jim Harbaugh publicly challenged his offensive line, vowed to make changes concerning the use of his running back and basically sent the message that things were not right and needed fixing. Miami coach Joe Philbin kept calm, isn’t making any big lineup changes and certainly has not challenged anyone publicly, not even an offensive line that has allowed 18 sacks. No idea which approach is better. We’ll see. ADVANTAGE: Even.

Intangibles: Which team is less tolerant of tough times? Both had a tough week following bad losses. The pride of both teams is being measured now. Who responds? OVERALL ADVANTAGE: Even.

October 04, 2013

Dolphins must do something at RT

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can they explore?

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

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

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

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

There's nothing wrong with being an active shopper.

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

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

Why would the Bucs trade him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change is needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do something.

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

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

So how are practices going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 03, 2013

Some Dolphins Olinemen getting fired anyway

Richie Incognito showed his frustration Wednesday when he was asked about the sack pace the Dolphins are on. Yes, Miami is tied for the league lead in sacks allowed with 18 and there are various reasons for that.

But the offensive line is the primary culprit the Dolphins are currently on pace to give up a team-record 72 sacks this year and that is kinda freaking Incognito out.

"If we give up 72 sacks, everybody should be fired, the whole offensive line," Incognito said.

Yeah, I have news for you Richie: Significant parts of this offensive line are getting fired after this season anyway.

The truth is only two players on the Miami line -- center Mike Pouncey and left tackle Jonathan Martin -- are signed after this season so they're the only ones assured of returning next year. And only Pouncey can really be certain he'll be playing the same position in 2014 that he's playing now.

Everyone else?

Possibly playing another position.


Possibly playing for another team.


Possibly out of the league.

Think about it. Tyson Clabo, John Jerry and, yes, Incognito might indeed be fired (semantics) by the Dolphins after this season for differing reasons.

So let's take them individually starting with Incognito: He's playing very, very well. If you look at the replay of games it is clear Incognito is Miami's second best offensive lineman so far this season behind center Mike Pouncey. He has yielded two sacks, three hits on QB Ryan Tannehill and zero hurries. He is coming off his best run-blocking game of the season. And ProFootballFocus.com has him rated the No. 13 guard among 70 rated by the metrics site.

Incognito's issues, however, are that he is unsigned after this season, he is already 30 years old, he wants a raise, and high-priced but not elite guards are often easy to replace with cheaper players in the draft.

That is perhaps the reason the Dolphins have not offered Incognito a contract extension. The team will have other issues paying or adding players at positions of greater need -- right tackle, perhaps cornerback, perhaps safety, perhaps running back. Guards are rarely at the front of the line when they want more money as they get older.

So Incognito's Miami future is uncertain despite his very good play so far.

John Jerry's future is uncertain because he too is unsigned after this season and he's not nearly as good as Incognito. He has allowed two sacks, three hits on Tannehill and five hurries. Not great. And, believe it or not, Jerry's pass blocking is much better than his run blocking.

Consider that ProFootballFocus.com rates Jerry the No. 36 overall guard out of 70. Well, his run blocking rates 58th out of 70. Bad.

All you need to know about Jerry's run blocking was illustrated on Monday night's misbegotten third-and-one play call. It was a sweep. It required Jerry to block the nose tackle with a reach-block as he pulled left. Jerry didn't make the block. The nose tackle made the tackle for a 2-yard loss.

(By the way, on that play, the Dolphins put the momentum of the game in the hands of John Jerry and running back Daniel Thomas. No wonder offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he'll be haunted by that call).

Anyway, Jerry is unsigned after this season. At a time the New Orleans Saints are getting ready to pay tight end Jimmy Graham anywhere from $11-$13 million per season, the Dolphins will have no issues letting Jerry, who they drafted ahead of Graham in 2010, walk if he doesn't sign for very cheap.

So Jerry's Miami future is uncertain. I'd be shocked if he's a Dolphin in 2014.

Then there's Tyson Clabo. He's a tough guy. He's a savvy veteran. He knows his position very well. And he's not playing very well. Sorry.

Clabo this season has allowed four sacks (an average of one per game), three hits on Tannehill, and 11 hurries. He is individually on pace to give up 16 sacks. By himself.

Consider that in 2011, Marc Colombo was considered a turnstile to the quarterback and he gave up nine sacks for the season and you have perspective on how bad Clabo's pass protection is so far.

And the kicker is that, according to ProFootballFocus.com, Clabo's grade on run-blocking is worse than his pass-blocking. Clabo is rated the No. 63 out of 72 tackles in the NFL by the site. That puts him behind Eric Winston (No. 57) and Bryant McKinnie (61) who the Dolphins considered signing this spring.

Indeed, Clabo is behind Jeremy Trueblood, whom the Falcons signed as something of an afterthought backup in September when they needed depth. Trueblood was thrust into a starting role by injuries and is now rated No. 40 overall among tackles.

Only four right tackles -- Justin Pugh, Lane Johnson, Derek Newton and Jordan Mills -- are rated lower than Clabo.

Clabo is on a one-year contract. Unless he completely turns it around in the next dozen games, he will not be back in 2014.

As for the two men who definitely won't be fired after 2013 -- Pouncey and Martin -- their Miami future is brighter.

Pouncey, a former first round pick, has allowed one sack this year. He's had a plus-grade in three out of four games and three games in a row. ProFootballFocus.com rates him the No. 6 center among 33 players at the position.

He's good.

Martin has had some issues in that he's given up four sacks, a QB hit and eight hurries. He's not exactly dominant with his run-blocking, either. Yet ProFootballFocus rates him a respectable No. 38 among the 72 tackles. And then there's this:

Martin's young (24), he's locked up on the contract front, and he's cheap ($1.08M against the cap this year and $1.3M on the cap next year). He can play left tackle and if the Dolphins upgrade at left tackle, he can move to right tackle. He is staying around in some manner.

Unlike some of his offensive line mates, Martin is not getting fired after this season.



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/03/3664905/linebacker-austin-spitler-returns.html#storylink=cpy

October 02, 2013

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

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

It is something Wallace did often with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A look ahead and PFF look back at Saints game

This is a short week for the Dolphins and this blog so let's combine a look ahead with a look back, shall we?

Looking ahead to the Ravens, the Dolphins are practicing today. Well, most of the Dolphins are practicing today.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson is not practicing. Indeed, he's not even rehabbing his groin injury on the sideline. He comes out for the stretching portion of practice and leaves when the practice or rehab work begins.

Not good.

Linebacker Jason Trusnik and defensive back Don Jones -- two special teams stalwarts -- are not practicing but working with trainers off to the side. With Trusnik's injury, now you understand why the team signed Austin Spitler today.

Defensive end Cameron Wake is working. He was working at his usual position with starters during the open portion of practice. So that suggests he'll be available against the Ravens barring a setback.

Now a bit of a look in the rear-view mirror for the final time this year. Here's ProFootballFocus.com's study of the Dolphins loss to New Orleans:


WR Brandon Gibson got his highest grade (+2.4) this season and played the most snaps (49) he has seen in 2013.

WR Mike Wallace had his lowest graded performance (-3.3) since his very first game as a pro in 2009.

RT Tyson Clabo (-2.5) had another poor performance, allowing 4 hurries, 2 hits and a sack.

Tight ends Dion Sims (7 snaps) and Michael Egnew (6 snaps) didn’t see much playing time, with the Dolphins employing their 11 personnel for much of the game.

The Saints were able to generate pressure without blitzing. Against the blitz, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 3-for-3 for 78 yards, including his 50-yard checkdown to Marcus Thigpen.

All four sacks of Ryan Tannehill came when the Saints did not blitz. That does not speak well of the Miami protection.

The Dolphins gained 75 yards on 9 designed rushes to the left side, and just 18 yards on 7 carries up the middle and to the right.

Brandon Gibson and Charles Clay caught at least one pass against five different defenders.

The Dolphins’ receivers had 150 yards after the catch on 22 receptions.


OLB Philip Wheeler had another poor game, but did not miss any tackles. He missed six tackles last week. Wheeler allowed all seven targets against him to be completed. They came against Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston, and Darren Sproles, who had two.

Dion Jordan played 23 snaps as a nickel defensive end. He rushed the passer 17 times and dropped into coverage twice.

DT Marvin Austin played 18 snaps in his Dolphins debut, showing well against the run (+1.3).

CB Jamar Taylor was forced into action due to injuries and saw 29 snaps, primarily at right cornerback for Nolan Carroll. He was beaten for a TD and three first downs.

Taylor was picked on by Drew Brees, giving up Jimmy Graham’s 27-yard touchdown, and two Colston catches for a total of 60 yards.

October 01, 2013

Sherman: No change in RB opportunities

Football coaches know a lot about football.

Being a sportswriter, I know a lot about verbs.

So I cannot pretend to tell Dolphins coaches about football just as I imagine they cannot tell me about verbs, even though Joe Philbin has a Master's degree and Mike Sherman taught English once upon a time.

But this I know:

Lamar Miller is running the football better than Daniel Thomas. When Miller is in the game, the Dolphins' offense has put together a better string of running plays this year. When Daniel Thomas has been in games, good things don't happen nearly as often.

The proof is on the tape and in the statistics. Miller is gaining 4.6 yards per carry. Thomas is gaining 2.8 yards per carry. Miller has a long run of 49 yards this season. The long run of the season for Thomas was 12 yards.

So doesn't Sherman get that Miller is clearly better and deserves a greater majority of the careers while Thomas deserves more time as an observer?

“No, I don’t get that," Sherman said Tuesday. "[Miller] had some opportunities in the game, and he made the most of those opportunities but we’ll continue with the way we’ve been so far until someone really steps forward and makes that known to us."

Honestly? I'm LOLing right now.


Joe Philbin address issues that are not sustainable

Joe Philbin met with his players today and he had an agenda about issues that need to be addressed, "starting immediately," in his words.

The first thing he told the team was that turnovers have to stop. The Dolphins had four against New Orleans on Monday night. They lost the turnover battle. They got blown out.

Philbin told the players Miami is the only team at the quarter pole of this NFLseason that has a negative turnover margin (minus-1) and a winning record. That is not sustainable.

"That's something we have to get corrected," Philbin said. "I reminded them the last time the Dolphins won the division (2008) they had a plus-17 turnover margin for the season. That's something we need to start headed toward."

Philbin said he talked about the team's sack differential. The Dolphins have allowed the most sacks in the NFL (18) and that is tied with winless Jacksonville. The defense has sacked the opposing quarterback 11 times, which is tied for 14th in the NFL.

"These are not sustainable things," Philbin said. "We're 3-1 at the present time but these things are not going to lead to continued consistent success ... It's not going to fly the next quarter or the quarter after that and the quarter after that."

Philbin said he wants the team to play better at the beginning of games on defense -- Miami's given up points on the opening drive the past two games. And he wants better play at the beginning of the second half on offense. The Dolphins went three-and-out against the Saints Monday night.

This is important because Philbin likes to defer if he wins the coin toss. But giving up points immediately and not converting any points to start the second half defeats the point of deferring.

Overall, at the quarter mark Philbin says the Dolphins are "not unlike a lot of other teams in the National Football League in that we don't have a big margin for error."

"I think it showed up last night," he said. "When we're playing a good team, we have to play better. We have a lot of things we have to work on. That's common place for four games into a season."

As an aside, the Dolphins today waived fullback Tyler Clutts and safety Kelcie McCray.

Saints beat Dolphins (who are not elite)

NEW ORLEANS -- It's only one loss. No big deal. You didn't expect the Dolphins to go undefeated, did you?

Indeed, I believe the Dolphins are still a good team. But they are not elite for reasons I detail in my column in The Herald.

That doesn't make this 38-17 loss any less painful.

"We're not happy," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is pictured getting sacked in the Joe Rimkus photo. "You don't want to perform like that in any situation. So we're not happy with ourselves. But there are things we can correct. and at the end of the day we have a big game coming up in six days. We have to learn from our mistakes in this game and look forward to next week and beat Baltimore."Tannehill sack

Learning from mistakes is important. Learning what your team does very well and doesn't do very well also is important.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton, for whatever reason, understood that Darren Sproles was a matchup nightmare for the Dolphins and no matter what Miami did Sproles made plays. He caught seven passes for 114 yards including a 48-yard catch on a double move that fooled safety Reshad Jones.

"We tried variety of different coverages," Philbin said. "We tried zone, we tried man. We tried pressures. Sproles is very good. We knew he was a good going into the game and we tried different combinations but he was very effective. No question."

The Dolphins, particularly on offense, are still trying to figure out their personnel. They tried Marcus Thigpen in the backfield throughout training camp and finally unveiled it Monday night. It worked as Thigpen caught a 50-yard pass out of the backfield.

But the Dolphins tried this only a couple of times. Not nearly enough to make a difference.

Meanwhile, the team apparently still is convinced Daniel Thomas is a good option in place of Lamar Miller. Think about it:

The Saints scored on their first series but the Dolphins seemed to respond immediately. Lamar Miller rushed five times for 33 yards and, mixed with a couple of Ryan Tannehill completions and a keeper on the read-option, Miami was at the New Orleans 9 yard line.

And then on third and an inch that is where the coaching staff decides it's a good time to bring in Daniel Thomas. And they think a wide pitch three yards deep is the play to run.

Yeah, the play lost two yards.

"It's a play we practiced all week," Philbin said. "We told the players going into the game we like it. It was a variation off a similar play we'd had success with and we didn't execute it as well. But I knew we were going to call it. We practiced it. We were prepared. They made a better play."

Quarterback sneak. Just sayin'.

Also, can I officially request the Dolphins use Lamar Miller on first and second down and Thigpen on third down? And leave Thomas and his 2.8 yards per carry this season on the bench? Please? Miller rushed 11 times for 62 yards, which is a 5.6 yards per carry average.

The Dolphins defense, by the way, is very good against the run. The return of Paul Soliai -- who told me he comes out of this game without re-injurying his knee -- was key and that's perhaps one reason the Saints averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on 244 attempts. They're like a team version of Daniel Thomas.

But Miami's pass defense was atrocious.

Drew Brees threw for 413 yards. He threw four TD passes. His passer rating was 144.5.

And after a week when the Dolphins focused on stopping Jimmy Graham and prepared to stop Jimmy Graham, there was Jimmy Graham dunking the football over the crossbar -- twice.

"We have to do better on defense," Philbin said. "We don't want Jimmy Graham running down the middle of the field wide open."

Yeah, he did that on a 43-yard TD. The Saints ran a sluggo-seam to get Graham open. New Orleans had a receiver on the other side of the formation run a slant and go which drew the safety in that direction. And then Graham just ran past Chris Clemons down the seam. Easy.

(Graham caught the other TD surrounded by three, count 'em, three defenders. Kid's amazing.) 

Miami's deep threat, meanwhile, didn't show much in his hometown. He caught three passes for 24 yards. That's an 8-yard average. He dropped two passes, including a deep shot that might have been a TD.

We were executing our offense but you have to hold on to the ball.

"He made a good play on the ball," Wallace said of the DB on the play. "I don't think he tipped it. I feel like I should have made a play on the ball."

Everyone agreed on this: The Dolphins cannot win a game in which Tannehill throws three interceptions and fumbles the ball away once.

"I feel like we made plays but at the same time we killed ourselves at times," Wallace said. "We have to finish drives and not give up turnovers. We have to make the plays when they count. We can't turn the ball over in scoring territory, especially against a good football team like this, because they're going to capitalize when we make mistakes like that."