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33 posts from May 2015

May 29, 2015

Dolphins need to consider every upgrade option

If you ask Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey the question, he'll give you the same answer every time.

The question:

Are you looking at (fill in available player's name here) to see if he can become part of the Dolphins?

The answer:

Something akin to "We're always searching for opportunities to add players that will help us improve as a team."

And so with guard Chris Chester available after he was cut by the Washington Redskins two days ago, I am going to assume the Dolphins personnel department has already studied his tape and the proper people have called his agent to find out where the player's mind is at.

(Where his mind is at can better be translated to what's his asking price, is he willing to play for you, what kind of condition and health is he in?)

So why is castoff guard Chris Chester a thing? Well, you read what I wrote Thursday. You know the Dolphins' guard situation is uncertain with hasn't-performed-well Dallas Thomas at left guard and unknown quantity Billy Turner at right guard.

Chester, by most accounts suited to the zone blocking scheme which the Dolphins run, is a right guard. He is a bridge kind of player to get you to maybe next year when you address the guard situation (again) in the draft.

But he is a solid and known quantity.

He's a former second-round pick. He started 16 games for the Redskins last year. He yielded five sacks, three quarterback hits and 16 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He was the 33rd rated guard in the NFL, per the analytics website. And you know what that made Chester?

Better than anyone who played guard for Miami a year ago.

Better than Mike Pouncey.

Better than Dallas Thomas.

Better than Daryn Colledge.

Better is another way to say upgrade. Isn't that what the Dolphins are trying to do here? Maybe getting Chester lets Miami move Turner over to left guard where he can compete with Thomas and rookie Jamil Douglas and let the best uncertainty win.

By the way, I am not saying the Dolphins should sign Chris Chester. But I believe they should be seriously considering the idea.

That's where we are in the offseason now. It is hole-filling time. The guys who will become available have issues of one stripe or another. They've all been discarded in one place or another.

No Pro Bowl guys are available today.

But upgrades might be out there. Study them. Seriously.

[Update: Adam Caplan of ESPN reports Chester has already set up visits with Atlanta and Philadelphia. Looks like the Dolphins love their guards].

Speaking of studying and monitoring,  situations that bear monitoring are that of Evan Mathis and Zane Beadles. Both are, you guessed it, guards.

Mathis isn't showing up for work at OTAs in Philadelphia because he wants a new contract. That's a tough situation because the Dolphins cannot pay what Mathis is making now, much less what he wants to make if he's cut. But his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is local so perhaps if Mathis is cut, the Dolphins could be interested.

Beadles, who signed for a huge $6 million per year deal with Jacksonville last offseason, is going to be in a training camp battle for his starting job. If he loses that battle, there is a possibility the Jaguars will try to trade Beadles (not an option for Miami because the contract moves, too) or cut him.

Neither Mathis nor Beadles are great. But you know what they are based on their recent history?

Upgrades for Miami.

May 28, 2015

The delicate inability to tell the truth about a player

It has to be a tough moment when an NFL coach or personnel man has to defend that which cannot be defended. And yet that happens all around the league when teams are asked about players who are obvious weak links on their starting units.

It has happened to the Miami Dolphins.

A lot.

It's Tony Sparano defending Chad Henne in 2011 when he knew after 2010 Henne wasn't an NFL starting QB.

It's Nick Saban defending Jason Allen, telling me in 2006 when it was obvious Allen was overmatched, that "Hey, Troy Polamalu wasn't great right away, either."

It's Cam Cameron insisting Trent Green didn't come to the team with concussion issues during 2007's training camp.

The sad truth is when an imperfect set of circumstances leaves a team with an imperfect solution at a position of need, coaches and personnel men feel the need to defend that player best they can so as to not tear down what tiny possibility that player has of performing.

I get it, it's a tough spot to be in.

And in that light I present to you today Joe Philbin and his thoughts on Dallas Thomas:

"I think when you really look closely, we've broken down how he plays at guard, how he plays at tackle," Philbin told me this week. "How many sacks at guard? How many sacks at tackle? He had some really good games, too. I think some guys they say, 'Oh but the Baltimore game, oh ah.' Well, we went out to Denver and he blocked a pretty good pass rusher all day and did pretty well. Consistency is one of the things we've been talking to him about, sure, but it's a big year for him."

Look, Philbin is a former offensive line coach. He is an expert on the subject. And there is nothing that convinces me that looking at Thomas at guard has any expert convinced this player will be anything short of a weak link at left guard for the Dolphins in 2015.

Put it this way: Monday was the first OTA session of the offseason with offensive players facing defensive players and vice versa. There were no pads. It was not a contact practice. And yet I saw Thomas crumble in a heap on a run play that got blown up by Earl Mitchell and Olivier Vernon as if he was a junior varsity kid competing in the NFL.

But then again, my agenda is not to mask the truth in the desperate hope that hiding it will keep a player's confidence from being wrecked.

My approach is to expose that truth so that, perhaps, the Dolphins do not settle into a false sense of security that this will somehow be alright. It will not be alright. It has not been alright. It will not be alright unless Thomas is suddenly a completely different dude between now and the start of July's training camp. 

Another difference between what the Dolphins see and what I see: They see ability, potential. They are looking to see, as reader Andrew Manera pointed out, if Thomas has talent. I look at performance. I'm looking for results. They're looking at the possibility for results.

Dallas Thomas is a worthy backup. That is where he offers value. He should be kept behind glass which should be broken only in case of emergency -- like when your better starting left guard tweaks an ankle. He is not a 16-game starter.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, you're just a journalist and not a very good one at that. You don't know football. You weren't even born in this country. Go cover futbol).

Thank you, gallery. Nice to see you still chime in every so often. I remind that when the Dolphins were saying Shelley Smith was an ascending offensive line prospect last year, I was telling you he was a journeyman at best and not the answer. I remind you when the Dolphins were saying Nate Garner could be a backup left tackle, I was saying, sorry, but no. When the Dolphins were saying Cortland Finnegan could be a good two-year bridge starting cornerback, I was telling you he was not a two-year answer or even a one-year answer. Daniel Thomas? I was saying let him go in 2013. Yeah, I miss it at times. Everyone does, right?

But we've seen two years of Dallas Thomas. I saw that knocked-on-his-rump moment in a non-contact practice.



As to that study Philbin is referencing: Thomas played right tackle in six games last season. Forget those. His days as a tackle are over. If he's playing tackle at any point in 2015, something went horribly awry.

He played guard in six other games in 2014. Those are the performances that matter because those are the ones the Dolphins apparently studied to see if they could get by (for now) with Thomas as the presumptive starter.

In those six games at guard (three at LG and three at RG) Thomas yielded no sacks, two quarterback hits, and 12 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He had a negative overall grade in five of the six games and the one in which he didn't have a negative grade was one he did not start but was used in a shuttle system with also-not-good-enough Shelley Smith.

According to PFF, Thomas was a better guard than tackle. And that is clear to anyone who has seen him play. He's better suited to play guard than tackle. But he nonetheless did not perform well as a guard. He is not a starter.

The Dolphins, of course, cannot say that now.

May 27, 2015

Dolphins talent level perhaps highest since Philbin arrived

On Tuesday I asked Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill if the team's talent around him, obviously offensive talent, is the best he's seen since he joined the team in 2012.

"I think especially in our skill positions, guys I’m throwing the ball to, guys are natural pass catchers,” Tannehill answered. “They catch the ball with their hands and are athletic. It is definitely the most athletic group we’ve had.”

And I make the point in my column today that this is arguably the most talented team the Dolphins have had since Joe Philbin became coach.

Philbin, however, isn't ready to make that pronouncement. He's got other things on his mind.

"It's hard to tell yet," he told me. "The challenge for me in the OTA is to make sure you don't have too many pile ups, you don't have bang ups, you don't have guys playing through one another to get to the ball. I'm not looking at a lot of playmaking the first day. I'm trying to get the practice organized right so coach Philbin doesn't get fined and we lose a week of OTAs. But seriously, that takes up time."

But coach, back to the talent thing, you have six, maybe seven legitimate Pro Bowl candidates -- most of whom have already made at least one Pro Bowl.

Coach wasn't bending. So I noted that although the Dolphins seem loaded in some areas, they also seem top heavy. That is to say, they've got areas where the questions outnumber the known quantities.

Linebacker is one such area. And, like it or not, this team lacks depth everywhere except perhaps at wide receiver. (DeVante Parker is headed toward being the best rookie receiver this team has had in a long, long time, but that's a blog for another day).

This team needs youngsters to not only provide depth but become starters despite opening the season as little or unproven commodities.

Philbin thinks that is possible.

"It's early but guys guys like the Matt Hazels, the Walt Aikens, the Billy Turners, Damien Williams, I'm probably forgetting some guys. Chris McCain," Philbin said. "They look like they're moving better. They're understanding things better. We have to give them more opportunities to compete against one another. That group of guys -- the Jamar Taylors, the Will Davises -- the young guys who have contributed but haven't played a significant role to this point in time, it's important they step up without a doubt."

May 26, 2015

First OTA practice in books: What I saw

The Miami Dolphins first OTA practice was in the books early Tuesday afternoon.

This is what I saw:

DeVante Parker is a beast. He is clearly a mismatch problem for smallish cornerbacks and that was evident by his treatment of Brent Grimes this day.

Parker beat Grimes again, and again, and again. Each time, the Pro Bowl cornerback had good coverage of Parker. But 6-3 versus 5-10 is simply not a fair match and Parker made that point on in cutting routes, slants and posts.

On one play, Grimes was flagged for pass intereference. He was being as physical as the NFL allows -- moreso. And he rode Parker. And Parker caught the football anyway.

"Watching (Parker) out here is like Jarvis Landry last year," said former Dolphins player and long time analyst Kim Bokamper. "You can tell right away he's a player. Except he's 6-3 and Jarvis isn't."

Based on what I saw today, it is fair to say that DeVante Parker may seem covered but he is not.

This was a good day for Miami receivers against the DBs.

The starters in the three receiver set are Jarvis Landry, Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Parker worked into the starting group and was the completion of the group on the four-receiver set.

Landry made a couple of one-handed catches during drills.

The one defensive back that stood out was Reshad Jones. He is seemingly ready to pick up where he left off last season. He made several pass breakups in the deep secondary even though there is no contact allowed in these drills.

LaRon Byrd made a couple of nice catches and coach Joe Philbin said he saw good things from Matt Hazel.

One thing of note: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill tried one deep pass. Incomplete


Every player on the roster was at camp today. Yes, that included Ndamukong Suh, who practiced.

Branden Albert (knee) and Don Jones (shoulder) did not practice. Louis Delmas  (knee) and Will Davis (ACL) were on the field but seemed a little limited in their reps.


Dallas Thomas worked in as the starting left guard. Billy Turner worked in as the starting RG. Chris McCain worked in as a starting OLB. The starting CB opposite Brent Grimes was Jamar Taylor, who actually seemed to have a better day than Grimes.


The team is working Landry, Kenny Stills, receiver Christion Jones and RB LaMichael James at punt return.

Stills dropped one.


This is a non-contact practice. But Dallas Thomas struggled on one pass blocking play, giving up a hurry, and then collapsed to the ground on a run play only a couple of repetititions later.

The team gave rookie Jamil Dougleas a couple of first-team reps but most of them went to Thomas at LG and Bill Turner at RG.


Ndamukong Suh had some sort of issue with jumping offside. He did it twice. He had a history of doing it in Detroit. This bears monitoring.  

Bill Lazor on Ryan Tannehill: 'Everything better'

The Miami Dolphins passing, uh, OTA practice just concluded.

And you must know that this is indeed a passing intense two hours because there is no real contact work and players are not in pads. So as it is all about passing let me share some thoughts in the next couple of posts. 

I asked offensive coordinator Bill Lazor what a fair expectation for quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the offense would be:

"That's a good question," he said. "I think everything should be better. Everything should be clearer. I'm very happy with how his offseason went and the time we got to spend with him. Ryan is an extremely hard worker. He's a very intelligent guy. And he wants to do it right. I don't know that you can script a better formula for a guy to be successful. That's how he's approached it. And I'm really proud of how far he's gone in the offseason. And I think we were all waiting for this time of year where you have a defense to throw against to try to put yourself to the test and that's what he's doing."

Tannehill last season threw 27 TDs. He had 12 INTs. His QB rating was 92.8 and he threw for over 4,000 yards.

Everything better would be outstanding.

May 22, 2015

Interactive session: Offer Dolphins' Top 50 memorable moments

The Miami Dolphins are celebrating their 50th season in 2015.

And I am celebrating right along with them.


As part of my personal pom-pom garnished celebration I will be compiling the franchise's Top 50 most memorable moments and publishing them in The Miami Herald.

But being as that this is an interactive space, I've decided to let you do some of my work let you participate and take your suggestions in the comments section as to what you believe to be the top four or five greatest moments in Dolphins history.

For our purposes a game can be a memorable moment. Who would doubt that Monday Night beating of the previously unbeaten Chicago Bears in 1985 wasn't a great moment?

For our purposes a moment can be a memorable moment. That moment when Joe Robbie hired Don Shula? That moment when Shula drafted Dan Marino? Great moments, to be sure.

A season is not a memorable moment. (Hey, it's my deal so I can make the rules). So the perfect season does not qualify as a great moment. But winning Super Bowl VII to culminate a perfect season can be a great moment.

See how it works?

By the way, bad moments are allowed, too. Yes, that 62-7 beating at the hands of Jacksonville? Remember that?

So offer your thoughts. If someone is already sharing the moment you thinking of, agree with them and offer another great moment. There should be plenty of them.

Yes, folks, this is in part an exercise of nostalgia.

There's nothing wrong with that. It should be fun. When I compile the Top 50 I will obviously share with you to see what you think.

May 21, 2015

Miami Dolphins have settled family business this offseason

Think of this Miami Dolphins offseason as a set of scenes out of The Godfather.

(Work with me).

You know the part where Michael Corleone tells Carlo, that wife-beating rat, that "today I settled all family business?" Yeah, well, that's the Dolphins this offseason.

The Dolphins have been knocking off to-do items from their list like Corleone hitmen knocked off family enemies at the end of the movie.

No, the Dolphins didn't kill Tattaglia, but they signed Ndamukong Suh to the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history. They obviously made Suh an offer he could not refuse.

The Dolphins didn't shoot Moe Greene in the eye, but they got a contract extension with center Mike Pouncey.

The Dolphins didn't gun down Barzini, but they got a contract extension with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins didn't knock off Stracci, Cuneo, Tessio and finally Carlo ... but they have already signed DeVante Parker, Jordan Phillips, Jay Ajayi and every other 2015 draft pick -- an unprecedented milestone in that every rookie was signed before May's rookie minicamp.

The Dolphins have settled all family business like the dickens.

And while I grant you that sometimes I am critical of the team for being, well, mediocre at best lately, I have to give credit where it is due as well.

And it is due to the front office.

EVP football operations Mike Tannenbaum, GM Dennis Hickey, EVP football administration Dawn Aponte, and director of football administration Ryan Herman have lit up phone lines and agent ears the past 8-10 weeks and the cumulative accomplishment speaks for itself.

There is nothing left undone at this point that I can see.

Obviously, I'm leaving out the total whacking of half a dozen players (for cap and other reasons) and the trade of a couple more players (for cap and other reasons). And I'm not going to trifle that an extension for Olivier Vernon looms.

I am going to note the way the Dolphins are approaching contract talks seems different, according to agents I speak with. The team doesn't seem to get caught up in the weeds as much. There has been less antagonism in negotiations.

(The Charles Clay dealings notwithstanding).

Agents don't hate dealing with the Dolphins now, best I can tell, and that wasn't universally the case last year, or the year before, or the year before that.

Tannenbaum obviously has stamped the approach to negotiations and contracts with a different style. It is working.

No, this says nothing about the decisions that go into moving forward into these negotiations. That's not the point. Whether Ryan Tannehill deserved a contract extension now or not is not the issue. The point is when the Dolphins have this offseason decided they want to make something happen, well, it has happened.

They have settled family business.

May 20, 2015

Suh missing offseason program: Bad optics, won't affect play

I was a guest on the ProFootballTalk.com radio show Tuesday and aside from spending time with my buddy Mike Florio discussing Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Tannehill's new contract, Ryan Tannehill's flaws, and Ryan Tannehill's future, there were a couple of moments when other things Miami Dolphins came up.

And chief among those was the fact Ndamukong Suh -- still the highest-paid player on the Dolphins despite Tannehill's new deal -- has decided to skip significant portions of the team's offseason training program after initially showing up in Davie, Florida not long after signing his new $114 million contract.

(Yes, Suh participated early on but has recently skipped the voluntary work with teammates ostensibly in favor of his own regimen, which was his habit in Detroit as well).

And so let me share the thoughts I shared with Florio and expand on those based on team people I spoke with Tuesday:

First, it is indeed poor optics that the player who just signed the team's richest contract is not sweating and grinding and working with his teammates on a regular basis. Cameron Wake is there. Tannehill is there. Mike Pouncey is there. Brent Grimes is there. Suh is often not there. 

It actually looks worse that Suh initially showed up and then stopped attending because that feels like he is motivated by the show of it rather than the actual work of it. It was as if Suh was appeasing folks other than himself for a little bit before eventually doing what is truly his intent. It's kind of like when you were forced to visit a distant relative when you really didn't want to be there just because your parents told you showing your face was the right thing to do.

So there's that.

Secondly, not showing up regularly to the program is not wrong. It is, after all, voluntary. But neither does staying away make Suh a team leader at this time. Look, he's new, he's by many accounts aloof. And now he's not necessarily around at a time coaches want players bonding.

Thirdly, staying away from the program is poor leadership as defined by Suh himself. At his introductory presser, Suh acknowledged he wants his teammates doing as he does. It is about setting a good example for others to follow, he said.

"I’ve always been a person to lead by example," he said. "As I’ve grown and learned and taken many steps in my NFL playing career and as a person, personally, I understand that I have to speak up and I will do that. But at the same time, you do have to show people the right way to do things and that’s what I’m most excited about."

Well, the example Suh is setting now is that you can stay home or be elsewhere and miss the offseason program and it is fine as long as you show up in shape and ready to play -- which has always been his history in Detroit after missing that offseason program.

Fourthly, the point cannot be stressed enough that this is not really a defining performance issue. Suh has always been in shape. He has always been ready, willing and capable of taking extended snaps in games. This is not about him avoiding being sloppy fat. Or out of breath in the fourth quarter. It isn't that. Never was in Detroit, either.

So what do the Dolphins think about this?

I suppose you can say they are resigned to accept it. I spoke and texted with multiple club people Tuesday. None of them think it will be a huge problem come September or even at the opening of training camp in July. Indeed, Suh is expected at the mandatory minicamp next month, no problem.

But what is always said in these exchanges is "we wish he was here" or a "it would be better if he was here."

Suh has decided otherwise. He has, one supposes, other priorities and ways of doing things.

Will that affect his play in 2015? No, based on his past history. The man is a great talent. He is a great player. He is self-motivated. And he is, in many respects, the best at what he does. Missing significant portions of offseason training is not likely to change that.

But is it optimal? Is the team totally thrilled about this? Does it bond Suh to teammates now? Does it give him a chance to claim a leadership mantle early on in his time with the team?


May 19, 2015

Agent's view: How the Tannehill deal happened

Ryan Tannehill brought his parents -- Tim and Cheryl Tannehill -- to his press conference to celebrate and talk about his new contract extension with the Dolphins. He also brought his agent Pat Dye.

And afterward, Dye shared his thoughts of how the deal between his client and the Dolphins got done. (Yeah, I'm sure the Dolphins will not be thrilled about this but they need to loosen up, frankly).

It all began when club owner Stephen Ross met Tannehill for dinner and announced, "You're our guy." The owner told Tannehill he wasn't going anywhere. The owner told Tannehill the Dolphins wanted him as the QB for a long time.


"We talked a little bit at the senior bowl, but had a lengthy meeting at the combine. They had recently, just before that, theyt told Ryan that they were committed to him, that he was the face of the franchise, the future of the franchise, and that they definitely wanted to have discussions about extending him. They wanted to manage expectations, with the timeline.

They said they might start talking after free agency and before the draft, which is kind of when it happened. They brought him in, had a face to face. They made an offer and initially we were not inclined to even respond.

"We had a conversation and they said you have to give us some idea of what you think is fair. We continued to make progress, but about three weeks ago, we hit a place where we just didn't think we were going to get there. Then Monday a week ago, they made a significant move, in terms of total dollars, yearly average, improving the guarantee some. That was the first time I or Ryan felt like there was hope that we might get something done.

"We went back to them, made some concessions on the dollars, guarantees. It was clear to them that we wanted to get something done. After that it was just moving some things around and some nuances. It's a contract that today looks great for him, but if he continues to ascend, I just told Dennis Hickey, we're going to be knocking on the door in three or four years and hopefully with a Lombardi Trophy to revisit it.

"Obviously, they are betting on the [improvement] with those kind of dollars. The yearly, new dollar average puts him in the top seven QBs in the league and the only one ahead of him that hasn't been to the Super Bowl is Matt Ryan, who was coming off the NFC championship game and had an enormous cap number. It's Flacco and Brees and Roethlisberger, they put him in pretty rarified air. I fully believe that we may end up regretting this deal one day. I think this guy has all the ingredients to be an elite player.

"He certaintly wouldn't want me to say this but there have been a lot of challenges since he's been here. You think back to his rookie year, he's third on the depth chart, David Garrard gets hurt, we're in a contract holdout, you have a rookie head coach, rookie offensive coordinator. So there's all that and then the second year he loses his left tackle, left guard and center. I'm not even going to comment on the rest of the offensive line.

"And then this past year some of the challenges from some of the perimeter people and you lose Branden Albert. We represent Ja'Wuan James and he filled in nicely. But it's not the same when you have Branden Albert on the left side and Ja'Wuan on the right side. So every year he's had challenges. And yet his arrow when you look at his QBR and completion percentage, he's made significant jumps each and every year and he's done it since college.

"The way we all measure these deals is like hitting fast forward. Let's pretend he's hitting free agency for 2017. How much money are they paying him over those next four years. So this deal adds 77 million new dollars for four new years. Some of that $77 million is actually going to be additional dollars over years One and Two. So he's actually going to make money in years One and Two than he otherwise would have made. But those $77 million over four new years, that yearly average is $19.25. Brees average $20. Flacco is $20-and-change. I think Aaron Rodgers is $22 million. And I'm comparing apples to apples. That's how teams and agents measure these deals. What's the new dollars over the new years?

"I think there definitely an element on betting on the come in this deal. You just made the guy the sixth highest paid quarterback on the new deal. And he's never been to the Pro Bowl. Hasn't had a winning season. Never been to the playoffs. But I think you see the ascension. You see the progress.

"This is his team and this deal validates that. I told Ryan as we were getting ready to do this, "You need to prepare yourself for waking up one day and reading Andrew Luck is getting $25 million. He's a talented guy who was the first pick of the draft for a reason and he's been to the AFC championship. But this team is willing to make you one of the highest paid quarterbacks now and I don't think you put that off."

Tannehill all about steady improvement

If one phrase can be used to describe Ryan Tannehill's time as a quarterback it is "steady improvement."

He improved in a multiple of areas in 2014. He set career highs in completion percentage (66.4 percent compared to 60.4 percent from the previous year), touchdowns (27 compared to 24 from the previous year) and passer rating (his 92.8 passer rating shattered his previous career high of 81.7 from the previous year).

And it should be noted the "previous year," or 2013, was better than his rookie year in 2012.

Tannehill's history for progress year-to-year goes back to his Texas A&M days when he performed better as a senior -- 29 TD passes and 15 INTs and 3,744 yards -- than he did his junior year when he wasn't even able to win the QB job outright the entire season.

Tannehill has been about steady improvement and that is good because now that he's the Miami Dolphins newly minted franchise quarterback, having signed an extension through the 2020 season on Monday, the name of the game for him has got to be progress.

No delays. No setbacks. And certainly no pratfalls of the variety we've seen from Robert Griffin III or Andy Dalton.

Understand, there comes a moment when a player reaches his ceiling. It is that critical mass moment when his abilities are at their height. His experience has reached a plateau that defends against surprise. His familiarity and comfort with offensive system and teammates matures -- making them his playbook and players.

When all of that harmonizes you have ... Tom Brady since 2006. Peyton Manning in his "Omaha, Omaha" heyday. Drew Brees after his third NFL season.

It is art when these men, at their very best, perform.

Tannehill is nowhere near those guys yet. But, thankfully, he is nowhere near his ceiling, either.

He has tons more room to grown. He has room for more steady improvement.

And the Dolphins, obviously recognizing this, paid Tannehill. The Dolphins, obviously betting this steady improvement continues, invested in a future where Tannehill is not just playing but performing.

So what do they see that can improve?

And why do they believe Tannehill will continue to take further steps toward orchestrating great quarterback play?

Firstly, the facts have something to do with it. Understand that Tannehill will be playing in Bill Lazor's offense for only his second year in 2015. The team, I am told, expects him not to think nearly as much about things but to feel the system. The team wants Tannehill thinking like Lazor. The team wants Tannehill knowing not only what his guys are supposed to do and going to do but how the defensive players are supposed to react and going to react. 

There really wasn't any time during 2014 when Tannehill reached that level. It is ahead of him. And with time it is attainable.

This is also ahead: The Dolphins have undergone a major reconstruction on offense to bring in players that better suit Tannehill's gifts and can help hide his flaws. The seam throws will now be more en vogue. The intermediate routes will be stressed. Yes, there will be deep throws as situations and the offensive line allow. But perhaps, just perhaps, the player Tannehill throws deep to in the future will have stayed with him after practice or worked with him during the offseason on those deep routes more than Mike Wallace ever agreed to do.

(Not blaming Wallace. It is the QB's job to get the ball to his open WR. No excuses. But extra work could have helped a bad situation and Wallace-Tannehill never really got locked in on that front).

I am also looking for greater leadership from Tannehill.

It is his team now.

When he arrived, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess and others were already well formed receivers. Tannehill wasn't going to be barking orders to those veterans. Wallace's arrival signaled a new dynamic because one guy was older and more accomplished and higher paid and the other guy was Tannehill.

That has all changed.

Now, Tannehill can tell DeVante Parker how he wants things and when and where and Parker must adjust his game to make that work regardless of the fact Parker was a first-round pick. Same with Kenny Stills. Same with Jarvis Landry. Greg Jennings, not a diva by reputation, will likely see the dynamics on offense and try to fit. If not, he'll be gone soon enough.

It is Tannehill's team. And that dynamic can help Tannehill assuming he takes firm grip of the reins as he started to at times last year.

I also want to see Tannehill start to make players around him better. That is the mark of greatness. Look, we've all seen players we believed gifted leave the Pittsburgh offense, or the Colts offense, or the Patriots offense and perform worse than they had previously.


We've also seen players go play with Brady, Manning, Aaron Rodgers and rise to a level they had not reached previously. And this isn't just about receivers.

Offensive linemen that seem pedestrian on other teams suddenly look very good playing in front of great quarterbacks because, well, the quarterbacks erase a lot of mistakes. Dan Marino did this better than anyone I've seen.

Tannehill has to do this to get better. He has to do this to be great.

And, yes, I know what some of you are doing now. You're murmuring that Tannehill will never be great. You think this despite the fact Tannehill is only 26. And, I grant you, that may turn out to be true.

But to dismiss the possibility as long as Tannehill continues steady improvement year after year is simply a poor bet.

[BLOG NOTE: The Dolphins will have a press conference for Tannehill to discuss his new contract at 3 p.m. Tuesday. I will attend and update this space at the time. For real-time updates follow me on twitter: @ArmandoSalguero]

May 18, 2015

Ryan Tannehill signs contract extension through 2020

Ryan Tannehill is the Miami Dolphins franchise quarterback, meaning the franchise is committed to having him as its quarterback.

The strongest evidence of that came this afternoon when the Dolphins signed Tannehill to a contract extension through the 2020 season.

Terms of the extension are not immediately available but Tannehill should make around $16-$19 million per season with the team. (That is an estimate, obviously).

[Update: Tannehill's extension is worth $96 million that includes $45 million in guaranteed money, per a league source.]

Interestingly, Tannehill was part of a fine quarterback class from the 2012 draft that included Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles. Tannehill is the first of the bunch to sign an extension.

“We are thrilled that we were able to sign Ryan to an extension,” said Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum. “He is an ascending talent, a team leader and checks all of the boxes you are looking for at the position."

“Signing Ryan to this deal is important to our franchise,” added Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey. “He is a proven quarterback in this league that combines a talented skillset with work ethic, passion, toughness, and a team first mentality. We are committed and believe in Ryan as our quarterback for the long-term and we are excited to be able to sign him to this extension.

Tannehill started all 48 games in his three-year career and has completed 1,029-of-1,662 passes for 11,252 yards, 63 touchdowns and 42 interceptions, for an 84.0 passer rating. Additionally, he has totaled 145 rushing attempts for 760 yards and four rushing touchdowns. 

In 2014, Tannehill started every game and completed 392-of-590 (66.4 percent) passes for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, for a 92.8 passer rating. He also added 56 rushes for 311 yards and one touchdown. His completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passer rating and rushing yards were all career highs.

Tannehill's 92.8 passer rating was the fifth-highest single-season figure in Dolphins history, his 392 completions set a franchise single-season record, his 66.4 completion percentage was the second-highest single-season completion percentage in team history, his 4,045 passing yards were the seventh-highest single-season total by a Dolphins player and most since 1994, and his 27 touchdown passes were the sixth-most in a season in Dolphins history and also the most since 1994.

Miami Dolphins lead NFL in dead money

Well, Miami Dolphins fans, you can shout, "We're No. 1" and be accurate.

As you know the Dolphins have used this offseason to remake their roster. The wide receiver room is different. The linebacker room is different. Defensive tackles came (Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillps) and went (Jared Odrick, Randy Starks).

But all those moves are not done in a vacuum. Many, such as the trades of Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe, and the cutting of Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Phillip Wheeler and others come with salary cap implications.

And those implications, which include the acceleration of prorated bonuses, are part of the Dolphins offseason story now.

That money stays on Miami's salary cap even when the players are gone. It is known as dead money.

And the Dolphins lead the NFL in dead money, according to Spotrac.com.

The Dolphins are carrying $25.3 million in dead money.

The New Orleans Saints are carrying $21.6 million in dead money.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are carrying $21.1 million.

The Baltimore Ravens are carrying $20.9 million.

The Kansas City Chiefs are carrying $19.9 million.

Notice only one of those teams was in the playoffs last season.

Dead money often accrues when teams go in a different direction. It is a penalty for reversing financial course following a bad decision. Dead money also often accrues when players signing big contracts do not live up to those and get essentially fired.

In Miami's case, both situations are true.

The Dolphins have been going in a different direction since Jeff Ireland was fired as general manager is 2014. And while some of the contracts this front office did failed -- Starks, Cortland Finnegan -- the big deals the Dolphins generally showed remorse on this offseason involved those done under Ireland. 

May 14, 2015

Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots reacted to a Wells report quite differently

Ted Wells issued an infamous report regarding the New England Patriots in 2015 and the reaction from that club and representatives of those affected by the report and the subsequent sanctions has been like that of a pugilist.

The Patriots are generally fighting back as much as they can.

Ted Wells issued an infamous report regarding the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and the reaction from that club and representatives of those affected by the report were like that of a red-faced child caught with hands in a cookie jar.

The Dolphins as an organization did not argue one iota against the report's findings. They accepted the entirety of the Wells report findings. 

Two NFL clubs. Two AFC East rivals. Both slammed by Ted Wells.

But reacting substantially different one from the other.

And today I wonder why?

Today I wonder which approach is better?

When the Miami Wells report came out, I heard grumblings from players, assistant coaches, agents, and others connected to the Dolphins that the report was heavy handed and tilted unfairly against them. That is portrayed the organization in a light that wasn't representative of what truly goes on within the locker room and organization.

So why didn't the Dolphins fight back?

Several sources told me Wednesday there was a faction in Davie that wanted to fight back against Wells' findings last year. That faction wanted to mount a public defense.

But, according to one source, the "New York non football' group didn't, which also shows a glaring difference between the Krafts (who are in the building everyday) and Steve [Ross] who is not in Davie more than once a month if that ... Plus the 'New York non football' group wanted the distraction from the NFL to go away rather than fight it so as to appease the league and allow for a better dialogue later in the year when going before the other owners asking for money for the stadium."

So the Patriots, not needing or caring about favoritism from other owners, are not exactly knuckling under. The Dolphins chose to let the matter die a quick death and grow relationships with other clubs.

And let there be no doubt that is the way the clubs handeled it (in Miami's case) and are handling it (in New England's case).

When the Wells report dropped on New England, owner Robert Kraft slammed the report.

"Throughout the process of this nearly four-month investigation, we have cooperated and patiently awaited its outcome. To say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship Game, would be a gross understatement. In addition, given our level of cooperation throughout the process, I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview. What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.

"While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me. Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile. We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league."

[Update: The team Thursday released a statement attack from its team counsel refuting parts of the Wells report. It begins, "The conclusions of the Wells Report are, at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context," and gets better from there. The full statement is here].

Following the NFL's four-game suspension against quarterback Tom Brady, Brady's agent, Don Yee, went after Wells on national television. Wells and the NFL got put on blast. The heat apparently got so high that the NFL made Wells available to selected media in a conference call this week in order to push back.

The point is Wells and the NFL were on their heels.

Brady will be appealing his suspension. He may take the league to court. And, indeed, there is a feeling Kraft is strongly considering a lawsuit against the NFL to get sanctions against the Patriots themselves -- namely two lost draft picks and a $1 million fine -- overturned.

The Dolphins?

This was the statement from Ross at the time:

“I now have had a chance to read the report and obviously, the language that was used and the behavior as described is deeply disturbing. Although the report commended Joe Philbin’s commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization, I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report. We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. It is important to me, important to coach Philbin and important to the entire Dolphins organization.

“I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again. We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports."

Zero pushback. Acceptance.

So the Patriots, not needing or caring about favoritism from other owners, are not exactly knuckling under. The Dolphins chose to let the matter die a quick death and grow relationships with other clubs.

That raises the next question...Which approach is better?

Look, the stain of having Ted Wells knock on your facility doors and run the organization through his investigative ringer doesn't quickly fade. The Dolphins have it. The Patriots have it.

The Dolphins tried to rid themselves of it as quickly as possible. They elected not to fight city hall. That apparently is not the Patriot way. That Patriot way has put Wells and the NFL on the defensive at times the past few days.

We shall see if fighting back gets any sanctions overturned.

But, ultimately, the stain remains.

May 13, 2015

Ryan Tannehill will be AFC East's best QB to start 2015

Counted among the fallout from the #Deflategate discipline that has dropped on the New England Patriots like an anvil pushed off the Prudential Tower roof is that pundits are now analyzing the effects on the AFC East for 2015.

With Tom Brady suspended four games, for now anyway, there is a question whether that opens the door for the Miami Dolphins or Buffalo Bills or New York Jets to win the division. And Tuesday on ESPN's NFL Live the pundits weighed in.

And Tuesday they made goofs of themselves.

The panelists were asked to pick the Patriots to win the division or pick the field.

Former Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark picked the Patriots. Cool. His opinion and he's entitled to it. But then he went off the rails.

"I do think the teams around [the Patriots] got better," Clark said. "But the thing they're going to have in common with the Patriots the first four games? They don't have any quarterbacks."

Clark said he's "still going with the New England Patriots. They're going to find a way to win." He also made the point the last time the Patriots were without Tom Brady, "they went 11-5 and got Matt Cassel paid."

"I'm 100 percent with you," former Colts center Jeff Saturday then chimed in.

Former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson went a different direction and took the field. And then he extolled the offseason moves made by the Jets.

And Saturday chimed in again, "I don't think it's going to be a cakewalk but you didn't throw a quarterback in that mix."

And when I got done banging my head against a keyboard over the total disrespect for the facts, I took to Twitter and offered some of those facts as I see them:

1. No one is saying Ryan Tannnehill has arrived as a premier or elite quarterback in the NFL. He clearly is not that. Yet.

2. But neither is he in the same class with Geno Smith. Or E.J. Manuel. Or anybody else vying for a starting job in Buffalo or New York such as Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jake Heaps or Matt Simms or Jeff Tuel. And Tannehill is better than presumed Brady replacement Jimmy Garrapolo as well.

The truth of the matter is if Tannehill remains healthy, when the Patriots and Dolphins open their season, for the first time since perhaps 2002, the Dolphins will have the superior starting quarterback under center in that opener. 

The truth is that at the start of the 2015, the Miami Dolphins will have the best starting quarterback in the division.

Anyone denying that is denying facts.

Cassel is probably the most accomplished of the guys vying for a QB job on those other teams and he is not as good as Tannehill right now.

Consider that Cassel has authored two good NFL seasons in his career. But his career has spanned 10 years. 

He's thrown for 15,727 yards in those 10 seasons. Tannehill has 11,252 in three seasons.

Cassel has thrown 96 TD passes and 70 interceptions in 10 seasons. Tannehill has 63 TDs and 42 interceptions in three seasons.

Cassel has a career 80.1 passer rating. Tannehill's career rating at 84 and he has improved this stat every season in the league, from 76 as a rookie, to 81.7 to 92.8 last season.

So how is it the ESPN experts look at Tannehill and Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel and see the same guys to be lumped into the same on-set guffaw session?

Amazing to me.

This is more amazing. Someone for unknown reasons sent my tweets to Miko Grimes, who happens to be Miami cornerback Brent Grimes's wife. She is very active on social media. She does some local radio work in South Florida. She's interesting.

But my defense of Tannehill didn't seem to impress her. Indeed, she wrote that person who sent her my tweet that I had forgotten a small detail about Tannehill ...


Grimes also suggested that the statistics I posted about Tannehill are not representative of who he really is. She referred the person to study "film" of Tannehill instead, which I suppose she thinks tells a different story.

<blockquoteclass="twitter-tweet" lang="en">

Stats <<< Film and u lost your argument at both! #BeatIt

— MikoGrimes (@iHeartMiko) May 12, 2015

And that's fair. Tape can offer a more complete view of the truth that stats and analytics miss.

But here's the thing: The Dolphins watch tape. More than Miko Grimes, I dare say. And they're all on board with Ryan Tannehill.

And I indeed did not post the Dolphins' 8-8 record a season ago. And I admit, 8-8 is not good enough. It is roundly mediocre and I've been as critical as anyone (more, actually) about the constant mediocrity (at best) around here.

But is all that on Tannehill?

The reason I didn't include Miami's record is football is a team game. And I was comparing individuals. Last season, Tannehill was closer to Joe Flacco than Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel or Matt Cassel or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

And yes, Tannehill is important as any quarterback is. But last I checked, he's not an entire team.

It is not all about him. If it was all about the QB, Aaron Rodgers would have been in the last couple of Super Bowls for the NFC and not Russell Wilson. If it was all about the QB, the Saints would have been in the playoffs. They weren't. If it was all about the QB, the Cardinals would not have been in the playoffs. They were.

Football is a team sport, informed sources are telling The Miami Herald.

Yes, the QB is the most important player. But he cannot do it all by himself and to suggest as much is thoughtless. It is lazy analysis.

Look, Tannehill's team went 8-8 but I thought it was the defense that gave up late, late fourth-quarter leads to Green Bay, and Detroit and Denver to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It was the defense that gave up 37 points to the Jets in the season-finale.

And 35 points to the Vikings the week before that.

And 41 points to the Patriots the week before that.

That's Tannehill's fault?

I know I'm starting to sound like a Tannehill fanboy. But anyone who knows my history, anyone who reads my work, who watches the games with a clear head and unbiased vision, knows I'm not holding a pom-pom with one hand and typing with the other. I know Ryan Tannehill is not elite yet. He has to find better pocket awareness. He has to speed up his decision-making. He has to improve his accuracy. His footwork could sometimes be better.

But he nonetheless checks a lot of boxes for what you want in an NFL quarterback.

Indeed, Tannehill's career arc is actually what gives Dolphins fans hope. Tannehill is pointed toward steady and undeniable improvement.

What these so-called experts and detractors are suggesting is that Tannehill is part of the problem. That he is just a guy (a JAG in Bill Parcells parlance). That Tannehill, who the Dolphins are committed to keeping as their starter for years and years based on a financial commitment, is the equivalent to journeyman Cassel or benched Manuel or unproductive Geno.

He is not that.

Why do I even have to make the case he's not? It's crazy.

May 12, 2015

Brady suspension helps division rivals, Bills get biggest benefit

You remember the 2002 NFL season?

You should because the Tom Brady four-game (for now) suspension raises the possibility of a similar type season in the AFC East and it definitely gives the Buffalo Bills something of an edge over its AFC East rivals.


Here's my thinking: The only game Brady is scheduled to miss within the division is against Buffalo. Even if Brady's suspension is cut in half on appeal, he would still miss the Week Two meeting at Buffalo.

Meanwhile, Brady will be off suspension and available -- barring injury or other unforeseen circumstance -- for both games against the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets.

That gives the Bills a direct advantage over the Patriots that neither the Dolphins nor the New York Jets will enjoy. I made that point on my twitter account (follow me) on Monday and got pushback from a couple of followers who made the point that a Patriots loss benefits every other team in the division regardless.

And this is true.

But that misses the point that in the NFL head-to-head victories in the division are a tiebreaker. And record within the division is a tiebreaker.  And in those two categories the Bills suddenly are facing a star quarterback one fewer time than either the Dolphins or the Jets. The benefit is clear. The benefit for them is obvious for any right-thinking person.

And if one is not convinced go back to that fateful 2002 season. The New York Jets finished the year 9-7. And the Patriots finished the year 9-7. And the Miami Dolphins finished the year 9-7.

But the Jets won the division over New England based on a better record in common games and over the Dolphins based on a better record within the division.

It stands to reason if the Dolphins and Bills split and Miami and New England split but the Bills sweep the Patriots, the Bills will have the upper hand (if all else is equal) in winning the division. Obviously one must throw the Jets into the mix as well but for our purposes we're talking about the teams that finished 1, 2, 3 within the division last season.

The point is the Brady suspension gives the Bills get a direct benefit neither Miami nor New York gets.

By the way, numberFire, which uses quantitive analysis to offer sports predictors says the Patriots' chances of winning the AFC East dropped from 45.09 percent to 41.44 percent based on a four-game suspension.

May 11, 2015

Where the Miami Dolphins upgraded, where they did not

So where are they now?

No, I'm not wondering where former Miami Dolphins players long ago off the roster have gone. I'm not wondering what old friends are doing, either. I'm wondering where are the Dolphins now that most (maybe 85-90 percent) of their talent acquisition this offseason is over.

Specifically, I'm wondering where they find themselves on their positions that everyone has been worried since the end of 2014.

The Dolphins, it must be said first, this offseason have improved in several categories.

Their interior defensive line is better, according to them, because they added Ndamukong Suh and drafted Jordan Phillips in the second round to replace the free agency loss-cutting of Jared Odrick and Randy Starks.

I told you recently that Miami's receiver corps was worse than last year's after a great amount of reconstruction until the team got DeVante Parker in the draft's first round. There was pushback on that comment from the fanboys. But the truth is without Parker, the receiver corps would consist of a player New Orleans traded for chemistry reasons (Kenny Stills), a player Green Bay let walk and Minnesota cut (Greg Jennings), a player who wants out (Rishard Matthews) and a good second-year slot receiver (Jarvis Landry).

That would not have been good enough to replace a receiver who caught 10 TDs last year and was a deep threat everywhere but Miami for reasons not wholly his doing (Mike Wallace), a former two-time 1,000-yard receiver who admittedly didn't fit Bill Lazor's offense (Brian Hartline) and a solid slot guy who happens to be one of the bigger targets out of the slot in the NFL (Brandon Gibson).

The addition of Parker -- a deep threat, a red zone threat, an outside the numbers threat, a BIG target with a great catch radius -- changes the dynamic of the receiver corps.

(End of explanation).

Anyway, the running back corps is better because, well, Daniel Thomas is gone and that is addition by subtraction, and the addition of rookie Jay Ajayi, who is 6-foot and 221 pounds, adds bulk and a reputation for no-nonsense tough running to the mix. Damien Williams might also be better in his second year than as a rookie, as many guys are.

The tight end position is not better. But it is, well, different. Losing Charles Clay hurts. A team doesn't just wave good-bye to a 50-70 catch guy that is a mismatch for linebackers and safeties and simply just shrug. There is a reason the Dolphins wanted to keep Clay, we must be fair in this assessment.

But the addition of Jordan Cameron is exciting. Cameron, unlike Clay, is a very good red zone target at 6-5 and 250. He is more a seam target than Clay was as well. And he's as fast, if not faster, than Clay. So while Clay was probably more trouble for defenders on crossing routes and outside the numbers, Cameron will add a valuable dimension if he's healthy. That might be a better fit for the skills QB Ryan Tannehill brings to the game.

The slot cornerback and safety spots may be better because I like Brice McCain in the slot better than anyone who played the position last year and that includes Jimmy Wilson, Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor or Will Davis. McCain is smallish at 5-9 but he's tough, he's not been a missed-tackle machine like some of those other guys, and he has experience and has been durable.

The return of Louis Delmas at strong safety -- he is on schedule for training camp -- will make the Dolphins better here than how they finished the season.

Now the, ahem, issues.

The offensive line is not better.

The linebacker corps is not better.

And the outside cornerback spot is a concern.

The OL: Well, this would be a totally different conversation if the Dolphins had been able to add a legit starting left guard. They didn't. They tried and came close to landing La'el Collins once they became convinced he wasn't involved in a Baton Rouge homicide. But the Cowboys got him instead so right now their starting guards are LG Dallas Thomas and RG Billy Turner.

Again, Turner has earned the right to compete for a job. He basically redshirted in 2014 so we'll see what he looks like in training camp. But is he going to be upgrade from Mike Pouncey last year? Hard to count on that.

The Dolphins say they like Thomas as their left guard. I do not believe them. They've tried -- albeit not hard enough -- to upgrade there but have failed to do so. Maybe a veteran bridge left guard drops out of the waiver wire or off the free agent list late in the offseason or during training camp like Samson Satele did at center last year. But unless that happens, Thomas will be taking first-team snaps the first training camp practice. That is not even an upgrade from Daryn Colledge.

The guard spots are not obvious upgrades at all from 2014.

Center is an upgrade with Pouncey going back to his traditional position. The tackle spots should be back to full strength and original plans if left tackle Branden Albert is ready to go for training camp (indications are he will be) and stays healthy and right tackle Ja'Wuan James goes back to RT with a more NFL-ready body that has improved this offseason.

So overall upgrade at offensive line? No. Not at this time.

Albert may or may not be the same guy, we do not know. The guard spots probably are not upgraded at all. The right tackle spot may be better based on growth or it may be what we got last year. The center spot will be upgraded.

Thomas continues to glow in neon as the weak link and I'm not talking weak link as in not a Pro Bowl player. I'm talking weak link as in Gerald McCoy beat you for two sacks and a tackle for loss on only five or six plays last preseason and you were out of the starting lineup the next day.


Brent Grimes is Brent Grimes, the Miami Herald has learned. He is not the concern at all now.

But as the NFL is a passing league and most teams need another starting outside cornerback, sometimes three, to play anywhere from 55-65 percent of their downs, the Dolphins have issues at the spot.

Finnegan, a reach in free agency last year, was the failure move I predicted it would be. He was out injured for 31 percent of the season. He got beat a good deal when healthy. His tackling was shoddy. He lost the Green Bay game for the Dolphins.

He was, however, a fine influence for youngsters Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. I will give him that. He took those guys under his wing (yes, cliché) and helped them learn to be pros.

We'll see the measure of that help this preseason and regular season because one of those guys is going to have to step up. Taylor will likely be a starter the first day of training camp. And he has the pedigree as a 2013 second round pick. He has flashed ability at times, particularly last season.

But his history is he still is very inexperienced. His history is he is often injured or unavailable. I've been told by multiple Dolphins sources the team is not fully comfortable with him as the starter but most NFL teams go to camp and even the regular season with question marks.

Taylor is one of those for Miami. Davis, who similarly has been hurt and struggled on the field when healthy since he was a third-round pick in 2013, is also a question mark.

So upgrade at cornerback? No.

How about linebacker?

Well, Jelani Jenkins was something of a find in 2014. Yes, it was by sheer happenstance as he was buried down the depth chart until all three starting linebackers in training camp came out of the season-opener injured. With Phillip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe and Koa Misi all either hurt or out for the year, Jenkins became a fixture out of necessity and played very, very well.

The Dolphins could use another lightning bolt of luck like that this year. Misi today remains the team's starting middle linebacker after the 2014 experiment of him at middle linebacker was something of failure. Let's face it, Misi missed most or all of six games. And in the games he played, he wasn't exactly John Offerdahl. He was ... acceptable.

I believe the Dolphins would feel more comfortable if they had a legitimate middle linebacker who is able to avoid the traffic (and possible injuries) that come at middle linebackers and move Misi back to his more natural position on the outside.

Is Kelvin Sheppard that guy?

The fact is the Dolphins more likely added competition at the other outside backer spot by signing Spencer Paysinger -- mostly a backup in his career -- than they did at middle linebacker. They also have youngsters Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain on the outside.

The Dolphins have multiple college high-tackle guys -- Mike Hull, Zac Vigil, Neville Hewitt, Jake Knott, Jeff Luc -- on the roster. But to expect one of these to become Zach Thomas or Bryan Cox or even Jelani Jenkins is at this point wishful thinking.

So LB upgrade? No.

May 09, 2015

Don Shula: 'We didn't deflate any balls'

The Miami Dolphins today announced their 50th season anniversary celebration and brought back legendary Hall of Fame coach Don Shula to the press conference. And in that press conference, Shula picked the occasion to take a swipe at the New England Patriots.

"It was always done with a lot of class," Shula said of the Miami franchise. "A lot of dignity. Always done the right way. We didn't deflate any balls."


Shula was clearly tweaking the Patriots who have been investigated the past five months for deflating footballs against NFL rules for the AFC championship game against Indianapolis.

A report by NFL investigator Ted Wells found it was "more probable than not" that the balls were improperly inflated by the team and "more probable than not" that quarterback Tom Brady knew about it. 

Following his off the cuff remark, Shula was asked if he believed the Patriots' Super Bowl victory over Seattle following the AFC title game win is tainted.

"I think I'm going to pass on that answer," he said.

Shula has a long history of standing for integrity and always has guarded that part of his reputation ferociously. He similarly has shown disdain for those he thinks do not stand for integrity.

During an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for a story celebrating his 85th birthday, Shula referred to New England coach Bill Belichick as "Belicheat."

Oh, yes, about the celebration:

The Dolphins are putting together a coffee table book, Fins at Fifty, that will include a copy of Dan Marino's rookie contract.

The Dolphins also unveiled their alternate jersey to be worn at the Monday Night Football game against the Giants. It is a throwback jersey from 1966.

Parker the missing final piece to a great WR corps?

I wrote about DeVante Parker in Saturday's Miami Herald and as part of that column I spoke with former first-round pick O.J. McDuffie who made the point Parker has to be a big-time player right away.

I made the point that without Parker, this year's wide receiver corps would not be as good as the 2014 wide receiver corps.

Think about it: Without Parker the receiver corps would be a player traded away by New Orleans, a player cut by Minnesota who did not sign until just before the draft. Rishard Matthews, who is rarely happy with his status on the receiver totem pole. And Jarvis Landry, the slot receiver.

Who would be the deep threat?

Who would be the red zone threat?

There would be many complementary player but no bigtime star.

One more thing McDiuffie said that was not in the column. He wants Parker working overtime.

"He needs to take extra reps," McDuffie said. "If Ryan wants to throw, you stay with him. If he wants to stay out, you better not take your butt in the locker room. Until your tongue comes out of your shoes you better be out here taking extra reps. Extra reps are critical. That rapport is critical."

You'll remember that a certain speedy wide receiver who scored 10 TDs last year but was traded away this offseason didn't wish to do extra work with Tannehill the past two years.

Perhaps in that regard at least, Parker will be more of a fit.


May 08, 2015

Miami Dolphins rookie camp roster here (free)

The Miami Dolphins are on the field now. Well, their rookies and undrafted free agents and tryout guys are.

Here's the list:

Name                     Pos.               Ht.    Wt.       Birthdate          Exp.     College            Hometown                   Acq.

Baucus, Mickey        OL                 6-8     293       2/13/92             R          Arizona '15        Mundelein, Ill.                FA, '15

Darr, Matt               P                   6-1     220       7/2/92               R          Tennessee '15    Bakersfield, Calif.           FA, '15

Drew, Ray               DE                 6-5     276       9/24/92             R          Georgia '15       Thomasville, Ga.            FA, '15

Franks, Andrew        K                   6-1     205       1/11/93             R          RPI '15              Carmel, Calif.                FA, '15

Hull, Mike                LB                 6-0     232       5/25/91             R          Penn State '15    Canonsburg, Pa.            FA, '15

Jones, Christion       WR                5-11   187       12/20/92           R          Alabama '15      Adamsville, Ala.             FA, '15

King, Nigel              WR                6-3     210       10/9/92             R          Kansas '15         Raleigh, N.C.                 FA, '15

Liedtke, Michael      OL                 6-3     305       1/15/92             R          Illinois State '15  Woodstock, Ill.              FA, '15

Luc, Jeff                  LB                 6-1     256       2/14/92             R          Cincinnati '15     Port St. Lucie, Fla.          FA, '15

McCarthy, Ellis         DT                 6-5     325       7/13/94             R          UCLA '15          Monrovia, Calif.             FA, '15

Montgomery, Kendall DE                 6-5     262       7/27/92             R          Bowling Green '15          Miami, Fla.        FA, '15

Savage, Dionte        OL                 6-4     343       2/10/92             R          Oklahoma '15    Flint, Mich.                    FA, '15

Vigil, Zach               LB                 6-2     240       3/28/91             R          Utah State '15    Clearfield, Utah              FA, '15

Walker, Aundrey      OL                 6-6     315       1/15/93             R          Southern California '15 Cleveland, Ohio             FA, '15


May 07, 2015

Entire Dolphins draft class is signed

It was getting a little repetitive breaking news of Dolphins draft picks signing, one after another.

So I am reporting the entire Miami Dolphins class of 2015 is now signed.

All of them.

First rounder DeVante Parker, second-rounder Jordan Phillips, fourth rounder Jamil Douglas, and fifth rounders Bobby McCain, Jay Ajayi, Cedric Thompson and Tony Lippett.

The team has confirmed the signings.

All are expected to attend this weekend's rookie minicamp which begins Friday.

That is undoubtedly a team record for speed of getting all the picks signed. And, yes, getting these deals done in today's NFL is a predetermined certainty.

But it often doesn't happen until June or even early July for some teams. At least, that's how it has been with the Dolphins in recent years.

It cannot be mere coincidence this is happening for the first time in the first year Mike Tannenbaum has taken over as Miami's executive vice president of football operations.