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8 posts from June 2015

June 19, 2015

Minicamp Musings (but not by Armando)

Armando Salguero, the usual resident at this most popular Herald blog address, is on vacation. Coming over from The Herald's FIU sports blog to do a little blogsitting with occasional posts during Armando's vaca will be me, David Neal, or the Dolphins/Heat/Hurricanes/Marlins Sports Buzz in your ear, Barry Jackson.

Both of us sat through this week's pair of high end flag football practices in Davie. There's only so much you can say about shirts-and-shorts low-contact football. Lorenzo Booker looked good under those conditions.

Caveat stated, some observations, a few of them relevant:

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's ball placement, particularly on his red zone throws, grazed perfection. His quick slants to the slot imitated good fastballs: low, inside, tough for the opponent to reach and yet right on target for the catcher. His throws to the end zone sidelines described perfect parabolas for the task. The last time the Dolphins excelled in the red zone, nobody but football coaches paid attention or called it "the red zone." Tannehill being better there could be worth an extra win.

I saw Pete Stoyanovich take the kicking job from Fuad Reveiz in 1989 and you knew it was happening as it happened. Same thing when I saw Dan Carpenter take the kicking job from Jay Feely in 2008. By comparison, Andrew Franks kicked like he hoped to hang around long enough to inherit the job from injured Caleb Sturgis. Kicking from 36 and 46 yards, Franks hooked a few inside the upright, hooked a few outside the left upright. Sturgis can only shine the kicking shoes of Stoyanovich, Reveiz, Carpenter or Feely, but Franks' didn't give Sturgis even more reason to regret playing a little kickball.

Kool-Aid break

 

The Dolphins mixed and matched like your kid with Legos in the secondary and on the offensive line. On the o-line, Mike Pouncey at center and Ja'Wuan James at one tackle spot were the constants. Otherwise, seemingly everybody got a turn with the No. 1s. This is the epitome of "check back in August." That includes Brandon Albert. Albert did conditioning on the unused fields or sidelines. He moved as if he'd need every minute between now and the first serious snap of the late summer to be ready. (Quick digression: Pouncey said this year's birthday party would be a small thing at his home. Clearly, the man learns.)

In the secondary, among those getting a look at nickel corner was Brice McCain, part of the Dolphins' hat trick of McCains -- rookie corner Bobby McCain, fast and tough, which could make him as solidly good on kickoff returns as he was during his sophomore and senior years at Memphis; and linebacker Chris McCain, who could start at outside linebacker after minimal snaps last year. About his minimal snaps last year, Chris said he got what he earned and needed to spend more time studying the Dolphins' scheme. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the same thing, but more politely.

To simulate haivng to operate in a noisy stadium, instead of cranking canned crowd noise, the Dolphins went for truly annoying and blasted music. Not bad music, not good music, not old music, not new music. All of the above. It seemed far more effective a test for non-verbal communication than the crowd noise, which is laughable even at its loudest. The pass completion to Kool Moe Dee's "I Go To Work" went to Greg Jennings, the only wide receiver born when the song was released.

 

June 10, 2015

Surprise: No practice today fellas

Miami Dolphins are scheduled to meet at their training facility this morning for what is supposed to be an OTA practice -- the third this week. Not happening.

Coach Joe Philbin will surprise his team by calling off practice and instead heading from Davie, Florida south to Hialeah in Northwest Miami-Dade County -- about a 40-minute ride -- to do a service project at an elementary school.

The players will board a bus and others in the organization will join them at Mae M. Walters Elementary School. There, in the heart of a Hispanic neighborhood that is, well, lower, lower middle class, the the team will participate in painting, landscaping and providing various improvements to the school.

And what does this do for the Dolphins?

Yes, there will be good will from the community which they serve. But the coaches who will attend also hope this will be a good team chemistry-building exercise.

It beats kickball.    

June 05, 2015

Surgery for DeVante Parker

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker had left foot surgery this morning at Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables.

He will not participate in the team's minicamp and will miss the start of training camp but will be ready for the start of the regular season, per a team source. So breathe. Calm down. It will be OK.

Parker, the first-round pick in the 2015 draft, had the procedure as a precaution. I am told if this was the regular season, he would be playing this week.

But because Parker has been so impressive since joining the team and the plan with him is to be a long-term help rather than a short-term bridge, the club is being cautious to address what I am told is not a big issue now so as to not have it be a recurring issue during the season.

Obviously, Parker missing the rest of the offseason and part of training camp (he'll probably start the practice sessions on PUP) will set him back on the field. He will, however, be involved in rehabilitation and team meetings.

This means veteran Greg Jennings, signed late in free agency, will likely play a major role in the offense, along with Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills early in the season as Parker works in.

Two more things:

Parker's injury is similar to the injury linebacker Jelani Jenkins had last year, per a source. Jenkins missed one game as a result.

And Parker, who complained of soreness in the foot after Thursday's OTA session, did break his left foot in 2014 while at Louisville. That forced him to miss eight weeks. He had surgery on that foot and now has had a second surgery on the same foot, in part, to correct part of that first surgery. The most recent surgery replaced the screw originally placed in his foot last year.

June 04, 2015

Jeff Ireland effect still on the Miami Dolphins

The narrative surrounding today's Miami Dolphins is that with new general manager Dennis Hickey's draft and offseason acquisitions in 2014 and Hickey's and new executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum's draft and offseason acquisitions in 2015, the Dolphins are replenished with fresh talent from this braintrust.

In other words, the influence former general manager Jeff Ireland had on the roster has been removed. Some more unforgiving souls would contend the stench has dissipated.

That seemed more true than ever this offseason when practically every significant move Ireland made in 2013, his final offseason with the team, was undone.

Mike Wallace, signed in 2013, was traded.

Brian Hartline, given a big contract extension in 2013, was cut.

Brandon Gibson, signed in 2013, was cut.

Dannell Ellerbe, signed in 2013, was traded.

Phillip Wheeler, signed in 2013, was cut.

Dion Jordan, drafted No. 3 overall in the 2013 draft, has been suspended for a year by the NFL for violating the league substance abuse policy.

Much of what Ireland did in 2013 has, poof, gone away.

But that's simply not the complete story.

That is only part of true portrait of these past two Dolphins offseasons because, indeed, much of what the Dolphins new braintrust has done is also to embrace what Ireland did.

The Dolphins this offseason made a franchise quarterback commitment to Ryan Tannehill, extending his contract through 2020 and paying him $96 million, including $21.5 million in fully guaranteed money. Tannehill is the first Dolphins quarterback since Dan Marino the team has committed to for the long term. He's their man.

And he was Jeff Ireland's draft pick in 2012.

The Dolphins this offseason made a commitment to center Mike Pouncey, extending his contract through the 2020 season. Pouncey practices hard. Plays hard. Is a team leader in every sense, the Dolphins believe. He's their man. And he was Jeff Ireland's draft pick in 2011.

The truth is the Dolphins are going to be relying as much and expecting as much from Jeff Ireland's players than Hickey and Tannenbaum's.

The linebacker corps? Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are Jeff Ireland draft picks, the latter in the 2013 fourth round.

The cornerbacks? Brent Grimes was a Jeff Ireland free agent acquisition and Jamar Taylor is going to get his chance to win the starting job after being a Jeff Ireland second-round pick in 2013.

The starting running back? Many people are excited about rookie Jay Ajayi. But Lamar Miller is an incumbent 1,000-yard rusher and the more likely starter. And he was a Jeff Ireland fourth-round pick in 2012.

The team wasn't thrilled about losing tight end Charles Clay, a Jeff Ireland draft pick, to the Buffalo Bills in free agency. But when they announced they would not match Buffalo's offer sheet to Clay, they let it be known they were confident in Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims as their top two tight ends. Cameron signed this offseason. Sims is a 2013 fourth-round pick ... by Jeff Ireland.

I had a team executive kid with me Wednesday about how much I criticize the idea of Dallas Thomas being the starting left guard for the start of training camp late next month. (Yes, folks, they read every word). The Dolphins are going in that direction, apparently, no matter how much I criticize the idea. The Dolphins are comfortable with the idea of Dallas Thomas as their starting left guard. Dallas Thomas was a 2013 third-round pick ... by Jeff Ireland.

Olivier Vernon? Jeff Ireland.

Derrick Shelby? Jeff Ireland.

Don Jones? Jeff Ireland.

Will Davis? Jeff Ireland.

Rishard Matthews? Jeff Ireland.

The point is the Dolphins seem headed in a positive direction following Ireland's departure. Fans -- you -- seem generally satisfied with the team Hickey and Tannenbaum have put together. You're optimistic.

The truth is if you are satisfied and optimistic, then you like the team Hickey, Tannenbaum and Jeff Ireland put together.

June 03, 2015

Ryan Tannehill football camp next week

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will host his third annual Football ProCamp next week a stone's throw (or long pass) from the team's practice facility in Davie, Florida.

The two-day Citi Ryan Tannehill Football ProCamp will run from 4-7:30 PM on June 9 and 10 at Nova High School. Registered participants will learn fundamental football skills and have the opportunity to meet and interact with the Dolphins' newly minted $96 million quarterback.

Each attendee will receive an autograph from Tannehill and a team photo with him. 

Tannehill will be on-site to direct the event and will be joined by a selection of prep and college coaches from the area. The camp is open to boys and girls of all skill levels in grades 1-8. Cost of the camp is $99. 

Spots remain at available. For more information go to RyanTannehillCamp.com.

June 02, 2015

Olivier Vernon a $12 million-a-year player? Yes

NFL contracts obviously affect individual players and their teams but they are not done in a vacuum. Each contract also can affect other players around the league, which is the reason the deal Cameron Jordan is getting from the New Orleans Saints today is important.

That deal -- reported by Mike Garafolo of FOXSports1 as a five-year, $55 million deal with $38 million in "guaranteed" money and $27 million over the first two years -- is causing a lot of players to enjoy their days today.

Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan are almost certainly going to use this deal when they negotiate their coming new contracts. 

And Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is going to do that as well.

Indeed, I have it on good authority the Jordan deal, which comes in at about $12 million annually (APY) when you include incentives, is what Vernon will use as the floor for his coming negotiations with the Dolphins.

The floor!

Houston is dancing. Jones is dancing. Kerrigan is dancing. And OV is surely dancing.

Vernon, 24, and Jordan, 25, play different positions. Vernon is a 4-3 defensive end. Jordan is a 3-4 defensive end.

But their production, particularly as pass rushers, is nearly identical. Jordan through his first three seasons had 21 1/2 sacks.

Olivier Vernon through his first three seasons had 21 1/2 sacks.

Jordan had 7 1/2 sacks in his fourth season. Yeah, um, Vernon expects to be better than that in 2015 for his fourth season.

Vernon can easily look at himself as a $12 million per year player after this season because the only way the Dolphins can keep him after this season is to sign him to a multi-year deal that pays him market dollars now established by Jordan ... or use a $15 million or so franchise tag on him.

(Because Vernon was not a first-round draft pick there is no one-year option the team can apply to him. In that regard, Jordan had less leverage in his negotiations than Vernon will have).

And if the Dolphins apply the franchise tag on Vernon in 2016, the only way they keep him in 2017 without signing him to a deal that by then probably averages $15 million APY is by franchising him again. And that second franchise tag would be 120 percent higher than the first or about $17.7 million for one year.

So the choices really are to get a multi-year deal that pays around $12 million annually ... or franchise him the next two years for $32.7 million ... or lose Vernon in free agency -- at age 25 next offseason or at 26 in 2017.

Obviously all this is contingent on Vernon performing this year. But he is going to bet on himself that he can easily match the 7 1/2 sacks Jordan had in his fourth year. With Ndamukong Suh joining the defensive line and Cameron Wake playing on the other side, it is pretty clear Vernon isn't likely to get a ton of double-teams.

If Vernon stays healthy, he's going to perform. If Vernon performs, he's going to get paid. And the floor to that payment came in today with Cameron Jordan's deal. 

Kevin Coyle: Open jobs will remain open for now

The Miami Dolphins will have multiple starting jobs available on defense when camp open in July. That is a fact defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle made Monday after the team's open OTA session.

While there has been speculation in some media circles that, for example, Jamar Taylor will be the starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, that is not necessarily the way the Dolphins are thinking. Taylor is getting his chance. No doubt.

But he hasn't earned the spot yet.

Zack Bowman will get a chance to win the job. Will Davis may get a chance once he's healthy. Rookie Tony Lippett, running third team now, might even get a chance.

Coyle said a decision on the starter won't be made until late in the preseason -- probably after the third preseason game.

So the timetable works in favor of Davis, who is recovering from knee surgery. It works in favor of Bowman, a seven-year veteran learning the Miami system.

Coyle also wouldn't commit to the current linebacker starters the team is using in OTA sessions -- Koa Misi in the middle and Chris McCain and Jelani Jenkins on the outside. Oh, Misi will start somewhere. And Jenkins will be a starter. But the question is whether Misi continues in the middle or if Kelvin Sheppard plays the middle better than, say, McCain plays the outside.

Coyle believes his defense has a lot of depth as well. I don't know about that, but he says he's studied it.

"We have depth and competition," Coyle said. "I was in here over the weekend looking at the board trying to figure out the 53 and 46 when you come down to the regular season. It looked as hard as it's been for us here. That's a good thing. The sad thing is you want to keep every one of them."

Oh, yes, Coyle explained why he's feeling optimistic about his 2015 defense in my column today.

I'm frankly not too worried about the linebacker issue. The Dolphins have talent, albeit raw, at that spot. I am concerned about CB spot.

Don't sleep on Bowman. 

June 01, 2015

Ten Miami Dolphins OTA observations

Ten quickie observations from Monday's OTA session for the Miami Dolphins:

1. Kicker Caleb Sturgis was not present and will miss the rest of the spring with a leg injury, per coach Joe Philbin. This is not a crisis situation for the Dolphins. But it is a bad look for Sturgis, who has struggled with injuries on and off during his first two years with the team.

Rookie Andrew Franks took all the kicks today and didn't exactly shine. He made kicks from 36, 44 and 44 but missed from 44 and 49 yards.

Yeah, um, it is time for the personnel department to be on the lookout for a veteran kicker -- someone who can 1. stay healthy and, 2. make kicks consistently.

That is something no Dolphins kicker has been able to do for a couple of years.

2. It was an outstanding day for rookie cornerback (college receiver) Tony Lippett. He had one, two, three interceptions -- two against Matt Moore, one of Josh Freeman -- on a day the team was working in the red zone.

I asked coach Joe Philbin afterward if this was indicative of what Lippett has been doing since being drafted and the sense I got is that this was something of a coming out party for Lippett.

3. The Dolphins did indeed work red zone drills because, as I've told you in the past, they want to finish this year. Finish the season. Finish games. And, of course, finish drives.

To that end on offense, tight end Jordan Cameron is a weapon. He caught two TD passes in the red zone. Dion Sims likewise had two red zone TDs.

On defense, this is a bid deal. The D must improve in the red zone. Kelvin Sheppard had a pass defensed to stop a TD bid. About the linebackers: It is assumed by some that the Dolphins are set with Koa Misi in the middle and Chris McCain and Jelani Jenkins on the outside. I believe the competition is that combo versus Sheppard in the middle, Misi and Jenkins on the outside.

The question is can Sheppard show more instincts in the middle than Misi while Misi is more stout against the run than McCain on the outside. Or perhaps McCain is simply so athletic and such a playmaker (as he showed in the 2014 opener) that he has to be on the field.

4. DeVante Parker, a star in the previous OTA open to the media, was more quiet on Monday. He had a TD catch on a slant in 11 on 11s. He also made a one-handed catch for a TD versus air. That was about it for him this day.

5. It was not a stellar day for backup QBs. Matt Moore threw two interceptions and almost a third that safety Shamiel Gary dropped in the end zone. Josh Freeman continues to struggle with accuracy. The Dolphins need Ryan Tannehill to stay healthy, folks.

6. Speaking of Ryan Tannehill's health, there was no grand moment of embarrassment for the offensive line -- particularly the guards -- today. Dallas Thomas was fine. Billy Turner was fine. For Thomas, that was an improvement over last Monday's open OTA. Rookie Jamil Douglas did take some first-team snaps over Thomas. Veteran Sam Brenner did get a handful of first-team snaps over Turner. Coaches are just mixing and matching at this point.

Jason Fox was the starting left tackle as Branden Albert continues to rehab his knee. The starting line RT to LT: Jason Fox, Dallas Thomas, Mike Pouncey, Billy Turner, Ja'Wuan James.

7. Unlike last week, safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Will Davis (knee) did not work at all. Delmas was on the field observing. Davis was not on the field.

Michael Thomas, he of the Tom Brady last-second interception in the 2014 opener, worked with the first-team defense in place of Delmas at safety.

8. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on what he felt when his 2014 defense gave up last-minute leads to Detroit, Denver and Green Bay last year: "It gives me major headaches," he deadpanned. I'm writing about Coyle for tomorrow.

"I'm as optimistic as I've ever been going into this season," Coyle said today.

More from him in my column. 

9. Jarvis Landry is a known quantity as the slot. The Dolphins are giving him some reps on the outside to see what happens. Let me suggest he is a very good slot receiver. And that is probably where he's best suited.

10. Not so bold prediction by me: Reshad Jones, around the football all the time in practice, is going to have an outstanding year in 2015. He was outstanding when he came back from suspension last year. He is looking like he's ready to pick up where he left off. Pro Bowl year for him.