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58 posts from August 2016

August 11, 2016

Job One for Miami Dolphins in first preseason game: Play with urgency

What does Adam Gase want from the Miami Dolphins in their first preseason game of 2016?

"I just want energy," the head coach said Wednesday. "I want energy and I want guys flying around. If guys screw up, oh well. Just go 100 miles per hour. I know with what we’ve done out (on the practice field), that should take over. We’ve been practicing in some tough conditions. Today wasn’t easy. The guys battled. Nobody said anything. (They) just grinded it out. If we come out with that kind of mentality and enjoy what we’re doing, we should play fast.”

That's not a lot to ask, right? Gase wants his team to not worry about mistakes but rather show up and show some urgency and act like they're excited to be playing the New York Giants on Friday.

But actually, for the Miami Dolphins, asking that type of pace and excitement and enthusiasm has at times been too much. And we're not talking preseason. We're talking this team has had a case of the zombie blues in regular season games over the years.

Remember last year? What was one of the team's biggest problems?

Not starting fast.

Rarely punching first.

Seemingly going through the motions.

That kind of stuff happened in a regular-season opener in 2015. It also happened in regular-season finales the previous two years. And it happened multiple other times throughout the past few years.


I think I know the answer but I am just so tired of blaming things on a guy who isn't the head coach anymore that I am not going to get into it now. What I am going to get into is to say the new head coach is asking his team to do the same thing the old one did. The new guy wants to see players play as if their hair is on fire.

The previous guy wanted the same thing. It's just that the previous guy didn't find a way to make that happen.

So one of Adam Gase's first important game day tests as the Dolphins coach is to see if he can successfully get his team to play like they have a three-alarm blaze in their helmet from the opening kickoff. The test is going to be whether whatever he tells these players gets to them and they react. The test is whether the preparation of the week translates to production and electricity and a sense of urgency right at kickoff.

Dolphins fans are tired of watching Miami players start games as if they slept through their wakeup call. You're tired of seeing your team wait for the other team to take the initiative.

So do the 2016 Dolphins change that personality flaw of the past?

Now, it must be said here that even if the Dolphins solve this past issue, it does not mean the results will be different. It doesn't mean the record will be better. It is no better in the standings if a team plays with desire and urgency and loses 28-24 than if it doesn't play with urgency and loses 28-14.

But if your team is acting like it's interested in being at the game from the very start, if players are obviously giving all of themselves from the kickoff, the satisfaction you'll have about that team will be higher at game's end.

No matter the outcome.

August 10, 2016

Arian Foster not playing vs. Giants; Dink and Dunk Dolphins? PLUS a ton of other Dolphins notes

The Miami Dolphins final practice before their 2016 preseason opener against the New York Giants is in the books and this is what's happening at this hour:

Coach Adam Gase has talked with running back Arian Foster and informed him he's not playing against the Giants Friday night. The coach will speak with multiple signature veterans in the next few hours about their status for Friday and decide whether or not to play them.

Chances are good some accomplished veterans, mostly on defense, won't be playing. I don't see why Cameron Wake, coming off a ruptured Achilles injury and surgery last October, should play in a meaningless game so early in the preseason.

Thus proving what?

Gase said he's not spoken to Wake about the topic so he wouldn't say whether Wake will play or not. As for Foster ...

"I have a certain way about treating running backs that have played for a while," Gase said. "I don't like them taking unnecessary hits ... I just want to be smart.

"I think I'm just going to go by feel," the coach added about how he'll make playing time decisions for this game. "I have a better idea as far as how the defense will go. On the offense it's [about having] chemistry of just playing and practicing. Being on the same page. Ryan [Tannehill] and myself being on the same page, being able to communicate. We probably need to try to play a little more in the preseason ... You never know what's going to happen. You always have a number in mind and then things can change."

Gase said that, at least for this game, the defensive starters probably won't be playing a long time but "younger guys, maybe even younger starters" might get more work than established veterans. The offense is likely going to play longer -- whatever amount the coach decides but there's no one other than Foster who will definitely sit out.

That might be because the offense needs more work than the defense at this point. Gase said he feels "light years better" about the offense now than he did after the debacle of a scrimmage Saturday.

"We needed to go through that," he said. "We needed to go through it when just about everything possible could have gone wrong. Somebody screwed up on every play. And we're second-and-20 and then third-and-17. So that probably needed to happen. And then guys kind of stepped back and realized, 'hey, If I'm just doing my job, then things will work out.'"

Here's a little media inside look at the press box. While the Dolphins are practicing today, I'm up in the press box arguing with several of my media brethren at other outlets about the Miami offense. They were arguing that the Miami offense is a dink and dunk offense.

I was arguing that the NFL is a dink and dunk league and there's nothing wrong with the Miami offensive philosophy.

There was also discussion about Ryan Tannehill where I found myself having to defend the Dolphins QB despite the fact I recognize he has not been a star his first four years. He has room to improve, folks. I've said that. I continue to say that. But I don't dismiss him as a substandard QB as some in the media do. I believe he can still grow into something better, unlike some in the media.

I share this because the issue of dinking and dunking on offense came up in the press conference today.  And Gase seemed to get up on his haunches a little bit when he was asked if he's content throwing short even in practice.

"I'm fine with it," Gase said, his brows furrowing. "I'm the one scripting plays and calling plays, so I'm obviously fine with it. There's a time and place for it. But there's also a time and place not to get sacked 60 times in a year, too."


"The whole league is 10 yards and under," Gase added later. "That's how it is. Nobody's going down the field like that. There's one team that does it, really. Maybe two -- Pittsburgh and Arizona. They hold on to the ball instead of check it down the field. But more teams than not, it's 10 yards and under. That's where all the passing game is. But if you want to stand back there and have your quarterback have his brains beat out, then go at it."

The Dolphins signed Chris Culliver to a one-year deal last night and this morning the team placed him on the active physically unable to perform list, as I shared with you as part of the backstory of his signing.

 "I like the fact we went out and added depth to that position," Gase said. "Armando's happy so that's all that matters."

I'll be happier when I see rookie Xavien Howard in his first practice and we get a clearer direction about, you know, whether he's any good or not. But regardless, the Dolphins have indeed added a handful of corners this year who are long and will cause some quarterbacks some problems.

Culliver, who is 6-foot, told the media he wants to get on the field working within "the next couple of weeks" but seemed vague about whether that is actual practice or not.

"Everything going well right now, taking my time, learning the defense," Culliver said. "I'm just taking my time and I'm progressing."

Culliver said "you'll see me out there soon" and wants to compete for a starting job.

Culliver fits the Dolphins defense in that he wants to do play what the Dolphins want to play: Press. Cover One.

"He wants to get up, he wants to press, he wants to play that man-to-man coverage," Gase said. "That's what we are. We're an attacking style defense and our corners have a lot of pressure on them to cover and he's a guy who can do that." 

The backstory on the signing of Chris Culliver

Cornerback Chris Culliver was cleared to resume physical activities last week by his physician Dr. Robert Andrews and what ensued soon afterward was a mini free agency period for the former Washington Redskins cornerback.

And the Dolphins, San Francisco, Chicago and Arizona showed significant interest in signing Culliver. And last night, 10 days after their initial visit with the player, Miami signed Culliver to a one-year contract.

The incentive laden contract can be worth as much as $5 million but more realistically he will earn $2.5 million.

And the reason is Culliver is likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, which means he won't be on the regular roster until late October or perhaps early November. He begins the preseason on the active PUP so he is not practicing but rather rehabbing. The Dolphins are going to be cautious with a player coming back from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last November.

The moving of Culliver onto the roster today means the team cut linebacker Danny Lansanah and offensive lineman Jacques McClendon. Barring him running around like he's 21 years old and never seen the inside of an operating room, Culliver will be placed on that regular season PUP list after the third preseason game.

And the Dolphins are fine with that because they see this in the old Bill Parcells mode of adding talent. They see free agency as a refueling stop for top talent. They see the draft as a refueling stop for top talent. And they know the next refueling stop is typically next Spring.

Except Culliver, when healthy, is so good, the Dolphins believe they got a free refueling stop now that will begin to pay dividends as early as October.

(By the way, unlike most fans, pundits and cynics, the Dolphins believe they'll be in the playoff picture in October so Culliver coming on board then will be a significant addition).

Anyway, the addition of the 6-foot Culliver continues the ongoing remaking of the Dolphins cornerback corps. That corps is no longer a legion of smurfs. Brent Grimes is gone. Brice McCain is gone. The team doesn't want smallish cornerbacks.

The corps includes 6-3 Tony Lippett, 6-1 Byron Maxwell, 6-foot Chimdi Chekwa, 6-foot Jordan Lucas, 6-1 Xavien Howard. And now 6-foot Chris Culliver.

(The Dolphins view the slot position as a different spot that probably requires smaller, quicker corners).

The point is the Dolphins think they've reinforced with a quality player that other teams wanted. And they believe that player will begin to pay dividends during a playoff push in October or November. 


August 09, 2016

Dolphins showing interest in Chris Culliver to improve CB spot

Hoping to improve their secondary and looking for cornerback talent, the Miami Dolphins are signing free agent cornerback Chris Culliver, per an NFL source.

Culliver was a signature free agent acquisition of the Washington Redskins in the spring of 2015, signing a four-year, $32 million deal. But on September 14 of that year, he was suspended for one game for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following misdemeanors that occurred in March 2014. In November he tore his ACL and MCL and was placed on injured reserve.

The Redskins decided bringing Culliver back for a second season was not financially feasible when they signed former Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman in April and drafted Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller in the third round.

It is unclear how close to playing Culliver is following his reconstructive knee surgery. The Dolphins obviously want a close look at that.

He is just 27 and was productive enough with the San Francisco 49ers to draw significant interest in free agency in 2015 from the Redskins and other teams.

Culliver, 6-foot and 200 pounds, is in his fifth season and has started 26 games. He has seven career interceptions.

Culliver visited with the Dolphins the past few days which suggests the team is comfortable with his health. The club has cut and added a handful of cornerbacks since training camp began two weeks ago. 

[Update: The contract is for one year, heavily laden with incentives should Culliver win a starting job, which given the team's cornerback situation is a possibility at least for some games this season.]

Ryan Tannehill's leadership blossoms under Adam Gase

Four years as the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback and Ryan Tannehill's never really been the leader of this team. Not the team. Not the offense. Early on, back in 2012, he wasn't even the leader in the quarterback room.

And Dolphins coaches have never really complained about this issue because, well, they had something to do with the fact the man who barked signals in games didn't show much bite with his teammates.

Yes, Tannehill was sometimes aloof, according to some past teammates.

Yes, he was seemingly too caught up in his own job and perfecting that to start trying to lift teammates.

And, yes, the coaches didn't really lift Tannehill toward a leadership role. They never really helped him be that guy.

I told you things were going to change this year. I told you Adam Gase and Ryan Tannehill are joined at the hip and so this coach wants Tannehill to step forward and lead.

Well, these past couple of days have offered the clearest and most obvious example of how that is working out now. And for those short on time and wanting instant answers, it seems to be working well so far.


The Dolphins offense played like poo during the scrimmage against the defense Saturday. Players were off Sunday. And when players gathered Monday and Tuesday, Tannehill talked to his unit, admonished his unit, implored his unit.

In other words he did leader things.

“We talked. I’m not going to get into what I said, but everyone already knew that it wasn’t acceptable how we came out and practiced," Tannehill said. "We have limited days. (The) season is coming upon us, and we have to be ready to go when the first game hits. (We) can’t have a wasted day, and to me, that was kind of a wasted day. I think everyone realizes that and doesn’t want to let it happen again.

“It’s part of my role to push the guys around me to be the best they can be. I think that’s part of being a leader -- pushing the guys around you to be the best they can be. That, obviously, wasn’t the best that we could be. You have to try to do everything you can to consistently push guys around you to elevate their game.”

Three years ago, two years ago, maybe even last year under Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator and Joe Philbin as head coach, it is no cinch Tannehill takes over and talks to the offense after a similar outing. And, believe me, there were similar outings by the offense last season.

But then again how could a guy that couldn't take over a play on the field -- in the form of an audible -- feel like he could take over a meeting?

That has changed and continues to evolve. Tannehill continues to grow as a leader.

"He's been good," Gase said. "I thought today was one of those days were I felt like he came out with a purpose and was very aggressive as far as he was chirping a little bit out there, especially amongst our guys. I think he was more focused on our group, just really preaching what we've been talking about like sticking with our process, positive plays (and) getting completions.

"I thought he did a good job of when we did get some pressure, he got rid of the ball (and) wasn't trying to hang on anything. Today was a good day for him as far as, I felt I saw some growth there as far as his personality coming out and taking control of the offense."

And that is definitely a growth that Gase is watering in hopes it sprouts into a Redwood.

“I think Adam (has) completely enabled me," Tannehill said. "I think I have the credibility now to pretty much demand excellence out of these guys. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Think about those words. Ryan Tannehill hasn't thrown a TD under Adam Gase. He hasn't won a game. Goodness, he hasn't even played a game.

But now he feels a newfound credibility to make demands on his teammates.

Impressive work by a coaching staff.

Miami Dolphins offense, Ryan Tannehill still a work in progress

Today is Aug. 9. The Miami Dolphins do not play a regular-season football game for another month. So there is a lot of time to make what we've seen on the practice field the past two weeks into a good football team.

Much of the work that must be done by the team's offense in particular can be done between now and Sept. 11 when the season kicks off.

And having said all that ...

I am seeing a couple of trends that are curious and very much need to disappear if the Dolphins are going to have a good offense in 2016. Here are those couple of things:

I am seeing quarterback Ryan Tannehill typically taking more time than he has in the past in making his decisions in the pocket. I timed Tannehill's throws in both seven-on-seven (no rush) and team drills (with a defensive rush) today.

And while I am not going to tell you how long on average he took from snap to release of the pass because it is not my business to provide that information to the Seattle Seahawks, let me say the Dolphins starter typically took longer to make his decision and throw the ball than second-stringer Matt Moore.

And what's one practice, right?

Well, throughout this camp I've seen Tannehill routinely taking more time in the pocket than in the past. And Moore has often been quicker to his decision and release than Tannehill. 

I've seen Tannehill at times get bogged down in red zone drills where if one receiver is not open, you can almost see him processing information about where he needs to look next, go next, do next.

That one receiver Tannehill looks to, by the way, is seemingly always Jarvis Landry.

(More on that further down).

This trend that I've noticed practice after practice is what made me time the QBs today. So it's not just a one practice issue. I've been seeing this for days and days.

And after practice I asked Tannehill if he's still thinking about things -- the play, his progression, the defense, his new baby boy, how hot it is, whatever -- or if he's reached that point where he's in rhythm and simply playing on instinct.

"Yeah, there's still some new stuff we're putting in," Tannehill said. "So we're still installing some of the stuff we're putting in. So we're still going through some of the thinking and that's going to happen at this stage in the new offense.

"Myself and everyone else, that obviously slows us down and keeps us from playing as fast as we want to play. The more reps we get and the more practices we go through, that's going to continue to decrease the amount of thinking that goes on and increase the amount of playing we can do. Then we're going to see us play to our full potential."

That is all plausible and likely. Tannehill and his offensive mates will eventually get comfortable enough with their assignments that their play speed will increase. They will eventually begin to play fast.

The question is not if. The question is when.

Again, the season opener against the Legion of Boom is a month away. So it seems between now and then, Ryan Tannehill has to speed himself up some.

The Dolphins pass offense also has to stop acting like they all drafted receiver Jarvis Landry in a fantasy league they intend to win.

Show up to any Miami practice the past two weeks and Landry is more often than not the star. He catches football after football in team drills. Tannehill and Landry clearly have a connection and chemistry going on.

And that's good because Landry is obviously going to be Tannehill's go-to receiver as he has been the past two seasons. But a good offense is multiple. It cannot be about just one receiver.

So I asked coach Adam Gase about this. And he obviously looks at the issue as Jarvis Landry is balling!

"One day I tried to script every play to where he [Landry] wasn't in the progression," Gase said. "And somehow the ball gets to him. The guy is like a magnet. It really is, I've never seen anything like it.

"He does his job right and the coverage seems to take Ryan there a lot of times. I'd be more concerned if I was like, 'Why are you forcing this throw?' but that's not what's happening. It's just that he's in the right place at the right time and the ball ends up going to him. I don't know, the guy's got some kind of thing going on where the ball wants to find him."

Very good. But NFL defensive coordinators get paid to stop the other team's best weapon. So what's going to happen when Bill Belichick or Rex Ryan or Todd Bowles or any of the other defenses the Dolphins play decide that Jarvis Landry is not going to be the guy to beat them?

What will Tannehill do then?

What will the passing game do then?

"Then the ball goes somewhere else," Gase said. "We still are working on certain things. You see Kenny Stills is catching a lot of balls and has had good plays. And DeVante [Parker] always has his opportunities. And the more we can get the tight ends involved and the backs involved the ball will start getting spread out.

"In practice we have some periods where the ball is labeled and certain periods it seems like only one guy is getting the ball because of whatever the defense may be doing. I think it'll get to the point when we're in games it will equal out. But like I said, that thing seems to find [Landry]."

All this is a product of installing a new offense, folks. The Miami offense is nowhere near being ready yet. It is a work in progress.

And these issues, along with the disappointing performance in the scrimmage Saturday night are among the obvious growing pains.

By the way, I'm not announcing the sky is falling here. I'm not saying this all means Adam Gase is a failure and Ryan Tannehill is a fraud.

But I am saying much improvement is needed. Even the Dolphins admit that about their offense.

Consider this from Gase about the offensive performance in the scrimmage:

"The other night was our first real test and we failed it miserably," he said.

And this from Tannehill: 

"We didn't play well. We didn't play well on the offensive side of the ball from top to bottom -- ones, twos or threes -- we didn't play well," he said. "We didn't execute. We got dominated up front. We wanted to respond and come and correct the things we didn't do well that day and today we proved we could bounce back and play the way we want to play."

By the way, Tannehill said he addressed the offense about bouncing back after the poor scrimmage performance. And getting receiver DeVante Parker back from his hamstring injury today helped somewhat.

At one point after Tannehill delivered a completion to Parker today (yeah, other guys caught a couple of passes, too), he told the receiver in the huddle how great it was to have him back.

But the mission is clear for this offense.  

"We have limited days," Tannehill said.

And they have multiple areas that need to be addressed and improved before the season-opener.


Parker said the plan for him is to play against the New York Giants in the preseason opener Friday night but a final decision won't be made until the team sees how he practices Wednesday. Gase said no decision of any sort related to playing time or even availability for the game has been made for any player.

Rookie first round pick Laremy Tunsil got some first-team left guard snaps today, with Dallas Thomas taking first-team right guard snaps in that set up. But later in team drills, Thomas shifted back to LG and Billy Turner took the first-team snaps with the first unit. The shuffling continues until further notice.

Third string tight end MarQueis Gray collapsed early in practice Tuesday and was clutching his right leg. He was eventually carted off the field.

August 08, 2016

Dion Jordan cleared to participate in practices he's not ready to participate in

The good news for Dion Jordan, and after a long string of bad tidings the Miami Dolphins defensive end can use some good news, is the NFL today informed the member club that the player is cleared to practice.

This means, in effect, that several steps Jordan needed to clear in setting up his local arrangements regarding clinical resources have been made to the NFL's satisfaction. He is now free to participate in all preseason activities including practices and games.

So that's good.

But Dion Jordan won't be able to take immediate advantage of this new status because he still is not physically cleared to practice. You'll recall I previously reported Jordan had surgery to clean out his left knee. He has been rehabilitating. But he hasn't seemed ready to work in practice despite the window opening for him to do so.

Indeed, Jordan is all but certain to miss Friday's preseason opener at the New York Giants. When the team returns, one supposes trainers and coaches will meet to decide if Jordan's status has changed.

Jordan has already cost himself considerable money.

He forfeited millions of dollars in signing bonus money when he was suspended multiple times for violating both the NFL's substances of abuse program and performance enhancing drugs program.

He lost out on a $1.69 million roster bonus when he was unable to pass his physical and get on the Miami roster the fifth day of training camp. He remains on the non-football injury list.

Now it remains to be seen how long before he can resume his football career -- which he is free to do but unable to do right now -- by doing football work.

Dion Jordan cleared to participate in practices he's not ready to participate in

The good news for Dion Jordan, and after a long string of bad tidings the Miami Dolphins defensive end can use some good news, is the NFL today informed the member club that the player is cleared to practice.

This means, in effect, that several steps Jordan needed to clear in setting up his local arrangements regarding clinical resources have been made to the NFL's satisfaction. He is now free to participate in all preseason activities including practices and games.

So that's good.

But Dion Jordan won't be able to take immediate advantage of this new status because he still is not physically cleared to practice. You'll recall I told you a couple of weeks ago Jordan had surgery to clean out his left knee. He has been rehabilitating. But he hasn't seemed ready to work in practice despite the window opening for him to do so.

Indeed, Jordan is all but certain to miss Friday's preseason opener at the New York Giants. When the team returns, one supposes trainers and coaches will meet to decide if Jordan's status has changed.

Jordan has already cost himself considerable money.

He forfeited millions of dollars in signing bonus money when he was suspended multiple times for violating both the NFL's substances of abuse program and performance enhancing drugs program.

He lost out on a $1.69 million roster bonus when he was unable to pass his physical and get on the Miami roster the fifth day of training camp. He remains on the non-football injury list.

Now it remains to be seen how long before he can resume his football career -- which he is free to do but unable to do right now -- by doing football work.

Live blog Q and A at 2 p.m. today

Back in its infancy, before forced facebook sign-ins and other things, this blog would hold regular live events.

There were would be live blogs on game days.

There were be live blogs for question and answer periods.

There would be more interactive stuff.

That has gone away but I am trying to find a way to recapture that exchange here rather than do it on my twitter feed. And as I am not and never will be on facebook, it is impossible for me to go into the comments section and converse with you good people directly.

So I'm going to try something different this afternoon.

If you'd like, let's meet up here at 2 p.m.

You type in your comment, criticism, question or kudo via your facebook sign-in in the comments section. I will answer on the blog itself. I will address you by your by name, and do the best I can to discuss with you whatever topic it is you bring up. To get your answer all you have to do is refresh the blog to show my latest answer.

Obviously, if nobody shows up, this exercise will be an epic fail never again to be repeated. If it works out, if there's a market for this out there (so to speak) we might do it again and even perhaps revive the live game blog.

Today will be the test.

Speak with you at 2 p.m.

By the way, if you cannot be here at 2 p.m., leave your comment now and I'll address that first ...


Hi everyone, thanks for stopping in and participating. Again, you just refresh this page to get your answers. I'll type as quickly as I can. Just keep refreshing and they should appear fairly quickly. And feel free to chime on on other people's questions or comments within the comments section itself.

Let's go...

Hi Brian, I see Ryan Tannehill as a work in progress. Again. He is learning a new system. He has a lot on his plate. It doesn't seem to be all there for him right now and he's got a tough defense to deal with in practice. He has to be faster. Faster on his drop. Faster on his read. Faster to find a secondary receiver. Faster. Faster. Faster. Not there yet.

Gines, thanks for being here ... When I said his personality is interesting I obviously didn't want to get into specifics. Ryan is fine. He's not a freak. He's not an idiot. He's not weird. But he is sometimes aloof. He has so much stuff going on that he isn't necessarily one of the guys. That probably shouldn't be important. Brett Favre in his late 30s and with two or three kids, wasn't one of the guys on the Packers, Jets or Vikings but was still a good player.

But Ryan Tannehill isn't to be confused with Brett Favre. I think Adam Gase wants to bring more leadership out of him. Give him a louder voice among teammates. It will be interesting to see how that works because, interestingly, Ryan now has a baby. Another important issue to take up his time.

Hey Jay, thanks for checking in. If you have a question in the future, we will probably be doing this again. Thanks for your readership loyalty.

Luke, very good question. The short answer is I'm more concerned with the cornerback spot that is wide open than the OL. Why? The Dolphins have viable answers at OL. Laremy Tunsil isn't ready yet ... but he will be. You can tell he's going to be pretty good. Branden Albert is not a worry. We KNOW Ja'Wuan James can handle his business at RT. We know Mike Pouncey is very good. Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas fighting it out for RG? I think that's a solid competition if Thomas doesn't win at LG. As to CB, who is the person that will hold down the fort? The Dolphins are selling us this idea that a rookie who has never played, indeed, never practiced with pads in the NFL is going to be starting at Seattle on Sept. 11. Really? That's the answer? Xavien Howard would have to be a star to be able to go from the PUP list to the starting unit and perform up to standards for that to be true. Maybe he is. But obviously no one has seen that yet.  

Randall, I can say that I see zero to suggest that Ja'Wuan Howard is feeling any fallout from the dislocated toe that sidelined him last year. Having said that, he looks bigger, but I haven't seen the kind of mauling push you typically want from a RT. Maybe he's just not going to be that kind of guy. He's a technician and he's made for a zone blocking attack. That could be more than good enough.

Debbie ... What you said.

Bob, my brother, that's like four different questions in one paragraph. You should be a reporter! So I've never said the defense is weak. Last year when it was poor against the run and gave up too many points, I thought one of the big problems was the scheme, the players' confidence in the scheme, the desire to play for certain coaches, etc...Not the case any more, far as I can tell. As for my gut feeling about the offense ... Right NOW, no, I don't see a lot of improvement. The practices now look more or less like they did this time last year. But knowing this is a new deal for everyone, and Adam Gase is doing a lot of experimenting and there's like five weeks to go before the opener (is that right?) and the O won't be facing a defense that sees them in practice everyday and knows what's coming, I think there will be improvement over what you're hearing about. I also think this offense will be better than last year's Dolphins dysfunctional offense.

For the record, Mark, I've never once second-guessed the Dolphins not re-signing Lamar Miller. If he gains 2,000 yards for Houston this year, I will not second-guess losing him. The reason is I do not believe in paying big bucks to running backs. I believe you use them up and let them go and draft a new one. Now, the Dolphins didn't actually draft a new one, they signed a retread. And history says Arian Foster, who has been often hurt, will get hurt at some point. Hopefully not, for everyone's sake. I have no idea if that moment comes, when it will be.

Steve and Stacy, awesome, coming in tag team fashion! Yes, last year there was much hype about the defensive line being great. And then the preseason happened and Cam Wake tweaked a hamstring and wasn't right the first three games. And Ndamukong Suh, learning a new system and apparently not loving it or believing in the DC, wasn't himself. And OV also had some lingering issue that didn't get right until later in the season. The point is the well laid plans got sideways. This year, there are similar plans, but the Dolphins believe they have UPGRADED with Mario Williams over Olivier Vernon. It is clear Jason Jones and Andre Branch are upgrades. Let me put it this way: Chris McCain, who gets a lot of play from fans, is running third team and has told me all he can do is compete and if he doesn't make this team, he's playing to make sure he makes another team.

As to the offense ... Gase was not happy after Saturday night. The offense got lit up by the D. But the O is still very much in the experimental stage. It is very much figuring out what works for certain guys. It is not a finished product and shouldn't be judged as such.

Hey Jeff, Uncle Mando would love to tell you the 2016 Dolphins are like the '15 Panthers but I'd just be making up stuff. Who knows? I do know this ... Those Panthers had an MVP QB in Cam Newton. That's all I'm going to say about that.

As for Jelani, he's just solid. Doesn't miss practice. Doesn't miss assignment. Doesn't misstep. Solid.

Nick, I have to be honest with you ... the speed or practice is not vastly different. There is way, way more interaction with coaches. Way more demand placed on the players from this bunch. I didn't see that nearly enough last year. But these players are professionals and they're trying to deliver what is being asked. I just think ultimately, more will be required of them both in practice and beyond than in the past. But speed of practice, crispness ... so far not necessarily night and day.

Ah, Robert my man, I held the live blog after lunch so you're hitting me up with the dinner question. Honestly, dude, I have no freakin' clue. I do know that in New York I'll be looking to get some good Italian. Folks, please leave suggestions where I might do that in your opinion...

Zach, I've been asking that same question over and over, louder and louder. Look, this Adam Gase offense is supposed to be TE friendly. And Jordan Cameron has had success with Cleveland. But I don't see it a bunch in practice so far. Yes, there's a catch here and there. Yes, there was a red zone TD today. But consistency? I haven't seen it.

And backup Dion Sims continues to suggest he's going to make some sort of career leap and ... hasn't.

I don't know if it's chemistry. I don't know if guys are still getting kinks of the new offense worked out. Or maybe it is the personnel just isn't what is advertised.

Duryea, Brandon Doughty is mentally very sharp. You can see it in how he practices. He has an inate ability to improvise and do what he thinks should be done. The guy is not a robot. And it mostly works for him. But I also see a ball that floats a little bit. I don't see a ton of velocity on that pitch. Can he improve that? Yes, with time. Will that make him an NFL starter? Not this year.

Thomas, if this OL isn't good then I don't know what the answer is. They have four former first-round picks potentially starting on this line. The other guy will be a third rounder. WTH!!!!! I look for the Dolphins to start to settle in on a starting unit after the Giants opener. Then we'll see how the chemistry comes along.

Steven, I think it's good that Ajayi saw Arian Foster do well in practice those days he was out. He spent all spring as the starter. Now he should understand that position is not promised to him. He's running hard. He better keep doing that.

Robin, Duarte can catch the FB. That seems to be a given with him. But the Dolphins want a complete TE who can block as well as catch and that needs a lot of work yet. He is running fourth team right now. I'm not saying he's getting cut. But he certainly has not already made the team. He has to get much better the next four weeks.

Harvey, you are absolutely correct. There's no excuse for that error to exist. First I noticed it. It is imported to that space by Stats, Inc. I'll see who I have to contact to get that corrected ASAP.

Chris, I think Adam Gase is really smart. I think he's willing to suppress his ego in terms of his offense for the benefit of his players. In other words, it's not about what he loves and the plays he'd like to feature. It's about the plays the athletes can best execute. I think he has the attention of his players. I believe they recognize he's a leader. I think he's brought together a pretty solid staff, none of which come to this NFL team because they coached with Gase in high school (don't get me started). I think he's 38 years old and is going to get his butt pounded by Belichick and Bowles and Gailey and maybe even Rex once or twice but eventually it won't be an issue.

Ah, Christopher, thank you for coming here and asking about Tommy Vigorito. No.

Robert, appreciate the FB question ... They let Miller go because money. Money, money, money, money, money. The guy got like $7.5 million per year from Houston. Would you pay $7.5 million per year for Lamar? Love the kid. He's all about the U and all that.

But $7.5 million?

Christopher, James Burgess has got to make a ton of special teams plays starting Friday night to stick around. He's fourth on the depth chart right now. I know he's young. I know about potential. But production. Immediately. On special teams. Gotta do it.

Andy, the offensive players see Gase as one of the team ... but not one of them. It's hard to explain. When there was an interception to end a practice last week, the offense did push ups. Gase did push ups with them. One of them. He taunts and teases players. He talks smack. One of them. But when he's in front of the team ... not one of them. Defensive guys want him to be on their side, too. They want him to be one of them. And he's said he's going to try. But ... well, he's not one of them. He's their coach.

AenonJessica ... Yes, I get that's two of you but is Aenon Greek? Seriously....Anyway, my sense is defenses are less technical than offenses and this is perhaps the most simplistic Dolphins defense we've had in a long time -- maybe since Dave Wannstedt. DL ... chase the QB and the ball. LB chase the ball. CBs play press or off man. It really isn't rocket science. And so they aren't thinking that much but rather playing. The offense right now is thinking. And thinking. And thinking.

Jeff, I would suggest you begin by reaching out to the people within this community first. Then go to social media. Is there not a San Diego Dolphins bar you can call? Anyone? Help Jeff out.

Mark, I think the Dolphins just weren't sold on Lamar early enough to pay him to get him relatively cheaply -- like $4 million. And once he got on the market, forget about it. Part of using up your own RB is putting a price on him that makes the team comfortable and the player feel valued. That never happened. As to holding their whatever ... What you think of Daniel Thomas?

Rohan, I've talked to Gase and he's told me how he wants to beat Vance Joseph and how he remembers reasons Joseph has beaten him based on the performance of their units. It actually is one of the reasons Joseph got hired. Gase figures if Joseph can figure out and give his offense trouble, he could do that to other teams around the NFL.

Coy, the Wide 9, while mostly a pass-rush intense approach messes up the running game in that it forces RBs to chop step and be indecisive. Younger RBs will go crazy. More experienced or smarter backs will take what they can get without overthinking.

Randall, Hull is third team because J-M Johnson has just shown great intelligence and no delay in making decisions and an ability to be athletic and explosive. Put it this way, Kiko got a rest day I think last week. The defense didn't slow down.

Awesome, Nick! Thank you. I love family style because, well, I can eat like a family. Haha.

Coy, in my opinion what this offense is missing is time. Just give them time, buddy. Rome was not built in seven training camp practices. Give them time.

Jeff ... Balls. Leadership.

Robert, Clyde is the nicest coach I've talked to in a long time. Salt of the Earth.

Yeah, Mark, you are right about $6.5 rather than $7.5. I should know better than to just rely on memory. Anyway, I wouldn't pay him that, either. Again, you get drafted. I use you up like a mule. I let you go and get a new mule to ride. It sounds unfeeling. It is. But that's how I feel. There are simply too many good RBs in the NFL draft every year -- history is the judge -- to pay that kind of money for somebody who is not Adrian Peterson. As for Drake, the history troubles. It seems the Dolphins forged a stable of oft-injured RBs together expecting the law of averages to help them out. So far ... not good.

Robert, any reporter who thinks he's one of the guys ... 1. Isn't doing his job. 2. Is an idiot.

Mike, the third receiver is Kenny Stills. And the Dolphins are expecting big things from him this year because he's really improved his work ethic over last year. Now, does that translate to 50 catches for 775 yards? I don't know.

That's going to be it for now, folks. I thought this went well. Let me know if you think it is worth repeating on a regular basis...


First depth chart of 2016 Miami Dolphins preseason PLUS early notes, Ifo knee injury [Updated]

The first depth chart of the 2016 season is out this morning for the Miami Dolphins and here are some interesting tidbits:

The starting running back is Jay Ajayi. This despite the fact Ajayi missed a few days of practice with a bone bruise to a knee and Arian Foster took the first-team work those days and was impressive. Foster is second team and Damien Williams, who also missed time this training camp, is third team.

Dallas Thomas is listed at the starting left guard. Rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, who is expected to have this job by the time the regular season rolls around, is listed as second team left guard.

No surprise at starting center with Mike Pouncey, but backup center right now belongs to first-year player Anthony Steen. He is ahead of Jamil Douglas, who played in Pouncey's absence last year.

The starting receivers are Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. Second team is Leonte Carroo, Matt Hazel and Griff Whalen.

Earl Mitchell, who is coming off a less than stellar season in 2015, remains a starting defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh ahead of rookie Jordan Phillips. Chris Jones, a veteran of three previous NFL seasons, is listed as the other backup defensive tackle.

Cameron Wake, who the team is bringing along wisely as he returns from a 2015 torn Achilles, is listed at his usual starting defensive end spot. Mario Williams is the other starting defensive end. The backup defensive ends are Jason Jones and Andre Branch.

The starting linebacker corps is what we've seen throughout camp: MLB Kiko Alonso, OLB Jelani Jenkins and OLB Koa Misi. The backups are OLBs Neville Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger and MLB James-Michael Johnson.

Tony Lippett, uneven in his performance as a starting cornerback since training camp opened, remains the starting cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell. Chimdi Chekwa, who lately has gotten first-team snaps, is listed as the backup behind Lippett.

No surprise at starting safety with Reshad Jones and recently acquired free agent Isa Abdul-Quddus at the other spot. It should be said that Abdul-Quddus has been off the field in some nickel packages since the start of camp with either Bobby McCain or Michael Thomas at the slot corner.

McCain is listed as the starting slot corner ahead of Thomas although the two have been sharing some of those first-team repetitions. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is listed as the third-team slot cornerback.

[Update: The Dolphins have waived/injured Ekpre-Olomu this morning. All the buzz about his signing in the spring resulted in ... nothing. Ikpre-Olomu sustained another ACL tear, this time to his other knee during a practice Saturday. The injury happened inside the team's bubble, which has field turf. He's done for the year and done on this team for now. The team has added free agent Al Louis-Jean to fill the spot.]

Landry remains listed as the team's kick and punt returner but the team is hoping rookie Jakeem Grant can win the punt return duties and Damien Williams is listed as the second-team kick returner.


 The Dolphins returned to practice Monday morning. Well, most of them.

Missing practice Monday were receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring), running back Kenyan Drake (hamstring), DE Mario Williams (rest), DE Cameron Wake (rest) , CB Chimde Chekwa (thigh strain), DE Farrington Huguenin (ankle), DT Earl Mitchell (calf).

Running back Isaiah Pead (hamstring) returned to practice.


August 05, 2016

Dolphins slog through injury-filled practice; Howard improving

Rough day out there today, folks. Very rough.

Firstly, there were injuries: Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa left practice with an apparent leg injury even as he was working with the first-team defense. Cornerback Jordan Lucas left practice with an apparent leg injury.

[Update: I am told Chekwa has a leg strain. That isn't good news but obviously not terrible, either].

The injury has to be frustrating for Chekwa because he is obviously getting a long look with the Dolphins. Even if he doesn't win the starting job, his work with the starting unit could help him lock down a roster spot if he performs well. After Chekwa went down, Tony Lippett returned to work with the first-team defense.

And running back Kenyan Drake pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury. Drake was on a long run he broke outside when his leg went stiff. He spiked the football and ripped his helmet off in frustration as he was slowing down.

Drake, you must remember, missed time this offseason with a hamstring injury and had a history of injuries in college at Alabama. 

With two cornerbacks going down, the importance of getting rookie Xavien Howard back grows. Howard has not practiced this training camp but today seemed to take a significant step as he ran and did some cutting on the field.

That was a first.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, speaking after practice, said Howard "absolutely" could be the team's starting cornerback in the regular-season opener at Seattle but added he cannot say for certain because Howard still has not practiced at all.

"He's a second round pick for a reason," Joseph said of Howard. "He's talented. From what we saw in the spring he could be a starter. But he hasn't practiced, he hasn't worked. Until he comes back I won't know that answer."

Head coach Adam Gase said he could not predict how long before Howard joins practices.

"It's hard for me to say, 'Hey, we know this is going to be the exact date,'" Gase said. "It's hard for me to say it's ahead of schedule. We're still a ways away. He knows I need to get out there. He knows he needs to get every bit of work he can before the season gets off."

Several players missed practice today.

Ndamukong Suh did not practice because of a back issue. The Herald's Adam Beasley reports Suh is fine. Had this been a game day, he would have played. Defensive end Jason Jones and offensive tackle Branden Albert did not practice because as they both got rest days.

Isaiah Pead (hamstring) missed practice again but Gase said the running back approached him earlier and pronounced himself ready to get back to work. The club held him out as a precaution, to give him more time to heal.

Receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) missed practice but seemed to be running smoothly on the side. I'd venture to guess he's back at practice next week the latest.

against With Albert taking a rest day, first-round draft pick Laremy Tunsil took all his reps at left tackle with the starting unit. He gave up one sack that I saw. Cameron Wake, ladies and gentlemen.

Starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James also gave up a sack to Andre Branch.

This was a rough day for Dolphins offensive tackles, but much of that is probably that the Dolphins have some pretty good defensive ends.

Speaking of a rough day, it was that for the cornerbacks regardless of the injuries to Chekwa and Lucas.

Before the injury, Chekwa was struggling to cover Jarvis Landry, who had two touchdowns against the corner from 33 and 24 yards.

At the slot cornerback position, Michael Thomas, who struggled getting his hands on receivers earlier this week, seemed to be having a good day. He was all over the lower-tier receivers.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu gave up a 40-plus-yard touchdown pass to Rashawn Scott. Scott simply got behind the rookie corner. Ekpre-Olomu is working his way back from a significant knee injury and surgery that forced him to miss the 2015 season.

On that particular play, he looked to be laboring to keep up with Scott.

By the way, ask Joseph about cornerback and he mentions how well Byron Maxwell is playing. At the other positions, he says the problem is not one of lack of talent. He says it is about a lack of experience.

"We'll find someone to play there," Joseph said.

August 04, 2016

Don't expect OL shuffle to end; tons of news, notes, quotes

The Miami Dolphins are done with their Thursday practice and the team made offensive assistants available to the media.

And offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, peppered with questions about the offensive line among other things, said he's not worried that the offensive line has been shuffling guys in and out with regularity.

That shuffling has been particularly true at guard. First round pick Laremy Tunsil gets some snaps with the first team at left guard. He gets some snaps at left tackle. He works with the second team most of the time as well. Dallas Thomas gets reps with the first team at left guard; he's also gotten work at right guard with the first unit. And sometimes Billy Turner, always at right guard, is mostly with the first unit but sometimes with the second unit.

Christensen called the shuffling, "teach mode."

And Christensen said that is the way it is going to remain this week. And next week. And through the first preseason game Aug. 12.

"It’s still the teach mode, as much as I kind of want to jump ahead and let’s get into a starting lineup. You know, we haven’t even got the first preseason game or game week, so through the first preseason game, it’s just keep teaching.After that ... when the coaches get back and evaluate the tape, it is possible the shuffling will cease because as Christensen said, "We'd love to have one unit we know is going to go out there every play and get their chemistry down."

So maybe that happens after the preseason-opener against the New York Giants.

But not before then, it seems.


Ever since coach Adam Gase said running back Arian Foster would be "rolling with the ones" it has been clear that the Dolphins have found their starting running back. But as the team needs two running backs that can contribute because Foster has a long injury history and Gase has a long history of distributing carries among multiple backs, it is important for Jay Ajayi to get healthy and back on the field.

"He's not falling behind mentally for sure," Gase said today. "For me, the sooner we can get him back the better. He's working hard to get back. It's so day-to-day. Everyday we walk in and say, 'Alright where's he at?' ... I know he's itching to get back there because he knows his biggest thing is getting that feeling for what we're doing in the running game and looking at the line of scrimmage and understanding, 'how do I fit in with the o-line.' "

Interestingly, Foster already has that feeling after only six practices. 

"That's the thing Arian has done a great job at," Gase sadi. "Right away, a couple of days in, he's got a good feel where some of his holes are popping. Jay is trying to do the same thing, it's just that some of the things we're doing is different than what he's done in the past."


I covered Don Shula.

And one thing I consistently saw from the coach, aside from winning and integrity, was that he coached players rather than a system. If his players did one thing better than others, he used those abilities and tried to hide the flaws or weaknesses.

He didn't insist on players conforming to his system. He conformed his system to them.

That is why Shula went to a Super Bowl with a running team riding Larry Csonka. And he went to the Super Bowl with a passing team riding Dan Marino.

And Gase believes in this very philosophy. He's not going to ask Ryan Tannehill to throw passes the quarterback isn't comfortable throwing -- even if Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler liked to do it. He's not going to ask linemen or receivers or running backs do something they struggle to do.


"We're still developing what's best for [Jay Ajayi]," Gase said. "So right now it's real generic. As we get through the preseason and we get into the regular season, we'll have a better idea. We're going to do what he does best. We're still trying to figure that out."

Not to kick dirt on a previous head coach's grave, but the past couple of seasons, I've heard more than once things like, "We're going to do something and our guys will do it because they're professionals."



After what was a physical practice Tuesday night, the Dolphins came back after a day off Wednesday and picked up where they left off, Gase said. He said he was pleased with the intensity today.

Kenny Stills, who coaches say has been the first receiver in and last one out of the building this year since the spring, had a mostly good day today. He caught three red zone touchdowns, including a tight rope catch against the end line. He also dropped a couple of passes.

DeVante Parker (hamstring), Ajayi (knee), Isaiah Pead (hamstring), Farrington Huguenin (ankle) did not practice.

Cornerback Tony Lippett, who has been taking practically all the first-team snaps until one period Tuesday evening, was back with the first team today.

This is simply my opinion and not what anyone has whispered to me:

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has lately locked on to Jarvis Landry in the red zone. Yes, he throws to others, but it seems he looks to Landry first. And I get it, Landry is good. Very good.

But the reads need to get a little quicker.

Again, just my opinion.


The last time we saw Chris Foerster in 2004, he was the Dolphins offensive coordinator -- a position he inherited just days before the season began -- during the 2004 season under Dave Wannstedt.

Now he's back as Miami's offensive line coach.

(God, I've been doing this so long the team is recycling coaches).

Anyway, how does Foerster feel about being back?

"It's great to be back. Obviously I don't want to talk about last time, it wasn't a great stop," he said. "But it was a great experience for me from [a coaching] standpoint. It was a wonderful opportunity to coordinate during a real catastrophic year. It was awful. I mean, all the hurricanes hit the state. I was in this building more when the power was off than when it was on that year. It was crazy with the hurricanes and the season with Wannstedt in the middle of the season being out ... But coming back with coach Gase, a very, very close friend of mine, and a guy I've always respected and admired. And I'm very excited about the opportunity. I love this football team. Love the field. The building. And the ownership. It was a different ownership at the time. It was great back then. But it's just different now."


Miami Dolphins comfortable with CB talent, think Salguero is a foof

You may have noticed I've been a bit worried about the Miami Dolphins cornerback situation. If you haven't noticed, you can come up to date with my concern ... here and here and here.

Yes, I've been banging the drums that cornerback talent for the Dolphins right now -- as shown to my untrained by what I see on the field -- is substandard.

And the Dolphins have noticed me noticing.

From the top of the organization, I've been getting some pushback on the idea that cornerback is a problem.

Two days ago a coach told me, "Keep writing that negative stuff. I love it. I love it."

Last night a highly placed source in the organization said confidently, "When we line up against Seattle, we are comfortable'' there will be answers at cornerback.

And I get it. Xavien Howard is not on the field now. The team has high expectations he's going to be quite good.

And (news coming) the suggestion I got is that he will be playing at Seattle. So Howard, who has missed six practices, including today, is likely going to be ready for the season-opener, per the team. The thing is, for him to be ready for Seattle, he has to start practicing at least a couple of weeks before that opener.

I was also told I shouldn't get my underwear in a bunch about signings such as Rashaan Melvin and portray him as an answer because this is never going to be the case.

So there. I've delivered the good tidings based on the pushback I'm getting.

(Yeah, I'm being dramatic. The pushback is simply a difference of opinion delivered professionally and graciously).

But the message is the message.

The Dolphins believe they are going to be just fine.


I think I know what I think I know.

I think I know that Howard isn't Deion Sanders and so it is going to take him time to get comfortable and in the meantime, he'll be targeted.

I think I know that teams typically need four or five corners who can play because every NFL season is a marathon requiring backup talent to step forward.

I think I know that beyond Byron Maxwell and maybe Howard (eventually) I don't see any really good NFL cornerback on the Dolphins.

I think I know that in practice Bobby McCain has been better than Michael Thomas at slot cornerback and yet they continue to share the starting role. I like Thomas as a backup. And McCain is indeed promising. But I know he is relatively unproven so forgive me if I don't throw him a parade.

That's what I think I know.

The Dolphins think they know better.

They're probably right. I'm probably wrong.


August 03, 2016

Miami Dolphins looking for linebackers (update)

The Miami Dolphins are off today so the personnel department is, well, looking at personnel. The team brought in three street free agent linebackers today, obviously looking for depth at a position that currently has very little.

Brandon Spikes, a former starter in New England and star at the University of Florida, was among the linebacker worked out. Former Lions linebacker Jerry Franklin, released by Detroit July 28, is also among the group worked out, per a source.

Franklin has been with the Saints (2014), and Bears (2012-13) in addition to the Lions. He signed with the Lions in February.

Danny Lansanah, who was a rotational linebacker for Tampa Bay the last three years, was also in for a workout. Stephen Tulloch, who was cut by Detroit, remains an option down the line. The Dolphins have shown mild interest in Lansanah in the past.

[Update: I am reporting the Dolphins are signing Lansanah. He most impressed coaches and others during the workout today. To make room for this acquisition the Dolphins waived/injured wide receiver Tyler Murphy.]

And then there's this ...

I know that fans, especially Gators fans, will get crazy with this news because it suggests the Dolphins are about to pick up a starting middle linebacker. That is not what this is about.

The Dolphins are not looking to replace starter Kiko Alonso five practices into training camp.

The team is looking around to see if it can shore up depth.

The team has questionable -- indeed, highly questionable -- depth at linebacker. You'll remember I made that point clear on Tuesday.

Neville Hewitt, who plays outside as well as inside, and Mike Hull as possibilities inside are not answers. Zach Vigil remains on the non-football-injury list. 

Indeed, if Alonso were to miss time, it is likely the team would ask Koa Misi to move to the middle rather than use Hull or Vigil inside. Hewitt would then shift outside.

It is not optimal.

And so this round of workouts.

August 02, 2016

DeVante Parker injured but not serious, Chekwa gets 1st team work, Dolphins get physical, defense comes strong

Before I tell you about the Miami Dolphins evening practice Tuesday that was perhaps the most physical of training camp so far, let's cover some news:

Wide receiver DeVante Parker was held out of practice because he tweaked a hamstring during practice the day before -- Monday. I'm told by a source the team does not believe the injury to be serious. 

The team believes the injury might have something to do with Parker not hydrating enough either before, during or after practices.

And so during drills Monday, Parker felt a tug at his hamstring but wanted to keep working. Sure enough, he kept going and tweaked it.

"I wasn’t very smart and shouldn't have put him out in two-minute," coach Adam Gase said. "He felt something. So we brought him back in there. He was a little bit dehydrated. We felt like if we gave him today off with tomorrow off, we think we should get him back soon.”

The Dolphins are going to talk with Parker and ask him to be more proactive with his hydration. And if that doesn't work, they're going to make sure somebody monitors how much he drinks to make sure he's hydrated.

Rookie Leonte Carroo took first team snaps in Parker's absence today.

Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, a fourth-year player out of Ohio State, got some first team snaps at cornerback today ahead of Tony Lippett. Coach Adam Gase said it was a matter of simply rolling players in and out but the truth is it seems a reaction to Lippett's inconsistent play the first few days of camp.

It is also another sign that the club is still searching for answers at that cornerback spot opposite Byron Maxwell. Let's be clear, if Lippett was playing really well, he'd continue to take all the repetitions with the first team as, say, Maxwell has.

So what does Chekwa think he offers?

"Really, breaking on the ball. I get out of my breaks fast," Chekwa said. "I can go up there and jam, play man. And I'm really out here just trying to get better and trying to make this team."

Look, this feels more like Lippett not being good enough yet than Chekwa being the answer. We shall see ...

Running back Isaiah Pead, who tweaked his hamstring in practice Monday, missed practice Tuesday.

By far the biggest issue during this evening's practice was the series of events midway through practice. The offense was coming out of the end zone inside the five yard line in team drills.

On one pass play, linebacker James Burgess, a rookie out of Louisville, went hard and leveled running back Damien Williams. The contact was so concussive that the sound could be heard throughout the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (my name for the facility).

Chris McCain did a celebratory dance.

Today was Williams's first practice of training camp after spending time on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring and conditioning issues. So he wasn't going to let that be how his first practice would be remembered.

On the very next play he obviously was looking for payback and got it.

Williams laid a block on defensive end Farrington Huguenin that left the rookie doubled over in the end zone clutching his midsection. A couple of minutes later, Huguenin was carted out of the bubble.

The two plays caused Gase, who by the way wants a physical team, to gather his team and warn them about getting too zealous in this practice.

“We came out, we were supposed to be in full pads today," Gase said. "Once we came in here, we just went to the uppers, we went to the shoulder pads. We had a couple of guys get hit and go to the ground and the biggest thing about practicing with not full pads, being in shoulder pads, last thing we want is anybody going to the ground, somebody getting rolled up on.

"It was just a reminder to make sure everybody, we’re staying on our feet. That’s the good thing about having a younger team, when you’re athletic, you should be able to do that."

The episode was not over. As the players dispersed, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh found Williams and talked to him, clearly showing his displeasure with the hit on his defensive line mate. Williams seemed to be explaining his reason for taking the shot but I couldn't tell for sure because they were out of earshot.

Part of this physical practice included a five-yard touchdown run by Daniel Thomas on an inside run. He showed ... toughness on the play. Toughness.

On the play before, Arian Foster bounced outside and also scored on a five-yard run.

By the way, Foster ran with the first team most if not all the reps in team drills.

Today felt like it was a better day for the defense than the offense.

Jason Jones had a sack. Reshad Jones had a sack in red zone.

Ryan Tannehill struggled handling the football on snaps from center on a couple of occassions and threw the first interception of camp when a tipped pass ended up in the hands of Isa Abdul-Quddus. The offense did push ups.    

Kenny Stills, who has been one of the most impressive offensive players since the spring, certainly among the hardest working, had a tough evening. He dropped multiple passes.

The crazy offensive line shuffling continued. Laremy Tunsil worked at first-team left guard and second team left tackle. Jermon Bushrod played with both the first and second team and ran at right guard. Dallas Thomas worked at left and right guard with the starters. Billy Turner worked at right guard on first and second team.

The Dolphins are not looking to lock down the offensive line right now, folks. Give it a few weeks.

Finally this evening, let me share with you that Tannehill's son, born last week, is named Steel Ryan Tannehill. He was born at 9 pounds eight ounces.

“Hopefully it will push him into being a tough kid," Tannehill said of the name. "We’ll see. He can’t be a wimpy kid with a name like Steel. My wife’s loving it; I’m loving having a kid. She’s just a champ for pushing out a nine-pound, eight-ounce baby. Kudos to her for doing that. I couldn’t believe it but she’s a champ. She’s a real strong girl.”





Dion Jordan truly is many steps from seeing the field

Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said over the weekend that Dion Jordan was on step one of "like 500" when he returned to the team after serving a year-long NFL drug suspension that was actually more like 16 months.

One of those steps passed Monday when the roster bonus deadline that was supposed to help determine Jordan's status on the team -- either on it or off -- came and went and nothing happened because ... well, because it was moot.

Jordan is recovering from surgery on his left knee. He's on the non-football injury list, which means he's not on the roster. So no bonus. And so he's got 499 steps before he factors for the Dolphins.

But, the direction I'm seeing this pointed, it is hard to fathom Jordan actually factoring.

I'm not talking about his drug problem. I'm not talking about his drinking. Remove those significant issues, which Jordan says he has addressed and continues to address, and I still don't see Jordan factoring from a sheer football perspective.

Consider this picture.

He has been away from football for over a year. And he returned to his team recovering from a knee injury and subsequent surgery?

Is this real life?

He has had plenty of time to work out and get in great shape. But although he says he's 275 pounds (who really knows because until he earns trust you cannot trust anything he says or does) he didn't look cut or strong in any way when I saw him.

And those two together mean things.

It means Jordan is going to miss two and maybe three weeks of camp. The last time he missed that much time in training camp was his rookie year. And despite having a relatively clean slate then, despite having played football the previous year, which is significant because he wasn't rusty, Jordan could not make up for the lost time.

So he didn't really factor all that much.

And now he's in the same situation. Well, he has more experience, one might argue. But that's relative because his limited experience his rookie season and limited experienced when he returned from his first and second suspensions in 2014 hardly a seasoned veteran made.

So Jordan is kind of right back where he was at the start of his rookie training camp: On the side. Falling behind while teammates sweat and work and hone skills.

That leads me to this: While Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Andre Branch, Jason Jones, Chris McCain and the other two or three defensive ends on the roster are getting better, Jordan is merely trying to get healthy. And those guys were better than Jordan at the start of camp to begin with because they've played, they've been in the conditioning program, they were under the team's care and direction the past six months most of them.

Jordan was under the care of a clinician who was trying to keep him on the right life path.

Sorry fans, none of this suggests Jordan will be a beast when he finally gets on the field. None of this suggests he's going to be in a position to legitimately earn a spot ahead of any of those named above.

And for that reason, it would not surprise if the team simply keeps him on NFI or moves him to the regular-season physically unable to perform list, thus giving Jordan more time to get his football legs under him, get some practice in when the window for such things open.

And then we can check back later on in the season to see where things are.

(And this is where some fan suggests the Dolphins trade Dion Jordan for a good player, maybe a cornerback such as Richard Sherman).

I doubt any team is going to give up a quality player for Jordan. Maybe someone gives up a sixth-round pick. Maybe.

Remember, Jordan is one failed test away from a lifetime ban.

Anyway, if I were making decisions -- which I'm not because I'm a stooge -- I would draw up a longterm football plan for Dion Jordan. The Dolphins are planning and supporting and doing things to make sure Jordan succeeds as a person. They need to do similar work to make sure he succeeds as a player.

I would look at the talent on my roster. I would look at Dion Jordan. I would look at the current situation. And I would determine the following:

I would determine Dion Jordan cannot and will not be in the plans now. I would determine Jordan is a strongside linebacker -- the position he played in college. I would determine Jordan has to drop 15 pounds to play that position. And forward we go to the midpoint of the regular season when we see if Jordan has done the work to become that player.

Why am I determining this?

Looking at the Dolphins roster, Jordan simply cannot beat out the defensive ends ahead of him right now. He's going to take snaps away from Wake? Williams? Branch? Jones? Be serious.

Looking at the roster, the linebacker corps has no serious depth. With all respect to Spencer Paysinger and Neville Hewitt, I would not be comfortable with them as the answer if either Koa Misi or Jelani Jenkins get hurt and miss time. And by the way, are you aware both Misi and Jenkins have missed time the last couple of seasons?

So Jordan as the backup plan.

And why him?

Because, again, he played the position in college. He wasn't a defensive end. The Dolphins didn't draft a defensive end named Dion Jordan in 2013. They drafted a kid who was so athletic he played all over the place, including some at end, because he could win on sheer athleticism. Except for the foreseeable future that doesn't matter because NFL tackles are typically pretty good, because Jordan is 35 pounds heavier than he was in college, and because he hasn't played any organized football since 2014.

It is now 2016.

So trim 15 pounds, get healthy, get in your playbook (tablet), and factor when it's your time.

Look, the only Dolphins player who has successfully covered Rob Gronkowski like, ever, is Dion Jordan in 2014. The guy the team used late in a game at Detroit to match up with Calvin Johnson was Dion Jordan.

The New England Patriots have a linebacker named Jamie Collins. He has pass-rush skills. But he is so valuable in coverage and doing so many other things, the Patriots use him in a manner that maximizes those skills. Jordan seems to have similar skills.

Dion Jordan is not a defensive end. Putting him there because he doesn't have to think and all he has to do is chase the ball is the easy approach. It'll be interesting to see if that approach bears fruit. I have doubts -- at least in the short term.

August 01, 2016

Monday practice notes, quotes, anecdotes from Miami Dolphins camp

Loved the competition at Miami Dolphins camp today.

There was plenty of it and, as with all competive endeavors, there were winners. And there were losers.

The winners?

The wide receivers. The defensive linemen. Kicker Andrew Franks who didn't take even one swing at a FG today (more on that later. Way later).

The losers?

The defensive backs and specifically the cornerbacks.

And the offensive line has to get better. It is predictably behind the defensive line.

Let's start with the newsy stuff first, however. Running back Jay Ajayi missed practice today. He apparently knocked knees or something with linebacker Jelani Jenkins during practice Sunday and started feeling discomfort during meetings last night.

He got with trainers and it was diagnosed as a bone bruise. Now, Ajayi has a chronic bone-on-bone issue in his right knee. But this injury is to his left knee.

"I feel like it's just going to be a couple of days before I'm back to normal. All it was was a bone bruise. We're just doing precautionary measures and letting the swelling go down. And once that happens I'll be back out with the team and getting to work."

Ajayi is day to day.

Ajayi's absence today meant Isaiah Pead started the practice as the starting running back. But he was not able to finish practice. Pead seemed to tweak his left hamstring or suffer a cramp in the back of his left leg and stopped working three or four periods before the session was complete.

That meant a lot of work today for Kenyan Drake, Daniel Thomas and even Arian Foster, who is still learning the system but got a couple of first-team snaps in two minute drills.

I have to say, the running back corps is ... interesting.

We know Ajayi has a history with the knee. We know Foster is productive and Pro Bowl caliber but is often injured. Drake was injured a lot in college. Thomas was injured a good deal with the Dolphins during his previous stints with the team.

Those are facts.

Damien Williams, who was on the physically unable to perform list the first four days of training camp, is going to be activated by practice time Tuesday and will work for the first time, coach Adam Gase said.

That out of the way, onto the competition ...

I counted seven likely-possible sacks during practice today. Obviously, the Dolphins are not hitting the quarterback. Defensive linemen are pulling up. But it's clear what would be a QB hit or sack to these eyes and there were seven.

Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, Chris McCain (2), Ndamukong Suh, Jason Jones all had sacks. The Dolphins also brought pressure on slot corner blitzes.

The Dolphins are having Mario Williams, traditionally a right end, move to left end when Cameron Wake, traditionally a right end, is on the field. That means Williams is lined up against the left tackle a lot.

Jason Jones and Andre Branch have been asked to show similar versatility so far this camp.

The offensive line is still in its experimental stages. Today, rookie Laremy Tunsil got first team snaps at left guard and left tackle. Dallas Thomas got first team snaps at left guard and right guard.

There was a little scuffle between Tunsil and McCain that was much sound and fury signifying nothing. The two pushed each other a couple of times. McCain took a swing. And then they were seen chatting during special teams drills.

Interesting only perhaps to me, the Dolphins are asking Tunsil to forget what he learned at Ole' Miss relative to how he sets for each play.

"What we do here is have our hand in the ground," Tunsil said. "I'm used to my hand up at Ole Miss. But there's nothing major. I got a lot to learn. I'm going to stay in the meeting rooms."

All that action up front was interesting. On the back end, the defense did not win. Yes, there were more hands on the football today than the past three days. Bobby McCain even had an interception in his hands that he dropped.

But overall, the receivers dominated the defensive backs, and specifically the cornerbacks, today.

Even with second-team quarterback Matt Moore getting a rest day and rookie Brandon Doughty getting second-team snaps, the defensive backs struggled.

(By the way, Gase said Tannehill isn't going to be getting rest days).

A sampling:


It was especially rough for Lippett and Lucas in one-on-one drills versus the receivers. Lippett is working against the starters because he is Miami's starting cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell.

In the slot, Jakeem Grant dominated Michael Thomas today. The sixth-round pick rookie receiver got open on both an intermediate route and then showed his speed on a deeper route that went for a completion over Thomas's head.

Foks, the Dolphins are supposed to be playing press-man.

Miami's defensive backs haven't been doing a good enough job getting their hands on the receivers at the line of scrimmage and if that does not happen ... Bye-bye.

The Dolphins have been in camp four days. There have been four open practices. Hundreds of passes have been thrown. No interceptions.

Finally, you probably know the Dolphins have a kicking competition of sorts going on. They have incumbent Andrew Franks versus undrafted rookie Marshall Koehn.

Today was not a good day for Koehn. He connected on three of six kicks and his last one, from over 50 yards out barely reached the end zone. Koehn had been solid before today but obviously, consistency is key for a player trying to supplant a veteran.




Football: Full pads at Dolphins camp today

The first three days of Miami Dolphins training camp have been ... nice.

It has been solid.

It has been good.

But it really hasn't been football per se.

Today we see something closer to football. Today, the Dolphins are able to go with full pads as allowed by the NFL collective bargaining agreement that says full pads cannot go on until after three days of camp. And today is Miami's fourth day in camp.

Now it gets real.

"I mean your body temperature goes way up and if we can practice like this, it’s great," coach Adam Gase said Sunday after the team put on shoulder pads and got some but not a lot of contact. "But now moving forward into training camp, we should be in full pads almost every day and we’ll really see where we’re at.”

And that is the beauty of full padded practices. We don't have to project anymore.

We can see to a greater degree exactly how much improvement the Miami offensive line has made from a year ago. I've been told by people within the organization that this could be the best offensive line in years.

Gase has told his assistants this could be his most talented offensive line he's ever worked with.

But they have to prove it. We want to know if, in fact, rookie Laremy Tunsil is what the personnel department and coaching staff sold him as when he was drafted in the first round. We want to know if all that weight lifting and new attitude has made Dallas Thomas any better. We understand why Branden Albert got the day off Sunday -- so he can thud some people on Monday. We want to see whether right tackle Ja'Wuan James is improved from his rookie form of 2014 after missing most of 2015 with a dislocated toe. We want to see if center Mike Pouncey, the leader of the line, is stronger because he needed that.

Full padded practices also test the defensive front.

The Dolphins have been saying this defensive front is going to be great. Great!

Vance Joseph told me months ago he has no concerns about the defensive front.

“We’re going to allow those guys to rush and be aggressive," Joseph told me. "My vision for this defense is to have the most aggressive front in the league. And with those four or five guys, even with [Andre] Branch, he’s come here and been a really good surprise because he can rush. And he’s been a compliant guy. He’s worked hard. So we have five or six rushers. So we’re going to rush.”

I want to see that today. I want to see what is supposed to be a great defensive front get after an improving offensive line that the Dolphins believe will be pretty good this year.

Check back after practice for the verdict.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/armando-salguero/article77712732.html#storylink=cpy