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63 posts from September 2016

September 29, 2016

Cincinnati Bengals steamroll Miami Dolphins, 22-7 (with Tannehill, Gase reaction)

CINCINNATI -- I'm not ready to call for the benching of Ryan Tannehill. But this was bad, folks. Really bad.

Hey, the Dolphins lost 22-7 and Tannehill had a rough day.

"Not a lot worked," Tannehill said. "We really didn't do anything well. It was one of our worst performances from our offense in a long time. We did some decent things in the run game, we just couldn't get anything going in the passing game. No consistency. No execution. Too many mistakes. It was bad.

"We have too get it fixed soon, and I mean Monday. It's gone on too long. It's got to be important to everyone who steps on that field. We have to get it fixed right now."

Tannehill completed 15 of 25 passes for 189 yards with one interception and one touchdown. A lot of those yards came in garbage time when so many of Tannehill's yards have come this year.

Yeah, it's not one person or group," Tannehill said. "It's everyone, including me. We have to get better. We have to execute. Can't have mental mistakes."

Gase, interestingly, did not absolve Tannehill of his poor performance, either.

"The entire offense struggled," he said. "Obviously, he missed a couple of things early. His missed a third-and-one on a naked and was behind on the throw to Jarvis Landry. When things start going bad, you want him to find that one throw where he can spring us loose. But tonight was one of those nights where he only had two opportunities early that maybe could have sparked us.

"It's hard to play that position. You're trying to make plays, and if you're a quarter of an inch off and the ball is behind, then they're going to play tight defense. And that's what these guys do. There were some good things he did and a couple of times he had some great plays. But not everybody was on the same page. All of the sudden he looks like he doesn't know what he's doing. I know he's going to come back and work and figure out a way to get this thing turned around."

It was depressing.

Tannehill was sacked five times. The offensive line that didn't have any depth a year ago?

It has no depth this year.

That is now proven.

"Some of the plays were not ideal, as far as what we were doing," Gase said. "Some was busted protection. Ryan has to step up on the fumble. It's everybody taking their turn. I don't think it really mattered who was out right now. We couldn't get out of own way."

Laremy Tunsil struggled at left tackle. Billy Turner was terrible at left guard. I mean, Dallas Thomas has been a better left guard. And Ja'Wuan James remains in a funk.

About that play where Tannehill was stripped. I asked him why he didn't step up in the pocket.

"Yeah, I looked at the pictures, there was definitely a pocket there I should have stepped up into," Tannehill said. "I had my eyes downfield and was about to let it go. But the fact is the tackles did a good job of pushing the guys past the depth so I have to step up. That's on me."

The defense continues to disappoint.

Andy Dalton to A.J. Green just went for another first down. Green caught 10 passes for 173 yards and one TD.

The Dolphins are 1-3. Season is not over. But ...



Huge amount of lineup changes forced by injuries and performance.

CINCINNATI -- It's a nightmare, folks.

The inactives tonight include Branden Albert, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Anthony Steen, and Jordan Cameron -- all of them starters.

Arian Foster and Mike Pouncey are also inactive.

Cornerback Byron Maxwell, healthy but not playing up to standards, is also not starting.

So that is six starters on the bench at the start of this game and that doesn't even include Mike Pouncey, who is also not starting.

Laremy Tunsil will move from LG to LT and start for Albert. Spencer Paysinger will start for Misi. Donald Butler will start for Jenkins. Tony Lippett will start for Maxwell. Billy Turner starts for Tunsil at left guard, Kraig Urbik starts at center for Steen and Pouncey and Dion Sims starts at tight end for Jordan Cameron at tight end.

Damien Williams start at RB for Foster this week. Last week, Kenyan Drake started for Foster.


Shocking! Dolphins players with injury histories are injured

CINCINNATI -- The Miami Dolphins injury report this week is a cynic's dream.

The cynic looks at the group of players on Miami's report that includes a third of the team and says, "I told you so."

And you know what? It is hard to dismiss the criticism because so many of the injured Dolphins this week came to the Dolphins or have been with the Dolphins with a history for injuries.

Running back Arian Foster is the most prominent name on Miami's injury list. He is a poster child of injury history. He's missed 19 games in the past five seasons, and tonight will mark his 20th missed game in that span. He missed 12 games last season and has missed two of four this season. He's had hamstring, groin and last year's Achilles' injury.

Who is surprised Foster is hurt? No one.

So the Dolphins have no excuses for relying on him.

Misi is out with a neck injury. And that means he will not play all 16 games this season. That's expected because he has not played all 16 games in a season since his rookie season in 2011.

Misi finished the 2015 season on injured reserve. He finished the 2011 season on injured reserve.

Misi has battled back and abdomen injuries (2015), a serious ankle injury (2014), a knee injury (2013) and a shoulder injury (2011).

Koa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi has battled almost as many injuries as there are letters in his full name.

Jelani Jenkins is listed as doubtful for this game. He has a groin injury. He had a knee injury in August that required surgery. He has not missed games this year yet, but his history suggests he will because he hasn't played a full season since his rookie year in 2013 when he was only playing on special teams.

Jenkins had recurring ankle issues in 2015 that found him starting games he could not finish because of the injury.

And while that credits the player for being tough and resilient enough to make it to the game despite the injury, it actually hurts the team because coaches make plans and adjust their inactive lists, counting on the player to contribute. Then he goes out and suddenly the plans have to be shredded.

Interestingly, that is exactly the situation the Dolphins find themselves in tonight with Jenkins. Frankly, I'd sit him.

Mike Pouncey is about to miss his fourth game of the season because of a hip injury suffered August 19. And I reported this was likely on Sept. 16. Pouncey's season debut will come on Oct. 9 against Tennessee, barring another setback.

Pouncey has not played a full season since 2012.

Last year Pouncey battled foot, hip and knee issues. The foot injury ended his season prematurely. In 2014, Pouncey needed surgery on his other hip in the offseason and that forced him to miss the first five weeks of the season. in 2013, Pouncey had an issue with food poisoning that forced him to miss time.

The concern now is the hip. He's had surgery on both the left and right hip. And his latest hip injury -- to the left hip again -- now suggests that side is a problem.

Tight end Jordan Cameron will miss this game with a concussion. The Dolphins are hopeful Cameron can return to the lineup by the Oct. 9 home game against Tennessee. But to say that is the plan is not accurate.

No one knows for certain when Cameron will be back because only the neurological tests that players must take and pass to get back on the field will determine that.

And Cameron, a smart, thoughtful guy who has a family to think about, is almost certainly not going to rush the matter. He's not going to tell doctors he feels good if he knows he's not yet 100 percent -- something some players actually do.

The Dolphins signed Cameron in 2015 knowing concussions were an issue with him. Jordan had three concussions in three seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

He suffered a concussion in practice in 2012 and missed two games. He suffered a concussion in Week 15 of 2013 and missed Week 16. He suffered a concussion in Week 8 of 2014 and missed three games.

Cameron has also had shoulder, rib and hamstring issues since 2011. The hamstring issue in '11 forced him to miss eight games. But it is the concussion injuries that shout concern.

Miami gambled and won on the issue in 2015. Cameron played all 16 games. But that was the first time in his NFL career he was able to complete a full season.

Miami's luck, and that seems to be all it was, has apparently run out on that front. 

The Dolphins have other players on this week's injury report that raise red flags. That injury report, which included 15 injured players, had names we've seen on injury reports in the past.

DeVante Parker has had hamstring injuries this entire season and dating back into the offseason. That comes after the foot problems he had in college and with the Dolphins last season. He's expected to play tonight despite being questionable with a hamstring injury, but the point is he has a hamstring injury. Again.

Kiko Alonso missed his entire second season in 2014 with a knee injury. He missed time last season with the Eagles because of a knee injury and a concussion. He has so far been healthy with the  Dolphins but he is questionable tonight with a hamstring injury. Yes, he's playing.

But as with all these guys, the injury history is the injury history.

And it should not be overlooked.

September 28, 2016

Dolphins without four starters for Bengals game Thursday nite.

The final injury report of the week for the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals is out and four Miami starters are officially out.

Center Mike Pouncey, running back Arian Foster, linebacker Koa Misi and tight end Jordan Cameron will not play Thursday against the Bengals.

Backup center Anthony Steen, who has started all three games in place of Pouncey this season, is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury that has limited him this week.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins is also listed as doubtful with a groin injury.

That means:

Kraig Urbik will start at center if Steen cannot play or finish the game.

Donald Butler will start at the strongside linebacker spot (SAM) in place of Misi.

Neville Hewitt will play the weak side linebacker spot (WILL) if Jenkins cannot.

The Dolphins will go with the running back-by-committee approach that they used against Cleveland last Sunday when Foster was not able to play because of his groin injury. So some combination of Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Isaiah Pead and Damien Williams will carry the rushing attack.

At tight end, Dion Sims is the starter and MarQueis Gray will also be active and be used if the Dolphins employ double tight end formations.

The Dolphins today waived wide receiver Justin Hunter. That opens a roster spot to promote an offensive lineman (perhaps Jamil Douglas) or a linebacker from the practice squad to give the team the necessary number of available players at eithe position.

There is good news for the Dolphins. The team expects left tackle Branden Albert to play. He had missed the first two days of what would have been practice time (the Dolphins only did walk-thru work this short week), but Albert was able to participate on a limited basis Wednesday.

That suggests more of the improvement coach Adam Gase hinted Albert made on Tuesday. 

The Dolphins reported in their final injury report that right guard Jermon Bushrod did not practice on Wednesday but it was not injury related. Bushrod was excused for family reasons and did not even fly on the team charter to Cincinnati.

He is scheduled to join his teammates in Cincinnati by Thursday afternoon.

The Bengals are not without their injury issues. Tight end Tyler Eifert, who has not played this season because of an ankle injury, is doubtful. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is also listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Ryan Tannehill seemingly a tale of two quarterbacks so far this season

There's a growing perception that Adam Gase doesn't criticize Ryan Tannehill.

My frienemies at another newspaper (not actually frienemies as I tolerate them well enough) recently wrote a whole post about it. And I've had people in other cities tell me they're wondering when Gase will unload on Tannehill for thus far mediocre play.

Well, I can tell you there are unseen things that happen in a game that never get talked about or complained about and those exonerate Ryan Tannehill from blame. There are moments we don't know about that are simply there. Many such moments came during the Cleveland game when Gase pointed out Tannehill got the team out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage or adjusted the protection at the line of scrimmage to salvage plays.

There were other plays that look bad on tape and seem as if Tannehill is performing poorly when in fact his protection is breaking down and gives him no time to operate. Another time a receiver rounds off his route and so a pass goes incomplete, or there's a dropped pass, or there's an altogether wrong route run.

I'm not saying Tannehill is faultless. But it is a team sport and there are 10 other offensive players on the field.

So he's not the only one messing up.

That's why Gase said this week, "everybody was taking their turn," messing up.

And so in the last seven paragraphs I've made it clear it is not all Ryan Tannehill's fault.

But here come a few paragraphs that does indeed put it on Tannehill ...

He's the quarterback. He is the face of the offense if not the franchise. He has to play better.



He needs to be better than he has been so far in 2016.

And it's not a general thing. He specifically has to play better sooner in the game. What I mean by that is he has been a poor quarterback for the Dolphins in the first half of games this year. He has. It wasn't his offensive linemen. It wasn't the receivers. It wasn't the play-calling.


That first half against Cleveland on Sunday was atrocious. He threw two interceptions. And one of those was on the first pass of the game. No bueno.

Let me get out my No. 2 pencil. Doing some figuring here and Tannehill's first half numbers so far this season are as follows: 30 of 51 (58.8 completion percentage) for 311 yards with one TD and three interceptions.

Sharpening my pencil after doing all that figuring. In the second half of the three games so far this season, Tannehill has completed 48 of 58 passes (70.7 completion percentage) for 531 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception.

Tannehill's averages 6.10 yards per completion in the first half. He averages 9.16 yards per completion in the second half.

His first half quarterback rating is 58.5. His second half quarterback rating is 114.9.

So there you have one -- not all but one -- reason the Dolphins have not started fast in games so far this season. The quarterback.

“We haven’t played well in the first half," Tannehill said when asked specifically why he hasn't played well in the first half. "I think that’s plain to see. It doesn’t take any long division to figure that out. We just have to come out and execute. I think it all just comes down to execution of the total offense – just being on the same page, doing the right things and being in the right spot."

Again, this is a team sport and the Dolphins are trying to install a new offense for everyone. That includes the quarterback and all the other players, plus the offensive coaches. It takes time. I wrote on Aug. 31 this would happen, explained why and told you how long it might take before it gets right.

So no one is surprised.

But the frustration here is that if players can do certain things in the second half of games, they should be able to do it in the first half.

That includes Ryan Tannehill.

September 27, 2016

Donald Butler gets opportunity if Misi can't play; Albert ankle a concern; Joseph explains defensive players freelancing

Short week for the Miami Dolphins and so the team's coordinators are speaking to reporters Tuesday rather than Thursday. And it was a newsy few minutes with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.

Joseph said Donald Butler will be the starting SAM linebacker if Koa Misi (neck) cannot play and Neville Hewitt will start and play if Jelani Jenkins (groin) cannot play.

"It's his chance, his turn to show us what he can do," Joseph said of Butler.

My sense is the Misi injury is such that the Dolphins are planning to go with Butler and then if Misi suddenly recovers, all the better.

Christensen said Ja'Wuan James remains the team's starting right tackle despite the fact he struggled on Sunday, giving up strip sack and being benched eventually. But James is back at his spot against the Bengals.

"Yeah, I think he's still our starting right tackle," Christensen said. "He's no different than anyone, we're looking for the right combinations who can do it day in and day out. Probably like a baseball pitcher, he's a starter, but sometimes you have to give some guys relief. Sometimes it's short term but that doesn't change thgt you're a starter.

"He's a good player. He's an athlete. And the thing everyone wants out of him is for him to establish himself as an elite right tackle and to be a leader. We're dying for guys to be owners in this thing and this is my unit, my franchise, my team. Follow me. Do what I'm doing. We're looking for guys to be owners. The good teams they have veteran good players that take ownership of the thing ... That's what we want to see out of him and what we want him to see out of himself."

Christensen said he was still holding out hope center Anthony Steen, who is nursing a high ankle injury, could play. Steen said in the locker room he expects to play. Christensen sounded less optimistic that either Mike Pouncey and Arian Foster would play. Christensen said it would be "on the miraculous side" for Pouncey to play.

We already know Jordan Cameron is not playing.

Interestingly, Christensen spoke about left tackle Branden Albert in the same terms he did as Steen. Albert injured his ankle on the Cleveland game's final play but there was no suggestion his injury was as serious as Steen's -- until now.

"The truth of the matter is it's a short week and it's hard," Christensen said. "And the hardest thing is who you give the reps to. The hard thing is you can't count on 'em. You put them out there and then all of the sudden in the first quarter they can't go. That's the complicated question. You put Steen and BA up and all of a sudden in the first drive they say, 'Hey, I tried and I can't go.' Now you're stuck because the other guys are inactive. That's the tricky part and that's where coach Gase and the front office will have to make a tough decision."

The decision on these players is as simple as this: If they start, will they finish?

If the answer is yes, they play. If the answer is uncertain, then they probably do not.

"Having two starters in the same predicament is extremely complicated," Christensen said. "It makes it extremely sensitive."

I told you earlier this week that the Dolphins are getting more mistakes on defense than anyone thought they'd get because the defense is not exactly a lesson in rocket science. The Miami defense should be easy enough to learn.

Joseph agrees. 

"I don't think it's super hard but you have to be detailed," the defensive coordinator said. "We've had a lot of errors. We practice very well each week but in the game we have a lot of errors. We've had probably eight to nine plays a game where we've had critical errors that cause explosive plays. Aside from those 8-10 plays it's been pretty good. I think It's a case of a new system. It's a case of having some young guys playing out there. That's what I have to attribute it to. It's a system where it's almost the same job whether it's pressure or zone so I'm not sure why there's a lot of error right now. But it's got to be fixed. Quickly. But again, it's been 8-10 snaps where there's error and the other 60 snaps it's been pretty good."

I also explained there was freelancing by some defensive linemen going on and that needed to stop. Joseph agrees.

"Yes. Yes," Joseph said. "That happens when guys are pass-rushing every snap. We've got to play blocks better. Every snaps can't be a pass rush. When you're pass rushing, you can be softer in your gap. But you still have to be in your gap. It's soft so it gets moved so for the linebacker instead of it being a smaller gap it becomes a big gap.

"We've got to recognize run and pass better and play blocks better up front. And that's an issue when you're an attack front. We've preached, 'Attack, attack, attack.' but in the same aspect they've got to play blocks better."

PFF Week Three grades: DeVante, Jenkins, Maxwell, OL and DTs not named Suh were bad; Jones, Landry, RBs good

The Miami Dolphins effectively have three starting wide receivers. And they're happy with the effort of two of them, following Sunday's victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The Dolphins are pleased with Jarvis Landry.

The Dolphins are pleased with Kenny Stills.

DeVante Parker caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter. But I'm told the Dolphins are not pleased. It seems coaches want more production and more effort from Parker.

Parker was targeted six times on Sunday. He caught two of his three targets in the first half. He had one catch in three targets in the second half. But it's not about the hands, here. It's about the route-running and the effort the Dolphins want to see improved.

In some regard I guess you can say Parker is making strides. A couple of weeks ago the Dolphins were merely trying to get him on the field and through a game healthy. Now they want more.

The grades from ProFootballFocus.com today reflect a win but obviously not an impressive one. And that's exactly what Sunday's 30-24 overtime victory over Cleveland was.

Per PFF:

Rookie running back Kenyan Drake (70.8) put in a solid showing on the ground in spite of getting little help from his offensive line. His 37 yards on nine carries may appear meager but he gained 62.2% of his rushing yards after first contact (2.6 per carry), compared to a team average on the day of 54.7 percent.

While Tannehill was only sacked once and hit twice more, three of the Dolphins' offensive linemen (Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod) surrendered five hurries apiece. Only Ja'Wuan James had allowed that many in the first two games of the season combined for the Dolphins' offensive line.

Ndamukong Suh earned an overall grade of 82.4, third best on the Dolphins' defense, but was the only Dolphin defensive tackle to earn a grade above 60. So maybe now you understand why the Browns were able to rush for 169 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per run. The play of the Dolphins' other defensive tackles and the linebackers behind them helped the Browns gain 4.25 yards per carry on runs between the tackles.

Cameron Wake played a season high 35 snaps and was a force as a pass rusher from the outset with strip sack on the opening drive. Wake's seven pressures (one hit, six hurries) were his most in almost a year and helped him earn the highest overall grade on the Miami defense this week (85.3).

(It's good that PFF rewards Wake with the highest grade. My eyes told me Wake was the second-best player on the Dolphins on Sunday. Reshad Jones was better.)

Wake topped the NFL in Week Three in pass rush productivity -- which measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks -- at 25 percent after collecting seven quarterback pressures and a sack during 22 pass rushes.

Safety Reshad Jones racked up six defensive stops, tied for the second most in a single game in his entire career. Jones was a force around the line of scrimmage against run and pass, particularly early in the game when the Browns first started rolling in Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. Jones also notched his first sack since Week 10 last season against the Eagles (another six stop performance).

CB Byron Maxwell was a key piece to the Philadelphia Eagles' acquisition of Miami's 2016 first-round pick that they would use to acquire the No. 2 draft slot to select QB Carson Wentz. While Wentz has excelled beyond expectations, Maxwell's play has left plenty to be desired after surrendering five receptions for 84 yards to Cleveland WR Terrelle Pryor. Through three games, Maxwell has permitted 1.43 yards per coverage snap over 129 coverage snaps. In 2015, only 17 of 79 cornerbacks defending at least 50 percent of passing snaps allowed 1.43 yards per coverage snap or more. Not good. But not surprisingly, Maxwell was one of those.

So the Dolphins have gotten exactly what they must have seen from Maxwell in Philadelphia.

Miami LB Jelani Jenkins recorded the Dolphins' lowest PFF grade (37.3) in Week Three. Jenkins recorded one tackle in defense of 24 rushing attempts compared to two missed tackles. He allowed his lone coverage snap to gain 10 yards after the catch while missing a third tackle and was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty during seven empty attempts rushing the quarterback.

Jenkins had more missed tackles (3) than he made solo tackles (2). Despite playing 150 snaps thus far this season, Jenkins has only recorded five solo tackles and ranks as PFF's worst 4-3 OLB in run defense.

(I would say Jenkins is playing hurt. He obviously has not been the same coming back from the knee surgery he had in August. Having said that, Donald Butler is coming. Jenkins needs to play better or he'll be replaced).

Tannehill was consistently targeting Jarvis Landry on longer-developing crossing and intermediate routes. The two players connected on four passes thrown outside the numbers to the intermediate level (10-19 yards downfield).

Tannehill was effective at throwing the ball downfield against the Browns. He completed 11 of 16 passes to the intermediate level of the field (10-19 yards downfield).

(But, as I wrote a couple of days ago, his uneven performances need to stop. It is a 60 minute game. He needs to show up in the first half.)

Jarvis Landry terrorized the Browns’ defense all day. Landry caught 7 of 12 targets and had receptions against six different Browns’ defenders in coverage. He also had 46 yards after the catch. Landry had 120 receiving yards rand a touchdown against the Browns. He was the most targeted WR so far graded by PFF in Week Three along with Denver's Emmanuel Sanders.

On the season, Landry has been targeted 32 times -- also most in the NFL.  

After starting TE Jordan Cameron left with an injury after just 12 snaps, Dion Sims took over and played 60 snaps and was the highest graded player on the team (tied with Landry). He was exceptional as a run blocker, grading out as PFF's  No. 1 run blocking TE in Week 3.

(Yeah, what did I tell you about him replacing Cameron in my post Monday? This is what I told you).

The Miami offensive line struggled all afternoon, as all five starters graded out very poorly. They allowed a ridiculous 19 total pressures on 40 passing plays, although Tannehill was only sacked one time. Facing no pressure, Tannehill was 16-of-22 for 207 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception and a NFL QB Rating of 113.3. Under pressure, however, he was 9-of-17 for 112 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a rating of 68.7.

The running back by committee Miami employed worked out well against the Browns, as the ground game produced 115 yards on 25 carries (4.6 avg.) and the game-winning touchdown. The backs were able to force a combined four missed tackles and had 63 yards after contact.

Rookie cornerback Xavien Howard struggled some in coverage on Sunday after impressing in the first two weeks of the season. He allowed five receptions on six targets for 68 yards and was beaten by the Browns' Terrelle Pryor multiple times for first downs. He continues to be impressive in run defense with his tackling, recording six more on the afternoon from his cornerback position.

September 26, 2016

Dolphins offense and defense suffering same growing pains but one upgrade (in my opinion) on the way

Adam Gase and Vance Joseph sat down late Sunday evening and watched tape of the Dolphins defense against Cleveland, and as they talked, they got this feeling that they have the same problem. That's right, the team's top offensive coach (Gase) and top defensive coach (Joseph) have more or less the same problem.

And that problem is everybody on their units are taking a turn stinking.

 “We need to be on the details," Gase said when asked about the run defense that is today 32nd in the NFL, one day after giving up 169 rushing yards to the Cleveland Browns.

"Sitting there with Vance last night, we were watching it and understanding. We keep talking … It’s almost like mirror images of each other as far as offense and defense on certain things on offense compared to defense. When we talk about stuff, I feel like we’re both saying the same things on different sides of the ball. If we can clean up the little detailed things of doing your assignments -- staying in your gap, making sure that we’re fitting everything right.

"Give us a chance to actually evaluate the scheme before we say, ‘We’ve got to do something different.’ If we do things right to start with, that’s going to give us our best chance to evaluate it and understand if we’re good or if we’re not good. Right now, I would say we’re not doing it well enough to say, ‘We need to move away from the scheme,’ or, ‘We need to do something different.’ If we can clean up some of these little tiny details, it would stop all these bigger runs that are happening. Instead of having nine-yard runs, it would probably be a two- or a one-yard run if we would get our fits a little better."

On defense, the Dolphins are having an issue they had some problems with last year. Some unnamed defensive linemen are freelancing.

"We had a rough go this last game, for sure," Gase said. "We’ve got to clean a lot of things up. It just seems like one person is taking their turn. It’s a new guy every play and we just have to kind of get back to basics and we have to get back to some of our fundamentals of being very gap sound (and) making sure everybody’s doing their job.

"We can’t have anybody freelancing. That’s a bad mix for a defense as far as if one guy is off in his zone, it kind of throws the linebackers off. Now all of a sudden our fits are wrong and that’s when you’re getting these 8-, 10-, 12-yard runs. The biggest thing, at least in my experience, is when you play a defense that is tough to run the ball against – they’re very sound, they tackle well – and really it’s that group, that seven or eight guys that are working together to make sure that everybody is doing their job correctly."

Gase, who is the team's offensive play caller, is also frustrated with his offense.

The offense he installed is not taking. Said another way, everybody gets it but because everyone is new to the system, there are mistakes. And it's not always the same guy making the mistake. And the mistakes obviously come on different plays.

So different guys making mistakes on multiple plays.


“I think right now, the stage we’re at is really getting comfortable with the offense," Gase said. "There are some moving parts that occur from week to week. It’s easy to say, ‘Should development occur quicker?’ But when you’re counting on 10 other guys to do their job in a first-year system, we’re going to have our bumps, and we’re going to have our missteps just like (in) this last game.

"Everybody was taking their turn. But as far as [quarterback Ryan Tannehill] coming along as a passer, making decisions – things like that – I feel like I’ve seen a guy that has gotten better from the time I’ve gotten here in the spring.

"I see a guy that really wants to work at it and make sure that he’s part of the solution. We’re going to keep developing. That’s what we have to do. We’ve come out of the gate and out of our (first) four opponents, three of them were in the playoffs last year. It’s a good measuring stick for us to at least see where we’re really at."

The Dolphins offense right now is an unbalanced attack. The Dolphins are 10th in the NFL in passing and 25th running the football. Yes, yes, yes, running the ball the first two games was not going to happen based on the opponent and the game situations. The 30-24 win over Cleveland presented a more balanced attack in which Miami gained 115 rushing yards.

Still, much improvement is needed because the Dolphins are tied for 20th in the NFL in points per game and that's the money statistic. That 21.3 points per game average must climb if this team is going to be relevant in 2016.

One area that you might see improvement this week?

Are you ready?

The tight end position.

Starter Jordan Cameron is out with a concussion so the Dolphins will thrust Dion Sims into a bigger role than normal. That means the Dolphins are effectively subtracting a better threat in the passing game while adding a better run and pass blocker.

Except in this case the switch is not equal. Although Cameron is better in the passing game, he hasn't been producing like it on a consistent basis. Sims is consistently a good blocker.

So, in my view, the Dolphins are exchanging an inconsistent pass game threat for a more consistent blocker. I would argue that is an upgrade.

Jordan Cameron, Arian Foster out of Thursday game at Cincinnati; team injuries shouldn't surprise

The injury news is not good for the Dolphins for Thursday night's game at Cincinnati.

Coach Adam Gase said today tight end Jordan Cameron is out because he does indeed have a concussion and he's in the NFL concussion protocol. There simply is not enough time for Cameron to be cleared from the protocol by Thursday.

So Dion Sims and MarQueis Gray will be the active tight ends Thursday.

Gase also said he's not inclined to let running back Arian Foster play in a short week as he's not yet recovered from his groin injury and he won't get a chance to practice this week.

The Dolphins also have Anthony Steen, dealing with a high ankle sprain, on their list of walking wounded. He's unlikely to play.

That means Kraig Urbik would likely start at center for the Dolphins.

Yes, Mike Pouncey is a thought. But here's the problem with that:

Pouncey has not practiced since Aug. 19 when he suffered his hip injury. He obviously isn't going to get much if any practice time in pads this week because the Dolphins are going to be mostly doing walk-thru work and light jogging practices the two days they have to work before Cincinnati.

So putting Pouncey out there without any real football work in over a month is hard to fathom. Gase said as much.

I must say ... this Dolphins roster is starting to look, well, fragile.

And it should surprise no one, least of all the Dolphins.

With few surprises, the Dolphins players who have been injured came to the team or have been on the team with injury histories.

Running back Arian Foster missed Sunday's game with a groin injury. Gase said he might not play Thursday. Not shocking. He came to the Dolphins with an injury history that notably included soft tissue injuries.

Cameron suffered multiple concussions in 2014, which is the reason the Cleveland Browns didn't push to sign him until after he was a free agent. Cameron obviously is dealing with a concussion now and will miss this game.

Pouncey has had hip surgery on both hips. Before this year. He's missed three starts and is about to miss his fourth with, of course, a hip injury.

September 25, 2016

Terrelle Pryor was giving everything he had, were all the Miami Dolphins? (updated with complete snap count info)

The most impressive player on the Hard Rock Stadium field Sunday after was Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor.

He played receiver and caught eight passes for 144 yards. He played quarterback and completed 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards. He also ran four times for 21 yards. Yes, he was tired after the game but he didn't beg out of the game once because the game is important to him.

"There's God, Jesus, my son, then football, and that's it for me," Pryor said after the game. "Football -- this game means the world to me."

And I'm wondering how many Dolphins players play like the game is everything to them.

Byron Maxwell? He trailed Pryor across the field all afternoon. Obviously it was not a great day for him. Maxwell had seven tackles because, well, somebody had to tackle Pryor after he caught all his passes. He had three passes defensed. Not a great day for Maxwell.

Reshad Jones? Jones was the second best player on the field Sunday. He led the Dolphins with 10 tackles, had half a sack, three tackles for losses and one pass defensed. He was simply outstanding.

"He’s really shown me what a really great defensive player looks like," coach Adam Gase said. "I don’t know if I’ve ever been around one that good in his prime. I know I was around Brian Dawkins there, but that was later in his career. Just watching Reshad day in and day out…the way he plays, I wish all our guys played with as much effort and heart as that guy plays.”

Jones has told me numerous times he simply loves to play football. He doesn't need motivation. He doesn't need gimmicks. He just needs the game and it's on for him. 

“I’m just trying to be consistent and do everything I can to help the Miami Dolphins win football games," Jones said Sunday. "I think that’s what I’m doing.”

Jones, by the way, sat out the much of the offseason camps and conditioning program because he was unhappy with his contract. He's playing like he working for a new contract.

My hope is the Dolphins start working on this now rather than next spring or next season. Send Jones a message that you are indeed a priority. And by the way, it wouldn't hurt to send that message while the price for extending him is lower rather than higher -- which it will be by next offseason.

Buy lower now, with now being defined as this year.

Had the Dolphins done that with Lamar Miller or Olivier Vernon -- making a good offer on them in 2014 instead of after 2015 -- they might have kept one of those guys. Hopefully the team has learned the lesson.

If you listen to Gase, and he said things Sunday that make me believe he's going to get this team franchise right eventually, you hear hints of guys not trying enough or not grinding enough or not straining enough to be better and play better.

That troubles me.

Who is he talking about?

I know Gase is not thrilled with right tackle Ja'Wuan James right now. James got benched in overtime.

He had given up a strip sack to Corey Lemonier that almost cost the Dolphins the game in the fourth quarter. Billy Turner took over at right tackle for James.

I'm not sure Gase is loving the effort he's getting out of DeVante Parker, either.

(Peanut Gallery led by Ger Flanders: "Armando please!!! Not many offenses run well against Seattle. Oh, that was Saturday before I read your column that said not many offenses run well against Seattle. I'm sorry, I don't know anything. But DeVante scored a touchdown.")

Ah, yes, Ger Flanders I'm glad you finally recognized how poorly it looks to criticize the author of the blog when he has addressed the issue you raise in his column, which you obviously did not read before commenting. As to the Parker TD catch Sunday ...

Yes, Parker had a touchdown catch. But if you watch him run pass patterns it's sometimes done the way the coaches want and sometimes done ... like it's a spring practice. If DeVante Parker is going to reach his potential he needs to play 100 MPH every snap whether he's going to get the football or not.

Mario Williams had a tackle Sunday. The tackle was for a loss. He also had a QB hurry. Forgive me for saying this, but I expect more from Williams. No, I don't need a sack every game. But Williams should be felt every game. Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas, admittedly an outstanding player, practically erased Williams on Sunday.

What follows is not a Gase concern or worry but rather a Salguero one:

Ryan Tannehill needs to be better.

Once again Tannehill delivered an uneven performance that suggested he's two different guys. He was horrible in the first half on Sunday, throwing two interceptions, including a pick six. His line was 12 of 19 for 126 yards with the two picks and one TD.

In the second half, he was 13 of 20 for 193 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Tannehill was a ghost in the first half against New England last Sunday and then came alive in the second half. He was a ghost in the first half against Seattle and got much better in the second half.

Football games have two halves. It's been this way for a long time. It's not a new NFL rule. The quarterback needs to show up in the first half as well as the second. I kind of let it go the first couple of games because, well, Seattle and New England.

I'm not grading on the curve against Cleveland. That first half was not winning football by Tannehill.


The Dolphins seem to have addressed the problem with Cameron Wake getting enough snaps.

Wake played a season high 36 snaps in Sunday. He played mostly on passing downs but also was in the game in critical situations on early downs.

Wake played one more snap than presumptive starter Andre Branch. That was the first time this season that happened.


Dolphins beat Browns 30-24 in overtime

The Dolphins won this one in overtime when Jay Ajayi went 11 yards for a touchdown. And the crowd roared.

And Miami is 1-2.

But, here comes the ugly truth part, nothing about this game was inspiring if you are a Dolphins fan. Nothing about this game should make anyone feel great about the Miami Dolphins.


The Browns botched three makeable field goals -- by the kicker they signed two hours ago because their starting kicker got hurt Friday in practice. The third of those, from 46 yards out, sailed short and left as time ran out.

It would have given the Browns the victory.

The Browns defense gave up ground. Because they also had multiple players out due to injury and, lest you forget, Jamar Taylor is starting in the secondary and he's not good. And yet the Dolphins made him look like a solid player. He had an interception. He had a pass defensed on third down late that caused him to dance on the field.

And yet when the game went into overtime, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson won the coin toss ... and elected to kick off.

Talk about disrespect.

Talk about no on wanting to win this game.

The Dolphins defense was good in overtime. But, again, during four quarters of play, that unit again played bad enough to lose.

The Dolphins get their first victory at Hard Rock Stadium. They get their first home victory of the season. They get the first victory of Adam Gase's career.

I'm not feeling it, folks. Sorry.

Not Ryan Tannehill's finest half to christen Hard Rock Stadium

This is not Ryan Tannehill's best half of football. That is certain.

The Miami Dolphins quarterback has done little in the first half of this 2016 Miami Dolphins home opener to convince Dolphins fans he is the answer at quarterback this franchise needs.

Tannehill has thrown two interceptions in the first half, including one that Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned 27 yards for a touchdown. Tannehill had already thrown an interception to former Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor on Miami's first series of the game.

That was actually the first pass ever at Hard Rock Stadium.

(Well, first regular season pass since the naming rights went to Hard Rock).

The Browns lead the Dolphins 13-10 at halftime. And yes, Tannehill did have a moment of clarity amid the dark times.

Tannehill completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker that gave the Dolphins the lead in the game. That was before the Miami offense gave the lead back, of course.

All said so far, Tannehill has completed 12 of 19 passes for 126 yards, two INTs and the one TD in the first half. That included a garbage time 28-yard completion to Kenny Stills as time ran out in the half.

Tannehill has a 60.6 quarterback rating.

The Miami defense has been no prize, either, by the way.

Terrelle Pryor, playing some at receiver and some at quarterback, has been hard to stop. Cody Kessler just authored a go-ahead field goal drive with less than two minutes to play in the half.


Four RBs for Dolphins today; Drake starting for Foster today

Welcome to the Kenyan Drake era.

Ok, so the Dolphins rookie is starting for injured Arian Foster today and that is likely to change when Foster returns from his groin injury.

The Dolphins indeed are bringing four running backs to the game today: Drake, Damien Williams, Isaiah Pead and Jay Ajayi.

The fact the plan is to make Drake the guy today pleases me because, well, that what I wrote yesterday I would do.

The other inactives today are WR Justin Hunter, DB Jordan Lucas, LB Spencer Paysinger, C Mike Pouncey, OG, Dallas Thomas, DE Terrence Fede, and Foster.

Active for the first time as a Miami Dolphins today will be linebacker Donald Butler. Expect him to see action at WILL and SAM linebacker today.

Anthony Steen starts at center for the third consecutive game in place of Pouncey.

Cameron Wake continues to be listed as a starter for the Dolphins. We all know he hasn't been getting nearly enough snaps and the reasons behind it are not always logical, as I wrote in my column today.

I'm told the Dolphins had discussions about the issue this week and plan to tweak the plan.


September 24, 2016

Dolphins think no Arian Foster offers grand opportunity for other guys

My column in Saturday's Miami Herald explains why the Miami Dolphins are not worried about their so-far anemic running game even though the statistics and other issues suggest they have problems.

Coach Adam Gase has been quite confident the running game will be much more than it has been the first two weeks of the season and he explains his reasoning. One thing that was only partially covered in the column was the loss of oft-injured running back Arian Foster for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

While Gase hates losing his best runner, he sees the injury as an opportunity.

"Anytime you lose a guy for a game that guys respect a lot for what we do in the running game, you always rather have him," Gase told me. "But when you also have a bunch of young guys that are hungry and want to play. That gives you a great opportunity. too, because now you're putting these guys in a position of 'Show me what you got. What are you going to do to help us get better?'

"And I feel like these guys are all chomping at the bit and saying, 'Give me the ball, I'll show you what I can do.' That's exciting for me. They want to contribute. They love ball. And one of those guys will get a chance."

Obviously the Dolphins have a choice about who is going to get the football.

Jay Ajayi?

Damien Williams?

Isaiah Pead?

Kenyan Drake?

Gase said this week no one should be surprised if all four are active for the game.

The conventional wisdom says just give it to Ajayi because he's supposed to be the next guy up and spell him with the other guys. I don't adhere to conventional thinking.

I like Drake. He's explosive. And he's ready.

"The game has started to slow down for me," he told me this week.

Obviously, I don't get a vote. But I have eyes. I saw Ajayi fumble last week. I think Williams is a solid special teams player and good pass protector but he's a 3 yard per carry guy in the NFL. Pead hasn't been active all season.

Drake should lead the charge of running backs on Sunday.

More than one guy, however, will get his chance.

Another thing I mentioned in the column is the fact the Dolphins are playing without their best run blocker in Mike Pouncey. It's not my opinion that Pouncey is Miami's best run blocker. That comes directly from offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen -- who was forced under threat of really mean words written about him (not really) -- to pick one of his guys.

“Who is the best run blocker up front? I don’t know that because we ask them to do all different things," Christensen said mulling my question. "Who is the best run blocker on double teams? Who is the best run blocker pulling? Who is the best run blocker on base blocks? They all kind of have some different strengths. They’re all asked to do different things.

"We ask the center to reach nose guards and the tackles may have down blocks. I don’t know. I’d have a hard time answering that. Pouncey I think is the best at his position in the whole league. When he is healthy, I don’t think anybody does it like Pouncey. If you pin me down and said, ‘Hey, by position, where are they rated?’ I’d probably say Pouncey is the best run-blocking center in the league, or certainly one of the top three or four in the upper echelon. But it’s hard to say because we ask them to do different things.

"Who (are) they (going) against? Some weeks you’re going against a guy who is extremely difficult. The nose guard this week will be a hard guy to block. (Anthony) Steen will have his hands full with him.”

September 23, 2016

Arian Foster officially out for Cleveland [Updated with full injury report]

Arian Foster, nursing a groin injury, missed the final day of Miami Dolphins practice Friday as he had missed every day this week.

After practice, coach Adam Gase said what seemed obvious throughout the week: Foster is out for the Cleveland game.

Jason Jones, who injured his ankle during practice Thursday, did not practice Friday. Gase said "things look good ... I think we're going to be alright" when discussing Jones's status for the Cleveland game.

Mike Pouncey, who hasn't practiced since Aug. 19 when he injured his hip, is going to be out also. And sure enough, Pouncey is out.

The injury report:


Silver lining in the depressing cloud New England Patriots have hung over AFC East

Watching the New England Patriots play Thursday night, as they dismantled the Houston Texans, 27-0, it occurred to me how depressed other AFC East teams and their fans must feel about New England's start to the 2016 season.

This, you'll recall, was supposed to be the window to fallibility the Patriots opened at the start of the season. And yet they are 3-0 and have 10 days off to get stronger before their next game.

They're 3-0 without the Earth's best quarterback.

They're 3-0 having played their backup for six out of a possible 12 quarters and their third-string quarterback for six out of a possible 12 quarters.

They're 3-0 with Rob Gronkowski missing two of those games and playing only 14 snaps in the third game.

They're 3-0 and they're a team that traditionally gets better as the season wears on and Bill Belichick's coaching kicks in.


The Patriots are going to win the AFC East (again) barring a serious collapse. And, by the way, this team seems collapse proof.

But amid all the depression there is a morsel of good cheer for Dolphins fans.

If you watched what the Patriots did to the Texans, you had to feel better about what the Dolphins accomplished in New England only four days earlier.

The Texans, like the Dolphins, got behind early in the game. The Dolphins kept playing and managed a significant comeback before falling short, 31-24. The Texans authored no such counter-punch.

The Texans came into last night's game with a scary pass rush. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Houston front seven led the NFL in sacks with nine in two games. Well, last night Watt and Clowney basically got erased -- they had a handful of tackles between them but no impact plays. The Texans had one sack of third-stringer Jacoby Brissett.

The Dolphins' performance by contrast -- with two sacks and seven quarterback hits -- suddenly looks a little better.

The Texans could managed nothing against the Patriots on offense. Quarterback Brock Osweiler had a 60.6 QB rating in completing 24 of 41 passes for 196 yards. Suddenly, Ryan Tannehill's 32 of 45 for 389 yards and a 93.7 QB rating looks much better. And remember, the criticism of Tannehill's performance is he picked up a lot of those statistics when the Patriots were comfortably ahead and reportedly (I didn't see it) softened their defense in the second half.

The Patriots were comfortably ahead of the Texans in the second half and still Osweiler couldn't rally.

The Patriots also limited Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins to only four catches for 56 yards. The Dolphins, by comparison, had Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker go over 100 yards against New England.

What I'm saying is the Patriots beat the Dolphins and it was a letdown. The Patriots are 3-0 and that is a sign they're the class of the AFC East. The Patriots are likely going to get better going forward.

But after watching what the Patriots did to a Houston team that was in the playoffs last year, was 2-0 before last night, and has playoff aspirations this year, perhaps the Dolphins should not feel as bad about what happened in New England on Sunday 


September 22, 2016

Mario Williams on playing after inactivity of concussion protocol: 'Difficult'

Fans and to some degree members of the professional working press (who deserve your utmost respect) sometimes hyper-focus on game days and its results and don't think as much, or even a lot, about practice.

Because, as Allen Iverson once infamously said, "We're talking about practice."

But missing most of the practice week, as Mario Williams did last week, and then playing on game day can be something of a shock to the system that we underestimate. And for players in the concussion protocol, who cannot practice or even condition and lift, the idea of going from doing nothing to playing four quarters can be a burden.

“It was difficult," Williams said Thursday. "I didn’t realize it until being out there. But definitely not doing anything for a week, having to go through the protocol for the safety of myself or anybody in this situation, and then playing ... Having been in the protocol, I mean you can’t do anything. You know, wind and actual physical activities (were) gone for a week, pretty much. So it was kind of a shock. But getting back into things physically (this week) you’re running around and everything like that. So it’s getting better. I’m good."

Williams was definitely not the same against the Patriots as against the Seahawks. Although he played fewer snaps in the opener, he was more productive. He had a sack and two tackles against Seattle in 45 snaps. He had one tackle against the Patriots in 56 snaps. 

Running back Arian Foster will face a similar task on Sunday if he somehow rallies from his current groin ailment. He hasn't practiced all week. He's spent the time mostly getting treatment, hoping to recover by game time.

So he won't practice all week and then carry the football 15-18 times? Hard to fathom.

“Right now, we’re still kind of going through the process as far as trying to figure out how bad his injury is and doing some rehab stuff," said coach Adam Gase. "We’ll kind of see the Friday, Saturday thing. Obviously with a veteran player, it gives you a little more of an option. Obviously any time you can get a guy out there practicing and you get through a practice, it makes you feel better as a coach, knowing that a guy’s active (and that) he’s going to make it through the entire game. We’ll just keep going through our little deal here and we’ll make a decision towards the end of the week."

Privately, the Dolphins are thinking they can hold Foster out of this game and hope (big hope) to have him ready to go next Thursday at Cincinnati.

This doesn't necessarily figures into the decision but perhaps should: The Browns are terrible. Miami should beat Cleveland even without Foster. And if the Dolphins can beat the Browns without Foster and then have him ready to play against the better Bengals, a game in which they might need him much more, then that would improve the team's chances of winning both games.

The chances Foster plays Sunday are quite slim. I was told earlier in the week he wasn't playing against Cleveland but Gase refused to commit one way or another on Thursday.

This much is certain: Something dramatic would have to happen between now and Sunday for Foster to be able to play.

“...With two games so close together, and just thinking long term as far as this season goes, I would have to feel really, really good about it," Gase said of playing Foster without any practice this week.

Day of truth for the Miami Dolphins Thursday

Thursday is typically the day the Miami Dolphins make their three coordinators -- offensive, defense and special teams -- available to the media. So the day is known as coordinators day.

Except that during Thursday's session coordinators day turned into truth-telling day at Dolphins camp.

Both offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph fielded questions on delicate topics in straight-forward fashion and in doing so somewhat veered from the narrative coach Adam Gase set earlier in the week on the topics.

Topic No. 1 is whether the offense was responsible for costing the defense a chance to perform better Sunday at New England. Gase had made the point after the game and then the following day that because the offense didn't extend drives early in the game, it was the offense that hurt the defense and put the unit on the field for so long against the Patriots.

And because the defense was on the field so long early in the game, it was gassed later in the game when the contest was close and needed a strong defensive stand. Gase made the point that, essentially, it was the offense's fault the defense was gassed. The head coach had his unit, which he helps to coordinate and is the play-caller for, taking the responsibility for the loss.

So does Joseph, the defensive coordinator, agree?

"That's our fault," he said. "Third downs are key. First of all, first downs are key. If you win first downs they're in second and long, they're going to probably end up in third-and-long. If you lose first down, and they're second-and-four, you're going to probably end up first-and-10 again. That's our fault.

"If we're playing 80 snaps, we have to do better on third down. The first game was a different kind of game. But last week it was solely on the defense to get off the field. In the first half, they were four-out-of-six on third downs. They had a nine-play drives for touchdowns. That's solely on the defense. They [the offense] played well enough to win the game and we didn't."


Totally agree. Look, the defense is a unit of men. They can handle it when they deserve credit (as they got in the season-opener at Seattle) and when they deserve criticism (as in last Sunday at New England). I would have been worried if Joseph had agreed with Gase and pointed the finger at the offense.

Another narrative that is making the rounds now is that Ryan Tannehill did everything he needed to do in Sunday's game at New England.

"I don't know how much more he can really step up considering that he's doing everything right now that we need him to do," Gase told the Cleveland media on a conference call. "It's just that we need every guy to pull their weight."

Two things:

One -- Who is not pulling his weight?

Two -- I asked Christensen if Tannehill is doing everything the Dolphins need right now and the coordinator found a couple of obvious things by which quarterbacks are judged that Tannehill is not quite there on yet.

"We gave one up there at the end of the half," Christensen said of the first of two Tannehill interceptions. "it was kind of a unit wide, same symptom. It was a big turnover. They're all big. All possessions are big. So eliminate giving them [a chance] to get easy points at the end of the half right there."

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, you got to find ways to win football games."


Yes, that's what a quarterback has to do. Win.

"That's what he has to do," Christensen continued. "You have to win games. You have to find some way. It's not always conventional. It's not always pretty. We got to find some way to win games. That's our job as coaches. That's his job as the quarterback. That's the unit's job ... That what we're all measured by.

"If you're leading the league in offense and you can't figure out a way to win football games, then what's it worth? Then they're just numbers. At the end of the day you have to find ways to win football games. He's measured just like the rest of us. All the rest of the stuff is OK but figure out how to win. Win playoff games. All those things. That's the bottom line measuring stick. It's not yardage. It's not leading the league in passing. It's not quarterback rating. All that stuff is fun to look at when you're winning but not worth a whole bunch if you're not winning." 

Look, this isn't about the Dolphins coordinators going against the head coach. I understand what Gase is doing. He's protecting the unit that he doesn't coach. He's also protecting his quarterback.

That's the head coach view of it.

But Joseph and Christensen speaking the truth? Awesome.



Busts -- physical and mental -- a concern for the Dolphins' defense

There was a play in the New England game last Sunday in which the Miami Dolphins defense had three players covering a receiver in the flat. And two Patriots receivers were uncovered on the second level. That, I can tell you with confidence, is the industry term for a bust.

And it seems the Dolphins defense had enough of those against the Patriots last week as to suggest they regressed in that department because there were more in that second game than there were in the opener at Seattle.

And this is leading to a little frustration on the part of some coaches because it looks on tape and on TV as if the Miami system is flawed. Be honest, you watched that game and said, "New England receivers are running wide open."

And so you blame the scheme.

But coach Adam Gase said it is not the scheme.

"...When the defense does get out there, we have to make sure that we’re all sound in our assignment," Gase said Wednesday. "It’s hard to evaluate and correct things, as far as schematics, if we’re not doing what we’re asked to do. There were a few times where we didn’t do exactly what we were coached to do, and now we have to go back and basically go through it and (say), ‘This is the details of what we’re doing on this defense.’ And then move forward from there.

"But it’s hard to say, ‘Hey, this scheme is no good.’ We have to execute it first and then if we have some holes there, we have to adjust."

Talk about growing pains. The Dolphins defense is currently in a situation where players have to do what they're coached to do, first. When that that happens, then coaches can decide if the scheme needs tweaking based on what happens on the field when the players correctly carry out their assignments.

So this might take a while to get just right.

And it's not just about the players getting their assignments right. Sometimes busts occur when techniques are not quite correct. So a player can be in the right place, but not play as he's been taught and ... boom ... LaGarrette Blount gets outside on sweep.


And again.

“What happens is, it’s the minute detail of, maybe you were supposed to go through a guy and you took an edge," Gase said. "(It’s) things like that to where you have to be so fine-detailed in what you’re doing, because – like you said – when you play this type of defense, it’s about penetration. It’s about attacking; it’s about speed. When you do take the wrong angle sometimes, it can be a chain effect to everybody else. I know (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) is very hard as far as what everybody is supposed to do, the exact detail of it, and he goes through it so thoroughly in his meetings you would think, ‘Why are we screwing that up?’

"But that’s what happens; that’s what this game is. You’re trying to get perfection, but it’s an imperfect game. People are going to make mistakes, and it’s about how can you make less than the other team."

The Dolphins obviously are not making fewer mistakes than the other guys on defense. They are, after all, 0-2. And they did yield 31 points in New England.

But that's not the worst of the what the statistics are saying about this defense.

The Dolphins have the 26th-ranked total defense in the NFL right now. They finished 25th in total defense last season. The pass defense is so far a little better than last year, the run defense is so far a little worse. But that's not the point. Remember, we're dealing with a small sample size this year.

The point is what's happening right now. And right now, the Dolphins are giving up too many plays on third down, which is the reason they cannot get off the darn field.

The Dolphins are tied for 15th in the NFL in third down conversion percentage, giving up firsts 40 percent of the time. So that's not good but not terrible, either. But because the defense has been on the field for so many plays the first two games, that 40 percent conversion rate represents 12 first downs yielded on third down -- the money down -- and that's 20th in the NFL.

That simply is not sustainable for a winning team.

The only way to address that is to get players on their assignments and technique. And that, Gase believes, is currently a physical issue more than a mental one.

"I think a lot of the times, it’s more physical than mental," Gase said. "I want to say for the most part, mentally we’ve been pretty sound. It’s just a couple things in coverage every once in a while. Sometimes it’s formation predicated. When you get thrown something different – guys are in different spots – you start getting that conversation, that’s when you get in trouble. You’ve seen a couple times where guys are pointing at each other – who has who – and now all of a sudden they’re snapping the ball, and you’re slightly late. In this league if you’re late, you’re probably in trouble."

The Miami defense has to clean this stuff up. Otherwise it's in trouble.

September 21, 2016

Donald Butler, signed last week, ready to play and compete for snaps

Donald Butler is ready to play.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the linebacker who signed Sept. 13 and practiced with the team for the first time the next day is ready to play this week. He is expected to debut Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

That means Butler is expected to play on both defense and special teams.

It is unclear if Butler got any first-team repetitions in practice Wednesday but the opportunity was clearly there. Starting weakside linebacker Jelani Jenkins did not practice Wednesday because he is recovering from knee surgery weeks ago.

Jenkins has not missed either of the first two game this season, but the Dolphins want an upgrade available behind him and possibly even an improvement for the snaps Jenkins typically gets.

So consider that competition officially started. 

Me? I would use Butler, who is built a little more compact and muscular than Kiko Alonso, at middle linebacker and use Alonso on the weak side. Alonso's best NFL season was his rookie season in Buffalo when he played outside.