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47 posts from October 2016

October 07, 2016

Xavien Howard undergoes (another) knee surgery, is week to week

The starting cornerbacks against the Tennessee Titans Sunday for the Miami Dolphins?

Tony Lippett and Byron Maxwell.

Indeed, that will be the starting cornerback tandem for the next few weeks because Xavien Howard is out Sunday and will miss 3-6 weeks after having his meniscus repaired this week. The surgery was to the same knee that required surgery in June and caused Howard to miss all of training camp and the preseason.

Howard injured his knee in practice this week. He will remain on the active roster as the team is calling him "week to week."

Coach Adam Gase confirmed Howard had the surgery. Gase also confirmed Maxwell, who was benched last week at Cincinnati, is back in the starting lineup.

The Dolphins are thus in bad shape at cornerback. Lippett isn't good enough and Maxwell is trying to play to the form the Dolphins thought he'd have when they traded for him in the offseason.

The situation is serious enough that Gase said when Chris Culliver, who is rehabilitating from serious knee reconstruction, is able to come off the physically unable to perform list after the sixth game of the season, "he'll be in the conversation very fast."

The Howard issue might not necessarily be a disaster this weekend. The Titans are the NFL's 27th ranked passing offense, averaging 221 yards per game. But later, when opponents such as Pittsburgh and San Diego come around, that could present a major problem for the Dolphins.

Howard is one of three players the Dolphins officially listed as out for Sunday's game. Tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) will miss his second consecutive start as will linebacker Koa Misi (neck).

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Friday Donald Butler would start in place of Misi.

Running back Arian Foster (hamstring) is listed as doubtful. Don't expect to see him in this game as the Dolphins are likely to be cautious in his return from a hamstring injury. Foster has already missed two of Miami's four games.

By the way, the Carolina Panthers today cut 6-foot cornerback Bene' Benwikere Friday. Benwikere was a Carolina starter until this week when he was cut in the aftermath of allowing Falcons receiver Julio Jones to gain 300 yards on 12 catches in last Sunday's game against the Panthers. Benwikere was assigned to shadow Jones throughout the game.

It obviously didn't go well. No one is confusing Benwikere with Deion Sanders.

But these are desperate times. So why not put in a claim for a 25-year-old player?

Dolphins moving forward toward Sunday at Hard Rock until further notice (updated)

The people who refurbished (rebuilt) Hard Rock Stadium to its current form will inspect the facility today to make sure it suffered no structural damage during Hurricane Matthew. If that inspection shows the facility is undamaged, the football games scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday will be held there as planned.

The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles are scheduled to play at Hard Rock on Saturday night. The Miami Dolphins are scheduled to host the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

By all outward appearances Hard Rock suffered no damage.

[Update: The stadium has passed inspection. The games are on!]

Matthew did not come ashore in South Florida and northwest Miami-Dade County where Hard Rock sits saw only minimal tropical storm force winds and some rain. The facility is designed and constructed to withstand hurricane force winds.

So the scheduled inspection is considered unlikely to turn up any issues. The Dolphins nonetheless want to be detailed in every facet of this issue.

But this: The Dolphins fully expect to move forward and play the Titans at home on Sunday. They've made plans for this and will continue to implement those plans today unless and until someone (the inspection) says otherwise.

Those plans include a walkthrough practice at 2 p.m. followed by an hour-long or so practice at 3:05 p.m.

Dolphins players were off Thursday but that was planned well ahead of the storm and would have happened even if there was no storm. Coaches were told to stay home Thursday and did exactly that because of the storm. The team has re-gathered at its Davie, Fl., practice facility today.

That facility, by the way, also suffered no ill effects from Matthew.


October 05, 2016

Xavien Howard injured in practice Tuesday, uncertain for Sunday

The Dolphins hoped the extra days they get following a Thursday game last week would give them an opportunity to get healthier. That hasn't necessarily been the case.

Coach Adam Gase announced cornerback Xavien Howard "got tangled up" during practice Tuesday and suffered an injury that has put him under care of doctors. The coach said team doctors have been examining the rookie but others might be looking at him later on.

Gase gave no certainty that Howard is missing the game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday. He also gave no certainty Howard would be available to play.

"We're dealing with both contingencies," Gase said. "That's ball."

The Dolphins planned to give Byron Maxwell, benched last week against Cincinnati, a chance at playing time Sunday. He would be starting if Howard cannot play. It would be Maxwell and Tony Lippett starting.

If Howard can play, which reading between the lines doesn't sound like the most likely possibility, it would be Howard and Lippett with Maxwell working in.

On the bright side of the injury front, Gase said Branden Albert seems likely to go Sunday.

He will be reported as an illness and ankle injury on the injury report but the illness is the reason he has missed practice is the illness.

Gase addressed the Arian Foster situation and repeated the philosophy I reported on the matter a couple of hours ago.

Arian Foster, Jordan Cameron unlikely to play Sunday

Arian Foster continues to rehabilitate the groin/hamstring injury that has forced him to miss two games so far this season and right now the team is moving forward with the thinking he is not likely to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Foster practiced at least on a limited basis Wednesday after missing practice Tuesday. Those two are the primary preparation days for the team this week prior to playing the Titans. The club will not practice Thursday at all and players won't even be at the Dolphins training facility due to the threat from Hurricane Matthew.

Foster could conceivably practice again Friday and still play Sunday but the Dolphins have so far been extremely cautious about putting valuable players back on the field with only limited practice when they're returning from injuries.

Coach Adam Gase doesn't like risking players re-aggravating injuries and missing more time than if they sat out a bit longer. So the more likely scenario is Foster is held back for the Pittsburgh game Oct. 16.

Interestingly, the injury that's keeping Foster out of games is not the same one that knocked him out of the New England game Sept. 13. Foster left that game with a left groin injury.

He has missed the past two games because of a left hamstring injury. Foster dealt with a hamstring injury during training camp.

Foster has historically suffered soft tissue injuries throughout his career.

Foster this season has 16 carries for 47 yards. That's a 2.9 yard per carry average. He's caught three passes for 62 yards. He has not scored.

Left tackle Branden Albert, tight end Jordan Cameron and linebacker Jelani Jenkins missed practice Wednesday.

The Dolphins are moving forward with the expectation that Cameron will miss Sunday's game due to the concussion he suffered against Cleveland Sept. 25.

Branden Albert missed practice Sunday with an illness and ankle injury. He missed last week's game at Cincinnati because of the same ankle injury. The Dolphins are hopeful Albert will be back against Tennessee on Sunday.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins also did not practice on Wednesday. He missed last week's game with a groin injury. It is unclear what his status is for Sunday.



Dolphins craft answer to Hurricane Matthew

The Miami Dolphins have already been impacted by Hurricane Matthew.

The team has decided to close its offices on Thursday in advance of the storm that is threatening parts of Florida, including parts of South Florida.

Players were supposed to be off on Thursday anyway, so there is no change there. They practiced on Tuesday, which is typically an off day.

Coaches, however, were expected to work Thursday. Now they also will be off and not expected to turn up at the team's Davie, Fla, training facility.

The team expects to be up and running on Friday.

The tarps used to cover fan areas and other outside tie-downs have been taken down by the Dolphins.

There has been discussions about what to do with Sunday's scheduled game in the event this storm hits the general area -- affecting power and roads. The Dolphins continue to monitor that but I'm told the team has no desire to play this game at Tennessee.


October 01, 2016

Would Jay Cutler be a serious possibility for the Dolphins?

The answer is no.



"Never happening," is what I've been told by folks familiar with the Miami Dolphins thinking. "Has never come up. Never happening."

And so if you are thinking the Dolphins are about to dump Ryan Tannehill by the November 1 trade deadline or after this season to replace him with Jay Cutler ... no. Just no.

Why is this a topic?

Well, my friend Mike Florio asked me about it on his highly entertaining (at least when I'm on) PFT Live radio show on NBC Sports Radio. Then he wrote about on ProFootballTalk.com and then radio shows elsewhere picked it up. And then it got onto some social media circles.

And now it's a thing because Tannehill didn't play great in a 22-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night.

Except it is not a thing with the Dolphins.

They haven't discussed it. The salary cap ramifications are moot because it is not being considered. The Dolphins, at least, aren't planning for it. They are not going to do it, based on what I've been told.


PFF Week Four grades: Reshad Jones a stud again; CBs terrible; Tannehill terrible; Pass Pro except for Urbik terrible

The Dolphins' grades coming out of Thursday night's loss to the Bengals', courtesy my friends at ProFootballFocus.com, have come in about where you'd expect. The defense, which held Cincinnati to one touchdown, was mostly good although there is room for improvement. The offense, which had one first quarter touchdown and nothing else, was not good.

To wit:

The Dolphins' defense was once again led by safety Reshad Jones, who posted the best grade on the unit with a 84.5. He graded out well in run defense once again, posting six tackles and three stops on the night. For the season, Jones leads his respective position in both tackles on running plays (17) and stops (10).

By the way...stops are what PFF judges to be tackles that prevent an offensive success, defined as gaining 40 percent of required yardage on first down, 60 percent on second down, and the entire required yardage on third or fourth downs.

Jones, by the way, turned in the highest grade of any Dolphins player for this game. He is also rated the No. 5 safety in the NFL by PFF according to their grades.

DT Nkdamukong Suh and DE Mario Williams shut down the left side of the line on run plays, as their six combined tackles were all run stops. Andre Branch joined the stop party as well, posting three of his own on runs to the right side of the defensive line.

Suh had an inconsistent game, grading out well in run defense and adding three more tackles and stops giving him a total of 17 tackles and 14 stops in run defense for the year. That is tops for all nose tackles and defensive tackles in the league. However, he had three penalties on the night and recorded just one QB hurry on 31 pass rushing snaps.   

CBs Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard were targeted a total of eight times when covering Bengals WR A.J. Green, and it went about as you'd expect. That is to say, poorly. Against the two young players, Green posted seven catches for 142 yards and the lone TD of the night for the Bengals off a missed tackle by Lippett. 

Howard, a rookie second round pick, was picked on for most of the first half, allowing four catches on five targets for 78 yards, highlighted by a 51 yard catch by AJ Green. He has now recorded 22 tackles in pass coverage which is the most in the league and has just two in run defense.

What do those numbers suggest? Teams are coming after Howard and forcing him to make plays or, as in this game, to not make plays.

The Bengals, by the way, seemed to chase Howard as if it was in their game plan to go after him moreso than veteran Byron Maxwell. When the Dolphins surprised everyone by benching Maxwell, the Bengals didn't change the plans and still looked to throw to their right more than to their left where not-ready-for-primetime Tony Lippett was playing cornerback.   

Dolphins LB Spencer Paysinger's coverage numbers don't look awful on paper, as he gave up two catches on three targets for 22 yards. However, he missed tackles on both receptions he allowed, and missed a third on a run. All three missed tackles resulted in key first downs for the Bengals. 

One week after being the most productive 4-3 defensive end rushing the passer, Cameron Wake saw little action against the Bengals, playing only 15 total snaps. He recorded one QB hurry which gives him 12 for the season, most at his position. His pass rushing productivity (a formula used to measure QB sacks/hits/hurries relative to pass rushing snaps) of 16.0 is the best for 4-3 defensive ends as well.

These numbers suggest, no, not suggest ... These number scream that Wake is still productive but the Dolphins are not getting enough productivity from him because he's not playing enough on a consistent basis. 

LB Kiko Alonso continued his solid season with the Dolphins, recording six more tackles including four stops and one QB hurry on the night. He was Miami's second highest rated player with a grade of 84.3, and has yet to record a missed tackle in 134 run defense snaps on the season. His biggest weakness so far has been his pass coverage, where he allowed six receptions on six targets for 42 yards against the Bengals.

One nitpick on run defense for Alonso: He's not a downhill player. He's excellent chasing sideline to sideline but he needs to improve slightly in filling holes in the middle of the defense as they happen at the line of scrimmage. Of course, that would turn him into perhaps the best MLB the Dolphins have had since Zach Thomas. He's not there yet, but good so far.

Offensively ... yikes.

After starting the season strong and ranking among the Top 10 quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill struggled Thursday against the Bengals, posting a grade of 45.0. Although he was effective facing no pressure (12-of-15 for 160 yards and one touchdown), under pressure was a different story.

Tannehill was 3-of-10 for 29 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and five sacks taken under pressure.  

First round rookie Laremy Tunsil made his first career start at LT against the Bengals filling in for an injured Branden Albert. It was an uneven debut at the position. In 45 total snaps (31 passing), Tunsil allowed one sack, one hit on Tannehill and one hurry. The sack was significant because Tunsil had allowed none in three games while playing at left guard.

Through four games, Tunsil has allowed the one sack and seven QB hurries in his 230 snaps. He has also graded out better run blocking than pass blocking thus far which is strange because coaches said he'd better as a pass blocker early on. Tunsil figures to be the LT of the future in Miami and he showed potential in his first career game there. Indeed, so far, Laremy Tunsil has played very well considering he's a rookie and is likely going to get even better.  

C Kraig Urbik stepped in and made the start at center with all of the injuries along the Miami offensive line. He was the only player to post a strong grade (79.3) and did not allow a single QB hurry/hit/sack on the night. The rest of the offensive line combined to allow five sacks, two QB hits and seven hurries.

I have no idea how Urbik did communicating the protections, if he did that at all. But for a third-string center, this was a pretty good outing all things considered.  

WR Jarvis Landry was targeted 10 of the 21 total attempts a Miami wide out was targeted against the Bengals, while Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker were each targeted only three times. Landry was able to turn his 10 targets into 7 catches and 61 yards and added to his league leading yards after catch (YAC) with 24 more. He did have one drop, per PFF.

For the season, Landry now ranks 5th for WR in yards per route run at 2.58.  

TE Dion Sims made the start for the injured Jordan Cameron and had a rough night against the Bengals. He was targeted twice and turned in one catch for nine yards while struggling in the blocking game, something he has done a great job of his time in Miami, particularly last week against the Browns. Sims was one of five Dolphins to allow a sack on the night and he wasn't able to help Miami sustain any consistent success on the ground.