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October 17, 2016

Dion Sims joins Jordan Cameron as Dolphins TEs with concussions

The Miami Dolphins have two tight ends in the concussion protocol.

Coach Adam Gase said Monday Dion Sims did indeed suffer a concussion against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday. He also said Jordan Cameron, who has missed three games while in the concussion protocol, remains in that status.

Sims, you'll recall, suffered a concussion in the regular-season opener at Washington in 2015 and missed a month as a result.

So what will the Dolphins do about their tight end situation Sunday against the Buffalo Bills?

Gase said he, general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum will meet Monday night to figure out what direction to go with the situation.

The team is down to Dominique Jones and MarQueis Gray as the team's two healthy tight ends.

It's obviously possible the team can call on practice squad tight end Thomas Duarte or add a free agent off the street. The trade for Gronk or Jimmy Graham is probably off the table.

It is obviously possible either Sims or Cameron can recover in time for Sunday. But that is uncertain.

Gase also reported cornerback Chris Culliver and linebacker Zach Vigil -- on the physically unable to perform list -- will begin practice this week. This is indeed the first week players on PUP can return to practice, thus opening a three week window in which they can prove their health to their teams.

Dion Jordan is also on PUP but Gase said he's not ready to practice.

Gase said Vigil and Culliver will be limited to individual drills at first.

Dolphins overcome on offense, overcome with Maxwell, Ajayi, Vance Joseph, Wake

It was an outstanding win Sunday. Truly impressive. Truly inspiring. I thank the Miami Dolphins for giving me the opportunity to write a winning team column that didn't rip the team at least once this year. Last time the Dolphins won, you'll recall, against Cleveland, I ripped the team.

Not this time. This was fun.

But there were moments that made one feel the Dolphins were just being the Dolphins. And I want to go over some of those here even as we recognize that, unlike previous games, the team overcame those flubs and mistakes.

We start with the dropped TD pass by DeVante Parker. I was told last week by a Dolphins source that one of the team's issues was the inability to overcome bad moments. Typically, the team would have a penalty or assignment bust or dropped pass or dropped interception or something would go wrong.

And there would be no recovery. And that's what that Parker drop was. It erased a Ryan Tannehill TD pass in the first quarter and the Dolphins had to settle for a field goal. That's four points left on the field, thanks to Parker -- who by the way, also seemed to have an inconsistent day running routes. There were a couple of routes where he simply didn't seem to be maxing out on the effort scale.

Then in the second quarter, the Dolphins got a TD pass from Tannehill to tight end Dominique Jones. TEs catch TD passes in the red zone. Never forget that. But this TD was wiped out when Ja'Wuan James was flagged for lining up illegally.

Now, I am told the Dolphins examined the still photos of the formation and James was not lined up illegally. The receivers were lined up correctly. Their point to the officials was good. And this penalty should not have been called.

It was. And the TD was nullified. And the Dolphins had to settle for another FG.

And the whole time I'm thinking, same old Dolphins. Failing to maximize. Failing to overcome adversity within a game.

But guess what?

On this afternoon, those setbacks were merely a setup for success later in the game. The offense overcame.

Jarvis Landry, who played poorly last week against Tennessee, played well against the Steelers. He brought the production of seven catches for 91 yards and also brought attitude. Fine day.

So he overcame a bad day last week.

Jay Ajayi, left behind in South Florida for the season-opener in Seattle, had five really bad days in September that led to missing that trip and heading to the doghouse instead. He worked himself back. Earned his way back. And is now he is the team's obvious bellcow back.

He got 25 carries for 204 yards. And I'm really impressed by the 204 yards because it is the fourth-most by a Dolphins back ever behind a couple of Ricky Williams 2002 performances and a Lamar Smith playoff game performance. But the 25 carries is notable because the team recognized a hot back and stayed with him.

Shuttle system? Yeah, Damien Williams played and carried six times. Yeah, Arian Foster played and got three carries. But not so much.

The Miami Dolphins have found their new starting running back and it's not the guy who's been to Pro Bowls before. Coaches have handed the reins to the running game to Jay Ajayi.

And Ajayi delivered Sunday.

"I just use everything that's gone on, just from the talk of us not being a good group that can help this team win, talk of there might not be qualified backs in our room, just that Week One issue, just everything has all been motivation not just for myself but our whole room," Ajayi said.

So Ajayi overcame adversity of sorts.

The Dolphins coaching staff? I'd say they overcame some adversity.

Look, seven days ago the Dolphins were feeling the burn of a loss to Tennessee that made the season feel lost. And everybody was looking at everybody sideways. And this coaching staff did stunning things.

They cut two offensive linemen who started that Titans game. One of those cuts should have been made after last season. Dallas Thomas has no place in the NFL. But Billy Turner? He started out of position. He was a high enough draft pick. He had position flexibility.

And yet this staff saw Turner basically shut down the final series or two against the Titans, giving up a couple of sacks on Ryan Tannehill, And coaches decided that's not the type of player that belongs on the Miami Dolphins longterm.

That's not all. This staff saw lazy play from Mario Williams and Byron Maxwell and called them out on it.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who criticized Mario Williams for needing to "play harder," last week, didn't stop there. Williams was benched on Sunday.

He played only 13 snaps -- or 24 percent of the plays.

Cameron Wake got the start and the bulk of snaps at left end. He played a season-high 45 snaps, which is 75 percent of the plays.

And the move worked. Wake had 1/2 a sack and was active all day. I saw him chasing one pass completion play 11 yards downfield.

Williams? Look, he's a big name. But something is simply not showing up there and I don't know if it's 100 percent lack of effort -- some of it has been lack of effort -- or he's simply lost some of his game due to age or whatever.

Williams finished with one tackle. I saw him miss two tackles -- one at the line of scrimmage, one behind the line of scrimmage.

Afterward, Wake was asked if he was happy to be back to his "regular role."

“Regular is a relative term, I guess," he said. "I’m ready for whatever situation calls for my services. If it’s the way it was before, if it’s the way it was today. I know that the situation of the game or the plan for the week can change. That’s just the nature of this game. When my number is called, I’m going to go in there and do everything I can to help the team. I’ve been comfortable with that since the day I stepped on the field."

Wake is a good soldier. He'll never be a rock-the-boat guy. So if coaches tell him it's a great idea to use him exclusively as a pass-rusher to save him for later in the season or later in his career, he'll nod his head in agreement. If the coaches tell him they need him to play 75 percent of the plays because he's the best they got, he'll nod his head in agreement and go with that.

I'm glad to see the coaching staff realized saving Cam Wake for the future is good in theory but flawed in practice. The NFL is a right now league. Worry about December in December. Worry about 2017 in 2017. There are games to be played now.

In making the change Vance Joseph stepped up. He did what great coaches do when stuff ain't working. He adjusted. He didn't stop looking for a solution. He found the answer for at least this one game.

Joseph also found a way to pull Maxwell out of his doldrums. Think of this: Last week, Maxwell seemed to be disinterested. He hasn't shown himself a willing tackler since the Seattle game.

But on Sunday, something happened, and that was Maxwell jawing with Antonio Brown. Maxwell was all over one of the NFL's best receivers and actually seemed to get in his head. Afterward, Brown, usually jovial and accommodating, was all surly and unhappy.

Brown was asked if he had room to operate (he didn't).

“I don’t know man, you’ve got to ask the guys … ask someone else," he said. "I thought I had some room but I guess not. We lost the game."

But, but, Antonio ... Were you surprised more deep balls weren't called for you?

“I don’t call the plays," he said. "I just run the plays. I didn’t get it done today, no excuses."

Maxwell? Last week he declined to speak with multiple reporters after the game even as he sat at his locker by himself. Saying ... nothing.

Sunday? Happy Maxwell.

“It felt great to get this win," he said. "We needed it, boost the morale of the team but it feels good though."

Joseph got something out of Maxwell this week. He overcome the narrative that his players are underperforming and actually benched one that was. Maxwell responded after being something of a zombie the past few weeks. He overcame the idea that he's not interested in playing.

That was the Miami Dolphins Sunday. They overcame in so many areas.

Here is the complete playtime document from the NFL:



October 16, 2016

Dolphins surprise the Steelers (and you), romp 30-15

This is how it was supposed to be.

The Dolphins unloaded a month's worthy of frustration and not-good-enough on the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday after by beating the favored black and gold guys 29-14 in a game that suggests things for the home team.

This result suggests things because this marked perhaps the first game this year the Dolphins played to their expectations. They did what they thought they'd be doing all this time.

So can this continue?

The offense held the football and basically dominated at the line of scrimmage. Jay Ajay picked up the first 100-yard game of his career. And then he picked up the first 200-yard game of his career. He gained 204 yards on 24 carries, marking the first 200-yard game for the Dolphins since Reggie Bush did it in December 2011.

That running game, combined with timely passing from quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the Dolphins balanced and hard to stop. Tannehill got time to pass and completed 24 of 32 passes for 254 yards without a TD or interception. 

The Dolphins outgained Pittsburgh on the ground and through the air.

It should not surprise anyone this happened on a day the five starters the Dolphins hoped would man their offensive line when the season began started their first game together in 2016. Tannehill, sacked six times last week, was not sacked by the Steelers.

The Dolphins held a time of possession advantage of nearly 2-1 and that helped to protect a defense that had seemed weak in previous games and held up well against a quality passing game. The Steelers couldn't run and but also showed a surprising inability to pass.

Indeed, Before they began their final drive of the game with three minutes to play, the Steelers had all of 63 passing yards. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger was limping part of the game. He left the game for a time in the second quarter with what was reported to be a knee injury. He did return in the second half to no great improvement.

Antonio Brown, perhaps one of the NFL's best receivers, was a non-factor. Byron Maxwell covered him exceedingly well which was, got to say it, an huge surprise.

The Steelers had two turnovers on interceptions by Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus. The Dolphins didn't turn the football over.

Before this game began few of the nearly 45-50 percent of the people in the stands here would have predicted a Dolphins victory. That's probably because a good 45-50 percent of the people at Hard Rock Stadium were Steelers fans.

But the Dolphins re-wrote the script.

They authored this game in the manner they expected to author this entire season.


Arian Foster and Reshad Jones active for today

The Miami Dolphins will be at full strength today.

Running back Arian Foster and safety Reshad Jones, both questionable with soft tissue injuries this week, will be playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Foster had missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. Jones missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a groin issue. Jones did practice on a limited basis Friday.

So the Miami defense now has perhaps its most impactful player -- although he is not 100 percent.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who has missed time with a groin injury, is also active today.

On offense, the addition of Foster will be interesting because while he'll be available, it raises the questions whether he should start or not.

Update: The rest of the inactives are CB Xavien Howard, CB Bene' Benwikere, S Walt Aikens, DT Julius Warmsley, DE Terrence Fede, TE Jordan Cameron and OL Sam Young.

Tony Lippett starts for Howard, Dion Sims starts for Cameron.

On another matter, Ryan Tannehill is your quarterback. You want to know the reason why? Well, check out my column.


October 14, 2016

It's not only Mario: Multiple Dolphins players not playing hard enough

It was eye-opening when Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday that defensive end Mario Williams needs to play harder. I mean, that is about a cruel and cutting a criticism of a player anyone can make.

There are, after all, players that make mental mistakes. There are players that simply are less athletically gifted than others. There are players lacking experience. All of those can be tolerated. All of those are understandable.

But not playing hard enough?

Are we freakin' kidding?

And yet there it was with Williams.

“He’s got to play better. He’s got to play harder. He’s got to play better," Joseph said.

Harder? Like he's cruising sometimes? Not giving maximum effort?


Except it is not unreal to Dolphins coaches. Sources tell me coaches on both sides of the ball think multiple players on both sides of the ball are not delivering full effort all the time. I've been told coaches discuss the lack of effort or inconsistent effort practically every week.

Coaches, the sources say, believe Williams, Byron Maxwell, multiple offensive linemen, running backs, and receivers sometimes do not sell out every single play. That's the key, by the way, the consistency of effort on every play.

That means rallying to the football even when it is across the field. That means blocking until the whistle sounds. That means running full tilt on every single pass route -- which I mentioned in passing a couple of days ago does not always happen.

It is such a common topic within the football offices that head coach Adam Gase freely discussed it on Thursday when asked what he does to motivate players that don't always show maximum effort.

“I think a lot of times, it’s just in you," Gase said. "If you’re a guy that’s not a max-effort guy, it’s tough to bring it out. That’s why you try to draft guys, you try to sign guys that if you have experience with them, you’ve seen them do it in the past, you just try to get that consistency. Sometimes it’s inconsistent. If you can get it to where play-in and play-out and you say ‘Hey, maybe we have to cut the snaps down to where you’re full go all the time,’ then that’s what you do. You try to figure out a way to make it work. You sometimes know when a guy has it in him. You’ve just got to make sure you’re constantly staying on him to give that full effort."

You know, Gase is a new coach. He's got a lot on his plate. He's trying to learn his players. He's trying to teach and establish a standard on how he wants things done. He's trying to fix a major project in quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He's trying to win.

One thing he should get from every single player on the roster without having to ask for it is maximum effort 100 percent of the time.

 The team's record should not matter. The score in a game should not matter. Professionals are being paid and quite handsomely to at least try, for God's sake, to the best of their ability. Every. Single. Down.

How can this be a thing?

October 13, 2016

Byron Maxwell responds: Keep your head down and keep working

Byron Maxwell is in the crosshairs because his defensive coordinator called him out and he's not playing well.

I explained in the previous post there's not a ton the Dolphins can do about it right now.

So what does Maxwell have to say? What's his answer?

Here's what he told reporters today:

(On his level of confidence with how he’s playing personally) – “I’m very confident. That’s where I’ve got to live at, just the position I play and everything.”

(On if the last five weeks have tried him and made him do some soul searching) – “No, I mean you have to be confident in your ability and what you can do. I’ve been a good player in this league for a long time. I know at the end of the day, everything I do has to come back to technique when you’re out there on the field.”

(On Head Coach Adam Gase praising how he bounced back emotionally after the Cincinnati game and if he has been on board and completely locked in) – “Yes, obviously it’s the next game and we’re getting ready for the Steelers. I’ve got to bounce back. This is the NFL; it’s a long season. I’ve just got to be ready.”

(On what keeps him steady after the start of the season he’s had) – “You know it’s a long season and you’re just trying to win some games, basically. That’s how you stay steady. Just go about your work, really just focus on working, really. That’s all you can do.”

(On if he feels like his shoulder is 100 percent) – “Yes, my shoulder is good.”

(On him favoring his shoulder during the game) – “Yes, my shoulder’s good. There is nothing wrong with it.”

(On if he feels like he could tackle better) – “Definitely I feel like I can tackle better. That’s ball though. Teams are going to try to make corners tackle. You have to know that coming into the game and be ready for it. It’s just a mindset, really.”

(On sitting by himself for a while after last Sunday’s game) – “I was just waiting for the traffic to go out.”

(On the challenges of the Pittsburgh passing game) – “Obviously yes, it’s a challenge. Obviously they have 84 (Antonio Brown) but they have a bunch of guys that can take the top off the defense and work the intermediate (routes). It’s a great challenge. They’re going to throw the ball. We’ve got to be ready.”

(On playing against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who can move around and extend plays, and how difficult it is for a cornerback to cover) – “Yes, it adds an extra two or three seconds and he can get guys off and he is just flinging that ball up. At the same time, it’s an advantage but it can be a disadvantage too. You can get your hands on the ball if you stick with the guy. It’s really just ball skills at that time.”

(On what makes Steelers WR Antonio Brown elite) – “He’s quick. He doesn’t stop; he just keeps going. He can run all of the routes. Not many guys can do that. You can really key on a guy but he can run all of the routes, he can run 9-balls, he can run slants, he can run the whole route tree.”

(On what has gotten him through a slump in the past) – “Just keep working. Just put your head down and keep going and when you look up, you see where you’re at.”

Byron Maxwell is not good, but what is the solution?

Byron Maxwell sat at his locker stall in his uniform for a while after Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. After a while he picked himself up and got a shower. He changed into his street clothes and then sat right back down. And he sat there.

And sat there.

And sat there.

He took sips from a gallon sized container of what looked like water. And he stared into nothingness, alone with his thoughts.

And he drank. And he stared. And he sat.

The Dolphins game against Tennessee ended around 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. It was 5:45, and the Dolphins locker room was empty of other players when Maxwell finally decided to make his exit.

So he was either waiting for traffic to die down. Or he was really spent. Or he was doing a lot of thinking.

Maxwell now has this to ponder: The Dolphins are not thrilled with how he's playing. And they've told him. And they're telling the public as today defensive coordinator Vance Joseph conceded Maxwell "has not played well overall."

That's pretty obvious. Joseph went to Miami head coach Adam Gase in the days prior to the Cincinnati game and advocated benching Maxwell. Gase obviously deferred to his DC.

The only reason it is certain Maxwell regained his starting job last week and continues to be the starter as the team heads into the Pittsburgh Steelers game Sunday is because rookie Xavien Howard is out after another knee surgery -- his second in five months.

So Maxwell plays and will continue to play.

But make no mistake. The Dolphins are not thrilled with him.

And rightly so, apparently, because according to, Maxwell is the 58th rated cornerback in the NFL now. He is 51st in pass coverage and 91st in run defense. And the run defense is truly frustrating because Maxwell is long and strong and should be good in run support.

But as everyone saw against the Titans when he took an inside angle on a QB keeper, letting Marcos Mariota get outside and walk in for an easy short TD run, Maxwell either doesn't get or simply doesn't want it.

He's often seemingly not much of a willing tackler.

And you know where that leaves the Dolphins in the short term?

In trouble to the, um, max-well. (Sorry). Because the team seemingly has no other recourse right now.

Yes, Howard is eventually expected back. But not this week.

Yes, Chris Culliver will begin practicing next week as the physically unable to perform rules allow. But Joseph said he won't be ready to start right away.

Yes, Bene' Benwikere was signed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, as I explained in the previous post, but he arrived five minutes ago. Joseph said today the Dolphins will try Benwikere outside initially. Of course, that's where they need him most. But it's going to be interesting to see how much playing time he can get right away.

And yes, the Dolphins also added Chimdi Chekwa, who they cut after the preseason but obviously needed now. Is he the answer after not playing the first month of the season?

The point is there are no ready and obvious replacements for a poorly performing Maxwell. Deion Sanders isn't coming over that hill to save the day. Even if he could come over that hill, Sanders wouldn't pick the Dolphins to play for anyway because ... playoff opportunities.

So Byron Maxwell is your guy.

By the way, the Dolphins are not likely to get tons better even after Maxwell exits eventually if the players mentioned above are his replacements and continue to play as they have.

Howard, who the Dolphins believe will be quite good in the future, is rated the No. 88 cornerback overall by PFF. Benwikere was rated the No. 72 cornerback overall. Tony Lippett is rated the No. 63 cornerback overall.

All of them are rated lower than Maxwell on an overall grade basis so far this season.

On the bright side, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady -- all remaining on the Dolphins schedule this year -- are not great quarterbacks.



Who is going to get the personnel decisions right: Dolphins or the Ravens and Panthers

NFL teams pay a lot of money to men who watch tape and judge players and decide whether the athletes should serve on their roster. And these men get it right some. And these men get it wrong a lot.

The ones who are wrong less often typically are considered the really good ones.

Not surprisingly, these NFL general managers and personnel experts often have a difference of opinion. And this week the Dolphins are right smack in the middle of such a difference of opinion. So someone is going to be right ... and someone is going to be wrong.


On Friday, the Carolina Panthers decided Bene' Benwikere, fresh off a toasting at the hands of Julio Jones in which he (Benwikere) allowed nearly 250 of the 300 receiving yards the Atlanta receiver gained in a game, decided the cornerback was not worthy of being on their roster. The Panthers gave up on Benwikere.

A couple of days later, the Dolphins decided Benwikere was worthy of not giving up on and so they claimed him off waivers. That's about the same time the team, fresh off a beating at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, decided Billy Turner, among others, was not worthy of being on their roster. The Dolphins gave up on Turner.

And Wednesday, one day after the Dolphins cut Turner, the Baltimore Ravens decided he was worthy of not giving up on so they claimed him off waivers.

So what we have here is either the Miami Dolphins are right...

Or the Carolina Panthers and/or the Baltimore Ravens are right.

(I know, I know. Dolphins fans think their team never gets it right and we all remember the Panthers went to the Super Bowl last year and Baltimore is historically a winning organization while the Dolphins ... well, 1972 was a good year).

Here's the serendipity of these events: The Panthers asked a part-time player, generally a slot cornerback, to start a game on the boundary, out of position. Against those seemingly stacked odds, the team asked the player to succeed. And when he didn't, the team cut him.

The Dolphins asked a part-time player, generally a guy who worked at right guard or tackle most of the time, to start a game, play at left tackle, out of position. Against those seemingly stacked odds, the team asked the player to succeed. And when he didn't, the team cut him.

So the Dolphins added a player who was cut generally for the same reasons they cut Turner.

And now the Dolphins believe Benwikere will perform better for them, while the Ravens believe Turner will perform better for them.

(A little insider perspective here: The Dolphins expected Turner to be a tough brawler type who might not always use perfect technique but would at least fight the opponent. But that fight has been sorely lacking. And the technique didn't improve. Also, while it seems unfair Turner moved to left tackle, the truth is he did get some reps at the position last week. As to the idea that Jermon Bushrod, who has played left tackle basically all his previous nine NFL seasons, could have done a better job at left tackle, the Dolphins disagree. The team believes Bushrod's days as a left tackle are pretty much over.)

I have no idea how Turner views his release from the Dolphins. But I gained instant respect for Benwikere when he refused to blame the Panthers or say he was put in a position to fail by coaches when he spoke about his situation.

"You know, I could say that, but at some point you have to take responsibility for yourself if you want to be in that role, especially if that's what you're working towards," Benwikere said. "You have to take that preparation and effort and take those steps. That's something I put on myself. And that's why I talked to myself.

"I talked to myself about the conditioning, I had that inner talk with myself about what do I really want to become. Do I want to be just another guy? Or do I want to be an elite player and step up and make great plays? That's the effort I need to take about my own actions."

Now, that's not to say the Benwikere's situation was fair and he acknowledges that.

"What happened, that's not on me to decide whether it was fair. Do I think it was fair? No," he said.

But he has moved beyond whether it was fair to what he can do to avoid a repeat. And to avoid a repeat Benwikere needs to learn the Miami defense as quickly as possible because the Dolphins are hurting at cornerback.

He also needs to improve his conditioning, as he mentioned, because that was a factor in his poor play against the Falcons. The Falcons, you see, would apparently shuttle Jones out of the game to rest him then put him back in to run deep routes against Benwikere who had been in the game the whole time. The cornerback has said he simply ran out of gas covering Jones on the deep routes after covering another receiver the previous play.

"Conditioning was definitely a factor in the last game seeing how I split time before and then things fell a certain way and they needed me to play more often," Benwikere said. "So I wouldn't say my conditioning was bad but to be a great-caliber player when you're going against another great caliber player, you need to have the extra step to get the edge."

It is a new day for Benwikere in Miami as it is for Turner in Baltimore.

"When I came in the first thing they talked to me about was a clean slate," Benwikere said. "It don't matter what happened where you were. We don't really care. So my main goal is come get better, throw that performance out the window, put that behind me. Throw everything from that system away and get ready to get to work here."

Either the Dolphins or the Panthers will be proven right on this one.

Either the Dolphins or the Ravens will be proven right on Turner.

We shall see.

October 12, 2016

Jordan Cameron not expected to play vs. Pittsburgh, future uncertain

Tight end Jordan Cameron will not be playing Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he continues to try to recover from a concussion he suffered Sept. 25 against Cleveland. It gets worse ...

There is concern within the Dolphins that the player could be out an extended period as he mulls his NFL future.

Cameron has missed two games and is about to miss his third in a row. He did not practice Wednesday as the Dolphins began preparations for Sunday's game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Cameron's situation is delicate because the most recent concussion is his fourth in four years. And so both the player and the team are being cautious about the recovery. Cameron is said to be quite concerned about his longterm health.

The Dolphins have relied on Dion Sims as their starter with Marqueis Gray and recently signed Dominique Jones getting snaps as well. Jones, signed Oct. 3, caught two passes for four yards against Tennessee last Sunday.

On the brighter side of the Dolphins injury situation, guard Laremy Tunsil and tackle Branden Albert both practiced on Wednesday. Albert is a definite to play against the Steelers.

The Dolphins will continue to monitor Tunsil's progress during the practice week to make sure his ankle, which he injured slipping and falling in the shower last Sunday, does not swell up again after a practice.

And today we blame the Miami Dolphins receivers, starting with Jarvis Landry

Let's see ... we've blamed Ryan Tannehill for Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans. We've blamed the run defense. We've blamed the offensive line here and the Dolphins offered an amen to that here. We've blamed a lot of people for Sunday's loss.

But some folks have apparently escaped the fire.

Until now.

Let's look at the Dolphins receiver corps.

They usually get mostly love and credit when they perform at a high level. But none of those guys reached a high level on Sunday. And it wasn't just about catches or the lack thereof. It was other things that go into playing winning football that the receiver corps did not bring to this game.

Take Jarvis Landry, for example. He's Miami's most consistent receiver. He had a bad game. Forget for a minute that he had only three catches for 28 yards. That's not the reason he had a bad game.

He had a bad game because he failed multiple times to play winning football.

Consider that Landry cost the Dolphins a touchdown. In the third quarter, Tannehill passed to Jay Ajayi who then ran nine yards for a touchdown to make it a 24-20 game with the extra point to come and a quarter-and-a-half to play.

Except Landry was called for holding and the 10-yard penalty not only nullified the touchdown but put a Dolphins offense that was under siege all day and basically has very little margin for error this year, behind the sticks. Predictably, the Dolphins didn't get the TD back. They settled for a FG.

So that lost opportunity was on Landry.

Screens and blocking for them were of a particular problem for Landry this day. In the second quarter, on what could have been a 20-25 yard gain, the Dolphins settled for seven yards on a slip screen to Kenyan Drake because Landry took on his defender with a roll block. Kenny Stills says I should call it a cut block. 

No. 1. Landry has been taught not to roll block on that play.

No. 2. It was a terrible roll block anyway.

The man Landry was supposed to block basically skipped over Landry's block and made the play. If that man is blocked by Landry, the Dolphins have the football at midfield or better with 40 seconds left in the half. And that's about 12-15 yards from FG territory. In other words, the Dolphins run that slip screen to the right correctly, they can run another one to the left and they have a FG. That's three more points.

I'm not even going to get into the idea that Landry ran a wrong route later in the game and all the receivers failed to haul butt on the game's final play -- which in my estimation is an unpardonable sin. I mean, the game was lost by then, but these guys get paid ... PAID ... a lot of money to provide maximum effort on every play.

Yet on the game's final play Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker all seemed to be offering three-quarter speed. Why? Because they all had such great days and were good with their efforts?

The point is there's more to Landry playing winning football than catching eight passes in 12 targets for 80 yards. There's more to it for Parker than posing a threat and looking athletic and catching one deep pass every two games. There's more to it than for Stills than being super fast, and working super hard, and wanting it super a lot but having only nine catches in five games.

This is supposed to be the best receiver corps in the AFC East. It is not.

Stills cost the Dolphins a win at Seattle. Parker believes he's really good but hasn't produced like he's really good and it is a win when he rolls out of bed in the morning and has a good breakfast -- which he had to be taught to do. Landry until Sunday led the NFL in catches, but he's also had a fumble at New England which he lost and has run wrong routes and been penalized in previous games.

And please don't get me started on the Dolphins tight ends.

I know the Dolphins really like Dion Sims. Obviously they paid good money for Jordan Cameron.

So which one is a security blanket for Tannehill? Which one catches everything thrown to him? Which one is always in the place he's supposed to be, the right place?

Indeed, as the Dolphins search for an identity this season, I ask which of these receivers is Tannehill's security blanket? Who is the go-to guy?

Everyone has always assumed it is Landry. And -- if you do not mistake the top paragraphs for anything but dispassionate review -- please understand Jarvis Landry is a good player and is a net-plus for the Dolphins. But he has the potential for so much more. He can be the calm in the storm for Tannehill when he's under pressure and reading only half the field or staring down a receiver.

If Landry always runs the right route, always carries out his assignment, always gives maximum effort, avoids dumb penalties or fumbles trying to fight for extra yards, he can be that security blanket.

He wasn't that on Sunday against the Titans. 

October 11, 2016

More cuts after Dolphins loss to Tennessee and what it means (updated final edition)

The hits keep on coming ...

The Miami Dolphins today also terminated the contract of running back Isaiah Pead from the active roster and are cutting offensive lineman Jamil Douglas off the practice squad. Alex Marvez of Sporting News was the first to report Pead's release.

The Dolphins today added cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and Sam Young to the active roster. Both were with the team during training camp and got cut. The team also added center Jake Brendel and OT Terry Poole to the practice squad.

Earlier today the team dropped the hammer on offensive linemen Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner.

All combined, the Dolphins today cut their third-round pick in 2013, their third-round pick in 2014 and their fourth-round pick in 2015.

The Pead release? It signals two things:

Expect Arian Foster back on the field as early as Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers after he missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. The Dolphins were heavy at running back but had to be that way because Foster wasn't playing.

He's going to be available now so Pead, the fifth man of the five-man room, is gone. Pead carried eight times for 22 yards this season.

Brendel and Poole were apparently the best of a bigger group of players that tried out Tuesday. That group included Brendal, Poole, OT David Foucault from Montreal, Canada, linebacker Trevor Reilly from Utah, former Notre Dame DB Darrin Walls, and former Connecticut DB Blidi Wilson.

Young originally signed with the Dolphins on March 11, 2016 and spent the 2016 offseason and training camp with the team before he was released on Sept. 3, 2016. Young has played parts of six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2010), Buffalo Bills (2011-13) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15), appearing in 58 total games with 13 starts. He entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick (179th overall) by Dallas in the 2010 NFL draft. Young is from Coral Springs, Fla. and played high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in nearby Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Chekwa addition is interesting because neither Tony Lippett nor Byron Maxwell, who started for Miami on Sunday played well. So they are on notice.

End of (Dolphins) days for Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas

Sunday felt like Armageddon for the Miami Dolphins offensive line because, well, six sacks.

Today came the fallout.

The Dolphins have released tackle Billy Turner and guard Dallas Thomas today after both started Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans and played poorly. The truth of it is neither has lived up to expectations with the Dolphins since being drafted and it's apparent the coaching staff has decided their play cannot be raised to high levels.

The Dolphins are filling the open roster spots with the signing of Sam Young and some other lesser known player.

Turner was mentioned prominently in the PFF grades post from this morning. If you want to see who else stunk and has a job on the line, go to the link in the last sentence. As to Turner:

He was forced into action at LT -- a position he is basically the third-stringer for. He had a game to forget against the Titans, allowing  three sacks, two QB hits and five QB hurries in addition to being responsible for one hands to the facemask penalty. Turner was the worst tackle in the league for week of the 55 qualifying players and also struggled in the run blocking game - an area he's had success at in the past.

And what we have seen today is the team part ways with players drafted high by past general managers.

Turner was a third-round pick in 2014. Thomas was a third round pick in 2013.

Good NFL teams turn third round picks into solid starters or, at the worst, solid backups. These two were neither, although I believe Turner was better than Thomas and definitely didn't get as much of a chance to show his ability than Thomas.

The interesting thing is both Turner and Thomas were given the opportunity to become starters during their careers and basically washed out. Thomas was the starting left guard as late as the recently completed 2016 training camp. He started 16 games at left guard last season.

Turner was a starting right guard for 12 games in 2015.

So there was a ton of tape on both before this year. Why did it take this long to figure out something was not right?

On the bright side, you can't say today's moves were kneejerk.



PFF Week Five grades: Offensive line a horror show; Tannehill great when not pressured; Wake in 5-2 front; Lippett awful; Williams a ghost

We saw it with our eyes...The Dolphins offensive line that included reserves Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner at left guard and left tackle respectively, struggled on Sunday. And by struggled I mean allowing six sacks, three quarterback hits and multiple more pressures in only 18 passing attempts.

Coach Adam Gase said the pass protection was bad enough that he basically pardoned quarterback Ryan Tannehill from being criticized for a bad game.

And the analysts agree with that in this week's tape review. To wit:

Billy Turner was forced into action at LT -- a position he is basically the third-stringer for. He had a game to forget against the Titans, allowing  three sacks, two QB hits and five QB hurries in addition to being responsible for one hands to the facemask penalty. Turner was the worst tackle in the league for week of the 55 qualifying players and also struggled in the run blocking game - an area he's had success at in the past.

The Dolphins' offensive line continues to be a major issue and the injuries and lack of depth showed against the Titans. They allowed four sacks (the other two must have been on running backs or a tight end) and 16 total QB pressures on just 24 drop backs. For the season, they rank second in sacks allowed (12), and second in total pressures allowed (67) to the Colts 76. The thing is the Dolphins have 57 fewer passing snaps.

As a result, the Dolphins rank dead last in the league in pass blocking efficiency (PBE is a formula that combines sacks, hits, hurries to the number of passing plays).

For the record, Mike Pouncey played well.

“Really well. Really well," Gase said. "It was like he was never gone."

Ja'Wuan James, meanwhile, continued his curious decline compared to the play he delivered his rookie season and early in 2015 before he was injured.

James gave up 1 1/2 sacks (he shared a sack allowed with Jay Ajayi in which neither player touched Derrick Morgan as the DE got a free run to Ryan Tannehill). Morgan, by the way, came into the game without a sack. He finished with two, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

I asked Gase why James, who was benched at the end of the Cleveland game, didn't play well the following week at Cincinnati and didn't play well against the Titans, has not been good this year.

 “To say he’s not good, I think that’s a little extreme," Gase said. "I would say this, if there’s … if there’s 50 plays in a game, he’s having 45 really good plays to where he’s doing things right and then we’re having five rough plays, or five bad plays.

"It’s just something (that) when you’re at tackle, those five bad plays really stick out. That’s the thing. I know we’ve changed some technique things that we were trying to do with the tackles and some guys, it takes to quicker than others. Some of the things that we’re trying to do with him are different than what he’s done in the past.

"It’s about sometimes trusting your coaching, trusting the scheme that we’re trying to do and selling out and being all in. Sometimes what happens is when you’re in the middle of the game and bullets are flying, you’re trying to just figure out a way to get the guy blocked. And then you go away from a certain technique, and it’s a group working together, that can put you in a bad spot. That’s what’s happening a couple of times. I know he’s trying to do it right. It’s just we need him to kind of pick up the pace of doing it right all the time."

I don't want to quibble with coach ... but I will.

NFL offensive tackles get paid to protect the QB. They get paid to, in essence, be anonymous. The way they're anonymous is if you don't hear about them giving up sacks or sticking their big ham hands up an opponent's facemask, or tackling defensive linemen or jumping offsides.

James was mostly anonymous his rookie year. This year you hear about him a lot. If he's having five "rough plays" out of 50, that's not former first-round draft pick performance. That's middle of the road performance. So James is under-performing.

Moving on ...

WR Jarvis Landry came into the week leading the league in targets and receptions, but only had three targets (three catches for 28 yards) on the afternoon. It was the first time all year he was targeted fewer than 10 times. For the season, he is now 10th amongst WR in targets (44) and 4th in receptions (34).

Landry cannot be happy because he is Miami's short to intermediate WR threat. In a game Tannehill is under siege, the ball should be getting out quick to counter the pressure. The ball should be getting out to Landry. And it wasn't.

Tannehill was pressured on 16 of his 24 drop backs against the Titans, completing 5-of-10 passes for 74 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. He took six sacks.

In the eight drop backs Tannehill didn't have any pressure, he was very effective, completing 7-of-8 passes for 123 yards. For the season, Tannehill has been pressured on 44.4 percent of every drop back, most of any QB in the league who has started every game. For his career, Tannehill has now been sacked 200 times in less than 4 and a half years.

Tannehill's in-game numbers when not being pressured suggest Gase is correct not to throw the QB under the bus and, indeed, defend him and endorse him as his QB for the season.

Running back Jay Ajayi got the start and played 30 of 44 snaps against the Titans, 22 more than the next highest RB Damien Wiliams. Although he was only able to gain 42 yards on 13 carries, 36 of those yards came after contact and he was able to force three missed tackles.

DE Cameron Wake continues to show he is a great fit for the new wide-9 defensive scheme. Despite playing only 26 snaps against the Titans, Wake was able to record three QB hurries and two stops. For the season, Wake ranks 3rd of all 4-3 defensive ends in pass rush grade and has 15 QB hurries on only 122 total snaps.

The Dolphins did something different with Wake this week, as first reported by Salguero. They played Wake on early downs and employed him in a hybrid front that had Wake as one of five linemen in what was basically a 5-2 front. Call Wake an extra defensive end, which he was at times, or an outside linebacker, but he was in his four-point stance all but once.

CB Tony Lippett had a rough afternoon in coverage against the Titans, allowing 7 of 8 targets his way to be caught for 51 yards and a touchdown. He recorded nine solo tackles and 3 stops which were both the most for any cornerback in Week Five.

After leading the league in QB hurries through the first two weeks of the season, DE Mario Williams has really struggled recently, recording only two QB hurries the last 3 games. Williams was a ghost this game. He didn't have a tackle, a sack, a hit or a hurry. Zero.

For the season, Williams now has 15 QB hurries, putting him at 15th amongst 4-3 defensive ends. He has been slightly more effective against the run than the pass this year, grading out as PFF's 12th best 4-3 end in run defense through five weeks.

Safety Reshad Jones continues to quietly get better each week it seems, as he had another strong showing against the Titans, particularly in coverage, where he allowed only one catch for two yards. For the season, Jones has allowed eight catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns, grading out as PFF's 4th best safety in coverage through five games. Jones has typically struggled in pass coverage in his career so it's nice to see him continue to improve his game despite the unit as a whole struggles.  

DT Ndamukong Suh had a quiet afternoon by his standards against the Titans, recording only one tackle and two QB hurries. Despite the underwhelming performance, Suh still leads all NT/DT with 19 stops and is ranked No. 1 at his position in run defense grade through five weeks. He also ranks 4th in QB hurries (10).

One thing about this game: Suh typically gets double teamed inside. That wasn't the case against the Titans as Josh Kline, who joined the team in September after being cut by the Patriots, faced off against Suh one-on-one a majority of the day. 

October 10, 2016

Miami Dolphins place Koa Misi on injured reserve (Update)

The Miami Dolphins have placed linebacker Koa Misi on injured reserve today.

The move makes room on the roster for the Dolphins to add cornerback Bene' Benwikere off the waiver wire. The cornerback was cut Friday by the Carolina Panthers after he struggled to cover Julio Jones the previous Sunday, allowing Jones to have a good portion of his 300-yard day against the Panthers.

The Misi move is a stunner. One NFL source said Misi's neck injury could potentially be career-threatening. Misi has been seen by at least one specialist and is expected to seek the advice of others.

Misi missed the last two games with a neck injury but there was no public indication the injury was serious enough to have him miss the remainder of the season much less threaten his career.

Although Misi is eligible to return to the roster after eight weeks, that seems unlikely. Aside from the injury's seriousness, the Dolphins have at least one other players on injured reserve -- defensive tackle Earl Mitchell -- that they'd like to bring off injured reserve and he is eligibile to return in four weeks.

Misi, 29, finishes the year on injured reserve for the second consecutive year.

Misi has not been able to stay healthy to play 16 games in a season since 2010, his rookie year in the NFL.

The Dolphins have been playing Donald Butler for Misi and that seems the direction that will continue.


Adam Gase explains Tunsil (shower) ankle injury and defends Ryan Tannehill while blaming pass protection

Dolphins coach Adam Gase was driving to Sunday's game with offensive line coach Chris Foerster when the assistant's cell phone rang. And as the conversation was happening, Gase quickly got the drift that something was wrong.

"I'm thinking, who's he talking to?," Gase said. "Then he's like, 'Ok, LT I'll see you at the stadium.' And I asked what just happened?

"I get a little bit of the details of what happened and now it's what's the next step."

The details, according to Gase, are as was reported by Andy Slater of WINZ Sunday evening. Tunsil, in the shower Sunday morning, injured his left ankle.

"So from what I gathered, he slipped in the shower and fell," Gase said. "He jacked his ankle up. I don't know how it actually happened. Sometimes that happens to you, you don't know exactly how you did it. You just know you're in pain."

Tunsil got to the stadium and got X-Rays. Gase said the team is still determining how long Tunsil will be out, "day-to-day or week-to-week," the coach said.

Tunsil, who came to the Dolphins after he dropped in the draft following the social media release of a gasmask bong video, suffered the accident between 8-9 a.m. Gase was asked if he knew if the player was fully sober at the time of the accident and said there were no red flags when Tunsil checked in for the mandatory team breakfast.

I don't assume the Dolphins could know because they didn't conduct any drug test of Tunsil Sunday morning. This much is certain:

Tunsil was crestfallen. Sources say he was upset and tears were welling up in his eyes at times as he talked to teammates because he realized his accident was about to weaken the team.

"I'm sure it's that cross between embarrassment and thinking, 'I'm missing a game because of this?'" Gase said. "He knows that being out there makes us better. And he's a competitor and knows we count on him being healthy and being a part of our offense."

Tunsil was so upset, he left the stadium and didn't stay for the game.

He is not on crutches today.

"He's walking," Gase said.

The Dolphins expect Albert back for the Pittsburgh game Sunday. He told reporters today he expects to practice Wednesday. Tunsil's status is obviously unclear.

The Tunsil loss was not catastrophic but it did absolutely hurt. The Miami offensive line was a disaster on Sunday. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times.

Tunsil's injury combined with the loss of Branden Albert, who was out after being ill all last week, forced Dallas Thomas into the starting lineup. It forced Billy Turner, who was going to start at left guard while Tunsil started at left tackle, to start at left tackle.

Gase explained that he didn't "throw" Jermon Bushrod to left tackle, where he's played in the past, because he had no repetitions. Indeed, Bushrod has not played at left tackle for the Dolphins since he's been on the team.

In explaining the struggles of the offensive line, Gase made it clear he blames that unit for the stuggles Tannehill suffered Sunday. Image

"I know when we have 18 dropback passes and he's hit or sacked on nine of them and then the completions we do have, he's got guys in his face," Gase said. "I'm supposed to blame him for that? I get a look at the whole picture. I'm calling the plays and I know what it's supposed to look like and it's not looking like that now as far as what's going on around him.

"When we start cleaning some things up and start giving him a chance to perform at the level I think he's going to perform and he doesn't do it, that's one thing. But I need to see where we get a chance in protection, we're right on a lot of the other things we're supposed to be doing. Is he going to have mistakes? Yeah.

"The last interception. I told him before he went out there, 'You're going to have to fit it in.' He tried to fit it in but gets jacked. I thought he was going to get his rotator cuff blown out and knee blown out and everybody gets pissed at him.

"Everybody wants to blame that position. It's the easy one to do because you can see completion, incompletions, interception. But when you hit your back foot and get sacked, there's not much you can do about it."

Salguero on the run defense, the putrid offense, regression from a year ago, being wrong and Dolphins' Tunsil lie

I was wrong. I wrote last week this Miami Dolphins' season could be salvaged. How foolish I have been. 

There is no saving this season if the Dolphins continue to do what they have done the first five games, namely, they don't score on offense and cannot stop the run on defense.

That is a deadly combination that will kill any season.

And that is where this Dolphins season is headed. That 1-4 hole the team has dug? It's really a grave.

There will be no climbing out of it if the Dolphins cannot score more than one touchdown a game. The Dolphins are 28th in the NFL, averaging 17.8 points per game. They scored 17 points against Tennessee on Sunday. Except one of those touchdowns was on a punt return.

The Miami offense scored one TD against the Titans. The Miami offense scored one TD against Cincinnati the week before. The Miami offense scored one TD against Seattle in the opener.

An offense that scores one touchdown per game is putrid.

The Miami defense? It has more holes than a dam constructed of random twigs by a beaver. The Dolphins have the worst run defense in the NFL. (Actually that is an assumption. The Dolphins had the 29th rated run defense entering Sunday's game and then allowed 235 rushing yards. So I'm assuming no other defense was as inept against the run as Miami's was Sunday and that will sink them to last.)

Anyway, the Dolphins are supposed to have this great defensive front. Yeah, not so much. A couple of linebackers -- Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins -- are often hurt as they were Sunday thus unavailable for duty. There are gaps up the middle that Ndamukong Suh, getting double-teamed most of the day, cannot fill. There is a problem setting the edge. There are a couple of players, with Byron Maxwell being one, that are either atrocious or unwilling tacklers.

And the result is ...

Big plays in the running game. The running game!

The Titans had runs of -- ready for this? -- 22 yards, 27 yards, 11 yards, 19 yards, 14 yards, 13 yards, and 12 yards. That's not a ground game, that's a paper shredder with the Miami defense playing the role of the paper.

Cannot win like that in the NFL. Impossible.

I wrote my column today about Adam Gase saying Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback the remainder of the season and what that means and why he said it. Please check it out.

But, honestly, 27-year-old Dan Marino could do nothing about a defense that gives up 235 rushing yards. Indeed, he had that kind of defense when he played and that's why he often went home with an L after playing Buffalo back in the day.

As to the offense scoring only one TD a game, well, Marino could do something about that. But unfortunately a 27-year-old Dan Marino isn't walking through those doors.

And so this season is irredeemable. Thinking otherwise makes me a hopeful but unthinking loon.

One more thing: The 2015 Dolphins were 1-3 and went to Tennessee after a bye and beat the Titans by 28 points.

The 2016 Dolphins were 1-3 and hosted Tennessee after a mini-bye and got beat, 30-17.

In Cuba, where I was born, there is a word for such things ...


One final thing: The Dolphins announced 90 minutes prior to kickoff Sunday that starting left guard/tackle Laremy Tunsil injured himself while preparing for the game.

That was a lie.

WINZ's Andy Slater first reported Tunsil injured his ankle in the shower of the team hotel before he ever got to Hard Rock Stadium Sunday afternoon.

He wasn't preparing for the game. He was showering. And apparently he fell.

And the Dolphins, recognizing how odd that seems, obviously tried to cover for their rookie first round draft pick by concocting some "preparing for the game" narrative. That was pregame. After the game, coach Adam Gase was more sophisticated in the manner he avoided explaining what happened.

“He was getting ready for the game," Gase said. "I’m still kind of sorting everything out right now. We’re trying to get ready for (the game) and all of a sudden he lets you know that he’s not going to be able to go so we had to make some quick adjustments."

Yeah, that's parsing words. When a coach tells you a player was "getting ready for the game," no one expects that to mean the player was showering before heading over to the stadium. You expect that will have something to do with warming up or doing something of an athletic nature.

It's really disappointing the Dolphins decided to turn what was an unfortunate accident into a mini cover-up.

For what? Why? In hopes of sparing Tunsil, who was drafted after appearing in an infamous gasmask bong video, some minor embarrassment?

I saw this team play on Sunday. The Dolphins have bigger embarrassments they should be more eager to cover up instead. 

October 09, 2016

Ryan Tannehill is Dolphins QB remainder of the year

It was a day hundreds if not thousands of fans at Hard Rock Stadium chanted, "We want Moore, we want Moore," signaling to anyone with ears they want Matt Moore as the Dolphins quarterback.

It was kind of understandable.

Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins starter since 2012, is not having a good season so far this year and didn't have a good day in a 30-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Not good is defined as 12 of 18 for 191 yards with two interceptions and a 62.3 quarterback rating. Tannehill this year has six touchdown passes and seven interceptions and his 83.6 rating is the lowest he's had since 2013, his second season in the NFL.

But that doesn't matter ...

Coach Adam Gase was asked if he thought of benching Tannehill.

"No. He's not coming out," Gase said. "You can ask me 100 times, he's going to be in there the rest of the season."

Consider Tannehill appreciative.

"I know coach has confidence in me -- I have confidence in myself -- and I think the guys on offense have confidence in me," Tannehill said. "We're going to go out and play. I'm going to push myself in practice, do everything I can do to get better and expect to play better."


Titans beat Dolphins: Most discouraging win in long time

I have just witnessed the most discouraging and depressing Miami Dolphins loss in a long time.

The Tennessee Titans, a team that was so awful last year it had the first overall pick of the draft in April, came into Hard Rock Stadium and kicked the Dolphins' collective butts.

The 30-17 score was not indicative of how awful the Dolphins looked and played.

They showed no fight on defense.

They had no answers or apparent plan on offense.

And they combined this with a lack of discipline and poise the likes of which have not been seen around here in a while.

The Titans steamrolled Miami's defense with 235 rushing yards. DeMarco Murray gained 121 yards on 27 carries. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and reserve tailback Derrick Henry added over 114 yards more.

Mariota, by the way, looked like Steve Young today. He threw three touchdown passes without an interception. He came into the game with four touchdowns and five interceptions.

Yes, the Dolphins defense was terrible.

But the offense tried not to be outdone. The Dolphins scored one TD on offense. One.

They scored one last week against Cincinnati. They scored one against Seattle in the opener.

One touchdown per game is horrible, my friends. I don't have to tell you that. Something is broken here and doesn't seen to be getting better right now.

Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times and that was bad. But it was worse than expected knowing the Dolphins would be coming into the game with a backup left guard and left tackle.  Three of those sacks came when it became obvious the Dolphins were simply going to throw to try to make a comeback. The Titans teed off on Tannehill.

Tannehill also threw two interceptions.

So what now? I have no idea. This season is a trainwreck already.


Dolphins answer surprise Tunsil-Albert inactives with a surprise decision

So the starting left side of the Miami Dolphins offensive line today will be Billy Turner at left tackle and Dallas Thomas at left guard.

Think about that.

The Dolphins were dealt a tough situation this morning when starting left guard Laremy Tunsil and starting left tackle Branden Albert were unable to play. The Dolphins expected both players to start as late as this morning.

But Albert never turned the corner on an illness that was bothering him and kept him out of practice most of the week. So in the heat, he would have been incapable of staying on the field. His inactive status, I'm told, had nothing to do with his ankle injury.

Tunsil, meanwhile, hurt his ankle while preparing for the game this morning.

And when that surprise situation became apparent, the Dolphins had a decision to make.

They opted to put Turner at left tackle even though he has not started an NFL game at left tackle in his career.

The coaching staff, I'm told, decided that Turner was a better option than moving Jermon Bushrod, who has started at left tackle all his career until this season. Bushrod would have moved right guard to left tackle. The team also decided not to move Ja'Wuan James from right tackle to left tackle even though that is exactly what he did in 2014 when Albert was lost for the season with a knee injury.

The thinking, I'm told, is that Turner started 30 games at left tackle in college at North Dakota State and putting him there would be better than disrupting the right side of the offensive line.

Turner will be responsible for blocking Brian Orakpo much of the day. He will get help from tight ends and backs.

We'll see how the logic the coaching staff used to cover two surprise inactives this morning works out.

Arian Foster, Laremy Tunsil, Branden Albert not playing versus Titans

Huge surprise here: Dolphins rookie Laremy Tunsil is inactive for today's game against the Tennessee Titans.

That's not only surprising because Tunsil was not on the injury report this week but because Branden Albert is also inactive and going to miss his second consecutive game. Albert was on the injury report with an ankle and illness issues during the week of preparation.

The Dolphins say Tunsil hurt himself preparing for the game. The team says the injury is an ankle.

The Dolphins will start Billy Turner at left tackle and Dallas Thomas at left guard against the Titans.

This should come as no surprise but it is also notable: Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster, doubtful for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, is not playing.

Foster will be inactive for the third consecutive week with a hamstring injury.

He last played Sept. 18 at New England. Foster tweaked a groin in that game and left the game in the first half.

But the reason he's not played the past three weeks is the hamstring injury. Foster also had a hamstring injury in the preseason.

The Dolphins are expected to start Jay Ajayi against the Titans today.

Count that as one of the changes the Dolphins are promising in Sunday's game against the Titans. Please read the column.

The interesting question will come next week if Ajayi plays well today and Foster is ready to come back. Who starts then? What's the plan then?

Foster has gained 47 yards on 16 carries this season, a 2.9 yard per rush average. Ajayi is the team's leading rusher with 75 yards on 18 carries for a 4.2 yard per rush average.

The full list of inactives for Miami:

25       Xavien Howard                CB

29       Arian Foster                    RB

53       Jelani Jenkins                  LB

55       Koa Misi                         LB

67       Laremy Tunsil                  G/T

76       Branden Albert                T

84       Jordan Cameron             TE

Interesting that both Jenkins and Misi are down today. I expect to see Cameron Wake at linebacker at some point although Donald Butler and Neville Hewitt are listed as the starters.