Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dolphins swim through the Caribbean

Here's a story I was completely unaware of. It's not football related but it is Dolphin-related.

Apparently Jason Taylor was being sued for reneging on a real estate deal in the Virgin Islands. Well, yesterday he was cleared of all liability due to misrepresentations by the seller. Here's the link to the Associated Press story.

So this is what JT has been up to in the time off between OTAs and Training Camp. Of course, if you have to show up for a court date, it might as well be in the Virgin Islands...

The Dolphins Sign Pat... UPDATED!

The Dolphins have signed rookie wide receiver, Patrick Turner to a 4 year contract worth $2.464 million. It includes a signing bonus of $714,300k and breaks down as thus:

2009: $ 310, 000
2010: $ 395, 000
2011: $ 480, 000
2012: $ 565, 000

There is an escalator clause packaged into the deal which could triple his salary in the final year. making the deal worth a few shillings more. The contract in itself is not surprising - I predicted back in May that Turner would get a 4 year deal worth $2.9 million - but the bonus suggests that the Dolphins are very confident that Turner will make the team.

The First Line of Defense

In our continuing mission of getting to know all of our training camp competitors, we've come to a point where I'm about to waste a moment of time and energy. What do I mean by that? The Defensive Line currently boasts ELEVEN players, with the additional make-up opportunities provided by converted linebackers, Jason Taylor, Matt Roth, Quentin Moses, Tearrius George, Cam Wake, etc, etc.

At some point in the next four weeks, the Dolphins need to release two players from the roster to cut down to the maximum 80 allowed. The safe bet is that at least one if not both of these cuts will come from the overloaded defensive line. The only other position with excess players is at tight-end, with 6. So at least one of the players below may not be joining the team for the opening of training camp.

Kendall Langford, # 70.
Langford had a brilliant off-season last year. He came out of relative obscurity to win the starting LDE position and it was set in stone very early on (before TC even began if memory serves). He also started 2008 with a bang, crushing aging Primitive Weapon into the Marlins infield for the first Dolphins sack of the year. In fact, he applied constant pressure on Favre, including knocking him down on the 'Hail Mary' play that I still can't scrub out of my eyes. Langford showed glimpses of what he can do in 2008, but needs to be more consistent and better conditioned this year to elevate his play. That said, I see him being in the mix for years to come in Miami.

Philip Merling, # 97.
Funny story about Merling. On Madden he looks like JT, very slim, and is completely unstoppable in the pass rush. But in reality he is quite large and in 2008 his prowess was skewed more towards the run-stopping game. In relief of Vonnie Holliday he showed a lot of strength , and actually looked a bit like Holliday himself. Merling may turn out to be more of a play-maker in the end, though, and he needs the reps to make it happen. As much as I loved Holliday, Jeff Ireland was right, the only way for Merling to come into his own is to be the guy getting most of the snaps. He needs experience. He certainly has the physicality, he just needs to learn the mental aspects. We watched him grow as a person (quite literally) in 2008, now it's time for him to grow as a player.

Jason Ferguson, # 95.
Well this sure ain't the 'Fergie' I grew up with but I must saw I'm more impressed with the football player than the Duchess. A lot of fans and the media were down on Ferguson for only having 22 tackles last year, but what's a good year for a nose tackle...27 tackles? Honestly, it would be great if he made 40 tackles and forced 12 fumbles but considering he only played in about 50% of the snaps, I think he was respectable, if not great in 2008. He had to share the load with Starks, Soliai, Wright and Dotson and missed a game as well. The Dolphins obviously wanted to attempt to add some leg-life to Ferguson in hopes he would be here more than a year or two. He will still start in 2009, but expect more of the same rotation in the middle from Pasqualoni and Sparano.

Randy Starks, #94.
Well, besides allegedly running over police officers in South Beach, Starks has made a name for himself on the football field since coming to the Dolphins. If they gave out 12th man awards anymore, Starks would be a definite contender at least on the defensive side of the ball. In 2008 he usually created havoc; whereas Ferguson would consistently tie up the opponent's O-line, Starks would consistently separate from them, creating QB pressure, and turnovers. He even got an interception on the opening drive of the Houston game (remember? before we completely collapsed on defense?). I see Starks doing much the same as he did in 2008, garnering a sizable snap count by playing all 3 positions on the DL in relief of the three guys above. Obviously if any of them were to go down, he would be the first name called off the bench.

Paul Soliai, # 96.
Soliai is a strong guy. He can stand up guys on the goal line. But word on the street is that he eats barbecued pigs like shish-kebabs. And word is that Tony Sparano doesn't like that Soliai likes to eat. Soliai also likes to do other things, like jump offsides, and not obey team rules. The local media has flat-out stated that the team believes Soliai is the NT of the future, Ferguson's eventual replacement. I disagree entirely. I see a player who has consistently had the same re-occuring issues for the last four or five years going back to his college days. Consistently overweight, consistently being suspended by whatever team he's been on. Instead of an eventual starter, I project Soliai as being in competition for a roster spot. With the addition of Starks, McDaniel, Dotson, Cohen, Ellis, the competition is deep, and a guy who just can't get it together does not just get handed the job. He's going to have to battle for it.

Tony McDaniel, # 78.
Last year we drafted two and signed two big name free agents to bolster the defensive line. This year we added another player by trading one of our three 7th round picks in the 2009 draft for McDaniel. While I don't expect much from McDaniel, he should be better depth than what we had before, and if you consider him a 7th round pick, he's already better value than JD Folsom, our other 7th rounder. The third 7th round pick was traded for a 7th in 2010. I suspect McDaniel could have an upper hand in 'the battle' since he could move around on the line with more ease than say, Rod Wright or Ryan Baker.

Lionel Dotson, # 71.
Dotson was heavily interviewed by several 4-3 teams before the 2008 draft, but one team running a 3-4 saw a different use for him and drafted him in the 7th round. I have to admit, this was one of my favorite picks in 2008 as, like the McDaniel pick above I thought it was tremendous value. Dotson had a steep learning curve coming in undersized, and wide-eyed into the NFL. The Dolphins kept him on the 53 probably for fear he would be claimed off waivers, as he likely would have due to his pre-draft buzz. This year though, he's bigger, and has a year under his belt, so there will be no excuses, and no more keeping him on the shelf. He'll have to show up in TC or they may risk the waiver wire with him in an attempt to get him on the practice squad

Joe Cohen, # 62.
Based on the law of averages, you don't want to be a D-lineman and have the number sixty-two, but Cohen will attempt to break his way onto the roster and a possible number change. I have to be honest, I've seen the guy play and have distinct memories of saying out loud 'wow, this guy sucks!' but watching any 49er defense these days is a sobering experience. Still, if you can't look good on that defense, it'll be really tough to look good on Miami's. Still the Trifecta brought him on board so we'll have to wait and see. However, he has not gotten more than one Sparano name drop in the last 8 months and it was a long time ago, i.e. before OTAs

Rod Wright, # 90.
Another 7th round draft pick on a d-lineman? As a member of the 2006 team, Wright is somewhat of an aged veteran of the Dolphins. He's been through 3 different head coaches in that time. He missed his entire rookie season due to injury, and has been average at best ever since. Considering he went from having 9 starts in 2007 to being essentially a 3rd stringer in 2008, things have not been easy for Wright and this might be his last training camp with the Dolphins.

Ryan Baker, # 79. Baker is intriguing at 6'5", 290lbs, and known for being "ferocious" and "tenacious" and a full-speed practice kind of guy. I think based on his inexperience he would be prime practice squad material, but, like Dotson last year, Baker had quite a bit of interest from other teams and chose Miami. Maybe having the chance to play for the current regime is what brought him here, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't take a contract over a weekly check for PS duties. He will be one of the guys to watch in training camp, he just might sneak onto the roster.

Louis Ellis, # 93.
No, that's not the Predator, it's Ellis and some friends having a night out (no word on if the friends survived the evening or not). Ellis is the undrafted free agent nose tackle contender. I've seen some of his game film and the guy was quite decent thought at a weaker level of competition playing for Shaw University. There are rumours of not so great work ethic and attitude, but I've had some contact with Mr. Ellis and he seems to want it, though I'm not sure how much. To know that we will have to wait and see.

So, who do you think will make it onto the 53? What about the practice squad? And more pressing right now, who do you think will be cut before training camp? Keep in mind, it's possible that instead of releasing a player, the Dolphins could choose to trade one for a draft pick.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Vick to the Dolphins!

Yeah right!

But Dennis Green thinks so. The former NFL head coach now coaching in the UFL, if sitting around in an office waiting to see if this thing actually happens can be called coaching, recently said as much in a radio interview.

“I have a hard time believing that Michael Vick is not going to wind up with Bill Parcells,” Green said, “simply because he has that creativeness that says that no matter what it takes, he’s going to find a way to get Michael Vick. Now, whether it means convincing the Commissioner or whatever it takes, Michael Vick is probably going to wind up at Miami because of the fact that Bill Parcells is Bill Parcells.”

Look out Pat White, you may be out of a job sooner than later if Green's prophecy comes true. As absurd as it sounds, it wouldn't be the first time the Trifecta pulled a rabbit out of their hat. The last time was actually drafting Pat White, but there have been many surprises in Parcells' career.

There is of course a huge problem with this story. It came out of Green's mouth, and it came out on Sirius Radio. Between Sirius and the UFL, I wouldn't expect a lot of accountability considering both may be out of business in 6 months. Of course the biggest head scratcher of all is why Green would even suggest Vick would be going back to the NFL when he could be promoting the UFL as a suggested landing spot for Vick. Considering most people have never even heard of the UFL, it's really poor ambassadorship to go on a national radio show and talk about the NFL.

Training Camp Schedule!

Not huge news but the Dolphins have released some information about the upcoming Training Camp practices. The rookies are still at camp but will be taking a break in the next couple of weeks before everyone reports back to Dolphins HQ on August 1st. This will likely be a settling in day with a meeting or two, but the actual action doesn't start until the next day, Sunday the 2nd of August.

The Dolphins have announced that 21 practices will be open to fans including the first one on the 2nd. I urge any locals or travelers who will be attending any of these practices to text/e-mail/tweet/comment/messenger pigeon me so that we can collect as diverse a packet of information as possible, so that we can all share in the fun and those of us who are displaced can feel like we were there. I will of course give credit to everyone and you'll be showered with praise from the commenters. The practices are free, and the hotline to find out if they are still on/cancelled/postponed is (954) 452-7004.

Here is the schedule:

Sat., Aug. 1
Sun., Aug. 2
2:00 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 3
9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Tues., Aug. 4
9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 5
2:00 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 6
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 7
2:00 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 8
2:00 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 9
Mon., Aug. 10
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Tues., Aug. 11
2:00 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 12
9:00 a.m.
Tues., Aug. 13
2:00 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 14
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 15
10:15 a.m.
Mon., Aug. 17
Tues., Aug. 18
Wed., Aug. 19
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 20
9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 22
All practices are subject to weather conditions

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Outside I Feel A Rush

When you do the math and figure that the Dolphins will probably carry 8 linebackers into the season, and you factor in at least 3 of those 8 will be pure inside guys, I think it's a reasonable thought to have in your head that whoever makes it on the outside positions, will be the creme de la creme of their training camp roster. I mean, think about it, we still need to cut a couple pf players before training camp, yet it's unlikely that any of them will be a linebacker due to the 'tough decisions' Coach Sparano has mentioned since OTAs started.

Needless to say the starters will likely be the same as 2008 but the make-up of the roster could take one of it's biggest re-structuring in this position.

Matt Roth, # 98.
Matt Roth is a guy who looks like a wrestler, plays like a wrestler, and well, he was a wrestler. The big difference is the average wrestler can not run up and down a football field. He converted to strongside LB in 2008 and hasn't looked back. It would be very surprising if the Trifecta doesn't extend his contract during the season at some point a la Camarillo last year. That said, he is not a lock to start, but probable.

Joey Porter, # 55.
Joey had a career-best 17.5 sacks in 2008 playing opposite Matt Roth on the weakside. Earned himself a pro-bowl spot. For most of the season he looked unstoppable coming off the edge. But eventually teams started game-planning for him, and the length of the season slowed him down as well. Still, I was not disappointed in Joey at that point, but in the lack of blitz packages that the coaches brought to the game. When they finally started mixing it up, it was too late for teams to disengage from Porter. If the Dolphins had been sending safety/corner blitzes throughout the year, I believe Porter would have been able to reap the benefits from less protection being slid his way. A guaranteed starter in 2009.

Quentin Moses, # 74.
Ah, Moses. I often was mistaken for joking about Moses as being 'number 74, what's his face?' Truth, is, I was never joking, I honestly could never remember him due to lack of 'showing up'. If he doesn't show up in training camp he will be shown the door.

Jason Taylor, # 99.
Keep an eye on JT in 2009. It may be his last year and it may be your last chance to see something you don't often get to see. A player who's jersey number will be retired, play ball. In my life as a fan, only Marino is a member of that club and I didn't even see the 'good old days'. Only three Dolphins have had the honor. Taylor will be the fourth. It's a shame we didn't have him last year but now we do and the experience Roth picked up cannot down-spoken. Taylor is starter material possibly playing reserve. You cannot ask for better depth.

Tearrius George, # 49.
I was very surprised to see George being used at the outside position. He does have the size to play the strongside position, but with Roth and Taylor there, his best shot at the roster will be as the inside/outside guy. See the video below, George is # 77.

Charlie Anderson, # 56.
Anderson was really hot and cold in 2008, sometimes making big plays on defense, often times negating them on special teams. I went into 2008 training camp and beyond wondering why he was even on the Dolphins roster. I'm willing to give Anderson this training camp/pre-season to show he deserves it or else he should pack it up.

Cameron Wake, #91.
This could be the biggest impact player of training camp. His inability to stand out in the pajama parties could make him even that much more noticeable once they start going full speed.

I already did a full write-up on Wake here, so I won't go into depth again, but despite his unimpressive OTAs, I believe he will take Charlie Anderson's job.

Erik Walden, # 50.
I believe Walden has all the tools to be a legit outside linebacker in the NFL. He's the type of guy who's made a name for himself playing special teams, and that can sometimes hurt a guy's chances at competing at their true position. But considering how often Sparano drops Walden's name, you have to believe he's getting every shot imaginable to make an impression. In my mind he is the current holder-on of the final LB spot right now - could all change once pads go on, for better or worse.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Communication Breakdown

The first time I used the internet, it was 1994, and like a lot of the world, the only portal into this exciting new medium for me was through America Online, and a couple of other ISPs that were all about controlling the way you used the internet. They were very important in that they got everyone started. But eventually people started to realize that they were being held back by the restrictions, structures, and especially the subscription fees. That led to the demise of AOL as THE internet.

This week I actually took time to contemplate on how differently people use the technology that was always there, but now completely re-packaged, and more noticeably, a million times more acceptable by society-standards. If you had told me back in 1994 that I would be able to communicate with TV and movie stars and professional athletes alike, people I stacked in my own private 'celebrities I actually care about' pile, I wouldn't have believed you. I didn't see Twitter coming. I totally missed the MySpace blow-up. I'm often lost on Facebook.

But I am able to function on the internet at least 50% of the time, and that's what leads to gems like NFL Network's Rich Eisen joking around with me via Twitter or the occasional passing remark from a player for the Miami Dolphins. It also allows me to discuss subjects I'm interested in with other interested parties I would normally never have come into contact with. This site is of no exception, and I want to applaud the regular commenters for consistently providing civil conversation about that which we hold dear, the Miami Dolphins (and the occasional brownie recipe).

So, I thought I would share with you something that I never saw coming in 1994 or in 2009 to be honest. I had the pleasure of actually being in on a discussion with an ACTUAL Miami Dolphin. I will not name him, for obvious reasons (it was in my opinion 'off the record' but rather than calling him a source, I thought it prudent to mention it was a player) but this is what he said:

Pat White will play some receiver, they have been practicing screens with him.

Sean Smith will start. He later said that it would be between Smith and Green. Later again he said it would be Smith.

Jason Allen is much-improved and will be on the roster.

Channing Crowder has been very impressive and commanding in OTAs.

He expects Patrick Turner to start.

He says Vontae Davis is coming along slowly, and that his youth makes it easy to get into his head.

He said neither Sparano, or his position coach really ever 'dig into him' but couldn't say if it wasn't their style or just that he hasn't garnered their wrath yet.

He refused to answer my question of who would make the roster Anthony Armstrong or Brandon London. Guess I can't blame him.

It's interesting to communicate with pro-athletes and/or celebs, but there's also a double-edged sword in that you forget how these people are REAL PEOPLE and that the image you see on TV may not match up with what you get in person. This can sometimes be a jarring exeperience. Sometimes you actually like the person more than the celeb and sometimes (more often than not) you find you don't like this person the way you thought you would if you ever met.

Do you guys have any experiences like that? We already discussed my run-in with Jimmy Buffet when I was a teenager, but he's not the only musician I ever had an enlightening run in with.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Plugging Up Holes

Poor Channing Crowder. Poor Akin Ayodele. Poor Reggie Torbor. Poor rest of the inside linebackers that fans barely ever think of. Truth is, the outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense get all the press, glamour, and accolades (there is a sack leader stat, but no official run-stuffer stat in the NFL). The inside guys? We just complain about them when they're doing something negative and don't even notice when they do something positive. In a 4-3 defense, the middle linebacker can be the center of attention, but in a 3-4, there's two guys on the inside, and it all gets watered down.

Everyone noticed Zach Thomas when he covered the whole middle of the field, but the same can't be said for Crowder and Ayodele when they're splitting that duty.

Heading into training camp in August, these are the players that will be competing for a roster spot:

JD Folsom, # 59.
Folsom is 6'3", 230lbs. Guess what position he played at Weber State. Nope, he played Matt Roth's role in 2008, lining up on the LOS on the strong side with a hand on the ground. The more I look at this draft pick the more confused I am. He's another Mormon player who took 2 years off from football so he comes in as a 25 year old rookie. The Dolphins passed on some incredible football players to take Folsom (Nick Reed, Mike Mickens, Rashad Jennings, Trevor Canfield, Zack Follett, Lydon Murtha, etc). What is it that they see in him? The media hasn't even noticed him, so far, so invisible.

Orion Martin, # 48.
Now this is where things start getting interesting. Martin was a defensive end at Virginia Tech, is listed as a defensive end on the official roster, and is a pass-rush specialist. Yet the Dolphins have been using him almost exclusively on the inside according to local media. It was my initial roster that had Martin on the outside and Tearrius George on the inside. Then the media and other fans made me second guess myself. I'm leaning back to my original leanings with George on the inside and Martin on the outside. Its very possible the reporters mixed up the two since they're number 48 and 49 and are similar sized bodies. Either way, Martin's past accomplishments have all been from the outside, so the potential move inside would be a huge leap.

William Kershaw, # 58.
Kershaw was picked up mid-season as a free agent addition to our practice squad but was signed to the 53 man roster for the last couple of weeks of 2008. He has the most experience of the 'bottom 3' after signing with Kansas City in 2006 and spending time here and there for the Chiefs, Texans, Eagles, Saints and now the Dolphins. Is his journeyman past a red-flag?

Reggie Torbor, # 53.
Earlier today, Omar Kelly and I agreed that Torbor was well overpaid for what production we got from him in 2008. In fact, most people won't remember this, but there was a time early on that the coaches weren't confident enough in Torbor to give him more snaps. Crowder and Ayodele were left to play alot more snaps than they would've liked to lack of depth at ILB. Torbor has failed to impress in OTAs so far, and may have been a reach to begin with. He had a good run to the Super Bowl, and cashed in on it, but as one reader mentioned in reference to the offensive line, you want starter quality guys being your 1st backup. I'm not sure Torbor is starter quality.

Akin Ayodele, # 51.
Picking up from what I just said about starter-quality, there is no doubt in my mind that Ayodele would be an excellent backup. I think he is starter-quality for a few snaps a game. I would not wet myself if the guy in front of him got injured and he had to step in. Now that said, I was very disappointed in two aspects of Ayodele's game in 2008, enough so to want to replace him as the starter. First, his aggressiveness. There were too many plays where I saw the stutter-step. These linebackers need to be able to flow to the ball, and change direction if they need to, not wait until they know where the ball is going before making that first step. I guess it comes down to trusting your gut. The second one is the biggest problem, in my mind. His stamina. This is where not trusting in Torbor came into play a lot. Ayodele seemed to get 'gassed' a lot either on long drives or towards the end of the half/game. I feel that's where his lack of ability to get past the line on 3rd down blitzes came into play - he just didn't have it left in the tank. No real excuse for this since he was in the trifecta's training program for longer than most. I hope he has made some improvements in these areas or I will be calling for his head again in January.

Channing Crowder, # 52
Crowder is one of those guys who doesn't stand out a lot, doesn't make a lot of Sportscenter, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense when he speaks. But he is a consistent tackler and is one of the few 'long-time' Dolphins, if such a statement can be made, for a reason. He understands the game. He may not be a very gifted athlete or get a lot of credit for being a 'student of the game' but I guarantee he looked up to Zach Thomas and has tried to soak up as much of Thomas' habits as possible, which includes extensive film study. In his first year at the helm of the defense he racked up 113 tackles in 13 starts. His goal in 2009 should be to make it 16 starts, and to increase his production as far as turnovers/forced fumbles go. No one's expecting Crowder to turn into a ball-hawk, but he should be able to at least get the ball on the ground once a game. With a year under his belt, he should be able to relax more on the play-calling and focus more on those kinds of things.

So those are the 6 guys in the middle of the defense heading into training camp. While I do think Tearrius George is better-suited to the inside, I will hold off on discussing him until tomorrow when we look at the outside linebackers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vontae Davis NOT arrested!!?!!

According to the Sun-Sentinel's, Mike Berardino, Vontae Davis was not in Champaign, Illinois and not in possession of his expired license as previously reported in the Daily Illini, then in Pro Football Talk, then here, then in the various newspaper sites around South Florida, then probably on Mars. It was a bit of a non-story to begin with but in late June it was potentially reporter's gold!

Vontae has now been contacted and has straightened up the whole thing. He was at OTAs on the days of June 9th and 10th. While Berardino makes the claim that it would be physically impossible for Davis to make it from Davie to Illinois in 3 hours and back by 7am the next day, I will simply say the alibi seems reasonable, if not more probable than the crime.

So, apologies to Davis for jumping on the steam-roller and/or throwing him under the bus.

I'll take 2 Chads and a Pat of White on the side, please.

Seems like in 2008, the only quarterbacks we really talked about were Chad Pennington and the 'Primitive Weapon' mostly because the media runs through New York. But lately South Florida has been getting some buzz thanks to the addition of Pat White, and the question of where that addition leaves Chad Henne. On top of that we also have the question of Pennington vs. Henne. It's as if we suddenly have a REAL competition at quarterback. But it's not a competition over who will start versus the Falcons in week 1. It's a competition over how many snaps each of the three will get during the season. Let's rack 'em up!

Chad Pennington, # 10.
The incumbent starter had the best year of his career in 2008. Unlike some of the other starters who I'd like to see increase their production from the previous year, if Pennington could just MATCH his 2008, then we'd likely be heading in the right direction. Obviously it looks like he will not have to be the only arm out there, so he would have to match those numbers with fewer snaps.

Chad Henne, # 7.
As much as I like Pennington, and as much as he deserves the starting job, I would be secretly (ok, not so secretly) happy when Henne gets to step in. The throws are so different between the two Chads. Henne's passes come out like bullets, are lower, faster, perhaps a bit wilder on the short passes but the intermediate throws get their very quickly, and the long throws don't hang long enough to catch the wind. Pennington is more accurate because of his soft touch, but Henne's give the defense less time to catch up. I honestly believe his throws allow for more yards after the catch. He wouldn't have to launch it down the field to Ted Ginn. An intermediate bullet of 15 yards would get there in Ginn's stride and allow him to keep going at full speed instead of having to slow down for the ball.

Pat White, # 6.
It's become a growing consensus that White will change his number after training camp. From what little I could find about the jersey rules, he wouldn't have to chancge it until the Monday after the last pre-season game which would be September 7th. That day also happens to be Labor Day. Since the NFL is a union-run business, the actual day might not be until the 8th, but even if the offices are open, the players won't be back to work until either the 8th or 9th, and the Atlanta game is on the 13th. So technically, the little surprise could present teams only 3 or 4 days to prepare for White as a wide receiver, if that's what the Dolphins wanted to do. It's yet to be seen.

For now the Dolphins are happy to let everyone know that Pat White is only working as a QB and that they are installing a lot of Wild-cat into their offense. The Offensive line, of course, did not get the memo and has been blabbing about how they're not going to rely on the wild-cat.
But Pat White has had some typical rookie QB struggles (learning to throw without gloves, learning the playbook, beating the buzzer), and some not so typical rookie QB struggles (hitting Parcells in the flats, thinking he was the tight-end, struggling to climb into Randy Starks' freightliner, throwing a pass to Ernest Wilford, etc.).

We really don't know the full extent of what the Dolphins have in store for the three quarterbacks, but don't be surprised if Chad Henne gets the lion's share of the work in training camp and the pre-season.

The reason is that Pennington will not need as much work, and that the Pat White experiment can't really be 'Plan A'. Meanwhile, they drafted Henne in 2008, they'll want him to be ready this year, so if he eventually takes over in 2010 he'll be 'ready' ready. And if he's not ready, they'll need to trade him ASAP to get as close to that 2nd rounder in value as they can.

I know what you're thinking, why trade Henne, he's good insurance as a back-up. That's true, but he's not going to want to remain a back-up for long, and if they extend Pennington through next year and beyond, the Dolphins would have a lot of money and draft picks sitting on the bench at the quarterback position.

Hopefully they will wait until after the 2009 season to make a decision on all three of these guys.

Dolphins Extend Culver's Contract

The Miami Dolphins have signed Tyrone Culver to a 3 year, $3.225 million contract, which keeps him in Miami through 2011.

The deal breaks down as follows:

2009: $ 875,000
2010: $ 1,100,000
2011: $ 1,250,000

Culver was the reserve strong safety behind Yeremiah Bell in 2008, also coming in to the game on BIG nickel packages when they played 3 safeties. He is expected to play the same role in 2009 with the reserve free-safety position being up for grabs between rookie Chris Clemons, Courtney Bryan, and Ethan Kilmer.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tin Bits for June 2009

  • Let's start out in the AFC East. The Patriots official website is allowing fans to vote for various Top 10 lists. So far, Jason Taylor is the # 6 'Opponent' of all time, and the Wes Welker trade is the #5 'Personnel Move' of all time, according to the Patriot fans. What's the # 1 Personnel move? Trading a 1st round pick for Bill Belichick. We didn't have to trade anything for our coach...
  • Then, in Buffalo, the bloggers are still obsessing over T.O.'s house-hunting. Poor T.O.. Finally he finds a house with enough mirrors in it, and the Real Estate Agent goes and tells the entire media world the address. He has reportedly 'started over' with a new agent.
  • I came across this blog and wasn't going to read it, but then I scrolled through the article and realized it had to be the longest blog article I'd ever seen so I had to read it. The guy beats up on the Dolphins a bit and says the Patriots are a lock to win the division and that the Bills will be second and possibly win the wildcard race. He manages to mention Tecmo Bowl about 7 times during the article, but not in a self-effacing way, oh no, he's dead serious. Tecmo Bowl, the only logic that can be applied to make the Bills beat out the Dolphin, Jets, and four or five other teams vying for a wildcard. Actually my favorite statement he makes is that there's no way the Dolphins will make the playoffs with noodle-arm Pennington, but that Jake Long is good enough to win them 6 games on his own. Last time I checked, Jake doesn't score any points or play defense, so I'm not sure how that works, but I look forward to the 6 games. Oh, but surely if we can win six games based solely on the back of Jake Long, we can win just as many when everyone else contributes....that would make us 12-4 and likely the division champs.
  • And finally, I had a dream (I kid you not) where I was playing against Randy Moss. But it wasn't NFL Randy Moss, it felt more like High School football, but Moss was whatever age he is now (30?). I had to line up in press coverage and the entire game he kept talking to a cheerleader on the sideline, like he wasn't even paying attention to the game. The less he seemed into the game, the more nervous I became. Then the ball was snapped and we both went into motion. He just kind of sauntered up the sideline, though, and I easily backpedaled with him, then the ball was thrown and we were going to have a jump for it. I jumped for the ball a second before it got there, but he jumped higher and knifed it. When we came down to the ground, his cell-phone rang and he asked me to hold the ball and just gently handed it to me. I stared down at it for half a second, then ran the ball in for a touchdown. Everyone was jumping and shouting and celebrating, but when I looked over, Moss was still standing on the field where he caught the ball, holding a finger over his ear so he could hear the phone over all the noise. He still wasn't paying attention. This frustrated me and I ended up storming off the field and out of the stadium in a huff. Randy Moss, what a prick!

Do Tight Ends Wear Tighty Whiteys?

The tight-end. Possibly the worst named position in American sports, but an essential part of the offense on any football team. They are essentially the one position that is asked to perform more than one role on every drive. They need to be able to block like an offensive lineman, run routes like a wide receiver, as well as line up as a lead blocker for the running backs, occasionally even running the ball themselves. And they have to have really soft hands. Let's look at the 6 tight-ends that are currently on the roster.

Anthony Fasano, # 80.
If he improves upon last year's performance, that trade that brought him and Akin Ayodele to us will continue to look like Parcells' golden touch. He had 34 catches for 454 yards and was second on the team with 7 touchdowns scored. I think a 15% increase in production would be acceptable improvement, but to be considered a top-tier tight end, he will need to increase those numbers by 25 to 30%, that is, approximately 44 catches, 580 yards, 9 TDs.

David Martin, # 88.
Martin is the guy most likely to extend for the ball, making for a bigger pass target. He was not the primary tight-end pass target but did come in on double tight end packages and was able to separate better than Fasano on the 'Tight-End Cross" play. He also got some time out at WR during the season. He ended up with 31 catches for 450 yards and 3 TDs. He's one of my favorite players on the team, and he showed incredible focus on several amazing catches in 2008, but he also has a tendency to drop passes, though he was stable in the games, while Fasano dropped a couple of crucial balls towards the end of the year. A lot of fans have whispered trade/release rumours or wishes for Martin, but we know for a fact that Sparano loves this guy, and it will likely come down to how the bigger wide receivers and Ernest Wilford perform in training camp/pre-season. I don't believe the younger tight-ends are a threat to Martin's job, but Wilford and Patrick Turner could be.

Joey Haynos, # 81.
Babyface Haynos did not get a lot of playing time through the year but once he got into the game on offense, I immediately noticed his crisp route running and it paid off with a touch-down a play or two later. Since he didn't get a lot of playing time, I can't judge how he blocks, though he did play on special teams, so his experience and time with the playbook likely gives him an edge over the two new guys.

Jared Bronson, # 89.
Bronson may not look like much at first glance, but he was pretty beastly at the division II rankings in college. One of our former wild-cat draftees, Bronson performed well at the Combine, but when it came to Central Washington's pro-day, only one NFL scout showed up. It's unknown whether that was a Miami scout or a Pittsburgh scout (they signed QB Mike Reily), or neither. Click on the picture to see video of what Bronson can do.

John Nalbone, #86.
Well, we didn't go after Miles Austin in trade, but we got his former Monmouth teammate, Nalbone in the 5th round of the draft. This is one of a couple of 'reaches' by Parcells and crew, in my opinion. Nalbone was drafted to be a blocking tight-end, so imagine my dismay, when in the first interview of his NFL career he said he considers himself a pass-receiver first, not a blocker. That pretty much raised the red flag as well as the white flag as far as I'm concerned. He did just get a contract signed, but so did Jared Bronson, and we know they're not both going to make the roster. One of them will probably make the practice squad. Nalbone and Bronson are basically in competition to make the PS.

Ernest Wilford, # 18.
You ever go to a fancy expensive dinner, and go overboard? You figure, hey, I'm shelling out the money, I might as well fill up. But then you feel a little sick to your stomach, but you don't really want to let go of that 'full up' feeling because it's the result of your exuberant meal? And then, at some point, you HAVE to let go of it, and as it's released you feel so much lighter and relieved, yet you have another feeling - like you've gone back to the place you were before you had your fancy dinner. You have nothing to show for it except for a dent in your bank account. This is the analogy I've come up with for Ernest Wilford. Sure, we'll have nothing to show for the oreo cookie buffet in the morning, but we'll be able to buckle our belt and move on.

As with the running backs, I feel we'll have the same tight-end squad we had in 2008. As I mentioned above, the only difference I could see is if the 'big' wide receivers turn it on and we end up keeping 6 WRs. I doubt we would go down to 2 TEs though since we run so many 2 TE formations, we'd have to have a reserve.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Running Into Training Camp

To continue the training camp preview on the offensive side of the ball, I am heading into the running back territory today. There isn't a lot of competition at this point at this spot (thought there should be quite a bit in 2010).

Ronnie Brown, #23.
Ronnie Brown is no doubt the closest thing we have to a star offensive player. He is definitely the highest drafted skill player on the team, and his production as well as his skill set make him a lock as a starting running back on 90% of the teams in the NFL. One thing we didn't get to see much of in 2008 is how Ronnie can downright run over defenders. That looks to change in 2009.

Ricky Williams, #34.
Ricky's speed in getting to the edge has always been his strength and it can be a great thing to combine with Ronnie Brown's power running. It's one of the main reasons the Wild-Cat was so effective. Ricky says he wants to play two more years, but in 2009 I expect his role to decrease, and if they bring him back for 2010, he will likely be the third running back. His days are numbered but we can still expect big plays from him, if not big carries.

Patrick Cobbs, # 38.
Cobbs is a guy who may not get the carries, but his use as a utility guy buys him a spot on the roster. He can return kicks and punts, cover on special teams, block on running plays, and find space on passing plays. His 5'8" stature make him the shortest guy on the team in 2007. As long as Chris Williams doesn't suddenly become a great tackler and blocker, I don't think Cobbs has anything to worry about. He's one of the few 'leftovers' that the Trifecta loves. His NFL story is fantastic if you're a Dolfan - signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006 by the Patriots, he performed so well in the pre-season that New England was able to trade him to Pittsburgh for a draft pick. He was inactive for week 1 because he didn't know the Steelers playbook yet. The day after the game they waived him and tried to sign him to the practice squad. He refused to sign with them, and signed onto Miami's practice squad instead after he cleared waivers. He then worked his way up to the active roster and was a big part of the offense in 2008.
He will probably play his entire career in Miami.

Lousaka Polite, #36.
I call this guy Mr. Automatic after he miraculously converted short yardage on 3rd and 4th downs again and again in 2008. He runs downhill like a bowling ball and defenses need to wrap up his legs to stop him - a near impossible feat at the line of scrimmage. His blocking has been questioned by some though, and I'm not sure the Dolphins want to weigh one strength against one weakness. If his blocking is improved, he should be a lock. They did just give him a new contract, so maybe they already know the answer.

Lex Hilliard, # 26.
Lex spent all of 2008 on the practice squad, and of the two running backs we drafted last year, I had highest hopes for Jalen Parmele who got poached by Baltimore and apparently is the #2 guy there at the moment. Not much to say about Hilliard other than he had an entire year with the Dolphins already and has apprently mastered the playbook. You'd have to expect him to be practice squad again unless someone gets injured then he would be the first to be called up.

Anthony Kimble, #45.
Kimble has yet to impress at the media-attended practices, but his combination of fresh legs and athleticism and work-horse mentality may pay-off in a practice-squad bid. He also is a converted wide-receiver and could be considered a dangerous pass-target coming out of the backfield.

Chris Brown, # 20.
The 'other' fullback, competing with Polite. He's more of an H-back type, presenting a good pass target out of the backfield, but is not known for running over people or for putting people on their backs in the blocking game. He played tight-end in college. Honestly, for him to make the roster, he's going to have to blow some people up on blocks.

Do you think there will be any surprises here or will we stick with the same four running backs from 2008?

Why, UFL, why?

Most people have never even heard of the UFL, and those that have know very little about it. The United Football League has held it's inaugural draft, in some dark room somewhere, with no press coverage, and no knowledge even by the players involved.

You see, they held try-outs back in May, and yesterday they had the draft based on the players that turned up to those try-outs. But, much like the baseball draft, they don't even bother to contact the players as they're being chosen. If the players WANT to play in the UFL, then the PLAYER can contact the team that drafted them.

That should be fun, considering the teams don't have offices yet, or even practice fields. Yes, that's right, the league that plans to have it's first game in October, has little to no infrastructure in place yet. They just broke ground on two practice facilities this month.

Anyway, there were some notable players involved in the process, including Richard Clebert, the massive nose tackle from the University of South Florida who we discussed pre-draft. He's the guy who benched 50 reps in the bench-press on youtube. He was drafted by the New York team, and has been playing in the CFL before that.

Also drafted were Bo Schobel (Aaron's brother), former Dolphins, Obafemi Ayanbadejo and Cory Lekkerkerker, former Dolphins wannabe's David Kircus and Marc Magro, former Bengals RB, Chris Perry, and former Marshall WR Marcus Fitzgerald, the younger brother of Larry Fitzgerald. We'll have to ask herdfan why this guy was such a dud in College, but still got drafted, even it's the UFL.

So, the question is, with 2009 games scheduled for San Francisco (downtown), Sacramento, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Hartford, Orlando, and New York City, and 2010 planning to add Salt Lake City and Monterrey (Mexico), could you see yourself gettign your football fix from this league?

They say they plan on filling the void for fans by playing on Thursdays during October/November. Surely they would be better off filing the void by playing in, I dunno, June?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How Do You Build A Trench, Exactly?

The Trifecta came into South Florida in early 2008 and said, you know what, we've gotta turn this team around, and we've got to start in the middle and work our way outward. They sacked a lot of has-beens, no-beens, and never-willl-beens, and replaced them with a high-priced Guard, a number one draft pick Tackle, and a darkhorse with the strength of a horse.

In 2009, they have so far continued the alterations by switching Centers with the Raiders, and hanging on to the lone bright spot from the previous regime, in their starting Right Tackle.

Very few questions remain among the starting line. I think most fans are anxious to see these guys gel and get nasty 'int the trenches'.

But there are a few other guys who want a chance at proving themselves as well. And some of them might make it. Let's take a look at who's in the competition.

Joe Berger, # 67.
Berger has the strange honor of being both a Saban guy and a Trifecta guy all rolled into one. Saban brought him in in 2005, where he played in 3 games but was injured in camp the following year and waived. The Trifecta then picked him off of waivers in Dallas. Once he became an unrestricted free agent, the Trifecta signed him for his second stint with the Dolphins. He has played all positions but right now seems penciled in as the back-up Center.

Jake Long, # 77.
I heard he's the favorite to start at Left Tackle. My source is good, so let's stick with that.

Andrew Gardner, #63.
He just signed a 4 year, $1.65 Million contract with a $75,000 bonus.
Some people are saying he's the 2nd string LT right now. Others are saying Nate Garner is. I think based on physicality, Garner beats out Gardner, and that is likely what we'll see in training camp.

Brandon Frye, #76.
Frye got work with the first teamers after Donald Thomas hurt his man-boob. Frye definitely has size and seems to be athletic, but does he have what it takes skills-wise?

Andy Alleman, # 57.
Alleman was impressive last year to me because he sort of got thrown to the wolves and he didn't embarass himself. He played FOUR positions in 2008, I mean actual game reps. If he could take that experience and couple it with a mighty off-season training regimen, he would be right there with that 6th man lapel sticker. But alas, he has a back injury. If he doesn't get on the field on August 1st, he's done.

Ike Ndukwe, # 68.
Ike took over for the downed Donald Thomas in 2008 and has the most experience of any of the backups. It was funny when a reporter asked him about being a rookie, and Ndukwe, got angry and blasted back, I'm not a rookie, it's my third year! The man gets no respect at all. At this point he should be able to blow the competition away and it looks like he isn't so far. Waiting for the pads though.

Donald Thomas, # 66.
I'll admit, the only thing I know about this guy as far as the NFL goes is what I've heard about him. I saw him play in College and he was very good on that level. As far as the NFL goes, I only know that he's an 82 on Madden '08. an 82 rating for a rookie means he's pro-bowl caliber. At least thats what EA sports thinks! He seems on pace to be ready fro training camp. Bottom line is, despite his injury issues, Sparano still considers him the incumbent starter. That's saying a lot.

Sir Vincent Rogers and m'lord Mark Lewis. These guys are camp fodder. They will not make it past the first cuts.

Vernon Carey, #72.
He really needs that RG position to be locked up, because he needs to be able to focus on what he needs to do. I have to say I was extremely disappointed in Carey for 75% of the 2008 season. But with that experience under his belt, his cash in the bank, and an overal improved O-line, things are looking up for this gentle giant.

Jake Grove, # 64.
It's going to take some time to get used to seeing #64 at Center for the Dolphins....ok, maybe not, but it will take some time to get used to a 6'4", 300lb....oh nevermind. Truth is, you're not going to notice any difference on the field at center between 2008 and 2009, until Ronnie Brown gets his hands on the ball and runs it up the middle. Then you will see the difference. Remember Justin Fargas running all over us? Remember all thos other Raider backs easily running over us up the middle? That all started with Grove getting his blocks to the second level immediately. He flattens guys. Anyway, with the money he's getting, he's the starter.

Shawn Murphy, # 61.
A lot has been made of Murphy's rise to first-team reps from the disappointment of the previous year. But I've read that Murphy didn't do well when he had those reps. The Dolphins simply won't have the luxury of keeping a project o-lineman this year. If he doesn't show up in TC, he will be stashed on the PS, where he may be poached.

Nate Garner, #75.
If there's one guy who's appeared to take a step to the next level, it's Garner. He has definitely put in the work during the offseason, and has impressed coaches with his improved athleticism. I want to see him get some reps with that first team in pads to see if he's really ready to be trusted should Long or Carey go down during the season.

Justin Smiley, #65.
Smiley is back. At last count he had 3 surgeries during the off-season, dating back to December. His shoulder injury should be behind him now, and the only question is will his legs be balanced and strong enough for the season.

JD Quinn, #69.
Definitely got the best jersey number in camp, but does this party-boy have what it takes to play in the NFL? My guess is no, and the fact no ones heard a peep about this kid since OTAs started does not bode well. Still, with others like Lewis, Rogers, and Ndukwe failing to impress, he might still have practice squad in his future.

So there you have it, fifteen guys. 5 are safe. 10 of them are fighting for likely 3 more roster spots.

Who do you think has shown enough to be a favorite? Who do you think makes it and who goes back to school?