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?


  1. tin besides the five givens i think garner and gardner and also alleman. what you think?

  2. I have Garner, Berger and Frye as the favorites right now.  if Alleman comes back it will all change.

  3. The Knight who says Ni!June 18, 2009 at 1:46 PM

    Tin, I'd have to say right now I'd go with your 3. Though Gardner being a draft pick who might have been a higher pick had he not been injured, could be in the trifecta's plans. They see he has very good feet, LT feet. I'm not sure Garner has that.

  4. The Knight who says Ni!June 18, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    Did Nate Garner swallow a helium balloon in that photo? LOL

  5. ...three of our starting five, the entire inside OL, has recent repetitive injury history ...not pointing fingers, just saying ...they are the starters barring any camp injuries debate there

    ...of that starting five, Carey had a lousy year at RT ...ok, maybe not lousy but he sure as hell wasn't a strength there here I am thinking wtf, only Long among our entire current starting line can be reasonably considered as a "sure thing" ...sure looks like '08 to me at this moment in time.

    ...thinking again ...if Long goes down hard, who actually replaces him? ...I think that answer is Carey has to be ...hes the only one with the proven ability to play LT and protect Penne's blind side which is the overriding consideration there ...neither Garner nor Gardner compares favorably with Carey in that key skill ...sure they can relieve Long for a breather, but the rest of the season?, it has to be Carey. who replaces Carey at RT ...who isn't currently injured himself?

    ...I could go on but I hate this ...I don't want to be so damn negative ...but I just don't see where we've improved our OL bu in any real way ...tin likes Garner but why? ...if he's any damn good why isn't he competing with Carey instead of competing with the remaining 2/3rd stringers? ...Berger, he never cracked the starting line on two prior teams ...Alleman has back problems many pros recover fully from back problems? ...some, not most.

    ...every time someone runs one of these OL depth charts I see the same thing ...not a single bu is competing for a starting position WHY are they in the competition at all?

    ...sure, A Gardner is a rookie and a 6th rounder like Thomas and he could surprise everyone ...but Ndukwe? ...I don't hate the guy, I just don't ever see him as a starter so WHY do we keep bringing him back?

    ...yeah, yeah, yeah ...I know ...utility linemen are necessary ...its ugly but its true because of the game roster ...but damnit! ...there is no one competing for a starting slot on the OL six weeks before camp starts and that sucks ...and we're not going to even sniff a SB until there is ...imnsho.

  6. The Knight who says Ni!June 19, 2009 at 7:25 AM

    After thinking about it, I think we'll keep 9 OL on the 53 man roster. I think we need to keep two tackles.

    OL 9
    QB 3
    RB 4
    TE 3
    WR 5

    DL 8
    LB 9
    DB 9

    K 1
    P 1
    LS 1

    I have us keeping 9 LBs because of special teams. Sparano said it seems that a lot of our special teams guys are LBs and they prefer that.

  7. The Knight who says Ni!June 19, 2009 at 7:25 AM

    Two extra tackles that is.

  8. Like lemmus mentions below, should Jake go down, they'd most likely slide Carey over and have to replace the RT.  Garner (the helium balloon) has been working at RT more than anyone else in the OTAs.

    I look at Gardner, and I don't really see a guy who's in NFL shape, to be honest.

  9. I had to resize all the photos to make it sort of uniform, but then the formatting got all messed up anyway.  When I tried to fix it by hand, there would be huge gaps between each player, making the article about 12 pages long, so I left it this way.

  10. you're right about Carey moving over, and that's why I picked Garner as the backup tackle, because he's been playing RT in OTAs and also played RT in reserve in 2008.  truth is, no one else on the team can say that.  If he was good enough to do that last year, and is bigger/stronger/faster now, he should be capable of being the backup in 2009. 

    As for Berger, the guy had the unfortunate task of backing up Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo and Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis.  To say he wasn't a starter therefore not good backup material is a bit unfair, since the guys he played behind were pretty much untouchable.  The trifecta has now picked him up as a free agent twice in 3 years, they must like his play.

  11. Why 2 extra tackles?  Our starting tackles are the only injury-resistant guys on the team.  I think they'll keep 8 total O/L:

    LT   LG   C    RG   RT

        T   C/G    G/T

    I always go into camp with space for two punters....

  12. The Knight who says Ni!June 19, 2009 at 8:04 AM

    Good tackles are hard to find. Not that our backups are great or anything, but Sparano talks about how hard it is to find these guys. I would keep an extra tackle over an extra WR.

  13. Your still assuming that Thomas is healthy enough for preseason/TC. If he's not than that changes everything. I'm also still not sold that he is a pro-bowl RG. He might be, but I'm just not sure yet. If he comes back by atleast preseason than I think his spot is safe, if not he probably goes on the PUP

    Assuming Thomas is healthy I'd say Berger (because Sparano has man love for him), Frye (can play guard and tackle), and Gardner (If not he's on another team by the end of the season and I think when they drafted him they were already planning on letting go of either Garner/Frye. Since Frye got the nod after Thomas went down I go with him)

    Also as you mentioned If Alleman comes back healthy by TC that also changes everything. He got a bunch of games experience which none of the guy's I mentioned above have and also played multiple positions

    I'm more on lemmus' side about Berger. I don't see whats so good about him, and I can't just go on "coach said so". Until I see something from him I personally would prefer some of the other guys, but we all know it doesn't work like that.

    Also I'm worried about our oft injuered interior's durrability and not so sure were that improved on the OL. Maybe Satele was a weak link and Grove will help our running game. But RG is still I big giant question mark, and like you said I need to see them gel before I can get happy about a group that go me so dissapointed last season

  14. Great job as usual tin. 

    I personally cant wait for you to go over the cheerleading squad. 
    (that was just so i dont disappoint knight and herdfan with my obession)

  15. you joke, but it's coming.

  16. i am sure it will have you usual indept analysis, you bright insites, and you unusal ability to predict the future, all with you ability to put pictures to words and leave us all coming for more.

    btw, JP is suppose to be on Rome in about 30 minutes

  17. There's one with short dark hair who always catches the attention of my binoculars during comercial breaks

  18. "btw, JP is suppose to be on Rome in about 30 minutes"

    Again?  didn't we go through this heartbreak yesterday? lol

  19. hey, at least we wont have to wait all day again, he is suppose to be there at the bottom of the hour

  20. one?  one?  just one?  LOL

  21. btw, JP is next on Rome for those who care and can listen  if you care, you cant go to and stream it

  22. "I'm also still not sold that he is a pro-bowl RG." Phinatic

    ...I was thinking the same way until a couple days back when O said something in an audio clip that really caught my attention ...he said he thought that out of TC Thomas was a better lineman than Long and so did the coaches ..."better than Long" ...and you know I trust O's opines re the OL that would explain why Sparano seems obsessed with getting Thomas in there ...and I try not to forget that Sparano was/is an OL coach at heart I've switched over to the darkside and now await the unveiling of our 2nd OL pro-bowler :)

  23. "I always go into camp with space for two punters...." tin

    ...LOL ...WTFO? about a total disconnect :-E

  24. I'm some trouble with my lap  top I hope this comes through to everyone.

    I agree with lemmus here, after all the talk about needing Wrs and CBs.  We are now seeing just how weak we still are on the o-line.  The inside guys can't stay on the field and the backups are not much totalk about.  This same issue will come up on the d-line at nose tackle and at the ILB position.  All 3 of these areas had nearly no depth last year and little has changed for this year.

  25. "leave us all coming for more" ffr just know herdfan is biting her tongue O:-)

  26. ...suffice it to say tin isn't giving up his day job to become a webmaster :)

  27. ...I follow your reasoning tin, just not convinced ...Gardner holds out the possibility of a real competitor for a starting tackle slot ...if he shows any potential in camp, there is no way they put him on the PT where someone would nab him immediately. I'm going to assume he stays on the 53 ...what then? ...I think Ni is probably right in saying 9 rather than 8 for just that reason ...but that has splash-over on other positions.

  28. Ni ...I don't see a FB in your numbers and I think Polite stays ...the WR count is marginal ...and probably not 3 TEs, maybe not 4 RBs if you merge PW into a QB/RB position.

    ...a lot depends on pads ...O was impressed with Wilford at TE but no one knows if he can block ...if he can, both Martin and Haynos are gone imnsho ...but again, its just too early ...every year, pads make the players ...6 weeks before we see that :(

  29. The Knight who says Ni!June 19, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    lemmus, Polite is part of my 4. Ronnie, Ricky and Cobbs are the other 3. I think we definitely keep 4 RBs.

    I'm not sure we have 3 good TEs so I wouldn't be surprised if we went with only 2.

  30. The Knight who says Ni!June 19, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    We're pretty deep on the DL. I don't think we're weak at ILB. We may not be loaded with studs but far from weak. The OL is in much better shape than it has been in years. We need to see the depth play more in the preseason before declaring there isn't much there. The OL should be better this year and we went 11-5 with what we had last year.