Monday, August 31, 2009

THE FINAL FIFTY (the Kicker, Punter, and Long-snapper don't really count, do they?)

"Welcome back to Miami, Olindo Mare!  You're very well dressed for a kicker!"
Looks like a lot of you chimed in before I even got to the computer this morning. Well done!

Well, for the sake of brevity, I'll just jump into my final projection of the 2009 Dolphins roster, arranged by position, with notes on each player, and the projected Depth Chart at the bottom.


Chad Pennington - incumbent starter has struggled recently but his come back after the lightning delay in Tampa was the rust coming off and a good way to end the pre-season on a high.
Chad Henne - he had one ugly game, one average game, and the rest he has looked pretty strong.
Pat White - no surprises here. He will get a lot of snaps in the 4th game, but I don't expect to see him play early on in the season.

Ronnie Brown - our best 'skill' player by far. Expect another pro-bowl year.
Ricky Williams - a good change of pace back, but expect his carries to dwindle this year as both Brown and Cobbs get more snaps. Still, he is the best option back for the wildcat due to his speed in getting outside the tackles.
Patrick Cobbs - great special teams contributor, bot returning and covering, and is a good blocker out of backfield.
Lousaka Polite - mr. automatic. In the TB game he put a block on a linebacker that sent the defensive player flying backwards for five yards. He has the upper body strength, just needs work on his footwork.

Ted Ginn Jr - I actually met a dolfan over the weekend who said we don't have any deep threat on the team. We have a threat...just not a code red.
Brian Hartline - in the pre-season Hartline has shown one thing to me that makes him standout as a WR, the ability to make a catch in traffic. Isn't that what a number 1 WR does?
Davone Bess - hopefully Davone's pre-season woes was just a poor-streak that he can put behind him now.
Greg Camarillo - Camarillo may not be a prime special teams contributor right now, but he does have the ability to play every wide receiver position, thus making him fit in perfectly at the 4th WR position.
Patrick Turner - he'll make the 53 but will likely be inactive until he has a standout practice week and shows consistency.
Brandon London - BL makes the team thanks in part to two things: Turner's weak pre-season, and Matt Roth's injury. With Roth on the PUP, BL will get 6 weeks to out play Turner. When/if Roth returns, one of those two will likely be the casualty.

Anthony Fasano - In every pre-season game I've noticed Fasano. Not so much as a player on the field, but as a veteran player-coach on the sidelines. He's confident, but backs it up with hard work.
David Martin - while he may not have the 'IT' factor of Fasano, I still expect Martin to be the best receiving TE on the team.
Joey Haynos - an extra big body for the wildcat/goal-line situations, and special teams contributor. He's got good hands too.

Vernon Carey - last year he looked bad and we blamed it on the weak link at RG.  This year he looks bad, but RG has been a strength.  If Carey doesn't have a big year, I'll have him up oin the trading block.
Donald Thomas - pray he doesn't get injured because he's got pro-bowl talent but remember he's a rookie all over again.
Jake Grove - at times has opened up big holes, and at times has been non-existent.  Looking for consistency.
Justin Smiley - not at last year's level yet, just needs that energy of the regular season.  
Jake Long - no pressure Jake, but it's all on you.
Nate Garner - our most experienced reserve tackle.
Shawn Murphy - Murphy needs to gain experience and feel the speed of the game.
Joe Berger - safest bet at reserve center, can play guard in a pinch.
Brandon Frye - Frye will play guard and tackle.


Kendall Langford - best all-around lineman vs pass and rush.
Jason Ferguson - Fergie's had a good pre-season, looking to improve over last year's performance.
Randy Starks - he'll get to start but will get lots of pressure from Merling and McDaniel.  That pressure should translate into a career season.
Paul Soliai - with Cohen and Ellis gone, Soliai may as well be a 1st round pick, that's how much of a lock he is.
Lionel Dotson - most improved player?  He'll play behind Langford due to his pass-rush ability.
Philip Merling - He'll come in behind Starks and play the interior in the 4-front nickel/dime packages.
Tony McDaniel - with Starks starting, McDaniel could play a similar role to Starks' 2008 positional flexibility.  And yes, I do expect the Dolphins to dress all of their defensive linemen for the games.

Akin Ayodele - why does he have dreads on Madden?  he's been bald for years...
Channing Crowder - increased blitzing will increase both his and Ayodele's stats - sacks for Crowder, INTs for Ayodele.
Reggie Torbor - he makes the team because he costs too much to cut, though he may have trade value.
William Kershaw - has outplayed and outhustled Torbor and is better on S/T.

Jason Taylor - Taylor's arrival changed our defensive gameplan.  With so many pass-rushers on the roster and Matt Roth's absence, the coaches decided let's send BOTH outside linebackers at the QB.
Joey Porter - don't expect 17.5 sacks, but another double digit year would be impressive.
Cameron Wake - listed as 'D' Wake on the team stats page, could make for some confused tv announcers.  I'd like to see 7 or 8 sacks from this old rookie.
Erik Walden - has been real hit and miss in the pre-season but is the strongest LB on special teams.
Quentin Moses - won a roster spot in the pre-season,  but due to numbers will likely be inactive unless there's an injury to someone else.

Gibril Wilson - he's been lackluster so far, but he's a bad-ass on Madden ;).  All I want from him is no big plays allowed and a few well-timed turnovers forced.
Yeremiah Bell - pro-bowl, this year, mark it down.
Tyrone Culver - could be starting on most teams in the league.  Had a terrible game last week.  he should blow it up versus the roster scrums he'll play against this week.
Chris Clemons - started slow but was one of few standouts in the secondary.  He makes a lot of tackles.  Should be big on special teams.

Will Allen - good field awareness, but doesn't match up well against big receivers.
Vontae Davis - I'm picking him to start week one.  Very physical, nasty player.
Sean Smith - he'll get plenty of work helping out vs bigger receivers and will continue to compete with Davis.
Jason Allen - special teams and experience will save him.  The trifecta are not dumb enough to turn the team over to two rookies just yet.
Nate Jones - same comment as above.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The End is Closer Than It Appears In This Mirror

On September 1st, NFL teams must cut their rosters down to 75 players, a number the Dolphins have been under for over a week already.  But that didn't stop them from reducing the numbers even more today as they waived 4 players, WR Anthony Armstrong, NT Louis Ellis, FB Joe Kowalewski, and K Connor Barth.  

Barth came in to give incumbent, Dan Carpenter, a run for his money, to which Carpenter replied, 'Hey, for minimum wage, I kick pretty good!'

Anthony Armstrong, who I interviewed after spring OTAs, just couldn't replicate the OTA performance level during Training Camp and couldn't pull down the ball during the pre-season.

Louis Ellis flashed a bit in the pre-season games, but never really stood out in practices, and the combination of performances by the other defensive linemen, in conjunction with the increased use of the dime package that includes a 4-man front line, reminds me of my original theory regarding the D-line.  I expect the 6'5" 310lb lineman to be the future for the Dolphins.  A stable of  7 or 8 players that can play anywhere on the line in a pinch.  At this point, Ferguson and Soliai become 'specialists' depending on situation, i.e. first down/run stopper, and big package/goal-line.

I feel bad for Joe Kowalewski, getting a chance to practice and play for the Dolphins and doing pretty well at both, including scoring a pre-season touchdown, but despite the spark Joe provided to the fullback competition, there was one thing that was on par on Thursday night and that was Lousaka Polite's ability to get a first down on short yardage.  He only carried the ball once, but this is how it looked:

So the Dolphins are now down to 66 players, meaning 13 more are to be released before the 5th (next Saturday). And the season starts a mere week later in Atlanta.

Friday, August 28, 2009


"C'mon Henne, put 'er right down the middle!"

Re-Cap: Dolphins vs. Bucs, or, I Think I've Contracted Scurvy.....Arrrr!

Well, that was ugly.  If there were any Dolfans in attendance at Raymond James Stadium, they had to endure rain, lightning strikes, a 45 minute delay, and worst of all, the actual game.  With the exception of about ten defensive plays and two or three offensive ones, the Dolphins didn't really have any success, at least not in the way you'd expect for the 3rd game of the pre-season.  I think the worst part for me, was telling a co-worker, who's a casual fan of the Dolphins, that the game was on TV and he should watch it.  He said he hadn't followed since the 2008 season ended and asked how their offseason was and I praised the team and their draft/free-agency period.  So he watched the game, and that is his, as well as many others around the country, first and only glimpse into where the 2009 Dolphins are.

Yesterday I opined that this game would (a) showcase our 1st teams, allowing them much needed playing time and gelling opportunity.  They did play for a long time.  The 1st team O-line played into the fourth quarter.  But there was a moment or two during the second quarter I was thinking that Sparano should pull the 1st team, but I understood we just needed to tough it out.  

I also said that (b) the game would allow Sparano enough game-film to make the call on the starting WR and starting CB competitions.  Well, this one remains tough.  Both Brian Hartline and Sean Smith struggled early on, and both came on strong later in the game.  To be honest, I thought Camarillo looked the best out of the trio vying for the open spot.  One of our glorious beat-writers said that Camarillo looked 'pain-fully slow' on that 50 yard gain of his.  Really?  It looked to me like he caught the ball, broke away from the defender then outran the defense for 50 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Vontae Davis was an enigma. On the one hand, his coverage is so close he's like a second-skin on the receiver.  On the other hand, he makes no plays on the ball, allowing the receiver to catch it and then tackling him for little or no YAC.  He also dropped an easy INT. This one is still up in the air for me, but I would expect after Will Allen looking like a pixie last night, that they will stick with the bigger Sean Smith.

And finally, (c) I said it would be a blow-out.  Boy was I wrong.  The only thing that resembled a blow-out was when the weather completely shut down the game.  The reality is that we got lucky with the win.  Had Byron Leftwich not done his best impression of Pat White during OTAs, the Bucs should have scored a couple of TDs.

I'm not going to list out all the things that went wrong, but I would like to look back at the 5 points I suggested looking for yesterday.
  1. Tampa Bay's QBs.  I think they DID try too hard.  From Leftwich missing wide open receivers badly, to McCown trying to run for every down because the rest of his team was failing him, to Freeman thinking 'hey, these other guys suck, I could win the starting job here, let me just take my time...ooops, I got injured for trying to do too much.'  So now the Bucs have the unwelcome problem of trying to trade one of two QBs who underperformed during their trade-audition.
  2. Our offensive line for the most part was not dominant, but performed OK.  There were a couple of times that I saw Jake Long make amazing plays, of the kind a true number one pick turned pro-bowl player should.  He was much improved since the Carolina game.  Vernon Carey was awful though.  And so was Andrew Gardner.  In fact, the second team O-line was abysmal, allowing Chad Henne to get sacked time and again.  But some of the sacks during the night were the result of the quarterback not being able to find open receivers, and trying to escape the pocket.  There was not a lot of interior pressure, especially with the 1st team in there.  Carey was the only one I noticed who was bested on several plays.
  3. The running backs.  Cadillac Williams was the only Buc to really gain any yards on us.  He looked pretty good despite his misfortunes.  Lex Hilliard finally got a chance with the 1st team line, and was unimpressive after a 9 yard run to the right side.  To be honest, despite my positives I mentioned in point 2, the run-blocking was not there.  Once the 2nd team came in, Hilliard's numbers got worse, and he fumbled the ball, his 3rd(?) fumble of the pre-season.  He did fight hard for a 1st down, losing his helmet in the process.  I think it will take the 4th game to see if we should take a shot with him.
  4. The Line-backers.  On a team with the likes of Porter, Taylor, Wake, Crowder, Ayodele, etc., it's a bit surprising that Quentin Moses and William Kershaw are the ones standing out.  Ask anyone and you'll know that I was forever unable to remember Moses' name for about a year since he never ever made a play in 2008 and I thought he shouldn't even be in training camp.  But he has completely changed my mind.  Watching him play now you see a drive and a motor that he never exhibited before.  He leads the team in sacks in the pre-season and has been strong in run support as well.   With Matt Roth out of the loop, Moses seems to have better than good chances here.  Kershaw is more of a longshot, simply because of the numbers game, but if we keep 4 inside LBs, then he will be in the mix.  More than anything he's shown he's probably the fastest ILB on the team, with his ability to run down running backs.  After Reggie Torbor's terrible game, I'd bet the coaching staff is starting to like Kershaw a whole lot more.
  5. Kick Returns.  Well this was a dud of an area.  Between Ginn only getting two returns, and looking barely interested on both of them (the 1st one he could've scored on if he ran full-speed, and the 2nd one he looked at the sidelines like it was a hot-tub with Natasha Henstridge in it), and Davone Bess's inability to tell direction, the game of field position went right out the window.  To my knowledge, neither Hartline or Armstrong got to return kicks but between the distractions of family members and my eyes glazing over from the sheer boredom of the game, I may have missed one or two plays.
So, the question now is if the Head Coach should play his 1st teamers again in the 4th game.  It's not usually done by smarter teams (plenty of the dumb ones did it last year and the injury meter went through the roof), but then is it smart to put a team that's not ready in the regular season opener without at least trying to get in one more practice game?  I think in the end, you have to play it safe, and keep them out, and hope they correct whatever issues they have during practices in the bubble.  Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

PREVIEW: Pre-Season Game 3 - Miami vs Tampa Bay


So, this should be exciting, two Florida teams battling it out for State supremacy, right? Yeah, get real, Tinshaker, this ain't no stomp in the swamp or panhandle scalping. In-state rivalries are reserved for the college game. No one cares about Tampa Bay or Jacksonville when you're a Miami Dolphin fan. Of course, we do play both teams twice this year, so in a way, it's like the other Florida teams have joined our division temporarily. Sure, the first pair of games are just for practice, but the last thing you want to do is lose a game to either one. I don't know about you, but after a certain 62 - 7 loss, I never want to lose to Jacksonville again. In fact, the Dolphins only lost to them that one time. Tampa Bay and Miami, however are tied in head-to-head matchups with four a piece, and while the pre-season game doesn't officially count, a win would give me a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction.

You see, I lived in Miami during the early and mid-90s while Buffalo and Dallas were perennial Super Bowlers. And then I moved to Tampa, and had to watch an annual turd of a team win the Super Bowl and have to deal with this bizarro world of living in a Super Bowl city.

So, naturally I have a distaste for anything Buccaneer, even to the point that I hate the fact that my beloved alma mater plays in the same stadium as them. It doesn't help that they tore down the stadium where USF played it's first season and I attended their first home game, an 80-3 blowout during which the Florida Marlins were winning the World Series (I remember watching the football game in person while a bunch of us huddled over a portable tv to see the baseball action). At half-time, a band called Sister Hazel performed their soon-to-be smash hit 'All For You'. After the game, we all partied, and I ended up getting laid. In a word, a pretty perfect night for a college kid, and a memory that could've been relived any time I would drive past that stadium. Instead, they tore it down to build the parking lot for Raymond James Stadium.

But I digress. This game will:

A. Showcase our first team offense and defense for at least the first half, giving them more time to gel and to get rhythm going.

B. Provide Coach Sparano with enough film to make an informed decision on who the starting wide receivers will be (my prediction is Ginn and Camarillo with Bess in the 3 WR set), and who the starting CB will be (honestly, I think it's 50/50 right now between Smith and Davis).

C. Be a blow-out. With several of Tampa Bay's starters out of this game due to injury or court date, and our starters staying in the game for longer, not to mention the fact that ONCE AGAIN the Bucs don't know who their starting QB is (or even which ones will be on the team come tomorrow), I see this being one of those games where if we play up to our standards, this SHOULD be a cake-walk. Tampa Bay has always been a hodge-podge mess of a team that is really only as good as it's players. For a while there they had all the best players in the league and that translated to success. Once those players left, the bubble burst and they have been inconsistent ever since.

Things to look for:

1. Tampa Bay's QBs. With 3 of the 4 TB quarterbacks currently on the trade block, and the possibility that whoever doesn't get traded being the starter, expect these guys to 'try too hard' and make mistakes. They are in the pressure cooker right now, and if we can apply some pressure of our own, good things will happen.

2. Our Offensive Line. Tampa did register 7 sacks so far in pre-season but only one has been by a starter. They are struggling to get a pass rush going from the linebacker position. Look for our starters to own the line of scrimmage and to keep our QBs upright. I'm sure Jake Long wants to have a strong game to recover from last week.

3. The Running Backs. There's two big stories here. First, that Cadillac Williams is once again returning from major knee surgery, a year after doing the same from the same injury but to the other knee. So this guy is running on TWO bad knees. The crowd is going to erupt when he comes out of the tunnel. The other big story here is that Lex Hilliard will get a chance to run behind the first team o-line against first team defenders. If he can continue his fine pre-season against this level of competition, the Dolphins will likely try to make space for him on the roster. If he falters, things will go back to normal with a 3 tailback crew.

4. The Line-backers. I have to admit, this position is giving me nightmares on my project 53-man roster. I honestly don't think I can wrap this area up until I know the make-up of the rest of the team. I don't know if I can justify keeping 4 inside linebackers, so I need to see if Kershaw or Folsom is as good on special teams as they need to be to make the roster. At the moment I'm leaning more to keeping both Walden and Moses as my Roth-insurance.

5. Kick Returns. Ted Ginn Jr. is going to be back returning punts and kicks tonight along with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Anthony Armstrong. This is basically Armstrong's last chance. It's Hartline's best opportunity to work his way into being active on game days. And it's the Coaches best opportunity to see if one of these guys steps up enough to allow Ginn to concentrate on being a receiver, or if he's just too valuable as a return man to take him out of that position. It should be an interesting evening.

Those are my points for tonight's game, which, by the way, is NATIONALLY TELEVISED on FOX, so everyone will have the opportunity to watch it. It's weird watching two Florida teams on local west coast TV, but I'm not complaining. The replay is on NFL network on Friday about midday.

I know some fans were worried that the Dolphins game would be interrupted by Michael Vick going 3 and out, but NFL Network's Rich Eisen has just tweeted this: "FOX has nat'l window w/MIA@TB @ 8ET so NFLN has Vick live-look ins from 7-8."  So nothing to fear Dolfans, the game should be presented in it's entirety. 

I will have the laptop nearby during the game but will also have a 3 year old stunt performer jumping on my head, so expect a slight delay between any posts ;)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tin Bits - Where are they now? UPDATED 8.27.09

  • After a trade of huge proportions (yes that is an Ike Ndukwe joke), the Kansas City Chiefs are trying to find a place for the former Miami Dolphins', Andy Alleman and Ndukwe. Alleman lined up during practice today at Left Guard for the second team. Ndukwe lined up as the second team Right Tackle. Meanwhile, further evidence that we're lucky to be Miami fans this year, here is an in-depth analysis of both players by an academic, if not accurate, Chiefs fan/blogger.
  • Samson Satele was traded to the Oakland Raiders in late spring after having surgery to repair a torn labrum. I still wonder if his rough year in 2008 was a result of playing with that injury. While it wouldn't completely debilitate a blocker, it would make it hard to really drive an opponent back. Just an opinion - I'm no doctor. Still, now that he's returned from that injury, he's making mental mistakes. Raiders beatwriter, David White, writes, "RT Cornell Green and C Samson Satele with consecutive penalties in the red zone. And everyone thought getting rid of Kwame Harris would solve it. Cable's right: cutting penalties in half to 7 was better, but oh those 7 hurt." Wow, only seven in the half? that's like, less than 20 a game!
  • With all the Lex Hilliard talk lately, it's easy to forget about the OTHER Dolphins draft pick spent on a running back in 2008. Jalen Parmele looks to be edging out Ravens 6th round draftee, Cedric Peerman, for the final roster spot. Still, with names like McClain, McGahee, and Rice on the team, Parmele will have to play ALOT of special teams to get on the field..
  • Jacksonville ditched Matt Jones but welcomed back former below average wide receiver, Ernest Wilford. Just keep in mind that Wilford's best year was his 4th, when he had 45 catches for 518 yards and 3 touchdowns. Davone Bess had better production in his rookie year. Wilford's production isn't about to go up, either as he is in fact listed as a tight-end for Jacksonville. He is one of SIX tight-ends currently on their roster so he's actually no better off now than he was in Miami.
  • John Beck seemed to be SOL after a report that he broke his collarbone during a pre-season game. That report turned out to be a gross exaggeration, and Beck returned to practice with a 'shoulder strain'. Of course, in the meantime, Cam Cameron panicked and they signed Cleo Lemon and Drew Willy (giggle) on the same day. So now the Ravens have 5 QBs. Still, Beck is expected to win the coveted 3rd quarterback spot behind Joe Flacco and Troy Smith, and no, the Ravens will not be using Beck as a wild-cat QB.
  • In shocking NON-news, former Dolphin DE, Vonnie Holliday is still unsigned. Expect this to change if any of either New England or Green Bay's current line-up suffers an injury.
  • Former Dolphin full-back, and current Brokeback Mountain afficionado, Boomer Grigsby, has been released by the Houston Texans. He did an NFL Network segment along with several other players, all of whom have been cut. It's the NFL network curse.
  • Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill both got pay raises to go gasp for air in Denver and are both healthy and both starting. I'm happy for Hill - maybe the thin air will help clear his head and improve his reaction time. Goodman, however, got an insane contract and will need to play at a 'mile-high' level for several years or else the fans will throw beaver pelts at him. There is good news though, as playing defense in Denver has been known to increase a player's career-length due to the lack of contact.....
  • The Titans waived Casey Cramer a year ago, allowing Miami to pick him up and make him their starting fullback in 2008. In 2009, they re-signed him and he is currently 2nd string. The good news is that Tennessee usually keeps two fullbacks.
  • Rob Ninkovich was cut by Miami, picked up and cut by New Orleans, and now resides at the bottom of the New England Patriots depth chart. The Derrick Burgess trade just about killed any chances he had of making the roster.
  • Chris Crocker has a secure foothold on the starting free-safety position for the Cincinnati Bengals, although the new episode of Hard Knocks is tonight and anything could happen for the sake of ratings.
  • UPDATE: The Jets just signed RB Anthony Kimble to replace injured rookie Shonn Greene. Kimble was waived by Miami three days ago.
I think it's a strange phenomenon that more times than not, the Miami Dolphins rejects (for lack of a better term) end up being held in much higher regard by other teams. Do you think this means we're better than them and these players are better than they're players? Or are we just not as good at recognizing talent as we think we are and that's why so many of our turned over players end up being successful for other teams?

The Half-Way House is Seven Eighths Full - Part 2, The Defense

Yesterday, we looked at some of the offensive progression through training camp and two pre-season games. For the most part, the unanswered questions on that side of the ball remain unanswered. We know who the starting right guard will be, but we won't know until game 3 who the starting receivers are, and probably won't know until game 4 who the reserve offensive linemen will be. But despite that uncertainty, the future looks brighter than it did in 2008.

Today we venture into my favorite side of the line of scrimmage - the one where you get to hit someone. The defense of the 2009 Miami Dolphins looks good on paper, and minus a couple of big plays here and there during the pre-season, has looked good on the field has well. The most noticeable strength is the front 7. The jury is still out on the secondary, but I'm confident, if nothing else, it will be stronger than it was last year.

Let's look back to our pre-season previews and compare where we are now:


Jason Ferguson - We were probably all worried that he had lost a step after a down year production-wise, but Fergie looks quick, strong, and as commanding of a nose-tackle as he ever did. Sure, it's just pre-season, and he will wear down as the snap count rises, but for now we don't have anything to worry about, especially because....
Louis Ellis - I said back in June that Ellis had shown some potential but at a weak level of competition and wondered about his work ethic. After seeing him play in the last two games, I know he's a keeper, at least on the practice squad. Did you see him blow past the o-line to get to the QB vs Carolina? I can't remember ever seeing a nose-tackle move that fast. And this guy is built like a wall. I suspect the Dolphins see something in him or he wouldn't have survived this long as a the 4th string NT. With Joe Cohen recently released, Ellis is in better shape now to showcase his talent.
Philip Merling - Merling was projected to be a starter before any OTAs started, but I suspect his inability to get off the line is the main reason for his slip from that status. Last year, Kendall Langford was the one applying QB pressure and Merling was better as a run-stopper. Nothing seems to have changed there. Merling isn't a BAD lineman, he's just not showing an ability to apply pressure. He still makes tackles and has been pretty strong versus the run game. Randy Starks, on the other hand, is better at getting into the backfield, and since this regime seems obsessed with rushing the passer, I suspect they'd prefer to have their linemen do that first and let the LBs handle most of the run-stopping.
Tony McDaniel - I said back in June that McDaniel could have an upper hand in the reserve battle as he could move around the line, much like Starks did in 2008. If Starks is to be the starting RDE, then someone would have to take over his role from the previous year. McDaniel flashed some real athleticism in Game 1, but to be honest, did not have a strong Game 2. The jury is still out on where he falls on the roster.
Lionel Dotson -
Dotson has really shown up this year after coming in undersized and under-prepared in 2008. He has been applying a lot of pressure on the QBs in the first 2 games and we've heard a lot of buzz around him coming out of practices. Last year they kept him on the 53 to save him from being picked off of waivers. He did eventually get to play in a couple of games after Ferguson got injured. I think this year he will solidify himself to the point heading into 2010 he'll be considered a 'lock'.


Channing Crowder -
I know, Crowder gets enough press, but he deserves some mention as he has looked like a different beast in the pre-season. He is actually getting to the quarterback on blitzes. Obviously the Dolphins plan on throwing the kitchen sink at opposing quarterbacks this year, and Crowder could be considered the soap dispenser - not the heavyweight of the basin, or the stainless steel of the faucet, but he just might poke you in the eye, and soap burns once it gets in the eye. Of course, all this blitzing eventually results in turnovers, and isn't that what we all wanted Crowder to contribute?
Reggie Torbor -
The most overpaid backup in the NFL has a target on his back. If he doesn't prove that he is worth even half that money, he may be on the chopping block next year. Probably our best bet is if he shows up and we can manage to trade him, because he's not about to take a paycut. Still, he has the energy and the physical skills, but his fundamentals were shaky in 2008 as he adjusted to the 3-4. Perhaps now is his time.
JD Folsom -
Wow. Where do I start? I pretty much came out and said this was a horrible draft pick and there was no point even putting a Dolphins logo on his helmet. But he has 'flashed' at times in practice, laying bigger than anticipated hits on people, and has an INT and a tackle for a loss in limited play in the pre-season. He still looks like a big safety, and could be used as a situational player, but he'll probably end up on the practice squad. I still can't believe the Dolphins chose him over Nick Reed. You know how some fans won't let go that we didn't draft Brady Quinn? I think that will be me in 4 years - "We could've had Nick Reed!!" (for the record, in two preseason games, Reed has blocked two punts, forced a fumble, made an amazing interception, and has 3.5 sacks!)
Charlie Anderson - Anderson is a sort of mild-mannered outside linebacker. You can't even put those words together and make it sound right. This guy looks depressed on the sidelines and though he has looked pretty sharp on special teams lately, he's on the losing end of a battle. I said back on June 28th that the Dolphins would likely keep 8 linebackers, with at least 3 of those being inside guys, leaving a maximum of 5 OLBs. I'd be willing to change that number to 9 total, if at least one of them could play both inside and outside. But I don't think I'll need to. Anderson could still have a good shot at making the team.
Matt Roth -
I didn't think I'd be needing to mention Roth's name at all in this article. In June I said he wasn't a lock to start, but was probable. At this point, I honestly don't see him being on the 53-man roster. We're about to head into game 3 on Thursday night. The team will have Friday off and return to practice on Saturday. If Roth is not on the field and moving at a high rate heading into the final week of the pre-season, how could the coaches possibly justify putting him on the field ahead of someone like Quentin Moses who has shown tremendous growth? If I were the GM, he'd be on the PUP list as of next week.
Cameron Wake -
In June I wrote, "
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." Well, in hindsight I should've said in pre-season instead of in training camp. Any guy that can get to the QB while being held by the facemask is A-OK in my book. Having Porter, Taylor and Wake on the team have really eased the frustration of Roth being sidelined. You would think Roth would want to get out there to prove his relevance. SO how many sacks are we predicting for Wake this year? 20? 25? ;)


Vontae Davis -
Well, despite everyone wanting to throw Davis under the bus after Game 1 vs Jacksonville, I've been very impressed by this rookie's ability to glue himself into the backs of the receivers he's been covering. His fundamentals are better than I thought they were and his tackling has been superb (maybe he can teach some of the vets a thing or two). Two or three times now he's shown that he cannot be juked in the open field. That's something that overly-aggressive players usually get burned on, but he's shown he's not a complete animal but has some ability to be patient.
Jason Allen and Sean Smith -
I have to reserve judgment because of their absences last week. Both showed good skills in game 1, but despite Smith's rise to the starting line-up, I'm confident that if Davis continues his strong play, he could wrestle that spot away from Smith. Allen should be secure to make the roster but he'll probably always be the 'most-requested' trade from Dolfans.
Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson -
It's not easy being a highly paid starting safety in the NFL. You have one bad game and people start questioning whether or not you belong in the league. These guys are going to be tested this week versus Tampa Bay as they face off a stable of powerful running backs, and a couple of very capable tight-ends. The Bucs' starting WRs are pretty good too and our CBs may need more help this week than in the two previous ones.
Tyrone Culver and Chris Clemons -
Another hard one to judge - Culver was fantastic in game 1 and terrible in game 2. Clemons was not so good in game 1 but great in game 2. In any event, both have shown enough to make the team.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered on Defense, but they're not the same questions as in previous years (i.e. which of these shi**y players is not as bad as the others?). Now we get to really put a good group on the field and have solid backups. Which defensive player, vet or rookie, do you see making the biggest impact this year?

Note: Tomorrow morning I will post the PREVIEW of the Tampa Bay game, and on Friday we'll do a RE-CAP. But come Monday morning, I expect everyone to have their projected 53-man rosters ready for comparison before Tuesdays cuts (the Dolphins don't actually have to cut anyone since they're already under the limit).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Half-Way House is Seven Eighths Full - Part 1, The Offense

Today is August the 25th. Starting at the beginning of training camp, we have covered 23 days of the pre-season grind and the churning is in full effect. The regular season starts in 19 days. So we've passed the half-way point of the process and the Dolphins have already started trimming the fat (no that's not an Ndukwe joke).

The NFL rules state that the rosters must be down to 75 by September 1st, and then down to 53 by the 5th. That's not really that far away, and we still have tremendous uncertainty at the WR and OLB positions. With this in mind, I doubt the Dolphins will be going on a shopping spree this week to pick up additional players.

It's at this point I thought it would be a good idea to summarize and compare notes from the preview blogs with what has actually unfolded in the pre-season.

The starters are all as expected, but here are the movements:
Joe Berger - I originally said he would compete with Andy Alleman for the back-up interior job, then later said he could be penciled in as the back-up center. With Alleman now out of the way, he has new competition.
Mark Lewis - The new competition. Knight felt it unnecessary to mention Lewis by name in his write-up on the O-line and in mine I called him "camp fodder". Well he had a strong game vs Carolina and is still here after four other O-linemen have gone. With only 9 or 10 spots available, and 11 bodies still here, it's still a longshot for Lewis, but he is nipping at Berger's heels, mostly due to Berger's inability to distance himself. Still, I'd guess Lewis is currently a strong candidate for the practice squad.
Shawn Murphy - Knight said Murphy had to make significant improvements but might be a sleeper. I thought he would be practice squad material as we wouldn't have the luxury to keep a 'project' on the 53-man roster. But Murphy did make a significant improvement, at least physically, and has gotten the benefit of increased reps due to Donald Thomas' injury. I have not been impressed with Murphy at all in the games, however, so I don't think he's a lock quite yet.
Nate Garner - Knight was not impressed and I wanted to see him get reps with the 1st team to see if he's good enough to backup Long and Carey. That hasn't happened yet, And Andrew Gardner seems to be coming on strong. I think Brandon Frye is actually the determining factor here, as he has more position flexibility.
Donald Thomas - Knight thought he'd be up and running by week 5 of the regular season. I thought he'd be starting on day one. Too bad no money was put on the table, eh? D.T. has probably been the most noticeable lineman in the first two pre-season games. But I think they should sit him for the rest of the pre-season just to avoid risking another injury (yes I'm being paranoid).

Who would've thought we'd be at this point in the pre-season and the wide-reciver line-up would be so uncertain? I'm not confident I can name more than 3 receivers who I think will make the 53-man roster. And I'm really only confident in naming one starter.
Brennan Marion & Chris Williams - both were waived injured. Marion showed sure hands and Williams showed pure speed, but in the end, my prediction came true. I said his size would keep him limited to the return game, and he got lots of reps on special teams but not a one as a receiver.
Anthony Armstrong - I called Armstrong out as a good practice guy, but said he needed to show some toughness in the game. He started out hot in OTAs but once the pads came on he's shriveled. He has been given a chance to be the gunner on special teams, but I question if he has a 'hitter's mentality'.
Brian Hartline - I knew from the start that Hartline would be called upon to strengthen the core of the special teams unit. He has accepted that role as well as showing a real desire to improve upon the passing game. After every play he can be seen talking to the quarterback in an effort to improve upon his mistakes. He is the first of the rookies to be given a shot at the first team, so that means something. I did say he was a Camarillo-clone who can play special teams, and if he really does turn out to be just that, then obviously he would beat out Camarillo.

Brandon London - I'll be the first to admit I thought London would vanish into oblivion from day one of training camp, but he has shown up big-time in practices, at least to the naked eye. The coaches don't look to be as high on him as the media and fans, as he has not been given the opportunity to run with the ones. So far in the pre-season I've seen more of the same. He presents a big target but absolutely no run after the catch potential. There are 8 WRs still in camp, and I'm starting to get the feeling we will only keep 5 at the end of this thing. I suspect those five will be Ginn, Bess, Hartline, Turner and (either Camarillo, London or Armstrong).

While from day one we all knew Brown, Williams and Cobbs were going to repeat their 2008 line-up, I can't help but wonder if there might be space for one more. While Lex Hilliard is likely headed back to practice squad candidate, I have a feeling another team would claim him off waivers first. If we go with only 5 WRs, 9 OL, and 3 TEs, its possible to keep a 4th running back. As far as the fullback position goes, I still expect Lou Polite to be the lone fullback, but Joe Kowalewski is a practice squad candidate that wasn't even on the roster for most of training camp.

Is Anthony Fasano still on the team? Sometimes I think Joey Haynos is the starter based on the number of reps he gets. This race could be closer than we think, but now that Ernest Wilford has been sent packing, at least we can focus on who the best tight-ends are rather than any intangibles. Bottom line for me though remains the same as I've said all along - having Haynos in there is like having an extra lineman. And for that reason I expect him to beat out John Nalbone for the 3rd TE spot.

Have any players on the offensive side of the ball changed your mind about how the final roster will look?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Behind Closed Doors

I suppose BrianL will have to get one of those x-ray vision camera lenses to get photos of the now-closed-to-the-public Dolphins practices. But until the technology catches up we will have to endure text-based updates.
  • Sean Smith and Jason Allen are back at practice. Smith has jumped straight back to the first team.
  • Matt Roth is still not practicing, AND he's not wearing a baseball cap!!! Could it be he is airing out his head in prep for putting on a helmet?
  • Chris Williams apparently broke two bones in his hand according to his mother. She said his agent is trying to work out an injury settlement. So this isn't some sneaky ploy to keep him off of another team. My understanding of the rules is that once he settles with the team he is free to sign with another team as a free agent. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong about that.
  • It has been confirmed that both Andy Alleman and Ike Ndukwe have been traded to the KC Chiefs. You should see some of the comments on Chiefs blogs - these fans think they've just landed HOF players! I suppose anything's an upgrade when you're KC. According to one report, Alleman will compete for a starting tackle position. Yikes...
  • WR sets: 1st - Ted Ginn/Brian Hartline; 2nd - Davone Bess/Greg Camarillo; 3rd - Brandon London/Patrick Turner; 4th - James Robinson/Anthony Armstrong; Parking Lot - Chris Williams/Ernest Wilford.
  • According to Jeff Darlington: "[Chris] Williams suffered the injury when trying to return a punt that bounced off his facemask."

RE-CAP: Carolina vs Miami (with roster moves)

Carolina Panthers v Miami DolphinsPanthers vs. Dolphins
There weren't a huge amount of problems during Saturday's game versus the Panthers. In fact, all kinds of things were improved upon.

First, the organization played the original fight song instead of the ghastly T-pain version. I suspect they are trying to see which version elicits the best response, but despite the older one winning that battle hands-down, I'm sure they'll mix it up by playing BOTH at Miami's next home game. Keep in mind that the T-pain version allows for bathroom and beer breaks.

Next on the list of improvements was the play-calling. To my knowledge, Henning didn't call any 3rd and 7 half-back sweeps and the sprinkling of Wildcat plays, while some fans (including myself) were initially distraught to see shown in the 2nd pre-season game, actually was useful in the essence that the coaches also need to practice their gameplans, to see how plays work up against each other and how they can control the ebb and flow of the game. Plus, let's face it, these plays were both successful and added to the overall excitement and entertainment value of the game.

It can't be skipped over the improvement in the offensive line. With Donald Thomas getting more and more reps, they are starting to gel together and it really shows. And while the commentators sort of over-exaggerated Thomas' blocking during the game (he whiffed on a couple of easy blocks in space), he was able to get out there very quickly and his upper body strength really shows up in the trenches. The running game was much more respectable this weekend and showed glimpses of how the Dolphins would like to move the ball. Keep in mind, the Panthers are not really a run-stuffing team, with the d-line built for pass rushing, and the linebackers being excellent in coverage but hit and miss versus the run. With that said, our quarterbacks were kept relatively clean throughout the game. On the one play where Pat White was 'flushed out of the pocket' according to Craig Bolerjack (the play-by-play announcer) I thought he had plenty of time to look downfield, but it was a designed play that was read perfectly by the outside linebacker, and White immediately took off instead of patiently allowing the play to develop or improvising by looking elsewhere. He still instinctively wants to run and while it's good to keep moving the ball, pre-season is the time to slow the game down and make the mistakes that don't hurt any records or play-off chances, so I would like to see him force himself to stand in the pocket a bit longer.

Speaking of White, did anyone else notice that he doesn't look to be the 6 feet tall he's reported at? I know we have a lot of really tall linemen but I could've sworn he was barely taller than Patrick Cobbs at one point when they were standing together. Maybe he just looks smaller because of his over-sized helmet.

Defensively, the game was a bit of a let down for me because I wanted to see more of Sean Smith and Jason Allen, both of whom didn't play due to illness. Otherwise, once again we were good against the run minus the one DeAngelo Williams pin-ball-esque touchdown run, where to be honest, the Dolphins front 7 all kind of fell over each other because they all got to the point of attack at the same time. The tackling was non-existent, but it still came off as a fluke play to me, and those happen all the time to every team out there. It wasn't because of great blocking by Carolina or bad penetration by Miami, it was purely Williams showing what he can do if you don't wrap him up.

As for our players to watch, both Vontae Davis and Chris Clemons were much improved in game 2, especially Clemons. In fact, I thought he outplayed Tyrone Culver in this game, after looking out of his depths in Game 1. 3rd string center, Mark Lewis, just might move up to 2nd string this week. Joe Berger has been a weak link lately, and Lewis looks like he's progressing. Nose Tackle Joe Cohen was called out by me as the 'next to go' and for once I was right, as he was released today after being both invisible in games and Louis Ellis showing more physicality. Anthony Armstrong got lucky today as Chris Williams was waived injured. I'm not sure what injury Williams could possible have gotten on the muffed punt which was his last play of the game (he certainly didn't look injured - other than his pride - on the sideline after the play when Sparano was yelling at him). Armstrong has not been good in the game, but the fact he's now playing on special teams and getting CLOSE to the returner on coverage as well as returning kicks, hows that the Dolphins want to give him a good shot to make the roster.

The Dolphins announced several roster changes today:

  • Ernest Wilford (contract terminated)
  • Chris Williams (waived injured)
  • Tearrius George (waived)
  • Orion Martin (waived)
  • Joe Cohen (waived)
  • Anthony Kimble (waived)

Ernest Goes To ... well, who cares where he's gone to...

The Miami Dolphins have finally bitten the bullet and a massive salary cap hit and released former wide receiver turned wannabe tight-end, Ernest Wilford. I really won't go into a big spiel on why Ernest should never have been signed and why he should never have been given a full year of chances to prove why he should have been signed. The reality of the situation is that 99% of us have wanted this day to come for a while now, and now that it has, we should just move on to more important things.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pre-Season Game # 2 - Carolina vs Miami 8/22/09

Friday, August 21, 2009

PREVIEW: Pre-Season Game 2 - Miami vs Carolina


The most noticeable difference between this weekend's match-up versus the Carolina Panthers, and last Monday night's win over Jacksonville, is the defensive scheme of the opponent.

Offensively, the two teams are quite similar, relying on a two-runningback attack that opens up the field for some dangerous sprinklings of passes. Granted, Jacksonville doesn't have Steve Smith, but the gameplans are similar. To be honest, I'd be a bit surprised if Smith even plays, after returning to practice this week after an early-camp shoulder injury. Still, the combination of Muhsin Muhammad and Dwayne Jarrett should provide some good contests for the 1st string corners, but the drop-off is dramatic after that. The combination of Josh McCown throwing to Kevin McMahan and Marcus Monk (who?) should result in a lot of opportunity for our reserve DBs to 'show up on film.

Carolina likes to use their running backs as receivers and I think we will get a chance to see how a guy like Cam Wake can cover in open space. This is something that may benefit guys like Erik Walden and Charlie Anderson. Look for them to have big games, adding to the already difficult decision making process at the OLB position.

The biggest factor in the game is of course in the trenches and there is no better test this pre-season for our defensive linemen than Carolina. They simply have one of the best offensive lines in football, period. This is where the Miami boys will have to 'man up' or else it's going to be a long night. Our only relief could be the fact that it's a pre-season game so they HAVE to throw the ball.

On the other side of the ball is the biggest difference from Jacksonville. Whereas Jacksonville's defense is built for stopping the run up front, Carolina's is built for getting to the quarterback. They will line up Julius Peppers at the weakside and blitz rookie Everette Brown from the other side. If this sounds like a good plan, it's pretty much the same plan that Miami seems to have adopted, with Porter and Taylor both rushing the QB. If we can get blocks on these guys, our WRs could have a big game, as Carolina's defensive backfield is nothing special. They have a good starter in Chris Gamble, but their two rookies, Captain Munnerlyn and Sherrod Martin have been struggling.

Dolphins who need to step-up in this game:
  • Vontae Davis (my goal for him is no penalties and no more than one big play - baby steps)
  • Chris Clemons (while he had a moment or two in Game 1, he has a huge gap of play between himself and Bell/Wilson/Culver. He needs to show he fits in with that group)
  • Anthony Armstrong (after re-watching the first half of the Jax game, I noticed that Armstrong made a special teams tackle, and was quite shocked! But then he had that rubber hands drop later on. If you don't catch the ball, you will be cut. This is his last chance - he needs a big game)
  • Brandon Frye/Mark Lewis/Nate Garner (one of these guys is going to get cut pretty soon, they need to 'get it on tape' that they deserve to stick around)
  • Joe Cohen (he's the next to go IMO, so he needs a huge game to get into the next round)
  • And finally, Dan Carpenter (the thing with kicking competitions is that they don't usually last very long - coaches like to get these things wrapped up ASAP - so Carpenter needs to be 100% on FGs/xtra points AND get 80% of his kickoffs into the end zone)
Tin's Prediction:
MIA 26
CAR 22

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Fond training camp, that is.

Well, Channing Crowder, you finally made it to the end of training camp - what are you going to do now? "Zzzzz"

Well, I expected as much, but don't get too comfortable. The practices will continue as the regular season creeps up on us, and we'll play a few practice games in between, but as of now you can go home and sleep in your own bed, play with your kids, listen to your wife fill you in on what you've missed for the last 3 weeks and what needs to be fixed around the house, etc. And once you've fixed the leaky faucet (or called a plumber) you can head out to Starbucks on the way back to practice, where you'll be happy that the late summer breezes have settled in.

While I won't end training camp with any judgments or analysis (the pre-season will bring that out), I will offer up BrianL's final day of shooting. It's too bad he won't be there next week as I'm sure that's when they'll start installing the really exotic stuff, not that I would show it to you guys anyway, but I'd like to have a look-see for myself. ;) Anyway, enjoy the photos, everyone, and a very special Tin's Fins thanks to all of you who contributed to the last 3 weeks of Tin's Fins. I hope to always keep this site as grass-roots and collaborative as possible (zoom forward 5 years when I've turned into Mike Florio....)

Stay tuned for the look-ahead to tomorrow's game!