Thursday, August 13, 2009

Training Camp - Day 11 (updated)

Practice has been moved back to 3pm today, due to the late practice yesterday, allowing the players an extra hour of sleep before having to report to meetings.

Donte Stallworth got suspended for the 2009 season (shocking!) and will not get paid. But fret not Donte, I'm no NFL accountant, but I'm pretty sure you had just pocketed your first bonus check the night before you....well, you know. So you're still rich, and barely put out by your house arrest that now allows you to leave the house as long as you're with your best friend, er, I mean, a 'professional' trainer.

Michael Vick's agent and Tony Dungy are now in mid-launch of their bull-sh** agenda of lying to the media about the league's interest in Vick. According to the agent, 17 teams have shown interest. Dungy said he's taken calls from 12 coaches. He left out the part where those 12 coaches were actually disciples of his who call him on a weekly basis anyway. Let's not kid ourselves here, if there really was that kind of interest in Vick, he'd be working out for these teams. He's not, and that's because no one is interested, or at least willing to admit that they are, so the last thing they'd do is call a blabber mouth agent, who could easily divulge their interest to the media, which would then cause the fallout that everyone's trying to avoid, and the fallout would come without them even getting to work out Vick. And then there's the fact that any coach interested in Vick would have to get even a visit approved by the Owner of the team. Stephen Ross was smart, he addressed this ages ago, saying that if it helped the team, he'd be open to the idea. That took any awkwardness out of the Dolphins situation - can you imagine Parcells having to go to Ross to ask if he could work out Vick? But the rest of the Owners aren't so concerned about their coaches. The Steelers Dan Rooney wanted to avoid the Vick situation so badly, he became Irish and fled the country!

And finally, Brett Favre is still retired. For now.

Let's talk Dolphins!

I wanted to bring up something about the defensive strategy of the Dolphins. We seem pretty decent against the run. We were weak against the pass last year but we really didn't get beat downfield all that much in 2008. It was more noticeable when we were, but our main problem was the inability to stop other teams on 3rd downs. They were often able to pick up the 7 yards necessary on a 3rd and 7. Quick slants and screen passes were the most effectove way to move the ball on the Dolphins in 2008.

And I know why.

After reviewing several 2008 games, I noticed a defensive alignment that Omar Kelly noticed in camp this year, and thought it was quite exotic. But we used this set VERY often in 2008, almost exclusively on 3rd down, and almost completely ineffectively.

I'm talking about the 4-3 set on 3rd down, where two stout linemen (almost exclusively Randy Starks and Philip Merling, though Soliai was in on red zone) are inside, and two pass rushers are outside (Porter, Anderson, and Moses were in rotation). The trick to this was that the outside guys would rush the passer, and one of the DTs would drop back into coverage. This was noticed in the scrimmage the Dolphins had on Saturday when Soliai was seen downfield.

Well, this is not a new thing, they ran it against San Diego (due to the outside always rushing and only one DT standing ground, the Chargers' screen passes would easily pick up 7 or 8 yards - Merling's inability to change direction aided the opponent), Houston (they were running it on the QB sneak that won the game for the Texans), New England (in the 2nd game we barely got any pressure, and the intermediate routes were open due to there being no linebackers down field), and against the Ravens (who used HB draws to counter).

The fact of the matter is that this is the Dolphins' version of the PREVENT defense. As long as I have been playing, watching, and studying football, at no point has the prevent defense ever worked more than a generous 15% of the time.

What are your thoughts? Considering they've been showing this alignment in practices, it sounds like they are planning on using it again. Do you think Paul Soliai is a better pass defender than Philip Merling?

Here is my chalkboard drawing of the play in question. Notice that if the LB (in this case it is usually Ayodele) and the DT 'drift' the same direction, one of the slant WRs will be open for the quick strike. It also leaves the RB wide open underneath. If the safety creeps up to guard the RB, the outside will be left WIDE open for the deep throw. Below I show you how I would defend the 3rd down/spread. (click to enlarge)

Reports from camp:
  • Per Omar Kelly: "Sparano said Jason Allen has done a nice job in camp so far and "I'm starting to see things slow down." He is flashing a little bit."
  • "Sparano said Chad Henne will get a good chunk of time during the first exhibition game."
  • I'm getting Madden 2010 for PS3 tomorrow. My alias is 'Tinshaker'. My point level will be ZERO.
  • Coach Sparano has said that he informs the offensive coaches to pick on specific defensive backs in a practice in order to see how the DB handles it. This explains why Sean Smith has been picked on the last two days. He has a big target on his back and Sparano put it there. Also explains why Eric Green struggled, and Billingsley, etc. Expect by the start of next week for Vontae Davis to be with the ones, and for a lot of negative reports with his name on it. Obviously this strategy is meant to first see if the DB can stop the offense, but in the case that he gives up a big play (which most players would if you picked on them all day), to see how they recover from that.
  • Remember when I kept asking Omar Kelly who that squeaky-voiced reporter was in the press conferences and he refused to answer the question? The other day, Coach Sparano answered that guy's question by stating his name first. Lo and behold it was Edgar Thompson. The guy looks like Lurch and speaks like Eddie.
Holy Smokes!! Matt Roth is wearing a baseball cap!!

  • Hot Topics - Jason Allen. Here's what Coach had to say.

  • Practice was moved inside the bubble due to thunderstorms. Sounded like there was really nothing interesting going on anyway. Be sure to get your check out Fang's photos from last night, get your contest entries in and check out the new poll on the site. Hasta Manana! GO PHINS!


  1. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    Tin, I don't think this alignment is a prevent defense. It's probably a formation the coaches like but the players have to execute it better. Merling was a rookie last year, Starks was a newbie, Soliai was a 2nd year guy and now seems to be taking the next step. Sometimes it's up to the players to make it work better and that's why they're working on it again in practice this year. Recognition is the key to plays like this. Like you said, the Chargers screen passes would beat it every time. Maybe not so much this year.

    What we may do this year is drop the DT in zone coverage from time to time and blitz a safety, CB or ILB (most likely Crowder on 3rd down) to mix it up and create confusion. So this alignment might be a work in progress.

  2. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    Another thing, our defense is working on more middle blitz schemes with the ILBs and they appear to be giving our OL trouble so that's a good thing for both sides. Our OL will be prepared for those blitzes and our defense is confident we can get to the QB with it. I remember watching the 80s Giants defenses Parcells/Belichick and they ran the same type of stuff. Because they had LT scaring the crap out of everyone outside, these middle blitzes worked very well. Sometimes LT dropped into coverage. Well we have a double threat on the outside with Porter and JT. It should be fun to watch.

  3. "What we may do this year is drop the DT in zone coverage from time to time
    and blitz a safety, CB or ILB (most likely Crowder on 3rd down) to mix it up
    and create confusion. So this alignment might be a work in progress."
    Ah, the dreaded 'zone blitz', another def. play that never works! lol, jk.
    I just feel they like to change things that don't need to be changed.
    Playing this set on 3rd down is not going to surprise anyone. What would be
    MORE surprising is to line up in the base set, then drop the OLBs back into in the superbowl....remember that?
    If Peyton Manning sees Paul Soliai dropping back in zone, he's going to give
    it up on the slip route over the middle, Gonzales is going to do a spin move
    on Soliai, Pauls' going to get discombobulated and spit up his krispy kreme
    bacon cheese burger, and to make thing worse, that 6'4" 340 lb guy is going
    to block the view of the safeties, so they'll be out of position to make
    the play..touchdown!

  4. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    LOL, what Super Bowl?

    Maybe the idea is when Soliai gets discombobulated (great word by the way) and comes tumbling down, he creates a crater and the receivers trips and falls into the abyss never to be seen again. LOL

  5. The one they had this year...they have one every year don't they?
    The steelers ran that play, they dropped Harrison back, he picked off the
    pass on the goal-line and ran it back 600 yards or something like that.
    The Soliai comment is valid but what if they're playing in a dome on
    concrete? when he fell over, it could get messy.....SPLAT!!!

  6. Sparano recognised this weakness (our D never getting off the field on 3rd down) in his recent PC and said the team would address it. I suspect, like the wildcat, a lot of the "fun" stuff with exotic blitz packages etc are practiced away from the unwashed mob and will only be revealed during the season so we don't lose the suprise element. Any play with Soliai dropping back in coverage (even against Wilford) is asking for trouble. We need to be much more aggressive and unpredictable this year with the extra pass rush options we have at our disposal.

  7. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    Personally I like the 2-4-5 the Pats use in nickel. You need the LBs to run it and I think we have them. Porter, JT, Crowder and Wake.

    Starks and Merling line up over the guards with Crowder showing blitz on the center, Porter outside the LT, JT wide on the TE, Wake over the RT between JT and Starks, and a safety inside like a MLB behind Crowder to protect against the draw but can still drop into coverage. There are all kinds of combinations of stunts and blitzes that can be run with this alignment.

  8. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    Converting 3rd downs and getting off the field on 3rd down are two things this team is going to heavily work on. Being good in those situations results in a lot of wins.

  9. I'd prefer to concentrate on being better at the basics than relying too
    much on trickery or surprise elements. Bottom line is that JT and Porter
    coming at you on 3rd down is going to be pretty obvious and once again the
    quick slant out of the spread (see the Patriots playbook) is going to burn
    you every time. It's not about giving up or creating big plays, it's about
    getting off the field, and you do that by tightening up, not by playing
    That's MY defensive strategy anyway.

  10. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    We can't run that play in a dome. : )

  11. I noticed you didn't say who that slant pass is normally thrown too. Aaaaarrrggghhh. Still, he has been replaced now. If our rush is good enough and we can get in their lanes, maybe that pass doesn't even get away. One of the things I am most looking forward to this season is JT standing over a recumbent Brady with that evil smile on his face. Here's hoping .....

  12. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    In my 2-4-5 alignment the slant won't work because Crowder does not blitz most of the time and neither does the safety. Starks, Merling, Porter, JT and Wake rush the QB mixing up stunts and 6 drop back including Crowder sitting right in the middle where the slant would go. The receiver running the slant also has a DB covering him on the outside. The idea with this 5 man blitz is to get to the passer quickly and force the quick throw. It screws up the timing of the routes and tipped passes and interceptions are common when you do that.

  13. *I was watching the San Diego game and we were in no-huddle with about 10
    minutes to go in the second quarter. It made me cringe. Give me the slow
    grind of a 6 minute drive. One thing I DO like about our coaching is that
    we go foer it on 4th down more than any other team I've seen in the NFL.*

  14. I don't know what kind of slants you're running, but if you have a double
    inside slant play, Crowder would have to cover 15 yards of lateral space to
    make a play (which we know from past experience he doesn't try to make). He
    can only drift towards one side of the field or stay in the middle in which
    both receivers would be open, assuming they got inside the DB on the route.
    I think it's time to get the chalkboard out....

  15. Tin,
    I forgot to thank you for putting up the Jets Fins game. Sometimes, the memory plays tricks and you forget just good Marino really was. Some of those throws into double and triple coverage were frankly inasane, but he just kept completing them. He never played on a team with even a balanced offense, let alone balanced on both sides of the ball. He never won a Superbowl, but in a way, that makes me respect him even more for the way he did what he did and handled himself. I'd love to get into a time machine and go back just one time .....

  16. Seriously? If you had a one-time only ticket for a time machine, you'd
    choose to go to 1986? LOL!

  17. Well, when you put it like that ...... it would take me at least 2 years to grow some "bad hair" back :-D

    Playing by your rules, if i had a one-time only return trip in the time machine, I'd go forward to the next Fin SB win, watch it, come back to now, bet on it knowing I couldn't lose and enjoy it even more the second time around! I'd only be going forward til next Febrruary according to HSB, but I don't have access to as many mind-altering substances as he does, so don't share his gung-ho hallucinations!

  18. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 11:53 AM

    Tin, good stuff with your chalkboard. I've been creating a template similar but I like your field. You're playing your safeties way too deep. They have to be able to get back but they can also jump a route. It all comes down to play recognition and execution.

    That's why I like the 2-4-5 alignment. Get another quick pass rushing LB on the field and I'll choose Wake for now. I would not be surprised to see us do this if Wake proves to be the real deal as a pass rusher on this level. By rushing 5 the RB is not going to be able to get into a route, he'll have to stay in and block. You need one corner to cover his man one on one but if you flood that side and passing lane with pressure you can take that route away. The key is you must get pressure if you send 5. I'm talking heavy pressure right away. The QB can't survey the field, you have to force him into a decision right away. The next step is to hope you guess what route he'll choose and try to jump it.

  19. "By rushing 5 the RB is not going to be able to get into a route, he'll have
    to stay in and block."
    if it's a RB screen he'll be wide open with no one to tackle him. your
    strategy really is contingent on one of your rushers not getting blocked or
    just bulldozing through. We're talking like a second and a half
    here....that's risky business. I prefer to play the mixed zone I
    diagrammed. It allows for the base 3-4 man cover scheme but adds the zone
    elements to cover those 'sweet spots'. At no point should any one offensive
    player be more than 6 or 7 yards from TWO defensive players. And by not
    rushing the passer from the strong side, it leaves in an additional defender
    on the screen option.
    Ultimately you'd want to use several different 'looks' but this one would be
    effective against that quick slant play that NE likes to run. You'll notice
    I created a triangle around Moss and I brainwash my nickel corner to stay
    inside on Welker. If Brady has to go over the top on Welker, the safety is
    going to knock his helmet off. If he goes deep on the fade route to
    (Gaffney's gone, who is the 3rd receiver now?) the safety should have enough
    time and the right position to get over. The best option on the play would
    be to hope the tight end gained separation on the LB and the SS went deep,
    but they don't like to throw to the TE in NE much last time I checked.

  20. I love the hypothetical NE beating defense!

    I kinda agree with both of you. I like the 2-4-5, but you don't always have to rush 5 with it, you could also drop a randoom OLB into the zone or have him play RB spy to cover the screen.

    I also agree about not liking the nickel defense with the 4-3. We always seemed to get exposed and give up the middle of the field in that formation. By the end of the year it teams were going 3 wide all the time in order to get us out of our base and in to the nickel

    I did see some pressure coming from the ILB's yesterday, and hopefully they can figure something out with our personnel because that debate must be going on in the coaches meetings aswell

  21. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Tin and Phinatic, I'm not saying rush 5 all the time, but do it enough to make them think about it and hopefully it works more often than not, then switch it up and drop an extra guy in cover and mix up the rush. Maybe even use some different personnel from time to time.

    In my scheme, Wake should get a free shot through the RT and RG and if not, Starks or JT is going to get it. The offense has to first block the blind side so the overload on the strong side is the monkey wrench in the whole thing.

    Tin, when you rush 5 one corner has to cover man on man and one safety picks up the TE man on man.

  22. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    As for the Aquavision music, I'd prefer the sounds of the field. I just turn the sound off when I watch it and let the NFL Network play in the background. LOL

  23. "I also agree about not liking the nickel defense with the 4-3. We always
    seemed to get exposed and give up the middle of the field in that
    formation."'s not just me!!

  24. "Tin, when you rush 5 one corner has to cover man on man and one safety
    picks up the TE man on man"
    Like I said, that's risky business. But you do sometimes have to risk the
    big play on their end in order to get one for your team.

  25. really? they've been playing some pretty interesting music this year. What
    is the sound of the field during the stretching period? Actually, don't
    answer that.

  26. Tin I think we are missing something here.  Your team has to put pressure on the QB, it they don't do that 1st downs will be made.  It's that simple.  Name a QB that can complete a pass laying on there back. :)

  27. how am I missing that? I sent four rushers!
    you guys would blitz 12 if you could...

  28. You make me laugh ;)� Hell if I could I'd empty the bench to put the QB on his back. :)� I think most schemes would work if you have good personnel and everyone does there job.�
    The fact is Miami was much worse than what we knew when they went 1 - 15.� It's going to take some time to improve all the areas of the team.� I don't know who is the youngest team age wise in the NFL, but in the past 2 years this team has gotten much younger.� With youth comes mistakes, and also hope for the future.
    With my health I'll be dead by the time the Dolphins are really contenders, but I
    will have left my love for the Dolphins with my Daughter and she will carry on for me, I'm good with that :)

  29. The Knight who says Ni!August 13, 2009 at 4:18 PM


    I like to take a little more risk in rushing the passer. If you have the personnel to get to the QB blitzing. I think we might just have that kind of personnel this year. DL, LB and DB. It should be fun because It sounds like we're going to bring it a little more this year. Play to your personnel is my motto.

  30. "I don't know who is the youngest team age wise in the NFL,"
    I'd bet it was the Bears or Green Bay (the average went down significantly
    after Favre retired, the second time). I know the oldest is always the

  31. Well I'm late to the party on comments, but here's mine.

    You're either brilliant or full of shit...but I can't verify WHICH because you didn't give me video clips of the plays. I kinda have to take your word for it I guess, but you wanted to know our thoughts, they'd be more informed by video!

    I sure hope we don't blow a bunch of 3rd down stop opportunities this year.

  32. maybe we do need a chalkboard. CC has help from the safety to cover the double slant in Knights scheme. The real danger would be not getting pressure on a QB from that scheme and having the X or Y reciever get a chance to slip behind the CB...but I guess that's why you send Porter, JT and Wake.

  33. VICK sign's w'EAGLES!!!

  34. question: does anybody know how to watch live games on the out of the country right now, and will be for the forseeable future. it doesn't necessarily have to be free, but of course thats preferred...

  35. jftm

    You can pay the NFL to get HD delivered to your laptop from, or you can try one of the lower quality free options I listed on a post on the SS a while back - here's a link, my post was timed at 4:10 pm.

    Good luck.

  36. the payment option from is not live, and I believe the question was
    about watching it LIVE!! bzzzz try again!
    lol, jk.
    I did the jtv thing last year and it was a disaster. Plus the retarded
    chatters in there slow the feed down so badly with their obscene blather..
    Stoogetv was very good IF you didn't mind missing kickoff (the game had to
    start for them to generate a link), and occasionally they wouldn't post a
    link at all. But like uk said, they got busted during the season. The
    problem with these sites is that you get dependent on them and you think
    you're definitely watching the game, and then there's tech difficulties or
    the guy who usually streams it had to go to a wedding or something, and
    you're totally screwed. Honestly, your best option is to go to a bar that
    has sunday ticket, and more than one TV (or several Dolfan patrons) or to
    watch it on delay on NFL Network. For the record they are airing the
    Jacksonville game on a 3 hour delay, which means you can still Tuesday
    morning QB if you stay up a bit late.

  37. My mate who lives in the states came over to the uk and watched Denver live on I'm sure? But that was regular season. Maybe not true for pre-season?
    Tin, jtfm is out of the country, so those options you listed aren't appropriate? Also, I did get feeds in time to see kos, but you had to be quick - they only posted them prompt at 1pm, occassionally earlier. Btw, it's homertv now and you have to register in advance (in case you are going to go for that option this year)?
    Sky will be showing the Pats EVERY week until after the Wembley game to generate maximum local interest. Typical, they did the same for the fins in a year when we were DISMAL! :'(

  38. you can only get that option out of country. I thought he was in the US.
    I'm missing the UK a lot these days.

  39. I read you bitchin the other day after 105 for "weeks" - the flipside is we are in the high 60s here for the first time since the start of summer. It's been another wash-out. Bet you aint missin the weather one jot?

  40. you'd be wrong. I love the rain. I run hot, so I prefer it to be in the
    60s, that PERFECT temp for me.

  41. im across the pond, in israel, and its really difficult to watch any pro league american sports, we have espn over here, but international sports seem to take priority, like a tennis match made me miss the first quarter of the pitt  arizona game. thanks for the info ukfinfan, hopefully ill be able to watch it live...there is nothing better

  42. Tin, I'm with you on that - I run hot too and temps starting with an 8 are at the top end of my operating range. I've sat in Joe Robbie several times with small tributaries dripping off me and a "terrible towel" on my head trying not to spontaneously combust.
    I'm curious to your choice of home states - Fla and Ca - not exactly suited to you? Was it work that took you there or are you a masochist?

  43. Fingers crossed for you ....

  44. "with small tributaries dripping off me"
    lol, i'm not a big sweater, but i know what you mean.
    I was actually born in the Caribbean and moved to Fla when I was 12ish. The
    only places I actually CHOSE to move to were Portland, OR and London, UK. I
    moved to CA after London because I had a 7month pregnant Croatian woman w/
    me and a job waiting for me. I plan on moving back to Portland soon...I
    consider that to be my 'hometown'.

  45. After living in those places, you must've become acclimated to hot-weather places by now? Oregon, huh? My friend who lives in the US (currently Houston) looked in to buying a vineyard. He likes red wine (who doesn't) and hankered after growing some Pinot Noir and making his own. I offered my QC services obviously ;) . I think he's decided it was a lot of hard work for not a great return, so he stayed in the rat race. :'(

  46. Oregon has the best Pinot Noir I've ever had.

  47. also the best beer...