Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7/30/08 Morning/Evening Camp Reports

Sun-Sentinel Reports (Morning, Evening):
  • Scorpio Babers was cut and CB Chris Roberson was signed. Roberson played six games for the Jaguars as a rookie in 2005, but a shoulder injury has left him out of football for the past two years.
  • Justin Peelle (knee), Aaron Halterman (back), T Dan Heerspink (knee), and Michael Lehan (ankle) all rode the stationary bikes. Lehan does not appear to be close to returning.
  • Trey Darilek is now working as the primary backup tackle.
  • Will Billingsley has looked good.
  • Shawn Murphy is working as the second string LG, and Ike Ndukwe is the backup RG.
  • Davone Bess is showing a penchant for finding and settling down in the holes in zone coverage.
  • Jason Allen appears to have significantly stepped up his game.
Miami Herald Reports (Morning, Evening):
  • Brandon Fields had another great day.
  • The receivers are not getting much separation from the DBs.
Palm Beach Post Reports (Morning, Evening):
  • Ronnie Brown is no longer wearing a sleeve on his right knee.
  • Vernon Carey's footwork in pass protection looks very good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Cornerbacks

Next up in the positional previews are the cornerbacks.

What to expect: In order to gauge the effectiveness of Miami's secondary last year, stay away from the NFL's pass defense rankings. The NFL ranks pass defenses by average pass yards allowed per game. In this regard, Miami ranked fourth overall in the league last season. But Miami's pass defense was hardly a top five unit. It was just that no team had to pass against Miami since it's run defense held up like a wet napkin. In reality, according to the advanced metrics of Pro Football Prospectus, Miami's pass D ranked 27th in the league. Big difference. The bad news is that things aren't likely to drastically improve this season. Miami's pass rush could very well be worse than last year, putting even more pressure on the defensive backs. The team brought in four new CBs this year, but none of them appear to have any shot of replacing the three best CBs from last year.

Here's a closer look at the individual cornerbacks currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Will Allen
Will Allen doesn't get nearly enough credit around the league and especially from Dolphins fans. It's time to recognize that Allen is and has been for a few years now, one of the best corners in the game. Since he's been in Miami he has been a true No. 1 corner, and I expect that level of play to continue for at least one more season. One problem is that Allen is 30 years old, so I have questions about how long he can remain a No. 1 corner. The other problem is that because of the lack of quality depth behind Allen, teams can simply avoid him by throwing to the other side of the field. As it stands, Allen is Miami's only shutdown corner, and he's good in run support and blitzing as well.

Andre' Goodman
Goodman was a pleasant surprise for the Dolphins in 2006, but his 2007 season was a wash as he missed significant time with a shoulder injury that hampered him even after he returned to the field. He says he is fully recovered now, after having undergone another surgery on the shoulder. If he really is healthy again, he should give Michael Lehan a good competition for the starting CB spot opposite Will Allen. His effectiveness hinges solely on his shoulder health, and even if he loses out to Lehan, he will at least serve as a dependable nickelback.

Michael Lehan
Lehan performed well enough as a starter last season that he was re-signed, and he will once again fight to be a starter. He gave up a few too many big plays last year, but the safeties providing deep help were horrendous. He was solid in run support, but could be better.

Travis Daniels
Ever since a nice rookie season, Daniels' career has been in flux - constantly switching between safety and corner, and not finding the same success in either spot that he did in his first year. He's being used as a CB to start this year off, and the hope is that with a new coaching staff, he can settle down at one position. A lot of big plays given up last year were the direct result of blown coverage by Daniels. If he wants to stick around, that'll obviously need to change.

Nate Jones
Jones was primarily a special teams player in Dallas, but he has the opportunity to earn more playing time in this group of corners. So far in training camp he has impressed in coverage.

Joey Thomas
Thomas has history with the coaching staff, but all he's done since entering the league is bounce around from team to team. His only real shot at making this roster seems to be if one of the guys in front of him gets hurt.

Will Billingsley
Billingsley's biggest strength is his blazing speed. No one really knows how well he can actually cover. It may be worth stashing him on the practice squad for a year to see if he develops into a useful player.

Scorpio Babers
Babers, an undrafted rookie free agent, got beat left and right in minicamps, and it doesn't seem like he has much of a shot to make the team.


Here is my predicted depth chart:
1. Will Allen
2. Andre' Goodman
3. Michael Lehan
4. Nate Jones
5. Travis Daniels
6. Will Billingsley (practice squad)

Training camp battle to watch: Goodman vs. Lehan for the starting spot opposite Allen.

7/29/08 Tuesday Camp Reports

Palm Beach Post Report:
  • Donald Thomas is starting at RG again.
  • Aaron Halterman was not at practice.
  • Jalen Parmele hits the hole with great speed and can bounce the ball outside as well.
  • John Beck routinely opts for the check down option, and has had little success throwing downfield.

7/28/08 Monday Afternoon Camp Reports

Sun-Sentinel Report:
  • Josh McCown seems to be seperating himself from John Beck and Chad Henne.
  • Donald Thomas started at RG all day, ahead of Trey Darilek. Overall, the offensive line has been struggling.
  • Joey Porter returned to practice and looked very good.
Palm Beach Post Report:
  • The top four WRs right now are Wilford, Ginn, Hagan, and Camarillo.
  • McCown does a much better job of avoiding the rush than Beck.

Monday, July 28, 2008

7/28/08 Monday Morning Training Camp Report

Here's a look at what went on this morning at camp:

Sun-Sentinel Report:
  • Jake Long is still struggling against speed rushing OLBs.
  • Derek Hagan caught everything thrown to him, including catches in traffic and against tight coverage.
Palm Beach Post Report:
  • Joey Porter and Michael Lehan not practicing.
  • Ted Ginn is running much better routes this year.
  • G Rueben Riley came off the field with what looked like a knee injury.
  • David Martin worked with the first team offense.
  • Josh McCown looked very good in team drills. John Beck is holding on to the ball far too long.

7/27/08 Sunday Training Camp Reports

Here's a rundown of what went on yesterday at training camp:

Sun-Sentinel Report:
  • John Beck and Chad Henne both looked awful. Beck threw 3 INTs and Henne was indecisive in the pocket leading to several sacks.
  • The running backs provided a bright spot on offense.
  • Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses excelled in the pass rush. Randy Starks looked good as well.
  • Joey Porter (ankle) and Michael Lehan (ankle) did not practice.
  • Rodrique Wright and Paul Soliai were getting beat consistently.
  • Reagan Mauia and Boomer Grigsby are alternating first team snaps.
Miami Herald Report:
  • Both kickers were perfect on field goals.
Palm Beach Post Report:
  • Jason Ferguson was dominating Samson Satele.
  • Vonnie Holliday was getting some work as a stand-up linebacker, similar to Jason Taylor's role.
  • Here is the kickoff coverage unit so far (L to R): Joey Thomas, Ernest Wilford, Reggie Torbor, David Kirkus, Edmond Miles, Jay Feely, Keith Davis, Patrick Cobbs, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Crocker, Nathan Jones.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Linebackers

Next up in the series of training camp positional previews are the linebackers.

What to expect: With the trade of Jason Taylor, the linebacking corps is in a bit of disarray at the moment, and it will be crucial for someone to step up and show the pass rushing ability necessary to man Taylor's vacated outside linebacker position. Longtime Dolphin stalwart Zach Thomas will also be missing this year, and his leadership and play-calling mastery will be sorely missed. Thankfully, the team added some linebackers via free agency and trades who should at least improve the horrific run defense from a year ago. This unit still has a long ways to go before it has any cohesion though.

Here's a closer look at the individual linebackers currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Channing Crowder
Crowder is taking over for a true Dolphins legend, and he's going to need to take several significant steps forward if he hopes to succeed as the starting inside linebacker responsible for making the play adjustments. So far in his career, he has proven to be an adequate starter, but he is by no means a playmaker. He did manage 3 QB hits and 6 QB hurries last season, so maybe he can turn into a decent, if unspectacular, pass rusher from the middle. He is serviceable as a run-stopper but could certainly improve in that area as well. Perhaps most importantly, Crowder will simply need to be more involved in the defense this year. Zach Thomas led the entire league last year in the percentage of team defensive plays he made with an astounding 21.7% (adjusted for playing time). Crowder made a solid 14.1% of the defense's plays, but without Thomas in the middle anymore, there will be many more opportunities for Crowder to get involved. This is his contract year, so he'll need to show the new coaching staff a good reason to extend his contract and keep him in Miami.

Joey Porter
Joey Porter had a horrible first half to last season as he struggled to fully recover from offseason knee surgery and adapt to a position that didn't suit his strengths. Well, this season he is returning to the 3-4 OLB position that he thrived in during his tenure in Pittsburgh. However, the question still remains whether age and injuries have caught up to him and slowed him down. He did finish last season on somewhat of a tear, notching 4 sacks in the final 5 games, so there is hope that he can return to being a prominent pass rusher - something this defense sorely needs.

Akin Ayodele
Ayodele was brought over from Dallas, and his familiarity with the defense gives him a leg up on the starting inside linebacker spot next to Crowder. Ayodele was useless as a pass rusher last season and I don't expect that to change much this year. On the other hand, he just may be the team's best run-stopping linebacker.

Charlie Anderson
Anderson is getting the first crack at replacing Jason Taylor at OLB. He has been mainly a special teams player throughout his career, but is getting the opportunity to start in Miami. He's 27 years old, so it seems like if he had any real potential as a pass rushing threat he would have been utilized more in Houston at some point. Maybe Miami's coaching staff sees a different way to use him that will make him more effective. In limited time last season he did manage to record 2 sacks, 1 QB hit, and 3 hurries.

Reggie Torbor
Torbor played well for the Champion New York Giants during their impressive stretch run last season, and Parcells and Ireland brought him in to shore up the LB depth. He played OLB in New York, but he is working exclusively at ILB in Miami. That could change as training camp progresses, but he will probably be Miami's first LB option off the bench.

Rob Ninkovich
Ninkovich was claimed off waivers last season, but most of the action he saw came on special teams. He's a converted college DE, and if he wants a spot on the roster he'll have to prove he can stand up and rush the passer.

Edmond Miles
Miles was a big surprise as an undrafted rookie free agent last season, becoming the team's best special teams tackler. He actually was one of the league leaders in special teams stops, notching 16 of them and forcing a fumble. If I had my way, Miles would stick around as a young special teams stud.

Kelvin Smith
Smith is well-suited to be a backup ILB in a 3-4 defense. He's not very fast and he struggles in pass coverage, but he is good at stopping the run. He is also very tough and aggressive - two attributes that should make him a solid special teams contributor, and which should also make him attractive to the new coaching staff.

Junior Glymph
Glymph has history with the coaches from his time in Dallas, but he's never really shown anything special. He's real big but he is slow as molasses. It'd make more sense to go with someone younger.

Kelly Poppinga
Poppinga has the versatility to play either ILB or OLB, but at the NFL level he projects mostly as a backup and special teams player. Because of a Mormon mission, he's already 26, which takes away from some of his value as a developmental player. Still, he's very smart and comes with all the intagibles a coach is looking for in a bottom of the roster guy. He'll compete for a spot on the practice squad.

Keith Saunders
Saunders, an undrafted rookie free agent, impressed some people during minicamps, but he's competing for a spot on the practice squad.

Titus Brown
Like Saunders, Brown is competing for a spot on the practice squad.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
LOLB Joey Porter
LILB Channing Crowder
RILB Akin Ayodele
ROLB Charlie Anderson

1. Reggie Torbor
2. Edmond Miles
3. Kelvin Smith
4. Rob Ninkovich
5. Kelly Poppinga (practice squad)

Training camp battle to watch: Anderson vs. Quentin Moses (listed as a DE) for the starting ROLB spot.

7/26/08 Saturday Afternoon Camp Reports

Here's a rundown of what went on at training camp this afternoon:

Sun-Sentinel Report:
Julius Wilson was cut because he didn't pass his conditioning test when he reported to training camp on Friday. That's also what got Dan Gore shown the door according to the players. Sparano threatened the team that anyone who didn't pass their re-check (combine type drills that need to be completed under a certain time based on position) would get the ax.
  • Ike Ndukwe is now working as a backup tackle.
  • Derek Hagan is still catching passes with his body from time to time.
  • Nathan Jones broke up several plays in 7-0n-7 drills.
  • Jalen Parmele and Lex Hilliard showed the ability to catch out of the backfield while Reagan Mauia struggled in that area. Boomer Grigsby displayed good hands.
  • Brandon Fields was booming his kicks.
  • Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses worked as the starting OLBs. Junior Glymph looked very slow.
  • Courtney Bryan is aheaBlogger: Phinaticism - Edit Post "7/26/08 Saturday Afternoon Camp Reports"d of Chris Crocker on the depth chart right now.
Miami Herald Report:
  • Steve McKinney did not practice.
  • Joey Porter was not placed on the PUP list, but rather on the non-football injury list.
Palm Beach Post Report:
  • Chad Henne did take part in the afternoon session.
  • Josh McCown throws a good deep ball. John Beck is still sailing some of his throws. Henne looked rusty.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wilson cut; tackle signed

In somewhat of a surprising move, given the overall lack of experience and depth at offensive tackle, the Sun-Sentinel is reporting that the team cut RT Julius Wilson.

In his place, they signed former Michigan guard Rueben Riley. Riley (6'4", 305 lbs.) was on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad last season.

Henne ends holdout

Chad Henne, the 57th pick in this year's draft, was stupid to hold out, but thankfully, the holdout only lasted one practice.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Henne has signed a four-year contract worth $3.5 million with $1.5 million guaranteed.

All of the Dolphins' draft picks are now under contract.

7/26/08 Saturday Morning Camp Reports

Here's a rundown of what went on at training camp this morning:

Sun-Sentinel Report:
  • Joey Porter was placed on the PUP list with an ankle injury that he suffered about a week ago while training. The injury is not considered serious, but he will need some rehab before he returns to the field.
  • OLB Charlie Anderson is currently manning Jason Taylor's old spot. Channing Crowder, Akin Ayodele, and Reggie Torbor are all exclusively working at ILB for now.
  • CB Michael Lehan was also placed on the PUP list. He is still not completely over the severe ankle sprain he suffered in June.
  • Will Allen and Andre' Goodman were the starting CBs.
  • QB Chad Henne is officially a holdout now, as he did not participate in the morning session. You've got to be kidding me, Henne.
  • The coaching staff plans to use only two QBs per day in the team sessions of practice.
  • Josh McCown took the first snap at QB, but the work was split evenly with John Beck.
  • G Trey Darilek started at RG, with Shawn Murphy backing him up.
Miami Herald Report:
  • OLB Rob Ninkovich took the starting reps in Porter's absence.
  • Anthony Fasano saw some work as the starting TE.
Palm Beach Post Report:
  • Ronnie Brown looked great and was planting and cutting. Ricky Williams also looks great, even inviting contact by lowering his shoulder into defenders.
  • WR Davone Bess is catching everything.
  • Yeremiah Bell and Jason Allen were the starting safeties.
  • Josh McCown repeatedly missed on his short throws.

Two cut, one added

According to the team's official website, the Dolphins have released T Dan Gore and WR Justin Wynn.

They also signed WR Anthony Armstrong.

Here's some info about Armstrong:
Armstrong spent the past two years with the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League. This past season, he caught 85 passes for 1,148 yards and 18 touchdowns, as he helped the team to a record of 12-4. He also played with the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League in 2006. The 5-11, 175-pounder played collegiately at West Texas A&M where he finished his career with 145 receptions for 1,768 yards and nine touchdowns. Born March 29, 1983, Armstrong attended Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Defensive Line

Today I'm beginning my look at the defensive side of the ball with the defensive linemen.

What to expect: First off, since Miami is transitioning to more of a full-time 3-4 defense as opposed to last season's hybrid 3-4/4-3, it's still unclear whether certain players will be transitioned to the linebacker spot or remain as defensive ends. Certain players may see time at both spots. To bypass this confusion in my previews, I'm simply going to use the position designations that the team's official website uses to classify the players. So some players listed as DE may in fact play more at LB, but this method works for now.

Of course, the biggest change this season will be the departure of Jason Taylor. He's most likely losing a step at this point in his career, but he was still Miami's best player and one of the league's best pass rushers. It will be impossible to replace his production, but an improved defensive line could go a long way in helping whoever replaces him at outside linebacker in getting to the quarterback. Miami spent three draft picks upgrading the defensive line and they brought in a couple free agents to bolster the league's second worst run defense last season (average 4.7 Adjusted Line Yards allowed). Miami should certainly improve in defending against the run this season, but pressuring the passer is another question. No defensive lineman currently on the team had more than 3 sacks last season, and only one (Vonnie Holliday) had more than 5 QB hurries (8).

Here's a closer look at the individual defensive linemen currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Vonnie Holliday
Holliday has been a pleasant addition in Miami since he came over in 2005. Unfortunately, this team is fully rebuilding now and Holliday is already 33 years old. He should make it through this season, but his age and bloated contract may mean that this is his last year in aqua and orange. Still, Holliday was one of the team's better run-stoppers last season, and he is one of the few leaders left on this defense. The team will need him to mentor the youngsters who will inevitably take over his spot.

Jason Ferguson
Miami traded for Ferguson quite simply because the 3-4 defense does not function without a great nose tackle. Ferguson has been a great nose tackle throughout his career, but he is now 33 years old and is coming off a season-ending biceps tear. The Dolphins need to hope and pray that Ferguson is completely healthy, because they have very little depth behind him at NT. If he is healthy, Ferguson will greatly help the run stuffing capabilities of the defense and occupy multiple blockers, allowing the linebackers a clear path into the backfield.

Matt Roth
Roth has generally been a disappointment since Miami drafted him in the second round of 2005's draft. He made some progress from his first year to his second but seemed to lose that momentum last year, actually regressing a bit. He was quite bad against the run. When Roth was credited with making a stop in run defense, the opposing offense gained an average of 3.0 yards, which was second worst on the team behind Jason Taylor. Roth simply may be too small and physically unsuited to play DE in a 3-4 defense which requires larger bodies that can occupy blockers and collapse the pocket. The coaching staff began to give Roth some work as an outside linebacker in minicamps, and that transition may be Roth's best hope of securing a future with this team. In any case, this is probably Roth's last chance to prove he deserves a spot on this team.

Randy Starks
Starks was an intriguing free agent addition from Tennessee. He will be a valuable addition to this line because he can play any position, be it in a 3-4 or in 4-3. That versatility is rare and it should help the depth of the defensive line rotation. Starks played sparingly last season, but he has great size and is probably one of the best run-stoppers Miami has. He will be the top backup to Ferguson at NT, and he should also see some snaps backing up both DE spots. He's also only 25 years old, so he can still get better.

Phillip Merling
Assuming Merling is fully recovered from his sports hernia, Miami got good value by selecting him with the first pick in the second round of this year's draft. It's unfortunate that Jason Taylor won't be around to teach him the tricks of the trade, but Merling has all the tools to succeed. Merling is not an elite pass rusher like Taylor, but he is a much much better run-stopper, and that's what a 3-4 DE needs to be above all else. He may have to put on some weight in order to hold up against double teams, but he has the frame to do it. His non-stop motor helped him to record 27 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Merling probably won't start right away, but it would not surprise me to see him take over for Roth as the season progresses. As it is, he will see plenty of snaps as a key part of the line rotation.

Kendall Langford
Like Merling, Langford is a prototypical 3-4 DE. However, Langford is coming out of Hampton, a smaller school, so he is not used to playing against top competition. Because of this, he'll need some grooming time behind Holliday. Still, he's excellent against the run (56 tackles for loss in his four-year college career), and he should see plenty of time as part of the line rotation. He should be a starter in the future, but he's not ready for that role this early.

Rodrique Wright
Wright had first-round potential coming out of college in 2006, but a serious shoulder injury dropped him all the way to the seventh round where Miami snatched him up. He played well enough last year in limited time, but with all the new additions that have been brought in, it seems like Wright no longer has a place on this team. If that's true, it's unfortunate, because at only 24 years old this kid still has a lot of untapped potential in him. I really hope Parcells and Ireland can find a place for him on the roster.

Paul Soliai
When Miami drafted Soliai in the fourth round last year, I said I thought he represented the best value pick in the Dolphins' draft class and that he could be a perfect replacement for Keith Traylor at nose tackle. Well after one season, it looks like I was completely wrong. Soliai was a huge bust in his first year. The coaching staff has been considering moving him from NT to DE. I think he'd be more valuable as a NT, but he still needs a lot of work if he's going to succeed there. He played so sparingly last year that he is still eligible for the practice squad. It would be a big risk trying to get him on the practice squad without another team picking him up, but with the amount of deserving defensive linemen ahead of Soliai, it may be the only choice.

Quentin Moses
Moses was a rare third-round pick who got cut before the season began last year. Miami eventually picked him up, and in limited action he showed a decent pass rush ability. Miami will probably use him more as an outside linebacker, possibly replacing Jason Taylor, but he can put his hand on the ground and take linemen head on as well.

Lionel Dotson
Miami used its final seventh-round draft pick this year on Dotson, a college defensive tackle who will probably have to be converted to DE at the pro level. He made great strides in his senior season, recording 50 tackles (9 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks. He needs to bulk up and he needs to refine his technique. Due to the numbers crunch, Dotson will probably land on the practice squad to begin the season.

Anthony Toribio
Toribio made the team as a tryout during rookie camps and the coaches seemingly haven't stopped praising him since. He could be a potential project at NT, but he will have to fight for a spot on the practice squad.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
DE - Vonnie Holliday
NT - Jason Ferguson
DE - Matt Roth

1. Phillip Merling
2. Randy Starks
3. Kendall Langford
4. Quentin Moses (moreso a LB, and could start at OLB)
5. Rodrique Wright
6. Lionel Dotson (practice squad)
7. Paul Soliai (practice squad)

Training camp battle to watch: Roth vs. Merling for the starting DE spot

Merling signs

According to the Palm Beach Post, rookie DE Phillip Merling was signed to a four year contract today.

Merling reported to team facilities today, and he will be in attendance when training camp opens tomorrow.

QB Chad Henne remains Miami's only unsigned draft pick. Although his agent said that he expects Henne to be at camp when it begins, he is edging ever closer to a holdout, which would be unacceptable from the 57th overall pick.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Offensive Line

Concluding my look at the offensive side of the ball, today's training camp positional preview will focus on the offensive linemen. (I will be referencing some advanced metrics like Adjusted Line Yards. For an explanation of these stats go to Football Outsiders.)

What to expect: Miami's offensive line was, for the most part, a pleasant surprise last year. The group's performance tailed off as the year wore on, but I think that had something to do with the younger players not being quite prepared to last an entire NFL season. That's to be expected. The line was a huge part of Ronnie Brown's success last season, and while they didn't play as well after he went down with an injury, some of that drop-off can be attributed to the backup running backs. Miami is returning only two of its starters from last season, but they've brought in two highly touted players in LT Jake Long and G Justin Smiley. One guard spot remains open for the taking. Miami will start one of the most promising young lines in the league, but I'm scared to death of the lack of depth behind the starters. If any starter goes down, the cupboard is quite bare and the overall performance could fall off sharply should a starter be lost to injury.

Here's a closer look at the individual offensive linemen currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Vernon Carey
Until Jake Long proves himself in games, Carey is still the best player on this line. He's moving back over to his more natural right tackle position this season after playing well at left tackle in 2007. As a RT, Carey can play at a Pro Bowl level. His mauling run-blocking abilities are tailor-made for paving huge holes on the right side of the line. Last season, Miami averaged 5.05 Adjusted Line Yards when running behind the LT, good for fourth best in the league. In 2006 (when Carey was playing RT), Miami averaged 4.76 ALY when running behind the RT, good for second best in the league. Suffice to say, Carey is one of the league's most dominant run blockers at the tackle position. He has some room for improvement in his pass blocking. He gave up 3 sacks last season, which actually isn't too bad considering it was his first season as a left tackle. He won't face the same caliber pass rusher on the right side, so hopefully he will limit that sack total even more. Carey also was called for an uncharacteristic 7 false starts last year, after only being flagged 3 times in his previous 3 seasons combined for false starts. I'll chalk that up to his position switch and assume that he will regain his superb discipline that he's shown at RT. The icing on the cake is that Carey is only 27 years old, and he very well may be the oldest player among the starting linemen. That means that these young guys could be together for a long time, and that kind of stability is exactly what Miami has needed on the line for a long time.

Jake Long
Jake Long is going to be thrown into the fire from day one, as the team's starting left tackle - and that's exactly where he should be. His mental and physical toughness is top-notch and he has the strong work habits that will be necessary as he improves on his technique. I have no questions about Long's run-blocking abilities. He could easily be as dominant as Carey, and he's a better run-blocker than Joe Thomas was coming out of college. On the other hand, he's not as good a pass-blocker as Thomas is and was. He's going to need to refine his foot movement and improve his susceptibility to secondary pass rush techniques, otherwise he will get beat for some sacks. The coaching staff will surely give him some help as he begins in the form of an extra tight end on his side or a chipping running back. While he may struggle a bit with the pass rush this season, I don't have much doubt that in time he will become a very good left tackle.

Samson Satele
When citing the Wes Welker trade, most people disregard the fact that Miami used that second-round pick to get Satele. In just his rookie season, Satele has proven that that trade worked out very well for Miami. In Satele, the Dolphins got a stud center who will be a key part of this line well into the future. He was unquestionably the best rookie on the team last year, and was probably the best offensive player after Ronnie Brown went down. One of Satele's specialties is blocking in the open field on screens. Much of Ronnie Brown's success in the passing game last season was due to Satele's excellent blocking. Also, he was only flagged for two penalties and let up only two sacks - tremendously low numbers considering he started all 16 games at center as a rookie. Coming from a pass-dominated offense in Hawaii, Satele was raw as a run-blocker, and he could still use some improvement in that area. The team averaged a mere 3.86 ALY when running up the middle last season, which was ranked 24th in the league.

Justin Smiley
Smiley was Miami's biggest free agent acquisition this offseason, and he will fill one of the starting guard spots. As for right now, it appears as if he will start at left guard in order to give Jake Long some added insurance. Smiley missed half the season last year with a shoulder surgery, so he will have to prove that he is suffering no ill effects from that injury. In 2006, when he started all 16 games in San Francisco, the team averaged 4.40 ALY when running up the middle, 15th best in the league. Smiley may not dominate in any one area, but he's above average across the board. Most importantly, he provides some leadership opposite Carey and he will have an important job helping out Jake Long's development.

Shawn Murphy
The Dolphins traded up to get Murphy in this year's draft, so you know Parcells and Ireland love him. He will be challenging for the starting right guard spot. Because he went on a Mormon mission, he's older than most rookies, and that added maturity could go a long way in his battle to start. He's only played guard for one season, and that was on the left side. Overall, he's only played two seasons as an offensive lineman, so he will face a stiff challenge of developing quickly. He has great size and is a strong run-blocker.

Donald Thomas
Thomas has even less experience than Murphy, as he was a college walk-on at Connecticut and started only 14 games there. Obviously, he's very raw at this point, and he needs a lot of work on his technique, but he has the physical build and tools to become a valuable player down the road. He will be in the mix for the starting RG spot, but he's probably best suited as a backup this season as he develops in practices.

Trey Darilek
Darilek has not played in an NFL game since 2005. He was with Dallas for training camp last season but got cut before the season began. Parcells and Ireland must have seen something they liked during that brief time because they brought him to Miami and he has been challenging for the starting RG spot. He has the versatility to play both guard and center which will help him in his quest to make the team.

Steve McKinney
McKinney tore his ACL in the third game last year and missed the rest of the season. He's still rehabbing, and he did not take part in minicamps or OTAs. He's 32 years old, and injuries and slipping play have probably erased any chance of him starting, unless someone suffers an injury. To even make the team, he's going to have to prove that he's fully recovered. If he can, his leadership and versatility to play both center and guard will make him a serviceable backup.

Julius Wilson
Miami has very little for backup tackles, but Wilson is probably the best of what is available. He spent three quarters of last season on the practice squad before being called up to the 53-man roster. He has tremendous size and although his technique still needs plenty of work, I think his development last season (coupled with a lack of better options) should lead to him finding a spot on the roster as the top backup tackle.

Dan Gore
This undrafted college free agent is a converted defensive tackle. He now plays offensive tackle. He will fight for a backup position, but may have to settle for the practice squad.

Daren Heerspink
Heerspink is in the same situation as Gore. There's an opportunity to make the team as a backup tackle, but the practice squad is probably more likely - if he makes the team at all.

Ikechuku Ndukwe
Ndukwe has bounced around the practice squads and 53-man rosters of three teams in his short career, but he is another guy who can play both guard and center and he also has experience on special teams.

Mike Byrne
Byrne was an undrafted college free agent from Delaware, where he started for three seasons and played all across the line. He's likely a center at the NFL level, but he could play tackle or guard if needed.

Matt Spanos
Like Byrne, Spanos can play every position along the line. He'll likely never be a starter, but he could become a valuable backup in time.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
LT - Jake Long
LG - Justin Smiley
C - Samson Satele
RG - Shawn Murphy
RT - Vernon Carey

1. Trey Darilek
2. Steve McKinney
3. Julius Wilson
4. Ikechuku Ndukwe
5. Donald Thomas
6. Dan Gore (practice squad)
7. Mike Byrne (practice squad)

Training camp battle to watch: Murphy vs. Darilek for the starting RG spot.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Tight ends

Continuing with my look at the offensive side of the ball, today's training camp positional preview will focus on the tight ends.

What to expect: Miami brought in David Martin last year to fill the team's need for a starting tight end. Well, as many expected, that experiment didn't work out too well. Thus, a starting tight end was once again a need this offseason, and the front office sent a fourth-round draft pick over to Dallas in return for Anthony Fasano (and Akin Ayodele). Whoever the starting TE is, don't expect them to all of a sudden become Jason Witten just because they are playing in a similar offense. Miami will use a lot of two-TE formations, but that is much more for blocking purposes than route-running purposes.

Here's a closer look at the individual tight ends currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Anthony Fasano
Assuming he's healthy, Fasano should have no problem winning the starting TE spot. He's really the only TE on the roster who can be considered both a good blocker and a good pass catcher. The rest of the guys all seem pretty one-dimensional. Fasano blocks straight ahead very well, and that will help the power running game. He's also a weapon catching passes over the middle, and he runs his crossing routes to perfection, oftentimes helping the other receivers to get open. The fact that he's stepping into a system that he already knows while all the other guys adjust further cements his seeming lock on the starting spot. Also, he's only 24 years old, so he's still got plenty of room to get better. I expect good things from Fasano in the future.

David Martin
What a disappointment this guy was last year (and I wasn't even one of those crazy fans who thought Martin was the next coming of Antonio Gates - talk about a rude awakening for them). In five seasons with the Packers before coming to Miami, Martin had never been a full-time starter. Cam Cameron mistakenly thought he could turn him into one. Wrong. Martin is what he is. He's essentially just another receiver who plays a position that requires him to perform a task that he is seemingly physically unable to do (ie. blocking). The injury bug that perpetually follows Martin around like Pigpen's dust cloud hampered him again last season, sapping his effectiveness. All of those injuries, combined with his older age (29), aren't doing any favors to the one skill he relied on - his speed. Despite all these negatives, I still think Martin will make the team primarily due to a lack of better options. He comes pretty cheap and aside from Fasano, he's the only other receiving threat that Miami has at TE.

Justin Peelle
Peelle has been a serviceable backup with Miami for the past few seasons, but I get the feeling his time with the team may be running out. He's always been a blocking tight end first, but he does have good hands. Of course, if the offense is having to continually throw to Peelle, something probably isn't going well. His yards per catch are horribly low and his ability to get open is average at best. The nail in his coffin, however, will likely be his bloated contract and the fact that he's 29 years old. There are younger guys on the roster who can do what Peelle does for a fraction of the cost.

Sean Ryan
One of those younger guys is Sean Ryan, brought over to Miami from the Jets. Ryan is primarily a blocker, and he has the big frame (6'5", 260 lbs.) to excel in the trenches. The Jets liked to motion Ryan into the backfield to act as a lead blocker on run plays, and Miami could use that same strategy when lining up in multiple TE sets with no fullback. He's not at all a weapon in the passing game. If you want a comparison player, think of Kyle Brady (just not as good as Brady).

Aaron Halterman
Halterman came to Miami because he had experience working with Cam Cameron. Now that Cameron is gone, expect Halterman to soon be shown the door. It's a bit surprising that he's even lasted this long.

Matthew Mulligan
Mulligan was an undrafted college free agent, and he didn't show anything special in minicamps and OTAs. He's just a camp body.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. Anthony Fasano
2. David Martin
3. Sean Ryan

Training camp battle to watch: Martin vs. Peelle vs. Ryan for the #2 and #3 spots.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Wide Receivers

Next up in the series of positional previews are the wide receivers.

What to expect: Talk about a motley crew. Miami's ragtag bunch of receivers don't have much combined experience in this league, and what experiences they have had don't inspire tremendous confidence that they'll be able to consistently help out the quarterback. The good news here is that this group is incredibly young and that means they have a tremendous amount of room to improve. Ernest Wilford is the oldest of the bunch and he is not yet 30 years old. Half of the ten receivers entering training camp are rookies. I'm not expecting great (or even above average) things on the surface from these guys, but I do expect this season to be one of big strides made in the development process. This team still lacks a true No. 1 receiver, and while Ted Ginn will most likely play that role this year, I'm not sure he's cut out to be the top guy. The team doesn't have a guy of that caliber on the roster, so that's something that will have to be addressed after this season. Until then, this hungry group of youngsters will have to make due.

Here's a closer look at the individual receivers currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Ted Ginn
For his rookie season, Ginn certainly didn't quiet all the nay-sayers who criticized his high draft position, but nothing short of being in contention for Rookie Of The Year honors would have done that. Those lofty expectations were flat out unreasonable. The performance he did turn in was rather pedestrian, but he showed enough promise to to back up the notion that he can indeed be a starter in this league - probably not a true No. 1, but I don't doubt his ability to be a quality starter. With either Ernest Wilford or Derek Hagan starting opposite him, Ginn will be matched with a big possession-type receiver. That's a good complement for Ginn's blazing speed deep-threat prowess. Ginn showed that he's tough enough to catch a ball while running through the middle of the field, but his true value to this offense is as the deep bomb target. Besides, I don't know how long he'd last, given his slight build, if his prime role involved him taking constant beatings. For his sophomore season, I think Ginn will catch between 50-60 passes for 750-800 yards.

As far as his return duties, I was pleased with what Ginn showed, but he has several areas that he needs to improve on. Most importantly, he needs to stop calling for so many fair catches. He called for 15 of them out of only 39 punts. That's too much. He's a bonafide weapon as a return man, but he's only a weapon if he's actually returning the ball. Obviously some of his fair catches were smart (I'm not advocating that he stop calling for them altogether), but too many were simply bad judgments, made when no one was even close to him. Part of the reason was probably rookie jitters, so hopefully he will show that he is past that this year. He also needs to work on securing the ball when fielding kicks and punts, as he had several bad muffs. Overall, I'm not concerned with Ginn being overworked as both a starting receiver and a returner this season, but in the future I would not mind seeing him cede punt return duties to another player.

Ernest Wilford
Wilford is Miami's biggest receiver, standing 6'4" tall, and I think he'll probably begin the season as the starter. I'm not sure he'll hang on to that job for the entire season though. You see, Wilford has always played best in a reserve role. His lone season (2006) as a starter in Jacksonville paled in comparison with his other seasons when he was the third receiver. He is 29 years old, so maybe it's too much to expect that he'll now prove capable of starting. Rather, I think he makes a very good third receiver, who presents a gigantic target in the redzone. His main value to this team will come in his ability to move the chains. Over his career, he has turned an amazing 77% of his receptions into first downs. That kind of ability to keep drives alive will be key for Miami's young quarterbacks to get in a rhythm.

Derek Hagan
If anyone is going to unseat Wilford for the starting job, I think it will be Hagan. Before he was let go, receivers coach Terry Robiskie criticized Hagan for being too immature and unfocused. With all the drops that Hagan has had since coming into the league two years ago, I was with Robiskie. Hagan had never had a real problem with drops in college, and then over two seasons in limited action with Miami he's dropped 8 passes. But this is his third season, and he appears to be turning a corner. Parcells and Sporano have heaped praise on him, and it seems like Hagan may finally have his head where it belongs. His physical tools are not the problem. He's big (6'2"), tough, and has shown the ability to get open. He's also only 24 years old. It is far too early to give up on Hagan just yet. His ceiling as a starter is greater than Wilford's, and if you combine that with the fact that Wilford plays better as a third string guy, then this situation just sets itself up for Hagan supplanting Wilford as the starter opposite Ginn at some point this season - perhaps even as early as opening day. Hagan likely won't have a great season in terms of conventional numbers, but I'm confident he's going to show the team that he is worth keeping around as part of the future.

Greg Camarillo
Camarillo will forever be remembered by Miami fans for making the season-saving catch last year against Baltimore and ensuring that Miami would win at least one game. But besides that, he's a pretty useful player to have around. He is a quality gunner on special teams, and he can hold down the fourth receiver spot. He's got pretty good size and he catches the ball very well. At 26 years old, he's still fresh too. What's not to like about this guy? When you get down to your fourth and fifth receivers you are looking for someone who can fill multiple roles. Camarillo does exactly that, and he does it well.

David Kircus
Kircus is a tall and fast receiver who has had his career derailed by leg injuries and legal troubles off the field. That is not a combination that I would be looking for. Granted, the coaching staff has singled him out on a few occasions to praise him, but I'd rather see the fifth receiver spot go to one of the rookies or a waiver-wire pickup with more upside and fewer injury concerns.

Davone Bess
Bess' college numbers look incredible at first glance, but they were largely a product of Hawaii's run and shoot offense. Still, Bess has impressed the coaching staff so far in minicamps. He's small at only 5'10" and he's not fast enough to be a deep threat, but his route-running is excellent and he has the agility to get open on a consistent basis. He also offers some return abilities to boot. Bess is probably the best rookie receiver on the Dolphins roster, and his potential to turn into a serviceable #3 or #4 receiver down the road warrants his inclusion on the 53-man roster.

Jayson Foster
Miami signed Foster as an undrafted college free agent and has begun the process of turning the former college QB into a receiver and return specialist. He's absolutely tiny (5'7", 170 lbs.), but he is like a Swiss Army knife combined with a sparkplug. He's real fun to watch (his Youtube highlight reel is now legendary among Dolphins fans) and he has a lot of people rooting for him to succeed. However, the fact is that he's a 5'7" kid who has never played receiver before. I'm not writing him off, but I do think he'd best be served by a year on the practice squad. Perhaps he could eventually take over Ginn's punt return duties next season while serving as a backup receiver and gadget-play extraordinaire.

Selwyn Lymon
Lymon, an undrafted college free agent, is another big, tall (6'3") possession receiver that Parcells and Jeff Ireland love. Of course, he comes with several questions about his maturity, work ethic and character. If he shows mental growth throughout training camp, he may lock up a spot on the practice squad.

Justin Wynn
No one really knows much about Wynn since he hasn't played organized football since 2004. He's a real longshot to make the practice squad, obviously.

John Dunlap
After Tab Perry was lost for the season with an injury and David Kircus hurt his hamstring again, the team went out and signed Dunlap as injury insurance. And that's really all he is. He's a camp body whose main job is to lessen the reps that the other guys go through each day in practice. He never impressed in college, so it would be quite a story if he made even the practice squad.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. Ted Ginn
2. Ernest Wilford
3. Derek Hagan
4. Greg Camarillo
5. Davone Bess
6. Jayson Foster (practice squad)
7. Selwyn Lymon (practice squad)

Training camp battle to watch: Wilford vs. Hagan for the starting spot opposite Ginn.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BREAKING: Jason Taylor traded to Redskins

[Update 10:30 PM] It looks like the trade has indeed been finalized, and Miami not only gets a 2009 second-round draft pick but also a 2010 sixth-round draft pick. [End update]

Well, Matt Light is probably on his knees thanking the high heavens that the man who has made him his personal whipping boy throughout his career is now out of the AFC.

According to Jay Glazer, the Washington Redskins have agreed to trade a 2009 second-round draft pick to Miami for DE Jason Taylor. The trade should be finalized sometime tonight.

This move was precipitated by a rash of injuries to Washington's defensive ends on just the first day of training camp. Both Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, making the Redskins desperate for DE help.

It was an unfortunate turn of events for Washington, but things couldn't have played out much better for Taylor and Miami. This trade gives both sides an easy way to avoid the inevitable collision that was fast approaching with training camp opening up in about a week. Miami gets excellent value for a player who is committed to playing only one more season, and Taylor gets to play for a contender.

It's funny how a situation that can seem so toxic can miraculously be solved in so little time and with such ease.

I'm going to miss Jason dearly, but this move was absolutely the right one. That second-round pick should turn into another cornerstone of this team as it develops into a future contender.

It will be strange though to see Jason Taylor playing against his brother-in-law Zach Thomas for the first time in their careers.

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Running backs and fullbacks

Up next in the training camp positional previews are the running backs and fullbacks.

What to expect: Miami's offense is predicated on a power running game and Ronnie Brown was one of (if not the) best running backs in the league last season until he went down with a season-ending injury. Ricky Williams' return to football was also quickly ended by injury. So Miami enters training camp with its top two runners still mending wounds from last season. A lot of pressure will be put on the running game to keep the offense competitive, so it will be important to spread the carries amongst an array of backs until Brown and Williams can prove that they are 100% healthy. It makes no sense to risk the long term health of either by running them too hard too early.

Here's a closer look at the individual running backs currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

Ronnie Brown
Truthfully, the situation with Ronnie's ACL injury scares me. I know that he's said he is far ahead of schedule in his rehab, but these injuries take 12-18 months to fully heal. When the season begins, he'll have had only about 10 months of rehab time. It will take a big leap of faith to just assume that he will be ready to take a pounding from day one. What athlete doesn't say that they are right on or ahead of schedule? I'm not going to take his word for it, and the team doctors certainly can't. It would be a disaster for Ronnie to come back too soon and reinjure himself to the point where he is hampered next season or even for the rest of his career. As I will continually preach in these previews, this season is all about the future. Ronnie's health is a huge component of that. Hopefully, he will see reduced reps in training camp. Even if he is ready to go to start the season, which I think he will be, I don't want to see him carrying the ball 18 times a game. For at least the first month, Ricky Williams should probably see the lion's share of the workload. That plan may upset the people who only care about Ronnie compiling stats, but it's what's best for his health.

As far as when he does get on the field to play, I expect Brown to improve on his fantastic showing from a year ago. Of course, I don't expect him to pick up right where he left off, but by season's end he should be churning out yards and first downs in abundance. Brown is a multifaceted threat who can pound the ball between the tackles as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. His great hands were put to use last year on plenty of screen passes and dump-offs and I would expect that to continue. The bottom line is that Ronnie Brown is a young stud running back, but Miami fans should probably temper their expectations of him this season, at least in the beginning as he gets his legs back under him.

Ricky Williams
Love him or hate him, Ricky is back and according to OTA and minicamp reports he is looking like the best player on the field. In a way that's not so surprising given his pedigree and relatively fresh legs. Like I said above, Ricky is going to have an important job this season, as Miami looks to be adopting a true running back-by-committee approach which will save Ronnie and Ricky's legs throughout a whole season. He's going to need to prove he is fully recovered from his pectoral surgery, but that is much less worrisome than Ronnie's knee. Ricky's style is similar to Ronnie's - a bruiser with speed who has great catching ability. I don't think Ricky will match his 2005 numbers (the last time he split carries with Ronnie), but he should come pretty close.

Jalen Parmele
Parmele was one of Miami's sixth-round draft picks this year, and already he's been handed the third string running back spot. Of course, he'll have to battle to keep that spot in training camp, but I suspect he'll be able to do that. He was a two year starter at Toledo, and during those final two seasons he amassed 2,642 rushing yards. He fits right in with the Parcells prototype for running backs as he is a solid 6'0", 222 lbs. of power. He's not going to outrun anyone to the sidelines, but Miami's offense is built more around running between the tackles anyway. He needs to work on his receiving skills, but I'm confident he could step up as the fulltime backup running back if the team decided to trade away Ricky before the trade deadline. Otherwise, look for Parmele to get a couple carries a game, particularly in short yardage situations.

Patrick Cobbs
Cobbs has basically made his living as a preseason warrior. He is always impressive in preseason games, and then when the season roles around he can never quite seem to earn significant playing time. He's a useful special teams player, but he only managed four special teams tackles last season. With Miami's revamped special teams units, he may not have a spot on this team anymore. His running abilities certainly don't warrant an automatic spot.

Reagan Mauia
Mauia had an underwhelming season as a rookie, and I suspect some of that had to do with learning all the assignments. His offseason transgression in an alehouse parking lot certainly didn't help his standing with this new regime. He's young and has significant upside, but he needs to prove that he can be the powerful lead blocker most thought he would be coming out of college. Granted, he's only been playing fullback for a couple seaons now so he is likely just getting comfortable there. He's not a real threat to run the ball and he can't catch very well out of the backfield, making him one-dimensional as a blocker. In this offense, that's probably okay. In fact, this offense may rely more on two tight end sets for additional blocking rather than on a regular fullback. If that's the case, then Mauia's value takes a huge hit. Still, it's good to have a true fullback on the roster who can clear holes for the running backs, and Mauia is the best option for that kind of player at the moment.

Boomer Grigsby
Grigsby was transitioned from linebacker to fullback while in Kansas City, but I don't think he's ever shown the ability to be an above average blocker in the running game. That's why I think Mauia has a leg up on Grigsby for the fullback job. But Grigsby still deserves a spot on this team simply for his special teams skills. He's excellent as a blocker and wedge-buster on kick coverages and returns. Grigsby is a useful player to keep around since he will be a stud on special teams and can offer depth at fullback and even at linebacker if the team were to ever find itself in the kind of predicament that the Bengals did last year when they barely had three healthy linebackers.

Lex Hilliard
Hilliard was another of Miami's sixth-round draft picks. He's an interesting hybrid halfback/fullback player. He offers yet another hefty, powerful between the tackles runner who can also block very well. At the NFL level, I see Hilliard being used more as a fullback than a halfback, but he could take on a Mike Alstott role as a short yardage specialist. Hilliard may find himself on the practice squad for a season, but if he shows that he can play special teams, I think he'll crack the 53-man roster.


Here's my predicted depth chart:

Running back
1. Ronnie Brown
2. Ricky Williams
3. Jalen Parmele
4. Lex Hilliard

1. Reagan Mauia
2. Boomer Grigsby

Training camp battle to watch: Mauia vs. Grigsby for the starting fullback position

Friday, July 18, 2008

Training Camp Positional Preview 2008: Quarterbacks

Training camp practices are set to begin on July 26, so now is a good time to start my annual practice of sorting through the personnel of each position to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the team as it heads into camp. These positional previews will also give us an idea of which training camp battles will be the most heated when it comes time to decide who fills those last few roster spots.

Last year, I chose to start my previews on the defensive side of the ball because that unit was considered to be much more stable than the offense was at that point in time. Well, it's quite a stretch to consider either the offense or defense a stable unit heading into training camp this season, but I think the offense is a better place to start this time around.

The look at the offense will begin with the most important position on the field, the quarterbacks.

What to expect: No one has any idea how this will turn out. Expectations for this group are all over the place. The only thing we know for sure is that there is a heap of uncertainty surrounding all three of the guys competing for the starting job. I think the smartest route to take is that of giving John Beck every opportunity to prove himself before turning to Josh McCown, who has repeatedly proven that he is replacement material, at best. I think Henne should be developed on the bench this year, at least as long as possible. Miami's offense doesn't have nearly enough talent to help anyone who lines up behind center, so things could get ugly quickly and I would not be surprised if there are several QB switches during the year. The key is for the coaching staff to have patience with Beck when he does get a chance to play. This season isn't about winning now. The team needs to know what it has in Beck. If they feel he isn't the answer after the season, then they can concentrate on moving Henne up the depth chart.

Here's a closer look at the individual quarterbacks currently on the roster and what can be expected of them this coming season:

John Beck
There can be no beating around the bush here. Beck's rookie season was a disaster. A significant bulk of his positive production came in Week 17 garbage time against the Bengals. There were hardly any starting QBs who played worse than Beck last season. He took too many sacks, was easily flustered in the pocket, and made too many careless decisions that led to turnovers. Of course, this isn't a purely one-sided story. After all, he was a rookie who should never have been playing to begin with. Cam Cameron's plan was to keep Beck on the bench for the whole season, and when he was inserted into the starting lineup, it was with almost no practice reps with the first team. Talk about a recipe for disaster. I was very happy with his mental toughness though. He never quit, even after taking a beating.

He is much older (27) than most second year players, so Miami doesn't have all the time in the world to wait with Beck. I think it's safe to say that his five game showing last year was not the height of what he can accomplish. On the other hand, we pretty much know the height of what McCown can accomplish, and it's not quite even average. So why should the team waste precious games on McCown, if they can give them to Beck and truly see how he adapts over an extended period of time as the sure starter. He's adjusted his throwing motion this offseason to try to prevent as many balls being batted down at the line, so hopefully we will see some dividends there. The most important thing for Beck's success this season, however, will be his pocket presence. He must calm down when he drops back or else his massive turnover problem will persist. Ultimately, I think Beck will win the starting job in training camp. After that, it's anyone's guess as to how long he'll hold on to it.

Josh McCown
As I said, the Dolphins know what to expect from McCown, and that does not include him all of a sudden becoming a serviceable starting QB. For all the people who argue that McCown has simply been a victim of being on bad teams....what do you call the situation he is stepping into? This is probably the worst team McCown's ever been on, so don't expect the new supporting cast to suddenly raise his level of play. Also, for anyone who thought Beck had a fumbling problem last season, just take a look at McCown's career: 39 fumbles in 31 starts.

McCown's strengths are his athleticism and willingness to take risks. However, his skill set is hardly suited for a starting QB because opponents usually figure him out very quickly. He's never really had extended success as a starter because although he can surprise people in small amounts as a reliever off the bench, he can't change his game when the defense finally adjusts to him. That's why I think McCown would be best utilized as the backup QB who can come into the game if the starter is struggling. Most importantly is the fact that McCown's ceiling has been reached. Beck and Henne still have the potential to at least match, if not exceed, McCown's level of production. This season should be all about the future, and McCown is not the future.

Chad Henne
Like Beck a year ago, Henne was a second-tier QB coming out the draft. As a four year starter at Michigan, Henne has as much starting experience as a rookie can have, but I still don't think he's ready to start at the NFL level. If Beck's experience can teach us anything, it's that Henne's development his first year should be protected on the bench. I wouldn't have a problem with getting him some starts once the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but until then, Beck should be taking most of the snaps. The problem with Henne is his consistency. All the scouting reports say that he can be spot on with his accuracy and then suddenly miss his targets by a mile. That's not a good sign. His college career completion percentage was under 60%, and his senior season was his worst one. His mobility is nonexistent so it's good that he's plenty tough and has solid pocket awareness. Henne was chosen by this regime as the young QB to be developed for the future, and I think that development process requires a significant time of simply learning from the bench. It's not his physical tools that need work, it's his decision making and consistency.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
1. John Beck
2. Josh McCown
3. Chad Henne

Training camp battle to watch: John Beck vs. Josh McCown for the starting job on opening day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

(Don't) Keep Choppin' Wood, Josh

If you haven't heard already, one of the guys who is supposed to be challenging for the starting quarterback job in Miami sustained an injury to his throwing hand in what has to be one of the most ludicrous displays of common sense I've heard of.

Josh McCown cut the index finger on his throwing hand after (get this)....he was holding a piece of wood while his younger brother Luke (QB for the Bucs) cut it with a chainsaw. The chainsaw hit a knob and the chainsaw jumped, cutting his finger.

Now, just take a second to reread that sentence.

Maybe it's just me, but anything that could involve "jumping" chainsaws seems like the kind of activities a professional QB should avoid.

McCown, who relies a great deal on his hands to make millions of dollars, somehow arrived at the notion that it was a good idea to hold a piece of wood in place while another person brought spinning blades down in the general vicinity of said hands.

This sounds like something taken right out of The Stooges - except that it actually happened.

Luckily, this incident happened back on July 3, and McCown says the injury was not serious and that he will be fine when training camp opens.

You'd think that pro football players would have got the message to stay away from all wood cutting activities after Jack Del Rio's "Keep choppin' wood" fiasco from 2003.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Langford signs, only two rookies left to go

Rookie DE Kendall Langford has signed a four-year contract with the Dolphins.

Miami has now signed seven of its nine draft picks.

Here is the list of draft picks, noting those six who have signed thus far in bold print:

1. (1) LT Jake Long
2. (32) DE Phillip Merling
3. (57) QB Chad Henne
4. (66) DE Kendall Langford
5. (110) G Shawn Murphy
6. (176) RB Jalen Parmele
7. (195) G Donald Thomas
8. (204) RB Lex Hilliard
9. (245) DT Lionel Dotson

Also, as a programming note, be sure to check back in the coming weeks as I go through my annual roster analysis by position and predict who makes the final cut.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hey Miami, Stay Away From Favre

You've probably all seen this before:

A prominent player is rumored to be available either by trade or an imminent release from his team. In the wake of this news, your team's message board is instantly flooded with posts like "OMG! We need to get (insert player's name)." It doesn't even seem to matter who that player is. If he's a big name, he must be brought on-board - logic be damned!

I call this type of fan the "compulsive collector." Any big name is good enough, as long as it's a big name. Factors like how they fit into a team's scheme or salary cap are not important. These fans are unique in their maddeningly short-sighted view of team dynamics and the components of sustained success. They would likely rather cheer for a lousy team stocked with recognizable players than patiently stay with a group of youngsters as they develop into the stars of the future.

I expect this kind of behavior from a percentage of fans. After all, for some people, the most important aspect of their fanship is how much they can brag about the moves their team has recently made, regardless of how they turn out in the future. There's rarely any accountability with this type of boasting, and most importantly, any move can be made to look good since no actual games have been played that will prove otherwise.

On the other hand, I generally don't expect this irrational viewpoint to come from the sportswriters who are paid to be the voices most in tune with the needs and dynamics of a single team. And yet, I had to read through Greg Cote's article in the Miami Herald, assuring me that Brett Favre is a match made in heaven for the Miami Dolphins.

And yes, this is the same narcissistic, soon-to-be 39 year old quarterback and the same one-win team that you're thinking of.

My only question to Mr. Cote and to anyone else who agrees with him: How, in your right mind, can you rationally believe that Brett Favre is a positive addition to this franchise?

I will not argue that Favre is far and away a better quarterback than any of the three guys currently on Miami's roster. I agree that having Favre line up under center in 2008 would be worth a couple of wins by itself. And I agree that the Dolphins would be a far better team in 2008 with Favre than without him.

However, there are two giant problems that still exist.

Miami won a single game last year...barely. While they have improved over the offseason, it is still optimistic to think the team can scrape together five wins this year. Even under the assumption that Favre automatically adds a couple wins, the Dolphins still fall woefully short of playoff contention. Let's stop kidding ourselves. This is not a team that is one star QB away from bursting back onto the playoff scene.

And that brings me to the second giant problem. Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano have all but shouted at the top of their lungs that this franchise is fully invested in a rebuilding mode. Sure, they want to win as much as possible now, but only within the strict confines of the rebuilding plan. For too long, the Dolphins have toyed with rebuilding, without ever actually committing to it. A half-assed rebuilding effort is a sign of indecisiveness and denial.

The key to rebuilding any team is a giant infusion of youth at all positions. That's why Zach Thomas was cut and Akin Ayodele brought in; it's why Marty Booker was shown the door while Ted Ginn was elevated to the starting lineup; it's why Parcells and Ireland have been shopping Jason Taylor all offseason long in the hopes of getting some future value. A team looking to contend would not even consider getting rid of Taylor.

For many fans, and perhaps Mr. Cote, it's just too hard to accept that the guys running this team do not realistically expect to contend this season.

Young players can only develop for so long on the bench. John Beck probably should not have played at all last season, but 2008 is a different story. This new regime needs to see what it has in its young QBs. Beck has to be given every opportunity to start this season and show what he can bring to the table. If Favre comes to Miami, that's another entire season of Beck's career wasted on the bench. And once the season ends, with Miami watching the playoffs from home, what will the team have gained - a few extra bucks from selling tickets to those who want to see Favre? The 2009 season will simply seem like deja vu, with fans and pundits everywhere wondering exactly what the Dolphins have at QB.

These are the questions that must be answered now.

And I havent' even mentioned that Favre's entire career has been spent in a West Coast offense, which is nothing like what Miami intends to run. Accomodating Favre's system would only further hamper every young offensive player's development into the system that is meant to be in place for years to come.

I just want Mr. Cote and those who share his feelings to answer a simple question. Is it more likely that the Miami Dolphins compete for a championship in 2008 with Brett Favre or that they do so with John Beck/Chad Henne over the next half decade? Understand that this is a one or the other proposition. The team cannot do both. Bringing in Brett Favre as a rental completely disrupts the development process of Miami's young talent.

If you still don't agree, let me put it this way: Bringing in Brett Favre would be like gambling on a one-in-a-million lottery ticket while sticking to the rebuilding plan is like investing in a mutual fund and patiently watching the funds mature.

And any Scrubs fan will remember what Dr. Cox said when asked if he wanted to put in some money for lottery tickets: "Oh gosh, Carla! I would, I really would! But you see, I already set fire to a big pile of money just this morning."

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Zach Thomas gets some much deserved praise

For being one of the best middle linebackers in the past 15 years, Zach Thomas gets surprisingly little national media recognition. (Not that he finds anything wrong with that, I'm sure.)

That's why it's nice to see Thomas getting well-deserved praise from a coaches survey conducted by ESPN.

The survey asked every head coach in the NFL to name the league's smartest defensive player. Anonymity was provided to the coaches, and they were encouraged not to choose one of their own players. 30 coaches responded to the survey.

What should be unsurprising to any serious football follower is that Zach received the most votes in his favor (6).

It's Thomas' incredible mental acuity for the game of football that has, in part, helped him rack up an average of 7 tackles for loss a year (not to mention all of his other fantastic stats).

So even though it took a coaches survey to do it, at least the national media got this one right. Congrats, Zach.