Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Long selected to Pro Bowl; Crowder to IR; practice squad update


To no one's surprise, Jake Long has been selected to this year's Pro Bowl.

He is Miami's only representative on the roster, but that could change as players get hurt or substitutions have to be made for the Super Bowl participants.

FB Lousaka Polite was probably snubbed, as LeRon McClain was selected over him, but otherwise there was no other clear cut position where Miami should have had another representative.

In other news, Channing Crowder has been placed on Injured Reserve with a foot injury, ending his season. Some people have speculated that he may have suffered a Lisfranc fracture similar to the injury sustained by Ronnie Brown this year. We won't know for sure until the swelling goes down and doctors are able to get a more accurate scan.

Also, the Dolphins adjusted their practice squad last week, cutting G Mark Lewis and signing P Britton Colquitt. But today, the Broncos signed Colquitt to their active roster off the Dolphins' practice squad, leaving an open space to fill.

The move was a bit strange since Brandon Fields has been playing pretty well and there haven't been any reports of a possible injury. Perhaps the team wanted to see how strong Colquitt's kickoff leg is?

Anyway, Miami is now left with an open roster spot on the 53-man roster, as well as one on the practice squad.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Week 16 vs. Texans Prediction

Like last week, let's get right into this week's prediction post with an email from a reader:

If I remember correctly the Dolphins have a losing record against the Texans. Which is the better offense? Which is the better defense? What do the Dolphins need to do to win?

You're right that the Dolphins have a losing record against the Texans. In fact, Miami has never beaten them in the four times the two teams have been matched up with one another.

Miami will need to get their first win against this franchise if they want to entertain any slim playoff hopes past this weekend.

As far as offenses go, while Miami's offense is decent, Houston's can be quite scary at times - when they aren't turning the ball over. And Houston's offense does turn the ball over a lot. They are 24th in the NFL when it comes to turnovers per drive, at 0.164. Of course, Miami is not that much better, sitting at 0.154 TOs/drive.

Houston's offense is also incredibly one-dimensional. Their passing offense has a ridiculously good 43.7% DVOA, while their rushing offense is an abysmal -12.3% DVOA. But that passing attack is so lethal that it can make up for the rushing deficiencies. So I would say that Houston has the better overall offense, but Miami's ground attack is stronger than Houston's.

As far as defenses go, both teams have a very similar DVOA - Miami at 3.8% and Houston at 5.4%. But if you look at Weighted DVOA, which discounts earlier games as less important to current success, you'll see that Houston's defense is playing slightly better than Miami's - 3.6% for Miami compared to -1.4% for Houston. (Remember, when it comes to defense, negative DVOA is better). Houston's defense has a particular deficiency defending against the pass, while they are decent at stopping the run. The Texans pass defense struggles most noticeably against opposing teams #1 and #2 WRs in addition to tight ends. Surprisingly, they are also the best defense in the league at defending running backs in the passing game.

In the end, I'd give the slightest edge to Houston's defense.

In order to win this game, Miami will have to do two things. 1) Run a pass-oriented offense. They can't let Chad Henne's copious amount of interceptions in recent weeks deter them from going after Houston's glaring weakness on defense. And 2) The offense needs to reverse its habit of turning the ball over so frequently.

I'm torn on how this game will turn out, but I'm ultimately picking the Texans to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 9-5.

Last week's loss to the Titans slashed Miami's playoff chances to 8.9%

Monday, December 21, 2009

Practice squad update: McCaskill out, Feinga in

Last week, Miami made an alteration to its practice squad, releasing the recently signed T Nevin McCaskill and replacing him with G Ray Feinga.

Feinga (6'4, 337) was an undrafted free agent out of BYU this year. He spent time in the offseason with the Rams and Chargers.

Here's a draft analysis of Feinga from SI:

Feinga has been a solid lineman at BYU and displays skill in pass protection or as a run blocker. He possesses enticing size and will get consideration in the middle rounds from a power running team.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week 15 @ Titans Prediction

Let's get right into talking about the Titans with an email from a reader:

How do you rate the Titans' offense and defense? With Haynesworth with the Redskins will it be easier for the Dolphins offense to move the ball?

Miami and Tennessee are similar in that for both teams, their offenses are their strengths and their defenses are their weakness, although not to quite the same degree.

Tennesse's offense, while not elite, is an above average unit, due primarily to a runner in Chris Johnson who is simply phenomenal. Their passing attack is not nearly as dangerous, although it has been getting better with the insertion of Vince Young back into the lineup. But Young and WR Nate Washington will be playing with injuries, which might slow down the passing game even more. The Titans offense presents itself in such a way that Miami will likely have to take its chances and bring 8 or 9 guys into the box almost at all times in order to contain Johnson and spy Young.

The Titans defense, on the other hand, is bad. Their pass defense is downright awful, while their run defense is merely below average. And missing out on Albert Haynesworth has definitely played a role in this defense's downfall. But Miami's game plan shouldn't be to rely on the run. I think they should once again go into the game planning to use a pass-heavy offense with a complementary ground game. Tennessee is one of the worst teams in the league at defending opposing tight ends, as evidenced by their 31.8% DVOA (31st in the league) in that area. Miami should look to exploit that glaring weakness and get Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos heavily involved in the offense this week.

Both Miami and Tennessee started off the season very poorly and have only recently begun to play their best football. The Titans have completely erased the stench of their 0-6 start and are a dangerous matchup for the Dolphins. The game may turn into a shootout, but I think Miami will somehow pull it out in the end.

I'm picking the Dolphins to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 9-4.

Last week's win over the Jaguars boosted Miami's playoff chances to 27%

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week 14 @Jaguars Prediction

One week Miami loses to a team that is far inferior; the next week they beat a team that was seemingly far superior than they.

It's all culminated in the Dolphins standing at 6-6, with a quarter of the season left to play, and the playoff picture in the AFC a cloudy mess. Both the AFC East division title and a wildcard spot are still very much in play for Miami.

Of course, the margin for error is almost nonexistent. There's a good chance Miami will need to win out in order to advance to the postseason.

And up first in that quest is the Jaguars.

The Jaguars are a strange case because they have a winning record (7-5) but the numbers don't indicate that they are a very good team. Most strikingly, the Jaguars have actually been outscored by 48 points over the course of the season, yet still have a winning record. Their offense is certainly capable, led by MJD, but they will likely be without up-and-coming WR Mike Sims-Walker who is doubtful with an injury.

Also doubtful for the Jaguars is DT John Henderson and CB Rashean Mathis. That will definitely hurt an already below average defense. Miami's offense should not have issues scoring points in this game. So it will likely come down to Miami's defense stepping up and containing MJD and David Garrard.

I'd also like to mention that just as I was about to eat some crow regarding Jake Grove, I must politely renege. One of my main gripes was his inescapable injury history, and it is taking its toll once again. This will be the third straight game that Grove will miss (actually more like three and a half if you count the time he missed in the Panthers game). This team is paying out the wazoo for a guy they had to know would miss significant time with injury troubles. And if they chose to overlook that, then shame on them.

Regardless, I'm picking the Dolphins to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 8-4.

Last week's win over the Patriots boosted Miami's playoff chances to 22.9%

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 Pass Defense Review (Part 3)

Yesterday, I looked at how Miami's special teams coverage players have fared through three quarters of the season. Today, I turn my attention to the pass defense statistics.

Below, I've created a table of every player who has recorded a sack, quarterback hit, interception, or pass defense. Take a look:



Scks
QH
INT
PD
Jason Allen



1
Will Allen

2
2
6
Charlie Anderson
1



Ryan Baker
0.5
1


Yeremiah Bell
1.5
1
1
6
Channing Crowder
1
2
1
2
Tyrone Culver


1
4
Vontae Davis


3
8
Jason Ferguson



1
Nathan Jones


2
8
Kendall Langford
1.5
3


Tony McDaniel
1.5
2

1
Phillip Merling
2.5
4

2
Joey Porter
7
11

1
Sean Smith



11
Paul Soliai



1
Randy Starks
6
13


Jason Taylor
6
6
1
4
Reggie Torbor

2
1
4
Cameron Wake
4.5
8


Gibril Wilson
1
3

6
TOTAL
34
58
10
62


Well, the good news is that Channing Crowder finally got on the board with some plays. Akin Ayodele, however, remains conspicuously absent as he is the only regular defensive player missing from the list.

Joey Porter has stepped it up over the past quarter-season, more than doubling his half-season sack and quarterback hit totals from 2.5 to 7 and 5 to 11, respectively. Much of that has to do with being healthy enough to play, of course.

Randy Starks is continuing his monster season, leading all players with a combined 19 sacks and QHs.

In the secondary, this team is not forcing enough turnovers. Sean Smith, for all his purported ball-hawking skills, has yet to get an interception (or a sack or QH for that matter).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Special Teams Coverage Review (2009 Part 3)

With 12 games in the books, the Dolphins are 75% of the way through the season. And so it's time once again to take a look at how the special teams coverage guys are stacking up in terms of tackles.

In just four games since the last coverage review I did, Nathan Jones has recorded 7 special teams tackles. He now has a whopping 17 on the season, and a forced fumble on coverage as well. This is pretty incredible since last year he recorded 9 STTs all season, and Miami's top tacklers on coverage in 2008 (Jason Allen and Patrick Cobbs) recorded 16 each on the season. Jones has surpassed those numbers in just 12 games. He's simply a beast covering kicks right now. In fact, he seems to have taken over Jason Allen's role as the top coverage guy.

Lex Hilliard and Tyrone Culver are also making their impacts felt, with 12 and 11 STTs respectively.

Here's how all the players stack up according to special teams tackles:


Tkl
Ast
Comb
FF
Jason Allen
7
1
8

Charlie Anderson
7
2
9

Akin Ayodele
1

1

Dan Carpenter
1
1
2

Chris Clemons
4
1
5

Patrick Cobbs
1

1

Tyrone Culver
8
3
11

Vontae Davis
4

4

John Denney
6
1
7

Brandon Fields
1

1

J.D. Folsom
1

1

Brian Hartline
4

4

Joey Haynos

1
1

Lex Hilliard
10
2
12

Nathan Jones
13
4
17
1
Reggie Torbor
7
2
9

Cameron Wake
5
2
7

Erik Walden
6
1
7

Gibril Wilson
3

3

Murtha to IR, Oglesby re-signed; practice squad update

A flurry of roster moves have happened over the past few days.

First, TE David Martin, who was on injured reserve, was released by the team. I'm not really sure of the reasoning behind this move. Perhaps Martin felt he was back to full strength and wanted a chance to sign with some other team.

T Lydon Murtha, who was claimed off Detroit's practice squad in October, has been placed on IR with an ankle injury that he sustained in practice on Wednesday.

Taking his place is CB Evan Oglesby, who was on Miami's roster for four days last month.

The Dolphins also tweaked its practice squad, releasing CB Will Billingsley and signing T Nevin McCaskill.

McCaskill (6'4, 315) is 25 years old. He was an undrafted free agent out of Hampton in 2007. He has spent time with the Bills, Eagles, Jets, and Packers. He was on the Packers' active roster for the final three games in 2008. He can play both guard and tackle.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • WR Julius Pruit
  • TE John Nalbone
  • RB Tristan Davis
  • LB J.D. Folsom
  • S Nate Ness
  • G/C Mark Lewis
  • WR Taurus Johnson
  • T Nevin McCaskill

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 13 vs. Patriots Recap

Wins against the Patriots are always the sweetest aren't they?

Of course, it does sting a little bit knowing that Miami should not have lost to Buffalo the week before, and if they hadn't, the Dolphins would be leading the AFC East right now. Oh well, they made their bed and now they have to sleep in it - which likely means winning out if they want to make the playoffs.

But let's get back to Sunday's excellent win over the Pats:

  • I, for one, thought the game was over once New England went ahead 14-0 like it was nothing. Kudos to this team for not giving up. Because for a moment there it looked like they might have just been throwing the towel in on the season.
  • Chad Henne has made a lot of strides since he took over the reigns of this offense, but the one that may be most noticeable has only started to happen over the last three weeks or so, and that is his awareness in the pocket and his avoidance of sacks. This offense can't afford negative plays, so limiting the number of sacks he takes has really helped.
  • That being said, he needs to work on his accuracy and touch. His sub-60% completion rate is not good enough. And missing those wide open throws to Fasano and Polite could have been killer. He also needs to do a better job of finding throwing lanes to avoid having his passes batted at the line rather than hoping a lane will emerge for him.
  • See everyone, good things will happen when you feature the pass in your offense. Hopefully we see more of this strategy moving forward.
  • Channing Crowder finally made an impact play. Of course, it was about the easiest interception he could have had, but still, at this point no one is complaining. Also, Cameron Wake's first step on that play was ridiculous. That boy has some burst.
  • Jake Long is realllllyyy lucky the refs didn't call his false start on the fourth down play that Miami converted near the end of the fourth quarter.
  • Sean Smith is really struggling. I've pointed out his embarrassing lack of physicality seemingly every week, and it was on display again, as he whiffed on several tackles, including one on Welker that almost resulted in a first down if not for some help defenders coming to save the day. And of course, the 81-yard TD to Sam Aiken was just horrible. Not only didn't he get his head around to spot the ball, choosing instead to just blindly hold up an arm (while possible jumping negative inches) but then he put no effort into bringing Aiken down once he had the ball. Smith was supposed to have such good ball skills, but he seems unable to get his head turned around to make a play on the ball, so he usually just keeps running downfield and puts a hand up. And for a 6'4 guy to get outjumped is pretty bad, but Smith doesn't seem to want to leave the ground to make a play. He really needs to step his game up - I know he has it in him.
  • Bess, Camarillo, and Hartline ran some excellent routes in this game. And Hartline is becoming something of a redzone technician - the type of guy Patrick Turner is supposed to be.
  • If the team is going to keep trotting Pat White out there, let him throw the damn ball!
  • Congrats to the defense for finally stepping up in the fourth quarter. I think they realized it might be better in some situations like that to only rush 3 or 4 guys and drop the rest in coverage. If nothing else, it prevents the big play and keeps the team alive to fight another down.

Losing to the Bills and then beating the Pats....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week 13 vs. Patriots Prediction

With the Pats losing last Monday to the Saints, the Dolphins really missed out on crucial opportunity to make the stakes for this week's game the division lead when they lost to the Bills. Now, they have to win just to say alive for the wildcard spot.

New England is obviously a much better team than they showed against the Saints, and no one should expect them to play so poorly two weeks in a row.

As usual, New England will score its points, especially against Miami's porous defense. The key will be to get a turnover or two in the midst of the scoring to at least give the offense a chance to catch up.

I just don't think the Dolphins will be able to pull off the upset, and if that's the case, their playoff chances are probably shot.

I'm picking the Patriots to win.
My season record predicting the Dolphins is 8-3.

Miami's playoff chances currently stand at 10.4%

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taurus Johnson added to practice squad

Rookie WR Taurus Johnson was added to Miami's practice squad on Wednesday, filling the spot vacated by Ryan Baker's promotion to the active roster.

Taurus (6'0, 206) was a four-year player from the University of South Florida. He went undrafted but spent training camp with the Chiefs and was later signed to the Lions' practice squad before being cut.

Here are a couple scouting reports on Johnson.

From SI,

Johnson has shown flashes of ability the past three years, yet he has never taken his game to the next level, even when afforded the opportunity. He offers potential as a fourth or fifth receiver at the next level.

And from NFL.com,

It's very fitting that a player named Taurus plays for the USF Bulls. Johnson has flashed playmaking ability throughout his career, averaging 36 catches for 466 yards and four scores over the past three seasons. Although he has been inconsistent and will not be confused for a track star anytime soon, Johnson's has been QB Matt Groethe's go-to receiver. His size, hands, quick feet and kick return experience make him a potential No. 3 receiver and special teams contributor at the next level.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • CB Will Billingsley
  • WR Julius Pruit
  • TE John Nalbone
  • RB Tristan Davis
  • LB J.D. Folsom
  • S Nate Ness
  • G/C Mark Lewis
  • WR Taurus Johnson

Monday, November 30, 2009

Week 12 @ Bills recap

That was an inexcusable loss. Just embarrassing.

  • Those are the kind of games that good teams just simply don't lose. Good teams don't even let the other team think they have a chance to win. Well, Miami let Buffalo stay in the game when the fourth quarter rolled around, and by that point all bets were off.
  • Speaking of the fourth quarter, why is this team continually collapsing in that period?
  • Say it with me, "You run when you win, not win when you run." It's nice that Ricky had another good day running, but the most effective running comes in the second half, when a team is grinding out clock and protecting a lead. It's much less effective in building a lead. Miami needs its offense to get out to multiple score leads, and relying on the run so heavily will rarely achieve that kind of buffer. The receivers may be pretty bad, but that shouldn't shut down the passing game entirely.
  • Gus Johnson is an exciting announcer. It just sucks when he's excitedly announcing big plays by the other team. It makes them hurt that much more.
  • The Wildcat with Ricky at the helm isn't doing it for me right now because it lacks the motion man who offers that extra option that defenders must pause to account for. In its current set-up, they all know exactly who is going to have it.
  • Miami's pass rush was really good, but the coverage behind it was horrible, especially, as usual, the linebackers and safeties covering the tight ends and backs.
  • The entire defense is going to be hurting without Ferguson. I just don't think Soliai and company can effectively pick up his slack.
  • The Dolphins likely have to win out in order to make the playoffs now. So essentially the playoffs have just started for Miami. And up first are the Patriots...gulp.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week 12 @ Bills prediction; Oglesby cut

Evan Oglesby didn't even last a week with the Dolphins. He was cut in order to make room to promote DE Ryan Baker from the practice squad.

Baker was needed on the roster since Lionel Dotson will not be playing.

Jake Grove will also not be playing because of an ankle injury. And that should surprise no one. Here's what I wrote less than two weeks ago when reviewing the offensive line's performance:

I will say this as well: I absolutely hammered the team's decision to sign Jake Grove this offseason. So far, he's proven me dead wrong. He's been a pleasant surprise. Of course, a lot of that has to do with him bucking a career-long trend of injury woes, so we will have to wait and see how long that continues.

Apparently not long. Grove has never been able to stay healthy and that is one of the major reasons why I disliked his signing so much. Hopefully, this injury is only a one-week deal, but who knows with him.

As for this week's game against the Bills, this is the easiest game Miami will play for the rest of the year. As confident as I was that Miami would beat Tampa Bay, I'm as confident that they will beat the Bills this week. Of course, that doesn't guarantee a blowout (as the Tampa game surely made clear), but it really shouldn't be a game that comes down to the wire.

Miami crushed the Bills in their first meeting this year, and Buffalo has lost even more key players to injury since then. Their offensive line is horrendous, and Miami should be able to pressure the QB all day long. Really, the only scary aspect of the Bills is their special teams.

I'm picking the Dolphins to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 7-3.


Miami's playoff chances currently stand at 23.7%

Friday, November 27, 2009

Andrew Hartline promoted; practice squad update

After all the roster moves that happened earlier this week, Miami still had one open spot on the 53-man roster.

They filled it by promoting T Andrew Hartline from the practice squad.

Also, S Nate Ness was re-signed to the practice squad as well as G/C Mark Lewis who had been with the team in training camp and on the practice squad for a short time.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • DE Ryan Baker
  • CB Will Billingsley
  • WR Julius Pruit
  • TE John Nalbone
  • RB Tristan Davis
  • LB J.D. Folsom
  • S Nate Ness
  • G/C Mark Lewis

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Matt Roth waived; two players added

In a very surprising move, the Dolphins waived LB Matt Roth on Tuesday. No reason was given. The move is surprising to me because Roth had really stepped up his play all last season as he made the full-time transition to starting outside linebacker and became an elite run stopper. He also finished second on the team in sacks. But then he got hurt this offseason and a huge cloud of suspicion has followed him around ever since, concerning whether he lied to the team or not. But nothing has ever gone public about the perceived standoff between him and the team. It just seems really strange to get rid of a guy who is a young, developing, monster of a run-stopper on the outside. What kind of run-stopping presence does that leave this team with now at the OLB position for both the present and future?

The team also placed NT Jason Ferguson on IR and released S Nate Ness. Ness had been promoted from the practice squad and he may find himself back on it later this week.

So with three open roster spots, the Dolphins signed CB Evan Oglesby and DE Ikaika Alama-Francis.

Oglesby (5'11, 182) is a five-year veteran, coming into the league as an undrafted rookie from Northern Alabama in 2005. He is 27 years old. Oglesby has played in 36 games in his career for the Ravens and Cowboys, primarily in a special teams role.

Alama-Francis (6'5, 290) is in his third year out of Hawaii. He is 24 years old. He originally was a second-round draft pick of the Lions in 2007. He played in 19 games for the Lions with two starts.

These roster moves still leave one open spot on the roster, which will likely be filled in the coming days.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reader Question: Ted Ginn; Roster updates

Before I get into a reader question, it should be noted that the Dolphins promoted S Nate Ness from the practice squad prior to the Carolina game. He took the roster spot vacated when Ronnie Brown was placed on IR.

Also, it appears as if Jason Ferguson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He hasn't officially been placed on IR yet, but that seems to be the direction the team is leaning.

Now, here's the reader question:

With the new RB the Dolphins signed to the practice squad do you think that it means Ted Ginn will be traded?

The new RB he is speaking of is Tristan Davis - a definite return weapon in college. But the trade dealine for this season has passed already, so no player can be traded until the season is over.

Even so, Davis is just a developmental project at this point. And Ginn has been doing very well on returns so I don't think the front office is looking to upgrade there.

That being said, Ginn is more than just a returner, and as a receiver, well, let's just say he's a good returner. So the team definitely should explore any and all opportunities to trade Ginn this offseason. But they shouldn't simply sell him off for whatever they can get. As we are seeing, he can still bring good value as a kick returner and situation receiver. But if they can get a third round pick or higher, I'd say they should probably pull the trigger.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ronnie Brown done for the year; Week 11 @ Carolina Prediction

Well, this sucks.

Ronnie Brown has been placed on Injured Reserve. So he's done for the year. It's believed that his injury is a Lisfranc fracture. It's unknown what kind of timetable there is on his injury, but that will depend on whether Brown opts for surgery or extended rest. It seems likely that he will undergo surgery to correct the problem. He could miss parts of training camp next offseason.

And for those people who continue to say that Brown is just unlucky when it comes to getting hurt, I'm sorry but no. He's injury-prone. And that's a major reason why this team probably shouldn't make any long-term investment in Brown. We all love him, but his age and injury history simply present too much risk and downside to hand him a huge contract extension.

*****

As for tonight's game, even without Brown, I'm picking the Dolphins to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 6-3.

Miami's playoff chances currently stand at 12%

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Practice squad update 11/18

Miami has re-signed LB J.D. Folsom to its practice squad after releasing him before last week's game.

Last week, the team also signed RB Tristan Davis to its practice squad.

Davis (5'10, 212) is an undrafted rookie out of Auburn. He is a speed-back who didn't get a whole lot of carries in college, but he is a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. He's also very dangerous as a kick and punt returner. The return game is where he made the biggest impact in college.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • DE Ryan Baker
  • CB Will Billingsley
  • WR Julius Pruit
  • T Andrew Hartline
  • S Nate Ness
  • TE John Nalbone
  • RB Tristan Davis
  • LB J.D. Folsom

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reader Questions 11/17

I got some good questions from a reader that I'd like to address here today:

How do you rate the Dolphins offensive line? Is the NT position a need for the 2010 draft? Do you think that Cameron Wake will continue to improve? If Ronnie is out for a while isn't that a major problem for the offense?

Let's take them one-by-one.

1. The offensive line
Just looking at how successful the running game has been overall this season, I'd have to say that the unit has been pretty good. Of course, we've seen the running game stall on more than one occasion, which has led to the offense completely bogging down. So consistency is an issue that must improve. But let's look at the unit's numbers (through Week 9):
  • 4.42 Adjusted Line Yards (4th best in NFL)
  • Power Success - 81% (1st)
  • Stuffed - 14% (1st)
  • Adjusted Sack Rate - 9% (26th in NFL)
Well, those numbers paint a pretty clear picture don't they? Miami's offensive line is an elite juggernaut in the running game. Those Power and Stuffed percentages are pristine, and are huge reasons why this offense is able to sustain long drives without a dynamic passing game. If your running game can always be counted on to convert short yardage situations and likewise never get stuffed behind the line, you have a scary rushing attack.

Now the pass protection is another story. Miami's QBs have been sacked 23 times this season and the adjusted sack rate of 9% is atrocious. The offensive line definitely has played a part in this mess, but I think a lot of blame has to lie with Chad Henne's inexperience and inability to make quick reads and get rid of the ball quickly when the pocket is collapsing. He seems to be getting better in that regard, but it will take some time to develop his pocket awareness.

I will say this as well: I absolutely hammered the team's decision to sign Jake Grove this offseason. So far, he's proven me dead wrong. He's been a pleasant surprise. Of course, a lot of that has to do with him bucking a career-long trend of injury woes, so we will have to wait and see how long that continues. But right now, I'm more than happy to eat crow.

2. Nose Tackle
Although Paul Soliai has definitely made vast improvements in his play this season, the nose tackle position remains a high priority for this year's draft. That's because Miami's 3-4 defense requires a stud at the position and can't get by being simply average. Hopefully, Jason Ferguson will decide to play another year for Miami so that the team is not pressured into reaching too highly in the draft for his replacement. There will be plenty of top prospects at the position, so one or two should inevitably be available when Miami is picking. Of course, there's another scenario that Miami could explore should Ferguson decide to hang up his cleats after this year, and that's free agency. Possible nose tackle options that may be available on the free agent market include Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton, Ryan Pickett, and Aubrayo Franklin among others. If Miami could land any of those guys to pair with Soliai, they could save that draft pick for some other position (cough*receiver*cough).

3. Cameron Wake
Wake's already made visible improvements from game to game this season, so I would expect that to continue. The question I have with him now is what is his ceiling? Can he be a future starter at OLB or at least a primary backup? That's hard to answer, because unlike so many first-year players, Wake is already 27 years old. He turns 28 in January. So he still definitely has plenty of good years left, but it will be critical to see how high he can push his abilities.

4. Ronnie Brown
Losing Brown hurts. He's been the team's best player this season. So his loss will obviously affect the offense, but I don't think it will hurt as much as some are fearing. And that's solely due to who his backup is. You see, according to DYAR, Ricky Williams is only trailing Ronnie by a count of 124 to 120. Those numbers are essentially equal and are good for 7th and 8th best in the league. And Ricky is actually beating Ronnie in DVOA (24.3% to 12.7%). So while we may be losing an elite running back for a game or more, we are replacing his carries with another elite back. The big problem comes when you take the leftover carries that Ricky can't take all by himself and spread them among Lex Hilliard and possibly Lousake Polite. The Wildcat will also be hindered since Ricky is not nearly as good a triggerman in the formation as Ronnie is, and someone new will have to take over Ricky's role as the Wildcat coming around on the sweep. So Brown's loss will hurt, but it's not nearly insurmountable.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 First Half Review and Awards

Before the Dolphins embark on the second half schedule of the 2009 season today, I wanted to take one last look back on what has transpired in the first half.

And frankly, almost nothing of what has happened has surprised me.

I've seen some bloggers talk about how Miami's 3-5 record at the halfway point should mark a shift in expectations for the rest of the year - a tempering of playoff expectations if you will. But if you have been a realistic fan and observer of this team, you shouldn't have to change your expectations because this team is pretty much exactly where we expected them to be at this point.

But of course, those same people who call for a lowering of expectations only now, after the fact, are the same ones who were pumping this team up to be another double-digit win squad before the year began. That's because it's easier to ignore all the critical signs about a team and only accept the reality of the situation when the outcomes inevitably match the rational predictions.

And injuries are no excuse. Chad Pennington has never had two healthy or effective seasons in a row. Absolutely no one should have been banking on him playing up to last year's level or remaining healthy for the whole season. And guess what, he did neither. That's just what the tea leaves wrote, and anyone could have seen it coming if they opened their eyes to it. Same thing goes for Channing Crowder, Jason Ferguson, Justin Smiley, etc. These players have all been hampered recently by injuries. An incredible run of injury luck last season was not going to carry forward into this year.

Also, a lot of people simply wrote off the talk of Miami having a brutal schedule this year by saying, "Well, you can't judge a team based off last year's record, blah, blah, blah." But if you use a more predictive tool like DVOA, you'd have gotten the same prediction. And so, of course, Miami has indeed faced a brutal schedule up to this point. In fact, according to DVOA, Miami has played the toughest schedule in the league thus far. Their average opponent DVOA is 12.4%, which means Miami's schedule has been 12.4% harder than the average schedule so far. Compare that to New England, who has the 17th hardest schedule so far at 0.5% DVOA.

Thankfully, the schedule eases up considerably from here on out, with Miami's remaining opponents having an average DVOA of -2.0%. They are going to have to take advantage of that schedule if they are to have any chance of contending for the playoffs once again.

But there have been plenty of positives about this season too. Most notably has been the extensive run of play the rookies and youngsters have been receiving. That's a good sign for the future.

Let's move on to some half-season awards:

Offensive MVP: Ronnie Brown - this one's pretty obvious. The running game is this offense's weapon, and it's lead by Brown's powerful running and expert handling of the Wildcat package. The craziest thing may be that, as good as Brown's been, Ricky Williams has been nearly as good. I'd also give an honorable mention for this award to Justin Smiley who is, without a doubt, one of the premier interior linemen in the NFL. He is a joy to watch play.

Most Improved - Offense: Not really a whole lot to pick from here, but I'd go with either Chad Henne or Donald Thomas.

Most Regressed - Offense: Ted Ginn. Everyone expected some measure of improvement from Ginn this year, but he has regressed as badly as anyone on the team.

Best Rookie - Offense: Brian Hartline

Defensive MVP: Randy Starks. He's the only player putting consistent pressure on the QB, easily leading the team with 12.5 combined sacks+QB hits. He's making big plays for a defense that is sorely lacking in them. Honorable mention goes to Jason Ferguson.

Most Improved - Defense: Randy Starks

Most Regressed - Defense: Joey Porter. Just to show how far he's fallen, Tony Sparano has benched him for this week's game, and not because of injury. Porter's flat-out sucked this year. It's quite a fall from 17.5 sacks last year to this sorry output.

Best Rookie - Defense: Vontae Davis. Some will say Sean Smith, and while I won't argue with it (because I think he's been quite good) something just really bugs me about how scared of contact he is and just how much he shies away from hitting or getting hit. Also, he's yet to pick off a pass, and that was supposed to be his strong point. Davis, on the other hand, in less playing time has made some huge plays and also is not afraid at all to shed blocks and make huge hits near the line of scrimmage.

Week 10 vs. Buccaneers Prediction

I'm going to keep this prediction post short and sweet because quite frankly, I'm about as sure about this game as I have been about a Dolphins game in some time.

Miami will win this game easily.

Wow. When is the last time anyone could legitimately say that and not be thought foolish?

But it's true. Miami is a pretty good team right now and the Buccaneers are putrid. There really shouldn't be any trouble leaving this week behind with a win.

If Miami should somehow struggle, or even lose, well, the season's pretty much over at that point, I'd say. But I'm not worried about it. I don't view this as a trap game or anything like that. Miami just has to go out there, put in a hard day's work, and take care of its business.

I'm confident they will. I'm picking Miami to win. My season record predicting the Dolphins is 5-3.

After last week's loss, Miami's playoff chances fell to 14%

Folsom cut; Sperry called up

On Friday, the Dolphins opened up a roster spot by releasing LB J.D. Folsom who they had called up from the practice squad prior to last week's game against New England.

The open spot has been taken by TE Kory Sperry, who the team also called up from its practice squad.

Calling up Sperry may mean that Anthony Fasano's hip injury will sideline him on Sunday. If that is the case, Miami will have to rely on Joey Haynos and Sperry as the only two tight ends.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pat White story

File this in the "things most of us already knew about Pat White" folder - he's a good kid.

And the Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington received an email from a Patriots fan who attended last week's game with his son talking about Pat's notable gesture before the game began. Here's the bulk of the email:

Hello,

I am a longtime New England Patriots Season Ticketholder who attended this past Sundays game against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots held a pregame Veterans Day ceremony honoring veterans from the greater New England area. I am not a veteran but greatly appreciate the men and woman who dedicate their lives to protecting our country.

As the National Anthem came to a close I told my son to watch to see which of the Patriot Players approached the veterans being honored to thank them for their service. Unfortunately, the Patriots disappointed me. Not one of them acknowledged these men and woman. As the veterans left the field one Miami Dolphin, Pat White, jogged over to them and shook every one of their hands. It was the highlight of the game for me to see there is at least one player in the NFL that understands what these people have given up for us.

Even if a lot of the players met some of the service men and women on the field during warmups or whatnot, it's still nice to see a player take the time to personally shake every single one of their hands following the ceremony.

I'm just surprised Pat was the only player on either team who took the time to do it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009 Pass Defense Review (First Half)

Continuing on with my look back at the first half of this season, I want to talk about some of the defense's pass defense stats for individual players.

Below, I've created a table of every player who has recorded a sack, quarterback hit, interception, or pass defense. Take a look:



Scks
QH
INT
PD
Jason Allen



1
Will Allen

2
2
6
Yeremiah Bell
1.5
1

1
Tyrone Culver


1
3
Vontae Davis


2
6
Nathan Jones


1
4
Kendall Langford
1
1


Tony McDaniel



1
Phillip Merling
1.5
3


Joey Porter
2.5
5

1
Sean Smith



8
Paul Soliai



1
Randy Starks
4.5
8


Jason Taylor
5.5
3

2
Reggie Torbor

2
1
2
Cameron Wake
3.5
4


Gibril Wilson
1
3

3
TOTAL
21
32
7
35


What stands out immediately from that table?

Not sure? Look at who is not on that list - Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder.

That fact both astounds me and doesn't surprise me at all, if that's possible. What I mean by that is I know our starting inside linebackers are terrible coverage and blitz players, but to go through an entire half season without registering a single meaningful play in pass defense? Hell, even Reggie Torbor has five total stat-plays, and he's only played a fraction of the snaps as those two.

When the opposing quarterback drops back to pass, there is just a gaping hole in the middle of the field, and that's shown itself in Miami's inability to stop opposing tight ends, running backs, and receivers on underneath routes. This team needs a lot of things, but one of the most important is an inside linebacker who can rush the quarterback.

Another disappointment is Joey Porter's production. Is he simply hurt, or has he slammed into a brick wall in terms of his ability? He does have five quarterback hits in addition to his 2.5 sacks, but that total is equal to Cameron Wake, who has barely played this year. As the year moves forward, the coaches have got to give Wake more playing time. Kendall Langford also needs to step up his pass rushing.

As far as positive surprises go, Jason Taylor is on pace for double-digit sacks after his disaster season of a year ago. But most exciting has been the development of Randy Starks, who leads the team by a wide margin with a combined 12.5 sacks/QHs. He has probably been this team's defensive MVP so far this season. Starks is one of the few free agent additions that has really worked out for the team, and he's still very young so his future is bright.

Special Teams Coverage Review (2009 First Half)

Instead of posting any recap of the Pats game, I'd rather start taking a few looks back on what the first half of the season has shown us about this Dolphins team.

To start things off, I'm looking at the special teams tackles numbers to get an idea of who the most active special teams players are.

Of course, Patrick Cobbs was expected to be one of the coverage unit's aces, but he unfortunately was lost for the season. Thankfully, his replacement on the roster, Lex Hilliard, has stepped in and played quite admirably in his stead, placing second on the team with nine special teams tackles.

But the biggest surprise is probably the guy leading the team in special teams tackles, Nathan Jones. It's not a surprise that he's a good special teams player, but he finished with 9 STTs last season and has already recorded ten of them this season. Not only is he stepping up big time on defense with Will Allen lost for the year, but he's stepping up big time on kick coverage units as well.

Here's how all the players stack up according to special teams tackles:


Tkl
Ast
Comb
FF
Jason Allen
5

5

Charlie Anderson
5
1
6

Chris Clemons
2

2

Patrick Cobbs
1

1

Tyrone Culver
5
3
8

Vontae Davis
4

4

John Denney
3
1
4

Brandon Fields
1

1

J.D. Folsom
1

1

Lex Hilliard
8
1
9

Nathan Jones
7
3
10

Reggie Torbor
7
1
8

Cameron Wake
3
1
4

Erik Walden
5
1
6

Gibril Wilson
3

3

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week 9 @ Patriots Prediction

Forget the Jets. This is the real divisional rivalry game that matters most.

Unfortunately, Miami is entering this game knowing that two of its defensive starters have already been taken out of the game by injury (Crowder and Ferguson). Losing Ferguson is the biggest blow. New England has a pretty good if unspectacular running game, but without Ferguson manning the trenches in the middle, New England will have a much easier time nursing any lead by turning to its ground game.

And it's likely that Miami will have to mount a comeback at some point in this game since the Pats' aerial assault is second only to the Colts, and we all saw how Indy absolutely sliced and diced this secondary up in a matter of seconds.

Not only is Belichick scheming against two rookie corners and a first-year starting QB, but he's had the bye week to make sure everything's accounted for. If Miami can sneak anything past New England's scheme this week, it would be a tremendous surprise.

For my money, the Patriots are simply the best team in the league right now, regardless of their recent cream puff schedule. Too many factors are stacking up against the Dolphins for them to pull out the victory this week.

Of course, nothing ever surprises me about these Pats-Dolphins games, and Miami should know that a win this week is crucial to staying alive in the division. That being said, I'm picking the Pats to win this one. My season record is 4-3.

After last week's win, Miami's playoff chances now stand at 28.6%

I'd also like to take a moment to quickly address a few questions I received in the wake of last week's game:

Why couldn't the Dolphins offense get anything going with the Jets? Is it possible that Ginn could be great at kick off returns or wide receiver? Just not both at the same time?

First off, the Jets defense simply played the perfect scheme against Miami's offense, and we should all look for teams to copy that game-plan in the future until Miami proves it can adapt. The Jets were consistently bringing up to 8 or 9 defenders into the box to stop the run and they just derailed the offense by doing so. They pressured from the outside, giving Henne nowhere the scramble, and Miami's receivers could do nothing against the limited coverages they were seeing. Until these WRs and TEs can start getting open and making some plays, there's no reason why any team should worry about stacking the middle of the field against Miami.

As for Ginn, I've long said that he will not be a great receiver, no matter what his other responsibilities are. Good? Maybe, but even that's in doubt right now. If anything, I think his return skills are unquestioned and he could certainly be great in that arena. Of course, being heavily involved in the offense may negatively impact his success on special teams. Was his limited snap count the reason why he exploded on those two returns against the Jets? I'm not sure. It's easy to see how asking a guy to run 9-route after 9-route is going to wear him down and cause him to lose his burst as the game wears on. If that's the case, then Ginn definitely should see a reduced number of snaps at WR. I certainly don't advocate moving him to returner full-time, as he can definitely still be an asset on offense, but the coaching staff will have to pick and choose its moments more carefully. And if that is the plan moving forward, I think Ginn should be given the punt returning duties as well. Davone Bess does nothing for me in that role.

Kershaw released, Folsom called up; injury update

On the eve before playing the Patriots, the Dolphins have tweaked their roster.

Out is LB William Kershaw who had just recently been re-signed. Taking his place is practice squad member and Miami's 7th round draft pick this past spring, LB J.D. Folsom.

This move may have been precipitated by the fact that LB Channing Crowder was moved from 'doubtful' to 'out' on this week's injury report. Also downgraded to 'out' is NT Jason Ferguson.

Taking Crowder's place in the lineup will be Reggie Torbor. Paul Soliai will assume most of Ferguson's snaps.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nalbone signed to practice squad

I wasn't sure that TE John Nalbone was going to clear waivers after Miami cut him last week.

But he did. And now he's back with the Dolphins on their practice squad. The team released WR James Robinson to make room for him.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • DE Ryan Baker
  • CB Will Billingsley
  • LB J.D. Folsom
  • WR Julius Pruit
  • TE Kory Sperry
  • T Andrew Hartline
  • S Nate Ness
  • TE John Nalbone

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hey Nos!

In honor of Joey Haynos' second career TD, I'm posting the below video - again.

The video and song are so good I may have to start posting it every time he scores.




Nate Jones!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 8 @ Jets Recap

Time to get out the brooms because that was a J-E-T-S Sweep, Sweep, Sweep!!!

Let's get right to the bullets, shall we?

  • First of all, Miami certainly got outplayed in many (most) areas of this game, but not all of them. So Rex Ryan, you huge steamin pile, stop trying to convince yourself and everyone around you that your team "totally outplayed" the Dolphins today. Did your special teams outplay Miami's? No. Did our quarterback continually throw horrible worm-burners on third downs? No. Did our running backs forget to hold onto the ball? No. Did your offensive line ever have Miami's front seven on its heels? No. So Rex, learn what the word "totally" means and pull your head out of you-know-where while you're at it.
  • In keeping with the theme of the Jets seemingly living in some alternate reality, it's rare to see a team this out of tune with their actual talent and performance level. You'd think a team that just lost to the same team twice within the span of a month would realize that they are not better than that team. Basically, the Jets players and coaches are acting like most of the fans of the Dolphins I criticize for being irrational homers. The Jets built these Dolphins games up so much, that it is just an absolute pleasure to know that they lost both of them and now will have live with that festering truth for another whole year. And no amount of foolish talk will cover up the fact that these two losses will eat away at the Jets.
  • Yeremiah Bell is to blame for that TD run by Sanchez. He's the outside contain guy and he never even thought about looking for Sanchez to run. He simply ran right into the backfield which wouldn't have done anything even if it was a handoff.
  • Ah, Jay Feely. You also did fancy yourself something of a tough guy didn't you? You wanted to be the guy who broke the mold on kickers not being tough enough to run down the field and make a tackle on returns. And I'll give you credit - you are pretty tough and you can make tackles, but the thing is, as the kicker you've got to make those tackles when they come to you as the safety man and not simply run headlong into the pile trying to manufacture 'glory' to stroke your ego. By abandoning your duty as the safety valve and running right into the crowd, you allowed Ted Ginn to slip outside and have a free race to the endzone without you challenging his angle. So thanks for being so irresponsible Jay.
  • Oh, and Ted Ginn, thank you for not losing your return abilities along with your confidence and good hands.
  • On a negative note for Miami, I can't recall seeing another secondary player as averse to contact as Sean Smith is. We all knew he wasn't a physical player, but this is getting embarrassing. Whenever the opposing team throws a screen pass or a toss sweep to Smith's side, he either runs himself out of the play to avoid getting blocked, or just gets tossed aside. He puts no effort into beating his blocker. He's also a pretty poor tackler in space it seems. He needs to watch how Vontae Davis and Nathan Jones and Will Allen lay wood on people, in the run game and pass game. As much flak as Ted Ginn gets for avoiding contact, Smith should be getting just as much. Being a corner isn't all about ball skills.
  • Speaking of the secondary, finally the coaches realized that what Gibril Wilson does best is blitz the QB. He, Bell, and Jones are lethal when rushing the QB.
  • It was nice to see Matt Roth back on the field if for no other reason than it will lessen the amount of times I have to watch Joey Porter get embarrassed as an edge setter against the run. Seriously, it looks like he's not even trying when a run comes his way (and a lot of them do since opposing teams know he's helpless to stop them). The tackle usually just kicks out, gets his hands on Joey, and that's it - Porter's completely out of the play, with a huge gap between the tackle and guard for the running back to saunter through. With Roth in there, he works to shove the tackle back and closes that lane off quick, then sheds the block and can make a tackle or string the play out until help arrives.
  • The offensive line was bad in the running game today, which is pretty inexcusable when the Jets are without Kris Jenkins. As far as pass protection goes, they were just OK. Chad Henne really needs to work on making his reads quicker and not taking so many sacks. He also has to be more aware of the pocket. On one sack he just kept shuffling to the left. Jake Long had his guy beat, but Henne just kept shuffling right past Long where the defender had an easy sack.
  • How about this trio of guys coming up big - Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, and Brandon Fields. Fields' booming leg gave the Dolphins defense a fighting chance in the field position battle all throughout the first half. Starks has been a force as a pass rusher this year, not just in this game. And Soliai is taking his opportunities and proving to this coaching staff that they may not need to look outside the organization anymore for a future nose tackle replacement. I've been impressed with him so far this year.
  • Oh and one last thing. I've already seen some Jets fans calling Braylon Edwards a "Dolphins killer." First of all, you have to actually beat the Dolphins to be called that. Secondly, maybe if the Jets still had that special teams ace (Jason Trusnik) they traded away for Edwards they wouldn't have been the first team to give up two kick returns of 100 or more yards in one game.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 8 @ Jets Prediction

It's a little strange to be facing the Jets again so soon after the first meeting.

But the good news is that Miami was able to take care of business the last time. Sure, Miami has lost Will Allen and Patrick Cobbs for the season since then, but New York has lost Kris Jenkins which is a much more important loss.

Miami ran the ball down New York's throat a few weeks ago, and now they are without one of the premier nose tackles in the league so the running should come just as easily this game. And despite the game being a home affair for the Jets, Mark Sanchez has shown to have some early issues with cold/windy games.

As long as Chad Henne keeps his wits about him and takes care of the ball, Miami should win this game, so I'm going with the Dolphins. My season record stands at 3-3.

Also, the Dolphins' playoff chances now stand at 13.5%

I'd also like to take a quick moment to answer a reader's question. The question:

Does bringing Henne out of a few series, to run the wildcat, throw off his rhythm and not allow him to get a feel for the game? It didn't seem to have any impact on Pennington at all.

Truthfully, I don't think so. He's never off the field for entire series at a time, and this is a hugely run-heavy offense anyway. So, really, what's the difference between him jogging to the sideline for a play of two instead of handing the ball off a couple times in a row? Good quarterbacks need to be able to come onto the field and make big throws at any time of the game. For instance, no one wonders whether a QB is out of rhythm when he unexpectedly makes his way onto the field following an interception by his team's defense. If the Wildcat is a problem for a QB, then chances are they are simply not focused enough. I don't get that sense from Henne right now.

Nalbone waived

According to Adam Caplan's Twitter account, he has been told that the Dolphins have waived rookie tight end John Nalbone.

It's uncertain who was brought in to replace Nalbone, but one possibility is that the team activated LB Matt Roth from the NFI list.

I was pretty high on Nalbone coming out of college, albeit a little surprised that Miami took him in the fifth round. I would hope that he clears waivers and finds his way back on Miami's practice squad, but he may get claimed by another team.

Nalbone's ceiling is high (I believe he can be a future starter) and it's no surprise that he required a lot of development time. It would be disappointing to see Miami give up on him so soon and essentially waste a fifth-round pick.

Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos are now the only tight ends left on the roster. TE Kory Sperry is on the practice squad.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kershaw brought back; practice squad update

With Will Allen being placed on season-ending Injured Reserve, the Dolphins signed LB William Kershaw earlier this week.

At the time he was signed, there was speculation that his addition was due in part to an injury suffered by Channing Crowder that might keep him out of this week's game against the Jets. It looks like that speculation was spot on, as Crowder missed all three practices this week and has been listed as doubtful on the injury report.

Kershaw was a part of Miami's practice squad and active roster last season, and he was one of the team's last cuts in training camp this year. He is an asset on special teams, but it's questionable whether he will be active on game day.

In Crowder's absence, Akin Ayodele will assume Crowder's role while Reggie Torbor will move into the starting lineup in Ayodele's position.

Also, there has been some practice squad activity over the past few weeks.

Early in October, the team added DT Derrick Jones to the practice squad and released LB K.C. Asiodu. And earlier this week, the team released Jones, to make room for S Nate Ness. Ness is an undrafted rookie from Arizona.

The Dolphins practice squad now looks as such:
  • DE Ryan Baker
  • CB Will Billingsley
  • LB J.D. Folsom
  • WR James Robinson
  • WR Julius Pruitt
  • TE Kory Sperry
  • T Andrew Hartline
  • S Nate Ness

Monday, October 26, 2009

Week 7 vs. Saints Recap

Everyone's said it already, but that game was definitely a tale of two halves. Let's just jump right into it:

  • First of all, this team may not be designed to take such a huge early lead (hence it being so surprising) but it sure as hell is built to ice the game away once a three touchdown lead has been established. Remember, "You run when you win, not win when you run." And that's because when you are three TDs ahead, the only thing you should be thinking about is sapping every second of clock time possible with each and every drive, and that means lots and lots of running. So where the hell did the running attack go in the second half? I realize Miami's lead had been cut to two touchdowns at that point, but the philosophy still holds. I think passing wins games in the NFL, but when you have a two TD lead (and a first-year starting QB and crappy receivers and Sedrick Ellis gone with an injury, etc etc) why are you passing more than running?
  • Also, Tony Sparano, why the hell did you take that timeout right before halftime which allowed Sean Payton to rethink kicking a field goal and instead make the right decision to go for the TD, which of course Brees converted? I don't care how good you think Miami's defense is, just give them the three points and go into halftime up three scores. You could literally sense the air being let out of Miami after that score. It was like a dark cloud just suddenly appeared right over them.
  • Two players whose play this game (and pretty much all season) was utterly unacceptable? Gibril Wilson and Ted Ginn. First Wilson. I knew Wilson was a lousy coverage safety, but I thought for sure he was at least a sure tackler. I guess I was wrong. Look, I know Jeremy Shockey is a big dude, but running side by side with him downfield for about 40 yards while you try to hold hands with him rather than tackle him was despicable. And of course, you followed that up by completely blowing a critical tackle on Reggie Bush on third down, letting him get free for the first. And Ted Ginn? Yeah, you drew a lot of oohs and ahhs with your nice TD against the Jets, but what else have you really done this year? Nothing. In fact, your numerous drops in key situations are killing this team. I've really criticized Ginn in the past, calling him out as not being a No. 1 WR, and still everyone wanted to stick up for him and said "Wait, wait, he's going to have that third year breakout season that every WR always has." Well, where are those people now? Ginn's first bobble resulted in the INT that was returned for six. And he followed that up by dropping several more routine balls. This guy shrinks under pressure.
  • Since we know our safeties are so bad in coverage, why aren't we using them on blitzes more?! At least we know they can do that well, and it seems to work pretty effectively.
  • Stop trying to paint Will Allen's season ending ACL injury as good news. There's a difference between a silver lining and good news.
  • There definitely were some good performances by the Dolphins in this game (Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor), but the team as a whole was just completely different in the second half. It played scared. It played like it knew the Saints were the better team. And most importantly, the team strayed from its strengths which of course played directly to the Saints' advantage.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 7 vs. Saints Prediction

I am very happy to have been wrong in my prediction for Miami's last game. Miami's awesome Monday night victory pushed my season record to 2-3.

And now that the bye week is over, Miami faces its toughest challenge yet...by far.

If we thought Indy's offense was potent - well, New Orleans' is better. So even if the Dolphins execute the same offensive game plan as they did against the Colts to perfection, holding the ball for over 40 minutes and making good on scoring opportunities, 20 minutes is more than enough for Drew Brees and company to overcome any deficit no matter the size.

And make no mistake, the Saints will score their points. And Miami will likely score its share as well (though the Saints defense is surprisingly elite so far this year). If Miami is going to have any chance in this game it will come down to their defense finally stepping up and shutting an opposing passing attack down, even if for only a drive or two. I'm not confident they can accomplish that right now. The safeties and linebackers are just begging other teams to throw right at them.

Miami played a nearly perfect offensive game against the Colts and still lost. The margin for error is that small. And now they play an even better team. It's hard to expect perfection again coupled with a better defensive effort. Big special teams plays could seriously help Miami's chances, but they haven't proven themselves capable of those yet either.

I have to pick the Saints to win this week.

After the win over the Jets and last week's bye, Miami's playoff chances have grown to 15.5%

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lydon Murtha signed; Murphy cut

Well, the Shawn Murphy experiment ended today, when the team cut him in order to make room for T Lydon Murtha, who they signed off of Detroit's practice squad.

This goes down as a pretty significant draft miss by Parcells and Ireland as Murphy cost the team a fourth-round pick. And not only a fourth-round pick, but the team actually traded up in the round just to make sure they got him! So that's two picks gone in return for absolutely nothing. Very disappointing. Maybe he can return on the practice squad and try to redeem his value a little bit.

Murtha (6'7, 315) was a seventh-round draft pick of the Lions in this year's draft out of Nebraska.

He was a two-year starter who saw playing time at both left and right tackle. His college career was derailed at times by multiple injuries. He missed his entire freshmen season with calf, shoulder, and hamstring problems, and then missed a combined eight games over the past two seasons with foot injuries and a staph infection. He is the definition of injury-prone.

He does have the huge size that the front office craves in its tackles, and he has amazing athleticism. He's a pure project player at this point who is going to need time to develop. As with Kory Sheets, I believe the rule is that when a team signs a player from another team's practice squad, that team must then keep that player on its 53-man roster for at least three weeks.

Here is SI's draft analysis of Murtha:

Murtha turned heads with his dramatic workout at the combine, yet his game film tells a different story. He's very raw in many offensive line techniques, and he needs to improve his overall fundamentals. Murtha will likely be over-drafted because of his measurables, yet he is a prospect far from NFL ready.