Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reader Question: RB/NT replacements

It's time for another question I received from a reader.

Are Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams free agents next year? If they are, do you think that the Dolphins would draft a back in the first few rounds in 2010? Also, can you give an update as far as a possible rookie backup for Jason Ferguson. I saw that they had a couple of young guys in camp but haven't heard anything else.

As far as Ronnie and Ricky's contract situations go, Ronnie is in the final year of his 5-year rookie contract while Ricky is also in the last year of his contract.

If the team does not extend his contract, Ricky will become a free agent after this season. However, Ricky recently said that he only plans to play two more seasons before retiring. That means that the Dolphins would only have to offer him a one-year extension if they want to hold on to him. Free from having to make any kind of long-term financial commitment to him may tip the scales toward Miami extending him so he can finish his career with the Dolphins.

Ronnie's situation is up in the air at the moment because it hinges on whether the league and the players' union can agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If no new deal is agreed on, 2010 becomes an uncapped year, and only players with six or more seasons would be unrestricted free agents. All other players whose contracts were expiring would become restricted free agents, Ronnie included.

To recap: Without a new CBA, Ronnie becomes a restricted free agent. With a new CBA, Ronnie becomes an unrestricted free agent.

As far as drafting a running back high in next year's draft, that depends on a lot of things. Obviously, if Ronnie becomes a restricted free agent, the team will probably sign him to a one-year tender offer. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, the team might just decide to let him go and get younger. Obviously, that would upset a lot of fans, but the facts are facts, and it's undeniable that running backs start declining after age 28, not to mention that Ronnie's already had one major injury and while he's been very good at times, he's not elite. I don't think many running backs are worth huge money, and it would be tough to justify handing a huge five or six year contract to Brown during or after this season. Now, if we could get him to sign a more reasonable three or four year extension, I'd definitely be in favor of that.

Drafting another RB in 2010 also depends on whether Ricky re-signs, how Patrick Cobbs progresses, and whether Lex Hilliard or Anthony Kimble show any promise. As it is now, I can certainly see the desire to get a replacement RB in the system soon, but there's still too much up in the air to tell if next year is the year to do it. It's important to remember that most college RBs adjust to the NFL quicker than almost any other position. So it's not as if a young RB is going to need lots of time to mature on the bench.


As far as the nose tackle position goes, I surmised after the draft that the coaches must have regained some confidence in Paul Soliai after his strong finish to last season since they didn't draft a NT prospect. I was extremely high on Soliai after we drafted him, and I'm not ready to give up on him yet, but it's clear the team shouldn't be solely relying on him to backup and replace Ferguson.

Joe Cohen was a young guy they brought in last year, but I think the UDFA they signed this year, Louis Ellis, has more potential to stick around. Here is's Draft Analysis of Ellis:

Ellis is a physically talented lineman who was an outstanding small school player, and he possesses the skills to make an NFL roster. If he does what is necessary off-the-field to become a better football player, he could stick around the NFL for a while.

He may need a season on the practice squad, but he has definite upside.

The bottom line is that the depth behind Jason Ferguson is really scary right now because it is so inexperienced and unknown. It will be important to keep an eye on Soliai, Cohen, and Ellis throughout training camp to see if any is stepping up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Will Allen re-ups for two more years

With free agency over with and Miami standing about $12.8 million under the salary cap, they have the ability to start looking forward to next offseason by extending the contracts of players they want to keep around.

And that they did with CB Will Allen, signing him to a two-year contract extension. His contract was set to expire after this coming season.

He is now under contract with the Dolphins for the next three seasons, and he will earn $16.2 million over that time, with $10 million of that guaranteed over the next two seasons. Allen was originally scheduled to make $4 million this year, so this new contract represents $12 million of new money.

Allen is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and although he is starting to get old, when you consider that other top flight CBs have recently signed deals worth $10+ million per year, Allen's $5.4 million yearly average seems like a bargain.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Hijinks

As an NFL observer, when the Memorial Day weekend rolls around you brace yourself and wait for an arrest or two to be reported and just hope that the player does not play for your team.

Well, this year, Miami fans were not so lucky.

In an incredible display of stupidity, DE Randy Starks was arrested ea
rly Sunday morning. For what you may ask?

I'll just throw out some key phrases and you can guess what happened.

A black freightliner designed for four passengers.

13 passengers.

Starks driving said freightliner.

A woman sitting on Starks' lap.

The result of that motley situation? A police officer pinned between the freightliner and another car and Starks being arrested and charged with aggravated battery.

For the full story of what went down, go here.

It's safe to say that Starks displayed some rare idiocy today, even for the NFL's standards. And even though Parcells has said he won't tolerate "thugs or hoodlums", it's obvious that's not always the case, or a guy like J.D. Quinn wouldn't be on the team.

Bottom line, Starks acted laughably stupid, but he shouldn't get cut for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nalbone is first rookie signed

Miami signed TE John Nalbone, a fifth-round pick this year, to a four-year deal with a $173,000 signing bonus. His contract also includes an escalator clause in 2012 for the low restricted agent tender if he reaches 35 percent playing time in any of the next four seasons.

Nalbone is the first of Miami's nine draft picks to sign this year, and his signing signals Miami's commitment to getting a good deal of its rookies signed very early in the offseason, much like they did last year.

Here are how his yearly salaries break down:
2009 - $310,000
2010 - $395,000
2011 - $480,000
2012 - $565,000

In my opinion, Nalbone is pretty much assured of a spot on the roster given that it'd be very unlikely for him to pass through waivers and be available for the practice squad. He's a promising young player and Joey Haynos is going to have quite the challenge making this roster - unless David Martin's reported offseason sports hernia surgery turns out badly.

Polite gets extension

Just catching up with a bit of old news here, but FB Lousaka Polite signed a two-year extension earlier this week.

His deal had been set to expire after this coming season. He is now under contract with the Dolphins for the next three seasons, and his contract is worth $3.7 million over that time frame.

It's hard not to like this deal since Polite was so absolutely dominant in short-yardage situations, but his primary duties as a fullback - run-blocking - while sufficient, could use some work. Luckily for us, he will now have the luxury of being with the team over the offseason and I suspect he'll be even better this year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Injury issues begin

Few people realize how incredibly lucky the Dolphins were on the injury-front last season. And that's just what it was - luck.

No one should be expecting the same run of good health this year, and the team is already seeing some players in injury trouble, as G Donald Thomas tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights during OTAs and its possible that WR Greg Camarillo could begin the season on the PUP list, although that may end up having more to do with a glut of options at WR than Greg's actual recovery.

Still, Thomas' injury is concerning, since it knocks him out of the entire training camp period. After missing essentially the entire season last year due to a Lisfranc fracture, Thomas' development time is being washed away. He is expected to be ready to go by the start of the season, but it's unrealistic to think he'd just be thrown back into the starting lineup with zero practice.

Of course, Miami's depth at G is not exactly strong as they didn't address the position in the Draft, even though a promising player like Duke Robinson was available into the fifth round. The team still has Ikechuku Ndukwe, who filled in for Thomas last year, but he proved to be the weak link on the line and never really got much better as the season went on. Perhaps another year's training camp could correct some things.

Other options include Andy Alleman, who I am high on, as well as Shawn Murphy, who may still be limited to solely playing left guard, and Joe Berger.

UDFAs J.D. Quinn (he of the three DUIs) and Mark Lewis could also see time there.

All in all, it's not encouraging to see Thomas turning into such an injury-prone player this early in his career.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Draft Analysis: Dolphins clearly not keen on smokescreens

Leading up to the Draft, I paid particular attention to the wonderful work of Simon Clancy, who was writing a guest column on Dave Hyde's blog.

Clancy kept a very detailed list of which players had confirmed interviews and visits with the team. He tracked which players
a) Interviewed at the Senior Bowl.
b) Interviewed at the Combine
c) Attended or worked out at the respective school pro day and shown specific interest in.
d) Privately worked out on campus or at Davie.

He did this because over time, Jeff Ireland, Bill Parcells and Brian Gaine have made it quite evident that they rarely consider a player on draft day who they didn't meet with in the run-up to the Draft. For instance, you need look no further back than last year when every player that Miami drafted, with the sole exception of Phillip Merling, was worked out at least once or interviewed at length by the team. And even in Merling's case, the team was still present at the Clemson pro day.

So keeping track of this list of players gives you a very clear idea of which players are in play to be drafted by Miami.

So was it the same this year? Let's go through Miami's selections and see how many appear on the list:

On the list
  • CB Vontae Davis
  • QB Pat White
  • CB Sean Smith
  • WR Patrick Turner (not on the list, but he did meet with the team in Davie and at USC)
  • WR Brian Hartline
  • TE John Nalbone
  • LB J.D. Folsom (not on the list, but Miami did work him out at WSU Pro Day)
Not on the list
  • S Chris Clemons
  • T Andrew Gardner
While not every player was on the list, a majority of them were, and most importantly all six of the top six draft picks were on the list. That shows that when it comes to the top of the draft, Miami isn't going to stray from who they know very often.

It's also interesting to note that WR Brennan Marion, signed as an UDFA, was also on the list.

So let this be a lesson and keep this in mind next year: If your favorite top college player hasn't been worked out or interviewed by the team, there's a really good chance he's not going to hear his name called by Miami on Draft day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Statistically Speaking: WR body types and Super Scores

Last time around, I began to discuss the Dolphins' draft a bit by exploring the value they received in their trade with the Colts (good value) and by analyzing whether UDFA RB Anthony Kimble had the type of Speed Score that would foretell future success (he doesn't).

Today, I wanted to look more in depth at some numbers concerning the wide receivers that Miami drafted (Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline) and those that signed as UDFAs (Brennan Marion and Chris Williams).

First up, I'd like to talk about a stat developed by the guys at Football Outsiders called Super Score.

Essentially, what their research showed was that for college wide receivers, the stat most predictive of NFL success (in this case defined as 500 yards or more per season) was TDs per game, followed by yards per catch, total TDs scored, total yards and receptions.

But an even stronger statistic for measuring success is created by multiplying TDs per game by YPC. The resulting metric is known as the Super Score.

Here's a look at the Super Scores for some of this year's WRs, with Miami's four players in bold:

Name, Team
Super Score
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Brennan Marion, Tulsa
Jarett Dillard, Rice
Chris Williams, New Mexico State
Greg Carr, Florida State
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
Kenny Britt, Rutgers
Brian Robiskie, Ohio State
Jaison Williams, Oregon
Mike Thomas, Arizona
Percy Harvin, Florida
Brian Hartline, Ohio State
Patrick Turner, USC

First off, while I am quite excited by the two UDFAs scores, I wouldn't go overboard about them, given that the original study only included WRs drafted in the first and second round. Nevertheless, the Super Score is still applicable to all receivers regardless of draft position, and while a Crabtree-esque Speed Score for Brennan Marion doesn't guarantee similar success in the NFL, it likely means that Marion has a tremendous shot to outperform his undrafted status. The same can be said for Chris Williams.

The more important players to look at, however, are the two players that left many Dolphins fans, including myself, scratching our heads when their names popped up on the screen during the Draft. I was thorougly unimpressed (disappointed even) with the selection of both Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline. I thought there were multiple other receivers on the board who were more attractive choices. Their poor Super Scores back that up and don't bode well for future NFL success.

But rather than rely solely on the Super Score, let's bring another metric to the table to analyze these players. That metric is the receiver's Body Mass Index and height relationship. I've talked about this relationship several times before, so rather than explain it all again, I'll just point you here. To sum everything up, elite receivers fall into certain body types, and it is essential for a receiver to have one of these four body types in order to be elite. Having the right body build is a prerequisite for elite performance but it does not guarantee it.

With that in mind, let's see if any of the new WRs have elite body builds:

Patrick Turner

Brian Hartline
Brennan Marion

Chris Williams

The most blatant thing to stick out from those numbers is just how far removed from the grid Chris Williams is. He is so short and light that he's not even on the map when it comes to NFL bodies. He may have a nice Super Score, but his size is going to be a huge hurdle to overcome.

Another interesting point is that everyone who praises the pick of Turner says that his size is what will make him successful. But he doesn't have an elite body build. So many people just look at a receiver, take note of his height, and say "Wow, he's tall. He will now be our goal line receiver." As if every guy over 6'4 has a job lined up as a WR in the NFL. It doesn't work that way. Not only does Turner have a lousy Super Score, but he lacks an ideal body build as well.

Hartline, on the other hand, falls squarely inside the "Slight" body build type. Granted, half of the players who have an elite body aren't successful (and Hartline's Super Score doesn't help), but it's a step in the right direction.

It's just a shame that none of these four receivers has the ideal match of a good Super Score and an elite body type.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jason Taylor comes back home!

Unlike a lot of fans and writers (won't name names) who had some scathingly critical remarks to say about Jason Taylor when he left the Dolphins to play for the Redskins last offseason, I always supported him and defended his decision-making, rationale, and integrity.

So it is without any backsliding or hypocrisy that I can warmly welcome one of the greatest Dolphins players ever back into the fold. You'll see a lot of that same sentiment over the next few days, and more often than not it'll be coming from people who were glad to see him go.

Jason Taylor re-signed with the Dolphins today, on a one-year contract worth $1.1 million with an additional $400,000 in incentives.

Wow. That is mere pennies, when you consider he was due to make $8.5 million from Washington this season, or that New England was willing to offer him more than Miami's $1.1 million.

To put it simply, he wants to end his career the right way. And that's not by playing for the Patriots or Jets - much like Zach Thomas couldn't bring himself to play for New England last year.

From a football standpoint, his role is certainly cloudy. How much does he have left exactly? He's certainly a major weakness in run defense. Joey Porter is as well, so how can the team justify pairing them both up as the starting outside linebackers? This defense would probably get trounced on the ground if that were the case. So we may have to be open to the possibility of moving Taylor to something of a situational pass-rusher role, while keeping Matt Roth (one of the best OLBs versus the run) in his starting role.

Taylor may only be here for one year before retiring, so it will still be crucial to get Cameron Wake game action so that he can develop. But at just $1.1 million, I'd much rather have Jason Taylor on the roster this year than Charlie Anderson or Tearrius George.

It's also worth noting that Taylor said he would join the Dolphins' offseason program as soon as possible - a far cry from his stance with the Redskins. Without a doubt, he wants to be here, and I am quite happy to have him back.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Problem child Quinn signed

It had been reported by multiple outlets prior to today, but the team's official website is finally announcing that the Dolphins signed guard J.D. Quinn as an undrafted free agent. Quinn attended the team's first rookie minicamps on a tryout basis.

Quinn (6'4, 300 lbs.) has a lengthy history of illegal behavior, and it's hard to get excited about the prospect of bringing this kid aboard.

Quinn's run of infamy began when he was dismissed from the University of Oklahoma in 2006 for accepting money from a local car dealership without having done any work for them. He then signed with the University of Montana but could not play in 2006 because he lost a year of eligibility in the scandal.

2008 saw him suspended from his team again - this time as a result of his third DUI arrest in four year.

That's right. Read that again. This moron has been arrested three times in four years (November 2005, July 2007, and May 2008) for driving under the influence and putting innocent people at risk.

The first of those arrests occurred when Quinn was only 19 years old - two years below the legal drinking age.

This kid might have the talent to become a solid player, but I'd rather not see him on my team. I believe in second chances, but when you repeatedly make the same poor decisions, it means you just don't get it.

This almost never happens, but in this case, I'm going to root for a player not to make the team.

Here's some more evidence of his douchebaggery:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Actual Draft Value and Speed Scores

This will be my first post looking at this year's draft from a statistical viewpoint.

I wanted to start by judging the trade that Miami made with Indianapolis in the second round. Miami traded the 56th pick to the Colts for the 61st and 165th picks.

I was curious to see what the draft trade chart had to say about the trade, but rather than using the relatively useless old version of the chart, I'm instead using the updated "Actual Draft Value Chart" published by Pro Football Prospectus.

According to the ADV Chart, Miami gave up 1240 points of value in return for 1318 points (1145+173).

So not only did Miami get an additional player out of the deal (S Chris Clemons), they also came out on top in terms of value. The trade looked like a good deal at the time, and the numbers bear that out.


Miami may not have drafted any running backs this year, but they did sign Anthony Kimble as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford.

Football Outsiders discovered a metric which bears a strong correlation with the future performance of running backs known as the Speed Score.

Here is the formula for this metric: (WEIGHT * 200)/(40 TIME^4)

What the Speed Score does is more accurately reflect a player's true speed, by taking into account the body frame being propelled forward. It's essentially a 40 time adjusted for weight and placed on a 100-point scale.

A 267 lb. RB who can traverse 40 yards in 4.56 seconds (Brandon Jacobs) is better equipped to succeed than a 198 lb. RB who does it in the same amount of time (Ahmad Bradshaw) because of the power behind that speed. In general, any speed score below 100 is poor, while the greater one's score is over 100, the better.

So let's take a look at the Speed Scores for this year's running backs:

40 Time
Speed Score
Andre Brown
North Carolina State
Cedric Peerman
Ian Johnson
Boise State
Javarris Williams
Tennessee State
Beanie Wells
Ohio State
Kory Sheets
Donald Brown
Rashad Jennings
Shonn Greene
Mike Goodson
Texas A&M
Chris Ogbannaya
Marlon Lucky
Knowshon Moreno
James Davis
Glen Coffee
Jeremiah Johnson
Bernard Scott
Abilene Christian
Anthony Kimble
Javon Ringer
Michigan State
Brandon Ore
West Liberty State
Tyrell Sutton
Gartrell Johnson
Colorado State
Kahlil Bell

Obviously, I wasn't expecting much, given the fact that Kimble went undrafted, but 91.6 is a really poor Speed Score and it doesn't portend well for his future success.

While the Speed Score is not a foolproof metric, it is far more hit than miss. Of course, he does have kick return experience so perhaps he could prove to be of some use in that area.

So did Miami have any better options (according to Speed Score)? Well, Kory Sheets (104.2) went undrafted and attended the 49ers minicamp on a tryout basis. Ian Johnson (107.2) also went undrafted and signed with the Vikings. I think either of those two players would have been a better option than Kimble.

Of course, I really just wish Miami had found a way to hold onto Jalen Parmele, who they drafted last year in the sixth round. He had a Speed Score of 112.2.

Miami hires CEO

PFT is reporting that the Dolphins have hired Michael Dee to be the CEO of the team and Dolphin Stadium.

Dee is the former Boston Red Sox Chief Operating Officer.

His "duties will include business development, marketing, sales and capital stadium projects."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

List of undrafted camp tryouts

In addition to the nine UDFAs that Miami signed following the Draft, they invited eight others to participate in the rookie camps on a tryout basis.

They are:

Friday, May 1, 2009

LandShark Stadium:

Apparently, there is speculation that the Dolphins could soon be announcing a new sponsored name for Dolphins Stadium.

That name?

LandShark Stadium - apparently after some beer that is hawked under Jimmy Buffett's name.

Forget for a moment that that name has nothing to do with dolphins or have any significance to the franchise, I understand that this is about money.

But, honestly, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear LandShark? Is it the beer, or is it the Saturday Night Live skit?

Don't get me wrong, that skit is hilarious, but do we really want our stadium to be associated with a joke?

Also, I think South Park summed up a lot of people's feelings on Jimmy Buffett: