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 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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week 5 vs. Jets Recap

Quick hits on the fantastic Monday night game:

  • I think it's safe to say that win-or-lose, Miami is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NFL, and in recent memory.
  • New minority-owner Marc Anthony did a tremendous job singing the pre-game national anthem. Really good stuff.
  • Lousaka Polite had a great game throwing huge blocks for Ronnie and Ricky.
  • That PI call on Will Allen was a disgraceful call.
  • What's with all of the people getting so outraged over the fact that the referee made the first penalty announcement in Spanish? Talk about xenophobia.
  • Anyone who continues to call Miami's use of the Wildcat a gimmick, or a joke, is just flat-out ignorant. You can call the Jets' pathetic attempt at it a gimmick, but Miami is clearly on another level with this stuff, and it's simply a huge, regular, and effective part of their offensive game plan. Deal with it.
  • Chad Henne made a declaration in this game. I have had my doubts about him, and one game doesn't change everything, but it certainly changes some things about how I look at him. His poise is unbelievable. He essentially led this offense on three separate comebacks in the fourth quarter.
  • Ted Ginn and Anthony Fasano, welcome to the season. Nice of you to finally show up.
  • Not enough praise can be given to this offensive line and tight ends for the spectacular job they did in protecting Henne and giving him plenty of time to make throws. That being said, Jake Grove got used and abused on more than one occasion by Kris Jenkins - the kind of big NT in the AFC East that he was specifically brought in here to beat.
  • Of special note - Justin Smiley was a freaking snow plow on that game-winning Wildcat run, pulling from his left guard spot and absolutely exploding open a running lane for Ronnie to follow straight to paydirt.
  • I know I'm not the only fan who was sweating bullets when out of nowhere, Sparano decides that the game-deciding drive with less than four minutes in the fourth quarter against a divisional rival was the perfect time to put Pat White in the game for his first snaps of the day. I think my heart skipped a beat when he almost tripped over his own feet before that first down run. Very lucky that those plays didn't backfire, but I like the idea of getting him more involved over the next few games.

Cobbs' season over; Sheets signed

When Patrick Cobbs ran a reverse out of the Wildcat formation late in Monday night's game against the Jets, he finished the play on the ground out of bounds and in obvious pain.

It's now been revealed that he tore his ACL and has been placed on Injured Reserve, ending his season.

Even though Cobbs was the third string running back, his loss is still significant. Cobbs made an impact in almost every phase of the game - particularly as a key contributor to the Wildcat and an all-around special teams ace. Those roles will not be easily filled.

Miami's decision to keep four RBs to start the season will now pay off, as Lex Hilliard moves up the depth chart. In Cobbs' absence, Ted Ginn should begin to see all of the kickoff return duties, which actually should be an upgrade.

I thought that Miami would use Cobbs' open roster spot to active Matt Roth from the NFI list once he's eligible after this week, but the team went ahead and signed RB Kory Sheets off of the 49ers' practice squad. I believe the rule about signing another team's practice squad players is that Miami must now keep Sheets on the 53-man roster for a minimum of three weeks.

Sheets (5'11, 208) was an undrafted free agent out of Purdue this past year. And if you remember, I actually pointed out that he would have been a better option to bring on board for training camp than Anthony Kimble due to his pretty good Speed Score of 104.2, 6th best in this past year's running back draft class.

Sheets is not a bruiser; he's a finesse back who excels as a receiving option. Here is one pre-draft analysis of him:

Sheets is an effective north/south ball handler who can create his own yardage. He has been productive as a running back and pass catcher, and Sheets offers a lot of potential at the next level as a third-down back/situational runner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

just because...

Week 5 vs. Jets Prediction

Let me start off this prediction post by addressing a question I received from a reader about tonight's matchup:

Do you think Wake will have the same success with the Jets that he had with the Bills? Although the Jets look like they have improved overall from last year, how strong is the Jets defense against the run?

It would be a miracle if Wake could produce the same huge game two weeks in a row. For starters, Joey Porter will most likely be back in the starting lineup, which will bump Wake back down the depth chart and limit Wake's opportunities to rush the QB. Secondly, Wake won't have the pleasure of facing an injury-ravaged offensive line (which wasn't spectacular to begin with) like he did versus the Bills. And finally, a lot of Miami's pass rush last week came much easier than normal because they got out to such a big lead so early. Essentially, that allowed the outside linebackers to just tee up and rush the QB for most of the game without fear of having to defend against a draw play or other run play since they knew Buffalo would be forced to pass on most plays from there on out.

I just don't see Miami getting out to such a big lead this week, and so the OLBs won't be placed in as many obvious passing downs.

As far as how the Jets fare against the run, Football Outsiders has their rush defense at -6.5% DVOA (remember, negative is good when it comes to defense), which is 15th best in the league. So the Jets have a truly average rush defense so far this year, falling right in the middle of the pack. They can be run on. It's their pass defense, at -30.3% DVOA (4th in NFL) which scares me.

Miami is going to try to win this game on the ground, as per usual, I would expect. But if they fall behind, they are going to have no choice but to pass the ball, and with Henne under center against this defense, that may be extremely difficult.

As for my prediction, I think Miami improved their outlook tremendously last week, but that performance must be taken with a grain of salt when you see that the Bills are so bad (losing to Cleveland 6-3!). On the other hand, I don't think the Jets are as good as they have appeared so far this year. However, I look back to Miami's two games against the Ravens last year and see how completely Rex Ryan's defense shut down Miami's offense, and that forces me to pick the Jets to win this week, (although I like Miami's chances a little better if Cotchery can't play). For the record, I'm 2-2 at picking the Dolphins games this year.

After last week's win, Miami's playoff chances now stand at 4.5%.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 Pass Defense Review (First Quarter)

Yesterday, I posted a review of Miami's special teams coverage tackles through the first quarter of the season.

Today, I'd like to share with you a review of some individual pass defense statistics. Below, I've created a table of every player who has recorded a sack, quarterback hit, interception, or pass defense.

In today's NFL, games are won and lost primarily by passing and stopping the pass. At 1-3, it's obvious that Miami's defense has not done an adequate job in this respect.

Here are the numbers:

Will Allen

Yeremiah Bell


Tyrone Culver

Vontae Davis

Nathan Jones

Kendall Langford

Phillip Merling

Joey Porter

Sean Smith

Randy Starks

Jason Taylor

Reggie Torbor


Cameron Wake

Gibril Wilson


Those numbers are pretty middling to say the least, and they look even worse when you consider that 6 of the sacks and 6 of the quarterback hits came in last week's game against Buffalo. That's half of this team's pass rush generated in a single game. Not to mention that all three INTs came in that one game as well.

And when Tryone Culver has more PDs than Yeremiah Bell or Gibril Wilson, you know the starting safeties are making zero plays in coverage.

These numbers absolutely have to improve if Miami is to have any chance at staying alive in this division.

I'll continue to keep track of these numbers and update them again at the midseason point.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Special Teams Coverage Review (2009 First Quarter)

For the past two years I've been keeping tabs throughout the season on which players are making the most tackles on special teams.

I do this because special teams tackles are rarely reported, and they are a good sign of which players are the most active on special teams.

Jason Allen and Patrick Cobbs were the unit's leaders last season, with late-season addition Erik Walden adding another weapon.

Walden had a big game against the Bills, but it's Lex Hilliard who has taken the early lead in special teams tackles. And that's great to see, since keeping a fourth running back on the roster is a luxury. Knowing that Hilliard can make a big impact on game day as a core special teams player is his ticket to sticking around for a while.

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

Jason Allen


Charlie Anderson


Patrick Cobbs


Tyrone Culver

Vontae Davis


John Denney

Brandon Fields


Lex Hilliard


Nathan Jones

Reggie Torbor


Cameron Wake


Erik Walden

Gibril Wilson


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week 4 vs. Bills Recap

I think that's what everyone was looking for - a complete team effort, with no one unit sabotaging the efforts of everyone else.

It might be a little easier to have confidence in this team going forward now.

Let's get to the bulletpoints:

  • Most obvious: The running game is a beast. Got to give props to the offense line in this regard. Also, Ronnie Brown is currently leading the league in DYAR, with 133. He's second in the league in DVOA (34.6%) behind Marion Barber. Needless to say, that's fantastic. Ricky Williams is also playing out of his mind, with 64 DYAR (5th) and a 20.7% DVOA (9th).
  • Chad Henne: It didn't really matter who we had back there this game. Pat White and Tyler Thigpen would have won this game as well. That said, the game did show a lot of areas that Henne needs to improve in. He may have a strong arm, but so far, it seems like he has a tendency to overthrow his deep balls. He also doesn't have a good feel for the rush. He took six sacks this game - and quite a few could be blamed on him not feeling the rush and moving around enough to get the pass off quickly. He's got to improve on that pocket awareness and getting the ball out quickly. I think a lot of it stems from his problems making multiple reads downfield at this point. It's taking him too long.
  • Ted Ginn: Apparently the coaches were trying to send a message to Ginn by essentially benching him for most of the second half. If he can't get things turned out around immediately, this funk might linger for a long time.
  • The pass rush: Cameron Wake showed up big time with Joey Porter out of the lineup. Jason Taylor also made his presence felt. It was nice to see, but we have to remember they were playing against a crappy Bills offensive line beset by injuries. Let's see if they can repeat their performance against a decent unit.
  • Secondary: The team needed playmakers in the secondary, and that's exactly what they got with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Kudos to Will Allen as well for his two-pick game.
  • Gibril Wilson is still missing tackles.
  • I absolutely love the playcalling to go for it on fourth-and-ones or less.
  • I care much more about how good this team is at stopping the pass than it is at stopping the run. You win when you can stop the pass. I think the brief sample size of Miami's season to this point will back that up.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week 4 vs. Bills Prediction

Unfortunately, my prediction from last week came true, so I'm standing at 2-1 on the year for predicting Miami's games.

This week, Miami faces a much easier matchup than the Chargers, getting the Bills at home.

The Bills are facing a laundry list of injuries, most notably one of their starting tackles, Demetrius Bell, as well as their two starting safeties Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott.

That's good news since Miami may be without Joey Porter and they'll have Chad Henne making his first start.

The thing is, this team has done nothing to convince me that they will all of a sudden change course just because a new QB is under center. In fact, I'm always leery when it comes to QBs making their first starts. Henne is being given a prime opportunity to make a good first impression against a poor Buffalo defense, but will he deliver in his first try? More importantly, will the rest of the team be up to the challenge? The entire team hasn't played a good game together yet. Until they do, I'm not comfortable picking them to win, even though this game looks oh-so-winnable.

So, I'm picking the Bills to win.

After last week's loss, Miami's playoff chances now stand at 0.9%.