“That's the biggest gap in sports, the difference between the winner and the loser of the Super Bowl.”
- John Madden, Hall of Fame head coach and NFL broadcaster
If you’re like me, the media information in the days leading up to the Super Bowl are an incredibly mind-numbing display of staid comments and canned quotes presented in deadpanned delivery. By the time the game finally rolls around, you’ll be amazingly well-versed in which players like garlic on their artichokes, and you might even be aware that ‘Matty Ice’ isn’t a new brand of beer in the cheap aisle of the grocery store. But you’ll know very little, if anything at all, about how any particular player feels about the game.
“The (other guys) are really good.”
“They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t playing at an elite level.”
“We have to be very prepared for these guys.”
“We have a lot of respect for them.”
“Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.”
Lately the best quote we’ve been presented with was Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch mumbling, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” while offering literally nothing more prior to Super Bowl XLIX.
It makes me miss the days when Dallas Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson famously said that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if he was spotted the C and the T. (Side note: After Bradshaw then threw for four touchdowns in Super Bowl XIII to beat the Cowboys 35-31, Henderson said “I didn’t say he couldn’t play, just that he couldn’t spell.”)
Or how about when Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm said, “I’d run over my mother to win the Super Bowl,” only for Oakland Raider linebacker Matt Millen chime in with, “I’d run over Russ Grimm’s mother, too.”
Or even the (postgame) resoluteness in his tone when Larry Csonka (my favorite Dolphins player of all time) sat in the locker room after a 24-3 pounding in Super Bowl VI, and said the Dolphins wouldn’t forget this feeling, they’d be back, and they’d win that game. (And I spent that entire next school year strutting around, chest puffed out, as my team won. Every. Single. Game.)
Ah, the good old days.
But back to the present, where I ask, if you were to bet your entire paycheck on the Super Bowl, which team would you pick?
The New England Patriots are favored by a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to beat the Atlanta Falcons, and they bring a wealth of history, experience, and knowledge of all the intangibles associated with a championship game played on the largest stage in all of sports.
Meanwhile the Falcons have the best offense in the league, with quarterback and MVP candidate Matt Ryan leading the best running back corps in the league, along with one of the NFL’s top wide receivers, Julio Jones, leading a potent trio of pass catchers. The Falcons also have the only offensive line in the league that has remained intact for all 18 games they’ve played this season. That’s not a small feat in today’s NFL, where injuries are a weekly occurrence, and the ever-omniscient ‘next man up’ mentality prevails.
So what to expect in this game?
As is the staple of every Bill Belichick team, look for the Patriots defense to try and eliminate one of the tools in quarterback Matt Ryan’s toolbelt in the opening drives, forcing the Falcons to look to their secondary weapons early on. And as always, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s defense will note what works for the Falcons in those early drives, and then switch their focus as the game wears on.
The trick for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense will be to outguess where the Patriots’ initial focus will be, and find ways to exploit other areas early on. It will be crucial for the Falcons to find the end zone early in their opening drives. I have no doubt that the Falcons can score in this game, as long as Ryan and his teammates (especially the receivers) avoid any early game jitters.
No one knows how things will ultimately unfold, but my guess is that the Patriots will focus on shutting down the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman early on, then shift added attention to shutting down the lethal trio of Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, and Mohamad Sanu in the second half. Of course that strategy is more ideal if the Patriots are playing with a lead, something they’ve done almost all year – they have only spent 12% of the season trailing their opponents.
The Patriots have faced very few dangerous (and fully healthy) offenses this season, and while Belichick will find a way to disrupt things, Matt Ryan has a lot of weapons at his disposal, and he’s smart enough to use them all.
The Falcons are no strangers to leads themselves, having averaged a league-leading 33.4 points per game this season, and scoring 80 points in their two postseason games leading into the Super Bowl. And while their defense hasn’t gotten the press that the Patriots' has, that unit has steadily improved under head coach Dan Quinn as the season progressed.
Is the Atlanta defense good enough to stop the ever-methodical Patriots offense? In a word, yes. But the key will be to bring pressure early and often, and find ways to get their hands on quarterback Tom Brady. As Dolphins fans well know, Brady can be rattled if he is pressured. And the Patriots typically offset the early rush by quick reads of the defense and quick passes behind the blitz, something at which Brady excels.
And to offset that, the Falcons defensive backs cannot afford to play a passive zone defense. They’ll need to disrupt the receiver routes at the line, and eliminate those timed throws that Brady loves. Otherwise they’ll be eaten alive.
So how does the winner prevail?
I fully expect a high-scoring game with both sides trading leads throughout the game. The deciding factor will likely be which defense makes a crucial stop at opportune times, setting the course for that team to utilize ball control, as both teams would like nothing better than to grind the clock with their running games. My hope/guess/prayer (because I am a Dolphins fan after all), is that team is the Falcons.
My head says this is going to be a close game and the Patriots will be tough to stop. And my heart says:
This article was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Remember way back in July, when the Miami Dolphins signed free agent running back Arian Foster? Many fans were ecstatic that the team was adding a proven star at the running back position, predicting that Foster would lead the team in rushing yards and add a three-down back that would stay on the field in passing situations as well.
As I’ve been wont to say before, whoa there, Nellie, not so fast.
According to Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, it was never the plan to let Foster handle the load. As an 8-year veteran player, coming off an injury-riddled season (in fact Foster had missed 23 of his previous 48 games in the past three years), Foster was signed for a much different role.
“We were looking for a veteran guy that could come in and be a mentor,” said Grier. “When we met with Arian Foster, we spent a lot of time talking to him. We told him, we said, 'You're going to be a 10-carry guy … catch four or five balls a game, but we're going to play these young guys, too.' To his credit, that was the role he was coming in to. He wasn't coming in to be a workhorse again, and he understood that.”
While Foster’s statistics don’t reflect much - 55 yards on 22 carries in four games before suffering a soft tissue injury that led to his retirement a few weeks later – Foster was instrumental as a mentor for the young running backs on the Dolphins roster.
“We were hoping that he could teach them how to be a pro in terms of preparation, studying, and doing everything right,” said Grier. “From that aspect, Arian was great with the guys.”
What wasn’t expected was that Foster would decide that the rehabilitation from his groin and hamstring injuries was more than he was willing to endure at this stage in his career, and he abruptly retired at the end of October.
“When he decided to retire, all the guys - the running backs - were shocked,” recalled Grier. “I think Drake and all those guys were thinking about working out with him in the offseason. So, it became a close room. I think Arian played a big part in helping those guys grow up fast."
And grow they did, as Jay Ajayi, who had taken over the starting role in Week 3, really took off from that point, with a pro bowl-worthy season that included three 200 yard games. Damian Williams played very well in the third down roles, and Kenyan Drake made his mark as well (albeit more as a returner than in the backfield).
As the team heads into the offseason, Foster won’t be around to mentors the young backs, but his work ethic lives on, and Grier notes that Ajayi is now the undisputed and respected ‘veteran’ in the running back room. And with that comes the requisite expectations for the coming season.
“With Jay, the one thing is he wants to be good; he wants to be great. He's young, and he knows the things he can improve on. We're excited for his future. It's on us to make sure we keep surrounding him with good players, and keep upgrading the offensive line, so that we can make sure he becomes a factor for years to come.
"I think he has just scratched the surface of what he can be.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Good news for Dolphins fans, as NFL Network's Ian Rapaport has reported that it is unlikely quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need to undergo full reconstruction surgery for the knee injury he suffered against the Arizona Cardinals, and instead will continue to rehab and perhaps even take the approach one former NBA superstar took to get back to playing form.
The Dolphins declined to comment on the report, but there will be another MRI done on Monday to confirm the suspicions that Tannehill's knee will not require surgery.
Rapaport cited sources close to the situation, quoting them as saying that the rehab “is going so well that those involved believe he will not need a full reconstruction prior to the 2017 season.”
However, Miami's franchise QB will likely need to wear a knee brace while playing.
Tannehill, 28, suffered a partial tear in both his ACL and MCL after taking a hard hit from Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell late in the third quarter of their Week 14 matchup. Backup QB Matt Moore came in and finished the game, and speculation began as to whether Tannehill would play again in 2016.
Ultimately, the answer turned out to be no, and Moore played in Miami's first playoff appearance since 2008, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and putting the Dolphins into offseason mode. The question on everyone's lips was the status and fate of Ryan Tannehill.
Since then, Tannehill has been working on strengthening his knee, doing exercises and - according to the Miami Herald - visiting Dr. James Andrews, who is known as one of America's top specialists in repairing damaged ligaments.
In Rapaport's report, he reveals that Tannehill has also taken to basketball to try and strengthen his injured knee for sudden movements, and he is also contemplating going to Germany to undergo a procedure known as “Regenokine, a form of platelet-rich plasma therapy made famous by Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Essentially, it takes a patient's blood, spins it to separate the platelets, then is re-injected into the knee.”
Known to NBA fans as the "Kobe Procedure," the treatment seemingly healed Bryant's weak knees and led him to having a comeback season that was truly awe-inspiring, and he routinely returned to Germany every offseason to have the procedure repeated in order to maintain the new strength.
If Tannehill does go this route, he could find himself back in form sooner than anyone might expect. Kobe Bryant is a champion and for him to take this treatment into such high regard speaks volumes to its effectiveness.
Basketball is harder on the knees because of the sudden stops, jumps and constant turning, so as long as he takes care to avoid taking another hard hit to the knee, Tannehill should be ready and raring to go by the time training camp rolls around.
Clearly, the treatment would not be the only thing that Ryan Tannehill and Kobe Bryant would have in common. They both have an incredible pain tolerance and are warriors for their sport. That alone should be highly respected.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The offensive line has been a concern for the Miami Dolphins for several years now, since 2012 at the very least when quarterback Ryan Tannehill was a young and raw rookie who was getting hit on almost every play due to a severe lack of protection upfront.
In response to this lack of protection, Miami has invested a lot of resources into attempting to fix the offensive line, and most recently, featured four 1st round draft picks in Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey and Ja'Wuan James, with the only odd man out being ten-year veteran Jermon Bushrod who started at right guard.
But despite all the efforts to improve the line, even going as far as to release offensive linemen Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas after Week 5, the line continued to struggle, ranking 30th in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, and it was clear that they were unable to get any push in the run game and their pass protection fell apart late in the season.
So clearly, there needs to be a lot of emphasis placed on improving the offensive line before the 2017 season. Ryan Tannehill got injured because of its failure, and the running game sputtered out and made it very difficult for Jay Ajayi to get any holes to run through.
That is a cause for concern.
However, what should not be dismissed is how much better - and more effective - the offensive line was when all five of their starters were on the field together, specifically Mike Pouncey, who was able to get push on the line and block at the second level unlike backups Anthony Steen and Kraig Urbik.
That alone went a long way in Jay Ajayi having his breakout season, and almost as soon as the line suffered further injury, it all disappeared. Health is the key issue on the offensive line, not talent, and GM Chris Grier recognizes that and is searching for stability.
“I think it’s important. Look at Atlanta. Everyone is talking about how the Falcons … I think they didn’t have an offensive lineman miss a game all year." Grier said. "They stayed together all year. It just shows you that if you can keep those five guys on the field together, especially our offensive line – I forget the record when they’re all on the field together – they’re like 8-1 or something, 9-1 or something like that over the last couple years.
"Again for us, it’s important that we can keep those guys together. But at the end of the day, we know that they may not all be here and we just have to make sure that whoever the next five guys are next season that we do our best to keep them on the field together.”
There are questions as to what Miami should do with certain players, particularly left tackle Branden Albert, whose clock is ticking with the Dolphins and he'll count for $10,600,000 against the cap in 2017. Combined with the injuries he's dealt with the past few seasons, an argument could be made that Miami should part ways with the veteran and free up the $7.2 million in cap space releasing him would make.
In turn, that would shift Laremy Tunsil back outside to left tackle where he was a star at Ole Miss, and force the Dolphins to search for a reliable left guard in Tunsil's absence.
But there is a larger issue than the offensive line, despite its grave importance. The truth of the matter is, when the offensive line is healthy - which it will be by the start of the 2017 season - it is a good unit and there's proof of that very fact in the way Jay Ajayi was able to run with all five players blocking for him, making holes so he could break free and make plays.
Point is, the offensive line works when all five players are healthy, and that has been the core issue for quite some time. Players have gotten hurt, and their backups have been unable to replicate the production of those who are ahead of them. Pouncey and Albert, the anchors of the line, have both missed games, but removing them isn't the answer to success, not yet anyway.
While it is true that Mike Pouncey hasn't played a full season since 2012, this is only the first year in which Pouncey has missed more than four games, so it would be extremely paranoid to assume that Pouncey is now washed up.
You didn't see the Pittsburgh Steelers bail out on Maurkice Pouncey after he played only one game in 2013.
To suggest that the Dolphins shouldn't further invest in the offensive line would be foolish, it's always a good idea to further reinforce the trenches just in case something does happen to someone in the starting lineup.
However, let us also not forget what it was that truly held the Dolphins back this season: their beyond mediocre defense, which ranked 30th against the run and 15th against the pass, although they often looked much worse than that. Do not forget that the need on defense far outweighs that of the offensive line.
Miami needs offensive line help, of course, and they should explore every possibility to improve there. But their needs at this current time lay on the defensive line and the linebacker corps, for if those don't get a major talent infusion, and soon, the bleeding will continue into 2017, and that is just unacceptable.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Every NFL team has a set idea of the traits incoming players need to have to be productive, and in the case of the Miami Dolphins, there's no shortage of positions - particularly on defense - that need an infusion of talent if the team is to have any hope of repeating their 2016 success.
This means that Miami will have to evaluate their roster and decide which positions need the most work in the offseason. This will inevitably lead the front office to the fact that the linebacker position is in a severe state of disarray, with Jelani Jenkins being a disappointment as of late - on top of needing a new contract - and Koa Misi trying to recover from a potentially career-ending injury.
This just leaves Kiko Alonso, who is also a free agent, albeit a restricted one, as the only good linebacker Miami has left. This means that linebacker will be a very heavily scouted position in both free agency and in the draft, and there are certain traits that the Dolphins are looking for in new players.
“I think the big thing for us is finding guys that are instinctive, guys that are tough guys, but also have the ability to play in space." General Manager Chris Grier said Wednesday at the Senior Bowl. "I think the one thing we talked about with (Head Coach) Adam (Gase) as well is improving team speed on defense.
"Again, the way the game is played now, it’s a little more in the passing and space, but you also still have those guys, like I said in the run game, that can hold up inside and make plays, are instinctive, can beat blocks and find plays. For us, again it’s finding guys that are productive – a good history of production, smart, intelligent and can run a little bit.”
With new defensive coordinator Matt Burke likely to maintain the usage of the Wide-9 technique on defense, improving the linebackers is an absolute necessity if the defense is to improve after 2016's statistical failure. The Dolphins were ranked 30th against the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry and repeatedly getting gashed by patient runners who simply waited for a hole and got large chunks of yardage at the worst possible times.
The Wide-9 works in the NFL, it has been proven as such by teams in the past, but for the scheme to work, it requires excellent linebacker play, something that Miami has not had since the days of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, who were chased off by then head coach Joe Philbin due to their outspoken tendencies.
Linebacker must be a top priority this offseason, whether in the draft or in free agency. If not, expect more of the same on defense, and if that happens, it's very unlikely that the Dolphins will make the playoffs a second time.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Miami Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum caused a slight cosmic shift in the Dolphins universe this week when, during an interview between practices at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, he insinuated that quarterback Ryan Tannehill may need surgery on his injured left knee.
"Just to give you guys an update on Ryan, we're still working through the process,” said Tannenbaum. “Nothing's been definitively decided yet. As always … player health and safety is paramount. We'll do what's best for the player. We have no material updates as of today, but it's something (that Head Coach) Adam (Gase), (General Manager) Chris (Grier), (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve Ross and myself, we'll keep talking through. When we have more information, we'll share it; but nothing materially new as of now."
Cryptic as that may sound, reporters immediately honed in on the fact that if a second MRI on Tannehill’s knee indicates less healing than expected, the process could be accelerated with surgery to repair tears to Tannehill’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial cruciate ligament (MCL), both of which suffered sprains, or small tears when Tannehill was hit low during Miami’s Week 14 win over the Arizona Cardinals by defensive lineman Calias Campbell.
When Tannenbaum was pressed for details, he instead deflected to say that he has full confidence in the Dolphins medical staff, and that subsequent tests would determine the next step.
"I think like on any significant medical decision, we want to do it collaboratively. Certainly we have a very good and experienced medical staff. One of the things that I like about our medical staff is they're exhaustive in their research.”
In reading between the lines, it is this writer’s opinion that during the initial MRI and examination, doctors determined that those small tears in the ligaments were inconsequential enough that they should heal by themselves in a 6-8 week period of time. If after that time (Tannehill’s injury occurred roughly seven weeks ago), a re-examination determines that the tears are not healing significantly or sufficiently, then a subsequent plan for treatment will be prescribed, which could simply mean more rest, arthroscopic surgery, or surgery to fully repair the damage.
So should Dolphins fans worry?
Probably not. At least not until that second MRI and examination is done. It is quite likely that Tannehill, who is renowned as a very fast healer, may pass the second examination with flying colors. As Tannenbaum clearly noted, the medical staff has been very thorough to date, so he (and fans) need to rely on their expertise in coming to the best prognosis to return Tannehill’s knee to full health.
“Obviously a player ultimately decides what they want to do,” concluded Tannenbaum. “But we're in constant communication in talking to Ryan, and he's talking to our trainers and doctors all the time. His agent is involved, and it's been something where we all want to make sure that we're doing this correctly and taking our time.”
The Dolphins certainly aren’t going to take any unnecessary risks with the franchise quarterback, and it sounds like all Tannenbaum is saying is that the team will do everything they can to ensure Tannehill is 100% when all is said and done.
“Our player's well-being is always a paramount concern for us."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
During the Miami Dolphins last game, a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round, quarterback Matt Moore took a huge (and some would say questionable) hit from Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree.
And Dolphins fan cringed.
Actually most were screaming at their televisions for a flag, as the hit was clearly helmet-to-helmet, and it did indeed draw an unsportsmanlike conduct flag from the officials.
Moore was down for several minutes before being helped to the sideline. But after spending just one play on the sideline, he was right back on the field, surprising commentators and fans alike.
Wednesday, the NFL released a sternly-worded letter to the Dolphins, reprimanding them for not strictly following the league concussion protocol.
To wit, the league’s concussion protocol requires that certain symptoms require that the player be taken to the locker room for further evaluation beyond that given on the sideline. One of those symptoms is ‘bleeding from the mouth’, which was clearly noticeable in Moore’s case.
While the letter addresses Dolphins medical personnel, they weren’t wholly at fault, as the NFL provides an Unaffiliated Neuro-trauma Consultant (UNC) on the sidelines for every game. Team doctors involve the UNC for any suspected concussion evaluations, and the Dolphins did so in this case. The team and UNC jointly cleared Moore to return to the game.
In essence, the story here is that the Dolphins received a stern warning, stating they missed a step in the protocol, and to not let it happen again.
The NFL’s statement, in full, is noted below:
NFL STATEMENT ON MOORE CONCUSSION PROTOCOL REVIEW
The NFL and NFLPA have reviewed the application of the Concussion Protocol by the Dolphins’ medical staff in the January 8th Steelers-Dolphins game.
The Miami Dolphins were notified in a letter co-signed by Dr. Hunt Batjer, Co-Chair of the NFL Head, Neck & Spine Committee and Dr. Thom Mayer, Medical Director for the NFLPA, that the NFL-NFLPA review determined that the Protocol was not strictly followed. The letter further advised the Dolphins that they must engage their staff in a full review of the Protocol and conduct additional education, if necessary. The Dolphins were also advised that any future deviation from the Protocol may result in enhanced discipline, including monetary fines assessed against the Club.
In the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore incurred a hit to the chin and mouth area which drew a roughing the passer penalty. Mr. Moore was attended to by medical staff on the field and on the sideline. The team doctor took appropriate steps to promptly and fully involve the Unaffiliated Neuro-trauma Consultant (UNC) in the medical evaluation of the player and review of the video. They jointly cleared Mr. Moore to return to the game, but did not recognize that Mr. Moore presented a documented symptom, bleeding from the mouth, that required further evaluation in the locker room under the protocol. There is no indication that competitive issues had an impact on the care that Mr. Moore received, nor did Mr. Moore demonstrate any concussion symptoms either during or at any time following the game.
It is important for us to ensure everyone understands and follows the Protocol and that we continue to reinforce its importance. The co-chairmen of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee sent a memo to the medical staffs of the clubs participating in the playoffs reminding them of that point.
The objective of the Concussion Protocol is to ensure a standardized process composed of best practices is used to identify and manage potential concussions. Concussion diagnosis and management is often a difficult and complex exercise, compounded by hectic game conditions. Accurate diagnosis and management of concussion requires a collaborative approach among experienced physicians on the sideline, each acutely aware of his or her responsibilities and all committed to the strict application of the protocol designed to protect players.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
I have always been a draft nut ever since I was a teenager. I would, and still do if my wife lets me, watch hours and hours of draft coverage. My parents would say, “How can you watch this? It is basically someone reading names off of a phone book.”
I would pay attention to Mel Kiper Jr’s big board and I would constantly be scanning the internet for mock draft content. It always makes me shake my head when an “expert” would predict a player to a team that that team would not pick due to that player not being a scheme fit or a need. It seems like these experts always give the Dolphins one of these non-scheme fit or need picks.
It happened again this year, one of these so called experts mocked the Dolphins taking a cornerback. I swear these guys just draw a name out of a hat. Don’t get me wrong, the Dolphins need a lot of help on the defense, but I do not see them going with a boundary cornerback in the first three rounds.
That is our deepest and youngest position on defense. In my opinion we have three solid starting cornerbacks, and we will have a problem next year getting all of them on the field, the cornerback position is a bright spot on the Dolphins’ defense.
One of the biggest bright spots to emerge on this defense is Tony Lippett. Lippett who was drafted as a converted WR, was supposed to be a long term project, but when forced into the lineup Lippett shined. Lippett has everything you want in a cornerback. He has long arms and a big frame.
Lippett also has smooth technique which is shocking when you realize how inexperienced he is at the position. If Lippett works on getting his upper body stronger, getting off of blocks, and being aggressive on screens he will have a chance to be really good in the NFL.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tony Lippett is at the top of the screen. The Bengals throw the ball to his side of the field. Lippett does a good job of peeling off his man, fighting through a block, and making a play on the ball carrier.
Lippett is at the top of the screen playing off. The Bengals call a screen to Lippett’s side of the field with an exotic formation. Lippett needs to get off the block quicker to make a play on the ball carrier.
Lippett is at the top of the screen up on his man. Lippett keeps his man in front of him and breaks quickly on the ball as the ball arrives to the receiver to disrupt the play.
Lippett is at the top of the screen playing off. The Bengals call a run play. Lippett shows a willingness to throw his body at the ball carrier in order to stop the run.
Lippett is at the top of the screen playing off. The Bengals throw it to A.J. Green who is running a smoke route, Lippett is covering. Lippett does a really good job of reading and reacting to the pass. Lippett fires off toward Green as soon as the ball is thrown.
Lippett makes the mistake of trying to rush in the tackle with his head down instead of not breaking down before making contact with Green. Green makes Lippett pay for his mistake with a touchdown.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. The Bengals call a quick pass at Lippett. Lippett does a great job of running with his man and keeping an eye on the QB. Lippett makes a great play on the ball as the ball gets to the receiver.
Against the Titans, Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen and is playing off the line of scrimmage. The Titans run the ball to the left side of their formation. Murray bounces it out. Lippett makes an open field shoe string tackle.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. The Titans call a run play to the left of the formation. Murray gets to the second level. Lippett hits Murray around the legs and prevents Murray from gaining a lot more yards. Lippett does need to learn how to wrap up the ball carrier, too often he throws himself at the feet of the ball carrier with his head down.
Lippett is at the bottom of the screen. The Titans run the ball to the left with Henry. Lippett is there to stop Henry, but instead of wrapping up Lippett throws himself at the feet of Henry. I would probably run the other direction if I saw a man of Henry’s stature coming at me. Lippett needs to breakdown and wrap up.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Tajee Sharpe catches a quick out. Lippett taxes him for catching the ball with a physical shoulder.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. The Titans throw a quick curl to Tajee Sharpe. Lippett gave Sharpe a lot of cushion because they were in a two-minute defense. Sharpe puts a juke on Lippett, as Lippett is once again jumping at the ball carrier’s feet with his head down. Sharpe squirrels past Lippett for an additional five yards.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen. Lippett is cover his man when Mariota scramble his way. This play illustrates another thing Lippett has to work on. At times he gets locked up with blockers. Here Lippett needs to get off his blocker and limit Mariota from gaining more yards.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen. I am not sure if it’s a player’s preference or a coach’s design, but Lippett gives a lot of cushion which will bite him at times. Here is an instance of it biting him.
Lippett gives Rishard Matthews a cushion and then gives him more cushion by backpedaling. Matthews is able to make a uncontested catch at the first down marker to move the chains.
This offseason Lippett needs to work on getting off blocks. It seemed like every time there was a screen thrown his way, he was either a non-factor in stopping the play or it took him a while to disengage from the block and assist with a tackle. Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen.
The Steelers call a screen pass his way. Lippett gets latched on by the blocker and it took five seconds for him to shed his blocker. Teams will take advantage of this and throw screens his way all game if he doesn’t fix this issue.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen. Pitt throws the ball in the shallow flats to Xavier Grimble. Lippett does a nice job of transferring over his zone responsibility to next zone then getting back to his zone. Then he finishes the play by making a tackle on the ball carrier.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen across Antonio Brown on this play. Lippett understands he has deep help and shows a good trail technique by running step for step with Brown.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen and shows another good example of changing direction and responding quickly to the ball carrier.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen across from Antonio Brown. He has deep help over the top. Lippett show off great trail technique. He is stride for stride with Brown. This contributes to a coverage sack.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen and is going against Sammie Coates. Lippett has one on one coverage against Coates who is one of the fastest WRs in the league. Lippett did give Coates cushion but a lot of CBs have given Coates cushion one on one and lived to regret it.
The Steelers throw a deep ball to Coates. Lippett has a good back pedal and turns his hips smoothly to run full stride with Coates. Coates never had a chance on this play. Lippett did a great job of standing his ground and boxing out Coates.
Lippett is at the bottom of the screen. The play is at the other side of the play but I want you to notice his smooth transition from back pedal to exploding to what is in front of him. Lippett doesn’t have to take extra steps in order to change directions, just plants one foot and goes. Very impressive for a man his size.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Lippett is playing press. I would like him to get a little more physical at the line of scrimmage, but he does a good job of getting his hands on the WR and running backwards with the WR.
Lippett is lined up at the top of the screen. Lippett gives Tyrel Williams cushion on this play. The Chargers throw a deep in with Williams for a 20+ yard gain. Lippett gives up the most inside.
This may be due to his off ball cushion, non-physical style of game. Or it may be the defense forcing thing to the inside and having linebackers and safeties punish WRs going over the middle. This is something he needs to work on.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Lippett’s awareness is very good. He peels off his responsibility when he notices Rivers throwing a corner fade route to the back corner of the end zone. This was an important play because if the Chargers score a touchdown, they would get the lead and maintain momentum.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Lippett again shows off good ball skill and awareness while playing zone. Lippett runs with his man while keeping his eyes on the QB. The ball is in the air when Lippett leaps and gets the game sealing interception.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. I came away being very impressed on how Lippett plays the deep ball. Lippett demonstrates a solid back pedal, then a smooth transition to be in phase.
Then Lippett finds the WR and bodies him. But the thing that makes the coverage good is how while running with the WR he finds the ball by turning his head back while making contact and cutting the WR off from making a catch.
Lippett is lined up at bottom of the screen. Lippett demonstrates really good cover ability on this play. Lippett has a smooth back pedal. Then transitions fluidly from back pedal to in phase. This allows him to run step for step with the WR.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Lippett demonstrates great cover ability on this play. He runs step for step with the quick footed Tavon Austin. Austin runs a comeback route. Lippett breaks on the ball smoothly and is able to get his hands on the ball, unfortunately he was unable to bring it in.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. Lippett needs to work on being more aggressive on screens that are thrown his way. In my opinion he grades out poorly against screens. He needs to attack and not be hesitant.
The Steelers throw a screen his way and Lippett hesitates which allows the blocks to develop. Lippett was too late to make a play on this play, and Antonio Brown was able to make a touchdown.
Lippett is lined up at the bottom of the screen. In my opinion Lippett had an excellent year, but Lippett had a rough game against Pittsburgh. This may have left a bad taste in Dolphins fans mouths. I think many people point to this play in particular because Brown scored a touchdown while Lippett was covering him.
I don’t know if it was Lippett’s fault. Lippett knows he has a safety behind him so he tries to make a play on the ball. He actually makes a pretty good play on the ball, unfortunately Roethlisberger made a better play.
This film review was done by Matthew Knowles. Follow him on Twitter: @blueflamespcl
The internet can be a very dangerous place at times, but within the hazards scattered about the world wide web, there are several sites and programs that can be quite productive. The NFL and United Way have decided to embrace the internet's influence on the youth of America, and have created a program called Character Playbook focusing on youth character development and building healthy relationships.
This past Friday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins and United Way of Broward County launched their Character Playbook at Deerfield Beach Middle School with help from wide receivers Kenny Stills and Rashawn Scott, and alumni players Twan Russell and Troy Drayton.
Stills - who won the Dolphins Nat Moore Community Service Award this past season - was accompanied by Scott and Drayton to interact with a class of 7th and 8th graders who were trying out the program for the very first time, which gave them a first look at what the program had to offer as well.
They were impressed to say the least, with both the program and the students being tested by it.
"I like it, I need to give it to my little brother the way I thought about it," Scott said. "Just how smart they were answering back to all the questions, you know there's different feelings out there and sometimes you get them wrong, but it's just a different feeling. It's just teaching you this feelings goes with that, so they're getting a head start actually and I love it."
The Character Playbook uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years, and is comprised of six interactive, digital modules that cover key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning, and building healthy relationships.
With no shortage of situations for students to go through in real life, the Character Playbook aims to tackle as many issues as possible.
"Some of the character we're trying to build is healthy relationships," said United Way of Broward County President & CEO Kathleen Cannon. "So about how people interact with each other, also about accepting who people are, not bullying or not judging. Also about drugs and alcohol, making those decisions and how to progress in a healthy manner, building strong self-esteem and strong decision-making, so all of that is built into this platform.
"It's different scenarios that kids face, different reactions that they have to have and different decisions, and it takes them through multi-different platforms of how to make those decisions and what's good character and what's not, what could happen if you make some decisions, and it opens the tough conversations that we have to have with kids and with each other and is very thought-provoking."
After the time spent in the computer-lab setting, everyone moved into the school's cafeteria and was joined by several other classes of middle-schoolers, where they met with the players and the MC Twan Russell to get some information on being Dol-fit, along with a Q&A with the players on what it means for them to have good character.
Which is a concept that football players in this day and age know only too well.
"I got little brothers and sisters, it means a lot." said Rashawn Scott. "You know when you feel in your gut that you can't let anyone down, and if you let them down then this is how they look up to you, so don't think about yourself, think about the people that are below you, and the people that you chase to catch up to their character, you think about them too."
Character has become a big deal in the NFL, so the fact that so much effort is being put into teaching up and coming students the way things are supposed to be done speaks volumes of the NFL's intentions. The Miami Dolphins - ever an example for what being community-oriented is all about - was sure to be a part of the program's spreading influence.
The hope is that within the next five years, every middle school would be using the Character Playbook, with the added hope that it will lead the way to a better tomorrow.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Autism, a very real and very serious problem that now impacts 1 in 6 children across the country. There are numerous theories out there as to how it manifests itself and how it can be cured, but oftentimes it's shrugged off as nothing with all the hustle and bustle of every day living.
But for those who are caretakers of someone with autism, or are perhaps living with autism themselves, it actually is every day living, and it is far from nothing.
Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino is among those who knows all too well what it's like living with someone who has been diagnosed with autism, as his son Michael was diagnosed with autism growing up. That's why he started the Dan Marino Foundation back in 1992, and last Saturday, the foundation hosted their 7th annual Autism Walkabout at Hard Rock Stadium.
"This is seven years, we're raising $4 million with this walk, and the support of the community has been unbelievable," Marino said.
Since its inception 25 years ago, the Dan Marino Foundation has raised over $53 million dollars towards battling autism and raising awareness, and the Walkabout has become a big part of how the Foundation receives its donations. Ironically enough, former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had a lot to do with it as well.
"Jeff Ireland and Rachel have been here pretty much every year with this and they couldn't make it because of other issues," Marino said, "And I just wanted to tell you I appreciate Jeff and all he's done here in the community and helping us with this whole thing, so thanks, Jeff."
Ireland and his wife Rachel have two teenage daughters of their own, both of whom were diagnosed with autism when they were merely two years old. With no small thanks to them, the Walkabout has become a huge event, with numerous partners - most notably Walgreens - offering donations and drawing crowds over 10,000 to participate in the walk and following festivities.
Dolphins alumni arrived in droves to help support the cause, including former stars such as Dwight Stephenson, Patrick Surtain, Oronde Gadsden and Tony Nathan, along with many more. Along with those alumni, mascots from Miami's other three major sports teams - Billy the Marlin of the Miami Marlins, Burnie of the Miami Heat and Viktor E. Ratt of the Florida Panthers - joined mascot TD in wandering the area to take photos and add to the lighthearted atmosphere of the event.
But with all this money flying around, one has to wonder where it's all going. According to Claire Marino, Dan's wife, all of the profits from the event are staying right in South Florida, and that she's not surprised the event has gotten as big as it has.
"What's most important," Claire said. "Is the money that's raised here stays here. It's in our community helping children and families here. All of us are affected in some way. You know someone or another family member has a child with autism, so I think it's just a natural progression for us to keep growing."
As to why it's happened the way it is, Dan has a pretty good idea.
"I think it's the relationships with the community," he said. "That's it. Relationships are everything.
"I played here 17 years and I've had some of the dearest, best friends in this community help out with this whole thing, from the volunteers to the sponsors to families that have been affected by it, and that's it. That's what it's all about, really, if you think about it, that's what this morning is about – the awareness for the community and having fun and raising some money."
The battle against autism is very real and very concerning, and until a true solution is found, and perhaps even beyond that, the Marino family will continue their efforts to raise money and awareness, perhaps to the point where they can reach beyond South Florida.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
For the past three seasons, wide receiver Jarvis Landry has been at the top of the list in receptions and in yardage for the Miami Dolphins, and all on a deal that pays him almost nothing. Now, with one year remaining on his incredibly cheap rookie contract, which is only for four years and $3.5 million dollars, Landry took to social media and left some very telling captions on his posts.
Under normal circumstances, there wouldn't be much reason to take a player's posts on social media that seriously, but when Landry makes references to his money, especially when he's projected to be paid like a top ten wide receiver when his contract inevitably runs out.
This puts the Dolphins in a very uncomfortable situation, as a lot of money is about to be handed out to players whose contracts are expiring, such as defensive end Andre Branch, linebacker Kiko Alonso, tight end Dion Sims and fellow wide receiver Kenny Stills.
But what sets Landry apart from everyone else is that he is one of the true faces of the franchise and his intensity on the field makes him more than just another excellent wide receiver.
He's also a leader in the locker room, and the team feeds off his energy, which is why he was originally given the nickname of "Juice."
2016 was Landry's second consecutive 1,000 yards receiving season, and this will also be his second straight Pro Bowl season. Knowing all of that, there's no doubt that the rest of the team will be looking at what the Dolphins front office does about Landry's contract situation, because if they stiff him now, especially after the comments made by Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, there will be a lot of players who will try to play hard ball when the time comes.
See Reshad Jones, who already held out portions of last offseason in protest of not having enough guaranteed money on his deal and wanted an extension.
"To have sustainability, we want to take care our own. We want to care of our locker room," Tannenbaum said last week. "Adam [Gase] always likes to roll his eyes, but I always say, 'Our plan is firmly etched in pencil.' Because things are going to change. We're going to acquire players. There are going to be unexpected opportunities. ... What does the draft look like? What does free agency look like? But with that said, we're going to try to lean heavily towards keeping our own and building our program here."
It's going to be difficult to not break the bank for Landry, who despite his determination, is still primarily a slot receiver and doesn't fit the mold of the more elite receivers in the league like Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green. He doesn't require double coverage and he isn't a top scorer in the league, only getting 13 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Dolphins.
A "move the sticks" receiver simply doesn't count for upwards of $14 million annually, no matter how well he can create plays when he has the ball in his hands.
Seattle's Doug Baldwin, another top slot receiver in the league, recently signed a 4-year, $46 million dollar deal that pays him $24,250,000 in guaranteed money, and that could be the aspect of the contract Miami can use to get Landry to take a slight discount in annual pay.
In the NFL, the overall figures of the deal don't mean nearly as much as the guaranteed money, which is the true value of any contract since that's what a team has to pay an athlete no matter what happens. Guaranteed money is what Miami can use to try and potentially lower the cap hits, as guaranteed money only means that Miami will have to pay him, not pay extra.
The reason NFL teams don't like to dole out large amounts of guaranteed money is because guaranteed money doesn't allow a team to cut a player in a cap-saving move.
But if there's any player worth that risk, it's Landry.
He's been the most reliable weapon on Miami's roster for the past three seasons, and his leadership and energy are indispensable assets that can't be replaced. Giving him a large amount of guaranteed money would seem to be a safe gamble, especially if it means his annual cap hit won't be as high.
Extending Landry would be an excellent way to start off the offseason, and it would set the tone for the rest of the offseason with the rest of the locker room.
If they force Landry to play the last year of his deal, that would be a bad omen for Landry's future with the Dolphins, and in turn the rest of the locker room. He won't try to cause problems, but teammates see how the front office treats their franchise player, and that could set the tone for the future.
Landry needs to be re-signed, or it could mean trouble for the Miami Dolphins franchise.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Last time I broke down who the Miami Dolphins need to move on from for the 2017 season, which included the likes of some familiar names such as Earl Mitchell and Koa Misi, as well as a failed project in Mario Williams and a young - but oft injured - linebacker in Jelani Jenkins who hasn't lived up to expectations and is also looking for a pay day.
Now the time has come to look at things from the other side of the spectrum. Despite the overall lack of talent that Miami ended the season with due to massive amounts of injuries, there were some players who stood out above the rest and proved that they need to be locked up before they get the chance to go elsewhere.
Without further ado, let's get started, and the first one on the list may actually be the most important player of them all.
Kenny Stills - Wide Receiver
How ironic that the player who came with a bevy of questions about why New Orleans was so willing to part ways with him has now become one of the top weapons in Miami's offense, stretching the field and being a preferred target for big plays and leading the team in touchdown receptions in 2016 with nine, which is more than both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker combined in the same year.
Granted, he wasn't targeted as much as Landry and Parker, and he didn't accumulate as many yards either, but Stills turned out to be the true home run threat that the Dolphins tried - and failed - to make Mike Wallace back in 2013-14.
Which makes the situation Miami is in very uncomfortable. Stills has officially played out his contract, and now he needs a new one. Some team somewhere will be willing to pay him a lot of money to do what he's done for the Dolphins, and Miami is going to have to outbid them somehow.
As far as skill sets go, Colts WR T.Y. Hilton - another speedy receiver and major home run threat - could be a model for what kind of deal Stills could be looking for this offseason.
Hilton outplayed Stills stats wise in both receptions and yards by a large margin in 2016, but that could very well have more to do with Hilton's role in the Indianapolis offense and quarterback Andrew Luck's propensity to throw it his way.
Naturally, no one is making the argument that Hilton and Stills are the same player, Hilton has clearly shown more and accomplished more than Stills has and no one can argue otherwise. But their skill sets and roles in their respective offenses are similar, and with Hilton making an average of $13 million a year after signing his 5-year, $65 million dollar contract back in 2015, Stills could look for something in that price range.
If the Dolphins can be flexible with the contract structuring, they could make Stills' new contract easier to swallow if it goes upwards of $10 million per year, but simply letting him walk would not be a wise choice considering he became Miami's top scorer in 2016, and no one else on the roster - not even DeVante Parker or Jakeem Grant - are in any position to replace that.
Michael Thomas - Defensive Back
The hero of 2013 is getting ready to hit the free market for the first time in his career, Michael Thomas was a restricted free agent last season and so the Dolphins still had some measure of control over whether he would be in aqua and orange or sporting another team's colors. Now though, Thomas' fate rests in Thomas' hands and no one else's.
While not necessarily starter material, Thomas has been a special teams ace and a solid backup for the Dolphins ever since he was picked up off the San Francisco 49ers practice squad, and he's in a valuable leader in the secondary and the team.
That's the kind of player you keep around if he's willing to stay at a reasonable price. $2.5 to $3 million annually is a likely figure he'll be looking for, and given what Thomas is able to do and what he brings to the table, that seems reasonable. Versatility is a trait that is highly sought after in the NFL, and Thomas can step in and hold down the fort at any position in the secondary.
Andre Branch - Defensive End
The Dolphins got a steal when they signed defensive end Andre Branch to a 1-year deal for a measly $2.5 million this past offseason, and after Mario Williams turned out to be a major disappointment, Branch turned into a starter opposite Cameron Wake and had himself somewhat of a breakout season after two less than stellar years in Jacksonville, setting a career high in tackles with 49, and tacking on 5.5 sacks, which is only half a sack off from his career high set in 2013.
Last offseason, the Dolphins lost their top reserve defensive end in Derrick Shelby to the Atlanta Falcons, who signed a 4-year, $18 million dollar contract after spending four years with Miami. Branch's one season with the Dolphins was better than any year Shelby had, although that could be at least partly attributed to the fact that he was thrust into a starting role and thus he received more playing time.
After the season he had, Branch is likely to get a deal upwards of $5 million annually, perhaps more if he can try and convince teams he can take on the role of another former Dolphin in Jared Odrick, who spent time in the defensive line rotation at both defensive end and defensive tackle and earned himself a 5-year, $42.5 million dollar deal from Jacksonville two seasons ago, although that seems unlikely for a reserve player.
A safe bet would be to assume that Branch will get somewhere around $5 to $6 million annually on a new deal. He's shown that he has a fair amount of skill, but he didn't prove himself to be a star by any stretch. Why does Miami need to be the one to retain him? Simply put, it's necessity.
Cameron Wake is fighting off Father Time and will probably be good for at least a few more years, but even he won't decide to play forever, and Mario Williams - as previously mentioned - was a major disappointment and will be released. Dion Jordan also is unlikely to contribute any time soon, and veteran Jason Jones was released shortly before the Wild Card matchup against the Steelers presumably due to attitude problems.
This means that the Dolphins have a severe lack of players on the edges, and there's no doubt they'll take to the draft and potentially free agency to restock the defensive end position. They can start by making sure Branch stays put instead of going elsewhere.
Kiko Alonso - Linebacker
It's been a difficult road for Kiko Alonso since his initial Rookie of the Year season back in 2013, dealing with injuries has kept him from being a star linebacker in the NFL, which he clearly has the potential to do. After coming to Miami via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, Alonso made 115 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 2016 as the Dolphins MLB, and that was while dealing with an injured hamstring and a cast on his hand from a broken thumb.
As a restricted free agent, Miami will have the right to first refusal on any offers that come Alonso's way, but it would be a wise move to lock up Alonso on a new deal before it gets to that point. Whether he's in the middle (my personal place for him) or playing as an outside linebacker (where many would prefer to have him), Alonso has proven he's at least a solid NFL linebacker.
Similar players that Miami could model Alonso's contract after include Denver's Danny Trevathan and Philadelphia's Brandon Graham, who have annual salaries upwards of $6 million per year. Players with lower figures include Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in Baltimore, but they - along with most other linebackers with lower figures - are older and don't match Alonso's situation.
At 26 years of age, Alonso is still in his prime and is more likely to get a contract like Trevathan's at the very least. Another option would be to simply place a tender on Alonso and let another team dictate what the young linebacker is worth, but doing so would risk losing him to another team, and given the Dolphins' desperate need for good linebackers, the best move would be to lock him up now and ensure he stays at a reasonable price rather than have another great year and drive up his leverage even further as an unrestricted free agent the next time around.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
My favorite part of any Madden game is always playing the role of a GM, making transcations, signing free agents and drafting new players who could make my already awesome team even more awesome. After all, against the computer you're pretty much guaranteed to win the Super Bowl each year.
But I digress.
Now that the playoffs have come and gone, the time has come for the Miami Dolphins to begin evaluating the roster and analyzing what changes need to be made before 2017 begins, and that's exactly what I plan to do right here and now.
Before we begin, let's check and see how much salary cap space the Dolphins will have for the 2017 offseason before any moves are made with some help from out friends from Spotrac and overthecap.com.
With the projected NFL salary cap to inflate all the way up to $168 million, that means that after factoring in Miami's $634,494 in dead cap, along with the $14,899,982 in rollover from 2016, the Dolphins will have approxamitely $43,585,657 in cap space to work with even with the 51 players currently under contract.
So is there room to work with? Absolutely there is. But there's still a lot more that can be done, and that leads us to the hitlist. First we'll list the players who Miami would probably be better off moving on from, and that list is a lengthy one.
Mario Williams - Defensive end
This is the most duh worthy move that could possibly be made. Mario Williams was signed to a 2-year, $17 million dollar contract with the assumption that he would be back to his superstar form once he was placed back into a pass-rusher role. That did not happen, and he was benched for Andre Branch around midseason and was never put back.
The 31-year old Williams only notched 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2017, and it reached a point where even Marist alumnus Terrence Fede was getting snaps at defensive end over him. That alone should indicate that not only is Williams' time with the Dolphins over, his career could possibly be in jeopardy after the miserable performance and effort he put forth.
On top of all that, cutting Williams will save Miami $8.5 million in cap space with only $2 million in dead money, making freeing up that roster spot even more of a no-brainer than ever. The Dolphins can easily use that extra space to sign a depth player who will give more production at DE than Williams did, and at a fraction of the cost.
Or, they can just re-sign Andre Branch, but that's another story to be written later.
Earl Mitchell - Defensive tackle
As much as I love Earl Mitchell, it's time to move on from him. After only playing 12 games in 2015 and then only playing nine games in 2016, it's clear that the 29-year old Mitchell is best relegated to a backup role rather than a starter.
After aggravating an injury he suffered in training camp, Mitchell was taken out of the Week 1 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, and then upon his return, he had a brief burst where he was incredibly impactful, then mostly vanished for the rest of the season, only making 18 tackles on the year.
In fairness, second-year DT Jordan Phillips had been doing a well enough job as a starter opposite Ndamukong Suh, but neither he nor Mitchell really stood out. In the end, this boils down to being a salary cap casualty. Both Mitchell and Phillips create similar production, but Mitchell is much more expensive than a young DT on his rookie deal.
Cutting Mitchell will save $4 million in cap space with only $500,000 in dead money. With Phillips and reserve player Julius Warmsley, Miami could potentially get the same production at a fraction of the cost, unless the Dolphins attempt to look elsewhere to fill that role.
Koa Misi - Linebacker
Koa Misi is a solid NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, his tendency to get injured - combined with the nature of his latest injury - leaves the 29-year old Misi in a bit of a sticky situation. In the three games he played in 2016, Misi had already accumulated 22 tackles, but is that worth paying him over $4.5 million dollars?
In my opinion, the answer is no. Misi is someone who could be an excellent backup for a number of teams, but the fact that he's a key starter for the Miami Dolphins speaks to the awful situation in Miami's linebacker corps.
Cutting Misi will save the Dolphins $4.2 million dollars, with only $578,000 in dead cap. At this price, I would definitely part ways with Misi, but if the doctors clear him and he's willing to take a pay cut, I would definitely keep him around. But, I expect that Misi won't be willing to do that.
Jelani Jenkins - Linebacker
Similar to Misi, Jenkins - when healthy - is a solid NFL linebacker, but he too is extremely injury prone and he hasn't been the same player for quite some time. He's shown he has what it takes to be a starting outside linebacker in the past, but is that worth paying him a lucrative contract as he enters free agency for the first time?
It truly depends on the price in this case. If he's looking to get paid, then Miami would be wise to move on from Jenkins and try to draft new talent at linebacker this upcoming offseason, which is sure to be very high on the priority list.
In 2016, Jenkins only played in nine games, and the games he did play he struggled to even move most of the time. He only made 29 tackles and deflected one pass as he split time with Neville Hewitt and Spencer Paysinger. If he's willing to return to the Dolphins in a backup role, then I would certainly bring him back. Otherwise, it's time to move on.
Next time, we'll look at the players Miami absolutely needs to retain. Stay tuned.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
One of the main reasons that Stephen Ross hired Adam Gase to coach the Miami Dolphins was his reputation as a quarterback guru, having worked with and improved the performances of a myriad of quarterbacks in his previous stops with Denver and Chicago, and getting the most out of the complementary parts on hand.
While quarterback Ryan Tannehill fell short of his career highs in passing yardage and touchdowns, his efficiency and quarterback ratings did increase, and Tannehill was well on his way to arguably his best season before succumbing to a knee injury against the Arizona Cardinals.
And while the defense left much to be desired, giving up the most yards team history, the offense appears to be in good shape heading into the offseason. After a slow start, the team ended the season with wins in nine of the final eleven games to clinch a wildcard spot in the playoffs, and averaged 25 points per game during that streak.
And now the expectations increase as Gase heads into his second season working with Tannehill
Unlike last year, when the coach and quarterback had never met before Gase came to town, this offseason starts with raised expectations as Gase looks forward to fine-tuning Tannehill and the Dolphins offense as a whole.
"We got on the same page a little later than we really wanted to,” said Gase about the slow start this past season. “I really felt like we were going to hit the season running. I think it took us some games to get it really rolling. It took me a little longer than I thought to get used to our whole group as a play caller. Once we really got in a better groove as far as what everybody was good at and what we could lean on, that's where I felt like we took off a little bit.”
Much of that success was due to the offense taking off, and as Gase admits, it took a while for him to figure out what he had to work with, and to utilize players in the best possible positions. And it helped to have a quarterback who was on the same page, and willing to work to get better at every phase of the game.
“(Tannehill) did a great job of sticking with what we had talked about, especially from the spring on, said Gase. “You look at him, but it's really the whole group - offensive line, the tight ends, the running backs and wide receivers - those guys getting on the same page at the right time.”
"When you play quarterback,” Gase continued, “you're at the mercy of a lot of guys. It's really about, 'How many guys can we get doing their job right on the same play?' There are times where he has had to make plays, which he has done. There have been some times where he has been put in some bad situations where it's the perfect coverage versus what we had called, and he made something happen in some critical parts of the game, and then other guys have stepped up to make a play to help him on that play.”
The area where Gase feels Tannehill has made the most improvement is in his mobility and ability to escape collapsing pockets. Criticized in his first four year for taking far too many sacks (putrid offensive line play certainly didn’t help), Tannehill was sacked 63% less in 2016 than he’d averaged in his career.
“Really, that's where I feel like he has grown the most,” said Gase. “He has made those plays where he has had to escape from the pocket and make those throws down the field or just run with the ball. The more we can get him to really do those things that the off-scheduled plays - the off-scheduled plays that he makes that were huge plays within our season - the more comfortable he feels doing those type of things, the better we'll be on offense.”
But the optimism doesn’t come without a subtle warning. Throughout the season, in his own trademarked blunt way, Gase has begun each week telling the team each week that it’s about being 1-0 at the end of each week.
And he’s well aware that the team will start next season 0-0.
“Every year is so different,” says Gase. “Things happen within a season, and sometimes confidence can go up and down. It's hard to say how much better (Tannehill) can get. When we start next year, it's going to be a different animal for him. He's going to have a different perspective. I'm sure we're going to have different guys on our roster. You're starting over. You're not starting as far back as what we did this year, where we started from scratch.”
“We'll see how quickly we can kind of gel as a group, starting in the spring. But we're at least going to have a good starting point.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
As the Miami Dolphins prepare to close the doors on the 2016 season and move into what could well be one of the more quiet offseasons in recent years, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is one of the more intriguing figures as the team looks forward to the 2017 season.
At the forefront is Tannehill’s health, as rumors are circulating that his injury may be more serious than previously thought and may require surgery. This news is somewhat surprising considering that Tannehill practiced the Friday before last Sunday’s game, in anticipation of possibly being able to play should the Dolphins have won that game.
While it’s not uncommon for a player to push to get back on the field and play through an injury, and then have surgery in the offseason to get back to 100% healthy, word out of Dolphins camp has been that Tannehill suffered sprains to his MCL and PCL with a 6-8 week timetable for returning to full health.
In this case, the team is likely erring on the side of caution, simply monitoring Tannehill very closely as he begins his rehabilitation, scrutinizing every move to make sure there are no setbacks.
“We're still collecting information,” said head coach Adam Gase. “Doctors are still giving us what possibly could be down the road. So it's hard for us to really pinpoint anything as of this moment right now.”
If you read between those lines, you get the sense that the team is just covering all it’s bases, making sure there isn’t something loose or torn that could leave Tannehill susceptible to further injury to the same area in the future. The Dolphins, like anyone else, want to see their prize investment perform, and Gase alludes to this being a case of the team and trainers being extra diligent.
Of course, Gase isn’t a doctor, nor has he played one on TV, so the fact is, he won’t know any medically for certain until the doctors and trainers tell him.
"We're still going through that process right now, with the trainers, with what our next step is, where his health is, how strong is his knee. We're still going through that.”
More clarification can be expected in the weeks to come, but since the Dolphins hold injury news close to the vest, it could be awhile before the full story is known.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
With the knowledge that Vance Joseph has accepted the head coaching position for the Denver Broncos, replacing the retired Gary Kubiak, all reports have indicated that Dolphins head coach will be looking from within to fill the vacant defensive coordinator position.
The man for the job will more than likely be linebacker coach Matt Burke, who accepted the job as the Dolphins linebacker coach after previously spending stints with the Detroit Lions (2009-13) and Cincinnati Bengals (2014-15) in the same position.
On the surface, this seems like a very questionable move by Gase, promoting a position coach to a coordinator position when it was his unit that was the key weakness on the defense all throughout the season. Miami's defense gave up the third most rushing yards in the NFL in 2016 with a whopping 2,247.
Only the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers gave up more yards than the Dolphins on the ground. The respective records of those two teams? Cleveland went 1-15, San Francisco went 2-14.
How did Miami manage to go 10-6? The offense managed to score its fair share of points, the defense finished the season ranked 11th in turnovers, but truth be told, the Dolphins went 10-6 through nothing less than sheer force of will. They were determined to win those game and they did.
It speaks highly of the new culture, but culture alone cannot maintain success. Miami cannot and will not continue being successful if their defense can't find a way to stop the run, and that largely fell on Matt Burke's linebacker unit to make plays as the defensive line focused mainly on rushing the passer through Jim Washburn's Wide-9 technique.
So it begs the question. Why on Earth would Adam Gase choose Burke - whose linebacker corps was among the worst in the NFL from the very beginning - to take over as the defensive coordinator?
No doubt that Adam Gase will come up with a different answer, but one thing we can definitely say right now is that Burke has experience with teams whose linebacker corps has been successful in the past. With both the Lions and the Bengals, the linebackers were key units on the defense, without which their defenses would not be nearly as formidable.
When you think of the Bengals defense, you think of the players at the linebacker position. Guys like Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, all talented linebackers that have been the core of the Cincinnati defense for several seasons. Burke coached those players for two seasons, and those two seasons, they had the 20th ranked rushing defense (2014) and then the 7th ranked rushing defense (2015).
Back during Burke's Lions years, the rushing defense wasn't exactly something to brag about, ranking within the 20s against the run, all except for his final two seasons in Detroit, when the rushing defense improved to 16th and then 6th in 2012-13.
So why did the Dolphins defense flop so spectacularly this season if Burke (and of course Vance Joseph) are so qualified to be doing what they do? Simply put, personnel is - and has been - an issue. Think back to the past season and a half, when the Dolphins suddenly, inexplicably, lost all ability to stop the run. It started during the Broncos game in 2014, and never went back to being good.
Who were the linebackers at the time? Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi was there and so was Jelani Jenkins. But none of those names are players you would consider starting caliber, even if the Dolphins - at the time - apparently thought so.
Then Jenkins had a breakout season and he took over for Ellerbe after his injury. Misi played in the middle with Wheeler on the other end. At the time, mind you, the defense was able to stop the run. But also bear in mind that the defensive line was less lopsided in its structure. Jared Odrick and Randy Starks were able to stop the run as well as rush the passer to an extent.
Ndamukong Suh can also stop the run, but he's primarily a pass rusher. As for Earl Mitchell, he would be an excellent backup, but he doesn't have a specific thing he's good at. Jordan Phillips is also a pass rusher, despite his wide frame. So the defensive line lets running backs break free now.
Odrick and Starks are long gone, and so is Miami's run support.
When Reshad Jones turns out to be your best linebacker, you know there's a personnel issue, so it isn't fair to blame everything on the coaches. Linebacker has been an issue for the Dolphins ever since the departure of Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett shortly after the end of the 2012 season. Then head coach Joe Philbin didn't appreciate their tendency to be vocal, and the rest is history.
Can Burke do the job of defensive coordinator? Reports are that Burke was already very involved in the defense game-planning, along with Vance Joseph, and Adam Gase counts on Burke for a lot. If it's truly a matter of trusting in Adam Gase - which he's proven fans should - then heed Gase's decision and trust that Burke has what it takes.
Unproven does not mean bad, which Gase has already clearly demonstrated. Burke - for all anyone can predict - may be the next great defensive coordinator in the NFL. Will Gase explore other possibilities? Surely he will. But Burke seems to be the favorite and there's no reason to believe that - after a LB corps overhaul - the defense won't improve in 2017.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Missing for the majority of the season, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey experienced one of the most frustrating years of his career in 2016. After suffering a hip injury that ultimately forced him to miss the final eleven games this past season, the icing on that bitter cake came in the playoffs, when the Dolphins faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose center is none other than Mike’s twin brother Maurkice.
But Mike Pouncey isn’t wallowing in pity, as he had a chance this year to see things from a fan perspective, cheering on his team from the sidelines and providing support in any way he could.
“I was just trying to be there for the guys when they were going out on the football field,” said Pouncey about missing Sunday’s game. “Just being out there, seeing the way they were in the locker room before the game, the way they played, it was exciting to see. It was something different, nothing I had ever experienced before in the National Football League. I was just happy to be a part of it.”
Voted one of the five team captains this year, Pouncey is proud of everything the team accomplished in a 10-6 season that ended with last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.
“It was tough the way the season played out for me,” said Pouncey. “I didn't expect it to go that way and no one ever does, but I got to see this thing from a different perspective, and watch these guys work. And it was just amazing to see.
“No one gave us a chance,” he continued. “We prevailed and proved people wrong. Obviously, we had a lot of injuries this year, but this team just kept pushing forward.”
Pouncey felt he was healthy enough to play again this year, but the team decided to shut down their pro bowl center to prevent any risk of further injury. He was placed on Injured Reserve December 13. He’s been rehabbing diligently, and feels he’s 100% healthy now, and is anxious to get started in offseason workout programs.
As frustrating as the injury has been, Pouncey has taken it in stride, and has a great attitude heading into the new year.
“Injuries happen,” he said. “It's a part of this game. But I feel great right now. I know I'm healthy. I'll be healthy in a minute or so. I'm proud of this team for sticking with me. I'll try to stay as healthy as I can next year. I'm ready for this season, ready for this offseason. I'm going to attack it just like I do any other offseason to be the best player I can possibly be. I can't wait to get started back."
When asked how optimistic he is about coming back healthy and not having any setbacks in the future, Pouncey left no doubts on the table.
“I'm not retiring (for) 10 years. Trust me.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
It's been quite a season for Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, as he went from having to watch from home in Week 1 due to discplinary reasons to becoming one of the top young rushers in the league, as well as the recipient of the Miami Dolphins' Dan Marino Most Valuable Player award.
But Ajayi's accolades may just keep piling up.
Every year, VIZIO gives out their annual Top Value Performer trophy, an award given to the NFL player whose on-field performance exceeds the value of their contract by the greatest margin. The 23-year old Ajayi is one of five finalists for this award, as he had his breakout season on his still cheap rookie contract. He will be under said contract until 2018.
The other players up for this award are:
Ajayi has a great case for earning this award, as he joined elite company in 2016 after he not only became only the fourth running back in NFL history to run for over 200 yards in consecutive games, but also the third running back in NFL history to run for three 200-yard rushing games in a single season.
One was against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the middle of the regular season, and the other two were both against the Buffalo Bills.
Those numbers put Ajayi in the same category as legends such as Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, Tiki Barber, and of course former Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.
Overall, the young London native had himself an incredible season, running for 1,272 yards on 260 carries, with eight touchdowns and an average of 4.9 yards per rush. When taken into account the fact that the offensive line only seemed capable of getting push and making holes for about five of the 15 games he played this season, those numbers become even more impressive. He also tacked on 27 receptions for 151 yards.
If Ajayi is to win this award, he will need help from fans, as the decision is made completely based on fan votes. So in order to vote for the Dolphins star running back, click here and vote as often as you like. Voting will be open until Monday, January 16th, 11:59 PM PT.
The season ended on a bit of a sour note, but make no mistake, this is just the beginning for Ajayi and the rest of the Miami Dolphins.
On this episode of PhinManiacs Live, Luis and Chad reflect back on the season and how the Miami Dolphins have gotten to where they are, as well as the upcoming game.
Also on the block is the recent comments by Jay Ajayi regarding his frustration with his team not getting any credit for what they've accomplished.
All this and more on the latest episode of PhinManiacs Live.
You can listen on our YouTube page below, or download it on iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.
Submit questions to our Twitter account or Facebook Page.
It's wild card weekend for the NFL playoffs and the Dolphins are still in the game as they travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are ten thoughts on the team and the NFL heading into the game.
1. I note that running back Jay Ajayi is playing the “disrespect card” this week.
“We hear a lot of talk about the other team and who they have and the players that they have,” Ajayi said. “And it’s kind of starting to get to me where you have to understand we have players too, you know?
“We have guys that are playing at a high level and are showcasing their abilities. And I think it’s time people need to respect that we have players on our offense, too, and we can get some stuff done when we’re on our game.”
I ordinarily scoff at things like this. But in this particular case, I think Ajayi has a bit of a point. The Dolphins are ten-point underdogs to a team that they actually beat earlier in the season.
I don’t think the Dolphins are exactly being “disrespected” so much as they are being underestimated. In particular, I don’t think national commentators have really been paying attention to what has been happening on Ajayi’s side of the ball.
This has become a very, very good, diverse offensive unit. Anyone who believes that the Dolphins have to have success running the ball in order to succeed against the Steelers hasn’t been watching. They need to commit to the run, yes. But they don’t necessarily need five yards per carry from it in order to score points.
Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker have become a handful and the Dolphins are getting more every week out of their tight ends. Though I don’t agree with it myself, there’s an argument to be made that Matt Moore is actually a better quarterback than Ryan Tannehill.
Offensively this is as good of a playoff team as there is out there.
2. Defensively this is a different story. From the beginning of the year, the team has been in trouble at cornerback and it looks like Byron Maxwell, the only one they’ve got that you could call “solid,” might not play. Injuries have hurt them at safety and they haven’t had a dropoff at outside linebacker only because their starters aren’t any better than their backups.
The last time these teams met, Roethlisberger had a particularly bad game. He got hurt but he wasn’t throwing well even before that. I don’t think anyone is counting on that happening again.
This is a defense that has, to an extent, been exposed late in the year. But all is not lost…
3. I am personally going to love watching every minute of this game because success for the Dolphins, indeed for each team, will be determined right where it should be - at the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins need to do exactly what they did last time these teams met in Week 6. Push them around up front.
The offensive line needs to protect Moore and they need to block for Ajayi. If they do both adequately, this is going to be a great matchup.
The defensive backfield might be a disaster and the linebackers might not be good. But if the defensive line plays like they did last time against one of the best offensive lines in the league, none of that will matter as much.
And the great thing if you’re a Dolphins fan is that the defensive line is playing about as well as they have all season. I’m still not a Jordan Phillips fan but Ndamukong Suh is peaking at the right time and Cameron Wake has been dominant all year.
This was a defense built to win up front. Phillips only flashes and hasn’t developed into a consistent force and Mario Williams is a shadow of his former self. But Suh and Wake are still leading the way and that might be enough to win.
I really can’t wait to see what happens.
4. I am going to start this item by apologizing to those of you who consider Williams to be irrelevant and are tired of me hammering him (which I did relentlessly during the first half of the season). If you are, skip this one because I can’t resist taking one more shot at a guy that I have come to dislike so much.
Williams was the biggest-name free agent acquisition of the 2016 offseason. He carries the sixth-highest salary cap number on the team and he reportedly will be waived this offseason. Some would call him a “salary cap casualty.” I call him a thief for stealing the Dolphins’ money.
Williams was a starter for the first five weeks of the season and managed only one sack. At the time defensive coordinator Vance Joseph called him out for needing to play harder. Eventually Joseph came to realize that he was wasting his breath because “playing harder” was only part of the problem. Williams couldn’t play dead.
Williams spent 2015 taking his failures out on former Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan by bashing him for playing him out of position and the Dolphins front office, headed by Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, bought it.
They should have known better.
Predictably, it turned out to be just one of a series of excuses that Williams would use to explain his lack of production, now with the Dolphins, from blaming teammates in the defensive backfield who didn’t give him time to get to the quarterback to claiming that he couldn’t play due to injury long after he’d been benched.
The truth is – and even if Williams can’t face it, every other team in the league knows it now – Williams' skills have declined. He can’t help that and I certainly don’t blame him for it. But I simply cannot abide players who make excuses for failure.
The best players in the NFL are mentally tough people who overcome adversity and emerge from the other side as better human beings, if not always as better players. Williams was a huge disappointment because in Miami, just like in Buffalo, he couldn’t look within and blame the real cause of his problems - himself.
5. I find the fact that Vance Joseph is such a hot head coaching candidate to be very interesting. The Rams, 49ers and the Broncos all appear to be interested.
The Broncos aren’t a big surprise because Joseph interviewed with them before they hired Gary Kubiak and they were reportedly impressed. But why other teams would be interested given the state of the Dolphins defense is a bit of a mystery.
The comments from Dolphins head coach Adam Gase on the matter are almost ironic.
"Our players on defense should be proud because one of the reasons he's getting these opportunities is they've played well, and did some things people didn't expect us to do," Gase said of the Dolphins defense. “It is a credit to him and our defensive coaches.”
Hmmmm…the Dolphins defense allowed a franchise record 6,122 yards in the regular season and ranked 29th in total yards allowed per game (382.6) and 18th in total points allowed (28.3).
Yes, there were injuries, as documented above, especially to the safeties. But the poor defense pre-dated most of them and, when you look at the big picture and what was lost and what it was replaced with, I didn’t think what happened hurt them much more than injuries hurt most teams over the course of the season. I definitely don’t think injuries justify what was at times a really poor defensive performance.
I think it is a lot more likely that teams look at Joseph’s situation in Miami and they see it for what it is. They think he did a good job coaching a poor roster (except for the defensive line) with little depth (including the defensive line) and they think that a bad Dolphins defense would be even worse statistically without him.
I admit that’s a grim and somewhat cynical assessment for a defense that was at least good enough to be part of a playoff team. But that doesn’t make it wrong.
6. And now for our weekly look at the current state of the New York Jets.
Todd Bowles won the battle and survived the week. But his chances of surviving the war look grim right now. The team has struggled at the most important position in football since Brett Favre left in 2008. That puts them in the same boat with most of the bad teams in the league.
The Jets are apparently hanging their hats on the development of second round pick Christian Hackenberg, who they decided in the offseason had a higher upside than Bryce Petty and selected in the second round. The Jets will need to find a veteran starter this offseason because, coming out of Penn State, Hackenberg was so raw (read “bad”) that the Jets decided he needed, not one, but two years to develop and they therefore aren’t counting on him to contribute until 2018.
But potential gets you fired in the NFL and the Jets might be finding that out right now.
One Jets coach, quoted anonymously in an ESPN report, said Hackenberg is so inaccurate that he "couldn't hit the ocean".
Bowles had a different take. "He just needs to play, he has to play. There's nothing wrong with Christian, he just needs to play."
But apparently not this season where they were so afraid to put him on the field that they played Ryan Fitzpatrick, already with one foot out the door, rather than expose their future to the ridicule that almost certainly would have followed any effort to play him.
Even 2018 is uncertain but if Hackenberg doesn’t emerge from the miserable depths of ineptitude that he showed in the college ranks and fails, it’s unlikely that Bowles will survive to see 2019 with the team.
Hackenberg was over-drafted as a far too risky second round pick. Now it appears that Bowles and the rest of the organization will live or die with it.
7. It looks like the Dolphins won’t be getting much competition from the Buffalo Bills very quickly either.
In one of the oddest and funniest events of the year, things couldn’t have gone much worse for Bills GM Doug Whaley during his season ending press conference. To say that Whaley failed to inspire much confidence that the Bills are internally healthy and ready for a turnaround would be something of an understatement.
In a stunning revelation, Whaley said that he wasn’t involved in the initial decision to fire Ryan."I wasn't privy to the conversation so I cannot get into the details." When asked if he got any explanation from ownership for the firing Whaley said “I didn’t need any.”
OK. So what made him decide on Anthony Lynn as the interim head coach? Well apparently he didn’t decide that, either. Believe it or not, Whaley claimed that Rex Ryan recommended Lynn (apparently after being informed that he was fired) and so that’s who they appointed.
Predictably reporters reacted with incredulity.
Honestly, like the reporters who were there, I just don’t know what to make of this. Half of me believes that Whaley was out right lying. But if he was, then he was effectively throwing ownership under the bus because his denials clearly suggested a dysfunctional organization where no one knows what anyone is doing.
Which is, of course, probably what it is.
If only explaining the Patriots success was as easy as explaining the failures of the Dolphins' other AFC East foes. Then the Dolphins would really have some answers.
8. Speaking of dysfunctional franchises, let’s look in on the Cleveland Browns as they enter the post season. In so doing, let me address a report in the Chronical-Telegram that pretty much sums up my problem with how this franchise is being run.
The Browns are apparently doing their due diligence in investigating the top quarterbacks coming out in the draft. In the process, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry made the trip to El Paso, Texas to get a look at North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the Sun Bowl.
Andrew Berry, OK. Sashi Brown, most certainly not OK.
Brown is a lawyer who has never worked in an NFL personnel department. What in the world is he doing going to a game to “scout” a quarterback?
Brown has no business evaluating an NFL prospect. He, in fact, has no business being anywhere near a NFL draft room at all. But for some reason, the owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam, has decided to put his franchise into Brown’s hands.
It was a year of havoc in 2016 where head coach Hue Jackson was practically the only football man making these personnel decisions. Jackson, predictably, was focused on game preparations at the time of the report. He didn’t even know Trubisky was playing.
“But since you said that, I will definitely take a shot and look if I can,” he said. “We are going to see all of these guys as we move forward, all the prospects that are out there and evaluate them accordingly.”
To his credit, the near miss on an 0-16 season may have finally made Haslam see the light. According to Ian Rapoport at NFL.com the Browns may be searching for a little more scouting muscle. The expectation is for Cleveland to hire a top scout to serve as the main football voice and be charged with finding the kind of players Jackson wants.
Unfortunately, the potential hire would still be below Brown. Nevertheless, let’s hope for the sake of all Browns fans that there is some truth to this rumor and that Brown has the common sense to step away from the process and let those who know what they are doing make the decisions.
Otherwise, I can’t imagine we’re going to see anything but more misery in “factory of sadness.”
9. Despite reports to the contrary, it looks like the Baltimore Ravens will be sticking with Marty Mornhinweg as their offensive coordinator.
"In my heart, in my gut and in my head, this is the best way to go," head coach John Harbaugh said.
Why he thinks that’s true, I don’t know.
The Ravens finished 8-8 largely because they ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing (29th), third-down efficiency (21st), red-zone efficiency (19th) and scoring (18th) after Mornhinweg took over for Marc Trestman for the final 11 games of the season.
More to the point, the Ravens had the same issues that led to Trestman getting fired. Baltimore simply failed to commit to the run.
"I believe we're going to be physical," Harbaugh said. "I believe we're going to run good, solid concepts that Joe can execute efficiently and I believe, within that system, there's room for a lot of creativity. That's what we got to chase."
I get it. You can’t just fire your offensive coordinator every year and there’s value in continuity. But the key to continuity isn’t hesitating to fire the wrong guy. It's finding the right guy in the first place.
Terrance West is a talented running back who ran for four yards per carry. The Baltimore Ravens can run the ball. They just need a coach who will do it.
The evidence indicates that, despite his assertions, Harbaugh hasn’t found one yet.
10. "Do you want to know what they’ll say next?” Apparently not enough people do.
In a hilarious development, Skip Bayless, who has partnered up with Shannon Sharpe for a new show on FOX Sports 1 (slogan above), revealed both a huge ego and a huge degree of sensitivity to social media.
A “fan” apparently posted comments on a recent Facebook Live stream that contained over-the-top praise of Bayless. The problem? It turns out that Bayless was the poster. He apparently intended to do it under a dummy account. Apparently he’s the dummy.
I can’t imagine what it’s like having such a raging urge for the approval of others that you actually have to fake compliments and do it yourself. But I can’t say that I’m surprised.
The guess here is that Bayless actually doesn’t have too many fans, per se. He might have people who want to hear whatever outrageous garbage he will forcefully spit out of his mouth next. That’s their problem. But I think few people, if any, actually take it seriously.
Apparently not seriously enough to post compliments on Twitter so Bayless doesn’t have to do it, himself.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews