By: Jason Sarney
On Wednesday, June 24th, The Jason Taylor Foundation will host The All In For Literacy Virtual Poker Championship V2. The second version of the very successful online tournament from last month will be hosted by Faded Spade Card Club and will allow participants to compete in a Texas Hold’em game while interacting with each other via Zoom teleconference.
The inaugural All In For Literacy Championship was a major success in all aspects including fundraising, messaging and interaction with fans of the Miami Dolphins, South Florida media personalities including Dan Le Batard of ESPN and Joy Taylor of Fox Sports, and of course, heroes who wore the Orange and Aqua!
Jason Taylor of course was not only a participant, but he showed his Poker chops by swimming through the 71-player pool and docking at the final table to vie for the championship trophy.
Unfortunately for the host, Taylor was knocked out by former teammate and Dolphin’s legendary wide-receiver and 1998 NFL reception’s king, O.J. McDuffie, who went on to become the event’s winner.
Ironically, and with good-timed fortune, there was a scheduled interview with McDuffie the following morning with me as well as the two men who make The Jason Taylor Foundation run, Seth Levit and Sean Todd.
On “Victory Thursday,” McDuffie told me that he was as confident going into the tournament as he went into games against former AFC East rival, the Indianapolis Colts.
“I expected to win… I went in there expecting to win,” McDuffie said proudly.
Number 81 made good on that expectation and for flashback purposes, he did score 7 touchdowns against the Colts in his career, including his first ever score, which came on a Sunday Night Football punt return.
Levit and Todd won beyond the table, as the Executive Director and Vice President of Operations of The Jason Taylor Foundation, respectively, put on a terrific event!
The success of the May tournament included other Miami Dolphin legends such as Shawn Wooden, Terry Kirby, Kim Bokamper and Ricky Williams! Volume 2 will again open up the event for anyone who would care to “Dive In” with the trio from The Fish Tank, which is of course Seth, O.J. and Sean aka “DJ. Prec,” and an all-star guest list!
You can register for the event, or simply donate for an important cause here, and if the kickoff event from a few weeks back was any indication, odds are, The All In For Literacy Virtual Poker Championship V2 will be a full house of fun, and another straight success!
See you all at the tables!
Register and/or Donate HERE
The Miami Dolphins decided to pass on a number of running backs in the off-season that can be considered "workhorse" backs. Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were both available at a certain price, and the Dolphins passed on the runners.
Why? Perhaps several reasons. I'd like to think it is because the plan is not to get a 25+ carry running back like, say, a Marshawn Lynch. In fact, he can be called the last "workhorse" back to lead a team to a Super Bowl title.
With the exception of about four others to add to Lynch, they are the only running backs to say they are that "workhorse" for the champions since the 2000 season. Jamal Lewis of the 2000 Ravens, Antoine Smith and Corey Dillon in separate Patriot title runs, and you can make the argument for Ray Rice as well as Lynch as season bell-cows. Jerome Bettis in the Steelers Super Bowl had a ton of help from Willie Parker, so you can argue five or six, maximum, since 2000.
With rumors floating about a Dalvin Cook hold-out and potential trade partners, count out Miami, as Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Patrick Laird and X-Factor rookie Malcolm Perry are the RBBC the Dolphins need for Patriot-like success, for the long haul.
The Front Office series continues, as Jason Sarney of www.Phinmaniacs.com builds the squad.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman
By: Jason Sarney
The Miami Dolphins once again signed a loaded class of rookie undrafted free agents following April's selection process. One player who is a very savvy bet to make the 53*-man roster following training camp is McKendree University WR/STer, Matt Cole.
Cole excels in punt and kick-return coverage as well as with the football, being a player who can gain special teams yards, as well as prevent them. Cole has dynamic receiver abilities as well however, his speed plus tackling combination and the volume of snaps and repetitions he has had in college at the Gunner role, tells me this is exactly why the Miami Dolphins signed him.
With the Dolphins not retaining Walt Aikens at the moment, who held the Gunner role as well as other areas of the Special Teams unit, training camp will be open tryouts for each specific job, and Cole can literally cover several of them.
Much like a specific Special Team Ace namely New England's Matthew Slater, Cole can slide directly into Aikens' role and lock down a professional job very quickly.
Cole has had more reps at the Gunner role in college than most who earn that job since many times college safeties, running backs, cornerbacks and receivers fight in camps to hold the role simply just to make a team, whereas Cole is already a specialist in it.
I am going "all-in" on predicting Cole will make this 53*-man roster, and be a top NFL Gunner for years to come...and he may even score some touchdowns from both sides of the return game...kicks and punts.
Remember this name - Matt Cole, and once again, remember the phrase - "82 will make the 53*."
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman
*Though the roster limit will continue to be 53 for 2020, two players from the practice squad may be brought up to increase roster sizes to 55 on game-day, with those two players reverting back to the practice squad after game-day. Practice squads will also be increased in size from 10 players to 12 beginning this season
By: Tom Shannon
Omar Kelly at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reviewed what he thinks are 10 looming Dolphins position battles. I have to say that I thought that a couple of the "battles" he highlighted were unusual choices.
For instance, at running back it seems evident that both Jordan Howard and Matt Breida have a defined role with Howard generally being an early down, power back and Breida being a more versatile third down back. Yes, depending on the situation, some of those plays could go to either. But they're complementary backs. It’s really not a competition.
But what really caught my attention was an actual competition, a big one along the offensive line:
"Starting left tackle: Julien Davenport vs. Austin Jackson
"Davenport has struggled as an offensive tackle in the majority of his 27 NFL starts, but this former 2017 fourth-round pick has the size (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) and athleticism needed to be successful if he can put it all together. Last season, when Davenport was finally healthy and familiar with Miami’s offense, he improved in the final month. But being adequate can get someone hurt in the NFL, which is why Jackson, the team’s second of three first-round picks, will get every opportunity to unseat him. Problem is, this former USC standout will likely need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game."
"Starting right guard: Michael Deiter, Danny Isidora, Shaq Calhoun, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley
Ereck Flowers, a former Hurricanes standout Miami signed to a three-year, $30 million deal this off-season, is expected to serve as the starting left guard considering that’s where he resurrected his NFL career the past two seasons. He is Miami’s most experienced and accomplished offensive lineman. That leaves three veterans — Deiter, Isidora and Calhoun — and two draft picks — Hunt and Kindley — competing to determine who plays next to right tackle Jesse Davis. Deiter, Isidora and Calhoun struggled plenty last season, and Hunt and Kindley are unproven as pros. Expect the Dolphins to identify the team’s best five offensive linemen and then figure out what spot they’ll play at during training camp. But when camp opens up, Miami needs to see these offensive linemen move defensive tackles."
I'm finding the assumption among members of the media that Jackson and Davenport will be competing at left tackle and that Jessie Davis will be filling the right tackle position to be interesting. If I'm the Dolphins, that's not the way I’m thinking.
When it comes to the offensive line, as Kelly rightfully points out, ultimately the goal is to get your best five guys on the field. So this isn’t really two competitions so much as it is one huge one. And to my mind, Jackson, Davenport and Davis are all members of that top five. Furthermore, I look at Davenport and I see a huge man who is built physically to play right tackle. And Davis is arguably a better guard than he is tackle.
Left tackle: Jackson
Left guard: Flowers
Center: Ted Karras
Right guard: Davis
Right tackle: Davenport
That leaves none of the guys “competing” at right guard above starting. Of course, we have to wait and see how these guys perform to truly get a handle on this. And Hunt was a second round pick. The Dolphins might not be willing to bench him unless he’s really bad in camp. Nor are they going to want to give up on last year’s third round pick, Dieter.
In any case, this seven man battle royal is all going to be fascinating to watch.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @bearingthenews
By: Jason Sarney
The 2019 season was unlike any season the Miami Dolphins and their fan-base have ever witnessed. In April of 2019, there was a sense of hope immediately when Christian Wilkins heard his name called during the NFL Draft. The new Dolphin took his “Leap of Faith,” as the Clemson star shoulder-bumped Roger Goodell in pure joy and excitement, in what became the iconic moment of that selection process.
Then came the season, and then came the purge.
With a brand-new philosophy and head coach in Brian Flores, the team started to demolish the roster as if they were a real estate company that bought an old warehouse with plans on turning it into a condominium. In many areas of sports, business and life, before you re-build, you must destroy.
Miami knew heading into the 2019 season that they would be saying goodbye to numerous veterans via trade, namely Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake. The youth movement was set in place, as Miami welcomed several undrafted free agents ready to fight for the right, not to party, but to be a Dolphin. For several young players looking for a shot at their dream, there simply was no sleep ‘til, well, success.
We all know the story of Preston Williams, but this will be a focus on the defensive undrafted free agent to make waves in the aqua waters of South Florida.
Waves are a funny thing in nature. Some are little tiny ones, that crest before they are even seen by human eyes. Some rise from a far, as the momentum builds slowly, silently, undetected. Until it becomes a tidal wave; one that no one can ignore and run from, yet at the same time, nobody saw coming.
Nik Needham had a historic undrafted rookie season.
The Miami Dolphins signed Needham following a disappointing long weekend in April of 2019 when the UTEP record-holder in pass-breakups witnessed a full NFL Draft, but did not hear his name. Roughly 100 seconds following the naming of the draft last pick, Mr. Irrelevant, a Miami coach called the California kid who has a heart of gold to add to the work ethic of a Steel Miner in the caves.
Personality and good nature aside, which is no coincidence as nurture has always been a stronger force than the elements in my opinion. The background and upbringing from this player's parents and support system drove Needham to deal with being undrafted, cut by Miami and sent to the practice squad. When the opportunity came, Needham didn’t just walk through the door …he busted that thing down.
Nik Needham is the NFL’s only cornerback to be undrafted, and record at least 50 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception in that rookie season. The other 70 undrafted corners since 1982 did not accomplish this.
In 1982 the sack stat was born, so please realize there may have been another person to technically do something like this, however, without the factual “statistic,” historians and football writers can only speculate if a guy like Dick “Night Train” Lane had a sack and forced fumble to go with his league-leading 14 interceptions for the Los Angeles Rams in 1952, his undrafted rookie year.
From 1982 through the end of the century, no one came close until the 2000's, and here is a breakdown of the other undrafted corners and their rookie stat-breakdown for this study.
Ironically, #40, did something the other 40 didn't since the dawn of the millennium. Yea...40 others since 2000. You can't make this stuff up.
*following stats and research done on www.pro-football-reference.com/
Three other Hall-of-Fame cornerbacks took not being selected, and ran with the ball the other way to prove the doubters wrong while flipping opinions as they did field position. In 1966 Emmitt Thomas was signed by Kansas City and had a legendary career, but no rookie interception.
Willie Brown, who was signed and cut by the Houston Oilers in 1963, was picked up by Denver and started a 16 year career that saw the beginning four years as a Bronco and a Hall-of-Fame tenure with the Raiders. Brown had a rookie interception, no forced fumble, and I have several Raider beat-writers that have not gotten back to me yet on the yes or no on a sack.
I’m not holding my breath.
Lastly, in the 1940s/50s/60s Emlen Tunnell was a Pro-Bowl named corner for eight consecutive years for the New York Giants in his overall 11 seasons with the team. He closed his career with three years in Green Bay, with his first with them being Pro-Bowl earning as well. Tunnell had 7 interceptions his rookie year, but I Zoom'd with my Great Grandfather and he is confident there were no sacks for him in 1948. (He was season ticket holder then…. kidding)
Back to Needham.
The jump point in this study has to be 1982 and for us stat heads, all we have are the quantified numbers in front of us. 70 undrafted free agents since that season where a sack became a “thing,” had cornerbacks like Malcolm Butler, Brandon Browner, A.J. Bouye, and Chris Harris as draft day snubs. All are outstanding professional football players, yet didn’t have the rookie year Nik Needham did.
The only player remotely close to matching Needham’s historic undrafted rookie season was Nickell Robey-Coleman in 2013 for Buffalo. The current Eagle, and former Ram as recently as last season, started his career as an undrafted free agent with the Bills. In all 16 games that he appeared in, he recorded three sacks, a forced fumble, and that important interception for qualification in this breakdown. He was 15 tackles short of Needham’s 2019 output of 54.
Needham played in 12 games. Four less than Robey-Coleman.
As the Dolphin players, Needham and other undrafted free agents virtually train across the country, we all head toward an unknown reality, but the fact is this:
Miami has been doing exactly what Needham, the UTEP Miner, has been doing all his life. He has been working, training, and grinding since he was a kid, much like the Dolphins have been doing in their digging and kicking over every rock to find their treasures and reach their ultimate goal.
The Dolphins and Needham have something going, and it looks they have done exactly what any Miner worth his sea-salt does…never stop grinding...until you strike gold.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman and on YouTube!