Preparation is key in the NFL, and any lack of preparation often leads to less than ideal results on game day. As it turns out, the Miami Dolphins fell victim to this very scenario, as the they took a brutal loss to their much weaker - at least on paper - AFC East rivals, the New York Jets this past Sunday afternoon.
It was a rough day for everyone on the team, but the one who is perhaps under more scrutiny than his teammates is recently acquired quarterback Jay Cutler, who was ineffective in passing the ball against the Jets secondary, only throwing for a total of 220 yards on 26 completions out of 44 attempts. He also threw a poorly thought out interception, and a touchdown to DeVante Parker that happened in the last six seconds of the game to avoid a shutout.
But that was not enough to truly ease the humiliation of losing to a team that is regarded as greatly inferior talent-wise.
"We didn’t help the defense." Cutler said after the game on Sunday. "The way we played on offense, we didn’t give them a chance. They held them to 20 (points), which is unbelievable the way we played on offense. We couldn’t get a first down those first three or four series. It was first down, second down, third down, punt. You’re not going to win any games doing that."
Player after player came out and admitted that they had a bad week of practice, but it's possible that these statements were made merely in hindsight, as Cutler's comments seemed to indicate that the team - or at the very least, himself - didn't always feel that way.
"We felt prepared going into this game." he said. "We just laid an egg. We’ve got to figure out why that happened this week and practice better and get ready for this next one."
The next game the Dolphins will have will be across the Atlantic, as they go to London to face off against the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium. Cutler will have to find a way to bounce back after the miserable performance against the Jets, because the Saints will have a much more dangerous offense with future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees at the helm.
Points will need to be scored.
"I think that game was a wakeup call for us." Cutler said. "We can’t just roll out there and expect it to happen. We have to prepare. We’ve got to be ready each and every game because it doesn’t matter who your opponent is and if they’ve won one game, zero games or 10 games. You can lose each and every week in this league. It’s done. You look at the scores each week and there’s an underdog winning and there’s somebody getting blown out. That happened to us today. It should be a wakeup call for our entire team that we’ve got to get it together."
Cutler was brought in because he has a past with head coach Adam Gase during his time with the Chicago Bears, and because he presumably knows how to run Gase's offense. It is time for Cutler to show that the $10 million investment the Dolphins made in him won't be going to waste.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Adam Gase is not happy.
And he has every right to feel that way, after agreeing to give 11-year veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons a two-year contract that is almost fully guaranteed, praising his leadership qualities and his drive to always work hard, only for Timmons to go AWOL before their first game of the season, and all without even a good explanation.
Or so we assume.
We know what he did, as TMZ reported that he was found at the airport and - presumably - was going to board a flight to California to visit his wife and kid. Why he did that, or why he felt the need to do so, we still don't know.
Timmons may have some underlying mental issues that only the Steelers were aware of, which could explain why they let him walk after being a staple of their defense for so long, or maybe Timmons had some other reason for deciding to take off.
But clearly, Adam Gase felt that his reasons for leaving weren't worthy of leaving the team right before game time, and his comments to the media were a clear indicator of just how livid Gase was - and is - with the team's top linebacker.
His answers were short, quick, and to the point. The most lengthy answer he was willing to give regarding Timmons was when he was asked if he expected Timmons to play the next game after disappearing for the first one.
“I haven’t even gotten through Step 1 yet." he said on Monday. "We kind of got in a little late last night so I’m kind of dealing with the guys that played.”
And there is where you can see the underlying message. The guys that played. As in, not Lawrence Timmons. Gase does not seem to care what happened with Timmons, the fact of the matter is, he didn't show up to work, and that sort of behavior is intolerable in this new Dolphins regime. Adam Gase has two rules: be on time, and play hard. Timmons violated both, and how does he tolerate it?
"What do you think?'' Gase said. "I've got two rules. It's not hard.''
Intolerable. Joe Philbin is not the head coach anymore, there is no one who is bigger than the team, and in a way - several ways in fact - that is a good thing.
Gase then took the next step, as the team announced on Tuesday that they had suspended Lawrence Timmons indefinitely, which in simpler terms, means that he won't be around for a maximum of the next four weeks, as per the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
As more and more information comes out, the situation becomes more and more bizarre. ESPN's Adam Schefter's reported on Monday that whatever was wrong with Timmons was checked out by team doctors - which indicates that there is something wrong with him. The idea of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) - which is a degenerative brain disease commonly found in NFL athletes - was thrown around, but it was also soon dismissed.
Later, Schefter was told that whatever was wrong with Timmons, he's "doing much better," but Schefter was also told that "no one has ever seen anything like it."
Foreboding, isn't it?
At this point, the question revolves around what the Dolphins should do next. They can only ignore Timmons for a maximum of four weeks, and then he either has to return to the team - which the players have stated they would welcome him back with open arms, or Miami has to release him. Perhaps he could be placed on injured reserve if doctors can pinpoint an injury that would keep him from playing, but no matter what, this situation isn't going away. Eventually, a decision on Timmons will have to be made, a permanent one.
But what is it Gase is really concerned about? Is it Timmons' possible mental health issues, or is it the fact that - regardless of what and why - Timmons defied his authority? Most people are focusing in on the fact that Timmons "quit" on his team, that what he did was "selfish," and has no place in what is being called the "New Miami," where players don't have free rein over the locker room like in the Philbin era.
No one is denying that what Timmons did is wrong, and is almost unheard of in the NFL today. But if we take a step back and examine the situation from a more neutral perspective, is what Timmons did really that horrible?
Yes, he quit on the team, that's bad, even selfish, and he deserves to be punished. Gase has done that. But is what he did really worse than getting suspended for PEDs or drug abuse? Or being arrested for domestic violence, which seems to be an all-too common occurrence with NFL players.
Or even - dare I say - abandoning your teammates after being unable to take a joke and throwing your other teammates under the bus, leading to a national scandal that eventually led to the release of the team's best guard? Is what Timmons did really worse than all of that?
I suppose that's up to you to decide.
I can't say that I am okay with what Timmons did, that would be a bold-faced lie. But while he did make a mistake, and an egregious one at that, Timmons has stated that he wants to return to practice and he wants to play again. He made one mistake, and up until this point, he has been a consummate professional in the NFL.
Surely, he deserves at least some benefit of the doubt? This has not been a recurring pattern, this has not been something he is notorious for. This is his 11th season in the NFL, and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened.
Timmons is the most talented linebacker on the roster, his absence on the field hurts the team, there is no doubt about that. Trading for Stephone Anthony won't do much to change that, at least, not for a while. Not only that, cutting Timmons outright would be very detrimental to the team's cap space over the next two years.
But even more important than that, while it is good for Gase to show his toughness, and make an example of someone who broke the rules, there is such a thing as giving a second chance, especially towards someone who has been as solid over the years as Timmons. He hasn't stayed gone, he wants to return. He now has four weeks (or less) to prove to Gase he wants to be a Miami Dolphin.
Thankfully, Gase's comments on Wednesday indicated that he is not above forgiveness.
“I think every situation’s different and I would say that you can be forgiven if the right steps are taken.”
That is exactly what I wanted to hear. Now, Lawrence Timmons, the rest is up to you.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The buzz on Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker throughout training camp this year was that he was looking much more lithe and spry in his route running, impressing coaches with a determined focus as he entered his third year in the league.
And it seems to be paying off, as quarterback Jay Cutler connected with Parker on four catches for 85 yards in Sunday’s win against the Los Angeles Chargers, including a contested 31-yard catch on an underthrown pass that Parker pulled away from Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward.
“That’s being a monster,” fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “That’s what he is. That’s what we always need.”
And that’s what Dolphins fans expected when the 6-foot-3 Parker was drafted in the first round out of Louisville in the 2015 NFL draft. Injuries were Parker’s nemesis in his first two years, however, including a pesky foot injury his rookie year, and lingering hamstring issues last year that were attributed to dehydration. Parker has since changed his habits, and he will the first to tell you that being 100% healthy makes a huge difference in his play.
“I’m a little more aggressive now,” he says. “Last year I was injured all year, and I just didn’t have a chance to do that. Now I’m healthy and I can make plays like that. When you go out there knowing you’re healthy and you can just go out and play, you play at your best.”
Head coach Adam Gase is happy with his receiving corps of Landry, Parker, and Kenny Stills, and implies that fans can expect even more from them as the season progresses.
“We have something interesting brewing with that group,” says Gase. “We have three guys that are different types of receivers … they all have some strengths, and they are all different strengths. We’ll just keep working through that to see what we can create out of that.”
Gase likes what he saw from Parker in Sunday’s game, saying, “(Cutler) has a lot of faith in him, obviously. I think we were short on one, and DeVante took it right off of the guy's head. We had a couple other plays that were right there that he had a chance to make.”
And make them he did, including another 31-yarder that Cutler placed where no one except Parker had a chance to grab it.
“He threw a good ball to where only I could get it, and if I didn’t, no one else would,” said Parker. “He threw the ball where it needed to be … He has confidence in all of us, and he trusts we can go up and make the play.”
The Cutler-to-Parker connection will continue, as Cutler has shown confidence in throwing to the guy he describes as a faster Alshon Jeffrey, who was Cutler’s go-to guy when both played for the Chicago Bears.
"DeVante, since I have been here, every time I throw it up, it's either a catch or a completion,” says Cutler.
“That is what we like."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
1. In addition to the old “it's meant to motivate him - and it's working!” nugget, I’m reading now that people think that starting Davon Godchaux over Jordan Phillips will make his “stamina issues” less obvious.
I’m really having a hard time understanding why people insist on making excuses for this guy. I know he’s a former second round pick but for heaven’s sake, let it go.
He’s not good enough. Period. Time for the Dolphins to move on. I’m frankly disappointed that they haven’t and that they didn’t do more to protect themselves at the position before the summer started.
2. There are more than a few people who seem to be wondering why Lawrence Timmons isn’t playing middle linebacker given that he played inside in a 3-4 scheme with the Steelers.
There are probably a number of reasons for this but one that’s apparently undersold is the fact that calling plays isn’t really Timmons' strong suit. Traditionally, the middle linebacker has the speaker in his helmet and fills this role.
One of the things that the Steelers found out early is that Timmons is at his best when he’s unhindered by a lot of details. Dealing with a lot of Xs and Os isn’t his strength.
You don’t want to make him worry about things like where guys are lined up. You want him to line up and just play. He can do that better on the outside.
3. If the Dolphins can’t get Jakeem Grant to the point where he can get through a game without dropping the ball, I just don’t see how they can continue to waste their time on him.
They’d like to see Grant develop as a punt returner but, despite reportedly catching hundreds of balls in the offseason, he doesn’t seem to be much more reliable.
They say that the biggest jump in performance for any player is between his first and second years. There’s a reason for that - the expectations are considerable higher and you need to either fish or cut bait.
People don’t keep talking about how you are a young player still learning the game anymore and there are no more “rookie mistakes”. By your second summer you’ve either corrected them or the team moves on.
For all Grant’s apparent talent, the first thing you have to do as a receiver or returner is get a hold of the ball and keep it. Unless he can show he can do that consistently this year, we can safely conclude that it’s never going to happen.
4. I was a little surprised and not a little concerned by reports that the Dolphins negotiated a contract extension with T.J. McDonald.
I like McDonald well enough on the field but what’s the rush? He’s serving an eight game suspension after a second run-in with the NFL over disciplinary issues. I can’t help but think that if it wasn’t a problem he’d still be a Los Angeles Ram.
Yes, you can protect yourself to some extent in the contract language. But it's not a good look.
The Dolphins needed to show a little more caution here.
5. The most comforting thing about the Jarvis Landry domestic violence allegation? The NFL has video of the incident.
Landry’s ex-girlfriend, Estrella Cerqueira, claims that the couple had a “vocal disagreement” but that Landry would “never, ever do anything to harm me or anyone else.” The problem is that Cequeira is the mother of Landry’s child and has a monetary incentive in the form of child support to downplay the incident.
In any case, the camera never lies. One way or the other, we’ll know for sure when the NFL’s decision on whether to punish Landry or not comes down.
6. I sympathize with the Dolphins and their fans in terms of the injuries that the team suffered during training camp. But really, other than the loss of the starting quarterback - and the team ended up breaking even on that one - I don’t think the injuries have been that far out of the ordinary.
Yes, the loss of your starting left guard hurts. But those things happen every year to every team. And it's not like Ted Larsen was anything more than a borderline NFL starter to begin with.
Sure losing Raekwon McMillan hurts. But he was a second round rookie linebacker who has proven nothing. As for Koa Misi’s ongoing neck troubles, see the comment on Larsen above.
If these are the only linebackers to go down this year the team can consider itself to be extremely fortunate.
If your team’s depth can’t carry you through injuries like this - and I mean not just through training camp but all year - then you were never meant to win anything anyway.
Only true mental toughness can sustain a winning culture in the NFL. Injuries can never be allowed to be an excuse for failure. Once that happens, death inevitably follows.
7. Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson going to the Seahawks for Jermaine Kearse and a second round pick was quite a shock. A seventh round swap was also involved.
Richardson will fit in well with that locker room. I can’t imagine the Seahawks don’t win that division even with what looks to be a terrible offensive line.
8. Meanwhile the Jets take one more step towards first overall pick as the dump a 26-year old Pro Bowl defensive lineman in exchange for a wide receiver who has never had more than 685 receiving yards. And people in New York are steamed. One source told the New York Daily News, “We should have sent them Hack.”
It’s now evident that quarterback Christian Hackenberg was way overdrafted. His physical talent was undeniable but after some very rough years as the Penn State quarterback, this was a gamble that the Jets should have never taken.
The odds are good no one else in the league was even considering Hackenberg for at least another round and, truth be told, even with most quarterbacks being overdrafted nowadays he belonged in the fourth. It’s just one more piece of evidence that the organization is in total disarray.
Rebuilding is the right thing to do there. Rebuilding with the current leadership under general manager Mike Maccagnan is useless.
9. Having said that, personally I think just throwing away the entire 2017 season in an effort to get the top 2018 draft pick and the chance to select a quarterback from the much touted 2018 class is a mistake.
For one thing, its not a given they’ll be bad enough to get it. The Browns and the 49ers are both going to give them a run for their money almost no matter how bad they get and Buffalo is approaching the same territory.
I’d say there are three consensus potential top ten QBs, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. If one gets hurt or has a lousy year, one decides not to forego his senior year, and the Jets don’t get the first overall pick, they tanked away an entire season for nothing.
Add the fact that history shows that only one of those quarterbacks will turn out to be a legitimate franchise quarterback anyway and you realize that the whole thing is ridiculously stupid.
Whenever Dolphins fans get depressed and start to doubt their fandom after yet another loss to the Patriots or some similar event, they should pause, think a minute, then fall to their knees and thank whatever god they worship that they aren’t Jets fans.
10. On a related note, I never want to hear another Dolphin fan claim that they have it extra tough because they play in the AFC East.
Half of the division tapped out before the season even began.
This story was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
After not having any competition in training camp, it seemed that now former Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks had a guaranteed ticket onto the 53-man roster.
But on Sunday, as the team began making several waiver claims, Miami made a surprise move and released Franks to replace him with waived Browns kicker Cody Parkey, who is notorious among Dolphins fans for missing three field goals during their matchup in 2016.
It was said that Franks actually did have competition in the form of the rest of the league, and Franks was actually solid in camp, though he did miss a field goal during the preseason. Franks' claim to fame had been his incredible kick against the Buffalo Bills in 2016, when he tied the game with only six seconds left in regulation, kicking a 55-yard field goal which was a career high.
He then kicked the winning field goal - a 27-yarder - with 47 seconds left in overtime, giving the Dolphins a sweep on the year against their division rivals.
But apparently, Franks was just deemed too unreliable for Miami to retain him. He made only 29 out of 37 field goals in 2016, and the team evidently viewed Parkey as an instant upgrade, despite his three missed field goal game.
"I just didn’t even count that game." head coach Adam Gase said on Monday. "He’s been around for a minute, so there’s a lot of trust there.”
After that debacle of a game, Parkey bounced back and made 20 out of 22 field goals for the rest of the season, his longest being a 51-yarder he kicked against the Washington Redskins in Week 2.
Parkey is entering his fourth season in the league, and was even voted as a Pro Bowler during his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. He should immediately be an upgrade as far as kickoffs go, as only 19 of his 57 kickoffs were returned in 2016, as opposed to Franks who had 31 of his 74 kickoffs returned.
It wasn't something anyone was expecting to be sure, but clearly the front office saw someone they liked and they went for it. Hopefully, it will pay off once the season begins.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung