Not everyone can be gifted in the world of gaming. That's what quarterback Ryan Tannehill found out this past Thursday when he went down to Dadeland Mall, went inside the Microsoft Store and participated in the Xbox NFL Player Charity Challenge.
Over the next seven weeks, players from chosen teams with their own specific charity will face off in a Madden tournament to decide who will win the $51,000 dollar prize as well as Microsoft products (Surface Pro 4s and Xbox Ones) for their favorite charity.
Originally, Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the one who was meant to face off against Aaron Donald, representing his charity: the Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation. But due to a personal matter, Suh was unable to attend on the designated night, and so quarterback Ryan Tannehill took his place.
Unfortunately for the five year veteran, the amount of time he's been in the NFL coincided with the amount of time it's been since he last picked up an Xbox controller, and Tannehill lost to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald by a score of 44-19 after Donald ran the score up on the inexperienced gamer after the game was already won.
“I don’t feel bad honestly,” Tannehill said of Donald’s decision to run up the score. “I would have done the same thing if I was winning. It’s all in good fun and you’re always going to try to play to win.”
Tannehill joked that Suh probably wouldn't be happy when he found out that he'd lost, but that it was always good to do his part for an obviously great cause.
With all the work done to raise money for charity or to just improve the quality of day to day life, sometimes it's good to have a change of pace and do some work by having some fun.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
With Halloween quickly approaching, the Miami Dolphins are doing their part to help out kids who normally wouldn't get to celebrate with their friends the way they would want to.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dolphins alumni Larry Ball, Chris Conlin, Lorenzo Hampton, Tony Nathan, Adewale Ogunleye, Lousaka Polite, Twan Russell, Jed Weaver and Shawn Wooden gathered at Spirit Halloween costume shop in Plantation to give over 50 pre-selected students from Madie Ives Elementary from Miami Dade County and Peters Elementary from Broward County the opportunity to look for the perfect costume for Halloween.
"I'm with Jamari right now with the second group," said former Dolphins offensive lineman Chris Conlin. "He wanted to be a ninja man so we got his size and everything, and he's the man for this Halloween."
Possibly the biggest charm of Halloween are the costumes that the kids wear when they go trick or treating, and of course as times change, the costumes themselves have evolved in their own way, which former Dolphins fullback and Youth Programs Coordinator Lousaka Polite brought up when sharing some of his Halloween memories.
“I remember my first time ever going trick or treating,” said former Dolphins fullback and Youth Programs Coordinator Lousaka Polite. “I was really small and I was Superman, but of course I didn’t have muscles so I used to get newspaper and stuff my costume with newspaper.”
Then there was Conlin, who claims that there was a reason he was never on the receiving end of any tricks and always got the treats.
"Growing up in Philadelphia, we would be the army men every year. We put a helmet on, we put an army jacket on and that's what we did every single year." said Conlin. "We were just too big, nobody wanted to mess with us anyway so we just got the treats."
Then there was former defensive back Shawn Wooden, who during the shopping trip found himself entertaining some of the students by interacting with the moving props within the store.
“Nothing’s ever gotten me,” Wooden said. “But, you know you the ones you see on YouTube and everything, the funny ones where the guy is just standing there, comes out and then gets hit by the adult trying to scare the guy, back in my day there weren’t too many props and there weren’t too many people doing it.”
After the students finished shopping and came away with a plethora of different costumes, they were treated to a pizza dinner courtesy of Papa John's. Halloween is no fun when you're the only one without a costume, and now thanks to the Miami Dolphins, over 50 students will have the chance to go out and collect treats with their friends.
No tricks attached.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Philosopher and novelist George Santayana coined that metaphor many years ago and to some degree it has been proven to be true. For the past few seasons, the Miami Dolphins have found themselves in a rut, making the same mistakes despite trying slightly different methods.
But perhaps, the key is not to try something totally different and totally new. Perhaps now, the past can teach them a lesson in a different manner. Let's look back at the last time the Miami Dolphins were deemed a successful football team, made the playoffs, and how they got there.
The last time Miami made the playoffs, it was 2008 and the Dolphins had just signed veteran quarterback Chad Pennington in the offseason after the Jets decided to move on from the oft-injured QB and went to the iron man himself Brett Favre after his dramatic tendencies led to his retirement from the NFL only to quickly return and sign with New York.
That decision - paired with a little (and strangely unfortunate) luck that saw future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady suffer a season-ending torn ACL and MCL that weakened the Patriots - led to the Dolphins winning the division for the first time since 2000, which of course means that they went to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. More on that later.
Now, all of these rankings are according to ProFootballReference, and there is something to take away from them, so bear with me.
In 2008, the Miami Dolphins had the 9th ranked overall defense, along with a top 10 passing rank to go with an 11th ranked rushing attack. These are in total yards, by the way. So at first glance, it seems like it was the addition of Chad Pennington that really made the difference. That is true, but that's not the reason the offense succeeded. Watch this.
Flipping the category to touchdowns, we see that the Dolphins ranked 17th in the NFL in touchdown passes, while ranking 9th in rushing touchdowns. So it's pretty clear that when the time came to actually score points, they relied heavily on the one-two punch that was Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, aided by the introduction of the Wildcat that - while initially was big success - was ultimately short-lived.
Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the Dolphins gave up only 18 touchdowns in the air, ranking them 9th overall in that regard, and they only gave up 11 rushing touchdowns, ranking them 10th there. So that Dolphins defense, with Joey Porter putting together an unbelievable 17.5 sacks, was a force to be reckoned with.
Now what about the time before that? That was 2001, and Dan Marino had retired only two years prior. So how did a team quarterbacked by the pedestrian Jay Fiedler manage to make a playoff berth so soon after the loss of a Hall of Fame QB? It's simple. The same way that the 2008 Dolphins did it: running the ball and defense.
The Dolphins ranked 11th in overall defense in 2001. While the secondary struggled and the Dolphins ranked 20th in passing touchdowns allowed, the run defense was stout and allowed only nine rushing touchdowns, ranking them 8th overall.
On offense, while they ranked 22nd overall in yards gained, they knew how to score. They ranked 14th overall in passing touchdowns with 20, while ranking 9th in rushing touchdowns with 14.
So what's so important about all these rankings? They're boring to read and offer no value whatsoever. Except for the fact that they do.
In light of the recent emergence of Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins have found themselves in a position where they have one half of the team identity and philosophy that led them to the playoffs the past two times. Run the ball, and play good defense. They have a running game now, but the defense still leaves something to be desired.
But there's still a chance that the playoffs can be made, if Miami keeps this style of play going. Neither Chad Pennington nor Jay Fiedler were particularly great quarterbacks, they were good and supported by great teammates who rallied together to get to the playoffs. That's what almost all playoff teams are made of.
So here's my point. I didn't expect Miami to be in the running for the playoffs from the beginning. I expected this season to be a year of rebuilding and reevaluating talent for Adam Gase. But suddenly, there's hope in the form of Jay Ajayi that the Dolphins could make a playoff berth. Considering the level of competition, there's a very real chance Miami could make a run and get a Wild Card spot.
History is written so that those who come after don't make the same mistakes, because as the saying goes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But in this case, it might be best if the Dolphins decided to take the other method and learn from history...so they can repeat it.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Dolphins pulled off an impressive home victory against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Here are ten thoughts on them and on the NFL to follow up on the game:
1. The Dolphins also turned in a very good game last week in a big win against the Steelers. But how much of it was a miserable performance by the Pittsburgh? The Steelers looked like they were moving in slow motion in what was a very sloppy game for them. It seems likely that the Steelers took that game too lightly and they got caught looking forward towards their next game against the New England Patriots this week.
The last time the Steelers were badly beaten this season was 34-3 by Philadelphia. The Eagles had lost their last two contests since coming into today’s game.
The Bills were generally accepted to be a foe who is less likely to let down this week. They’d won four in a row after an 0-2 start. But it’s worth remembering that the last three wins came come against quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett (New England), Case Keenum (Rams) and Colin Kaepernick (49ers) at quarterback.
Having said that, this game was pivotal in proving the Dolphins hopes that they actually found a formula for consistently competing effectively or, on the other hand, proving that they are still the AFC East doormats. Happily they repeated their performance against Pittsburgh, effectively proving that they may, indeed, be more competitive than their performances earlier in the season may have indicated.
This game goes a long way towards convincing fans and media that the team is for real.
2. What's particularly impressive was the way that the Dolphins dominated the line of scrimmage. As always Jay Ajayi ran extremely hard 28 times for 214 yards and an impressive 7.4 yards per carry. Though Jermon Bushrod, Ja'Wuan James, Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil all had some occasional struggles in protection, the offensive line generally dominated the line of scrimmage.
The nice job that the Dolphins did running the ball resulted in a large difference in time of possession (37:02 - 22:58), giving the defense a break that kept them fresh to hold up their end of this bargain. On the other hand, the Buffalo defense wore down a bit as the game moved on and as the Dolphins offensive line continually pushed them around.
Perhaps what was most surprising to me was that, despite another 200 yard effort from Ajayi last week, the Bills didn't appear to respect the Miami running game at the start of the contest, sometimes keeping the box light, perhaps not wanting to expose their defensive backs. Whatever the reason, it worked in the Dolphins favor as this aspect of the game was impressive.
3. The defensive front seven looked very good this game as the defense did a wonderful job of stopping the run. The linebackers looked aggressive and were generally playing downhill and the defensive linemen were penetrating to stop the run. At 34 years young, Cameron Wake is everything he's been in the past and looked particularly good getting pressure on Tyrod Taylor with 1.5 sacks on the game. Ndamukong Suh also came alive in the second half despite (as usual) seeing consistent double teams. A nice effort all around.
There's no doubt about it. The Dolphins are running the ball and stopping the run. There's not a better formula for success.
4. Marcus Mariota ran wild on the Dolphins when the Titans played Miami earlier in the month, losing 30-17. Mariota had 60 yards rushing on seven carries.
So the Dolphins knew that stopping mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor had to be a priority. Taylor had 236 rushing yards and 6.9 yards per attempt coming into Sunday's game. He also throws very well on the run and he looked good when Buffalo rolled him out, something they did frequently Sunday.
The Dolphins knew going in that they needed to rush the passer with discipline to contain Taylor without flushing him from the pocket.
"He's popped on a bunch of third-and-longs, and he's run for first downs," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "We can't have that. It's too hard to get into third down with this team."
So it was nice to see the Dolphins do at least a decent job of keeping Taylor in the pocket today. Taylor was limited to 35 yards and much of that came on a planned run into the end zone in the second quarter. That needs to continue to carry over as the Dolphins progress during the season.
5. It was a rough start to this game for special teams after allowing a 35 yard punt return that set up the Bills first field goal. That was followed by a blocked punt.
Combined with some rough moments in the form of blocked field goals leading up to this game, the special teams will be an area that Dolphins fans should look to for some improvement in the coming weeks.
6. This game wouldn't have been close had the Dolphins not continually shot themselves in the foot with penalties, especially early in the game. In all they had an inexcusable 13 for 116 yards including seven in the first quarter. That also has to be cleaned up.
7. Bills head coach Rex Ryan was relatively tame in his comments on Ex-Bills pass rusher and current Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams this week, obviously not trying to rile Williams up.
"Mario has been an outstanding player in this league for a long time. I don't think I've said anything critical about Mario ever. In fact, I would take you to task on it. He might have felt differently here, but that's OK. If he's motivated to play well against us, I would expect him to. You're playing a divisional game, and I expect him to be very motivated, just like we'll be."
Something tells me Williams was motivated very well. Ryan wasn't quite so complimentary in an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this summer after Williams blamed his poor play with the Bills on being asked to drop into coverage as a linebacker.
"He's a good kid, but I am used to some mean [expletive] that play out there. The Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnsons of the world. I screwed them, too? I had them drop [into coverage], too. Not one of them bitched," Ryan said. "Von Miller [dropped into coverage] in the Super Bowl. Why? Because that's what's asked of him; that's what his job is. Your job is to play. Coaches spend a hell of a lot more time studying tape and everything else. They are trying to put the team in the best position to be successful, not an individual."
Anyone who has read anything that I have written about Williams knows that I agree with Ryan. However, that may be, if Williams was ever going to perform as a Dolphin, it was going to be this week when playing his old team. To his credit, Williams did make an impact, having a sack and occasionally getting some good pressure on Taylor in the second half. We will see how far that carries over into the future as well.
8. Of interest was whether Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks improved his technique this week. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said that Franks, who has had two field goals blocked this season (24 and 27 yards) and also missed from 50 yards, has had some things to work on.
“We believe a lot in our guy. He knows he’s got to make those shorter field goals and fix the problem and elevate the ball more on those shorter field goals. He’s got to get that corrected. The two field goal blocks we had this year were not the protection.”
Franks has a tremendous leg and there's no reason for him to have to drive the ball low through the uprights even from relatively long distances. To my eye he did better this game and did not have a kick blocked as a result.
9. Also of interest was the situation of Bills running back LeSean McCoy. On Thursday, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that McCoy wouldn't play on Sunday. However, McCoy's agent, Drew Rosenhaus disputed the report saying that McCoy would be a game time decision.
His contention seemed to be born out as McCoy practiced on a limited basis on Friday, indicating at least some possibility that he would be ready by Sunday. In the end McCoy played though he was not particularly effective carrying the ball eight times for only 11 yards before leaving in the third quarter with the bad hamstring.
The situation is a good example of the poor state of sports journalism, particularly as it relates to the NFL. More and more, reporters care about being first over getting the report right and the advent of Twitter, where such reports can be made instantly available with no time for second thoughts or correction, has only made the situation worse.
More and more, the average football fan in search of good concrete information finds him - or herself abandoning national sources of TV and Internet news in favor of local newspaper reporting where at least some integrity appears to have been maintained. For now.
10. The Minnesota Vikings, who entered Sunday's games as the league's only undefeated team, are the talk of the league. Minnesota has a wonderful, aggressive defense and it has the capability to continue to carry the team far this year. They have an excellent coaching staff and head coach Mike Zimmer is proving to be one of the best in the league.
But the Vikings have a problem and it’s the same one that exposed them last year whenever they played any team outside of the NFC North that was any good. Their offensive line continues to stink despite moves in the offseason to bring it up to standard. That continued on Sunday in an awful 21-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with one of the worst offensive performances I've seen all year by a team with a healthy starting quarterback.
Tackle Andre Smith was acquired in the offseason and it was hoped that he would stabilize the right side of the line. He was put on injured reserve two weeks ago after underperforming for the first four weeks. Left tackle T.J. Clemmings has struggled and he has now moved back to the right side to replace Smith.
Dolphins fans will be familiar with former first round pick Jake Long, who the Vikings have desperately signed to help fill the hole on the other side. In all, six weeks into the season Joe Berger is the only one of the Vikings' five opening day starters not to miss time because of injury.
The Vikings had amongst the easiest schedules in the league entering the season and the guess here is that they will continue to win despite their travails on the offensive line. But last year, the Vikings were sunk in the playoffs by poor line performance once the played a really good team in the Arizona Cardinals. The guess here is that they are already well on their way to something similar no matter what their record will be.
10a. I took note of a recent story in the New York Post where former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said that he still thought he could be a head coach.
“Well, we’ll see about that,” Coughlin said when asked if he’s still seeking a coaching job. “One day at a time. I hope I can make an impact in the job that I’m in. That’s why I’m in that position (NFL’s senior advisor to football operations)."
Like brilliant 79 year old Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, I think Coughlin could make a pretty good offensive coordinator. But at 70 years old, I can't see another team hiring him as a head coach.
10b. Former Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans is suing the Texans and the NFL for making him play on a poor field in Houston that led to a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2014. Jadeveon Clowney told teammates that his early season knee injury that year, which required arthroscopic surgery, came after he landed on a "hole" in the turf. After Kansas City complained about the turf, the Texans abruptly abandoned their grass-based field system after only one home game last year.
Personally I doubt that this lawsuit has much of a chance but it will be interesting to follow it. If it's successful, it could open a Pandora's box for the NFL as a whole. There are a lot of poor fields around the league, most notably in Pittsburgh and in Chicago, especially late in the season when it virtually impossible to grow grass. Players are split as to whether the grass is better than turf in such locations but there's no denying that the field is a danger to the players.
The NFL could be dealing with a lot of trouble if the suit actually succeeds. Stay tuned.
10c. The Super Bowl runners up Carolina Panthers have crashed down to earth this season as they have started the year at 1-5 going into their bye on Sunday. If you are wondering how this happened, the lack of a pass rush is a huge reason for their problems.
Carolina has 11 sacks through five games after posting 44 in the 2015 regular season. Reserve safety, Tre Boston, leads the team in sacks with two. Reserve defensive tackle Kyle Love – who wasn’t even on the team until recently – is second at 1.5. Particularly problematic are Kony Ealy and Charles Johnson who both have zero sacks.
In order to make up for the deficit, Carolina has had to blitz frequently, exposing a young secondary that is without Josh Norman, who left for the Redskins in free agency.
With things not going Carolina's way, you have to wonder if and when its going to have an effect on quarterback Cam Newton. Newton's attitude after the Super Bowl loss last season wasn’t an aberration. Former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith had to spend some time with Newton early in his career telling him to stop sulking on the bench every time the team struggled. He appear to have not adjusted his attitude since and it will be an interesting situation to monitor.
10d. Next up for the Dolphins are the New York Jets who came away with a 24-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. The Jets have struggled with quarterback problems as Ryan Fitzpatrick has under-performed since re-signing with the team late in the offseason. He was replaced by Geno Smith as the starter, who subsequently injured his knee in the second quarter and left the game.
Fitzpatrick had a decent game and provided a spark in the win. But whoever starts, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a struggling team that the Dolphins can take advantage of at home next week to get back to 0.500 for the season.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
Now that's the team we hoped the Miami Dolphins would be.
In spite of an infusion of penalties, which even head coach Adam Gase referred to as “dumb,” the Dolphins pulled off a 28-25 win over the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills on Sunday. And the way they did it could not have been predicted outside of a relative few Dolphins fans who also happen to reside in the Mountain West.
Jay Ajayi, the second year running back out of Boise State, became only the fourth running back in NFL history to post back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, as he bulled his way to 214 yards and a touchdown in the game. Ajayi joins Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson, and former Dolphin Ricky Williams in that exclusive club.
“It's surreal to me,” said Ajayi. “The backs I'm in company with, that's huge. Those are Hall of Fame guys, guys I look up to.”
The running of Ajayi, behind a (finally) healthy offensive line, aided by an extra lineman on most plays, let the Dolphins play the kind of game the coaches have been promising us for weeks, a well-balanced offense that can grind out yards and surprise with quick strikes downfield.
The game started off with a great drive by the Dolphins only to be stymied by penalties in the red zone, as the Dolphins settled for a 3-0 lead to open the game. From there, the first half fell apart, as miscues on special teams, and many more penalties on the offense offset an otherwise great start by Ajayi, who piled up 99 yards on 12 carries in the half, and the efforts of the suddenly stout Dolphins defense.
At the end of the half, with the team down 10-6 and clock ticking towards the 30-second mark, quarterback Ryan Tannehill inexplicitly tucked the ball on first down and ran for a 3-yard gain up the middle, which kept the clock running. Then Gase puzzled everyone by not using the last timeout and at least making an attempt to get within field goal range, but instead let the clock run out, prompting a well-deserved chorus of boos from the Hard Rock Stadium crowd as the team headed for the tunnel.
In the second half, Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin burned cornerback Byron Maxwell and caught safety Michael Thomas out of position to score on a 67-yard touchdown reception, and the Dolphins found themselves down 17-6 with 16 minutes to go in the game.
In weeks (years? decades?) past, this would have fan’s emotions swirling down to the sobering resolution of another loss.
But from that point on, it was all Miami, as the Dolphins defense buckled down and held the Bills to 267 totals yards, including just 67 yards on the ground.
With Ajayi wearing down a tired Buffalo defense, Damien Williams rumbled for a 12-yards touchdown run with just under 4 minutes left to play. Then on their next possession, when everyone in the stands was fully expecting the team to run down the clock, Gase pulled a surprise out the bag, sending wide receiver Kenny Stills deep down the right sideline, where Tannehill hit him for a 66-yard touchdown to give the Dolphins a 28-17 cushion.
From there, is was just a matter of the Dolphins defense keeping things in check, and time ran out on the Bills, as their onside kick with 13 seconds left was recovered by Jarvis Landry, sealing the win.
Next up, the Dolphins have Week 8 off as their bye week comes at the perfect time to rest up bumps and bruises. Then the team hopes the momentum of the last two weeks carries over to a Week 9 home game against the ever-hated New York Jets. With a win, the Dolphins would even their record at 4-4 and be right in the thick of the chase for Wild Card berths in the playoffs.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
The giddiness that most Miami Dolphins fans felt after the Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers was dimmed a bit when news broke this past week that safety Reshad Jones would miss the rest of the reason with a torn rotator cuff. Jones’ physical style and aggressive play have made him a favorite among fans and players alike, and the team will miss having their All-Pro safety and locker room leader on the field the rest of this year.
How does the team replace such an invaluable cog in their defense?
The NFL is and has always been a ‘Next Man Up’ league, as players on the sidelines are expected to maintain their fitness and preparedness in case the starter in front of them goes down. In Miami’s case, the next man up might not be someone off the bench, but rather a shifting of current personnel into Jones’ role.
No one on the Dolphins current roster has the all-around skills that Jones possesses, as he is unparalleled as a blitzer, covering receivers, tight ends and backs downfield, and roaming the middle of the secondary like a hired assassin. But defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will try to mix and match several players to fill those roles.
With Chris Culliver coming off of Injured Reserve this week, the Dolphins have an abundance of cornerbacks, some of whom have the size to possibly play in the safety spot. But Joseph has made it clear that he has no intention of moving any of them to safety.
“The corners, no, they’re corners,” said Joseph. “We won’t move anybody else to safety.”
Michael Thomas is the most likely candidate to step into Jones starting role, with Isa Abdul-Quddus and Walt Aikens rotating between the strong safety and free safety spots, while rookie Jordan Lucas could be worked into the mix as well. While none of those players have the complete skillset of Jones, all are good enough in specific matchups that the Dolphins are comfortable moving forward with those four guys.
One positive that comes out of this mix-and-match scenario is that opposing teams won’t be able to focus on just one player. Just as NFL defenses will scheme to take away the opponent’s best offensive weapon, offensive coordinators also scheme to neutralize an opponent’s best defenders. With jones out, there isn’t a specific player (other than defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh) for opponents to try to avoid.
The Dolphins feel they will be okay the rest of the season with the personnel they currently have. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, but if the matchups do work, well, let Joseph sum that one up.
“If guys do their job, the best teams win.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Former Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite probably said it best when he said that there was no team in the NFL more active in the community than the Miami Dolphins. Time and time again - more so over the past couple of years - we have seen and heard players both current and former doing their part to make South Florida a better place.
On Saturday before the game against the Bills, Dolphins alumni continued their work with a celebrity golf tournament as well as a visit to Feeding South Florida to sort food which would go towards helping families in need.
"This organization is always giving back, from day one," said former Dolphins safety Louis Oliver. "And they'll continue to do that."
Several former players have been seen at the facility and around South Florida, contributing their celebrity, and more importantly, their time towards various causes, whether it's the smallest youth event focused on teaching kids the importance of physical fitness, to quite possibly the largest cancer research fundraiser in all of professional sports with the Dolphins Cancer Challenge.
With that in mind, this past Friday night saw the Miami Dolphins give a little something back to those who spend so much of their spare time giving back themselves, as a party was held at Hard Rock Stadium to honor 28 alumni whose impact in the local - and perhaps even national - community cannot be ignored.
“It’s surreal.” said Lousaka Polite, who on top of owning the “Polite Way Foundation” which focuses on supporting single mothers, is also on staff with the team as a Youth Program Coordinator. “I didn’t really do what I do for any type of recognition, but it feels good that you have a lot of like-minded people out here just celebrating what’s really important in life and that’s giving back.
“I got here in 2008, and I played for five different teams, but this is by far the most active team in the league (in the community), and I knew that from the start. Even when I left and went to other organizations, I always knew I would put my roots down here because the Dolphins are second to none when it comes to giving back."
The list of alumni being honored was a long one, and included some of the biggest names in franchise history, each with their own charity or foundation that focuses on a specific cause.
For Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, his foundation focuses on children with autism. The Jason Taylor Foundation aims to improve the personal growth and empowerment of children by focusing on improved healthcare, education and quality of life.
Then of course, there's the Dolphins Cancer Challenge that is now headed up by Michael Mandich, the son of the late, great former Dolphins tight end Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich. The DCC is the largest community project the franchise has, and has raised over $16.5 million dollars for cancer research in its nearly seven year existence.
But some people are skeptical, as they always will be, that these former players actually care about the work they do. In fact, some would suggest that the fact they do these things is nothing more than a pitiful attempt to keep themselves relevant after their playing days are over, and so the team will make them feel good by giving them pats on the back for doing a good job after they're done.
That could not be any further from the truth.
“This is actually one of the first times I’ve been honored, especially being an alumni," said former Dolphins tight end and current Manager of Youth Programs Troy Drayton. “I know I do a lot, and I don’t necessarily need the recognition, but it’s good when people recognize some of the things you do in the community.”
And this is not something that's only started recently. For decades now, the Dolphins have paved the way for how professional sports teams can make their local communities better places, evidenced by the players being honored and the era of football in which they played.
"I mean you're talking the span from the 70s until today," said Dolphins Senior Vice President of Special Projects and Alumni Relations Nat Moore. "We learned under coach Don Shula, who is one of the guys being honored. We were great teams because it was about the team. The team was only as great as its weakest link.
"That was the way we played, that's the way we looked at things. Community is just like a team. You want to have a great community? It's about making sure that everybody has a piece, everybody is doing okay. Because of that, we all, through the years, have found our niche of ways we can give back. And I talk about coach Shula, but none of this happens without the blessing of Joe Robbie back in the day and Tim Robbie, Wayne Huizenga and the way he is, and of course now when you think of Steve Ross and what he does."
Moore went on to say how the Dolphins are always the first ones to come and offer their support whenever one of their alumni get involved with a charity event in the community, and there are a lot of alumni who get involved if the list of players honored Friday night is anything to go by.
The list goes as follows:
Dick Anderson, Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski, Nick Buoniconti, Vernon Carey, Chris Chambers, Jeff Dellenbach, Troy Drayton, Oronde Gadsden, Bob Griese, Larry Little, Sam Madison, Jim Mandich (represented by his son Mark Mandich), Dan Marino, Stockar McDougle, O.J. McDuffie, Don McNeal, Nat Moore, John Offerdahl, Adewale Ogunleye, Lousaka Polite, James Pruitt, Twan Russell, Don Shula, Dwight Stephenson, Don Strock, Jason Taylor, and Shawn Wooden.
When you see that list, and realize that these 28 alumni are only the tip of the iceberg, it goes to show that the Dolphins have a greater mission in mind than just what goes on during the football season. Fans want a winning product and that's completely understandable, but what must never be forgotten is that when the pads come off, we are all human beings, and there are some things that are bigger than football.
This is why the organization honors these alumni, and this is why they are a first-class organization. With all that they do, and with all the lives they have touched over the years, how can you look at this franchise and think any differently?
“It feels great, just trying to give back. So much has been given to me, so I need to give back.” said former Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal. “Because people have been good to me, and so I just love people and I like to give, maybe say something that can help them out.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Prior to last Sunday’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, most Miami Dolphins fans likely had no idea who those two players were. And for good reason.
Jones, 29, is a 6’-3” 260 pound tight end who spent his underclass years with Liberty and Shepherd University, and has bounced around to ten different franchises since college. After playing two years in the United Football League and the Indoor Football League, he’s been cut thirteen times by eight different NFL teams. He defines the word ‘journeyman’.
Gray, 26, is 6’-4” and 255 pounds, and played quarterback at the University of Minnesota, while also playing wide receiver at times, totaling 60 catches for 766 yards in his four years as an undergrad. He worked out as a quarterback at the 2011 NFL combine, but was moved to running back and then tight end in the pros. He bounced around with four different NFL teams before the Dolphins signed him as a camp body last March.
Yeah, not exactly household names.
But with Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims both expected to miss games due to concussions, Jones and Gray will both be key cogs in the Dolphins offense for the foreseeable future. And head coach Adam Gase doesn’t seem to be too worried about plugging in two unknowns at key positions in his offense.
“We'll just see how this whole thing shakes out,” Gase said.
Gase had no information on when or if Cameron is expected to return, stating, “I don't think we're on any time table or deadline or anything like that. He's still in the protocol. We're kind of just going through the steps that we have to go through. It's one of those things that you have no control over it. I talk to him just to see how he's doing and get as much of an update as I can, but the league kind of handles all this and then we just play off of that.”
With Sims and Cameron on the shelf, Gase admits that he, along with general manager Chris Grier and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, are exploring all their options. They could look at bringing in a free agent at the position, and they have also discussed rookie Thomas Duarte, currently on the practice squad, whom could be added to the active roster if necessary.
But after the performances of Jones and Gray, they could also stand pat, as the two totaled over 90 yards receiving between them, and made plays when called upon.
“They were very aggressive with the outside linebackers and defensive ends,” said head coach Adam Gase. “It was good to see those guys really step up. D.J.'s been with me a couple of times. I've always felt comfortable with him. That was one of the main reasons he's back - he knows the system. He knows how to operate in it. He did a good job (catching) and run blocking. Q did an unbelievable job as far as … stepping in and keeping that rolling.”
Both players played roles in springing running back Jay Ajayi for 204 rushing yards on Sunday, and both could see their playing time increase significantly if that play continues this week against the Buffalo Bills.
And so at almost the halfway point of the season, and the Dolphins could be starting two relatively unknowns trying to make a name for themselves. Such is life in the NFL.
“You never know what’s going on in this league,” said Gray. “You’re only one play from being a starter, and here we are now.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Dolphins hold Hometown Huddle at Bob Graham Education Center to give anti-bullying message and importance of fitness
Tuesday morning saw the Miami Dolphins truck pull up at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes to teach elementary and middle school students the importance of being "Dolfit" and also - in honor of Unity Day - a message about the issue of bullying and how they can help put an end to it.
"This is something we normally do in the community with Gatorade, they're one of our sponsors, but also we're partnering with the United Way and PACER, and tomorrow is Unity Day." said Dolphins Youth Programs Manager and former tight end Troy Drayton. "Basically we're out here showing the kids a good time and we're also delivering an anti-bullying message as well."
To help get that message across, Isabel Garcia, who was there representing PACER National Center for bullying prevention, gave a message to the kids about the importance of being kind and being inclusive and accepting of others.
"This is our first event in Miami Dade County so we're very excited that the Dolphins have partnered with PACER," Garcia said. "We hope that next year we'll do the same, so we're asking kids to take the pledge and promise not to bully, promise to be kind, promise to be sensitive to others' differences, and hopefully this is a message that they will take out throughout the community,"
Bullying is a very sensitive topic in today's day and age, and a lot of the time victims of bullying wind up carrying their experiences with them for the rest of their lives.
"Some of the things I share with the kids here today is the fact that I just turned sixty, and by working with the prevention center I realized that the hair pulling and the other nonsense that occurred when I was in school was a form of bullying," said Garcia. "I reminded the kids that you don't forget, you really don't, so my involvement with this project is very personal."
It's personal for Drayton as well, who said he has come to the rescue of kids who were being bullied in the past.
"It does resonate with me personally because I've seen kids get bullied, I've come to the rescue of kids being bullied, but more importantly it's about putting an end to bullying." he said. "It's one of those things that lasts a lifetime, and people don't understand how long bullying lasts, you can be bullied when you're in third grade but you'll remember it like it was yesterday. We want to put an end to that."
On top of the anti-bullying message, the Dolphins went out of their way to include their usual message of what it means to be "Dolfit" and the importance of staying hydrated and making positive choices, given by Dolphins alumni and Senior Director of Youth Programs Twan Russell.
They also set up a Junior Training Camp hosted by Gatorade outside, and the kids who preferred an alternative to football drills got the opportunity to learn a cheer with Miami Dolphins cheerleaders Etta, Kristan and Rachael.
"I had never played football, now I can go and hang with my friends outside." said Kevin Londona, a student who got to participate in the drills and get a taste of what NFL players have to be able to do.
The Miami Dolphins have been working hard to bring the South Florida community together with football for a very long time, and responses like the one seen at the Bob Graham Education Center only prove just how much of an impact they really have.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Quarterback might be considered a glamour position, but there’s a reason why signal callers are paid a premium. The position, even under the best of circumstances, is difficult to learn—let alone master. Quarterbacks get the lion’s share of praise when all is well and far too much blame when things aren’t going well.
Ryan Tannehill has had his ups and downs—that is well documented. Every time the fan base is ready to give up on him, he seems to do just enough to keep fans in his corner. The one thing folks can agree on is that since he has been a Dolphin, a lack of running game and offensive line has hurt his development.
Sprinkle in regime changes, lack of quality drafting and poor coaching, and it’s a wonder he’s not completely broken at this point in his career. It’s the main reason why Adam Gase doubled down on his support and commitment in Tannehill—if at least for the rest of the season.
Last week, for the first time this season, Tannehill had his entire offensive line in front of him. Tannehill and company looked like a completely different team last Sunday, dominating the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. With the offensive line doing its job and Jay Ajayi running wild though Pittsburgh’s fifth ranked run defense, the fifth-year QB had time to get comfortable in the pocket and go through his progressions.
Tannehill may never be the second coming of Dan Marino—ok we’re all sure at this point he’s not even close. But Sunday’s game proved what many of his supporters think—with a little bit of help, he’s more than capable of playing winning football.
Had it not been for untimely penalties and several drops--(sound familiar?) Tannehill would have had three TDs to his performance.
Head coach Adam Gase, if at least for a week, seems vindicated in sticking with his QB. When asked about how crucial having good offensive line play is to efficient quarterbacking he had this to say: “When you’re not getting pressured and hit every other play, it makes a big difference. That’s any quarterback in the league. When you’re protected, you’re able to run the ball, you can get an 8-12 play drive, you get a little bit of a rhythm. It makes a big difference.”
Tannehill, who for all of his faults, has always accepted responsibility, admitted that having an efficient running game and good offensive line play makes his job much easier, giving him confidence to run Gase’s offense: “Yes, it’s huge. Just knowing that you’re going to have time to get to number one, to get to number two in the progression is huge.
Just having that confidence that you’re not going to have a free runner come and hit you before you’re able to really do your job. So, it’s huge and I think our guys set the tone early with doing that and then were consistent throughout the game.”
Tannehill, when asked about how It felt not being constantly harassed by pass rushers joked: “What do you think? We’ll line you up there and let you get hit a few times."
Being sacked over 200 times in four and a half seasons takes its toll. Last year Tannehill was beat up so badly that the last half of the season he was urinating blood. Never once did he complain. Or even miss a snap. When it was mentioned that Tannehill didn’t look visibly bruised after the game he had this to say:
“Yes, not too bad. Like I said, it’s a different game whenever you’re able to go through a progression and not get hit, give me a clean pocket to let our receivers get open, able to go one-two to three in the progression and that’s huge. You’re able to just keep getting positive plays and not have that negative setback that makes it second-and-long, third-and-long. When you’re in third-and-manageable, you’re going to have opportunities to keep moving the chains.”
When the starting offensive line is together (Pouncey, Albert and James), the team has a record of 7-1 and averages over 150 yards on the ground per contest. Throw in rookie Laremy Tunsil and the line becomes even more formidable. However, with Albert and Pouncey frequently being out due to injury, that lineup has only been on the field together eight times in the past two and a half seasons.
Tannehill, for all his faults, has shown that with a competent supporting cast, he can be a winning quarterback. Instead of fans wishing he was a future hall of famer, it may be best served wishing the team can place and keep a competent line-up around him. For all his faults, the current alternatives don’t look any better.
This story was written by Richard Wilt. Follow him on Twitter: @richardactor71
“It makes a big difference when you have holes, and the quarterback is not on his back.”
So said Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase after his dolphins dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 Sunday afternoon.
And what a difference it made to have the projected starting offensive line intact for the first time this season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t sacked, and had time in the pocket to find open receivers, even scrambling out of the pocket for a couple of long downfield throws.
But the hero of the afternoon was clearly second-year running back Jay Ajayi, who took 25 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns, sealing the game with a 62 yard romp down the right sideline to put the game out of reach.
Ajayi wasn’t aware of his rushing total until after the game, noting "I know I touched over two hundred but I didn't know what the final stats were."
The former Boise State running back had an ignominious start to the season, being left home for the Dolphins opener in Seattle, and then working in a running back by committee for the next four games, totaling only 31 carries for 117 yards this season prior to the Steelers game. But Gase has shown a penchant for giving players a clean slate and letting them prove themselves. And apparently this was the case for Ajayi.
“He just had about a bad five days,” said Gase. “I'm sure all of us have had five bad days at some point in your life. That's what happens sometimes. We've got a lot of young guys ... maybe 26 first or second year players. That's a lot of guys. We're going to have guys make mistakes. We're going to have some growing pains, and we're going to have some issues as far as guys being late, guys not being where they're supposed to (be). We've got to grow through that, we've got to grow up quick.”
Ajayi’s hard work has paid off, both in practice and on the field, and he’s earned his way back into Gase’s good graces.
“He did a good job of being patient,” explained Gase. “He did exactly what we talked about all week as far as what we wanted to do run game-wise, the scheme. The line did a great job of pushing those guys vertically, and letting him get some space and stick his foot in the ground and go. He was very good at what we were trying to do today.”
With the aforementioned offensive line being intact for the first time this season, the Dolphins spent considerable time working on the running game in practice leading into this game, and while a 200-yard rushing game wasn’t expected, players were expecting success in that phase of the game, to be physical up front, establish the tone of the game, and ease the pressure on Tannehill in the pocket.
“I knew we were going to come in and be aggressive rushing the football,” said Tannehill. “But when you have a guy go over 200 yards, you're going to be in a good position to win a lot of games. If you can establish the run like we did today, get positive yards in the run game, get first downs in the run game, it really opens up a lot of the playbook for us and things downfield. It takes pressure off the pass rush and the receivers, because there's more time to get them the football.”
Ajayi was quick to downplay his play, attributing his success to the offensive line, and making sure to note that the wide receivers group was instrumental in turning short gains into long ones.
“We had a great week of preparation,” said Ajayi. “Especially emphasizing our run game, just finishing runs, blocking down the field. The receivers and O-Line did a great job today, and it was just about making the plays that were called. (It was a) great opportunity, and I was glad I was able to take it today.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
The Miami Dolphins pulled off a dominant performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and fans are likely feeling a lot better about their team now than they were before the game. Here are ten thoughts after the victory.
1. The offensive line did a superb job of protecting Ryan Tannehill. But where they particularly excelled was in blocking the run as they dominated the line of scrimmage. Jay Ajayi (25 carries for 204 yards and 8.2 yards per carry) ran hard as usual and he had a great day.
The Dolphins had particularly good success attacking the edges early in this game, especially to the right. They may have been taking advantage of an apparent lack of speed on the Pittsburgh defense, particularly at linebacker where injuries have depleted the position.
In any case I agree with most analysts and fans. The Dolphins need to run the ball to win. It was a big part of their victory Sunday in a great effort.
2. For those who were disappointed that there wasn't more of Arian Foster in this game, I don’t think anyone should be too surprised. Head coach Adam Gase almost certainly held Foster back a bit coming off of his injury but that's not the entire explanation.
This is the way the Dolphins want to use Arian Foster and it has been since they signed him. They don't want him carrying the load the way that Ajayi did Sunday. They want to just bring him in for the occasional series to use him, particularly in the passing game. This is where he excels, not hauling the rock on the ground 20 times where he's averaging less than three yards per carry coming off of a ruptured Achilles tendon.
I think we can expect to see Foster a bit more in the future. But don’t hold your breath if you are expecting him to be the primary runner this season unless it becomes absolutely necessary (again).
3. Like their cohorts on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive line dominated most of this game when that side of the ball was on the field. The pass rush was particularly good and that, of course, helped the defensive backs who looked much better today, especially Byron Maxwell, who was allowed to play more press coverage than usual. The Dolphins allowed only 169 yards passing for only 4.6 yards per catch.
Cameron Wake has still got it and he had a good game Sunday. Even the much criticized (by me anyway) Jordan Phillips got into the act forcing Ben Roethlisberger out of the pocket on his first interception.
In fact, the only player who that didn’t join in the fun was Mario Williams who once again barely showed up in the stat sheet with no sacks and only one tackle. I think we can officially classify that signing and all of the high hopes and excuses that came with it as a bust. More on that below.
4. This was a high effort game for the Dolphins. The defensive line was very active but what stood out to tell the tale was the blocking downfield by, for instance, wide receiver Kenny Stills. This factor more often than not is a good indication that a team is giving it everything they have. It was a nice team effort.
Having said that, I have to wonder why Gase was forced to push these players so hard to get them to give their all in an NFL game. See below for that also.
5. Having said all of that I must state that the Pittsburgh Steelers played about as poor of a game as I've ever seen them play on Sunday. It seemed at times as if they made almost every mistake that you can make.
The Steelers occasionally looked like they were moving in slow motion and they uncharacteristically missed some big plays. A Ryan Tannehill interception was dropped early in the game was typical. There were also a number of drops from and miscommunications with receivers and they made a number of mistakes in coverage that gave the Dolphins a number of big plays.
Both teams committed too many penalties, but though the Dolphins six for 65 yards was bad, the Steelers eight for 95 was simply unacceptable for any team that usually competes at the highest level.
The two interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger were also very uncharacteristic and even when he wasn't under pressure Roethlisberger was pretty inaccurate all day. It could have been the knee that kept him out of the game late in the first half but he wasn't favoring it in any way that I could see and I didn't think he was throwing well even before that.
Kudos to the Dolphins for taking advantage but you have to wonder if the Steelers didn't take this game too lightly and if they got caught looking forward towards their next game against the New England Patriots.
6. Things are never perfect in the NFL for anyone. Players have to adapt to their changing environment or perish on almost all good NFL teams.
With that in mind, even in the face of a generally fine performance by Ryan Tannehill (24 for 32 for 252 yards) against the Steelers I found quotes from Gase last week defending him to be mildly disappointing.
“When we have 18 dropback passes and he’s hit or sacked on nine of them, and completions we do have he has got guys in his face, I’m supposed to blame him for that?” Gase said. “I’m calling the plays. I know what it’s supposed to look like and it’s not looking like that right now as far as what’s going on around him."
The best quarterbacks in the NFL, those in the top ten, don't let poor protection stop them from being good. This year the prime example is Andrew Luck, who has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the league and yet still manages to perform like the top ten quarterback that he is.
I'm not saying that Ryan Tannehill needs to be great. But he needs to perform like a quarterback who belongs in the top third of the league even under adverse circumstances. Because no matter who you are, there will always be adversity that needs to be overcome.
Sure Tannehill performed better with better performance from a healthy offensive line. Of course he did. But how often is that going to happen? How often can any reasonable team expect it to happen?
The truth is that a healthy offensive line won't make Tannehill a better quarterback. And Gase's attitude isn't helping.
Gase is a head coach now and he can't be making excuses for his players. That just encourages them to make excuses for themselves, something no NFL player can do. And once they do start doing that, you're sunk.
7. On a related topic, I note that Gase guaranteed Tannehill his job through the end of the season last week. Members of the media defended this decision as the "intelligent approach."
Guaranteeing a season after game 5? I'm not so sure.
I know that the Dolphins have a decision to make about Tannehill. But I think you can make a decision quicker than that about his future. And once you do, you owe it to the franchise to look and see what else you've got.
Perhaps you know what you have in Matt Moore and perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you'd like to get a look at Brandon Doughty. Whatever it is, playing Tannehill all year is not something you want to be cornered into this early.
8. Along with many members of the media, quarterback Ryan Tannehill thinks that Gase sent a message to the team by releasing Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas last week.
"I think it sends a pretty clear message," Tannehill said. "Obviously, it's a tough part of the business. [They are] guys that you spend a lot of time with – good people – but it sends a message to everyone on this team that, 'You've got to get your job done, or we're going to find somebody who can.'"
True the team played hard on Sunday. But the message I got was a little different from what the players may have heard. Here's what I heard:
"Even after each of these players finished the year in miserable fashion in 2015, our coaching staff and our front office still managed to totally misevaluate them. Now we're releasing them in the desperate hope that guys we pick up off the scrap heap and off of our practice squad will be better. Help."
Gase, of course, seems to have totally missed the point.
“A lot of times everybody thinks it’s really easy to just say, ‘Hey, let’s go grab this guy,’” Gase said.
“I mean, who’s out there? We’ve got a list of guys that we’re always tracking and evaluating. This is part of our evaluation process. At the time, that’s where we were at. That was the roster we went with and we decided to make a change.”
Nobody cares about now. We already know it's too late now. The point is, where was everybody in March when the correct decisions really needed to be made about this roster? Where were they in September when the final roster was set? When Gase can answer those questions, he'll know where the roots of his problems lie. And it's not with questions from the media.
9. And what is the root of Gase's problems? Media analyst Louis Riddick obviously thinks he knows the answer as he went off on an epic rant on the Dolphins last week.
“When it comes to some of these teams and some of the way they flop around out there and put out inept performances, it’s frustrating and annoying to watch, seeing the league recycle the same names who haven’t proven they can build [expletive].”
“There are people who deserve opportunities to build teams and organizations that owners would never consider, because they wouldn’t even know what to consider.
“With the Dolphins, there is a lot of blame to go around. It’s frustrating because there are no excuses in the NFL. The league is built for everyone to have a shot. To have such a long sustained mediocrity, you have deep rooted issues.
“If I am Stephen Ross trying to figure out why we look like crap, I am asking the question, ‘How can we look like this? What the hell is going on?’ And then make the decision about whether we have right people. Right now, they’re not even competitive. Gase said they’re inept on offense – to get the ball run on you like that, with the money they have invested on the defensive line, it’s gross. Someone has to be held accountable.”
It's fairly obvious to me that Riddick has someone particular in mind when he talks about recycling "the same names who haven’t proven they can build [expletive]" and "people who deserve opportunities to build teams" not getting a chance.
He's aiming squarely for Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum.
Tannenbaum heads a front office that is driven by politics, one that has built a roster in the worst possible way - through free agency and veteran trades. Signing risky veteran after risky veteran, Tannenbaum has hit on roughly half of them with absolutely no one behind them in terms of depth to make up for the deficit.
It’s a shallow roster that has no chance to compete unless it's almost completely healthy. And is it any wonder that free agent mercenaries and players that other teams didn't want have to be pushed to simply put forth an NFL level of effort?
Even coming off of a big win Sunday, it doesn't take away from the fact that the Dolphins need to rebuild - should be rebuilding already by playing as many young players as humanly possible. In my mind there's little question about that any more. The real question is whether they have the right people in place to find that talent and develop it? I have my doubts.
10. I'm finding it to be interesting as I listen to the expert evaluation of the top teams around the league that there is a flat refusal to understand what's happening in Green Bay. Media gurus continue to slobber over the Packers as one of the three best teams in the NFC even as their offense continues to under-perform and Aaron Rodgers continues to look miserable.
Many seem to want to blame the lack of talent at wide receiver. The "separation problem" started last season, when Jordy Nelson was out all year because of a knee injury and, in theory, receivers struggled to win one-on-one matchups.
But to my eye, the receiver talent looks no different this year than it has in the past in Green Bay, especially with Nelson healthy and back on the field. Rodgers' completion percentage was 60.7% in 2015, his lowest mark since 2008. This year that has continued.
Rodgers has been off-target on more throws -- short and long -- this season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, going into Sunday's game against the Cowboys he had underthrown or overthrown a pass for an incompletion on 24 percent of his attempts this season compared to 17 percent from 2008-15. He entered this week’s games ranked dead last in the NFL in completion percentage (56.1) among starters, and the Packers’ passing game was only 27th in the league.
For over a year now, Rodgers has looked hesitant in the pocket, not getting rid of the ball quickly and decisively and throwing with anticipation to his receivers. Often this has less to do with the talent and more to do with the lack of confidence in those around the quarterback. And that appears to be Rodgers' problem.
The Packers had another miserable offensive game against the Cowboys, scoring a discombobulated 16 points and I was amused when Dan Patrick said while showing the replays on Football Night in America that Rogers had an "off day." He's beyond that and well on his way to a second "off year." And you now have to wonder if its ever going to stop.
If the Packers offense is going to turn it around, their best opportunity comes against the miserable Chicago Bears this Thursday night. But if it doesn’t happen then…
10a. Speaking of the Bears, many have noted that the NFL television ratings are down 10% compared to last year. The most common explanation that's given is the election for president, which engrosses at least a certain segment of the superficial fan base.
But if you ask me, the NFL needs to take a serious look at the nationally televised games that its allowing the networks to put on to represent their league.
Case in point: As noted about, this Thursday we will be treated to the 1-7 Bears on Thursday Night football. The next week we get them on Monday night against the Vikings. That's after they were on primetime two weeks in a row earlier in the season.
Election or not, do you really expect most of the nation to tune in to watch that hot garbage?
If this continues, the NFL owners will have to give money back to the networks. And even if you think many of them don't care about anything beyond what is immediately landing in their pockets, including the image of the league, if this continues beyond Election Day and into December, I think the odds are they'll do something about it.
10b. Cardinals offensive guard Evan Mathis was put on injured reserve on October 9 shelving him for at least 8 weeks and possibly the rest of the season. What does Mathis say about the possibility of playing another year?
“I’m only going to play if someone lets me be a third down pass rusher.”
So, that's a maybe?
10c. Next up the Buffalo Bills, an up and down team from which you can never quite tell what to expect. The Bills are a streaky team that has now won four in a row after losing their first two.
The Bills could come in and continue to be red hot. But some would say that they're due for an off game and the Dolphins have now shown that if they do and if the Dolphins can avoid a letdown themselves after a particularly high effort game, they can and should take advantage of it.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
It was sloppy. It was brutal. It was painful to watch. And Miami Dolphins fans had to really dig deep to find anything positive to say about last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
But at least the uniforms looked better, right?
How bad was this game? At one point, fans were so frustrated with the play on the field, they started chanting “We want Moore.” And although the obviously ill-prepared TV commentator thought they simply wanted more from their team (which they did), the chants were actually for backup quarterback Matt Moore.
Yep, that’s how far the Dolphins have sunk; five games into the season, and fans are calling for starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s head, and would rather see Moore out there taking a beating.
Because that’s exactly what would happen. With the entire left side of the offensive line out injured, and a piecemeal lineup thrown together the morning of the game, the Dolphins offensive line was a sieve, allowing six sacks and numerous hurries and hits to Tannehill.
But fans need to take their eyes off the ball for a few minutes, and see the whole field. The saying goes that when things are going bad, the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback. And while Tannehill is certainly not scot free when it comes to placing blame on the Dolphins terrible play, there is a lot of blame to go around. Just ask head coach Adam Gase.
“I know when we have 18 drop-back passes, and he (was) hit or sacked on nine of them,” said Gase. “And then the completions we do have, he's got guys in his face. So I'm supposed to blame him for that?”
“I (have to) look at the whole picture,” he continued. “I'm calling the plays. I know what it's supposed to look like, and it's not looking like that right now as far as what's going on around him. When we start cleaning some things up, and we give him a chance to perform at the level that I think he's going to perform ... if he doesn't do it, that's one thing. But I need to see to where we get a chance in protection.”
Obviously frustrated, Gase didn’t stop there. “(Tannehill) tries to fit (a tight pass) in, and he gets jacked to the point where I thought he was going to get his rotator cuff blown out and his knee blown out. And then everybody gets pissed at him.
“Everybody wants to blame that position. It's the easy thing to do because you can see completion, incompletion, interception. (But) when you hit your back foot and you get sacked, there's not much you can do about it."
And while Tannehill certainly heard the calls for Moore (“Do I like it?” he asks. “No, but it doesn't affect how I play or how I think about myself."), he has Gase’s confidence for the remainder of this year, as the coach has made it abundantly clear that he’s not benching his starting quarterback.
“No. He's not coming out,” Gase emphasized. “You can ask me a hundred times. He's going to be in there the rest of this season.”
And fans need to realize that Gase is correct. In spite of bad play across the board, keeping Ryan Tannehill in at quarterback gives the team their best chances to win each week. And Gase needs time (and a healthy offensive line) to truly evaluate the play of his entire offense before making any decisions to move on from any players. And he cautions fans to have patience.
“I know everybody wants to rush to judgement,” says Gase. “I mean we're five games in. I know this: We're going to go back to work on Wednesday and then we're going to figure out a way to get better."
As for Tannehill, he is taking any criticism in stride and moving on.
“I know Coach has confidence in me,” says Tannehill. “I have confidence in myself, and I think the guys on offense have confidence in me. We're going to go out and play. I'm going to go out and play. I'm going to push myself in practice, do anything I can to get better and I expect to play better.
“I love being on this team. I love the guys in the huddle with me, and I'm going to do everything I can to go out and play the way they expect me to play.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
There's something to be said about personal accomplishments. There isn't a player in the NFL who doesn't enjoy getting to show what they're made of in front of a huge crowd, and that becomes even more true when the player in question is someone who was doubted early on in their career.
Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant is one of those players.
Known for his speed and elusiveness at Texas Tech, Grant wasn't expected to do much in the NFL because of his small stature, but he's been proving doubters wrong all his life and he did so again on Sunday when he returned a punt for a 75 yard touchdown against the Titans, speeding down the sideline and dodging defenders like a pro.
“Once I got to the second level and I knew I was matched up with the kicker and another guy, I just knew I was going all the way,” Grant said. “We went like three-and-out like two series in a row, and I was just trying to [make] a move, do anything I can to get the momentum on our side.”
But for all the work that went into that punt return touchdown, and as good as it felt for the young rookie to show the world what he was capable of, the fact that his team lost 30-17 at home took plenty away from the ecstasy he felt when he scored his first big league touchdown.
“It felt great. It felt really good." he said. "But like I said previously, it would’ve felt a lot better if we got the W.”
And that's really what it boils down to for Grant. The sixth-round pick wants his team to win football games, and he feels that he can be a part of that happening. However, he hasn't gotten many opportunities to use his talents due to the abundance of touchbacks on kickoffs and the defense's inability to force punts.
As for the offense, Grant hasn't been able to beat out Leonte Carroo for the backup job, and so he's had very limited snaps on offense. He wants the opportunity and he's working hard to get it, but it might still be a while.
All the speed in the world doesn't help Miami if Grant can't use it on a consistent basis. The miniature wide receiver has skills, and he got to show them off on Sunday, but it's all for naught if they keep losing.
“Yes, it’s definitely a moment I’ve been waiting for. But like I said, the return would feel much better if we came out with the W.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Here are ten thoughts after the extremely disappointing Dolphins loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
1. Fans all over the country are mourning the loss of any hope that this might be a playoff team after this devastating 30-17 beat down of the Dolphins. This, the first and easiest of four straight home games, was a must win for this team if it was going to maintain any hope of competing for a playoff spot in the AFC East division.
Not only did they lose it but they lost in devastating fashion at home to a team that is very inferior to most of the NFL. Now, combined with the near loss to the Browns two weeks ago, Dolphins fans are being forced to the realization that this is not a good football team.
I've commented on this before but the disappointment of fans and media members over this is largely the fault of the team. The Dolphins set high expectations going into this season when many, including myself, understood how highly unlikely it was that they would compete in such a division. National media members with, perhaps, a more clear vision of what the team was up against, consistently picked the Dolphins to place last in the division and it looks like they had a good handle on it after five games.
Had the team more realistically billed this as a rebuilding year that was about the development of young players like Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins fans would now have more to look forward to. As it is, it is well on its way to being a lost season.
2. What may be most disconcerting was the fact that the Dolphins, led by Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum, so badly misjudged the talent on this team. Tannenbaum went out bargain hunting in free agency and in the trade market last offseason, taking risks on players such as Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, Mario Williams and Arian Foster.
Arguably Alonso has been adequate and Foster, though he's been poor in yards per carry, can certainly still do damage in the passing game. But Maxwell and Williams have both been failures, a winning percentage that should not be surprising under the circumstances.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the Dolphins have no depth behind them (or anyone else) on the roster. Draft picks and younger, developing players that would be picking up the slack on good teams around the league either don't exist or are failing on the Dolphins.
Add that to the decision to go with players who already showed themselves to be miserable substitutes last year like Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner, and you've got a poorly built, flawed roster largely put together by an executive who knows how to sign players that he's heard of and who have been good in the distant past, but who knows little or nothing else about scouting or personnel.
3. I'm only stating the obvious but the Dolphins knew that the key to this game defensively was stopping the run. They did not do that, allowing 235 yards rushing on 41 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry.
As was frequently the case last year, the Titans gained much (though not all) of their yardage by running away from Ndamukong Suh and over Jordan Phillips, who was dominated at the line of scrimmage, as well as whoever the end was on that side, usually Terrence Fede or Andre Branch.
What really makes this bad is that the Dolphins even stacked the box with eight men at times to stop the Titans and still couldn't do it. The Dolphins flat out got dominated at the line of scrimmage.
4. Also disturbing was the total lack of a pass rush on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Dolphins defensive line, which was supposed to be the strength of the team, really let them down as they had zero sacks on what has been a struggling Titans offensive line.
Mariota also deserves some credit as he did a good job of avoiding the rush. His mobility is underrated and the Dolphins need to do a better job of keeping quarterbacks like him in the pocket. The fact that they seemed unprepared for it and didn't do much during the game to try to contain Mariota might be another indication of the inexperience the Dolphins have in first year defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
The poor pass rush exposed the Miami defensive backfield. The defensive backs spread the blame around as Byron Maxwell burned for second touchdown in the second quarter. So did Michael Thomas. Tony Lippett lost Rishard Matthews in the end zone to give the Titans their final touchdown. Altogether it was a poor defensive outing.
5. Speaking of the poor pass rush, I notice that Mario Williams has a new excuse.
Last year Williams blamed Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan for his poor performance last season, claiming that Ryan played him out of position at outside linebacker.
Well, this year he's back at defensive end for the Dolphins. How's that going for you, Mario?
“... If we can get guys to hold the ball a little longer,” William said of the sacks. “The ball's coming out pretty quick.
Ah. So it’s the defensive back's fault now. I see.
Through five games, Williams has recorded seven tackles (including just two for loss), three quarterback hits and one little sack. He did not appear on the stat sheet at all on Sunday.
Yes, the ball is coming out fast. But Williams knows as well as anyone that's true around the NFL nowadays. Defensive linemen still manage to perform despite that, through talent and determination. There is an old saying that has been passed around the NFL for decades: "There are a thousand reasons for failure, but not a single excuse." It’s getting late for Mario Williams to learn that lesson but he needs to do so.
6. Also interesting was how often the Titans attacked the edges in the passing game to their running backs. This was apparently an effort to take advantage of mismatches with the Dolphins linebackers and it seemed to work reasonably well for much of the game.
Though much of the blame for this loss lies with the defensive line, letting the linebackers off the hook would be a mistake. It’s another area where there is an apparent dirth of talent and it showed Sunday.
7. Ryan Tannehill was under siege all game as the Dolphins patchwork offensive line with Dallas Thomas at left guard and Billy Turner at left tackle struggled to protect him. Ja'Wuan James also had a terrible game, allowing two sacks by himself. Tannehill was sacked six times.
In fairness, most of those sacks came where Tannehill had time to do little more than drop back. But not all of them did. Tannehill's lack of pocket presence and awareness definitely didn't help his offensive line nor did his apparent penchant for occasionally holding the ball too long.
One of the things that Tannehill absolutely must do in these situations is read the defense and get rid of the ball quicker. That's always the case but particularly when the offensive line is shaky. Tannehill was criticized in training camp for holding the ball too long and he needs to overcome that problem if the Dolphins are going to succeed.
8. Damien Williams much be taking lessons from Arian Foster on how to catch a pass and run with it. He has some really nice receptions and you wonder if that won't be a route to more playing time.
9. I was very amused last week when reports started to appear claiming that the Dolphins' lack of fight was the biggest concern for the team. Anybody remember when media members were lauding the Dolphins for drafting "alpha personalities" last May? Some of us questioned it then and I'm still questioning it now.
10. Also somewhat amusing was the message sent by the team last week after the team's loss to the Bengals. Suddenly the Dolphins are preaching patience.
"Right now, we haven't met what we were expecting to happen," head coach Adam Gase said Friday after the game. "Obviously, we have a lot of time to fix the things, make some adjustments."
What happened to "angry Gase," the fiery head coach who was going to bench the whole team if they didn't start winning? All of a sudden it's, "we've got plenty of time to correct this and we will."
Gase is a first time head coach who is learning a lot of lessons right now. One of them should be that he needs to be the same guy every week. And that guy should be the voice of reason who is going to make players play harder for him by convincing them that he's going to help them be better and by sending subtle messages to the team through his actions here and there. It's really the only way I've ever seen it work on a consistent basis for any period of time.
10a. Some mild uproar was raised in Chicago last week as a fan who ran out on the field during a Bears game wearing a gorilla suit and a t-shirt with a protest logo on it was arrested. The bail of $250,000 was considered by some to be excessive.
I'm all for the right to free speech and protest. But you have to be smart about your method for doing so. Running out on the field is not only can result in a dangerous situation for both participants and fans and as an interested viewer I definitely don't want to see protesters trying it every game.
As far as I'm concerned, the more strongly such behavior is discouraged, the better.
10b. Jeff Fisher is 3-2 this season as head coach of the LA Rams and after a reasonable start it appears that his team is on the way back to the .500 mark.
Fisher's MO is that he gets the team very high for divisional games. The problem is that getting the players too high for those games leads them to let down against teams outside the division. Fisher's record against divisional opponents since 2012 is almost 0.500 but against non-divisional foes it drops to 15-24 with one tie.
Hence big wins early in the season against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. But we've yet to see them try to sustain it against teams that they should be able to beat outside the division. Whether his team rises or falls this year will depend upon how Fisher and his players handle those games, something they've done a poor job of in the past.
10c. The Arizona Cardinals are 2-3 and after a poorly played win on Thursday night against the hapless 49ers they appear to be rapidly regressing after an excellent year last season.
The Cardinals were the toast of the NFL after going deep into the playoffs last year under head coach Bruce Arians. Arians' bravado and forthrightness makes him well respected by members of the media and the team even had a special series produced by Amazon.com about them in the offseason.
Now it looks like the team is falling back down to earth a bit. The now injured Carson Palmer hasn' t looked like the same quarterback he was last year and he seems to be continuing this year the way he left off in the playoffs last year, a 49-15 loss to the Panthers in which he looked like he allowed the pressure of the game to get to him.
Fans around the league love Arians and he's ridden a wave of kudos. But now is when he and his staff really have the opportunity to show who they really are. Facing adversity, the question is whether they are good enough to pull the Cardinals out of their funk to finish a season well in which they started so poorly. The bet hereis that they do it. But the proof will be in the pudding.
10d. Next up the Pittsburgh Steelers and it’s not going to be any easier. The Steelers are 4-1 and have won two in a row beating some very good football teams in the Redskins and the Chiefs. This one could be ugly unless the Dolphins get a lot better very quickly.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
Cancer has touched just about everyone in the world in one form or another, whether it's directly or indirectly. The Miami Dolphins have been one of the true warriors in the world of sports for the past several years, having founded the Dolphins Cancer Challenge which is already the largest event for cancer research in professional sports and even now is preparing to expand its reach even more as it enters its seventh year.
Thanks in large part to the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center - known far and wide as the world's leading cancer experts - has been able to make incredible breakthroughs in cancer treatment over the past several years.
One of these revelations is the fact that physical activity is actually good for cancer patients and survivors, as opposed to the previous belief that it should be avoided. So in response to that, this past Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins saw it fit to hold a night of yoga in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month for the second year in a row.
“The Miami Dolphins and DCC are committed to fighting cancer of all kinds,” Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs Jason Jenkins said. “We are happy to host this event for the second year in a row and invite those who have been affected by cancer to come together and take part in a fun and relaxing evening centered around yoga."
Ladies (and a few men) of all ages gathered together inside the practice bubble at the Dolphins facility in Davie, and went through various yoga poses with Dolphins alumni players accompanying them.
“It was tough, it was a lot tougher than I thought,” said former tight end and Manager of Youth Programs Troy Drayton. “There’s a lot of core involved, there’s a lot of stretching involved, I have a newfound respect for yoga and maybe it’s something that I might add to my exercise regimen.”
Other alumni included former defensive back Arturo Freeman, wide receiver Elmer Bailey, linebacker Twan Russell and fullback Lousaka Polite. In Polite's case, this night was not the first time he'd found himself doing yoga.
But what makes the yoga particularly effective for cancer patients is the benefits of this form of exercise. According to Joann Santiago, who is an Oncology Exercise Physiologist at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida, yoga is a great place to start exercising during and after treatment because it's a form of exercise that doesn't require heavy lifting.
"During treatment, it's not necessarily the cancer itself, but the side effects of treatment that affects patients." she said. "When someone - for example - is undergoing chemotherapy, they may be very fatigued, they may experience nausea. Post-treatment, if they're on chemotherapy they could have what is called chemo brain so they get dizziness and have balance issues.
"There's so many things, they could have limited range of motion from radiation. So all of these things are easy to fix, but they don't know how to approach it. So they just come out of surgery and they're like 'oh my God I was told I can't exercise because if I lift something, my arm is going to swell and potentially be at risk for complications.'"
Santiago went on to explain how because of the mindset given to cancer patients because of the risks of these complications, it makes them scared to try and go back to a normal, independent lifestyle because they're afraid something will go wrong if they overexert themselves.
And thankfully, that's where yoga comes in.
"Just because this happened, you don't have to stop completely. This is what you can do." said Santiago. "So it's helping them to regain their quality of life."
But there's more to cancer than just the physical aspects. It also takes a toll on a patient's emotional and even spiritual well-being, and that's where a man named Allan Marc Moiseyev came in. With his solar-powered toys, he spreads the wish of his late wife Connie to any cancer patient he comes across, giving away the encouraging gifts and trying to raise their spirits.
“She loved it so much that she felt she wanted to give it to all breast cancer patients and survivors for spiritual and emotional support.” said Moiseyev, who is the President of Connie’s Wish Incorporated, the company behind the gifts. “After she died, I promised her before then that I would try to get these made up and given away.”
And that's precisely what he's been doing for years now, making and giving away these gifts to any and all patients he comes across and telling his story to anyone who will listen.
"When my wife had breast cancer, she was being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She owed them a lot, they had a special financial aid plan that kept us from losing our house and our business and everything because she was uninsurable. She had no insurance due to prior medical conditions. She was told she had three months to live, and she just wouldn't accept that."
Moiseyev ran into some hard times at first, but eventually he got the ball rolling and he was able to start gifting his inventions to cancer patients all across the country. His wife had left behind a long list of high profile individuals who she wanted to have these toys, including - but not limited to – Michelle Obama, Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Peyton Manning, Don Shula, Bob Griese and many, many more.
What started out as a small 5,000 unit project has turned into a much larger dream come true, and Moiseyev insists that his job is far from over.
“I’m not done yet,” he said. “There’s still more hospitals and other things to contact, and since everything seems to be done in October, or close to it, I will push myself for the month and hopefully these contacts will allow me to gift these breast cancer patients the rest of the year so I don’t just have to worry about October.”
And he intends to continue spreading Connie's wish until he can't make anymore or he simply runs out of money. Neither of which project to happen anytime soon.
The battle against cancer is one that may never end, but you can bet that the Miami Dolphins will be helping lead the charge in that battle, making South Florida - and the rest of the world - a better and healthier place. Not just for cancer patients and survivors, but for all the world.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? You have been in the NFL for over four seasons now, and the Miami Dolphins still don’t know what they are getting each week. Are you the guy that put up 20 for 21 passes (95%) for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns during the second half of the New England Patriots game and looked like an on field genius, or are you the guy that put up 68 for 117 (58%) for four touchdowns and five interceptions for 833 yards all of the other games. You can look brilliant some of the times, but you can look like a buffoon other times.
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? You are not nor have you truly been on a talented Miami Dolphins team. You cannot block defenders...you cannot catch balls that are thrown...you cannot be a quarterback AND a running back...you cannot make sacks or interceptions.
However, you can audible...you can recognize where the weaknesses are in your offensive line...you can see when the running game is not working...you can get the ball out of your hands fast to avoid the sack. Are you the leader of our offense, or does that role belong to another player? You cannot mask untalented players, but you can make different decisions!
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? Are you the player that almost got benched in September of 2014 after the fourth game of that season, or are you the player that responded afterwards by winning four out of five games after those comments were made? Does it take the talk of you potentially getting benched to motivate you to be successful?
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? Are you a temporary quarterback for the Miami Dolphins like Gus Frerotte, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Henne, Joey Harrington, and Chad Pennington. They each had their moments of great play followed by many moments of misfortune, which is why they were temporary. Or are you the long term answer that the Miami Dolphins have been painfully waiting for? How much time should we wait to make that determination?
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? Are you the guy that’s going to go down in the record books as the quarterback that could’ve been so good, but his team was so bad that he never could be successful? In 20 years, are you going to tell the stories to your family about how it was always another team member's fault for your lack of success, or bad coaching, or poorly designed play calling, or are you going to be able to tell the story of survival and then success?
Ryan Tannehill, who are you? You’ve proven to be special at times. So special that the Miami Dolphins organization rewarded you with a handsome contract handing you the keys to the kingdom. But, your time is running short. The Dolphins coaching staff is expecting more from their franchise quarterback, and their patience is wearing thin. It’s not written in articles or spoken about during press conferences, but you can see their disappointment in their reactions after bad decisions and bad games.
Ryan Tannehill, your legacy is being written right now. Are you going to end your career with the Miami Dolphins as the excuse filled, talent lacking, coach killing, former leader of the Miami Dolphins, or will you be the guy that builds a solid legacy overcoming adversity to make the Miami Dolphins a winning franchise again?
Please let us know, and let us know soon. Your time is running out!
This column was written by Ian Berger. Follow him on Twitter: @ian693
The Miami Dolphins decided to place veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell on the bench during the Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, with second-year corner Tony Lippett getting the start ahead of him.
Naturally, the results were mixed as Lippett made a couple of good plays in the game, deflecting two passes, but he also missed a crucial tackle in the red zone which let star wide receiver A.J. Green run into the end zone for the Bengals' only touchdown that night.
"Obviously, he’d like that missed tackle back. He was in good position, too." head coach Adam Gase said. "If he finishes that, he’s probably feeling a lot better than what he does right now."
Although missing the tackle was obviously a big mistake, Lippett still showed potential going up against one of the league's elite wide receivers, even if he wasn't actually able to stop him. For the sake of perspective however, it's best to remember that there are very few corners that actually can shut down the likes of Green.
"Anytime you got to go against A.J. Green that much, it’s not easy." said Gase. "He’s an elite guy. It’s going to be tough. You try to do the best you can to hold the explosive plays. We let a couple up. He’s going to get yards. It’s (about) can we get it to where he doesn’t completely take over the game. That’s what you’re trying to do.”
The Dolphins have struggled to keep up with superior athletes this season, allowing Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to have a huge game against their secondary the week before. Ultimately, that performance was what led to Maxwell's benching in the first place, and now that Lippett has gotten a chance to prove himself in man coverage, his confidence in himself has gotten a major boost.
“Anytime you have a coach that really trust you out there, you kind of feel better about yourself,” Lippett said. “I feel good out there. I just have to work on things that I messed up on in the game, in practice next week and prepare for the Titans.”
Lippett was drafted to be a long term project for the Dolphins, making the switch from wide receiver to cornerback after he had played both during his time at Michigan State, but he was thrust into a role he wasn't ready for when Brent Grimes departed from Miami and left the Dolphins without a true starting corner.
This led to the young player struggling in training camp and preseason, and his slot opposite - ironically enough - Maxwell was taken by rookie Xavien Howard, who has appeared to be the best corner on the team thus far. Now Lippett comes in for Maxwell, and he's all too aware that he still has a lot to work on.
“Not letting receivers get free releases." Lippett singled out when asked what he needed to improve on. "That’s one of the things I have to utilize my arms and my length (for) a little bit more and try to make the best of the opportunity.”
He has the opportunity now, but it should be noted that Maxwell does not intend to let the benching stand for very long. As a former member of the Legion of Boom in Seattle, he has a lot of pride in his abilities and there's no doubt he'll be fighting to get spot back every waking moment.
"I know this about (Byron) Maxwell: he’s going to compete." said Adam Gase. "He’s going to come out and practice. He’s going to try to get better. You just never know in this league. One day, you’re in a spot where you hate your life for the most part, because you’re not starting or not playing. All of a sudden you flip it around and next thing you know, you’re the guy. You’ve got to keep working. Good, bad – keep going.”
Lippett has the job now, and he seemed to show he deserved it against the Bengals for the most part. If he wants to keep the job, he'll have to continue to make a good showing on Sunday against the Titans.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Every year, the Miami Dolphins host a swimsuit fashion show to lead off the unveiling of the new cheerleader calendar, and of course this year was no exception. On a stormy Friday night within the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium, Dolphins fans piled in to see their cheerleaders strut their stuff on the runway in preparation for the unveiling of the 2017 calendar.
Several unique swimsuits were put on display by Miami's cheerleaders, coming from various designers such as Meg Liz Swimwear, Miss Fanatic x Jypsea Swim, Luli Fama, DEPSI Swimwear, Casa Bikini, PintArena Swimwear, CAI Swimwear, Prettylittlething.com and jewelry from Tiffany Lee Jewelry, Bella Beach Jewels and Brooke and Arrow Boutique.
The show started with a Dolphins themed line, with various shades and combinations of aqua and orange while the cheerleaders sported football related props ranging from helmets to shoulder pads, and of course at one point, an actual football.
The show continued with various other themes, including fringe, a Fire and Ice showcase, and a futuristic theme that featured a robot performance by TwiinBotz. This featured the cheerleaders body-painted from head to toe in shattered metal, screws and robotics-inspired body paint by the Makeup Mob walking to techno beats with lasers filling the room.
Then they brought out the newest - and perhaps most culturally significant - showcase, as eight different cheerleaders came out in suits representing the colors and design of their cultural heritage as they proudly waved their flags, in honor of the inaugural International Auditions that were held this year.
One cheerleader, named Agustina, won the audition and became the representative of Argentina, as well as winning the honor of being Miss August for the 2017 swimsuit calendar in her first year on the squad.
Speaking her native Spanish, Agustina expressed how being in America is a very emotional experience for her, and while her parents weren't able to be there in person to watch the show - being in Argentina - they were able to follow on the social networks.
She also discussed that while she's very happy to be where she is now, she did miss her country and her people, and the auditions that originally led to her being brought to America were a lot of work and was by no means an easy task.
And of course, the show itself wasn't easy either, as the girls would have to quickly switch out of swimsuit after swimsuit and get their makeup touched up each time in order to head back out onto the runway. Needless to say it was an exhausting experience, both physically and emotionally.
Finally near the end of the show, the twelve calendar girls got their chance to be specially recognized, and the announcement for who the cover girl would be was made. The name that was called belonged to a veteran cheerleader who was sure that she wouldn't be picked, mostly because she'd already been picked in the previous two years.
"This is my third calendar cover," said cheerleader Monica after the conclusion of the show. “I am extremely shocked, I cannot believe this. I mean, the first time was a shock, the second time was an even bigger shock, and I think now, I had so many other guesses of other beautiful girls on the team, and it’s me again. I’m super shocked but I’m so happy.”
Monica doesn't expect to win the cover for a fourth year in a row, but then again she also didn't expect to win the second or third times either. Seeing as she intends to audition for the squad again next season, there is a real possibility she may win a fourth cover if things continue.
The Miami Dolphins cheerleaders are one of the most recognized entertainment groups in all of professional sports, and their influence is felt all across South Florida as they regularly appear at hospitals visiting sick patients, students at schools, as well as showing up at charity and corporate events all throughout the year.
They have traveled to more than 30 countries on five continents over the past decade, and they continue to be an iconic and international face of NFL Cheerleaders. The calendar that was shot on the island of Barbados can be purchased for $18.00 plus shipping, and will be shipped in mid-October.
So if you're looking to spruce up your wall or add to your Dolphins themed collection, don't miss out on the chance to have the 2017 calendar girls smiling at you month after month. It just might do wonders for your mood.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater