Just when it seems that the Dolphins have finally found a formula that works on the offensive line, the delicate balance gets disrupted by an indispensable piece of that line falling to injury before the beginning of the regular season. Center Mike Pouncey briefly came out of the game against the Cowboys and later went back in before the first team offense exited the game.
Unfortunately, Pouncey's injury is more severe than what was initially thought, as the Pro Bowl offensive lineman missed out on Sunday's practice, and head coach Adam Gase revealed stunning news that - unlike Cameron Wake - keeping him out was not a precautionary measure like many other decisions have been.
"We’re going to be week-to-week right now." said Gase. "We’re still kind of feeling out what’s going on. We’re working with the doctors and trying to make sure when he comes back, he’s ready to go. Right now, he obviously won’t be playing in the Atlanta game. We most likely won’t see him the rest of the preseason."
An injury that's bad enough to keep him out of the rest of the preseason at this point in time may also be enough to keep him out of the regular season opener against Seattle and even beyond that. The fact that the injury is in his hip is even more concerning, as Pouncey has had surgery on both hips in the past.
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but there’s a possibility." Gase said about Pouncey possibly missing the season opener. "If things change for us or if we get some kind of diagnosis where they tell us it’s a longer period time than we originally thought, it could happen.
"Right now, like I said, we got to be ‘next man up.’ We can’t hope for this to happen because we don’t know right now. That’s why we’re still working with the doctors as far as, ‘Where are we at? How long is this going to be?’ We’re taking our time as far as making sure we got the right evaluation and we make the right decision.”
With Pouncey ailing, the team is turning to the 26 year old Anthony Steen, who went undrafted in 2014 and was later signed by the Arizona Cardinals, only to be released and subsequently placed on the practice squad by Arizona before finally landing on Miami's practice squad on November 24th, 2015.
Since then, the former Alabama offensive lineman has steadily climbed the ranks in training camp, to the point where Adam Gase has deemed him worthy of being the primary backup to Mike Pouncey over Jamil Douglas, who was the primary backup in 2015.
“I think at first, he’s got this toughness about him." Gase said of Steen. "He’s got that grit about him. When you get an offensive lineman like that, it’s hard not to like. You start appreciating that. The more we’ve all been around him, the more we’ve appreciated the way that he’s played, the way that he goes to work. He doesn’t say much. He gets after it every day. You never see him have a bad day because he comes out and he’s got something to prove every day.”
Now with Pouncey down for the count, Steen will have even more to prove as he now has the responsibility of making the calls at the line of scrimmage and filling the shoes of an arguably top 10 center in the NFL.
"You don’t have a choice." Gase said. "The center’s really the starting point for us and then the quarterback really is the guy that can trump everything. It’s just going to be a little different for our guys right now because it’s a different voice. They’re so used to Mike (Pouncey) doing everything and he’s got that calmness about him and now (Anthony) Steen’s got to get in there and he’s got to be next man up."
Pouncey is an integral part of the offensive line, but Adam Gase has been preaching the importance of the "next man up" philosophy. The third preseason game against the Falcons on Thursday should shed a lot of light on what the line will look like with Steen - not Pouncey - blocking and making calls. If there is a silver lining, at least it happened in preseason, and not when the games count.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
When Isaiah Pead was signed this summer (along with former draft bust Daniel Thomas), it was met with mostly shrugs among fans of the team.
However, after a strong showing in training camp and the Dolphins' first two preseason games, it's become apparent that Pead is more than just a camp body.
Pead's issue hasn't been talent; it's been his time in the training room. Numerous injuries have limited Pead's time in the league. And after drafting Kenyan Drake and signing 4-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster, it was assumed by most that Pead would never make it out of training camp.
With each strong showing though, he's going to make it difficult for head coach Adam Gase. With Drake and Jay Ajayi battling injuries for most of training camp, Pead has made the most of his opportunities. He's looked decisive both running and catching passes out of the backfield, along with third year back Damien Williams.
And the coaches have taken notice.
“Every time he gets in a game, he seems to pop them.: said Adam Gase. "I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s tried to do every little thing right."
The head coach has gone so far to begin including Pead in the game plan.
"When he (Pead) gets in the game, I’m thinking call plays for him and try to give him a chance to show his skill set." Gase said. "I try to get him in there with the ones a little bit, and he had another explosive play today. It just seems like when he gets in there, whether a run game or pass game he just seems to make it happen.”
For his part, Pead has continued to learn the offense and perfect his craft. After the game, the running back was asked to assess his performance and he (Pead) made sure to give his teammates credit.
"I got a couple of lanes up front. The line did a good job, flowing with the defense, getting hats on hats. That leaves it up to me to pick a hole and hit it."
Despite Pead's personal success, he is still focused on what most Dolphins fans are most concerned with—winning.
"It went good. Bad things. Good things. This we can learn from. Of course you would like to end it with a victory but this is what times like this are for."
Pead may have played well enough to warrant some carries with the first team offense in the third preseason game. That doesn't concern him as much as continuing to improve his understanding in Gase's offense.
"I’ve been here since springtime learning Coach Gase’s offense." Pead said. "It’s all about being patient and taking it one snap at a time and making reads. Not making cuts in your head. Take what you’ve got."
There are several more cutdowns to survive and a crowded backfield to contend with, but with every strong showing the once the low key signing could possibly be a part of the team's plans this season.
This story was written by Richard Wilt. Follow him on Twitter: @richardactor71
The Dolphins had a rough outing Friday night at Dallas in their second preseason game. Here are ten thoughts on the Dolphins coming off of the game.
1. Left guard Dallas Thomas is trying to disregard the criticism he’s getting on social media.
"Social media gives people, what's a good word to say it? It gives them [the courage to say things] that they wouldn't say to your face."
He’s got a point. But that doesn’t make them wrong. Perhaps despite the hypocrisy of those who hide behind their keyboards, Thomas should listen a little bit to what they have to say. Particularly in light of this statement.
"I feel like I did good [against the Giants in the first preseason game],” he said. "I had that one bad play, but besides that I was fine."
"Never wavered," Thomas said of his confidence. "Shoot, I started all the games last year and I did real well. I just want to keep building from that and carry it over to this year."
No. He had one obviously bad play where he stuck out. But otherwise he was overpowered. A lot. Sometimes you need someone who is watching from the outside looking in to tell you that.
2. Thomas was replaced by Laremy Tunsil in the starting lineup Friday night and the bad news for him is that Tunsil was generally solid. Barring a serious setback, that competition may be over.
One that I don’t think is over yet is on the other side. Billy Turner was replaced by Jermon Bushrod at right guard and Bushrod gave up a bad sack in the first quarter. Turner doesn’t respond well to stunts and blitzes and that showed up again against the Cowboys. But Bushrod just plain got physically beaten straight up on the sack, something that rarely happens to Turner.
The big question on Bushrod is health. It’s well known that he lost his starting left tackle job on the Bears last year after an injury that he’s recovered from since. But what gets little attention is the fact that for two years, the Bears had to baby Bushrod as they regularly gave him practices off during the week to rest a bad back.
The Dolphins have done the same and, indeed, that is a large part of the reason why Bushrod was available to them in the first place.
The tie in this competition has to go to Turner. The Dolphins can’t afford to start a player who can’t be relied upon to go 16 games and practice with the unit every day unless he is very definitely better than the alternative. This is one to continue to keep an eye on.
3. Another reason to believe that the Dolphins haven’t finished fiddling with the line is the poor performance running the football Friday night. Yes, Tannehill got decent protection generally but the blocking wasn’t so smooth on the other end of the spectrum.
The Dolphins running back situation doesn’t help. The Dolphins aren’t in a good situation there and, though I’m generally patient and advise caution when interpreting the results of a preseason game, I don’t see this situation getting better.
Care always needs to be taken when reading newspaper reports in the preseason and there’s no better example than the fluff which came out regarding Arian Foster. No matter what anyone says, Foster (2 carries, -5 yards) doesn’t look completely physically sound to me. From the very first run where he didn’t show the speed to get around defenders and bounce it outside, it was evident that Foster, though still nimble, lacks explosion and isn’t as fast as he should be.
Jay Ajayi (6 carries, 19 yds), on the other hand, has been better physically but runs forward like a bull, hitting the hole hard but ultimately lacking the patience and vision that Foster typically shows. And letting a pass bounce off of his hands for a near interception last week alleviated no one’s fears about his receiving skills, something that Foster excels at.
Adam Gase will need to play to these guys strengths if the offense is going to click on the ground. In that respect, it is notable that the very first series of the game the Dolphins played Ajayi on second down and Foster on third down. I know that isn’t the way that Gase has played it in the past but it says here that he might be flexible enough to realize that this will be the best arrangement and history be damned.
Regardless, one way or the other, he’s going to have to manage this situation to get the best out of these backs at least until Ajayi develops into a more polished all around running back. Personally from what I have seen the Dolphins should give him every possible snap to do that.
But it's evident that they think they can win now, despite all evidence to the contrary, so playing to Foster’s strengths may be (and in my opinion probably will be) the option that they take.
One more thought on this matter. If you took the names off the jerseys and just asked me who looked the best, I’d have picked Isaiah Pead (4 carries, 48 yds and a nice catch for 30 yds). Something to think about.
4. Another thing that stuck out to me about the offense was how Gase and Tannehill have tried very hard to get the tight ends involved in the passing game. Tight ends were targeted eight times on Friday night.
Tannehill didn’t look to them much last year and Gase obviously considers the position to be an underutilized potential weapon. And he’s right. But you have to wonder if they have the right guys playing the position as no one has been overly impressive. Jordan Cameron, in particular, is starting to come under fire.
Gase has a well deserved reputation for playing to the strengths of his players. The tight end position doesn’t look very strong. We’ll have to wait and see what develops as we rapidly progress towards the regular season.
5. Much has been made of the improvement in the passing game Friday night over the previous game against the Giants. Though the starting offensive line gave up pressure early, the passing game did look much better with some good Tannehill connections with Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker going on. Tannehill’s passer rating was also 119.2 and that was all moderately encouraging.
But that doesn’t mean all was rainbows and sunshine. Tannehill regularly struggled connecting with receivers who were getting muscled out of plays and knocked off their routes, especially in the red zone, a result of having a corps of wide receivers that generally isn’t especially big.
He was also victimized by so many drops that I lost count. Amongst the worst were drops in the end zone by tight end Jordan Cameron and receiver Jarvis Landry along with another would-be touchdown that DeVante Parker didn’t catch.
Despite the positive vibes coming from this offensive performance, there is still plenty to clean up and plenty to worry about.
6. One of the more interesting aspects of the offense Friday night was how quick the pace was. The Dolphins often didn’t huddle and tried to put a lot of pressure on the defense. They had two touchdown drives of 75 yards, neither of which took four minutes.
Gase apparently thinks it's working.
“It was good for our guys to see how tired the defense might get as the drive goes on and take advantage of it,” Gase said. “Our guys won't understand what this offense can do to a defense as far as the fatigue factor until they really get into a game. We only played the first half. We still would have had 30 minutes left.”
Going no huddle and not substituting allows the offense to dictate the matches. And I’ve never seen a quarterback yet who didn’t love it. I’m sure Ryan Tannehill is no exception.
7. Speaking of things that Tannehill might love, it was good to see him rolling out and hitting Kenny Stills on a 55 yard bomb on Friday night. Tannehill even ran twice for 16 yards on consecutive plays. Tannehill’s presence and movement in the pocket are suspect but he is far better on the run and has some underrated mobility.
Offensive coordinators as a rule don’t like it because it's a risk to the quarterback and Clyde Christensen will probably be no exception. But it promises to be effective when they do it.
8. Much has been made of James Morris’ illegal hit on Matt Moore. Moore suffered a concussion and although no one is saying it out right there are plenty implying that the hit was dirty.
Dallas Thomas said, “That wasn’t right. They clearly saw he was sliding, and they just attacked. That was wrong.”
No one likes to see their teammate get hurt and fans are going to be fans. But believe me, if Morris had wanted to hurt Moore, he'd have hit him a lot harder than that. Definitely illegal. Definitely not dirty.
9. One thing that disappointed me (and many other people) greatly during Friday night’s preseason loss to the Cowboys was how poor the front seven looked. The problems were particularly evident against the run.
"We just got to do a better job of stopping the run," head coach Adam Gase said, referring to 112 rushing yards Miami allowed on 12 carries in the first half. "We just got to get some negative plays, get our hands on some balls and when we do, we have to finish it."
Unlike the previous game against the Giants, all of the defensive starters but Cameron Wake played. And there are indications that Wake will be more of a situational pass rusher than a starter any way. The defensive line did a poor job of penetrating and generated little pass rush.
We’re used to seeing this from Jordan Phillips, who was struggling to get off blocks last season and has shown little improvement through two games this preseason. And, indeed, as happened last year, the biggest runs generally went to Phillip’s side. Yes, Phillips technically isn’t the starter but he’s certainly part of the rotation and Earl Mitchell showed little better last year.
But it was very disappointing to see even Ndamukong Suh struggling to penetrate. And despite lining up next to Suh to take advantage of those double teams, Mario Williams made you wonder if he’d continue to say that he was playing out of position or if he’d manage to come up with some other excuse this year.
Admittedly the Dolphins were lined up against the best offensive linen the NFL. But we’ve heard all camp about how the Dolphins offensive line looked so bad because the defensive line was so good. Fans saw little evidence of that Friday night.
10a. The play by the defensive backs wasn’t much better. Again, admittedly, Byron Maxwell wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, cornerback to be burned in coverage by Dez Bryant. But he’s going to see a lot of good receivers this year so he’d better step up. In any case, the other defensive backs have little excuse.
Tony Lippett was called for a holding penalty the very first play of the game. Lippett then gave up a potential touchdown that was called back. Bobby McCain was for 58 yards on the first play of the second half.
Particularly disappointing is the lack of development by Lippett, a young 2014 fifth round draft pick with some length that you would hope the Dolphins could bring along to be a competent starter.
These are the kinds of players that you need to come through if you are going to compete consistently in the NFL. So far, there’s little evidence of it and everyone has to hope that Xavien Howard develops better and more rapidly.
10b. One final note. Someone is going to have to tell Dak Prescott (12/15 for 199 yds) that it's not supposed to be this easy, something that Brandon Doughty (2/3 for 7 yards) found out the hard way Friday.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
While everyone is stressing over the status of the Miami Dolphins offense, it's the defense that showed major cause for concern in the second preseason game as the team allowed 41 points in their loss to the Cowboys.
Tony Romo went 4 of 5 for 49 yards in his limited playing time, but the real damage came from running back Alfred Morris and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who entered the game once Romo was pulled.
The run defense in particular was a major problem for the Dolphins, as Morris gashed the Dolphins starters for 85 yards and a touchdown on 13 rushing attempts, as well as a reception for 15 yards. The linebackers were unable to find the proper gaps and the defensive line couldn't put a dent in the vaunted Cowboys offensive line, making defending against the run virtually impossible.
Prescott had his second straight impressive game in the preseason, going 12 of 15 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for 28 yards on three attempts with two of them being touchdowns. Miami was unable to keep containment on the rookie quarterback and allowed him to gash the defense with both his arm and his legs all night long.
The secondary was unable to do much to stop the Cowboys skill players. Dez Bryant was easily able to overcome both Tony Lippett and Byron Maxwell, while Kiko Alonso was unable to do much to keep tight end Jason Witten from doing what he does best: catch passes in the seam for first downs.
The pass rush was nonexistent, Mario Williams was ineffective against the Cowboys offensive line, and Ndamukong Suh wasn't much better coming from the middle. Add to that the numerous penalties for holding, facemask and pass interference, you have yourself a recipe for disaster that Vance Joseph will have to clean up in a mere two weeks.
Thankfully, things were not all bad. Linebacker Mike Hull and safety Shamiel Gary both shined during their time on the field. Hull and Gary both found themselves consistently around the ball and making plays when they were needed most. Gary in particular showed similarities to Reshad Jones in the way he made plays in the box, which suggests that there might be something worth investing in for the future.
On the offensive side of the ball, Ryan Tannehill went 12 of 20 for 162 yards and two touchdown passes, and he also ran for 16 yards on two attempts, sliding both times as he wanted to avoid getting hurt in the preseason.
Not that that helped Matt Moore.
The Dolphins backup QB was hit in the head during a run, and he was taken away and evaluated for a concussion, which brought Brandon Doughty into the game somewhat prematurely, and the rookie QB found himself unable to replicate the success he had against the Giants, struggling to get a pass off properly and having issues with protecting the ball.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills stepped up and was able to help Ryan Tannehilll when it counted, catching both of Tannehill's touchdown passes when DeVante Parker, Jordan Cameron and even Jarvis Landry couldn't reel in passes in the end zone. Stills has been lauded by the coaching staff all offseason, and after catching a 55 yard deep pass, it's becoming clear why.
Running back Isaiah Pead also had another couple of big plays, catching a pass for 30 yards on a short pass near the right sideline after Tannehill rolled out right, and then he made a 45 yard run later on during the game, effectively making him the only running back to gain any significant yardage.
And finally, Laremy Tunsil spent most of the game at left guard, and there was an instant upgrade in pass protection. Tannehill had plenty of time to throw and find his receivers and the results were clearly noticeable. Now if only the offensive line could find a way to run block, and things could really start going well.
It wasn't a pretty game or even a promising game. The defense has serious issues to be ironed out (if they can be ironed out at this point) and the offense still has some extra work to do with running the ball. But nevertheless, it was good to see improvement in some important areas, and with any luck it will be a sign that things will eventually get better.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
The preseason is moving along quickly. An offseason which felt like it would never end is now less than two weeks away from the first player cut date on August 30th. This also means that teams with questions still to answer like the Miami Dolphins are running out of time to answer them. So here are a few things I would like to see in tonight’s game at Dallas.
1. Offensive starters in for nearly one half.
I know this isn’t something most fans agree with but we aren’t exactly the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins have a brand new head coach who’s installed a brand new system. After the first preseason game at the New York Giants it’s very clear this offense has a long way to go in getting comfortable in that system.
Two and a half to three quarters in Week 3 alone isn’t going to get it. So put in the time now or put in the time in the most meaningless of games during preseason Week 4 where there are many bottom roster guys going all out to get on the 53 and risk injury to your starters.
2. Ryan Tannehill make some aggressive throws.
More and more is being said about what style of offense the Dolphins will run this year. In practice we have seen the more dink and dunk style we’ve become accustomed to in the Tannehill era. Coach Gase seems to believe this is how most of the NFL is played save the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.
But is it really about Gase adapting to the strengths of his quarterback? After the fights happened in practice it was reported Ryan Tannehill started making more aggressive throws down field. I want to see him push the ball down field some and get some chunk yardage.
3. Repeat performance from the cornerback group.
In Week 1 of the preseason we got a nice performance from our cornerback unit. Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and company had nice coverage throughout the night and were able to force turnovers and knock down passes. Was this an aberration or what we can expect to see from that unit?
Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell didn’t play in the first game because of tightness in his groin. With him back tonight this should make that unit even stronger. They face off against a good receiving core featuring one of the league’s best in Dez Bryant. Can they repeat last week’s performance against the Dallas Cowboys? Let’s hope.
4. Pressure from our front four.
The Dolphins defensive line seems to be finding its way under Vance Joseph so far. They have been aggressive and quick off the ball in practice and the scrimmage. They showed that same quickness in Week 1 as well. But now they’ll be running with the big boys.
Dallas has one of the better offensive lines in football. If the Dolphins can get pressure with just their front four against them then this is a trend we can expect to see throughout the season and could go a long way in helping Miami win more games.
5. Tackle, Tackle, Tackle.
In the Joe Philbin era the Miami Dolphins were a poor tackling team. It’s been hard to know whether that’s just a coaching culture or a player culture. Week 1 didn’t give us much of an indication the coaches have made strides in fixing this issue yet. The Dolphins missed many tackles allowing the Giants to turn losses into gains or in the case of the missed tackle by Kiko Alonso their lone touchdown of the evening.
How will Vance Joseph get this fixed and will we see the start of that tonight at Dallas? Some say tackling is just a mental issue or a focus issue. If this is so then strong coaching on the defensive side should help correct that issue. But if the Dolphins just have a gang of bad tacklers then this may be the way of things for some time into the future.
Week 2 of a preseason game likely isn’t any more important than any other. But when you’re a team with a new coaching staff still trying to figure things out it is extremely valuable in fixing issues and evaluating your team. What will the Dolphins actually focus on?
That still remains to be seen, but these are the five things I’ll be looking for tonight. What will you be looking for. Let us know on Twitter or Facebook at PhinManiacs.
This story was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
Suddenly the Miami Dolphins depth chart at cornerback doesn't look so bleak, as the team activated cornerback Xavien Howard off the physically unable to perform list today.
Howard was Miami’s second-round pick in this year's draft. He had been placed on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list on July 29 with a knee injury, but has been running and cutting during that time. He's expected to battle fellow cornerback Tony Lippett for the starting spot opposite of Byron Maxwell in the secondary. The competition may be stiff for that spot, as veteran Chris Culliver, who is returning from a knee injury of his own, is expected to be activated soon.
Howard, 6'-1" and 198 pounds, was drafted as a potential starter for the Dolphins, as they moved up four spots to take him as the 38th overall selection. He played collegiately at Baylor, in 39 career games with 26 starts.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball.
Meet Miami Dolphins Cheerleader Rachael, who today was unveiled as Miss February 2017. Rachael is enjoying her first year on the team. She is from Wichita Falls, Texas with a degree in education.
Rachael is wearing MegLiz Swimwear with jewelry from Brooke and Arrow Boutique.
Video/Photo Credit: Miami Dolphins
As training camp approached, many Dolphins fans may have been feeling a little nervous about the situation at cornerback. With the departure of Brent Grimes and Brice McCain who were the starting cornerbacks for Miami last year, there were many questions.
The Dolphins acquired Byron Maxwell in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and drafted Xavien Howard in the second round. But Howard started training camp on the PUP list and though he was recently taken off of it, there's no telling when or if he'll be able to make steady contributions.
This brings us to “the other guys.” We’ve seen a merry-go-round of players on the opposite side of Byron Maxwell during camp. From Tony Lippett to Bobby McCain to Chimdi Chekwa. It has appeared the Dolphins truly don’t know who will be playing cornerback for them this season. They even brought in Brandon Harris, Al Louis-Jean and Chris Culliver. Round and round we go.
But that’s why they play the games. The Dolphins went into last Friday’s game against the New York Giants expecting to start Tony Lippett and Byron Maxwell. But Maxwell’s groin muscle tightened up and in came Bobby McCain. This might have had most of the fans freaking out under normal circumstances. Then the lights came on and McCain shined.
McCain has been competing in camp for the starting slot corner position. Head coach Adam Gase has certain expectations he’s looking for out of that spot.
“We’re looking for a guy that does a great job as far as keeping his leverage. That’s the hardest thing." he said. "It’s one of those positions where technique is the number one thing. You’ve got to be a sticky guy and you have to make sure you stay tight to the receiver.”
And even though McCain was not in the slot against the Giants, stay sticky he did. He kept tight coverage most of the night. That tight coverage got him a nice pass breakup and an interception. What does this mean for the Miami Dolphins secondary? Considering many thought their cornerback situation was going to hamstring the entire defense, it means quite a bit.
And then there’s the performance of Lafayette Pitts. An unknown to most Dolphins fans coming into training camp, he has caught the eye of Adam Gase and Vance Joseph.
“I see a guy that’s very confident, which at that position, you love to see. I see a guy that wants to push to see if he can find a spot on this roster." said Gase. "Anytime you get a young, hungry guy, (Defensive Coordinator) Vance (Joseph) always said ‘Give me as many guys with no means possible. Nothing to lose.’ I feel like that’s the way (Pitts has) approached everything. And when you got a guy at that position, treating everything like that, that’s a good thing.”
As we wait for Xavien Howard to get back from his injury it’s hard to know what his contribution will be and when he will be ready to take the reigns as a starter. Byron Maxwell has been solid in camp and looking closer to the Maxwell we saw in Seattle. Even though not all of the questions have been answered for this unit, thanks to the play of Bobby McCain and company, we seem to be getting more answered every day.
This story was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
In the early stages of the preseason, the Miami Dolphins defense has looked to be in fine form, but the same can’t be said of the offense. That side of the ball has looked sluggish at best, and the lack of execution showed in the first preseason game against the New York Giants. With a new coach implementing a new system, and several new faces on offense as well, it’s understandable that it’s taking a while for thing to gel, but should fans begin to worry?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill says nope.
When asked if the early struggles on offense are due to players trying to get familiar with the new schemes and plays, Tannehill said, “Some of it.”
"Early on, you're learning a new system,” continued Tannehill. “You're learning new concepts and a lot of information for everyone. You're having to think, and figure out exactly what we're supposed to do. Now, it's a lot less thinking. We know what to do.
“We just have to go out and execute."
But shouldn’t things be clicking by the second preseason game?
"Yes. It's now or never. It's time to go,” Tannehill said. “I think we feel that urgency.”
Part of the problem early on is far too familiar to Dolphins fans – there has been a lot of shuffling along the offense line as coaches determine the best starting five up front, resulting in sloppy play and missed blocks, forcing Tannehill to throw earlier than ideal. But this week the coaches (finally) seemed to have settled on the starting line-up, and as a result, play has picked up as the week wore on.
“This week has been a good week for us,” Tannehill continues. “I think we got a lot better. I saw some great strides from the offensive line the past couple of days, just protecting and giving me time to get the ball out.
“And guys are winning downfield.”
Tannehill will be the first to admit they have a lot of work to do, but has seen great strides in the past couple of days.
“I think we're headed in the right direction,” he says. “We have to protect, and get the ball out on time, and in the right spot, and let our playmakers make plays downfield."
Head coach Adam Gase agrees that things picked up this week, stating, “I love the energy level that we came out with every day. I felt like the execution got better. This was probably our best week as far as our consistency on both sides of the ball. I think now it's just got to be the next step - playing well in a preseason game, and then building off of that.”
And Gase too realizes that giving his quarterback a clean pocket from which to work is paramount to the team’s success. “Any quarterback, they'd love to be able to just stand back there and hold onto the ball for an hour. But the reality of the NFL is it's going to collapse quick no matter what.”
While some of the problems last week were a result of plays that the coach refers to as “ball-holders”, where the quarterback held onto the ball too long, waiting for something to develop, Gase is quick to shoulder much of the blame, stating, “We've got to call good plays where we can put our offensive line into a good position … We probably put them in a bad spot with the limited number of snaps they had. This week, hopefully I do a better job as far as putting our guys in a better position.”
As Gase works closely with the quarterbacks every day, he continues to express confidence in Tannehill, and knows his quarterback is as smart and tough as they come.
“I'm looking at a guy that's not afraid to stand in there,” said Gase. “I'm pretty sure that anybody who has watched his tape the last four years (has seen that). He'll stand back there and try to hold onto that thing and get the ball out. We'd love to get through a game and limit the hits and sacks and pressures. That's what every team is trying to do."
And then Gase adds a not-so-subtle note to his quarterback, along the ‘now or never’ line:
“You have to be decisive, and get rid of the ball quick.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
Ask any rookie about the most difficult part of coming into the NFL, and they will tell you it's mostly mental adjustments. Getting a feel for the increased speed of the game, learning the new playbooks and new ways of doing things, trying to make sure you don't get left behind and showing that you have something worth investing in.
When the Miami Heat brought together their "Big 3" back in 2010, they went to four straight finals riding the talent and skill of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Now, it appears the Miami Dolphins are attempting to utilize their own "Big 3" to make sure their defense is a force to be reckoned with.
These three players - Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh - are arguably some of the best players in the league at what they do, and they have combined forces in Miami to terrorize the AFC East quarterbacks and any other team that dares to stand in their way.
“Against that defensive line,” said head coach Adam Gase, “it’s never going to be easy.”
Considering how the offensive line has struggled in training camp this season - that is, more so than usual anyway - that could be the understatement of the year, especially with each player having their own specific motivation for showing the world what they're made of.
Cameron Wake just loves attacking the quarterback, and after returning from his achilles tear, he looks just as strong as ever and he wants to "eat" a quarterback wearing a color other than his own.
"I've been working on that since Oct. 31, the morning after my injury," Wake said after a Friday practice. "I'm looking forward to that first opportunity. Whether it's Seattle, New York...getting out there and grabbing somebody else wearing a different color."
Training camp has shown that the 34-year old pass rusher is just as explosive as he ever was, and quarterbacks will need to be on the lookout because he's going to be hungry for more after having to spend so much time sitting down and doing nothing.
But he's not the only one with something to prove. Opposite Wake will be former Buffalo Bills star pass rusher Mario Williams, who was frustrated with how he was used in Buffalo by then head coach Rex Ryan and is looking to show that last season's poor production was not a result of his skills and talent starting to decline like so many suggested.
“I think the biggest thing for us that we’re both coming from is that we’re going to come out here and work to get better." Williams said. "No matter what – no matter your past, no matter where you’re at right now, good or bad – there’s always better. And we’re trying to find ways to be better.”
Williams has also shown explosiveness in practice, clearly benefiting from the Wide-9 defense being used by defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, and all we have seen so far indicates that Williams will be back to what he was during his years in Buffalo, meaning that quarterbacks won't be safe from the left or the right when both he and Wake are on the field.
But it takes three to make a "Big 3," and that just leaves defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was brought in last season to wreak havoc up the middle while the ends closed in from the sides. That will be Suh's job this season while Wake and Williams give offensive tackles nightmares.
“They’re definitely physically gifted." Suh said of Wake and Williams. "At the same time, I like the way they play run, including ‘J.J.’ (Jason Jones). Obviously, being with ‘J.J.’ in Detroit, he’s a physical rusher. At the same time, at the point of attack, they’re not shying away from the blocker. They’re running through the blocker, and it obviously makes it a lot easier for me inside playing two gaps – one that I’m actually physically in and another one that’s usually between myself and the other tackle.”
It's interesting that Suh brings up veteran Jason Jones, as he and Suh played together in Detroit. Even a "Big 3" needs role-players, and that could be what Jason Jones provides on the inside if necessary.
“I think there are things that we can learn from there. I think there are things from every single year – even last year and years past – that even coaches look at themselves." Suh said when asked if he and Jones were drawing on their experience in Detroit. "(There are) positives, negatives (and) things like that, that’ll repeat. So, without questions there are things that that we can dig from that year and implement into our year. Every year is going to be particularly different and then (we) kind of go from there.”
These three players have nothing but great things to say about each other, and it speaks to the excitement and chemistry they have already as the regular season approaches. Even in the preseason, they can't wait to take the field.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot." Williams said of the upcoming matchup against the Cowboys. "We’re out here (every day) and we didn’t play the first game. Being able to go out and compete against other guys, I’m pretty sure every one of us are anxious about it.”
Wake wants to prove that his injury won't slow him down, Williams wants to show that last season was a mere fluke, and as for Suh, many thought that because of the overall failure of the defensive line last season, that Suh wasn't playing as hard or he was having a drop off in talent already. He will no doubt be fighting to change that perception.
These three will someday go down as some of the best in NFL history at what they do, and now that they have all gathered together in one place, there's no telling what they will be able to accomplish. Said Mario Williams: “The sky is the limit."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
Dolphins OC Clyde Christensen not concerned about slow start but if things don’t change “then we better get a little bit nervous.”
When a rookie first enters the league, most if not all say the biggest leap to make is not physical—it’s mental. When players think too much, they are not able to utilize their athletic gifts. They second guess themselves. They are often a step or two slower.
Being pretty much a non-athlete I cannot relate. But I can identify in my own way. I’ve had the privilege of being a professional actor and I can tell you in the early stages of learning a role and developing a character the same thing happens—being up in your head is the worst possible place to be.
You focus on yourself, incorporating notes, blocking and learning to work off of your new castmates. As a result your natural gifts are hidden behind hesitation and self-doubt.
That was why when rehearsing a play, the roughest day is when the cast was “off book,” meaning we had to put down the security blankets of the scripts—the play took twice as long to run and as soon as our emotions took over—we’d invariably “lose the lines.” If felt like being on a tightrope without a net.
Eventually though, things would tighten up and by opening night, things were (usually) as they were supposed to be. However, depending on the length of the run of the play, it could take additional time for the cast to fully hit their stride.
Christensen, while remaining calm stressed that as well.
“We've thrown a lot at them," Christensen said. "These next two weeks if we don't see some big improvements then we better get a little bit nervous.”
He went on to say though, “But we should see some big improvement these next two weeks."
The way the first team offense has been playing though, that may been hard for fans to digest. The offensive line has looked like a disaster in practice, with the defense harassing Ryan Tannehill and company—often to the point of the not being to even run the plays called. It has been noted that Tannehill has been especially vocal and demonstrative in his frustration.
Tannehill, to his credit has been somewhat even-keeled about it, at least to the media. "We're in the process right now," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said after Friday's 27-10 victory over the Giants. "We're not coming to any conclusions, or jumping to assume what we are or are not. We're in the process and this is just another step in the process.
Preseason Game 1, we're just going to stay the course, keep getting better every game and moving forward.
"Nothing to stress or worry about, but there are things we can do better and things we did well."
Christensen has noticed that the thing has stood out the most on third downs, “The third-down [drill] wasn't very good," he said, "but that's where it shows up."
It was so bad that in this past Saturday’s first preseason game against the Giants, the coaches weren’t even able to assess Tannehill. "The protection, the run game, the pass game, the routes, nothing's as quick as we want," he said.
This was the result of the performance of the offensive line (how many times has that been written about in the past years) and was supposed to be fixed by the addition of Laremy Tunsil and several other free agent acquisitions.
And even when the protection was there—there were other mistakes—which compounded the problem "When we do protect it up we run a wrong [route]," Christensen said. "We had some miscues, and then quarterbacks made their miscues."
Even more alarming Christensen said was that no aspect of the offense was good enough, "Blocking 1-on-1, winning 1-on-1, pass protecting 1-on-1, all those are things that I think probably the defense is ahead of us right now, and we've got to catch up and be good at it."
Surprisingly, Christensen expressed faith with arguably the Dolphins most maligned unit on the team. “You always are nervous about left tackles, and we've got them stacked on top of each other so that's a luxury," he said. "And I do, I believe we'll end up being a good offense, a really good offensive line, and deep, which is really good news."
While Christensen wasn't yet ready to decide between Tunsil and Dallas Thomas for the starting left guard spot, he did provide insight on when that decision may come. "I do think coming out of this game we've got to start funneling the thing down and get in a lineup and give them a chance to play together,"
Tight end Jordan Cameron (a pro-bowler with the Browns in 2013) and company have been invisible so far in practice and last week’s game—and according to Christensen that has to change. "We need some big play out of that room, we know that. ... Hopefully we'll get there. We're not there yet,"
He was also displeased when the offense was on the practice field during the 15 minute rain storm on Monday’s practice. “We didn't look good enough," he said. "Same thing, I was disappointed. We're going to play in some rain games. That was great work for us. We needed wet balls and we fumbled a couple of snaps.
"That's unacceptable. But again, as their coach, I'm glad it came up where we can address it. We had too many fumbled snaps and operation issues in the ball game. That can't happen."
Christensen is optimistic that the offense will have a better showing in this week’s contest against the Cowboys this Friday. "We've got to start making some decisions and guys have got to start making some plays and guys have got to start showing what they can do," he said. "That's what these next two weeks are for.”
If things go according to plan, fans and coaches alike can breathe easier heading into the final preseason game and carry that momentum into the regular season. "The fourth preseason game will kind of be getting ready for opening day. These are two huge weeks for the offense personnel-wise, schematically, in every way."
So in short there is time—but things need to get better. In a hurry. Ready or not, these games start counting.
This story was written by Richard Wilt. Follow him on Twitter: @richardactor71
Many questions are still left to be answered after Friday's first preseason game against the New York Giants. But one player we have started to get answers on is Jakeem Grant.
Grant has had a chip on his shoulder all through his professional football career, and according to him, it's what drives him every day.
"To me, it's not a chip, it's more like bags of chips, because that's how heavy it is."
Grant took his opportunities to show off his speed and elusiveness in the open field. His play was noticed by head coach Adam Gase. “Well, after I saw him cut one up (field) and just put his head down and try to run about three guys over, there’s no mistaking that this guy is as advertised."
Adam Gase is also impressed with Grant's toughness and physicality. "(Texas Tech Head Coach) Kliff (Klingsbury) had told me that you’re not going to find a guy tougher. He just said to bypass his size because he’s strong and he’s tough and he’s not afraid of anything, and that was true."
At 5-foot-7 and 172 pounds, Grant is one of the smaller receivers on the roster, but this didn't stop him from making a big contribution to the Dolphins victory. He led the team in receptions with four for 68 yards and also had four kickoff returns as well as two punt returns.
Grant isn't relaxing after his performance Friday night. He is still aware he has a lot of hard work ahead. “I never pat myself on the back. I feel like I’ve been there before. I feel like I need to improve more, and that’s just one step up the mountain. I still have a lot of the mountain to climb. I still have to go out there each and every week and my performance has got to be better than the last.”
During camp Jakeem Grant has seemed to have some struggles with dropped passes as well as muffs on special teams. But when the lights came on Grant showed no such issues. "Coach (Shawn) Jefferson gets onto me every day about, (making) sure I look the ball all the way into the tuck, because I’m a fast guy, so I get ahead of myself trying to make the play before I ever catch the ball." He's also been spending some extra time on the jug machine. "Yes, I definitely spend extra time with the jugs. I try to do everything I can to make sure that I secure the catch and make sure that I’m not running before I get it.”
Many have been comparing Jakeem Grant to Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead. A smaller shifty guy who may not be an every down player but can break a game open with a few plays. The Dolphins have quite a nice group of receivers this season in Landry, Parker and Stills. Adding Grant to the mix will likely be an enjoyable task for Coach Gase.
With a heavy contribution on special teams and already showing the ability to make some plays on offense, Grant is quickly showing people he can be bigger as a player than his size would indicate.
This story was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
Since moving from the Orange Bowl to their current stadium in Miami Gardens, the Miami Dolphins have had seven different names for the place they call home. And as announced today, the eighth name for the stadium that is currently receiving the final touches of a massive half-billion-dollar upgrade will be Hard Rock Stadium.
Financial details, per Armando Salguero, are in the neighborhood of 18 years and $250 million. Yep, a quarter of a billion dollars. That will go a long ways in helping owner Stephen Ross recoup a portion of more than $500 million he has paid from his own pocket to upgrade the stadium over the past two years.
A press conference with the media has been scheduled for 2:00 PM EST on Wednesday to officially announce and unveil the new stadium name.
When first opened for the 1987 season, it was known as Joe Robbie Stadium, named after the team’s original owner, who funded the entire $115 million cost of building it. When Wayne Huizenga took over ownership of the team, he sold the naming rights to the highest bidder in 1996, and the stadium was known as Pro Player Park that year, then Pro Player Stadium until 2004.
Then for one season it was called Dolphins Stadium (2005) before becoming Dolphin Stadium for three years after that (2006-2008), until current owner Stephen Ross acquired majority ownership from Huizenga. Ross then partnered with singer/businessman Jimmy Buffett to name the stadium Land Shark Stadium for the 2009 season.
However, that naming deal didn’t include the rights to the upcoming Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV being played at the stadium that year, so naming rights were granted to Sun Life Financial in a multi-year deal, and the venue has been known as Sun Life Stadium until January of this year, when that deal expired.
Hard Rock Stadium will host Super Bowl LIV following the 2019 NFL season.
Hard Rock International - owned by the Seminole Tribe - is highly involved with charities worldwide. They tout signs in every hotel, café, and casino that say “Love All – Serve All”, and the company takes that to heart, raising millions for charities such as WhyHunger and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
On a local level, they work closely with the Jason Taylor Foundation for many charity events.
I like it. Do you?
(Now if I could just get some royalties on that logo concept in the picture accompanying this story.)
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
While there wasn't any rain on Tuesday morning, there were a couple of other odd things that went down. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill apparently took part in some wide receiver drills, and wide receiver coach Shawn Jefferson - who Gase described as having a "psychotic" coaching style - actually dressed in pads and used himself as a tackling dummy during wide receiver drills.
See what I mean?
The Dolphins got back in full pads for the first time since the game against the New York Giants, as they prepare for the next preseason game coming up against the Dallas Cowboys, which will surely be a greater challenge.
The past few days have seen flip-flops in advantage between units and a few young players stepping up to make their presence known, but this time, there's some bigger news to report.
Offense showing life with Laremy Tunsil at guard
The offense has been having problems for a while now, usually failing to pass protect and leading to sacks for Ryan Tannehill and poor decisions in choosing targets. A common denominator in these poor showings has usually been the fact that Dallas Thomas has been the primary starter at left guard.
Tuesday, Adam Gase switched things up a bit and gave Tunsil the majority of snaps at left guard with the starters.
It was initially thought that Tunsil would be playing at left tackle since veteran Branden Albert was given a day off to rest, but instead the Dolphins decided to rotate between Vinston Painter and Sam Young at left tackle while Tunsil remained at left guard.
And he did a darn good job.
Tunsil was given the challenge of dealing with Jason Jones and Jordan Phillips for the majority of Tuesday's practice, with some Chris Jones thrown in for good measure. But what really caught my attention was one particular play where Tunsil was actually able to slow down Ndamukong Suh one-on-one long enough for Tannehill to get the ball out and hit his receiver near the sideline for about seven yards.
There was skepticism regarding Tunsil's ability to transition cleanly to guard, and rightfully so, but it's clear at this point that Tunsil is the best guard for the job and it looks like the coaching staff is starting to come to that conclusion as well. When Tunsil was at guard, the offense moved. When he wasn't, it sputtered. That is not a coincidence.
Damien Williams is the superior practice running back
Notice that I said that he's the superior practice running back. This is true. While it was Isaiah Pead that really captured my attention in the preseason game against the Giants, it's Damien Williams who has consistently been more effective during practice.
So do you believe the practice consistency, or do you believe the one bright flash during game action?
While Williams was completely unimpressive in the preseason game, he's been the preferred option over Pead in practice and he's produced and flashed more then than Pead has.
So it is imperative that we see them both in action against Dallas, because after today's impressive practice performance by Williams (two touchdown catches and a touchdown run), we need more of a sample size before we can figure out who is more worth keeping around.
Other than the apparent move up of Tunsil and the impressive performance of Damien Williams, there really wasn't much to see Tuesday. Former Miami Dolphins WR Chris Chambers was working with the wide receivers as a guest instructor while Shawn Jefferson slammed into his players with his own pads, Branden Albert didn't work to have a rest day.
There is the interesting fact that Xavien Howard is apparently working on making short cuts now in his rehab, that's a good thing as it shows he'll be back soon and he'll be able to contribute to a secondary that - while it is improving - is in desperate need of his services.
Wednesday is the final day that practice is open to the public, so if you have yet to come down to training camp, tomorrow is your last day to do so. I will be there as always providing coverage.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
The Dolphins are back to work after competing in their first preseason game against the New York Giants on Friday. Here are ten thoughts to kickoff the week leading up to the next game against the Seahawks.
1. The offensive line has been roasted after last Friday’s game and you certainly understand why. Nevertheless, I would council patience for Dolphins fans.
I really don’t see Branden Albert whiffing on that many blocks once the regular season starts and history says that Ja’Wuan James and Mike Pouncey are going to play better. It was evident, at least in Albert’s case, that there was some rust and the boys need to get back to playing at game speed. All three of these guys are good pros and you can be confident that they’ll be OK before the preseason ends.
Yes, Dallas Thomas is a problem that may not last long ahead of Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil looked solid with the backups.
Thomas has been neck and neck with Tunsil in practice but Friday could be the beginning of the end as the coaching staff will be starting to get an idea of what to expect from Thomas in games. Though he was speaking about Tunsil not Thomas, head coach Adam Gase’s post game comments were to the point.
"It was great we got him a ton of reps. It's harder in practice because it's not real. This is our best evaluation."
I’d say one more poor preseason game from Thomas will be the end of him as a starter ahead of Tunsil. If that.
One under-appreciated bright spot was the play of Billy Turner at left guard. Turner’s performance was overshadowed by his poor play at tackle with the second team. But when he was in his guard position with the starters, he was very solid.
All in all, I saw very little out there that time shouldn’t ordinarily cure.
2. Much is also being made of the Dolphins “quality depth” after the reserves decidedly out played the Giants. Again, I would reserve judgment.
Unfortunately this may say a lot more about the Giants’ depth than that of the Dolphins. All 17 of the Dolphins' second-quarter points came as a result of turnovers and the Giants generally did everything they could to hand the Dolphins the game. Even worse, and more to the point, their roster looks to be very talent poor, and it's not just me.
Giants assistants complained in January that they thought they were coaching "with their hands tied behind their backs" due to lack of talent last year.
It’s not surprising that Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Reese is under siege in New York. Reese went on a huge spending spree in an effort to fix the problem this offseason. But free agent spending isn’t the way to build a consistent winner (something the Dolphins also still have yet to learn, by the way). Teams have to draft and develop and the Giants have done a very poor job of it. Friday was living proof.
3. Speaking of the guard position there are some who are pushing for Jermon Bushrod to start over Tunsil, Thomas and Turner. And I see their point.
Bushrod is a solid veteran who also showed well on Friday. But he hasn’t been healthy in two years and the Bears had to practically baby him through, frequently excusing him from practice, something the Dolphins have also been doing.
Bushrod should be considered a last resort as a starting offensive lineman. It's true, he’s a better guard at least than Thomas and Tunsil at this point. But that won’t help you if he’s on the bench.
The Dolphins are much better off, for instance, giving Tunsil those snaps and letting him develop than leaning on a player that they won’t be able to entirely depend upon week to week.
4. Some more thoughts on Friday’s game.
a. As mentioned above, there’s been a lot made of the fact that the Dolphins backups beat the Giants backups. And, again, fair enough. But let’s remember that there were seven minutes left in the second quarter before the Dolphins got a first down. That means the second string wasn’t doing a whole lot better than the first string for much of their time on the field.
b. Not too impressed by Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib. He looked rather shaky at times just in terms of performing the fundamentals. And his deep ball was deplorable. I don’t like the Giants chances if Eli Manning gets hurt this year.
c. Great news for the Dolphins defense in that Kiko Alonso looks reasonably healthy. He has most if not all of his speed back and didn’t look like his movement was hampered at all. He made some mistakes but he was around the ball a lot.
d. Speaking of being around the ball, Terrence Fede showed up and had a real good night with five tackles, one for a loss. I liked what I saw and I want to see more.
e. Though he looks tough to move, Jordan Phillips still isn’t getting off of blocks. It didn’t help the he started the first play of the game with a five yard penalty. If he doesn’t start penetrating with more regularity, the Dolphins run defense is once again going to suffer. Deandre Coleman didn’t play but if he also looks like he did last year, this is going to be a critical problem.
f. I was disappointed that the defense had a tough time just getting lined up a couple times in the first half. It led to a 12 men on the field penalty in one case and a timeout near the end of the first half in the other. This needs to be cleaned up but the good news is that is what the preseason is for.
g. Whatever else you say about Jay Ajayi, he plays hard. But that isn’t enough to cover the fact that he wasn’t overly impressive in his opportunity to show he could hold down the starting job over Arian Foster, who was on the bench. He was pedestrian carrying the ball (2 carries, 6 yards). And I would say he didn’t ease many concerns about his capability of being an every down back when he tipped a ball in the first quarter that he really should have caught. It was almost intercepted at the Dolphins ten-yard line.
5. Dave Hyde at the Sun-Sentinel addresses the Tunsil’s development:
“You can list valid reasons why Tunsil is being used at backup left tackle and left guard: The coaches want a rookie to earn his place; they want him to play both positions and if fragile left tackle Branden Albert goes down you’ll see why; they want to build his confidence at left tackle before throwing him completely into guard; he’s just not better than [left guard Dallas] Thomas at this point.
“They aren’t alone in this way of developing Tunsil, either. La’el Collins was a projected first-round pick in 2015 who fell out of the draft completely because of a mysterious murder involving his ex-girlfriend on the edge of the draft. Dallas signed him. A left tackle in college (same as Tunsil), he moved to guard and didn’t start until the seventh game. So maybe that’s what is at work here.”
Yes, but Collins wasn’t asked to learn two positions. And that’s my primary problem with this whole thing.
Philosophically, the Dolphins want their offensive linemen to be versatile, something that I wholeheartedly support. But at some point, common sense has to rule. If you want Tunsil to develop into a starter (and I think that’s the goal here), let him concentrate on one position, I would say guard, and get good at it.
Then, once he has a year in the league under his belt, you can start rotating him over to tackle or, if necessary, move him there in place of Albert and give him an entire offseason to make the adjustment, using his experience at guard to supplement and speed the process.
6. One of the things that is most notable about head coach Adam Gase is that he’s been very vocal during practices. Indeed, the Dolphins are reportedly encouraging a number of players to be more vocal this year. This desire is likely rooted in Gase’s past.
Practices under John Fox with the Broncos and Bears tended to take place with a fair bit of back and forth between the offense and the defense and friendly competition was encouraged. Hence, Gase’s tendency to trash talk with the defense and his encouragement of the players to do the same.
Presumably this will make practices more fun and interesting as well as provide a bit more competition to improve each unit. As long as there are no comments about “paychecks” when a little trash talk comes the quarterback’s way…
7. Armando Salguero at the Miami Herald had some sharp observations on Ryan Tannehill that I think are worth noting here. Tannehill is holding the ball too long before making a decision on where to throw and Salguero actually timed him to prove it. Tannehill offered this explanation:
"Yeah, there's still some new stuff we're putting in," Tannehill said. "So we're still installing some of the stuff we're putting in. So we're still going through some of the thinking and that's going to happen at this stage in the new offense.
"Myself and everyone else, that obviously slows us down and keeps us from playing as fast as we want to play. The more reps we get and the more practices we go through, that's going to continue to decrease the amount of thinking that goes on and increase the amount of playing we can do. Then we're going to see us play to our full potential."
I might accept that except for one fact that makes it all very disturbing. Salguero also timed Matt Moore. Who was consistently both quicker to make his throw and less likely to lean on one receiver (Jarvis Landry) to bail him out.
I’ve heard many Dolphins fans excuse Tannehill’s performances based upon the poor performance of his offensive line. And, no doubt, the offensive line has been poor. But I think we’re all fooling ourselves if we don’t admit Tannehill has had to get better, too. He’s got about a month to do it.
8. Adam Gase took exception to the members of the press who asked about Ryan Tannehill’s tendency to “dink and dunk” down the field in practice.
"I'm fine with it. I’m the one scripting the plays, calling the plays. I've had a little success with what we do. There's a time and a place. There's also a place not to get sacked 60 times in a year, too."
"The whole league is 10 yards and under," Gase said of the passing game. "That's what it is. Nobody is going down the field. There's one team that does it really, maybe two — Pittsburgh and Arizona. Hold onto the ball and they chuck it down the field.
"More teams than not, it's 10 yards and under. That's where all the passing game is. The [defensive ends] are too good. If you want to stand back there and have your quarterbacks get your brains beat out, go at it."
The guess here is that what the press is seeing is something of an illusion. The Chicago Bears, too, looked like they were going with the short passing game a lot last year and Jay Cutler had a habit of dumping the ball off to Matt Forte out of the backfield. This was in part because of the limited availability of the Bears wide receivers due to injury, something that the Dolphins hope they won’t have to deal with this year.
But appearances can be deceiving. Cutler actually had 7.6 yards per attempt last season, rating him 10th in the league and tying his career best in 2010. Tannehill could end up in the same position, going with intermediate passes more often than appearances may indicate.
In the end, the stats will tell the story.
9. Personally, I didn’t think cancelling the Hall of Fame game was a big deal. It was a fifth preseason game for both the Packers and the Colts and it was, frankly, a game that neither one of them needed. Other than being mildly disappointed that I’d have to wait a few more days to get my first taste of football in about six months, I didn’t care much one way or the other.
However, it might be different if you made the trip to Canton, Ohio to see the game. Particularly after the Hall of Fame failed to announce the cancelation of the game to the crowd, to the point where they kept the countdown going until game time. Apparently it was all a ruse to keep customers in the stands buying hotdogs and beer. And according to Gregg Doyle at the Indianapolis Star, the fans were darned mad about it.
“I’ve spent $50 since I got into the stadium,” Colts fan Ben Coleman of Terre Haute was telling me in the stands as the clock struck 30 minutes to kickoff. “You’re damn right I’m mad. I'm (expletive).”
Across the aisle, Packers fan Kwong Liu interrupts us.
“I spent $65 on this food,” Liu says, gesturing to hot dogs and pizza and drinks he bought for his party of four. “How (expletive) do you think I am?”
“I’m calling Fox News,” one of them told me with a splash of spittle.
I can’t say that I blame these fans in the least bit. Packers fans and Colts fans probably showed up more for the induction of Brett Favre and Marvin Harrison than for the game but, let’s face it, they were almost certainly purposefully deceived. At the very least not informing them as soon as possible after the game was cancelled was negligent.
10. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, who was a special teams coordinator before getting the head job, is talking some sense when it comes to the new kickoff rule that places the ball at the 25 yard line after a touch back.
The league believes that this will add incentive for returners to take a knee in the end zone. Harbaugh believes that it only provides incentive to kick short of the goal line.
“The goal is misappropriated. If you’re trying to get the kickoff out of the game, just take it out. I don’t like the whole premise at all, as far fewer returns, which will make the game less exciting. Maybe that’s their goal, to make it be less exciting. If you want to make it safer, I think there are better ways to look at that. We just have to be smart about it.”
I could not agree more. Either the play is excessively dangerous or it isn’t. If it is, then protect the players and just take it out. Otherwise leave the rule alone.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
The Miami Dolphins got a pleasant surprise Monday morning (or unpleasant depending on your point of view) when during an 11 on 11 scrimmage, rain started pouring down in Davie and gave the team an experience they didn't get to have the past three seasons when Joe Philbin was the head coach.
Instead of retreating into the practice bubble as they had in previous years, Adam Gase and the coaching staff remained outside and got some valuable practice reps in less than favorable conditions.
Which was a good thing, because once the football got wet, things started looking rather awkward and unpolished. Botched snaps, dead duck passes, it was clear that the Dolphins looked like fish out of water after the rain came down. Now isn't that ironic?
But in spite of the way the offense practiced Monday (not nearly as good as the day before), there were a few things to take note of that should offer some comfort to worried Dolphins fans. There were also some disappointing things though, as always. Here's what caught my eye on Monday.
More young players stepping up to show their stuff
The preseason game against the New York Giants revealed some young players who have talent that can continue to be developed such as defensive backs Walt Aikens, A.J. Hendy and Lafayette Pitts, and during Sunday's practice, players like tight end Thomas Duarte got a brief promotion to see what they could do against higher competition.
Well on Monday morning, more young players started flashing and gave a reminder that amidst all the hype surrounding the 2016 draft class, they still had something to offer despite their reputation that is unfortunately connected to the previous regime that drafted them.
Cornerback Tony Lippett and defensive end Terrence Fede both had excellent days on defense, making plays and showing that despite their inconsistency and inexperience, they have talent worth investing time into. Linebacker Mike Hull also got some time with the first team players during 7 on 7 drills.
Lippett was able to break up two passes during 11 on 11 drills, one against tight end Jordan Cameron on a short crossing route, and then another one on a short route intended for wide receiver Griff Whalen. Both passes were from Ryan Tannehill.
Fede consistently created pressure against both the second and first team offenses, he disrupted plays and even sacked Ryan Tannehill, and he sacked Matt Moore later on during another set of 11 on 11 drills. Then during individuals drills on the far field, Fede beat Ja'Wuan James in a one on one matchup.
Clearly, whatever pass-rush coach Jim Washburn is teaching the defensive ends this year, it's working like a charm. And Lou Anarumo is a well-respected defensive backs coach who is trying to bring out the potential in players who honestly are not ready for the role they're being forced into. Today, Fede and Lippett were excellent examples of their coaching prowess.
Offense still struggling to find consistency
Considering the fact that recently I've been complaining more about the fact that the offense couldn't get anything done, I shouldn't be too picky about the offense just rotating between good or bad days.
But, seeing as it's a report, I have no choice but to discuss how Monday's offensive performance leaned more towards bad than good. An overabundance of short, conservative passes from Ryan Tannehill that took much longer to throw than Matt Moore, and when Moore was on the field, it was more exciting but - as usual - there were more mistakes.
Even the oddly intriguing Brandon Doughty, renowned for his accuracy at Western Kentucky, was unable to make anything significant happen, overthrowing Jakeem Grant and having his pocket collapse on him on another play. The defense dominated once again, and just based off the very small sample size we've been given so far, it's because the offense just isn't very good.
Hopefully they will be able to prove otherwise when Miami travels to Dallas for the preseason game against the Cowboys this Friday.
Truthfully, there isn't much to say about Monday's practice. Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod - the team's best guards - continue to get overlooked as the starters in favor of Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner, who somehow continue to get first dibs whenever scrimmage starts.
Isaiah Pead got some extra snaps with the second team, and he showed quickness in small bursts that seemed reminiscent of what he showed against the New York Giants. Damien Williams didn't get quite as much priority as he did on Sunday.
Chris Jones - a personal camp favorite of mine - continues to get first team snaps with the absence of Earl Mitchell who is dealing with a calf injury. I have been in favor of potentially releasing or - if possible - trading Mitchell due to the sudden emergence of Jones, who when healthy for New England, was a starter.
These Miami Dolphins have me reeling in every direction possible, I love the coaches one day, hate the way the players are performing, love what the coaches are saying in response to their performance, then hate the way they adjust to these problems. All of these are the same symptoms that were present during the Joe Philbin regime, and yet everything simply feels different while still feeling the same.
No, it doesn't make sense. I know this.
Perhaps this really is a situation where a team is going through the growing pains of adjusting to a new regime, new set of schemes and terminologies and just overall trying to find an identity. An identity that Miami has been searching for nearly two decades. Hopefully they find one soon.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
The Miami Dolphins today became the first sports team in Florida to partner with a prepaid toll program in offering a convenient, less expensive parking payment option for guests attending stadium events through the SunPass program. This partnership makes SunPass the exclusive provider of electronic parking payment at the stadium.
Fans with an active SunPass account must select “Easy Pay” automatic replenishment on SunPass.com using a credit card or debit card to enjoy the ease and convenience of SunPass Plus Parking. Customers can check to see if they are enrolled in SunPass Plus by logging into their account at SunPass.com and clicking on “TRANSPONDERS” at the top of the page to confirm their SunPass Plus status.
“We seek to have our pulse on ways to improve the fan experience at our stadium,” Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President of Operations Todd Boyan said. “This innovative partnership with Florida’s SunPass Prepaid Toll Program allows our fans to enjoy the convenience of utilizing a widely-adopted service in the community while also enjoying a price savings.”
SunPass Plus customers will have the convenience of using the program and paying less than the cash customer entering the stadium. Fans simply look for the SunPass Plus logo when entering the stadium to utilize the option.
The amenity will be in place for all stadium events, beginning with the Dolphins Sept. 1 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, followed by the University of Miami Sept. 3 football game against Florida A&M University.
The Dolphins had their first practice since the preseason game against the New York Giants, and while they weren't in full pads, there was still some improvement to be seen. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said last week that until the end of the first preseason game, the Dolphins would be in "teaching mode" when it comes to the new offense.
Now the first preseason game is officially over, and with the spotlight on a few more players who were hiding in the shadows before, now there's more of an emphasis on evaluating individuals rather than the whole unit. With that said, no particular unit dominated in Monday's practice, and instead there was a rare balance of good and bad for both units.
That's usually the best you can hope for in training camp, because when one unit dominates, it means that the other unit is probably doing something wrong.
So now with the first practice after the start of preseason officially in the books, let's take a look at what caught my eye more than anything else.
Thomas Duarte starting to get himself noticed
It would seem that after catching a touchdown pass from fourth string quarterback Zac Dysert, former UCLA wide receiver Thomas Duarte caught the eye of head coach Adam Gase, and was given some brief reps with the second team on Sunday morning.
Duarte's touchdown against the Giants saw him cutting back inside and looking to score instead of trying to bounce out of bounds, that alone was impressive considering he had been nearly invisible for the majority of training camp.
With the second team in practice, the transitioning tight end caught a couple of passes from primary backup QB Matt Moore, including a deep pass down the seam that fell right into his hands and over the head of pursuing cornerback A.J. Hendy.
It was a beautiful throw and catch to say the least, and the fact that Duarte got these snaps with the second team indicates that Gase was impressed with the rookie in the Giants game. His receiving skills aren't in question, but in order to be a tight end in the NFL, he's going to have to learn how to block. Everyone already knows he's a weapon, but can he defend his teammates as well? That's what needs to be watched now.
Offense getting into a rhythm
I have been harping on the offense for the past few days now. I have called out Ryan Tannehill, the players on the offensive line, and I've even gotten a little frustrated with the coaching staff for allowing the same mistakes made by the previous regime to continue.
Sunday morning, some of those concerns faded a bit.
I had been saying for some time that I needed to see Ryan Tannehill be good again, that I needed to see a sign that the quarterback I had seen succeed despite hardships was still in there somewhere. Sunday I did, and while it - again - wasn't particularly exciting to watch the offense work, it least did have success, and it wasn't against a team of backups.
Tannehill threw three touchdowns in practice, one to Jarvis Landry on a short route over the middle from the 12-yard line, one on a quick slant to Jay Ajayi on the goal line, and the most impressive one of all was an intermediate throw down the sideline to wide receiver Griff Whalen who made a great catch to bring it down.
Arian Foster continues to show signs of being his old self, which is good because Ajayi is still struggling to find the right holes. He runs hard, but recklessly. Foster could be the key to the Dolphins running game in 2016.
Hopefully, the offense will be able to continue this improved performance when it counts.
Damien Williams still in front for the third RB spot
Despite the strong showings by Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas against the Giants, Damien Williams remains the favorite for the third running back slot according to Sunday's practice. Williams was given the majority of the snaps with the twos as opposed to Isaiah Pead, who got more snaps with the third team.
It seems odd that despite Pead's strong performance, Williams is still above him on the "depth chart" that Adam Gase doesn't believe in anyway. Perhaps what he's looking at is Williams' ability to pass block and catch passes out of the backfield. Problem is, Williams has shown in the past that his running ability is suspect. He runs hard, but he often finds himself running into walls.
Williams may have the upper hand for now, but if he doesn't start showing something in games as a runner, Pead and even Daniel Thomas may eventually catch up to him. If it were me, Pead would already be above Williams on the totem pole.
Laremy Tunsil getting extended time with the starters
Dallas Thomas continues to get first dibs on reps with the starters during scrimmages, but Laremy Tunsil is slowly finding himself getting more reps as time goes on. This is important, as Tunsil is projected to be the starter once the regular season starts.
Strangely enough, Tunsil appears to be better than Thomas already, but somehow Thomas continues to get reps at left guard over Tunsil, and even when the rookie does get to play inside, Thomas simply shifts over to take over for Billy Turner at right guard, so he's still on the line.
Thomas has gained a reputation for being very versatile, but not being good at any of the positions. He was bull-rushed by Giants defensive linemen all through the game and that didn't exactly help Ryan Tannehill's case that game. Hopefully, Tunsil will eventually take over for Thomas altogether, but as of now I can't see it happening simply based on past decisions.
Other than what's already been discussed, there isn't much else to mention. Chris McCain flashed a lot this camp, deflecting a pass at the line of scrimmage and sacking the quarterback twice.
Tony Lippett showed signs of improvement, intercepting a free pass from Ryan Tannehill when Kenny Stills got confused in the red zone, and he shadowed him basically all day.
Then there's Griff Whalen. He took the place of DeVante Parker for the majority of team drills, and he caught a touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill on an intermediate route near the sideline. Strangely enough, the connection between Tannehill and Whalen reminds me of the one he shared with Brian Hartline before Jarvis Landry arrived.
Monday is yet another practice, and I'll be watching to see if Tannehill can continue his improved performance, and also if the offensive line will still have Tunsil as a starter like most feel he should be at this point. The defense is still doing well despite the offense's progress, but it will be difficult to maintain that balance they achieved Sunday.
With any luck, this is a sign that both units are starting to figure things out, and that will translate to wins on the football field.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
It was certainly a strange start to the preseason as the game was actually delayed for nearly an hour due to lightning in the area, but once it did get started, the game turned out to be a mixed bag from there.
While the Miami Dolphins starters weren't really able to impress in their first preseason action, the true stars of the show were the backups, who stepped up and made plays when it counted in the team's 27-10 victory against the New York Giants.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 2 for 4 with only 8 yards passing during the starting offensive drives, but he was - once again - continuously harassed by pressure and Dallas Thomas, who is currently slotted as the team's starting left guard, was easily pushed back by (insert name here) and forced a throw that went incomplete.
Naturally, this short performance in the preseason was rather disappointing to watch, especially after all the excitement and hype built about Adam Gase and his ingenuity in designing offenses and utilizing players to the best of their ability. Then when Matt Moore came onto the field, the attitude of the offense changed, but the results did not.
Matt Moore quickly threw an interception right into the waiting arms of Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, and it seemed that the game was going to go completely wrong (as if it hadn't already) from then on out.
Then things started looking up, and things got a little weird too.
Perhaps one of the most notable plays of the night was when defensive back Walt Aikens stripped quarterback Ryan Nassib of the football and linebacker Spencer Paysinger ran it down the field all the way to the Giants 5-yard line. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who has been struggling to stand out in practice, had a big hand in making that play happen as he collapsed the pocket with his pass-rushing ability.
The weird part came in when Matt Moore threw a pass that appeared to be intended for wide receiver A.J. Cruz, but the pass was thrown too high and while Cruz was able to get a finger on it, Matt Hazel just so happened to be right there to catch the errant pass and run all the way into the endzone for a 51-yard touchdown.
He meant to do that, really.
Other highlights included cornerback Bobby McCain, who had struggled at times during the game with penalties, leaped up and intercepted Ryan Nassib on a deep pass which led to an Andrew Franks 49-yard field goal. Isaiah Pead also showed excellent burst in the running game, gaining 50 yards on 10 carries. Daniel Thomas added his own 40 yards on the same number of carries.
Safety A.J. Hendy intercepted a Ryan Nassib pass of his own after the ball was deflected up by cornerback Lafayette Pitts, which eventually led to the Matt Moore touchdown to Matt Hazel. Both Pitts and Hendy have flashed a bit in practice as of late, and they should be watched carefully as the preseason continues.
Wide receiver Jakeem Grant showed a lot of the potential he flashed in practice, returning punts and showing the great speed and elusiveness that initially got him drafted in the sixth round despite his size. In fact, his size might have had a lot to do with how well he made defenders miss.
As a receiver, he caught four passes for 68 yards, only missing a deep pass from Matt Moore that he seemed to get lost on and it flew over his head.
The potential is there and perhaps the depth on the Dolphins isn't as bad as initially feared. However, the offensive line must be fixed and Ryan Tannehill must be willing to get more aggressive in the passing game in turn. The starters didn't get a lot of playing time, and I realize that Tannehill was constantly under pressure, but what else is new?
It's preseason, there's time to fix it, but as of now the starters didn't put together a good showing. Perhaps it would be best for the morale of Dolphins fans if they focused on the promise shown by the backups than the struggles of the starters. With any luck, Adam Gase will have that situation straightened out by Week 3 of the preseason.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
On this episode of PhinManiacs Live, the crew discusses everything that's been going on in training camp these past few weeks, as well as give a preview of the first preseason game and what everyone should be watching for in the new team's first game experience under Adam Gase.
If you want to call into the show and give your thoughts, dial 954-376-5704, or you can tweet us at @PhinManiacs on Twitter.
The Miami Dolphins have their first game of the 2015 preseason Friday night, and there is no shortage of things that fans are interested in as they watch the team’s first game action. But before you get your hopes up too much, a word of caution:
It’s called the preseason for a reason.
Most of the play calls will likely be purposely very vanilla, and most of the projected starters will see little to no action in this game. In fact, you’ll be best served to not even pay attention to the guy with the ball in this game, as most of the focus from coaches and players will be on players away from the ball.
For starters, this will be the first real test for rookie Laremy Tunsil and the rest of the offensive line. Tunsil is currently listed with the second team, and will need to earn his way into the starting lineup. While it’s pretty much a given that will happen by the time the regular season rolls around it will be interesting to watch the development of a player most experts saw as the best player in this year’s rookie class.
On the opposite side of the ball, the defensive line has been given kudos throughout camp, and this is arguably the deepest position group on the team. Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh will sit out this game, but it will be fun to see who emerges as the primary backups for those two players as well as the rest of the defensive line spots, given that the team will likely rotate the line to keep players fresh.
A player in particular to keep a very close eye on might be former Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones. He's hustled his way up to a spot with the second unit, and now he'll have a chance to show what he can do against a different offensive line now that the preseason is here. Jones was an good player in New England, now we need to see if he can continue that success in Miami after spending all of last season injured.
But the biggest question marks coming into camp are in the secondary, where, other than Byron Maxwell manning one of the starting cornerback slots, pretty much every slot is up for grabs. Watch and see who emerges and makes plays in the defensive backfield. This could be a fluid group, with players moving around and switching positions as players develop and gel as the season progresses.
While it’s a given that Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry will start, the rest of the pecking order at wide receiver is muddled. Kenny Stills, Griff Whalen, Matt Hazel, and rookie Leonte Carroo are all battling for that 3rd wide receiver spot, so this is one area where ‘ballwatching’ could pay off.
This story was written by Luis D. Sung and Eldon Jenson. Follow them on Twitter @FLSportDebater and @EJFootball
It seems that you can’t mention Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill without hearing criticism of his apparent inability to complete the deep passes. There is a perception ingrained in the minds of many fans that Tannehill lacks the arm and/or accuracy to be successful throwing the ball deep downfield.
While the Miami Dolphins players were getting ready to start their scrimmage practice this past Saturday, the more charitable side of the organization was at the Don Taft University Center at Nova Southeastern University to put together a little something for players a bit more on the younger side.
Brandon Doughty, the record setting college quarterback and seventh round pick by the Dolphins in this year’s draft, has a knack, an innate ability to somehow find the open man—and yet he does everything wrong. Hmmmm…
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